The Unpretentious Reader

Author Archive: Emily

Radio silence + 2017 goals

I know it’s been quiet around here.

When I first wrote that sentence, I ended it with an apology. But I’m not sorry for taking time away, and too often I say sorry for a multitude of things that are simply not my fault.


Goal #1: Stop saying sorry for everything.


It’s not that I even wanted a break. I miss this little corner of the internet that’s all mine, and I’m trying to find my way back to it – truly, I am.


Sometimes life turns upside down, and for whatever reason, you lose interest in the very things you once loved to do. Writing for me sometimes is a painful process, in that I mean it is almost never easy. But I crave the feeling I get when I’ve managed to push through the mindblocks, the creative dry spells, the difficult emotions, and actually write something. My sweet, amazing therapist, who I’m already missing like crazy (she had to move on in her residency) gave me homework to simply write. And so here I am.


Goal #2: Start writing again.


2017 is the year I want to start living for myself – it’s the year I want to start taking the best care of myself: physically, mentally, and everything in between. It’s the year I want to learn how to say no….and how to say yes. It’s time to once and for all make my own decisions without fear of judgment or other people’s opinions. It’s time to trust myself, because I’m a strong, independent woman who knows what she wants and needs.


Goal #3: Trust my gut.


I only read 44 books in 2016, just shy of my goal of 50. I think I would’ve made it, but the past few months – as I’ve mentioned – I simply lost interest in things I love to do. Reading was one of those, and so for a good two-month period of time, I barely read anything. Recently I’ve been rediscovering my love for it, though (thank goodness, I missed it so), and I’m feeling hopeful that I can set a goal for 2017 and actually meet it.


Goal #4: Read 45 books this year.


And that’s it. A modest list, but one that fits perfectly with where I’m at in life. I left 2016 in a mix of emotions. So many highs and lows – good memories, but also really, really bad ones. Ones I’m not sad to leave behind. But I’m looking forward to 2017 with an open heart and mind. I know there are things in my life to look forward to, and I’m ready for them.

So ready.

Weekend things


I have a confession.

I’m having a REALLY HARD TIME adjusting to being back in the real world, AKA not Kauai. Whomp, whomp. I know you’re all sick of me. But I am back, and all week I’ve been fighting what feels like a cold. It’s probably not helping that I’ve been staying up late every night, either watching Bates Motel (new obsession) or playing No Man’s Sky (even bigger new obsession). So I guess the lack of sleep is my own fault, but hey. Whatcha gonna do.

In other news, here’s what I read over the past few weeks:

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this podcast interview with Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show. A much more serious, less jokey Noah talks race, politics, and the current election. The below quote in particular was fantastic, but the entire interview is worth a listen.

Regarding presidential candidates: “Yet in America, there’s, would you have a beer with this person, can they eat my food, can they make me like them. I care less about what they are planning to do, I care more about how they feel and how they make me feel about them. And that is a very dangerous place to be in, because essentially, America is electing a mascot and not a president.

This keeps happening and we keep being surprised, somehow: “The Justice Department’s incredibly damning report on Baltimore police, explained

Dying. This is how I always feel at yoga class. So good: “What the women from my beginners’ dance class definitely said about me after I left

A long but incredibly worthwhile read: My four months as a private prison guard. I’m glad to hear the Justice Department has decided to end the use of private prisons. When your priority as a company is to make a profit, and your products are human beings, guess who suffers?

How Trolls Are Ruining the Internet. “…the Internet’s personality has changed. Once it was a geek with lofty ideals about the free flow of information. Now, if you need help improving your upload speeds the web is eager to help with technical details, but if you tell it you’re struggling with depression it will try to goad you into killing yourself.”

What I read on vacation

I managed to read three books while we were in Kauai – and surprisingly, I didn’t read any of the books I brought with me! At the last minute I downloaded a bunch of books to my Kindle (my love for public libraries knows no bounds) and those are the ones that ended up capturing my attention over the ones I brought. Go figure.

Here’s what I read:

Fear Nothing

Fear Nothing, by Lisa Gardner

This is the second book I’ve read in Gardner’s Detective D. D. Warren series, about a 30-year-old murder case and its possible link to a present-day serial killer on the loose. It was a quick and entertaining read, but unfortunately I was able to guess who the killer was early on. I hate when I’m able to do that! As far as mystery/crime thrillers go, though, I like Gardner’s work when I need something that quickly hooks me.


