Tell the Wolves I'm Home

This morning I feel as if I have a bit of a hangover. My eyes are puffy and I feel emotionally drained.  I finished reading a book, recommended by a friend.  One that I had picked up many times, and put back down upon reading the description.  It just didn't catch my interest right away. However, this friend mentioned that it was one of 10 books that has stuck with her so I picked it up again.  And I am so glad I did.


This book takes place I believe in 1987 and is told from the perspective of 14-year-old June.  June is a really quirky teenager.  She's obsessed with the Middle Ages, doesn't have many friends, loves to take long walks in the woods alone.  The one person that understands her the most is her uncle Finn.  Finn has AIDS.  Something you learn in the first chapter of the book.  Finn is dying of AIDS.  He's dying at a time when very little was known about the disease.  That's what makes the book so fascinating to me.

The plot is more about June's relationship with Finn's partner (someone she didn't know existed).  This partner is referred to as a murderer, because he apparently gives Finn AIDS.  As expected there is far more to the plot.  June is a remarkable character.  Wise and compassionate and yet as naive as most 14-year-old girls.

This novel is beautifully narrated.  Actually, one of the reasons I picked it up finally was reading that one reviewer said "Not since To Kill A Mockingbird have I read a piece of fiction that so beautifully captures the point of view of a young person."  Seeing that To Kill A Mockingbird is one of my absolute favorite books, that put me over the edge.

This book resonated with me for a few reasons.  First, having someone close to me with AIDS. I am so relieved that we live now, and not in the 80s when this disease was so scary and so threatening. Last night I knew I was going to be finishing the book.  Seth was texting in bed next to me and laughing. I had to get up and finish the book on the couch. I knew it was going to be a hard ending.  I'm glad I did.  I ugly cried.  The couch shook.  Second, I was about June's age when I discovered my brother was gay. I was a bit younger but her character resonated with me for that reason as well.

I don't want to say much more.  I'm just really glad I read it. I'm really glad that my book club decided to read this too because I really want to talk about it.

It's a beautiful book.  Read it.



Current Obsessions

Oh dreary polluted January.  You are really getting me down.  What better way to try and distract myself from your misery - than to blog about current obsessions.  Let us begin.

1.  Lipstick- Here's the thing about lipstick. It's awesome.  You can wear no makeup, throw on a bright shade and you look stylish.  I credit my friend Meili for helping me branch out and wear something other than the samples I get in my Clinique Bonuses.  This shade is from the brand Urban Decay, color Bang.  I wanted something a bit orange and think I found a good option.  


2. Anthropologie Candle - I love lighting candles, especially during the holidays.  I find that in January I want to keep the candles burning but I struggle with the scent.  No more pumpkin, peppermint, cinnamon type flavors.  However really citrusy smelling candles and summer scents don't seem right either.  Enter the greatest candle on the planet.  The Capri Blue Jar Candle is amazing.  You know that awesome smell that hits you as soon as you walk into an Anthropologie?  Well this is it.  I have it lit now and it's perfect.  And a totally sexy design too.


3. Birchbox - I recently heard about this program called Birchbox.  Basically you pay $10 a month and this company sends you samples of products.  It's pretty fun and few things make me happier than receiving a beautiful box each month.  Today I opened my box and had some face wash, hand cream, tea and a color changing nail polish.  So awesome.  Wanna try it out?
4. "Her" - I don't see a lot of movies these days.  I always feel like there are 4-5 movies in the theaters that I am dying to see.  I used to be an "opening night" kind of movie goer.  It's been an adjustment since becoming a mom.  Anyway, I had the need to get out and went and saw "Her" on Saturday night.  This movie completely blew me away.  Everything about it is perfect.  The tone, the plot, the actors, the humor, the pain, the music, everything.  In fact, I'm pretty sure my next serious blog post will have to do with this movie. Please I beg you, go see this movie.  I can't stop thinking and talking about this brilliant work of art. Watch the trailer!


