Saturday, July 20, 2013

Sticks to Your Ribs

me in 4 year old kindergarten When I was four, my parents put me in 4-year-old Kindergarten, half-day, with Mrs. B.  I think Mrs. B went by that because she  figured four-year-olds couldn’t pronounce her long, presumably Polish last name.  Judging by my school picture that year, I didn’t like 4-year-old Kindergarten much.  But I don’t know if that’s really the case.  Maybe my dress itched or I was having a bad day.

Even though I went every morning for an entire school year, I only really have one memory from 4-year-old Kindergarten.  I loved the paste we used for art projects.  It was delicious.

Elmer's, in a white tub with an orange, screw-on lid that had an applicator stick attached to the underside.  The paste was thick and white and had a bit of a nutty flavor.  I looked forward to art projects so I could nibble on the yummy goop.  The teacher’s assistant, however, did not share my joy of this exquisite delicacy.  She reprimanded me – and I think I even had the paste taken away from me.  Now there’s a reason to pout.

Eventually, I stopped eating paste.  We stopped using it on art projects.  We used rubber cement – stinky and awful, snotty texture, like okra – and glue – too bitter.  Now, I use double-sided Scotch tape when I stick pieces of paper together, and that doesn’t even look appetizing.  Maybe someday, I’ll have a 4-year-old of my own (or borrow Alfred’s), and we can share some paste together.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Farewell Football

This past Saturday was my last day at football out here in the Yay.  I’ve loved, absolutely loved going to football each week.

The Legend brought me along about 10 months ago or so.  He knew I’d been wanting to play.  I’d never actually played football before, other than middle school gym class – which was incredibly intimidating as a future NFL quarterback was in my gym class.  - But I’d really wanted to try playing because I was having such a hard time finding football fans out here.  I figured people who play football were likely to be fans.

Not only did I find football fans, I found an amazing group of people who were welcoming to anyone who showed up.  As long as you were willing to get on that field and try, you could play.  No one asked “so, where are you from?” or “what do you do?”  like they did at every other Bay Area meeting, group or event I’d been to (aside from church).  I felt so happy; I didn’t feel like an outsider.

The group changes every week.  It’s whoever shows up for some amount of time between 1pm and sundown, even though we rarely actually start playing until well after 2pm.  Some weeks, we have one game at a time with teams of 5 or 6.  Other weeks, we have two games at the same time with teams of 7 and several subs.  Often, the number of games and sizes of teams fluctuates through-out the afternoon as people come and go.  That only adds to the welcoming atmosphere.  Come for as long as you can, even if it’s only 30 minutes.

This week was extra special.  I arrived shortly after 1 and stayed all afternoon until we didn’t have enough people remaining to keep playing.  It was after 8pm by the time I walked off the Berkeley high school campus.  Several of the other players declared that since it was my last day, I didn’t have to rotate out if I didn’t want to, so I played most of the day.  (People sometimes argue about rotating out, so I usually volunteer to go to the sidelines so others can play.)

My team insisted I try quarterbacking.  “This is ridiculous,” I insisted back.  Our team of 8 players had 4 or 5 decent quarterbacks.  The other team had one, The Legend, who’s usually only a fill-in QB.  They kept urging me to give it a try.  “I can’t throw.”  “Just one drive.”  That one drive turned out to be one play.  We scored!

- I better not try playing QB ever again; I’ll ruin my 100% completion record. ;)  -

There was also more extra fun.  One of our usual quarterbacks brought her camera and herded everyone together for a group photo so that I could have a picture of everyone.  That was quite the task!  And, in addition to the photo, I got the sweetest present ever.  Another one of the usual quarterbacks got a small autograph football; everyone wrote little messages and signed it.  Absolutely perfect present.  I felt so special.

I am really going to miss this group, and playing football.

last day of football (2) cropped

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Starting a New Kaki Warner Trilogy

heartbreak creek Another Kaki Warner book devoured in about three days.  When I get my hands on these things, I just can’t put them down.  I may be addicted.

I recently finished Heartbreak Creek, the first in her Runaway Brides series.  The four main characters of the series are introduced in this book.  What’s interesting, is that the series has four main characters, but only three books.  In some ways, this book was about two of the ladies’ stories, but only one of the stories really had an ending.  I wonder if the other lady’s story will continue through the other books.

