Friday, March 25, 2011

Out lion! Out lamb!

March is sidling toward the door and I have barely acknowledged it. Ah well, it's also bringing a weekend with highs in the 40s and a rain/snow mix. But besides resenting the inhospitable temps I think that's what March should do, swing wildly between colder and warmer and throw some random precipitation on us. Sorry fruit trees, hard frost for you.

Watching Kids in the Hall to continue my Canadian entertainment trend. I have been surprised that the interstitial bits -- scanning shop windows and grocery store shelves -- are giving me nostalgia pangs.

I've got nothing but wanted to lift my face toward the future. Insert hopeful tableau here. Just finished Misfortune by Wesley Stace. I'd recommend half heartedly if you needed a long book. A jolly pastiche is how one review went but I don't think it quite reached that height. Admirable language, some of the characters were distinct and memorable, but a bit of a mess bullied by its bossy lost heir plotline. I'm starting Oryx and Crake now and hope that Ms. Atwood will soon have my attention firmly in her dry narrative grip.

Have an enjoyable weekend even if you spend it indoors.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Ineffable and Sprung

I feel that this first section needs a disclaimer: it's religious navel-gazing. Because this is a blog and my navel is in my purview.

Taking the good where you find it
I love being an Episcopalian/Anglican if for no other reason than I can imagine Bertie Wooster sitting (impatiently) through service in a pew near me. My love for English literature is central to my religion, it's a cultural thing: these are the stories that my people tell. So much wonderful language comes from the wells of the Bible and the book of common prayer. In addition to the cultural heritage aspect I have a religious impulse although I do not believe in a personified God/gods. This gives me plenty to think about when reciting the Nicene Creed. My personal view of God (= the entirety of all that is and has ever been) works for me. And the friction it creates when in contact with scripture and church teaching is instructive and good for my brain. I find that my feminist beliefs are also honed to a fine edge by the sanding of the Bible that tells us stories of that particular patriarchal tribal history. Some things that move me in service are praying for others, singing beautiful poetry (there's plenty of crappy poetry in hymns too, so the good stuff is precious) and imagining every human being working to get beyond their own flaws.

I love thinking about this, it pleases me to parse my own personal beliefs and I'm quite curious about others religious ideas although I'm also too polite to ask. I have resolved to get beyond that reticence and ask some metaphysical questions of my fellow churchgoers. Because I really want to know! And why are we there if we can't talk about some of these ideas that go beyond the material world?

In my opinion most humans have a religious drive and it can be satisfied in a myriad of ways. The fierce atheist who wants to browbeat everyone into admitting there is no God with a long beard sitting on a throne in the sky makes me tired. They seem to be discounting every metaphorical/poetical way of thinking about existence and connection with other humans. And I am uncomfortable with *plenty* of the beliefs of plenty of my fellow Christians.

In contrast to the extremes, here is a statement by a witty agnostic (good old Scalzi) that I appreciate:
There are a number of people who have come to agnosticism or atheism because of conflicts with or disillusionment about religion, and in particular a religion they were born into and grew up in, and others who are agnostic or atheist who feel that religion and the religious impulse must be challenged wherever they find it. For these reasons among others I think people assume those people who aren’t religious are naturally antagonistic, to a greater or lesser degree, to those who are. But speaking personally, I don’t feel that sort of antagonism; I don’t look at those who believe as defective or damaged or somehow lacking. Faith can be a comfort and a place of strength and an impetus for justice in this world, and I’m not sure why in those cases I, as a person without faith, would need to piss all over that.

We've had our first week of Spring here. Monday's 2+ inches of snow melted in a couple of hours and the crocuses are out, yellow and purple both. Last night I slapped a mosquito on my ankle. Goddamn but mosquito season is long here in eastern Kansas. St. Patricks's Day was upon us yesterday. I split a (non-Irish) beer with my husband in the evening. We sat out on the patio with some neighbors and it was delightful. Yesterday I read that originally ale was brewed in the British Isles without hops. The hops were eventually imported from the continent which allowed different sorts beers to be brewed. And now most ales have hops for the preservative qualities as well as the taste. This ale/beer dichotomy is interesting to me but I haven't got a hook, we'll just let this paragraph peter out.

The children had fun wearing their green clothes. Lexi's 1st grade class got face painted. She was very proud of the shamrock on her cheek but all the boys got green mustaches painted on! Hilarious! I harbor a desire to throw a mustache party but I'm worried that sounds dirty.

Too Keyed Up
Here's an email signature I found insufferable today:  
Regardless of how distant your dreams may seem, every second counts.There's the fussy font and then the presumption that her philosophical musing will be relevant to her readers campus-wide. And the sentiment makes me think of sitting at the edge of my seat looking for portent as every second passed. I'd rather dwell in the now -- this is the day we have. What can we do with it? Today I am continuing my tradition of taking little things too seriously.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Cloud to Sun

Friday morning I had a sad (mournful hound image here). I shook it off with a quick trip downtown to the toy store. My husband turned 45. He told me that at school he's learned to "properly scrape off gasket material" and that he lifted a 50 pound compressor without throwing his back out. In sum he said "I keep finding more things I can do that I didn't think I could." And that warms the cockles of my heart. I'd like some of that too. Mastery moments are so satisfying.

At any rate I was at the toy store to buy him a kite. With the March birthday I *always* think he needs a kite. Walking in the sunshine and zipping around downtown gave me a lift. I didn't feel sad when I came back to work.

