Monday, December 29, 2014

Post 3: A Book I Love


I guess I'm just glad it was worded as "A Book I Love" not "The" or "Favorite". 

Growing up in a house full of books, with an English major mother who introduced me to the Sneetches and Harry and Frodo and Mary Lennox and Jo March at a young age, books are an incredibly precious and important part of me. 
There are just so many books.

In fact, I would go so far as to say I don't have a 'favorite book.'
I really don't.
I suppose I have a list of literary works that touched me or resonated with me more than others. And I certainly have a longer list of books I would (and have) reread in a heartbeat. But is there one book to rule them all? For me, no. I don't think there is. 


Every girl goes through her Jane Austen phase. 
Most find it enough to fall in love with Mr. Darcy, to identify with Elizabeth, and to roll their eyes at the insufferably silly Lydia. Maybe some go deeper and find the dramatic experiences of both Dashwood sisters enthralling, or they find themselves wrapped up in the drama Emma Woodhouse creates for herself. There are a few who even overlook the now-days inherent creepiness of Fanny falling for cousin Edmund. [No one likes Northanger Abbey :) ] But--and I swear I'm not attempting to be some sort of Austen elitist, because I'm not and I've fallen for Darcy, Brandon, Ferrers, Knightley, and Bertram many times myself--I don't often find many people who list Anne Elliot and her decade-long search for love as their absolute favorite. 

I don't remember when I first read Persuasion, but I'm pretty sure it came after Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, and for sure Mansfield Park. It maybe came before Emma, but it was definitely the least-known Austen novel I attempted. 

Short synopsis--with maybe a few spoilers, I don't know, I think it's sort of difficult to 'spoil' any of Austen's work--is this: Anne Elliot is the middle daughter of a self-important, ridiculous used-to-be rich man. To bookend her, she's got a self-absorbed elder sister, and a hypochondriac younger sister. Her mother died when she was young, leaving her silly father to govern things by himself; in doing so, they lose the family home Anne loves more than anything. In order to keep themselves afloat somehow, the wise Anne--with the assistance of a mostly sensible family friend--convinces her father to rent the house to a suitable tenant; in this case, a retired Navy colonel and his wife. Lo and behold, this colonel's wife happens to be related to Captain Wentworth, a man whose name brings on a near panic attack when Anne first hears it. Back when Anne was still considered 'young' and 'hopeful', they had been in love. He had proposed, she'd wanted to say yes, but had allowed herself to be persuaded by her family and the "well-meaning" family friend to reject him, mostly because of his then-status as lowly navyman. Essentially, she broke his heart--and her own--and the two had parted, never to see each other again, and Anne convinced she would remain alone and unloved for the rest of her life. 

Through a series of various events, Anne and Wentworth find themselves frequently in each other's company. It is obvious Anne is still in love with him, but she--and we, as the readers--are forced to watch him gallivant about with the youngest Elliot sister's 2 very silly sisters-in-law. At one point, Anne is courted by the heir to her father's title, Wentworth is apparently 'promise-engaged' (those were weird times, man) and you think, for just a minute, that maybe these two people--who have lived almost a decade alone in regret and heartbreak--might not actually end up together!

I'll let you read it to discover the ending, because I promise, it's far better and much more interesting than the pitiful synopsis I gave above.

I think one of the main reasons I like this story so much is because it is not a typical 'girl gets the guy' story. Yes, Elinor Dashwood's up and down romance is exhausting, but it's only over the course of a year or so. Anne has a chance at happiness, turns it down, then spends the next ten years or so living in regret and solitude. She wonders if she's missed her chance, but even she gets a happy ending--even if it takes a little longer than others. 

I also just love Anne. 
As much as I love Elizabeth's wit and fire, or Emma's confidence, Elinor's good sense, and Marianne's sense of romance, I think I admire Anne more.

She's steady and sensible; she lives surrounded by vain and vapid people, but she keeps her sense of morality and intelligence throughout it all. She suffers a lot, but keeps most of it hidden; she doesn't allow the hardships of her life to drag her down. She selflessly gives whatever is needed; she connects with those who need it most. She learns from her mistakes, and decides that she will never allow herself to be 'so easily persuaded again.' She is put in the situation of seeing the man she loves flirt and be flirted with every single day, but she keeps going, stays pleasant, and reminds herself to stay strong. Because of this, I think she is the one of Austen's heroines who truly deserves everything she gets in the end. 

