The Groves

The Groves

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 - The Year of Unbelievable Heartbreak

Let's just call it like it is- 2017 sucked. It started out with shit and while it ultimately ended on an overall positive note, it's hard to overlook all of the devastation we had to experience this year.

January: the year started off well other than both of us getting the flu (and me getting it so badly I almost had to be hospitalized) but the month ended with rushing Sadie to the vet with seizures and having no real idea if we could get them to stop. At first we thought we had it under control, but then...

February: the very first day of the month, we had to put Sadie down. I feel about 80 different emotions about this but it was at that point the most horrible and devastating experience of my entire life. Thinking we were going to lose her, and then thinking we were going to be okay, and then realizing that we were indeed going to lose her was the absolute worst. Sometimes I almost wish it had been severe enough at the beginning that we had opted to put her down then. It would've been horrible, but I think ultimately less traumatic than to go through the emotional roller coaster that was thinking we had it under control, and then realizing that we didn't. I hate it. I miss her so much every single day.

We did get to go to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park with our friends Cees and Madison. That was a great weekend. The national parks are so special, and being able to be there when the park was so quiet and so empty was really amazing.

March: not really much to report on that front. Mostly just, being sad. I did go to the dentist for the first time in... probably 7-8 years. That was intense, but nice in the end.

April: after being told ALL SKI SEASON that I would have a job through the summer, I found out on the first that I in fact would not. That was a massive bummer, but it ultimately worked out okay as I've been extremely happy at Goal Zero.
We got Theodore Roosevelt and he has terrorized our lives every day since.

May: we went on our second national park trip of the year, this time with Teddy in tow. We went to Joshua Tree for three days, which was great, and then headed up to grandma and grandpa's house in Santa Ynez. Hanging out by the pool for almost a week is always a plus in my book. I FINALLY got to meet my Uncle Mike (well, I guess he's technically Brady's uncle but whatever) and he is the bomb. Mike and Jen are my favorite humans in the universe. On the way home from California we went through Death Valley, which was an experience. Our drive home was like 17-18 hours, but I'm glad we got to visit another park.

At the end of the month I started at Goal Zero, which so far has been really great. I've been really happy there, and I'm excited to explore my future there.

June: was fairly uneventful, just working and getting ready for our big Canada trip. We started Teddy on an obedience course which was great, but showed us that he is both too smart for his own good, and a massive turd.

July: the beginning of the month was relaxed, and the end of the month saw the start of our trip to Glacier and Canada. It was great to be able to have the dog with us even though he's like a freight train and is incapable of going a speed that isn't running hahaha. We finally got to drive the whole Going to the Sun Road, which was awesome, and we saw tons of bears.

August: started out with the continuation and end of our trip to Canada, which was awesome as always. Going all the way up to Jasper was so incredible and so worth it. Sometimes I cry just thinking about how insanely beautiful the Icefields Parkway is. I want to spend a whole week/month there so badly!

Then August ended with the singular coolest experience of my life - the solar eclipse. What an incredible thing that just cannot be put into words (so I won't even try, honestly).

September: another month that started out with a super awful and sudden pet death. We still don't know what happened, but we came home from our cabin trip for Labor Day (which was really fun) to Pippin being unable to stand and just yowling. As far as they could guess, he had a stroke (or several) and with the most inexpensive treatment option starting at $3,000, we were essentially forced to put him down. I can't even describe the sorrow of that experience. I don't even want to. I miss him every single day and it is absolutely the worst. I feel like a part of me is dead and I'll never get that part back. He was everything to me, and I had expected at LEAST another 10 years with him, but closer to 15. Devastated doesn't even begin to cover it. We did adopt our little Sequoia (Yaya), who has been a shining beacon of light and joy and love in my life, but I still miss my Momo with every fiber of my being.

On top of that, Labor Day kicked off 2+ months of absolute insanity at Goal Zero. It started with Hurricane Harvey but ballooned with Hurricane Irma and Maria. We had several weeks of back to back to back to back calls all day long with hold times in excess of 20 minutes, and our inbox flooded with 500+ emails every single day. To call it insanity was an understatement. I was averaging answering over 130 emails every single day, in addition to 50+ chats (often 10 or more at a time) and fielding countless phone calls. We did millions upon millions of dollars in sales in September and October, which was great for business, but exhausting from a customer service standpoint. I particularly enjoyed getting emails berating us for not being in the office on weekends.

