Wednesday, February 27, 2013


It's one of those words that can mean so many things, and, really, none of them are good.

Have a head cold? Stuffy.

In a room with no air movement? Stuffy.

Dealing with someone who doesn't know how to relax? Stuffy.

Name of one of the Seven Dwarfs? Not Stuffy.*

A primary feeling of late February in Minnesota? Yep, that, too.

I've been feeling both sinus-y, and trapped in a room with no air, lately. I'm dying to open the windows and get to that part of the year when you can put on shorts and t-shirts and not have to worry about coats and gloves.

Driving to work the past couple of mornings - when there has been thick fog around - the entire area has smelled of smog. By afternoon, when the fog has burned off, we're back to a kind of "damp" smell from all of the melting/re-freezing snow. I have to admit that I'm not sure which is better.

All that I know is that... eventually... this will become spring. And the Stuffy will go away for a while. And, frankly, I can't wait.

*Happy, Dopey, Sleepy, Grumpy, Sneezy, Bashful, Doc - because I know you were going to be bothered by that.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Movie Monday - The Broken Hearts Club

I feel like I should have named this post "The Way We Were."

You see, over the weekend - the second weekend when Christopher has been gone and I've been home with the pup - I watched "The Broken Hearts Club."

If you haven't heard of it - or if it doesn't ring a bell - I won't hold that against you. You see, it came out in 2000, and it's "a romantic comedy" with an almost entirely male cast. In the middle of the movie, they actually talk about the fact that there are no gay movies about "normal gay life" - which, of course, is exactly what they're trying to be.

Amazingly, it has a pretty star-packed cast. It's just that a lot of the people weren't big stars, yet. Timothy Olyphant is the de facto main character, and he's flanked by Zach Braff and Dean Cain, with John Mahoney as the "den mother" of the group of about 5 best friends.

Sure, there's some dating and hooking up and partying that goes on in the movie, but it's more about the friendships of that group of guys than anything else. It's a movie about being just past the point of being "young and cute" but being nowhere near the point of being "middle-aged and sad." Or, in the case of Mahoney's character, being "average" - and being all the stronger for it.

I could wax rhapsodic about the movie for a while longer, but I fear I'll eventually have to admit that one of the main reasons I like it so much is what my life was like when I first saw it.

In 2000, I was living in Baltimore. I wasn't rich or pretty or a club kid or a gym bunny. I didn't have the fabulous - or dramatically tragic - gay lifestyle that a lot of movies (either gay or straight) seemed to think I was supposed to have. I had, for the most part, a really "normal" life. Decent job. Okay life. Amazing friends. A world of potential. (If you watch the movie, you'll know why I mention that.)

I think we all live our lives looking back at some golden period when (in hindsight) everything looks amazing. And I fully admit that there are a few different points in my life that I look at through pleasantly rose-colored glasses. But in the middle of winter, home with the pup while Christopher is on vacation, the memories that "The Broken Hearts Club" brings to mind are pretty amazing.

The best I can hope for all of us, as we bask in the afterglow of movie award season, is that we can each have a movie that takes us back to that place in time when life was good and the world was ahead of us.

And maybe, just maybe, that will propel us forward into a future we never could have imagined all those years before.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Choral Clarity - Idina Menzel "Live"

I've just sat down to listen to a CD - Idina Menzel's "Live" album (subtitled "Barefoot at the Symphony").

I got it for Christmas, and have listened to it a couple of times, but usually as background while I'm doing other things. After all, that's what I do with a lot of my music these days. I put the CD on, then clean the house... or make dinner... or eat dinner...

But, today, I have laundry in the dryer and had some time to fill, so I sat down to listen to it.

It's weird, because I saw her performance of all of this same music with the Minnesota Symphony Orchestra. And the concert was incredible. There are some theater performers who can't really do anything without a character. She is not one of them. She is an amazing performer with craploads of stage presence all on her own. And the CD, I have to admit, is very much like sitting in the audience for her show.

Oh... Sorry... I seem to have misplaced my point...

I listen to the radio all the time on my drives to and from work. And they constantly talk about whoever is on "American Idol" and all of those other so-called talent shows. And the DJs get so excited about the voices on some of these singers. And I listen to them and think "They aren't actually hitting any notes."

The singers on so many of the reality shows do this weird thing where they slide into and out of notes, and wobble above and below the notes. And it's the "style" these days. (There was one they played on the radio last week who was singing a Broadway tune and completely missed the final note, but eventually slid into it. It was AWful - but they raved, anyway.) And it bugs me.

