Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Game ON!

I've realized something about myself recently.

See, some friends and I have gotten into the habit of playing this certain board game well into the night. Like stupid unthinkable hours of 2 and 3am. I am luxuriously unemployed so I'm not accountable to much except my sleep cycle but my friends are med students and actual contributing members of society so they have a bit more at stake than I do.

Anyway - the first time this happened and one of my friends recounted the previous evening to my brother he didn't believe it. "My Sister? My sister who loathes board games? My - my? Sister?". Apparently it took about 20 minutes to convince him of the veracity thereof because on the whole, I don't care for board games the way some of my constituents do. I've found tons of excuses not to like them. "I like movies better", "I'm not smart enough", "too many pieces", "that's a boy game", "my brother played that game and we didn't get along too well", "It's not fun for me" (and I stand by this one. There are some games that I find more tedium than fun.), "I'm not patient enough for this game" - etc....

But when I thought about this I realized that I DO like board games. I like them a lot as a matter of fact. I just have little patience for them or limit my interaction with them because (and this is the recent realization) is what I DON'T like is how competitive I am. I find myself getting overly competitive, upset, and generally being a nasty unhappy person when there is a point structure in play. For this reason I avoid games because I don't like that part of my personality. I think that's a major reason that I stopped playing water polo. I flat out didn't like who I was when I played. She was an angry Liz.

However, this new game doesn't bring out that side of me. I don't know if I've matured (which is a possibility) or I genuinely like the group of people with whom I'm playing it but, yeah - Game on!

Friday, September 9, 2011

These are a Few of my Favorite Things

So it's been another difficult week with a fruitless job search, a fresh heatwave, some nasty PMS and the "I" key deciding to pop off my laptop*.

However my years of Polyanna Training are fighting hard against the reds and as such I came across this article via a friend's Facebook feed and it got me feeling all warm and fuzzy.

See, Disneyland has been a serious boon to me, especially during this and my previous bout of unemployment. 1) because it's simply a lovely escape. I get to forget that I'm a near-insignificant college grad who is doing little more than existing and trying to pretend that it's not a big deal and 2) I get to be a part of visiting friends' vaycays and be the Disneyland guru.

See, I'm one of those rare Annual Pass holders that also used to work at Disneyland. Many moons ago, before my mission and exploration into adulthood I worked on Main Street peddling collectible Disneyland items, mainly Time Pieces and Jewelry. I also spent a good amount of time with Crystal, China, Silhouettes, and Disneyana. Yeah - I was one of those people. I left when I went to go serve in Washington DC and during my tenure there I saw a number of things that could have disenchanted a lesser being with Disneyland. I'm not sure what I'm legally able to talk about considering they made me sign a stack of paperwork an inch thick when I first started there and even 10+ years later I still feel emotionally obligated** to keep up the "Show" for the kiddies of the world.

The time I worked there was a time that I felt any and everything was possible and when I go back I still feel that. I've been a passholder for years now and in the spirit of the article above I'd like to tell you My Top 10 Reasons Why I Love Disneyland in no particular order or ranking.

1) The Music
  After you elbow your way through Main Gate and past the tourists congregating in front of the flowered mosaic Mickey*** you go through one of the two tunnels on Walt's version of a red carpet and all 5 of your senses are washed in a whole new world (hehe). You smell the vanilla coming from the Candy Palace, you see the amazing gardens and Mickey and whoever else walking around hugging people, you feel cooler because there are all of a sudden groves of trees on either side of you and then - you hear it. You hear the train whistling behind you and the Music of Main Street inviting you in. There is a chipper loop of "Wells Fargo Wagon", "Put on your Sunday Clothes", and happiness constantly going on in the background. If you're lucky the Barbershop Quartet might also be out or Alice and the Mad Hatter having a Rag Time moment by the Coke fountain. EVERYWHERE you go at Disneyland Walt is humming to you. He seemed to figure out exactly what your heart might be singing in every corner of the Park and attached speakers to it. There's the constant Jazz in New Orleans Square, the tin drums in Adventure Land, Aaron Copeland's "Rodeo" in Frontier Land, every princess' song ever in Fantasy Land - it's all there. There is always something to hum along to, something to take you back or take you away and I just love it.

2) Strawberry Ice Cream from The Gibson Girl

I'm not typically a fan of strawberry ice cream. I'm usually firmly in the vanilla/chocolate/caramelized side of the spectrum but for some reason the strawberry ice cream at Disneyland eclipses them all. I make room in my money and calorie budget for a serving at least once every 3x I go (I go pretty often). It has magic in it. I could write a whole food blog about Disneyland "Eating My Way Through The Magic" and I might as a follow up to this but this is the most noteworthy methinks.

3) Churros

I lied. I need to talk about churros too. There are some foods that in the real world I don't regularly seek after or like at all but in specific places they're all I want. If I'm at Dodger Stadium, I want a hot dog. Would I eat a hot dog anywhere else? Nay - but at Dodger Stadium it's all I want. On a plane I only want to drink ginger ale. At Disneyland it's churros. Where else can that baseball bat of warmly fried cinnamony sugary goodness be openly consumed. It's almost required. When the nice lady at El Pollo Loco asks me if I want flan or a churro with my two tacos al carbon and a brc I firmly say NO. It doesn't seem right, like I'd be cheating on my Disneyland churros if I stooped to a non-Disneyland churro. They're the food of childhood dreams. Anyone who says differently has never had one or simply doesn't get it and needs a timeout.

4) The Story

I could speak for days about my devotion to stories. I'm essentially dedicating myself to them seeing how I want to teach, have a degree in English, and am of a Celtic Bardish background. They seem to be the only thing I'm suited for. I recently finished some unique comics called "The Unwritten" and at one point a villain is monologing and the kid hes captured doesn't really get the full ramifications of his situation and says "It's just a story. It's not worth dying for"  and the villain replies

"Just a story? Tell that to the Greeks who fought at Troy. Tell the women burned as witches. The Rosenbergs. Sacco and Vanzetti. Tell the martyers of all the religions and the millions who fell in all the wars since time began. Stories are the ONLY thing worth dying for."

I agree. Walt understood this and I truly believe that it's at the heart of Disneyland. We all love stories. We crave them. They're how we learn, how we cope and how we're hopeful about the future. We identify with them and bend our lives to look like them. They inspire us, comfort us and remind us that the world is a whole lot bigger than it typically seems. We feel the people in them are our friends and to a degree they are. Disneyland is a place where that corner of our imagination has ground. We get to, in a very real sense, BE in our favorite stories. The ones where we know the endings and love them. We get to see the White Rabbit's house. We get to get into Indiana Jones' jeep. We get to board a transport to Endor. We get to go into the castle and you know what? It's marvelous. It's how it should be. It's childhood and Disneyland wrapped up in a castle spire. Every ride, every line for every ride, is a story in which we're characters and that means the world to me.

5) The Jedi Training Academy

So how is the only way that Disneyland could possibly get any cooler? Oh right -  by contracting with George Lucas. I think there are fewer larger nerd eruptions than when Disney devotion and Star Wars devotion meet and it happens 4x a day in Tomorrow Land. The Jedi Training Academy is something I dearly wish I could have had when I was a kid. The stage and dance floor at the Tomorrow Land Terrace are taken over by a Jedi, four Paduans and a flury of kidletts that are selected, outfitted, and lightsabered to be instructed by the Jedi on a light saber combination and then out of the ground comes Darth Vader and Darth Maul and every kid gets a chance to fight the evil Lord Vader. Can you think of anything more formative and empowering??! They all beat him but not before Vader does his best to entice all of the Younglings to join the Dark Side. They all decline, Vader is expelled, and all the kids are presented to their parents and onlookers as the newest recruits in the Fight for Freedom in the Galaxy. I cry every. Single. Time. DON'T JOIN THE DARK SIDE KIDS! Have you ever seen a 4 year old in a kid in a tiny brown cloak battling his heart out with Vader with a plastic light saber? My ovaries ache every time I do. It's Good Parenting 101 and about as wholesome as the world gets.

