Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What NOT to do when singing in a master class...

There are some no-no's to performing.  I broke every one of them while singing at my master class up at Weber State University today.
1.  No excuses
You absolutely DO NOT excuse away all of the reasons why you feel like you are not on your game.  But today I stood there and gave a laundry list of excuses before and after my performance as to the reasons why.
       -I hadn't eaten lunch.
       -I was struggling with a slight cold which had left gunk in my lungs.
       -I was harried and stressed from the worry about getting done and back to drive the gymnastics carpool in time.
       -My husband was out of town.
       -I had just gone to the dentist and was still feeling achy from the stretching involved in getting that crown on the tooth in the way far back of my mouth.  (Hence the no lunch...see #1)
       -I was operating on a sleep defecit.
       -I was hormonal.  (Yes, I even admitted to this.)
But no matter how good your excuses are, and darn it all, I had some really good ones today...you just don't do that.

2.  No starting over
Doesn't matter how bad you feel that opening note is, you continue on.  But today:  I bowed my head and pulled myself together, I channeled my character on my face during the (long) intro and then hit my first note.  Ooohhh, so bad.  Admittedly I had been worried enough about that entrance that I'm sure nerves played a part in the horrifying awfulness of it.  It's the D above high E.  Right at my pissagio...where I move from my chest voice to my higher range.  I can usually move between the two with smooth ease now, but coming in right at that point when I'm already struggling...yeah.  I was so embarrassed at the sound that came out of my mouth that I doubled over and laughed.  And then looked over at Gary, my voice teacher, and begged for second chance.  And while he was at it...could he speed up or maybe even not play the whole intro??  Not real professional of me.

3.  Find a visual focus point or two and stick to them.  No wandering eyes.
I was so humiliated by my awful beginning (and the dawning realization as I continued on that this was probably the worst I had ever sung this song) that I went into survival mode.  Just. Get. Through. The. Darn. Song.  And my eyes wandered.

4.  Stay in character till the last note of the accompaniment.
As soon as I hit my last note...which admittedly wasn't anywhere near as solid and strong as I had practiced, I dramatically dropped my head onto the piano and said, "That was awful!" as Gary was still playing his final few bars.

I know better.  All of these no-no's were things I had perfected long ago.  I think the reason performers resort to excuses or breaking character has to do with self preservation.  We want the audience, especially one of peers in a casual setting such as a master class, to know that we realize that was a crappy note, I forgot my words, I made a mistake, etc.  If I make fun of myself or give excuses as to why, then the feedback might not sting as much.

But sting it still did.  This is my first master class after a few months break and in that time a new acting coach has come in.  I don't know her and more importantly, she doesn't know me.  So the things she was advising me to do to make my performance better were things that I ALREADY KNOW!  These mistakes were beneath me and not like me AT ALL.  But she didn't know that because she hadn't ever seen any of my other master class performances over the past 4 years.  So I had to sit there and nod my head and thank her for the tips and advice while biting my tongue.  (Bless Gary for throwing a few, "Yeah...you don't usually do that.  Normally you're quite good at not breaking character and holding your visual focus" type of comments.)

Still....here is the reason you stick these performing rules.  Despite the fact that I knew this was the worst I had ever sung that song....that audience had no idea.  And they were still amazed with what I pulled out.  I'm accomplished enough that even when I was in survival mode, my training kicked in enough that I still stayed in character.  My eyes may have wandered but my arm gestures and my facial expressions apparently looked like I believed what I was singing.  Despite the fact that I had a cold, they audience was truly impressed with my high notes even though I knew they weren't anywhere as solid as I could normally sing them.  If I hadn't given them every excuse in the book as to why my performance was going to suck, they wouldn't have known.  We are our own worst critics.  My performance, as bad as I felt it was... knowing what I knew I could normally do...was still good, even if it wasn't stellar.

So overall, I guess this master class was a good reminder.  And I maybe I can take ironic comfort in the fact that I was a good visual aid to all the other participants in the class of what NOT to do when performing.       

