Monday, March 31, 2014

Mr. Basic

Some of the Senior guys at Basic High School sign up up compete in a pageant called . . . you guessed it, Mr. Basic. Before the big night they did school activities such as cake decorating and finishing song lyrics. The guys each chose a coach (a girl) to help learn dance moves, plan their talent, and generally get them ready for the rigors of pageantry. Tyce's coach was his good friend Maddy.

Practicing for their group dance.

Tyce's stage name was Mr. Batman. He wore a cape and purple tights. All the guys had pretty outrageous outfits. There were about 20 boys who competed.

His silhouette.

Some of the other silhouettes.

Cam and Bryce before the show started.

Part of the program.

Harrison studied the program.

When the lights dimmed and it was time to start, Nick Wheatley, last year's winner, MC'd with one of my former seminary students, Azia. They did great. I didn't take any pictures of the performances because it was so dark but this is how it went down:

The whole group did a very girly and slightly inappropriate dance.

The first activity was a pick-up line contest. Some of them were incredibly dumb, to be honest. They had weeks to choose the best lines they could think of, you know? I loved Tyce's though:  Tyce sang part of Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel" to Maddy:

The way you make me feel
You really turn me on
You knock me off of my feet
My lonely days are gone

Then he said, "Since you knocked me off my feet, let me sweep you off yours." Then he picked her up and walked across the stage. The crowd cheered a ton for that!

Tyce and Maddy

For the talent portion Tyce sang a mash-up of two songs, a duet with Maddy. They are both great singers. Tyce played the piano while they sang. It was very classy and I was really proud of them for choosing the high ground when some of the guys did not (for example, there was more than one "exotic dancer". I told The boys to shield their eyes and Cameron wrapped his fingers around his sock monkey's face and whispered, alarmed, "This is not appropriate for Bobby!")

At the end of Tyce's performance he said that he had one more thing he wanted to do. He asked his friend Kayley to prom right there in front of a standing-room only auditorium! Luckily for him she said yes!

Tyce and Kayley
Other pageant activities were a spirit round where the kids pumped up the crowd and threw candy (I got hit in the head with a Laffy Taffy; I learned to duck after that) and Basic High School trivia. Tyce's was easy: the first line of the alma mater. Some were hard (the size of the first graduating class, which was 90 years ago) and some were super easy (the first and last name of the principal, hello!). Some boys were eliminated at certain points but Tyce hung on until the the final round. He didn't make it into the top 3 but his friend Ziggy did--and he won the whole thing!!!

(Ziggy was Mr. Mrs. He was literally left half man, right half woman. He sang the song "Total Eclipse of the Heart" where the line "turn around" repeats frequently. Every time he sang that he turned around and went from man to woman, using a bass voice or a falsetto, and back again. It was well-done and hilarious.)

Ziggy, Kayley, Tyce

The guys after the show!

We were really proud of Tyce and I think he had a blast. We loved watching him.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Youth Conference Rocked

Wow, that was a ton of work but it turned out great. Our plans fell through on several things but we stayed flexible and positive and everything worked out great. For example, our special speakers changed twice before getting the ones we did--but as they say, they third time's the charm. We had planned to have a giant bonfire in the dry lake bed in Boulder City, a common activity; however, very recently the city has put a stop to that and no bonfires are permitted (we found that out a week before). Good thing we did though because nothing would have put a damper on the festivities like a police raid and a hefty fine.

Our theme was Come Unto Christ, which is also the Mutual theme for 2014. So Friday night was a mini-bonfire (aka a fire pit) at a member's 5-acre property. We were privileged to hear from our special speakers, BYU football player Adam Hine' and his awesome wife Cassidy. The volunteer coordinators at BYU said this couple was the most excited of any they have ever sent out and I could tell--they had so much enthusiasm for and interest in our youth. They gave great talks and the kids loved them.

It was way colder than they expected it to be!

The Hine's, the Youth Council chairpeople (Ryan and Lynsie), and the music people (Tyce and Ziggy).

Fire. It was hot.

We had a great turn out! Over 150 youth.

One of the highlights of the night was the kids writing down something that kept them from feeling close to the Lord (a sin, a distraction, a relationship, a habit) and threw the paper in the fire. As they watched it go up in flames they let that thing go, committing to stop or remove that practice from their lives. In addition they wrote down something to start doing to come unto Christ (for example, reading scriptures, attending seminary, praying). Brother Hine' encouraged the youth to put that goal in a place they would see it every day.

