Well, I made it. Last year, I wouldn't have thought it possible. I approached January with no small degree of anxiety as tryouts began.
Could I actually not watch American Idol for a whole season?
It's been almost a year since we cancelled our television. For an entire year I have not seen Oprah, or Jon and Kate, or the Cooking Channel, or (gasp!) American Idol. I heard a few names of contestants, but never heard one of them sing, never even saw a picture. I figured without the real thing, why torture myself with online clips or YouTube. That would be like just taking 'one drink', and I'm a recovering addict, I admit.
And the reality is, I've been busy anyway. I have no idea how I would have been able to tune in a few times each week, pleasant distraction though it would have been. Now, the Season Finale has happened, and I missed it! There is a new American Idol, and I don't even know his/her name!
And I'm okay!
Being without the television has been an interesting adjustment. It's one of those things that I always wanted to do for the sake of my children, but really I was the one afraid of giving it up. Especially with the invention of DVR, I loved being able to record my favorite shows and then unwind at night with them. It was a bit of a drug to give up. Obviously, being up to my eyeballs in schoolwork has helped to fill that 'void', as has Netflix, but a year later, I think our entire family can say that we don't really miss the television. The kids don't spend hours watching mindless Disney propaganda, nobody knows what movies are coming out, and I don't have to worry about blocking inappropriate content. We've filled our time with study, reading, playing outdoors, cooking, some video games, and when we do watch movies or 7th Heaven, we do it all together. A whole year without television, and I think we're happy this way!
Last year was a great year on American Idol. Two of the top three contestants were very talented, very cute, members of the LDS Church. The other was the very hunky, super-talented David Cook (who won). We loved that we would have been happy if either David Archuleta or David Cook became the next American Idol, and it's awesome that they both have achieved stellar success since their year on the show. The female was Brooke White, pure, snowy-white, beautiful Brooke White, with the Carly Simon feel to her music, most of which she accompanied herself on piano or guitar.
Brooke came to our Stake to do a fireside a few months ago, and told her story of the American Idol experience. The last minute decision to fly to the east coast to try out with her husband's belief in her buoying her up through hours and hours of waiting with 10,000 other hopefuls. Twenty-two straight hours of being awake, and making it through round after round, to eventually sing before the Big Three. Fans will remember how she stood out in that televised audition. Her look was great. Her voice was incredible. She was poised and bright. Shiny, even. Then Randy Jackson asked her to tell them something interesting about herself. And she said (and every Mormon in the world watching pegged her immediately), "Well, I've never tried alcohol and I've never seen a rated-R movie."
They immediately saw this girl as a challenge to corrupt. They wanted to know why, like she was some sort of freak. She said that that's how she had been raised, and she was happy this way. Can't really argue with that.
That was the theme of her message at the fireside, that even though we may hold very high standards as members of the Church, and even though we may stand out as being 'odd' or 'different' or any number of other not-so-nice descriptors, in the end, we must stick to our guns and know that obedience to the commandments brings happiness, and following the crowd does not. She encouraged the youth present to give that simple answer, the answer she told to Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson, and millions of other people watching, when asked why she didn't participate in drinking or smoking, dressing immodestly, or viewing inappropriate movies, "Because I'm happy this way." That really is enough.
Lyndsay loved it. She loved it so much that she has it typed as her screen message on her cell phone. "I'm happy this way," it reads. And I believe she is. Her first year in public high school has brought with it plenty of shock value. She is, largely for the first time, having all of her values and morals tested in a public forum where acceptance is the main drive. She stood out almost immediately as one who doesn't cuss, doesn't dress immodestly, won't drink or smoke, rejects much of popular music, doesn't cheat, and won't watch many movies that everyone else is talking about. I think it was only a matter of days before people actually started questioning her out loud and to her face. Bless her heart, she stood her ground.
I told her, "Lyndsay, you are there to shine. It isn't the best school around, but it's the school you need to be at. Those kids need a light like you. Not all kids want to be bad. Not all kids want to be rebels, but most kids need to follow somebody, and in the absence of someone who can show them a better way, they follow the crowd. You're showing them a better way."
We had that talk over and over again. She is, after all, a shiny kid. People say to her that she 'glows', that she's 'radiant', that there's just a 'light' about her. And it's true. And it comes from living right, and being true to who you are. And in the end, she wins. She is surrounded by friends who respect her and want to be like her. She's seen heartbreak from kids who have already begun experimenting with drugs, alcohol, sex, and smoking. She sees kids do things they shouldn't do, just because, and she sees the drama that inevitably follows. Busted for drugs, pregnant at 15, suspended from school. Who needs it?
Now when asked, questioned, grilled, and ridiculed, she simply answers, "I'm happy this way." And nobody can really argue with that.
When Lyns and I went up to talk to Brooke after the fireside, I had to also thank her for always dressing modestly on television. That couldn't have been easy. I noticed, as a youth leader at church, and as a parent, that she kept those covenants even though I'm sure she caused a little inconvenience with the wardrobe department. She was an absolute delight.
Thanks, Brooke. Kids need more lights to follow, so they don't have to just follow the crowd. And thanks, Lyndsay, for also being a light who continues to show, even her mom, the happy way.