Sunday, October 30, 2005

Mr. Gracie

My parents have a cat, at least temporarily. My sister has been feeding a feral cat that shows up in her yard, and this cat had a kitten. My mom and sister decided to take the kitten away from his mother as soon as he was old enough, in order to socialize him, get him his shots, neuter him, and try to get him adopted. My sister already has three cats, so she couldn't take on a fourth one. So my parents have him. I kind of wish they would keep him- I think a pet would do them good. The house has been kind of lonely for them since they had to put our beloved dog to sleep four years ago.

My mom was concerned about that Mr. Gracie (as the cat is named- originally, my mom named him Grace, but then she found out that Grace is a boy cat, so she calls him Mr. Grace or Mr. Gracie now) wasn't eating enough, so she spoon feeds him. She used to hand-feed our dog, so this isn't anything new, but it is still hysterical. Here are some pictures my sister sent me:

In other news, I bought the soundtrack to the musical Wicked. Man, is it ever good. Apparently it's become an obsessive-fan favorite with teenage girls, which I can totally see. My actress friend told me that she thinks that Wicked and Avenue Q are the best musicals to come out recently. I listened to Avenue Q on Yahoo Music Unlimited, and it is really, really funny, but it's not a classic like Wicked will be.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


Yesterday, I wrote an apology note to a friend of mine. This is a friend that I would classify as moderately close. I apologized for not inviting her to my wedding. It's been a year and a half now, but I still feel bad. It wasn't anything that she should take personally, it was just me trying to keep the guest list small, and going overboard. This friend is part of a larger group of friends, and I felt that I either needed to invite them all, or invite none of them, which was a bad call. She seemed to appreciate my note. Lord knows I have few enough female friends- I should try to keep the ones I have!

In other news, I came back home to find a large rock outside our front door. It's one of those landscape-type large rocks. I couldn't figure out why it was there at first, and then it occurred to me that it used to be outside our neighbor's door! I still wasn't sure why it was there, until I realized that while I was gone, the neighbors moved out. I guess they thought we'd want their rock? Not sure. I'm leaving it there for the time being. It's not a nuisance, it's just a rock.

I tried to go running yesterday around the neighborhood. It is not as flat as it might seem. It was HARD. I was out there for about 14 minutes, only half of which was actually running. Then I went to the gym and did the elliptical machine for 40 minutes. Today I'm going to go to the gym and run on the indoor track instead. Tomorrow I drive back up to our other apartment. DH is super excited- I'm getting back much earlier than he had anticipated. The tradeoff is that I have to come back here in a week and a half, but I think I'm going to try to fly, just for a quick pop-in-pop-out situation.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Knitting Update

Here are some updated pictures of my recent knitting endeavors:

I knitted this Big Bad Baby Blanket (pattern from the original Stitch N Bitch by Debbie Stoller) for the anticipated new baby of two friends of mine. Baby is due any day.

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And... this has been finished for ages, but I promised my knitting group I would take pictures of my finished Clapotis (pattern from Knitty

This picture shows how nicely it drapes:

This is a partial view of the finished product.

Close-up of the stitches:

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I have some other projects I am working on, including a ruffles scarf from Scarf Style, and I just started an Agate and Lace scarf using two strands of KnitPicks Shimmer. I found using only one strand to be really, really horrible. Using two works much better. The Ruffles scarf is close to being done- only one more ball (out of 5) to go!

Today, DH and I are going to see his sister, who is in our area for the next month on business. We're going to the birthday party of a friend of mine, a friend whom I have not seen in about three years. Yay! I love this friend. I'm so excited to see her.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Mean people

It is fun to watch mean people implode. I admit it. It is really, really fun to see people who are nasty and horrible have their nasty and horrible behavior come back to bite them in the butt. (rubs hands in glee)

Monday, October 17, 2005

When husbands behave like children

We had an interesting episode tonight. After I was gone for about a week a few weeks ago, dragging my feet about coming back b/c I was enjoying the fact that I didn't have to worry about feeding DH for the first time in ages, DH made a huge effort to "get out the dinner." He planned and shopped for a week's worth of dinners, which stretched out to almost two weeks. Pretty good.