Monday, February 27, 2012

Little bits of plastic in my eyes

Bryan and I jinxed our children. With both of us very familiar with the world of contacts, glasses, eye appointments and optometrists...we knew when we married 18 years ago that our children wouldn't stand a chance. And so it was no surprise when both Rebekah and Julianne started exhibiting signs of the world turning into a very blurry place.

Glasses, so much cuter than they were when I was their age, are still undesirable and kind of a pain when you are a teenager. So at their combined appointment with Dr. Murray this past week, we discussed contacts and decided to make the jump. 

Watching the girls learn how to insert what is realistically, a piece of plastic, into their eye has brought back a lot of memories. My more vivid memories are wrapped around the days (months) of getting used to my gas permeable (hard) lenses initially (much harder to do than with soft lenses) and then the times when I would lose them, which unfortunately happened occasionally. On more than one occasion my dad...and then in later years, my husband...spent time lying under the bathroom sink carefully tearing apart the plumbing in the hopes of finding a tiny, bluish tinted contact lens resting in in the u-bend after I had dropped it down the sink. I actually dropped one of my lenses down the sink the day after I got married in mine and Bryan's hotel room. (!!!) Though a bit humiliating, luckily we weren't leaving for our Florida honeymoon until the next day so I was able to call my mom and have her make a quick trip to my eye doctor for a loaner lens and bring it to me at my hotel. (Awkward, yes.)

Thirteen years ago I had LASIK eye surgery. It seemed rather miraculous to me that I went from having to be literally guided down the hall to the surgery room because I couldn't see....to sitting up and immediately being able to read the clock on the wall! 

(Don't I look lovely with those protective eye shields taped to my face?  I could hardly keep my eyes open for the picture, so sensitive to light were they at this point.)

Bryan, on the other hand, still wears contacts. He suffers from an eye disease called Keratoconus....a degenerative condition where structural changes within the cornea cause it to thin and change to a more conical shape rather than its normal, gradual curve. Bryan's mother and brother, Kevin also have this condition. It became so pronounced in Kevin some years ago that he was literally going blind and had to have cornea transplants in both eyes. Bryan's keratoconus, thankfully, has never got that bad and his prescription has stayed fairly stable for the past few years. In light of this, Dr. Murray told Bryan of a new surgery...one that he feels will take the place of LASIK very soon AND is a good fit for Bryan despite the keratoconus. Less invasive than LASIK, apparently they implant a contact lens somewhat permanently in the space between the cornea and iris. Which means that if Bryan's eyes started getting worse again, they could go back in and either replace the contact with a new prescription or just remove it all together. Amazing, isn't it, what modern medicine can do? This surgery may be in his future a year or so from now.

But in the meantime, there are now three contact wearers in the family. With advice and tips from their dad, the girls have taken to their soft lenses like pros. Though they did have glasses, they wore them sparingly and grudgingly, so I had to laugh when Rebekah made the comment, “Wow...the world sure is a beautiful place when you can see!”

Saturday, February 25, 2012

What's your ideal life?

Do you ever wish that you lived in a different time or place?  That your "ideal" life is somewhere quite different than where (or when) you are actually living?  Or maybe it isn't so much wishes and regrets but rather just wondering what another type of living would be like?

That's more or less the concept of Woody Allen's film "Midnight in Paris"...and its had my mind spinning for the past few days.

A quick synopsis:  Our main character Gil, a screenwriter from Hollywood, is enamored of 1920 Paris.  The ideal life...a time of great writers, artists and musicians in an amazingly beautiful and inspiring city.  Every night at midnight he "magically" gets transported to this ideal 1920 Paris life where he meets and hobnobs with the likes of Cole Porter, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, T.S. Elliot, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, etc.  But most importantly he meets a girl (Picasso's mistress, no less) and falls in love.  But 1920 Paris, as beautiful as it is, is not her ideal life.  1920 is her present and to her, it is not ideal, exciting or inspiring at all.  Her ideal is 1890 Paris. 

