Tuesday, March 29, 2011


"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
On Saturday I went to the theatre to see a production of A Tale of Two Cities. First, I love plays. Second, I enjoy acting. Third, I think A Tale of Two Cities is a phenomenal piece of literature. My roommate, being the lovely person she is, won tickets at work and took me to the theatre (side note: I like the British spelling of many English words. Theatre looks ever so much better than theater). To my surprise and delight, this play was performed in an arena theatre or a more technical term, theatre-in-the-round. This was the first time I saw a play in a setting other than the traditional, proscenium theatre.
The play was excellently done and I enjoyed it very much. However, I think I enjoyed watching the mechanisms of the stage just as much as watching the play. There were quite a few moving platforms or pieces. In the middle there were at least six different pieces. An outer ring that glided around, an inner circle and four quarters of the middle circle. The latter two move together or separately, move in a circle and descend into the bowels of the stage. There was this great bridge that lowered from the ceiling and a ladder that led up to the cat walk. I loved watching how they distracted the audience towards one part of the stage and used that to create time to get another part ready to carry the action. There was no curtain to hide behind so all set changes were open to the audience, but most of the time I didn’t notice them until the action moved.
I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I came away resolved to go to more plays and maybe audition for one myself. As always, I’m sure I will become distracted with regular life and be too busy to even think about auditioning. An icebreaker for a weekend retreat: If you could play any character in a drama what would it be?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Laundry by Hand

Labor saving devices have made gyms a necessity in our culture. You see the more labor saving devices that we own the less real work we have to do. The results are two-fold. First, we have much more time to sit around and eat prodigious amounts of food. Second, we miss out on the exercise inherent in manually doing something. Have you ever tried to make bread or stir cookie dough by hand? It is a lot of work. I find my arms are soon tired and I have to take a break. Have you ever considered the amount of exercise that goes into doing laundry? I am doing my laundry today in my bathtub. Why you may ask, the short answer is my car broke down so I don’t have easy access to the laundromat.

I have done laundry by hand many times. I did a study abroad in Fiji. There we washed our laundry in large tubs outside and hung the clothes up to dry. When I was a kid sometimes we did laundry in an outdoor sink especially made for laundry use. The sink was made out of cement and was divided into two parts. Both sides had a hole in the back to drain the water, not into the sewer system, but onto the ground. One sink was deep and the other shallow with a washboard on the bottom. What you do is fill the deep sink with water. First you plug the hole, sometimes with a cork, a washcloth, or perhaps a rock wrapped in a plastic bag. You go to your nearest water source. In my case it was a large cistern about 5 feet away. After dipping your bucket you lift it out, carry it to the sink lift it high and dump it in. One liter of water (32 oz) weighs 2 lbs. A gallon is about 8 lbs. A large bucket is usually 5 gallons. Full bucket weighs about 40 lbs. When I was young it took several trips to fill the sink as I was unable to lift a full bucket. You may be thinking I washed clothes all the time and was taken advantage of as a child. This isn’t so. Most of my childhood I did few chores and often when I was little my mom would do the lifting and leave me to scrub while she went about other household duties.

Your sink is full of water. You sprinkle in some powdered soap, be careful not to get too much because you need to rinse out all the soap afterwards. Mush the clothes around. Then one at a time you take them out and scrub them against the washboard. If you don’t have powdered soap you may have a large yellowish bar. You rub the bar of soap across each piece while it is on the washboard and then scrub, scrub, scrub. Once finished, you drop them into a bucket. After finishing the washing you unplug the sink, refill and proceed to rinse. You may also rinse the clothes in a bucket. Sometimes I cheated and would dunk the clothes in the cistern as they were much easier to rinse that way. Then you ring out the clothes and hang them on the line.
I know some of you while reading this are saying to yourselves. How can you get your clothes clean washing them in a tub? I argue that if you are diligent about it you get them as clean or cleaner by hand. What does you washer do? It tumbles your clothes around and around in soapy water, spins them really fast to get out the excess water, tumbles them again to rinse, spins again and is done. You can accomplish this by putting your clothes in a bucket and vigorously swooshing them around. Add a little scrubbing and presto clean clothes.

