Monday, December 31, 2012

End of the Year Clip Show (Well, Sort Of)

Happy New Year!  I am currently spending the final hours of 2012 in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, with every intention to go to bed by 10:30 pm (if not earlier).  As is tradition (i.e. I did this last year), I am doing a wrap-up of the past year.  I used the same categories as last year:  work, school, church, men, and "other", as well as one brand-new category:  "food", because there was a lot that was related to food.  Don't judge me.  Even if there hadn't been so much stress-eating, there's a lot of food to experience here.

I moved to Hawaii in June, so much of my description of the year 2012 can be divided neatly into "pre-Hawaii" and "Hawaii" categories.  Also, get ready for a lot of links, because I talked about a lot of these things in other posts.  It's going to be like a year-end clip show, blog-style!

  • Pre-Hawaii:  The first six months of the year I had three different jobs:  preschool substitute teacher, high-school teacher, and receptionist.  Though none were super well-paying or required much use of my degree, I enjoyed things about and learned things from each of them.
  • Hawaii:  As you all know, I work as a real forensic anthropologist now!  Not only do I get to actually put my very expensive Master's degree to use, but I also feel like I'm doing important and good-karma-inducing things.  Of course, there are downsides, such as all of the hoops one must go through for training and competency-certification (to include a giant hoop that I very much dislike called "being at the mercy of other people to get my work done"), but overall, work is grand.  It's basically the only good thing I've got going for me in Hawaii.  Also, this job pays a lot, which is good, because Hawaii is expensive, and now I can afford to pay someone to do my (extremely complicated) 2012 taxes for me.
Pretty much the entire reason I do my job.
  • Pre-Hawaii:  I went through the Temple for the first time on February 18, 2012.  It was a very special day that I was able to share with very special people.  I spent the first six months of 2012 enjoying my last six months in the Longfellow Park 2nd Ward in Cambridge, MA.  Oh, how I miss that building and all of those people!  I also ended my tenure as ward choir director by conducting the first piece I directed in that choir, "How Can I Keep From Singing?"
  • Hawaii:  Moved from a beautiful historic building that (sort of) survived an epic fire and is right down the street from where Ben Affleck lives to an institute classroom building adjacent to the University of Hawaii.  I miss being in a real chapel, and there's a TON of culture-shock that comes with going to church in Hawaii (ohmygosh the cheek kissing), but I'm starting to adjust.  Sort of.  I got called to be choir director again, so I can carve out something resembling a niche here, just in time for me to leave in six months. 
Townies go to the Temple!
  • Pre-Hawaii:  So much promise in the beginning.  I had two pretty awesome grad-school-interview Events in early 2012.  Lots of free food, touring, and making professors fall in love with my professionalism, charm, and ability to look awesome in suits.  And then they all rejected me.  It's nobody's fault but of those who distribute the funds.  In mid-April came the realization that I would require yet another "gap year."  At least this one is being spent far more productively than the last!
  • Hawaii:  I'm pretty optimistic now.  I re-took the GRE in September, and rocked it, scoring higher than my previous (very respectable, yet nearly expired) scores.  I applied to seven different schools, and I already have interviews at two of them!  I have two schools tied for first place on my hierarchy  but I'm not going to jinx myself by sharing that hierarchy yet.
  • Pre-Hawaii:  Oh, man.  And by "man," I mean one very specific man.  The first half of 2012 was a striking contrast to any other part of any other year in the relationship department.  I won't tell the story of my first kiss here because 1) it's personal, and 2) apparently I tell it wrong and it doesn't sound at all romantic, but 2012 was the year of many absolutely wonderful first-relationship-related things*.  Naturally I had to screw it all up by moving to Hawaii.  Boy, did that suck a lot.  As much as the breaking up part sucked, losing a person would have been much worse, so thankfully former-beau (beau-emeritus?)** and I are still good friends.
  • Hawaii:  Nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  Zilch.  Let's face it, men don't go to Hawaii to date the pasty brunettes in the argyle sweaters and librarian glasses.  On my part, there have been a few brief attractions, but all have been quickly squelched as the men generally turn out to be [word I won't type because my former Seminary teacher reads this blog].
  • Pre-Hawaii:  I ate Indian food for the first time and wondered why I hadn't been eating it my whole life.  I wrapped up my quest to find the most amazing burger in Boston (for now, at least).  I learned the only proper and acceptable way to make toast (in a frying pan with salted butter, fyi).
  • Hawaii:  I tried Spam for the first time; it's not bad, as long as it's over rice and wrapped in seaweed.  I resigned myself to the fact that burgers in Hawaii will never compare to Boston burgers (with one or two exceptions) and instead decided to embrace the concept of the Hawaiian "Plate Lunch":  choice of meat (although why anyone would choose anything other than Honey Garlic Chicken is beyond me), two scoops of rice, and one scoop of macaroni salad (which is tasty as long as you don't think about the fact that it's just pasta mixed with mayonnaise with some grated carrots thrown in for color).  I also ate Pho (Vietnamese noodle soup with raw meat that eventually cooks itself in the broth) for the first time; I didn't love it at first, but then I ate it a second time and it basically cured the cold I had, so now I'm a fan.  There's a lot more interesting food that Hawaii has to offer that I have not yet tried, but I've got six months and a relatively brave palate.
Pho.  It's pronounced "fuh."
Whenever I say "Pho" I try to pronounce it really slowly so I sound like Ralphie in "A Christmas Story" when he says,  "Fuuuuuuuuuuudge"
Potpourri (aka Miscellaneous)
  • Major life events not covered above:  Uh...I moved to Hawaii (in case the previous six months of blog posts didn't clue you in to that fact).  Oh, in February I presented my thesis at a conference in front of a bunch of really important forensic anthropologists (a lot of whom are now my co-workers, and some of whom I now find far less intimidating for that reason).  The thesis-turned-presentation was then turned into a paper which was accepted for publication in the Journal of Forensic Sciences (pending minor revisions).  I also survived my first tsunami!
  • Guest Stars!  A lot of people came to visit me*** in Hawaii, including Jamar, Laura, and Doree.  There was also a surprise appearance from Tracy, my freshman roommate from BYU.
  • Wholesome recreational activities:  I went sailing for the first time and several times thereafter (Pre-Hawaii); I basically doubled the number of times I've been to the beach (Hawaii). 
  • Major Purchases:  A real bed-frame (albeit a twin bed-frame), a neat secondhand chair, an ukulele(!), and some awesome grown-up clothes from stores that used to intimidate me.
Well, that's the end of my New Year's Eve wrap-up.  Once again, I leave you with the best New Year-themed movie clip of all time.  Dear [old] acquaintances, don't forget me; if I can have any control over my fate whatsoever, I will be spending next New Year's Eve somewhere not in Pennsylvania, certainly not in Hawaii, and hopefully with friends (and my own personal Billy Crystal).

