Monday, December 27, 2010

My nickname.

In the spirit of giving I've decided to clear up an often confusing feature of this blog -- my display name.

When I decided to document my life for the world I thought it would be prudent to write under a semi-false identity -- a pseudonym, a nom de plume...a literary nom de guerre, if you will. A proverbial mask for my civilian identity. As if I were a superhero...who publicizes her superheroic exploits. And I don't think I need to assure you that my exploits are superheroic.

Ahem.

To be more direct, several years ago my parents adopted two boys from Ukraine. I called them The Russians, they pronounced my name Loh-rra and thus a nickname was born. Plus, Lohra Miller ran for District Attorney sealing the form of this nickname forever. Yes, I have a nickname that is merely an alternate spelling of my actual name...what?


Here's a brief video for documentation.
video

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Ho Ho Home.

I am from an out of the way place known as the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The U.P. The Siberia of the Midwest. Home of "da Yoopers, eh?"

There are a lot of rednecks up here. And trees. And deer. And the largest population of Finnish people. And their accents.

This Christmas my brother invited me to go ice fishing with a couple of his buddies and I felt obligated to go. As a regional experience. I felt ashamed as an official Yooper never having been, you see.

...I don't recommend it.

We sat around for 4 hours in the semi-cold and caught two tiny fish...which might be fine had we been hanging out in a sweet canoe on a pretty, warm pond or in the middle of a lazy river...but probably not even then, actually.

It turns out I don't care for fishing. At all. Surprise, right? I would much rather be doing something else...anything else. Like stunt sledding, for example!

...and by stunt I mostly mean leaping off a sled as it goes off a jump.

Yeah.

It didn't always go so well.

Attempted Superman + leap frog = random awesome times at the Shearer household.

Merry freaking Christmas.

I mean that.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hypochondriac.

Now, I'm not generally a very dramatic person. Whether you agree or not is irrelevant. I want you to know that what I am about to tell you is not commonplace.

There are times, especially with regard to my physical health, that I default to the most extreme explanation. Random splotch on my face? Skin cancer. Small toes? Oxygen deprivation at birth. Can't run? Asthma. Headaches? Brain tumor. Migraine? Stroke. Except that one was legitimate. What would you think if your arm and half of your face suddenly went numb? That's what I thought.

Anyway, it's kind of a weird anomaly of my personality. Oh, I'm sure there's an explanation -- probably a result of something my parents did to me as a child. Or didn't do. Or maybe it goes back even farther than that...

My dad was out here this week. My 80-something year old grandmother, Gigi, had been staying with my family for a few months and it was time to bring her back home. We were sitting around my aunt's living room chatting when my uncle received news of someone who passed away. Lou Gehrig's disease. A degenerative nerve disorder. Almost as an aside, a quiet thought out loud, my grandma said, "Well...there's something wrong with my nerves..."

And...it may not be funny to you but I laughed so hard I cried. It was the most...ridiculous statement. As if someone somehow missed the fact that she had a progressive and fatal neurodegenerative disease. "Whoa! How'd you get THAT?!"
There she is.

Gigi, thank you for helping me become the woman I am today. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm feeling a little fatigued...I think I have mono.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wave of the future.

So I've been updating my resume in an effort to get a real job and I think that resumes should be used a whole lot more than they currently are.

Think about it, it's a wonderfully brief synopsis of your life -- albeit your scholastic and professional life -- but it could be the perfect answer to some of the most annoying questions in superficial social situations.

"So...what's new?" "What's new? Here's a current copy of my resume. That's what's new."

Or, "Tell me about yourself." "Eh, I'd rather not. Here, read this." Immediately, perfect strangers are aware of your most notable computer skills as well as your GPA. Best foot forward I always say.

Always.

The typical resume could also be expanded to church and dating spheres. Instead of having to fill out information about your previous callings, just hand the bishop your ecclesiastical resume.

"Assistant to the Executive Secretary: Responsibilities include 'being a female presence', carving ice sculptures for bishopric meetings, and running the ward behind the scenes.

False Doctrine Teacher: I think this one is self-explanatory, really. Weird that they would give me this calling but I did what I could with it.

Sacrament Speaker Coordinator: ...it turns out I've only ever held made up callings."

Interested in some tantalizing specimen? Uh huh, marriage resume -- well stocked with several of your most photogenic moments of course.

