Thursday, June 5, 2014

That One Time When We Bought a House

Nothing makes you feel like an adult like buying a house. I think it has something to do with the thousands of dollars that are no longer in our savings account. It's such a huge decision, and there are so many variables and so many things to think about. And every aspect of the decision is stressful. You have to find a good realtor. And then you have to find a good lender. And then you have to find the house itself, taking into consideration the style, the age, the neighborhood, the yard, the condition, and about a thousand other things. A lot goes into buying a house, and understandably so. This is the place we're going to live for the next ten years or so. We're going to bring kids into this place, man.

But I digress. This story isn't just the story of finding the house that we want to spend a good chunk of our lives in. This is also a perfect example of how when God says, "Do this thing!", you end up doing that thing, even if you didn't think you were ready to do that thing quite yet.

As of about the beginning of April, Andrew and I were thinking about buying a house. In a year. It just felt like it was the right next step for us in our lives. We had had a whole discussion about how we felt a strong prompting that we needed to get into a house (all at IKEA, while looking at [and drooling over] their awesome kitchens). The lease for our apartment was ending on May 31, so we figured that we would sign for another year contract and save up some more money and do a really thorough job of looking at houses and finding what we really wanted. It felt like such a good plan that we even went to the office to re-sign our contract, but we were told that they would write up the contract and deliver it to us. So we figured that was fine and went on our way.

But because we were thinking seriously about it, we wanted to get some of the process started: Find a realtor, get preapproved, etc. As we got into that process, we realized that there might be a benefit to buying a little earlier. So we talked to our apartment office again and discovered that we had the option to sign a six-month contract instead, which was great to hear. We thought that might be a better timeline for us so that if we found a house earlier than expected, we wouldn't be stuck with an entire year-long contract along with our mortgage.

We continued looking into things more, and I started getting a little anxious. Mostly about that six-month timeline. I wanted to make sure that we wouldn't have to buy out a contract or pay rent and a mortgage. To make matters worse, we only had until April 15 to sign a contract to get a lower rate on our rent. I hated that we had to decide so soon what our timeline would be. We then went into the office again to find out if we could sign a contract up until our current lease expired, even if we had to pay a higher rate. At this point, it had been a couple of weeks since we were told that the office would deliver our contract, and it still hadn't happened. We ended up talking to the same girl who promised to get that done, and she immediately recognized us and felt all sorts of bad for being a slacker. She then promised that we could sign for the lower rate up until May 31. I felt much better about this because it gave us some breathing room in making a decision.

Our next step was to meet with a realtor. We met with Shauna, who came highly recommended. She came over to our apartment and got an idea of what we were looking for and what we could afford. Then she asked us about the lease at our apartment. When we told her that our contract was up on May 31 and that we were trying to decide how soon we wanted to buy, she told us to buy now. Interest rates are still really low, and they are projected to go up by the end of the year. She also said that spring is when all the houses go on the market, which creates good competition for buyers. Shauna said she could get us into a house by mid-June.

The whole time Shauna was talking, I just felt like we needed to follow her advice. I felt so good about working with her and about buying a house now instead of waiting. Once she left, Andrew told me that he felt the same way. So we decided that we were going to start looking.

We met with Shauna on Monday, and that Thursday, we started the hunt. We looked at quite a few houses that we absolutely did not like. There was one that we liked, but we didn't love it, and there were a lot of things that needed to be fixed. We had gotten a good idea that day of what houses looked like at what we thought was in our price range, and they weren't fantastic. So we went home and took a really hard look at what we could afford, and we upped our price a little bit. On Saturday, we spent four hours looking at nine houses, and we found a couple that we really liked. But in the end, we decided not to put an offer on either of them.

So the next Monday, we went and looked at more houses. The first one we looked at was cute, but the backyard needed to be completely redone. It didn't even have sod; just a bunch of weeds and a wooden fence that was falling down. The next couple were definite no-gos. Then we pulled up to this adorable little blue rambler in West Jordan. It was at the end of a cul-de-sac, and the front yard was beautiful. We walked in, and everything just felt right. We loved the paint choices. The kitchen wasn't super up to date, but it was nice and well cared for. And the backyard was AMAZING. It was so big, and the landscaping was so perfect we thought the owners had to be professionals. Everything about the house felt good. The basement was finished, and finished nicely. It had a formal living room upstairs and a family room downstairs. It had a pretty big laundry room. It even had a room for cold storage. It was obvious to everyone that this was the best house we had looked at so far.

I know that I loved it. Andrew did too, but it was at the very top of our price range, and that made him a little nervous. But Shauna talked to the seller's agent and told us there was some wiggle room on the price, so we decided to put in an offer. Which was nerve-racking, but so exciting. And then the next morning, I got a call from Shauna telling me that our offer was accepted with no issues.

So after three days of shopping, we found our house. We had met with our realtor a mere week before we signed our offer. It was insane. And everything from that point on went insanely smoothly. No major issues came up in the inspection. There were absolutely no hiccups in processing our loan. The sellers had no problems on their side, either. We could have closed a week earlier than we did because of how easy everything was. It's still so surreal to me that we own a house, but I could not be more excited about it. I can't wait to be done with moving and to make this place our home.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Because of Him

Easter has passed, which means I'm a little late in posting this. But it's never a bad time to think about the sacrifice my Savior made for me and for all of us. Easter is a time to remember Christ and the incomprehensible gift of the Atonement and the subsequent Resurrection. I've been thinking a lot about this scripture lately:
11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled with saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death with bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me. (Alma 7: 11–13)
My savior suffered for me. He suffered my pains and my afflictions, my temptations and my sicknesses. He took my sins upon me so that I can repent and return to Him one day. And He broke the bands of death by rising again. He lives. And because of Him, I can live again too. He made it possible for me to live eternally with my family, despite the mistakes I will inevitably make. Because of Him, there is always the possibility of a fresh start. Because of Him, I can become whole again.

I cannot even begin to express just how much comfort the Atonement gives me. My Heavenly Father did not send me on this earth to fail, so He sent His Son to give me a way to succeed. Heavenly Father wants me to return to Him, and His Son made that possible. Because of that gift, I can become clean again and again. I can start every day as a new day. Because of Him, I can have peace.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Who Are You? A Topic for Each Week of the Year {Week 7: Parents}

Week 1: Birth
Week 2: School
Week 3: Hobbies
Week 4: Birthdays
Week 5: Childhood Home
Week 6: Grandparents

7. What were your parents like? Did you have a special relationship with either of them? Do you know anything about them when they were children?

