Month: May 2014

Acapella Recital

Friends of this blog know I have taken voice lessons for 7 years and twice a year we have a recital (one at Christmas, one in May).  At first I dreaded the recitals but they became something I enjoyed, something I was actually kind of good at.  I’m not the greatest singer in the world but I think I’m a pretty good performer.  If I was a better dancer I could probably get a part in a show (something I would love to do one of these days)

Anyway, after 7 years you start to get a little bored doing the broadway cannon of songs and I’ve branched out to Jazz (At Last), Pop (Gravity), Standards (Over the Rainbow, Moon River), and Christian Pop (Blessings).

I have improved over the years and that has given me great satisfaction.  For a playlist of my songs check out https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL7wz447AgL4yLi3QunNeb8ivkge07GdRT

What I had never done is try to sing acapella.  Always looking for a challenge I decided to give it a go.  I happened to be talking with a girl on twitter about songs that might be interesting acoustically and I suggested Billy Joel’s The Longest Time, which has been a favorite song of mine for many years. When I was in college a girl had a guy serenade her with the song and I thought it was the most romantic thing I’d ever seen.  (hint, hint boys!).

As I was talking about it I realized it would be the perfect song to attempt acapella because it was written as a du-wop acapella song.  I worked on it and honestly memorizing it was the hardest part because the verses were easily to jumble together.  I had it together to surprise people at master class in April and then worked on it some more in May.

I went on my trip and all the sudden started to feel nervous that I would mess things up.  I even messaged my teacher to see if I should sing Be Still My Soul which I had just performed.  She encouraged me to stick with Longest Time and so I practiced as much as I could and came up with a little percussion using a jar and spoon to help me with the song (and made it sort of a vacation feel I thought).

I was oddly not as nervous as I could stop and start, change things around if I had too.  Acapella may be the improv of singing!

Well, this is how it turned out.  Unfortunately the video doesn’t ever show my face (stupid on my part on who I asked to film and where they were seated).  So just listen and enjoy.

I’m not a professional singer by any means.  It is just for fun so don’t be too hard on me.  Hope you enjoy it!

Tampa Trip Day 3-5

So I am back in Utah and I think you can tell it was a great trip because I only found time to post once very quickly.  I was having too much fun!

Day 3-

This was Sunday and Kim had gotten us tickets to a Rays/Red Sox game.  It was nice to have one day away from the beach (only one) and we rooted for Boston.  There was even a fight! 😉

Play ball
Play ball
The fight! Cleared the benches
The fight! Cleared the benches
Always like a good hot dog
Always like a good hot dog
Kim, the red sox fan at the game.  I became adopted sox fan for the day!
Kim, the red sox fan at the game. I became adopted sox fan for the day!

When we were driving home it started to rain, thunder, lightning and hail.  You can see it in the trip video below.  For the next 3 days it rained but always on our way back to the house, so it was perfect timing!

Each night we got home around 5 and we ate dinner and watched a movie.  We viewed Frozen, Tangled, Emperors New Groove and Return to Me!  So fun.

We also had a ton of laughs over a Mormon romance novel I brought with me that was pretty bad. See description below.

beach11

Yes, he smelled like rootbeer…So romantic.  It was very funny.

So, there were a lot of laughs and also some heart to hearts.  Kim and I had been friends in high school but she wasn’t one of my best friends.  After 17 years of not seeing each other and being from different parts of the country, religions, and everything else I wondered if we would have anything in common, but we had lots.  It turns out we had both been through similar career struggles.  We had had bosses that made us nuts and anxieties to deal with as working women.  We both shared dating struggles and being single.  We both had lots of memories and had a similar sense of humor.  We both love New York and love the beach.

It certainly is another reason to be grateful for facebook.  Kim and I had reconnected during the election because we are both fiscal conservatives and needed some political venting (she lived in NY at the time).  We would chat on fb and I had inquired about staying with her in New York some time.  Then she told me she had moved to Tampa.  Being the nice person she is she invited me to stay there and being the bold, without boundaries person I am I said ‘let’s do it!’.  Most people would probably shrug off an offer like that as being polite but I just had a feeling to go for it.