I love this book for what it is, but I also love it because it's the lesser known sibling to the ever popular Pride and Prejudice. It also offers a different presentation of romance; the idea that it may take years to find your true love and sometimes you get second chances. 

Honorable Mentions:
The Life of Pi - Yann Martel
The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
The Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
The Lord of the Rings trilogy - JRR Tolkien
The Book of Mormon
Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense & Sensibility, Mansfield Park - Jane Austen
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
Seabiscuit - Laura Hillenbrand

and many 

Post 2 : Something You Feel Strongly About

This is a hard one for me. Being the obsessive, justice-hungry basket case that I am, it's hard to pick just one thing I feel strongly about. 

I mean, what do I choose? A ranting post about racism or hypocrisy or today's music industry? A gushing review of my latest favorite show or movie or song? A stinging commentary on today's social, political, governmental, religious issues?

So, really, I should be commended for narrowing it down to only 3 things, just three, that I feel strongly about. 

1) The power of music
2)  The power of caring
3) The power of prayer

If you know me even a little, #1 should not be of much surprise. Even with as much as I immerse--or attempt to immerse--myself in the infinite universe of music, I am still knocked back on my heels in indescribable gratitude for the way music can make you feel. For the way it can make a horrific day bearable, a bad day good, a good day better. For the ability to hear what's going on inside you; for the means of experiencing something you'd never know in real life. Sometimes I find myself feeling overwhelmed by just how much music exists! (not that all of it is good, mind you: you'd still have to wade your way through the TSwifts and Schoenbergs) It can do everything! In my personal experience, there's almost nothing it can't do: it's made me cry when I needed that release; it's pumped me up when I need the encouragement; it's brought me closer to my Heavenly Father; it's made me invincible, vulnerable, ecstatic, broken-hearted; it's let me blow off steam; it's allowed me to connect with people I wouldn't care about otherwise or never will meet. And it's such a special thing, all at once being both wonderfully universal and blessedly personal. I could go on and on, but I think I've made my point clear. I feel strongly about the undeniable power of music.

I sometimes think I care too much. Not in some dramatic, teenage-romance novel kind of way. But in the way that I think I would have far fewer sleepless nights, less performance anxiety, minimal furious rants, and dry eyes during movies. It would certainly make my life easier. But better? I believe in the power of caring. I believe in the way a simple smile and sincere "good morning, how was your weekend?" can remind a child that someone loves them. I believe in the ability to accomplish great things by putting your whole heart into them. I believe that society can be changed by the simple act of caring. A little while ago, I was talking with an old college professor of mine and he asked what advice, if any, I would pass on to those seeking to enter our field of work. The question made me laugh--what could I, a second year teacher hanging on (sometimes literally) by her fingertips, possibly have to offer? He encouraged me to think about it, sleep on it, and get back to him if I felt I could. So I did. I thought about all the thousands of things I've learned, all the millions of things I've yet to learn, and then I thought about the point. What is the point? Why do I do what I do? A simplistic answer would be to say this: it's because I care. But because I am long-winded and like to see my words on page (seriously, you should know this by now) let me elaborate. The gist of what I ended up emailing to him was this: I am no great musician. I am certainly no brilliant, award-winning pedagogue. I am no great music teacher. All I can do, really, is care. I care about music; about the ins and outs of it, the mechanics that allow young potential musicians to create or find solace in what they do. And I care about my kids: I care about my sweet 6th grade boy who, one day in tears, told me his mom was fighting cancer; I care about my 8th grade girls (and sometimes boys) who get so caught up in growing up that it becomes overwhelming; I care about the little chatterbox who just wants people to like him. And because of this, because I care, I feel more useful than if I was an expert in music theory or a world-famous soloist. My students don't give a darn if I play Bach's 3rd Suite with technical perfection; they're not particularly concerned either way that I know everything about the chord progression chart. If I don't show them that I love them, that I care about their success and well-being, then anything else I say doesn't matter. I believe in the power of caring because I have seen it work pretty big changes in lives. I believe in the power of caring because I have seen and experienced its antithesis, and I know that apathy can have just as much power as caring. To say it mildly, I feel strongly about a human being's ability to care.