Wizard at Large

Wizard at Large, by Terry Brooks

I started reading Terry Brooks’ Magic Kingdom of Landover series years ago but only read the first two books (out of six), so I’ve been meaning to finish the series for a while now. I love Brooks’ Shannara series and grew up reading them – between Brooks and Madeleine L’Engle, I was hooked on reading at a very early age. I have to say that I don’t love the Landover series nearly as much. It’s kind of a “take it for what it is” fantasy series – short and sweet, entertaining, but not exactly challenging for the mind. Regardless, I know I’ll finish the series because I’m just interested enough in the story to keep reading.



Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff

This book has been on my to-read list for quite some time. I usually love stories that span over several decades, and that’s exactly what Fates and Furies does here, but with a twist – the story is told from two different viewpoints, almost as two separate books sandwiched together. It’s a book about marriage, flaws, the lies we tell ourselves and to each other, the things people will do for love, and how two people can live the same marriage but have vastly different experiences. The writing was beautiful, engaging, and the voice was unique. I really enjoyed this one and finished it in about 48 hours!

Weekend things

Kalalau Trail, 2014

Kalalau Trail, Kauai, 2014

Hey hey! I’m in total vacation mode even though I’ve got three days of work left before leaving for Hawaii. Since Danny’s been in school, we try to take a vacation every August (his longest break between semesters) and I’m so looking forward to a week of relaxing and exploring the beautiful island of Kauai. Ok, FINE, I’ll stop talking about it. Posting might be sporadic for 1-2 weeks since, you know, I’ll probably be too busy lounging on the beach to blog! Ok I’m done this time, for real. 😉

It’s becoming a little more real as each day passes by that we’re on the final stretch of this school journey, and I couldn’t be more ready. Going back to college for a STEM degree when you’re in your 30s and married looks a lot different than when you’re 18 and living at home, and by different I mean substantially harder. It’s crazy to imagine that a year from now, I don’t know what we’ll be doing, but school won’t be part of the equation (at least for now – who knows what the future holds). I’m excited for what’s to come – whatever that may be!

And now, the many things I read this week…

This piece on self-judgment and inability to take a compliment really hit home.

Op-ed: Trump reflects white male fragility. Agreed.

I’ve got about six hours left to listen to of The Wise Man’s Fear (a 42+ hour book!), so I enjoyed reading this interview with the author, Patrick Rothfuss.

After finishing this book last week, I stumbled across this essay and immediately felt compelled to share. “‘She’s not even that fat!’ But I am.

Ever since discovering Donald and Hobbes, I can’t stop laughing/crying on the inside. So good.

President Obama on feminism. Loved this!

Happy weekend!

Beach reads

I haven’t talked about this on the blog yet, but in seven days, Danny and I will be headed off to Kauai, Hawaii for an entire week!


We visited Kauai for the first time in 2014 and fell in love with the island – so it’s no surprise we’ve managed to find our way back there again. We plan on spending this trip doing much of the same as the last one: snorkeling, hiking, eating fresh and delicious food, and last but not least, my favorite thing to do on vacation: reading on the beach!

Though the term “beach read” can mean “chick lit” to many people, that’s not really how I gauge what I bring to the beach. (Although there’s NOTHING wrong with the latter. And, side note, why isn’t there a genre called “dude lit”? Inquiring minds need to know.) When going on vacation, I will typically bring at minimum three books, plus some extras on my Kindle and at least one good audiobook on my phone. My worst nightmare is running out of books to read on vacation. If I get a lot of relaxation time, it’s not uncommon for me to finish 2-3 books on a single, week-long vacation. I have to come prepared!

I also like to have variety, because my mood determines what I feel like reading at any given moment, and there’s nothing worse than being bored with the books you brought and having nothing to switch to. So after several reminder emails that I had books waiting to be picked up at the library, here’s what I’m looking at:

Beach reads!

OBVIOUSLY it would be impractical to try to travel with this many books (but WOULD IT? whispers the oversized backpack in my closet). The ones I’m leaning towards bringing are The Year of the Flood (I’ve already started reading this one off and on), The Book of Unknown Americans (this is the pick for my book club this month), and The Love that Split the World. Oh and obviously Harry Potter, assuming I don’t finish it before we leave next week (that copy is mine, preordered from Amazon like the HP-loving nerd I am).


I’m also listening to The Wise Man’s Fear (book two in the Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss) but, considering the 9+ hours of traveling we’ll be doing both ways, I suspect I’ll finish it before the trip is over. Just to be safe, I plan on downloading Truly, Madly, Guilty, Liane Moriarty’s latest book, as well. I have high hopes for that one!

