Sunday, November 5, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok

The last Thor solo film came out four years ago, but it feels like a decade ago. After enjoying the first one, I didn't much care for the sequel, Thor: The Dark World, but generally enjoyed Thor in the ensemble films. However, I still wasn't planning on seeing Thor: Ragnarok because I'm just superhero'd out.

But I like going to the movies and I like going on opening weekend. When I randomly checked Saturday morning the available seats for the first showing, there was one available. It seemed like fate so I went ahead and bought the ticket.

I came out pleasantly surprised. Granted, there is still a lot going on in the MCU and I really struggled to remember what had happened in previous movies to account for the state Thor (and others) were in in this film. First off, the film jettisons Jane and her entire crew for a somewhat-standalone story involving Thor, is heretofore unknown sister, and a quest to save Asgard from that sister (also known as the Goddess of Death).

Thor gets reunited with Hulk, as the two are meant to face each other in a gladiator-style fight for the Grandmaster (a very funny Jeff Goldblum). This is easily the best part of the film. It gives us the haircut, for one. But also, the fantastic character Korg, an extremely funny rock "person" who oversees the fighters. He is voiced by the director, Taika Waititi, and he is by far my favorite character of the film.

My other favorite is Heimdall (Idris Elba) because he just seems really cool.

Everyone is having a lot of fun in this movie, and I was surprised at how much I laughed (Lord of Thunder). I credit Waititi for taking Thor in a direction we didn't know we wanted or needed. Thor has always been a bit of a funny character with his fish-out-of-water-like tendencies and arrogance as a god, but released from the confines of the normal Jane/Loki/Tesseract he shines as a truly humorous character. I also enjoyed Waititi's New Zealand touches and that he didn't shoehorn in an obvious love story.

The film isn't perfect, and I imagine some fans will feel like a couple characters are portrayed much differently (yes, I'm talking about Hulk/Banner). I'm not a die-hard fan so I was fine with it. It's a fun film, reminiscent of the first Guardians of the Galaxy, but not as weighty as Captain America: Winter Soldier. Still a solid hit, though.

Monday, October 23, 2017

15k for 35

I've always wanted to be a runner, but I've never really put that much effort into it. When I dated a guy who was a legit runner (like wake-up-and-run-a-marathon legit runner), I thought it would magically rub off on me.

It didn't.

Lofty goals I made of running longer and longer distances until I finally made it to a marathon. That was well over ten years ago and the longest distance I made it up to was a 10k....way back in 2010.

I made another lofty goal a couple years ago when I made my 35 by 35 list - run a marathon by my 35th birthday. It's six months away, and running a marathon doesn't seem likely.

But running a 15k isn't so far-fetched. And it just so happens that every year during Germanfest in Muenster, TX, (which, being at the end of April is right around my birthday) they have a 15k Fun Run.

I am going to do this 15k. It's the perfect goal for my 35th birthday. Tonight I started by doing Run 1 in the Couch to 5k app. I have used this app before but have never made it through the entire series.

This means I will have to run (and again, I use the term run very loosely) in the cold, dark winter months. Wish me luck. And please help me stay on track.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Fire Ants Part II

Fire ants are the worst. Even worse: being allergic to them. Which I discovered today that I am.

My first interaction with them was awful, but normal. My second interaction with them my foot swelled up. My third interaction, today, I had a severe allergic reaction.

I was out with a colleague discussing a new sidewalk project we would be collaborating on. I stepped into the grass for just a moment, but it was a moment too long. I felt a sharp bite on my toe and feared the worst. When I walked away and checked my foot I had five or so ants crawling on my toes. They had already bit me. Now back in my office, I started scratching my foot profusely because these things start itching fast.

Then my eyes started itching. I went into the bathroom to wash my hands and my eyes were not only itchy, they were red. Then my whole body started itching - my back, my chest, my head. And my face was starting to get red, too, along with swelling. My ears felt hollow and were each a bright red.

I was starting to panic. This was definitely not normal. I decided I needed to get to a medical professional. All my close friends at City Hall have left, my friend that works nearby at TWU rides her bike to work (yay!). I thought about asking my boss, but when I walked by his office his boss was in there. I knew he had an important meeting at lunch (it was 11 am) so I didn't bother to ask him (he would have done it in a heartbeat because he's a fantastic boss; just last week he helped me change my flat tire and fix my license plate).

