Sunday, December 31, 2006

Final 2006 Post

It's holiday time, so of course I've been thinking a lot about family/familiarity. What makes someone family, even if you don't know a person very well? The glasses turned upright or down in the cabinet? The smell of a particular lotion or shampoo? The morning ritual of coffee, TV, paper, or a combination of, or none of the above? How does someone become family? Or leave a family behind? I don't know where I'm going with that train of thought, I'm just mulling.


Thanks to listening to West Coast Live yesterday, I found out that "nostalgia" means "pain of remembering"--"algia" meaning pain, duh! I've always thought of that word in a "wistfulness of remembering" kinda way, but pain does seem more apt. Not in a "this memory" is painful, but in an overall realization that how quickly time passes/is passing pain. Sigh.

I know it's good to reflect, and I'm reflecting on 2006 while trying to put together our New Year's card (which is coming out decidedly uninspired, oh well). I don't have any incisive conclusions to draw about last year, but I do anticipate that 2007 will be a challenging year for both M and me. In good ways, yes, but I suspect that finding the balance between work, school, home, and nurturing our marriage is going to be difficult. Well, time enough for home and self when I'm retired.

We were actually social last night and had dinner with one of M's friends from school. He and his wife have four kids, ages 5-8. His wife made a comment about how the most complicated time in her life was when the oldest were toddlers, and she really had to think, hard, about everything she said and every decision she made. And I think that's the part I'm really having to adjust to at work. I suddenly have people looking to me to make decisions and provide leadership, which I've never really had before, I've always been sort of an independent operator. I want to do well and make a difference, and I can--but it will take more sustained strategic thinking than I've ever put out before…yes, even more than I've applied to the direction of my life in general. I can see that it's going to take time and work, and while I know that it will eventually get easier, I also know that it's going to take a while to get to that point.


Speaking of work, one of my first and best bosses was mentioned in an article in The New York Times! Debbie was really great to work for, and it's wonderful to see her recognized so publicly.


I've posted a few more pics on my Flickr page.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Back from Southern California

Murray, Grandma Lucille, Christin
Originally uploaded by suzipaw.
It was a lovely Christmas. I felt comfortable and welcome everywhere we went, slept a lot, exercised a little, the weather was gorgeous, no family holiday weirdness reared its ugly head, the dog did fine, the cats survived, and the house didn't burn down while we were away. Summary:

We visited M's grandma in her homey care facility and she recognized me and mostly was able to keep up a good conversation.

As aforementioned, my wish for good weather came true, more than I even wished for. Friday morning, our day for the Observatory, dawned rainy, but a strong wind swept the clouds away and the views from the Griffith Park hills were amazing. We could see everything, from the mountains to Catalina Island, all up and down the valley.
Griffith Observatory
On the roof of the Griffith Observatory
It remained clear and downright warm throughout our trip. We took a motorcycle ride with two of M's friends, which was a bit scary for me--we borrowed a very large bike, but wasn't equipped with a sissy bar, so there was nothing between me and a tumble backwards off the bike but my grip on M's jacket. Getting used to when M was going to accelerate was a bit nerve-wracking and there was no low-traffic area to ride in nearby, but after a pint at Mother's (a tiny biker bar in Sunset Beach where I got to be a biker babe, pulling up on a noisy hawg and stomping through the door in big boots while unraveling the many zippers on my motorcycle jacket and straightening my helmet hair--that was kinda fun), I relaxed a bit.

After opening presents on Christmas Day, we took a ride out along Carbon Canyon to a nice hiking spot, M on his brother's motorcycle, Rex and I in his mom's new Volvo convertible driven by his brother.
View from Carbon Canyon

Another of M's friend was having a party at his shop in Long Beach--we arrived a little early, so had lunch at my favorite Thai restaurant from college, which is still in operation nearly 25 (gulp!) years later. I was happy to see the place full, and that all the other diners were Thai--always a good sign for a restaurant if it's mostly that ethnicity eating there.

I didn't crack any of the books I brought, preferring to plop myself in front of the boob tube (there were three large TVs in the house!) or work on a puzzle of the NY skyline. I did not look at email, or even a computer screen, for six whole days--I think that's a record for me.

On the way home, we took a little scenic detour, heading over to San Luis Obispo on the 58 from the 5. It added a couple of hours to our journey home, but it was an interesting drive--cotton and oil fields, and even a pasture where the buffalo roamed. We stopped for some excellent Mexican food in King City. As darkness fell, so did the rain and I was worried that we'd have trouble getting home at a reasonable hour, but all went well, if a bit more slowly.

And now we're home, I don't have to be back in the office til Tuesday, so catching up on chores, including those pesky new year's cards.