Don’t mistake my meaning. I’m by no means advocating getting rid of your washer and dryer. I’m merely suggesting that if we all washed clothes in our bathtubs or outdoor sinks we would have little need to lift weights at the gym.
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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Knights in blue jump suits

I know I wrote just yesterday, but would like to share with you my lovely experience today.
I got off of work at two and took the shuttle to my car. I got in and reveled at the cool breeze and the warm car. As usual I paused at the gate to scan my parking card. The gate opened. My car stopped working. Yes, there I was stuck in the middle of the exit trying to get my car to start. The one car behind me gave up and found another exit. The next several hours were mostly a lot of waiting but spiced with several very nice people. One guy helped me push my car out of the way and stow it conveniently in a parking space. About that time the parking monitor people came by and called their helper truck. You see the airport is accommodating and has a truck that comes and gives you a jump or helps you with a flat etc... However, they couldn't help me. I was low on oil, which is no surprise as my car leaks it all over the place. I am banned from parking in my friends driveways because I leave a puddle behind. So what did I do next. I called my wonderful mechanic who takes very good care of me. He was busy, but put the ball in motion for my rescue.
 The parking truck guy came around after an hour or so to make sure I was OK and had a plan to get home. After three hours or so of dozing in my car my knights showed up driving a large white truck and a trailer. The fun was only just starting. It turns out that yes I was really low on oil, but that wasn't the problem. I believe they said my tining belt broke. I may have that wrong, I don't speak car very well. Then commenced the loading onto the trailer. They tried first winching it up from the front. The trailer they brought, however, had a very steep ramp and my car high centered. They backed it off and tried an approach from the back. My car is a Volvo, sedan style so the trunk was too long and the wheels couldn't reach the ramp. They pushed it back into the parking space and gave me a ride home. They have arranged for a real tow truck to come and get it and will let me know of further developments. Now all I have to figure out is how to get to work tomorrow, and if I can't to them with enough time so they can find someone else.

All of this charming story to say I appreciate mechanics who can help me out when I'm incapable of helping myself and to nice other people who looked out for me. I'm also very grateful that the belt didn't break when I was on the highway as that means I probably wouldn't be here writing this to you. Do you have an interesting car break down story?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Devils and Teen Magazines

So unlike my normal philosophizing, I'm going to pose several questions for discussion. Just some thoughts that I had today and wonder what you all think. I haven't looked up any these so I have no extra knowledge about them.

First, why are devils often dressed in red? Red is often depicted as a color of passion and associated with anger. Red is also a Christmas color. Red is one of my favorite colors and in fact was my first favorite colors. If you feel like elaborating on your theory, why do devils carry pitchforks, have cloven hooves and have a forked tail?

Second, while at work I spent the day staring at magazines. In my immediate line of sight were magazines such as Vogue, Cosmopolitan, O etc. On the bottom shelf there was twist and several other teen girl magazines. So the adult women magazines are characterized by a single photo usually of a woman against a white background. Vanity Fair, however, has Robert Pattinson with an alligator on around his shoulders. The teen girl magazines are entirely covered with small pictures of teen celebrities with bubble windows saying things like "look who we caught kissing", but you can hardly read the words for the brightly colored photos. Why are teen magazines so different from adult magazines in style? Is it a developmental level, a preference, the dictates of media or perhaps the ADHD that is deemed so prevalent in our children?

So here are my musings of today. I would welcome your insights, guesses and actual knowledge. Maybe you can have an interesting conversation with the person you sit next to on the bus to work or have an opening conversation with that girl/boy that you like and you can ask their opinion. These questions really have many opportunities.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Day

Today is St. Patrick's Day. I was made aware of this five minutes before leaving for work this morning. I was inhaling my breakfast as I was running a little bit late. My roommate calls to me from her room. Are you wearing green it's St. Patrick's Day? To which I responded that I was going to work and had no green on. She then told me I was asking to get pinched. Now, I am not a morning person so being told that I was in danger of being pinched because I had no green awakened my contrariness. I said something about it being stupid. Throughout the day, I wondered why we pinch people who aren't wearing green. I am not Irish, why should my not jumping in on the celebrations cause me to be pinched?

