Friday, January 30, 2009

Monday, January 26, 2009

Enhance the Romance

One crisp January night ten years ago, I set my studies aside, walked out of my North Hall dorm room, and made the drive to my parent's house thirty minutes away. There I spent several hours hunched over a cookbook and a counter top, cracking eggs, sifting flour, greasing pans. It was the night before Jill's birthday and I wanted make my new girlfriend feel special. So I made her a three-tiered chocolate cake--frosting and all--from scratch. Even though Jill later noted that the frosting I had so painstakingly made and applied was a little rich for her taste (hard to believe), it was a rather romantic gesture, if I don't say so myself.

But, oh, how the mighty have fallen.

This year I spent the night before and the night of Jill's birthday in meetings. And Jill baked her own cake. I had thoughts of frosting it for her (though I had no intention of making any frosting from scratch), but instead, my secretary did it while she baby-sat Adrian. Some (who are easily impressed) might think that impressive--a sign of my great importance--but I'll admit it's really rather pathetic. So even though we're old codgers who have been married seven and a half years (we're experts now), I probably ought to do something to step it up a notch--some gesture to enhance the romance.

Then again, I managed to sit through two really bad chick-flicks that Jill picked out (Because I Said So and The Holiday) while keeping the my groans and sarcastic comments to a minimum (sleeping through the last half of The Holiday helped in that regard). That has to count for something, doesn't it?
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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Monday, January 12, 2009

Why I Won't be Blogging Until February 5*

I got an email the other day from my local library notifying me that an item I had placed on hold had arrived. Tonight, I went to pick it up. Much to my delight I discovered not one but six items. And note, dear friends**, what those items include. The complete third season of Arrested Development, the complete second season of The Wire, TWO David Sedaris books, and a John Hodman and Ken Grimwood for good measure. They're due February 2, which means that I should be done with them by February 5 or so (and have them back to the library by February 12). It also means that, if the people here*** are right, I should be in middle-class-nerdy-white-guy heaven.

* I don't really mean that. Please keep checking back and inflating both my counter numbers and my ego.
**Has John McCain faded far enough into the recesses of our memory that I can again use that phrase?
***Do a search if you're really curious. I know they have entries on Arrested Development, David Sedaris, and NPR. Odds are good that they've covered the others as well.
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Michelin Man

We took advantage of morning snow in the Front Range and took Adrian on his first snowshoeing adventure. Good times.

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Sunday, January 4, 2009

Double Ought Nine

I'm not usually one to make New Year's resolutions. At least not out loud. But since I already resolved to post more on my blog this year, I thought a resolutions post would do well to fill some space.

Or maybe not resolutions, exactly. Resolutions sound so serious. Sin less, pray more, eat less ice-cream, stop wasting time on the Internet--that sort of thing.* Those serious things have their place and I do aspire to them, but I won't include them here since they violate the rather not-so-serious nature of this blog. So let's just say the things listed here are "aspirations"--at most--for the year.
  • Bike more miles than last year. I won't say what I'm gunning for since some people (especially those who don't regularly bike) will undoubtedly find it a little obscene and wonder why I'm not using my time to do something more useful (like read to my son, or wash my car, or plant a garden, I suppose) --but I do have a number in mind. I also have an event in mind. I've once again shelled out the big bucks so I can suffer through the Triple Bypass.
  • The sub-aspiration that goes along with the Triple Bypass is to get that nice skinny/bobble-headed biker looking going for me so that I can be faster and stronger--but I know that probably won't happen. But even so, I could probably stand to cut down on how many trips I make down the hall to the secretary's candy dish. I'd like to say one a day. But two sounds more reasonable.
  • I'd also like to ride my bike more with other people. I rode alone way too much this year and discovered that I'm really not that good of company. I'm hoping to get a weekly tandem ride in with Jill and also to take a day to pull Adrian to the park in his bike trailer (I will be sorely disappointed if he doesn't like his bike trailer). If things go my way, I'd also like to find some fellas to MTB with most weeks (CL--are you listening?).
  • Learn to like running. No, I'm not going to run a marathon this year. I pushed things a little too hard last month after spouting off my mouth here and ended up with very sore knees and ankles for about three weeks. More proof that I'm not a kid any more, I guess. But even so, I'd like to work a light jog (or lope) into my weekly exercise schedule.
  • Grow a beard. Or at least try. I'll have to see if I can arrange a few weeks away from work so that I can pull it off, but I'm thinking that since my body is no longer putting much energy into growing hair on top of my head, it might have something extra to put into my face. Or maybe that's all going to my nose, ears, and eyebrows. Time will tell.
  • Read a classic (or two). Maybe it's finally time to check "Crime and Punishment" off the list.
  • Sweep the floors. Someday, I'll have to post on all the things that make me a lousy husband--my regular failure to sweep the floors would have to be on the list. I really hope to rectify that this year.
  • Keep a budget. We kind of do this--but I want to be serious about it this year. Get software. Balance the check book. Refrain from buying something that's not in the budget or get stressed when we don't. The works.
  • Call my grandmas more.
  • Get a news magazine (Newsweek? Time? Any recommendations?) and read it regularly. I know next to nothing about what is going on in the world these days and am tired of faking it.
  • Go to a play. I like Shakespeare--and I'm not just saying that. I think it's time to check out another production of the Bard's work. Then I can quote him in sermons and people will think I'm both up to date on current events and cultured. Won't I be impressive?
  • Floss. I won't say daily (let's be reasonable here!). But enough so that my dental hygienist doesn't scold me after my next appointment. I just can't stand her scorn any longer.
  • Drink less coffee more. What's reasonable? Seven, eight cups a day?
  • Find a babysitter we can trust (and not feel guilty about asking). Use this babysitter to go on occasional non-church related dates with my wife.
  • Go camping more than last year. That means go camping some. And even if we don't camp, spend more Mondays (my day off) in the mountains with Jill and Adrian. One of those Mondays, I'd like to climb another 14er.

