Thursday, November 29, 2012

Santa Claus Conundrum

It's Christmas time!  Yay!!!!!!  I love, love, love Christmas!!!  Yes, there is the stress of gift buying, planning, cooking, baking and generally getting everything done without forgetting something, or someone, but even though it can be stressful, I just love Christmas!!!  Around my house, Christmas is made more delightful as we anticipate the arrival of the large bearded one, yes...Santa Claus! 

One of my Facebook friends, recently said something about feeling like she is lying to her kids about Santa and asked if that is normal. There were lots of responses and I penned a lengthy reply.  But I wanted to write more.

Parents fall on both sides of the issue of, what I will call, the Santa Secret.  Some parents feel that telling your children Santa is real is deceitful and sows seeds of mistrust between parent and child.  Some parents feel it is a harmless deception, and others fall somewhere in the middle.  Let me say outright that I feel that parents should do what they feel is best for their children in this regard.  I do not judge anyone's decision on what they feel is best for their children.  I just want to share my perspective.

I was in forth grade when I learned the Santa Secret.  I was one of the few children in my class who still believed in Santa.  And I really, really believed in him.  But some of the things the children in my class were saying made sense to me.  I wasn't sure what to do.  I didn't think my parents would lie to me.  So, one day when I was alone with my mom in the car, I asked her some questions about Santa.  I asked her if she would ever lie to me.  And she said that she would not.  I asked her if Santa was real and she said yes, but I wanted to make sure.  I asked her if she or my dad were Santa.  She said no and asked me if she looked like Santa.  I asked a few other questions and finally asked the right question, "Are you and Dad the ones who bring presents on Christmas Eve?"  She said, very gently, "Yes, we are."  I felt a little twinge of sadness.  Something I had believed in so strongly wasn't really real!  I asked her if she had been lying to me.  She explained how she had never lied, but answered all of my questions honestly, even if she had not fully explained everything when she answered my questions.  But that she had waited for me to ask the right questions so that she could answer them the right way.  Then my mom talked to me a lot about the tradition of Santa and the new responsibility I had to keep the Santa Secret and why that was important.  She also talked to me about what it means to believe in Santa and how that relates to believing in the Savior.  It made me feel important.  This all happened right before Christmas and it all finally made sense.  I knew now why my parents had to spend so much time shopping at Christmas time.  I knew why they were so exhausted on Christmas morning (there were six kids in my family).  I knew why they were so anxious for us to go to bed.  It all made sense and I knew I wanted to help!  I wondered if Christmas morning would be less special for me that Christmas morning knowing what I now knew.  Amazingly, I think that Christmas was even more special for me.  I knew how much love and thought and time and effort went into each one of those special Santa presents.  My dad and mom loved giving us gifts and making Christmas special for us and I really felt quite overwhelmed.  I remember after opening my Santa presents going over quietly to give my mom and dad a hug and whisper thank you so that my younger siblings wouldn't hear. 

Fast forward a "few" years...Now I am a mom.  I have two beautiful children.  Last year Spudette was in 3rd grade.  As Christmas neared, she would come home with tales from school of how this person or that didn't believe in Santa, but that she didn't believe them.  I have tried to be very much like my own parents by answering the questions my kids ask about Santa (or any of the other magical creatures we talk about) with truth, but not full blown explanations.  One day my daughter came home from school saying that one boy in her class told her that he knew Santa wasn't real, that he caught his dad putting presents out the year before on Christmas Eve and that Dr. Spud and I were just lying her about Santa.  I asked her what she thought about that and she said that she thought he was totally wrong.  Maybe Santa didn't bring presents for him because he had been naughty but his parents just didn't want him to feel bad.  The boy was relentless over the next few weeks trying to get his classmates to understand that Santa was not real.  Spudette continued to defend Santa and to believe in him.  She wasn't really asking any questions.  I knew she was trying to hang on to Santa. And I was happy to let her do so.

