Monday, December 31, 2007

Texas Report, Vacation Continues

First and foremost, a belated Merry Christmas to all of you I didn't get a chance to wish as much in person. I hope you're getting ready for a festive and reflective New Year. I suspect mine will be more of the latter than the former.

So, our trip to the Lone Star state was everything a vacation should be--gently scheduled activity mixed with guilt-free downtime, good food, and quality family time. My dad and stepmom's new home is lovely and comfortable, and we made the most of sleeping in, watching the enormous high-def TV (I do miss me my football), helping ourselves to their culinary creations, which included some fab dishes whipped up by my stepbrother and, getting acquainted and reacquainted with family and friends. Highlights included:

A sightseeing adventure to the Bass Pro Shop. I had anticipated giving the good ol' boys the slip and perusing the camping section in peace, but that flew out the window as we approached the Texas-sized lodge-style palace devoted to offing critters in comfort and style. The windows and doors, inside and out, were trimmed with a thick piping of antlers, and more were stacked into a Christmas "tree" in the foyer, upon which several longhorns gazed from a ledge above. I was fascinated by more fanciful taxidermy that awaited us inside--a herd of elk soundlessly thundered from the mezzanine to the left; on the right, lions brought a zebra to their pride of lionesses (as if!); down the center, an eagle nested above a waterfall spilling into a pool filled with real pike. Santa held court surrounded by stuffed reindeer--were any children disturbed by Rudolph's strange lack of motion? My favorite, in a sad way, was the bobcat leaping up to strike a pheasant over the jewelry case. The shop stocked everything from firearms to clothes to boats to rustic furniture; there was a toy shooting gallery and a huge seafood restaurant to boot, supplied, methinks, by the manmade pond just outside.
The Alamo was puny by comparison, but its simplicity was welcome. The building itself wasn't large, just a few rooms with hunched doorways, and there were few artifacts, though Davy Crockett's elaborate vest was lovely handiwork. The grounds were peaceful. It was hard to imagine a siege there, and how it was a significant battle point--the city has grown up around it, obscuring how the battle must've played out.
We left the Alamo and wandered down the River Walk, which put me in mind a bit of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland, though I can't put my finger on why, exactly--maybe the lights in the trees and restaurants and narrow waterway plied by small boats filled with tourists. We wandered to the big turn and back down again, stopping to have coffee overlooking the river and I thought how pleasant and lively it would be to live on the River Walk, though I'm sure the tourist hordes would quickly become tiresome.

Christmas Day was great. No rush to get up and open presents, so we ate a late breakfast and then sat around the tree distributing our treats to one another. Everyone was so generous, I received so many fun and thoughtful things, including (drum roll please) a fine pair of longhorns for the Cadillac! I had been talking about shopping for them while I was in San Antonio, but I had no idea if they'd actually be for sale anywhere. My dad and stepmom had come across a guy selling them at a market and so picked them up for me. They're being shipped from Texas now so I don't have a picture, but I have to say, I'm thinking they're so fab that they'll only adorn the Monster Mobile on special occasions--someone might steal them! And I don't want them ruined by being out in the weather too much. More extended family and friends came over for Christmas dinner--a lot of young (20 something) folks, including my stepsister's daughter, whom I hadn't seen in close to two decades! That'll make you feel old.

Dad and I bucked the day-after-Christmas-shopping trend and instead took in Mission San Jose and then Margot at the Wedding (good cast but odd and not always in a good way) at an art-y movie theater, which meant that we could have lunch and a glass of wine while relaxing in the comfy seats in the auditorium.
Lunch at Beefy's (M bought me a tshirt, so we'll have fond memories forever) and dinner at the Alamo Café, where we watched them press and grill fresh tortillas while waiting for our table.

My imagination of what the countryside would be like was pretty close to reality--dry, light colored earth, lots of brush and low-growing oak. It's a big city, with high-end malls in the burbs and grittier ones near the bases. The weather was nippy in the mornings and evenings, but warm during the day, which was nice for the sightseeing.

Our flights both ways were uneventful, just the usual level of humiliation at the "security" measures, and we even managed to get seats with a bit more legroom there and back, which were especially important to M's comfort. We actually stayed at a motel close to the airport the night before our flight, a tactic I've never done before, but it worked really well, and I think I may do it again if I have a really early flight.


Oh, it's so nice to be home and hanging out rather than at work. I did check my work email a couple of days ago and while I'm going to have a big issue (which is ultimately A Good Thing) to deal with when I return, nothing completely horrible happened (I think), so I think I can enjoy the last few days of my vacation.

