Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Goblin Emperor - A Book Review

Since I have nothing good to write about this week and I don't want to go another one without writing in here, I will proceed to give you a review of the book I just finished. It is The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison.

When I started this book, I wondered if I would even like it. The constant use of formal pronouns such as "thy" and the flowery, Shakespearean form of prose made it difficult to get into (and I'm a huge fan of Shakespeare).

Then the book ended. 

Although yes, it was a little slow in the beginning, it turned out to be a marvelous read. And, if you enjoy politicking, this is a book you may also find quite enjoyable. 

That's all this book is, to be certain. It is the story of a young man, half goblin and half elf, that is to become the new emperor of the Elflands. It is the story of him learning the ropes of the court, and of him learning how to be an emperor.

If you're looking for an action novel, this isn't it. But, if you want a deeper read with subtle lessons and political maneuvers, this book will make you very happy. I really did enjoy this book and, while not for everyone, I would certainly recommend it.

I try and read as much as possible, and I review most every book I read on my Goodreads account. If you'd care to follow me on there, please do. Then we can talk books and stuff.

Friday, July 17, 2015

A Day in DC

It was my birthday last Tuesday (a week ago). That meant all my family called me up to talk about how old I was getting, how many grey hairs I had, and that they would miss me that weekend in DC. Since my brother's fiancĂ© visa hadn't come in yet, there was to be no wedding, even though both he and the bride-to-be were in the same city, going to be at the same temple, and on the day they had originally planned for. But they decided to do the whole reception and pictures thing anyway. Because there was no wedding, I had decided I wasn't going to make the trek out there. After all, I just had a baby a month ago! Well, Jill had the baby, but you know what I mean.

Anyway, after realizing there were still going to be pictures and a reception (I thought it was all being done away with an postponed), I was crazy pants sad that I wouldn't be there. After all, I had missed my sister's wedding because I wasn't allowed to leave the US until my green card arrived. I didn't want to miss this one, too!

Jill and I talked about the logistics of me going, and if she would be able to with the kid as well, and how much we could afford it. Well, we decided I should go, but would have to leave both of them behind. It was sad, but it was inevitable. We were planning on buying the ticket, but my mother (bless her soul) said she'd cover the cost. We really do appreciate that. So incredibly blessed, we are.

Wednesday I bought my ticket. I was also terribly close to missing my flight completely by purchasing a ticket two weeks away. That wouldn't have been very good.
Then, on Friday of last week, I set out on my adventure. I left work a couple hours early (hurray!) since I got in a bit early and didn't take lunch (boo!) and made my way to the airport. I kissed my dear sweet wife goodbye and tussled the hair of my nearly 1-month old boy and entered the airport. At 5:30, I was on my way to DC for my brother's almost-kind-of-sort-of wedding! Side note: my flight was supposed to leave at 5:00, but they didn't have ice for the drinks so they waited for that to get stocked up. What fun.

After a four hour non-stop flight, I landed in DC (yay!). It was just before midnight (ug) and I still had to take a cab to the hotel where my parents were staying. So I hailed a taxi, hopped in, and was asleep before 1:00.

Morning came early, since we had to be an hour away by...9:00? I can't remember. But we got up early and left early. We made it to the DC temple on time (although Michael and his finance, Kate, nearly missed the session), and I'm proud to say I only fell asleep once or twice, and even then it wasn't a deep sleep. Go me. Then we took pictures outside of the temple.

I was very happy to be there. Like I said, I had missed my sister's wedding, and there was no way I wanted to miss this one. My whole family would be there (who I don't get to see very often because international), and I WANTED TO BE IN ALL THE PICTURES DAGNABBIT!

And so I was.

After pictures, we had about three hours before the reception started, so my mother and father and I decided to hit up the metro and take a gander at DC proper. This is probably the one time you'll ever hear me say that I actually wanted to go to the mall.