When I got home from work, I looked on the trusty internet for an explanation to this strange behavior. I found out that originally blue was the color associated with St. Paddy's Day. Several sites mentioned this, but no one said why it was later changed to green. I conjecture that because the shamrock was used by St. Patrick to explain the trinity to the Irish that eventually because as shamrock is green the color of choice changed as well. As to the whole pinching thing, several sites agreed that pinching is an American tradition going back to probably the 1700's. Apparently leprechauns cannot see green and would pinch anyone they could see. The pinch of a friend was to tactfully remind someone that they should be wearing green. As with other holidays that American's have adopted over the years, much like the international food we serve, we have changed the holiday to have its own American slant. When I was eight, I remember arriving at school just in time for my mom to remember the significance of the green holiday. Fortunately I had a green bow on my socks, more aqua but I made it work. It is a traumatizing thing worrying that you may be pinched by any number of people for your oversight.

My conclusion in all of this is: if natural born Irish don't pinch people not wearing green on the most widely known Irish holiday, then I think pinching shouldn't be inflicted on those who have chosen not to wear green or those that simply forgot.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


There are things I should be doing besides writing here. I have four or five chapters that I'm supposed to read before my class tonight. I haven't even started. It isn't just procrastinating that has drawn me to this blank screen to share with all of you my thoughts. It is mostly because I want to share with all of you my joy in packing.

My sister sent out an email saying that she is having a garage sale and packing. She is moving to Ecuador soon. It reminded me how very much I delight in putting things into boxes. There is something so wonderful and satisfying about having a hodgepodge of things and needing to fit them in a finite number of boxes, suitcases, bags etc. I feel so accomplished when everything finds its way into a box and not only finds its way, but has a place. I'm not great at jigsaw puzzles, but the 3D kind of puzzle called packing is so much fun. I also enjoy packing so much because it means I'm going some place. It may be the beginning of a new adventure, a vacation, going home, or moving to a new house. When I am going on a trip I have to discipline myself not to pack to soon. As the time grows closer I get more excited. When my older sister went off to college she started packing several weeks before we left. I grew up in Mexico and we were all going to the United States for the summer. I was going crazy because I couldn't pack my suitcase yet. My sister being the kind person she is set a pile of stuff before me and a box and set me loose. I choose to think that it was because she wanted to make me happy. So if you have a box to pack let me know. I will come and help you. Unpacking, however, is a different story. I don't like it. I like unearthing stuff that I haven't seen in a while. But putting things away. I don't like it. I have trouble putting my laundry away. 

Ok enough exulting in thoughts of packing and back to the real world of spending all evening in school.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Quote for today

"I think I owe my success [as a journalist] to having listened respectfully and rather bashfully to the very best advice, given by all the best journalists who had achieved the best sort of success in journalism; and then going away and doing the exact opposite. . . I have a notion that the real advice I could give to a young journalist is simply this: to write an article for the Sporting Times and one for the Church Times and put them in the wrong envelopes. . . What is really the matter with almost every paper, is that it is much too full of things suitable to the paper."

                  G.K. Chesterton Autobiography

                      Thursday, March 10, 2011

                      Authors and Books

                      Over the last couple of days I have contemplated several different topics to write about. I thought I would tell you about those people who always make my day brighter. I thought maybe you would find my strange clock amusing that randomly decides to stop working and then starts up again weeks after I thought the battery gave out. I know you are wondering why I never changed the battery in weeks, but that isn't relevant right now. I thought about going more serious and talking about my views on the "radicalization" of Islam. Or maybe I could jump on the favorite topic for the last two weeks, Charlie Sheen. But I'm not feeling passionate about any of these things right now. I was chatting with a friend last night and realized again that I love authors. I would like to tell you about some of my favorites. Please note my favorites are always changing, but these almost always make the cut.

                      Yesterday I was reading some essays and excerpts from G. K. Chesterton. He lived in the late 1800's to early 1900's. Although he lived quite a while ago, it amazes me how relevant his ideas are for today. He is rather philosophic in nature, but in a down to earth understandable sort of way. Here are some essays he wrote.

                      C. S. Lewis is another all time favorite of mine. He is most well known for his children's books The Chronicles of Narnia. He also wrote quite a bit about Christianity. He has a phenomenal skill of making something that seems complex and hard to understand simple. One of my favorite books of his is The Screwtape Letters where a senior demon gives advice to his nephew on tempting his person.

