Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Merry Day

My favorite things about Christmas are memories, being with family, traditions, and the excitement of little kids.

My Dad pulled out his horse carriage and hitched up my sister's horse, Jet, to deliver goody plates and to give rides on Christmas morning. I love this tradition. It brings a real old-time feel to our holiday and I hope that it's a memory that our next little generation will cherish in their holiday memories. My parents always come through with making the day a great one.

My Mom always makes her amazing orange rolls for us. It's officially Christmas when I smell them baking.

And we still have something amazing to look forward to: my parents bought tickets for the entire lot of us to go on the "Polar Express" train ride on Tuesday in the Williams Grand Canyon Railway. The grandkids are all anticipating this event and Lacy has it in her head that Grandpa will be driving the train. After all, why not? He drives just about everything else. Why not the train? I love it. I think the engineer/conductor/whatever should let my Dad go to the front and take the reins for a bit. I'm not sure who'd be more thrilled, Lacy or Dad.

Thanks to my aunt, I got (as a Christmas present) a copy of the DVD from the Hansen Reunion this summer: a slide-show of my great-grandparents and their posterity. We put that in to play while we opened presents. What a treat that was. It made Christmas morning all the greater. Thanks Auntie Juju.

Here are the pictures of our carriage rides. Some are pretty similar to each other, but I just had to post them all. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Ringing, Singing, and Making Merry

It's something I look forward to each Christmas Season: the festive sing-a-long. Can you blame me? There you will find the debut of local talent, the debut of local improvisation, the sound of bells ringing and merry singing, a visit from Suzy Snowflake, and the promise of hot chocolate to warm your heart.
Here is the Kinkade-esque cottage where we hold the merry event:

I dedicate this post to Suzy Snowflake and to the children who still beleive in her.
And now for a flashback to the sing-a-long of Christmas Past:

Saturday, December 18, 2010


I made it! I donated plasma yesterday morning and left right afterwards to hit the road. The roads were beautifully clear and I made good time. Leaving Rexburg, the temperature was a whole 4 degrees.

I got stopped once, just past Idaho Falls. The officer told me I needed to scrape the ice off my back window. Then he realized that there was ice on the inside too. So he told me, "Try to get it to thaw so you can see out the back."

As I headed South, the temperatures got a little warmer and the ice and snow that was left on my car slowly melted away.

I have (or had, rather) an SD slot in my car stereo, meaning I can play SD cards. So I dumped all my entire collection of Christmas music on an SD card and listened to that on the way down. But at highway speeds, the cab of my car is pretty loud. So I crank the volume of the stereo to compensate. Not a good idea. I guess after about 10 hours of that, it was through. It gave a loud electronic squeal and poof. That was it. All I heard was the bass line coming from my speaker box in the trunk. I fried the audio output of the other channels. Oops. I knew too much Christmas music wasn't a good idea. Apparently, the old stereo agreed. If only I'd had some sort of warning before it was too late. I guess this Christmas I'll be saying farewell to the stereo. She has served me well. And now, she can rest.

The car performed amazingly well, once again. That's up and back to Idaho 3 times now without any trouble. She is a real trooper. She's never let me down. I bought a new engine for her and I'll be putting that in sometime in the near future, then she'll really rock and roll (look out).

I calculated the fuel mielage for the trip. 20.5 miles per gallon. Not bad for an old clunker.

For your gee whiz file: it takes 13 hours to get from Rexburg to Joseph City, and that's if you stop and have a sit-down lunch, which I highly recommend to anyone driving that far.

It feels so good to be home. I can't wait for all my siblings to get back into town. By that time, I hope to be over this blasted cold.

Arizona, I love you!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Must Write Now

Let me set the scene for you: Wednesday night, uhh, scratch that. Tuesday night (finals week is really messing with my brain). I sit nestled in the little comfy nook created by the recess under my elevated bed. It's where I do my best work, and my best thinking. If I had anything equivalent to a secret lair, this would be it. The world outside is bright with the illumination of a heavy falling snow: the perfect mixture of easy wind and downy flake. I probably use Frost lines to a fault, but for those of you who get it, I hope you're smiling. There ya go.

I am going to unload, because it's high time. The thought-minions are near the point of revolt, being overloaded with trivial thoughts. I must keep them happy. They've threatened to sabotage the entire operation of my mental flow. Oh, too late. School has done that already. Minions, do your worst. I'll write it out anyhow, just because I'll sleep better if I do.