I'll take a classically-trained Broadway star any day. She can nail notes. She can sustain them. She can add vibrato to them without losing them. She can... well... sing.

Amazing how much of a game changer that can be.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

It's been a while since I tossed out a list of ponderable topics. And they've been building up in my brain, so before I have an aneurysm, here are the top ten:

1) Why is it that every pair of button-fly jeans has one button hole that is so tight that you can almost never get it undone - and another which is so loose that you're constantly running the risk of flashing your co-workers?

2) Why doesn't Pandora have a "repeat" option so that, if you hit that perfect song, you could listen to it, again?

3) How is it that businesses can take your money "instantly" from your accounts, but returns take a minimum of "3 to 5 business days"?

4) If you get to the point where you can't remember why someone wanted you to boycott a business - and you can't find any information on it - can you go back to that business guilt-free?

5) Why are the people who don't use a service frequently the ones to complain the loudest when changes happen?

6) Was there actually a justification for moving the start and end dates of Daylight Saving Time?

7) Why do issues of magazines come out months before the month they are dated for? (I think we just got an  issue of something dated "April 2013" this week. Why not just put the date when it's being sent out and have future stuff in it?)

8) Why do retailers roll things out in the wrong seasons? (While I'm thrilled to have Cadbury Eggs and Robin Eggs in the stores a month or two before Easter, the fact that I can no longer buy humidifier filters - in the middle of winter when the house is dry - is a bit ridiculous.)

9) Is there really a difference between the Left and Right earbud? (Oh. Wait. I just tried to swap mine from one ear to the other, and they actually are shaped differently. But many of them are just round and rubber-ized. Why label those "L" and "R"?)

10) Why is it that, sometimes when I clean my glasses, they turn out perfectly clear, and other times they seem to just get smeared and foggy? What in the heck is getting on my glasses?

So... Yeah... Those are the things that have been bouncing through my mind, lately. Unfortunately, this is one case where writing them down didn't give me closure. But if you have any suggested (and/or helpful) answers to the above, I'd be much obliged to hear them. Thanks.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Techno (?) Tuesday

I think we've discussed one or two (hundred) times over the course of this blog that I may not be the most technologically savvy of folks.

I also don't always like to go out and buy new tech when old tech still works. I hate the whole "planned obsolescence" thing that we have going on these days.

So, when I came in to work a couple of months ago and found that my earbuds had - mysteriously - suddenly had a huge change in the cord, and only the left ear was still producing sound, I just kind of let it slide. (I believe said "mystery" may have been a swap of my earbuds with those of someone on the cleaning crew...) I simply cleaned them well and moved on.

I mean... about half of the things I need to know about changes going on in the company I learn about through hearing other people talk. So having only one earbud in was actually a good thing. In fact, I think about half of my officemates do the same thing - on purpose.

But I decided, a week or two ago, that I was going to do something about this when my next paycheck came in. That, as it so happens, was last Friday. Which is why I found myself at Target on Saturday using a Christmas Gift Card to buy new earbuds. (Yeah, I know, in retrospect I probably didn't need to wait for a payday when I was going to use a gift card...)

When I asked if they could be returned if they didn't fit my ears (no), the two overly helpful guys in the audio area proceeded to suggest all sorts of upgraded styles - all of which were out of my price range (because I refuse to buy really good earbuds if I'm going to be leaving them at work). And all of which would also have been non-returnable if they didn't fit. When I made my decision, Chanel would be happy - I went for basic black.

Today is my first day of using them at work, and I started the morning thinking something was wrong. Sure, there was sound coming from both buds, but the right side was much more... distant... than the left. After all that time with only a left-ear earbud, I had been looking forward to stereo sound. This was not it.

Then it dawned on me that - multiple months ago - I had shifted all of the sound to the left ear, to try to compensate for the lack of right-ear tech.

Twenty-seven (give or take) clicks, and two slider bars, later, I have actual stereophonic sound at my desk, again.

All of which, I'm guessing, makes Christopher ever-so-slightly proud of me, and makes the rest of you slightly amazed that I can function in the 21st century.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Time... Travel

While typing this, in another window on my computer, I'm also "stalking" the flight that Christopher is on right now. 

There's something oddly comforting about knowing what's going on in his travels while I'm sitting on the couch with the dog sleeping next to me. Of course, even after he gets off the plane, he'll still have 2 or 3 hours of travel ahead of him. Travel which includes a possible taxi, to a bus, to friends picking him up at the other end of the line. 

I don't envy him his trek, today, although I'm sure it will be fine (albeit in a possibly stressful sort of way). After all, he's going from a major airport to a major tourist destination. And he's much more travel savvy than a lot of people who probably make the same journey every day. And - even better - the temp where he's going is in the 80s, instead of in the teens/20s, which is what we'll be having here. 

