Thursday, April 25, 2013

To My Lawyer, Saxonberg



I think I have a harder time than most people when my favorite writers pass away. I was sitting on our front lawn during a yard sale when I read in the newspaper that Madeleine L’Engle had died. I had to excuse myself inside so I could have a private cry about it. Brian Jacques’ passing still stings because I never expected him to leave me. Ever since last June, my heart seizes up whenever I see Nora Ephron’s name. Did you know they’re making a documentary about her life for HBO? I hope they do her justice.

E.L. Konigsburg passed away this last Saturday. She was 83 and she had published as recently as 2007. (I hope that I’m still publishing in my seventies.) I loved many of her books, such as Jennifer, Hecate, Macebth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth and The View from Saturday, although I am most grateful for From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I am not alone in this sentiment. From the Mixed-Up Files has accolades out the wazoo, including that shiny Newbery Medal adorning the cover.

It deserves every bit of praise bestowed upon it. I reread the story earlier this week, when I heard of her passing. Years later, it holds up as being funny and sly and absolutely nailing the feeling of wanting to escape from the injustices of your own life. Someday I hope to read the book to my own children and that I’ll have to explain to them why they’ll never be able to hide out in a museum, thanks to modern security practices. (Sorry, kids. Even in the nineties, I felt that loss.) Everybody should read this book.

But here’s why I feel that I may be the book’s biggest fan. Ten-year-old Gretchen found a spirit animal in twelve-year-old Claudia Kincaid. I was a straight arrow kid, burdened with the responsibility of being the eldest child. While I only have the one younger brother, he is smart and confident and cheap, just like Jamie. In fact, if I have any competition for biggest fan, that spot would go to Phillip in a heartbeat. When I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art two years ago, Phil was still on his mission and being there without him felt incomplete. He is the Sir James to my Lady Claudia.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler has imprinted itself on to my consciousness. There are so many things in the book that I believe to be true.

“But lying in bed just before going to sleep is the worst time for organized thinking; it is the best time for free thinking.”
“’You’ll never have a better chance, Lady Claudia. Go ahead. Do it.’” 
“Some people spend all their time on a vacation taking pictures so that when they get home they can show their friends evidence that they had a good time. They don’t pause to let the vacation enter inside of them and take that home.” 
“I keep telling you that often the search proves more profitable than the goal. Keep that in mind when you’re looking for something in my files.”

Phillip and I would listen to the book on tape repeatedly. Certain inflections of a phrase still pop into my head now and then. I can’t hear someone mention a specific monetary amount without mentally saying, complete with all the ups and downs of Jamie’s proud crowing, “Twenty-four dollars and forty-three cents.” If anyone asks me where I came from, I reply, “Mother always says that I came from heaven.” I’ve so often claimed that there are only two ways to really know a person—either by living with them or playing cards with them—that I plum forgot the source until I came across it in the book a few days ago.

I think that Claudia Kincaid grew up wanting to be like the legendary Basil E. Frankweiler. I’d like to, too, but I’d also like to emulate the legendary E.L. Konigsburg. Thank you for your words, E.L. I hope you left this earth different

Friday, February 22, 2013

Next Year in Jerusalem

(I think I'm due for my quarterly blog update, so here goes.)

January was a month of considerable loss for me, the least of which was the end of 30 Rock. There was a time in my life when losing Liz Lemon might have been the largest point of impact, but by the time the end of the month (and along with it, the end of a television era) rolled around, I was so used to the emotional change that I just let it happen to me. I gave myself permission to simply survive and I managed to achieve that goal. Let me tell you, it feels like a freaking miracle.

In February, the wounds have started to heal over, but time will do that to a person. I don’t think that makes it any less painful. I've emerged from survival mode into something resembling the person that I used to be, although you can never really go back. I know this. I know this. I guess the point is that I’m doing better.
I find comfort in knowing that things can probably only go up from here because the odds are most definitely in my favor. After all, I live in a world where Justin Timberlake is releasing new music again, so I've got that going for me.

