Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Well good, 'cause I cleaned it before I left this morning. I even made my bed. And while we're at it, I have no intention of opening a present on Christmas Eve this year. I am wearing the PJs I got last year. There is still some baking to be done. There is always some baking to be done. If you've ever spent time in my home or in my life, you will know that there is always baking that can be done. And baking that can be done, should be done.
This is just a sampler of Christmas Eve day in the Pratt household. I don't know that it will be that way anymore. But here's the routine:
Get up early, because Santa doesn't come until the house is clean.
Dad, can we open a Christmas present tonight? Just one? NO.
Eat breakfast, probably cinnamon and rice or perhaps oatmeal with half a pound of brown sugar on it, preferable something hot, since it's COLD outside.
Last minute big grocery shopping trip, don't forget to pick up a few stocking stuffers and obsess over any presents you aren't sure of yet.
Dad. can we open a present tonight? Just one? NO.
Mom starts handing out present wrapping assignments. Frequently I end up wrapping everything that isn't for me. Someone else gets the job of wrapping presents to me.
Dad gets in on the present wrapping assignment-ing. I wrap mom's presents too.
Santa doesn't come until the house is clean, do a ten-minute-on-each-room cleanup. Include vauuming.
Dad, can we open a present tonight? Just one? Quit asking.
Start baking some stuff. Mom usually starts a massive amount of bread dough (for rolls, pull-apart bread, lemon bread, and fresh loaves as well.) Someone else starts some cookies, I put the cake in for my Bouche de Noel- American style.
Dad sees the mess in the kitchen: "Santa doesn't come until the house is clean!"
We clean up the mess and start baking again. We realize halfway through the next treat that we need more chocolate chips, Sweetened condensed Milk, Evaporated milk, coconut, graham crackers, flour, sugar, cream, butter, almond bark, and anythign else the grocery store carries that isn't remotely healthy for you.
We go on a second last minute grocery store run.
We continue baking something. Lunchtime is past, everyone is snacking on whatever is baking in the kitchen, finding something healthy becomes a fend-for-yourself kind of occasion. I usually go with tomatoes and Cottage Cheese. Then I return to the Bouche. It is baked and cooled, now it is time to roll it up with pudding in the middle.
Dad, can we open a present tonight? Just one? No.
Santa Doesn't Come Until The House Is Clean. It's beginning to sound like a sick holiday song. I'm gettin' nothin' for Christmas, Brazillian Sleigh Bells, and Santa Doesn't Come Until The House Is Clean.
Speaking of Holiday Songs, someone has turned off the radio/CD player and started on the piano. They take requests. Inevitably, Aaron pounds out Brazilian Sleigh Bells for a while, then he wanders off and someone else wanders over. At some point, I and one of my sisters attempt Brazillian Sleigh Bells as a duet. It sounds worse, but is way more fun. Interspersed are snippets of Haendel's Messiah and "I Want a Snake for Christmas" A couple of us do a fantastic impressions of the chipmunks.
"Nancy, come sing this one."
"Mom, get out your accordian"
"That one sounds best on the French Horn"
"Hey, I learned that on the violin when I was inthe 5th grade..."
"The violin is broken."
"It takes more skill to play *insert brass instrument here* than it does to play *insert woodwind or string here*"
"Oh yeah, you couldn't even get a sound out of the Saxophone"
Dad, can we open a present tonight? Just One? NO.
"Who would want to get a sound out of the saxophone?"
"Nothing is as bad as when Nancy was learning the oboe."
End argument. That's true.
The baking continues in the kitchen while the instruments continue in the living room.
SANTA DOESN'T COME UNTIL THE HOUSE IS CLEAN.
Dad lays down in the middle of the living room floor and takes a nap. The "music" from every musical instrument we own continues.
Carolers? I'm surprised we even heard the doorbell! Wait, that means its late. Somebody throw a casserole in. Tuna or enchilada? Whatever we have the ingredients for.
Dad wakes up. Santa doesn't come until the house is clean. We eat dinner (late) and finish cleaning. Can we open a present tonight? Please? Just one?
Yay. Pajamas? It's a Christmas miracle! Everyone puts their pajamas on.
Dad reads Luke 2. The house is clean. There is still some bread to be baked. There is always baking to be done.
Go to bed. This year, you aren't allowed up until at least 8:30.
We all know the truth. We will hear dad pacing by 5:30. By 7, we will hear the song calling us to race up the stairs. But for now, we will pretend to believe it and moan and groan about it. So we go to our rooms. Aaron turns on some more music. Tab choir or that old Harry Simone Chorale recording. Either way, we fall asleep to the sounds of Oh Come All Ye Faithful and Hark the Herald Angels Sing. Aaron and I are the last to fall asleep. We snicker at the things that our sisters say in their sleep. And I know that the best part of Christmas is over.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
I know that as a 32 year old woman I shouldn't believe in you anymore. I know that by now I should be playing Santa for a bunch of kids or at least be a disgruntled grinch. But I can't bring myself to give up on you. I am aware that many of my family and friends will judge me to have a few screws loose for this, I can already hear the whispers behind closed doors about me being as crazy as Aunt Elaine. It doesn't matter. The fact is, I still believe in you. And I was hoping to chat with you about a few things. I recognize the unconventionality of posting my letter to you here on my blog. But I figure if you get all of the other letters addressed to you, then this one will come to you somehow as well. And I wanted to post it here, because I have decided that I am not going to hide my "crazy" anymore. If you get a minute to read any of my other entries, you will see that my crazy is gradually coming out in the open for everyone to see.
I should clarify that this is in no way a wish list. If you happen to be super busy with wish lists right now, then I understand if you need to put this letter down and focus on the wishes of children until after the big day. It's more important that they learn to believe in you. I'm good, I can wait. I promise to still believe in you next year too. And probably for many years after. You can count on me.
I was just thinking about some of the fantastic times we've had together. Sure, it wasn't necessarily together in the same room sort of a sense, but in that emotional way that happens when two spirits impact each other's lives. Do you remember that Christmas in Virginia, with the cousins and the red pajamas and the barbie makeup that Heather and I put on the dog? There isn't a time when I put on makeup without remembering that. We got in HUGE trouble. And I was told I wouldn't be allowed to wear makeup until I was 18. Do you remember my first Christmas with snow? I do. I still think of it every time it snows. And it was a Christmas morning when I first got Nikki, my bird, who I keep a picture of in my journal. And it was Christmas when I got the homemade cabbage patch dolls and the Light-Brites and the games. But I don't remember those things because they were great presents (there were great presents, weren't they?) I remember them for the things that I learned at receiving them. Like the Christmas when I got dishes and I realized it was because it was time for me to make my own home. Those are the things that I wanted to talk to you about. You've taught me some pretty intense lessons via Christmas presents over the course of my lifetime. Thanks for that.
This is all coming up because I noticed that they released a 25 year anniversary Cabbage Patch Doll. I was very excited to see it. It took all of my self-control to not buy one for each of my nieces. I realized as I was wandering around Target with three of them in my cart that it wasn't my neices that would appreciate the doll. I was spending the entire time thinking about how my mom must have slaved to make the homemade ones because there was no way that my parents could afford a $60 doll for each of their daughters. And part of me was lamenting the fact that I never got a real Cabbage Patch Doll. And part of me was grateful for the lesson that I learned. And part of me was realizing that I didn't so much want a Cabbage Patch Doll as I wanted to recapture some of the childhood that has been slipping away over the past few years.
We have alot of stuff nowadays. I can't go into a store without feeling the urge to push entire shelves worth of junk into the nearest garbage bin. Especially in the "seasonal promotions" aisle. How many more musical electronic Santas climbing a ladder by a Christmas tree while playing irritating high pitched synthesized jingle bells tunes does the world really need? Not to mention the useless figurines and the over priced ornaments and the gross flavored candy canes that nobody is going to actually eat. If you want to know where all that money in our economy went to, just check out your local TJmax/BigLots/Walmart clearance aisles the week after Christmas. Yet we keep buying it. We keep spending money we don't have on junk that we don't need. I know you're probably as sad about this perversion of the Christmas spirit as I am. Maybe even more so.
