Thursday, July 21, 2011

Family Scripture Study

I just lapped myself in the Book of Mormon. My personal reading Saturday night ended in Alma 43, and our family reading on Sunday did too.

Growing up, we were not a family that read the scriptures together and prayed together, though there were periodic attempts at Family Home Evening, though my father went with pretty unusual topics. We prayed at meals, which could not have been more formulaic if we had specific recited prayers, but after my father stopped speaking to me the prayers kind of ended, and family dinners were happening less too. I did not mean to sabotage the spiritual growth and intimacy of my family, but also I kind of didn't.

I tried to read in the scriptures daily, but when I would finish something it would sometimes take me a while to get started on something else, and everyone had read the Book of Mormon at least once (probably twice), but things changed slowly and then built up.

It started with Brother Maurer co-teaching a class with Brother Weed on the teachings of John. We did not know Brother Weed yet, though we would become quite fond of him, but we already liked Brother Maurer a lot, and my sisters thought we should take the class. Obviously, this covered the Gospel of John, his three epistles, and Revelation. They generally covered three chapters a week.

The classes were good, but somehow we ended up missing quite a few. One night when they were asking me if we could skip (again), I said it was okay as long as they read all of the chapters personally, so that they still knew the material.

They agreed, but the reading was slow in happening. Finally I suggested we read them together on Sunday nights, and we started doing that, three chapters a week.

I totally see the value of starting your children on things young, because there was resistance to building up these habits. Sometimes it went smoothly, sometimes there were protests, and pretty much any time there was a fight, it didn't happen. Most of the time, though, it did, and as we reached the end of Revelation, it didn't feel right to stop. We decided to just read the rest of the Gospels too, and it just worked out that with a few extra sessions around Christmas, we were able to read in Luke 2 on Christmas Day. As we finished Luke it was natural to read the Acts, and then we just kind of gave up and read the rest of the epistles. I was worried about this, because I get frustrated with Paul, and most of the epistles are his, but it was okay. Finally, we had read the entire New Testament, and it didn’t feel right to stop.

During all the time that we were snowbound (back in 2008), there were some times when we wanted to read, but Misty was not there, and it did not feel right to go on in our Bible reading without her, so we read a little in the Pearl of Great Price. That seemed like a logical next step, and it’s not a huge commitment because it’s not very long. We started that, and I realized that everyone really needed to be familiar with Genesis first. We shifted to that.

After reading Genesis together we read the Pearl of Great Price, and at that point we realized, okay, this is something we are doing, so we started the Doctrine and Covenants. Since the section length varies so much, instead of going by chapters we moved to doing eight pages a week.

Now we are in the Book of Mormon, right at Alma 43, and doing ten pages a week (meaning that we can finish it in a year). Again, this is probably what everyone has read the most, so that may help for familiarity, and it is good to be reading together. Now people almost never try to get out of it, or get out of it without trying but due to fighting. Somehow, for all our heathen ways we are a scripture reading family.

I am having concerns about what comes next. The obvious choice is the Old Testament—it’s all we have left. It’s also really long, and in parts quite dense. My first time through, all I remembered from the Chronicles was a long list of begats. My second or third time through, I started to notice some more things, but honestly it was only the last time through that it clicked, and I saw a really dynamic counterpart to Kings.

Christ himself referred to “the Law and the Prophets”, so we could read just the Pentateuch and the Prophets, but that still gives us Numbers, and Leviticus has a lot of symbolism and meaning that is cool, but that doesn’t make it easy reading. Besides, there are good things in the History and the Poetry, though I can’t imagine reading Song of Solomon together. (I wish they had just left that part out. The justification of it as a metaphor for Christ’s love for the church is iffy, in my opinion, but I feel too guilty skipping it, because it is there.)

Really, it will just be quite the undertaking. We did not do the New Testament in straight front to back order though, so maybe we will do something more creative with the Old Testament. I don’t know, maybe we should work through a Conference issue first. We still have a few months to figure it out.

But I know that just as it took me several times to get Chronicles, and it took us many tries for scripture reading to become a habit, that persistence is the thing. You have to stick with it, and then the rewards come.

Alma 53 – 58
8017 steps

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Why and How We Pray

This is not a treatise on human prayer, though that would be a worthy topic. This is specifically about our family prayer--how we got started and what we do.

It is a pretty well accepted thing in my church that families should pray together regularly, but my family didn't really. A few different things came together to get us doing it.

The idea for praying for specific people to help them along towards marriage actually came from ET (if you know her, this does not surprise you), who told me once about talking with one boy about why he was not married, and they discussed his issues, and then they prayed together and said she would keep praying for him. I remember thinking that it was cool, and that probably a lot of guys could use additional prayers, and it helps the women too, because it is more the male half of the equation that is the stumbling block.