I am incredibly close with both of my parents. I feel very blessed to have such a great relationship with my parents, both growing up and as an adult. I know that is something that many people don't get to experience, so I try to remember to be grateful for it and not take it for granted.

Jeanine Newman Brown

My mom is a very caring woman. She always wants to be involved in the lives of those close to her—her children, her grandchildren, and her friends. As the youngest child, I spent a lot of time with Mom. She worked while I was growing up, but she was generally able to find work she could do from home. I remember countless times going clothes shopping and grocery shopping and any other kind of shopping with Mom. The only kind of shopping I thoroughly loathed was fabric shopping. Mom would drag me to fabric stores and spend what felt like hours looking through the fabric and the patterns. I hated every second of it. And that is still something we joke about on a regular basis.

Mom is a crafty person. She sews, crochets, cross stitches, quilts, and makes jewelry. When I was about 10, I wanted to learn how to crochet, so Mom sat down and patiently showed me how to work the yarn into knots with the hook. I'm sure it was slow-going, but I eventually got it. She was also good at correcting me when I had done something wrong, without making me feel stupid. She would teach me that I needed to count every stitch to make sure that my edges were even (though it took me a long time to really internalize that lesson; I hated counting stitches, so my edges were often all over the place). She also taught me to read a pattern so I could make more difficult projects. I still love crocheting to this day, and that is mostly thanks to Mom. She also taught me how to counted cross stitch, which I loved for a long time. Mom was also very supportive of my random crafty interests. She would buy me yarn to make baby blankets or take me to get the right colors for a cross stitch pattern. She would also let me have a lot of her embroidery floss to make the countless friendship bracelets I was always making.

Mom was almost always the one that helped me with my schoolwork. Which wasn't a picnic, let me tell you. I had this tendency to put homework off until late in the day when I was tired and not thinking clearly. Poor Mom would sit down with me and try to help me work through the assignment while I would frequently break down in tears because I didn't think I could do it. She would also deal with last-minute projects and trips to the grocery store for poster board and markers.

When I have a question or need help with something, I always call Mom. When I was in college, I would often call her during breaks between classes to talk to her about boy problems or school stresses or whatever other issues I was having. She was always willing to talk to me and listen to me whine and complain. I still call her when I need help with things, and she's always available. She's always supported me in everything I've done. She went to all of my big performances in high school choir and drama (even the most terrible Robin Hood: The Musical), and she and my dad even came on choir tour with me (though that was probably just an excuse to go on vacation). I always knew that I could count on Mom being there when I needed her.

One memory of her always being there sticks out in my mind. I had finally ended my dysfunctional relationship with my long-term boyfriend, and it was definitely not on good terms. It was later at night, and after I got off the phone, I went upstairs to find my mom watching TV. I told her what happened and broke into tears, and she told me how happy she was that I had been strong enough to make this decision and go through with it. She helped me see how detrimental my relationship had been to my emotional health, and I left that conversation feeling hopeful about my future and feeling like I had made the best decision for my own personal well-being. But she never made me feel bad about staying in the relationship for so long; she just made me feel good about my decision to end it, which was something I desperately needed right then.

David Roy Brown

I am a daddy's girl through and through. From the time that I was super little, I've always wanted to be near my dad. I'm also a whole lot like my dad. While I look more like my mom, I am more of an introvert like my dad. He is a funny, personable guy, and it's my favorite when he gets in a goofy mood. He often gets in goofy moods when we're on vacation and he can allow himself to just completely relax. Dad is also an incredibly kind and caring man. He has been bishop in two different wards, and he fulfills that calling to its fullest.

Dad is the main reason that I am such a huge sports fan. When I was little, I would sit with Dad and watch Jazz games. For the longest time, I was afraid of being vocal about the sports, so while Dad would yell and holler at the TV, I would whisper "Yes!" when something good happened. (I definitely grew out of that. Hollering and yelling is an integral part of watching any sport now.) When I was about five, Dad took me to a preseason Jazz game. He told me over and over that if I got tired, we could go home. But I stayed awake for the whole game and paid attention to everything. The Jazz beat the 76ers, and I had so much fun. Dad was amazed. I've been going to sporting events with him ever since.

One of my best memories of Dad was my senior year of high school. I had auditioned for a major role in our school musical, and I didn't get it. I was devastated because I felt like I had nailed my audition. I came home from school very upset and shut myself in my room to cry and stew and make myself angrier. Dad came to talk to me about letting go of the anger and doing my best with the role I had been given. He was very understanding and told me about a similar experience he had had in high school (he also did theater). Having this kind of talk was usually something my mom did, so hearing it from Dad had a really big impact on me. In the end, it was probably a very good thing I didn't get the role because of a lot of other things that went on during that show, so having Dad help me through that was a big deal to me.

Dad also joined Mom in coming to all of my big high school performances. One of the most memorable productions I was in was a locally written one act that was a combination of the Anne Frank story and a Holocaust prisoner of war story, and it was very powerful. I had a fairly big role, and we performed it for free for our families and fellow students. When we came out for the curtain call, we got a standing ovation. I immediately looked for my parents, and Dad had tears streaming down his face as he applauded. I could tell in that moment that he was very proud of me and my work.

While I don't call Dad with problems nearly as much as I call Mom, he is also always there to talk. When I do call him for one thing or another, we end up talking for way longer than expected, and we always have good conversations. He's a really good listener and always makes me feel like he's truly hearing me.

I'm so very grateful for the parents I've been given. There's so much more I could write about both of them. They have both always supported me in everything I've chosen to do and have pushed me to try new things and step out of my comfort zone. They've seen my potential and tried their best to help me achieve it, and I don't think you can ask for much better in your parents.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Short Update

So, yeah, I haven't posted anything in over a month. I'm super behind on the family history questions I was answering, and I haven't posted any updates about the busyness of the past four-ish weeks. So here's a short update about what's been going on in our lives, and I promise I'll write more detailed posts soon.

In the past month, Andrew and I went on a Disney cruise to the Bahamas (which was AMAZING and I want to go back RIGHT NOW), had colds for a solid week, and went to San Diego (which was beautiful, as always). After which Andrew threw out his back while moving furniture. This week has been the first normal week in a long time (meaning I've been in the office working every day).

