Saturday, February 28, 2009

Six reasons I am not a real runner

In no particular order...

1. I cannot fathom purchasing five different pairs of running shoes in one calendar year, as I heard my good friend/serious runner claim.

2. I have yet to experience the "second wind" or "runner's high." At least not to an extent that makes me thrilled to be running. My runs are more of one big "wall," and a sideache is my frequent companion.

3. I do not own any cool running gear. I sport either yoga pants or shorts with a Curves T-shirt on most runs, and feel pretty lame next to my more fashionable running counterparts. But now that I know at least one person's secret, I think I'll be hitting the Goodwill to score some sweet duds (cast away by good-intentioned quitters).

4. Long-distance running is time-consuming, and time is an element of which I have little to spare. I've been spoiled with a 30-minute total-body workout, and while Curves won't provide the same level of endurance training as running, it feels good to burn about 500 calories in just half an hour. Since running doesn't tone the whole body, it won't ever be my sole form of exercise, which leaves even less time to get it done.

5. Shoes are the serious runner's most important piece of equipment, so I understand and respect the necessity of keeping them in top working condition for the sport. But I don't see myself ever being involved to the extent that I would track miles run on a pair of shoes and limit that number for the sake of performance.

6. Perhaps all those reasons are merely symptoms of this confession: I do not aspire to run a marathon one day. If I change my mind as I get into better shape, then so be it. For now, the mere idea of running 26.2 miles seems like a really popular form of masochism. I will enthusiastically cheer for my racing friends, and join them for enchiladas beyond the finish line. Maybe if I am nice enough, they will do the same for me at my 10k's.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The second dozen: several standouts

Last week I predicted with ease the first three contestants to claim their spot in American Idol's Top Twelve for Season Eight. Although I would have preferred to see Ricky Braddy take the third spot, I knew better than to hope the voting public would appreciate him over the less-talented-but-more-relatable Michael Sarver.

This week was more difficult for me to choose my own favorite contestants. It will be similarly elementary to predict the three who move forward (two of them at least), but I actually connected with more than half of the performances this week. Although the lines between the good, the bad, and the ugly were very distinct, there were about twice as many viable performances this week as last.

The evening kicked off with three successive trainwrecks, leaving me to wonder if perhaps seven years of American Idol had simply bled the country dry of talent (I truly believed that watching Season Six's finale with Jordin vs. Blake. Ugh. But the Battle of the Davids last year proved my theory incorrect). Then we were relieved by the breath of fresh air that is Nick Mitchell (or Norman Gentle, depending on which mood strikes his fancy), followed by a sequence of performances ranging from decent to exquisite with only few exceptions.

Tonight the guy and gal with the most votes and the next-highest "vote-getter," as Ryan says, will earn a highly coveted seat in the Top Twelve. Actually, those silver pedestal seats the winners get to sit in look exceedingly less comfortable than the overstuffed couch housing all the losers. If it's any consolation. Which it probably isn't. So once again, here are my predictions and analyses on the 12 contestants who sang their heart out for this once-in-a-lifetime chance at stardom. Or at least their fifteen minutes of it.

1. Allison Iraheta: Finally, a performance worthy of this level in the competition, and definitely the best female we've seen so far, at least based on these recent "auditions," as they might be called. The infrequent bits of Allison shown on camera prior to her opening note last night had not impressed me. I am not fond of her look, and the girl couldn't have a less eloquent grasp of the English language if she were nine years old. But her first few bars of "Alone" by Heart rocketed Allison miles ahead of her female counterparts in the talent and stage presence departments. This is not the first time that particular 80's power ballad has been performed on AI, and it is a brilliant choice: a crowd-pleaser that truly showcases both a singer's technical proficiency and emotional range.

2. Adam Lambert: Another early fan favorite, it is no coincidence that Adam and Danny Gokey (from the first dozen) were both situated last in the lineup. American Idol has several ways in which they let you know who they want you to vote for, and closing the show is often a sure-fire way to guarantee safety. Adam's rendition of "Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones was powerful indeed, and it would be worth arguing that his look alone could sell records. I personally find Mr. Lambert's style to be a little too theatrical, approaching cheesy. But the boy can definitely SAYNG. He doesn't just hit a few high notes, he basically lives on that treble clef without ever breaking into falsetto--a feat that is as difficult to fathom as it is interesting to witness.

The next few spots get a little bit tricky. I am less sure about how the results will pan out this week, so I will tell you what I would like to happen.

3. Nick Mitchell: The spotlight opens on his alter-ego Norman Gentle in a sultry pose atop the arching staircase. He stands to reveal a full dress white tail tuxedo jacket layered over his signature rainbow-sparkle shirt, tucked into khaki tourist shorts. The red Richard Simmons-style sweatbands and dingy tennies complete his fashion statement. I am personally overcome with joy from the very first note, and as he belts out the passionate chorus of "And I am Telling You (You're Gonna Love Me)" from the musical Dreamgirls, I think to myself, "we already do, Norman. We already do." What a perfectly appropriate song choice.

You're thinking, sure, this guy is funny-looking, but that's not what American Idol is about. My response? "Who says?" WE say what American Idol is about, and I think it is about entertainment. The fact is, Nick Mitchell's voice is nowhere near horrid, and his ability to entertain is undeniable. Best of all, even though he is having the most fun of probably anyone in the history of the competition, I can tell he is taking his role seriously. It may sound like an oxymoron, but it's the truth. He won't win the competition, and won't be a recording artist, but this is a television show, and Nick/Norman will keep people watching week after week. I say keep him in!

