Friday, February 15, 2013

Les Miserables

We went to go see Les Miserablse at the Byham Theatre in Pittsburgh. It was great!

The following weekend, we saw the new Les Miserables film. 

Both were excellent in different ways.  Seeing this show live was actually a bit of a bucket list item for both of us, so it's nice to tic another one of the list. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012


Something made me think of this little coincidence that occurred last year and that it might be worth sharing:

Ryan and I came to church one Sunday in Provo, Utah. In this ward, we happened to have Sacrament meeting at the end of the three-hour block, so when The Bishop saw Ryan in Priesthood (the first hour), he casually said, "Hey, Ryan, are you all ready to speak in Sacrament today?"

Bewildered and alarmed, Ryan told the Bishop that he was not at all ready to speak, because no one had told him that he had been assigned to speak. The Bishop, equally confused, said, "What do you mean? We talked about it last week."

Fearing himself amnestic, Ryan nevertheless insisted that he had not spoken to the Bishop about a speaking assignment. The Bishop, ever kind, but adamant, pulled out his phone to prove the point.

"Look right here. I have it in my call log. We spoke last Saturday."

Ryan looked at the Bishop's phone and there read, "Ryan Stapleton: 801-555-1515"

"Bishop, that's my phone number," Ryan said "But that's not my area code. My number is 240-555-1515."

"Huh," the Bishop conceded, "Well, somebody named Ryan with this phone number prepared a talk for today."

To summarize: The Bishop called Ryan's exact 7-digit phone number, but substituted in the Provo area code accidentally and ended up giving a speaking assignment to some other guy named Ryan who lived in Utah and shared the same phone number as my Ryan. I can only imagine the conversation went something like this:

Bishop: "Hi. Is Ryan there? This is the Bishop."
Ryan's wife: "Yes, one second. Let me get him."
Ryan's wife *Ryyaaan! Bishop's on the phone!"
Ryan: "Hi Bishop!
Bishop: "Hi Ryan! I'd like to call on you to give a 10 minute talk next sunday on the topic of [whatever.] "
Ryan: "Sure. I can do that."
Bishop: "Great, Thanks Ryan. I really appreciate all you and your wife do for the ward."
Ryan: "Thanks Bishop! See you on Sunday!"

So, there you go. I believe this qualifies as my life's most pronounced coincidence to date. I wonder what other coincidences like this may have occurred in my life, but were either never revealed or never explained as this one was.

Does anyone else have an interesting coincidence to share?


In light of what happened with this Utah area code mixup, I am tempted to just go through my contact list and call every number, but replace the area code with 801. Odds are the person who picks up will be a Mormon, and I could take advantage of their good will, and probably con them into doing just about anything if I tell them I'm the Relief Society President.

Free soup! Free Brownies! Rides to the airport! Babysitting!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Moving bodies

Hey. Sudden change of plans. We're moving!

Moving Bodies

Moving Bodies

After a drawn out and arduous struggle against/with the idea of going to Law School, Ryan and I decided that it wasn't in the cards for us after all, and that decision couldn't have come at a better time.

Okay, that's a lie. This decision could have ideally come about a year ago and saved us some time and hassle. But, I guess we'll chalk up an extra 365 days of experience and maturity -call it the cost of indecision and growing up.

What are we going to do with our lives instead?? Why, go to Air Traffic Control school, of course.

I know, I know. Where is this coming from? What about the plan?? Who are you people?!?

Well, let's see if I can walk you through the train of thought that blindsided us, lifted us off the tracks with its cow-scooper, and just as quickly dropped us off at the unexpected decision of an ATC career for Ryan.

It started (though we didn't know it) back in May, shortly after Ryan's graduation. As we had planned, he signed up for an LSAT prep course (I'm still trying not to think about how much we spent to prepare him for a test that he would end up never taking-- again, the cost of growing up). The test was scheduled for the beginning of June, and try as he might, Ryan could not get motivated to begin studying. He went to a few prep courses, but as the date approached, he realized that he needed more time, so we rescheduled (at the cost of another $150, a drop in the bucket at this point) for the October test.

Yet, the summer came and went. We worked, played, visited family, and all the while continued to tell our "law school" plan to anyone who asked, but both of us had our seeds of doubt. Knowing Ryan to be hard-working, with a bent towards perfectionism, I was unnerved to see him dragging his feet when it came to studying for such an important test.

With the October test just weeks away, we finally had to have it out --  discover the hold up and destroy it -- unclog whatever pipe was stopping the works.  It came to light that neither of us was thrilled with the law school track, as much as we tried to be. It wasn't that we hated the idea, it was that neither of us were excited about it. He wasn't passionate about it; it was just his default plan.

A few more weeks passed. We now knew Law school was not it, but we had no idea what was "it."  For a couple of months there we were just existing, distracting ourselves, and trying not to think too much about the future.

