Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Happiness is telling the time?

Isn't this Linus's line? I seem to remember something about him getting a new watch in the comic strip. For some reason as a kid I remember our bookshelves holding a few volumes of Peanuts books.

But why? Linus, I suppose, felt some new sense of power over his destiny, what with the ability to tell time. Plus, the watch was a gift, and it was a gift that he somehow felt grown up enough to understand and use. Now if I had a chance to chat with Linus about the whole thing, I would tell him to get rid of that watch, that time has a nasty habit of running faster and faster and pretty soon he would be able to tell it anything at all, he would be so busy running after it, trying to catch even a little bit of it. A clock of any type, wristwatch or microwave or alarm or the one hanging on the chapel wall on Sunday afternoons, really just has a way of dictating the hours and minutes and seconds left until we run out. Like the way the clock on my computer is telling me just how much time I don't have left to do stats homework, just how much time I have wasted doing anything other than stats homework, and just how much time I really don't want to be spending on stats homework. Maybe Linus was counting down to something else. He always did have a struggle when his blanket was in the dryer. Perhaps he was counting down the time until his trusty blue friend was returned to his arms, warm and static-y. Perhaps instead of counting down to finals and papers and that big stats grade, I would find more happiness in counting down to something good. Like ice cream or springtime or January 5th. Maybe I'll count down to when I curl up with my own blankie in a warm bed. Ah yes, there it is. Happiness is tellling the time.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Happiness is pizza with sausage

Actually, I'm not really a fan of sausage. Particularly not on pizza. As a breakfast food it's a little more lovable, particularly if it happens to roll through a puddle of maple syrup, giving it that salty-sweet blend of greasy goodness... But in general, I could live without it. It's ham that I truly love, on my pizza, in my crepe, on a sandwich, and also laying in a puddle of maple syrup. Oh you dieting people, hoping to take off pounds before you start indulging in Christmas fudge or even trying to get a jump start on that ridiculous American tradition of failing at your new year's resolutions, I can hear you whining at me through my computer screen. I should quit talking about such fattening and tempting things, lest I inadvertently send you out on a rampaging search for the nearest piece of chocolate covered bacon. Well I say get over it. 2010 is a month away, I know you've already destroyed your 2009 goals, and 2010 will offer just as many months for failure. December is perfect timing really, for all of the holiday sweets and indulgences.

But of course, I say this all while reveling in dietary success. And I am going to say it loudly and proudly. Have you noticed that there is a lot of talk out there about diet failure, a cultural leaning towards negative dietary speak and a bevy of commercials aimed at capitalizing on such negativity. Think of it, when was the last time you heard a friend say "I love my diet! I get to eat such wonderful exciting things and I feel so good!"? And if you are snarky enough to tell me you've actually heard someone say that recently, then tell me this: did you honestly believe them? No, really believe them. Were you sitting at a restaurant, and a discussion came up about whether or not to split the dessert, and they declined even a bite of that chocolate molten lava cake all the while proclaiming the beauty of their diet? And I will bet you your thoughts were a blend of guilt ("I should probably....") and disbelief ("you protest, but I see you drooling and yearning for it"). Why do we do this to ourselves? Even if we do enjoy the cake, we do it in protest of all that will later land on our thighs, when in reality, its not our thighs that are complaining but the public image! All the while you are listening to friends put the same face forward, but you never really hear about or believe the success. You hear if it failed, you hear if they gave up, you hear all sorts of excuses, but you don't hear "why yes, I'd love to split the dessert with you, because I am comfortable with myself and my image and I live a pretty damn healthy lifestyle!" Why aren't we allowed to say that?

A number of people have asked me about my dietary success. They want to know just what I am doing, and they say it with a little bit of hope in their eyes. Maybe they are hoping that I found the one magic diet pill that actually works (nope) maybe they are hoping that I have landed on the perfect combination of pastries and french fries that leads to a slim figure (nada) and maybe they are hoping that I will plug some "slimfast" type program (I'm not going to waste my dollars, really). And mybe they are just hoping that I won't give an obnoxious person lecture on carrotsticks and treadmills, gym memberships and removing refined sugar from my diet. Well I promise, I won't give that lecture either. I won't spout some LA weight loss joke which will only cost $349 a month and I won't proclaim love for a personal trainer. I'm not what you would call slim either. Just slimmer and getting more so every day, slowly slowly but enough so that I feel good about the things that are happening. The reality of what I have discovered in weight loss secrets is so golden that I should truly be proclaiming it from the rooftops.

But its wintertime, my roof is slippery, and all I really have is this blog. So you, dear readers, will be the unwitting recipients of the gold mine that is Nancy Beth's diet. Are you ready?

I'm happy.

That's it. Its the key to weight loss and healthy living as I know it. It's not just a question of limiting the number of chocolate milkshakes I have in a week. It's also a question of allowing myself one when I really want one. It's not just about cutting out donuts and replacing them with carrot sticks. It's about acknowledging that I kind of like carrot sticks particularly if they are deep fried like a donut and then dipped in ranch dressing. It's not about 6 miles on the treadmill in the morning and a stroll through the neighborhood every night. It's about walking when I feel like walking and driving when I am too tired to walk anymore.

The other day I was in between classes and I suddenly wanted a donut. So I bought one. And guess what? I still fit into my jeans the next day. But also, on another recent occasion, I was eating a meal with my friends, and I thought to myself, "I don't really want to finish this" so I didn't. And on Thanksgiving, this weird and new thing happened to me. I fininshed a plate of amazing food and wandered back into the kitchen for seconds and stared at the marvelous pot still nearly full to the brim with mashed potates (mashed potatoes with crispy crispy bacon chunks and slices of leeks in them... so yummy) and I thought "meh. One serving was enough." And the morning afer thanksgiving, when I got up and found that pies were still strewn across the kitchen, I had a slice with whipped cream and a little scoop of ice cream. And I don't think that caloric intake was any more than what I would have done if I had planted myself in front of those potatoes the night before.

And this morning, for breakfast, I had a mini-Crunch bar. And a glass of milk. But yesterday I had a bowl of Chex (not the whole box... just a bowl). And I excercised this morning too. I put up a Christmas tree, wrapped it in lights, and then practiced the organ for a while. That burns waaaaay more calories than catching the morning show or loading new songs onto my ipod shuffle with the intention of running.

It's so easy, nobody would ever be able to sell it. But you heard it here from me, your friend. This holiday season, you should have that piece of fudge that you really really want. And if it is gross then you shouldn't finish it. But if it is good, maybe you should have another, because the next time the fudge is passed it might be that nasty whitish stuff with the nuts in it. And then when the holidays are over and you feel slightly bloated because it turns out that your friends are better at making fudge then you thought they would be, you should find something you love to do. Like singing or practicing a new instrument or walking in the snow or packing up Christmas decorations so that the lights won't be a tangled mess next year. And you should do those things with all your heart that make you feel happy. Because just breathing burns calories. And learning the cello will do more for your heart and head than forcing yourself to a treadmill in front of a television. And if you do feel yourself slipping into the chocolate milkshake stupor, with the cast of Glee keeping you company and an obscene number of empty gallon buckets collecting under your kitchen sink, you should do that thing that makes you happy instead. I'm not telling you to cut out Glee and milkshakes entirely, but one night a week is probably just enough time to give your walking feet or piano fingers or tennis elbows a rest before you return to actively making yourself happy. Order yourself a pizza while you are at it, it goes very well with chocolate milkshakes. And if you happen to like sausage, go ahead and double it. I guarantee you will still fit into your jeans the next day.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Happiness is finding a pencil...

If Charlie Brown truly is an allegory for the common man, then we should see that everyone has their struggles, everyone lacks a certain amount of confidence, everyone perceives the people around them as having the confidence that they lack, and everyone finds their own way of coping, like visiting Lucy with a nickel. I think Charlie Brown really has it sewn up, though, between his friends and his kite and his faithful pup, he finally figures out what happiness is.

