Saturday, December 28, 2013

The evil cardboard box

Well, another Christmas has come and gone. This one was a little different than last year (see last year's post) in which we had the entire family together and it felt like when we were growing up again. This time we had Lance's new wife Jasinda instead of Logan, who is on a mission in Mexico City. Unfortunately for her that meant we expected her to fill in for Logan in all of our holiday traditions, from decorating his gingerbread house to putting up his Christmas ornaments, but she handled it like a champ. She even slept on the floor (well, okay, an air mattress) with the rest of the siblings on Christmas Eve night.

One of the gifts I was most looking forward to giving on Christmas morning was the new stereo Cole and I bought for Lance and Jasinda's 1987 Toyota Camry. Not only did we pretty much double the value of their car, but we also solved the problem of One Republic not releasing their new album on cassette tape.

Actually, I can't make fun of their car too much because, as Lance pointed out this week, my car ends up in the repair shop more often than theirs does even though I paid about ten times as much for it. Last week I was backing into the alley behind where I work and my car started making a horrible noise. I stopped the car and popped the hood and stared at everything for a minute. I don't actually know enough about cars to tell if anything in the mess of hoses and wires and metal thingies under there are broken, but this seems like the type of thing people do when their car starts making a funny noise so I thought I would try it.

Next I looked under the car and immediately breathed a sigh of relief when I realized there was a cardboard box caught up underneath and that's what was probably causing the noise. I took back that sigh of relief a second later when I realized there was a very long, important-looking pipe dragging on the ground. Even I could tell that wasn't what it was supposed to be doing. Fortunately with the help of a couple of friends I was able to get home, get to work the next morning and get my car to the shop, where I had to explain to the mechanic that it was a cardboard box that ripped off my exhaust pipe. No, I wasn't on the Interstate when I hit it. No, the box wasn't full of bricks. No, I didn't run over something else at the same time. No, I don't know why it happened. You're the expert here.

The mechanic was nice about it though. Car people are always nice to me. They were even nice to me the time I went to get my oil changed and the guy asked me to check my mileage and I wasn't paying attention and turned my car all the way on when another guy had already taken off the oil filter. If you were ever curious about what would happen if you do this, I can tell you: Oil shoots everywhere. Like a geyser. All over the floor. And the walls. And the car. And the guy changing the oil. Don't do it.

So, as we look ahead to the next holiday, I can tell you this: One of my New Year's resolutions is going to be to know slightly more about cars by the end of next year than I do now. It shouldn't be too hard.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thanks for the potato peeler

This year my family came to my place for Thanksgiving weekend, on account of my having to work on Thanksgiving Day.

Since I've gotten pretty used to having my own place, this required some adjustments on my part. Being fully clothed during breakfast, for example. But I'm pretty sure my family had to adjust to more than I did. My poor mother had to cook her biggest meal of the year in my apartment kitchen, which is lacking in a lot of Thanksgiving-related paraphernalia, like pie plates and a turkey baster. She brought most of what she needed with her, but she did have to make an emergency potato peeler purchase partway through the day. Apparently I don't eat enough mashed potatoes, because I hadn't even noticed I didn't have one.

I actually got several free items besides a potato peeler out of the visit, although some of them are more useful than others. I now own manly-smelling shampoo and soap because Dad and Cole were tired of smelling like flowers every time they came for a visit. I also got a nice set of drinking glasses out of the visit when Dad realized that his only options for Thanksgiving dinner were drinking out of plastic or not having all the glasses match. The horror. It was too much.

Thanksgiving dinner was a little crowded since I don't have any leaves to add to my table, but we made it work by putting all the food on a card table and telling the guest the event was BYOC -- bring your own chair. It may not have been the classiest Thanksgiving we've ever had, but we had a good time. And nothing got broken when we played games afterward. Even though Dad and Cole did have a bit of a wrestling match over a card.

We missed Logan and Lance (although we did get to see Lance and Jasinda up in Selah with Jasinda's family the next day). We all felt a little sorry for Logan missing his first Thanksgiving serving a mission in Mexico City. Then we remembered Logan hates pretty much all of the food that's served for Thanksgiving, and we felt a little less sorry for him. He'd rather have tacos anyways. He hasn't liked turkey ever since his early elementary school days. Mom was picking out a turkey from the store and he said "Mom, these turkeys have the same name as the turkeys that are birds that we learned about at school!" I'll never forget the look of horror on his face when she explained they were actually the same thing. It was a completely different look than the one on Cole's face when he was about the same age and asked Uncle Norman and Aunt Kim where the pigs he'd loved playing with during his last visit were and they explained that they were in the sandwich he was eating. He looked down, shrugged, and said "I guess I like them dead and alive." I'll bet you can guess which one is a music major and which one plans to be an engineer.

