Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: The Year in Review

A few days ago I was thinking, "rats...I haven't blogged yet in December" and then I realized "New Year's Eve post!" I'm going to re-use the format from previous years, so here we go!

School

  • I took my qualifying exams. I'm really glad I never have to do those again. But finishing them came with an upgrade to post-qualifying status and a pay raise, so it was a worthwhile experience.
  • Classes were pretty cool. I took this statistical programming (SAS) class which I really enjoyed and ended up being very helpful to my current research.
  • I've done some research and obtained results! And those results aren't null! I submitted abstracts based on those results to a few conferences and found out that they were accepted and I have to give a talk on one of them next spring...in Amsterdam!
  • I tutored Gross Anatomy this fall and was reminded that I love teaching and that (thankfully) research is not the be-all-end-all of academic life.
Travel (since school is my job, there's no "work" section)

  • I went to California for the first time! I got a scholarship to attend a conference in San Francisco, and I stayed with family in Oakland. It was a lovely place even though I'll probably never live there because I'm poor. I'm looking forward to being able to visit the bottom half of California some day.
  • I also checked Iowa off of my list of states I need to visit when I attended for a research training meeting. Iowa was decidedly less interesting than California, but there were some cool things in Iowa City, and getting to stay in my own hotel room never hurts at all.
  • I also went to Pennsylvania three times. The second time I brought a man with me.
Church:  The most exciting thing was that after five years of just participating, I finally got to be in charge of the Relief Society Christmas Concert! I had been gunning for the job for a while, so I pretty much felt like Professor Snape when he finally gets that DatDA teaching position, though fortunately I didn't Avada Kedavra the Stake President at the end of it (though I was pretty stressed, so I wouldn't have ruled it out). You can watch a video of the concert here.

This is pretty much how I conduct.
Relationships:  Exactly a year ago today, I invited this really good friend of mine over for a New Year's Eve Frasier-watching marathon. The next night we went on a date to see Vanya, Sonia, Masha, and Spike at the Huntington Theater. We're getting married in 28 days.

2015 has been a good year.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Life as of Late: November 2015

This is a blog post that I'm mostly only writing because I haven't blogged at all in November (yes, I'm terrible). It's because I've been really busy! Here's what I've been up to...

Traveling!
I traveled a lot in November. After thirty years of not going to California, I finally went to California. I won a travel award to go to a Rheumatology conference in San Francisco. The conference was okay, but the San Francisco experience was pretty neat. I did most of the touristy stuff (minus Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the house from "Full House"...next time). Also, I ate at In-N-Out Burger for the first time after hearing every Californian ever talk about how great it is. It was just okay (cue Californian gunfire). What also made it fun was that Fiance came with me and that we stayed with his sister (and her two redheaded twin boys) and that his other sister (with two adorable not-redheaded children) came to visit as well. I have officially met all of the in-laws.
The random guy in the picture is my fiance. He's okay.
My other travel of November was a very short (so short that it was so not worth all of the hassle involving O'Hare) trip to Iowa City to meet some of the people that I do research with. I got to give a presentation and learn about clinical data collection. I also got to stay in a hotel room by myself which was pretty awesome. And it turns out there's a Teddy's Bigger Burgers in Iowa City, so I got to have some Hawaiian nostalgia in the Midwest.

School!
School has been pretty okay. I'm not taking any classes right now, which is boring because I like being in classes. I have been doing some light teaching in the form of Anatomy tutoring, and I got to give a lecture in one of the forensic anthropology classes.

Research is dominating a lot of my school time. I've submitted some of my research results to present at some different meetings (one which is super relevant to my future career goals in San Diego, and one which is less relevant to my career goals in Amsterdam...#thestruggle). My first "real" committee meeting is this week, so here's hoping they don't kick me out without a diploma.

Churchy Stuff!
The only churchy thing I'm involved in right now is the Relief Society Christmas Concert. This is the 17th year that the concert has been happening and the 6th year that I've done it, and I am IN CHARGE this year! (Well, in the artistic sense I'm in charge, there's also a coordinator who is amazing and doing all the logistical stuff that would drive me crazy.)

Being Engaged!
I'm engaged (whee!) and wedding planning is the absolute WORST. Seriously; I now understand why so many people just shack up instead (don't worry, ladies from my home ward, I'm not shacking up). But we're doing the tiniest tiny wedding ever, and hopefully it'll all come together at some point. Updates to come!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Theatre Review: Clown Bar (Theatre on Fire, Charlestown, MA)


I'm about to try my hand at reviewing The Theatre.*  I'm also about to review a show in which my fiancĂ© played a lead role, so you might question my objectivity.  Just to show you that I can be objective, here's an example of what a non-objective review would look like.
Clown Bar by Adam Szymkowicz is about a handsome, sexy, dashing clown-turned-cop named Happy Mahoney who, while on the quest for answers about his brother's murder, reunites with his old flame, Blinky Fatale, a skanky trollop who--SPOILER ALERT--totally had it coming.
That's not the review I'm going to write.  This is the review that I'm going to write.

Adam Szymkowicz's Clown Bar is directed by Darren Evans and produced by Theatre on Fire at the Charlestown Working Theater on Bunker Hill Street.  There are three performances remaining:  Thursday through Saturday, October 22-24, and if you know what's good for you, you're going to attend one of them.  Even if it weren't chock-full of slapstick gags and raunchy humor, its mere 70-minute runtime makes it accessible and approachable to even the most skeptical live-theatergoer.

Clown Bar is set in a bar, obviously, but the exciting twist is that the theater is also the bar!  As audience members, you feel like extras in the show going on all around you.  The only downside is that it's hard to see every moment because the actors are playing to the entire room, but if anything, that only makes you want to see the play another time from a different seat (which is totally possible, due to their affordable and flexible pricing**).  To complete the bar experience, there's a bartender, Foolish Todd (or Todd the Fool?), serving drinks if you're into that sort of thing.  If you're not into that sort of thing, be prepared to be mocked for your teetotaler ways by the clown patrons, who will interact with you prior to the performance.  Also, be prepared to be propositioned by Petunia the clown (Annie Hochheiser), who has perfected the art of letting her boobs do the talking.

