Thursday, October 31, 2013

Country Music

I grew up all over Utah--but it wasn't until I was 13 that I heard the twangy twang of country music. I had no idea who Garth Brooks was or why men wore tourniquet-like-pants around their nether regions. The Valley of the Bear River had a slew of cultural gifts that I had not expected to receive.

I remember telling my friend Ronda that I just did NOT like country music. I lamented and lambasted it. She told me that someday I would sing country. Her words haunted me.

Over the years, I have become incredibly fond of country music and blue grass in particular. In memory of that conversation, I am going to sing a country song first sung by a Canadian Indie Country music star--Neko Case.

This is the song.

I have loved the show
 since last year.

Why? Because of music like this:

The song is sung by two unknown artists, Scarlett and Gunnar. In real life--it was written by two unknown songwriters in Nashville--Justin Davis and Sarah Zimmerman.

I think the thing I like most about the show Nashville is that you see the artistry of each musician--whether they're working as a bartender or doing a world tour. At the end of the day, it's about the music. And it demonstrates that exposure isn't always the most important element of a career making music.

I am grateful for a life filled with opportunities to make music. I am especially grateful for the chance to sing good country music.

You were right Ronda!

For more information on Nashville and the songwriters, visit

Here's a video of Justin Davis and Sarah Zimmerman singing.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Story Of Autumn Song

Once upon a time, I was working on a committee at church designed specifically to help create sports and recreation activities. Alison Bowers was a brilliant leader. She gave each of us a chance to host a big event. I got to organize an event at Rob and Robyn Larkin's reception center--Le Jardin. My idea of a good time is a relaxing atmosphere where people can be invigorated by good conversation, food, smells, sights, and sounds. I invited a bunch of singers to perform and everyone had a great time!

Fast forward a few months. I had been dreaming of putting on another event at Le Jardin. I was trying to imagine what I could do. I kept coming back to the idea that I should do something more personal. As scary as it was to think about--I really had this desire to put on a solo concert. One day, Rob Larkin came up to me and said, "When are you going to put on another show?" Santa Claus himself could not have made me happier at that moment.

My brain started whizzing with ideas. The first person I contacted was the amazing Ben Mayfield. We chatted briefly, and he immediately agreed to play the piano.

We decided on a date--November 8th. And immediately, I knew the theme needed to be Autumn. 

I have had the opportunity to perform with amazing people--and trust me when I say--I have imagined asking several of my favorite people to perform with me. (And we will perform together again!)  But little by little, the right collaborations for this night arose. I was with Katie Krein Boatman at her wedding reception--talking about the event. In a moment, I knew that I needed to perform with her at the concert. I knew I wanted my dad to perform something. I love his voice and I love watching him perform. I had sung with Lisa Benson in church, and Paul La Marr sang with us in the choir. When Rob Larkin suggested we invite them to sing something--I was hoping they would agree. And they did! And finally, about a month ago, I invited Jim Dale to sing at the concert. He and I played opposite one another in Sweeney Todd two years ago at Midvale Main Street Theatre. Because he was performing in Brigadoon, he said he wasn't going to be able to make it. BUT--Last night, he messaged me and asked if I would be interested in reprising "A Little Priest". I am delighted! Of course, Ben is in Mexico this weekend--so he doesn't know he's going to have to play Sondheim, (a true delight for all accompanists), but he's a total pro! (Sorry Ben!)

But the heart of the concert will be the solos I'm doing. And that's the scary part for me. It's difficult to indulge in your own story. I love playing the part and bringing other people's vulnerabilities to the forefront. But this concert is me. Some of the songs reflect very real experiences I've had and feelings I've felt. And some of the songs are just really fun to sing.  If I get a little teary eyed singing "Sort Of" by Ingrid Michaelson, it's because I am imagining a dying puppy. It has nothing to do with the fact that she wrote that song after spying on me during a really "fun" time. Nothing at all. Dying. Puppies.

I was thinking about how nervous I am going to be building up to it. I've taken certain precautions. One of those precautions is making sure I know everything backwards and forwards. It's just easier on the nerves when you're uber prepared. But it dawned on me yesterday that it would be really relaxing for me to make homemade cookies and brownies for the people coming to the concert. I figure, the whole place is going to be filled with people I love--why not give the people I love a treat to enjoy during the concert!

It's not your average concert. It's better. It is one night only--but it will be a magical night. Imagine a starlit evening. The smell of blossoms around you. Lush greenery at the tail end of Autumn. The brilliant piano arrangements of Ben Mayfield. Dedicated singers. And you. Eating a homemade cookie.

