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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Go Ahead - Make My Day

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As I drove up to my house early this evening I saw a cluster of smallish people outside my front door.

When they turned and saw me they ran towards my car - and they weren't even my offspring. They were some of my favorite kids from our neighborhood.

"Hey, Sisto Bwack!" Super C yelled as he ran to me. "These are for you! For your birfday!" He and his brother, along with N~, handed me a bag filled with treats. "Thanks, guys!" I said. "This totally makes my day!"

"Guess what else?!" Super C asked with all the excitement that could possibly be contained in a 6-year-old body. "N~, do the bark!"

N~ looked at me with a sly grin and let out a few barking noises. "Can you be-weave it?!" Super C asked. "It sounds like a REAL dog!" N~ then turned to Super C and said, "Do the burps!"

Super C produced a series of quick burps-on-demand. "Isn't that awesome?!" N~ proclaimed excitedly. "It sounds like REAL burps!"

The treats were fantastic, but nothing compares to the method of delivery.

Kids. Are. Awesome.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Bob Principle

Pin It There are a few individuals in life I've met who seem to carry a chip on their shoulder, they find fault with everyone and everything around them, they seem to personify The Bob Principle in a way that I'd never dreamed possible.

Recently I learned that there is another aspect to this principle to which I'd never before really given a thought: "When EVERYONE has a problem with Bob, Bob is usually the problem."

Here's to you, Bob.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Unexpected Gifts

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Music has always been a part of me and a part of my life in a large way. Somehow, the people who I become good friends with always seem to be people who share this passion for music. It is as if we are drawn to each other somehow. I like to imagine that perhaps there are two dimensions which co-exist in this world - the dimension where we all live and interact with each other as well as a higher dimension where people are uplifted, inspired, moved and influenced by music.

When I was a junior in high school I was a member of a choir called Aristocracy. The teacher, Mrs. Jensen, decided that for the last half of the year we would have 'secret pals' in this choir. The plan was for each of us to secretly leave small notes and gifts in a large box labeled "Secret Pals" for the person whose name we drew.

I was excited about this plan. I hoped and maybe even silently prayed that I would draw the name of my friend Debi because I knew everything about her and could imagine all sorts of perfect little surprises that I could gift her. But really, everyone in this choir got along well - perhaps because we co-existed on that higher, music-infused dimension, so I wasn't too worried about whose name I would choose.

I pulled a slip of folded paper from the bowl on top of the piano and went to a corner of the room where I could peek at the name of my secret pal. It was Richard Yu.

Richard was probably the most quiet and shy of all the members of Aristocracy - pretty much my loud, attention-seeking opposite. He mostly kept to himself so I didn't know much about him. Initially I will admit that I was a little disappointed to have chosen his name, but that quickly changed.

At first I did not know much about Richard aside from the fact that he liked to sing, so I would leave him things like candy bars and gum - you know, the sort of things that it was safe to assume most teenagers could appreciate. Eventually, as I watched him and got to know him better, my gifts became more personalized. He became someone I considered to be a close friend even though he did not really know much about me or who I was. I saw that there was more to him than was perceived in a glance.

One thing I loved to do for my friends was to share music. I would sit next to my pale pink radio with a blank tape in the cassette deck and press the record button when one of my favorite songs would play. Once the tape was filled with good music I would make a copy for myself in our dual-cassette deck stereo and gift the original to a friend. After one especially good weeks' worth of recording I decided to gift my tape to Richard.

I was so excited. This tape was definitely one of my best - it contained songs from Depeche Mode, REM, The Smiths, The Cure, U2, Pet Shop Boys and UB40. I wrote a note to him, explaining that these were some of my favorite songs, along with a 3x5 card which listed each song and artist. I watched the next day as Richard checked the secret pal box and picked up the gift I had left him. I wondered what he was going to think.

