Saturday, September 22, 2018

The End

I put this off by watching Bones with Pepper for like three hours. However, I told myself I would end the blog tonight, and that's what I'm going to do.

When the blog began, I was a college student with no idea how her life would go. I had no idea that over the next five and a half years, I would not only graduate from college, I would also find a professional writing job, serve in two Relief Society presidencies, move out of my parents' home, receive my Latter-day Saint temple endowment, serve as a temple worker, travel to Disneyland (twice), take a road trip to Illinois, go to New York City (three times), go to Arizona (twice), visit San Diego, buy a new car, and have my appendix removed.

Throughout all this, there were times when my life was scary and uncertain, and my belief was the only thing to fall back on. My religion has not been incidental but crucial to everything I've done. I've done my best to convey what it's like to live the ordinary life of a person of my background, and I hope you've enjoyed the experience.

Now it's goodbye. Once I figure out what I'm doing next, I promise to come back and add it to this post.


Friday, September 21, 2018

Things I've Learned

Baby Brother is very brave. He took all his birthday money and ordered a unicycle, which he is now teaching himself to ride. Dad and I are trying to help him, but neither of us know how to ride a unicycle ourselves, so we're mostly there for support. (Literally—learning to ride a unicycle seems to involve falling down a lot. Don't worry; Baby Brother also got a helmet and knee, elbow, and wrist pads.)

I won't be teaching myself to ride a unicycle anytime soon. Even if I was more interested in doing so, it's hard to make yourself learn new skills once you reach a certain age. There's no time, and for some reason the older you are, the more you get judged for starting something new.

I've been learning a lot just through life, though, especially this past year. Next week marks a year of serving as a Relief Society president, and that in itself has been a course in leadership, in teaching, and in so much more.

For example. I've always avoided making friends with girls who seemed really into hair, makeup, or clothes. Mostly because I assumed they wouldn't want to be friends with me. Which is odd, because I have friends and associates from all kinds of backgrounds, all of whom I respect and admire for various traits.

AWKWARD MORMON GIRL: We have different political views? We can still be friends!

AWKWARD MORMON GIRL: We have different religious views? Even up to the point of you actually hating my religion? We can still be friends!

AWKWARD MORMON GIRL: You wear eyelash extensions and I don't? We can never be friends! We're too different.

Sounds silly, but sadly not an exaggeration. Much.

Enter Vix, my second counselor. I've always thought she was pretty and stylish and cool, but she's a cosmetologist and always looks like she's about to star in a photo shoot or something. Out of my friendship league for sure. Being around her made me kind of nervous.

But you know what? It turns out that we have more in common than you would think. I consider her a friend now, and we've formed a great bond that means a lot to me.

I've come back to this post several times now, and I feel a need to add something thoughtful and wise to it. But what? "Don't do drugs, kids"? "Stay in school"? "Never eat a porcupine"? No, that's not it. Well, whatever wants to be said, hopefully it will come out tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Logic, Winnipeg, and the Electric Boogaloo

I told Little Sister that if she wanted another Ask Awkward Mormon Girl post, now was the time. She said okay, then sent the questions when I was sleeping at one a.m. on a Sunday morning.

• If six people were in a room and there were four flavors of potato chips, which type would the person on your left eat first?

Statistically speaking, apparently America's favorite chip is Cheetos. But I am not having that, so that's not my final answer, Alex.

I'm pretty sure that this puzzle is solved with logic. Like that riddle in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. You know "poison sits on the nettle wine's left side" and all that stuff. I'm going to run that through the logic part of my brain and get back to you.

• If you could pick one country to never take a cruise to, what would it be?

I was going to say Winnipeg as Winnipeg is landlocked. Too bad, because I'll never get to cruise there to enjoy their *Googles frantically* jazz festival and hot-smoked fish. But then I remembered that Winnipeg isn't a country. It's part of the country of Canada, which apparently you can cruise to if you live in New England.

So instead I'm going to say Andorra. To which you might say, "Where's Andorra?" to which I say, "Exactly."

• Should your sequel blog be entirely dedicated to posts about Little Sister?

Meh, I was actually thinking of something more along the lines of Alvin and the Chipmunks: the Squeakquel. I didn't particularly like that movie, but it did well enough for them to make two more, so.

I am also considering Awkward Mormon Girl 2: Electric Boogaloo.

• Better yet- should Little Sister write your sequel blog?

Sure. It can be ghostwritten. If you can find the time for that. (Spoiler: Little Sister is too busy to find the time for that.)

Little Sister

I've figured out the answer to the riddle.

