Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Boxing Day!

Christmas was a little odd this year. Not only did we decide in our immediate family to not to exchange gifts (we sometimes do this in favor of donating somewhere), but we were also too snowed in to go to the grocery store before Christmas. In a cruel twist, the fates made the packed snow and ice on our street driveable without chains in time for Christmas, but not in time for the grocery store to still be open. This meant that Christmas dinner was cobbled together from the remnants we had hanging around in our pantry.

Still, I managed to put together a pretty decent meal of mango chicken, sweet potato (only one) with brown sugar, butter and oatmeal topping, and pasta. An orange tapioca pudding was even managed for dessert. It was a little gacky having been made from over sugared juice box juice, but you do what you can. I am telling you people, I am a culinary MacGyver! The good news is that Christmas wasn't really cancelled, just postponed until Sunday when there will be turkey and presents for all!

The even better news is that it was a really nice, restful day. I spent the day with my mother, each of us doing the things we like best in between just hanging out, giggling and chatting. I took a long, hot bath, read a whole Deborah Grabien ghosty mystery novel (The Weaver and the Factory Maid - so good!), lounged around, and even wrote and roomened a little. She played games online, puttered around outside, and watched t.v. We have a lot of really nice friends and heard from just about all of them on Christmas itself. And, in the end, I'm glad for my non-traditional Christmas, because it included all the things that are important: laughter, family, togetherness, even a little joy. And I hope yours did too!

P.s. It is not only Boxing Day, but Baxter's birthday, hence the picture in his honor. Doesn't the green remind you of summer?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Arctic Blast '08: Welcome to Snowmageddon!

Toby and Lily when the snow was not deep enough for Lily to get lost in it (as has befallen their gnome friend in the background).

One of my favorite things about Portland are the local winter weather reports. I have friends who play Storm Watch Bingo, so I know I am not alone in this. We Portlanders choose to contrast our many other stellar qualities by being total drama queens about winter weather. Our local news crews sometimes seem to want so fervently for some weather related news that they're all too ready to start warning about an impending snowpocalypse every time we get a 1/4" of snow. So, last week when they started talking about "Arctic Blast 2008", I didn't pay that much attention. I enjoyed the opportunity to telecommute and work in my penguin pajama bottoms and old school grey hoodie when my office closed (0h home officing, after a week working from home, how I covet thee!), but I didn't pay that much attention.

A week and a few feet of snow later and Mother Nature has my attention. It is cold and my car is stuck behind a small snow drift, but it is utterly gorgeous outside and I love it, especially now that I am officially on vacation! The only thing that keeps me from loving the snow enough to marry it is that knowing I can't stray far from home gives me nagging feelings like "I must find a way to get to the store for I am completely out of bobby pins!" Never mind that I don't actually use bobby pins. Or that if it were a normal day I probably wouldn't want to go anywhere. It's the not being able to go out if I happened to want to that creates the sense of urgency. As a long-term couple, snow and I were never meant to be. Sure, we'd put up with each other for a while, but eventually there'd be recriminations and hard feelings and our love would melt. For now, though, it makes an awfully nice Christmas fling.
More to come...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Snow Stories

Growing up, my favorite fairy tale was "The Snow Queen". My favorite passage was the one in which she first appears to little Kai:

A few flakes of snow were falling, and one of them, rather larger than the rest, alighted on the edge of one of the flower boxes. This snow-flake grew larger and larger, till at last it became the figure of a woman, dressed in garments of white gauze, which looked like millions of starry snowflakes linked together. She was fair and beautiful, but made of ice - shining and glittering ice. Still she was alive and her eyes sparkled like bright stars, but there was neither peace nor rest in their glance.
(Translation is from Lily Owens' The Complete Hans
Christian Andersen Fairy Tales
and not the link above)


The story goes on to describe how Kai is lured away by this horrible, beautiful creature (who was, by the way, very obviously an inspiration for C.S. Lewis' White Witch of Narnia fame). Ultimately, he is rescued by his irrepressible, true friend, Gerda, but it was always really the queen who drew me in. She fascinated me in the same way Rilke's proclamation

For beauty is nothing but
the beginning of terror, that we are still able to bear,
and we revere it so, because it calmly disdains to destroy us.

from the first stanza of his Duino Elegies has always spoken to me. It is the blurred border lands the make the line between beauty and horror or the fantastic and reality that have always intrigued me. That is where all the interesting stories lie.

And so, long before I would have explained my interests in such terms, The Snow Queen was one of my early favorites. As luck would have it, over the weekend, Portland was treated to its first winter snow, which makes it the perfect time to curl up on the couch with a cup of hot tea and maybe some chocolate and reread the story.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Greetings from the Archangel Gimpiel!

The El Tapatio on 82nd Ave is, despite its less than picturesque surroundings, becoming one of my favorite Mexican restaurants. Last night after a delicious early dinner there, my mom, Mexican Jenny and I decided to take Jenny's son Antonio, who could not take his eyes off the lit Christmas tree in the corner, to the Oregon Zoo's Zoolights to ride the train. At three years old, trains are, thanks to Thomas the Tank Engine, second only to elephants in the competition for the nexus of Antonio's attention and pretty much the high point of civilization as we know it. So you can see how it might have occurred to us that he would be thrilled at the prospect of not only visiting the zoo's new baby elephant, Samudra, but also riding an illuminated train through the zoo.

Never having been too Zoolights before, I was delighted by how lovely the zoo looks illuminated for the holidays. There were (of course) light up animals and even scenes from The Wizard of Oz, complete with tornado, witch and flying monkeys. I didn't even mind that all the walking made my still weak foot hurt a bit. What I did mind was when a strange boy, who had apparently forgotten to take his Ritalin, ended some scuffling and general rough housing by falling on my foot and bending it in an unnatural direction that made me cry. Actually, I didn't even mind that as much as the fact that the whole incident didn't really seem to phase his parents much at all.

I am a grown woman. Except for weddings, funerals, sad movies, semi-sad movies, commencement ceremonies, and national anthems (any - it doesn't have to be mine, I am equal opportunity) I don't often cry in public. I probably would not have even cried then, had my foot not already been sore and weak from a ligament injury sustained a month or so before. Maybe it's just me, but if your kid injures an adult to the point where she cries, maybe more than a cursory "oops, sorry" followed by allowing the boy to continue tearing about the area as though nothing had happened is in order. Sometimes you really have to wonder what is wrong with people.

It also pretty much darkened the rest of my night, even though I tried not to show it. I had had plans to go to my friend Jeff's book signing. It was pretty clear after the incident I would not be able to go, which depressed me. Antonio, however, noticed I was down and took my hand as I was grimacing and limping my way toward the stairs that lead to the neverending inclining path toward the zoo store and exit to sweet freedom and informed that I should just "be patient", because that when a tiger bites me, I will need to be even more patient. It is sound advice, I suppose.

P.s. After a night of dull, throbbing foot ache my mom pressured me into going to urgent care today by offering to buy me lunch if I went. As a result, I have a belly full of Captain Neon Boca Burger and, despite feeling like an old, lumbering, lame frankenstein, know that I have no broken bones. I have also been given official license to lounge about on the couch with my foot elevated and am the proud wearer of an air cast, which if you ask me, sounds like an imaginary device given to hypochondriacs. "No, really, it's an air cast. Don't you remember when we mimed putting it on you? You can't see it, but it will totally keep you from putting too much weight on your "injured" foot! "

Monday, December 01, 2008

I am not dead yet!

Some of you may have been thinking to yourselves, "Where has that delightful Martina person gone? Was she abducted by aliens? Turned into a zombie while visiting Nice and the Isle of Greece while she sipped champagne on a yacht? Did a vampire bite her while she was moving like Harlowe in Monte Carlo? Or was she perhaps sent Istanbul on top secret mission involving a a blind clown and a box of turkish delight?" Or maybe you those of you who think I have (like the thankfully averted Sarah Palin) gone rogue theorize "she's always seemed a little shady to me. I bet she's in prison. I just knew that 'death before dishonor' tattoo on her left bicep was bad news!" Those of you with kinder thoughts might think "She always seemed plucky to me. That girl has moxie! I bet she's gone off and joined the circus as an acrobat! I do hope she will send me a postcard chronicling her fabulous adventures". To all of these questions and more, I say: "Maybe." I say this because I am mysterious (no, really!), and because all of these options are far more interesting than the truth. As any good postmodernist (or press secretary) knows, truth is but a construct, a matter of spin, so I say "yes" and maybe "no" to all!

