Monday, December 15, 2008

The Story (Segment 1)

I've been meaning to do this for a while, and now that school is over I finally have some time. Its a long, long story, and there are parts that even I don't believe! Here is the mild beginning...

The Long, Exciting, Often Difficult, Always Crazy Story of
Ruthie and Brant

(as told from Ruthie’s extremely unbiased perspective)

Part I – The Early Years

I guess we technically met in 2003, but I’m not sure if we ever actually talked then. I moved to College Station and into the Bryan University Ward for the first time in January. Brant had been there for years. Actually, he’d lived in Bryan his whole life. But, he had a girlfriend at the time I arrived and I wasted no time in going after another interest (that would be Cash, for those of you trying to figure out the reference). We were only in the ward together for a few months before Brant left on his mission. Brant’s most vivid memory of me during this time period happened when he was sitting behind me in Sunday school and I was sitting next to Cash. Apparently Cash was trying to hold my hand, but I was very determined to pay attention to the lesson, not him. At one point I impatiently turned and gave Cash a very stern look after which he ceased all attempts at physical contact for the remainder of the lesson. Apparently Brant was very impressed. I, on the other hand, only have one vague memory of Brant during this time, and that was the day of his mission farewell in March or April. I was surprised to learn he was going on a mission for two reasons – he looked much older than a 19-year-old, and he had a girlfriend!

Part II – Setting the Stage

The next time I saw Brant was three years later. I had been home from my mission for about a month and taken a trip to College Station to see old friends and find a place to live. I planned on moving back a few weeks later. I went to the ward on Sunday and was sitting on the left edge of a center pew. When Brant walked up to hand me the sacrament tray our eyes met for a brief moment and he broke into that beautiful, shy half smile that still melts me to pieces every time. There was something about his deep brown eyes and dark mysterious complexion that intrigued me. I didn’t know a thing about him, but I wanted to go out with him. At some point during that day I found out his name. I also found out that he was the Ward Mission Leader. Perfect, I thought. Being a newly returned missionary the chances of my being called to the ward mission were very high – the perfect setting to get to know each other and maybe – just maybe – I might even catch his eye.
My hopes were partially fulfilled when shortly after my moving back to the ward I was indeed called as a Ward Missionary. Only one problem – somewhere in the weeks since our last meeting Brant had started dating someone else. It was torture! I felt so guilty! We were spending time together at least once a week in our callings, and it was so easy to flirt with him! I became increasingly confident in my opinion that if we could only go out a time or two we surely would discover that we’re perfect for each other! I also was developing quite a strong opinion that the girl he was dating at the time was not right for him. Even the sister missionaries serving in the ward at the time agreed that we were perfect for each other! Why couldn’t he see it?!
After a couple months things did end between him and the “other girl” (who, by the way, is a dear friend of mine. I have nothing against her. I just honestly didn’t think they were right for each other). For a brief time I thought I would finally have my chance. But my hopes proved false once again when I learned he had reconvened an old relationship with a girl in another state. Soon he was released as Ward Mission Leader and as the months went on I gave up hope of ever getting to date him. The girl from out of state came to visit a couple times and I even met her and thought she was a wonderful person. By the end of the year Brant and I only chatted occasionally at church and I was expecting to hear any day that he was engaged.

Tune in next time as the plot thickens in Part III - The Preliminaries!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Opening Night

I had the amazing opportunity to fly back to DC this weekend for Washington National Opera's 08-09 Season Opening Night festivities. The opera itself was amazing. La Traviata is an extremely popular opera. Even if you're not an opera person you would have recognized half the songs because they are used in commercials and movies so much. La Traviata is actually the opera they see in Pretty Woman. It was incredible. The story is set in mid 19th-century upper-class France, and the production stayed true to this. The sets and costumes were ornate and gorgeous, the singing was amazing, the music was powerful and moving. It was a perfect opera experience. They actually simulcasted it live to the Nationals Ballpark, so anyone could go sit on the infield and watch it live on the jumbotron for free. I'm guessing there were some opera fans born at the ballpark last night.

After the opera, I went with Lanie, my boss from this summer, to the Opening Night Gala at the Italian Embassy. It was no Opera Ball, but impressive enough. Rather than being an open-mingle type event, it was actually a sit down dinner. Between courses the opera's President, Executive Director, and General Director Placido Domingo spoke, acknowledging special guests, cast members, and others in the audience. The dinner was pretty good. I had veal for the first time, and actually kind of liked it! And, the dessert was amazing. The tables were gorgeous, but the Italian Embassy was not very impressive. Actually, it wasn't impressive at all. A little disappointing. But, overall it was an amazing night, and I felt very special to be able to jet across the country just to go to an opera and fancy party!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

"Passionate Possession"

"I have said that Texas is a state of mind, but I think it is more than that. It is a mystique closely approximating a religion. And this is true to the extent that people either passionately love Texas or passionately hate it and, as in other religions, few people dare to inspect it for fear of losing their bearings in mystery or paradox. But I think there will be little quarrel with my feeling that Texas is one thing. For all its enormous range of space, climate, and physical appearance, and for all the internal squabbles, contentions, and strivings, Texas has a tight cohesiveness perhaps stronger than any other section of America. Rich, poor, Panhandle, Gulf, city, country, Texas is the obsession, the proper study and the passionate possession of all Texans."
-John Steinbeck

Interesting quote a fellow Texan shared with me. I wouldn't call it an "obsession" for me personally, but "passionate possession" could be accurate. All I know is I sure am looking forward to crossing the good ol' Red River Sunday afternoon.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Playlist (in chronological order)

Elektra, by Richard Strauss
When: Thursday, May 15, 2008, 7:30pm
Where: Kennedy Center Opera House, Washington, DC
What: Opera, 1 act
Who: Washington National Opera
Cast highlights: Susan Bullock, Christine Goerke, Irina Mishura, Robert Cantrell, Daniel Sumegi

While Elektra is only about an hour long, it has more intensity packed into it than most three-hour operas! I mean, it was intense, in every sense of the word - the music, the plot, the characters, the scenery… Intense. I enjoyed getting to see it, but I must say, it was not my favorite. The orchestra frequently overpowered the singers (understandably so, since it is written for a huge orchestra), and while I appreciate the modern-style costumes and scenery being symbolic of the tormented mind of the main character, it was just plain not pretty. And I like my opera pretty. Maybe that’s uncultured of me, but it’s the truth. I like to watch sets and costumes and characters that are pretty.

