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Voice Lessons

My first teacher Dalin and I.  (BTW, I love this dress)
My first teacher Dallyn Bayles and I. (BTW, I love this dress)
My amazing teacher Amanda
My amazing teacher Amanda and I

After the greatness of last week it was almost guaranteed that this week would feel like a disappointment.  Perhaps disappointment is too strong a word but nothing fabulous has happened like last week.  I was having a hard time thinking of what to write about when I remembered that I have been wanting to write about my voice lessons for some time.  I have been taking voice lessons with Hale Center Theater Orem for 3 years now and it is one of the most rewarding things I do each week.

I don’t pretend to be a great singer or have any illusions about a potential career in music.  Time for such things has past, but I will say that music and singing has always been a passion of mine.  It has always been something I wish I was better at.  Something that I wish had been nurtured more by my parents and teachers when I was younger.  When I was in high school I had a choir director who was evil (very manipulative and controlling) and who refused to look beyond my bag of nerves and see the potential within me.  She was all talk about love, warmth and kindness but when it came down to it she only cared about her vocal ensemble and how it sounded.  Instead of trying to nurture talent that was less obvious she refused to give someone like me a chance- which to me is the definition of a bad teacher. In addition, my parents were busy with a new baby (which meant my mom had to be in bed rest for my freshman and into my sophomore year) and did not have time to focus on my music.  I am not saying this to complain.  It is just a fact.

It is this lack of nurturing that perhaps explains why when I had my own disposable income and time one of the first things I did was sign up for voice lessons.  I took them the entire time I was at BYU.  I was also in the University Choral twice, which I greatly enjoyed.  Dr. Broomhead (isn’t that a great name for a choir director?) was fantastic and my other director Joni (can’t remember her last name) was good too.   These lessons were helpful and kept my singing alive but I had so many other disciplines to study that they never really pushed me to become better. Plus, my teachers were students of varying abilities.

So, I went on  my mission and sang a lot in Indiana.  Sister Hamill and I (now Carrie Carnley), who has a great voice, would even stop people and ask them if they would like to sing a song with us.   I remember one man in particular who sang “Jesus wants me for a sunbeam” at the top of his lungs with us.  The funny thing about singing on the mission is that it is the one time in my life where the female parts were way in the minority.  Needless to say I learned Elders of Israel very well by the time I left, but we would make the elders sing Sisters in Zion every once in a while too!

When I returned home from my mission I started working and almost immediately I found the hum-drum life of a worker to be just that- hum drum.  I also had a hard time cutting myself off from work and focusing on other goals.  There is nothing worse than overanalyzing something that is already boring to begin with! Particularly working in accounting I became frustrated by the fact that every day was the same.  I never felt like I really accomplished anything.  Again, this is particularly true in accounting because as soon as you finish a week or a month you start again with the next week or month.  I needed a sense of accomplishment in my life- something to be proud of and work towards. Around this same time I attended a show at Hale Theater Orem (one of my favorite activities) and I saw the advertisement for voice lessons. Remembering the fulfillment that music had always given me I called and signed up!

As I mentioned earlier, I have now been taking voice lessons for 3 years and it is one of the joys of my life.  Each week I go and meet with my teacher Amanda Crabb.  We do funny warm-ups that often make me laugh and then we work on songs.  I can’t completely explain how satisfying it is to start a song all wobbly and messy (I am a terrible sight reader) and then in 2 or 3 weeks have it “passed off”.  Is it perfect? Of course not, but I think it is good enough that if someone heard me singing they would find it pleasant. Some of the songs I have passed off over the years are:

Think of Me from Phantom of the Opera

Home from Beauty and the Beast

Till there was You from Music Man (my first recital piece)

Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell

I Know the Truth from Aida

Travelin Soldier by the Dixie Chicks

Scarlet Tide by Alison Krauss

Gimme Gimme from Thoroughly Modern Millie

Breath of Heaven by Amy Grant

Someone Else’s Story from Chess

Dreams be Dreams by Linda Rondstat

I Don’t Know How to Love Him from JCS

And So it Goes by Billy Joel

Foolish Games by Jewel

I Can Hear the Bells from Hairspray

Someday from the Wedding Singer (my fifth recital piece)

There’s a Fine Fine Line from Avenue Q

I could go on and on.  I have actually passed off almost an entire Hal Leonard Anthology (I have 5 of them! Plus other music). I can’t put into words what it means to me when I finish a song and listen to myself sing something competently.  It’s like the inner-child in me screams “Yes, you did it!”.  There have been many a week where the only sense of accomplishment I get is from my voice lessons.  With each song I also feel creative and inspired by the rhythms, lyrics, melodies etc.  Singing honestly makes me want to be a better, more vibrant person. It is a creative outlet that I would miss terribly if it was taken away.

Another blessing I have received from voice lessons is a new level of confidence.  Because I was told by this teacher that I was not good enough, that my voice wasn’t good enough, I always had issues with singing in public.  Its funny because I got positive feedback from family, friends, companions but I still believed for a long time that it wasn’t good enough, wasn’t beautiful enough.  After signing up for voice lessons I learned we had 2 yearly recitals at Hale Center Theater Orem.  The idea of singing on the stage of a theater I loved terrified me.  I was literally shaking the first time my teacher Dallyn Vail Bayles told me of the recital.  I was terrified of getting out on stage and my voice cracking or sounding terrible.  I did not have the confidence that I could sing, which is sad when you consider how badly I wanted to sing my whole life.

