Friday, May 10, 2013

Mostly Vegan

Hello! I still exist. I've had a busy but exciting semester. I'm just finishing up classes and planning a youth led service with my youth group. I've been busy with school, work, vacationing in New York (Yay! Matilda!) and going Mostly Vegan. "Mostly Vegan" is said in the same tone of "Mostly Dead" as in The Princess Bride and means I am still eating the eggs and milk I get from a local farm, but other than that I am eating vegan. It is a good compromise for me for now.

Friday, January 4, 2013

In Defense of The Fence

This is one of my favorite Tim Minchin songs and has been from the instant I heard it. I have wanted to write a blog post about it for a long time, but have been putting it off for several reasons. One is that I'm not sure this video should be on YouTube. For a long time, every time it was posted on YouTube, it got taken down. This one has been up for four months, so I think it is actually up for good, and I'm going to try to use it. I like this one, because it has the talky intro, which is funny and poignant.

I'll be honest. I'm not super knowledgeable about Che Guevara. I did a bit of research and it would appear he was a bit of a homophobe...apparently. I do really like the Dalai Lama though. I like that guy on Facebook and follow him on Twitter so I can read his soundbites galore. Right now I'm reading his book, "Beyond Religion". Here is a picture of me sitting on a fence holding a picture of the Dalai Lama.

So nobody (nor the history of any religion, OBVIOUSLY) is perfect. "It's not that simple."

My personal "fence" issue right now is vegetarianism/ veganism. I've been vegetarian since I was 10. I do not want to eat animals. I love animals. It has nothing to do with how intelligent/ cute/ social they are. I cannot imagine eating an animal. I don't understand why some people love certain animals and eat others. It has never made sense to me. I'm not judgmental about people's choices. I live with carnivores. I just won't buy meat or cook meat, and I won't eat meat. I am very consistent about it and don't eat meat broth or gelatin and always check ingredients. It is very important to me and I feel strongly about it.

I realize this is hypocritical because I do eat eggs and dairy. I do realize that these cause horrific suffering and death of animals. I have struggled with this for a long time, but have not committed to being vegan. It is slightly because of health reasons, but more honestly it is because I love eggs, and cheese, and milk, and cream, and butter, and ice cream, and all the wonderful things made with them.

I am so close to making a step in the right direction. I do get my milk and eggs for my house at a local farm. I go there and see the happy chickens and cows out running around and eating grass. I know they are treated well and live good lives. (No, I don't know what happens to the male chicks or the male calves. "The more you know, the harder you will find it to make up your mind...") I'm wondering if I can commit to being vegan outside of my home (where I don't know the origins of the animal products I consume) and allow myself to have my milk and eggs and the delicious things I make with them at home (where I know they come from animals treated humanely). It seems like a good (but still difficult) compromise, and I hope I can muster the strength to do it. And I realize it's not perfect. It's not black and white and I'm still sitting on the fence.

"You can’t see what grass is greener
Chances are it’s neither
And either way, it’s easier
To see the difference
When you’re sitting on the fence."

Monday, December 31, 2012

What Was 12 For?

Hmm. "what Was 12 For" doesn't exactly have a nice ring to it. It doesn't fit with the meter of "What was 05 For". (What was oh five for?) I like to listen to this song and ask myself if the things that happened in my year were really all that extraordinary...... because yes, yes they were.

Before this year, I had really never traveled more than driving with my family to the nearest big city, either Chicago or St. Louis, or a couple times to see my sister-in-law in Branson. Before this year, I was pretty introverted and would never have considered actually meeting someone I had only met online. Before this year, I would have been hesitant to ask my husband to take care of my grandma for more than a day or so. (She has Alzheimer's, lives with us, and requires a lot of help.) Before this year, I would not have been able to afford to take off to Washington DC, or L.A. or London.

