22 December 2010

If there is anything. . .

". . . virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."
Articles of Faith: 13

I saw Tangled with my family tonight. It's the second time I've seen it and I thoroughly enjoyed myself both times. It's a clever movie that I wasn't expecting to do much more with other than a mental pat on the head - a "awww. . . you're such a cute Disney movie!" sort of gesture. Instead it struck a pretty big chord with me that I haven't been able to stop thinking about since. Probably because I think it's a hugely important film for the families of students I teach.

Let me give you a bit of background. I teach in one of the most conservative communities in the country. My students almost entirely come from the same family and religious background. Nearly all of them come from families where the parents are very involved in their lives in all aspects - and very concerned about each of those aspects. To these families, the world is often seen as a dark, scary place that needs to be constantly censored and filtered before reaching their children. Above all, the family is the most important thing, and keeping kids home as often as possible is important. Many of these students don't attend school full time so that they can be at home. In some cases, students are actually pulled out of class if it is seen as an environment that might be stressful. Most of these students are wary of what is new or different because they have been taught (either directly or indirectly) their entire lives to be cautious about the unknown.

Now, to be clear, this post is not meant to totally discount that method of parenting/raising a family. The world is often scary and certainly filled with darkness. It's not a hidden fact that the pornography rate in Utah is higher than any other state in the Union, for example. And families are very important - they are central to the Lord's plan, after all, and should be valued and strong.

What I do fear is the censorship. Typically the goal of censorship is to keep a child (or a person) innocent - but what censorship typically breeds is not innocence, but ignorance - and those are not parallel virtues. Ignorance breeds naivety - and those who are naive have no means with which to change the world for the better. The answer to evil is not hiding from it and pretending that it doesn't exist.

This is why I bring up Tangled, which was brilliant and beautiful in many respects, but mostly in the message that it gave of the dangers and problems of what happens when you shelter someone from the bad things. In the movie, Rapunzel is kept away in a tower (as per tradition) by a woman claiming to be her mother. Under the guise of "protection", Rapunzel is kept in this tower for the first eighteen years of her life until an arrogant (and hilarious) thief makes his way up her tower to escape a horse that thinks it's a dog/general.

So - as with the traditional story - Rapunzel leaves. And she discovers that her mother was right - the world is full of scary, frightening creatures. Not everyone wants what is best for you. Not every creature or place is safe. But she also sees and experiences beauty and fun and joy that she never would have had if she hadn't left the tower. If you can't have the bitter, you can't have the sweet.

And that is why I ache for so many of my students. For so many people I see around me who live their lives in constant fear. I think they see their life as a boat in the middle of the ocean that keeps springing leaks. They've used all their fingers and toes and elbows and any other resources they can to try and plug the leaks, but they keep breaking through. I would be absolutely miserable if I lived my life in constant fear. Fear is a disabler - it keeps you from moving forward. And it is not the way the Lord wants us to live. We are meant to progress, not hide away. We are meant to influence the whole world - not just the walls of our homes. And if we are going to influence the world, we need to be in it - aware of it, and we need to love it as God does. And he does love it - because he gave his son for it. Mormons (particularly those in Utah Valley, where the gospel of the church and culture of the church mix so crazily at times) are fools if they think they have a corner on God's love for the world. And I think it's about time they owned up to this and started becoming a more powerful people.

15 December 2010

I Love Snow (Or, the post in which I repent for venting)

This morning was terrible.

It was obnoxious, really, because I was determined for today NOT to be terrible. I reached a milestone on a project I've been working on for work yesterday and was too grumpy and tired to celebrate it, and I was determined to be in the mood for celebratory activities today. I even went to bed nearly two hours early in the hopes of being rested enough for such things.

But then I woke up and went outside and saw a gallon of snow on the ground and I was running late and I had chosen to wear a skirt and slippery flats and had no time to change. So I took off my shoes and attempted to make it to my car in bare feet and then had to scrape off the gallons of snow off of my car and realized too late that I probably should have just grabbed my boots, and drove to work with feet that were burning from cold. Lame.

The parking lot at school was not plowed (even when I got there late at 8:15) so I found a parking spot of course and prayed I'd be able to get out, and walked (again barefoot) into school, only to realize that - my students being from the families that they are, odds were they'd all be late and we'd start a half an hour after we wanted.

And then the snowplow came. And it slid into my car. And put a dent in it. (Yes. My brand new, beautiful car.) And to tell me this, a swarm of teenage boys decided to deliver the news in varying levels of dramaticness. It wasn't until I was able to shut them up that I was able to get the real story from an adult who told me that while the plow had run into my car, it only hit with the tire (how?!) and that they were able to push the bumper back into place and that it didn't look like there was any damage to it (and there isn't. Not a scratch, not a bump, not a hair out of place.)

And I felt like Lorelai in Gilmore Girls in that episode where she declares that she and snow are THROUGH. I was frustrated and annoyed and overwhelmed and irritated because I had wanted SO BADLY for today not to suck. I was cursing the sky and thinking that God was having a little too much fun with me, only I was tired of the game and wanted to play something else.

But then my wonderful co-workers took the time to make sure that I was ok - not just that my car was ok - but that I was ok. And I watched The Wonder Years at lunch and A Christmas Story after work, and read some really awesome (and hilariously bad) student essays and suddenly. . . the world didn't seem quite so bleak.

The irritating parents and lazy students haven't gone anywhere, but this teacher has her happy hat back on and is ready to tackle the last two days of school with metaphorical bells on her heals before heading home to enjoy the holidays with her family.

12 December 2010

Benefits of Failure (Or, the post in which I vent.)

Ahh. . . the last week of school. The week in which students who never cared an ounce for my classes up until now will suddenly care very much, and I will have the pleasure of telling them, and their parents, 'tough luck, Tiger, you're too late.'

I hate this week.

For personal and slightly selfish reasons, I hate this week because it is the week in which parents will very apologetically recognize that I have better things to do with my time, but could I please just this once make an exception for their student? It's the time where I will feel pressured guilt trips about students who failed to get work in all term and now that they're going to fail it will suddenly be my fault. It's the time where I will receive emails begging me to attempt to remember daily writing prompts from over two months ago. It's the week where I will already be swamped enough with final projects and places to be and things to prepare for that involve my OWN life (because I will actually have one in the next week.)

For other reasons, I hate this week because sometimes, (in my non-parental naivety), I wish that parents would allow their student to fail. Because what does the child really learn from death bed repentance? Well - for some, it will be that if you do the work the first time then you don't have to do it all at once. And that's not a bad lesson. But I also suspect that for many others, the lesson is, "Hey - I can slack off all term, do crappy work in the last week, and still somehow manage to scrape by." The lesson is short lived.

This isn't to say that I don't support or encourage make-up work. But I do think there are definite benefits to parents allowing their kids to face up to the consequences of their actions, even if it is embarrassing or frustrating or causes set backs. Because that's how life sometimes is. School is, and should be, a safe place to fail because your life/livelihood doesn't depend on it like it would in a job, for instance - but I do think there is a balance between teaching your kid responsibility and letting your kid face the music. I think the culture in this valley leads to too many kids who are coddled and used to making excuses - "I couldn't do my homework. I had other homework." or "I couldn't do my assignment. I had young women." To which I want to reply, "I couldn't grade your assignment, I had other assignments to grade." Or "I couldn't plan a lesson for you today, I had to take my car in for an oil change and then I had to do laundry and then I had to make myself dinner."