El Niño by John Adams
When: Sunday, May 18, 2008, 7:30pm
Where: Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington, DC
What: Oratorio (sacred text)
Who: The Choral Arts Society of Washington
Cast highlights: Sharla Nafziger, Leslie Mutchler, Christopheren Nomura, Brian Cummings, Paul Flight, Steven Rickards, Children's Chorus of Washington

My sister Nancy and I went to this concert together. It is a modern work, so naturally there were a lot of parts I liked, and a lot I didn't. The text of El Niño is a collection of writings/scripture about the birth of Christ, but it is more focused on birth in general, specifically from the woman's perspective. I actually really enjoyed the text. It consisted of a choir, soloists, orchestra, and a large screen over the stage with scenes to help depict the message the music. After a few minutes I mostly quit paying attention to the screen. It was a lot of modern dance and pictures which I didn't entirely understand, so it was more of a distraction than anything else for me.

Tamerlano, by George Frideric Handel
When: Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Where: Kennedy Center Opera House, Washington, DC
What: Opera, 3 acts
Who: Washington National Opera
Cast highlights: Sarah Coburn, Patricia Bardon, Plácido Domingo, David Daniels

I still get excited just thinking about Tamerlano. It was absolutely, hands-down the best opera I have ever seen. I can’t even express how much I loved it! The cast, production, and music were all top of the line. Sarah Coburn completely stole the show with her beautiful, pure, natural, effortless soprano sound. She and Patricia Bardon (a mezzo-soprano playing a male role) performed a gorgeous duet in the 3rd act that absolutely turned my insides to mush. The rest of the audience apparently felt the same way, because I have never witnessed such a long applause at the end of a number mid-act. Of course Plácido Domingo was fabulous. I have never seen anyone die so beautifully! I even enjoyed listening to David Daniels, the countertenor. Normally I have a hard time with countertenors. I acknowledge that it takes a huge amount of talent for a male to sing as high as a mezzo soprano, but lets be honest, it’s just a little weird. But David Daniels was fabulous. He made it sound natural and effortless, which is not always the case with a countertenor. Seriously, I can’t think of a thing I didn’t like about Tamerlano.

It was completely sold out, but I managed to snag a "standing room only" ticket. I stood in the back next to a railing, where I had to crouch down to see the supertitles over the stage, for over three hours. It reminded me very much of an Aggie football game, where all the students stand the entire game. You only get to sit down during half-time (or intermission in this case), and it feels so good. But the fact of the matter is that even though you're tired and your feet are killing you, what you are witnessing is so exciting that you are completely on a high by the time its over. Yes, thats how good Tamerlano was. I would stand through it again any day.

Selections from Giacomo Puccini's La Bohéme
When: Thursday, May 29, 2008, 7:30pm
Where: Kennedy Center Opera House, Washington, DC
What: Open Orchestra Rehearsal
Who: Washington National Opera
Cast highlights: WNO Young Artists Aundi Marie Moore, Elizabeth Andrews Roberts, Yingxi Zhang, Oleksandr Pushniak

This was very cool. The opera decided to open up this rehearsal to its season ticket holders to give them an inside look at the rehearsal process. The conductor, Riccardo Frizza, was mic-ed so that we could hear everything going on. They began with just the orchestra and conductor rehearsing, and then brought in the singers and added them. One of my favorite parts was when the conductor turned to the audience and said in his thick Italian accent "the problem with singers is that they are always acting, and they forget to pay attention to the baton." Maybe you had to be there, but it was really funny the way he said it. After the one-hour rehearsal they opened up for questions with the singers, conductor, and WNO's Artistic Director. I kept quiet so that the subscribers could ask questions (I can ask questions whenever I want to). Most of the questions were directed at the singers. When asked how long it takes to learn a new role, Elizabeth Andrews Roberts replied that when you are a young aspiring singer like them, if someone asks you if you can perform tomorrow, the answer is always "yes."

Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni
When: Friday, May 30, 2008, 7:30pm
Where: Kennedy Center Opera House, Washington, DC
What: Opera, 1 act, in concert (no sets/costumes, orchestra on the stage)
Who: Washington National Opera
Cast highlights: Salvatore Licitra, Dolora Zajick, Madeleine Gray, Gordon Hawkins, Leslie Mutchler

This was a wonderful production. The cast did a great job of acting out the parts even though they were not in costume. I have a confession, though. I went straight to the opera after work and didn't get a good dinner. About half way through I found myself unable to focus on anything besides what I would grab to eat on the way home. Wendy's or Chick-fil-A? Chic-fil-A won't be open this late, so I'll have to go to Wendy's. I want french fries, but I have to get some real food too! No, I'm not in the mood for a sandwich. Chicken nuggets?... It was very sad indeed.

Eugene Onegin, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
When: Thursday, June 12, 2008, 7:00pm
Where: Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington, DC
What: Opera, 3 acts, in concert (no sets/costumes, orchestra on the stage)
Who: National Symphony Orchestra
Cast highlights: Irina Mataeva, Sergei Leiferkus, Daniil Shtoda, Irina Tchistjakova, Ekaterina Semenchuk

I really didn't know what to expect with this one, but I was pleasantly surprised! It was a wonderful opera in every way from the music to the plot to the performers. Who knew Russian could sound so pretty? I would really like to see the full production of this opera some day.