His plans and food ran out this weekend, so I mentioned that we needed to do it again. I asked him not to stay at work for too long, so we could go out shopping. I asked him to leave no later than 5. He got home at 6. We planned and shopped, at least part way. We got what we could at Trader Joe's, then we went to Safeway to get the rest for tonight's dinner. We'll hit our local vegetable stand tomorrow.

Dinner took about an hour and a half total to cook, which was half an hour longer than I thought it would take, since we doubled the recipe. It took longer to cook. By the time dinner was ready, it was 9 PM.

I should mention at this point that I am not a stickler for dinner, or for eating together, or having any kind of formality whatsoever surrounding dinner. DH does, though.

By the time we actually got everything ready to eat, things started going wrong for DH. First, our water filter came off the faucet- I'm sure because he was hungry and impatient and too rough with turning it from "filter" to "unfilter." He threw it on the counter, and haphazardly began washing his hands, splashing soap into his bowl of drained pasta and ruining it. At this point he is incredibly hungry, angry, and impatient, so he announces he's having cereal. He can't wait to open the cereal box like a normal person, so he rips it into shreds. He proceeds to eat two bowls of cereal and a container of Greek yogurt (i.e. full fat) within 5 minutes.

Okay. You're hungry. I get it.

I kind of can't help but laugh at the poor guy, though, because tearing a cereal box to shreds because you can't open it right now is such a 4 year old temper-tantrumy thing to do. He points out that I shouldn't laugh because I colored all over a wastepaper basket that I was given as a gift because I was angry that it didn't have the right Care Bear on it. I said, "Yes, but that was when I was four!"

He was not amused, so he went off and now he's sulking in the bedroom. I'm actually not mad at him, but I disapprove of a 27 year old man behaving like a four year old. So I'm letting him have his space, and ignoring him, kind of like I would a four year old.

Seriously, though. What is so hard about eating that cereal and yogurt while we were watching The West Wing? I am not concerned about him spoiling his appetite, and even if he did, I wouldn't care at all.

I think he doesn't understand that this is why I relish time away from him. It's nice to have a break from his seeming inability to take care of himself properly. He has a mother- I don't need to be one too.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd!

I checked out the DVD of a San Francisco concert performance of Sweeney Todd. I had forgotten how amazing that musical is. The summer after I graduated from high school, a local theatre put it on. My then-boyfriend worked the soundbooth, and I would go almost every night and watch it.

This was a phenomenal production. The cast was absolutely amazing, from top to bottom. I went in completely unfamiliar with the plot of Sweeney Todd, and I have to admit that the first time I saw it, my thought was, "This is the most f^&*ed-up musical ever!" Since I had a boyfriend in the crew, and saw it many times, it grew on me in a BIG way. The music and lyrics are incredible- very fast paced in places, and high energy.

I'm not crazy about the DVD production, in particular with Patti LuPone, who is just not as good as Angela Lansbury (or the Mrs. Lovett in the local production I saw so many times), but George Hearn as Sweeney.... man! Amazing. Blew me away. Neil Patrick Harris (one of the few boys who appeared on my bedroom wall when I was growing up!) was Tobias, and he was really, really good! I'm all "Doogie Howser!" the way I always am when I see him in anything (he was also in Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle).

I saw on Amazon that the original Broadway production (with Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou) is being re-released in a remastered version, so I'm going wait until it comes out in February to buy a soundtrack.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Preferring one child over another

This weekend, I went out with one of my friends from home and her husband, who were visiting my town for business. While sitting in this really cool Sony concept store watching an HD special on the wildlife of Texas, we started talking a little about our dead friend. More specifically, his parents. For the sake of ease of discussion, let's call my alive friend from home "Caroline" and my dead friend from home "Jim."

