Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Spark - Music Series, part two

Some of my earliest memories are of lying in my room at night, and hearing the sounds of my father playing the piano in the living room. I fell in love with music from listening to him play. It never occurred to me that it wasn’t necessarily typical to have someone playing an instrument in the house all the time. I guess I figured everybody had a family member who played often. But I was lucky in that regard. My dad had a brown Kimball baby grand, and I loved that piano and all the memories it created for me. If my father hadn’t constantly provided me exposure to his playing, I know I still would’ve come to love music, but it probably wouldn’t have happened as early as it did. My dad would sit down at the piano nearly every night to practice, and he played a variety of music. I heard countless church hymns (he was the pianist at our church), some classical pieces, and a bit of ragtime also. My dad loves George Gershwin music, and I’m glad for that because when he played Gershwin, I was exposed to very different rhythms than with the classical or religious pieces.

When my parents began sending me to piano lessons, I learned that while I was very interested and excited to learn how to play, I wasn’t too enthusiastic about learning to read music. All I wanted to do was play the piano, and at first all my piano teacher wanted me to do was read music out of a book and do sight-reading exercises. Talk about all work and no play. I wanted to hear myself playing songs, but that takes a little more time to achieve than I had originally assumed. I figured I would have one lesson and be able to play anything I wanted, perfectly. I was, as they say, ready to jam. Surprisingly, that’s not what happened. Learning to read music wasn’t especially difficult, but it took more patience than I typically kept on hand at the time, so my parents had to begin forcing me to do some serious foraging within myself to find an extra stash of patience and focus I wasn’t even sure existed (turns out it was down near my toes, and I didn’t have nearly as much stashed away as my parents claimed I did). I have the sneaking suspicion that I’m not the only child in history who has had this problem. In fact, as time went on, I tried to find ways to avoid reading music. I knew I was supposed to learn a song by reading the music, but if I could hear it played once or twice, I could usually figure it out from there without having to do the dirty work of sight-reading. It was just easier to play by ear. Granted, I could read music, but when I was still learning, it took longer to figure out the notes from the page than from hearing someone else play them. Essentially I was being lazy, and looking for the easy way out.

It was also in my early years that I developed a distinct fondness for music that sounded melancholy. Pieces written in a minor key were favorites because they created a feeling of sorrow that I identified with. They inspired me and made me love music even more. I began to comprehend the power of music, and the magic it makes possible. Those somber pieces made me feel understood; they created an atmosphere that represented how I felt, and they expressed emotions I wouldn’t fully understand for years. I could relate to the music in a way I was unable to relate to another person. I absorbed it as a means of communication and expression. I feel like music taught me that every emotion I possess is allowed to be acknowledged and expressed. As I got older, I felt that it was alright to convey the sadness I carried most of the time; it was a safe and even healthy outlet for the emotions that are difficult to put into words and share with other people. With music, whether listening, playing, or composing, my ever-present depression is allowed to be recognized; I am not expected or told to cheer up, and I am not made to apologize for it.

Music is a precious art that can be at once empowering and humbling, and it is a gift to create as well as to hear. Obviously some people are more musically talented than others, but I think some people also have an innate attraction to music, where music is not just something that drones on in the background, but is a priceless and integral component of life. It nurtures the soul in a way that little else can, and it allows for a stunning expression of life's emotions, from the worst sorrow to the greatest joy. I plan to write about my experiences with composing, playing, and listening to music, and I am hopeful that I’ll be able to convey the love and respect I have for it.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Attempt - Music Series, part one

