Thursday, December 29, 2005

Vacation Continues

Christin as Beer Wench
Originally uploaded by suzipaw.
M returned home from his visit south a week ago. His little sis is a beer wench at Medieval Times. I was sorry I missed that experience.

It's been an amazing time away from work. I've checked my work email only once. I've slept for eight hours a night for several nights in a row now, what a strange feeling. I've eschewed the gym, eaten many cookies, and swilled a fair amount of booze, not the best combination, I know. I watched one of my favorite movies ever, "The Quiet Man." I met with my writer's group and shared writing (an essay on God) for the first time in months. Except for Christmas Eve Day and today, the rain hasn't stopped. On Christmas Day, we didn't hurry to do anything, went out to breakfast at noon and then to a movie (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe). On Monday we went up to my mom's and met up with my younger brother and his family, minus my niece who is now a wage slave plus my sister-in-law's five year old nephew. A wonderful, sodden time was had by all (M and I took a long walk in the driving rain on our favorite beach and were treated to spectacular waves and the speculation of seals poking their heads up from the swirling sea soup), punctuated by lolls by the fire, fat laden meals, and Lego building. I've done a few productive chores today. M has had to fast in preparation for his barium treatment tomorrow and isn't feeling so well. Rex is despondent at being back home, despite the prime rib trimmings he's been given to snack on.

I could get used to not working.

Rex on the mushroom trail.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry CHRISTmas!

Holy family
Originally uploaded by suzipaw.


Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Cookie booty
Originally uploaded by suzipaw.
We had a cookie exchange at work yesterday. Sixteen different kinds of cookies, yum!


I'm teetering on two of life's most delicious moments, cookies cluttering my kitchen counter notwithstanding--and both on the same day!: the last day of work before vacation begins and the longest night of the year. Tomorrow light begins to wash away the darkness. Tomorrow I'll blow of step class at 7:30 a.m. to sleep off that second beer I'm having now (I'm such a lightweight) to work on Christmas cards and stare at the rain that will almost certainly still surround me. Tomorrow I'll shop for Christmas Day comestibles: fancy cheese, champagne, chocolate, and other delicious words starting with "ch." Tonight...tonight I may pop a cookie (or two) in my cake hole, pop a DVD of "The Lord of the Rings" into the boob tube...or, I may just snuggle up with the pup and pop myself into bed.


Scenes from my day (we visited a hotel where we're having our swanky conference next year):

Ornaments at the Palace Hotel
Palace Hotel garden court
Frosting Village, Palace Hotel

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Avant Moi, Le Deluge

"What's she been up to?" you've wondered. Well, I'll tell you:

Watching the rain fall. Hard as if someone were standing on the roof with a firehose. It's been spectacular. Blown the grate off the drain. Dog and I tromped around in it too, and at least his coat is extra clean.

garden gnomes
Originally uploaded by suzipaw.

Admired the garden gnomes my friend brought to me this weekend as a wedding present.

Watched "Closer" with aforementioned gnome-bearing friend and wondered how the hell Clive Owen could be in such a stupendously bad movie. Oh, right, he was in "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead."

Ushered "The Nutcracker." Twice.

Started a sock. Well, one of a pair. One must think positively and have goals.

Wandered aimlessly in one of the two new Kohl's in our area. Was somewhat disappointed, but purchased socks. I'm on a sock kick these days.

Missed M, who as dutiful son went to visit family in Orange County yesterday. I'm already envious of his trip to Medieval Times that he'll be taking tomorrow.

Watched "Girl with a Pearl Earring." Much better than that other aforementioned movie. A refreshing lack of dialog and amazing number of scenes that look like Vermeer tableaux vivants. For hours. It was like being in a moving painting.

Started listening to "Desolation Island." Also enjoyed listening to the Wailin Jennys on "A Prairie Home Companion." Maybe I just need to be more sensitive and conscious of the music that does cross my path.

Trying hard to stay focused for the two more days of work ahead. I don't count Wednesday as a work day, even though I'll be with work colleagues, heading down to the City to scope out the hotel for our November conference. We'll be staying to do some shopping. Am I insane for shopping in Union Square four days before Christmas? Possibly, quite possibly.