The details:

When: Friday, November 8th, 7:30pm
Where: Le Jardin, 1910 E 10600 S, Sandy, Utah. (Specifically, in the Chateau)
Who: Paul "Cactus Jack" La Marr, Lisa Benson, Katie Krein Boatman, John C. Speer, Jim Dale, Eve Speer, and Ben Mayfield
How do you get tickets?
You can purchase them at the door for $7. We'll have one of those handy dandy card readers to take credit card payments if you're like me and always forget cash.
OR--to make life easier--If you send me an email at and tell me how many tickets you'd like--I'll send you a paypal invoice for tickets at a special $5 rate. This way, you don't have to worry about it that night.

I can't wait to see everyone there!

And because I like pictures, here are the people you'll hear perform!

Eve Speer
 Katie Krein Boatman

 Lisa Benson and Paul "Cactus Jack" La Marr

 Ben Mayfield

 John C. Speer

Jim Dale

Monday, October 21, 2013


I just got a huge shipment of boxes in at  work and I spent the last hour unloading them. It feels so good to get sweaty at work! I love seeing a big job in front of me and then slowly watching your work disappear!

Today I am grateful for the sweat on my brow, my great job, and full inventory!


My dear friend Emily married her handsome husband Friday night...

And I got to eat cake.

I love cake. I did not used to eat cake. I preferred pie. But after years of reading cakewrecks, I desire the sweet sugary goodness of cake. Today I am grateful for cake, love, and the delicious eating of the cake.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wednesdays are Awesome

Today is a great day.

Last night was awesome. I called a dear friend at the very last minute, and she sweetly dropped everything to just enjoy spending an evening with me. It meant a lot to me.

At work today, I moved people into three different units.  September was super slow, so I'm really happy about this!

I discovered lemon meringue cups from Jello. I don't know how many calories are these beautiful little cups, but I love them. So. Much.

I keep thinking about the upcoming concert, just trying to make sure everything gets done in time. And I keep thinking of different things I want to do to prepare. These thoughts, the act of planning, rehearsing... all of it is magic to me.

Tonight, I need to do laundry. This isn't exciting at all. But I will do it!

Tomorrow night, we have auditions at Midvale Main Street for Hairspray! I'm so excited to see all the hyperactive singers and dancers!

I watched the episode of New Girl about Nick's box where he puts all his secrets--like bills he needs to pay--and I saw how he manages to have love and a life despite his horrible box. And I have new hope!! One can have a box of old bills and still have a great life! You just can't ever own a home! But who needs that trouble? Not me.

And last but not least, in this ode to Wednesday, I have found the perfect Spotify Station.

It is "The Artist Radio Based on Joss Stone". It is delicious. It is as smooth as my lemon meringue jello.

We're talking Lauryn Hill, Maxwell, Robin Thicke, Joss Stone, Estelle, Etta James, John Legend...

Ahhh sweet delicious music. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

My Brain

Saturday morning, I kept thinking of things I wanted to get I settled in on the couch to watch this...

I've never seen it before. No time like the present.

After watching a couple of episodes, I decided to listen to this book on tape.

You'll note the title... Delivered from Distraction... Distraction...

While listening to the book, I decided to take a bath.

I don't know what I was doing as the water filled the bath, but by the time I got into the bath, it wasn't very full and the water was warmish. I realized the pluggy thingy wasn't plugging all the way so the warm water was draining away. I thought I got in pretty quickly, but I guess I didn't.  It could be that my upstairs neighbors used all the hot water, but I really think I just got seriously sidetracked. But I can't even imagine how.


I thought it was noon.

So I took my sweet time figuring out what to wear and generally dawdling.

All the while, my phone was playing this book about distraction.

I finally looked at a clock and realized that it wasn't noon, it was actually 2pm.

I was not in fact delivered from distraction, I was distracted by a book about distraction.

I ran out the door and headed to Midvale Main Street Theatre to see their children's production of Alice in Wonderland.

I was overwhelmed by cute.

There is nothing cuter than a tiny Alice tip toeing through dancing little flowers.


I know it's not kosher, but I took a couple pictures without the flash on.

I couldn't help it.

I don't know whether I actually have ADD or not.

I got good grades in school. Frankly though, I had a mother who understood how to keep education exciting for all of us. School was about learning. Learning is exciting.  I remember having one history teacher who would send me to the library to read and research for special projects. And I've always taught myself how to make less interesting things interesting by placing weight on other people's reactions, on the ways that arguments are delivered, on whether a person in the back gets it or not, etc. These are tricks to learning how to enjoy learning. We all do them. So, am I really good at functioning with ADD--or am I blessed to not have ADD? I don't know. I'm generally too distracted by everything going on to really sit down and figure it out.