Now do you understand why I've been so busy? It should be slowing down for the rest of the summer because our season is now over as well as The National Symphony Orchestra's.

Did I mention that I didn't pay a cent for any of these? My internship totally rocks.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Opera Ball

When: Friday, June 6, 2008 10:00pm
What: Washington National Opera's 2008 Opera Ball
Where: The French Ambassador's Residence, Washington, DC

Oh how wonderful it was! Opera Ball is Washington National Opera's biggest event of the year, and has been called the best party of the year in DC. There were many comments last night that this was the best Opera Ball ever.

Nancy diligently worked her circle and found this beautiful dress that I borrowed from a girl in her ward who wore it to Prom last year. I got a lot of compliments about it. One of the "official" photographers actually requested a picture of me - just me in my gorgeous dress! HOW COOL!

From the luminares along the driveway and silhouettes in the windows as you walked up to the house, to the crystal chandeliers hanging from the trees in the back yard, it was beautiful in every way. Dinners were held before the Ball at 22 different Ambassadors' homes, and then everyone came to the Ball for desserts and dancing:

There were a lot of important people there from Ambassadors to Congressman to crazy left-wing political candidates. My favorite people were the ones dressed in opera costumes. They were so beautiful and fun!

This one was my favorite:

You should have seen the guys in wigs, tights, and heels getting jiggy on the dance floor to 80's music at the end of the night!

She ran away when she saw I was trying to get a picture (why?!), but can you see that her gown and head piece have lights?!

For the first hour I was assigned to hang out near the steps going down off the balcony to the service trailer and make sure no guests went down there. For the second hour I was assigned to "warm" the Empire Room. Now that was fun! Why? Because I was right next to this amazing spread prepared by the French Ambassador's chefs:

Yes, that is a little cup of creme brulet (sp?). Yes, that is gold leafing on the chocolate!

Near the end of the night, after most of the guests were gone and most of the staff were relieved from their posts, the dance floor was filled with staff members and costumed supers going nuts on the dance floor. I have to be honest, I had some prom flashbacks, but it was pretty fun seeing all the people I work with - including some that are pretty high up in the company - letting loose like that! I think the open bar might have had something to do with it...

Can you tell we're not as "fresh" looking? Did I mention the dance floor was outside and it was in the 80's?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Ruben is my Home Boy

I signed up a while back to work as a runner for this award show going on at the Kennedy Center this week. I didn't know anything about it, but it paid well. It turned out to be the Bradley Awards, which is one of those "make the world a better place" foundations honoring people whose work fits under their mission. Monday we mostly sat around in between a few minor errands, but today was pretty busy, and pretty dang cool!

Guess who the main entertainer was for the award show? RUBEN STUDDARD!

Each person making a stage appearance was assigned to one of us runners to be in charge of them and make sure they got where they needed to be on stage, etc. No, I wasn't assigned Ruben. I had the CEO of the Foundation, and he's done this enough times to not really need much help. All morning was spent running through the show with us standing in as our people. All afternoon was spent rehearsing certain parts with the actual performers. All evening was the show!

Ruben is really laid back and cool. He is also very talented - each of his numbers were absolutely fabulous. He has a beautiful voice.

I was standing in the wing when Ruben was on stage rehearsing one of his songs this afternoon (which was sounding amazing!). After he finished the song the stage crew started chatting about something and he looked over into the wing. I gave him a big cheesy smile and two animated thumbs up. He did it right back at me! It was so cool!

I am totally friends now with Alvin. Alvin is technically Ruben's Music Director, but they go way back (way before American Idol) and used to play in a band together in Alabama. I asked him if Ruben ever votes on American Idol. He said he definitely watches it, but he doesn't think he votes. He gave me his card (yes, I'm special), so I asked him if he would come to Texas and play at my next birthday party if I asked him to. He said yes... until I added
the "for free" part.

I still think he's persuadable.

I got Ruben's autograph on my program!

Sarah Pfisterer, a Broadway singer, was also there. She is really really nice - a very pleasant person. I really enjoyed getting to know her and all the great people on the crew as well.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

WNO Pays Rent to the Kennedy Center

Oh I have so much to catch up on! The great parody of blogging: lots to blog about = lots going on = no time for blogging! Okay, I'll catch you up on as much as I can in the little bit of time I have tonight. Then I'll write more tomorrow, I hope.

Wednesday the 21st I got to take my first trip out to the Washington National Opera Studio (and, consequently, my first experience riding the metro). This is a big facility all the way on the other side of DC where we have our costume studio, Education Department, and three big stage-sized rehearsal spaces. All employees were invited for a meeting.

Placido was there, and this time we got a picture:

This is all the interns with Placido Domingo, General Director of Washington National Opera. What you don't see is his right hand, which is firmly clutching my left arm. It was actually a little awkward.

It was a very interesting meeting. We just got a new Executive Director a few months ago, and most of the meeting was about his plan to get the company on better ground financially. Here are a couple mind-boggling, important tidbits that most people don't know about Washington National Opera:
  • Opera is by far the most expensive art form. Ticket sales only account for about 40% of our budget. The rest has to be obtained through donations and grants.
  • Because we perform at the Kennedy Center, most people think we are affiliated with them. WE ARE NOT PART OF THE KENNEDY CENTER! We pay the Kennedy Center way more than most people make in a year to rent their space to perform our operas! This is huge! This is the reason we hardly get any support from Capitol Hill - they think they are helping us by helping the Kennedy Center, but we are not benefiting from it at all!
We really need more support. It would be a huge tragedy if our nation's capitol lost its opera for lack of support! I know a lot of people don't understand or like opera, but think about it this way: We all know that it is important for all of us, especially children, to have a creative outlet. Art, music, theater, etc. in many different forms are taught in schools because of its many benefits to human development, and it is expected that most people will zero in on one or two specific modes of creativity to cultivate throughout their lives. Now think about what opera really is - it is a single form of art that contains almost every art form - music, visual art in sets, props, and costumes, theater, poetry, linguistics, etc. Its all there! I really believe that opera is quite possibly the best art form to expose our children to, because through it they can explore so many different modes of creativity and then have many options to choose from as far as their own creative outlets. There is just nothing else like it. And, I know what you're thinking, but there are a lot of children's operas out these days. The most popular is Hansel and Gretel. That is one reason to support opera, even if you don't particularly care for it.