I don’t know why it took me to the age of 25 to overcome this fear, but I worked hard on the song Till There was You, got on that stage and sang my heart out.  The funny thing is that I believe I am at my best when performing for others.  I have always thrived on sharing and interacting with groups and this has proven to be the case with singing.  Who would have thought this fear of mine was actually a strength?  I am not going to say that I am amazing or ready to go on American Idol; however, I always get positive feedback and I think I sound pleasant, pretty good.  In fact, one of the directors of Hale Theater told me at the last recital that she looks forward to hearing me sing at each recital because I put my heart out with each song.   This is perhaps the greatest compliment anyone could give me.  It is not only complimenting me but the teenager inside me that yearned to sing.

I have often said I would give up a meal a day before giving up my lessons.  They are a sacrifice, no doubt about it- both in time and money.  However, next to attending church and conversing with my family/friends, they are the most rewarding part of my life.  When I am sad, tired, grumpy, depressed or lonely I get out my music and for a second the world is better.

I don’t know if any of you have seen the movie “The Kid” with Bruce Willis.  In the movie Wills’ cocky and arrogant image consultant is confronted with the 12 year old version of himself.  Despite a wealthy career the 12 year old boy is disgusted and disappointed with himself.  He says “So, I’m forty, I’m not married, I don’t fly jets, and I don’t have a dog? I grow up to be a loser.”.  I love this movie partly because of what it makes me think about.  Would the 12 year old Rachel like what she see’s or would I be a loser too? Let’s see she would see an independent girl with great friends, family, her own apartment, returned missionary that sings! (I actually don’t think the single thing would be a big disappointment to the 12 year old me.  I have always been weird that way. )  If the 12 year old (and particularly 16 year old) me could see me at Hale Theater singing my heart out before a small audience she would be proud.  I can’t explain why but it is so true.

I’m so grateful for my teachers- particularly Amanda Crabb who I have had for the last 2 1/2 years.  She is not only a wonderful talent but a terrific nurturer.  There are many times when I pick songs that are difficult (See I’m Smiling,  The Beauty is, Unusual Way etc) but she always has full confidence that I can learn the songs and you know what- I usually do. She is the best!

I hope by sharing my experiences with voice lessons each of you feel encouraged to be brave and accomplish the dreams of your childhood.  It is never too late.  There is nothing I can say that I am more proud of than that I sing- I am a singer!

This is at my first recital.  I was so nervous!
This is at my first recital. I was so nervous! My brother brought me the rose.

Can You Have an Internet Friend?

If you’ve been following the blog for a while you know friendship is extremely important to me.  I’m not someone who has had luck with romantic relationships in my life and so most of my experience with love has been through my friends. (Why do I still feel embarrassed to admit that? It’s just the way life has worked out…Silly).  Anyway, I have been thinking about friendship lately and what qualifies as a friend. If you were to ask a child they would probably say “a friend is someone you play with”.

Unfortunately as an adult it gets a little bit murky.  A large majority of my friends have moved away from me and so I don’t get to see them as much as I would like.  Even the one’s that are close it can be frustratingly difficult to get together with schedules, kids and everything else.  Thankfully we have social media to help us keep in touch and still feel a part of each other’s life.  It’s so much more difficult to make new physical friends these days because I don’t come in contact with that many new people like I used too. This makes me even more grateful for social media and it helping me keep the friends I already have who are far away.

But what about online friendships?  Are the people we meet while blogging. vlogging and other online communities ‘friends’?  Here are two examples of videos I have done with youtubers who both refer to me as their friend.

I’ve never met either of these individuals and yet I do feel a kinship to them.  I feel like we are friends.  Am I deluded? No, I don’t think so.

Aristotle said there are three types of friend. They are friendships of utility, pleasure and virtue.  Each one has its place and is important in its own way.

A friendship of utility is a useful friendship.  It is a friendship that can be easily dissolved and done away with when a more useful version comes into place.  For example, I took voice lessons for many years and was sincerely friends with my teacher.  I still love her but now I’m not taking lessons we don’t see each other or interact really in any way (she’s not huge on social media).  So no hard feelings but the friendship went dormant because it was more of utility.

I’ve known people who see all their friends like this.  I had a roommate in college who’s view was ‘I’ll see you in the next life’.  She made no attempt to keep in contact with people or keep up relationships feeling they were all in the end friendships of utility.

This makes me sad because you never know what you might be able to do for another person and having such a cynical view of something as special as friendship doesn’t feel right to me.  These aren’t dolls you dispose of but real people.  I know that friendships of utility exist but I don’t go into anything expecting that to happen.  I would love for all my friends to be more than friendships of utility.