Recently I was chatting about music with my friend Kris, and he encouraged me to do something I have always assumed I was incapable of doing. I had just downloaded a new album on iTunes, and he asked if it was any good. I had only listened to a few songs in the car, so I said I would have to give it an attentive listen that evening to get a better idea of what I thought of it. He asked, "What is an 'attentive' listen?" As I prepared to answer his question, I experienced the familiar difficulty I have when trying to explain my relationship with music. It's like asking me to solve a trigonometry problem; I get that deer-in-headlights thing going on, where my eyes open slightly larger than normal and my mouth drops open just a little, and then I stare into space just long enough to make anyone in the vicinity wonder if I've lost my lone marble. I have never, ever been able to adequately describe the role music plays in my life, how it really makes me feel, or why it is so important to me. I always come away feeling like a frustrated child wanting to stomp my feet and whine, "Wait, you don't really understand!" It sort of makes me feel like I must be the only person who feels this strongly about music. Obviously that's not true; there are a lot of people in the world who are passionate about music, and it would be arrogant of me to think that I am the only one who feels the way I do. But, man, talk about a difficult thing to describe. Even if I had better communication skills, I think I would still have trouble with this one. I mean, how do you describe that kind of magic?

I decided to try and write about music. This will be a true challenge for me, but I’m actually looking forward to it. Instead of attempting to fit everything into one post, I’m going to write a series; I’ll be able to break things into narrower topics and I’ll also have the chance to add or expand on things in later posts. Writing this series of posts and trying to express my passion for music is what Kris encouraged me to do. "That is what I want to read about," he said. I had never felt so much support for something like this, something that is very important and personal to me. So I decided to give it a shot, and if I fail to do the explanation justice, that's okay; at least I can say I tried. I’m willing to crash and burn here. But if I do, I’m blaming it all on Kris.


Monday, October 19, 2009

A Very Unentertaining Blog Post

It's been a while since I've posted about progress on the house. There's a reason for that. See, for me to write a post about progress on the house, progress would have actually had to have occurred. Unfortunately, as it stands, there is really no progress to speak of. My living room is currently divided into three distinct sections: 1. the section of boxes containing unassembled kitchen cabinets, 2. the section containing assembled kitchen cabinets, and 3. the section containing a whole mess of random stuff that hasn't been unpacked or put away yet. There isn't anything in the living room that looks like it actually belongs in a living room, except for some bookshelves, and they don't even have books on them. My laundry room is the current depository for most of my kitchen stuff, which, of course, can't go into the kitchen because it is in the process of being completely stripped of any and all kitchen-like paraphernalia, including cabinets, flooring, drywall, and appliances. There are exactly zero pieces of art hung in the entire house. I've hung zero curtains. I haven't even hung the new chandelier in the dining room (but I did put it together and that was a lot harder than you would think). How can it possibly be taking me so long to get this house together? I've been thinking about this for weeks now, and I finally found the answer, unfair as it may be. Apparently (and contrary to my expectations), not everything in the world stopped because I bought a house. I mean, I'm still expected to go to work, attend functions for family and friends, do laundry, and pay bills. And other people still have their own responsibilities to take care of, too; it's like they don't even realize that I just bought a house and have a lot of work they could help with. They aren't dropping everything and spending all their evenings at my house, getting much-needed work done! It's simply not fair. Okay, so of course I am being sarcastic. I do realize that the world does not revolve around me. But it would sure be a lot easier to get things done around here if it did. I'm just saying.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Slowly But Surely

Unpacking boxes at the house has been a painfully slow process. It is frustrating in the way getting stuck on a two-lane road behind a tractor or an old lady who's driving 27 mph is frustrating. It seems like no matter how much time I spend unpacking boxes, the house is still impossibly full of them. I suspect that they are secretly reproducing while I sleep at night. What this means is that I am not yet ready to share photos with you of the current state of affairs around here. Frankly all you would see are photographs of someone else's clutter. OH THE GLORIOUS CLUTTER. So instead of interesting photos of beautifully decorated rooms, I will share these.

While the master bedroom is still in the most basic form of updatedness (i.e., no curtains, nothing hung on the walls), it does look quite different than it did when I moved in. Here are before-and-after shots of the master bedroom.

Here's the before:

And here's the after (so far).