After some mingling, crooning, and brief-but-blunt announcements about turning off your f**king cell phones, the show begins!  Happy Mahoney (played by Christopher Sherwood Davis) enters the bar on a quest for answers (or revenge, depending on whom you ask) about the death of his brother, Timmy (MacMillan Leslie).  Davis nails the mannerisms typical of the noir detective, though if you know him in real life, it requires some suspension of disbelief to see him as as intimidating, hardened detective.  You can't, however, doubt his sincerity for a minute.  This is best seen in one of the play's many flashback scenes--a conversation with Timmy explaining the pecking order of the clown car and the grandeur of circus life.  Such ridiculous subject matter has never been so moving.

As Happy continues his investigation, much clown-on-clown violence ensues.  Just as the testosterone levels are about to skyrocket, enter Blinky Fatale (played by Emma Goodman), the sultry burlesque dancer and Happy's former lover.  The burlesque routine wasn't my favorite part of the show--something about the amount of clothing at the beginning/amount of clothing at the end/length of the routine ratio was off, or possibly, as a lady with lady-parts, the idea that other ladies' lady-parts might be revealed at some point doesn't have the same tantalizing appeal to me as it would to other people.  Nonetheless, Goodman reveals herself (no pun intended) to be a very competent dancer.  Despite being a younger actress, Goodman has a very mature voice that fits the role of femme fatale perfectly.  "Clown Love" (aka the epic five-minute make-out scene between Happy and Blinky aka the thing I'd been nervous about having to sit through ever since Christopher told me he got that part) was performed brilliantly and was a huge hit with the audience, hitting the perfect balance between sexy and campy.

The ensemble cast is strong, all members contributing a different nuanced layer in the complex world of underground clown life.  The most outstanding clown, however, was Dusty (played by Chris Wagner), the clown crooner who stole the show with a monologue about his dead cat (and other misfortunes) all the while completely oblivious to a gun standoff right under his nose.  The way Wagner portrays pathetic is comic perfection.  This was definitely my favorite moment of the whole show.

I once asked Christopher what makes a director "good," to which he replied that the best-directed shows are shows in which you don't notice the director.  This is probably why (in addition to my knowing very little about theatre) I don't really have that much to say about the director.  The show was seamless, and the nonsensical world of seedy clown crime seemed perfectly natural.

Clown Bar isn't going to be that play that makes you reexamine your life (unless your life is clown-crime-related, I guess), but it is darn good entertainment and a fantastic production.  I highly recommend spending an evening in the Clown Bar.

Tickets and more information can be found here.
Content Warning:  language (PG-13/R), sexuality (PG-13), and clown-on-clown violence (PG)



*Say this in the most pretentious way possible when reading aloud.
**You can pay $0, $10, or $20 for a ticket!  But unless you're completely and totally destitute, don't be a jerk, and pay $10 (or $20!).

Friday, October 16, 2015

My Important "Twenty-Something" Experiences

My birthday is tomorrow, everyone!  Now that I'm about to turn 30, I'm looking back on what I did with my twenties.  Have I done all the "twenty-something" things that Society and The Media and Mindy Kaling have taught me to do in that decade?  In honor of my last day of being 29, here are 29 things (in no particular order) that I've done that I think qualify:
  1. Lived in a major U.S. city
  2. Lived by myself in a (different) major U.S. city
  3. Bought real furniture (okay...Ikea furniture mostly...but the fancy stuff...no LACK's or MALM's up in this hizz-ouse) and also a rug and throw pillows and a cedar chest
  4. Hosted multiple legit dinner parties
  5. Went speed-dating
  6. Went to two real weddings as an actual invited guest (not like one of those Mormon "invite everyone with a refrigerator" open reception ordeals).  One was a Mormon temple sealing, the other one was a gay wedding...so I guess I have yet to attend a stereotypical bride-and-groom-walk-down-the-aisle-and-afterwards-you-eat-chicken-or-fish wedding.
  7. Was a bridesmaid (twice, but only disliked the dress once)
  8. Kissed a guy for the first time (okay...maybe this isn't a "trademark 20's experience," but better late than never!)
  9. Got to be someone's first kiss (this was something I didn't think would happen in my 20's outside of some weird fantasy scenario where it's World War 1 and I'm a fancy French prostitute that all the young American GI's visit so they can "become men"...I swear this was a movie with Matthew Broderick)
  10. Kissed a guy on the top of the Empire State Building*
  11. Kissed a guy who was not currently my boyfriend (although it's less exciting knowing that he had been my boyfriend previously)**
  12. Got my heart seriously broken...but later got over it
  13. Moved to a tropical island following getting my heart seriously broken
  14. Chose the "dream job" over the "dream guy" (who ended up not being the dream guy--quite the opposite, actually--so good call there)
  15. Got dumped
  16. Did the dumping
  17. Made a determined plan to keep a relationship with a man platonic but ended up falling in love with him anyway
  18. Met his parents and spent many major holidays and family events with his family and then took him home to meet my family
  19. Got freaking ENGAGED!!!!!!
  20. Pierced my ears (again...better late than never)
  21. Felt the joy in rebelling against my father's wishes by putting holes in my body
  22. Graduated college
  23. Got a master's degree
  24. Actually used the master's degree
  25. Felt the overwhelming terror that comes from the knowledge that I still have to finish paying for the master's degree
  26. Started a PhD
  27. Went to multiple rock concerts (and by multiple I mean three...but my cochlear hair cells...)
  28. Met my favorite artist following a rock concert
  29. Spent more on a piece of clothing than on groceries


*Mindy Kaling definitely would approve of this one.
**This is making it seem like I've kissed way more guys than I actually have.  But according to Society, being in your twenties means kissing pretty much everyone, doesn't it?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Five!

