Friday, May 22, 2009

Happy This Way

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.


Misty said...

i've never been an american idol fan. Even though I'm not LDS, how wonderful it would have been to see someone walking the moral high ground on tv. what a rarity...

i LOVE LOVE LOVE the paragraph you wrote about how you told her to stand her ground, and why... So good, Jenna!

Megan said...

Your post made me realize how much trash is actually on the shows we allow ourselves to watch sometimes. Even these shows are filled with discussion of teaching children about self-stimulation (Oprah), infidelity and open marriage (Jon and Kate), and sexual identity (American Idol). I'm sure we could also count gluttony from Food Network (Paula Deen?)... Good gravy! (no pun intended)

I have lots of young friends in Pasadena who went to that fireside. It sounds like a wonderful evening.

Thanks for giving me moment to pause and realign today. As newlyweds we used to have a poster by the TV that we'd write on. On it we listed shows we refused to watch because of even one infraction against our standards. I think maybe we should start that up again... and include sponsors, too.

Abby said...

I never watch American Idol you're not alone in your one year without haha. Okay, I can't lie. I watched the season finale even though I knew nothing about what's been going on..just for the other well known bands. I liked that part..but otherwise, don't watch it.

I'm so proud of Lyndsay..she's one of the very best nieces an aunt can have. Especially when that aunt is far from perfect. Give her a hug for me, will ya?

Rachel Sue said...

I'm not so much an AI kind of girl. But I think this is wonderful. What a powerful missionary tool! And a graet role model in a world where there are few. . .

Saint Holiday said...

I can read a book by Lyndsay-light, and also by Jenna-light. Come on over, and I'll stand you in the corner and finish this biography tonight. I love you.

Dad & Granddad (Multiple personality)

Luisa Perkins said...

How wonderful! Every day I'm prouder of you. One day I'll probably just burst because of it.

isshou ni said...

Amen, girlfriend, amen!

* said...

I don't watch American Idol, or much TV at all for that matter. But to have a good, strong, LDS role cool is that? Kudos to Brooke!! And to the youth today who stand firm in righteousness!

Cranberryfries said...

Congrats on the 1 year mark of no tv. We canceled ours a few months ago and I love not feeling like a slave to it.

I love the message. What a great phrase!

Shellie said...

I missed the whole season too and I'm just fine. I like her way of handling things, Im' happy that way too.

Anonymous said...

ooooh, love this! The theme of our Girls Camp this year is Live like you Believe. What a great mantra to add to it all - "I'm happy this way!" I am astounded at how strong our youth need to be these days.... especially living in such a liberal area! Go Lyns - you do glow, you always have. I miss you all and wish I could watch you grow up LIVE..... although by blog is better than nothin. Love you!

Heidi said...

You daughter is beautiful! We have often had long stretches of time w/out TV. Then, when we were spending almost $75 a month on our Netflix account, we wondered if maybe we should try TV again. Now we have DVR and are totally addicted. However, we don't watch many commercials at our house b/c we got so spoiled with the Netflix. We pretty much record everything and cut that stuff out. (Have never seen a stitch of AI--except on Youtube b/c of the Brooke and D.Archeluta thing).

David said...

I stopped watching TV years ago. My reasons are mostly different from yours; I can't stand the commercials or the inanity of most of the shows. But the outcome is the same: I really don't miss it, either.

C. Michelle Jefferies said...

We have been TV free for about 6 years now and don't miss it a bit. There's so much more to do then sit and watch the world go by.

Good for you it's been a blessing for us hope it will be for you too.


Tristi Pinkston said...

We canceled our cable about six months ago, mostly for economic reasons, but having been without it this long and just watching movies that are recommended or that we already own, I know there's a difference in our home and in me, personally.

I was watching both AI and Dancing with the Stars on YouTube and on the network's websites until about a month ago when I realized how much time I was wasting on something that really didn't matter. It was hard to give up, but I don't regret it.

Thank you for this post. You know, I love coming here because you always reaffirm what I know to be true and I love your strength. If I ever meet you in person, I'll probably squeeze the stuffin's out of you. Just so you're warned. :)