Thursday, October 30, 2008


Willem's heart surgery has been tentatively rescheduled for Nov 11.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the two families of newborns who are in more urgent need of surgery than he is.

Go Figure

Up until a few weeks ago, Nels did not seem to enjoy drawing.  He has a very good vocabulary, nice manners, and is a whiz with Legos, but when it came to drawing, all he could do was write his name or draw a storm.  His storms look just like you'd imagine they might:  a mass of scribbles on a piece of paper.

I'm not one of those pushy parents who think their kids need to do everything and do it well, but it did make me a little bit sad that drawing didn't seem to be his thing AT ALL.  It seemed a little un-American for a kid not to like to draw.

Then, about three weeks ago, Nels said, "Mom, come see the picture I drew!"   I readied myself to be politely interested in the formless scribbles of yet another storm.

He led me to the Magna Doodle.  "Look!  There's a building on fire.  See the flames?  And there are people at the windows.  And here's the fire truck.  It has a ladder.  And a fireman driving it." 

I just about fell over.  His detailed elaboration wasn't even necessary, because I could easily tell what everything was.  

Now, I don't know if it was the magic of turning 5, or if it's due to all of the writing practice he's getting at school.  All I know is that he seems to enjoy drawing now.  And that makes me happy, because it is an inexpensive and portable way for a child to entertain himself throughout childhood.

I didn't think to take a picture of that first great drawing, but here are some recent ones; a battleship and a tank:

Now if only I could interest him in some less violent subject matter.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Not Impressed

"Look!  Don't the red leaves on the trees look pretty?" 

I am attempting to distract the boys, who have begun to bicker with one another in their car seats.

"It would be better if they turned shiny and golden."

Turns Out We Live By A Beach

A few weeks ago (when I was in Seattle?  I can't remember why I wasn't there), Shaun was keeping the boys occupied.  He told me that they'd visited a beach just a few miles away, and, despite the nice weather, there were hardly any people there.

I gave the "that's nice" nod and made a mental note to check it out some time.  Now, in my defense, I have not had much exposure to non-ocean beaches in my life.  To this point I've never lived near large rivers or big lakes.  In my mind's eye the beach they visited looked pretty much like the pebbly patch of land on the Columbia by our old rental house in Vancouver, only slightly bigger.  Believe me, I would not have been so nonchalant about his discovery had I realized it looked like this:

Look!  It's so...beachy!  Yes, my friends, let us add "beautiful beach on the Columbia River" to our list of enticements to get you to come visit us.  All three of the boys got to work immediately upon our arrival on Sunday afternoon.  The boys dropped to the sand as soon as they hit the beach.  That's Shaun in the back launching the kite.   

It wasn't until I reviewed the photos afterward that I noticed the boys were always playing TOGETHER in the sand and the water.  Finally, having them two years apart starts to pay off.  Oh, the mom-ish satisfaction.

Poor Willem has been so beach deprived that he would periodically stretch out in the sand, making full-body contact with it.  When I say full, I mean including his forehead.

Nels did a great job flying the kite.  Most of the time his tongue was hanging out.  He was very committed.

A little sand spit made a spectacular play spot.

Building a volcano, of course.

Once they were wet, the wind wasn't so fun.  This is Willem's "I'm cold and I'm done" face.

The fresh air felt good, but I was more than ready to return to the sofa and a box of Kleenex by the end of our outing.  And I'm still really excited that we live by a beach.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Obligatory Trip to the Pumpkin Patch

Don't get me wrong, I like the pumpkin patch.  But, let's face it.  One only goes there when one is a child or when one has a child.  Unless one works with children.

My boys had been looking forward to the pre-school field trip to Bi-Zi Farms (awful name, isn't it?) for weeks.  It was kind of a strange set-up.  The farm was only open to groups, so different school groups rotated from station to station:  hay bale maze (a Willem favorite because he got to participate right alongside The Kids, as he calls them), petting zoo, giant hay bale pyramid, hay ride out to the actual pumpkins and back.

This goat almost ate the camera when I was distracted by the adorable baby miniature goats.

Both boys bucked up and fed the aforementioned adorable baby miniature goats.  Nels giggled.

Willem spent some time in solemn contemplation of the goats.  He wasn't his usual exuberant self.

This was the second-favorite activity to the hay bale maze.  It had tunnels throughout, and I'm not sure that letting Willem disappear into the middle of this pile was one of my wiser parenting decisions.  Thankfully he emerged unscathed and unsquashed by any of the bigger kids.  

We saw corn.

Thankfully, the boys were happy to choose tiny pumpkins, as there were very slim pickings left this late in the season.  I took this photo in the only remaining area of intact pumpkins.  Mostly the ground was covered with large, rotting, caved-in pumpkins, and sunflowers in various states of decay.  Seriously, it was probably the most gruesome thing we're likely to see all Halloween season.  I was surprised that neither of my kids freaked out.  Nels did at one point say, "Mom...what's that?" while pointing to a sunflower head that had grown fuzz and then started to melt into a soupy pile.  Blech.  Nels is notorious for dragging his feet, and, true to form, he tripped on pumpkin vines a few times.  I was incredibly relieved to make it back to the wagon without having him fall into a pumpkin.  I can only imagine the blood-curdling scream that would have elicited.

Our two hours at the pumpkin patch ended, predictably, with a Willem meltdown.  Here is his futile attempt at stopping me from taking his picture. 

My throat wasn't feeling so great all day, and by the time I fed the kids lunch it was all I could do to put on a movie for them and crawl into bed.  I've had a nasty cold ever since.  I very rarely get sick enough that I just need to laze about for several days.  Fortunately I've had the World Series to entertain me.  And Shaun to take care of the kids.  Now he's feeling under the weather, but I figure I must be on the mend.  Just so Willem stays healthy and none of us are contagious by Nov. 4.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Is It Just Me...

Or does anyone else think that the teacher who designed this project for Nels's preschool should have considered doing without the tiny popsicle stick?

He's Three!

Oooh, I love that kid. Sorry to go all "Isn't my kid so adorable?" on you, but I couldn't resist the opportunity to post some pre-blog-era photos.

After the big party we threw for Nels, we decided to keep Willem's low-key by celebrating in the evening with his grandma, grandpa, and great-grandma. I fixed his favorite food for dinner--shrimp--but I needn't have bothered. Willem's not really into eating dinner these days. He did, however, manage to eat some of the pumpkin cake that he'd requested. Not pumpkin flavored; pumpkin-shaped. We made three small pumpkins by putting together mini bundt cakes and covering them with orange cream cheese frosting. Shaun piped on some jack o'lantern faces. About five bites in, Willem turned to me and said, "Thanks to make me the pumpkin cake, mom."

I have to confess that I was feeling particularly indulgent when shopping for Willem's birthday. I haven't written about it yet, but many of you know that Willem is going to be having heart surgery on November 4. The panel of cardiologists and surgeons who reviewed his case unanimously agreed that the tiny hole in his heart is having a negative impact on the aortic valve and that it needs to be closed up now in order to prevent future multiple valve replacements. They will be closing the hole and also removing a small area of enlarged muscle tissue that is partly obstructing blood flow through the valve.

I am not proud of my reaction to this news. I was pretty upset at first, then felt OK about it for a few weeks. For some reason Willem's birthday really set me off. I know people have heart surgeries all the time, and his is very routine, simple, and low-risk. But I just can't quite wrap my brain around this:

(WARNING:  the following description of open-heart surgery is not for the squeamish)

"The surgical closure of a VSD is carried out through an incision in the middle of the chest. The breast bone is split in the middle and spread apart to expose the heart. A heart-lung machine is used to do the work of the heart while the heart is cooled, stopped, emptied and opened, usually through the right atrium. The hole in the wall between the right and left ventricles is closed by sewing to it a patch of Dacron cloth or a patch of thin leather-like material called pericardium. The heart is then closed and restarted as the heart-lung machine is withdrawn."

It's kind of like how I (along with someone at The Onion) feel about flying. It's a safe, proven technology, and people do it all the time. But when I think about the reality of what's happening--safe or no, it freaks me out.

Don't worry, I'm not a basket case. Just discouraged that after a lifetime of practice, I'm not trusting God as readily as I would hope to. I've had a lot of good examples to follow lately, too. I'll write a more detailed post closer to the day with prayer requests if you are inclined to pray for us. For now, for those of you who enjoy a challenge, we gladly welcome any prayers that the hole would grow closed on its own before surgery. Hey--why not? It's not any crazier than flying high above the earth in a metal tube.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

It's Only A Matter Of Time

The Onion tells us what we have to look forward to.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

More Weekend Fun

Hoo boy, we had another great weekend. On Saturday, Shaun's parents were volunteering at the Tree Farmer National Convention Field Day, so we took the boys out to Camp Doneen to check it out.

It was a huge affair, with people attending from all over the country, and we had a great time. Loggers are some of the friendliest, most real people around. People would look at our name tags to see our names and where we were from so they could start up a conversation. What made it even more fun was that all Shaun had to say was "Did you know Chick Jensen? He was my grandpa." The reply was invariably "EVERYBODY knew Chick Jensen." I felt really proud just to have married into that legacy and tradition. But people were every bit as nice to us even before they knew of our tree farm/logging connection.

As an extra bonus, Shaun got to chat with Mike Pihl, one of the main "characters" of The History Channel's reality show Ax Men, which Shaun enjoyed following last season. We saw several of the guys from the show...but they weren't a featured part of the convention at all. They were just there, participating, because they're loggers. And yep, Mike Pihl said "everybody knew Chick Jensen."

Nels on the school bus shuttle to the tree farm.

Boys being cute in the woods.

The mechanized logging demonstration was incredible.  The power, size and agility of those machines made me feel like it's the closest I'll ever come to seeing dinosaurs.

Quite possibly the finest day in the woods ever.  

Cable logging is exciting too.

That night we went to Ariana and Jeff Mullins' house in Portland for their house's 100th birthday party.  It was just a wonderful evening.  All of their friends are lovely, and it was so much fun to meet people.  To be AMONG people.  Talking.  To adults.  Most folks had kids, and our boys spent the evening running all over the big yard with the other kids.  We all enjoyed a fire and some violin, mandolin and guitar music.

Really, Saturday was a highlight.  When it came time to put the boys to bed, I had a hard time singing them their bedtime songs.  My voice was all tired out from talking to people all day.

Sunday was not too bad, either.  In the late afternoon we went out to eat with some friends who were in town from Bend, and that evening I went out to dinner (Indian food) in Portland with my friend Heidi.  She only lives 20 minutes away from us--just one exit past Ikea!  After dinner we went back to her adorable Tudor revival house and enjoyed a cup of tea and a visit, made all the more enjoyable by the knowledge that all our little kiddos were fast asleep.

I ended the weekend pleasantly overwhelmed.  Spending all my time with my two kids (and not being involved in-depth at church for a while) has left me extremely out of practice when it comes to socializing.  I was grateful for the crash course.

p.s. Hrumph, as my sister might say.  I meant to make the photos bigger.  Make sure you click on the one of the sun shining on the leaves to see the forest in all of its glory.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Tag--I'm It. And So May You Be, If You Wish To.

My friend Jana has tagged me at her blog.  Here are the rules:

1.  Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
2.  Share 7 random and/or weird facts about yourself.
3.  Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
4. Let each person know they've been tagged by leaving them a comment on their blog.

So, here are my 7 random and/or weird facts about myself:

1.  I used to take autoharp lessons.

2.  My grandma used to send us boxes of nylon underwear she'd sewn herself, taking "granny panties" to a whole new level.

3.  I can't resist a hot beverage-- On cool days I drink coffee or tea all day long (decaf after 1:00.)  No sweet, flavored coffee drinks, though.

4.  I've been to 14 countries.  (Airport layovers don't count.)

5.  I got lost at Universal Studios.  In my car.

I had volunteered to help with the production of an AFI "Women in Film" student film.  My first duty was to pick up some bagels and drive across LA to Universal Studios, where, with a poorly photocopied map, I was to find my way to the street where the house from Psycho was.  

My first surprise was that there are no hidden, secret ways to get around Universal Studios.  All the roads were the ones used by the tour trams.  I drove through the deserted Old West and a snowy city streetscape before encountering an extremely irate tram driver with a tram full of passengers.  

As approximately 50 Japanese tourists leaned out of the tram to get a photo of the excitement (me), I got out of the way as best I could, and, red-faced and flustered, made the first turn I could find.  Suddenly I was driving over water.  And the scene was hauntingly familiar.  Ah, yes.  Now I could place it.  It was just like that time when I was a toddler and my grandma (the one who made my underwear) took me to UNIVERSAL STUDIOS and JAWS came at us out of the lagoon.  Yes, that was it.  As the water lapped at my tires, I said a fervent prayer that Jaws wasn't activated by a motion-sensor.

By the time I finally arrived at the set, I was fighting back tears and shaking so badly I could barely get out of my car.  Hollywood is every bit as tough as they say it is.  

6.  The one time I rode in an ambulance (going directly from the airport in New York to a hospital in Queens after getting food poisoning my last day in Zambia but being mistakenly treated for malaria), the siren was broken.  I was sorely disappointed.

7.  My worst job ever was being a food server at a convalescent home.  My second-worst job?  Receptionist at a siren factory.

So, there you have it.  I'm going to break the rules of the game a bit, as I generally don't like to tag people.  I'm going to list everyone from my blogroll and some of you I've been meaning to add.  If you care to participate, I'd love to know 7 things about you.  If you prefer not to--that's fine too.  And if you don't have a blog or don't feel like dedicating a post to this, feel free to leave us some random/weird facts about yourself in the comments.  Have fun!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Some Enchanted Weekend - Or A Really Long Post That You Can Feel Free to Skip If You Don't Care What I Ate In Seattle

My (not so) inner pessimist thought it sounded too good to be true:  my friend Amanda would be attending a conference in Seattle and suggested that I come up to meet her.  We could hang out Saturday night and Sunday afternoon before she had to fly back to Boise.

Well, of course I was in.  I combated my anxiety about driving around an unfamiliar city with some meticulous planning.  Thank you, Internet.  First I mapped the hotel where we were staying.  I then used the "City Guides" at Design Sponge to find a neighborhood near the hotel that had interesting shops and restaurants.  I picked a few places to eat and printed out directions to and from the hotel and our various destinations, including our final stop at the airport.

I finally hit the road at about 11:00 on Saturday.  It was a beautiful day.  No traffic to speak of.  Clear, but not so sunny as to make one squint.  I usually find my eyelids getting heavy about an hour into a drive (30 minutes if I'm the passenger), but I was wide awake.  Why, hello majestic Mt. St. Helens.  Good day to you, three bald eagles soaring on a thermal high above my golden minivan.

And that was just the start of good things.  I didn't get lost.  I found a parking space with a working pay box in my target area.  The place where I'd planned to eat had just stopped serving, so I ended up somewhere even better.  Eating at Cafe Presse was like being in France except that I could understand the waitstaff.  Do take a gander at their menu.  I had the red cabbage salad with potatoes, goat cheese and walnuts in a whole-grain mustard vinaigrette.  Oh, was it good.  They must have soaked the cabbage, because it was amazingly crisp and juicy.  I had a glass of French white wine (for only $3.50!) so good that it reminded me of how I came to love wine in the first place.  As a bonus, they were playing a great Hot Chip album, start to finish.  One hour in, my Seattle weekend rated an "exceeds expectations."

I wandered on down the street, and, though I didn't make a love connection with any of the shops on my itinerary, I happened right by the Bluebottle Art Gallery and Store, which I couldn't believe I had the good fortune to encounter by accident.  The shop was filled with prints that I've seen online many times, and it was such a thrill to see them in person.  It's the fun kind of gallery/shop, where nothing is so prohibitively expensive that one couldn't at least consider buying anything one liked.  Some of it was downright cheap.  I bought myself an early birthday present (an enamel pendant necklace depicting two red toadstools) and ran back up the hill to arrive at my car just before my allotted two hours was up.

Amanda was done early, so by then it was time to head back to meet her at the hotel, which turned out to be fairly close and easy to get to.  Alas, things didn't go quite as smoothly for my friend.  A fellow conference attendee offered to drop her off at the hotel and instead left her at a bank that turned out to be about 10 blocks away.  Of course Amanda, without a map, had no way of knowing that.  The two of us tried to figure it out over the phone until she finally decided to stop at a Starbucks and have me come get her.  Armed with a description of the building, I headed down the hall and into the glass elevator...and saw the building she had described, catty-corner across the street.  Hilarious for me, less so for her.

Cafe Presse had been such a success that we made it our first stop for the evening.  We had the chicken liver terrine with dried cherry compote.  It was served with cornichons, grainy mustard, and all the baguette we could eat.  A glass of delicious red wine each and we split the bill--it came to less than $8 per person.  I think I shall move to Seattle just for Cafe Presse.

We moved on to the popular gastropub Quinn's.  We learned that finding parking in Capital Hill on a Saturday night is no mean feat.  We asked the waiter what the "must have" dishes were; and that is how I came to try sweetbreads for the first time.  It's hard to go wrong with a plate containing fresh corn, cream, and lardons (small bacon nuggets), and the sweetbreads did not disappoint.  Also delicious were the scallops on pumpkin risotto.

The next day brought more sunshine and more eating.  We ventured outside of Capital Hill for the first time to the neighborhood of Madison Valley (lovely is the only word for it) and the amazing Cafe Flora.  The Hamiltons have made dishes from the restaurant's cookbook but hadn't eaten there.  In yet another "how much better could it get?" moment, we were seated in an atrium room that was edged with tables.  One small table for two sat in the middle of the room next to a natural stone fountain.  Our table.  There I had one of the best breakfasts I've ever eaten.  We shared a "hunter's scramble" of eggs with chantarelles, squash, and gruyere, and a plate of black-eyed pea hush puppies with spicy greens and creamy cheese grits.  I'll spare you the adjectives.

We had a few hours left and Amanda was wanting a haircut, so she asked the waitress if there was a Rudy's nearby.  (I hadn't heard of it; It's like Supercuts for cool people.)  There was, and we followed the waitress's directions...right back to the area of Capital Hill we'd become very familiar with.  Rudy's was almost directly across the street from the Bluebottle Gallery, which I'd had to dash out of the day before.  So we paid that a visit and then finished off our Seattle trip with a haircut for each of us.  Nothing tops off a relaxing Sunday like a good shampoo.

We hadn't left time for traffic, and thankfully there wasn't much going our direction.  I dropped off Amanda at the airport on time and made my way onto the 5 without getting lost.  I cannot stress enough how remarkable this is.

I couldn't bear the thought of my adventures coming to an end (meaning I didn't want to get home in time to put the kids to bed) so I followed a sign off the freeway and made an impulsive stop at a McMenamins at the 100 year-old Union Hotel in Centralia.  I'd never been there before, so seeing that was good fun.

I made it home without incident, thankful that I live within driving distance of such a great city as Seattle and even more thankful that I have a husband who encourages such gallivanting.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Just Checking In

Nels is equipped with his cowboy gun and is using his "man" voice.

"Is there any progress with your soul?  Is there any trouble?"

Who's Hungry?

I just got distracted in the middle of writing a long post by making plans to go to dinner.  Of course I immediately had to do some preliminary online investigating to find a restaurant that would do.  If money were no object, this is what I'd be eating on Sunday night.

Busy All At Once

What's better than a giant spinning wheel?

A big tray of sand, rocks, and water, that's what.

Do your lives go this way?  Long periods of interminable boring-ness followed by activities piled in one on top of the other?  I wish there were some way to keep the fun from happening in clumps.  I had to actually miss things I really wanted to do (baby shower, free ticket to a women's conference) because I ALREADY HAD PLANS.  WRITTEN ON THE CALENDAR.  Very unusual.

Two weeks ago we had a really fun day with a friend from California and her kids.  Judy was free while her husband was working (he's a photographer, and you must check out their website), so we met up at Bob's Red Mill for breakfast.  I have purchased many of their delicious grain products before, never realizing that the red mill on the label is not a marketing fabrication but an actual place.  A place that serves darned good breakfasts.  As a bonus, the boys were mesmerized by the mill wheel.

After that, we were off to OMSI (that's Oregon Museum of Science and Industry for you out-of-towners.)  The kids had a fantastic time and ran themselves ragged in the "science playground," which was a deluxe compilation of everything a pre-schooler might want to busy himself with:  super-fancy giant sandbox with wall-mounted sifters, shovels, and tractors?  Check.  Huge waterways at waist level with protective aprons and rubber boots provided?  Check.  Squirrel vests with tails, giant plastic acorns, and hollow tree trunks?  Check.  It was glorious.   

Other big hits included the paleontology area (yes, there were dinosaur bones and a fully assembled saber-toothed tiger skeleton) and a salmon habitat area where the boys could move rocks, sand and trees around.

Had I been a more conscientious mother and checked out the exhibits ahead of time, we probably would have skipped the human sciences section.  It was very interesting, but geared toward slightly older kids.  The boys were unprepared for life-sized drawings of a baby in utero, and I was unprepared for a transparent life-sized human figure.  It was pretty spectacular, elevated so the knees were at adult eye level.  Several irresistible buttons did things like rotate the figure and illuminate organs and systems.  When Willem found the button that caused the figure's breasts to light up green, I figured it was time to move on.  But we'll go back.  We still haven't toured the submarine in the river just outside.

That weekend our friends The Hamiltons of Idaho These Days But We're Trying To Get Them To Move West came for a visit.  During the day Amanda took her art students to do art things, and Andrew and Esly hung out with us.  In the evening we put the kids to bed and ate some lentil soup and listened to some good music (play list courtesy of Andrew) and enjoyed one another's company.

For me, that would already have been about three months' worth of activity.  But the next week I got to see my friend Heidi and her two little girls.  They came over to play for a few hours.  Now, Heidi is my friend from high school, and I haven't seen her since we graduated in 1990.  The last I knew (about 8 or 9 years ago), she was in West Africa in the Peace Corps.  Then I signed up for Facebook and found her...and found out she had just moved to Portland this year and lives about 20 minutes away from us.  Oh, crazy life.

LAST weekend I had the most fun of all, a fun so fun that it deserves its own post.

I hope I haven't been hogging it all.  I hope you've been having some fun too.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Our Neighborhood Garfield

Our next door neighbor has an overweight, sullen-looking orange cat that lumbers around the neighborhood.  I frequently see it napping under our shrubs or standing outside our windows, taunting our indoor cat by staring fixedly at her with a completely blank expression.  It is a cat with no apparent redeeming qualities.

Speaking of which, this seems a good time to point you to this site:  Garfield Minus Garfield.  It will forever be a mystery to me why I didn't skip over Garfield when I read the comics every day growing up.  Its success despite its unfunny-ness completely baffled me.  Fortunately, some kind soul has seen fit to help me with my Garfield issues by taking him out of the strip.  It's still not funny, but it's much improved.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Shaking the Bee Out Of My Bonnet. Part II

"Getting Paid to Talk" with the producer from Voice Coaches was a very different experience from the other class, though the format was the same.  As were five of the seven students.

This time our teacher was from Long Island, and he had a lot of east coast energy.  I am the most insecure person in the world, so it's possible that he wasn't actually putting a thin veneer of amiability over a core of disdain and condescension, but that's how he struck me.  I felt incredibly unsure of myself.

The message was also a lot more manipulative.  (Note the aforementioned title of this class.)  There were multiple disclaimers:  "It's not glamorous, you won't get rich, it's hard, it's not for everyone, I'M not for everyone" but all of the anecdotes were of average people who stuck with it and in the end found outrageous success.

On the bright side, he went over some very basic things that hadn't been covered in the other class...the proper lingo, who you'd be working with, what it's like when you go out on a job.

This time we recorded a lot more, and it did not go so well for me.  I was really flustered.  He recorded our first cold reading and then recorded us again, giving direction.  It didn't help that we were sitting down and had to lean into the mike.  Also try to make your voice lower and breathier while reading with a big smile on your face.  It's harder than it sounds!

But, hey, I don't have to write any more about that part because you can hear it for yourself.  With our permission, he was recording for a podcast, which you can find here.  (It's the visit to Vancouver.)  My group was in the second half, so feel free to fast forward.  It's pretty short, but a little goes a long, long way.  Also keep in mind that the account given in the podcast of how we were coached is only loosely based on what actually happened in class.  (IE not entirely true.)

I left feeling discouraged.  I'd been too nervous to relax enough to follow direction well.  How could I know if I'd ever get over that?  We were asked if we wanted a feedback call the next day, and of course we all did.  We were warned that it would be brutally honest.  (Making one all the more likely to sign up for their program if one is not told one stinks.  They're clever.)

