Wednesday, December 21, 2011

here's to this fantastically marvelous time of the year!

one of the best things i love about school is that i appreciate the holidays so much more. i don't want you to think, however, that this is the only thing i love about school--it's just that i have a love/hate relationship with school, and a love/love relationship with the holidays. i just love the feeling of waking up in the morning and realizing that i don't have anything pressing on my schedule for the day. no ten-page papers i have to write today or else, no staying up until four o'clock in the morning grading papers. i can actually EXERCISE, and go shopping with my sisters, and bake yummy things, and pleasure read, without worrying that spending time doing these things is taking away from my schoolwork. 

i must say, though, school is rewarding. i love writing essays, reading essays, revising essays, submitting essays with a prayer and a hope that i'll be published. i love clicking "save" on a paper that i've spent so many hours trying to complete. i love spending time with smart people hoping some of their intelligence will rub off on me. i love knowing that i can stand in front of a class and actually teach them something. i love reading "you are the best english teacher i've ever had" on a student's reflection. all of these things make school rewarding and remind me why i am still there. 

but i love, love, love the holidays. i love christmas. i love buying things for people and trying so hard to keep my mouth shut about the presents i can't wait for them to open. i love drawing holly berries on everything. and i love celebrating the savior's birth and the hope that it gives me in my life. 

happy christmas. 

bless us. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

just thought i'd mention

i'm going to try and stay as composed as possible while i tell you that i'm going back to ENGLAND! :D

next summer, for 3 months, doing a field study (basically independent study. i'll be creating my own syllabus and such--so reading and writing mucho)

oh, and i almost forgot to mention. i'll be there for the OLYMPICS! i'm such an olympic nut. i love the olympics almost as much as i love england. i love my life.

bless me.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

on companionship

Today, I'm grateful for good friends and food--rather, eating good food with friends. Good food and good friends. Let me 'splain.

Last night I realized at about midnight that I still had a redbox movie I needed to return, so my roommate Paige was kind enough to accompany me to the nearest redbox to return Captain America, and when we got back I had the sudden urge to make guacamole. It didn't come out of nowhere, because I had three ripe avocados waiting to be eaten, but making guacamole at midnight isn't something I usually do. Well, since I've been in grad school I'm up at all sorts of odd and unearthly hours, eating irregular meals and such. So I guess it wasn't that unusual. Just not a typical midnight food. Anyway, I didn't have any onions so I improvised with garlic (not as good as onions, but it worked), threw in some lime juice, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, basil (I didn't have oregano, which I usually use) and yum. Paige and I ate it with blue corn chips while talking about centipedes and other things, and it was quite a marvelous time.

And today, after my first two classes, my friend Laura and I decided to go get food while working on an assignment for the Intro to Grad Studies class. We got banana chocolate chip bread, which was good (but not as good as Laura's), and sat next to each other and worked on our assignments. It doesn't sound like anything monumental, and it wasn't, but there's something peaceful about being right next to a friend and, even though we're working on our laptops, sharing food and talking. We talked about her gratitude for a patient husband, and my hope for a husband someday who is also patient. We talked about marriage, and that it's such a miracle when it happens, that it makes sense that it happens for some sooner than for others.  And so on.

Maybe what I'm getting at is the gift of companionship. Being single and twenty-six could mean being bitter or hopeless that I'm not married. I've tried on that idea and it doesn't fit very well, because I can't ignore the fact that I have so many things to be grateful for, like the companionship of wonderful friends to eat good food with, or the hope that someday I will get married, because I definitely want to get married. I'm just happy with where I am in life and what I am doing, so there's no need to pine. But there is always a need to hope.

Meanwhile, I am also grateful for slippers and essays by GK Chesterton.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

i wonder about humanity, sometimes

like this week, for instance. I feel like I've spent a lot of time examining other people's faults, and I know exactly what this isn't advisable: because when you look for the faults of some, that becomes all you look for. I'm not exactly proud of this, but when someone hurts one of my sisters, I'm usually the first one in line to throw a punch. And when two of my sisters gets hurt in one week, I have a hard time forgetting it. I find that it's much easier to forgive someone who wrongs me than it is to forgive someone who wrongs someone I'm close to. And when it's one of my sisters, forget it. Let me use the words of Mr. Darcy: "I find it hard to forgive the follies and vices of others, and their offenses towards me [insert--my sisters]. My good opinion, once lost, is lost forever." Sounds harsh, yes, but I'm trying to be honest here. Like I mentioned, if someone causes me pain, I do my best to give them the benefit of a doubt. I'm not so charitable in other circumstances.

This week was typical for me (full of stress, but still happy), but it was a bad week for my baby sister. Well, she's not a baby, she's sixteen. But she is the baby of the family, which means when she gets hurt then she has five older sisters to beat up anyone who tries to cross her. I only wish it were that easy, though. I don't really need to get into the meat of it, but imagine being betrayed by almost every single friend you have in one week, and you would get somewhere close to what my sis went through this week. One particular friend, who has in the past been my sister's really good friend, I shall simply call Regina George in this post. She has been especially vicious, talking about my sister behind her back, hosting parties several times without bothering to invite my sister. For these and other reasons Regina is, to put it mildly, a wench.

