Saturday, December 1, 2012

How to dry your own herbs in 5 easy steps

1. Buy a pot of fresh herbs. 

I got my pot of sage, rosemary, and thyme from Trader Joe's before Thanksgiving. You'll be more inclined to complete this essential step if you let the nice Trader Joe's lady trick you into thinking of yourself as the kind of person who is likely to make herbed cornbread dressing from scratch.

2. Guard your potted herbs from all natural sunlight. 

If you live in a basement, this should be simple. Placing them by the sunniest window will suffice.

Just because it's night in this picture doesn't mean
that much more light comes in during the day.

3. Forget about the herbs.

Let's not kid ourselves, that herbed cornbread dressing is absolutely coming from a box, also bought at Trader Joe's. You have other things going on.

4. Remember them two weeks later.

Where are those dead leaves on your desk and floor coming from? Oh, look! The herbs are ready!

Didn't the paper around the pot used to be green?

5. Tear the plant apart and sprinkle it on maple mustard chicken. 

Tell your husband this is what you intended the whole time.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Thank You, Red Ball!

Over the past several years, I've found that most of what I write ends up being about improv somehow. No matter what I sit down to write about, I use improv vocabulary to help me understand it.

So I've started writing about improv at a new blog called Thank You, Red Ball! The name of the blog is from my favorite improv warm-up, which is all about cultivating gratitude.

Regardless, I have thus far written about:

How improv helped me recover from dysfunctional churches
How much I like cake
How to be a jerk and have no fun ever
How depression effected my playing and faith
How not to be a good team
How improv helps me understand church denominations

If faith/art/play intersection is your thing, come say hi!

My friend Rachel asked how this is different from my regular blog.

The answer is: It's more focused, mostly. 

I know that when I subscribe to an RSS for a specific kind of blog, I get frustrated when the writer posts things unrelated to the blog's purpose. If it's a crochet/knitting blog, I don't want updates on how potty training your toddler is going. If it's a theology blog, I'm not interested in pictures of your dog. 

(It's totally different with friends' blogs, when I'm interested in the person rather than the topic. I enjoy reading what's going on in my friends' lives and brains and Instagrams.)

Thank You Red Ball is a topical blog focused on improv, so it won't have anything about books I'm reading or things going on at church if they're not directly related to improvisers.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Basically famous.

This is NOT the kind of dinosaur pajamas I was wearing.
Mine were just regular pajamas with dinosaurs on them.
I subscribe to a handful of podcasts, though I don't usually listen to them right away. A queue of them builds up until I have a good chunk of data entry to do at work, or some particularly tedious chore around the house. So it wasn't until a couple of weeks after it aired that I found out I had been quoted on CBC's WireTap.

Every few weeks, WireTap asks a question of its listeners on Facebook. Ironically enough, I'd forgotten that I'd answered, "What's your earliest memory?" until I heard a guy reading MY earliest memory aloud.

Which means I've been quoted on a Canadian comedy-ish podcast.

Which gets rebroadcast on NPR.

Which means I've been quoted on NPR.

Which makes me a famous expert* of some kind. 

You can hear the podcast here, at least for another week or so. My quote is at 8 minutes.

(The episode on memory is a little more serious than the usual ones. Do yourself the favor of listening to WireTap's 7-minute interview with Margaret Atwood. She is more than a person. She is an idea. And her robotic arm will punch you in the face.)

What is YOUR first memory?

*I am an expert at wearing dinosaur pajamas and pestering my newborn brother.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


I picked up Alice Hoffman's The Dovekeepers because I visited Masada* last fall. The novel is historical fiction following the stories of four Jewish women, where they came from, and what led them to the fortress. 

Also, I found the cover to be striking.
Here's the thing: I should not be two thirds of the way through a book about Jews at Masada and think, "Finally! The Romans are here!"

But that is what I thought, and here is why:

1. Alice Hoffman really Wants You To Know about Masada. She accomplishes this by having her first-person narrators constantly explain, "Among our people, we highly value [element of nature] because of its role in [sacred practice]." It feels like the action is interrupted by Wikipedia blurbs about ancient Jewish culture rather than letting the reader use context and basic historical knowledge to put the pieces together. Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth is a historical novel that does this well, mostly by using children and outsiders as well-rounded audience surrogates.

2. The heaviness is relentless. I'm not asking for comic relief; I don't expect a book about Masada to be a laugh a minute. But I do expect a break from Poignant Metaphorical Truths, which punctuate each page. A narrator can't describe a lion or a mountain or a loaf of bread without it quickly becoming a symbol for her own soul.

3. The narrators are smart, independent, sexually liberated women with progressive ideas about gender roles and an irreverence for religion (except for a smattering of goddess-worship). In the eyes of these women, anyone following the law must be unenlightened, oppressed, or manipulating the system. To me, this sounds more like a 21st century secular woman than a 1st century Jewish woman.

