Twitterature: 2014 reading update

Hey, guys! I'm trying a different approach to posting my reading reviews: Twitterature (inspired by Modern Mrs. Darcy).I've been on a reading streak this year and am already past the halfway point for my annual goal. Without further ado, I present my book reviews in Tweet form, complete with hashtags. #obviously

Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins
4 stars, Another reread during the holidays and just as enjoyable as the first time around. I wouldn't recommend this series to anyone under 15 years old. #girlonfire

Lexicon, Max Berry
3 stars, An interesting thriller and look at language. It kept me reading, though in the end, it's unmemorable. #meh

The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin
3 stars, An intriguing enough idea, the author tackles a list of resolutions throughout the year. Her methodology provoked some ideas for improving my own life, though I found her tone to be too didactic at parts. #selfimprovement

Alice's Tulips, Sandra Dallas
4 stars, A reread done audiobook style. This is a story that made me want to keep listening and made doing the dishes far more entertaining. Listening to the letter format was a little weird at first, but I adjusted and thoroughly enjoyed this story. #easylistening

Inferno, Dan Brown
3 stars, Another audiobook. Brown's books make me roll my eyes while I keep reading/listening to another chapter. While the Langdon books are formulaic, something should be said for a story that makes me want to keep listening. #poplit

Women and the Priesthood, Sheri L. Dew
5 stars, A book for Mormon women. This book tackles the current women-priesthood issue with grace and directness. Dew draws on scripture to help the reader understand priesthood doctrine. I came away with a much greater understanding of how women fit and contribute to God's work. #requiredmormonreading

The Stand, Stephen King
5 stars, My first King novel didn't disappoint. I loved the complex characters and the epic nature of the book. I still think about it months after I finished. A beast of a book, the 1000 pages are compelling, dark, and inspiring. #apocolypse #athinker

Blackmoore, Julianne Donaldson
4 stars, Surprisingly enjoyable chick-lit. A romance that doesn't go the way you expect and keeps you entertained and engaged with the characters. #twothumbsup #beachread

The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion
4 stars, Completely, thoroughly, unequivocally delightful. I loved every moment. One of the funniest, sweetest, most entertaining books I've read. #fastandfun

My Name Is Resolute, Nancy E. Turner
4 stars, Historical fiction that started out slow and grew more engaging for me the further I read. Not as good as my favorite Turner book but a good read all the same. #longandgood

The Persian Pickle Club, Sandra Dallas
4 stars, Another audio reread. Easy listening, likable characters, intriguing plot. I always enjoy books that have to do with sewing and textiles, and this book was especially delightful for that reason. #sewingnerd #mystery

Blackout, Connie Willis
3 stars, Another audiobook. I took a while to get into the story, and that may be because I listened to it. Dealing with time travel between 2060 and WWII, this book demands your attention or you lose track of the story. #timetravel

Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell
4 stars, A sweet and melancholy book about first loves. Reading about Eleanor and Park's romance sometimes made me uncomfortable only because I felt like I was intruding on something very personal. Reminds you of what it's like to be a teenager. #heartache #goreadit #YAlit

To read my full book reviews and updates, you can find my Goodreads page here.


hello, Monday

:: Hello, Monday.
:: Hello to an early morning and even some exercise.
:: Hello to oatmeal and Nutrigrain bars.

:: Hello to grocery shopping, and thankfully hello to one less agitating than last week's.
:: Hello to large Diet Dr. Peppers from McDonalds.
:: Hello to a little boy in striped pants and an Avs jacket who snacks on crackers in the shopping cart and keeps his toy car in his pocket because he just can't bear to leave it in the diaper bag.

:: Hello to blossoms and open windows.
:: Hello to library books and the Kindle app.
:: Hello to an orange bike that's eagerly waiting for full tires.

:: Hello to a fresh start this week.
:: Hello to priorities and knowing when to say no.
:: Hello to Easter baskets and eclairs.


a pro bono defense: why punctuation matters

If you've spent much time on this space, you'll know that I love punctuation. And I care about it. Like, I really care about commas, semicolons, and parallel structure. And if you really want to woo me, correctly use the subjunctive. 