*Also a substantial amount of freaking out.  
**I dislike the term "ex" and find it inappropriate in this case.  "Ex" should be someone at whom I throw dinnerware and small appliances while screaming at him to get the heck out of my apartment or something.
***More realistically, they came to see Hawaii and visiting me was more of an incidental thing.

Blog Contest: Choose My Adventure!

I totally cheated all the time with these books.
Remember those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books by Edward Packard?  You walk into the room.  There's a man lying on the floor.  He looks dead.  If you back away slowly and close the door, keep reading.  If you choose to poke the man with a stick, turn to page 49.  Remember?

Last year I had a blog giveaway.  It worked out really well, until the actual giving-away part.  So this year, I'm changing things up, because I don't do well with actual tangible prizes (Patrick, I haven't forgotten that I owe you a CD!).

I didn't make New Year's resolutions this year (like I did in 2012 and 2011), because I'm all about setting goals during the year at various times.  Of course, for most of the past six months, those goals have been something to the tune of "stop hating Hawaii."  I've decided that that is impossible, so I'm at a loss for new resolutions.  And that's where all of you come in.  You all are going to choose my adventure.

Rules of this blog contest are simple:  leave a comment with a resolution/goal for me to accomplish in 2013 (or, if it's Hawaii-related, in the next six months).  I will pick the one that I like the best and do it, documenting my progress regularly on this blog.  Obviously the thing has to be feasible, legal, inexpensive, non-life-threatening, and not requiring that I impose on the agency of others.  Other than that, it's fair game!

Oh yes, a deadline.  Let's say January 10th?  I probably won't reveal the winner through elaborate poetry again, though, because that was exhausting.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The "Due South" Effect

I have a strange affinity for all things Canadian---Sarah McLachlan, maple syrup, the word "sorry" pronounced with a long "o", and men.  If I meet an average-looking man, and that average-looking man tells me he's from the Deep North, he instantly becomes significantly more attractive to me.*  The reason for this is that as a young teenager, in my formative years, I became acquainted with Constable Benton Fraser.

Benton Fraser and Diefenbaker.
Years and years ago, my mom and I discovered this show in syndication on TNT:  "Due South."  It was about Benton Fraser, a Canadian Mountie who first came to Chicago on the trail of the killers of his father, and for reasons that do not need exploring at this juncture, remained, attached as liaison with the Canadian consulate.  He and his deaf wolf, Diefenbaker, teamed up with Ray Vecchio, a detective with the Chicago Police Department, and together they solve crimes.  

It sounds silly, but it's pretty much one of the best TV shows ever made (it ran from 1994-1999).  My old roommates gifted me the first two seasons on DVD for Christmas, and we've been marathoning it for the past few days (indisputably the best part of Christmas vacation so far).  Anyway, it's caused me to re-evaluate what I'm looking for in a man.  My new criteria:  rides horses and dogsleds, can track caribou across the tundra, overwhelmingly polite, Scotch-guarded at birth, and looks good in red Long Johns.**  

Here's hoping I make like a Mountie and "always get my man."

*I have dubbed this phenomenon "The 'Due South' Effect."
**To say that I haven't thought about the appealing prospect of dual citizenship would be a lie.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The F-Word

No...not that F-word.  Get your minds out of the gutters, people.