The only time I can think of where I'd be in a room with five other people and also four kinds of potato chips is opening presents with my siblings on Christmas Day. Based on where we usually sit to open presents, the person to my left is Little Sister, who should be eating the Pringles that came in her own stocking first. Unless she's a stealer. In which case she might be eating the Pizza Pringles from my stocking.

Friday, September 14, 2018

My First Kiss Didn't Go Like This

I waited a really long time to tell this story.

It's a story of teenage mishap featuring the Chess Master. It involves dating, which I try not to talk about much on this blog. It just doesn't seem very nice to do so. However—this story is now over ten years old, plus the Chess Master is married with a kid, so it no longer seems mean-spirited to share it.

After a lot of fumbling through email, the Chess Master asked me to go with him to prom. It was the first date for both of us, so neither of knew at all what we were doing. Through more email fumbling, plans were made, plans which involved dinner and dance tickets and a fuchsia dress.

Neither of us had a driver's license. No matter. His parents would drive us.

The Chess Master was the son of one of my former teachers. She was a nice lady, but she was intense. The Chess Master was the youngest in the family, so she and her husband especially doted on him. They were very involved parents, in both good ways and bad.

I didn't mind that the Chess Master's parents drove us, but I didn't know what to say around them. Truthfully, I didn't know what to say around the Chess Master, either. We were friends but not really. Any chances we had to truly get to know each other were thwarted by the fact that we'd decided early on we liked each other. At least, I think that's what happened. I never received any true confirmation that he ever had a crush on me. I just know that I had a crush on him.

Anyway. We didn't know each other. I had not yet learned to talk to people I didn't know or any people, really. We spent a lot of time in silence during dinner...on the drive to the dance...during the dance...and on the drive home.

Oh, the drive home. During said drive, the Chess Master's mother started talking about kissing. I couldn't tell you quite how. I was staring out the window, looking at billboards in the dark, while the Chess Master chatted aimlessly with his mom. He must have said something quite correct to her, for she said something like, "Good job, Chess Master. You win a prize, and that prize is a kiss."

I kept my eyes on the billboard. Just that morning, the fact that I didn't know the Chess Master very well had hit home hard, and I was questioning all of my feelings for him. Even if I hadn't been, I was not interested in being kissed on the first date much less my first date ever. I was too young for that!

The Chess Master's mom backtracked. "A kiss from me! And your dad. And your sister. And the dog."

Yeah, whatever, lady. I said nothing. It didn't even occur to me that I should say something. (I have only just recently realized how socially inept I was as a teenager. I'm mostly better now. Though in some ways, I really haven't improved.)

Eventually, the super chatty parents dropped us off and told us they'd circle around the block. Um...okay.

The Chess Master walked me to the door. memory is a bit hazy here, but I'm pretty sure he didn't even make it up on the porch. I think he stayed on the lawn. Perhaps he'd realized how much I didn't want to be kissed. Which is commendable, but it didn't require him to stay ten feet away from me.

We awkwardly said goodnight, and I went inside and shut the door behind me. My mom inquired after the dance, and I explained that the Chess Master was waiting outside for his parents to pick him up.

"Well, you should ask him to come in!"

I cracked open the door. "Chess Master, did you want to come in while you wait?"

He said no, no, and then his parents showed up, and so the night ended with me dodging my first kiss.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Three Weeks with Blue Apron

After my initial experiment with food subscription boxes, I got a discount on three more weeks of Blue Apron, so I was able to learn some additional new recipes.

Week one, recipe one was Seared Chicken in Coconut-Peach Broth with Bok Choy & Jasmine Rice. It took almost exactly an hour to make and yielded three portions.

I'd never cooked with bok choy or fresh ginger or sambal olek before. The recipe said to add as much sambal olek as you liked depending on how spicy you wanted your dish. I smelled it, and I decided that I could handle it, so I added it all. THIS WAS A BAD DECISION. Overall, the taste of this dish was pretty disappointing. Even without spiciness, the ginger and garlic and coconut milk and peach and vinegar together would have just been too much

Week one, recipe two was Cavatelli & Shrimp with Summer Vegetables. This recipe took 35 minutes to make and gave me not two, not three, but four portions.

I'd only heard of mascarpone in desserts; I was curious about its role in this pasta. I'd also never had cavatelli. It has the thicker consistency of gnocchi, though it's made of wheat, not potato. Mixed with the cavatelli was shrimp, tomatoes, and zucchini. It was all delicious! If there's one thing food subscription boxes have taught me, it's that it doesn't take a ton of dairy and oil to make a delicious pasta sauce; Blue Apron provided only a smidgen of Parmesan cheese that was somehow enough for all four servings.

Week two, recipe one was called Seared Steaks & Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Summer Vegetables. It took about 50 minutes to make and had three modest servings.

