Thursday, December 25, 2014

What Would Bridget Do?

Eight years ago I met two girls on a study abroad trip our husbands were all participating in one way or another.  There were other tag along spouses on that trip but those two were the two I felt the most kinship with and so eight years later even though we have never again lived in the same place I'm still following their lives via blogs, Facebook, and messenger.  Sometimes I feel like I know more about what is going on with them then I do about my friends in town.  I love reading about what they are up to because they are adventurers, they do things that are a little out of the ordinary.  This last couple years our friend Bridget has really just been amazing.  While her husband was working full time as a professor and she lived on the other side of the world from her extended family, while her girls were in school, and she was pregnant and then had a newborn she went back and got a masters.  She taught classes, and graded papers, and wrote her thesis all on top of doing the other things that I normally get done.  Since then along with working she auditioned to be the pianist for the vocal masters classes and a student choir and she got the job.  I was really inspired by how she's pushed out of the boundaries of her own comfort.  Sometimes I feel like middle age/the parenting years is the time when you get stuck in complacency.  Before this time you are going to school, getting new jobs, experimenting while you try to decided what you want to do with your life.  And then you settle down.  You find the guy you like and you stop looking, you find the job you like and you hope you can keep it forever, you have kids and they suck up all your energy and time and you just stop learning and pushing.  I'm not saying that these things are bad, I'm just saying, I looked at myself this year and I thought, I'm sick of letting fear keep me in the status quo.  And so I've started to ask myself when I'm faced with a situation I don't like, "What would Bridget do?"  Here are two examples for your reading pleasure.

The first one was when my mother-in-law invited me to do a 5K with her Thanksgiving morning.  She brought it up two weeks before Thanksgiving and I immediately said NO!  First off lets just point out the obvious, I don't have a body meant for running.  Drought time, sign me up, I'm going to make it.  Running from invading forces, not so much.  I've got a lot of weight to carry and I've got short legs to carry it with.  You know those people who are long and lean...well I'm the opposite.  Secondly, I'm not in the best shape right now.  We cut our gym membership this summer when we were trying to cut all our expenses to and to be honest with homeschooling the kids, I'm just kind of trying to keep my head above water right now.  So there have been times when I've run a little bit, but this is not one of those times.  Third, it's Thanksgiving.  We had a lot to do on that day, it just didn't make any sense to me to sign up for a race.  And then the thought came to me, "What would Bridget do?"  and so without really even thinking about it I called my mother in-law back up and I said, "Yes."  So my mother-in-law signed me up and even though I told myself a million times this was the stupidest thing in the world, 6:30am Thanksgiving morning I found myself bundling up and heading to the outlet malls for my first official race ever.

It was actually a blast.  This race is held every year to raise money for a local food bank and while there were a few competitive runners, most people were just there to have a good time.  There were a lot of families.  Along with my mother-in-law, J's uncle's girlfriend was doing the 5K with us, and his uncle, aunt, and his cousin's wife were running the 10K.  It was great.  There were still a few moments where I was like, "What was I thinking..." mainly when it was freezing at the very beginning, and then when I started sweating so much at mile one that I stripped off and was then carrying half my stuff, but it was super fun.  I would definitely like to do this again, and who knows maybe even want to get in shape enough that it would be such a dreaded thing :)  Plus when it came time to sit down and eat I actually felt not so guilty doing so.