Anyway, I don't understand why my sister has been thus treated by her "friends." It is, of course, in the nature of older siblings to protect and defend their younger siblings to the death, but listen to this anyway: how many sixteen year olds can carry on an intelligent conversation about subjects like politics, music, history, and literature? how many have memorized the entire Declaration of Independence when they are twelve years old? and read most of Shakespeare's plays? and remember off the top of their heads that the 10th Amendment is about the states' rights? and play the piano like nobody's business?

Not too many teenagers are quite that bright. And it's not just that! She has so much integrity! and faith! and determination! and I don't usually put this many exclamation points in one post!

I'm not trying to rant. Then again, maybe I am, because another one of my sisters was very hurt and disappointed by a good friend this past week too. And I don't think there are many more things on earth that make me angrier than that. I guess it's just hard because I've been through similar experiences, and I know how much it, well, sucks. But I know that it was in such times that I grew closer to my family, and realized how grateful I was for parents and sisters and dogs and cats and books and mountains and chocolate. And new friends. The "tender mercies" of the Lord, in other words. It was in times like those that I found scriptures like this one:

"...have patience, and bear with those afflictions, with a firm hope that ye shall one day rest from all your afflictions." (Alma 34:41)

and this one:

"They friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands." (D&C 121:9)

So maybe instead of spending my time railing on my sisters' terrible friends, I could spend time encouraging, and uplifting, and giving hope. Because I turned out okay, right? If I could do it, then they certainly can, who are smarter and nicer (and better looking) than I am.

Regina George is still a wench. Arg, changing for the better is not always easy.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

you choose: palm reading or cleaning the house

So, I may or may not have spent this evening reading my roommates' palms. I'm not a professional by all means, but a little creativity and internet access can go a long way. We spent way too much time (ha! what am I talking about? roommate bonding time is an important activity to engage in) reading palms when we could have been cleaning the house--because we have cleaning checks tomorrow.

Cleaning checks. Let me tell you what I think about them:

Ahem. Cleaning checks are absolutely ridiculous. That's all.

Well, not really all. My roommates and I are pretty clean already, so it's not like cleaning checks are a huge ordeal, but I would rather clean when I want to clean. Plus, mid-week cleaning checks? really? por favor!

Anyway, so back to palm reading. I got my palm read last year when I was in London--I simply couldn't pass up the quintessential gnarled gypsy woman reading palms--but I felt a little ripped off because she spent the first five minutes of my palm reading chasing down a guy who had taken pictures of her booth and forcing him to delete them. And then fetching security to make the guy delete the pictures. By the time she got back to me, she was so grouchy I'm pretty sure I didn't get my money's worth.

Granted, I don't buy that palm reading is accurate, but I'm curious enough about it that I want to go again. In short, I'm still a little bit obsessed with it. Anyone want to join me in my next palm-reading adventure?

Monday, October 31, 2011

boo on technology

You know, one of the terrible things about technology is when it FAILS. I was teaching my class today and had a fantastic lesson plan that completely depended on the computer/projector actually working. So, when I went to go plug in my laptop, there was no connection. SERIOUSLY?!? $@!!%. $%?#. Boo.

It ended up fine, and I think (hope) my students enjoyed my alternative (aka, impromptu) lesson plan. They just didn't know how completely awesome it would have been if the computer actually had worked. Boo.

Speaking of boo, I decided that I am a total Halloween scrooge. I am not a fan (ever) of decorating with spiders and ghosts. So, bah humbug. Well, I partially take that back. The only good thing about Halloween is Thriller. No, I'm not just talking about the song (although that is a part of it); I'm talking about Odyssey Dance Theater's production filled with dancing skeletons, Frankenstein's monster, zombies, and river dancers getting picked off by a sniper. Morbid? yes. Delightful? also yes.

And also, I do like creepy things (not like slasher creepy, like Edgar Allen Poe and the Bronte sisters creepy).

Maybe it's just the arachnid decorations and strange people dressing like fairy tale princesses. It's like what they say in Mean Girls: "Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress up like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it." Not that I see too much of that at BYU. I did see one guy walking around sans shirt though (that's about as scandalous as it got today). People seriously spend so much time (and money!) on Halloween costumes--I don't really get it. One of my students said he was disappointed that I didn't dress up today (he said out of all his professors, I was the one he expected to see dressed up. whatever that means), and I refrained from ranting. Even though I was totally in the mood to rant because the computer wasn't working. 

So you might just have to disregard everything I say here because it's just a spawn of today's technology hatred. 

Thank you for reading my rant. I'm going back to reading now. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

scattered thoughts

Do you ever feel an obligation to blog even though nobody is telling you to? I feel like that sometimes. It's probably because my blog acts as my personal journal, and when I actually kept a consistent (physical) journal, I had the same guilt when I didn't write in it. I need less guilt in my life, in general, I think. This is something to work on. Anyway, I like blogging, and I like knowing that people actually read what I have to say. It's something that, as a writer, I crave.

I have been struggling to adjust to life as a grad student, which surprised me because I thought I'd get right into the swing of things. It has been more difficult that merely swinging in and catching on. I have a feeling it's because between the time I graduated with my Bachelor's last December and started with grad school this September, a lot happened. I dealt with a lot of disappointment and frustration, directly related to the health struggle I've had for the past couple of years. I guess it showed my narrow-minded view of how trials and opposition work in this life, because I was so over my health problems that I thought it surely was time for me to get better and never have to deal with similar issues again. Obviously naive, yes, and I was so disappointed when instead of going away completely, my little problems decided (rather maliciously, if you ask me) to stick around for who knows how much longer.