But then there are friendships of pleasure.  These types of friendships are built around love or passion for similar things.  For example, my open water swim friends are connected to me because of our love of open water swimming.  In fact, I would put most of my friendships, including my online friends in this category.  My friends who I shared videos above are my friends because we have gotten to know each other over our shared love of movies.  What’s wrong with that?  I have friends I’ve gotten to know because we love Survivor, or are Mormon or any number of common interests that bond us together.  I treasure these friends.  I’ve had the chance to meet many of these friends over the years.

friends friends6 friends5 friends4 friends3Aristotle says these friends are fleeting and start and stop without much pain.  That may be true but what a great ride we’ve had along the way.  I wouldn’t trade the memories for anything.   Plus, even if interactions are brief (even if it is just doing a collab video with someone) I learn something from each person I meet and interact with.  I become better.  They teach me how to be a better person or see the world in a new way.  Both the people in the videos above don’t even live in the US and yet we have a bond and friendship, which I am grateful for.

I prefer to think of life in moments than end results.  Yes a person may not be in my life forever but for that moment we shared an experience and isn’t that what life is all about? Moments of emotion shared with other people?

The third type of friendship for Aristotle is a friendship of virtue.  This is that rare friend which supersedes friendships of pleasure or utility.  This is that bond which is practically sacred it is so special.  I think we are all lucky if we have one or maybe two such friends in this life.

The best description I’ve ever heard of a friend of virtue is from The Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs (or Linda Brendt):

“Friend! It is a common word, often lightly used.  Like other good and beautiful things, it may be tarnished by careless handling; but when I speak of Mrs Bruce as my friend, the word is sacred”.

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I have such a friend and it is a sacred, special thing.  I also thought I had such a friend and it turned out to be more a friend of pleasure, which was extremely painful.   I think many are lucky enough to marry their friends of virtue.  I hope to be so lucky someday!

That said, if we don’t embrace all the people who come into our lives because they aren’t the rare friend of virtue I think we are making a great mistake.  Human beings are for the most part wonderful souls trying to live good lives.  If we can have a moment of their time and learn something from them than I think it behooves us to do just that.

So yes, my internet friends are actually my friends.  It may not be the friend of virtue but it doesn’t mean they don’t give me much joy and happiness.  Life is too short to not embrace the people in your life however they may enter it.  Thanks to all of you readers who I consider my friends.  I really do.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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!

Pied-à-terre

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This weekend I am getting a little break.  A break from work, waiting, life and hopefully headaches. Tomorrow begins the 2014 LDS Storymakers writing conference in Layton, ,UT.  This is my second year attending and I am so looking forward to it.  I write more as a hobby than a career but I think I’d go even if I was just an avid reader.

I’m such a nerd that I actually miss taking classes and learning new things in college.  If I could think of something I wanted to study and had the money I would totally go back to school.  Yes, it is challenging but also very rewarding.

And yes, I could learn all of these things on my own without a conference or a degree, but I have found I always do better with such support in place.  That’s why I still take voice lessons because I know without them I wouldn’t sing and singing is important to me.

But I think even more than the learning I am grateful for the break.  I’ve taken  my fair share of long vacations and those are great too but there is something nice about a long weekend that gives you just a breather from ordinary life.

I think that is why I like movies, they are just a little break from life.  A novel or a TV show are a  a serious time commitment where a movie is just 2 hours to devote to a story.  I love that.

I’ve always liked the concept of the pied-à-terre.  This is a  word  (french for foot on the ground) that in real estate means a small second home that is meant for temporary stays and trips.  A lot of times you will see these types of homes in the cities like businessmen in Tokyo may have a pied-à-terre in the city when he works late while his primary lodging is a 45 minute drive home.

Ideally for me these types of homes are bare-bones, simple places that you wouldn’t want to live in full time.  The house my grandparents had in Hawaii was a good example (especially the cottage).  It wasn’t fancy, had no air conditioning and provided simple basic features.  It would be a challenge to live in that house full time but as a stop over to sleep and eat it served the purpose very well.

Granted most pied-à-terre are owned by very rich people and are not the type of places I am referring to.  This is more my idea of what I would want, what appeals to me.  I’d love to have a place that is simple, easy, and a break from everyday life.

It’s not a vacation but just a chance to change scenery for a day or two.   It’s organized, similar whenever you go, and easy, that is what I want in a break.  I don’t want to sweat or have sore feet or any of it.  I just want to rest, learn, swim and reflect.

My boss Kelly lives in Portland and they go up to Bend Oregon frequently and from what I can tell it’s a pretty simple place.  She works the whole time she is there but it still feels like a break for her and her family.  That’s what I want. That’s my goal. I’d like for my regular life and vacation life to flow naturally together without the sense of loss I feel after a fully immersed vacation.  This is just a natural part of my life, making the planning and recovery easy and the experience all the more rejuvenating.

It’s interesting because I used to have such a desire for travel in my early 20s and it has basically died out.  One time I was talking  with my brother and he said ‘I’m over traveling’  and I thought he was nuts but now I find myself thinking the same thing.

My Dad and sister are in Germany right now and another sister is going to Europe for a month in June. On one hand, I am a little jealous of the exciting experience they are having and on the other I feel tired just thinking about it.  The appeal is gone.

But a pied-à-terre? That sounds appealing.  Someday I would love to own a place by a beach somewhere.  That’s my goal- the tinier and simpler the better! For the moment LDS Storymakers and staying in a Hilton Hotel for the weekend will suffice.   It is just the pied-à-terre I need while I wait, worry and work.  I’m so excited!