I must say, I've really been impressed with Taco Bell's efforts in the way of sauces. I thrill when I see the variety now offered in those little bins next to the napkins and sporks. I confess, I haven't actually tried them all. I like the verde sauce so much that I haven't really felt the need to venture beyond it -for now.

Tonight's snowstorm really enhances the holiday mood. I peered down the main street in Rexburg and saw it in all its Christmasy splendor: the trees laced in bright twinkling white bulbs that glisten off the facets of a thousand little ice mirrors falling in silence; it's got its charm. I am so tempted to dash down the street yelling "Merry Christmas, Bedford Falls!" But here's the thing: there is another charm at work in me. I saw a picture of an ocotillo plant in a desert scene today and the allure of that just made it all the harder to resist the urge to leave town tonight and skip out on the rest of finals. Ahh, Arizona -I pine for the sunshine in your friendly gaze.

I interrupt this program to say that my roommate's laugh from the living room is so boisterously ridiculous and obnoxious that I wonder every time whether it's sincere or forced. Put that in your gee-whiz file.

I've been so distracted this week. Really. I drove to donate plasma yesterday (that was only a day ago? It seems like at least three.) and afterward, I stopped in at the Subway just around the block from my apartment complex. I had a good restful lunch, read the local paper, did the crossword, and then got up, cleared the table, and walked home. I completely forgot that I had driven there, and I thought nothing of my car since I usually walk to and from Subway.

The following morning, I woke up early to go to the school and put the finishing touches on a project I was to present. I went to the parking lot, keys in hand, and my car ... was not there. I paused. I turned around and looked. Where was it? It took me a good three minutes to remember what had happened. I walked briskly to the Subway parking lot, hoping and praying that my car had not been towed away.

When I arrived, the manager of Subway had just arrived too. She was on the phone with the tow-truck driver. I was about to be towed. She canceled her request and hung up. She then told me "This is NOT an overnight parking lot." I explained that I realized that and how my lunch-time stop had led to my forgetting and my honest mistake. She proceeded to "wow" me with details of what the charges are for a tow and storage fees. She was thoroughly irritated. I told her I was sorry, and yet, though my experiences at their franchise have always been satisfactory, her current treatment had me re-thinking my stance. She had no sympathy for me. She is the parking lot queen. She takes pride in a good empty lot when she closes up shop. Anyone who dares defy her will be dealt the full measure of her fury. Your right hand will be severed at the wrist and and stapled to an old board above the restaurant door: "Parking violators, be ye warned". I find it so fascinating that someone could get so worked up over something that is fixed as easily as me driving away. The same lady has been known to call the tow-truck on people who stop in to use their restroom and don't buy anything. Parking is, after all, only for paying customers. I'm of the opinion that life is much to short to be so crotchety.

But what I want to point out about all this is that finals week has really got me distracted. I misplaced my car! How out of it do you have to be to misplace a few tons of steel?

My every instinct is telling me that I need to be headed South, right now. I know I need to stay and finish up my Calculus final on Thursday, but I am staring at the road, car keys in hand, (with a car this time), and glancing at the school. Then back at the road. Home never seemed so alluring. It is calling to me. This week can't pass fast enough for me. I normally like to make the most of each day and cherish it for all it's worth. But some weeks are just made to fast-forward. This one is a fast-forward week. I suppose it's worth it to stick around and see who wins the plasma center promotion drawing, just for kicks. Okay, school is important too.

Lately I've been just cruising through my free iBooks. I keep reading Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. I love them! I wish I'd discovered them earlier on because I just love how cleverly crafted they are. If you're wanting to try a classic, give one of the "adventures" a try from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Each chapter is a new case. I love it.

I'm determined to keep myself in check. I have the urge to add to my movie collection. There are so many good new flicks out! Some not-so-new, but just the same, I want them! Cloudy with a chance of meatballs, despicable me, the a-team, Control, ol' boy, control. Control, alt, delete. Okay, maybe that's a little extreme. Control. Control.

There you have it. From the midst of the pains of final exams, I present you with a gift from the heart of my mind, or the depth of my width, or the soul of my brain. Whatever. You know what I mean.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Let-Downs, Bumps, and Rises.

I want to tell you about the past two days.
Do you mind just listening? It's a lot of craziness all mixed into 48 hours.

