Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What you've missed

1. We kicked off the Christmas season last Thursday with the tree lighting at the Square here in Denton. The highlight, however, was our town's musical gem, Brave Combo. The following is a clip (albeit not a great one) of the awesomeness that is the Combo.

video

2. Rachel spent all of this past weekend gigging it up all over DFW. We didn't see each other much, but y'know, rent money has to come from somewhere. By day two, we can see below how the long drives and late nights took their toll. Yes, Rachel ran into a light switch, and sustained a bruise on her arm in the process.



The culprit: Our bathroom light switch



The victim: Rachel's arm

3. Oh, and did we ever mention how we have the most amazing landlords in the world? Well, here's another example. About 10 minutes ago, Clint called just to tell me to look outside my window to see this:



I guess that about does it for highlights...oh, wait, I also got a job today. Not a bad week.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

First Snow

It may not seem like much to our friends in the northern regions, but it was thrilling to wake up to this. It only stuck around for a couple of hours, but that was plenty.



View from the balcony



The west balcony



Our cars

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Our Week So Far

This has been one for the books.

Monday: Andy's car was (over)due for inspection, but we couldn't get it checked because the "service engine" light was on. So, Monday morning, we took it into the shop. They called us that day telling us that it was the catalytic converter, and that there was either an $80 option or a $700 one that might fix the problem. Obviously, we opted to try our luck with the former.

Tuesday: Andy's car still in the shop, he took mine to work, dropping me off at my parents' house at 6:40 where I could shower, get ready, and then walk to work. At 5:15, on my walk home, I talked to him, discovering that the $80 fix had worked, at least temporarily, and his car had been passed for inspection. Hallelujah!

At 5:37, he called back, letting me know that my old reliable Camry had started smoking on its trip home from work (about an hour drive, give or take). We called AAA, and the nice lady let him through, although he wasn't technically a member (I'd put in my renewal THAT MORNING, adding him to the list). He was towed to our favorite mechanic, where we dropped the car and the key. This put us home at about 9:30 instead of 6:30--all in all, not too bad. Thank goodness for AAA!

Wednesday: My car still in the shop, we borrowed my mom's car for the night, so we could go home that night, and pick up Andy's car in the morning. Learned that poor Cam had shot its radiator, which was a $400 fix--not as bad as we'd been bracing ourselves for, darlings (I know, I'm not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition). However, the "check engine" light in my car was still on, and they needed more time to diagnose this problem.

Thursday: Andy decides to get sick. So, he stays home from work. I hadn't been anticipating this, so I'd again borrowed my mom's car for my errands. Poor kid.

Friday: Andy is still sick, and my car is still in the shop. This time, I take Andy's car to work, and his check engine light is on again. This isn't all too worrisome in and of itself (after all, I've been driving my car with its light on for nearly a year now [the radiator was unrelated to the reason for the light being on, which has to do with my exhaust system], and we hadn't really been expecting the $80 fix to be permanent), so I go about my business. I notice, however, that it is making strange sounds, and doing funny things when it is idling, and the light is actually blinking at me. Finally, a half mile away from our apartment, it makes a horrible noise (like when a rock gets shot under the car by one of the tires?), repeats it a few times, and then refuses to go faster than 30 mph (on a road with a speed limit of 60--my apologies to the string of cars cursing behind me). Poor baby putters up the driveway, giving what sound to me like its dying breaths. The car, valued at $600, may be on its last limb.

This is to say nothing of the busy weekend ahead of us. All I can say is, "When it rains, it pours."

Stay tuned for an update: Will the Richardsons become a one-car, commuter family? Will we finally have an excuse to purchase that brand-new H3 we've been wanting for so long? Will we sell both cars and move to Bangladesh? Only ONE of these is not an option for us--if you know us, you should be able to tell.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Don't Take Candy from Strangers . . .

. . . but listen to their advice-- at least for entertainment purposes.





I really, honestly, and truly LOVE it when strangers offer me unsolicited advice as to how to live my life. This probably sounds sarcastic, but I swear to you, I am being absolutely genuine. I love it because I find it so amusing. Especially when they start advising me on major life decisions.

For a while, my hairdresser would offer such advice. I never get my hair cut very often, so once every few months, he would tell me how I should get an MBA and get a "real job," and play the cello for " 'walking around' money," or how I should finish my degree before I go on a mission (he's not LDS, and I wasn't considering a mission), or any number of things about my love life. He was my fount of everlasting knowledge.

There have been others in my life, and I'm sure, in yours as well. Those who tell you where to live, where to apply to school, what kind of job you should get, etc.

Today, I had another experience. I introduced myself to a lady at work today, who began interviewing me, and upon discovering I was a newlywed, began sharing with me her wisdom. This was quite extensive, covering such topics as fashion, menu planning, raising children, personal finances, health, beauty, recreation, religion, the in-laws, and more. Perhaps the most remarkable part of it was that she kept producing these pearls with little reaction or encouragement from me. I must say, I really loved it. I went into the office and jotted down what I could remember.

Anyway, if you see me rushing out right now to have children, growing my hair out, or seasoning my food sparingly, you can thank my friend at work.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Blog Race

I'm having a blog race with my husband right now, in celebration of the fact that we now (thanks to the best landlords in the history of time) have high-speed wireless internet in our apartment. This means we can both blog simultaneously!

I'm going to win, because he just found out that I'm doing it. He's getting wise.

I'd better post.

La Feria Estatal de Texas 2009



When Rachel recently told me she'd never been to the State Fair of Texas, deciding how to spend date night this month was easy. We went yesterday evening, which left us just enough time to experience the highlights of the fair experience: over-the-top Texas expositions, animal races, the rides and games of the midway, the car show, and fried food galore. We had a good time, not always because of something we planned.

I'll skip to my favorite part. About 15 minutes before we started to make our way to the train stop, I made one final attempt to win a prize for Rachel at a ring toss booth. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, the object of the game is to throw a small, plastic ring around the neck of one of about one hundred glass bottles. To give you an idea of how unlikely one is to be successful at winning, they usually give you about thirty throws. It looks about like this:



The guy working the booth is what made the evening. Frustrated by seeing so many lose at this game throughout the day, he did his best to help increase my chances of winning. Every time I would throw a ring, he would replace it with a handful more. By the end, I must have gone through close to a hundred.

