More Than Meh

A blog about the good things of life.

Baltimore April 28, 2015

Filed under: Baltimore — dwhren @ 4:47 pm

I have thought long and hard about writing this post and gone back and forth on it. Certainly nothing I’m about to write about is making me happy, but this is the space I have created for extended thoughts online so here it lives. I moved to Baltimore just shy of fifteen years ago to go to graduate school. I never planned to stay once I was done with school, but here I remain thirteen years after I vowed to leave. Baltimore has become my city and my home. It’s doubtful I’ll ever leave. I have seriously thought in the past few weeks unrelated to anything that has happened in the news recently about where else I would be willing to move, and ultimately I really haven’t been able to come up with anywhere else I would rather call home.

What is currently happening in my city breaks my heart. I am heartbroken. I feel hopeless that there is a way that we are going to find a way out of this, this something that has its roots in things that are so systemic and go back so far that it’s hard to imagine change can come. I feel helpless because I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where I fit in or how I can help. I recognize that the Baltimore I get to live in is not a Baltimore that many of this city’s residents know. It’s not right. It has never been right, and I understand why we’ve ended up where we are. It doesn’t mean I’m not devastated to see the city I love being destroyed.

I’ve spent more time following the situation on Twitter and Facebook than is probably healthy. I’ve seen so many posts and Tweets and ReTweets from people in Baltimore, but also from people who aren’t and many whom I’m guessing have never set foot in this city. Everyone has opinions and everyone thinks they are right. I watched a lot of love, but I’ve also seen a lot of hate and lack of compassion. I’ve seen people slammed for expressing their opinions both in support of the residents of Baltimore who are acting out their frustrations and for those supporting the law enforcement on the ground. There is hate and hurt and anger and fear on all sides, and it makes me sad that we have forgotten that every single one of these people is a fellow human with human emotions both good and bad. One of the reasons I seriously thought about not writing this was because I didn’t want to have to deal with the fall out from both sides of people telling me I’m wrong and I don’t understand and all the myriad other things that I’ve seen over the past few days.

I decided I don’t want to stay silent though. I have no answers. Mostly all I have is hurt. I don’t know where my place is. I don’t live in these neighborhoods. Even though many of these places are not far from me, I don’t live what these people live. I’ve seen posts from white people who want to show their support and go in and help and I’ve seen posts from black people asking the white people to not try to come in and play savior. I don’t know what the right answer is. Doing nothing seems wrong, but so does jumping in the middle of something that isn’t my fight and I will never have a way to truly understand because I have never lived it.

So I will continue to pray for Baltimore and all the people in it. I will pray for peace and for reconciliation and a way forward that is better than the way we’ve come from. I will stay in the city I love. I will continue to stay in the city and not move out to the county despite higher property taxes and worse services. When Mondawmin Mall, the site where the worst riots started, reopens I will continue to shop there just as I did before. I will continue to support organizations in this city that are fighting to make it a better place each and every day. I love Baltimore and I stay because I believe in it. I don’t know what the next few days and weeks will bring, but whatever it may be I will be here. At the moment I don’t know what else to do, but that’s what I have to offer for now. It may not be enough. I know it’s not.

 

Songs I Love: Pray to God by Calvin Harris Featuring HAIM April 23, 2015

Filed under: Music,Pop Culture,Songs I Love — dwhren @ 7:54 am

The thing about Calvin Harris is that his best songs are the ones where he collaborates with female artists. His newest collaboration with HAIM, a band composed of three sisters is no exception. I think one of the things that makes the songs so great is that they really, truly do seem to be collaborations. They are all very obviously songs written by Calvin Harris, but they all also have the sensibilities of the artists he is collaborating with as well. If you listen to his songs with Rihanna, Florence Welch, and Ellie Goulding you also feel as if you could very well be listening to songs they wrote as well. It’s not just him writing a song and then finding a female voice to sing the vocals. The same goes for “Pray to God”. If you are familiar at all with HAIM’s work you can tell around the part of the song that kicks in at the 2:42 mark that this song really is a marriage of what Calvin Harris and HAIM do, which is what makes it wonderful. I finally just heard this song getting some radio play this week. I love it, and hope to hear it a lot more this summer.

 

Younger April 21, 2015

Filed under: Television — dwhren @ 1:06 pm

As you know I’ve been complaining that with the death of shows like Hart of Dixie there is a dearth of just fun, entertaining television shows out there. Happily there is actually a new show on TV that is doing a pretty good job of filling that place in my heart. It’s on TVLand though, so I won’t be surprised if you aren’t actually familiar with it.

