Sunday, October 31, 2010

Get Writing!

For those of you who think that writing is for weirdos, you can stop reading now. Either that, or just accept the fact that I am a weirdo, along with a lot of other people in the world. If you didn't know that, you probably didn't know that November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short).

I have been wanting to write something creative for the past little while, but am not ready to write a novel in November. I just don't have the time to devote to that at this point, and it is much easier to play with a cute little Munchkin than it is to ignore her smiling face when I haven't seen her all day. To do my small part, I have decided to take a bit of time to set up an important point in a story that occasionally flashes into my head. It comes from a lyric that has been running through my head from a Sara Bareilles song called The Light. It goes a little something like this:
In the morning it comes—heaven sent a hurricane. Not a trace of the sun, but I don't even run from rain.
While some of you might be thinking what a downer and rolling your eyes, I immediately start thinking what in the world would cause someone to get down to such a level of despair? And I don't have an answer at this point. So I thought I would try to write a piece of fiction to see if I could figure it out this month. My only rule was that I use the lyric as a prompt.

To encourage a friendly internet neighborhood writing, I am tagging Daily Characters and Did You Have Juice to see if I can't get some more writing churned out. I would love to tag more people, but have yet to find other writer friends online. If you would like to be such a friend, feel free to leave a comment in the appropriate location. Everybody knows the Internet needs more writing. And if you don't know this, you should.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Glimmer of Hope

This post is an update to Busy, Busy, Busy.

Instead of getting a call on Tuesday from the person my co-worker had me contact earlier this week, I got a call from one of his colleagues on Wednesday and had a quite informal interview asking me very basic questions. I think it helped that I was able to tell them that I am working daily in the computer system that is required for the position. In fact, I have written parts of the manual for it. That tends to put interviewers at ease.

Well, that, and the fact that his mother-in-law's dog was barking and he was embarrassed while conducting the interview. I am glad that a dog can break the ice.

I just got a call from the person who I thought was going to call me on Wednesday. He asked me a few questions regarding my current position, because there is quite a strict procurement policy, as companies generally frown on people jumping ship. Business is business, and if they lose a contract, they lose money.

Now he is on the hunt with his legal department to see if I can't be hired on. Keep your fingers crossed that the lawyers can work some magic...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

And We Were Dancing

I might be slightly influenced from the Madeline L'Engle series (see the last post as well), A Wrinkle in Time, but I am really looking for ways to be more connected with everything around me. Today I had a fun connection.

Today I ended up taking part in a dance festival on my lunch break. I didn't expect it, but it was just one of those things that spontaneously happens. After a particularly busy morning, I decided I needed a midday meander. As I peeked out the window, the sky was a bit overcast, and the wind was whipping the trees around. I wasn't sure if I wanted to go for a walk, but needed to get away, so I decided to brave the weather.

As I got outside, the clouds parted. With the sun on my back and my iPod plugged into my ears, I started to walk. The wind began to blow, and the dance began.

All the leaves that have been falling from the trees for the past few days litter the parking lot. Because the wind came, they started to stir. The wind was outlined by the leaves lilting across the parking lot. They swirled, swished, spun, pattered, and pranced around my feet. Had I had the opportunity to be alone, I probably would have thrown my hands behind me and swirled right along with them with my face extended toward the sun. Since there were people driving their cars out to go get lunch or run an afternoon errand, I refrained. But my physical restraint didn't stop my eyes from enjoying the waves of leaves lapping at my toes.

If you happen to find a leaf beach, please let me know, because I would love to go walk through one with my toes bared to the beach.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy

As I have been reading the A Wrinkle in Time series by Madeline L'Engle recently, I can't help but contemplate time travel. I feel like time has been slowing down at work recently for me, mainly because I don't know how much longer I'll be there, making my work more of a drudgery than it really is. This week has been completely different, and I am trying to figure out why.

Yesterday seemed to zip by, helped along by a couple of meeting strewn haphazardly throughout the day. Today also brought a few surprise meetings, including one very interesting walk with a co-worker.

My co-worker sent me an IM asking me if I had a moment. Being one who enjoys having distractions a majority of the time, I was happy to oblige. She then asked me if I wanted to go for a walk. This was a bit out of character, but I thought that I could use a stretch, so we headed for a stroll around the campus.

She informed me that there was a position opening a few cubicle rows down that might be worth looking into. The position is with an agency relatively new to the Boise area, but I am sure that they are trying to break into the markets here. The catch is that they would hire me on as a full time employee for their company while I worked through their contract with the same company that I work for, but in a different capacity.

