Sunday, January 12, 2014

My Happiness

Do you ever wonder why you're here? Why you're going through each day just to get to the next one? I grew up with all these big dreams and goals and I have accomplished none of them. Realizing this, I just have to wonder, should I keep pursuing these? Should I continue to have these dreams and goals? Or, should I just continue through this life day by day until I finally die and it's all over? What would it really change if I accomplish these goals, though? Is it just something to check off the list? Do I think that by accomplishing a goal that people will think I'm cool, or even just worth something? Or is it that I feel like I'm not worth anything because I haven't reached any of my goals?

I keep saying that I want to work with film scoring, but do I really? Is that just something that I've held on to because I can't imagine not having a dream? Because I can't imagine being happy with a lifelong career as an administrative assistant? Will being a score composer make me happy? No. Happiness, supposedly, comes from within. But then how do you get it? How do you find it, grasp it, and hold on to it? It's not something tangible that I can purchase or carry. It's inside me. Somewhere.

I lost my happiness in the past year or so. I posted a blog about how bad 2012 was, but 2013 topped that one by a long shot. Four deaths in the family and two family friends, continued stress for one sister, and heartbreak for another, working so much overtime that I began to get burned out, plus financial stress on my parents that had me saving money every month incase I needed to pay their mortgage. But these external events shouldn't really affect my happiness that much, should they? After a horrible week at work last week including one 17 hour day, two 13 hour days, and working on Sunday, I left on Friday night feeling like I'd let the entire world down. I felt that I just couldn't work enough to keep the office running smoothly. Everyone had to work so hard during our day-long event on Friday and I felt terrible that everyone else was so exhausted when it was over. I felt that I had not done enough, that I should have been more organized, worked more hours, and made it so that my co-workers didn't have to work so hard. Not only that, but the event was the same day as my Grandmother's funeral, which I was missing because I had to work. So, after everything that happened in the past year, this past week just topped it off. By the time I got home on Friday night, I felt like such a failure that I lost the will to live.

Luckily, I have friends close by who reminded me that there are people in the world who know me and still love me. Who think that I'm worth much more than I'll ever believe. But in the aftermath of this episode, I'm just wondering what I'm doing here. Am I here to help the people around me? Am I here to become a great film composer? Am I here to just go through the motions until it's all over? I don't know. I don't know the answers to these questions. But I do know some things. I know that there are people who love me and there are people that I love. I know that there is happiness and joy inside me. And, I know that there are some things that bring this happiness out. Playing tennis, Skyping with family and friends, listening to great scores, watching movies with great scores, helping others, traveling, and reading are just a few. I don't know if I should pursue music anymore. I don't know if I want to stay in Colorado. But, until I can figure those out, I just need to keep going and keep doing the things that bring out the happiness that is inside myself. I need to be a good friend, sister, and daughter, and be the me that everyone loves. I need to continue on this path called life and do the best I can with the obstacles along the path. There will always be these external events and trials that will wear me down. But life is worth living and sometimes you just have to remind yourself of that.

After going to my Grandfather's funeral last year, I learned how many people he touched. He never did anything great or really newsworthy, but to the people around him, he was everything. He was a rock to hold on to, a helper, a friend, a light in their lives that was filled with laughter and love. I lost three grandparents last year and each one of them will be missed by many, many people. Not because they did anything extraordinary, but because they lived their lives with happiness, patience, and love.

Most people never accomplish anything great. But that doesn't mean they're not great people. Life is tricky. Life is messy. But amidst the chaos, we can find love. We can find happiness. We can find light. We just need to be willing to look for it, even create it, and take charge of it.

I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition.
-Martha Washington

If you want to be happy, be.
-Leo Tolstoy

Saturday, September 14, 2013

My Change

I ended my last post with these two sentences: Don't just make a resolution. Make a positive change.