I am pretty lucky.  I am living a happy and contented life with the people I love most.  And beyond that I have great opportunities, fulfilment and friends.  That being said, I sometimes wonder about another kind of life.  When I visited NYC with Bryan this past May, my heart opened up and took in that great city.  The architecture, the history, the culture, the lights, the busy-ness, the people.  Oh, how I loved NYC!  It was my kind of place, I felt.  I am a city girl, I told myself.  It felt, strangely enough, like home.  The city truly inspired me.  What if Bryan and I had moved to NYC when we first got married?  What if I used my history degree to work in one of the many museums or historical sites?  What if I performed in Broadway shows?  What if I went running in Central Park and lived in a Brownstone on 5th Avenue?  (Yeah right...dream big, Sarah.)  But what if?  What if all of this was my present?  Would I find myself eventually wishing and wondering about another kind of life? Would I wish for wide, open spaces?  Would I wish for a bigger house rather than a smaller apartment?  Would I wish for mountains and nature and a garden to dig in?  Would I wish for a simpler and slower kind of life away from the constant noise and lights and hurry, hurry, hurry?  In essence, would my ideal be THIS life here in suburbia Utah?

The moral of the story, I suppose, is to live your ideal life in your present.  Take your present and find or notice the things that make it ideal.  That sliver of a moon shining just above that bare, leafless tree against the dark sky as you are walking through the Target parking lot?  Stop and savor it for a moment.  The vocal harmony or instrumental chord progression that makes your heart skip a beat in that song you are listening to on your ipod?  Rewind it and listen to it again.  That little voice that calls out, "Mom...come wake me up" each morning?  Go find the 4 year old body that the little voice is attached to and snuggle it for a few minutes before getting it some breakfast.

Who would've guessed that a Woody Allen movie would affect me so entirely.  But what I've come away with is the desire to look for those details, those moments...and to let them inspire me and fill my soul.  And to reaffirm that living in my present is more than just being happy and content...it is truly ideal.      

Friday, February 24, 2012

Favorite Photo Friday: Beach Bums

January 2006

A Caribbean cruise brought our young family to this gorgeous beach in Cozumel.  I love the matching swimsuits on Rebekah and Julianne...the crisscross straps on their backs, the turquoise blue matching the color of the  water.  I love the way their heads are thrown back slightly to avoid the salty spray on their face as the wave crashes into their laps.  But mostly right now, I love the way the memory of this obviously warm Caribbean day is making me feel...as I shiver through a very wintery cold and windy February day.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ballet = Bad Behavior


Sweet, demure and charming as she can be...she's got a mind of her own. A stubborn little angel. It comes from being the youngest child. One that has a six year gap between her and her next oldest sibling. Almost like an only child, she gets her way far more often than is probably good for her. But a holy terror she is usually not. Disobedient at times, yes. And that girl most definitely knows how to push buttons and boundaries. But she's four. And when she does exhibit bad behavior, it is usually slight and and more related to her age rather than her situation as the baby of the family. And when that bad behavior does rear its head...it's mostly at home with me. 

But today I was horrified to discover that Lilian has been extremely naughty in ballet class lately. Running away from the carpool, refusing to go into class, teasing the other girls and being downright disrespectful to her teacher. I was truly embarrassed. 

Why was she acting this way? She's been fine in preschool. I thought to chalk it up to her being sick this weekend. Maybe she still didn't feel 100%. But even if it was the case, that excuse only holds water for this week...and though today was apparently the worst offense, her behavior has been iffy for the past few weeks. 

Lilian has been complaining about ballet lately. She never took to it as passionately as I thought she would, seeing how excited she was about starting up last August. When I ask her about class, it's 50/50 as to whether the report will come back negative or positive.  So I guess that's it. I had thought, despite her growing complaints, that we would keep her in class until the recital this June...thinking maybe the excitement of an official dance on the big stage and pretty, frilly tutu's might be just the thing. I guess not. Looks like my dreams of Lilian as a ballerina are all for naught....