And I have alot of stuff too, which is one of the reasons I didn't really want to send you a wish list this year. I'm not sure that I have room in my life for more things. I am finally at a point in my life where I can afford the things I really need. And I can more easily distinguish between a want and a need. And I suppose that makes me a bit of a grown up now. That makes me a little sad. I know many people are saying "it's about time", but I was hoping to cling to some childhood for a while longer. That's what I really was hoping for this year. Permission to stay a kid. But only I can give that to myself. Thus the letter. All this reminiscing has me wanting to chat with you about it. And I have a few questions as well.
I still kind of want Bing Crosby or Gene Kelly for Christmas. I know, they are both dead now, so don't take things literally there. You know what I mean. My sister has probably asked for Gene Kelly as well, but she would also settle for Harrison Ford, who is still alive and therefore possibly easier to deliver. Do you remember the Snoopy Snow Cone machines? I know Mom and Dad searched for those several different years. I heard they don't work very well. I don't want one anymore (just more stuff). I get alot of sweets and smelly soaps and lotions from parents. Is there any way we can send a message about that to them? I know it's a simple thank you gift, but it breaks my heart to throw away canisters of cookies that I can't eat, either because I don't trust the kitchen they came from, or I can feel myself turning diabetic by the end of the day. These are just things to keep in mind for next year. I still love the cocoa though. They can keep bringing me every different kind of cocoa under the sun, and I guarantee it will be used. Sorry I usually drink yours before you get to my house. I just can't resist it. If you really want it to warm up, feel free to use my kitchen and microwave. There are cocoa packets stashed in nearly ever cupboard. The good stuff is in the silver mixing bowl on the top shelf over the stove. I reccommend you use milk instead of water, it's just better that way. Just rinse the mug out after you're done. I hate scrubbing dried on cocoa sludge. I should probably find out if you prefer cocoa or just a glass of milk. Either way, help yourself. And if your reindeer could scare away the neighbors cats that fight outside my window every morning, that would be a huge bonus! It was great to see you in the Salt Lake airport a few years ago. I know I was pretty out of it, I was still very drugged up from that surgery, but I remember you, I remember seeing you and recognizing you and you talked to my dad for a minute. I tell everyone I know that I really id meet you. They think I'm being cute. But we know the truth. How do you feel about all of the movies they are making about you? I'm a little sad when some of them seem to mock you. I won't go see them if they give me that impression. I still watch Miracle on 34th street whenever I see it on TV, just because it's the best representation of you, I think. But I don't have a TV this year, so I might miss out on that. Maybe I can find it online.
I am a little concerned about Christmas this year. It's the first year I've really been on my own. I know I was away for those two Christmases in Paris, but I wasn't on my own so much then as I was doing bigger things. You know about that. We had pretty similar jobs in those days. Plus, just being in Paris was Christmas enough to last me a lifetime. It's not that I'm concerned about presents and stockings. Like I said, this is not a wish list. It's just that there are quite a few memories and feelings that I don't want to miss out on, and I am not sure how to keep them even when I am facing Christmas alone. So if there is anything you can do to help me out, I would be oh so grateful.
Thanks Santa, just for being here though. You have been a constant figure in my life, and if I don't get a visit from you this year, I understand that it's because I need to grow up a little more. But I will still hope and believe. And I will still look for you at the airport and in the other places I might see you. Don't be surprised if I wave or smile.
Love and Chocolate Chip Cookies,
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Oh, and by the way, don't forget that our "priority is the children, and that their transition is smooth and their education is uninterrupted"
I am a good teacher. These kids will be ready for school in spite of politics, pressure, lay offs and NAEYC. (They're actually the biggest hindrance to education, bigger even than No Child Left Behind, but don't get me started there) Dance, Monkey, Dance.
So how do I say to the parents "I know you love that teacher, but we will be fine without her. You are the ones causing the stress and interruption. If you will back off, help that person find a new job, pay her extra for babysitting, and let your kids come to school and learn without pressuring me for more info than I am allowed to give, then we will all come out of it just fine."
It just sounds a little callous to say that we will be fine without her. But we will. Do I miss her? Yes. Was she a great teacher? Yes. Did she love your kids? Yes. She was practically a member of your family. But educators are not supposed to be members of the family, that line has to be drawn in order for an academic education to happen. I know the line is blurry. We deal with that every day.
Anyways. Stress at work has gone a little off the charts. Adding that to the Christmas season is really frustrating. I don't even have a tree up yet. And I find myself having to turn my phone off in order to accomplish even simple tasks. Last Saturday, I had no less than 12 missed calls and 8 texts. I'm sorry if I haven't gotten back, it's not that I don't love you, it's just that if I add to the anxiety by answering the phone, (remember how I have phone anxiety?) then I will find myself back in the fetal position, losing the months of progress I have made. I will take the next few weeks one day at a time. I will call when I have something positive to say and at least a half an hour to say it in. Until then, all you may get is an earful of undecipherable ramblings or a rampage about something riduculous and possibly offensive.
But here is the peaceful positive note. I learned how to turn off my phone for a day. That's healthy. I learned how to accept a peaceful evening in the face of a to do list that was three miles long. It wasn't even the procrastinating-avoidance kind of acceptance. It was the "My priority is here, with friends and with mental health" sort of acceptance. That's healthy. And it was a wonderful evening. No knots in my stomach from worrying about what I should be doing, no pressure to be anyone other than myself. No "Dance, Monkey, Dance" Not once. It was the most "at home" feeling in the world. And so I've decided that if I ever go "relief society" enough to want one of those cutesy sayings over the doorway, it will probably say something like "Home is where nobody makes you dance like a monkey." And you can quote me on that.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
5. This verse of "Away in a Manger":
Be near me Lord Jesus,
I ask you to stay
Close by me forever
And love me I pray.
I didn't have to cut out the hymns on this list, quite simply because then there wouldn't have been a list. And I absolutely love it when the text of music is an actual prayer. It's my favorite form for hymn texts actually. And yes, I am just enough of a dork to have a favorite hymn form. So there.
4. This next one requires some explanantion. I love Tennyson. He wrote a wonderful piece at the passing of a dear friend, from which we get the text of "Ring out Wild Bells" But the poetry is much more extensive than the hymn that we know. This is the poem from which we get the line "T'is better to have loved and lost Than never to have loved at all." In fact, we usually sing this at the new year, and we ususally ignore some of the nonsensical stuff that is in it. But the poem in its entirety fits Easter and Christmas much better than new year. And the section we use is actually quite profound in the context of the poem. I couldn't quote all of it here, it's far too long and involved. But here are a few of my favorite stanzas:
Strong Son of God, immortal Love,
Whom we , that have not seen Thy face,
By faith, and faith alone, embrace,
Believing where we cannot prove.
We have but faith: we cannot know,
For knowledge is of things we see;
And yet we trust it comes from Thee,
A beam in darkness: let it grow.
The time draws near the birth of Christ
The moon is hid; the night is still;
The Christmas bells from hill to hill
Answer each other in the mist.
Four voices of four hamlets round,
From far and near, on mead and moor,
Swell out and fail, as if a door
Were shut between me and the sound:
Each voice four changes on the wind,
That now dilate, and now decrease,
Peace and good-will, good-will and peace,
Peace and good-will, to all mankind.
Then echo-like our voices rang;
We sung, tho' every eye was dim,
A merry song we sang with him
Last year: impetuously we sang:
We ceased: a gentler feeling crept
Upon us: surely rest is meet.
"They rest," we said, "their sleep is sweet,"
And silence follow'd, and we wept.
Our voices took a higher range;
Once more we sang: "They do not die
Nor lose their mortal sympathy,
Nor change to us, although they change
Rise, happy morn, rise, holy morn
Draw forth the cheerful day from night:
O Father, touch the east, and light
The Light that shone when Hope was born.
