My Brother Markus' Mad Dancing Skills

The 2008 Spring Weekend at Concordia-- their Reading Rainbow themed lip sync won them first place for the third year in a row!


Sunny Cambridge

It seemed like a selfish excess at first--26 pounds for a there and back trip to Cambridge lasting from Saturday morning until Sunday evening. But to my pleasant surprise, my friend and I weren't the only ones who stepped off the St. Neots train--so did Spring! I emphatically tore off my coat and walked into the warm city with short-sleeves. And I did what just might be on the "1001 things you should do before you die" list--I went punting on the Cambridge river. For a good rate you can rent your own and take a lazy jaunt through Cambridge, savoring strawberries, absorbing the ancient architecture, brilliantly green lawns, swans, and fellow punters as they attempt to mangle their boats through the water and their heads through the low-slung tunnels. Of course it's not so lazy if you're standing barefoot on the rather slippery, precarious bow, attempting to tame an exceedingly tall rod that wants to knock people's heads instead of sinking into the river bottom and propelling the punt forward. But somehow I got the hang of it (giving it up to a friend when we encountered traffic, of course) and now I feel that when it's time, I can leave England a satisfied woman.


The Meanest Monster

Finally I just get tired. Tired of regret, tired of guilt, tired of rehashing the same old unforgivable situations over and over in my head. And it mostly happens when I'm trying to sleep, thinking that all that thinking has to put me to sleep eventually-- but instead it riles me up into a tightly bound bunch of frayed wires, my eyes sparking dangerously close to the outlet next to my bed. One of these days my anxiety will electrocute me, an ironic twist of humor that would complement my first electrocution experience which was caused by the furthest thing from anxiety: a five year-old's imagination. I was confident as the housewife of a magnificent hotel bathroom, and I took it upon myself to "open the door" for my cousin by falling for one of the oldest tricks in the book--keys in the outlet. (Hence my firm belief in the use of outlet covers.) I can still remember the neon blue, bony arms that jumped out of the outlet at me, wrapping themselves around my stomach and squeezing the air out of me. I managed to scream and my parents came running. They put me in therapy because I walked all the way around a room in order to avoid walking next to an outlet, and I drew pictures of the outlet monster to get over my fear.

That's the long way around, but maybe it explains the suffocation I feel from regret. I just haven't quite figured out the therapy this time. Do I try to move on and forget, as I've done for most of my life? Do I write about it, hide the file away and never look at it again, or print it off and burn it? Or do I speak to the people I've hurt, attempting expired apologies?

I've never been adept with confrontation, but marriage has taught me to deal with frustration instead of shoving it into a closet like I used to do. I've always heard that with a spouse, the one thing you must never do is "let the sun go down on your anger." It's probably the most quoted Biblical advice I've ever come across. But frankly, I wish it was used for other relationships just as much as for marriage, because if I had learned it a long time ago, maybe I wouldn't be suffering another night of insomnia.



Last night I watched White Oleander, an excellent film (2002) directed by Peter Kosminsky about a mother/daughter relationship. I thoroughly enjoyed the characterization of the leads and the interesting light it sheds on foster child environments, but I was disappointed to see that it is yet another film that portrays Christians negatively. One of the foster mothers in the film is, as Michelle Pfeiffer says, a "trailer-trash Bible thumper" who spouts off Biblical references, baptizes her foster children and hobnobs with her reverend. Of course we're not too surprised that she fits the over-generalized born-again mold perfectly--quintessential southern Bible belt accent, hot pink spandex and high heels (with a cross necklace, of course), lives with her boyfriend and shoots to kill for jealousy.

And then there's my favorite TV sitcom, The Office (the American version). As much as I love the show (I even stayed up till 3 am to watch it on the webcam my dad held up to the TV in Denver), the Christian on the show is portrayed as a bitchy prude who gets on everyone's nerves. She selfishly demands that her party-planning committee abide by her rules and her all-time favorite desert-island books are The Bible and The Purpose-Driven Life.

