Saturday, August 11, 2018

Saturday Is a Special Day

ME, every Friday night: Finally! Tomorrow is Saturday! A day where I can get things done! I'm going to do everything on this big, long to-do list.

ME, every Saturday afternoon: Nope. Can't do it. Not today. My will to accomplish anything is not-so-slowly evaporating. I'm going to call my brothers and waste 6,000 hours with them.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Grace

A few months ago, La Petite turned to me and said something like, "It seems like for you, the last couple of years have been nothing but bad things. I wouldn't blame you if you just felt like giving up."

And Best Friend Boy said, "Something good has to happen you soon."

But God said, "Haha no." Repeatedly.

I just went to a campout for my stake. At that campout, it seemed like almost every speaker's sermon was for me. One of those speakers was a well-known LDS teacher named Brad Wilcox spoke. He mentioned that my generation may be the most anguished generation to date. Then he talked at length about grace.

He said that grace is a divine power, and it's how God engages with us. He said it's not what we call tender mercies, and it's not when we receive an answer to a prayer (unless, I suppose, we're praying for grace). It is, however, a product of Christ's Atonement.

Then he said a few things that struck me. He said, "Strength too easily won is not strength."

He said, "Change without challenge is not change."

He said, "Time is the medium for the power of the Atonement."

Somehow, right then, I got a tiny flash of what God is up to. Have I not asked for the power of Christ's Atonement in my life? Have I not asked for the circumstances to change? Perhaps the only way is fraught with difficulty and takes time.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Hogwarts Mystery

They finally made it!

A game where you feel like you're attending Hogwarts, that is.

Meet Hogwarts Mystery. In this game, you create a cute avatar of yourself that gets to attend Hogwarts. You start seven years before Harry, so the story line is all-new, but you do see some of the same characters from the books.

First I made a friend named Rowan. (Rowan's gender is the same as the player's avatar's gender, and he/she goes automatically to whatever house the player chooses ['cause the Sorting Hat lets you choose]).Then I found out that my brother Jacob was a crazy person who was expelled from Hogwarts/kidnapped/murdered/a Death Eater/something. Then I found out that there was a mystery in Hogwarts (thus the title) involving something called the Cursed Vaults. Then I had to keep poking my nose in said vaults, despite repeated warnings, punishments, and threats of expulsion.

The game is mobile, and the mechanics are simple. You mostly just click on things repeatedly, but it's actually pretty fun. It really feels like I'm attending Hogwarts! My avatar goes to classes, wears Gryffindor robes and other swag, eats in the Great Hall, plays Gobstones, and drinks butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks. I can win points for my house by performing well in class and by making decisions that align with the Gryffindor way (which is to be daring to the point of stupidity; I actually got house points for daring to ask Snape for some of his hair).

As much of Harry's experience has been incorporated into the game as possible: Snape hates me. Filch hates me. My own Draco Malfoy-type character (Merula Snyde) hates me, and Dumbledore loves me. I'm a bit famous because of my brother's infamy and my own exploits, and I have loads of friends.

Rowan Khanna: Gryffindor. In my year. The first friend. The Ron, if you will. Except in personality, she's more like Hermione. She's very smart, kind of naive, and adores me to a point that's almost creepy.

Ben Copper: Gryffindor. In my year. Neville Longbottom if Neville never developed a personality. But really. GROW A SPINE, BEN.

The back of my avatar's head, Ben, Penny, and Bill.
Penny Haywood: Hufflepuff. In my year. Pretty, nice, smart, super popular, and super good at potions. One of my favorite characters. You're allowed to invite characters on quests with you, and I invite Penny a lot.

Bill Weasley: Gryffindor. Two years above me. Yes, that Bill Weasley. I never cared much for Bill in the books, because long-haired boys with earrings who marry hot French girls are not my type. But in the game, he's a sweetie. He asked my avatar to be the go-between for him and his crush, but his crush ended up being a jerk, and then my avatar had to console him over butterbeer: "Don't worry, Bill; you're going to marry a hot French girl who won't care about your long hair, earring, or your recently acquired werewolf tendencies."

The back of Bill's head and my avatar.
Nymphadora Tonks: Hufflepuff. In my year. You remember Tonks, right? The cheerful Auror who can change her appearance magically at will and who married Lupin and had a baby and died? She's in this game too! Mostly she just hates on the librarian.

Tulip Karasu: Ravenclaw. In my year. If you're wondering what kind of a last name Karasu is, the Internet says it can be either Japanese or Turkish-Jewish. Tulip has red hair but dark eyes, so I wouldn't put it past her to be part Japanese or Turkish-Jewish! Or both! Sadly, she might be the least favorite of my friends. I think they wanted her to be the Luna of the game, but though she's weird enough, she's not likable enough.