One of the best things about having a house is the fact that I now have a nice yard for my dogs to run around in. Murphy and Oliver have been having a blast out there; they wander aimlessly, sniffing everything, and Murphy has begun to chase crickets, which is more comical than I can express with words. Here are a few random shots I got recently.

Here's a look at the back of the house from about 3/4 of the way back in the yard. And also a photo of the neighbor's yard (a fence will be going up between my house and his) and his canoe. There's a spectacular view of the canoe from the back porch.

Here are Murph and Ollie "on the hunt" and then taking a break with Christi's dog Shiloh:

And here are my handsome boys enjoying their yard (Oliver on the left, Murphy on the right)!

I'll have more progress photos as soon as I can. I hope I'll have something good to show you soon!


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Basement "Befores"

Well, I moved into the new house this past weekend, so that means: a) I haven't gotten to do much work on the house lately, because I was trying to get everything packed and ready for the move, and b) now there are boxes all over the place. I had to send out a text message to a bunch of people who helped me pack and move, asking if anyone knew where my hair dryer was. I was kind of annoyed when shortly after I got out of the shower, I realized that I had no idea where any of my stuff was. I mean, I had the basics, like my toothbrush and contact lenses, but ask me to find a hairbrush or some moisturizer and I was stumped. Luckily all the blinds were closed, so my nude sprint around the house didn't inadvertently catch the attention of some neighborhood kid who was innocently walking by to get to his friend's house.

Anyhoo, I thought I'd share some "before" pictures of the basement. I'm not quite ready to post any "after" pictures, but at least you'll get to see what I started off with.

It's a big basement, but certainly not the most attractive. The paneling is pretty tacky, though the zig-zag floor is kind of fun. Kind of.

The tops of the benches in this area fold up to allow for tons of storage. If I find myself involved in a cut-throat game of hide-and-seek in the near future, I'm hiding in there. (Don't tell anybody.)

Much cleaning and painting has happened since these photos were taken. I can't wait to get everything finished so I can share the "after" pictures with you all.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Whirlwind Weekend

It was quite a whirlwind of a weekend for me. I'm going to do a brief recap, and then I'm going to bed because I'm tired, and I'm told sleep can help with that.

Friday the electrician came to do some work, resulting in a new ceiling fan in the master bedroom, an exhaust fan and new outlet in the bathroom, and outlets and switches in the basement that actually work! There is still so much to do, but at least some of the projects are getting close to completion, instead of having tons of loose ends. Those loose ends tend to rattle around in my brain and cause me to lose sleep. Moving day is Saturday, so those loose ends need to get nailed down, and soon.

Today I was blessed with lots of help. I started off the day by meeting my father-in-law, Bob, and my brother-in-law, Alex, at Home Depot to pick up a new bathroom vanity, sink top, and faucet. They spent the entire day at my house working on the plumbing in the bathroom, and they only set the house on fire twice. Really. Apparently even the smallest of blowtorches can cause a real problem. The wood behind the drywall caught on fire a couple times, but it was not a serious issue. Of course, the water to the whole house was shut off at the time, so if it had been a serious issue, we probably would've been screwed. The main floor of the house smelled like a campfire for hours. I found myself with a strange craving for s'mores. Note to self: it's time to go ahead and pick up a fire extinguisher.

Anyway, most of the basement was primed today, which is cool, because I wasn't sure there would be time to paint the basement before moving in. Little things, like vent cover installation and paint touch-ups were done today as well. My feet hurt. But you don't care about my feet, you want to see if there are any photos in this blog post. So here you go.

Here's the "before" shot, in all its glory.

And here's the "after" shot. I know, it's still pink. I assure you, the pinkness of this bathroom cannot be squelched in one day. Oh no, that will take time and plenty of careful planning. For now, I'm incredibly happy with a new vanity and sink. There's still work to do, though; as you can see, there's a tile missing behind the sink - that's where a soap dish was ripped out of the wall. The backsplash hasn't been put on yet either, but that will be coming soon. Oh, and the sink is only usable thanks to the bucket that's hiding under the sink. Something about some pesky missing plumbing parts...


