Friday, February 29, 2008
Thursday, February 28, 2008
America will be undergoing some painful changes in the next decade, politically, economically, socially. Will our jobs last? Will our kids have a future? And so much more. Try to negotiate the waters of future worry with present tense and near-future needs and life dreams - the stuff that keeps one going - and you'll give yourself a massive migraine.
We know we need to simplify - our lives, our work and our possessions. We need to work on our kids, our home and ourselves. We need to find out way out of this climate for our kids, our health and our sanity. We need to reconnect with the things we love... the things that really matter.
We love seeing the world. We love travel. We love connecting with people. We love writing. We love learning.
Yesterday, during one of our increasingly depressing discussions of the world situation, a lightbulb went on. Not one of those little nightlight bulbs... no. But one of those nice, clear 60w babies that are great to read by in your favorite comfy chair. We came up with a great idea. One we are going to take steps to learn about and may ultimately be solution we pursue.
It would mean a big life change. But one for the better. It would mean ridding ourselves of many of the things we've collected over the years. It would leaving many things behind.
...but that wasn't the epiphany. This was.
Yesterday after work, I came home and cooked dinner. It was a simple act, but I enjoyed it, knowing that I was doing something good for my family. I mulled over the big 'ol lightbulb of the day. Weighing the pros and cons of what we were considering and I thought, "What would I rather do? Come to the end of my days knowing that we had traveled the world, making a difference in people's lives by teaching them how to communicate with each other and make the world a better place? Or would I like to be able to say that I held onto this glass jar for 30 years?"
Why allow our possessions to own us, when instead, we could go out and experience the world?
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
I admit it. I've always been a bit of an Anglophile. As a child, I'd adjust the rabbit ears on our old black and white television to get a glimpse of "Monty Python's Flying Circus" coming in from Canada. Four channels, NBC, ABC, CBS and PBS were all I had to choose from, unless I could hijack one of those signals drifting over the border into North Dakota... and it was a heck of a lot funnier than "Gomer Pyle" or "Gilligan's Island".
Anyone who reads my blog with any regularity has probably noticed that my posts mostly go to extremes - either very serious or very silly. I'm a pretty low-key person on the outside, but I let things boil in my noggin'. Sometimes that spills out to my blog. When I've just had too much of the bad news, I have to post something silly. Like laughing in the face of danger. Or getting a case of inappropriate giggles at a funeral.
Reading the news lately, I can't even seem to drum up a snort in the face of the charging rhino that is the U.S. economy.
Take today's headlines:
Reports Reflect Bleak Housing Future - "U.S. home prices lost 8.9 percent in the final quarter of 2007, Standard & Poor's said Tuesday, marking a full year of declining values and the steepest drop in the 20-year history of its housing index." "No end in sight."
Home Depot has First Annual Sales Dip - Profits dropped 27.5% in the fourth quarter.
Confidence Plunges, Inflation Rate Soars - I won't even post the numbers on this one. "No good news today on the economic front. Consumer confidence plunged, the wholesale inflation rate soared, the number of homes being foreclosed jumped, home prices fell sharply and a report predicts big increases in health care costs"
Slow Sales Push Target Earnings Down 8.1% - Consumers all over the place are cutting back on discretionary spending. It's not in this article, but in a previous one I read, that people are now using the gift cards they've received for necessities like groceries instead of frivolous items.
Those were the first four news stories in the business section today. I'm not too proud to say that doesn't scare the shit out of me. It's bad. Combine this with the war, our record sky-scraping national debt, unemployment, rising energy costs, poor health care... we're in trouble.
That's when my wonderful Avindair sent this goodie my way. It was written just after Dubya was "re-elected" for his second term. Personally, I think Mr.Cleese has a point. Would someone pass me the Shepherd's Pie? I'll have my CV ready shortly.
A Message from John Cleese
To: The citizens of the United States of America:
In light of your failure to nominate competent candidates for President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately.
Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (except Kansas, which she does not fancy).
