Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Jane and the Doctor #1

As I re-watched one of my favorite episodes of the British TV show "Doctor Who," which features a story surrounding Agatha Christie, I was inspired.

Wouldn't an episode featuring Jane Austen be the best thing since sliced bread?

I shared this desire with a Whovian fan club I belong to on Facebook. Then I began imagining what interactions between the Doctor, his companion and various characters in Jane Austen's life might look like.

As easy as these have proven to write, this is undoubtedly only the first of several installments of the sort. The vignettes below are not presented chronologically, by the way. "Ten," of course, denotes the Tenth Doctor, and Donna is his companion in the fourth season of the reboot.


Jane's mom: "And is this your wife?"
-both Doctor and companion deny it vigorously-
Mom, as if offering consolation: "Oh, never mind, there are still many wonderful ladies you may meet."
Doctor, as aside to companion, with Jane overhearing: "It's universally acknowledged, you know, that a single man of apparently good fortune must 'be in want of a wife.'"


Ten: Oh hello there!
Jane: Good morrow, sir.
Ten: Where're you off to?
Jane: The village apothecary, sir. Are you looking for direction?
Ten: Oh, no, just pottering about, you might say.
Jane: Ah. Well, ah, the moor about half a mile farther on is a beautiful walk.
Ten: It is, isn't it? I might even find a cave there. Far better than any town. 'What are men to rocks and mountains,' eh?
Jane: My, sir, you've expressed my feelings exactly.
Ten: I'm the Doctor, by the way, forgive me for not properly introducing myself earlier.
Jane: A pleasure to meet you, doctor...?
Ten: Just the Doctor, miss.
Jane: Well then, Doctor, I am Miss Austen, or properly Miss Jane, as my sister is slightly elder. I find it rather odd, though, that you do not seek an introduction through a friend.
Ten: Who? One of these trees here? Hello, Tree, why don't you introduce me to the young lady?
Jane, smiling: Sir, you are absurd.
Ten: It comes from reading too many novels.
Jane: I'm afraid, sir, I must beg to differ. Absurd behavior manifests itself generally without the help of fiction.
Ten: Ah, quite true. Anybody who can't take pleasure in a good novel 'must be intolerably stupid,' too. So perhaps I haven't read enough.
Jane, dimple peeking as she tries not to smile again: I'm sure the village apothecary might give you a prescription.


[at an officers' ball]
Donna: Well, Galahad, get yourself out there and dance! And you'd better not ask me because I'd tie myself in knots trying to figure these things out.
Jane: You amuse me so, Miss Noble. If you would like I could teach you the cotillion. It's really far less drudgery than you seem to think.
Ten: Ha, I'd love to see that! Donna Noble twirling around, being taught a dance by Jane Austen herself!
Jane: Miss Jane, if you please.
Ten: Well, Miss Jane, I think you might have better things to do. I see a young gentleman heading this way.
Jane: That's Mr. Lefroy, sir. Have you had the pleasure of meeting him?
Donna, staring: No, but wouldn't THAT be a pleasure!
Ten, clearing throat: We haven't, but would you do the honors?
Jane: Assuredly. Mr. Lefroy, this is Miss Noble, and a man who calls himself the Doctor. Doctor, Miss Noble, this is Mr. Lefroy, a neighbor of mine.
-all exchange how-do-you-do's-
Lefroy: What a pleasure, sir. Say, if you don't mind my asking, have you read anything decent lately? It seems many of the locals have been filling their heads with the likes of Udolpho. Few have even known the pleasure of an evening of reading from Fordyce's Sermons.
Ten: Oh?
Lefroy: Yes, if it can be believed. I've often thought that reading, instead of dancing, should be made the order of the day at a party. It would be so much more edifying.
Jane: But not nearly so much like a ball, you must admit.
Lefroy: Would that be so terrible, Miss Jane?
Donna, aside to Ten: I take back what I said. I'd rather kiss a toad than him.