October: more insanity at work, but otherwise quiet on the homefront. At the end of the month we went to a "Howloween" Party our dog trainers put on, which was a blast, and then our aunt Theresa threw the best damn Halloween Party of all time. She's the best, and we love her.

November: another mostly uneventful month, mostly just a month of being sad about the last year in America and our current political climate. We had Thanksgiving with Kurt, M'Lisa, Andrew, Michael, and Savannah, which was great. We love them! We also found out shortly before the end of the month that our landlord was evicting the downstairs tenants (aka the housemates from hell), and we ended up signing a lease for the whole house. That has been AWESOME. Being rid of the smoking and the yelling aside, it's been nice to have a bit more space, it's been great to have laundry inside the house, we've been able to park under the carport which is super awesome, and our power bill has shrunk considerably (which has been super vindicating, since our landlord NEVER believed that they were using more power than we were...). We have a roommate living downstairs named Autumn, and she's awesome. We didn't really need all of that space, and it's nice to have the help with rent every month. She has a super cute border collie named Shikara that I'm kind of obsessed with hahaha. She and Teddy are buds. We're looking forward to fencing the yard so we can let the two of them run around to their hearts' content.

December: we had a great December with an awesome and very successful Christmas. Settling in to having the whole house has been really awesome. We inherited a turntable from my Grandma (who sold their house earlier this year, which has also been kind of a strange experience for me. Saying goodbye to that house was super, super strange) so I got a TON of vinyls for Christmas. For Brady's birthday we went to the Foo Fighters show (on his ACTUAL BIRTHDAY, I lost my mind when I saw the tour dates and saw when they were coming to Salt Lake. We bought our tickets as early as possible and spent a pretty decent chunk of change on them- WORTH IT) which was a hundred levels of amazing. Dave Grohl is a damn god, y'all. Seriously, I love him, I love the Foo, and I wish I could see them live every month. hahahaha. They made a "Tour Exclusive" all-black vinyl of their most recent album (which is SO GOOD by the way) so of course I had to buy that. Waiting until Christmas to have it was torture.

I also managed to pull off a super epic surprise Space Center mission at a brand new simulator for Brady's birthday, which was a huge blast. We've made a few really amazing friends from Goal Zero (including Deven, who we do a Pathfinder campaign with which has fulfilled my greatest dream of playing tabletop EVERY SINGLE WEEK and it brings so much joy to my heart) who are all huge nerds, on top of our regular crew and a few additions. I'm really proud of myself, I brought together a bunch of Brady's friends from all walks of his life and it was so fun to do a mission and surprise him.

December was a great month, for sure, and I'm glad we were able to finish off the year with some positives. I'd still give anything to have Sadie and Pippin back, and I wish we could've gone to more than 4 national parks (I mean, technically we went to 9 including the Canada ones but those hardly count), but I'm hoping that 2018 will offer some redemption.

Friday, December 15, 2017

My Initial Thoughts on Star Wars : The Last Jedi *SPOILERS*

Okay, so, I've had to repeat myself a lot whilst discussing the movie with friends, so I thought it might be easier to make a blog post about my feelings after my first viewing of The Last Jedi. Consider yourself warned... MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD. Seriously. If you haven't seen the movie and you care about spoilers, get out now.