A week later I found something unusual in the choir room - a gift labeled "For Richard Yu's secret pal". I waited until everyone had left the choir room at the end of class and then retrieved my gift and quietly slipped it into my backpack. During lunch I opened the note taped to the top of the cassette-shaped package. It read,

Thank you for sharing your music with me. I want to share my music with you also. -Richard

The tape had a label which read: Beethoven. I wasn't sure what to think. This was definitely not my typical genre of music. In fact, I could not remember ever listening to any classical music before. I placed the cassette and note back into my bag and forgot about them until a few days later when another note waited for me:

Did you like the music I left for you? I would like to hear more of your music. Thank you, Richard

When I got home that day I listened to the music of Beethoven for the first time. And I cried. There was something so beautiful in the way that the music flowed and swelled. There was such passion and emotion in this music that I had never taken the time to listen to! It helped me to understand Richard on a different level, somehow. I made a copy of another one of my tapes, this one with more of a variety of music from artists like Cowboy Junkies, Michael Jackson, Violent Femmes, They Might Be Giants, Journey, The Church and Def Leppard. I wrote a note thanking him for sharing the classical music of Beethoven with me and told him that it brought tears to my eyes.

This became our method of communication over the remainder of the school year. He shared his music with me - pieces by Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart, Pachelbel and Handel - and I shared my music with him, everything from Anything Box to Morrissey to Oingo Boingo.

It was difficult to see him in the halls and not talk about the music he gave me. I wanted to yell out, "Richard! Vivaldi's Four Seasons is my new favorite! Thank you!" But I couldn't reveal who I was until the end of the year. I often wonder if he knew anyway because of the way I tried to include him more in what was going on with the choir.

When our choir sang at Disneyland that spring and were free to explore the park for the rest of the day following our performance we split into smaller groups. I noticed Richard was standing alone at the outskirts of the groups and pointed him out to my friend Debi. "Let's have him join our group," I said. "Hey Richard!" Debi called to him. "Come with us!" He smiled shyly and joined us as we walked toward our first destination, Space Mountain. We each took turns choosing which ride was next and when it was Richard's turn he said, "I don't know. I have never been here before." We were all incredulous. Growing up in southern California, Disneyland was a regular destination for most teenagers. We all pitched in and got him some mouse ears with his name embroidered on the back and had the best time enjoying Disneyland through the eyes of a first-timer.

On the bus ride home from our day at Disneyland I asked Richard what his favorite thing was. "The music!" he told me. "There was music everywhere!" I had never really noticed that before, but when I thought about it, he was right.

When the year came to a close and it was time to reveal our secret pals, I gave Richard a tape I had purchased called 'The Best of Disney'. We thanked each other for the music which had been shared. But really, how could I thank Richard for all that he had given me? The true gift was my new ability to see beyond stereotypes - in music and in people.

Richard and I have not stayed in contact over the years, but I think of him anytime I hear a now-familiar classical piece of music or discover a new artist that stirs my soul or when I befriend someone who I might have otherwise shied away from.

Richard, wherever you are, thank you.

P.S. (Added on July 1, 2011)
Look what I found on my friend Kendra's Facebook page! This was the day. Awesome.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Space-Time Continuum

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I’d been fully prepared to write a post last week when I started a Time Machine backup of my Mac. As it was running, I decided to update some of my program components and settings. In honor of Daylight Saving Time, I started to mess with the date and time. Mostly it was just for fun—but in the midst of a backup, this was a bad idea. For some reason, in changing the date while backing up, Time Machine decided that my entire hard drive needed to be backed up on my external hard drive, taking some five or six hours and several programs were deleted from my Mac including both the Microsoft and Adobe suites, and a few other apps along the way.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Love and Basketball

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Talent is an accident of genes - and a responsibility. Alan Rickman

Ebay and I had fun reading over Gerb’s post about Ashley.

When both Ashley and Ebay were little people, we also lived in Gerb’s neighborhood and Ashley and Ebay were buddies. Ebay says that he feels a little bit responsible for Ashley’s great basketball career – like he helped a little bit.

