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.