Caroline's mother and Jim's mother used to be close, close friends. Jim's mom was always a little bit bizarre, but she was good-hearted and manageable. My mom was never buddy-buddy with her, but they were friendly enough. Jim's mom's bizarroness would usually manifest itself in work trouble. Despite being an RN, she has had a really hard time keeping and thriving in a job. Even before my friend died.

After Jim died, his mom went wacko, which is entirely understandable, but talking to her is very frustrating for me, for Caroline, and for our mothers. After about three years, we finally started to see some kind of outward improvement in his parents, but my mom got really frustrated with the endless wallowing in grief. Everyone processes differently, but she and I firmly believe that the best way to get through it is to at least make an attempt to lead a normal life, even if it's hard, even if it seems impossible. You will not lead a normal life ever again, but with practice, you can approximate something close. You really need that practice, though.

Caroline and I were telling each other during our visit that our moms don't like to return Jim's mother's calls. My mom has a low tolerance for annoying people, but Caroline's mom is not like that at all! The other thing that really bothers our mothers is how Jim's mom treats Jim's younger brother. She doesn't treat him very well at all. I am not sure how this manifests itself, and I suspect it doesn't manifest itself in the material things, but in emotional support and attitude. His younger brother ("Rick") is (was?) six years younger than Jim, so as a result, I didn't really get to know him that well. He was 12 when Jim and I went off to college. When Jim died, Caroline said, "You know, Jim really was their favorite. They love Rick and all, but Jim was the Golden Child." Rick has a lot of physical similarities to his older brother- tall, thin, same deep voice, same hand gestures. I still don't know Rick that well (he is now a senior in college), but he seems to be more grounded in reality than his older brother, who lived for art. Rick likes history, and was an athlete in high school (until he quit to do theatre b/c he hated the coach...).

Soon after Jim died, his mother was showing me a purple beaded dress she had gotten from a closeout sale of a local department store. She said that she had bought it thinking it would be a mother-of-the-bride dress, since she chose not to see that her son was nowhere near engagement with his girlfriend (who also died in the accident). She said to me sadly, "I guess I'll never wear it now" as if Rick did not even exist! I reminded her that she still had Rick, and that someday he would get married and have kids.

At the time, I had chalked it up to grief. She said a lot of strange things during that first week, including wishing that they had collected some sperm from Jim's testicles so they could have paid someone to have his child. (I'm sure she was hoping I would volunteer, but NO WAY. NO WAY!) I thought this was insane on a number of different levels- first, Jim would not have wanted that. Maybe if he had a wife who really wanted kids, he would have been cool with it, but he didn't. Second, Jim would not have wanted his parents to raise his child. They were good parents to him, but so weird.

So I thought that totally forgetting about the possibility that Rick would get married and have kids one day was just grief talking. I also thought that with Jim, he had just graduated from college, he was dating this really nice girl that he was crazy about, was starting his "adult" life, so the prospect of a daughter (finally!!) plus grandchildren (hopefully granddaughters!!) was so close in her mind that she could taste it, but the world stole it from her.

Meanwhile, Rick was just starting his senior year in high school. It would be another six or seven years, minimum, before he could conceivably get married, and add a few years onto that for grandchildren. I had assumed that his mother was thinking like a 4 year old in July. Christmas is so far away in July that the 4 year old thinks it will never get here.

I'm starting to think that that remark is part of a more of a pernicious pattern that may have unearthed with the burial of my friend. Jim's mom has always wanted a daughter, and you could tell that she just longed for one. Perhaps she has always nursed a small resentment towards Rick for not being the girl she so desperately wanted. When Jim died, perhaps that resentment grew even larger because Rick wasn't Jim, and Rick was the one that wasn't dead.

So here's a little note to Rick, who will probably never read this, since only a couple of my RL friends know about this blog.

