Thursday, June 12, 2014

Back from the USSR.

Well, it's been a hot second since I updated this thing. 

A lot has happened since I left for Russia almost two years ago. Like...a lot. 

ALL THE THINGS HAPPENED since I've been gone.

To welcome myself back into the world, I've decided to do a little bit of a cleans, if you will. Basically, I'm just going to write down every thought that's been in my head since returning from the motherland.

1. American chocolate, mayonnaise, McDonalds, and tea are all awful comapred to their Russian counterparts.

2. I was really looking forward to Great Gatsby. I got 20 minutes in and coudn't stomach it. I guess this is what it feels like to get too old for roller coasters. Also, Skyfall. Longest 45 minutes of a movie that I ever sat through before walking away.*
*I attempted to watch these movies withing the first 72 hours of my return home when my attention span was anywhere between 20-45 minutes.)

3. Everyone got married or had a baby while I was gone. It's like the government, for the short time I was gone, became a distopian society where everyone was forced into martial unions and procreate. Those who did not married were sent on "humanitarian aid" trips to Africa. You're not fooling anybody...

4. My mac broke while I was gone. I've been forced to use my sister's HP in its absence (which I am very grateful for). I didn't realize how much I'd grown accustomed to Macs. I still find myself in Mac mode every once in a while.

5. Student loans are the worst. They're the living worst.

6. Women started wanting the priesthood since I left. I won't touch the issue- I think there are more angles to it than most people are aware, and I think there are problems on both sides of the fence that need to be fixed, but we wont even come close to solving those problems the way we're going now. 

7. Kimye...there ya go.

8. My sweet tooth is dead. I used to bake constantly, but I've baked MAYBE three times since being home. Now I crave meat almost exclusively. Thanks, Russia.

9. My first thought getting off the plane after being in almost-strictly-white Russia was "WHEN DID WE GET ALL THESE INDIANS?!"

10. It took me a month to finally learn what Vines were. And Snapchat. And Tinder. And Flappy Bird.

11.Americans as a general rule really don't have good fashion sense. Russian women would never be caught dead in sweatpants outside of their apartment. I still feel guilty walking into Wal Mart with sweats on.

12. Bill Murray is getting older. I think it will be the saddest day when he dies.

13. I've been relating too much to Lena Dunham lately. #24yearoldproblems

14. Hashtags are the second worst.


17. I have no idea what kind of music I like nowadays. I don't know what happened. It's probably due to the lack fo access to my music library on the Mac,but something's up.

18. The urge to speak Russian is ridiculous, and I know it's annoying as h*** to everyone around me. I really, really miss hearing it all the time though.

19. I got an ear infection in the MTC and as a result now crack my jaw. I'm really self conscious about it.


Overall, coming home is one of the most jarring, unnerving, confusing, coolest times of my life. The mission does a really good job of stripping you of what you were before the mission and making you find a whole new self in the work. It's a great experience ON the mission, but it makes getting back into regular life a pretty big trial. I've never felt more lost in my entire life, on so many levels. The cool part, though, is that I know it's only a phase. This is prime suffering time, right?

I hope so.

16. My children will not know what the internet is until they're fifteen

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Black Keys

Last night marked my first voluntary concert in my entire life.

I've been to two Jonas Brothers concerts (thanks to my sisters) and one Britney Spears concert (thanks to my cousin).

Last night, I saw the Black Keys, featuring the Arctic Monkeys.


The show was unbelievable. Everything about it was SO PERFECT. Our seats were three rows behind the standing room, center section. We had a clear shot of EVERYTHING. So good!

Actually SEEING Dan and Pat was incredible. They've been my heroes (particularly Dan) for years, and I've always, always, always wanted to see them live. I felt like a giddy little third grader watching them come on stage.

By the time they started playing "Howlin for You," I was completely gone. The guitars, the drums, Dan's voice, the lights-all of it was AMAZING. I was in love with it.

Some of the highlights, I guess, were "Ten Cent Pistol" where they decided to add a minute long silence before the song's last chorus (which they also did for "Little Black Submarines"). Then there was "Thickfreakness," where Dan went NUTS on guitar. "Lonely Boy," "Little Black Submarines," "Nova Baby," "Gold on the Ceiling," "Girl on my Mind," and "Tighten Up" and pretty much every other song were also awesome. Both Caitie and I were going crazy singing along.