So many times in my life I have been benefited by not worrying about being polite or following some idea of normal behavior and this is certainly one of them.  I’m glad I didn’t worry about what someone’s ulterior motives might have been and took her at her word.  I think we are both glad and it will be the first of many such visits.

Day 4 and 5-

Monday and Tuesday were pretty simple- beach, beach, beach, beach.  All together we went to Madeira, Passe de Grille, Honeymoon Island and Fort De Soto.  Passe de Grille was my favorite because of the closeness of the beach to the parking and the cute little town.

beach18 beach14 beach13 beach12 beach10 beach9 beach8 beach7 beach6I feel blessed.  Blessed to have seen God’s beautiful oceanic creations and even more blessed to have made what I know will be a life-long friend.

At least to me vacations should remind you of why you work everyday and how perfect before starting a new job to remember the potential for happiness that lies in my heart.  It’s a good day to be Rachel Wagner my friends.  A new job, new opportunities, beautiful memories, great friends and a happy heart.

I’ve done my fair share of complaining on this blog and I want to let you all know that never have I been happier than this moment right now. 🙂

This video is a little bumpy so I don’t know if you will enjoy it but it shows how beautiful a trip it was and how much joy it brought me.

Tampa Day 1 and 2

Hello from Florida!  (Almost said Aloha but wrong beach!).

I don’t have long to write this morning but I just wanted to say hello and let you know I am having a great time in good old Florida.  Getting here took me 2 days and was miserable but it was all worth it for the beautiful beaches!  The sand is white, the water is turquoise and warm as bathtub water.  The company has been great and I’ve just had a blast!

I will include more details in my next post but this should give you some flavor.  Hope you all have a Happy Memorial Day weekend.  🙂

beach day1c day1b day1a day1

A Nonworking Vacation

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Wednesday this week I am going on vacation!!!! Like a real vacation.

I am not exaggerating when I say I haven’t been on a real vacation since Japan in 2005.

I realize I’ve been a lot of places during those years including Hawaii three times but each time I was working at least at a minimum level.

Anytime I see my folks I end up working because my Dad is my boss. I’ve usually brought some checks with me, written wires, checked emails the whole nine yards.

My problem is letting things go that only I can do.  I never have had a sub or back up so if it needed to be done I had to do it.  That is hard to let go.  One time my boss told me ‘get off the phone and enjoy Hawaii!’.

It’s a problem many Americans are having.  See article

But not this time! My work responsibilities for Poler are minimal and can be done by other people while I’m gone.  My roommate is kind enough to get the mail and make deposits.  My supervisor and Dad are taking over wires and checks so that’s taken care of.  And as far as my new job goes it hasn’t started yet so no worries on that front!

2 of my Hawaii trips I was actually working and going to school so that was interesting.  My first trip I tried to get people to fill in for me but it was a disaster and I had to do an entire team project in 3 days or fail the class (sigh…).

Last year I got pretty close to real vacation in the trip to Disneyland but I still did some work and I will probably still check my email on this trip out of habit more than anything else (plus it goes to my phone so kind of hard to not check it)

Anyway, I’m very excited to be taking a true vacation and to a place I know very little about.  I never thought about going to Tampa or traveling to Florida but my high school friend Kim was kind enough to invite me and probably to her surprise I accepted.

She’s taking time off from her job and has purchased tickets to baseball games and other activities.  Thursday we are going to Harry Potter World in Orlando!

Mostly I am greatly looking forward to the ocean.  I love the ocean.  The first time I went to Hawaii was one of the toughest times of my life.  I was so unhappy and I went to the North Shore and called my Dad the day I was to leave and cried my eyes out.

It had been so beautiful and going back to the cubicle dungeon of my life seemed to much.  I can’t even tell you how many times I have been sad and thought of my beloved North Shore and felt happy again (I even have it featured in artwork above my bed and in my office).

I love the sound of the beach.  I love swimming in the beach. I love reading and then swimming and then reading.  I love wearing floppy hats and big sunglasses soaking up the sun and hearing the wish-wash of the tide.  It is heaven.  Last year I got to spend one day in Seal Beach, CA and realized that was the truly happiest place on earth not Disneyland!

