Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Never Were There Such Devoted Sisters

I have written before about my Aunt Elaine. I should say, my Great Aunt Elaine. The most fascinating thing about my relationship her has been that she is a child psychologist who knew me as a child. Not only that, she knew my parents and their disciplining styles, and added to that, I am currently gaining a similar perspective on childhood. So our discussions have usually revolved around that, and it is interesting to hear her perspective on it (siblings, you may want to ask some time, but I won’t post that kind of stuff here.) She tells fabulous stories of how close she was to my mom and her siblings as well as to me. I remember her babysitting us, I remember falling off a big kitchen stool once and bumping my head and she held me. And she remembers it too. And she remembers the kinds of trouble we got into and she remembers that we were some of the best-behaved children on the planet. Ok, well, our memories may not always be accurate. Clearly she wasn’t around for the “let’s-see-if-the-baby-fits-down-the-laundry-chute” experiment (sorry Amy!), nor did she happen upon us in a spirited game of hide-and-seek in which somehow the dryer got turned on with the toddler inside (Oops, Jessica hasn’t been the same since). She probably did hear the tape recording of the kindergartener screaming “Stop smiling at me!” but that was actually hilarious, especially if you only heard the recording and you weren’t present for the actual tormenting that led up to it…(so maybe Melissa merits an apology for that one, from Aaron.) And she never would have permitted the pickle-juice-in-the-baby’s-bottle, but by then I was old enough to be expected to not participate in that one. (Besides, Emma loves pickles.)

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


I realize that that last post had a bit of a negative vibe. And as I re-read it, I consider that while I have felt some frustrations over the past few days, I really have nothing to complain about. My life is pretty charmed right now. The depression is at bay, and while I recognize that it will continue to ebb and flow throughout the rest of my life, it will never again come to the extreme that it was. I have the skills to deal with it now. I know the triggers that set it off and I know the people I can call for help. There are people around me that are facing so much more than a frustrating work environment, I feel a little guilty at even complaining. I get to live a pretty selfish existence, I don't even have a church calling right now (for the first time since I was 12 years old.) So please, take the moans and groans with a grain of salt.

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

As promised, but sorely lacking

I know I didn’t post for a whole week. It was a rough week. Well, sometimes it was rough, other times it was disappointing and occasionally it was just really weird. Work was what was rough. And since my only computer access is at work, and while at work I didn’t have anything nice to say, nor did I feel like communicating at all, well, those are my excuses. When I don’t have anything to say, I have a really hard time inventing something. It takes me all sorts of time to process thoughts. I can be frustratingly slow at figuring out exactly what I am thinking or feeling. It was a rough week. It was a long week. It was rough in the normal-person kind of rough, which is actually a refreshing blessing in an odd sort of a way. It felt nice to be frustrated with my boss, legitimately anxious about something instead of generally anxious about nothing, and emotionally exhausted at the end of the day because I was actually making efforts, not simply because I was trying to function. On a positive note, I am beginning to separate myself from work a little better, so when work hours are over, I no longer stress about them. I am not placing my identity in my job. It’s just not healthy. My job is where I go in order to be able to afford to do the things I want to do. It is a little sad that it has to be that way, since it hasn’t always. But it’s ok now, since I live in a place where I have an identity outside of my job.

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

An Ode

I am keenly aware that many of you will judge me to be just plain weird for this one, but you should know that when I am sleepy while driving, I must entertain my brain with some puzzle. Last night I was thrilled to find one last can that had rolled under my seat, left from the road trip out to Utah. I can't say whether it was the caffeine or the poetry that kept my brain functioning from Orem to Salt Lake. The most pleasant thing of all was that when I woke up this morning, I still remembered it. So here it is, for your reading pleasure. Nancy's Driving Poetry.

To the Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper that was under the Passenger Seat of my car Last Night:

I Laugh
At your sugar free
Filled instead
With Aspartame
When it is the carbonation
Ever present
That causes bulk

Artificial flavor
Generic and sweet
And coloring red
The liquid I love
Dying my teeth
So I brush obsessively

Ignored, blasphemed
Your value is scorned
By those who do not
Take the time to taste
Yet you continue
To blend
They don't even know
You are there.