They kids also roasted marshmallows, ate smores, and listened to Tyce and his friend Ziggy play guitar and sing. (They were fantastic.)

Tyce and Ziggy at Homecoming.
The twins came and were awesome. They made dirt angels and played with the extra wood like blocks. They asked the Hine's to sign their boards and our boys were absolutely delighted with their souvenir of the night.

Cute little dudes. It's not every 9-year-old who gets to go to youth conference.

I wish Mary would have come but she was in a "I want to be alone" mood and elected to stay home and draw.

Saturday dawned bright and early with breakfast starting at 6:30 a.m. I feel for the YM presidency who cooked the food because they got to the church at 5:30 a.m. Maybe even earlier. I waltzed in at the last minute with Mary, who--if you can believe it--actually got up and ready. (How did she do it? She pulled an all-nighter.) I was so very happy that she came that I didn't even care that I was running late because of her. I worked the check-in with Bro. Southwick. We handed out t-shirts and colored wrist bands to separate the kids in to 9 "families". After awhile we realized we are the worst team for that job--we are both too nice. When kids wanted to trade groups to be with someone else we couldn't take a hard line and say no. So we had two giant families and seven other small ones. Oh well.

The job we failed at. Can we get props for keeping people happy?

Breakfast provided by our fabulous food committee: pancakes, sausage, fruit, etc.

Three amigas: Mary, Taya, and Sara. 

Oh, hello, you're not BFFs with the Hine's like we are? Ah, too bad. They are awesome.

After breakfast the Hine's spoke to us about being a standard bearer. The flag is an important part of the BYU football team because it symbolizes spirit, honor, and tradition. Each "family" made their own standard with a core value each person committed to living. They each signed the flag and became standard bearers throughout the entire 5 mile walk to the temple. (We drove to a trailhead several miles from the stake center, then walked the remainder of the way.)

In conjunction with the focus on the temple, each youth walked in memory of someone who had passed on; they wrote that name on a piece of duct tape that was taped to the back of their shirts. Many youth said that that was a really special way to feel connected to a grandparent or ancestor.

At the trailhead. 

They staggered their leave times.
These cuties are in my ward: Courtney, Samantha, Emily, and Savannah.

They asked me to take a jumping one--yeah, it only took me 6 shots to get this.

Cam and Harrison were in the first group and they RAN.

There were three stations along the way, where the families refueled and received a challenge. From the scriptures someone read the designated verse that told them what ailment someone in the group would endure: blindness (the blindfolded person had to rely on helpers), famine (no snack at the station--that was a hard one!), broken legs/paralysis (a person had to be carried). I was positioned at the temple itself so I saw firsthand how hard it was for the groups to carry their injured person up the hill, so close to the end of the journey. Some were carried by two people, some by one, and one paralyzed girl was carried awkwardly by four! (I didn't envy her.) Harrison and Cameron both took turns being unable to walk and I think their family was glad to have some smaller kids in the group.

Finally they families made it to the temple.

A welcome sight.

A place of love and beauty.
I had a long time to think before the groups came through. Bryce was at one of the other stations. I was glad when Sister Crum came to join me.

The twins' group. Endurance.

The group Mary was in. Compassion.

Tyce's group. Integrity.

Nick Wheatley! Virtue.


Industry (aka refrain from idleness).

After all the groups had made it to the temple, they made their way further up the hill to the desert where they had lunch, and a final message from the Hine's. (We tried to reserve four{!} different church buildings near the temple to accommodate us but they were all busy. So the dry Nevada desert was our resting spot.)

We were so thankful that the Hine's were able to come. They were wonderful! They had to leave after this and we all missed them terribly.

Cassidy and Adam, such an amazing young couple.

We have such wonderful kids in this stake. We also have fabulous, hard-working adults who bring the youth committee's vision to life. I am in awe of all the work that went in to make this a great experience.

Tired and hungry. Sack lunch never tasted so good.

A lot of the kids lined the wall, and a lot sat on the sidewalk across the street.
Here are some of our wonderful youth.

One of the goals of the conference was to have the youth invite friends--and we had at least 10 come. That is awesome. One of them, Ziggy, told Bryce that he really loved the time to reflect and feel the Spirit. Another one, Austin, said that he loved seeing the temple. Bryce also told me that at his station, as the groups came by the person who jumped at the chance to read the next challenge from the scriptures was always a non-LDS friend. They added such a great feeling to the conference.