6) The Prince and Princess bathrooms in Fantasy Land.
There are bathrooms specifically for Princes and Princesses. In a Castle. I would like every bathroom ever from here on out to be referred to for Princes and Princesses. The world would be a better place.

7) Fantasmic

I'll be honest. I've seen this show a number of times. I think I'm in the multiple hundreds. When I worked in New Orleans Square I saw it twice a night and you know what? I'm not sick of it. As a matter of fact, I desperately love it. I love every thing about it. It's a great story. It's on a RIVER! Well - "river". You get to cool off via the spray from the jets/movie projection screens. Mickey kicks a dragon's trash by asserting "This is MY story" (see #4) and the music (see #1) is about as good as it gets. I may or may not know every note and every dance move and during one sparsely attended fall performance some friends and I may have taken over the wheelchair area (we were there legally) and danced and sang the whole show. In my opinion it remains the best show at Disneyland (including World of Color).

8) The Dinosaurs

Did you know there are dinosaurs at Disneyland? Bet you didn't. However, if your feet have ever been at the falling off point (a frequent occurrence at Disneyland) and, in desperation, you take the railroad back to Main Gate to avoid another hike through people and the park, somewhere in between the Tomorrow Land stop and Main Gate Walt takes you back. That's all I'll say because it's that cool.

9) The Striking of the Colors
A little known tradition on Main Street is the Striking of The Colors. Like any good solider knows, when the sun is down the flag comes down too. Walt, being the real patriot that he was, made sure this would ALWAYS be the case at Disneyland. Whenever time the sunset is, the Barbershop Quartet and the Main Street band invite everyone on Main Street to gather around the flagpole. We sing a few patriotic songs and then they invite everyone that has served in the Military to come forward to the inner circle of the square, right by the flag pole for special recognition by the crowd and to be the first to grab the flag as it's lowered. They call them up one branch of the military at a time and you see everyone from young dads on leave laden with sippy cups and still freshly shaved heads to silver-topped old men in Tommy Bahama shirts and fishing hats walking with canes coming forward with the same pride and respect. We clap for each of them and thank them in turn for their service. Then they stand at attention (well, most of them) and a color guard strikes the colors while everyone sings "God Bless America".

By then everyone is pretty much in tears and I'm prouder than ever to be an American, to have been walking amongst these heroes all day and not even known it, to remember that my day of larking and freedom isn't all that free. It's an amazing way to end the day and to keep the love flowing.

10) The King Arthur Carrousel

There are a multiplicity of rides that I love at Disneyland (Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain (but only at night), Peter Pan, the canoes, the Mark Twain...) but the one that truly has my heart is The King Arthur Carrousel and I don't really know why. I'm a sap I guess. It's just this lovely traditional ride. Also, Mary Poppins is one of my favorite Disney movies and I've always wanted a magical carrousel horse ride like Jane and Michael. The lead horse, Jingle, on the carrousel is even dedicated to Julie Andrews. That's just classy. It's the heart of Fantasy Land which is the heart of Disneyland which is the heart of the Disney Empire. It's the concentration of simplicity and innocence and thrill all in one.

Because this is in conjunction with the spirit of The Carrousel, is

10a) The Fireworks
They're perfect. Some shows are superior to others like the Christmas show (Christmas in general at Disneyland is a whole other blog) but few things are more thrilling, beautiful and evocative of wonder and delight than the Disneyland Fireworks. Like the blog aforementioned said. If everyone everywhere had the chance to see them all at once we'd have a real shot at World Peace.

God bless Walt and God bless Disneyland. Keeping hope alive since 1955.

*I spent a good hour and a half using two pairs of tweezers, a reading light, and my best impression of a surgeon to reattach it. I think I did a fine job considering all I had to work with was an online tutorial, my mad puzzle skills, and some gumption but it's still a bit tender.

**I still scan the crowds for people who look lost when I'm there. I still offer help and when giving directions I still point with two fingers or gesture with my whole hand like my meticulous Disney training dictates (We have a lot of international guests you know - don't want to offend anyone with a single digit hanging out there). Oh  - and they're still "guests". The word "customer" is the rudest idea possible. I've seen a lot of a lot of different things and I'd be happy to tell you in person but not in print (the Mouse is everywhere).

***I made the mistake of crossing in front of Mickey going on a break once and got innundated with a gaggle of Japanese tourists asking me to take their picture. It was hilarious but took up my whole break. I made sure never to do that again.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Something Fun

There is not enough silly dancing in the world so this made me very happy.

 Daily challenge: Do something silly preferably with someone who will do it with you and report back in the comments. GO!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

It's My Birthday Shout "Hooray" - Installment III

Around the beginning of July I was thinking

My birthday is coming up and I'd like to have a party but I'm afraid that if I threw a party for myself no one would come. Parties are like nicknames, they kind of have to be thrown for you. Who would throw me a party? All of my girls are out of town. Maybe Nick. Has Nick ever thrown a party? I threw him a pretty amazing Star Wars birthday party for him in December. I even learned how to make an orange creamsicle cheesecake for him. It would be nice if he could return the favor.

However, knowing my amazing brother like I do, he excels in many things but emotional intuition isn't one of them. He would never put it together that because I threw him a party it would be amazing if he returned the favor. So did what any mature woman would do. I texted his girlfriend (now fiance) and explained myself and said any help she could offer in helping him understand where I was coming from would be appreciated. I couldn't have picked a better future sister-in-law because she and he came through like nothing else.

Nick has the amazing good sense to marry Amy Burch. I have been friends with the whole Burch family for the last 15 some years. They know me very well too and Amy has 3 older sisters all of whom I count among my nearest and dearest. So she circled the wagons and asked for party ideas and the amazing Hannah came up with the idea of making it have a Club 33 theme. For those of you who don't know what Club 33 is here's a link and a brief history lesson. Walt, when he built Disneyland wanted to have a place for him and his buddies so he set aside some space in New Orleans Square where he hand his boys could have a drink and a cigar. It's evolved into a very fancy exclusive restaurant and one of the best places at Disneyland. So basically it's everything I love. Disneyland, jazz, dressing up, good food, and a quite place.

This all translated very well for a birthday party. I didn't put it together that I was turning 33 and it was Club 33 for a good hour or so. I was just so thrilled at the idea of a cocktail party. Nick sent out the invite, told everyone to dress up, that the dress code will be enforced and be ready for fun. Well naturally I had the best time finding a new dress (which was lovely and on clearance!) and practicing a new smokey eye look (which turned out very well).

We had it at one of our friends' amazing house, Nick and Amy got plastic champagne glasses and bucket loads of Martinellis. Our engineer friend made an expert tower of glasses. My awesome pastry chef friend made some amazing desserts, they got a mini marzipan cake for me and yes - people showed up. I wasn't allowed to help with anything. All I was told was where to be, when, and how to dress. Nick and Amy handled the rest. I was surprised to learn that this was the first party Nick has ever planned. Some of my nearest and dearest were out of town so Nick, sweetly arranged for all of them to, too, dress up and had them join us via a Skype video conference call. This was a total surprise for me. I cried one, because I missed them all so very much and two, because how sweet is my brother?!

You can't see the whole 30+ company of people that Nick gathered into the living room to see the surprise with me but they're there and I was touched. I was on the verge of grateful tears all night.

There's all 4 my new sisters looking as pretty as ever.

