Monday, May 31, 2010

Music Monday/Lyric Lundi

When I was a high school sophomore, if you had decided you wanted to steal my album collection, you wouldn't have found much. Albums were expensive; I did not yet have a steady job that paid me a decent wage; I was a money hoarder, rarely spending what I had if it wasn't necessary; and I had plenty of albums to listen to, thanks to my older sisters (although one had gone off to college by then, she hadn't taken everything with her, and she often came home for vacations with new stuff). What you would have found, besides a few Cat Stevens, Elton John, Jethro Tull, and Beatles records was almost everything by Queen and David Bowie. When I discovered you'd stolen what measly offerings I had to offer, I would have been absolutely devastated to find the latter two missing.

My family had just come back from living in England where the village boys and Ian and I had spent hours swapping Queen and David Bowie albums back and forth with each other. Of course, they hadn't been busy falling madly in love with David Bowie, but I had been. That's a love that has never died. You know, despite his wild youth (or maybe because of it), he's aged quite well, hasn't he?

Can you imagine the throes of ecstasy into which I was thrown when this hit was released? Everyone had to shut up if I was in the room and this happened to come on the radio. I bought Queen's Greatest Hits album, which I certainly didn't need, just because this was on it. Take a look at the video. Look how young (and alive) they all are. Now, shut up, while I listen to it and watch it over, and over, and over (watch Brian May play that guitar! Look how cool and sexy Bowie is when he snaps his fingers!) again. Sigh!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Accidental Perfect Husband (Part II): A Tale by Emily Barton

(This post will make more sense if you read the previous post first.)

Princesses Becky and Marcy dismounted their steed and walked through the castle doors, magic trailing behind them in silver and gold sparkles, as they regaled Princess Emily with descriptions of their exciting and magnificent journey south. They had encountered amazing storms, lightening that lit up the Philadelphia sky (although how they ended up in Philadelphia is still a bit of a mystery) and had avoided such nuisances as plagues of frogs. They had brought books and music and chocolate and wine (red AND sparkling), along with clear skies and cooler weather. Immediately, their magic settling into every nook and corner of the castle, things began to change. Prince Bob announced that his migraine was gone (almost as quickly as it had appeared), and they all sat around to eat such delicacies as Pringles, Fritos, and Cheez Doodles while sipping their wine.

Prince Bob decided, at this point, that everyone needed to listen to The Byrds. Princesses Becky and Marcy humored him and his enthusiasm, even though the volume at which he insisted on playing it did not exactly lead to being able to converse without yelling. But by the end of the evening, after they had had their share of (not much of) the disastrous soup (but who cared by then, after filling up on all those delicacies?), casserole, and salad topped off with Amish chocolate cake, he had progressed to Simon and Garfunkle, which everyone could truly appreciate (and even sing along to when "At the Zoo" came on). They were in high spirits, if a little exhausted, when they all headed up to sleep, way past the princesses' normal bedtimes.

The next morning, the coffee pot decided to rebel when Princess Becky came down to make the coffee for everyone. Princess Emily was sure it must have given up the ghost, but with a little urging (and probably some more of that magic, which was still just climbing out of bed itself), it sprang back to life, and the princesses were able to drink large mugs of coffee before heading out to the royal farm stand to get Amish sticky buns and coffee cake to go with more mugs of coffee. All the sugar and caffeine provided them with a nice buzz to get the day going, and soon enough, they were almost ready for a trip to the neighboring village of Lititz to visit its marketplace.

The royal plumber arrived shortly before they left, and Prince Bob gallantly left the princesses to their own devices while he dealt with the plumber and then proceeded to amuse himself for the day. Princess Emily fully expected some sort of catastrophe, some urgent matter that would cut short the morning in Lititz, but no. Prince Bob called her to tell her everything was fixed fine and had no other problems that needed Princess Emily's attention (this is a rarity. Barely a day goes by that Prince Bob does not need Princess Emily's help with something. Usually, she is at least called upon to find some article of clothing that he must have now and can't find or to help him with some sort of preparation of food) the rest of the day.

Princesses Becky, Emily, and Marcy went on to have a lovely day. The marketplace in Lititz proved to be quite charming. Princess Emily bought herself some jewels and trinkets, and they all met the royal artisan who makes the marvelous throne, along with other beautiful works of art that double as comfortable places to sit and eat. They feasted on sandwiches, sitting outside in the fine, spring weather, and when they were done, it was time to set off for the village of Intercourse for more food and drink. This time it would be tea and scones and crumpets served on fine china in the lovely little tea room. Princess Emily was thrilled to discover that the tea shop now carries Mars Bars, so she no longer needs to beg Princess Becky to bring them back from England for her.