I jumped on the opportunity. I was hoping to hear from the recruiter today, but haven't heard anything yet. I think it is safe to assume that I won't hear anything today.

The thing that surprised me most about this situation is that I wasn't sure if I was going to like working with this individual. She is very literal and straight forward, and I wasn't sure if it would be a problem, as the person she replaced was very proper and dignified. The woman wore scarves to work and drank her tea from a bone china tea cup, for goodness sakes. How much more proper can you get?!

But I have found that I really like working with the new girl. She knows her stuff, and she is good to her word. She has had a lot of good ideas that have helped us to make our part of the organization more important to the business, which is something that I struggle with at times. I have learned much from her by only having daily interaction with her for a few months.

Having said all of this, I was not quite sure how to read this colleague. While she is very literal, she can also have a biting, sarcastic sense of humor. Sometimes it is hard to tell if she is joking or venting. This is why I was surprised to learn that she offered to recommend me to the recruiter without even having to ask. Needless to say, she has made a friend of me, and I will be glad to have her as a colleague, no matter where the wind might blow the two of us.

I am finding more and more that the people that I have had the pleasure to work with are often quite different, but they are also very talented. I have made it a goal to learn a little bit from each person I work with. I figure if I do that, I will still be marketable and in the business in thirty or thirty five years by the time that retirement comes around. It makes the idea of working all my life a bit more manageable.


I always knew that there was something special about sisters. But one thing I didn't know was that you are happier if you have one. Don't believe me? Ask the New York Times.

I have a double dose of happy in my life, as I have two sisters. They also served as surrogate mothers at times. If ever I got in trouble with my mother, I knew that I always had a sister or two to go be around to make me feel better. I can remember my oldest sister getting married when I was only six, and not being sure if she would still be my sister. Luckily, she married someone who was willing to adopt me as a little brother and introduce me to all sorts of fun fantastical things.

My not-so-oldest sister ended up sticking around with her family in Boise until I was in college. I can remember going to lunch with her right before they moved my freshman year in college and wondering if all my siblings would move away to another place.

So far they all have.

But one thing is sure—whenever I get to spend time with my sisters, I treasure that time. We don't have to talk (although we usually do), but I am glad to have two great sisters who I know will always be there for (and in spite of) me.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Soaking It In

It is kind of odd, but I am feeling quite content right now. Things are a bit crazy with the upcoming job uncertainty, but I am enjoying things. Work has seemed a bit slow for me lately, but I have established why.

Recently the team that I work with ended up getting this book where you to take a test online to see what you strengths are. Not wanting to be left out as a lowly contractor, I bought the book for myself as a birthday present (with Wifey's permission). After reading the short introduction to the book (about 20 pages that took me all of 10 minutes to read), I found myself skeptically getting ready to take an online test. What worried me most about the test is that I only had 20 seconds to answer the questions. I am one who likes to think things through, so after mentally biting my nails down to nubs, I pushed the "Start test" button.

I was glad that I didn't exceed the time limit on any of the questions. But I was even more glad that I was able to find a test that took me less than a half an hour that told me a lot about myself. Because I overthink these things, I tend to get scattered results on personality tests. I start to answer a question, but then I change the scenario in my head, and then start weighing which of these two scenarios come up most in my life, but then a third scenario comes along...

Well, you get the picture.

But this book pegged me to a "T." I was pleased to find out my top five strengths, and they seemed very valid to me. While these strengths might not be the most glamorous of strengths, I found it useful information to have. It helped me to understand better how I work, and why I enjoy some tasks while I loathe other tasks. Wifey was reading a book while I was taking most of the test, but the few that she did see, she told me afterward that she would have chosen the exact opposite of what I chose. I must be Type B (when we were dating, she told me that she had dated one type of guy. Then she told me that I was Type B. She was right.).

One of my strengths that I was happy to find was that I was a learner. I have always known that I loved learning, but I had never seen that as a strength. But it does explain why I had such a hard time picking a major in college. I went through ten majors, and I wondered why none of them kept my interest. Now I realize it is because I had learned a bit about the subject, and after I had become semi-fluent in the new language, I became disenchanted. It wasn't because I wasn't competent, but that I just lost interest.

Looking back, I probably just should have picked something and stuck with it. But I thought that there was something intrinsically wrong with me. If I frame it as a strength, it makes me feel much better.

As you might have guessed already from my synopsis of previous personality tests, my strongest strength was being deliberate. I had never seen that as a strength, but I guess that being methodical is a good thing. And the way that the book explains it really makes sense to me.