That's probably more than enough--any more and I'll start to sound like Ben Franklin. And besides, there's coffee brewing here that needs drinking, apple crisp that needs eating.

I'll report back in ought ten and see how I did.

*(Good thing I proof read sometimes--I had those first two switched around for a moment making it sound like I aspire to pray less and sin more.)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Blue Shoe

Author's note: Like thousands (millions?) of other bloggers, I'm resolving to update my blog more this year. Seriously. The goal, however, is more about quantity than quality--which means I may be posting random thoughts throughout the day or, quick snapshots of my son, or today, a book review. Today's review is a book by Anne Lamott-a book Jill claims I read a couple of years ago but one that I had (apparently) completely forgotten. This is one of the reasons I want to write about what I read--so that I may actually remember it. Anyway, as always, skip if you're not interested. I won't be offended. Or at least I'll pretend not to be.


Eight years ago, I sat in the bleachers of the Calvin College Gym and listened to a middle-aged woman with dread-locks, a sense of humor as dry as a corn husk in October (as she might have said), and a voice that sounded like a bad imitation of a sixties stoner, tell a story about a recent flight where she was given a seat between a small Pakistani woman and a Christian man fingering a cross and reading a Left Behind novel. Like nearly everybody else in the packed gymnasium, I laughed--really, really hard. Of course, having finished that author's recent set of memoirs (Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies) I expected nothing less.

A year ago, Jill and I leaned against the back wall of a packed book store and listened to this same woman tell another story. I don't remember exactly what that one was about--but I remember that there were more than a few jabs at the current political administration. I also remember being disappointed that night--I laughed a lot less than I had eight years before. On the train ride home, Jill and I commented that Lamott had crossed a line somewhere. It's not that we were such huge fans of the Bush administration and were offended. It was more that her voice was no longer funny. It was just bitter. And annoying. Of course, having just read her most recent set of memoirs (both Plan B and Grace (Eventually)), I should have expected nothing less (or nothing more).

With both of those experiences in mind, I picked up Lamott's novel, Blue Shoe, byat the library this week with a sense of guarded optimism. Which Lamott would I be getting? The Lamott who could make an audience laugh until they teared up just before making them murmur with appreciation for her insight? Or the bitter, angry Lamott who would leave audiences rolling their eyes and murmuring about what she once was?

Much to my delight, Blue Shoe, was the old Lamott. Lamott shows genuine insight into a woman who is dealing with an aging mother, crumbling relationships, and growing children. Like much of Lamott's work, she has wonderful one liners and a way of expressing--with honesty and humor--what real people think (or real people really want to think). As in Traveling Mercies, Lamott's voice comes through clearly--and for the most part, is a joy to read. This is probably the book's greatest strength.

This great strength, however, might also be perceived as Lamott's greatest weakness. It just sounds so much like, well, her. While reading the book, I had the image of Lamott sitting across the table and saying, Well, I have this "friend" I'd like to tell you about...I wondered, were these just more stories about Lamott--another set of memoirs--thinly cloaked as a novel? How much was coming out of her imagination--and how much was coming straight from her life?

I suppose that's a silly criticism. Good authors write what they know (or so I'm told). No matter where this story came from, Lamott makes wonderful observations of human character and has a great way of describing the ordinary moments of our lives. But even so, there's just a part of me that wants to think that Lamott is capable of coming up with something different--that she can imagine into being a world that is not her own (more like Marylin Robinson, for example).

Regardless--this is a worthwhile read. If you've never read anything by Lamott, check this one out(and Traveling Mercies). I think you'll enjoy it.