(cue snare drum.)

Whether I have it or not--I like my brain.

A few years ago, I figured out that I am depressed, but I just know good tricks to deal with depression. I am not on any meds right now, but when things become too difficult to handle with just the tools of the trade, I am a big proponent of medicinal help.

I have a HUGE testimony in learning and using tools to help. I believe medicine should supplement life skills, but I prioritize the implementation of life skills over medicine. I'm not against medicine at all--but I am against taking drugs WITHOUT learning life skills.

Make sense?

One thing about blogging regularly is you can see my ups and downs mapped out over the past year. I struggle with brain stuff. But I genuinely like my brain.

Today, I am grateful for adorable children singing and dancing. I am grateful for Firefly. I am grateful for good books. And I am grateful for my brain.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Singing the "Star Spangled Banner"

Singing the national anthem is frightening. Everyone knows the words. Everyone knows the melody. And it goes very high. You have to make sure you start it at a low enough pitch, but not too low.

I stepped up to the giant "S" where Rannie told me to stand and gripped the mic in my right hand.

I stared up at the flag and started singing.

I kept my eyes locked on the flag.

The words poured out of me while I thought about how the flag's stripes aren't really that broad. I thought about how close the mic was to my mouth, and how I tend to overarticulate my consonants. I thought about how the song is about a flag still standing after a "perilous fight".  I thought about how the flag is still waiving through this government shutdown. I actually started to get emotional thinking about how much this country has faced and how much I love this country. Then I thought, "Where am I? Are the words that are coming out of my mouth the right words?" And instead of stopping myself, I just let the words keep coming. I even thought, "This sounds great!" And then I sang "red glare", and I didn't like how that sounded. And I thought, "Relax".  All of this. While the words just kind of kept tumbling out.  I began to think about how odd it was to have all those thoughts at the same time. It was unnerving. My hand started to shake, then my whole body started shaking. My whole body didn't really start shaking until I noticed my hand shaking. Thank heaven I was too distracted thinking about the government shut down to notice the hand until the end of the song.

The whole experience was a gift.

I am grateful for "The Star-Spangled Banner", for my talents, for Emily for giving me the opportunity, and for my parents for teaching me the words of the song back when I was four so I could have this whole inner monologue at the same time.

Here's a picture of the volleyball game!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Getting Closer

Yesterday, I went to a funeral for a beautiful woman.

Her name is Janice.

Her husband got up in front of everyone at the funeral and shared beautiful stories about their life together. I loved the stories. I loved the light in his eyes as he shared the stories. I'll never be able to adequately convey the magic I felt as I listened to him recount their life, but I'm going to try because I think it's important.

 He told about how there was a time when he was working two jobs: one at the mine and the other at  the sugar beet factory. Instead of complaining that she never got to see him, she got a job at the sugar beet factory so she could work alongside him.

He talked about working as a roofer. One day he looked down and saw her sitting in the car working on a quilt.  She just wanted to be close to him. The next thing he knew, she was up on the roof. The car wasn't close enough, she said.

And then she picked up a hammer and helped him finish nailing down the shingles so they could go home and enjoy their evening together. One time while they were roofing, he slipped and fell off the roof. He got up and climbed up the ladder, she asked--"How'd you get down?" He said, "I took a short cut."

I love how her sweet husband told these stories. The stories betrayed their trust in one another, their respect for one another, and their confidence in their life together.  He shared about the conversation they had after learning that she couldn't have any more children. She said, "How will I teach my babies how to take care of babies?" They decided to sleep on the question. The next morning, she told him that she had her answer. "We're going to be foster parents!" And so they became foster parents, so she could teach her babies how to care for babies. They eventually adopted one of their foster children and all five of their children stood up and shared stories about how much they loved their mother.

I was mesmerized. She lived an enchanting life. Not because it was easy, but because she did what she loved with people she loved.

Today, I am grateful for the inspiring life of Janice Ruth Parry Cowdell. I feel brave today. I feel like her life stories teach me to love, and to go after the things I love with confidence. I want to live an enlightened life doing the things I love with the people that I love. Everyday, I'm getting closer.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

My Weaknesses

Thursday morning started with a boot on my car.

Apparently, I had forgotten to pay a ticket--it was for having expired registration stickers 2 years ago.

I think I even had the stickers, I just hadn't put them on the car yet.

This is how I am though.

Sometimes when you have a glass is half full attitude, you forget to look at the half empty part of the glass. You look at the day and say, "Day, these are the things I can do!" And then you do... and you forget the other things that you can't do. Until you walk out of your work and find a boot fastened to your car. 