So I think I've just had a hard time trying to put all of that on the back burner suddenly to start a completely new phase of life. I'm the kind of person, I think, who does best focusing on one thing at a time, which is probably why I hoped so much that my problems would just go away when I started grad school. And by pushing health to the back burner, I've not taken care of my body as well as I should thus far. I've never been a professional time budgeter, so this is indeed a challenge.

Thankfully, I'm up for a challenge. I always say that I like change, and that I can adapt well to change, and I'm sure that will be the case this time. I'm just taking a little while longer adapting to this change.

With that said, though, I love being here and learning so much and being around like-minded people who are in their own ways as obsessive and nerdy as I am. I love teaching my freshman class even when they occasionally act like twerps.

And I love that even though this past Monday was such a terrible day, Tuesday was so much better, and the rest of the week is looking up. Praise the heavens!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


i always feel bad about yawning my way through class. this class isn't boring, i'm not trying to be disrespectful, don't take it personally. [then as i write that, i think of my students, and that it annoys me justalittlebit when they are falling asleep in class. come on, kids, get it together.] thus, i am essentially a hypocrite. but in my creative nonfiction class today, i heard something [between yawns] that i really liked: "humans are contradictory beings. we say one thing, we contradict ourselves, and i'm okay with that." thank you, stephanie johnson. i guess the fact that we're contradictory beings wasn't new to me, but the fact that she said "i'm okay with that" is refreshing. it's refreshing to accept that i'm going to change my mind, that i'm going to say one thing and do another, and that when i do i'm not going to beat myself up about.

anyway, back to being tired and now understanding if/why my professors would be annoyed at me. on one hand, i could get more sleep and not get my reading/papers done, or i could keep doing what i'm doing and complete the reading and assignments but be too tired to participate in class. because when i'm really tired, i'm afraid that if i make a comment in class it will make no sense.

it's quite the conundrum.

also, this. a couple weeks back i had what i deemed the busiest week and a half of my life. i did manage to complete everything, but as i got a paper back from my fairy tale class, i realized that i succeeded in some things better than others. i didn't do as well in the paper as i had hoped, and i actually talked to my professor this morning and it sounds like it was one of the "roughest" of the bunch, which was discouraging to me because i'm not exactly used to being on the bottom. my fairy tale class intimidates me anyway because there are a lot of intelligent people who use big words and are outspoken about everything. and then there's little introverted me :)   but as i was talking to my professor, she did say that my idea was one of the most creative, but the execution of it was where i lacked. so there's some encouragement mixed with a gentle push in a more productive direction. she said she understood about my being introverted and not commenting in class, because apparently she was the same way as a student.

so i just need to get more on the ball. and find time where there isn't any, so i can get everything done AND get enough sleep to be coherent in class. i'll get right on that.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


my laptop is basically on life support

three inches away from death

i don't know if it will survive the week

i think it's time.....

for a mac


chocolate and stuff

yes, i just spent the last few hours making chocolate truffles to accompany my chocolate essay that my class is workshopping tomorrow. hopefully that inspires everyone to be kiiiiiind (not that people aren't kind, but this essay is kind of haphazard, kind of like my life right now)

oh, and i just turned in an analysis paper for my fairy tale class... i was comparing grimm's cinderella to the animated film anastasia. it was fun, but i struggled with it, big time. i had a revelation as i was sitting at the computer banging my head violently against the wall (just kidding, i really wasn't doing that): i am so glad i'm in the creative writing program. i had a hard time deciding whether or not to do the english master's or the creative writing mfa, because i would really love to study transatlantic victorian literature (:  but, as i was writing this analysis paper, i decided that i'm in the right spot. i love literature but i don't think i could handle writing critical analysis papers for two years... i'd rather write essays about CHOCOLATE! yup.

anyway, it's late and i would love to go to bed but i'm going to do some homework. then it's buenas noches para mi!

(oh, and look at me! blogging two days in a row! or at least close to that... either way, i pretty much rock!)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


just in case you were wondering, i'm not dead.

although, i guess i am dead in a couple of ways:

1) dead to the world every time my head hits the pillow

2) dead tired whenever i'm not in bed

3) so dead if i don't stop blogging and finish a fairy tale paper

4) scared to death that the monster spiders in my basement will kill me as i sleep

5) dead in the water if i don't think of a healthy version of caffeine at some point this semester

and last, but definitely not least,

6) dead meat if i don't clean up the mess i've created in our basement living room. let me describe it for you: we have a couch and a love seat down here (both christmas plaid, as i think i've mentioned), and i have taken over the couch. i'm not just talking about me being physically on the couch, but right now i am sitting on the couch surrounded by a couple packages of books i bought on, a bag of tortilla chips, tupperware, a pink binder filled with rhetorical theory, two folders, one graded paper, and about 8 books for various classes. oh, and keys and my ipod and jacket. my roommates are nice people to put up with my explosive mess in the living room.

sorry girls.

but, let me look on the bright side: at least i'm still alive despite being dead in various ways! i'm a walking paradox!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

dark green carpet

When my family moved into our Ivins house over twenty years ago, it had some sort of colorful identity crisis. One room had bright orange carpet, one had "dusty pink" carpet, another had moss-colored paint and dark green carpet (I think I remember the carpet, but I KNOW I remember the paint).