The important thing is that I am here now and I have brought back with me gifts. And just in time for the holidays! So, in celebration of December, here are four things you will love, if you are not crazy. If it turns out that you are crazy, do not worry, I will probably still love you! Probably...

1. Pioneer Woman's Whiskey Glazed Carrots. I don't even like cooked carrots. The truth is that I usually hate them! When I was a kid, my grandmother always had to mash them in with the potatoes and then further hide them from me with a healthy slathering of gravy, thereby teaching me early in life that everything tastes better with gravy. The thing is that these carrots were so delicious that I want to eat them every day. I suspect that may be because, in the absence of gravy, everything tastes better with booze.

2. This recipe for Sour Cream Apple Pie. It is the first and only fruit pie I have ever made. It is so good that I see no need to make any other. I'm not saying I won't eat other pie (that would just be rash and stupid!), but I will not make any other. So great my devotion to the Cult of Sour Cream Apple! The best part is that the recipe fills two regular sized pie shells. You could make one deep dish pie, but why do that when you could have TWO pies! You hear me, people? TWO pies! The only thing better would be two pies with bourbon in them!

3. Loreena McKennitt's Christmas cd, A Midwinter Night's Dream. It is such a lovely offering. I am especially taken with the Eastern inspired arrangements. My favorite piece on the cd is the North African inspired “Noël Nouvelet!,” because 1) you have to appreciate a woman who sings a carol in not just French, but Old French, and 2) its rhythms make me feel like I should be sitting in front of a bonfire after a long, hard day of travel across the desert with the rest of my camel caravan. They also remind me of the time my friend, MQ and I took a belly dancing class and that makes me laugh, because I may well be the worst belly dancer ever in the whole history of belly dancing.

4. W.S. Merwin. He read from his new collection The Shadow of Sirus at one of the pre-Wordstock readings here in Portland this year and he is such a charming gentleman in addition to being a brilliant poet and translator. I always knew that I liked him, but now I have heard him in person, I have a complete old guy crush on him. If you are not familiar with his work, it is well worth checking out. My favorite of his pre-Shadow poems can be found in this post.

You can thank me later!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Epiphany #1: There must be music

One of the greatest things about subscribing to Dish Network is the access it provides to German television. I don't watch a whole lot of t.v., but for a relatively smart person, I can waste time on the dumbest programs. Maybe that's why I don't watch much. If I didn't curb myself, I'd probably squander my weekends watching Sunset Tan marathons on E!

This morning, I got sucked in as I was flipping through the channels and noticed Nena (yes, that Nena!) singing a song that was not 99 Luftballons. I know! Who knew such a thing existed??? Next thing I know, I was parked on the couch sipping lemonade and watching a ca. 1983 episode of Hits with the Huns. I'm telling you, if that era taught you nothing about the dubious wisdom of pairing a bright yellow flashdance top with a tomato red leather micromini, an hour of watching parade of 80's couture unfold to bad, synth-heavy German pop will show you the error of your misguided (and possibly bemulleted, headbanded) ways.

Watching it was like being back in high school - if I had gone to high school in Germany. Because it was back in the days before everyone hated us, the jokes about Americans were good natured and limited to country music and what those whacky Ewings were up to on Dallas that week. Along with some special and uniquely German acts, a lot of the line up looked like a series of tribute bands. There was a German David Byrne, a German George Michael, a German Human League, etc. My hands down favorite segment, though, had to be a band called Ready Teddy doing a rockabilly homage to The King with a performance of "Goody Goody". I tried to no avail to google a pic of their lead singer, but picture a hip wiggling, Knight Rider era David Hasselhoff with a pompadour and an Elvis jumpsuit and you've pretty much got the idea.

Looking back at that era, so much of the music was total crap, but I was SO into it at the time. As a teenager, I spent most of my money on clothes, albums and concert tickets. Back in the day, when MTV was still new exciting and actually spent its days playing music instead of Cribs and lame reality shows, there were times when my best friend and I would spend hours in front of the t.v. just waiting for a new Duran Duran or Cure video to come on. We thought we were so cool with our big hair (which later morphed into asymmetrical hair) and our "artistic" sensibilities. No red leather micromini, but I did at one point own a dark crinoline that I delighted in wearing over leggings during my clove smoking, black period. It was not a pretty time in the evolution of my fashion sense (or my lungs). For me those years before I developed my own sense of style are a time when music and fashion became intertwined. Especially during the advent of the video age, the experience of music wasn't just auditory but visual and it was huge.

The truth is, the music part still is huge. It always has been. Thanks to growing up in a house with a broad array of musical influences. Although I went through a few years in my teens, when I didn't want anything to do with some of it, my tastes now are pretty eclectic. My parents used to tease me that I was the only baby on the block with her own sound system. When I would get upset, they'd slip something soothing on my dad's old reel to reel (!) tape recorder and I'd calm right down. My mom has tapes of me (from the same reel to reel) at about 3, singing the Hänsel und Gretl song in German until becoming outraged at just how evil the evil witch was. At that point, I broke off to repeatedly scream böse, böse Hexe! (bad, bad witch!) like an irate, pitchfork toting villager looking for a good stake burning. If only there were video... Apparently, I had a flare for drama. I wonder what ever happened to it.

But that's what music does. It cements itself in your memory. It moves you. It takes you places. A few measures and you're transported. Sometimes it (even if it's bad 80's pop) it takes you back to being fourteen again. It can your youth and what it was like to want to dance or fall in love or both. Or it can make you wistful, hopeful, happy, excited, sad. When it's really good, it makes you want to dive deep into its layers, just short of drowning in its sound. There is nothing that can change my mood as quickly as music. And, with the exception of writing, there's nothing that captures my consciousness, taking me to the same headspace as playing it does.

And that is my first epiphany in my "what makes me happiest" makeover - there must be music. Whether it's listening to it, watching it be performed or playing it myself (more on that later!), it is a huge part of the little things in life that lift the spirit, and that makes me happy.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

It is I, Mo-Dean! (The "Fight Back Fun Martina" mix)

Where have I been, you ask? Funny story...

So, there I was out on the Ave, waiting for the number 99 bus. It was Friday (a payday) and, as I am wont to do, I was making a run to the store to pick up a celebratory repast of veggie hot dogs and cheap wine. Anyway, I'm waiting there, kinda pissed off, because Tri-Met is always late, when suddenly the wind kicks up something fierce and I am blinded by a bright light. Long story short, the next thing you know, there I am in the belly of a big old UFO!

What? Those are the lyrics to a B-52's song? The hell you say! It all seemed so real...

Okay. So, really, the month of July has been really rough. Work has been insanely busy, my old lady cat was diagnosed with kidney failure, I've been broke, and (worst of all) grossly neglecting all of my friends. I'm surprised I have any left. Crap, I hope I have some left! To cap it off, somewhere around the middle of last week I came down with the mother of all bronchial infections. It is finally starting to ease, but the husky voiced viral residue is still skulking about like a thug under one of those creepy, yellow Long Beach street lights. I've managed to share the "love" with a family member who is now sick too. Like I don't find enough things to feel guilty about. Suffice it to say that things have not been going well. If I had balls, I'm sure someone would have delivered a swift kick to them.

More insidious, however, is the rut I've felt stuck in even before the frightful fortnight began. I know I'm not alone. This feeling seems to hit everyone somewhere around my age. When I look into my heart (and, most days, even in the mirror), I don't feel so old. Then, I look at my birth certificate and think "Crap, what the hell have I been doing all this time? What do I have to show for it? Where did the two roads in the wood diverge to become this dead end???"

Don't get me wrong. I have a good life. I have incredible family and friends, a good job, a nice enough place to live, and I am now (almost) debt-free. But what mark have I made? What will the world remember of me when I am nothing but a pile of dust? What will I remember when I am old and looking back at my life? What kinds of fabulous stories will I have to tell? I know they won't be all about work deadlines I've met or how I saved my company a gajillion dollars in temp costs by designing a (if I do say so myself) kickass new system of book distribution that involves uploading and auditing macros, but very little actual manpower. God, I hope not!