Now that I know this stuff about myself, I am more likely to look on it with a fresh perspective. Instead of saying, "Man, I am dumb for being this way," I can now look on things I do and say, "I'm glad I'm this way. It makes me unique."

One thing that really stuck out to me in the book was the fact that we often spend our time looking to see our weaknesses and trying to improve them. While there is something to be said about that, there is also something to be said about spending your time where you would really shine. I know that I am not going to enjoy being an accountant, so why would I spend time looking into accountancy skills? Instead, I can use the skills I have to better my situation or reframe it.

So, in the mean time, I am going to start taking a different approach to life. I am going to start trying to find ways that I can use my strengths to fix problems instead of ways to improve my weaknesses to fix problems. Soak in the good, and leave the bad out.

Now, to find a job that will let me do that...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Picking on Politicking

I have always had a sour taste in my mouth when people start talking about politics. When these discussions start, there is generally a polarizing effect that takes place. People start picking on the incumbents and candidates, and it is never a very humane conversation.

Today I realized why that is.

I suspect that many people (myself included) feel duty-bound to vote and don't pay much attention to how things are going until a bit before election day. The ads start to come on TV, the signs start to pop up around town, and you occasionally catch words like gubernatorial or tea party in bits of passing conversation. While I would enjoy having a conversation about the candidates, I find it hard to do so in a civilized manner. You can look to the advertisements on candidates as a springboard for our discussion.

Most ads that I see on TV fall into one of two categories. On one hand, we have the mudslinging, and on the other hand, we have scare tactics.

Most of the fodder that comes from these ads, I immediately dismiss. They talk about one candidate (generally the incumbent) voting for this or that, and how terrible it is that this candidate would try to take money away from education (or spend more money, or try to quell economic growth, or a myriad of other things that seem intrinsically good that the candidate opposes). While I understand that a candidate's values might not align 100% with your own, I also understand that lawmakers are sneaky.

There are always things added on to a bill. These little amendments can be unrelated to the original intent of the bill. If the bill is on increasing funding for education, there might be a little amendment that says that they are going to sell public lands, or give tax cuts to businesses. If a candidate feels that the education portion is important enough, he or she will pass the bill while conceding to the other point that he or she might disagree with. If each bill was as straight forward as, "Do you want to increase funding for education? We will get the funds from X, Y, and Z," then I would find these ads a lot more compelling. Until the day that these non-related items keep appearing in bills, I have a hard time buying anything that these ads have to say.

Scare Tactics
These kinds of ads generally talk about the terrible state of the nation, and sometimes include some of the mudslinging tactics as well. The main message is, "This candidate's party has messed things up, and if you want it to keep on getting worse, then vote them in." I have a hard time taking these ads seriously as well, because in a lot of ways, I feel that bi-partisan politics has become similar to a game of football in elementary school.

There are two opposing teams, and while you have the quarterback calling some of the shots, both teams are really running the same plays. Yes, there is variation between the parties, but candidates are attempting to be as conservative as they can and stay within their party's favor. Many candidates do not agree 100% with their party's ideologies, (which is good, in my opinion) but when I have tried to figure out what makes someone democrat or republican, I have a hard time getting a straight answer. People have ideas of what they think it means to be democrat or republican, but I have a hard time finding a source that will tell me what the party stands for. I feel both parties are trying to be as beige as they can while retaining their independence.

So, while the candidates are saying that one party ruined everything, and that the other party needs control to fix all the other issues, I don't buy it. They are both beige, while one might be a little bit darker, and the other, a touch lighter.

So, being the duty-bound citizen that I am, I will be spending my time looking into websites for the next little bit to try to find a synopsis of political candidates. Even though a candidate might run on a platform and become elected doesn't mean that the candidate will be able to accomplish what they claim they will.

But I do know one thing. If a candidate had a platform that I mostly agreed with and promised to be transparent and own up to the decisions that they made instead of trying to blame another party, they would have my vote. I think people spend too much time trying to place blame, and not enough time working together for the common good. I get tired of the bickering and name calling, so I am going to try to be more diligent in finding out about candidates this election so that I can make a relatively educated guess when the elections roll around. If you have any hints on websites for me, please feel free to leave them in the comments box.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Introduction to Technology

When we were over to dinner at my parent's home this past week, my mother showed me a small card that she was very impressed with. It had a column with text in it that was next to a piece of clip art. My mind immediately started thinking of how to make it, and then quickly got bored because of the simplicity of the task.

After dinner was over, I mentioned to Mom that I could easily show her how to make something like that. She looked at me a bit skeptically, but took me up on the offer because she wanted me to install their scanner on the computer.

Before I go any further, let me tell you two stories about Mom that will help you understand her interactions with technology in the past.

