Monday, May 30, 2011

Exiles in the Garden, by Ward Just

Book 30

The more I read from Ward Just, the more I love him.  Exiles in the Garden was, I think, his most recent novel.

At the heart of the story is the romantic idea of the lives of European expatriates living in America after World War II.  Many don't feel at home in their homelands and many others really can't go back.

Alec, the son of a longtime Midwestern senator, marries one such expatriate.  The title refers to the garden parties of the next-door-neighbors where Lucia, the wife, finally begins to feel at home.  Drama ensues.

Americans are often told that we cannot possibly understand the woes of other people in other parts of the world - which may very well be true.  Many of us cannot possibly understand the psyche of the person that sees hardships like one's country being overrun by Nazis and Soviets, losing one's home and being sent to death camps or gulags.  But this book makes another point:

For decades, Americans were roundly criticized for isolationism.  For not interfering in other parts of the world when we were not being directly threatened.  Now we are roundly criticized for the opposite.  It does make one wonder what the rest of the planet expects from us.

I am just provincial enough to say that Alec was my favorite character and I found Lucia, with her "you can't possibly understand", tiresome.  Although I did note that her view of Americans was reminiscent to me of Ian McEwan's from The Innocent.

Overall, I am happy to say this was another winner.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

At the Children's Museum

Glenview is very proud of Kohl's, its childrens' museum in the Glen Town Center.  Very hands on with the pretend grocery store and pretend sandwich shop and pretend vet's office, etc.  My brother's family bought a membership this year and we took the kids over today.  I was interested to see how each child navigated it.

Alex, age 6, was a lot like me.  He ran through each exhibit rather quickly, then doubled back to the things that he really enjoyed.  Ainslie went into the pretend library - with all of the real books - and camped out right here:

At the real computer.  The child is two and a half years old and I could not tear her away from this screen.  All I did was get her to the menu of "toddler games".  She went through each one and found the one she liked.  It involved a choo-choo train where you match the letters on the keys to the letters on the doors of the freight train doors to unlock them.

Scott got her away from it for awhile, but at the next opportunity, she dragged me by the hand back to the pretend library with the real computer games.  This gave "growing up with technology" new meaning for me.

And I guess I know what to get this one for her birthday.

P.S.  Her pigtails are uneven because she wouldn't sit still when her mother tried to fix them after nap time.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

I Joined Twitter

Three things happened at about the same time:

1. I sketched out something of a social media proposal for a Refuge for Saving the Wildlife, where I volunteer.
2. My friend and fellow volunteer, Susanna, read the proposal and asked if I am on Twitter. No. One might wonder how I sketched out said proposal if I am not even on Twitter.
3. My brother, who refuses to join Facebook, finished a story with, “And so I tweeted that to my congressman!”

So I signed up. It took me 15 minutes just to claim a username, as the good variations of my name are already being used.


I followed a couple of people I know and gmail found me some more. And then…what to tweet?

I am a blogger. An amateur blogger, but still. I should be able to come up with some great opening line, right? This is the forum I will want to use to talk with my peers and promote my causes. I’d better come up with something interesting to say!


So I started to look around for the ways these different accounts link together: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Crowdrise. Then I realized that I hadn’t updated my Crowdrise page with the new location for the fundraiser the Refuge is holding on Memorial Day. Thus my first ever (accidental) Tweet was:

Bird Walk location has changed: it is now at Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit - 30 Riverwoods Road.

Technology is beautiful, isn’t it?

So it was an inauspicious beginning. The real question is how I might use this tool to network with other local volunteers? How might the Refuge (or the other organizations I work with) use it to build and support their communities? Will I be able to figure it out with all of the shiny objects they put in my path?

These are not rhetorical questions – any insight would be appreciated!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Why that Game is Not the End of the World

That would be the Bulls game last night.

