Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I've been Simpsonized!

Tagged Again!

I have to admit, I rather like playing tag :) It feels a lot like when we were kids and someone liked me well enough to pick me for their team; it's a happy "I belong" feeling. So thanks, Shanna, for tagging me!

Four jobs I've had:
1. HR Manager for MK Rail (I managed a human resource of about 1500 shop workers)
2. Co-Manager at Lerner New York at a mall in Boise, ID
3. Sales Supervisor at Melaleuca, in Idaho Falls, ID
4. Co-Chair of my University's Student Council

Four places I've lived:
1. Boise, ID
2. Rexburg, ID
3. Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada
4. London, Ontario, Canada

Four Favorite T.V. Shows
1. Heroes
2. Smallville
3. Lost
4. The 4400

And this one wasn't included in the original poll, but I have to include my:
Four Favorite T.V. Shows of All Time
1. Buffy, The Vampire Slayer
2. Alias
3. The X-Files
4. Dark Angel

Four Favorite Foods

1. Dark Chocolate
2. Filet Mignon
3. Pasta Primevera
4. Sweet Potatoes

Four Websites I Frequent
1. My Mom's of Twins message board ~ can't share the link though cuz we've gone private
2. Hyster Health ~ a place to talk about your feelings and problems regarding your hysterectomy and support others going through the same thing.
3. Megaplex Theatres
4. LDS.org for help with lessons and YW programs and such.

Four places I'd rather be right now:
1. In Nova Scotia, walking along a rocky beach.
2. At the movies.
3. On a long leisurely drive through the mountains
4. Shopping :)

Four Movies I love:
1. So I Married an Axe Murderer
2. Fifth Element
3. Braveheart
4. The Lord of the Rings trilogy

Four Bloggers I Tag Next

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Blogging Award

The Thoughtful Blogger Award is for those who answer blog comments, emails, and make their visitors feel at home on their blogs. For the people who take others' feelings into consideration before speaking out and who are kind and courteous. Also for all of those bloggers who spend so much of their time helping other bloggers design, improve, and fix their sites. This award is for those generous bloggers who think of others.

A little while ago Tristi Pinkston passed along this nice little award. I was so surprised, so pleased, that I haven't quite known how to respond. I think I was afraid that I couldn't live up to what this award supposedly said about me.

But, she did give it to me, after all, and like any self-respecting girl, I like crowns and so I'll wear this one (I can pretend it comes with a crown, right?) with pride.

Thank you for thinking so well of my Tristi!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Writing Goals

Stephanie recently talked about having writing goals over on her blog. She talked about having a goal to get her work published, but that sometimes the big picture can get lost when dealing with all the details. Basically, the details don't get done.

Truth is, while I am going about my writing to get it published, I haven't actually written my goals down, or even looked too hard at them. Writing, oh yeah, lots of writing, but there's also so much more to it than that. And even that, the writing that is, can be hard to accomplish it if you're kind of looking sideways at it and won't face it head on.

After reading Stephanie's blog I felt a little like a fish out of water. Am I really a writer? Do I really want this? If not, what have I been doing with all my time? And if I do, then why am I not spending MORE time on it, working more seriously at it? Time for a decision.

So, what I did is what I always do when I'm stumped at discerning something important in my own character or I can't decipher my own dreams; I went to my husband. When I asked him "Am I really a writer? And do I really want to be published?" he just gave me that screwball look that asks "Are you nuts?". But he kindly replied "Of course you are!" (but I heard the "what's wrong with you?" tagged on there, I swear it).

After talking for a while I have come up with a plan. My husband is brilliant and he knows me better than I know myself. I should also add that he too is a writer and dreams of one day getting his work published, but he puts aside his dream for a more practical reality; that of supporting me and his children and provding enough income that I can pursue my dream more intently. I owe it to him to make his efforts worthwhile, don't I?

So here is my plan: I will spend some portion of every day, six days a week, working on my goal which is to become a published author. I currently have five books I am working on, which was part of my problem because they all clamor at me and demand to be written and since I can't write them all at the same time, I write none at all. But again, my brilliant hubby, suggested I assign each story a day, with a day left over for the business of writing - submitting and the like. I thought this was a grand idea.

Have you ever had a TV show you really liked and followed closely? Well I have, and if you're like me, you wake up on that day and you think "Today is Smallville!" and you are totally in the mood for Smallville (or whatever show it is that turns your crank). My hubby and I even have a favorite treat that has become our Smallville treat; we can't sit down to Smallville without this treat. Silly, isn't it? But I think there's a brain something going there. Wish I was a wildly intelligent scientist and I could prove to you what that might be.

