Sunday, November 29, 2009

It Feels Like Christmas ...

I love Christmas. I love the smiles, the laughter, the singing, the dancing, the gratitude for gifts given and received, the joy of friends and family, and the opportunity to celebrate the "good tidings of great joy which shall be unto all people." It is the season of the Spirit ... the Spirit of Christ.

One of my greatest joys at this time of year (among many) comes from watching those good ol' heartwarming and chuckle-inducing movies that foster a desire to bring peace on earth and good will toward men. (Or, at the very least, spread a few smiles ;). Among those happy films are such classics as White Christmas, It's a Wonderful Life, Scrooge (The Musical), A Christmas Story, Holiday Inn, Elf and ...

The Muppet Christmas Carol.

Oh, how I love the Muppets and their take on one of the most beloved Christmas tales ever told. And what's not to love? Lines infused with wit and good humor ... music filled to the brim with infectious melodies and inspiring lyrics ... and Kermit the Frog.

In the spirit of this show (which I watched recently ... the first of multiple viewings this season, I'm sure), I decided to share some of my favorite quotes.

And so, in no particular order, here they are:

Rizzo: There are two things in life I hate ... heights and jumping from them.
: Come on, I'll catch you.
Rizzo: God save my little broken body.
[Jumps and falls to the ground. He looks at Gonzo]
Gonzo: ... Missed.
Rizzo: Oh wait ... I forgot my jellybeans.
[Slides through the bars to retrieve them, and joins Gonzo back on the other side. Gonzo is staring at him]
Rizzo: What?
Gonzo: You can fit through those bars?
Rizzo: Yeah.
Gonzo: You are such an idiot.

Ghost of Christmas Present: Did I mention I'm the Ghost of Christmas Present?
Ebenezer Scrooge: Yes ... you did.
Ghost: Well, then come in and know me better, man.
Scrooge: You're a little absent-minded, spirit.
Ghost: No, I'm a LARGE absent-minded spirit.

Rizzo: That's it ... how do you know what Scrooge is doin'? We're down here and he's up there.
Gonzo: I told you, storytellers are omniscient; I know everything!
Rizzo: Well hoity-toity, Mr. Godlike Smarty-Pants.
Here are some of my favorite lines from that old 'n ornery duo, Statler and Waldorf:
Fozziwig: Here is my Christmas speech. "Thank you all, and Merry Christmas."
Jacob Marley: That was the speech?
Robert Marley: It was dumb!
Jacob: It was obvious!
Robert: It was pointless!
Jacob: It was...
[turns to Robert]
Jacob: ... short ...
Jacob & Marley: I loved it!
Scrooge: You were always criticizing me.
Robert: We were always heckling you.
Jacob: It's good to be heckling again ...
Robert: It's good to be doing anything again.
In closing, I just wanted to add the lyrics to my favorite song in the show: It Feels Like Christmas:

It's in the singing of a street corner choir
It's going home and getting warm by the fire
It's true wherever you find love
It feels like Christmas

A cup of kindness that we share with another
A sweet reunion with a friend or a brother
In all the places you find love
It feels like Christmas

It is the season of the heart
A special time of caring
The ways of love made clear
It is the season of the spirit
The message if we hear it
Is make it last all year

It's in the giving of a gift to another
A pair of mittens that were made by your mother
It's all the ways that we show love
That feel like Christmas

A part of childhood we'll always remember
It is the summer of the soul in December
Yes, when you do your best for love
It feels like Christmas

It's in the singing of a street corner choir
It's going home and getting warm by the fire
It's true, wherever you find love
It feels like Christmas
It's true, wherever you find love
It feels like Christmas
Well, that's it for now my friends. I love you all and hope that this season brings joy and merriness and a renewed desire to ease the pain and troubles of the world.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Julie & Julia ...

Saw the movie. Enjoyed it (Adams and Streep = fantasticfulness at the box office).

More importantly, though, I want to start really learning how to cook ... especially French foods. Let's see where that adventure takes me.

UPDATE: I just reserved a copy of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" at the library.

UPDATE 2: I realized last night that I have never owned a cookbook. Ever. This is odd, considering that I love to cook. It's less odd, though, when I remember that every time I need a recipe, I either get online or call my mother or sister (who could kick the pants off any chef on the Food Network). Maybe this cookbook thing will start a new era of delicious, hitherto unknown food in my life ... then again, it may just be a phase I'm going through.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Importance of the One ...

This morning on my way into work, I happened across one of Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin's last talks before he passed away on Dec. 2, 2008. How dearly do I miss his sweet and unassuming presence; his kind heart; the affable twinkle in his eye. What an amazing servant of God he was (and is).