Ten: Something's wrong.
Donna: Of course it is. Something's always wrong around you.
Ten: No I mean, something's wrong with Jane Austen. Or at least with her love affair.
Donna: What love affair? Worried that Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy aren't going to end up together?
Ten: Don't you know that that Tom Lefroy there was supposed to be the one she fell in love with? Now tell me, did she look like she was in love to you?
Donna: How could she be, with that sapskulled dullard?
Ten: Exactly. Now the question is, why? What has happened to make him so revolting? It's almost like Mr. Collins come to life.
Donna: Who's Mr. Collins?
Ten: -pause- Have you NEVER read "Pride and Prejudice"?
Donna: Oh come on, I can't possibly remember every detail about the books they made you read in sixth form.
Ten: But it's "Pride and Prejudice"!
Donna: So what? It's still a fat old novel. And a bloody boring one at that.
Ten: -shakes head-

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Life on my own #49: Notes on adulting

Disclaimer: I'm not qualified.

To dispense advice on being an adult, you first have to have a decent amount of experience. Four years post-college doesn't reach that level.

But one of my (ubiquitous) younger friends let her Facebook world know the other day, and I quote, "I can't believe....that in five days I'll be 20 years old. Oh my." First, let's applaud her use of Associated Press style in spelling out a single-digit number.

Applause, please. You're missing your cue!

Now that that's out of the way, let's reminisce a little. When I turned 20, I wasn't even with my family. It was the semester I studied abroad, in Costa Rica, and I managed to get through half the day without anyone making a big fuss over me and my little coming-of-age. Then the student coordinator found out.

I'm pretty sure I was presented with a cake and some flowers, but I don't exactly remember. And I apparently neglected to take any photos.

That all seems like it happened eons ago. But at the time, it didn't really dawn on me that I was no longer to be called a teenager. The verbified-noun "adulting" and accompanying millennial angst hadn't even been realized yet.

Fast-forward five years. Through buying my first car. Through college graduation, where I decided to wear the most ostentatious earrings I owned just for the fun of it.

As you can see, they didn't even match the cords I'd earned.

Fast-forward through my first "real" job, my first hunt for an apartment. My first move across state lines, my first date, my first time buying a house.

I'm 25 now. Those things -- life -- all make being 20 years old a rather difficult feeling to remember.

Thing is, none of these things made me an adult. Lots of people have not done any number of the above and it doesn't make them any less over the age of 18. Not moving out of the house wouldn't have meant regression into the teenage years.

What makes you psychologically an adult, if you ask this rather novice one, is twofold: considering, and accepting, the consequences of what you do; and regularly taking care of others' needs even when it's inconvenient.

I wore a rather odd choice of earrings for my college graduation -- the one time I'd appear in umpteen reminiscence-worthy photos for many friends and once-friends. Seems foolish on the surface, but I knew the consequences. And I was fine with them; I "owned my decision," as they say now. Too bad I lost one of the earrings, or I'd still wear them now and again, too.

There are a few things I've done because of the impact they'd have on people. A good impact, is what I've hoped for. Sometimes I don't do things, too, because I don't want to change someone's life for the worse, even a little bit. It's something I'm working on now. Practicing "adulting."

It's too bad "being an adult" has become associated with "being boring." As if putting thought into any decisions, aiming for no regrets, were undesirable.

What they don't know is ... "adulting" is worth it. Worth the energy, worth the weird looks when you don't really want to do something because you don't want the headache in the morning... or sometimes worth the headache when the evening before was a blast.

Worth staying up till 12:30 a.m. to finish laundry so you can get more things done in the morning.


Friday, March 27, 2015

The Miata Diaries: Stubborn screws

I've been warring with a pair of rusted-on rear license plate screws since Tuesday. This is Friday. I tried everything in my arsenal -- every screwdriver that was even close to the right size, WD-40, silicone spray, a screwdriver borrowed from a friend, even a screwdriver borrowed from the local AutoZone. The one from AutoZone was finally a tight fit in the slotted head, but resulted in halfway stripping one of the screws.

It was to the point where I considered getting a friend to drill out the screws. (Or zapping them with my sonic screwdriver.) But I tried one last time.

Another squirt of silicone spray, several taps on each screw and a couple hours' wait. And then, the last straw: A pair of combination pliers with teeth that might either wear down the edges of the screws or sink into them tight enough to provide some leverage.

So into the cold garage I went, at about 8:45 p.m. No more daylight left, but I finally had the energy to give it a go.

Setting the pliers around the right-hand screw, I gripped as hard as the tiny space between the pliers and the surface of the car would allow. And I gently tugged, then harder as I felt the pliers teeth staying put on the screw.

At first, nothing. Then an infinitesimal budge. A few more slow tugs and the rusty stranglehold was broken.

Emboldened with my first success, I seized the second screw and with the same technique managed to get it loose, too.