Suffice it to say that my hubby believes, and I tend to believe him, that I could similarly train my brain to be in the mood for whatever story is the story of the day. I'll wake up in the morning and think "Ooh! Today is The Jump Boys!" and my mind will quickly recover where the story was last week when last I visited the boys and I'll be able to go from there. It's a theory. I'll let you know how it works out.

So Mondays I've got editing and revising of The Jump Boys: The Beacon, Tuesdays are The Jump Boys: Time Matters, Wednesdays belong to The Devils' Daughter, Thursdays are The Blood Crown, and Fridays are Her Lovely Island of Sorrow. Saturdays are for business (I have a couple picture books I have not bothered to submit yet and a short story that needs to find a home). Now don't scoff, I'm only requiring myself to write for an hour a day. That might not seem like much, but for me who has not been writing at all, that is a lot. I'll increase it, have no fear. Also, I'm usually pretty fast at getting down my thoughts once I get started. I can accomplish a lot in an hour. But think of what I could do in a day! Oh my!

All is going well with my goals this week with the exception of Her Lovely Island; I decided I needed to readjust my approach so several pages needed to go out the window but their loss has left me a little stumped. I really liked what I had written, but they simply won't fit with the direction the story has to go. It was sad for me and I found I couldn't write much more.

So, Stephanie, not that you asked for them, but here are my goals. I decided to write them down here because writing them down and having witnesses are two of the important factors in actually accomplishing your goals, or so I've heard.

Thanks for letting me share my writing goals with all of you ... care to share any of your own goals with me?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Funky Chicken and Other Such Silliness

What do you do when you're in a funk? You know the kind I mean; everything is blah; getting up is blah, feeding your kids is blah; going to work is blah; even stuff you normally enjoy is just blah, blah, blah. It's days like that when you really just want to stay in your jammies and pull the covers over your head. "Make the day go away!" you say. Problem is, your day doesn't just go away, you still need to get up, the children simply must be fed and if you intend to pay your bills you must go to work.

So how do you chase the blues away?

Do you do yoga? Do you breathe deeply and allow your negative energy to flow out while you breathe in good, clean energy? Namaste.

Do you go to the gym? Pumping iron that makes your muscles pop while all that yummy good adrenaline and endorphins rush to every part of your body?

What do I do? Well, I become Silly Sunny. Sunny is a nickname my mom gave me when I was a little girl and my hubby calls me it too. It comes from the song "Sunny" by Bonnie M. But I digress. I was going to introduce you to Silly Sunny.

Silly Sunny likes to dance around like a crazy woman. She sings songs in the silliest, wackiest voice she can muster. She sings opera arias in the worst voice you've ever heard. For some reason this drives her wildly insane with laughter. Silly Sunny likes to make up songs with goofy words that make her children roll their eyes. Oh, they might pretend like this is all terribly embarrassing, but the truth is, the LOVE it.

If I can't coax Silly Sunny out of her shell, I'll put on a little Gilbert & Sullivan, particularly "The flowers that bloom in the spring, tra la" from The Mikado. Listening to that silly music always does the trick.

I don't get into these funks too often, but sometimes I still like to bring ol' Silly Sunny out just for kicks. It's good to know though, that she's there for me when I need her. It's no fun being blue and going around like a Glum Bum.

Much better to be Silly Sunny instead!

How 'bout you? What do you do to bring yourself around when you've gone 'round the bend?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Pioneer Pride

Here in Utah today, July 24th is celebrated as Pioneer Day. Meant to commemorate the Latter Day Saint Pioneers who trekked across the country in horrid conditions to establish a land of worship free from the destructive influences of certain groups in the east. Many Latter Day Saints trace their lineage back to those pioneering saints with pride. I have been living in the western United States for fifteen years now and this whole long time I've felt I have nothing in common with these people, either with their pioneer spirit or with their pioneer heritage. However on Sunday, while listening to the wonderfully delivered talks at Church, it struck me as otherwise.

I am a pioneer of sorts. I am the first member of the Church in my family. I, alone, hauled myself and my wedding dress onto three different planes just 8 days before my wedding, to travel from Nova Scotia, Canada to Rexburg, Idaho where I was to meet my husband-to-be. I can assure you it took no small amount of faith and fortitude to follow through with my plans.

I am also the child of pioneer ancestors. I daresay, most of us who live in North America can claim such. In my case, my father's grandparents came from Ireland to Boston in the 1850's because of the Great Potato Famine; and my mom's parents came from Scotland to Toronto, Canada in the late 1920's. My Grandpa even made his away across the ocean blue in an cattle ship because he could not afford passage on a more suitable vessel.