While I'm happy that we're getting back to normal (and actually putting money into our savings account again), I'm also super sad that we don't have any fun trips planned in the near future. But I do gain solace in knowing that Disneyland is a go for December. I'm so excited. Even though it's still nine months away. But it will be awesome when it comes.

And now for the only two photos of the trips that we have uploaded so far.

Waiting at the ship's terminal in Miami, and so happy to be off the airplane.

The beautiful San Diego Temple

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Who Are You? A Topic for Each Week of the Year {Week 6: Grandparents}

Week 1: Birth
Week 2: School
Week 3: Hobbies
Week 4: Birthdays
Week 5: Childhood Home

6. What were your grandparents like? Do you have any special memories of them? Do you remember any stories that they told you about themselves or your parents?

My mama's parents:
June Tippetts Newman was always the typical, sweetest old lady. I have some of the best memories of visiting her and my grandpa in their home in Lehi. Grandma Newman was the gum lady. She had a little container full of gum, and kids in the neighborhood would knock on the door simply to get one little half piece of gum. One of my favorite memories of Grandma Newman is when my mom and I went with her to visit my cousins in Illinois my freshman year of college. We spent a couple of days in Nauvoo, and on one day, I had a terrible headache, which put me in an awful mood. At one point, Grandma turned to me and said, "Oh Lindy! Put a smile on your face for the whole human race!" I was most definitely not amused at the time, but it always makes me laugh when I look back on it. It is just such a Grandma thing to say. She is always looking on the bright side of things and never wants people to be upset. She has been diagnosed with a form of Alzheimer's the past couple of years, and it has been very sad to see the grandma I know and love disappear little by little.

William Newman was one of the best men I have ever known. He and Grandma Newman served three missions together. I was able to go visit them with my parents when they were in Kirtland, Ohio. We spent a few days in Kirtland and then drove up to Palmyra with them. I was eleven, and I loved the very personal time I got to spend with Grandma and Grandpa and my parents. Grandpa Newman was the bow-tie man. He never wore a regular necktie; he always wore bow ties. He also did the best Donald Duck impression, and he was the best at sneaking up on you with a surprise tickle attack. I could never sit next to him without getting tickled. One of my very favorite memories of him was when I had a project for my eighth grade science class. Grandpa was an electrical engineer and could build just about anything, so when I found out I had to build a catapult, I knew who I was going to for help. My mom and I spent four hours in Grandpa's garage, where I "helped" him build my catapult. In all reality, I did absolutely nothing once he got a hold of the project. My catapult may not have thrown my tennis ball the farthest in my class, but I can guarantee that it was the highest quality of the bunch. Grandpa never did anything halfway. In 2005, Grandpa Newman passed away from liver cancer. I still miss him a ridiculous amount.

My daddy's parents:
Mona Archibald Brown. I always remember Grandma Brown for holidays. My siblings and I are the only grandkids on that side of the family, so we spent (and still spend) nearly all holidays at their house. Growing up, birthdays and Christmas were always a big deal. Grandma Brown's birthday is on December 22, which meant that we spent a lot of time at their house the week of Christmas. We would go over for Grandma's birthday, again on Christmas Eve for our big celebration, and then again on Christmas Day to open presents. While that has mellowed somewhat, we still spend Christmas Eve at Grandma and Grandpa Brown's house. Grandma makes stockings for every person in the family. She even had a new one for Andrew the Christmas after we got engaged. She also gets white elephant gifts for the exchange that we do every year. To this day, it does not feel like Christmas until we go to Grandma's Christmas Eve party.

Boyd Brown can be described as a crotchety old man. But we all kind of love him for it. He likes to argue with people, and it's usually kind of funny, until it gets out of hand. Which happens on occasion. Grandpa smoked forever (like 50 years or something) before finally quitting cold turkey. Before he quit, Grandma forced him to go outside and smoke his cigars on the patio because she didn't want the smell in her house. Grandpa would sit outside and smoke for a bit, and then he would store what was left of his cigar between a couple of bricks outside their door. I always thought that was funny. When my siblings and I were little, he convinced us all that an angry badger lived under their house. It made me perpetually terrified to go in their basement. He also had lots of fun popping his dentures out at us. When I was little, Grandpa liked to introduce me to foods he thought I would hate. He gave me dill pickles, fully expecting me to make a funny face and spit it out. Instead, I ate the whole thing and still love pickles to this day. Grandpa has emphysema from all those years of smoking, so he now needs a constant supply of oxygen. When he's at home, he just uses a really long tube that he trails with him wherever he goes without having to drag a tank with him. He has frequently gotten his great-grandkids tangled in his cord, and when he's sitting on the deck, we have to make sure we don't shut the door all the way. That has been the birth of many "don't kill Grandpa!" jokes.

I feel incredibly blessed that I still have three of my grandparents alive today. I know not many people can say that at 26 years old. I also feel blessed that both sets of grandparents lived close by so that I could make countless memories with them. And I'm so grateful to know that I will have the chance to be tickled by Grandpa Newman again one day.

This is probably my favorite photo of Grandpa Newman. Mostly because that's me he's holding.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Who Are You? A Topic for Each Week of the Year {Week 5: Childhood Home}

Week 1: Birth
Week 2: School
Week 3: Hobbies
Week 4: Birthdays

5. What were your childhood home and neighborhood like?

I really loved where I grew up. I grew up in Magna, as I'm sure I've mentioned before, and I spent the first 18 years of my life in the same house. I shared a room with my sister until my oldest brother went on his mission, which is when Chelly took over his room and I got my own room. Then when Chelly went to college, I moved downstairs to her room. There was one major reason why everyone wanted that room: it was huge. For a bedroom, at least. It served as our family room for years until my parents put an addition on the house and added a much bigger family room, which was much needed. I remember my mom jumping on the couch in the old family room when John Stockton hit the three-pointer that sent the Jazz to the Finals for the first time. There wasn't anywhere else for her to go.

The major reason that room wasn't the greatest was because it didn't have a door. We would hang a sheet up sometimes, and for a while in high school I had door beads hanging there. The other bad part was the spiders and the bugs. The room was in the basement, and only about half the basement was finished. The unfinished part was the creepy part that was filled with storage. And spiders. Spiders that would usually make their way into my room. I have no idea how many spiders I killed down there.