5. The Bachelor - Ok so moving on from a really great work of art, to a total crap work of art.  Hello, my name is Becky and I'm a Bacheloraholic.  This show has been around for what?  12 years?  And I have watched all but 2 seasons.  Pathetic but awesome.  This show is such a train wreck but I adore it. I love that I have a group of friends that will get together on Monday nights to watch. I love that we can barely hear what is being said because we are laughing and mocking it so much. I love mocking the contestants.  I love the "bachelor phrases" and the predictability of the show.  It's great.  And I love Juan Pablo.  Good times all around and probably the only great thing to come from January.


6. Corepower Yoga - I am a huge yoga person.  I realized that I have been practicing fairly regularly since 2006.  I've had my ups and downs with yoga classes.  And then I was introduced to Corepower Yoga.  Life changing.  This is the greatest yoga I have found.  It's hot yoga, but not Bikram hot.  It's flow yoga, fast moving and set to music.  The studios are lovely.  The teachers are fantastic.  Most of the time I think to myself "Oh man, I really should go to yoga this week."  Since discovering Corepower I am going as often as I can.  I sweat my face off during these hour classes.  I'm getting stronger, I'm losing weight, I have less headaches and tension.  Really it's perfect for me. I willingly wake up at 5:30am  and get in a freezing cold car to go to these classes.  It's that good.  If you are at all yoga-inclined I highly recommend trying this studio.  The first week is free.  Find info here.
7. Lemon Orzo Chicken Soup - I found this recipe on Pinterest and it sounded delicious.  Good news, it is delicious!  It's a nice twist on your basic chicken noodle soup.  The lemon and the orzo are a great change. It's easy to make, just requires a bit of chopping.  It's an ideal winter food. It's light, healthy and perfect for your inversion filled day.  Find the recipe here.



8. This Picture of Jon Hamm - No explanation needed.  This is my background on my work computer.  Every morning it brings a smile to my face to see this.  Hey Jon Hamm.  How you doin?



That's all for now.  The good news is that January is nearly over.  Then it's onto February and that means the inversion will only be around about a month more!  Cough cough.  






What Should I Read?

I love to read and I read a lot. I wish I had the time to read like I used to. I love books and find myself feeling sorry for people who don't read.  Reading is an escape. Reading brings me to worlds I would never experience otherwise.  Reading helps me learn about history in a way that is exciting.  Reading makes me laugh, makes me cry and makes me think.  People often ask me what books I can recommend.  Lately I feel like I have been very lucky and have read book after amazing book.  So here are a few recommendations.  I hope to do this every few months.  

"Wild" is my top choice.  Let me just say that nonfiction is NOT my cup-of-tea. I haven't had much luck with any nonfiction in my life.  However, I heard Cheryl Strayed on both the Diane Rehm show and she was also a guest on RadioWest.  I had your typical public radio "driveway moment" listening to her interviews.  I was captivated by Cheryl and her story.  The next time I was at the bookstore I decided to buy it.  

"Wild" is a true story about Cheryl.  She lost her mother when she was in her early 20s and her life began to fall apart.  When she felt all was lost she decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail - over 1,000 miles - completely alone.  

I had it on my shelf for a couple of months.  Seth is not a big reader but one night he was asking if I had any books he could read.  Knowing that hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is one of his bucket list items, I suggested he read this. Seth reads maybe 3 books a year and yet he devoured this book.  He read it in 2 weeks, which for him is amazing.  Once he finished I picked it up.  

I read the first chapter one night and cried harder than I ever have in a book.  The bed shook. I ugly cried. It was so heartbreaking.  Again, this was the first chapter of the book.  Cheryl Strayed is a very honest and raw writer.  She doesn't sugar coat her feelings.  She doesn't try and make herself appear to be anything other than her true self.  She's the complete opposite of Elizabeth Gilbert in "Eat Pray Love".  

This book captivated me from the first paragraph to the very end.  I never thought reading about a woman hiking alone would be so intriguing.  It was.  It was wonderful.  I read this at least 7 months ago and I still can't get it out of my head.  Give it a chance.  Oh and this is being made into a movie this year. 

If you want to listen to the RadioWest interview (which I highly suggest you do) click here and listen.