On Friday we went up to the Tri-Citites on the way to Selah in order to do some Black Friday shopping. There was really no point, since all the good sales happened on Thanksgiving when the only thing my mom bought was a potato peeler. But Black Friday is Black Friday. So Mom and I spent about three hours shopping. Dad and Cole lasted for literally one store before asking to be dropped off at Barnes and Noble until we were done.

On Saturday we helped clean the church, played our annual game of Monopoly that we missed when I was working on Thanksgiving, and I helped proofread Cole's college application essays. An on Sunday my family attended the singles branch with me, thereby doubling our branch's church attendance for the week. (OK, that was a slight exaggeration. But not by much). After monitoring their behavior I decided to admit to being related to them before they headed off to The Dalles.

I've definitely had worse Thanksgivings. After all, this one came with a free potato peeler.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

This isn't the laundry shack

I'm writing this post from the Laundromat. The awesome thing about this particular one is it is right next to a gym, which means free WiFi. It's also clean and heated and has places to sit. Which explains why I am here instead of the laundry shed (shack?) behind where I live.

It also removes the temptation to leave my laundry unattended. If anyone is looking to steal some designer duds, they're going to be disappointed if they check out my laundry, so I'm not too worried about that. But there is always that nagging worry that while I was gone some creep was going through my underwear. When I did laundry in my apartment complex in college half the time I would go to put my clothes in the dryer and realize that they were all full, but some guy's clothes had been sitting in the dryer for an hour. Then I always had the dilemma of needlessly waiting for a dryer to become available, or moving the other person's clothes onto a nearby table and risk looking like a perv when the guy walks in and I'm holding his underwear.

Co-ed laundry rooms can be awkward. Like the time I had to use two washers on opposite sides of the room, so I was throwing all my light-colored clothes into the washer across the room so I didn't have to walk back and forth. Of course the moment a guy I knew walked in I totally missed the washer and threw my bra at his feet. However awkward you are imagining that being, it was worse.

I don't even like doing laundry. And paying to do laundry is even worse. It's like paying to do your own dishes. It makes it tempting to do laundry in the style of a certain brother of mine, whose idea of laundry is picking the least dirty thing off the floor and spraying it with another layer of Axe. For most people the moment they start doing their own laundry is the moment the criteria for what needs washed goes from "Did I put it on for five minutes and then change my mind about what I was going to wear today?" to "Can you notice the smell from more than three feet away?"

Unfortunately I will be here at the Laundromat longer than I thought, owing to the fact that I opened one of the washers I was using and found it still completely full of soapy water owing to the fact the machine stopped working halfway through. Seriously? This was supposed to be a step up from the laundry shack.

I guess there's still the free WiFi. And it's definitely a step up from the third world countries where they beat their clothes on a rock in the river. My clothes would have to get pretty bad before dunking them in the Columbia would actually improve their cleanliness level. Then again, you don't have to throw quarters in the river to make it run.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Can I get your number?

Since moving to Hermiston, I've met a lot of new people. Fortunately, I'm already pretty comfortable jumping in and introducing myself in situations where I don't know anyone. When you're a journalist, it comes with the territory.

Unfortunately there are certain tactics I use when I'm being a reporter that don't really work in real life. For example, when someone tells me their name, about 70 percent of the time I immediately forget it. When I've got my reporter hat on that's an easy fix: "Oh and before you go, let me make sure I get the correct spelling of your name..." This is harder to pass off if the person's name is something like Mary Jones, but generally anyone under 25 goes "Oh yeah my parents actually spell it Kaytee instead of Katie so it's a good thing you asked." Thank you parents for realizing that giving your child a name that they won't have to explain for the rest of their life is so five decades ago.

But when I'm someplace like church I haven't found a good reason yet to ask people how they spell their name. I also have to come up with legitimate topics of conversation instead of just asking a bunch of questions. Asking someone you just met how they manage to live on minimum wage or how they felt when their granddaughter was murdered becomes less socially acceptable when you don't have a notebook in hand. Fortunately it usually comes up right away that I moved to Hermiston to be a reporter and then that provides plenty of fodder for conversations ranging from "That sounds awesome. What's it like?" to "Let me tell you everything wrong with modern journalism today..." I never know when I tell someone what I do for a living if it's going to make them think I'm a lot cooler than I look or I'm a menace to society.

