Saturday, March 28, 2009

Secrets of the postal variety

Recently Tim and I found ourselves in front of Duke Chapel. No, we were not there to pray for the Blue Devils during the basketball championship. We were there to launch Project Bloom. That's the name I've given to my effort to get out more & become more involved in our community and all it has to offer. On that night we went to a lecture at Duke's Page Auditorium, located next to the university's chapel.

Once again, I'd found out about an event that was certain to be popular. I snagged our free tickets on-line 30 minutes after they became available. About an hour later they were all gone. What sort of speaker could fill up a 1200 seat auditorium on a college campus in less than 2 hours?

The speaker was the one and only Frank Warren, creator of Post Secret, also known as "the most trusted stranger in America". He told us about the Post Secret project, how it started, his family's reaction, etc. He showed us postcards that could not be posted on the website or included in books (mostly because the images on them were owned by Disney & the like and they didn't want to risk being sued by Mickey Mouse). Towards the end of the lecture, people were invited to step forward and share their secrets with the room. Some secrets were silly, some scandalous, some utterly heart-breaking, and some revealed people at that beautiful stage of recovery when one finally starts to see the light again and feel that glimmer of hope that has been gone for so long. Tim and I both identified strongly with some of those who stepped forward. One of the microphones was set up right beside Tim (he sat along the aisle shown on the right in the photo below*), which made those moments feel all the more intimate and touching. I just barely kept myself from crying.

Of all the stories we heard, the one I found most inspiring was the story of Frank, himself. Frank was a late bloomer. It took him many years and numerous failed attempts to find his way in the world. He even married and started a family decades after most of his friends. As we sat in that auditorium, surrounded by brilliant, 20-year-olds, it was comforting to hear that it wasn't too late ... that these bright young things seated around us were not necessarily the only ones in the room who had a chance to find happiness, success and fulfillment in this world.

*I did not take the photo of Frank. It is from the Post Secret website.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


This week my parents left on a long trip. They're going to spend 3 weeks touring northern Africa & some of the safer corners of the Middle East - aka "The Holy Land". This is the trip of a lifetime for them. See, my father used to be a Christian minister & my mother was very involved in the church as well. By the time I was born my father was no longer a full time minister, but both of my parents had large roles in the church. Dad taught adult Bible study, Mom taught Sunday school, Dad gave the sermon when the minister was away, Mom ran the youth group, things like that. We were at church every Sunday and every Wednesday. It was a major part of our lives. So you can imagine why this trip is such a thrilling experience for them.

In addition to all the other balls my mom juggled in my youth, she was a songwriter. Specifically, Mom wrote contemporary Christian songs (and pretty good ones if you ask me). She had a friend named David who was also a songwriter. Sometimes we'd go to his house where I'd play with his daughter, Summer, while Mom and David would play their guitars together. After writing for other artists (I believe Amy Grant recorded one of his songs), David made an album of his own. I can only remember a handful of the songs that were on that recording, but one that sticks out in my mind is called "Bloom Where You're Planted".

I've been thinking about that song a lot. See, last week I was given a great opportunity. A kind soul called me & offered me a part in a play. Yes, really! I haven't performed on-stage since November 2005, believe it or not, so I was shocked & thrilled. There was a wee problem, though: the show was in Tulsa. If I took the role, I'd have one week to learn my lines before I flew in for tech week. Then I'd spend 2 weeks performing in the play. Even so, I was VERY VERY tempted. But for some reason, I was hesitant, too. I've been in a good mindset lately. I've been getting out a bit more, seeing more shows, getting more involved in this community bit by bit. If I went back to Tulsa for this show, I knew it would kill my momentum. Sure, it could be fun for a while, but then I'd come back to NC. And I'd crash. HARD. Harder than any other time I've returned here after a trip to OK. I couldn't do that to myself. I need to teach myself once and for all that there IS life outside of Tulsa - and not just any life, but MY life.

So I'm staying. And I'm not just going to sit on my ass & feel sorry for myself, either. I'm taking a cue from the trees (and David. I'm going to bloom right where I am. I've made a commitment to get out in the next few weeks & take advantage of some of the things that make North Carolina special. I'm really looking forward to it, too. I'll let you know how it goes!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Why be blue?

A number of months ago I found out about a quirky little film that's been playing on the festival circuit & ever since then I've been dying to see it. It's an animated film (but it's not for kids) that tells an ancient Indian love story and how the events of that fairy tale are mirrored in the life of the writer/animator who created the film. It isn't all happiness & rainbows, though, so don't confuse this with some sappy Disney fare. Need more convincing? then get this: it's got monkey warriors! And who doesn't love animated monkey warriors? It's called "Sita Sings The Blues" and it's now available on-line. You can watch a video stream or you can download it - all with the blessings of the woman who wrote, directed, animated, and produced the whole thing. I really really LOVED this film, so I urge you to watch it as soon as you can.

But before you push play, you need to spend a couple minutes in the kitchen. Because you will want to crunch on roasted chickpeas while you watch the film. Oh yes.

This is a really easy recipe. See that photo? That's all of the ingredients. Seriously! Not quite as easy as the dulce de leche I talked about a few weeks back, but almost. But this recipe is a whole lot healthier than dulce de leche, so that makes up for it - especially since these crispy little babies don't taste healthy. Actually, I feel I should warn you that these spicy nuggets can get addictive.