I had a meeting at 11:15 with our website guy, so I went to his office and told him I had to cancel because I was having an allergic reaction to fire ants. It was obvious by my face, so he urged me to go the Clinic. I got in my car and drove myself to the clinic.

I admit that I sped. I don't normally speed, but I felt like at any moment my eyes or throat could swell up. The itching was getting out of hand at this point, and my heart was racing. I was scared and stressed. When I'd scratch my head I could feel little bumps all over it. Everything itched and my face was more red and more swollen.

I arrived at the Clinic and they immediately put me in a wheelchair and took me to the ER, realizing I needed more care than they could provide. They were so sweet and awesome and I will not forget that. I was checked in and two nurses immediately went to work on me (yay nurses!!). One asked me questions and got me ready while the other put a needle in my arm. I was rather emotional and felt like crying, but somehow held it in. When the one asking questions went to put the BP cuff on my arm she noticed a huge rash on the underside of my arm. We then checked my stomach and, yep, more rash. She decided something had to be done now so she went ahead and gave me some steroids, benadryl, and pepsid intravenously right then.
Can you see how red my right foot is?

This photo is so unflattering, but this is what I looked like. You can't tell, but I was extremely red. I felt like my face was ten times bigger than normal. 

It had an almost immediate affect, and I could feel my body relaxing. It also created a cold sensation and I asked for blankets. She brought me two warm blankets and it was heaven! She left me there so the drugs could do their work (and sleep, since the benadryl makes most people drowsy). The Nurse Practitioner from the clinic who had got me into a wheelchair (and is my PCP) came to check on me and it warmed my heart.

In between sleeping I texted a couple people. First an update to my friend Stephanie, who had first suggested to me a couple months ago after my foot swelled that I was probably allergic to fire ants. I wish she could have been there with me, because she is a fantastic, calming friend (she works for FEMA so she's down in Houston). I texted my boss so he would know why I wasn't there. Unfortunately, FYI was auto corrected to dying and I had to send a reply saying I was definitely not dying. The coworker that I cancelled the meeting with also texted to check in on my. He felt bad that he hadn't offered to give me a ride and he was concerned if I had made it.

The PA came into explain to me that this is how allergic reactions start - not on the first bite or incident, but a progression of worse reactions. That is exactly what I experienced. The nurse recommended I get an epi-pen, since my next reaction would likely be worse. This scares me because fire ants are basically everywhere.

I was discharged and came home. My face has finally gone back to normal after feeling puffy most of the afternoon and evening. I am completely fine, just a little drained from the crazy day. My boss called me later to check in on my. Several friends texted to make sure I was okay. It was scary, being at the hospital alone was stressful, but everyone there was extremely helpful and I was in good hands.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Little Kitty Update

Turns out little kitty, who I had named Blackberry Jam, is actually a boy. A series of events led me to google "how to tell sex of kitten", and after that it was obvious that Blackberry Jam was a boy.

The name just didn't fit anymore, so I changed it to Chance. And that name is entirely fitting for this cute little cat that I took a chance on.

Chancey is adorable. 

He's also incredibly annoying. He wants to play with the blinds. All of the time, which includes when I am trying to go to sleep. He wants to attack Biscuit. All of the time, but occasionally lets Biscuit lick him. He wants to play with my bare feet. All of the time. Earlier this week I bought a new toy for him to play with since, unlike Biscuit, he doesn't want to sleep all the time. Even though I likes the toy and plays with it a lot, he still also likes the blinds and my feet and Biscuit.

It can be exhausting. Having a kitten is extremely different than my older cat. But I love him. He has come a long way from the scraggly, tiny kitten found at City Hall.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Fam in Texas

When Ivy and I left New York, she had a huge issue getting out due to earlier storms in the Atlanta area. It was so awful (for real, it took her a whole twenty-four hours to get home to Seattle after leaving our hotel room) that Delta gave her a voucher. Well, they technically gave me the voucher because I paid for the ticket, but it was in Ivy's name and only she could use it. Since I was already planning on Em coming down for the Matchbox Twenty concert, I decided to have Ivy come down, too. And might as well have my mom come as well to make it a full girls' weekend. 