Of course, everyone back home wants to know if I'm meeting people in Hermiston. And by "people" they mean guys. Young, single, smart, attractive guys to be exact. Which, hey, I want as much as the next person, but I don't consider the day to be an utter waste if I also make a few female friends along the way (Remember, I covered this last year). Last week I went to a regional church dance in Pendleton and immediately hit it off with a girl from Walla Walla. At the end of the night we exchanged numbers so we could meet up at future activities, but more importantly so we could tell our parents we'd gotten someone's number at the dance when they inevitably asked. When you're a single Mormon twentysomething you learn these things.

But I am meeting people in Hermiston. Normal people and the wink wink nudge nudge kind. I play volleyball Tuesday nights with a great group of young single Mormons that includes plenty of players of the male persuasion. When I told my parents about volleyball they seemed to think this was a good opportunity for me to impress some guys. I'm not sure where they got the impression anything about my volleyball skills falls under the category of "impressive," but you've got to love parents and their undying belief that their children are good at things, all evidence to the contrary.

If I ever do manage to impress a guy with my volleyball skills, I'll make sure to get his number. After all, I'll need an excuse to ask him how to spell his name.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Welcome to Hermiston

Well, I guess it's been a long times since I've written a blog post. I was kind of busy this summer, in case no one noticed. And then I decided to switch jobs and move to Hermiston in the midst of it all. Fortunately the move didn't take me outside of Oregon, so I didn't have to start paying sales tax or learn how to pump my own gas or any of those other weird things people in the rest of the country do. Still, moving anywhere is an adjustment, and since I've moved I've made the following observations:

1) I don't know what the people who laid out Hermiston were thinking, but it wasn't "Let's design a town where the streets actually make sense." I was 20 minutes late to church the first Sunday because when the directions said go up Highland and take a right on Ninth Street it never occurred to me that there would be more than one Ninth Street in town. I didn't want SW Ninth St., I wanted SE Ninth St. which runs parallel to SW Ninth on the other side of town. Also not to be confused with SE Ninth Drive, which later becomes NE Ninth Street. And streets with names like Ridgeway and Gladys have a habit of ending every couple of blocks and then picking up in a different place farther down and sometimes changing their name altogether from one block to the next. Needless to say, I now own a GPS.

2) I seem to be the only white person living in my neighborhood. I saw one the other day but she was holding a slip of paper and looking with confusion between two buildings so I don't think she lives around here. I don't mind, and my neighbors are nice, but it is weird getting all of my junk mail in Spanish.

3) Everywhere I've lived, people complain about the exact same things. Does anyone anywhere not think there is "nothing to do around here?" It's funny because as a reporter I talk to a lot of people about the town they live in, and when I was in The Dalles and I started telling sources I was moving to Hermiston they would say "Oh they're really thriving. I wish our downtown was growing like theirs." And then I moved to Hermiston and told people I was from The Dalles and they were like "Oh The Dalles has such a nice downtown. I wish ours was like that."

4) After spending time in several Hermiston schools I now understand why their sports teams look so horrified at the facilities in The Dalles. Not only do they have really nice classrooms, they also have amenities like a cafeteria and a parking lot.

5) My hair doesn't like Hermiston. I didn't think it could get any frizzier, but alas, I was wrong.

6) Living by yourself has a lot of benefits. You never have to worry about someone else using up all the hot water, or not disturbing anyone when you come in late, or whether there will be enough room in the freezer if you buy a second flavor of ice cream.

7) Living in the same town as a Wal-Mart is awesome.

8) Moving away from my family and all of the people I grew up with and the masses of people who say things like "I need to find someone to be in charge of that. You know what? Jade would do a good job," so far means I have a lot more free time now that I'm settled in. So that should mean more time for blogging.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Home Improvement 101

Lately our family has been remodeling our main bathroom. Well, more accurately, my mom has been remodeling it while the rest of us pop in at lunch to check her progress. We also picked out the new shower curtain for her. I think it's the only job she trusted us to do.

I think she enjoyed taking a sledgehammer to the old tile and drywall around the shower, but after that things slowed down. Everybody knows it's not a real home improvement project unless you make at least three trips a day to the hardware store. I think every worker in Home Depot has given input on our project, although nothing is ever as simple to install as the guy at Home Depot tells you it will be, especially when you live in a house where nothing seems like it is a standard size or shape. The other day we walked in and someone was immediately like, "Oh hey, you're back!"