Tulip, my avatar, Barnaby, and Tonks. Tonks is about to play a trick on her nemesis, the librarian. And yes, my avatar is wearing pajamas and slippers. I wear what I want.
Barnaby Lee: Slytherin. In my year. At first, Barnaby acted all tough 'n stuff, but it turns out that he's actually really nice, and he loves animals! He's just...not super bright.

Drinking butterbeer with Tulip, Ben, Rowan, Barnaby, Penny, Bill, and Tonks. And Madam Rosmerta, who for some reason won't leave us alone.
Andre Egwu: Ravenclaw. In my year. If Tulip isn't my least favorite, then Andre is. Don't get me wrongl; I like him as a person! He's a smooth individual who loves fashion and Quidditch, but he isn't very helpful. While the rest of my friends (even Tulip) are striving to help me find the Cursed Vaults and locate my brother, Andre just shows up, drops fashion or Quidditch advice, and leaves. Er...thanks?

Charlie Weasley: Gryffindor. In my year. I always did have a soft spot for Charlie, even though he's barely in the books. Like Barnaby, he loves animals, and in the game, he's incredibly kind.

The creators of the game have hinted that eventually, your avatar will be able to date your friends. It wouldn't be Hogwarts without crushes, right?! I'm torn between Bill and Charlie, but since I know Bill ends up marrying somebody else, I've landed on Charlie, the perpetual Weasley bachelor.

"Charlie, why don't you love me?"
But really, wouldn't it be amazing to be Harry Potter's sister-in-law? In-law?

"But—" you say.

Shhhh. I know it's not real. But this is everything I've wanted since I started reading Harry Potter nigh on 20 years ago, so I'm just...I'm just gonna enjoy it, 'kay?

Monday, July 30, 2018

Are You Ron Weasley?

Tomorrow is Harry's birthday, and I already have a Harry Potter-related post lined up. But as I was thinking of what to write today, another Harry Potter topic came to mind. So you're getting twice the Harry Potter for the same price! (Which is free. It's all free. But...you know.)

A year ago, someone told me that as they were re-reading the Harry Potter books, they found they were disliking Ron more and more. This person starting listing all the actions and traits of Ronald Bilius Weasley that they disliked. As I listened, I was amused and amazed. Because goldarn it if the actions weren't things that this same person had done and if the traits weren't ones that this same person shared.

I think that people can't appreciate Ron if they don't believe in redemption. Ron reminds us of all the thoughtless things we've done to people or that they've done to us, so it's easy to just say he's a jerk and be done with it. To see Ron clearly, you have to measure him not by what he failed to do for Harry (and Hermione) but by what he did do for Harry (and Hermione). He would do anything for them, and he pretty darned well did. It's not just lip service when during the Tri-Wizard Tournament, Ron is the "thing Harry would miss most."

"But Ron screwed up!" Yeah. Ron screwed up. So what? Are you really going to say that a lifetime of loyalty and love and friendship means nothing because of a few bumps? Please note that every time Ron screws up, he admits his mistakes and tries harder and does better. Ron gets the second chances we all wish we could have, and he doesn't take them for granted. We should all want to be more like Ron.

Of course, you can't be Ron if the people in your life aren't Harrys and Hermiones. In a word: forgiving. Most people are, though. Most people don't want to throw cherished relationships away with both hands, and they're more likely to greet you as a prodigal than they are to cast you aside.

If you feel like a Ron right now—if you hurt someone and regret it and want a second (pr third or fourth or fifth) chance, try to get one. Tell the person that you hurt that you're a Ron. I mean, don't tell literally them that. (Unless the person is me. I'll understand what you mean.) But tell them that you did something stupid and you're sorry and you want to try again. You'll have to humble yourself first. Do it anyway.

And always remember:
"Dumbledore knew what he was doing when he gave me the Deluminator, didn’t he? He—well," Ron’s ears turned bright red and he became engrossed in a tuft of grass at his feet, which he prodded with his toe, "he must’ve known I’d run out on you."

"No," Harry corrected him. "He must’ve known you’d always want to come back."

Friday, July 27, 2018

Flying a Kite in the Dark

I decided I wanted to fly a kite in the dark.

My parents were freaking out, saying, "That's dangerous!" Here's the thing though...there are streetlights everywhere, so we can see everything even when it's technically dark, so how is it dangerous?

I guess I won the argument, because I was allowed to fly a kite around 10:00 p.m. in the front yard with my brothers.

It was everything I'd hoped and dreamed it would be.

That's all.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Serendipitous

Context: This post is about the fifth and sixth days (and fourth and fifth days in the city) of my third New York City trip.

A few things come to mind about Little Brother's first experience in New York City.

Before we left for the Big Apple, he started his Instagram account, but he posted no photos. He explained that his first post would be a photo of him brushing his teeth on the streets of New York City. Okaaaay—?