Something like this would probably suffice.

"Astrological sign: Aries.
Pioneer heritage: Extensive.
References: Available upon request."

Suddenly all the world is an internet dating site.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I choose LIFE!

I just spent the last hour distracted by myself -- reading old posts on my blog. I have been blogging for 3 years now (a hearty thank you for those few of you who have continued reading) and it's been interesting to notice changing perspectives, repeated themes...and jokes, and to remember what life was like before I promptly forgot all the minor details.

Several years go, when I still loved reading but hated writing, I was a very sad girl...naturally. I woke up a lot of mornings choosing to have a bad day and would firmly resist all efforts to cheer me up. I saw these efforts as false and superficial. Happiness meant vulnerability. Hope meant inevitable disappointment.

I have since realized what a terrible way this is to live -- in constant discouragement because of potential despair. Such a half life. Such a dreary life.

Lately, I've been thinking about a passage from Les Miserables. I think about it often enough that I have sought to commit it to memory. Victor Hugo begins his 1200 page novel with a chapter entitled "A Just Man" - a description of a bishop. Monsieur Charles-Francois-Bienvenu Myriel. About Monsieur Myriel, Hugo says many things but this, I think, is one of the most profound:

"He did not seek to efface pain in forgetfulness, he sought to elevate it and to dignify it with hope...to transform the grief that gazes on the freshly dug grave by showing it the grief that gazes up at a star."

Hope is not an empty promise. It is not naive. It is light and solace and deliverance.

I don't quite know how to do what Hugo is talking about - not for you, not really for me - but I've tried it both ways and so far, choosing happiness is better.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Season confusion.

It felt like winter today. You know those mornings when you wake up and the light is brighter because it's reflecting off of snow and the air is crisp and cold? You immediately want to rally the troops and go sledding or maybe just open all your blinds, curl up with a good book and some hot chocolate and look out at the beautifully laden trees. I don't love winter by any means...but some of its days I can appreciate - like right after a storm, when everything is glitteringly pristine and you feel somehow that the only appropriate thing to do is just stand there and admire, that the slightest sound would be sacrilege, and the smallest movement would be profane; or on days lit up by twinkling Christmas lights swaying to the tunes of Bing Crosby, Burl Ives, and Mariah Carey when all you can think about is hanging out all day in your pjs with your family.

Winter is not without its positive sides, but for now I'm glad it's not here. I have too many other things to enjoy first - like going into the canyon and shooting potato guns.

video

I was a little scared to do it because this was the result of one of our first efforts. Watch his right hand. Sorry about the scream...

video

I was going to say something about how I'm going to Huntington Beach this weekend just in case winter is, in fact, imminent...but it turns out it's actually going to be warmer here than it is there. Nothing like playing beach volleyball in mucklucks and a hoody, right?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

EngiNERD

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Studying engineering is not glamorous. At least not for girls. Yeah, ok, and for most guys as well. Do you know how little people want to hear about my studies? I never get the question, "What are you learning about?" There is no interesting answer to that question. The best it will get this semester is reading a book for my ethics class called, "Truth, Lies, and O-Rings: Inside the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster." On closer inspection, though, you'll realize it's merely 600 pages of this:

"Our conclusion that the primary O-ring in the nozzle of STS-51B had never sealed in the first place seemed to be well supported by the nature of the O-ring erosion we had observed and by the analytical model developed for predicting O-ring erosion. The erosion pattern on the O-ring was distinctly different from anything we had observed before, and there was evidence of hot gas flow around the entire cross section..."

Oh, we're done. Come back. Looks like your eyes glazed over there a little.

Except, here's the thing, I am actually interested in this stuff. Oh, I'm not passionate about it. I don't plan on taking apart an industrial printer and using the parts to rig a card scanner to my front door like one of my classmates wants to. I don't write computer code in my free time. I'm about as bored with the book as I presume you were. But I find myself mildly fascinated. Plus, I laugh at things like this: So in lieu of actually changing my career path (AGAIN) I've decided I need to come up with an alluring cover story. As if I were a CIA operative. Maybe I should be a tropical island caretaker who's completing the climbing program at the U. Maybe I should be a rehabilitated Nazi who loves volunteering at the local library for children's book hour. Perhaps - and I would actually love to do this - I could be a stunt double...that also teaches community breakdancing classes in the evenings. Or maybe I AM a CIA operative and "engineering student" IS my cover story.

