Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A New Hope, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Jane Austen, Part II

It takes a big man to admit when he's wrong, and I am that big man.

Back in September, if you recall, some friends and I learned that there were a handful of girls in the ward who had not yet seen Star Wars. So, Nick planned and hosted "Star Wars Induction" night, for which we watched Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. After that, I posted what I suppose came across as a diatribe of sorts, complaining about how girls wouldn't give Star Wars a chance.

Well, I was wrong - as wrong as Obi-Wan was about thinking that he could train Anakin Skywalker to be a Jedi. Or, at least, my friends proved me wrong.

In November, I hosted "Star Wars Induction, Part II," for which we watched the next chapter in the films, The Empire Strikes Back. Jill and Shannon, surprisingly, came and didn't hate the movie - which I consider a success. Then, a week-and-a-half ago, Adria and Julia took the initiative and hosted Part III, for which we watched Return of the Jedi, completing our viewing of the original trilogy. Kristen, who had never before seen any of the Star Wars films, came to this one, and - though we needed to give her a brief synopsis of the first five episodes - I daresay that she enjoyed it. Jill and Shannon also made a cameo appearance, singing us a Christmas song (well, Shannon mostly) and bringing us a plate full of goodies.

One important thing about good friends is that they will still love you even (or especially) when you're wrong or out of line. So, thank you, friends.
Keep in mind that Han Solo, too, started out as a jerk and then evolved into a good guy. Though I'm no Harrison Ford, I'm likewise trying to be better than I have been.

For the record, I also believe I wrote something in September to the effect that I didn't consider the relatively new, animated Star Wars film, The Clone Wars, to be a true part of the series. Well, I was wrong about that, too. I recently rented it and watched it with some low expectations going in. Turns out that I enjoyed it quite a bit, and I have been enjoying the TV show, as well.

Monday, December 29, 2008

No Place like Home for the Holidays

There is, indeed, no place like home for the holidays, just as the old song says. The Plowman bunch managed to have a very nice Christmas celebration last week.

On Christmas Eve, we first went for some sledding on the big hill next door at Hannah Holbrook Elementary. That was followed by a very nice Christmas dinner, which rivaled our Thanksgiving in size and scope.

Biz wrote and put together a fun Christmas pageant, with pretty much everyone getting the chance to either narrate or act out different parts of the story.

Two-month-old Kira, being the youngest member of the family present, probably had every right to play the baby Jesus. Instead, she chose to be held by her mom.

Eight-month-old Jackson got that part in her place:

Kylee, who has already been rehearsing to play a Munchkin/monkey in The Wizard of Oz, played an angel:

Dallin and Xena portrayed a couple of animals in the manger (at least, I think that's what Dallin is doing here):

Jenna and Luke were, respectively, cast as an angel and a shepherd.

Mike, Dallin, and I portrayed the three wise men. (No, I don't think we were typecast, per se.)

Steve accompanied us on the piano as we sang some Christmas hymns.

Adding a new dimension to the holiday this year, we had a family talent show after the pageant. Ben participated by playing "Orange Blossom Special" on his violin:

Kylee, Jenna, and Kenna sang some songs of their own. Mike, Ben, Dallin, and I also performed a couple of skits that Mike had previously taught to his Cub Scouts.

After that, everyone got to open the gift(s) given to them through the name-in-the-hat exchange. Jackson was looking great in his new Batman PJs:

Dave's family and Biz and Jeff returned to their homes, but Mike, Jana, and their kids slept over for Christmas. The kids looked up Santa's location on the Internet - he was in Canada at the time - and quickly went to bed. The rest of us fell asleep watching The Muppet Christmas Carol, a family favorite.

Christmas Day itself was loads of fun. The kids had us up by 6:45 a.m. to open presents, and watching them enthusiastically rip through wrapping paper and discover their gifts was the highlight of the day. I was especially grateful when Kenna squealed with delight when she saw the DVD I bought for her family, The Chipmunk Adventure, and ran over to give me a big hug.

Moments like that kinda make your day.