. . . Ok. So this isn't the most eloquent writing I've ever done. Mostly I'm just venting because this week has been one thing after another piling down on me and making me feel as though I am getting absolutely nowhere as a teacher.

So for now, I'm going to allow J.K. Rowling to say eloquently what I can only vent about. It is an article that I think I've referenced before, but I'm doing it again because it is just that good. (Though, in a sudden burst of irony, this article did make one student think that I am nigh unto Satanic because apparently Ms. Rowling is a devil - but you can be the judge on that one.)

In other news: sometimes being a teacher is annoying. Also - grades are a farce. These parents (and students) can whine and complain their way into whatever letter they want, but it won't change anything about what they've really learned or the kind of student they are, and it's about time they learned to face up to that music.

07 December 2010

A Little More Conversation, a Little Less Knee-Jerk Reaction, Please.

I grew up in what I like to call a morally conservative, artistically liberal household. This means that our values were faith based, but our experiences were not often censored. This is not to say that we spent time running around like hippies - there were still boundaries - but we were given room to explore and determine for ourselves what was and was not right.

I've spent a good deal of time thinking about this lately. How grateful I am for trusting parents who didn't immediately rip books like Go Ask Alice out of my hands because the book is "dirty" (which it is), but instead trusted that I would talk with them about what I was reading and use the experiences of others as a way to find more strength in my own belief system.

I mention this because I've seen more often than I ever have before in my life recently the idea that the world is full of dark, evil things and that the best way to keep evil things from corrupting you is to hide from them completely and not explain why to those around you (particularly in the form of parents talking to their children about the world.) For example, I had a friend tell me of an experience she had at school in a class where a girl (high school junior) was convinced that babies grew in the stomach (and wondered why pregnant women didn't have a baby-sized tumor on their side.) She was corrected by another student who said that babies ACTUALLY grow in the small intestine.

But it's not so simple as basic reproductive understanding, either. There's also a great deal of fear for what is out there. I've seen parents terrified of their children finding out about certain lifestyles or reading certain books that talk about what they don't agree with. Not that there isn't a good time and place (and age) for certain bits of information, and there are certainly books that are inappropriate or full of garbage - but it seems to me that those who live in this way don't understand the basic tenants of Mormon faith.

Our church is founded on the idea of learning for yourself. The church itself would not have even been established if Joseph Smith hadn't been curious. If his parents hadn't allowed him to attend other congregations to try and find truth. It seems to me that people who live this way (or parents who force their children to live this way), are afraid that the truth of the gospel will somehow not be strong enough or true enough to stand up to the diverse ideas of the world. Or perhaps these individuals simply think that the LDS faith has a corner on truth and that there are no other means by which truth can be found or expanded on. (For example, I've known my share of people who don't seem to understand that my faith is strengthened through fiction.)

Ultimately, what this leads to is a population of people who breed fear of the unknown. People who take one look at something that is unfamiliar and immediately interpret it as wicked or somehow 'wrong'. They don't want to talk about or try something new because it might be what they fear it to be. To which I say: Yes. It might be. But it might NOT be. It might be something you could actually talk about. You might actually be strengthened by reading/writing about/listening to/watching an idea that is not like one you currently hold. It's no wonder so many people in this valley live in fear - it's easier to assume the worst and refuse to talk about the truth than it is to actually talk openly about things. Bad things happen when people are left to wonder.

As for me, I feel like my life would be not quite worth living if I spent all my time and energy trying to keep bad things out. I'd rather spend my time seeking out good things, because - as we all know - light will always overpower darkness.

19 November 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part One) - Review

Note: This post will likely be revised after I see the movie a second time and am better able to consider the specific film making details that made this movie awesome (which it truly was). For now, here are my (somewhat disjointed) thoughts. Naturally, there are spoilers.

First: This year, due to the nature of my now responsible "I need to be an adult" job, I was unable to go see the movie at midnight (*sigh*). I was serendipitously transferred (much like Harry) back into a state of reminiscing - waiting all day at school (like I did for the first movie) in anxiety and then rushing to the theater the second I could get out of the building. Of course this time I had access to Facebook and reviews from friends. Cynical as I am, when I saw reviews from a few people who had seen the movie at midnight and enjoyed it, I actually got worried. Generally, these individuals are the kind who are bugged if the movie is not exactly the same as the book, whereas I am a huge fan of movies being adapted so that they are good movies, not good 'copy-paste' attempts.

Fortunately for me, this is a movie that is both beautiful and true enough to the book that both sides should be satisfied.

I do laugh a bit when I have looked at reviews where filmmakers complained about how the movie feels unfinished or slow. Well. . . that's how it should have been. The movie isn't finished. We've only seen half of a whole. And it should have been slow, because for the first time - we have a movie dedicated not to action and clear cut adventure - but a movie dedicated to building relationships and and overall feeling of being lost and confused about what needs to be done. Which is, essentially, exactly what the first half of the book is about. Many readers cheekily called the first part of the book Harry Potter and the Extended Camping Trip. If viewers leave that movie feeling as though they lost or have been through a long, confusing adventure - well. . . that's probably exactly what the filmmakers wanted.

My greatest excitement for this movie came in realizing that, for the first time, I felt like Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson were equally yoked as actors. They were all given good things to do, and they all did them well. In the past, Watson has read lines rather awkwardly, or Grint's character has been reduced to the stupid sidekick. But this time - they were a team. It was really great to see how much they had matured and grown into these parts with such confidence. They managed to carry a movie that was incredibly difficult to pace and, at times, laborious in how lost it was. They were great.

I appreciated how this movie didn't pander to the latecomers. In the past, some of the movies would spend so much time on exposition that a viewer could have seen the film cold and more or less understood what was going on. It was wasted time. This isn't James Bond - it's more or less a 20+ hour long movie that ultimately tells the same story. This movie is not for newcomers. If you hadn't seen the others, you'd be hopelessly lost and bored.

The animation: The animation was glorious. The way they handled the Tale of the Three Brothers was fantastic. Dobby and Kreacher were unbelievable. They made Gollum look like a cartoon - which is saying something, because Gollum looks pretty great. But Dobby and Kreacher were seamless and beautiful. Bravo.

The film was funny. It was sad. Ultimately, though, what made me love this movie so much - and what made it, in some ways, blow the other films out of the water - was that its core was a film that had heart. There was such love for the characters. Such care for what happens to them. The movie was handled with such obvious adoration for J.K. Rowling's creation and the fans that worship every word she's written that it would be impossible for me not to respect the accomplishment. You can see why they were so keen on splitting the film in two. It isn't for more money (though that's nice.) It's because the story is too good to do it the injustice of cramming it all into one film.

Was the film perfect? No. There were a few lost opportunities. (Did they ever explain the origin of the mirror? I also wish that they'd have left the conversation between Harry and Ron after the locket is destroyed.) But, on the whole, the film was wonderful.

How great is it to look back on the last ten years and know that I've been at every Harry Potter movie on opening day/night? To know that I've grown up with this series and now have the privilege of seeing it get another send off is fantastic. To loosely quote James Hook. . . "What would the world be like without Harry Potter?!"

Open Letter to the Deseret News

Dear Deseret News,

You are a delightful newspaper. I enjoy reading your articles. They make me chuckle. They keep me aware on long nights of work that there is, in fact, a world out there. I thank you.