In Heartbreak Creek, we meet a young Southern belle, widowed by the Civil War and now family- and plantation-less who decides her only escape is a new husband.  So she becomes a mail order bride for a Colorado rancher looking for a sturdy farm woman to help him raise his four children.  This poor woman can’t even cook!  That provides plenty of amusement.  Lucky for everyone involved, her half-sister goes along for the ride and is an excellent cook and has many other useful skills she’s able to share.

It bothers me a bit that the character who doesn’t seem to have her own book is this half-sister, daughter of this book’s main character’s father and mammy.  She does play a very important role in this book for most of the story, but her own love life is left unresolved.  I’m hoping that’s not the case by the end of the series.

As usual, I found myself laughing frequently during the story, gripping pages tightly in nervous anticipation and fighting to put the book down at 3am when I really needed to go to sleep.  No tears this time, but that’s fine by me.

Having read all of Kaki Warner’s Blood Rose Trilogy novels, I was expecting the same sort of plot line here.  I was pleasantly surprised.  While the novel does have a big climatic life-or-death scene like her other works, it doesn’t feel as much the main focus as in her other books.  This book feels far more about the love story and the everyday hardships of throwing yourself into a completely new world.  And, the adventures aren’t just physical safety fights, especially when someone suddenly winds up with two wives!

I enjoyed this book more than the last two I’ve read – and I liked those well enough.  I don’t know that I’ll ever find any of her other works as intensely, emotionally infiltrating as Pieces of Sky, but I’ve already ordered the next in this series.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Sing for Your Supper, or at Least for Your Friends

Isn’t it amazing how you can be friends with someone for years and have no idea about how their special talents?  Then they blow you away, suddenly shining and astounding you with their awesomeness.

That happened to me this week when I went to hear Short Fabulous do an open mic night in the City.  I knew she did open mics, but I’d never been to one.  I sort of pictured her sitting on a stool, strumming a guitar and moping aloud in the way all devastated open mic performers of my imagination do.  But, boy did I have that wrong.

Short Fabulous strolled nonchalantly up to the stage, positioned the mic and introduced herself.  Then, she launched into singing.  A cappella style!  The song was upbeat and it didn’t take long before the crowd was stomping and clapping along.  She had fairly similar participation in her following 3 songs.

I enjoyed the fairly witty lines and her use of technically incorrect grammar, i.e. “more strong,” as we were earlier having a conversation about how people can get away with that in songs.

The open mic night did have several of those standard guitar-playing singers, including one young gentleman who sounded astonishingly like Tracy Chapman.  I liked his set.  The first performer was an elderly piano player who was absolutely amazing. 

Later, there was also a violinist, a balding man in a baggy sweater, likely in his 60s, who then accompanied a young spoken-word artist.  The comedian was a bit odd.  First he explained that lesbians are all angry because there are no – erm, todgers, in their relationship.  Gay men, however, are very, very happy because they have two.  He then proceeded to tell very insulting jokes about his wife, after introducing her in the audience!  Very interesting evening.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Airplane Tetherball

fischer price airplane My sister, Alfred, and I were very creative with the games we’d play growing up.  Often, we’d make our own version of some toy we wished we had or that our school or church had.  My post about our attempts to bungee jump is one example.  We even made our own tetherball, sort of.

Our shared bedroom had a little alcove in it with a lower-than-average ceiling.  - The alcove I wrote about in Don’t Shoot, I’m Not a Real Princess! – The ceiling was low enough that if I stood on my bed in the alcove, I could touch the ceiling.  The ceiling had a light fixture on it.  A round fixture with a round, bulbous frosted glass cover.  The frosted glass cover was held into the metal fixture by 3 screws.  The screws were evenly placed around the fixture and held the frosted glass cover in place by the pressure the bottom of the screw placed on the cover’s rim.  This meant the screws were not screwed in tight such that there was space between the screw head and the fixture rim.  This is relevant, just wait.

Alfred had a toy airplane.  A plastic, Fisher Price airplane that had little round-hole seats in it for passengers and a pilot.  The plane was rather large, probably about a foot long and a foot in wingspan.  It had wheels and coming off the nose was a long yellow plastic cord so that the plane could be pulled along.

