Saturday, September 24, 2011

Golf: I'm starting to get it

Guess what I did on Friday? I went golfing.

Yes, you read that right; I—the golf mocker—went golfing.

This is what happens when you work with a bunch of guys; when it comes to company rewards, golfing is always part of the picture, no matter what time of year it is. We’ve had a very good year so far, so management decided to take the sales/marketing team on a Friday golfing retreat. And despite my complete lack of skills and experience, I was actually looking forward to it, mostly because it meant I had one less boring day at the office to endure (this week has been one of those excruciatingly boring weeks).

So, equipped with my dad’s old golf clubs, I went on my first golfing adventure. My golf post from several months ago, “Golf: I still don’t get it,” outlines some of my reasoning for why the male species is so obsessed with golf. No longer a golf virgin, I have decided to revisit some of those points here:
  • The bizarre fashion choices. We at ChartLogic aren’t known for our stylish clothes. In fact, for about 10 minutes before we left, the various clothing choices—especially the shorts—were mocked mercilessly. So, I still don’t know if the bizarre fashion choices showcased in professional golf tournaments are universal, because it really isn’t fair to decide that based on what my co-workers wear.
  • Watching the crowd scamper for cover whenever the ball comes their way. We had a few instances where someone from our groups would nearly kill innocent bystanders because, even in the most experienced of hands, those balls and clubs are lethal weapons. Frantic shouts of "Fore! Fore!" are the only cause for adrenaline in this game, and it's always good for a few laughs.
  • Listening to the crowd's dramatic intake of breath while the small white ball teeters on the edge of a cliff, hill, or hole. Yep, that totally happened to us. Despite being one of the newbies of my group, the guys are such inconsistent golfers that they had to rely on the two girls to "save their bacon" on many occasions. Sometimes we succeeded, sometimes we didn't, but it was always dramatic.
  • Riding in a golf cart and calling it "exercise." We did indeed spend a lot of time in those golf carts (which also double as bumper cars). Weaving through trees, swerving dangerously close to lakes, and racing down the green, seeking out those wayward golf balls, was surprisingly fun. However, to my dismay, golf does require the use of some muscles, as evidenced by the soreness I feel in my entire upper body today. Apparently, swinging those clubs does in fact require some physical exertion. I'm not sure I would have been able to survive an 18-hole round of golf.
  • Skipping out on work to enjoy the beautiful surroundings. Several times during our little Best Ball tournament my boss would say “Golf is beautiful,” and I didn’t even scoff. We could not have picked a more perfect day to spend outside: it was a little warm (about 85 degrees), but there wasn’t a cloud in the pure blue sky, the mountains were bursting with fall foliage, not to mention the golf course itself was gorgeous (we went to Wasatch Mountain State Park). I understand now why many guys dream of spending their retirement golfing; spending every day surrounded by such beauty sounds like a nice reward for a lifetime of hard work. And despite my successful attempts thus far to avoid getting a farmer's tan, I went home with a nice sunburn that is turning into an interesting farmer's tan. I guess summer can end now.
  • Age is no limit. That applies to both genders, may I add. Ladies may not have the strength that guys have simply for being guys, but they are just as capable of golfing as the men are, even if they do swing like girls. And here lies the great secret that may have something to do with the universal male golf obsession: you don't have to be good at golf to enjoy it. Sure, it's awesome when you manage to hit the ball in the right direction--if you manage to hit it at all--and it's awesome when the ball actually goes into that little hole, but simply hitting the ball brings its own set of pleasures. It's similar to everyone wanting to practice batting rather than throwing at softball practice--it's just fun to hit the ball. And, okay, it gives you an awesome sense of power when you're watching that little speck of white soar through the sky, especially if it ricochets off a tree and almost kills a squirrel. And because golf isn't the most strenuous of sports, small children and crinkly old grandparents can still play the game with some skill.
My conclusion: I had a great time golfing, and I would willingly do it again. My boss kept telling me that I was doing very well for a beginner, and even though he is rarely serious, I decided to believe him. We used my ball on a couple of the holes, and I hit the ball into the hole twice. I also *coughbrokeoneofmyclubswhilewarminguponthedrivingrangecough*, but with any luck, my dad will read this before I have to break the bad news to him. . . .