4. Mishavonna Henson: If the most entertaining contestant on AI doesn't win over the rest of America as he has me, then the third spot should go to the next best voice, right? Mishavonna's performance of "Drops of Jupiter" was a work of precision. That was her only flaw, really: it was just a little too perfect. Kara said it best describing this little girl with a huge voice as "so put-together." Not one sleek, black wave of her hair was out of place, her bright white teeth twinkled under the stage lights, and she was singing a rock-band song in a taffeta cocktail dress. But she is adorable and has a lovely voice that I wouldn't mind hearing more of.

5. Jesse Langseth: She's cool. She's talented. She looks like a tall and slender version of Janene Garofolo. I find her bold personality a little grating, but she sang "Bette Davis Eyes" very well.

6. Matt Breitzke: I love Tonic's "If You Could Only See," and felt it was a perfect choice for Matt's husky voice. The judges all completely disagreed with me.

7. Kris Allen: We haven't seen much of this guy yet, but he is clearly very talented. And handsome to boot. He sang "Man in the Mirror" by Michael Jackson, which was boring at the beginning and end, but he killed the middle (in a good way).

8. Kai Kalama: I bet his mama (who we won't soon be allowed to forget he takes care of in spite of great sacrifice) is very proud of his rendition of her favorite song, "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted." This guy would slay at a karaoke bar. On this stage, not so much.

9. Megan Joy Corkrey: The judges loved this girl, and I imagine they have been won over previously by what seems like a really funky persona. In my opinion, she mutilated "Put your Records On." This is a light, groovy song, and she forced a heaviness on it that wasn't welcome. Plus she kept twisting awkwardly, which I suppose was an attempt at dancing. She got one thing right, though. She didn't hold up her fingers to show you the number to vote for her. Everyone else, take a hint: that is really annoying.

10. Jasmine Murray: The song and the performance reminded me of belting out along to the radio in my car. Admit it, we've all been there with Sara Bareilles' "Love Song." Jasmine's version just wasn't very impressive. Also, when Ryan asked her if she voted after last week's performances, she said something ditzy to the effect of, "Yeah, well, I tried to vote for, like, everyone." You may as well just save the energy sister, because that is completely pointless.

11. Jeanine Vailes: It has come to my attention that some singers view the notes in their song's key as merely a suggested approximation of the pitch they ought to sing. The poor girl started begging for us to give her a chance at the end. Even Paula, Queen of the Sugar-coating, couldn't bring herself to say that Jeanine deserves a shot in the next round.

12. Matt Giraud: Paula Abdul tried to compliment Matt by saying his performance was far better than his rehearsals. If that's the case, it's a wonder they even let him on stage. It was actually uncomfortable to watch, as his Cold Play selection extended above and below his vocal range, among other travesties. There is no way that performance would have made it through the first round of auditions. They showed some great footage of the dueling piano gig he left to come to Idol, and I hope he can get that job back because he was really good at it.

Now I'm off to watch the results show to see how my favorites fared.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

End of literary hiatus

I have figured out why I all but ceased reading for a few years. I used to enjoy literature, never finding enough time to delve into all which piqued my interest.

My husband is an avid reader, and when I met him his literary choices featured spiritual and philosophical ideologies that were then beyond me. He was very excited about the concepts because, he explained, they echoed his own perception and beliefs that he couldn't put into the right words. Knowing I was seeking answers to life's great questions at the time, he enthusiastically encouraged me to take on some of the books in his library, such as The Power of Myth: an interview with mythologist Joseph Campbell, The Televisionary Oracle by Rob Brezsny, and anything by Doctors David R. Hawkins or Wayne W. Dyer. I started several, but finished none. It is not that the subject matter itself isn't interesting, I just wasn't in a place to appreciate it.

Sitting in the shadow cast by a pile of books that Gary lovingly nudged in my direction, I began to regard reading as more of a chore than a pleasure. Again, not because these books were inherently boring, but rather that my mind wasn't presently open to their messages. Feeling obligated to read these particular selections made me drift away from a desire to read at all, lest my darling notice a NYT bestselling paperback in my hand while any of these great philosophical works lay idle on the nightstand.

My literary hiatus began this way, but continued as my schedule became increasingly full, and free time increasingly uncommon. When Gary realized I wasn't as interested in the types of books that he was, he quickly relaxed any attempts to persuade me. But by this time, I was not only extraordinarily busy, but had also lost a certain connection with the written word. Any remaining interest I had in reading was feeble.

Over the past 6 years or so, I read a handful of books concerning childbirth (both preparatory and investigatory), a baby name book (yeah, I read it from cover-to-cover; it's an obsessive-compulsive thing, I guess), and some inpirational (or intended as such) business/leadership volumes. I can't even recall the most recent work of fiction I read prior to last month.

My latent interest in reading recently resurfaced. I decided that I can make time to read, and made a renewed commitment to do so more this year. I'm off to a great start--in the middle of my fifth book of 2008 (Bridget's probably finished twelve by now, but who's counting?). Of course, the first four on my list comprise Stephenie Meyer's Twilight saga, which you may have heard of (especially if you are or know anyone who is Mormon). Yes, Bridget, I will be posting a collection of my thoughts on the series. Soon.