Oh, and the kitchen with brown linoleum also had yellow sinks.

We changed a few things, and I don't think anything in the original house has survived, except the walls and roof. 

I remembered our original house colors when I moved into my current Provo house, I immediately noticed the dark green carpets. You know, the darkish forest green color that shows every speck of dirt and lint? Yes, that's the color. 

Somehow, it's a very comfortable color. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

awww, shucks

So, because I was away on Friday for the MFA retreat, I had another grad student sub for my writing class. And when I got back, I asked how it went, and they said that the sub was good but that they were glad I was back. Then one of the girls said, "you're like my favorite teacher!" How sweet is she???

Yes, it is true, teaching is rewarding. Especially when you can be your students' FAVORITE.

Oh, and PS, my essay workshop went really well. Excited to revise!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

MFA retreat, and general overwhelmedness

I went on a retreat this past weekend for the Creative Writing MFA students, and it was wonderful and SO needed. Sometimes it feels so nice and relieving to get away from everything and spend time with like-minded people who love writing and literature and great food and great conversation. We went down to Capitol Reef and hiked through stunning canyons of colorful sandstone cliffs and it just felt like home to me. There's nothing more refreshing to me than red rock and blue sky. It was TRAGIC that I didn't have my camera with me--I kicked myself several times about that.

All the while, I tried not to think about the gross amount of reading I was supposed to get done over the weekend, and for the most part I succeeded. After all, homework will always be there, but I won't always be in Capitol Reef!

I also had a huge epiphany while I was there (well maybe not huge, but it was a huge relief to get it): I had been working on an essay in my head for a couple of months and actually working on it for about a week, but I was struggling a lot trying to tie everything in together. One of the writing exercises we did in the middle of a hike helped inspire me with an idea to finish my essay. Unfortunately, when I got home I had to rush to write it because I had to email it to my class pronto, so I didn't get as much time to finish it as I would have liked. Ah well, the point of writing workshops is to give you ideas to revise and improve your essay. I just hope what I sent wasn't cheesy or overdone. I'll know on Tuesday! Anyway, my epiphany helped me to finish it, but I'm still nervous because I have this misconception in my head that with this essay, because it's my first in the program, I will be trying to justify my existence in a creative writing master's program. Completely unwarranted, I know, and I tried to shrug off the feeling because it was giving me stress and was probably the reason I had such a hard time writing.

Oh well. I guess I'll find out come Tuesday if I need to pack my bags. ;)

And one more thing.... coming home from the retreat, I was so tired after finishing my essay that I dropped into bed without even unpacking anything, and my room is a total disaster because I didn't have time to clean it before I left. I will definitely have to clean it before I get anything done, because I can't do anything in a dirty room! Bleh, I'm overwhelmed by my dirty room and loads of homework.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

okay, yum

Let's face it: when you're a student, it's harder to find time to cook great food. I'll just say that while I'm in school, I'm a little (lot) less diligent about eating healthy, scrumptious foods. But I'm going to try harder this semester to make use of my pots, pans, and blender (my precious) so I can maintain some sense of normality while I'm in a whirlwind of writing, reading, grading, etc. etc.

So today I made something wonderfully yummy. The idea wasn't original (it came from Jessi), but I made a few changes to truly make it my own. Here goes:

Bread (I used homemade wheat bread, but I'm sure it would work with any type)
Peanut butter
Jam (I used strawberry)
Thinly-sliced fruit (I used strawberries, although bananas would be fantastic as well)
Chocolate chips

Basically, put the peanut butter, jam, fruit, and chocolate chips in between two pieces of delicious bread and grill it (like a grilled cheese). It gets all melty and gooey and absolutely fantastic. And it's so easy!

Okay, I sound like a commercial. Or the food network. But seriously, you should try this sandwich.

Monday, September 5, 2011

world: take good notes

wouldn't the world be a better place if we all sang and danced in the rain?

.... also it would definitely be a better place if we were all as good looking as gene kelly.

Friday, September 2, 2011

libertines, and patience

The essay, as a literary form, resembles the lyric, in so far as it is moulded by some central mood—whimsical, serious, or satirical. Give the mood, and the essay, from the first sentence to the last, grows around it as the cocoon grows around the silkworm. The essay-writer is a chartered libertine, and a law unto himself. A quick ear and eye, an ability to discern the infinite suggestiveness of common things, a brooding meditative spirit, are all that the essayist requires to start business with.  (Alexander Smith) 


Noun: A person, esp. a man, who behaves without moral principles.
Adjective: Characterized by a disregard of morality.

Call me a libertine all you want, as long as you call me an essayist first. Not that I am without moral principles or have a disregard of morality, (I hope in reality I am quite the opposite of a libertine) but that I disagree with you, Alexander Smith, as to that specific definition of an essayist. That said, I think essayists try to step back from the world a bit to try and see how everything connects, so the tendency to stand apart could lend itself to being a law unto himself. Interesting thought, and I'd love to grapple with that idea in my head for awhile. 

