Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Before Forty


It shouldn't bother me to turn 30, but I'm not going to lie.  It kind of does.  I think that's mostly because 20 was so incredibly great.  I got married 6 weeks before that birthday, and I spent the following 10 years doing the greatest stuff I've ever done.  I mean, at 20-something, I gave birth.  Three times.  I played both of my dream roles.  I graduated with a bachelors degree and a 4.0.  I shared literally countless hours at one table or another playing games with Kirk (and many other friends).  I gained two brothers-in-law.  I bought a house.  And the list just goes on.  I mean, the 20's - or at least my 20's - were pretty exciting.  Decisions to make.  Adventures to choose.  What if it literally doesn't get better than that?

In some ways, I feel like the choices are done.  I have the husband, the kids, the degree, the job, the house, the theatrical opportunities.  My groundwork is all laid.  And that's great.  But...

I love the journey.  I'm not so great at destinations.  I love the rehearsals and actually get bored by performing.  I'm so into the process that I often don't even think about the results.  And I'm a bit bothered by the thought of a decade of destination.

So here it is - my great plan to make sure I can look back at my 30's and see more than laundry and stages and students and dinner and routine.  In the order in which the ideas came to me, my "40 BY 40" list:

1. Read the "missionary library"
2. Take our family on a cruise
3. Buy a motorcycle or a convertible
4. Go skydiving
5. See a musical on Broadway
6. Get a masters degree in education
7. Take a photography class
8. Take a tap class / learn the time steps
9. Learn more about autism
10. Do work in each of the Utah temples
11. Make a childhood photo book for both me and Kirk
12. Write my personal history through age 18
13. Audition at Hale, Centerpointe, Pioneer, and Desert Star Theaters
14. Go to a show at Tuacahn
15. Cook a turkey
16. Memorize the 100 scripture mastery scriptures
17. Learn to repel
18. Write a musical
19. Read "The Chronicles of Narnia"
20. Plan a Nelson/Norris family reunion
21. Make missionary and armed forces plaques for the boys' rooms
22. Have a $0 balance on all credit cards
23. Get a passport
24. Go skiing
25. Complete and submit foster care forms
26. Learn three classical piano pieces (well)
27. Learn to play a new instrument
28. Take golf lessons
29. Learn to make/use fondant
30. Create a physical representation of our Scottish ancestry
31. Take a trip to visit Steph
32. Sing Karaoke - for real
33. Start a used book collection
34. Start mission funds for the boys
35. Go to an art gallery
36. Buy an un-crappy camping trailer
37. See a TMJ specialist
38. Xeriscape the front yard
39. Do something really cool for Kirk
40. Make a good recording of Grandma Casdorph's "Annie and Willy's Prayer"

Some may be easy.  Some I planned to do anyway.  Some I've always talked about doing.  And, knowing me, some probably will just remain dreams.  But with my groundwork laid and my foundation sure, I'm ready to rock my 30's!


Monday, September 26, 2011

Alex's 15 Minutes

Yesterday was the Primary Program, a day I was looking forward to with a bit of pride.  Alex had been asked to reprise a talk he'd given earlier in the year, and we'd dusted off the visual aides and rehearsed the memorization all week.  Knowing he always does better with an audience, I knew the focus issues we experienced at home would mostly work themselves out, and he'd do a great job.

His big moment came, and he had no problems stepping up to the podium to do his thing.  I had to fight him to get him to stand an inch or two away from the mic knowing that projection would not be an issue.  He started out strong and got the anticipated chuckle from his carefully enunciated "Huntoh Oak Way" as he described where to find his "Earth house."  [His little husky voice is just adorable, and I've gotten used to the way adults respond when he says grown up type stuff.] 

He even made it through the murky 2 stanzas that really have no visual aides, stopping only once to pick at the microphone with his finger, distracted as usual.  The bishopric got a kick out of my words, "Alex, honey... focus," and he returned to the talk with zeal.

We were into the home stretch with, "I planted a seed of faith, you see; it turned into a great big tree."  [Read: "gweat..big..twee" with hugely expressive brown eyes.]

And then...

"Burrrp."

Breath-holding silence from the congregation.