There are plenty of other stereotyped Christian characters. My point is not that sometimes the stereotypes aren't true, because sometimes they are. Of course Christians aren't perfect, and I'm not asking the media to give us rose-colored glasses with which to see the world. But I'm hard-pressed to think of mainstream TV shows/films/music that take a well-informed stance and create characters, not caricatures, who are three-dimensional and portray the reality we live in. The world is filled with Christians who, because they're not perfect, understand the full weight of a Grace we don't deserve. They sustain healthy, vibrant faiths to make a difference in the world for good, instead of living for themselves. When was the last time we saw them?

For all the tolerance Americans claim to have for religion, sexual orientation, race, etc., Christians are one of the only groups that are still bullied by the media's majority. In this day and age we wouldn't dream of publicly disrespecting the Muslim faith. We demand televised apologies from the bigots who let racial slurs slip from their mouths. Why is it, then, that the name of our God is an over-used curse word and Christians remain stereotyped as unintelligent wimps and hypocrites?


On My Mind

It's a beautiful day! The birds sing outside my window under a blanket of blue sky. I turned in my term papers last night and to celebrate, Jonathan bought us a rich port and Green and Black dark chocolate (together they melt on the tongue deliciously). Dissertation, here I come! I slept until 10 am, I have enough brain juice to blog again, I'm writing a poem, I have a new idea for an article, and we're about to see the long awaited Wicked!

And I came across the most beautiful passage about love in Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights:

"It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff, now; so he shall never know how I love him; and that, not because he's handsome, Nelly, but because he's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same, and Linton's is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire."


Dream Haunt

I woke up this morning and remembered my dream so perfectly that it is still haunting my day. I rarely experience these kinds of dreams-- the ones that I can visualize as if it really happened to me-- which is why this dream intrigues me so much. Strangely it's based on a wonderful film I recently watched for my screenplay class called The Piano, directed by Jane Campion. I highly recommend it--it's about a mute Irish woman named Ada who is a mail-order bride sent to New Zealand. She brings her daughter and her piano with her, and when she loses the piano at the beginning of the film, she is willing to do ANYthing to win it back. I won't spoil the rest of the story in case you want to see it (and you should).

In my dream I was Ada, and my dream picked up where the film left off (with the exception of a few details). I left New Zealand with my husband and daughter to return to the States, and I discovered that I could speak, since I was removed from my old way of life. When we arrived we swam along the coast to get to our new home (we had no need of a boat, of course) and I swam so fast that I almost ran into things like poles and rocks and such. I had to swim slower so that I wouldn't get too far ahead of the group.

Soon we arrived at a small house that he had purchased for our arrival, and it looked like it was built in the 50's. My husband and I walked into the dining room to find a table for lunch, but the whole room was lined with tables. The funny thing was we couldn't seem to find one that was appropriate, because all of them were shaky and wobbly and none of them had the right amount of chairs, since our two daughters would be joining us.

It was about this point that I surmised that I had amnesia. My husband talked as if I should remember my former life in New Zealand, and it seemed that we had done some things together the past few days that I had no recollection of. He told me that we had gone grocery shopping and bought salad, and sure enough, in the fridge were plates of salad and in our fruit and veg crisper (separate from the fridge) there were piles of fruit. There were even jacket potatoes all ready to be re-heated, and I thought to myself, well that's a nice idea--get them baked and ready to go so they're easy to reheat.

Then he told me our children would arrive soon, and since I didn't know we had children, and because I innately knew that I should learn to love my husband, I asked him to kiss me before our girls arrived, to see if I would like it. It was the most slobbery kiss I've ever experienced--in real life or in a dream :)--and I wanted to spit it all out but didn't, because I desperately wanted to learn to love him. Then our two girls entered the room and we ate, and I felt terrible that I didn't know my own children's names. I was saved because my husband told me that Laura, my old friend, was on the phone to talk to me. Of course I didn't remember Laura, but I talked to her and told her that I had the strangest feeling that I had been dropped out of a drama film and into this life, and that I didn't belong. She laughed, and I could hear her husband laughing on the other end of the line as he listened to me. Laura told me that we lived in Three Sisters, which she told me was in Connecticut. And that's about where the dream ended.