It's hard to make changes in behavior. We are so easily set in our ways, but it's no where near easy to set new ways. We might easily recognize where the changes should be made, but it takes patience, persistence, and a great deal of courage to make those changes come to pass. And sometimes, it might not be easy at all to see where the changes should take place. We might only know that we're unhappy, or unhealthy, or unfulfilled, but have no idea how to begin to make a change.

When I first moved to Colorado, I made a change. A very big change. I changed the entire course of my life. I changed what people I would meet, what churches I would go to, what activities I would be involved in. If I had stayed in Kansas City, my options would have remained the same as they had been for the past 14 years. Not that they were necessarily bad options, just the same ones. At some point I figured out that I needed more options, different options, a different life, in order to truly be myself. My friends and family knew that, although I was moving, it was still ME that was moving. And all my problems in KC would follow me to CO because these problems were inside me. The fear, the inactivity, the insecurity. They were a part of me, not a part of my location. I said in my journal "They think I'm trying to run away from my problems and they know that won't work. But, I'm not running away from my problems. I'm running into them! I'm facing them on my own."

My sister recently did the same thing. She moved out. She moved on. It really is one of the hardest things to do. It makes you question everything. Everything about yourself. Your thoughts, your fears, your actions and inactions. And it's hard in other ways, too. You have to figure out how to support yourself, where you're going to live, where you're going to work, who your new friends will be. You suddenly have so many choices to make, right down to which grocery store you will use. And these choices, even the small ones, help show you who you are. When you go through life with no drastic changes, staying near family and the friends you know, who you really are becomes rather vague. You just are who you've been and if you ever start to wonder, you just lean on the friends and family you've known and never learn to lean on yourself. I think it's very important to "break the cord" at some point. It doesn't have to be for long, but it has to happen. If not, you'll end up with a mid-life crisis wondering who you are and buying sports cars and boats to subdue your questions. It's hard on the parents to let their child go and not be involved in every bit of their life anymore. But the parents have to let go and let their child be themselves. Let them make mistakes and let them be distant so that they can figure out life on their own. Parents give their child a foundation, but they have to let the child build their own home.

My sister moved out six months ago and I'm so proud of her. My first six months in Colorado were hell, and her first six months have been worse than mine. Actually, it didn't really start getting better for me for over a year. In the first year I had made one friend, lived in a terrible apartment complex, and had a job I hated. I was still dealing with my fear, inactivity, and insecurity. I was still trying to figure out why I was alive and what life I was supposed to lead. My journal entries kept saying things like "I still feel like something's missing" or, "I'm so lost and confused." At eight months I had the most depressing birthday ever, and went home for Thanksgiving two weeks later. I had the most amazing time with all my friends and family, went back to my favorite haunts, and had some good barbeque and home cooking. I had such a hard time coming back to Colorado after that trip. I felt like I was on autopilot. I suddenly found myself in my car and 9 hours later I was back at my crappy apartment.

I really don't know why I stayed in Colorado. There are so many times I almost went home and I have no idea why I never did. I mean, it's a pain to move and expensive, too. But I don't remember ever making the decision to stay. I kept wanting to go back and just never did. For some reason, I just knew that my time here was not yet up.

And now, it's been three and half years. I still don't know where life is taking me, but I know that I am where I'm supposed to be. I don't know if I'll ever compose film scores. Heck, I don't know if I'll ever even work in the industry. But that's not what matters. What matters is that I continue to be true to myself. What matters is that I continue to live life the way God planned. What matters is that I continue to make positive changes in my life. That I continue to face my fears and look to the future. I don't know if I'll be in Colorado for the rest of my life. In fact, I don't expect to. But that one big change set off a chain reaction. These dominos that have been slowly falling into place. It takes a long time to figure it out, and I don't know if anyone ever completely figures out their life. But I needed to break free in order to find myself. And so did my sister.