Some projects require the expertise of a professional, but oftentimes someone in the family is just as capable of wandering back and forth from their vehicle to the house several times, asking to borrow a flashlight, fiddling with the leaking faucet and then declaring it "fixed" because it leaks less than it did previously (actually, that was our old plumber. We now have a good one).

Of course, one benefit of having a professional look at your home improvement project is that they can tell you what will happen if you don't follow the instructions on the box or the side of the hot water heater. I've always thought warning labels should come with an explanation of what will happen if you ignore them. Now that companies are getting sued for things like making their coffee hot, there are warning labels for just about every possible scenario. Some of the actions warned against are obviously a bad idea, like eating a package of peanuts when you're allergic to nuts. But sometimes I really want to know what will happen if I ignore the warning to, say, keep metal objects away from my electroplasma lava lamp. Is it a bad idea like refilling disposable plastic water bottles is a bad idea? Or like sticking a metal fork in an electrical socket is a bad idea? Is there a slight chance of a freak accident if you're a total idiot about it? Or will something definitely explode?

This overabundance of stupid warning labels causes people to wonder if they are a legitimate warning or just the result of a "What is every possible way we could get sued?" brainstorming session. It causes incidents like the time my brother almost burned down the missionary training center because he and his companion wanted to know if you could recharge regular batteries in a battery recharger. It turns out you can't, unless you count turning them into a melting, toxic, smoking mess counts as "recharging."

Anyway, my mom finished remodeling the shower last week and next comes the new floor. My parents seem to think the floor will be an easy one-day project since there isn't much real estate, but I remember when they put in the family room floor. I came home from working all day one Saturday and they were like, "Man, we've been working so hard all day!" I looked and they had the step leading down to the family room covered. Fortunately it took them about the same amount of time to do the entire rest of the floor, otherwise they would still be working on it five years later.

Next week, stay tuned for what happened when we tried to install a new toilet ... it could be fun.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A whole lot of church

Everybody who knows a Mormon knows we go to church a lot. Like, three hours every Sunday at minimum. For some this seems like a massive commitment, although I've never understood that. You can spend three hours playing video games or watching Lord of the Rings but you can't spend three hours a week worshiping the God that gave you everything? Priorities, people.

This weekend, however, is different. If you think three hours of church is a lot, try 10. That's how many a lot of Mormons will be attending this weekend. Fortunately, it doesn't require 10 hours in a dress sitting up straight in a pew. This weekend is General Conference, when we get to listen to several two-hour sessions of church leaders in Salt Lake City speaking to us by satellite, cable TV, Internet or radio. That means "church" is rolling out of bed and onto the couch, watching the television in pajamas while eating donuts. Which, I'm not gonna lie, is awesome. But really, I would think conference is awesome (albeit slightly less comfortable) even if it didn't involve pajamas and donuts.

So why do Mormons get all excited about "conference weekend" twice a year when they could be watching basketball or playing disc golf or getting the lawn in shape instead? I guess the first thing to understand is that we believe these men and women (yes, women speak in conference too) are called of God and that he is speaking to them, telling them what messages of hope and faith and guidance we most need for the coming six months. General Conference isn't just a bunch of generalized sermons about what Jesus was telling his followers centuries ago. It's messages relevant to today, straight from God himself.

Before the recession hit, there were several talks about getting out of debt and saving for a rainy day. During the recession there have been a variety of talks about not giving up and realizing our worth is measured in more than the jobs we may hold or have lost. There are talks warning of the way pornography, drug and gambling addictions can destroy our souls and our lives and our families, and urging smart use of the Internet. Church leaders warn of growing epidemics of child abuse and neglect and urge us to work to build a society where children are valued and protected. They urge men to be real men who don't neglect their responsibilities as husbands and fathers and who respect women and children. There are talks of encouragement for widows, single parents, divorcees, parents of children who have strayed, parents of children who died or who were born with a mental illness or disability, those who want to be married but it hasn't worked out yet, those with deadly diseases and others who struggle with some of life's most difficult challenges. And there are classic subjects like repentance, faith, charity, forgiveness and the Savior's life that we are reminded of and given new insights relevant to today's world.

That's why I listen. I learn new things and gain new insights. I'm encouraged and lifted up. I'm inspired to be a better person and determined to make changes for the better in my life. I hear stories from people that let me know I'm not alone in feeling a certain way about different things that have happened in my life. There have been talks in conference that I feel like were written specifically for me, because they were exactly what I needed to hear. Some of those talks have literally been life-changing. Who would want to miss out on all of that?