Now do you see where the wild bells come from? They are the church bells that remind a family of happier Christmases. The poem continues on, and there are at least 12 more stanzas that I would like to add, but I fear I am losing your attention. The poem takes up pages 119-195 in my "Norton Critical Poets: Tennyson Edition", so if you really want to hear more of it, find it at your local library (or maybe you could google search it... but I have never found the entire thing, just segments online.
Or, you could just be not as much of a dork as me, and move on.
3. You couldn't escape this. It's a French text. We know it as "Whence is that Goodly Fragrance Flowing" but in French it is "Quelle est cette odeur agreable" If you read the cognates correctly, you see that it's more of an agreeable odor than a goodly fragrance. But that's beside the point
A Bethléem, dans une crêche
Il vient de vous naitre-un Sauveur
allons, que rien ne vous empâche
D'adorer votre redémpteur
A Bethléem, dans une crêche,
Il vient de vous naître-un Sauveur.
We sang it in the Paris-Est Stake Choir, and I fell in love with it. I even love the English translation:
Bethlehem there, in manger lying,
Find your Redeemer, haste away
Run ye with eager footsteps flying
Worship the Savior born today
Bethlehem there, in manger lying,
Find your Redeemer, haste away.
2. In the Bleak Mid-Winter. I have been accused by those who are extremely picky of being apostate or something because of the "obvious doctrinal inaccuracies" (say it in a know-it-all, judgemental kind of a voice.) But I think that anyone who picks at that misses the entire point of the last verse.
What can I give Him
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd,
I would bring a lamb.
If I were a wise man,
I would do my part.
What can I give Him?
I will give my heart.
I know there are deeper texts out there, but this one is, in it's simplicity, one of the most profound expressions of Chirstmas Spirit that exists. I actually fell in love with this text when Hannah and family came caroling one year, and they all backed her up on this verse. (It's not often that a diva soprano decides she likes the sound of another soprano.) Hannah singing this inspired me. She didn't throw in any of the excess baggage that sopranos tend to use. Someday when I am directing a fantastic children's choir, I will have them sing this one. Can't you hear the little treble voices, unencumbered by nasty grown up vibratos and foul pronunciation, singing this verse?
Are you ready for my number one favorite? Do you have any guesses or expectations? You should already know this one really.
1. The First Noel. Not only is it French, in the hymnbook, and has great moving harmony parts, on top of all that, there is an amazing arrangement of it that I absolutely cannot get enough of. I listen to it on repeat when I've had a bad day. I put it on my Easter CD mix, my Christmas CD mix, my sing along CD mix, and my practice/current repertoire CD mis for the last 4 years running. I listen to it when it snows, when I drink cocoa, and when I read late at night.
Its one that I sang in that fantastic choir I wrote about at Thanksgiving, and so not only do I still have the text engrained in my being, I also go to sing the soprano part with a fairly large choir, which is an adrenaline high that repeats a little in my tummy every time I hear it. Here's the best verse:
Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our Heavenly Lord
That He this glorious Earth hath wrought
And with His blood mankind Hath bought.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Monday, December 8, 2008
Nancy's favorite popularish Christmas recordings:
John Denver and the Muppets (the Christmas Album)-This is actually a very sweet set of songs, which include the silliness of childhood and the tenderness of Jim Henson. There was a time, before Disney owned them, that the Muppets were quite vocal about Christianity and hope. It's the only version of the Twelve Days of Christmas that I can actually sit through, and you get to hear Animal wig out a little with "We wish you a Merry Christmas" and the Electric Mayhem do "Little Saint Nick" and somewhere in the middle Kermit sings a nice little song called "The Christmas Wish." Whenever I am left to myself to choose what to sing at the ward Christmas party, I like to do this one, simply because it has just enough pop sound to it to please the masses, and just enough childhood in it be warm and fuzzy, and just enough spirit in it to remind us why we celebrate.
Charlie Brown Christmas- The music is such a part of the TV Special that it's a worthwile purchase. Nothing brings you back to that childhood cartoon watching feeling quite like hearing the sounds of Linus and Lucy. Do you remember when you would all plan to stay in for the evening in December when this was going to be on TV, and there would be Hot cocoa (Mom's homemade blend) and popcorn (some years even popcorn balls, green and red) and everyone would drag their favortie blankie out in front of the TV and you would laugh at the silly dances and try to memorize them to imitate later, and then Linus would walk out onto that stage and recite Luke 2 and then they all went and decorated Charlie Browns pathetic tree with the lights from Snoopy's house? This is another classic from a time when the media wasn't afraid to proclaim what they believed in! I can't sing Hark the Herald Angels Sing without picturing those little round faces at the end of the cartoon. I watch the special maybe once a Christmas season, but the music stays with me, and every time I cast a Christmas pageant I think to myself "The inkeepers wife had naturally curly hair?"
Song for a Winter's Night, Sarah Mclachlan- It's from the soundtrack for the new version of "Miracle on 34th Street" (I prefer the classic movie actually, since there is the scene with the drunk lady on the telephone "hellooooo? Oh yes, we'd love to have Santy Claus come and stay with us!") Tangent! Back to the song. Its not particularly religious, but its very mellow, and kind of romantic-y and I really have no idea why I could just listen to it over and over again. You could hear it on this blog if you turned up the songs I currently have posted here...
Celtic Women- Panis Angelicus- I am ashamed. Usually I abhor this pseudo-classical, partly canned approach to music. People really think this stuff is classical? Not even remotely. But as long as you classify it correctly, this album is nicely done. It's purely background music, not enough substance for me to want to attend a concert or even watch one on tv (and I burned a copy without the Carol of the Bells track, since that piece kind of bugs me.) But this piece particularly is really nice. They hit their notes well enough, (I am never in pain) and the entire song is like one big deep breath.
Broadway cast recording of White Christmas- Minnesotans, you must go see this show!!!!! It's at the Ordway every other year (This year!!!!) and it is fantastic. The dancing, the Bing Crosby of it all! It's the movie, only on stage, and also, the guy playing the Danny Kaye character is more interested in women than Danny Kaye was. Plus, you don't have to sit through "Choreography" that obnoxiously long piece with the weird dancing. They have replaced that with some fantastic old style tap dancing that is so exciting you might just go out and sign up for lessons. I worked at the Ordway when it was there 2 years ago, and I saw it no less than 48 times. And I would still buy a ticket and see it again. But since I can't do that, I settled for the album (off of itunes) and I listen to it in my classroom. The kids still love to dance to the music, and they sing along with "Happy Holidays" and it's just good clean fun!
Friday, December 5, 2008
10. Neil Diamond singing "O Holy Night"- I can admit to being a closet Neil Diamond fan, I was raised on his Childsong album (just the side of the record with "I am the Lion" and "Soolemon"), but people, he's Jewish. He recorded the song for the sell. He can sell other Christmas songs if he likes, about Santa Claus or Snow, but this one is pretty religion specific. In addition, his voice is not built for this piece which was once gorgeous, but has had the unfortunate fate of being butchered by too many pop artists not prepared to give it its proper due. So as long as I am mentioning the piece, I might as well throw in that any pop artist who attempts it gets an immediate thumbs down from me.
9.Where Are You Christmas? By Faith Hill. To which I respond, Where are you intonation and healthy singing? Where are you decent lyricist and harmonic structure? Why have you gone away, song form and style? And while we are at it, how do you write a song about the true meaning of Christmas without ever mentioning the True meaning of Christmas? I used to be able to at least tolerate the thing, but then the Ogden Institute Choirs used it, and ever since I can't even hear the chorus without hearing some of the ridiculous dialogue from the program.
Very Pregnant Girl Narrating: "I will get a great present this year, I feel like the Virgin Mary, Ethan and I are expecting!"
My Brain: News flash girlfriend, big difference. For starters, Not a virgin.