Thus, I ended up in the checkout line at Wal-Mart at 9:30 on a Friday night with a set of new license plate screws and a glitzy just-for-fun plate frame in my arms. Oh, and a random $2 shirt because it's nigh impossible to bypass the sale rack. (Admit it. You know exactly what I mean.)

Sometimes, you gotta celebrate the small successes.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Miata Diaries: Show and tell

I had promised a friend of mine yesterday that I would give her a ride in my new car before leaving for work. I forgot when the time came to leave, so I made it up to her today after church.

Parked next to a visiting college student's Camaro, the Miata looked to me almost like a toy car. She said it was gorgeous. Throughout the beginning of the ride, she felt along every surface she could reach - the textured plastic door handles, the smooth plastic dash and its round - almost bulbous - HVAC vents, the cloth seat, the vinyl soft top, the cold, metal framework holding the soft top up, the thin flap of fabric hiding that framework from view.

She felt the comparative roominess of the passenger legroom, which surpassed the expectations she'd formed after seeing the red-and-black mass we approached in the parking lot and feeling how short it was - shorter than even her petite frame. She could lean her elbow up on the top of the car.

My friend listened to the rumble of the engine as I revved it up to 4, maybe 5,000 rpms on the short spin through the countryside, assuring her I was only going around 50 mph. She felt the slight jerk accompanying each shift of the six-speed gearbox and the warmth of the sun's energy transferred through the car's outer surface.

When we returned, her dad asked, tongue in cheek, "did you let her drive?" He and her mom had informed me and their other guests yesterday that they make good-natured jokes about visual impairment. "We forget she's blind," they explained.

Monday, March 09, 2015

The Miata Diaries: Buying my dream car

I've liked the Mazda Miata roadster since I was about 11 years old.

I called it a "Mrs. Peel car," alluding to one of the characters in the old British TV show "The Avengers" that I and my siblings watched growing up. Pretty much any cute little roadster qualified as a Mrs. Peel car.
Yes, it's an old TV show...

But I was able to see a Miata in person -- even sit in it -- when my parents visited a used car dealer to look for a minivan. I thought it was the bee's knees.

Even after I bought my first car of my very own, I realized my taste in cars hadn't changed much. I loved small and I loved stick-shift. And I still liked a Miata. So when I made a "bucket list" of things I definitely wanted to do sometime in my life, owning a Miata made it on the list.

And now it's checked off.

I bought a 2007 Mazda Miata touring car last week and can hardly wrap my mind around it. I own my dream car. How is that even possible??

But I love it. I can't wait for the weather to warm up. Six speeds (yes, not just five) with the top down ... ah, the thrill of it!

Since I've told people about getting my dream car, I've had several friends tease me, between chuckles, with cautions about it being a "man magnet."

"I heard you were looking at a 'look at me, I'm single and want to met a guy!' car today. Found one that's a convertible and in red even," one relative texted me early on in the car search. I had to chuckle. And when I told another friend I'd probably do mostly country driving in it, zipping around the rural roads and such, he was like "... but you'll only meet cows out there."

Retorting in the same joking attitude, I told him that some of the local cops were quite handsome. :P

But in the seven days I've owned this thing, I've had to wash it twice. And both times within hours after I washed it, I know it attracted guys' attention. One, driving a white muscle car of some sort, pulled up even with me and revved the engine a little. Another gave a wolf whistle.

It's quite entertaining, really, the reactions a classy roadster will get in a small town.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Review: Beowulf

Beowulf by Unknown

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was not one of those who "suffered" through Beowulf in high school. I enjoyed it, perhaps thanks to a modern translation by Burton Raffel that I found at the local library. And, if I hadn't gone for a different career, I could see myself having pursued an English major in college... for the fun of it. So take the following as you will. Also, if you're reading this, you're probably at least vaguely familiar with Beowulf's storyline, so I'll just skip that and get straight to what sets this volume apart.

The thickness of this volume's spine is deceiving: The Beowulf saga itself spans only pages 13 to 105 out of its 425 pages (not even counting the preface). But that's because there's a lot more gold for the willing book nerd to unearth. To wit:

J.R.R. Tolkien is most known for his trilogy "The Lord of the Rings," which I enjoyed as a teen, but in fact he was a dedicated scholar of English literature and well-versed (haha) in some of the languages from which modern English is derived, including Old English, the tongue in which the earliest manuscript of Beowulf was written. Christopher Tolkien, editor of this volume and son of J.R.R., takes some pains to demonstrate his father's expertise with the language - even including, as an appendix, about six and a half pages of original work J.R.R. Tolkien wrote in Old English before converting it back into modern English. Not being familiar with the language myself, I'm left to admire the pretty shapes the weird letters form, however out of reach their meaning is. Christopher also included a hefty commentary on the translation drawn from J.R.R.'s lectures to students studying the text for their Old English class sessions.