You can watch the rest of General Conference here: or later visit to read and watch specific talks.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Dear diary...

A few days ago while I was writing in my journal I had to wonder if my posterity are even going to be able to understand some of the things I write. I was listening to music and kept getting distracted, and when I got distracted I would start to revert to the shorthand I use to take notes when I'm interviewing someone at work. I can't write longhand as fast as people speak so over the years I've learned to write in abbreviations, so if someone says "The planning department will hold a community meeting next week" in my notes it goes down as "PD hold comm mtg nxt wk." That, combined with the fact that becoming a reporter has completely ruined my penmanship, means that if anyone ever subpoenas my notes they aren't going to be much help.

Even if my hypothetical children and grandchildren can't read my handwriting (who knows, maybe they won't even know what handwriting is in the future) they will still know about my college years, because during those years instead of writing in a journal I wrote emails home about three times a week, detailing what was going on in my life. My mom would print them out all year and when I got home I would re-read them as I hole-punched each page and put them in a two-inch binder (I was rather prolific). For some people this wouldn't work because they write deeply personal things in their journal, but really if it's something I wouldn't tell my family it's probably something I wouldn't write down where someone might find it and read it anyway.

Last week I finally got around to hole punching my emails from my senior year, which, for various reasons, have been sitting in a pile next to my bed for the past two years. It was pretty interesting reading back through them now that I have some perspective, and I drew the following conclusions:

1) I should never bet on anything, ever, because I am terrible at predicting the future. Really. Every time I said I thought I was going to do well on a test I bombed it and every time I said I was really worried about it I would get an A. There were so many things that I was really worried about that turned out fine and things that I said I thought would be no big deal that turned out to be life-changing disasters.

2) When you can see the future, irony is everywhere. When I was reading the emails I spent a lot of time shaking my head and thinking "Oh honey, if only you knew ..."

3) College students are so passionate. And angry. I forgot how much I walked around in college thinking the world (or the BYU administration or certain people in certain callings at church or professors or society or people sending me hate mail) was against me. Actually, I'm pretty sure the hate mail senders, at least, really were against me. But honestly, did I need to write an entire paragraph about what an idiot some guy is just because he said I was arrogant and smarmy and an example of "everything wrong with modern journalism"?

4) You're not as mature as you think you are in college. Or as smart. And you don't live in the "real world" yet.

5) Graduating from college is incredibly stressful and scary, especially if you haven't found a job yet. One of my last emails home went something like this: "Ahhh-oh-my-gosh-what-the-heck-am-I-going-to-do-with-my-life-I-have-so-many-choices-to-make-and-I-don't-know-what-to-do-and-I-took-two-finals-on-three-hours-of-sleep-and-all-I've-known-is-school-my-whole-life-what-if-I'm-not-good-at-anything-else-no-one-is-going-to-want-to-hire-me-and-what-if-I-pick-the-wrong-job-and-my-personal-life-is-a-mess-and-I-have-no-idea-how-to-handle-it-and-no-one-understands-because-they're-all-staying-here-and-why-didn't-I-do-that-so-I-didn't-have-to-deal-with-this."
    My whole life I knew what I wanted (scholarships, BYU acceptance, RA job, journalism program acceptance, Daily Universe job, New York internship, diploma) then made a plan and did what I needed to do to get it. Suddenly realizing that for the first time in my life I didn't know exactly what I wanted and I didn't have a clear plan to follow was the most unsettling thing I've ever experienced.

6) It's amazing how you can want something so badly, and then later be so glad you didn't get it.

7) For someone who never got married in college, I sure spent a lot of time with guys. On the other hand, more than one of them came out of the closet after I graduated. So maybe that actually does make sense.

8) Speaking of marriage, people at BYU talk about it A LOT.

9) One day when I was venting about reader complaints about the paper I wrote "I am so sick of hearing 'At a real paper you would have been fired for that' or 'If the Daily Universe was a real paper it wouldn't do that.' Have they worked for a real paper? No. Have I? Yes, during my internships. So they should just shut up about it." And for the stuff I was talking about, I'm still right. But I do think that if I had been working for a "real" newspaper and I was as argumentative with my boss as I was that year, I might have really been fired. I must have really annoyed him.