Switching gears completely, I now recommend "The Kitchen House" by Kathleen Grissom. I have Amazon to thank for recommending this book to me, based on the kinds of books I like.  This book is about a 7-year-old girl in the late 1700s.  Lavinia's parents die on the ship as they are immigrating to America from Ireland.  She is sold into slavery and spends her childhood among slaves on a large plantation.  She works in the "kitchen house".  What makes this story so interesting is the dynamic of a white slave and how she is treated differently in both worlds. This is a beautiful story that examines slavery in a way I haven't thought of before. I flew through this book.  It's not a true story but I do love when a book takes me to a different time period.  I got lost in Lavinia's world.  I am sure you will too.



My absolute favorite genre is historical fiction.  I spent a large part of 3-4 years reading about European history (Tudors, Renaissance, etc.) but realized I wasn't reading much about American history.  Then I picked up "The Paris Wife" which was a story about Ernest Hemmingway and his wife Hadley.  After that I devoured "Loving Frank" about Frank Lloyd Wright and his mistress Mamah.  So it was no surprise that another novel about a wife of a famous American caught my eye.  This is obviously a book about Charles Lindbergh and his wife Anne.  

I'll preface this recommendation by saying that before this book I really had no interest in Charles Lindberg, or in aviation.  Yet it fit the bill for books I would like and I couldn't put it down.  What a fascinating era this was in our country.  Charles Lindbergh was the biggest celebrity of his time.  His wife Anne was equally interesting.  She was his co-pilot for much of her life.  Forced to leave her children behind to go on expeditions and flights.  Charles is not a likable man but the book really brings out a great early feministic theme. This book also covers the Lindbergh kidnapping, a part I found very hard to read but very interesting.  Read it.  It's a beautiful book about a fascinating couple and time period.



What a wonderful surprise this book was.  This is the first of Liane Moriarty's books that I read and I have gone on to read several others and enjoyed all of them.  This is a story about Alice.  Mother of three and going through a divorce.  She has an accident at the gym and gets a nasty concussion. When she "comes to" again - she thinks it is 10 years earlier.  As far as she recalls she is pregnant with her first child and happily married.  

It's actually a really funny and wonderful book.  She can't understand why she would be divorcing someone she is so madly in love with.  It made me think a lot about my life.  We all have relationships that go through great phases, and not-so-great phases.  It's a nice reminder that things were once wonderful and exciting in every relationship, no matter how mundane and ritualistic our lives become. Might I also suggest reading "The Husband's Secret" by Moriarty as well?  

Well that's it for now.  I want to get off my computer and pick up "Tell the Wolves I'm Home" which I am sure I will be recommending later.  

Happy reading!








This Year I Resolve

I am a New Year's Resolutions kind of person.  All the way.  I spend a month leading up to January 1st thinking about what they will be.  I spend the first week or so of the year trying to scale back and make some realistic goals.  I also have to put them on paper.  So I will put them on my blog.  I hope that by doing so I will feel a sense of accountability.  Here goes nothing.

1. Be more present
We live in a world of constant distraction.  iPhones, laptops, radios, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, the internet.  The world is at our fingertips and it's never been full of so much crap.  This year I resolve to be more present.  This means if I am at work, I work.  I actually had our IT person block Facebook from my computer.  Facebook is nothing but a distraction.  Rarely do I find it that interesting anymore.  If I'm driving, I'm driving.  I don't text while I drive but I do pick up my phone at long lights and check out the weather, etc.  Enough.  I  need to just enjoy my time while driving (and listen to NPR of course).  Most importantly, when I am with my daughter or Seth, I need to be fully present.  Parents, you know how easy it is.  You are playing on the floor with your kid, your phone beeps that you have a new email, Facebook notification, text message, etc.  Rarely are these valuable things that should take us away from our sweet children.  Let it go.  Texts can wait.  Groupon emails can wait.  Instagram notifications don't matter.  I will check my phone only when I'm alone.  I'm tired of giving more attention to my iPhone than to my family and friends.



2. Stay active
I'm a better wife, mother, friend and coworker when I am exercising.  I love when I am set in a routine. I don't want this year to be about losing a certain amount of weight. I just want it to be about staying active.  Yoga, running, walking, etc., it doesn't matter.  The important thing I that I keep moving.  And I plan to.  Hopefully I'll be pregnant at some point this year and I really want to stay active LONGER than I did last time around.  Here's hoping.



