Happy Birthday, John!

John just dropped Naomi off for the afternoon, and I was reminded that today is his birthday. So here we go again.... Do you understand now what Nathan and I have to deal with in the present-buying department at this time of year? It's completely out of control. If we ever have a kid between September and December we're lying to it and telling it that it's birthday is in April.

John is married to Nathan's sister Jenna. Strange story, though. He's from Texas and came here for college, and I met him long before Jenna or anyone else in her family did. I think I was 14 when we met. And before John ever came here he talked to my mom in the music department at Biola, since he was going to be a voice major. John and I ended up singing together in a youth choir when he got here, back when he had really big hair. Feathery, too. :) John says he always knew that he'd be connected to my family forever somehow, and now here we are. Married to siblings. Ain't it a small world? Hey John: Yant to grab some coffee sometime? I'll wear my toboggan. (Those last sentences were in Texan, for those of you that don't speak it.) Happy Birthday!

I can't help it, I love these things!

I'm addicted to these "have you ever" things. Seriously. I've had to pass on posting some of them here, though, as some of the questions were too incriminating. :) But I like this one. Thanks, Barbara, for the steal!

Smoked a cigarette or tried it: Yep....that's what college is for.
Crashed a friend's car: Nope, but I came THIS close.
Stolen a car: No.
Been dumped: Yes. Hard. But I totally deserved it, for reasons I won't go into here.
Shoplifted: No.
Been fired /laid off: Yes, after student workers at the Biola Health Center became "superfluous."
Been in a fist fight: Not a serious one.
Snuck out of your parents' house: Yes (sorry, Mom and Dad). I had this friend who used to come over and stand outside my window until I took the screen off and came out.
Gone on a blind date: Unfortunately, yes.
Lied to a friend: See above answer.
Skipped school: Yes. I had the football coach for history in highschool, and my best friend and I used to tell him we had to go work on the yearbook. Since I was the editor, he bought it every time. So we'd go for frozen yogurt. But we always made sure to talk about the yearbook at least for a minute, so it wasn't a total lie....
Seen someone die: No.
Been to Canada: Yes.
Been to Mexico: Yes. I'm trying to forget that one trip, though.
Eaten Sushi: Yes.
Met someone in person from the internet: This is how I made most of my friends in college. Hi Dave!
Taken pain-killers: Yep.
Had a tea party: Yes.
Cheated while playing a game: I don't think so...
Fallen asleep at work: Yes. I used to fall asleep while I was talking to shareholders on the phone because they'd take too long to find their account numbers. What else was I supposed to do in the lag time?
Used a fake ID: Nope.
Felt an earthquake: Duh, this is California!
Touched a snake: Yes.
Been robbed: No.
Petted a reindeer/goat: Yes. A goat.
Won a contest: Nope. Except at wedding showers, and I don't think that counts.
Been suspended from school: No.
Been in a car accident: Yep.
Had braces: Yes. And consequently I have years worth of pictures of me smiling with my mouth closed. And one terrifying one with my mouth open.
Eaten a whole pint of ice cream in one night: No. But Heather's vacuum cleaners are a different story.
Witnessed a crime: Three in one day once. In New York. Where else?
Swam in the ocean: Yes. Night time is best.
Sung karaoke: No way.
Paid for a meal with only coins: Umm....yeah.... I did that this morning at McDonald's....
Laughed until some kind of beverage came out of your nose: No.
Been kissed under mistletoe: Can't remember. Probably.
Crashed a party: Not really, but I did encourage Barbara to crash one. Check out her account of it here. :)
Worn pearls: Yes.
Jumped off a bridge: Nope.
Ate dog/cat food: Yes, dog food when I was little. It was so good and salty!
Kissed a mirror: Yes. And I discovered that if you do that, and you have lipstick on, you better clean the mirror soon after, lest the kiss become permanent (sorry again, mom).
Glued your hand to something: No.
Done a one-handed cartwheel: Yes. But I never did master the no-handed cartwheel.
Talked on the phone for more than 6 hours: No. By the six hour mark we'd long ago hung up and just decided to meet somewhere in the middle.
Didn't take a shower for a week: No. But that one trip I took to Mexico, that came pretty close.
Picked and eaten an apple right off the tree: No. Don't like apples.
Been told by a complete stranger that you're hot: No, but I once had a complete stranger (some surfer type guy) jump off the wall at Huntington Beach, kiss me, and then run off. Very weird.


Happy Birthday, Thomas! (one day late....)

Barbara pointed out that all I ever post about anymore is birthdays. I know. But I can't help the fact that my entire family (including extended) was born between September and January (with a couple people outside those months). Nathan and I, both being born in June, are the black sheep (as usual). So here's another one.