10) I obviously didn't use spell check on my emails.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Nerds are awesome

The other night Cole and I stayed up late reading his ACT prep book. Not because he had to do some last-minute cramming and I was helping him out of the kindness of my heart, but because we were ... kind of having fun. Which is totally nerdy, I know, but it's the truth. Cole was fascinated by all the new  grammar rules he didn't know existed and kept interrupting the novel I was reading to quiz me or say "Why didn't anyone ever tell me that it was 'all intents and purposes' instead of 'all intensive purposes'? That makes so much more sense!" And I was happy to explain why and give more examples because I adore words and the power they wield when you know how to use them to their full potential.

Despite our often normal appearance to outsiders, I live in a nerdy family. Mom and I love having literary discussions, Dad is fascinated by books and documentaries about natural disasters, Lance has a Star Wars spaceship collection and Cole builds robots and does Calculus problems when he's bored. Even Logan, the hipster, geeks out over jazz. We cut our pizza with a pizza cutter shaped like the Enterprise and have a copy of Excalibur hanging on our living room wall. Yup. We're those people.

But I'm fine with that. I'm glad, in fact. I once heard a definition of "nerd" that went something like this: a nerd is someone who gets more happiness out of life than is socially acceptable. And it's true. Why should someone be embarrassed because they actually enjoyed a math homework assignment or took great pleasure in debating the Hobbit movie versus the book? Why should they want to go through life rolling their eyes and sighing at how uncool everything around them is when they could go through life saying "This is awesome!" instead?

Of course, not all nerdiness is good. If you're a 23-year-old guy and haven't been within ten feet of a girl in years on account of being on the thirty sixth month of a video game marathon ... that's not good. You could stand to err on the "socially acceptable" side more often.

But generally being a nerd is a lot of fun. It's like being part of a secret society, where you can share a knowing smile with the stranger next to you when you see that they are wearing a red shirt with the word "expendable" printed on it. You can be in the fourth of the room that snickers over subtle jokes that leaves the rest of the room feeling slightly foolish that they have no idea what just happened. You can have way more fun at Christmas and birthdays, because while other people are getting a new sweater you're getting a Star Wars origami book. Your childhood memories include epic lightsaber battles in someone's back yard instead of hanging out in the field during Little League practice. You actually enjoy your Shakespeare GE in college and homework isn't a huge drag. Life is exciting.

I particularly enjoy being a female nerd, because being able to chime in to a discussion about the merits of Voyager versus Deep Space Nine or Green Arrow versus Aquaman will win you respect every time. That, combined with being able to talk sports, covers the spectrum and pretty much guarantees I'll always be at ease with any group of guys I find myself with rather than having everyone prattle on about the weather awkwardly.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a Christopher Paolini book to finish.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A trip to Utah

This past weekend I took a trip down to BYU. I've travelled by myself before on the way to internships, etc. but it was weird just taking a vacation without my family in tow. There was no one to play the alphabet game with on the way to the airport. On the other hand, there was also no one to argue with over the proper internal temperature in the car or complain about my girly music.

Once my flight landed in Salt Lake, I had to rent a car. The self check-in machine's inability to read my new credit card confirmed that the bank did indeed make a mistake in printing the back of the card upsidedown. Once I successfully procured my rental and hit the windshield wipers when I meant to put it into reverse (who puts the gear shift on the floor?!) I remembered how fun it is driving a new car for the first time. Once I pulled onto the Interstate I also remembered how fun it is driving in a new city for the first time. Considering 99 percent of my freeway driving has been up and down the gorge, I was a little freaked out by the number of lanes on the road. Also the fact that the road was perfectly straight for miles. I didn't know that was allowed. Despite all of that, I made it to Provo safely and managed to find a parking spot that was a mere three blocks away.

The next morning I went to the French class Bethany teaches, despite not speaking a word of French, besides, for some reason, knowing that Je suis un ananas means "I am a pineapple." Unfortunately--this being a 100-level class-- fruit-related delusions were not on the list of topics for the day. Still, it was amusing to see how much of the class I could understand by comparing it to Spanish and obscure English words with similar roots. Later I went to visit the Universe's newsroom, had a reunion with an ex-roommate and had a long lunch with my brothers, where I made sure to gather some of the intell I knew my parents would grill me about when I got home. I also discovered that despite what the math says, if only one out of 30,000 people on campus is an ex-boyfriend he is guaranteed to be one of the people you run into.

That night I did dinner with the guy friends who always saved my sanity when I couldn't handle another second of being in an apartment/dorm of all girls. We played games afterwards (they cheated and brought out all games I didn't know how to play), debated some politics, reminisced, caught up on each others' lives and just generally had a good time. It made it seriously tempting to move back to Utah, despite the list of reasons I never wanted to practice journalism in Utah again.