We had a bunch of other rogues that came through dressed up amazingly but sadly I was having too much fun being glamorous and loved to snap a lot of pictures. Here's a sampling though.
The Todd came in an awesome plaid get up and Joe chose some formal digs from his recent jaunt to India. Nick almost didn't let him in but he eventually passed dress code.

Nick and Amy being as cute and in love as ever.

The Emily x2

There really isn't anything more envigorating to me than a room of men in suits, ladies in dresses all of whom I love and all of whom are having a good time. It was a real gift how many people came and how well they dressed up.

One of my favorite moments of the night was when Emily and Joey came. They had just come from eating at Club 33 that afternoon and between the both of them they swiped all of the gold embossed Club 33 paper towels in the bathroom there and presented them in one fell cluster out of her purse. It was an amazing moment and we were beginning to run short on napkins. Serendipity? Methinks so. Walt knew we were having a party and wanted to contribute.

I took a moment more than once to pause, look around at my favorite people, listen to the buzz of them all enjoying each other, all looking so nice and quietly soaked up as much happiness as I could. I figured it would be good to keep a little bit of that contentment close to my heart to pull out when it's a less than ideal day. And honestly, how much better does it get? Maybe if Jon Hamm was my escort...

This was a remarkable birthday. Joey, Emily's sweet husband, said "I don't say this unless I mean it but Lizzie, you get better looking every year. Some people can't say that but for you I can say that I see constant improvement." He's very good at saying all the right things. I'm also choosing to believe that hes right. He is a pastor and all. He can't lie and stuff. I think the best is yet to come and with enough belly laughs, hydration, skin care, good friends and prayer each year can improve. My 30's haven't been the easiest but I can't complain because they've also been the most fun.

Best of times worst of times and all that. If the Dickensian circumstances persevere then so be it because with friends, family and nights like this I'm pretty sure I can weather anything. If you're ever on my side of town just say the word and I'll be back in my heals and satin for a reprise.

All in all I think Walt would be proud.

It's My Birthday Shout "Hooray" - Installment II

Medieval Style!!

I'm an avid Angelino. I love LA and anyone who has ever had more than 5 minutes of conversation with me typically might understand that. However, there are a lot of landmark things here that I've never done. I've never been to the Griffith Park Observatory. I've never hiked to the Hollywood Sign. I've never been to Grauman's Chinese Theater. I've never been to Universal Studios and the worst one, up until a few weeks ago I had never been to Medieval Times.

It's a tragedy. I know. I'll own it.

BUT - to my rescue was, again, the amazing Emsy. She took a friend of hers a few weeks back and had the time of her life as you can read about here and upon learning my ignorance to the glorious silly, me adoring things like that, and it being my birthday she had me get the special super secret birthday code from the "Booking Maidens" at the "Court Circuit board" and away we went.

She gave a fabulous rundown of our night here but my experience was a bit different. Mostly because I was enjoying the armor instead of figuring out ways to get under it. I know - I'm broken but it was my first time after all.

So in preparation for the night my little sister from another motha - Lisa - sent me a darling birthday package with a purse of hers I'd been lusting after for a while and because she knew of mine and Emsy's plans there were also some Princess Party favors including 4 sparkly pink wands, 4 foam tiara kits (for ages 5 and under) and a very large sparkly hot pink conical Headdress of Princessistitude.

I was super excited about it all. One, because time with Emsy = non-stop hilarity. She gets my Disney channelified brain better than almost anyone I know and as such thinks I'm hilarious because only about 0.00001% of the population and 0.0005% of my friends get my very silly/sad/awesomely bad jokes, references, and song cues. Emsy is one of them. This will manifest itself later.

So we drive to the "castle" and I'm all a dither about what to expect. From what I could gather from Emsy's description I was diving into what would happen if Las Vegas, Rocky Horror, Monty Python, Point Break, a sequin street vendor from TJ, and a badly translated book of fairy tales and all ran at each other very fast. The stuff of dreams really.

Just knowing that this place is in Buena Vista which is a neighboring city to Anaheim which is Latin for "Disneyland" and thereby is subject to the runoff of over-themeing that a place as magical as Disnelyand can produce would be enough to get me to go. See, Buena Vista is the sparkly armpit of the Disneyland supermodel. Driving through Buena Vista always reminds me of "Lester's Possum Park" from A Goofy Movie

The city's crown jewels are the Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum and Knott's Berry (Scary/Merry) Farm. We were in for a GOOD night.

When Emsy and I were roommates we bonded instantly over our love for things that are so bad they're good. Eg: how well unicorns changed into anime women can sing about being a woman, cast commentary on DVDs from totally drunk or inept cast members, random parts of Disney movies, Smee's dance moves, the pronunciation of the word "pistachio" and how much the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland legitimately freaks me out. Seriously. It does.

I think Medieval Times was built as a monument to our friendship and it wasn't realized until now.

From the playground style cobblestones to the over-tanned and Valley affectations of our princess I was in love. You know you're either in Vegas or a comedy club when the first middle and last thing that you see at the establishment is the bar and was there a bar. I think it was 3 miles long. You'd think all of the high ceilings, random banners, vague impressions of suits of armor and a castle silhouette here and there would be enough to suspend reality but NO, apparently significant amounts of alcohol are required as well and it was busy. Every square foot of it. The place was awash with everyone wearing a crown that would make the Burger King jealous indicating the color of the section and knight they were assigned to. This fashion statement was delicious to me. One, because they all so badly clashed with everything anyone was wearing. Like, I wasn't sure there was something in the universe that wouldn't go with anyone or a single look but no. Medieval Times found it, made it theirs, mass produced it and made it the central point and chief souvenir of your experience there. Two - because it was very successful in making everyone look equally silly. That was also impressive.

When we got into the arena I was still off balance. Here we were in a hockey rink full of sawdust with the semblance of stage weaponry resting on pegs on the side and above us was a whole matrix of I would venture to say would be millions of dollars of stage lighting. I was a theater tech for a spell so I know what I'm looking at when I look up in a theater. Some theaters are drastically under lit. In fact, most are. It's uber hard to properly light a stage. It's rare to over-light a stage but I think Medieval Times came close. There was more lighting in there than I'd seen at the Staples Center during a Laker game and I thought What on earth would they need all this hardware for? They're not more than 50' from the floor, they're all antiprose gel lights, good grief are they going to perform surgery? Turns out they didn't. They just like colors.

So the night begins and there is this scene where some dude in a white tunic and too much hair gets apprehended by some baddies with whip and sparkly strobe lights and then our gymed, tanned, laundried princess comes on a-pining for her prince that is missing - moaning to her father-blah-de-blah-de-blah. And I, like any proper English major immediately start rewriting the whole show in my head. Thinking this would provide more rising action and that would be much better character development but not to the point that I didn't adore everything that was going on.

When we sat down I dispensed the wands and tiaras to Emsy and myself and our neighbors who were also celebrating their birthdays (yay Leos!) and we mucked about with our foamys and stickers and eventually made something worth putting on. I threw away the picture guide so we were a bit monkeys and a monolith about the whole project but we had fun. So once the gallantry started I had my sparkly conical Headdress of Princessistitude, my Medieval Times crown AND the tiara. I was as regal as they come or as Medieval Times would allow. Oh and my wand. It was a rare exploration of sparkles and the color pink for me. I rarely visit either much less pair the two but it was a special night and Lisa sent them all the way from Tennessee. Wearing them was the least I could do.

While we were being brought some soup and our choice of Pepsi (only Pepsi, only regular, only soda), iced tea, water, or the door there were... horses I think. Lots of them, trotting a bit in formation, much like a high school marching band running drill. That they just got. After a long competition weekend and a test. For 20 MIN! All I could think was Well - look at those horses. They're there. And they're horses. And they can trot. TALLY HO! It's my birthday!