Now I am thoroughly enjoying Why We Buy, a very entertaining bit of scientific analysis of our shopping culture. My dad randomly passed this book along to me, and since I was in need of a new book to take on a short trip, I accepted it despite the fact I wouldn't have ever chosen it off a shelf. Probably because I would have assumed the same as my friend who, upon seeing the title, thought it was a book about (and condemning, I presume she meant) our societal "consumerism." Such a finger-wagging at capitalism would never interest me, but Why We Buy could be considered the antithesis to such a book: written by a man who runs a company which covertly observes and analyzes minuscule movements and reactions of shopping humans, with the goal of aiding merchants in the quest to provide a more shopper-friendly (and therefore more profitable) store environment.

While the subject is fascinating to me, it is certainly not as gripping as the vampire fantasy. In the time it has taken me to get through half of this 300-page book, I had probably completed the first two of Meyer's 600-some-page novels. Hers were demanding stories: meaning if I was faced with the option of either cracking open Eclipse or working on a very necessary, deadline-driven project for my business, I might have to physically restrain myself to the desk in an effort to avoid choosing the former. Since I can emotionally handle putting down my current non-fiction selection, I believe my books-per-month ratio will drastically decline from here forward.

But at least my brain is back in the reading game at last. Meyer may be a far cry from Dyer, but I can appreciate them both.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Flashback Friday: The art of junior high

Junior High. The gateway between the innocence of childhood and the immaturity of teenhood. It is within the fluorescent-lit halls that we begin to discover our individuality. From the colorful resin chairs bolted to doodled-on desktops we gain perspective on the path of our educational future. And as lockers clang, books slam, basketballs boing, gum smacks, and backpacks scuffle, we learn to judge the world around us and how we ought to fit into it. Certainly not the most glamourous era, riddled with humiliation and awkwardness, but necessary nonetheless.

The art teacher at my junior high school (which, for my second year of attendance changed to a middle school, making us the youngest of three grades in 7th and the oldest of three grades in 8th) was renowned among students as a pervert. The whispered tales may have been entirely fictional, but at age twelve, rumor rules over truth. While the man sported a look that might cause a father to involuntarily hold his daughter's arm a little tighter walking by, the gossip that sealed his reputation involved supposed requests for skirt-wearing girls to stand on chairs and reach highly stored objects while he remained below to enjoy the view.

Alleged morality flaws aside, I did not get along with this particular teacher at all. It should be interjected here that I have always been a good student, and typically enjoyed the advantages of forming positive associations with most of my teachers. I'm actually that girl who returned to visit old teachers occasionally after graduation. So it stands to reason that my repugnance toward Mr. Art Teacher was not misguided based on unsubstatiated anecdotes.

To form an appropriate mental image of this cantankerous old man, imagine a crusty version of the Tasmanian Devil.

His waist was so tiny that even aided by a tightly cinched belt it could hardly hold up the faded jeans sagging from the flat area where most people display buttocks. Over the belt, however, protruded a substantial belly, above which his inexplicably wide shoulders supported a small round head covered in prickly white stubble. Appearances do not make the man, and by no means was his unkempt exterior the grounds for my distaste.

The man was mean. He also demonstrated archaic notions of gender inequality. For example, during one particular class, our assignment entailed sketching our own copy of a line drawing he provided. He produced two separate handouts, each containing a different image: one for the boys and one for the girls. The boys' drawing was a race car. I do not even remember what was printed on the girls' selection, because I swiftly demanded I receive the car version instead, much to my instructor's displeasure. I was as livid about the situation as a tween with limited exposure to feminist ideology might be. After completing the drawing, I carefully embellished my race car with flowers, bows, and butterflies. I wouldn't want Mr. Art Teacher thinking a boy had drawn it.

One technique that The Taz frequently imparted to our class involved finding smaller images within a large one to aid our ability to copy it. (Why does it seem that so many of our "art" projects involved simply copying someone else's art?) So he would put a drawing of, say, a horse on the projector screen and point out where its jaw and neck come together to form the letter A, or how its ear resembles a tube sock. Jewels of this nature. His distorted images within images were sometimes difficult for the rest of us to grasp. A fly on the wall might notice a handful of students craning or twisting their necks in an attempt to free a purported hidden object from obscurity. The rest of the students in the room would have their heads buried in their arms on the table, ever-grateful that projector-screen operation requires restful darkness.

One day, when the hunt for a covert mouse within the forehead of a bulldog illustration became too ridiculous to bear, I decided to just mess with him a little. While everyone else uninhibitedly voiced their confusion, I professed elated comprehension. Not only could I see his precious mouse, but I could also see a little cow! I described the bovine representation to him from my seat, but when my spur-of-the-moment description made about as little sense as his lesson plan, Mr. Art Teacher invited me to approach the projector and show the class (possibly starting to pay attention at this point) and himself (hardly containing his giddiness at a participating student) what in the world I was talking about. I bounded out of my seat, grabbed that green marker with gusto, and proceeded to notate my imaginary representation all over the bulldog's grumpy little face.

"Here is the mane scribble scribble and this is his big eye giant circle nowhere near the mane. Nostrils are here dot dot and the bulldog's ear here is the tail swooshy. Don't you see? ... The cow's ears are in the dog's whiskers right here line line line."

