Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Reason #498

Among the many reasons our new President makes me hopeful is the emphasis he has placed on diplomacy when reaching out into the world. While I am sure there will be policies with which I don't 100% agree along the way, it is so refreshing to have well spoken statesman as President. His response when questioned in an interview on Al Arabiya about his perception of the U.S. role in brokering peace in the Middle East underscores for me what a good choice this country made in electing him:

"Well, I think the most important thing is for the United States to get engaged right away. And George Mitchell is somebody of enormous stature. He is one of the few people who have international experience brokering peace deals.

And so what I told him is start by listening, because all too often theUnited States starts by dictating -- in the past on some of these issues --and we don't always know all the factors that are involved. So let's listen. He's going to be speaking to all the major parties involved. And he will then report back to me. From there we will formulate a specific response.

Ultimately, we cannot tell either the Israelis or the Palestinians what's best for them. They're going to have to make some decisions. But I do believe that the moment is ripe for both sides to realize that the path that they are on is one that is not going to result in prosperity and security for their people. And that instead, it's time to return to the negotiating table."

for the rest of the interview, click here

Monday, January 26, 2009

Raindrops on Roses

Being what some people might term indecisive, but what I like to think of as open to all of life's possibilities, I have a pretty big and evolving list of favorite things. With a brain much more attuned to essay than multiple choice or true/false, I've never done well with questions like "What is your favorite band?" (or book or movie or anything) that demand concrete answers, because there are so many that are so good. How does one even begin to pick?

Of late, however, I find myself increasingly enamoured with the gypsy punk band, Gogol Bordello. They appease my soul's inner yearning for offbeat music featuring loud guitars, gypsy violin and songs about string theory. And, let's face it, that is an itch that doesn't get scratched all too often. Most importantly, however, they have a kickass violinist (Sergey Ryabtsev) whose talent I covet. Even if I didn't already love their music, my love for a well played violin transcends any allegiance to style or period. I want to listen to him over and over again, until something of his skill is absorbed through my inner ear canal and deep down into the tips of my own fingers. So far it hasn't worked, but I'll keep on trying!

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Originally uploaded by Martina
It is no great secret that I love animals and have little use for people who don't. I couldn't be friends with someone who didn't treat them kindly. In my house, pets are treated like family. They sleep on the sofa and in the beds, often under the blankets. Where we go, they go. It's just how we roll.

And when they get sick, we do everything possible to make them comfortable, because once you take a pet into your life, you are responsible for it's well being and quality of life until the end of its days. Sadly, the end of Molly's days came yesterday around 1:00 p.m. She had been diagnosed with chronic kidney failure back in July. We almost lost her then, but she she fought her way back. For a good six months, you would have never known that she was sick at all. She was back to her old self.

Then, about a week ago, she started to crash. After a harrowing week of IV drips and force feeding at the vet, we learned on Friday that she seemed to be taking a turn for the better and that we might again be able to bring her home this weekend. When we visited her that day, she had not yet started eating, but was sniffing and trying to mouth her food. She was weak, but alert and happy to see us. Things looked guardedly better. The vet even thought we might be able to bring her home.

Overnight, however, something happened and she crashed again. By morning, she was too weak to drink out of her water dish without her head falling into it. So when I called the vet yesterday, instead of what time we'd be able to bring her home, I learned that she was in the end stages of renal failure. We could take her home, but she wouldn't last more than a few days.

Suddenly the temporary 10% pay cut I'd just learned about at work didn't seem so important when faced with the idea that this little creature with whom I'd shared the last 14 years would never again cuddle up next to me in bed at night or squeak when she heard Little Richard Sing "Good Golly Miss Molly" or drape herself over the stereo speakers to listen to the opening bars of "Soave sia il vento" as she always did when the song came on. She would never again go for a ride in the car, standing on her hind legs, peering out the window like a little dog or sit staring lovingly at me while I played my violin for her. Frankly, I'd give the cut permanently, if it meant having her back whole and healthy. But, of course, death doesn't work that way. There are no bargains to be made.

Molly gave me too much over the years for me to allow her to suffer as she slowly starved to death. As long as it seemed that she could still get bettter, we continued the treatments, but making her suffer even after it was clear that she was going to die would have been cruel. She deserved more than to die painfully and smelling of the waste her kidneys could no longer process.