So, if you know anyone who knows anyone important, just do me a favor and pass the message along to them that Washington National Opera not only pays the Kennedy Center to use their opera house, but is really lacking in sufficient support. You might have fun seeing their reaction. :) Because seriously, does anyone else think its absolutely absurd that the National Opera is undersupported?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Random Kennedy Center Pictures

These are some random pictures I've taken while enjoying the scenery around the Kennedy Center on my lunch breaks.

There is a reflecting pool out in front of the main entrance with mallard ducks in it!

Yesterday while I was eating lunch, I watched one slowly creep up on me from far away, and eventually sit down on the ledge right next to me. I'm pretty sure he was expecting me to feed him.

When I got up to try to get a better picture, he came after my carrots!

The view off the back deck of the Kennedy Center - you can see the Francis Scott Key bridge going across the Potomac River into Virginia and some kind of cool church poking up in the distance. The Watergate, where I work, is right on the other side of that tree on the right.

Friday, May 23, 2008

the many links in our lives

I really love how my 4-year-old niece Naomi approaches her bedtime prayers. You tell her its time to pray and she asks "What did I do today?" You talk about what you did that day and then her entire prayer is repeating that list with a "thank you for..." before each thing. I really love it. It is a great way begin a bedtime prayer. Its amazing to me how a prayer that begins with a few expressions of gratitude for a seemingly simple day can lead into a flowing communication with the Father, new (or repeat) revelation, and praise for his hand in your life.

This was the general progression of my bedtime prayer last night:

Thank you for another exciting day. I really am loving my internship and really think I've finally found something I can do and be passionate about for the rest of my life.

Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to do this internship.

I know I got this internship and am doing well at it because of my experience working for Express and all the things I've learned working there for so many years. Thank you for setting things up so that
five years ago when I walked into the door of Express needing a job from 8-12 Monday-Friday they would just happen to be looking for someone to work in the front office from 8-12 Monday-Friday.

Thank you for the opportunity to work for ANS in Plano before moving to College Station. I probably would never have gotten the job at Express if it weren't for the experience I got there. I got the job at ANS because of a guy I dated in high school, Randy. His mom worked there and he hooked me up with her.

HOLD IT, HOLD IT!!!! My entire career can be traced back to Randy?!?!?! No no no no no....

Heavenly Father, you really are absolutely amazing.

So we're not going to give Randy all the credit, but who would have thought that so many important things in my life would go all the way back to someone I knew when I was sixteen? I am so thankful Heavenly Father has been with me through it all, guiding me along the way and putting experiences in my path to get me where I need to be so that I can fulfill the mission he has for me - whatever that is.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Maestro Domingo... and other developments.

Updates as promised...

I happened to be filling in at the reception desk yesterday when Placido Domingo happened to be coming in to the office for a meeting (he doesn't actually come to the office very often). I saw him walking towards me from the elevator. I knew it was him. He stopped, shook my hand, and introduced himself to me as "Placido" with a kind smile, a soft voice and a very thick spanish accent. He was not the commanding and powerful presence I expected. He seemed more like just a nice old man. I introduced myself as the Human Resources Intern and informed him that his guests were waiting in his office. That was it. As he walked away I couldn't help but feel a little giggly and star-struck. It was just so cool!

Last night I attended my first WNO opera - Richard Strauss's Elektra. I sat in a $170/ticket seat for absolutely free! Now that is a good reason to work for an opera! I've never been that close at an opera before. It was so cool! The Opera House at the Kennedy Center is absolutely beautiful. As for the opera itself... lets just say this is not a beginners opera. It is a Greek tragedy put to music by a fairly modern composer. It is very very dramatic, expressive, and intense! I found myself zoning out a lot given the sad news I had received earlier in the day. The whole plot revolving around death didn't help. I might try to see it again next week. I think I will like it more the second time.

After the opera, Mr. & Mrs. Domingo (as in Placido) put on a party exclusively for opera staff. I didn't even see Placido, although I know he was there. I ended up spending most of the night mingling with a group of twenty-something women. It was very fun to hear their tales of crazy people on the metro, sacrificing wealth and prosperity for a career in the arts, how Angelina Jolie really is a nut job, and other enlightening topics.

My supervisor has caught on to the fact that I'm a good editor, and therefore one of the things I worked on this week is proofreading the Staff Directory, which includes job descriptions and short bios on each administrative staff member. I am amazed at how practically everyone has some kind of music and/or theater background. I am not in an organization of Business majors, I am in an organization of Music majors! That is so cool! I really think it is a testimony of how an education in the arts prepares the mind and increases aptitude to adapt, learn new skills, and thrive in a variety of environments.

There used to be two Human Resources people at the opera, but about a month ago one of the positions was eliminated. The person who left was completely responsible for the internship program, so my supervisor is still working on getting a grasp on how to handle the interns. I guess I've impressed her, because she informed me today that I am pretty much going to be handling the interns this summer. Most of them start this coming Monday, and I will be facilitating their orientation meeting and "icebreaking" activities. She will be present, but she is going to let me take control and lead the meeting. I could be wrong, but I think its a little crazy that she has this much trust in me after only knowing me for five days! However, I am excited to be given some real responsibility. I'm sure I will learn a lot... and that is what I'm here for after all!

One perk of being so involved with the interns is that I get to attend a meeting in July that is basically a group of internship program administrators in arts organizations around the DC area. Talk about a great opportunity to make connections! Oh, and can you guess where the meeting will be held? Wolf Trap. The opera company that was my first choice for an internship. A magically classy amphitheater in the woods of Virginia.