At Easter time, Spud Jr. announced that he did not believe in the Easter Bunny.  I asked him what he thought.  He said he just couldn't see how a bunny would hop all over the place hiding Easter baskets.  I asked him who he thought hid his basket.  He told me he though it was his Daddy and me.  I told him he was right and asked him why he thought we did that.  He said that he thought it was because we loved him and wanted him to have a fun treat.  But he also said that he didn't think Easter was about bunnies and chocolate, but that it was about Jesus.  I was totally amazed at his maturity.  At this point, he isn't questioning Santa or the tooth fairy, but he just couldn't see how the Easter Bunny made any sense. 

Maybe the kids had talked about the Easter Bunny a little bit, but within a week Spudette began asking good questions about the Easter Bunny too.  However, for her, this began to make her question not only the Easter Bunny, but the existence of Santa Claus as well.  And she did ask the right questions. We then had one of the most precious discussions I have ever had with one of my children.  Dr. Spud and I sat with her on her bed and talked.  We explained that Saint Nicholas was a real person who had lived a long time ago.  We talked about why there was a tradition of Santa Claus that had grown up around him.  We have always tried to teach our children that Santa is a symbol of the Savior.  So, we discussed that in greater detail with her.  We told her that Santa is all about love and that when we think of Santa we think of the love of the Savior and the love that we have for each other.  We talked about how as her parents, we give her gifts from Santa because of our deep love for her.  We told her that because we believe in the Savior, Jesus Christ, we can also say we believe in Santa because of what Santa symbolizes.  She asked questions, we answered them.  During our entire conversation she smiled and beamed at us. At one point I asked her if she felt like we had been lying to her.  She said no, but that she felt so special that we loved her so much.  I like to think that she knew we had been teaching her the Santa Secret all along the way by how we talked about Santa and the true meaning of Christmas.  We talked to her about the responsibility she now had to keep the Santa Secret, just like my mom had done with me.  She said she felt important to have such a cool responsibility.  At the end of our conversation she gave each of us a big hug and told us how much she loved us.

When I wrote my response to my Facebook friend I told her, that I felt like when children are little the magic of Santa is in the fantasy of it all, but when they get a little bit older the magic is in the love.  I always loved the magic of Santa as a child, even when I knew the Santa Secret.  I still love the magic of Santa.  Do I feel like I have lied to my children about Santa?  No.  I do believe in Santa because for me Santa is another word for Savior.  Jesus brings us every good gift and makes good gifts possible.  Am I Santa, no, but I would like to think that I am trying to become like Him and I want to be one of His helpers for sure!!! 

Image from - click here to find the book for sale
Image from - click here to find the book for sale
As a side note...two of my favorite picture books about Santa are:  Santa's Favorite Story: Santa Tells the Story of the First Christmas by Hisako Aoki and The Bearer of Gifts by Kenneth Steven.  If you are looking for stories that tie Santa to Jesus, these are wonderful! 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Election Doom and Gloom, but not really

As we all know, this past Tuesday was election day here in the USA.  It seems every year political campaigns get worse and worse and meaner and meaner.  After the election we are all supposed to forget that the candidates attacked each other relentlessly and just move on and put our full support behind the winning candidates.  But people are not really like that, they can't just forget all the meanness, all the attack ads, all the unkind words and mudslinging and move on fully supporting the winner.  This is amply evidenced on Facebook.  There are lots of people who are very upset that their candidate did not win and who are even feeling like the country is doomed.  Their friends attack them because they have such bad feelings about the winner and the political rancor continues well past the election.
I will admit that I am personally disappointed in the results of the Presidential election.  I would have preferred to see Mitt Romney win.  I like Mitt, I like who he is and I like what I have seen him do.  He really did turn the Salt Lake Olympics around, I watched it happen and I really believe he could have done the same thing for the economy in the nation.  I was sad to see him lose.  But I do not believe President Obama is horrible.  I do not agree with him politically, but I do believe he truly wants to bring people together to achieve something good for our country.  I, like most Americans, am very worried about the fiscal cliff, the long economic recession, the problems with education and healthcare and the list goes on.  These are serious problems and it is going to take many leaders working together to find solutions and come together and find some kind of common ground to do hard things for the common good for us to get out of any of these problems.  It could be overwhelming, it could seem like it is an impossible task and it would be easy to just give up and be depressed and mad about the election, but that isn't going to help.