  1. With no hockey and no basketball, I can finally finish that biography of Albert Einstein.  Seriously.  Haven't been reading enough.
  2. I am going to be on the road a lot next month.  I wouldn't like to be separated from my Lucky Couch when my team is in the Finals.
  3. If we had to lose that series, I rather prefer The Choke.  It gives the team something to be mad about next year.
The truth is that it was a great season and there is every reason to believe that the Bulls are on their way up and not the other way around.  If it hadn't been for the team that took them out, I wouldn't feel badly about it at all.

So.  Go Mavs.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Blanket 20

It seems that the fleece doctors at Project Linus are getting clever.  This blanket, from Penny's stash, came to me prepared with the three panels of fleece machine stitched together:

You can see that the themes don't quite match up, but the purples totally do.  I could not believe I found a Linus blanket for which I could use this yarn - Vanna's Lion brand in Purple Print.  Purple Print has a dark purple, charcoal grey and dark slate blue.  I loved it, but it didn't seem kid-friendly.  Until this fleece.  It is an odd one, but I am certain there is a kid out there that will find it awesome.

Three rows of single crochet.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Blanket 19

More fleece from the last Starbucks night.  I wanted something bright:

Seriously, the flash in my camera phone messes up the color of everything.  Again, three rows of single crochet using Red Heart Sport yarn in Pumpkin. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Conversation with My Brother at the Project Linus Fundraiser

Him: I tweeted that to (my congressman).
Me:  (...)
Me:  What did you just say?
Him:  I tweeted it to (my congressman).
Me:  You're on Twitter?!
Him:  Yeah.
Me:   You aren't even on Facebook!
Him:  I know.  It's weird that you aren't on Twitter.
Me:   I have a blog.
Him: Microblog!
Me:   I fancy myself a real writer.
Him:  I don't have the attention span.
Me:   I.  Know.

This was about 45 seconds after I asked him to make me a new blog for my birthday.  He told me that he wouldn't even discuss it until I could articulate what I wanted.

Damn programmers.

The fundraiser seemed to have a lot of traffic, which was great.  I hope someone sends out a number for what was raised.  I bought six raffle tickets for a gorgeous blanket.  Then my nephew, Alex, went and won the thing.

I knew I should have taken a picture.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Blanket 18

It seems I stitch more quickly when my team is losing.  I finished this during the Bulls game last night:

Three rows of a single crochet using Vanna's Lion Brand yarn in Pink.  Leftover from a previous project, I am please to say.

My mother saw it and said, "Are those bagels?  That is some crazy looking cream cheese!"

I will be delivering this to Project Linus at the Fundraiser at Culver's tomorrow.  Again, from 11am until closing, if you mention Project Linus at the Buffalo Grove location on McHenry Road.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Double (or Triple) the Linus

I have had two Project Linus events this week, with a third coming up on Tuesday.

Wednesday, after a horrid night at the Refuge (we lost a cockatoo), I ran home and changed so as to head over to Starbucks for the monthly gathering of crocheters (is that even a word?).  This gathering serves two purposes for me:

  1. Hang out with a very nice group of ladies that encourage whatever small shred of the crafty I possess.
  2. Swap the pieces of fleece that I have gathered over the last month for the "prepared fleece" - pieces that are already cut and hole-punched so as to be ready to stitch.
So I started on one project, then dropped it to prepare labels for the completed blankets.  We were going to need the stash for Saturday.

For the second month in a row, I came home with more fleece than I brought with me.  And for the second month in a row, I used that as an excuse to be working on two projects at the same time.

I seriously think those are doughnuts.  If I weren't doing the edges in pink, I might be inclined to call this The Homer Simpson blanket.  Wait.  Homer Simpson wouldn't care if his blanket was edged in pink, as long as there were doughnuts involved.

Side Note:  How lazy am I?  I took this pic with my laptop camera, rather than get up off my butt for 30 seconds to find something more suitable.

Yesterday was the official bi-monthly blanket making extravaganza.  This was the second I'd attended, and I forgot to take pictures.  But at the end of the afternoon, there were 750 blankets completed, labelled, packed and ready to deliver.

