Thursday, November 29, 2007

Mr. Wonderful

Some of you loyal readers may wonder why my husband of almost five years is never referred to by name, but rather, "Mr. Wonderful." This mostly has to do with my overinflated sense of self-importance, since I am a celebrity after all, and I need to respect and protect the privacy and anonymity of my loved ones.

One of the bloggers I enjoy and respect the most (and have read the longest), James Lileks, has always referred to his best friend as "The Giant Swede" and calls his elementary school-age daughter "Gnat." So I thought I'd follow suit, and come up with a blogosphere designation for my husband.

And one of the first things that came to mind was "Mr. Wonderful," mostly because he' s, well, wonderful. When it seems like everyone else's boyfriends and husbands just never want to talk, share household chores, or cuddle, my husband is remarkably proficient (and interested) in all of these activities.

Which is why, three or four years ago, at a married couples' retreat, he was the proud winner of a Mr. Wonderful talking doll, which, a little too enthusiastically, says things like "Mmmm . . . you look beautiful in the morning," "Actually, I’m not sure which way to go. I’ll turn in here and ask for directions," and "You know, I think it’s really important that we talk about our relationship" -- all at the tug of a cord in his back.

He doesn't try to be a smooth, sensitive guy. He's actually quite a tough guy much of the time. Which, really, is much better than that stupid doll anyway . . . who would want a guy who's always asking if you want to go to the mall and buy new shoes?!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Truffle time

Thanks to a very thoughtful co-worker of mine who has relatives (and miles of bike trails) that lure him to Asheville, N.C. on a regular basis, Mr. Wonderful and I now have "truffle time" every school night. When I found out about my co-worker's Asheville connections, I immediately told him he had to check out The Chocolate Fetish, as we think theirs is the best chocolate we've ever had.

So when he came back from Thanksgiving in North Carolina, he brought us a sampler of some of their best truffles. We love them so much that we're savoring them--we eat one a day, cut in half so we can share it, for each day of classes that Mr. Wonderful has left in the fall semester. It's a great way to celebrate and count down the days!

This is a shot of us, giddy with the rich, dark, spice of "Ancient Pleasures," one of the most exotic truffle selections -- it's dusted with cayenne.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What American accent do you have?

I have said it for years: I don't have an accent. And now, I have an online survey to prove it!

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The Inland North
The West
The Northeast
Philadelphia
The South
Boston
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Houseguests, etc.

I already know I'm going to get in trouble for not having taken photos . . . I'm sorry! I just keep forgetting to pick up the camera!

We had the pleasure of entertaining some dear friends last night and this morning -- Mr. & Mrs. Smith -- and it was the first time we'd had guests since moving into our new bedroom. (It's so much nicer to have guests when it doesn't involve uprooting yourself from your super-messy bedroom to sleep on the futon, and washing the same set of sheets three times during the weekend. Not that it's not worth it when you have to do things that way; it's just not fun.)

Anyway, it was lovely to sit around the dinner table, enjoying Mexican-ish comfort food with an old friend and her husband, and then to hit the local bagel place for breakfast this morning before a little tour of CMU's campus and the surrounding neighborhoods.

And tonight . . . we were planning on going out on a date -- a super-rare occurrence -- but a couple from church just called and asked us to go with them to a Lebanese restaurant on the South Side. Do you think we could pass that up? I think not.

Weekends like this one make all the other days in between worth living.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Postgame carnage




Yes, those are napkins. I had a tight decorating budget.

And a lot of fun sniffing Sharpies.

The bedroom project -- before

This footage was taken a few weeks ago--October 14, to be exact--and boy, have we come a long way with this project! It's now painted, carpeted, and some of the trim is up, plus we have super-awesome organizer in our amply sized closet. So, since we were getting close to completion, and because the guest bedroom was getting increasingly small and cluttered, we made the move last night! All the bed linens were washed in preparation, and we spent our first night in a new, clean, huge bedroom!