Somewhere around Halloween, we knew it was time for a new plan. We tossed around Economics grad school, programming, (both of which he studied at BYU), but still, nothing sparked. They all sounded like cop-outs that could potentially make us a stable living, but were not inspiring to Ryan.

Then, I asked Ryan a crucial question: "What is your dream? When you were a kid, what did you tell people you wanted to be when you grew up?"  Without thinking, he answered: "Aeronautical engineer, pilot, airplane mechanic, something -- anything to do with aviation."

So, that was surprise. In nearly four years of marriage, I can only recall him once expressing an interest in aviation -- but he expressed interest in so many things, I could never have guessed this was his real dream.

But, we ran with it. Without  much idea how to proceed, we began to blindly Google such vague things as "aviation careers" and "commercial pilot training requirements". Within a few hours we had considered basically everything from Flight Attendant to Air Force ROTC, but when Ryan spoke the words,  "Hey.  .  .what about Air Traffic Control?" the decision had already made it self.

I can't describe it any other way but to say that it clicked. If you've heard anything about ATC, you've probably heard that it is considered one of the most stressful jobs a person can have. It's very challenging and requires constant focus and detailed attention. To some people that would be   hell, but for Ryan, it sounded like a perfect fit.

Something in his personality causes him to bear stress remarkably well. And by that I do not mean that he remains cheerful and light-hearted in the face of stress, but that he retains the ability to think clearly, act decisively, and make good decisions under pressure.  Even when he's relaxed and cheerful, he never seems to entirely forget the weight of his responsibilities.

So, once we looked into it, we found a school with classes starting in January. No need to waste any more time -- we are moving to Pennsylvania on December 17th.  Total time between "Hey -- what about Air Traffic Control?" and "Moving Day"  =  6 weeks.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I think It's time.

Over the last few years I've been tracking my goal setting on a pretty cool website called

Some of my goals I've accomplished quickly, some of taken a long time, and some are decidedly a few years away from completion, but I fully intend to do everything I listed.

Today I stumbled on this video and was reminded of my life goal #2 : backflip off a ski jump.  I've always considered it a far-off goal, a someday, maybe, possibly.  But after seeing this video, it suddenly feels like something I could actually accomplish. Maybe even before the end of the year.

I know I can:
-ski competently and confidently (basic grinds and small jumps)
-land a ski jump with a few feet of air
-backflip off a trampoline/diving board
and now I just need to put those skills together.

Maybe I’m underestimating the skill and finesse it really takes, but it doesn’t seem that hard when I see videos like this:

Notice how:
-he doesn’t go down the slope extremely fast
-he doesn’t have to tuck very tightly
-he picks a nice powdery slope for the trick, which minimizes risk of injury
-his poles are flopping all over the place. This, along with the goofy and congratulatory cheers by the videographer, make me think that we’re witnessing one of his early backflip attempts. He’s not a seasoned pro, but a good skier whose skill level may be within my reach.

Although I'm always sad to see summer end, this video is giving me reason to look forward to winter!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Li'l Brudder and Rebellious Everyone

Having my little brother, Michael, come spend 10 days with us a few weeks ago was an excellent excuse to rewatch this HomeStar Runner Classic and make fun of my long-suffering sibling.
Fortunately, Michale doesn't have much in common with this pathetic one-legged pup other than being generally adorable, and having the delightfully unlikely goal of becoming a star quarterback.

(Okay okay. Michael has a much better chance of being a star quarterback than L'il Brudder, but he was probably wise to ditch the football team when he did and go out for lacrosse. He's having a lot more success and playtime in lacrosse than he did as the 5 foot 8 inch, 130 lb QB. Because as good as he was on the field, no amount of skill and speed will mitigate the force of a tackle from a 250 lb defensive lineman.)

Michael (right), wipes away tears of frustration after another pass went right over his head

And whatever his similarities to Li'l Brudder, one thing is undeniable: he's got the "heart of a champion," and I loved having him come visit. We had tons of fun hiking, shopping, playing, cooking and mostly just talking and joking about silly stuff while he was here. This was really the first time since I moved out in 2006 that I've been able to hangout with him for an extended visit. It was cool to see how much he's grown up in the past five years, and how much, in some ways, he's stayed the same.

I was amazed by how adult my 17-year-old brother had become, and how his maturity really shined in the absence of my parents. I easily imagined him renting his own apartment, studying for his college exams, gong to job interviews, etc. My L'il Brudder! Doing grown up things!

He even said something to effect of, "You know, it's weird. I love mom and dad so much, but just something about being away from them makes the world seem easier."

Haha! How right he is. As much as we love and need our parents (even in our adult years), the idea of trying to become a grown-up while constantly being influenced by their guidance is daunting. How could we expect to learn to ride a bike if the training wheels were permanently bolted on?

This got me thinking about the difference between "rebellious" teenagers, and "independent" adults.

When kids have conflicts with their parents - they're just stubborn or misbehaved. When adults have conflicts with their parents - they're just exercising their independence. But teenagers are seen as "rebellious" whether they're arguing about dating, curfews, school, work, life, or any valid conflict that a young person might want to bring up with their parents.