It's been wonderful being reunited with the dog--who apparently had a great time with my mom and stepdad while we were gone, he seemed a little sad for a few days--not having a set schedule, and not feeling like I have so much to accomplish in a very few weekend hours. On Saturday I met up with longtime gal friends in San Rafael, we had a blabbing lunch and saw The Savages, which was better than I'd expected. I've done a little puttering and chores, but mostly M and have treated ourselves, sleeping in, and eating out--he introduced me to a Vietnamese place near his school that I can already tell I'll have cravings for regularly, and Saturday night I took him to the burger bar where we could watch the last half of the Giants-Patriots game. We'll make bread from recipes in the latest MS Living, and probably try that marinara recipe from Food & Wine that we both liked with some homemade pasta. I felted a few projects, and want to finish lining the red purse I felted ages ago. I haven't exercised at all, but I'm ok with that, though I think it would have helped my mood a bit--there were a few more gray days there, inside and out than I would have liked. I've started the final (supposedly) installment of Harry Potter. I'm also hoping to clean out the hall closet before work starts up again on Wednesday, but we'll see…


Oh, and happy belated Solstice! Three cheers for the return of the light.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Vacation Afternoon

Here's a post I penned last Sunday, but just couldn't quite put it up. I know, it's whiney, I know, you can put those violins away…

16 December "Whatever You Do, Don't Cry"

That was some of the best career advice I ever received. It was from my boss when I worked at Martha Stewart Living, after I had just hung up the phone with Martha's assistant, who had imparted the news that Martha herself would be calling me momentarily to speak to me personally. I had recently given a "what's your job like?" kind of interview to a former colleague of mine that I had worked with at NYU and had moved on to an online women's publication. Those kinds of discussions were very common in academia, but not so in the magazine publishing world--quite the opposite, apparently, as I was about to be told. I was able to successfully conduct the conversation with Martha (and the company President, as it turned out) following my immediate boss' advice, however I was completely stone numb from the ribs down. That was definitely a learning experience.

It's been a while since work has reduced me to tears, but unfortunately it's happened twice in as many weeks. Not while I'm in the office, thank goodness, but still…It was mostly out of frustration, feeling like I work so hard and still can't get it right. But on the bright side, it's the new year, and time to take stock and think about doing things in new ways, so I view this as a kick in the ass to help me do just that. And for all you young readers out there, I don't recommend having a job that makes you cry, even if it's only every once in a while. I pass that sage advice on to you.


Other random stuff:

It's Sunday, the other members of the writers group are on their way to the café to join me, and I should be very happy at the prospect of not going into the office for over two weeks! Wow. It's been a long time since I've had that long of a break. Will I be able to break away mentally? Given what's happened in the past two weeks, I'm not sure I'll be able to take a true brain break, but I'm going to try. I have plans to clean out the hall closet and my craft room, finish some felted knitting projects, sleep, watch movies on TV. I can see "It's a Wonderful Life" at any time!

M has to teach next week, also has a two-week break from being a student, which means no studying on weekends! We actually almost completely finished off our Christmas shopping and wandered around our downtown yesterday. We poked into a few stores and stopped in at a new pub and to have a late lunch and didn't feel rushed at all. It was very odd, but wonderful to just be together and not be worried about him taking time away from his studies. That just hasn't happened much in the last few years.

I'll be visiting family for a couple of days next week, then M and I are off to visit more family in San Antonio--a trip together! To a new place! It's been so long. I drove through Texas once many years ago, so I'm looking forward to actually spending time there sight seeing and hanging out with family I don't get to see as often as I'd like.


One nice thing happened to me last week (well, several nice things happened, but this was particularly nice): a long lost friend (my fault for not keeping in touch, of course) sent me a note with a link--her Halloween wedding had been featured in the New York Times! Very cool.


So to pick up the last few days: I did check work email on Monday, but haven't since, and have been pretty good about not thinking too many work thoughts. I finished The Bastard of Istanbul and knitting one of M's slippers, but realized after the cuff was neatly stitched down and ends woven in that I had used the wrong cuff color and am now faced with the dilemma: rip out and use the right color, or buy a whole new skein of the current color and just have even more excess yarn on hand? I'm leaning to the latter. On Tuesday I packed up the dog and headed over to Chico, navigating the Monster Mobile over the mountains in heavy downpour, which always makes me tense. But the rain eased after I arrived, and I had such a nice time with my family. I had lunch with my mom, brother, niece, played Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? With my nephew (whose reading skills are really impressive) and saw his school pageant, went on a nice morning walk with mom, sis-in-law, and dogs, toured my niece's dorm, which seems like a good place for her.

Felicia's dorm room
Originally uploaded by suzipaw

I came home yesterday afternoon, leaving Rex with his grandma, who will be watching him while we're in San Antonio. I'm missing him terribly, but M is glad to have a break from his intense beady gaze and Veronica is in Paradise--no Pookie, no dog, and I'm home, for a couple of days at least. We watched not one but two movies last night, The Simpsons Movie and Domino. I also stayed up late and finished a very quick (you were so right about that, Kam!) but interesting read, The Glass Castle.