That was seven hundred and fifty blankets.

Now, many of these are these crochet-edged fleece, which don't take a whole lot of time to finish.  But there were alo a lot of afghans and quilts floating around.

For those that haven't heard me say it ten times, the Culver's restaurant in Buffalo Grove (on McHenry) is hosting a fundraiser for my chapter of Project Linus this coming Tuesday.  Mention Project Linus upon ordering and they will donate 20% of your order.  The Fabulous Miss Penny will have demos, quilt squares for the kids to color and stuff to raffle off.

So.  More to come!

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Facebook Badge

So.  Over there on the right.  The parrot rescue where I volunteer has upgraded to an organization page on Facebook.  There isn't much content there now, but I expect the Merry Band of Internet Addicts will be pulling together soon to make it interesting.

Back in the day, I meant to make a habit of profiling adoptable birds on my blog.  Like, blog a story about one every week when I came home from the rescue.  Obviously, it didn't happen.  I hope to use Facebook for more things like that.

24 hours after launch, and we have 11 Likes.  Better get to work.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Unpleasantness

A few weeks ago, Shadow got a diagnosis.  It was, "You've done all there is to do.  Now we Manage Pain and monitor Quality of Life."

Dementia and degenerative muscular disorder.  This is on top of Cushing's Disease, arthritis, degenerating vision and a ridiculously sensitive stomach.

Do not feel sorry for this dog.  He has had a good life, with better care than any previous animal my house has ever seen.  This from a family that once took a cocker spaniel to the doggie shrink.

His vet's office actually took a vote on Who is Your Favorite Client and Shadow won.  Or so they told my mother.

Everyone who has a pet knows that at some point, we end up here - if we are lucky and the dog doesn't jump the fence and get hit by a car.  So I am trying to Shut Up and Deal.. all Circle of Life or whatever.  We just do the best we can by the animal for as long as we can.

Shadow has good days and bad days.  Some days he doesn't want to eat.  Today he chowed right down.  Some days he is anxious and won't stop pacing.  But mostly, he just wants to be with his people.   So that's what we're doing.

Now go hug your dog/cat.  'Cause that's what I'm doing.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Online Ordering at the Library

My favorite thing about my library's website is the notification e-mails when something is due. The e-mail has a link that I can click to renew it right away. This has rescued me several times when I was in the middle of an audio book, and several more times when I was on the road.

I love the Internet.

The Chicago Tribune ran an article about online ordering at the Chicago Public Library. Apparently, it has grown so popular that the waiting lists have gone crazy:

""It was an expected shock," said Lednicer of the surge in hold requests with the advent of online ordering. She notes that 40,000 holds were placed online in the first month of the new system three years ago. These days, as many as 120,000 items are placed on hold each month, 95 percent of which are done via computer."

The Trib calls CPL a victim of its own success.

Personally, I don't use online ordering for library books. I like to wander the stacks. But I am glad to see other patrons embracing the technology. And borrowing books!

Monday, May 16, 2011

An Awesome Experiment

I remember reading a while back that Panera Bread, the restaurant chain, was trying something different. A very few stores would run as "Pay What You Want" establishments. The idea was that the customer would place an order, Panera would suggest a value - something like the retail cost - and the customer would pay what he or she could or wanted to pay.

MSN reported some results:

"The majority of patrons pay retail value or more. Statistics provided by Panera indicate that roughly 60 percent leave the suggested amount; 20 percent leave more; and 20 percent less. One person paid $500 for a meal, the largest single payment.

"From the day it opened, the community has just gotten stronger and stronger in their support of this," Shaich said. "They got that this was a cafe of shared responsibility.""

These stores are not part of Panera's "bottom line", but run through their Foundation, and they still seem to be running at 80% of retail. Anything earned above cost is being used for a job-training program.

Kudos to Panera for trying something out. And how great that it seems to be working!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Blanket 17

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The last of the full skeins from that sale at Michael's.  Loops & Threads Impeccable yarn in Butterscotch, Kelly Green and Royal.