Huge smile on Alex's face as he turns to me and kind of shrugs his shoulders.

Exhalation and laughter from the congregation.

Whispered , unapologetic phrase to me that only I understood, "I just bweaved in and out."

Me attempting to encourage him to excuse himself but barely being able to speak through my attempts at not laughing.

Bishopric and primary president chuckling to themselves, only encouraging the laughter I'm desperately trying to contain.

"Excuse me."

A beaming smile on the face of a little boy who loves nothing more than attention.

A deep breath from both boy and mom.

"Wepentence takes a wot of steps; I'll go wight up..."  And he finished strong, and I couldn't have been more pwoud... I mean proud.  Sure, for the rest of the congregation, the burp kind of trumped the talk, but for this proud mommy, it was the recovery that takes the cake.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Go, Go, Jo!

Kirk saw "Joseph" for the first time last night.

Okay, not really, but that is a long-standing joke of ours stemming from the fact that he always forgets he saw my sister perform at the Narrator in Joseph a couple summers ago.

He's seen it that time, and he saw me perform in it just a couple of months ago.  But when he saw that it was playing at Hale, he really wanted to go see it there, citing his usual reason, "I really want to see what they do with it on their stage." 

Reluctantly, I agreed that we'd see it.  And then I procrastinated and it was sold out.  But they added more shows, and I got us tickets to last night's 10pm showing.  [Sidenote: who goes to a musical at 10pm?  Craziness.]

Moments in, I decided that it was like I was seeing "Joseph" for the first time.

As I mentioned, I was in the show just a few months ago.  And I think we put on a pretty awesome show!  But, realistically, it was not even in the same league as this production.  Here's why:

THE NARRATOR:  I've been told the story many times by great narrators.  But this narrator didn't tell it.  She taught it.  She was a little older, and at intermission I told Kirk that I didn't think she was the best narrator I've heard vocally but that she more than made up for it with her storytelling skills.  I guess she was just getting warmed up or something (or it was a 10pm show!) because in the 2nd act, this woman was incredible.  At the end of "Pharaoh's Story," she held the final note ("star") for what seemed like an eternity, with all the control and intonation I could ever ask for, holding out her vibrato until the last possible second, and then she smiled, nodded her head, and stamped her foot as if to say, "Yes, I am that awesome."  And she was.

JOSEPH:  We had a great Joseph in our show.  We saw a great Joseph in Idaho a couple of years ago.  But this guy was hands down the best male vocalist I have seen in any show everHe changed up the melody lines a lot, which normally would have bugged me, but as Randy Jackson would say, "He could sing the phone book and make it sound good."  I'm not sure if he didn't have much of a lower range or if his upper was just so great that he prefers to stay there, but he often flipped the melody up at the ends of phrases, and it worked.  And I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the guy was cut.  Six pack, pecks, nice arms - the works. 

ENSEMBLE:  I honestly felt the ensemble was just one step above my Draper cast.  I'm accutely aware of the harmonies in each song having taught them recently, and these guys nailed every single one.  Not a spot in the show was "dumbed down," and not a note was out of tune.  There was one moment in one song where I felt the balance was a little off (too much backup and not enough melody), but even that was just personal preference.  Props to Mike Weaver and Luke Johnson (Butler and Baker from my Draper cast), though, because I preferred their duet to their Hale counterparts.

LIGHTING:  Here is where Hale absolutely blew us out of the water.  There were so many moments where I just looked at Kirk as if to say, "Really?  Did they really just do that?"  And at one point I leaned over with a bit of a dejected look and said, "It's not fair.  The rest of us just can't even compete.  We just don't have the resources.  It's not fair."  There were stairs that lit up as Pharaoh stepped on each one, a la "Billy Jean."  The rotating stage was covered in translucent panels which could be lit up in various colors to reflect the mood of the song.  And - here's the kicker - I was impressed when Joseph came out for the megamix in a gorgeous white and silver coat.  And then it lit up.  LIT UP!  With led lights.  And as if that wasn't enough... they changed colors!  Really?  Really?!

Not only did I thoroughly enjoy myself, but I also think I learned a couple of things that will make me a better director and choreographer.