I know
No Phd
Graces your intellect
But instead
You were intended
As medicinal
Soothing, simple
Carbonated prune juice

Not the spice,
But the alert,
Which wakes me
As I drive
Drowsy from the Scrabble
Essential Energy.

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!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Worst Date Ever

Tamara posted a "worst date ever" blog last weekend, and I enjoyed reading about her misery so much that I though I would take her up on the invitation to post my own experiences. Everyone has had terrible dating experiences, let's face it, it's just about the worst situation possible. I mean, two people, who barely know each other, are forced into a situation where they must judge and be judged. Evaluating and performing for someone who you may or may not come to care about, knowing that every word either of you say will be analyzed and mocked or swooned over by the closest companions of the others. It can only turn out badly. It has never (in my experience) turned out well. In fact, all of the friendships and relationships that I treasure have never gone to that dating place. And I am pretty sure that if they had, they would no longer be considered a treasured relationship. I have no doubt that I am the source of "worst date ever" stories. The most frequent response I get at the end of the evening is what I call the "Scared Rabbit". You know when a small, helpless animal is cornered and looking for any escape. That's what my dates look like. And friends who attempt to set me up with someone, beware. Generally the friendship doesn't survive a set-up either. I can openly admit that I am a terrible date. But I have a few winners in my journal as well. And by "winners" I mean losers. That may sound harsh. Just wait.

*names have been changed to protect the innocent. The not-so-innocent have not been offered the same courtesy.

My worst date ever was a blind date. My friends Jill and Paul were the well-meaning offenders. I worked with them, an older couple, up in Roy. Jill though it would be fantastic to set me up with her son's best friend. Paul said that the best friend was a blithering idiot, and I could do better. But Jill was set on it, and insisted. It should be noted that this was the second friend she tried to set me up with. The first time, I jokingly told her that I would go out with anyone as long as they didn't have a prison record. She got very quiet, and said she would think of someone else. So the second one was in order to make me feel better about the first one. His name was Jake. He was 29, just perfect for my 27-yr-old self. And since our ages matched, and we were both single, we must be destined for each other. They gave him my number. He called that night. He asked what I majored in, I told him "Music" His response was that he just loved music. And then he began a 15 minute ramble about the last album he purchased, which vinyl he needed to update, and he even held his cell phone up to the car speakers in his car so I could hear his current selection. You are thinking "that doesn't sound so bad..."

No? Did I mention it was all 80's rock and the occasional early 90's alternative band? So how many of you, when you hear "music major" think "80's rock"?

What? Nobody?

How many of you think "classical training"?

Oh good, most of my friends are not, in fact, blithering idiots. If you were under the impression that I worked 4am custodial for 4 years in order to study Guns N Roses, you have my permission to crawl under your desk and weep for your own ignorance. Then come out and pretend that you knew what I was talking about all along.

Back to the phone conversation.

Jake arranged to pick me up at 6pm on Friday night. He thought mini-golf would be a nice activity. Then he had to go, because his mom wanted him to take out the trash.

He was prompt. 600, on the dot.

We drove to the mini-golf place. It was early spring, but silly me, I assumed he checked on things like this. No. It was still closed for the season. He drove to the next mini-golf place, some story, he drove to two more, you'll never guess, all closed. Now it is 7:30. He has, in the time it has taken to drive to four mini-golf locations, been telling me all about himself. His self-proclaimed greatest skill in life is that he knows how to do the absolute minimum work required at any job. He prides himself on never doing more than absolutely necessary. He brags about the evidence of this skill. What evidence? Well, he has only been fired 3 times. All of his other jobs kept him on because they couldn't think of anything to fire him for. The most recent firing was from a telemarketing place, and he was OK with that because he didn't like them anyways, even if they did pay more than any of his other jobs. Blithering idiot.