Writes Rob for me this week: "In Kabbalah, the tree of life is the primary symbol of the universe. In Norse mythology, the World Tree links heaven to earth and shelters all living things; beneath it lies a magical well with water that confers special powers on those who drink it...In the mythic tradition of modern science, trees have a crucial role in maintaining the ecological health of the planet. I mention all this, Virgo, because in 2007 you'll benefit tremendously from deepening your relationship with trees--both the actual and mythical kinds. Get to know them better. Learn from them. Plant some. Put a picture of a favorite tree on your altar. Hug one now and then".

A timely horoscope, since today we're freeing the Meyer lemon tree (well, it's really more of a bush) from its wine barrel bindings and planting it in a corner of the yard. We started digging the hole last night, and both M and I put our backs out a bit--the down side of getting older and supposedly wiser.

So aside from hugging trees, what else have I resolved to do in 2007? See some live theater. Blog more. Not let my job overwhelm my creativity (rather, I'm desperately feeling the need to free my creativity to benefit both my sanity and my career). Dial back my tendency to be judgmental.See more of my family and friends--entertain more. And your resolutions are?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Dash Away, Dash Away, Dash Away All

So just an hour or so from now, M and I and our furry son should be bundled up in the Cadillac, hurtling toward his mother's home in Orange County. In order to leave tonight, M had to promise to drive the whole way solo--I knew there would be no way for me to help out after working all day. I'm looking forward to our time down there. It will be hard for me to do office work, I think. I have several books to choose from to accompany me. And we have activities planned: The newly refurbished Griffith Observatory on Friday, and a combination motorcycle ride/harbor cruise with his best friend. I pulled out my motorcycle jacket from the closet last night so I wouldn't forget it. I haven't worn it in years, it's just not cold enough here (though nights have been in the 20s lately) and I have the vegetarian-wearing-a -lot-of-leather guilt. But it smelled so…New York. I should get it out and smell it more often, it made me very happy.

I'm late, keeping my husband waiting, and I know he's anxious to get on the road. Merry Christmas, my friends and loved ones! I'll try to blog again as soon as I can.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Wednesday BIC*

As I write this blog, Pookie is snoring and M is taking his second and last final of this semester. Wills. I hope he's feeling good about it. Over the last few weeks, he'd ask me lots of wills-related questions from bed, going over flash cards while I brushed my teeth and performed my evening toilette. (Which, yes, still includes rubbing cuticle oil on my nails from my new spa kit, but no, does not include use of the facial peel that made my skin feel burn-y for hours.) So I'm getting a little practice with lawyerly phrases. I'm thinking that might come in handy in a variety of future situations. I want to try to help him argue and debate, since that's another skill that has many applications, but by the time we get to that part, I'm falling asleep. Wills are really an area where fairness counts and legal guidance is needed, I must say. I can understand why people get pissed about how assets are disposed of--or not disposed of. But that's one of the advantages of being dead, right? You could give a hoot.

It's M's last class for a few weeks, so I've started the honey-do list on the whiteboard in our kitchen. Don't worry, it's not very long. Yet.

So, news: The two candidates I made offers to at work accepted! Yay! It's thrilling. And a little scary. But I whistle a happy tune and noone ever knows I'm afraid. I've been neglecting my ushering duties for the past few months, but heeded the call from a fellow volunteer, and will be working not one, but two matinees of "The Nutcracker" this weekend. Penance for my neglect. I haven't done any Christmas shopping but for the person whose name I plucked from the "Giving Tree" at the office. And I think it's going to be "Happy New Year!" cards this season.

*Butt In Chair, ie, writing time

Sunday, December 10, 2006

"It's a Wonderful Life"

My cousin wrote recently and mentioned how much of a re-reader she is. Every summer is the ritual of Laura Ingalls Wilder for her, for instance. It got me thinking about my tolerance for the familiar and the unfamiliar. In the past few years, when we decide whether or not to go camping, I always want to head out to our usual spot (which shall remain nameless here--much of its appeal is the fact that few people go!). We love it for what we know: that we can probably let the dog off-leash, that not many other campers will be there, that the blackberries will be ripe, that the lake is there just beyond the trees. We also know that there won't be potable water and showers and flush toilets, so we can come prepared. It's exactly the experience I want. And like camping, there are certain restaurants we crave, beaches and friends we visit. Etc.