I stared at him expectantly until he began to nod. "Yeeeeah, okay...I think I see it!" I walked proudly back to my table, biting my lip to repress a laugh.

If you think I mistreated a poor, innocent man, perhaps this next story will redeem my intentions.

Pottery time. I didn't want to make a pot. I made a snowflake. Maybe it was more of the junior high rebellion boiling up. The rationale behind my artistic choice is irrelevant. My project was a little clay snowflake. It was only about 4 inches in diameter, and I painted it with white glaze before leaving it to be fired in the kiln.

A few days later, when the pottery had endured the fiery oven and emerged in all its shiny glory, I found my snowflake on a shelf of unclaimed projects. I had forgotten to write my name on the back, so it was orphaned here. I plucked it from the shelf and presently labeled it so it wouldn't be lost again.

It must have been the next class when an important administrator cracked open the art room door and peered inside. I was startled and confused when she called my name and beckoned for me to join her in the hall. My memory may not be entirely accurate, but I think it was the assistant principal. I clung to a hope that perhaps I had won some kind of contest.

As it turns out, I was not a winner. Ms. Administrator explained that Mr. Art Teacher had witnessed me thieve a classmate's art project and claim it as my own work. Ugh.

Being accused of stealing was an unsettling experience. I'm the teacher's pet (in all my other classes, anyway), remember? And here I was having to defend my honor to a woman who didn't know me from Eve (because I had never done anything to warrant a relationship with the junior high gestapo) and a teacher who clearly believed I was the furthest thing from Eve. Spawn of Satan, indeed.

The precise details are fuzzy, but through my very genuine tears, I was able to convince them of my innocence. He apologized, but I had trouble forgiving the old man for jumping to such a conclusion without any evidence. If he had been paying attention, he might have noticed me creating my rebellious little snowflake, too.

One final memory from junior high art class. And it has to be the time that my desk-partner/friend and I created an anthology of poo. We illustrated and captioned such wonders as the "Ghost Poop" and the "Rainbow Poop." Come on, it was junior high! We were gaining perspective on the world and discovering our educational future, remember?


Laugh! It's funny!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The first dozen: mostly mediocre

American Idol, if nothing else, is an icon of generational popular culture. As a musician/vocalist, I enjoy the show in much the same way that I imagine a gourmet enthusiast would savor Top Chef, or the owner of a fixer home would relish Trading Spaces. I like to critique the performances myself and hear what the judges (okay, the one intelligent judge) have to say.

The opening audition tour boasts some very funny moments, but my conscience can only handle so much of the awkward, heart-breaking scenes interspersed between the talent. Don't get me started on Bikini Girl, that is a sore point between me and the American Idol machine. Hollywood Week is typically my favorite segment of the show. The drama among the hopefuls is just so pitifully entertaining.

The four judges (including Kara, an intelligent and gutsy new addition, thank goodness) selected the top 36 contestants to receive the distinct privilege of performing for America's votes. When they announced this week that the singers would be performing in groups of 12 each week, with only three moving forward from each group, I was taken aback. After witnessing the dismissal of some excellent singers over the past couple of weeks, I was led to believe these top 36 must be the very best. This new elimination process is steep, and the idea that nine people would be sent home each week was admittedly worrisome.

Thankfully, I had only to be worried until the performances were underway. The concern quickly gave way to astonishment at the majority of the contestants' willingness to literally take this one shot at stardom in their hand, crumple it up into a wad, chew it up, swallow, and poop it out the other end in a pathetic, stinky, waste. For a group that we should all expect to possess top-notch talent, the results resonated with disappointment.

Tonight we'll see the guy and girl with the most votes move forward, along with the contestant with the next-highest votes. Here are my predictions, as well as a brief analysis of the rest of the evening, from best to worst.

1. Danny Gokey: This guy is going to be a favorite throughout the competition. He is attainably cute (as opposed to intimidatingly hot), has a smooth voice, and presents a sweet and professional demeanor. If that weren't enough, Danny came to the auditions four weeks after his young wife passed away. I also love that he is coolly professional. When will these American Idol dreamers learn that the childish drama doesn't get you very far (oh wait, Tatiana is just a few spots down). The only way that Danny won't be the top guy tonight is if the general voting public feels so sorry for the poor performers that they all vote for pity rather than talent, under the assumption that the good people will get enough votes. This happens at least once each season.

2. Alexis Grace: While her performance was not the second best of the evening, she was the best of the females, so the next spot should belong to Alexis. This tiny thing is SOUL-full and chose a great Aretha number to showcase herself. She wasn't perfect, but far surpassed all of the girls and most of the boys.

3. Ricky Braddy: I feel kind of bad for Ricky. He's received close to zero airtime in the show so far, so no one in America knows anything about him. But I have to say, his performance blew me away! He was the second contestant on stage, so I wasn't even comparing him to how much most of the rest sucked at the time. I was not a fan of the song he chose, but his interpretation and performance of it hooked me. I think Ricky deserves the third spot this week, and not just because I could see the "Braddy Bunch" shirts his family wore catching on. Unfortunately, I don't know if I can trust America to recognize his vocal talent.

4. Michael Sarver: Michael has a great voice, but "I Don't Want to Be" by Gavin DeGraw was a poor song choice when the stakes are so high and the cuts so deep. The fact remains, however, that the camera loved him and his blue-collar; this potential rags-to-riches story will probably put him ahead of the more talented--yet unknown--Ricky Braddy.

