Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I always thought Atticus Finch would have been a good dad for me. He was wise, patient, warm, understanding and honest with his children. He respected them and knew he couldn’t keep them in a bubble.

I should say, I don't sit around dreaming up hypothetical families for myself from literature, I actually had an English assignment to pick alternate parents once.

However, I’m happy with the dad I was dealt -- despite the time he made us all cry on Mothers Day because he wouldn't let us keep both kitties. And despite his insensitivity when I was 7 and told him I was running away and he gave me a nickel for my expenses.

Dad turns 58 today and I realize I make fun of him every now and then (i.e. here and here) but I have plenty of sincere things to say.

I think everyone has moments in their life when they are reminded of how much they love someone. But what’s interesting is how those moments aren’t necessarily manipulated or orchestrated to be memorable.

I have a few memories of my dad that remind me how much I love him, because they remind me how much he loves me.

I never doubt that my dad is proud of me. He always introduces me to people he knows and goes on to share facts about me that might be of interest to them or applicable to the occasion. He’s introduced me to colleagues, friends, composers, apostles, and other acquaintances. He was never the kind of parent that had me sit in the shadows while he talked to important people. I was never insignificant to him. He was proud to have me with him and proud to be my dad.

I remember walking down the halls of the HFAC at BYU and having him introduce me to every professor or dean we ran into. He would put his hand on my back and say, “Have you met my daughter Laura?” and then he would go on about something and say, “Isn’t she cute?” I always feel important when I’m with Dad.

When I was a freshman at BYU, I had no money. I lived at home and since my dad taught at BYU, I hitched a ride with him every day. We had more one-on-one time than we ever had before. Dad was really cool and let me use his office for whatever I wanted. He even cleared a bookshelf for me to keep my books. The hard part was matching my schedule to his so I didn’t keep him at school much longer than he needed to be there. I scheduled myself from 8 AM to 2 PM every day. That's a tight schedule, and it didn’t allow me any time between classes to eat. I was starving by the time we met for the ride home. One day, when all my classes were over, I came into his office and noticed “my” shelf was filled with muffins, juice, granola bars, fruit and chips. I said, “What’s all this?” and he turned around and answered, “The Easter Bunny came!”

The summer Jurassic Park came out in theatres, my friends made plans to go see it, and they called my big brother (their new best friend because he could drive) to go with them. Somehow everyone neglected to let me know about it. Kids have a way of figuring these things out and the excuse was “there wasn’t enough room in the car” or something lame like that. I was insulted, of course. My dad found me feeling left out and hurt. He said he was going to the movie later that afternoon and I should go with him. Of course that wasn’t my ideal situation. He told me I was “too dignified” for a lot of my friends. I never like hearing people put my friends down, even when they’ve let me down, but I was flattered that he considered me “dignified.” Ever since then, I’ve tried to live up to his compliment and make dignity part of my character.

One more: When I graduated from college I moved to Portland, Oregon. I had good times there, but overall I think I was frustrated with not knowing where my next paycheck was coming from and feeling like I had no direction. I had no money (again), no car, and no furniture. I had two of my best friends with me, but I wasn’t going anywhere career-wise and I wasn't making any connections in Portland. I came home that summer for my brother’s wedding and it was hard for me to leave Salt Lake at the end of the week. My dad dropped me off at the airport and gave me an envelope. When I walked up to the gate I opened the envelope and there was a check for $100 and this note:

I put the envelope in my violin case (I don’t know why I felt I needed my violin in Portland with me). At some point, I left my violin case in the restroom by accident. I ran around, frantically trying to track it down as they boarded my plane. I ran back in the bathroom and it was gone. So I ran up to Southwest Airlines and asked how to reclaim lost property. They directed me towards a room and told me to knock on the door. My eyes were red from stress and repressed tears as I asked the nice Southwest employees if they happened to pick up a violin. One of them looked at me (a little amused) and said, “Are you La-La?”

I was relieved to have my violin back, my $100 check, and the multiple choice question so typical of my dad.

Happy Birthday Dad! Thanks for always making the answer to that question an easy one.

*Just in case you were wondering...Scooter is the cat, Buddha was the dog, and Morlarin was my dad's invisible childhood friend.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


After thinking about it for a few seconds I've concluded mosquitoes offer no good or benefit to society.

Nothing can call up my paranoia and disdain quite like the blood-sucking mosquito. My problem is mosquitoes absolutely LOVE me. I am a magnet. I must emanate a pheromone that seduces the insects, invites them to suck the lifeblood from my body and encourages them to invite all their friends. I will be slapping my arms and brushing my legs and people will look at me like I'm insane.