I'm so proud of you, sissy. Continue to make these positive changes in your life. Don't let anyone control you, but take control of yourself. I don't know how long you'll be living by the ocean, but just follow your heart. Fight the fear, the insecurity. Don't let it overcome you. You are the most amazing person I know. You have been through more hardships than most people and yet you keep going. You are not running from your problems. You are running into them. You are deserving of the most incredible and beautiful life. Believe that. Believe in yourself. I know you feel like you've failed in many past endeavors. But I don't see them as failures. No one does. Only you. You are not a failure in any way. You are a fighter. You are a lover. You are caring and helpful and strong. And you are my family, my sister, my best friend.

You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of.
-Jim Rohn

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.
-Andy Warhol

Sunday, January 27, 2013

My 2012

2012 was an interesting year for me...

--It started off by having to put my dog, Frodo, to rest on January 2. He was an amazing, loyal, and loving pug. He just couldn't breathe anymore. I had to make that hard decision to keep him alive for my own selfish reasons, or release him from his misery. I made the decision on new year's eve, and spent new year's day as our last.
--In March, I started running. With weak ankles, weak knees, and shin splints, it was not easy going. Many times I would twist my ankle and fall flat on my face when I was a mile away from home. My ankles would even give out as I was walking to my car after work. I tried four different knee braces until I found one for each knee. I bought compression sleeves for my calves to help alleviate the shin splints and couldn't even walk without pain if I didn't have them on.
--In August I moved to a new apartment. This was the worst move I have ever even heard of, let alone lived through. I found bed bugs in my old apartment just two days before I moved, and, of course, they moved with me. I spent six weeks sleeping on the floor while everything I owned stayed in the detached garage to be washed, dried, sprayed, and bug bombed. By the end, I had completely maxed out my credit card from all the supplies and regular moving expenses.
--In September I started RCIA - the Rite of Catholic Initiation for Adults. I was really excited to learn about my faith, but as the classes went on I realized I wasn't really learning all that much. The information was so basic that I either already knew it, or it just left me wanting to know more.
--For Thanksgiving, I went to visit my Grandma and her husband, Dab. I was very happy to see them, and I also got to see my Grandad who I haven't seen in 8 years. But my Grandma can be rather controlling and the trip ended with me telling them my flight was leaving 3 hours earlier than it was, just so I could have some peace.
--I woke up Christmas morning with a bad head cold and, after Skyping with my family, stayed in bed and watched Bones the rest of the day. My Christmas dinner was a Stouffer's Frozen Entree.
--On December 30, my Grandfather was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Was there anything positive that happened in 2012? Yes.

--Although I miss Frodo, I still have my cat and I am thankful for her.
--After finding the right braces and accessories, I was able to run/walk three 5k's last year and I inspired my family and friends to start running as well. I was able to visit my family in September and we all ran a 5k together. That was such a wonderful experience and I loved having my family running with me that day. My mom has run two 5k's now and my sister has run four.
--Even though the move was horrible, I now live in a wonderful, clean, and happy environment. I have a new roommate who I get along with really well, and my complex has a free gym, hot tub, sauna, continental breakfast on Sundays, movie theater, ping pong, billiards, beach, lake, tennis courts, and four swimming pools.
--I was paired with a wonderful sponsor in RCIA who agreed that the classes were lacking. Not only have we become friends outside of class, but she got permission to teach her own private class to me and my friend so that we can learn and ask questions and continue to grow in our faith.
--Even though my Grandma can be difficult, I am very glad I went to see them. Family is important and I am glad I took the time to visit.
--Although I was sick on Christmas, it was really great to Skype with my family and they gave me wonderful gifts. My parents paid for a plane ticket so that my sister could come visit earlier in December. We had a FANTASTIC time while we ate at Carrabba's every day she was here, played games, watched movies, painted pottery, and just enjoyed being together. My parents also came to visit in early December and we had a wonderful time as well.