5. Tatiana del Toro: It pains me to say it, but this irritating drama queen was the second-best female singer of the night. Why does the squealing, strange one have to be so good? She toned it way down for this show, and I couldn't help but notice the change seemed very genuine. Almost like the insanity we witnessed over the past few weeks was truly stress-induced. Too bad we won't get to see the real Tatiana after tonight.

6. Jackie Tohn: I like Jackie, I do. Her voice is different and cool, although I felt her song this week did nothing to remind us of that fact. But WHAT on Earth was she thinking with those pants?!? I mean seriously, and I have wondered this many a time before, do these people even look in a mirror before leaving the dressing room? Aren't there wardrobe consultants who give a little, "Um, honey, maybe we should choose an article of clothing from this decade." Or, "You know, sweetie, your butt wouldn't look like my grandmother's if you chose some pants that were slightly more flattering." Perhaps there are wardrobe consultants like this, and they take their jealousy out in strange and cruel ways.

7. Anoop Desai: This guy has a great voice, and a sparkling personality. His song practically bored me to tears, though. He sounded like a one-man version of Boyz II Men. Boy II Man. I wouldn't be surprised if he moved ahead based on his past performances and likeability factor (a benefit that good ol' Ricky Braddy won't have to fall back on, thanks to his lack of screen time thus far).

8. Stephen Fowler: BORING. This performance reminded me of sappy elevator music. Or a tacky adult film soundtrack. Elevator porn, perhaps?

9. Brent Keith: Entirely forgettable performance. And I can't stand contestants who look mad at the judges' comments instead of maintaining a little dignity by accepting criticism professionally.

10. Ann Marie Boskovich: We've heard her sing in the past, but Aretha Franklin is way out of her league. Yikes.

11. Casey Carlson: The Police? Really? When your entire future as a performing artists rest on this performance? And the hideous dance moves and facial contortions didn't add a thing.

12. Stevie Wright: If you turned the TV on to this performance (or any of the last 5 I listed for that matter), you may have wondered if a high school talent show were being televised. This is supposed to be twelve of the most talented singers in America! Why she would throw away this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity by singing a horrid Taylor Swift song will forever remain a mystery.

We'll see if anyone agrees with me tonight.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hair dilemmas

I tend to be a "grass is greener" type of person. When my hair gets long, I wish for a more creative, edgy, short cut. But after having it short for a few weeks, I pine for the flexibility and femininity that comes with luxurious length.

I absolutely hate growing my hair out. Short hair is cute. Long hair is pretty. Medium-length hair is not for me. And a short haircut doesn't look good while it's trying to get long. So after I tire of a drastic cut, I suffer through a year of ugliness while my hair slowly grows. Sometimes I give up on waiting and just chop it off again, so the ugly time is not even fruitful.

When it comes to hair, I love the freedom of style that length affords. My problem with long hair is that I eventually stop styling it. I usually skip the blow-dryer so it's limp and unintentionally wavy. When resorting to a bland ponytail or claw clip is nearly an everyday routine, I know it's time to make the cut.

My major damage with short hair, on the other hand, is that forgoing the primp and style ritual is not an option. If I let my short hair air-dry, it would be in my best interest to forget about entering the public eye for the day. So if I happen to be in a hurry, short hair is less convenient. However, most of the time I actually appreciate the compelling motivation to do my hair. Of course, it's more expensive to keep a short haircut looking right.

I used to do some fairly drastic things with my hair; my favorite was playing with the colors. Color is easy to change, and hair always grows back, so there's no reason not to have a little fun with it. Gary prefers natural looks, so I usually respect his aversion to bold haircolor and styles. This is why I was pleasantly surprised when he complimented this American Idol contestant's hair as a style I should emulate (I chose to crop the picture because her skanky outfit is an unfortunate hot mess):

I actually like it. Personally, I would leave the bangs blonde, and never consider wearing purple eyeshadow to match the hair. With those details corrected, it's funky without being over the top, in my opinion. I figured Gary would roll his eyes and consider me childish if I ever expressed interest in a style like Ms. McNamara's (now a top 36 contestant). I figure he's offered his approval now. Excellent.

Mayeb I won't dive right into the purple and blonde thing quite yet, but the pressing question I pose to you now is: shall I postpone the ugly growing-out year for a while longer, and get another A-line cut? Or just accept my cyclical desire to return to long hair and find a stylist who can give me some semblance of panache while I endure the inevitable? Does short hair or long hair seem to suit me better? Either way, more vigilant upkeep and care is necessary, as I discovered by perusing photos of myself to compare the styles. I decided not to post any for that reason. Maybe a splash of lavender would be just what I need to feel excited about doing my hair.

How do you deal with hair dilemmas?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Mt. Hood Photojournalism

I rarely post photos of current life events. Here is a somewhat photojournalistic journey through our Valentine's Day Getaway to Mt. Hood.
Madelyn packs her suitcase full of the necessities for two nights with Grandma. Apparently, she wasn't in the mood for pants at the time.
When we arrived at Cooper Spur Mountain Resort at about 4:30pm, it was snowing. Good news for the ski resort a few miles up the hill which we planned to patronize for the next two days. It took us a few minutes to locate the resort office, which closed at 4:00. An envelope with our name on it was clipped to the bulletin board outside their door. There was no key inside, just directions to our condo. And while the envelope had once been sealed, it had very obviously been ripped open before we found it. Curious.