Wherever you were, or however you spent your holiday, I hope that you, too, were surrounded by loved ones.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

My Grown-Up Christmas List

If you read my recent post on Christmas music, then you already know that Amy Grant's Christmas tunes are among my favorites of the holiday season. One of those songs is "My Grown-Up Christmas List." The chorus is as follows:

No more lives torn apart,
That wars would never start,
And time would heal all hearts.
Everyone would have a friend,
That right would always win,
And love would never end -
This is my grown-up Christmas list.

I wholeheartedly echo those sentiments.

I don't have a whole lot on my Christmas wish list this year. I'm pretty much happy with whatever anyone chooses to give me. As I write this on Christmas Eve, I have a few other items on my own grown-up Christmas list (assuming I were a grown-up, that is):

- A world not-yet-gone-to-pot for my seven nieces and nephews

- Independence from worry, doubt, and fear

- A brain for people in charge of the U.S. economy, a heart for Proposition 8 protesters, and courage for Pepe and many of the people in my singles ward

- Some of Lucy Pevensie's miracle-cure firefly juice for all of the injured players on the Jazz roster

- A blonde to share a sleigh ride with. Or a nice redhead. A brunette would be great, too. Most any girl with a pulse will do, really. (I may as well ask for one for my brother Steve while I'm at it.)

- For BYU Cougar QB Max Hall not to fumble nor to have his Christmas gifts intercepted when he passes them out tomorrow

- To wake up Christmas morning and find my car's brakes replaced

- Open message to GEICO: Please, for Pete's sake, stop the caveman commercials. At first they were embarrassing; now, they're just annoying. That goes for you, too, Furniture Warehouse (the "Road Redwood" people).

- To just once be able to beat Biz in "Scramble"

- A nice mutton, lettuce, and tomato sandwich

I hope it's not too much to ask. We can always dream, right?

What's on your Christmas list this year? Assuming you reply on or after Christmas, did you get it? Pres. Monson also once asked an important question: "What did you give for Christmas this year?"

As Tiny Tim would say: God bless us, everyone.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

To Auld Lang Syne

Thanks to Facebook, I have recently gotten back in touch with several old friends from my elementary school (Hannah Holbrook in Bountiful) and junior high school (Baldwin School in Bayamon, Puerto Rico) days - some of whom I hadn't seen or spoken to in 15 or more years.

It's been great catching up with these people and finding out about what has transpired in their lives. Many have gone on to successful careers (or are working towards it); most are married with kids; some have fallen away from the Church; a few have, unfortunately, known the pain of divorce or become widowers/widows. One thing that we all share in common is that we got to go through those carefree, formative years together. Gas prices, the economy, the Internet, gay marriage, and terrorism were the farthest thoughts from our minds. We shared many good times in the classroom, in assemblies, on the tetherball courts, or in jacks tournaments. (Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I used to be a champion jacks player.) Each of these people has, in one way or another, influenced me for the better over the years.

I was saddened to learn today that one of my elementary school buddies, Steven Barber, passed away not long ago, leaving a wife and two young children. I didn't learn about it in time to be able to attend the funeral.

Reading Steven's obituary, however, also brought back good memories, such as shooting hoops on the basketball standard at his house as Glenn Frey's "The Heat Is On" blasted from a neighbor's radio and staying up until what we thought then was late, watching cartoons at a sleepover.

If there is any kind of a lesson to be gained from this, it is perhaps to tell my friends, both old and new - before it is too late - that I am grateful to have you in my life. You do more good for me than you will ever know. I have been blessed to be surrounded by people who influence me for the better.

It is close to the time of year when we sing "Auld Lang Syne," a traditional ditty for New Year's. Loosely translated, it means "the good old days." (Jamie, you will have to correct me if I'm wrong. I believe it's an old Scottish toast.) I would like to think that it refers to good times past, present, and future. Thanks for letting me come along for the ride.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Thank You for the Music

All week long, I have been listening to the Mamma Mia! soundtrack, which features the songs of the Greatest Thing to Ever Come Out of Sweden (Other Than Pres. Monson's Ancestry): ABBA. And I'm not afraid to admit it, either. "Super Trouper," "Honey, Honey" and "I Have a Dream" are just a few of the catchy tunes that tend to get stuck in your head without your even realizing it.

The two leads, Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried, have surprisingly good singing voices. But Pierce Brosnan should, honestly, not quit his day job.