The I-Know-Everything Fallacy Case in Point: Michael created this image of himself  when he was about 15 

Of course there's truth to the stereotype. Teenagers have the added ingredients of hormones, inexperience, the I-Know-Everything-Fallacy, and lack of financial independence all stewing in the potential conflict cauldron. They're capable of (and likely to make) some poor decisions that get them labeled "rebellious."  But, I wonder if the stereotype of rebellious teen isn't largely an externality of our cultural norm that children move out as their teenage years are ending.

Allow me to explain. Kids begin seeking their independence more and more as they enter their teen years, and when they finally gain that independence and move out around age 18, they cease bickering with their parents and we assume that they've quit being "rebellious".

But, imagine that people lived with their parents for their entire lives. Suddenly, we wouldn't think teenagers were rebellious, we would think everyone over the age of 12 was rebellious. We'd be rebelling against our parents until they day they died if we had to live with them forever. Whether you're 15 or 45, living with your parents is kind of hard when you're trying to build your own life. Everyone is rebellious - it's just a question of parental proximity.

Maybe I'll feel differently when I'm the parent of teenagers, but for now this is my theory: Rebellion is just independence under someone else's roof.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Improv, At Provo

Maestro Show, March 2011

"Whose Line Is it Anyway?" is going down as one of the top three most influential TV shows of my childhood. At ten years old,  I remember tuning in religiously to watch the transformation of these seemingly ordinary men into gods of comedy using only their imaginations and guts.

It struck me as such a strange and beautiful thing to do: to *willingly* go on stage without any preconceived idea of what you would be doing but only the vague goal of being funny. The thought would make mere mortals quiver.

No question I wanted to be just like them, but during my more insecure years, I wouldn't have admitted it.  It seemed to me like the only thing scarier than going on stage and being expected to make people laugh would be declaring my desire to do exactly that.  "Hi. My name's Ruthy and I think I am funny enough to deserve your attention." Just about stained my pants thinking of it.

Prop Show, April 2011. Photo by Jason Hansen

For that reason, I have to give thanks to my big brother David for pioneering the way for me and making it seem possible. By joining BYU's Improv comedy club, Laugh Out Loud,  while he was going to BYU, he awakened a glimmer of hope in me. "Hey--we're cut from the same cloth," I began to think "If he can do improv comedy well, maybe I can do it passably."

So, last November I finally mustered the moxy to start participating in the club, and I was surprised with two things: first off, that it was even more fun than it looked on TV. It made me feel all of the exhilaration and long-awaited fulfillment of an ADD six year old on Christmas morning.

Prop show, April 2011. Photo by Jason Hansen

I can only speak for myself, but to me, improv comedy was the thing I had unknowingly been missing for so long. I'm not being melodramatic when I say that it was very much like falling in love - right down to the sweaty palms, racing heart, and the sense of being impassioned, emboldened, and alive.

The other thing that surprised me about this whole improv comedy business was how quickly I began to receive positive feedback from the club leadership and  actually be cast in shows. Like. To perform. For real people. Who paid to be there.

The members of the club have given me much-needed criticism as well. With their help, I hope that I'm continuing to get better. For the past few moths, I've loved practicing with my new friends every Thursday evening. And that's arguably the best part of the whole deal: just getting to know and play with some truly  hilarious people. I feel like a more interesting person just for spending time in the same room as these talents.

Anyway, last night was a particularly good night for me. I was cast in our annual Audience Appreciation Show, and lucky enough to have some good friends attend the show to support me. To be honest, it wasn't the best performance of my life. Overall the show was good--not great, and I know I'm largely to blame.

The thing that made the evening wonderful, was that after the show, the club leadership somehow saw fit to invite me to join Laugh Out Loud as an official, permanent cast member (or "Player" as they call it).

If there's one thing I can't get enough of it's validation. So thanks, Laugh Out Loud, for making me feel great and teaching me so much. I hope to prove worthy of it.

And now for a few photos by the hilarious Jason Hansen: 

(By the way, the other two most influential shows of my childhood were The Simpsons and Ren and Stimpy. Honorable mentions: Scooby Doo and Animaniacs.)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Armless Baby is so, so futile.

Some days I feel like an armless baby on a dirty carpeted floor. I'm not sad because my rattle is missing or because my bottle is empty -- I'm sad because everything I want is complete and beautiful and immediately in front of me and entirely out of reach.

My warm bottle is there, but I have no hope of getting it anywhere near my mouth. My teddy bear cries for love but I am unable to comfort him. I can't even swat flies away from my stupid baby face or suck my thumb.

I have no thumb. And my dirty diaper is quickly forming a rash on my delicate, white, stinky bottom.

Anyway, today is not one of those days. Today, I feel like I have all the baby arms in the world, but I still thought I would finish and post this illustration that I started yesterday when I was feeling a little less armful.