Oooookay, that's enough of that. Anyway, it's fairly well known within my friend circles that I'm generally a very opinionated and passionate person, and also a huge Star Wars fan (and also apparently a massive purist, which is insane considering how much I loved the Hobbit movies which according to most were "blasphemy"... whatever). So it's pretty safe to say I have feelings about this movie, and honestly... most aren't positive. *le gasp*
Don't get me wrong, it was a fun movie that was absolutely gorgeous, and had some moments that were really satisfying for me personally (I have a massive weakness for Kylo Ren and I don't even care, it's my weird Prince Zuko complex)... but it also had some insanely unnecessary moments that in a few cases had me sitting in my seat thinking, "seriously? Are they serious??" There was a shocking amount of completely unnecessary humor that not only felt really out of place in the Star Wars universe, but also felt really modern, which just feels incredibly icky to me. I've heard a few people celebrate that the new movies are "bringing the Star Wars franchise into the future" and frankly, I think that's a load of shyte. Star Wars is supposed to be timeless. It's supposed to transcend time (and space) and be relatable to everyone. Making gaggy jokes that feel really modern is not only problematic from the perspective that they'll date the movies, but also from the perspective that these movies take place in another time, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. If you're not sure what I'm talking about, I'll list a few of the more heinous ones (in no particular order)-
1. Luke brushing off his shoulder after the walker barrage. Are you actually shitting me, Rian Johnson? What kind of bullshit was that??? You take what should be an intense moment where you're questioning how Luke just pulled that off and the astonishment Kylo is feeling... and you completely ruin it with an incredibly modern Earth silly gesture. What a joke, and I don't mean that as a compliment. It was such a simple thing, but it completely ruined the tension of what should absolutely have been an intense moment. People in the theater we watched in it were already chuckling when the dust cleared and Luke was still standing there, and I remember distinctly whispering to Brady, "Wh--why are they laughing? This isn't supposed to be funny...." (but the precedent had been set by the previous two hours of idiotic gags) and then the shoulder brush happened and I just could not. As the theater around me erupted in laughter I sat in stony, silent disbelief. So unnecessary. Please, y'all, go back to editing school.
2. The shot of Snoke's dead face immediately followed by the lower half of his dead body slumping off of the throne. What kind of garbage was that?! Can you imagine them pulling that crap with the Emperor? Ha. It would absolutely never have happened. You can't just do that to your villains! Adding a stupid gag for some laughs that will cheapen your villain FOREVER and take away his power for future rewatches is just incredibly short-sighted and disappointing. Plus... why? Why do we need to laugh?! It's Star Wars for crying out loud! Are we so afraid of being "too dark" that we've become afraid to be serious?? It's okay for a movie to be serious. We have so many silly movies with cheap humor in the world, we really do not need Star Wars slipping into that category.
Some may argue that this is comparing apples to oranges, but you look at how Peter Jackson and crew decided not to include Tom Bombadil in the Lord of the Rings because of the bit in the books where he says about The Ring, "I would not pick up this thing if it fell by the wayside." That line effectively strips The Ring of its power, and cheapens its impact and seriousness as a villain (which, sorry, if you don't think The Ring is its own separate villain, you're wrong. Fight me). There, the correct choice was made to keep The Ring as a powerful and fear-inducing force, even at the expense of excluding a fan-favorite character from the films.
I feel similarly about any silly moments including Kylo. Why do we need to cheapen our villains?! It's so unnecessary and so bothersome. A friend argued that they needed to "humanize" Kylo to help the audience empathize with him, but personally I find it completely unnecessary to do so using humor, especially gag-y humor. I feel like the scene by the fire in the hut where Ben and Rey touch hands humanizes Ben/Kylo more than any other scene in the entire series so far, and there's absolutely nothing funny or silly about it. (That's another thing where I'm so confused! That moment was so beautiful and so powerful, so it's not like Rian Johnson is incapable of writing excellent serious moments... Consider me baffled.)
3. Basically everything with the porgs. I'm so bothered by them. It's not a requirement to have cute creatures in Star Wars. It just isn't. People have made Ewok comparisons which is a load of tosh. The Ewoks had a purpose. They were involved in the story and they drove the plot. There were other cool and cute creatures in TLJ that drove the plot (the crystal foxes, the fathiers), so why on earth did we need to have porgs if not for silly comedic relief (which, still, not necessary in this universe) and toy revenue? Barf. The only scene where I wasn't bothered by their silliness was the scene where Chewie is in the cockpit of the Falcon and the porgs are messing everything up. That just seemed like an extension of the scene where Rey asks if Chewie has had any luck contacting the Resistance, rather than a scene shoved in just to lighten the mood for the sake of mood lightening.
4. Luke's wink to C-3PO, more modern language/humor, etc. Like I touched on in point 1, Star Wars is supposed to be set in another place at another time. Why on earth would it have 2017 Earth humor? Think about it. In A New Hope, Leia says to Tarkin, "Ah, Governor Tarkin. I thought I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board." Sassy, but not something you'd ever hear someone say in normal circumstances, even in the 70s. Or how about "scruffy-lookin' nerf herder" or even "will someone get this walking carpet out of my way?" The original Star Wars movies had quips that made you chuckle, without pulling you out of the immersion of the film. So many of the "comedic" moments in TLJ just felt super cheap to me, and not well thought out.
5. Luke tossing his lightsaber over his shoulder! WTF?! My jaw literally dropped from the "wtf-ness" of that moment. Why was that the decision? Why not take it from Rey, hold it for a moment, and then forcefully hand it back to her while brushing past without a word? Or hell, just NOT EVEN TAKE IT AT ALL? We literally waited for two years for the realization of that moment and we got this little shoulder toss? This is not Yoda in the Dagobah system. Rey knows who Luke is and she KNOWS that's his lightsaber. Ugh.

