Prove them wrong

Never let someone’s opinion of you define who you are. Sometimes they make mistakes too.

Although I may be in over my head this time.

Last week my daughter Arabella and I tried out for the local community theater musical. I got cast in a very challenging vocal part. The director said she was happy that I tried out because she didn’t think that many people could handle the part. How horrifying!

Yesterday, I talked about how I wasn’t very athletic in school and now I am a marathon runner. When I was a child, I really wanted to be a singer. But I allowed a teacher to crush that dream.

The choir teacher was the same person that axed me as a cheerleader in middle school. In my defense, when I auditioned to be a cheerleader I had the flu. I stayed home from school the day of auditions with a high fever. The choir teacher said that if I wanted to try out I had to audition on that day, no exceptions. That evening I went to school with the flu and auditioned.

Now in her defense, I couldn’t do splits or flips like some of the other girls and was probably clinically depressed since grade school. Having the flu didn’t help with my audition either as you can imagine.

I wasn’t a good athlete and don’t blame her for not selecting me to be a cheerleader. But I always thought I was a good singer.

More than anything, I wanted to be in the high school jazz choir. But I didn’t bother trying out. The choir teacher didn’t like me. I’m not even sure why, I never did anything to her. There were certain teachers though that did not like me based on my autistic brother’s behaviors. Perhaps you have been judged for a sibling’s misdeeds? It sucks! There were certain old school teachers that blamed my mother for my brother’s autism back in the day and I think she was one.

The choir teacher picked a song for solo and ensemble for me. On the first practice, she told me I was a horrible singer and there was no way I was ever going to compete. I was so humiliated. Maybe I really did suck?

Remembering her words and cheerleading tryouts, I didn’t bother auditioning for jazz choir.

I gave up my dream. In college I wanted to audition for choir, but didn’t think I was good enough. It wasn’t until many years later that I started to sing in front of people again. Wow, you are very good at singing. You must have been a star singer in high school. What?

Now my daughter Angel is going to college for vocal performance. She has a very similar voice to mine. She has been to many competitions around the country and has done very well.

The choir teacher could have made a positive impact on my life. She could have encouraged me and worked with me to make me a better singer. She could have given me something to take me away from my troubles at home. But instead, she squelched a dream.

The choir teacher, whether she knew it or not, changed the path that I chose to take. She was a horrible teacher. I wish I didn’t give so much credit to her opinion.

Challenge accepted, I’m going to do the best I can at this role. Maybe I will dedicate this show to proving my choir teacher wrong.

Salt Lake City, Utah

On our free evening in Salt Lake City, we decided to go to the Mormon Tabernacle to hear the choir practice. The most impressive building shown in the picture above is  the Mormon Temple (not where the choir practiced). The practice was held in the dome shaped tabernacle. Before entering, there was a group of kind elderly ladies that searched our purses. People were sitting informally in the pews to listen. It attracted an international audience.

By far my favorite instrument is the pipe organ. This was the largest pipe organ that I have ever seen. The sound was rich. Too bad I couldn’t fit it in my suitcase!

The tabernacle was inside of Temple Square which was surrounded by a large wall. Once I passed through the gates, I felt like I was in a different world. Everything inside was green and lush. There were immaculate gardens. It was peaceful and beautiful.

There were several statues in Temple Square, one of a seagull. Our Salt Lake tour guide said that when the original Mormon settlers came there was a cricket plague. The seagulls swooped in to devour the crickets. Now the seagull has a monument erected in its honor. It is also the state bird. Who would’ve guessed?

Right upon leaving the grounds, there was a young group of Christians evangelizing to the people as they exited.

Outside the gates there were several outdoor fountains that at certain times of the day had a water show, but I didn’t see that.

Down the road from Temple Square was a place that had a lot of signs for tourist photos. It seemed like a traffic hazard more than anything. It was something different.

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Like major cities, there was a homeless population. There were kids that came by on skateboards asking for money to buy drugs.

The city itself is very clean. It was hard to find a cigarette butt or a candy wrapper. It would be nice if such care was taken towards preserving the polluted Great Salt Lake. Although it is nice to know that they weren’t serving fish from the Great Salt Lake at local restaurants since the lake is much too salty for fish.