                      For pure story telling genius here are some of my favorites: David Farland, Brandon Sanderson, and Robin Hobb. I can only aspire to telling stories like these authors. There is a point in most books which I like to term, "the point of no return." This is the part in the book where you can no longer set it down and simply must finish it. A normally punctual person will find themselves running out the door super late for an event. An early to bed person will chastise themselves for going to sleep at 4 in the morning because they simply had to read one more chapter. I hit the point of no return fairly early on in the books these authors write.

                      There are so many authors that I love and books that have become my friends over the years. Ayn Ran created fascinating philosophical stories, Francine Rivers told very realistic and sometimes raw stories about people in difficult situations. I love children's stories and I remember quite fondly Madeline L'engle, Lloyd Alexander, Judy Blume, and Lois Lowry. I have a book written by Fans G. Bengtsson. It is called The Long Ships. I absolutely love this book. I don't know if he has written any others, but this one I have read four or five times.

                      As you can see I have many favorite authors. Each one of them has a strength all their own. I find myself wishing I had the clarity of C. S. Lewis or the wit of Mark Twain. But I am unlike anyone who has written before me. I am uniquely my own style. And maybe sometime in the future another reader will draw inspiration from my writing or perhaps find a friend in a book that I wrote. That for me, would be wonderful knowing I have given something transcendental to someone else.

                      Friday, March 4, 2011

                      A Morning in the Thoughts of…

                                   I imagine that in each brain there is a fascinating thought process. Along with that process there is a unique view of the world which makes up the array of thoughts that goes through someone’s mind. I’m going to give you a peak at things that I notice. These thoughts aren’t grand epiphanies, they are regular, everyday, run of the mill thoughts. So if you inhabited my body for one day these are the sorts of things you would think about.
                                  When I woke up this morning I spent several minutes pondering if an element in my dream was real or not. You know how in dreams when you are being chased it feels like you are running through thick gooey caramel or when you are terrified and try to scream, you are unable to make a sound. Well in my dream I was desperately trying to be awake. I was walking around and talking, but I couldn’t open my eyes. I would force them open for a couple seconds, but couldn’t keep them open. Someone told me that she recognized the signs and it meant that I was going blind. It was rather strange. I lay in bed this morning wondering if that kind of thing ever really happens and feeling rather relieved that I wouldn’t have to see an optometrist to check my vision.
                                  I ate breakfast and started driving to the gym. As I drove along I contemplated the pattern in the red and green lights. This is a common thought process for me as I do my best to beat the light system. One street I think is timed against traffic heading east. Every other light is red. It is very frustrating to be sitting at a red light and watch the ones ahead turn to green because it means that as soon as I build up speed from my stop that light will also turn red. So I have finally learned to take the street right before it. On this street you almost always sale through on greens. Even if a red stops you, you can hit the wave of greens.
                                  At the gym I was doing some free weights. This section always intimidates me a little bit. Sometimes there are other women there, but usually it is a section dominated by muscle building men. I was standing up, facing a mirror so I could monitor my form. Just to the right and in front of me there was a man doing the same exercise I was. He was sitting down. His muscles were huge, not a nice huge, but a bulging vein borderline hulk huge. I was using a 12 lb weight and he was using a 100 lb weight. I was amused at the irony. He had to hoist the weight onto his shoulder, rest a second before lifting it behind is head. I wonder why he built himself to that level. Everyday life rarely calls for that level of strength. When would he decide he was strong enough? I think if it were possible he would build his muscles until aging stopped him. Would he end up being a saggy old guy with wobbly pieces of skin where his muscles used to be?
                                  This blog is already quite long, so I won’t take you through the rest of my day. I would like to hear what you think as you go through an ordinary day. What interesting places does your mind take you?

                      Tuesday, March 1, 2011

                      My current writing endevours

                      I have a long term goal to write a novel and after that novel to write many more. In short, I want to be a best selling author. It is ambitious, I know, but I love books. I would love to be for someone else what many authors have been to me. Books have been my friends through many years. So what am I doing to meet my goal.
                      First, I am writing this blog. This helps me discipline myself to write and also gives me the opportunity to share my life with all of you. In turn, I learn and enjoy hearing from you.
                      Second, I read books and other blogs. Today I read a blog about how to be likable in blogs. likability quotient by Kristen Lamb. I also enjoy reading the writing adventures of Miranda Suri .
                      Third, I am writing a short story to submit to a writing contest. I have finished writing it. I now need to edit it and turn it lose on my writing critics before I submit it. I am excited for this phase in my writing process.