The poor guy was visibly disappointed that his good will didn't result in my winning. In some ways, its just as well. I mean, what would we do with a giant, plush bear anyway? Yet what this guy doesn't know is that his kindness and goodwill made our evening more memorable that any prize could.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tense Times at the Grocery Store

My Haiku: Trapped in the Kroger

Trapped in the Kroger
Threats of bombs in parking lot
They won't let us out

Yesterday, after cleaning out the fridge and realizing that our edible goods had been reduced to bagels & cream cheese, half a lime, and some vanilla yogurt, I deemed it to be time for a trip to the local Kroger. The part of the story where I buy groceries is boring, so I'll skip to the part where I'm checking out.

The lady in the lane next to me was talking about how they'd been taping off the parking lot as she drove up; sure enough, I looked outside and the whole lot was taped off. An ambulance and fire truck are parked at the front of the lot. At this point, I suspect that it's a medical emergency--it's fairly frequent to see an ambulance around that parking lot, perhaps due to the large volume of senior citizens who do business there. This changes when we discover that they're not letting anyone out of the store. Apparently, a suspicious package has been dropped off beside a white jeep in the parking lot.

Frustrated shoppers line the front of the store, wanting to go back to there cars. No one seems terribly frightened, and the atmosphere is more impatient that worried. Strangers are talking to each other about movies they've seen with similar threats in grocery stores, or about their boyfriends deployed in Iraq, or about how their kids are antsy because they haven't yet been home from school. For a moment, it doesn't matter that we don't know each other. We are all bonded.

The highlight of the scene was when Fire Marshall Rick Jones, a man who I've known since I was very small, came and started to inspect the Jeep, and the small package next to it. He was dressed like this:
Turns out there wasn't anything in the package but a bunch of CDs and "other small items." I don't understand their logic, anyway. They were letting people in and out of the store, provided they were parked in the outskirts of the parking lot. The package was 20 feet away from the entrance, where all of us innocent bystanders were gathered, watching the action. If it had been a bomb, we would have all been covered in shrapnel and / or blown to pieces. We just couldn't get into our cars and drive to safety. Yeah.

Anyway, I survived.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sunsets

(This is not the sunset that I just saw, but was the closest approximation I could find. Mine was way, way, way, way cooler.)

I spend ten minutes of the drive home from Seminary driving almost due west, which is an unfortunate thing to do at sunset. Consequently, I spent ten minutes of my drive cursing the sun, for blinding me, and making me drive like a maniac who couldn't see the lines on the street-- because, well . . . I couldn't. But anytime there was a tree, or another car, or a building blocking the sun, I could see the most beautiful sunset I have seen in quite some time. After I turned and started heading south, I spent the last ten minutes of my trip driving like a maniac who couldn't see the lines--but this time, because I could not take my eyes off of the sunset.

Texas has some of the most beautiful sunsets imaginable, and on my way home, I could pretty much see the whole panorama of this one. It was breathtaking. So many colors, so many textures. There were long, wispy clouds, and tiny ones, like little cotton balls, and spiky ones like fireworks decorating the sky. There was a patch of deep blue clouds next to a smattering of golden ones. The sky was pink, gold, blue, purple . . . I almost caused a wreck coming off my exit, which does a 180-degree turn at exactly the right spot to see the whole sky--or at least the interesting half of the sky at sunset.

The thing about sunsets is they are so fleeting, and so difficult to capture. My words are woefully inadequate to express the beauty I just witnessed, and even a picture (which is worth what I just said times a thousand) would fail to do it justice. You just have to be there.

That's not all, though. I'm sure that there were hundreds of people who were under that same sunset who weren't even aware of it. Thousands, probably.

I often feel like Heavenly Father gives me sunsets just to make sure I remember how much He loves me, but today I got the feeling it was also an admonition to slow down, to exist in the moment, and to enjoy life as it comes. Because as soon as you blink, the sun is gone, and no description, painting, or even photograph can recreate it. And every sunset is different, so while I'll see many beautiful sunsets in my life, I'll never get to see that one again.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Resistant to Change

I'm going to admit right out that I haven't read HR 3200--not that I think many of you have, because the thing is friggin' 1018 pages long, and written in legalese. So, I don't want to get into a debate about something that neither of us knows about. I don't want to talk about the health care bill itself, but only about my observations of the noise surrounding this infamous bill.

My position is that we, as human beings, are very resistant to change.

Recently at the nursing home where I work, there was a seemingly small change: they put tablecloths on the tables in the dining room, and took away the bibs that the residents used during meal time. This small thing caused somewhat of an upheaval for the residents. "Where are the bibs?!," they would ask. One gentleman even fashioned a makeshift bib from some office paper clips and a piece of ribbon fastened to either end of his napkin. Another threw his napkin (which was to be used in lieu of the bib) on the floor in a fit of rage.

At the same time as the Bib Fiasco, the plastic cups were replaced with porcelain mugs. This, too, caused a stir. For whatever reason, many of the residents were adamant about having these certain green cups, and complained about it to anyone who would listen. Now, however, not two weeks later, the turmoil has subsided, and life continues as usual. Crisis abated.

It is something that shocks me every time Facebook reveals a new update. People complain, they say this is worse than it's ever been, they threaten that if Facebook doesn't change back to the way it was, that they will leave. This goes on for a few months (apparently, the seniors are more easily adaptable than us), and then it wears off, and all is forgotten.

I don't know what our fascination is with maintaining the status quo, nor do I know why it is so difficult for us to simply adapt.

"Change is good," so the saying goes.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The pathway to hell is paved with good intentions.

I got in a bloggy mood tonight, seizing the opportunity of being home alone tonight to post the pictures from our trip that I promised so long ago. Nevertheless, as luck would have it, our finicky internet connection has decided that today is not a good day for me to catch up on blogging--at least not where there are photographs involved.