I had also planned on going to Moab to hike through the red rocks...

Then there was a government shut down.


In my efforts to look at the half empty portion of my glass--I became overwhelmed. There's a lot there folks. I have an ongoing problem in my lady parts that isn't healing. I just live with this constant draining of my life force... and no real solutions in mind except another surgery. This isn't an option right now because I don't have health coverage... yet. (Thank you affordable care act!)

I have a lot of debt. Lots of bills. I am super duper over weight.

Looking in that half empty cup is really really overwhelming.

I have these thoughts where I recognize that I might be dying. And I recognize that I might be okay with that. I try and want to live. I really do. I try and imagine a better life--but I cannot undo the heaviness of the present. My problems cling to to my hope like tar.

But I move forward, trying to find the joy in the present, trying to keep the tar at bay. But Thursday, I needed help.

I called my boss and asked for an advance on my salary. Within 30 minutes, he was there with his wife, my dear friend Tammy. We gabbed about happy things and then he gave me a check to cover the boot--with the understanding that I would pay him back of course. But the advance gave me the means to make things work. And as busy as he is--for him to just drop everything and come by within a half hour...He's a pretty amazing person.

Then my dad spent that evening and the next day driving me to and from work and from the courthouse. He took me to eat at a little hamburger place at City Creek where we laughed and discussed all sorts of great things.

The next day, my mom drove down from Tremonton and we spent that Saturday listening to General Conference and hiking through Big Cottonwood Canyon. We drove down to Provo and enjoyed Thai food with my brother Nick. Then we walked through campus and enjoyed ice cream at the creamery.

The next day, after a nice walk down by the Jordan River, she left me with some money, vegetables, soup, butter,  yogurt, and house warm with her lingering spirit of love and support.

That night, my dad and I enjoyed dinner together and laughed at the dollar movie.

When I went to go to the bank, I found my wallet had more money than I remembered. Somehow. I found more money in my piggy bank than I remembered. All around, I found support.

Can I just say, as I type this, I feel both gratitude, and shame? It is so hard to accept help. It is so hard to live up to the charity of well intentioned loved ones. I don't know how to react to this. I can't say no to the help, because I need it. But I wish I didn't need it. I wish I could just be healthy, debt free, sensible--(ie: not the type of person to forget about a ticket for two years), insured, skinny, and rich.

I hate that I need help. I hate it so much. Can you just see my need for control ooooozing off this page? Yup. We're enjoying a long hard look at my weaknesses today folks.

But I am imperfect, needy, and vulnerable.

I am a 35 year old woman who still needs her parents help.

But I am a 35 year old woman who has loving parents who are willing to give their time to comfort me and help me when I'm feeling down. More than just money, they both gave their time and helped me find peace, beauty, and laughter during a particularly dark time.

So today, I am grateful for loving parents. I am grateful for Thai food and hamburgers. I am grateful for an understanding boss. I am grateful for the beauty of the Utah mountains in the autumn

. I am grateful for General Conference. I am grateful for my weaknesses. Okay--that last part is sort of a lie. But I'm TRYING to be grateful for my weaknesses... Someday.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Watching the Series Finale--no spoilers

As I drove into the parking lot at Brewvies, I saw the line stretch out from the doors. I found a space in the next lot. I knew it was going to be sold out, but I came anyway. It was. Every last seat had been taken for the series finale. And I was a good hour early.

But next door at Legend's, they promised a room devoted to Breaking Bad fans. I found two spots at a long table next to two strangers. They were nice and we gabbed over sweet potato fries and fried pickles. They offered me a glass of their Hefe Weizen and I graciously told them I didn't drink. The room warmly chatted as we waited. My dad joined me and said, "I hope everyone is quiet when the show starts."

The moment we heard that famous music, the second it played, the entire room went silent. The poor servers did an amazing job of getting people their orders without making a sound.

Everyone was caught up in every moment. With every commercial break, the audience sighed and applauded. Then we roared with conversation during the commercials. I've never been so grateful for commercials! And when the next scene started--again--not a sound.

I wonder if Shakespeare's audiences knew what they were seeing the first time they saw Hamlet?

This show is a masterpiece.

Today I am grateful for the opportunity to enjoy Vince Gilligan's masterpiece with a room of fans. I'm grateful for my friends and family members who have shared in the excitement with me! I'm grateful for dedicated artists who push their craft beyond the norm to unexpected heights. I am so impressed with the talented writers and actors of Breaking Bad. They raised the standard for us all.