I want to remember that I was happy, that I had fun, and (as pollyanaish as it sounds) that I contributed something that in some way left the world better than it was when my short life found it. It's not going to matter how skillfully I climbed some corporate ladder I never really cared about anyway. I may be too old to be trustworthy, but I'm not too old want more. And, so, I have made a resolution to make the rest of the year my own personal happiness project.

I've been thinking for a while that this blog needs some kind of overhaul or structure or something. I'm not yet sure what that will ultimately mean. Maybe it just means writing about the things that make me happy, but I really do think that (for a while at least) that may mean exploring what it really means to be fulfilled and focusing on the positive sorts of things that foster growth, creativity, play, gratitude, well-roundedness and (as hokey as it sounds) joy. Maybe I'm just still high from an earlier Yoga Bootie Ballet sesion, but the time has come for fun Martina to fight back. So, from here on out, it's all sunshine and unicorns. Oh, and rainbows. And butterflies and kittens. And probably candy (but not from strangers - unless it's Halloween - on Halloween all bets are off). And, just so you know, I will begin dotting the "i" in my name with a smiley face, which of course, you won't be able to see, because everything here is typed. But don't worry, you can still picture it that way in your head. See, imagination! We're getting creative already and a creative brain is a happy brain, right?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Lily Strikes Again

The avian killing spree continues. After ten days of quiet, tonight I found half a beak on the couch - a BEAK. Do you know how disconcerting it is to find bird parts laying around your home? Sadly, it wasn't completely unexpected. The only real surpise was that I found it out in the open instead of stuck under the pillow where my little furry friend usually hides her booty.

We were all out on the back porch enjoying a delicious dessert of sweet buttermilk biscuits with lemon curd, berries and cream after a belated birthday dinner with a friend, when I heard Lily at the door. Because I will apparently never learn, I forgot to do the all important poultry check before opening the door. Before I knew it, she had rushed into the house with a newly dead sparrow. Then, after much running, hiding and making it abundantly clear that she was not going to give it up without a fight, she proceeded to eat half of it (the top half, to be exact). Eventually, all that was left were some feathers, the aforementioned beak half and my growing disgust. I don't know what is worse - that my dog is a super gross or that I can love her as much as I do despite her deviance.


Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Furry Face of Death


Lily Dog
Originally uploaded by Martina
Pets can be really delightful. It's one of the reasons I seem to get suckered into adopting every stray that lands on my doorstep. They are good company, they love unconditionally. Studies have even shown that they lower blood pressure (though I always have to think that actually enjoying animals has to play a required role in there somewhere for it to work - otherwise they'd just be an annoyance). Sure, they sometimes lose their furry little minds and chew up a favorite pair of shoes and lord knows they can drive a person up a wall with their innate ability to somehow make their ten pound frames take up 2/3 of a queen sized bed. Over all, though, they are on my short list of things in life that make me happiest.

But, then, there are those times when they are just plain gross.For example, this morning, when I heard a muffled bark outside the screen door and found Lily standing there bright eyed, ears erect, carriage proud as she begged to be let in with the special prize she found in the garden. Upon closer inspection, it became clear that she was brandishing not a chew toy, but a dead sparrow.

After being denied entry to the family manor and turning down a trade of some barbequed pork that came with last night's traditional Independence Day Chinese takeout, she took to wandering the garden with her precious. At some point, just carrying the bird somehow morphed into chewing. The precious had been deemed delicious enough to eat. Lily and the precious are now one.

So now, I not only share my home with a killer, but one with the foul stench of house sparrow on her breath. This is doubly disturbing after having hand raised Nelson, Jimbo and Johnny (may he rest in peace) a couple of summers ago. I can only hope this sparrow was not a relative.

The American Kennel Club describes the papillon as "a small, friendly, elegant toy dog of fine-boned structure, light, dainty and of lively action; distinguished from other breeds by its beautiful butterfly-like ears.". NOWHERE do they mention "murderer of sparrows" or "enjoys eating young birds' livers with some fava beans and a nice chianti".

Technically, papillons are a kind of miniature spaniel and spaniels were bred as hunting dogs, so I guess it can't be completely unexpected. That still doesn't remove the "ewww" factor, though. Now she has acquired a taste for feathers, I fear the killing will not end here. No more wearing my purple feather boa and plumed showgirl headdress to bed. I will sleep with one eye open. The worst part is that she is probably just charming enough to get away with it, because in the immortal words of Bart Simpson: "No one suspects the butterfly."

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

How fun is this?

Whose photo could that be on the upper left? Could it be...
MINE? (It is aptly titled "Starfish with White Thing", because I did so well in Marine Biology back in college.)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Because it's hotter than a mofo out there!

It's one of the handful of summer days where it is HOT here in Portland. While love the sun on a breezy day, I don't tend to love the heat. Normally, I would probably be complaining like everyone else, but it's been such a nice weekend - dinners out (shrimp tacos you and are delicious and if I could find you, oh inventor of the mojito, I would kiss you right now! I really must add making mojitos more often to my list of important things to do!), BBQs (how sweet is it that my supermeateating friend, Jala actually prepared some BOCA burgers, despite the obvious affront they pose to her carnivorous, Southern barbequeing ways?!), sleepover guests, and dinner plans later tonight. With such good times, I don't seem to have much right complaining about anything!

My long-anticipated (I even pre-ordered it before it was available!) Phillip DePoy mystery arrived in the mail from Amazon on Friday. His Fever Develin (mystery solving, mountain folklorist) novels are SO much fun! They are the sort of books that leave a book nerd wanting more. It's because of the feeling such books gave me that I got interested in writing as a kid. I can't tell you how excited my dorky, little heart was the day I discovered that The Devil's Hearth was the first in a series and not just a one off! Now that the house guests have gone home, there is plenty of time to lounge on the back deck with a frosty beverage and some fresh, sweet cherries. There I will read to my heart's content until it is time to leave for dinner.
Meanwhile, here are some cooling pictures from my fabulous June road trip (more on that later!)



Sunday, June 22, 2008

What I believe...

From my Tarot.com horoscope today:
Regardless of your religious affiliation, today can be a profound day of spiritual renewal for you. But this may not involve church or even a formal service. The magic of creation speaks directly to you now through the beauty of nature, the contemplation of silence and the appreciation of the abundance in your life.

Oddly enough, today I had planned to wake up early to go to church. I haven't been going regularly lately and I have never been a Churchy McChurcherson. In fact, I've had some really bad experiences with religion (like the time a seminary student informed me when my father died that it was a shame that I wasn't saved, because instead of a reunion with him in heaven, I could look forward to an afterlife of eternal hellfire and damnation). Sorry, but that is not my God and if I wanted to join the Church of the Quivering Brethren ("There'll be no butter in hell!"), I'd catch a ride in Amos Starkadder's Ford van.

The church I go to, Bridgeport UCC is a special place. It is open, socially conscious and politically progressive. I find it comfortable, because it is a place that offers a warm welcome to anyone - die hard believer, spiritual wayfarer, gay, lesbian, straight, transgender, black, white, green, you name it. You don't need to be able to speak English, only kindness and love. While the denomination is decidedly Christian, it (or at least the church I go to) tolerates the notion that there are various paths and that they have validity. This goes a long way in dispelling some of my long held prejudices about organized religion and "how churches (and church people) are".

Truth be known, I always feel somewhat ambivalent about religion as an organized body. Evangelists will disagree, but to me faith is a very personal thing. I'm not even sure that I have faith - at least not in the way that I am "supposed" to. The overarching messages of kindness and goodness that span through most religions speak to me - dogma and perscriptivism not so much. I am still ambivalent about calling myself a Christian, but I am not ambivalent about seeking for greater meaning or doing it via various auspices.

I found Bridgeport one Christmas Eve when I was longing for some ritual, something to add a specialness to a holiday that was seeming kind of meaningless. As much as I enjoy my Santa mythology and a good gift, there has to be something more out there. I had wanted to go to the big, old UCC downtown (despite my ambivalence about religion, I've always enjoyed the architecture of a nice, old church), but was diverted to a smaller outpost in SE Portland when I started having second thoughts about the potential parking situation. (Yes, that's how devout I am. I can be put off by inconvenient parking.) So, instead, I found myself spending Christmas Eve in the smaller, more intimate setting of Bridgeport.

