Friday, February 24, 2006

Awesome Avi!

It should come as no surprise that I have ALWAYS loved to read.

Seriously. I have no recollection of a time in my life when I didn't love books and - at the risk of labeling myself an even bigger nerd than many already know me as - one of my favorite childhood outings was the library. In middle school, when reading was far from cool, I fell in love with the works of an author known simply as Avi. Many of you that were young adults in the 90's will remember with me the popular novels (that are still top sellers today) such as Something Upstairs; Nothing But The Truth; The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle; Romeo and Juliet Together (and alive!) at Last; The Man Who Was Poe; Who Was that Masked Man Anyway?; Blue Heron; and many MANY others. Perhaps his true brilliance lies in his ability to transcend genre stereotypes and write in every realm from classroom drama to suspense to ghost stories to historical fiction to action adventure. That's Avi. Favorite author of boys, girls, teachers, librarians, and even twenty something research scientists reliving their adolescent years through YA novels. ;) Before I get too sidetracked in extolling the virtues of an awesome author, I want to get back to the real point of this blog. My husband got to meet Avi yesterday! He even found out the author's real name - I won't reveal it here but let's just say it's been a question on my curious mind for the past decade and a half and is now answered! What's even cooler about this part of the story is that my super spiffy spouse got me autographed copies of a couple of novels including one of my all time favorites Nothing But The Truth! I was as excited by the books now as I would have been at the age of 11, which speaks again of the literary gems Avi's works are. Thanks to Tony for the great gift to me and thanks to Avi for the amazing gift to (young) readers everywhere!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Breath of Fresh Air

I ran into an old junior high / high school acquaintance on the bus this morning. We work in neighboring buildings and we've bumped into each other a couple times now. We didn't really have many classes together in high school (which in those awkward teenage translates to not really being friends) and I think I remember her more from junior high. Talking to her now, though, I almost wish we had been better friends back then. I think I could have learned a lot from her. She's smart, witty, energetic (even before 9 am) and easily talks about the importance of God in her life. I'm glad to have the chance to reconnect with her, years and lots of maturity later. In a way it's a nice affirmation that I'm not too far removed from the happy-go-lucky nerd I once was. Ideally, I've retained the optimism and quasi-innocence of those days while gaining Grace and hopefully wisdom too.

This would be a nice story in and of itself but what's stranger is that after dinner Tony and I got a phone call from an old college friend. Try as we all might to be good at it, communication is tough. This was a friend neither of us had seen or talked to in several years so it was great to touch base, talk about life, families, God and work. It's almost as if the more unexpected these types of things are, the more refreshing they seem.

(Re)connecting with friends truly is a breath of fresh air.

In other news, that will hopefully also seem a breath of fresh air, I want to do a quick point out of a new "feature" on my blog index. I seem to get in lots of discussions about books and what I'm currently reading so I've added a list on the side of my blog (below Recent Entries) of the last five books I've read or am reading. The links are to Amazon where you can find a synopsis if you so desire. I'm not saying they're good books, just the one's I've recently read. My opinions will be reserved until they are asked for.

And speaking of opinions, feel free to give one here since I seem to have been a partial inspiration for the post.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Rumplestiltskin Effect

I have a new name for frustration. I call it The Rumplestiltskin Effect. It goes something like this:

They say you can spin straw into gold.

You have never actually done it before. You have never actually seen it done. You're truthfully unconvinced that spinning straw into gold is even possible. Yet, the rumors exist so you're compelled to try.

You have no physical evidence that you'll be able to do it. You've tried and failed so many times that by now you don't even want to do it. Yet still, you're compelled to try.

The bad news is that there's no little dwarf with a guessing game name to help you this time.

You know it won't be easy and yet you're compelled to try.

Success or failure comes later, for now it's just you and frustration.
Or as I like to call it: The Rumplestiltskin Effect.

Ever been there?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Agape Day

So it's Valentine's Day. I have some very mixed feelings about this Hallmark-iday. One might think that being on the "in looooove" side of things I would swoon at the chance to shower my sweetie with cards and chocolates. Granted I like giving gifts as much as the next girl and I'm a sucker for a chance to dress up and have a night out. But I'm also one of the people that recognizes the truth that Valentine's is a pretty powerful day.

For those not in relationships it has the awful power to make one feel like an under-appreciated minority when there is lots to be proud of in being single. For those new to relationships it has the agonizing effect of forcing definition or - even worse - encouraging intimacy levels that aren't yet needed when slow and steady could be much more wise. For those in uncomfortable relationships it can prolong the agony - "well, we can't break up this close to Valentine's day..." And even for those in happy relationships it can mean the uncomfortable pressure of trying to outdo the previous year or out-surprise the partner.

With all these things to cringe at, there's actually something about V-Day that makes me even more upset. Somehow a holiday to celebrate love has become solely focused on romance. It makes me wish that we could all start speaking Greek.