I've recently acquired two new signs that hang in my room. The first, “Seek out the Joy,” is a print by my beloved Marc Johns. Someone asked me recently, “So what are you doing with your time now?” I answered honestly, “I’m trying to fill my life with good things.” This means getting back to the basics of the things that make me happy. I’m reading lots, writing some, and taking somewhat calculated risks to get outside of myself. I've been to yoga twice now. Twice! That is huge for me! I am being careful not to fall into my usual Simon & Garfunkel defense mechanism of “I have my books and my poetry to protect me.” This means that I can still read, but I have to recognize that I need people. I also find happiness in a medium Sonic coke with cherry and vanilla and extra maraschino cherries. It's the little things.




The second print is one that I made myself with a little help from a free font and MS paint. “This Year,” by The Mountain Goats, has become something of a mantra for me. It could come across as a little defeatist, but I love it. It means good things ahead and feasting and dancing in Jerusalem next year. In the meanwhile, I am going to make it through this year if it kills me.



Friday, October 5, 2012

Things I Used To Not Like But Now I Think Are Okay

There's this awesome line in a new song from Ben Folds Five. "Read me off a list of things I used to not like, but now I think are okay." Everyone has a few of those things in their life. Mine are below--what are yours?
The rest of the song is pretty great, too, and the music video has The Fraggles in it. The Fraggles, you guys! It doesn't get any better than this.


Leaving voicemails--I'm still terrible at it, but I don't actively hate it like I did once upon a time.
Driving on the freeway--This used to terrify me. Now I enjoy driving on the freeway, especially at night.
Sushi--What was I thinking?
Wearing pink--I still don't own a lot of pink clothing, but I don't think twice about wearing it.
Asking people for help--Ughhhh. The worst, right? Yet it's kind of okay.
Avocados--This isn't so much that I didn't use to like them, but that I was too afraid to try them until I was a teenager. Ridiculous! Now they're one of my favorite foods.
Planning events--Turns out that I'm actually good at this.

I'm sure I'll think of more once I hit publish on this sucker. What about you? And how was your summer?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

S-A-T-U-R-DAY...uh...day!

Hi folks!  I'm in a remarkably good mood right now because I have very few plans on this stunningly beautiful Saturday morning and thought I'd share part of that joy. Here are four youtube videos that I've been enjoying as of late and I think you will, too.


Can you imagine being on this subway? I'm charmed. (Via Nat)


This kid, Noah, plays the most moving cover of...wait for it...LMFAO's "Sexy and I Know It." I'm not even joking. (Via Livejamie)


Kimbra! I've mentioned her before, but this song is my new favorite. Her album (Vows) comes out in the US on the 22nd. "This is nonstop, baby."


I'm certainly not immune to the charms of Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" and neither is this Harvard Baseball Team. The choreograph is simple, but the mere fact that they thought to ADD choreography makes me giggle.

Happy weekend!

Friday, March 30, 2012

California Girls

A few weeks ago I escaped to Southern California for a friend's wedding. This friend was the first girl I ever trained on my mission and therefore is incredibly special to me. You see, we didn't quite get along at first. She was the wild child that thought she knew everything and I was the uptight, experienced missionary with a cynical side. I mean, you can't get much more odd couple than that. But when you spend every waking moment together, you develop a fight or flight mentality that makes you learn to tolerate each other because flight's not an option. Even better, if you're lucky, you learn to love each other. By the end of my mission, we were incredibly close and it was an honor to be there for her wedding. Enjoy a few photos from my trip, filtering courtesy of instagram. 


I ate at In-N-Out about four times during the course of a four-day trip. I could have eaten there for every meal. I'm not even joking. This was my first time trying their famous and secretive "animal-style" burger, but I discovered that I prefer their regular cheeseburger.

 

An In'N'Out chocolate shake...and it's happy to see you!


I spent the first day helping out with wedding preparations. The flowers were so gorgeous. I'm a huge fangirl of ranunculus.


Here's the happy couple outside of the Redlands LDS Temple, sealed for time and all eternity. Their children are going to be the most beautiful and musical people that I will ever know.

 

I'm blaming the frizz on the wind. I loved the dress that I bought for the wedding--Ross to the rescue.


In other food adventures, I tried my first Shamrock Shake. Eh...it's no McRib. (I drank the shake right before watching John Carter. Everybody, go see John Carter!)


Post-ceremony, a bunch of my mission friends (sooooo much fun to see them all again) and I ate lunch at Rosie's. The horchata was amazing.