MUSIC:  This cast took a lot of liberties with melodies.  I think as a music director, I can learn that it is okay to be a bit creative.  I tend to want to teach the show exactly as it is on paper, and this limits my casts.  I'm going to try to look at music direction as a creative position, not just a teaching position.

CHOREOGRAPHY:  Simple can be awesome.  Our Draper choreography was SO much harder than this stuff.  And I didn't care.  The choreography was clean, and it supported and told the story.  Much of it was accomplished with hand movements.  I'm going to remember that sometimes footwork gets in the way of the story.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I didn't love Pharoah.  But after all the other stuff, I kind of forgot.

All in all, it was worth the money, worth the time, and worth the staying up so darn late.  I'm glad Kirk wanted to see "Joseph" for the first time.  But I may never see it again; I'm pretty sure it would be a disappointment.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Because I Can

"What are you going to do with these pictures," the photographer [Evette of Bella Photography] asked me.

"I don't know," I responded.  "I'm just going to have them."

Maybe I'll print a few.  Maybe not.  There was never really an end goal in sight.

The thought came to me last summer after I had worked really hard to lose some Dylan weight. 

I wonder if I can fit into my wedding dress?

And then the thought expanded.

Next year is my 10th anniversary.  Wouldn't it be fun to put my dress back and have the bridals I chose not to do back then taken now?

Well, guess what?  It was fun.  And now I have pretty pictures of me in my wedding dress, even if it was 10 years later.  What will I do with them? 

Blog them.

And then store them on my external hard drive.

And be glad I took the time to do something just because I can.






Thursday, September 15, 2011

You Are Also Right

Today, I'm going to go somewhere I rarely go: politics.

In Fiddler on the Roof, the learned man Perchik says to Tevye, "He is right, and he is right?  They cannot both be right."  After a brief pause for consideration, Tevye responds, "You are also right."

This interchange pretty accurately describes my feelings about politics.  Put me in a room with two divisively opposite opinions, and I will no doubt see validity in both arguments.

I like to think it's not that I can't form my own opinions.  If you know me at all, you'll know I have plenty of those.  But when it comes to politics, the issues transcend my personal opinions as decisions and policies affect such a diverse population.  I often struggle to reconcile what feels right to me as what would be right for the whole.

I'd make a terrible politician.  I like the philosophy behind it all; politics makes for such interesting discussions.  But when it came down to actual decision-making and implementation, I'd just run the other way.

Unable to do much more than nod my head in understanding and agreement, I tend to shy away from political debates.  But as I read the post of a friend on Facebook (and the resulting comments), the topic struck a common chord with a book I just finished, Cry, the Beloved Country.

Set in apartheid South Africa, the book dealt with many issues surrounding the governing white people and the native blacks who made up the labor force.  A prevalent discussion was the benefits verses risks associated with educating the labor force.  The arguments for and against were framed by what would be best for the white citizens.  The main argument for education included a reduced crime rate and an increase in production.  Arguments against included the possibility of an uprising.

With that as my mental backdrop, I processed the political discussion differently than I might have otherwise.  I still came to no decisive conclusions, but I'm currently stuck in the mental process.  But it isn't really the issue (should states offer in-state tuition to children of illegal immigrants) which I found most interesting.  Instead, it is the perspective from which we view the issue.

Option 1:  How does it affect me?
- Why should I have to pay for their education?
- If I pay for their education, I am potentially reducing the crime rate making my state safer.
- I would rather pay for their education than their prison cell or deportation.
- It is in the best interest of our church [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints] to have its people better educated and better able to support themselves.

Option 2: How does it affect them?
- (No supporting evidence from Facebook)

And a sidenote: Should there be a me and a them, or is it feasible to achieve some us?

And a derivative question: Should government concern itself at all with overall humanity and charity, or is it an entity created to simply protect its own?

I'm stuck.  Standing on a fence looking down at two beautiful pastures.  One where we can all walk around with Christlike charity.  One where the law is the law, and it protects the most honest and hardworking of us.  I'd like to live in both, but at my core, I don't think it is possible in our imperfect world.

And so who is right?

He is right, and he is right, and whatever comments you may have, you are also right.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Memory Space

To say I don't care about things would be inaccurate. 