My Grandpa made the journey for love, as the love of his life, my Gran, had been brought to Canada by her parents. My Great Grandpa on my Dad's side made the journey hoping for a better life for his family and their children.

I joined the Church despite my family's disapproval, and took myself far away to be with the man I loved, though many forces conspired against me.

Pioneers, all.

One day, perhaps, my children or their children, will contemplate Pioneer Day and in doing so, won't just be proud to say that they can trace their lineage back to the early Mormon Pioneers through their Dad's side, but will also include me and my ancestors as a source of Pioneer Pride.

Friday, July 20, 2007

It's my Birthday!

Maybe later I'll post a birthday pic ;)

I'm feeling badly for my hubby today because he is not living up to his normal birthday-planning splendor and he's being down on himself. He has no need to feel badly, he's an amazing man and I am quite possibly the luckiest woman in the world because I know how much I am loved.

David has set the bar awfully high for himself. Usually, he puts together a themed birthday for me, complete with decorations, gifts that match the theme and even activities. For instance, he gave me a pirate birthday; at lunch (our traditional family birthday celebration time) he sent me and the boys on a treasure hunt for our own personal treasures. We each found a treasure chest with goodies inside (candy for the boys, presents for me!). I've also enjoyed a Kim Possible birthday where we dressed up as secret agents and played, and an Egyptian Queen birthday which ended with a lovely massage by a servant man who turned out to NOT be a eunuch. The Pharaoh would be shocked.

But family activities, work stress and a visit from an out-of-town friend have conspired against David's best intentions this year. Not to mention I made an almost impossible birthday request - that my office be redecorated (including a new floor!) - with no alternatives. Naughty me ;)

What my husband doesn't seem to be realizing right now (as he's feeling stressed trying to recover the day and feeling like he's let me down) is that I already have the best birthday I could want. I have my three men, who love me and I know it because they tell me every day, not just on my birthday. Even so, each one has taken the time to give me an extra special hug and to tell me they love me and hope my day is a happy one. Just knowing that spoiling me is a priority for my husband is sometimes enough (forget about me saying I don't EVER need it, because I sure do sometimes!) .

Right now I've been banned to my office while party preparations are made in the kitchen. I can hear the boys saying how "Mom should have the purple one" and helping their dad set things up. They are thinking of me. They are serving me. They love me. And oh how I love them. Not just today, but each and every day.

I truly am the luckiest woman in the world!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Let Our Language Define Us

A talk during April's General Conference really stood out to me and I eagerly read it when the talk came printed in May's Ensign. It was a talk given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles entitled “The Tongue of Angels”. Basically the talk encourages us to consider the power of words and to therefore choose our words carefully. You never know when someone is looking to us to lift them up, and one misspoken word can crush them. We also need to speak encouragingly to ourselves; it's the Adversary who wants to fill our minds with doubt and fear, who wants us to be sure that we are not worthy of good things. Speak to lift another or ourselves, speak with love.

Then last night I read a talk in the July New Era called “Thy Speech Reveals Thee” by Elder L. Tom Perry. I thought it would take a similar vein as Elder Holland's talk, but instead it seemed to me to be saying to watch your language, the words you choose, not only the purpose of your speech. In particular, Elder Perry asks that we “[h]ave the courage to keep [y]our speech clean and wholesome ...” He says that oftentimes we use a non-swear word as a substitute for a worse word, but everyone who hears the substitute is perfectly aware what word could go there instead. This isn't much of an improvement, as even though you didn't say the bad word, your listener still heard it.

I thought that was interesting because one of my sons has a fondness for expletives. We don't swear in our house, by usual standards, but his choice of words bothers me. For instance, he'll say “Oh my GOSH”, but the way he says 'gosh', heavy on the 'Gah' and light on the 'sh' almost always gives me pause and makes me wonder if he has just said 'God', thereby taking the Lord's name in vain. He also says 'crap' and we all know what word that's a substitute for. Not the kind of language I think is appropriate, but especially after reading Elder Perry's talk, not the kind of language my child should be speaking or alluding to.

This morning I was speaking with a niece of mine and she used a swear word in our conversation. I wasn't offended by the word or it's use, though it did surprise me. However, an hour later I found I still had that word bouncing around in my head. I realized then that we should watch our words not only because of what they say about ourselves, but also out of respect for other people. My niece gave me something when she spoke with me today; it could have been a sweet something, it could have been all about the content of our discussion, but instead she gave me a sour taste in my mouth and my thoughts are more about the language she used than about the topic we discussed.