Think about it.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Ich bin zurück.

Now that I have returned from Europe I am finding it difficult to know what to say. I wasn't sure the blogging world would want another overindulgence in photographs. So instead I will overindulge you in adjectives. Italy was...how does one describe a place like that? It has history, it has art, it has Swiss guards dressed up like clowns (awesome clowns with swords) and old men riding the bus in nothing but dirty button up shirts. I'm serious, nothing but. Italy was amazing, exhausting, beautiful, delicious, stunning, sweaty, adventurous, hilarious, stressful, thrilling, fascinating, going, going, going. It was Venice, Florence, Siena, San Gimignano, Cinque Terre, Rome, Naples, Pompeii, and Sorrento. It was long but it wasn't long enough. It is everything you dream about and more. And now I am back.
Oh Italy.

Within 48 hours of returning to my now musty home I started school, my job, and received a new calling in the ward - Assistant TO THE Executive Secretary. I am the Dwight Schrute of the bishopric. So that's my excuse for my extended absence. If excuses were needed. "I did not become a Lackawana County volunteer sheriff's deputy to make friends. And by the way, I haven't."

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Wrapping up.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, my summer here in Germany is coming to a close. I won't bore you with tales of how AMAZING and life changing it's been. I will merely load this post with pictures and brief synopses. Suffice it to say, for the last three months I both lived in Germany and read Les Miserables and I'm not sure which affected me more. If you've experienced either you know what I'm talking about.

Surprisingly, I was able to visit everywhere on my 'travel to' list and then some. You've already heard about a few of these so bear with me.

Chiemsee: My introduction to the world of King Ludwig.Schloss Linderhof and Garmisch-Partenkirchen: Germany as I have yet to see repeated.
Berchtesgaden: Wienerschnitzel, an awesome gorge, and a parish church I was obsessed with.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Nuremberg: Rothenburg is a well-preserved medieval town and looks too amazing to be real. I watched a traditional wedding there and bought my first German souvenirs. I kept resisting the urge to yell out, "I LOVE THIS CITY...er, TOWN...er, TINY MEDIEVAL VILLAGE COMMUNITY!!!"I hustled through Nuremberg in less than an hour and regret not trying to go to Hitler's Zeppelintribune despite being told it was closed. I also regret not stopping long enough to take any good pictures.Schloss Neuschwanstein: Lederhosen and dirndls - need I say more?The Black Forest, Switzerland, and Ulm: The best part about the Black Forest was going to Freiburg im Breisgau, apparently the last stop for Marie Antoinette before going to France. If you've seen more than three trees together in one place in Germany, you've seen the Black Forest. In Basel, Switzerland I got totally ripped off but I did dip my feet in the Rhine...which didn't make up for a 35 Euro lunch at all. In Ulm I climbed the tallest church steeple in the world. I also tried to take epic pictures of myself...for an embarrassingly long period of time.Heidelberg and Frankfurt: An awesome location for a romantic little getaway. If anyone's looking.Vienna: We got into this city pretty late and were starving but I couldn't stop walking around because I kept getting distracted by things to see! The highlights were Schoenbrunn Palace, the central cemetery, and listening to Mozart's Requiem in an early 18th century church.Prague: Such a European city. Such an awesome city. They even set off fireworks for Pioneer Day.Salzburg: Combine The Sound of Music, Mozart's birthplace, an 11th century fortress, awesome churches, and the Alps and you get one of my favorite European locations. I think my feelings are best expressed by this one image.Pay no heed to the expression on my face, I'm afraid of heights.

Now I just need to successfully complete a 2 week vacation in Italy with my sisters and I'll be home. See you soon, America!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Night at the opera.

I have a friend who is an opera singer for the Bavarian State Opera at the Nationaltheatre Muenchen. I didn't spell it incorrectly, that's what it's called. She's totally legit. If you google her name, you actually get pictures of her and a link to her very own webpage. You google me and you're directed to a page where you can buy Mediterranean sea salts.

One night I went to see her perform in Donizetti's L'elisir D'amore. She got me this sweet seat in the 7th row just a little off center.
You see?

That area behind me is the king's loge - the best seat in the house apparently. I don't know, we snuck in there once when my friend was giving us a tour and those seats were just as comfortable as mine.