I am just so happy that things are turning out just how I had hoped. I am being flooded with opportunities to learn new things, meet important people, network, make connections, attend cultural events, increase my value as an employee, etc. This is just so cool!!!!!

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Again, its late and I need to go to bed, but I really need to blog tonight.

It was a great day at work. I had some networking opportunities, filled in at the reception desk all day, briefly met Placido Domingo, attended my first WNO opera, Elektra, and attended an exclusive party put on by Mr. Domingo for the staff after the opera. Everything is amazing with my internship. I'll write about all of that later.

In the midst of this exciting day I got some very sad news. I checked my voicemail on my lunch hour and was surprised to have a message from one of my Professors from A&M, asking me to call her back on her personal cell phone. When I did she informed me that one of my classmates was killed in a car accident yesterday. Mary Beth was my best friend at school. We just completed four semesters of music theory together, being the only two girls in a 5-member class. We were also the only two upper-level voice students. Lets just say we related to each other on many levels. We just recently started to do things together outside of school and were really becoming good friends. She just graduated last week, and I was really excited that she had decided to stay at A&M for grad school so that we could continue to be friends. I really really love Mary Beth.

It has been such a busy day that I haven't had a lot of time to let it sink in, but I have had some thoughts. Most of them are very hopeful:

Just this morning on my way to work I listened to Elder Earl C. Tingey's talk "The Great Plan of Happiness" twice (so it would really sink in). In this talk he basically explains how the Atonement of Jesus Christ is the Plan of Happiness. He explains how Christ's resurrection brought immortality to all of us, and how His suffering for our sins means that we can be clean and return to Him. I don't think its a coincidence that I listened to that talk today. I know that Mary Beth is eternal. I know that her spirit lives still and I know that it will soon be reunited with her perfected, glorified body. I know this because I know that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is real.

While some people may be sad by her having just graduated, I think it is wonderful. All her hard work, time, and money was not wasted. She has taken all that knowledge with her, and it will be useful to her as she continues her work throughout the eternities. What a wonderful thing that she spent her time on earth focusing on things that are of eternal value and can go with her.

Mary Beth was an absolutely wonderful person with high moral values and high standards. I was really looking forward to sharing more about the gospel with her. But, I know that she is now in the Spirit World learning about it. I hope that when she arrived on the other side she was greeted by her forbears, who anxiously put their arms around her and lovingly said something like "I've got something really really awesome to tell you about...." I don't have any feelings of guilt or regret. I just feel really grateful for the Father's plan to give all of his children a chance to learn the fullness of his gospel and accept it.

The day before I left for the summer Mary Beth and I got together to hang out and watch a movie. I didn't really have time for it, but we'd been talking about doing it for a while and I really wanted to spend some time with her before leaving for the summer. So, I made time. I am so grateful I did.

Mary Beth had her senior voice recital about a month ago, and I'm pretty sure her whole family came. How wonderful that all of her family got to see her so recently, and in an attitude of acknowledging her accomplishments.

It is amazing to me how a knowledge and testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ changes everything. This is not a tragedy, but an unexpected turn of events in Heavenly Father's great eternal plan. And, I know from ample personal experience that unexpected turns of events in the Father's plan always bring greater happiness than we ever before imagined -when we let our faith guide us through.

I am sad to be so far away right now. I wish I could attend her services. I wish I could be there for Silver Taps in her honor. But, I will look forward to next April 21st, when I will proudly answer "Here" as her name is called at Muster.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

First Two Days

Its late and I need to go to bed, but here are some highlights of my first two days of interning at the Washington National Opera:
  • The offices are actually located in the Watergate complex (its a cluster of buildings, including the famous hotel, residences, offices, and shopping). The Kennedy Center is directly across the street and a great place to wander during lunch hour.
  • Only two interns, including me, started this week. Everyone else starts this coming Monday. Therefore, my big project this week is updating all the information the new interns are given and putting together the binders for everyone. I literally read the entire notebook yesterday to proof for grammatical errors, update any old information, etc. I also searched the internet and made a list of free entertainment in the area - good to know!
  • Office hours are 10:00am to 6:00pm. Nice because I can take I-66 into the city, which is entirely HOV during rush hour, and with a 1-hour lunch that makes for only a 7-hour work day. Bad because the kids are asleep by the time I get home at night.
  • I found out that a lot of people in arts management careers are musicians who realized one day that they needed to grow up and get a real job. I was nervous about being in Human Resources with no business education. On the contrary, I found out that the reason they selected me is because I was the only one they interviewed that seemed to really know something about HR and act interested in it.
  • This Thursday I get to attend the opera Elektra by Richard Strauss. Placido Domingo is starring, and after the performance he is having a party exclusively for WNO staff and I get to go! I'M GOING TO MEET PLACIDO DOMINGO ON THURSDAY!
  • Next week I get to attend the last opera of this season, Handel's Tamerlano. I am really excited about this one because it is a very early opera - most operas performed today were composed much later than this one. Every performance is completely sold out, so my ticket is "standing room only." At least I get to go!
  • I get to attend the Opera Ball in June. This is a black tie affair held at the French Embassy. It is THE major fundraising event for the opera and apparently considered one of the the top 5 fanciest parties in DC all year. I volunteered to help out- I'm not sure exactly what that entails, but they did tell me that I might be in costume....? I'm just excited to get to go to the ball!
  • DC roads are insane and don't make any sense. I have lost count of the number of times I've gotten lost, turned around, on the wrong road with no way out, etc. Seriously. Last night I actually went back to the Kennedy Center to start over after getting so turned around I had no clue where I was but saw a sign that said Kennedy Center. About half an hour later I went back to the Key Bridge to start over from there. After over two stressful hours, I finally made it home. One wrong turn and you're doomed forever. There are no easy U-turns in DC. NONE!
  • I went to Institute tonight and met some of the ward. They seem like a nice friendly group. The #1 question following my telling them I'm here for the summer was, "From BYU?" ...No
  • I seem to be having a very hard time getting to bed on time, but whats new?
To hear about my fun weekend with Nancy & the family, check out Nancy's blog.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Road Trip

Mom and I arrived at Nancy's house in Virginia last night around 6:00. We had a very fun and relaxing road trip. We drove up through the Northeast corner of Texas, through Texarkana and across Arkansas, crossed the Mississippi River into Tennessee at Memphis, then stopped to spend the night in Nashville.