I also hope to just relax, maybe go to a movie or two, watch the Survivor finale, go to good restaurants and have a great trip!

How fortunate I am to be in this position to take a trip.  I am so grateful for my friend for having me and to have the resources to travel.  I am also grateful that I planned the trip, accepted the invite and am making the effort to go.  It was such perfect planning right before starting my new job.  I could never have known it would work out that way but it worked out great!

I’m so excited to have a non-working vacation and hopefully I come back to you more tan than burned and full of great stories of my trip.  I will update the blog while I’m away but there will be a gap in videos.

If any of you have been to Tampa and have some suggestions let me know.

To travel!!

TAMPA mural

Why Be Online?

Why blog?  Why be online? Why facebook, tweet, chat, instagram and vlog?  Why bother with it all?

Why deal with the online rat race?
Why deal with the online rat race?

I remember when I first started blogging my brother in law couldn’t figure out the appeal.  He’s more of a practical person so putting so much effort into something that was just a hobby and didn’t really create anything to use seemed confusing.  (or at least that’s was my take of what he thought I could be wrong).

Others have thought it was a huge waste of time.  Others embarrassing or ‘brutally honest’.  Some thought I did it for my ego or at the shot of being famous.  I’d be lying if I said there isn’t that momentary reason but that’s not something that will keep me blogging for 6 years.

Why plaster myself all over twitter, facebook, and youtube?

It’s actually kind of a hard question to answer because it changes from day to day.  But here are some of the reasons I have found it great to be active in all things online (in no particular order):

(Also I am the only one in my family that is an active personal content creator. 2 of my sisters do not even have facebook accounts, my parents don’t have active presences online and none of my in-person friends really do outside of facebook and private blogs)

So benefits of being online and some advice-

-To work through my life choices and receive guidance.  I cannot benefit from others experiences and perspectives when I write in my journal but I can in my blog.

– Keep in touch with people I never would have otherwise.  And do relationships sometimes feel a little shallow from facebook? Yes.  Do I prefer one-on-one interaction?  Yes.  But, life is rarely the choice of one great thing vs one horrible thing.  Usually it’s picking from 2 less than perfect options.  Given the choice between updates online from friends and a yearly Christmas card I’ll take the updates online!

– I have a literal social network- This week I am going to Tampa and visiting my friend Kim.  Kim and I were friends in high school but she wasn’t one of my 3 best friends (Amanda, Cay and Meredith).  However, we were friends on facebook and it turns out we totally have the same political beliefs and ideas so we’ve had some great conversations.  I needed a vacation and she was kind enough to invite me.

Last year I visited with my friend Samantha in Seal Beach, CA and we met on twitter.   I have legitimate friends all over the place and the main reason that network of friends exists is because of my internet presence. 2 years ago I visited DC and most of the people I saw I had maintained the friendship because of social networks. Hurray!

– It helps you fine tune your opinions.  Writing movie and book reviews and being challenged on those ideas makes you think more deeply about them and why you are drawn to certain things.  While yes sometimes things should just be enjoyed I find I enjoy them much more now that I have pondered what moves me and why.

– Having an online presence makes you realize that yes there are trolls but for every troll there are a 1,000 wonderful people.  It’s really quite heartening.

– Creating an online presence allows you to manage the content.  Ever read that blog and there are the incredibly idiotic trolls in the comments and you’ve wanted to delete them?  I have and on my blog I can! For the most part if you are thoughtful and interesting I’ll put your thoughts but if you are just calling me a ‘fat #$%%$#’ than no, I will not put that comment.   It’s great to be the one to be in charge.

– Being a content creator allows you to be a missionary of sorts for things you love.  Sometimes that is literally missionary work for my church.  Other times it is just a movie I love or a book that moved me.  Even if I get one other person to read a book they might not have otherwise read that is exciting.