So, our current life in a nutshell:

*Andy got a job! A "real" job, working at Honda in the financial department. He starts Wednesday.
*Seminary starts on Wednesday, too! I'm really excited this year, and especially curious to find out who will be in my class.
*I love my job. It's really rewarding, and I feel glad to be doing something that I feel is making a difference in someone's life.
*This is my first semester of un-enrollment, and I feel strangely disconnected from anything that has anything to do with school. The fact that people are out buying notebooks and texts and highlighters and swearing that they won't procrastinate this semester seems to foreign to me.

I guess those are the highlights, though I could go on at length on any number of topics right now. We are so blessed, and so overwhelmed by all that is happening in our lives right now. It's not all easy, and we have had our struggles, but these past two or three months especially have been a testimony to the fact that we are never alone in those struggles.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

New Bends in the Dr Pepper Float River

This week, Andy and I embarked upon what we called "Andy and Rachel's Totally Texas, Totally Awesome Dr Pepper Foat Road Trip Adventure." This was an event focusing upon two of Texas's most valuable natural resources:

1. Dr Pepper
Do you know why there is no period after Dr in Dr Pepper? In the 1950s, they began using a stylized font, which made the period look like the bottom of a colon (the curve of the "r" looked like the top). Rather than try and fix it, they just omitted it altogether. It's been gone ever since.


2. Blue Bell Ice Cream
Another Texas creation, Blue Bell Ice Cream is the 3rd best selling ice cream in the United States, despite the fact that it is sold in only 18 states. Ask any Texan, and they'll tell you it's the best. Blue Bell was the first to ever invent a "Cookies and Cream" variety of ice cream, and theirs is just divine. Take THAT, Breyer's and Dreyer's!



Our own pictures are soon to follow. Right now, I'm fighting with our internet connection, and I haven't uploaded those pics yet. We also stayed at a Bed and Breakfast Ranch in Brenham, TX, which was pretty awesome--more on that when the pictures come.

In Other News, we got jobs!!! I got a part-time gig at the Good Samaritan, a nursing home here in town. (We got the call on the way back from Brenham, a wonderful end to a perfect little trip!) I'm the activities assistant, so I get to help the residents with art, music, crosswords, and other such fun things. I'm excited--glad to be doing something that I'll actually feel is worthwhile, instead of selling Cutco or vacations packages to Branson. (I respect those who choose to sell Cutco and vacation packages to Branson, it's just not my bag.)

Because it's a part-time position, and I will only come in on certain days of the week, it allows me to work another job, too. So, yesterday, Andy and I pursued another job lead:

That's right. We will be substituting for the Lewisville ISD. We both signed up to substitute in any grade at any school, so it will be interesting to see how that all works out. We got trained and picked up our official badges yesterday, so now we're totally legit. I'm so excited to teach those bratty private school students how to Rock and ROLL! Hardcore. (I know, I just wanted to be like Jack Black. It's a public school, the kids are not bratty, and I will be teaching no rock and roll, unless it's on the teacher's agenda.) It's funny--apparently they want the substitutes to actually teach. I can scarcely remember a time when that happened while I was in school. Usually, it was just, "Okay, here's a video," or "Read silently or work on your homework," or something. I don't know if this is a difference between the school districts, or a change in times, or if it's just something that they set up as the ideal. I'm still skeptical, but I would certainly welcome the chance to teach, especially as I'm somewhat using this as a way to test the waters to see if teaching in a school is something I would be willing to do.

So, that's about it for now. Things are looking up! Stay tuned for pictures from our little excursion.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Hardest Working Man in Show Business


One of those things. I decided to turn to the wisdom of James Brown. I tried to keep it clean, but you know . . . James Brown.

Pick Your Artist:
Hardest working man in Show-biz,
JAMES BROWN

Are you male or female:
I'm Real

Describe yourself:
I Guess I'll Have to Cry, Cry, Cry

How do you feel about yourself:
Say It Loud: I'm Black and I'm Proud

Describe where you currently live:
It's Too Funky in Here

If you could go anywhere, where would you go:
Escape-ism

Your best friend is:
Sexy, Sexy, Sexy

Your favorite color is:
Ain't it Funky Now

You know that:
Santa Claus is Definitely Here to Stay

What's the weather like:
Hot Pants

If your life was a TV show, what would it be called? :
Get Up Offa That Thing

What is life to you:
It's a New Day

What is the best advice you have to give:
Give it Up, or Turn It Loose

If you could change your name, what would it be? :
Mother Popcorn

Your favorite food is:
For Goodness Sakes (Take a Look at Those Cakes)

Monday, July 6, 2009

I suck . . .

. . . at finding work.


I would like to blame it on the economy, but I am pretty sure that it has less to do with the economy and more to do with the fact that I am not altogether very qualified to do very many things. And the longer it takes for me to find something, and the more resumes and applications I put in without hearing a word back, the less I believe myself to be employable.

But, as my senior English teacher wisely told us: "You can always fall back on liquor and prostitution!"

Hmmm.

I don't see anything for either of THOSE career paths in the help-wanted ads. Maybe, in THIS economy, even my fallbacks aren't as certain as they should be.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Death of Imagination

As a little kid, pretty much everyone is full of imagination. You spend your days drawing pictures of things you've never seen, pretending to travel to places you've never been, inventing histories that never happened, and acting like people you are not. Somehow, though, while we're being indoctrinated in schools, learning facts and figures (because grown-ups are so interested in figures), we neglect that part of our brains, and so, most adults possess a dormant imagination.

I am currently reading The Element, a book by Ken Robinson, and one that got me thinking about this imagination business. I suppose I have also been influenced by other recent readings: Andy and I have been reading childrens' books lately, including Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, the Little Prince (et Le Petit Prince), and Alice in Wonderland (as the previous post might suggest). It is a theme in every one of these, this desire to remain childlike and to live a life of imagination. In the Roald Dahl books in particular, the adults take on a villanous characteristic, always asserting that the children are stupid and somewhat worthless. All this because they live in their own worlds, make up their own rules, and create their own existence . . .