But when the world or the nation or even a community is affected by some large scale event, while I intellectually comprehend the ramifications and am rationally concerned about the people affected, I rarely feel anything.  Unless my daily routine is affected by a tragedy, it is rare that I am able to connect with any sort of emotion.  I frequently joke about how cold-hearted I am, and - in truth - it takes a lot to penetrate through to that central core of my being.

Like the rest of the country, I remember where I was on 09-11-01.  I even remember feeling on that day.  However, that feeling was probably most accurately described as "shock."  I think I also felt a grand sense of loss due to the absolute enormity of American lives affected.  But because of the way I process things, that feeling was short-lived, replaced almost immediately with rationality and distant concern.

In the weeks leading up to today, then, I've felt a bit like an outsider.  Normal people feel something on a day like today, and I knew I just wouldn't.

In a seemingly unrelated event, I was also reluctant to go watch a friend of mine sing with the Utah Symphony Chorus.  Knowing my apathy toward classical music, he said via text, "I'd invite you to my concert, but you'd consider it 'boring music,' so I won't invite you."  I told him to give me the info and I would seriously think about it.  I decided that the importance of supporting him overrode the dislike of classical music, and I would go.  He was able to arrange two free tickets for me, and so I invited my good friend Arlee (my new concert/show date; we've been to 4 together in the last few months) to go with me.

In a few spare moments, I decided to see if I could find anything out about the concert.  Poking around online I discovered it was to be a 9-11 Memorial Concert featuring an original composition by John Adams which had been commissioned to be played at a memorial concert the year following the attacks.  Then I started to remember a few of the details Skyler had told me about the piece, and I actually started to get really excited about going.

In all aspects of life, the more educated I am about a subject, the more enjoyable I find it.  Knowing something about the history of a football team or player makes even football seem more interesting.  So when we arrived, I looked specifically for the displays the website had mentioned which would explain John Adam's The Transmigration of Souls

My anticipation built.

A few quotes by composer John Adams:

"I want to avoid words like 'requiem' or 'memorial' when describing this piece because they too easily suggest conventions that this piece doesn't share. If pressed, I'd probably call the piece a 'memory space.' It's a place where you can go and be alone with your thoughts and emotions."

"I was touched by the fact that when people are deeply in shock over the sudden loss of a family member, they don't express themselves in fancy language. They don't start sprouting sonnets or highfalutin verse. They speak in the most simple of terms. When we say 'words fail,' we really mean it."

He also described how, in watching footage of the day, he was overwhelmed by the papers floating down from the two towers.  He felt - in their overwhelming numbers - that they represented the totality, the scope of the loss.

Arlee and I entered the concert hall and sat, continuing our discussions of literature and musical theater and education.  At last, the lights dimmed and the concert was to start.  An announcement was made:

"To honor the heroes and in memory of the victims of the attacks of September 11, 2001, we ask that you refrain from applauding during the first half of this evening's program, including Maestro Thierry Fischer's entrance.  Thank you for observing this as a moment of silence."

The Maestro entered.  Papers ruffled, patrons fidgeted, but slowly that noise dimmed and it seemed no breath was even drawn.  A pre-recorded tape began to play. 

Footsteps. 
Sirens. 
Sounds of the shuffle that is New York City.

And then a voice:

"Missing.

Missing.

Missing."

And then the voice began to read names.  Names such as:

"Missing:
John Florio.

Missing:
Christina Flannery.

Missing."

The choir, getting their note from an "A" embedded in a siren call, added their voices to the tape.  The symphony began to play.  The haunting melodies and discordant harmonies blended and wove and rose and fell and circled around the tape, and in the quiet moments, I could hear:

"Missing.
Domingo Benilda.

Missing.
Kevin D. Marlo.

Missing."

The Madeleine Choir School provided a childrens chorus whose tone and talent could not be beat.  Their pure voices provided an intense contrast to the thicker, more developed voices of the Utah Symphony Chorus (USC).   The two choirs together sang words taken from "the words scribbled on posters at Ground Zero by families searching for and mourning their loved ones."

