Saturday, December 31, 2005

Party Hats & the New Year

Originally uploaded by Martina.
What better picture for New Year's Eve than a party hat? The delightful thing about this hat is that it was made by a very talented someone I know. She recently had a birthday party, and each of her guests got to take home a similar piece of headgear (mine was peacocky and blue, but I had to preserve this one for posterity, because it was my 2nd favorite).

Her birthday party was really lovely. There was great food, a hat for every guest (each of whom was great company, I might add!), and a fun little gift bag for each attendee (even though the birthday girl had insisted on no presents for herself).

Coupled with Christmas that event made me realize that I really do need to attempt to be at least marginally social and "do more stuff", which has become one of my resolutions for the new year. It is sort of a sister resolution to Jen's more snazzily named "Just Say Yes!" campaign. I suppose I could call mine "More stuff in '06", but that would be awfully derivative of the "More stuff in '05" campaign, which really did fall kind of flat once the summer was over. Anyway, the '06 version is more nuanced in that it also involves the caveat that said stuff must be done with people I actually enjoy as I've been having some serious thoughts about the sorts of friends I have, which involves how and why I choose my friends, what we have in common, etc. (For any of you who've been around since my early 20's or before, don't worry, you're not under scrutiny.)

Anyway, I know that some people are adverse to actual "resolutions", but the truth is that the only problem I have with New Year's resolutions is that I don't think one should wait until the New Year. What if I realize in June that my nose hairs really need to be plucked (or braided), and I wait until January? Then I've wasted 7 months without an appropriate nose coiff.

While nasal coiffure is not among them, I do have many resolutions (though I prefer to think of them as plans, since some of them actually do involve steps and goal setting, which makes them seem more palpabable than "Oh yeah, I'm totally going to lose weight this year"):

- There is the lose weight/get in shape plan, for which I really DO have a plan. I know the diet I want to follow and have a basic gym schedule in mind, and once the weather is nicer, I want to integrate going on some hikes on the weekends. The trick really is going to be driving myself to stick to it for long enough to reach my considerable goal.

- There is the redecorate my bedroom plan, which is actually already in phase one (The Thinnening), which involves getting rid of crap that I don't need in preparation for the more fun Phase II of painting, putting down new carpet, which makes the way for Phase III (also known as The Roomening - correct me, if I'm wrong), which involves the ultra fun period of decorating.

- There is the finish the write something every day/finish the first draft of my Nano project by my birthday, which is actually the time of Persian New Year AND, this year, the Vernal Equinox, either of which lend themselves nicely to birthday festivities. Go spring!

- Lastly (well, probably not lastly since I am a bit of a fixer-upper and it's the last thing of which I can think at the moment), I really do want to continue to do more creative projects. This year I started my blog, started taking more pictures, re-embraced playing piano, and worked more on writing. In 2006, I'd like to continue on this road, because I think it's good for a person (especially when she has a lame job that could be filled by a lame, blind monkey).

So, there we have my thoughts for the new year. If I have time, perhaps I will recap some of the more fruitful things I did with the old, but if I don't, that's okay too, because 2006 is going to be the year of "It's all good!"

Monday, December 26, 2005

Happy Baxmas!

Baby basket
Originally uploaded by Martina.
Today is Baxter's birthday. He is three, and celebrating by being bad. He already tore the stuffing out of his birthday present two days ago when he yoinked it out of a bag that had been momentarily left on the floor. He has only been awake for a few hours, but he has already chased a cat, taken a nap, and barked at my mother. He does this so she'll sit differently, thereby allowing him to hop into the wingback chair with her and shuffle his furry little ass in next to her.

But don't misunderstand. Baxter is not all bad. He marked Christmas dinner by being an almost perfect gentleman who didn't bark at anyone. He even wagged his tail at guests and allowed them to look at him without incident. He semi-successfully performed his cache of tricks - sit, shake, lay down, and roll over in order of lessening success (roll over being the death defying stunt at which he failed completely). He then capped off the evening proceeeding to adorably fall asleep in the middle of a pile of used wrapping paper. Perhaps year 3 is the year that Baxter Wigglesworth loses his shyness toward people who don't live in my house. I can feel it in my bones. It is the dawning of the age of a new, more relaxed Wigglesworth.