My blog is five years old today--exactly.  It was just a coincidence that I checked today to see when my first posts was, and it was on September 13, 2010 that I wrote my "Obligatory Introductory Post."  I guess I should make my wooden anniversary toast-post by reflecting on my first post ever.  Here goes!

For one thing, I decided that food blogs with a million appetizing pictures are annoying.  Just give me the recipe already!  Okay, maybe one picture of the process and any illustrative pictures of difficult processes would be fine, but I don't need to see a picture of the dish from every angle as you tell the story about how you came up with the recipe and which of your nineteen kids you made it for.

I should also talk about this blog's namesake:  "Skeleton Song" by Kate Nash.  A few years ago I actually got to see Kate Nash perform live (although she didn't sing Skeleton Song...sad).  But I told you about how Kate Nash came into my life, right?  It's all because of my best female friend, the Tacy to my Betsy, the Ann Perkins to my Leslie Knope, LT.  She is basically the only person who I don't live near anymore that I'm still friends with...probably because she is the only person whose snarkiness matches my own.  But it was because she gave me a ride home from church one day in her giant boat of a car that we became friends and, less importantly, I got introduced to Kate Nash's amazing first album.

What else?  As you likely know if you know me or if you've read my blog, I graduated with that M.S. in Forensic Anthropology, worked as a Forensic Anthropologist for a little while, and am now in the middle of a PhD program doing research on something not nearly as interesting, but still public-health relevant.  But I'm still a bone lady at heart and I desperately hope to get back into anthropology once I have those magical three letters after my name.

Other things...I'm still a morning person.  Music and I had a little falling-out a few years ago, but we're on friendly terms again and I'm trying to do more music-related things (slowly), though my singing voice is a little out of practice.  Apparently I used to describe myself as "creative" and I guess I still am, though I perhaps don't have as much time or motivation to be when I was a wee 24-year old.  Now that I'm a crotchety soon-to-be 30-year old, I'm even more misanthropic, I imagine (though some think that I'm all talk and am actually a softie at heart).  I'm still torn on the cat/dog situation but am at least certain that I don't want to own either.  And open-ended questions are still the worst things on the planet.

So there you have it!  I've managed to keep a blog going for five years.  This last year has been tough, but I'm sure I'll have some more exciting things to blog about.  I am turning 30 next month, after all!



*I guess at some point I decided to try to anonymize my friends when I talked about them in here but apparently it was before I used her full name in the linked post.  Also if I'm going to get super meta and talk about that blog post in this toast-post, I should mention that we broke Gmail a LOT.  Our record subject line had over 1100 emails in it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

It's Going to Rain in Boston...

#semiobscurebuffyreference
Raining in Boston has become the new "Dawn's in trouble."  At least they're not predicting any giant hail this time.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

My Sabbath

This is my second Sabbath-themed blog post.  I wrote the first over four years ago.

Recently, the LDS (aka "Mormon") Church has been strongly emphasizing Sabbath Day Observance.  I am actually quite in favor of this, especially since it's preferable to a lot of the other things the LDS Church tends to strongly emphasize (cough--traditionalfamilies--cough).  Over the past few weeks, I've thought a lot about what how I am spending my Sundays and what I can do to make them a little more special and sacred.  I don't go shopping or participate in "worldly" activities on Sundays; I often spend the afternoons/evenings with my boyfriend as we cook dinner together; I even try to watch less TV (my exceptions/foils include "The Great British Baking Show" or a really good SVU marathon).  There has been one small hitch in my aspirations to become more Sabbath-appropriate, however.

I kind of hate church.*

I don't think I always hated church.  I mean, I was never the type of person who would be like "Sunday is my favorite day ever because I get to go to church and feel the spirit and stuff!" (mostly because I've never been the type of person who...felt the spirit and stuff), but over the past few years, church has been difficult.  I don't know why, exactly.  Maybe it's because I don't fit in in my ward and it's hard to not fit in when you're in close proximity to a bunch of people who fit in really well (and the crippling social anxiety doesn't help much, I'm sure).  Maybe it's because the building is always too cold and I'm always starving by the end, and physical discomfort often fuels my rage toward most things.  Maybe it's a bunch of boring reasons that nobody wants to read.

I don't want to stop going to church (I've never actually skipped church and have rarely been tempted to do so).  The problem comes from staying at church.  I can usually make it through the Sacrament before the desire to escape overwhelms me.  Having a boyfriend to sit with in Sunday School has been really helpful, but after that, I am racing toward the bus stop to head home and feeling instant relief once I return to my apartment.  But with that relief comes the gnawing feeling that something must be fundamentally wrong with my spiritual self that I can't feel any peace during a communal worship service.

I fully understand that this peace probably comes from having the proper mindset during church or making efforts to have a positive experience.  (I'm sure this post will yield many comments like, "you get out of it what you put into it" and similar aphorisms).  But that advice only goes so far when the thing that is supposed to make you feel wonderful on the Sabbath puts you in the foulest mood of the whole week.

How can a positive church experience come from turning off my phone during church when sometimes, a text from my best friend in Baltimore is the only thing that makes me smile during Sacrament meeting?

How can it come from attending all of my church meetings when I feel more peace alone in my apartment cleaning my kitchen** on an early Sunday afternoon than I've ever felt in Relief Society?

And is going to church the best and only way I can feel close to God on the Sabbath?  Are more individual forms of worship preferable to hours of negative emotion in a congregation?