Aaaand, cue music...
8. So This is Christmas (War is over), the John Lennon song. All proper respect to the first member of the Beatles to die, tragically even, but the vocals in this are terrible. (Is that Yoko in the background?... I should google it, but I am afraid to find out..) Plus, I can never listen to it for long enough to get to the "war is over" part. My brain gets stuck on the repeat of that first phrase and if I don't clean out the sound I will begin committing violence. Nothing inspires me to turn on a Wilberg arrangement quite like this music. But there are worse atrocities out there...
7. All I want for Christmas is you- DO we even know who sings it? I don't. Besides you, who are now singing that line over and over again in your mind, I could care less about the person that recorded this mind-numbing little ditty. Talk about whining. The two most unattractive personality traits on the planet are Attitudes of Entitlement and Unrealistic Expectations. Combined, they create the kind of person it is impossible to befriend because you can A. Never please them and B. Never please them. Even just this one line, the only line from the song that anyone knows, sums up this chick's attitude as insufferable.
(Do you resent me for getting that one stuck in your head? Just wait...)
6. Last Christmas I gave you my heart, and the very next day, you gave it away- Get over it already. It was a year ago. Find a new fixation. I know the song is supposed to be about moving on, but clearly if you are still dedicating a song to the relationship, then you still have some issues to work out. This doesn't even remotely resemble the Christmas spirit. Not only have we forgotten the Babe in a Manger, we even forgotten Santa and Sleigh Bells and Snow and Fireplaces. It doesn't get to count as a Christmas song unless it produces at least one warm fuzzy.
5. Spot number 5 belongs to a little known piece of music that has stuck with me forever. It's not technically a Christmas song, but in order to be fair about the "Holiday Season", the only American thing to do is to make mention of a holiday that I do not celebrate. Years ago, the University of WI, LaCrosse Choirs included a Kwanzaa song in their Repertoire. It's a publicly funded school, they had to. But if you have ever been to WI, specifically LaCrosse, you would know that there are very few people there who celebrate Kwanzaa. I believe that my inside sources could tell you that there was perhaps one person represented in the choirs who might have celebrated Kwanzaa, maybe. And the member of the faculty who wrote the piece was definitely only trying to satisfy a quota. It included the lines "Sing about Families, Sing about Strong Economic Values"
OK, I just googled it to verify my facts, it is unpublished, but listed on the composers website as having been performed in 2001. There are very few recordings of this, but if you are dying to hear it, I might be able to coherse my "source" to help me out.
4. Uh oh- here's where I may offend: Amy Grant's Grown Up Christmas List- Yup, call me grinch, and string me up by a strand of Wal-Mart tree lights, I can not abide this song. It's scoopy, it's pop-ish, it's pseudo-spiritual, and I associate it with the super-christian, ultra baptists that used to torment me all through high school. The entire Amy Grant Christmas album, in fact, could belong in this spot. I don't like her, I don't like her voice, I don't like her marketing, and I don't like her philosophies. I don't believe that religion should be sold, and most of all, I don't believe that her song has actually contributed to any of the ideals that she sings about.
3. Again, I may be drawn and Quartered for this one... The Christmas Shoes. It's a cheap emotional shot at unbased tears and heart-string-tearing that only leads to the sensationalized "spirit of giving." Do we even know if it is based on a true story? And I don't trust any internet sources on this. It's purely anecdotal, so unless you can produce either the child who wanted to shoes or the man who apparently purchased them, I still won't believe you. If it convinces you to throw an extra quarter into the Salvation Army bucket at the grocery store, then good for you. The thing is, there are real heart-rending Christmas stories happening to the real people around you that you could actually touch and participate in. Stories about lonely people and loving people and foreclosed homes and jobs lost and why don't you turn off the radio and call some of them instead of tearing up over some stranger's fictional tale of a couple of bucks?
Plus, I had a fifth grader plagarize the entire song, word for word, for a writing project one year. They thought I hadn't heard it before? Really?
2. Another Beatle made the list. I'm sorry guys, your other stuff is great, but stay away from the holiday stuff.... Paul McCartney- Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time. Why does he have his name on it anyways? I don't think that's him singing, and if it is, it's only one line, over and over and over and over again. Did he write it? And he want's to claim it? If I had written it, I would blame it on my dearest enemy and let them have the proceeds. It is so entirely synthesized that there is no semblance of actual musicality or skill. I'm all for the usefulness of synthesized sound, especially now that you can actually create some that sounds remotely real. Bu this stuff is more canned than the cranberry jelly that comes shooting out of the can with the little ridges still visible.
And finally, My number one most resented Christmas "Music" of all time, it's not simply a song, it's an entire album.
Can you guess it?
The album is usually red, with a gold stylized Christmas Tree adorning the cover.
It's HUGE here in Utah, inescapable at LDS church Christmas parties, and the composer himself, who can't sing, performs it to sold out audiences every year.
Can't guess? Still in the dark? You've known me for how long and you didn't know how much I loathe entirely this "music"?
It's the Forgotten Carols.
That's right, I said it. Tell my bishop, excommunicate me, I loathe that stuff. And the composer can't sing. He has self-proclaimed that he can't sing, yet still he sings to a sold out audience every year. For those of you unfamiliar, here's the premis: And old guy in a nursing home claims to have been present at the Nativity, or at least to have talked to everyone present, and he sings a whole bunch of songs that were supposedly sung by those people. But here's my very first nit-picky issue. Do you really think a bunch of meridian-of-time folks were wandering around singing 20th century pop compositions? Yes, it's supposed to be fiction and fun, but you couldn't even try to make them sound musically accurate? Or you don't have enough music skill to know what that would be? Besides which, the sentiment is trite at best. I highly doubt that Joseph ever once considered his role as "I was not his Father, He was mine" I think he had bigger worries, and more profound prayers. He didn't have time to write angst poetry, He was busy fleeing to Egypt and raising kids. And is it shepherds or wisemen that sing the whole "we cannot find our way" chorus? Either way, they could find their way, there was a huge beacon leading them, not to mention angel choruses and messengers and the prophecies of Isaiah.
I suppose I can allow for the novelty of it, hey, I listened to it when I was twelve. Once. But do you realize there is a sequel? And that the TV commercials refer to it as a "classic" and a "tradition"? And there are people who never attend church once all year long, but they go to this concert religiously, like it's some sort of midnight mass ritual? And at the end of the concert everyone holds hands with their neighbor and sings "we can be together forever someday." Its a good thing I only heard about it, because I would have punched the first person who tried to hold my hand and run screaming from the building. If I even made it past intermission.
Then again, it has made ALOT of money. I am considering marketing my own set of "Forgotten Carols" (Under a pseudonym, of course) What about the song of the guy who had the job of scooping donkey uh... leftovers, off the streets of Bethlehem? Nobody ever sings about him:
I scooped the poop, and it was holy,
I cleaned the stalls and paid my tax,
It's a good job, though kind of stinky,
I wish someone would invent plastic sacks.
Or how about the song of the people who actually did get a room at the inn?
We got our room
Cause we called ahead
got a confirmation number
and an actual bed
How were we to know
there were people in the shed?
We might have traded
with the newlywed.
And finally, the song of the guy who ran the bagel stand next door:
Someday I'm gonna
open a franchise
If only I could meet
Rich men who were wise
My bagels are perfect,
so golden and clear
And for just an extra sheqel
I'll include some goat schmear.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
In an effort to have more of a happy outlook, here is my list of a few happy thoughts(just a few, not all):
Old School MoTab Christmas albums
New School MoTab arrangements (ok, and albums and sounds...)
A new book (and that crackley sound the binding makes the first time you open it)
Combine the last three for an evening
The stretch of I-80 in Medicine Bow National Forest right outside of Cheyenne
Early episodes of ER with Dr Carter
Cold Stone Dark chocolate peppermint (only available during the holidays) with brownies and a waffle bowl
BYU mint brownies
Speaking of BYU, the Y on the mountain still gives me chills... the good kind
Mendelssohns Violin Concerto
Amazon.com wishlists (I stalk people there, you can learn alot about a person...)