Gordon B. Hinckley, a past president of my Church, said, “Things work out, it isn't as bad as you sometimes think it is. It all works out, don't worry. I say that to myself every morning. It will all work out. If you do your best, it will all work out. Put your trust in God, and move forward with faith and confidence in the future. The Lord will not forsake us. If we will put our trust in him, if we will pray to him, if we will live worthy of his blessings, he will hear our prayers.” 

I believe this.  I believe that in the end it will all work out.  I believe that because I know in whom I can put my trust.  And I trust that the Being who is really in charge of this earth is really in charge of making sure that everything will be right in the end.  For now, all I can do is do my best, try my hardest and hope that President Obama and senators and congressmen will do the same.  When we say, "God bless America,"  it really isn't a command, it is a request and I will continue to pray for the request to be fulfilled.  Don't worry, my friends, if you are upset about the election results, or even if you were elated by the results, everything is going to work out.  I'm not saying that everyone can just forget the campaigns or their concerns or whatever and just support people they don't like.  I can't support a leader who is doing horrible things.  But I can hope for the best, and trust God.  

Monday, October 15, 2012

Molasses Cookies - A Tasty Fall Treat :)

I know this isn't a food blog, but I just wanted to share one of my favorite recipes with anyone who might enjoy a tasty cookie, perfect for fall.

Molasses Cookies

1 1/2 C oil
1 C white sugar
1 C brown sugar
1/2 C molasses
2 eggs
1 t ground cloves
1 t ground ginger
2 t salt
4 t baking soda
4 C flour
Extra sugar for dough balls

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine all ingredients except for flour and extra sugar.  Beat well!  Add the flour!  Roll dough into balls.  I use a 1 Tablespoon measuring spoon and scoop out a little more than 1 Tablespoon on dough.  Then roll it into a ball.  Roll dough balls in the extra sugar and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.  If you can, use parchment paper!  Bake cookies for 5 - 7 minutes.  They are done when the tops start to crack.  I pull them out of the oven and place the cookie rack on a cooling rack for 7-10 minutes and then remove the cookies to cooling racks to finish off.

These cookies are my favorite fall cookie!  Eat with a nice tall glass of milk and you are in harvest heaven!  Enjoy!!!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Birds Welcome

My favorite thing about the fall has always been the colors.  I love the reds, browns, deep greens, oranges and yellows!  This year I can add a new thing to be excited for in the fall.  Birds!!! 

I am not a birder by any stretch of the imagination, but I love watching little birds and their interactions.  It is a calming practice for me.  Maybe it is just taking the time to sit and think of the magnificence of God's creations, I don't know, but it does my soul good.

Early in the Spring, our little Spud family made a delightful bird house.  We painted it with bright colors, mounted it on a cedar post and placed it just outside of the kitchen window.  I imagined happily doing the dishes all spring and summer and enjoying watching delightful little birds flocking to our feeder.  We bought bird seed.  No birds came.  We put some of the seed in a bowl and put it on a table to see if our bright colors were not as welcoming as we thought.  A lot of seed was spilled on the grass, on the patio, in the garden around the bird house, birds came.  We bought different seed and filled the tray again.  No birds.  We decided there must not be enough trees in our neighborhood or something else was wrong. 

In the mean time, some of the seed that spilled sprouted and grew...sunflowers!  I decided to just let them grow since I couldn't work on that part of the garden anyway.  They were a fun addition to our garden and they surrounded the birdhouse very cheerfully and I decided that it was a fun bit of whimsy in our backyard and resigned myself to a birdless summer. 