We're already 27 days into 2013. My Grandma's husband, Dab, passed away on the 14th. My Grandfather with cancer went into the E.R. on the 14th and had major surgery on the 24th. Because of big events at work and classes starting up, I've already earned three days of comp time this month. But, I got to see Dab less than two months before he passed and I got to tell him I loved him over the phone just hours before he died. My Grandfather is very strong and is doing extremely well after surgery, and my mom is able to spend a month out there with him. My sister will be moving in a few weeks to where my Grandfather is and although work is crazy, my boss wouldn't hesitate to give me time off to help her move and to visit my grandparents.

For every negative thing I just mentioned there was a positive side as well. You may not see the positive for a while, but it will show up eventually. I have many goals for 2013 and I don't want to let one step back eliminate all future steps forward. By focusing on the negative things, it makes it very easy to quit. 2013 is not going to be easy. LIFE isn't easy. But don't let that get in your way. Take the bad, find the good, and just keep going.

In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
-Albert Camus

Don't just make a resolution. Make a positive change.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

How to Train Your Dragon

Score Review by Annie Wills

The composer – John Powell
Born in London in 1963, John Powell took up the violin at a young age. After graduating with a composition degree from London’s Trinity College of Music, Powell began scoring commercials and helped out on a few projects for Hans Zimmer and Patrick Doyle. Powell scored his first feature film in 1994 and moved to the U.S. in 1997 where he became a part of Hans Zimmer’s Remote Control Productions team along with other well-known composers such as Harry Gregon-Williams and Klaus Badelt. Here, he helped arrange music for The Prince of Egypt, and co-wrote Dreamworks’ Antz with Gregson-Williams in 1998. John Powell is known for his ingenuity and creativity and has written over 50 film scores including Happy Feet, Shrek (with Harry Gregson-Williams), all three Bourne films, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and all three Ice Age films.

The movie - Directed by Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders, Produced by Bonnie Arnold
With directors who have worked on The Lion King, Lilo & Stitch, and Mulan; and a producer who produced Toy Story and Tarzan, you know this movie is going to be good. Nominated for two Oscars, this film is loved by many. Although on the outset it seems be a movie about a boy and his pet (very dangerous pet, mind you), it really is a movie about a father and son. This film has some wonderful characters, a fantastic script, and is full of imagination. The animation is wonderfully done and the lighting was created differently than most animated films. This beautiful film tells the story of a young Viking named Hiccup who is desperately trying to win his father, Stoick’s, approval. The best way to do this would be to kill a dragon, the Viking’s sworn enemy. After managing to down a dragon with a net, Hiccup finds he is incapable of killing it. Not because he doesn’t have the strength, but because he doesn’t have the heart to kill this frightened creature. Now having befriended a creature his entire village wants to kill, Hiccup struggles to be the Viking his father wants him to be. This movie will definitely make you laugh, and might make you cry. Entertaining for both children and adults, this is a story of strength, courage, trust and love.

The listening CD - Released by Varese Sarabande
This is a fantastic CD with plenty of activity to keep your attention through the end. The first five notes grab the listener from the start with their deep and awe inspiring melody, and from then on, the listener is kept wanting to hear more. This score is mostly written for standard orchestra, but adds some bagpipes and mallet instruments to show location and to add some variation.

The CD has been beautifully edited to include every theme in the movie, but takes out some of the smaller transitions, helping to move the CD along. There are a few parts that are on the CD but are not in the movie. A few seconds here and there throughout the CD will not be found in the movie, but the entire last track (The Vikings Have Their Tea) is not in the movie either.

The only song on this CD that was not written by John Powell is Track 14, Sticks and Stones by Jónsi, the singer of the Icelandic band Sigur Rós. The directors thought that Jónsi’s work is so “bright and infectious and happy” that they decided to ask him if he would be interested in writing a piece for the end credits. Jónsi watched the film in London while Powell was finishing up the score and had such a positive response to the film that he wrote Sticks and Stones in just a few days.