It started innocently. Biz, who had recently been to see the movie on a girls' night out (what I like to call an "Estrogen-Filled Power Hour"), left her copy of the soundtrack at home after stopping by to make a Christmas CD mix. Out of curiosity, I put the CD in the computer and listened to it. Then, I listened to it again. And here we are.

For the record, I first became an ABBA fan many years ago. A lady who cooked meals for us in the mission field was a big fan and would often play the tape as we waited to eat. (Peru still hasn't heard of CDs, to my knowledge.) Missionaries aren't and weren't allowed to listen to things like ABBA, but she was not yet a member of the Church - she is now a Relief Society president - and we didn't have the heart to ask her to turn it off.

Well, if ABBA helps turn people into Relief Society presidents, then by gum, it is good enough for me. Upon returning home, I sought out and bought the album Oro: Grandes Exitos, which is a collection of ABBA's greatest hits in Spanish. I often play "La Reina del Baile" ("Dancing Queen") when it is my turn to deejay at ComedySportz. There are always at least a couple of confused looks on people's faces when they begin to hear the words being sung in Spanish.

I have no desire to see the film, unless Person A, B, C, or D can help me to change my mind. (That is another story.) But, then again, the plot in many musicals is irrelevant. (Consider Carousel as a classic example.)

Call me geeky, if you will. But the geeks will inherit the Earth . . . right?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

First Impressions and Blind Spots

My topic today is dating blind spots, and I'm choosing to pick on: myself.

What are dating blind spots? you ask? Anyone with a driver's license knows that a blind spot is the area to the left or right of your car (or even behind, if you're backing up) that can't be seen in side-view mirrors. When changing lanes, it is important to check your blind spots, or you could cause an accident, run over an animal, or worse.

Dating blind spots, then, are personality flaws we don't see in ourselves that may be all-too apparent to our dates or to our friends (think double- or triple-dating). We may think things are running smoothly when (surprise!) we may be acting like an idiot.

I'll give you an example from my own experiences. It was a hard lesson to learn, but it was one that helped me to be more vigilant from that point on.

A few years ago, I became acquainted with a good friend's sister at a dance. She was cute, friendly, smelled nice, and, on top of all of that, was a great dancer to boot. So, I asked her out to (you guessed it) a school dance. I had to drive through a torrential rainstorm all the way out to northern Davis County to pick her up, drive her to the dance at the state Capitol, and then take her home afterward - putting more than 100 miles on my car in one night. No matter, though, for she seemed like a good sport about it, and we talked and laughed throughout the evening. At the dance itself, I gladly taught what was to her a new dance, merengue, and she seemed to enjoy learning that, too.

We had gotten along quite well, I thought, and I was excited about the possibility of going out with her again. A week or so later, I called her up to ask for a second date. When I heard her voice over the phone, however, she seemed, well, not interested in talking to me at all. She flatly told me no. Not no, I'm busy that night, but simply no. She wasn't impolite or rude; she just didn't seem to be the friendly person I had gotten to know the week before.

I tried calling her a third time a few weeks later, just in case the previous occurrence had been some sort of fluke, and again I was given a flat no response. I was puzzled. I wondered for weeks what had happened to cause her to react this way. And, then, I ran into her brother (my friend) at the Institute and asked if he had any input. That turned out to be a stupid question on my part.

She generally enjoyed herself at the dance, he told me. But, early on in the evening, I had made some sort of joke poking fun at Weber State - a school I had previously attended and one that she was currently attending - that had given her a bad impression of me. I thought I was obviously kidding, but the damage had been done. Futher, at the dance, she thought I was a "wallflower" and didn't ask her to dance as much as she would have liked.

As I wrote before, it was a hard lesson for me to learn. I found out that I had at least two major blind spots - ones I didn't know I had - that had made her experience an unpleasant one. In the years since, I have tried to be more careful in what I joke about on first dates, because you never know where people are coming from or what their sense of humor may turn out to be like. What's funny and sarcastic to one person may be insulting to another.

I was hurt when I was given a flat no to those date requests. But, with time and perspective, I have come to respect this girl for being completely honest with me when she had no desire at all for another date. Being told no is so much better than being fed lame excuses, wasting the time of both people involved and prolonging the inevitable.