Little Brother hated New York pigeons but rapidly became obsessed with the sparrows. At one point, a sparrow flitted past, and he yelled, "Oh my gosh. Marry me!" He added, "If I married a New York sparrow, I'd be happier than most people."

The final thing he really wanted from the trip was for me to take him for dim sum in Chinatown. On our last day (Monday), that's what we did. Bagels at Broadway Bagels, shopping for souvenirs (including at the Disney store and at this wild Japanese Line store), cookies at Levain Bakery, and dim sum at Shanghai Cafe. They had the best soup dumplings (dumplings filled with soup, not that you put in soup). Then we said goodbye to our sister, and then we left.

But that was Monday. Before that, Sunday.

Sunday morning we ate protein bars in Older Sister's apartment for our breakfast (we wanted to not eat out for at least one meal since Sabbath) and then attended sacrament meeting in the Manhattan temple chapel. Afterward, Central Park.

This entire trip, Little Brother and I had a devil of a time getting our phones to tell us anything other than the best subway trains to take. I guess the data in the city is over-saturated with users, because our phones just didn't seem able to pick up on basic navigation. However, they did pretty well in Central Park, which is ironic because it has traditionally been the most difficult part of the city to navigate.

Everything we wanted to see was happily located within a fairly small radius: the carousel, the Hans Christian Anderson statue, the Alice in Wonderland statue, the Balto statue. Along one of the walkways, we ran into delightful performers dressed as disembodied clothing/headless people. We stumbled across this beautiful fountain and square I don't recall seeing the last couple of times (Bethesda Fountain). It had a nice underground walkway with beautiful murals and acoustics emphasized by a musical group performing there. We also exited the park through the zoo, where we saw the famous animal clock.

Lunch was at one of the Central Park boathouses.


However, lunch was light and not that great, so after leaving the park, we partook of second lunch at Serendipity. (Serendipity 1 if you want to get snooty about it. I don't.)


If Tonn Ramen is designed to make patrons feel slightly uncomfortable, Serendipity is designed to make patrons feel...hmm. The bright pink paint, reflective surfaces, quirky signage, crowded tables, and rushed waiters kind of gave me an urge that I must have something better to do than being squashed with a bunch of strangers in a restaurant reflecting this level of inanity. Like, it was charming. But it also made me feel stupid and impatient.

We mostly went there for the frozen hot chocolate, which I'd been told was amazing. Sadly, it was merely adequate.


Our waiter, too, was rather touch-and-go. I could barely hear him over the din of the restaurant, and while he might have heard us, I don't think he was really listening. He forgot that I'd ordered a frozen hot chocolate, so I had to wait much longer than for mine than Little Brother did for his.

Little Brother overheard a patron at an adjacent table complaining that he'd received the wrong order. According to Little Brother, it went something like this:

PATRON: Oh, I didn't order this burger. I ordered the chicken basket with fries.

WAITER: What?

PATRON: I ordered the chicken basket with fries. I mean, this burger looks good. I'll eat it. But I'd also like a chicken basket to go if you could add that to my order.

WAITER: Okay. (picks up burger and walks away with it)

PATRON: What? What? Did you guys just see that?!

PATRON'S FRIENDS: Dude, calm down.

WAITER: I'm not going to calm down! I'm going to COMPLAIN. (heads off in search of manager)

Apparently whether you ever receive your food in this restaurant is a matter of serendipity. Ha. Ha ha. (Pretty sure this guy's friends were cracking similar jokes.)

Around this time, I headed off in search of the bathroom. Which was ridiculously hard to get to and required weaving between the many cramped tables.

Remember how we took tons of photos of ourselves on the Brooklyn Bridge two days before? Older Sister's phone has a setting for photo shoots, so the shots turned out looking weirdly professional. Little Brother had taken advantage of the situation by producing his toothbrush and snagging a photo of himself brushing his teeth on the bridge.

The photo looked ridiculous. In a good way. It looked like he was doing some kind of toothbrush modeling campaign. And now that Little Brother had the photo, he was determining the best way to present it on his Instagram account. Among other things, he toyed with it by assembling a Got Milk?-type image emblazoned with the word "Brush."

The Angry Chicken Basket Patron caught Little Brother's eye, so as I went to the restroom, he tried to figure out which phone in the room belonged to the Angry Chicken Basket Patron so that he could anonymously airdrop the "Brush." photo to him. Like you do.

When I returned from the restroom, the whole dining floor was abuzz with people who kept repeating the same thing over and over. I didn't think too much of it until I sat down at our table and we were approached by a random man.

RANDOM MAN: Is this you? (shows phone to Little Brother)

LITTLE BROTHER: Oh. sorry, that was an accident.