Dear Rick:

I don't know you very well, and in some ways that is good. I am sure that, like so many other people, I would be hoping in some way that you would fill the void left by your older brother. When I see you, I can't help but be reminded of him. For me, it's actually kind of nice because it makes the world a little less empty for me, but it seems like it pains your parents. This is not your fault.

I do know that you are a bright young man striving to make his way in the world, a task made harder for you by your parents and grandparents. I think, in the long run, you are choosing wisely by spending as much time away from them as possible. You may also think that you are imagining any less-than-terrific attitude towards you, and you also may be trying to be charitable with your parents and grandparents. Believe me, if my mom and Caroline's mom says that your mom seems to be reflecting a bad attitude towards you, I'm sure that is the case. Since you were significantly younger than your brother, you may have never noticed any kind of sibling rivalry. I know that I hardly ever heard about you from your brother, which you should interpret as a good thing. As a fellow older sibling, I can tell you when we talk about our siblings, it is usually to complain about them. Your brother loved you, and never felt any need to compete with you, so you may be surprised to find that you are in competition with him now.

Unfortunately, this is not a competition that you can win. Since Jim was enamoured with architecture, he had more resonance with your mother and grandfather, who also love art and construction. This is also not your fault, and you should not worry about changing your interests to suit theirs. In addition, he has achieved the exalted status of the departed. Most people choose to forget the flaws of their loved ones, and instead focus on their own flaws which caused the relationship to be less than what they wanted, or on the abrupt end of the relationship.

I do not forget his flaws though, and I think that was because he was so dear to me, and I had no regrets about our relationship. It was ended too soon, but, as I told your grandfather in a flash of wisdom that I can't believe I had, "No matter how long we had him, it wouldn't have been enough." I am sure that you have flaws, but I also know that, like your brother, you have had some very close, dear friends in your life. One of them wrote me a lengthy letter after hearing my eulogy because it reminded her of how much she cared about you. The closest dearest friends will see your flaws and love you anyway, as I did with your brother. If your parents cannot do this, then you should seek that love elsewhere.

Try to stay on good terms with your parents and grandparents, since you are literally all they have left. Try to see their flaws and love them anyway, even though you should work to protect yourself first. This may mean living far away from them, limiting contact, sheltering your future wife from your mother (who, even on her best days prior to Jim's death, would have made a hideous controlling mother-in-law!). Your parents are not the most positive people. Try to surround yourself with people who are.

Most of all, don't feel badly about yourself. You are who you are, not your brother, and certainly not some poor imitation. I wish you all the best, and more.

Much Love,
Queen Bee

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church

So I went to church today. Not just any church, but the local church of my cultural branch of Christianity. I was baptized into this Church (with a capital "C," meaning the whole organization-- not this particular building and congregation), but since we didn't have one in my hometown, I probably have been to 10 services in my entire life. Maybe 15, but I think that's being generous. Basically, my parents would take my sister and me whenever the priest came to visit our town, and then, I've been 4 times after that. So, maybe 15 isn't so far off.

Usually, when I go to one of these churches for service, people turn around and stare at me, but refuse to talk to me. These churches don't get a lot of new people. They really don't. They are not out there recruiting. They are not even speaking English during most of the service. Hell, any of the service! If you're lucky, the priest will repeat his community announcements in English. You are only going to go there if you're in the ethnic group. Even if you're a member of a related church that isn't represented in town, you would probably go to another branch of the related churches, because there are at least two related branches that are way bigger than we are. This is what my aunt and uncle do in my hometown, since we don't have a church there. They go to a bigger, more established church that is in the same vein.

This church was better. The lady who runs the church office (and directs the choir) was delighted to meet me, and wants to hook me up with whatever she can. I think I've even been roped into singing in the choir next week, even though I am totally unfamiliar with the service, and I don't speak the language.

So I'm going to go next week. I am somewhat ambivalent about it, though. Going to ethnic church means giving up a lot of the spiritual education and growth that I would get at a more traditional church. It's not like there's going to be a lot of intellectual curiosity there- they've done things the same way for over 1700 years. On the other hand, my cultural heritage and the church are inextricably intertwined, and there is something really, really powerful about knowing that my dead grandmother sat and listened to the same service, word for word.