A few years later, I still remember my first impression of it as a place permeated with warmth. It was in the honeygold color of the wood fixtures, the friendliness of the reverend and the feeling that washed over me as I sang Dona nobis pacem with a bunch of strangers by candlelight. That is what made it feel like home. It is still my favorite part of the Christmas service there. Although the reverend there delivers a lovely (deep yet accessible) and well composed sermon, it is the music that makes even the regular services come alive for me. It is in it that sound community that I find something approaching God, joy.

When I first started going to Bridgeport, I felt like a bit of a fraud. When I looked around I naively assumed that the others were all so sure in their faith. And then there was me, the girl who is not even sure of what her faith is.

Do I believe in the Divine? Check.

Do I think S/He is necessarily what we think of as God? No. As near as I can figure, God is like the blaue Blume of Romantic literature - something we seek to find, but never completely know or understand. The Ding an sich that is commonly called God can't be known completely. It can only be known via our limited human perspective. If I'm looking at God's front, I can't see her back and vice versa. There is always going to be some "angle" that I can't see from my vantage point, some angle that I have to take on faith. The best I can do is keep searching for pieces until I can put the puzzle together. As a result, I think the most we can do is try to be the best we can be and know that if in making a good faith effort we fail, the Universe will forgive us.

Do I believe in The Bible? If I'm going to be honest, not literally. I believe the "red letter" parts about kindness and doing unto others, but I can find those in other religious systems and even just my own value system as well.

In contrast to my early days at Bridgeport, I now realize that we are all on our own journeys. We might sometimes walk together and share community, but our individual paths are our own. There is more than one way to get to the apex of a mountain. The only thing that I am really sure about is that my relationship to God is experiential. I don't want someone telling me how to how to think and that is one thing I love about Bridgeport. There, I can enjoy walking with a community of travellers without feeling pressured by them. Like a stubborn toddler, I don't want to be carried. I want to feel the Divine for myself. I want to learn for myself even if doing it means that I might sometimes fall and scratch my knee.

It is funny, but in writing this post, I now better understand what I meant when the following poured out in response to one of Wendy's lovely writing prompts. Maybe I am not so ambivalent after all.

Do not tell me what to think about God.
When you talk so much,
I cannot hear her breath
caress the strings of the universe.
Don't tell me who she is, but let me feel her in the quiet.
I don't want your books or your sermons
and, please, no shrill proclamations.
Her symphony echos not in the dry crackling pages
of dusty voiced prophets and old men.
It whispers through the soft rustle of the leaves,
the silent shimmer of blossoms
beneath the glow of a new spring moon.
I hear her as I breathe - quietly, deeply
hoping to match the cadence of her breath
as I listen for the song beneath the silence.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Roadside Lessons and Epiphanies

Even when gas prices have soared higher than the eye of an elephant on stilts, there is no denying that road trips are fun (as long as you don't have to hawk a kidney for fuel). As I work through uploading all my pictures from my last two trips and compiling a travelogue of sorts, here are some things I have learned on my last two road extravaganzas:

1. If you want to make a three year old smile, invite him on an elephant ride.

2. Now that the guy who whistled the Andy Griffith Theme has died, if only I could whistle, there would be a niche for my kickass skills. My inevitable TV variety show would be called "Look who's whistling now". Its spin-off "So you think you can whistle", would pit other whistlers against each other for the prize of a guest duet with me on my upcoming album "These lips are made for whistling".

3. Toppenish is the City of Murals. Its best mural (and possibly the best mural ever!) is the one of someone called Irish Dick being mauled by a bear.

4. I like Cumbia.

5. I like Beyoncé better in Spanish than in English, because I don't have to understand it when she exhorts me to shake my derriere in Deréon and then wonder if there is anything that woman will not shill.

6. In a pinch, it is possible to transform a yurt in to a DIY disco if someone in your party is in possession of a sparkly bag, a flashlight, and a cell phone that plays MP3's - and I was! P.s. Be sure to learn all the words to "I will survive". That way when your phone battery dies, you can teach them to everyone else and the party will go on.

7. If I am ever lost in the wilderness, I will probably wander in circles before ultimately being eaten by a bear. (And if I make it through the night, I will be cold, because I cannot build a fire to save my life.)

8. Even though I always thought ATV's were for rednecks, it turns out that a Dune Buggy + Sand Dunes + High Speed = Fun. I am, however, not going to act on my friend Mike's suggestion that I try out other redneck pasttimes like Nascar and meth. (P.s. Dear Mike - Remember that time we played Scrabble and I got almost ALL the tripple word scores? Those were good times - almost as good as that time I beat you! Love, Martina)

9. Food make with fresh seafood - especially clam chowder - should be eaten as often as possible.

10. KOA "Kabins" (their "K", not mine!) have VCR's/DVD players in case you want to watch a movie while you are roughing it.

11. A group of what I like to think are Wenatchee stoners in possession of some doobies, a bag of apples, a syringe, and some Welches grape juice have invented a wonderous new fruit called a "Grapple" (pronounced so the first syllable sounds like "grape", because they are tricksy stoners). I myself am waiting for someone in Tillamook to invent the crapple (a cranberry apple hybrid, pronounced just as you'd expect!) But for now, here is a box of half eaten Grapples, resting on a disco bag:

Friday, June 13, 2008

So, I haven't been around much since before the Lonely Goatherd Tour of Eastern Washington. Time is at a premium these days.

Work has been crazy (and not in the endearingly whacky sense, but the borderline evil one), I've been sick all week (and working overtime), and now I am tired and off to the beach for some much needed R&R. More on Washington, the ocean and other stuff, IF I decide to come back. If I find a nice beach house with no one in it, I may just take a lesson from that time on the Simpsons when carnies steal the their house by locking the family out and not letting them back in. It seems like a plan that can't fail, but if I get arrested I hope at least one of you will visit me in prison!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

In the before time

Remember last week when I was relaxed and having such a good time during my vacation? You probably don't, because I was having so much fun hanging out with batman and taking road trips that I didn't even bother to feel bad about not updating my blog. But life isn't all road trips, sunshine and unicorns. It is amazing to me how quickly work has the capacity to eradicate the good feelings. In the two days that I've been back, I have found out that we are restructuring again and that people are being laid off.

Because my job remains unaffected and we're "doing what's best for the company", I am apparently not supposed to care. After all, it's not a human thing but a business thing, right? What a crock! Even if my starry-eyed pseudo hippie mind gets that the purpose of business is for it to be profitable, that doesn't mean I can just forget that some of these people are my friends or that times are tough out there. Because I know that she actually is sensitive deep down, I think it's probably just my boss' way of coping, but she really does sometimes sound like she's been drinking the Kool-Aid. It's one thing to be pragmatic about the idea that a business will cut you loose as soon as your existence becomes unprofitable (and also keep your own options open for whatever will most benefit You, Inc.), but it's quite another to suggest that business decisions have no human impact.

And if that isn't enough, it turns out that my company has been sold yet again. In the six years I've been with them, we've had four owners - among them the Carlisle Group. If I had known who they were when I took the job, I would never have accepted it. Thankfully, I didn't help line their pockets for too long. I just hope this new parent company isn't evil, because if evil is X and Y is driving as far as I do to get to work, X+Y=Martina is looking for a brand new bag (and I'm not talking purses here!). Frankly, I have to wonder if it isn't time even if they aren't evil. It's a shame, because lately I actually have been liking my job for the first time in a couple years.

The thing is that gas has more than doubled since I started working for Instability, LLC. Even with my good gas mileage, it's costing me $200/month just to go to work. This makes the commute increasingly intolerable and this business of constantly selling/reorganizing does little to make a person feel secure in her job. There is always the sense of having dodged the bullet this time, and that carries a special stress all its own. So, I am waiting to see what happens, but priming my mind for the idea that it may just be time to move on. If I don't have to, it will be great! If do, however, at least I will be prepared.

So, if you know anyone who is looking for a new employee with an interest in the arts and the practicality to secure her future by getting an advanced degree in German Literature instead of studying something useful but does have a background in editing, translation, teaching, administration and operations, you know where to find me.

P.s. Go Obama!!! Who would have thought 20-30-40 years ago that a black man could end up the nominee of either of the major parties in this country? We as a nation have engaged in some major asshatery over the past decade or so, but today I'm kinda proud of how far we've come. Let's keep movin' on!

P.p.s More on my trip later!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Today I am hanging out with my faithful assistant, Batman. His parents know him as Antonio, but he has made me privy to his secret identity. I wouldn't share this with just anyone, but I trust that you can keep a secret. If I haven't mentioned it before, three year olds are fun. There are times when he really makes me want to accelerate my plan to adopt a child. Other times he just makes me tired. And it's no wonder - we have had an action packed day.