The set list was as follows:

Howlin for You
Next Girl

Run Right Back
Same Old Thing
Dead and Gone
Gold on the Ceiling
Girl Is On My Mind
I'll Be Your Man
Your Touch

Little Black Submarines
Money Maker
Strange Times
Nova Baby
Ten Cent Pistol
Tighten Up
Lonely Boy

Encore: Everlasting Light, She's Long Gone, I Got Mine

The best, best, best part of the show, though, was right after "Lonely Boy" when Dan and Pat walked offstage. I was on such a high; I was screaming at the top of my lungs for about three minutes straight. The crowd kept going wild, then proceeded to get wilder. People were jumping up and down, chanting, yelling, clapping, "woo-ing." It was great. Then we see a giant disco ball rise behind the stage, and the crowd starts going even more nuts. THEN, out of the side of the stage we see them come back on stage-I was a fool by this point. I swear I've never cheered so hard in my life...

EXCEPT FOR WHEN THE DISCO BALL STARTED SPINNING AND REFLECTING LIGHT AND THEY PLAYED "EVERLASTING LIGHT," MY FAVORITE BALCK KEYS SONG OF ALL TIME. HOly jeez, I died. I just stood there in disbelief. I don't know if I could describe what it meant to me to see The Black Keys playing that song. I've probably listened to that song 10,000 times since I bought Brothers. He sang it so perfectly, too. His falsetto was so great. He became really hushed and stretched out the song and made it so sexy. And the way that man reached out into the audience when he sang-holy cow. He then proceeded to play "Long Gone" and "I Got Mine," which, if you've never heard this song, will bring down a house in two shakes.

Anyway, it was the best possible experience I could've had for my first concert. There was nothing about it I would have changed. They're geniuses. I'll love them until the day I die.

Well done, boys.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


After 3 months of waiting and delays, I FINALLY got my mission call.

I'll be serving in the Russia-Samara mission. I report to the MTC on July 17, 2012.

I'm so beyond excited; it would be impossible to explain how amazing I feel right now. This mission call is the answer to a LOT of prayers. I know you're not supposed to ask for specific missions, but I kept hoping that I would get a mission call that would mean something special to me, that I'd be able to make a connection with the people and the area itself. Russia was the perfect answer to those hopes. I've always loved learning about Russian history/culture, I studied the Russian language for a year during college, and I was also able to study Russian literature for a semester. I've always wanted to travel to Russia; now, I'll be living there for a year and a half. HOLY GEEZ!

Alright, here's the story of how this little mission call came to be.

It all started on Sunday, while Isaac was being set apart as a missionary. I got a really strong feeling that I would be serving in Eastern Europe, around Russia/The Ukraine area. When we went out to put Isaac's pin up on the Stake's missionary board, my Bishop noticed a long line of missionaries from my ward down the western coast of the Americas, all the way from Alaska to South America. There is also one elder from our ward serving in Singapore. My bishop said, "Annalee, we need someone in the middle. You're gonna have to fill that gap." I told him I'd work on it. That night, and in the days to follow, I kept getting the same strong feeling that I'd be going somewhere Slavic-speaking.

That brings us to Wednesday (yesterday).

I thought for sure the call would come yesterday. My younger brother entered the MTC yesterday afternoon, and I was really hoping to tell him where I was serving before he reported. I took off work so that I could watch for the mail, and then literally sat in front of a window for two hours, waiting for the mail to come. I skyped Caitie in a few minutes beforehand so that she could be there when I read the call to both her and Isaac. When the mail finally came around 1:00 pm, I ran out to the mailbox and was met with bills, a letter from my grandparents, and a newspaper that looked like it was printed by a five-year old. I was pretty distraught to say the least.

About 30 minutes later, I went to work and talked to one of my favorite 'coworkers,' Tony. We actually ended up talking about Russian; he took Russian in both high school and college, which is something NO ONE does. I told him about my own Russia-studies, and we traded a few choice Russian phrases before spending the rest of the afternoon emailing Hunger Games references to each other. It was exactly the afternoon I needed. None of this information is important…

THIS AFTERNOON is where it gets good.

