Poetry and musings of a zany Mormon girl who is very proud of her Erda roots.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Chit-Chat

As a very literal, cut-and-dry kind of person, I was not gifted to be a natural conversationalist. With very few exceptions, it generally takes months before I'm comfortable enough with someone to have anything but a strained conversation punctuated by dry silences and awkward topic changes.

Well, I've been working on that.

My job requires that I interact with dozens of people every day.

Strangers.

This used to intimidate me to the point of anxiety-rich tears just a matter of months ago. I desperately wanted to be a social butterfly -- flitting from one group to another with ease and making everyone comfortable in the process. My distinct inability to carry on small talk prevented this dream from being achieved.

Like I said, I've been working on that.

While I'm not amazing at it, I can definitely strike up a conversation with a stranger, make them feel comfortable and establish a relationship out of thin air. My bedside manner is gentle and playful but authoritative. Things that make me feel flustered and inadequate are no longer as apparent as they once were because I am learning to reassure first, fix the problem, then calm myself.

It's still really difficult, though.

Last week I was monitoring a guest and said something that obviously freaked her out. I tried to reassure her before walking away, but the damage was done. A few minutes later she was pale and unwell. I feel responsible for scaring her into getting sick. It's kind of horrible. 

It may be cliche, but talking about the weather really is the ultimate stand-by. Everyone is affected by changes in the weather and commenting on it can either be just a bit of fluff or the start to quick dialog about the best ski runs. I love it!

The biggest boon to this endeavor is that my confidence level is sky high at the moment. I feel comfortable in my own skin for the first time in my life. I don't care if people think I'm fat, ugly, insipid, or uninspired -- I know it isn't true and my opinion matters more than that of a stranger. I can accept that there will be times I mess up, hurt someone, or do something truly stupid because I recognize that it's all part of being human and therefore fallible. 

These may seem like pretty simple concepts, but they have only recently been run home and lodged into my brain.

I'm no Chatty Cathy, but I'm not a Muttering Mable either.

I'm a Zany ZAM and I like it that way.

I just like this picture.

Monday, December 27, 2010

To Do List

1.) Finish last-minute Christmas shopping via after Christmas sales. *maniacal laughter*

2.) Finish sewing stockings -- they are turning out quite well, so far.

3.) Clear out, clean, and rearrange the guest bedroom and bathroom.

4.) Baby proof everything! There are enough uncovered wall sockets to fry a two-year old 70 times over and they all happen to be at his eye level. Whooo-whee!

5.) Make goodies.

6.) Hide goodies so that some last until tomorrow. Unlike the caramel/chocolate dipped pretzels I made yesterday.

7.) Assemble and place new furniture that should be arriving soon...

8.) Clean, clean, clean!! If cleanliness is next to Godliness, I plan on having this house transfigured by the time the sun goes down.

9.) Locate "A Christmas Story." We already have the Major Award placed where the neighbors can see -- if they look reeeeaaalllly closely.

10.) Do it all with a smile!

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Holidays: Christmas Edition

So, we've managed to do it: Christmas with no gifts, turkey, fruit cake, or stockings.

We lazed about all day, spoke with far away loved ones on the phone and Skype, watched a movie, aired some grievances, procured take out Chinese, and wrapped it up with a few rounds of Spoons.

What a day!

But, you know what?

It didn't feel like Christmas.

Not at all.

I think there must be magic in the traditions of find just the right gift for someone, sneaking around at night to stuff stockings, roasting a huge turkey with all the trimmings, and gathering together to read the story of Christ's birth. We only do it one day a year, and that's enough to make the other 364 envious of all that attention. It's worth the hassle, commotion, travel, and stress to share this very special day with those we love dearest. It really is.

My family will be celebrating Christmas in full force next week, once my sister's family -- and the only grandchild -- comes from England. We will be eagerly awaiting their arrival, finding it hard to sleep as we dream of British candies and the lovely presents that will be under one of our three trees. The dining room table will be adorned with a large bird and a dozen other treats. We will open Christmas Crackers, eat ourselves silly, sing songs, and talk for hours. Then, once everything has been sufficiently cleaned, we will gather around the fire place to listen to Luke chapter two. At some point, a gift wrap frenzy will commence and we'll all go to bed with happy thoughts spinning under our eyelids.

The key word in all of this is we. It's the togetherness that makes it all wonderful.

I think I'm finally getting excited for Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Santa Has a Crazy Streak

Just a little holiday cheer to pep up your week.





Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter Solstice



We've just passed the Winter Solstice. This means that from here on out, the sun will begin to hang a little lower in the sky and linger a little longer. We won't feel the change for a few more months, but it's here.

Wow, there are so many analogies to life in that last statement, I don't know where to start!

Have you ever had a thought, read something, done something, or just woken up with an epiphany? All of the sudden, the world is a new place and everything looks, feels, and computes in a slightly different way?
I have.