Finally, I’ll grab a a couple of titles for my Kindle from the library – not sure which ones, yet. It usually depends on whatever the library has available. 🙂

What do you like to read on vacation??

Weekend things


Well, it finally happened…I turned 30 on Saturday! Pictured above was my dinner (that’s chimichurri on the steak…SO good). It was a lovely day filled with breakfast at Ruth’s Diner, the climbing gym, a massage and pedicure, then dinner, dessert, and watching Star Wars with good friends. It was the perfect way to ring in a new decade of life.

While returning some clothes to Kohl’s today, I inadvertently found myself in the awkward position of emotional support listener to the poor cashier girl. There wasn’t another customer (or employee, for that matter) for miles, and before I knew it I was hearing about how exhausted she was because she’d stayed up late fighting with her boyfriend last night because her boyfriend just doesn’t understand her problems and cares more about his own feelings than hers and she’s stuck in a dead end job but she has a communications degree but can’t find a job in that field and …. by this point I’d backed up a good 10 feet because she’d already finished my return ages ago and given me my receipt, and despite every clear social sign that I was ready to leave, she kept talking. So I listened.

Sometimes I think we’re all just so desperate for someone to listen to and understand us. I couldn’t tell that girl whatever it was she needed to hear, but I listened and wished her good luck. Sometimes that’s all you can do.

In other news…here’s what caught my eye online this week:

From one of my favorite female travel bloggers: The world is not safe – but you should explore it anyway.

Like the rest of the country, we ferociously consumed Netflix’s Stranger Things and I already can’t wait for the second season. So I found this article to be pretty interesting: The stories behind Stranger Things’ Retro ’80s Props.

And there was much rejoicing: new Gilmore Girls trailer!

Speaking of new trailers… M. Night Shyamalan’s upcoming film looks CHILLING.

As someone who despises brainstorming in a group office setting, this research gives me hope. “As companies all over the country adopted the method, psychologists started to wonder: Does brainstorming actually work? Many scientific studies later, they had their answer: a resounding no. Study after study found that people who use this group technique produce fewer good ideas than those who ideate alone.” Brainstorming is dumb.

My friend Stef is one of those creative people who is good at EVERYTHING (seriously – check out her work). Her latest creation is this song, titled Ebb and Flow, and it’s so good.

Hope you all had a lovely weekend!

30 random facts about me {Turning 30}

1. One time in college, a friend texted me this: “We’re going skydiving today. Wanna come?” And I did. (Such a rush!)


2. Until about 5 years ago, the only things I knew how to cook were chili, hamburger helper, and banana bread.

3. In 2010 I started (and finished!) a 365 photo project. I picked a heck of a year to do it, because I got engaged AND married and life was just crazy for a while.

4. I used to have 1/2 inch gauged ears, around the same time I was also majorly into hardcore music and going to shows every weekend. Ah, youth.


5. The first CD I ever bought with my own money was MxPx’s “Teenage Politics.” Followed shortly thereafter by Creed’s “Human Clay” (NO SHAME, ya’ll).

6. I am right-handed, but I bat (and golf) left-handed. Yes, really.

7. When I was a kid, I had a pet hamster named Pumpkin and he was the best hamster to have ever lived in all the land.


8. I was absolutely terrified of roller coasters until my 9th grade class took a field trip to Islands of Adventure in Orlando, FL, during which my friends persuaded me to ride “The Hulk” with them. I’ve been a coaster junkie ever since.

9. Games have always been a huge part of my life; I was obsessed with Super Nintendo as a kid (who am I kidding, I still love SNES), I played Ultima Online all through high school, and these days I play a mix of PS4 and sometimes PC games. There’s not enough time in the day for all the games I want to try.

10. I learned how to drive stick in a ’92 Toyota Celica.


11. As a young girl, I was a total tomboy. I balked at society’s rules for girls, at the color pink and the requirement to wear dresses for certain functions, and really anything at all that was considered traditionally “girly.” I got angry when I found out girls couldn’t play in the NFL. You get the idea. It’s only been in recent years that I’ve learned about feminism and started to identify as a feminist, but clearly, I’ve always been one at heart. (And now I believe it doesn’t matter if you like pink or not…it’s all about what you like because you like it and not because society tells you to!)