Despite our many team meetings and constant talk of dominating, my group came in last of the four groups. We had one hole where we all hit the ball in the lake, which completely took us out of the running. I suspect that next year's rematch will be intense.

But I would totally do it again. So long as someone else is there to make sure I'm following the rules.

*Note: my new-found interest in golf still does not apply to watching golf on TV. I refuse to sink that low.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

God's fingers

After buying a piano over a month ago, I had three main goals I wanted to accomplish: (1) learn new stuff (stretching beyond the wonderful world of Jon Schmidt), (2) strengthen my fingers, and (3) memorize those songs I've been playing for years.

So far, I've done pretty good on #1, great on #2, and not so good on #3, though that hasn't been from lack of trying. I haven't memorized a song on the piano in years, and now I'm remembering why: memorizing is hard, and what's the point if you've always got music with you?

However, I don't always have my music with me, and I'm getting a little sick of only being able to play "Waterfall" when I find myself sitting at a piano with no music. So for the past five weeks, I've been working on "All of Me."

Because I have learned, relearned, and polished this song many times over the last decade, I thought this would be an easy song to kick off my memorization project. I figured that since I've played it thousands of times, I would be able to play it straight through with no music after just a few tries.

Boy was I wrong. What I thought would take a few days at most ended up taking five weeks. Deep down I knew the song by heart, but I just couldn't keep my eyes from the written music where I was safe.

After a few weeks being stuck on the same two pages, I decided to try a different tactic: I would close my eyes and just let my fingers play. And to my surprise, I got through the section without any hesitation. I was then able to move on to the next two pages. Again, at first I couldn't help peaking at the notes every few lines or so, but eventually it was only after I closed my eyes and trusted my fingers that I was able to master those pages and move on to the next two.

It's an odd experience letting your fingers play when your mind is blank. Thoughts like "I sure hope you know what you're doing, because I've forgotten everything about playing the piano" float through your mind, but if you keep trusting in those fingers, they will know what to do.

Last night, I made it through the entire song without the aid of any music for the first time. It wasn't perfect; I bumbled my way through a few parts and I broke a couple of fingernails. And I played most of the song with my eyes closed; every time I opened them, I would get distracted, I would lose the cool connection I had going with my fingers, and I would lose my way completely. It was only when I played the song on blind faith, so to speak, that I was able to make it to the end without trouble.

And let me just say that despite the setbacks, it was well worth the effort memorizing this song.

Much of my progression along my rocky but beautiful path of life has been accompanied by the music I have learned to play on the piano, from the C-major scale to the the masterpieces of classical composers. That music is the loudest during the high times and hard times of my life, and is rarely silent, because whenever I come up short, God's fingers are always there to keep the music going. All it takes is just a little bit of trust.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Rivalry week in enemy territory

I always thought it would be scary to be among the minority during the build-up to a rivalry football game. If you're one of the outnumbered guys, there's no crowd of friends to hide behind when things get ugly, and there's nobody there to back you up when a boastful opponent gets the better of you on verbal sparring match.

While both these problems are unavoidable, I've found that being dropped in enemy territory during rivalry week is actually kind of fun, simply because I am the annoying reminder of the other side. Or at least, I joined my boss in being the annoying reminder of the other side.

So while my fellows in Provo are surrounded by the familiar blue and white, I've been stuck in a town that's been getting redder and redder by the day: cars whizzing down the street have Ute flags flapping in the breeze, balcony after balcony is covered with huge Ute banners, and some of my co-workers seem to have lost track of all articles of clothing that don't contain at least a modicum of red.

It was about Thursday that people noticed that I had replaced the Ute sticker on my cubicle window with the Y sticker I stole from Tyrel's go-cart (which was put there by me in the first place, so technically I wasn't even stealing). And then somehow I got sucked into a bet with Chris that involved one of us enduring the abominable paraphernalia of the opposing team littering our office space until the end of the season. (The only downside to this bet is that now I have to go out and buy a bunch of BYU-blue stuff to litter the loser's office with, and then beat him to work on Monday so I can decorate unscathed.)