Several times.

Little things that don't amount to much on their own, but put together make a huge change.

The Earth is moving just a tiny amount each day. Every day for the next four months will much like the last until one day it will be Spring and we will be in a different world -- in weather and as human beings.

And no one will really be able to pin point exactly when the change took place. Not really.  

There is no telling what enormous things may happen in the next four months. There is no telling who I will be, or you, or that guy over there. We're all changing just a little bit every day. In four months we could all be very different from who we are today.

I find that somehow reassuring. Although I know that I can't change the things I dislike about myself over night, I know that with time I can become anything. The great thing is: I don't even have to make a plan for who I will become, it just happens. Of course, there are things I can, and must, do to influence my changes. But no matter what, there is no such thing as freezing time and remaining stuck in one attitude.

I'll tell you what: I'm certainly not the person I was four months ago at the beginning of the Fall.

I am much stronger. Much more loving. Much more understanding. Much more muchier.

I like this new me a lot better than I liked the me from four months ago, which I liked pretty ok. I'm excited to meet the me I will be in four months and know the people she will know. She will know some pretty amazing people. I can just feel it.

I'm curious: in what ways do you intend to/anticipate changing over the next four months?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tired Day

Today is a tired day.

Crazy dreams kept me floating just out of Sleep's reach but not quite coherent. My heavy eyelids were content merely closing, my arms cuddling the too hot pillow as my mind raced all night.

The dreams weren't even remarkable because I can't remember them.

Ugh.

For everyone else who has suffered through a tired day, here's to a good night worth of shut eye and better dreams: a lullabye.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Holidays: Music Edition

From November 1 until January 1, Christmas music can be heard on the radio, television, in all shopping centers, and on every street corner. *shakes fist at silver bells* Every waking moment is inundated by sappity sap sap and a million versions of  Baby It's Cold Outside. I can't take yet another skanky chick singing Santa Baby to me while I'm driving around town!


I can't stand the sap.


The original music isn't really that bad, it's the millions of covers floating through the air with hyped cheer, sickly sweet as cough syrup: Here, swallow this down to help you get in the "holiday mood."


Blegh.


I just don't have the Commercial Spirit this year.


There is no real desire to go shopping for things my family members don't need. Not a single gift has been purchased.The trees and lights have been up for weeks but no one cares to plug them in at night. I've made, and ruined, dozens of sugar cookies. Parties have been attended, more are in the works, and while I enjoy spending time with people there is no real feeling of celebration.


Actually, you caught me in a lie.


I do feel like celebrating.


I feel like celebrating the birth of the Savior of the world. Quietly. With just my immediate family, a roaring fire, and the book of Luke.


And there is some music that doesn't get under my skin.


Today my ward choir sang four beautiful compilations for the Christmas program. The pieces were complex and lovely; each sharing part of the miraculous story of Jesus Christ's birth. These songs have been stuck in my head for weeks and I love each one.


Today I also tuned in to Music and the Spoken Word to hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing their praises to our Lord.


Lovely.


For me, this is going to be more of a "back to basics" sort of Christmas.


Maybe next year I'll feel a bit more festive and less introspective.


As I waited in the hall for another ward to exit the chapel so my choir could warm up, I was struck by this painting on the wall.



It hangs between the first door to the cultural hall and the chapel overflow. I've passed it hundreds of times. I've seen the original Carl Bloch painting. I know the story. But today, I saw her again for the first time.

I saw Mary. 

Between singing with the choir and the normal goings on of an LDS church meeting, my mind was occupied by Mary. She really was something. A princess, in every right. Prepared and worthy to not only bear the Son of God, but to raise Him to meet His potential.

When the shepherds came to see the Christ, they told everyone what the angels had proclaimed about the tiny baby. As others wondered at the news, Mary simply pondered those words in her heart. She kept them. I'm sure that she thought on them many times over the course of her life. She knew who her baby was, and what His purpose in life would be. She knew the prophesies concerning His birth. She knew her role.


Mary is my hero.




I guess there are some songs that I cannot discount, no matter what.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

It Is What It Is

I attended my ward's Christmas Party tonight and spent the entire evening with the older couples who braved the cold to come share a meal at the church.


I love old people.


Part of it, I'm sure, is because I grew up quite far from my grandparents and then most of them died when I was still young. I was always wistfully jealous of kids who got to go out and have fun with their grandparents on the weekends. I wanted that too.


At some point the realization came that even if I don't get to enjoy grandparents now, there might be an opportunity to have in-law grandparents in the future! This is a very exciting prospect, but for the time being, I've been enjoying the older people who live near by and those I see in the grocery stores or out around town.


This evening a dear couple were leaving the party early at the same time that my family was sneaking out the door. We chatted briefly and the gentleman said something that caught my attention.


