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Archive for the ‘Random Molly Flotsam’ Category

… so instead of finishing with a gruesome made-up story, I’ll share an original poem, written this morning: an ode to a current event at our place.

Extreme Sports

“It’s like Jenga,” she smiled, as she eyeballed the pile

on the bench at the end of my bed.

“Laundry Jenga,” I sighed, when delighted, she spied

her shirt, midst a section of reds.

Though we try as we might we never just quite

keep up with the laundry downstairs,

So it piles up instead on the bench next my bed

and the socks almost never are pairs.

It’s like Jenga, you see, and we’ll never be free

from the blessing of excessive clothes.

Laundry Jenga, it seems, is the pastime of queens

attempting domestic repose.

So thrust in an arm; it’ll do little harm

to explore for your trousers or sock.

Just don’t topple the pile or we’ll be here awhile

re-stacking, re-piling the lot.

MESC, 17 July 2014

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So, when you’re in a family of nerdly types, the idea of “dress-up” takes on entirely new proportions. As in, coming up with scaffolding for horns made out of a person’s actual hair, because the dress-up requires such things.

And then people want to know how the heck that happened, so you do up a photo tutorial, because it is 2014, and people expect such things. And pin them to Pinterest. And maybe even do them at home, too.

We designed this last fall for Salt Lake City’s Comicon, and mine Eldest is doing it again for SLC Comicon 2014, and for tonight’s movie opening for Maleficent at our local cinema.

Start with hair that’s near shoulder-blade length. Take four chenille stems (pipe cleaners!), and fold them in halves, then twist the halves together. Bend the bottom 1.5″ at a 90* angle, and twist the endy bits to form a basic four-sided pyramid. (Yay! Geometry!)

The pyramids go onto high ponytails (smooth any stray hairs upward and spray the heck out of them), and get anchored with a few bobby pins.

Then, the wrapping commenceth! Wrap small strands of hair up and down the pyramid, coming back to the base to secure them. Spraying with ultra-hold hairspray as you go helps.

The tips are the hardest to arrange; you want all the scaffold covered, so wrap a bit more tightly, but don’t compress it too far. Seriously, spray the heck out of it.

You’ll be able to bend and mold the horns to a certain degree. Then, spray all the heck out of it.

Eldest created a wrapped black wire headpiece to go with this costume; we made a standing collar to mimic dragon wings. When it’s all in place, it’s remarkably effective and evocative of a very young Maleficent, kind of cranky about being left out of the fairy parties again.

Happy-but-still-internally-evil

Trust me, she may be smiling on the outside, but she’s still pretty evil within.

Well, maybe a little evil.

Okay, not so much. But the horns are magnificent.

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Disclosure: I wish I could disclose that I’ve been paid fabulous millions to share my opinion, but that would be a big fat lie. Rather, YourLDSRadio.com has provided a listening copy of the album reviewed, plus a second copy for me to give away to a randomly-selected commenter on this post! All the thoughts expressed are entirely my own.

As I mentioned in the last give-away, I grew up during a really challenging period for “contemporary church music.” Not much has really changed. Some folks in the “church music” field write really awesome music. Others write mediocre stuff, slap a lot of religious references into it (some really ham-fisted), and figure the church folk will buy it just because it’s churchy. But “churchy” isn’t enough. It wasn’t enough then, and it shouldn’t be the limitation now. Good music transcends the labels.

More on this in a second. First, a brief reminisce, in numerical list form:

Part the First

Growing up in a tiny mountain hamlet in the wilds of Eastern Oregon, there were some basic limitations within which I lived. I went to school with the same 35 people from the age of 4 to 17. During the winter months (when we had a TV in the house), three sort of fuzzy channels came in over the air. The county (full of ranches the size of Rhode Island) had one stoplight, and that was installed during my junior high years. To get to a bus station, you had to cross two mountain ranges. We picked up one AM radio station, and it was predominantly country music, with the American Top 40 radio show on Sunday afternoon only. (Two guesses what I did every Sunday afternoon, and the first one doesn’t count.)

The two aspects of those limitations that most greatly affected me, however, were the music, and the tiny circle of people. Given enough good music, a person can withstand the crushing nature of being “on the fringe” in a group so small, your brain can actually count them without needing to assign numbers (it’s called subitization. Yes, knowing (and wanting to know) this sort of trivial information is one reason I was on that fringe.)

Without regular access to radio-broadcast music, I listened to A Great Many Records (those big black disc thingies), developed a very keen “FFW” and “REW” finger on my tape deck, and became an Early Adopter of CD technology. I spent a lot of time holed up with my angsty self, listening to music that kept me sane and happy.