School is keeping me pretty busy. I have a huge paper due next week, 10+ pages. And I have a stats project due Friday, presentation including regression lines and residuals and I have yet to figure out what those are. And I still have 4 concerts to perform before the semester ends (it's music that I hate, too). Not to mention that I was asked to finish out the Christmas season with the ward choir before I get released.

But I'm actually very happy with it all. Probably because my focus is elsewhere. Seriously elsewhere. It's pretty well fixed on January 5th. Of course, there are a lot of preparations to be made before January 5th happens. Those could be included in the above "to do" list as well, except for one thing.

I am really excited about doing the January 5th things. They don't hover on my list like the others, poking at my brain with dulled sticks, nagging and draining me of all energy as I procrastinate. No, no. These things are exciting adventures which take me to new places and feel like gold stars on the sticker chart of my life.

Included in my letter that started with the word "Congratulations!" was a list of instructions. First, everything I do that is related to choir activities is a part of my new missionary calling, and must be done in missionary attire. I'm busting out all those skirts and dresses I accumulated while I was teaching seminary, and I love it. Finally I have a reason to be wearing skirts again, and I don't feel like such a scrubby gross jeans and t-shirt kind of feeling every day. I know a lot of people love that, but its just not my style.

Next on my list of things to do was to go and get security badges and parking passes. I love that at this point in the letter there was a parenthetical reminder about the missionary attire. Don't forget to wear a dress when you go to the parking garage! I now have my precious badges and official stuff. I've decided that my official and permanent backstage pass works in heaven as on earth, and I promised Emma she could be my +1 as long as she is single. If she gets married then other single friends and family may apply for the position. Married people are on their own.

The third item on the list in the letter was to be sure and get released from any callings before January 5th. Frankly, I rejoice in that.

Now don't go thinking that my life is totally charmed and perfect as a result of the letter and all the instructions. For example, many of the skirts I got while I was teaching seminary are entirely too big for me, and they will have to be altered or thrown out entirely because they actually fall right off of my 3-sizes-smaller hips. See what a trial? Also, the parking pass includes a windshield sticker which I have yet to place, because there is a giant crack in my windshield, and I need to get it replaced but I'm not sure that I will be able to afford to do that before I need to actually use the parking sticker... oh what a quandry! And perhaps most troubling of all is that my bishop wants me to continue as ward choir director right up until January 4th! He's like Lucy, and my release is the football! He's tempting me, tempting me, but alas not yet!

(I hope you all see the facetiousness in my complaints)

Having accomplished all that I could on that "to do" list, I find myself answering the phone to more and more unfamiliar numbers. Yesterday it was a frantic sounding lady who told me that it was "imperative" that I be at the choir office in just a few hours for a session with a voice coach. "Imperative?" Ok. I had some stuff planned for the evening, but could be available for the timing she requested. You say "jump", I say "Really? You want me to? Can I? May I? How high, what time, should I be there early and how long would you like me to stay? Also, I'll bring cookies if it will make you like me more." Of course, then the lady asked me for my height and dress size, which I also gladly disclosed, including the information about the 3-size-too-big seminary dresses.

I went there thinking that it would be sparse as far as traffic and parking, since it was just a random Tuesday night. Of course, I neglected to consider the Christmas Lights factor. It took me a little longer to get there than expected, but I was still 20 minutes early. There was this sign on the door telling me to wait patiently and the vocal coach would be there shortly to let me in. I stood there next to door 25 listening to the recordings of the choir played on the loudspeakers while crowds walked past looking at the lights and then noticing me and staring at me and the sign as they walked past. I wanted to yell at them "I'm standing here because I get to sing with them! They want me and I'm good enough and next year that recording will include ME ME ME!!!!!" But I restrained myself, smiled calmly and waited. The door opened and my old voice teacher was waiting for me. You see, she's the vocal coach for the choir now. She remembered me and we caught up a bit and I sang for her. My 3 octave range is still 3 octaves (hooray!) and my voice is still just about the loudest most people will ever hear (it's a blessing and a curse) but my staccattos have come leaps and bounds and my marcatos are even and controlled and my decrescendo is smooth. Of course, I've also gotten lazy and my jaw tenses up and my chest drops. And she said to me "that was never a problem before, you are lazy!" and while I appreciated the correction I also began to comprehend a little better the standard that I am now going to be held to. I will always prefer participating in an ensemble that requires real effort and produces great sound, but that in no means diminishes the energy spent on such a project. I'm really in for it.

My time was up, I left with a list of things to practice before January 5th. And we walked out the door to meet the next person one her list of voice coach sessions for the night. Nobody was standing at the door, but she called out for her and a nice lady peeked around the corner at us.

"I was just listening to the beautiful music." She said.

And the voice coach replied "That's ok, but come with me now, because by next year you will be singing with them!"

And I waved at them at walked away with the biggest smile I've ever felt.

I am taking a page from Charlie Brown, and finding all sorts of joy in the mundane. I'm sure that there are very few people in this world who have gotten so much of a thrill out of signing for a parking pass. But I'd bet its about the same feeling as Charlie Brown had when he found that pencil. And I know there are people who get a thrill out of hearing the choir, but mine increased exponentially with that letter. The choir didn't change, I did. And the little red-haired girl that chews her pencil doesn't quite know what a gift she gave to Charlie Brown, when he discovered it and realized that she has her insecurities just like him. But it changed him just a little too. So this Christmas you'll find me in his corner. We'll be finding joy in pencils and letters and parking passes and kites and even in that football that keeps getting pulled away. Because eventually Lucy will give us a shot. Think of it this way. The first time you see me up there singing, you'll know that Charlie Brown finally kicked that football. And it went straight through the uprights. GOAL.

Monday, November 23, 2009

coming attractions...

I shut off my internet at my house, so computer time is scarce right now. Soon, though. Soon, I will regale you with tales of my adventures...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A sad story.

Today I decided to have a chocolate milkshake. I reasoned with myself that I haven't been using them as stats incentive for a t least a month and that I got a really good score on a stats test last week, so I should be allowed to have one just because I wanted one. No stats homework associated with it, just a plain old chocolate milkshake because they are yummy.

And I got home and I got the ice cream out of the freezer to thaw a little, and I put a few scoops of ice cream in a cup and poured milk over it and ate some of the frozen milk chunks that formed and slurped a little of the chocolate ice cream off the top before adding a little more milk and stirring it up. Then I settled down in front of an episode of NCIS on my computer and...

I didn't want the milkshake. It didn't look good, it didn't sound good, even no longer associated with stats homework, even having gotten a "B" on a stats test, no thought process worked. I simply didn't want a chocolate milkshake.

That has never happened to me. Ever.

Is it because I am getting old and now I prefer healthy things? Or did my pavlovian experiment ruin me forever? How long does it take to heal from the psychological damage we inflict upon ourselves?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween Fun, Each picture is worth a thousand words....

These pictures are in no particular order, but I had a blast on halloween, getting together with my old roomies and friends and just hangin' out and goofin' off. For example, above, Bryan was trying to show us what a "seductive" pose was.... (or was it "lounging around"? All I remember is something about a call girl....)

It's hard to believe that we've all known each other long enough for people to have children, and for those children to be getting this big!

But some things will never change, like our affinity for Charlie's Angel's poses...

Although I'm sure this little one is just wondering what his crazy mom is up too...

We tried to get them to all stay still for just long enough to snap a picture. It's a bit like herding stray cats on a flatbed truck though.
So the individual shots worked a little better.
Oh No! Captain Hook captured Tinkerbell!

And Peter Pan is clinging to his Wendy... (he really was a good sport, for all the people that invaded his house and his routine.)

Personally, I think Halloween is really just a great excuse to play with dry ice...

And dinner cooked in a pumpkin.... Yummy!

Although I have to admit I couldn't bring myself to actually eat one of these "Toes". For all the people in the room with foot phobias, I was the one that couldn't swallow it.

But the spread was gorgeous...
And our hosts were brilliant.

And we took some time to re-enact great literature...