AWKWARD MORMON GIRL: What?

LITTLE BROTHER: Well...

Turned out that Little Brother had accidentally airdropped his photo not to the Angry Chicken Basket Patron but to every iPhone user in Serendipity. That repeated word I kept hearing over and over? Little Brother's name. Because his iPhone name is simply "Little Brother's iPhone." He'd been slightly hunched over the table, trying to keep his face turned away so that nobody would recognize him as the odd kid brushing his teeth on the Brooklyn Bridge in the weirdly professional photo they'd just had airdropped to them by a stranger.

As we hustled out of there, the room was still abuzz with his name, but we escaped without any more encounters.

The rest of the day passed rather uneventfully. We took a train downtown to stroll in Greenwich's Washington Square Park, where Little Brother once again tried to airdrop his photo to strangers because I don't know why, exactly. 'Twas amusing, though.

(Slight tangent: I'd mentioned to Little Brother that during this trip, I wasn't opposed to going to the site of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. He said he didn't really want to do that, so I never investigated the possibility further. I didn't realize until just last week that we'd been mere blocks from it at this point and possibly even walked past it! I'm very annoyed with myself for not catching that.)

We then attended the charity event Older Sister was working on all weekend. Following that, we called our dad to wish him a happy Father's Day while we waited to be seated at Jacob's Pickle.

I don't even like pickles, but I was willing to endure them in the name of trying new things. The pickles that came on my chicken biscuit sandwich weren't bad, but they still weren't my favorite. The honey-drizzled chicken was my favorite. So was the chocolate banana biscuit we got on the side. You'll see below that my meal also came with mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy. The mushroom gravy almost made me sick because it was waaaaay too rich.

It was super dark in there.
Then, like I said, the next day was the last day. Bagels. Shopping. (Little Brother loooooved the Line store, which apparently is the first of its kind in the U.S. I liked it okay, but I was mostly amused by animations with subtitles translated into poor English that played on the wall behind the checkout counter. One of them showed an ugly human living his best life and said, "James is a narcissist. He's in love with himself." I laughed way harder than I should have.)

Levain's. Chinatown.

I wish I was eating one of these chocolate chip walnut cookies right now!
Cute soup dumplings. They were filled with crab and pork.
Then, home. Nothing of note happened on the way home, so I won't tell you about it. Suffice it to say that we were pretty excited (about the souvenirs we got our family) and pretty exhausted (for obvious reasons) by the time we landed back in good old Utah.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Ever Onward

We're celebrating Pioneer Day (aka the Twenty-Fourth of July) a little early around here. The Hometown annual carnival was yesterday and today because weekend. We enjoyed the works: the fried bread, the fishing pond, and the erstwhile photo booth.

We also went to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's Pioneer Day concert. The stars were Matthew Morrison and Laura Michelle Kelly, both of whom I saw in Finding Neverland on Broadway. Also, since the concert focused on the works of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Oscar Hammerstein's grandson was there to narrate. I was skeptical of his presence at first, but he was actually really, really good at narrating.

The concert kicked off with more traditional Pioneer Day fare, including one of my favorite hymns, "Come Come Ye Saints." A couple of lines hit me hard tonight: "Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard? 'Tis not so; all is right."

I'm guilty of thinking my lot is hard. Which, honestly, it kinda is. Remember how I was rereading The Work and the Glory? I think one of the purposes of a story like that is to lead you down the path of, "Oh my gosh, the pioneers had it so rough! I could never do that!"

I'll level with you, though—except for the parts involving snow and frostbite (which many a pioneer didn't have to deal with), coming West sounds like something I totally could have done. I'd be tired, yes, and uncertain, and I'd probably experience some fear and anxiety over not knowing exactly what was in store for me. But it would be a delight to be given a task so cut-and-dry: Take this wagon. Go West until you reach the Salt Lake Valley. No matter how tedious that would get or how hot the sun would beat or how much my feet would hurt, it sounds so much easier than what I'm facing now.

If I were a wagon-toting pioneer, I wouldn't have to try to figure out my career. I wouldn't have to figure out where God wants me. I wouldn't have to strain under the struggle of trying to make time for family, friends, work, church callings, and me time. I possibly wouldn't have to worry about boys in any form at all; I would be too busy staying alive to care about confusing men who say one thing but do other things that don't match their words at all. I'd keep my eye on the western horizon and keep moving toward it, and with that sure direction I wouldn't feel so rudderless and discouraged.

But pioneerdom didn't happen for me. Either I wouldn't have been as good at pioneering as I think I would be or God had something else in mind. Sometimes that's hard to swallow. But as Matthew Morrison and Laura Michelle Kelly and Oscar Hammerstein III pointed out during the concert, difficult things usually aren't as difficult as they appear to be, and even if they are, they can be persevered through.