Tuesday, December 30, 2008

1996-2008

Dear Scooter Badooder,

I'm sorry I didn't really get to say goodbye, but I kind of knew I wouldn't see you again, which is why, on Christmas Eve, I let you sleep in the middle of my bed while I balanced on the edge all night trying not to fall off.

You've been a good kitty these past 13 years. I only lived with you for about 5 of those, and I know we gave you to Mom for Mother's Day, but I'll still think of you as my kitty too. I know I didn't appreciate it at the time, but it was sweet of you to kill all those mice for us and good job dissecting those birds. And then there was that one spring where you managed to bring a praying mantis home every night around 10:30 -- that was fun.

I can tell you've been lonely these past few years without Buddha. Even though he would sort all the "inedible" kibble from his bits and eventually eat all your food, you two got along really well, and now you can say hi to him for me. Buddha will probably introduce you to our two previous cats: Oliver and Kitty. Kitty's real name is Charcoal Tubby Durham but believe me, he'll only answer to "Kitty". Be nice to each other up there. You were all equally important to us. Kitty will probably brag about how he owned the neighborhood, and even all of us -- as we were scared of him a lot of the time, but you can one up him and say how you got us to maintain 4 different kinds of food in 4 different food bowls for you. You can also make fun of him for climbing up on the roof and not knowing how to get down. Oliver wasn't with us for very long, so he may not have a whole lot to say. Don't gang up on Oliver, he's a sweetheart.

Tell the story about when you went missing for two weeks. That's a good one. We assumed you were a rug out on 1300 East, but one night, you just showed up, wondering where your food was, like you just hopped out of a DeLorean* and no time had passed at all. I wish I knew where you were and what you did. Maybe you can tell me someday.

You're a sweet kitty. You were demanding, wanting only running water to drink; needing to sleep on my chest with your face right in front of mine, but I love you anyway.

You always wanted me to be awake when you were awake, even if it was 2 AM.
But I love you anyway.

You chewed up hundreds of dollars worth of clothes, rugs and blankets.
But I love you anyway.

When Oliver died, Dad read to us from Moses 3:5..."For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth..."

I'm not sure if Mom and Dad, or even I will live with another kitty, but we will always remember you and we will miss you.


*kinda borrowed this line from Cameron

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Cold Remedies


I am not happy with my immune system these days. This is the second cold I've had in the past two months. I used to NEVER get colds. I think I went three straight years without getting a cold. I was getting more sleep back then though.

Fortunately, this cold is not nearly as bad as the last one. I thought the last one was going to kill me. I had it mid November. That cold was strange, because it hit me every other day. It's like I had a day off from my cold and then the next day it came back with a vengeance.

Because I'm fairly new to the cold, I am completely ghetto when it comes to meds. My two old roommates introduced me to Airbourne and Cold Eeze lozenges. I've had the NyQuil conversation with many people. Most people love it...I hate it. I have this memory of me sitting at my bed when I was about 14 years old, holding a little 1 oz plastic cup with bright green syrup in it trying not to gag at the sight of it. I stared at it for a good ten minutes before I finally took the shot. I hate that feeling of alcohol going down my throat and then having it linger there. I swore I would never drink the devil's poison again.

And then last November, I drank some. My cold was bad. My head felt like it was going to fall off my body and I needed to get through a day of work. I'm a grown up now, it was time to grow up and drink the nasty stuff. It wasn't as awful as I feared but it wasn't good. And I tasted that stuff for the next two days. I've sworn it off again.

Anyway, again, last November I called my sister who seems to be sick all the time now that she has a kid, and told her I had a cold. She said to take Zycam. But apparently it was too late for Zycam. I was past the sore throat stage. Now it was time for Mucinex. I popped one of those right before going out to dinner with friends. I felt great. But the next day I started to act loopy and was told I wasn't answering questions.

Now, about six weeks later, I am currently on Zycam and Mucinex. Only this time I am drinking ALL THE TIME because I figured out the last time I took Mucinex I didn't eat or drink anything that day and so I was SEVERELY dehydrated. I'm feeling a little better, but still kinda dizzy.

Because I'm not used to being sick, I'm not used to all the remedies people have for the common cold, but I'm open to try them. The last time I was sick, Annie gave me some tea that was supposed to soothe my throat. Eh. She also gave me this eucalyptus ball that you're supposed to throw in a pot of boiling water and then hover over it with a towel over your head. I tried it. It did clear up my sinuses for a little while. Some girl in my choir told me to gargle with Listerine. She said the alcohol kills the germs in your throat and that's where the cold starts.

Everyone seems to have different ones. We just had people over for ward prayer. My plan was to stay upstairs and out of the way, but I ended up staying downstairs and talking to people. Here is what I got tonight:

Gargle with salt water (tried that when I was little, made me gag)
Drink the caramel apple cider at Starbucks.
Airbourne.

Here's my thing with airbourne and zycam and cold eeze and anything else that is supposed to "shorten" your cold. I use this stuff, but I'm not sure if there's any way of knowing if it works or not. You're only supposed to take a certain amount of airbourne within 24 hours or else it will damage your liver. I will watch the clock, counting down the minutes until I can take the next one. I can take zycam every four hours. I've been taking airbourne AND zycam for the past 24 hours and I'm feeling ok. My throat is still a little raw. I think what's mostly making me feel crummy right now is the effects of Mucinex. Maybe I just have a less severe cold, or maybe if I haven't been taking these remedies, it would be way more intense, I don't know. Here is what I do know: NyQuil makes me gag and say things I wouldn't normally say. Mucinex makes me dizzy, nauseous, and incoherent.

Oh look, it's 10 PM and it's time for another Zycam.

Monday, December 22, 2008

NYC 2008



Special thanks to the following:

Jane and Maria for free lodging and playing with me.
SLCVB for the free Nutcracker tickets.
Annie's client Mary for lunch in Chinatown.
Clay for house tickets at his play.
Our bishop for sponsoring dessert at Carnegie Deli
Annie for inviting me in the first place.

No thanks to the following:

The lady on my flight over who claimed the empty seat between us as her own.
The downpour after the Nutcracker for soaking my shoes
The lady on 96th street for looking me up and down in disapproval. Yes, I know, my red coat did not match my purple skirt. I pack light.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Santas and Snowmen

Last month my mom told me she’s ready to go back to her Scandinavian Christmas tree. When I was much younger she had a Scandinavian themed tree but about ten years ago she went to a different kind of theme with “bubble gum” lights and lots of shiny ornaments.

We sat down at her computer so she could show me pictures of all the Christmas ornaments she plans on making for her tree. I made about 6 or 7 of these Santa tomtes with my mom for my tree this year – which is Scandinavian actually, but mostly because I bought my ornaments at IKEA last year. But I love my homemade tomtes.

Anyway, as we clicked through dozens of websites with crafts, fabrics and other ornaments Mom started talking about her mother and the things Grandma would make when she was little. Mom said a lot of the stuff we were looking at was just like it. I don’t think my mom noticed, but I had to wipe away a few tears as a wave of nostalgia came over me and I suddenly missed my Grandma Christensen.

Grandma died nine years ago of ovarian cancer. She was fairly young. I miss her all the time.

I think about my Grandma a lot, especially at Christmastime, since every Christmas Eve was spent at her house. We always had a Christmas program and every year it was a tradition to beg Grandma to sing “Baby it’s Cold Outside” with my Grandpa. She had to tear herself away from whatever was keeping her busy in the kitchen, but she always gave in (that's my mom playing the piano and her bridal picture on the piano).