As for the translation itself: This one is officially my favorite rendering of the ancient European epic poem. For one thing, it's prose - and yet it maintains a lyric quality in the lilt, as I call it, of the phrasing. C. Tolkien writes, "it seems to me that he designedly wrote quite largely in rhythms founded on 'common and compact prose-patterns of ordinary language,' with no trace of alliteration, and without the prescription of specific patterns." Of course, J.R.R. fiddled with the usual word order sometimes to keep the lilt going, but on the whole this translation has none of the stilted feeling of translations that try to maintain the "regularities of the old poetry" that just sound really, really weird to the modern ear.

This is fun to try at home: Reading aloud several lengthy passages in a bad Scottish accent just to fully feel the lilt. Who cares that the legend is set in Denmark? Just pretend you're David Tennant and argue that he played Hamlet so it shouldn't matter.

For the really dedicated word nerds among us, the commentary on the text is pretty neat. I'm not quite that dedicated, so while I did read some of the notes (and learned a fair bit about random Old English words I still couldn't pronounce), I skimmed most of them, just stopping to read portions that dealt with the legend itself and its relation to "historial" (the Tolkiens' word, not mine) fragments as separated, as well as may be, from the fairytale elements.

The funnest parts of this volume are in the back, though: a short recreation of the legend, without the "historial" bits, that J.R.R. wrote in the style of one of our familiar children's fairy tales; and two versions of a ballad J.R.R. Tolkien sang to Christopher when the boy was probably 7 or 8 years old. The legend may have been an academic exercise in attempting to reconstruct the source legend that eventually gave rise to the Beowulf mix of legend and "historial" figures, but it's just good writing. Unfortunately, only the lyrics to the Tolkien ballad of Beowulf and the Monsters are here preserved, not the tune.

Oh, and one more fun fact: The illustrations, including the cover art, are all J.R.R.'s.

In all, this work is a must-read for Tolkien lovers or students of European ancient literature. Or people who like to practice their Scottish accents. Somebody, please get David Tennant to record the audiobook.

View all my reviews

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Actual Facebook ads I have gotten

I still use Facebook, despite previous rants against its effects on our lives.

My job also entails that I Google a lot of randomness.

And, I think at some point I told Facebook I didn't want to have personalized ads.

These are the amusingly irrelevant results. Prepare to laugh.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Movies with reporters

Yes, I ended up becoming a reporter.

Funny thing is, there are a number of movies and TV shows I enjoyed in my childhood that featured a reporter (or some other figure of journalism) as a main character. And I never realized until sometime last year just how many there were. A partial list for your perusal:
  • Roman Holiday
  • Early Edition (TV show)
  • It Happened One Night (sidenote: the plot is practically identical to Roman Holiday!)
  • Assassination Bureau (Diana Rigg is splendid as the investigative journalist, if completely unethical)
  • Superman (comics/movies)
  • Crocodile Dundee
  • Godzilla (the U.S. one with Matthew Broderick)
  • Twister (the lead guy was a weather reporter - and on an irrelevant note, Cary Elwes is a fantastic villain here)
  • Hoodwinked
More recently, a few other movies have featured reporters/editors in a lead role.
  • 27 Dresses
  • Hitch (well, she's a gossip columnist)
  • How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Fascinating (at least to me). Of course, pretty much every journalist featured committed some glaringly horrific ethical no-no, but one comes to expect it of Hollywood.

P.S. Was there a reporter in "Independence Day" too? I haven't seen that in years but I feel like one part was shot in a newsroom... I don't think any main characters were reporters, though.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

The mistakes I haven't made

This year, I'm grateful for the mistakes I haven't made.

Life has been pretty hunky-dory for me. I don't say that to brag or solicit commendation. I say that because there's really no reason for it to have gone so well for me as it has.

There've been times when I might have made a misstep. The way was open to me, and I really didn't know any better. There was no reason for me not to have taken an unwise turn, not even a hunch that that way would lead to no good.