– Developing content teaches you so many useful skills.  I have become a much better writer through blogging than I could have ever been through school classes.  Same thing with video editing and even acting.  Things like removing filler words is a useful skill for everyday conversation. I would not have had the skills to get and attempt my new job if I hadn’t decided to learn as much from both blogging and vlogging over the last 6 years and it never stops.  I have so many new techniques and skills I want to learn.

– It can actually make a difference. I’m a 33 year old single woman from Utah. My life is very small but being a content creator I get to all of the sudden be big.  In the world of blogging I realize I’m still small but think about it.  I get to say to 150-500 people daily that someone living their small life is awesome.  I can tell the kid being bullied, or the big girl she is beautiful, the non-athlete to start swimming, the person to start believing. All of those moments have actually happened many times over 6 years and it is humbling and wonderful. Makes it all worth it.

– It’s honestly a ton of fun.  If creating videos or blog writing becomes a chore than take a step back and give yourself a break.  It should be fun.  It is fun (intermixed with some tough times and venting but even that can be fun).  Even if it is not necessarily fun it should be rewarding. If you start looking at it too clinically and hoping for great numbers and views you will lose enthusiasm very quickly and probably won’t produce good content. Just be yourself and have fun.

– Find your niche.  I started on youtube with box reviews because you have to focus on something and then expand from there. This blog is a little different because I treated it like I was the editor of my own magazine.  What I find interesting I post and some of my favorite posts (Carousel of Progress or the 5 Favorite Films) almost nobody read.  That’s ok. I enjoyed writing them and that’s what matters.

– Realize your ideal audience.  It is very easy to start to focus on the numbers, especially when you have a post that gives things a spike. It’s exciting and feels good to know people are viewing your content.  However, don’t become too focused on it.  I would love to be a fulltime youtuber and blogger and have millions of monthly hits because I think I could make even better content but if you are looking at it through only that dream lens you may discount 100-300 hits and if you think about it that’s a lot of hits.

If you were in a store and had 300 people come in and look around you’d feel great.  Plus, with a core audience who follows your content you can create bonds with them that you can’t do at the fulltime viewership levels.  Some of my favorite youtubers have actually expressed nostalgia for the beginning when they knew the fans and could respond/interact with them.

– Produce content as often and as regularly as you can. Don’t worry about the content being perfect.  Try to make it as high in quality as you can but you are going to look at old posts and cringe.  That’s ok.  You build an audience (small as it may be) by producing content regularly and having good ideas no matter how unattractively wrapped they may be.  People are amazingly forgiving to the hobbyist writer/vlogger if an attempt at quality is being made and the ideas are good.

– In history never was it easier to be a creator.  Authoriship was reserved for the few, reading for the rich, movie-making for the well connected and talented but now anyone with ideas can create, so find out what you like and go for it.  I guarantee you tapping into that part of yourself will be an eye opening experience.

– People criticize nanowrimo because a lot of junk is created they are missing the point.  People are creating stories and when they engage in that process their stories become better, the world becomes better and we all tell better stories.

How’s this for interesting-

Princeton University did a study where they followed the brain activity of 2 people, one telling a story, and the other listening to said story:

“When the woman spoke English, the volunteers understood her story, and their brains synchronized. When she had activity in her insula, an emotional brain region, the listeners did too. When her frontal cortex lit up, so did theirs. By simply telling a story, the woman could plant ideas, thoughts and emotions into the listeners’ brains.”

So that is why being online is a good idea.  Even in a a 140 character tweet I can tell a story and that story sparks a thought in another person and then our literal brains are enlightened together.  That is awesome.

Is it a waste of time? It can be for sure but I’ve found even talking about silly things like Survivor or a recipe I’ve tried connects me with people that are engaging, funny, and worth the time.

-And finally every once in a while you will produce something truly special. I felt that way about my Heroism and Weight Loss piece.  The idea came to me after my writing conference and I got more excited as I thought about it.  I even tweeted it was going to be epic.  After I wrote it I was so glad I decided to be online back in 2008 because it led me to write that piece. A week or so later I got a message from one of my Survivor chatting buddies and she told me how she had struggled with an eating disorder and my words really meant a lot to her.

It doesn’t get better than that my friends. So go be online and have a blast. Create something great.