Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Books 2017 - Post 4

I've gotten a little behind blogging about books with our move and everything, so here's a little catch up post!



Babylon's Ark - Lawrence Anthony. This was written by the same guy who wrote the book about elephants on his game reserve. When the Iraq War came to Baghdad, Anthony hopped on a plane to save the Baghdad Zoo. He was the first civilian allowed into the city, and even though a high percentage of the animals had been killed by bombs or killed for food by rampant looters, Anthony was able to save most of the remaining animals, including a herd of man-eating lions who had been kept in Saddam's palace. This book gives an interesting perspective about how war touches civilian lives.

A Walk in the Woods - Bill Bryson. So I can't decide if I liked this book or not. Bryson writes about attempting to walk the 2000+ miles of the Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine. I loved the parts about the trail's history because there were some fun little tidbits of American folklore. But guess what? They don't even hike the whole trail, and at the end of the book, the author is like, "We got to know the trail and spent a lot of time on the trail so we basically hiked it." Um, no you didn't.

Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury. A Zollinger Book Club book. I thought some of Bradbury's observations about technology in culture were so spot-on. I didn't find myself really drawn to the characters but this book really makes you think. So many nuggets of wisdom. I will always remember how at the end of the book, the keepers of the literature head back to help those in a city that has just been totally bombed out. They are the only ones who remember Shakespeare, and the Bible, but rescuing humanity is more important, ultimately, than safeguarding the books. Books and literature are only valuable if they help us remember and learn what is really important.

Flags of Our Fathers - James Bradley. A good book to read around Independence Day. This book is about the six flag-bearers who put up a flag on Mount Suribachi. The picture that was taken became iconic for so much more.


Three of the men who raised the flag were killed within days. Sometimes we only hear the life stories of the men who came back from war, so I think it's important to learn about the background of common soldiers who didn't come back too. The twist here is that just a few years ago, they figured out that the man whose son wrote the book was mis-identified, and wasn't actually in the picture. 

Angela's Ashes - Frank McCourt. A pulitzer prize winning memoir about a boy growing up poor in Ireland in the 1930s and 40s. I love memoirs, but this one got rather crass at the end and seemed to lose substance to me as it did so. I skipped a few parts, but the coming of age story was memorable.


Saturday, July 15, 2017

So We Bought a House

When we moved to Florida for the first time (technically we've moved to Florida three times), we didn't think we would be here long. It was for a co-opt and we were just excited to explore and go on adventures and experience something different. I mean, Utah is cool and whatever but FLORIDA IS FLORIDA.





You get the picture.

Since then, we've been really on the fence about what we wanted to do for Greg's graduate school. Education is so important to us and he's always wanted to do an MBA, and he even considered doing a Ph.D. in managerial accounting as well. So I guess we always tentatively planned on going back to school full-time either next year or the year after. And you know, we were okay with being all poor again and doing apartment living for another 1048 years.

But this past spring we've had to reevaluate some things. Greg likes his job and his company and THEY STILL DO PENSIONS, WHAT? Also J and J will help pay for a master's degree if he works while he's doing it. And, it just so happens we live very close to one of the best part time MBA programs in the country, which is the University of Florida in Gainesville.

And, guess what? We have embryos here. (Like a lot of them. Funny story...PCOS women who do IVF have tons of eggs and therefore lots of embryos, they're just not very healthy). We've been struggling (again) with the 'build our family' thing and it was super stressful to feel like we were on a time crunch or we had to move our frozen children across the country or we had to be okay with not having kids through the two years of an MBA or whatever. It was all just stupid.

So one night we were talking and one of us said maybe we needed to just stay here in Florida for school and quit being on the move for awhile. And for the first time in a long time, we had some peace. It felt right.

Well, if you are going to stay somewhere, it is super annoying to rent. So after a couple of weeks of looking we put in an offer on an adorable little house, negotiated a little bit (AHHHHH), and we've found ourselves in a great little neighborhood just having a blast putting our first home together. We didn't even need to leave the ward.


Excuse the mess. Brynn's been playing and I'm too lazy to clean it up. That's the best excuse I have. But look at my cute fireplace. 


Backyard! Yay! 



With all the moving and a few pieces of new furniture and stuff, Brynn's been very helpful. She loves to play with Daddy's tools. Here she is repairing(?) her crib. 


Kitchen! This was when the other people were living here. It looks different now because we painted over the lime green wall. I could go take a picture of it, but again, I'm very lazy. 