By 7:30, I got a word in edgewise and suggested that perhaps mini-golf was not going to work out. My hope was that he would give up and take me home. I should be so lucky.

He decided a movie would be a great substitute. So we began stopping at movie theatres to see what was playing and when. The first movie theatre had nothing beginning for another 45 minutes, so we went to the next theatre. And so forth. For another hour, we drove to every theatre between North Ogden and Layton. By the time we finally got to the Layton Theatre, we could have been half an hour into the movie in Ogden. We got to Layton, he chose a movie that was starting in 35 minutes, because he wanted to have time to run to the store for candy. We went to the store, and he bought himself 3 bags of his favorite candy and some soda. He informed me that since he didn't plan on having to pay for a movie, he didn't have enough money to get anything for me. That's OK, I didn't want to feel indebted to him. When we got out to the parking lot, he asked me to hide his candy and soda in my bag and my coat, so he wouldn't get caught sneaking it in. I told him I felt too dishonest about that. Well, that was a lie, as any of you who have been to a movie with me can attest, I bring entire meals in. But I wanted to see him struggle, so I made him feel guilty. Lovely Passive-Aggressive me. We went back to the theatre and took our seats. The movie began, and suddenly he said "This is a Stephen King Movie". I was aware of that. I was aware because I hate hate hate hate hate horror movies, but was so irritated with him that I hadn't wanted to insist on a later movie. I wanted to be done. So all of the sudden, he says "This is a Stephen King movie. I don't like scary movies."

And in my brain I am thinking "way to go, jerk. It's only been advertised and in theatres for a month now. You would have to live under a rock to not have known that." Blithering Idiot.

Whatever. I was beyond words at this point, so I shrugged and sat there. About halfway through the movie, he leaned over to me and told me the rest of the plot. I asked him how he was so sure and he said "I love this stuff. It's always so cliche and predictable."

Blithering Idiot.

About 10 minutes after his plot reveal, his cell phone rang. He hadn't turned it off. Idiot.

He answered it. In the movie theatre, while the movie was going. Blithering idiot.

It was his mom. He finished the phone conversation, and then he said to me "That was my mom. She says I have to go home and go to bed because I work at 8 tomorrow morning."
And then he got up and left .
That's right. He left the movie. He left the theatre. He left me sitting there. He left because his mom told him to. And I was relieved. I was grateful to have to call my roommate and ask her to pick me up. I was ecstatic that I didn't have to keep thinking about where to put my hands. I was thrilled to no longer have to come up with a polite "uh-huh" ever 7 minutes. I was overjoyed that I didn't have to get back into his car. And most of all, I was giddy that I didn't have to go through the doorstep scene. No awkward attempt at a hug or a handshake.

And there you have it. I have, in fact, been on blind dates since this one, but they were extremely screened and in large groups and the friends who did the setting up had to be present and accountable for their choices. And I invite each of you to consider that next time the thought crosses your mind. Whether it is me or any of you other Single friends, it is only fair that we exact the same emotional punishment from you that you have inflicted upon us.

PS. I would seriously love to hear some of your worsts as well. It helps if we commiserate together.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


I am sorry if you hate snow. No, I am not sorry. If you hate snow, then you are simply missing out on one of the finest things in life. I can understand hating the cold. Snow is not cold. Snow is Snow. It is whiteness and fluffieness and Hot Cocoa and Christmas and childhood and shoveling the driveway at midnight all rolled into one wonderful and euphoric feeling of snow.

Let me explain. You know the hymn obsession? Here you go:

Pale through the gloom, the newly fallen snow,

Wraps in a shroud the silent earth below.

As though t'were mercy's hand had spread the pall,

A symbol of forgiveness unto all.

It's all there. Snow makes the earth quiet. And pure. Especially when it falls at 5:00 on a Sunday morning, and the world is asleep and only a few lights are left on.

