Friday, September 30, 2011

Clarinets and Saxophones

A long time ago I used to fall asleep to the sound of James Galway playing the flute on my mom's old record player. For a very long time I believed that the flute was the most beautiful instrument in the whole world, and if I ever had the chance to play an instrument, that would be the one.

But that was before I heard the clarinet. When fifth grade came around—the year I got to pick what I would play—just before that moment of decision I heard the music teacher perform a simple piece on the clarinet. And suddenly I was hooked.

I loved everything about the clarinet: the nostalgic tone, the look of the silver keys against the dark wood, and the way it seemed to tell me “there's more here if you're willing to look.” I didn't want to try out anything else; clarinet was for me.

And when I first got a clarinet of my own I became even more sure. I didn't just love hearing it, I loved playing it too. We were a great fit. We worked. (And I was ever so glad I had not chosen to go with, say, the saxophone—if the sounds coming from the sax section were any indication, it was a miserable instrument to play.) For several months, my clarinet and I were BFFs.

But then, one day, playing got a little bit harder. I had to transition from the comfortable low notes to the tricky, squeaky high notes. And suddenly I wasn't quite so sure that this clarinet thing was going to work out for me.

I remember something my teacher said at that time. She told us, “Clarinets, do you remember picking on the sax players just a few months ago for all their squeaks and messy notes? Well, now you get to go through what they did. And saxophones, it's your turn to sit back and learn some easier notes.”

That was motivation enough for me. If the sax players could stick with it through the hard notes, then I sure could too. And I did. I stuck with clarinet for a long time, and I never wished I'd chosen anything else. Clarinet wasn't always the absolute perfection I'd first thought it was, but it was worth the hard work.

And I kept that lesson of clarinets and saxophones in mind. I came to learn that a lot of things in life could be separated into “clarinet” groups and “saxophone” groups. Some things come naturally to me and at first seem like the perfect fit. Math was like that. For a long, long time it was really, really easy. Only once I got to college did it get hard. Other things start off really hard and get progressively more comfortable as I go along. And that's writing for me—difficult from the start, so I knew that I must really love it if I was willing to deal with all that difficulty right away. But regardless of whether something is a “clarinet” or a “saxophone,” if it's worth doing, at some point it will be challenging.

I think relationships are like that too. Sometimes we meet people and immediately hit it off and feel that click. Everything is rosy and the other person can do no wrong. The rose-colored glasses can sometimes stay on for a really long time. But eventually, they're going to come off. Something the other person does is going to rub us wrong. Something they say won't ring so well in our ears. And suddenly the relationship isn't so easy.

Other times we meet people we have no spark with. We have nothing in common, and their personalities are grating, and given a choice between talking with them and eating dinner with a hyena, we'd pick the hyena. But sometimes, whether through circumstance or simply being in proximity day after day, we come to find a lot of good in these people. We find that we love them in spite of all those things that originally annoyed us... and maybe we even start to love the very things that used to drive us crazy.

I guess all this is on my mind because right now I've got a lot of “clarinet” people and a lot of “saxophone” people in my life. So maybe this post is for them.

To all the “clarinets”: Some of us still have on the rosy glasses, and that's cool—let's enjoy that for a while. It's fun.

But some of us are starting to take the glasses off. And that's a little scary. I don't know if you'll like what you see in me when they come off. Maybe you'll notice one of my many bad habits and start to flinch every time it happens. Or maybe something you originally liked about me will start to get on your nerves. Maybe I'll start to feel that way about you too. But listen, if you're still willing to be friends with me, then I'm not letting go of you.

And to all the “saxophones”: I already like you more than you probably think I do. Because I know that even if nothing about us seems to work right now, the future has a lot of potential. Maybe one day we'll click. Maybe not. Either way, keep being you. In some way or another, you're awesome, even if I can't see it right now.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Maryland Renaissance Festival

Have you ever been to a really big Renaissance fair? I went to one this past Saturday in Maryland and had a fantastic time. Here are some of the highlights:


One of the first things I did there was go to a music show by the group Wolgemut. It consists of four guys: two on drums, one on a short pipe and one on German bagpipes.

See that guy in the back on the red drum? You can kind of see from the picture that he's got this lazy swagger while he plays the drum. The guy on the far left is the leader of the group, and he puts on a good show. His stage name is Micha. The word Wolgemut apparently means “having a good time,” and he seems to embody that word.

Toward the end of the performance Micha made me get up and dance to one of the songs. My husband got some pictures, perhaps hoping to embarrass me, but they mostly came out pretty blurry, so I guess I'm safe.

One of the most interesting parts of the show was when they invited a jester up to the stage and had him play a saw like a fiddle.

It had the strangest sound, but I suppose this is actually kind of a thing. Here's a video to give you something of an idea.

Other Performers

Over the course of the day I also saw a joust, a Shakespeare parody and some acrobats. The acrobats were probably the most fun.


Of course, one of the main attractions is the abundance of craftsmen everywhere. I saw a lot of great items, but didn't end up buying anything myself. My favorite was probably the glass blowers. They did a demonstration, and then I browsed through their collection.

All in all, lots of fun! Have you ever done something similar?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Last weekend I went to King's Dominion for a few hours. The weather turned out to be cold, and my husband and I weren't really up for riding roller coasters, but we did make it to a few of the attractions. The last thing we did was ride to the top of the “Eiffel Tower,” a replica of the original at one third the height of the actual monument in Paris.