By this time of year, I am usually working to clear out the gardens, remove the dead flowers and pull the remaining weeds so they don't get nice and comfy for the winter, but this year has been different since I have been recovering from surgery.  Things are not as I would normally like to have them.  We have left the sunflowers long past the time when I would normally get them pulled out.  I have often looked out my window and thought how badly I needed to get out and get my garden work done.  Dr. Spud and I got the veggie garden cleared and did get a few things done, but the sunflowers have been my last priority. 

What a blessing in disguise!  The dying sunflowers have brought darling little birds to my window!!!  They have been having a feast eating the seeds from the sunflowers.  I got a few blurry pictures of the birds from the window but not good enough to share, but I love this picture of the head of this medium sized sunflower picked almost clean by the cute little House Finches and American Gold Finches that have been enjoying everything but the seed in the birdhouse feeder. 

Happy Fall!!!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Thinking, thinking, thinking...

This is a time of introspection for me.  Today Dr. Spud went back to work for real after having the beloved 6 weeks between semesters.  He has spent lots of time at his office over these 6 weeks, but he he has also spent a lot of time at home and that has been wonderful.  Both of my spudlets are now in school all day.  So, what am I doing?  Thinking.  Lots and lots of thinking.

It has been a pretty crazy 6 week break.  Just before finals for my husband's lucky students, I got the shock of a lifetime.  After a visit to my doctor, I learned that I needed to have a visit with a gynecologic oncologist.  There were some masses and some elevated blood test numbers.  Everyone was very careful to let me know that those factors did not mean I had cancer and indeed, I felt pretty good about things and felt some spiritual assurances that I was ok(-ish).  I met with the oncologist (who was amazing and I feel so so grateful for his reassuring manner and willingness to take the time to talk and then perform an amazing surgery) who also felt like we were not looking at cancer, but that we needed to remove the masses the old fashioned way with a make-a-big-cut-through-your-stomach incision because that is the safest when there is a possibility of cancer and he also needed to be able to really get things cleaned out and functioning better.  I have had a few surgeries in my day, but I have been lucky enough to have had all of them done through small incisions, including a major surgery last summer.  This time, I knew I was going to be down for a while and that recovery was not going to be easy and that the timing was going to be ok, but tricky since my scheduled surgery was just a day more than a week from the time my spudlets were to start school.

My doctor told me I would be in the hospital for at least 4 days and possibly up to 10 days following my surgery.  As it turned out, leaving out the day of surgery, I left the hospital 5 days after my surgery, which was the day before school started.  I didn't get to do all of the normal things I do before school starts.  I didn't get to take my kids to registration and help them find their classes, but am very grateful for my mother-in-law who did.  I didn't get to work into a good schedule that last week before school started.  I didn't get to walk my kids to school on the first day and give them a final hug and kiss goodbye for the day and assure them that they would be awesome!  I didn't get to make their first day of school lunch or bake cookies to have them ready when they got home from school.  Luckily for me, I have an amazing husband who did all the things I couldn't do.

Friends and neighbors have made us dinners and stepped in to help my kids when they needed a little extra help.  It has been amazing to witness and very humbling to experience.  I am so emotional about all of this even now as I am writing.  Thank you to all of you who have been so quick to help, willing to jump in and so mindful of what my family is experiencing right now.

So, here I am.  The first day really on my own since the surgery.  I am doing alright.  I don't have lots of energy.  Folding a load of laundry is a pretty aerobic exercise for me right now and I have to spend most of my day sitting.  I would normally love all this extra time.  I would read and blog and organize and run errands and do some deep cleaning, etc., etc.  But I really can't do most of it.  I can't concentrate well enough to read and don't feel interested in reading anyway (this is a major crazy for me - I always love to read). I can't work on organizing because I can't bend down very well and I am not sure where things would work anyway.  I can't drive so there go all those errands and deep cleaning is not possible right now...I don't have the stamina nor the mobility.  I guess I am doing the blogging bit, but we'll see how successful the outcome of that is...