Em and mom arrived Friday afternoon and we went straight from the airport to Austin (for the Matchbox Twenty concert). Ivy flew into Austin just before midnight. Then we drove all the way back to Denton that night. I stayed awake by listening to various Broadway soundtracks. I put on Twentyone Pilots just before getting to Denton and Ivy woke up to sing-along with me. We got home about 3:15 a.m., but it was worth it to be home and already in Denton. 

We tried our best to sleep in on Saturday, but I have a lot of windows and once that morning sun starts shining it's hard to keep the eyes shut. No big deal though, because our plan was just to hang out in Denton that day. We went to the Square and had lunch at Mellow Mushroom and ice cream at Beth Marie's. We almost didn't make it through ice cream - we were all so tired! So we came back home and all took a nap before going on a evening walk. We closed out the day with a rousing game of Phase 10, which mom won. 

The next we took the train to the State Fair of Texas! I was very excited to share this event with my family; it's kind of a big deal. The first thing we did was get a Fletcher's corn dog. Well, Em has an aversion to hot dogs so she didn't get one. And neither did my mom. Their loss. These corn dogs are seriously delicious. We also tried out this year's new food: fried Fruit Loops. They were okay, but I preferred my fried desserts to be chocolate based. 

We checked out the museums before heading to the Pan Am Arena for the pig races. Except they ended at two and the three p.m. show would be a rodeo/stampede. It was fine, but the pig races are more fun. We checked out the livestock before getting a second round of food. We caught a pet show with all kind of rescued pets - cats, dogs, birds, a porcupine - which was cute and fun. 

I made sure we all got a nutty ice cream bar before we made our way to the car exhibits. We had fun checking out all the cool new cars and trucks and imagining ourselves purchasing one of them! We rode the train back home, and everyone was tired. And poor Em was suffering from allergies. 

They left Monday afternoon, all on the same flight from DFW Airport heading for SLC (Ivy's connection to Seattle was there). Hopefully they had a good time in the great state of Texas! 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Matchbox 20 Concert

I went to my first Matchbox 20 concert seventeen years ago. I was a senior in high school.

I went to my sixth Matchbox 20 concert seven days ago.

Matchbox is celebrating twenty years since the release of their debut album, Yourself or Someone Like You, which gave us the classic, "Push." When I found out about the tour I knew I had to go. For various reasons, I decided to hit up the concert in Austin and invite my sister to go with me.

The opening act was Matt Nathanson, a pretty cool dude with a few songs that I know (but those I heard I also liked). He came on right at eight and played for exactly forty-five minutes.

Then Matchbox 20 came out, playing four straight songs from their first album. They played a decent mix of songs from the other albums, but played nearly all from the first album. It made me very happy. The closing, pre-encore song was "Push" and the crowd went wild. They came back out to sing "3 am" and "Long Day", before closing it out with Rob on the piano playing "Bright Lights".

I loved jamming out and singing along to all my favorite songs. The played one of my favorites, "Hang" and reminded me how awesome they sound live.

Sunday, September 24, 2017


Last year I was sitting in a movie theater watching the abysmally awful Bridget Jones's Baby when I received a text message. And then several others. Since I'm not a doctor I don't check my phone during a movie. When the movie ended and the lights came up I pulled out my phone to see what was going on.

It was a text from my former boss in Topeka, which was strange. He was letting me know that Susan had passed away unexpectedly.

My mind couldn't process it.

I quickly left the theater, and while walking to my car I couldn't control the tears. I read the text again. Susan had been hiking in Colorado when she fell and hurt her knee. Her dad picked her up and brought her back to Kansas. Overnight, while in the hospital, she developed a blood clot in her leg that traveled to her heart.

My emotions had nowhere to go but out my eyes. And they came hard and fast and uncontrollable. Biscuit had fleas, and I needed to go to PetSmart to get flea treatment. I went in in a daze and barely controlled my tears while making my way through the store.

Cleaning my home and cat of fleas was a good distraction for the rest of that Sunday evening. My dear friend Suzi, when I told her the news, stopped by unexpectedly with tacos and chips and queso. It meant so much to me.