The show is Younger and it stars Sutton Foster and Hilary Duff. The premise of the show is a little goofy. Sutton Foster is a 40 year old woman who is getting divorced and needs to re-enter the workplace but finds she has a hard time finding a job. After being mistaken for someone who is 26 she decides to fake her age and manages to land a job at a publishing house. Hilary Duff plays her co-worker. You obviously have to be able to get past the ridiculous idea that anyone would actually buy that Sutton Foster is 26 years old, but if you can do that the show is a lot of fun.

I’ve been a long time fan of Sutton Foster. I’ve seen her on Broadway multiple times and I still shed a little tear about the cancellation of Bunheads. It’s delightful to have her back on my television in a show that so far I’m really enjoying. I have no idea how the ratings for this show are, but I’m betting the bar is pretty low for TVLand shows to get renewal so I’m hoping to have this one around for awhile. Update: Before I even got the chance to post this I saw that the show was renewed for a second season, so hooray!

If you haven’t seen it yet, I’m pretty sure that at least as of the writing of this all the episodes are available for free online, so check it out and then start watching on Tuesday nights.

 

Springtime in Baltimore April 20, 2015

Filed under: Baltimore — dwhren @ 8:52 am

It is no secret that I hate winter. Give me the warm weather over cold weather any time. As much as I love Baltimore for other reasons I do have to say that it doesn’t have the best weather. We have cold winters and usually stupid hot and humid summers with only a few weeks between them where the weather is actually nice. Those few weeks can be glorious though, and the fact that they are so hard won makes them even more special. The last few weeks Baltimore has been bursting out in color as the trees have gone into bloom along with the daffodils and tulips. I don’t ever remember living anywhere with so many flowering trees. The streets are just lined with gorgeous flowers right now. I love how they just appear out of nowhere too. One day the tree branches are just empty sticks and then you wake up the next morning and they are full of blossoms. It’s a glorious few weeks. Springtime in Baltimore also means tulips in Sherwood Gardens. The weather on Saturday was absolutely beautiful and I had intended to walk over there then, but my plans got derailed when friends called and asked if I wanted to meet them at the park with their kids. I did that instead. Sunday the weather was cooler, breezy, and cloudy but still nice enough to walk over. Seeing the tulips up in people’s yards made me figure this weekend was probably going to be their peak, so I wanted to make sure and make it over. I’m glad I did because I was right. As usual there were a few beds lagging behind, but probably about 80 percent of them were in full bloom. With the trees still holding most of their blossoms it was a beautiful sight, and the weather certainly didn’t put a damper on people getting out to see them because there were tons of people there. I can only imagine how crowded it must have been on Saturday. I know in a few more weeks things will be hot and sticky, but for now I will relish the beautiful flowers and the beautiful days.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Americanah Book Club April 12, 2015

Filed under: Books,Food — dwhren @ 8:16 pm

I hosted one of my book clubs this weekend. For this book club we always meet at someone’s house and the host prepares food that is somehow thematically tied to the book. Sometimes that is easier than others depending on how often food is talked about in the particular book you’re reading. My pick for book club was Americanah by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

This particular book club does thematic choices. Each person hosts once under a particular theme and then we pick a new one. This book was our first read for our current theme of non-American authors. The book is about a Nigerian woman who emigrates to the United States and then chooses to return to Nigeria after 15 years. It’s a really excellent book. I highly recommend it. I’ll eventually have a fuller review of the book on my book reviews blog once I catch up over there.

Anyway, most of the food the author mentions is the character’s experience eating American foods like hot dogs and McDonalds, none of which I was going to feed my book club. She did have one scene set around making coconut rice and chicken. I made the coconut rice from this recipe, which was delicious though I would skip the parboiling step as I thought the rice got too mushy though the flavors were great.

I used this recipe for the chicken. I’m sure I would have figured it out on my own, but the comments were super helpful to remind me use a splatter screen in all the steps. I’m sure it saved me a huge mess. That was a nice change from usual recipe comments which normally wind up being hundreds of people saying all the ways they changed the recipe such that it no longer resembles the initial recipe and is impossible to tell if that recipe is actually any good.

I was going to make fried plantains because she does mention plantains in the book, but I didn’t plan far enough ahead and all the plantains at the store were super green. I stumbled across bags of plantain chips in the international aisle though, so I was lazy and just got those. It wasn’t mentioned in the book at all, but I found a recipe for a Nigerian dessert called shuku shuku, and I made those. I also through together a salad that was in no related to Nigerian food nor the book, but I thought it might be nice to have something in the meal that wasn’t beige.

I think everything turned out pretty well, and we had a very lively discussion surrounding the book even though I’m the only one who wound up having enough time to finish it after we decided on the date fairly close to our actual meeting.