I remember my first snow. I know you all think I am Minnesota, but I was actually born in California, during a drought. I remember my first rain. But here we are talking about snow. We moved to Michigan when I was 3, and I remember one night, my dad got us up out of bed, and it was dark, and he made us sit on the piano bench in the dark living room, facing the picture window, and then he opened the curtains on the window and showed us snow. It was just my brother and I on the piano bench (my sisters were all either too little or not born, which I suppose also makes them too little.) And we were thrilled. At least I was. Too thrilled to remember my brother's reaction. Family lore holds that when it was time for me to go back to bed, I threw a royal fit, because I wanted to sleep in the snow. I still want to sleep in the snow. It's so soft and comforting. I just don't throw fits about it anymore, instead I wait until midnight and go out and shovel the driveway. (Ok, inside, I still throw fits about it, but I have learned to keep those inside. Outside, I just jump around like a kindergartener and text people to go look out their windows.)

But the snow this past Sunday wasn't the shovel-the-driveway kind of snow. It was the kind that sticks to trees and grass and falls in big chunks from the sky for hours. And then after an afternoon of sunshine, it goes away, and I am left with a few pictures to tide me over until next time. Here are the rules of the first snow.

1. Drop everything and walk in it. Cancel your meetings, take a long lunch, wake up at an obscene hour, do what you have to do, but walk in the snow

2. Accessorize. Snow means it is time for the hats and the gloves and the scarves. I don't care if you wear a coat, but you absolutely must have coordinated snow accessories.

3. You are now permitted one Christmas album. The rest have to wait until after Thanksgiving, so choose wisely. I recommend the MoTab one on which Track 6 is Wilberg's "The First Noel". It's pretty much the best Christmas music ever.

4. Catch snow on your tongue. I don't care how many people are watching or how much of a crazy person you look like, you must catch AT LEAST one snowflake on your tongue.

5. Sing (or Hum) the parts you know of "My Favorite Things" including the line "snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes", you have permission to do a Julie Andrews accent and everything.

6. Drink (at least) one mug of cocoa (with mini Marshmallows) in order to properly honor the moment.

You all know that I am a very sensible person. Some have gone so far as to call my realism cynicism. So you can see that if I of all people can turn mushy and cheesy, you must have the responsibility to join me in the ritual. Honestly people, it's the only time of year I regret being alone.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

My Successful Diet

Now I do not want to jinx this. But today I was dancing with the kids and my pants started to fall down. Because they are too big. WAAAAY too big. and I like them that way. Well, not in the falling-down , saggy-bottom sort of way, but in the not-too-tight, maybe-I-should-buy-new-clothes sort of way. And I can fix the falling down bit with a belt, so no big deal. I thought, in the spirit of giving and sharing info online, I should post for you my diet secrets. This is important info, so pay attention!

First, Do not spend your evenings curled up in the fetal position after eating a pint of Ice Cream. It turns out that curling up in the fetal position does not burn as many calories as you think it does, no matter how hard you have to try to wrap your arms around your legs that will not fold into your generous belly. Nope, those don't count as calories burned, not even as yoga points.

Second, you could just skip the Ice Cream altogether. It's just a suggestion, not to be taken every night, but maybe 6 nights out of 7, you should cut back on the pint. How about a full pint once a week and half a pint once a week? That way you can enjoy a little on, say, Weds, and that will tide you over until Saturday when you go to Cold Stone for that "Love It" sized oatmeal cookie batter Ice cream with brownies and coconut mixed in.... (and the waffle bowl. NEVER forget the waffle bowl. That's the good part.) Oh, uh, diet secrets? Yeah, back to that.

Third, as nice as it is to spend a few hours surreptisiously reading a book you didn't pay for in a Barnes and Noble Cafe with a melon italian soda and a spinach feta pretzel, you could go hiking some nights instead. Find a mountain somewhere and climb it. (We have quite a few here, I am willing to lend you one, or to walk with you.) Wander through a canyon, follow a brook, enjoy the changing leaves and walk until your legs and lungs start to burn a little, then turn around and walk back. If you do not have access to any mountains, I am not quite sure how to help you.