And yet I didn't.

Only later do you realize how close you got to making a mistake. It's later that you learn the likely consequences of the action you didn't take (or maybe the passive state you didn't embrace).

I could say something ordinary about believing in guardian angels and in God's hand upon my life. Because I do believe that (at least the last bit). But those are cliched phrases that fail, these days, to convey just how astonishing it is ... not to have made the mistakes that might have been.

So here's to 2015. Another year, hopefully, full of unwitting mistakes that won't be made.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Year in review 2014, or, A Post-Christmas greeting

My mom always said better late than never. So, here's hoping you all had a very merry Christmas and are looking forward to a happy New Year!

Sarah's Christmas Update

Imagine a year full of a number of crazy things. Multiply by 4.5 and you'll get an idea of what my life has been like in 2014. ;)

Highlight of my year? Travel to China to visit a good friend from college and see some of the sights with her: the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, the Terra Cotta Army... it felt like a dream, it was so surreal. I haven't been disciplined enough to write much about it but I hope to do so this winter as I work on putting together a photo album from my trip. (The few posts I've written are here.) If you'd like to see the digital photo album, email me (readersis at gmail dot com) for the link and prepare yourself for the onslaught of more than 900 photos... :) But seriously, it was the trip of a lifetime and I'm thankful to God and to my friend for giving me the opportunity.

I also got to take a quick trip to visit St. Louis back in February to meet up with my former roomie, and we went up to the top of the Gateway Arch while we were there - it was the farthest west I've ever been in the U.S. I made a stop in Springfield, Illinois, on my way over, too.

On a sadder note, my grandpa (Mom's dad) passed away in October rather suddenly. I was able to go back home for the calling hours and appreciated being able to spend time with Mom and the rest of her family then.

As in past years, I participated in a historical reenactment this past fall, and though I didn't sew a new dress for it I got plenty of ideas for next year. I also got the signatures of 50-plus schoolchildren who were amazed they were allowed to write something in my period-correct journal using my period-correct fountain pen. :)

I've begun teaching U.S. civics and history to my ESL student in preparation for her to take the U.S. naturalization test. I have high hopes that she'll be able to face the 100-question test after several months' work. She's already a strong user of the English language, with a few speaking hurdles left to overcome. It's been really interesting to talk about history with her, since she's already aware of most of the contemporary history covered on the exam, but from a Cuban perspective.

My "Little Sister" in Big Brothers Big Sisters is 10 years old now and in the middle of fifth grade at one of our local middle schools. She and I play a lot of games together - board games, trivia games, puzzles, you name it.

I'm still co-leader of a group for middle school girls at my church, and love these girls to bits. :) Some have "graduated" or matured to feel more comfortable in the general high school group, and we've gained one younger girl this year who entered sixth grade. When you think of me, remember to pray for all the little girls I have somehow found myself to be an influence on. And don't tell them I called them little. ;) I also continue playing guitar weekly at my church (or occasionally bass guitar).

In June I hit my first anniversary as a homeowner, and over the past year and a half or so I've experienced some of the "joys of homeownership," as my mother jokingly calls them - like the clothes dryer quitting on me, or the water heater springing a leak. Thankfully, I've been able to deal with everything that has come up (or at least knew a trustworthy repairman to call), and let me tell you, buying this house has turned out to be a fantastic decision, not least because I had a garage to shelter my car through the unusually harsh winter we had a year ago. :D

I remain the news editor at my local paper, editing the next day's news each night and writing a weekly column whose readers I'm hugely thankful for! The column is a lighthearted one that is published each Friday. If you'd like a link to the page that's automatically updated with each week's column, email me and I'll send it to you. I can do that now because the newspaper rolled out its new website in late August, which has been a huge boon to us behind the scenes! Also, I received a couple awards in December through the state press association, recognizing my work covering the local business beat.

As always, feel free to email me or add me on Facebook if you'd like to hear more about any one of these happenings!

- Sarah

Monday, November 17, 2014

Older than I've ever been

I was interviewing a local business executive late last week and she made reference to others like me, young professionals in their 30s.

Except I'm not in my 30s.

I happened to reference that in passing in my reply and follow-up question, and she told me I was probably about the age of her children -- one of whom's 29 and the other in her early 30s (32, I think).

