Thursday, March 31, 2011

I've Been Thinking, and Boy! Are My Arms Tired!

This post isn't about what you think it's about.  Read past the pictures.  I mean, you know, if you were going to anyway.  No pressure.  I don't want anyone to ever feel pressured.  In fact, do whatever is right for you.  Skim, skim away. 

Wait! Stop! Don't skim!  Read past the pictures!

Reeeeaad paaast the piiictuures!

DeNae's Affirmation Hug. 
Seriously, what's the next logical move here?

Please, ladies.  I can't speak over all this frothing, rabid enthusiasm. 
And no, there will be no mosh pit activities during today's presentation. 
Last time I threw out my back.

As you have no doubt figured out, I'm one of those freaks who not only does not fear public speaking more than they fear death, but who hopes that heaven is just one gigantic audience that never has to leave to use the restroom.

I love it.  I love teaching.  I love spending time with a crowd, showing them something new or telling them stories or just making them laugh.  It really is the entire Mrs. Fields collection for my soul, minus the raisins.

And I honestly hope that every time I insist that whole flocks of people listen to what I'm saying, I'll give them something that helps make some positive change in their lives.  I'm of the opinion that it's possible to walk into a room as one person, and 40 minutes later walk out as someone completely different.  That's the power, the high, of teaching.

In fact, I've been invited to speak in several different places over the next year, and I'm already mulling and pondering and writing and scheming.  I want everyone in the room to be happy they were there.  I want those who invited me to feel they got what they were hoping for.

This one is really going to be special. 
More details to come.


Two Sundays ago, I returned from San Diego totally pumped to get my online business up and running, and got started that very night.  I spent the whole next week immersed in web design, writing content, driving Caroline Bingham clean out of her skull (hey, it's her own fault for being brilliant. Next time sign up to be me, CB) and generally doing six straight days of "DeNae for DeNae and All for DeNae."


So I got to church that next Sunday, and after defeating the organ in mortal combat over the tempo of "Let Us All Press On," I eventually wandered into Relief Society. 

(I'm a Mormon, and RS is the women's auxiliary of the church.) 

I play the piano in RS, where there is no question who is the alpha in the relationship; that particular keyboard instrument barely puts up a fight. 

(It's that $&% organ with its #$%@ foot pedals that keeps trying to vanquish me week after week.)

As I was playing a little background music so the women in the room could prepare spiritually by yakking at full voice about important things like baby barf on microfiber couches, the chorister rushed up to the piano and whispered, "I'm so GLAD you're back!"

She meant it, too.

Let me tell you about this darling girl: 

I don't know her.  At all.  Couldn't tell you her name off the top of my head, although I do think it would come to me eventually, most likely in a text from the RS pres across the room.

I do know that she isn't me, hasn't had my life, doesn't live my life.  There are a couple of subtle, visible signs.  Nothing major, nothing to question.  Just little things that say in their quiet way, "I'm still kinda new to all of this."

And she is totally, pathologically terrified to lead those 25 women in a hymn every week.

So, at her request, I help her. 

As I play the introduction, she stands at the front of the room, eyes locked on me.  She's not looking at the women.  She's not looking at her hymnal.  She's watching me.

When it's time to start singing, I nod my head.  That's her cue to begin waving her arm in time, not with the beat, but with each individual word.  She doesn't have much experience, you see, and she's still so shy about her responsibilities she doesn't think she's smart enough to be taught anything by the professional music conductor sitting at the piano. 

So instead, she watches, and waits.  And I nod.

That's all I do.  I nod...

There were 125 people in that San Diego audience.  There will probably be the same in Seattle.  Maybe twice that in North Carolina.  Around 750 next year in Salt Lake City.

And with all my heart, I pray that I contribute something meaningful to their lives.

But while I was traveling home from California, one sister was looking around the room, wondering where I was, worrying that I wouldn't be there to nod my head and help her get through those three terrifying minutes.

There's making a difference, and then there's making a difference.

It's not about me.  It's never, ever, ever about me. 

It's good to be reminded of that once in a while.


Rebecca said...

I'm one of those freaks too. I have dreams that someday I'll be this amazing, inspiring public speaker but then I don't put myself out there enough. Practice makes perfect, right? I love teaching and speaking for selfish reasons can never do something like that and not go away changed yourself. BTW - thanks for the comments on my blog. It was a fun surprise for me as we are all just insignificant specks in the wide world of the web:)

Boy Mom said...