Many things were the same this year. I actually still am really introverted, but I took a risk and met some of the most amazing new friends. I'm still pretty broke and my family of four drivers share two shitty beaters. But luckily, I had two well-paying gigs at the end of '11 and the beginning of '12 which cushioned the blow a bit (and I had some student loan money to spend on these educational expenses, since I also started grad school).  I had a good year with Grandma (no major illness, surgeries, or setbacks of any kind). I learned my husband is an angel. Him caring for Gram and being supportive of me to do these things I want for myself has been such a joy.

I took three exciting trips and traveled in 2012! I went to The Reason Rally in Washington DC. I went to the filming of the finale of "Californication" in L.A. (What? I didn't write a blog post about that?)  I went to see "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Matilda" in England!!! Part of me has occasionally started to question whether I "deserve" to do this. I think some members of my family judge me for reasons I'm unsure of, but not wanting to ask. At the end of the year though, you know what? I DO deserve this. (And if I don't, then really that is just between me and my immediate family and no one  else's business.) I have spent my whole adult life raising children. I've not been perfect, but I have been dedicated to doing my best to raise boys with compassion, creativity, and critical minds. The past five years I have spent daily caring for Grandma, making her meals, helping her bathe, washing her hair, taking her to exercise in the pool, driving her to appointments, answering the same questions hundreds of times over with a cheerful tone, dealing with stress and sadness beyond description.

It's really not a matter of "deserving" a break or "deserving" fun. I don't like the implications there that people can "earn" happiness or that some are entitled to blessings and some are not. It doesn't have anything to do with deserving this amazing year, but I will say I am grateful and glad that I chose to do these amazing things. I made 2012 amazing for myself and I have no regrets. I'll close my eyes and drink champagne and reminisce.

"A year is like an elephant. You're not allowed to take one home." If I could take one home, this one would be it.

Monday, December 24, 2012

New versions of "old" songs, new versions of old drama

This Christmas season is much like the last. I wrote a post last year about "White Wine in the Sun" and missing my mom. This year, there is a beautiful new studio version of  "White Wine in the Sun". The proceeds from December go to the National Autistic Society of the UK. It can be purchased from iTunes or Amazon US or Amazon UK.  It sounds similar to this version, starting out with Tim and guitar and adding more vocals, piano, and even brass. It is amazingly moving.

Also new on the YouTube recently is Tim performing "Woody Allen Jesus" live at the Coronet. This was filmed professionally for an upcoming documentary. (Yay!)

Last December I wrote about hoping that the year ahead might bring acceptance from my mom. "White Wine in the Sun" talks about knowing at twenty-one or thirty-one that your family will be there for you, and I hoped that by forty-one I might get that privilege. I will turn forty-one in a few weeks.  I have had an A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. year, perhaps the best year of my life filled with joy and adventures, laughter, music, new friends and old friends. Yet I awoke this Christmas eve in tears, missing my mom. That pretty much sums up my whole family conflict. I can deal with the step dad's rejection and hostility and disappointment over my atheism, but it impacts my relationship with my mom. I miss my mom.

This year may start a new version of that dynamic though. My mom is coming over for Christmas for a short while without the step dad. That is what happened on Thanksgiving, and it worked out quite nicely from my perspective. Tomorrow, on Christmas, the step dad won't be feeling well and he won't be able to come over and my mom will come without him. I can predict the future like that because the rest of the family already knows he's not coming and knows the real reason (he won't celebrate a Christian holiday in an atheist house). They have discussed with my mom what time she will be here so they can get a five-generation photo  with the newest addition of our family. (It will be a lovely photo, but I wonder why we celebrate short generations and a pattern of teenage births.) My mom will tell me the step dad isn't well, and she can't stay long because she needs to get home and tend to him. But at least she will come and see her mom, and her new great grandson, and even me, and we will smile and I will drink a lot of wine and hope for a better next year. Her coming without him is a step in the right direction.

In other news about beautiful music, Ethan played "O Holy Night" at church yesterday. Taped from a bad angle, but it was pretty good.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Waiting Patiently, Being told "no", and potential news

I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of my "Jesus Christ Superstar Arena Tour" DVD.  It has been released in the UK, but I guess it takes Amazon a little longer to get it delivered here. According to them, it should arrive November 26th.  I am really wanting to relive the experience and have heard the DVD is really good. I also hope to get some clarification about questions I have when I re-watch it. My conversation with Ori aboutracism was a little anti-climactic after we saw the arena version.  Ori did not find it offensive at all (which is great) but apparently because she thought the “priests” were members of the Illumniati. I have heard other people say this too, so I’m not saying she’s crazy or wrong or anything, but that wasn't my perception. I thought the “priests” were bankers.  Anyway, I have questions like this and others and really really want to watch it again.

I’m feeling impatient, which was intensified by the cancellation of the cinema showing here in the US. There were several friends and people from church who had purchased tickets to see "Jesus Christ Superstar" being shown in cinemas here. A few hours before the event, we got news it was cancelled with no explanation as to why. Rumor says “technical difficulties”. (By rumor, I mean a Tweet from Tim Minchin.) It was very frustrating to have such a last minute cancellation and no explanation or word on rescheduling.

Rather than throw a little tantrum or anything, I decided I would just get the DVD and see if I could show it at church.  Being UU, we have a committee for EVERYTHING, so I asked permission from the appropriate committee and was hoping they would just let me show it. But being UU, we also have to be legal and ethical and shit, so I was originally told no by the church because we probably wouldn't be able to obtain the correct permission. Of course I said I would try to obtain the permission. I was told by our intern minister (who was in charge of telling me “no”), “Thanks for your passion and willingness to do some leg-work”, which I found amusing because she doesn't know me or the extent of my passion and willingness to do some legwork. I’m sure she will soon enough.

I emailed Universal UK and asked them. They told me to ask The Really Useful Group. I filled out a contact form on The Really Useful Group website, and someone contacted me saying they needed to ask Universal.  Then they got back to me saying that Universal said “no”, but, “They have confirmed, however, that the cancelled cinema screening is being rescheduled, and a date is likely to be set for Easter time.”

So I’m disappointed to not be able to show the DVD at church. I could show it in my house, but I have a crap TV and a crap house. It’s not even, like “It-isn’t-much-but-it-is-enough-for-me”-tight-and-cozy-and-a-nice-place-for-friends-to-gather-watching-a-show-even-if-we’re-squished-into-a-small-room-we-have-good-wine-and-comfy-chairs kind of crap house. It’s a trust-me,-no-one-would-want-to-come-here-and-watch-a-DVD-no-matter-how-great-it-is kind of crap house. So, I guess we’ll wait, with the rest of America, and see it in the theater around “Easter time”. And don’t forget, you heard it here first. Unless that is wrong, then feel free to forget and sorry to disappoint.
To hold you over, here are some clips from the DVD:

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Musical Pumpkins

Seeing both musicals a week before Halloween was good pumpkin carving inspiration-

Monday, October 29, 2012

Musicals and memories, friendly friends and friendly squirrels. ENGLAND!!!!

I popped over to England for a few days to see couple musicals. I feel enormously fortunate to have had this amazing experience with my son. The most incredible part turned out not to be the musicals, but the marvelous people I got to meet. The musicals were incredible though. I'll start there.

Jesus Christ Superstar was originally the impetus for this trip. It's not that I LOVED this musical or anything. I had seen a community theater production that was meh and the 1973 film version, which was pretty good.  When I heard Tim Minchin would play Judas, I had an abstract longing to go (similar to how I feel about the production of "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" co-starring Tim in in Sydney next year). I thought it would be amazing, but didn't think it would be possible to go. It would be crazy to try. As Tim started talking about it though, doing interviews and telling how excited he was about this, his excitement was contagious. I decided I really wanted to go see him to this role of a lifetime which he had wanted to play for many many years.

This was an amazing production. Huge and over the top. One of the first rock operas, performed in an arena, as it was originally intended. The setting and choreography were unique and beautiful. It was a modern interpretation, set on the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral, during Occupy protests (or I've seen some reviews that say during the London riots?) complete with reality show voting and pole dancers. Just as most of the reviews have said, Tim Minchin absolutely stole he show. His Judas was so haunting and his voice more gorgeous than I have ever heard.  His death scene was scary brilliant, and when he returned for "Superstar" I wanted to jump up and dance. It was just so much to take in. The whole show was completely over-the-top-brilliant.

Of course, if I was traveling all that way, I HAD TO see "Matilda the Musical".  Words cannot describe how impressive it was. Everything about it was absolutely mind-blowing. The whole theater, even the lobby and the bar were Matdilda-esque. The set was elaborate and magnificent. The acting was incredible, especially the children. They were such professionals. The character of Miss Trunchbull was spectacularly hysterical. The choreography was intricate and intense. The plot was embellished. There were parts added to the original Matilda story. I wasn't sure how I would feel about that, but it worked perfectly and enhanced what was such an endearing story to begin with. And the songs. So brilliantly ingenious, tear jerkingly beautiful, and hysterically funny. I cried and laughed and sat stunned with amazement from start to finish. This was the best performance I have ever seen and heard. It completely exceeded my very high expectations, which were very very high to start with. I cannot wait to see it again (and again and again and again). I have friends who have seen this five, ten, even twenty times, and I can see why.  I'm sure I won't be able to afford such a Matilda habit, but I do plan to see it on Broadway April 4th. Counting down the days starting now.

Speaking of friends, I got to meet the kindest people on my journey. The part of the trip I loved most, more than going to Jesus Christ Superstar, more than Matilda (yes, more than Matilda) was spending time with some people I met online. It sounds crazy, but I planned to meet Ori from Israel (whom I had met very briefly once before in Chicago) and a sweet couple who we had met online offered to let us stay with them on our trip. These people are Tim fans too, of course, and it sounded fun, so we decided we would stay with them for a night.They offered to let us stay as long a we wanted. We ended up spending the whole weekend with them and taking advantage of their kind offers to drive us everywhere. This was an extensive bit of driving they did too. They came into London to get us at the airport, served us a delicious brunch, drove us to a restaurant in Nottingham, drove us to see JCS, drove back to their house, drove us into London again the next day to hang out in a park, then drove us to the West End, then drove us around London after Matilda to see the clock tower, Westminster Abbey, and the London Bridge, drove us to a hotel, then drove us to the Natural History Museum and the Royal Albert Hall the next day, then drove me to the airport hotel I had stayed at the first night because I had left something there, then drove me to a completely different part of London to my hotel in Russell Square. This was so much driving, and they wouldn't hear of taking any money for 'petrol'. That was only the beginning of their generosity and there were so many kind gestures throughout the weekend. Not only were they generous, and helpful, making this trip economical and convenient, they were such pleasant and humorous company! I fell in love with them (and Ori). We had so much fun together, my son and I both thought it would have been worth the trip to London just to have lunch with these fine people.

We got to meet many other Tim fans as well. Both before JCS and before Matilda, we met up with groups of Tim fans we knew from the internet and finally got to meet them in  person. That was so fun and Tim Minchin has the best fans in the world, I think. (Can I say that without sounding narcissistic? ) They are kind and witty and it felt so exciting and comfortable for me to be surrounded by people who like Tim Minchin as much (more maybe?) than I do! I felt at home, even though I was so far away from home.

This was the most amazing journey I have ever taken. I am so fortunate. I will never forget these experiences and these amazing people. I returned a week ago, and it now seems like a dream that was too good to be true, a blur of windy roads, silly car shenanigans, delicious treats, late night games, wonderful walks, meeting strangers who were instantly friends, friendly squirrels, amazing shows, precious time with my son, beers (with my son), hugs and hugs and hugs. And tonight, I get to go see the same production of "Jesus Christ Superstar", which was filmed live and is being shown in a movie theater here in Peoria. Life's a ball (so learn to throw it)!