It's difficult to imagine anything anymore, even though I know that the number of experiences I have had is completely dwarfed in relation to those that could be imagined. It's difficult to draw on those resources and try to write a fictional story, even though I used to crank those out like nobody's business when I was in elementary school. I used to be able to draw things with some degree of success without looking at a picture to help me, and now my artistic talents have settled at "symbolic cartoon" level.

It seems, also, to be the common consensus that pretty much every idea has already been thought of. We're so used to it. TV series get to be so similar that you can lose track of which one you're watching. Movies now come from books, or as sequels (or prequels) to other movies. (It's becoming rarer and rarer to see a movie that came from nothing else before it.) Books come in series, so authors don't have to go to the trouble of inventing new characters each time they sit down to write. Even in music, we stifle creativity so that we can be "correct" or "tasteful."

I tried to draw a sketch today, just to see if I still had it in me. I drew my preliminary outline, and got mad at it because it didn't look right. Where has my imagination gone? Maybe that's why it's fled--imagining means taking risks, and taking risks means that from time to time, you will be wrong.

Creativity surprises me. To think, J.K. Rowling made up this whole bit about wizard schools and Quidditch (I hate Quidditch) and Muggles! How fascinating that Christopher Guest is Harlon Pepper, the Six-Fingered Man, Corky St. Clair, and one of the Folksmen! Yet, as children, it is our default mode to be inventing stories and characters. How sad that so many of us lose it!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cheshire Wisdom


"Cheshire Puss," she began, rather timidly, as she did not at all know whether it would like the name: however, it only grinned a little wider. "Come, it's pleased so far," thought Alice, and she went on, "Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to walk from here?"

"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.

"I don't much care where-" said Alice.

"Then it doesn't matter which way you walk," said the Cat.

"-so long as I get somewhere," Alice added as an explanation.


There are those times in life when you can't see the end from the beginning. You find yourself standing at a fork in the road, and wonder which path to take. Sometimes, though, there are many paths to choose from, many of which lead to exactly the same place. With limited foresight, though, we don't always know which is the best, or which will most effectively take us to where we need to go.

Andy and I are both at forks in the road, and (while our destinations are becoming more and more clear each day) neither of us really knows where we want to end up. This has been a source of private shame for some time, because perhaps the most-asked question posed to persons in our stage of life is, "So, what's next?" Everyone expects you to have a well thought-out answer, to be able to say definitively what your next step will be, and what your ultimate goal is.

Why, though, should there be shame in admitting that I don't know where I want to end up? I don't think I'm alone in not knowing. People go back to school after years in one field to make a career change when they realize that they're not doing what's right for them. For all my life until this point, things have been laid out for me pretty well. I have progressed logically from one step until the next, and finally, have arrived at the point where there is no prescribed logical next step--at least not without an end goal in mind.

Having infinite possibilities before you is simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying. On one hand, you feel as though you can do anything at all, and that you are limited only by your imagination and determination. On the other hand, self-doubt enters, and all of it seems utterly impossible.

I still don't know the answer to the question, "So, what's next?" We're both trying to be careful, to look toward the end so that we know what way to take to get there. In the mean time, though, there are still bills to pay and Real Life to be reckoned with.

Thankfully, we are not on our own: our Father knows the end from the beginning, and knows what the best way is to get to the end that we want. He has blessed us so far, and will continue to do so, and will guide us as we seek His help. So, while life goes on (ob-lah-di, ob-lah-dah), we will continue to look for what's next, even though we're more interested in answering another question:

Where do we want to end up?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Our new arrival


Life in an amazing thing. It surrounds us, and as a consequence, can be easily taken for granted. We had a new arrival not too long ago. So tiny, so fragile, yet full of potential limited one by one's capacity of imagination. What a blessing. I'm so excited for the others that will come with time. Hopefully they'll all be as juicy and utterly delicious...


If there's one thing I love, its a good tomato. This was the first of what's been about 15 or so edible cherry and grape tomatoes. about 7-10 others have fallen victim to a variety of peculiar-looking insects. We're trying the "no pesticide" method, our version anyway. Neither of us are what you might call seasoned gardeners, or gardeners at all for that matter. We're learning though, and for the moment, enjoying the fruits of our labors. No pun intended.

I'd like to keep this gardening thing up, not just because of the delectable culinary possibilities, but for the interaction with nature the likes of which I have never experienced. There's just something about knowing where your food comes from that is at ones reassuring and awe-inspiring and beautiful.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Birthday Cream Pie

Yesterday was Andyface's birthday, and he took off work so we could play together. May I just say that one of my favorite things about Andyface is his ability to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. I basically told him that he could do whatever he wanted to celebrate, and here is what we did:

-Watched the sunrise
-Ate a yummy breakfast (veggie omelet, biscuits, and smoothies)
-Went for a bike ride
-Baked some bread
-Had a picnic lunch (inaugural run of our picnic basket)
-Watched Ratatouille

What a lovely day! Even despite the increasing heat of the summer, it was a gorgeous day outside, and we were happy to spend so much time enjoying it. The only downside was that there were a few gaping holes in our day: as I'm leaving with Collegium for Boston later this afternoon, there were last-minute rehearsals and a send-off concert to be reckoned with, not to mention some of my final duties as TA to make sure all goes well. Nevertheless, we were able to get a lot into the hours that we had.

This is something I hope we can hold onto as life progresses. Right now, it's pretty easy to be satisfied with these simple pleasures, because it's pretty much all we have. Someday, though, it may be harder to resist the urge to "keep up with the Joneses," to fill our lives with things instead of with experiences. The latter are so much more meaningful--both in the moment and years later. (I never understand why people on Showcase Showdowns from the Price is Right pass up awesome trips to amazing places in hopes of winning a car or a boat or something. I would take the trip any day.) Experiences change us: we learn, we grow, we see the world differently. Things just accumulate until we forget that we have them anymore, and then end up selling them at a garage sale for a quarter.