Fourth, drink milk, not milkshakes. All that caclium that you used to get from Ice Cream has to be replaced, and it turns out that a glass of milk is as filling as that bowl of Rocky road or that DQ Georgia Mud Fudge Blizzard. It's also more filling and nutritious than Orange Juice. Although I wouldn't cut out the orange juice completely. I'll get to that next.

Fifth, and finally, eat breakfast like a kindergartener. Have a bowl of cereal, a piece of fruit, some yogurt or an orange juice and toast. Hiding in your bed until the last possible moment before you have to run to work is not only anti-social, but it also leaves your blood sugar so low that instead of having a sensible morning, you find yourself ravenously snacking on anything placed in front of you. With a kindergartener's breakfast in you, you will find yourself able to say "No" to the chocolate cake leftover in the break room (it's stale anyways) and the Cheezits you have stashed away in your file drawer. If you must buy a ridiculous sugar cereal with a cartoon character on the front in order to encourage yourself out of bed, then do it. The extra sugar calories in that will be nothing compared to the things you can find in people's candy dishes around the office.

There you have it! Nancy's successful diet. I can't make many promises as to how many pounds you could lose, but I am already down 20. I am sure that eventually I will have to cut out the weekly Cafe Rio in order to drop another 20, but I will cross that bridge when I come to it. (Or else I will simply jump on the bridge, and it will collapse.)

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Conference Music Review

I have an obsession. It's true that I try to avoid all things cheesy/green jello culture, but I do obsess over the Mormon Tabernacle Coir, the hymns, and most particularly the music at general conference.

Since before I can remember, I have tried to memorize the hymns. My goal was to have them memorized by the time I was baptized, age 8, but they changed the hymnbook right around then, and I had to re-memorize a few texts that were altered. I am still a little sad that they changed "How Firm a Foundation," just because the Primary kids were singing "yoohoo"instead of "You who". I am quite sure I had them memorized by the age of ten, including the new hymns that were added to the green hymnbook. Then I started in on the primary songs, until I discovered the protestant hymns sometime in Highschool, which I decided had more substance than most of the primary songs. My first calling was to direct the sacrament hymns, at the age of 12. It has been either my calling or simply an expectation of me since that day. Then my mission came and I tried to memorize the hymns in French. Unfortunately, my brain has limited storage space, so I get the two languages mixed up alot. Some days, I just give up and sing them in French. Some days I bust out the hymnbook for help. The page numbers are different too, but I am working on that. There really are some amazing sermons preached in the hymnbook. The Elders in my MTC district used to quiz me on hymns the way the rest of the missionaries would compete in Scripture mastery verses. And I was kind of proud one day when one of my seminary kids asked "do you expect us to know this like Sister Pratt knows the hymns, or just like a normal person?" Yes, I am a freak. And I am ok with that designation.

It's the primary reason I try to watch conference alone. Somewhere, people got it into their heads that the music wasn't as important as the talks, and somewhere they also decided that everyone else feels the same way, and as a result, people start chatting during the hymns. Not about the hymns, or the choir, or the arrangement, but about what's for dinner, or what they are doing after conference, or when the baby needs a nap. It frustrates me beyond all belief, and when I watch conference with people who do this, I end up tense and anxious. I start giving dirty looks to those people, I actually shoosh them, and then they look at me like I am crazy, because after all, it's just the music, it's not that important. I have even sat through conference with friends and family, who I have explained my obsession to, and they not only ignore my request for quiet during the music, they apologize for chatting during the song, and then continue to chat, until I say something sarcastic to them, cause an akward silence, and they never speak to me again. And I do feel bad for being rude to them, but it would all be cured if they would have listened in the first place. But I can't seem to convey to people, friends, family, or stangers, how absolutely essential the music is to this experience. So listen up, people. This is my chance to soapbox a little, and this is your chance to hear it without having to look me in the eye and say "really Nancy, I think you have gone little overboard." I have not gone overboard, the music is that important.