When they got back to the castle after their adventures, Prince Bob, who had slowly been morphing into Prince Charming all weekend, seemed to have completed the process. It was soon time for the Grand Horse Race that takes place every year in the Kingdom of Marlyand (a.k.a. The Preakness), and he suggested they should all watch it while they sipped the sparkling wine Princess Marcy had been kind enough to bring to the castle. This the three princesses did while lounging on Princess Marcy's bed (the royal television couch converts into a bed when Princess Marcy and Becky visit). Prince Bob/Charming served as bookie, keeping track of who was "betting" on which horse, as well as waiter, refilling glasses as needed.

Before they knew it, the race was over. And what an exciting race it had been, especially with Prince Bob/Charming eagerly getting everyone into the spirit. Princess Marcy's horse had won, and they all congratulated her before the princesses realized it was now time to dress for dinner. Everyone changed into their royal gowns (affording Princess Marcy yet another opportunity to change shoes), and Prince Bob/Charming changed into his finest suit of armor to escort the beautiful princesses to the Royal Pub.

It was at the pub that Prince Bob/Charming kicked into high gear. He ignored the odd looks cast at the three princesses, as they walked through the door, from a Wicked Party of Starers taking up a good deal of space at the establishment, and he blocked the Black Magic the Starers had tried to send the princesses' way. He escorted them to a table with three seats, politely choosing to stand until he could secure a seat of his own (which he was not able to do from the Wicked Party of Starers, despite the fact they had a chair that obviously was not being used by anyone). He then told the princesses to sit tight while he brought menus and ordered everyone's drinks and food for them, bringing it all back to the table, so that the princesses could sit and enjoy themselves without having to lift even a pinky finger.

Princess Emily barely recognized this Prince Charming (it's amazing what the company of beautiful princesses he rarely sees can do to a man, isn't it?). He seemed to be perfect in every way: perfect server, perfect chauffeur, perfect conversationalist... And that was when it hit her: Princesses Marcy and Becky had done it. They had sneakily cast their magic spells and had helped her find the Perfect Husband, while she was busy thinking they'd been in search of another Perfect Day. Of course, he is, quite obviously, only perfect when under a magic spell, a Perfect Husband who can only be found accidentally when Princess Emily is not looking for him and who is obviously easier to find when in the company of certain princesses, but still, he is there. And Princess Emily doesn't really mind that magic is necessary in order for him to appear. After all, she loves magic.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Accidental Perfect Husband: A Tale by Emily Barton

Once upon (a not very long) time (ago), three princesses set out in search of a Perfect Husband, and decided he didn't exist. Thus, because they are all three so wise, they gave up the folly of searching for the Perfect Husband and decided to spend all future quests in pursuit of Perfect Days, which are much easier to find, especially when the three princesses join forces rather than trying to seek out such days on their own. Perfect days seem to be around every bend when they do that.

Last Friday, late afternoon, Princess Emily's (electronic) messenger delivered the happy news that Princesses Marcy and Becky had indeed begun the long journey from the kingdom of Connecticut to the kingdom of Pennsylvania where the three would gather to see if a Perfect Day could be had in these parts. Princesses Becky and Marcy were quite convinced of it. Princess Emily, although she loves her castle, wasn't quite so sure, having encountered multitudes of, let's just say "less-than-perfect" days in her kingdom. She knows that perfect days can be had here, that she has, on occasion, experienced them, but that they often tend to be quite elusive and surely are not as abundant as Less than Perfect Days. Princess Emily has a sneaky suspicion, though, that Princesses Marcy and Becky encounter all sorts of Less than Perfect Days in the Kingdom of Connecticut and that they need her to help them find Perfect Days up there, so she was quite sure that they could help her catch an elusive perfect day in the Kingdom of Pennsylvania. That's why she was so happy that they were on their way.

However, almost as soon as the messenger had delivered the happy news, all sorts of things began to happen that did not bode well for discovering a Perfect Day. First of all, Princess Emily's castle decided to suffer a few drainage problems. To be specific, the basin and washtub in the upstairs privy refused to drain properly. Princess Emily is hopeless when it comes to such matters, but luckily, the castle comes with its own crew of men to fix such things. If Princess Emily had managed to find the Perfect Husband, all she would have had to do was to ask him to call that crew to send people over and the drain problem would have been fixed in no time. However, Princess Emily is married to Prince Bob, who is lovable, but let's face it, is far from perfect. He laughed at the notion of calling in the crew to fix something as simple as clogged drains. He fixes such things all the time. Have no fear: he would fix it before the other princesses arrived.