But, still, from the time the website tells me that his plane has landed, to the time he lets me know he's arrived at his destination... well... I'm going to be wondering what's going on. 

It's strange how much the perceptions of things like distance and time apart have changed over the years. 

The first time I went overseas - in the summer of 1988 - no one had cell phones. No one was texting. No one was emailing. I was in France for 6 weeks - starting and ending in Paris - and to let our parents know we were okay, we had to go to a shop and buy a phone credit card, then go to a phonebooth on the sidewalk about half a block from our hotel, and call home. I seem to remember that most calls had about a second-long delay, so the conversation was always stilted and frustrating. But it was contact on the other end of the line. After all, our postcards wouldn't arrive for at least another week. 

And, of course, it wasn't long before that when telephone calls were too expensive, so you could either splurge on a telegram, or just send letters and postcards and hope that the people back home didn't worry too much in the meantime. 

I still love to send - and receive - postcards, but I also like the immediate contacts. The photos friends post online. The email from a traveller saying it's fun, or rough, or silly, or lonely. The "We made it" and "Wish you were here" text messages and phonecalls. 

So, you'll forgive me as I hover around my various electronic devices, today. I'll start hovering around the mailbox for a postcard sometime in a week or so. (Oh, heck, I'll just hope he brings one home with him - it'd probably be faster.)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Romance

I think that, once you get done with the "shoeboxes of hand-made Valentine's" stage of life, you should be told that you can't do any more Valentine-ing until you're a fully grown-up person.

I suspect that many people would enjoy the day more if they had had a respite in the middle. If they hadn't had to suffer through Junior High Sweetheart dances, or being forced to care (or not care) about the day in High School.

Personally, I don't remember the first time I had a Valentine's Day date.

I remember times when I would go out with friends to parties or bars and hang out. And I remember one Valentine's Day in my late 20s which was - although I didn't realize it at the time - the beginning of a break-up (which took a few more weeks to come to its completion). But, really, I don't remember any significant Valentine's dates along the way.

Instead, when I was working retail, I'd offer to work that night so that people who had dates could go out. And, well, so that I could try to talk desperate men out of buying blenders for their wives ("because she's always said she wanted to make smoothies for her diet...").

A few years ago, that changed, though. I started to look forward to Valentine's Day just a bit more. Not in an "I want red and pink and over-the-top gestures" kind of way, but just in an "I'm happy to have you in my life" kind of way.

I'm lucky, though, because Christopher and I have a decent amount of romance in our lives on a daily basis. We have fresh flowers in the house a lot of the year. We go out to dinner for no reason. We stay in and sit on the couch together watching movies. We basically do all of the things that people get so worked up about on Valentine's Day - we just do it all year, instead.

I have to admit that, last year, when Christopher scheduled a week away with friends to take place over Valentine's Day... well... that made me not so happy. I didn't think it would matter, but once it was scheduled, I realized that it kind of did. It was a shock to me (well, to both of us) how much it bugged me. But we talked about it, and so this year he's not leaving for his trip until the 16th. Which means that we have today (well... except for the fact that we're at our jobs) and tonight together.

And how are we planning to spend this romantic day?

We're going to go to a late-afternoon matinee of the latest "Die Hard" movie so that we can watch a bunch of stuff get blown up while having a gourmet dinner of popcorn and sodas. Then we're going to go home and hang out on the couch with the pup.

Yep. I'm thinking that Christopher and I do Valentine's Day romance in what is, quite possibly, the best way ever.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Feeling Cheeky

Have you ever burned your tongue? How about the roof of your mouth?

I'm guessing you're saying "Yep, I've done both of those."

So, let's go one step further: Have you ever burned your cheek?

Last night, while making dinner, I was attempting - for the second time - to get the black quinoa to turn out correctly. Unfortunately, since we bought this from the bulk section of a Co-op, there were no instructions with it. With the "normal" quinoa, there were directions, though, so the first time I made it, I followed those directions. We ended up with oversized, mostly crunchy, poppy seeds.

But last night I had doubled the cooking time, and added a bunch of extra water. So I was pretty sure that I was on the right track. It had boiled most of the way down, and there was almost no water left, and I figured I should check to see how crunchy it still was.

Like an absolute idiot, I decided to do that by putting a partial spoonful of the stuff directly in my mouth. After all, I was thinking "If I served this to myself on a plate, it would be the same temperature, so why not...?" I think I blew on it, first, but otherwise it went directly from pan to mouth.