In the spirit of that obsession, I offer to you my conference music review. Here is your chance to see what I get out of the music, why I listen, and why I think everyone else should listen. First of all, you should know that in the conference planning process, the first thing that is prepared and set in motion is the music. If you add up the hours of music preparation and compare it to the hours spent writing talks, you will find that more time, more effort, more resources, and more people are used in the music than in any other aspect of conference. Have you considered that? It takes more time to arrange a hymn than it does for Elder Nelson to write his talk? And it takes a choir of 3-4 hundred a month of rehearsal to present the music. I am not saying to ignore the talk, I am saying that considering the sacrifices made to put the music there, we should have a little more respect.

Too muh soapbox, I will tone it down a little. My apologies. Please don't take offense. I know that everyone learns differently, and that everyone appreciates different things. You can do what you want during the hymns, as long as it doesn't disturb me.

Saturday I watched conference from my house. We don't have any cable and thus far we have never been able to get a single channel on, nor have we tried very hard. But I rigged the Tv and VCR to a wire coat hanger and got chanel 5 to show up. Not in color, and a little snowy, but well enough for me to know what was going on. And the sound was perfect. Here are the hymns that we heard:

High on a Mountain Top- This is frequently a conference opener, if not for saturday then for sunday. And consider the significane of unfurling a banner to the world at the opening of General conference. It is a call and an invitation to listen, and it is an invitation extended to the entire world. Read the text sometime, it's all there in Hymn number 5

Redeemer of Israel- The Wilberg Arrangement. This is great music people, and this arrangememnt is as significant to this hymn as Wilhousky is to the Battle Hymn of the Republic.
My only complaint is that the last two verses are excluded. I understand musically why they had to be, but the 5th verse is my all time favorite verse in the entire hymnbook. Read it, it's hymn number 6.

Oh May My Soul Commune with Thee- This piece set up Elder Perry's talk perfectly. If you listened to both texts, you could hear that Elder Perry probably paid attention to the hymn preceeding his talk when He wrote his talk. From the hymn about prayer and the phrase "Find Thy Holy Peace" Elder Perry went straight into Thoreau's wilderness and asked us to find a quiet place to reflect and heal.

Come Ye Children of the Lord- congregational hymn. Did you notice that we sang all the verses? Yup, we were running a little ahead of schedule. But it's great when you think that 13 million people around the world are singing together "Let us sing with one Accord!"

Do What is Right- Frankly, this has never been one of my favorite hymns. It's a bit of a yawn with its plodding and repetetive rhythm. BOM da da BOM da da BOM da da... But the treatment of it here was perfect. This arrangement really focused on the text, and the Tab Choir was, of course, brilliant at expressing it. Did you notice the brightness in the phrase "the shackles are falling"? Did you hear the joy in the phrase "Blessings await you", and the strength in "with stout hearts look ye forth".

Oh Thou Kind and Gracious Father- This hymn was added because of the whole being ahead of schedule thing. That's why you saw the Tab Choir bust out their hymnbooks. Or at least, that's what you saw if you weren't busy getting a snack. The entire text of this hymn is a prayer. And it is a great one, one that we should probably use more often. It actually fit nicely, and introduced Elder Uchtdorff's talk on Hope.

I Need Thee Every Hour- We all know this one, it's used alot in the church, but consider the one line of the title with Elder Uchtdorff's request that we "make the courageous choice to hope". They fit so nicely, don't they?

Sunday Afternoon- A children's choir from Kaysville and Fruit Heights. I do not judge children's choirs very harshly, but I know when their director could ask more of them. Children will always surprise you, they can pretty consistantly do more than most of us ask of them. This group sounded like a very large primary. Which is appropriate for a primary choir, but I think that the director could have encouraged a more soothing sound from them if she had simply taught them to smooth the "fruit heights" sound out of their vowels. That aside, here is what I thought of their music.

I am a Child of God- Every children's choir does it, as every children's choir should. And to this group, way to go on the descant.