Later that night the kids went to the regional dance at Green Valley. Their stake Young Women's president wrote an email to all of us detailing the statistics (how many attended, brought dance cards, etc.) and included this sweet line:

Lake Mead Stake, we loved your youth conference t-shirts and your youth's beautiful sunburned faces!! They hiked all day and danced all night! 

At the insistence of Taya and Sara, Mary actually went. This was her first dance and she even danced with a BOY!!!! She was both delighted and mortified.

Sunday night was truly the culminating activity, a testimony meeting. It was wonderful. There was a choir made up of LDS and non-LDS kids, Abide with Me. It was so nice to be able to enjoy our shared love of the Lord through song. And of course the youth had such sweet experiences to share about the weekend. Hearing that they strengthened their testimonies and made strides to come closer to the Savior--man, that made all the work worthwhile. The closing song was the Mutual theme song for the year, Come Unto Christ. They kids sang it several times during youth conference but it was amazing to hear them sing it one last time.

So that was youth conference, a spiritually uplifting weekend spent with some of the best people in the world.

Monday, March 24, 2014

My Favorite Recluse

Mary read me this passage from "Alcatraz versus the Scrivener's Bones" by Brandon Sanderson. We laughed and hooted all through it because if you want to know what it's like to be Mary, then read away:

Writers--particularly storytellers like myself--write about people. That is ironic, since we actually know nothing about them.

Think about it. Why does someone become a writer? Is it because they like people? Of course not. Why else would we seek out a job where we get to spend all day, every day, cooped up in our basement with no company besides paper, a pencil, and our imaginary friends?

Writers hate people. If you've ever met a writer, you know that they're generally awkward, slovenly individuals who live beneath stairwells, hiss at those who pass, and forget to bathe for weeklong periods. And those are the socially competent ones.

No surprise, the girl with the 4 dozen chapter-filled spirals likes to be left alone. No amount of convincing or coaxing can get her to go somewhere or see people she doesn't want to. If you are invited in to her little world then you are a fortunate soul indeed.

Shortly after reading this Mary's friend Sara came over.

Sara said, "Sometimes when people find out my dad is in the stake presidency [at church] they feel intimidated and avoid me. Does that ever happen to you, Mary, because of your Mom's calling?"

Mary replied, "No. Usually when I tell people that my mom's the stake Young Women's president they say, "'Oh! I didn't know Rebecca Jones had a daughter!'"

Oh man, we had a good laugh over that!

But guess what, she went to church with me in the Newport ward (their ward conference) which was out of her comfort zone. And she attended most of youth conference earlier in the month and even went to her first dance(!). She interacted with humans and now she'll need a nice long break. And that's okay, she is who she is and I love her for it--even if she hisses at me when I enter her room (which she actually, literally does).

Friday, March 21, 2014

My New Ambition

I started to write a very long post about youth conference but I couldn't upload my pictures. Don't fear, it is coming. That was a great weekend and when I do finally write you'll be like, "Oh, wow, totally worth the wait, you guys had a blast!" I'm pretty sure that's what you'll say.

So I toy around with what I want to do with my life, kind of all the time. Last summer I was very excited about the prospect of getting a Masters in Public Health. I found a program and read up on the field and thought that it was a perfect fit for me. And then I looked at the job prospects . . . which are hardly any different from the ones I have now with a B.S. in Psychology and less than if I earned a MSW. So that took the wind out of my sails a bit.

But now I have a NEW excitement. Are you ready?

While I was in downward dog on Tuesday, it came to me. I want to become a yoga instructor.

If you're like Mary, you just made a face, like "Psh, what? why?"

But here's the thing: I think I would love it. I think I would be good at it. I've practiced yoga for several years and I've enjoyed its benefits; I would love to share that with others. What better way to ensure a lifetime devotion to physical, mental, and spiritual health than to choose a career that depended on it? I could be the kind of teacher that I wish I had.

(Yes, I did sign up for a class. My current teacher talks too much and thinks she's funny. There is no "funny" in yoga.)

So what this would mean is 200 hours of training. And I won't lie, it's a financial racket I hope to get in on someday. Not nearly as expensive as a masters degree but a bite nonetheless.

Can we really put a cost on personal fulfillment though? (Bryce, do not answer.)

I will keep you posted on my latest flight of fancy. Namaste.