So, I spent a last hour with her before signing the papers to let her go to sleep. I held her bony little body in my lap and petted and hugged her as they gave her the shot. It only took a moment. She now rests in the back yard near the lilac bush where we sometimes sit and read in the summer. I'm glad it's still winter, because I couldn't sit there now without crying. I can't even type this without doing that.

Still, for all the sadness of the past week, I wouldn't trade a second with her or any of our other animals to avoid it. I am so thankful for that sunny day in Laguna Beach that I first brought her home. She was tiny, just a little silvery grey ball of fur with a pink ribbon tied around her neck. What she lacked in size, she more than made up for in inquisitiveness and sweetness. In the end, she brought so much joy to our lives. And that is something about which to be happy.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Taking a break...

A lot of really wonderful, happy making things have happened this week. George Bush and Dick Cheney left office to be replaced by a whole lung full of fresh air as Barack Obama swept into the White House. On his third day in office, our new President signed three executive orders including a ban on the use of torture and the closure of Gitmo within a year. It is good to again wake up in a country that cares about diplomacy and human rights.

Personally, however, the week has been less inspiring. More cuts are coming at work (more will be revealed at an early morning meeting tomorrow), which was already busy. I'm pretty sure I get to keep my job (for now, anyway), but that there will be a wage freeze and more demanded of those of us left behind.

More significantly, however, my sweet, silver companion of 15 years, Molly the classical music loving cat, is horribly ill. She was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure back in July. We almost lost her over the summer, but were able to nurse her back to health. She was fine for about six months until she crashed last weekend. This time she is much worse. She's been at the vet for 5 days now and we still don't know if she will make it. I hope she will, but we're also nearing the heartbreaking point where the question of extension versus quality of life is coming into play.

I don't know what will happen yet, but I do know that I really don't feel like forcing myself to blog. So, I'm suspending my January project for a few days. Something about it really wasn't working for me anyway, so perhaps the break will allow me to come back feeling refreshed and like I want to post instead of like I have to.

More soon...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Don't let the door hit you...

Tonight is the last time I will ever go to bed with the dual menace, George Bush and Dick Cheney, in power as President and Vice President of my country. The lyrics to this 5,6,7,8's song best capture my feelings about this turn of events.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Road to Salem

Summer is still months away with many rainy days to go between now and then, but this weekend has been absolutely lovely. Yes, it is windy and cold, but the sky is gloriously blue and filled with golden sunshine. This is the perfect sort of weather for a mini road trip. For a while now, my friend the writer and I have wanted to go down and visit some independent booksellers in hopes of convincing them to stock his book, so we packed a couple boxes of books into the car and hit the road to Salem. As it turns out, we were not completely unsuccessful. During our Ausflug to Oregon's capitol city, we managed to schedule a reading and to talk to someone from the Marion County Library, who is going to order books for their library system.

More than anything, though, it was good to just get out for a bit. These winter months always leave me yearning for travel and roadside diners and roads never before taken. While I'd been to Salem before, it had been long enough that city almost felt new to me. It had been years. I think the last time was probably in high school, when the great dinosaurs still roamed the earth. I pass the city often on the freeway, but stopping there is a rarely even considered as an option. Salem is located about an hour south of Portland, which means that on most road trips, it is too close to the start of the festivities to make a good first stopping place and too close to home for it to be a good resting spot on the way home either.

That said, the city really is kinda cute. Being a relatively small city, the capitol building and downtown are in pretty close proximity. There are a lot of older buildings like the lovely Elsinore Theater, which I really need to go back and photograph when I go to one of the showings in their Wednesday Evening Film Series, which I am now determined to visit (preferably sooner rather than later!). This is one of the great things about road trips (even mini ones!). They always feature things to go back and visit later.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Make up post for Friday

Well, it seems that my post-a-day project has been a bit haphazard this year. Honestly, there's something about it that just feels different. Focusing on the positive has been a good experience that I've taken outside of what gets posted here as well, but the actual daily posting is, in some ways, more of a chore than it has been in the past. There are days when I come home and think "Oh, crap. I have to post something!", which really is not at all in keeping with the positive spirit envisioned for this endeavor.

