Friday, May 31, 2013

Untalent Show

My brother, Aaron, and I were discussing talent shows. He mentioned that his single adults group had put on an untalent show and that it was hilarious. I was instantly smitten with the idea.

All of us have talents, seen and unseen. They may be things we're naturally good at or things we've really worked hard to perfect. Some have a few, some have many. But the thing with untalents is that there are so many of them it would be difficult to choose just one to portray. The possibilities are nearly infinite and limited only by the things we're actually good at!

During our conversation, I immediately came up with a number of untalents I have: dubstep, ventriloquism, and business finance. Glass blowing, Japanese drumming, and collegiate spontaneous argumentation. Keeping house plants alive for more than a week. Writing poetry (or, rather, writing good poetry). Juggling. Recycling. Oil painting. Lawn care. Rocket science.

And that was just off the top of my head!

The more I think about suggesting an untalent show for an upcoming get-together or fundraiser, the more I like it. If we limited each act to two minutes and allowed people to also display non-performance untalents (i.e. botched sewing projects; whittling gone bad; terrible artwork; thoroughly dead houseplants), everybody could participate. As long as people stuck with things they knew they were awful at doing, it would all be in good fun. More, it gives you a chance to laugh a bit at yourself, not to mention getting all philosophical about how untalents are just things you haven't spent the time and effort to perfect yet. If ever.

Until the show, I will not be working on my awesomely bad break-dancing routine. I'm very excited.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

She's Fleeing the Nest

Elannah did an amazing job in her 6th grade talent show. She played the ukelele (which she's picked up very quickly) and sang a couple songs -- Train's "Hey, Soul Sister" and Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours." Though she got nervous and played each song pretty quickly, she never did mess up once. If she wasn't my own daughter, the ease with which she picks up new talents would have me writhing in jealousy and envy. Along with a great singing voice and musical ability, she has incredible coordination and can pick up any dance or gymnastics move within a very short amount of time. I still dance 80s style.

Sian's graduation ceremony happened last Thursday in a very large stadium in The Big City. For the most part, it was pretty much like any other American high school graduation ceremony, with speeches about remembering all the good times and moving forward with courage and confidence. Family and friends of the graduates cheered and yelled, and some nearly burst our eardrums with air horns at every opportunity.

I experienced, however, a moment of supreme anger at one point when a girl who was receiving a scholarship was given credit for Sian's hard work as editor-in-chief of her school newspaper. This girl's actions have caused Sian a great deal of stress and frustration throughout the year, and to hear her be given credit for Sian's efforts -- hours of time-consuming labor and worry while trying to herd a team of reporters and editors into finishing on deadline and keeping their work top quality -- was enough to make me see stars. This girl desperately wanted to be chosen as editor-in-chief, and when she wasn't (because she didn't have the experience or the skill that Sian did), she allowed people to assume with some carefully chosen words that she was, in fact, the editor-in-chief. If I were a different person, I might have stood up and yelled something blistering and wildly incomprehensible (along with some inadvertent spitting), much to Sian's complete and utter embarrassment.

As it was, I seethed silently while the strings ensemble, including Sian, moved to the podium to play a Mozart piece. The large family group seated directly behind us saw this musical number as an opportunity to visit amongst themselves at normal voice and carried on an extensive conversation while I tried to hear the strains of Mozart wafting up from the podium. Finally, husband turned around and said, "Do you mind? I'm trying to listen to my daughter play!" They apologized and reduced the conversation to whispers. But I was still mad.

I was still mad after the ceremony ended a couple hours later. It was Sian who talked me down, and she didn't harbor any resentment toward this girl or what she was sure was a simple mistake on the principal's part. If she can let it go, I can let it go, I guess. Sian is an old soul. Sometimes I wonder where she came from, since she's often more mature than her mother.

She may be mature for her age, but she still chose to wear bright pink satin tennis shoes with her graduation robes. Good girl.

Yesterday, Husband and I drove Sian to her job in The Big City, where she is doing full time data entry for an alarm company. As she got out of the car, dressed in a nice skirt and blouse because she doesn't own any "business casual" clothes, my eyes suddenly filled with tears. It finally really hit me that she's all grown up and will be fleeing the nest. My precious dark-haired baby with the startlingly blue eyes and porcelain skin is suddenly a young woman setting out on her own.