Finally the announcer man who we were introduced to at the beginning of the night by the bar came riding in. At the first announcements Emsy and I bravely tried not to laugh but bitterly failed. He was trying to warm up the crowd, create atmosphere and organize green crowns from yellow and black ones but all he managed to do was practice what Mr Movie Phone taught him in his voice lesson that day and channel William Shatner. Between his over-elocution, Emsy trying to gloss my lips but only finding teeth, and the half-hearted trumpeters that sounded more like 1st and 2nd chair from the Boy's Club band we were in hysterics within the first 5 minutes. Yes we're 14 but that's what happens when bffs get together OK?!

So fast forward to the knights' introductions. Emsy was only looking for red and I was enjoying her in a rarely allowed abject girly moment. Lusting after boys with swords wearing tiaras, eating with our hands and sparkles EVERYWHERE - its enough to make one burst into song!

I found most of the knights to be some kind of handsome. I especially appreciated the ones with beards and not just the long locks. I really appreciate a thick, kept up, manly beard. There is an epidemic lack of testosterone in the world. I appreciate it wherever I can find it. Aside of their manliness, which is impressive any was conveyed despite the sparkly jumpsuits that were supposed to be chain mail and sequins these gents were pretty dang good. They were jumping off of their horses at full gallop, hitting the ground and rolling so fast they landed on their feet. I was blown away. The fighting was... OK. I think the best stuff that I saw was the final fight between the green dragon baddie and Emsy's Red Knight. He was the best fighter of them all and was with the handsome but luckily Emsy and I have VERY different taste in men. She's more on the Bowie/Jonathan Rhys Meyers side of the spectrum and I'm the more Karl Urban/Richard Armitage/Jon Hamm type.

Between costume changes and rough scene transitions everything but a puppet show came out. Some sparkly Arabian horse man came out with his steed doing the two step, there was a falconer too and other excuse for sparkles. The music changes were something from a fair ride too. One felt distinctly Latin to me and out of no where I started singing "I like to be in Ah-Mer-Ree-Kah!" and Emsy did a legitimate spit take and almost lost the bit of garlic bread she was working on. Once she stopped laughing she said "You will be the death of me Libs (that's her awesome nickname for me) and I considered it the crowning point of the evening.

I was not mooned over by any passing knights or thrown any flowers but I was also in a sparkly conical Headdress of Princessistitude, wearing a Wonder Woman tee shirt and by all accounts seem to be invisible to men anyway so I didn't count on that being any part of my evening. It was adorable watching Emsy be in her element though. Flirting with men in costume doesn't come easy to me.

So pretty much it was an amazing night, a thoughtful gift, a great meal, a good show and an AMAZING story. I will forever be indebted to Emsy and my life will be longer thanks to the laughs shared. I encourage all to go and participate in the crazy. There's no kind of crazy like it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

It's my Birthday Shout "Hooray" - Installment I

Happy Birthday to ME!

I'm 33! I made it. Yay me! I didn't get eaten by my psycho neighbors and their horrible dogs. I haven't contracted any unknown and aggressive diseases. I maintain all my limbs and have yet to employ any mace or hefty flashlights for protection. That's a WIN and I've decided to celebrate all month.

My birthday is a very reflective time for me and one of my goals this year is to be kinder to myself. This means forgiving myself quicker, laughing harder for the right reasons, and taking myself out for something special once in a while. I decided some pampering/shopping for things other than gas, food, and CostCo samples might be in order. I also had the questioning of the loving and indefatigable Emsy at my back asking what I was going to do, that it better be along the pamper lines, and to do it on my birthday. Challenge accepted!

The actual day was WONDERFUL. I let myself sleep in and read my VERY enjoyable shameless adolescent lit book. Then the little brother came over for a bit because he had a rough morning. An amazing friend dropped by with an incredibly thoughtful gift of poetry. Then I skipped off to a job interview to be a substitute teacher for one of the local school districts (which I got by the way thanks for asking) and THEN my friend Kim called me up asking if I had plans because she only has one car and the husband needed it but she had to run to Ikea for some stuff and she had a sitter but her ride fell through and was wondering if I could help her out. I thought Well, I love Kim and I like Ikea so the two together would be lovely on my birthday.

So I picked up Kim and off we went to Ikea and piddled about with fancy ice cube trays and lamp shades and throw pillows and third world children and lava lamps and all that lovely stuff that makes Ikea so magical. She needed storage containers and it took me moving to realize that I didn't have any dishes so I needed to get some plates and stop eating out of tupperware for bowls.

We finished up our hunting and gathering and were subsequently starving so we headed up to the cafe for necessary meatballs and lindenberry juice to cap our Swedish experience when what to my wondering eye should appear but a table full of the rest of our amazing group of friends who had gathered to surprise me. I had NO idea. Kim had concocted the whole plan. Apparently Ikea was a good idea because they have these mini marzipan princess cakes (as show in full scale above) and they are my traditional birthday cake (I've had one every year since I was 8) and the love, friendship, scheming and giggling commenced from there. I was uber touched. One, because I love surprises and two, because this was a surprise for me. We ate and giggled and opened cards and presents and I teared up looking around the table at these women who are my family and was so grateful I had to stop talking for a few moments here and there. Also, there were delicious meatballs that needed consumption and I had to comply.

The last stop of the night was Mom and Dad's. Mom decided to cook Boston Market for dinner and the cousin and his new fiance swung by with some gorgeous purple calla lilies. Mom's gift this year was also very thoughtful. See - we're cooks at our house. Mom's main creative outlets were costume design, makeup, and cooking. All of us learned at her elbow because getting a recipe out of mom is almost impossible ("fill your cupped hand to the second wrinkle with cinnamon...") and we all worked out of Mom's second edition of Mastering the Art of French Cooking by the glorious and amazing Julia Child. A moment for The Julia if you will.

OK. So when mom got sick and pretty much had to stop cooking (like 8 years ago) I asked her if I could have her copy of Julia's book. I had held off on getting a copy of my own 1) because I was hoping to get mom's with all the notes in the margins and memorable grease stains and 2) because I just felt like that was something special that needed to be given and not just bought. Like jewelry or nicknames. It only really counts if it's given - you know? Anyway - So I started asking for the book. Mom always said no, said that she's not ready to hang up her apron yet etc. SO - for Christmas last year we all got Amazon gift certificates and I finally broke down, let go of my over-sentimentality, and just bought myself a copy of the book. I missed it and I couldn't remember all of the recipes I wanted to make. Well - fast forward 9 months and what do I have before my eyes but the COMPLETE set of Mastering the Art of French Cooking which honestly touched me to the core. Yes I already had the book but this is the copy of the book that my MOM gave me. That's way better. So I gave Little Brother my copy (See! It's something that needs to be given) and now we're all amply instructed on how to consume butter and have adequate excuses to do Julia Child impressions as we do. Can life get better? I submit that it cannot.

But wait - this is the part of my birthday that has REALLY got my heart singing....

I went to a lecture by Ray Bradbury once and he said "I'm the world's greatest lover. I love EVERYTHING! I love libraries and history and food and my shoes and my wheelchair. I love it all" and I feel the same way. I love a LOT of things very loudly but of all those things there are a few that I love most. One of those things for me is perfume. I love everything about it. I love the beautiful bottles and the different smells for different occasions at different times of day. I love the little ceremony of putting it on. I love how I feel after I do. I love having all those pretty bottles on a pretty tray on my vanity. I love how feminine it makes me feel. I love how it looks and the possibilities they all hold. I just love it all.