I’m also very excited for my trip to Tampa coming up next month!  Thanks to my friend Kim for inviting me.  To relaxing, learning, resting and starting afresh!

What about you guys?  Have you found your desire to travel diminish over the years?  What about a pied-à-terre?  Is that concept appealing to you? Let me know.

relax

 

 

 

Just thinking…

It’s late 2:20 to be more precise and I can’t sleep.  My medicine has basically stopped working so I have to stop taking it for a while until it starts working again.  I know it’s a cycle but I haven’t figured out any better way to at least enjoy some sleep.

Anyway, still got this darn virus.  Sore throat, congestion, everything but I am moving on with it.  Tomorrow I have voice lessons which should be interesting.  Maybe I will sing the belt songs better with a stuffed up nose!  It’s happened to me before.  I guess there is just a limit to how long you can keep you life on hold and ‘rest up’.

It is tax season so that is always a bit nuts.  I got my Dad’s taxes for his rental ready for the CPA today and spent about 12 hours going over books, and making 3 huge reservations/payments.  I made him some good money so no complaints from him about his oldest daughter! 🙂

My Dad had a neat thing happen today.  He had almost finished law school as a grad student but became disenchanted with it and distracted with other projects (mainly my sister, brother and I) as well as his own small business.  He knew he wasn’t going to be an attorney so he abandoned the attempt just a few papers before graduating.

Well, I believe my Dad was thinking of taking some business and german classes requested his transcript and turns out he actually did graduate but had never received his diploma.  It came in the mail today!  Pretty exciting right!  25 years in development! Congrats Dad!  A college diploma of any kind is a badge of honor that we fought the fight and achieved our goals, even if you don’t use them for your career.

I have to tell myself that because I don’t really use either of my degrees for my career.  Maybe a few things from my MBA but not really.  It does kind of boggle the mind that in nearly 20 years of education I never had one class on using excel, photoshop or word.  Add in quickbooks and the basic internet those programs take up 80% of my work life.

The truth is that almost everything I learned about my career was from a woman named Sandy who was my ‘office Mom’ for my first job.  She was the mother of the whole office and that’s not because she was old, she just has a nurturing personality that draws people to her.  It was a hard time in my life but she listened to every gripe and groan in the most understanding way.

She also patiently explained how to do different tasks, sometimes multiple times and helped me fix the mistakes, typos and incorrect 10k.  I am sure she would disagree but she is really responsible for most of my success if you can call it that in my work life.  I owe her a lot. Plus, she kept me from losing it so many times.

I’m really grateful my Dad and Sandy and so many others.

It’s easy to remember the impact of family but perhaps it is harder to recall the impact of more passing acquaintances like coworkers, wardmembers, neighbors but their effect can be eternal.  I believe that strongly.  Some of the strongest influences in my life are people I don’t see often like my mentor in college Dr. Holland or my young women’s leader Sister Potter.  They made an eternal difference.  Makes me wonder what kind of difference I am making?

It’s interesting because I was talking to my sister today about how grateful I am for swimming because it gives me a way to make new friends which is something I need in my life.  I have plenty of friends but yet I still need an avenue in my life to meet new people.  Some people don’t really need this newness like my sister Megan likes things to stay more stable and continuous.

Maybe part of the reason I need an outlet to new people is the desire to make a difference in as many people’s lives as I can and it is an urging I believe comes from God.  He needs me to keep channels open where he can use me to help all kinds of people, not just my closed circle of friends and family.  Not everyone is needed in that way but a comfort level among strangers has always been a gift of mine.

Yesterday I went to an open house for my old bishop of the YSA ward and I cried.  It is kind of the final string in my relationship to the old ward.  There are a few people but not many.  It makes me sad.  Plus, that bishop helped me through some of the hardest times of my life.  I will be forever grateful to him.  Makes me cry just thinking about it.

Anyway, this is more ramblings at 2 am.  In the end I just want to serve God even if it takes me 25 years to get the reward in the mail! (Go Dad!)

just thinking

Hale Center Theater

Last night I had the great opportunity to go to one of our amazing local theater companies Hale Center Theater Orem to see their production of In the Heights.  This is a show I had never seen before and was fairly unfamiliar with the songs and storyline (I had 4 of the songs on my ipod but had never listened to the complete soundtrack).   I love seeing shows that are classics that I know I will love but it is also fun to see something totally new and unexpected.

Anna and me at Hale Theater Orem In the Heights.
Anna and me at Hale Theater Orem In the Heights.

In the Heights is also different because it mixes hip hop with broadway in a way I’ve never seen before.  Here is a clip from the Tony performance when it won best new musical

It was a little bit more adult than what I’ve seen at Hale before but still at a PG-13 level for sure . I have mentioned Hale Theaters several times on this blog but I don’t think I’ve ever profiled them on an exclusive post.