I'm not sure why it feels this way. It may just be that my personal life is bit busy right now or it may be that I'm at a point where I really want to work on more formal pieces of writing than blog posts or journal entries. Still, more than mid-way through my project, I can say that January's positive spin has made my days with a lot more appreciation of the abundance of things in my life that do make me happy. I suppose that is worth it, even if I do (no longer) secretly grouse a little about having to post!

Oh how I heart you, books!

No matter where I have lived in my life, the one consistent thread was that my space was always filled with books. I might even say overfilled, if I didn't firmly believe that one can never have too many books. When it comes to book stores, I have no self control and I don't limit myself to anyone section of the store. More than once I have had to declare a complete moratorium for fear that I would never manage to read all the books I already own, or, even worse, be found dead in my apartment after a stack of them toppled over, pinning me to the floor. Hopefully, one would land open before my eyes, so I could at least read a little while I faded away.

For a long time, one of my habits on trips was to purchase an old book at an antiquarian book shop every time I visited a new city. Somehow over the years I've grown out of this, but it seems a good pursuit to revive. While I love all books, there is something special about antique ones, because they not only allow you the pleasure of reading, but of wondering about all the hands, lives and stories the book has passed through before coming to you.

I'm one of those weirdos who truly believes that literature has value, that books have something important to say, and that writing is an art worthy of admiration. This is not to say that I don't read my share of fluff as well, but there is nothing better than a well written novel that I just can't put down or a piece of poetry or prose that invites me to think. I love the kinds of books that leave me considering them even after I've turned the final page. One of the best things about my life is that I actually have friends who already write such books and others whom I just know will one day!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Random things...

Because I am feeling uninspired and not at all like writing, I've stolen a meme from a friend's Facebook page: Once you are tagged, write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits or goals about yourself.

1. I would really like to get a tattoo but am hindered by my own indecisiveness, because what if I pick the wrong thing and have to live with it FOREVER (in my world of forevers and absolutes, there is no room for you and your new fangled and expensive, painful laser removal procedures). I think, however, that I may have finally hit upon and idea. Now where to put it...

2. My favorite of Vivaldi's Four Seaons is Winter

3. I believe that onions are the Devil's condiment. They give you bad breath and they make people cry. Clearly they are evil.

4. My most prized possessions are a 220 year old theology book and the violin my father had made for me my 14th birthday (it is almost as old).

5. I hardly ever catch on to t.v. shows when they are hip. Somehow I always manage to discover them about four years after they go off the air.

6. My professional life has taken a turn for the better of late. I have a new job, a new boss, and will soon have a new title and raise. I am also involved with a small press during my off hours and am hoping that one day it will do well enough to be my job.

7. When I was in first grade, I wrote and illustrated a story (The Girl Who Wanted a Garden) that was almost included in an anthology of stories written by children. I think my mom still has a copy of it. The Girl Who Wanted a Garden was, however, not the best story I wrote as a kid. That would have to go to either Mrs. Schlugheimer Learns to Drive (about a nearsighted grandmother with a lead foot who is in no shape to drive, but still decides to get a driver's license) or The Magic Chamber Pot (a fairy tale about a chamber pot the plays The Blue Danube and grants wishes to those who sit on it).

8. I had a HUGE kiddie crush on Jim Rockford (aka James Garner) in the 70's.

9. I am not exactly sure what my real hair color looks like at this point, but my hairdresser tells me it is dark blonde.

10. If I have to sing alone in public, sometimes I get so nervous that my throat tightens up and I can barely emit a squeak.

11. I am not crafty unless it is for nefarious and/or "special" purposes (like the angel placecards I made for Christmas dinner, where each of the angels bore my likeness).

12. Even though I really love my city and can't imagine not coming back to it, this last stint in Portland is the longest I have lived anywhere as an adult. Sometimes it feels strange to me and I start feeling restless for someplace new.

13. I speak three languages and would like to learn more.

14. It has been three weeks since I have drank any caffeinated beverages or consumed any artificial sweeteners.

15. If I won and obscene amount of money in the lottery, I would quit my job and spend my days volunteering for a cause that was meaningful to me.