I'm writing this post for two-ish reasons.  The first is because I needed to write it down because if it's written down, it's real and tangible and I can understand it better than if I'm just thinking about it on the bus ride home from church.  The second is so other people can read it--people who can give me advice on what has helped them and people who feel like weirdos because they also hate church (of course, these groups are not mutually exclusive).

With that, I say happy Sabbath.



*Please note that when I say "church" I don't mean "The (LDS) Church."  I mean the building with the steeple where I go every Sunday with a bunch of other people.  This seems like a statement that was too important for a footnote, but I couldn't figure out where else to put it in the real text.
**Wiping the grease, gunk, and nonstick cooking spray droplets off of my stove often eclipses the Sacrament in necessity and frequency in my apartment.  Sometimes I have to do it two or three times in one day, and that kind of makes me feel like a traveling General Authority.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Plans

I've recently learned something about myself:  I like planning things more than I like actually doing things.  Actually, I really love planning.


Maybe because the planning is easy.  Spreadsheets and lists and Pinterest boards are easy.  I can make a list without even getting out of bed or putting on real pants.  But doing things?  Most often, real pants are generally expected.

Doing things also, more often than not, requires other people.  Other people whom you can't control and who don't tell you what you want to hear when you put forth your plans to them.  Or people who are instrumental to your plans and whom you know will be totally on-board and supportive but who have to respond to your emails first.*

So I keep planning.  And because I love lists so freaking much, here's a list of some of the things I'm currently planning:

  • An informal "dinner party" for my boyfriend, his sister, her husband, and their four adorable children.  Thankfully I have lots of experience cooking for my picky sister, so finding something kid friendly that has very few tomatoes (because my boyfriend is a bit picky, too) shouldn't be too hard.  
  • The rest of my graduate career.  This one is a little less fun than a dinner party with a chubby baby, but involved lots of hardcore table-making.  I optimistically set myself to defend my (yet unwritten) dissertation two years from now, and I'm sure the laughter I will receive upon presenting this to my adviser will be epic.
  • A Fun Family Weekend in Pennsylvania in August.  For anyone who knows the Winks, the phrase "Fun Family Weekend" will probably be met with much skepticism and/or yet more epic laughter, but this will be the big "introduce the boyfriend to the parents" trip, and therefore we have to pretend we like doing things together.  So we'll probably go to the zoo.

I also plan to try to blog more.  Or to feel really bad about it when I don't blog as often as I'd like.  I hope to squeeze one more post out in July...so stay tuned.


*#gradschool

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Qualifying Exam Saga

The reason I haven't blogged lately (among other reasons that are more fun that I'll blog about later) is that I've been pretty preoccupied with my doctoral qualifying exam.  I call this post "The Qualifying Exam Saga" because it is a saga, as long as saga is defined as something that takes way too long and sucks out way too much of your energy.  There are also Buffy gifs, because of course there are.

I turned in the first draft of my written qualifying exam back in March.  The beginning of March.  That was a long time ago.  And then, two weeks later, the committee told me that I needed to rewrite the exam.  That was lame.  And many of my attempts to figure out what the problem was were unfruitful.


I finally got some feedback that was sort of helpful, and set out to write my second iteration.  And I wrote, and wrote, and wrote.  For months.  Without a deadline.


I finally got a deadline--May 29.  Ample time to write a new proposal about bunions.  Yes, bunions.  I was able to get really excited about it, although nobody else could really understand why.


I turned in my second go-around of the written.  It was beautiful.  There were charts, pictures, and tables of abbreviations!  Thankfully, I passed.  Time for some very moderate celebration at being one step closer to not getting kicked out of grad school.


Couldn't celebrate too much, though, because that was just half the battle.  The real scary part was the oral exam.  I had to give a 25-minute presentation about my proposal, after which I would be grilled for 45 minutes.  After lots of practicing in front of classmates, friends, my acting-coach boyfriend,* I was finally ready to do the real thing.


I got through the oral without tripping over any words or forgetting any slides!


The questions were not hard at all, which was kind of annoying because I had prepared for much harder questions (for instance, information on all the statistical methods, and the stats expert on the exam committee wasn't even there!).  So I ended up giving them anyway, just to let everyone that I had prepared and knew all of the things.


After answering all the questions, I went out of the room while they deliberated...and, as all of you know who already know me from Facebook, I passed!!!  I was lucky to be congratulated by so many of my friends.


And also, so happy to be done!




*Yes, I have a boyfriend now.  Like how I slid that in there?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Evil and Evening Gowns

In the fifth season of Buffy, Dawn comes to the realization that, because bad things happen because of her, she must be evil.  She confides this to Spike, who gives this reply:

In case the picture doesn't show up, he's saying:
"I'm a vampire. I know something about evil. You're not evil."
Now, don't get me wrong: Dawn is The Worst.  So much so that everyone would have totally been fine with her doing that thing that Buffy did at the end of Season 5 instead of Buffy.*  But Dawn is certainly not "evil."  A 14-year-old girl who happens to have Circumstances in her life doesn't really fit that bill.

As much as I'd love to keep talking about Buffy, I'm now going to write about the thing that inspired me to write this post:  Lindsey Stirling's Billboard Award dress.  If you'd asked me two weeks ago who Lindsey Stirling was, I would probably have said, "isn't she that Mormon girl with the violin?" because that was all I knew.  Now I know her as the Mormon girl with the violin who wore a really controversial dress to an award show.  And not even the fun kind of "is this blue or black?" controversy, but the kind that calls all of the Mormons With Opinions (MWOs) out of the woodwork.

Now I'm not going to talk about lines or lining or whether you can wear that kind of dress with garments (although you totally can, and also I defy you to find one endowed Mormon woman who hasn't done some strategic cap-sleeve tucking at some point in her life) or even the definition of "modesty."  I am going to talk about the definition of "evil," though.  I looked up the word "evil" on Google.  It's defined as "profoundly immoral and malevolent."  The MWOs have said that even though the dress is fully lined, the fact that the nude fabric looks like skin gives off the "appearance of evil."


