The Unpretentious Reader

Why 30 is exciting, for me {Turning 30}

Look at those stirrup pants. Those pants are saying, “30? I’ll never be 30! I’ll be young forever!” Also, I’m pretty sure that clown was possessed…

As a child, like many of you I’m sure, hearing that someone was 30 years old was the equivalent of them being 60. It was just so unfathomable to my young mind, practically lightyears away. 30-year-olds were, like, actual adults and had wrinkles and shopped for washer/dryer sets and lived boring old people lives.

Can we all just stop and laugh for a minute? I knew nothing. Nothing!

Ok, so maybe I don’t have the best skin in the world anymore and maybe I do get excited about buying new appliances (COME ON. Look at the refrigerators that exist today, they’re glorious), but I certainly do NOT live a boring life.

In fact, I’m pretty certain that the best is yet to come.

I spent my 20s working. I graduated from college a hair before turning 22, and as I wrote in my last ‘Turning 30’ post, I immediately moved away from my home town in Jacksonville, FL to Nashville, TN. It was a vulnerable time. I found a job (that I hated, but which gifted me with dear friends whom I love and keep in touch with to this day), and that was that. I’ve had a job ever since, aside from a brief stint of unemployment when we moved from Nashville to Salt Lake. That’s not to say I’m quitting my job the day I turn 30 – ha! Not happening anytime soon.

While I can’t predict the future, here are some things I’m looking forward to hopefully taking place in my 30s:

Buying a house

You guys, I am too old and cranky to deal with apartment-living for much longer. We’re lucky enough to finally be living in a condominium complex, with each building only housing four units with neighbors we get along with (and are even friends with), but still. I can’t tell you how ready I am to have our own backyard where we can grill again (!!!) and walls I can paint whatever color I want. I don’t even know where we’ll be buying (as in, which state) but I can tell you, IT IS TIME. Which brings me to my next point…

The unknown

In less than a year, my husband will have graduated college with his computer science degree. We literally have no idea what’s in store after that – will we stay here in Utah? Will we move? What kind of job will he get? What will our lives look like without school taking priority over everything? This uncertainty could bother some people, but I can’t help but be excited about it. All I know is the next chapter of our lives is about to begin and it has been a long time coming. School has consumed our lives for almost 5 years; I can’t wait to see what’s in store when it’s over.

Getting a dog (or two)

Many of you are aware that two years ago, we did have a dog. The sweetest, most perfect little dog with a very huge problem: separation anxiety. Living where we do, we were not allowed to get a second dog to keep him company all day, and believe me when I say that for eight months we tried EVERYTHING. We ended up having to adopt him to another family with a second dog, and to this day, I can’t think about it without my heart breaking. I haven’t dealt with the grief of that situation very well at all, but I can tell you that having a dog filled a hole in my heart I didn’t know I had until he was gone. While he can’t ever be replaced, I’m ready for that emptiness to be filled again…which will happen whenever we finally have a house and a yard.

Caring less about other people’s opinions

I’ve changed a bit in the past 10 years. I think most people do, especially in their 20s. I’d like to think that I’ve changed for the better. I’m more open-minded, more cautious of other people’s feelings. How I feel about political and social issues has changed. Most of all, I’ve tried my hardest over the past decade to become the most informed I can be about current events and social justice.

I’m not an expert on anything, but I know for a fact that I am white and privileged and could stand to learn a thing or two (or 50) from people different than me. That’s probably one of the most important things I’ve learned the past few years, and I hope to continue letting that guide my life and decisions moving forward. Included with that is not caring what other people think. I’d like to learn how to let go of worrying about other people’s opinions and be more of myself, my authentic self, regardless of the situation.

Weekend things

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Look. I’m not going to be one more white person adding to the noise about the tragedies and injustices that have occurred this week. All I’ll say is that it is possible for a person to be pro Black Lives Matter and pro police officers. The two are not mutually exclusive, and I am equally outraged and saddened at the loss of life on both sides this week. Senseless violence fueled by systemic racism and hate.

Most of us want peace. Most of us don’t want anyone to be killed.

What else is there to say? My heart is heavy.

Here’s some stuff to read.


The unfortunate reality of dry shampoo. Can’t a woman catch a break!?


This guy makes some good points.