Successfully avoided working on Christmas cards. Sorry, honey, I'll do them tomorrow night, I promise. Can we drive around and look at Christmas lights when you come home?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

A Rest in My Life

While I possess that vague sense that things are missing from my life, I don't always possess the desire to delve into that feeling, discover *what* exactly is missing and then try to remedy it. Or sometimes I'll have a flash of what's missing, but then forget it as quickly as not adding spinach to my shopping list. So it must not be too important, right?

But one missing thing keeps popping up regularly (Perhaps I've complained about this before?): Music. I just don't have enough music in my life. When I lived in New York, I had a friend who was my connection to new music. He regularly made tapes for me that managed to engulf my musical taste buds perfectly. Now my exposure to music is haphazard. I found Aimee Mann and Macy Gray (not together) via ushering at Our Local Cultural Institution. I did a little exploration while compiling music for the wedding. But I don't take advantage of the hearty network of iTunes I'm connected to while at work, and we have a pretty eclectic group here. One colleague has named her iTunes folder, "Heather's Questionable Taste in Music."

There's so much out there, and so little time to find it all. I was reminded of this when I came across this site via BoingBoing: Dr. Mysterian. I ready People on line and don't know many of the pop stars they picture. Coldplay is supposedly changing the universe, but I don't think I've ever heard any of their songs. Maybe Heather has some of their music. Maybe I should shut off the talk radio--though I love NPR, I learn so much!--and the Patrick O'Brien novels, and turn on the music stations, even if just for the holidays.

I was idly Googling people from my past recently, and did come across this song from Todd Butler on NPR. I think it's quite good. I met Todd when I was 12 and he a couple of years younger, on a commune near Edmonton, Alberta. He was already playing guitar in local clubs, and it's great that he stuck with it and now seems to make a living at it.

So if you've got any good music resources for me, send 'em my way, would you?


At this moment, M is in the throes of his last midterm. So far he's one and one--he feels good about one, not so good about the other. In an email to me today, he wrote I feel like I have cotton shoved into my skull. I finished up trying to figure out 15th century estates and future interests in land. F**K THE ENGLISH. I spent about an hour fighting off zombies in my dreams last night. This was not like those dreams last year where I was fighting to the death with people I was vaguely familiar with. This was when the undead have become unrelenting in trying to eat your brains and your brains alone. I made it through though and got some decent sleep for probably about four hours...not so bad. I think I was bitten though. He did not specify if the bite was from bugs, the dog, or zombies.


My no-longer-so-little niece is starting her first job this Saturday. She's in the schmatta biz, the rag trade, selling trendy duds to fellow teens at a store in her local mall. I'm so excited for her, her first steps on the path to financial independence!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

More Misc.

Spontaneous fun: My birthday friend decided to have cake and champagne and friends over last night, so I carpooled with a pal down to Berkeley on the spur of the moment last night. Well, it wasn't a moment, it was actually several hours notice, but that's *like* a moment for Me the Planner. It was a small gathering, thank goodness, you know how awkward I am in large gatherings. And thank goodness my friend drove most of the way. Driving in traffic at night is still a bit stressful for me. We laughed as we drove home that we were getting home so late, after midnight--when did midnight become "late"?


Afghanistan portraits from my friend Ben.


I spent five hours shopping for Xmas gifts today (and only brought home one thing for myself, a record I think! Though a Liz Claiborne suit for work isn't really a me-gift, is it?). I tried so hard to ignore the legions of wailing children and angry people in line, and be gracious with fellow shoppers. I let a trio of intergenerational guys cut in line in front of me while at Target to help build up some good Xmas karma. Oh wait, I don't believe in karma. Right. Came home, put up some lights and a wreath. Increments of festivity are building. I'm getting there, slowly. But like my house, so far it's all external. I'm hoping that the lights and warmth and spirit will find its way inside real soon. Oh wait, I don't believe in spirit. Well, whatever that warm feeling is. You know, goodwill towards men.