I think "evil" is one of those words that gets thrown around too liberally by some people.**  How can a dress be "profoundly immoral and malevolent"?  At worst, a dress can be a bit trashy-looking, but evil?  How can that even be applied to clothing?  I guess if you were wearing a t-shirt that said, "I worship Satan and enjoy eating babies on the weekends," you'd probably give off the appearance that you were a little bit evil, but an evening gown that fits well***, covers everything, and is appropriate for the occasion is anything but evil.  Clothes are not evil, and moreover, the (female) human body is not evil.

Again, this is not a post about the definition of modesty.  If you didn't like the dress or thought it was "too sexy" or wouldn't want your teenage daughter to wear something like that to prom, by all means, have that opinion, but for heaven's sake, stop calling it Evil.

(And for what my opinion is worth,  I thought she looked Amazing.)



*I can't spoil too much because my boyfriend reads this blog and he's only part of the way through Season 2.  Oz is just barely a werewolf right now.
**Another one is "apostate," but don't get me started.
***There's a difference between form-fitting and tight, by the way, so everyone who's all like, "Oh my gosh, she's got a female body under there! Call out the National Guard!" can just chill.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Sacrament Meeting Talk: Eve as a Model for the Divine Feminine

I had to give a talk in church this Sunday (Mother's Day) on the topic of Eve.  It was a stressful two weeks of preparation because Eve is an incredibly weighty and potentially controversial topic, especially on Mother's Day, which brings about all sorts of mixed feelings in singles' congregations.  Thankfully, with the help of good friends and inspiration from an amazing essay by Beverly Campbell, I managed to pull something together.  Some people have asked to read it, so I figured I would post it here.

Eve as a Model for the Divine Feminine  

I am the biological daughter of two earthly parents.  From my father I inherited thick eyebrows and a temper; from my mother I inherited stubbornness and a high tolerance for physical pain (which comes in handy when dealing with the eyebrows).  Though I proclaim to be my mother’s daughter, for better or for worse, in truth I am a bit of both of them.

Likewise, we are the spirit children of two Heavenly Parents.  We read about the divine qualities of our Heavenly Father and strive to develop those qualities in ourselves, but what of our Heavenly Mother?  What qualities has She given us, and what do we strive to emulate?  We know very little about the Mother of our Spirits, but perhaps there are many things we can learn from one of Her first earthly descendants:  Eve.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie, former member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said of Eve, “our glorious mother…a daughter of God—was among the noble and great in [premortal] existence. She ranked in spiritual stature, in faith and devotion, in conformity to eternal law” (1).  I have to believe that Eve rose to this level of spiritual nobility and prepared for her role on earth under the guidance of a Heavenly Mother.  We can look to Eve, the “mother of all living,” as a manifestation of the Divine Feminine in mortality.

What is this “divine feminine”?  Between what is written in the scriptures and what we learn in our most sacred liturgy, we only see fragments of the lives of Adam and Eve, but from these fragments, we can get a glimpse of their personalities.  As I was preparing this talk, I tried to understand how Adam and Eve are distinct from one another.  What personality traits were unique to Eve, and how were these traits crucial to their equal partnership both in and out of Eden?  In other words, why was it “not good for man to be alone”?  What does Eve contribute to the Plan of Salvation and the human condition that Adam could not?

In order to understand Eve, we must also understand Adam.  If I had to choose one adjective to describe Adam, I would choose “obedient.”  When explaining why he partook of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, he stated, “The woman thou gavest me, and commandest that she should remain with me, she gave me of the fruit of the tree and I did eat” (2).  Knowing that one of God’s first commandments had been transgressed, Adam partook of the forbidden fruit so that he could remain obedient to the command to remain with his partner.  Another example of Adam’s obedience is seen outside of the Garden of Eden:  “And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord. And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me” (3)

We can learn much about Eve in her exchange with the serpent (or Lucifer) in the Garden of Eden.  The first thing we learn is that she clearly knows the law.  She explains to the serpent, “we may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which thou beholdest in the midst of the garden, God hath said—Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die” (4).  Eve then considers the fruit of the tree:  “and when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it became pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desired to make her wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat” (5).  This account erases any misconception that Eve was somehow tricked or deceived into eating the fruit.  She had a full understanding of the law, and total awareness of the consequences of her action.

Perhaps then it was not a coincidence that it was Eve, and not Adam, who first partook of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  If Adam had been alone in the Garden, he may never have eaten the fruit out of obedience to his Father’s commandment.  The Fall, and subsequently, the Plan of Salvation, required Eve and her divine understanding of what needed to be done.  Elder Dallin H. Oaks described Eve’s action as “a glorious necessity to open the doorway toward eternal life” (6).

Notably, when confronted by the Lord about her action, Eve responds, “the serpent beguiled me, and I did eat” (7).  Notice the conjunction in this statement: “and.”  Eve does not say “the serpent beguiled me, therefore I did eat.”  Eve reports what transpired, but takes full accountability for her action.

Sister Sheri Dew, former General Relief Society President regarded Eve’s action as “the most courageous decision any woman has ever made” (8).  Eve chose to leave perfection and paradise to enter a world that was harsh, difficult, and full of sorrow, a world in which she would face pain and death, both physically and spiritually.  I can’t believe this was an easy decision.  Nor do I believe that these consequences came as a surprise to Eve.  She knew what she would be facing, but she also knew that there would be no other way.  The Encyclopedia of Mormonism entry on Eve states, “Eve faced the choice between selfish ease and unselfishly facing tribulation and death. As befit her calling, she realized that there was no other way and deliberately chose mortal life so as to further the purpose of God and bring children into the world" (9).