This CD has 25 tracks, in film order, and is just over 72 minutes long.

Track Number, Length, Title
1. 4:10, This is Berk
2. 1:55, Dragon Battle
3. 4:17, The Downed Dragon (0-0:48 not in movie)
4. 3:11, Dragon Training
5. 1:26, Wounded
6. 2:23, The Dragon Book
7. 2:06, Focus, Hiccup!
8. 4:11, Forbidden Friendship
9. 2:48, New Tail
10. 3:54, See You Tomorrow
11. 2:36, Test Drive
12. 1:13, Not So Fireproof (0-0:39 not in movie)
13. 0:44, This Time For Sure (0:40-0:44 not in movie)
14. 0:43, Astrid Goes For A Spin
15. 1:57, Romantic Flight
16. 2:29, Dragon's Den (0-0:40 not in movie)
17. 1:11, The Cove
18. 4:29, The Kill Ring
19. 5:14, Ready The Ships (1:22-2:23 and 4:33-5:14 not in movie)
20. 6:19, Battling The Green Death
21. 3:05, Counter Attack
22. 2:44, Where's Hiccup?
23. 2:51, Coming Back Around (2:40-2:51 in credits only)
24. 4:18, Sticks and Stones (Jónsi)
25. 2:04, The Vikings Have Their Tea (not in movie)

The score
John Powell is known for variety and inventiveness in his scores and How to Train Your Dragon is no exception. Beautifully written and well crafted, this score is constantly changing in instrumentation, timbre, harmony, and many other ways. Powell used many smaller motifs that are mixed together throughout the film, hardly ever following the same pattern twice. Powell also used some specific themes in the movie. For instance, nearly every time you see Toothless (the dragon) or every time Toothless plays an important part, you will hear this beautiful, leaping, D2 sequence which changes in instrumentation, harmony, or rhythm each time you hear it to match the drama. When you first hear this Toothless theme, it is played by strings in octaves giving it this strained quality and depicting the fear in Toothless’ eyes (13:42 into the movie; Track 3, Downed Dragon, 3:15). The next time you hear it is when Hiccup attempts to befriend Toothless (29:15 into the movie; Track 8 Forbidden Friendship, 0:11). This time it is completely changed. Light, beautiful, syncopated at times, and played by mallet instruments and pizzicato strings. Another main theme in the film is the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless. The very first notes you will hear are of this theme, but it’s not heard again until Hiccup has to decide whether or not to kill Toothless. Here, Powell plays the first four notes in tight dissonance, and the fifth and final note in a major key. This is such a beautiful foreshadowing of what will come from this decision. The theme is beautifully realized in the end of the film after Hiccup wakes up from his injury in battle. At this point, Powell plays this theme in the piano. It’s the only time the piano is heard in the entire score and it is completely soloed. This striking contrast characterizes the simple love between Hiccup and Toothless. Although there is no source music in the film, Powell uses instrumentation to show time and place.

In watching the filmmaker’s commentary on the DVD, directors Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders mention some of their decisions about the music for their film. In this commentary they talk about how music is so important to them, that whenever they create a film, they try to find places where they can eliminate dialogue and feature the music. Chris Sanders said: “It’s something that Dean and I learned a while ago. That we would try to engineer places in our films where we could just let the dialogue… just let it go.” Dean DeBlois continues this thought, “Let the music take over. We’re such fans of the scores of these movies, and to find, on purpose, to find places where the score can carry it. The score and the visuals. I’m very proud the fact that we have three places in this film where that happens.”

As mentioned above, there are a few times where there is music on the CD that is not in the movie. The filmmakers mention this in the commentary as some of the decisions that were made on the mixing stage. For instance, the first 48 seconds of Track 3, The Downed Dragon, are not in the movie. These 48 seconds were written to play under the scene where Stoick and his friend Gobber are talking about what to do with Hiccup and how to keep him safe (10:14 into the movie). In the commentary, one of the directors mentioned that “music is always there to deepen whatever the mood is going to be, but there’s a couple places where removing the music actually made that particular moment feel more serious, and that was one of them.” Another place where music was obviously written and not used is when Hiccup and his friend Astrid are talking about how to save Toothless from the Vikings (1:07:40 into the movie; Track 19, Ready the Ships 1:22-2:23).