Awwww, this post explains your wonderfulness. I have a dear friendship that started out this way, only no piano and...well, yeah!

Lisa Loo said...

I loved this post. I need to find out where you are speaking so I can come love/stalk you in person.........

Cyd said...

I've been enjoying your blog (I think I got here via Annie Valentine) for a while and figured it was time to comment/stop stalking/say hi:

I love conducting the music in church because I have no fear of staring down congregation members until they SING, DADGUMMIT. The only problem with that calling, in fact, is that they rarely ask me to SPEAK because I'm up there on the stand every week anyway. I love speaking, I love teaching, and I love this post for the lovely reminder that in the end, it's all about the one.

Thank you!

Melanie Jacobson said...

Same kind of freak. And same kind of motivation. "Please help me teach these writers something that will bring their dreams a little closer." No pressure or anything. But I do love teaching.

Becca said...

Oooh, oooh, me too. Love to teach. And to talk. And to have people laugh at me. With me? Near me? Whatever.

Also, I love that chorister. Give her a hug for me. And remember this? Sometimes it's all about you.

annie valentine said...

I hope we go to the same kingdom. Actually, never mind. I want my own stage.

MommyJ said...

Annie's comment made me laugh out loud. I will most happily join the ranks of those that think microphones are like candy...

Loved the reminders in this post. Love watching you be awesome.

Becky said...

Stupid freaking organ! I hate that instrument of torture, and how EVERYONE thinks if you can play the piano, you can play the organ. Um, no. Organs require special shoes. And the ability to not pull out your battle ax and slay it half way through "Oh Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown"
All that stuff about the one was awesome, too.

Patty Ann said...

I am a lot like you (minus the total awesomeness of course) and I don't play the piano. but I love to teach, and I love to speak, and I love to help make a difference in the lives of others. I got called to teach the lesson in relief society and I love it (the sisters tell me that they do too) meanwhile, the sunbeams cry because I am not teaching them anymore. It is amazing to me the difference we can make in those around us simply by being kind and loving. Totally loved this today. I have come to know that the simple things are most often the things that mean the most.

Kristina P. said...

I am so glad there are people like you to help people like me!

And 750 in Salt Lake next year? At what? Wait, are you going to be our next General Authority?!?! Woot, woot!

Stacy said...

The organ in my building and I are complete mortal enemies. I don't know what I did to anger it, but we are NOT on speaking terms.

And the bass coupler? Proof that God really does love his children.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

I think it's so funny that so many of your commenters/readers claim the same love of speaking and teaching. Most people in the world would rather die a slow death than hold a microphone, so it's clear that, in the case of your blog and its readers, great minds think alike. Or misery loves company. Or some other catchy idiom.

Anyway. Putting all the joking aside, I love this post because I have been mourning my lost opportunities to teach and lead and stuff since we moved to you-know-where, but you've reminded me that there are many other ways to make a difference that are equally meaningful. Thanks, dear.

Kazzy said...

I am always happy to be an audience member of yours. And I mean that in the truest sense. I enjoy your company, your take on things, and your honesty.

I like to teach also, and frankly get really excited about it. I do a decent job, but I am not incredibly dynamic.

And BTW, I am trying and trying to remember what you may have really been saying in that first photo. I was in the room...

Qait said...

I love crowds, I love audiences! Having grown up being used to performing for people (harp), I just don't feel bothered by numbers. The more the merrier! :)
And I's an amazing feeling to do good, and when you are blessed with an opportunity to reach an entire room or arena of people, it's that much sweeter. Humbling. That's an incredible kind of spirit, and I am completely addicted to it.

seashmore said...

I get how you feel. I got asked on Wednesday to give the RS lesson on Sunday, and I was excited! Now, I've got some moves to learn in giving the lesson, but I doubt there's anyone who enjoys preparing for it as much as I do. Mostly because it challenges me to think outside the box.

Is there some little thing that you include in all your public speaking assignments? I have a friend who always tries to work in a quote from his favorite obscure band and I've been known to put 5 Princess Bride references in a 15-20 minute FHE lesson on prayer.

Brooke said...

Speaking of your new online business . . . My husband was attemtping to write an essay last night and was hitting a wall. He nearly threw his laptop across the room as he exclaimed, "Can't you hire that friend of yours, the one who wrote our Christmas letter, to write this for me?"

So my question is - Do you do that sort of thing, or do you only edit/assist in the writing process? I ended up writing this essay for him because it was 10pm and had to be done by this morning (nothing like waiting till the last minute, eh honey?). But for future reference, I'm curious if this falls within the scope of your business model.