The main quirk about our house, I think, was that we only had one bathroom on the main floor. Six people had to share that bathroom, and it got interesting at times. In order to free up space, Chelly and I would get ready in our rooms instead of standing at the sink in the bathroom. My parents didn't put a second bathroom in until the summer before I moved to college, so none of us really got to take advantage of that.

My neighborhood was a fun neighborhood. Growing up, I had so many friends on my street, and we would spend the summers playing around together. There were the Colemans, the Barretts, the Barnetts, the Lemmons, and the Robertses. Each of those families had at least one child around my age that I palled around with. Then there were the other families in the neighborhood that weren't on our street, such as the Behrmanns and the Ledbetters. We would all get together and ride our bikes or play softball on the stretch of lawn between the Lemmons' house and the Barnetts' house.

One of my favorite memories from our neighborhood growing up had to do with the Barnetts. Clifton was one of my very best friends growing up, and I would play at his house all the time. In fact, the one time I broke a bone, it was while jumping on his trampoline. (I did a front handspring and bent all the fingers on my right hand back enough that I broke one finger and sprained another.) I would play Super Nintendo at his house all the time. Corinne and Jennings were like my second set of parents. In fact, my family's emergency evacuation plan was to meet on their lawn. Every summer evening, Corinne would sit on her front porch while Clifton played outside with his friends. Inevitably, other parents would come out and talk to Corinne, and there was a definite feeling of camaraderie in our neighborhood because of that. We'd all be out until it got dark and then go home for the evenings.

I would also spend a lot of time at the Colemans' house, mostly to play in their backyard because it was so big. And they had a cool swing set/playhouse that Andrew and I loved to climb all over. Though I think the coolest thing about their backyard was the old rickety wooden playhouse that a previous owner had built into the wood fence. Sometimes I wonder if we should have been playing on it at all; it probably wasn't the safest thing in the world. If I remember right, it didn't even have a ladder, so we'd have to figure out other ways to climb in. Andrew and I would make up adventure stories and act them out in his backyard. I always got really sad when Paul or Penny would stick their head out the window to call Andrew in for dinner.

When I think about those things, it reminds me of what a great environment I had growing up. I had lots of friends to play with as a kid, and we were always roaming and creating our own adventures. Our neighborhood was relatively safe, which allowed us to explore all of it.

L to R: My cousin Dustin, my brother Matt, and my Dad. The portion of the house on the left with the garage is the addition. The brick portion is the original house. But mostly I just thought this picture was fantastic in so many ways and I wanted to share it.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Should We or Shouldn't We?

In 2007, I went on a ridiculously awesome vacation with my brother and sister-in-law. We spent ten days exploring New York City, and it was amazing. I loved every second of it. And then I didn't go on another vacation until 2012, when I went to Disneyland with my family. I had so much fun on that trip too, and it was so ridiculously nice to finally have a real break from work. I had coworkers who would ask me why I never went on vacation.

And then Andrew and I got married and went to Hawaii for a glorious week. And then we decided on a spur-of-the-moment trip to Universal Studios Orlando where I fully embraced my nerdiness (and enjoyed every second of it). And then we booked a cruise for our anniversary, which is coming up soon (and oh my gosh I can't wait!). And all of this has simply fueled my wanderlust. I just want to travel all over the place.

And now we have three more trips to consider:
  1. San Diego. It looks like I'll get to go for work, which means my flight and at least a couple of nights at the hotel and some food will be covered by my company. So all we'd have to pay for is Andrew's flight and maybe a couple more nights in a hotel. And seeing as how Andrew has never been to San Diego, I think he really should go with me.
  2. Washington. Andrew's 10 year high school reunion is this year, and we're trying to decide whether or not we should go. Rather, I'm trying to convince him that we should. It would be really fun, and I'd love to see Washington in a month that isn't super cold and miserable.
  3. Disneyland. My brother and sister-in-law are planning a December trip to Disneyland, and they've invited us to go. I think it would be an absolute blast, and I have always wanted to see Disneyland at Christmastime. I've heard it's amazing.
So here are the arguments for not going:
  1. I work for a ridiculously awesome company that has offered (basically) unlimited vacation time. But while I don't have to worry about accruing hours, Andrew only has a limited number of days off, which he tries to use judicially. I can't blame him for being concerned about using up all his PTO.
  2. We are trying to get into a house, hopefully sooner rather than later. And despite living on two incomes, we are by no means rich, meaning it will take some saving in order to cover a sizable down payment and the closing costs without becoming house poor.
And here are the arguments for going:
  1. As DINKs (dual income no kids), we have room to play. And as soon as we start popping out the babies, we will have to pass on a good portion of these kinds of opportunities. I want to take advantage of this benefit while we've got it.
  2. These are relatively inexpensive trips, especially to San Diego and Washington. And Disneyland is far enough in the future that we have all year to save for it.
  3. How often are we going to have opportunities like these? There are real reasons to go other than that we just want to go and have fun (which isn't a bad reason either). The San Diego trip will cost half as much as it normally would, we have family in Washington we could probably stay with, and we would get to watch my nieces and nephews experience Christmas in Disneyland.
  4. We can make Disneyland our Christmas present to each other. It's not like we have kids who would need some sort of Christmas morning awesomeness; we could just have a couple of small gifts under the tree and call it good.
So what do you think? Should we go, or shouldn't we? I'm trying to convince Andrew we should, but maybe viewpoints from other people will help me out.

I love San Diego. So much. It's gorgeous there.
I would really, really love exploring Seattle when I'm not freezing cold and wet.
Just look at it! How magical is that?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Who Are You? A Topic for Each Week of the Year {Week 4: Birthdays}

Week 1: Birth
Week 2: School
Week 3: Hobbies

4. How did you celebrate birthdays as a child?

There are a lot of things I remember about celebrating my birthdays as a child, and the funny thing is that almost none of those things includes presents. I only remember a couple of big presents that I got for my birthday as a kid. What I really remember is spending time with friends and family. As the birthday girl, I would get to choose my dinner. I never had a set thing that I always asked for. I remember asking for taco salads once, lasagna another year, and pizza another. It just all depended on my mood. I wasn't a terribly picky eater, so there were lots of things that I liked.