Dad was a college professor in the Education department, and as part of that work, he started some of the first computer labs on campus (Funny aside: I now work with someone who helped him establish those first computer labs. Small world.). Dad was used to drawing things in Basic and typing up reports for his thesis and dissertation, so computers weren't anything that caused him worry. But Dad has his way of doing things, and if you stray from that path, you aren't doing it right, even if it yields the same (or better) results.

We had an Apple ][e at home for a personal computer. If you don't know the type, think of a large, dusty-gray looking box with two disk drives under a green and black monitor, and that is pretty much it. You had to have a 3 x 5 floppy disk inserted in disk drive 1 in order to get the thing to do anything of value. Mom helped Dad type up some of his reports and things, so she was a good typist. But if she ever needed to do anything beyond typing, Dad would start to explain it. Once he had an suspicion—even an inklink of a suspicion—that she was going to do something wrong, he would say (in a not so calm voice), "Ah, don't do that!"

Needless to say, Mom gets nervous about using a computer. She once called me to ask me if she was in trouble because she had just gotten an error message that told her that she had performed an illegal operation. Poor Mom....

My second story illustrates just how limited her interaction with the Internet has been. One day, she mentioned to me that she wanted to find some illustrations from children's books. She had never been on the Internet besides checking email, and I didn't really count that because they didn't even have a web-based email account. I brought Mom to the Google homepage.

Having grown up with this technology, I asked her to start typing in what she wanted to look for. She said books for kids, so that is what she typed in. Of course Google returned over nine million entries. I showed her the amount of entries that she had come up with, and she was floored. And then she innocently asked me, "Well, how am I going to get through all of these links?" I told her to get through them by using more search terms. I suggested maybe using art or artwork in there as well.

So what did she do? She erased the books for kids entry and put in artwork. I did a mental facepalm, and then told her to put all of those terms in. She just sat there and said, "Oh. You can do that type of thing?"

Don't let these stories fool you. My mother is very intelligent and capable. She just has never really had the opportunity to play around on the Internet, and because of her introduction to computers via my father, she is reluctant to just play on the computer.

I told Mom that I would show her how to make the card, and then let her do one while I was there. At my suggestion that she try one herself, she laughed and rolled her eyes. I opened up Pages for her, and showed her how to make a quick card using one of the existing templates in about two minutes. She kind of blinked, a bit surprised that it was over so fast. I could tell that she hadn't ingrained what I had just showed her—despite the fact that she was taking meticulous notes on a sticky pad that was nearby—so I had her take the drivers seat.

She opened up Pages again, and we started looking through the templates. She quickly said, "Now, I don't remember which one you used. Why don't you tell me?" Instead, I asked some leading questions, and she selected a different template after recognizing the one I had used. She put the picture that she wanted in, and then I showed her how you can zoom in and use a mask to highlight part of the picture.

I had to help her pull her chin off the floor. Not only was she amazed that she could zoom in and out, but she was amazed that she was doing it. I had her do a few more copies on the same template while I was there, and then we went to go get the cows in. On our way outside, she walked up to Dad, starting to tell him excitedly that she could make a card with a picture and writing, and that you could zoom in and out, and focus on one flower from the flower bed, and that she could do it all herself. Dad just grinned, and threw out a characteristic, "Wait a minute. You know how to do all that?"

For those who don't know Dad, he was joking. If I ever got a 98 on a test, he would ask me why I didn't get a 100. That is just how he is.

Mom indignantly retorted, "Yes. I did three in there just now. John showed me how."

Still grinning from ear to ear, he turned to me and said, "Don't teach her too much. I might not see her anymore."

Now that I have introduced Mom to technology, I am sure that next time I go over there that she will have some cards printed up on photo paper awaiting my inspection. The fire has been lit, and it is going to start consuming her until she can get everything down. And I'll be glad to be there to help.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Some Super Villains' Kids...

As an editor and former English major, sometimes, I just have to shake my head. I often wonder if people really read what they have typed. I know for a fact that many people don't proofread their own work (myself included at times).

Yes, there are people who just don't have a way with words. I am sure that there are individuals who would rather talk in mathematical formulas or computer code (not including l33t speak, as this is typing), and they would be completely happy.

For those of us who agree that there should be spelling conventions that should be followed that aren't influenced by texting, there are times that we have to cringe. There are certain things that just require a quick editorial peek. Printed materials fall well into this realm. And one of my favorite things to loathe happens to be quotation marks.

Some people just don't realize that quotation marks are for quoting people or things (like other printed material). They aren't used for emphasis.

DANGER! Poor formatting ahead.

