Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Music and a Chocolate Car. Also, Shoes.

Can you spot me in this picture?



I’m one of the tiny little dots on the left, holding a teensy dot of a violin. I joined this orchestra a few months ago, and we played an Easter concert last week in glorious Segerstrom Hall at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. (That was a lot of capitalization for one sentence.) Words can't express how much I love being in an orchestra again.

However, words can express how much I enjoyed eating at Wahoo's Fish Taco during the dinner break between the dress rehearsal and performance. Across the street from the concert hall is a gigantic, upscale mall, and I decided to walk over to grab some dinner and do a little Easter basket shopping. (I ended up buying Steve a chocolate car. Two of his favorite things combined!) I spent an enjoyable half hour eating an embarrassingly large plate of rice and beans at a table outside, basking in the early evening sun and flirting with a very cute boy at the next table. (He was 18 months old. What can I say - I have a thing for younger men.)

After the food and flirtation, I discovered and purchased the chocolate car, and then went in search of the ladies room where I could wash the caramel residue from my fingers. (I ate the free sample they gave me at the candy store. Was this in keeping with my anti-inflammation diet? No. Do I care? No.)

As I was washing my hands, I became aware of a woman standing very quietly in the corner next to the door. She was staring intently at the bottom of the handicapped stall at the opposite end of the bathroom. I looked over at the stall, and could see nothing out of the ordinary. I looked back at her, and she just kept staring. Puzzled, I dried my hands, and she stared. As I reached the door to exit the bathroom, I glanced back once more to see if I could identify the reason for her staring, and her hand suddenly shot out and grabbed my arm. I stopped, startled, and she raised her finger to her lips to shush me. Then, pointing to the handicapped stall, she whispered:

"No shoes."


I wasn't sure I'd heard her correctly.

"What?" I whispered back.

She put her finger to her lips again, and whispered with greater urgency:

"No shoes. NO. SHOES."


"Hmmmm." I said.

I stood there with her for about 30 seconds, her hand on my arm, both of us staring in silence at the handicapped stall. Finally, not knowing what else I could contribute to the conversation, I gently pulled my arm from her grasp, and exited the bathroom.

I was barely out the door when I heard a voice behind me.

"Sorry if I freaked you out."

I turned around. She came closer. In hushed tones, she said:

"It's just that - I think there is someone in that stall."

"Okay."

"But I couldn't see their FEET."

"Right."

"And I've been surprised in a bathroom before."

"Oh."

"So you should be careful."

"I will be."

"Always check for shoes."

"I'll do that. Thanks."

We both nodded solemnly at each other, and I departed, heading back to the candy store.

I decided it was time for another free sample.

Monday, March 17, 2008

When You Wish Upon A Star

Last Friday night, Steve and I, armed with the yearly passes Steve's dad won in a raffle and subsequently gave to us out of the goodness of his heart, decided to brave Disneyland.

We might never do that again.

Oh, the humanity. Disneyland was packed tighter than the LA freeway at rush hour. In addition to the five billion teenagers roaming the park with their hormones a-blazin' (we always seem to get stuck in line behind two sixteen-year-olds who can't keep their hands off each other), there were a ridiculous amount of children being dragged around by their parents.

Dear Parents Who Keep Their Young Children at Disneyland Past 9:00pm,

Please stop yelling at your crying three-year-old. Of COURSE he is crying. He is exhausted. Take your poor kid home. Or I am going to start yelling at YOU.

Anyway, after shoving our way through the teeming masses to get to the Haunted Mansion, we decided to venture over to California Adventure, wishing upon a star that it would be less crowded there. Our wish was granted, and we were able to enjoy a few rides, including:

The Tower of Terror. Have you gone on this ride? It basically takes you to the top of a very tall building, and drops you. And then drops you again. And again. I love it. After the ride, Steve took his customary picture of the picture they take of you during the ride. Why purchase the pic when your husband can take a picture of it with his trusty Blackberry?



Can you spot us? I'm back row center, and Steve's face is pretty much obscured by an enthusiastic hand. Everyone looks like they're having a good time except for that woman clinging to her husband on the front right. (She was screaming before the ride even started.)

Next, we rode the roller coaster. I think it might be my favorite ride in the whole park. We always wait a few extra minutes so we can ride in the very front. It was pretty windy that night, as you can tell from my facial expression:



I like how the guy behind Steve is so blasé about the whole thing.

After California Adventure closed, we decided to head back into Disneyland to see if it had cleared out a bit. It hadn't, but I opted to stand in line for Autopia anyway because I have nephews visiting next month, and wanted to send them pictures of the cool cars they'll be able to drive when we all go to Disneyland together. As we drove around the track, Steve made some valiant photo attempts:





Look, nephews! When you come to Disneyland, it will be dark! And your aunt will have glowing red eyes! And you can do something vague and indistinguishable!

Having breathed in diesel fumes while clutching a sticky steering wheel (why was it sticky??), we decided to call it a night. On our way out of the park, Steve stopped at one of his favorite places:



He's trying not to eat sweets around me because of my present food restrictions, so he didn't get his usual giant ice cream cone filled with mint chocolate chip. I told him he should, but he valiantly refused. Obviously, as you can tell from the photo, the sacrifice was not a big deal at all.