I had the honor of speaking at Grandma's funeral, and this is one of the memories I shared:

One thing about Grandma was that everything in her house had its place and she knew where everything was at all times. When I was very little, my brother and sister and I were staying at Grandma and Grandpa’s house while our parents were on vacation. Grandma took me into Uncle Tony’s old room to show me a flashlight that she thought I might like to see. She took me to the desk, pulled open the drawer and pulled out the flashlight. Because it was made with clear plastic, I could see the batteries inside. The batteries were blue with pictures of snowmen printed on them. I loved the flashlight and immediately imagined how fun it would be to play with it in the dark when everyone else was asleep. So later that day when she was in the kitchen I took it out of its drawer, brought it into the TV room where I’d be sleeping later and hid it in my sleeping bag.

That night, Grandma came to tuck us in. She felt something at the bottom of my sleeping bag and asked me what it was. I told her I didn’t know and she said goodnight and went to bed. Unfortunately, I ended up sleeping straight through the night so my plans of playing with the snowman flashlight in the dark never happened. When I woke up, I remembered I had the flashlight in there and thought I better replace it before Grandma was up. I felt for it at the bottom of my sleeping bag. It was gone! I panicked as I got up and turned my sleeping bag upside down; shaking it in hopes the flashlight would fall out. It wasn’t there. I froze for a few moments for fear of what likely happened. I tiptoed past Grandma and Grandpa’s bedroom and into the room with the desk where she kept it and opened the drawer to find the flashlight back in its proper place exactly where she left it before. I learned at an early age there was no fooling Grandma.


Sometimes I feel bad for my younger cousins because they didn’t get to experience Christmas at Grandma and Grandpa’s house like I did. But then again, I’m sure their Christmases are just as special to them as mine were to me. I just hope my kids get to spend many, many Christmases with their grandparents.

Last night when I climbed into bed I closed my eyes and tried to remember what Grandma's hugs felt like. And I realized they kind of felt like my mom's hugs. And that made me happy.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Skimpy

I was buying evaporated milk a couple weeks ago for a fudge recipe. Sometimes when I make grocery lists, I put down the box or can size I need so I can be sure I get the right amount for the recipe. Evaporated milk is pretty standard: they have small cans and large cans. I found my Carnation evaporated milk and started to put it in my cart when I noticed it was a 12 oz can. I looked at my list and I noted a 14 oz can. I looked on the shelf to see if other brands offered 14 oz cans, but unfortunately, there weren’t any other brands. I asked a guy shelving the cake mixes, “Does evaporated milk come in 14 oz cans?” He clearly didn’t know, because he came over, looked at my can, looked at the cans on the shelf, and then said “Guess not.” Thanks. I guess I didn’t really expect there to be 14 oz cans, I was just kind of verbalizing what seems to be happening with a lot of products: downsizing.

It seems to be the manufacturer’s way of increasing prices without increasing prices. It’s sneaky, but it’s kind of genius. They actually had a segment about this on the Today Show this morning. I think companies know that increasing prices will have a more negative impact on their sales. I’m not THAT picky about my brands, so if Kellogg’s Raisin Bran is even 30 cents less than Post, I’ll go for the Kellogg’s.

Fortunately, I’m a savvy shopper. I don’t know how or when I started looking closely at prices per ounce, but it has changed the way I shop for groceries. I make sure I’m getting the most for my money. And now is definitely the time to do that, as you’ll see Skippy skimping on their ounces, even though the jar will look like the same size. If you turn the jar upside down, you’ll see the bottom is more concave than it used to be. You’ll notice tuna cans are a little shorter, and cereal boxes are a little thinner, or the bags inside are a little smaller – sneaky. Even though your eyes can deceive you, prices per ounce can’t (without a law suit).

Honestly, if their production costs are up, and the natural solution is to make the consumer pay more, in most cases, I would prefer they give me less product than increase the price. I went ahead with my fudge recipe using 12 oz of the evaporated milk. I may have put in a bit less chocolate and sugar and butter to even everything out. The recipe didn’t suffer for it. I don’t really care or notice if I have fewer potato chips or Golden Grahams. I don’t care if my Kleenex sheets are one inch shorter; I probably didn’t need the whole surface area of the Kleenex anyway – as long as I’m getting the same amount of sheets. The downsizing is working on me. I’m still buying their products because they’re the same price (or in some cases, less).

I was a little put off last week when I went to Big City Soup and saw prices underneath the pieces of bread they used to give you for free. You would get bread, 1 oz of Tillamook cheese and some mints. Now if I wanted bread it was going to cost me $1.39. I looked at how much my soup cost and saw that the price went down. Ahh...but the price didn't really go down did it. The cashier asked me if I wanted bread. “Does it come with the soup?” Again, stupid question, because I already knew the answer, I was just making the point that I was hip to their little a la carte scheme. I decided I didn’t want bread. I never eat all of it anyway. I’m really just there for the soup (although I really like that cheese). With tax, my soup cost me $5 even. Nice. So with the bread and cheese, it would have cost me a little over $7. That’s only 75 cents more than I paid in the past when all 3 items came together as a meal deal – interesting that I opted for the lower price for less food.

Come to think of it, I would kind of prefer that restaurants give me smaller portions than increase prices on their dishes. I don’t need that much food – especially at Mexican restaurants. I can name about a dozen guys I’ve been to lunch with that would wholeheartedly disagree with my price/portion philosophy but I am littler than they are. As is my metabolism. If I'm disciplined enough to not overeat, I usually end up taking it home for lunch the next day, but some food doesn’t refrigerate well, and sometimes I didn’t like it and don’t want to eat it again.

I guess the point is restaurants and food companies are being sneaky to get the most out of the consumer. One of my favorite movie scenes ever is in Father of the Bride. Remember when Steve Martin just hits the fan after he starts to come to terms with how much his daughter’s wedding is going to cost? He goes to the grocery store for hot dogs and hot dog buns and starts removing buns from half his bags because he’s angry that hot dogs come in packages of 10 and buns come in packages of 8, so the victimized consumer has to buy two packages of buns in order to have enough for the 10 hot dogs but is left with “superfluous” buns.

I feel like I waste a lot of food like that, especially being single and cooking for myself. I can’t eat a whole loaf of bread by myself (they sold half loafs for awhile, but the price wasn’t worth it). Produce is the worst. Rarely do I eat a whole head of lettuce or all that celery by myself. It’s hard and I end up with wasted food. My sour cream goes bad, my can of refried beans goes bad, my pasta sauce goes bad. I’m not saying I like getting less for my money, but if manufacturers are struggling in this economy, I’d rather pay the same price for fewer ounces than pay more and end up wasting food I couldn’t eat by myself.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Rooty-toot-toots and Rummy-tum-tums

If you haven’t spoken with me or you haven’t noticed the ad on the sidebar of my blog, I have a Christmas concert coming up next week with the Utah Chamber Artists. The concert is on Monday and Tuesday.

Tickets are $10 for students and $15 for non-degree seeking adults. However, because the executive director is a close, personal mother of mine and I do free design work for them, I was given a limited number of $5 tickets for friends/family who would like to come.

This year’s Christmas concert is at the First Presbyterian Church on South Temple. It’s going to be awesome. I only have ten $5 tickets though. I’m actually not sure if more than ten people (in town) read my blog and are interested in a ticket, but this is what I came up with as far as divvying them out:

Below is a Christmas carol quiz*. Here are the rules:

1. Pick one question that hasn’t already been answered by a previous commenter and if you get it right, and you want to come to the concert, you can have a $5 ticket.
2. Tell me which night you prefer, Monday or Tuesday (both concerts are at 7:30 PM.