Honestly, I know it seems like a short-ish list, but I can't remember all of them. I just felt like there was an unnecessary amount of humor that was also really poorly executed, and it was extremely disappointing to me. It's especially sad because those were my only legitimate gripes with the entire movie! A simple edit removing less than 90 seconds of the movie would eliminate 99% of my issues with the movie, and that to me indicates a serious problem. Especially after coming fresh off a watch of this serious gem (How Star Wars was Saved in the Edit), it was painful to watch humor break apart moments that deserved to be serious.

Another thing that REALLY bothered me was how they handled Leia's ejection from the ship and Force-wielding return. Holy shit, that upset me more than I can accurately put into words. It's no secret that I'm pretty sensitive to death (especially in this hellhole of a year), so to make me think that Leia was going to meet her end so abruptly and so violently and SO EARLY IN THE MOVIE was beyond upsetting to me. I had a minor breakdown in the theater and almost had to leave to compose myself... and then for them to almost immediately be like JK SHE'S NOT DEAD, when I know at some point they're going to have to address that General Organa is no longer with us, is unnecessarily traumatic and bordering on cruel. Honestly, I can barely even think about Carrie without getting a lump in my throat, so thinking for a horrible hot minute that she'd been blown up and that was the end and we weren't getting any closure whatsoever was horrifying. In my opinion that whole thing was in very poor taste. Sure, if Carrie were still alive and well, it would be a different thing, but leaving that bit in the movie with all things considered just seemed really inappropriate.

I also still have some gripes about Rey's miraculous rise to full Force using (especially when I've been slogging through adventure after adventure after adventure for nearly five years with my SWTRPG tabletop character who has to train extensively any time she wants to learn a new Force skill or become stronger with the Force) though I will say that the novelization of The Force Awakens helped with that. We didn't get any major Force training montages to indicate that Rey had been training with Luke for weeks, especially since we KNOW that the other storylines were on a very short schedule time-wise. (I mean, sure, I suppose that Ben and Rey's Force conversations could have transcended even time, that's not outside the realm of possibility, but as far as we were shown, the entire movie took place over less than a week. That's not enough time, especially since it's not like Luke was actively training her the whole time she was with him. I dunno. It's a silly gripe but a gripe nonetheless.)

Anyway, I'll update the post soon with the things I did like about the movie (which... Damn! Adam Driver! That's all I'm going to say for now), but at the moment I need to go back to work to make some money to go see the movie again.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Another Year, Another List of Resolutions I Probably Won't Pull Off

You know, I honestly can't even remember if I made resolutions for 2016. I'm sure I did, but as far as I can tell I didn't write them down so I have no idea what they were. So instead, I'll talk briefly about what I personally accomplished in 2016-

I voted for the first time (twice!). I know. It's gross that it took so long, but for a very long time I felt that it would be silly of me to vote without being informed, and I didn't have the drive to be informed. The end of 2015 and the whole of 2016 saw that change for me in a huge way. Now I'm possibly TOO informed, but the fact still remains that in 2016 I did my civic duty quite fully- even if things turned out pretty much the worst way they possibly could.