The mysteriously opened envelope containing no room key
We hoped (and simultaneously feared) that they had a system of leaving the key inside the unlocked lodgings. We drove to our lodge condo and found our hopes to be false. The door was locked and bolted. It's a small resort, and practically deserted mid-week. We decided to drive back to the office, clinging to the optimism that perhaps we had missed something there, or the key had inadvertently fallen out of the open envelope, or it was pinned to the cat's collar. Something like that.

As we drove back toward the main office, a red Jeep emerged from a parking area designated as "employees only." It was a miracle. We flagged them down, and Yvonne, the assistant manager, returned to the office to help us. She found our key in a back room somewhere, and then in her thick Hispanic accent offered us a free box of firewood for the "eencohnveenyen." Inconvenience now, sure. But what if we had missed her exit? A few extra moments lingering at our locked door or a more hasty retreat on her part would have left us stranded in the snow. Yvonne even mentioned that she came back to the office because she had left her cell phone inside.

The weird part is, she never mentioned why the key wasn't inside the envelope, or what mistake led to her having to find it in a back room. I need closure on this point.
Our complimentary five-dollar box of firewood, with appropriately heart-shaped log
The condo itself was rustic and comfortable. Not fancy, but not entirely falling apart.
There was, however, no dishwasher. And the oven was just for looks. There were TWO small fridges though.
Little nuisances like a faulty toilet handle were not enough to ruin the vacation or make me not want to go back.
Playing games is a staple component of any relaxing vacation.
The Directions Nazi (that's me) gets her read on amidst impatient observers
Diana's Lucky Leprechaun Yahtzee Dance

Kristen and Randy Canastafy it up

Snack Basket. Most of the good stuff appears to be buried.
Diana, Gary, and I snowboarded Tuesday and Wednesday. Randy stayed back and studied for his Master's program, uninterested in risking an injury that would prevent him from bringing home the bacon. As divulged last week, I am a skier-turned-snowboarder. I tried boarding a couple of years ago, and sensed, in spite of my novice ability, that I would be more comfortable on a board than skis. I've only been able to go a couple of times each season, which is a huge bummer. But this year (thanks partly to my mom's birthday gift to Gary) we purchased Mt. Hood Meadows' "Three Time Learn to Ski/Snowboard Package." This is a disgustingly good deal: $99 for three days, each of which includes a lift ticket, 2-hour lesson, and rentals. Now, the first two days it's the bunny slope only, which for a true beginner is fine. Gary learned fast when we went for our first day in January, and I had a few times under my belt, so we upgraded to a full-mountain ticket for our 2nd day (the days don't have to be consecutive). In case you're not familiar with ski resorts, a regular lift ticket is around $59 at Meadows. They have a lift ticket and rental package (one day) for $79, and a group lesson would be another $60. So you can see that this is a spectacular deal. Until we get our own equipment, anyway.
We were lucky to get the first big snow in over a month!
Sisters on a VERY cold and snowy day at Mt. Hood.
Handsome Husband poses GQ-style in the perfect snow conditions

What a fun way to celebrate with my Valentine
Kristen rips up the slope (ha)
Gary is a natural

Three snow bunnies

The four of us nearly polished off a 42-oz. bag of peanut M&M's in two days. And that is far from the only thing we devoured.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Socially Networking

Honoring my sacred tradition of being one of the last humans on earth to accept and appreciate newfangled technology, I recently joined the cyber world of Facebook.

I have been avoiding passage into this new frontier for a few reasons:
1. Arrogance. I rather like being different, which may at times include watching the proverbial bandwagon smugly from the sidelines.
2. Time. Maintaining relationships with real friends is difficult enough.
3. Fear. It may surprise you (or maybe not) that there are people out there who are not my friends. I don't mean strangers. I mean the opposite of friends, though the word "enemies" may be a bit strong.

Look, I am an employer. If you have ever had a boss, then you realize that sometimes I have to play that necessary role of the person that people love to hate. It's not my fault. And I feared that a disgruntled employee, or mean person like the one who made a nasty comment on my blog might peep into my private life and laugh. Or worse.

So when, after enjoying some tasty Thai food with a group of girlfriends, the knowlege was bestowed upon me that one's Facebook profile is inaccesible to anyone unless you approve them as your "friend," that fear was eliminated. I'm not sure how I missed that important detail. So when my new BFF Barb (aka Polly Pocket) e-invited me to join the Facebook Elite, I shrugged and clicked the bright blue link.

Getting started was ridiculously easy. The feature which searches your email account for people you already know on Facebook was both frightening and exhilirating. I didn't invite any of them yet, though. I want to get my feet wet first.

And the feet-wetting has been a bit tricky. I consider myself very computer- and internet-savvy. But it is taking a concerted effort to orient myself with the Facebook layout. I am surprised at how cluttered and ill-organized the pages appear. It's probably just a matter of time before it will be second nature to me and I'll wonder how I ever thought that.

I must also admit that I had no clue what actually went on inside the gated Facebook community. I've never been on MySpace either, and always assumed these were simply personalized web pages. Post some photos, write little blogs, display how many "friends" you boast. I was not aware that such an interactive community existed within. Now I can remain abreast of what each friend had for lunch, and where he is taking his dog, and what she found under her couch cushions. And respond appropriately to such breaking news in real time. How did I ever do without this?