I encourage you to join me in being more careful with how we speak. Speak kindly and with affection to all people, including ourselves. Speak with language that befits us, evokes a good impression of ourselves, and lifts our listener. Foul language and foul messages only stink up the air, let's aim at bringing a little sunshine and sweetness instead.

Monday, July 16, 2007

See, I told you ... Mahone Bay, here I come!

You are Ocean Blue

You're both warm and practical. You're very driven, but you're also very well rounded.
You tend to see both sides to every issue, and people consider you a natural diplomat.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Just a teensy bit evil ...

You Are 30% Evil

A bit of evil lurks in your heart, but you hide it well.
In some ways, you are the most dangerous kind of evil.
How Evil Are You?

I got this little quiz from Shanna. I have to admit when I was answering the questions I was convinced that it would come back reflecting VERY badly on me. I thought for sure I would not be posting my actual results. Just a hint: I didn't join the Church until I was 21 years old, and I did a lot of livin' before then!

So I proudly display my mere 30% evil (2% less evil then Shanna, I might add!) and invite you to play too!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

An Unprepared People

I recently read an article in the July 2007 issue of The Limbaugh Letter that I found disturbing. I'm not sure how many people are familiar with what Hillary Clinton has been saying lately, and what it might mean, so I thought I'd share it here to help spread the word.

What concerns me the most is the communist lien in Clinton's political philosophy. The article I read refers to a “major economic policy speech” according to Clinton's campaign, which was delivered on May 29th, 2007 at New Hampshire's Manchester school of Technology. The speech was titled “Modern Progressive Vision: Shared Prosperity.”

In this speech Ms. Clinton said “[T]he Administration's [George W. Bush's administration] theory about how we should manage our economy [is]: leave it all up to the individual ... They call it the ownership society. But it's really the 'on your own' society ... It's time for a new beginning, for an end to government of the few, by the few and for the few, time to reject the idea of an 'on your own' society and to replace it with shared responsibility for shared prosperity. I prefer a 'we're all in it together' society.”

What are your feelings on Karl Marx? Because in 1875 Marx said “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” He also said, in 1858 that “Society does not consist of individuals but expresses the sum of interrelations, the relations with which these individuals stand.” I don't know about you, but Clinton's modern day statement sounds very much like those of Karl Marx from over a hundred years ago.

Many attempts throughout history and across the world have been made to live an ideal, or Utopian, society and virtually all have incorporated some form or another of a communal sharing of prosperity. All such societies have either failed, or have engendered the hate and fear of its citizens. The People's Republic of China, Cuba, North Korea, North Vietnam, Laos, Angola and Mozambique are a few. I don't want to live in any of these places, do you?

On February 9th, 1831 the prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Joseph Smith, received a revelation from the Lord. Designated the law of consecration and aimed at the total elimination of poverty, the law is to “remember the poor, and consecrate of thy properties for their support that which thou hast to impart unto them, with a covenant and a deed which cannot be broken.” (Doctrine & Covenants 42:30)

“The law of consecration is a law of the celestial kingdom, requiring that all members of the Church shall consecrate their property (including time, talents, and material wealth) to the Church for the building of the kingdom of God and the establishment of Zion. The legal administrative agency for carrying out the law is the united order. This organization receives consecrated properties, gives stewardships to donors, and regulates the use of surplus commodities. The law of consecration is the commandment; the united order is the revealed economic system.” (William O. Nelson, “To Prepare A People”, Ensign, January 1979)

The Church at that time tried to live by the united order; tried and failed. It was not successful because “there were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them; therefore by these things they polluted their inheritances.” (D&C 101:1-7) In his article, Brother Nelson says that to live by the law of consecration, or shared prosperity, one's heart and soul must be purged “ ... by the Holy Ghost of all un-Christlike motives; it means overcoming selfishness, covetousness, greediness, and idleness—problems specifically condemned by the Lord in these early revelations; it means overcoming tendencies to complain, criticize, and backbite; it means serving God with all one’s heart, might, mind, and strength; it means self-mastery; it means being endowed with the power of God through keeping covenants; it means willingly sacrificing all that one has for the sake of the kingdom of God; it means taking on the divine nature; it requires becoming a holy person.”

We are no nearer now to holiness than we were one hundred and fifty years ago. While the appeal of a Utopian society is universal, our inability to live it at this time is likewise universal. Such ideals are beyond our current human state, and our pursuit of them will only lead to further despair and desolation.