“On July 13, 2015, President Obama commuted the prison sentences of 46 nonviolent drug offenders. Here’s what their lives are like now.” This was a very, very good read.


Alton Sterling and when black lives stop mattering: a poignant essay from one of my favorite authors, Roxane Gay.


The next time someone says “all lives matter,” show them these five paragraphs.


And iPhone lovers rejoice: Apple may finally be ditching the 16GB iPhone.


This was heartwarming: police chief writes a passionate letter to fellow officers after Dallas shooting.


How to take care of yourself in the wake of traumatic shootings. Bad things have always happened, but it’s only in the last decade or so that we’ve had access to those bad things at our fingertips, in an instant. It’s tough on the mind and soul, and it’s important to remember to take care of yourself.


I hope this week is better – for all of us. <3

Book review: Americanah

Americanah

Premise:

Primarily a story about race, with a little bit of love thrown in, Americanah follows the life and experiences of Ifemelu, a young woman born in Nigeria who ends up leaving midway through college to finish her studies in the U.S.

Thoughts:

WOW, what a good book. Americanah is, first and foremost, a study of the complexities and nuances of race and immigration. The book primarily follows Ifemelu, but some chapters also read from Obinze’s perspective, her high school/college boyfriend, who also moves out of Nigeria to London for some time. When Ifemelu moves to the U.S. to finish her studies, she’s confronted with this sudden concept of race, something she never even thought about in Nigeria. What it means to be black and born in the U.S., and what it means to be black and move to the U.S. from another country…which she discovers are two very separate things. She learns to lie about how long she’s lived in the U.S., and she adopts a fake American accent, all so she will be accepted and treated “normally.”

At some point, Ifemelu decides she’s tired of faking it. She begins to embrace her Nigerian roots again, she loses the accent, she wears her hair natural. It’s empowering, and you love her for it. I also just liked her as a character in general – she’s strong-willed, self-assured, stubborn, and never afraid to speak her mind, which sometimes gets her into trouble. She goes through ups and downs during her time living in the U.S., but ultimately she ends up being a successful blogger and writer, choosing to focus on race in America in her blog posts. Despite her academic and professional success, you find out in the very first chapter that Ifemelu has decided to return to Nigeria, a decision many of her friends and family immediately question. She has her reasons, which you find out as the book goes on, with subsequent chapters exploring her early years in Nigeria, her relationship with Obinze, and how everything has changed since then.

I won’t say much more as I’d rather you just discover it for yourselves. This was an important read…extremely engaging and gripping. Highly recommend!

Weekend things

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Yesterday we went exploring for new climbing routes in American Fork canyon, and as I stood on one side of the stream waiting as Danny explored the other side, it hit me all over again as it sometimes does that we are so lucky to live here. Utah has its downsides like any other state, but as I stood there listening to the water rushing by, surrounded by mountains and tall trees and the smell of wildflowers, I couldn’t remember any of them. Now if only my family lived here….it would be perfect.

I don’t know about you, but three-day weekends are my jam. We have an entire, extra day off tomorrow (I hope you do, too!) and I’m thrilled. We’ll probably go for a hike, maybe a climb, definitely try to get out of the valley and away from the fireworks (Utahns looooove their fireworks). Hope you have a happy 4th! 🙂

On the interwebs this week:


How being a good girl can be hazardous to your health. “From our earlier years we’re taught to be “good girls.” We’re told to be polite, be good, to not interrupt, to say thank you and fake appreciation even when we don’t like something, to be pleasant, not make waves, to be seen and not heard, to not question authority, not stand up for our rights, not be bossy, share when we don’t want to – the list of how we’re taught to “be good” is endless. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be decent citizens with good manners, but that’s different than not speaking up for ourselves and accepting what just feels wrong. Our inner “good girl” usually starts at home, follows us through school, and stays with us in our jobs, relationships, and business dealings.”


I found this interview with Matt Weiner, director for a particularly climactic episode of Orange Is the New Black, to be fascinating. I won’t say too much here for fear of spoilers, but if you’ve finished watching season 4, I highly recommend reading it!


Geraldine Largay’s Wrong Turn: Death on the Appalachian Trail. No words. So sad.