Today simply escalated off yesterday, but all the jesting and boasting thrown at me have just bounced off my BYU t-shirt. (Eric did all the defending because I had nothing intelligent to offer.) A lot of people attempted to sing the Cougar and/or Utah fight song, but no one actually knows all of the words. The football has been flying around all day (though that's nothing new), and, after a very productive half-hour meeting that took place in Darren's office, I bet a dollar that BYU would win 17-16. Bam.

The only drawback to this entire week has been that my family are vile betrayers; they went ahead and used their prestigious connections to get tickets to the game, despite making plans to watch the game at home beforehand, leaving me all alone to watch the game on TV with no one there to explain what's going on. True, if the situation were reversed, I would have done the same thing in a heartbeat, but since that is not the case, I feel no guilt in making certain people feel guilty.

Needless to say, I've never wanted BYU to win so badly. Who cares if there's no bowl game on the line, or that the game is in September instead of November--I, personally, have a lot to lose if things don't go as I planned.

Go cougars!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The birthday curse

We all know why birthdays are awesome: all day long you are bombarded with birthday wishes, you can use the "it's my birthday" excuse whenever you don't want to do something or whenever you want someone to do something for you (and, of course, everyone will understand), people lavish you with gifts, and if there's only one cheesy bread left at your Sizzler birthday dinner, your demands automatically outweigh anyone else's, no questions asked.

In short, birthdays are the one day a year that it's okay to be self-absorbed. And I am finally man enough to admit that I like taking advantage of that.

The downside of birthdays, however, is that they're only 24 hours long. All too soon, you must return to your "normal person" status because there is no longer anything special about you. If you want that last cheesy bread, you'll either have to fight for it or politely let your sister have it (although, in my family's case at least, there would be no "politeness" involved in that transaction).

So not only do you have to suffer the cruelty of relinquishing your princess throne, but you also have to go back to proving your worth and being nice to people again.

Life is just so hard.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Email communication: crises averted

Of the many technological conveniences available to us today, email is probably my favorite. Actually, there's no "probably" about it; email helps me avert crises on a daily basis. For example:

Crisis #1 (at work). You need to ask someone a question, but don't want to do it face-to-face for at least one of several reasons: (1) You don't like the person, (2) the person is currently unavailable, (3) it will take longer to gather up the courage to interrupt someone in their "important" work than it will to shoot them an email, (4) You are too lazy to yell or leave your chair.
Crisis averted: By sending an email, you save yourself the trouble of leaving your chair and approaching someone who also doesn't want to leave their chair or who is otherwise engaged. Tone and facial expression are also absent, so it is harder for the person to detect that you don't like them.

Crisis #2 (at church). During Relief Society, someone bubbly announces that the month is almost over and that it is time to call your visiting teaching supervisor and confirm that you were awesome enough to encroach on someone's personal life for a half hour.
Crisis averted: Half the time I don't know who my visiting teaching supervisor is, and if I only communicate with them through email, then chances are they won't know who I am either, which reduces the likelihood of them hunting me down. And, coming from a person who has been a VT supervisor twice, the supervisor will love you for reporting your success/failure without taking any of their time, and they really will leave you alone.

Crisis #3 (anywhere): Someone delivers a brilliantly concocted insult and you have no comeback.
Crisis averted: Email gives you the extra time you need to fabricate a few well-chosen words, even if the insult wiped your mind blank during its initial delivery. Of course, this only works when someone insults you via email, though sending the offending person an "oh yeah?" email isn't a complete waste of time.

Crisis #4 (at work): You work with words and information on a regular basis, which requires you to not only read a lot, but to be all-knowing.
Crisis averted: The email attachment feature is a godsend.

Crisis #5 (anywhere): You need to give a large group of people the same information.
Crisis averted: This one is pretty self-explanatory unless you're 80 years old and have never used a computer before.

Imagine the dilemmas you will be faced with in the event that your email provider fails you: people will have to be confronted, ancient means of sharing information (i.e., paper) will have to be used to distribute information, and a lot of "I don't knows" and "I'll have to get back to you on thats" will replace your brilliantly constructed (and grammatically correct) dialogue.

