Friday, January 17, 2014

Sensory overload

Sensory overload2I’m feeling slightly overwhelmed, but in a very good way.

I have so many interesting books I want to read, so much great music to listen to, and so many fun movies and shows to watch that I’m not sure how I’ll ever find the time to do everything that I want to do. I’ve got six months of Rolling Stone issues to catch up on...but that’s okay, because I like saving those for the summer when I’m sitting out on the deck and catching some sun.

It’s a dilemma. First world problems, right?

I find myself wishing that I didn’t need eight hours of sleep to feel my best. If I could get by with six, or even four, think of all the extra time I’d have! I also found myself speculating today that if I had the chance to become a vampire, I just might go for it, because think of all the time I’d have then! Too bad they’re fictional. Lestat, if you’re real, call me!

I’m enjoying the book I’m reading at the moment, but I find myself wanting to finish it as soon as possible so I can move on to the next one. I feel like some sort of intellectual sponge, wanting to suck up as much as I can before I join the choir invisible. It’s not really possible to multi-task with stuff like this, either, not if you want to give things your full attention. I’ll listen to music while I’m reading, but if it’s new music, I want to pay attention to it and listen to the lyrics; I can read while I’m watching TV, but then I’m paying more attention to the book than I am the movie or show.

I feel very fortunate that I have the time to do all of these things and even try some new ones, and none of this is a complaint. Just a happy conundrum! Like the saying goes, “So many books, so little time.”

But how will I ever get to all the stuff I want to do?!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Keys of happiness

Piano legsI recently mentioned that along with wanting to learn to play a little guitar (that “little” is both literal and figurative!), I also wanted get back into playing the piano.

When I was on Amazon recently, I somehow came across a couple of sheet music books published by Rolling Stone, with some of their 500 best rock songs. It was for easy piano, and I thought it would be a fun way to dip my toe back into the piano pool. Well, I got one of them today, and man, was that ever fun! The first song I played was “Lola,” and then “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” I had to laugh when I saw “Iron Man” in there...that should sound interesting on the piano! I’m also looking forward to putting on some shades and playing “What’d I Say.” Ha!

I’m glad these are super easy, because it’s been quite a while since I played, and I need to ease back into it. It’s not that easy for me, because I never had lessons. I taught myself to play. I’m happy that I had music classes in grade school, and I think I had some in high school, too. Even though I didn’t play in the band, I learned how to read music. I’ve enjoyed playing throughout the years, and I’m happy to have the piano that Mom and Dad gave me. It eases my mind to go downstairs and play for a bit. Sometimes I want to play really loud, but other times I like a slow, quiet song.

I’ve always played mostly classical music, but I can remember buying sheet music for popular songs when I was in high school. I think it will be fun to learn to play some of the songs in this Rolling Stone collection. I know that I’m not very good, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have fun doing it! I suspect it will be the same with the guitar. When I first manage to play a chord, I’ll probably be like, “This is AWESOME!” Haha!

One thing I’ve tried to break away from is feeling like I have to be some kind of expert at something in order to do it. Very few people are experts at anything, and we shouldn’t let that hold us back from trying and enjoying something. Would people want to hear me play? Probably not! But I know that I have fun doing it, and it makes me happy. I think it’s okay for some things to be just for you, do you know what I mean? Play a tune, sing a song, draw a picture, write a poem, do a little dance, get down tonight! You might surprise yourself, and this extremely rational and scientific person has enjoyed stepping outside my usual boundaries to be a little adventurous and creative. It doesn’t come easy to me, but I like trying.

I see so many people who are afraid to do new things. It’s okay to be cautious about certain things (you won’t see me surfing or whitewater rafting anytime soon—hey, I can’t swim!), but don’t be afraid to take a chance and do something out of your realm. You might have a lot of fun!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Beth’s Books: Christian Nation: A Novel

Beth's BooksThis is the review I wrote on Shelfari. I wanted to include it here, because it became an instant favorite of mine. I’ll add a little more commentary after the review.


If you're a fan of the separation of church and state and feel like having the bejeebers scared out of you, this is the book for you!

The premise is simple, but almost too horrifying to contemplate: instead of losing the 2008 election, the McCain-Palin ticket narrowly prevails. When President McCain unexpectedly and suddenly dies, the vice-president is immediately sworn in, and President Palin begins to take the country in a more religious direction. Thus, a Christian Nation. America becomes a theocracy.

"President Palin." Just let that sink in for a moment. You're welcome for the nightmares.

The country continues to spiral downwards through the two terms of Palin's presidency, and the presidency of her successor. No one is spared. Homosexuality becomes a crime and the gays flee to countries who offer asylum; books are burned; blasphemy becomes a capital offense; Ivy League schools are taken over by the federal government and liberal faculty are forced to resign; the teaching of evolution is outlawed and a Christian perspective is required to be taught.

This is a liberal's worst nightmare, and I found it an absolutely chilling book. The tone is a little preachy at times, but I was okay with that. I see it as an important cautionary tale, and it illustrates exactly why many of us fight for separation of church and state. Conservatives would absolutely hate this book, especially because the last bastion of freedom is none other than that east coast pocket of "liberal elites," Manhattan.