Kidding aside, I think it will be fun to stay in more immediate touch (ha, the irony) with nearby friends and maybe reconnect with some old friends (methinks I'll have to be a little more careful about what I write in my flashbacks). And now I can start using the word "friend" as a verb, as in, "You'll never guess who friended me yesterday."

If you're lucky, I just might friend you, too.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Flashback Friday: The other reason we ski

In December 1999, I went skiing for the first time while home from college on Winter break . My sister-in-law Laurel took me to Mt. Hood Meadows with her sister, and although I was the only first-timer, the entire party consisted of beginners. If you ignore the time that I almost skied right past the lift entrance, off a small cliff, and into the parking lot full of cars, it was fun and I picked up the sport reasonably quickly. Oh yes, and you'd also then have to overlook the time that Laurel and I gained undeserved confidence in our newly acquired skills, and attempted a blue run. The slope became so steep that we scooted down most of it on our butts. Other than those two minor details, great fun.

I was attending college in Provo, a small town nestled quaintly at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains in central Utah. The skiing in Utah is tremendous, which even if you don't ski, you probably realize, since the claim is immortalized on official state license plates: "Greatest Snow on Earth." After the holidays, I returned to my new apartment off campus, just down a flight of stairs from my cousin. We were best buds throughout the semester that followed, and since she has been skiing since age 3, I imagine she was pretty glad I finally learned how so we could go together.

And we did, as often as we could afford to spend the money and time away from studying (the latter sacrifice was never much of a debatable predicament for me). We viewed each mountain trip as not only a snowy escape into extreme athletics, but also a prime opportunity for flirting. We always invited guys to come along with us, and usually succeeded in finding willing participants. Whether they were privy to our ulterior motives will forever remain unknown.

Today I am sharing a collection of photos and commentary from skiing with these cute boys from my (currently seeming very distant) past. Well, actually, none of the pictures depict any actual skiing, but they were taken at ski resorts, in the snow. I am upholding my cousin's request not to post any photos of her; it is not vanity that led me to post all these pictures of myself, and I would never dream of cropping out her beautiful face if it were not out of respect for her own wishes.

flirt /flurt'/ vb: 1. to behave amorously without serious intent. 2. to trifle or toy, as with an idea [or person's fragile heart?] 3. the other reason we ski.

ALTA -- January 21, 2000
Dave and Greg
I didn't even know this Greg person. He was a friend of our friend Dave, who was standing on the other side of my cousin in this photo. Greg is pretty cute though, don't you think?

DEER VALLEY -- March 4, 2000
Mike and Pat

Ah, Mike. He remains one of my all-time favorite crushes. I think the feeling was at least somewhat mutual; at least we were pretty good friends. He was so funny!

A dogpile with Mike and Pat. I swear we did, in fact, ski on these trips too.

Aren't we adorable?

SNOWBIRD -- March 10, 2000
Miles and Ben (plus cousins Rachel and Jennifer!)
Miles (top right) and I were beginning to feel romantically toward each other--until this trip. The poor guy could not get the hang of skiing. I wouldn't hold that alone against a person, but it was hard not to feel pity rather than affection when he was so defeated, and let the embarrassment and emotion show. I never felt romantically inclined toward Ben, despite his interest. But he was a good friend, and I'll flirt with anyone for sport. He did kiss me once. And only once.

DEER VALLEY -- April 1, 2000
Ben and Nick

Disgusting picture of me, but Nick looks handsome. He was one of those guys who was very attractive until he opened his mouth. And the same Ben from above was on this trip too. My cousin and I tried out snowblades for the first time on this trip, and it was AWESOME. I think I like snowblades better than both skis and snowboard. The drawback is that they don't perform in powder (and I have some "splat" photos to prove it). They would be perfect for Mt. Hood, though. I've got to get me some.

SHOWDOWN, MONTANA -- March 18, 2000

On our trip to Montana, we went skiing with Ben (the same one) and a female friend of his from high school (we drove up to visit my sister and her new husband, and Ben grew up in the same hometown). Flirting with Ben proved not to be such a great idea, and he brought his own chick along this time anyway. So sometimes you just have to seek flirting opportunities, and create them when necessitated.

Suspended by Jason, Showdown Ski Patrol. Mmmm. The caption in my embarrassing scrapbook reads: "Who's 'patrolling' who?"

Whitewashed by Jeremy, Lift Ops. Notice the exposed skin on my back when you consider the following photo.

It is a sign of interest and affection to wrestle a person in freezing snow, right? Worked on me, obviously.

Lastly, here is a photo which embodies my idea of a perfect day on the slopes:
Forget the jacket--I want a hat, gloves, and a tank top! A very rare day here in the Cascade Range, but I have plenty of memories like this in the Rockies.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

25 random things

By popular demand (by which I mean badgering from one particular friend), I am posting these 25 random thing you probably didn't know about me. Enjoy.

1. I have a big freckle smack in the middle of my right big toe. I have had it since I was a child, but it has started fading, which oddly saddens me.

2. I rarely wear make-up. It just takes too much time. If anything, a little powder foundation to even the skin tone.

3. I am allergic to my own dogs. But I suffer because I love them.

4. The only foods I can think of that I do not eat are mushrooms, raw onions, and shellfish other than prawns and whatever clams are found in clam chowder. Other than that, I EAT EVERYTHING. I love food.