These are just a few of the endless examples of ingenious, creative, and inspired work done on the underscore to How to Train Your Dragon. This wonderfully written score truly captures the life of this film, and leads viewers to the heart of its story.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

My Excuses

Snow fell all night and all day. By late afternoon the snow had turned to rain, wiping away all whiteness. My day started off well. I got up, did my banking, paid my bills, backed up my computer, and headed to work in the wintry wetness. No time for a lunch break makes for a long day, but I got through it well enough. I walked the third mile to my car in the rain, wondering if it might be worth buying a parking pass one of these days. After I'd finished waiting for my car to warm up on this third day in April, I headed to the nearest Apple store to surrender my Mac Book Pro to those people in blue shirts they call Geniuses. I must admit, they are pretty genius when it comes to Macs, but I had no need to test their capabilities today; I knew exactly what I was coming for. My CD drive has been broken for quite a while now and it's about time I got it replaced. Oh, the joys of being out of warranty. But even with that obstacle, I couldn't put it off anymore. You see, I really need Logic Pro on my computer. I got Logic Pro as a Christmas present a few years ago (thanks, Mom and Dad) and although I installed it right away, I took it off a while back just to free up some space (47 gigs of space) on my computer. I didn't realize at the time that my CD drive would not let me install it again. My Dad recently wrote a workbook that comes with a CD of guided meditations and he asked me to write the accompanying meditation music. He finished the book five weeks ago, sent me the guided meditations three months ago, and now he wants to publish it. I don't want to hold him back so, hence the immediate necessity of having a working CD drive. Hungry and computerless, I came home from the Apple store (where they have shockingly few apples) and forced myself to go for a run. It's been five days since I've run and, boy, could I feel it. So I came home, had dinner and thought to myself "Let's see. I've backed up my computer, gone to work, sent my computer to be fixed, gone for a run, eaten plenty of tortellini Alfredo to counteract said run... All in all I've had a pretty good day. What should I do next?" I decided to continue my spurt of productivity by watching How To Train Your Dragon. It may not seem like a productive thing to do, but, for me it is. Even though it's been on my list of scores to review for quite a while, I hadn't seen the movie yet. I bought the DVD two weeks ago so that I could start the review process but I hadn't even taken off the wrapping. With my cat curled up in my lap, I sat there, glued to the screen. When the film came to a close, when the boy and his dragon soared up into the sky, I nearly cried. Not because the movie was that good, but because the music was. I sat there, scared into silence as the credits rolled by and thought, who do I think I am? Who am I to even review a score like this, let alone write one someday? I got up, took a shower and started to head to bed; the entire time thinking about that movie. Not only was the music good, but the script, the dialogue, the characters, everything was so well done. I started to think that maybe I could just be in one of those smaller roles like Mix Assistant or Assistant Music Editor but even that sounded daunting. What am I doing? Wait, what AM I doing? Nothing. Well, at least, mostly nothing.

A few of the students at the law school have been saying that they're not even going to apply for their dream job because it's so unlikely that they'll get it. I tell them that they're ruining ALL chance of getting that job if the don't apply for it. If they just apply, that opens up A chance. No matter how small, it's still worth it. I need to tell myself the same thing. I will never work with film scores if I don't apply myself. It's that simple. Practicing, studying, writing. Every week, every day. It's worth it just to open up that chance, that small possibility of getting there one day. How long have I put off writing? Yes, I've gotten better since I moved here, but it's still nowhere near enough. I've had my Dad's meditations for months and have finished one. One out of ten. I couldn't even get myself to watch the movie I wanted to study for two weeks. I'm too tired. I have too much to do. Watching Psych or Criminal Minds is more fun than studying and paying attention. I'm not even sure which project I should work on right now. I'm just not in the mood.

