Friday, July 30, 2010

Lesson Learned: Megan Decides to Like Opera

This is the last of our sample essays before we turn it all over to you. Don't forget about the great prize. We can't wait to hear from you! Don't forget, the deadline is August 7th.

I like mildly inaccessible culture. I happily stood for three hours at a time to see Titus Andronicus, Coriolanus and four other Shakespeare plays at the Globe.  I appreciate film festivals with especially esoteric films. I love going to indie rock concerts or bluegrass concerts or classical music concerts. I like ballet and can even get behind some modern dance. I delight in postmodern novels and modernist poetry.

And I'm a big fan of opera.

I didn't always like opera. My parents weren't fans and they would always change the classical music station when someone started belting an aria. Bugs Bunny made fun of it. My first live opera experience was nice, but there were no supertitles and I was a little lost, so it was more of a novelty than anything. It was something to check off my list of snooty things I'd done, and I did it. [dusts off hands.]

Then, a couple of years ago I was simultaneously doing an internship at the Music and Dance Library in the Harold B. Lee Library at BYU, and reading a novel called Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. The novel had several characters who loved opera, and the way they talked about it made me want to join their super-special opera-loving club. The internship provided easy access to lots of CDs, libretti, and effusive music majors. It was time.

So I started checking out stacks of opera CDs. I packed my purse with double- and triple-disc cases: Don Giovanni, The Barber of Seville, The Flying Dutchman, La Traviata, Madama Butterfly, Fidelio, Porgy and Bess, The Rake's Progress. 

The thing I think is amazing about this experience is that I set out to like opera, and I liked it. In fact, I loved it. I would sit in the Reading Room with a stack of scores to be cataloged and a pair of those giant headphones, and I would just glory in the sounds. I listened to them in my car or while I was reading in my room. I started having favorite singers and composers (Bryn Terfel, Verdi). I started searching the Utah Opera website for student ticket prices.

My love of opera has served me well. I moved to Indiana the next year, and IU's music school puts on three fantastic operas every semester. I have several operas on my iPod, and they provide a welcome respite when I'm tired of drums and guitars during a long day at work. Operas make me feel good about the world.

But I think more than that, the experience taught me that you can set out to like something and actually end up liking it - maybe even more than you thought you would. I set out to learn to appreciate opera and ended up finding something that brings a lot of joy to my life. Sometimes when there's something I don't expect to like, I remind myself about opera and I think, "I can have positive feelings toward this. I just have to decide that I want to like it."

I'm fond of calling certain things that took me awhile to like "acquired taste  ______." Acquired taste music. Acquired taste art.  And I guess I say "fond" because the things that I have to work to love often end up being my favorite things.  There's something about making a conscious choice to learn to love something that gives me a feeling of ownership and power over my experiences. I choose what I love. I choose to love.

Lesson learned. Thanks, opera.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Lesson Learned: Miri Lets Go

A few years ago I went through a period of missing many of my college friends, and being really frustrated with the fluid state of relationships that occurs in Provo. I'd had some really good, really close guy friends, who had then gotten married and vanished from my life. Even though we'd never had any romantic involvement, they'd cut off all contact with me--and some other mutual friends--when they got engaged, as though they felt that they couldn't be friends with me anymore. 

This didn't make me feel very good. For one thing, I began to feel as though my friendship with these guys had just been a placeholder relationship, that they were using me to fill a space in between girlfriends. For another, I just really missed their company. Most of these relationships were actually very short as relationships go--about the length of a semester, on average--but because they involved a lot of loooong conversations, often until early hours of the morning, we'd gotten to know each other really well, and they'd come to be pretty important to me. 

I had a hard time with this for a while. I wrote some whiny blog posts and complained to my girlfriends, lamenting my situation, denouncing the awkwardness of BYU's male/female dynamics and blaming it for my predicament. (I have a slight tendency toward the dramatic in situations like these... I feel things very strongly.)

And then one day I stumbled across a quote that really struck me, and I wrote the following:
"That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet." --Emily Dickinson

I read this quote on my friend Alanna's Facebook profile, and suddenly I felt very silly for being so upset. Most things about life are temporary. That's just something we all have to deal with. So when things change in our lives, when people move on, we should be grateful for the time that we had with them, the things we learned, the memories that we'll always have... instead of being depressed that we can't go back to the way things were. If we could always go back to the way things were, we probably would, because people tend to cling to the familiar. But then we'd miss out on so much of what's waiting for us down the road; and when you look at it in retrospect, you can see that the things that you didn't know were waiting for you are usually just as sweet as the things you had to leave behind to get there.

So this is my lesson learned: That we are meant to experience life, not capture it.