I fear for our future as a nation if such political philosophies as Hillary Clinton now promotes are allowed to take shape and are implemented in our society. We have a great land, with such freedoms that we are still, despite our shortcomings, the most highly favored nation in the world. We will not remain the same if our 'on your own' society is replaced by a 'we're all in it together' society. We will falter and fail.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Tag! I'm It!

Hey! I got tagged by two friends on the same day! I'm so Pop-oo-Lahr!!! :D

If you find your name at the bottom of this quiz, then it's YOUR turn to play and to tag someone else! Happy Playing!

Rule #1: Remove the blog site at the top of the list below, move all the blog site names up one, and add yourself to the bottom.

A Writer's Ramblings
Musings from an LDS Writing Mom
LDS Writers Blogck (Connie S. Hall)
Tristi Pinkston, LDS Author
Girl in a Whirl

What were you doing ten years ago?

Ten years ago we were living in Boise, Idaho and had just moved into our dream house. We were worth millions (but that didn't last), we were hoping to adopt a child soon, and life was pretty sweet, full of expectation and hope.

What were you doing one year ago?

Hmm, last year was not much different from this year :) With the possible exception that I was still working like the gangbusters on my photography business and being way too busy. Now I've cooled off on that a bit (still do it, just way more low-key), and am instead working like crazy on writing.

Five snacks you enjoy:

1. Apples 2. Dark Chocolate 3. Sun Chips and Salsa 4. Bananas and Peanut Butter 5. Graham Crackers and Applesauce

Five songs you know all the lyrics to:

I know a zillion! You want me to narrow it down?

1. "O mio babino caro" Puccini

2. "Northwest Passage" Stan Rogers

3. I bet I know everything by The Beatles

4. Almost everything by Sarah McLachlan

5. "Before He Cheats" Carrie Underwood

Things you would do if you were a millionaire:

Buy a house in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia Canada and move there! Set up mission funds for my boys and college too. Invest for a future of freedom!

Five bad habits:

1. Staying up too late at night.

2. Being way too hard on myself.

3. Sleeping in too late in the morning.

4. Thinking about writing when my dear husband is trying to have a decent conversation with me.

5. Popping dark chocolate squares like they were good for me, like melon balls or something.

Five things you like to do:

1. Write books.

2. Write blogs.

3. Visit with my friends, either IRL or online.

4. Go to the movies with my hubby.

5. Read.

Things you will never wear again:

1. I'll never wear a bikini again because I'm too modest - that and my babies pretty much took the choice away from me; unless I want to scare poor unsuspecting children at the pool. And stonewashed jeans.

Five favorite toys:

1. My laptop


3. Our new-to-us 2004 GMC Envoy

4. Can I say my laptop again? It's really my most favorite!

5. My husband!

Where will you be in ten years:

Wow. That's a big question. I will have two teenage boys, so I hope I'll be in the thick of things, that I'll be in the know, that I'll be a safe place for boys to land, that they'll always trust me. I hope I'll be a published author with a good number of books published by then. I think we'll be in that house on Mahone Bay by then, because I suspect we'll lose David's parents during the next ten years and they are the reason we stay here in Utah.

Five people to tag:

I'll tag a few of my non-writer friends as well here to help spread the love ...

Rebecca Talley

Have fun!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Readers Beware!

By now, my first book (well, second technically, but the first one is not fit for human consumption - maybe I should read it to my dog?), has found it's way into several of Inboxes, waiting to be read.

I am terrified.

I *thought* my book was done, felt good about it. It placed second in a first chapter contest. It played well in a little blog competition put on by a publisher.

But, here's the thing. Wait, you have to come a little closer, because I'm too chicken to say this out loud. Even closer. You've got to be able to feel my breath in your ear. Close now? That's good ... here it is ... shhh, you have to listen closely ... "I don't think my book is very good. I DID think it was good, but now that I know you're reading it, I think it stinks!!! Don't tell anyone!"


And now the waiting game. Ugh. Blech. Blah. It's hard to write new stuff knowing my book is out there, people are reading it, and maybe (ahhh!!!) they're hating it.

I think I'm gonna go run and hide now.

Monday, July 09, 2007

A Great Mis-Quoted Quote

Sunday I heard a wonderful talk delivered from the pulpit. The speaker was an energetic, entertaining girl who is new to the ward. I enjoyed her style immensely, and I loved what she had to say. She shared the most amazing quote I've heard in a long time that really got me.

"We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won't feel unsure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us, it is in everyone."~Nelson Mandela's Inauguration Speech.

Wow, I couldn't believe Mr. Mandela had said that! I began to hypothesize about the truly great men and women throughout the ages who had been called of God, whether inside the LDS Church or not. Until I discovered Mr. Mandela did not say those words.