Here are the limitations:

1. Only one ticket per commenter. If you want to bring a date, you can purchase more tickets at utahchamberartists.org or from me.
2. You have to pay me by Sunday, December 7th
3. If something comes up and you can't make it, please try to find someone to use it, or try to give me 48 hours notice and I'll find someone who will use it. There’s a reason we do the Christmas concert two nights instead of one.

If there are more than ten comments on here and you still want to come to the concert, I hope you will anyway, even if you have to pay full price. You won’t be sorry. I know several of my blog readers came to the last concert in October and loved it.


1. "The Christmas Song" refers to "folks dressed up like---

Elves
Angels
Eskimos
Chewbacca


2. What were the last words of Frosty the Snowman?

"Hold my beer and watch this."
"Catch me if you can!"
"Ahh, I can't wait to get in that hot shower."
"I'll be back again someday."


3. In "Joy to the World," Jesus is said to rule the world with ---

Truth and grace
Love and hope
Mercy and care
Clout and cash


4. In "The Little Drummer Boy," how does Baby Jesus react to the stylings of the impoverished percussionist?

He smiles
He nods and keeps time with the ox and lamb
He sleeps in heavenly peace
He weeps inconsolably because, like almost everybody else, he too hates "The Little Drummer Boy."


5. When the angels proclaim the birth of Jesus to the shepherds in "Angels We Have Heard on High," they sing, "Gloria, in excelsis Deo." This is Latin for:

Fa la la
Such a glorious day!
Gloria is with Mary in the stable
Glory to God in the highest


6. "Hannuka, Oh Hannuka" tells us to come light---

The Yule log
The menorah
The dreidl
The latkes


7. In "Carol of the Bells," what is it that the "sweet silver bells" seem to be saying?

Merry Christmas
Christ is born of Mary
Throw cares away
Let's eat!


8. "Up on the Housetop" contains a reference to Santa bringing several toys that would not pass muster with child-safety watchdog groups. Which of the following gifts is NOT mentioned in the song?

A whip
A hammer
Tacks
An asbestos teddy bear

9. In "Jingle Bells," the singer says that one day he went out on the snow and fell on his back. A gentleman then came by in a one-horse open sleigh. What does he do?

He sings a song
He lifts the fallen man and carries him inside
He alights from his sleigh and falls down himself
He laughs and rides away

10. In "Winter Wonderland," the singers build a snowman, and pretend that he is Parson Brown. What is their answer when this fictional clergyman asks if they are married?

Oh, yes
No, man!
Get lost!
As if!


*Quiz taken from the Chicago Tribune.

Oh, and if anyone can enlighten me as to what a "rummy-tum-tum" is I will personally buy your ticket.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Perfect Light

Looks like I'm speaking in sacrament meeting on Sunday. I started to look through some old talks of mine today to see what I've talked about in the past. I talk about light and faith a lot. I came across this one I gave six years ago. I really like it and I think it's appropriate for the season. And since I have nothing else to write about, I would like to say amen again to this.


September 15, 2002
Hidden Valley 5th Ward

When Edward L. Hart wrote "Our Savior's Love,” it was culminated as a reverent prayer to the Father. The hymn has three verses: the first speaks of the Son, the second speaks of the Holy Ghost and the third speaks of the Father. Analyzing a hymn is like analyzing a poem. Poets use words in their utmost meaning. Each word bears tremendous significance because in poetry each word must be chosen carefully making the meaning all the more eloquent and powerful. Another beautiful thing about poetry is what may mean one thing to one person, might mean something completely different to another. For me, the overlying theme in "Our Savior's Love" is about contrast, and how once we see how our life can be with the Savior up against our life without Him, the better choice is clear.

The hymn also illustrates the well-known simile comparing our Savior to light. The scriptures are full of verses and phrases that pair Christ with light: Jesus is the “light” of the world; knowledge is often referred to as the “Light” of Christ. In Doctrine and Covenants section 14 Jesus Christ describes himself as a light, which cannot be hid in darkness. The prophet Isaiah said:

"The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory."

As I was preparing this talk, the scriptures I read and the things I pondered reminded me of a paper I wrote in college. The paper was about a small painting by a Northern Renaissance artist named Geertgen tot Sint Jans. I'm showing you two pictures here for the purpose of comparison and contarst: The first is by Robert Campin and the second is by Geertgen tot Sint Jans.

The Nativity is a common theme depicted by artists and was especially popular during the Renaissance. All the paintings depict a similar scene: a stable, Mary, Joseph, an ox, an ass, adoring angels and, of course, the Christ Child. But for me, Geertgen's painting stood apart from other Nativities our class studied. Most of the artists depicting the Nativity at the time chose to set the scene during the daytime. The sun was out and everything was uniformly lit. In many scenes you could see unrelated figures in the background. But Geertgen's piece struck me as the Holy Family was shown in the stable at night amidst the darkness.

Not only does this comparison between a daytime setting and a nighttime setting illustrate the literal contrast between light and dark, but it also explains the metaphorical contrast as well: the world before Christ came, and the world now that He has come.

In Geertgen's painting, The Christ child is the only source of light. The artist shows us the contrast of light entering a world of darkness demonstrating a moving metaphor. There is no sunlight; there are no lanterns, only the emanating light from the Savior. Each figure paying devotion to the Savior is illuminated by His radiance. It is because of His light that the viewer can even see Mary, Joseph, and even the angels in the scene. The simplicity of the painting parallels the simplicity of the message. If you take the Savior out of the picture, the painting is virtually extinguished.

I see this as being similar to what happens if we are to take Christ out of our lives. The choice is obvious. A life without the Savior and his love is a life of darkness and confusion. Meaning and purpose would be lost.

The first verse of “Our Savior’s Love” reads: "Our Savior's love shines like the sun with perfect light." The simile comparing the Savior to light is not a new one. But this lyric goes a specific step further comparing the love of the Savior to perfect light. What is perfect light? When I think of perfect light I think of it being pure, clear and unobstructed. All three of these words can be used to describe the love our Savior has for us: His love is the purest love we can find, it is clear, and it is unobstructed - or for the sake of a better word, unconditional. He offers it unconditionally and it will always be waiting for us. We don't even have to ask for it.

The second line of the hymn reads, "As from above, it breaks thru clouds of strife." The love of our Savior can penetrate any conflict, rebellion or dissension. President Monson once advised us to: "Look to the lighthouse of the Lord. There is no fog so dense, no night so dark, no gale so strong, no mariner so lost but what its beacon light can rescue."

Many say blessings follow tribulation. We are saved shortly after we're at our lowest, our darkest of hours. Maybe that is because seeing how awful things can be prepares us to accept and appreciate how wonderful and miraculous things can be.

You may have read The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas. At the end of the book, the Count addresses Maximelien in a letter and says something that has stayed with me ever since I read it in high school:

"Here is my secret of conduct toward you: there is neither happiness nor unhappiness in this world; there is only the comparison of one state with another. Only a man who has felt ultimate despair is capable of feeling ultimate bliss."

That is a noble perspective to have when trials begin to overwhelm us. When things get difficult, when bad things happen to good people, it is not because the Savior has neglected us or has ceased loving us. It doesn’t have to mean punishment for something we have done. The law of cause and effect doesn't work with love in the truest and purest sense of the word. Our Savior's love is one of the few things we don't have to earn.

Crawford Gates wrote the music to this hymn. He said that for him, the melody does not seem to tire easily. I believe the same can be said for the love our Lord has for us. It has always been there and it will always be there. His love and blessings are granted to everyone. It's what we do with that love that makes the difference.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Things that make me go "WOW!"

That was the theme for the Reflections Contest this year.

If you aren't familiar with the Reflections Contest, it's an arts recognition and achievement program put on by the PTA that most schools encourage their students to enter. I remember I entered it a couple times.