M-Cat said...

I love this post! It's sometimes the little things eh?

And I am so like you. Give me a crowd to talk to and I am in my element. Never afraid, just let me work my show.

Braden said...

Well, well said. As always. Great post. Glad you showed that organ who was boss.

Karen Peterson said...

I'm a freak that doesn't fear public speaking either. Much.

But anyway, this comment is about you, not about me. And I really enjoyed this post. Because it really is something special to be the one that's making a difference.

Hilary said...

We've gotta help out where we can, right?

tammy said...

I hate those freakin foot pedals. And just when you start to master a couple of them, you get released.

I think you need to come speak in AZ. We're not really that far from you.

Cheeseboy said...

I'm big on crowds, but I tend to look like a moron in front of adults a lot of the time. That's why I stick to teaching people under the age of 12.

This post details why you are a good person.

Hey, I pranked the entire 6th grade today for April Fool's. It was great. Check my blog for video.

InkMom said...

Love the psychedelic background. I hope you haven't had it long, because if you have, then you'll know how long it's been since I have visited.

Give me the microphone, sister. I could listen to my own voice for hours. And I like forcing others to even more.

And . . . are you bringing some people with you to North Carolina? Are you going to hijack your plane and press them all into indentured Mormon-tude? Otherwise, I can't figure out how you're going to have an audience that huge when you get here . . . I mean, we'll try, and you, of course, will bring the inactives in by the droves, but please don't be disappointed when our numbers are smaller than you've anticipated! It will be a really lively audience!

DeNae said...


Wha--? Around these parts, conference like yours is large in numbers. I guess I still think like a Utah girl!

I actually changed the post, because the last thing I want is to sound like I'm inflating my resume. That's sort of the OPPOSITE of what I'm trying to say here.

Where the heck were you when I published this, woman??

music notes said...

bass coupler + me = best friends

(just wanted to de-lurk to say that)

going back in hiding now

music notes said...

and not to take over your stage here but have you read my 'smoking' organ story...?

wendy said...

Gosh DeNae...what a great post. I am sure you make a difference in many peoples lives....big and small.
Whether it be 100's, or just a soft comforting nod to one poor soul.
I don't even have anything funny to say here.......
cause it's just has that warm and fuzzy feeling about it (gosh, gag, did I just say warm and fuzzy)

I wish I could be to those events you speak at. I haven't been to an "uplifiting" anything in
can't remember

Elizabeth said...

Public speaking is my personal heroin, man. I bet you were amazing! And I love your special gift of nodding!

AS Amber said...

Jerry Seinfeld once said, "the biggest fear of the average person is public speaking. And then death. But number one is speaking in front of people! So, at a funeral, they'd rather be the one in the coffin than the one delivering the eulogy."

Anyway, on to my actual comment. I don't mind speaking in front of people. I think we got that from our father. I don't love teaching, though. Well, teaching churchy things. However, I've been teaching the 5-6 year olds in primary since the beginning of the year. Certainly not my most favorite calling but...oh well, right? And all this time I've just been thinking that I was called here for a reason and I need to magnify my calling and do it well. And hopefully, I and the kids will get something out of it.

Then last week the mother of one of the boys in my class came to me. (This little boy is ADORABLE. Super quiet and shy. Hardly says a word. Ever.) This gal has been in the primary presidency but just got released last month. She was afraid that Jesse wouldn't want to stay in there without her. And the first week after she was released, she sat with him because he was nervous to not have her in there anymore. But when I walked in, he told her she could go. He told her he liked his teacher. He didn't need her in there anymore, because his teacher was there. Me.

I've made a difference. Even if it's just a little boy in primary. I've made a difference.

DeNae said...

I can't think of a more perfect person to teach Primary than you, little sister.

Cori :) said...

Just felt like I needed to counteract all these public speakers with, ya know, me. I wouldn't rather DIE than speak in public, but rather would be much happier if public speaking itself would die. Apparently, public speaking is not a genetic trait...great post though, mom! I heart you!

Motherboard said...

I heart you in a big way. You get me and I dig that. I can't wait to share a Mic with you in SLC next year. I just have one request... I want to HOLD the microphone. Ummkay?

Lara said...

Wow. So true. I needed this reminder because I am so very weary of teaching private lessons. This totally applies. And while I hate public speaking, I adore public singing. It's energizing.

When are you going to speak in Michigan? Or Wisconsin. That would be fine, too. :)