Part the Second

I watched “The Parent Trap” (original issue, with the Most Awesome Hayley Mills and Hayley Mills) over and over. I still love that movie. The concept of going away and reinventing (or rediscovering, I suppose) oneself is highly attractive to many teens. Some get to give it a whack. My church runs a summer youth program called Especially For Youth. It’s a cross between summer camp and spiritual retreat and dance party and dorm living, and it was both formative and transformative for me. A week of classes with amazing speakers talking about real things; new people to meet; socials and dances; new people; devotionals several times a day; loads of new music to be sung and to hear; new people… Certainly, it’s easy to fall into a euphoric, receptive state when faced with that much sleep deprivation, but I had a blast. Yearning for a fresh start, full of people who hadn’t known me for the vast majority of my awkward youth, through whom I was certain I could discover the secrets of popularity with boy folk, I gleefully attended EFY for two years. It was amazing. I still have the soundtracks.

Summation of Parts

Combining Parts the First and Second, we come to the present day: music, and the chance to be a little bit anonymous in a large group of kids, can be a tremendously amazing combination. EFY still happens every summer, and though the program has changed over the years, one thing remains constant: they still produce a unique, themed soundtrack each year.

This year, the theme for the youth program at church is Arise and Shine Forth. We’ve been playing the soundtrack around here for a few weeks, and it’s been a great experience. The majority of the tracks fall into what I’d consider Good Music, regardless of genre. There are only three tracks I specifically skip (because they fall into either the airy-fairy, synthesized goop that made up so much of “church music” in the Poorly-Considered 80s, or else the lyrics led me to an *entirely* different concept than I’m sure the author mean me to grasp–a downfall of my own snarky personality, I’m sure, though my Eldest listened and asked, in a shocked voice, “Is he singing about what I THINK he’s singing about??”, at which point I reassured her that he was actually singing about personal inspiration, not sex… seriously, poor mix of lyrics on that one. Or else we’re all Darned Straight to Heck, Where It Is Always Uncomfortably Warm.)

A lot of the tracks have an almost country vibe to them (in a good way), and only a few use the identifiably “Wasatch Front” dialect patterns, which is fantastic. The majority of the male voices are really great, and well-suited to the styling of their songs.  The track “Glorious” uses musical metaphors and combines them with a developing musical theme in a way that would have had me hitting repeat over and over as a teen, reveling in the way the music builds in layers (as the amazing classical composers did it–and their music endures the centuries!)

Overall, barring those three tracks that no one in the family liked musically, it’s a great album! It’s not so specifically “youth-y” that parents will cringe to hear it on repeat. There are songs that stand alone as “good music”, without needing a church label to sell them. There are songs that express what many people, young and old, cannot always quantify or qualify. The capacity to lift us out of ourselves is here, and that’s a pretty neat thing, I’d say.

And your reward for having got through all that rambling to the finish? Leave a comment in the next ten days, and you will be entered in a random-number drawing to get the give-away copy for your own listening pleasure. I’ll ship it anywhere in the US, and I’ll be interested to hear what you think of it! Feel free to comment with your own EFY or music story if you like–you’re not obligated, though. A simple comment will get you in the giveaway.

And if you need some great music, especially for your youth or just for yourself, pop over to YourLDSRadio.com and enjoy the tunes!

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Disclaimer: I have received a complimentary copy of each CD I’ll be giving away (as well as the give-away CDs), in exchange for giving my really, truly, genuine, honest opinion of each album. Since I’m pretty opinionated, and even more so about music than other things, this was a very bold marketing risk on the part of www.YourLDSRadio.com!

So, what you see is really me, nothing coerced or inappropriately remunerated.

I grew up during one of the very most twee phases of twee church music; overly-synthesized and electronically blended echoey stuff with heavy-handed “churchy” themes. I stood and sang “I Walk By Faith” more than any one human being ever ought to do (and may I say, I wish to kick whomever attempted the revisionist version that shoves the newest Young Women value, Virtue, into the mix with zero regard for the overall tempo and musical integrity of the song, and even if they did talk Janice Kapp Perry into doing it, I’ll still kick whomever asked her, because it is just about as dreadful as setting catechism to the twaddle of tuneless meanderings in the children’s song book. It’s right up there with honey ham. Seriously.) I sighed over Afterglow, and spent a lot of time belting out Michael Kapp Perry songs in my bedroom. Keep in mind that this was also the era of really tall “mall claw” bangs (which I could not manage) and pegged jeans (which I could) with long tunic sweaters. And shoulder pads. So, you have to know that musical sensibility, along with a grand lot of other sensibilities, was off, in general, and forgive my youthful musical follies. I’ve grown.