The day before I had revised my resume and turned it in as part of my bid to get my job reclassified so I can get a raise. There are no regular raises in this time of the incredible shrinking state budget. So my office manager has helped me revise the description and call it a more advanced job. Which is true, I am doing more than I did five years ago. But it's a small job even with all my shiny experience. Looking at the small progress I've made in five years gave me a clutch at my heart. There are people in the world who can look at their resumes dispassionately. There must be. But whenever I work on my resume it makes me want to leave the state and create a new identity. Nod was sympathetic and reminded me that I held the family together during the recent unpleasantness. I also remind myself that I started this job when Lexi was one and Katy was three and I was still getting up in the night almost every night. But nonetheless I was under a cloud and felt lowly low until the toy store outing.

Katy reached a milestone in her development last week. It was being too cool for the 3rd grade music program. She and her friends made fun of the words and arm motions and snickered mightily. She told me ahead of time that she didn't like the songs or moves. I said something mushmouthed about respecting her teacher and that she wouldn't like every piece. But now I know what to say: I do not intend to sit through a performance where you don't sing out or even appear to know all the words. I will not watch you roll your eyes and barely follow along. Infuriating. I told her I was disappointed but left it at that. I'll reserve my speech for the next opportunity.

Last week was something almost every night. We did it all. We went for a walk on Saturday, celebrated the birthday and got a date night out too! We had dinner at a cafe and went to hear Indian music performed in a yoga studio. I looked around at the funky crowd and said, wow, you wouldn't know we were in Kansas.

This morning there is snow falling fast. It should all melt later. March has got it all.

I'm crocheting a poncho for Katy. If it comes out I'll do another one for Lexi too. The neckline was the only tricky part and I had to undo lots of work until I got it mostly correct. Now I'm on the easy part and will see if I can finish it with the odds and ends of yarn I've got. It's the first thing I've crocheted for ages, good fun. The cat is teaching me to put the yarn up when I'm done.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Serious Primate

Light and Dark
Finished Robert Sapolsky's A Primate's Memoir last night. To be strictly honest, I skipped over most of the account of the baboon deaths to get to the end. His anecdotes of being a young dumb American science guy exploring Africa, living with the animals and doing his research work are sidesplitting. Except that there are some sad stories that are interleaved. It all takes place in postcolonial Africa and its vanishing habitats after all. Now I'm regretting recommending it repeatedly as a light hearted read. So to those I recommended to: a belated warning that there's some piercing sadness in addition to the laughs. His travel to the Mountains of the Moon to visit the mountain gorillas and Dian Fossey's grave is affecting. The description of the terrassed farms as far as the eye can see coming up the slopes of the mountain explains why the forest territory is vanishing better than anything else I've read. I am glad I read the book. I laughed, I cried, I'm a primate too.

Slings & Arrows is also delving into the dark for the third season. The Lear episodes are not nearly as sexy as the first two seasons. I'm a little disappointed, being all in favor of sexy, but I have to admit it matches the material. Immanent death, betrayal and foolish behavior as promised. I have one more episode to go. Now I wonder what other Canadian tv series I have left to discover. Bring me more Canadians!

I'm absurdly proud of myself for walking to work this morning. It took about 25 minutes which is the same amount of time from the old house. I never would have done it except that Nod's Subaru wagon crapped out on the highway yesterday and is in the shop awaiting diagnosis now. He's got my car today. (And note to myself, we've got to get that one's oil changed pronto.) I looked at my bus options and considered making him go late and drop me at work first. But I'm glad I walked, it was easy. The rain in the forecast is holding off, which contributed to the pleasant walk. I may bus it this evening depending on how much wet is falling from the sky at 5pm.
Midday: thunder, dark, pouring rain 39F.

Soup Updates
My tomato basil soup yearning remains unfulfilled. I went to the Aldi store thinking that they might have giant cans of whole tomatoes but no. It's good to visit them once every four years or so and marvel at all the frozen food I don't need. I did make black bean soup and Katy and I enjoyed it mightily. Nod and I cooked all the meat in the world last weekend and are still finishing that. I made a delicious slo cooker beef shanks, that link is not my exact recipe but close, Nod cooked cube steaks (excellent sandwich fixins) plus pork and potatoes. I think I may celebrate Friday night by going to the grocery store once Nod brings the car home tonight.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tangled, Baby, Soup

A few squibs to lay out today. 

When I was in Albuquerque with the girls, the apex of our entertainment was going to see Tangled in the theater. It was a snow day for ABQ so there were plenty of other families at the movies with us. It was a hoot, very entertaining and funny and I cried a bit (it doesn't take much) and the floating lanterns were beautiful. Boy those Disney folks can deliver sometimes. (I didn’t see the Princess and the Frog, was it as good as Tangled? Gosh, Metacritic says they liked it even a little better. Guess I’d better put that one on my list to watch too.) Tangled melted on the tongue, like cotton candy. But moments are sticking with me and the voice actors were supreme. All three leads were so good! I thought the baddie was voiced by P. Lupone but it turns out to be Donna Murphy who I didn’t know at all. My kids loved the horse! and the little drunken old man who dresses up as Cupid. Best laugh: when they get to town Rapunzel’s extra voluminous hair is getting in the way. Her escort sees four sisters, little girls who all have multiple braids in their hair. He asks them to braid Rapunzel’s hair and their eyes get really big. Fabulous.

Molly Lewis puts her feelings into song form in “An Open Letter to Stephen Fry”. Twenty years ago I'd have joined her (although then she'd have been too young so that doesn't work) and we could have cooked up a playgroup of half siblings. I suppose the dialect is not gene-borne. Pity.
It's a slow day at work and I am fantasizing about making soup. Nordstrom's Tomato Basil is the one that's caught my eye. Although I'd also like to get a pot of black bean soup done.