Here is a classic blunder, performed by a super villain:

Taken forcefully (and without permission) from the Non-Adventures of Wonderella

Yes, there are whole websites dedicated to people who don't punctuate properly with quotation marks. Some of these are pretty funny.

I was really hoping to find something good from The Oatmeal, but all I found was a poster on apostrophes. Maybe I should suggest one...

Friday, October 15, 2010

I'm Sorry

If I had to give my blog a theme for the week, I would have to say that it is Global Week. I have had people from almost every major continent this week (come on Australia), including visitors from Botswana, Thailand, the Philippines, Slovenia, and Iran. Wifey mentioned to me that maybe all the people who visited from Japan this week might have been from a class, since it would be very rare to have that many people just hop onto my blog from one island country at the same time without some form of coercion. I agreed with her.

As I have been thinking about all people coming from different countries, I can only assume that the visitors from other countries use English as a second (or third or fourth) language. While learning Finnish, I was grateful to have so many rules that were always true. In Finnish, there are only four irregular verbs—FOUR. In English, there are about four thousand.

OK, that might be an exaggeration.

But needless to say, I feel sorry for those people who are trying to learn English. Thanks to the French (and other) influence(s), a lot of our spelling is messed up. And we are lazy when we speak.

Here is something that will hopefully help you out when trying to listen to native speakers. And for those of you who are native English speakers, try to imagine learning this strange language for the first time.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


So, this past week, I learned that I was not being considered for the local wickless candle company position that I wanted. But I didn't learn from the company. Which makes me a bit disappointed.

I did a lot of homework for this position. I spent a lot of my time making sure everything was ready. I got an in with someone who works there. I applied legitimately, as well as sent my resume to be hand delivered by my contact there. The stars were aligned—except for the person doing the hiring.

I'm not heartbroken, by any means. While this position would have been great, and given me some opportunities that I haven't had before (including possibilities for career growth in a new field), I found myself pretty prepared to hear the word no. After all, it took the company five weeks to close the position, and another four before I contacted them to hear on the status of the position.

The thing that irks me the most is that after leaving multiple messages (spread out over the course of a week) on someone's answering machine, I never got a call back. The receptionist didn't seem to know about the position, so I was thinking that the worst might happen. After a somewhat awkward conversation with the young woman (she called back to the HR person's desk to see if she was there. After receiving no response, she told me that the HR person wasn't available. I asked to leave a message, so she started taking down my name and number manually. About half-way through, she stopped herself and asked, "Do you want me just to send you through to voice mail?" Why yes, that would be great... ) I was able to leave my message.

It does not bother me that I didn't get the position. What bothers me is that a company does not take the time to let someone know that they are no longer being considered for a position. That to me is just plain rude.

So, to let the company know that I am not happy that they didn't get back to me, I applied at two other places. I'll show them.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Spike and a Story

A few days ago, I had the biggest hit count I have ever had in one hour. I had 36 hits in one hour, and 19 of them were from Japan. Evidently I'm a big deal in Japan. At least I would like to think so.

My spike in meager blog readership
Since Munchkin is already one year old, I have been thinking how quickly this year has gone by. Before I know it, she will be doing things on her own and coming to her own conclusions. I like to ruminate on crazy things like that, pondering the eventualities. She is such a sponge right now, soaking up things you say, trying to mimic words, jabbering all day long. She has picked up habits already, and I am hoping some of them might remain with her through the years, while others I could do without (like waking up at 5:00 this morning).

I wonder sometimes what our future as a family will hold. What crazy things will happen to us? Who will get the first broken bone? Who will get in their first fight? Things like this.

And then I ran across this video:

Hopefully, our kids will recycle my stories like this. I would be interested to see what really happened. I especially liked the dubbing on this one. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Happy Birthday Munchkin

Today was Munchkin's birthday. We decided to throw her a big first birthday shindig. And she loved it.

Now when I say big, I don't mean super big. I mean, we invited my parents, Wifey's parents and siblings, and Wifey's Grandma and aunt and uncle who live with Grandma. Wifey was extra fancy and decided to make a tutu and decorate up a foam crown tiara. Every time we put the crown on Munchkin and held her up to a mirror, she would just start grinning at herself and pointing to her reflection.
Munchkin excited for the party.
Tonight when guests started arriving, she was running amok through the house attacking balloons on the floor. Wifey made sure to get balloons that matched the tutu because she is a good party planner like that. She also matched those colors to the birthday sign she made.
Look at the pretty sign.
And to the butterfly confetti that she punched out.
And the sprinkles for Munchkin's personal two-tiered cake (for which I cut out the letters).
Well, you get the picture.