When I opened the bag, I discovered that a tiny bottle of sherry vinegar had gotten all over everything! I had enough left over to make the recipe, and nothing was inedible, but it wasn't a nice surprise. These cuts of steak were nowhere near as good as the last Blue Apron steak I had—partly because of paranoia that I would overcook the steak. Which led me to under-cook the steak. Ah well. The garlic mashed potatoes were all right, though not as good as the restaurant-style recipe I usually make. The caper butter didn't taste like much (besides, well, capers in butter). Surprisingly, the real star of this meal was the summer vegetables. ("Summer vegetables" is apparently just code for "zucchini and tomatoes.") I'm planning to someday pair the veggies from this recipe with the steaks from my first Blue Apron steak recipe. They can replace the kale I didn't love.

Speaking of kale, week two, recipe two was Barramundi & Caper-Butter Sauce with Kale & Lentils. It took about 50 minutes to make and lasted for two meals. (I could have stretched it longer if I wanted to, but I didn't this time.)

I'd only had lentils one time before this: in a Moroccan restaurant in Epcot. They weren't black like these lentils, though, but a vague brownish color. I'd never had barramundi before, period. I'd frozen the shrimp from the last box and thawed them successfully, so this time I again ended up freezing the fish and thawing it later in the week. It thawed pretty well, with only a small portion that turned out chewy and tasteless. I had really high hopes for this meal, but they were disappointed. The ras el hanout spice wasn't bad, but overall I found I just didn't like the flavors of the fish, the lime, the butter, the capers, the seasoning, the onions, the lentils, and the kale together. Not my food aesthetic.

Week three, recipe one was a weird one called Cajun Shrimp & Corn Pancakes with Sautéed Summer Vegetables. To the best of my memory, it took about 50 minutes and produced three servings.

In this case, "summer vegetables" actually ended up being corn with a poblano pepper and tomatoes. I'd never prepared ears of corn before except to be boiled at my parents' house, so that was a new experience. The shucked corn went both into the pancakes and on the side. The pancakes were fun, but kind of weird. The best part by far was the shrimp, which was perfectly spiced and perfectly cooked. Good one, Blue Apron. As usual, I was chagrined that they had me put green onions on top for no reason. Nooooo.

Week three, recipe two was also a weird one called Spicy Pork & Rice Cakes with Bok Choy. If I'm recalling correctly (I stopped taking good notes in the second week), this one also took around 50 minutes and provided three meals for me.

This one included lots of ingredients that were new to me: soy glaze, black bean sauce, and gochujang. And the rice cakes, of course. The recipe told me to put in as much gochujang as I wanted for spiciness. I learned my lesson from the sambal olek and only put in half. Another new ingredient was crème fraîche, which Blue Apron said they added to take some of the heat out of the gochujang. Good call. Finally, of course, there were the rice cakes. These were a delight. They had exactly the taste and texture that I was expecting, and they were a delightful alternative to pasta. Overall, it was a very good dish! For some reason, it tasted a bit like a fancy, Asian-inspired version of a Hamburger Helper mix I liked as a teen.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Running Away From Your Problems Redux

So one time, I was thinking about going on a mission.

I knew a couple of people who were very dear to me but were really struggling. There wasn't much I could do to help, but both Older Sister and Best Friend Boy were on missions, and I could see how through their missions, they were able to help others with similar struggles. I'd never wanted to serve a mission, but I was suddenly overcome with a desire to go so that I could help people.

I wanted to finish school before looking into going on a mission (because I was pretty sure that if I quit school, I would never find it in me to go back). So I had a few years to think about whether to go. I did mention it in passing in a letter to Best Friend Boy, who responded some weeks later by saying that I should pray about it to see if that's what Heavenly Father wanted for me.

I was really annoyed by this. I was planning to pray about it, just not yet. It was a few years away!

However, being so annoyed, I decided I would pray right then and there, just so that I could write back to Best Friend Boy and let him know that I had. I was the only one home, so I knelt right down in the living room, and—

It was one of the most unmistakable prayers I've prayed in my life. I asked if I should go on a mission after graduation. I felt sickish and headache-ish. Well, what about right now? Still sickish and headache-ish.

Lovely. I asked a couple other questions, and I immediately felt pushed in a direction that didn't entirely make sense to me but that felt right. So be it.