2015-04-11 15.22.03 2015-04-11 15.15.07

 

On Not Having Kids April 10, 2015

Filed under: Life — dwhren @ 1:23 pm

As someone who has actively made the choice to not have kids I’m a sucker for reading things about why people don’t have kids. I suppose as someone who is in the minority I like to try and feel like my decision is justified in some way. I still have yet to find one of these essays that I really identify with though. They usually wind up being about how someone has chosen something else instead of having children, feeling they’re too selfish, or feel like they would not be a good mother because they had a bad childhood or current mental/physical issues.

None of these reasons resonate with me. I haven’t chosen my career over children. I like my job, but I don’t feel like I would have to give it up if I had kids. If I had a desire to procreate I would do it without a second thought about my job. I had a great childhood with excellent parental role models, and while I have some medical issues they’re not so severe as to prevent me from taking care of a child. I’ll get to the selfishness issue in a minute.

For much of my life if you had told me I would actively make the choice to not have children I wouldn’t have believed you. For my entire life up until the point I went away to college I remember loving kids. I babysat all the time and would gravitate towards small children if they were in the room. I didn’t have many opportunities to interact with children after I left home for college, and then by the time I did again I somehow didn’t feel the same way about it.

At first I thought oh I’m young and I’m not ready to have kids yet. I always thought that maybe one day that feeling would kick in and I would want them. Most of my friends didn’t start having kids until pretty late. By that point I was pretty sure kids weren’t something I wanted for myself, but I thought maybe once all my friends have kids then things will change. They didn’t. I’m now rapidly entering the point in my life where if I did feel the need to procreate I would need to get on it. Aside from the understandable feeling that happens every once in awhile of what if I don’t and then I regret it, I don’t really feel like my biological clock is ticking and saying you need to do this. I’m much more afraid of accidentally winding up pregnant. I would deal with it, but I don’t want it.

I see my friends and family with their kids and know how they made the decision to have them. They wanted to create their families. They planned it. Some of them had to go to great lengths through fertility treatments, adoption, and/or the pain of struggling through miscarriages to make ti happen. I don’t have that desire. I don’t feel that want, and I feel like I should have that feeling if I choose to bring a life into the world.

One of the things I hear the most about people choosing not to have kids is that they are selfish. I understand in a way where it comes from, but I also think it’s crap. I get that if you’re any kind of decent parent you have to become selfless and put your children’s needs above yours. I don’t think that automatically makes anyone who doesn’t have kids selfish. I feel like it would be more selfish to have kids despite having at best ambivalent feelings about it and then possibly resenting that child. No kid wants to feel like they’re unwanted. And is it selfish for people who want kids to fulfill that desire by having them? I think the idea of selfishness in regards to having kids or not having kids is a poor one.

I feel like we’re at a point where people are defensive on both sides and trying to justify their decisions by saying their decision is the right or wrong way. I think whatever works for you is the right way. There are sacrifices on both sides. I know I’m missing out on some amazing joys by not having kids. I realize there is a kind of love that I will never experience that I hear parents talk about and I know has to be true because otherwise why would anyone ever put up with all the crap that goes along with being a parent? I get a freedom that parents don’t have to do what I want with my life, and most importantly I get sleep. Lots and lots of glorious sleep.

Although I don’t think I get it nearly as bad as many people, I still get asked about when I’m planning on having kids. Every time I hold a baby I swear someone says doesn’t it make you want one. No it really doesn’t. Quite the opposite in fact. I love my nieces and nephew and all my friends’ kids are suitably adorable, but hanging around with them and watching their parents I’m really glad I get to go home to my nice quiet house at the end of the night. I’m happy with my life and my choice to remain childless. I’m also happy for my friends and the wonderful families they are raising and that I get to be a part of their kids’ lives. No way is the right way as long as you’re doing what’s right for you.

 

Gossip Girl April 8, 2015

Filed under: Pop Culture,Television — dwhren @ 7:55 am

I spent the past 6 weeks or so binge watching the 6 seasons of Gossip Girl. I love me a good, soapy teen drama. I don’t think I’ve obsessively watched a show like this since I watched One Tree Hill a few years ago. I’ve binge watched any number of things since then, but none have hooked me with all the relationship drama since then. I had Gossip Girl on my list of things to watch for quite some time, but kept choosing other things over it. I recently decided I was in the mood for something that was bound to be relationship heavy with characters that I could ship.