(I love that I am friends with people who are more likely to dress as characters from great literature than from movies and pop culture)

(Although I'm sure an argument can be made for the fact that Peter Pan and Harry Potter are both movies now too. But they were books first, and the books are better than the movies anyways)

Hey look, more food!

The spider dip was my contribution...

Mmmmm, Halloween always makes me happy, but that could be because of the things that come shortly after.... Then again, with friends and fun like this, How could I want anything more?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A sermon in action

My ward choir sang in sacrament meeting today. I am the director, and we are by no means a spectacular ensemble. In fact, we are a little bit less spectacular than the average ward choir, and frankly, this is a calling that I dread for that very reason. Its a pride issue. But sacrament meeting today took on a different sort of meaning.

There were 3 speakers: Youth, regular, and high council rep. The youth speaker would normally go first, but the bishop switched it, because the next speaker is a private in the army, just returned from basic training. Our meeting schedule is pretty late in the day, sometimes making it difficult to attend family functions, and the Private needed to spend time with his family before his impending deployment. It's one of those situations where everyone knows, the political climate being what it is, the elections in Afghanistan being as precarious as they are, the president being faced with decisions about troop increases, we can't be sure that Private J will be here next week. There is that unspoken fear that makes it so that when a Private says "I need to spend time with my family" everyone understands and backs off.

This soldier stood up and you could tell he was a soldier. It's not just the haircut or the stance. It's something about the way he carries himself and responds to those around him. He gave a beautiful talk on adversity. He spoke about basic training, and about how our afflictions are but for a small moment. He bore a beautiful testimony of that verse and of the prophet Joseph Smith and the adversity that he faced. But the primary focus of his talk was not on how life was hard, but how his friends, fellow privates and others around him had helped him through adversity with a kind word and an encouraging moment. He gave a specific example of a particularly grueling exercise, when he didn't think he would make it through, a friend came from behind and pushed him just enough to get him through to the end of the exercise. He spoke about how he learned to give such encouragement, and he spoke about that in the context of the prophet Joseph Smith as well. He mentioned how opportunities to both teach the gospel and learn better ways to live it came through moments of adversity, and while he was speaking I just kept thinking how proud his mom must be. It was a really good talk. And when he finished, he quietly left the stand and slipped out of the chapel while the youth speaker stood to speak.

The youth speaker is a 13 year old boy who I do not know very well. When this boy began to speak, we could hear that he was terrified. His voice shook for the first few words and then it was gone completely. There was silence, from him and the congregation. As the silence grew, the microphone began to pick up his choked sobs, and I began praying for someone to intervene.

But for a 13 year old boy to save face, it can't be just anyone who intervenes. His mom can't come tearing up out of the congregation, that would destroy him more than the sobs. And I certainly couldn't, as the stranger and music director sitting behind him. I was looking at the bishopric, wondering what they could do, when the soldier came striding up the aisle and back to the stand. He put his arm around the boy and whispered a few words in his ear, and the boy began again to speak. His voice was still just as shaky, but this time with a soldier by his side he gained momentum instead of losing it. As he got farther into his talk, the soldier took his seat behind him and stayed until amen's were said. He slipped away again just as I was standing up to direct the choir: "Come Follow Me" and "I'm Trying to be Like Jesus".

I don't know what those whispered words were, but he certainly preached one of the most powerful sermons I have seen or heard in my entire life. And I don't know how much of the family dinner he missed, but I do know that the one person in the congregation who could give a 13 year old boy the strength to finish a tearful talk was a soldier, coming up from behind, offering just the right words of encouragement. And I don't know how proud his mom was of the talk, but I know another mom whose gratitude is running over for the soldier that saved the boy on the stand.

And I'm not much for tears and emotion, particularly in public, but I didn't miss the significance of the text when the choir sang "For these are the things Jesus taught; 'Come follow me'"

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Opening Night

I am backstage right now. Don't worry, its a 20 minute intermission and then I have half an act before I go on again, but there are a few things that I am absolutely loving about this. I of course couldn't write about it during the rehearsal process, because I was beyond exhausted and resenting the show just a little and trying desperately to remember notes every night and incorporate them into the next night. This is intense. I'm not surprised at how intense it is, after all there has to be a reason they pay. I'm just ehxhausted by how intense it is. But there are a few things that I absolutely love about this. I've always loved the backstage feeling, and the intensity has increased with the show. Here are a few of my favorite things:
  • I love hearing calls over the intercom system, "makeup to down stage left" and "full chorus to stage".
  • It's sort of thrilling to be a part of a cast so huge there are 3 stage managers and 8 pages.
  • I love that the cast is called by "Mr." and "Miss". There is a fabulous formality about it that makes me feel warm and fuzzy.
  • I have always enjoyed watching a show from the wings, but this just tops all of them. The soprano is incredible, and I get to sit and listen to her perform these amazing arias every night.
  • Speaking of the soprano, she can go these glissandos where she falls from the heighth of her range all the way to the bottom and just taps every note on the way down and you never hear the shift in her voice. It's like vocal chocolate cake, with fudge frosting every time she taps the notes. Sigh. I don't have to be able to do it myself if I can just sit and listen to someone else do it every night.
  • The costuming is INCREDIBLE. I don't even mind the fact that I can't see out of the mask and hood and can't use my hands the entire time the gloves are on, the costuming is incredible. Even when I see other people backstage, I am amazed at the costumes.
  • Cast party: Exspensive restaurant, catered, opening night, fancy dress required!
  • We sound good. Not just to boast, but seriously, we sound good. I love singing when I know its going to be good. I love knowing its worth it to invite people to come.
  • I get to sing full voice on stage. When does that ever happen to me? Never!
  • I love going in the "Stage Entrance" while audience members are wandering around the lobby of the theatre. It makes me feel special.
  • I love coming back out of the stage entrance at the end of the night while audience members are still standing around. They never know who I am because the makeup and wig and costume are gone, and I can hear them talking about the show without having to be gracious in taking a compliment.
  • I have my own little seat in the chorus dressing room with my name on it, and sometimes people leave little presents there that have been sent to me, and it has a mirror with lights all around it. Total pride kick.
  • I leave my costumes in a bag at the end of the night and someone else does my laundry for me. Every night. I am tempted to bring things from home.
  • The guy playing Banquo is someone that I find extremely attractive. Just sayin'.
  • I can make jokes about the form of the overture, and the people around me laugh.
You see, I love this experience. And at this point, it may be the only time I ever do it, and I am so ok with that, because it certainly has cost in energy and time.

Whoops! There's my call for ACT II finale...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Learning tons, just what is still in question.

For example, I have learned that I can't quite do "Hell Week" (the final week of production before performances) like I used to. It's not just the late night thing, either. I have stayed up late studying several times, and have still managed to survive the next day with some fatigue but mostly functional. This is different. I get up in the morning and not only is the fatigue there, but my whole body aches and hurts, from running and standing on the rake and fast costume changes and shifting between crouched over witch to standing tall noblewoman all the while holding my torso properly for opera singing...

My poli sci paper on health care reform came back to me with a perfect score and a note from the professor to "run for office". While I have no desire to ever do such a thing, it was a moment of pride and a nice assurance that I'm not going to fail at least one class. (Well, 2, since its a near impossibility to fail choir). I guess you could say that I've learned to trust my study skills a little more.

On the other hand, my Stats test came back with a lower grade than I have ever received for something I actually studied. Seriously friends, I have never spent that many hours on a subject and then faced a test in which 1- I didn't recognize several of the terms and 2- I didn't even complete the last two questions. What the heck? I am always the first one done with a test, never the one that has to be told that time is up! This just feels like an epic fail to me, even if it is technically a "C". I guess I learned that some things just won't come easily, and maybe they won't even come at all. ( I might add, however, that the grade was saved by my ability to calculate or "guess" the right answers using my own methods, which according to a math teacher is still mostly wrong because I can't show my work, even it the answer itself is right. Frankly, I still think that's just a stupid policy.)