Not everyone shares this love, though. In my college years, I had a friend who, though said jokingly, spent a long time making fun of the humanities. This friend was focusing on the sciences and made the point that if you're in the hospital, knowing Milton and Shakespeare won't save your life, science will. So I ask the question: why is punctuation--which is even more dorky than Shakespeare--important? Why does punctuation matter?

Why is language important? Isn't it just about communicating? And if you can get your point across, who cares if you write in run-on sentences? 

First off, using language properly gives you credibility. It shows that you're educated (and not necessarily degree-educated, because a degree doesn't always equate to education). Following usage and punctuation norms shows that you know how to learn and that you can apply that. It puts communication on a common plane that everyone involved can understand.

But punctuation is more important than that. Applying correct usage and punctuation to your communications shows that you think about what you're saying. It demonstrates commitment to your language, proves that you mean what you say.

When you read something that "follows the rules" you're reading something that a writer took time to write. This writer thought about what she was saying and took time to refine her words. Using correct usage and punctuation not only indicates linguistic sophistication, it says that you write with intention. You took the time to think about your words and to craft them. You proofread and fiddled and thought about every word you used. An essay written with intention is infinitely more compelling than one haphazardly thrown together. (Is anyone recalling hastily typed and regrettable Facebook statuses?)

If writing is something you want to do and something you want to be serious about, then I implore you to learn and use appropriate punctuation and grammar. Because it matters. Knowing and exercising rules about commas, semicolons, pronouns, capitalization, and plurals changes the way you think and write. It adds a new dimension to how you communicate and adds a tour de force to what you say. You don't have to love commas as much as I do, but please don't discount them as pointless minutiae. 

So, someday if you do end up in the back of an ambulance needing medical treatment, I'd hope that my doctor would be one who consciously differentiates between your and you're, because to me, that says worlds about how intentional and precise he is in his thoughts, even if he isn't well-versed in Chaucer.

*A quick note: Please don't hesitate to comment or write anything to me in fear of comma judgment. I always hate it when people say they're intimidated to text or write me because I'm an editor. My posts are full of typos and mistakes because I don't always have the time to thoroughly proofread. Even editors need editors and I care far more about who you are than about whether or not you capitalized our meet-up location in a text message. This post is a post to defend my craft, and my beef is with those who 1) don't think the rules are important and 2) write professionally and yet can't manage to use the the correct there/they're/their. Please don't think I'm a snob. I'm mostly not.


the word on the street

We had Sesame Street on this morning, and on every episode the Muppet Murray gives the Word on the Street. Today we learned about habitat. So, today on the blog, the word on the street is habitat.

I've spent all week spring-cleaning my habitat. I'm talking decluttering, wiping down, dusting, vacuuming, mopping, exhausting cleaning. Today I worked on the kitchen. And I'm beat. (Perhaps the Sesame Street viewing was part of a larger effort to distract the resident toddler from my cleaning out the fridge, the worst of all the chores.)

Spring cleaning is hard work, but I can't say that I hate it. Because here's the thing: I like my habitat. Love it, even. And I love taking care of that habitat.

I love all those small handmade gifts collected and cared for over the years.

I love my new mantle and the seasonal vignettes I get to put together.

I love the decorations I've made and the ones I've found at Target.

I love the vacuum lines on carpet, however fleeting.

I love throwing out the unnecessary so I can better enjoy what I have.

I love filling my home with meaningful and intentional stuff. Not pointless stuff, but me stuff.

I love those small things like the sparkly burlap placemats I found on clearance at Homegoods and that refrigerator magnet of my sister and me from ages ago.

I love my habitat even in its mess, because messes like this mean that my habitat is both lived in and cared for.

I especially love that I share my habitat with this little man, because seriously, he's the cutest kid I've ever known.

I also love sharing my habitat with Josh, even when it means that lone socks in the couch are ever-present in our habitat.