Enough lolly-gagging. Here we go:

Yesterday, I was slated to present my final project in a class. I worked my tail off burning the midnight oil making sure I got things ready. I wasn't completely satisfied, but I was ready to present it regardless. As the presentations proceeded, we ran short on time, so I was bumped 'til Tuesday for presentation. I was glad for it because that gives me a weekend to really fine-tune things.

I had a scheduled Calculus exam that day. I asked my teacher if she would let me take it the next morning so that I could participate in the undergraduate research conference on campus. She said yes. Big burden off my back. Whew.

I ran from class to the Romney building for a seminar that turned out to be spectacularly mediocre. More of a recruiting meeting for ISU, minus the main speaker.

Then I turned my attention to the student research conference. I'd already prepared a poster and presented my findings at the Geological Society of America National conference in Denver this semester, so entering this conference was only a matter of signing up and hanging my poster.

This was a great experience. At GSA, I had to defend my statements to professionals. At our school, I had to creatively tailor my presentation to suit a non-geology crowd. I loved it. It went really well. I knew they had an awards ceremony after the conference sessions; what I didn't know is that there were cash prizes. I won 2nd place overall in my poster session for the physical sciences. (It's a major award! I won it!) That will help pay for my trip back to the sunny, beautiful desert I call home.

Yesterday, gone. Today, here it is:
-woke up
-donated plasma
-took my 3-hour calc. exam
-went to sound-checks for the Best Of show
-went to the fitness center
-performed in the show

It was one of those full of exciting/stressful events days. I was most excited about the Best Of show. Our medley was sounding great, we were pumped up and excited and confident. Then, the sound technicians stepped in. We stepped out onto the stage, the crowd roared. We started the medley with a solo from Beauty and the Beast. Her mic was muted through the first phrase. Throughout our act, our microphones were completely sporadic. Muted, active, live, dead. And no matter how great of a job we did performing, nobody could really hear it. They got the gist of the act, but not the refined finish we'd worked so hard to achieve.

After a performance, our group is usually on a high. The high I'd been anticipating all day was replaced with a huge let-down. I was frustrated. I probably will be for a good while. But that's life. I think what bothers me the most is that our sound-tech in charge of the show was really rude and impatient with us at our sound checks, and then he didn't save the settings for our act into the show program. The poor sound tech at the board was left to handle the catastrophe. If he would've been nice, I would feel less inclined to blame. But this guy was a jerk to us and rushed us through sound checks like we were wasting his time.

Ugh, whatever. There. Now you know all about that event. I want to look back on my time with this group happily. We've had some amazingly fun times together. I've made some great friends and done great things with them. It's kind of sad to end our semester with that tone.

So after the show, I went to Taco Bell with some friends then to the cheap theaters. That is the recipe for taking one's mind off pain. Some people choose alcohol. I choose Chalupas and cinematography.

I end my day here, ready to lay down and not wake up until late Saturday morning. In the light of morning, I can view all of today's craziness in a fresh perspective. And for that, I'm happy.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

When You Wish Upon a Star

We each have things we want to do in life. One I've always dreamed of doing is singing in a fun A'Capella group. This semester, that opportunity came. Last night, our group My A'Capella performed in a show on campus called Magic Moments. It's a Disney-themed show that students audition for. Well, it was a lot of fun. We collectively arranged parts for a medley of Disney songs (and none of us are music majors, I note).

It was a blast. I was a little shaky in front of a huge crowd. I haven't had to do anything quite like that since Swing Choir back, well the turn of the millenium.
Sounds so distant, and yet, I remember it like it was yesterday. Wow, that last line sounds a lot like Ebenezer Scrooge reflecting on the shadows of the past.

The group may have another opportunity to perform our medley. The talent board puts on a Best Of Show where all the top-voted acts from shows on campus combine to put on one heck of a show. Judging by the audience reaction, we've got a good chance of making it. I don't want to jump the gun and tell you it's for sure, but I have it from a good source that when the ballots were counted, our group had twice the votes of the second-place act.

If we do make it, I'll have my friends (who always have front-row seats) take a good quality video. With one performance under our belts, I think the on-stage jitters are pretty well worked out.

The next few weeks of school are going to be pretty hectic. But I have a great creative outlet, and that is singing. I love this group. I only wish we had more time to perform together!

So I say this: If you have a dream, if you have a talent you're dying to express, step out onto the stage. Embrace the adrenaline rush. Don't just wish upon a star. Be the star you dream of being, no matter how small it seems. Share your talents. I can't guarantee it will bring you fame, glory, or fortune. But it will help bring out the very best in you. Your life will be richer. That I can guarantee.