Most of all, though, I've learned from the two BIG tests this weekend that I actually have a shot at my two big goals for the next year. I don't have any final grades yet, but I left them feeling much better than I felt about the stats test.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Not a minute to spare.

  • Macbeth rehearsals move to the Capital theatre tomorrow, and go from 6-11. We open in 10 days. And I honestly can't remember my blocking for Act I scene 3.
  • Exam for Grad school evaluation tomorrow night. Yikes! My whole future could depend on that.
  • Poli Sci paper due Monday. Discuss the philosophy of John Locke and how it impacted the framing of the constitution. Luckily, sometimes I read social contract for fun. Unfortunately, I tend to agree more with Rousseau's commentary on it. Will that bbe even remptely acceptable for an American Political Science class?
  • Stats Exam 1 on Friday morning. What exactly is "x-sub-i", how do I plug it into an equation, and while I get that the standard deviation is the square root of the variance, I can't quite remember how to calculate the variance. I remember what a linear correlation coefficient is, but I can't remember how it relates to the coefficient of determination. Does it? More importantly, does it matter?
  • Along with the stats exam, there is a review sheet with 27 questions on it that could be worth 5% extra credit on the test. I need the extra credit, but I'm not sure when I will have time to do 27 questions worth of extra homework.
  • Paper due Tuesday on the evolution of the family shape and whether or not it has affected the levels of function and dysfunction in society. Please include a multi-disciplined approach and reference micro through macro perspectives.
  • Finish the arrangement for the ward choir. It's arranged, I just need to tweak the accompaniment in a few places.
  • Request transcripts from all universities attended.
  • Re-write 4 page Liberal Arts statement for grad school app, I wrote it and hated it, need to start over.
  • Current events article and opinion for class friday.
  • Plan and execute sectional for choir, including face off with diva girl and learning the alto lines for "Cloudburst". That piece is nasty.
  • Work is requesting that I put in 32 hours a week. They won't guarantee me the hours so they won't have to offer me health insurance, but they want me to show up and help out anyways. This is where I put my foot down and say no.
You know, if you consider the whole list, break it down into the bullet points, and think about each project, I am actually counting my blessings. I want to do all of it, I want to do all of it well, I am just frustrated that there isn't enough time in the day to accomplish everything with the refinement I would like it to have. In fact, the only real problem in all of this is that I have one test on Saturday morning that is more important to me emotionally than anything else. Plus its stuff I love to study. Everything else takes second place, even though half of this is due before then. Focus, Nancy, Focus.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pavlov might have been right...

... and guess which emotion was stronger? I came home the last 3 nights faced with stats homework and discovered that not only do I resent the idea of finding the z-factor for anything, I also don't like chocolate milkshakes. I'm bribing myself with a brownie now. Let's just see if we can't eliminate unhealthy vices from my life altogether. After all, not only have I not had a milkshake in over a week, I have also dropped a pants size and fit back into the clothes I wore before I left for Minnesota. While I feel a deep sense of loss over the whole milkshake thing, I wonder if I could keep it up? And I wonder what will happen if I allow myself these things without requiring it to coincide with stats homework?

On another pavlovian related note, I also now realize my deep resentment for homemade crocheted ponchos. You see, there is this old lady in one of my classes that irritates me SO much. She argues with the professor and is alll sorts of a know-it-all particularly when she knows nothing at all. She treats people in the class with this air of authority and even her occasional compliments seem condesending. And she wears a different homemade crocheted poncho every day. Along with various other crocheted paraphenalia (like the fingerless gloves and the occasional legwarmer). And today I saw someone on campus wearing one, and it wasn't even that old lady, but I immediately disliked the person, just because of their choice of cold-weather covering. A case might be made, however, for some sort of bias. After all, while I am unsure that I ever had strong feelings about crocheted ponchos before, I am certian that I never thought them to be an appropriate accessory for anyone between the ages of 10 and 65. Let's face it, they are cute on little girls and they are functional on old ladies, but anyone between those ages has no business wearing one. No matter who made it.

This all seems so negative, so let me end on a positive. Tonight was the first staging rehearsal for Macbeth. I love staging rehearsals. I love opera. I love sitting in the wings waiting for a cue, trying to remember said cue, getting notes from the director, and running like a madwoman to try and make the next cue. I particularly love this one because sitting in the wings and waiting is accompanied by the onstage voices singing things by Verdi. And while no one will be able to tell its me, (due to the elaborate costuming) you should know that I am the very first person onstage and center in the whole show. So if you are coming, you will be able to find me. Happy day, I love the theatre.

In fact, I have been spending so much time focusing on music lately that I am remembering how much I loved studying it, which makes it much more difficult to go back and study other things. Like stats. Which I should be doing right now.

Because the weather is just right...

My very fun cousin started a blog for a little circle of us peoples to contribute to and chat together, you all are welcome to visit and comment if you like! (I think you are, anyways, I'll remove this post if I hear objections)


...I'm partly posting this just because I have a little story up there now, and so instead of writing a new post for the day I can just send you to that link!

Friday, September 25, 2009


What a nasty day.

I was so ready for it. My backpack was ready for classes. My snack was packed for just before work, my change of clothes for work was already in my car. I pressed the dress for the concert tonight. I woke up with enough time to shower and get ready and eat a good breakfast and get to school in time to get a decent parking spot.

But just as I woke up I realized I forgot to print off an article and opinion for my Poli Sci class.

Whatever. I can print it off before I go out the door. Not a big deal.

When I got out of bed I realized the dress had fallen off the hangar in the night and gotten all wrinkly.

I'll just have to press it again.

Getting out of the shower I was putting on my earrings and one of them fell down the drain of the sink. Sad. Normally I wouldn't care, seeing as I generally spend about 75 cents on a pair of earrings. But this is my all time favorite pair. I got them from Anthropologie with a gift card from some of my bestest roomies ever. I was not going to let that earring go the way of dead pet goldfish.

I scrambled for some sort of a hook deally to fish it out, but the more I dug, the farther it fell. Finally I had to pull everything out from under the sink and pull apart the U-bend.

I cannot describe here the disgusting things that came out of the U-bend without putting some sort of a violence rating on my blog. Let me just describe to you what it reminded me of. We used to go swimming/water-skiing on the Rainy River (US-Canada Border). Nobody has any idea how deep the river actually is, because try as you might to dive or drown, you could never really touch the bottom, or at least anything solid enough to be called the bottom. The sludge just sort of got thicker and thicker until eventually it actually sucked you in. I never really allowed myself to sink that far, because right about the time I could feel sludge tickling my knees and my foot movement slightly restricted, I wanted to wretch. That is about the consistentcy of the stuff that came out of the U-bend of my bathroom sink.

So gagging and plugging my nose, I sifted through the silt until I found the earring. Which I then sanitized.

Now I was running short on time. I turned on the iron and grabbed a bowl for breakfast food and booted up my computer. No internet. Its been sketchy lately, I think something is wrong with my wireless router. Great. No time to panic or trouble shoot.

I iron the dress, grab my computer, and run out the door to head to class. Just as I am opening the door to my car, the sprinklers turn on, soaking me, my dress, and my laptop.

Lovely start to a day.

I'm blogging this from stats class, because I don't understand a word of whats going on, and every time I ask a question, the teacher ust says "well, we did it that way because thats the way it is, the formula says to put it there."


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Oh yeah, now I remember...

(I am realizing as I write this that, well, this one goes out to my freshman roommate, the math major.)

I hate math classes. Really and truly loathe them. Not the way I dislike going to work or the way the Twilight books leave a bad taste in my mouth. Not even the way I hate pictures of myself and paying bills and peeling potatoes. No, I hate math classes with a level of detest that is only equaled by how I feel about doing laundry, Northern Minnesota winters, and the feeling of being manipulated by passive-agressive people.

And I know this about myself, but over the past 15 years of not taking math classes, I have often wondered why that is, exactly.

After all, its not physically painful, like a Northern Minnesota winter. And I generally know how to deal with it, unlike being faced with passive aggressive manipulation. And it doesn't give my hands that nasty dry starchy feeling that laundry does.