In other words, you can either hurt somebody a little (by turning him/her down early) or a lot (by stringing him/her along). She chose to hurt me a little, and (now) I appreciate that.

All of this leads me to the discussion questions: Which is the best way to find out about what your dating blind spots are? How do you go about getting feedback for a date? What are the keys to getting a second date?

I would appreciate any and all feedback.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Mattress Wars

My 16-year-old cousin Eden, who has already won both national and Utah filmmaking contests for high school students, is entering the following commercial in a local competition hosted by Intelli-Gel. If he wins, the commercial will air on Utah TV. Please take a look at it and vote for him, if you are so inclined:

On his YouTube profile, you can find links to Eden's other amazing animated Lego films.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Slip Slidin' Away

I love the snow. Sledding or making a snowman are among my favorite things to do in winter. I do not, however, enjoy shoveling snow nor driving when snow piles up on the road. At these times, I am not so much a fan of the snow.

Yesterday, Biz and I faced a dilemma. We normally carpool down to Provo once a month to perform at Comedy Sportz, and we were scheduled for both of last night's shows. But it was snowing pretty much all day and snowing quite a bit. Some friends I saw in the afternoon told me horror stories about their experiences driving on I-15 earlier in the day. I think it was even snowing in space.

For much of the day, it wasn't looking like we might get down to Provo at all. We considered calling the top brass and asking if they could find someone else to fill our spots. But, in the afternoon, the weather cleared up. We decided we would go after all. Just in case the weather got bad again, Jeff offered to drive us in Bunny (Biz and Jeff's new car), which we agreed would do better in the snow than my box of bolts.

For the trip down to Provo, the coast was totally clear, and we made great time. We had a fun evening with our Comedy Sportz colleagues, taking part in two enjoyable Improv shows. We were at the club until a little after midnight, after which we packed things up and headed back.

For most of the trip home, the roads were once again clear. As we came into the middle of the Salt Lake valley, however, we drove into a new storm. Jeff slowed down to about 50 MPH, as circumstances seemed to permit, but, before we knew it, we were spinning like the Tilt-a-Whirl at Lagoon. (That's really the only thing I can compare it to.)

In what felt like an hour later, but was in actuality only about 10 or 15 seconds, we came to a stop - which, thankfully, was not due to our having collided with the concrete divider, which I feared may happen twice - in the middle of the freeway after two consecutive 360-degree turns.

In the middle of this rather scary moment, I remember uttering a quick prayer for our safety. This was one of those times that an answer was given right away. Jeff did something very important in that moment that is crucial when you're behind the wheel of a car: He didn't panic. It was also a good thing that this took place at about 1:00 a.m. on a somewhat empty road. About any other time, and we probably would have collided with one or more cars.

Every so often, something happens that reminds you that you're being looked out for.

Friday, December 12, 2008

"Why Is He Singing It Sexy?"

There are some things you never expect to hear your mother say.

A few years ago, Mom and I were in the car together, on our way someplace, and, as we traveled, we listened to Christmas songs on the radio. I don't remember the name of the song, but a holiday ditty sung by Kenny Loggins soon came on the air.

It's a Christmas song, she said. Why is he singing it sexy?

I guess maybe she thought Kenny was trying a little too hard. Whatever the reason, this moment has since become one of my favorite Christmas memories.

The songs of Christmas are one of my favorite parts of the holiday season. They are a big part of helping me to feel the Christmas spirit - at any time of the year. In July, I break out the Christmas tunes, mostly to celebrate reaching the halfway point to the next Christmas. On November 1, to combat the post-Halloween blues, I am already tuning into the 24/7 Christmas music wars between local radio stations FM100 and KOSY 106.5. (If I were DJ for a day, I would really shake up both of their lineups. But they both try hard.)

What are some of your favorite Christmas songs/albums?

For me, it just isn't Christmas without Amy Grant. I had a copy of her "Home for Christmas" album on tape with me in the mission field, and listening to it always made me feel like home wasn't so far away. Amy now has four (yes, four) holiday albums, and they are all great.