Penny's monthly Sit n Stitch at Starbucks is this coming Wednesday (7pm at the one in downtown Northbrook).  I have plenty of fleece to contribute and expect to pick up plenty of prepared pieces.  I am down to the last of my "new" yarn, as the sales have been lame this past week.  But I have a ton of scrap yarn that I can use to pull something together.  I'm sort of looking forward to that.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, by Seth Grahame-Smith

Book 29

I picked up Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, by the guy who wrote Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, because my friend, Andrew, said it was good.  I figured I
would read it and then mock him appropriately.

Except it was good.

The premise is that when Abe Lincoln's mother died - he was eight or nine - it was a vampire that killed her.  So he grows up to be a Vampire Hunter.  Lincoln was first exposed to the horrors of slavery as a teenager working a flat boat gig to New Orleans.  The novel dials up the drama by showing Abe a slave auction in which less able-bodied slaves (those older or injured or ill) are sold for "bargain prices" for the purpose of feeding vampires.  Sick, right?  More sick is the conspiracy that  unfolds in the many, many slaveholders that are complicit.

Abe makes a vampire friend along the way, and Henry will sometimes drop him a note about where he might find an especially Sick vampire to destroy.

In this Vampire World, the Civil War was puppet mastered by two sets of vampires: Southerners that like their easy access to the kill and the "Union" that thinks said vampires are Sick Bastards. With some help and guidance from the "Union", Lincoln is elected President.

I have read enough history to be able to call BS on this book if it were warranted. But the history and the vampire fantasy are pretty seamless, so Dude clearly did his homework. It did feel heavy-handed sometimes, with everything being related to the vampires. SPOILER WARNING Seriously, did even Booth have to be a vampire? Was there not enough drama?

The doctored/interpreted pictures were a nice touch. I am going right now to my Civil War books to see if there really is an ax in the famous Lincoln/McClellan pic.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Drop Boxes and Recycling

The Chicago Tribune ran an article today talking about all of those drop boxes for used clothing.  Apparently, while some are for charity, many are also maintained by for-profit businesses.

It went on to talk about the items that are donated.  Apparently, "Americans throw 85 percent of their unwanted textiles in the trash each year" thinking that since they aren't in a condition to re-sell, they aren't worth anything.  Not true.  There are other markets, including recycling for industrial use.  According to a rep from the Salvation Army:

"We want to receive any and all articles because, if we can't sell it in one of our stores, then we can sell it to what they call the 'rag market,'" Anderson said. "They can repurpose those textiles for anything from wiping rags or materials for new textiles to even as an additive to asphalt. (That revenue) is a big deal for us."


Back to the drop boxes.  I don't have a problem with a company making a product and a profit by recycling my stuff - assuming they are honest about it.  But if you want to be sure that your donations are supporting your causes, please do your homework.  Call the numbers listed on the drop boxes; contact the organizations you are trying to help

Friday, May 13, 2011

Social Media Ways to Help Tornado Victims

A couple of weeks ago, posted an article called, "Seven Ways to Help Tornado Victims."  In addition to the usual list of organizations that are on the ground helping (Red Cross, Salvation Army) was this:

"Post found items to Facebook: Patty Buillon started a Facebook page containing found pictures and items that were blown by the tornadoes. She started that page after finding pictures and documents in her neighborhood that were blown all the way from Smithville, Mississippi, a town located 100 miles to the Southwest of her home. If you live near the disaster area and find photos, mementos or other items, scan them or take photos of them and post them to the Facebook page she created specifically for this purpose, entitled “Pictures and Documents Found after the April 27, 2011 Tornadoes“. There are now more than 600 photos and items on the page, with 40 of them already identified."

That is good use of Facebook.

BTT - Age Appropriate

Do you read books “meant” for other age groups? Adult books when you were a child; Young-Adult books now that you’re grown; Picture books just for kicks … You know … books not “meant” for you. Or do you pretty much stick to what’s written for people your age?