My point is: I don’t listen to artists because they are LDS, or play along specifically LDS themes. I do, however, listen to artists who make great music, and some of them happen to be LDS. And, I’m always on the lookout for new music, so the chance to listen to two new CDs, and then share them with other people? Very nifty. And, I get to suck my lovely minions… erm, children, into the adventure with a youth-oriented give-away in the next few days.

So, let me tell you what I think about the new Katherine Nelson album, “Born Brave“, and then, if you want to wait a week and see if The Digital Sprites who govern random-number-selection favor you, leave a comment here. I have one copy to share. If you can’t wait, click on that link right up there, and go hear samples for yourself, and I’m betting you find a few tunes you need to own.

First off, I’m inclined to like Katherine Nelson. She melted my heart playing Emma Smith (one of my favorite mid-19th century ladies) (and the hairstyles and costuming in the movies weren’t her fault, so to say she herself distracted me from those aspects, knowing the historic costuming nerd/critic I happen to be? That’s huge.)

Second: the album. Like it. As my Lefty and Spicy might say, I like it lots and gobbies.

She’s really easy to listen to, but not in a bland, vanilla, twee way. Her voice is grounded, able to soar, and real, not overly-perfected or synthesized. There’s a real person singing and playing and sharing. I feel like she may be my reward for suffering through some of the musical exploits of the 80s. She does some interesting things with melody patterns, upward movement in unexpected places, that remind me in very good ways of some of my favorite female indie artists from the late 80s and early 90s. There are several tracks I could write about, but I’ll not keep you captive for all of that. Let me hit just a few, and then turn you loose to find your favorites.

“Soldiers Girls” has anthem potential, and a really cool tune progression that caught me off guard, and immediately called up music video ideas. I love songs that do that for me. The symbols in the lyrics are gorgeous: strong, harsh, but graceful. I suppose that’s what I like about the song; it reminds me of the inner iron of so many good women in the world, and in my own life. It reminds me that I’m blessed, and I’m not alone in the battles we all wage.

My first listen of “Good For Me”, I wasn’t quite sure I liked the song. I immediately thought it might increase the “Us/Them” mom debate, but I chose to listen again, and heard a different interpretation, one that acknowledges the worth and challenge of all moms, regardless of W-2 status. It praises the necessary Mom Work, and the joy in finding contentment in the chaos of motherhood.

The track that really gets me, though? “What’s Mine is Yours.”

Wow.

It is hard to write music. It’s even harder to write music about hard things. Katherine nails it.

If a woman has not experienced pregnancy loss, she might not connect in the same way to the first part of the song. Having had that sort of loss touch me personally, more often than I really like to think on, the raw reality of the opening lines scraped across the part of me that is Me, with a capital M.

No rushing… it was just… over.

So rarely is the experience of losing a baby acknowledged as a full experience, or captured in a few words, so well. It’s something many of us bottle up, and just try to cope with on our own. Grief is invisible. We even shut out our spouses, our sisters, our mothers… all the people who love us best and ache along with us. But trying to shut it all out, to move forward, to “get over it”, bottling up doesn’t work. It…  leaks. The odd moments catch us, months and years later (we saw that heart beating… it was real!) Katherine’s lyrics walk through that fog so many feel. That I’ve felt. I’ve been in the parking lot, in the kitchen, in the quiet moments when those walls crash, and the wounds are raw again. And the release of the chorus, the utter lifting up of agony? It’s really gorgeous. The grief of losing a hoped-for child does not go away, so much as it is ameliorated by God’s grand grace, and that is a tremendously, achingly, beautiful thing. It is catharsis in truly awesome ways.

So, that review didn’t go the way I expected. But isn’t that what good music does for us?

Comments will stay open until 10pm Mountain Time, 10 August 2012. I can ship the winner’s copy anywhere in the US.

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My air conditioner died. It is irretrievably dead, and cannot be resurrected. And, being Scottish, I do not wish to re-allocate budget money for the purchase of a new one, because that would mean not paying the power bill, and then, I would lack electricity to run the AC. So, I’m being Quite Pioneer, living without AC. (Also, quite sweaty, but I bathe a lot.)

I have two “weather station” applications on my computer. One is in my browser bar; the other is on the desk top of the second screen, which lives above the main screen. (Yep, the Tall, Dark, and Slightly Neanderthal Fellow set up the screens for Maximum Viewing Astonishment.)

I like to keep the one in the browser set to Boise, where it is always more hellish than here, and the one on the desktop set for local weather.

It means I am always slightly smug when I glance at the temperature, then at the REAL temperature from Really Here, rather than Hellish Boise.

It’s the small rebellions in life that make Living Pioneer Without AC worthwhile.

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We’re on a whole new set of $5 headphones for the computers. Headphones help keep the peace, particularly now that the Spicy child has discovered the Awesome Music of Rick Astley on-line (hey, it brings back good memories for me, but she’s very… persistent in her listening habits. So, headphones.)