I woke up later in the morning, hoping that I would be able to sleep until 1:00 pm and the mail would magically appear in the mailbox as I rolled out of bed. I walked upstairs, walked around aimlessly for a few minutes, learned "Be Still My Soul" on the piano, and then Lark and I camped by the front window. The mail came around 2:30 pm. Caitie called in on Skype, and only Lark, Mary Alice, and my mom were home. I ran to the mailbox, pulled out my mission call, and ran back inside in my pajama bottoms. The original plan for opening the call was to wait until later when my whole family could be there. Instead, my mom, Caitie, and my sisters all decided to yell at me until I opened it right then.

So, I did.

I read the letter silently to myself at first. When I read "Russia Samara," I could feel my eyes get really wide and my jaw drop. I was so, so, so happy. And shocked. As I read the letter out loud, all I heard was screaming and jumping up and down. Everything after that is kind of a blur. I called my brother's friend, James, so that he could tell Isaac in the MTC, then I called/emailed a bunch of different people. Each conversation made me more excited about going. Plus, it was nice to talk to people I hadn't talked to in a while about such great news.

After talking to people and wandering around my house in a daze, I went to the gym (screaming "I'm going to Russia!" in my car the entire way there), took my dog for a walk in the perfect Virginia sunset, took a shower, picked up my brother, and went back home for THE reading.

Around 9:00 pm, the rest of my family got together for the official announcement. I got a bunch of different predictions pinned down on a huge map on the dining room table (about 8 of which ended up being in Russia) and read the letter to my family and grandparents. I don't really remember anything about it but my dad yelling, "WAY TO GO, ANNALEE!" Then, I made the rest of my calls to various friends/family members to make sure my bases were covered. Afterwards, my family and I went to Chipotle (which is a mission call tradition in our family, apparently).

Now, a story that really has nothing to do with the mission call itself.

The universe has a way of blessing me with little experiences on days of importance. On my birthday, I met two elderly men in Los Angeles that made me feel like an ANGEL. They said I was wise beyond my years and that I was a very beautiful person, inside and out. It was the best. After I got my mission call, I headed to Shoppers to pick up a few things, and ran into a man at the self check out counter. He didn't speak any English, but motioned for me to help scan his groceries. I scanned, bagged, and loaded his groceries for him while he watched, and helped him pay when it was all done. As I left, he said, "You're very gentle. Thank you very much. Have a good night." It was really touching, actually.

And then I left Shoppers and shattered my phone's screen. But, since the universe is on my side, it's still functioning! Woohoo!

Now, for some fun facts about Samara, Russia.

-It's the largest mission in Russia, covering 3 different time zones.
-It includes Samara, the 6th largest city in Russia.
-There are no LDS Stakes in the Samara mission.
-Samara was once the home to Tolstoy and includes a Tolstoy museum.
-The record low temperature in Samara, Russia, is -40 degrees.
-The Samara mission borders Kazakhstan.
-My mission president, Brother Sartori, and his wife, have seven children, and both served in Russia themselves.
-The mission opened in 1990.
-If you look up "Russian food" on Wikipedia, the first section of the article details a cold soup made using sour milk, cucumbers, potatoes, and a boiled meat such as beef or fish. Neat!
-The full name of the area is Samara, Samarskaya oblast, Russia
-It's on the bank of Russia's largest river, the Volga River.
-It's got a circus AND a zoo.

I'm excited :)

Da svedania!

Sunday, March 4, 2012


If there's one thing my family does right, it's Sunday dinners. My family's always been kind of weird in a "coloring outside of the lines" kind of way, but for some reason it all comes to a head on Sunday nights. It's one of the things I'll miss most about my family once we all run off and get our own lives, and I love every single Sunday dinner I get to spend with my family while I'm home.

Tonight's dinner started out pretty regularly until we got on the subject of Mary Alice, my youngest sister, being a cat lady in the making after she commented on how much she loved her sweatpants. This was only the beginning. From there, we proceeded to come up with a bizarro-world version of everyone in our family. Now, reading this as an outsider won't do much since none of these are particularly funny unless you know my family/were at the table while these were being made up. I'm pretty much jut recording these for my own memory.