Garam Masala Roasted Chickpeas (from the Bitchin Camero blog)

2 15 oz. cans chickpeas (AKA garbanzo beans)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. Garam Masala (or curry powder or whatever spice makes you happy)
1 tsp. fine-grain sea salt (or regular table salt. Don't buy special salt for this)

1. Preheat your oven to 375F.
2. Dump the chickpeas in a colander and rinse them off really well. I don't know why, but my chickpeas always develop bubbles while I'm rinsing them off. When there are no more bubbles, I know they're properly rinsed.
3. Let the chickpeas sit & drain for about 5 minutes. You could also pour them out onto some paper towels. They don't have to be bone dry, but you don't want them drippy wet, either.
4. Put your drained chickpeas into a bowl. Add the oil, spices, and salt. Stir until chickpeas are well coated.
5. Spread chickpeas out in an even layer on a rimmed cookie sheet.
6. Roast for 40 - 45 minutes. Be sure to stir them half-way through cooking in order to keep the peas in the corners from burning. When the chickpeas are crispy, they're done!

There you have it. Your plans for the evening are set!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Hot & Cold

Last week the daffodils in our yard bloomed. I looooooove it when the daffodils finally show us their happy, sunshiny faces because it means that soon the azalea blossoms will burst forth in happy mounds of pink and the trees will be covered in big clouds of white & there will be colors everywhere.

So just imagine my surprise when this happened.

Snow! Hooray!
Understand that I grew up expecting this very sort of weather-related rollercoaster every March. However, that was in Oklahoma. North Carolina is different. Or at least I thought it was. I was sure that we'd already had more than our fair share of snow for the year. Now I'm wondering if we need to buy a snow shovel.

Like the weather, my emotions ran hot & cold this week. I started out happy & excited. On Tuesday night I finally - FINALLY - got to see The Monti again. In case I haven't mentioned it before, The Monti is kinda like a live, local production of This American Life. Each show has a theme & 5 people are invited to tell true, real life stories based on that theme. I managed to see one of the Monti's shows last fall, but its popularity has exploded since then. The tickets for this week's show sold out in just 7 minutes. Yes, just 7! So I was thrilled that 2 of those tickets belonged to me.

The show was everything I'd hoped: Funny and inspiring and wonderful. Just like the first time I saw The Monti, I felt like I was surrounded by like-minded people - people who love the art of story telling, yes, but people who were on my same wave-length in lots of other ways, too. Tim loved the experience and as we walked to the car he said we'll have to find a way to get our hands on more tickets next time so some friends can see this, too. It was wonderful. I felt elated. To be honest, I felt as though I may have finally found a creative, intellectual home.

But you know how rollercoasters go. Just after you reach the highest peak, you plummet down to the deepest depth. That's what happened to me the next day. You know how the color quiz said the my "problem" was that I admired original, creative people? Now I understood how that could be problematic. I couldn't stop thinking about the bios of the storytellers at The Monti. These people had interesting degrees from impressive universities. Or they had intriguing careers. They were published authors or they sang in cool bands or they operated impressive arts organizations. Or or or or.
And it hit me.
What would I put on my bio? I'm a housewife. I spend my days poking about on the internet and, on a good day, whipping up some food in the kitchen. Why on earth would these people be interested in talking to me? Hell, even I wouldn't be interested in making friends with a person like that.

Obviously, something must change.

As the week progressed, our weather has warmed up again. Our high temp should top 80F this weekend. And I am going to use that as my inspiration. Why should my life be cold and bland? It should be bursting forth with color. It should at least be interesting. So I'm thinking about what I should do next. I need to do something that requires me to get out of the house & meet new people. Take a class or something. See more shows. Just start LIVING again. I'm open to suggestion, so if you have any ideas, lay 'em on me. In the mean time, I'll be doing a bit of research next to an open window.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


Derek recently took this Color Quiz & posted the results on his blog, so I decided to do the same. The results make me sound really difficult & inflexible. Do I have a stick up my butt & I don't know it? Also, it says that my "problem" is that I'm impressed by originality. What's problematic about that?

ColorQuiz.comMary took the free personality test!

"Longs for a tender and sympathetic bond and for a ..."

Click here to read the rest of the results.

Mary's Existing Situation
Pursues her objectives and her own-self-interest with stubborn determination; refuses to compromise or make concessions.

Mary's Stress Sources
Has an unsatisfied need to ally herself with others whose standards are as high as her own, and to stand out from the herd. This desire for preeminence isolates her and inhibits her readiness to give herself freely. While she wants to surrender and let herself go, she regards this as a weakness which must be resisted. This self-restraint, she feels, will lift her above the rank and file and ensure recognition as a unique and distinctive personality.

Mary's Restrained Characteristics
Wants to broaden her fields of activity and insists that her hopes and ideas are realistic. Distressed by the fear that she may be prevented from doing what she wants; needs both peaceful conditions and quiet reassurance to restore her confidence.
Circumstances are such that she feels forced to compromise for the time being if she is to avoid being cut off from affection or from full participation.

Mary's Desired Objective
Longs for a tender and sympathetic bond and for a situation of idealized harmony. Has an imperative need for tenderness and affection. Susceptible to anything aesthetic.

Mary's Actual Problem
Greatly impressed by the unique, by originality, and by individuals of outstanding characteristics. Tries to emulate the characteristics she admires and to display originality in her own personality.