I always have joked that I half-raised Thomas. He's ten years younger than me and is my first cousin once removed, but we kinda grew up like brother and sister. I babysat him a lot, particularly in the summers when I sometimes watched him five days a week. When I got my licence we'd go all over the place together, and it was then that I started influencing Thomas's taste in music. I started him in easy with the Beach Boys, then progressed to the darker music as he got older. I like to think that it was my guidance that allowed him to avoid the Britney Spears phase that most boys go through, and some never get out of. Thomas is now possibly a bigger Cure fan than I am, and one of my favorite memories is going to the Cure concert with him last summer and standing in the pit, two rows from the stage, for SEVEN HOURS. Earlier this week I realized that it's coming back around: Thomas is now bringing new music to my attention. In China last summer he pointed me to a Cure remix I'd never seen, and a few months ago he introduced me to a group called The Album Leaf. Very cool. And then, on Tuesday, he gave me a CD he'd burned of our cousin's friend's group, a little garage band that just got signed by EMI/Credential. They're called Lost Ocean. So awesome!

Happy Birthday, my dear cousin. I hope that this next year brings you all that your heart desires, no matter what you decide to do.


More pain and suffering at the hands of Michael W. Smith

Tonight at rehearsal we practiced another piece from Project Trainwreck (otherwise known as Agnus Dei). After working on the same song for upwards of half an hour I began to wonder, will this piece ever end? So I counted. TWENTY EIGHT PAGES. The audience is gonna demand their money back at the end of this thing. And I won't blame them.


Happy Birthday, Dave!

Um, one day late. Sorry about that.

I think Dave missed his calling, maybe. When I think about growing up with Dave two things come to mind immediately. The first is his fabulous Lego creations. Dave was forever building, and some of his structures were really cool. I remember one time he built this really elaborate old-fashioned car, with a chauffer in a little cap and everything. I preserved that car and tried to build additions to it for a long time. But I kept breaking it, and had to beg Dave to repair it all the time. The other thing I think of is Dave's art. He drew the most wonderful pictures, many of them to go along with stories he'd written (in perfect handwriting) for school. So I'm wondering if maybe Dave should have been an artist instead of a financial planner. But maybe that's just a different kind of art.

To Dave, one of the most talented, creative, patient, funny, thoughtful people I know. You have so much to offer, and you deserve the very best. Happy birthday. I love you.


Forgive me for that there, Lord, and be with the Pygmies

And forgive me, Grandma. I know how you feel about the Gaithers. If you're reading this, you should probably just stop right now.

My choir's doing some selections from a musical-type-thingy for Christmas this year. This isn't unusual, but we've never done this one before. And I'm so sad. The Christmas Eve service is my favorite one of the year, and I'm the kind of person who likes things pretty solemn and reverent and beautiful and dignified. This year's musical-thingy features the music of Michael W. Smith. I almost cried just seeing that on the cover, because I knew what was coming. And I wasn't too far off in my predictions. Here's a sample for you: one piece consists solely of these lyrics: "Alleluia, for the Lord God Almighty reigns. Worthy is the Lamb, You are worthy, are you Lord God Almighty." All well and good, but these are (I kid you not) the ONLY words in the whole song. And the song is TWELVE PAGES LONG! With many, MANY repeats. Basically, it's musical hypnosis. Oh, and we sing that song a couple times. Michael W. Smith gets paid for this stuff? Please. I'm in the wrong business.

And then there's this piece. With words and music by MWS and Gloria Gaither. Here are the beginning stanzas:

In the space of the beginning
was the living Word of light,
When this word was clearly spoken,
all that came to be was right.

All creation had a language,
words to say what must be said.
All day long the heavens whispered,
signing words in scarlet red.

Still some failed to understand it,
So God spoke his final Word
On a silent night in Judah's hills,
a Baby's cry was heard.

Why does this irritate me so much? First of all, there are so many assumptions in those lyrics that it's not even funny. Secondly, God's "final word?" I guess He's not speaking anymore, huh? That was it? And then there's the feeble attempt at being poetic and artsy, with the "signing words in scarlet red" line. That doesn't even make sense. And how stupid do I feel singing that? This is the kind of poetry I was writing in sixth grade, where I was making up stupid phrases just to fit the rhythm and take up space. They're empty words. They don't really say anything. Filler. Mileage, as my freshman year english teacher would say.

And why is it that the words above make me want to scratch my eyeballs out, while this verse gives me chills and makes me wish I had the kind of talent the composer had:

Crown Him the Lord of years, the Potentate of time,
Creator of the rolling spheres, ineffably sublime.
All hail, Redeemer, hail! For Thou has died for me;
Thy praise and glory shall not fail throughout eternity.

God save us from contemporary composers. It seems like the last twenty or thirty years are just a wasteland of cheesy praise songs and poorly written anthems. Bryan Jeffrey Leech is the worst offender. The only two exceptions I can think of at the moment are John Rutter and Ed Childs.