We read further of Eve’s understanding of the choice she made in Eden.  After they had been cast out of the Garden of Eden, an angel spoke to Adam and Eve about the Plan of Salvation.  Shortly thereafter, Adam said, “Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God” (10).  “And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient” (11).  While from this it is clear that Adam and Eve both realize that the Fall was a blessing, Eve’s declaration illustrates a distinct eternal perspective.

We can read about more of the life of Eve in the fifth chapter of the Book of Moses.  We see that Eve labors alongside Adam (12) and that she and Adam pray together (13).  Moses 5:12 states, “And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters.”  Eve and Adam worked together as equal partners in mortality, united in purpose.  This unity continued as they raised their children and taught them all things both temporal and spiritual.

In the 138th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, President Joseph F. Smith describes a vision of the Spirit World.  In the Spirit World he sees the noble spirits who were chosen as messengers of the Lord, including “our glorious Mother Eve, with many of her faithful daughters who had lived through the ages and worshiped the true and living God” (14).  Who were these “faithful daughters”?  Whom do we know that inherited Eve’s divine characteristics?  Ultimately, what does it mean to be a “daughter of Eve”?

From the scriptural accounts of Eve, I have identified three exemplary characteristics or principles:  first, Eve had the courage to make difficult choices and to stand accountable for them; second, Eve had a great understanding of the deep or eternal significance of her actions; and third, Eve acted as a help-meet to Adam to create a whole, unified partnership.

We don’t have to look far beyond the scriptures to find examples of faithful women who emulate these divine qualities.  The first quality, courage to choose, is seen in one of my favorite Biblical women, Esther.  Esther was asked by her people to approach the king and request that he rescind his decree to kill the Jews.  By doing this, Esther would risk her own life, as it was forbidden to approach the king uninvited.  Realizing, however, that there was no other way, she declared “if I perish, I perish” (15), and she chose to approach the king so that her family might live.  In addition to this noble act, Esther also demonstrates great faith in God, as she requests that her people join her in fasting.

It is likely no coincidence that two scriptural women who emulate Eve’s eternal perspective were also known for being mothers:  Elisabeth, mother of John the Baptist, and Mary, mother of Jesus.  Both women knew that their children would be essential to God’s plan and faithfully accepted and magnified their callings as mothers.

Rather than talk about marriage in a singles’ ward, I would like to relate Eve’s role as a help-meet to her partner in the context of all of our interpersonal relationships.  Adam and Eve were two parts of a whole partnership, each contributing equally, but not necessarily contributing the same things.  This is important to remember when we have to interact with others in our work, our church callings, and in our personal lives.  We can create unity in our relationships by recognizing our own spiritual gifts as well as the spiritual gifts of others.  One woman in Church history who is revered for her ability to embrace the diversity of spiritual gifts in God’s children is Sister Chieko Okazaki, former first counselor in the General Relief Society Presidency.  Sister Okazaki acknowledged that despite differences in circumstances, the contributions of every member of the human family are essential to God’s plan.

Identifying divine characteristics within the “daughters of Eve” begs the question: why does there seem to be a distinction between the “daughters of Eve” and the “sons of Adam”?  Does Eve’s heritage only extend to her female children?  Surely this cannot be the case.  Although I am a female child, I am not a carbon copy of my earthly mother alone, and I am sure the men here would agree that they are not solely reflections of their earthly fathers.  I know of many men who are great examples of the divine characteristics of Eve.  Perhaps it is wiser to consider that all of us, male and female, possess a mosaic of traits inherited from both of our earthly and both of our Heavenly parents.

As this is Mother’s day, I would like to conclude by discussing Eve’s role as the “Mother of All Living” (16).  After the Fall, we know was Eve was told about the experience of conception and labor, but we don’t know what Eve knew of physical motherhood before she partook of the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.  Perhaps Eve, when pondering the eternal significance of her choice to become mortal, didn’t consider motherhood as solely the product of possessing the anatomy and physiology required to bear children.  Elder Bruce R. McConkie stated, “Adam and Eve…and a host of mighty men and equally glorious women comprised that group of ‘the noble and great ones,’ to whom the Lord Jesus said: ‘We will go down, for there is space there and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell” (1).  Eve (as well as her faithful descendants) was involved in the Creation of the world.  So when Eve saw herself as the “Mother of All Living” she thought less of reproduction and more of creation befitting her history as a creator and her legacy as the spirit daughter of Divine Creators.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before” (17).  All of us, whether we can, will, or want to have children, can relate to that.  Perhaps this will to create is our most prominent inheritance from our Heavenly Parents.  With this inherent gift, we already desire to be like our Heavenly Father and Mother.  Let us follow the example of Eve, and her faithful sons and daughters, that we may realize our divine destiny.

References 
1.  "Eve and The Fall" in Woman, 1979.
2.  Moses 4:18
3.  Moses 5:6
4.  Moses 4:8-9
5.  Moses 4:12
6.  "The Great Plan of Happiness" General Conference Address, 1993.
7.  Moses 4:19
8.  "Are We Not All Mothers?" General Conference Address, 2001.
9.  The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 1992.
10.  Moses 5:10
11.  Moses 5:11
12.  Moses 5:1
13.  Moses 5:16
14.  D&C 138:39
15.  Esther 4:16
16.  Moses 4:26
17.  "The Remarkable Soul of a Woman", 2010.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

This I Know

The past few months have been plagued with uncertainty.  Open doors.  Balls in the air that have yet to land.  Too many things that are "too soon to tell."  I haven't liked it.  I like to know things.  As therapy for me (and little else, as this would be very boring for you), I am writing down some of the things I do know.

I am not moving out of my apartment next Fall.
My qualifying exam proposal is about hallux valgus.  It's boring, but there it is.
I will be going home to visit my family sometime in July.

Now that I've written that all down, it really doesn't sound like I know a whole lot, now does it?