Your new prime minister, Gordon Brown, will appoint a governor for America without the need for further elections.
Congress and the Senate will be disbanded.
A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.
To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:
You should look up 'revocation' in the Oxford English Dictionary.
1. Then look up aluminium, and check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it.
2. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'favour' and 'neighbour.' Likewise, you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters, and the suffix -ize will be replaced by the suffix -ise.
Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. (look up 'vocabulary').
3. Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as 'like' and 'you know' is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication.
There is no such thing as US English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take account of the reinstated letter 'u' and the elimination of -ize. You will relearn your original national anthem, God Save The Queen.
4. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.
5. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not adult enough to be independent.
Guns should only be handled by adults. If you're not adult enough to sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist then you're not grown up enough to handle a gun.
6. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. A permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.
7. All American cars are hereby banned. They are crap and this is for your own good. When we show you German cars, you will understand what we mean. Holden Monaro's are also approved.
8. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.
9. The Former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling gasoline) - roughly $6/US gallon. Get used to it.
10. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catsup but with vinegar.
11. The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. South African beer is also acceptable as they are pound for pound the greatest sporting Nation on earth and it can only be due to the beer. They are also part of British Commonwealth - see what it did for them. American brands will be referred to as Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine, so that all can be sold without risk of further confusion.
12. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. Watching Andie Macdowell attempt English dialogue in Four Weddings and a Funeral was an experience akin to having one's ears removed with a cheese grater.
13. You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind of proper football; you call it soccer. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like a bunch of nancies). Don't try Rugby - the South Africans and Kiwis will thrash you, like they regularly thrash us.
14. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of America . Since only 2.1% of you are aware that there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. You will learn cricket, and we will let you face the South Africans first to take the sting out of their deliveries.
15. You must tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us mad.
16. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due (backdated to 1776).
17. Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 pm with proper cups, never mugs, with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes; strawberries in season.
God save the Queen..
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Friday, February 22, 2008
Thursday, February 21, 2008
For thousands in the Twin Cities area, it feels like a pipe dream.
I just read this article in the Star Tribune, Looking for a place to call home in Plymouth. Over two days, about 3,700 people took applications for Section 8 housing in Plymouth, hoping to be one of the 300 drawn in a waiting list lottery. Last year, the Metropolitan Council received 25,000 requests for just 5,000 spots. In 2006, one in eight Minnesotans spent half of their household income on housing alone. Affordable housing is hard to find.
Our house may not be perfect. The furnace is old and inefficient. The windows let in wind and little rain on occasion. The air conditioner is probably on its last legs. It could use a paint job. It isn't one of the giant McMansions sprouting up in suburb after suburb. Years ago we could have stretched our budget and bought a bigger, newer house - but we wanted something that, if tough times came again, we could afford on one salary. No. It's not perfect, but it's safe and it's warm and I give thanks that we can rest easy there.
My heart, hopes and prayers go out to all of those people, waiting for a home.
First, the Purple Crayon Factory. I first met Teresa Thomas-Carroll, the director and founder of Purple Crayon Factory, through a business women's networking group. It's rare and refreshing to meet someone who is as enthusiastic about their work as she is. PCF's workshops bring a creative approach to self-reflection, realization of goals, stress management, life balance and much more. Check out her website and workshops!
The second was a link I followed from Teresa's PCF newsletter today, HOURCAR. Have you ever come across a business idea so incredible that you wish you'd thought of it? HOURCAR is a car-sharing membership for the Twin Cities. Not a service for suburbanites, like myself, but great for people living in the middle of the metro. Instead of owning a car and having loan payments, insurance payments, maintenance, fuel, garage, etc., members pay an affordable monthly membership fee, plus hourly use and mileage for just the hours they use the car. Plus, all of the cars in their fleet are gas-electric hybids. What a great idea!
Thursday, February 14, 2008
However, the "love holiday" has been around for much longer than Hallmark. Most people think of Saint Valentine of the Catholic church. What most people don't realize is that the church recognizes at least three saints by that name, and all stories related to them are legend.