Alton Brown and Good Eats
That feeling when the person you have been wanting to talk to calls you
Scrabble with Grandpa
Getting up early on a Saturday because I am not dreading the day
Working overtime for time and a half
Flipping open a fan, like I did in HMS
Sewing a new thing of my own creation
Shopping without spending any money
Lunch with friends
Hitting a high note, well
New Lip Gloss (bet you didn't see that coming)
Peter Pan and The Little Prince
Ramen for dinner
French Toast at a restaurant (with those melty scoops of butter and LOTS of syrup)
Lots and Lots of blankets on a cold morning
That Vanilla Sugar and Cinnamon you put on your cocoa at starbucks
Using a curling iron on freshly washed hair
Watching Steel Magnolias on New Years Eve
The Episode of Scrubs when everyone sings (Its guy love between two guys)
Tomato Cheese sandwiches
Thunderstorms and Sunsets
Christmas ornaments made out of paper doilies and glitter
Old Poetry (Tennyson, Milton, Donne)
See, now doesn't that feel better? I know I feel better.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
"I just wish I could start a relationship about 12 years in when you really don't have to try anymore and you can just sit around together and goof on TV shows and then go to bed without anybody trying any funny business."
I don't even have anything profound to say about it, except that if you are going to lecture me on the value of a relationship without the work, you can keep your comments to yourself. I already said it was unrealistic. I just really enjoyed the quote. So there. *Pouting tantrum in corner*
Sunday, November 30, 2008
I am afraid of the dark. I am not afraid of rodents or spiders or snakes, I am a grown woman who is terrified of the dark. I successively turn on every light in the house from the front door to my bedroom, backtracking to each one once the next is on, so that I do not have to walk into a dark room. There is even a lamp immediately next to my bed so that I can have it on when I turn out my bedroom light and jump into bed. The lamp is reachable from my bedside, so that I only turn it off once I am under the covers. And when I say jump into bed, I mean that quite literally, because of the next thing that I am still afraid of. I call it the "Ankle-Grabber." It is (I am sure of it) under my bed. Never mind that there is no way anything could fit under my bed, except for the occasional stray sock on laundry day, I am sure that as soon as it is a little bit dark, there is an Ankle-Grabber waiting under my bed. I could sleep on a mattress on the floor, on a couch, or even in a sleeping bag, and I would still be certain that there is something under there where I sleep just waiting to grab my ankles. I do not know if it is man or beast, scaled or furry, I just know that it wants to grab my ankles. I don't even know what it wants to do with my ankles. I just know that I have to make a flying leap onto my be from at least 2 1/2 feet away in order to stay safe from the faceless entity. Not knowing is the most fear-inspiring thing about it! Which leads me to my next fear. Bugs that I can not identify. I studied under an entomologist at the University of Minnesota. (that means bug-expert) I had to identify all sorts of bugs. We even did an extensive project trying to identify every species of bug on campus... (the statisticians were actually the scariest part of that project.) And I learned a lot of bug names. The funny thing is, once I know the name of a bug, I'm not scared of it anymore. That's why I can handle most spiders and even a millipede or a cockroach. I just can't handle not knowing what it is. especially if it has lots of legs or is capable of making any sounds.
There you have my top three fears. These are not the things that give me anxiety, that list could go on for hours. These are the things I am actually afraid of, so you can see how a mouse scratching in a closet at night would be terrifying to me. Nameless, faceless sound from somewhere over there, just waiting to get me as soon as I set a foot out of bed... Its probably my own fault for the fears. I used to hide under my sisters beds at night and grab their ankles.
Friday, November 28, 2008
My mom is the best cook on the entire planet, and Thanksgiving was always a huge deal. We had everyone over to our house that didn't have a place to go, and then if they ended up with family anyways, they still came and brought family with them. We averaged 25-30 people for the big meal. We watched the Macy's Parade while the house filled with the smell of the turkey. It was the classic American Holiday in grand scale. So when I went to college, and my first Thanksgiving there was spent at Denny's, I felt a little empty. I had to search for a little more.
The next year, I was in a different apartment, and with that came some new friends and roomies, and with new people come new perspectives, and with all of that came the choir. The choir impacted my college experience more than any other single experience or organization. I sang with them from sophomore through senior year, the director became one of my dearest friends, and the things I learned from our Sunday night rehearsals and our 4-5 services per year have influenced every major life decision since then. You think I exaggerate? In the committee in my brain that governs my day to day actions, the sage voice, the director of the board, the CEO of Nancy, speaks in snippets of hymns and lines of songs that primarily come from that choir. I try to not voice the lines out loud, since it tends to draw confused looks, but when I say "I feel comfortable here" my brain is actually singing "like a child at home" and when I say "I would rather trust the words of the prophets than the words of a scholar" My brain is actually humming "I read in brighter, fairer lines" and when I refer to myself as "socially inept" my brain is actually using the phrase "perhaps you think me wild, or simple as a child." The list could go on for miles and miles. The bottom line is, when the rest of the committee argues and debates and I am unsettled, the only calming voice, the one that determines how I proceed, is quoting music.
Most church choirs spend so much time learning parts, a harmony line, some dynamics, maybe a little tuning, but they never get as far as shaping the music so that the text and the tune express pure intent. The music in this choir (and thanks to a fantastic director) began to take on shape and meaning as it never had before. We were blessed to have a large group of singers, we were blessed to have some incredible music to sing, and we were blessed to have support from other leaders.
The Sunday night before Thanksgiving was the night we traditionally held our service. The speakers varied from year to year, their purpose was simply to tie the texts together. The hall where we held the service was always packed, and people were always very complimentary of the music and the meeting, but the truly lasting experience came from being in the choir. Only then did the music stick with you for longer than the evening or the week.
One year I was particularly frustrated with the upcoming Christmas season. As a musician, Christmas starts early. In another choir we were working on Rutter's "Mary's Lullaby" which included the text: "Shepherds kneeling by his bed bring Him homage without measure. Wise men by a bright star led bring Him gifts of priceless treasure." Those are hard words for a poor starving college student to take in. Everything about the Christmas season is about offering gifts to people, but what if you are the person who can't afford food, let alone gifts for your family? Everyone kept saying "bring a can of food to the food shelf, it's just one can!" and I would look in my cupboards and there would only be one can in there, to last me a week! Still we kept singing that song about the wise men and their priceless treasure and it only frustrated me more every day. Then Sunday and the real choir came along. We sang the hymns of Thanksgiving, "We Gather together to ask the Lord's Blessing", "The Earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof", "The banquet is set in the midst of the Son." After an entire program of praise and gratitude, I was finally in the right frame of mind to hear a Christmas text. We sang:
Before the marvel of this night
adoring fold your wings and bow,
then tear the sky apart with light
and with your news the world endow,
proclaim the birth of Christ and peace,
that fear and death and sorrow cease.
Sing peace, sing peace, sing gift of peace,
sing peace, sing gift of peace.
...and I finally began to understand where Christmas and Thanksgiving and the wise men and the shepherds all came together.
Being grateful for what we have means admitting that we didn't just do it ourselves. It means that someone has helped us to come to where we are, and whether you believe in a God in Heaven or a Friend on Earth, you have to believe that nobody does it all on their own. With gratitude for them and for all that has come into your life through no power of your own, you can see a little more easily what you have to offer that Babe in a manger. When you can recognize that the simplest gifts of love and patience have the most profound impact on your heart, then you are more prepared to offer them to someone else. When you can admit that the friendship of one person changed your life forever, then perhaps it becomes a little easier to offer your own friendship to a lonely soul. When you understand that a single voice echoing an eternal message has the power to alter the course of the world, then you can become the next voice to echo that message.