Ashtoreth worship was more believable in Anita Diamant's The Red Tent, since Jacob's wives were not Jews before they married him. I would have bought it if one or two of The Dovekeepers' narrators had played fast and loose with the laws of Moses -- it's not like Israelites had a spotless, idolatry-free record --  but all four together formed a polemic against the patriarchal oppression of organized religion. Even one devout, sympathetic character who actually cared about the law and the temple could have saved the novel from its agenda.

Even still, the story has been stuck in my head since I read it. I don't think that is from the strength of Hoffman's story so much as the intrigue and mystery of the historical event. The four narrators were same-y, and the other characters may as well have been little green army men for all there was to distinguish one from another.

The night after I finished the book, I had a dream that reflected my emotional attachment by the end of the book: Little army men were slaughtering one another in my kitchen cabinets, getting blood on my Pyrex. In the dream, I mostly remember thinking how glad I was to have glass storage ware instead of Tupperware, since I figured blood would stain the plastic.

Does anyone know if there's a better work of fiction about Masada? I haven't seen Masada, the miniseries about the siege; if you have, do you recommend it?

*Quick synopsis: After the Romans destroyed the temple in Jerusalem, some Jews fled to Masada, an abandoned fortress on a mountain in the desert. The whole mountain-desert combo made it a handy place to defend, but after an extended Roman siege -- SPOILER ALERT** -- all 900-something Jews chose mass suicide over becoming Roman slaves. Two women and five children somehow survived to tell the story to the Romans. 

**Is it still a spoiler if it's a well-known historical event? Let's ask Linda Holmes.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Merrily, merrily

Screen shot of another one of Steve's Holy Week 2011 prep photos and the comments that followed. I think this was an attempt to let the waters under the heavens be gathered together in one place.

On a normal week, the office at Rez behaves something like The West Wing.* (The TV show, probably not the real live office.)

This week, though, the office is behaving more like 30 Rock or a PG version of Slings and Arrows.  The chapel(/rehearsal space/art studio/storage room -- we're a little cramped) has become a sort of ongoing performance art piece for anyone who happens to pass by.

Yesterday, my boss was hip hop dancing in the lobby. 

This evening, I saw a priest and two lay leaders chanting, "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," as solemn as anything.

Ten minutes later, I saw our visual arts leader, Laura, spray painting one of the aforementioned lay leaders gold.

It's Holy Week, people. All bets are off.

*This would make me Donna Moss, obviously.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Them bones, them bones

2011 Dry Bones rehearsal by Steve. I'm definitely taking a nap.

Most of the Easter Vigil readings are either narrative or prophetic. The narrative ones are stories with beginnings, middles, and endings -- Creation, Noah and the Flood, Abraham and Isaac, and Israel's Deliverance at the Red Sea.

The prophetic readings are more like poems. They don't have much built-in movement or action, so they take more imagination to stage -- Salvation Offered Freely, God's Presence in a Renewed Israel, New Heart and New Spirit, The Gathering of God's People ...

And then there's The Valley of the Dry Bones. It lives somewhere in between story and poetry, history and prophecy. And it's awesomely bizarre.

The Valley of Dry Bones from Church of the Resurrection on Vimeo.

Skills required to participate in last year's Dry Bones reading (pick one):

a) sheet holding
b) Indonesian shadow puppetry 
c) lying very still, then standing up and walking
d) Scripture memorization

I am quite adept at (c), so I was part of the army. 

This year, the ideal skill set looks more like:

a) cello or percussion playing
b) hip hop dancing*
c) beat boxing
d) Scripture memorization -- in Hebrew

So, as you see, I'm out. But I'm SO excited to watch. If you're around Chicago next week, come and see!

*I would totally qualify** if my own dry bones would cooperate. Did you know you could sprain your rib from coughing? Heads up, you can, and it hurts.

**No, I wouldn't.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored ...

This is me, rehearsing being formless and void. Steve took the picture. He is also livestock in the video below.

This will be my 7th Easter at Church of the Resurrection. Even though we read the same 9 Old Testament passages year after year, they always feel fresh, thanks to artists who are committed to treating the Word of the Lord with the creativity and respect it deserves.

Last year, I got to serve as part of the troupe that developed the readings under fabulous direction. Our directors gave us guidelines within which to improvise, and they curated the best of our ideas into the final readings.

Rez recently posted videos of last year's Easter Vigil readings. Some of last year's readings didn't translate well to film, since they were designed to be in the midst of the congregation rather than elevated onto the stage. One that did, though, was the creation reading. Something about the creation story brought out the troupe's playfulness, so we ran with it.

Creation from Church of the Resurrection. Video edited by Josh, who is also Adam's dog. Music edited by Blade. Besides being formless and void, I am a frenetic star, a flower, and livestock.

The Creation reading will be drastically different this year -- more music, more dance, more kids! -- and I'm SO excited to be part of it.* If you're in the Chicago area Easter weekend, don't miss it! Full details are here.

“O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 214)

*I play 1/48th of the Voice of God, as well as 1/4th of the serpent. At such times, I'm thankful not to be a method actor.