Got more pics from sis-in-law. Posted 'em.

Friday, December 09, 2005


M took his first midterm last night and is pretty sure he passed. This is a much improved emotional opinion than just a few days ago, when things were looking a bit grim. Two more next week, then a week off, then he begins studying for next semester.

My sister-in-law sent some nice pics, which I've posted to my Flickr page.

My kinda "porn"! (It's not what you think it is.) Via Write Livelihood.

Happy Birthday Katrin!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


I watched Mad Hot Ballroom last night--such growing-up nostalgia sprinkled with a little heartache. Ah, to be so young. The trepidation and excitement of trying new things, attempting to make your way gracefully into the adult world, all the paths still untrodden before you. Some of the children were so articulate about their dreams and plans, and what they got out of the dance classes and competition. And I loved seeing the teacher-pupil relationship--one adult in particular was prone to tears, and it was so sweet.

I had similar moment while in Berkeley with friends last weekend. We went to see "Noises Off" by a community theater company that must've been working with a local high school. While waiting in line to pick up our tickets, a duet of teen girls grew to a giggly cluster that managed to be simultaneous super conscious of themselves and yet also blissfully unaware of how *adults* might seem them--it was all about their peers and friends. I caught the eye of another woman also observing them and we smiled together. I don't think I could bear to be 14 again, but to be free of the responsibilities of 'dulthood, just for a little while, was a happy thought the girls inspired.

(The play was just wonderful, and one of my New Year's resolutions will be to see more live theater. Are you working on your resolutions?)


Hebdomas Horribilis Update: The freeway pile-up was officially declared Not My Fault, so my deductible was reimbursed and gratefully swallowed by the ATM machine almost as soon as it arrived. The Goose's insurance paperwork is all tidy, and I received the pink slip in the mail today. All that's left is to sign the insurance waiver that I won't sue for more. We went for an appointment with the surgeon this morning, and to our relief, he did not recommend surgery, but a keep to change of diet and stay the high-fiber course. M still has to have a barium "study" you-know-where--I'll try to get pix and post 'em if I can. Something for you to look forward to!

So all's well that ends well for this little chapter of our lives.


Time for bed, but M is talking to himself, reading his flashcards aloud. He has his first midterm tomorrow and is nervous...

I leave you with a photo of my great grandpa, taken in 95 years ago. I am so grateful to my grandma and uncle for preserving and sharing the family photos and history!

Great Grandpa

Saturday, December 03, 2005


My stepbrother-in-law works as a tow truck driver near Yosemite. He's well-suited for the job--hardworking, conscientious, gallant, just the kind of person you're relieved to see when you've broken down in the wilderness in the dead of night on the last leg of your cross country journey and are wondering if that grunting sound you just heard was emitted by a large hungry carnivore. He has some amazing stories, but is very modest and shrugs off the dangerous aspects and long, weird hours. My stepmom let me know that on one of his recent calls, his customer had a heart attack, and he administered CPR and saved his customer's life. Pretty great, huh? His boss thought so too, and nominated him for an award from the American Towman's Association, which he won. So his boss flew him to Baltimore, where tonight he will receive his recognition at the ATA's annual gala dinner event. Yeah, I didn't know they had one either, but it's apparently a rockin' good time. Congratulations!


[Religious Opinion Alert! Please skip down if this offends you.]

Christmas is just around the corner. Time for some "Food for God Thought":

There Is No God by Penn Jillette
...I'm not greedy. I have love, blue skies, rainbows and Hallmark cards, and that has to be enough. It has to be enough, but it's everything in the world and everything in the world is plenty for me. It seems just rude to beg the invisible for more. Just the love of my family that raised me and the family I'm raising now is enough that I don't need heaven....Without God, we can agree on reality, and I can keep learning where I'm wrong. We can all keep adjusting, so we can really communicate. I don't travel in circles where people say, "I have faith, I believe this in my heart and nothing you can say or do can shake my faith." That's just a long-winded religious way to say, "shut up," or another two words that the FCC likes less. But all obscenity is less insulting than, "How I was brought up and my imaginary friend means more to me than anything you can ever say or do."...Believing there is no God means the suffering I've seen in my family, and indeed all the suffering in the world, isn't caused by an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent force that isn't bothered to help or is just testing us, but rather something we all may be able to help others with in the future. No God means the possibility of less suffering in the future...Believing there is no God gives me more room for belief in family, people, love, truth, beauty, sex, Jell-O and all the other things I can prove and that make this life the best life I will ever have.