At first, it seemed he was only quoting someone else. But no, no, that wasn't it. In
fact, he has not said those words at all. It's a myth that he said them. The real mystery to me is, why would someone make that up? Why go to the trouble to put words in the man's mouth, even citing the source, if he never in fact said them? That I don't know. But I did find out who, in fact, did say them.

Her name is Marianne Williamson
and she's the author of several books on spirtuality and is the spiritual leader of The Church of Today.

However, why is it, that now that I know it was her who said these great words, they suddenly mean less to me? Like I needed someone truly great (read famous?) to say them for me to give them credence? Thing is, I totally, wholeheartedly, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die, believe in these words. It's just that now I don't feel special quoting them. I'm a quote snob. *sigh*

I want to repent though. Because these words have great value; these words are TRUE.

Sometimes people are embarrassed to be around me. They've heard me sing at every Stake thing. They've seen the beautiful little baby outfits I make when I give them at a shower. Many of their friends have family portraits I've taken hanging on their living room walls. They sit beside me during Relief Society when the lesson is on talents and I can feel them shrinking away from me. They say things like "Well I'm not talented like you."

Thing is, I'm not talented like YOU. I have many observable talents, it's true; and I've worked hard at developing those talents. But I'm really bad at just knowing when someone needs a dinner brought in, or even how to serve when I perceive service is needed. I tend to stand around wringing my hands at ward funerals or the like because I don't know how to just jump in and help. I admire all the women who rush from one thing to the other with such confidence in what they are doing.

I could go on and on about what's wrong with me, about what talents I'm lacking. And I usually do. But that's in part why I love this quote. Why should I try to make myself smaller, just because my outward talents might make others feel insecure about themselves? God gave me these gifts. I am so thankful to Him for them, because they bless and enrich my life. What a thankless girl I am if I can't pay homage to the God who created me by using the talents He gave me.

I also love this quote because it says what I believe and our church teaches, that we are all children of God and we are all blessed with gifts. Most often I think we have in our possession a multitude of gifts if we desire them. However it does take a sturdy shovel and a strong back sometimes to find that which we seek. But isn't it that way with most things?

So I guess I've talked myself into accepting the value of this quote despite it's not having been said by Mr. Mandela. Instead, I want Ms. Williamson to know how thankful I am for this wonderful bit of wisdom. Maybe it's a good thing Mr. Mandela is getting misquoted so often because this important message is being shared with more people because of it. Ms. Williamson's gift for words and Mr. Mandela's gift for public accolade. Together, they allow for a sweet message to be heard, to be shared, and hopefully, to be adopted into the hearts of many.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

How I Became an Opera Singer

I was a lonely little girl.

My parents were unhappy and finally divorced when I was four years old. I had four siblings, all older then me by more than eight years. I had a very special imaginary friend and when I was most sad or lonely, he told me to sing.

And so I sang. Mostly made-up songs that were like little prayers; but they comforted me and I found happiness in them.

When I was about eight years old I read that the producers of Annie were coming to Toronto, Ontario, Canada; they were looking for the "new" Annie. I lived in Bramalea which would take (I can't remember now for sure) more than an hour to get there. I asked my Mom if she would take me for the auditions, but she did not support it. Toronto was too far away, I wasn't talented enough, don't even think about it.

But I practiced anyway. I borrowed the album from the library and listened and listened to it on our big ol' credenza stereo (remember those?). I had to play the songs over a lot to figure out the words. I begged my sister, who had just gotten her license a few months before to take me. My sister, bless her, agreed. My sister is a bit of a Nervous Nelly and to drive into downtown Toronto traffic was a BIG undertaking. I still can't believe she did it for me.

We found the place and my sister waited and/or parked the car (again, can't remember what she was doing) while I went inside to find Orphan Annies wall to wall. I was the only one in the place who did not have my hair done up in red ringlets. I was not even wearing a dress. I had dressed nicely, but I don't believe I owned a dress at that time in my life. And unlike the other girls, who had mother's primping them and fussing over them and running lines with them, I sat there alone.

When my name was called I went in and was kindly greeted by the panel of judges. They asked for my resume and headshot, of which I had neither. They told me it was customary to bring such things, but they would hear me anyway. They asked me what I was prepared to read, and at the time I had no idea what they meant. I now know they meant which part from the musical was I prepared to recite for them ... a monologue or something like that. I was prepared to sing, though, so they listened with happy looks on their faces.