In fact, I have to brag a little here, I am actually really good at math.

No, Really.

In high school I was at best an average student. Most accurately, I was a below average student who slept through every class, never turned in a single homework assignment, and passed only because I could ace any test without thinking twice. I could also calculate the bare minimum number of tests I had to take in order to pass a class, and as a result, graduated with a 2.7 gpa, having done the least amount of work possible in order to get to college. It's not that I was lazy, I recognize it sounds that way, but in actuality, I was probably clinically depressed and suffering from a classic case of lack of motivation. The "guidance counselor" (read: sorry excuse for a human being paid to guide students towards dead end work at a window factory and a life of trailer parks and domestic abuse.) shuffled me off to remedial English, informed me that I would never go anywhere in life, and insisted that if I really had my heart set on college, I should try really hard and maybe the community college at Thief River Falls would help me certify in something. He tried to refuse to allow me to take the ACT and filled out a window factory application for me instead, insisting that it was all my future held. Of course, if you know me at all then you know that the best way to get me to do something is to tell me I can't. My last year of high school I took this physics class from perhaps the best teacher ever to teach at that particular high school. Mr Rauvola was only there for a year, right out of college, and he had that shiny new teacher changing the world approach to life. There were only 7 of us that took it, all the "smart kids" from my class and me. Mr Rauvola offered an immediate challenge to us. He informed us via college style syllabus that according to his grading scale, an 85% would be an "A", since he fully intended to give us challenges that were miles beyond us. If people averaged above an 85, he would step things up and make them harder, and force us to actually learn something.

Shocking, I know. This was actually a teacher willing to teach.

And we rolled along learning things and doing experiments and amusing theoretical applications.

"How much heat is lost when making milkshakes with three different blenders? Which blender is the most efficient?"

"The diagram below represents a game of pool, calculate the angle and force needed in order to sink 2 solid colors, avoiding the 8 ball"

"How many boxes of Jello gelatin will it take to turn an olympic sized swimming pool into a giant jello salad? Bonus: If Mr. Hendrickson weighs 320 pounds and has a circumference of 62 inches, how long will it take for him to be submerged in the jello, provided he doesn't move or spill his coffee?"

I was good at this kind of math. There was a purpose to it, it challenged me and made me laugh. I even became the person that the "smart kids" would come to for help. In a hushed, after school special kind of social approach, they would call me or stop me when no one was looking and ask me how to calculate the rate of descent at such an angle, or if I could please look over their calculations and slip their paper back to them during physiology. I enjoyed my power. They had to be nice to me, or I might actually choose to return that paper during lunchtime.

One day, Mr Rauvola gave us a particularly difficult assignment. It was one problem and it would incorporate every equation we had learned up until that point in the class. It involved distance and gravity and angles of launch and angles of descent and force and more variables than we had ever seen at once. We had a week. We worked at it, we slaved at it. Those smart kids even started discussing it with me in front of their friends. We tore our hair out. We got it narrowed down to three or four variables, and we came to a dead stop. I looked at it from every angle, I reworked it from scratch several times, the other kids gave up. I kept going. We couldn't figure out how to break down the last few variables. d was still a mystery, mocking us from both sides of the equation, x still punctuated every phrase, m was still unknown and in a seperate equation off to the side it teased us with potential for solvability but we just couldn't see through the math, and we were divided as to whether or not v could be solved the way I had chosen to solve it. Then, in a stroke of both luck and brilliance, a kid named Rusty asked me something about m that proved my solution for v and got us moving again on that pesky side equation. We got out of Physiology (his dad taught it, so that was no great feat) in order to work through the rest of the problem. We pulled the other students together. Lisa stuck with us, Jenny was irritated that I had come up with something and she stormed off, Brian and Rex were fascinated but I think a little lost, (and by this time of the year, Daryl was 7 or 8 months pregnant and not planning on graduating, so she didn't show up very often). Lunchtime came, and those smart kids were faced with a choice between solving the problem which entailed being seen with me by the entire school, or giving up and hanging out with their friends. They made a noble effort, but in the end they couldn't take it and chose to declare it unsolveable. I holed myself up in an empty classroom and somewhere about 8 minutes before the end of lunch bell rang, I suddenly could see the solution for d. It was crazy. It was the most insane math I had ever seen before in my life. I had to insert an extra equation involving the function of x before solving for d and then I had to insert that solution for d still in an equation form back into the original equation creating these layers of parenthetical equations within other parenthetical equations, and square roots of things cubed where x was still both factored and not. I honestly had no idea what I was doing, other than keeping the basic algebra rules of how to solve for x by moving the variable all to one side of the equal sign. I was actually breathless when I got to physics class feeling triumphant. I remember part of the solution. I had gotten it down to an actual answer, 1.53 on one side of the equals sign, while the other side was still peppered with x and cosin, and at least 3 sqare root signs layered over each other and blended into other phrases and sentences that my calculator was incapable of computing. That's ok, I thought, I would just borrow Mr. R's graphing calulator and ziiiiing! it would be like magic.

Mr Rauvola started class by informing us that when he makes up our homework, he does it with the intention of solving it with us and doesn't always check it before he gives it to us. And he's very sorry, but he tried and tried to work this problem, but there isn't a solution for it. He simply gave us too many variables and no way to solve for all of them. He still wanted us to turn it in, so he could give us credit for it and see what we had made of it though. I blurted out (and blurt is a good word for it, since I hardly talked in high school, when I did have to say something it generally came out like word vomit) "what if we did solve it?"

He thought I was joking. "Oh, then you can have an 'A' on the test today and I'll sign you up as an upper level calculous TA at the U."

Really? Because I solved it. He was shocked and gave me that stern teacher look and asked me to bring him my paper. (The rest of the class went silent as well, and I still wonder to this day if some of them didn't feel like I had been holding out on them) I babbled nervously when I gave him the paper. "I didn't solve it all the way, I need to borrow your graphing calculator because I just can't get through this many x's on mine." I remember the silence that seemed to go on for 20 minutes while he checked my work, over and over again.

He gave me the stern teacher look again, although this time it was much more steady and scary. I got it right. Why was his teacher look so much more scary when I had it right? I would almost rather he thought I had lied to him!

He asked me to stay after class.

I had only ever been asked to stay after class for detentions before. You know, the extra homework, clean the chairs, lecture on fighting, kind of "stay after class". Oh, and once because an English teacher wrongly assumed that my essay on gossip about children killing a frog was suicidal instead of a symbolic accusation of the injustices of high school social classes. Apparently she thought I was just dumb too.

So I stayed after class and he sat down in the desk in front of me and I prepared myself for whatever lecture I was about to get. And He didn't lecture me. He reviewed the equation with me, asking me how I came up with certain calculations, asking me why decided to solve for v the way I did, asking me to prove certain sections with other work, and asking me to rework other sections with a different equation.

And then he invited me to attend this math conference thingy with him. I knew what it was because one of my other friends had been invited to attend. Every school in the state was bringing their top math students to this "conference" that was acutally just an 8 hour long math test. It was billed as a competition, but it was actually the state department of education's attempt at gathering data on math education. I didn't understand all that entirely, I just knew that it meant a day off from school and hanging out with Renae instead of avoiding eye contact with the popular crowd, so I agreed to go.

All of the competitors statewide were meeting at one university in Northern Minnesota, but everywhere in Northern Minnesota is a long bus ride away. I think we traveled for 4 hours, took the math test for 3 hours, at lunch for half an hour, did more math for 4 hours, then rode the bus back for 4 hours. On the bus ride back, Renae and I talked to Mr. Rauvola for a bit, then Mr Denault, the head of the math area at my high school and my teacher for Trigonometry stood up to give us our test results. We were scored in percentiles and only the top 50 were actually ranked. The top 20 won a T-shirt. (yeah, do the math there, I'm not sure exactly all the perks for being one of the top athletes in the state, but if you are one of the top 20 math students, you get a T-Shirt). Mr Denault, ever the socially defunct mathematician, simply read our percentiles and rankings alloud. Yes, that's right, Warroad High School had managed to have a few students ranked in the top 50, and even 2 of them in the top 20. Although I thought he should have looked prouder of that. He actually had a pained look on his face when he announced that I had ranked 16th and Renae had ranked somewhere around 8th. Mr Rauvola, however, was positively giddy. He told us, after congratulating us, that we were his. That Denault had to let him choose 2 students to bring, since he taught a math class, but that when Rauvola had chosen us, he had to fight for us. Denault had insisted that I particularly was not by any means or definition a top math student.