So I want to start business being an essayist, as Alexander Smith says. I think it takes practice to have a quick ear and eye, and to discern the infinite suggestiveness of common things. You have to "stop and smell the roses" as the old cliche entreats. However, I don't completely buy the validity of this particular cliche. "Smelling the roses" is insufficient because most of the time you can smell roses by simply walking by them; you usually don't have to break you stride to enjoy their aroma. Truly discerning the infinite suggestiveness of common things requires more commitment than deep inhalation. Annie Dillard in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek essays about staying in one position, unmoving, for hours in order to catch a glimpse of a shy animal (the name of the actual animal escapes me at the moment). Now that is commitment. It takes patience. 

I've never been the most patient person, but I guess it depends on the situation. I'm definitely a more patient driver than I used to be--I used to get so annoyed at people who cut me off or drive too slowly, then one day I cut someone off and realized suddenly that the driver I cut off was probably cursing my name for my apparent lack of courtesy. I had become the kind of person I get annoyed at. So I decided to be more patient towards other drivers because I hoped they would also give me the benefit of a doubt when I do stupid things. (Notice that I didn't resolve to be a perfect driver so I could then look down my nose at the rest of the fools on the road with less-than-perfect driving skills. I found it easier to forgive others' driving faults, and keep my own intact.)

Also, I was so nervous to start teaching my Writing 150 class that after the slight awkwardness of the first day, I hurriedly decided that I was doomed to being forever awkward teacher who is always terrified of her students. Then the second day of teaching came along and I realized that I really will enjoy this, and if I am awkward then I'll embrace it and allow myself to have faults. Slight awkwardness in a teacher is not always a bad thing. Some of my favorite professors have been slightly awkward in one way or another. Being completely "normal" is uninteresting and dull, anyway. (Not to mention the fact that it's impossible to even define what "normal" is.) So my conclusion is that I should be a more patient person and not freak out. And not merely smell the roses but stand completely still for hours in order to catch a glimpse of a small animal.

By the way, I can already tell that I'm going to have a hard time not neglecting my other classes in favor of my essaying class. But that's why I'm here, so shouldn't that give me license to care about some things more than others?  


I need a haircut. I'm wondering whether or not I should get an asymmetrical bob..... and dye it brown.

I survived my first week of grad school/teaching little freshman without any major panic attacks.

....And I just spent $10 on a couple ounces of cardamom, which means I need to make yummy Indian food (like the Indian rice pudding with cardamom, coconut milk, pistachios, and golden raisins that my sister Lori and I made a couple weeks ago. HOLY COW, so good.)

Oh, yes. and lots of chocolate. Time to try the truffles I've been thinking about lately. Anyone up for taste-testing?

Monday, August 29, 2011

the day

okay so i didn't need smelling salts, but i honestly don't understand HOW i will ever sound like an intelligent human being in front of my class.

babble babble babble stutter babble babble nonsense babble fool.

i was hoping to feel better after day one of teaching! i need to be patient. i'm hoping that at some point in the semester, i will actually feel comfortable in front of my class.

oh, just as a side note: my folklore/fairy tale seminar is going to be magical. yes, i am looking forward to reading fairy tales this whole semester. maybe my fairy tale this semester will go something like this:

once upon a time, there was a youngish grad student who was intimidated by everything from teaching freshman english to being around her intelligent grad student peers. in desperation, she fought the urge to crawl into fetal position and cry, but found consolation in a large slice of chocolate fudge cake with vanilla bean ice cream. this youngish grad student's fairy godmother noticed her dilemma, and stole into y.g.s.'s bedroom one night as she was fitfully sleeping. fairy g. placed a powerful enchantment on y.g.s.'s fabulous tweed jacket, so each time she wore it, the jacket would inspire y.g.s. to be confident and smart. this enchantment worked so well that in time y.g.s. overcame her fears and went on to conquer the world of writing and teaching and graduate study life. and there might be something about a knight and a horse, but that's another story for another day. the end.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

highlights and nerves

i started writing this blog post with the intent to report on my week. it started something like this:

this week has been... (backspace). this week has been overwhelming. (backspace). this week has been: (backspace).

finally, i just decided to relate this week to the first day of school times six times seven. you know how the first day is so overwhelming because the professors are handing you a schedule and explaining what you are going to accomplish in the entire semester, and all of the sudden it feels like you have to accomplish everything at once, all in one day, right now. so i've had a week filled with days like that.

i don't know why i'm so nervous to teach. i love teaching. i'm so excited! but then my stomach starts knotting up and i can imagine myself in front of my class forgetting everything i have ever learned, with my students realizing that i'm nothing more than a fake. yikes. but i am excited.

with that said, this week has actually been really great. i think my favorite moment was when one of the program directors brian jackson compared grading papers to triage. because, you know, you shouldn't treat someone for blisters if they have a sucking chest wound. treat the bigger problem first. so every time i feel the need to mark every single misuse of the apostrophe, i'll restrain myself and try to treat the bigger problems. unless, of course, the bigger problem is apostrophes. then i'll happily mark away. my other favorite part was when i got into dr. jill rudy's fairy tale class. i pretty much jumped for joy. i mean, studying essays and fairy tales and teaching little freshmen how to write: how could it get much better?

