Monday, October 29, 2007

The Time Traveler's Wife

This weekend I read my birthday present -- a book by Audrey Niffenegger. I tend not to read very often, because good novels get into my psyche and everything falls by the wayside while I finish it. So, I don't read, not because I don't like to read, but because I like it too much. Weird, I know.

Regardless, we went to Dallas this weekend for the birthday party of some friends' kids. That meant we had lots of travel time (unguilted reading time), and we would likely need to entertain ourselves a bit while our friends dealt with their life a kids during the weekend (more unguilted reading time), so I decided to start this one.

I actually started Thursday night before we left, and that's a good thing, because this story sucked me in, and I had no choice but to stay up late Saturday night finishing it up. Of course my husband was getting annoyed with me crying with the bedside table-lamp on until 1 in the morning, but it's his fault -- he gave me the book.

To give you the brief, no-spoilers-involved, rundown, we follow the story of a woman, Clare, and her time-traveling husband, Henry (no duh -- you get that from the title). But, unlike other time-travel stories, Henry didn't invent some crazy machine and use it to run all over the time continuum. Instead, Henry has a genetic disease that means when he gets stressed, his fight-or-flight response is extreme: he time travels. He tends to travel to times and places that are important to him, including times while his future wife is a young child and is growing up. One of the unfortunate issues with his type of time travel is that anything not a part of him is left behind -- clothes, shoes, etc. So, his young wife-to-be becomes a partner in getting him the necessities of life -- food, clothing, etc. It is a beautiful love story told from both points of view. We primarily follow Clare, as her story is easier as a linear story line, but Henry's story is woven in a very neat way, showing us his "linear" as the jumpy timeline where answers come before questions and some answers just shouldn't be given. He has a couple of great lines about 20 years ago and a few minutes ago being the same thing to him. It's an interesting take on two people being fated for each other, and as I mentioned before, it made me bawl my little eyes out for hours. Folks having trouble having kids might want to avoid this one, though I don't think any admonition of that sort would have stopped me from reading it.

And then I see that they are making a movie out of the story. I always love to see that a good story gets told to a larger audience, but I haven't decided what I think about making this particular one into a movie. Of course a lot will be lost, but I'm sure I'll have to see it -- to see if they faithfully render the duo I met this weekend when I was on a plane or supposed to be sleeping. But at least the laundry and dishes weren't being shirked while I read.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Bloggin' Is A-Comin'

I have joined NaBloPoMo, which I found out about from Snickollet. It does virtually nothing, except indicate that I have promised to post every day in the month of November. And now that I'm on their blogroll, I guess there's no backing out now.

And since I like a challenge, I've decided to combine this with something else. I know it's silly, and I don't even come close to posting every day, so that will be enough of a challenge, right? Regardless, I need more. Years ago, my husband and I discussed one of his zany ideas to never eat anything the same twice in the same month. I don't think I'm quite that crazy, but I will be planning to cook something different for dinner every night for a month. I'll post recipes along with the fun. Some of them may be recipes I've never tried before, and therefore will be a crapshoot as to whether they'll be any good. Others will be tried-and-true favorites that keep us coming to the dinner table night after night. Well, those recipes and the hunger.

And now that I cook a lot (and am not going anywhere for Thanksgiving, so you'll get all my Turkey day recipes, too), I'm really thinking this should be doable. Here are my rules for myself on this:

1. It's the main dish that counts and can't be duplicated, not the sides. If it's a one-dish meal, then the whole meal counts.
2. Leftovers should be eaten for lunch, or frozen if we find we are becoming overwhelmed with too much food (I'm a German/Scandinavian Lutheran Texan -- a combo that always seems to result in more food than people to eat it).
3. If eating out for dinner looks likely, cook for lunch or breakfast instead. No cheating!!
4. No making up for a missed meal the next day.
5. No prepared meals -- the main dish must be homemade.
6. I can blog about other things, too, but I have to blog about our progress on this goal.

Okay, I think that's enough. Get ready for November!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

No News Is Good News?