5. I am a drama geek. My favorite roles have been Rizzo in Grease and Helena in A Midsummer Night's Dream. When I have more time, I want to return to do more community theatre.

6. My husband and I combined our two last names to create a new family name when we got married. So we both have a "maiden name."

7. I can type pretty fast, but my hand positions are not technically correct. And since I primarily use a laptop, I am proficient with keyboard shortcuts.

8. I find great joy in wrapping presents. My mother used to even let me wrap my own because I enjoyed it so much. She would put items in plain boxes, and I would wrap them without ever peeking inside. I wouldn't dream of ruining the thrill of surprise!

9. One time I made out with the pilot of a small plane while his flight students took the controls. I'm sure he kept one eye on what they were doing. Ahem. At least I hope so.

10. I have always despised the flavor of cola. It doesn't matter if it's Coke, Pepsi, RC, or store brand, I just do not understand how anyone finds that taste the least bit pleasant. I rarely drink any soda at all, but when I do it's Root Beer or a Sprite equivalent.

11. My only travels outside the United States have been to Canada and Mexico, both as a young child. I have been to Alaska once and to Hawaii twice, but that's the extent of my exotic expeditions thus far.

12. I lettered in choir in high school. That's right: lettered, like normal people do in sports. The necessary accomplishments included being co-president of Concert Choir, Alto section leader, and a member of our small performing ensemble. I was also voted by peers and drama director as "Best Female Vocalist" my senior year. I do love music, but it is now with chagrin that I admit I have a letterman's jacket with four treble clef patches sewn on the big 'W.'

13. I have never broken a bone in my body. I always wanted to because a cast and crutches seemed so cool.

14. I send thank-you notes faithfully, not only because my mother taught me well that it is the right thing to do, but because I truly enjoy expressing my gratitude in words. I also know how good it feels to be appreciated.

15. My late childhood spanned the resurgence of new Disney animated features that began in 1989. I can still sing most lyrics from The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and The Lion King by heart.

16. I prefer to drive with manual transmission. Well, in little, fast cars anyway.

17. Once upon a time I had a crippling crush on Doogie Howser--the character, not the actor who portrayed him (Neil Patrick Harris). That's the first celebrity crush I can recall.

18. Window shopping only depresses me. If I can't buy, I don't want to look.

19. I hate the shape of my chin.

20. I have a nerdy tendency toward sticker charts and reward systems. I have my mom to thank for that quirk.

21. I endured ten years of piano lessons and completed the highest level of OMTA piano syllabus evaluation. Yet I am disappointed in my playing ability because it has always been a struggle for me, rather than a "natural" talent. I have always wished I could play by ear, or at least be a better sight-reader. I can sight-read vocal music well, but on the piano, my eyes, brain, and hands form slow connections.

22. I genuinely love shopping for other people. If I had more money, I would buy gifts for my friends and family all the time, because I constantly see things they would love and that I want to give them. When I'm filthy rich, I plan to give generously to those I love.

23. I played with Barbies past the age at which most little girls lost interest. If it's any indication, my cousins and I would sometimes pretend Skipper was battling the consequences of an unplanned teen pregnancy. You know, shopping for baby clothes, the poor dear.

24. Soccer and volleyball were my sports of choice growing up. Given the opportunity now, I would love to play again.

25. I'm a sucker for traditions. There is something so special about having silly, inconsequential memories to look forward to and repeat again and again.

So now you know some useless facts about me. This wasn't originally a blog tag per se, but I'd love to extend the invitation to enlighten us the same way to:
If you accept and want to pass the tag along, great. If not, no worries here. Thank you Barb, for expressing interest in learning a bunch of odd crap about me.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Wish I'd prepared a speech...

A friend and fellow blogger with clearly excellent taste bestowed upon me (and a mere fourteen others) the highly respected Premio Dardos award. [crowd cheering wildly]

Meaning no disrespect to Annie, (I'm honored that she thought to include my lame little blog among her far more intellectual selections), I dare say the whole thing seems a little hokey to me. I did some extensive Googling on this particular "award," and have been unable to find any true origin or definition other than what each recipient has copied and pasted from the one before. It's like a chain letter through the blogosphere.

And this is what they all say: "This award 'acknowledges the values that every Blogger displays in their effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values with each message they write.' Awards like this have been created with the intention of promoting community among Bloggers. It's a way to show appreciation and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web."

The quotes within the quote indicate that this phrase was taken from somewhere, presumably the birthplace of the award, but I was unable to uncover an actual link to its home.

Okay fine, it's a sweet gesture. I should just graciously accept. But I will unfortunately be breaking the rules, because I have been instructed to pass the award along to 15 more blogs that I deem worthy of the same recognition. The thing is, most of the blogs I read are just my family and friends, posting pictures of their kids doing funny things and projects they are doing around the house. I thoroughly enjoy each of these blogs on their own merits, but would struggle to offer a thoughtful tribute addressing how each one "adds value to the web" (as Annie so beautifully did). And it would be kind of embarrassing to list the approximately two blogs I read that transcend this basic format.

But thank you, Annie, for showing public appreciation for my writing and the motivation behind it. And to the rest of my blogging friends: Keep writing!


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