Another temptation to move back to Utah was the above-mentioned Bethany, who I had a great time with. During freshman year, while the guys fulfilled my need to stay out until all hours of the night doing crazy immature things, Bethany fulfilled my need to spend quiet evenings at home talking about boys and books over ice cream. We did both of those things and also planned to take a cruise together when she's got her master's degree. Unfortunately we couldn't come up with a good way to become roommates while each fulfilling our desire to settle on our native coasts on opposite sides of the country.

The rest of the weekend included a Young Ambassadors concert, a basketball game (Go Cougars!), going to church in my old ward and catching up with old friends and roommates and cousins. While shopping at the mall I also fulfilled my prophecy of seeing at least one marriage proposal during the weekend.

Unfortunately on Monday I had to leave. On the flight home the lady next to me spent the last fifteen minutes throwing up into a variety of airsick bags. I couldn't decide if she was a worse seatmate than the toddler who dumped a full cup of yogurt on my lap on the way home from New York. When I landed I knew I was back to Oregon, owing to the appearance of the people at the baggage claim, who were long-haired tattooed plaid-wearing hipsters instead of cleancut guys and modestly dressed girls holding signs saying "Welcome home elder!"

The drive back to The Dalles was uneventful, minus the police cars parked across the street from my house when I got home around midnight. Apparently someone had set off a minor improvised explosive device made from a pop bottle covered in Nazi symbols. Who says The Dalles isn't exciting?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A little advice

Happy Gun Appreciation Day. In honor of the holiday, I thought I would give some sorely-needed advice to those celebrating the event with gusto.

To make my position clear on guns, I don't personally own any, I respect that people have a Constitutional right to own them, but I am also in favor of a few reasonable common-sense measures like limits on high-capacity magazines, waiting periods and universal background checks that will allow people to own as many guns as they want while still trying to prevent tragedy. I am not in favor of kicking in your door with Obama in the middle of the night and seizing all of your guns. Even though this seems to be the only definition of "gun control" that gun enthusiasts believe exist, I have never actually heard anyone I know advocate for that particular course.

Honestly, I don't think the fact that people own guns is the main problem here. I know plenty of totally responsible people who enjoy target shooting and hunting and I am very comfortable with them owning a gun. The real thing that concerns me, as it concerns many friends I've talked to, is the large segment of the population that are scarily obsessed with guns. The ones who are ranting and raving daily on Facebook about the 109 guns they own and how anyone who comes for them will have to pry every one of them from their cold, dead hands.

What those people don't realize is that those posts are actually making people want to take away their guns even more, before they decide that the Constitution is telling them to defend themselves from tyrannical government by shooting up the local courthouse. A word of advice to people who want to do their part in keeping strict gun control laws from being enacted: Don't act like one of the crazy people who you're insisting are the real problem.

Seriously. The gun lobby has really shot itself in the foot on this one (just like the people who are so obsessed with their guns they do stupid things like handle them when drunk or dance around nightclubs with a gun in their waistband without the safety on). Let's look at what the pro-gun movement has given us to consider while our nation weighs gun control:

There's the vice president of the NRA, who suggested in all seriousness that the best way to reduce the rate of shootings in elementary schools is to put a bunch of guns in elementary schools. If he wanted to convince the people whose motto is not "In guns we trust" to give him a seat at the table in these discussions, that was not the way to do it. Statistically speaking, if you own a pit bull you are more likely to be bitten by a pit bull. If you ride your bike to work you're more likely to be involved in a bike accident. And mathematical analysis has shown if there is a gun in your home you are significantly more likely to get shot. It would logically follow, then, that if there are armed teachers in your school or guns locked in boxes at strategic locations, you are also more likely to get shot.

There are the Sandy Hook truthers who are sending death threats to people in Newtown who they believe were paid off to participate in a government set-up to stir people to action on gun control (they also believe the Virginia Tech Massacre was perpetrated by a government black ops team and Aurora's shooter was brainwashed by the government). If you're sick enough to believe a bunch of people would be okay with mass slaughter to make political point, you're disturbed enough to go on a rampage yourself and stupid enough to shoot someone accidentally.

There is the guy who came up with the idea for Gun Appreciation Day. He told a black news anchor with a straight face that Martin Luther King Jr. (who, just as a reminder, is a famous non-violence advocate who was shot to death) would agree with having Gun Appreciation Day the same weekend as MLK day because if black people were given the right to own guns from day one in our country then we probably wouldn't have had slavery. If you can't see the numerous ways in which this was an incredibly dumb thing to say, explaining it probably won't do any good. But at least he seemed to think the end of slavery was a good thing-- two of the biggest sponsors of Gun Appreciation Day are white supremacy groups.