So off we went, with Dad driving the rental car on the freeway towards the metro station. Needless to say, we got lost. We spent far too long actually trying to get to the station that when we actually did find our way there (through some miracle), we wouldn't be able to go without being late. We didn't realize it too half an hour there and back by train. So, dejected, we drove back to the chapel where the reception would be.

The food was delicious, and the slideshow was totes adorable (I feel obligated to say that, even though it's the truth). There were plenty of couple's dances, and I had although I wished Jill was with me before then, that's when I really started missing her. We tried to organize a FaceTime call during one of the dances, but Rex had other ideas. Apparently he wanted to eat right before such dances started, or he was getting his diaper changed, or something to keep his mother away from me. I guess it would have looked fairly odd to have me out on the floor dancing with a phone, so it's probably a good thing. Kate might have changed her mind and I would have ruined all of Michael's hopes and dreams! Yeah, that's probably what would have happened.

Well, the reception ended, we tore down the decorations, and said goodbye to the almost-bride and nearly-groom.

Then we drove to where all the touristy stuff was.

Yet again, we became ridiculously lost (next time I go out that way, I'm driving myself). But eventually we did find a place to park close to the Washington Memorial and walked around in the dark. It was late, but it was DC, and how could we not?

We wandered through the war memorial and up to the Lincoln Logs Memorial. As is the norm, I was wearing a rugby jersey. While climbing the seemingly endless staircase to the monstrous stone man, I heard a quiet chanting that grew louder as I approached:

"Munster! Munster! Munster! Munster!"

I looked around, confused. Who was chanting that, and why? Then I looked down, realized which jersey I was wearing (bet you can't guess which one), and then saw the bloke chanting. I gave him props (no pun intended...oh sorry, rugby joke. I bet you didn't even get it...) and went on into the great and spacious gazebo where Lincoln sat, staring out over the reflection pond and War Memorial.

Inside, the fellow who was doing the chanting approached me and inquired if I was from Munster. His accent gave him away as a foreigner from across the pond. I had to lower my head in shame and say no, I was not from Munster, but I did fancy their team. He was from England and the Wasps were his team. I told him (possibly a little too excitedly) that I had a Wasps jersey, too! And then we talked European rugby, my team (Leicester Tigers), and a bunch of other stuff. Fun guy.

We then proceeded down the steps and we found our way back to the Washington Memorial, and then to our car. Fortunately, we did not get lost going back to the airport.

We did, however, have troubles getting on the metro to get to our hotel which was one stop away from the airport (which is why we stayed there that night). Anyway, after a long (might I stress the word LONG?) day - which was good, and I'm totally glad I could be there - we finally crashed in the hotel (crashed as in sleep. Nobody drove a vehicle inside our room).

Three hours later I was up and on my way back to the airport.

After another long flight with not much sleep happening, I finally landed and was the happiest person ever to be back home with my wife and my little boy.

I loved DC, but next time, I want them to be there with me.

And now it's raining and I'm sitting outside typing this so I'd better wrap it up before my computer short circuits because of the water factor and BZZT BZZZZZZZZ SHHHZZZING

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Homeless From the Hospital

How about we just pretend that this hasn't been left to rot, alright? Alright.

Really though, I'm not sure why we failed at updating this. I mean, we didn't even have a kid then. We hadn't even moved yet. And I wasn't even working full time (two part time jobs don't count). But, as you may know, there was some excitement in our lives. In the midst of that excitement was gray hairs, sleepless nights, and lots of ice cream.

Let me tell you a story.

In May, we started the process of buying a home. We were really excited, since it was our first ever home, and we were just so stoked to have it for our new baby that was coming mid-June. And because it has AC, and we did not want to spend another summer in our 3rd floor apartment without those arctic winds blowing in to cool us off. So yeah. Stoked.

Well, we were supposed to sign for our new home a week before the kid arrived. We made sure we did everything on time, but despite our attempts at punctuality, we still had to delay the signing by a week. This put it right before the baby's due date. Basically, if the baby came early, we were hosed. And, since we had already told our apartment people we'd be out by June 6, we now had a week of homelessness to look forward to.