I also remember that on the Sunday nearest my birthday, my grandparents would come and visit. I always got so excited when they would come. Both sets of grandparents would usually make it out, and we'd have cake and ice cream and I'd get to open a couple of presents. I really loved having my grandparents come over just for me; it made me feel very special.

When it came to the cake and ice cream, I generally didn't care much about the cake. I've never been a big fan of cake, and especially not of icing, but I LOVE ice cream. I would always have to get some kind of fruity-flavored ice cream because I'm not a huge fan of chocolate, either. There were quite a few years where I didn't even eat any of the other cake; my mom would make it for the benefit of those attending my parties. I would just eat a bigger portion of ice cream.

Isn't that cake adorable?
My brother Ben is on the left and my Grandma Brown is on the couch in the background.

I also usually got to have a friend birthday party. My birthday is in the middle of July. It gets hot in Utah in the middle of July. So the main theme I remember from my childhood birthday parties is water. We would always end up playing in the yard with water balloons or squirt guns. One year my parents got me a Slip 'N Slide for my birthday, and it became the main event at my birthday party that year.

We would also do cake and ice cream at those parties. One of the most memorable birthdays in that respect was one year when my parents decided to put trick candles on the cake. No one but them knew they were trick candles, and when the candles would not blow out, my friend Andrew laughed and laughed and laughed for way longer than was necessary. He thought they were the funniest things ever.

The birthday party that always sticks in my head the most, though, was my tenth birthday party. I got to invite a few select friends to go to Classic Skating and Water Park with me, and I still remember it being the funnest birthday ever. We got to go roller skating and eat pizza and go on awesome water slides.

L to R: Clifton, Andrew, me, Brindi. I was a little excited, I think.
L to R (I think, sorry it's kind of fuzzy): Brindi, Amelia, me, Elise
Me and Elise
Andrew and Clifton look thrilled in this photo.
The whole group. Shaun is on the front left, and his mullet is amazing. Pretty sure my mom cut his hair.
One of my favorite memories from this birthday party is of Clifton. He was terrified of the big slides, so he spent two-thirds of the time playing in the kiddie pool. The rest of us finally convinced him near the very end of the party to go on one of the big slides, and he LOVED it. He was so sad that he only got to go on the slides a couple of times before we had to go home. This has been made an especially sweet memory because Clifton passed away about seven years ago from brain cancer. He was one of my very best friends growing up.

I always loved my birthdays, and I think that's because my parents and siblings did such a great job of making me feel special. It's interesting to look back and not remember most of the presents I got, but I always remember the people I was with and the fun that I had.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Andrew has this really cool collection of cameras. He's got quite a few. Some are really cool antiques, like this one that we used as a prop in some of our wedding photos:

I am more than okay with his collection. The cameras sit on top of our bookshelves, and they look great displayed that way. He's come home with a few new ones since we've been married, most of which have been old Polaroid cameras. Just a couple of weeks ago he came home with a late 1950s early 1960s Polaroid camera that he got from DI complete with the owner's manual, which had some amazing pictures in it, let me tell you.

I've always kind of wanted my own really cool collections, but I never really knew what I wanted to collect. A while ago, I mentioned in passing to Andrew that I've always wanted a typewriter. Before Christmas, he asked me if I was serious about that. I instantly said yes. I didn't know if he would be able to find what I wanted, but of course he did. Because he's amazing like that. He ended up getting me a 1930s Royal typewriter that is so cool. Little did he know that he created a monster.

Last weekend, Andrew and I wandered around downtown Salt Lake looking for antiques stores. We found one called Jitterbug Antiques, and sitting outside the doors were two typewriters in their cases. Of course, I had to look at them both before we even went inside the store. I was able to pull myself away, mostly because it made me excited to see what was actually inside. There was one more typewriter set up inside, and I just fell in love with it. It had this amazing leather case that was in great condition, considering it was from the 1940s. So we bought it. And I still just love it.

The green one is the one Andrew gave me for Christmas. The black one is the new addition.
We also found this incredible 1887, four-volume edition of Les Misérables at a little rare books store we found. Andrew and I both absolutely love books, especially pretty books, so it was a little dangerous for us to go in the store to begin with. But I am so glad we did. These are by far the coolest books that we own, and it's given me the itch to find even more. Oi vey.

But I am so excited to have a little collection of my own. I can't say that I think the typewriter collection will grow a ton more. It's hard to collect a lot of typewriters; I mean, where would I keep even five of them? The antique books collection, on the other hand, could grow a lot more, especially since Andrew and I would both be contributing to it. I can't wait until we have a house and the room to really display the cameras, typewriters, and books to do them justice. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Who Are You? A Topic for Each Week of the Year {Week 3: Hobbies}

3. What were your favorite activities as a young child? Were you interested in sports?

To a degree, I was a bit of a boring child. My main hobby and my first love, of sorts, was reading. I was always, always, always reading something. I was reading adult-sized novels by the time I was nine or ten (which was when I started reading The Work and the Glory). I would take them to reading time in elementary school, and when we had substitutes, they would often do a double-take when they saw the size of the books I was reading.

In eighth grade, my schoolwork was slipping. I was getting some of the worst grades I had ever gotten, and my mom's threat? If my grades didn't improve, she would take away my books. Because I was spending too much time reading the books I wanted to read and not enough time actually doing my homework. My grades turned around quite quickly because I knew she would follow through. Also, as a five-year-old, I would usually sleep with a pile of picture books next to my head, so I was quite literally always with a book.

A related hobby was writing. I wrote my first story in second grade, and then in third grade I started writing more because of my teacher's focus on creative writing. It then became a bit of an obsession. I would carry a legal pad and a bundle of pens with me most places I went. At family gatherings, I could be found sitting by myself and writing stories. I loved making my own "books" (which were usually binders that I had decorated). I wanted to be an author when I grew up until I discovered my penchant for editing.

My love for writing also manifested itself in journal writing. I started my first journal when I was eleven, and it quickly became my mode of venting. I would write about all my eleven-year-old woes and fears. Sometimes I'll go back and read the funny things I wrote in that journal. This is a hobby that has stuck with me throughout my adult life. I have now finished fourteen journals and have just started my fifteenth. I have started keeping ticket stubs and programs and anything else that can be easily stuck inside my journal, so they have also become my scrapbooks of sorts.