I am by no means a classical music connoisseur. In fact, growing up, I was quite the opposite of that. I would complain loudly every Sunday when my parents turned it on. I had good reason to, classical music irked me so much I couldn't feel the spirit. I've grown up a little bit though, guys. I managed to avoid throwing my head back, going limp, and moaning, "I'm BO-RED," through the entire performance. I quite enjoyed it, actually. I had never heard of Donizetti or of his elixir of love. Without having read a description of the story line I tried to piece together what little English disguised as Italian I could make out and what few English words with umlauts I could read in order to get a small idea of what was going on. Mostly I just watched and listened and tried to laugh when everyone else did.

During intermission I rushed off to refresh myself with some gelato. On my way back, as I was crossing the street to the opera house, I suddenly heard someone yelling my name. Weird. No one knows me here. Looking up, I saw my friend waving at me from her dressing room, "Come up!" "Really? Can I?" I thought you people needed to focus and practice and stuff not relax and chat with friends. Oh well, if you say so! She ushered me in secretly through the artists' entrance. I had her fill me in on what the heck was going on and then she told me that the lead tenor was sick and they had flown in a replacement only a few hours earlier. Since he'd had no rehearsal he had no idea where he needed to be on stage. What a night! There was singing, there was acting, there was improvisation! There were busts coming alive trying to save an ancient Egyptian tablet with a night guard played by Ben Stiller...!! Wait...hehe...nevermind, that's...something else.

During the second act, I heard a song - a piece? an aria? una romanza? - that I recognized. I knew it must be the highlight of the opera because, well, I recognized it, but also because an audible stillness settled over the audience once it began.







I had heard it before...but I had never HEARD it before. I was listening now. I was listening hard. I can't stop listening now. When it was over there were shouts of "BRAVO!" and people stamped their feet in approval. Seriously, stamping! This wasn't a high school assembly. Old ladies in evening gowns and too much perfume put high heels to ground in ardent applause. Yes, they did.

When the show was over I clapped until my hands started to bleed and then tried to sneak backstage. The sentries posted everywhere made it impossible so I wandered outside to the artists' entrance again, waited until the guard was distracted by people getting programs for the artists to sign, and hurried through the door. I enthusiastically congratulated my friend and then walked back outside with her where people asked HER to sign their programs. Or to sign pictures of her face. How do I get lines of fans to wait for me after a long day of computer programming? How do I get lines of fans at all? "Excellent performance there, Laura. The way you defined that function...absolutely gorgeous." "You look much better in real life than in your role as a programmer." Yes, well, anyone would, that task makes people smack their faces into walls and rip their hair out. Some people just have it better than others, I guess.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hannelore Hoffmann.

I live with an old lady. And her bird.
Hannelore Hoffman is a pretty typical old lady. Her house is covered in knickknacks and lace, she owns a computer but doesn't know how to use it, she watches soap operas all day and removes her teeth at night. I think. That last part has been an ongoing investigation for me. Her son appears to enjoy live action role playing.When I arrived, Hannelore was very accommodating. She encouraged me to make myself at home. She would randomly make me food and we would sit across the table, smile awkwardly, and teach each other words: Löffel - spoon, Gabel - fork, gestorben - dead. Things like that. For the more important stuff we would use google translate, which she insisted refer to her with the informal 'you'. She let me use her computer whenever I wanted (you remember the whole laptop fiasco, no? The good news is I finally got it back...a week ago. Laptop and fiasco will forever be associated in my mind). She makes cakes topped with fruit all the time and will sometimes save me a slice.
Looks like a good time, huh? One day in mid-June she gave me a letter which I assumed had been translated for her by a friend. Among a list of rules to keep and a notice that rent was two weeks late and if it was late again I would have to move out, the letter said, "Her computer is not for your use! The agreement is to bring your own laptop, using her internet plug. Now you're using her computer instead. This is an absolute NO GO! Remember, Sister Hoffmann has opened her home to you - a total stranger. Show your respect and appreciation by following the rules."

Uh...oh. Sorry? I spent a day fuming/feeling devastated and a week avoiding going home and then found out that her friend had written it and Hannelore hadn't known what it said. Huh? Why? Seriously, why? I couldn't figure it out.