Probably the best episode of "Modern Family" ever.
My post is about a different "F-word" that gets thrown around a lot:  friend.  How often do you hear yourself or others use the phrase "my friend from work..." or "my friend from church..." in conversation when describing something said or done by someone you/they happen to know?

I've found that a lot of people are very liberal with this F-word; they're like the Samuel L. Jacksons of the word "friend."  I, however, don't say that people are my "friends" very often.  One practical reason is specificity.  "Friend" is very generic, and if the means through which I know someone is important to the anecdote, I would much rather refer to someone as my co-worker or my roommate or my visiting teacher.

The main reason for my lack of liberality with the F-word is that I have a very conservative definition of what constitutes a friend.  A friend is not just someone I talk to when I see them at church or work or wherever.  A friend is something much more intimate than amicable acquaintance.  A friend is someone whose welfare I think about even when I'm not around them, someone who I would go out of my way to see or talk to, someone with whom I can share good or bad news, someone I trust with my feelings.  Also, a friend is someone who feels all those same things about me.

I hope I don't offend people when I refer to them as acquaintances, or as my hybrid-term (patent pending) "friend-quaintances."  It doesn't mean they'll never ever be my friend; it just means that I'm not quite there yet, but if/when it happens, it'll be good.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


I thought I was getting over my Hawaii-hate.  It turns out that what I was feeling was something akin to what happens when people eat poisonous mushrooms:  you're horribly sick, then you get a little bit better, and then you get way worse, and then you die.*  I was in the "get a little better" stage, the phase in which one gets raised up very high solely to increase the force with which one hits the ground.  I have allowed myself to be a loner for the past few days, and it has given me time to enumerate my grievances.  Here are two:

  • I am feel unattractive in Hawaii, both inherently- and relatively-speaking.  The humidity makes my skin break out and my hair look stupid, and the long hours and early-morning commutes to work give me stress lines and dark circles under my eyes.  Also, I am coming from Boston to Honolulu:  the 20th most attractive city in America to the 9th.  I was on the upper end of average-looking in Boston, what with my plethora of argyle sweaters, my assortment of quirky tights, and my hipster-librarian glasses, but I can't compete with these Hawaiian bronze goddesses; I literally pale in comparison.  Furthermore, I am much older than many of my friend-quaintances, and it shows:  I am an Ann Taylor in a room full of Abercrombies.  Finally, I have developed body-image issues, which is why I never put on a swimsuit which is why I am so pale.
  • I don't fit.  I have friend-quaintances, and they're nice people, and some of them I really feel could become actual friends at some point, but as of right now, I feel very alone.  Not alone in the terribly-depressing sense (yet), but in the sense that I have nobody similar to me in age and life situation.  In Boston, everyone was about the same age and everyone was either a grad/professional student or a young professional.  Here, I kind of feel like I'm the only one (see above, re:  I'm old), and that's rough.  Therefore, I have no confidante, no bosom friend, nobody who will come over when I'm feeling very unspecifically sad and let me hug them for two whole minutes, or rather, nobody whom I trust enough to hug for two whole minutes.  On at least one occasion, I felt hopeful that maybe I had found someone like this, but on at least one occasion, it did not turn out well.  Hence the trust issues.
Maybe it's not Hawaii's fault.  Maybe I would feel this in any other place, but any other place isn't an ocean away and five hours behind anyone I would want to call.  Any other place isn't so foreign and hot and bright and crowded and difficult.  Living in Hawaii is difficult.  And looking back over the past six months (yes, it's been exactly six months to the day that I moved here), I can't say that it's gotten any less difficult.  

So that's that.

*This is one of the few things I remember from many semesters of being a TA for Molecular Biology at BYU.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Babe with the Power

The inevitable has happened:  I got called to be branch choir director.  Some months ago, when I was in "sullen Alex" mode, I would have been like, blah blah...pigeonholed into a music opportunities for spiritual growth.  But not now, because I have realized the following things:

  • I am a dang good choir director.  It is probably the thing I am best at doing that can be done in church.  Maybe I'm not the kindest human being, and maybe I won't bring in delightful baked goods every Sunday, but I will make that choir work harder and sound better than ever before.*
  • In Boston, I made 92% of my friends because of (or more realistically, in spite of) the fact that I was their ward choir director.  Maybe this is how I will make more friends here.
  • I like the power.  Oh gosh, do I like the power.  There's something about being able to control the voices of the masses with my bare hands that sets something on fire in my blood.  The branch president might as well have given alcohol to a person with car keys.**
At any rate, I'm very excited.  First of all, I have two simultaneous callings (though being Relief Society music coordinator requires very little extracurricular activity), and secondly, I get to be in charge of a branch choir again!  I'm sad that this has happened only a few weeks before I leave for Christmas, and therefore I could not get a huge music program together, but I'll be ready to bring out the big guns for Easter.***

*Even if it means threatening to hit the basses with a music stand.  Hey, I've done it before, and it's quite effective for proper consonant placement.
**Anyone who really knows me should know that I don't require alcohol to do major damage with car keys.
***And also maybe Passover.  I've always wanted to try to get away with some awesome Jewish music in a sacrament meeting.