Since picking him up at 7:30 this morning, Batman and I have planted lupines in the garden, taken the batmobile through DEQ, invented a language that sounds a lot like Beeker from the Muppets blowing raspberries (but is surprisingly effective when coupled with a lot of dramatic gesturing), played soccer, shopped for candy and sunglasses, checked out ALL the travel books on Eastern Washington from our local branch of the library, and made a quick getaway from monsters in a mini-mall parking lot while singing "C is for cookie". One of my favorite parts of the day was on the way home when a little voice from the back seat directed me to pull over, so we could hide in a Dairy Queen (and also possibly get a hamburger and ice cream cone). You have to like a child who picks a lair with such easy access to softserve. Clearly, he has his priorities in place.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Not to be used for toll roads (unless run by druids)

In ancient times, hundreds of years before the dawn of history. There lived a strange race of people - the Druids. No one knows who they were, or what they were doing, but their legacy remains, hewn into the living rock of Stonehenge.
- Spinal Tap

One of my favorite things about the state of Washington is that someone (namely Sam Hill, who, when not busy getting his Quaker on, was building monuments and developing NW roads like a mofo back around the early 1900's) bothered to erect a replica of Stonehenge that looks like it was shaped in a giant plaster cast. It is one of those places like Carhenge and House on the Rock that I love for the sheer whackiness of human creativity AND it's in relatively easy driving distance AND close proximity to the Maryhill Museum of Art, which I also love. As a result, it has become a popular destination in my roadtrip canon.

As it turns out, it is also the gateway to my late May getaway with my friends Jen and MQ. Now that we have some planning done, I am really excited to get going. We are, by the way, possibly the lamest deciders EVER. After getting stymied by the question of who was going to drive, we had to resort to writing the names of our cars on scraps of paper, which we then crumbled up, so one of our number could pick our ride. (In our defense, we were really tired after the series of negotiations on the merits vs. jivery of toll bridges and whether we should pay the Hood River toll, since the bridge at Biggs is closed.) In the end, Agamemnon (who is playing "Where's Waldo?" in the picture above) and I won. Man, is that a change from the hunka hunka burning Dodge I drove in my college days. Back then people would have wanted to take any care BUT mine!

Our plans are relatively loose (which I like - there's something appealing about just going where the road takes you!) and involve travelling around and taking pictures of a part of the NW I've never really explored before. On the itinerary so far, are a night in Ellensburg or Wenatchee and a night in Spokane as well as visits to Leavenworth and Grand Coulee Dam. Between my awesome new camera and the months of trying to not waste gas, I have to admit to being pretty excited to get out of the city for a bit. If I manage to capture any druids, I'll be sure to post them here!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!


Balloons
Originally uploaded by Martina

Back when I had my real birthday on March 20th, I decided that next year I would move my birthday to May 20th. If you look fast, it doesn't even look that different - 3/20, 5/20. My theory was that the weather would be nicer for outdoor parties. If today is any indication, I might want to rethink that.

The weather is grey and rainy. Not exactly birthday barbeque weather, but still a welcome change from the sunburning upper 90's we had over the weekend. Those of us who are so pale we glow in the dark don't do well with that kind of thing. Even with sunblock I already got myself burned, thanks to McMenamin's highly entertaining Alien Costume Parade over the weekend. If I use this as a base tan, after a series of sunburns I might be able to work myself toward a swarthy off-white, maybe even an eggshell color.

On the up side, it looks like I will be getting what I want for my birthday, maybe it will be a lucky day despite the rain. I am confident that Obama (who had his biggest campaign rally ever right here in Waterfront park - 75,000 people! - over the weekend!) will win the Oregon Primary. The prospect of having a President who does not sound like Cletus the Slackjawed yokel or start illegitimate wars is so exciting to me. Happy Fake Birthday to me and everyone else too!

P.s. In an odd real birthday coincidence, the main character of the book I am reading just got subpeonaed by the SEC to appear in court on March 20, 1987 - my 18th birthday. I wonder why the author picked that date.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

On the road again!

Summer is coming and I feel it deep into the marrow of my fidgety bones. The sun makes so eager to get out and feel its warmth on my skin that I can barely sit still - and that's saying a lot coming from a basically lethargic person! Despite gas feeling like such a luxury these days, I actually do have a couple of road trips planned. Luckily, my car gets really good mileage and I've been saving up, knowing that I wanted to get out a bit this summer.

Having proactively requested time off in May, June and September, the scene is set for some long overdue, exciting roadside adventures. I haven't been anywhere since last September's famed "What'd-you-have-to-go-and-break-my-heart-for,-you-selfish-butthead?" Beach Retreat. While the trip was wound lickingly cathartic and I came back feeling a million times better, it wasn't exactly a vacation vacation. Toby did have a rollicking good time, though.

That was the week he became a Subwaytarian, eschewing his normal kibble for sandwiches and the occasional breakfast bar. (I know I'm a total schmuck, but he wouldn't eat. I started getting worried about him and sharing my food and then it was all over with the dog food.) He only went back to his normal diet after we got home, and then only after I was able to convince him that it was not normal Beneful he was eating, but beach kibble. But these trips, they will be different! They will feature picnics, road mixes, human companions and photos of me not taken by the self-timer on my camera!


The Lonely Goatherd Tour

My first summer trip is planned for the end of May. I'm very excited about it, because it will finally fullfill my dream of visiting what I suspect will be a Disnified version of Bavaria - Leavenworth, WA. I can't guarantee it, but I suspect there will be dirndls, which reminds me of that time I convinced a schoolmate that my parents were very strict and only allowed me to wear a traditional dirndls. For a glorious ten minutes, she believed that Tuesday was polka night at the Powellhurst household and that the only reason I looked normal at school was that, despite the risk of parental ire, I snuck over to a friend's house in the mornings on the way to school to borrow American clothes.

As you may or may not know, I am Germerican. That's right! My mysterious ability to waltz and polka despite never having learned how is the product of genetic memory. So, of course, I really want to see how my American brethren in the good state of Washington have managed to twist my heritage into a kitschified marketing tool to bring visitors to a town in the middle of nowhere. I bet there will be dirndls! Despite coming from Berlin (a decidedly awesome and non-rural, "this is the time on Sprockets when we dance" part of Germany where people would happily laugh you and your dirndl off the street - unless maybe you were wearing it ironically or it was autumn and you were on a street within the confines of the Oktoberfest grounds), my mother was not against dressing me in them when I was a child. I had three dirndl dresses that I can remember - a little blue toddler dirndl with a sunny, yellow apron (I'm not going to lie to you - I was pretty cute in it!), and, later, a pink one and a blue one.

But, alas, my dirndl days are long gone. You know that having one would help me tap into my inner Von Trapp. And that would be useful, because let's face it, any trip to the American alps that does not include cavorting about the hilltops to test whether they really are alive with the sound of music is a trip not worth making.

Besides, my travel companions are fun (as evidenced by the fact that they are the only people of my acquaintance who can not only sing Johnny Horton's "Battle of New Orleans", but also know all words to the hardcore gangsta classic "Wham Rap" and are not afraid to use them. (Yes, George Michael, because you are so street, I will take pleasure in leisure, believe in joy AND reach up high and touch my soul! How can I deny you, oh guilty-footed poet who not only managed to work the lyrics "rusty can of corn" into a song but penned immortal classics like "Club Tropicana'" [drinks are free!] and "Credit Card Baby"?)


North Pacific

The second part of my summer travel schemes involves a road trip with Mexican Jenny and her two of her offspring, Mexican Jenny Jr. and Mexican Jenny III. This trip is exciting for a whole other set of reasons:

1. Mexican Jenny has never travelled around Oregon and I get to show it to her!
2. Mexican Jenny is going through a messy breakup with someone who is acting like a bit of a nutjob and needs the distraction.
3. Mexican Jenny III has never seen the ocean before.
4. I have seen the ocean and love it with all my fishy, Pisces heart
5. Travelling with them is going to be fun - like everything else we've ever done together.
6. The trip will feature my first yurting experience.
7. I am going to get to drive a dune buggy and possibly ride a jetboat - whee!
8. I really love my state and think I would one day like to write a travel book about it.