Friday, March 27, 2015

Just Breathe

I am getting into a bad habit of only blogging once a month.  I mostly haven't blogged this month because I've been very stressed out about a lot of things.  So today I'm going to blog about the things that are stressing me out.  In other words, today I'm going to blog about grad school.

I'm at a very frustrating point in my academic career in that much of what I have to do depends on feedback and oversight from other people.  And lately, a lot of this feedback and oversight has been either too little or too late.  And while some other person would take this "lull" as a welcome break from the fast-paced world of constant writing and deadlines, I loathe it.  I hate waiting and sitting on my hands and not knowing what I need to do or how to do things.  For instance, I have to rewrite a proposal, yet I haven't gotten any specific guidance on what I need to rewrite.  So I'm writing blindly, just for the sake of writing and having something to do, with no idea whether what I'm writing is good enough.  I'm rewriting and resubmitting a different proposal (my grant from this summer), and that's almost done, but there the frustration lies in knowing that after I resubmit, there will still be months of waiting.  And then there are other people.  Other people that often exist as little more than email addresses that will, hopefully by some miracle, show up in your inbox any day now.

And then there's the weather.  The sun is fleeting and warmth is something I've given up on.  The entire city is a filthy puddle of mud and I can't imagine that it will get better anytime soon.

I know that in a month, and certainly by next fall, things will be easier and better and will feel more productive, but right now it sucks.

So I keep breathing.  And keep writing.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Boring Life-Update Post - February 2015

Because I haven't blogged in three-ish weeks, I am making my internet presence known with a post about the boring stuff I've been up to lately.

An update from my last post:  I got my computer back.  They fixed the apparent viruses that were making it blue-screen, but there's still a problem with the update manager and therefore I need to back up everything and take it back to them so they can restore it to factory default settings.  But I've been putting that off because 1) I'm afraid I will screw up backing up my computer and I'll lose everything, and 2) I don't want to deal with putting everything back on my computer because I'll probably screw that up too.  I'll get to it eventually.  Maybe after quals.

Speaking of quals, I managed to get my Specific Aims turned in and they were approved.  Now I have to write the research strategy which is a brilliant work of copying and pasting stuff from my last grant.  I will be happy when it is over.

Speaking of things that are over, I finished data collection for my project this week!  No more looking at videos of people's knees for me...until the reliability analysis.

In other news, Boston got a ton of snow in the last week.  There was one day that nobody was allowed to go anywhere (which was miserable), and two days that I had classes canceled.  When it hasn't been snowing, it has been spectacularly cold.  Today is a spectacularly cold day, which is part of why I'm at home blogging rather than outside of my house.

This is how cold it is.
When I haven't been doing schoolwork, I have been occupying my snow days watching reruns of Parks and Rec (which I'd only somewhat watched before but is quite hilarious, in case anyone isn't on the bandwagon), re-reading the Harry Potter series (I'm almost done with Year 4 right now), and obsessing over "The Great British Baking Show" (you won't believe how intense watching people look at ovens can be).

I have some other things that are bubbling in my life, but they're not quite blogable yet.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Alexandra and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Past Two Days

What a past two days it has been!  Like seriously.  It all started yesterday morning when I woke up to the Blue Screen of Death on my computer.  Because, you know, that's exactly what you want a week and a half before your first page of qualifying exams is due.


I took the computer to the BU IT place where hopefully they will fix it and nothing will be wrong with it and it'll last me at least until the statistical computing class I'm taking this semester ends.  But until probably one more business day is over, I am without a computer (I am currently writing this at the medical school library, because blogging is totally what medical school library computers are for).

I called the BU IT place this morning to see if it was ready yet, and it was not.  So since I didn't need to be on campus today until noon, I decided to take a leisurely morning off and read Harry Potter until it was time to go to school.  From my bedroom (which is right next to the bathroom--very convenient for middle-of-the-night potty breaks), I heard water running.  Strange, I thought, I didn't know my roommate was up and in the shower already.  I poked my head out, and nobody was in there.  What was in there, however, was a steady stream of water coming from the ceiling.  And that turned into an even steadier deluge of water pouring out of the light fixture.

It's happened to the best of us.
I am nothing if not a quick thinker in a crisis.  I ripped the garbage bag out of our garbage can and placed the can under where the majority of the water was flowing.  I tried to call the management office, but I can't make a phone call on my stupid-smartphone without getting the "Unfortunately Contacts has stopped" message at least three times.  No time for that!  I ran to the management office without even bothering to put on a coat (it wasn't actually that cold out) and told them what the problem was.  Then I ran upstairs and told upstairs neighbor to stop whatever the heck he was doing with water.  (Did I mention that upstairs neighbor is the cause of so much grief in the form of interrupted sleep in my life already?)  Turned out, his toilet was overflowing for no apparent reason.  He showed me a video he took of the overflowing toilet on his phone.  I'm sorry, but if water is pouring onto my floor and flowing through to the humans below, my first thought isn't going to be, I definitely think I should video this rather than getting some towels and trying to stop the mess from progressing.  Even more annoying than those moms who post pictures of the poop their babies smeared all over themselves and the wall.

Eventually the water stopped and the ceiling stream slowed to a mere trickle.  After a brief lamentation of why do these things always happen when I'm here?, I took off my socks, emptied the trash can (that had at least two gallons of water in it) opened the window, got out the spray bleach, and got to work.  I mopped the grossness off of the floor, dried the walls, and wrung out the bathmat (and left a note that will hopefully persuade my roommates to throw it in the washer since I've wasted at least $6 already washing the thing in the past).  Then a plumber came and helped me empty out the glass globe light fixture that was full of brownish (he assured me the color was from ceiling dirt and I really want to believe him) water.  A drain guy came and dealt with the upstairs toilet.  I then got out the spray bleach again and re-mopped the floor because the plumber didn't take his shoes off.  I think all is well in my bathroom once more.