The Light of God- When I was in the MTC, we sang it EVERY SUNDAY in RS. and I was in the MTC for 10 weeks. and it was the same lady who directed it every sunday. I have no doubt that she is the culprit who chose it every sunday. And every sunday, she wore the same dangly earrings that bounced around as she conducted it. And on this occasion, all I could see was the dangly earrings. So I lost focus a little. It's not a hymn that I like all that much, and I can't stand the scoops that naturally occur in some parts of the melody line. It's better that I focus on memories of dangly earrings. (bounce bounce bounce bounce)

Teach Me to Walk in the Light- My dad and my Grandpa sang this together at my baptism. Again with the memories. But it fit perfectly with Elder Causee's talk that came next (have you read the Little Prince? you should) Yes, the nice lady was trying to slow us down, again we were ahead of schedule.

I Love to see the Temple- I cheer whenever the primary sings this one. Wasn't it every little girl's favorite primary song at some point? It's one of the first that I learned to play on the piano too.

We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet- I will admit I had already started to drift into afternoon nap mode for this one. no notes on it at all.

Sunday Morning- At a friend's house for this session, bless his heart, with a real TV and crepes for breakfast, I felt a bit more settled for this session. Yes, I watched Music and the Spoken Word First, and the thing that stuck out to me was actually not the choir music this time, but the organ piece. There is always one, and sometimes they are a little over my head, but today it was the organist's own arrangement of "Lord I would Follow Thee" and I loved it.

Now Let us Rejoice- And let this be a lesson to you, every meeting, especially the big ones like sacrament and stake conference, should begin with an upbeat hymn. If not the opening hymn, then at least the last hymn of the prelude.

I Know that My Redeemer Lives- Love this hymn. I just love it, that's all.

O What Songs of the Heart- I sang this very arrangement (Wilberg, of course) in a Stake choir at BYU, and the Stake President gave a talk on the "Doctrine of Belonging". Everyone has a place, everyone has a role and is a part of something wonderful. There may be times of loneliness in our lives, but we are not ever alone. It's all there in the text of this hymn, and it is all there in Elder Eyring's talk that followed this hymn. Again, the music and the talks came together to preach the lesson.

Rejoice the Lord is King- One verse. see, now we are running short on time. (and notice how the congregational hymns are always upbeat as well. There is a purpose to that!)

I Feel my Savior's Love- I also cheer when the Tab choir does a primary song. Because they do it so well, and because it is a wonderful feeling to return to that childhood testimony. Although I have to admit, during this song, I was just trying to calm myself down in the midst of stuff going on around me. Not irritated. Ok, irritated, but not about people ignoring the music so much as with my own personal issues. I am sure I will get over it.

The Morning Breaks- Again the hymn fits perfectly with the messages given. I love the phrase in this hymn "to bring her ransomed children Home." Home is such a great concept.

Sunday Afternoon- I was with my Grandfather for this session. He sings along with everything, no matter what. And I don't just mean at conference. I mean orchestras, pianos, choirs, everything. And I am pretty sure he knows every word to every hymn or song ever written. He certainly knows all of the hymns that I know, and all of the Gilbert and Sullivan ever written.

Guide us O Thou Great Jehovah- Grandpa couldn't remember which tune we currently use for this one, but he was pleased to hear that it was the tune he prefers. I need to learn the other tune from him sometime.

Faith in Every Footstep- I really like this one. I know a few years back everyone got really sick of it, but I have some positive memories associated with it. And the way it matched Elder Packer's opening lines to his talk was perfect. God prepares a way.

How Firm a Foundation- My favorite verse in this hymn is actually the last verse. That soul that on Jesus hat leaned for repose, I will not, I can not desert to his foes. That soul though all Hell should endeavor to shake, I'll never, no Never forsake.

We Ever Pray for Thee-I do remember an arrangement of this that I liked better, but this was still nice. It seemed a little slow, but that could be beacuse 13 million people, including the choir and it's conductor, were ready for a nap. Or else they just woke up from one. (who doesn't struggle with the afternoon sessions?) Like I said for the Saturday afternoon, I was already drifting, so my notes are sparse.

And there you have my review. Conference was good, the music was great. And if you endured to the end of this very long, soapbox-y post, I send you virtual brownies. Thanks for listening.