I closed my mouth on it, and knew immediately that spitting it out would have been the best option, but I decided to give it a quick run around the mouth to check the texture and then swallow. Why? I may never know.

What happened, as I'm sure you've guessed by now, is that I moved the stuff from on my tongue to over between my cheek and my gums. And it hurt. And I swallowed it and swore some. And I whined a bit about it to Christopher later on in the evening.

Today, I started to feel the "oh, I burned that part of my mouth" feelings. It's the same feeling as when you bite the inside of your cheek, really. That feeling of random pieces kind of sticking out so that your tongue and teeth hit them at weird times. Only this is kind of the entire left side of my mouth including my gums, which means I feel it in my teeth, if that's possible. And - among the weirdnesses - it's causing me to create more saliva than usual, so I keep feeling like I might be drooling in the same way that you do after some trips to the dentist.

I've taken precautions and gargled with antiseptic mouthwash. And I've rinsed out my mouth a lot throughout the day. I suspect that tomorrow - most likely - I'll start to have the "that piece of skin is kind of peeling off" feeling that you get when you've burned the roof of your mouth. And I'm hopeful that the entire weird sensation will be done by the weekend at the latest.

And the next time I'm working with quinoa... well... let's just say that I think I might have to find a new way to test for doneness.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


There comes a point in your life when, if all goes well, you find yourself inextricably linked. It could be to someone or to something, but it will happen.

My hope for all of us is a positive, happy, link to a someone. I find that links to things - be they jobs, possessions, or whatever - tend to not be as fulfilling (at least for me) as links to people.

I have links that are represented by kitsch on my walls and shelves. I have links that only really show up around Christmas card season. I even have links that may or may not be healthy as they sit in the back of my mind and make me doubt myself from time to time.

But the links that I love are the ones that - although they may be represented by kitsch or show up in the Christmas cards or even make me wonder what I was thinking - make me smile and make me happy to have them.

I fully admit that some of the people I consider to be my best friends are people I seldom see. That some of those same people are people I knew - in an instant - I would always want to be friends with. (At least in part because they wouldn't complain if I end sentences with prepositions.)

Tonight, I was reminded just how linked Christopher and I have become in the past seven-and-a-half years.

After a relatively social first half of the weekend, we spent much of today simply hanging out on the couch, looking at the snow coming down outside. We ate things that were bad for us - but which fit into the hibernation mood - and we napped and, basically, "snow-dayed."

This evening, Christopher went to remove an event from his online calendar, because he won't be able to go to it. I'll still be going, but he won't. But his calendar decided that, since he had created the even and shared it with me, it needed to be removed from both of our linked calendars.

Technologically, it was a very minor pain. He removed it from the calendar, and then I simply had to go back in and create a separate event on my own calendar. It took thirty seconds, tops.

Relationshipally, it was a nice little reminder of just how linked we are. And the smile that brought to mind is still going on.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Irony Defined

I live in Minneapolis.

Over the past few weeks, the temperatures have been mostly below average.

We had a few days in the past weeks when we didn't even get above zero.

I haven't had my car air conditioner on in probably 5 months.

My car has been running a little loud, lately - although the gas mileage has been quite nice ever since I got my struts and a few gaskets replaced last fall.

Today, after work, I was behind an SUV which seemed to be sending its fumes directly into my vent system.

The smell got worse, started to smell "hot," and got a lot stronger.

I drove past the offending SUV, but the smell didn't go away.

When I pulled over to the side of the street to check the coolant/anti-freeze level (it has been known to drop suddenly in the past), I'm pretty sure I saw smoke or steam coming from under the hood - but it might have been exhaust blowing from the rear of my car since it was chilly and windy.

During my freakout call to Christopher (we've discussed that car problems freak me out, right?), he suggested a way to drive home without the freeways, and I took that route, just in case something happened.

Along the way, the car started to run quieter.

The smell started to dissipate.

I took the car to the shop, anyway.

Turns out the tension rod and pulley that drive my air conditioner and - okay, yeah, also the overall fan for the air circulation inside the car - had worn and eventually locked up and... well... part of it actually full-on melted.

Let's see... 20 degrees out... haven't used the air conditioner in months... and melted something that runs the air conditioner.

Now, that's irony.

Well played, universal dictionary. Well played.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Music of Life - Dave Brubeck and Zach Sobiech

As I was sitting here staring at the blank screen and trying to figure out what to write about, I realized that I could hear "Take Five" by Dave Brubeck coming from the other room. I don't know what Christopher was doing, but that's what was playing.