I talk to myself. A lot. In public, and sometimes much louder than I intended. I'm not quite sure whether this is a sign of intelligence or insanity, but I do know it's an incredibly annoying habit: like when I discover my full-blown, out loud debate about which peanut butter is better was heard, in its entirety, by the man with the shopping cart just behind me. Sometimes I think it's a sign of the crazies, because I like to talk through my problems out loud to relieve the crowd that is my brain. But it sometimes gets lonely, and I figure once you start answering yourself, it's probably time to stop. The only problem is, when your most common companions are little almost-people, and your parents' phones are dead and your friends are too busy to answer, who do you talk to? I am not knocking any religion with structured prayer systems, but I cannot describe my gratitude for the things I have been taught about prayer. It is not only a way of thanking God or asking for blessings--it's a way to communicate with an all-knowing, all-loving Father in Heaven. At any point in my day--or night--I can get on my knees and tell my worries and triumphs to a loving Heavenly Father. I have felt the weight of crippling anxiety lift from where it's settled just over my lungs, all due to the power of prayer. I have seen impossible things go right; I have recovered hopelessly lost items; I have received answers and peace; I have seen it work medical wonders. I believe in the power of prayer because I could list for you the many times I have seen this awesome and merciful power work miracles in day-to-day life. Prayer was possibly the first thing of which I had my own testimony. The scriptures were sometimes hard to read, and I didn't always find the point in primary/YW lessons on Sunday, but I had several experiences that solidified my belief in the power of prayer. To say I feel strongly about it is a ridiculously limiting understatement, and I don't imagine that I've explained it to any sort of acceptable standard, but I feel very strongly about the power of prayer.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Post 1 - Five Ways to Win My Heart

1- Listen and Argue
    Let me talk your ear off about whatever I want every so often, because I spend 98% of my life listening and honestly, I'm good at it and I love it--but once in a while, I need to ramble off on my own tangents and feel like you want to hear everything I think or feel or imagine---But that doesn't mean agree. I don't want sycophantic listening, I want a partner. An intellectual who will argue--or debate or discuss if you like that better--politics and religion and ideas and books and movies and music and societal issues and best flavors of jelly beans and corniest holidays and worst book-to-film adaptations. Challenge me. Listen to me. 
2- Be passionate and protective
      Love something--and be proud of it. Love your job; love your hobby; love black and white photography; love reading Russian novels; love Star Wars; love jazz standards from the 40's--love something and let that passion shine from your whole being. Be protective. Of what you believe. Of your passions. Of others. Be the person who stands up when something is wrong; be the champion of the underdog. Love people enough to want to drive them home, even if it's just 2 blocks, because you don't want them to get heatstroke or frostbite. Have a purpose and defend it. 
3- Be kind and show it
     Give the shirt off your back if someone else needs it more. Smile at strangers. Listen to little kids and grandparents. Tip generously, speak softly, hold the door. Let people off the hook. Sacrifice your wants for the needs of others every so often. Be kind
4- Make me laugh
     No, you don't have to be a stand-up comedian. I'm not asking you to be "on" all the time. But have a sense of humor. Enjoy the quirky; the random. Let yourself be amused. Show me that you can laugh through the easy times --and find a smile during the dark. 
5- Let me Nerd
    You don't have to love British television or 20th century Russian composers. You don't have to obsessively build DVD collections of your favorite shows, or reread favorite books a billion times over. But let me. Let me cry during movies without making (too much) fun. Let me binge watch Supernatural or ER. Let me quote Gilmore Girls and M*A*S*H. Sit with me until the composer's name appears in the end credits of a movie. Let me listen to Shostakovich's 5th twenty times in a row--and let me explain to you why it's so brilliant. You don't have to love what I love--just let me love it. And, hey, maybe join me every so often. 