This is funny because I regularly lament the lack of age-appropriate books in my childhood.  Apparently, until there was Harry Potter, there was no money to be made in publishing tween books.  So I was reading Stephen King in the 5th grade.  And don't get me started on V.C. Andrews.

While I read the Potter series, I have not picked up Twilight, The Hunger Games or anything by The Golden Compass guy.

There are just too many books to read and I need a compelling reason to go back to the YA genre.

However, I have been reading books with my nephew Alex, age 6.  More than a few Scooby-Doo mysteries.  Abe Lincoln's Hat (pictured), which I may have mentioned before, was awesome.  Oh!  And the Duck books.

I can't wait to start debating the merits of S.E. Hinton with him.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


The "group activity" for the conference this week was a trip into the city.  The park and Navy Pier.  I had to explain The Bean to the ladies from Montana and Idaho.

"I think it has a real name, but I don't know what it might be.  It' art or something.  People like to take pictures.  It cost a zillion dollars and then a whole bunch more when they have to clean it and stuff."

Then I started taking camera-phone pictures with them:

That's the building from Adventures in Babysitting.  Why are the windows out?!

That's the Pritzker Pavilion.  Where they have Lollapalooza and the rallies when the Bulls win championships and stuff.

Hey, look!  The Hancock Building is peeking over there!  No.  I dunno why it's famous. 
This tree gives back.  That's so Da Mare.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Architects of Change

In one of the many, many articles about the separation of the Schwarzeneggers, there was mention of the website Maria Shriver launched to talk about things that matter to her.  I hadn't heard of it before, so I clicked over.  Links to her books, links to her causes, links to her social media avenues.  And the blog.

It isn't just Shriver writing, but she authored a recent entry about the Situation Room Photo.  You know the one.  I remember when I saw the shot, my first thought was:

That's not what the Situation Room looked like on The West Wing.

And my second thought was:

Isn't is it cool that the President isn't the Center of the Universe here?  

Shriver posted her thoughts on that.

I like her.  I realize that she is a public person and we're all going to speculate about what happened in her marriage.  But while I am doing that, I think I will also read her blog.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Coordinating a Conference This Week

Staying at a local hotel.  I forgot my glasses and one of my allergy drugs.  And cash.  And Diet Coke, which I really should have considered. 

I could theoretically drive home to get them, but am not inclined to fight the traffic.

Happily, things are otherwise going well.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Run, by Ann Patchett

Book 28

I have read several of Patchett's books and bought Run as soon as it came to the Library's Used Book Store. I was not disappointed.

Two adopted boys meet their birth mother when she is hit by a car rescuing one of them. The bulk of the novel spans the 24 hour period surrounding the accident, which I rather liked as a reader. The narrative follows the actions of the six members of these two entwined families in a moment of crisis. Much is told in flashback, as characters remember (or try) formative events.

The most awesome thing was that every last character is likable in his or her own way. I mean I would've liked to know any of them in real life.  Even the Prodigal Son.  Perhaps especially the Prodigal Son.  You could honestly root for everything  to turn out well for everyone.

There is one melodramatic plot thread that I found totally unnecessary to the story, but I forgive it because it doesn't hurt anything in the end.

Loved this.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


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Not long ago, I was informed by Facebook that my friend Melissa started a gourmet pretzel business.     She posted that she would be at the Morton Grove Farmers Market on Saturday, so I headed over early.  The Farmers Market doesn't open for real for a few more weeks, but they had a sort of preview just in time for Mother's Day.  Melissa said that she has been doing the dipped treats thing for a pretty long time and just recently upped her game.

I seem to remember reading that Farmers Markets are looking into changing the rules for selling baked goods to the public.  Right now, vendors are required to use industrial kitchens.  It involves certain equipment and registration and inspection, if I understand correctly.  This turns off many home-based businesses that can't or aren't interested in making the investment.  Melissa mentioned going to a neighboring town to use an approved industrial kitchen for the products she sells at the Market.  You can't do that while the kids are napping.