16. I think it is extremely important to become involved in things greater than ourselves and find myself feeling impatient with people who are too apathetic to get involved, probably because I sometimes feel (despite the volunteering I already do) that I do not do enough.

17. My favorite birds are peacocks and my favorite peacock memory is when Kevin and I were having a picnic at Maryhill and one of the peacocks kept sticking his head in our cooler to steal grapes.

18. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to hang glide, but my fear of becoming a splat on the earth's surface is greater than my desire to fly.

19. I have no sense of smell.

20. I write left handed, but use scissors, cut my food, throw and bat right handed. I can, however, play tennis either way.

21. The first song I ever composed was a waltz.

22. My cat, Loki, hails from a freeway off ramp near Chehalis. He is Jen's birthday buddy, because I found him on my way from Seattle to her birthday party.

23. I can hide it ok when forced, but I am introverted and feel uncomfortable in large groups where I don't now anyone.

24. I rarely ask others for help, even when I could use it.

25. People who don't know me well seriously have no idea of how silly I can be.
Yesterday was long and heinous. And I hate to break this to you, but I think you're old enough to hear: Some people seem inclined to be assholes simply for the sake of sheer asshattery. I won't go into it, because of the "no complaining" rule. So let me just say that I am thankful that my problems are limited to the crappy attitudes of a Data Warehouse half a continent away and that I didn't allow stress to divert me from my diet and that there are light, fluffy books, peppermint tea and mindless t.v. shows like American Idol to sink into on such days.

I am optimistic that today will be much, much better!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Elephant Farts

One of the most entertaining parts of my days are my visits with Antonio, whose mother drops him off on her way to work each morning. He follows me around like white on rice, helping me get ready for work, telling me the kinds of stories that can only grow out of a three year old mind, and offering his opinions on the world around him. The thing I love best about him is the number of activities and emotions he can pack into a short time. I am constantly amazed at how quickly he can recover from even the worst mood, emerging with a fresh take on life within moments. (If only I could get over things so quickly!). Take, for instance, our (approximate) schedule this morning:

7:10 Arrival and opening remarks
Usually, if I am still asleep when he gets here, I am awakened by a little voice from the living room shouting "Good moooooooooooooooorning!" Today I am already awake and sitting on the couch when Antonio arrives. Unlike most days, today he is uncharacteristically quiet. I soon find out why...

7:15-7:30 Crying and Cajoling
Antonio is upset because he can't go to school. I don't think he actually wants to attend classes so much as go by the school down the street because of its convenient proximity to the playground. He is not down with the idea that I have no time to take him, because it is raining and I have to go to work. Even my argument that it is too cold and we should put it off until a sunny weekend afternoon falls on deaf, if by then somewhat calmer, ears.

7:30-7:40 Fart-off* (Antonio wins when he emits what he calls an "elephant fart")
*Note: Involves simulated farts only

7:40-7:45 The Feeding of the Bones
Concerned that the dogs are not fat enough, Antonio makes sure that each one gets a bone before settling in for some t.v. watching.

7:45-8:00 Cartoons
This is mostly just for something to do until Spongebob comes on and he doesn't really watch that closely, because he's dividing his time between the bathroom where I am putting on makeup and the living room. When I am finally finished, he takes my hand to pull me down the hall while pointing and yelling "To the living room!"

8:00-8:05 The Ceremonial Singing of the "Spongebob Squarepants Theme", followed by the Distribution of Imaginary Gum

8:06-8:07 Everyone pretends to take a nap

8:08-8:15 Pillow Fight (starts when Antonio awakens me from my imaginary nap by bonking me on the head with throw pillow from the sofa)

8:16-8:30 Lunch Preparations
Antonio assists me in making lunches - one for me to take to work, one for him to eat with my mom. He adds his contribution by slipping a snack pack of Peanutbutter Ritz crackers into my lunch. I am not sure why, but for the past week he has been bringing them for me from home like little processed love gifts.

8:30-8:45 Computer
Antonio helps me check my mail and repeatedly asks me to type his name, so he can see what it looks like. In his mind, every new time is as delightful as the first. He also intermittently hints that I could, were I so inclined, open the Thomas and Friends website without driving him to tears. Not that there's any pressure. He's just sayin...