Words like:
Jeff was my uncle.
She looks so full of life in that picture.
I loved him from the start.

And it was beautiful.  Breathtakingly beautiful.

And then the children's choir sang:
The daughter says: He was the apple of my father's eye.

And the USC men sang:
The father says: I am so full of grief.  My heart is absolutely shattered.

And the choirs took turns singing:
The young man says: He was tall, extremely good looking, and girls never talked to me when he was around.
The neighbor says: She had a voice like an angel, and she shared it with everyone, in good times and bad.
 
And the women sang:
The mother says: He used to call me every day.  I'm just waiting.
 
And that phrase hung in the air.  "I'm just waiting."  And I felt something.  A deep, raw, honest emotion connected to this huge event. 
 
They continued:
The lover says: Tomorrow will be three months, yet it feels like yesterday since I saw your beautiful face, saying, "Love you to the moon and back, forever."
 
And I thought about how Kirk's cousin said something very similar at the funeral of her sister.
 
They continued:
The man's wife says: I loved him from the start...
 
And then the volume and intensity and dissonance increased as the choir repeated:
 
I wanted to dig him out.  I know just where he is.
I wanted to dig him out.
I wanted to dig him out.
I wanted to dig him out.
I know just where he is.
 
And I didn't just feel something.  It wasn't a small crack in the defenses around my heart.  Now, ten years later, I finally broke down the whole and total loss into its component parts.  To the mother.  To the sister.  The daughter.  The friend.  The neighbor.  The uncle.  The grandfather.
 
And the piece began to descend from its cresendo, fading back into the sounds of the New York streets and the voice:
 
"Missing.
John J. Lennon.
 
Missing.
Jorge Luis Leon.
 
Missing."
 
And the choir sang:
My sister.
My brother.
My daughter.
My son.
Best friend to many.
I love you.
 
And the Maestro held up his baton and the audience held its breath and the tape faded and no one dared move and even though the house was sold out we were not a group, but individuals lost in a memory space. 

Today, as we as a country reflect, if you struggle to feel, you may wish you join me in this incredible space John Adams created:


 Part 1 of 3 - Listen to the street sounds of NY

Part 2 of 3 - @ 3:09 - "The sister says:"

 Part 3 of 3 - @5:00 - sounds fading to silence

Friday, September 9, 2011

Being a Casdorph

Why I love being a Casdorph:

I walked outside my parents house to grab something from the car, and there I met two boys wearing hearing protection and riding the scissor lift (which is on a slightly slanted trailer) upwards as quickly as it would go.


And my only question, delivered straight to Adam's ear as I held one ear muff away from his ear, was,

"Do you have permission?"

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Pink Stuff

Alex, describing what he learned in school today:

"Well, there's the bones, and then there's the pink stuff what helps you bweave."

"Lungs?" I asked.

"Yeah," he responded, eyes huge with amazement.  "How did you know?"

"I went to school, too," I said.

"Well," he continued, "when your lungs aren't working right, you cough."  (He pauses to legitimately cough, a side effect of his asthma which is flared up at the moment.)
 
"See, I coughed," he commented.  "So my pink stuff isn't working very well."
 
Only a few minutes later, he started singing a song under his breath about bones.  "Did you learn that song at school?" I asked. 
 
"Nope.  I just made it up.  It is from my song bwain.  I have lots of bwains.  There's my Wii games bwain, and my 'we have a Ben 10 game' bwain."
 
Maybe the reason he hasn't managed to eat his dinner yet is because he's just too full of creativity.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Best Buddies


I mentioned it yesterday, but I was just as thrilled when these two new best buds continued to play side by side all morning.  Okay, maybe it is a bit annoying that they've figured out how to go through my linen closet to get into my bedroom when I tried to lock them out.  Perhaps I'm concerned that my two trouble-makers have joined forces and managed to escape downstairs with a whole container of cookies yesterday.  And their closer proximity was definitely instrumental in Dylan's fingers getting closed in the back door this morning.

But to see Alex offer a hug and a kiss to a sobbing redhead?  To watch said redhead (who shares nothing) offer one headphone, completely unprompted?  To see them sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with no screaming, whining, or disgusted grunting involved?

So worth it.