I was at a pool party a few weeks ago and I confessed my unequivocal fear for mosquitoes. Someone asked, “Why, because of West Nile?”

“No, I just hate getting bitten.”

I suppose it's ironic that the deadly diseases mosquitoes can carry don't burden me in the least. I think what it is, is the loss of control. I can't see them assault me. They're sly when they land on my skin. And I do, I feel assaulted. I take it a little too personally, and feel defeated when that first itch sensation reaches my brain and I know the inevitable has happened: they found me again.

The other night I wanted to sit on my porch because the weather was so nice. I looked up at the porch light and saw the miscreants swarming around. So I turned off the light and sat in the dark. At some point I learned mosquitoes are attracted to light, so I figured if I sat in the dark they would find a light to travel to. I sat for about 8 minutes and then walked inside to discover I was bitten three times.

The worst is when I wake up in the middle of the night. A polite whisper prompts my brain and my eyes peacefully open. And then I hear it -- the slight buzzing of a satiated mosquito.

There's a mysterious adrenaline that manifests itself in the middle of the night. As soon as I suspect a mosquito presence I am jolted from my slumber. I don't just wake up -- I wake up in full combat mode. I flick the light on and I am ready to hunt down the mosquito until it is good and dead. Sometimes it takes a couple nights to conquer it. But once I do, the victory is sweet and I can sleep in peace.

I was sleeping in the same bed as my friend Kristi in Aruba last month and every night I got bit. They didn't touch her. They must smell my fear. And the delicious ambrosia that is my blood.

If I could rid the world of them I would.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tests, Frets, and Try-outs

I failed my drivers test when I was 16. I probably would have passed if it weren't for that second when the instructor beat me to the brake. If you remember, they have their own brakes and the rule is if the instructor hits the brake, you automatically fail. So as soon as that happened, I knew it was over. I'm sure I cried for a good portion of the walk home.

Unfortunately, I let that day destroy a bit of my confidence. I'm sure a lot of kids would have gone back out there as soon as they could to pass the test and get their license, but I wasn't one of those kids. I was afraid to try again. I was afraid I'd fail again. It's not like I needed to drive right away. I had older friends that drove, and besides, I didn't even have a car. So I put it out of my mind and didn't make it a priority.

Months passed and school was over. I remember staying in bed one lazy morning when my dad opened my door. He said he was going down to his office in Provo and if I wanted, he could take me to the DMV in Orem to take the drivers test. I timidly declined his offer. I was still scared I would fail. My dad tried to persuade me by saying the road tests at the DMV are easier than the ones high schools give you. I said I wasn't ready. But as soon as he walked downstairs I realized I couldn't keep putting it off. Somehow I mustered the courage to do it. I hurriedly put some clothes on, ran downstairs and told him I changed my mind.

I passed with a 94%.

It's not like I was always afraid to take risks and try new things. When I was 17, I made the very uncharacteristic decision of trying out for the school play. I had never been in a play before; I never took drama. But I memorized a monologue and auditioned. The drama teacher had me say my lines over and over again. I had to say my lines as if I were ecstatic, as if I were in love with the person I was talking to, as if I were drunk. I even had to say my lines while dancing around the stage. I still can't believe I did that – given how shy I was in high school. I remember having to pretend like I wasn't myself, because I would never do anything scary like that. But I left elated – not because I thought I gave a good audition (I was pretty sure I didn't), but because I was so proud of myself for attempting something scary and unfamiliar.

A couple days later I walked over to the drama door to check out the “call back” list. To my surprise my name was on a short list of students asked to audition for the final cut. I stared at it for a good two minutes in disbelief. I remember other students crowding around asking “Who's Laura Durham?” I smiled and walked away.

The call backs were on the school stage. Something happened as I sat there surrounded by drama students. I thought, “What am I doing here? I don't want to be here. I just wanted to see if I could actually pull it off, I don't really want to be in the school play.” So I didn't try as hard as I should have, and I didn't get the part. But I didn't care. Now I knew. I could act. I just didn't want to.

Four years after my acting audition, I found myself at a singing audition. Only this time I was a junior at BYU. And this time I really wanted to make it. Singing was always something I knew I was good at and something I really enjoyed. It had been awhile since I sang in a choir. I missed performing and I wanted music to play a bigger role in my life.

I auditioned with several other students. We sang a hymn together and then we each sang a line by ourselves. The conductor wasn't even there, his assistants were doing the preliminary auditions.