I love that my habitat is a reflection of my people and is a place where I feel close to my roots.

I am looking forward to next week when the spring cleaning will be finished, because that will mean that I can finally get back to my sewing machine. (Oh, sewing, how I've missed you!) For now, though, I'm okay with the work and the sweat. Because the thing is that having this habitat at all is a great blessing, and I'm not about to squander it.


grocery shopping rants

I used to hate grocery shopping. Like, really hate it. Surprisingly, once I had a baby, grocery shopping became easier for me because I planned for it (it takes so much work to get out of the house with a newborn that I couldn't stand to be haphazard about it!). Every now and then, though, I run into situations that remind me of how awful grocery shopping can really be.

Like, today, when I spent 15 minutes searching Costco for the Nutrigrain bars. Every single time I need to stock up on those silly cereal bars, they're in a different place in that huge store. And it drives me crazy! One time when I asked an employee for help finding them, she spent several minutes telling me about how unhealthy they were and how I should buy this different brand for my child. (I compared nutritional info, and she was wrong. And she never told me where to find those damn fruit bars.) Sometimes finding stuff in Costco is a goose chase, a food-samples-everywhere, why-don't-you-buy-a-Vitamix goose chase.

And then there are those moments you forget something key on your grocery list. Like apple juice. That happened today. Or those times you forget your wallet at home and don't realize it until the cashier has already rung everything up. This has happened to me more than once. It would be funny if it weren't so frustrating.

I find my solace in the stickers the firefighters give my boy and in the Diet Pepsi I grab in the checkout line. How do you feel about grocery shopping? I could go on about other chores, but let's just leave the laundry for now. Some days I just can't bear to talk about laundry. You understand.


the post-vacation week

I know everyone says it, but really, I need a few more vacation days after the vacation. We flew in Monday morning, and I haven't been ready to jump back into the thick of it yet. Post-vacation week is always full of rounds of the this-time-last-week game, which is thoroughly masochistic and, for me, inevitable.

This week I've tried to capitalize on motivation spurts so that I can do laundry, make dinner, and even exercise a little. I know. Post-vacation week is kind of weird sometimes. (Side note: I signed up for a Daily Burn trial, which any Hulu watcher will be familiar with. I almost enjoy the workouts. Almost.) I bought several more cuts of fabric on my trip (obviously) and have committed myself to some spring cleaning before I can dive into some spring sewing. My life is sometimes all about incentive.

Tomorrow and Sunday I'll be tuned in to the LDS General Conference, and I can't wait. For an entire weekend I get to listen to great speakers and feel rejuvenated and inspired in facing the daily grind. If you get a chance, you should listen for a bit. It's pretty great. You can find streaming options here. (We stream the conference onto our Roku so we can view all those older guys in high-def. It's the best.)

Before I sign off for the weekend, I'll leave you with a few tips for post-vacation week:

:: have a friend who will provide you with a 32-ounce soda when she picks you up from the airport
:: keep a few episodes of your current binge show to watch when you're feeling blue
:: when you feel a motivation burst, do the laundry
:: make frosted sugar cookie bars
:: text with your mom and sisters about this time last week and feel sad when you need to

I now give you permission to start an early weekend and eat pizza for dinner. Obviously.


finding my center

{Photo from Mom's Instagram @dpw_2012}

We returned from Denver the day before yesterday, and I'm always so reluctant to leave. I can never have enough time with my people. Every minute I'm there I try to soak up those feelings of togetherness and connection and unbridled love.

{from my Instagram @mscharjane}

My people help me find my center. You know, that place in your heart where everything in your life clicks because you've found the center. That's how my people make me feel: centered.