There are 2 Hale theaters in Utah, one in West Valley (soon to be Sandy) and in Orem.  The theater in West Valley is larger and has a million dollar stage that can move around and provide some pretty amazing special effects.

hale_centre_theatre

Hale Orem is smaller (i couldn’t find a good photo of that stage) without the fancy special effects but it is equally compelling and intimate.  In fact, on some productions I think smaller is better (I tend to feel that way about The Christmas Carol where the special effects and excessive fog machine at Hale West Valley can be a little much).  It can also force Hale Orem to be very creative in the small space as in I think the Secret Garden where they moved door frames around to show a chase in a large manor.

Both of Hale theaters are theater in the round.  where the seats are pointed down at the stage instead of staring up in an auditorium like a traditional play.  This has an immersive feel that allows the audience member to be surrounded by the performance and to have a good seat from anywhere in the theater.

So they are good with the theaters but then the Hale’s make things extra special with wonderful talent and show choices.  I’m amazed with how great the talent is especially considering that most of the performers are volunteers doing it for the joy of it not as a full time job.  I really think that either Hale theater should be considered for the Tony Regional Theater Award.  The Utah Shakespeare festival won that award and Hale Theaters are equally worthy.

Here’s some idea of what you see at both theaters:

I hope that gives you a feel for the quality of the shows.  I’ve seen so many shows at both that it is hard to remember everything but here are some that come to mind

Hale West Valley:

Scarlet Pimpernell

My Fair Lady

Annie Get Your Gun

Zorro: The Musical (world premiere)

Once on this Island

Aida

The Wedding Singer

Secret Garden

Hale Center Theater Orem:  (I take voice lessons from them so I am a bit partial)

Hairspray

Secret Garden (a favorite of mine)

Beauty and the Beast

West Side Story

All Shook Up

Spitfire Grill

South Pacific

Crazy for You

39 Steps

Drowsy Chaperone

Singing in the Rain

Anyway, that gives you an idea of the range and quality.  It is often as good if not better than anything I’ve seen on broadway and to make it even better most of the shows are under $20 and family friendly.  It is a true blessing of living in Utah, so if you don’t go to see their shows you are really missing out.

My only comment to them would be it would be nice if they had more variety in their selection of plays.  Between the two theaters they have done Arsenic and Old Lace, Lend me a Tenor, The Foreigner, Curious Savage, Hasty Heart and No Time for Sergeants multiple times and as frequent attendees of both theaters I don’t want to get season tickets to shows I’ve just seen.  Particularly glaring is when it is done just a year after the other theater did it.  For example, Hale Orem did the 39 steps one year and Hale West Valley did it the year after that.  Or last year Arsenic and Old Lace (a particular favorite for this area I’m not sure why?) was done by Orem and now it is on the docket for next year in West Valley.

I understand the 2 companies are different businesses but as a business you should look at your competition and try to pick new and exciting material and not just for your musicals.  I am sure it is tough to find clean and appropriate plays for a budget but I’m sure there are more out there than the repeats.

I can only think of a few misses with Hale.  Last years Game’s Afoot was a huge disappointment.  The ads made you think it was a play about Sherlock Holmes.  In truth it was a lame farce about actors who played Sherlock Holmes.  It also didn’t have the professional acting I expect with Hale.  Lines were dropped and performances were clownish. Still, it was a rare miss.

I also look forward every year to seeing The Christmas Carol (one I don’t mind repeating!) every year at one or sometimes both of the Hale theaters.  The man who plays Scrooge at Hale Theater Orem is amazing and has been doing it for decades.  Its really an act of generosity to give so much of your time to the community during the holidays.  It makes Christmas for me and I wouldn’t miss it!

So, if you haven’t seen a show at Hale Theater, go!  And if you need someone to go with, call me!

hcto_logo_foundation_tag hale-center-theatre-logo

Recital, Music and a Little Rain

Today turned out to be a fun day.  It is another example of when I’m tired and don’t feel like doing something I should always do it! (Remind me of that the next time I am  feeling lazy).  Monday’s are always hard for me.  Even working from home the weekend never seems long enough.  There is so much to do and so much work to get caught up on that it can feel overwhelming.

To add to my normal Monday mood today I had a voice lesson followed by our summer recital. I sang Let Me In from the film Rigoletto (not associated with the opera aside from a similar storyline but updated). Its a beautiful, haunting song that most people are unfamiliar with, so I really enjoyed singing it.  Its also one I know very well so in my busy open water season I didn’t have to worry too much about it (although I did fumble the words in one spot.  Nerves!).

After the recital I had tickets to see Bill Medley of Righteous Brother’s fame at the Scera Shell in Orem. I get season tickets every year because they are such an insane deal. 10 events (3 plays, 7 concerts) for $75.  Less if you are a student.  I’ve had tickets for most of the time I’ve lived in Utah and each year they get better acts and more polished theatrical productions.  The big draw this year was Josh Turner in July but I am also looking forward to Richard Marx at the end of this month.  I have seen him once before at Scera and really enjoyed it.

Anyway, I had tickets but I felt exhausted just thinking about the recital let alone the concert.  I offered them to my friend Rachel but she didn’t want to go and then on my way to the recital she changed her mind and encouraged me to go so I agreed.  It ended up raining through most of the show but we had a good time anyway.  If anything it made it more memorable with the rain (and for $7.50 you can hardly complain about a concert especially by a Hall of Fame singer!).