We got to Nashville around 5:30 so we were right in the middle of rush hour, but we took advantage of the slow traffic to cruise through downtown Nashville and see some sights. We drove through Music Row and actually saw a guy in a cowboy hat walking down the street with his guitar on his back -a classic Nashville picture. After a quick look around downtown we were determined to go to the Bluebird Cafe, known for being a sort of "songwriter's haven." Many songwriters (and not just country ones) have gotten their start there. It took us FOREVER to find it. It was not at all where we expected!- nowhere near music row or anything else "Nashville"-ish. We followed the GPS and still couldn't see it, so finally we went in to a Whole Foods Market and asked someone. We were lucky to find some music-loving locals who directed us there. We never would have found it without them! It is a tiny little place stuck in the middle of a strip mall between two retail stores with a very discreet sign.

We walked in and there were four songwriters sitting in the midst of all the tables, in a circle facing each other. The each had a guitar and a microphone. We sat and ate and watched them go around the circle taking turns singing their own songs. It was so cool! One of the songwriters did a couple songs that I actually know because they have been on the radio! One was "I Would Have Loved You Anyway" recorded by Trisha Yearwood and the other was "One Day Closer to You" recorded by Carolyn Dawn Johnson. I really like "One Day Closer to You", though it was never a big hit. Lets just say I can relate to the words.

The walls were completely plastered with signed headshots from various artists who have passed through the Bluebird. Some of the ones I noticed were Trisha Yearwood, Townes Van Zandt, Pam Tillis, Carlene Carter, Walt Wilkins, and even Barbara Walters! Have I mentioned that it was so cool!

We had a comfortable nights sleep at a hotel that night and were off the next morning to finish our trip. We spent almost the whole day yesterday driving through the Smoky Mountains and Blue Ridge Mountains. It was gorgeous!- hills and peaks covered with huge trees and different hues of green. Southwestern Virginia was beautiful with picturesque farmhouses with picket fences on rolling green hills with red barns.

Mom and I really enjoyed a relaxing road trip without an overly filled car, screaming kids, boys, or junk food.

But, we are very very happy to finally be here!!!!!!!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

All packed up

My roommate and I have a habit of leaving each other notes on the bathroom mirror in dry erase marker - especially during week's like this one where we're both so busy that we barely see each other.

Today I came home and this is what I found:

Ruth =( Your
room looks
so bare. =(
It makes me
be only 90% excited
for you & 10% sad....
I'm more like 80/20....
More like 20/80.

I'll miss you too, Heather!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Eye Doctor Blues

*** Warning! Much complaining to follow ***

I went to the eye doctor yesterday. The news was not good. There is irritation all over my eyes and little white spots all over my corneas - white blood cells. There is no way for the doctor to even determine what the problem is or what my proper contact prescription should be until they heal. Usually white spots like that appear from wearing contacts for too long, sleeping in them, not cleaning them properly, etc. But in those cases the white spots would only be in a couple areas. Mine are all over. The doctor says he's never seen anything like it before, but he tells me not to worry about it because it will heal. Right.

What that means? I'm banned from wearing contacts for at least 2-3 weeks. I told him I was leaving town next week and he actually suggested that I wear my contacts all summer and come see him when I get back! Yeah right! I am not wearing my glasses all summer! I will go see an eye doctor in Virgina in 2-3 weeks, thank you very much!

I do not like wearing my glasses! They are heavy, they slip down my nose, they mess up my hair, and they cover up my eyes which, I must say, are a very important element of my animated mannerisms! Plus, I really really don't like driving in my glasses. No peripheral vision, no quick glances into my blind spot, and no sunglasses. Plus, not wearing contacts is making my eyes run, which makes my nose run, which creates drainage in my throat - and my voice recital is tonight! AAAARGH!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Top 10 Reasons I'm Excited About This Summer

10. As much as working for Express Employment Professionals has been a blessing over the years, a bit of break has become extremely necessary in order to maintain my sanity.

9. I get to sleep in a place with real central air conditioning... ALL SUMMER LONG!

8. I can see all the DC sights - all of them! ...And all the parts of the Smithsonian that I'm interested in. There will ne'er
be a boring lunch break!

7. Becki Byrd Wilson, my old (and maybe favorite) mission companion lives near Richmond. Thats only a couple hours away! This will be the first time I've got to see anyone from the mission since I've been home.

6. I'll find out if a career in Arts Management is really as cool as it sounds (and it sounds pretty dang cool!).

5. I get to meet Placido Domingo (I think)!
The Three Tenors, the Metropolitan Opera -- Yes, that Placido Domingo! He is the General Director of the Washington National Opera and the namesake of the Intern/Apprentice Program.

4. Two road trips with mom. I've been on many a road trip with my mother, but never just the two of us. I'm anticipating some great bonding and great memories.

3. I get to work for a REAL OPERA! I'll be on the inside, in the nitty-gritty, behind the scenes, experiencing it all! Is it just me, or is that the coolest thing ever!?!

2. I get to spend a lot of real, quality bonding time with Nancy and her family. By the time the summer is over I will know the kids' routines, languages, quirks, etc. Actually, I'll probably know some of Nancy's and Richard's too! I am so excited to be able to really get to know the whole family. Plus, Naomi is actually old enough to remember it!

and the number 1 reason is... drum roll please....