3. Simplify
Our society makes us believe that we need to have a lot of "stuff'".  My aunt and uncle recently lost nearly all of their possessions in a house fire.  While my heart breaks for them, they have had the most amazing attitude about it.  "It's just stuff."  They are right.  As horrible as it sounds to lose everything you have, how nice would it be?  I am amazed at how much "stuff" we have.  Closets full of things we never touch.  Boxes in our garage. Old memorabilia that we honestly don't need or care much about but feel too guilty to give away?  Stupid little gadgets that help accomplish one task (a mango cutter?).  Enough. Time to simplify.  I plan on making my way through my house this year.  Yard sales, trips to the DI, posting items on KSL or Craigslist are all part of my future.  None of this stuff really buys me happiness.  I can't wait to feel less cluttered.



4. Budget
Going along with #3 is to budget.  It's so easy to just buy crap that we don't need.  Honestly I'm amazed every time I go to Costco, Target, Carters, even the grocery store at how much stuff I buy that I don't really need.  I've never really budgeted and I feel that if I set a strict budget that I will spend less on stuff I don't need.  I'm terrible at groceries. I buy a lot of food that ends up going bad.  Another part of budgeting will hopefully make me use more of what I have in my cupboards.  Seth and I want to start saving.  We should be saving way more than we do.  Now that I am down to working 30 hours a week, money will be tighter.  I think budgeting will actually feel really great.  Now someone teach me?



5. Stop Being So Critical
This goes not only being critical of others, but of myself.  Seth and I realized the other day that we have been in a cycle of just nagging each other.  For the most ridiculous things.  We are stressed and tired and we are completely taking it out on each other.  Being critical doesn't help our marriage.  It doesn't help my friendships.  It doesn't help my family.  I am going to work on this.  


6. Blog 
Blogging is one of my only creative outlets.  Last year I blogged very little. I felt like it was a burden instead of an escape.  I was going months without blogging, instead of weeks and that added to the burden. I felt like I lost my creative energy.  So as lame as this sounds, I am going to blog twice a month.  Even if the topics are ridiculous, I will just start writing. Some I hope are more thoughtful.  Others will hopefully make people laugh.  Some may just be an overview of what's happening in my life.  The important thing for me is to write. It helps me stay centered. 



7. Try some new hobbies
Some ideas at the top of this list include: knitting, baking bread, gardening, crafting with Millie.  I'm going to rely heavily on Pinterest and talented friends to help me with this one.  



8. Don't chop off my hair
Damn it all I will have long hair!  I must stay strong and not cut any length off this year.  Two trims.  That's it.  This is really stupid, I know.  But I am determined to make it work. 



9. Plan ahead
I'm a planner. I am good at planning but man Christmas was stressful this year.  Coworker gifts, daycare teacher gifts, homemade goodies, presents for family, Millie, Seth all took a toll on me. I tried to do too much and as a result got grumpy and overwhelmed.  So I'm starting early.  September suckers!  I want to plan ahead for all major life events.  To help keep my sanity.  



10. Enjoy the ride
Juggling work, family, home, Millie, etc.  It's hard and tiring but it's damn good.  This year my goal is to just go with it.  My life is never going to be perfect.  Let go of unrealistic expectations and enjoy the ride. 



Oh Becky.  10 resolutions?  Really!?  Hey better than not trying anything.  Here goes nothing.  Bring it on 2014!



2013 Highlights

I love a new year. I love a fresh start. I love setting goals and striving to be better.  I also love reflecting on the past year.  What a year it has been!  This year I discovered that being a parent became easier and more fun than I ever could have imagined.  This year taught me that marriage isn't as romantic as it used to be, but that our love is deep.  This year I discovered that I am bone tired by 7:00 each night.  This year I discovered that vacations are no longer a vacation, they are trips.  This year I realized how much more fun holidays are.  This year I was aware of how happy and fulfilled I am at work.  This year I realized I am blessed.

Here are some of my favorite moments of 2013.

Millie's first birthday.


Millie turned one on February 7th.  What better way to celebrate than with a Valentine themed party!?