Actually, what really happens is this: deadlines are missed, vital communication doesn't happen, work-at-homers get lost in the vortex of loneliness, and we all sit in the dark, frustrated that our perfectly legitimate excuses for laziness are no longer valid but secretly glad that we can blame our inactivity on inefficient technology.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 years

I wasn’t going to do a 9/11 tribute this year because, well, everyone else is doing it. However, because everyone else is doing it, it’s been on my mind a lot lately, so if I intend to keep up this lovely sleep pattern I’ve grown accustomed to, I had better share some of my thoughts.

Like all of you, I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news on that September day. I don’t need to dig out Journal #8 to refresh my memories of what I experienced or what was going through my mind; it is forever branded in my memory, along with all those other fateful moments that changed my life.

That day started out like a typical day for a 9th grade girl, except I’m sure my head was a bit preoccupied with prospective birthday presents I was expecting to receive in a few days. I didn’t even know that anything was wrong until 2nd period (P.E.) when Mr. Clayton spent an unusually long time on morning announcements. None of us were paying attention, of course, because it was almost impossible to hear the intercom over the loud chatter of teenage girls in an echoey locker room, so we ignored him as usual.

Mrs. Braithwaite later explained to us what was going on when we were all gathered in the gym, but as I was sitting in the back of the group with one of my best friends, I had better things to do than pay attention.

I wasn’t until I sat in Mrs. McKinley’s English class that I finally realized the gravity of the situation; the world as I knew it had just changed forever. That night at home as I watched those towers fall over and over again on TV, I ached for those who had been directly affected by the attack, and I worried about the violence of the inevitable war and how it would affect me personally. I didn’t quite understand why the adults kept telling me that I would always remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard that the Two Towers had fallen, but I understood enough to know that this event would alter the course of our future.

And the world has changed since that day. Some of those changes have been good, such as the thousands of people who turned their hearts to God after shutting him out for years and years, and some of those changes have been bad, such as the fragile economy. Airport security has increased tenfold since that day ten years ago, and many Americans who once thought they were invincible still to this day live under a cloud of fear.

I think the biggest tragedy, though, is how certain things have returned to the way they were before September 11, 2001. On September 10, a lot of Americans didn’t spare a second thought for God or religion. On September 11, though, many of those same people prayed for the first time in many years.

I was among the lucky who got to hear from President Gordon B. Hinckley the Sunday after the attacks. It was at a regional conference at the Marriot Center, and Pres. Hinckley wasn’t supposed to speak that day. However, it was a day that we needed to hear from God’s mouthpiece, so Pres. Hinckley gave us words of comfort, quoted Captain Moroni a lot, and admonished us to continue to do good. It was one of the hymns, though, that truly spoke to me the words I needed to hear: “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet.” Our lives had been changed that week, but as the congregation sang those powerful words together in that stadium, we felt what thousands of Americans across the country were feeling as well: that God is still in charge and that if we stick together, we will come out of this a better, stronger people.

It may have taken tragic circumstances, but America was unified during that difficult time 10 years ago.

Sadly, I can’t say the same thing about today. People have shut God out of their lives once more, and every day I read about how Americans are unhappy with the way the country is being run, how the government can’t agree on how to curb the astronomically rising debt, how no one can agree on anything because no one trusts anyone.

We all remember that day 10 years ago, but America needs to be reminded of a valuable lesson we all learned: we need to live by faith, not fear; we need to love one another, not fight with each other. Thousands of people lost their lives that day, and for a while we honored their memory.

But time passes and memories fade. It’s a natural part of being human.

I still believe that this world—this country especially—is a blessed place to live in and that people are inherently good, but I think that as we look back on 9/11 we need to take the time to remember the bond of brotherhood that spread throughout the nation as we suffered together.

Because in the end, God is still in charge, and that is all that really matters.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Onion days, reunions, peaches, and Lord of the Rings

What do all of the above have in common? Why, your typical Labor Day weekend, of course.