Among our planned stops are Crater Lake, the Oregon Vortex, Jacksonville, the Oregon Dunes, Newport, the 3 Capes Scenic Loop, Fort Stevens, Astoria, and, of course, a stop for chowder (clams don't really have a face, do they?). We're going to spend a night in a beach yurt (isn't that a fun word? Yurt yurt yurt yurt yurt!), a night in a beach cabin and the rest of the time in hotels. There was a brief period when we were contemplating some old school tent camping near the Rogue River, but that was abandoned after discovering a section on the campground's website that featured a tutorial on recognizing bear tracks. If there's one thing that really brings down a vacation, it's being eaten by a bear. All the chowder in the world won't lighten the mood after that!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Stimulate this!

How much fun is this site? I totally stole the link from my friend MQ's blog and am in love with the idea of being able to pull together outfits from multiple sources (and do it against an eye pleasing, custom background!). It makes me want to go shopping in a really bad way. Just think! My pimple and I could finally get matching outfits for the Vegas style show we've been planning! Just wait til you see our killer diller version of Nowadays!

Actually, I am happy to report that it is (thanks to the skin restoring properties of attacking theater people) almost gone. The cookie part of my therapy, sadly, was less of a success. They were proclaimed gacktacular before they even cooled, which is really sad, because I had had such high hopes for them. As everyone knows, even warm, crappy chocolate chip cookies are usually better than no chocolate chip cookies at all. These weren't. They were hard and the dough was bland.

But who am I to talk? Maybe the joke is on me and I've just outed myself as a total cookie philistine. Maybe they were supposed to taste like cranberry and chocolate filled bricks. I double checked afterwards to be sure I hadn't goobered anything up with the recipe, but I had followed it faithfully, so I am not sure what happened.

On the up side, if could design a special cookie gun, I am already in possession of 2 dozen pieces of deadly ammo. And that brings me one step closer to being able to join the military as a member of highly skilled Special Pastry Forces. You may have seen them on t.v. that time Geraldo became an embedded journalist with ground forces in Iraq. They were the ones prancing about the desert, wearing camo chef's hats while he was drawing his battle plan leaking map in the sand. Also, the Penne with Shrimp, Cream and Tomatoes that I got out of the same cookbook was incredible enough that I am comfortable believing that my cookie issues were the product of baker error or bad baking powder. I'm sure a little retail therapy could make me forget the whole incident.

Too bad I already stimulated the economy by using my rebate check to buy gas, groceries, make a car insurance payment and pay off a bill. I did also make a deposit on some beachy hotel reservations for an upcoming trip in June, but mostly I just applied it to cost of living type stuff. If I am feeling really wild next weekend, I may use the remainder to get a transmission flush and new tags for Agamemnon (my Matrix). Guess the new outfits will have to wait...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Woe is me!

Don't you just hate it when your phone and Internet connection go out and it takes FOUR DAYS for the phone company to restore full service? Not just four days, but also three evenings of wasting valuable non-work hours on the phone with their technical support department? Generally speaking, I have no beef with Qwest. However, after dealing with their automated customer service line three times too many this week, I've come much closer to giving in to the urge to run amock with a carving knife than I ever thought I would in this lifetime.

Once you actually get a human being, they really are pretty nice and do try do be helpful. Tech person #3 didn't even make fun of me when we discoverd that my modem didn't work because it wasn't plugged into the phone jack. She even spent two hours on the phone with me trying to get my wireless back up. And though she totally had me headed down the wrong path despite my helpful suggestions (It took me about 15 minutes to set it up doing it My Way. I think the singing helped-it always does!), I appreciate that she tried. I even forgive #2 for making repeat back the RMA procedures to him like I was an unruly Kindergartener with ADD, but that stupid recording has just got to go!

I'm not that old, but those "helpful" automated routers always make me feel like a dinosaur - an impatient dinosaur from a time long, long ago when human beings (who walked to school up hill both ways) answered phones and even provided customer service that was not generated via call scripts. (#2, in particular, did not like that my questions deviated from his script and kept trying to wrangle me back in.) Thankfully, I have the Internet and a blog, so I can complain to a wider audience about how rotten technology is!

But my tale of woe does not end there! Again connected to the outside world, I woke up this morning to find that my normally clear skin (whatever manufacturing defects I might suffer, I really have been blessed with good dermal health!) had errupted into what looks like the beginnings of a second head sprouting from my chin. I seriously feel like I've discovered an undeveloped, parasitic twin on my face, and I just don't cotton to that kind of thing.

Covering it is no use. I tried and ended up with so much makeup on my face that even Tammy Faye Baker would have told me to just put the Studio Fix down step away from the applicator sponge. All the makeup did was leave a cakey film of powder around it anyway. In the end, M.A.C. was no match for its scarlet majesty - might as well decorate it with glitter and little "This way to Mt. Pimple" signs.

So, I am doing the only sensible thing - sequestering myself (for the sake of the children!) and baking Chocolate and Cranberry cookies from the red chapter of Tessa Kiros' lovely Apples for Jam. Once they are finished, my pimple and I plan to eat them while lounging on the love seat (where there will be ample space for us both!) and reading Marc Acito's new book, Attack of the Theater People. If that doesn't cheer us up, nothing will!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Mission Accomplished?

Five years ago George Bush declared that major combat operations in Iraq were over. Good thing we wrapped things up before we squandered tens of thousands of lives and racked up trillions of dollars in debt an insane war. What? We're STILL there?

Boy, am I looking forward to the coming elections! Maybe, just maybe we will end up with someone who favors diplomacy over "obliteration" and a plan for withdrawal over "100 years in Iraq". Five years has been more than enough.

Iraq Body Count web counter

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Happy May Day!

Doesn't looking at the color of those tulips make you crave a peppermint? It does me! I can almost taste the icy cool on my tongue. I would go outside and lick them right now if I weren't so afraid I might accidentally swallow a bug! It's been a lovely, sunny day for showing them off too! I know that it is technically still spring, but May always make me feel like summer has begun. Call me crazy, but I am happily optimistic that it's going to be a good month. In case you are not yet down with my happy, here are some things to boost your mood:

1. LibraryThing (like Facebook for people who can read!) has a group called "I See Dead People['s Books]" where you can check out the collections of such notable, departed souls as W.H. Auden, Sylvia Plath, e.e. cummings, Tupac Shakur and Wolfgang Mozart. And if that doesn't touch the heart of your inner book nerd, then exploring the rest of the site just might.

2. It's almost Friday and I am totally in love with Steve Rasnic Tem's and Melanie Tem's The Man on the Ceiling, their delightfully engrossing and surreal narrative about stories, family, love, fear and and the fuzzy line between the real and fantastic. There is so much more I want to (and likely will) say about this book at a later date. It is at times dark and spooky, but also sweet and truly fabulous in the way it plays with narrative and authority. What pleasant surprise for a book I picked up on a whim. I love you, new books shelf at the library!

3. Did you know that for the first time in eons Oregon's primary election is actually going to count for something in terms of who will end up the eventual Democratic nominee? It's true! So, don't forget to vote, and especially don't forget to vote Obama! (Not that I am biased or opinionated when it comes to politics or anything.)

4. Want to soak up some stereotypical, kitschy German culture without actually leaving the country? Well, you're in luck, because it's coming on road trip season and you can visit the "Bavarian village" of Leavenworth, by just driving across the border to Washington and the American alps! I know that I am practicing my rendition of "The Lonely Goatherd" and cannot wait until the end of May when I will finally get the chance to don my Fräulein Maria dress and sing about how alive the hills are in a more appropriate setting than the shower.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Letters from a Not-So-Young Narcoleptic

This is about how everyone at my house has looked this weekend! No, not gackingly adorable, but TIRED. I don't know why my problem is, but my body feels like the city has started piping in valerian root through the tap water. On Friday, I thought I was getting sick, because I was feeling all pooped and headachey, so I stayed home from work. The headachey part went away by evening, but the sleepy part still has not gone away.

Yesterday, for a brief hypochondriacal moment, I began to wonder if I didn't have chronic fatigue syndrome. Thankfully, that theory petered out after the 2% of my brain that is not clinically insane again took the reigns and decided that you probably have to have something for more than a day for it to be considered chronic. So, instead of lazing about all weekend, I adopted a Squirrel Nut Zippers, La Grippa approach and told myself that I must go out and dance around (or just clean out my spare bedroom and get some grocery shopping done) before I could allow myself to succumb to narcolepsy and sleep the sleep of the really tired.