8:45 Goodbyes
Antonio walks me out to the gate, entreating me to buy him a lot of toys (preferably "twos" of each, so both he and my mom have one). As I back out of the driveway, I see him standing on the porch with my mom, waving until I can no longer see him.

Monday, January 12, 2009


One of my favorite things about where I sit at work is that I sit next to the owner of Phreddie, a glass penguin who could give Elton John a run for his money in the flamboyant costume department. Phreddie's original outfits were largely fashioned from office supplies. I don't even remember what the first one was, only that it we put it on him as a goof at the end of a long day, never thinking that we were participating in the birth of a tradition. Since that time, Phreddie has accumulated a collection of pretty sophisticated costumes, including the leather chaps pictured.

His first real fabric costume was a wizard outfit for the dual occasion of Halloween and the release of one of the Harry Potter movies. It was made blue lamé with silver accents and featured a long, white beard and staff. Since then, he has donned various costumes commemorate holidays and other assorted special events. He has come to work as a pilgrim, Santa, cupid, a nurse (when his owner had surgery), a bride, a Ducks fan, and a cowboy in celebration of the opening of the Pendleton Roundup. Despite my absolute loathing of rodeos (put me down as being on the bull's side!), I do think he looks awfully cute in his chaps.

I know the the whole thing is totally silly, but, like all colossal silliness, his presence really does relieve stress and lighten the mood. Who knew that afternoon when we cut his first costume out of a piece of colored paper that he would one day have whole shoebox cum closet full real clothes? The best part is watching an office full of adults take turns acting squirrely as they plot to abduct a knick-knack to dress it up and return it to its place without anyone noticing. If there is one thing that makes life better, it is unmitigated goofiness. It's nice to work in a place where my neighbors embrace that sort of thing. The world would be a much happier place if people just let go and allowed themselves a bit of silliness from time to time.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

It is late. Home is the one place I've not spent much time today, so I am going to cop out with a list (in no particular order) of things experienced today that make life better:

1. A book so good you can't bear to put it down.
2. Singing at the top of your lungs
3. Having a friend trust you enough to know you will treat their creativity gently
4. Reading your friends' work and finding that they just as creative and brilliant as you always knew they'd be
5. Than Thao's Eggplant in Garlic Sauce
6. Crazy little dogs
7. Knowing how to check your tire pressure when the warning light comes on
8. New cut and color
9. Gogol Bordello
10. Dinner and drinks with friends
11. Fresh flowers

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Time and tide

Doesn't this look like a good place to just sit, stare out at the water and think? As a person of the sometimes too often hermitous and pensive persuasion, having these sorts of spots away from the world is really important to me. These past few days have me feeling particularly pensive.

The death of my uncle has me thinking a lot about my father, who will already have been gone for 13 years this May. I've been talking with a couple of friends (Jen and Anne) about this, since they too suffer from APO (Adult Paternal Orphanhood) and have come to the conclusion that a huge part of the sadness is knowing that with my uncle died a whole repository of memory about my father's early life. There is now no one alive who remembers whole decades of my father's existence. Sure, there could be some early friends around still, but they'd be old by now too (if alive at all) and they wouldn't know him like his brother did. Then I think about who will remember him when I'm gone and my mother is gone and my nieces are no longer.

Who will remember any of us? Who will remember me? What difference will my existence have made? Will an old, tattered picture of me one day be found in a box whose owners who will have no idea who I was? What difference will any of us (you included) have made? Will we have done the things we wanted to? In the end, will they even have been important at all? It is all such a mystery. And that reminds me of that passage from Issak Dineson that I know I've posted here, but am now going to quote again because it is too lovely and aprospos to not share:

If I know a song of Africa, - I thought -, of the Giraffe, of the African new moon lying on her back, of the ploughs in the fields, and the sweaty faces of the coffee-pickers, does Africa know a song of me? Would the air over the plain quiver with a color that I had on or the children invent a game in which my name was, or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me, or would the eagles of the Ngong look out for me?