He helped because Ashley always wanted to shoot hoops and would recruit Ebay for games of HORSE. Ebay would oblige and…..lose every single time. Eventually he refused to play HORSE and would only play PIG so he could get the butt-kicking over with a little faster. Ebay likes to think that it helped to Boost Ashley’s basketball confidence to kick his trash every day. It helped to validate that she had some mad basketball skills and should definitely keep it up and definitely move on to more challenging HORSE opponents than Ebay. I think it also helped Ebay to realize that sports just weren’t going to be his thing and he should keep up the search for is own talent.

I’ve been thinking since reading that post that it’s nice when your interests and your talents converge. Ashley loved basketball even as a little kid, and luckily she has the physical affinity to be great at it too. Not that she didn’t practice her little blond head off, I’m just saying she had the brain and the body to mix with all that hard work to be a really good ball player. It’s harder when you love something, but don’t have the talent for it – whether mental or physical.

If, for example, I had wanted to be a world-class ballerina, it probably wouldn’t have been in the cards for me. Even if I had started dancing at 3 years old and dance danced every day for the next 20 years, I would probably still not have joined the ranks of prima ballerinas…unless there was a famous ballet about Hobbits. But I'll bet I would have learned a lot along the way.

I think if you have love for something you should keep doing it, talent or not, because sometimes just the effort is everything and you never know where it will lead. But when talent, ability and a love for something come together – it really is a beautiful thing.

Way to go Ashley.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

On Being Cheerleaders

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I love my neighborhood.

One of it's finest features, as in all great neighborhoods, is the people.

I have one across-the-street neighbor in particular who I have loved interacting with over the years. Initially it was just watching her as a smallish person, hearing the well-worn basketball as it would beat against the concrete while she practiced dribbling and shooting in her driveway. Ashley was an awesome little kid who was much more comfortable in tennis shoes, knee-length shorts and a Scooby Doo t-shirt than the other girls her age who wore cute bejeweled sandals and pink everything.

As Ashley grew older her basketball practice paid off - she played in some city leagues and eventually made it on to her high school's varsity basketball team. I don't think it's much of an exaggeration to say that she was the star... and we were all proud of our Ashley.

Well, Ashley grew up. She graduated from high school last year and signed on to continue playing basketball for a college in Colorado. Everyone missed Ashley - but we were in luck. Her team was coming here, to Utah, to play against two of the local universities! The excitement in our neighborhood was palpable. Ashley was coming home!

As my oldest kids and I walked into the game, we were thrilled. There, filling the stands for the away team, was Ashley's own personal cheering squad! There were signs! There were custom-made t-shirts!
Girls who had played basketball with her in high school, neighbors, family and friends all yelled and cheered our hearts out for #4. We talked to each other in excited tones over how amazing Ashley was and what a thrill it was to watch her play college ball. Any time she had the ball in her hands, her cheering section went wild. We jumped to our feet when she threw a pass. We pumped our fists and shouted for joy until our throats were sore when she made a shot. Any time she was on the bench we all screamed to put her back in. The crowd had a fever, and the only cure was MORE ASHLEY!!
The local university's team had never seen anything like it. There were more fans for the away team than there were for the home team. Why? Come what may, we were there for Ashley! She could do no wrong and we loved cheering her on through it all. TEAM ASHLEY!

Wouldn't it be awesome if each one of us had such a cheering squad? Can you imagine what it would be like if no matter where you went there was someone there to encourage you, pumping their fists in excitement and letting you know that they believed in you and knew you were capable of anything you wanted to achieve? I wonder what it would feel like to have such incredible support in everything you chose to do.

Hey! Why wonder? Why imagine? Let's do it!

If we could all offer this kind of acceptance, encouragement and unconditional love to our family, friends and even strangers that we encounter, the possibilities of what each of us could achieve are endless.

I'm the head cheerleader for team YOU.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Red Lights and Destiny

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Our destiny hides among our free choices, disguised as the free-est of all. ~Robert Brault

Spoiler Alert: Mel reviews and discusses the new movie The Adjustment Bureau and might accidentally blow a central plot twist for you. Reader beware

So I took myself to the movies last Friday night. I don’t usually mind going to the movies by myself. I’m generally confident enough sit alone in the dark the best part being, of course, that I don’t have to share the popcorn. But then again I usually have the good sense not to go to the movies alone on a “Date Night.” Talk about a hyper-single-awareness evening. And to top it off I went to see The Adjustment Bureau, which, as it turns out is quite the romantic movie. But despite the fact that it was a romantic movie and I was surrounded by romantic couples which only served to heighten the single-awareness, I actually still really liked the movie. It felt like kind of a cross between Sleepless in Seattle - the idea that the person that you’re meant to be with is out there somewhere, and City of Angels - the idea that angels are around us helping to keep things on track…with a little free will and It’s a Wonderful Life thrown in there for good measure.