But when I think about other travel, or reading, there's something else driving me to the strange. I fear that I don't have enough days in my life to accommodate returning to the same once-visited place over and over again. Monument Valley was an incredible experience, as was reading Vanity Fair. But I can't go back, there are too many other mental and physical roads to travel. How do I choose which places to revisit? This line of thought has made me yearn for another round of It's a Wonderful Life, a movie I watched every year while living in New York (along with The Quiet Man). Every viewing revealed nuances and pleasures I'd never had before. We don't have TV nowadays, so I haven't seen it for some time, and therefore I resolved to buy a copy this holiday season. But when I went looking for a DVD of it at Target tonight, it wasn't there, and now I'm worried that I *won't* be able to see it at all before Christmas. But why exactly am I worried? That my familiar won't be satisfied?


Friday was a good day for me, though it tested the limits of my introvertedness--and not incidentally, the familiar. I had organized a craft fair at the office (which I'd done before), mostly to help my mom reduce the inventory of her pottery (at least, that's what I told myself), and it was a great success. But after all that being "on," I had to make job offers to not one but two people, my first time ever! It was exciting and draining all at once. I called M and made a date to get horizontal, curl up, and pull the covers over our heads as soon as possible that evening…but I recovered enough for us to brave the downpour and go out and try a new (to us) Greek café. I was disappointed that alcohol, and therefore retsina (a fond memory of travel), was not served, but it was otherwise a soothing, carbo-rich experience. All that newness didn't seem so crazy after all.


And because I was wrapped up with the fair and the job stuff most of Friday, I didn't actually get a whole lot of work done that day. I resolved to work yesterday, Saturday, to go to the library with M, but Saturday arrived still stormy and grim, and I felt I hadn't been home much lately, so I didn't go after all…and of course didn't get much work work done, though the house is a bit better off and the cupboards are stocked. I told myself that Sunday is a whole other day to work, despite the fact that I would be going to a friend's birthday party--I wouldn't stay too long…But as the afternoon unwound and talking to good friends and eating hearty soup and walking under the threat of rain to see one of our most beautiful valleys stretching out beneath our view and the bobcat kitten trying to pounce on a meal just a few yards from us and returning to chocolate cake…work seemed a bit less important. And continued to seem less important after a trip to Trader Joe's where the purchase of a holiday wreath and small pine tree reminded me how much I love the smell of Christmas and need to bring a small piece of it into my life. I probably shouldn't have put that "Nutcracker" cd on this morning, so distracting.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A Red Nail Day in the City

Katch's manicure
Originally uploaded by suzipaw.
A friend anticipating a birthday next weekend and I had the ultimate girly day in San Francisco today. And now I'm home in my jammies, half an ear cocked to the (sniff) last CD of the "Far Side of the World" (I'm going to have to listen to it again) waiting for my hub to come home from a long day of studying, my coppery nails glinting, so I can tell him all about how…

…my friend and I both had manicures and pedicures at a swanky hotel spa. My first mani-pedi ever! We had drinks delivered to the room where all 20 of our nails were painted, listening through our nail technician's thick Vietnamese accent to her tales of how her family doesn't really understand about her not being married with children at 32. Afterwards, we made our way down to the Embarcadero though the arty vendors selling fused glass and edgy tshirts and silver cuff bracelets and leather hair barretts ("everything that goes around comes around," observed my pal archly). We lunched at the Slanted Door (where we've both wanted to dine for some time and our nail gal recommended) and shopped in the Ferry Building. More shopping in Union Square (I picked up the just released coffee pot in our china pattern) and at Westfield Center where we desserted at Beard Papa and took in the newly remodeled Bloomingdales. We were in a touristy area and it is starting to be the shopping season, but it had faded a bit how many different kinds of people there are in the world, but we are all united in the ritual of exchanging money for goods.

On my drive down, I felt such freedom, released momentarily from the mental constraints of my job. I even tuned out NPR in favor of an oldies station. It made me feel positively young again (yes, I know, 20 years from now I'll think that this was a youthful time of my life). As I listened to Jackson Browne sing "Take It Easy" on the radio, I thought of my niece getting ready to go to college in less than a year, trying to remember how I felt going to off to school…and I felt a twinge of what must be a midlife crisis. I can understand how some people would want to shrug off the accumulated cares of adulthood, or not having achieved what they thought they would, try to start over again, redo the mistakes of inexperience and cherish that young-adult feeling from the perspective an older adult who knows exactly how fleeting it really is.

I know I can't go back to being 19 again, and that I'd feel (and look) ridiculous if I tried. But I'm fortunate enough to keep on having my little adventures, even if it's just wandering the streets of San Francisco with a friend, trying new food and getting a manicure. Maybe that's where the midlife crisis comes from--people setting aside all hope for new experiences year after year until it engulfs them. I hope I won't forget how to have an adventure anytime soon.

Now crazy cat Pookie is purring happily, ensconced beneath the tissue paper in the Crate & Barrel box near the coffee table and I have to pack my gym bag for tomorrow, so good night, dear readers.