There is the gun shop owner who posted a rant on YouTube about how angry the gun control debate was making him, and if people tried to enact gun control laws he was going to start killing people. There are the people who have liked the video. There are the people who have posted similar things on Facebook and Twitter. There are the people who talk about a "second amendment remedy" to the election results they didn't like.

The people who are against any form of restrictions on gun buying whatsoever love to point to the mental health system as the place everyone should really be focusing. "Lock all the crazy people up," they say. And then you have people like the vice president of the NRA, who told NBC if his proposal to mandate guns in schools sounds crazy, "then call me crazy."

Be careful what you wish for, sir.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Be My Guest

This week our town hosted the Utah Ballroom Dance Co. The ballroom dancers teamed up with local celebrities, practiced for a few days with them and then did a full-fledged Dancing with the Stars concert, complete with judges, videos of practices, and a giant mirror ball trophy, which our sheriff now displays proudly in his office after dancing the jive in a sailor suit. Small towns are awesome.

Anyways, we were asked to host a few of the dancers, and we're always up for hosting people who come to town for performances. When Mom mentioned it and asked if we should sign up for guys or girls, Cole said, "Ask for guys. They'll take way less time in the bathroom and maybe we'll find Jade a husband." So we ended up with four guys. I didn't find a husband, but it is true they didn't spend long in the bathroom.

We put the guys in the boys' room, which has two sets of bunk beds. It was a nice change because usually when we have company I get kicked out of my room, and then it's annoying when I want to get something out of there and people are in it. The one good thing that has come out of that is that I got a new mattress out of it once. I had been complaining for literally years that my ancient mattress was lumpy and dipped down in the middle and springs would poke out the sides and occasionally draw blood. They never listened until one night for some reason they let a guest stay in their bedroom and slept in mine instead. The next morning they didn't say, "Oh poor Jade having to sleep on that awful bed" it was "Oh my gosh, we let company sleep on that? We have to get a new one before the next time we have guests." So they bought a new bed ... and gave me the one they had been using. Still, it's much better than the one I had.

Cole was actually happy that people stayed in his room because Mom cleaned it for him while he was at school. He almost didn't recognize it when he got home because there was carpet on the floor instead of a layer of crumpled clothing and piles of torn-apart electronic devices he was scavenging parts from. When all three of the boys lived at home and my parents complained about their messy room, each of them always blamed one of the other brothers and then proclaimed with disgust that if they had their own room it would always be clean. Once people started moving in and out and each of them had their own room at some point this proved completely false. True, my own room is not perfect. But I keep the clothes on my floor in a pile next to the dresser instead of strewn across the whole floor, and they're all clean or only slightly worn. Nobody has ever walked into my room to talk to me and stepped on a pair of dirty underwear.

The rest of our house is generally fairly clean so it just took the regular cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming up the daily dose of dog hair, etc. to get it ready. Ironically if we hadn't cleaned at all it still would have probably appeared great because your average teenage/twentysomething guy isn't living in a white-glove-approved environment anyway (see above paragraph). Some of them might have actually felt more at home if we'd thrown a couple of pairs of boxer shorts on the bathroom floor.

The first night they got there, after the first of the two concerts they were doing (one was half Dancing with the Stars and half showcase and the second night was all them), we had fun talking, especially about the show and what went on backstage. Having performed numerous plays on that stage I laughed when they complained about our school's awful backstage setup (or lack thereof). I knew that the reason some of the guys didn't have their black bowties for one number was because it is extremely difficult to locate black costume pieces when you're doing quick changes in the dark, plus it's so cramped everyone else's clothes are landing on yours (one guy who was staying with us had a really hard time performing the quickstep because as soon as he rushed on stage he realized the shorts under his costume were his female partner's and not his, which is definitely a good way to severely cramp your range of motion). I also laughed when they said the stage door that lead outside kept coming open and making the side curtain go crazy until they tied it shut. Yep, done that too (sorry fire marshal).

I didn't see them the next morning because they were still asleep when I left for work, but that was fine with me because when I wake up in the mornings it's definitely not like in the movies where women pop out of bed with perfect hair and makeup each morning. I did, however, get some of the freshly baked pumpkin chocolate chip muffins my mother had prepared for them. After all, everyone knows that the whole point of having guests when you're living at home is so your mom will make extra good food.