I came across this via BoingBoing, a story about an atheist student group that gave out porn in exchange for bibles:
A Heroic Story by TonyC
...I no longer fear non-existence (although I do fear the act of dying, and admit I felt fear on a few times I have come close). The fact that the world is random actually gives me great comfort. I would rather believe that the loved ones I have lost (two siblings murdered, one dead by accident, and my father dead of a heart attack) were taken by accident, disease, bad luck or insane bad guys than that there exists a capricious God that could have saved them but inexplicably chose not to. Likewise I prefer to think that the bad guys in the world, the sadists, rapists, thieves and thoughtless murderers and dictators are all a natural disease we can strive to minimize or eliminate, rather than to think that they continue to wreak havoc with some divine approval. If God exists he could stop them if he wanted to, clearly he has other priorities...If God is omniscient and omnipotent, if he truly knows everything as it happens and can stop anything as it is happening, if he can intervene in human affairs as a result of prayer and faith, then how can he possibly watch a faithful eight year old christian girl being raped to death and not act? And not just once, but hundreds and thousands of children every year? There is no answer, or at least, the only answer acceptable to me is that there is no God, no Satan, no guardian angels, no supernatural scheme of justice. There is only the unfortunate insanity of a few caused by disease, drugs, abuse or some other brain failure, and the bad luck of crossing paths with one of these deranged few...Perhaps if people stopped attributing the horrors to God’s plan or Satan’s perfidy, if we stopped this insane reliance on supernatural protection and instead blamed ourselves and our systems that let criminals wander free and leave children exposed to predators, we could develop the law enforcement, surveillance, health care and other systems necessary to stop these horrors, or at least most of them. But then, that is just an atheist’s dream of accepting and tackling the world as it really is, instead of how we wish it would be.

While I'm still not sure about God or the existence of some bright pool of goodness/perfection that we can all dip into if we only Believe, I'm also pretty much convinced that death is simply no longer existing. (Note the use of "pretty much"--I'm a Virgo middle child, and have a little trouble with absolutes. Which probably explains my skepticism of God, huh?)

When I was at NYU, I took an Old English class and was charmed by a story I read, the pre-Christian belief that one's soul was like a swallow, winging its way through cold darkness; your life was the brief moment of light and warmth when the swallow found its way into the Great Hall, and ended as it flew out again. But I don't think I'll even experience darkness or chill when I die. Is that so bad? Why are people afraid of that?

I can understand how religion developed in ancient times, when lives were short and hard at best, and natural disasters were even more devastating and unpredictable--the existence of an afterlife would be fab, something to help you make it through. And many people still do live in desperate conditions, but as both of the above writers point out, we humans can work our own miracles and try to make things better. That seems to be much more reliable than waiting for God to decide to take action. I see too many people relinquishing their responsibilities, using faith--"it's God's will"--as an excuse not to feel, or to act in a certain way.

Some people have faith that I'll experience the searing flames of hell for *not* believing in hell. I guess that gives them some sort of comfort, payback for not believing as they do. I really, really would like to believe in a greater power. And karma. And reincarnation, talk about payback! But I think I'm going to have to stick to the rollicking admonition that we'll hear often this holiday season, "So be good for goodness' sake!"

That reminds me, time to dig out my Christmas music.


Well, I'm off, heading down to Berkeley to see a friend of a friend in a community theater production of "Noises Off" then staying over at the friend's pad for a little slumber party. No, I won't miss M, he'll be studying almost the whole time. I'm nearly ready to go, but I have to spend some time talking myself into driving in heavy urban traffic. I'm leaving early so I can go slowly and won't have to travel in complete darkness. I can do it, I can do it...