Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Proud Mama

"That's his monologue?" Jack questioned, watching Alex study the Hogwarts Sorting Hat song before his Dickens Festival audition last night.  "I'm just reciting the Preamble to the Constitution."

"Well, when you're the director's son," I replied, "and you're a contender for a good role, you have to work twice as hard as everyone else to prove you deserve it."

And I have to say that he has definitely worked hard.  His audition actually began back in July, when our family was asked to speak in church.  I gave Alex the option to sing or speak, and just like his mom would have, he chose to sing.  I chose a song purposefully a bit higher than his comfortable range, curious to see how he would handle it.  I also chose one with difficult intervals so I could get a feel for his skills as a soloist.  "Every Star is Different" from the Primary Children's Songbook fit the bill perfectly and matched the theme he'd been given.

Working with him was a delight!  I was impressed by how teachable he was, and how willing he was to take direction.  We often practiced for 30 to 45 minutes at a time, which seemed pretty remarkable considering Alex's general lack of focus.  And when the big day came, he stood confidently at the podium and sang his song.

He passed my first test.

So I chose an audition song I hoped would impress the vocal director (a.k.a., Grandma).  He has been working on "Solla Sollew" for two months, and he put in hours on it this week alone.  We worked hard on not breathing so frequently, but his asthma makes that difficult for him.  Still, he was willing to try my suggestions and never fought me or got teary.

He passed my second test.

We fought about the monologue, though!  He didn't like any of my ideas, explaining it was hard for him to use an accent on things that weren't written for an accent.  When I suggested something from Harry Potter, he agreed.  I found the Sorting Hat song online, and he liked the quirky lines.  His face lit up each time he delivered the line, "I'll eat myself if I can find a smarter hat than me."  Sold.  In one week, he memorized its 32 lines and practiced with his cute accent.  He sat on the front porch and recited. He practiced in the car.  He only rolled his eyes once when I suggested that we practice.

(His first attempt at all 32 lines unassisted, caught on video by placing my phone in the glove box.  Keep in mind this was 6:45 a.m., and that he could see himself on the forward facing camera.)

He passed my third test.

Auditions finally came last night, and I didn't really need to hear his song or see his monologue.  I was evaluating his attitude.  He entered in a group of six auditioners which included his brother, his Uncle Jack, and our good friend Logan - a sure recipe for distraction should he choose to make it.  He sat quietly on his chair, waiting his turn, and made no disruptions during the other five auditions.  He approached the audition table hesitantly, and I saw a brief flash of what could quickly become silliness.  But he took a breath, suppressed his giggles, and forged confidently on.

He passed my fourth test.

There are more tests in store as he attends callbacks today.  Will he take direction from Grandma?  Can he work hard in a group with other kids?  How will he interact with the potential Cratchit parents?  Can he sing high enough for Tiny Tim's song?  I don't know.

But this mama is proud that he made callbacks!

And speaking of proud...

Remember my child that has only been speaking for 2 years?  Last year, he was too shy to even walk into the same room as me if I was running a rehearsal.  This year he stepped up to the plate and not only auditioned, but blew his Grandma away.  Well done, Dylan.  (He matched pitch even better at his audition.)

It's fun to be a theater mom, and I love directing the Dickens Festival shows.  It's even better when I get to do both!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

That Shoud Have Been a B Flat

One of the most frequently occurring annoying scenes of my childhood went something like this:

I sat at the piano located one floor below my parents.  In our yellow house in Kearns, their bedroom was upstairs while the piano was on the main floor.  When we moved to Draper, their bedroom and kitchen were on the main floor with the piano in the basement.  

My dad went about his business on the upper floor.  (Most memorably, he was in the kitchen.)

I played a sour note on the piano.

Dad called down, "That should have been a B flat..."

I groaned in exasperation that not only did he call me out on my mistake, but that he could pinpoint from a floor away exactly which note I had missed.

It was nearly as annoying as I found him to be when playing pool.  I'm sorry, but when someone insists on sharing with you the mathematical angles they intend to use before sinking a ball into a predicted pocket... on every. single. shot... it really is just annoying.

He would misinterpret my groans as the desire to hear him gloat about exactly how he knew exactly which note I'd missed.  I tuned this part out, but seem to recall it generally having to do with a combination of the fact that he has nearly perfect pitch and some excellent knowledge of music theory on which he could base his Sherlockian deductive reasoning to determine that the note I had missed was the fourth of the scale, meaning I was likely playing in the key of F, because who would miss the fourth in say, the key of C or the key of G... and therefore it was obviously a missed B flat.

Fast forward many years to a family-altering decision Kirk and I made almost a year ago.  Our boys absolutely loved their piano teacher, but she didn't actually have room for both of them, so they were sharing a lesson time slot and getting only a 15 minute lesson each per week.  They were not progressing as rapidly as I had hoped, and even Kirk was noticing that they weren't as good at the piano as he'd expected.  We decided on an option I had sworn never to do: home school piano lessons.

I'm calling it home school with complete respect for those who've decided to pursue this option for their children's entire education and in reference to all the best parts of homeschooling:

  • flexibility
  • pacing specific to each child
  • lessons that fit the values and priorities of the family
I decided against rigid once-a-week lessons for the boys and instead instituted a loose framework in which the boys study piano nearly independently but with my experience nearby.  Basically, I provide the piano books.  The requirement is that they practice for 15 minutes each day or pass off one song, whichever comes first.  This moves the boys through the Bastien books I used to teach from at approximately the same rate as me assigning 4 to 5 songs per week, which is actually one more song that I used to generally assign when I formally taught.  I also provide insight and help when I hear, "Mom, I need help."  Other than that, I stay out of it.


I have definitely been guilty of giving an unsolicited, "That should have been a B flat." 