I'll post the "after" photos soon--maybe even some video footage--but I want to wait until I can get some good morning shots of the room. Situated on the second floor of the front of the house, it gets some lovely morning light, especially in the colder months. But for now, enjoy my cinematography.

video

Thursday, November 08, 2007

stress

n. — the condition that results when person-environment transactions lead the individual to perceive a discrepancy, whether real or not, between the demands of a situation and the resources of the person's biological, psychological or social systems."
The Great Wiki
We talk a lot about stress in this culture. And because of us, other cultures are catching on, too—last year, my boss and I heard a story on NPR about the rise of see-tress—a phonetic approximation of the English word—in Vietnam, where business is good and stress is becoming a symbol of affluence, ambition, and success. [Last year, as a result of hearing this story on the radio, we ran an article in Seek magazine (PDF; see page 7) addressing the stress, and other North American cultural products, that are exported to the rest of the world with little thought to their effect on our global neighbors.]

Lately I've been thinking about stress from this perspective, but also from the perspective of someone who's been feeling quite stressed out lately, and I think this link between stress and consumerism is stronger than most of us would ever expect.

Think about it: if stress is the result of a discrepancy between expectations and reality, or the demands and the resources to meet those demands, then the potential for stress will increase anytime expectations and demands increase, because there is always some limit to our resources.

Now you'd think—and I believe many of us North Americans do think—that, at some point, we would have enough time, money, energy, whatever, to meet the demands that we and others have placed on us; that we could reach a point where stress levels stop rising and reach a sort of equilibrium. But that's exactly the flawed thinking that gets us in trouble in the first place; it's based on consumerist thought that isn't really aware of itself. The trouble with humanity is that, the more we have, the more we want. We can make a conscious effort to exercise self-control, to say "enough is enough," to be content with what we have. But unless we do that, the demands and expectations will continue to rise. And with them come stress.

There's nothing wrong with expectations or ambitions. Heck, the whole reason we uprooted our entire lives three months ago and moved here to Pittsburgh—that was all about expectations and ambitions. Expectations for an education that would allow my husband to better use his gifts and talents. Ambitions for him to make more money so that I don't have to—especially while we're raising a family, which we hope to do soon. Expectations that someday, we can have more time to pour into our community, our church, our family, and our friends. There's nothing wrong with us working toward these goals. But we need to understand that, in the meantime, we are going to experience stress as a result.

The key, however, is to halt the escalation of consumerism. We need to know where to draw the line. Because if we don't draw that line (and keep retracing it as each day passes), when we arrive there, we'll soon find there's more that we aspire to; further discrepancies between what is and what we think should be.

This is all fairly obvious . . . but what I think we really don't get—what we just don't realize most of the time—is that we all must make a decision to be content. Contentment doesn't come to us; we come to it. And—although this is unthinkable to most of us—for the most part, our neighbors around the world who have a lot less than we do are much better at drawing that line and choosing contentment than we are. How can they be content with next to nothing, we wonder?

In large part, our society is populated by the descendants of hardworking, hungry, and sometimes even deprived, abused, or persecuted people. Now don't get me wrong; I'm glad all our ancestors had the ability and the drive to "make a better life" for their families . . . I just think sometimes we take that whole "making a better life" thing a little too far. Because often "a better life" is defined by possessions, higher education, and even higher expectations—not by deeper relationships with God, family, and friends, or by being a person of character. And you have to admit, by and large, we North Americans are quite poor in spirit, whereas our neighbors across the ocean tend to be a bit better at focusing on what's really important in life.

Maybe it's because they're not stressed out by the daily grind of reaching for more.

For the most part, our neighbors in Africa and Southeast Asia and South America don't get to choose where they "draw the line" with regard to what they're striving for. I suppose you could say they're lucky they don't have to make that decision. But in a way, they still do—we all do. We all have to determine what's enough and be content if we ever want to have less stress.

And I sure as heck have had enough of that for one lifetime. How about you?