I pulled away from the building and sniffed, gulping hard to hold back the sobs. "Hey, remember you're driving!" Husband reminded me. "Don't start crying just now." I managed to pull myself together and avoid killing us both, but it doesn't change the fact that nothing will ever be the same. Who knows what the next few years will bring for my daughter as she takes her first adult steps into a dangerous world? I find great comfort in the fact that she is also a young woman of great faith and testimony, who believes strongly in the importance of virtue and personal integrity as guides in her life. Whatever experiences she goes through, I believe she will only continue to grow in wisdom and strength. I'm a blessed woman to be her mother and the mother to all my children.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wherein I Remember My Junior High Awkwardness and Forgive Myself For It

The last couple weeks has been a whirlwind of awards assemblies, dance festivals, talent show rehearsals, and other end-of-the-school-year activities. My parents, in-laws, and two little boys came with me to watch Sian's awards assembly. The boys, who are young, were less than thrilled to sit through two hours of nothing but watching high school kids walk across the stage, but they got through somehow. I was very proud of Sian, who received several awards for all her hard work. She graduates from high school tomorrow, which surprises me. Wasn't she just starting her first day of kindergarten?

Today, I left Sian home with Little Gary (who has now graduated from kindergarten) and went to see Sophia's eighth grade awards assembly. Held in the gym, it was a loud, messy affair, and I arrived late because I first had to drop off the elementary school kids. I held up the wall for a while, mingling with other parents and loose children who had arrived too late to snag a place on the bleachers, but when I spotted an empty seat that was consistently empty, I took my opportunity (I'm no stoic). Unfortunately, I got there too late to see Sophia's academic award. Fortunately, I arrived in time to see her get a drama award. Unfortunately, I left feeling depressed.

I didn't feel depressed because of Sophia. She's worked hard, as well, and I'm pleased for her. No, I realized I felt depressed because I was reliving my own junior high school experience in my head while I watched the kids interact in front of me.
                                                                                                Eva Aurora at age 13. Note lack of neon.
Funny how feelings from decades past can still hit you out of the blue. I do not care in any way as an adult that I was not a popular kid in junior high school, that the unfashionable hand-me-downs I wore provoked unkind teasing from the popular kids, and that I went to sleep at night dreaming of these really rad outfits in which neon colors figured prominently. I don't even care that my more well-off friends and I kind of split during seventh grade, they rising in the ranks of popularity with their nice clothes and cute hair while I stayed behind in Nerd Kingdom. The thing was, I really liked my nerdy friends. They were genuine, they didn't care about my hand-me-downs, and they encouraged my intellect. When I switched schools, I found more good friends and enjoyed their company even as my quality of dress went up.

So why the sudden sensation of failure in the junior high gym? I was watching the line of student body officers, who congratulated each academic award winner with a handshake -- the cool kids, the rebels, the nerds, the nice kids, all of them herded together and sent along the line one at a time.

All of the SBOs fall into the popular kid category, and you could see it in their sense of style and stature even if they were all wearing the same team jersey. The girls among them made sure to look each student in the eye and congratulate them with a smile. Most of the boys did, too, but a couple of them would be chatting to each other and wouldn't pay attention to the kids whose hands they shook. It was obvious which kids receiving awards were their friends and which kids were not, even if these particular male SBOs weren't being consciously unkind. I felt for those children with the hand-me-down clothes and the postures that yelled loud and clear that they did not feel confident about themselves. Here was another knock to their sense of esteem, another indication that they were overlooked and unimportant to the kids they may have looked up to and wished to be like.

Or maybe they didn't care after all. You never know.

I walked back to my car and thought about the unexpected upwelling of feeling inside me. Even if I don't care about popularity contests with others, I realized that I so often beat myself with that same stick of shame that I used to feel in junior high and high school. I just don't match up to my own ideal. I don't keep my house wonderfully tidy or speak only in soft, dulcet tones to my children. I get frustrated and angry and I forget important things sometimes and I'm so tired of being tired and fat and why can't I just lose the weight already and be perfect and decorate my home to look like one of those magazines I love to look at? Why did I feel like I had one foot in the grave this morning when my 12-year-old girl made a face at the way I had tied my lovely new red and pink scarf and said, "That's really old fashioned, Mom!"