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Change on the Horizon

While progress is being made at the new house (seemingly at a snail's pace), there are parts of the house I haven't shared with you yet. These areas are going to be changed and improved, but since the "2009 War on Pink" has taken longer than expected, the work is not yet underway. Today I will show you the kitchen. The cabinets are original to the house (1958) and are in pretty good shape. However, everything you see in the kitchen will be gone soon. Everything. There will be new floors, new cabinets, new countertops, a pass-through in the wall between the kitchen and dining room, a new ceiling fan, new paint, and new appliances. (You can't see it in the pictures, but there is pink paint between the cabinets and the ceiling!) It will be quite a job, but I think it will also be totally worth it. As it is now, the kitchen isn't exactly an example of an efficient use of space. There's no way I could even fit all of my dishes and cookware into the cabinets. And the cabinets are hung so low on the walls that even I (at less than 5' 2") think they're too low. And there's no dishwasher. Without a dishwasher, I might as well just start using paper plates and cups. Handwashing dishes on a daily basis is ok if you're camping, but in my normal, day-to-day life, I know it just wouldn't work.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Paint Colors

Here are a few photos I took yesterday. It's tough to accurately show the paint colors via digital photo, but I gave it a shot anyway.

On the left is a shot of the dining room wall. This, of course, shows the pink trim that hasn't yet been painted white. The second photo is of the third (smallest) bedroom. I really like the deep blue color. It'll look great once the trim is painted and all the blue tape is off. The third photo shows the corner where the dining room meets the living room. The living room is currently painted a color called Natural Linen, which I thought was just going to be a nice beige color that would go well with the green in the dining room. But once it was up on the walls, it took on a rather green tint all its own. At night when the room is lit only by lamplight, it actually looks mint green, which is one of my least favorite colors. After painting the second bedroom a subtle gray and falling in love with it, I decided the living room will be repainted that color, too.

Painting this house has been less like simple painting and more like a battle against the pink. If your house was painted pink everywhere you'd probably understand why I can't wait to cover every last little speck of it. I want to defeat it soundly and never look back! I started painting the trim last night, so soon I'll be able to step back and look at the nice white trim against the newly painted walls. I can't wait.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Where are all the pictures?

OK, I haven't posted any updates since Sunday. What in the world have I been doing all week? Did I run out of steam and decide to be lazy and idle? I can tell you what I haven't been doing: relaxing, getting massages, and eating ice cream. Work has continued at the new house, mostly in the form of painting; all the ceilings are done, and the walls are nearly done as well. The trim hasn't even been started yet, so the whole house has beautiful, freshly painted walls framed by - you guessed it - pink trim.

The wall in the master bedroom has been repaired; after the first area was patched, another soft spot in the drywall showed itself, so that had to be repaired, too. After a second coat of paint, the master bedroom will be ready to rid itself of the yucky carpet that is in there. That will be exciting because that carpet is pretty gross, and it will be nice to see the hardwood floor.

So if work has continued, why are there no new photos on this blog? Well, every evening this week I've been working at the house, but by the time I think to grab my camera and take some pictures, it's completely dark outside, and we don't have enough light inside the house to properly illuminate the new paint colors. My mission for tomorrow is to take pictures as soon as I get to the house. I certainly wouldn't want you to miss out on seeing the place in its "pink-trimmed" glory!


Sunday, August 9, 2009


This weekend was supposed to be all about painting. There was to be paint just flying onto ceilings, walls, and trim. In fact, a great symphony of painting was going to be conducted, resulting in a beautiful outcome. Then I got one of my headaches.

For over a month I've been going to physical therapy for these 'headaches' I get frequently. It turns out they're not normal headaches; they are the result of extreme muscle tension, which in turn causes occipital nerve pain. NERVE PAIN. All I can say is, well, ouch.