I was fascinated by this book and found it hard to put down. It was like driving by a horrible car accident and being unable to look away. The slow erosion of personal freedoms and the slide into theocracy was a terrible thing to watch...and it seemed all too plausible. Highly recommended.


Christian NationSince I try to keep things low-key on Shelfari, here are the things I didn’t want to say on there:

HOLY SHIT! Literally.

This book was truly horrifying for me. When I was reading it, there were times that I woke up in the middle of the night and would be unable to stop thinking about it. There really are people who want this to happen, who feel that Christianity should be the linchpin of our republic, and that our government should have a decidedly Christian bent. These are the people who call evolution a “socialist idea” and see nothing wrong with Ten Commandments monuments and Nativity scenes in our government buildings. These are also the same people who howl when others force the issue and erect Satanist displays or Festivus poles alongside the Christian displays.

Flying Spaghetti Monster displays and Festivus poles are kind of silly...but I totally agree with people’s right to put them up, as long as Christian displays are allowed. Personally, I’d rather see NO such displays erected in our government buildings, but as long as they continue to allow Christian displays, I say keep erecting those Festivus poles!

Here’s the thing: certain people are fine with religious displays, or prayers at the beginning of government meetings, as long as they are Christian displays and Christian prayers. Start pushing the envelope and ask for a prayer to Allah at the start of the local high school football game and see what kind of reaction you get. You should probably expect death threats in your future. If only Christian displays are allowed, that is favoring one religion over another, which is blatantly unconstitutional. I don’t understand why this is so hard for people to comprehend.

This is part of the reason I enjoyed this book so much, even though I found it quite scary. It shows how such extremist thinking (and yes, I think wanting only Christian displays and prayers is extremist thinking) can get out of control, especially when we have leaders who make it clear that they desire a Christian nation. I pay close attention to how people feel about science education and about the place of religion in our government, and I vote accordingly.

A person’s religion is their own business. I want to guard against them making it my business or anyone else’s business.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Return of the Prodigal Blogger

As Jim Kerr and Simple Minds sang, I’m alive and kicking!

Did you know that Jim Kerr was married to Chrissie Hynde? True story.

Painting6 croppedAnyway, I took a little hiatus, mainly due to being really busy around the holidays. It seems like we had a lot of stuff going on, going to Notre Dame games and family outings. It was a busy but fun couple of months. Our super cool niece Jennifer was visiting from San Diego, and we did quite a few things with her; we had family get-togethers for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve; I made contact with one of my favorite musicians, Bob Walkenhorst, and we bought a painting from him; our online friends (now real life friends!) Winston and Jen came to visit and we took them to see Cornerstone Blues Band; we spent a weekend in Cleveland and visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and saw their amazing Rolling Stones special exhibit; we dealt with a bona fide blizzard and the ominous-sounding Polar Vortex, which was about as pleasant as it sounds!

With all of this stuff going on, I felt the need to hunker down and withdraw a bit in my downtime. You know how us introverts are...we need to recharge after social activities. I am resolved to be more diligent in my reading, and I will do better with posting book reviews here. I am also getting more immersed in music, and will post reviews of songs and albums, too. I even took a hiatus from politics, and am slowly working my way back into my usual political involvement (it’s easy to take a break when you’re so disgusted by their ridiculous behavior that you want to smack a bunch of them upside the head). I want to work on writing other projects besides this blog, and am trying to wrap my brain around that and figure out exactly how to go about it. I bought a ¾-sized Fender Strat and want to work on learning how to play (a full-sized one is too big for my hands). I would like to get back into playing piano.

Coming up in just a little over a month, we have the cruise with Ken’s Mom to the Southern Caribbean, and I’ll need to start laying things out for that soon. In May, we are planning on a house concert by the aforementioned Bob Walkenhorst at Shane and Matt’s house, and that is going to be an amazing opportunity to meet and listen to one of my all-time favorites! (More about that soon!) Ken will be spending some time in Indianapolis in April, and I may spend a few days down there with him (firefighter’s convention…!), then we’ll do our usual Florida trip in July, and we want to plan a big family and friends get-together in Vegas in October for Oktoberfest at the Munich Hofbräuhaus replica there. So it seems that I’ll get a breather here and there, but there will be things to plan throughout much of the coming year.

My mind is just spinning with things I want and need to do! This is not a complaint. I’m having a lot of fun, but it’s easy to reach a point of sensory overload. Thus the blog hiatus. Something eventually has to give, and this time it was the blog. I’ve found that if you start feeling pressure to write, and that you feel you have to make an entry, or feel guilty when you don’t, it’s time to step away for a bit. Once it feels like a duty, it’s just not fun anymore, know what I mean? So I stepped away for a bit. When I started thinking, “Hey, I’d like to do a blog entry soon...I miss it,” I knew it was time to come back. I can tell you that it feels good, and I’m smiling as I type this.

So I’m back, you little maniacs! You can’t get rid of me that easily!