One major misconception I had about Salt Lake City before visiting was that it was a dry city (as in hard to find alcohol, not as in climate). I didn’t find that to be the case, although the beer on tap has only 4% alcohol. Some of my local favorites are the Moab Brewery Porcupine Pilsner, Squatters Arnold Palmer Ale, and Wasatch’s Polygamy Porter. The good thing about less alcohol was that I was able to sample more. Although Utah law says that you can only have two drinks in front of you at a time, even if those drinks are 2 ounces each.

I was surprised at some of the restaurants in the city. I had an unbelievably good burger at Fat Jack’s Burger Emporium. I built my own and it included some unusual ingredients like Spam, avocado, cilantro, and a fried egg.

Even though we didn’t have a lot of time to explore the city, we were able to see a lot of the major highlights.

No fires

I worked late Thursday night until 8 PM. If I worked late, I would be able to keep to my running schedule which hasn’t been broken since the stomach flu of May of 2016. It is more important than writing.

Friday morning I ran 12 miles. It was the best run in ages. I didn’t feel any pain or exhaustion. I felt energetic and happy. Things were going good until I realized that I was missing a key ingredient in the dip I was making for the afternoon staff party. I had to make an unexpected trip to the store on the busiest grocery shopping day of the year.

The parking lot to the store was a zoo. Traffic was backed up for a mile away. Not many parking lots spaces were to be had and there weren’t many carts either. Angel was called into work at the store on that day and I was happy to see her busy working while I was there.

We closed the office early on Friday and scheduled an office wide website training and beer sampling party upon the suggestion of our sales guy James. James said that the party was going to be the highlight of his holiday weekend. He is a divorced man and his only son was spending the weekend with his in-laws. I felt bad for him.

We learned a lot about the technical side of our website and it was determined that I was going to help start a blog.

Then Christmas Eve came before I knew it. I realized I had been so busy at work that I forgot to drink out of my special holiday mug this year. I didn’t even wrap gifts until later in the day.

Angel and I sang a duet at church that evening. We were also part of the choir. It was a strange evening. Someone smelled smoke and thought they saw smoke coming out of the church building right before the choir processed in. We discussed briefly how flammable our choir robes are.

Angel and I decided to sing our duet without the security of having the music in front of us. We were nervous as we looked out at the hundreds of people in attendance. Angel was freaking out that she would forget the words. We made a couple of errors. I had to look at all of the people looking at me while I sang. It was nerve wracking. If I had the music, I could stare at that instead of at the eyes on me.

During the service, the other soloist forgot his words. The pastor started the sermon without reading the gospel. Then he lingered for a long time in his robe over the lit candles. We remembered our discussion on how flammable the robes are. The choir was ready to jump on him to put out the flames or interrupt the service to have the pastor move only to find out later that the candles were fake.

We awoke the following morning to a white Christmas. Later in the day, it started to sleet and then rain. I was worried about my son on the road. He made it home safe.

For awhile, Paul was hurt that I didn’t get him a Christmas gift. I felt bad that he felt bad. It was a big misunderstanding. I thought that he said that we should buy ourselves our own gifts. So I bought myself a wet suit on clearance. That probably sounds bad. I bought myself something, but got him nothing. He did buy some ice fishing stuff that I have no clue about.

Arabella, Paul, and I had a relaxing Christmas day together. I stayed in my pajamas all day.

I’m sorry this post wasn’t as exciting as I intended it to be. The church didn’t end up starting on fire. Everything ended up turning out great in the end.

I want to say thanks again for your presence, if you stuck with me this far. Having this blog is a wonderful gift. I am so happy that you are following along on this journey of mine..

 

More encouraging “notes”

Back in January, I wrote a post about receiving a hand written thank you note in the mail complimenting Angel and I for singing at church. The encouraging note really meant a lot to me and I decided to pay it forward. I would write a hand written encouraging note to someone that I thought was deserving. I found that person.

I decided to do something a little different today. I am posting a video of my daughter singing I Could Have Danced All Night from My Fair Lady at the senior mother-daughter banquet. The person that I wrote the note to was Angel’s high school choir teacher. This teacher went above and beyond. She took the students on several trips, even international trips, where Angel had the opportunity to sing in several countries. This teacher puts in long hours before and after school practicing with students. Then more hours to prepare for solo and ensemble, concerts, workshops, Christmas caroling, shows, musicals, and probably countless other things that I don’t even know about.

This teacher demands perfection and she gets it. She holds her students accountable for how they treat others. She makes sure that her students are at practice when they are supposed to be and has impeccable organizational skills. She has devoted her life to teaching and making this world a better place. She has the ability to take students where they are at vocally and bring them to their fullest potential.