The first year I entered I was in 2nd or 3rd grade and the theme was "What Sparks My Imagination." I didn't win anything. I remember seeing my picture displayed way up high on the wall in the kiva at Sunrise Elementary. If you're familiar with art history and "salon style" hanging, that means my picture was really bad. The good stuff is at eye level -- and typically hangs on one line rather than several rows above and below it. It was a poster board sized picture of a rainbow with a pot of gold and a leprechaun.

The very next year, I believe my sister Lisa was in Kindergarten and she entered the Reflections contest. I don't remember what the theme was, but she entered a picture of a rainbow with a pot of gold and a leprechaun. She won a prize.

When Lisa was in 5th grade she decided to enter the music category. She doesn't really read music, but she was always good at sitting down and plunking out little tunes and melodies. The theme that year was something like, "If you could choose your favorite time..." and then you were supposed to create something that answered the question. Lisa's answer to that question was a little song that she could probably still play for you called "It would be Spring." I think it's hilarious that the title of her piece is a literal answer to the question, but not knowing what the question was made the title all the more poetic and abstract. Anyway, she won a prize.

I won't tell the story of when she was in high school and her photography teacher offered extra credit to his students to enter the contest. I'll let her tell it in the comment box if she wants, but long story short, she won a prize. She also broke into the school library and took it down off the wall when the winners were on display. We'll just leave it at that.

My brother Carter was a very good artist and I think he won the Reflections Contest more than once. I wish I had pictures of those. One was crazy with flying cars and cats climbing on buildings.

Anyway, this year I was asked to jury the visual arts category for an elementary school in Kaysville. They split it up into three different grade levels: K-2, 3-5 and then 6th grade. I looked at a lot of things that make kids go "Wow!"

It was interesting how much more boring things got at the higher age levels. You could tell after the 2nd grade kids start to learn how things are supposed to look and be drawn and so all the imagination and whimsy starts to dwindle. There were a couple pictures of rainbows and leprechauns, which made me realize my idea in grade school wasn't all that original.

Here are descriptions of my favorites:

A Kindergartner had a big piece of paper that was all blotchy with black, blue and green colors. It was very minimal. Every now and then I would check the back of the piece to see what they called it. So I looked. "Space."

This one second grader painted a picture of dogs in a field. On the back there was an explanation, "I like my dogs and I think this painting is fantastic because my flowers look so real up against the mountains" -- this kid is basically saying, "I am awesome."

One of my favorites was a picture of three aliens. Each had six arms and was pointing up at the sky: One said, "It's a bird!" Another, "It's a plane!" and the last, "It's my cousin."

Speaking of aliens, check out this picture my 5 year-old niece entered into the Reflections this year:

One girl got a green piece of paper and then drew the word "Wow." She didn't get high marks. Neither did most of the 6th graders. In fact, we didn't even recommend any of the 6th graders' sculpture for advancement. One was a mediocre looking popsicle stick house. Very boring, and how does that make you go "Wow"?

Then there were a couple pieces that were really lame. Remember how you would get the tissue paper squares, wrap them on the head of your pencil and glue a bunch of them on a piece of paper to create a picture of something?

Well one was a jack-o-lantern. On the back the sixth grader (sixth grader!) said, "I chose a jack-o-lantern because I think they're cool." No you didn't. You chose a jack-o-lantern because it was a class assignment and then your teacher said you'd get extra credit if you entered the contest so you used what you already had, irrespective of the year's Reflections theme.

If I were a parent, I'd encourage my kids to enter the dance category or film, or music. MUCH less competitive. And the criteria for interpreting the theme is probably more lenient. In fact, the music judges were working the same time I was. I still have that "variations on twinkle twinkle little star" in a minor key in my head...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Dear Ilene

I’ve been meaning to write you a thank you note for a couple days now, and then I got your comment on my blog yesterday and so now this has evolved into a thank you / apology.

I am sorry I didn’t call you when I got home to let you know I arrived OK. To be honest, when you said that to me as I was leaving, I thought you were kidding (given the first paragraph in my most recent Grandma Durham post). I did think to call you when I got home but it was kind of late and I figured I’d talk to you soon enough. Oh, and I never got your text asking if I was dead. Did you get my text last night telling you I was, in fact, alive?

By the way, did you see me turn the wrong direction as I pulled out of your driveway? I hope so because I thought it was hilarious seeing how you asked me if I knew how to get back to the freeway and I said yes. Maybe that’s why you were worried about me getting home OK.

And I was thinking as I drove off that I should have offered to hang out longer and watch your kids while you picked up Dan and Jackson at church so you didn’t have to load them in the car again. And then I could have said goodbye to everyone. I’m a bad friend sometimes. It was fun going to church with you again, just like we did in college. With you sitting next to your husband this time and me entertaining Tommy, I did feel somewhat of a sister wife, but somehow it was still like old times.

On to the thank you: I had the best time with you this weekend! Thanks for being such a hospitable hostess (making me meals, buying me lunch). You’re so grown up to have a “guest” room where I can stay. And it was amazing to arrive only to see you making chicken noodle soup from scratch.

Your boys are adorable and Jackson was such a good boy to set the table. I miss playing hot and cold with him and I miss holding out my thumbs to Tommy’s fists so he could attempt to climb up on me all the while calling me “mama”. I’m also going to miss overhearing you answer Dan’s questions only to have you realize he was talking to the voice in his blue tooth – not you.

I miss holding baby Laura. She is so sweet and I love that she has dark hair. She is going to be a knockout in the red dresses we picked out for her! She looks good in red, brown, and yellow. I can’t wait for pictures. There isn’t anyone I would rather share my name with.

Visiting you this weekend has inspired me to do the following:

Buy a Le Creuset pot
Slice bell peppers in my Cuisinart (I found my slicer/grater blade)
Take pictures of the pretty food I make
Sew valences for my windows
Buy pillows from Cynthia (did that yesterday)
Seek out my celebrity double so I can shadow her fashion choices
…and burn half the pictures of me in college (I think you were right, how we escaped college unmarried is clear)

And you can tell Dan I’ll think about cable some more. I loved how he had to pause the DVR so we could talk about it.

You are a wonderful friend. You have a god-given ability to love and accept me for who I am and at the same time inspire me to be a better person. You remind me of all the good things I want in life. It’s no wonder I’m willing to drive half a day to spend two days with you. Some day when I have a family I’m going to make sure we have enough rooms so you can all stay with us.

xoxo,

Laura

P.S. You can also expect a card in the mail.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Extra Work

When you’ve had the same job for as long as I have (seven years) it’s likely the novelty of being a grown up has worn off. What used to be exciting and just as enjoyable as your “non working” hours becomes nothing more than work. And that’s when you start to wonder whether it’s time for a new job or maybe you’ve just been doing this so long you take it for granted. I ask myself these questions all the time.


When I’m feeling down on my job I’ve learned the best thing to do is not necessarily look for another job, but rather add extra “little jobs” that make me feel like I’m doing something different. I’ve been through this exercise a few times in the past four years; the most recent being my work as a culinary assistant at Sur la Table. I love to cook and I love discounts on kitchen stuff so it perked up my regular work funk like a charm. Extra jobs can be fun.


But my first moonlighting gig was working as an extra for Knightstar Media. It began about 4 years ago. This guy in my ward was in Napoleon Dynamite and probably got a bunch of commission for getting several of us to pay $30 and sign up as an on-call extra. It was exciting because I love movies and television and being around film crews energizes me.