See, in the Greek language there are multiple translations - with different meanings - for the word "love". I would guess most of you are familiar with this but in case no one's heard this, I'll explain. I think there's officially five but the three most common are Eros, Fileo, and Agape. Eros is the word for Romantic Love. It's what we normally associate with the schmaltzy hearts and red roses of Valentine's Day. Nothing wrong with it empirically, but when it's the only love we recognize, it poorly defines what love can really mean. Fileo is the Greek word for brotherly love, friendship and fellowship bonding. Seeing as how it's much more common than Eros, it's a shame that it's usually overlooked on Valentine's Day. It's why I like to use this February holiday to say a special Thank you to my close friends - and all my awesome blog readers - and let people know that they're important and valuable to me (especially all my wonderful readers). "I love you" doesn't have to be reserved for a soul mate. Why not use Valentine's Day to express - in the Fileo sense of the word - how much you care about your friends, neighbors, roommates, parents, siblings and blog readers? (BTW, I love you guys!!)

Last - but most certainly not least - is Agape. (Pronounced ah-gah-pay, not a-gayp) Agape is the ultimate unconditional, redemptive love. Some people call it more simply The God Love. The best way I can think to describe it requires knowledge of the novel The Kite Runner by Kahled Housseni. It's a really intense but amazing book and one of the key lines in the story is "For you a thousand times over." Agape would be more like "For you an infinite amount of times over" but if you've read the book you understand the humility and sacrifice surrounding the sentiment.

The question I'm left with is why can't Valentine's Day be about this Agape kind of love? Why do we promote flowers, chocolates and jewels yet never recognize that romance is a hollow thing without real love? Wouldn't it be better to look at the holiday as a chance to better love one's neighbors? I'm not saying we should all run down the street giving out free hugs, but maybe it's the time to say an extra thank you to the bus driver or offer an extra smile to your building's security guard. Maybe it's a quick e-mail to a friend far away or a bouquet of flowers for someone that would appreciate the cheer. Maybe it's a night out with the spouse to think specifically about all the reasons you love each other day to day or maybe it's stopping in on a sick relative to say "I love you and get well soon." Maybe it's recognizing that God loves me so much that I can pour out that love infinitely into others. For me it's all these things (...and also saying how awesome and wonderful the people who read my blog are...) and much much more.

Happy Valentine's Day, Happy Agape Day!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Bathroom on the Rock

As many of you know, this holiday season Tony and I took a super awesome trip to House on the Rock in Spring Green, WI. I've been wanting to post my pictures for some time now but due to computer and blogger issues I'm just now getting around to it. Here's a few of them (finally!). The only way to describe the place in a single word is to call it eclectic and since I couldn't very well publish a whole memory card full of images here I thought I'd showcase a few interesting shots. I recommend the website (linked above) if you want to see the famous carousel or the awesome infinity room. But since you'd expect anything but a typical travel log from yours truly, I thought I'd take you on a photographic tour of The House on the Rock bathrooms.

Yes. You read that right. It's a photographic tour of the attraction's bathrooms. See, with a place as vast as Alex Jordan's Wisconsin gem, there's things to see even on your way to - and inside - the restrooms. This stunning glass collection took up one whole wall of the first ladies room on the tour.

This was a picture of what I called the "Flower Headed Mannequin Gypsies". They were elegantly posed above the sinks in the ladies room by the restaurant. And yes, their heads are bouquets of silk flowers. No, I couldn't tell you why.

These are the bears that were frighteningly prevalent in the men's room by the restaurant. Or so I was told. Tony took this one.

This was the doll and dollhouse display that was in another women's washroom. And to save this being impossibly long I'll stop here. If you've never been to House on the Rock these pictures barely do it justice but hopefully in seeing the bathrooms only you get an idea of what a random and intriguing place it is.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Brokeback to the Future

What can I say, I thought this parody was pretty hilarious. There's some very creative video editors out there...

...or else just a lot of people with too much time on their hands.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Something to Blog About

I found an interesting article on MSN about world health and global obesity problems and there was a quote out of it that I thought was most intriguing:
The average height of an American woman, for example, is 5 feet 4 inches, and the average weight is 164.3 pounds, according to a study released in 2004 by the National Center for Health Statistics.
This might not resonate with the guys reading this, but ladies, take a moment to stop and think about that one. 5'4" 164.3 pounds. That's average. Maybe it sounds a lot closer to you than you thought "average" would or maybe you suddenly realize you're taller or thinner than most of the women in this country. Whatever the case, real "average" sure as heck ain't the size 2 that's plastered coast to coast on magazine covers, billboards, and subway signs. How many actresses can you think of that are 5'4" 164.3 lbs? It's a lot shorter and curvier than any red carpet event I've ever seen. Consider this a nice little reminder of what "average" really is and let's all readjust our expectation paradigms accordingly.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Quick Apology

Just wanted to say a quick sorry for my record low number (4) of posts in January: Sorry.

Didn't want anyone to think my blog career was fizzling out before it even really took off. I'd like to promise but will instead just hope that February will be a more blogiful month.

And yes, it would seem that I'm in the business of creating new words again. Blogiful, full of blog. Use it three times in the coming week. Peace Out.