I'm so blessed to have such great friends.  I really love them like sisters.
I’m so blessed to have such great friends. I really love them like sisters.

All in all it ended up being a good day, which I am grateful for.

Here’s the video of my song. 

The end got cut off and I flubbed a line of lyrics but I think it turned out pretty well.  (I’m not a professional singer.  I just dabble at it for fun).  The other day I added up what I have spent over the years on voice lessons and it is kind of staggering; however I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  It has given me confidence and provided a creative outlet from the hum-drums of my sometimes all too unexciting life.

If you can learn anything from me cultivate what talents you have.  Try new things.  Be creative.  I love what President Uchtdorf says about creating things.  It is one of our deepest yearnings and we all need to find our own ways to make our mark on the world.  Even if it is just dopey little recitals every couple of months, it is creating something:

The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before.

Everyone can create. You don’t need money, position, or influence in order to create something of substance or beauty.

Creation brings deep satisfaction and fulfillment. We develop ourselves and others when we take unorganized matter into our hands and mold it into something of beauty—and I am not talking about the process of cleaning the rooms of your teenage children.

You might say, “I’m not the creative type. When I sing, I’m always half a tone above or below the note. I cannot draw a line without a ruler. And the only practical use for my homemade bread is as a paperweight or as a doorstop.”

If that is how you feel, think again, and remember that you are spirit daughters of the most creative Being in the universe. Isn’t it remarkable to think that your very spirits are fashioned by an endlessly creative and eternally compassionate God? Think about it—your spirit body is a masterpiece, created with a beauty, function, and capacity beyond imagination.

I couldn’t have summed up these 7 years of voice lessons better!

Happiness: A Journey

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Today I was visiting with my home teachers and they asked me an interesting question.  They said ‘we’ve met many single individuals over the years but not many who seem to be as happy and content as you are.  What is your secret?’.  After thanking them for the compliment I had a hard time putting into words why I am happy.  Its kind of a hard question to answer?  There are lots of things that make me happy.  How do you sum it up?

They then talked about all of the different activities I’m involved in and how I take control of my life.  I again thanked them for the compliment and made a fumbling attempt to explain why I am happy.  Here’s a better explanation:

About 7 years ago I was seriously unhappy.  I think only God knows how low I really got.  Its again hard to explain because I wasn’t doing anything wrong per say I just felt this cloud over my life.  I hated my job.  I didn’t get to spend enough time with my friends and things I loved like school and church callings were getting crowded out by long work days and other responsibilities.  In the end, it doesn’t even have to do with that particular job.  It was this ghost of unhappiness that haunted me every day.

I related many times on this blog the events of that period- how I pushed the feelings of depression inside until they burst out in full blown panic.  It still amazes me that with all the challenges I had on my mission and being bullied at school the thing that really broke me was a perpetual stupor of unhappiness.  It makes no sense to the outward observer.  In fact, one could claim I was suffering from first world problems and should be grateful I had a job, and I was. Still, that feeling of grayness in my life is something I will never forget.

Once I had shown the world my unhappiness I had little left to gain by pretending and started to take the leaps of faith necessary to remove the cloud-cover from my life. I lowered my hours and eventually quit my job.  I graduated from school with my MBA. I moved to Draper.  Found out that working from home was right for me, started taking voice lessons, was introduced to open water swimming,  and started a book club, the list could go on and on.  cs-lewis-quotes-sayings-god-happiness-peace

Everything good in my life is because I learned what it felt like to be unhappy and chose to never allow myself to hit that kind of funk again.  Of course, I have unhappy days, even months and been through severe disappointments and anxiety in the last few years but nothing like it was in 2007.

So that’s why I am happy now. I am happy because I know what it feels like to be unhappy and the great thing is that God was with me through it all.  He never stopped telling me that He loved me and He helped me learn the lessons I needed to learn.  He kept reminding me that I needed to make a change.  He never gave up on me.  He never will.

Probably most importantly I learned from that period that God’s plan of happiness is not simply a checklist of big things to do, ordinances to make but literally a plan for our happiness down to where I worked and what I do with my life.  If he is so involved in these microdetails how can I not faith in the big things such as finding my Mr Sunshine out there.  Regardless, I will never let myself feel that way again for an extended period and that is a life-changing lesson.  I am happy because I learned that I mattered to God and His happiness requires my happiness not just my obedience.

To happiness! (Hopefully someday I can find someone to share that happiness with.  All in God’s timetable).

Inspirational-children-quote

Anything I Can Do You Can Do Too!

swimming

Today I went visiting teaching and told my girl about my swim.  Her response was ‘Wow!  I could never do that!’.  I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that response in the last 3 years (crazy that I’ve been open water swimming for 3 years btw!).  It can actually be quite discouraging because I want to inspire people to do as I do, not make it seem impossible.

If you haven’t noticed I’m not exactly the typical athlete with a svelte figure.  Every swim I’ve done I’ve weighed between 275 and 310 lbs (yes, I just admitted that to the world. Deal).  I’m a big girl and always have been.  It wasn’t all that long ago that  just the idea of swimming for a mile felt impossible but I had a gentle friend put in my path who never wavered in his support of my seemingly impossible first swim back in 2011, and I did it!