Such concepts, the nature of time and memory. Having spent 98% of my life thusfar completely disinterested in sciences like physics, I've never really given the time element much thought. Being in the middle of reading Jack Finney's Time and Again at a time in my life when a part of my family history has died, however, I am particularly intrigued by it. The novel is about an artist who is recruited by a covert agency of the U.S. government to participate in a mysterious project involving time travel back to 19th century New York. It takes as its premise the notion that one can step from a moment in the present and back into the past, finding oneself in the same location, only twenty or a hundred or a thousand years earlier. The implication is that what we think of as the passing of time is all happening at once and that one can move in and out of specific time periods via special techniques (which the author never - or at least not before page 272! - divulges), if one just knows what to do. I suppose, in a way, memory allows us to do the same thing, but is limited to our own experience.

Either way, the world and existence itself are such big places that there is always going to be an element of mystery attached until we can glance back at them with the eye of experience. I'm not sure what that really means. I don't know what any of it means, but I sense that it underscores part of my reasons for my January project of focusing on those things that make my life (and hopefully that of others) happier and better. Hopefully, if I can do that, one day when I am gone, there will be someone left who remembers me and that I did my best to make a difference.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Sunset, no sunrise

This day on which I have learned that my uncle, my father's brother has passed away seems a good day for sunsets. It has been years since I've seen him, but I can easily picture him in my childhood dining room, visiting with my dad. He always called my dad Butch or Louie and they'd drink coffee, smoke and shoot the breeze for hours.

I remember my uncle as a tall, long-legged man who liked to tease my father, who was quite a few inches shorter at 5'10" about his more compact frame. He delighted doing things like picking up a pair of bermuda shorts when they were at a store together and yelling to my dad, "Hey, Louie! You might have to hem 'em a little, but I found a pair of pants for you!" In my teens, he told me stories about the shit my dad got up to as a boy, stories my dad would never have told me himself. When my dad was in the hospital where he died, it was my Uncle Bud who picked me up at the airport. He was there too when we picked out my father's casket. For a long time after my father passed, he stopped by to visit my mom every day, because he had promised he would make sure she was okay when he was gone. He only stopped after his emphysema got too bad for him to go out.

I may not have seen him much as I got older, but he was there for the important things and that's really all one can ask. Wherever he is now (and I like to think it's drinking coffee with my father at some cosmic kitchen table), I hope he is at peace and finally able to breathe more easily.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

So wie man in den Wald herein ruft, so schallt es auch heraus

My new favorite saying is a German one that translates as "Whatsoever you call into the forest will also echo back to you." It's so true, isn't it? What you put into the world really does come back to you.

Yesterday was the first day of my new job. Even though I've worked for this company for a number of years now and know my new boss fairly well, I found myself feeling just a bit nervous as the date of my triumphant return to work approached. The night before, was sleepless, plagued by the weird, creepy dreams my mind always cooks up when I'm stressed. And then I got to work and everything was wonderful. Having built up a cache of good will long before I ever had an inkling that I would ever be working under my new boss, everything went smoothly. I've sometimes wondered why it is that I feel compelled to work so hard at a job that really is just a job to me. Whatever the reason, it is paying off and I really am grateful to the individuals whose influence there helped me to progress. For the first time in ages I find myself feeling excited by the work related possibilities to come, which reminds me of how important it is to feel challenged and at the same time acknowledged for my competence at work. It also reminds me how silly it is to get worked up about new things instead of just enjoying them!

P.s. Speaking of things to enjoy, I am reading Jack Finney's Time and Again right now and highly recommend it!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Mirror, mirror on the wall...

Over the weekend, my favorite writer friend and I took a little motor to visit some independent booksellers in a the Salem area. On the way, we stopped in Silverton, a lovely little Oregon town that is possibly the only small town in the country with a transgender mayor. On days when I forget how crazy making it was to live in a small town in the middle of the prairie, I think that Silverton is just the sort of small town to live in, if you're going to leave the city. The only thing that would make it better would be if it were closer to the ocean.

In addition to being small AND progressive, Silverton also has some nice restaurants, one of which is home to the cutest ladies' room ever. The best part about it is that the rest of the building gives no indication that it hides such a pretty powder room. Silverton, you keep your secrets well! Nonetheless, every time I go in there, it makes me want to go home and cover my own bathroom walls with sunny murals.