My daughter has decided to go on to college for a career in vocal performance. A lot of her decision was influenced by having a remarkable teacher. I am thankful for everything that she has done. So I decided to tell her that.

Many years ago when I was in high school, I would’ve given anything to have had a choir teacher like her. If I did, I know that it would have changed my career path. I would have walked down a different road. Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if I did. That dream is fading away from me, getting harder and harder to reach with every passing year. Even though I am a bit envious, I am happy that my daughter will have a chance to walk down the path that I never tread.

Competing events

Today all of my kids competed. I felt just as nervous as if I was competing.

Not only were all three of my kids competing in solo and ensemble, but my youngest daughter Arabella had an additional altogether different competition at a different school. This week I attended the mandatory parent meeting for Arabella’s competition. The leader told the group that anyone with a failing grade would not be able to compete. It was at this point that I leaned over to my daughter’s coach (one of my best friends) and said good thing they weren’t talking about my child. They were talking about my daughter! WTH??  I raced home to find out that she was failing choir (really, choir???!?) because she didn’t turn in an assignment when she was out of school getting her braces on. So I never did sign up that night to help out.

A couple days later I received a nasty call because I never signed up to volunteer at the event. The leader wanted me to help with concessions between 10 and 11. I said no. Between my kids, they were signed up for 11 S&E events. I was not even going to be able to be there for Arabella’s competition because my other two kids were competing at similar times. Paul was going to go. I was not going to drop seeing my kids events because someone was stupid enough to double schedule this event with S&E. She told me that if I didn’t help out that they were not going to do this in the future. I reiterated that I was not going to help from 10 to 11, mentioned all the times I did my fair share, and offered to help clean up after the award ceremony.

Then later this week right before S&E, Arabella told me that she broke her instrument. Ok, sure. What next? It was already crazy enough having to be at two different places at the same time!

Last night I set my alarm for 5:40 AM to get up in time for the show. I have never been so thankful for waking up early on a Saturday morning before. Especially since I accidently set the alarm for 5:40 PM. That could have been disasterous!

Arabella performed her two pieces first so she could leave for her other competition. Her band duet was horrible. Apparently her friend was playing french horn out of a trumpet book and the instruments were in 2 different keys. So it sounded like they were playing two different clashing songs. They took a 2nd on their class C. She also took a 2nd on her choir piece. Not too bad for as bad as the band piece sounded. Alex took a 2nd on his band piece as well.

As usual, Angelique stole the show. All 8 of her choir pieces made it to state. I can usually tell it’s good if the worst comment the judges make is on where to take breaths. She better be good since she wants to go into vocal performance as a career! Last year all of her pieces made it to state. She took all firsts at state and received an exemplary award. One of the best things a judge said was that her happy attitude was contagious.

Then I made it back to Arabella’s competition just in time for the award ceremony. Her team did not make it to state this year. Oh well, they had fun anyway. Then I stayed after to clean up. I came home tonight pretty exhausted. Almost like I ran a marathon. Lol.   

All in all, the day ended on a good note.

The travel diaries, New York City

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A few years back when Angelique just finished her freshman year in high school, my mom and I accompanied her along with the high school band and choir on a bus trip to NYC. As many of you know from earlier posts, I can be quite neurotic when it comes to modes of transportation. This travel adventure was no exception. I remember getting on the bus that first day and being introduced to our first driver Gus. Now Gus was a very old man. He had a little drool coming out the side of his mouth. The second driver Al introduced Gus by congratulating him on getting his 75 year pin. Wait, what? Holy crap, 75 years or driving. Did I hear that right? Maybe he was 75 years old. Yes, that’s better. They were going to take turns driving us from WI into NYC. Every 6 hours they would switch off after stopping to have a cigarette break and pick up some fast food. One would sleep in the back of the bus while the other drove. You can imagine how quiet it was in the back of a bus full of excited teenagers. Despite everything I said, they were both very experienced drivers and after a sleepless night of trying to sleep upright in our seats, we were in NYC.   

We toured all day that first day. The first thing that we did was take a ferry to see the Statue of Liberty. It was a beautiful sight. Then we spent a couple of hours at Times Square. The picture of me below was from Times Square. I don’t think I look too bad for not sleeping or showering. My mom and I were in charge of chaperoning 2 teenage boys. Of course our boys headed right to the naked cowgirl for pictures. She was a lady older than me wearing little star tassels on top with a bikini bottom. Hhmm. 