She wasn't too sure about opening up presents at first. Wifey started ripping the paper on one of the boxes (because Munchkin really didn't know what to do with them. She just thought that they were colorful blocks), and Munchkin started complaining. After she realized that there was something else in there, she was fine with it.

Munchkin got all sorts of great loot to keep her entertained (thanks everyone). Wifey made a video of Munchkin's first year to keep the guests entertained while we were cutting the cake. And they all loved it. Wifey's dad said, "That's a great video. I want one." So, if you need a great party, complete with a video and party favors, you know who to call. She is very selective with her clientele, so I'm sorry if she turns you down due to popular demand.

Do you think Munchkin is spoiled? I do. But that is one of the reasons why people have more kids, right? You can't spoil one of them too much, or else you might just hare raised someone like Veruca Salt. "I want it now, Daddy!"

But, while we only have one, we might as well spoil her. So here's to a great birthday for Munchkin!
A sign of a truly great first birthday

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Things We Do for Family

A few years ago, Wifey and I were asked to sing at one of her cousin's wedding. Let's call him Cactus Face. We were able to pick our own song, and found out that they were looking for something kind of light and fun for the family luncheon after the wedding in the morning. We re-did the words to "A Whole New World" to turn it into "A Whole New Hill," as Cactus Face was an avid mountain biker who had roped his fiancee into coming along multiple times (even though it scared her to death to go because she saw her beau get injured so much. One time at Moab, he was thrown from his bike, landing face-first in a cactus—hence the nickname). We got super crazy and put actions to the whole thing, including wearing helmets and acting like we were pedaling on bikes the whole time.

Our performance was well received. Many of the family didn't know me all that well at that point, but they enjoyed the fact that I would go out on a limb and do something so crazy to make the day memorable for the bride and groom. We were glad to do it for them, even though we were pretty nervous on how it would be received.

Well, it turns out that our impression was a bit too good. A few years later, Cactus Face's sister is getting married. A few years later, as in today, a few years later. Cactus Face's sister has found a great guy, complete with family, to whom she is getting married. I got a call at work a couple of weeks ago from Wifey, voluntelling me to sing at the wedding with her.

Tangent one: A definition
Voluntell: (v) When someone volunteers you for something, and then tells you later that you are doing it. I was voluntold that I was to sing at the wedding, even though it was the first I had learned of it.

Back to the story...
My first thought was to start thinking up stuff that Cactus Face's sister liked to do, and how I might be able incorporate riding horses and western themes into a song. Wifey informed me that they already had a song picked out for us, so I stopped my creative brain and started listening.

The selected number was "Now that I've Found You." The song is an older one, and it tickled the back of my brain as being familiar. Wifey told me that it was a country song, and I quickly realized that I was cornered.

Tangent two: A story on why I hate country music
When I was in high school, my older brother got into a phase his junior and/or senior year where he started listening to country music and occasionally wearing wranglers to select events (like rodeos). He was on the basketball team, and because he wanted to participate in a few electives, he decided to take a zero-hour course. He would get up a bit before me and hop in the shower. To help himself wake up, he would crank on country music as he was in the bathroom.

This was all fine and dandy, except for the fact that my bedroom was right next to the bathroom. I often awoke to the twang of George Strait and others, complete with the steel guitar's inebriated tones backing them up. To this day, I can no longer listen to country music without a bit of a shudder. Often times, I am much more vocal about disliking it, and have been known to make up alternative lyrics to ruin a song for the individual listening to such vile music. I might have been conditioned to hate, but in this case, my prejudice is justified.

Back to the story, part II...
Wifey didn't know the song yet, so she bought it off iTunes. As she started listening to it, she sent me an email with some of the lyrics. I threw up a little in my mouth, but wanting to keep on good terms with my cubicle mate, I swallowed it down.

I know there are some of you out there saying, "Now, it can't be that bad." So, for those of you with this attitude, consider standing up in front of people who know you very well, people who don't know you as well, and complete stranger who have come for a VERY important event of someone they care deeply for. As the stranger, you see a gangly fellow and his wife hand off their adorable little girl to someone sitting close by. They get up and start to sing a song. Some of the lyrics are as follows:

I do believe we're meant to be. Our chemistry will last forever.
Or, how about this one?
You hold me like a prayer. You touch me everywhere.

If those lyrics don't seem awkward to you, then I must have a filter that you don't have. Wifey and I both find it a bit uncomfortable saying, "You touch me everywhere" as part of a public celebration in front of family and friends. In fact, as Wifey and I were practicing tonight, she turned away from me and started laughing. I asked her why she started cracking up, and she informed me that she was just trying to picture herself saying this line in front of her family.