(Feel free to act a little juvenile here, blow a raspberry and say "So there, Mr Denault!" I always do)

The thing is, Mr D isn't entirely wrong. I am good at math, I am just a lousy student. After all, I spent all my time in his class working on my physics homework, and I think I probably pulled a "D" in trig, simply because he insisted that we keep a neat and clean notebook, docked us for doodles in the margins, and I turned in all of my assignments needed to pass the class on the last possible day, in classic disheveled loose leaf Nancy form.

But that brings me back to my original point. I hate Math classes. I don't hate math. I hate being a math student. I don't hate doing math. You see, Math teachers are generally really good at math. They are really well versed in their language, and unfortunately for the rest of us, that language isn't English. It's Math. And, as any linguist, anthropologist, or sociologist will tell you, language has a direct impact on one's ability to function in society. Which statement is proved again and again by math teachers. They make their little math jokes and live in their little math world and even branch out socially in the faculty rooms of their minds. But their ability to communicate with the rest of the world is limited by their inability to function in the languages that the rest of us use. And they get excited about do math problems, rather the way I got excited about doing those physics problems, only since they don't talk normal people talk, they assume that the rest of us will be equally excited to do extra math problems. They think that doing extra math homework is like reading a good library book or listening to a symphony or running a mile or whatever it is that is your second language. And they assign those extra math problems with an enthsiasm that is NEVER equalled by their students. They really think that a few extra stem-leaf plots will enlighten everyone the way it did for them, and they talk about it in reverent tones, the way an elementary school librarian might talk about how Harry Potter changed literature for youth.

And that extra homework (really just busy work) is piled on and piled on. And the invention of the internet hasn't helped AT ALL. After all, now they can assign on-line, have it turned in on-line, and still feel obligated to assign in-class and turn it in in-class, and the busy work is actually DOUBLED even though they think they are making it easier by putting half of it on the computer, because they still assign the same amount off the computer and expect you be EXCITED about finding a misleading graph or other statistical representation in addition to calculating the average amount of time in between eruptions of Old Faithful and oh also, by the way, here is some in class stuff that will count as participation points if you finish it at home and turn it in next time but don't expect me to give that info outside of class because its not homework, even if you are doing it at home, its class participation points so that I can force you to come to class too, that way I can waste your time and control your life with ridiculous and nonsensical data ALL THE TIME (insert evil villain laugh here).

Sorry, did that last bit get a little rambl-y? It's what was running through my head for 45 minutes of "group work" during stats class yesterday, after I took 5 minutes to finish my portion of the problem and then did nothing but get more and more irritated while the person next to me tried to figure out how to calculate the median on her cell phone because she didn't know how to work her graphing calculator that looked exactly like the one that Mr Rauvola had.

I remembered why I hate math classes. Don't give me a hundred tiny mindless problems that take up my time and teach me nothing. Give me one massive equation that incorporates everything I have learned and a few things I haven't, then tell me its impossible. Don't waste my efforts on meaningless and ineffective data, ask me something that will have an application in real life and ask me to turn it every which way until we can work out an equally real solution.

I have to go write a paper on the historical and mutidisciplined definition of poverty, including an outline of the attempts our society has made to fix it and my own suggestions as to why they have failed and what we can do to improve. It's a nasty topic, I recognize that its an equation I can barely comprehend, with more variables than I have ever been faced with before. I know Mr Rauvola's calculator will be as much help to me here as it was to that girl in class yesterday. I even know that I am incapable of coming up with a solution and that any suggestions I have will probably never make it farther than the paper I write, but it makes way more sense to me that solving for x when x merely represents x.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A few key points

Yeah, I haven't updated in forever and I just want you to know that the lack of updates is actually a good sign. You see, even as I type I am using the blog update excuse in order to postpone doing my stats homework. For every day gone past post-less I spent an evening doing homework.

But as long as I am avoiding stem-leaf-tree plots and dot whatever somethings and frequency I don't remember deallies, I may as well post a few highlights of the past few days.

  • Cereal was $1.88 a box. Not the gross generic kind either, but the good kinds, like Golden Grahams and Cheerios and Apple Jacks and Rice Krispies and, well, the list goes on.
  • The choir that I joined for the scholarship (remember that, $1000 tuition dollars for the year? yeah, them.) I found out this weekend we are going on a tour to Shanghai next summer. China. Seriously. 10 days. Boom Baby.
  • I was driving home from rehearsal and noticed that the police weren't in their usual speed trap spots. But when I drove past the gas station on state street there they all were, at least 7 of them, lights off and big sniper guns all pointed at the gas station. I drove past faster.
  • My boss proved herself an even bigger idiot last week. I can't write the story here, due to confidentiality issues, but lets just say she embarassed everyone around her and somehow managed to escape the realization that she should be embarassed for herself. The whole time she was giggling at her gaffe like a 13 year old I was thinking how happy I am to only be there part time.
  • I still have no idea how well the "pavlovian stats and milkshake" experiment is working. I still hate stats. I still love milkshakes. I force them together and there is a means to an end, that's about it.
  • I finally figured out that the guy who looked really familiar in choir and the guy who looked really familiar at opera rehearsal are actually the same guy. I made a new (gay) friend. I have to insert his orientation here in order to protect myself from some people jumping to an immediate romantic conclusion. But honestly people, I haven't met a single straight man in at least the past 4 years. I'm just excited about a new friend.
  • I am writing a research paper on health care reform. I don't have much more to say on it than that, except that there is a lot of info and I feel like I am beginning to understand it.

OK, I think that's all I've got for now. I have stats to do before bedtime, and I'm not going to get started until I make a milkshake.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Remember Pavlov?

Here is my new study strategy:
I am allowed a chocolate milkshake every time (and only when) I study Statistics.

I predict one of two outcomes (and would prefer both...) Either I will begin to love statistics or I will begin to hate chocolate milkshakes.

Either I will end up smarter or skinnier. See the benefits? Of course, you see why both would be best?

How's this for a little crazy...

The sixth grade "Pirate King" from when I directed Pirates of Penzance at the elementray school got his mission call, and invited me to come along to the temple when he goes on Saturday. Am I thrilled for him and his mission call and his various successes? Absolutely. Am I feeling a little disturbed at the time that has passed? Oh My Yes.

It seems like just yesterday we were drawing chest hair on him with eyeliner and teasing him about his voice cracking. We called him squeaker.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


It's a ridiculous term, I know. And mine came and went and I didn't say a thing about it. I wasn't unaware of it, in fact I wondered that day and throughout that week if I should post something about the fact that a year has passed since I moved to Utah and began the blog. But it seemed such a ridiculous thing to do, not to mention how entirely illogical the construction of the word "bloggiversary"is. After all, if you are celebrating a one year annnniversary, you can hardly eliminate the "anni" which is the prefix indicating a yearly celebration. You know, for "annual". And so I ignored it. But with august coming to an end, I still feel a bit like I should acknowledge the year mark. And it still fits as well, since my first august here was still a very transitory time, I was living as a basement hobo and had yet to establish my classroom.

So lets take a brief accounting of the things that have happened in the past year. After all, on my first post I indicated that I was seeking to rediscover and reclaim the happy times I have known in my life. A year seems like a good amount of time for making progress in that goal, now doesn't it?

I found a place to live. I like the place I live. I had a roomie that I absolutely loved for most of the year, and now I have one that I could really give or take. She has some passive aggressive habits that I respond to in equally passive aggressive ways, and we will never really be friends, but she is fairly normal and she pays her rent and we stay out of each other's way. I'm fine with that.