many thanks to my sister lori for making me homemade bread and chocolate chip cookie dough almond butter (yes, it is as good as it sounds) to help me through the week.

i can't wait to eat at bombay house. (maybe i'll do that to celebrate getting through the first week.)

wish me luck. and pray that i won't need to be revived with smelling salts right before teaching my first class.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

there you go: seattle

i've promised pictures of my seattle trip, and once classes start on monday and i become a ravenous homework beast i probably won't have much time to upload photos. so here is a (very) brief, scatterbrained picture version of my family's trip to the northwest:

cherries. holy cow yum.


strange bear dog


green with water

green with water and feet

how to make the most perfectly toasted marshmallow 101

speed scrabble

card playing, me and mum

cool, local, organic, fantastic, AMAZING food

something tall

the girls and dad



Saturday, August 13, 2011

Zappos challenge

Sorry my lovelies, but the Seattle pictures are still forthcoming. However, I do have a fun game for us to play.
At work tonight, my friend/neighbor/coworker Jessie reminded me of a game we used to play on slow days at the Tuacahn box office: the Zappos ugly shoe challenge.
Here are the rules: basically, browse around at and try to find the UGLIEST shoes you can. The winner gets a congratulatory ecard from me.
Let's play!

Monday, August 8, 2011


i decided what i want to be when i grow up:
a chocolatier.
so naturally, a master's degree in creative writing would point me in the right direction. right?
imagine for a moment a collection of essays about the life of a chocolatier. in other words, the main characters would be me and chocolate. groundbreaking.
would you read that book?

Monday, August 1, 2011

A rose by any other name

Lately, I've been pondering names.

In 1985, the year that I was born, the name Natalie ranked #58 on the list of popular baby names in the United States. Kristina was #57, Victoria #59, and number one was Jessica. In 2010, Natalie rose in the ranks, coming in at #14. In my high school graduating class, there were three Natalies: I sat next to one in English class, one in math class. I am facebook friends with one of them and keep in touch with neither of them.

Natalie Cole, the daughter of Nat King Cole, was a famous singer, songwriter and performer. I'm not a famous performer, but I did have a dog named Nat King Cole.

From the couple of resources I've looked at, the name Natalie comes from the Latin name Natalia, which means "Christmas day," or "born at Christmas." I wasn't born at Christmas, but it is my favorite holiday.

My middle name is Dawn ("the first appearance of light"). Dawn peaked in popularity in 1971 where it ranked number 14, thanks to the hippie generation. In 1985 it came in at #165. My aunt Gloria's middle name is Dawn; thus, I assume I was named after her.

Johansen is Danish. The -en ending indicates a Danish origin, whereas an -on ending would suggest a Swedish origin. Literally, the last name Johansen means son of Johan. the surname of Johan's daughers would have been Johandatter; following the same tradition, then, my surname would be Curtisdatter. Cool. Sadly, the female surnames weren't passed down, because their children would receive their last name from their father, not mother, thus creating an unfortunate lack of -datter names. Maye I'll change my surname to Curtisdatter.

So here I am: Natalie (born at christmas) Dawn (first appearance of light) Johansen (son of Johan). christmas sunrise posterity-of-johan.


Saturday, July 30, 2011

so cool

sometimes i love customer service. other times i don't.
the reason i sometimes love it is because i can laugh at people. i know that's unfriendly and a wee bit mean, but i don't necessarily feel bad for doing it. we get enough crap from customers at tuacahn that it feels like some sort of vindication to laugh at the not-so-bright ones. for example:
  • i was helping one particular gentleman on the phone one day; he was calling because when he and his wife came to the show, we had given them the wrong receipt on accident and he thought he was being charged $100 more than he really was. so i got his information and put him on "hold." (i say "hold" because with our phone system if we put someone on hold, it drops the call, so when we say that we're putting them on hold we're really just muting the call so they can't hear us, but we can still hear them--which is important in this story.) anyway, so while i was looking up his information and i can hear him talking in the background, and i hear him say "come on, this isn't rocket science" (talking about me). just to let him know i could still hear him, i unmuted the call and said "yes, i know, sir, but i have to look up your information to make sure you were charged the right amount." he seemed embarrassed after that. (i would be too)

when it happened, i was mad at first (don't insult my intelligence; i'm the only one allowed to do that) but then i realized how comical the situation was. i was really glad that i heard him say that because when i called him out on it and he realized i could hear him, hopefully he felt sheepish enough that he would think before mouthing off to another customer service representative.

i guess think was a bad example of a laughable situation, but i thought it was funny.

speaking of funny, i'm now going to reminisce about when tuacahn did "jospeh and the amazing technicolor dreamcoat" (for the third time), and we had enough funny that season to last for the rest of my life:

hi, can i get tickets for "joseph and his amazing shorts?" for "joseph and his electric coat," or "joseph smith and his coat" (only in utah). oh, and this was my personal favorite: "jose and his colored garments," (the guy had a brooklyn accent and said "hey, i'd like tickets for 'jose and his colored garments, or whatever the h** it's called; sorry, honey, i'm from new york." so just imagine a guy with a 65-year-old smoker voice with a brooklyn accent saying that and you get the idea.)

oh, people. how i love them.