So Thanksgiving is more than a list. It's more than a meal. It's more than the kickoff to shopping and Santa and dusty decorations. If I have to choose what I am grateful for this season, then I am grateful for the experiences that taught me to look at life a little deeper. If I happen to be focusing on feast and treats, it is because they are things that I have to offer. I f I happen to get a bit scroog-ey about Christmas decorations and superficial expectations, it's because they don't even approach the depth with which I want to celebrate the season. But if I actually give you a hug or a plate of fudge or a phone call or a card, please understand that these things are coming from my celebration of Thanksgiving first.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Seven things to do before I die:
1. Get a Master's Degree
2. Sing with the MoTab
3. Go on another mission
4. Publish a book
5. Take a last minute vacation to someplace new
6. Plant a garden and keep it alive
7. Buy a house
Seven things I cannot do:
1. Play the Organ/Piano
2. Make Rice-a-Roni
3. Land an airplane
6. Win a game of chess (not even against a 7 year old)
Seven things that attracted me to my spouse:
1. He certainly let's me have my independance.
2. He doesn't mind that I leave the light on all night to read
3. He doesn't speak to me before 8am
4. He doesn't talk while the Tab Choir is singing
5. He doesn't eat the cookie dough I keep in the fridge for emergencies
6. He doesn't leave the toilet seat up
7. He doesn't sqeeze the toothpaste tube from the front.
Seven things I say most often:
2. You have a choice.
3. I want Ice Cream. And a Waffle Bowl
4. Well, what can you do?
7. on ne sais pas quoi
Seven books I love:
1. Peter Pan
2. The Little Prince
3. The Tale of Despereaux
4. 'Til We Have Faces
6. Fancy Nancy
7. Paradise Lost
Seven movies I could watch over and over again:
1. Finding Neverland
4. Cars (the tractor tipping scene)
5. Looney Tunes "What's Opera Doc" (technically it's a short, but still)
6. Monsters Inc
7. Sabrina (the new one, with all the fantastic shots of Paris)
When I moved from Minnesota, a few people said to me, in their good-byes, "I hope you find what you are looking for" What a funny phrase. It always threw me a little to hear it, because I didn't know I was supposed to be looking for something. Some of them said it in the obvious "wink-wink" style, as if I should know exactly what they thought I should be looking for. Where do they get to decide what it is I should be looking for? And some said it in a very concerned way, obviously trying to convey love and without any presumption as to my own goals in life. And some said it simply in a resigned and dissapointed tone of voice, as if I should have already found it, but had failed and was taking a cheap escape route. (Is it supposed to be easier to find IT in Utah?)
Ever since, I have found myself wondering what it is that I am looking for. Or even more, what it is that I am supposed to be looking for. I already know the cultural and obvious answer, I am spending a week at Grandma's house, attending a family wedding, it's hard to miss that expectation. And I am amused that so many people think that they: A. know what is wrong with me and B. somehow are entitled to the revelation that a husband would fix it.
But I am entitled to personal revelation, so I continue to ask the real question, "What am I looking for?" And I am continually presented with all sorts of potential responses. I can quilt and crochet with the best of them, but is that what I want a future filled with? I am glad for the people that have that dream and that work towards that future. The fact that I do not want it does not in any way lesson it's value. It just means I don't want it. And I don't want to travel the world and fill my house with fantastic photos and empty experiences. And I don't want huge piles of money and bottomless bank accounts. And I don't want the perfect thin and beautiful persona. And I don't want a $300 haircut and I don't want a pony and I don't want a Barbie dreamhouse or pink convertable. This is the kind of tantrum you didn't expect to hear...
The fact is, I want a good job that pays the bills. I want a car that gets me places like work and the store and friends houses and the occasional road trip. I want a few really close friends that know me well enough to know when to call, and that feel close enough to talk to me about their problems. I want one or two friends that I can call anytime, day or night, when I am either anxious or happy, so I can share those moments with someone. I want to be able to eat ice cream without feeling guilty about counting calories or maintaining an unreasonable expectation of my physique. I want to hike on Saturday mornings and I want to sing when I feel like singing. I want to have shelves and shelves of books in my room, so that I can fall asleep reading a different classic every night. And I want enough flexibility to be able to change and grow when I am ready for it.
Why do I have to be looking for something? Is there a rule that states that I can't be happy with my life exactly the way it is? Who decided I wasn't happy here, like this? It wasn't me. I didn't tell myself to go looking for something. I am only questioning it because so many seem to think I should be frantically searching. Which all leads me to what I did find.
It was just the root. (Of course, it would be, since I color my hair.) It was right smack dab in the center of the very top of my head. One quarter inch of shiny silver, glistening from the bathroom mirror. I have always suspected that it would happen fairly early for me. My mom doesn't have any grey hair. My sisters were all blessed with fabulous red like my mom, the kind that won't go grey until they are called to be temple workers at the age of 70, and then it will appropriately turn a nice silver or white. Well, except for the brunette sister who gets to spend her life with an actual distinct shade of brown with just enought red so it shows up in photos and sunshine. But I got the ditchwater hair (that holds a curl quite nicely, unlike red hair), and have nursed it with haircolor from a bottle since I went to college and learned that that is what Grandma Pratt always did. We even discussed colors and brands. And we never knew when she went gray, because she always colored it. So I am not sure that I was surprised to find a gray hair. It coincided with attending the family wedding, and with a long drive that gave me enough time to question myself. I got different hair than my sisters. Not better, not worse, just different. I've got different hopes than people think I should have. Not better, not worse, just different. What am I searching for? Absolutely nothing. What do I want out of life? Exactly what I have. Anything more is bonus. Where do I want to be when I am old and grey? I'll let you know when I get there.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
I find it interesting, then ,when I am placed in the awkward position of having to defend romance. I certainly do not believe in the conventional idea and the image the movies promote. Perhaps the best description would be to say that I don't believe in romance, I believe in love. But that comes off as a tad too cheesy for my taste. This is all coming up because I am yet again in a position of defending a recently engaged friend, and defending her to her own fears and doubts. So as I consider all the emotion of the situation, it is coming out here. Here you must endure my opinion, my stand on love and romance. My friend has been feed those Disney philosophies her whole life, and blended with them a portion of LDS culture that is part truth part tradition. This blog isn't about her, but I thought you should know where the thoughts are coming from. This blog is actually about the phrase "She could do better"
I hate this phrase.
Not only is it inappropriate, judgemental and uninformed, I would add that it is at best hurtful and at worst plain mean.
I have heard tell that a relationship is only as good as the people involved. My observation has been that a relationship is as good as the best things that each person has to offer. As far as the worst things go, a relationship is for working out the kinks. We believe we have an eternity to do that. This is where I get up in arms about the phrase "She could do better" The question that comes from my heart is "Is there really anyone better?"
I know some remarkable women. Look at my list of roommates, and you are guaranteed to read about more than a few remarkable women. And some of those women spent some painful years being overlooked, ignored, and even snubbed by the guys that might fit the "better" category that we think remarkable women deserve. I have seen my friends wait patiently through crushes, blind dates, bad boyfriends and pressure to get married. I have seen them struggle to better themselves, trying to figure out what is wrong with themselves. Then one day, someone comes along who sees the remarkable in them, and we judge them to be socially wrong somehow? The fact is, he sees the remarkable in her when no one else did. And that makes him remarkable.
Social "wrongness" can be fixed. We are all learning and hoping someone will forgive us for the person we were when we were 19. We are even hoping someone will forgive us for continuing to act 19 when we are in fact 37. Shouldn't we be willing to offer that forgiveness to someone else? She is. That's part of what makes her remarkable. Put together, a remarkable woman who is willing to work and forgive and love, and a remarkable man who is willing to see and serve and grow, that is just how I would define a good relationship.
That is how I would define romance.