No more excuses. If I want this, even if all I want is the possibility, then it's worth it. It's always worth it.

"Try not. Do, or do not."

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My Life

I've just been reading over a few of my past blogs and have realized that quite a few of them are about trusting God and letting go. Even though it seems that I've learned this lesson over and over, I still somehow always find myself trying take the wheel while I sit in the passenger seat. I'm like one of those annoying back-seat drivers trying to tell God where to turn and when to slow down (or, more often, to speed up).

Two days ago, I was having a rough day. I was questioning the purpose of life. Why are we here? Is there really a point? I thought I was supposed to be married and writing breathtaking music around my rockin' awesome family by now. Is that ever going to happen? And, if not, then why am I here? I went to work that morning and my beautiful friend, Kristine, saw that I was having a rough day and asked if I wanted to eat lunch with her on the terrace. Come lunch time, we went down the steps and through the cafe to step into the glowing sunshine. We had barely sat down when she asked me, are you pro-life? Well, yeah, of course. Ok then, what is the value of life?

It was a question I wasn't expecting. We know it's wrong to kill, but why exactly? There's the obvious answer: because God told us not to. But past that, what really is the value of life? Is the value of life measured by success? Is it measured by failure? Is it measured by love, or hate? Is it measured by how many lives you touch, how many cities you've been to, or even how many breaths you take? Can you be good at life? Can you fail at life? No. To all of the above. The answer is much simpler than all that. The value of life is in the fact that God made it. He MADE it. He made you and me and all 6 billion people on earth. Sure, He made a lot of things. He created the mountains and the galaxies, too. But it's you and me that He loves and guides and carries through the life He gave us. Life is valuable because God lives inside us. Life is valuable because God loves us. And life is valuable because God died for us. We are here to love and be loved. We are here to live and work and follow Christ, wherever He might lead.

The next day, I received a phone call containing some very stressful news. I immediately reached out for that wheel, trying to turn into a different direction. I want to control this! I want to fix this! I went straight to Kristine and we went to the break room to talk and pray. The entire day was a blur. By the time I got in my car to drive home, I couldn't even remember being at work that day. But somewhere along the Diagonal Highway, I realized that I have to let go. We all have to let go. Didn't I just find that life is not measured by successes or failures? Didn't I just learn that life is valuable because God lives in us, and loves us and died for us? God MADE us. He's not going to let us fall.

Looking back over my life, I've done a lot of crazy and unplanned things. I bought a horse with barely any training and who hadn't been ridden in years when there were much better prospects out there for me to buy. She ended up winning Horse of the Month many times over at a therapeutic riding academy where she continues to help kids with disabilities learn to love. I up and moved to Disney World when I was 18 and discovered that the world is not such a scary place. I applied to only one undergraduate college simply because I didn't feel like taking the time to do the college search and it turns out it was the best place for me to be at that time. And the biggest jump of all, my move to Colorado. No friends, no family, no job, even my pets were left in KC. But when you follow God and let Him drive, He will guide you to a future you could not even imagine.

Life is valuable. All life is valuable. And even if I never end up writing breathtaking music or I never reach any of my goals, I know my life is still valuable and I will let God guide it to wherever I'm meant to be. Your life is valuable, too. And not because of your successes or failures, your joy or your scars. It is valuable because God made you and He loves you and He died for you. He will not let you fall. He values your life too much to let you fall.