That is, if you hail from the town of Payson, Utah, and just happen to be a Lord of the Rings fan.

Nobody can quite do Labor Day like Payson can, which is probably why Labor Day has always been one of my favorite holidays. I love driving down 3rd South and seeing the flurry of little families and teenagers teeming around the booths and rides at the park. Every year brings stories of how someone puked while riding the Ring of Fire, or how someone snuck their dog on that ride before rules and regulations ruined all of our fun. We haven't gone to the parade for a couple of years, but I always enjoyed seeing the faithfuls in their traditional spots, waiting for the festivities to kick off.

For me, Labor Day also signifies the unofficial end of summer; it's my last chance to work on my tan, to wear shorts, or to throw around that baseball. After Labor Day is over, it's time to pack up the shorts and pull out the sweaters and socks, time to say good-bye to long summer days and welcome back long autumn nights, time to set aside leisure pursuits and jump back into insane productivity.

As I've said before, it's a marvelous time of year. I'm never sad to see summer go (even though it feels like it was only two weeks long this year).

So, minus the parade, I had my typical Labor Day weekend.

On Friday, I
  • left work a tad early (after enduring an insanely long week in anticipation of a three-day weekend),
  • was stuck in traffic for two hours,
  • and spent the rest of the night snacking on food and watching movies.

On Saturday, I
  • went to my high school five-year reunion (yay class of 2006!). In typical Payson fashion, invitations were sent out through Facbook and no other medium (as far as I'm aware), it was held in the high school lunch room (which I never actually ate in), those who didn't pay in advance were told they could not eat, and the only people who came were the student council and a bunch of choir/band people, plus a few others (all the people I either hung out with or wanted to hang out with. . . .) And, just like in high school, my cousin and I sat in the corner and watched everyone while everyone else talked about whatever popular kids talk about (in this case it was undoubtedly spouses, babies, and work). I think the theme was: show up and talk to people in the sort-of smelly lunchroom. Maybe when I'm old like my parents (they had their 30th this weekend) I'll get to go to a non-hick HS reunion. Probably not though.
  • watched the first BYU football game of the season!!! Anticipation was high at our house, and my dad and Jeremy S. celebrated by watching football for about a million hours straight. (Dad and Jeremy kept saying that we will surely play football in heaven, while Mom argued that the only thing eternal about football is the length of the games.) Nonetheless, we were all excited to see BYU play again, and even though it was a mostly boring game, BYU came out on top, making everything right in the universe once more.
  • ate barbecued hamburgers and home-made sweet rolls.
  • sat on the porch and talked as the sun set.

On Sunday, I
  • attended church in my home ward. Sadly, though, I think most of the people my age have moved beyond coming home for the holidays.
  • took a glorious Sunday nap that only comes with 9:00 church.
  • watched the first half of The Return of the King.
  • watched The Count of Monte Cristo (we're trying to warm Jeremy B. up to the Carters' talent for movie-watching).

And on Monday, I
  • got up early (for me) and read my book outside.
  • went to lunch at La Casita with the fam. It has been far too long since I have been there.
  • went to Payson Community Theater's play. This year was Jekyll and Hyde and it was AMAZING. This is probably the sketchiest play PCT has ever done, and it was still toned down a bit (the "Bring on the Men" scene was a lot more awkward when I saw it in Lehi a few years ago), but, aside from the very warm and very cramped room, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Jekyll/Hyde was incredible. He pretty much gave me goosebumps every time he opened his mouth. It's amazing how much talent there is in the world, even among the not famous.
  • went to Grandpa Jackson's for the traditional birthday party (and this year, his birthday actually was on Labor Day). This usually means that we see see a relative we haven't seen for a long time (in this case, Shelly and some of her family) and eat fresh produce (thus the peaches reference) while enjoying one of the last nice days of the year. However, this year's Labor Day was a little bit chilly, which was perfect for . . .
  • watching the final half of The Return of the King.

And, oddly enough, despite the wonderfulness of Labor Day traditions, it's usually not hard to return to reality, like it is with most other holidays. Labor Day signifies a new beginning of sorts, and who doesn't like a fresh start?