Thinking about it later, though, I got this thought process that made me feel (a little) better about the whole ordeal.  If my computer hadn't Blue-Screened yesterday, I wouldn't have had to take it to the IT place, which means that I probably would have gone to school with it early this morning, which means that nobody (save a sleeping roommate on the other end of the apartment who also probably doesn't know where the spray bleach lives) would have been home when the Great Flood of 2015 happened and it would have been way worse (see above, re: "at least two gallons of water).  So...Providence?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The 10 Dates of 2014

I go on too many dates.
Almost a year ago, I blogged my goals for 2014.  The only resolution I really followed through on was #4:  to average at least one date a month.  I actually went on over 12 dates--or things that could be considered dates if you're really open minded (actually, like a million, if you count "Speed Mingling"), but with probably 10 different men.  Here are the chronicles of those dates, using aliases to protect the innocent.  (Also, if we went on a date this year and I forgot about you, well, I'm sorry, but you should have made a better impression.)

January
The Ex:  Remember all of those seasons of Friends when Ross and Rachel weren't dating and they hung out all the time and it was fine?  My most-recent-at-that-point ex-boyfriend and I tried that by going on a romantic starlit dinner cruise (it was his work party; I was his plus-one).  It was fun and not too awkward, all things considered.  This ex and I are probably on good ex terms now, in that we don't actually ever see each other but when we do, it's just fine.

No, really.
February
The Now-Married Guy:  Mind you, this church-acquaintance was not married when we went on our sort-of-date to a fried chicken place that is right next to my gym.  This one truly met my goal for this dating project--to sit across a table from a guy I didn't know super well for an hour and make conversation. It was good conversation--we mostly talked about weird things we'd eaten--he'd eaten way weirder things than I had.  Anyway, as I said, he got married recently* to a really awesome woman, which is cool because it is always good when cool people marry each other.

April
The Lawyer:  I had tickets to see Legally Blonde: The Musical at Berklee College of Music, and, as having tickets for stuff is the best way to ask someone out, I took the opportunity to invite the most appropriate date to such a musical--a lawyer friend of mine who lived in my old neighborhood.  I think he probably liked the show even though the law stuff was probably all wrong.

May
The Most Interesting Man in the World:  In April I threw a dinner party and it resulted in me getting invited on dates by every man at that dinner party.  The first date was a performance by the Alvin Ailey Dance Company.  It was an amazing performance.  Now, the guy...as he was telling me about his life and occupation, I kept thinking, how are you a person I know in real life?  I probably couldn't tell you what his actual job is, but his stories were fascinating and very different from my stories, most of which revolve around my very boring grad school life.

The Going-Away Date:  I actually owed this guy a date from a time when he asked me out two years ago when I already had a boyfriend.**  So before he moved away forever, we had a really fun Boston date wherein we went to Quincy Market and took a water taxi around Boston Harbor.  Then we sneaked into a high school prom and got mistaken for people who sell drugs to teenagers, which, if you've seen either of us, is kind of hilarious.  Good times.

June
The One Who Turned into a Boyfriend for a Little While:  Truth be told, the first date with this guy wasn't the most amazing date ever.  It was dinner and walking around Boston, but nothing spectacular.  I didn't give up on him, though, because, for one thing, he was an accountant, and isn't that the type of guy that women are all supposed to end up with?  It actually took a decent amount of time (note the multiple other dates in June) and tedious flirting for us to actually become a Thing, but eventually it turned into a pretty cool thing.  Of course, whenever I have a boyfriend that I really like, one of us has to move thousands of miles away for work, so it was a very short-lived pretty cool thing, but I'm okay.

The Home Teacher:  My awesome home teacher (who also had to move thousands of miles away...stupid Southern California taking all of my people) gave me a ride from the airport one night, and to thank him, I took him to the Jeremy Messersmith concert.  He really liked it, which is important because it stresses me out when I introduce my friends to my favorite things.  Also, he's one of those really outgoing people, and because of him we got to chat with Jeremy and his guitarist!

The Brother of the Groom:  In June I went to the wedding of my very good friend.  At the wedding, I met his younger brother, who was really cool, and who also happened to have nothing to do the next day, so he invited me to go kayaking and eat pizza afterwards.  It was a very fun day.  Although this guy also lives thousands of miles away (what is my problem?) and is probably too young for me, I decided that if we had ever gotten together, our "how we met" story would have been the best sitcom ever, albeit one that got canceled after a half a season because that's what happens to all of the good sitcoms (#saveSelfie).

October***
The Only Man in the World Who Appreciates Men Dressed Like Elderly Women as Much as I Do:  I went to a Golden Girls Drag Show with my friend.  It was rad.  Enough said.

November
The One for Whom I Can't Think of a Good Alias Because I Know That He's Probably the Only One Mentioned Who Will Actually Read This Post:  I went to one fantastic and one just-okay theatrical production with this person, and both times we ate delicious burgers beforehand.  He is awesome and tall and nice-smelling and all sorts of other flattering adjectives that he will read when he reads this.

I hope people don't see this blog post as me being, "hey everyone, look at how many dates I went on this year because I'm so pretty and awesome!"  If you do think that, I'll remind you that I currently have zero boyfriends.  Also, most of these were friend-dates with little-to-no romantic expectations.  Also, I think 2014 was a fluke year and I do not expect as much dating "success" in 2015 (because I'm kind of crabby...and also quals).  This was just my following up on a goal to become better at social interaction, and I think I did okay.



*We're Mormons; we get married quickly; it's fine.
**I almost said "yes" when he asked me out.  I still tell this story as an example of why it's important to use the word "date" when you're asking someone on a date...because otherwise you could just be going to a thing together.
***Lest you think I was having a "dry spell," remember that there was "steady dating" in there...like the kind of stuff you're not allowed to do until you're sixteen.