I think I only worked a total of four jobs for them. It’s hard when they need you to dedicate a full day to be on call and you already have a full time job. I only did the Saturday jobs or the ones when the call time started after 3 PM. That was the only way extra work could outpay my regular work. But I had to turn down a lot of requests. They kept calling me because I was a good extra. What makes a good extra? It’s simple: if you’re reliable they think you’re a godsend. Apparently a lot of people out there don’t keep their word, they’re chronically late and they don’t do what they’re asked. Crazy.


My first job was for a drive-in movie scene in the WB’s Everwood. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Everwood, it was a WB show filmed in Utah. They needed teenagers or people who could get away with looking like a teenager. My friend Jon and I went together. I got paid an extra $10 for allowing them to use my car. Just like people, they’re picky about their cars; it had to be a midsize and it couldn’t be white, black or red. It was kind of cold that night, but we all stood out in the cold for about 3 or 4 hours while they shot the scene. That was an easy $75.


I also did a scene at an office. I had to drive up to Ogden for this one. It was in an old building – that’s all I remember. It was only a two hour commitment so that was another easy $75.


The most fun to shoot was a scene where I was actually on camera. I was a nurse at a hospital and I was instructed to walk past the actors with my clipboard. I did it a few times, each time I did it a little different. On the third take the assistant director yelled, “Laura, you’re a genius!” I’m not sure what I did different that time, but I felt like I really earned my $75 that day.


At some point, I stopped opening the email requests from Knightstar and began turning down every request from my agent. Being an extra became less and less appealing. With the exception of the guy who said I was a genius, they treat you like crap. It’s pretty humbling actually. It doesn’t matter how important you are or how much respect you’re entitled to at your day job. On an extra set you are not a hardworking, intelligent college grad who actually has better places to be. It doesn’t matter what your name is, how hungry you are or how cold it is outside. While the actors sit in their heated trailers you’re standing outside in 40 degree weather wearing a linen skirt and short sleeves because in TV land it’s supposed to be July.


Would I do it again? Probably not – because when you’re actually treated with respect and consideration by people in other aspects of your life, it’s hard to go back and allow someone to squash you without even caring to glance back (literally, in some cases).


Or maybe it’s because the show was canceled.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Sushi and Chicken Pot Pie To Go

I woke up this morning to my phone ringing. I kind of guessed who it was before I checked the ID.

“Hi Grandma.”
“Laura...?”
“Yes.”
“I have been worried sick about you!”
“I know, I'm sorry I forgot to call you, but when I got home I immediately went out with friends and I got distracted...”


You know when you leave someone's house and they say something like, “Drive safely, and will you call me when you get home?” I've never been good at that. I always forget.

I left Grandma's house around eight o'clock last night. The last time I spent an evening with Grandma was back in January. We talked on the phone last week and she said she wanted to buy me a top and take me to dinner. She said, “I don't do Christmas or birthday gifts for my grandchildren so I like to treat you when I can. Do you know how many grandchildren I have? Do you know how many great grandchildren I have?” And then she goes off on stories about her great grandchildren. “Do you know Matt and Mary Margaret?” She actually asked me that twice during our 20 minute conversation. “Oh right, Matt's your uncle isn't he?” Actually, he's my cousin, but some things you let go.

When I got to Grandma's she asked if I wanted to drive my car or if I wanted to drive her car.

“Let's drive your car. It's a lot nicer than mine,” I said as I opened the door for her.
“Why?”
“Because this is a Lexus and mine is a Chevy Prizm.”

As I pulled out of the driveway she started to give me a tour of the neighborhood. She noticed the man raking leaves across the street.

“Oh, be careful. Stay away from that man. He does not like me at all.”
“Why doesn't he like you?”
“Because I brag about my children. He tells me everyone thinks their children are the best. He is NOT a nice man. And this is where my dentist lives. He is a nice man. What do you think of his house?”
“It's nice.”
“It's a monster.”

We got to the boutique she wanted to take me to. It's called Frolics. The lady there knows her well. Grandma said she wanted to give me $100 and see what I could do with it. Half the stuff in there was over $100 but I managed to find a very cute shirt.

“Well that's only $65...” she said.
“I know. Good deal huh?”
“Don't you want something else? I have $100.”

I didn't know I was on the Price is Right. I looked around for something else while Grandma chatted with the owner. I ended up with a necklace. Grandma handed over her VISA debit card but it was declined. The owner politely asked for another card.

“No. I don't believe in owning more than one card.” Grandma preached.
“Well,” the nice lady patiently continued, “Let me try it again.” Again, it was declined.
“I'm sorry, it's not going through” she repeated. I'm glad no one else was in the store when Grandma said,

“That's impossible. I have thirty thousand dollars in my checking account.”

I hid my face in embarrassment while Grandma explained how she manages her finances, which is totally ridiculous if you ask me and just about anyone else in our family. Grandma ended up handing over two fifties and then looked over to me and said, “Looks like you're gonna have to get dinner.”

Grandma wanted to try this place called Organics in Sugarhouse that doesn't really exist. She said it was on 2100 South and 800 East. When we approached 8th East she looked over at the Original Pancake House and said, “Is that it?”

What we did find was a place called Au Naturale which I think is what she was thinking of. We decided to go through the drive thru and take it home. Strange place. Any place where chicken pot pie and sushi are on the same menu has got to be weird, right? Anyway, that's what we took home with us. Grandma had her heart set on pot pie and the tuna roll looked good to me.

When we got back we set the table and she asked me if I wanted a fork. “No, I'll just use these chopsticks they gave me.”

“Show me how you use them.” I picked them up and grabbed a piece of sushi and put it in my mouth. “Well, aren't you talented” she said.

Dinner conversation consisted of her asking how everyone in my family is doing and if I'm still in the singles ward and if there are any interesting people there. Then she started talking more about my dad.

“Your father said he and your mother eat out too much.”
“Really?”
“Yes. But your mother loves to cook doesn't she?”
“I guess so.”
“Does she pack him a lunch to take to work?” I don't think my mom has EVER packed my dad a lunch for work. The very idea made me laugh out loud. If she's reading this and I'm wrong, she can correct me.

“Then where does your father eat lunch?”
“I don't know Grandma.”
“Well aren't you curious?”

And that's when I realized a fundamental difference between her and me. She is curious about EVERYTHING which is why she asks me about EVERYTHING that is going on in my life and the lives of everyone around me. I don't think about where my dad goes to eat lunch. Maybe if he told me about going somewhere for lunch and then snuck off somewhere else, THEN I'd be curious about it. But I really never cared. Sorry Dad.

After dinner I set her clocks back for her. I showed her that the microwave has a digital clock and isn't supposed to say 0:00 all the time. We watched an episode of Seinfeld, some MSNBC and then I was on my way.

I don't visit her often enough. I better write a thank you.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

You have to really want it.

This is our much awaited, much rehearsed song for the 2008 Ward Talent Show. I was so crazed trying to get my costume together I forgot my camera, so I recruited the help of my friend Jon, to record it with his real video camera, but his file was too large to put on my blog. So instead you have to go to this link. I couldn't get it to load on my home computer, but after about 4 minutes it loaded on my computer here at work. So good luck. And thank you, Jon.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What? For me?

Wow! I got a blog award from one of the coolest people I know! Her name is Jaime Mormann Richardson and I worked with her at the LRC at BYU. We kinda kept in touch after school, but not really. Now with the advent of blogs we are reunited in mutual admiration. Be sure to check out her blog sophistimom. She is a culinary and all around lifestyle genius. I want to be a mom like her someday. I loved her post on manners.

I've received a blog award once before from someone I've never met named Abel, but I visited his blog regularly and I was flattered to get a mention from him. However, I failed to follow the rules and list my 5 current favorite blogs. So I'm going to do that now. Because I follow so many great blogs, it's hard to pick five. I feel like it's setting me up for hurting feelings. Please don't let me hurt your feelings if you're not on here. These just happen to be on my mind right now.