As fortune would favor, a friend of mine took over our spot from us. So, when we found out we couldn't move into our new place when originally anticipated, we worked with them and were able to extend our rent by another week. We're saved!

Now, that sounds pretty straight forward, but let me assure you, it was anything but easy. We weren't sure if they were going to sign on time, if we would even be able to extend the contract, and let me just say, that when they signed and everything for that apartment fell into place, it was pretty much the last day it possibly could. Really pushing the limits, there.

The next big stress was not knowing if we would still be able to move into our new place or not before (or even after) the baby came. There was so much "I don't know" going around that I'm pretty sure I lost 12 years of my life from lack of sleep. Can I just mention how stressful it can be, knowing your wife is about to pop any day, and and if she goes into the hospital before we sign, there's a very good chance I'll be taking her and the baby home to a hotel room? That's stressful!

We prayed hard, we went to the temple, and we fasted. We knew everything would be alright. And yet, despite having those feelings, we (mostly I) stressed out beyond reason. I was terrified. The last thing I wanted was for my wife and new boy to be homeless after leaving the hospital.

But, fortune prick me, we were able to sign on Tuesday, June 9. The next day we moved (and thanks SO MUCH to everyone who came and helped!). Then, on Thursday, we went to the hospital.

We stayed the night there eon Thursday, and early Friday morning Jill was induced. We played games (Monopoly Deal) while she was in labor, right up until the point when the nurse came in and helped Jill start the pushing process. Then, after an hour of that, we finally got our little boy, Benjamin Rex. Cutest kid in the world.

Did I mention Friday was the day Jurassic World was released? Because that also happened. The name is obviously just a coincidence.

We went home on Sunday, June 14, and were welcomed by a ton of boxes, littering each and every room. We couldn't have been more pleased.

That's the abridged version. Be it known that stress was high, uncertainty was through the roof, and, looking back, it's completely obvious that the Lord was looking out for us. I'm a little embarrassed when I say we worried so much, when we had felt that everything would work out. And guess what? It did. Just as the Lord promised.

Pretty fun stuff! So now we're home, we're living the life, and everything is just great (knock on wood).

I will try and update on here more often. It's good to be back. I'm doing this during my lunch break at work, so this might be the only time I get in a week, but if you promise to read it, I'll almost promise to post more often.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Green Card Me.......please?

Last Tuesday Jill and I had the remarkable experience of getting up at the wee hours of the morning and driving up to Salt Lake to be interviewed by the government so they could determine if our marriage was legitimate or not, so that they could then in turn grant me with the illustrious and illusive Green Card.

If you have never had an interview with the government, let me explain a few things for you.

The waiting room is quieter than a graveyard. It's not that there aren't any people in it, it's just that everyone is too terrified to say anything. Big Brother, as they say, is watching. And listening. And if you choose to go to Big Brother's house, you are asking them to listen in on everything you say. Now, who knows if that's actually true or not, but everyone in there waiting sure thought so. Jill, being not-foreign, has apparently yet to have that innate fear instilled in her, because she was talking about all sorts of things, cracking jokes, and being her usual charming self. Bless her soul.

So is Little Sister

When we finally were ushered in to our interview room, we sat down, and our interviewer, in his fancy Russian accent, made a few jokes. I didn't know how to react to that. I mean, a government agent was using humor to make us comfortable! I don't think I have ever seen that before in my life. Except for the time when I was crossing the border and one of the US Customs officers started laughing at something her customs pal had said. I looked quizzical at her and she said that he wanted to know if I had any ketchup potato chips with me.

Uh, yeah, actually, I did.

I even offered them some, but they declined. Probably for the best, since ketchup chips are absolute rubbish and they probably would have denied me entry because of the abomination they are (the chips, not the people). Don't ask why I had them. I had my reasons.