Princess Emily was somewhat dubious, but she has witnessed his drain-fixing abilities in the past, so she decided not to worry and headed off to the local market to buy (the infamous Amish) sticky buns for the next day's breakfast. Princesses Marcy and Becky would still be recuperating from their long journey the next morning and would need such sustenance to accompany their coffee. Princess Emily arrived at the market only to discover, much to her dismay, that they were out of sticky buns. What? She'd never heard of such a thing! She had never arrived at the market to discover a bare spot on the counter where sticky buns ought to be (and she has frequented this market on numerous occasions to purchase sticky buns). She was informed that she would have to come back the following morning if she planned to get any sticky buns. She left that market empty-handed and carried on to the other market to purchase some last-minute items for dinner and to take her evening walk before getting together with members of her church to practice the service they would be holding on Sunday.

During all this time, Prince Bob was busy working on the drains. Princess Emily did not pay much attention to him, now worried as there had been tornado watches posted, and a sudden storm had blown up, causing the (electric) candles to flicker in the church while they were practicing. How could she and Princess Marcy and Becky possibly discover a Perfect Day if they lost power or (worse) were hit by a tornado? The storm passed, though, and she walked back into her castle to be told by Prince Bob that he couldn't fix the drains. As a matter of fact, after doing what he normally does to fix them, they actually seemed to be worse than ever. He was obviously demoralized in the way only A Man Who Can't Fix It And Has To Call Someone Else can be. He had called on the crew, and someone would be coming to fix it Saturday morning. So demoralized was he that, shortly before Princesses Becky and Marcy were to arrive, he found himself with a migraine and had to go lie down in the dark.

Princess Emily, I am sorry to say, was not very sympathetic. She was searching for a Perfect Day and a husband, sick in bed with a migraine, does not for a Perfect Day make. She decided to ignore him and focus on cooking, something she loves to do, something certain to set the stage for a Perfect Day. Unfortunately, it did not. The casserole she had planned to make was one she'd made plenty of times, one that is always a crowd pleaser. However, she had got it into her head that she wanted to make this "pesto soup" idea she'd had for some time, which would be the starter. The problem is, she ran out of ingredients. As she began making the soup, she realized that what she really needed was 2 cans of garbanzo beans, not the one she had thought she'd need. She only had one. She substitued a can of black beans, which probably would have been okay, if she had not then put too much salt in it. It was one of those cooking lessons well-learned, so that next time she decides to make the soup, she can make it perfectly. However, it was not a lesson one wants to learn when making soup for guests.

By the time Princesses Becky and Marcy arrived, here was what we had: drains that were still clogged, meaning no one could use the upstairs privy (which was also now a mess, because everything that usually lives in the cupboard under the basin had been removed and put on the floor), a tornado watch in effect until midnight, a husband up in bed with a migraine, soup that was not what it could have been, and no sticky buns for Saturday morning's breakfast. Could a Perfect Day be salvaged from this mess? Well, Emily had just uncorked a bottle of wine. Perhaps that might help ease the pain if the Perfect Day was never found.

(To Be Continued)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Things I Am Not Good At #1

Ms. Musings (who seems to show up in almost all my blog posts these days. Oh well, don't complain. You'd be hard-pressed to find company much better than Ms. Musings) recently asked us in a blog post what stresses us out. Well, I could probably write a whole book on that (maybe I should? No, too stressful), but, happily, she knocked off one of my stressors for me. Anyone who has been reading this blog for more than five minutes knows how much I hate public speaking. Apparently, though, according to those who have been subjected to one of my barely coherent ramblings, I am good at it, so it is not appropriate for a blog post with the title this one has. That's typical, though, isn't it? Only I would be good at something I so loathe. Could I be good at ice skating, which I love? No. Could I be a good singer? No. I have to be good at public speaking and hear over and over, "You're lying. You can't possibly hate it. You do it so well. I've booked you for a panel on dinosaur eggs that I'm hosting next month."

So, let's move onto another stressor, something that not only stresses me out but that people will actually believe I am no good at doing. That would be inviting people into my home. If you have ever been invited to my house for more than ten minutes in the foyer, consider yourself lucky. If you happen to be someone who has actually sat in a chair, say, and maybe even been offered tea (or perhaps something a little stronger), it's because you are someone I so love and whose company I so enjoy that I am willing to put aside all "house-isn't-perfect" and "Miss-Manners-would-lock-me-up-for-breaking-every-etiquette-rule-in-the-book-if-she-could" fears for you. If you've been invited as an overnight guest, well, you are either family or someone I wish were family. You also happen to be someone I am quite sure enjoys me for my company and couldn't care less that I am a terrible housekeeper and an even worse interior decorator (and that I can't be bothered and don't have the money to spend billions on a good interior decorator).

Basically, Bob and I live in a messy house whose sole focus is on books and reading. When we were newlyweds and bought our first home in CT, we were house poor. We couldn't afford to decorate or do much of anything other than eat whatever was on sale and marvel at the fact that we owned a whole house. I got into the habit of thinking I couldn't afford to do anything and never adjusted to the fact that we now can. Almost all of our furniture is either inherited or is stuff that was donated to us at some point. We have exactly one couch and one bed that we shopped for and bought together, and even that couch was found in a second-hand shop. This furniture has all merely been plopped down in our house with our biggest concern being comfortable places to sit/lie and read. Occasionally, we will do something wild, like hire an Amish man to custom make bookshelves for us, because, well, you know, they house books.

Some of our furniture is actually gorgeous, though. I mean, when parents pass on furniture, they tend to pass on family heirlooms that they want to keep in the family. Our dining room table was a given to my great grandparents as a wedding gift. The desk at which I work every day belonged to my grandmother. We have a beautiful corner cupboard from Bob's parents in our dining room that has been the envy of many a dinner guest. However, we have never done the sorts of things most people do with such pieces, like build a room around them (the corner cupboard definitely does not match the dining room table).

Despite our haphazard decorating style, though, there is only one room in the whole house that I really can't stand. It's the living room, where we only have two nice pieces of furniture. One is a Victorian chair that my parents gave us. The other is a birch bookcase (a bookcase, but of course!) that a friend gave us when we moved to PA. He's a lovely friend to have, one of those men with impeccable tastes who buys things impulsively and then, seemingly just as impulsively, decides to get rid of them (we also have a beautiful carpet, a fantastic quilt he commissioned a friend of his to make for his parents that they then didn't want, and a favorite wooden salad bowl, thanks to him). The rest of the living room, however, is nothing but junk, big old chairs and couches left over from pre-marriage days or from the people who sold us their house in Connecticut, who left quite a lot behind. None of it is attractive or particularly comfortable.

Yet, the living room is where one is supposed to entertain. And when one is a minister's wife, she often has to invite people whose company she does not particularly enjoy into her home. That feeling is probably mutual, which means they are the sorts who are not likely to overlook pieces of furniture that are out of place (that would probably be out of place anywhere other than a junkyard), screws that are loose, tattered rugs, and a hostess who serves them tea in the wrong sort of cup. They are the sorts who say, "Wow! You sure have a lot of books," and not as if they want to begin reading any of them, especially since they make no move to examine what might be on the shelves. If you want to know stress, just observe me when I know those sorts are about to arrive.

I can hear you now. You're thinking, "Well, why not just redecorate the living room?" The answer to that question will probably have to be saved for "Things I Am Not Good At #2: Making Decorating Decisions with the Man Who Thinks that Huge, Ugly Chairs Spewing Stuffing All Over The Floor Are "Nice, Comfortable Chairs.'" Maybe, one of these days, when someone has given me Valium intravenously, I will do something about it. In the meantime, I will do what I do expertly: avoid, as much as I possibly can, inviting people into my home.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Music Monday and Winners of the Bloggiversary Quiz

I like the way Ms. Musings has been doing Music Mondays, with a little help from YouTube, so I decided to steal her way of doing it (since she was just visiting) and resuscitate my own Music Mondays (which I recently told her I've been letting lie sprawled on the floor, gasping for air, while I callously tell them "Oh, quit being so overdramatic"). I love to make connections in my life, so today was a perfect day to connect this fantastic video of one of my favorite Bernstein songs from one of my all-time favorite musicals (West Side Story).

A while ago, I began to make a list of songs I ought to post for Music Monday and started making categories like "childhood pop songs," "great folk songs", "favorites from musicals," etc. This was at the top of that last category. Then, last week, I began to think, "Maybe Music Monday isn't just being a drama queen. Maybe I do need to provide a little help to bring it back to life. I'll post something on Monday."

Well, wouldn't you know it? Yesterday, one of Bob's professors from seminary came to town as a guest of our Lancaster Interchurch Peace Witness board and Lancaster Theological Seminary. Bob was asked to introduce his former professor Gary Dorrien before his first talk yesterday afternoon. (BTW, I am very proud of Bob. His introduction was fantastic and got Gary a little choked up, so that he had to pause before he could begin. Then, Gary said, "I have to add something. In the time that I have been at Union, I can assure you that we have had no student who was more brilliant than Bob, and I've been wanting him to come back ever since he left, and I plan to work on that this afternoon. Of course, one of the congregants from our church, at the end of the talk, came up to be introduced to Gary by Bob and immediately said, "Please don't take him away from us." It's nice to have a husband who is so wanted). Gary told Bob that his fiancee would be coming with him. It turns out his fiancee's ex-husband was Leonard Bernstein's producer. How appropriate that I should post this today, then.

I've loved this song ever since I first heard it. Of course, as a teenager who thinks she and her friends will never fit in anywhere, it's so appropriate, isn't it? How could any teenager not love it? But, all my life, I've kind of felt that I don't really fit in anywhere and have always thought there must be a place for me somewhere. I haven't found it yet, but I will let you know when/if I do.

And the winners of Emily's Bloggiversary Quiz? Dorr and Stef. Thank you to everyone who played, and I'm very sorry the rest of you didn't win, but this will probably become an annual event, so maybe, if you are able to stick with me that long, you'll luck out in the futre. Meanwhile, Dorr and Stef, you each need to choose four books for me to order.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

A Quiz for the Bloggiversary

(Note: someone needs to come up with the standardized spelling for "bloggiversary." I feel like an Elizabethan whenever I type the word.)

My 4-year bloggiversary (can you believe it? I can't) is next Saturday. Appropriately, Princesses Becky and Marcy will be here to help me celebrate. They don't know this yet, but in honor of the occasion, I am going to put them to work, and I am putting all of you, who so choose, to work as well. I am giving you another quiz, similar to one I once gave as a meme (but with different questions and answers). Your job is to see how many of these oh-so-difficult-and-tricky questions about Emily you can answer correctly. All answers have been revealed on this blog sometime during the past four years. Those who get all the answers right will have their names put in a hat. I will then ask Princesses Marcy and Becky each to draw a winner from that hat when they are here next weekend.

What do the lucky winners receive? Every year, since I started my blog, I have posted lists of favorite books read that year. I post a list (usually in July) of my six favorite books from the first half of the year. Then (usually in January of the following year) I post a list of my six favorite books from the second half of the year. The two lucky winners get to choose any four books that have appeared on any of those lists, and I will order and send them via Better World Books (my favorite online bookseller).

Any questions? No? Then, ready? Set? Here we go:

1. Emily went to
a. Salem College
b. The University of Connecticut
c. I don't know. Emily doesn't talk much about her alma mater, but I think she once mentioned that she doesn't do so because she hates the way people are pegged in this country according to where they decided (when they were very young) to study for four years
d. Scripps College

2. Emily has been living in Lancaster County, PA
a. all her life (and makes the best chicken pot pie noodles around)
b. 20+ years (and people still act as though she landed in a spaceship, from Mars, not too long ago)
c. 2 1/2 years (and she still thinks dinner time is between 8:00 and 8:30 p.m., not between 5:00 and 5:30 p.m.)
d. Emily lives in PA? I thought she lived in CT

3. Emily is
a. soon going to be on a TV special, discussing all the true life ghost encounters she's had
b. almost finished writing the biography of her favorite author J.K. Rowling
c. almost finished knitting a gorgeous sweater dress
d. almost finished writing the firs draft of a novel

4. Emily is married to
a. Bob, the Republican Congressman
b. Bob, the Presbyterian minister
c. Bob, the Fox News Correspondent
d. Ed, the Televangelist

5. Emily hates
a. going to parties when she doesn't know anyone
b. cooking
c. scuba diving
d. being alone

6. If Emily were a billionaire, in which of these places would she not have a residence:
a. Manhattan's Upper West Side
b. Winston-Salem, NC
c. Mt. Desert Island, ME
d. Asheville, NC

7. Emily
a. wishes someone would invent an e-book reader that truly caters to readers
b. wishes print books would disappear
c. has no use for e-books and is sure they are merely a passing phase
d. buys just as many e-books as she does print books

8. Emily
a. was the high school homecoming queen
b. was the high school basketball star
c. won 4th place in the high school creative writing contest for a poem she wrote that was misprinted, thus changing its whole meaning
d. was class valedictorian

9. Emily hopes
a. gun laws become more lenient in this country
b. the Tea Partyers take over the world
c. all women will teach their daughters to be proud to say "I am a feminist"
d. everyone in America will soon see that health care for all (especially if provided by the government) is a stupid idea

10. If Emily ran for president she'd have to
a. come clean with the fact that she used to run a puppy mill
b. come clean with the fact that she once used drugs
c. come clean with the fact that she doesn't have children because she hates them
d. come clean with the fact that she thought she was a lesbian until she discovered the Good News of the Gospel, saw the light, and changed her wicked ways

If you're game, just leave your answers in the comments. I will post answers and winners next weekend.