Yarn, Yarn, and More Yarn

I finally, finally, after much debating and changing of shopping cart, placed an order with KnitPicks this morning. I ordered a bunch of yarn to make a bunch of different scarves, plus tiny needles (size 2!). There's a sweater in this season's Knitty that I want to make, but I really hate finishing projects. By "finishing" I don't mean completing (although that is the end result), I mean weaving in ends and sewing pieces together. I hate the sewing part most of all.

After just finishing (completing) the Candy Striper messenger bag from Stitch N Bitch Nation (well, except for sewing the zipper in, and doing the strap), I think I need to take a break from high-risk projects. This bag is UG-LEE. It's cute in the book, and it's cute when other people make it, but I would not carry my own creation around. It looks that bad. Unfortunately, you can't rip (aka: frog) a felted piece, and it is too ugly to give away, so I am not sure what I will do with it. Throw it away, probably. I don't like clutter, mostly because I keep all my stuff out. Not nicely put in drawers or in closets, but on coffee tables, on the floor, on the counters, thrown on chairs. I think I like to see what I have!

Okay, I do have some stuff in closets, but it's stuff I never use, or use only rarely. I am apt to forget about it if it's in a closet.

So, while I'm still working on the ruffles scarf from Scarf Style, I will be doing the Agate and Lace scarf, the Branching Out scarf from Knitty (maybe- this is still in the air), a pretty scarf called Liesel (I heard about it on Craftster, and it looks really pretty!), and then I got some other yarn for as-yet-undetermined scarf. Scarves are good. I don't need to sew them up.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Allison Janney

I have recently been watching movies with Allison Janney in them. I have already seen many of her movies, yet, when I first started watching The West Wing, I had no idea who she was. Never heard of her. Despite the fact that I gleefully watched Drop Dead Gorgeous, in which she has a large (and hysterical) part that is quite memorable. I remembered the character, but not the actress. The website Fametracker (the same people who bring you Television Without Pity) refers to this phenomenon as, "Hey! It's that guy!" except for me, I hadn't even gotten around to saying, "Hey! Isn't that the girl who was in the thing?"

In my defense, most of the parts in movies prior to Drop Dead Gorgeous are pretty small. I also think that she looks a lot different in The West Wing than she has in most of her older movies.

Anyway, Allison Janney is my current girl-crush. My whole life, when I have been seduced by the allure of celebrity, it has never been by the men. Or the traditionally beautiful women. The walls of my teenage bedroom were plastered with pictures of Debbie Gibson and, later, Emma Thompson. The walls of my friends' bedrooms were covered with New Kids on the Block, Bon Jovi, Skid Row. Mostly New Kids on the Block, though.

I secretly hated NKOTB. All my friends loved them, so I played along to a certain extent, even attending one of their concerts. Debbie Gibson had captured my heart. Rather than being a slick, manufactured product of the record labels (the boy bands of the late 90's would repeat this trend), Debbie (or Deborah, as she goes by now) wrote her own songs!!!! In my mind, this is what made her so much more awesome than New Kids on the Block, or Tiffany, or whatever else was on the radio then. I realize now that her music was cheesy and hokey, but, hey, she was fourteen! What else is a fourteen year old supposed to write about when she doesn't know about love or loss? So I'll give her a pass.

I really appreciated the fact that she wrote her own songs, because I knew it was something I could never do. I had also had many years of classical piano training (another thing I liked about Debbie is that the girl had been trained properly in voice and piano), enough to know my own limits, talent-wise. I could not ever imagine putting together a tune. Maybe lyrics, but I have never understood the creative process fusing lyrics with melody. For all the beautiful music out there, no tunes ever sprung into my head. Even when I tried, I couldn't produce anything. That particular talent isn't there. It's like I can read and understand a language, but not speak it. Anyone who could write their own songs was so far above what I could imagine. How could I help but be filled with admiration? This theme would play out again and again in my music preferences, in buying CDs of people like Tori Amos and Simon and Garfunkel and Dolly Parton.