In my grown up life I've known many producers and directors and they rarely listen to auditions with happy looks on their faces. Knowing just how badly I messed up that audition (oh, I think I sang well enough, but I was totally unprofessional and unprepared) I'm so grateful for the kindness they showed me in even listening to me. When I was finished they again kindly told me I was a talented little girl but that I needed more experience and an agent so they couldn't use me for this production. They didn't give me the part, but they did give me hope for my future and courage to keep at it.

Similar scenes repeated themselves in the following years, with my Mom in various stages of cooperation, but all with similar conclusions as I was unprofessional.

Finally I auditioned for something that only required a good voice: The London Fanshawe Symphonic Chorus. Mr. Fagan changed my life and set me on a path that would bless me forever. He listened to me, taught me and told me if I worked hard, I could join the chorus. I had no idea at the time that the chorus only consisted of adults and very talented and experienced ones at that. I was fourteen years old, the youngest singer ever to be admitted into the Chorus.

I sang with the Chorus for five years and during that time, also performed with The Ontario Youth Band and Singers, a prestigious group of a handful of talented young performers from across the province, for a few years.

I went to Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada, where I auditioned for their music school. Even though I failed to pass the theory exam (because I had never had any formal training) I was able to prove that my intuitive understanding of music was excellent and I had a real talent. I got in.

I studied music for a couple years and life was happy. But I had such pain in my face, particularly in my jaw that I eventually sought the help of an orthodontist. It turned out that a fall on my first birthday had dislocated my jaw. My jaw was never reset and so the jaw actually sat outside of the joint. That doctor told me I had to stop singing or I wouldn't even talk within five years.

I ignored him.

Not long after that my voice teacher told me I should consider another area of study because I obviously had no talent and shouldn't be singing.

I believed her.

This is getting very long so I'll try to fast forward:

My husband and I had moved to Boise, Idaho where I happened to pass the Arts building on my way to work every day. One day there was an open call for chorus members. I had missed music in my life so very much. It had been more than five years and I was still able to speak, so I decided "come what may" but I needed to sing. I auditioned and was accepted.

Through the chorus I learned there was a special vocal coach accepting a few new students. Her name was DeNice Jensen. She listened to me sing before deciding if she would teach me. I was terrified, hearing the words of my earlier voice teacher telling me I was no good, ringing in my ears. But Ms. Jensen told me I had something to work with.

I worked with Ms. Jensen for seven years and by the time I had to move and leave her, I was singing for Opera Idaho, having performed such principle roles as Baby in The Ballad of Baby Doe , and the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute.

This girl, who two strangers only believed in, Mr. Fagan and Ms. Jensen, who did not have the support or encouragement of her family, did not have very much formal training, and who was told by someone 'in the know' that she had no talent, sang to such rave reviews as:

"Stunning and heart-warming ... "
"Though I've heard this aria many times, I've never been moved like I was tonight ..."
"Truly flawless; coluratura at it's best."
"A Star."

I wanted to be a singer, a performer, but many obstacles stood in my way. No one made it easy for me. And though my career was short-lived, due to the birth of my twins and a desire to be home with my family, I got what I wanted, for a time. You can imagine what my life-philosophy might be since it's served me so well: Risk can bring you what you fear, but there's such a good chance it can bring you what you desire. Take risks so you can live your life without regrets. That's what I do!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Fire in the Sky

I am a Canadian. I love my country. And as many Canadians, I'm sure, I grew up with a fair amount of disdain for American and Americans. It came as a shock to most of my friends and family, then, when I announced that I was marrying (gasp!) an American and that once I'd finished my degree I'd be moving to (gasp again!) the United States.

However, after living here now for 15 years, I'm singing a different tune. I love this country. I have great respect for this country. I pray, daily, for this country.

Last night, my family and I, along with thousands, made a pilgrimage to our favorite 4th of July Park to gather, visit, and watch the fireworks.

As I lay under the stars, with fire exploding in the sky above me, one of my sons held tight to my body, tears filled my eyes as they often do when I witness that sight. As usual, the words to this country's national anthem, written by Francis Scott Key, spring to my mind:

And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Yes, our flag is still there, but I fear today it is more tattered and torn then it once was, even when it hung on battlements during war. Yes, it still waves, but I fear for only a relative few.

As I lay there, last night, beside and among the drunk girl, the tattooed guy, the old couple, the young couple (who I noticed didn't seem to be watching the sky at all) and all the families with children, another thought came to me. That event, watching fireworks on the 4th of July, is a great equalizer.

Together we can be one, of one mind, of one hope ... that despite "
... the havoc of war and the battle's confusion" we can, and must, learn to stand together.