Saturday, February 18, 2012

People are good

Driving home from my a visit to my parents house this afternoon, I was stopped at an intersection leading to the freeway entrance. It's a busy and complicated intersection any time of day but especially during rush hour. I was the first car in the line-up at the red light so I ended up with a pretty good view of what happened next. A girl maybe a few years younger than me riding a bike with a basket/box on the back somehow lost her balance and crashed right in the middle of the crosswalk across the intersection from me. East/West traffic was traveling at the moment so the cars she fell in front of were stopped by a red light.

 Being a biker myself, my heart thudded to my shoes as I watched the scene between the cars whizzing past. Was she hurt? Could she get up? She looked stuck....would she be able to get out of the way before the light changed to green? I felt helpless because realistically, being clear across the busy intersection there really wasn't any way I could go to her aid. So I was mightily heartened when I saw a man from a couple cars back behind the crosswalk, jump out and come over to her. A few seconds later another man, and then another. They got whatever was stuck, unstuck. They lifted the bike upright and off her. They helped her stand and seemed to ascertain if she was hurt. They gathered the things that had fallen out of her basket. And then they stood together, all three random samaritans, and watched as she walked her bike the rest of the way across the street and up onto the sidewalk to safety. Then they returned to their cars, the light turned green, and we all continued on our way. The whole thing only took a couple of minutes. But when I watched those three men get out of their cars to help this girl, I have to admit I got a little misty-eyed and said out loud... “People are good!!”

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Conversation hearts

I'm fond of conversation hearts.  To eat...not as much.  Oh, I can down them fairly easily seeing as sweets of any kind and I are simpatico.  But my favorite treat, they are not.  I tend to buy them every Valentines Day because I have a sentimental spot in my heart for conversation hearts....

Bryan returned home from his LDS mission in February of 1993, a Friday.  I skipped town early and headed back home from college so I could be at the airport when Bryan returned, per his request.  I wasn't sure what to expect that weekend.  Recent letters from him indicated anticipation in continuing and building our relationship after he returned home.  I was excited about this but knew that after two years away, things potentially could be awkward.  We'd both surely changed...would the changes bring us closer together, or make things fizzle?  Also and more immediate....it is famously hard for a missionary to adjust back into the "real world" after a mission.  Would having me (a GIRL) around freak him out...at least for the first little bit?  Only time would tell.

Bryan gave me a big hug at the airport...something he said he'd been anxiously looking forward to.  But sitting next to me on the couch later that night while we watched a movie...two things that had been forbidden for a long time...was a little off-putting for him.  I knew that I needed to give him time, to let things happen at his pace (if they were to happen at all) and be patient.  So I was surprised when the next day he grabbed my hand and held onto it all throughout our let's-buy-Bryan-some-new-real-world-clothes shopping trip to the mall.  Re-entry seemed to be advancing rapidly...with me back at his side as the easiest thing to adjust to.

Back at his house later that evening we were all sitting around the kitchen counter talking...his family, like me, so happy to have him home.  Stories and experiences of the past two years were flying fast from all participants in the conversation.  And while talking, we snacked on conversation hearts.  Putting together funny phrases and sentences with the conversation hearts mixed into our evening and we laughed a lot.  Bryan passed me many hearts he had picked out specifically more for the message they contained rather than for snacking purposes.

Suddenly I felt him stealthily pass a heart under my arm that was leaning on the counter.  I casually glanced over at him.  He had a questioning look on his face.  Discreetly I moved my arm over slightly enough to be able to read the message on the heart.  It said "Kiss Me".  I looked back up at him and nodded my head ever so slightly.  The conversation in the room continued on, everyone oblivious to the wordless communication Bryan and I were having.