Before any of my friends and family start freaking out and running over here to do something for me, let me just say that I am doing fine.  We are doing great on our own, making our own meals and taking care of things.  It really feels good and important to me right now to be able to do these simple and basic things.  It just takes all I've got to do that right now and that is OK.  I don't even need visitors right now because I'm feeling a little anti-social and just needing my own time to heal and rest and do what I can do.  What I really need is just an outlet to say that this has been hard.   I have been so, so, so, so blessed.  Beyond words blessed.  But it has been hard and it is still going to be hard for a little while.  That is OK because we grow the most when we are challenged the most and we are also blessed the most when we are challenged the most.

I don't know how to end this post, so I'll just say...Thanks for letting me find a place to say that this is hard.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

For the Love of Books

I love reading.  I love getting lost in a good book.  I love the way a good book can change your perspective and your understanding.  Books are wonderful.

I have been looking through lots of lists lately, making lists of my own of books I want to explore with Spudette and Jr. Spud, lists that I want to explore on my own. The list is much longer than we will ever have time to read.  I always hope that summer will be a time of reading and loving books.  I even get excited when it's time for a family trip so I can go find the "perfect" audio book to listen to as we travel, or just the right title to read while sitting next to a lovely pool or lounging on a pristine beach.

Books I bought at the book fair this week...
This week is the final book fair for the year at the kids' school.  It is a buy one get one free event.  They certainly know how to hook a book lover!!!  I love buying books almost as much as I love reading them.  I love to be surrounded by books.  I love going to the book case and finding something I have been meaning to read for a long time tucked among the titles of books that are like old friends.  I like the library, but I LOVE the book store!!!

The books on my nightstand
Even if I buy a book, read it and hate it, I'd almost always rather buy a book than get it from the library.  If there's a chance that I'm going to love it, or even like it...I want it on my bookshelf.  If I do buy a book that I don't like, I can always give it away or sell it or use it for some craft project that requires book pages.  I also feel severe guilt borrowing a book from the library if the author is living.  I mean, this is how they make their living and even though there are a few authors out there making lots and lots of money, most of them don't make enough to make up for the hours spent honing their craft and bringing joy and happiness to my life.  I make an exception when it comes to what I call "hyper-popular" books, because I almost always don't like them so I'd feel justified in borrowing because the likelihood of my keeping the book and the fact that those authors seem to be doing just fine release me from my guilt.  Let's not even get into how high my library fines get because I am so bad at remembering to return books.  All of you library lovers can thank me for buying lots of new books for you.  I also make an exception when I have spent way too much money on buying books recently or when a friend offers to lend me their copy of a book I have been wanting to read. general...I am a book buyer.

 Maybe I am just crazy to even ask...but I always love to learn of books I need to add to my list! I'd love to hear your recommendations for me, for my young spuds or just whatever!  Yay for books!!!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Spud Family Spring Break

Spring Break is always somewhat of an oxymoron for the Spud Family.  We usually don't really take a break and it never feels like spring!  The local school board laughs itself silly by having the district spring break the weekend before the semester break for the University.  This means that if you 'or someone you love' works at the University and has kids in school the likelihood of your being able to go away and do something fun is less feasible.

I am kind of a stickler for my kids going to school when school is in session, but this year I took a look at their last report cards.  Both Spudette and Jr. Spud had 3s in everything.  If you are wondering why they are given numbers rather than a letter grade, join the club.  I have no idea why they do this, but a 3 means "At or above standard" their test scores were also very high and I realized...they are in grade school!!!  Give the spudlets a break!!!  So, we decided to do just that.

We stayed at home for most of their Spring Break as Dr. Spud was giving finals, grading papers, emailing students to let them know that he cannot change their grades even though he likes them very much, attending graduation and all those other things professors do.  We enjoyed a lovely Easter at home, then bright and early on Monday morning we headed out of town.