But every once in a while, you do something so delightful that I cannot resist commenting. (Or, rather, I try to comment. But your registration feature has apparently read my mind, anticipated me words, and has kept me from obtaining access to your comment board on several occasions.) This particular day, I would like to thank you for helping to clear out theaters of Utah by taking quotes out of context, perpetuating non-existant scandal, and by continuing to remind would-be ignorant movie-goers of it in more than one article.

I am speaking, of course, of the article claiming large amounts of nudity in the new film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part One). By taking a quote (and a scene) out of context, one of your writers managed to incite such fear and disgust as to leave many parents convinced that neither they, nor their children should be allowed to watch such filth. This will, I am assuming, leave plenty of room for us sinful movie watchers to enjoy the film without the cynical, pure aura of the angry part of your readers in theaters over the next few weeks. I thank you for this.



So here's the deal. I work with many students that come from very conservative families. I'm ok with this. I respect that parents have the right to raise their children in the way that they see best. This is a scary world and there are lots of nasty, not so good things out there. It's natural to want to protect your children from garbage. Do I think nudity is necessary in films? Most of the time, no. Particularly in films that are going to be seen by kids. But all of this ridiculous, false Harry Potter advertising (I'm not going to go into great deal about it now, just read the interviews/go see the film) has got me thinking about the arts and the role that they play in my life and the lives of the people around me and I've been frustrated by the hypocrisy that I've seen.

I am more offended by movies (or art, or literature, or music) that are dumb, or fluffy, or cheesy than I am by movies (etc.) that approach the heart and the depths of a human soul. Shutting out or being afraid of evil shuts out and protects you from the light as well. It's an Asian philosophy (if you are going to create good, you are going to create evil) - and a religious one (opposition in all things).

It is, to be perfectly frank, one of the things that eats at me most about the prominent culture in Utah Valley. People here seem more ready to accept fluff and chintz and 'safe' things, and less willing to actively seek after things that are 'virtuous, lovely. . . of good report or praiseworthy.'

I recognize, of course, that everyone has a different standard of what constitutes as virtuous (etc.) But it does make me sad when I see people living more with a feeling of fear for what is bad and less a feeling of joy over searching and finding things that are uplifting. I don't think that the Lord sent us to this earth to have us spending all our time running away from scary things that we don't have any time left to search out the glorious. That's not my job, at least. My job is to recognize that there are not good things out there, and to spend my time looking for those things that are uplifting.

And for goodness sake - this is Harry Potter we're talking about. They know their audience. They've made six more than good films and they're not going to put out something pornographic now. Use your brains. Go see the movie (or talk to people who have at the very least) before you start judging. Not to mention that this is the last (or second to last) of the Harry Potter stories - one of the most powerful and uplifting pieces of fiction I have read. A book about the power of evil - and the greater power of good. Give me a break.


(Plus. . . there is a very cheeky and cynical part of my own head that wonders how many of these people who are scared about the 'filthy' parts of Deathly Hallows are Breaking Dawn readers looking forward to a particularly exciting vampire sex scene next summer. . . *eyeroll* Give me good literature over that garbage any day. . . )

09 November 2010

How to Date a BYU Co-Ed

I gave my Creative Writing students a "how to" writing assignment recently where they are supposed to satirize something that they go through. I decided to do this writing assignment myself, and, very cheekily, wrote up the following. . .

How to Date a BYU Co-Ed

  1. The first thing you need to do is plan your approach. This is not something that should be taken lightly. You, as a man, want to make sure that the female specimen of the modern day knows that you know she is intimidating and frightening, so it is best to plan your approach from a distance. Don’t ever talk to her in person. This makes things very scary for you and makes her feel as though you are manipulative. Don’t call her on the phone because that may make her feel as though you consider yourself worthy to speak to her. The best way to ask a girl out, especially the one you know the name of but don’t ever encounter on a daily basis, is by TEXT or FACEBOOK.
    1. NOTE: This is especially true of the female who was kind to you and spoke to you once but has not talked with you since then. It is best to send her an impersonal message through impersonal means because you have an impersonal relationship with her, and you wouldn’t want to take things too fast, now would you?
  2. After you have sent your text message or Facebook event invite, the best thing you can do is wait approximately 24 hours for a response, then ask again. It could be that she did not get your message the first time. It could be that she has been stewing in awe of the generosity of your request and she needs to know that you are not, in fact, scary. Be sure to send a new request in the appropriate way.
    1. If she turns you down: Note - the best thing you can do at this point is to not give up hope: odds are if you ask her again for another night, she will be more free and willing to grace you with her presence. She may just have needed time to warm up to the idea. Do not give up heart! Try again.
    2. If she accepts: Congratulations! You now get the chance to proceed to step number. . .
  3. The planning of the event: Remember. The modern woman knows that everything - your entire future of a couple - depends on the first date. Like the male peacock, your job is to ruffle all of your glorious feathers. You must let her know that you are willing to devote hours of your time, and all of your money, strictly to her entertainment. You must take her to every desirable location in one evening. This requires planning and intense concentration. You must be sure, like the male peacock, that the female peacock knows that your feathers are sure to be the most attractive. This is especially true of the Utah Valley BYU Co-Ed, who has been raised from birth to believe that a person only dates to find a mate. You. Must. Be. That. Mate.
  4. The event should include. . .
    1. Eating at an expensive restaurant
    2. A clever activity in which you, as male peacock, can show off your masculine ability, and she, as female independent 20th century peacock, can demonstrate her intelligence.
    3. Dessert (Euphemistic or otherwise.)
    4. Followed by the in apartment movie watch. The date should never end until you have had the chance to sit on an uncomfortable couch and entertained yourselves by some viewing pleasure.
  5. On the day of the date itself, remember that the event is the most important part, followed shortly by the looks of the female herself. Your job is to flaunt your impressive planning skills, not your hygiene. Nothing will intimidate an intimidating woman more than a man who looks better than she does on a date. (Plus, she might think that you are, in fact, gay.) Thus, to prove your straight-ness and your consideration for her beauty, do not spend more than approximately ten minutes preparing yourself. Spend approximately five of those minutes showering. Find whatever shirt is clean, put on the running shoes you’ve had forever, and whatever jeans seem most appropriate for the event. This should take you no more than two minutes. Spend the remaining time brushing your teeth. (The “look no better than she does” exception does not extend to smell. The female creature loves it when you make it very clear that you do, in fact, wear aftershave and cologne at the same time - particularly if you are going to drive for long distances.)
  6. During the date, let her do all the talking. And only use one syllable words if you should feel the need to speak.
  7. After the date is over, be sure to send the appropriate text message thanking said female for her time. Then, should you feel the need, be sure to invite her out for the next weekend on an activity of similar grandeur. If you slack off on the next date, she will know you are a fraud. You must shower this female with every trick up your sleeve all the time to remind her that you “care”.

Happy Dating!

10 October 2010

Follow the Prophet

Since last weekend's LDS General Conference there has been quite a bit of discussion on President Packer's talk about standards of morality and the power of repentance. Opinions have been shared and debated and protests have been staged because the talk was seen as a step backward for the church as regards the way we approach the LGBT community.