I’ve faced other challenges besides my weight such as a fall down the stairs, chronic pain/fibromyalgia, PCOS, hormone problems, diabetes scare, and more, so training isn’t always easy or even possible.  I’ve faced personal challenges, heartaches and disappointments, which have felt like a fall down the stairs.  I’ve spent a greater part of a year looking, building, buying and moving into a new house.  I have at times dealt with crippling anxiety and even panic attacks that can make goal setting difficult and self acceptance challenging.

I’ve had all the challenges any of you face and yet I’ve completed my swims.

I don’t want to sound like a great hero.  In fact, I am trying to prove the reverse- that there is nothing particularly special about me.  If I can do it, so can you.  Even people with minimal swimming experience have made amazing strides with consistent practice.  I have seen people barely be able to cross the length of a pool, swim a mile in the GSL 6 months later.  I’ve seen people conquer fear of water, waves, being submerged, etc and do great things.

The way I see it you have 2 choices in life.  You can either take chances or watch as other people take them.  Even if its not an open water swim, I am sure there is something that you look at and think ‘I could never do that’.  I guarantee you ‘THAT’ is the thing you ‘NEED’ to do!  There is nothing more satisfying than doing something you never thought you could do.  It could be singing a solo in public, painting with watercolors, running for public office, starting a small business, writing a novel, entering a triathlon, giving blood.  Whatever. Find out what that is and DO IT!

Now you may not succeed.  My friend Goody had a goal to swim the Catalina channel in California.  He was in the water for 16 hours and eventually it had to be called off.  It was devastating but he took it like the trooper he was.  You know what he had to face this year? Cancer. I can only imagine the fighting spirit he developed in that water and setting a bold goal helped him in his victorious battle.  He also became the first Utahn to swim an ice mile in below freezing water.  So, your victory may come in a different way than you had planned but it will come.

Part of the reason I know all of you can do what you dream of doing is because I face the same doubts and fears.  Every time I swim I face anxiety about whether I’ll be able to finish.  Not just before the race but many times while I’m swimming.  I got to the point in the last GSL swim where I could hardly move my right arm.  The current was killing me and I could do about 20 strokes and I’d be pushed inside.  I had seen a woman give up early in the race and I wondered again and again if it was going to be my outcome.  I guess I decided I wasn’t going to let the lake lick me and it didn’t and that is the real victory!

I have a quote on my bookcase by the divine Nora Ephron that says ‘Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim’.  Stop saying ‘I could never do that’.  Stop it!  Think of things you can do and haven’t tried and do them.  Go for it!

I can think of so many times when this advice has benefited my life.  Because of a demon of a choir teacher, I was petrified of singing in public for years.  I even refused to lead the music on my mission because I had been so humiliated as a teen.  That said- I always knew it was something ‘I wish I could do’ but thought I just wasn’t made for singing.

In 2006 I was so miserable with life that I sought fulfillment in anything and signed up for voice lessons.  My first recital my hands were shaking and my skin was pale, but you know what I got through it and 7 years later it turns out that singing in public is actually something I’m quite good at.  I’m not saying I have the greatest voice in the world but the acting and performing is a strength.  That’s the blessing of doing hard things, of pushing yourself. You find out what you are made of and it constantly surprises you!

Last year I had a goal to introduce someone to open water swimming.  I felt it had done me such good and I wanted to share the favor.  Unfortunately I come in contact with relatively few new people so I didn’t know how I would complete this goal (speaking of impossible goals!) but I had faith and even made it a matter of prayer.  Well, in April of that year I discovered #ldsconf on twitter and made a ton of new friends while watching General Conference. One was a girl from Washington State named Abby.

We still have never met but she read about my prep for the GSL swim and my race last  June and one day she asked me if I thought she could be ready for the race on the Columbia River in September.  “Sure!” was my gleeful reply.  I remind you I had never met this person and yet I felt confident she could do it.  Later I remember asking myself ‘You don’t know this person.  What if she has a terrible experience and then blames you?”

Well, fortunately she swam it and had a wonderful swim with a great time.  Life is usually like that.  We need a little encouragement to do hard things and then we pass that gift on to other people.  We are the heroes of each other or we should be.  That’s the great thing about doing hard things is it inevitably puts you in the path of other dreamers, and your life is so much the richer for those relationships.  When I think of the people I have met through just swimming and singing I am blown away.  The decision to try seems self evident for the friendships alone.

Like the poet says:

Tomorrow is not promised to anyone, young or old.
Today might be your last chance to hold tight to the hand of the one you love and show all you feel.
If you are waiting for tomorrow, why not do it today?
Because if tomorrow never comes, you certainly will regret for the rest of your life
Not having spent some extra time for a smile, a conversation, a hug, a kiss,
Because you were too busy to give that person what ended up being their last wish.
Then hug tight today the one you love, your friends, your family, and whisper in their ears how much you love them and want them close to you.
Tomorrow is not promised to anyone so stop saying ‘I can’t’ or ‘I could never’ and go and do it!
There. That’s my pep talk.  Eat your heart out Zig Ziglar. Sure love ya!
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Also some did not get to see my little bit of fame from the TV the other day.  With the music and everything I was quite the culminating hero to the piece. (part 2).  I hope somebody sees it and says ‘wow. She looks like me.  Maybe I could do…’

Writers Block, Tornados, Recital and Random Thoughts

So I just realized I haven’t updated the blog for a week.  Shame on me!  I am sure all of you my loyal blog readers have been sitting at home wondering when I was going to unleash my creativity and wisdom on you again… (LOL.  Wouldn’t that be the life!).   I have actually at down several times to write but couldn’t come up with anything to say.  I guess you might say I had writers block.