I feel like I don’t really have any shows that I’m watching in real time that have good couple drama and I miss it terribly. The few shows in my rotation that once did are so far into their runs that the will they or won’t they relationships in them are all played out. Even the shows like Arrow that are still in the midst of theirs haven’t really grabbed my interest that much. I was starting to think maybe I was the problem, but watching Gossip Girl assuaged me of that notion. It really is the writing in the current shows and not me that’s the problem.

Pretty much Gossip Girl is nothing but relationships, love triangles, and ridiculous and unrealistic drama surrounding the New York society set on the Upper East Side. I loved it. Basically at this point this post is going to devolve into specific things I loved about the show, my feelings about the end, and some things I would have done differently if I was writing it. At this point if you don’t want to be spoiled about the specifics of the show you should stop reading. Also, I can’t imagine anyone who hasn’t also watched Gossip Girl caring about reading the rest of this, but at any rate read at your own risk.

Let’s start at the end shall we? I did enjoy the finale. I appreciated the way they brought back characters from previous seasons even if it was just quick reaction shots of them finding out that Dan was Gossip Girl. Showing Kristen Bell, who did the voiceover narration of Gossip Girl during its run was great too. Speaking of Dan as Gossip Girl I can live with that reveal. I like that much better than the short time in season five when we were supposed to believe it had been Georgina the whole time. It does make me want to go back and rewatch to see if things fit with him being Gossip Girl from the beginning. I do wonder if the writers had it planned that way the whole time or if they just picked someone when they realized they had to. Also as an aside it amused me that between the time Taylor Momsen was written out of the show and the finale she apparently gained enough clout to rate a with Taylor Momsen as Jenny Humphrey in the guest star credits for her one whole line of dialogue in the episode.

Obviously there was no doubt that Blair and Chuck and Dan and Serena would end up together in the end. I do think they did such a good job with putting Dan and Blair together that even though I know Blair and Chuck are the one true pairing I would have been happy if Dan and Blair had wound up together. The writers of this show were really good about making me like whatever permutation of couples they had going on at a given moment at least among the core cast. I was not always a fan of some of the side people they brought in during various seasons. I had never considered Dan and Blair as a couple until they first hinted at it at the end of season 4. I would have liked to actually see them go with it sooner in season 5 instead of dragging it out until almost the end of the season. I could have done without the whole ridiculous Louis storyline that took up most of that season. I would have preferred an entire season of a Dan/Chuck/Blair triangle with Blair actually the one really into Dan for awhile instead of him pining after her the whole season.

Speaking of love triangles from way back in the series, although I like Serena and Dan and am perfectly fine that they wound up together as I knew they would, I actually always sort of wanted her to wind up with Nate. I really liked them as a couple and wish the writers had gone back to that instead of having him date one ridiculous person after another in the last few seasons.

I was disappointed that Lily and Rufus didn’t wind up together in the end. In the first few seasons I was more interested in them getting together than any of the actual teenage couples on the show. I guess it makes sense that they didn’t end up together since it makes Dan and Serena’s relationship feel slightly icky, but I always liked them as a couple. Though I’m sure Rufus was happy with Lisa Loeb in the end, I am going to always pretend that William was only at the wedding because he’s Serena’s father and not because he and Lily were actually together.

And since we’re talking about the parents on the show, I really appreciated how they had actual story lines that were interesting and that I was invested in just as much as the teenagers. Too many teen shows just act like the kids don’t have parents or if they do they eventually get completely sidelined. See Vampire Diaries and the fact that every adult has now been killed off of that show. I really loved some of the parent-child relationships on the show. I loved Lily and Chuck’s relationship, and even though Eleanor was supposed to be a nightmare at the beginning of the show she and Blair settled down into a great dynamic. I also loved how Cyrus grew on Blair and became a second dad to her so much that she wanted him to help walk her down the aisle.

Overall I loved the show. It did falter some starting in season five when it brought in a whole new crop of characters after writing out Jenny, Vanessa, and Eric. I get how it no longer made sense to try and keep Jenny and Eric around now that everyone else had graduated from high school and they were still there, but I did miss Vanessa after she was gone. One Tree Hill lost some significant cast members after season six, but I felt like I bonded with the new cast members they brought in for the last three seasons to replace them. I never felt that way with the new characters on Gossip Girl. I never grew to like them that much and mostly just wanted them to go away so we could go back to focusing on the core cast.

I am sad that I’m done watching it now since I don’t know of anything else to replace it. I feel like I’ve already been through all the other teen dramas. The CW for which these kinds of shows used to be their bread and butter has now become the comic book network. I’m fine with that, but it doesn’t fulfill quite the same role in my life. Maybe there’s some ABC Family dramas out there that will fit the bill, though preferably I prefer to binge watches to be for shows that have completed their runs. If anyone has suggestions on what I should watch next, I’m open to them.