I have my own opinions on the matter that I don't really feel the need to express here. Suffice it to say that I have been in theater long enough (and in the world long enough) to have made several friends who associate with that community. I've enjoyed and treasured their friendships and valued the mutual respect that we've had for the beliefs we share or disagree on. This is true of every friendship I've had, really - the need for mutual respect and understanding even when you disagree.

I don't wish to discuss the political ramifications of President Packer's talk. Members outside of the LDS community are not always in a position to understand our beliefs as well as we would and they can't be blamed for that. What makes me nervous is when members of the church start calling the Presidency of the church and the Apostles 'out of touch' or 'misguided' or 'misinformed'. When they start asking for the Presidency to re-think or re-phrase what they have said so that it is more comfortable to hear. That is dangerous.

The Lord has made it very clear that he speaks through his prophets. There is no room for debate on this. Blaming age or so-called naivety for the reasoning behind any official message of these men is a sign of a lack of understanding or faith in that doctrine. Are these men perfect? No. Would the Lord allow them to make statements on His behalf that were contrary to His plan? No.

I understand when people outside of the church misunderstand or misread what the apostles say because they do not hear with the same experience that members of the church should. They listen to these words as politics because - for most other churches/religious organizations - that's how messages are given. But when members of the church willingly say "well. . . I follow the Prophet, but sometimes he's a little out of touch. . . " - that is dangerous. The Lord did not tell us to follow the Prophet when it was comfortable. He did not tell us to follow the Prophet only if we understood everything that He said. He did not say to follow the Prophet, but you can pick which members of the Apostles are crazy - He said:
"What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same."

As members of the church we have a responsibility to be kind and understanding to all of God's children. We can't be comfortable with naivety about the state of the world. We have to associate with and love those who do not share our beliefs. We also have to recognize that the doctrine of this church is not always comfortable. It does not fit with the standards that the world would set or the way that knowledge is constructed and categorized in this world. The gospel is manifest in ways that can't always be measured or seen - but it can be felt and understood.

So there it is. The Lord does not excuse Himself from what needs to be said, and it is not my responsibility to excuse Him (or his servants) either.

08 October 2010

The more I love my dog. . .

This. . .

. . . is Schatzie.

She was, for all intents and purposes, my replacement. When I moved out of the house, my parents allowed her to take up residence. As I no longer spend large amounts of time with my immediate family at home (excepting Christmas, of course, and the odd vacation here and there when I'm lucky), I do not get to see her very often. Lucky for me she always remembers who I am and, thanks to my conniving methods of hour long belly rubs and the promise of beef jerky, she will allow me to hold her. She'll sleep in my room and keep my feet warm. She'll pee on the floor when I come in for excitement. She'll lick my face. She'll give me high fives. She'll look up at me expectantly when I tell her to stay, then put a treat on the floor, and stand there like a cruel slave driver, watching her patience, waiting for the command to come.

I've been thinking a lot about that particular moment recently. Those times when we test her training to see how long she will wait when the treat is not only promised, but in full view. My otherwise crazy and impatient dog will, because she wants so badly to please us, stay in her chair for extended periods of time until she is told to eat. If we walk away, she will come looking to me for permission before she eats the treat. It's funny how powerful the words of 'stay' and 'come' can be.

Not that she's perfect. I highly doubt that her patience would last if we, for example, asked her to stay, put the treat in the tray, then left the house for an hour or so. But maybe it would. Although she can be naughty and she doesn't always want to be bothered - I think Schatzie's ultimate desire in life is to please each of us.

There's a powerful symbol in that, I think. At least for me in my life and my situation right now - I feel at times like my poor dog, sitting on the floor in comfortable but foodless chair, watching the rest of my friends partaking of feasts that I have not been invited to.

Now - don't get me wrong. My life has been so abundantly blessed in the last several months that there are no words for me to adequately describe the gratitude I feel to my Heavenly Father for the guidance I have received. I have a job that I love. I have real, sincere friendships that have built me up and made me feel so wanted and loved that it's like having family close by again. I am blessed.

But occasionally, like Schatzie, I feel as though I am being relegated to a chair while others around me feast on food that I am not yet allowed to eat. It's this constant battle of wills inside of me: that feeling of overwhelming gratitude for the life that I'm leading, and the desire for the part of life I'm being denied for some reason that isn't quite clear to me yet.

So in the mean time, I'm going to try and be a little more like Schatzie. I'm going to work a little harder to please the one responsible for giving me all good things, and I'm going to (at least try) to keep my focus on those things that I have been given.

09 September 2010

Self Reliance

I have little patience for impatient students.

It's a little contradictory, and probably a bit unfair, but it drives me absolutely up the wall when a student of mine spends thirty seconds on an assignment and then complains of boredom.

I have one such student in one of my classes. A writing assignment was given today that said student claimed to have finished in approximately a minute and a half. I asked if this was the best work that could be done. The student nodded enthusiastically. Fighting the urge to roll my eyes and say "yeah, right," I gestured to the turn in tray.

Said student then proceeded to bug me about every five minutes for the remainder of work time. May I sharpen my pencil? May I go to the bathroom? I don't know what to do! What should I write about? I've written about everything that interests me!


There's almost nothing in the world that bothers me more than a student that wastes his or her own time (and mine - and the rest of the class) by not being self reliant. Students who don't use their resources or ask questions about every trivial thing make me seethe.

I think this is because, recently, I've felt the joy of being almost entirely self reliant. I have a job that allows me to provide for myself without parental assistance. While I certainly don't jump up and down every time I send money off to pay a bill, I do take a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that I can provide for myself. I consider myself to be a fairly resourceful person, and for a girl living on a second year teacher's salary of all things, I'm doing pretty well.

Oh, if I could only teach that to my students. It always amazes me when, in the same day, I have several students freaking out over an empty numbered list on the board (Student: "What's THAT for?!!!" Me, sarcastically: "I'm never going to tell you. I just put it up there to confuse you."), and even more students in the same day begging to know when class gets out, to which I point at the bell schedule that has been on the board the entire YEAR but they have not noticed.

So, to sum up my day, I bring you a quote from Gilmore Girls:

Lorelai: Michel, the phone.
Michel: Mmm-hmm. It rings.
L: Can you answer it?
M: No, people are particularly stupid today. I can't talk to any more of them.

02 September 2010

Let us oft speak kind words about each other. . .

"I resolve to speak ill of no man whatever, not even in a matter of truth; but rather by some means excuse the faults I hear charged upon others, and upon proper occasions speak all the good I know of everybody."
Benjamin Franklin

29 August 2010

Why Suzanne Collins is a Gutsy Writer, OR, Why The Hunger Games is a smarter series than Twilight

Warning: This post will contain spoilers for each book in The Hunger Games series. If you have not read them before and would prefer not to be spoiled, then get them read and then come back.

It's no secret that I don't like the Twilight books. I have made that abundantly clear in various blog posts and personal rants over the years. My primary complaints rested in the weakness of the main character, whom I found altogether to repulsive to like, and a male lead, whom I found far too sappy to be in any way tolerable. Other complaints rested in Meyer as an author completely unaware of her own message and the cop out of having her main character be so spineless and unwilling to consider consequences for actions.

Ahh, but then I discovered The Hunger Games.

It was such a breath of fresh air to read a book - probably the first since Harry Potter that managed to find a book that lived up to the mass hype it had received. It was bold, entertaining, and so wonderfully different that I couldn't stop talking about it. It was one of those books that mattered. A book that could be read by a person at any age and still mean something.