I am a little divided on the cause for all this sleepiness. Even when I am tired, I have never been a big napper. For me as desire to nap usually means one of two things: I am getting sick or I am trying to put off doing something I really don't want to do. As it turns out, this weekend had some work that didn't thrill me on the the horizon.

I've often talked here about my "roomening" (a term that encompasses all things involved in making a living space fabulous - everything from mundane straightening up to painting to furniture rearranging to totally redecorating) project. As you may have noticed, it has turned out to be the slowest redecorating in the history of man. In the time since I started, avocado colored appliances have gone out, wood panelling is passé, and the room has actually changed in function from being a bedroom (my bedroom) to becoming a communal space-to-be for writing, sewing, crafting, t.v. watching, etc. While I love the planning and coordinating colors phase of the operations, I am a bit less motivated when it comes to the actual execution part. Worst of all, I am starting to suspect that my hope that magic decorator gnomes will sneak into my house to complete the actual work portion of the festivities while I'm sleeping may not pan out. As you can imagine, this has created tensions between myself and the greater gnome community.

One of the things slowing me down the most is that I have vowed that the roomening will not be complete until I have gotten rid of all of my unnecessary crap and found a perfect spot for holding my necessary crap. I don't know about you, but getting rid of things is really difficult for me. I know that the thing is not the memory, but I can find story/sentimental reason to not get rid of just about any thing I pick up. I try to be tough on myself, but then end up with an inner dialogue featuring arguments like this:

"That crappy notebook with transparencies? Throw that away? You must be crazy! Those are the materials from the last literary translation class I ever taught ten years ago! I might need them some day!"

"What do you mean I don't need that tattered bookmark somebody I don't remember bought me when I was 9? Are you kidding me? Look at that acrylic yarn tassel! Why it's barely frayed!"

"How could you say I don't need a postcard advertising an early 90's production of Blutiger Honig: Das Bienenmusical (Bloody Honey: The Bee Musical)? You make me sick! I thought you supported the arts!"

Ok, I actually am not only keeping that last one, but also planning to frame it. How could I throw away something so fantastic? The play, which was a political satire told via a doomed romance between a wasp and an Eintagsfliege (some sort of fly that only has a 24 hour life span) was so weirdly compelling, so vee vill break zee sird vall! The audience was all seated at little tables lit by candlight and at one point the actors (all wearing bug costumes) came out and yelled at us, while swatting our candles out with fly swatters. How could I not want a memento of that?

At the same time, I have also hit that age where I don't want to be encumbered by stuff. Not that I will probably ever do it, but I would like to know that if I ever wanted to spontaneously hop a boat to China to teach English or plan an extended visit to the Congo or even just have to go underground for a while as the result of my part of some sort of caper (I've always wanted to be involved in a caper, haven't you?), I could do so without having to spend weeks figuring out the logistics of what to do with all my shit while I was gone.

The other tough part about roomening is that you find things that really do have sentimental value - like finding my first musical composition (if you're wondering, it was a waltz - I was a weird kid!) or the box with my dad's baby book in it (complete with a little flaxen lock of baby Dad hair tied with a now 79 year old ribbon) or the German dictionary he bought in the 60's in order to ineptly translate what may have been one of the sweetest attempts ever at writing a love letter. He wrote it in English, then used the dictionary to translate it (quite literally) into German. The result (which my mom still holds among her things) was so goofily endearing that I could cry at how much he loved her. Those aren't the sorts of things one just throws away.

Of course, they make up only a fraction of the things one (especially a packratty one) finds while roomening. So, yes, I probably WILL donate the battered ca. 1990 used copies of Ursela Le Guin's Earthsea trilogy to Goodwill (not because I don't like them, but because I have a job and am trying to talk myself into not feeling guilty about wanting to have nicer copies) just as I will probably donate my high school German dictionary and release my college copy of Janssen Art History into the wild. Yes, the same copy I bought at the Title Wave after returning my original newer, nicer version of it to the campus bookstore just after mid-terms in exchange for shoe money. Man, those were cute shoes!

But, see, maybe I am slowly reforming. A year ago, I would have kept the book, but who needs it when I still have the shoes? Ok, not really. At least I don't think so, but you never know. They could be in one of the boxes in the garage that I have yet to go through, but I don't even want to get into them. I think Johnny Cash may have written "I've Been Everywhere" about one of those boxes. Some of them haven't been unpacked since two moves ago! Meanwhile, I think it's time for a little siesta.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

O April!


Pink Martini 2
Originally uploaded by Martina

One of my goals for the Driven to Completion project I embarked on with Anne back in January was to see at least one show or attend one event each month. So far, I've been doing well. Some months have even been pretty busy (March, you were great! Corteo! Ladysmith Black Mambazo! Barack Obama!) and the fates have even vindicated my quest with good parking/max karma. Clearly, my divine mission is to be a theater/concert/inspiring speech attendee! But here April is half over and do I have tickets for anything? NO!

I did go to an elephant birthday party over the weekend, which was sort of an event, but I'm not sure if that really counts. Of course, the good thing about having a high comfort level with making up rules as I go along is that if I decide it counts, it counts. That is the beauty of the Martinaverse.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Haaapy Biiiiiiiirthday, dear Paaaaaaaaaacky (and son Rama)...


September 07 031
Originally uploaded by Martina
Have you ever been to the zoo with a three year old? If you haven't, I am here to tell you that it is FUN! Everything is filled with razzle dazzle when you're three. Passing a yellow truck on the freeway? Exciting! Paper elephant ears? Exciting! Actual elephants? Super exciting (especially to 3-years olds vying for the position of High Priest of the Church of Babar)! Seeing an actual elephant on its birthday? More exciting than finding a perfectly burned image of the Virgin Mary on your bread when it pops out of the toaster. Some of that excitement is bound to rub off - even on those of us who are ten times that age. (If I haven't mentioned it, I've started counting backwards. Backwards counting + my gross lack of understanding of new math puts me at about 30.)

And it was a lovely, summery weekend here in Portland to be 30 again. I can't wait until the end of the summer when I will finally be back to a perennial 29. The weather yesterday couldn't have been better for a stroll around the zoo. Warm and sunny, but still cool enough for a pleasant walk. It is again overcast but those two days of eating dinner on the back deck and having zoo picnics were still enough to boost the spirit. What is not as spirit boosting are men from the land of the giants who insist on crowding their way to the front to take pictures when there are hoards of short children around who are very excited about seeing an elephant eat birthday cake, children who become very disappointed when all they can see is the back of a giant asshat's fat head.

Luckily, three year olds are really easily distracted. Elephant Ears (the pastry) coupled with the opportunity to get sprayed by the "geyser" at Stellar Cove are apparently a panacea for all. If only we could allow life to be so simple as adults!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

You Too Can Have Back!

Is it just me or do other people also hear "ass effects" every time that aciphex commercial airs on t.v.? It always makes me think it's some kind of booty boosting drug for people who don't want to mess with painful butt implant surgery, but are no longer content with feeling left out whenever they hear "Baby Got Back".

The thing is that surgery and even drugs are extreme, especially when you can be blowing up your bubble the way God intended - by eating copious amounts of delicious food! We know a little a something about food at my house. With spring birthdays, Easter, and my moon being in a decidedly non-hermit-like place (Dear Tarot, Why do you not have a card called "The Party Giver"? If you ever do, please let me know, so I can use it to illustrate this post. Love, Martina). I have been looking for excuses to have people over, so there has been a LOT of cooking and entertaining going on lately.

As a result, we have been revisiting a lot of old favorite recipes:
Killer Noodle Salad
Pear Crisp (pictured above)

And also trying a lot of new ones:

Sweet Potatoes baked with Apples and Plantains
(from Vegetarian Times - Dec. 2003)

How weird is this? About 6 weeks into my non-meat eating, I was rooting around a box in the garage looking for an old cookbook that I wanted to use for my birthday party and I found a stash of Veg Times. Apparently someone in my house had a subscription a few years back - yet none of us remember actually subscribing to it. I'm guessing it was a free trial that came with some other purchase, but the part of me that enjoys a good conspiracy, likes to attribute it to the stealth work of PETA operatives...or maybe gnomes (but not underpants gnomes). Anyway, here is the recipe along with some things that Veg Times won't tell you:

2 very ripe, blackened plantains
1 large sweet potato, peeled
3 Granny Smith apples, diced
3 T soy margarine, melted
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Peel and chop the plantains (1/2-inch pieces), cut potato into 1/4-inch pieces, chop up the apples. Put all three in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine everything else. Toss the sweet potato mixture with the brown sugar mixture and place in an oven proof dish. Bake for 20 minutes.