Mary Alice: The cat lady

-Has dozens of cats
-Names them all after British actors and historical figures
-Performs marriages on them in her spare time
-Grows her hair super long and braids it in the same brain every day.
-Loves sweat suits
-Changes her name to Heather
-"Doesn't hate" the taste of cat food

Lark: White Trash

-Lives in a trailer park
-Has infinite amounts of children. None of her children age past five years old, and she is somehow always carrying two children in her arms, and one in the chest pocket of her single-strapped overalls.
-Drives a bus that used to belong to the school district
-Is interviews on the news after every natural disaster, crying about her babies.
-In a relationship with Nate, who only uses her for her bus
-Children are constantly escaping
-Has a hook for a hand

Isaac: Mr. Mom

-Marries a Latina version of Mrs. Trunchbull
-Loves tupperware
-Gets involved with his wife's drug-dealing family, providing food for all their events.
-Clinton from "What Not to Wear"
-Wife keeps a box of chocolates he's not allowed to eat.

Annalee: The Annoying One

-Always trying to one-up everyone
-Wears gym clothes everywhere
-Marries a 90 year old man (Regis?)

Ben: Artistic Genius

-Crazy filmmaker that no one gets.
-70 nominations, 1 Oscar
-Speaks "frail." Or brail
-Muppet for an assistant
-Wears a swan to awards shows, has his muppet handle all interviews
-Works in a shack on his property
-Speaks in metaphors

Taylor: The fake Guru

-Lives on top of a ziggurat
-Has tried for years to finish a Rubics cube, but always has one square out of place
-Has a stash of twinkies and technology in a room in his Ziggurat
-Trained Honey to be a person
-Also speaks Frail to Honey.
-Gets Ben's movies
-Gives people advice from all over the globe

Mom: The Original Hippie

-Started Woodstock and is somehow in the corner of every Woodstock photo
-"Glorn, pie charts: square, man."
-Travels around with her oils
-Perpetually high
-Gets Taylor's movies as well.
-Makes fun of Dad for selling out

Dad: The History Teacher/Failed Comedian

-Act includes pie charts, powerpoints, historical comedy, and internet joke lists.
-Gives extra credit to his students for attending his act
-Constantly references his "wife" but really means his mother.
-Has his class fill out MadLibs, which he reads during his act.

That's about it. Like I said, you really had to be there. Or be in my family.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

EFF this.

As a Mormon kid growing up, I was always taught that swearing was a "no-no." Even though my dad swore, it was constantly drilled into our heads that "those words" were not nice, and that they should never, ever be said, and we believed it like it was our job. I still believe it-to a certain extent.

I can remember accidentally dropping the F-bomb while playing the name game with the cast of The Rugrats (Chuckie-co-buckie…Banana-fana-fo…) and crying for the next 10 minutes because I felt so guilty. I can remember the overwhelming guilt I felt when my brother thought he heard me say the word "damn" when, in fact, I was just speaking in a Scottish accent. I can remember watching Save the Last Dance with a friend at the movies and declaring afterward, "Well the movie with the most curse words award goes to THAT ONE." And every time I heard my dad swear, I felt a mili-second of actual, physical pain and embarrassment. Such was my do-gooder childhood mentality.

Since then, I've mellowed substantially. With high school, college, and an interest and film comes the ability to stomach just about anything. I've seen my fair share of sex, drugs, and rock n' roll, and most of it doesn't bother me in the least. Except for swearing.

It's not swearing in books, movies, or TV that gets me. In fact, I believe that a well-place curse word can be HILARIOUS. It can make or break a punchline. I've often wished that I swore on many an occasion, because it would make a good deal of my jokes and impressions a lot funnier. It's swearing in actual conversation that drives me nuts, particularly when I'm talking to a fellow Mormon/Christian. Every time someone around me swears, I still feel a twinge of embarrassment and, for lack of a better word, pain.

I've been asked several times why I have such a problem with it if I'm supposed to be this worldly English major that watch movies by Quentin Tarantino and understand that there's a world of language outside the Mormon Idaho/Utah bubble. It's something I've wondered myself. It's not fair that I choose to watch these movies and read books with foul language and then get on other people's case for swearing in front of me. What's with that, Annalee?

Well, the answer is this: it's not fair, really. I just expect a little more out of my friends who know better. I grew up in a household where swearing was off limits, but my Dad continuously swore, and I always resented it. I never thought it was fair (or responsible) that my father would teach us not to swear and then swear himself. And it wasn't just that- when my dad swore, he wasn't making funny jokes, he was angry. My dad wasn't saying curse words as part of a punchline, he was yelling them at my siblings and I. Those types of words were always coupled with slamming doors, yelling, and tears.

To this day, whenever I hear that type of language directed at me, or in my presence, I can feel all those emotions creeping back up. And it bugs the CRAP out of me.