Elder Wirthlin began his April 2008 sermon with this insight into the life of President Monson (who had been sustained as the Prophet that afternoon). He said:

While it is a compliment to [President Monson] that many of the great and mighty of this world know and honor him, perhaps it is an even greater tribute that many of the lowly call him friend.

To his core, President Monson is kind and compassionate. His words and deeds exemplify his concern for the one.

I've always thought President Monson to be the walking epitome of charity ... but oh, the volumes more it speaks when Elder Wirthlin says, "Many of the lowly call him friend."

How often are we only willing to become (and remain) friends with those who have something to offer us? Prestige, power, money, thrills? Squishy feelings of love and acceptance? So often we effectively say to others, "bring these to the table, or don't bother sitting down."

But how rarely do we reach beyond our own thoughts and needs and instead of asking "what can this person bring to our friendship," ask, "what can I bring"?

If we desire to be "kind and compassionate" to the core, Elder Wirthlin suggests that we must change the object of our human relations from concern for the self and concern for the many to concern for the other and concern for the One. We must be willing, as the Savior said, to leave the ninety-and-nine that prosper so that we may seek out the One that wanders.

In this talk, Elder Wirthlin chose to focus, in part, on the Ones that are lost or feel out of place in this Church (for whatever reason). As he said:

Some are lost because they are different. They feel as though they don’t belong. Perhaps because they are different, they find themselves slipping away from the flock. They may look, act, think, and speak differently than those around them and that sometimes causes them to assume they don’t fit in. They conclude that they are not needed.

Tied to this misconception is the erroneous belief that all members of the Church should look, talk, and be alike. The Lord did not people the earth with a vibrant orchestra of personalities only to value the piccolos of the world. Every instrument is precious and adds to the complex beauty of the symphony. All of Heavenly Father’s children are different in some degree, yet each has his own beautiful sound that adds depth and richness to the whole.

Two thoughts from this amazing quote:

First, one of the greatest things we can do in this life is to help each One of God's sons and daughters realize their place in the grand symphonic Plan. Each One of us has a part to play ... sometimes we're just not sure what it is or are too timid to pipe up. When we stop spending all our time with the majority of the orchestra - who each know their part - and instead seek out and help that oh-so-crucial player who sits shyly, unsure of her part, how much better will the song become? How much more beautiful will life be for this new player that adds her tenor to the "complex beauty" of the Plan?

Second, if you're a piccolo of the world and get to feeling a little bit haughty, high, or mighty ... stop it. Now, don't get me wrong. Each piccolo is needed (and is most certainly loved) ... but at the same time, know that people can usually only take your shrill little whistle so long before they go running for the earplugs.

Instead of seeking to impress others with the rapture of our song or trying to make others switch instruments to play the part of the piccolo, we should withhold judgment, take a look around, and reach out to the One that sits apart ... to the One that sits alone.

The amazing thing is that, as we do this, we will come to understand our own part in God's symphony all the more clearly. After all,

He that findeth his life shall lost it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
- Matthew 10:39

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Legendary Florida Road Trip '09: Part I ...

Every picture tells a story ... but some of those stories become slightly more awesome with a little literary license.* In that vein, I've selected a few random un-photoshopped wonders from Legendary Florida Road Trip '09 to share with a (hopefully) welcoming world:

(1) So I said to Bonnie, "how great would it be to get our picture taken in front of this ancient Mayan temple (conveniently located in the exact spot that would later become the Epcot center world tour)?" She agreed and up the stairs we went.

But what I didn't tell her was that I really just wanted to re-enact the ancient Mayan tradition of sacrificing the most senior member of a road trip to the largest male member of that road trip ... tee hee hee ...

(2) One of the most amazing things about road trips is you get to learn SO MUCH about the people you're traveling with. For instance, here we learned about Janelle's long-lost childhood dream of being an astronaut ... and about Deana's undying hatred for all things "NASA."

All I can say is, Neil Armstrong better watch out ... after all, you should have seen what Deana did to the life-size statue of Buzz Lightyear ...

(3) Now, by all appearances, this picture looks fairly normal ... a NY-hearting Matt, a camera-clad Bonnie, a sausage-and-sourkraut-filled Deana, and a root-beer swizzling Janelle. But look closer. Four glasses in the picture ... three filled with sweet, sugary nectar (otherwise known as Root Beer) ... but one is COMPLETELY EMPTY. Turns out Bonnie is quite the drinker, especially when you get her in an all-you-can-drink German Restaurant.

How many drinks did she have over the course of our trip? Ich nur Bahnhof verstehen!