Anyway, so our Russian-American interviewer told us to raise our right arms. I thought he was still joking around, but apparently he wasn't, so Jill and I hesitantly raised our arms. After we swore to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth (so help us God), he reverted back to his uncharacteristically good-natured self.

That's why when he asked where my old passport was, I thought he was joking.

When I told him I had no idea where it was, he asked for other proof of entry. Which I did have, just not the kind he wanted. I had the electronic I-94, but he wanted to see one before that. Which was in my old passport. Which I didn't have.

I'm pretty sure I could hear the sirens growing louder and the shuffle of officers behind me before they clapped my wrists with manacles and sent me off to the slammer before deporting me for ever.

That's when he told us that he really didn't need it anyway.

Well, there goes five years off my life. But I did show him other documents that worked just fine.

Then he realized something, opened a brown envelope, and tossed me my old passport. Apparently I had sent it in previously (which I shouldn't have done, by the way, since passports are government property and not mine to give). He then took the picture of our little boy that's still cooking inside my poor wife (the image to which I am referring is what most people call an "ultrasound" image) and made a copy of it, stamped his approval stamp on our application, and sent us on our way.

And then we drove away quickly (while still obeying the speed limit, of course).

It was a stressful time, but we stood firm (or rather, sat shaking) and were granted the coveted Card o' the Green. So it looks like I won't be carrying Jill away to some foreign land of snow and ice (you can thank me later, her family).

All in all, it really was an easy interview. We just had to show that yes, we were married, and yes, we plan on staying married. They don't like people to get married just for the permanent resident status. Don't worry, Government. We're gonna be together for a very. Long. Time (ie. forever).

The best part about being approved for the green card, however, is that I can finally stop playing that blasted Apples to Apples game.

Got my green card (still not a citizen, but close enough) 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Star Struck Me

I've never been big into tabloids or knowing what was going on in the celebrity drama. I figure, they don't don't know me so why should I care to know them? And I don't mean that in a rude way. But I'd rather stalk someone on Facebook that I already know and catch up on their life. Drama is better when you know the people anyway, am I right? Now that doesn't mean I don't have a favorite actor/actress. I still appreciate them for their talent and I'll even pay a few bucks here and there to be mildly entertained for an hour or two. But that's about as far I take it, or so I thought until this weekend.

I didn't realize it but maybe I'm a little more "star struck" in a different way. Not so much with the Hollywood celebs but more in the Mormon world. There are people in the Mormon culture that everyone would just love to meet one day, like the prophet, David Archuleta, Steve Young, and so forth. So on the mission I became a big fan of watching Mormon Message videos. They are just so inspiring and can really change my mood in an instant. One that has always stuck out to me is called My New Life about a couple who gets in an private airplane crash and live. Their story of survival and recovery is so powerful and I've never forgotten Stephanie Nielson's story of faith and pressing forward with five children after such a tragic event.

So here is it Valentine's Day and I'm just sitting at my "station" in the temple entryway when Stephanie and her husband walk in. I was pretty shocked seeing as I didn't even know she lived in Utah. But I found myself just staring in awe like the prophet had just walked in himself. Before they even got through the line I was released from my spot and I went along to the next. I just sat and wondered what it would be like to talk to her for just one moment. I found myself talking to another temple worker about it to see if she knew who she was too. Looking back I realized that I was being a total fan girl through all of this. What a weirdo. But not too long after that I found myself face to face with her and I was so excited! It was one of those moments where I had to tell myself not to be a idiot or to say anything stupid. But as I talked to her for one brief moment I saw something I never would had known if I had never met her in person. Amongst the heavy scarring on her face from the burns she had the most beautiful eyes, and shining through them was the light of Christ. I had already thought that she was inspiring and strong but her eyes told a another story, one that can't be said with words. For that moment I didn't only know of her faith and dedication to Jesus Christ but I could feel it. She didn't have to say anything at all.