My problem is perfume is expensive and because I love it so much it's something I don't have a problem spending money on if I have it. So naturally I buy it maybe once every 3 years and try to make it last. WELL - guess what I did for my birthday for myself?! YUP! I bought myself some perfume (thank you Grandma and Grandpa) and NOT just any kind. See - Sephora has a genius product development dept. They have perfume samplers. It's a box with 9-12 different samples of perfume that you buy for the price of one large bottle of perfume. You take it home, you try all of them out (because it takes a while to figure out which perfume you like and which one you don't) and it comes with a voucher that you take back to the store and you can get a full size of which ever perfume you decided you liked. Amazing! Usually the samples inside are the husky tubes with a little spray nozzle but they recently came out with THIS one

Glorious isn't it??! Look at all those adorable bottles of perfume (all of which I've sampled before and like a lot) AND I used the voucher at the same time to buy a full-sized bottle of the new DKNY Delicious scent "Golden Delicious" which is amazing and - well - delicious - if I do say so myself. Techinically I should have only been able to use it for the Be Delicious that was a part of the sample pack but they let me slide. Have I mentioned lately how much I love Sephora?

I'm just giddy happy right now looking at my pretty row of bottles and smelling good.

Oh - and these are what Target gave me for my birthday

They were on clearance for $7. AMAZING.

Great shoes. Great friends. Amazing family. Marzipan. Smelling good - I'm set. All I need is a good man and some Ella Fitzgerald and nirvana is mine.

Up next - my Medieval Times Birthday Adventure with Emsy. Life will never be the same.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

And Now For Something Completely Different

I don't have much time today because I need to pack up my life. I'm moving to Claremont tomorrow.

Yes - another change has come to La Casa De Liz. As it turns out, God wasn't finished rearranging my Life Furniture. Right after I said goodbye to Bianca and before Lauren left our next door neighbor/property manager/owner of our adorable House on the Hill's daughter/drug addict decided that it was time to turn her crazy up to 11. I'll spare you all of the White Trash Weekly worthy details but the bottom line was my roommates and I, though we loved our house and loved each other, felt that it was time to leave. My dad, legally speaking and for safety's sake, thought it was a good idea too.

Through the amazing Mormon Network I've taken a room in a house in Claremont, CA. I love Claremont. I spend a lot of time there in fact so I'm hoping that I will be saving a lot in gas money and angst taking a room there. I'll be 2 blocks from the Claremont Colleges so I'm determined to find a job there now because I REALLY like the idea of walking to work like Atticus Finch. Have I ever mentioned that I'd like to name a possible future-type proverbial son "Atticus" but I'm not sure the world is ready for that much awesome and nerdism in one package. He'd come home with black eyes - I know it.

I've got a lot going on and truly have to go but what I wanted to share was that one of my favorite musicians/songwriters - Mr. Joe Pug - was on "A Prairie Home Companion" on Saturday. He was amazing and it was a phenomenal show. I'm not sure what I'm going to do when Garrison retires. He's a fixture of my psyche. Like, I know the world is going to be OK and that we're not devolving as a species because Garrison is on the radio and beloved.

So take a listen and know that despite drug addict/insane neighbors/clueless property managers and having to leave a home you love, that there is still some goodness in the world and it's worth fighting for.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Sentimental Alert: Music Edition

So I've had a few posts brewing in my head for the last few but I just came across a story on my Google Reader that made me weep like a little kid.

See, almost everything I know about being a descent human being has come from either my family, the scriptures, or folk music. A few movies, books, adopted family, and pets have helped too but you take my meaning.

Some of the first songs I can remember singing were "Blowing In The Wind" and "The Sound of Silence". Paul Simon has preeminence in my heart and always will. So imagine me, this devotee, who learned what poetry meant from Paul Simon, who learned how to sing whist singing along to everything he's ever wrote, imagine my delight when I saw this article.

This is why I love music. It's about connection and love and growth and sharing. It's wholly unselfish. It exists solely to give back.

I love Paul Simon and I love music and I love this. Happy Monday Loves.

Be back soon with more.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Pop Culture Check In

Dear Loyal Reader,

Now that I have some time to actually pause and think about stuff I've been doing this thing called "enjoying myself" again. It's a new concept I know. I hear the French invented it and then the Italians perfected it. Either way, if its European its a win for me.

I know you're dying to know what I'm talking about so I'll review by medium -

Book wise -

I'm currently reading "Speaker for the Dead" at the little brother's invitation. Apparently these Ender Orson Scott Card books have been very influential on him and he wants to share. I'm enjoying it a lot more than I was originally and am looking forward to finishing. I also read "Ender's Game" for the same reason and I liked it - eventually. These are the book version of "Star Wars" to him in terms of sacredness so a good sister should maybe know what he's talking about. I'll let you know how it turns out.

I've also thoroughly been enjoying the King Killer Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss. He's a newbie novelist out of Wisconsin but has written some of the most lyrically beautiful stories that I've read in a while. "The Name of the Wind" came out a few years back and my oldest brother gave a copy of it to my Dad for Christmas. The book made the family rounds and I really liked it as I mentioned before. The second book of the series came out in early March "A Wise Man's Fear" and I read it with much the same vigor. I think I literally lost a whole Saturday to it and then some. Time well spent.

Movie Wise -

I've been a bit light on the movie side of things because, well, they cost money, but I did, like any self respecting bookie babe, make time for the new Jane Eyre

It was good. I recommend it. It's not a train wreck but it's not the strongest telling either. It was deliciously true to the Gothic aspects of the novel though which I appreciated. Movie makers get a bit distracted by the love story and ignore that the fact that it's set against these dark Gothic edges. I think that canvass makes it that much more of a beautiful story and it's almost always left out but they got it this time around. They didn't cut out St. John either. He's a common causality to the editors but he survived too.

In Future Cinema News Peter Jackson released one of, I hope, many short behind the scene videos about the making of "The Hobbit". There are not words for my how much I'm looking forward to this but I will try HOWZA! MAMMM WHHHE KKKKK! LOOOKK! ITSSSAAAAAA! IttzzaahRichardArmitage iookkk kwkkwoo woww waaaaaa PeterJacksonkjfweo nndsojf onklnlkenknewljrenlkn ;nivnIloveNewZealandakjdfjkdhhHH HAHAHAAAAKKKK ohmagahgagagaghgahgah.

Music wise -

I've been informed that I have tickets to see these gargeous bright stars called "The Civil Wars" in the near future and, like always, I'm very excited. They're a group I've had a hard time not listening to. They're amazing. I wholly endorse them. Yay for some real musicianship and for genre blends. They're always the best. Much like mixed babies.

Also, GREAT NEWS! The Beastie Boys are putting out a 25th anniversary album on May 3rd and have released this new track that I have been listening to practically on loop and cannot get out of my head. They put together this hilarious promo featuring nearly every funny person alive. I might have watched 7 or 8 (teen) times. LizPAA warning - there are two "F" words for the tender-eared

TV wise -

I've been sucked into the very funny world of BBC's "Top Gear". It's a car show hosted by three middle aged perma-adolescents. It's been on the air for about 10 years and most of the series is available on Netflix's Instant Play. I love cars. I love British humor and I love informative playful approaches to things and that is what I love about this show

They go on hilarious adventures like driving to the North Pole and they periodically have Formula 1 drivers on and WOWZAH - some of these boys are quite handsome. I've picked out Jenson Button (UK)

and Mark Webber (AUS) as my favorites.

Why has Formula 1 been keeping these darling boys to themselves?! It's just not fair.

This show has also reinforced my want (read: lust) for some WAY too expensive cars. The show is great though. I have heartily laughed during every episode I've seen. Which is many. Don't ask.

Blog wise -

Hot Guys Reading Books

Enchanted Serenity of Period Films

and Best Week Ever remain places for constant giggles and happiness.