I turn(ed) 25 this month.*

It's not the first time someone has overestimated my age by a few years. But it is consistent in that it's always overestimated, never underestimated (except by 13-year-olds), and it's usually by about 4-5 years. It's been this way at least since I was 14 -- I distinctly remember being told I could pass for 18 at one point, and at another being asked what college I attended (that was when I was a freshman in high school).

I usually chalk it up to maturity. (It could also be half-baked fashion sense. I don't exactly know.) A friend from college said today that it was because of my confidence. If it's indeed because of either of those reasons, then hey, I'll take it as a compliment.

I mean that quite sincerely. After all, who wouldn't want to be thought of as a sensible, confident woman?

*Ambiguity intentional to preserve my privacy. :P

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Why must it be so cold?

I hate the cold. I wish it would go someplace where it's really hot. ;)

But Indiana isn't exactly the most tropical state. Somebody is blaming the most recent cold snap on a typhoon out by Japan. Chaos theory and all that (except when you can use computer models to make educated guesses at effects, it's not so chaotic). But I'm pretty sure this is just how Indiana likes to spend its winters, trolling the populace. "Hey, look, one random warm day. PSYCH! It's gonna be cold for a month!"

I turned the heat on in my house back in October, probably three weeks ago now. I'm a cheapskate so the thermostat is set at about 67 degrees Fahrenheit -- that, friends, is as cold as I can take it. And even now, my fingers feel like icicles with central nervous systems.

This is where blankets come in. I have a blanket -- no, two -- on my bed. There are at least a couple strewn about my living room and another one on my reading chair in the sunroom. There's even one downstairs in the basement, waiting to be washed.

Oh, and there's an emergency blanket in the car, of course.

The problem is after I get myself ensconced in a nice, warm, floofy blanket. Then I don't want to get up. This is a difficulty particularly in the morning.

So far, I've mainly surrendered to the tyranny of the frost and stayed in bed for hours on end, reading or doing stuff online or watching/listening to a podcast. I know I probably shouldn't.

But it's just so nice and warm.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Life on my own #48: Fifth-wheeling

One ticket, please.

A friend of mine appeared in a local production of "Arsenic and Old Lace." I wanted to see her in it, so as usual, I showed up on my own at the ticket table.

The best part about going by yourself is that you can get a great seat even if the auditorium's packed. There's always that one odd seat smack-dab up front that is leftover after other groups have taken their spots. It's a perk of being on my own.

This auditorium, however, was far from packed. I sat myself down in the middle of the prime row and settled in, noticing a mutual friend of the amateur actress I'd come to support. I waved, she waved, she and her family came to sit with me. Score!

As if that wasn't enough, a pair of couples I know walked in, started to take seats farther back, saw me, waved, and decided to come sit in my row instead. Score!

Clearly I was in my extraverted phase right there. Don't worry, I went back to being introverted by the end of the night. ;)

Curtains up, acting under way, intermission, climax, denouement and curtain call. The two couples to my left -- one of whom is a fellow Whovian and Janeite -- invited everyone in the row to come along to dinner at Olive Garden. I thought it'd be fun, so I accepted. Score!

Olive Garden has decent Italian food, a cuisine I've come to appreciate over the years. What didn't dawn on me until much later was this: Olive Garden also appears to be the area date destination. The two couples basically considered the outing a double date for them; a kid from church brought his sweetie to a table immediately behind ours; and several other tables were occupied by similar small groups.

Being there without a "significant other" or whatever they're calling it these days, I might be expected to have felt out of place. If you thought that, you'd be wrong.

It would have been different had the two couples I dined with been merely dating. Dating couples are pretty ridiculous. They're absorbed in talking to each other, sometimes (read: almost all the time) can't keep their hands off of each other and generally make you want to roll your eyes.

By the time they're married, they've turned back into sane people.

We talked philosophy of church and cooking ideas and local politics and "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." The others occasionally poked fun at their spouses, sure, but they also poked fun at each other and at me, and I did the same.

That's part of why I enjoy their company -- we treated each other like people. Not like "the married couple" or "the single gal" or "the one with kids" or "the one with a job outside the home" or "the guys" or "the womenfolk" or any other modifier that obscures the simple humanity we share.

Together, I believe we reflected the imago Dei -- the "image of God," in community.

That's the ticket to being a comfortable fifth wheel.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Whirlwind weekend

I feel more and more like an adventuress with each passing day.