However, the whole thing may also go back some to back when I was eighteen or nineteen, and there were people that I prayed for, and it occurred to me that they might not have anyone else praying for them. If you come from a religious family, it would seem logical that you might have parents and siblings praying for you, but many people don't, and it struck me as a little bit sad and lonely.

From the conversation with ET I had in mind that maybe I should get different girls in the ward to pray for different guys--like we could make it a project. Still, it seemed a little bit arrogant to start, and also, without the conversation part, would it work? With the first one, he had the desire, and he was willing to work on it, so the prayer was just extra help. If we just started praying at random guys, would that really do any good?

Anyway, that was something that had been on my mind for a while, and then when my sisters and I were going to Australia and New Zealand, and were going to be traipsing around on the other side of the world for a month, changing locations every day or two, we had some worries and I proposed that we make a habit of praying nightly while we were on the trip. One thing that I had seen from the scripture study is that once you start doing a good thing, it seems logical to carry on, so this was a good introduction to family prayer. It looked temporary, but it wasn't.

There was something else that helped. I wrote some time ago about feeling like I wanted to be out of the singles ward, but feeling like I was still needed there, and this was true for my sisters also. I proposed to them that if we needed to be there because there were people who needed us, then maybe we needed to work harder on helping these people, so that we could be finished.

That sounds like we were trying to pray people married, or at least out of the singles ward, and that is largely true, but not exactly right. Again, I knew that just randomly praying at an unwilling suspect won't do much. What I have found, though, is that praying leaves you open to inspiration, and so that as we would pray for people, we would be better able to know what was needed, and what we specifically could do. It's not like it was going to hurt anyone.

So even though we were in complete understanding and agreement that really we were just hoping to help people, and marriage is tricky, in starting out we nonetheless picked three very marriageable men who (we felt) just needed an extra push. They were all good, nice, employed, perfectly fine men, for whom we could hope that a little nudge would be sufficient. There was certainly no harm in it, it could help, and having three extra people in your prayers is not a big deal. Of course, it did not stop there at all.

I cannot promise that the following is in the exact order, and obviously it would not be fair to use real names, so I have everyone numbered on a list, and we'll just see how it goes.

I think the next step was that while commiserating at a bridal shower, we mentioned what we were doing, and Fifteen asked that we pray for her. How can you say "no" to that? Actually, that was what happened with Eighteen and Nineteen also, though at different times.

Sixteen was different. The truth is, we think she and Two may be perfect for each other, and it occurred to us that maybe we should work that angle from both ends. We have given Two our opinion, though he was noncommittal (like so many of his kind).

Actually, we have let many of them know that we are praying for them, and have made suggestions to some of them. I did make a suggestion to Three, but he was already in progress on his eventual wife, and that was absolutely fine. When he moved out of the rotation we added in Eight. I had a great talk with Eight, and he did start trying my suggestion, but then gave up when it didn't seem to be working right away (you can see why a lot of them need nudging).

Five and Seven were ones that we thought needed a lot more than a nudge, which is why we did not start with them, but then we felt guilty not praying for them, because they certainly need some help, even if it is at a different level. Six is really just because we love him, and we usually hang out with him and One together, though honestly he is young enough and dating enough that I don't worry too much about him yet. Oh, and Four is because we love his parents, and he was a source of worry to them. Actually, I gave him lots of advice, and again, I can't take credit, but he also is married now, and I think it's a good move. We did think he would need more than a nudge, but when it did happen it all happened very suddenly.

Incidentally, when Three was engaged, it felt weird dropping him. We sort of did it gradually, sometimes just leaving him in, and sometimes praying for him and his fiancée, and all the engaged couples, because there were quite a few at the time.

Nine was not a source of worry, but our then-engaged home teacher, who was also Nine's roommate at the time, knew what we were doing, and he said we should add Nine, in Nine's presence, and we were good with that. Ten was going through a hard time with a girl, and he is a really good guy and I hated to see his hurt and was really worried about him, so he got in.

With Eleven, it was not even dating--he is young and has plenty of time--but he was having health issues. I am actually thinking maybe we should rotate him out, because he is doing really well now, but evicting someone still feels weird.

Really, with Twelve, Thirteen, and Fourteen, it has not been about marriage for any of them. Thirteen struggles on and off with his testimony (and maybe depression), and he is Six's brother, so that makes us care even more. Fourteen desperately needs to grow up. He is not a bad guy, but his wisdom really needs to catch up to his chronological age, you know? He does seem to be making progress now. Enough to rotate him out? I don't know. And Twelve, well, sometimes he goes through rough periods and makes bad decisions. He has never been anything but good to us, and we are going to be there for him. I know we will be praying for him for a long time. Certainly at least forty-four months minus time served and good behavior, but probably even longer than that.