Baxter is even more sweet when we are alone, like when he puts his paw on my knee and leans in for hugs and kisses. (Spoiled you say. Whatever gave you that idea?) The best part of when he does this is that if you stop too early, he leans in closer for more. It's almost as good as the level of wiggly excitement that is engendered when I do something as unspectacular as waking up or coming home from work. Bottom line, my rotten little dog makes me smile more than he infuriates me (whch is a lot). So, really, adopting him has been totally worth it.

Happy Birthday, Baxie!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Happy Christmas!

Originally uploaded by Monquee.

Ground lapis for the sky, and scrolls of gold,
Before which the shepherds kneel, gazing aloft
At visiting angels clothed in egg-yolk gowns,
Celestial tinctures smuggled from the East,
From sunlit Eden, the palmed and plotted banks
Of sun-tanned Aden. Brought home in fragile grails,
Planted in England, rising at Eastertide,
Their petals cup stamens of topaz dust,
The powdery stuff of cooks and cosmeticians
But to the camels-hair tip of the finest brush
Of Brother Anselm, it is the light of dawn,
Gilding the hems, the sleeves, the fluted pleats
Of the antiphonal archangelic choirs
Singing their melismatic pax in terram.
The child lies cribbed below, in bestial dark,
Pale as the tiny tips of crocuses
That will find their way to the light through drifts of snow.

- Anthony Hecht

Here it is already December 24th, the day when most of my family (at least the non-hillbilly contingent abroad*) will be celebrating Christmas. The hillbillies are probably bedecking the Camaro (on blocks) with lights and boughs of holly and toasting each other with supersize cans of Coors Light as I type. For our part, we will do the last of our baking for the festivities tomorrow, wrap some presents, go to a candlelight service to sing Christmas carols, and perhaps go look at Christmas lights once it's dark enough. It is already shaping up to be a nice holiday weekend. The great thing about being a half "We celebrate the holiday on December 24th" and half "Fools! Everyone knows Christmas is on the 25th!" is that we get to celebrate TWICE. Add to that that my dog's birthday is December 26th, and it's one long Festivus weekend!

Tomorrow we will have guests for dinner. As usual, I am very much looking forward to it and have had great fun planning the menu (my favorite component of which is presently prosciutto wrapped figs stuffed with roquefort, then roasted and drizzled with honey and a bit of fresh, cracked pepper). I made a couple of test figs yesterady to make sure the recipe wasn't going to be completely jive and ruin Christmas with its gackitude. As it turns out, the combination of flavors is delicious! I would reveal the rest of the menu now, but then it wouldn't be a surprise for our guests, whom I enjoy taunting. So, I'll move on.

In honor of the holiday and my discovery of having been linked (when did she do that???), I've borrowed a picture from my friend MQ, who takes some beautiful photos. This one was taken on a trip downtown last year. Even if I didn't take it myself, I was there, which means I was probably her artistic muse, which means that she owes its success all to me, which means that it's probably okay that I borrow the photo for my blog, right? You wouldn't sue me on Christmas, would you, MQ? This shouldn't be construed as a bribe (unless it helps for it to be one!), but I do have presents for you, even if it may not REALLY be Jesus' birthday. Even if it's not, there's good food, fine company AND presents, so I am there!

So, in the spirit of the holiday (and so nobody is brought down by the birthday revelation), Merry Christmas! Here are some holiday stories and links for your enjoyment:

La Befana

The Gift of the Magi

A Child's Christmas in Wales

If I think of any more, I will add them.

Have a Happy Holiday!

*N.b. Before any Americans-are-better-than-ANYONE reader gets their panties in a wad* (doubtful, since none of the 3 people who read this are that way!) and tells me to back to where I came from (aka North Dakota) if I think it 's so great, the above comments are not to say that all Americans are hillbillies, just that the majority of my father's bloodline is a bit earthy.