But in my dad's defense, it turns out it really isn't that hard to know which note Adam is missing.  It really is possible to determine that the note he missed was the fourth note of a major scale, and that he wouldn't have been likely to miss the fourth in the key of C or the key of G.  So obviously he missed a B flat.

Plus he misses B flats nearly every day.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Did You Look in the Downstairs Bathroom?

I caught a bit of Saturday Night Live recently, just enough to catch most of Louis CK's hilarious monologue that sounded to me like the kinds of questions LDS missionaries must answer all the time.  
  • "Do you guys think there’s a Heaven?" 
  • “Where’s Heaven?”
  • "How do you know [there's no God]?"
  • "'Our father, who art in Heaven.' Where’s our mother? What happened to our mom?" 

Of course, he wasn't really looking for any answers; he was using these common questions as a jumping off point for what was, in my opinion, hilarious albeit a bit irreverent.  Still, I found the questions to be good solid questions, and his theories to be worth contemplating.  I particularly enjoyed his take on faith (even if he didn't realize that's what he was discussing).  

I’m not religious. I don’t know if there’s a God. That’s all I can say, honestly, is “I don’t know.” Some people think that they know that there isn’t. That’s a weird thing to think you can know. “Yeah, there’s no God.” Are you sure? “Yeah, no, there’s no God.” How do you know? “Cause I didn’t see Him.” There’s a vast universe! You can see for about 100 yards — when there’s not a building in the way. How could you possibly… Did you look everywhere? Did you look in the downstairs bathroom? Where did you look so far? “No, I didn’t see Him yet.” I haven’t seen 12 Years a Slave yet; it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I’m just waiting until it comes on cable.
(For more info and a video from this monologue, click here.)

I watched this on a Saturday night.  Yep, I know for sure, because it was Saturday Night Live.  The following Monday, the boys and I reached Alma 30 in our morning scripture study.  We met Korihor, the anti-Christ, who demanded a sign to know if there is a God.  The exchange between Alma and Korihor went like this:

And then Alma said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God?  And he answered, Nay.  Now Alma said unto him: Will ye deny again that there is a God, and also deny the Christ?  For behold, I say unto you, I know there is a God, and also that Christ shall come.  And now what evidence have ye that there is no God, or that Christ cometh not?  I say unto you that he have none, save it be your word only.  But, behold, I have all things as a testimony that these things are true; and ye also have all things as a testimony unto you that they are true; and will ye deny them?  Believest thou that these things are true?
After Korihor demands a sign "that I may be convinced there is a God," Alma responds:

Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God?  Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets?  The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which more in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.
I, too, believe that the earth and the galaxy and the intricate way in which each continue to perform the necessary functions to sustain life are evidence of a God.  But I also get that for the scientific minded, there may be many other explanations of how and why the universe functions.  Therefore, I cannot say that I know there is a God because of the wonders of the earth.  

I was talking to my friend Logan, a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints recently returned from his mission to Chicago.  He told me that he and his best friend Taylor like to ask people to share their conversion story - that it is a great way to get to know someone.  And so I thought about my own conversion story, the moment at which I decided to say for sure there is a God.

It went something like this.

It was in the fall of 2003, making me a newly minted 22-year-old.  I had been married for two years, and since I had gotten married in the temple, that meant I had made sacred covenants in the temple with regards to myself and my marriage.  Up until the previous year, I had never experienced anything I would have considered to be a trial of my faith, and as such I had a very young testimony.  If asked, I would have expressed my belief, but my actions over the course of a very difficult year would have testified otherwise.  

In 2003, I experienced the devastating miscarriage of a pregnancy we'd tried to achieve for a year.  Two months later, Kirk went in for the knee surgery that altered the course of our whole lives, costing him the muscles in his left thigh and us our first home together.  While we lived with Kirk's parents, I witnessed my sister-in-law become happily pregnant despite a lifestyle contrary to the principles I held dear.  I helped my husband in and out of bed so he could perform life's most basic functions like using the restroom.  I attempted to begin a career in real estate, despite my overwhelming desire to avoid people in general after losing our baby.  And Kirk and I suffered silently, each afraid to add to the other's burden.

My faith was tried.  Suddenly the principles I'd held to my whole life seemed less likely to be the principles that would bring me happiness.  I made choices contrary to the teachings of the prophets.  I put my sacred covenants in jeopardy.  And I came to a point when I realized I had to decide.

It all came down to one very big if.

IF everything I had been taught was true, there was only one way for my family to be eternal.  If I wanted the comfort of knowing the spirit of the child I lost was happy living with my Heavenly Father, then I would have to believe there was a God.  And if I believed that much, I would need to choose to live the way He would expect me to live.  

IF none of it was true, then my choices didn't matter, and I could continue to search for happiness outside the principles of the gospel.

Interestingly, my faith-affirming conversion moment came down to one simple thought, not too far from the comedic monologue with which this post began.

How could I possible know for sure it wasn't true?

My decision to right my life was based on nothing more than a hope that all I'd been taught was true.  A hope that through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel, my family could be happy again.  And to that hope, I have carefully added testimony, line upon line as directed in the scriptures until now I could give a list of evidences.

Most days, I know there is a God; I know He is a loving Father who wants nothing more than for me to choose to follow His plan and receive the blessings He has in store for me.  I know it because when I follow the commandments He has given through the mouth of living prophets, I am happy. 

But some days, His hand in my life is a little harder to see.  Some days, all I have is hope. 

Maybe I can't always say "I know."  But I have faith.  As Alma says a few chapters after his experiences with Korihor:
And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.

I don't have to check the downstairs bathroom.  I don't need to see God.  My faith - my hope - is the foundation of my testimony.  And that's enough for me.