12. On a trip to the Bahamas when I was 13, my oldest/dearest friend Bekah and I were swimming in the ocean and started to get followed by a huge (~5-foot) barracuda…until I accidentally dropped my disposable camera in the water. That distracted him, and we swiftly swam to shore. Later we found out he was known to hang around that beach, and the locals had lovingly named him “George.” I am not kidding.

13. In 2013, I read 100 books. It was tough but I did it, and it seriously expanded my horizons in terms of new authors and genres to read.


14. The one time in my life I went to Warped Tour, I got sun poisoning and swore off music festivals forever.

15. I used to be a Guitar Hero master. I miss playing…but only the PS2 version.

16. I’ve only ever been on one blind date, and that date took me to a ZZ Top concert. Front row at The Ryman! I could almost touch their beards.

17. I loathe raisins. I used to loathe raisins and carrots, but I’m starting to come around to carrots (though I still won’t eat the big ones raw). Chick-Fila used to have a side item that was a shredded carrot and raisin “salad,” and anytime I went through the drive-thru and saw its picture on the menu, I shivered. JUST LOOK AT THAT ABOMINATION:


18. I’ve read and/or listened to the entire Harry Potter series at least six times but probably more than that (I’ve lost count). It never gets old.

19. I’ve visited 26 states in the U.S., in addition to the Bahamas, Belize, Guatemala, and Taiwan. One day I hope to expand that list to all 50 states, the Greek Isles, New Zealand, Iceland, basically all of Europe (but especially Italy), plus about 239486 other places.

20. I once jogged/walked a half marathon in Nashville. NEVER.AGAIN. (I’m smiling in this photo, but I assure you it’s only because this was taken pre-marathon.)


21. I have a gift card hoarding problem. I can never decide on something “good enough” to use the money on. (Currently have $75 in Amazon cards. WHAT TO DO!?!?!)

22. Around age 14, I worked at a horse ranch in exchange for getting to ride whenever I wanted. I absolutely loved it, all of it, and to this day I have a soft spot in my heart for horses and horseback riding.

23. My first experience with guacamole happened at my first job which, unfortunately for me and the guacamole, was Taco Bell. I didn’t try it again for years, convinced all guacamole was the equivalent to green baby poo. When someone actually made me guacamole with fresh ingredients, I immediately fell in love.

24. One summer in high school, my best friend in the whole world was grounded and the only way we survived was by writing actual, physical letters back and forth (in gel color pens, obviously). I mean…just look how cool we were:


25. Breakfast/brunch is my absolute favorite meal to go out for but also my most conflicted. Savory or sweet?!? SAVORY OR SWEET!?!? It’s a struggle every time.

26. In college I worked at a hotel where, during the Super Bowl, the stars from One Tree Hill came to stay. My one brush with fame!

27. While dating, my husband started calling me “Scooter” and the nickname stuck. Now, I can’t even remember the last time he addressed me by my real name…haha.

28. I decided to do extra schoolwork one summer and graduated high school at the age of 17, mostly because all my friends were a grade higher than me and I couldn’t stand the thought of them graduating without me. 😉

29. Living near a coast used to be a huge priority for me, but lately my love for the mountains is starting to rival my love for the beach.

30. After almost 30 years of living…….I’m still one of the most impatient people I know.

GOSH, that was a long list. I don’t blame you if you gave up halfway through, but if you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading! 🙂

Weekend things


How has your weekend been? Utah has a state holiday called “Pioneer Day” this weekend which means we get an extra day off work! Hallelujah. Except that Utah people really love their fireworks, which let me tell you, reaches several levels above annoying when it’s almost midnight and they’re still going strong. Trying not to be that person who calls the cops but HEY, SOMEBODY’S GOTTA DO IT.

We spent our Saturday in the Uintas National Forest and found the perfect place to climb in the shade. Afterwards, we came home and I played Minecraft for too many hours. It’s not a complete waste of time if you’re also listening to an audiobook while playing, amiright?

Here’s what caught my eye on the web this week…. does anyone even call it the web anymore? Maybe I’ll start calling it the “internet webs” like the Chewbacca lady.

I’d love to one day have a garden where we can start to grow our own food. Even more so after reading this, because apparently everything we love to eat is a scam.

This post is everything. Donald Trump’s nomination is the first time American politics has left me truly afraid.

Dude. Food art is my favorite kind of art. Dying over these cheese platters!

This entire article is 100% worth your time. What it’s like to be black in Naperville, America.

I’ve been thinking this for a while now. Our brains weren’t designed for this much bad news.

Here’s to another week – hope it’s a great one!