(4) So you're probably all thinking, "I could have sworn he said all these pictures where 'un-photoshopped' ... I mean, he even made up a word to get that point across."

Ahhhh, but what you don't realize is that this ISN'T photoshopped ... as part of our magical visit to Florida, we all had a lovely visit to the "Sorcerer's Apprentice Do-It-Yourself Plastic Surgeon Cartoon Face Factory" (patent pending). During the visit, one of the nice trinket-selling attendants invited us to try on a new face for the day. As the attendant told us, "[h]ere in Theme Park World, we strive to give every visitor a slap-happy glance into the wacky world of Disney ... go ahead and go crazy!"

Looking back now, I think it may be an improvement.

(5) Not much to add here ... as far as I can tell, it's just three happy people enjoying the endearing magic of a runaway East Coast road trip.

Two points for randomness!

* NOTE 1: Most of this is true ... but literary license, after all, presupposes a certain amount of falsity, no?

Wii Dance ... and We're Adorable ...

About a month back, I headed home to Utah for the wedding of one of my bestest buds in the whole-wide, ever-living world: Monsiuer Eric Boyd Vogeler. He and his lovely sweetheart, the Erin formerly known as Roundy, were sealed together for time and all eternity in the Salt Lake Temple in an absolutely beautiful, tear-jerking ceremony.

I love weddings. They make me cry (of course, this may not be saying much ... a particularly poignant episode of Duck Tales may make me cry).

While I was home for the wedding, though, I had the chance to join my sister Amy in the ever-wonderful task of babysitting three of my nieces - Katie, Maylie, and Maddie. Golly bob howdy, ain't they cute? I mean, they are mindblowingly adorable. Just look at this picture of Maddie:

They are so cute, in fact, that the annual (and completely unbiased) "Cutest Nieces in the World Competition" found these girls tied for first place along with the always darling Libby Locks and ever lovely Emma. If you overlook the German judges' score (who knocked off two points for inability to "sprechen" the "Deutsch"), they were flawless.

And so it was with excitement (driven by an uncle's love) that I arrived to babysit (while my brother and sister-in-law went to play dodgeball ... such a cool idea). The evening started out beautifully as we all sat and watched Jimmy Neutron (see below).

After it ended, I asked the girls what they wanted to do and they pointed to the little platform in the corner. I recognized it as the platform used in Wii Fit. Having played the game once before with my good friend, Kyle Woods, I thought it would be fun to try it with my nieces. Little did I know the cuteness I had in store.

Here are just a few of the pics from that blessed evening:

And that, my friends, is why life is so good. Every time I feel the semblance of a frown or ornery disposition coming on, all I have to do is think of little Katie and Maylie trying to do Yoga or Ski down electronic slopes as I watch from the wings of a lovely home in Eagle Mountain.

Oh, what a great ride!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pedro was here ...

The signs begin almost 200 miles away.

Most of these irreverent (and frequently incomprehensible) signs feature the same extravagantly stereotypical sombrero & poncho wearing Mexican bandido cartoon character . . . and with each billboard, we are brought more fully into the world of Pedro.

The miles tick on, the strings of the trap tighten, and unwary travelers find themselves - almost as if driven by an unnatural force - pulling off at the first exit beyond the borders of North Carolina.

The Place: South of the Border.

The Purpose: To redefine the meaning of "multi-colored roadside hell."

The happiest place on earth this is not.

I mean, I've been in half-century old Southeast Asian bathrooms with more general appeal (and fewer insects) than SOB (the acronym for the town, as featured on the nearby water tower). Far from the slightly racist, kitschy, and kid-catching cartoon character the signs make him out to be, Pedro is more a modern day Virgil, guiding you carefully through various creative and fiery tortures before finally setting you lose to claw your way back to purgatory (i.e., the rest of South Carolina? Not sure about that analogy, but I'm sticking with it just to give Dante a well-deserved shout out).

Beginning life as a beer stand in 1950, SOB once had enough tourist-trap energy to power its own police and fire department. It's been a part of I-95 road trip lore for ages ... trapping and tricking tourists with its large contingent of ill-spirited plastic poltergeists.

How many people have been permanently scarred by over-exposure, we may never know (and the body count keeps rising). At the very least, though, we can number Ben Bernanke among them. Though he is now Chairman of the Fed, ol' Ben worked there one summer as a poncho-wearing waiter to help pay his way through Harvard.

From what I've been told, he's still working it out in therapy.

Having been to SOB and having unwisely partaken of its unrecognizable "foods,"* I fear that I may be required - as was Persephone - to return each year and pay penance for the only truly unfortunate decision of Legendary Florida Road Trip '09 (look for more on that later).