Despite my liberal Canadian upbringing, I feel to fight for this amazing country in which I am now blessed to live. And I hope, as this morning dawns bright and fair, that other's hearts, too, are turned to freedom and a cause that is just.

O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their lov'd homes and the war's desolation;
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserv'd us as a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause. it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Me and My Friend, Hysterectomy

Actually, it's more like a monkey on back. And I probably shouldn't be writing about it now, while I'm in SO much pain.

I had a hysterectomy five weeks ago after twenty years of pain and misery. I'd had endometriosis for years, couldn't have children and just in general lived with chronic pain for all that long time. For the last ten years I was told by four different gynecologists that I needed to have a hysterectomy. But I wanted another child, believed I would have another child - another miracle (I know, greedy, eh?) - so I always said no. Hence why I saw four different doctors during that time; I couldn't stand everyone telling me I needed to have surgery.

Anyway, early in this year the pain just grew intolerable and I'd finally realized I'd had enough. So much of my life was in slow motion because of the constant pain. So I went ahead and scheduled my hysterectomy, which I had on May 31st.

I am a trooper. I can handle a lot of pain. So I fully expected that I'd handle the surgery just fine. Well, I DID handle the surgery fine, but the recovery has been a real, well, P-A-I-N. And to add insult to injury, it turns out I'm a SLOW healer.

I expected two weeks of next to no activity, four more weeks of 'quiet' activity with some restrictions, and then TA DA life as usual. HA!!! Umm, that's not quite the way it goes.

Turns out my two weeks stretched into four weeks so I'm two weeks behind in my 'schedule'. I can hardly do anything ... still ... and it's getting SO old.

Today I had to take my boys to the dentist and go to the pet store to pick up some supplies for our little pooch. Just the drive alone causes such pain. By the time I got to the check out counter I could hardly string two words together coherently because I was so exhausted and hurting.

When will this ever end? (of course it will end ... but humor me here) When can I do things without having to think, oh wait, CAN I do that thing? It's like having a rotten friend who tags along with you wherever you go. Your friends say "Hey let's go ride bikes!" and you cheerily reply "Sure! Let's go!" but then you remember you have this out-of-shape friend who can't ride bikes and you've promised to stick together no matter what. Bummer for you, you can't go on the fun bike ride. You have to sit at home with only your lap top to keep you company and soap operas to entertain you. *sigh*

I am so ready to kick my unwanted friend in the butt. I'll throw a butt-kicking party when I do! Thanks for joining my pity party today. Time to go eat chocolate or something.

Monday, July 02, 2007

About Me

I've been wanting to write a more complete profile like I've seen on some other blogs, but I just can't figure it out. So, this will have to do. I think I'll keep my 'profile' to my adult life, if you're interested in the 'me' before, say 25, just ask!

My name is Sandra, but I go by Ali which is short for my true-name is Alexandra. Got that? How's that for confusing? I've also gone by Alex too just in case you were wondering. It's a long story, one I might share with you one day, but not one for today.
I was a professional Opera Singer before I became pregnant with my twins. I only had a short career but it was headed in the right direction. I am a coloratura soprano, so my repertoire was limited, but special; only a few true coloraturas are performing in the United States at any one time. Since my boys were born, I haven't performed in that kind of large venue and I don't know if I ever will again. Though it is still so much a part of me, still my dream. One day I will sing again ... maybe. For now, I only get to sing at Church. My music is another thing I'll have to tell you more about some time!
For an artistic outlet I turned to photography. I decided it would be a good job for me to do while I had little children at home so ... I did it. I started my own business, which you can check out at www.aworkofheartphotography.com . Right now my business is undergoing a make-over, but you are welcome to come look anyway.
I've enjoyed my photography work, but it still wasn't that deep-feeling thing that I was looking for ... the way I felt when I was on the stage, singing my heart out. And then it came to me ... I had to find a way to share my soul, to 'reach beyond my reaching' as the hymn says.
I had always wanted to write a book, but other then writing poetry and class assignments, I had no reason to think I could write. But the feeling that was encouraging me to write felt like a calling, WAS calling me, and so I began.
Now I'm a writer, a photographer, and still, always, a singer.
And, of course, I am a Mom. Charlie and Xander are my miracle babies ... definitely a story I should tell you some time.
David, my husband, is my rock, my inspiration, my cheerleader. We've been married for fifteen and a half years. We've endured many challenges and trials, but have come out of each of them thanking our Heavenly Father for what we have learned. Even more stories to tell.
I have a great life. I am so blessed. I can honestly say, I live a life of JOY.