If you (like me and the rest of the country) obsessively followed season one of Serial, then you’ve probably heard the news that Adnan Syed was granted a new trial. Justice – or is it? What do you think? I’m interested to see how it plays out.


THIS. So much yes. “But when a man tells a woman she has to behave more sensibly to prevent risk, he never means that she should behave more sensibly around him. He retains the right to not only view himself as non-threatening to her, but also to insist that she treat him this way to avoid insulting him by association.” This is why we have women-only spaces, and why I don’t want to hear your complaints.


It’s like a particularly awful car crash…you want to look away but you can’t. In other words, I need to see this: Tickled.

Turning 30: a series

Tracy and I, taken shortly before I moved in 2008.

Tracy and I, taken shortly before I moved away from Jax in 2008.

In the spirit of self-reflection and my ever-growing need to write more, I’ve decided to do a little mini series on turning 30. Because yes, I’m turning 30 next month and please excuse me while I go cry into a bowl of anti-aging face cream.

I think most people change A LOT in their 20s. It’s a vulnerable time, I’d argue even more vulnerable than high school, and the decisions you make in your 20s have the capacity to affect the rest of your life in unchangeable ways. Personally, I’ve changed quite a bit and learned quite a bit more during the past decade. And it all started with moving to Nashville…

 


 

I lay on the living room floor in a makeshift bed, trying and failing to ignore my dad’s snores drifting down the stairs from where he slept on the second floor. It was 4:00 a.m. on a mid-July morning and we were waking up in two hours to leave my hometown, the only place I’d ever known. I’d spent the past day and night soaking up time with my closest friends, not truly believing I was leaving, that I’d actually made the choice to leave. But I had. And I was.

At 6:00 a.m. the alarm clock cried out in that obnoxious way old school alarm clocks do, before the rise of iPhones, and I hadn’t slept a wink. Dad woke up, too, and silently we began to pack the last few straggler items into the U-Haul. We’d been unable to secure a trailer to tow my car, which meant for the next nine hours Dad would be driving the U-Haul, and I’d be following behind him. I kept telling myself I was the one who’d chosen to leave, that no one was making me do this.

Leaving the apartment Tracy and I had shared was an unceremonious affair. It was empty, a shell, devoid of the memories of friends, heartache, parties, and laughter it used to hold. I walked through one last time to make sure I hadn’t left anything behind, and then we drove away. Just like that.

Driving the 9 hours from Jacksonville to Nashville was old hat for me, I’d been doing it at least once a year with my parents for most of my life, but something about this drive on this day made everything stand out in sharp focus. With each passing minute, the realization that I was driving further away from the life I knew and into one I didn’t became harder and harder to ignore. I listened to angry music as loud as my ears could stand it, I cried, I called friends back home to pass the time. We stopped at a Wal-Mart so I could buy a car charger for my phone, so I could keep calling, keep up that lifeline I was so desperate to not let go of.

We got stuck in unmoving traffic in Chattanooga, forcing drivers to turn off A/Cs for fear of cars overheating in the thick July air, and at that moment I felt as if I were being punished. I could no longer remember the reasons I was doing this. I missed my parents, I knew that. I’d graduated from college two months earlier with no real purpose, no desire to keep working the job I had. I’d lost interest in various aspects of my life. I knew I needed a change, but was overcome with regret the second I’d committed to one.

3 months before moving. I was a very literal Facebook user at the time. 😉

When we finally arrived, many of my extended family were at my parents’ house, eagerly waiting to welcome me with open arms. I’ll never forget the rush of gratitude I felt in those moments, hugging my mom and cousins and aunts and uncles, feeling scared and so sad and so out of place, yet so very loved. Everyone helped unload the U-Haul, and as my uncle was leaving later that day, he looked me in the eyes and said, “This is your home now, Em.” Internally, I recoiled – my heart was still in Jacksonville, and would remain there for quite some time. But I’ve never forgotten those words, and what they’ve come to mean. Home doesn’t have to be where you grew up, or where you were born. Home is wherever you feel loved.