Things I have (un)learned in the past decade {Turning 30}

Therapy is not of the devil

In fact, therapy can be good for you! It’s simple: too often do we seek professional medical help for physical ailments, but neglect that same help for our mental health. There’s a stigma about this, thanks to societal and/or religious norms, that seeing a therapist or taking prescribed medication for issues you can’t see with your eyes is somehow wrong or a failure. I’m here to tell you: it’s not.

My body is my own

One of the unfortunate side effects of being a pre-teen growing up in the purity culture / modesty culture frenzy is that a lot of those ideas, whether or not you agree with them now, have a tendency to embed themselves in your subconscious. Therapists call these core beliefs, and they are very hard to unlearn. But hey, creepy dude in the Wal-Mart who approached me while alone to tell me I’m “beautiful” – rather than be uncomfortably polite, I’m going to be rude to you now, because I didn’t ask for your opinion about my looks and even more important, I don’t care what you think.

Yes, your metabolism DOES slow down

Especially for those of us who have always struggled with our weight or always had slower metabolism or medical reasons why we can’t exercise or what-have-you. So do yourselves a favor, kids, and start eating right and exercising now. All in moderation, of course, but not creating those habits early is something I regret and am paying for now. My advice? If you’re physically able, find a type of exercise you enjoy. I loathe the gym – but I love being outside here in gorgeous Utah, so now I hike (and rock climb!). Same goes for cooking – if I don’t continuously find new recipes to try, I get bored and we order pizza instead.

It’s actually possible to get a job doing something you like

I majored in Business Administration in college, AKA the “I don’t know what to do with my life” degree. The only thing I’d been passionate about in high school was web design and writing. At the time, I wasn’t sure I was “smart enough” for a computer science or web design degree (thanks misogyny and general discouragement of women to go into STEM fields!). I also didn’t want to get an English degree just because I liked to write. All that to say, I had zero desire to start my own business or manage people. A business degree was easy but also bored me to tears.

Fast forward a decade, and here I am, in a communications position, writing for a living. It’s still a job, but it’s something I think I’m good at – something I enjoy. And one of my goals this year (that I’m woefully falling behind on) is to start coding again and rebuilding that skill set, so, yeah – I guess the point of this rambling paragraph is to not be discouraged if you get a degree you’re not thrilled about in college. You’re not pigeon-holed into doing that for the rest of your life!

I am very, very lucky to have the parents I do

We may not ALWAYS see eye-to-eye (ha!), but they love me more than I thought it was possible to love a person, they unwaveringly support me in all that I do, and they spoil me far more than I deserve. So many people don’t have good relationships with their parents (or don’t have parents, or have parents but they aren’t good people…the list goes on), and over the years I’ve just become more and more distinctly aware of how blessed I am to have them. They raised me to be an independent person with diverse interests, and I’m so very thankful for that.

Weekend things

Sunset Peak trail

Heading back down the trail from Sunset Peak.

Here we are, at the end of another weekend. It’s true what adults say when you’re a kid; time flies when you get older. All you can do is try to live life to its fullest as it literally rushes past you. Ha.

This week our diet was in complete shambles. Does that ever happen to anyone else? We actually had food to cook, meals that were planned, but for whatever reason I just couldn’t face the kitchen this week. So, we ordered pizza twice (delivered by the same girl, who you know was judging us), ate cheese quesadillas one night, and even – I’m ashamed to admit – ordered from the McDonald’s drive-thru. I don’t know what the deal was, but we are getting back on the straight and narrow this week (says the person who just ate a PB&J for breakfast).

How was your week? Danny’s birthday was yesterday, so this weekend we celebrated with fancy dinner in Park City (including duck enchiladas, gazpacho, chorizo queso, elk london broil, snow crab guacamole, and ceviche), and a nice long hike to Sunset Peak yesterday morning with friends. Between all the food and hiking, I feel like I could nap for days. We’ve also been getting pretty obsessed with few new shows on Netflix and HBO GO: Stranger Things, How to Make It in America, and The Night Of. (I’m also hooked on Girls. I can’t stop!)

I hope you’ve all had a fabulous week. May I suggest you read…

An unlikely voice from the inside: “My husband is a cop. I’m tired of trying to convince my fellow liberals he’s not a monster.”

This is my absolute favorite: How to get a bikini body. (Or in other words, put your body in a bikini and take it to the beach!)

An imagined conversation with Instagram. So funny and true.

If you read nothing else, at least read this: Walking While Black.