Sunday, April 26, 2009

Determined to be Happy

Last night I attended the Saturday night session of Stake Conference. I was scandalous because I was wearing pants (nice black ones mind you, not jeans) since I had been at the U's library for a few hours and didn't bring a skirt to change into before walking over to the Institute building. I thought about going home to change, but traffic and parking was horrible since there was an event at the U and so I just decided to go the way I was so I wouldn't miss any of it.

This session didn't disappoint. I was worried when the first two speakers were a newlywed couple who had been assigned to speak on marriage. Trust me, the last thing singles want to hear is a cheesy couple gushing over the wonders of marriage and how you should try it too, especially because it's required for exaltation. We already KNOW that. I don't think there is a single single (ha ha) who doesn't get that the Church emphasizes celestial marriage. 

But you know what? The talks were good. They were both older and had been in singles wards for a long time and knew what it felt like to do the righteous thing and come to Saturday conference and then leave feeling like a failure because they are STILL burdening the kingdom with their singleness. So they didn't focus on that. Instead they shared their personal experiences along the way and some things they had learned. Rather than being depressing, their talks were inspiring.

But the highlight of the evening for me was my stake president's talk. I have been in this stake for a while and every talk he's given has been great. I really like him. But this talk,"Determined to be Happy" was was especially poignant. He didn't share any magic formulas for how to be happy; instead he focused on how we need to diligently and obstinately make right decisions and apply the Atonement. Confession: diligence is not my strong point. It's something I definitely need to pray for and strive for (diligently, ha!) because in the end it's what separates the wheat from the tares, the happy from the unhappy.

President D. also shared a special message from President Monson that was for our stake particularly. The prophet said two things that struck me. First, he talked about how we need to make the choice of whether our standards will be low or high. Second, we need to be joyful that we get to be on the earth now. I realized that I need to improve in both of these areas.

I won't bore you with further details, but I'll just say that President D. told us that God wants us to be happy, that as we get our lives in order, He will pour out His blessings upon us, yes, even including the miracle of marriage. He will help us determine our own happiness if we let Him. 

I thought about it the rest of the evening and I realized that too often I place my happiness in something else. A great career, an educated, sharp mind, a thin, healthy body, stylish clothes and other material comforts; all of these are good things and certainly worth working toward but these are things I sometimes think will determine my happiness when really I'm missing the mark. These things may come or not, but it is only as I seek to know and follow God's will for me that will determine my happiness, regardless of my external circumstances.

I'm glad I showed up to Saturday night Stake Conference in my pants. I came away determined to make the changes I need to in order to determine my own happiness.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Can Phantom Leave No Traces? I Hope So!

There is good theatre, there is mediocre theatre, and there is bad theatre.  On Wednesday night, I experienced bad theater. Actually, to be fair, it wasn’t the production itself; the acting was decent, the set was good, the singing was great. But the material left a lot to be desired. And some of the important characters were miscast.

A friend from work had free tickets to Hale Center Theatre’s production of Phantom and so she invited a few of us from work to go. For those who don’t know, Phantom is basically the story of Phantom of the Opera, except with boring music and terrible writing. Okay, so it really can’t even be compared to Phantom of the Opera.

It was painful.

I knew it was going to be a struggle when the first three songs all sounded the same.  Oh, the actors could sing, but none of the music was memorable, except for some annoying “fa la la las” and a meaningful ditty that included shrill repetitions of “melody, melody, melody.” While this song played, I closed my eyes and prayed for the “melody” to stop. It didn’t.

But it wasn’t until the Phantom came out that the play became laughable. With the dark organ music playing (milk chocolate compared to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s bittersweet dark chocolate version), I expected the Phantom to fit the part of the mysterious and dark tortured soul clad in black. Instead, out pops a short, slightly chubby blond in a white peasant shirt and black pants.  He looked like Seminary Phantom, or Casper the Friendly Phantom. And even when he did get angry at the characters, I half expected him to suggest that they all discuss their issues over milk and cookies.

They even named him. Erik. When I think of the name Erik (spelled with a k), I think of burley Vikings conquering territories, not some prissy guy wearing a mask over half of his face inviting beautiful young women on picnics (yes, the Phantom takes Christine on a picnic and sings about the trees. It was charming).

And the guy who plays Christine’s lover looked like he’d just gotten home from his mission the night before. There was nothing debonair about him. In fact, the whole production looked like BYU Phantom of the Opera.  And it wasn’t pretty.

The lines were laughable. At one point, Christine’s missionary-esque lover tries to woo her with a night out in Paris. He brings champagne and asks her if she likes it. When she says yes, he says, “Well maybe I shouldn’t give you any.” Of course, she asks “Why not?” to which he replies, “How can you give champagne to champagne?” Wow. What a line. How can she choose between he and the Phantom? Suddenly I understood her tough choice.

The director’s commentary in the program explained why he thinks Phantom is the greatest musical ever. I would share his exact words with you, but unfortunately I stuck my gum in the program and threw it away. Basically, he wanted to show that evil is misunderstood and so he chose to portray the Phantom as a mostly nice guy with low self-esteem. Oh, and sometimes he kills people, but it’s okay. He’s been abused. I could appreciate the different interpretation, but it ended up being flatter than Jennifer Aniston’s stomach.

To sum it up, as my friend put it, there was definitely no music in the night.

On Friday I see Wicked. I am expecting that to be much, MUCH better.





Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Signs of the Times

Lately I have seen a lot of interesting signs around the city that I have deemed blogworthy. I wish I would have taken pictures of these signs, but alas, that would require me figuring out how to use my camera phone in less than 15 minutes. So just use your imagination.

Favorite Creepy sign:

While driving on State Street one night, I noticed an Artic Circle sign that said “Find furry friends in your kidsmeal.” Eeeewwww! I’ll pass, thanks.

Favorite Why-Did-You-Even-Make-A-Sign-That-Says-That sign:

One day, when I walking through Temple Square to go home from work, I saw someone holding a sign that said “Chaos is Satan.” I suppose that could be true, but I wasn’t sure why it was necessary to share that with the rest of humanity.

Favorite Only-In-Utah sign:

Next to the 600 North overpass is a sign that says “End Polygamy Now” and then provides a polygamy hotline number. When I drive past it I think maybe it is time to get out of Utah.

Favorite Maybe-You-Should-Have-Thought-This-Through sign:

In Springville there is a billboard along Southbound I-15 for bail bonds that says “Get out of jail now.” This would make a lot more sense if it said “Get your loved one out of jail now” or something like that. Because, let’s face it, those who are need of bail bonds because they are already in jail probably aren’t going to see that billboard from their cells. Maybe it is meant for those who are in the police cars on their way to jail and they can text for a bail bond.

Those are some of my favorites. I will probably make this a regular, okay, more likely a semi-regular feature on my blog. So if you see any funny/bizarre/creepy signs you’d like featured, just send them to me and I’ll put them in the next edition of Signs of the Times.