Now... my greatest phobia is a fear of heights. Even completely caged at the top, I shuddered a little bit looking down. I can't help imagining something catastrophic happening to make me tumble all the way to the ground.

One of the other rides at KD is the “Xtreme SkyFlyer,” basically a bungee jump, and while I was at the top of the “Eiffel Tower” I watched as a man was pulled up more than 100 feet and then released. And as he swung down I felt my own stomach drop to my knees.

I have such a strong physical reaction even to the idea of falling. I get a little dizzy just watching other people experience an extreme height. So this video makes me sway a bit every time I see it:

Pretty insane, right? I mean, really... free climbing? How crazy is that?

And yet I keep coming back it. I keep feeding that phobia. Because I don't feel only fear—I feel fascination too.

Is there anything like that for you? A phobia that you can't stay away from? Why do you think that is?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Some days everything just goes right. You get up, the sun is shining, you feel motivated, you get to work, things come together, progress happens. And usually progress feels really good.

Then other days... you run into this guy:

This (in case you didn't notice the underlined name) is Procrastinatron. He's the procrastination robot monster I like to blame for all those times I “just don't wanna.”

Most of the time you can kind of tell he's coming. He loves rainy days. He loves afternoons when you've just eaten a huge lunch. He loves Mondays. He really loves Fridays. If you turn your head quickly enough sometimes you can see him out of the corner of your eye.

But sometimes he sneaks up on you, and those days are the worst. Because maybe you got up and it was sunny and you felt motivated... and then as soon as you tried to be productive, Procrastinatron struck.

He's not very nice.

And sometimes it feels like you're stuck in a cage match with him and all you can see are his big, meany eyes and his angry, grindy teeth.

But today Procrastinatron is going down! Already today the score is Audrinator (that's me): 1, Procrastinatron: 0. And you can beat up on him too! Don't hold back. Show no mercy!

Let's show the procrastination monster that he can't get the best of us!

Friday, September 9, 2011

You Tell Me...

Which of these should I read next? My to-read list is growing, so I'm curious to know if any of you would recommend any of these in particular:

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

Compulsion by Heidi Ayarbe

Harmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly

Hourglass by Myra McEntire

Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann

Slice of Cherry by Dia Reeves

Human.4 by Mike A Lancaster

Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach

Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M Valente

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

Miss Peregrin's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Any thoughts? Let me know!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ice Cream

It's September now, and for me, that means ice cream season!

Every year I go to a tailgating event in September. The food is so so amazing. Everybody goes all out. So last year I decided that I would put my ice cream maker to good use since, in the five years I'd had it, I'd never tried it. The results were fantastic. The ice cream maker came with a bunch of good recipes, and everybody loved stopping by our tailgate (especially since it was a hot day).

Well, this year I'm planning to do the same, but because I can only make about a quart at a time, I have to make ice cream pretty much every day between now and the event. Fortunately the vanilla, which I'm planning to make the most of, isn't that hard to prepare, but some of the other recipes are.

My favorite recipe is a chocolate espresso “gelato” (I'm not entirely sure why it qualifies as gelato, but that's what it's called in the recipe book) that I find almost irresistible. I made some of it yesterday and it was even better than I remembered. I normally don't even like coffee that much. (I know, that's almost blasphemy for a writer.) But somehow the espresso in the ice cream makes it ten times better.

The other one I really like is strawberry frozen yogurt—though don't let that fool you into thinking it's the least bit healthy—because it uses real strawberries. Perhaps I should search for some other good recipes online.

Have you ever made ice cream? What are your favorite flavors?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Book Recommendation: Texas Gothic

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Rosemary Clement-Moore. One of the wonderful things about going to ArmadilloCon every year is that in addition to getting to see her, I also get to buy her latest book and read it on the plane home. Last year was The Splendor Falls. This year, Texas Gothic.

Now I'd gotten to experience the opening chapters at Rosemary's reading, which was so much fun. There's nothing quite like enjoying a story about a girl named Amy Goodnight, who's running across a field in her underwear to yell at a cow, being read in the delightful Texas twang in which it is meant to be heard. I was grinning all through the reading.

And the lighthearted humor last throughout the entire book. There were quite a few moments on the plane ride when I had to hold in my laughter. When I came to the line “Don't ever trust anyone who's writing a book. They make up lies for a living,” well, let's just say it's a very good thing I didn't have any soda in my mouth at the time.

The story is about a girl from a family of kooks and kitchen witches who is trying so very hard to be normal. Too bad the ghost living next door to her aunt's farm—where she's house sitting—has other plans for her. And, oh yeah, the guy whose property the ghost is haunting just so happens to be a hot cowboy whom she can't decide whether she loves or hates.

As usual, Rosemary has given us a cast of dynamic, lovable characters. Amy and the cowboy Ben play off each other very well, and the scenes in which they're both together really come to life. I also particularly liked Amy's sister Phin: brilliant, a touch absentminded and endearingly unaware of how crazy her paranormal technology seems to everyone around her.

The plot moves along well and kept me turning pages pretty quickly. And the details of Amy's world added a lot to the story. I loved Aunt Hyacinth's potions, Phin's gadgets, Uncle Burt's rocking chair and cousin Daisy's wardrobe choices.

The only disappointment is knowing I have to wait another year or so before reading the next RCM book. But one thing's for sure: I'm going to love it when I do.