THEN, a couple weeks later, some German dude moves in. Echt - really. He's 30, he's awkward, and he likes playing games. Love games? Computer games. The current living situation is Oliver in Hannelore's room and Hannelore in the living room with Koko Gabor (that's the bird). A quick aside about Koko. This bird isn't caged and covered at night. No, no. Hannelore coos and cuddles it before putting it to bed in its mini wooden house where it stays quietly until anyone moves about at which point it shrieks its crazy head off. Repeatedly. The same goes for when it is actually caged - in the case of no one being home for long periods of time. Sometimes I can hear it down the flight of stairs as I leave. Try to sleep with a monster like that in your home. It is quite possible that I've thought of killing it more than once.

Look! It's my room.
This is where I found Oliver one day when I got home from school. He was using the internet on his laptop. I turned right around and walked out of the house...and started locking my door. Actually, I started locking my room after he asked me out. I assure you the date didn't happen. It couldn't happen. I would never let it happen. Fortunately, I was going out of town and after he asked what he could do to get a girl like me interested and I responded, "Er, uh, hehe, I don't know? I don't have an answer...sorry," he never approached the subject again. Poor guy.

So, lately, I spend a lot of time in my room, I pretend like I understand what Hannelore is saying - although now she mostly tells me I'm closing the door the wrong way or putting the wrong dishes in the sink, and I try to avoid my live-in boyfriend. Alles klar!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Skipping forward.

I'm brushing over a few things in order to tell you about this last weekend. Not because it's pressingly noteworthy, just that it's the most recent thing I've done.

The program that sent me here also sent 350 other students from Canada, the US, and the UK to different cities around Germany. This last weekend we all gathered in Heidelberg for a conference. Three hundred 20 year olds and me. They all used it as an opportunity to meet new friends and party. I used it as an opportunity to sight see for free with my by myself.The second night we were there was the first opportunity I had to wander around - I went up to the castle overlooking the Altstadt, walked across the river until the lights abruptly shut off at midnight (I was actually in the process of taking a picture...setting the camera up, getting the shutter speed just right...when all of a sudden nothing was lit up anymore. Well, guess it's time to go back to the hostel!) - and I kept running into groups of students, with whom the exchange repeatedly went like this:
"Hey, what are you doing?"
"Oh, just wandering around."
"Who are you with?"
"No one, it's just me."
"Oh..."
And no one knew what to say after that, like it was the strangest thing to do. Maybe it was to them. But, what the heck, I SAW THE CITY AND I DON'T HAVE TO EXPLAIN MYSELF TO YOU.

Yeah.

When I was up at the castle, which is in a small state of ruin, I started hearing really angry yelling. A lot of it. Then I heard horrendous, horrendous screaming. I seriously thought someone was being killed inside - in a most terrible way - but no one else seemed put out by it so I just continued to wander around...cautiously...and subsequently found out that Hamlet was being performed in the inner courtyard. Riiiiight. That didn't stop me from being super creeped out when I was walking back down the dark, deserted stairs to the city.That morning we had been separated into groups in order to go on company visits. I went to Bosch. We saw way more car stuff than washing machine stuff...which surprised me. We tested out some virtual driving simulation and rode in a car on the test track as it demonstrated how terrible driving is without anti-lock brakes - we spun out almost 4 complete turns. On a wet surface comparable to snow, the difference in stopping distances between ABS and no ABS was about 1:10. I may be exaggerating that a little, but I was way impressed.
I'm the nerdy looking Indian kid in the yellow shirt.

Then we went to the Porsche Museum. I was with a whole crew of other mechanical engineers so they were super excited and taking pictures and way bummed they couldn't buy anything from the souvenir shop...and I kind of got swept up in all of it...until I realized I didn't actually care that much. Now I have all these pictures of cars that I don't know what to do with.After a guided tour of the city and the castle the conference was over. A lot of people stayed an extra night but I took off to Frankfurt in the hopes of going to the temple. An hour and a half later, after a sweaty walk through the small town of Friedrichsdorf, I found it. Tired, hot, and relieved, excited to be there I pulled on the door. I pulled again.

Locked.

Poo.

It had closed just a couple hours earlier. No, I didn't check what hours it was open, no I didn't. Of course I should have. I took a quick picture and then wandered through Frankfurt for an hour before catching the train back to Munich. Oh well.It was consoling to know that I could have watched all three movies of the Twilight saga in one sitting.