For some reason, we decided this large, heavy, plastic airplane would make a great tetherball.  So we took that yellow pull-cord and tied it to one of the screws on the light fixture.  The cord fit perfectly in that little space between the screw head and the fixture rim.

Then, Alfred stood and I kneeled on my bed and we batted the plane back and forth at each other, ducking to dodge hard swings and smacking it back at the other person.  It was all great fun.

It was all great fun until the one time we were playing with it and the round, bulbous frosted glass fixture broke.  Broken frosted glass all over my bed.  Pooey.  The airplane didn’t hit the glass.   We didn’t really know why it broke.  Even looking back, I’m not sure.  Perhaps the screw with the plane on it was twisted just enough to put too much pressure on the cover’s rim, maybe it was tweaked at an angle that pierced the glass and caused it to shatter, maybe the screw came loose and the cover fell out and hit something on the way down.

I also don’t remember getting in trouble, but I’m sure we must have.  We certainly didn’t play airplane tetherball again.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Open Door is Open for Worship!

open door's first service History was made in Richmond this past Sunday.  It was the first service for Open Door United Methodist Church.  Open Door is a new church with very old roots, born of the merger between El Cerrito United Methodist Church (where I’ve been attending mostly since I moved here) and Good Shepherd United Methodist Church.

El Cerrito UMC was founded with the City of El Cerrito as the home of the first Sunday school in the area.  I don’t know much about the history of Good Shepherd UMC other than that its old letterhead proclaims it to be an Inter-racial community of faith.  That makes me think it was founded sometime in the 60s. 

The Good Shepherd church building, which is now the building for Open Door, is beautiful and was built by the people of Good Shepherd.  It’s two floors, upstairs being the sanctuary and a small office and downstairs being the fellowship hall, kitchen and a small playroom.  It’s a peaceful, rustic wood with stone accents and lots of stained glass windows depicting church stuff and the history of Richmond.  Each side of the sanctuary is floor-to-ceiling clear windows.  To the right, a view overlooking the Bay; to the left, an indoor garden with trees and lots of greenery.

The first service was wonderful; the pews were very full.  The two churches had been worshiping together for awhile already so the faces were all already familiar.  The service began with praising and ended with dancing.

There was one new element introduced today, pew sign-in books.  They’re red books were each person in the pew puts their name, address and email and then checks the appropriate “member,”  “visitor,” etc. box.  My mommy’s church has red pew sign-in books very similar to these.  I was excited.  Munchkinhead and I always enjoy drawing little pictures in the check boxes.  I drew a kitty face today.

The sign-in books will take some adjustment for the congregation.  Lots of people tried to hand the books off to the row behind them instead of passing them back down their own pew.  We’re not used to having things only go down one pew.  Usually, what we’re passing around are clipboards with sign-up sheets for church events and volunteer opportunities.  They start at the front of the church and are passed from there, arriving at the back pews already full. 

I think people will get the hang of the new books soon.  It’s a pretty small adjustment for such a big occasion.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

It’s that Time of Year…

Tomorrow is a very special day.  It’s Mommy and Daddy’s 34th wedding anniversary.  My sisters and I made them a present and they aren’t allowed to open it until tomorrow.  I can’t wait to hear how they like it!  No, no, it’s not snakes in a can that pop out at you.  Though that would be very fun…

the ceremony (5).1 edited for blogI have lots and lots of great memories of spending time with Mommy and Daddy, but some of the best are actually when their squabbling.  Not angry fighting, just old-married-couple bickering. 
(Photo: Mommy and Daddy at their 30th Wedding Anniversary vow renewals.  Daddy doesn’t like his photo online, so I edited it.)

My mommy has this delightful way of saying my Daddy’s name in a manner that seems to say, in one little syllable, “that is totally inappropriate and you should not be doing it and don’t you dare do it again even though I know you will but I still love you dearly anyway.”  It’s adorable and makes me giggle. Makes Daddy laugh, too most of the time.

One of the best things is when they’ve been arguing over something factual that can be checked and the moment when Daddy realizes Mommy was right the whole time and he doesn’t really want to concede that she was right but can’t honestly keep claiming he’s right.  Somehow, those conversations just sort of end and Daddy suddenly has something he needs to do somewhere else.  Though there are the rare occasions where he goes, “ok, ok, you’re right; I was wrong.”  Then he tries to hug Mommy, and she’s still so upset about being told she was wrong to begin with she scowls.  It’s so cute, like little bunny rabbits munching in the garden.

Here’s to plenty more years of nice little squabbles, and plenty of non-squabble moments, too – Happy Anniversary Mommy and Daddy!

Other Posts related to Mommy and Daddy’s Anniversaries:

Mommy and Daddy in love

Their song

The importance of beer in a relationship

Thursday, July 4, 2013

La Cerrito aux Folles

Capture 85 I’m sure there was a time and are some places where 20 Methodist going to see a production of La Cage Aux Folles as a church outing would be quite scandalous.  But, the San Francisco Bay Area in 2013 is not that time or place.  And what a fabulous outing it was!

The churches music director is the music director for Contra Costa Civic Theater’s production of La Cage Aux Folles, which runs through July 21.  Of course we had to go.  We were very excited to find that the band, including the music director on keyboards, is visible through the entire performance on a nice ledge perched over the center back of the stage.

CCCT has outdone itself with two fantastic musicals in a row.  After how amazing Next to Normal was, I was holding my breath a bit, half-expecting La Cage to fall back to the theater’s usual level of so-so musicals.  Instead, I was blown away.  The singing was grand, and the dancing – my goodness, the dancing was absolutely amazing.  All we could talk about after the show (other than the music director, of course) was “where did they find so many amazing male dancers for community theater?!” 

The 5 or 6 gentlemen that played Les Cagettes spent most of the three-hour show leaping, kicking, twirling and tapping in high-heeled mary janes.  The splits, the cheer-leading jumps, the pirouettes, were all jaw-droppingly impressive. 

The show was excellent, and the cast, crew and musicians should all be very proud of themselves.  If I had to give one piece of criticism on the performance it would only be that the woodwind player could use some more practice time with his clarinet.

The story part of the musical was ok.  The plot felt a bit hidden, sort of stuffed into the end as a reason to have all that spectacular dancing.  But I suppose it’s such a classic now, that hardly matters.  If you’re in the East Bay area and can make room in your weekend schedules this month, I’d recommend checking it out.

Side note: My favorite part was Sunday morning when everyone was settling in at church and the music director began playing tunes from the show for the “get ready for church to start” music.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Last of the Three: Book Review of Chasing the Sun

chasing the sun I was finally able to read Kaki Warner’s third book in the Blood Rose Trilogy, Chasing the Sun.  This book focuses on the youngest of the three Wilkins brothers, Jack, and his love affair with a saloon singer from Canada/San Francisco.

This isn’t Warner’s best book in the series, but I still devoured it in about three days.  By the third novel, the reader is pretty familiar with the general plot lines.  Different danger, different bad guys, different lovers, same general outcome.  There’s also now so many characters – all the main characters from the first and second books plus a few more – that the protagonist characters seem to get less depth than their forerunners.

The historical setting is excellent and well-researched, as always.  This novel takes place in the 1870s, after the Panic of 1873 and after the US has stopped using silver to mint coins.  This sets a background for the Wilkins family to encounter some financial issues as their silver mines become nearly worthless and debts they incurred for investments in the mines come due.

A nice surprise and change from the other novels, Chasing the Sun starts out in San Francisco rather than on the Wilkins ranch.  Much to my delight, San Francisco is accurately depicted as a cold and grey place bustling with a wide variety of people crowded into a tiny little space.  The transfer of the main story out to the Wilknis ranch presents a nice comparison between the ranch’s wide open spaces beautiful landscape to the busy city.

My favorite part of this novel was the descriptions of Jack’s travels around the Pacific: Australia, Hawaii and other Pacific Islands.  It’s really neat to think that even nearly 150 years ago, people could still travel the world and come back to their families.

If you’ve read the other books in the Trilogy, Chasing the Sun provides a nice follow-up and a sense of closure with the characters.  If you haven’t read the other books, I’d recommend not picking this one up first.  It’s a bit difficult to understand without background from those books and contains some spoilers.