1. What has become a quite complex and involved day dream (and don't think I came up with this all by myself): I go to my first day of my internship only to find out that one of the other interns is a member of the church too. And this other LDS intern just happens to be male, single, and have cute dimples. He has just graduated so he is fully able to move to Texas for me and he even knows how to two-step. One pleasant evening after work we go for a leisurely stroll around DC and have our first kiss on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial (ok, that part I came up with myself). We then fall madly in love, get married, and immediately begin a life of opera-loving prosperity.

Yep. I'm a girl.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Would You Care to be an Ogre or a Smurf Today?

Sometimes I feel like my life isn't all that different from that of my nieces and nephews that my siblings blog about. Today my roommate, Heather, and I had our last Sunday dinner together before I leave for the summer - poppyseed chicken, corn, a failed attempt at fried green tomatoes (yuck!), and for dessert...

Vanilla ice cream with cinnamon and food color of choice. Mine was blue. Heather's was green (she ate all of hers before we thought to take a picture). We decided hers was ogre ice cream and mine was smurf ice cream. Then we discussed how cool this would be for a Family Home Evening treat. Thats when I realized that I'm not all that different from a four-year-old in many ways.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

the contract is out

Its official. At least two of my professors really are trying to kill me. I just can't come up with any other explanation for this madness. I am overwhelmed, stressed, and tired!

The bright side? In less than three weeks it will all be over. And, in exactly three weeks I will be in the middle of a fun-filled, memory-forming road trip with my mom, on my way to what I'm anticipating will be the coolest experience I've had since my mission. And, while the two professors in question have been haunting my dreams now for two semesters, I do not have to take any more classes from either of them!

So while I have oober amounts of work to do in the next few days and will probably be here at the library until at least 10:00 tonight, I just spent the last 45 minutes reading the blogs of just about everybody I know.

What can I say? You gotta have a break some time. Now back to Debussy.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Pizza, Relief Society, and Ants on a Log

This week was one of the rare occasions when my roommate doesn't have to work on Friday. So, we decided to make it an official roommate hang-out day. This is what we did:

Lunch at DoubleDaves Pizza (famous for their pepperoni rolls). I had coupons for a free lunch buffet.

A one-hour time out from roommate hang-out day for me to have a Relief Society Presidency Meeting. This was my first meeting with my newly sustained counselors. They are amazing and I am so excited to see what they will bring to our sisters. Also, these are the daring two who will run things while I am gone all summer, but don't get released.

A very leisurely trip to
the grocery store for supplies. Our Bishop is the manager so half the ward works there. A routine trip to H-E-B has become quite the social experience.

Heather made strawberry freezer jam. I watched.

A couple other girls from the ward came over and we watched the new movie "Becoming Jane" while snacking on ants-on-a-log, chips n salsa, fresh cantaloupe, pretzels, and popcorn.

After the movie we spent a couple hours girl talking. It was so much fun! I love being able to go a whole day without worrying about homework!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Silver Taps

Last night was one of those special times when I truly feel proud to be an Aggie. My roommate, Heather, and I attended (both of us for the first time) one Texas A&M's most solemn and honored traditions, Silver Taps.

Silver Taps was first held in 1898 for former Texas Governor and Texas A&M President, Lawrence Sullivan Ross. Since then it has been held for any A&M student who passes away while enrolled. It is always on the first Tuesday of the month when someone has passed away the month before (fortunately not every month).

Around 10:15 pm all lights on campus are extinguished. As hymns ring out from the bell tower, hundreds of students silently gather in Academic Plaza - an outdoor quad-like area in the center of campus, in front of the Academic Building. The Academic Building is built on the site of the A&M's oldest building that burned down in the 1920's and houses the Department of Performance Studies (and consequently all of my classes). Members of the A&M Corp of Cadets arrive with the rest of the students dressed in their formal uniforms and stand at attention throughout the ceremony.

Around 10:30 a faint sound begins to gradually emerge from the silence - the sound of cleats on concrete. It is the firing squadron slowly making their way towards the plaza in formation. After what seems like ten minutes, they finally arrive in the plaza and perform a 21-gun salute. After the shots fire, the sweet melody of Silver Taps is heard from the dome of the Academic Building. It is played three times, facing north, west, and south. It does not play to the east because the sun will never rise on that Aggie again. After the third Silver Taps is finished everyone silently leaves the plaza and returns to their homes to the even chimes of the bell tower.

There is an oft-repeated saying about Texas A&M: "From the outside looking in you can't understand it; From the inside looking out you can't explain it." Perhaps its true. I'm proud to be an Aggie.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The View From Within

I am often amazed at the deep insights of composers as they discuss their music and their lives. I love to read about what was going on in the composer's life while he was writing a particular piece, what he had to say about it, and what he had to say about music in general. It always increases my understanding and appreciation of a piece, even if I don't particularly care for the music itself.

Such is the case with Gustav Mahler's Second Symphony, written between 1888 and 1894. The entire symphony is meant to illustrate man's struggle with the idea of death bringing either salvation or destruction - we don't know which. As I was recently studying the background of this work I came across the following commentary by Mahler describing the third movement:

"What is expressed in the Scherzo can only be illustrated like this: if you watch a dance from a distance through a window, without hearing the music, the gyrations of the couples seem strange and senseless because the key element, the rhythm, is lacking. That is how you have to imagine someone who is destitute and unlucky: To such a person the world appears as in a concave mirror, distorted and mad. The Scherzo ends with the terrible outcry of such a martyred soul."

Later he wrote to a friend on the same subject:

"When you finally wake up from this melancholy dream and again have to face this confused life, then this endlessly moving, never resting, never-to-be-understood hustle and bustle of life may seem dreadful to you, like the surging of dancing figures in a bright and illuminated ballroom into which you look from the dark night outside - from so far away that you can not hear the music that goes with it! Senseless is how life seems to you then, a cruel nightmare from which you might jump up with a cry of disgust!"