Honorable Mentions
-Sour watermelons, Hershey's chocolate pie, fruit snacks, arroz con pollo, icees, and Dove's dark chocolate
-Chevy Impalas. Mostly of the year 1967
-Superhero powers
-House on the West coast, right in sight of the ocean
-Golden. Retriever. Puppies. and hedgehogs
-Time-and-space-travelling blue police box
-Season tickets to all the major symphonies
-Annual passes to Disneyland
-Flights to anywhere in the world, at any time
-Billions of dollars :D

Sunday, June 8, 2014


I have seen The Piano Man in real life and now I can die happy.

Like almost every other vein of great music I'm addicted to, I was introduced to this guy by my fabulous parents. 

I mean, really. I have so many good memories. 
But one of my absolute favorites is remembering the times---I just feel like it happened more than once---where we would be coming back from Utah late at night, and all the younger kids had fallen asleep, and I happened to convince dad to hand over the musical reins and I remember putting Billy Joel on and just cruising, just hanging out and talking with my parents. 

I can't really put into words what his music means to me, but I will say this: 
when the lights finally came up
and the first few notes of "Miami 2017" were heard
and the man himself was sitting on stage, playing his piano

I got a little teary. 

It was, hands-down, one of the best performances I have EVER seen. 
Even at 65 my boy Billy's got some moves and, boy, can he SING. 

He played a fantastic set--complete with a "Viva Las Vegas" interlude in River of Dreams--and when he came back out for more, he proceeded to play a 5 or 6 set encore!!

There was a flawless performance of We Didn't Start the Fire with pictures detailing each subject on the big screen above Billy's head.
There was the moment when he brought out a Roadie, CHAINSAW, to scream an energetic cover of AC/DC's Highway to Hell while Billy rocked the guitar. 
There was an acknowledgment of the incredibly flawed Ballad of Billy the Kid
There was a little bit of Beethoven. 
There was a gorgeous--and tear-inducing--And So It Goes.
And there was the absolutely perfect sing-along of Piano Man.

I'm so ecstatic. This musical high could last for weeks, I think!
I don't know that I'm necessarily super picky about what concerts I go to, but I know for sure I wouldn't waste my money to see half the stuff that's "popular" these days, with little pop artists who can't actually sing their music that has no weight to it. (*cough* T Swift *cough*)

Give me The Piano Man any day, with his 65 year old hands flying across those keys. 

I just can't gush enough. 
I never thought I'd see him live. I've listened to his music for...forever, really, and have been in heaven with his Sirius XM radio channel right now, but with a career that has spanned whole decades and music eras, I never thought I'd be lucky enough to make it to a live performance of his. 

But I did. I got to see Billy Joel in concert with the two people who introduced me to his music.
The instant I heard he was coming to Vegas, I got online and bought 3 of the best tickets available--I was only a few months late and it was already nearly sold out!--then got on my phone and basically ordered my parents to be in Vegas this weekend, no excuses.
It was so fun. 
I really don't have much more to say about it.
Cuz all I could say on the drive back to Mom and Dad's hotel was "That was SO FUN."
So I'd inevitably just end up in a never-ending circle, repeating the same things over and over and over and over again. 

But I'm so happy. Such a brilliant, amazing, WORTHWHILE night. 
I'll remember this forever :)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Let's Play Ketchup

I'm a weird blogger.
Well, I mean, I'm just weird, period, but my Blog-Life (similar to 'hood-' or 'thug-') is incredibly erratic. 

I'll go months without a single post
then BAM...
way too many all at once. 

In any case, a lot of things have happened since last we met, so..
...let's ketchup, shall we?

  • I am ALMOST DONE with my FIRST YEAR OF TEACHING. Can you believe it? I can't. It has been one crazy ride--with a shockingly unpleasant dose of the crazy--but I am surviving, and I'm almost there!
  • I took two ensembles to two separate festivals and each group received a Superior rating

some of my advanced orchestra kids getting ready for a pre-festival concert.

a few of my intermediate orchestra kids after their festival. on a Saturday. at 8am. 