As a kid, I also really enjoyed certain kinds of crafts. I was always trying to find some new little craft I could do. My favorite was probably friendship bracelets. I had a few different ways I would make them, and I often wore five or six of them until they would start to fray. Another craft I really enjoyed was counted cross stitching. I loved watching the picture take shape as I would work my way through each color. The last craft I did on a regular basis was crocheting. I loved doing it because I could sit and watch TV while crocheting, and it was always really satisfying to finish a project.

Another love of mine was music. My whole family is very musical. We all sing, five of us play the piano, two play the drums, and a couple of us fiddle around with guitars. I grew up listening to my dad play the piano, so I learned at a very early age how much I liked music. I started taking piano lessons at about seven, and I had three different teachers. I started with Sherry Evans, whom I loved because I was really good friends with her son. Then she and her family moved back to Idaho, and I started going to Kristen Sorenson. I only took lessons from her for a little while because my mom ended up switching me to Brenda Tuttle, who lived in our ward. I knew her family really well. I babysat her kids regularly and her husband was also my Sunday school teacher. I loved taking lessons from her. She would set up recitals at Riverton Music, where we would get to play concert grand pianos in their recital hall. I still dream about playing those pianos; they were amazing. I stopped taking lessons at about fourteen mostly because I wasn't interested in learning classical music, so Brenda said she couldn't teach me anything else at that point. I still very much regret not applying myself more and continuing my lessons.

I also very much loved singing. I sang all the time, but I was really afraid of singing in front of people. I would get really embarrassed when someone would walk in on me singing in my room or singing to my walkman. That was the worst because I usually didn't even realize I was singing. I didn't get over my stage fright until tenth grade when I started performing in choir.

Choir tour in Southern California, junior year. I'm the first on the left in the pink. Pretty sure we were singing "Up" by Shania Twain here.
Choir tour in Orlando, senior year. This was at Epcot in Disney World. This was the Beach Boys medley.
Orlando tour again. This was "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." I'm sitting with Preston and Troy. Troy's hair is honest to goodness one of my favorite memories from high school.
I never participated in organized sports, though I really wish I had. I played softball and basketball with neighborhood friends and at recess. I considered doing organized softball when I was in junior high, but that never worked out. I also considered auditioning for the junior high volleyball team, but I chickened out.

But what I did love was watching sports with my dad. When I was in elementary school, I loved watching Atlanta Braves games with my dad. I love, love, loved baseball. I still remember being crazy excited when the Braves won the World Series in 1995. (We were Braves fans because my dad followed Dale Murphy and then stuck with the team because there isn't an MLB team in Utah.) I also loved watching and going to Utah Jazz games with my dad. I still vividly remember going to my first Jazz game at five years old. My dad kept telling me that if I got tired, we could go home. He took me to a preseason game because he was sure I wouldn't last the whole game, but I proved him wrong. The Jazz beat the 76ers that night, and I watched the entire game and loved every second of it. Some of my favorite sports memories are watching the playoffs with my dad when the Jazz went to the finals in 1997 and 1998. Especially 1997 when John Stockton hit the last-second three to send the Rockets home and advance to the finals for the first time ever. It was awesome. It's mostly thanks to my dad that I am such a huge sports fan now.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Who Are You? A Topic for Each Week of the Year {Week 2: School}

Since I'm a couple of weeks behind, I'm going to write the next couple of posts over the next couple of days. That way I'll be on track to finish the last week of December instead of the middle of January.

2. Where did you go to school? Did you have any memorable teachers? What were your favorite subjects?
Cyprus High School graduation 2005. From left to right (I'm in the middle): Traci Sell, Kate Brown, Kyle Powell, Cami Nelson, Marla Oveson, and Faith Peterson
I started school at Pleasant Green Elementary in Magna, UT. I went there for kindergarten, first grade, and second grade. I remember enjoying going to school there, but I don't remember much about any of my teachers. I have a vague memory of running into my kindergarten teacher (whose name I can't remember) at a store somewhere and being overly excited about it. And I think in first grade my teacher was Mrs. B. Johnson and my second grade teacher was Mrs. K. Johnson. Or vice versa. I remember liking all of them, at least.

After second grade, Webster Elementary, another elementary school in Magna, closed down because it was really old and wasn't handicap accessible. They didn't build a new elementary to replace Webster, so instead, they shifted all the boundaries around. So from third grade on, I went to Copper Hills Elementary, which was close enough that I was no longer bused and could walk to school. When it was warm outside, my friend Brindi and I would ride our bikes or roller blade to school. I didn't liked walking, but I did like it when I could do something more fun to get to school.

I had a bit of a love/hate relationship with elementary school. While I really enjoyed school and learning, I didn't have a lot of friends, and I got made fun of a bit. So the social aspect wasn't awesome, but I had a lot of teachers that I really loved. In third grade, I started the GT program (gifted and talented), which meant my time was split between two teachers. I had Mr. Brown for part of the day, and I LOVED him. I thought he was the funniest person ever. He taught us a rhyme that I still think about if I ever need to know what 8x8 is: "8x8, drop it on the floor, pick it up it's 64." For the other half of the day, I had Mr. Gregerson for the GT program. We all knew him as Mr. G. I loved Mr. G, too, which was a good thing because I ended up having him for the next four years. In fourth grade, I had another split class. I had Mrs. Pereira, I think, and Mr. G again. Then in fifth and sixth grades, they changed things around so that GT kids only had Mr. G and we stopped switching around.

Elementary school was really when I decided that I wanted to do English-y things when I grew up. Mr. G was very focused on creativity and the arts. We had time set aside every day to write stories. Sometimes we were just writing whatever we wanted, and at other times we had certain requirements we had to fulfill. For example, when we read The BFG by Roald Dahl, we had to write a story using at least ten of the words Dahl made up for the story. My stories always ended up being way longer than the page limit because I couldn't stop writing. 

I then went to Brockbank Junior High, where I learned to enjoy math more, mostly because of Mrs. Pienezza, who was the best teacher ever. She was this really intimidating woman who was really loud, and most kids were terrified of her. But all three of my siblings had had her before me, and she had been to my house for dinner a couple of times when my mom was PTA president, so I knew she was all bark and no bite. I also enjoyed Ms. Shafer's English class. She was a really eccentric teacher who definitely had her favorites, and I wasn't one of them. But that didn't keep me from really enjoying her class.