We stopped for a bite to eat with family in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake and then proceeded as far south in Utah as you can go and still have a bed in which to sleep.

Yes, folks we went to lovely, sunny, wonderful St. George, Utah.  Ah...the red rocks, the cacti, the palm trees, the sagebrush, the temps in the 80s!...oh how homey it feels to this sun-loving soul!  We spent the next day and a half (which went by way too quickly) swimming, playing racquetball, tennis and mini-golf (all at the condo where we stayed), visiting the Dinosaur Discovery Center (saw some awesome dino tracks and more), hiking in Snow Canyon, shopping (yes, there is some lovely shopping in St. George), and just generally enjoying recharging our batteries. (Do you enjoy all my parenthetical expressions and my run-on sentences???) A night at Grandma and Grandpa's in Salt Lake on the way home rounded out our quick vay-cay.

I have now made some rather important decisions.  #1 - I will be far less reluctant to take the kids out of school for a few days for a great family vacation.  It was educational, physical and really good for us.  #2 - Red rock deserts are really my thing! Not to mention warm weather.  My flip flops have missed me and I have missed them.  I am now wearing them again daily! #3 - I really need to work on my golf game so that when Dr. Spud retires and we can live wherever we want, we can move to St. George.  Yes, there is a lot to do there that does not include golf, but that would just be an added benefit.

We got home on Thursday and have been playing catch up a bit.  Today life gets back to normal.  The new semester starts tomorrow.  The Spudlets are back in school and Dr. Spud is back on campus.  For now, I get to look forward to my tulips blooming, budding trees, allergy headaches (ok, not so much fun, but it means the weather is getting nicer!), weeding, starting seeds, registering the kids for summer lessons, spring cleaning, painted toenails, afternoon and evening walks and bike rides.  Yay!!!!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Green Things

Spring is like breathing again after holding your breath for a really, really, really long time. At least that is how I always feel.

Today it is raining (yay! not snow!), but the other day I went outside and looked around and saw something incredible!  Green things and redish purple things were poking their heads out of the dirt, reaching for the sunshine and bringing a smile to my face!  I love, love, love to see the signs of Spring!

This moment is why I plant bulbs in the fall.  It's a good thing I learned the benefits of delayed gratification when I was younger, eh?  This year I was afraid that I may have waited too long, but thanks to the fool-proofish-ness of blubs...I have been vindicated!  

There were some other green things in my garden 

Why do weeds grow so quickly?  Oh well...they give me a good reason to get out and start working with the dirt. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Guide to Getting the Most From Your Classical Concert Experience for the Classically Confused

Photo from the Facebook page for the Utah Symphony, find links at the bottom of the post
So, the title of my post today may seem pretty convoluted.  But here is what I want to discuss today:  How can someone who doesn't know, understand or (even) like classical music have a positive experience at a concert full of classical music.  How about if you kind of like classical music but find yourself bored at an orchestra concert or a symphony performance?  Yes, this post will be for you too.  How about if you love orchestral/classical music?  I think even you may find that you will like this post and you may even want to leave a comment to offer other tips for your cyber friends who may be struggling.

I remember well when I was a young girl.  I hated, let me emphasize, HATED, what I called classical music (pretty much anything without lyrics), opera and anything that sounded old.  I dreaded riding in my grandparents' car mainly because my grandpa loved to listen to classical music.  I loved pop music, classic rock, etc.  My parents had season tickets to the symphony and I dreaded being roped into going on the rare occasion my parents had a free ticket.  I found the symphony boring and spent a good deal of time napping and wishing I was somewhere else, anywhere else!