While it is sad to even think of feeling this way, reading Mahler's comments reminded me of the great privilege it is to enjoy the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. As members of Christ's church, we are the ones inside the ballroom dancing and blissfully enjoying the blessings we have. To the rest of the world we look strange doing the things we do. But we can hear the music. We know that death will bring joyous salvation to all who remain faithful. We know exactly why we do the things we do, and we are happy because of it. Perhaps we should look out the window more often to lend a hand to those helpless souls outside, crying in anguish because they need so desperately what we have.

(quotes taken from MUSC 312-Music in Modern Western Culture course packet, Dr. Alan Houtchens, Texas A&M University, Spring 2008.)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Just Another Manic Monday

7:00am - Alarm rings. I'm tired! I hit snooze.

7:05am - Alarm rings again. Snooze again.

7:10am - Alarm. Snooze.

7:20am - Second alarm rings (across the room). Time to really get up.

8:00am - I rush into work. On time - barely!

1:00pm - I walk out the door from work. I check my cell phone. A missed call! (202)... (202)... I know that area code... Thats Washington DC!

1:01pm - I dial my voice mail. "Hi Ruth. This is--at The Washington National Opera. I'm calling because I'd like to offer you the HR Internship for this summer...." What? Did I hear that right? Me?Really? HOLY COW!!!!!!!!!!

1:03pm - I do a happy dance in my car and say a little prayer of "Thanks" and "You're amazing."

1:05pm - I call mom to tell her. No answer. I leave a message for her to CALL ME BACK!

1:20pm - I arrive home from work. My roommate isn't there. ARGH! I'M DYING TO TELL SOMEONE!

1:22pm - I sit down at my kitchen table with my planner and call them back to say yes. No answer. I leave a message.

1:50pm - My roommate comes home. I tell her. We do a happy dance together. I leave for school.

1:55pm - Mom calls me back. I tell her. We do the phone version of a happy dance.

2:30pm - I go into rehearsal with my accompanist/voice coach. I tell her. Anther happy dance (more reserved this time because we must be professional). She picks up the phone and dials the Department of Performance Studies office. "Hello Dr. [Department Head]. I have Ruth --, one of our Music Majors here with me, and she just received news that she has got an internship with the Washington National Opera this summer in Arts Management at the Kennedy Center in Washington..." From across the room I hear a shreak of joy on the other end of the line. She hands the phone to me. "Congratulations Ruth! I will always remember the day you auditioned for our program. You were the very first audition that day and you arrived thirty minutes early. I was very impressed and knew from that moment that you came prepared and were capable of doing something like this. I am so happy that they noticed that in you as well." She then asks me to send her an email telling her more about it so that she can inform the faculty in their meeting on Wednesday. Wow, do you think this will make any of them want to give me an "A"?

3:02pm - I leave my rehearsal and head for the library. My phone rings. 202 again. I answer. Its her! We talk some details: I am the first intern to be selected and informed this summer. They would like me for as much of the summer as they can have me. Wow, I feel special! We nail down the dates: May 12th through August 15th. My exact availability dates. I will be working full-time hours (subject to change if I decide I can't survive without a second job -the stipend will really only cover gas to get there). She tells me more details will come as they select the rest of the interns and get things organized.

3:10pm - I get to the library, sit down at a computer, check my email, log into blogger, and start writing.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Summer Plans??????

I have applied for three internships this summer, all in the Washington, DC area:

  1. Wolf Trap Opera Company
  2. The Washington National Opera
  3. The National Symphony Orchestra

All three are in the field of Arts Management. Basically this means taking care of business, planning, coordinating, etc. for a performing arts organization such as an opera or symphony orchestra. It just may be the perfect meld of my professional experience and education.

Wolf Trap, which was my first choice, did not accept me. They had over 550 applicants and only hired about ten, so I don't feel terribly crushed.

I haven't heard anything from the National Symphony Orchestra since the "we received your completed application" email.

I had a phone interview on Thursday with the Washington National Opera in their HR Department. Even though I would be working in the HR Department, I would still get to attend symposiums and other educational workshops to be trained in Arts Management. The interview seemed to go well, but its very hard to judge over the phone. The entire interview was only about 15 minutes long and the interviewer very concisely asked all kinds of questions that no one really likes to answer. "What do you consider your greatest weakness? If I were to ask your current employer about you, what do you think he would say? What areas would you like to improve in?..." They are only hiring one person in that department, and I don't know how many they interviewed. I should find out next week!

I am excited at the very thought of getting one of these internships. I will make basically no money (only a small stipend to defray cost of living is offered), but it will be a great career move. I will learn if Arts Management is really the direction I want to go, and it will look great on my resume no matter what!

Many thanks in advance to my sister Nancy, who has graciously offered her basement for me to live for the summer. Even if I don't get an internship I will go live with her and work in the area for a few months, just for fun. I am very excited for lots of hang-out time with Nancy, getting to know Richard better, developing strong bonds with Naomi (who is now old enough to remember "the summer Aunt Ruthie came"), becoming fluent in Asher's two-year-old language, and watching Isaiah grow up.

What will the final result be? Any predictions?


I'm afraid I've been feeling terribly left out lately. All of my siblings (except the one who lives in a submarine) have fabulous blogs! Its become a great way for us to share our lives with each other. However, I have to confess I'm terrible at keeping up with them. My life has drastic sudden surges of insanity, and I tend to drop off the face of the planet every once in a while. I do my best, promise.

...An excellent introduction to my very own blog! Things are starting to get exciting as I begin my Senior year at A&M. Career planning is getting serious, so I thought it time to start documenting the progress. There will probably be long postless periods. When that happens just assume I'm preparing for, in the middle of, or recovering from one of those weeks when I really think my Professors are trying to kill me.

I hope this will be a good way to keep everyone informed of whats going on, and some day the title will become slightly satirical as my "music career" evolves into mostly motherhood.