Speaking of things, I'd better go toss a few of them into a suitcase before I have to leave. Packing is the bane of my existence.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

There is no "I" in "TEAM"

Have you ever tried to write anything without using the word "I" or "me"? They say it's bad practice to use those words very often, especially when writing formal pieces (articles, essays, resumes, etc.), but what about eliminating them from even informal writing, like the blog? Sometimes, it's good to take a challenge, if only just for fun. This particular challenge is much more difficult than it seems. After all, blogs are, by their very nature, self-centered. In fact, most all conversations are quite self-centered. One person rarely communicates with another without seeking to express his or her own opinions, or to have some other personal need met.

Interestingly, and however contrary to the truth, not including oneself in a blog seems incredibly limiting. There are infinite possibilities of things to blog about--things that are happening all around the world at this very moment--yet, the only lens through which a writer can see the world is that of his or her own eyes. Let this be a lesson: there is no such thing as an unbiased opinion.

This breeds questions of reality versus perception. The two are not necessarily the same, though they definitely influence one another, and cannot really be distinguished from one another (either by oneself or by anyone else)--perhaps indicated by America's fascination with "Reality" TV (which is anything but). It is all about perception.

Perhaps this is a different way of thinking. It's a more challenging way to think, because it is far easier to accept one's own perceptions as truth, as reality. But perhaps with expanding the idea of what is "real" comes a depth of experience previously unimagined. There is more "reality" around us than we believe!

It could be that our inability to see "things as they really are" is truly what separates us from God.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Live and Let Die

WARNING: This post contains graphic images. Viewer discretion is advised.

Living in the country as we do, and as recent posts have illustrated, we often see God's creatures of all shapes and sizes puttering about in or around our apartment. We have shared our space with ladybugs, hornets, moths . . . and share the space around our apartment with possums, rabbits, vultures, mice, etc. Generally, with all this life around us, we adopt a "Live and Let Live" policy. Even in the case of the hornets, we cohabited with them for quite some time, until finally transplanting them outside, where they could live fuller, richer lives.

This morning, however, there was one visitor who was quite unwelcome.


This, my dear ones, is a brown recluse--a.k.a. "fiddleback"--spider. I don't know if you know about them (they are native to the South), but they are interesting little dudes. They lurk in dark corners ("recluse," right?), have six eyes instead of eight, and, while not necessarily aggressive (again, "recluse"), pack a mean punch.

There is currently one residing in our kitchen, trapped under a tupperware container, where he will remain until he dies. This is cruel, I know, and cowardly. A braver man than I would face the spider mano a mano, and take him out with a shoe or something. I, on the other hand, choose to capture him, and let him die of "natural causes." I feel less guilty this way: I may have set the events in motion which ultimately led to his (or her) demise, but if I am not physically killing him, I can convince myself that I am not solely responsible for his death.

I hope you don't think less of me. It's merely a matter of self-preservation.

What would you do to a creature who could do this to you?


(When trying to identify the spider, the first thing I saw in a google image search is the picture of the rotting hand, above. If this doens't inspire cowardice, I don't know what will.)

My answer? Live and let die.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Star Trek



I'm not prone to blogging about movies. In fact, this will be the first time I've done so.

Rach and I haven't been out to see a movie in awhile. I think the last one we saw together was Kung-Fu Panda. On more or less a whim, we decided to see the new Star Trek film at the Movie Tavern, a joint that serves food while you watch the movie. I had rather low expectations, especially with the absence of William Shatner, but instead ended up being very pleasantly surprised.

The Star Trek film is sort of a revamp on the tv series, which is what initially intrigued both of us enough to check out the flick. I would call it a sort of homage to these early years of of Star Trek franchise, before the stories became a little too esoteric for most of us.

The acting could be described as "one good impersonation after another," which I thought gave the film an element of charm. The most impressive among them were Karl Urban's portrayal of Dr. McCoy (If you saw him in Lord of the Rings or Doom, you'd know what I mean), and Simon Pegg's (Shaun of the Dead, Run Fatboy Run) take on a young Scotty.

There were good action sequences, a good amount of back story and character development, and just enough camp to keep things from getting too serious. My guess is that the goal of this film was to rekindle interest in Star Trek as a whole. If that's so, congratulations J.J. Abrams, mission accomplished.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Possum in the backyard, snake in the dumpster

In the past week there has been a number woodland visitors to our country abode as of late. I suppose that "visitor" is a relative term when referring to nature, but that's a whole other blog post...

Two days ago, as I was driving up to the casa, Clint, our wonderful landlord informed me that one of the dogs had "taken a bite out of a copper head." This did not kill the animal (immediately, anyway). Mostly out of protection for the dogs, he deposited it in the dumpster both households share. I haven't seen too many venomous snakes outside of a glass zoo cell. It was both fascinating, and a little sad. I'm not sure if it's alive, but if it is, it's new home is the Denton County waste facility.

I actually have a photo of our other friend. This one's alive, although you could only tell this by the fact it was breathing so heavily:



Yes, between the grass mulch and our compost bucket is none other than a possum. Well, the bottom half of one anyway. Again, I'm sure it's alive, although that was more questionable this morning. I saw this little furry dude in front of my car as I was pulling out of the driveway, in plain sight of the dogs. Rachel said that it was given a good chase when she went out later.

I've long held that I was more city folk than anything else, but that seems to be changing, as I find myself resisting the pull of the city for a closer commute and the possibility of ditching the car altogether. I'm surrounded by so much life out here, its very energizing in a lot of ways. A dwelling has never left me in such awe of so many commonplace yet magnificent realities of nature.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Andy, are you out there???


So, I'm sitting awkwardly in the Collegium Room, on the off-chance that someone wants to come in here to check in an instrument.  

One jury down, one more to go, plus a couple papers ("term" papers that have not really gotten past the planning stage, although one of them had a draft due two days ago), and then I'm done.  Yet, I still don't feel like it's the end.  But this isn't another post to brag about my procrastination skills.  

Andy hasn't blogged in forever.  He was telling me yesterday how much he hates blogging, and hates everyone who reads and writes them.  He said he'd never be caught dead blogging, "from this point on" (i.e., about 8:30 pm yesterday), and that he would severely judge any and everyone who maintained or read a blog.  