1. Kells Belles
This is my sister in law. I remember her talking to me earlier this year about starting a blog. I'm so glad she did, because I smile everytime Google Reader tells me she's updated. She's a great writer and I laugh out loud at her stories about her kids.

2. Miss Sorenson
This is my friend Kristi. It took her way too long to start a blog, but it was a winner from the beginning with the stories about her first graders. "Kids Say the Darndest Things" ain't got nothin on this blog.

3. Cupcake Blog
If you know me, you probably know I love to bake, and if you really know me you probably know I love miniature cupcakes. And if you're a trusted friend you know I had a dream last year to start my own cupcake business. Hasn't happened, but my adoration for creative mini cupcakes lives on. My friend Shannon introduced me to this blog and the first picture I saw was a mini apple spice cupcake with caramel on top and a wooden stick stuck in it. I was hooked. I didn't necessarily want to eat it, but I thought it was pure genious.

4. Red Delicious
I don't know if this breaks the rules because I've really only read one or two posts by this blogger. But the post I link to has got to be one of the funniest things I've ever read. Not a whole lot of her recent stuff has captivated me, but this one post is worth the mention. She's a pastry chef which might explain her bias.

5. The Cinematic Experience
Instead of choosing John's blog and/or Cameron's blog, which are usually excellent, I'm going to go for the hybrid. This is their new joint effort in a movie review show that actually airs on Comcast Channel 6 (I think -- I don't have cable so I have to watch it on the blog). The blog needs some work on its layout and aesthetic, but that should come with time. Each post is a 5 minute episode of them reviewing a different movie. They don't claim to be experts or anything, they're just an average movie goer like you.



On a completely different note, I feel I should report on my week of not spending and if it was painful or not. I was stellar. Except for today...but listen to this: I am planning a trip to New York and round-trip Delta flights were only $218! Come ON! You don't say no to that fare, even if you weren't planning a trip. I could have waited until tomorrow but if fares go up I will kick myself. And THAT would be painful. I think I made the wise choice.

I'll tell you what, I have a weekly obligation to my church to design and print the Sunday program. I typically upload the file to Kinkos' website for them to print every Thursday and charge it to my credit card. I do this on Thursday because I don't work on Fridays and it's easier to just take care of it at my work computer. Because I'm devoted to my goal I emailed the file to myself so I can order it tomorrow. The thought did cross my mind to just bag the whole not spending thing since I already charged my card for the airfare but then I thought, "No, I am not going to be that person who throws everything out the window because of one little slip up (if you feel good about calling it that)." Just because I used my card doesn't mean I stop trying.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Pain of Not Spending

I was listening to Planet Money on NPR (I recently subscribed to this podcast that updates me on the economy everyday and explains it in a way I understand). The episode was called “The Pain of Not Spending.” They talked about the recession and said spending was down 1.2% in September. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but apparently it is. They said that’s enough for you to notice a drop in inventory and a drop in prices.

A drop in prices sounded great until they talked about the pitfalls of deflation. Spending is an important indicator of a recession and they said in September the American consumer was our last hope for the economy, but people stopped buying things. I haven't felt the pain yet.

So here they are telling me that the consumer is hurting the economy by not spending money. Yet, we’re told not to live beyond our means (even the guy explaining this said he’s cut his living costs). Getting loans that we can’t afford to pay back is a big part of what’s wrong with the economy, right? It’s a big part of all the foreclosures and the banks not wanting to lend to each other, right? So is it people with money that aren’t spending it? Is that the problem?

For a few days now, I’ve been thinking about how much money I spend. I mean, I’m always thinking about what I spend, but lately I’ve realized I’ve been spending a lot more than I usually spend.

I bought 4 items at Costco the other day and spent $60. And I spent $40 at the grocery store the day before – that’s $100 on groceries in two days. I remember in college I got by on $50 a month. I ate a lot of soup and peanut butter sandwiches, but I got by.

I eat out a lot more and I cook more elaborate meals. I also have more money than I used to. But still, I think saving money is fun, so despite what economists are telling me to do, I’m going to stop spending money – for a little while.

I decided to see how long I could go without handing over cash or my credit card. I have a freezer full of food, I have a tank full of gas and I think I’m going to try it. I’m giving myself through Thursday (I have a hair appointment on Friday). So if I count yesterday (and I’m going to) that should be 5 days of not spending. I’ll report back and let you know how painful it was.

Now, don’t get all literal on me and tell me I need to turn off the water and gas and everything – utilities are excluded from this exercise. I went to the dentist for a crown today, but I don’t plan on paying him for awhile.

And if you think it would be funny to tempt me by inviting me to lunch, you’re right. That’s funny. It’s also mean. But I’ll still say yes; I’ll just eat before I go or pick off your plate. Or I have a coupon for a free lunch at La Sage Bistro, we can go there. Or you can buy my meal and I’ll get yours next time.

I’m trying to think of the random expenses that could come up…this should be interesting.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Stories

We’re placing artwork in the gallery this week for the opening on Friday night. Fletcher (he hangs the shows) usually puts the art out there, rearranges it and then comes in and asks for my opinion/advice on where things should go. This is our statewide annual exhibit which means none of the paintings really have anything to do with each other, so it’s a difficult show to place. I have little reasoning for why I place things the way I do. Sometimes it has to do with size balance, color balance or similar styles. But this show is different; this show has a lot of portraits. As I was moving things around I realized I was making up stories about the people in the paintings and putting them by other paintings with people that fit the stories.

The sick looking children were already placed on one wall, so that’s all set. But there’s a painting of a disturbed looking woman in a wedding dress holding a glass of wine. I think her fiancĂ© had been cheating on her for awhile but she was feeling the pressure to get married as she got older. The wedding party has been going on too long and she finally found some solace and sat down with a drink. But from where she’s sitting she can see her new husband dancing with the bridesmaids and looking at them in a way he never looked at her. She’s not upset because she’s become numb to the whole situation; she’s just unhappy and resigned to a loveless marriage of mistrust and infidelity.

Wow.

Anyway, I decided to move the disturbed-looking woman with her glass of wine by the dead baby painting – I don’t think the baby is supposed to be dead, I think he’s supposed to be at his christening (he’s wearing some serious Snoop Dog bling) but he looks pale and a little too still…

There’s also this family portrait. I can’t figure out what year it is supposed to depict. The father looks Grapes of Wrath-ish so I thought maybe 1930s, but then the mother’s glasses look like 1964, so who knows. They’re posing outside on their porch like they were having a snapshot taken. We put them next to this little painting of a highway. I decided they’re getting their picture taken before their family road trip.

Making up stories about people is usually more interesting than what is really going on, which is one of the reasons I think people gossip way too much, but I digress…

Has anyone ever listened to Delilah on 106.5? I never did until I went on a road trip down to St. George with a couple friends. Steve, the driver, seemed to have an itinerary for our road trip that involved CD listening, radio listening, regular check-ins on temperature, appetite and bladder status, and then there were scheduled moments of silent contemplation. Towards the end of the trip he turned on Delilah. If you’re unfamiliar with Delilah, this is how it works: someone calls in and tells a story about someone in their life that they want to dedicate a song to. It varies from a middle aged mother whose wonderful son is serving in the armed forces to a 20 something man who needs to let his newlywed know how perfect he thinks she is to a 10 year-old girl who wants to tell her mommy that she loves her despite the dramatic divorce. Sometimes there are confessions. Once Delilah hears the story, she picks a song to play for them. Steve introduced the game of skipping the story part and just listening to the song and then making up our own story as to what prompted that song choice. Way more entertaining.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Phantoms

The Wasatch Paranormal Investigators contacted me and asked if they could bring their equipment to my building and check out our ghost.