The turning point came when I was in high school.  During my Senior year, I took a humanities class. We studied art, literature, architecture and music through history.  I had to memorize the names, composers and even know stylistic traits of "classical" music.  I had no clue how this would work since I thought it all sounded the same and I hated all of it.  I learned a couple of important things:  #1 - Not all "classical" music sounded the same, #2 - Classical music specifically describes the music written during the classical era, #3 - When I studied the music, I found I LOVED what I had called classical music (which I now called - and will call for the rest of this post - orchestral music) and even loved opera!  I was shocked!!!  Learning that I could love orchestral music turned out to be a pretty significant thing in my life, since I went on to marry a violinist.  He spends his life playing, teaching and enjoying this kind of music.

Orchestral music (and for the sake of brevity I will just assume that you know I now include Opera in this) is to music what a painting by the masters is to visual art.  Before you think this is getting too hoity toity and want to jump ship, let me explain.  In order to really love and understand a fine painting, whether it is a Van Gogh, Monet, DaVinci, Rembrandt, or anyone else, you must be able to study the painting.  You have to look at it - for a long time.  You have to understand what makes it remarkable (is it the subject? the masterful representation of the scenery? the technique or how the artist applied the paint?), then you have to step back and just enjoy it.  You don't have to understand everything about it, but you have to take the time to understand something about that painting.  It is the same with music.  You need to know something about it to appreciate it and then just sit back and enjoy.  In both cases you are actively participating in the experience.  Otherwise, you are just waiting for something to knock you out.  It can happen, but it probably won't.

So, let's say you are going to a concert tomorrow night.  How are you going to make it a good experience for yourself?  Let me make a few suggestions:

* Know something about the music you are going to hear.
You can look at a wealth of sources, but one of the easiest is to go to good old Wikipedia.   Find that nifty search box at the top and type in the name of the composer, or the name of the piece you will be hearing (warning: many titles in music are very similar and you might not be able to find exactly what you are looking for).  Maybe you only know that it is going to be music from the Baroque period?  Great! Type in Baroque music and you will learn what makes something Baroque. What if you don't have time to do internet (or other research)?  Often, you will find that when you get to the concert/performance, you will be handed a program.  Most of the time, you will find something on the program or inserted somewhere called "program notes." Someone, usually the conductor, has put together some information that will be helpful for you to know.  I love reading program notes and even if they are sparse they at least give you something to look for.  Do yourself a favor and read them before the performance begins and then you can refer to them again during the performance to remind yourself what you are hearing. Or if your mind likes to wander (like mine does) you can re-engage it by reading the notes again.  If you are super duper lucky, the conductor will take the time to make some comments to the audience and will tell you something s/he likes about the work they are going to be playing and s/he may even tell you something to listen for - all you have to do is really listen for it! I love it when this happens, but it doesn't always happen.

* Understand something about concert ettiquette.
If you don't understand why the person next to you isn't clapping at the "end" of something, the conductor doesn't turn around and some severe looking person is giving you the evil eye when you clap, you may be clapping at the wrong time.  How is that possible?  Many great works in the orchestral world are separated into movements.  This is indicated in the program.  The movements are usually indented and listed under the title of the piece.  They have funky Italian names like: Allegro, Andante, Scherzo and the like and sometimes they are lettered (A,B,C, etc.).  Most of the time the orchestra stops playing for a minute between movements and that is an easy way to keep track.  There are occasions when there is no stop between movements, but that is pretty rare.  A good conductor will make it very obvious that the entire work is done with his/her body.  My favorite cues are a sharp breath out and slumping shoulders, indicating that s/he has worked very hard and is now ready for a rest. Another great cue is when the conductor turns around beaming and looking like s/he wants to bow.  If you are still not sure, just wait for everyone else to start clapping.  If you are wondering why you don't just clap for everything, I will just say this.  I have asked my musician husband and he has told me that #1 - that's just the way it is and #2 - musicians like to have their work appreciated all at once and not in bits and pieces.

Other helpful concert etiquette items include:  refraining from whispering to whoever happens to be sitting next to you during the concert (yes, it is actually distracting to the musicians and it's just rude anyway), refraining from rubbing your partner's back (that is distracting to everyone sitting around you), turning off your cell phone and whatever you do - do not respond to a text!  If you get an emergency call from your babysitter or an SOS from your best friend, slip out (wait until there is applause if possible) before calling or texting back.  These silly things may seem like basic decency, but I see all of these things at concerts on a pretty regular basis.