I also grew up with "John Denver and The Muppets: A Christmas Together." Say what you will about the Muppets' singing (or John Denver's, for that matter), it brings me memories of many good years. John Denver and Jim Henson (as well as other Muppeteers) are now gone, but it is still not Christmas without this CD, either.

Among other CDs in my CD player right now are Michael McLean's "The Forgotten Carols," the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's "Sing, Choirs of Angels!", Sarah McLachlan's "Wintersong," "A Charlie Brown Christmas," and Shawn Colvin's "Holiday Songs and Lullabyes" - to name just a few. A new album I bought just this last week, "O Holy Night" by Sara Groves, is already a favorite. This lady has one of the most amazing voices I have ever heard.

Speaking of amazing voices, last night some friends and I got to go to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square's annual Christmas concert, thanks to a ticket from our friend Mollie, who plays bassoon in the orchestra. It had been a few years since I had been given the chance to attend one of these concerts in person, and it was a fantastic show. The "Hallelujah" chorus is always great to hear, and "Once in Royal David's City" is one of my favorite hymns. I was not really a fan of organ solos - my grandmother used to say that they were "like a mouse running loose on the keyboard" - until last night, when organist Richard Elliot's rendition of "Go Tell It on the Mountain" (played partly with his feet as he snapped his fingers) brought down the house.

The MoTabs's guests for this concert were narrator Edward Herrmann (aka Richard Gilmore on "Gilmore Girls") and Broadway star Brian Stokes Mitchell. I enjoyed Mr. Herrmann's commentary on the origin of the hymn "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," which is a great story. And Brian Stokes Mitchell - though he reminded me of Barack Obama as he spoke (take a look at the adjoining picture, and tell me if I'm crazy) - had everyone's attention whenever he sang, particularly on "The Friendly Beasts" and "Grateful."

Mom might have said that his voice was sexy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Life Wirth Emulating

Last week, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles passed away at age 91. This is already news to most of you, presumably, but I just wanted to write a few words about this good man.

During his final years, Elder Wirthlin would often visibly struggle to deliver his general conference messages. (Regardless, I hope I'm doing that well if I make it to 91.) The rumor was that this was because his eyesight had gotten worse and it was harder for him to read from the teleprompter.

Whatever the reason, one image that I think will always stay in my mind was created during one of Elder Wirthlin's last talks. During this talk, he began to shake and wobble. At first, I feared that something serious was taking place, like a stroke. (I later read that it was due to his knees becoming locked together.) It was obvious that he was having a hard time giving this talk, yet he kept right on speaking. (His topic, which I suppose was no coincidence, was on enduring to the end.) Elder Russell M. Nelson soon stood up and held onto his colleage in the Twelve, supporting Elder Wirthlin as he gave the rest of his talk. My mom and I watched this on TV together, and we could not stop crying. I will remember the courage that Elder Wirthlin showed in these few minutes, and I won't I forget the important lesson I learned about the true sense of brotherhood and love that exists among the members of the Quorum of the Twelve.

Though his delivery struggled, Elder Wirthlin's talks were pure gold. For my birthday last year, some of my siblings chipped in and bought me Press On: Messages of Faith, Hope, and Charity, a collection of several of his messages as an Apostle. I read through this book during a particularly difficult time in my life that came not long after, and the words and counsel from Elder Wirthlin gave me added strength to face my trials that I sorely needed.

I also got to meet him on two occasions: once at a Missionary Department social, back when I worked at the Church Office Building, and again at a University of Utah football pep rally, where he came and spoke about his days as a running back nicknamed "Speedy" during the 1930s.

The title of Elder Wirthlin's final general conference message, "Come What May, and Love It" serve, I think, as a fitting epitaph to his life. He had his share of Fridays, but his Sunday, and a well-earned rest, have come.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

The whole Halloween to New Year's stretch is actually my favorite time of year, so I think of the Christmas/New Year's season as kind of the grand finale of it all. As I write this, it is (finally) snowing outside and making things look like a true winter wonderland.

One of my favorite holiday traditions is wearing Christmas socks. This tradition was inspired by both the Christmas episode of "Mr. Bean," in which Mr. Bean gets a pair of Christmas socks, and a gift from my friend Jacob Lowell in high school, which was the result of a gift exchange in our A.P. Spanish class. (Some of you know Jacob's brother Jonathan, aka J-Lo.) Jacob gave me a pair of red socks, on which Santa Claus was playing basketball.