His sister just passed away and was buried on Friday. When I asked him how he was doing, he said, "Oh, life keeps going round and round, but sometimes there are flat parts that take a while to get across."


Yeah.


Life is going to keep going around -- sure as the world spins -- but sometimes we hit a rough patch that takes a bit to get over.


I've been thinking a lot today about Joseph B. Wirthlin's 2008 address entitled, Come What May And Love It. This talk was given shortly before he passed away. It is the culmination of a life given to goodness.




The dear man I spoke to this evening is surly missing his sister, but he and his wife are joyful and at peace.

It is hard to grieve.

Life comes with pain. That is how we know the sweetness of being whole.

There have been many mistakes, misunderstandings, and misadventures for me this year. But I wouldn't change anything. 2010 has been the best year I have lived, to date. You see, I've been learning a lot about what it is to accept the pain of life and find sweetness that shines like brilliant stars even when the sky is darkest.

Many times I have had to remind myself that life is what it is. There is no time machine to wind back the clock and undo the terrible mistakes that inevitably occur when least afforded. While it is easy to give up, count the losses, and move on, it is easier still to simply laugh and keep moving in a forward direction.

There is a certain sense of satisfaction that comes from making it through a difficult situation. A badge of honor worn on the heart. Perhaps I have won a few more this year.

Life is what it is; the only thing we have power over is how we choose to react.

Stars. You can find the original here.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Everyday



I fell in love with Buddy Holly when I was about nine. That little hiccup gets me every time!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tender Mercy Chain and Cool Things

The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works. Psalms 145:9

I had no gas money.  

My brother gave me cash so I could get gas and make it home after work today.

After paying for the gas (I usually use a card) I came back to my car on the passenger side instead of remaining only on the driver's side.

I noticed that my front passenger tire was almost completely flat.

The gas station had an air machine.

I was able to find the giant nail embedded in my tire.

It was in there pretty deep so I knew I had a slow leak. 

My phone has Google.  

I was able to locate the nearest Les Schwab.

It was only a few miles down the same road I was already traveling.

I had to work early, so I got off early. Since I got off early, all of this happened at the right time so that I could make it to the tire store before closing time.  

Because we bought the tires at Les Schwab, they patched me up and sent me on my way without charging a cent!

 I didn't have a flat tire/horrible accident while on the freeway.

I am alive right now.

So, to loop it all together -- being broke may have saved my life today. Huh. Go figure!

After discovering the flat, I searched my car and found the spare tire and a terrible jack but no wrench. If I had been stranded on the freeway with a flat, bent rim, or worse, I would not have been able to fix it alone.

. . .

Some other cool things about today:

1.) I noticed that my face hurts. Specifically, my levator labii superioris and zygomaticus muscles. This is because I am smiling more than usual.

2.) My training at work is progressing nicely and I am getting along smashingly with all of my coworkers.

3.) A man resembling a better-looking, blonde Tom Cruise smiled at me for no less than five whole minutes.

4.) It snowed. It was cool. Or cold, rather.

5.) I wore perfume for the first time all week, forgot about it, and had a lot of people compliment the scent, but they didn't know where it was coming from. It was me!

6.) My violin had really great tone tonight. Mmmm, great tone.

7.) My fingers don't hurt because my calluses are coming back!

8.) I had a big idea yesterday and I'm really excited to see if it will actually work.

9.) I have had deja vu at least three times in the last three days.

10.) I was renamed "Paul" because I don't have a name tag for work yet. I like it. Like the Beatle. Or the Apostle.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Do Wah Diddy



This song has been stuck in my head for a few weeks now.

I just feel good about myself.

I'll be singing "do wah diddy, diddy dum, diddy do" until I can find someones hand to hold onto.

Because I feel good, I look fine, and I'm in the mood to dance down the street.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday, Monday




When I was young, the smallest things used to completely upset my day. If I couldn't find the exact sock I wanted to wear, the entire day was ruined. A temper tantrum would ensue, I would cry and carry on, and the triggering event would never get resolved. Then, one day my mom said something that changed my perspective. She said, "The days that start out the worst always end the best." The idea is that if a day starts out terribly, then it can't get any worse so it will inevitably get better.


Today started out pretty crummy.  We're talking "Monday the 13th" sort of crummy.


I admit, I few tears were washed down the drain with my bath water.


On my way to work, I allowed myself a few minutes of silent contemplation before turning the radio on for some up-beat music for a change in mood. Arriving to work early, I also allowed myself a few moments to jot down the things things that were making me feel so terrible. Expressive words have always been cathartic for me. That's one of the biggest reasons for why I write this here blog thingy. Once I've written something, I can forget about it or remember it -- whatever I choose.


All of those words, the thoughts that were keeping me down, were left outside. If I chose to take them up again after work, then fine, but I didn't want to bring them in with me.


And, just like that, I set myself up for a good day.