Win Blog deserves an honorable mention as well.

So yay for enjoying myself again and yay for having so much good stuff to enjoy! I hope your weekend is made up of some of the best stuff possible!

your Liz

Thursday, April 14, 2011

High School is Never Over

So I've been thinking lately and it's led me down a few anxious roads.

It's wedding season and some of my favorite people are getting married and/or coupling up. This, as the selfish person that I am, has me feeling like a baboon with the exposed Red Bottom of Singlehood like a single thing.

I was mentally reviewing all the wedding dates, planning outfits, gift shopping trips, traveling schedules etc and it occurred to me that there was a wedding that I really don't want to go to because everyone I've ever known will be there.

Let me explain-

As some of you may know, I grew up in Pasadena. I love this fact about me. I consider it one of the best gifts my parents gave me. It is an amazing cultural center of a small city with serious history all within spitting distance LA's wonderfulness. It also provided one of the finest social educations a girl could ask for part of which being how harsh and enduring Elitism is.

See - there is A LOT of money in Pasadena. Like old money. Old, established, fox hunting kind of money. We grew up in a pretty nice part of town but in the super run-down house built in 1910 that still had the original wiring that hadn't been cared for. I loved it to pieces but we were a living "One Of These Things is Not Like The Other" segment from Sesame Street. My neighbor behind us owned horses that she kept in a stable along side their free-standing spa in their back yard and I loved those too. The people I went to church with regularly hosted large Stake Youth activities at their houses, because, well, we fit and they had a nicer lawn than the stake center.

Church, for the most part, in all doctrinal aspects was superb. I was surrounded by some of the most gracious excellent people a girl could hope for. I loved my bishop. He was one of the kindest and best of men. He knew who I was. He always came and said hello. He always had time for me. He even came to Girls Camp for the whole week without permission because he wanted to care for and be with his kids as he called us. However, there were a few bits of Elitism that managed to sneak in the cracks of my very good life.

One of them was not my bishop, but the rest of his family. His wife was the high voiced, tightly coiffed blond "BYU Princess" as my mother put it even though she went somewhere else for college. She was an avid crafter - the "I'm better than you crafter", kept a LARGE and perfectly wood plaqued, polished, dusted, and vacuumed home and was the mother of a few boys. She loved this fact. A lot.

A few of these boys were close in age with me. They were roosters of the worst kind. Privileged and educated boys that, from where I observed, were not really reigned at all. When I first learned about the historic Medici family I perfectly understood because of my interactions with my hometown Medicis. My older brother acquired his first playboy magazine at the hands of one of these boys and I received my first lesson in Elitism from the other.

We were sparse on LDS dating prospects in Pasadena. There were only 7 members of the church in my high school and I was the only one in my high school class. The other 20 kids in mutual were about all we had. So it was the Medici and a few others and that was my young impressionable view of the world of dating.

There was one awkward summer during an awkward roadshow where one of the Medici boys made a pass at me. Nothing big, just a wink and a head-jerk invitation to one of the classrooms off stage. Killer romantic, I know. But seriously - who could blame him? I was flatterd but more confused because just the other week I had heard his mother talking in the hallway to someone else after Relief Society saying "Well Liz is sweet but she wouldn't do for any of my boys. I think I like (fill in boring but skinny Anglo socialite girl's name who was the same age, grade, and hair color as me but who came from a much wealthier background and went to an expensive private school here) much better."

I don't know if she was aware I was 3 people away from her waiting for my younger brothers to get out of Primary and wanted me to know that she didn't approve of me or if she thought she was speaking in confidence but there you go. That's how she felt and the things you learn in hallways at 15 stay with you.

So fast forward to random pick up during roadshow practice and my utter confusion. I did what any normal 15 year old would do that's read one too many fairy tales - I completely froze. This was interpreted by him as a refusal, which I suppose it was. I wasn't going to brave Mama Medici's wrath. I'd bring my whole world down on me. He reacted very differently than I thought. He got very hurt, butt hurt, flouncy even for the rest of the bloody show and summer (the words "man up" still come to mind). We were never friends or had a real conversation after that summer. Can't say I'm too broken up about it but now I'm doubly vilified by Mama Medici because I've HURT her boy along with not being good enough for him. This was made known through another set of passive aggressive wonders and painfully measured looks.

I'll concede, I did have kind eyes for this one Medici boy and we did go to the same school but, like always, moved in very different circles. I had hoped that maybe, perhaps, things would line up for us but I was so blindsided by all of this I didn't know what to do with it. I was 15! I was in love with Morissey and Kurdt Cobain and being different in the good way. I had NO idea how to navigate something like this and I was already aware that Mama Medici and my mom didn't get on so well (big surprise there) so I just never mentioned it. To anyone. Ever. I didn't want to cause any more trouble. I was already buckling under the knowledge that there were people I was supposed to love and trust in the world that aggressivly criticized and disapproved of me and if I was ever to be approved of I had to have the checklist of boring-but-skinny-Anglo-socialite-girl-with-money-who-went-to-the-fancy-school and I spent hours on the floor of my room crying about that because there wasn't anything I could do about it.

Needless to say - I'm still of a split mind on the Medici family. I love love love my bishop and he still remains one of the best people I've ever known but I find the rest of the family a challenge.

Because the universe likes to watch me squirm I learned that this family moved from Pasadena shortly after we did to a very similar area to where we did and are still in my semi-immediate circle of influence. Their youngest son is getting married soon and it's his wedding I'm dreading.

One - because his brothers will be there with their perfectly coiffed wives and litters of, no doubt, beautiful kids and grad degrees and measure looks

Two - because everyone else in that ward that I grew up with in Pasadena still lives there and knows this family very well. These people are very real parental figures to me, are my proverbial village and who I love, idolize, and want with everything in my heart to impress and approve of me. They will be there and I feel terrifyingly lacking. I feel like I've let them down by not being a published author, mother of 4 married to a Nobel candidate/part-time stunt man and am working on a home business line of Homemaker Fitness videos w dietary supplements because I'm an avid triathlete that volunteers with my local Search and Rescue and am putting the finishing touches on my dissertation on C.S. Lewis.

Three - obviously - because I'm still single. I don't mind being overweight and seeing everyone.They all know I was never the ballerina type. That doesn't feel as large of a failing to me as being single. I think I would honestly prefer to walk in there with a known criminal record than walk in alone.

This fact has me of a split mind as well. Half of me, the vocal Feminist/XenaLiz is appalled that I would let myself determine my value based on my marital status. She tells me that it doesn't matter, that these people are just people and can only affect me if I let them. She's flummoxed that I haven't bucked the 30 years of social programming telling me that the best person I can be is who I would be in a marriage and I am still semi-developed and thereby semi-valued without it.

The other half, the tattered half, the one that's holding the pieces of my excitable heart together with both hands, a few toes and some string is very tired. Too tired to speak in anything that she doesn't know to be true because that takes the least amount of effort. She says that it is a fact that I'm not married and there's little chance of that changing in the next few weeks. She also points out that I haven't even received an invitation yet so all this fretting might be for naught.

I've done pretty good with my discount shoes, second hand books and public education and lets be real, frankly I need to forgive all mentioned parties. It's just hard when these harsh ideas, memories of measured and disapproving looks, critical conversations, and unwanted lables are all embedded in the cement of my subconscious with their spiky ends sticking out.

I don't know why this is surfacing now and I don't know what other issues may have played into Mama Medici's behavior besides her utter disregard for me and my family. I don't know why my love for my friend and his marital happiness is being superseded by my anxiousness about being judged and letting people down that I love but I do know one thing - there is no way in hell I'm going to that wedding.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Today is the Day

So to make the most of my time off I've recently volunteered as a Literacy Tutor through the Pomona Public Library.