Side Note:  I didn't realize how serious they are.  A coordinator lady came over while we were talking, making her rounds, to be sure all of the vendors are maintaining the sanitary standards required.

So I picked up one of these darling baskets for my Sister-in-Law, who is hosting brunch tomorrow.  My camera clearly can't do them justice through the cellophane: there were M&M, sprinkles, mini-chocolate chips and peanut butter pretzels.

DiPPED doesn't have a website with online ordering yet, but it is on Facebook with plenty of pictures and you can send a message if something interests you.

I wonder if I can come up with some goofy new flavor for next time.  I will consult with the nephew tomorrow.  

Edit:  Here is the article I was reading.  A "cottage foods" bill passed the Illinois Senate this week.  On the way to the House.

Diet Sparkling Ocean Spray

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I am always jazzed around the holidays to see cranberry flavored ginger ale in the grocery store, so when I saw the commercial for Ocean Spray's Sparkling Cranberry, I made a point to look for it.    It scores major points for having a Diet variety right off the bat.

I found it in the juice aisle, rather than with all of the other carbonated drinks.  It came in a package of four cans.  I have tossed the can now, but I believe it was 8.4 ounces, as opposed to 12 in a can of Coke.     

The flavor is great, and with cranberry that can be a difficult balance.  However, the carbonation doesn't hold terribly long, which might be a problem for me.  I consider cranberry juice a Sipping Drink.

And it is expensive.  I will probably buy this as a treat when it is on sale, but it won't be a staple in my house.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Blanket 16

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Let us call this blanket "Game Three", wherein it was made.  In honor of Derrick "MVP" Rose's career-high 44 points as the Bulls beat the Atlanta Hawks.  

The fleece was from Penny's stash and the yarn was Lion Brand's Pound of Love in White.

I Can't Even Believe I am Doing This

Again, with the cupcakes.

I mentioned that a cupcakery opened in Glenview and I had to walk by it on my way to Noodles last night and they had a sign in the window advertising S'mores cupcakes:

It was ok.  The marshmallow icing was tasty, but had dried so that there was a layer that was almost like a hard shell.  The cake wasn't terribly dry, but crumbled badly.  There was also a fudge filling, but by the time I got to it I was going into a sugar fit.

I keep forgetting to just get the vanilla when I am going to review a cupcake.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Spot of Bother, by Mark Haddon

Book 27

I looked at A Spot of Bother when it was released, as I really like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. But the summary didn't grab me. Then it was picked for my book club and I loved it.

The premise is that a recently retired man is having extreme anxiety attacks and not getting effective help for them. In the meantime, his family is unbelievably obnoxious. A wedding is approaching, or maybe not and hijincks ensue.

The first thing that I loved and hated in an archetypal high-school English sort of way is that the narrative of the crazy guy often sounds more sane than the narratives of the others. Even when (SPOILER ALERT) he catches his wife in the sack with a colleague. So I could almost see how his obscenely self-absorbed family would miss the fact the he is mentally unravelling. That is until (MORE SPOILERS) he tries to amputate the cancer from his body that isn't even cancer. With a pair of scissors.

That is a pretty serious sign, people.

The tension builds well and speeds toward a pretty impressive climax. It was rather hard to put down, actually. Then it was all tied up with a bow. Which was fine. Great read.

More about Being the Client

I was thinking about this when babbling about my hair, then decided that no one was interested. Particularly people I know in Real Life who have heard the lecture before. However, Miss Sarah was just writing about a fear of the dentist, so it is officially worth telling again:

When I was 12 years old, I had two teeth pulled in advance of having braces put on my teeth. I inherited some odd resistance to Novocain from my mother, but when I told the dentist, “My teeth aren’t ready yet,” he yanked them anyway.

It was really painful.

Age 18. New dentist, similar situation.

I didn’t go back to the dentist for five years.