The reason we’re on a whole new set is that Lefty spent most of last week eating electronic cords, apparently. When the first pair died, I just figured someone had done a little too much wiggling about while listening to Awesome Music on-line, and that meant the culprit could have been anyone, really. Lefty likes to groove to most things, Spicy likewise. The Boy is a percussionist, so gyrations and waggling of limbs and tapping can often cause cords to be yanked and discombobulated. The Eldest has music going most of the time, and if no one is watching (or if she’s not aware of anyone watching, which is awesome!) gets her own groove on quite often. Even the Tall, Dark, and Slightly Neanderthal fellow I married has been know to boogie discreetly to the Brothers Gibb, and for a guy his size, even discreet boogage involves enough movement to dislocate wiring connections.

But then, the second pair failed in one ear. And after a final Little Girl session of Ruby Gloom videos (creepy-cute Canadian kids’ cartoon that I love more than a little bit), failed in both ears. As I was throwing both dead pair away, I noticed it: the rubberized coating on the wiring had been gnawed away, and the shredded ends of copper wire testified that  no, dislocation was not the problem: these had been nibbled. Nibbled to death.

So now the List of Things We Are Trying To Keep Out Of Lefty’s Cake-Hole includes:

  1. Her thumbs
  2. Pencil ferrules
  3. Mechanical pencil “marshmallows”
  4. All other eraser styles
  5. Crayons
  6. The edge of the desk
  7. The wrists of her shirts
  8. Small rocks
  9. Most flowers
  10. Electronic cables

Also, it is spring here in the Rockies. That means that Monday, it was, no joke: 90*. Commence heat migraines. (I’m actually trying to bring back an archaic word, so won’t you all please join me in re-popularizing a great word: megrim. Mee’-grim. Nasty headache. It’s just a great word, and works really well in a slightly posh British accent.)

Megrim Monday necessarily segues into what?

50* highs on Tuesday with sustained winds in the 20mph range, gusts to right about 50mph, some hail, a bit of drenching cold rain, and Hard Frost Warnings from the national weather service from now until Thursday morning.

Because that’s spring in the Rockies.

I know. You’re a little jealous right now.

In other fun things, The Boy has checked off another thing on his Interesting Things To Know How To Do list: after being confronted with a rather disgruntled yellow jacket between the back door screen and the back door this morning (and really, given the schizophrenic weather, you can’t blame the nasty little thing for disgruntlement), The Boy initiated himself into the ranks of People Who Can Replace Screening Mesh. He de-splined, re-meshed, and re-splined with admirable vigor and fortitude, and the results are, yes: resplinedant.

I do believe that next, I shall set The Boy to work replacing a seal in the back door of Brown Bess (our enormous vehicle), in hopes that a new seal will quell the decidedly manky atmosphere that reoccurs after rainy downpours. I’m very glad he’s inherited his Daddy’s talent for Taking a Whack At Things.

Add in a ton of acrobatics troupe practices, Highland dance practices, band practices, voice practices, church lesson planning, school reading (math, science, etc–we go year-round, which is much less painful than it sounds), hen-tending, garden failure (see Hard Frost, above–we’re going to start over), wicked insomnia, prepping for an estate sale, and real-life-work stuff, and that’s essentially my life, right now. I kind of like it.

 

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The Boy was my late reader, but he’s made up for it quite shockingly well, and these days, we usually do the “nearly at the end of the chapter” chore-bargaining I remember so well from my own childhood.

He’s also figured out that his darling mother is a bit of a sucker for big, lash-fringed blue eyes (now eye-to-eye with my own not-so-lash-fringed-even-though-the-mascara-tube-promised-sooooo-much blue eyes) and an ever-deepening, “Oh, Mother? May I please buy this lovely hardcover book I’ve been dying to read?”

Since he’s just turned 13, and I was away for his actual natal anniversary, I’ve been looking for just the right gift, and finally found it when he mentioned a soon-to-release continuation of one of his favorite series. So, this conversation just happened:

Me: Darling Boy–happy birthday.

The Boy: Ummmm… that was a few weeks back, Mom.

Me: Remember that book you wanted?

The Boy (hesitantly): Yeeeesssssss……?

Me: It will ship on May 1.

The Boy: But that book is like, $20 brand new! Shouldn’t we wait and get it used?

(I really kind of adore this kid.)

Me: There was a pre-publication special. It was $11.50.

The Boy: That’s a pretty good discount!

Me: And I had 11.33 in book points saved up. So, with shipping, I love you $4.06 worth.

The Boy (with furrowed brow, but a merry twinkle in those baby blues): Four bucks of love? That’s not very much, Mom.

Me: Yeah, but that’s close to $25 worth of love, retail.

The End.

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