Seventeen was another person who was just having a rough time, and whom we care about. Eventually we added her boyfriend Twenty-three, because maybe the best thing that could happen for her is that he mans up and quits dragging his feet.

Twenty and Twenty-one we added when they started aging people out of the singles ward, because it was going to affect them and they seemed pretty marriageable. Actually, Twenty is engaged, so that may be working but we are keeping her in the prayers at least for now. Twenty-two is a friend whom we reconnected with, and she was having a hard time, so we are being there for her, and we will continue to do that.

So there it is. Really, it is only twenty-one people (not counting temporary add-ins for specific issues), because two have graduated, but still, it is kind of a lot. It is especially an issue because with the things we need for ourselves, plus everyone else, well, I kind of like the gratitude expressed to take about as long as the requests, and we have a lot of requests. Actually, initially we had an issue with Mom praying with us, because she would hear us asking for everyone else, but not us, and she would start giggling. She is better about that now. Furthermore, I am always the one saying it, because my sisters use the excuse that they might forget someone, and it is hard to argue it.

Also, even though I call it a list, it is not a list, and I don't want it to become one, because I think that would take away a lot of the good with it. These are people we are thinking about, and checking on, as much as we can, and coming up with ways to help. It would seem that if we were to keep adding in, at some point the prayer would become vain repetition

At the same time, I am amazed at how much caring we can take. With Facebook where we can see updates on so many so often, my personal prayers have often added people in based on that, and it's amazing to me sometimes how many people can be in my heart and mind at once.

And, of course, there are so many people who still need blessing. We all love A, and at least I love B (though my sisters get annoyed a little more quickly). C and D may be too bitter to help right now, but is that any worse than being too messed up psychologically to be ready for marriage? And yet we still pray for Five and Seven.

Actually, someone suggested, and there may be merit to this, that Five will not move on before his brother does, so maybe we should be praying for E. And I could totally come up with F, G, and H--I don't even need to try hard.

Maybe it will be okay if we are still staying under thirty.

17308 steps
Alma 49 - 51

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Last year I waxed poetic a bit about picking blackberries, but that is not my only meditative horticultural pursuit.

The truth is, we have several overgrown shrubs. We have four lilacs in the front of the house, and then in the backyard we have three butterfly bushes, and it looks like it’s four roses of Sharon, but really, the two on the right are a single entity that has spread. A lot.

The roses of Sharon had the added disadvantage that there were big evergreens on the other side of the fence that were crowding them out, so they have grown out as much as they have grown up. Otherwise, though, most of the issue is ignorance and neglect. Mom took care of the yard, but as she was losing her abilities to keep up with it, I did not immediately pick up the slack, and also, she did not have a lot of knowledge. I only know what things were specifically done wrong now because I found it on the internet.

Last year I started with the butterfly bushes. I did check out a book with general information on pruning, but I didn’t start looking up the specific species until later. What I did was not necessarily bad, but you can be a lot more severe with butterfly bushes, cutting them back to 12 inches if you want (after they have bloomed), and honestly, I think that’s what I am going to try, because those things grow like crazy. We found out after they were deeply rooted that they are considered an invasive species. They sure do work for attracting butterflies though.

One thing I have learned is that you are supposed to deadhead lilacs every year. That is when you cut off all of the faded blooms after they are done. If you don’t, the tree tries to grow bigger, and puts more energy into that instead of producing blooms.

It will not be possible this year. There are so many of them, and so high up. Next year I think we will be giving a lot of bouquets to people so there won’t be as much work afterwards. That would be nipping it shortly after the bud. One man did come one year and asked if he could use our lilacs for his daughter’s wedding, which was nice and kind of gave us a free pruning. I hope the guy who came and offered to prune this year did not want them for a sweet ulterior motive, because we said “no”. (It was Sunday, and it seemed like he was just looking for work.)

I do have some limitations. Pruning an overgrown shrubbery produces much more debris than you would guess just by viewing it unpruned. I generally fill up the debris bin in one hour, and it only gets emptied every two weeks. Therefore, I prune for about an hour once every two weeks.

There are some good things about that. Fighting trees does wear me out, so only doing it once every two weeks is probably for the best. More than that, and this is where I start getting philosophical, it is a project where you need to take the long view.

When I first started last year, I felt like it was going to be a three-year project. That is probably still right, but it could be longer. The first year was going to be thinning, so I could see what I had to work with, and then there would be shaping, and in all likelihood there would be more shaping as I saw how my initial shaping choices grew out.

I can see that a lot of the new growth, in addition to being too crowded, is very brittle. The tree was trying to do too much, and ended up not having enough resources. I see places that I know will need to be trimmed, but other things need to be clipped first before I can even reach that place, so it waits. Patience is required. Sometimes there are branches that are both good branches, but they rub against each other, leaving the chafed spot open to infection, and so you need to choose one to keep and one to let go. Those are all good lessons for me. And yes, a lot of times I end up lopping both branches off, but metaphors can only go so far.