Sitting at the kitchen counter talking with my mom
Driving with my family crammed into the SUV
Snacking on leftover rolls after dinner
Staying up late talking with my dad on the couch

Driving along all those familiar streets
Listening to my sister practice her piano
Going out to dinner at our favorite Mexican place
Kneeling down together in prayer

{screen shot from Mom's IG #obviously}

Watching my son toddle down the hall to my parents' room
Feeling confident in my dad's ability to entertain an 18-month-old so I can go shopping
Sitting down at dinner with just us
Seeing my grandpa and my son meet for the first time
Cleaning up dishes and snacking on dark chocolate peanut butter cups

I wish I could find the right words to explain fully the deep emotions I have when I'm with my people. I feel accepted, understood, and known--and centered. I see my purpose more clearly, understand my place in this world. My relationships with my parents and siblings deepen and mature and become increasingly essential to my well being. My people remind me about why I'm here and what I'm here to do. When I'm with them I am so certain about who I am.

Your people may not be your family members. They may be friends or extended family or in-laws. Whoever they are, I hope you have them, your people. Mine mean everything to me.


back with my people

Well, Asher and I survived our travel yesterday, and if I'm honest, I couldn't have asked for a more well behaved toddler. I'm still recovering from the overall airport exhaustion, but now I'm here in the 303 and loving it. Asher is basking in the doting attention from my parents and sister, and we stocked up on stay-cation essentials like York Peppermint Patties, peanut butter M&Ms, and Diet Pepsi. I have an entire season of Person of Interest to catch up on, and I got to watch Blacklist with my dad last night after everyone else went to bed.

We're missing Mr. Wilson and wish his vacation time allowed for a bit more vacation, but we're settling for FaceTime. I have a million patterns of my mom's to sort through and add to my wish list, and tomorrow we're hitting up Denver Fabrics. Obviously.

I'll try and find moments to spend on this space, but if you don't hear from me for a few days, just know that I'm living it up with my people. Because there's nothing quite like being with your people.


it's OK to lose sometimes

Growing up I cared greatly about what other people thought. From fifth grade to tenth grade I floated from group to group not ever really fitting in with anyone. I found a solid group of friends in the middle of my sophomore year in high school, and then we graduated and I moved away for college. I was so socially timid that I didn't make friends until a girl on my floor--who is still one of my all-time best-ever friends--invited me to watch the boys' dorm football game. Over the years I've repeatedly overcome this fear of vulnerability and have become far more comfortable in my own skin. I'm not nearly as hesitant to put myself out there and risk my pride. And then I entered the Albion contest and told the internet about it.

{Wearing my jacket while running errands today}

Now anyone could see what I made and judge it. I knew the fabric wouldn't be everyone's choice, that the orange accents might make some people cringe. But I loved it. And I told all of you about it. The jacket is certainly not perfectly constructed. I can see a million little places that could have used more attention or even a do-over. But I took pictures and posted them and even entered a contest where so many strangers could see my jacket and comment on it. And I'm so glad I did this.

When I learned who the winners were for the Albion contest, I was disappointed. Very disappointed. My eyes may have even smarted a little. Part of me was afraid that when I let my circles of friends and supporters know about the results, that I'd let them down. Everyone was so excited for me! And it felt so great to have so many cheerleaders in my corner! And what would it feel like to disappoint them? But then I realized something really important: you wonderful people didn't support me because you were counting on me to bring home a $2500 sewing machine--you all supported me because you're my friends. And that's just what friends do.

So when I lost the contest, that's all it was: losing a contest. I love everything about my jacket. It's not perfect, but I love it. And that's what matters. The outcome says nothing about my value as a person or even my value as a seamstress. I am so glad I entered and that I told you about it, because all the fallout was good fallout. I didn't win the competition, and that's okay. Because the good things in my life have nothing to do with competition.


why I haven't been blogging

I've been sewing this backpack for Asher for our trip next week. It's made from shark fabric and a heavy twill. I think it's just perfect for my boy.

It's part of my airport survival plan. You understand. You may think I'm crazy for fitting in this project before a week-long trip, and I have no explanation except that I'm convinced Asher needs a shark backpack to carry in the airport.

Almost all of Asher's naptime is devoted to sewing, and then I have dinners to make and a husband and son to love. So blogging has been left a little behind. That should work itself out in due time, but for now the sharks are winning out.

PS I didn't win the sewing machine. I'm bummed about it. Obviously.
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