Anyway, I am incredibly lucky, because Rita is over at the house with Matt, painting away. The living room, dining room, and hallway should be done today. And all I've done to help the last two days is tape off the trim in the living room, dining room, and part of the hallway, and get the first coat of white paint on a few of the interior doors. It's a terrible feeling to be stuck at home on one of the few weekends I have left to get things done before moving in. Not only is it very frustrating, but it's horrible to be sitting here with ice on my neck, while other people are working on my house, which is what I should be doing. If I felt better, this actually might not be a bad deal, sitting around and having other people doing the work. I guess that's how rich people do things. But anyone who knows me knows I would rather be doing the work myself, not relying on someone else to keep things rolling.

I suppose I'd better get over it because right now there's nothing I can do besides try to get myself feeling better and maybe eat some Oreo cookies. I'm hoping that tomorrow night I'll have photos of the fabulous paint job to share. And oh yeah, when painting the ceiling in the dining room, there was a pretty large area just outside the kitchen doorway where all these little brown spots kept showing up through the paint. I hadn't noticed them at all before the painting started. I'm pretty sure they're grease spots, so that whole area is going to need a coat of primer and then another coat of paint. Ugh.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

One Step Forward...

The painting has begun! Christi and I started by painting the ceiling in the master bedroom the other night. The walls were started a couple days ago. I am an experienced painter, so I figured the master bedroom would be a breeze to paint. It would be done in no time, right? Well, after the first coat of paint went on, a soft spot was discovered in one of the walls, so the drywall had to be pulled out and the area had to be patched.


But at least it will be fixed properly now so I won't have to deal with it later. I decided to take the day off work tomorrow so that I could be at the house all day, painting and cleaning. Right now the focus is on getting the painting done. Since every surface except the hardwood floors is getting painted, there's a lot to do!

Anyway, tonight I went over and started priming some of the interior doors. They are unpainted wood, and I'm painting them all white. As I said, every surface except the floors! I'm hoping to have a different photo of the master bedroom for you soon, once it's all finished and flawless!


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Out With the Old...Carpet

I said I would post more photos, some showing the results of the work from yesterday. I know you've been on the edge of your seat. The highlights of the day were that the yucky carpet was torn out and the drapes came down. Maybe it doesn't sound like we got much done, but with all the staples we had to remove from the hardwood floors, it took quite awhile. I seriously think I sprouted a new gray hair every time I wrestled out a staple. Today was mostly about cleaning. I spent about two hours cleaning the mini-blinds in the master bedroom, which was exactly as exciting as it sounds.

Today was interesting in that I got a revelatory nugget of information - the electricity in certain parts of the house no longer works. No light in the bathroom, no working outlets in the bedrooms and part of the basement, no obvious cause, and no electrician skills to fix it. Sweet.

OK, so here are some more of the photos I took on Friday after I got the keys.

Here's a shot of the hallway. You can see the master bedroom also. The glass in the light fixture is currently held together with masking tape. It's clear the fixture has had a long life, but it is showing its age and needs to walk toward the 'bright light' to that final resting place in the sky.

This is the master bedroom. Thankfully, the drapes are now gone. I'll show you all an updated photo once it's painted and the carpet comes out. At least it's not pink.

Remember the "before" shot of the living room? Well, here it is again. So far, it has gone from this:

to this (Christi's sweeping pose is super):

to this (yay)!

Maybe there's been no exciting stuff yet, but have no fear, I'm working on it! I'm hoping to get the painting started tomorrow after work. I'll be posting photos of the kitchen and basement soon.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Home Sweet Home

I finally bought a house. Finally. It's nothing fancy, but it's mine. I got the keys yesterday, and now the cleaning, painting, repairs, and home renovations will commence. I'm excited and relieved that this has actually happened; I hated renting, and have been ready to move into a house of my own for a while. But it's also overwhelming because there is a lot of work to be done. I will have my apartment until September 9, which means I have about a month to get a whole mess of stuff done at the house before moving my things in.