But regardless of what happens to me, it's not too late for you. So please ... heed the warning of one who has been down that road ... stay away, my friends, and always beware the wicked face of the Smiling Bandido.**

* Think "meat" smothered in fifty year old nacho cheese ...

** Legal Disclaimer: Consider yourself warned. If after reading this post, you still decide to stop, I cannot be held accountable for the consequences (i.e., subsequent recurring nightmares and medical bills).

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Just call me Esquire ...


Date of Birth: 05/82

The New York State Board of Law Examiners congratulates you on passing the New York State bar examination held on July 28-29, 2009. An official certification notice has been emailed to the email address currently on file with the Board. The email will include an attachment with your official bar exam results, which will be in Adobe pdf. A copy of the Notice of Certification must be filed with the Appellate Division as part of your application for admission.

Three years of law school ... three months of laborious study in dark corners of the law library ... two days of testing surrounded by other panic-stricken would-be lawyers ... and three months of waiting ... AND I PASSED!

All I can say is, what a relief. Hallelujah! If you were here, you'd hear me singing:

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay
My, oh my what a wonderful day!
Plenty of sunshine heading my way
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay

Mister Bluebird on my shoulder
It's the truth, it's actch'll
Ev'rything is satisfactch'll
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay
Wonderful feeling, wonderful day!

I thank my family and friends and anyone who had to put up with me during the entire month of July. And especially, I thank my Heavenly Father, without whom I would be nothing.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Caught in the Act ...

As many of you may realize, I like music. A lot. We're talking Himalayan levels of like here.

And what's more, I like to sing and dance ... often at the same time.*

On occasion, though, my love of music and dance has ousted me to the rest of the world as a true blue, dyed in the wool crazy person.

Yesterday was one of those times.

See, at the end of a long, mentally-exhausting day interpreting the law and fashioning equitable remedies in the Court of Chancery, I grab my suit jacket, say goodbye to those poor souls still slinking about the office, turn on my iPod, and head to one of the most solitary and sacred of urban high-rise locales: the Elevator.**

There's something absolutely invigorating about stepping into an unoccupied elevator at the end of the day knowing that, for the next eleven floors, ain't nothing nor nobody gonna intrude upon your metal-sided sanctuary. And it's that same something that gets my toes a tappin'.

After all, when you get songs like "You Make My Dreams" by Hall & Oates pumping through those little white earbuds, you can't help but want to bust a groove. (Of course, by "you" I mean "I"). And so I do. Frequently.

Like this guy.

Now, most days no one is the wiser. After the doors close I begin an epic Astairean tribute that continues through each successive floor until, sadly, those doors open again on level 1.*** Most days, I then step out, mind a'jive with musical mojo but body back to being all business (part of that whole "responsible lawyer" image I've been cultivating).

Sometimes, though, the song is too good ... or the ride is too short ... or the Courthouse seems too empty ... and my toes twinkle a bit longer as I glide across the well-tred linoleum and into the always unoccupied bathroom.

I emphasize the word always. After 5:30 p.m., I have NEVER seen another soul in that bathroom. EVER. That is why, if the groove is really too good to give up, I will sometimes just keep on keepin' on (After all, it's actually kind of fun to watch yourself dance in the mirror).

But yesterday ... well, yesterday, the unthinkable happened. In the midst of one of my particularly flamboyant "Twist and Shout" moves, in walked an after-hours janitor. Caught off guard almost as much as I was, he looked somewhat flustered - sort of the look you would expect from someone who had never seen someone dancing by themselves to (apparently) non-existent music in an otherwise unoccupied bathroom.

There I was: The crazy guy in a suit. But you know what? Despite my mid-routine halt ... despite the keen sense of embarrassment ... I just had to laugh. In fact, I grinned and chuckled the full half-mile back to my car.

After all, sometimes the absurdity of the moment is just too great not to.

* NOTE 1: I, of course, do not claim to be good (or even decent) at either.

** NOTE 2: As a would-be lawyer, I long ago embraced the serial comma (or Oxford Comma as it is sometimes known). I try to do this unpretentiously. In fact, even when using it, I tend to think to myself some lyrics from "Oxford Comma" by Vampire Weekend - namely, "[w]ho gives a $^@#&@ about an Oxford Comma?"

*** NOTE 3: I recognize that many elevators - including mine - have cameras and that there is the distinct possiblity that someone, somewhere could be watching these Gene Kelly-esque shenanigans ... but I figure that if your job is to sit around monitoring the elevators for signs of danger or terrorism, you'd probably appreciate a large, goofy-looking white man dancing alone to some (apparently) non-existent music from time to time. I know I would.