The premise of The Adjustment Bureau is that there is a plan written for everyone (in what appear to be those black and white student composition books) and everyone’s plans kind of interconnect to affect the course of the world. And, as we go along through life there are “adjustment angels” that kind of nudge us along in the direction of the plan. So, for example let’s say you have plans with friends for the evening. Your drive home from work usually takes 15 minutes. But on one particular day you hit every red light along University Avenue which means that you’re running late and are not going to have time to make dinner before you meet your friends at the movies. So you decide, because you’re running late to stop at the new hamburger place up the street where you meet the new waiter (or waitress depending on your gender preference) who turns out to be the love of your life. You marry and have 4 kids, one of which turns out to discover the cure for the common cold. Now, were all those red lights just chance or, what is the Adjustment Bureau angels making sure that you followed the plan they had laid out for you and thus for the world? As the movie previews show, Matt Damon wants to be with Emily Blunt but the Adjustment Bureau doesn’t want that to happen because if it does she will never reach her potential of being a world famous dancer/choreographer and he will never reach his potential of becoming the President.

So it sounds like the “angels” are looking out for what’s best doesn’t it? Well, this is where the tricky part comes in. Who’s to say which plan is the best? How do we know which is the best “potential” to have realized? If the main characters are apart they achieve fame and success. But if Matt’s character is with Emily’s character, he will be happy and it will be enough. He won’t feel the drive and determination to keep looking for more and trying to win just one more election.

I thought that was an interesting question. We all have endless potential and endless directions that our lives can take and who's to say which path is the best? Who can say if it is the better life to become famous and powerful or to toil in anonymity but raise a good family and have a happy home? I think it’s good to have goals and it’s good to want to achieve things, but I also think that a truly valuable life can come in all shapes and sizes.

So go see The Adjustment Bureau, I think you'll like it. Plus it will give you something to think about that the next time you’re hitting nothing but red lights – both literally and metaphorically. Maybe your potential is about to find you, but maybe you’ve already chosen it for yourself - special notebooks and fate of the universe be damned. Just be sure to take someone with you on a Friday night.

Monday, March 7, 2011


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There are a thousand things I should be doing tonight. I think of them all as the wind howls and mutters relentlessly outside my house. I can hear it like the lonely souls of those long-gone moaning from the darkness beyond the street lamps.

The rain continues to drizzle from a torrential sky as I sit here on the couch with my laptop striking the keys, their rhythmic beats sounding out a cadence of thought.

Friday, March 4, 2011

I'll Be Darned...

Pin It I went to a general store but they wouldn't let me buy anything specific. 
~Steven Wright

There’s a lot of things in the wide world of consumerism in America that just aren’t worth the money. That $40 jar of magical face cream that supposedly erases years of wrinkles might not actually do anything more than a $3 jar of Noxima and a good nights sleep (do they still make Noxima?). But once in awhile you come across something that – I’ll be darned - does exactly what it says it does.

Here's a few that I've found.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Cupcakes and Crusties...

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My got a call from a friend of mine the other night to go out on a cupcake run at about 8:30. You see, my friend – who will remain anonymous so as to protect his identity (got you covered, Marc) - is a chef and has an obsession for these things – plus the fact that his wife had a craving.

I threw on my jacket and met him outside. I hopped into his car and we sped off to the Sweet Tooth Fairy – the place his wife loves - only to discover that they were closed for the evening.

“Ugh, were can we get cupcakes now?” He asked and then added, “Good cupcakes.” Before I could mention any of the local grocery stores with their whipped lard frostings of nastiness.

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