It's been six weeks since we made an offer on the house we live in. We still don't have a response, but they are "working on a counter". Every indication we have is that she really would like to sell it to us, so we'll just have to wait and see what she comes back with. I've decided to go with the old adage. It may be foolish, but we're living in the house we want in the meantime, so that's good enough for me.

Plus, yesterday we had a toilet leak, and that got fixed on the landlady's dime. I really think I am content for us to stay renters for a very long time. We'll be here, at least, through all the scheduled visitors for the fall, so that's good.

I feel like our realtor. She checks in periodically just to tell us she's talked with the seller's realtor and has no news. One day, when the longest offer period EVER is over, I'll let you know that we actually have news. If that day ever comes, that is.

Monday, October 22, 2007

How Can I Be Anything But Crazy

My dad called this afternoon, about 3, and left a message on my cell phone. Then he called again at 4 when I hadn't called him back yet. Then he sics my crazy aunt on me, and she calls at 4:30, and then she paged me at 5pm, because my dad's called her because he's worried that I'm not answering my cell phone. NOT ANSWERING MY CELL PHONE???? Dude! Calm down -- it's been two whole hours!

It seems he was concerned that the latest fires were about to consume us, even though the vast majority of them are in Malibu (a ways south of us) and San Diego (a long ways south of us). Meanwhile, I was paged for work at 11:30 last night, and had finished working a 13-hour day, and wanted to take a nap. Just a weensy little nap so I don't become complete psycho-girl, but that was thwarted. First, the plumber came to fix a leak 10 minutes after I fell asleep, and then there was the onslaught of worried relatives.

So, now you see what I'm up against. How can I possibly be a productive member of society when I have genes like that pulling for my total descent into Crazytown?

And now I'm going to go try to get a real nap -- one to try to make up for my lack of nighttime sleep last night. And please don't call me until tomorrow. Thank you for your consideration for my sanity.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

"The Clean House": A Review

Last weekend, we went to see "The Clean House" at a theatre here in SB. Great play. This weekend is the last weekend, so if you live around here, go see it in the next 3-4 days.

TCH is a new play written by a new playwright, and there's a reason that the critics seem to think Sarah Ruhl is the next big thing. The play is funny and sad and triumphant all at the same time. Plus I like a play that only has a handful of characters so I don't get lost, as that seems to happen to me way too often.

Here's the plot, in a nutshell. The main character, Lane, is a fancy doctor with a Portuguese maid, Mathilde, that doesn't like to clean -- she's searching for the perfect joke instead. Lane's sister, Virginia, loves to clean, so she secretly helps Mathilde clean the house. When Lane's husband, Charles, runs off with Ana, Lane's life becomes a mess, until Ana gets sick and Lane has a choice to make. It's a really beautiful story, and it was well done, to boot. And only 5 characters -- I can handle that.

We have more plays coming up, so I'll be keeping you posted. I'm hoping that when you buy season tickets to see a bunch of plays you've never heard of, that you end up with a few gems in there. One down, four to go!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday Random Ten

I have decided to allow iTunes to decide what I listen to today. Here is what it gave me.

"Tunnel of Love" by Dire Straits on Money For Nothing
"Hard Times" by Wayne Watson on A Beautiful Place
"Goodbye, Goodnight" by Jars of Clay* on If I Left the Zoo
"Children of the World" by Amy Grant on WOW 1996
"Language of the Soul" by PFR* on Disappear
"To Have and To Hold" by Depeche Mode on Music For the Masses
"Wassail, Wassail" by Mannheim Steamroller on Christmas Live
"Aware of Wonder" by Geoff Moore & The Distance* on A Friend Like U
"Daytime" by Cat Stevens on Footsteps in the Dark
"White Christmas" by Louis Armstrong from a CD a friend made for me

I guess now I can complain about Christmas music even before Thanksgiving. Except I really like Christmas music, all through the year. That's why I have all that in my general library to be picked up periodically.