A couple days later I walked over to the E Wing in the HFAC to check the list of those who were called back to sing for the conductor. They had three lists: Concert Choir, Men's Chorus and Women's Chorus. Concert Choir was more prestigious than Women's Chorus – I didn't want to sing in Women's Chorus. I looked the list up and down, but my name wasn't there. I checked again. I looked to see if they had my name out of alphabetical order. Nope. Still not there. “Maybe...they put me in Women's Chorus...?” I thought. So I checked that sheet. No Laura Durham. I didn't bother checking that one a second time. I stood back in disbelief. “But I'm a singer," I thought. Here is something I've been good at my entire life...something that is inherently a part of me...and I didn't even make the call back for Women's Chorus?

Later that day I walked into my Dad's office and told him I didn't get in. He looked slightly angry. “Did you tell them I'm your dad?” (My dad is a professor at BYU's School of Music). No, I didn't. “Go tell them who your daddy is.” I wasn't going to do that. “Do you want me to talk to Mac?” (Mac was the conductor). I told him I really, really didn't. My pride stepped in and I told him if I couldn't get in on my own I didn't want to get in.

Although I didn't cry like I did when I failed my drivers test, I did let it hurt my confidence -- and the scars remain. It's hard when music is something that has played such an important role in your life (and for generations before my life). And singing was something people always told me I was good at. I still played the piano and sang every now and then in church or whatever. My dad sang in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and my mom is the Executive Director of the Utah Chamber Artists so I attended concerts all the time. But after that failed audition I convinced myself I just wasn't a singer like I thought I was and I didn't need to be. In fact, at some point after college when people asked me if I sang, my answer changed from “yes” to “not really.”

After I graduated from college I had to say goodbye to a lot of my good college friends. My mom asked me a couple times if I wanted to sing with the Chamber Artists. It always came wrapped in “it will be something fun to do and you can meet new friends.” My mom had sung with the choir ever since I was 13 and I went to every concert and helped out with whatever they needed. Mom even paid me to be their librarian for a little while. When I was younger, I always saw myself singing with them someday. I was around the choir a lot and knew most of them by name -- it seemed like the natural thing to do. But flunking a preliminary singing audition stained my memory and now it didn't seem so natural. And this wasn't a little college choir, this was one of the best choirs around and I had a lot of respect for their talent. So when Mom asked me if I wanted to sing with them, I would politely turn her down. I wasn't necessarily afraid I wouldn't get in – I never underestimated the power of nepotism. I was more afraid of not being good enough but being allowed in because of who my mother was.

Last Tuesday I auditioned for the Utah Chamber Artists and a couple days later I got an email from Barlow (the artistic director) letting me know I was in. It took me a long time to be OK with the fact I might never know if it was because of my singing ability or because my mom would have killed Barlow. It was hard for me to suck it up after all these years. I think what finally pushed me was getting to know the choir members on a more friendly level when I went with them to Europe in June. I realized what an enriching experience it could be and how it's stupid to let this opportunity pass me by. I finally accepted that it doesn't necessarily matter how you get in the door, it's what you do once you're in that really matters.

But that didn't make it any less scary to sing for Barlow. It kind of felt like that night I auditioned for the school play. I had to act like I wasn't nervous; I almost had to pretend to be someone else. Only now I realize just because I do something scary and unfamiliar (and potentially confidence crushing) doesn't mean I'm acting out of character – I'm building character.

I'm thrilled to be part of the choir and perform with an ensemble again. Sometimes it takes a long time to come back to doing something you really love and realize how much you always wanted it. It's going to be a challenge and a lot of fun: two things I always need.

I appreciate everyone I talked to afterwards for saying the right words to help me feel like my talent played as big a role as the Durham name. Obviously, feeling legitimate is important to me.

First concert: October 13th. If you are reading this, consider yourself invited.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

That Person

I want to be that person who doesn’t let a gift, kind gesture, or invitation go without a phone call or hand-written thank you note.

I want to be that person who always remembers to bring a host/hostess gift.

I want to be that person who always has fresh flowers in her home.

I want to be that person who follows through on her ideas.

I want to be that person who doesn’t miss the opportunity to express to someone how their kindness made her day or how their words influenced her for the better.

I want to be that person who does something about a situation rather than complain about it.

I want to be that person who can offer a sincere and effective apology.

I want to be that person who doesn’t worry about what she can’t change.

I want to be that person who doesn’t let others’ perceptions prematurely sway her own.

I want to be that person who speaks only when her words are ready to be spoken.

I want to be that person who doesn’t give confidence to stereotypes.

I want to be that person who undoubtedly keeps her word.

I want to be that person other people aren’t afraid to be honest with.