At age 23, I knew I had to get over it. My dad, who is not known for Useful Parental Advice, hit one out of the park. He said:

“You are an adult and you are the client. The dentist cannot touch you without your consent. If you are not being heard, you get up out of the chair and walk out the door. You are allowed.”
It was so simple. But I somehow needed permission from my daddy to feel empowered to assert myself.

Don’t analyze that.

Of course, I never actually got up out of the chair. But I found a new dentist that listened to my whole silly history before even looking at my teeth. He said that I could have all of the Novocain I wanted and he would always stop work if I needed him to stop. (It helped that he isn’t much older than I am.)

I have been with that dentist ever since and am no longer afraid of getting a filling. And, surprise, surprise – I no longer require all that many.

Moral of the Story: If the dentist (doctor, banker, hair stylist, mechanic) makes you feel uncomfortable, find a new one. You are paying for a service and deserve to feel good about it.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Blanket 15

More yarn from the sale at Michael's:

Loops & Threads Impeccable Yarn in Luxury, Lavender and Aqua.

Writers' Theatre, Heartbreak House

Writers’ Theatre really likes Shaw. I believe I read somewhere that he was the most produced playwright in their history, and since this one was not a musical..I was totally game.

I’ve said before that one of the strengths of this company is the set design. They go for intimacy and work in a small space which requires major creativity. Heartbreak House had the best set I have ever seen. It was the garden of an English country house and I want to live there.

There was grass. Not Brady Bunch turf, but something green and soft that looked like grass. OK – the blades were lying on their sides like it was cut-and-mulched, but still. And. The actors use the aisles for many of their entrances, so one of the aisles had actual gravel. It was awesome, and my seat is in the first row.

Side Note: Overheard in the audience, “That gravel is a liability. Someone is going to turn an ankle.”

Then trees and the porch and the fa├žade of the house. And big pillows and chairs and rugs. It was hard to sit still in my standard modern chair.

As is often the case, my favorite character was the Crazy Old Man. It becomes clear rather quickly that all of the characters are crazy. By the end, there is no greater understanding, no glimpse of peace or happiness or reaching any goals of any kind. And the Blitz starts.

What is interesting is the underlying awareness the characters have of their own sense of drama. That they create their own nonsense because they lead such utterly tedious lives. Such that when the Blitz starts, one guy is turning all of the lights on and almost no one is taking any cover. They want to watch because finally something is happening.

As a societal commentary, Shaw seems to be saying that there is a certain class of people in England with the emotional maturity of 14-year old girls.

So that was fun.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bird Walk

I have posted about this absolutely everywhere, but my own blog!

The parrot rescue where I volunteer is having a 10-mile walk to raise awareness and support the mission:

“First and foremost, to work together with other parrot groups to eliminate the need for rescues. Until then, we will:

• Provide temporary housing and care for any and all Psittacine birds (not including those with fatal and/or contagious diseases)
• Educate the public about the proper care of exotic birds
• Locate healthy, happy, and nurturing homes for those that are eligible.”

The event will be held on Monday, May 30th at 10am, Rain or Shine at:

Laura Sprague School
2425 Riverwoods Rd
Lincolnshire, Illinois

If you would like to participate, please leave me a comment. There is no registration fee and obviously, no one is obligated to walk the entire 10 miles. You can also Join the Team or make a contribution on our Crowdrise page.

This is a particularly big deal because it is the first such event that we have ever held. I am looking forward to a great day!

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Real Blogger Would Have Something Profound to Say

Alas, I do not.

Shortly after 10pm, I was just about ready to turn out my light and go to sleep. I checked back in on Facebook and saw my friend Brandon, who happens to work at CNN, post:

Holy crap! This is huuuuge news!
I can't believe "Fast Five" won the weekend box office!

Obviously, he was being sarcastic. The next post was from my friend Dave:

Ding Dong, Osama's Dead!

I was typing faster than I did even on 9/11. And just like 9/11, wasn't fast enough. I turned on the TV like a normal person.