I got through a lot of my training, gained confidence, and progressed in my job and as a human being. If only for one day, I felt accomplished.


When my day finally ended and I saw the page I had filled in with black words still sitting in my car, my mother's words came back in full force.


"The days that start out the worst always end the best."


Overall, today was pretty awesome.


Take that, Monday!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Shhhh

You know that place between sleeping and awake?

I've been finding myself there a lot recently.

That's where I dream.

I dream crazy things that will never, ever happen but in my dreams I always know exactly how to respond.

Last night I dreamed that a friend was getting married. I showed up to his wedding and discovered that it was an all day ceremony but the bride and groom had snuck out and gone home.

So, I got directions from some people I didn't know and managed to find the correct apartment, no problem. I had to see them because I was leaving immediatly and wouldn't have the opportunity to congratulate them for a long time.

The lovely young bride opened the door and invited me inside. My friend was sleeping so I got to chat with the girl. We hit it off and became best friends in just a few minutes. Becoming someones new best friend is my dream self's hidden talent.

After a little while we decide to go wake my friend up because I have to leave but I wanted to congratulate him on his marriage to this amazing girl. He was awake and surprised to see me there. As we chatted the bride started changing into a rather provocative outfit with a very short skirt. This sort of surprised me but I didn't want to say anything about it because it wasn't my place to criticize. My friend just stared adoringly at his new wife and complimented her on how energetic she was. She stared straight back at him and said, "It's because I'm a meth addict."

So, there I was stuck in a room during a rather shocking revelation with no real reason to be there except that I'd wanted to say hello. I could see the horror on my friend's face but could do nothing but feel immense sorrow for him. No one deserves to find out about their honey's meth habit just hours after getting hitched! I quietly excused myself and left.

This was a rather disturbing dream. I've been thinking about it all day and basically, it all boils down to one main idea: Sometimes the best answer is silence.

All my life I have tried to muscle people into seeing things from my perspective because if they did, they would have no problem in seeing how my way is the best way. I had no patience for people who chose to do stupid things because they ought to have seen how idiotic they were being and figured out a different path. There was no room for mercy inside my heart for those who misstepped and made choices that ultimately hurt themselves and those close to them. I just could not comprehend why they deserved grace.

In the last few years I have discoverd that I'm not a perfect person. I've made choices that have hurt myself and those I care about. Most of time it was because I was trying to protect myself from some kind of embarrassment. I cared too much about what people thought of me to see that my behavior was actually causing my image detriment.

The last few months I've been learning a lot about stepping away from situations where I have no place to judge and my opinion bears little merit.

Sometimes the best response to a sticky situation is silence.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Please Do Not Touch


I used to live in a bubble.


Not as a bubble kid with a non-existent immune system; more of a bubble induced by social phobia.


I couldn't let people touch me.


As a senior in high school I played second violin first chair. My stand partner was a scrawny freshman with a mischievous streak a mile wide. Early on he deciphered the "Please Do Not Touch" sign plastered to my forehead delighted in testing the bubble's boundaries.


Index finger extended, he would stare me down and come closer...and closer...and much closer than socially necessary -- at which point, I would lean, step, or sometimes jump out of the way of that extended finger so it couldn't poke me. Sometimes it was a violin bow, or a pencil, or an attempted hug, or any other type of unnecessary contact. Pressure would build up as he tested the boundaries of that bubble and I would literally feel an intense need to move before I was touched at all. He thought it was pretty funny.


My new friends at college pretty much disregarded my "Please Do Not Touch" sign and wrestled me into awkward hugs and administered "good game" butt slaps regularly. By the end of freshman year I was hugging people I didn't know well, high-fiving, and participating in random butt slapping wars.


But I still had a hard time with casual contact. Particularly with the opposite sex.


Over the last few years I've made a study of human touch. Books, magazines, television, movies, objective observation, and experimentation on appropriate levels of casual touch have been wonderful sources for learning the art. Through a list of specific goals and limitations, trial and error, review and adjusting to suit the situation I have managed to figure out a list of socially acceptable points of contact and when to use the power of touch. My findings are expounded upon below:



Why We Touch

There has been extensive research on the biological, psychological, and sociological benefits and need for human to human contact. Infants will fail to thrive; becoming small, sickly, or even regress developmentally or die if not touched on a regular basis. Individuals in nursing homes may experience similar forms of regression and failure to thrive when left alone and denied human contact. Touch is necessary for forming a meaningful attachment to another person and greatly aids communication via non-verbal cues. 

In a casual social setting, breaking the touch barrier can be the most powerful tool available for forming lasting friendships, introducing romantic possibilities, or simply helping someone to feel more comfortable. However, touch must be used appropriately at all times since it can also be a very power tool for exciting an unwanted emotional response -- positive or negative.
Where to Touch


There are three main areas of appropriate physical contact for casual touching:
1.) Shoulder
2.) Elbow
3.) Knee cap


The shoulder and elbow joints can be gently patted or briefly grasped during a standing conversation. A gentle tap of the knee may be appropriate during a seated conversation. While it would be inappropriate to reach down and pat a person's knee during engaged in standing conversation, it is perfectly acceptable to grasp the elbow or tap the shoulder while seated.