People come into our lives, and then some of them leave. Sometimes we don't know why. But the nature of life is change, and no one can avoid it. Instead of being regretful about the loss of something we love, instead of letting that whole chapter become tainted with negative feelings, we should cherish our memories and be grateful for having had the experience.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Lesson Learned: Lindsey Got Her Bottom Stuck in a Chair

It's time to kick things off with the writing contest! We will be posting our Lessons Learned this week to hopefully help inspire you to write your own. Ours will not be in the running for the prize (even though we love, love, LOVE Annie's posters). Remember, email us your entry by August 7th! Happy writing!

When I was five years old I got my bottom stuck in a chair.

I was watching Muppet Babies and sitting (read: climbing) on a wooden chair. I never listened when my mom told me to use the chair correctly, I always put the back of the chair on the floor and climbed in and out of the legs. Sometimes I used the legs as roads for Matchbox cars. On that day, though, I sat in the space between the bottom of the chair seat and the rung that went across the legs of the chair and my bottom just settled in.

I screamed and cried as I realized I was quite thoroughly stuck. Of course, my two older brothers were the first to find me. My mom came in next and was nice enough not to say "I told you so" as she tried to pull me out. I was buttered up while my brothers (and my mother) laughed at the ridiculous situation. The butter didn't work and my back was scraping against the chair. Soon, my mom announced that she would have to call our neighbor to come SAW ME OUT...with a SAW.

As I hugged my knees (which were hanging out by my shoulders) and cried, I realized that I would rather stay stuck in that chair forever than let anyone else know about it. Also, I didn't want a saw anywhere near me. I was a little nervous about being sawed out of a chair, but more embarrassed that my neighbor would be the one to do it. I mean, how does a phone call like that go?

"Hi Neighbor! Say, do you mind coming over with a saw and helping me free my youngest child from the nefarious clutches of our dining chair?"

"Why certainly! That's a totally normal thing for a neighbor to have to do. I'll be right over!"

Eventually, I was freed and patched up and I resumed my TV watching, feeling completely and totally embarrassed. It's still one of those stories that need only be mentioned and my whole family will laugh. My brothers never let me forget, because that's what brothers do, right? But, up until a few years ago, I never wanted anyone else to know about it, which is funny because I do completely embarrassing things ALL. THE. TIME.

So I guess I didn't really learn a lesson by getting my bottom stuck in a chair, but, in hindsight, I know that it was an important thing that happened to me. I think it was the first time I remember worrying about what other people thought of me. Not only worrying about what they thought of me but wanting to make a decision (to stay stuck in the chair) that would keep me from moving forward (getting unstuck) based solely on what they thought. It's silly to be so focused on what other people will think of you that you lose focus on things you want to do or adventures you could have.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Lovely Contest

In an effort to get to know you, our amazing Lovely Readers, better (and also in an effort to make you send us that guest post you've been thinking about for months but never got around to writing), we have decided to hold an essay contest. A contest! With a prize!! Tres exciting, right?

So you write an essay (700 words max, although if you go over by a little, we won't hate you) and email it to us and we will post it. The category is "Lesson Learned," which basically means we want to hear about your embarrassing moments, good days, bad days, victories, failures, etc. Tell us about something that has happened to you that was a turning point of sorts - or maybe just an "a-HA!" moment. It can be something tiny that caused a big change, something big that caused a tiny but significant change, a thing and change of somewhat equal size - anything. Funny, sad, deep, random - we want it all!

As a bonus, you'll get an essay from each of us while you are thinking about what to send in. We will be posting our essays next week while we anxiously await your emails. After our posts, we'll start posting yours until they've all been posted and everyone has had a chance to read them. At that point, we will each pick our favorite essays and put the top three to a vote. The winner will be picked by you, our lovely readers.

Now we get to our awesome, fabulous prize. Our dear friend, Annie (author of Ultra Vroom, mother of an adorable toddling type person and mastermind behind annilygreen), has created a beautiful and Lovely Blog-centric fabric poster for our winner. The winner will be able to choose from two styles here and here (also pictured below). And if you don't win, she will still make you a poster just like these - you'll just have to buy it. We're all coveting them and saving our pennies.

So did you get all that? Just in case, here are the simple facts:

Lesson Learned – Essay Contest

Submit an essay (700 words or fewer) about a turning point in your life – it can be funny, embarrassing, sad, sarcastic, uplifting… the list goes on and on. As long as it’s about you, we want to read it.

Entries will be posted on this blog, On How to be Lovely, and there will be a vote for the winner.

Submission deadline is August 7th.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mix It Up

"Mix a little foolishness with your serious plans; it's lovely to be silly at the right moment." - Horace

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Anyone remember back when Megan was watching Doctor Who and loved it so much she found a way to include it in a post? Well, in case you don't remember, check it out here.