*Acts I've seen live.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A Word of Caution

To start with, I tend to view Texas A&M University as a bit of a microcosm of the country in general. Maybe it's because I see their tendency to be conservative coupled with their strive to be progressive, which looks rather like middle-America. Maybe it's because I really loved going to school there, and that's where I developed a lot of my world view. I don't know, but there it is. I tell you this to preface my little history lesson. Texas A&M was founded in 1876 as an all-male military school. In 1963, the first black and female students were accepted and began attending the university (1 and 2). Blacks were admitted at equal status (always with the "legally" on this one, unfortunately) with whites in 1964 (1). Women achieved equal admittance status with men in 1971 (2). In 1976, Fred McClure was elected the first black student body president at A&M (1). Brooke Rollins was elected the first female student body president in 1994 (3).

I share this not to say that women have it worse than blacks, but to throw out a word of caution to all Democrats out there. I do not believe that this country is ready for a female president. Much the same that A&M embraced blacks in the student body more readily than women, the US can handle a black man in the presidency right now more readily than a woman. And here's a bold prediction that I'll make a year ahead of time: if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, we will have another Republican in office for the next four years.

It's an issue that has plagued powerful women for centuries: How do you make it look like you're as capable as a man in "manly things" without diminishing what it is that makes you female? Can a woman be powerful and feminine at the same time? Look at Hillary -- everything about her is criticized in the press. If she dresses like a businesswoman, she looks "boxy"; if she wears something flattering, she's being a tease (4). If she's too serious, then she's cold and calculating, but if she tries to lighten things up, her laugh is ridiculed. She just can't win....and that's kinda my point.

Right now we can't even stomach the thought of a woman as our boss (5). If a female boss is met with resistance, can we really take a female political boss? There has been a lot of talk about whether a woman belongs in the military (6). Can a female Commander-in-Chief be respected? I don't think she can. And she will mobilize an opposition faster than you can say "Hillary".

Months ago, I opined (that's my new favorite word, "opined". Do you like it, too?) that the Republican party was smearing Barrack Obama because they wanted to see Hillary win the Democratic nomination. And it's working so far (7). And, I'd venture to say that a significant amount of her money is coming from the Republican party -- people that want to ensure that she has enough money to beat Obama and Edwards (either of which I believe could beat any Republican nominee that they put forward).

So, I reiterate what I've said before. Stop supporting Hillary. She can't win, and I don't want to see another Republican in the White House for a while. I'd love to see her drop out of the race for the good of the party, but that seems to be too much to ask. Let's switch our focus, though, to Obama vs. Edwards. And the decision isn't which one to pick for president, but whether we have an Obama/Edwards ticket or an Edwards/Obama ticket. I currently believe Edwards/Obama would be more winnable, and currently, that's all I want. A winnable ticket to be put forward by the Democratic party in 2008. Please vote in your Democratic primaries as they come up. And please don't vote for Mrs. Clinton.

Please? Pretty please? Is that really so much to ask?

1. Resource from the Cushing Library on the history of African Americans at Texas A&M University.

2. The history of Texas A&M, as recorded in the Texas State Handbook.

3. News release from A&M regarding a speaking engagement by Ms. Rollins.

4. An LA Times article about Hillary's clothing choices.

5. An Economist article about the perceptions of being disciplined by a male or female boss.

6. A history of women in our military.

7. ABC News coverage of polling in Iowa placing Hillary well in the lead.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Serious Talent Found Here

This weekend I noticed something strange on my leg: five parallel scabs that looked like they had to be caused by a bike gear and a yellow-purple bruise underneath them. The weird part was that I don't remember getting these injuries. Based on the age of the scabs, they correspond with Tuesday when I last rode my bike, but how can you cut your leg and just not notice?

Then, last night, I was frying fish, and splattered oil on my neck. Ew, oil burn. This morning I see I also got a splatter on my shoulder, but I didn't notice that one. Oops. Now I'll have a nice scar for that one. How do you not notice your flesh burning?

I'd like to think this has something to do with some astronomically high threshhold for pain. But, somehow I doubt it. It's more likely a study in distraction's effect on pain.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

OSF: "Romeo and Juliet" Amazing Despite...

Last weekend we had tickets to see "Romeo and Juliet" at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. As part of that, I took Monday off work, and therefore have been behind all week, and thus Saturday is the first chance I have to post about it.

First, let me say that Ashland is beautiful. I'd never been before, but it's just like a painted picture of small-town America. Cute houses, cute shops, friendly people. And with fall really coming in, the colors were starting to change, and there was snow on the mountains. Good stuff.