The second thing that happened is the ward choir director asked me to sing a solo in our ward Christmas meeting.  My mom is a great alto singer, and man the lady can belt it.  When I was a kid I grew up singing duets with her in church, listening to her sing in the Arizona Mormon Choir, or having people turn around and compliment her on her signing voice.  My former step father actually heard her singing at a conference he was at and came home and told his mom all about this amazing singer he saw....turned out his mother knew her and that's how they met.  So I briefly enjoyed singing along with her.  When I was in Junior High I joined choir and I had a lot of solos but by the time I got to high school I was much too shy to audition.  And so my formal singing training pretty much ended there.  I still enjoyed singing, but I didn't necessarily like doing it solo and I'm not really into the whole ward choir scene.  I've been forced into a few musical numbers.  After we got married we served two and half years in a small branch where I had plenty of opportunities to sing.  It's hard not to be heard when there are only 16 people in sacrament and so my branch president would rope me into singing duets with him.  I didn't really mind though because he was a sweetie and at tops there was like 30 people who would hear us.  I also sung one musical number when we were in Jordan with Nancy.  It was Nancy and her husband Andrew and then some other random dude whose wife Ariel refused to sing.  I don't know how I got volunteered but it was sort of awkward.  When we returned to our regular ward I remember singing one musical number with six or seven other girls and my only real memory of the experiences is my next door neighbor came up and said, "Wow, I didn't think that was going to be any good, but you guys sounded great."  But it was in that same ward that I sort of decided choir and musical numbers weren't for me.  I can't tell you how many amazing singers we had in that ward but their were a ton.  People who had trained in music as their college degree or sometimes even degrees, people who had perfect pitch ear training, people who could read music quickly and singing everyone's parts just off that top of their head and I just wasn't one of those people.  Plus my husband was super busy, works most Sundays and keeping track of my kids during choir practice or performances just was a major hassle.  I let any performing go and haven't really minded that much.

But a few weeks ago the chorister of our ward choir asked me to perform a solo (she by the way has an AMAZING VOICE...I mean just lovely) and I really wanted to tell her no, in fact the word was right on the tip of my tongue and then once again I seriously thought "What would Bridget do?" and I said yes.  And so that's how I ended up singing Silent Night in our ward Christmas Program on Sunday.  I was not feeling great the previous three weeks when I had zero voice and couldn't even practice.  The pianist had picked out a Sally Deford arrangement I had never heard before.  When Sunday came around and I was finally able to sing it for the first time Dr. J told me he hated it....the arrangement he claims :)  I was myself not feeling very confident about it, especially since my voice kept cracking and the nerves were starting to get to me.  I sung it a couple more times, brewed myself a cup of throat coat tea and headed off to church to practice one time with the music before we performed.  Curse you Bridget I thought as I went on to meet the fate that my desire to take more chances like her had lead to.  When I got to church we went through the number once and realized it would be OK.  Then the choir director asked me to join the choir.  Turns out I wasn't the only one suffering from laryngitis this week, 1/2 the choir was gone and Jenny's voice was almost completely gone.  It really was a great experience.  I don't know how the number went, I tried to block most of it out.  I prayed before that my voice wouldn't keep people from feeling the spirit (I was seriously concerned about my cold) but my former Sunday School girls came in and told me they got goose pimples so I think God was with me there, but I have no idea how often I looked up or if I was connecting, projecting, or if I biffed it in any noticeable way.  Dr. J's only comments were, "I still hate that arrangement, your voice was fine."  So thanks for that honey ;)  But the rest of the program was just so great.  I was so happy to be with the rest of the choir singing my praises to God.  Singing is one of the few times I actually feel like I'm fully worshiping, like I'm totally committed to God and it felt so good to be a part of that moment with those ladies (there were only two guys not sick, two guys).  So I guess I should thank you Bridget.  Thanks for pushing.  Thanks for being an example.  Thanks for helping give me a reason to face my fears and not let them keep me from doing the things I want to.  Maybe someday I'll move past these baby steps and be able to WWBD my way into the big leagues of cool life changes :)

Monday, December 15, 2014

It's Okay To Be Weird

I teach 12-13 year old Sunday School at church.  I used to teach the entire group of youth 12-18 year old but then we got a second teacher and I got just the little ones.  It's actually been quite enjoyable for me.  They are fun and unlike their older counterparts for the most part respectful.  Last week I left church early though because Peach said her tummy hurt.  Nothing came of it but because Cheetah had thrown up on Thursday I didn't want to take any chance.  Apparently while I was gone there was an incident...I'm not entirely sure if it happened in Sunday School when they were all combined because I wasn't there or if it happened in Young Women's but the girls had a falling out where three of the girls sort of verbally/in text messages went after one of the other girls.  This week the younger girls wanted to tell me about it.  The girl who had been sort of the brunt of it said to me, "Apparently like 2/3's of the young woman don't like me.  They think I'm weird."  And rather then telling her she wasn't, I said, "Maybe you are weird?  Is there anything really wrong with that?"  And then we went on to talk about it.