Today, I wore a skirt to school because I had a jury.  When I got to class, I realized that the lining of my skirt had ridden up like crazy, leaving my slip quite exposed (thank goodness I decided to wear a slip!).   Had it been like that all the way across campus?  Did anyone notice? Were they all laughing at me?  Is my picture going to be on someone else's blog, laughing about the girl with her backpack on her front, a cello on her back, and showing her business to the whole world??  Will it do the same when I walk back to my car?  Stay tuned for more details.  

I need to write more.  I used to write all the time.  My journaling has even fallen off.  I used to write tomes about unrequited love, and other such Romantic topics, but I guess ever since Andy and I started dating, I lost a big chunk of subject matter.  Requited love just isn't fun to read about.  I mean, the first 80 minutes of every romantic comedy are when the girl and the guy hate each other.  It just wouldn't be the same if the whole movie were about them liking each other.  

I miss writing.  I haven't even written papers this semester (not even the ones I was supposed to have written)!  I'm going to get soft, and then when I try to write my novel (subject TBD), all my skillz will have fallen by the wayside.  

When I was a little girl, I used to want to be an author.  I would write stories all the time, just for fun.  It was my favorite thing to do.  

I also used to watch cooking shows somewhat obsessively.  Graham Kerr was my favo(u)rite, but I also watched Great Chefs, Julia Child, and Yan Can Cook.  I liked to bake, but I wasn't very interested, really, in what they were cooking.  I just liked to learn new words, like "pilaf" (though I probably would have spelled it "pelouf"), and learn the proper way to fold things into batter and so forth.  I don't recall ever trying a recipe.  

Now, I still like to watch cooking shows.  I love cookbooks, and even though I rarely follow the recipes, I love to read them and look at the pretty pictures.  

I still like to write, too.  I even like to write papers (just not either of these papers, I suppose)! 

Maybe I'll write a cookbook.  

No one is coming in to return an instrument; I am going home.  

Wish me luck with the skirt. 

(The picture has nothing to do with this post.  It's just that I, as the result of having seen Christopher Guest and company in concert last weekend, have rediscovered my love for him.)

Friday, May 1, 2009

The end of another semester, I guess.

Is it weird that I'm facing the last two weeks of my Master's Degree (excepting my recital and orals, which are big exceptions) and I don't even feel like the semester is ending at all? Perhaps I'm just trying to protect myself from the fact that I have two "term papers" to write and juries to practice for, but in any case . . . yikes.

I've been pretty miserably sick for almost a full week. I had so much excess fluid in my head that my face actually changed shape--gross. I am finally starting to feel better, and not a minute too soon. After all, Andy and I are going to see Christopher Guest live in concert tomorrow! Oh yeah, and all that finals crap, blah blah blah. (See what I mean?)

Life continues crazily on . . . last week was pretty stressful with all that was going on (including five recitals, family members in the hospital [everyone's okay, thank goodness], Andy's interview for the Rotary Peace Fellowship, and other such happenings), but here we are, trucking on. Onward and upward!

. . . and now, to set about disinfecting our apartment so that Andy doesn't get sick, too.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

More BABIES!

No, Marianne, this is not an announcement.  This is just how I use my time instead of being productive. (Well, I suppose this could be considered "productive," so to speak.) 

I know that "Rosacea" is a skin disorder, but I think it makes a lovely name.  She's kind of cute, in a weird sort of way.  




For my next trick . . . 
Yes, we will be sure and give him spikes like that.  

Friday, April 17, 2009

Andy, Jr.

Kinda cute little bugger, isn't he? I don't know where the red hair came from, though. Hrm.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Why I love UNT

Today was University Day. I have no idea what this means, except that there were all kinds of booths and stuff in the courtyard this afternoon, and I got a free box lunch. Being vegetarian usually means one of two things when a box lunch is involved:

1. Most often, there will be a selection of meaty sub sandwiches. I get to choose the least invasive lunchmeat (usually ham, because it picks off in one piece) and carefully de-meat-ify my sandwich.

2. If I'm lucky, there may be a handful of cheese sandwiches, or perhaps some PB&J's.

If I were at BYU, I can almost guarantee that there wouldn't be much attention to the veggies. I would have been picking off my ham and feeding it to the birds (or something). I was pleasantly surprised to walk up to the table where it was announced that there was ham, turkey, and vegetarian lunches--and they even had a good stock of the veggie ones.

Upon opening my lunch, I was also impressed by the fact that they enclosed the lettuce and tomato in a separate baggie, in order to eliminate sandwich sog. I was somewhat saddened to see that there was no cheese on my sandwich, but proceeded to construct my lettuce and tomato sub.

My first bite was surprising. Apparently, they had sneakily put in some hummus into my sandwich! It blended in with the whole wheat bread, so I didn't notice it. I love hummus. It was the best veggie box lunch I have ever eaten.

Thank you, UNT. It's the little things like a hummus box lunch that make my day.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring Break Day

As Andy doesn't get a Spring Break now that he's a grown-up with a real job, he decided to take one of his personal days so that we could hang out this past Monday. The rules were: no work (we almost succeeded, though each of us had some things that came up), just playing, and taking the time to do things we don't usually get to do.

The weather happily cooperated with us. On our agenda: sleeping in, eating a good breakfast, going to buy supplies for our first garden and subsequently gardening, cleaning up, visiting nearby town of Ponder, getting a picnic lunch, going for a walk, to Recycled Books, and then home for dinner, and a movie with popcorn. A full day, but a delightful one.

I look like half of American Gothic.



Andy, toiling over the land and our cute little tomato plants, given us by our lovely landlords.


Carefully reading the seed packet instructions. "Put in dirt and add water."

Just kidding.


I know the Road to Nowhere is in Alaska, but tell me this doesn't make you think . . .


One of the highlights from our trek to Ponder: the Ponder Water Tower.

I have always been grateful for the fact that Andy and I both like the simple pleasures of life, and for the fact that all we need to have a perfect date is a sack lunch ($5 footlong?) and a picnic table in a park on a sunny day. It was lovely to have a whole day to spend with the boy that I love.
Hooray Spring!