Funny how we're really the same people after all. That little junior high girl is still in me even if I have grown and matured in mind and body. I imagine her now standing in front of me and I tell her she's loved and smart and good enough. She has so many amazing plans and projects to accomplish, and it doesn't matter now, 30 years later, about clothes or popularity or anything so fleeting and ephemeral as that. In 30 more years, will I feel the same way about myself now? Will I reassure my 40-something self that the tidiness of the house or the fact that my children often look like orphans because of their clothing choices aren't at all important? One can only hope. One can also hope I figure it all out at some point before I die.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Barnyard HalleMOOya

My choir performs our spring concert this weekend. Gosh, I'd hate for you to miss it, and I have a solo in it, too! So I thought I'd post a virtual concert. (I'll let you know where my solo is so you don't miss it, which would be easy to do.)

We have entitled our concert Barnyard HalleMOOya for reasons that will soon become clear.

Our first piece is a repeat from previous concerts (you can only buy so much new music with your Parks and Recreation grant, after all).

Let Me Fly, arranged by Robert DeCormier

Our director loves spirituals, so here's another one:

Ride the Chariot, arranged by William Henry Smith. Our director, Denise, would be very pleased with this group's fine diction during the quiet bits. "Make sure you don't lose energy here! Keep your diction precise and intense!"

In keeping with our worshipful theme, we'll continue with All Creatures of Our God and King, arranged by Mark Hayes. Just for fun, listen for the altos.We altos sing our hearts out but you can never hear us, so this song gives us a chance to shine just a little bit.

Just when you were wondering if we are actually a denominational choir, we'll keep you guessing by pulling out Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, by John Greenleaf Whittier, but not the version that is most commonly known. In fact, I can't find a recording of it anywhere, so you'll just have to imagine our resplendent voices raised in this simple Quaker hymn.

And now for something completely different! Let's get secular with Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da, a Beatles tune arranged for choir by the King's Singers. Unlike the Salt Lake Choral Artists, however, we actually stick our fingers in our mouths to make the marimba sound (none of this namby-pamby finger wiggling thing they're doing here), and since our alto section has been whittled down to three over the season, we make a trumpet of our hands during the brass bits to project our voices better.

We'll travel to Scotland now and hear I'll Aye Call in By Yon Town, by Robert Burns, arranged by Mack Wilberg. This piece has one of the craziest piano accompaniments I've ever heard. And you have to use your diaphragm so much to get those pesky quick eighth note runs that you're belly is sore by the time you're done.

Thought we were done with spiritual music? Ha! Prepare yourself for Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal, arranged by Alice Parker.

Now it's the men's turn. They'll be singing Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. There a million different versions of this, none of them quite the version our guys sing, but this one is the closest. I must confess that I have no idea what this song is about, really. I've listened to the words over and over, but my conclusion is that it was such a personal thing that no one can ever really figure it out completely. Anyway, our guys do a beautiful job.

And now we get to the cow bit in our HalleMOOya. Eric Whitacre made it a goal to put all of Ogden Nash's silly little animal poems to music, and we will be singing Volume 1: i. The Panther ii. The Cow iii. The Firefly. Just for fun, here are the words.

The Panther
The panther is like a leopard
except it hasn't been peppered.
If you behold a panther crouch
prepare to say "ouch."
Better yet if called by a panther
don't anther.

The Cow
[the basses have to perform some vocal feats of mooing]
The cow is of the Bovine ilk.
One end is moo
the other milk.

The Firefly
The firefly's flame is something for which science has no name.
I can think of nothing eerier
than flying around with an unidentified glow on a person's posterior!

Can you ever get enough of Eric Whitacre? No. The women will now perform She Weeps Over Rahoon, text by James Joyce, music by Eric Whitacre. But instead of an English horn playing the instrumental part, we have a talented clarinetist.

Again, just for fun, here are the words, since the three parts are not always singing the same thing at the same time.

She Weeps Over Rahoon

Rain on Rahoon falls softly, softly falling,
Where my dark lover lies.
Sad is his voice that calls me, sadly calling,
At grey moonrise.
Love, hear thou
How soft, how sad his voice is ever calling,
Ever unanswered, and the dark rain falling,
Then as now.
Dark too our hearts, O love, shall lie and cold
As his sad heart has lain
Under the moongrey nettles, the black mould,
And muttering rain.