It's been a year now since Susan has been gone.  I think of her every day. I want her to be remembered, and think always of how I can help her memory live on. I'm generally failing at that.

I miss her.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Last Sunday I decided to finally watch the Spielberg classic, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, during its fortieth anniversary run in theaters. Two years ago I saw Jaws for its fortieth anniversary release and was only disappointed that I hadn't seen it sooner. I didn't quite have that same reaction to Close Encounters.

I thought the film was technically brilliant and beautiful. The light images of the "flying saucers" were amazing, and mood and atmosphere were not lacking. But, for me, the story didn't quite capture my interest. This was especially true after Richard Dreyfuss goes crazy and insists on ruining his life. His wife sadly had nothing to do but scream and be hysterical. The government people covering up and figuring out were interesting, to a point (especially with the casting of famed-director Francois Truffaut), but it all ultimately went on too long.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Baseball and Tennis

I traded in the arts for sports on Monday, hitting up both baseball and tennis. I went to one Mets game when I lived in NYC, and never made it out to watch the U.S. Open. When I realized I would be there during the U.S. Open I immediately bought a ticket.

Citi Field and Arthur Ashe Stadium share the same subway stop in Flushing, Queens. Needless to say, the subway was full and the station a flurry of activity. 

The Mets were playing the Phillies, and both teams are nowhere near the playoffs. So I just sat and enjoyed the game. Sitting in front of me were Royals fans! The game wasn't terribly exciting, but at least it wasn't oppressively hot. I chatted with the people around me and cheered for the Phillies (because my dad is a Phillies fan). 

 This dog's owner dresses him up for tips post-games. He was so calm and chill!

After the game I walked over to the Flushing Meadows Corona Park to kill time before the tennis match. I've never been to this park, but it is large and quite awesome. It's where the large Unisphere is (you see it in the Men in Black movies, the large globe). There were so many people there - playing sports, riding bikes, eating ice cream, just enjoying the lovely weather. 

I then headed over to Arthur Ashe Stadium to wait in line to get in. There are several courts at the grounds. I chose to get a reserved seat for the evening match at Arthur Ashe, which is the main court where the big stars play. I had no idea who would be playing that night when I bought my ticket, but I lucked out and got to see Roger Federer play! 

People are crazy for Federer! I've never been in the presence of that before. He played well and everyone was happy for him. But, tennis fans are pretty nice to all players. Maybe because it's a solo sport and it seems really mean to boo at an individual. The crowd cheered and clapped for the opponent, but it was clear that everyone was there to see Federer and he was the star (certainly warranted). The women's match was after, and sadly it was getting quite late at this point so I only stayed for the first match (or is it set? I don't know; I had to google tennis terms while there). It was such a fun, neat experience though!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

NY Transit Museum

My second day in NYC I hit up one of the places I never did when I lived there: the NY Transit Museum. I had time before my matinee showing of The Great Comet to make my way to Brooklyn to the museum. It was tight, though, when it was discovered that no red line trains were running to Brooklyn on weekends! I had to improvise, but it was pretty easy with the extensive transit system in NYC.

I love transit, which is a direct result of living in NYC. The museum is in an old, once-working subway station by Brooklyn Borough Hall. The museum highlights the history of the NYC subway and bus systems. The first subway opened October 27, 1904. 1904! Whoa (also, that's my sister and best friend's birthday!)! I loved seeing the old photos of the workers building the lines.

The museum highlights the response of transit workers - bus drivers, engineers, steelworkers, everyone - during weather events and the attacks of September 11. It was moving to see this group of people that I had never really heard about as helping in the aftermath. For a city so dependent on public transit, any major disruption in service has a huge affect.

In the lower section, on the tracks, is a vast showing of old subway cars. I loved it!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Four Shows

Before heading to NYC I had bought tickets to two shows - Waitress and The Great Comet. I would enter the lottery for other shows (including Hamilton, which is still a bit too pricey). I ended up getting into two other shows!

I knew I wanted to see this after watching Jesse Mueller's performance at the Tony Awards last year. I tried to see it when I was in NYC back in April, but it just didn't work out. When I decided I was going to New York for my ten year anniversary the first thing I did was buy a ticket to Waitress. It's based on the 2007 movie of the same name, with songs and lyrics by Sara Bareilles. I love Sara Bareilles, and you can tell the songs are from her. I liked how the show found a way to incorporate the thoughts in Jenna's head as she plans pies that relate to her feelings and predicaments. The band is on-stage most of the time, and the background characters are regularly integrated into the story.