And here's Rosie's proper. The weather was perfect, the people were wonderful, and the trip was remarkable. Next up: New Mexico!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Truly, Madly, Deeply

Why hello there. You're looking rather foxy tonight. I know, I know. It's been a while. It might seem like I'm doing this to merely get attention from you simply because it's Valentine's Day, but I assure you that's not the case.* I'm here hoping to re-kindle that old flame we once had--that flame that burned bright and white hot. But let's not rush into anything...

First things first--how have you been? No, I know you've been fine. How are you REALLY?
Things here are pretty fantastic.** I'm well-situated into my routine, which is a nice place for me to be. I'm big on routine, almost to a fault. I do get chances to break that routine and I try to take them as often as possible, because that's the only way I ever get anything done.
Since today IS the day of love and warm fuzzies and massacres, here are a few things that I've been crushing on as of late. (Minus the massacres.)

Books
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Nerdiest book ever, you guys. The whole thing is jam-packed with pop culture references. I couldn't get enough of it.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
One of the things that I meant to blog about was my experience attending the Nerdfighter tour. I met John Green and high-fived Hank Green. Oh, and John's book really is that good.

Music
 "Settle Down" by Kimbra
Obsessed.

"All Will Be Well" by The Gabe Dixon Band
They used this at the end of a Parks & Rec episode and the idea of "practicing my purpose" has become something of a mantra for me.


TV
Downton Abbey
Do I even need to talk about this? You know what I mean.
Raising Hope
This show is so wonderful in so many ways.

Currently Enjoying...
Color blocking, going to see The Vow with some of my favorite girls tonight (such a cheese-fest! The only thing better would have been a literal cheese-fest.), and making homemade pasta

Looking Forward To...
Taking archery lessons, traveling to SoCal next month for a mission companion's wedding, and having Sister Julie Beck of the Relief Society General Presidency coming to visit Austin this weekend

So that's the status of my life. See you around?***

*Lies!
**Thank you for asking.
***The sooner the better, as far as I'm concerned.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

We all want to change the world.

These were my 2011 "goals to be better." Not resolutions. Ahem. The original post is here.

1. Equal amounts of input and output, input being everything I take in and output being everything I give back. I'm still not perfect at this, but I got an awful lot better. Here's to more improvement in 2012.
2. Catch up at my own pace. Yep. This made my life so much easier.
3. Love Austin. Done a million times over.
4. Don't buy unnecessary things. Maybe? A little? I made a conscious effort, but I don't know if it helped.
5. Watch more Doctor Who. Totally. I still need to watch the David Tennant seasons, which should give me something to do while I wait for the series to come back next fall.
6. Take more photos. Done. Having an iPhone has been great for this, but I'd still like to learn how to better use my DSLR.
7. Take an interior design class. This didn't pan out. I did get lots of real-life experience with my apartment. Someday!
8. OR take a sewing class. Nope. Chuck Testa.
9. Have fun with Goodreads. I had so much fun with goodreads. My usual goal is to read 50 books a year. By the end of 2011, I should hit 45 or maybe 46. Good enough for me.
10. Spend more energy focused on building relationships. I'd like to think I accomplished this. I've made some incredible friends here in Texas. They have shaped my experience here in so many wonderful ways.
11. Make a conscious, daily effort to be grateful. Yes, but this doesn't end with 2011. Onward and upward!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Expectations

It's amazing that I didn't end up with some serious misconceptions about Santa Claus thanks to this photo.



My parents get in town today for five days worth of a Texan Christmas Adventure. When we were ironing out details, my dad reminded me of something that my mom did when Phil and I were younger. At the beginning of December, we'd sit down and make a list of our "Christmas Expectations." Ranked in order of importance, we would say what we wanted to happen during the month. There was some room for dreaming large (ride the Polar Express!) as well as learning to curb our impulses. (Make gingersnaps AND lemon bars AND mincemeat pie? Pick two out of three.)

From my mom's standpoint, it must have been a godsend to know how to make your kids happy at Christmastime, when stress runs high and oustide temperatures run low. My expectations usually included "going to see the lights," "visiting Santa at the mall," and "setting up the Nativity." Phillip would want to watch Home Alone, a movie that inspired a notebook filled with ideas on how to infiltrate my room. When I found the notebook in the summer, I was so charmed that I couldn't possibly begin to be mad at him.