The trouble was, Collins gave herself an almost impossible set up for American readers. Americans are big fans of tight, happy, fairy tale endings. It's all part of that American Dream mentality. We like the couple to get together. We like what Miss Prism in The Importance of Being Earnest calls fiction: for the "good to end happily, and the bad unhappily." But it wasn't going to be that easy in Panem - not with the complicated set up Collins gave herself. Panem wasn't a nation that had barely entered some kind of complicated, oppressive government - Panem was a government with a 75 year long tradition of sick, public mutilation. Obviously the ultimate goal of the book series wasn't just to survive the game itself alive, but to survive the government - surviving the game wasn't good enough.

That's a huge task, particularly in a government so intricately structured and varied and unpredictable as the one Collins created.

This is why, I think, the last book in the series will raise some eyebrows. Is it perfect? No. Is it still pretty darn brilliant? Yes. Is it going to please most American readers? I'm not sure. Most of the Twilight obsessed teen crowd will likely be disappointed by the lack of romance in this book compared to the others. In fact, the resolution of the "will she or won't she" conflict between Katniss and the two men was almost an afterthought, because it really didn't matter as much as everything else (though I still think I could have done with at least a proper send off for Gale. Not that I thought Katniss should be with him - I didn't - but I felt as though his character deserved more credit than he was given.)

All the same, Collins dared to write a book that was not happy and did not end entirely happy either. Readers who wanted a story full of hope without the taint of dread that it was all too good to be true at the end were not going to find it in Katniss, who, as a narrator, had enough scarring after the first games she participated in to make her suspicious of every good thing for the rest of forever. Katniss is wary, and with good reason. Things weren't ever going to be cleanly finished.

But that isn't the point, is it?

As far as I'm concerned, the most important part of that last book was in the transformation of Peeta, who has always represented the hope for a better future. No matter what has been thrown at him in the past, Peeta always managed to keep his chin up and find the bright side of things, without being Pollyanna like, but by being practical. He was an incredible judge of character. Until the Capitol got hold of him and addled his brain. Throughout the entire book he is fighting for himself back - trying to figure out what is real and what is not real. It's even turned into a game. Isn't that the point Collins has been making all along? The importance of asking yourself what is and what is not real? In a society so steeped in "keeping up appearances" and glamorizing the grotesque for the gain of others - isn't that the whole purpose? If that was her purpose, then she accomplished it wonderfully.

Did the government miraculously turn pure and clean overnight? No. Will Katniss and Gale and Peeta and all the rest of them ever lead "normal" lives? No. But have we as readers learned a little something about where our values are? Hopefully. Is there hope for their future - and ours? Definitely.

So thank you, Ms. Collins, for writing a series that took nerve. Thank you for making me think. Thank you for providing me with endless conversations with friends and students about the value of entertainment and the value of reality. Your books are masterful.

26 August 2010

Reverse Angle

In film, a reverse angle is when you film something from the opposite side of what is considered "normal". For example, a dinner table scene is usually filmed from one side of the table only. To film from the other side is disorienting and a bit harsh on your audience.

I feel like my life is a pretty decent representation of a reverse angle at the moment, because it is so, so very different from last year. Last year I came home after the first day of school overwhelmed and worn out and not sure I would be able to handle everything that went along with teaching three classes of seventh graders. I honestly didn't think I would survive until May. This year I came home after my first day of school thinking: "Gosh, I love this - I am glad to be back in school!"

Such a strange thing, but so refreshing. Do I love planning lessons for four classes I haven't taught before? Not particularly. Do I love grading? No. But I do love working with students and trying new things and seeing excitement and growth and enthusiasm. I love the chance that I have to be a complete unabashed dork for the sake of keeping teenagers entertained and interested in a stupid syllabus.

In other words: life really is wonderful when you are doing something you love. I have nothing more profound to add to my life right now except a strong, wonderful sense of contentment. What a luxury that is - how many second year teachers have this feeling? I don't know. But I do love that instead of teachers treating me like I don't know anything, they're treating me with high expectations and excitement. It's such a delightful little shift.

In other other words: *smile*.

29 July 2010

Music Man: A Recap

I'm in mourning for the loss of my obsession. I still feel the need to run lifts and scenes, even though the show closed earlier this week. This was such an incredible theater experience - I had to write it all down. I'm sure as I remember more things the list will expand, but this is what I have for now. . .

Things I Will Miss. . .

  1. My wonderful costumes! Clothes these days just aren’t the same. . . plus, I looked awesome. I really felt beautiful.
  2. The thrill of singing some of the most wonderful and iconic songs in musical theater, and knowing when they sounded nice.
  3. Walking around everywhere in my bloomers. On stage, off stage, grocery stores, restaurants. . .
  4. My Paroo family. Mama calling me ‘darlin’ and both Winthrops giving me hugs to wish me luck.
  5. Making the audience laugh when I was being sly or a bit snarky.
  6. Hearing such genuine compliments after the show from generous audiences.
  7. Working so hard to make Marian and Harold a couple you want to root for – and then succeeding.
  8. Shooting marshmallows out of my mouth.
  9. Everything about Marian the Librarian (especially that vest. . . )
  10. Late night (mostly focused) quiet scene rehearsals
  11. My power ranger boots
  12. Lift-a-palooza
  13. Wearing the completed footbridge dress for the first time. It was the first moment when I really thought "Wow. I look like Marian."
  14. Watching characters come to life on stage – like the first time Rob went off on the school board.
  15. The challenge of developing a difficult character so completely from one end of the spectrum to the other.
  16. Waking up in the morning with my cheek stuck to my pillow because of tape residue – because it reminded me that I’d been in a show the night before, and it was satisfying
  17. Rehearsing Shipoopi and bonding with the cast
  18. The cast carwash, in which I managed to thoroughly soak many people, and get soaked by just as many
  19. The fireflies and smoke during the footbridge – I never got to really see it, but it looked like it looked beautiful
  20. Symbols and metaphors happening on accident (the color of the handkerchief, people carrying books around that trusted me from the beginning).
  21. Lindsay’s snort during Pick-a-Little, and the look on her face/Chris’ face during their solo of Shipoopi
  22. Craig's sound jokes and obnoxious kissing noises from the booth.
  23. Being able to yell or say mean things without having to repent afterwards ;). (I'm mostly joking!)

Things I Won’t Miss. . .

  1. Non-scripted drama.
  2. Mic tape giving me hives behind my ear.
  3. Stage make-up making my skin break out.
  4. Fake eyelashes.
  5. The debate over my stage make-up in general and the great eyebrow debacle of 2010
  6. The door to the Paroo house
  7. “Like two junior high kids in the back of a movie theater!”
  8. The "Did you really kiss my daddy in the show or was it pretend?" question. . . Yeesh!
  9. Hairspray. (The product. Not the musical.)

Things I Want to Remember. . .

  1. Seeing my name on the call back list for Marian and shaking for about a half an hour afterwards from excitement
  2. How over the moon excited I was when I got the call from the director telling me that I got the part – and adding again to that excitement when I found out that Greg got the part, because I had so much fun with him at call backs (good thing that continued. . . )
  3. The moment in call backs when I thought “. . . I might actually be able to get this part!”
  4. The first YOPTC night
  5. The huge feeling of accomplishment I had when I finally committed to all parts of Marian’s journey. It was an emotional triumph for me, and a healing experience.
  6. Lawrence Welk-ing the footbridge ("Never a peaceful moment in the -" "Yeaaaah!")
  7. The director pulling Greg and me aside after the final show and telling us that he was afraid that he would only ever compare us to Robert Preston and Shirley Jones, but that now he will compare all other performances of Harold and Marian to us. That was a huge honor.
  8. "I couldn't kiss him! My acting skills are NOT that good." (Re: The "other" Music Man.)
  9. Steve Black telling me with such enthusiasm that we had nailed the transformation of both characters. His high opinion of the show was, at least for me, the moment I really knew I had succeeded!
  10. Scores of people telling us that they had never understood why Marian loved Harold before they saw our version and knowing that the months of hard work had really, honestly paid off the way we hoped it would.
  11. Greg’s wife telling me that her favorite song in the show was “Till There Was You” – pretty much the last thing I ever expected, but it was a huge compliment! She also said she likes my voice better than Shirley Jones – which is also a great thing to hear, even if I think she’s crazy.
  12. The night I was offered my job. I thought I was in some kind of trouble. I was - but a completely different kind of trouble than I thought.
  13. Walking into Maple Mountain’s theater for our first rehearsal there and thinking “ooooh boy. . .”
  14. Showing off Shipoopi for the first time to the ensemble – mainly because I didn’t have many scenes at all with ensemble in them and it was my first chance to really show off what I could do! The reaction was pretty fun.
  15. Slapping Greg at rehearsal (mostly on accident).
  16. The “Sadder But Wiser (Budwiser?) Girl” dance at tech rehearsal.
  17. Lady in the Tramp hair at intermission
  18. The development of the hummingbird fascination.
  19. Being so giddy over finally rehearsing the library that I couldn’t stop from grinning at how much fun it was to perform. That was always my favorite scene in the movie, and performing it every night was one of the greatest thrills ever.
  20. Realizing how completely the Lord loves me to lead me to the show – not just because playing Marian was fun, but because it changed my life in nearly every way: with friendship, with opportunity, and with some major personal growth.
  21. The emotion of closing night – feeling everything so much more keenly than I had in any other rehearsal or show because I knew it would end.
  22. Watching the pick-a-little ladies can-can during the entr’acte music before the curtain opened. So, so entertaining!
  23. Watching Lindsay sing “Columbia, Gem of the Ocean” off stage so that I could laugh all I wanted without being seen.
  24. Larisa’s excellent “Baaalllzac!” during the pick-a-little reprise
  25. The joke we played on Lindsay. We texted her during notes on one of the two days that she wasn't at rehearsal and told her that she might want to get to rehearsal fast because our director had just told someone else to start memorizing her lines. We thought that she would roll her eyes and laugh, but instead she panicked and burst into tears and her whole family started planning a siege on the school. Whoops! It was really funny, though - in spite of how mean it was! Fortunately she's still talking to all of us.
  26. “I thought so.”
  27. The blessing of being surrounded by priesthood holders when I needed them.
  28. The care that so many people took to make sure that I was taken care of – feeding me and bringing me food and helping me in so many ways on and off stage. It was comforting to know that people cared about me enough to notice when I needed help or encouragement.
  29. How hard it all was – I’ve never had to work so hard at making a part good. It took rehearsing nearly every day for three and a half months to feel worthy of playing Marian. I only missed one rehearsal during all of that time, and I came every other day whether I was scheduled to or not because I wanted to get it right. The responsibility and pressure of being a lead in such an iconic show. It was so, so worth the work – but it was hard.
  30. How fun it all was – to take such pleasure in saying lines I’d known for years from watching the film, to talk for hours about character development and how to take Harold and Marian from one place to the next in a way that is uplifting and praiseworthy, to have all the fun perks of being a lead – riding on the float in the parade, kids giving me hugs after the show, custom made costumes and a quiet dressing room, interviews and pictures in the paper – it was definitely a selfish bit of fun to have that kind of attention!

25 July 2010

Seeing the Good

"It is a terrible injustice to be falsely accused." - Anne of Green Gables

I'm going to toot my own horn for a second and seem very contradictory. You'll have to forgive me.

One thing I realized about myself several years ago is that, on the whole, I'm pretty good at assuming the best in other people. Those of you who know me well might look through the files of your brain and find moments where I haven't been that way, but ultimately I think that, as a person, I'm generally good at assuming the best in others and assuming that they see the best in me.

This means that it always comes as a bit of a shock when I'm confronted by accusations of poor behavior on my part, whether those accusations are valid or not.

I had such an experience recently and it's brought to mind lots of random thoughts that I'm going to attempt to string together here. . .

The "grass is always greener" mentality can be quite frustrating when you know the grass isn't greener, it's just a different kind of grass. Being cast as a lead in this play has been, then, both a wonderful experience and an extremely stressful one. I have been around the theater business long enough to know that everyone experiences the stage differently. When you're in the ensemble, particularly if there are long breaks between backstage and stage time, it's a great time for you to play games and socialize. I knew before getting this part that as a lead you'd have lots less of that time because so much of your time would be spent on stage. What I hadn't realized was exactly how emotionally and physically taxing that can be.

It's true that everyone in the cast is at the theater for the same amount of show time, but I've never been so drained in a show before this one. Staying "on" and being completely in character for two and a half hours is hard. It's a completely different challenge than any other play I've had the chance to participate in. It's been a very welcome challenge, but a difficult one.

What I really didn't understand, though, is how hard it is to walk that fine line between putting on a good performance and being a good friend to everyone in the cast, especially with the part that I have. Marian doesn't socialize much. Nearly all of my time on stage is spent in small group scenes. This means that I haven't had the chance to get to know as many people in the show as well as I normally would in any other position. I noticed after we started rehearsing that people treated me differently because of the role that I had, and I tried to counter that by being as kind and complimentary to people as I could. No one should have an ego built on community theater of all things. I'm just another small fish in a very big and very insignificant pond doing my best to perform where I'm placed. But in spite of all that, people will still interpret distance for arrogance and think that things come easily where they don't. It can be frustrating.

Which brings me to the point of the day: It is easy for humans to criticize what we don't understand and allow ourselves to be annoyed by what we haven't experienced. It is easy for us, then, to back bite and sneer at the success of other people. It is easy for us to imagine that there is a cap on success and that the success of another person is, in some way, inhibiting our own success or potential for success. Instead, we should remember that we are always happier when we are excited for others and supportive of others. Jealousy is a waste of time, and holding a grudge even more so. We should observe before judgement, and give others the benefit of the doubt. I'm of the firm belief that rational people generally act out of good intentions.

So there it is. I feel better after a bit of venting. This ride as Marian Paroo has been rough. It's been a huge challenge for me in the actual performance, but - in some ways - a larger challenge in terms of how I relate to my cast. I hope that they know, as a whole, anyway - how much I appreciate and admire them. I hope that I've been easy to work with and generous in complimenting. If I haven't been as good at that as I would have liked to have been, or as people might have needed me to be, then I hope that there will be a spirit of understanding and forgiveness. After all - we're really all in the same boat.

24 May 2010

Good Enough

I am a person of many insecurities. Not that people would always know it by looking at me. I'm told that occasionally my "confidence" is so overwhelming I intimidate people (working on that.) But that confidence isn't always as pure as it might seem. I'll blame it on years of the "fake it until you make it" mentality - or perhaps just better than average acting skills that I possess.

I bring this up because recently I've been faced with the kind of perfect challenge that is at the same time catered to some of my greatest strengths but also leaning on some of my insecurities and weaknesses. This particular challenge calls for me to place said insecurities and strengths in front of large groups of people and hope for the best. I can't really blame God for any of this, seeing as I volunteered for the thing in the first place, but recently I started to feel the pressure kind of getting to me. That nagging "you don't really think you can do this. . . " voice of discouragement that makes me want to quit the whole thing and just avoid the potential for failure at all.

So this is the pep talk I've been giving myself: The devil wants us to hide our talents, even our weaker ones, because weaker ones can become strong ones. Right now my talent might just be good or passable, but the Lord will make up the difference and make it great. The only way this is going to happen is if I stop trying to improve this talent out of some desire for personal acclaim or recognition, and only if I remember where I got the gift in the first place. I also need to remember that my weaknesses make life interesting and give me something to work for - and that as a person, I'm good enough because I am His.

Pep talk over.

02 May 2010

Lead Kindly Light

Three years ago, right now, I was sitting in Fitz Park. Fitz Park is a small but happy little place in Keswick, England - one of my favorite towns in the entire world. Keswick is in The Lake District - an area in the North Western part of England known for their, wait for it, lakes - and their untouched countryside, mountains, and the general sense of peace there. I don't know if I could ever live in Keswick permanently - it's a bit too small for a girl who grew up in the suburbs - but it is a place that I will always have a soft spot for. It's a beautiful, remarkable sort of place to just be.

I was in Keswick that time around for my study abroad. On this study abroad, our theme hymn was "Lead Kindly Light", a song that I'd always loved but understood better after actually walking across the moors and having my feet be so literally far from home. Since then it's more or less been my favorite hymn. This morning I turned on my church music playlist on iTunes and "Lead Kindly Light" was the first song to come up. Normally I'd smile and think about how much I like that song and move on with getting ready for church, but I stopped today, thinking instead about how appropriate this song is to my life right now.

Several months ago I decided I was moving. I decided that I was ready to be done with Provo, that I didn't want to do what everyone else does in sticking around Utah forever, that I was tired of living where I am and needed change - that the best way to get it would be by going somewhere entirely different and new. A clean break. I wanted Seattle. I went to visit for a week in April. I went again the next week for a teaching fair. The second I got off the plane - or soon after, anyway, I knew what I'd more or less known and been stubbornly denying the entire time - that it wasn't where the Lord wanted me to be. I had been - like the song said - trying to choose my own path.

So much of that decision was based on how completely miserable I was for nearly all of February and a good portion of March as well. I was feeling suffocated. I was trapped in a place I didn't want to be without very many real friends around. I holed myself away and threw myself into my teaching. A worthwhile thing, perhaps, but the Lord hasn't ever been entirely content with my hermitting. Neither have I, though I might not always have the gumption to fight against that tendency.

What I am meandering around to say, then, is that I realized again this morning that I am glad that the Lord chooses paths for me instead of allowing me to choose them for myself. I have a great capacity to dream and imagine great things, but the Lord has always known better. In the last several weeks, a string of things has happened that I never thought would have, but they are better than I ever would have imagined them to be on my own. I have made dozens of new, positive friends to replace pessimistic ones. I have opportunities lining up in front of my eyes that I never would have found without meeting those same people. I am in the right place at the right time. These blessings have been months in the making - going all the way back to last August when I first told the school that I wanted to help with the play. Going back to being placed at this school in the first place.

I don't know why the Lord has blessed me in this particular way. I think about the ways that other people are blessed and so much of this feels unnecessary and extra. I don't really need to travel as much as I have, do I? I don't really need theater, do I? Aren't there other ways that aren't quite so elaborate? Ways that don't make me feel this happy? Perhaps - but whether that's true or not, today I am feeling decidedly grateful to my Heavenly Father for caring enough for me to guide me to where I am right now. I am overwhelmed.

01 May 2010


Theater has taken over my life.

I knew that it would. It always does. The second I get cast in a show I don't even bother trying to deny the fact that everything (nearly) takes a back seat to making the show good. I obsess over it. I think about it. I re-think about it. It goes on and on because I am determined to never do a half baked job in a show. Music Man is definitely no exception.

It's all got me thinking though - about my entire "career" in theater, what got me to where I am now and why it's all so important to me that I would devote everything I've got for several months at a time to a production. Recently I was asked to write an article about why the arts are important for schools. These are some of the things I've come up with, most of which will be related specifically to the arts with theater, since it is what I know best.

1. This one is a bit cheap, but you can't cheat your way through the arts. If you're a smart enough student, you can cheat your way through many things. I know this. I will proudly admit to being an expert essay fluffer. I can mooch my way through any last minute essay and still do well on it once I've learned how to give a teacher what they want. Any English major worth their salt can do that. I'm sure that such skills translate into other areas of study as well. But you can't do that in the arts. You either know the song or you don't. You have your lines memorized, or you don't. Now, there are levels of perfection, certainly, but you can't cheat off anyone else's work. You have to put the time in yourself.

2. That said, you learn to work as a team, and, if you're smart, learn that the success of the team is better than anything you can do on your own. I've spent years getting cast in the chorus. Many, many years being cast in the background with small showcased moments or a line here or there. Every now and then I've managed to get a lead. All along the way I learned that nine times out of ten I cared more about being in the show and being on stage and doing my best than I did with getting the starring role. People who learn to really care about the arts, people who learn the lesson that they have to teach, will recognize the truth behind the cliche of there being no small parts. The arts - on stage or off - teach the same lesson taught all around the world in religious education that you are both everything and nothing at the same time. The arts are - or should be - a grand lesson in humility and hard work no matter your place.

3. The arts teach you to trust others. One of my favorite quotes comes in the movie Nicholas Nickleby at the very end when the narration says that "family need not be defined by those with whom we share our blood, but those for whom we would give our blood." The best shows - the ones that have meant the most to me - have been ones where life long friendships are built. You have no choice. In a short period of time you have to place yourself at the mercy of total strangers, risking yourself emotionally and physically as you get to know them. For someone like me who is generally very guarded and wary of people I don't know, theater as taught me to trust that other people will do their part, and that they will not let me down because I will do my best not to let them down. The bond of a solid cast is remarkable.

4. The arts teach you how to walk in someone else's shoes. I think one of the reasons that the Lord has blessed me with so many opportunities on stage is because I learn about myself when I play someone else. I learn about my flaws and my strengths - not just in terms of acting or dancing ability, but because making an effort to really understand another way of thinking refines your own. That kind of intense character study and analysis has taught me to be careful about pre-judging others.

5. It's just fun. Heaven knows how much I love to analyze things to death. I could spend the rest of eternity picking apart books and movies and never tire of it, but being on stage gives me the chance to do something just for the thrill of performance. There's something intensely exciting about the accomplishment of seeing a show progress from start to finish. It's fun to put on a great costume and sing your heart out when saying it just wouldn't be good enough. There's a kind of energy that comes when you know the audience is eating out of the palm of your hand, and that they will leave entertained, or changed in some way.

I am in awe, sometimes, when I think about how lucky I have been to have the theater experiences that I have had. Recently, especially, I've been completely overwhelmed at the weight of it all, grateful that the Lord has seen fit to bless me with experiences that bring me such a huge amount of joy.

08 April 2010

The Think System?


I'm being haunted.


I don't dream very often. Not in the daydreaming sense - I do that all the time. I mean the actual 'I'm physically asleep and thinking about random things that science can't completely explain' kind of dreaming. But recently something pretty awesome happened to me that has set my previously dull slumber into chaos.

For nearly as long as I can remember I've wanted to play Marian Paroo in The Music Man. We have far too much in common, Marian and I. It seemed like a good fit. But I've never really seen myself as leading lady material, so I didn't really let myself dream too far with that. So when a local theater decided to put on the show I figured I'd audition, put up a decent fight, and get cast in the chorus somewhere, as per usual.

But then something strange happened. I actually got called back for Marian. That in and of itself was a pretty big deal. Something stranger happened when I started to think I could actually get the part as the audition went on. Something out of this world crazy happened when I GOT the part. Wahoo! Cinderella was actually right when she said that dreams could come true. Phew.

So this is where the haunting comes in.

I was called about the part nearly two weeks ago. Our first rehearsal isn't for another five and a half days from now. I'm going crazy. First, it was dreams that I'd imagined the phone call. Then, after the cast list went up, it was dreams about the director changing his mind. When I found out the first rehearsal would be a sing through of the show, I had dreams of losing my voice and sounding like an idiot in front of the rest of the cast, and then I dreamed that the rest of the cast hated and resented me for the rest of the show.

It gets weirder. The show of Music Man has started to mix with other shows I've done recently in my head. (Imagine, if you will, Music Man and Seussical into one production. Trippy.)

The weirdest dream I've had so far, though, was completely hilarious. If you're familiar with Music Man, you know that fast talking salesman Harold Hill is selling a Boy's Band with his brand new revolutionary method called the "Think System". If you think the Minuet in G, you don't have to bother with the notes on an actual instrument. Well, I dreamed that the director of the show decided that the best, most authentic way to produce our version was through the "Think System" and that we were just going to barrel headlong into production of the show and not bother with rehearsal.


In other words, until rehearsals actually start, I'm going to be a little bit nuts. After they start, I'll be a little bit busy. A little bit more than busy. But also a little bit more than happy.

I. Love. Theater.

New dream: I meet Shirley Jones. She is wearing a lovely blue suit. I am wearing nothing but a bath towel (?!!).

03 March 2010

Fire Rabbit

The olympics were a big deal in my apartment, and figure skating held the most weight. Not because it's the sport that we like most (though it is definitely my favorite), but because the biggest star this year was a Korean, and I'm living with a Korean. Never underestimate the power of honor and winning one for the team in Asian culture, or at least this Asian's culture, apparently. Our friend made us a traditional dinner and flew her flag and waited like a father outside a delivery room for the Queen of ice skating to take to the rink.

At dinner on the night of this event, we got to talking about the zodiac calendar, and, naturally, all had to look up what we are more specifically.

I was born in the year of the rabbit. Fire rabbit, to be more specific. According to the zodiac, rabbits are creative, compassionate, sensitive, friendly, outgoing, and are decidedly non confrontational. We are supposed to be serene and good at hiding our feelings, and not big risk takers.

There are more specific things you can read about for relationships and health and career and what not, but that's the gist of what most websites will tell you.

I usually kind of roll my eyes at this sort of thing. How is it seriously possible that everyone born in the year of the (insert animal here) will demonstrate those personality traits? Of course it's not possible. Nor do people who do have those traits demonstrate them conclusively or all the time. Humans are more complicated than that.

But I did laugh a bit at how well I feel this describes me. Outgoing but anti social. Creative but lacking in self confidence. Good at hiding true feelings but very expressive. No wonder it's so hard for people to understand me sometimes - I am ridiculously polarized.

(In other news, Newsweek is reporting that 55% of males 18-24 are currently living at home with their parents. No wonder men tell me I'm intimidating. They have no reason to get a backbone if their mother is still paying for their groceries and washing their socks. If that's what I have to look forward to in a marriage, forget it!)

15 February 2010

Hello, Seattle

I'm moving.


As a kid, I assumed that moving was the sort of thing that adults did. Big people who were married with a couple of kids and lots of stuff. I am neither a big person, nor married. I'm followed around constantly by kids but they are not my own. I do have a fair bit of "stuff" but not enough to fill an entire U-Haul. All the same, though - I'm taking the plunge.

I think that Provo is like a drug for some people. An addiction. A disease. A safety net. It's the place you come, and then the place you stay until you marry and that's when you're allowed to leave. It's a kind of progressional limbo, and I'm a little sick of it.

So I'm out.

I don't want to be the kind of person that leeches around Provo for no reason except I'm not married yet. I'm young. I'm single. But I'm also a completely qualified teacher with options anywhere I want them to be. And in this case, I want them to be in Seattle. So I'm heading to the great unknown.

The funny thing is, as soon as things like this happen, everyone seems to have ideas on whether or not I'm making the right choice. One well meaning extended relative, for example, suggested that I might have better luck finding a job somewhere like Washington DC or Compton.


So, in spite of a few people who have been a little less than encouraging, I've decided that I'll be moving no matter what. And the reason for that choice? Because I know it's where the Lord wants me to be next year. That's the reason. I don't have any great reasoning other than that wonderful little bit of personal confirmation that says a move is right for me. And after the string of help I've received so far, I'm pretty sure that things are going to go just fabulously.

22 January 2010

A Romantic Comedy Waiting to Happen

One of the troubles of living in such a homogeneous community is that 23 becomes the new 29. In other words: Provo thinks I'm old. Nearing my expiration date. The dating version of menopausal. Destined to become a cat lady - especially given my obvious lack of extended relationship experience.

This became slightly more apparent to me the other night when some friends of mine were discussing a new roommate who NCMO'd for several hours a few nights ago. NCMOing (or Non Committal Making Out for those of you not well versed in Provoese) is kind of a fad among the rebellious set. It's the kind of thing people wear as a badge of honor. It's also the kind of thing I wouldn't ever consider doing. This, my friends concluded, was because of my aforementioned lack of extended dating experience. "You play it too safe," they say. "Your life is like. . . a romantic comedy just waiting to happen."

Well, that might be true from a certain point of view. I am about to move to a new city on my own and start a new job. That seems to fit. I'm thinking about getting a cat. That works. I'm not unattractive most of the time, but I am enough of the time that there could be some Sandra-Bullock like moments mixed in with the Meg Ryan like ones. It's not a bad set up if I say so myself.

But it does frustrate me when we have conversations about our futures and the conclusion is "oh, we're sure you'll find someone someday, but imagining you with that person is WEIRD."

Excuse me?

What is so strange about the idea of my being in some kind of relationship?! Why is that so awkward? I kind of want to glare at these naysayers and remind them that had the timing or situation been right I could have been married three times over now, thank you very much. My apparent lack of opportunity has not always been as pronounced as it is at the moment with my (almost) utter lack of social life. My pronounced practicality in dealing with relationships does not entirely reflect the girly dreams that I most definitely have, even if I do not choose to gush about them to the world.

So. To those people in my life who find the idea of my having a relationship so utterly repulsive: you can go have your NCMO's or whatever else it is that you do on weekends while I stay home alone watching Road to Avonlea re-runs. I may not have much to encourage dreams in the reality of my life right now, but I'm not about to quit now. I'm not exactly ancient.