Speaking of painting, choosing paint colors is literally the hardest thing I've ever done in my entire life. This is me trying to paint our bedroom a buttery yellow. (Isn't the wainscoting fun?) I'm not sure we ended up with the right color but eventually you just get sick of painting. For the record, we went with Cornstalk lightened by 10% and then with some white paint dumped in. It was a very organized process, not a desperate late-night thing the day before we moved at all. 


The rest of the house is gray. We painted the ENTIRE house before we moved in, with some help of our dear friends the Leishmans who now own our souls. Doesn't the gray look truly horrible on top of this pink? Funny story, Brynn's bedroom was two-toned hot pink, and the paint had sparkles in it. I mean, I didn't even know you could buy paint like that but now I know. 


I'm sure we'll be sharing some more pictures soon, because we've really been having so much fun making this house our own. Greg's already been building some furniture in our garage (!) and I've been blowing all sorts of money at Hobby Lobby. I'm going with farmhouse decor which I think just means going rustic and putting cotton stems all over the place?? Who knows. All we know is that we love our little yellow farmhouse in Jacksonville. 

It's good to be home. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Summer Fun

We've been having a grand ole time here in the Florida sunshine so far this summer. 

Beach days with friends happen every week...



Also pool days with friends. These two hold hands a lot. It's the most adorable thing you've ever seen. 


We have so much fun we get tuckered out. Look how big she is now. 


First time on a tire swing. She only fell off a couple times. 




Pictures from this morning. Usually we just keep the stroller in the car but Greg had to clean out the Mazda so he could take it on his YM river rafting trip. So this morning Brynn saw the stroller in the hall and decided to put her baby in for a ride. Something tells me this isn't exactly safe though. 



Brynn loves babies. She just learned how to whisper "She seepin!" (She's sleeping). Tucking her baby in good: 


Those times when you get distracted by putting a blanket over your head and your kid falls out of the stroller...


You'll also notice that Brynn is wearing "bu-erfly" panties. We have been potty training for awhile now and she is doing great! I never thought I would start before she turned two but it was kind of something she started herself. We did have a huge accident in the library today, but all things considered, I'm very proud of her progress! Sniff, wasn't she just barely a teeny tiny baby?? 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Books 2017 - Post 3

I know what you all need today. You need to hear all of my opinions about the books I've been reading lately. Right? Right.

But first, a funny meme about books.


Tuesdays with Morrie - Mitch Albom. Am I a terrible person if I didn't like this book as much as other people like this book? The poignancy and life lessons learned felt a little forced to me.  

The Underground Railroad - Colson Whitehead. Greg got me this book for Mother's Day because he's an amazing human being. This book was thought-provoking. It re-imagines the Underground Railroad of the antebellum south as an actual underground railroad, with conductors and trains and everything. It blends really, really authentic historical fiction with the fantastical in a way that I don't know if I've seen done before. That allows Whitehead to discuss a variety of social themes touching on the African American experience throughout American history in a way he probably couldn't have done otherwise. You grow to really care about the main character, Cora, but beware: this book is sad, and kind of graphic at times. It will never be one of my favorite books but I'm glad I read it. 

Kaffir Boy - Mark Mathabane. I first read Mathabane in high school, and I just always remembered the name. This is a memoir of Mathabane growing up in the ghetto in South Africa during apartheid. Out of all the heinous things in his life, it just BLOWS my mind that apartheid government systematically destroyed black families (among other atrocities). Blacks were sent to live on tribal lands and could only work in cities if they had a permit and a job. No one wanted to live on desert tribal lands because there was no way to support a family, but women weren't allowed to bring families to cities if they didn't have jobs. So what ended up happening is that men lived in the ghetto in government dorm style housing and women stayed on the impoverished tribal land--and never saw their families. If families did live together in the ghetto, they often did so illegally, and their children grew up terrified of police brutality. Reading this heart-breaking memoir just reiterated my belief about how important strong families are for the health of a society. Anyway, great read. I love memoirs. 

The Elephant Whisperer - Lawrence Anthony. So this book also took place in South Africa, and it was very informative to read both books together--one written from the perspective of a young black in the ghetto of Johannesburg, and one written by an older white man who was trying to run a game reserve in Zululand. This is also the first audio book I have listened to by myself...usually when I do audiobooks it is so Greg and I can listen to something together. While it was super nice to have something good to listen to while I was doing dishes or driving or whatever, I kind of missed the smell of the paper, turning back a few pages to reread something, seeing the beautiful African names spelled out...I don't know. I'm old-fashioned I guess. Anyway, I now LOVE elephants and this book was beautiful...perhaps even overly sentimental at times. This made me want to read more from Lawrence Anthony. Also I really really need to go on a safari. One day, it'll happen. One day. 


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Today

It's funny to look back on blog posts.