If you ever have any topics you would like me to research, opine on, please suggest!  I suppose when you’ve been blogging for 5 years it isn’t much of a surprise you eventually run out of topics at the ready beckon call.   Need help from all of you!

Tornado-

Of course we had the horrible tragedy in Oklahoma with the tornado this week.  I was shocked by the photos and video.  Naturally I thought of my friend Jani who was my roommate in 2000 and has lived in Oklahoma for the last 10 years.  I saw her last year after a long loss of contact (just lost emails).  I emailed her on Tuesday to see if she was ok and she sent me the following response:

Can you believe this:

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“The greatest need is prayers right now. I’ve heard of some members homes being heavily damaged and some others haven’t been able to get to their homes yet. Most don’t have electricity, and water is low pressure or not on yet. At the stake center, a few blocks north of the area, they are collecting water and boxes so people can collect things from the rubble. Our home is ok and we have water turned on again but we can’t drink it. We’ve had a few friends stay and just sleep or use the internet or electricity to charge stuff. There is a constant sound of helicopters and sirens–its a constant reminder of the critical situation out there. I’m sure once the neighborhoods are opened up there will be a great need for volunteers to clean up. It’s going to take a while. I haven’t heard of any fatalities in the ward or stake but there are complete losses of property. I will get in touch with our rs president again and let you know if there is anything they need. She’s been busy, as you can imagine. It’s sad to see much of our community just gone. We love Moore and the people of Oklahoma!”

Please keep them in your prayers and find little ways to help.  I was really hoping for a way and then out of the blue the Red Cross called me yesterday to individually ask me to donate blood on Friday.  This was kind of amazing because I haven’t given blood in probably three years so I’m shocked they had my number.  My veins are so small and wiggly that I have hesitated in the past (last time I donated I was battled and bruised).  Anyway, I am O- and they said they particularly needed that so I am happy to give it a go and try to help.  I felt like it was a blessing to find a way to help those in need instead of just watching the news.  Cross fingers I can actually donate and my veins will cooperate.

Recital

On other news we had my spring recital today.  It was a great time and my Dad was in town and came to see me.  I didn’t get a video this time but here is a recording I made of singing the song just a few minutes ago.

I sang Make You Feel My Love by Bob Dylan as sung by Adele (no small order!).  I’m not saying I could make American Idol but I don’t think you would be running for the hills, covering your ears.  I was able to get the character of the song which made me happy.  (I wish I had  a recording just so you can see that).

Regardless of how it turns out the whole experience of recitals and voice lessons is so positive.  It makes me feel like I am progressing, learning, and contributing something beautiful to the world.  I work in accounting, which I am grateful for but not exactly the most creative thing.  It feels so good to get out there, work on a song from ilk to all right, and hear the positive feedback (btw, if you hate it, keep it to yourself!)

A happy girl after the recital!
A happy girl after the recital!

Other Random Things-

Comcast has been making me crazy (also part of the reason I haven’t been posting this week, been on the phone with Comcast or having weak to no internet).  After 4 hours today I think we finally figured it out.  Prayers!  At least I have the phone number of the technician so no  more call center nightmares and drives up to Lindon to get new equipment (went through 5 modems before we figured out the gateway channel was full presumably with others from my building).  Sigh

It was so hard to get to this point.  Trust me!
It was so hard to get to this point. Trust me!

Working on getting ready for GSL swim in just a few weeks.  I don’t feel nearly ready but I’m going to give it a go.  Did a 1200 in a long course pool on Saturday, so that felt good.  This taking it slow thing is sort of nerve-wracking and I’m trying to not get nervous.  I keep telling myself if I fail, so what.  My friends love me.  That said, I don’t think I will fail. 🙂

Learned a big lesson at the house Monday.  My roommate had her car in the street and I hadn’t read an email from the HOA about towing cars on the street starting Monday. You can guess the ending of the story.  Her car got towed and it cost us $264.50!  Isn’t that nuts?   Double sigh…

As a proud tea party conservative I am horrified at the IRS targeting of tea party groups.  I attended many rallies in perhaps the most conservative area of the country, Provo, Utah and never felt anything but peaceful, love of country.  Practically the only thing discussed was cutting spending.  Honestly you didn’t hear at the tea party about pro-life, 2nd Amendment or other conservative hot buttons.  It was without a doubt the most patriotic and positive experience I’ve had as an American and the fact that these people have been targeted makes me nuts.  It is wrong and it will not blow over and be forgotten if I have any say in the matter.

So, turns out I had a lot to talk about.  Maybe I should always wait a week. 😉

Hope you are all doing well.  How’s life treating you?