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That first night we got to our hotel after 10, then we were up early to tour all day. We saw the 9/11 Memorial, which I spoke about in an earlier post. We saw Grand Central Station. Yes, I thought it was very similar to my life. We toured the United Nations which ended up being more facinating than I thought it would be. It was rather amusing seeing some of the kids go through security. Talk about culture shock! No wonder why we took a bus instead of a plane. 

We toured NBC studios which was very interesting to see behind the scenes of TV shows. We toured Radio City and spoke to a Rockette. What I remember most, which is terrible, was that we got to the tour really early because I had to use the bathroom. But I couldn’t use the bathroom until half way through the tour. This urgency of mine got us into a bit of trouble as we separated from our group. All I could think about was how bad I had to pee. 

We also got to see The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. The choir director got us in to see a minor character before the show to talk about careers in music and theater. It poured really hard that day. While we were in NYC, the choir and band students performed. The kids ran with their instruments in their formal band/choir clothes in a downpour. I couldn’t help but laugh at the craziness of it all. That afternoon my daughter performed the solo Popular right outside of Trump Tower in the atrium. I don’t think that I was ever more proud to hear her sing. People smiled and clapped for her as birds were flying around inside of the building, which I thought was strange. 

We also visited Central Park. It was so interesting to see trees in the midst of skyscrapers. There was a man in the park playing Beatles songs on his guitar for money. I saw a man lying in the grass that I feared may be dead. Nursery school children walked by in a group holding hands. We went to the Empire State Building, shopped in China Town, and took an evening cruise to see the lights of the city and the Statue of Liberty at night. It was hard to believe that we were able to do so many things in less than a week   

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The city is such a beautiful place. I have always wanted to visit during Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Maybe someday I will go back.

Encouraging “notes”

Yesterday my daughter and I received a hand written thank you note in the mail from someone that we know, however not someone that we know well.

I wanted to let you know how much we enjoyed hearing you sing on Christmas Eve. You have such beautiful voices, and we are so blessed that you are willing to share them with our congregation. God has truly blessed you both with an amazing gift. We hope you continue to bless us by sharing it with us-OFTEN!

Where were you 25 years ago??? I really could have used your words of encouragement then. For some reason my choir teacher hated me. I am not even sure why. My opinion was that once again it had everything to do with having an autistic brother. There were some teachers that looked down upon my family as if my brother’s autism was caused by poor parenting. This teacher always had a smile on her face. Maybe she hated me because I was always down. Maybe it was because I had a hard time smiling back because my home life turned my smile into a frown.

There was that time that I tried out for cheerleading when this choir teacher was the judge of who made the team and who didn’t. On the day of tryouts, I was at home sick with the flu. The teacher said that being sick was no exception. So my mom took me to school with a fever so I could try out. I was the only one that didn’t make the team. Then I lost some friends because the cheerleaders became the popular girls. I was so sad when I saw everyone’s name posted on the wall except for mine.

Then I was homeschooled between 8th and 10th grade. It was during that time that I sang a song for my mom and convinced her to sign me up for singing lessons. I had singing lessons for a couple of months. I didn’t really like the songs that I sang because I thought that they were babyish. After a couple of months of practice, we had a recital. I got up on the stage by myself in front of a lot of people and froze. Barely a whisper came out. My mom didn’t sign me up for singing lessons after that. I thought to myself that I was a failure.

When I went back to school as a junior, I was behind in so many things. I was far behind in sports. I didn’t join band because taking three years off from playing the flute put me way behind the other kids. I did join the choir. I tried to perform a solo and ensemble piece, however after singing through it twice the choir teacher said that it wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t good enough. What I really wanted more than anything was to join jazz choir but I didn’t even bother trying out because I knew from experience that I wouldn’t make it if that teacher was the deciding factor. Once I got to college I wanted to join the choir but didn’t because I thought that I wasn’t good enough despite being able to sight read music and having a 3 octave range.

A few years back at my high school class reunion, we had karaoke. After I sang several songs, I was approached by the spouse of a classmate who said, “I bet that you were the star choir student in high school.” I hated my choir teacher at that very moment. I allowed her to steal my gift.

Even though I felt hatred for that teacher, I have to look at myself. Am I any different?? Do I give words of praise and encouragement? Or do I condemn and criticize? I can tell you that I am not where I need to be either.

This year I want to be more encouraging. I am going to look for someone to thank with a hand written note for doing something that everyone else overlooks.