I established a classroom. And then I realized how much I resented my job and unestablished my classroom. Now I am a nomad, wandering from room to room for an hour at a time with no real responsiblilities except holding babies and changing a few diapers. I like holding babies. It somehow feels a little more honest, though. After all, I am a glorified midget wrangler and I would rather not pour my heart and soul into something I am just going to end up resenting again. At the same time, those kids that were in my room over the past year, some of them I really like, and I will really miss them. Just not all of them.

I have returned to school. This was a goal long before the whole re-claiming happiness thing came along, so I think it was an absolute essential. Along with returning to school, I found a little more self respect that was lacking as a preschool teacher. Now if someone asks what I do, I tell them I am a student. It has a much better feel to it than the frumpy stigma that goes with preschool teacher.

I have re-established those friendships that I missed so much while I was gone. Sure we have grown and changed over the past few years, but the security that I feel in those relationships is back, regardless of how often we get a chance to visit. It really did tear at me to be gone for those years, and I began to question myself and the value that I had place on my friends, but I have learned in the past year that I was not wrong, that there are great people who affect us forever, and that we are allowed to cling a little bit to the good times that built the trust we rely on.

In the same realms of friendship, I was able to spend some quality time with my grandfather before he passed away. I can't begin to express how much that meant to me.

I am singing again. For a while there in Minnesota I had stopped. Not stopped the lessons and the working at it, but stopped loving it and stopped really singing the way I love to, except during the lessons, which actually kept me sane. But this is different. Instead of going from week to week with simply lessons and practice time, I am singing along with my cds in the car and I am humming along with my ipod, and occasionally I even catch myself singing to the kids. It's good. I missed feeling the music, and having it back is a pretty significant thing. Plus I am singing with an ensemble again, and that is something that for a while I really thought I would give up forever. I told you, I was in a pretty dark place for a while.

I am making new friends. Yeah, that stopped entirely for a while, and while I still refuse to go to certain singles events and activities established solely for the purpose of meeting a future spouse, I am starting to chat with people and enjoy the company of new people. I still prefer the old friends, but I no longer get that horrible all consuming pit in my stomach when faced with a new crowd or forced to introduce myself.

I should add that along with being willing to make new friends, I did make a very few new friends over the past year, and it's a good feeling, knowing that I wasn't entirely a lost cause socially.

I lost 40 pounds. Yup, its about the lifestyle change. No more evenings alone with a gallon of ice cream, no more sitting at a desk job, no more hiding from the world while curled up in the fetal position. I am back to the size I was before I left, and I intend to continue the trend so that I can actually be smaller than I was when I left. It's not so much a question of my happiness being dependant upon my body image, but my body image reflecting my personal happiness. And now that I am aware of that about myself, I am more prepared to cope with it if the pounds start piling on again.

I taught a really great classroom of 17-18 year old boys in sunday school. Random? yes. And I haven't mentioned it all that much, but the fact is, I loved that class, and today when I was released from teaching them I realized how much they have come to mean to me and how much they affected me over the past year. For the first few weeks of teaching my anxiety was nearly insurmountable, but they came and they listened and they asked me about me and they were my friends. They gave me a place in a ward where I knew no one. And they are really good guys and they accepted me and respected me and taught me to have a little more confidence in myself than I really was allowing. I'm going to miss them. They are moving on just like my kindergarteners, only they are moving on to college and missions. I hope I gave them something to grow on as well.

I lost a car and gained a car and found a child and received a scholarship and, well, the events of the last few weeks sort of pile in there together without me really being able to make much sense of them yet. But the bottom line is, with a little faith there is a lot better plan than the one we make up for ourselves. Seriously. And I think that's the real point to this past year. And I know I still have a long way to go before I can say I have claimed happiness the way I intend to, but the foundations are certainly moving into place. And today is as much a part of that path as tommorrow is, so I am allowed to rejoice a bit in the blessings of today. If all of eternity is a path that includes our yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows, then who is to say that we can't have bits of joy in every moment of that eternity, including the thens, the soons, and the nows. After all, i bei momenti is not only plural, but it literally refers to the blessed moments, and there certainly have been blessed moments.

Some things never change...

I'm back at school this week. It's been a fascinating time for a number of reasons. My schedule suddenly shifted from just working full time to attending class for four hours, attending work for five hours, and attending rehearsal for three hours. Throw in the driving from place to place and I am leaving my house at 7:15 am and returning around 11 every night. Of course, rehearsals won't be every night now that chorus is in full swing, which will leave me a few evenings a week for homework, and frankly a few evening should be plenty. My classes are by no means difficult (although I will admit that statistics is more than a little bit daunting) and I have had a few pleasant surprises pop up as things got started. But more about that later.

It's really interesting to return to school after 8 years. It turns out that you learn a whole lot of things in 8 years about yourself and about the world around you. At the same time that you remember the way things were and the way you were the first time around, you have a bit of a perspective shift. Here are a few examples.

College professors: Remember how they knew so much and were so ready and willing to dispell all their knowledge upon you, the student who is paying to hear about their expertise and success? They still do and they still are, but it turns out, they are even more than just willing to dispell knowledge. They are also so entirely pompous that you are left with the impression that they are the only ones qualified to offer their expertise and knowledge. They stand at the front of the classroom and spout their credentials as if no one else on the planet has seen or learned as much as they have, and therefore what they have is the gospel truth. Some of these professors even go so far as to imply that every answer a student gives is wrong, and then when they have destroyed the confidence of every individual in the classroom by ridiculing and shutting down responses, they give an explanation that sounds remarkably like the second or third answer given to their question. Professors haven't changed a bit.

That First Day of Class Lecture: You know how it goes. Professor X introduces themself and spouts the aforementioned credentials, then proceeds to skim through a syllabus about the subject matter, the grading system, the papers due, the school's academic honesty policy, and then, oh then, they go into their spiel about how they are the cool professor. They talk about how people either do or don't get A's in their class, and how that makes them cool. They talk about how they want to see well thought out responses, and how that makes them cool. They talk about debate and discussion in class, and how that makes them cool. aaaand we are back to the whole pompous thing, now aren't we?

The Students: That's right folks, from SLCC to U of MN to BYU, the only thing that changes about the students is the number of piercings and tattoos you see. There is still that peanut galllery of silly girls fresh out of high school who managed to register for a class together and manage to disrupt class with giggles and whispering. There is still the pompous guy who makes comments as if he is the only person on the planet with a previous knowledge of the subject. There is still that one girl who asks the most irritating and senseless time wasting questions, with no clue as to how much she annoys the rest of the class.

Along with the students, the Student Leadership Club: You know how they set up their little tables around campus, particularly in the first week of school and they promote school spirit by handing out donuts and bowls of captain crunch and flyers for activities? They are still there, pushing their high starch breakfast foods and repeating the same lines about activities and the benefits of joining student leadership. I just hope they do the whole free hot cocoa during the first cold mornings of the year.

Bookstore ladies and admin personnel: I swear, the same old ladies who worked at U of MN moved to BYU when I did, and then they moved back to Normandale and then they moved back to Salt Lake. And somewhere in the middle there they worked at Weber State. Have you noticed that the college campus full time staff ranks swell with old ladies who look like sweet grandmas but as soon as you speak to them they are stern and disillusioned and no fun at all. Why is this? Have they really spent too many years standing at the entrance to the bookstore directing you where to go for textbook returns, or does the campus actually seek out grumpy grandmas in its recruitment process?