I've gone through a bit of training and I'll be honest, I was way more confident before training than after. The training had all these different methods and things not to say or not to do to keep from offending our students. I understand that working in adult literacy can be a bit touch -and-go but some of the stories used in training were terrifying.

I also get that our students are people that have struggled and been judged their whole lives and are putting themselves in a vulnerable place asking for help but it was all so much and so charged I became afraid if I wasn't perfectly practiced and ready to go then I would permanently scar these people in need. Mind you, my training consisted of about 4.5 hours of videotape (yes - that's right. I said videotape) instruction and despite the fights with the tracking after multiple rewinds to fully absorb what I thought I missed, I apparently competed with success. Typically they have 3 Saturday training courses for their tutors but I was anxious to get started and the next series didn't start for another 3 months so I got to learn via video instead.

Needless to say, when I got my tutor assignment I was pretty terrified.

I received my student's file and read through everything and my heart broke into quite a few bits. My student's penmanship was somewhere between Arabic and Doctor. He had an assessed 3rd grade reading level, was middle-aged, out of work, and had asked for a female tutor. How had someone gotten to middle-age equipped with what he had? How had this happened? Helping out someone in this much in need is a LARGE task, one I haven't had before, one that had high stakes and so my thoughts began to swirl and prey.

What if all I do is make it worse and frustrate him?

What if I offend him?

What if I'm terrible one-on-one? I'm so much more used to classroom settings.

What if I can't see and assess his needs properly and get him working on the whole wrong trajectory?

What if he's really mean? These are one-on-one tutor sessions - that can be dangerous with the wrong person!

What if this blows up and I find that I'm not really a good educator and I've just been diluting myself since forever and all I'm cut out to do is be a dish washer?

And so on and so forth.

So I put off making an appointment with my assigned tutoree, we'll call him Pip, for a few days but I finally did and we met today and let me tell you - I feel better but more broken hearted.

He is a sweet and totally sincere married guy that, when asked what his literacy goals were responded "I want to be able to read the Bible. I want to pick up a newspaper and know what it means. I want to be able to pick up a users manual for something and make sense of it. That's all"

My heart broke in the good way, in the I-will-do-everything-you-let-me-to-make-that-happen kind of way. "I want to be able to read the Bible" is something that will echo in me for a long time. I think it touched every missionary fiber that I still have. Because that's what it's all about isn't it? Literacy brings about a more meaningful life, a more driven life, a more independent life, a life more connected to God and those around you. 8 year olds at church regularly read outloud from the Bible, confidently even, and that sweet and sincere desire has been pressing on this man his whole life.

Because he had glasses and a bad back growing up in the 60s he got put in to Special Education and "graduated" high school but with an elementary school reading level. He's been told his whole life that he was dumb and he couldn't do anything. Not OK America! Not OK!

He's scrapped by doing auto repair and driving a forklift. He is really good with his hands - carpentry - the works. He wanted to be a massage therapist but you know what? He couldn't read the forms that he had to fill out for the office. He couldn't make sense of the charts of the muscles of the body. He was lost so he had to give it up. He was married for about 5 years before he told his wife that he couldn't read.

After getting to know him a bit and realizing that he's a kinesthetic and spacial learner (mechanics, carpentry, warehouse work) a whole game plan started forming in my head. I gave him a piece of paper and had him start writing things down. Firstly I told him he needs to find a simple notebook and start writing every day. Even if it's just copying what's in the newspaper. I told him that he has to start training his muscles in his had to do what his brain tell them. Just like being a mechanic, just smaller muscles. Next I told him to get a little pocket notebook (I call them detective notebooks) to write down words he doesn't recognize for us to go over with our regular vocabulary. I found some letter blocks and magnets that we're going to use for spelling and recall. Next I told him that we're going to read a book. I read "The Phantom Tollbooth" in 3rd grade and I figured that's a great place to start. His eyes got really big but I told him that it'll be fine and that we'll read it together, no matter how long it takes.

Then we went through a newspaper article. Slowly. Word by sounded out word. It took 45 minutes but, dab gum it, he read that whole newspaper article. He had the most satisfied look on his face when we were done. It was somewhere between a smile and a smirk. Like when you're choking down a yelp for joy. I congratulated him and you know what he said? He said he'd never done that before. He had never read a whole newspaper article. Until today. Today's was his day.

I sat with him as he filled out his library card application. It took 30 minutes. He had never had a library card. Until today. Today was his day.

I showed him how to find a library book. He had no idea. I showed him how to find "The Phantom Tollbooth" and then checked it out. He's never checked out a book before. Until today! Today is the day!

He's never read a whole book before either but that will change. He will read, he will understand and he will know that he is NOT a screw up and doesn't need to head-down barrel through life anymore. He knows more than he thinks he does. It's just a matter of practice and some boosted confidence. I have 50 years of criticism and negative self-talk to undo but it's possible and as he sees himself do things he never thought he could, like read a newspaper article, like read a book, like remember words, he will progress and he will be able to read his Bible.

In other words, he is exactly what I need as much as I am what he needs. His story and our lesson has grounded me more in this one morning session than anything else these last couple of weeks.

I feel so silly for any bit of self-pity I may have indulged in over the last few weeks. Here I am, equipped with everything I need to do anything I want. I have a supportive family, my youth, the most amazing friends in the world, an enduring Faith, a great education, a computer even. I have a good life and it's time that I'm properly grateful.

There are so many people who seriously need help. I feel so selfish that I've taken this long to give back, even the little that I am.

Today Pip has a book in his hand. Today Pip got a win he's wanted his whole life in conquering a newspaper article. Today a library administrator has one less thing to worry about and one more student paired up. Today I relearned what gratitude is and what it needs to be. It needs to be time. It needs to be patience. Today needs to be everyday.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Into The Woods

So I've been pushed into my next phase of life.

I got laid off on Friday.

I'm doing well. Very well actually. I couldn't blog about my job before well, because, not blogging about work is the first rule of blogging but I'll just sum it up saying that I was working for bonafide abusive paranoid amateurs who are experts a blame-shifting. I am very glad to be done with the place. I will miss the paycheck but that's about it. To add insult to injury I also badly twisted my ankle by missing the second to last stair and eating pavement when I was being shown the door. It wasn't my finest hour.

I'll blog about this at length later. What I'd really like to talk about is my last Saturday.

It was a very big day for a friend of mine. We were having a Stake Day in the Temple and one of my friends from the ward was receiving her own endowment. This is a big deal and she was gracious enough to invite me to accompany her through her session.

Trying to get my wits together the morning after being laid off, getting ready on a bad ankle and out the door early on a Saturday was a challenge but I did it and was on the phone with my dad giving him the details of the lay off while I was driving to the temple. I had my phone up to my ear when I saw a CHP in my rearview, lights on, pulling me over. Perfect.

I got a fix-it ticket for some stuff on my car. Mercifully he didn't write me up for talking on my phone (I left my bluetooth at home and my car is too loud to talk effectively on speaker phone) and I was on my way but very much behind schedule.

I pulled up to the temple at 930 - right when my friend's session was scheduled to start and was in a near panic and praying for a close parking space because I was already walking on a bad ankle but there wasn't a single one, near or far. The temple had been closed for the previous two weeks and there were a slew of weddings and own endowments so everyone and their best friend was there. It's a good problem but one that sent me into racking sobs. I drove around for a bit while mentally inventorying what I could have done differently to avoid this situation.

I shouldn't have had that bowl of cereal, I should have just left.

I should have gotten up earlier and not dawdled so long figuring out what to wear

I should have done my make up in the car on the way.