Needless to say, it was an interesting night. The strongest feeling that's left over from the dream, like the dregs left in the bottom of a tea cup, is the desire I had to love my husband, even though I didn't know him, and my efforts to stay physically close to him as we ate lunch, talked to our children, etc., hoping that by pretending to love him I would actually come to love him. And all of this despite the fact that the man I really loved came in and out of the house while we ate, because I knew that my commitment to responsibility (or loyalty?) was greater than him.

Any Freuds out there? I'm open to your interpretations! :)


Waxing Philosophical

I was reading about characterization today and came across two interesting quotes (both from Lajos Egri, The Art of Dramatic Writing). I wonder what they mean for you?

“Every second of our life has its own premise, whether or not we are conscious of it at the time . . . The premise of each second contributes to the premise of the minute of which it is part, just as each minute gives its bit of life to the hour, and the hour to the day. And so, at the end, there is a premise for every life.”

“A pivotal character is a driving force, not because he decided to be one. He becomes what he is for the simple reason that some inner or outer necessity forces him to act; there is something at stake for him, honor, health, money, protection, vengeance, or a mighty passion.”

So, on a lazy Saturday, here's a couple of questions to get your brain wrinkles thinking:

What would you say is your premise this second? This minute? This hour? This lifetime?

What's at stake for you? What are you forced to fight for?


Check Out War

I have nothing against bagging my own groceries. Really. But why is it that I seem to be the only Londoner who notices the sudden fast forwarding of time when it's my turn with the checker?

This is how it goes. I prepare for battle: I choose a checkout line, line up my items on the conveyor belt, unfold my cloth bags and place them in an easily accessible position. I pull out my money and nectar card so they're ready for the draw, push back my hair, lean forward in action pose and take a deep breath. I peer at the customer ahead of me and watch her every move: she bags her groceries. She pays the cashier calmly, completely unruffled. I'm almost tricked into believing that maybe it was just in my head last time? That maybe I'll be okay? No! I can't lose my edge. I shake my head and watch her pick up her grocery bags and then I'm off! The seemingly short distance between the queue and the bagging area takes longer than I thought. Luckily I've jumped out of my reverie into action, only to notice that I'm already behind, so I've got to make up for it with my deft agility. The cashier flings my groceries one by one across the scanner (my eggs!) and rams them into my carefully set up bags. I hurry to set the poor things up again and get in my rhythm but as I do I notice with dismay that the checker is sabotaging my efforts to strategically manage the weight distribution of the groceries in the bags. After all the pains I went through--putting all the heaviest items first so they could go first and be in the bottom of the bags, that clever little b is reaching farther up the belt and picking up the lightest items to scan first. My plans are going awry. More items sneak past my grasp and sweat pours from my face and I'm feeling the pressure. Her pile is growing smaller and mine is exploding out of control. Any moment she'll be finished before I'm halfway through and she'll tell me how much I owe. My survival instincts take over. I throw the eggs sidewise by the soup cans, drop the milk under the bread and somehow squeeze the grapes between the chicken and the toilet paper. As I pick up the peppers an impatient voice cuts through the clatter and tells me the amount I owe, as if I've forgotten that I have to pay. I grind my teeth and hold back my suddenly unquenchable desire to open the bag of flour and douse her, and instead juggle with the money and card. I manage to hand the cash to her and then hurry to bag a few groceries before she gives me change, but I've only had time to put the lettuce in. There's still an armful of items to pack when she hands me my money and I have holes in my hands so the coins fall everywhere.

I'm red in the face, twitchy and blazing saddles mad when I hear a barely audible sarcastic cough (I swear I heard a sarcastic tone). She doesn't have to say it. Her marching gorilla body, her territorial odor and her polite "excuse me" signal-- they loom in my periphery and they say it all: I need to leave the bagging premises or else. OR ELSE WHAT? I want to cackle. I want to laugh an evil laugh and make them think they made me crazy and that now they'll have to deal with a crazy woman throwing tomatoes and smashing eggs and causing a ruckus in the bagging premises.

But I don't. Instead I walk away and think that If Sainsbury's was the only thing I knew of the world, I'd swear it was conspiring against me.