I'll stop here to do a little packing--we're going to stay in a motel near the airport tomorrow afternoon--then watch Sunset Boulevard before M comes home.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sunday Report

Procrastination Pays Yet Again: I headed up to my local knitting shop yesterday morning to take a class on felted slippers--I hadn't signed up in advance and figured if it were full, I'd just get going on some Christmas shopping. The situation was quite the opposite--no-one had signed up and the class had been cancelled! However, the nice gal running the shop got me all set up with the pattern, yarn, and needles and we sat and chatted while knitting for a few hours. It was quite pleasant and I really appreciated having an expert on hand for a few questions. She was quite the talker--I heard all about her timeshare on Kauai, her twin daughters, her experiences raising puppies for Canine Companions, and various characters she's met at the shop. She gave me her phone number and said I could call her anytime before 9:00 p.m. and she assured me she could talk me through any knitting problem! Talk about service. I try to shop there often anyway, now I'll make an extra effort. And I saved the class fee!

After knitting yesterday, I met M and one of his classmates for a Thai lunch in the mall, did some Christmas shopping, came home to nap and walk the dog before our evening out: we attended the college staff holiday party. It was held in the home of the college owner and his wife, out in the boonies of Sebastopol. We were expecting a fairly large swanky pad, and it was--but the splendor was frozen in the early-1970s. Fantastic bathrooms--one tiled in batik-y browns and blues with robins-egg blue tub, toilet, and sink; the other, part of a lovely guest room, had all but the toilet in a large open alcove carpeted in classic 1970s brown penny tile. The sunken living room was dominated by a floor-to-cathedral-ceiling fireplace done in that sort of stone I associate with googie-style restaurants in Southern California. The walls were various wooden treatments. There were a great deal of Christmas decorations--swags, santas, scenes, crèches, a small train and tree out on the entry porch--which the hostess has gathered over the years. (I've spent way too much time trying to find photos illustrating the type of style--sorry I couldn't find anything that was close enough.)


This was my horoscope for the week of November 29:

First let me make it clear that I'm not predicting you will face difficult events in the coming days. Not at all. Second, I'm not saying you will have to endure more pain than usual. Third, I believe your suffering will be about average -- similar to what normal people bear in normal times. Having said all that, though, I encourage you to be aggressively exploratory toward the pain you feel. Have long talks with your murky fears. Gaze bravely into the parts of your life that make you sad. Why? Because it's a favorable time to search for treasure that's buried in the shadows -- to enhance your psychological health by dealing with what's not so healthy. Recall Carl Jung's wise words: "The foundation of all mental illness is an unwillingness to experience legitimate suffering."

When I first read this, my reaction was that I truly feel that I've addressed many of my painful memories and habits, and I'm really not unreasonably sad about anything in my past ("unreasonably" being the operative word there). (I'd also like to note that "unreasonable" has a new meaning in my life since M started law school.) It's true I haven't completely conquered my negative body image thoughts nor my fear of abandonment (you'd think that an introvert like me would welcome being alone…but there's alone, and then there's *alone*…). Nor my very bad critical/judgmental decrees against myself and others. Though I'm working on 'em, really I am.

Then I had a pretty rough week at work last week, and I realized that one of the biggest fears I still wrestle with is the fear of failure. Which maybe is not such a bad thing unless it's accompanied by paralysis--fear of failure is so great that nothing is attempted, since that's a guaranteed avoidance of failure. And I am guilty of that lack of initiative/action sometimes, but I do want to work on that more.

Maybe I'll work on a New Year's Resolution around that. Others I'm already trying to adopt:

Drink more water
Breathe deeply more
Floss more often


Happy Birthday, Katch! M and I are heading down to Berkeley this afternoon to have dinner with her and some other friends, should be fun.

Now, time to walk the dog and buy milk before we go…

Monday, December 03, 2007


Thanks to a friend at work, I've been mucking around with Simpsons avatars. I made one for me and one for M. But I'm so curious to know if I made my avatar close to how others see me. I of course had the hardest time with the body type. I wonder how others would make me! I asked M to do it, but he snorted and grumbled something about homework taking precedence, go figure (though I note you have plenty of time for Glenn Greenwald! Hrrrumph.) I will also say that the tech behind creating the avatars it pretty amazing.

And on a grander scale, how do people *perceive* me? I realize that I probably appear very different depending on whom I'm with, and I used to have a real issue with that when I first starting on my so-called career. I didn't want to have a work-self and an off-duty self. And I think I still do, despite my best efforts to the contrary. I have boundaries, and I appreciate them in other people, so maybe that encourages the divisions in my life.

Enough reflection--time to get back to the felting projects--photos of that to come.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Mom on potting

You can see why I hung on to a few pieces.

(You can also see why I need a video camera. I shot this with my Mac and the quality is not so good!)