The house is in Catonsville, only a couple miles from my current apartment. It is a ranch-style house that was built in 1958, and has three bedrooms and one (very pink) bathroom. While it is actually in pretty great condition, there are A LOT of small repairs that need to be made, and there are quite a few changes I'd like to make as well (NO dishwasher?!?! This MUST change!).

I will be chronicling the changes to the house as progress is made, not because it will be especially exhilirating, but because I have had requests from friends and family from out-of-state who are interested (or are pretending to be interested) in seeing the house and what I am working on.

Here are some pictures I took yesterday; they show the house exactly as it was when I got the keys.

Here's the front of the house. There's a driveway to the right. The shrubbery will eventually have to be torn out and replaced with some more appropriately-sized plants. There is currently a battle between the shrubs and the walkway to the front door. The shrubs have won. For now.

Here's a dark shot of the living room, taken from the dining room/hallway area. The draperies in this house are overwhelming; they're heavy and multi-layered, and also pretty ugly.

This is the dining room. The chandelier is pretty horrible, and yes, the walls are pink. I don't know why. That's the back door; it leads out to the screened-in porch. You can also see the lovely orange-pink-beige-brown carpet. Fortunately, it was all ripped out earlier today.

And this is the fantastic pink bathroom! More pink! Can you tell how excited I am about the pink-ness?!

I'll post some more pictures tomorrow. And I'll have the first set of progress photos, which will show you the work we (Matt, Christi, Ted, and I) got done today. The drapes came down, and the carpet was removed (requiring the painstaking removal of hundreds of staples (thanks, Christi) and nails). I'm exhausted, my knuckles are swollen from plucking staples with pliers, and my back is in the throes of organizing a protest.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Life is Strange

"Life sure is strange." An elderly woman said this to me in conversation yesterday. She's right; life is strange indeed. Things we're sure are going to be one way turn out to be another. The oddest of circumstances can turn into the most pleasant surprises. The people we put on pedestals eventually fall off and disappoint us. The places we thought we'd be in our lives are so very far away, so foreign. The thing about life is that there's just no predicting what will happen. There's no way to guarantee anything. Sometimes we find ourselves in bizarre situations that require us to make decisions we never thought we'd have to make. But in the end, all the little things are just part of the long, strange story.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Favorite Cover Song

Normally I’m not a big fan of cover songs; there are few I actually like. But it just so happens that my favorite cover song is one that I really love. It’s not like I dubbed it my favorite just because it’s the least crappy of the options. I really do love this cover song (did I already mention that?). Not surprisingly, the original and cover artists are two of my favorite bands, Led Zeppelin and TOOL (yes, I intend to use all caps when referencing TOOL, they’re that awesome).

I fell in love with Led Zeppelin when I was 11 years old. There was no courting period; it wasn't necessary - it was truly love at first listen. I was totally hooked, and have been ever since. During middle school and high school I always had trouble falling asleep at night, so I would lie in bed and listen to music through headphones for hours in the dark. It was during those nightly rendezvous that I became enamored with the many different compositions by the rock n’ roll heroes of a past generation. I listened to the songs so many times that I memorized every note and nuance, and even learned exactly where the slightest background studio noises occurred in the recordings.

I fell in love with TOOL just a couple years later. TOOL’s sound is described most often as progressive or industrial rock. I loved the band’s sound, loved their use of interesting time signatures, and loved Danny Carey’s unique and masterful drumming. But mostly I fell head over heels (instantly) for Maynard James Keenan’s voice. It bursts with emotion, and when I hear him sing I am impressed and inspired by his ability to so successfully communicate sentiment.

When I found out that TOOL had recorded a cover version of Led Zeppelin’s No Quarter, I was a little nervous (check out Led Zeppelin's recorded version and TOOL's recorded cover version). I loved both bands and the song so much that I was afraid I’d be hugely disappointed if the cover version didn’t meet my expectations. I would have been really bummed if one of my favorite bands had totally screwed up their cover of one of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs. Not that the world would have stopped turning, but I would have been disillusioned by a No Quarter cover that was less than impressive, especially when I admire TOOL’s ability and have such high expectations of them.