The thing is she is different for them.  While most of the other girls spend the majority of their time talking about clothes, sports, their hair, and boys...or one particular boy to distraction she cares about school, and Supernatural, and being friends with everyone.  She talks about poetry or the anthropological intricacies of large families in Georgia.  She talks about music.  She has the self confidence to get up and speak or sing in front of whole ward.  She talks about cooking with her mom.  She enjoys speaking with adults as much as she does with other teenagers.  She has really embraced one of the girls in the ward who is having a hard time of it at school and home.  She doesn't just moon over one unobtainable guy but is friends with all the young men including the ones who are in to robots, computers, scary movies, and gaming.  She is interesting and quirky and friendly and the fact that the girls tried to take her down a notch last week really bothers me.  Don't get me wrong, for the most part I like the other girls.  They are cute and fun but this need to push people down, well that part I don't like.  Why do girls do this?  Why do people do this?  Maybe you don't share interest with someone else, maybe you actually find someone annoying, maybe you don't even like someone.  Who the heck cares.  Keep it to yourself.  Enjoy the parts of other people that you can and ignore the parts you don't like.

I felt very out of place as a child and youth.  We didn't have very much money.  I wasn't skinny.  My hair was always frizzy.  I liked school, reading, and dreaming about college.  I was horrible at sports. I was pretty dorky.  I had some great friends growing up, especially within the group of girls I went to church with, but at school I got teased a lot.  It could be painful.  I look at my life now and I wonder where those people are.  I married pretty well.  Our life is pretty great.  I have great kids, and a great marriage, I've been able to do a lot of cool things, and travel to a lot of amazing places.  I wonder if my life is better than some of those people.  I rarely wonder if my life is worse.  The truth is who cares.  Regardless of if their lives are horrible or great, I'm happy with where I am.  That's really all that matters to me and their own happiness is really all that should matter to them.

I tried to explain this to my little friend.  Are you happy with your life?  Do you like yourself?  These are the things that matter.  Sure it would be great if these other girls could appreciate you for who you are.  Having friends always makes life a little easier but them not liking you, that is a reflection of them not you, and if they think you are weird then embrace it.  Being weird can be amazing.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hey Ocean! - True Confessions

I may be a little obsessed with the phenomenon Bronies.  I just watched my third documentary about the group of adults (mostly men) who are fans of the kid show My Little Ponies Friendship is Magic.  I find it fascinating.  Perhaps it's because I've actually had to watch quite a few of those episodes multiple times and to this day I still just don't get it.  I'm not a willing participant.  I've tried to get into to it.  Believe me it makes watching cartoons with the kids a whole lot more tolerable if you like the show.  I mean my growing love of Adventure Time was honestly a blessing, but so far Friendship is Magic just hasn't done it for me.  Don't get me wrong, I think it's a great cartoon for my children but I don't see the appeal on the adult level.  So these adults who love it, well I just want to understand.  This last documentary I found on Netflix was titled A Brony Tale and explores the phenomena through the eyes of Ashleigh Ball who is the voice of Apple Jack and Rainbow Dash.  The fact that I know these characters well is a testament to the fact I've watched way too much of this show.  Unfortunately I have no more insight then I went in but I did discover that Ashleigh Ball belongs to Hey Ocean!, a Canadian ban, who is my new music obsession.  Check out their song Big Blue Wave.  Nice clean quirky fun!  Maybe Dr. J will move me to the Northwest and I can go see them in concert.  The interesting thing about this new obsession is Ashleigh talks about how weird it is for the band to suddenly have a big Bronie following.  What does it say about me that I'm obsessed with Bronies and that's how I became introduced to them?  I have always had a thing for all things Canadians...maybe if Twilight Sparkle had a maple leaf as her cutie mark....