We went because we know someone in the company and he got us tickets. I'll just leave it at that to protect his privacy and to keep him from being overwhelmed with requests for free tickets. I'll call him Pete for the rest of this post. We went up and stayed in Pete's apartment while he stayed with his girlfriend for the weekend. It was nice to stay in a place with a kitchen and where you can feel comfortable. It helps that we've known him a long time.

But after seeing the play, I can't understand why we waited so long! We're obviously dunderheads, and that's the only explanation. And if you have a chance to go to a play in any of their three theatres, please do so. They've announced the 2008 season already, so pick out the time to go, the plays to see, and get on it already! We will be seeing everything we have time to see next year, because we've been bitten with some kind of bug now.

So, on to the play. We went Sunday night, and all day it was looking like it was going to rain. Two of the three stages are indoors, but the Elizabethan Stage (where R&J was to be) is outdoor. This is neat in a lot of ways, but when it's cold and rainy, it's just sucky for everyone involved. Pete had gotten us tickets in the balcony, so we were covered by the partial roof that is there to help with acoustics. He obviously knew something we wouldn't realize as first-timers -- we hadn't brought all our warmest clothes and raingear. But, as I said, with the roof, we were fine. And I'm not too worried about the folks on the floor -- they all seemed prepared and seemed fine. The actors, however, had to perform in abysmal conditions. The rain started out light, but we were barely into the second scene before they started slipping around on the stage.

They were troopers, but six of them got hurt falling down, and one guy's hearing aid shorted out. That's crazy to expect actors to perform in those sorts of conditions. And I don't want to be at a performance that's just going on because they don't feel they can quit. By the time we got to the morning after bedroom scene with Romeo and Juliet wearing next to nothing under a soaking wet down comforter and wet stringy hair, the play had changed from being about Shakespeare's witty language and action-filled plot. It was about being in awe of these actors and what they were having to deal with. And that's all fine and dandy, but I didn't go to see a test of the human will to persevere. I think that was a different play or something.

All in all, I got a different (better) understanding of parts of the story, and it was wonderful to see it done by experts. As an artistic license thing, they tried to augment the difference between the young and older generation by dressing the old folks in traditional costumes, and the kids in modern-day clothes. Mercutio in a leather jacket and blue jeans was the perfect costume for him, for example. The kids all in school uniforms reminded us that they were really kids, even though Romeo and Juliet were played by mid-20s to early-30s actors.

We will be back. You just won't see us crying over a cancelled play if the weather's bad. Not here. And you should go, too.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Friday Rigged Ten (or Twelve)

Right now, I am completely addicted to the Jars of Clay album Good Monsters. This is a problem that I've written about before. It doesn't strike often, but when it does, it strikes hard. I am a victim of my own obsession, and my iTunes is a helpless bystander. I have it repeating this album over and over and over. Poor thing. It had no chance to dig up some random stuff, so I'll just share what I have it playing these days.

"Work" This song is about how life is hard. Everything is hard work -- even just living. Sometimes it seems it would be easier to just give up and die. The key line for me is I have no fear of drowning/It's the breathing that's taking all this work. This causes general doubt to set in about the purpose of life in general.

"Dead Man (Carry Me)" Here we have the imagery of being dead while we walk around in life. The songwriters appear to be talking about people that continue to go through the motions of life, but not feeling anything about anyone or anything around them. It's a basically a plea to care. I do like the picture I get in my head when they come to the lines There's something in my veins/But I can't seem to make it work, it won't work. It makes me think of all the little red and white blood cells on the side of the highway with their shovels in hand, but just sitting there.

"All My Tears" What a sweet song about going home to heaven when we die. I especially love the chorus: It don't matter where you bury me/I'll be home and I'll be free/It don't matter where I lay/All my tears be washed away. It's that whole concept of death being the final resting place of this imperfect body and the transition into the perfect body that God gives us in heaven. It's also a plea to the people left behind on earth from the dead person: So weep not for me, my friends/When my time below does end/For my life belongs to Him/Who will raise the dead again. It also helps that it has one of those sweet melodies to sort of disguise the fact that it's a song about death. Or maybe that's just part of the overall point of the song -- death isn't the terrible end thing that it is always made out to be.