That's a paraphrase of the basic orginal recipe. Here are my additional notes:

1-Believe them when they say BLACKENED, kind of mottled with black = hard and not very sweet. I know! Who knew? (Probably everyone but me!)

2-Consider boiling the potato a bit to soften it up a bit, because it does NOT cook in the time given on the recipe. My friend Mexican Jenny (ever a big help) informed after they'd been baking for an eternity and were still crisp that she could have told me it wouldn't cook in that time and suggested the step of boiling them a bit first.

3- Apples: I used two granny smith and 1 golden delicious, because I already had it at home. No one vomited, and as far as I can see, the world IS still spinning on its axis

4-I added chopped, candied ginger to the brown sugar mixture too, because it's good and I happened to have some leftover that I'd made for another dish

5 - All this talk of plantains is reminding me of Sweetwater's Jam House. Portland people, do you remember Sweetwater's Jam House? I sure miss their coconut curry rice. I would sell any one of you for the recipe, so watch your backs!

Between the plantains and the half-raw sweet potatoes, this recipe was not exactly delicious when it debuted at my birthday party (it was more of the "interesting" and "oddly crunchy" variety), BUT when reheated so the potatoes cooked through, it was pretty good and easily possible to imagine how great it would taste with plantains that were actually ripe.


Chorizo and Cactus Leaf Tostadas

Chorizo came into my life last summer. I went through about a two week period where I ate chorizo and eggs with toast and coffee (I know! Coffee - I usually don't even like coffee!) almost every day. It got to the point where I got really sick of chorizo. For a while chorizo and I were on a break. In the end, I just couldn't stay away. But then, I started on this no meat thing and kind of had to. What would happen? Would our love affair die? Would chorizo and I go our separate ways like two ships passing in the night?

Would we?

WOULD WE?

No! Because I discovered that Food4Less (of all places!) actually stocks a really spicey vegetarian chorizo, which excites me, because I have learned (again from Mexican Jenny) that chorizo also tastes awesome with chopped cactus leaves, which Food4Less also regularly stocks. Apparently, they can also be purchased by the pound, peeled (I guess the peeling part is a pain in the ass) and chopped from a guy at a place, which I will report as soon as Mexican Jenny gives me some less vague details.

Ultimately, it would be really great, if I could get my friend to give me a chorizo and cactus tutorial, but the gist of the recipe is that the cactus leaves are boiled with onions and garlic, then added to a skillet with the chorizo and cooked together. They're then served on a tostada with refried beans, Mexican cheese, and crema and eaten by the platefuls, because they taste so good!

Mandarin Avocado Salad

One of my favorite things to make are interesting salads. This one is slightly modified from how it appears (and how it was served at my dinner party) in the Smuckers recipe it came from:

Here's what you need: A bag of greens, an orange sectioned and cut into bit sized pieces (mandarin oranges from a can work ok too in a pinch), sliced avocado, some chopped cashews, some yogurt covered raisins, dressing (recipe below)

Plate the greens on a serving platter or individual plates.

Sprinkle with orange pieces and raisins, then artistically arrange avocado slices in a pleasing pattern (because we love presentation!).

Drizzle with salad dressing and garnish with chopped cashews.

Dressing (my favorite part of this recipe, because I can see other uses for it):

1/2 cup orange marmalade
Juice of a lemon (about 1/3 c)
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 c oil
1/3 c nonfat sour cream or plain yogurt
2 T white vinegar

I missed this part of the recipe and things still turned out ok, but heat marmalade and lemon juice in the microwave for a couple minutes or on the stove top over medium heat to melt the marmelade before mixing with the other dressing ingredients, then chill before serving. If you do not choose to do this God will still be in his heaven and all will be right with the world - you will just need to spend a little more time mixing the dressing.

P.s. I suspect you could get a similar dressing by just using plain old orange juice - you'd just have to play with the amounts a little to get the right consistency/flavor.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

This time it's personal!

On my bookshelf there sits a battered copy of Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way that came to me sometime back in the distant past (otherwise known as 1992). Over the years I have tried multiple times to work my way along its "path to higher creativity", hoping to emerge a bona fide artist at the end of the journey. And every time I have crashed and burned somewhere around chapter five.

I've started the program enough times to be pretty familiar with morning pages and the artist's dates. Despite the pop, new agey tone to the book (inner artist, my bad mannered, bad ass inner child wants to beat you up and steal your lunch money!) the book contains some useful tools. I understand that in the twelve million sequels that make up the Artist franchise, Cameron has expanded the exercises to include walks, which is smart, because a walk is almost always a good way to think, let your mind wander, and even play.

If there's one thing that is useful in any creative endeavor, it is a willingness to play and explore. If there's another thing, it is discipline. Discipline is my downfall. That is why having an assignment is useful, and that is why I have decided to give the Way another try. I need to find a way to get back in the habit of writing daily.

This all comes to mind because a friend and I recently decided to have a once a month mini writing group of two. While it sounds like a simple thing, it is actually has my emotional pendulum schizophrenically swinging back and forth between excitement and nervousness. In theory, I think it is a great idea. It will be good for me, because it will force me to WORK. This is a friend I've known forever. I know it's safe. I know she is gracious. Her crazy and mine are like twin freak shows, so what better partner in crime could there be?

And, yet, it's scary to say "I am serious about this," because that suddenly makes more pressure that the output actually have value. In practice, it scares the crap out of me to share work that is not written off the cuff with little revision. There is always this fear in the back of my mind that goes something like: "What if I work really hard on this, and it SUCKS?"

So, I am easing my way in. Our first meeting is in a month. I'm still not sure what my project will be, but maybe with Julia Cameron cheering me along and babying me through my foray into creativity, I will come up with an idea. Meanwhile, I keep reminding myself that sometimes the things that are best for us do involve a bit of discomfort. People always look at discomfort as a bad thing, but the truth is that we all need positive pressure. Without it, I know that I always seem peter out somewhere around chapter five...

Friday, March 28, 2008

Cold Front


January 08 038
Originally uploaded by Martina
Hoard gas, stock your larders and break out your skis! Portland is having a spring snow storm! In the early morning hours, an arctic cold front sidled into PDX, blanketing some areas of the East side (that's right, it's not all about you West Hills!) with as much as .25” of slushy snow as temperatures plummeted as low as the upper 30’s. Judging by the local news geek spin on the morning weather, you’d have thought we were on the verge of another ice age. I love my city, but when it comes to weather, we really area bunch of drama queens.

On the other hand, there was something really lovely about the contrast between the snowflakes wafting down and the magnolia blossoms that are bursting forth from the tree outside my window. Nature is beautiful - even at her most treacherous. It also made for the perfect opportunity to test out my new Canon S1 IS. When my old digital camera died at my birthday party last weekend, I was momentarily disappointed. Thankfully, enough friends had cameras along that the room was already aglow with more flashing bolts of light than the red carpet at a Hollywood premiere, so I still ended up with lots of party photos (thank you, friends!).

Now that I have my new camera with its beautiful, big rotatable screen, 12x optical zoom and sharp images, I realize that my old Nikon may have sacrificed itself for the good of the collective having sensed that I was jonesing for something with a higher powered lense. Thankfully, I got it before the big storm hit. Otherwise I might have been camera-less until the afternoon thaw and that’s no way to survive the long, hard return of winter. This city has been through enough already…

Saturday, March 22, 2008

E-A-S-T-E-R


Daffodil Innards
Originally uploaded by Martina
How crazy is it that it is already Easter weekend? Apparently the next time Easter will again be this early will not be until 2228 - 220 years from now! It all has to do with what astronomers refer to as "celestial, equinoxy stuff" and the lunar calendar. It's a good thing that I finally found my maribou bunny ears this morning. I am ready, so bring on the eggs and make them chocolate!

Between birthday parties, spring, egg bearing bunnies and getting to go hear Barack Obama speak yesterday, there is so much to tell, but I am exhausted. So, I will just say:

HAPPY EASTER!!! HAPPY SPRING!!!