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Christmas in the Trailer

I have lots of great memories of Christmases past.  When Dr. J and I were first married we had this little tiny tree...I mean super tiny.  It was maybe less than a foot that my sister had given us.  We put all our Christmas gifts in a pile that year and just set the tree on the very top of them.  There was the year that I had lost my diamond in my wedding ring and after being gone almost two months for away rotations Dr. J came home for Christmas.  He had replaced the diamond in my ring and put it up on the tree with a note filled with journal entries he'd made about me when we first started dating.  As  a kid I remember specific things I asked for, like the year my parents got me a chemistry set or the train set I asked for even though I was like 13 and it was a totally ridiculous request.  I remember singing in nursing homes with my extended family, of eating molasses cookies, and hiding from my younger siblings and my younger cousins with my cousin Brooke while we listened to our mom's and aunts talk about dating, and marriage, and motherhood.  I remember Christmases in the hospital as well.  It seemed like there were three years in a row when Grandpa Burr was having heart problems and then there was the year Cheetah was born, when I only got to spend an hour with her on Christmas day because Dr. J was working the night shift at the children's hospital which was a 5-7 shift both Christmas Eve and Christmas.  I remember doing twelve days of Christmas with my siblings and the excitement of doorbell ditching.  Being a parent has heightened the joy for me.  The excitement of my children when they walk down the stairs and see the tree lit up is priceless.  Christmas to children is magic and that makes me think of one of my best Christmas Memories...Christmas in the Trailer.

After my parents got divorced my mom was still going to school to finish her teaching degree and student teaching.  It was a particularly rough time for our family.  Hardly any money was coming in and my mom was pretty much doing school and raising four kids on her own.  Somehow she was clued in to a job/housing opportunity.  There was this little Hispanic lady named Josie who lived on quite a bit of land.  It was off a big street but the lot was exceptionally deep and so your sort of felt like you were in the middle of nowhere.  The lot had a tiny house on it that Josie had lived in almost all of her married life.  It had tons of pomegranate and nut trees.  It had a giant chicken coop with chickens running everywhere and at the back the lot was a tiny trailer.  Josie was in the early stages of dementia but she refused to leave her house and so her son worked out a deal with mom.  We could rent the trailer for something like a $100 a month if we kept an eye on Josie.  Living on that land resulted in some of the best childhood memories I have and Christmas was no exception.

That year we all slept in the living room together in a big ball of mattresses, blankets, and pillows, and some time around one in the morning our mother woke us up to open presents.  I have zero memory of what I got.  All I can remember is the fun and the laughing, and being so happy I felt I was just going to float away.  And here is where the magic of Christmas comes into play.  My mom told me years later that trailer was a dump.  There were actually holes in the floor where bugs could get in and the trailer had no heat at all.  Even though we lived in Arizona it could get pretty chilly at night and that particular night was close to freezing.  My father had brought a little heater by but it could only reach one room so my mother put it in the living room and dragged all our sleeping gear in there so we could use each other's body heat to stay warm.  All the kids fell asleep quickly and then she put our meager gifts out under the tree.  It was so cold though that she couldn't sleep and so after letting us sleep just a little longer she finally woke us up because she hoped that if we were moving around we'd stay warmer.  It makes me laugh so hard I cry.  It had to have been a horrible Christmas for her, newly divorced, alone with four children, poor while trying desperate hard to finish school, literally worried her children were going to freeze to death, and yet in my memory it was pure magic.  The magic of Christmas is love, a love so strong that a mother can wrap her children so protectively in her own love that what must have been one of the hardest days of her own life is remembered by her child as one of the most fun Christmases she ever had.


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