So back to girl-crushes. After Debbie Gibson came Emma Thompson, my first girl-crush of substantive adult value. I think the first movie that I saw her in was The Remains of the Day. Emma was not especially attractive in either Howards End (indeed, her character in the book is described as not that attractive) or in The Remains of the Day. In fact, I think her movies don't do her justice. But there was something about her that you could see was pretty when you would see her in the media. Her incredibly high cheekbones. The fact that she was so smart (she went to Cambridge)...and funny! I remember watching her hold her own with David Letterman. I usually don't watch Letterman, because I think he's mean to his guests, but Emma handled him beautifully.

For a brief time, I had a girl-crush on Nigella Lawson, who is so good looking it is not even funny, but her beauty is not in the traditional way of the skinny starlet. I abandoned her soon, though, because I found her recipes don't work. Also, she married a big-time weirdo (art-collecting rich-man recluse Charles Saatchi, who has made some naughty comments about her in public that I feel are inappropriate for a husband to make in public about his wife). I have no patience for style without substance.

For some reason, I never developed a girl-crush on Tori Amos. You could say that she's my "type," enormously talented, not conventionally pretty, but pretty in her own way. I read interviews about her, I buy her CDs immediately when they come out, but she is definitely not a girl-crush. I think this situation may be more complicated than most others. I like having girl-crushes on people that others might not think of. While my friends were worshipping at the altar of NKOTB, I loved Debbie Gibson. My peers certainly weren't into Emma Thompson in high school- I don't even remember who the popular stars were at the time. But Tori? Tori has the market cornered on girl-crushes. Every alterna-chick feminist was in love with Tori Amos. Especially if they liked girls to begin with, but not necessarily. She was possibly the first mass girl-crush of my generation. One particular friend of mine, with whom I had a complicated relationship in high school, was really into Tori Amos. I like to stake out new territory, so Tori was less attractive to me just by virtue of my friend's adoration.

I still carry a flame for Emma Thompson, and I will go see anything, no matter how horrible (Junior, anyone?) if she is in it, even if it's an uncredited cameo (like My Father The Hero), but in recent years, she seems to be less active in movies now that she is a mother.

As a result, the void has been filled by Allison Janney. I think I really have the girl-crush on C.J., her character on the West Wing. Allison Janney is similar to Emma Thompson in many ways- both are tall, not conventionally pretty but with an alluring quality about them, both are incredibly talented and versatile. Emma and Allison both seem equally at home in serious drama and in slapstick comedy. (Emma was truly the only good thing about Junior.) Both of them can also take utter crap and spin it into gold, just on the virtue of their talent. In addition, I have it on good authority that Allison is very kind to the baristas at the Starbucks that she frequents. Nice people get points in their favor, whether crushes or not.

In short, both of them have substance along with their style. Major substance.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


I have had to turn on the word verification option for comments. I have gotten one too many spam type comments, and that is just not cool. I didn't want to, because I felt it would add another barrier to commenting (true), and genuine people might not feel like it. However, I am still allowing anonymous comments. Some of the spam comments have come from Blogger usernames anyway.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Party Crasher

I was watching some of The West Wing on DVD, and I was suddenly reminded of the time I crashed a Hillary Rodham Clinton fundraiser with a friend of mine. I was in DC visiting him, and he was interning for a PR firm in DC that had put together this fundraiser at a swanky house in McLean, VA. This was before she had even announced that she was running for senate. She had already left by the time we got there, but my friend talked to his friend at the gate (he was allowed to go), and while he was doing so, pushed me in, and no one noticed.

It was pouring rain. I had some interesting conversations, and ate some soggy barbeque at a really nice house.

Okay, not as exciting as it could have been, but still.