That was 8 years ago, and I remain forever changed because of that decision I made so long ago to move away from everything I’d ever known, a decision that turned out to be the best one I’d ever made, a decision that’s blessed me with friends and family and relationships I never would’ve known. As I approach this new decade of life as someone who is a very different person from that scared 21-year-old, I’m reminded that moving to Nashville was the catalyst for the change I so desperately needed. I don’t think I’d be the person I am today, with 30 looming on the horizon, living in Utah with my husband/best friend who gets me and a fantastic job and more outdoor hobbies than I need, if I hadn’t left Jacksonville. I don’t know who I’d be if I had stayed – but I’m glad I got the opportunity to never find out. 🙂

Weekend things

Slow Magic performing at the Utah Arts Festival

How’s your weekend been so far? Mine has involved eating BBQ with friends, strolling through the Utah Arts Festival (awesome people watching), out-of-this-world pistachio gelato (eaten after a fruitless search for Dippin’ Dots at the festival, don’t judge me), a little bit of hiking and climbing, and grocery shopping. I can’t believe it’s already almost Monday. Super glad we have a 3-day weekend (4th of July) coming up!

With Danny in school, one of the things I’ve taken over these past few years is meal planning and cooking. Unfortunately I get bored really quickly with the same old recipes, so I have to keep it interesting, otherwise we’ll eat Domino’s multiple times a week (I’m not joking). I’m a bit envious of people who can just go to the grocery store without a plan or list and make it work. I HAVE to have my list!

It’s always interesting to me to see other people’s weekly menus, so here’s what I’m making if you’re curious:

Tonight: Asian-inspired salmon in foil, sweet potato, broccoli
Monday: Book club snacks
Tuesday: Slow cooker balsamic chicken with veggies and wild rice
Wednesday: Leftovers
Thursday: Sushi bowls
Friday: Meatless quinoa tacos
Saturday: Leftovers

Anyway, here’s what caught my eye on the internet this week:


Having just finished A Little Life, I really enjoyed reading this article: How Hanya Yanagihara Wrote A Little Life (written by the author herself). I love getting insight into authors’ writing processes.


Neil Gaiman, one of my favorite authors (am I allowed to say that if I haven’t read all of his books yet?), on how boredom is a writer’s best friend.


Yellowcard has been near and dear to my heart since high school. There are so few bands I can say I loved then and still love now, and Yellowcard is definitely one of them – so while I respect the band’s decision, I was pretty sad to hear this news that the album they’re currently recording will be their last. The single “Say Goodbye” that they just released is, of course, so good.


You probably won’t find this funny unless you’re a rock climber or know people who are rock climbers…but I couldn’t stop laughing at this video: How to be a rock climber. (FYI, this week I actually said the words “I’d rather be rock climbing” to someone, so yeah, I’ve turned into that person now. I’m sorry.)


I found this article to be pretty fascinating. Having worked at a book publisher and seen the rise in e-books and Amazon, I’ve wondered and worried about what the future of printed books is going to look like. Pulp Friction: If Barnes & Noble goes out of business, it’ll be a disaster for book lovers.


A win for women and society in general: New York City to provide free tampons and pads in public schools, jails, and shelters.


Sobering and alarming: We asked men how they learned about sexual consent. Their answers were predictably disturbing. We have to do better.

Currently

Little Cottonwood Canyon

Hello, and welcome to my brain’s inner monologue! Thought I’d check in and let you know (all 3 of you) what I’ve been up to.

Currently…

Wishing there were more hours in the day to accommodate my rapidly-expanding list of interests and hobbies.

Reading Americanah for book club and simultaneously listening to A Man Called Ove. Enjoying them both so far, though they’re vastly different reads. I’ve come to realize most people fall into one of two groups – those who can read multiple books at the same time, and those who pick one book and stick with it till the end before starting another one. Obviously I fall into the first group. I’ve been known to have up to four books going at any given time, but I try to keep it to no more than 2-3.

Sleepy from staying up far too late every night this week binge-watching the latest season of Orange Is the New Black. It’s darker this time around, which means certain scenes are hard to watch, but it’s doing a great job of covering really important issues and making you think.

– Seriously obsessing over Tasty videos. It’s not gourmet cooking by any means, but who wants to gourmet-cook anything on a weeknight? I’ve already made three of their recipes and they’ve all been DELIGHTFUL and fairly easy for a weeknight dinner. I’m also eyeing this upside down banana bread cake to make soon, yes ma’am I am.