It took until the end of the pretty god-forsaken year, but I finally got an official management position at AJ Motion Sports here in Sandy. I got to the end of my rope with the carrot-dangling at Salomon and applied to AJ on a whim, and had a new job with a raise and a guaranteed full-time schedule by the middle of that same week. It was kind of intense, but extremely validating and kind of vindicating. November and December were overall incredibly emotional months for me all across the board.

I visited 9 national parks, including 2 I'd never been to before, 7 that Brady and I had never been to before together! I pulled off another successful rad road trip, most of which you can read about on our national park blog,

I somehow gained weight, somewhere. I'm still not sure how this happened but a pair of pants that used to be loose is now almost tight. I'm not complaining in the slightest, but I wish I knew what I'd done so I could continue doing it! Haha.

I started implementing a budget and have been managing our money a lot better. Even though writing that rent check every month is still painful, it's less painful when I'm not waiting until the paycheck right before it to cover most of it. I know. It really shouldn't have taken this long.

I acquired a LOT of Salomon shoes. Hahahaha.

We're pretty effin' cute.
So, with all of that in mind, here are my actual official resolutions for 2017.

1. Visit 5 new-to-us US national parks - stretch goal 10! We have plans to visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Joshua Tree, Death Valley, Great Basin, and Pinnacles, as well as Jasper in Canada. (Plus a bunch we've been to before, haha.)

2. Climb once a week (get back to leading 5.10+, teach Brady to climb multipitch routes by Thanksgiving)

3. Ski once a week

4. Settle one of our big debts (and get both of us credit cards so we can work towards our goal of buying a house in 2021)

5. Get a passport BOOK. ha.

6. (I know, every year) Gain 15-25 pounds

7. Complete three or four big home-y projects:
  • fence the yard
  • build the gear "closet"
  • plant the garden & start a compost heap
  • (optional) replace the bathroom sink with one with an ACTUAL COUNTERTOP ugh
8. Implement and stick to our budget for real for the whole year

9. Read 52 new books

10. BUILD OUR TEARDROP!! Haha. Yeah. Jackie's kind of getting put on the back burner for a bit. We love her so dearly, but that love for her is also making us want to make sure we don't screw her up. It's also going to be pretty expensive, so we decided to try our hand at building a teardrop camper first. A teardrop is also a better option for our style of road tripping, where we're a lot more nomadic and just need a good place to sleep. A portable tent, if you will. We've found a lot of plans for them online and think we're probably pretty solid on it. My personal goal is to have it done by Thanksgiving. I want to name it The Sasquatch and call her Sassy so we can have two mythical creatures to camp with. hahahahaha.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Ode to the Park Service (and Sign Photos)

Dear NPS,

Have I told you enough times how much I love you? How happy I am that you not only exist, but that you're such an integral part of my life?

From my earliest childhood memories to the present, you've been there. You're turning one hundred years old today, and I've only been there for a quarter of it. And I still haven't seen even close to enough of you.

We've gone on lots of canyoneering trips together... and this isn't even CLOSE to all of them.

You've been an integral part of my relationship and marriage with my husband. Together we've visited 13 different national parks and have plans to bring that number to 20 by the end of the year. We got engaged in a park, and spent our honeymoon in a park. We've been to the Tetons EVERY YEAR since 2012 (yeah, okay, that's only 5 years, but still).

You could say we're obsessed.

Basically, other than my husband (and maybe the dog), you're the most important thing in my whole entire life. You've always been there. And it's obviously more than just the sign photos (though I love those). There's just something intangible about the fact that we've set aside land for everyone to use, and it's beautiful and pristine and wonderful. You, Park Service, are everything good about this world. I love you so much, and I'm always excited to spend serious quality time with you. 

Love, your devoted fan(s),
Jen (and Brady) Groves

P.S. Don't even get me started on those freaking hats. 75% of my desire to become a park ranger honestly stems from extreme wanting to wear one of those hats every day. I'm serious.