The reason I mention this is because Netflix released Doctor Who on instant watch. This just so happened to coincide with an empty Hulu queue for yours truly. And now I'm obsessed. I won't go into detail (and believe me, it's REALLY hard not to do that), but it's pretty much the best show ever created. EVER. Can you tell how much I mean this by my use of capitalization?

But this post isn't to yell at you about how utterly brilliant and fantastic The Doctor is (he really, really is both of those things, fictional or not); it's about things that make you happy.

Sometimes I get stuck in a rut. Sometimes it takes finding something new and awesome that makes me happy to realize that I was in a rut and that, thank goodness, I got out of it before it started causing too much stress. I probably love Doctor Who a little bit more because I think it helped keep me from diving head first into a rut.

Maybe that's confusing. Wouldn't surprise me if it was. The short of it is I lost my job (laid off, yet again). So I'm back (never stopped) looking for a new job. Having something to distract me when I needed a distraction, something to be excited and nerdy about, helped me deal a little better with the news. That and the fact that I wanted to quit that job oh so very much, that helped too. But when I did start to stress, I knew I had something there to cheer me up and get my mind off the stress for a little bit.

Now, I'm not saying you should all go out and watch Doctor Who (seriously though, you should all go out and watch Doctor Who), but we all have things that can help us through the rough bits. Maybe it's a good run or lunch with friends or a fantastic could be anything. But it helps so much to have something to be excited about, something to look forward to and something to just sit back and enjoy for the pure happiness of it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Just Do It

"How to be Smarter: You’re not getting any younger. If you want to write a book, you better start today. If you love someone, you better tell them now. If you want to be healthier, put down those sweets in your hand. Whatever you’re afraid to do, it’s certainly not going to be easier to start tomorrow."

The last line of this entry is what really hooked me. I kind of love how simple it is, and yet how often do we convince ourselves that the opposite is true! Putting things off never made them any easier; if anything, it makes them harder because we've had time to worry about them and build them up in our heads. If there's something you have to do, just do it.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Saturday Snapshot: Relax

The cliffs on Martha's Vineyard and the first commissioned lighthouse in the United States.
Some places are just too beautiful for words.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Feel Good

I came across this list while browsing one of my favorite blogs (Tangled and True). I love the idea of having a "feelgood list."

There are times when you just don't feel good. Times when depression or stress take away your ability to naturally do whatever it is that makes you feel good. You have to make a conscious effort to get up and get yourself ready for the day or to interact with people, to laugh and play, even to eat. Here is what the designer has to say about her reasons for creating this list:

Deep in the throes of postpartum depression, when it felt like I would never get better ever again, I made myself a list. The therapy was okay; my journal helped; my husband was great. But I needed to go at that thing with every possible weapon in the feel-good arsenal.

I read all the literature on depression; I researched neurochemistry as best I could. And then I sat down and listed every single thing I could think of that might help me feel better. Things my doctors had told me; things I knew about myself. I wrote them all down.

And then I started checking them off.

I never once got the whole thing checked off in a week, but working at it and seeing how much effort I was putting into my recovery made it start to feel like, well, recovery.

Now that I’m better I see that it’s not really a recovery list so much as a life list. It’s like my own best advice to myself. My own little reminder to be kind to myself, to make myself a priority, and to take time to stay healthy so that I don’t slide back down the dreaded, dreaded hill.

I just love that. As women, as mothers and daughters and sisters and friends, we all need a reminder to be more kind to ourselves, to take time for ourselves so we can continue to take care of the other people around us. Making a list is so simple it almost seems silly, and goodness knows I love a good list, but if that's what it takes to help pull you out of whatever it is that is dragging you down, then why not?

Monday, July 5, 2010


I loved these entries from Smart, Pretty, and Awkward; they're from different days, but they're all about being kind and helping people to feel comfortable and included.

 How to be (less) Awkward: In a group conversation, never let anyone become an island. Always be working to make sure everyone feels connected, involved and included  in the conversation.

How to be (less) Awkward: One of the quickest ways to draw others out of their shell is to ask about people important to them in their life. When someone asks me what’s new, and I’m feeling shy, I usually just say “oh you know–same old!” But if someone asks me what’s new in my best friend’s life, or how my sister likes college, or if my roommate has gotten a dog yet–I go on and on. When I feel shy, I find it is so much easier to talk about others rather than myself, and so I imagine others feel the same way.

How to be Smarter: Focus on being interested in others, rather than being interesting to others. By being interested, you instantly become interesting.

I think one of the biggest mistakes we all make is assuming that other people are more than us--more relaxed, more popular, more interesting, more put-together, smarter, cooler... Whatever. But feeling insecure about ourselves can sometimes prevent us from reaching out toward others who may actually be feeling just as uncomfortable as we are.