Should be an interesting experience—one that has tainted the idea of country music for me a little bit more. But if it makes the bride and groom happy, then I guess it is worth it.

Friday, October 8, 2010

For the Faint of Heart

For those of you who haven't yet noticed the spooky decorations sneaking into the stores, this post is for you. Or, if you are like me, you are just someone who hasn't been in a store in a while to see all the decorations, or you are trying to ignore the fact that it is already the middle of October, this post is to help you not be as shocked when you realize that Halloween is just around the corner.

So, to warm some of you up to the idea that Halloween is well on its way, here is a delightful ghost story about Widdicombe Fair. You will have to put on your Scottish brogue ears to completely understand what is going on.

Crank it up!

And no, this isn't one of those videos about having a zombie face jump out and scare you.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Birds: Part III

And here is another bird that has been haunting me as of late. To see more birds, try this post.

Bird 3: Bluebird
As you might have noticed by a few of my posts (and you will probably notice with subsequent posts that I have planned) that I have been addicted to Sara Bareilles' new album Kaleidoscope Heart. In particular, I have been transported somewhere in this strange universe by the song "Bluebird."

The song talks of a woman in a relationship who gets a letter from her lover who lets her know that she is no longer wanted/needed. She has kind of seen it coming, but it doesn't help her cope with the situation any better. She has prepared a bit, but she is reluctant to take the journey to leave.

The first time I heard this song, it started creating images in my mind. If I was an artist, I would take the time to try to sketch them out. But since I am more of a wordsmith, I'll spend my time here explaining my interpretation of the song, adding some visual descriptions of the movie I see every time I listen to the song.

I see a young woman in her early 20's. She wears a muted rust colored, full length dress. It starts red in the bodice, and fades slowly to gray. She arrives home from wherever she has been for the day, opens the mailbox, and finds a letter addressed to her. A bit startled by the fact that she received a letter through the mail, she rips the envelope open eagerly, wondering who it is from.

As she starts to read, she becomes decreasingly excited and increasingly somber. She is not overcome by the message she receives, but it definitely takes the wind out of her sails. Her plans to stick with this rocky relationship have been dashed by her lover. As she gets to the end of the letter, it isn't signed, but she can tell from the calculated penmanship who it is from. Plus, who would write her such a letter except for the person she has been spending all this time with recently.

She walks in the front door to confront her former beau, finding him sitting in a chair next to a fire, reading a business magazine. Not wanting to be a burden any more in his life, she informs him that she will be making a speedy exit while keeping her composure, half out of shock and half out of self-preservation. He bites his pipe stem while pursing his lips, waiting for the fireworks of the emotional explosion.

But it doesn't come.

She continues to her room, hastily grabs the few things that are friendly reminders of the life she wished she lived and throws them into a travel bag. After he finishes his article while glancing towards her bedroom, he comes into her doorway as she packs to reassure her that it is for the best. She gives him a weak smile, gently kisses him on the cheek, tells him that she is fine, and walks to the corner of her room to pick up one of her last unpacked possessions: a bluebird in a cage.

She pauses for a moment, staring at the bluebird, beginning a mental conversation to steel herself before she has to turn back around and face her betrayer.
And so, here we go bluebird.
Back to the sky on your own.
Oh, let him go bluebird.
Ready to fly--you and I--here we go.
She offers a small smile to the bluebird to reassure it, as much as herself, that everything will be fine. She attaches a chain from the circle at the top of the cage to a bracelet clasped around her wrist, binding the bluebird's fate to her own. Together they turn to face the man.

She passes in front of the man without making eye contact. He has asked to remove her from his life, so she will respect his wishes. She crosses to the closet and pulls out a pair of wings about five feet across. After fumbling with the bird cage, she folds them neatly underneath her free arm and starts to walk out the bedroom door. He stays leaning in the doorway, making it a point to be in her way enough that she needs to speak to him again, perhaps hoping for another goodbye kiss. Instead of giving in, she pushes her way past him, letting the wings brush him from the doorway as she passes. Frustration flashes across his face, but since this was his decision and he has said his peace in the letter, he just continues to bite on the pipe stem and lets her go. She'll look back. She'll wave goodbye.

Without the thought of a backwards glance, she moves as gracefully to the front door as anyone can with trunks in tow. It is all a bit cumbersome, and she bumps over a small end table on the way out, but that is no longer her concern. The walls of her previous home are too close. The curtains are all closed so that everyone outside looks at the house and notices its curb appeal instead of the people living inside it. She needs the fresh air from outside, so she jerks her belongings through the front door, bounces them down the porch steps and walks out to the middle of the dry grass field in front of the house at a steady pace--one foot in front of the other.