It’s funny, because I used to hate yard work. I hated the feeling of dirt in my hands, and there was no comfortable position for weeding, and I would get little splinters from the bark dust (I hate bark dust), and so it still seems crazy to me when I dream about having a farm. But that dream is not all a response to reading “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”. Some of it is how much I have grown to love the work that I do outdoors now. It gives me a real sense of peace. Maybe I did not know how to value it before.

My appreciation for the current pruning schedule notwithstanding, I do worry about not getting to all the trees at appropriate times, so if anyone feels like they could use the leaves and twigs for mulch, just let me know. We’ll arrange a time for pickup and I will make time to give you as much as you want. Or, come pick your own dead lilacs. I will share.

Alma 31 – 33
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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Other Holidays

I don't know that anything that is left is quite as interesting. For New Year's we had a friend visiting, and it was a ridiculously loaded day. We went to the Forestry Center to see the Polar Bear photography exhibit (very last day, but we could not get there sooner), then Julie, Maria, and Lilliana went to go see a movie (Morning Glory, I think), and then Lilly and I went to the Pink Martini show.

Valentine's Day was largely dominated by my getting over food poisoning and missing the Fanconi Anemia walk. I wasn't really focused on being perpetually single, because I had already gone over that. I did try and thing of things to do to for others or with others, but again, that food poisoning thing really drained me. Well, draining sounds gradual, and it was pretty sudden, but there was no extra mental energy to be had.

Saint Patrick's Day was focused on the Shamrock Stride, and that I did make that. Our team captain also had brought green leis, so I had something green to wear on the day itself. My wardrobe is pretty green deficient. It's not intentional, but I haven't worked really had to correct it either. People feel less free to pinch you in the workplace than at school, so it's less of an issue.

For Easter we went to visit Lilliana, so I guess we have a holiday thing going on. I made Easter dinner at home the next week, so it was late, but I still did a great job. That sounds braggy. It was really the cake. I got a chocolate rabbit, some jelly beans, and coconut to decorate it, and I knew my sisters would like it, but they were skeptical, but then I was vindicated. I do sometimes get ideas where the execution does not go well, so I understand the skepticism, but I knew this one would work and I was right.

The interesting thing about Mother's Day was that the night before someone asked about it, and I totally forgot that it was Mother's Day, and yet we had already got Mom gifts, and dinner had been planned with her in mind, so it totally worked, and I guess I just realized how unstressful our holidays have become. We do special things for them, and we decorate, but it's mostly hassle-free, and I like that.

Father's Day is a little tougher. It makes me grumpy seeing all of these posts and profile picture changes and church talks and all these reminders of what fathers can be, and often are, and then I feel grumpy for being grumpy. No one should refrain from celebrating just because I have issues with my father, and regardless of his faults, he certainly could have been worse. I like it being over. I may have to find a better way of dealing with it.

For Independence Day, we took Mom to Fuddrucker's for lunch, then went to see Midnight in Paris, and it was a good day. It was pretty low-key, and again, I am totally fine with that, though I was more aware of the damage caused by illegal fireworks, and upset by it. I think I am going to make it my mission to try and get Aviary a lot of business when they reopen after repairs. They were a new restaurant that was doing fairly well, and then a stray bottle rocket has shut them down for a month. The first year for any restaurant is really crucial, and it just angers me that someone's stupidity and carelessness could sink someone else's dream. So, knowing nothing about them or their food, I will be trying to get people to go there. Not logical, perhaps, but very me.

I'm hoping for an uneventful Labor Day, and we probably will celebrate Sundae Sunday this Sunday. We did last year and we still have chocolate syrup left over, and we do have ice cream, so might as well.

Alma 21 - 26
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Monday, July 11, 2011

Christmas Carols

This is a story about making contact, and it going really well.

One hardship for my sister Julie is never getting enough Christmas music of the right kind. She has gone to many shows and come back disappointed with the selections. Even at church, her favorite Christmas hymns often get passed over, while we just keep singing Silent Night over and over again.

When I saw that our stake was having a singalong evening, I thought this might be the answer. To my surprise, my sisters agreed.

I also felt that I should invite two friends we had not seen in a while, Tricia and Cathy. We did not hear back from Tricia, but Cathy thought it sounded like fun, and agreed to meet us there.

The evening itself went pretty well. We sang hymns, carols, some really old carols, and then we finished on the Hallelujah Chorus (probably the weakest part of the evening--it may require a little more working up to it). All four of us enjoyed it, and then after the singing was over we stayed chatting for quite a bit. If it had just ended up being a pleasant evening, that would have been good enough in itself.

It was more than that, though. First of all we realized we missed each other, so we arranged to get together again. That was fun--but wait--there's more!