The kiss came maybe a couple of hours later...a goodbye kiss as I was leaving for the night.  It was a small one...a sweet one.  Perfect for newly returned missionary slowly but surely stepping into a new life.  All the same, it was a momentous occasion for me.  I had spent two years wondering what would happen to "us" when Bryan came home.  And although I knew that he'd only been home 2 days and that nothing was even remotely sure or concrete, it did seem as though things were heading in the direction I had hoped.  I think we both had sweet dreams that night...     

Monday, February 13, 2012

Official "Beauty and the Beast" pics

As promised, here are the official pictures from Rebekah and Julianne's "Beauty and the Beast" from a few weeks ago....

MORE JULIANNE...the enchanted napkin:

 MORE REBEKAH...the villager:


NEXT UP:  A big Broadway Review.  Rebekah's class will be doing songs from "Wicked" and "Les Mis" while Julianne's group focuses on "Hairspray" and "Crazy For You."  Also...auditions for the Disneyland performing sub-group.  Only 34 can make it of a potential 75.  The girls are working hard on their audition song.  Auditions are still a few weeks away...we'll let you know how it turns out.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Favorite Photo Friday: Happy 14th Julianne!

Julianne turned 14 today.  She came home from school with plenty of stories of hugs, a decorated locker, birthday songs, surprises and treats.  She's got some really great friends.  Her birthday party is tomorrow morning...a big sit-down brunch with 8 of her besties.

This picture was taken on Julianne's 2nd birthday in 2000.  She kept spinning happy, dizzy circles and squealing "Halloweena!"  Which, we determined, was a cross between Halloween (dressing up) and Ballerina.  Cute little thing, isn't she?

Thursday, February 9, 2012


We've lived in this house for four years now.  And for the first three I had assumed curtains wouldn't really go in this very craftsman style house....therefore deciding I didn't need to worry about any kind of window treatment other than blinds.  (Hoping to upgrade someday to plantation shutters....)  The reason I assumed curtains wouldn't work?  This reason right here:
See that decorative (albeit plain) header above the window?  There is one over each and every window and door in this house.  Which somehow translated in my mind as no need for curtains...or that curtain rods and draperies just wouldn't work with that extra slab of wood up there.   You can chalk it up to decorator inexperience, I suppose.

Of course, then when I finally decided that I DID want to put up curtains in my living room, that was the only decision I could make.  That yes, curtains would work.  But what kind?  I'm indecisive, if you haven't already figured that out.  And slow on getting extra projects done seeing as I'm so busy just trying to do the surface things in keeping house and family running somewhat smoothly.

But I finally did it.  Made the decision, bit the bullet, and started pounding holes in the wall.  (Well...only after the curtains I bought from IKEA sat in a closet for 3 months while I debated if they were really what I wanted....)  I wish I had a before picture for you.  It's always amazes me what a difference a little thing like curtains can make.  

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Las Vegas vacation...

 We stayed at the Tahiti Village...a hotel on Las Vegas Blvd, but a couple of blocks south of the airport.  Family friendly (ie: no girly shows or casinos), an amazing pool area and a kitchen were perks..the most important reason we booked this hotel being location.  It was conveniently close to the sports arena where the Blackjack Meet and Winter Cup were being held.
The pool was advertised as being warmed to 85 degrees all year.  And while I don't doubt this to be true, unfortunately the weekend we were there they had just drained, cleaned and re-filled their pools meaning the water still hadn't warmed completely.  The kids were brave, though, and with the hot tub to warm up in, spent some time in the cool-ish bigger pools.  How neat is it that there was a sandy "beach" leading into the pool??  I'm thinking we will stay here again on future trips to Vegas.  

After swimming, we headed out for the kids' first looks at the uniqueness that it is The Strip.  All the buildings lit up like light brights...they were suitably wowed.  The Bellagio fountains were, of course, a big hit.  
 I love this picture of Rebekah.  I was originally trying to get a picture of her looking out towards the street but she turned around and started walking back...not realizing.  All the lights blurred in the background, the lit up sidewalk, the tree with it's individualized branches...and then Rebekah in focus, in motion, looking up.  Yeah...I don't know why but I love it. 