Monday, March 2, 2009

Six month inventory

I could be using this time much more wisely, but I justify it in that I'm listening to the piece I'm playing in a recital later this week. Although, I don't really know for sure what the instrumentation is. I know there is a string quartet involved, but I found several recordings with different ensembles, and I don't even know what the guy who contacted me does. Nevertheless, therein lies my justification.

Last week, I had the pleasure of going to the dentist.



I have had the same dentist ever since I started going to the dentist, and he knows the interior of my mouth more intimately than anyone else in the world. He has pulled many baby teeth, he has given me fillings (two), he has spent five minutes with me every six months for the past 18 or so years of my life. This time, particularly, I was struck with how much changes in the period of six months.

It seems like such a small amount of time, but so much can change. For instance, last appointment, I had just recently become engaged. This appointment, I have just been married (it's our two-month-aversary today). And next appointment, I don't even know where I will be, or doing what. It's pretty wild.

Andy and I have given up sweets for Lent. This has been an interesting experience. More than anything, it makes one aware of how often one eats unconsciously. If you go to a recital, there are sure to be cookies and cream puffs and all sorts of things. If you go to a church function, the same holds true. I have been of the habit of eating as many of these delicious tidbits as my stomach could handle, any time they were offered to me. Reflecting upon this, I realize that perhaps it is not the best way to go about life, nor is it the best way to fulfill my dream of becoming a supermodel.

I'm beginning to feel guilty for sitting here in the library with all these studious scholars, with tabs open on my browser only to my gmail, our blog, and my facebook account. I suppose I should go loaf at home--and by "loaf' I do mean clean up and do laundry while continuing to listen to my Vaughn-Williams.

Here's to the next six months!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I guess its my turn...

That would do a lot to explain the blog lag. Not sure if that's a word. I'm not too hip to the "blog lingo," so if perchance a more experienced blogger would like to correct me, they're more than welcome to do so.

We had our first official date night. We had a gift card from the Olive Garden (thanks suegros!), so that took care of dinner. The main event, so to speak, was our venture to the Dallas arts district for DMA "Late Nights." Every third Friday night, the Dallas Museum of Art and the Crow Asian Art Museum are open until midnight. Beyond the cool art, there were a number of live music dance performances, free wine-tasting, and presentations by a silk worm wrangler.

It was really fun, and not at all expensive. The Crow is free and the DMA's only $10 (not sure how much if you have student ID). We'll definitely check this out again.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sweet survival

Well, I made it through Saul. Hallelujah!

It made me sad to only see Husband for a half an hour in the morning (6am) before he left for work, and then another half hour or so before we went to bed (11pm or so). Yes, I was definitely glad to welcome Saturday, the first Saul-less day. And this week has been gloriously Saul-free.

Our landlord, the coolest dude ever, keeps getting cooler and cooler. This weekend, we saw him riding one of the horses (bareback), and we chatted for a while. He asked if it might be alright if he called us up sometime to go sailing on a nearby lake. Also, he has been tilling the garden directly behind our little apartment for us to use for planting. He's the coolest, and really makes us want to stay where we are just so we can enjoy all that there is around us. (They also ninja-planted some pansies by our door. I don't know when they did it!)

So, yesterday I went to the public library to check out some books on gardening and composting. To my surprise and dismay, the selection there was quite sub-par by my estimation. There were only a handful of books about vegetable gardening, several of them having been published in the UK. Not that I have anything against the Brits or that I think that they don't know anything about gardening, but one must admit that there is marked difference between the climates of GB and TX. I welcome their advice, but would prefer something more locally informed.



I discovered I don't know the first thing about gardening. I've had reasonable success with my former gardening experiences (those little lima beans I planted in the plastic cups worked pretty well), but from what I gather, it's quite a different endeavor to plant one's own garden. Everything makes a difference: where you plant things, what kinds of seeds you use, how much you water, etc. And composting! I thought you just put a bunch of trash in a heap and then put that on your garden, but actually, there's a lot of that sciencey stuff behind it, apparently. You have to have a good balance of carbon- and nitrogen- rich materials, as well as sufficient amounts of water. Who knew? Science is amazing.

So, if anyone has any garden tips (what I should or shouldn't plant, how to nurture my little plantings, how long to let my horse manure rot before putting it on the compost heap, etc.) please let me know! I know SOMEONE reading this blog has to know something about gardening.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Saul, Saul, Saul.

My life this week has been consumed by Saul, the wonderful oratorio by G.F. Handel. I'm the T.A. for the baroque orchestra, which has been madly scrambling to get this performance-ready for our two concerts, one of which was last night and the other of which is tonight. I am exhausted, and today is the BIG day.

Being T.A. means that I get to haul harpsichords, violones, timpani, a portative organ, a celesta, and move lots of chairs and stands to set up the orchestra, as well as making sure everybody has their music and everything they need . It's been a glorious week for that. And today, our concert is off-campus--in fact, in Dallas. That means I get to drive the equipment truck (full of all those instruments and more) to and from the venue. I'm terrified. Please pray for me.

The ride home will be especially fun. The oratorio is three hours long, and our start time is 7:30. That means we'll be done about 10:30, at which point we'll get to load up the truck, drive it back to school, unload it, and return it to the facilities place. We may be done by about 2am. This is exciting to me, considering I was up this morning at 5:30 to be at a 6am seminary teachers' inservice. Did you guys know there's a five-thirty in the MORNING, too?

So, I'm about to head home for a nap. We drive the van down at about 2pm, unload and set the stage, go back to Denton, load the buses at 5pm for 6pm call, play our concert, then proceed as outlined above.

I will be so glad when this is behind me.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Teaching 101

So Rachel and I have been attending the Denton Spanish-speaking branch for the past few weeks. A more accurate description of this unit would be "bilingue" or perhaps "Spanglish." There's a fair amount of both languages bouncing off the chapel walls every week.

Last week the branch president asked if we would meet with him later this week. The reason was to offer us callings, or responsibilities in the branch (all positions are filled by volunteers in our church).

So, today I began as a young adult Sunday school teacher. Rach will be teaching seminary, in addition to helping me team-teach my class. Needless to say, we're sticking with this branch until we eventually move.