Sore all the time from rock climbing, down to my very fingertips (yep – your hands and fingers can get sore just like your muscles). But I feel like I’m making progress, and every time we go I force myself to make at least one move that’s out of my comfort zone. SO MUCH of it is about trusting yourself, your gear, and your belay partner. I have a hard time letting go of control, so it’s been a really good exercise for me. Not to mention when you climb to the top of something, it is an awesome feeling.

Trying not to use Snapchat as much because it’s draining my iPhone battery something fierce. Does this happen to anyone else!?

– Eagerly anticipating the following book releases: Truly Madly Guilty (Liane Moriarty), The Sun Is Also a Star (Nicola Yoon), and Hunger (Roxane Gay)

Eating Chobani Flip “Almond Coco Loco” like it’s going out of style. It’s my new favorite treat, and it’s not even bad for you!

– And finally, I am LOVING Utah right now, if you couldn’t tell from my Instagram posts. I have a tough time during the winters, but every year when spring/summer rolls around, I fall back in love with this state all over again. It’s been a gorgeous, green season so far and I’m really hoping the wildfires stay far, far away.

 

Happy almost weekend! ❤️

Weekend things

First and foremost: Happy Father’s Day to my dad! Love you lots.

I don’t think I can say anything about the Orlando tragedy that hasn’t already been said, but I am unbelievably heartbroken for the victims and victims’ families. I’m lucky enough to say that this week has been good – great, in fact. 49 people and their families are not. Think about that before you think about literally anything else.

This week we’ve been rock climbing just about every night, which is one of the new things I’ve been trying. So much of climbing is self-confidence and trust, I’m learning; it’s a total mental game. But I like it so far! Utah is such a beautiful place to live and I feel more grateful every week that we get to spend our days here (notwithstanding those awful winters). We’re a 20-minute drive to mountains, waterfalls, wildlife, and beautiful hikes. If there were a beach, it would be PARADISE. But I digress…

Rock climbing!

Stuff I read, enjoyed, and/or thought about this week:


Bo Burnham’s comedy special on Netflix was, well, unlike any comedy special I’ve ever watched. Hilarious, poignant, and weird.


This Turkish artist recreating Van Gogh pieces with art and water is mesmerizing.


Australian comedian perfectly sums up why other countries think US gun laws are crazy.


We are free to arm ourselves against any potentially tyrannical federal government and also free to watch our children bleed to death in our schools, and churches, and clubs.”


Heavy reads this week: Interview with a woman who recently had an abortion at 32 weeks.


I found this article about The Hills utterly fascinating. My friends and I were so obsessed with this show back in the day: The Hills producers finally tell us what was real and what was fake.


It’s not rocket science. British police station releases a video comparing sexual consent to serving tea to a friend.


Bunny (a.k.a. grav3yardgirl) is one of my favorite Youtubers. This recent video from her had me absolutely cracking up. World’s Weirdest Beauty Products!

Book review: A Little Life

a-little-life

Premise

This book follows the friendship and lives of four young men who meet in college – an artist, an actor, an architect, and a lawyer – and takes place over a time period of several decades. Initially you hear from all four perspectives, but the story quickly begins to focus in on its most enigmatic character, Jude, whom you find out early on has had an unspeakable, horrific childhood.

Thoughts

I honestly wasn’t going to review this book at all, because I know I can’t do it justice. But it was so impactful to me, and felt so important, that I’m going to try.

A Little Life is truly a masterpiece and well-deserving of the many awards it’s been nominated for. It’s also the hardest book I’ve ever read, and I’ll say right now there’s a huge trigger warning for abuse survivors and/or self-harmers. But it felt necessary to tell the story, which was powerful, tragic, and unimaginable.

Without giving away too many details, Jude had a terrible childhood. The worst you can possibly think of, and then even worse than that. The effects of which, as you can imagine, follow him into adulthood and influence every single area of his life. Details of his childhood are painfully slow to be released, and there were still plenty of things I didn’t find out about until the last 1/3 of the book. It really explored the psychology of being a victim – how it’s so easy, from the outside, for us to say “Well why doesn’t that person just do this, and then their life would be better!” but in reality, it’s nowhere near that easy for the person living through the trauma. Jude makes a lot of choices that leave you with a desperate need to reach through the pages and save him, stop him, talk sense into him. But for Jude, those were the only choices that made sense to him at the time. He became the person he was because of his childhood (as we all do). It just so happens that his childhood was horrific.