Wondering hands, prolonged contact, or misplaced hands can be very uncomfortable for both parties. For instance, if a touch is aimed at the knee cap but ends up on the lower thigh, the recipient of such a touch might feel as though they just had a near miss with being groped and discontinue conversation. Likewise, a person who gently grasps the elbow but then continues to rub the length of the arm may be perceived as a clingy hanger-on with no sense of personal space.

A person may extend touch several times during the course of a conversation, but ought to be aware of the frequency and the mood of the recipient so as to avoid an over-touching situation.


When to Touch

Touch should always be accompanied by direct eye contact and ought to be used sparingly as a physical punctuation or cue to communicate a sense of personal closeness or reassurance during verbal communication. Although touch is a great non-verbal cue it should only be used in conjunction with good verbal and listening skills. In short: casual touch cannot be extended by a silent lurker -- that would be considered a startling ninja attack touch at best, or a creepy caress with stalker undertones.

For a casual touch, the extender ought to reach out in as casual manner as possible so as to limit the opportunity for awkwardness after the touch. One should never stretch or over-reach for a touch. If the extender is too far from the intended recipient, the extender ought to move in a little closer, while maintaining an appropriate distance for optimal personal space satisfaction. A horrifying mistake for casual touch is to make it appear too wooden or premeditated. Don't worry, it just takes practice. If this is an area in which you feel lacking, simply practice with a mother, good friend, or department store mannequin as these people will not judge you too harshly for bumbling.

Touch is a necessary part of human communication but ought to be reserved for socially acceptable situations and performed in an socially acceptable manner. Briefly touching the shoulder or elbow is fine for standing conversations and a brief pat of the knee is allowable for seated conversations.  All touching should be accompanied by direct eye contact and good conversation skills. If a person feels they are lacking in the eye contact or good conversation skills departments, supplemental material may be acquired from Erda Girl on these topics or practice with a mother, good friend or department store mannequin may be implemented.



So, I don't know how informative that was, but it sure took me a long time to figure out and define. Years, actually. There have many instances of awkward casual touching on my behalf -- both extending and receiving.

Oh, the stories I could tell...

It seems now, however, that my "Please Do Not Touch" sign has been replaced by a much more inviting "Please Smile, It Will Brighten Both Our Days" sign.

Tootles!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Breaking News

I just like this picture.

You know it was a good day when it started at 7:30 and still hasn't ended at midnight but it's been productive and engaging the whole time.


On to other news:


Tomorrow is Friday.


When a person is unemployed and really has no set schedule rather than to wile away the hours of endless nothing with undefined somethings that could change course at the drop of a pin, weekends don't mean much other than the end of one week so another can begin. When the same person begins working again and has just cause to celebrate the cessation of the work week with a little break, they want to really celebrate. So, what should I do tomorrow?!


On to other news:


I'm so broke that when I went shopping for scrubs so I can actually work at my new job, the only place in my price range was DI. Seeing as how DI doesn't launder any of the clothing donations they receive (my friend once found a used band aid inside a pair of pants she was trying on) I opted out of trying on the scrubs available for sizing. Apparently I'm smaller than I think. The scrubs I had on today (after a thorough washing) made me feel like a flying tree squirrel. I need to take a sewing machine at those things and show them who's boss.

On to other news:

I had a delightful conversation with a 12 year old tonight while she was waiting for her mom to stop talking to other grown-ups.

I planted the seed of enthusiasm for snipe hunting. I feel accomplished.

What a wonderful feeling to be able to converse freely with someone more than ten years my junior. I can remember being that age and having adults talk down to me because I was "just a kid." When I was ten, and fed up with such behavior from adults, I vowed to remember and treat kids like the clear-thinking people they are. Just because a kid lacks the life experience of an adult does not mean that they cannot comprehend life. Hopefully I've been keeping that promise to my ten-year-old self.

On to other news:

It's time for today to end so that tomorrow can begin!

I just like this picture, too.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Making Christmas


Making Christmas, making Christmas, la la la!

I've been trying to make Christmas cookies.

I sort of stink at it.

They turn out scary rather than charming.

Monster Christmas cookies.

I can live with that.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas in the City

Christmas time is amazing in Salt Lake City. There are always buskers at every entrance to Temple Square, little fires and heat lamps keep you warm at the Gateway or in front of your favorite restaurant. There are spiced almond stands outside Abravenel Hall!


And, of course, the lights at Temple Square.
































Full endorsements for multiple trips to see the lights. It's just the right thing to do.