Friday, July 29, 2011

the sum total

I just took a vacation from my online/blogging life to explore the astoundingly green state of Washington with my family (the whole time we were exploring Seattle, I kept hearing "one short day, in the Emerald City! one short day to have a lifetime of fun!" we were there for more than a day, but you get the idea).

Okay, so I got back five days ago, and I've been itching to blog ever since I got back. So expect muchas fotos of my trip in the next little bit. For now, I just wanted to sum up my Seattle experience with this quote by Virginia Woolf:

"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well."

(Thank you, Virginia, you make my life.)

In other words, if you want to hear about my trip, I will probably start with telling you about the food. Seattle has such good (mouthwateringly delicious) food that it makes up for the excessive amount of dreary cloud cover.

But instead of giving you all the drooling details right now, I'm going to bed. This has been a tiring work week (two jobs, lots of hours the last few days. tomorrow and saturday are going to be no exception.) I thank heaven that I have not only one, but two jobs this summer because I need to be saving money. But to be completely honest, sometimes I just want to play!

(I better be careful, or I might turn into a yellow)

Cheerio for now!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Something I will probably never do

I say probably instead of definitely because every time I say absolutely definitely never, it always comes back to bite me in the butt.

Like working at Tuacahn, for example. I worked at Tuacahn from 2004-2006 year round (most employees are seasonal, but I worked as an off-season employee as well), and when I moved up to Provo, I parted ways with Tuacahn until I returned home for the 2007 summer season as I was preparing for my mission. After I got home, I worked there for the 2009 summer season then went back up to BYU in the fall. The next summer, I had a break thanks to my study abroad, but this summer here I am, back at Tuacahn. What can I say? It's the perfect summer job (it's hard to find a job that will hire for a three month period of time), I work with people I love, I get to see the shows for free (maybe I should have mentioned that first; it's probably the most important reason), and I can skip training every summer because I already know everything about selling tickets (really). Anyway, I don't know that I'm going to be back in St George next summer, because I'm sick of moving back and forth. We'll see. Again, I'm not going say never.

Anyway, back to the something I will (probably) never do:

Read Finnegan's Wake by James Joyce.

Really though. I've only skimmed a couple of pages in a British lit anthology, and on most pages there were more annotations than there was text. Half of the words are gibberish (idiosyncratic, if you want the technical term), and for heaven's sake, it starts and ends in the middle of a sentence! (It's actually the same sentence, interestingly enough. Where the sentence cuts off at
the end of the book, it picks up at the beginning. If that makes sense.)

I've read The Dead by James Joyce, a short story, and I actually enjoyed it a lot. The Dead, though, is very intelligible. Finnegan's Wake, on the other hand, is a mess. In one of my lit classes, my professor asked the class if anyone had completely read the book, and out of the whole class of 60, only one person raised his hand. The professor seemed surprised, and said "what are you, a masochist?" So I'm not the only person who thinks you would have to be crazy to read it.

It is very interesting to me though, so it's funny that I'm saying I'm not going to read something that is so fascinating to me.

Which is why I don't say definitely never.

I remember several years ago saying that I didn't think I would ever read the unabridged Les Miserables, and a few months later I started it. And finished it, although it took me awhile to get through the whole thing. (I had to take a break halfway through and read something else.) Reading Les Mis was one of the best literary decisions I have ever made; it's a pretty monumental, life changing book. I was glad I didn't hold myself to my previous statement saying I would never read it.

Never, then, doesn't always mean actually never. It might mean maybe possibly never, or absolutely definitely never.

You just never know.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Fotos I should've posted a long time ago

Behold, the annual Valentine's Day party that the Johansen aunts throw for their nephews and niece! Notice that this was in February, which gives you an idea of how long I've needed to post pictures.

These were fudge brownie bites filled with raspberry jam. They were yum.

Valentine's Day tea sandwiches with hot chocolate. I think that is Gavin's place mat that he lovingly colored.

Millie's place mat

This is William after "eating" the brownie bite cookie (aka smashing it all over his face)

The kids! Millie, Ashton and Gavin. Cutest sobrinos ever!

Here are a couple of pictures from my birthday (also in February):

I just wanted to show you my delicious birthday cake, raw raspberry (and strawberry) tiramisu (no coffee, only chocolate and love).
I LOVE this picture! Me and the nephews.

I just had to include this picture of Merlin and my feet. I love my Merlin!

He would know! (the little squirt)

I was babysitting Millie and Will, and of course like most other toddlers, William wanted to walk around in his diaper. Who am I to stop him? They always have fun at our house with the complete collection of Chevron cars.

The line-up

Let's jump to April, when I walked at graduation and commencement even though I graduated in December. I was really glad I did though; I'm really not sure why people don't walk. I like to celebrate with pomp and circumstance! I have quite a few more pictures from graduation I need to steal from my dad's camera, but I wanted to post this one because even though it's kind of blurry, it's cool to see all the caps and gowns.

After graduation we went to the BOMBAY HOUSE, my favorite restaurant of all time. Ever.

El fin.