I then went to Cyprus High School, which is where I really started participating more. Two of my siblings had been in choir there, so I grew up watching them performing and wanting to do the same thing. So at the end of ninth grade, I steeled my nerves and auditioned for Show Choir, and made it. I loved every second of it, and that was where I started making some really good friends and developing a more mature singing voice. Mr. Moore was the choir director, and he pushed us hard. He was also my German teacher. I loved both choir and German, even though I had a bit of a rocky relationship with Mr. Moore. I made the audition choirs my junior and senior years too, and I took German through my senior year as well. 

In my senior year, I also auditioned for and made Play Productions, the advanced drama course. This was an especially big deal because I had never taken a single drama class before then. Basically all of my friends were in drama, so it made sense for me to get drawn in eventually. I loved the class and my teacher, Mrs. Smith, so much that I was quite upset with myself for not auditioning earlier. I was in Much Ado About Nothing, Cinderella, and a one-act play about World War II that was one of the best experiences I've ever had. That was where I learned just how much I loved performing and being on stage.

I also had Mrs. Roach for English my senior year, and she really helped solidify my decision to study English in college. I loved writing and reading and even editing my classmates' papers, and that was where I started seriously considering becoming an editor. 
Me and my niece at my high school graduation, 2005.
I then moved down to Provo to attend BYU. It was really the only university I wanted to attend. My grandpa, my dad, and my brother all went there, and I wanted to be part of that. It was the only school I applied to, so I count myself quite lucky that I actually got in. I declared my English major from the day I applied, though in my first couple of semesters, I also considered linguistics and vocal performance. But I stuck with English, and eventually added my editing minor. One of my favorite professors was Prof. Howard, who taught Music Civ 201 and 202. They were some of the hardest classes I took on campus, but I enjoyed them so thoroughly that I would study for hours on end for the exams. I was determined to ace those courses. Other favorites were Prof. Walker, who taught Bible as Lit and Modern English Lit; Sister Black, who taught Church History; and Brother Gardner, who taught a few of my editing classes, including Magazine Editing. He made me really love editing. In his classes, I knew I was pursuing the right career.

I graduated in December 2008, and I walked the next April. I was able to walk with my brother Matt, who had just graduated with his Masters degree. It was cool to walk with Matt, but it didn't feel quite as exciting simply because I had already been graduated for four months. But I loved going to BYU, and I'm so glad I was able to have that experience.
Me and Matt at the Cougar.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Who Are You? A Topic for Each Week of the Year {Week 1: My Birth}

This is a cool challenge that I stole from my friend Megan. It's a way to record your own history regarding specific subjects. I'm a great journal writer, but I feel like answering targeted questions like these will bring some more specific information that I don't get around to writing about in my journal, which is where I generally write about day-to-day things and whine when I need to vent.

1. Where were you born and what were the circumstances of your birth? Were there other children already in the family? How did your parents choose your name?

Left to Right: Chelly, me, Dad (Dave), Mom (Jeanine), Matt, Ben
I was born in Murray, UT on July 18. I was the only one of my siblings to be induced. It was before cell phones, and my dad was attending school at BYU, so to make sure that I didn't come while my dad was in Provo, the doctor thought it was best to have a planned day for me to be born so my dad wouldn't miss it. I was born at around noon on a Saturday, but my mom didn't get to hold me until about 5:00 pm. She kept bugging the nursery because she wanted to hold her baby, and when they finally brought me in, they let my mom know that for some reason, my body temperature wouldn't come up, so they had to leave me in the incubator. My mom was quite angry that they hadn't told her that earlier, especially after she had asked to see me so many times.

I am the youngest of five children. Bobby isn't in the picture above because he died before I was born, so I never met him. I've always wondered what our family life would have been like had Bobby lived. I wonder what the dynamics between me and my siblings would have been like. I'd like to think that things wouldn't have been so different, especially at this point in our adult lives. We're all pretty good friends now, regardless of how much some of us used to fight when we were younger.

As for my name, my dad worked with a lady whose name was Andralynn and who went by Lindy. My mom and dad really liked the sound of both names. My mom also had a thing for nicknames. Her name is Jeanine, which isn't very nicknamable, so she wanted her kids to have nicknamable names. So we have Benjamin (Ben), Robert (Bobby), RoChelle (Chelly), Matthew (Matt), and Andralynn (Lindy). The boys got the common names. The girls did not. This has been a constant source of confusion in my life. I also don't have a middle name, which has at times made me feel left out. My sister's middle name is Joy, which is also our dad's mom's middle name, and she passed the name on to her youngest girl. My sister-in-law also passed her middle name on to her daughter. I thought that was the coolest things, and I felt like I got the shaft because I didn't have a middle name I could pass on to my daughters. But at the same time, my mom doesn't have a middle name and neither does her mom, so I could pass that tradition on if I want to.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Problem with Self-Esteem

I have struggled with self-esteem issues my whole life. I'm always incredibly hard on myself, and I've never particularly liked my body. I always want to be skinnier, to be maybe a little bit taller, to have straighter hair, to have clearer skin (because, really, at 26, these stupid breakouts need to just end already).

And while I was single, I always seemed to have this persistent, nagging thought hovering in the back of my mind. It was a thought that I knew intellectually was ridiculous, but I couldn't keep myself from believing it a little anyway. That thought was this: "Once I get married, these self-doubts will go away. My insecurities will be gone because I'll have someone there who loves me for me."

Well, I am now married, and I have been for nearly a year. I do have someone who loves me for who I am and is always there for me. But I can now say from personal experience that that persistent little thought is a complete and utter lie. All those self-esteem issues I had before getting married still exist. And that's the problem with self-esteem; no outside force can create it, regardless of how effectively outside sources can tear it down.

Two years ago, I spent six months working diligently to lose weight. I knew I was out of shape, and I knew I wasn't as healthy as I needed to be. So I made a major commitment to myself to do better, and I succeeded. In about six months, I lost roughly 25 pounds. I only needed to lose 5 more pounds to hit my goal weight. But then I started dating Andrew, and I stopped tracking my food because we would go out to eat and get ice cream and seeing the calories rack up was depressing. And going to the gym started falling by the wayside because I just wanted to spend time with Andrew. In the roughly year and a half since Andrew and I started dating, I have gained all the weight back that I lost, and then a little bit more. I had to put my favorite pairs of jeans away because they just no longer fit. And the more I thought about how much weight I had gained, the crappier I felt about myself.