Petula Clark
Downtown
When you're alone
And life is making you lonely,
You can always go downtown
When you've got worries,
All the noise and the hurry
Seems to help, I know, downtown
Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city
Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty
How can you lose?
The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares and go
Downtown, things'll be great when you're
Downtown, no finer place for sure,
Downtown, everything's waiting for you
(Downtown)
Don't hang around
And let your problems surround you
There are movie shows downtown
Maybe you know
Some little places to go to
Where they never close downtown
Just listen to the rhythm of a gentle bossanova
You'll be dancing with 'em too before the night is over
Happy again
The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares and go
Downtown where all the lights are bright,
Downtown, waiting for you tonight,
Downtown, you're gonna be alright now
(Downtown downtown)
Downtown
(Downtown)
And you may find somebody kind to help and understand you
Someone who is just like you and needs a gentle hand to
Guide them along
So, maybe I'll see you there
We can forget all our troubles, forget all our cares and go
Downtown, things'll be great when you're
Downtown, don't wait a minute more,
Downtown, everything's waiting for you

Monday, December 6, 2010

Tan Me Hide



Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport
Rolf Harris

[Spoken:]
There's an old Australian stockman lying, dying. He gets himself up onto one elbow and 'e turns to his mates, who are all gathered around and 'e says:

Watch me wallabies feed, mate
Watch me wallabies feed,
They're a dangerous breed, mate
So watch me wallabies feed
Altogether now!

Tie me kangaroo down, sport
Tie me kangaroo down
Tie me kangaroo down, sport
Tie me kangaroo down

Keep me cockatoo cool, Curl,
Keep me cockatoo cool
Ah, don't go acting the fool, Curl
Just keep me cockatoo cool
Altogether now!

Tie me kangaroo down, sport
Tie me kangaroo down
Tie me kangaroo down, sport
Tie me kangaroo down

'n' take me koala back, Jack
Take me koala back
He lives somewhere out on the track, Mac
So take me koala back
Altogether now!

Tie me kangaroo down, sport
Tie me kangaroo down
Tie me kangaroo down, sport
Tie me kangaroo down

Tie me kangaroo down, sport
Tie me kangaroo down
Tie me kangaroo down, sport
Tie me kangaroo down

And mind me platypus duck, Bill
Mind me platypus duck
Ah, don't let 'im go running amok, Bill
Just mind me platypus duck
Altogether now!

Tie me kangaroo down, sport
Tie me kangaroo down
Tie me kangaroo down, sport
Tie me kangaroo down

Play your didgeridoo, Blue
Play your didgeridoo
Ah, like, keep playin' 'til I shoot thru, Blue
Play your didgeridoo
Altogether now!

Tie me kangaroo down, sport
Tie me kangaroo down
Tie me kangaroo down, sport
Tie me kangaroo down

Tan me hide when I'm dead, Fred
Tan me hide when I'm dead
So we tanned his hide when he died, Clyde
And that's it hangin' on the shed!!
Altogether now!

Tie me kangaroo down, sport
Tie me kangaroo down
Tie me kangaroo down, sport
Tie me kangaroo down



When I was a kid we had this song on cassette tape.


I loved it because of the crazy lyrics and Aussie accent. The part when the stockman tells his friends to tan his hide when he's dead offered plenty of fodder for the old “Why?” questions that skipped about my head constantly.


The song came up in conversation at a house party I recently attended. I was more than slightly out of sorts due to exhaustion and was barely coherent when the group I was with began talking to a young man about the goat skin drum he was messing around with. I mentioned this awesome song and wondered aloud how a human skin drum would sound.


Everyone was appropriately horrified by the thought.


I continued, though and offered up a little bit of current science talk about manufacturing sheets of skin for grafting onto burn victims. However, such sheets are often quite thin and have large holes in them because of the process involved in removing the skin donation followed by stretching. In order to get a sizable amount that is thick enough to be tanned, one would have to insert something under the skin to stretch it out over a long period of time and then harvest when a large enough patch could be taken. You can tan someone's hide while they are still alive and well!


However, there might not be enough to make a drum.


You might have to settle for a wallet.


Wouldn't that be weird? To carry a wallet made of your own skin?


This is yet another example of why I need to sleep more often.


Plus, not sleeping gives me migraines.


Like today.


On my first day at a new job.


Luckily, I didn't mention making a wallet out of my own tanned hide.


So far.

. . .
Go here to learn more about the song: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tie_Me_Kangaroo_Down,_Sport

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Straight No Chaser - The Christmas Can-Can (Single Edit)



This is a fun video!


My dad sings bass and has near perfect pitch. He's always wanted to join a Barber Shop Quartet, and did sing with one briefly about 15 years ago. I'm sure that it was his dedication to singing that initially introduced me to a cappella.