I want to be that person who other people feel comfortable asking a favor.

I want to be that person who has season tickets to the theatre, symphony and ballet.

I want to be that person who doesn’t let junk pile up in her back car seat.

I want to be that person who puts 100% into each task she is assigned.

I want to be that person who wakes up at 5 AM and works out for a half hour, makes her bed, reads her scriptures, takes a shower and then is on time for work at 7 AM.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Breaking at Dawn

I love a good clothing sale. Even if I don’t end up buying anything, I still like to see what’s out there. A lot of online clothing stores have popped up around Utah – especially those boasting modest clothing options for those of us who like to be fashionable but don’t like to dress like Hollister models.

Last year my cousin Monica introduced me to Layers Clothing. She wore a really cute shirt to a fundraiser we were at and I ended up buying the exact same shirt. And I’ve bought several items since. Every summer, Layers has a clearance warehouse sale. I purposely avoided it last year because a) I hate crowds, b) I hate people pushing me, and c) I hate waiting in line.

Somehow, this year, I had the stupid idea of attending the sale. It started at 8 AM on Saturday. So I woke up a little earlier than I normally would. There’s something about being up, dressed, make-upped, and in your car with a “to do” list that makes you feel like you are going to have one productive day.

So I drove clear out to 4500 South for this sale. As I was pulling off the freeway I thought to myself, “Ugh. There are going to be a TON of people here.” And then I thought, “Laura, what makes you think everyone has the same idea you have? What makes you think everyone likes the same clothes you do and everyone, like you, is willing to wake up early on a Saturday just to get a deal?”

As I pulled into the Crestwood Business District at 7:50 AM, this is what I saw as I approached the Layers Warehouse:

I took my foot off the gas and coasted as I tried to decide whether I should just turn around and get the heck out of Dodge. But then I thought, “No, I woke up for this, I drove out here for this.”

So I parked. And I walked towards the line of women. I was about 200 people back. You’d think they were waiting in line for a rock concert. Or, to be more specific to the demograph, you’d think they were waiting in line for the opening of “Twilight”.

I would say 90% were in their early to mid 20’s. And I would say 50% of them were young mothers because 50% of them either had a pregnant belly or they brought their kids. “Who brings their kids to witness this madness?” I thought. Leave them with the husband. Just as I thought that a pregnant lady behind me said, “I thought about bringing my baby but decided it would be the worst idea in the world.”

It wasn’t until ten past eight that they opened the doors and everyone rushed in. Plastic bins with sizes written on them lined the folding tables, they had cookies and water coolers set out and a bunch of draped-off sections that said “don’t come back here, employees only.”

Obviously, it was hard to move around. I was expecting heartless, relentless pushing and shoving but was pleasantly surprised to find that some of the shoppers were very considerate. If I was looking in the same bin as someone, she would ask “What size are you looking for? If I come across it I’ll let you know.” Although everyone was pretty much looking for the same size (medium) so those went fast.

I grabbed about three items and decided I was done. I looked up to see where the line to pay started. It was already wrapping the perimeter of the warehouse – and I wasn’t even close to the front. Girls were taking turns waiting in line for each other as the other ones fetched cups of water and cookies. A teenager was sitting on a pile of clothes in a bin as she waited in line. Her mother pushed her forward a couple inches every 5 minutes or so. I chatted with the girls behind me. They were nibbling on cookies and complaining about anything they could think of. We commiserated.

Girls were trying on tops over their clothes. I decided to do the same with the swim top I grabbed. “Eh,” I thought as I threw it back in the bin to my left. I didn’t want it that bad.

It started to get hot. Girls were wiping their brow and putting their head between their legs. One of the girls who used to be behind me returned to her group and whispered something and then they, quite nonchalantly, left. Hmmm…I thought. Suspicious. Shortly after there was an announcement that the cashiers decided to form a second line. “What!” I screamed in my head. That's where those girls went. I felt a little betrayed.

I had been waiting in line for a half hour at this point and moved maybe 4 yards. I noticed the girl in front of me was reading a book with a black hardcover. She was about halfway through. I looked up and around and noticed a lot of girls had that book in line. I asked what she was reading and she said it was "Breaking Dawn" the new Twilight book that came out the night before. She waited in line all night for that too.

And that was my tipping point. Something happened inside me. Any desire I had for these remaining three items in my arms was quickly waning. I thought, “This is SO not my scene.”