On the way back to the car, we walked hand in hand through Downtown Disney, and stopped to watch a man who was playing the electric violin. He was dressed all in black, and had swoopy hair, and he was going to town on his interpretation of Music of the Night. I have never heard so many flourishes, unnecessary scales, and key changes in one piece of music. We tried to wait out the piece so that I could ask him about the instrument (I've never seen a real live electric violin), but Music of the Night turned into Think of Me, which turned into a version of All I Ask of You that was swoopier than his hair, and we couldn't really take it anymore, so we decided that I could ask Google about the electric violin when we got home, and we left the man to his schmaltziness.

All in all, and despite the teeming masses, it was an enjoyable Friday night, and I told my young women at church about it yesterday. When I got to the part about the swoopy violinist, the YW President said:

"I was in Downtown Disney with my dad on Friday night, and he bought that guy's CD! He loves that kind of stuff!"

I thought back to the song Jiminy Cricket was singing as we left the park that night. And I realized he was right: Anything your heart desires really will come to you.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Deprivation Dedication


Would you like to hear about the anti-inflammation diet I started a week ago? I'm sure it will be FASCINATING to all of you, and you'd like pages and pages of details, but just in case you don't have a lot of time to read right now, I'll sum it up:

No wheat, oats, dairy, sugar, red meat, potatoes, or tomatoes.

Sounds like fun, doesn't it? Thankfully, I already have the no wheat part down. You should try my gluten-free brownies with fresh whipped cream! Oh, wait. I can't have dairy. Or sugar. But don't you worry about me! While you're trying my gluten-free brownies with fresh whipped cream, I'll just be over here enjoying a nice big bowl of brown rice topped with . . . rice. And lettuce. And celery.

Actually, all self-deprivation aside, I'm really excited about the results I'm seeing after only 7 days. I'm doing this to help my gimpy knee be less gimpy, and it's really working. So I'm committed to it. I am steadfast and immovable.

But tonight, after I made my husband a sun-dried tomato alfredo sauce with basil and pine nuts, and he poured it over his big bowl of penne pasta and sprinkled the whole thing with freshly grated parmesan cheese, I must admit that I shed a few gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, red meat-free, potato-free, tomato-free tears.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Complete

There is a woman in my ward who speaks fluent French. This makes sense, seeing as she’s from France and everything. However, she also speaks fluent German, which makes her a delightful Germanic conversation partner for my husband. (This makes sense, seeing as he served his mission in Germany and everything.) I enjoy listening to their foreign exchanges, and Steve enjoys the opportunity to practice a language he loves. And then she turns to me with a smile, and begins speaking French. And I feel a sense of panic. I smile and nod, understanding everything she says (well, almost everything), but I am hesitant to speak more than a few words. What will she think of my grammar? Which past tense should I use? How can I tell her that her skirt is cute if I can’t even remember the word for “skirt?”

And so I chicken out. I exchange only a few French sentences with her before reverting to my native tongue. She is very sweet about it; insisting my accent is “très bon” and attempting several times to encourage me to return to speaking Français. But I am too worried about sounding foolish; too worried about making a mistake. Eventually she gives up, and smiles a little reproachfully at me as she bids me adieu.

I think my perfectionism has served me well in many ways throughout my life. I’ve had many amazing experiences that most likely wouldn’t have occurred if I hadn’t held myself to a high standard; if I hadn’t demanded the very best of myself. But in situations such as speaking French with a native Francophone in a church foyer, my perfectionism is nothing but a hindrance. It keeps me from learning. It keeps me from progressing. And in that foyer, it kept me from interacting with someone in a meaningful way.

Over the past few years, it’s become apparent to me that my perfectionistic tendencies can be as much of a weakness as they are a strength. And wouldn’t you know it, situations have arisen that have forced me to directly confront the negative aspects of that personality trait. Some of these situations I’ve touched on in blogs past (my knee surgery, theatre auditions), and some are a little too personal (and lengthy) to discuss at present. But one that springs immediately to mind is my calling as substitute ward organist. I was given this calling a few months ago, despite the fact that I had never actually played the organ. Suffice it to say, I have made a lot of very loud mistakes, and once played a chord progression that was rather reminiscent of the opening strains of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” And so I sit at the organ, my face turning red, but when I turn to the congregation I find that the ward members are smiling up at me with only encouragement in their faces. I am learning, I am progressing. And, wouldn’t you know it, something I’m not very good at is turning out to be very good for me.

I don't think I'll ever be able to completely rid myself of perfectionism, and I don't think I should, necessarily. But I'm slowly learning to redefine my expectations, to be kinder to myself, and to stop letting it get in the way of my progression and growth. In the New Testament, we are commanded by Christ to be perfect. However, the Greek translation of that “perfect” is “complete, finished, fully developed.” I love that translation. It’s inspiring to me, and it brings me peace. Because, when it really comes down to it, I don’t even know how to begin to be perfect. And what is “perfect” anyway? (It's exhausting even to think about it.) But I think I can find great joy in striving to be “complete.”