A couple of years passed, and I found myself deeply entrenched in the path that had felt right. Only everything was going terribly. I was so frustrated and wondered if I'd interpreted what I'd felt correctly. Maybe I just wanted to walk down this path so badly that I'd manufactured feelings of confirmation. Madam President seemed to think so. Shortly before we were called to the Relief Society presidency, her serious boyfriend broke up with her. She hadn't been able to get over how badly she wanted to get back together with him until getting a blessing from a General Authority that she knew. The blessing laid out a different path for her life than she'd hoped. Then, ta-da, she got a job and got married and everything worked for her, and she was happy! She gave me the General Authority's number and recommended that I get a blessing from him, too. I knew she was hoping that my blessing, too, would tell me that I'd been wrong about the direction that my life was going to go and that I should do something else. I sat on the number for a year and then I decided to find out for myself.

The blessing was lovely, but it was also frustrating. It basically said that I could do what I want. It cast no aspersions on the path I'd been walking, which meant I was free to keep walking it if I so chose. Before the blessing, the General Authority also told me that I wouldn't get an answer before making a decision but that I should choose and then start moving forward with the choice. Then I'd get my answer.

Once again, lovely, but how to choose? I went straight from his home to a semi-solo trip where I pondered my options. I wrote a list of pros and cons and I studied and I thought.

In the end, I decided that whatever had (or hadn't) happened since then, there was a reason why I stayed, and it would be better not to throw that away. Once again, I choose to stay, and I'm glad I did. The following year was incredible. So many of the things that frustrated me righted themselves. Things were really looking up. In fact, the reason I felt I should stay seemed to be finally coming to fruition.

In December of that incredible year, I was stepping into the shower when I suddenly had a thought: "If you wanted to go on a mission, this thing will wait for you."

A third time: lovely. But I was honest: I didn't want to go on a mission now. Things were finally going well for me. Once again, I chose to stay.

I never felt like it was a mistake to stay. The thought was fleeting, anyway—not persistent the way important thoughts tend to be. However, over the next six months, my life got wild. So many things went wrong, and my reason for staying eluded me yet again. My eyes turned toward a mission once more, but it didn't feel right. I told my bishop as much shortly before he extended the calling of Relief Society president to me.

Everything was hunky-dory for a few months. Then came an Interpersonal Crisis that was literally one of my worst nightmares.

The great thing about the Interpersonal Crisis was that it eliminated one of the things I would have felt I was missing out on by going on a mission. Ah-ha! Almost immediately I began to wonder if now, at last, this was the time to go. Almost everything else in my life was going wrong, too, so it seemed like it was all screaming that I had nothing to lose by leaving. I thought about it, then talked to my bishop, then set a date to make a decision.

The date rolled around, and...found me recovering from appendicitis. Whoops. Obviously not a good time to make life-changing decisions, so I forewent it, but even after I recovered, I didn't know what I was feeling. At work, at home, in the temple, in San Diego—no real answer seemed forthcoming.

My stake conference came around, and with it forced interaction with the person with whom I was having an Interpersonal Crisis. Some time had passed, so—well, I don't know what I was thinking except that I knew this person was a good person and didn't believe they would double down on the way they'd treated me. But they did double down on it. I felt like I'd been slapped, and I left the building in a daze. All of a sudden, it became clear that if more of this treatment was in store each time I saw this person, I couldn't stay here. I remembered about what the General Authority said about making a decision and getting confirmation after moving forward. So be it. Every time I'd chosen not to go on a mission, things hadn't really worked out. What is it they say: that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? Time to do something different. I rushed to speak with my bishop the next day.

My bishop, a wise man whom I very much look up to, thought I would make a great missionary. We agreed to officially start the mission papers. However, he also said: "Don't go on a mission to run away from your problems."

Easier said than done. No matter the other reasons, the sole thing that allowed me to feel free to pursue a mission was how terribly my life was going. Those problems would be a catalyst regardless of anything else. I worked to resolve them as much as I could to make the decision-making process clearer, but they refused to resolve.

Meanwhile, as I filled out my mission papers, I felt terrible. I felt a sick feeling similar to the one I felt the first time I prayed about it. I didn't like talking or thinking about the mission even as I prepared in earnest. I knew in my heart that this wasn't right, but I was so tired of choosing to stay yet being so unsuccessful.

Things came to a head, and blessedly I was able to take a step back and say, "What am I doing? This doesn't make sense." I was just a few steps away from completing my mission papers, but I decided not to do so. The sick feeling went away. I knew I'd made the right decision. I wish I could say that things got better, but they're still pretty up in the air. I'm hoping for a couple of miracles, but in the meantime, I at least feel stronger and more able to deal with some things.

And that's how I almost ran away from all my problems.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

My New Kid

I guess Alexa has a brother.

Since school started, I've been getting calls to let me know that some kid named Antonio isn't showing up for class.

These calls are a little different—not in Spanish, and they don't tell me what grade mijo Antonio is in. But they appear to be coming from a similar, maybe even the same, number as two years ago.

I hope it's not a problem that their real parents aren't getting these calls!