Slow walkers and sidewalk talkers: Everybody remembers this. It was at its worst at BYU, but it still happens everywhere. You have ten mintues between classes, and you have to run a mile across campus in order to be on time for your next class, and that is always the class where they professor only accepts assignments at the beginning of class, and in the middle of your mad dash (and I might add, the only time in your life you will actually be sprinting an 8 minute mile, because really, who runs for fun?) the person in front of you sees a long lost friend, mission companion, distant cousin, or attractive member of the opposite sex they met at a party once, and they stop. They have their precious reunion right there in the middle of your olympic trials, and then they continue to stroll together at a pace only clocked by inchworms and small tortoises. They clog up the entire walkway, causing congestion and collisions as people try to navigate around them in every direction. Freeway's have shoulders, where you pull over and deal with your issues away from traffic, should you have the same courtesy between classes?

Oh yes, some things never change. The way I deal with most of it has changed ever so slightly, only in that I am more aware of the process. I was quiet then and I will be now, I will just have a different thought process as I face each of these things. Bookstore ladies don't scare me any more, now I just think they are sad. Professors aren't the end all of knowledge, I just have to sort out the answers they want to hear. You get the idea. But there is one thing that has never changed that I will approach and conquer with a completely different attitude.

The music student hierarchy: Ah yes, this one some of you may not be as familiar with, but I had a lovely time reliving this, even at a community college. You may think that med school and law school, being professions which garner some prestige and eventually earn some admirable salary are competitive, but they are in fact nothing compared to what musicians put each other through. (My friend Jenny may be able to confirm this seeing as she has experienced both, so I will leave that to her) You see the world will use as many doctors and lawyers as it creates, and your salary may depend on your credentials, but you will always have a job. Musicians, on the other hand, know that there are only so many positions available. There are only so many slots in a choir, there are only so many books that will be published, and there are only so many recording labels and concert halls and performances that will pay, and even fewer will pay well. And somewhere in the mess of limited resources, musicians began connecting their self esteem directly to their abillity to compete in that environment. An attack at a musicians skill is an attack at who you are at the very core. A mild insult about timbre, a feigned correction of intonation these things will send the sensitive musician reeling for years! I still hold a grudge against the professor who told me he could find "no natural beauty in your voice", even if he came crawling back years later. (In fact if you want his name and the information about his "anyone can sing beautifully" singing boot camp, I will gladly give it to you with a copy of his opinion on my voice including his signature at the bottom. I'm not above discrediting the man.)

Like I said, an attack on a musician's ability is personal, and yet we hand them out quite liberally. But since I had no intention of singing with the choirs at a local community college, it wasn't really something I was planning on dealing with. Until I met a voice professor one morning. You see, he sings some of the solo roles with the Utah Opera (remember how I am in the chorus there?) and we were chatting about music and my returning to school for other things, whne he asked me if I was intending to do music while at SLCC. No. But, he told me, there are scholarship funds available. Oh. Here. Go sing for this guy (writes down phone number) and tell him I sent you. I'll let him know you are coming, and we'll see how much money he can get you. OK

So I went to sing for this guy. He was having auditions for his choirs, and all of his little community college American Idol wannabes were gathered around the doors chatting about how fabulous there are and feigning humility to each other while waiting for their turn to sing. (Do you know how a musician feigns humility? It goes something like this: "Well, I would sing that piece, but I really struggle with (pompous passage here) and he is so big on (name important musical quality here, only say it with disdain as if it is actually unnecesary to sing in tune), you know?" Then sing a few bars of it, just to demonstrate that you really could do it if you wanted to, but won't so that other people have a fighting chance at being as good as you are.

I quietly listened for a few minutes, as is customary for any newcomer to a circle of musicians, then I made the choice to be friendly but reticent. I did not opt to feign humility, I opted to avoid the subject of music entirely, they would all hear me singing a few minutes, no sense in lying to them about who I am or where I am at. I simply made friendly conversation about that girl's baby and Sarah Brightman's inabilities and what concerts were being performed around town. Some shiny little college boy showed up with his girlfriend and began bragging to everyone about how fantastic she was while she pretended to be mortified that he would be so bold, and I attempted to make friendly conversation with him as well. The problem is, if you are a straight male and a musician, you tend to be even more pompous than the average, (Sorry guys) and you tend to think that even attempts at conversation are attempts at flirting. (I will admit to knowing one exception to this rule, Bryan, simpy because he tended to be unaware of anything other than the music, right Britt?) I thought I was in the clear, since I am clearly ten years older than this guy, but apparently he felt it necessary to "put me in my place" and he snubbed me with his classic musician snub. When I attempted a friendly "oh I know someone with that last name" he simply said "Oh." and stared at me. and when I filled the silence with undaunted and mindless chatter, he did the "uncomfortable and penetrating stare" and when I stopped the chatter, he obviously turned to the person next to him and started a new conversation about how great he and his girlfriend were at singing. Luckily at that moment, the director opened the door and invited me in to sing, so I didn't have to think of a new way to be generous and kind to the arrogant little terd. (I mean, inexperienced young man. Really). No problem, I thought, now he can hear what he just snubbed.

Don't get me wrong, I know I still have a long way to go vocally, but I am not going to feign humility here. Me auditioning for a community college choir is somewhat akin to Michael Jordan playing high school basketball. (See, I can make sports analogies!). I sang a passage from Verdi's Macbeth that displayed my range, my flexibility, and some lyric moments where I really got to spin my voice and play with the power I have. Have you heard me sing? You know how in church I am loudest person in the congregation and can control the tempo over the settings of most church organs? Well generally speaking, I am holding back during congregational singing. And while I had debated holding back a little for a community college choir audition, Arrogant Terd made up my mind for me, and I did not hold back. I let loose every muscle in my abdomen, I resonated in every appropriate sinus cavity, and I spun each note as perfectly and freely as Jeanine ever taught me to (thanks Jeanine!) and there is no way that those groupies just outside the door missed a single note. In fact, since I could hear their conversations continuing as I began, I also heard their conversations stop as soon as I opened my mouth, and I relished every second of it. Really it only encouraged the diva in me.

And the director offered me a thousand dollar scholarship.

So of course I will be singing with them. Because a thousand dollars is soooo worth it.

And as I was walking out the door, the accompanist handed my score back to me and said "Thank you, it was such a pleasure to hear you sing" and my inner diva roared with delight.

And everyone outside the door, including Arrogant Terd heard that part of it too, and they were silent as I walked past them, except for one sweet girl who said "wow, you sounded so good". And I smiled at her and thanked her, and put my backpack on, and just as I turned to leave, I caught the eye of Arrogant Terd and said "perhaps you should be more careful who you snub in the future." (well, in more or less words I said that), and I walked away.

Yes, some things never change over the years. College campuses, the people who spend their lives there, and the social hierarchies that developed there, those are all the same. But me, I am not the same. And that will make all the difference.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Children I Actually Like: A day in pictures

This post is mostly for family amusement purposes, you are under no obligation to Oooh and Awww over pictures of my nephews unless you absolutely want to. But that being said, if you do happen to enjoy the pictures and have a few oohs and awws for me (the spoiling spinstress aunt) and my sister (their mom and source of half their genes) then feel free to tell us how cute they are in the comments!

Most of my days are spent with children under the age of 6. Today I actually took a day off in order to do exactly that, only unpaid and with children I like. (See how it works? If I like the kids, I hang out with them for free, otherwise dig deep, I don't come cheap!)

The other thing that happens when I like the kids is we do fun things. Not only am I capable and willing to spoil children, I am also pretty good at wearing them out.

Especially when its on my territory. Would you like a crash course? Here is how to wear down even the most energetic of farm-bred boys:

Step 1:

Take them someplace wonderful and new...

Step 2: Allow them to discover new worlds... Or at least a moon.
Step 2.5: Find out how much you would weigh on said planets and moons.

Step 3: Buy them Ice Cream

(Even the littlest one)

Step 4: Take time for transportation. A LOT of time for transportation, so that you can pause at every distraction along the way.

After all, every kid needs a change to fly a rocket,

... Or drive an ice cream truckAnd carry some extra refreshment along.

Because pretty soon you will be boarding a train...

Step 5: Find some cool places to hide

And Check out some books while you are at it. Are you getting sleepy yet?
'Cause we are...Now all there is left to do is wait for the train,
Ride back to your car,
and give in to the sleep.