Cathy is very talented musically, unlike us, and Julie and Maria asked if she could give us voice lessons. It was not supposed to be any huge undertaking, which was fine, because teaching voice is not her specialty, but she thought she could give us about four weeks of instruction, and that would be about right.

Well, I'd be lying if I said that there were not weeks when we talked more than we sang, but nonetheless we did learn some stuff musically, and we had fun. We went over meter, and and how to lead music, and did lots of practice, focusing on Pink's song "Perfect". We have some things we can work on to become stronger vocally, but I can tell that they seem more confident singing. (For just singing hymns in church I was already pretty confident anyway.

What's more, Cathy is going to start knitting lessons. I can't swear that our lesson-taking, getting-out-there-and-doing-stuff selves are the inspiration, but it's still cool.

Good stuff.

July Ensign
9303 steps

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Toy Drive

The sadness over losing a friend did not mean Christmas was awful. Mom being in the hospital for most of that week was stressful, as was finding out a friend was in jail, but there were some good things too.

One was that we did a toy drive at work that was fun on multiple levels.

Way back in October, we did a drawing for prizes, and one of the crew got a foam pumpkin for décor, which he discovered was hollow. Messing around with it, he cut a slot to turn it into a bank, and began accepting donations. Donations started pouring in, so we switched to a bigger bank (a panda), and Scott decided we were saving for a pizza party, which sounded like a good plan.

When the toy drive was announced, Lisa S suggested that we take part of the money for toys. There was a prize for the floor with the most participation of a party, so then we could possibly get two parties, plus help kids. Everyone was okay with that.

Our group manager and supervisors were touched, and said they would buy us pizzas, and it could all go to the kids. That’s when we went nuts. People started bringing in treats and raffle prizes for people to give panda donations, and just putting in whatever loose change they had. I don’t remember how much we raised, but I think it was around $340.

Michelle’s husband works at Sears, so they went shopping, using his employee discount I think, and got a ton of toys. In addition, many people bought toys as well, and we blew away all of the competition, even the spirited third floor. That felt good.

Our pizza party was great. The prize party was this cold cut spread that for some reason looked absolutely disgusting to me, so I did not touch it, but still, we won, and I was amazed at how competitive some of us felt about it. It will be interesting to see how the upcoming food drive goes, because after collecting it we also make art of it.

There were two other revelations for me. One is that Walgreens had some amazing deals on toys. I never thought of them as being a place to shop for toys, but they had some really good ads, so I went in, and they had awesome toys!

That leads to the second revelation, which is that buying toys is really fun. We don’t really shop for Christmas, and the youngest people in the immediate family are 34, so it’s just not an issue, but it is so fun. And I can see that for some parents, who are worried about money, and giving their kids everything they want, so that their child does not feel bad when their cousins are bragging (and yes, I do see some things wrong with this) lose some of the fun, and I get that, but I had fun. One the one trip I ended up with four big shopping bags and I had gotten some deals, let me tell you.

Also, I may have some issues with impulse control.

Alma 36 – 39
12093 steps

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Christmas cards

For Christmas, there are actually three potential topics. Two of them are good things, and one is sad, and it is probably the least Christmas-y of all three stories, so I guess it should go first.

It really goes back to the reunion, August 2010. As wonderful as it is to see everyone who is there, you always notice people who are not there. I ended up going through the booklet and circling the names of people whom I did not see at the reunion, and who were not on Facebook, and who did have addresses listed, and I was going to write to them and say "hello", and maybe encourage them to get on Facebook. The difficulty I ran into, and maybe it was silly to even worry about it, but I wanted to send cards, not just letters, and I could not find any that I really liked for what I was doing. I decided to do it at Christmas, and send Christmas cards.

For the most part, that went pretty well. I did not get any physical mail back, but two of the people I wrote to are on Facebook now, and one messaged me through there when he got on, and it's cool. So far that is not sad. The sad part is that before we got to Christmas I read that Gary Krumholz died.

I've written a few times about having your classmates die and how that feels. Well, it feels wrong, always, and there have been a few times where along with the sense of loss there has been some sense of guilt, wondering if I could have helped in some way. In this case, I had circled his name and address, and I was going to be writing out a card to him in a month, and I'd waited too long.

I made myself look. It was weird, but even though I knew that I would have and must have circled his name, and I had to look it up and see that mark, telling me that I was going to write to him, and now it was too late.

Most of the people were on the list were athletes on one of the teams I managed (Men's Basketball and Soccer, and Combined Track and Field). Gary was the one non-athlete. He was in band, actually, which was the one extra-curricular activity that I had the least to do with. We had gone to Five Oaks together though, and even though we did not hang out a lot of that, we had good talks when we did. He showed appreciation for me more openly than any other guy I can remember, which I am grateful for, though we were never an item. I would have liked to talk to him again.