That really is one the best parts of road trips (even mini ones). You never know what you will find! Travelling by plane certainly doesn't hold the same feeling of exploration. Planes are a way to get from point A to point B. Road trips are an experience, a choose your own adventure novel written by map (or in some cases a simple "I wonder what's down this road?"). It all makes me eager for warmer weather and sunnier days. The snow was lovely, the rain less so. Hitting the road for even just a short Saturday getaway makes me yearn cameras, sunglasses, wild flower carpeted hills, road tunes and a few good travel companions. Some of my best memories involve those things. Hooray for lower gas prices and hooray for The Road!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

All men will be brothers

After a day filled with three separate but equally delightful sets of unexpected guests and a news cycle filled with news from Gaza that was anything but delightful, I am too tired to contemplate much of anything. So to help us all feel a little better, enjoy!

Almost as inspiring as the actual words of Schiller's Ode to Joy, no?

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Books! Books! Books!

If there is one thing anyone who has ever even briefly met me knows, it is that I LOVE books and pretty much anything to do with writing. Whether arranged into a poem, a novel, a short story, or an essay, words make me happy.

So, here is a list of the books I read in 2008 that (for various reasons) made the greatest impression on me. I've abandoned last year's system of listing EVERYTHING and marking my favorites with an asterisk, because I got a couple emails from authors who seemed mopey that their books didn't get starred. I don't want that on my head. I have enough writerly angst of my own without creating it in others. So, I'm only listing the ones I liked BEST. I'm all about the love, baby! This way there are only good feelings all around! As time allows, I may expound on what made some of them special or you may just have to find out for yourself.

P.s. Cookbooks are in blue

1. Deborah Wood, A New Owner's Guide to Papillons

2. A.J. Jacobs, The Year of Living Biblically

3. Karen Russell, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves

4. Alanna Knight, An Orkney Murder

5. Lauren Weedman, A Woman Trapped in a Woman's Body

6. Flora Rheta Schreiber, Sybil

7. Phillip DePoy, A Widow's Curse

8. Daniel Handler, Adverbs

9. Steve Almond, Not That You Asked

10. Sadegh Hedayat, The Blind Owl

11. Joan Sfar, Vampire Loves

12. Charlaine Harris, All Together Dead

13. Fritz Leiber, The Conjure Wife

14. Steve and Melanie Tem, The Man on the Ceiling

15. Marc Acito, Attack of the Theater People

16. Ariel Gore, The Travelling Death and Resurrection Show

17. Rebecca Stott, Ghostwalk

18. Anthony Bourke, A Lion Called Christian

19. Chelsea Handler, Are You There Vodka? It's Me Chelsea

20. Molly Katzen, Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home

21. Tessa Kiros, Apples for Jam

22. Poppy Z. Brite, The Devil You Know

23. Chris Abani, A Song For Night

24. William Goldman, Marathon Man

25. ETA Hoffman, Der Sandmann

26. Gustavo Arellano, Orange County: I've Been Taking Notes

27. Laurie Notaro, There is a Slight Chance I Might Be Going to Hell

28. Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book

29. Elie Wiesel, Night

30. Phillip DePoy, The Drifter's Wheel

31. Deborah Grabien, The Weaver and the Factory Maid

32. May Bsisu, The Arab Table

33. Williams Sonoma's Savoring... Cookbook Series (so far I have savored Italy, Portugal/Spain, Mexico, and am currently savoring China and Southeast Asia)

Friday, January 02, 2009

My Favorite Color

This New Year's Eve I decided to do something different to celebrate the passing of the old year. It was a good year that seemed to deserve something better than staying home to watch other people experience some tired, old ball dropping in a town square thousands of miles away. So, in celebration of the infinite potential of 2009 (and also my recent promotion), I splurged and bought theater tickets to The Color Purple for myself and guest.

It all came about in a spontaneous way. As I was shopping for birthday tickets to see Wicked in March, I happened to notice that there were still New Year's tickets available for The Color Purple. What better way for a theater lover to spend the last few hours of a year than seeing a musical? Besides, I'd read Alice Walker's book and seen the movie and liked them both. As it turned out, while I had some slight misgivings about how domestic violence and molestation could be turned into a musical, I had forgotten how apropos Celie's story is to new years, new lives and new beginnings.