I think Sunday school is pretty well-understood by most, so I'll skip to explaining a bit about seminary. In LDS culture, "seminary," refers to an additional class taken outside of church where high-school age students can study the different books of our cannon: The New and Old Testaments, The Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants. As a convert, I missed out on this experience, which tends to be quite enriching from what I hear.

I haven't taught a class in a while, religious or otherwise. It was a bit tricky considering I have yet to get a feel for the branch itself. I don't really know anyone's name yet. So I sort of hit the ground running if you will. I was of course nervous, and it showed. My class of five (including my wife) seemed kinda bored with the first fifteen minutes. Thankfully things went better for the rest of the lesson. I loosened up, sat down, and inadvertently opted for a seminar, as opposed to lecture, approach to finishing the class. It was nice. People started sharing thoughts and experiences, and I walked away feeling I had a good first day. Win-win.

Teaching is a great thing. I've had a lot of practice in church, as well as the mission field. Every time I always walk away learning more than anyone I attempt to teach. Still, its an important skill to obtain. Like all things, its a process. Hopefully I can remember one of the most important lessons in teaching: never quit being a student.

Andy

Friday, January 30, 2009

Ice Days and W-2's

I'm mostly writing right now to vent, not because I have nothing better to do (I'm a graduate student, after all--there's ALWAYS something better to do). As I've stated before, we don't have internet at our apartment. So, I steal a few minutes here and there to check emails, etc., making sure there is nothing telling me to evacuate the building because it's on fire (by the way, UNT, I don't know if email is the most practical way to alert people in the case of an emergency), and trying to stay on top of these things. So, this week (yesterday at about 2:00) I got an email saying that I needed to pick up my W-2 in the main office before today. I was relieved to have read it before, especially since I was booked solid from 2 until after the office would be closed. Unfortunately, the part that I didn't read said that I needed to pick it up before NOON.

I march into the office today at about 1:20, ask for my form, and am greeted by an unhappy administrator telling me that the email SAID noon, and he waited until 12:45, but now they were on their way to be mailed. Not that this is a huge deal anyway, because I will get it in the end, but I hate being treated like an idiot (even when my actions justify it). I wish people would just be respectful all the time, because even little things like this really hurt me. I'm a sensitive soul!

Anyway, in Other News, we got two Ice Days this week, due to adverse weather conditions. This really threw me off in the second week of class. I basically took it as a total vacation and didn't do any work at all, to realize upon returning to school that I actually had homework I could have been doing and so forth. Whoops. Hooray for too much idiocy from Rachel this week!

Additionally, Andy and I met with Pres. Benavides of the Spanish Branch yesterday, getting two shiny new callings. I'm a little intimidated by mine, but excited. I will definitely learn a lot, and I hope that I can do some good. We're excited about Andy's calling, too--that will be fun. I feel glad to be a part of the branch--it's nice to feel needed and like we can make an impact in the branch. Details to follow once we've been sustained on Sunday. What a party!

Other than that, "married life" is great, for those of you who want to know. (Why people always ask that is a mystery to me. What am going to say? "Wow, yeah. It sucks! I hate it!" Very unlikely. Of COURSE it's great. You're silly.)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Nate Comes to Denton

This weekend showcased a guest star: Nate Watson of Funkalicious fame.



Nate-dawgg, in all his funky glory.

If you don't know who or what Funkalicious is, that is indeed a sad story. Fortunately for us, its not ours.

His brief time in the Denton area allowed us the opportunity to show him the sights (i.e. the historic courthouse, Beth Marie's ice cream shoppe, the UNT campus, etc). He also met some of our friends at a post-wedding housewarming get-together on Saturday night. After all of that, I'm sure that he's realized that his graduate school search is now over.

In all seriousness, it was a fun weekend. I guess that almost goes without saying, though. The best ones are those spend with friends and/or family.

On an entirely different note, poor weather conditions have kept Rach and I indoors today. In Texas, a thin layer of ice (or the perceived threat of it forming at some point in the day) is typical grounds for school closures and work absences. Not that I'm complaining...It gave me time to write, a real treat for a Tuesday at 11:11 am.

Andy

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Back to School, Back to Reality.

Yes, it's back to the grindstone for Rachel. Here I am, sitting in the commons of the music building, using my eaglenet (useful, as there is no world wide interweb at our apartment), and avoiding the reality that awaits me in so few minutes. It's been full-speed ahead already this first day back, and while my class load seems quite manageable (yet, it always does at the beginning of the semester), I feel unmotivated. Why can't I just stay at home and vacuum all day?

Just kidding.

Kind of.

I'm so close to being done with my Master's, but I did so little while on break to prepare myself for this semester that I already feel somewhat submerged. Compound this with the fact that, obviously, there have been some major life changes in the past month for Andy and me, and I get the feeling that this may be a stressful semester for me. Of course, this is largely my own fault: the result of having ignored the fact that school was resuming for as long as humanly possible (and the fact that I continue to do so even now). I just keep waiting for the motivation to come back. Where are you, Motivation?

Nevertheless, I have faith that I will somehow survive this semester. After all, I haven't yet met one that has licked me.

Ah, well. Duty calls, in the form of the prof for whom I am the worst TA ever, and already I'm behind. Yay reality!

I hope I don't die.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

"Just Married"



Rachel and I were married a little more than two weeks ago on January 2, 2009. We thought it'd be neat to provide the world (and by that I mean primarily family and friends) with a little window into our fledgling marriage relationship. It's an exciting time for us, and we'd like to share it, albeit an heavily abridged version with all who are interested. So with that, enjoy...

I decided to call this post "just married" for obvious reasons. For the most part, we're just kind of settling into day to day stuff: work, laundry, house cleaning, etcetera. It's been a fun adjustment, as boring as it may sound. Rach is just about finished moving into our place, a charming little garage apartment located in the outskirts of Denton (see photo). We should be ready to re-enter the social realm shortly.

I know it's cliche, but I honestly have little else to say besides "life is good." Thanks for stopping by. In the coming days, weeks, months, or however long we decided to keep this up, there will be more to report.

Andy