I don't know that I could have. They found him in November, he was reported missing in October, but I don't know when he actually left. If you are an adult living alone, it can take a little longer to figure out when something has gone wrong.

And really, it was not a ridiculous amount of procrastination. The reunion was in August, I sent cards out in December, and it was a perfectly reasonable schedule. It just still wasn't soon enough, despite all that, and that one is going to sting for a while. What can you do?

I guess, as always, what we do is remember that life is unpredictable, and to appreciate people while you have them. It's not that I believe death ends everything--not even close--but this time here is important, and there are things that change when it runs out.

Gary, I'm sorry I missed you. I'm glad to have known you.

Alma 12-15
10656 steps

Thursday, July 07, 2011

My Thanksgiving

At one point, I really thought three to five of us were going to be doing the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day. It's an activity that I could earn Regence Rewards points for, and seeing that, I was just kind of intrigued. Maybe we could be the kind of family that does physical activities on holidays.

I discussed it with Julie and Maria, but we did not get very far because at one point it looked like Mom might be in the hospital. That ended up not being the case, with her surgery happening a month later, but it was still good that we did not sign up for the walk. Mom was doing home visits for the golden retriever, and as she went for her first visit, her car would not start. The alarm had gone out, and it was one of those alarms that instead of making loud noises, just keeps the car from starting. Julie and Maria needed to shuttle her back and forth, and it would have been a real pain. The three of us did go take a walk at the Nature Park, and the repair ended up being relatively painless the next day, so all was well that ended well. Will we trot this year, or simply walk in a nearby location where there are no lines or entry fees, but also no Regence points? We shall see.

There were a few things that struck me about the holiday, so that was what I really wanted to write about.

One is that some people are against Thanksgiving because of Indian genocide. That was not going to be me anyway. I mean, I don't even hate Columbus. Regardless of the Native American/Immigrant American issues, I still think Thanksgiving can and should be a wonderful holiday. First of all, relations did deteriorate later, but at that time they were good, and these moments of harmony are precious things. Also, it was a Native American tradition to celebrate gratitude then, so really, it is honoring them to carry on the tradition.

Finally, it is simply a beautiful thing to celebrate gratitude. It is important for increasing personal happiness and humility, and so it is something that makes the world a better place. Some will say that is actually more of a reason to not have a Thanksgiving, because it should be something you do daily, and it absolutely is, but that extra day still helps. It is good for the people who don't think of it regularly to have a reason to think of it, and it is good for those who try and incorporate it all the time to have company, and additional time to focus.

I know for me, Thanksgiving is the most peaceful and least commercial holiday. I know with store ads and football it is not peaceful and non-materialistic for everyone, and I totally admit that the last hour before we eat is really hectic, but mostly it is a peaceful, relaxing, family day that inspires good behavior as I reflect on my blessings.

I suppose it is because I care so much about the Giving Thanks part that the second thought bugs me so much, but I hate the term "Turkey Day". I suppose it is the equivalent to using X-mas instead of Christmas, but at least the X is a symbol of Christ. Well, no, actually I never really use it anyway. I just remember the day before Thanksgiving thinking how "Turkey Day" trivializes such a wonderful holiday, and realizing that the person I was about to see would say it, and she did, twice, in the first few minutes. Sigh.

I will keep my Thanksgiving.

Alma 9 – 11
29213 steps (I did my Terwilliger/Sam Jackson walk today)

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

My Halloween

My last posting before the gap was October 4th, and then things started getting crazy and overwhelming, followed by maddening and depressing. We'll go into that more later. I just mention it now to explain that I was fairly busy and stressed.

I should also point out that Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I love the creativity that comes with it, as you dream up costumes and spooky settings and pumpkin designs. Naturally, creativity requires some mental capacity, and executing it calls for some time.

There were a few things going on at work. Obviously, Halloween itself was on the weekend, but the Thursday before (because so many people are out on Fridays), there was going to be judging of costumes, desk decorations, and of the scary Halloween treats that people brought.

I have a go-to Halloween treat. Back in college one year, when I was really hyper, I made skull sugar cookies for my Spanish class. They were inspired by the Day of the Dead confections. I don’t do bright colored fancy streaks, but I will scratch on teeth with a knife or toothpick, and make eyes out of inverted chocolate chips.

I am never really satisfied with them, because I am shaping them freehand, and the details could be a lot clearer, but people like them. It made my Spanish teacher’s day (because she had an otherwise bad day, but she said the one good thing that happened was the cookies).

Decorating the cube sounded great, but I did not have time to come up with anything really clever, so I just pulled out the stuff I already had and arranged it around my cube. It was overwhelmingly plush. I mean, I like stuffed animals, but I think it gave the wrong impression. Since right across from me there was a giant rat attacking people in a graveyard filled with green mist, I felt somewhat lacking. However, I do think the spiders milling about and then forming a column marching away from the web was good, because you could tell they were bent on world domination.