"Even Angels Cry" This song captured me from the first time I heard it. It took me a long time to understand what it's about, but it's so beautiful I was my favorite early on. I'm not completely sure I get it still, but I'll take a stab at an interpretation. Bad things happen, and sometimes bad things happen to good people. Those times are even mourned in heaven, and we're not alone while we suffer through them. I can't capture the beauty of the song here, but if you ever hang out with me, I'll be happy to play it for you.

"There Is A River" We are human and we make mistakes. All the time. This is constant struggle that I find myself fighting with. I find myself doing things that I know (even while I'm doing them) that I shouldn't be doing. But sometimes I find I just can't help it. This is one of those songs that strives to make me feel better by reminding me that God still loves me and washes away those mess-ups right away. I'm especially drawn to the line Give it up, let go/These are things you were never meant to shoulder. Remember that more often, Heather.

"Good Monsters" I found myself with an original assumption as to what this song was about, and then that changed with multiple listenings. So, I think I get it now, but a nuanced song like this begs you to find another interpretation or insight with each listen. Currently, I'm in the interpretation that it's a song about the good people that do nothing. People all over the planet just let bad things happen. We don't stop the bad monsters, and that makes us good monsters. Our hearts are good, but our actions don't reflect that, so how good can our hearts be? The song declares this is caused by selfishness, and we just have to get over ourselves. The most poignant verse is this one: If good won't show its ugly face/Evil, won't you take your place?/Nothing ever changes, nothing ever changes/By itself. Okay, I get it: get out there and do something good!

"Oh My God" The haunting melody underlies the theme of this song. Every person has different events that cause them to call on God, but ultimately God hears those requests, regardless of who makes them. I love the middle section where they list off the types of people that pray -- everyone from thieves to angels to orphans to warriors to whores to preachers and plenty more. The juxtapositions of some of the various groups that end up turning to God in times of crisis is very powerful.

"Surprise" A song about dreaming. Who knew that would happen. This song is about those crazy things that show up in your dreams and surprise you. I've almost got the timing on the "surprise" encore to the song that comes up after you're sure it's over.

"Take Me Higher" I think this is a request to God to give the singer some peace, even if just for a short time. However, I am happy to hear alternate interpretations if anyone that reads this has listened to this song, or otherwise knows something I don't know.

"Mirrors & Smoke" This is a weird little song. It seems to be a bitter take on a person's struggle with marriage and love. It's done as a duet with Leigh Nash, from Sixpence None the Richer, and I think it's the only song that I don't really like on the album. Maybe it's because I don't get it and it really isn't a bitter anti-love song. I'll just leave you the last chorus, and you can make your own decision: Love's a constant mission/Truer word were never spoke/My love, it keeps you wishing/My heart, it keeps me broke. I completely agree with the first part, and if they're just trying to say that human love isn't as good as Godly love, I really think they could have done that without making marriage seem like a lost cause.

"Light Gives Heat" As the counterpart to "Good Monsters", here we have the admonition that we don't have all the answers to "save" the whole world. Accompaned by the African Children's Choir, this song hammers home who we are harming with our aid policies. As an example, take the first verse: Catch the rain empty hands/Save the children from their lands/Wash the darkness from their skin/Heroes from the west/We don't know you, we know best/But this is not a test. Clearly, we have to help in appropriate ways, and shoving Western culture and values down everyone's throat isn't the way to do that.

"Water Under the Bridge" Here's a more redeeming love song than "Mirrors & Smoke". Not a love song in the classic sense, but that's the best I can classify it. Here we have a person in a relationship that recognizes that arguments contain hurtful things that dredge up more arguments and more pain. Most of us don't deal with these things well, and it can feel like you're at war with your spouse at times. But these people are committed, and they know they can outlast the hurt they've done to each other, and we can stay/'Till the last drop of water flows under the bridge.

So, there you have it. The album that has hijacked my iTunes. Now that I've listened to it about 40 times in the last two weeks, I might be able to move on to other songs, but we'll just have to see. One must feed her addiction!