As she walked away I just told her how inspiring she was, thanked her, and we went on our merry way. When I recalled the excitement that I felt I realized that it was maybe the same excitement that people feel when they meet someone from Hollywood and I felt a little bit sheepish.  Now I figure why not admire someone so humble and Christlike. We need more people like that to be admired and sought after. But just like Christ I'm sure she has no intent to be famous or popular, but merely wants to share the message of peace and joy. She did it without words and you can tell that she lives her life in a way that makes her a true disciple of Christ.

So folks, that's my lesson learned for the week. Quiet dignity and true discipleship. It's not something you can really preach about but it just shows when it's been achieved.

P.S. Here is her blog address just in case you wanted to know more :) http://nieniedialogues.blogspot.com/ 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Much Ado About Nothing

So...it's been a while. We're no good at this blogging thing (and I've been failing miserably at my weekly vlogs as well, so there's that, too), but we're going to keep doing our best to remember. And by remember I mean remember to be exciting so we have things to blog about.

Here's our life update:

Jill has been student teaching. She rocks at it.

Ben has been working and pretending to be busy with ridiculously non-busy things. He rocks at it.

So there you have it. Our life in review. I hope you enjoyed it.

Stay tuned for more fascinating updates!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy Hogmanay!

Well folks, Christmas has come and gone, but one thing remains: a large stomach. And no, I'm not referring to Jill's pregnancy (although I'm sure I will refer to it like that more often in the future). I had far too many goodies that, for some reason, have yet to leave me alone. Alas, such is life.

But enough about Christmas rolls (too soon?). Let's get on with what we did for our first Christmas as an old married couple!

First, last Tuesday, I received my printed and bound copy of my finished thesis. That means I'm finally done! I. Am. A. MASTER! It was a long time coming, but now my thecal matter is officially available to the researching world. Who knows, maybe somebody will read it one day.

On December 24th Jill and I took the front runner up to Salt Lake with James and Megan. We brought some games to play as we rode, which was great because a) we didn't have to drive and b) we got to play games.

Monopoly Deal. I pwned them n00bs.

We had a delicious meal at the Cheesecake Factory (which looked nothing at all like a factory, might I add). Then, we took a stroll through Temple Square, admiring all the lights and nativities they had set up.

The next day was, of course, Christmas.

I also need to point out the weather we had been having. Warm weather and no snow. Except when we woke up on Christmas morning IT HAD SNOWED! It's a Christmas miracle!

Anyway, on Christmas morning we got up and opened up our stockings. Then we made breakfast.

Out of focus selfies are the best.
Eggnog french toast, scrambled eggs, sausage, hash browns, and Tim Horton's Hot chocolate.
Then it was time for PRESENTS!

The tree looks bigger from this angle.
Basically, we had the best time giving each other gifts. I mean, yeah, it was great to get the biggest, fattest book on the planet (so excited to start reading it, too), but the simple act of giving was the best bit of the day. We were both so excited for the other as we excitedly exchanged gifts. I could have been happy not receiving anything, just as long as I could still give things to Jill (but now that I have all the things let's not go back in time and change that, okay? Okay.). But Christmas was a very special day for us, as I'm sure the first Christmas usually is for new married folk.

Ahem. Anyway...

We had dinner at Jill's Grandma Forsgren's place (with James and Megan) and then played games with James and Megan that night. Good times were had by all.

And then, of course, since there was snow on the ground, we went out the next day to make a snowman. Unfortunately, the snow wasn't that great, so we decided to be inspired by Calvin and Hobbes and create a special kind of...unfortunate snowman. This was the outcome:

That snowman has quite the butt.
It didn't really look anything like Calvin's, but hey, it never hurts to have a metal pole growing out of your head. Unless, of course, it does...

And so that was Christmas (and a few of the surrounding days). New Year's is just around the corner, so in farewell for now, I wish you all a very merry Christmas and, as the Scottish would (and will) say, Happy Hogmanay!