I guess, as a sort of sub-bullet, that now would be the time to mention how much I adore these kids. And, no, that's not creepy. When I first got my student teaching assignment and realized I'd be working with middle schoolers I was......what's the best word.......apprehensive? But now... I can't imagine teaching anything else. I don't know what it's like to be a parent, but I think I have sort of an idea. It's ridiculous how much I love these kids. How they can make a terrible, awful, no-good day a million times better just with their bright smiles. I can't count the number of times I have been caught honestly off-guard--and had to take a minute to stop laughing--by their humor. To see them work and struggle and conquer and even fall in love with makes all the hair-pulling days and anxiety-ridden nights worth it. I don't know that I'm any sort of good teacher: I'm not a musical genius. I don't compose. I'm not a brilliant soloist. I don't have amazing lesson plans that will get published in education journals. But what I do, I do pretty well: I love these kids and the subject I teach. I count myself incredibly blessed to be able to honestly say I love my job. And these radiant young souls I get to come in contact with every day are teaching me more than I thought I'd learn :) 
  • I've made new friends. 

  • I've kept in touch with old ones.
  • I've gotten used to finding movie theaters in big, smoke-filled casinos.
  • I've seen some pretty good movies. Divergent, Saving Mr. Banks, Winter's Tale, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER. 
  • I've had a vegan burger.
    • not my thing.
  • I've stood toe-to-toe with people who are more than twice my age--stood my ground, and made decisions I never thought I'd have to make. I've felt the backlash of spineless mortals and been the subject of plenty of slander. I've raged and ranted and held my tongue and carried on. And you know what? I've won
  • I've gone rock-climbing/hiking. Like, across rocky gaps and slippery slopes and unbelievable heights. 
  • I've been to my favorite place on earth. A few times :) With many plans to go back. 

I always swore to myself I'd live in Cali. Now I'm in landlocked NV, but some day....some day.............

  • I've gone to a pro (okay, minor league...) hockey game. 
  • I cheered myself silly for the Olympics
  • I've seen people make some really bad decisions
  • I've kept up my Supernatural addiction. 
    • Okay, really, if you haven't seen this show at least once by should. It is wonderfully weird to me that I--the biggest chicken you will ever meet, the person who (as a 16 yr old) had to sleep in mom and dad's room the night of Pref after watching Poltergeist--have fallen for a show all about the freaky and spooky. That's how good it is.
  • I know approximately how many Little Caesar's pizzas I can fit in the backseat of my (old) car. 
I'm not even gonna explain this one. 
Let your imaginations do as they will. 
  • I've written pretty faithfully to a missionary. Yep, Elder Connor Ontiveros is still one of the funniest people I know, and it has been AMAZING to see all the change that has happened to little bro since he went out into the field. The people of Iowa/Missouri/Mississippi are lucky folks :) 
  • I've had root canals and crowns and cleanings and basically my teeth suck, but I legit don't hate my current dentist, so that's a plus. 
  • Yes, I was there for the Mailmanapocalypse
Why so many? In one place?? At one time??? The world may never know.

  • I've been a homebody, a partier, a hermit, a social butterfly. 
  • I've cried, I've prayed, I've ranted, I've stayed up too late with every possibility chasing the others around all because of my job, but I've kept at it. 
  • I've been lonely. 
  • I've been overwhelmed. 
  • Goodness knows I've been annoyed. 
  • I've been happy. Confident. Content. 
  • I've been intensely self-critical all with the intention of always trying to be just a little bit better

Spring break is nearly over. 
6 more weeks. 1 more concert. A few end-of-the-year awards nights and meetings and business to attend to.
Then it's summer. 

Maybe I'll have some blog-worthy experiences for you by then ;) 

In Search of a Good Name

I know I probably overuse the phrase
"I'm an adult!"

Please understand: I am aware.
It's like when you say the world "milk" too many times in a row.
Eventually, it just feels weird. 

But, honestly, it's mostly because you don't really notice how things are changing until you stop to consider. How you are changing. 

The past year.5 has been all about growing for me. 
You know the story: graduated college, got a job, moved to Vegas, had various misadventures with various characters in various places, etc etc etc.

Some things are legitimately a big deal (first full time job, baby!)
And others are...not as much (first time fixing the stupid water heater)
But when you let yourself pause for a second to realize that a year.5 ago, there was no way you'd be sometimes-leading/sometimes-dragging a large handful of rambunctious, moody teens into the World of Music or getting much too close to the creepy crawlies of the earth whilst kneeling to check on the pilot light--it's sort of a big deal.