This past weekend was a highlight of the year in two ways: I participated in an annual living history event with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of other reenactors, and attended the wedding of a friend from college whose ceremony made me actually like the idea of a traditional wedding better than an elopement.

It was tricky, though. The events were taking place in two different states.

My solution was to skip out on half the reenactment Saturday in order to drive to the wedding, stay over at a friend's college apartment and drive back for the last couple hours of the reenactment on Sunday.

But nobody wants to miss much of a reenactment. I established an itinerary in order to stay as long as humanly possible on Saturday. It looked like this:

12:15 p.m. - Hide in the reenacting tent with women at each end to guard the openings. Change out of reenacting dress and into dress more appropriate for a modern wedding. Hope the smell from campfire smoke stays behind with the reenacting dress.

12:25 p.m. - Give snarky retort to reenacting friend's joke about my "scandalous" (by 1800s standards) dress. Walk out to my car. Take a mile detour around the one-way entrance to the reenactment during the height of the spectators' coming in.

12:40 p.m. - Apply lip gloss using the rearview mirror once I'm on the highway.

1:10 p.m. - Stop for gas as the idiot light comes on telling me my tank's almost empty. While waiting for the tank to fill, apply eyeshadow and mascara using one of the car windows as a mirror. Hope the gas station's restroom is decently clean. (It meant I didn't have to use the notorious port-a-pots at the reenactment.)

3:30 p.m. - Arrive at wedding venue exactly when I wanted to. Finally take off reenacting shoes and put on knee-high black boots while sitting in my car in the parking lot. Notice my knees look like they're slightly sunburned from the drive.

The wedding was beautiful, spending the night with two friends was great, the drive back to the reenactment Sunday was uneventful, and I still can't believe I managed to do decent eye makeup with a car window as a mirror.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Rain or shine in Beijing

Just after rain, as seen from the dumpling shop
Weather in China wasn't entirely what I expected. Then again, in some ways it corresponded exactly with what I had thought about the country.

The day I arrived, it was sunny and warm -- comparable to a fairly normal Midwestern summer day. My friend commented that it was the clearest she'd ever seen the city. Normally, she explained, the smog is bad enough to keep the views vaguely obscured by a haze.

You could see some smog that day -- I remember noticing buildings a few blocks from the Forbidden City were fuzzy and greyish --  but it still felt pretty sunny. I didn't feel like I was choking from the smog, like I thought I might.

It rained that day, too. Right after we left the Forbidden City and found a little dumpling place for lunch, the clouds dumped a short monsoon onto the streets -- again, not unlike a Midwestern summer storm. A woman outside was hawking umbrellas as she walked around; my friend commented she probably did pretty good business. Some people on bikes got drenched if they didn't park quickly enough to duck inside a shop. The dumpling place -- a hole-in-the-wall with a few booths -- had a full house.

The rain let up but sprinkled sporadically for a little while after, prodding us to venture inside a store filled with foreign books that had a music shop, an art store and a couple of other establishments attached to it. More on that later. Eventually the rain quit altogether but left in its wake a cloudy haze that reminded me of Cleveland, Ohio, for some reason. It was slightly depressing.

The visit to the Great Wall of China (Mutianyu section, outside Beijing) was on the most heavenly day my friend could remember. It was her... fourth time, I think? visiting the Great Wall, but her first during the summer, and what a day we were given for it.

The view. The clouds. The wonderful, anomalous weather.

Pollution was worse in Xi'an than in Beijing. A 12-hour train ride southwest-ish from Beijing, Xi'an is the ancient capital city of China where the Tang dynasty is celebrated and the Terra Cotta Army was unearthed. It was perpetually Cleveland-ish and, I think, caused me to get sick the second day we were there. I felt like I had a cold, and craved orange juice and sleep. Fortunately I seemed to have gotten enough of both, as I felt a lot better the next morning when we had arrived in Tianjin.

Most of my days in Tianjin, it was sunny but "cloudy," as I considered it, which was probably better termed "smoggy." You'd look up at the sun and realize it wasn't the blinding orb you were used to, but an orange disk no more worthy of being squinted at than the moon. The skyscrapers in the distance (and there were always skyscrapers) were barely discernible through the haze.

And when you were up in my friend's apartment on the 20th floor, the smog looked worse. My friend explained that was pretty normal, that the smog tended to be thickest a little above ground level. At one point I Skyped with my siblings and some of my extended family, and attempted to show them via webcam what the view looked like from my friend's window. This is what my family saw: