Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bloody Knuckles [Ellie]

This morning when I awoke there was still a little blood. Overnight, an angry, purple bruise the size of a silver dollar had bloomed over the knuckles of my right hand.

Last night, I was in a fight.

With my friend Annie and a punching mat.

Last night our Relief Society group hosted a self defense class. It was much more physical than I'd expected. We were punching, elbowing, kicking and making growling and hissing noises. Annie was my partner, and of her I'll just say that every time she wound up to deliver a blow, I wanted to run. Don't mess with her.

I don't think I worry more than the average woman about being attacked, but I do worry. Every time I walk to my car alone at night, I think about it. I feel a brief stab of fear, that could be me, every time I read about a lone woman being attacked.

I'm really proud of my bruise. I'll show you if you ask. Probably even if you don't. There was something very empowering in throwing those punches, so I threw them hard, and I liked it. It may be that I am getting old now and bruise more easily, but it also may be that I was KICKING SOME SERIOUS MAT.

Anyone know where I can find a used punching bag? I think I have some stored up aggression to get out. :-)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Thoughts on North Africa [Bryan]

It has been fascinating to watch the developments in North Africa this past month. I'm not sure how I should feel about any of it, considering my knowledge of Tunisia is basically nil, and my little knowledge of modern Egypt stops around the Carter administration. Who knows how it will all turn out (not like Iran, I hope). Still, it is hard not to be moved by the spectacle of courageous people working for real freedom. I think Will Wilkinson at the Economist sums up my feelings:
I admit that I am more than a little tempted to rain on the parade and note that Mr Mubarak's departure guarantees nothing and that it is not unreasonable to fear a turn for the worse. There's a tiny, stability-loving Burke on my shoulder, and I'm afraid he's no devil. All the same, for now I'm not listening. Well, I did listen a little, but I've heard enough. It is partly due to my Burkean worries that I feel the pessimist in me should just stuff it for now. Whether or not Egypt flowers into a model democracy, whether or not Egyptians tomorrow live more freely than Egyptians today, today they threw off a tyrant. The surge of overwhelming bliss that has overtaken Egyptians is the rare beautitude of democratic will. The hot blush of liberation, a dazzled sense of infinite possibility swelling millions of happy breasts is a precious thing of terrible, unfathomable beauty, and it won't come to these people again. Whatever the future may hold, this is the happiest many people will ever feel. This is the best day of some peoples' lives. The tiny Dionysian anarchist on my other shoulder is no angel, but I cannot deny that there is something holy in this feeling, that it is one of few human experiences that justifies life—that satisfies, however briefly, our desperate craving for more intensity, for more meaning, for more life from life. Whatever the future holds, there will be disappointment, at best. But there is always disappointment. Today, there is joy.
Others see this as a diplomatic masterpiece of the Obama administration:

At times I've been fairly critical of this president's handling of foreign policy, but credit must be given -- this Administration handled this situation about as deftly as possible. This was truly an American diplomatic tour de force.

From the beginning the White House was caught betwixt and between -- not wanting to be seen supporting the status quo, particularly when the winds of change seemed to be blowing in the direction of reform and yet at the same time not be seen as throwing a key ally under the bus.

And while obviously critics can point to individual mistakes ... on the whole this Administration did a really excellent job -- sending public signs that a crackdown would not be acceptable, working the military behind closed doors, trying to ensure a soft landing that wouldn't lead to violence, but still never backing down from the public position that an immediate transition to democracy (and not one in September) was the only acceptable course....

In a sense we helped throw Mubarak under the bus without directly delivering the push.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Giving exams [Bryan]

As I write this, my students are taking their midterm exam. It is fascinating to watch them as they are tested. You can see in their faces their trials and agonies, their epiphanies and ecstasies. You can see their thought processes, their minds churning. You can see when they remember the answer. Or when they give up. Some enter with confidence, and you can watch as their bravado disappears confronting the unexpected reality of the test. Others enter awash in apprehension, but work steadily and surely, with grim determination, to completion. As the students turn in their exams, some don't even want to look at you, out of shame, spite, or resentment, while others are beaming with accomplishment. Others, most really, just seem relieved to have it over.