Angels Landing

This year's climb up Angels Landing happened in May, so I'm only a couple months behind posting pictures! Mindy, Hailey and I hiked together, and we were glad Hailey made it because last time she almost fainted on the way up :) We blame it on Mindy, because if we don't keep her in check then she turns into a power hiker who practically runs up the trail while we are trailing behind smelling the roses. Anyway, Zion was so green this year--definitely more so than last year. You can't really tell from the pictures, though, because it was also kind of misty so the pictures didn't turn out as spectacularly as it looked in person. They never do! Well, I'm not the best photographer, but I like to take pictures anyway. Anyway, here goes:

the goal: it's only a little intimidating to know that at the end of the hike, we will be on top of this peak

switchbacks, also very intimidating

the chipmunks were VERY friendly at the top, probably because of all the people who think it's fine and dandy to feed them. I'm pretty sure these chipmunks would starve if the hike was closed!

this is the view that makes it all worth it!

Hailey, Mindy, and me, taken by an obliging hiker who was probably laughing at our attempts to take a picture of ourselves

this is the bottom part of the hike--cool shot, no?

once again, the friendly wildlife. we didn't see many squirrels but practically an army of chipmunks

Mindylou and Haileyjo

When we were hiking back down, we heard this really strange noise (a loud chirping, almost) and discovered that the source of the noise was this squirrel at the very tippy top of a tree. Mating call?

Monday, July 4, 2011


I must study politics and war that my sons have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.

John Adams, in a letter to his wife Abigail
I don't think I have ever properly thanked the Founding Fathers for everything I have because of their sacrifices. When I read this quote today, I was struck that I have much more to thank them for than I fully realized before. I am so grateful for them, for everyone one who has gone before me and studied mathematics, philosophy, geography, etc., so that I can study literature and music--two of my greatest loves. The Founders understood that they would have to make sacrifices in order for this country, for their posterity, to have liberty to live the way they wanted and to study what they wanted. They might have preferred fine arts to the art of politics and war, but they sacrificed so much of themselves so we could do what they perhaps wanted to, but couldn't. They gave us our future.

As I was coming home from my mission, the airplane landed and we went through security and customs and all that, and when the security guard checked my passport, he smiled and said "welcome home." I don't think I have ever felt more proud to be an American than I was at that moment. I had gone to Uruguay for 18 months and loved every minute of it, and last summer I went to the UK and fell head over heels for England, but America will always be home.

So no matter what anyone says about America's flaws, if we believe in America and preserve the legacy of the Founders, our children can have the same right to study and live however they choose.

Happy 4th of July!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

And finally, graveyards

Without further ado:

The first set of pictures is from my mission in Uruguay. I was fascinated with the whole process of burial in Uruguay. This is from what I understand about Uruguayan burial traditions: After the funeral ceremony, a person is laid to rest in a cemetery, or more likely, an above-the-ground niche. After a few years, the body is cremated and the remains are place in an urn. It sounds a little weird compared to our culture's traditions to, in essence, dig up a body after a couple of years and cremate the remains, but in such a small country as Uruguay, it makes sense.

First, here is the tomb of Jose Artigas in Montevideo, who is like the "George Washington" of Uruguay, according to one of my companions.

These statues of Artigas are ALL OVER THE PLACE in Uruguay. There's pretty much one in every city (maybe an exaggeration, but not by much).

Under the statue is the tomb, where lies:

the remains of General Jose Artigas himself, guarded carefully

This is a Jewish cemetery in La Paz, near Montevideo, Uruguay. Unfortunately, it was always padlocked, so I was never able to go inside and look around.

Instead, we just took pictures through the bars.

This is the cemetery in Pan de Azucar. I love this statue; she's so beautiful.

This is an example of the "above-the-ground niche" where people are buried for the first few years of being... dead. I suppose more wealthy people's graves or tombs looked more like this:

These seem to be more permanent than the above-the-ground spots, so maybe if you have enough money, you can afford a permanent residence in a tomb.

There are rows and rows of urns in the cemetery. It's fascinating to walk around and see all the different urns.

And now, we will travel to a different continent to visit some graveyards in the UK:

This is Oxford. My dream is to study there one day! This little graveyard is right inside of Christ's Church college, which is the area where we spent most of our time at Oxford. Christ's Church is the old stomping ground of Charles Dodgson (more commonly known as Lewis Carroll, author of the Alice books).

This, my friends (you can't read it unless you zoom very closely) is the tombstone of Thomas Riddell in Edinburgh, Scotland. This awesome little graveyard is right by the Elephant House, which is a little cafe where JK Rowling supposedly started writing Harry Potter on a napkin. She is said to have walked through this graveyard getting ideas for names in her books. Looking through the graveyard, we not only found this grave, but also Mooney, Black, and McGonagall. Pretty neat!
This, if you notice, is not a graveyard. This is Winchester Cathedral, where Jane Austen herself was laid to rest.

There you go.

Glastonbury Abbey is the fabled burial site of Arthur and Guinevere (for awesome pictures of Glastonbury, see this blog)

This little graveyard in Bemerton, which was George Herbert's rectory.

Bemerton, again.

Stoke Poges, the graveyard that inspired Thomas Grey's poem "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard."

Stoke Poges, again.

This is the Bronte Parsonage in Haworth. Amaaaaaazing! I loved their little parsonage, and as I have mentioned before, I can definitely understand where Charlotte and Emily Bronte were coming from writing their creepy Gothic novels. Loved Haworth, love the moors, love them.

Love, love, love.