Well, let me tell you, that phone call was one of the most surreal experiences of my life.  It was from a man who's been doing broadcasting and voice work for over 40 years.  "Hello!  Would this be Gypsy Martin?"  He said my voice had good tone and warmth and then moved on to what kind of ads they would cast me in.  The funny thing was that after each category, he would launch into a demonstration in the appropriate announcer voice.  It was so having a conversation with the MovieFone man.

They would use me for:

-high end luxury brands like Mercedes and Godiva (the word sensual was in there somewhere, but I was too overwhelmed to remember everything.

-exotic travel destinations

-character voices for children's books, toys, or video games

and-I kid you not- he said, "John thinks you would be VERY VERY good with MYSTERIOUS material.  Like a Stephen King book or a short work by Edgar Allen Poe."   

Making the conversation even weirder was this fellow's use of the English language.  It was like he'd been reading someone else's words for so long that he'd forgotten how to put them together himself.  Like "mysterious material."  That's odd.  He would also periodically boom "enCETra, enCETra."  He was fully committed to this novel pronunciation of the word etcetera.  Really, it was the most delightful sales call I've ever received in my life.

So, the jury's out.  Yes, I would love to do it, and I would be perfectly happy to have boring work like training videos or phone messages.  But I don't want to waste time and money if I wouldn't be good at it, and I haven't figured out how to figure that out.  I certainly didn't have anywhere near the most interesting voice in the class of just seven, but all sorts of voices are needed.  Perhaps if a big pile of money falls into my lap, I'll take it as a sign.

Friday, October 10, 2008

In Case You Don't Have Your Own Almost 3-Year Old...

They always have to have the last word:

"Don't touch your bottom."

"I'm not.  I'm touching my buttocks."

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Shaking the Bee Out Of My Bonnet? Part I

OK, so here's the thing.  Those voice over "classes" were each taught by people who work for national companies that offer voice training/coaching and demo producing.  So, while neither teacher gave us the hard sell, even trusting li'l ol' me suspected these folks weren't spending an evening in a portable classroom in Vancouver for the pure love of education.  The experience didn't scream "Hey, suckers!" quite as much as those classified ads in the paper that say "Actors/Models Wanted," but it was still a little disappointing.

Intro to Voice Over was taught by the very energetic Lisa Foster.  She's spent her entire career on the west coast, and she immediately put me at ease.  Or, as at ease as I could be.  I was really nervous.

There were only 6 students.  Two had been to broadcast jounalism school over 20 years ago, one was told by friends she had a great voice (an older lady, and she did), one was turning 50 and wanted to "do something for herself" and one was a man whose wife signed him up because she thought he had a nice voice.  And me, of course.

At the end of the class (which didn't cover any voice stuff, just what it's like to work in voice over), we had a chance to record.  Parts were assigned randomly, and I was annoyed to get three sappy daughter lines when some of the other folks got marginally funny material.  Oh well.   My copy was so basic that I didn't need much coaching, so I didn't really get nervous.  When Lisa played it back, I was pretty amazed to hear what my voice sounded like.  I still don't love it, but I can accept it.   

Lisa emailed feedback to us later that night.  "Gypsy has a sweet youthful sound that is fun and friendly - easily the best talent in class, with a very marketable voice. A pleasure to listen to!"

I tell you, I was on cloud nine for several hours.  Lisa had played us her demo that she'd produced herself, and I was really impressed by it. It was very professional, and she was very talented. I figured if someone as good as she was thought I was good, then maybe I was good.

Over the next few days, I became somewhat deflated.  I visited the site of the company she works for and realized that the evening had mostly been about drumming up business.  And I wondered about myself.  Had I given a good performance because not much was required of me?  How would I do with other people and a different teacher?  Could I in fact take direction well?  I figured that going to the next class (basically the same thing, but with a teacher from another company) would give me a little more to go on.  I was excited about the possibilities, but not ready to plunk down a few thousand dollars for a demo based on what I'd seen so far.

 I leave my very different second class experience for the next post.  I WILL say this:  my sister Hillary was totally right.  Checking this out did nothing to quell my interest in looking into voice over.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Boys Are Odd

"Mmmm, I can't wait to sink my wet teeth into that yummy pizza."

"Wet teeth?"

"Yeah, the spit makes them wet."


Well, I'm off to my second voice over class.  When I get back I'll let you know how both classes went.