It is strange knowing that you, a mere teacher, have dictated how these students have passed their last few days of study and toil. You have determined the level of their stress, you have tried their hopes, multiplied their sorrows. Such a work and a wonder.

I've joined the baking elite [Bryan]

I've always wanted to make my own bread, but have been rather intimidated by the whole endeavor. I remember my mom, covered in flour, laboring for hours on her bread, kneading the dough over and over with a rhythmic thump. Although her bread was truly wonderful, it seemed like a lot of work and time. We have a bread maker, to be sure, but I've never really been a huge fan of the bread it has produced.

This weekend, however, I took the plunge and baked some bread from scratch. It was a huge success. The crust was soft, crispy, and flaky, with great flavor and a substantial crumb. It was golden brown and possessed a wonderful, meaty texture. In short, it turned out just like what you would expect from a fine artisan bakery. I did it all without any stress or rhythmic thumping. (I have several witnesses, and they are free to comment here and verify that this is all true. If they do not agree, of course, and did not like my bread, they are NOT invited to comment.)

So, after baking just one loaf, I have joined the baking elite.

I wish I could take credit for any of it. Here is the secret recipe, though, and the accompanying article. The trick has to do with time and baking procedures. To get the crispy crust, apparently all you need to do is bake the dough sealed in a big pot. The pot lid keeps the moisture in, thus keeping the crust dough wet (as everyone knows, this moisture is the key to that crispy crust that all good bread has). Also, if you let the dough rise for a long time, apparently you don't have to knead it at all.

Friday, February 04, 2011

The Real Story [Ellie]

Eighteen months ago, my sister Anna and her husband Spencer and daughter Grace moved here to Columbus so Spencer could attend OSU. A lot of people have asked me longingly, when they find out I have a sister in town, what it's like. This expose--the real story of what it's like to have a sister living 10 minutes away--is long overdue.

Here's what it's like:
*It's having a running buddy/cheerleader/personal trainer all in one.
*It's being able to call someone because you're bored or lonely or frustrated and have them come over just to give you a hug.
*It's having someone to share dinner with when your husband works late.
*It's having family to visit with on Sunday nights, Thanksgiving, Christmas, baptisms, blessings, and birthdays for the first time in 10 years.
*It's learning, on a daily basis, what it's like to be someone else--someone like you, yet not.
*It's having someone around who loves your kids almost as much as you do and is more willing to play with them than you are.
*It's having a park date any afternoon you want one.
*It's talking every day with someone who's known you your whole life and still likes you.
*It's having someone who will come to your kids' soccer games and cheer.
*It's having someone to go shopping with.
*It's having someone who's willing to listen to every mundane detail of your life with interest and input.
*It's having someone who'll share with you the mundane details of her life.
*It's like having someone around who's always willing to help your husband move heavy objects and wire circuits (Bless you, Spencer!)
*It's having someone who will produce more babies for you to love when you are done producing them yourself.
*It's having someone who will tell you the truth about yourself.
*It's having another family to vacation with.
*It's almost like having a brown-eyed, brown-haired second daughter to love. (Grace, you're adorable!)
*It's having a built-in emergency babysitter.
*It's having someone who is interested in overanalyzing everything about your upbringing with you because they were actually there.
*It's having someone around who forgives you for being a jerk because, hey, you're in this for eternity.
*It's getting to talk on the phone with a toddler, whenever I want.
*It's having someone to confide in about the icky things in life--baby poop messes, bloating, birth control, times I have disappointed myself and others, runny noses, cramps, and vomit.
*It's someone around to share memories with--past, present, and future.

So, the real story is that I LOVE IT. I am so grateful that the Bardsleys made the decision to come to Columbus. My life, and the life of my family, is blessed every day because they are here.