This is a very emotional show, with the main character, Jenna, having to deal with a very bad husband and the choices she has made in her life. I love that she is allowed to be multi-dimensional; she makes good and bad choices and yet I never judge her. The females characters have a strong bond, but are allowed to fight and still be good friends.

The Great Comet
I didn't know very much about this show other than Josh Groban was once in the lead role, and the whole brouhaha with Mandy Patinkin. A friend suggested it so I went ahead and bought a ticket a few weeks ago. I got there just in time, because the show ended up playing its last performance the day after I saw it.

The play is based on a 90-page slice of War and Peace. There are a lot of characters, and the Playbill provides a chart of who is connected to who; I found this very helpful. The play is immersive, with most of the characters on stage during the whole run time. The stage was reimagined to accommodate this experience, basically blowing out the entire back of the stage and providing seating right next to the actors. It turned the normal "Broadway play" on its head, and I wish it had gotten more notice for the way it was so different.

The Book of Mormon
Besides the tickets for the two previous shows, my plan was to enter lotteries and see what happened. After The Great Comet I went back to my Airbnb to reassess what to do for the night. I hadn't won the lottery for anything yet. I decided I would go back to Times Square and see about getting a cheap/standing room only ticket for The Book of Mormon. When I arrived about thirty minutes before the show, the Box Office told me they didn't have any standing room only tickets left. However, they did have single tickets available to sell. I decided to wait it out in the cancellation ticket to see what my chances were - if I was going to be paying a lot for a ticket I wanted it to be a good seat! I stood in a line that had just one other person in it - an English girl from Houston! We each ended up getting a premier producer's seat for a third of what they normally go for! My seat was in the orchestra, in the middle, about ten rows back.

The play was awesome! It was so much fund and everyone was laughing the whole time. I think it's probably better if you are Mormon or know Mormon culture, because you get the little jokes and comments that others don't. It is entirely irreverent (what else do you expect from the creators of South Park). I laughed a lot, which made for a very fun night. I stage-doored it in the rain after and had a couple of the actors sign my Playbill.

Dear Evan Hansen
When I told one of my friends about my plan to go to NYC he said he'd love to see Dear Evan Hansen. I remember seeing the posters for it when Ivy and I were in NYC, but I wasn't all that familiar with it. I looked at getting a ticket but just never committed to it. Then it won a boatload of Tony's in June, I loved Ben Splatt's performance, and I wanted to see it. Too bad - ticket prices had now sky-rocketed (not to Hamilton level, but still a bit too pricey for what I was willing to pay). My plan was to enter the lottery and hope for the best.

By Sunday afternoon I hadn't won any of the lotteries I had entered, and had pretty much resigned myself to not seeing it. I was taking a walking tour of Greenwich Village when I decided to just check StubHub again and see what the prices were. At 1:30 p.m. there was a single ticket for the 3 p.m. show that was at a price within my budget! So I bought it right then and there!

When I got to the theater and the line started moving, I felt so happy and lucky that I was seeing it! As I got to the theater doors I noticed a white sign posted: The role of Evan Hansen usually played by Ben Splatt will be played by Michael Lee Brown. Well, that explained the relatively-cheap ticket I was able to buy. And I was bummed.

But then I got over it! Because I was seeing Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway with all of the original cast. It did not disappoint, and understudy Michael Lee Brown was amazing. Like seriously. He is the understudy for two other characters and has played them all throughout the run. That's right, he understudies for three characters - three sets of songs, three character's dialogue and movements and props. That is amazing. I stage-doored it afterward just because I wanted him to feel special, and he signed my Playbill.

I loved all the shows I saw, book-ended by the emotional stories of Waitress and Dear Evan Hansen and stuffed with flair and fun of The Great Comet and The Book of Mormon. I loved the kids and pre-teens I saw at the shows and the excitement they had for theater. The kid sitting behind me at The Great Comet was seriously so excited his mom had to tell him to stop talking at one point and not spoil the show for her. So many kids had posters and art and I could feel their excitement.

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