Although I cannot sing without accompaniment, and even with it I'm sketchy, I lovelovelove to listen to a cappella groups. Men, women, mixed. Love it all.

When I was about nine my mom took me to see an a cappella group performing at the local intermediate school. They had a large auditorium because the school building used to be the high school. The high school was right next door so they actually shared some of the amenities. In any case, this group was performing at the intermediate school and my mom figured that we all needed to see them.

I can remember asking Mom what we were there for and she sort of explained that the group was going to sing a cappella, with no instruments. This perplexed me. I had no idea what to expect.

Then they began singing.

Music and noise and wonder bounced off the stage, sank under my skin, and made a home in my heart.

I love a cappella.

What an amazing instrument the human voice can be! Done correctly, a cappella is one of the most challenging, but rewarding, vocal styles. I can't seem to get enough!

Oh that I were gifted and could sing the same note twice! I'd be forming a group tonight and singing on to the morning light.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

*strum*

I played my violin and guitar today.

My fingers hurt.

Owchy, owchy, owchy!

The crazy thing is: I haven't played either for a long while but I was actually pretty good at both!

The last time I picked up my guitar I could barely remember the names of each string. Today I was busting out chord changes like I was born knowing how to contort my fingers into those cramped little positions! I learned a few new songs that I've been wanting to learn, practiced a bunch of music I used to know and now entertain a general sense of accomplishment.

My bow could have used more rosin, but I did get some tricky runs down on the violin and played through Bach's Presto reeeeeaaaaaaalllllllllyyyyyyy slllllloooooooowwwwwllllllyyyyy. Man, I love that song.

Hmm, hmm, hmm.

Oh. Sorry. You can't hear me humming. Wow. That's embarrassing. Ooookay.

I began playing the vioin in the 4th grade. Baldwin Intermediate School (4-6th grades) has an amazing music program. Most of the students take extensive private lessons and the teachers are all top notch. One of our band teachers worked as a Hollywood music conductor during summer breaks -- at least, that's what he told people...ok, I don't really know but it's something that I vaguely remember from when I was 9 so the 23 year old me can't really vouch for the validity of that statement.

In any case, my first teachers were pretty much amazing. Mr. Claude Basset and Mrs. Cherry Hill. Those were really their names -- according to my childhood memory, which we have already established may be faulty. I loved them both. Mr. Basset resides in my memory as a Garrison Keillor type: tall with a head of wispy hair and a sort of scrunched up face -- but better looking than Mr. Keillor who, let's face it, is just sort of odd-looking. (I still love you, Garrison Keillor!) Mrs. Hill was tall, thin, and had a shoulder-length, blonde bob. She had a lovely speaking voice.

Both teachers were very gentle, but firm in their technique of teaching young children how to play difficult instruments.

As a very shy girl with a terrible instrument inherited from cousins who ordered it from a catalog but no longer wanted to play, I was easily the worst player in the class. My violin was chronically out of tune and had terrible tone. But, I kept with it -- I wanted to learn.

Learn I did.

Mr. Basset and Mrs. Hill taught us how to read music and key signatures. They taught us the correct way to hold our instruments and shape our fingers into fine curves and play on our fingertips. They taught us that close-cut fingernails are a must for playing stringed instruments. I learned to keep a set of nail clippers in my case because I generally liked very long nails -- like my mother's. They taught us to pay attention to sheet music while simultaneously watching the conductor. They taught us to sit up straight, at the edge of the chair and never slouch or lean back while playing. They taught us the finer details of being a musician and working with a group to make something beautiful.

Leaving class each week, my fingers throbbed and came quite close to bleeding. But the skin tightened and thickened over time and I could play for longer periods. At first, contorting my left wrist to fit an unnatural angle could only be sustained for short bursts of time. My muscles and tendons adjusted and became capable. When I started, the notes and key signatures looked like familiar, yet mysterious, blobs and sticks set on lines. Over time I learned to read them all as easily as reading this page.

Listening to my teachers play our simple songbook, I desperately wished that I could one day master the art as they had.

I was terrible. But determined.

During the summer time when most of my classmates were attending the music camps advertised by our teachers, I spent many hot, sticky hours in the solitude of my room with my violin and Hymnal. It was the only music, other than my school books, that I could find. With the tools I had learned from Mr. Basset and Mrs. Hill, I manged to pluck out the notes to my favorite hymns as best I could and taught myself how to sing by it. The violin was always out of tune and I didn't know how to fix that so I learned to sing off pitch.

I didn't care.

I just wanted to learn.

I quit the violin halfway through the sixth grade. Family troubles and the prospect of moving thousands of miles away from the only place I knew had me sick with nerves and out of school more often than I attended. My grades plummeted as my family situation just got worse and worse. By the time I told my teachers that I was no longer going to play the violin, it had become such a burden to show up for lessons after having missed several weeks-worth and falling horribly behind. I didn't know that I was playing wrong notes because I had missed the lessons on the new key was introduced and I was still playing in the key I had learned first. My life needed to be patched up before my soul oozed from the cracks and left an empty shell in my place. It was no time to be promoting a hobby, no matter how lovely.