It is not in loudly proclaiming perfection, but in your faults, because you are willing to grow out of them together. It is not in the perfect date (at the football game with a pretzel) but it is in the nacho cheese because you are willing to serve each other. It is not in constantly agreeing with the other, but it is in correction that is born of love. It is not in the awkward social moments and scared rabbit looks, but it is in the failures that are forgiven. It is not in the bottomless bank account or the image of happiness, but it is in the successes that are shared. It is not in the ball gown and the tiara. It is in the dance.
Go ahead and call me bitter.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
On Mental Health Days: They are worth it, no matter what anyone says, no matter what you have planned or don't have planned, as long as you do not take them too often or make your job harder by taking one, they are worth it. And Cousin is right, about so many things. And my offer stands, I will teach you how to dance, and I will continue to "drop it like it's hot" when in public with you until you learn how yourself. Sooooo, when's the next time you want to be seen in public with me? I owe you lunch! Work is easier to take now that I have had a day of normal semi-grown-up conversation. ( I say "semi" because any conversation involving me is not entirely limited to adults, now is it?)
On Halloween: I used to love it. Really I did. But there has been a change in me over the past two years, and this year I not only had no desire to dress up, I didn't even want that much candy. Until the fun size bars were placed in front of me, at which point I had no self control. I loathe mass-produced Disney princess costumes. Where is the creativity in that? What's the point in pretending to be a princess if the princess is someone else, and not yourself? Besides the cheap nylon that tears and "one-size-fits no one" sag, what are you teaching your child by paying $29.95 to let them be a character someone else invented? If you must imitate an already exisiting character, choose someone with literary value and create the costume yourself. I recognize that frazzled parents who read may defend their position by having lots of kids to costume, and lets face it, the kids only want to be a superhero or a princess. I understand. But there must be a way we can let their creativity take over. I remember one halloween wanting to be a ballerina, and a witch, and a princess. So I wore my red sparkley tutu (from the "good ship lollipop routine, which I can still perform upon request) a black cape and witch's hat from the previous year, and carried a sparkley wand, origin uncertain. I have no idea why I though a wand would make me a princess. Yes folks, I was one of those kids who wanted to do it all and to be everything. I still am.
On The Birthday: My sisters and my friends came through for me. I got a cake with an enormous amount of sprinkles on it:
(These kinds of close ups bring great joy to my life, you should see my file of photos of M&Ms and Crayons) As you can see, it included the phrase "I want Sprinkles" and chocolate frosting, oh how well they know me. Along with the perfect cake, my birthday included some fantastic visits with friends, ice cream, movies, and a package full of good things from Minnesota. And there was an extremely frustrating event as well, in which I learned a great lesson and suffered just enough to earn the wisdom that comes from making the wrong choice. I can't elaborate too much, but I will simply state that having expectations of others and trying to fulfill their expectations for you only leads to disappointment, and I will no longer pursue either in my life. If I offended anyone in the process of trying meet someone else's expectations, I hope you will forgive me. I promise, I suffered for it already. And what's more, since wisdom is supposed to be a great gift, look at what a fantastic birthday present that was!
On Gaming: I scored 98 points on one word in Scrabble. It was a brilliant move, employing the letter "X" in an 8-letter word on a triple word score. Scrabble gurus beware, I am going to be champion someday. (did you know there is a $25,000 prize for that?)
On politics: I have tried to aviod being too partisan, although it is not hard to figure out where I stand. I have tried to avoid being too debate-y or intense or opinionated, because I know it is a heated subject and I know I tend to offend people, and I know alot of people (especially family) will disagree with me. I try to aviod even discussing it because I know my bias and I want people to research and come to their own conclusions. But I am thrilled with the outcomes. I was thrilled when Congressman Matheson (D, Ut) came and visited my class monday morning, not just for the experience for my kids, but because I really like him, and he was great with the kids, and hilarious, and generous with his time the day before elections. I watched the results roll in on my fuzzy TV, and I said "Yes we can" a whole lot. And I laughed when the news people pointed out that the Republican event that night was an exclusive "by invitation" event while the Democrats threw an open-to-the-public party which half a million people attended. I thought those differring philosophies summed everything up quite nicely. If I still lived in Minnesota, I probably would have driven the 6 hours to Chicago to attend it. Yes we can.
On Winter: I love snow. I do not love frozen car doors. I love a chill in the air. I do not love getting 17 children into snowclothes for recess. I love to shovel my driveway. I do not love slipping on the ice in front of a large contingent of deacons and beehives, on temple square, and bruising my still-very-large behind and nether-portions. I love the little 12-yr-olds who tried to help me up. I do not love the grounds-keeper who sat in his mini-truck full of ice melt and watched the entire incident without moving a muscle, but continued instead to chat with the missionaries stationed there. I love driving on slick roads in my car that handles them so well. I do not love that my heat and defrost seem to be broken.
It is quite possible that I am not yet psychologically prepared for winter.
There you have it. Although if it is a post made up entirely of tangents, can they really be called tangents? If the theme is that there is no theme, how does one define keeping to the theme? I love a paradox.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
And I am keeping my mouth shut about these incidents with Aunt Elaine, because I want at least one person at the final judgment who testifies that I was a bona fide angel.
So last night was a fascinating experience with Aunt Elaine. She lives in the same building as her sister Maurine, they got condos together here about 5 years ago so that Maurine could be closer to family. Elaine is the spinstress, and she tagged along. Elaine left the church years and years ago, Maurine has a life of children and grandchildren and great grandchildren in the church. But Maurine is now confined to a wheelchair and Elaine, feisty as ever, goes over to her apartment every day to help her get up and get dressed and into the chair for the day. They are both the tiniest women you ever did see, and it would be impossible to picture Elaine lifting anyone into a chair, except Maurine. I have been able to go out to eat with Elaine several times since getting here, but last night was my first opportunity to visit with Maurine. Elaine always tells me how grumpy Maurine is and informs me that Maurine needs a guest to “perform for” otherwise she is unbearable. Elaine insists that we go out to eat alone, even though I offer to bring Maurine along, and I accept that since it probably is rough for Maurine to go out, and Elaine probably does need a little space. Well, Maurine called me a week or so ago. She called because she is going to be moving into an assisted living center and she is trying to get rid of her stuff. She wants me to have some paintings that my grandmother painted and some of her kitchen stuff. She asked me to come over for a visit and I went last night. Elaine was there too, and we had a nice chat. We talked about the massive amounts of children in the family, and they were extremely thrilled to share with me my cousin’s wedding announcement. They raved over how lovely everything was, and asked if their brother (my grandfather) was going to be in Utah for one of the receptions. And then Maurine insisted that Elaine go to the reception, and Elaine insisted that she not, and excused herself to go back to her place for something she forgot. As soon as she was gone, Maurine said “She is just so grumpy nowadays. She has to have someone to perform for, or else she is impossible to talk to!” And I laughed on the inside. I wonder how I will perceive my sisters after 86 years of being sisters? I wonder if my brother will be the super-hero that their brother is to them? I wonder if I will be the bitter spinstress who attaches herself to nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews? I wondered a lot of things, and then Elaine came back and for the rest of the evening I watched them. I watched how their facial expressions would sour a little when the other contradicted them. I watched how they would argue oh so quietly and subtly over silly facts, memories, or family secrets. I watched how when I would talk, they would listen and agree with everything I said unless their sister had already agreed to it, and I watched how they would quickly change their spots and agree with their sister if I was so bold as to take sides in an argument. I thought at one point that they would come to blows over the temperature in the room. I listened as they talked about their lives, and what I heard was their different perspectives born of different life experiences. I heard them disagree on so much emotionally, even when the facts were the same, and I heard them agree on one point, the loneliness that they both feel from time to time, more often now, and daily increasing. I learned from the things they left unsaid, about regrets and unfulfilled dreams and fulfilled dreams and successes. And at the end of the night, when I said it was time for me to leave, and Elaine offered to walk me out, she had me wait for a moment while she went in and turned down Maurine’s bed, and laid out her nightgown, and made sure she had taken her meds and got her a glass of water.
And I thought, “Actions speak louder than words.”