 Saturday we casino hopped.  No...that doesn't sound right.  Because though we walked through numerous and multiple casinos, casino hopping makes it sound like we were gambling all day...which, rest assured, we were not.  Umm...we resort hopped?  Better?  Every hotel with a different theme or style made for some very interesting sight-seeing and people-watching.  At Mandalay Bay we stopped to take in the Shark Reef.  We don't really have anything like that in Utah so we were all enthralled.  Despite the awesomeness of the sharks, my favorite were the jellyfish.  Seriously, I couldn't get enough of them...so delicate, beautiful and fascinating!
And though this picture is dark and grainy seeing as it was taken on my cell phone...I still included it because it makes me laugh...both of us so interested in what was going on all around and above us in that glass tunnel that we had a hard time focusing on the camera.

Seriously, what is with all the dressed up characters on the side of the street?  I thought the Mickey and Minnie who were drinking beer were especially humorous...in a kind of disturbing sort of way.  Speaking of disturbing, would you have been totally shocked if I posted a picture of me with a snake around my neck?  Yeah...me too.  That's why I declined...although I did consider it.  Captain Jack Sparrow, owner of the snakes, was rather persuasive...    

Monday, February 6, 2012

Black Jack Meet

We spent this past weekend in Las Vegas.  And although we turned it into a mini-vacation of sorts, gymnastics was the main reason we were there.
 (Last minute pep talk and advice from Coach Adam before Brandon's floor routine.)

(Brandon doing his "scale" with Coach Adam and teammate Jayden who was next up, watching on.)

As you already know, Brandon has been pretty much kicking trash at his meets this season, with 1st place all around awards at each so far.  Black Jack, I figured, would humble him a bit.  This is a national meet with teams from all over the country.  Judges would be stricter and competition would be more fierce.  Last year, though he had an absolute blast competing in such an impressive meet, Brandon didn't place in a single event.  Although I expected Brandon to take a few awards this year, I thought his event scores would be lower.  So I was stunned when score after score was quite high!  They are scores that I am used to seeing...but not for this national Black Jack meet! 
 (Brandon looking very focused on his rings muscle-up...)

 (I LOVE this picture of Brandon mid-dive roll.  That kid is flying!)

 To give you an idea, here are Brandon's scores comparing last year 2011 to this year 2012.

        2011                                    2012
Floor:      11.1                     Floor:     15.4
Pommel:     13.8                 Pommel:     15.2
Rings:     13.7                     Rings:     14.5
Vault:     13.6                      Vault:     15.3
P Bars:     13.1                    P Bars:     15.0
High Bar:     12.8                High Bar:     15.1 

These scores put him on the award podium for not only each and every event but also as the 3rd place winner all around!  The team as a whole then also took 3rd place!

After the awards ceremony, the college and elite gymnasts came in for a workout on the equipment.  Brandon was able to get autographs from Olympian Jonathan Horton (who congratulated him on his 3rd place win) and soon-to-be-Olympian (at least in my opinion) Jake Dalton. 
 (Brandon and a few of his teammates watching Jonathan Horton workout on the pommel.)

Saturday night, the glow of Brandon's meet still in place, we attended the Winter Cup Championship....the meet where those same college and elite gymnasts that we saw working out earlier, were competing.  Beyond the amazement of the skill and talent these gymnasts have, it was pretty neat to realize that the USA Olympic mens gymnastics team would likely come from these gymnasts we were watching.  We were getting a sneak peak!  As well as Jonathan Horton and Jake Dalton....Steven LeGendre, Danell Layva, John Orozsco and Brandon Wynn.  Remember these names because you will very likely be seeing them again in London this summer.... 
 (Can you pick out Brandon?  With our blessing, he ditched us for better seats with teammate Johnny and Coaches Gabe and Adam.)

 Up next...the vacation part of our weekend.