As a side note, it’s also a beautiful examination of friendship – lifelong friendships that have their ups and downs, that aren’t sugarcoated, that are real. There aren’t many happy moments in the book, but the ones that do appear are more often than not comprised of moments/memories with Jude and his friends – the people who care about him.

The writing is flawless, gritty, and engaging. How many more adjectives can I use? This story stayed with me long after I finished listening (the audio version was very good, FYI). I’m also a huge fan of books that follow characters over several decades (it’s why I love Donna Tartt’s books so much), so that definitely helped keep my interest. If I had to come up with one criticism of the book, it would be the lack of women in the story. This starts to make a little sense as you learn more about Jude and his friends, but still, I could’ve done with at least one main female character just to balance it out a bit.

I don’t know. I feel like I’m just rambling here, but this is a hard one to review without giving away details. I’ll just say, if you can handle really tough subject matter, I’d highly suggest you give this one a read. Find out for yourself what kind of book it is — I wasn’t disappointed. (Though, admittedly, I had to read something light-hearted afterwards!)

Weekend things

Street corner, New Orleans

Street corner, New Orleans

Hi, how are you? It’s been a minute. I could sit here and talk about all the things I’ve been busy doing (San Diego! Cookout with friends! New Orleans! Work! Play! Reading! Book club!) and how that’s the reason I haven’t been around to blog, but hey, we all know that’s an excuse. 🙂 I don’t want this to be a place of obligation; my plan is to write when I can. So here I am.

did go to New Orleans earlier this week for a work trip, and while I was only there for a short time, the city surprised me in such a huge way. I can’t believe how much I loved it, and I now want to plan another trip out there – the food, culture, and music were unbelievably captivating. The humidity…not so much. 😉

Anyway – I started thinking I might be more motivated to blog if I had some themed posts to stick to. My friend Kelli does this and has a theme for each day (she blogs every single day!). After brainstorming, I realized some of my favorite posts to read are from bloggers who put together a list of their favorite stories, links, and finds from the previous week. I discover so many good things from these posts. And rather than share my own on Facebook, which I still do occasionally but which is also kind of like the yelling corner street preacher (no one listens unless they already agree with you), I plan to instead curate a list of links/stories/cool finds here for anyone who’s interested.

So without further ado, here’s what caught my eye on the interwebs this week.


Kristen Bell: I’m over staying silent about depression. I so appreciate what she has to say here. There is such a stigma about mental illness in our society, and it’s completely unfounded.


Until there is equal pay, rights, and representation across the board and for ALL women, I will never not support efforts such as this one. Love it: The United State of Women.


Emily Joy is a spoken word poet I’ve been following on Twitter for some time now (though I doubt she has any clue I exist!). She’s incredibly talented and I always appreciate what she has to say about controversial issues. Here she is in a satirical video explaining How to Love the Sinner & Hate the Sin.


This piece by Anne Lamott really spoke to me this week, as I’ve been trying to motivate myself to make more time for writing (and yet there’s always something that keeps me from doing it…funny how that works). The conference I attended earlier this week had a ton of workshops on storytelling, which was no small coincidence considering I’ve been thinking about it for a while. Lamott says this, on writing: “You have to make time to do this. This means you have to grasp that your manic forms of connectivity—cell phone, email, text, Twitter—steal most chances of lasting connection or amazement. That multitasking can argue a wasted life. That a close friendship is worth more than material success.”


Here’s the powerful letter the Stanford victim read to her attacker. I hope you’ve been following this story. It’s a horrific look at rape culture and the failure of our justice system to do what it should’ve done. It’s an illustration of the broken parts of our society and how we still have so much work to do. Here’s an idea: instead of telling women all the ways they can avoid rape and sexual assault, let’s start teaching our boys at an early age that women are people, yes means yes, and rape is wrong. Period.


I’m pretty sure I follow more animals than people on Instagram these days, and I’m not even ashamed to admit it. My latest favorite follow is Mya the Pomsky, which is officially my new favorite breed (Husky + Pomeranian). She looks like an overgrown fox and has the most beautiful blue eyes, and yes, I want her.


 

What were your favorite finds this week? Share them with me!