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
That's not to say that you won't read my complaints again, because frankly, I am a selfish creature, and if I want to moan about something, then I will find a place to moan about it, and this whole writing thing is becoming therapeutic. And on that note, here is a moan or two from my present frame of mind:
- I want a day off. I haven't taken a real day off since I moved here, and so I am about to hit month #3 without so much as a sick day.
- This is the first year that I am actually expected to dress up for Halloween, and this is the first year that I have absolutely no desire to.
- My birthday is coming up, and I am too old to want to celebrate it with a party, but I don't want to sit at home watching tv that night. Last year represented one of the worst birthdays of my life, and I am not going to re-live that alone-in-front-of-the-tv-watching-home-improvement-re-runs evening. So who wants to go to dinner? anyone? The only condition is that there is to be NO restaurant birthday song. I hate those. Everybody hates those. Why do we feel the need to embarrass our friends under the guise of "celebrating"?
- Have you seen the cakewreck blog? I want a birthday cake that says "I want Sprinkles", it's the 4-year old screaming inside of me, and I won't let the 4 year old have a party. But I will let her have cake. With sprinkles. Lots of them.
- I really don't like my job anymore, and I need to figure out if I should switch now or let them pay my tuition for a while and go to night school. I know what a responsible grownup would do, and I have no desire to be called a responsible grown up. Even if I do have a retirement plan.
There you have it, my woes. They are pretty trite aren't they? Go ahead, slap me and tell me that there are children starving in Africa, that there are homeless families wandering the streets of America, that somewhere someone is mourning or weeping. But somewhere else, Paris Hilton can't afford a new diamond-tiara for her latest insipient little rat-dog-in-a-prada-purse, and she is throwing a much more royal tantrum than me. Plus, I'll get over it.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Let me begin at the beginning. I did, in fact change my hair color, to the appropriate shade of brown for fall. And I would love to post a picture of it, but I cannot seem to take a decent picture of my own head. If I succeed, or if anyone else does, trust that it will be posted. I also had the purple done again. Just in the back, underneath. And when my lovely students saw it, the boys said "Ewww!" and the girls said "you look like a princess". And the boys ran away and the girls decided to fix my hair so I could go to ball and dance with a handsome prince. In a very real way, this represents my personal social history. My girlfriends often plan some sort of an imaginary ball (by which I mean their own weddings) and I resign myself to letting them do my makeup, them hoping for a handsome prince to show up and me knowing that it is all the Disney propaganda speaking in their brains. Then we get to the ball and the only one who actually dances with a handsome prince is the one who came prepared with some poor sucker that was socially obligated to perform. The rest of the boys run away. I can already hear you people now, accusing me of being bitter. And you might think that if you are simply reading this and assigning a tone of voice to it in your mind. But the fact of the matter is, I am endlessly amused by it. So read this with my amused tone of voice in your brain. I am amused especially by the four-year old that openly daydreams about it, because I know that there exists a twisted dichotomy in every girl. Half of her is still stuck in that preschooler’s daydream that looks like a Disney movie, and half of her is keeping her eyes open to the reality that daydreams do little more than sell merchandise. It's a war that we fight within ourselves, and if we let one half win too much ground, we are immediately labeled as either "bitter" or "flighty". (Although flighty may be too old-fashioned a term nowadays. How about “silly” or “cheesy”?) At any rate, you can easily see that I am generally judged to be in the bitter camp. Until you look at my movie collection.
I played Scrabble with my Grandfather on Sunday night. I do that a lot. It really is what completes a Sunday for me. I missed it terribly when I was in Minnesota, and you would be amazed at how hard it is to find someone willing to play Scrabble with you. We usually play two games, with a large bowl of M&M’s between us. And he usually beats me, although not by much. We break 100 points by our fourth turn, 200 by the 10th turn, and it is a race to see who can hit 300 by the end of the game. But last Sunday he was having a rough day, and I creamed him solidly on the first game. The second game I tried to let him win, if nothing else to make me feel better, and I still won. Don’t mis-judge me, I can be terribly competitive, especially when it comes to Scrabble and games that I know I am good at. But I want my 90-year old Grandfather to always be able to beat me at Scrabble. I want his wit to always catch me off guard, and I want him to remember every word to every song he has ever sung. This was perhaps the only time in my life I was sad to have won at Scrabble.
Monday morning I sat with the little girls fixing my hair when my boss asked to speak with me. She is concerned that my classroom is too clean. Not as in "lacking in toys and games", but as in "scrubbing the chairs". That’s right, in the evenings, when there are only a few children left, I scrub the chairs and tables. And it is a problem because??? Because I should be spending that time playing with the kids. Never mind that there is food and paint stuck to the furniture that has been there for at least as long as I have been in the classroom. I haven't gotten around to all of them yet, because it takes that much time too peel petrified fruit smears off the seat of a blue-plastic chair. I asked her if she was at all concerned that the children were sitting in filth and she told me that wasn't an issue. I will grant that I may be a bit obsessive about this kind of clean, so I have been refraining from cleaning the furniture, and it is driving me crazy! It is a little confusing for me as well since at the Minnesota school, licensing required that we clean things once a week. Apparently things are different here. Chalk it up to a difference of opinion, I can live with that, at least now I am better informed. I solemnly swear to leave my classroom in filth so that the children can have more playtime. At least, I swear it during work hours. But as a result, I am heading home to scrub my kitchen, every night.
Tuesday work was much of the same and I found myself at the chapel to practice directly afterwards. I played for more hours than usual, and am excited to actually be making progress. Plus, that was the night I realized that I am getting better at separating work from real life.
Weds night I went up to Clearfield to see a show with some friends, and I got to see lots of old friends in the process. Some that I planned on seeing, some I was hoping to see, some that were completely unexpected, and I was thrilled at seeing all of them. The best part of seeing old friends is when they have grown and changed, they have become happier and wiser and yet your friendship remains secure. It is great to me that some bonds remain even when the people they join are growing. It is a little frustrating to see people that you were once close to, and the bond has become limp and useless, but still exists. I saw 3 people that night that I have worked closely with onstage, and talking to them was awkward at best. Some were from a show that affected me more profoundly than any other show (Peter Pan), and the distance was painful. It felt almost the same as when you see an old mission companion, and you have had great experiences with them, but your relationship was based entirely upon those experiences, so you say an awkward hello, you wish you could convey your love, and you walk away sincerely hoping the best for them, without being able to say why. I am grateful that I had other friends there with whom the bond has never changed, and while the show we did together wasn't as affecting or profound (Seussical), the friendships are.
That was one of my weird experiences of the week, and it has taken me some time to process that one.
The week continued in much the same way. I had some great experiences with friends, old and new, some wonderful conversations that are still running in and out of my brain, and I had some frustrations in communicating with my boss which are strands that occasionally bump into the conversations with my friends and make me question my sanity and my current path. That's all good, but it leaves me a little addled as far as putting together a coherent blog entry.
It will all be ok, though, because Grandpa beat me at Scrabble last night.
Monday, October 20, 2008
To the Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper that was under the Passenger Seat of my car Last Night:
At your sugar free
When it is the carbonation
That causes bulk
Generic and sweet
And coloring red
The liquid I love
Dying my teeth
So I brush obsessively
Your value is scorned
By those who do not
Take the time to taste
Yet you continue
They don't even know
You are there.
Graces your intellect
You were intended
Carbonated prune juice
Not the spice,
But the alert,
Which wakes me
As I drive
Drowsy from the Scrabble
You should know that while I frequently compose random verse in my head (some call it backyard poetry, but mine always happens while driving) I do not make the effort to write it down. I leave poetry to the literary genius type, and to the angst-ridden 14 year old. Plus, writing while driving is generally considered dangerous. And as for the beverage choice, as my Karaoke bar friends would say "She's moved on to the hard stuff!"
*coming soon: a post about my new hair color. But for now, it is too difficult for me to take a picture of the back of my own head. So here's the teaser; No more teaching seminary with this shade!