She carefully places the cage back down, detaching the chain. Laying the wings on the ground, she inspects them with her fingers and eyes. They are a bit shabby, as she hasn't used them in a bit, but she trusts in the warranty label attached to one of the chest straps. She lifts them up, remembering just how heavy and burdensome they can be to put on by yourself. After a few bounces and bucks, her arms are through the shoulder straps. They fit much like a backpack, complete with buckles and straps to fasten and cinch.

Reattaching the chain, she lets out a deep sigh. She can feel the weight of the wings on her back, but knows that she has the strength to use them. She will just have to get back in the habit. With that thought, the tears begin to well up in her eyes. Quickly grabbing the control switch dangling from one of the straps, she turns the wings on.

Clutching the top of the birdcage to make sure there is something real to hold onto, she jumps to let the wings begin to lift her into the air. She rises a bit, does a quick dive to gain speed, considering for a moment if she should pull out of it. An encouraging chirp from her friend reminds her that there is still more to be seen in life, so she pulls up above the trees.

She catches a thermal, which raises her quickly into the air. She circles up into the sky, careful not to look at the house that was once her home. As she notices the bluebird tilting its head toward the house, she angrily yells, “Let him go, bluebird!” This gets the bird’s attention, as do the tears which are freely streaming down her face. They continue flying toward the mountains, not quite sure how far they will be going, yet finding solace in the fact that they have each others’ companionship.

Here we go.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Dinner and a Movie

Last night, Wifey and I went on a date to celebrate my birthday. Nothing fancy--we just went out for a quick dinner and a movie. We realized that we didn't even know what movies were playing, or what might be interesting to watch. We have just gotten out of the habit of seeing movies since Munchkin was born.

We ended up going out to a gourmet dinner at Dairy Queen. On my way home from work I realized that we hadn't been there in quite some time, and it sounded like a good idea to have a blizzard. I splurged by getting a mini blizzard that we shared with our meal. Needless to say, Munchkin was a fan of the Oreo blizzard.

We dropped Munchkin off at Grandma and Grandpa's place. She was content to play with all the toys, and always has a good time over there. As we slipped out the door, we headed off to the theater. Now it feels always a bit odd when Wifey and I go anywhere alone. Munchkin as become so intertwined with our lives that I always get fleeting thoughts like does Wifey have Munchkin or what is Munchkin getting into, because I haven't heard her making a ruckus in a bit. Forcing those thoughts aside, we bought our tickets to the movie and found an acceptable seat.

As we sat down, I inquired of Wifey if the seats were okay. She said that they were fine, so we sat. About ten seconds after we had planted ourselves, Wifey asked me to switch her sides. It has become tradition for me to always sit on her right side when we go to the theater. We pulled the switcheroony, and started getting comfortable again. Then Wifey informed me that we needed to move in one seat closer to the middle. Such is our movie-going ritual.

The move I chose to watch was "Eat. Pray. Love." I was in the mood for something more serious, and I don't mind seeing a bit more of the world through a camera lens, so we went to this one. Following a theme of the movie, if I chose one word to describe the whole thing it would be sumptuous.

The eat section had foods that were perfectly plated. Shots of appetizing platters enlarged on a big screen will make you want to eat. And I am a sucker for pasta, so since this part was mainly in Italy, my salivary glands were telling me that I needed to eat again, even though my stomach was contented. The scenery caught the spirit of Europe with the cobblestone streets and grungy beauty. It even made me miss Finland a bit.

The pray section took place in India. Working for the company that employs me, I occasionally have meetings with people from India, so I am interested in their part of the world. The movie didn't show much of the abject poverty that I have heard is apparent is so many places over there, but showed a wedding scene, complete with vibrant orange and yellow flowers strung and laced overhead. The glamor of the arranged marriage made me want to see a traditional Indian wedding some day.

The love section took place in Bali, and some of the scenery made me want to ride a bike through the jungles of Bali handing out food to the monkeys. Or maybe play on the white sandy beaches. I can't decide which would be more fun. Maybe I could lure some monkeys to the beach.

All of the cultures that were represented were shown through the eyes of an American, but the movie did a good job of whisking me away to see the world, even though I was sitting in a chair in Idaho. It had a genuine feel to it, and Julia Roberts did a great job to make her character believable. Not that she struggles with that. As we left, Wifey said, "That would probably be a good book to read." I agreed. I think we might have to pick it up.