MORE Eric Whitacre, but this time the whole choir gets to sing and we're not singing about animals. We present Five Hebrew Love Songs, with text by Hila Plitmann (fun fact: she's married to Eric Whitacre), music by Eric Whitacre. We also have a lovely young violinist (one of my neighbors, in fact) accompanying us. I love this performance by The Salt Lake Choral Artists. I won't include the words because they are in Hebrew, and unless you speak Hebrew, they won't matter to you. Also, this is where I have my solo. I do the whispered part in Eyze Sheleg, the second to last of the five songs.

Don't quit yet! Only two more pieces, and both of them exciting! Our second to last song of the evening is Naiman Sharag, by Se Enkhbayar. I'm proud to say I brought this piece to Denise's attention and she included it in the program. It's in Mongolian, of course, because if it were in English that would be too easy. Just imagine the eight chestnut horses racing around on the plains of Mongolia. This performance by the Inner Mongolian Youth Chorus is lovely, although it makes me realize our accents are simply atrocious. We're counting on not having any native Mongolian speakers in our audience. (Watch the video up to 4:05, because after that there's some sort of game show (?) thing going on).

Our last performance for the evening is a particularly rousing one, and one that must be saved for last because we're all completely hoarse after singing it. For your pleasure, Ah, el novio no quere dinero!, by Mack Wilberg.

I'm embedding this performance by the Delta Concert Choir because the Mormon Tabernacle performance includes an orchestra, which we not only don't have but isn't called for in our music (fun fact: Mack Wilberg leads the Mormon Tabernacle Choir). The Delta Concert Choir does a very anemic job with the clapping -- they look downright confused in some parts -- but because this version is like ours, with the drums, I'll grit my teeth and embed it.

Thank you for your kind applause. This concludes this evening's performance, and we invite everyone to enjoy some refreshments in the next room.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Happy Group Travels by Bus to The Home Depot

I signed up to be a chaperon for the kindergarten field trip to Home Depot last Thursday. I was assigned five children to watch over, including my own Little Gary. Auna, one of the two little girls in my bunch, named our group The Happy Group, and we were indeed happy, for we were to ride actual school buses! Oh, the joy! Oh, the anticipation! With all those smiling, excited little faces around me, I remembered how much I had loved kindergarten.

As our group walked in line to the buses, Little Gary held my hand. He kissed it repeatedly as we trotted along. "This is my mom," he proudly told the other children. "I sure do love her!" A couple seconds later he said, "Do you guys like my mom?" Auna, who is a polite and lovely child, said, "Yes, I like your mom." Little Gary said, "Don't you love her voice?" They were confused by that but were saved from answering because we had just emerged, on a glorious spring day, at the buses.

I rode school buses every single day when I first started school -- one hour to school, one hour home, since we lived quite a ways outside of the small town where my elementary school was located, and we (my brother and I) were the first to be picked up and the last to be dropped off. The best part of the inward trip was when we went down a long hill, at the bottom of which was a cow grate set slightly above the level of the street. You'd start bouncing on your seat about midway down the hill, and if you timed it just right, you'd be hitting the seat at the exact moment the bus bumped over the grate. For a stomach-churning split second, you were suspended in the air before coming down hard enough to nearly snap your spine.

Unfortunately, our bus ride to Home Depot didn't include any cow grates, but the kids loved it anyway. "So this is what it looks like on the inside of a bus!" they kept exclaiming to each other. Their little hands clutched the top of the seats so they could lift themselves up high enough to see out the front. They chattered amongst themselves about the strange window opening mechanism. Meanwhile, my knees were making a pretty serious dent into the back of the seat in front of me. Had there been any cow grates, I would have broken my neck on the ceiling before I had a chance to tell the kids to settle down back there. It's been a long, long time since I rode a school bus.

At Home Depot, a petite woman with a swingy brunette bob talked to the kids about seeds and then let all one bazillion kindergartners and their adults loose to make plant holders. The kids immediately handed me their coats and headed for the line to get their personalized orange aprons (their names written hastily in black permanent marker at the top) and a packet of building components. Once we'd found a big enough spot at the piles of plywood that served as worktables, I got to work.

Because the reality was that I made five plant holders that day, and then, when they announced that there were plenty of bird feeder project packets available, I ended up making five bird feeders, as well. Sure, the kids helped tap a nail in or spread glue messily on the wrong parts while I frantically rushed between them and stole hammers and screwdrivers from unsuspecting adults at other tables, but the only reason my kids all walked out of there with finished projects and the correct coat was because I became Superwoman for an hour. I'm sure, however, that Superwoman probably doesn't sweat heavily at the hairline and armpits or continuously drop her sunglasses when she leans over to pick up infinitely small and hard-to-spot nails from the floor even when she's in the throes of an overly ambitious wood project that includes kindergartners.