And then, just to rub it in, at choir tonight we went straight from the MWS train wreck to rehearsing The Messiah. From the ridiculous to the sublime.

I'm going straight to hell for this post. I know it.


I'm surfing Quizilla on a Saturday night?

'Doubt thou the stars are fire; Doubt that the sun doth move; Doubt truth to be a liar; But never doubt I love.'
Ah, of course, the Shakespeare quote. No duh this
would be yours! You know you love, and you
know why as well. You are so confident of your
decisions because you are so sure of yourself.
And the best part is that, you're normally
right (not always, but normally). Some other
people may not believe you, but hey, they
probably just don't understand. However, if
you aren't normally right, then it may be wise
to listen to your peers. Pretty please rate,
okay? Thanks so much for taking the quiz! ^_^

Okay, normally these quizzes make me nuts. This one was no exception (Which Love Quote fits you best?), but I had to post the results because the quote it came up with for me is the one we used on all our wedding favors. Weird, huh?


Old Tennis Shoes at Doc's

"Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream."
~John Steinbeck

I spent so much time when I was younger trying to get my brothers to think I was cool. Ah, the plight of the little sister. Probably that was the reason I burned through all 1,036 pages of Gone With the Wind when I was nine after Dave had to watch the movie for a class, and definitely it was the reason I became a bona fide Steinbeck fan at twelve, after picking up the copy of Cannery Row that one of my brothers had left lying around. I was instantly addicted. Over the years I've been to Monterey and Cannery Row many times, and Dave and Nathan and I visited the Steinbeck museum in Salinas once. Generally if either Dave or I is in Monterey without the other we call each other from Cannery Row. Dave called me one time so that I could hear the trumpeter playing in the background, swearing that it was Cacahuete. And always we go to the building that used to house Ed Ricketts' laboratory, that was Doc's lab in the books, and we take a picture standing on the stairs out front.

A few weeks ago Nathan and I and Judah were camping in Pismo Beach with the whole Cowell clan. On a whim, Nathan and I decided that Friday was a day to drive up to Monterey and look around a little. I couldn't bear to be so close without going. We got there around noon and headed to our favorite chowda place on Fisherman's Wharf, Old Fisherman's Grotto. We ate chowda in sourdough bowls while Judah tried to tear the joint down, taking breaks now and then to watch the otters and sea lions in the bay. Later on we strolled down Cannery Row, stopping to buy toe socks and browse in the charms shop.

I was going to break tradition. I wasn't going to go all the way down the Row to Doc's, because our time was limited. But tradition won out. As we got close to the building we noticed that the door to the lab, at the top of the flight of stairs, was open. And then two old men came out. We wandered into the souvenir shop next door to wait for the old men to go away. But they didn't. They went to the bottom of the stairs and then stood there smoking for a long time. Finally my mother's genes asserted themselves and I decided to go talk to the men and see if they would mind if we took our picture on the stairs. So I approached them with Nathan and Judah in tow. I asked them, "Do you live here?" Dumb question, I know, but how else was I to start the conversation? One man immediately said yes, and the other said no. The one who said no then laughed at the other. Then one of them said, "Let me tell you about Ed Ricketts." And I replied, "Oh, I know all about Ed Ricketts! That's why we're here!" They were surprised and delighted (I think), and told me that they'd just been having a barbecue in the old lab. And then one of them said, "Would you like to go up and look around?" I thought I was dreaming. Of course I said yes, and they sent us up, instructing us to say that Bill had sent us.

We walked into the lab, and I felt like I was entering a shrine. It was the place I'd read about for years, where Doc sat and thought about the octopi, where he brought women and played "church music," where the infamous parties were thrown, where Doc and Mack talked philosophy. I know it's all fictional, but since Doc was based on Ed Ricketts, I would assume that most of those things really did happen. We walked through the front room and into the back room, where a bar had been set up. A group of older men sat around drinking and talking, and they joked with us when we walked in, as if we were regulars. One of them got up and gave us a tour, taking us out back and showing us the old collecting tanks and the tidepools. Back inside, we explored the two rooms a little more. In the front room a large round table was set up, and the men were getting ready to play some games. Don't know what they were playing, but they were throwing dice and there was a pile of money in the middle of the table. They were loud and friendly and happy, and more than a little drunk. And it was still early in the afternoon. I got the feeling that it was all exactly as Ed Ricketts would have wanted it to be. I half expected him and John Steinbeck to walk in and take their places at the table, with a pint of Old Tennis Shoes, naturally.

We took our pictures on the front stairs as we left. We couldn't believe our luck that day. I still can't. And of course I called Dave to share an experience I knew he'd appreciate. And, I admit, to brag a little.