When Dad asked me this year, I laughed at the memory of our planning sessions, the result of which we'd leave taped up as a to-do list. My wishes have mellowed out a little. This year I'm hoping to watch The Adventures of Tintin at the Drafthouse and see the Nutcracker with my mom. But as I grow up, my Christmas Expectations lie more in the small festive moments. I've listened to Judy Garland's "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" more times than I can count. I sang in the church choir. I've punctured the skin of clementine oranges with my thumb, giving way to sweet segments of fruit. I haven't seen a single snowflake and I'm perfectly okay with that. I've thought about the Savior and his birth and sacrifice. So all in all, I'd say that my Christmas Expectations have been met and wildly exceeded.

Six-month-old Gretchen could hardly handle the excitement of Christmas.

A very happy Christmas to you and yours!

Monday, December 5, 2011

The City So Nice They Named It Twice

"Its other name is Manhattan." -Michael Scott

Well, I think while most people would agree that I wasn't a perfect NaBloPoMo poster (I mean, who forgets to blog on the LAST DAY?), I hope you'd also agree that this was a fun little project. Enjoy a random sampling of some other pictures that didn't get posted. 














Dear New York City, 

I think you're simply grand. Until we meet again?

Hugs and kisses, 
Gretchen

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Let All Of Oz Be Agreed

One of the major highlights of the trip was finally getting to see Wicked. I've waited eight long years for that moment and watched family members and friends get there long before I did. (Bitter about this? Me? No...)
Because of the wait and the excessive playing of my soundtrack, it took me a while to get settled in to the musical. Elphaba and G(a)linda weren't exactly the Elphaba and Glinda that I was accustomed to hearing. Around the second half I finally got adjusted and was able to have a marvelous time. One thing that surprised me was that the sets and costumes were heavily Steampunk-influenced. Lots of cogs and corsets, so I loved that. Glinda ended up being a delightful Good Witch and the Wizard was wonderful, as he should be. Our Nessa Rose was the very same Nessa from the original production. 
The traveling production is coming to Austin at the end of January and I'm ready to see it again!




Monday, November 28, 2011

Taking A Bite Out Of The Big Apple

Oh my goodness, I am so sorry for that post title. As you might expect from me, I made a point to eat some pretty incredible things during my trip.


One night we ate dinner at this teensy Italian place in Hell's Kitchen (Cara  Mia, I think?) and these little tomato caper crostini bits were hands down the best part of the meal. And they were FREE.


Brunch at Sylvia's in Harlem. Crazy wait, but the soul food was worth it. I was so hungry that I started to eat before taking pictures, which I try to avoid. (There, that's me at my most insufferably blog-esque.) Hash browns, eggs over easy, fried chicken--all drenched in Sylvia's special hot sauce.


The last night of the trip, I was still full from Magnolia's. But as I was standing right next to Village Pizza while I waited for my mom to get a New York Times from the bodega next door, I realized that this was my one shot to get a New York slice. As you can see, the crust was crisp and thin and the ratio of cheese to sauce was perfect.


There's a little bakery/deli next to the Manhattan Temple called the EuroPan Cafe, although it's jokingly referred to as the temple cafeteria. My Italian panini boasted fresh mozzarella, artichoke heats, and three kinds of cured meat. When my dad asked for a bite, I'm pretty sure I just glared him down. No way was I going to share this little beauty.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Georgia On My Mind

I love Georgia O'Keeffe because she loves New Mexico in the same way that I love New Mexico. It's a love that is reckless and brazen and without abandon. Of course, her museum in Santa Fe is a much greater collection of her work, but I was thrilled that she got wall space in the Met's temporary Alfred Steiglitz exhibit.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Impressionist

Definitely my favorite exhibit...




Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Modernity

From the Met's modern wing...
(My favorites were the paintings by Josef Albers. I was so in love with them that I completely forgot to take pictures. True story. Another favorite was Shimmer Bright by Barnett Newman.)


I love watching people watch art. I'd like to do a project based on that.


The picture above is the only one where I remembered to write down a source. It's Ellsworth Kelly's Spectrum V.


I think the one on the left is called Sunflowers. It was stunning in person. I also got to see my second Piet Mondrian. He's the guy responsible for the blocks of color, usually in black, white, yellow, blue, and red. A few years ago I saw one at the U of U's art museum and it blew me away. The brush strokes were so delicate and meticulous. Having been raised on art, my appreciation for modern work has grown tremendously over the years.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Great Goddess

Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Diana