Learning to talk.

video

I'll look back at 2013 as the year of Yo Gabba Gabba.  Millie was obsessed for months.  That's all she wanted to watch.  I remember waking up in the middle of the night and being unable to sleep because I had so many songs stuck in my head. 

video

Spring arriving was such a relief.  Winter is tough when you have a toddler wreaking havoc on the house.  We loved getting outside! We spent a lot of time at the park and in our pool. Summer ended up being a blast too.






Spring also brought her first experience with thunder.

video

Seth ran a marathon in April.  He worked so hard and trained so long.  He ran with Millie across the finish line.  Definitely one of our best moments of 2013.


video


Also in April, I biked the Salt Lake Marathon route in the pouring rain with my sister.  It was really amazing being on the empty streets in the dark. I loved it.


Time for our annual trip to the ranch! This was the first time going with Millie and we had an absolute blast.  She's not quite ready to paintball yet.  Soon.  Very soon.



Starting in June we took on one of our biggest renovation projects to date.  The backyard.  We had guys are our house for over a month.  It was hot, noisy and a ton of work.



We loved having friends over.  One of my favorite memories was the 24th of July.  Roasting marshmallows and hanging out.

In June Millie finally started growing hair.  I remember this was the first time I really noticed how much she was changing.



In July I went to a public radio conference in Atlanta.  Alone.  For 3 nights.  It was pure bliss. I read, I took baths, I ordered room service.  I even went to the cool Atlanta Aquarium.


August was our annual Youkstetter vacation. We all stayed in a beautiful home just outside of Zion.  We had such a great time. I loved watching Millie play with her cousins.  We swam, hiked, played at the sand dunes and biked.  It was wonderful.




In August we also said goodbye to our sweet nanny Kristin.  She was starting fall semester and we were looking for some more stability for Millie and decided to put her into daycare.  It was bittersweet.


We also said goodbye to Wednesdays at Aunt Heathers.  We loved that she had so many loving people help take care of her.  She still got to spend some time with Grandma though - no worries.


She did really well right away at Miss Billie's.  This is still how she reacts every time I pick her up.


video


I spent a lot of mornings running in the summer. I was training for a 1/2 marathon.  One of my favorite moments of this year was walking in early one morning to this scene...

video

Long Saturday runs were the highlight of my week.  I ran in a lot of canyons.  Not a bad view.


I'm so happy with the way I ran the 1/2 marathon. I had a great time.  Running was so perfect.


October meant fund drive.  Some of the most intense and hard days of the year.  Some of my favorite as well.  Things weren't going as well as we hoped.  Our membership team pulled some strings and begged for more money.  People came through and we exceeded our goal.  We raised $550,000.  I was so exhausted and happy that I cried on the air.  Oh brother.  It was a great celebration.

video

October was vacation time yet again.  This time we headed to the beach.  Seth has been exciting to take Millie to the beach for a long time.  The trip exceeded our expectations.  She was absolutely in love with the beach.


video

Our time was absolutely magical there.  I'll never forget it. 



October is the best month of the year.  Having a little Millie around just made it even better.  We had so much fun all month with her.  





Millie decided to follow in her mother's footsteps and become obsessed with The Wizard of Oz.  She insists I sing to her all the songs.  She asks to watch it constantly.  She even has little figurines that she loves.  The girl is obsessed.  

video

She can even sing the songs - this is the Tinman song - just Millie's version.

video


November meant another marathon for Seth.  He ran the Marine Corp marathon in Washington DC.  I didn't go but we cheered him from afar.  November also meant our "adult vacation" to Oregon wine country and Portland with our friends Erin and Michael from Boise.  It was such a great vacation.




Finally the holidays were here.  We took a ride on the Polar Express, where Millie was NOT happy to be meeting Santa.


We went for a ride on Trax downtown to see the lights at Temple Square.



Millie and Daddy baked.



Perhaps the best moment of the year, Christmas morning.

video

Not contained in this blog are the millions of little moments that made the year wonderful as well.  Finger painting, trips to the zoo, dancing and singing.  Date nights, dinner with friends, going to NPR/KUER events.  Impossible to capture but all wonderful.

I am so blessed. I have such a wonderful life.  I'm sure 2014 will be even more wonderful.