I looked ahead of me and calculated how much longer I would be standing there based on how far I had moved in the past 30 minutes. I figured another 2 1/2 hours. I looked down at the orange dress I picked out and thought “Yeah, it’s only $10 but I don’t need it.” I took a big breath (I would say cleansing, but there was no clean air in there). A Layers employee walked past the line with a couple electric fans. I thought about all the things I needed to get done that day. I looked at my other two shirts and realized I would be perfectly happy without them. I looked around me one more time, set the clothes down on a table, and then walked out.

You might say I gave up; I couldn’t handle it. But I’m telling ya, I walked out of that sweat house feeling empowered and liberated. And perfectly capable of paying full price for a piece of clothing in a more desirable and accessible environment. Never again.

I can’t wait for their Fall line.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Living at the Rio

Last night I set my alarm for the first time since Quarter Day. The ten hour work day begins.

The official PR term from the Governor’s Office is “Working 4 Utah.” It puts emphasis on the fact that we’re only working 4 days to help us feel good about our jobs.

I actually didn’t sleep too soundly so when I did wake up to my 6:30 AM alarm, I had been kind of awake for awhile. I stayed in bed for about 5 minutes, letting my eyes adjust to being open. I took a shower last night so I wouldn’t have to worry about that this morning.

As soon as I stood up and walked out my bedroom, I heard the shower in the bathroom downstairs. “Crap.” I needed to leave the house in 10 minutes. I can’t wash my face, put in my contacts, brush my teeth or anything. “I’ll just use the bathroom at work” I thought to myself as I slapped some clothes on, slipped on the first pair of flip flops I saw on my floor and then walked downstairs. I grabbed a banana, my cell phone, my purse and I was out the door.

I noticed the sprinklers were on out front. I sometimes hear the sprinklers in the morning, but I rarely see them in action.

When I pulled into my building today I had my pick of the parking spots. I might be the only person who actually made it in by 7 AM. I wanted my first stop to be the bathroom, but the janitor had it closed for cleaning.

So I went to my office, turned on the news and sat down. I checked my phone messages but didn’t feel good about calling people at 7 AM so I decided to return those messages later.

Fletcher showed up around 7:22. He poked his head in my office and said, “Don’t tell anyone I was late OK?”

Around 7:55 AM, I went into Fletcher and Jim’s office to just sit. Lila hadn't come in yet. Jim asked me what I did this weekend. I couldn’t remember. We sat in silence for a little while. I asked Fletcher if he wanted to order our supplies from Kinkos. He told me he doesn’t think we should ask each other questions before 8 AM. I agree. At least when it comes to hard questions like “what did you do this weekend?” or “how are you?”

I’m trying to think of ideas that will make this ALL DAY AT WORK thing work. I'm also going to try and plan an errand or outing once a day mid afternoon. Like around 3 PM to help break up the day. I think I’m going to buy milk and cereal and keep it here so I can eat breakfast in the morning. Today was a no makeup day and I think a lot of days may end up being that way, so I’ll probably have to bring some lip stick or whatever too. And contact lenses. And a tooth brush. It’s so early. This will take some getting used to. But who knows, maybe I’ll end up liking it.

I must say, the gallery did look particularly beautiful at 7 AM in the morning. The lighting was a little bit magical.

While I was waiting for other people to do their work before I could finish my work I decided to be productive and rearrange the office. And reorganize the storage closet. That took about four hours.

Last night I put myself to sleep by making a mental list of what I’m going to do all day on Friday since I don’t have to work:

Get a massage (I’ve been meaning to do this for over a month now).
Go see a matinee of Dark Knight (still haven’t seen it). Maybe at the IMAX.
Go to Costco.

That’s as far as I got. Kristi, maybe you have ideas of what I can do on my day off since you are the expert of days off in the summer.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Journal Gem #7

Tuesday, November 5, 2002
9:29 AM, Rio Gallery, SLC

First, let's finish up Sunday. I just think this is funny: About 4 PM this girl calls me. I think her name was Sarah.

"Hi Laura, I'm just doing my visiting teaching routes."
"Is it ok if we just do last month's visiting teaching over the phone?"
"Sure..." (still wondering who she is)
"Good. So how are you?"
"I'm doing fine." I say, trying not to laugh.
"So do you work? Or are you in school?"

I tell her what I do and she sounds impressed.

"Wow! That sounds like fun."
"Yeah, it is."
"Good. Can I give you the visiting teaching message real quick?"
"All right."
"OK. Well the message is about priesthood blessings and how important they are. And how you shouldn't hesitate to ask for a blessing because it brings blessings to the priesthood holder too."
"Good message."
"Yeah. So is there anything I can do for you?"
"No, but I appreciate you asking."
"All right, well it was nice getting to know you Laura."
"Yeah, you too. Buh bye."