I’m familiar with our ghost, I mean, I’ve never met her but I’ve heard stories. People call her the purple lady because she died in a purple dress as she ran across the railroad tracks to retrieve an engagement ring.

Last year the Ghostbusters of Utah came to the Rio Grande on Halloween and took these pictures. You can see a black shadowy figure in one and a purple mist in the other . I don’t know if ghosts are supposed to be consistent or whatever or maybe the make and model of the camera dictates which paranormal features will show up. Anyway, I find it suspicious.

One night I was working late and the security guard asked me to go upstairs and check out the women’s rest room because he could see the light was on where we were standing and it shouldn’t be. He said no one had been up there for hours, and it’s a sensor light. He thought maybe the purple lady was in there. Does anyone else see the irony in this story? Maybe the paranormal is outside the jurisdiction of our guards.

I’m interested to see what kind of equipment these investigators will bring.

Like I said, if I have ever felt any kind of “presence” I didn’t make the connection to it being a ghost. But I have experienced other kinds of phantoms.

If you’ve ever had really long hair and then chopped it off, you feel hair phantoms for a few days. You’ll try to toss your hair and it’s just not the same. Or you’ll run your fingers through it and your hand keeps going even though your hair already ended. I’ve heard of amputees feeling “phantom pains” from their limbs they no longer have. I guess I think of my hair as an appendage.

It’s strange, because even though my dog Buddha has been gone for a couple years, and never even lived with me at my current house, every time I close the fridge or the freezer door something at the top shakes and it sounds exactly like his dog tags when he’d trot into the kitchen. I look around the corner for him every time. Sweet puppy.

And every time I finish a bowl of cereal, I set the bowl down on the carpet below the couch so my cat can come and finish off the milk for me – even though I don’t live with my kitty anymore. Poor Scooter.

I’ve heard rumors of what could be Scooter’s unfortunate future and I may have to start a “Save Scooter” campaign pretty soon. I’d take him in myself except his mere existence might kill one of my roommates if my other roommate doesn’t kill him first.

Monday, October 06, 2008

And my soapbox looks artsy too.

Recently, the Salt Lake Tribune published an article on the presidential candidates’ platform on the arts. The Americans for the Arts wrote to each candidate awhile ago asking them to release their position on public funding for the arts. Obama organized a 33 person committee to research the topic and responded with a comprehensive, well thought out and clear plan while McCain released four sentences that read like something cut and pasted from general statements as to why art is nice. I typically don’t write or even talk about politics, but some things get me going.

Not only do the arts define our cultural history and make life worth living, but economically, arts are an asset to our country. Artists and art-related nonprofits generate about $166.2 billion in revenue per year and $12.6 billion in annual taxes.

It is businesses such as Apple, Pixar and Procter & Gamble that seem to thrive in this economic crisis. You better believe they have trained artists and designers working for them. If you think about it, the competitive business edge belongs to innovators who add an aesthetic touch and provide creative solutions. These are the stand-out businesses that people take notice of. And finally leaders in government, business, and education are becoming savvy to what those in the arts have always known: to fuel creativity and innovation, you need to invest in the arts.

I rarely take the time to read comments on these articles, let alone comment myself, but after reading a couple reactions to the Obama/McCain statements on the arts (which you can read in the Trib article I linked above), I had to say something.


Tivogirl:
Seriously? Arts platform? Who cares? I can't believe this is a story.

One-Hand-Clapping:
tivogirl: It is no surprise your post drips with disdain for art. TV addiction has eroded our intellectual capabilities, modeled ineffective problem-solving skills, decimated conversation, promises instant gratification, and acts as a superficial barrier to boredom. Studies reveal people often know more about fictional sit-com characters than they do their own friends, spouses and children.

Art instead is a language that cuts across racial, cultural, social, educational, and economic barriers and enhances cultural appreciation and awareness. The arts help students succeed in school and life by providing them an opportunity to develop habits of mind such as critical and creative thinking, perseverance and dedication to task. On the highest levels of literacy, in the realms of social and personal growth and development, and in the development of higher-order thinking skills, the arts provide an ideal setting for multi-faceted and profound learning experiences.

After the events of 9/11 who among us was not moved by the playing of our national anthem? For me, nothing is more profound than standing side by side with the families of fallen soldiers as the trumpet weeps Taps into the still and grief laden air. Literature, painting, sculpture, photography, dance, and theater, have touched each of us. What do we bequeath young lovers, if not poetry and music? You and your family may find no value in art. You, like millions of Americans may prefer Seinfeld to singing, painting, dancing, or playing the piano. I do however appreciate a candidate that provided a well-crafted, thoughtful and detailed platform that demonstrates a profound appreciation for the arts and its place in the great history of our nation and our world. In comparison, John McCain submitted a platform dripping with the same disdain as you have displayed here. No wonder he is your candidate, and if he wins, I hope you and your family, enjoy what you deserve.

Me:
tivogirl and one hand clapping:
I had to comment briefly on your exchange...I don't think very many people look deep enough to see the art in everything around us. Even an episode of Seinfeld employs an innumerable amount of artists: writers, set designers, wardrobe, film editors, cinematographers, lighting design, ACTORS, musicians. I would like to see, just for one day, what the world would look like without the influence of art (and yes, even public funded art). It will be a bland, silent and dreary day, but at least people might get a clue.


Anyway, I thought I’d post that because I doubt anyone will read my comment seeing how it’s several days after the article was published. I’m not trying to tell anyone how to vote, I’m just letting you know how I feel about public funding for the arts. I have other examples on the vitality of arts education (not only for children but for adults and seniors as well), but this is all I have to say for now.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Fitting Room Failure

I usually shop by myself. I don't know if I prefer it that way or it just happens that way. Regardless, I'm not used to soliciting the opinions of others when it comes to what I wear. I usually trust myself not to look ridiculous.

This past weekend I went up to Park City with Lisa and Kelly for a "girls weekend." I like to call it a "get away" though because just about all my weekends are "girls weekends."

First stop: the Tanger outlets at Kimball Junction. We tried on a lot of clothes. My sister-in-law Kelly and her sister Katie have a number system when it comes to rating each other's appearance in clothes. It's basic, really: you rate each other on a 1-10 scale. There are no specific criteria or elements that skew the final number such as price or extreme lack of that particular color in your wardrobe. It's all about how you look.

I'm afraid I didn't score very high on my selections. Lisa and Kelly came out in their prospective purchases and it was all "Ooh! I really like that!" and "That's a great color on you" and then they smiled and retreated back behind their fitting room door satisfied with their options. But when I came out with something on it was, "Eh, it's OK." or "Hmm...I'm not crazy about that." Kelly gave some pants I tried on at J. Crew a "7" which apparently doesn't justify a purchase.

I did get a high score from both of them on a brown sweater vest which I bought, and some trouser jeans which I didn't buy (too expensive).

Here are some comments from my sister during our time at the outlets:

"That's too boxy"
"Don't get the white one. Get the black one."
"It looks like you taped your chest down -- like Cristina Ricci in Now and Then"
"No, Laura, don't even look at those shoes! Nothing with stitching on the toe"

Fortunately I can take it from her. I'll never forget last month when I met her at Fashion Place Mall. She called when I was trying on clothes at Nordstrom. I told her to meet me up there. When I stepped out of the dressing room she took one look at me and her face got all scrunched up and she said, "No! Laur -- not that shirt!" and I was like, "Um, I came in this shirt. It's mine." And then she had to check her balance before she fell over laughing. I'm not going to lie, I was laughing just as hard as she was.