While I am fully aware that not every step I take into the realm of "Adulthood" is actually as earth-shattering as I feel it is and therefore does not require a breaking news-style update.....

Hey, guys?

So, I got into my first accident almost exactly a year ago, sometime in the tricky month of April, 2013. Although the damage eventually turned out to be little more than superficial, my little orange Jack was definitely "used goods."
Even so, imagine my surprise when, 7 months later, I'm sitting on the floor in my grandparents' basement hearing my dad suggest that I buy a new car. 

'What??' I thought. 'Me? Buy a new car? Like a grown-up would? Don't you know I'm only a kid??'
But the more we talked it over, the more persuaded I became
Plus, I mean, who doesn't love car shopping??

So I started perusing. And researching. And picking out colors (the important things, you know).
And then it sort of got put on the back burner.
My car hadn't kicked the bucket yet. I wasn't in desperate need of a new car.
Plus there was no way I was going to hit up a dealership alone. I'm far too chicken and nice to deal with car salespeople. (Nothing against them, but, seriously, ask my parents to tell you about the "Photo of a Horse" incident and you'll see what I mean). I have a hard time saying no.

Fast forward to April 2014. 
After a rough couple of weeks (more about that later), I decided, sort of last minute, to pack up my car and hit the road for a bit of spring break with the fam (also more about that later).

Now, I will admit, as I stood in my room, debating whether I should pack another sweatshirt or not (didn't, poor choice, it was freezing), I glanced at my spare set of keys and checkbook and thought, 'Maybe, just in case, I should take both of these with...'
In the end, I left keys, checkbook, and extra sweatshirt.
(But I took the cannoli!  haha! anyone? ....anyone?)
Thoroughly-ignored premonitions aside, let it be known that I had no serious, rock-solid intention of going back to Idaho to find me a car (Adam Pontipee).

But, gosh darnit, sometimes things just fall into place. 
The Chevy dealer in good ol' B, ID, is owned by a Kim Hansen, whose son just happens to be in my parents' ward. On a sort of Saturday-evening whim, I mentioned aloud to dad whether he thought this kind Brother would let us test-drive some cars sometime the next week.
He did his usual dad response "Hmm, I dunno" (love you dad!) then asked what car I was investigating. 

Sunday: inquiries were made, and answered.
credit scores were checked.
bank accounts were perused. 
BlueBook was consulted. 
A plan was set.

I won't walk you through the many, long details of that Monday, April 14, 2014.
Let it suffice to say this:
I walked onto the Chevy lot Monday morning.
And drove away much later that afternoon in my brand new car. 

Ashen Grey Metallic.
Chevrolet Equinox LTZ. 

Is it wrong to be in love with a car?

Maybe a little, but believe me when I say that this car was pretty much everything I wanted.
There were a few other options on-lot: a black (um. Vegas.) a white or 2 (ehh)
and quite a few pearly golds (who honestly likes that color???)
And then, there, on the baby. 

It was one of the higher-end models, and a liiiiiiittllleee bit more than I had initially planned on spending.
But it was awesome. Just perfect. The right color, the right audio options, the right interior. 
The test-drive sealed the deal. 

Big thanks to L. Hansen (if he ever reads this) for all the help and generosity in making my new-found dream a reality. 

So..there it is. I can officially cross "buy a car" off my Adulthood Bucket List.
(that's not really a thing. .....although, maybe it is now)
And, sure, signing all the papers and setting up a payment plan was a bit nerve-wracking.
And, yeah, my bank account feels a little light right now.
But I really don't regret it. 

When I posted pics on various social media platforms (cuz, obviously, you can't do anything unless it is FACEBOOK-DOCUMENTED), one of the comments that came up the most (besides "Congrats!" or, "sweet ride!") was definitely "You deserve it."

I don't know about that. I have a hard time with that phrase in general, but it feels sort of weird to be told that I've been a good enough human being to warrant a shiny new toy. 

But being a financially stable young adult--with a solid, full-time job, and the ability to make complete car payments--I mean, yeah, I guess that's something worth celebrating :)

Celebration, Chevy-style

Now I just need a good name.....


I'm pretty sure I can count on one hand the number of times I've been to Idaho's capital. Counting occasions and not separate...