One last item, and it is just for your own comfort.  Find out about appropriate dress for the venue and concert you will be attending.  It may be a dressy affair (it usually is if it is a Symphony experience), or it may be dressy casual or just plain casual, but you will want to dress the right way so that you don't spend the whole time feeling like you stick out like a sore thumb.

*Sit back and enjoy the music
Ok, so now you have learned something about the music you are going to be hearing.  At last,  you get to sit back and enjoy.  Notice I didn't say, "relax."  In order for you to have the best experience you need to be actively engaged in the music and trying to connect with the performance in some way.  If you've done some research you may be listening for a recurring theme, you may be trying to figure out how the composer was depicting a bird's song in nature and which instrument is portraying that image.  If you are listening to some 20th century music, you may have to just focus on the emotions the composer was feeling when he wrote the piece.  You could also try connecting the music you are hearing to your own emotions.  When have you felt like what you are hearing?  What was that time like in your life?  Was there any resolution? and does the music resolve those emotions in any way? Another way to connect to the music is just by connecting with your inner child and using your imagination.  Imagine a story that goes along with what is happening in the music.  It doesn't have to be the story the composer was trying to tell, it can just be what you imagine is happening.  Kids are really good at doing this.  It can be a little harder for adults, but if you just practice a bit, I'm sure you can do it too!

So...what if you still can't stand orchestral music and Opera?  Well, you've made a valiant effort and can now give yourself a break.  But don't leave the genre aside forever.  Try again in a few months.  Try a different orchestra, or just a different kind of concert.  Remember this is mind engaging stuff, not mind-numbing like some other options may be.  Beyond that Classical, or Orchestral Music is life enriching.  You may not like every piece, genre, time period or instrument, but you will like something and it will add something beautiful and wonderful to your life.  So, go find it and enjoy it!!!!!

The closest major Symphony Orchestra to me is the Utah Symphony and they are wonderful!  They even have awesome concerts in the mountains in the summer.  Find their homepage by following this link and find out about upcoming events.  You can find their Facebook page here.

In my little corner of Southeast Idaho we are super lucky to have a University with an amazing music program.  There are always a multitude of music events at BYU-Idaho for everyone to enjoy and all too often the audience attendance is sparse.  I always feel bad for everyone who misses out on such awesome opportunities to hear first rate musicians playing first rate music.  There are many performances which are free and they are amazing!  From Student Senior Recitals to Faculty Recitals (generally free) to the Center Stage performances and Orchestra Concerts, there are several events every week.  This is a link to the BYU-Idaho Department of Music, on the lower right hand area of the page there is a scrolling list of upcoming events, click on an event and it will give you details.  Or you can go to the Ticket Office website and see and order tickets by following links on that page.

Friday, January 20, 2012


While it has been pretty typically cold here in Southeast Idaho, we don't have any snow. That is very, very not normal for this little town. Right now everyone seems to be getting slammed with snow and yet, we have nothing. The weather people say we might get some tomorrow. Honestly, I'm not complaining about the lack of snow. However, it does seem like if it is going to be so cold we may as well get something out of it. The kids really want to go sledding and make a snow man with the awesome new snow paints they got from Santa for Christmas. Right now all we get out of the weather system that is bringing snow to places like Seattle, is wind, wind and more wind. I don't know whether to hope for snow or not.

Snow or not, we've all got the January blues. It happens every year. I get sick of gray, short days and start to get itchy to move. My kids get sick of the dull weather too (which is probably why they are hoping for snow). Mr. Spud suffers too. He is always too busy, stretched too thin and he also starts thinking of looking for a different job. Somehow I've got to find a way for us to take vacations in January. We need to get a timeshare in Arizona or something. We need the break!!!