And, suddenly, I was home in my parents' house as a kid probably on a Sunday afternoon when Mom would be painting and Dad would be reading the newspaper or napping. The four of us kids would be doing our own things - frequently involving reading books or annoying each other - and the stereo would be on. There was a lot of Dave Brubeck. There was also a lot of Neil Diamond and Chuck Mangione and stuff that spanned the decades from the 50s forward.

I watched a CBS Sunday Morning interview with Tim McGraw over the weekend, and he talked about how people can pinpoint parts of their lives through music. When I heard that I knew exactly what he was talking about. For me, music has always been one of my touchstones - one of the things that anchors me.

I hear songs and although I may not know where I was when I heard them, I almost always know what it felt like, who I was with, and what part of my life they connect to.

There's a 17-year-old kid from the Twin Cities area named Zach Sobiech, who has gotten a lot of attention in the past few months for a song he's written - and recorded - called "Clouds." It's a great song, and it seems to be touching a lot of people on many different levels, even though he admits that it was written as a private thing. (It's gotten over 2 million hits on YouTube in less than 3 months, and is available on iTunes.)

It stopped being private when one of the local radio stations was doing its annual fundraiser for the Children's Cancer Research Fund and they met Zach, who happens to have Osteosarcoma which has - at this point - reached the end of its treatability. I heard him on the radio, today, with his mom who was trying to explain to the radio hosts that they are now completely beyond any possible treatments. So, really, at this point it's just a waiting game.

In the meantime, though, Zach has recorded an album with his singing partner (Sammy Brown) and has been signed by BMI records as a songwriter. No one knows how many songs he'll have the chance to write, or what will happen to them. But, still, the opportunity... the possibility... it's there in front of him.

In my life, songs are tied to memories, emotions, dreams, and daydreams - all those things that impact my life in the long run, for better or worse. And my long run is already almost 3 decades more than Zach's. Having come across "Clouds," I can only hope to also fill those memories with the kind of passion and grace he's showing in his music.

**You can read more about Zach Sobiech, make a donation to the Children's Cancer Research Fund, and/or listen to "Clouds" here.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Not a Total Luddite

Okay. I admit it.

As much as I have trouble with some technology and feel that there is a Luddite in me just waiting to run around and destroy all sorts of smart phones and microwaves and things that go buzz/beep/ping in the night, I really do like some technology.

In fact, there is one piece of tech that I was really against for some time - and then we adopted it into the house and I sort of got used to it.

It's the DVR. (In our case, an actual TiVo.)

Tonight, for instance, I am recording the Super Bowl, with the intention of beginning my own personal viewing of it once it has already been airing for about 2 hours. In that way, I'll be able to watch the game - as well as the commercials - but not have to deal with the interminable pauses caused by the Instant Replays and Official Reviews and all of those things that have made a 90-minute game require a 4-hour broadcast.

And, if I work it right, by the time the game is over for everyone else, it'll also be coming to an end at our place.

So... Yeah... I'm not a total Luddite. Mostly.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Don't Be Boring

Someone sent out a link to a video on YouTube today, and I watched it. I know that seems pretty normal, but it's not something I usually do. I usually stay pretty far away from videos of cute kittens or cute kids or anything political - and that tends to remove most videos that people send around.

But I was waiting for my lunch to arrive today (because it was cold out and so I didn't want to eat my cold lunch, so I ordered a hot calzone, instead), and my defenses were down. And I watched the video.

I'd give you a link to it, but I honestly can't remember which friend posted it, or what it was called. All I really remember is that, at one point, the main person admonished his viewers "Don't Be Boring."

What makes it more interesting is that I've been thinking a lot about that kind of idea in the past week. (Remember my "Taste"-related post from Tuesday?)

In the standard "January, New Year, New Changes" kind of way, I've been pondering what I'm doing with my life and what mark I might be leaving. Yes, I know that, as with most resolutions, I'll get over this soon enough, but right now I'm still pondering all of that.

Last weekend, when we had our shindig, I found myself laughing a lot. And not polite laughs, but loud ones that kind of roll out of the throat. Loud enough that at least once people in another conversation looked up to see what was going on. I don't do that very often at work.

And, yes, I know that work is work - which is why it's called "work." I do enjoy my job, in general, some days can just be a bit disheartening. And, at times, I wonder what I'm doing if I spend full days at work without at least once a day getting that much joy out of anything I'm doing. Of course, the pay is decent, and for the first time in years I'm actually working in a field I actually studied for, which makes it feel like not liking it is a form of being ungrateful.

Even so, perhaps it's time to at least start thinking about a new job. One where I don't worry that I might become boring.