Led Zeppelin and TOOL have decidedly different styles and sounds. But it’s amazing how TOOL was able to accurately capture the timbre and mood of the song while also imprinting it with their unique style. The piano and keyboards that aid in creating a psychedelic feel in the original are replaced by acoustic and electric guitars in the cover. At the beginning of TOOL’s version, effects are used on both the guitar and Keenan’s voice to mimic the synthesized instrumentation of the original version. The vital role of dynamics is beautifully reflected in the cover. TOOL also made some lyrical changes that I believe are in keeping with their comparably more intense style. Robert Plant’s lyrics, “Close the door, put out the light” are changed by Keenan to “Lock the door, kill the light.” Yet the cover version shows great reverence to the original, respecting its beauty and scope. I liked TOOL’s version the first time I heard it, but it took multiple listens before I was able to fully appreciate just how good it is.

I think TOOL’s version of this Led Zeppelin classic is the best-executed cover I have ever heard. I strongly recommend that you listen to both versions the way I listened to the original when I was 11 – in the dark, through headphones.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Mean Girl

I am opinionated. I say what’s on my mind. Sometimes, when I feel the situation warrants it, I am blunt. Does this make me seem like a mean person? Does it cause people to perceive me as ‘less feminine’? Apparently, it does.

Since when does being outspoken equal being mean? I’ve seen and heard things over the past few months that indicate that some people view me as a mean person. And I’m starting to get the impression that because of my outspokenness people see me as not being very feminine. I’ve always been a tomboy, but this is different. It’s like my perceived femininity directly corresponds to what I say. It's not like I walk around spewing obscenities and rude criticism, though. I think it's a similar phenomenon to people viewing strong or successful women as cold.

While I try very hard not to judge others, I’m not afraid to call a spade a spade, and I would expect others to do the same to me. If someone is trying to sell me a load of BS, then of course I'm going to call them on it. It’s not about being mean; it’s about observation and interpretation. It’s about having a brain and using it. It’s about seeing beneath the surface, and seeing through the smoke. It’s about having an opinion and being unafraid to share it, even though someone may not agree.

I understand that perceptions are unique; I know I may not see things in myself that others see. I also may come across differently to others than I intend. However, I really don’t believe that I am a mean person; I’m actually very caring, and I think I’m pretty nice. So does having an opinion (and not being afraid to be honest and sometimes blunt) mean that I can’t also be a nice person?

Does this stem from some culturally ingrained notion that women are better seen than heard, and that a “nice” woman is one who smiles and keeps her mouth shut? Because if that’s the case, I suppose can accept being viewed as mean.

Contrary to (apparently) popular belief, I am indeed capable of keeping my opinions to myself. I would never say something to a friend if I thought it would hurt his/her feelings. If someone specifically asked for my honesty, I would be as gentle as possible when sharing any potentially hurtful information. It’s not like I completely lack a filter. But I hate it when people are so afraid to state how they feel that you never really know what they’re thinking.

I guess maybe it’s human nature to view other people as ‘nice’ when they never say anything with which you might disagree.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Matters of the Heart

When I was 19 or 20, I went on record and stated my belief that I would have a heart attack before I turn 30. I have repeated my prediction many times since then. For a long time now, I've had this sense that I'd be one of those people who seem perfectly fine and then suddenly die from some completely random ailment. There are a bunch of reasons I originally felt likely to have a heart attack. Stress is the biggest reason. And I am a worrier; I worry about other people's problems much more than I should. I take on way too much responsibility, and feel overwhelmed a lot of the time.

This November will usher in my 30th birthday, so I've got almost 8 months left 'til the big day. We'll see what happens. If I don't end up face-down in a plate of spaghetti, I'll be proved wrong. Keep your fingers crossed for me, will you?


Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Goal to Remember

On February 18, Alex Ovechkin produced yet another highlight reel goal against the Montreal Canadiens. The kid ain't bad.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Favorite

My friend and co-worker, Mike, suggested I write about my favorite songs. Like maybe a Top Ten list or something. (This suggestion has me under the sneaking suspicion that he is secretly reporting for Rolling Stone magazine.) There are so many songs I love for various reasons. I have favorite songs to listen to when I’m feeling particularly irritated, favorite songs for when I’m depressed, happy, relaxed, or mildly homicidal. I have favorite acoustic guitar songs, favorite piano songs, favorite metal songs, favorite orchestral songs…Choosing just one as an overall favorite doesn’t seem right (or possible) to me. Also, I decided to write about songs one at a time (and in no particular order), because I don’t have the time to get a Top Ten list together right now. If you would have preferred the list, just fake it by waiting until I’ve posted a few and then read them all at once.

My favorite Beatles song is Eleanor Rigby, which was released on the Revolver album in 1966. The arrangement is simple, but absolutely stunning. The first time I heard this song as a kid, I fell in love with it immediately. When I was a bit older, it helped to cement my desire to learn to play the cello (which I eventually did). People are usually surprised when I say that Eleanor Rigby is my favorite Beatles song, I guess just because there are so many good ones to choose from.

About the arrangement: Eleanor Rigby does not have a standard pop backing; none of the Beatles played instruments on it, though John Lennon and George Harrison did contribute harmony and backing vocals. Instead, McCartney used a string octet of studio musicians, composed of four violins, two cellos, and two violas all performing a score composed by producer George Martin. For the most part, the instruments "double up"—that is, they serve as two string quartets with two instruments playing each part in the quartet. Microphones were placed close to the instruments to produce a more vivid and raw sound. George Martin asked the musicians if they could play without vibrato and recorded two versions, one with and one without, the latter of which was used. (Copyright - 1966 EMI Records Ltd.)

Unfortunately I am not able to post a proper sound file for this song; I had to link to a YouTube video, sorry (believe it or not, it's the least annoying one).

Ah, look at all the lonely people
Ah, look at all the lonely people

Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for?

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Father McKenzie writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear
No one comes near
Look at him working. Darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there
What does he care?

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Ah, look at all the lonely people
Ah, look at all the lonely people
Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name
Nobody came
Father McKenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave
No one was saved

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Surprise...Media Coverage!

The Caps have seen a slight increase in their media coverage lately, which is quite refreshing to me. Since I don't live in Canada or Minnesota or Michigan, or any other place where hockey is truly part of the culture, I follow an absurd number of hockey blogs to stay informed. Thank goodness for the Internet.

It's nice when Canadian media takes the time to cover the Caps, too - especially since Canada is fiercely loyal to its own teams. Here's an article that was published in Canada's Globe and Mail.

Here's a great follow-up article about Brett Leonhardt (see my post from December 15). Leonhardt is the Caps' web producer who suited up for an NHL game as a backup goalie.

Check out this article in USA Today about the Capitals coach, Bruce Boudreau.


Friday, January 2, 2009


It's the beginning of a brand new year. It's a time when people attempt to fulfill New Year's resolutions. Lose weight, save money, go to the gym five days a week, do volunteer work...The enthusiasm and determination start off strong, but the inevitable collapse comes soon enough. The excuses start, and the determination wanes. Maybe this isn't the year you'll get rid of your love handles or finally clean out your cluttered basement (my mom has been working on the basement one for approximately 25 years). Defeat is usually accepted sometime between January 2 and April 1.

I typically don't make New Year's resolutions, but this year I set one simple goal for myself. I want to regard others in a way that will give me reason to say "you're welcome" far more often than I have reason to say "thank you."

I have many wonderful people in my life, and they do many wonderful things for me. So I say "thank you" frequently. But I'm still going to give this a shot.


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