The other school of thought is that the church created the holiday in their effort to convert pagans celebrating the ancient purification and fertility festival of Lupercalia. This Roman festival began at the ides of February... that's February 15, folks. It honored the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, who were raised by a she-wolf or lupa. As the beginning of spring, the rite also honored Faunus, the god of agriculture. Thus, the whole fertility angle.
My money's on Lupercalia as the true origin of the holiday. If you'd like to celebrate in a more traditional way than chocolate and roses, here are a few steps you can take:
- Sweep the house.
- Sprinkle salt and spelt on the floors.
- Sacrifice a goat* (for ferility) and a dog* (for purity).
- Gently slap all the women you see with bloody strips of goathide.
Of course, this doesn't mean that I'm not a romantic. I just don't think my husband needs to shower me with gifts to show me he loves me. I'm still a romantic at heart, especially where it comes to literature and poetry. Here are a few quotes about love from history.com.
My bounty is as boundless as the sea, My love as deep; the more I give to thee, The more I have, for both are infinite. -- William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward in the same direction.-- Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Love does not dominate; it cultivates.-- Johann Wolfgang von GoetheStop by the the History Channel website for an abbreviated history of Valentine's Day and other non-fattening Valentine's goodies.
* This blog in no way condones the sacrifice of any animals. This is a JOKE, people.
Monday, February 11, 2008
With one hour's notice, Avindair, our daughter and I decided to audition for the Lyric Arts production of "The Sound of Music".
"Don't do "I Dreamed a Dream", it's depressing."
I glanced doubtfully at the sheet music for "Popular" from Wicked, then back to Tony.
"But at least I know all of the words," I explained. "I don't know the words to "Popular"."
He grinned confidently, "Sure you do! You'll do fine."
Within seconds of walking into the audition, I'd forgotten the words and restarted "Popular" three times. Somehow I was sure it had lost it's charm with the director along the way.
Good thing was, I wasn't worried. This wasn't like auditions in the past, when I'd agonized over what song or monologue to use, and practiced over and over. This was done on a lark. I went in with a happy-go-lucky attitude. I smiled, joked at my own ineptitude, and pushed on through the restarts.
Finally, I thought, they'd had enough.
"What's the top of your range?"
"Man, I don't even know any more. It's been awhile since I've done a musical. And as you can tell, I'm not exactly prepared today!"
They asked me to sing a few scales to find the highest of my high notes, thanked me for my time and ushered me out.
Avindair's audition went well. He glided through "Eidelweiss" with the greatest of ease. Our daughter -- well, it was her first ever audition. She didn't really know the song well, but she handled it with absolute poise.
A few days later, Tony and I had both been offered roles; me as Sister Margaretta and Avindair as part of the men's ensemble. Our daughter wasn't cast, but she was wasn't terribly disappointed. As the weeks of rehearsal went on, I was glad she hadn't been. Musicals can be grueling... doubly-so if you're a kid and it's your first show.
Now, after many weeks, we're nearly there. "The Sound of Music" at the Lyric Arts Main Street Stage in Anoka, MN opens this Friday, February 15 and runs through March 16. Many of the shows are already sold out, but as of today, you can still get tickets for the following dates: February 16, 17 & 24, March 1, 2, 6, 9, 13, 15 and 16.
If you REALLY love "The Sound of Music", join us for the March 12 "Lyrics Out Loud" performance and sing-along with the cast!
So, if you enjoy "The Sound of Music"; if you enjoy the company of community theater-goers; if you want to see Avindair and Geek Goddess do their first musical in *cough**cough* years, get your tickets now!
Friday, February 01, 2008
Meanwhile, freaking VENEZUELA is helping more than 200,000 low-income American families in 23 states. By the end of this winter, they will have donated 100 million gallons (worth about $200 million) to struggling families that would have otherwise had to choose between eating and being warm.
Way to go Exxon. I hope your execs choke on their Chteau Petrus and Beluga Caviar while celebrating.