Eventually, the projects were finished and bagged, and I had convinced The Happy Group to finally just stick the plant saucer bottoms into their orange apron pockets, since they were going to keep coming off the plant pots and I was a little weary of chasing them through the aisles as they merrily rolled away (the plant saucer bottoms, not the kids). Little Gary was tired and thirsty and hot, so he fussed petulantly and clung to my knee. The rest of the group, who were withholding their petulance because I was not their actual mother, sat in exhausted heaps on the cement floor. I was never so glad to be told to march outside and meet a school bus. We found our seats again for the seven minute ride back to school and remained quiet even through the thrill of viewing the world from the inside of a school bus. I was even grateful to be handed a Rice Krispy treat and a Capri Sun. I miss kindergarten.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Why I'm Not Funny

I have a sense of humor. Honestly, I do. I realize that I show it on Facebook and leave the heavy, boring, dismal stuff for this blog. It's easier to be amusing in short sentences, since writing hilarious paragraphs is difficult for me. Just so you know.

Here is a picture from our local Walmart that I asked Husband to take during a milk run. The lack of punctuation speaks for itself.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Rant Against People Who Don't Actually Know What Censorship Is

Our local NBC affiliate decided to drop the show Hannibal after many of their viewers emailed them to complain about the show's violent and graphic nature. It was interesting to read some of the reactions to their decision. While many applauded the station, many more were angry and upset. Their arguments generally ran along these lines: "Stupid Mormons!" "That's censorship!" "If you don't like a show, just don't watch it, but don't ruin it for the rest of us!" "Your kids should be in bed anyway by the time the show airs. What kind of horrible parents are you that your kids are watching TV at 9pm?" There were also some comments that are simply unfit to repeat.

As a parent of children, I have long since become so disgusted with regular network programming that we have let it disappear from our lives. I only like PBS stations, but as I never contribute to their fundraising drives, it's just as well I don't watch their network programming anymore. We pick and choose what we watch through subscription online streaming where there are no commercials and where we can exhibit some control. It's certainly cheaper than cable, and you're not paying for dozens of stations you never watch anyway.

Not only is the quality of so very many network shows abysmal -- pandering to the lowest common denominator of humor and wit, or just an endless lineup of cheap "reality" television -- but I am sick of the commercials. As one parent pointed out, even if she didn't watch Hannibal, and she certainly didn't allow her children to watch, she didn't have any control over the promotional spots for the program. The 30-second spots were so disturbing that she had to change the channel whenever they popped up unexpectedly.

Should the station have let the show go? I don't care one way or the other, and the reason is this: it's a privately owned station and they can do what they want. If they want to make a profit, they have to follow the market forces. Obviously, more people complained about the show than showed gratitude and support for it, and that influenced their decision. The station repeatedly stated that it was a decision that wasn't made lightly. The moral of the story is that if you like something, you better tell the product maker or store owner or television station what you like and why so that it's more likely to stay around. If you don't like something enough to make a fuss about it, do it. You are being listened to.

As for the people who complained about self-righteous Mormons ruining their fun and forcing censorship on their victimized heads, well, you should have said something to the station, I guess. You don't have to be LDS to have morals and wish that entertainment hadn't descended to the crap that most of it has become. And you can find whatever you want anyway, if you look hard enough. Hannibal moved to the CW, so no one is censoring you; just change the channel. What happened isn't censorship, anyway. If they took away the show and then threatened you with harm if you spoke up about it, and especially if they had the force of the federal government's guns and weapons to back them up, that would be censorship. What happened with Hannibal isn't censorship.What happened was a market-driven decision.

And as a philosophical question, is there a reason that we must fill our lives with increasingly more horrifying and nasty depictions of the darkest side of human nature? For what purpose, exactly? To bask in the fact that no one is pushing any sort of morality at you, which might be misconstrued as (shudder) religion? I don't really expect an answer to that. I can't think of any reason why it's a good choice.

What is happening in the military to those who have Christian faith, now THAT is censorship. A stupid television show being moved to a different channel just means you have to reprogram your DVR.