I remember that when I heard the news that morning, and didn't respond, I ran down the hall to my boss' office. There was a crowd huddled about his little cabinet TV. I was feeling like I should be with people. For news like this, waiting around for the President to speak, I should have been with people.

Facebook had to suffice.

As Brian Williams was saying that the White House had sent out two "false starts" on the time of the speech, I wondered if something else was happening. Then I decided that the speech writers were probably just trying to make sure that he sounded fantastic. Ronald-Reagan-after-the-Challenger fantastic. Except with good news.

He was good, our President. And those Navy SEALs? Rock stars.

As an American and a frequent traveler, I can't say that I feel any more safe than I did a week ago. But I am glad for a bit of closure.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Son of a Witch, by Gregory Maguire

Book 26

I was saying that I loved Wicked, Gregory Maguire's novel of the Wicked Witch of the West.  Besides the alternate point of view of the Witch, it had a sort of alternate point of view of the entire Land of Oz.

Which was a scary, scary place.

Son of a Witch, the sequel, has been sitting on my shelf for about ever.  I was interested enough to buy it, but not enough to revisit Oz without Elphaba.

Liir was a boy that lived with Elphaba in Kiamo Ko.  He may have been her son, but he didn't know.  And then she was dead.  So Liir leaves the tower with Dorothy and Crew and heads back to the Emerald City.  After Dorothy's departure, the novel returns to its scary, scary portrait of Maguire's Oz.

So I was following along with the little story, happy that it was good enough to justify my time, but not so great that I felt compelled to read the next in the series.  Liir was sort of plodding along - pawn in the game of the next ruler of the land.  Meeting the sentient Animals, searching for a lost childhood friend.  But he was also sort of searching for his own purpose.  And not very well.  He is so.  Dumb.

I did my share of eye-rolling at this character, but at the end of the novel there were a few threads that I wanted to follow:

  1. Childhood friend seems to have survived - and been scribbling "Elphaba Lives" all over the Emerald City.
  2. The Emperor is Elphaba's little brother and I suspect that someone is going to Take Him Down.
  3. There is a little green baby.
I am not sure this series is really for people that love the originals.  This is fine with me because I don't.  Will I go for the next book?  I'll have to think about it.  I'd really rather re-read Wicked.

In Which I Talk about My Hair, But Have a Point

Sometimes, when a lady is frustrated with her hair, she must do something about it right now.  The other night, my regular place couldn't take me, so I went someplace new.  This wasn't really a problem for me, because I don't particularly like my regular salon.  They are simply the place that has the formula for the hair color I want.

I told the new stylist what my hair color formula is, not knowing if they use the same line of products.  She said, "Yes, I know the formula, but that isn't what your hair color is.  That will be lighter than what you have now."

I didn't want lighter hair, so I went with her recommendation.  I had a bad feeling about it, though.  And I could tell as soon as it was on my head that it would be too dark.  After the application, she came back with a pen and paper, asking for my contact information so that she could keep the formula on file.

"I don't want the formula on file,"  I said.  "I can already tell it is too dark."

Immediately, she became defensive and said that she did exactly what I said and that the dye always darker out of the bottle.  As if I am somehow new to this game.

I replied.  "And it is fine for now.  But if I return, this is not what I want recorded for my color."

She went off and pouted for so long that I was afraid she wasn't coming back.  Finally, as she was rinsing my hair she said, "You know it really will get lighter and I think you will be very happy."

I was right and she was wrong and I left angry.  But I wasn't even angry with her.  I was angry because I didn't assert myself, as the client, in the first place.  I allowed myself to be led by the "expert" professional (who I now suspect didn't have the knowledge or confidence to mix formulas as I had described).

When I was 19 and having major anxiety about going to the dentist, my father said, "You are the client.  No one can touch you without your consent.  If you aren't comfortable, you get up out of the chair and walk out the door."

Of course, I have never actually done that.  But when I remind myself that I can get up and leave, it makes it much easier to assert myself.  How I manage to do that with the dentist, and not with a kid working in a salon is totally beyond me.