The truth is, I would have purchased a couple shirts and some pants at the outlets had I not a personal shopper negating my choices. It makes me wonder if I walk around looking like a 7 and people just don't say anything. At least I know who to trust.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Eight Things

This is only because I love you, Tara.

8 Things I'm passionate about

1. Food
2. Music
3. Certain Movies
4. My testimony of the gospel
5. Any calling I'm given in church
6. My blog
7. My family (including ancestors I've never met)
8. Traveling


8 Things I say often

1. 'n stuff (I hate this about me)
2. and things like that (when I catch myself wanting to say 'n stuff. No better really)
3. Are you kidding me?
4. Oh really?
5. Yay!
6. You're the best
7. Um...no
8. Sounds like a plan


8 Things I want/need

1. My car door handle to be fixed
2. New black heels
3. To learn how to use everything this computer does
4. My driveway to be repaved
5. A new cell phone
6. A car with power locks and windows
7. my workstation at my office to be more ergonomic
8. eight hours of sleep every night


8 Things I want to do before I die

1. Visit Italy (I just kept this from Tara's list)
2. Fall in love and get married (yes, it was necessary to put both of those on the same line. Is it OK to say I want this before I'm 35? And have a kid or two by then too)
3. Own my own pet (cat or dog, whatever)
4. Live in Boston or D.C. for a little while

That's it. I can't think of any more. I'm a simple girl, I don't ask for much.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Get Over Yourself

The letter I wish I could send:


Dear _________,


I received your print-out of the online application you attempted to submit for our annual art competition. I wish to address your hand-written accusation next to the field requiring your email address which read as follows:


“Requiring an artist citizen to have a computer and/or maintain an email account could be construed as a financial discriminatory act by the State of Utah against its citizens. **contact me by phone or letter via USPS as my computer is dysfunctional at this time.”


I find it hard to appreciate your concern when you seemed to have no trouble finding a computer to fill out this application in the first place. I’m sorry your internet failed and you were unable to complete the submission process. Because you chose to submit via our online process (as opposed to the mail-in process), we require an email address to send you a confirmation. You provided your email address, which I’m familiar with, as you and I have exchanged emails in the past.


The assumption is that most people who own a computer maintain an email address. I can appreciate the fact that many people (including artists) do not own a computer because of financial reasons or by personal choice. Those who don’t own computers typically have free access through public libraries and/or other associations. If you don’t have that access, we provide a computer in our office for our patrons to use.


As I mentioned earlier, we do have other forms of application that don’t require an electronic process. Our constituents are welcome to fill those out by hand, and those forms do not require an email address.


Although I admire your attempt to defend the financial rights of Utah’s citizens, I’m confused at your claim that we discriminate against “artist citizens” by requiring an email address. The online form also requires a street address and a phone number. According to your logic, expecting artists to pay a mortgage/rent not to mention a monthly phone bill would be discriminatory as well. If you were actually unable to pay a phone bill, computerless and homeless, I might take your accusation more seriously.


Oh, and your implication that artists have a special financial burden imposed upon them is both short-sighted and stale.


Thank you for your submission and good luck in the competition.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Recent Acquisition

It started the first year I worked for the Utah Arts Council. It was August, 2001 and we did our annual statewide exhibition up at the Bountiful Davis Art Center. The theme was mixed media and works on paper.

I was immediately drawn to this monotype by Jason Jones and thought, “I should buy this.” It’s called Portal. The artist told me he painted it in Helper when he was there taking a series of workshops. If you look closely you can see a blue USPS mail box and a glass door behind it. I remember talking to Jason on the phone and I told him this was my first original art purchase. He said, “Congratulations! It’s addicting.”

He was right. That winter the Utah Arts Council exhibited the Utah Watercolor Society’s “miniature” show and I bought this piece by Steve Sheffield. It’s really small, which makes it affordable, but I love winter scenes and Steve told me he painted this particular piece up Millcreek Canyon and I love Millcreek. He was really nice at the reception and told me he didn’t like how it was framed and I should let him reframe it for me. So I bought it. My coworker Lila and I fought over this one a little bit and so Steve painted another one just for her.

The following summer (2002) my friend Ilene was visiting and wanted to get her hair done so I took her to Phil at Jagged Edge (if you don’t know this about me, my ability to recall detail is ridiculous. I can also tell you I was wearing a blue and white striped shirt I bought at “Next” in London earlier that spring which I have since handed down to my roommate Carri). Phil was bleaching Ilene’s hair so it took awhile. While I waited, I walked over to Utah Artist Hands on 100 South and saw this pastel piece hanging on the wall. It’s by David Maestes. I couldn’t stop looking at it. I think I really liked the blues and greens (it looks better without my reflection). It now hangs above the coat rack in my house. I used it for a Relief Society lesson once on the creation of the world. Thanks to my art history training I can squeeze meaning out of just about anything. It was actually a really good metaphor about how man can seem insignificant compared to the vastness of the universe, but how we really are God’s most important creation. I won’t get into it here, but you can ask me about it later if you want.

This is another piece I just couldn’t keep my eyes off of so after visiting it several times, I just decided to buy it. It hung at a show we did at the Alice Gallery in the winter of 2003. For a photograph, it was more expensive than I wanted it to be, but I like it (and the artist was really nice and gave me a deal). It hangs in our living room to the right of the west windows. It’s by Don Thorpe and yes, I know it’s blurry. He took it at Liberty Park. I love Liberty Park; and trees, apparently. You may start seeing a theme here.

One Christmas I was feeling generous and had some extra money so I thought it would be nice to buy my parents a painting and call it an anniversary/Christmas present. My parents once told me they have this goal to visit every Spanish mission in California. I found a painting by Wilson Ong of the San Carlos mission and I knew that’s what I wanted to get them. But then I saw this companion piece depicting a chandelier at the same mission. The owner of the gallery told me if I wanted to buy both she’d give me $100 off. So I bought this one for me.

I’m losing track of my years. I think this one was late summer 2005. Each year the Deseret News sponsors a landscape competition (well, they haven’t the past two years since MUAH closed because of Main Street construction) but I saw a couple pieces by my good friend Shawn Rossiter there. I bought a piece of his for my mom once, but never owned one myself. I kept coming back to this as I looked at all the paintings, so I emailed Shawn and told him I wanted it. He commended my excellent taste. I’m not crazy about the frame though. I keep meaning to have him reframe it for me. But he’s expressed frustration about how I write more for my blog than I do for his magazine. So maybe once I have an article for him I’ll be on his good side.

Ted Wassmer was the oldest artist in Utah until he died a couple years ago. I was lucky enough to visit him when he was well. I went up to his apartment with some coworkers because we wanted to buy paintings to give to our outgoing board members. Ted gave us each a small painting of his before we left. He has a whole series of ladies with hats. When I picked mine out Ted looked at me, smiled, and said, “She’s in Vegas.” It hangs in my bedroom. Last week Annie told me she thinks it looks like a lady whose head exploded.

I started this fundraiser for Utah artists. I invite a printmaker to create a print, commissioned by the Utah Arts Council to coincide with our annual arts conference. The artist makes an edition of 25 and then we sell them for $100 each – which is a steal. The money goes towards innovation grants for artists. Last year Sandy Brunvand made this one for us: Healing Branches II. She stitches layers of wax paper over a lot of her prints. I believe she had surgery on her hands and so instead of stitching, she started stapling.

And my most recent acquisition: de sein by Stefanie Dykes. She has amazing technical ability and was this year’s invited artist for our conference. What makes this print even more unique is how each print of the series has this red pattern painted across the front and each is different.

I simply don’t have enough walls in my house to continue this habit. But I doubt that will stop me.