Most of my recent posts have been musings on books, quick picture dumps, stories about vacations. It's a very different place than it was when this blog started. And that's fine. It's a good thing.

But I look back at how open and vulnerable I used to be on this blog, especially about infertility and miscarriage, and you know, that was good too. I just haven't blogged that way in awhile, and since I'm out of practice I guess it's been hard to transition back to that place where I was willing to put myself out there. I did it because I wanted support and I wanted to remember, but I also did it as a way to increase overall awareness about the scary, heartbreaking, black abyss that is infertility and child loss.

So now it's like....can I do that again?

Don't read too much into this, you guys. The last thing I need it a bunch of people making assumptions about when we're going to add more kids to our family. SO DON'T DO IT, OKAY??? Guess what, I don't know if you're aware of this, but I have NO CONTROL when it comes to these things. NOOOONNNNNNNEEEEE.

But obviously it's been on my mind, which is natural when you have an almost two year old and you don't want her to grow up alone.

I guess all that I'm trying to say is that I'm kind of sad today. I am so grateful for Brynn, but I sort of feel like I'm on a time crunch to provide her with a sibling. I wish I could do that for her. But you know, time crunches and fertility don't mix with me. I thought it would be easier this time around to jump back into the heartache and the uncertainty and the disappointment and the humiliation.

How I wish a miracle would just drop out of the sky, and make it all easy and fast and safe. But you know? My miracles take more the form of healing--not avoiding the wounds. Um, but really though, could I get some of those wound-avoiding miracles? Just this once? Could I pass on the waiting and the money down the drain and the feelings of inferiority? Please?

I'd like to acknowledge right here that we all have our trials. Comparing trials to those that others are going through is, frankly, stupid. Everybody goes through hard things, whether those things are visible or not. The fact that I'm sad about my trials in this moment doesn't mean I don't see the pain of other people going through different trials. Anyway. Just thought I'd throw that out there.

But here I am, and I'm here to say infertility and miscarriage suck. I've seen it hurt some of my best friends and my beloved family members in the last few years. Today it is making me feel heavy. I am weary of it, which is challenging, because my experience tells me I have years to go before I will smell that new baby smell and feel in my heart, Mine. 

Hello, my name is Heather, and I'm sad today. These things don't go away. They stick around. They make us stronger. They make us grateful. They make us kind.

But today it makes me sad.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Books 2017 - Post 2

I didn't think I would write another book post so soon, but I've read a few more and I might as well record them while Brynn is playing.

The Perpetual Now - Michael Lemonick. Tells the story of an artist whose brain was damaged by a virus, to the point where she can't form new memories and therefore cannot access old ones either. Learning about the brain was interesting, especially when told in such an anecdotal way, but I found the book a little repetitive at times.

The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver. I started this once in college but, you know, sometimes it was hard to read books for fun when I was reading approximately 5672 pages every week just to keep up in class. I really loved this book. A family of missionaries goes to the Congo for a year at the time of independence from Belgium, and their lives become totally intertwined with Africa. I found the character of the despicable father to be believable at the beginning of the book, but perhaps less so as the book went on. I wished he was more involved at the end of the book but I think the way that his character was handled was very conscious on Kingsolver's part. This book was so intelligently written. I wished I understood the politics/history behind the US's involvement in the Congo revolution better, because I think it would be beneficial to get another perspective. Anyway, I highly recommend this.

Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck. Heartbreaking. Amazing how Steinbeck gets you to care so much about so many characters in such a short book.

A Thousand Miles to Freedom - Eunsun Kim. A memoir written by a woman who escaped North Korea. Perhaps written a little simplistically, but I think that only adds to the sincerity and humility of the message, and the overall power of the book. It made me want to be more educated about the Korean situation.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Books 2017


So, I've realized lately that I kind of miss blogging about books. I really liked going back and thinking hard about what I had read. I'm aware of the fact that this makes me super nerdy, but I also kind of liked having a little catalog of everything I had read in a year.

It's funny, because sometimes I am painfully aware of how little I have read. I have a degree in English and my Master's, too, but there are JUST SO MANY good books that I haven't read. In high school I read some of the "basic" classics, but I feel like in college I kind of skipped ahead and read pieces who lived in the more obscure corners of the literary canon, so in the middle there is this big gaping hole of classic books I just haven't read. It's okay though, you know? My best professors were always the ones who would readily admit that there is always more to read, and they themselves felt like they hadn't read enough.

So this year I'm trying to fill in my holes and read more classics, but that is a less important goal than just reading good things and continuing to learn.