Someday I have this really ambitious idea of working with my natural curls to create snakes and have this really amazing Medusa costume, but that was not going to be 2010. (Odds are against 2011 as well.) I bought a witch hat, and paired it with my fancy red blouse and a black skirt and my spider earrings. Initially people thought maybe I had a date or something, until they realized the clothes went with the hat.

There were two basic problems with the costume (besides needing to keep an eye on my cleavage, since that neckline kind of borders the danger zone). One issue was that with my thick hair, once I put on a hat I can’t take it off. I get really bad hat head. So I was wearing it all day, and on to the Max station, and on the bus, all the way home. It would have been a little better on Halloween itself, but this was three days before, and no one else was dressed up. (Obviously someone else at work was wearing a costume, because I did not win the prize, but no one else on my team was, though one outfit did reference Wednesday Addams.)

The other issue was that not wearing this particular shirt much, I was not aware that with a little bit of moisture the color would run. I have a pink bra, and a partially pink slip now. I guess I need to wash that with some vinegar or something.

So, I did not win any prizes, and at times I felt silly, but I tried, and I did add to the general mood. People enjoyed my contributions, even if they did not live up to my dreams. And at the time, that seemed to be the story of my life, but it wasn’t awful. It was okay that I was accomplishing something at all.

Alma 4 - 8
17086 steps

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Halloween Videos and Also-Rans

Since we have spent some time talking about music, and I wanted to go over various holidays that occurred during that last, vast, blogging gap, this piece seems like a good segue.

As we were approaching Halloween, the radio started playing “Monster Mash” and “Thriller”. Now, I have nothing against “Monster Mash”—it serves its purpose—but it is not a high quality song. It is a novelty song, and it works for that.

I have a lot against “Thriller”. Not only does it play into my feelings about Michael Jackson as an overrated child molester (and I know I am in the minority on that one), but also I really hate zombies (I realize that will also be an unpopular decision). They are the grossest monsters of all, so an extra long video of them was really just not for me.

What bothered me was realizing that for most radio stations, this was it, and it led me back to my earlier displeasure at the lack of play that Warren Zevon got. Sure, I don’t listen to the radio much now, but I used to listen to the radio and watch two music video channels that actually played music videos, so how did I get through so many Halloweens without ever hearing “Werewolves of London”? It’s a travesty.

Anyway, I decided for the weekdays leading to Halloween, I was going to post a different Halloween-themed music video on my Facebook page, and try and broaden people’s horizons.

Deciding which videos to use was a challenge—there was so much to pick from.

The first thing I did was eliminate anything where the video fit the theme but the song didn’t. Primarily, this meant “I Think I’m in Love” by Eddie Money and “Doing it All for My Baby” by Huey Lewis and the News. That is not a judgment on those songs, but since it started with thoughts about radio play, the songs had to work in an audio only medium.

From one point of view, anything can be scary—jobs, love, teachers—but I wanted to kind of stick with a theme, and really things ended up fairly supernatural-centric. I do have a Halloween CD, with a mix of songs and scary sounds, and it has Cameo’s “Candy”. Candy is a reasonable Halloween theme, and I had heard one that I thought would work, but was not familiar with it, Through lyric searching, I found out it was “Come on-a My House”, but I could not find the version that I heard. I remembered hearing something pulsing, and almost feral. There was real menace with the invitation, as if it was the candy house where the witch wanted to eat Hansel and Gretel, or maybe it was just the Big Bad Wolf.

Honestly, it reminded me of a version of “Fever” that Rita Moreno did on The Muppet Show, which probably has you thinking, ‘How feral could that have been?’, but it was kind of. Animal was accompanying her on the drums. Anyway, I listened to every version I could find, even ones that I knew could not be it (like the Chipmunks and Surf Punks), and nothing. Maybe I just remembered it better than it was. I do that sometimes. That leads to my next one.

I also considered adding Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights”, because the song focuses on the ghostly aspects of the book, and something literary is nice, but after checking out the videos, I decided against it. The chorus is haunting, but the verses are a little too shrill, and besides which, in looking at the videos it is really distracting how crazy she is. And I say videos because there are two, and when she was too crazy in the one, I was glad to see there was another. Maybe that one would be better. Nope, she is even crazier in the red dress version. Maybe how unsettling that is could be good for Halloween, but I just wanted to steer clear.

I was very sad to not be able to include “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah”. A fan had made a pretty good video for it once upon a time, but it was removed (as frequently happens with fan videos), so that was out.

I also felt bad about not including Alice Cooper. Scary is kind of his thing, but I could not find a video that I liked for “Feed My Frankenstein”. (Well, I don’t think I did, anyway. That’s the problem with blogging about things so much later. Sometimes you gain perspective, sometimes you lose memory.)