Set in rural George between 1909 and 1949, Purple is the coming of age story about a meek, young woman who has had hammered into her by both the men in her life and by society that she is ugly and worthless. When we first meet her she is a sexually abused young girl of 14 or 15, whose step- (though we don't learn that until later) father molests her, then cruelly rips away any resulting babies. Things get even worse for our heroine, when Daddy convinces another abusive tryant to take her off his hands in exchange for the bonus gift of a free cow.

I know! It doesn't exactly scream dance number! And, honestly, for the first 10 or 15 minutes, my thoughts were more along of the lines of "maybe some stories just aren't meant to be musicals" than "Somebody give me more jazz hand! What that beating needs is jazz hands!". In the end, however, it is such a beautiful, triumphant story of overcoming that I am so glad I rode out my few moments of misgiving and allowed myself to be swept away by the music, the story and the fabulous sequined dress Shug Avery wears in her juke joint act. Even if the opening scenes are nothing to celebrate, by the end of the show, thanks to the love and influence of the strong women around her, Celie has evolved into a woman of confidence and independence. Purple is such a powerful, human story about friendship, transformation (even the evil, abusive huband reforms by the end!) and transcendence that it really contains the perfect themes to consider when the year is fresh, new and full of hope. And that is uplifting!

P.s. The performances were amazing! So much talent on that stage! I have no idea what the status of remaining tickets is, but the show is in Portland through the 4th and I absolutely recommend it!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

An Experiment: Happiness and the Audacity of Yes

Happy new year and welcome to my third annual January post-a-day blogstravaganza! This year the rules are a little different. Over the course of 2008, the rain cloud left my parade and there was a subtle but steady shift for the better in the martinasphere. Goodbye depression of early 2007, hello contentment! I did some good things in 2008 – experimented with vegetarianism (which has evolved into an about 80% vegetarian diet), lost a little weight, started playing violin again, went to the theater more often, stuck up for myself when being bullied (don’t mess with me, I will cut you or at least think NOTHING of passive-aggressively giving you the stink eye when I think you’re not looking, because that is just the kind of badass I am!), helped friends start an independent press, gave up diet soda AND caffeine, and did a lot of reevaluating of what was important to me.

This last piece has become especially significant since September, when my mom passed out when her heart stopped while lunching downtown at Todai and ended up in the hospital for a number of days. Thanks to a new pacemaker, she is better now, but it was scary to go from pushing out of my mind that she is getting older to actively worrying that I would soon be an aging, fat orphan. My mom was always the cool mom all the other kids liked. She has been my best friend since I was young. We always had that kind of relationship, and, I tell you, it was surreal to be sitting in a hospital waiting room all by myself, worrying about her. All the other times, she was there with me and we worried together. It was only thanks to friends (one in particular who called or texted just about once an hour when he wasn’t physically present, but they were all great!) that I didn’t lose my mind.

It was after that incident that there arose in me a discontent with just feeling content. I will be hitting one of the big “0” milestone birthdays this year. While I’m not exactly depressed, I am not thrilled about it either. Life is too short to just feel okay about things. “Good enough” is for suckers! So, I (again) began thinking about how I could develop my own happiness and live the kind of life I want to live. No one else is going to do it for me. So many times we push off doing things we want to do out of fear. You do that often enough and suddenly your dreams have become side tracked and you’re sitting in a boring, uncreative environment jealously pining for the lives of others.

For me, the unavoidable conclusion is that a lot of it is a matter of having the balls to say yes – yes to life, yes to opportunity and yes to ourselves. So, I’ve decided to spend the coming months looking for experiences, things and ideas that better quality life. They may be large. They may be small. They may be old. They may be new. Whatever they are, I will seek them out and post about them. Hopefully, you’ll find in them some things to enjoy as well. If you have any to suggest, please feel free to share.

The primary and only rule is that posts must be used for or to share good (unless, of course, bad is too funny to not share or gets its ass kicked by good). No complaining, fretting or obsessing of any kind (that is, after all, why we have personal journals and long suffering friends who have become adept at rolling their eyes any time our mouths open). As always, any other rules will be made up or discarded as I go along, because if there’s one thing that is NOT conducive to happiness, it is an unbending rule. Rules should be soft and pliant, like the willow that survives by bending in the wind.