So, my point is this: I choose to read books and watch movies that have swearing in them, but I would never ask someone to be submitted to that themselves, involuntarily. I don't see why, if you're in the company of ten people, and one of them might be made uncomfortable by the language you're using (and believe has certain spiritual ramifications yourself), you would choose to swear. It just doesn't make sense to me. It's inconsiderate and lazy (I mean, really, you can't find another word to express how much you really, really dislike homework/poorly-made chicken?). I don't think people would use "fag" in the presence of a gay person, or "nigger" in the presence of a black person-not saying crappy things in front of a Christian/Mormon person just seems like the next step. If I can hold back from dropping the B-word (my word of choice, were I the swearin' type) whenever I stub my toe or want to sound edgy, I think we all can. Amiright?

This rant isn't meant to accomplish anything more than to rant, really. Haha. Sooo there it it.

Peace out, Mother-fathers!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Learning stuff

Today marked the first day of Isaac and mine's daily mission prep. We've decided to start reading/studying together every morning before he goes off to the MTC in March. We've structured it like a companion study type of thing: we read separately, then talk about what we've read, then talk about what we'll teach. Isaac's begun practicing the discussions with one of the boys in our ward who just got called to Alaska.

Today, we went over the first discussion: The Apostacy and the Restoration, which is basically about how the power of God was taken from the Earth, then restored to it through the Prophet Joseph Smith. It lays out a lot of basic information about the church, then asks the investigator if they will commit to being baptized and hearing more about the church.

It's great hearing Isaac. He's got so much enthusiasm about going on his mission, and it shows. I'm so proud of him. He's going to make a great missionary. Honduras is going to be lucky to have him.


That's all I got for now.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Elder Sine

Well, tonight was the night.

After over a year of waiting, Isaac was able to open up his mission call tonight. It was one of the coolest experiences my family's ever been able to share with each other, but especially for Isaac. Isaac's spent the whole of 2011 preparing for his call--getting himself temple worthy, learning the discussions, reading the Book of Mormon, teaching with the Young Men in our word. He's become twice the man he was a year ago, so it was especially rewarding to see him get what he's been working for, for so long.

Anyway, it all began yesterday morning. I was walking upstairs and heard the mailman drive by. Since we'd been waiting for the letter for so long, I was pretty on edge. I ran outside (in shorts, sans makeup and shoes), opened the mailbox, saw the letter, let out a "skreeeeeee!," ran inside, and handed the letter to my brother. We did the obligatory, "Oh my gosh, this is crazy," then I ran to call my mom. Isaac proceeded to call all of his friends, and we tried setting up a time that night when he could open up his call in front of everyone.

When we thought we'd arranged everything for that night, we hit a snag. Our oldest brother, Taylor, lives in Falls Church, about 30 minutes away, and couldn't make it on account of having to work. Isaac became pretty stressed trying to decide whether or not to open the call without him, an eventually decided to wait until the next day (today).

Which brings me to about 4 hours ago. Isaac invited a few deacons over to see the call being opened, and about 3 showed up. He also had friends sending in predictions via text message. We got everyone's predictions down on a huge map of the world on our dining room table, then proceeded to make calls to all of Isaac's friends at BYU, my friends, and grandparents. We put them all on speaker as Isaac ripped open the envelope.

Isaac looked through the letter silently before he said anything. As he read through the letter, his eyes got really wide. We all knew he wasn't going to Podunk, Idaho. Then, he started reading that all important first sentence: "Elder Sine, you have hereby been called…" and started choking up a little bit. He took a huge breath and blurted out, "HONDURAS SAN PEDRO SULA MISSION." We all let out a bunch of yips and "WOWs." Then, Isaac let out an Indian battle cry out of nowhere.

The rest of the night was full of googling Honduras EVERYTHING and going out to Chipotle, which was the closest we could get to Honduran food. Now, I'm sitting here thinking about how Isaac will be reporting to the MTC in exactly two months from now, then on to HONDURAS, and I won't see him for 2 years. It's such a strange thought.

Reading the letter has also got me thinking about my own call. I still have a ways to go with my papers, but this has given me the boost I need to really focus on them. And there's something about hearing your little brother being called as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that makes you REALLY want to be a part of spreading the gospel. I'm so, so, so excited.


Alma 37:31-14. I smile so big every time I read this.

That's all I got.