After that, I began to collect Christmas socks of all kinds. I even had a pair that played a rap song by Santa Claus - until they went through the wash. I now have six or seven pairs of Christmas socks that I rotate throughout the month of December.

Someone at church yesterday pointed out my mistletoe socks, and it wasn't long before a handful of girls were gathering around and commenting how much they liked them. (Yeah, so, you can see now why I wear them.)

Thursday night, I attended the ward Christmas party. In spite of what I mentioned in my last post about a little incident that occurred at dinner, it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening spent with many good friends and ward members. I am still not the world's greatest gingerbread house construction worker, but I was sorted onto a team with a professional architect in charge for the gingerbread house-making contest and was happy to take orders and try to help my group out as best I could.

For Saturday's Improv rehearsal, I got to play Santa Claus in one of the games, with my brother Steve and my buddy Ryan Huff as some of Santa's helpers. You really had to be there to understand it - the game ended with Santa dying when a child stopped believing in him, coming back to life at his funeral as a zombie, and going out to kill the Easter Bunny - but Improv, likewise, is now helping me to enjoy the holiday season.

In ward choir, we are rehearsing four excellent numbers: Mozart's "Jesus Savior," "The First Noel/Pachelbel Canon" medley, "Were You There?", and one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs, "Still, Still, Still."

Pepe once again gave me two tickets to attend last night's First Presidency Christmas Devotional at the Conference Center. The Tabernacle Choir sounded great, and the talks by Presidents Monson, Eyring, and Uchtdorf were all fantastic and really helped me to put some things into perspective. After the meeting, my date and I wandered around Temple Square, gawking at the Christmas lights and enjoying the holiday air. Among other friends, I ran into my old Institute choir leader, Bro. Paul Hanks, and his wife, Jean, both of whom I hadn't seen for a few years. It was great to see them both.

Incidentally, since a few of you have asked me about how I have been handling the Person A/Person B situation, I asked Person C - meaning someone else entirely - to go with me to the devotional. I am still trying to figure out Person A and Person B's personalities, and someone who is nice all of the time seemed like a better choice.

In the next few weeks, I'm looking forward to the Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert, family festivities, watching my nieces and nephews open their presents, egg nog, bowl games (way to go, Cougars and Utes!), Christmas caroling, friends' birthday/graduation parties, and the like. There are so many things out there to enjoy.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Simple Courtesy

Nothing I've written about lately has generated as much of a response as my last post on dating. So, I'm going to revisit the topic once again.

A couple of nights ago, I sat next to a friend of mine as we ate dinner at a ward activity. (I should probably preface this by mentioning that this friend is mentally challenged. If you're from my ward and are reading this, you most likely know whom I'm talking about.)

This friend mentioned that he was frustrated about something. Taking the bait, I asked him why. He then pointed to two girls on the opposite end of the room - two girls I already knew, but not too well - and told me that they had been "ignoring" him. He said that he had repeatedly gone up to these two and said "hello" - attempting to be polite, in the only way that he knows how - and initiate a conversation. Each time, they had ignored him and left, without saying a single word, let alone making eye contact with him, going over to instead talk to another one of their friends.

He hadn't tried to ask either of them on a date. He hadn't done anything he could think of that might have offended them, either.

How many times now has this happened? I asked.

Six or seven, he answered.

That was plenty enough, I thought, to make anyone want to give up trying to be nice. He seemed to be on the verge of tears as he told me about it.

I can understand avoiding a guy who has reached the level of "stalker," or a guy one of them has already had to have a D.T.R. with and already asked to please give her space to date other people. Anyone would feel creeped out by that. But I can't comprehend, for the life of me, what makes girls treat somebody like this - especially someone who is mentally challenged.

This kind of behavior reflects the Young Women values you used to repeat each Sunday in church?! I want to scream. This is supposed to help find you a husband?!

Is there some code of etiquette I am missing? Or are these two people just, well, jerks and exceptions to the rule? I honestly would like to know.

Thank you for allowing me to vent. I promise to try to dwell on cheerier subjects in the future.