Friday, December 23, 2005

A Poem for Christmas Eve Eve

Originally uploaded by Martina.
Earth grown old, yet still so green,
Deep beneath her crust of cold
Nurses fire unfelt, unseen:
Earth grown old

We who live are quickly told:
Millions more lie hid between
Inner swathings of her fold.

When will fire break up her screen?
When will life burst thro' her mould?
Earth, earth, earth, thy cold is keen,
Earth grown old.

- Christina Rossetti

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Make it better

When a person attempts to keep abreast of what is going on in the world, it can be all too easy at times to become disheartened by politics, current events and (at this time of year) the blatant consumerism of the holiday season. This weekend I had the opportunity to visit Bridgeport UCC's
annual Mindful Gifts Bazaar and also organize and participate in a local Amnesty International's 2005 Global Write-a-Thon event.

There are people who tend to look at volunteerism as something one does to benefit others. The truth is that it benefits the volunteer as much as it does the cause. As Pollyanaish as it might sound, being around other people who are trying in their own small way to do and be good is inspiring. It reminds a person that no matter how much ugliness and selfishness one sees in the news and in popular culture, there is a significant amount of good in the world.

One of the great things about Mindful Gifts is that it concentrates about 30 non-profits that do a lot of good in our community into one building. Even if a person doesn't want to buy a Guatamalan poncho (or some really lovely photography, handmade soaps, pet supplies, jewelry, books, cds or donation certificates), it is a great places to find out about some of the organizations that work in our community.

For someone like myself, who is a nomadic volunteer in search of an opportunity, it provided a wealth of information on the types of agencies that are out there. As it turns out, there are some really great organizations in the Portland area (and beyond). Organizations that participated in Mindful Gifts included Living Earth, The Pangea Project, POPPA, Wild Cat Haven, and Cat Adoption Team among others including my current favorite Portland area 501(c)(3):

p:ear (program education art recreation), which is an organization that "builds positive relationships with homeless and transitional youth through education, art and recreation to affirm personal worth and create more meaningful and healthier lives." One of the really great things that p:ear does is to display the artistic achievements of program participants in the p:ear gallery at First Thursday in The Pearl.

In short, I am really glad that I got to go to the bazaar. It was second in my weekend only to my mother's dramatic debut as Mary in the Bridgeport Build Your Own Christmas Pageant. Watch out Marlene Dietrich, Citizen R is in town!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Odds & Ends

You might remember that Wesley Clark ran for the Democratic nomination for President in 2004. Now the retired General has written an editorial on the Iraq war that ran in the New York Times today. Clark's article offers not only a critique of our foreign policy, but an examination of the gains our war has afforded Iran as well as his proposal for the withdrawal of troops from the region.

It seems to me that a significant problem in all the rhetoric about Iraq is that there doesn't seem to be a lot of middle ground between the gun toting "stay the course" mindset and the "bring the troops home NOW" proponents. I am against the war. I was one of the people who (for a number of reasons) protested it from the beginning. but that doesn't change the ugly truth. We have caused significant instability in the he region, and there must be some medium between long-term occupation and cutting bait absolving ourselves of all responsiblity for what our foreign policy has wrought. I don't know the answer any better than anyone else. I do, however, think Clark offers some interesting ideas, and have to respect that he takes into account the perspectives of those Arab neighbors within the Gulf region.

Speaking of current events, I was recently sucked into watching a talk by Jeff Cohen, founder of FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting) on cable access (or possibly C-Span). Normally, I don't watch either too much, but my housemate was watching the program. On the heels of learning that the U.S. ranks 13 in an world audit of press freedom, Cohen managed to catch my ear as I walked by the t.v.

As it turned out, I ended up listening to the remainder of his lecture, which was largely on the bias of mainstream media and the need for independent voices to offer alternatives to corporate controlled media outlets like FOX, CNN & MSNBC. One project attempting to offer an alternative voice is independent World Television. IWT sounds like a fairly new endeavor, but the concept is an interesting one. I'll be curious to see how it grows.

So, this is it for today, because I have to go watch C-SPAN's coverage of Condoleezza Rice at a press conference with her German counterpart, Angela Merkel.