I could have done “The Man Behind the Mask”, Cooper’s theme song for Friday the 13th: Part VI. I could also have done Dokken’s “Dream Warriors” from Nightmare on Elm Street 3, but I didn’t. Do you know why? Because if we are going to do a theme song from a horror movie I will never see, it is going to be “Pet Sematery” by the Ramones. It will always be the Ramones!

(I am aware that the band Muse is getting associated with the Twilight movies, so there might be some kind of appropriate video there, but no, never.)

Of course, Alice Cooper is not the only musician who tends towards the macabre. Probably almost any song of theirs would work (except my favorite of theirs, “Joey”, which is not about Joey Ramone), but the one I went with was “Ghost of a Texas Ladies Man”.

Actually, as much as I love “Werewolves of London”, and it was one I used, it is not my favorite Warren Zevon song either. My favorite is “Splendid Isolation”, but it’s not very Halloween. However, “Excitable Boy” and “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” totally are, so I had some options.

Perhaps in my tendency to be contrary, I did include Michael Jackson, but not as himself—I posted Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me”, with Jackson on backup. It was an effectively creepy song and video, and I guess it’s nice that Geico is giving it some new life. (Though if I ever find a little stack of cash following me around, it’s going in my pocket, googly eyes or no googly eyes.

And finally, I am pretty sure the last one was “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr. I like the movie, I like the song, and this one probably does get played around that time of year, but I had not heard it.

If I could just find my brainstorming list, I could relay the play list with total accuracy, but maybe it’s more important to quit getting so behind in my blog.

Mosiah 28 – Alma 3
10592 steps

Saturday, July 02, 2011

The Strange Case of Rebecca Black

I first heard of the song "Friday" long before I actually heard it, and while I was amazed at how bad the lyrics seemed, based on what was being quoted, I did not think too much about it. I thought it was just some teen fooling around, and you don't expect great songs out of a fourteen-year old, so big deal.

When I actually heard the song, I was pretty stunned. The main thing I remember was when the rapper started in, saying her name first, and I thought "She didn't earn that." Then I saw the video, and was kind of surprised at the production values. I mean, it's not super slick, but this is not just a teenage girl fooling around. I thought maybe this was a new version made after she was getting a million hits or something.

Despite the sense of disbelief I still wasn't that invested. Where things really changed was when a coworker said the whole thing was a hoax to promote a movie about robot teenagers designed to be pop stars. I was pretty sure that was not true. Also, some people were thinking that there were pushy stage parents trying to force their untalented daughter to make it anyway. That seemed more likely, and I was at least invested enough to do the internet search. That's when it really became interesting. Apparently there is a company, ARK, that will guide your teen into the music business by giving them a song, and recording it, and doing the video. This service cost $4000.

My first thought was that $4000 should get you a better song, but I think I am actually wrong about that. First of all, with all the other services involved, I'm not sure how much of the "value" of the package would be allocated for the song, but it might not be very much. Also, if it was actually a good song, she would never have gotten so much publicity. It is easier to be bad enough to go viral than to be good enough to go viral--unless you are a cute animal.

On the other hand, it seems like a poor investment. It will be a miracle if she can truly make a career of this. I mean, the obvious use of the auto-tuner does not show a lot of confidence in her vocal talent, she is not writing her own crappy songs, she didn't show off much in the way of dance tunes--there just seems to be a limit to how far this can take her.

On the other hand, I guess it's nice that you can now become a talentless internet sensation without having the financial resources of the Hiltons. That makes shameless fame-whoring a lot more democratic, so that's good, right?

Still, I am not sure that this is the right message for parents to send to their children. Helping children develop actual talents and follow their dreams, good; buying their way into unmerited exposure while they are still pretty young and stupid, not so good.

I'm not saying the tune is not catchy at all, but sad experience has shown us that there's nothing to stop a bad song from getting stuck in your head--they are often stickier than the good ones.

So, I am just not sure what to make of it. It seems inherently wrong, but I can't point to much actual harm occurring from it. Rebecca may end up totally narcissistic, or the eventual failure could give her an eating disorder, but as an American teenage girl with relatively affluent, overly indulgent parents with bad judgment, that was all on the table anyway.

I don't think ARK will make much of a difference to the general music scene. The more clients they have, the more people will stop caring. Sure, people keep watching cute kitten videos, even though they can be a little repetitious, because they are also usually short, and they are guilt-free. It will not be that way with wannabe teenage pop stars.

I don't like the message that your parents' money is more important than talent or skill, but I suspect they are not having too much of an impact on that either.

Perhaps the whole thing doesn't matter. I could try and come to a conclusion, but I don't have time. It's Friday, and it's so exciting, because even when tomorrow is Saturday and Sunday comes afterward, there's another day left due to the holiday. I've got to go get kicking!

Mosiah 14 – 21
12050 steps