I ended up having to park half a mile away from the temple in an accommodating church parking lot and set off at my fastest run-hobble to get into the session praying for some reason it might be held up. I was doing this whilst still convulsively sobbing and to make everything more interesting the temple grounds were peppered with well-wishers and family members that didn't have a recommend so I had a captive audience the whole way up all bewilderingly starring at the chubby lady run-hobble while ugly-faced donkey crying trying to get to into the temple. It was mortifying.

I got into the temple at 940 and got changed and was told the session hadn't closed yet. I thought whew I'm not going to be a horrible person and miss it. Just a lame person for being late.

I had composed myself somewhat, wiped off the drippy eye makeup I sweat and cried off on my sprint in. I took the elevator up to the second floor where the entrance to the endowment room is and was happy to see a line of people coming out the endowment room door and going all the way down the grand staircase. This made me happy because it seemed that I wasn't really that late at all. When I hobbled closer I saw that the whole endowment room that typically accommodate about 500 people that is NEVER full was full. Like, breaking fire codes full. Like, they had put extra chairs in the aisle and there were a few people standing kind of full.

I saw the ordinance workers (men and women who run the sessions and administer the ordinances in the temple) in a ordinance worker huddle (they do that a lot because they need to communicate but like to keep their voices down to preserve reverence in the temple) and one of the gentleman turned around and said in the most reverent announcement voice ever "I'm sorry Brothers and Sisters, this is a good problem but the session is full and we cannot accommodate anyone else. Please feel free to join us on the 1030 session."

My stomach dropped and I, again, began to cry. I asked him "I have a friend in there receiving her endowment. Would it be OK for me just to wait for them in the Celestial Room?" I don't cry very often for my sake and even less often in front of people so I was already feeling off my rocker that morning. Too much of my energy was tied up in keeping it together, trying not to panic about my life and future and everything and dealing with the pain of my ankle. This blessed temple worker seemed to register all that with one glance at me and I could see everyone else in the temple zoom out of his vision and just focus on me. I turned to grab a few tissues at an accommodating table and he he said "OK - hold on just one second." He dashed to the door, and said - "there is a seat in the very front row - go now" and apparently they had had to stop the session for some reason and I managed to slip in just then. I had to walk all the way up the LONG isle in front of the 500+ people that were in that session very teary faced, shaking, and of course - mortified but I was there. I made it and I got to see my friend and be there for her. It took me about 20 minutes to compose myself. I'm not sure what my whimpering self must have looked or sounded like but I wasn't at a caring point to be honest.

The session was lovely. Seeing my friend in the Celestial Room was lovely it was all lovely. We went and ate and seeing how it was supposed to be a Stake Temple day they had arranged for half our stake to go through the 230 session, we were going to have a 445 chapel session and the remaining would go through the 530 session. Our whole ward that was endowed went either at 930 or 230 and we had our limited use recommend holders doing Baptisms for the Dead in the baptistery. It was a full on ward field trip. The chapel session was lovely and I got to meet up with my brother and the day was beginning to even out.

We met up with everyone at the newly refurbed and VERY shiny Visitor's Center and made dinner plans. We all scattered to our respective cars and I hobbled back to mine parked somewhere between Egypt and Tibet. This journey led me past the temple apartments where people who are doing work in the temple stay for a nominal fee. Senior Missionary couples, travelers, full time missionaries - there are a whole slew of different people there for different reasons. There was a sweet 40-something Samoan man that was packing up his car wearing bombers, slacks, a tie and a dress shirt decidedly tucked out. I could only gather he was at the end of his day and wanted to be comfortable.

The temple grounds at this point were pretty vacated so I was, again, by myself hobbling past this brother and he said to me in the sweetest pigeon English "Eh eh - sistah! Did you eeenjoye yo session?" I, having the glorious experience of living with Polynesians on my mission knew that they were a very gregarious people and like to talk to everyone and honestly cared about everyone. So I slowed and answered "Yes - yes I did. Thank you for asking" without really breaking my hobble pace. But this sweet Polynesian man stopped what he was doing, put his hands in his pockets and turned his shoulder towards me like he wasn't finished talking. I stopped not wanting to be rude and turned back to him as to say "I'm listening" and he said "I'm reeely glad you godt into da session." I then realized, he was probably one of those ordinance workers in the ordinance worker huddle that saw me loose it at the top of the stair that morning. I didn't know how he recognized me but he did. He went on "You knoe as Ordinance Workers - we try haaard to make sure that eeev'ry patron has a good e'sperance in the Temple of our God. I'm soo glad you 'aad a gooode daye"

This kindness so unexpected and sincere. So naturally, in my all-so-stoic state began to cry and not even knowing this man's name gave him a huge hug which he returned. I just whimpered "thank you" and kept hobbling back to my car. I'm so glad that I had that moment of love and recognition and clarity before I got back to my car because when I did, to make my day more amazingly complicated - I came back to a flat tire.

I looked down at my dress and my now alarmingly swollen ankle and continued to cry but for different reasons. I had my brother's phone for some reason but I knew that he and the rest of my ward were meeting at the same place to eat so I called my old home teacher and asked to speak to my brother and said "So my tire is flat" and my brother apparently thought that I was just reporting in and not asking for help. I was too tired and worn down to muster the energy to explain that I needed some help so I just hung up, found one of my fix-a-flats in my trunk and proceeded to fill my tire. I couldn't kneel or crouch because of my ankle and dress so I ended up having so sit on the ground, legs out like a 5 year old, in the gravely parking lot like the lady in Isaiah, got foul smelling chemical foam and grime on my hands, and finally got my tire full enough to limp to the nearest gas station.

I made it to the gas station, filled up the rest of my tire and then finally made it to the restaurant where everyone was very hungerly eating their dinner. The 15 or so members of my ward had put about 7 tables together every seat being full. They knew that I was coming, that I had a flat but they apparently couldn't be bothered to save me a seat. Naturally, like anyone in a truly raw state I was crushed and - you got it - started to cry. My brother and Bishop and his wife were among the group, all people who I love and like to think of as my friends and might have my interests in mind, people who I would hope could intuit my need. But no - double crush. I told my brother back at the temple that I'd buy him dinner for my half of the Netflix bill that month so I caught his eye, he jumped up and asked if I was OK etc and I replied something along the lines of "Sure - yeah - whatever. I think I'm going to go home". He tried to get me to stay and had lots of reassuring hugs but probably didn't get how gutted I was at the whole situation so I bought him his dinner and went home. That place and people were the last place I wanted to be at the moment. The Bishop followed me out making noises about wanting to see my tire and asking for me to check in when I got home etc but it all felt a little too much a little too late.

I know people who have left the church for lesser offenses and slights and I'm not going to lie - my confidence in my ward is pretty low right now. I don't even know who my home teacher is even if I needed to call on someone. That's not OK.

I kind of understand the "could you not watch with me one hour" principle now and if it wasn't for that amazing Polynesian man who I don't even know I would probably be in much worse shape. I'm still feeling a bit shaky and cry a lot more quickly than I usually do. I love my ward but this experience has given me pause. I know that The Church is true and no flick of human folly or selfishness can negate that. I told my roommate the whole story and she was very sweet. She's in charge of the Relief Society and had a different idea of how the evening would have played out had the Relief Society been in charge and I think she's right. I almost called her after I hung up with my brother but I knew how early she'd been up and how anxious she was to get home and was on her way so I didn't.

Either way, I still haven't gotten my tire patched - well- because I just got laid off and the Unemployment hasn't kicked in and I still went to Church on Sunday so I suppose I'm not too badly damaged. If anything I'm exhausted. It's all been a lot of serious highs and lows but that's how it works in the unknown I suppose.

The good news is I'm still in one piece, my relationship with God is strong and tomorrow is another day. With no mistakes in it.