Monday, October 31, 2011

My New Job

It's been almost six months since I've blogged and many, many things have happened. My second summer in Colorado was not as good as the first. I started to feel lonely and stopped enjoying my solitary hikes. I love seeing the beautiful scenery around me, but hiking up a mountain for four hours by yourself is rather boring. There's noone around to say, Hey, look at that flower! or, Man, this is steep! I only went hiking a couple times this summer and gave it up pretty early. Most of my summer was spent hating my job. I had the most unbelievably draining job and hated every second I had to be there. There were some perks, like how it was only half a mile from my apartment, how I could bring Frodo (my pug) to work with me, and my one co-worker, Jill. But the pay was barely enough to scrape by on, it didn't offer health insurance or hardly any vacation or sick time, and my boss was the most controlling, paranoid, egotistical and self-absorbed micro-manager you could ever imagine.

When my mom came to visit me in June, she said she was not leaving until I had a new job. So, while I was at work, she was on the web searching for new opportunities for me. She found a job opening at the University of Colorado at Boulder in the Law School. It was an administrative assistant position with complete benefits and about $5/hr more than I was making. I quickly applied and immediately started praying. Universities work very slowly, but a few weeks later, I got the email to come in for a computer test. The email said the test was over Word, Excel, administrative skills, and receptionist skills. It also said that the applicants with the top three scores from this test were the ones who would be interviewed. In the two days before the test, I sat on youtube and watched over 7 hours of tutorials over Word and Excel. I was not about to let a little test stand in my way of working at CU. A couple weeks after the test, I got the email that said not only did I make the top 3, but I received the top score of all the applicants. Four interviews later, I got the job.

I currently have the most incredible office job imaginable in a beautiful building with a view of the mountains from my desk. The people I work with are the most wonderful, happy and grateful people I've ever worked with. If I send an email to my boss telling him that some regular, daily task has been done, he always takes the time to write back and say, "Thanks, Annie! You're the best!" One time when I finished a report for him, I set it on his chair because he wasn't there. When he came back into his office, he saw the report and immediately left to come find me and give me a high-five. Everyone in the office is like this. The students are wonderful too. A little nervous these days because finals are coming up, but so happy we're here and grateful for what we do for them. On top of that, I've made new friends. Cynthia and Diane are the hysterical and fun Faculty Assistants I sometimes have lunch with. Kristine is another administrative assistant that I have come to love. We've gone to concerts together, dinner together, and I'll be going to her birthday party later today. Holly is one of the student Research Assistants I supervise and we have become inseparable. This job has also given me the opportunity to take up composition lessons again, something I couldn't afford with my old job. I can't tell you how incredible it is to work in such a safe and loving environment. But to have all that plus more pay, more benefits, and more friends? It is truly a God-send.

I am very happy with this new beginning, this new change in my life. It was scary at first. Yes, I hated my old job and it was draining every ounce of happiness out of my life. But again, it was something I was used to. I knew what every day would bring, there were no surprises to be had. Trying to get a job that was so highly competitive was something I'd never done before. I was afraid that once I got there, people would think, Oh, she's not what we were expecting. I was afraid my inexperience would come through. Not only do I know nothing about law or law school, but I am also the youngest full-time staff member in the building. But it turns out, they knew all about that and hired me anyways. They knew there would be some extra training time for someone who didn't know the difference between the appellate and supreme courts. Or who didn't know the different practice areas you could study or work in (who knew there was such a thing as space law?!) But as I headed off to my first day I did the same thing I did for each interview and every test. I said my own version of the Our Father. It goes like this: Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, Thy will be done, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven... Getting that perfect job or finding a new best friend are some of the many, many, many things that are out of our control. It's scary to be in that situation. But the best thing you can do, and really the only thing you can do, is trust God. He is the one holding each and every one of us in the palm of His hand. He won't let us fall. He knows our hearts and our desires and our pain more intimately than you could ever imagine. He knows the plans He has for everyone. And sometimes you have to go through the fire so that He can mold you into the person you need to be for the next step. You just have to let Him show you the way. When it's out of your hands, all you have to do is just let go and God will always be there to guide you. Look what He did for me. He gave me friendship, love, happiness, music, and passion. He can do that for you too.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11