Books so far from 2017 (Two of these are repeat reads. Ahem, I'll let you guess which)

The Music of Dolphins - Karen Hesse. Funny story about this book, my teacher read it to our class in the fifth grade. But I missed parts she read aloud because of ELP and orchestra, so I've always wanted to go back and read it, and I did. Very interesting, sad but sweet.

The Outsiders - S.E. Hinton

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The Inheritance - Charles Finch. Part of a series of guilty pleasure mystery novels.

State of Wonder - Ann Patchett. I was mostly interested in this because one of my favorite books in the world, Journey to the River Sea, is also set in Manaus, Brazil, at the mouth of the Amazon. A scientist goes to the Amazon to get information about a dead colleague and a bunch of interesting weird sciencey stuff happens. But the ending was kind of terrible.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - Betty Smith. LOVED this. Should have read it years ago.

Night - Elie Wiesel

A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens. I finally read this dang blasted book. And I liked it. I didn't love it, but I liked it.

The Wives of Los Alamos -TaraShea Nesbit. Written from a unique perspective. Tells stories from the point of view of women who lived in the top secret facility where the atom bomb was developed during WWII. 

1984 - George Orwell. Blew my mind. I found myself thinking not only about the political scene but also a lot about gospel principles. God does expect us to submit to Him and give Him our free will, but it is all about us gaining happiness. It is about us improving and growing and loving and changing and actually choosing something better. It is not just about God having power. Anyway, this made me think very deeply about how obedience can be freedom (because of the Big Brother saying "Slavery is Freedom") and WHY that is true only if it is done in the right way. It is so easy for this concept to be subtly manipulated into something so heinous. Such a terrifically tragic book, but so good at the same time. 

Anyways, those are my books so far. Any other good suggestions? 




Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Happy Easter!



For FHE on Monday we dyed Easter eggs! It is so fun for Greg and I to finally get to do all this fun holiday kids stuff. Greg was quite afraid that Brynn would spill dye all over our table/carpet/chairs/whatever, which I have to admit was a pretty legitimate fear, considering she's a one year old with a fervent love for throwing food, but all in all it was a great success. 


Brynn was initially pretty confused about this whole egg dipping thing, but she seemed to catch on and enjoy it. 


We tried to get her to color the eggs with crayons too, but that mostly evolved into her smashing them on the table. 


The cutest little egg-dyer I ever did see! 



Some of our finished products. Hey, we never said we were actually good at this. Also I don't know what I'm doing with my hands in this picture. 



Even though she was confused at the get-go, she got pretty attached to her brightly color eggs as the night when on. This is Brynn refusing to go to bed because she was sad we put the eggs in the refrigerator. 


It was a fun start to our Easter week. I've been studying what connection Easter eggs have to the Atonement and the Resurrection, because I'm going to talk about it with the primary kids at our ward egg hunt on Saturday. Eggs are a symbol of new life, and they initially were dyed red to remember the blood of Jesus Christ. The hard shell also symbolizes the tomb--a tomb that can be broken and eventually be empty. Matthew 28:6 - "He is not here: for he is risen, as he said." 

Easter has taken on new significance for me these past few years. Because of the love of Jesus Christ my family can be whole. I love celebrating this time of year and I hope we are always able to have meaningful traditions so that it is special for Brynn. 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Trip for Jenna's Wedding


Greg's little sister Jenna got married in March, and we had a blast going to Idaho in the springtime to celebrate with her. It was actually the first time since 2012 that all of Greg's siblings have been together. It was super fun, but also made us miss everyone a lot. Thanks to my great sister in law Calise, we have these cute pictures to remember the week. 

Here are some adorable ones of Brynn playing Grandma's piano. 




All dressed up in our wedding clothes. Grandma made this dress! 


With Aunt Megan at the temple. We love her. 


The Bride and Groom, Jenna and Justin. Cute couple! 



Had some time for family pictures between the sealing and the luncheon. 



Meltdown...


Have to give the nephews a hard time every once in awhile. Pat takes the brunt of it since he's the oldest one. 



This grandparents and grandkids picture wasn't too successful. 


Greg's wonderful parents. 


All the boys. Grandpa Zollinger is 95 (I think).  


I don't think pictures could do justice to how beautiful the reception was, but here are a few. 



The day we left. Greg may or may not have run to the store very very late at night after we were cleaning up the reception to buy a ball so they could play "Jump Ball." 


Greg says "Look at my hops." 


These brothers have something special, and, cheesy at it may sound, I feel so lucky to have inherited these good men as my brothers when I married into the Zollinger clan. 


One last picture of Grandma and Brynn. 


Everyone ran along the car as we drove away. Sniff! 


How I love all these people.