It was two years before I took up the violin again.

I had outgrown my half sized catallog violin so it was a stoak of luck that we were able to find a private teacher who was also selling a resonably priced instrament. My Suzuki instructor worked with me one on one to improve the techniques I had learned in grade school and how to play out the key sign with my fingering. She also treated me like the five-year olds she generally taught. It wasn't long before I was finding excuses to miss classes. 

High school was where I really began to love the violin again. Playing with groups has always been my passion. There's something magical about being a small part of a magnificent whole.

Although I never played anything other than second violin, and there was always someone better than me, I managed to become first chair in my section, Orchestra Vice President, and Chamber Strings President. Sheer determination got me through Mozart, Bach, Pachelbel, Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky and dozens of other composers. I tried my hardest and practiced every day -- mostly just playing badly over and over again.

I forced myself to master runs and figure out theory that others seemed to get automatically.

Then, high school was over. I packed my violin away before heading off for college and didn't really play much until last year.

Last year I joined the Murray Symphony. They don't require auditions and accept anyone from anywhere. I loved it! But, I realized that in order to really play with a symphony again, I need to work on my technique and sight reading ability. I'm not good enough now, but I am determined to work on my speed, music theory, posture, and fingering to be worthy of playing with such a dedicated group of musicians in the near future.

I'm not really sure where I was going with all of this. Despite practice I'm still pretty terrible at the violin, and my memory is such that I generally need a visual reminder of what chord to play for any song I play, but determination, sore fingers, and a love for learning music has propelled me to a place where I can at least entertain myself for a few hours. My ability to stubbornly stick with things, no matter how difficult, just because I love them, has gotten me into a lot of embarrassing situations over the years. But it's also brought me a lot of unexpected joys. Not the least of these is the remarkable way in which muscle memory keeps me playing my instruments even though my mind has forgotten how it all works.

So, whatever you are struggling with right now -- stick with it and see where it brings you, eventually. Whether it be math, the quest for a healthy relationship with a loved one, cooking, learning a new hobby, or just enjoying some aspect of life, it can all be mastered with time. Things may be very hard, but after a while it gets easier to see that the benefit of sticking with a project far outweighs the relief of quitting in the middle of it all. Believe me, I've done it both ways.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Oh So Manic




I love how serious all of the singers are in this music video. Can you gals just sit back and enjoy the shoot for a bit instead of getting all sultry/snide the whole time? I mean, how much snarl is appropriate when your line is


But I can't be late,
'Cause then I guess I just won't get paid


That one cracked me so bad! Go to 0:37 to see what I mean. Priceless.


Not just a manic Monday, but a manic week! I've been on one lately! Every thing is funny. I've been riding a high that can't be beat.


When I laugh, I really laugh. It's my exercise plan. I have rock hard abs.


Yesterday, while cooking dinner, I made up an awesome song about taking a cheeseburger on a date to the beach.


Sadly, the song was lost as soon as it escaped by psyche. I have a terrible memory.


It's days like these that make me seriously consider wearing a recording device to capture all of my amazing voices and the things that just pop out of my face, unbidden. The least I can say is that I make myself laugh.


Tonight it was the lentils.


In an effort to make a high protein, low carb meal to appease the masses, Mom turned to a mess of pottage. (Don't worry, I made sure that my brothers did not trade it for their birth right – there will be no wars in the McCown clan this generation over lentils nor will Ben be putting on goat skin to make his body feel as hairy as Frank's.)


I tasted the lentils.


They were sorely in need of salt.


I told Mom, “Mom, these lentils need salt.”


She said some garbled words that made me think that I was not allowed to add salt to make the lentils edible.


I added black pepper instead.


Then I put all the mess of pottage on the table and called everyone over.


After the blessing was said, I could not stop giggling. I knew that the meal was nasty. It was only a matter of moments before everyone else knew it too.


Sue took one look in the pot and passed up the lumpy, orange goop with bits of carrot floating in random order. “This looks like baby poo,” she said.


I had to agree.


I laughed harder.


Dad said that it was the stuff the blind soft aliens on the color-less planet fed the children in A Wrinkle In Time.


I always liked those aliens the best. As a child I used to draw pictures of them and think of how wonderful it would be to have one embrace me. Mmmmm, soft alien hugs.


Ben burned his tongue almost immediately on the pottage and couldn't taste for the rest of the meal.


Lucky.


The rest of us put copious amounts of salt and butter in our bowls and guess what...?!


It was good!


Now, on to more serious matters. The following is a picture of a very attractive face I use to get dates. Enjoy!

Yar!

Hahahahahahahhahaha! *giggle, chortle, snort*