So why am I writing this post? It's not intended to be a wo-is-me post. I don't want anyone to feel bad about me or tell me how great I am. I'm writing this to remind myself that the only person who can change the way I view myself is me. Though I have let outside forces form my perceptions of myself, it's time for me to stand up for myself to . . . well, myself. I've been thinking about this post for the past week and how I wanted to go about it. I have a draft of a giant post detailing all the things that helped fuel my poor self-esteem. But then I realized that's not what I wanted to write about. I wanted to write about how I could improve myself, about how I could learn to love myself. Because someday probably sooner rather than later, I'm going to be a mom. I might have little girls who look up to me. And I don't want those little girls to learn from their mom that it's normal to hate yourself and your body. I don't want them learning that they should be fixated on the scale and how many pounds they lost that week.

I want my little girls to learn from their mom that it's okay to love themselves for who they are. I want them to look at me as an example of how to accept themselves and improve themselves without negativity. I want them to want to exercise because it's good for them and because it's healthy, not solely to fix some problem they have with their thighs or their stomach. I want them to have a real person be a good role model of beauty for them instead of being swayed by the media and the unattainable ideal we're always sold.

If I want my daughters to learn those things from me in the future, I need to start implementing some changes in my life right now. So I'm making a list of things I need to do to improve my own self-esteem, since no one else is going to do it for me.

  1. Stop the negative thoughts. When I look at myself in the mirror and see something I don't like, I'm going to stop the thought in its tracks. I'm going to pause and think something positive about myself instead.
  2. Continue my efforts to be more active. My goal right now is to lose some weight, but I need to make that a goal that is more about my health than it is about my appearance. I am not the healthiest I could be, so I need to make efforts in that regard. I also need to focus on how good I felt when I was so good at keeping up my goals two years ago. I felt better about myself then than I have at any other point in my life, and that is a goal worth achieving.
  3. Eat healthier and watch my portion sizes. This falls into line with being more active and getting healthier in general.
  4. Attend the temple more often. Andrew and I met with our stake president this week, and he talked about the temple in a way I had never heard before. He said that as we attend the temple and make it a real part of our lives, we feel better about ourselves because we begin to view ourselves through Christ's eyes. That struck me to the core, and I knew it was something I needed pretty desperately at this point in my life.
I am also hoping to have some updates on these items that I will post in the future. Now that I've written these goals down, I need to account for them in some way, and I figure this blog is as good a way as any. In fact, here's a quick update already: I started working out and tracking my food on January 1. Since then, I've lost 3.4 pounds, and I've exercised at least three times a week. This, my friends, seems like a promising start.

In doing these four simple things, I think I will be able to overcome my self-doubts. Because the truth is, I am pretty awesome. Andrew must think so, or he wouldn't have married me in the first place. I have a pretty dang amazing life right now, and I have a Heavenly Father who loves me and is involved in every part of my life. That is the most important thing to remember: I am a daughter of God. He knows me and loves me despite my many flaws, of which he knows every tiny detail. It's time for me to start loving myself, too.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

My Books of 2013

Every year on Goodreads, which is a website that I am a huge fan of, you can set a goal for how many books you want to read. I love doing this because I want to be reading as much as I can every year, and it's really fun to keep track and see how many I've read compared to previous years.

For 2013, I made the goal of reading 40 books. All told, I ended up 44, which I think is pretty impressive. It is true that some of them were novellas, meaning they were short and I read them in one sitting, but there are plenty of others with enough bulk to make up for the lightweights. I also included the ones I invested a good amount of time in without finishing.

Anyway, here is the full list of the books I read in 2013. The "Book List" tab will now restart for 2014. I'm excited about the books I might discover this year.
  1. The Guardian by Gerald Lund (Unfortunately, I couldn't bring myself to finish this. It was a really weird book. And Gerald Lund is too old to be writing from a 16-year-old girl's perspective. He just couldn't pull it off.)
  2. Flesh & Bone (Benny Imura #3) by Jonathan Maberry (This was intense. I read nearly 400 pages in one night.)
  3. The Amulet of Samarkand (The Bartimaeus Trilogy #1) by Jonathan Stroud
  4. Isolation by Dan Wells
  5. Between Husband & Wife by Stephen E. Lamb
  6. The Golem's Eye (The Bartimaeus Trilogy #2) by Jonathan Stroud
  7. Ptolemy's Gate (The Bartimaeus Trilogy #3) by Jonathan Stroud
  8. Zorro by Isabel Allende
  9. Change the Culture, Change the Game by Roger Connors and Tom Smith (I had to read this for work, and it's terrible and pointless.)
  10. Fragments (Partials Sequence #2) by Dan Wells
  11. A Night of Blacker Darkness by Dan Wells
  12. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
  13. Divergent (Divergent #1) by Veronica Roth
  14. Free Four (Divergent #1.1) by Veronica Roth
  15. Insurgent (Divergent #2) by Veronica Roth
  16. Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson
  17. The Book of Three (The Chronicles of Prydain #1) by Lloyd Alexander
  18. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter #1) by J.K. Rowling
  19. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter #2) by J.K. Rowling
  20. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter #3) by J.K. Rowling
  21. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter #4) by J.K. Rowling
  22. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter #5) by J.K. Rowling
  23. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter #6) by J.K. Rowling
  24. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter #7) by J.K. Rowling
  25. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  26. The Rithmatist (Rithmatist #1) by Brandon Sanderson
  27. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  28. The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
  29. The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1) by Maggie Stiefvater
  30. Matched (Matched #1) by Ally Condie
  31. Crossed (Matched #2) by Ally Condie
  32. Reached (Matched #3) by Ally Condie
  33. The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Fire and Thorns #1) by Rae Carson
  34. The Crown of Embers (Fire and Thorns #2) by Rae Carson
  35. Legend (Legend #1) by Marie Lu
  36. Night by Elie Wiesel
  37. Variant (Variant #1) by Robison Wells
  38. Feedback (Variant #2) by Robison Wells
  39. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
  40. Prodigy (Legend #2) by Marie Lu
  41. Fire & Ash (Benny Imura #4) by Jonathan Maberry
  42. The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
  43. The Bitter Kingdom (Fire and Thorns #3) by Rae Carson
  44. The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2) by Maggie Stiefvater
  45. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher