Might as well blog: Susania!

Christmas 2006

December 13, 2006
I know, I know - not any real journal entries here of late. Bin busy. And if I have a quickie idea, I put it on my blog. But here's my 2006 Christmas Card, complete with adorable niece picture (Emma) and Way Too Much Information About Me. Enjoy. If possible.

Stitching as a Metaphor

October 3, 2006
I've always enjoyed doing cross-stitch (and most of the ladies who attend the Crafting Bee are stitchers as well) but ever since I've started these monthly Bees, I keep finding analogies to Life in the work we're doing.  The latest example of this is dealing with mistakes.  Cross-Stitch is basically grid work, akin to paint-by-numbers; you have a pattern on a piece of paper that you are constantly looking at to make sure that you're stitching in the correct squares with the designated color on your linen.  You count and recount the number of threads, and then usually you count them again.
But even the most meticulous stitcher makes mistakes, and when you finally discover them, you have a difficult choice in front of you; should you unpick your stitches all the way back to the original error and re-do it, or is the problem something that won't destroy the integrity of the piece if you leave it as it is?  Cross-stitching builds upon itself - for example, if you have a row of flowers that is 2 stitches off, it can throw off everything else in the piece because you count threads from one completed section to find the starting point for the next section.  Plus, the longer it takes you to discover that you've miscounted, the more difficult and time-consuming it is to fix the problem.
If you choose to re-do your work, it's painful to lose all those completed stitches, and it seems to take forever, but there's the sense of relief that it will eventually be corrected.  The holes in the warp and weft of the linen get stretched out and the fabric looks a bit battered & misshapen, but ultimately everything will line up the way it's supposed to.
If you choose not to re-do your work, but try and adapt the pattern to accomodate the mistake, it's certainly easier, but you have to live with the knowledge that the piece is now flawed.  No-one else may notice it, but you will always know.  It's a humbling experience, and many experienced stitchers who do lovely, elaborate work will tell you at that point that it's good for you; they've done the same thing themselves.  There's an oft-repeated story among stitchers that in Olden Times, women working on quilts or samplers or embroidered pieces would deliberately make a mistake... because "only God is perfect."
As I've made more and more projects over the years, from tiny, 4-inch square birth announcements to a 5 foot historic Tennessee reproduction sampler (which I'm STILL not finished with) I've made more mistakes, and each time I have to decide - start over, or live with it?  Fortunately in this community of creative women, there is encouragement to be had with either decision - empathy, useful advice, even communal mourning over the lost hours of work that will have to be destroyed.  We will commiserate together, vent our frustration over the damage done... and then go back to work.

Doctor, Doctor

May 20, 2006 - pulled from my blog & re-posted July 20
I am now prepared to share my absolute fascination with and obsession for the new Doctor Who series on the SciFi Channel. I was an occasional viewer of the series back in high school when our local PBS station was showing the Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, and Peter Davison versions of the Doctor, and I wasn't obsessed with it or anything because the FX were fairly crap, and on occasion the storyline was of no interest to me. But it stuck with me, and one of my favorite trips when I was in London back in my 20s was when I visited the Museum of the Moving Image and saw the Doctor Who exhibit.

Rather, my favorite souvenir. I brought back a t-shirt and a mug with a text version of the theme music that I still find hilarious - "Dum de dum, dum de dum, dum de dum, diddly-dum" repeated 3 times... which is only amusing if you are familiar with the cheesy theme music and can recognize it. But it had the Tardis on it, which is what I loved most. That comforting old blue police box that the Doctor travels in through time and space...

I always wanted to time-travel, but in relative comfort and convenience. I didn't particularly want to travel like the Doctor and his companions did because it always seemed quite Fraught with Peril, and I'm not big on Peril. But sometimes their adventures were lovely and romantic and those stuck with me.

The new series is rather much improved, to my mind. They've really upped the budget significantly - gone are the days where you'd see a space slug slither by, and say to yourself, "That's bubble-wrap they've spray painted green!" Now they have respectable FX and, to my mind, phenomenal casting and writing. Christopher Eccleston is playing the Doctor, with Billie Piper playing his companion du jour, Rose. Their chemistry is delightful and significant; whereas before the Doctors and their companions were asexual and positively detached. This Doctor cares about Rose a great deal, and it shows. I adore Mr. Eccleston, and am only sorry he's only doing the first season, to be replaced by David Tennant for the next.

I was surprised to find out that apparently the show is known for it's scariness; I never was scared by it, else I would have avoided it like the plague - horror and scary stuff is anathema to me. But in England it was well established that certain recurring villains such as the Daleks and Cybermen were enough to send you racing to hide behind the couch, and the show was initially designed for children. But after 40 years, the viewership is all over the demographic map, and there's a new comedic sophistication and nuance to the series, reminiscent of Joss Whedon's shows. Witty banter is all over the place, and a healthy dose of flirting.

I find it irresistable, and am only sorry that there are only 13 episodes in the first new season (it was cancelled for about 15 years, but with recurring audiobooks and other media still being produced). They're in the midst of the second series in England now, and since it's steadily winning awards and having high ratings, it should remain on the air for a good long time. I highly recommend it, although the last 2 episodes of the season are airing in the next month, and it might be better to wait for the reruns so you can start at the beginning. There's a definite story arc, although some of the episodes can stand on their own. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

The Giving of Gifts

May 10, 2006 - pulled from my blog & re-posted July 20
Names have been imaginatively changed to protect the innocent.

Last night was a belated birthday celebration at Amerigo's for Martine, a member of my small women's group (hereafter referred to as Sisters). We have been celebrating birthdays with cards and presents and dinner for years now, and it has, for many of us, become the one guarantee of Proper Birthday Recognition and Appreciation.

Shall I elaborate? You know I'm gonna...!

This particular evening, everyone had really gone all out on Nifty and Thoughtful Gifts, and we were congratulating each other on said thoughtfulness... and inevitably, we began to speak of gift disappointments. As the sole Single in the group, I have no basis of comparison for the Failing of Husbands in this area, but it is always fun to hear of the train-wrecks some of my Sisters have experienced in past years. For example, Saltine told of the time her husband had bought her an appalling blood-red dress 3 sizes too big, and of the Mother's Day where, with ill-concealed delight in his Gift-Giving Genius, he gave her 3 ordinary, unrelated and boring coffee mugs in a paper bag.

Pauline's tale of decades with no birthday cakes, EVER, still trumps everyone, although we made up for that a few years back. We showed up at the agreed-upon restaurant that night with our regular gifts and cards for her... and with a birthday cake each. She about fell out of her chair, and had cakes in the freezer for months to come. I still wonder if her husband and kids ever realized the inherent rebuke from us when she took them home.

It's interesting how people react to appalling gifts. Pauline always conceals her disappointment, because of how crushed her husband becomes when she responds instinctively, while Saltine is fortunate in a husband who can take a "What on earth were you thinking?!" with humor and grace. Nadine has the opposite problem - her husband is never happy with anything she gives him, despite her best efforts and the fact that she really is trying to make thoughtful, clever choices. Celine... well, apparently she and her husband are both blessed with Nifty Giftiness, and have no impressive tales of woe.

It does seem like we rarely get what we might wish for when it comes to gifts. It's an almost impossible balance between Surprise / Effort / Ingenuity / Delight. If you tell someone exactly what to get, you lose the Surprise and Effort. If you don't tell them and they get something wrong, you lose the Ingenuity and Delight. And the burden of how to respond can make it even worse; in the case of a disappointing gift you can be honest and hurt the Giver, or lie and give the Giver a false contentment. Is the pleasure of giving gifts almost as important as receiving them? Does it matter? Are you tired of this yet?

Each December I find myself longing for the perfect gift situation (birthdays near Christmas are a constant disappointment)... one where it's something I really long for, did not expect, and didn't have to suggest to anyone. A perfect gift is more than a tangible Thing; it's also the implication that the Giver truly Knows your heart, and made a real effort to bring you joy. We all have a couple of these rare, precious situations where we were given the perfect gift, but as we get older, decades stretch between, and we falsely say to ourself and others that "Gifts don't matter that much when you get older," or "I can buy it for myself!" or "A gift certificate would be the smartest thing."

But we are disappointed. We don't want to seem childish so we pretend it makes no difference, but at our Heart we long for Real Gifts. And yet there is absolutely nothing we can do to make them happen. So we might pray for a gracious attitude, or persuade ourselves that as adults, we are beyond feeling hurt at such a small thing. But I don't think it's a small thing - selfishness and self-centeredness may be part of it, but I think this is one of those longings from the heart that never really go away in a fallen world. We have been given the best gift of all, depending on your perspective - God's Grace, Life, Good Health - but we are usually unable to prize it as we should. We want something tangible in a box with a ribbon so we know that we are loved.


May 1, 2006 - pulled from my blog
I gave my long-dreaded presentation on "Humor in Jane Austen" at the Jane Austen Society of North America (or JASNA) Tea yesterday afternoon, and it went over far better than I had cause to hope. There's a branch here in Nashville; about 2 dozen ladies who get together quarterly for a presentation on some JA-related subject and a whopping big tea party. We sit around and stuff our faces with shortbread and cake and drink really GOOD tea, and talk about the latest Jane Austen movie or miniseries, and "has anyone heard of a new version of P&P or S&S," etc., and one brave soul makes a presentation to the group. Very nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Well, in my never-ending Quest for Attention, when they asked me about 6 months ago if I would do a presentation on Humor in Jane Austen, I said yes, and then regretted it for weeks on end. I'm just so lazy, you see. I don't like being required to do homework, although I'm certainly confident in addressing a group, or talking about stuff I know well.

So I folded my open acknowledgement of my vanity and laziness into the presentation, which I think helped a lot since my scholarship was very foggy - I shamelessly plagiarized from Wikipedia and other on-line papers and sites, which I have no real compunction about since I will never allow it to be published or made available to the general public... my words have melted into the Ether. Here's the introductory bits that I am most proud of:

When I was first asked if I would be willing to take on the subject of “Humor in Jane Austen” as a presentation, in my weaker moments I would think things like “why don’t you just ask me to do a presentation on ‘Nouns in Jane Austen,’ or ‘Use of the letter W in Jane Austen’? In other words, it seems an almost impossibly huge task, much like being asked to index the Old Testament. And I am an exceptionally lazy person, which makes it even more difficult to contemplate.

I should mention that it has been a habit for me that if I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep, I will think about Jane Austen stories, because I find it very soothing and far-removed from the worries of my life. But since developing this presentation has become one of my worries, that doesn’t exactly work right now!

So I started dabbling in research, and there’s a lot of it about, to say the least. There are books about books about Jane Austen’s humor, and all the permutations thereof – sarcasm, irony, wit, satire, vocabulary, feminism, juvenilia, the joke of substitution, the comic negative, etc. etc. etc. But one of the main difficulties of discussing comedy in a scholarly manner is analyzing just how exactly a phrase, a sentence, or joke actually IS funny – it’s taking a very subjective, individualized style of expression, and attempting to confine it to a comprehensible definition, and I find it unbelievably boring. If you explain how something is comedic, it usually drains the funny out of it.

So I won’t exactly do that myself; I’ve decided to jump around and talk about the things in Austen that make me laugh, in no particular order, with just a few definitions and examples so it’s not a complete waste. In the slightly modified words of Jane Austen, “you deserve a [better presentation] than this, but it is my unhappy fate seldom to treat people so well as they deserve.” Or, in the more slightly mangled words of Lady Catherine, “There are few people in England, I suppose, who have more true enjoyment of [humor] than myself, or a better natural taste. If I had ever [bothered to prepare a proper presentation], I should have been a great proficient.”

The Dangers of Novel-Reading

April 18, 2006 - pulled from my blog
I'm having a dismal morning - absolutely nothing going wrong, all ducks in a row, all is dandy... but I feel lousy! I can't tell if I'm ill, depressed, or stressed. Could be all three. I should be absolutely delighted - I have three jobs lined up for this afternoon, and yet I feel tired and just... off. Soured.

I'm inclined to blame it on novel-reading. It's funny, I could never understand why when novels first became part of popular culture in the 18th century, novel-reading was considered unwise, especially for young women. The romantic, gothic-influenced fiction of the time was pretty innocuous if you ask me, but it apparently had a demoralizing effect. All these young ladies who had been reasonably well-behaved and obedient to parental direction and arranged marriages started rebelling, I suppose. When you read about a heroine being swept off her feet and rescued from dire peril by a handsome, dangerous nobleman, it does tend to make you a trifle dissatisfied with a marriage proposal from the balding local cleric or sitting around mending torn hems.

When I was younger, I read novels incessantly. And I was miserable. At the time, I thought it was because of my home life and hating school and loneliness. But when I stopped reading 7-10 books a week after college and started watching more TV, and having more of a social life and getting a job, I became much happier. I thought it was just because of improved circumstances. In addition, I lost interest in novels because it became more difficult to find stories I really liked. I did discover audiobooks and have been checking them out pretty steadily for the last 7-10 years, but the majority of them have been nonfiction; biographies, history, memoir, travel.

Well, recently I re-discovered a novelist that I had once thought rather tepid when I was younger named Georgette Heyer. Jane Austen will always be on the top of my novel list, but for books of a similar nature in a similar style, Georgette Heyer is as good as it gets. Plus, she wrote about 33 of them, so you can re-read them on a regular schedule and it will take years before you have to repeat one. Well, as I mentioned a month or so back, I gave up almost all TV for Lent and so I had to find something to fill the time, and so Georgette Heyer came to my rescue.

Or so I thought. There's a negative kickback to romance fiction; It makes you dissatisfied with your life. It makes you long for an unrealistic relationship. And if it's historical, it makes you pine for the clothes and the lifestyle and the idealized vision of how life used to be for a woman, where you could be weaker and not be despised for it. I forgot how I used to feel about previous eras - that I used to think I would be so much better off in the 18th century.

I know better now, of course - I appreciate the independence and the advantages of modern life. But the sense of dissatisfaction that has grown in me over the last few weeks is going to take a while to dispel. And my goal to collect all of Georgette Heyer's novels... well, I think I'll let that go for now.

Family Ties

April 11, 2006 - pulled from my blog
I have such an interesting story to tell!

While reading one of my favorite websites, a reference was made to something called "The Oak Island Money Pit". In a nutshell, this is an island near Colchester, Nova Scotia, where back in the late 18th century some boys found a man-made shaft, and started digging. Since there are various layers of oak trees and man-made materials, it's been believed that a treasure is underneath, and there have been many attempts over the years to try and dig down to it - bits of gold and parchment have been recovered in later digs with exploratory bores, which has only fueled the interest in the site. However, it's an amazing feat of engineering, as they have discovered that the pit has booby traps at various levels, and there are shafts that flood the main pit whenever they get down to a certain level. Various attempts to excavate have been given up after wasting tons of money. They've made more progress every time, but whenever they think they're about to finally get something, the pit floods!

All of this is very interesting, but what caught my eye was the fact that when the 3 boys who found the site came back to do a serious dig 9 years later, their partner was a man named Simeon Lynds - of course the last name caught my eye, as well as the fact that this was in Nova Scotia. This man IS my cousin - I checked the main Lynds genealogy website for connections, and he is the brother of my great-great-great-great grandfather, John Bunker Lynds! Also, in a later dig, his brother David replaced him as a partner.

The Oak Island website is really well done - has all the stories of the various digs and what they've found, as well as a page full of various theories as to who buried the treasure in the first place, and how. Those who have read "The DaVinci Code" or seen the movie "National Treasure" and have heard the various stories about Masons, the Knights Templar, etc., will find various references to them in to some of the more romantic theories for the pit. There are even claims that part of the gold taken from the temple in Jerusalem when it was sacked by Rome in 70 AD has ended up there.

It's a really interesting website to read, and quite entertaining!


December 17, 2005
OH I AM SO TIRED OF THIS!!!!!!!!!! Everyone get a grip and MOVE ON! If I weren't a die-hard Christian, I would embrace the faux holiday of Festivus, with the Feats of Strength and the Airing of Grievances, just to turn my back on this ludicrous debate and pretend it wasn't going on.

Everyone just stop the pointless discussion and go read Harrison Bergeron. I read this in 8th grade and didn't get it then, but boy, do I get it now.

I'll Sleep When I'm Dead

December 13, 2005
A friend said this the other day, and as usual, I felt the familiar guilt. I am one of those unwilling to give up sleep for other "more important" things. Ever since I read the passage in Proverbs 6: “How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest -- and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man,” I have had a sense that perhaps I was not holding up my end of things.

I don’t want to be poor, and I don’t want to be a sluggard, but dammit, I NEED MY SLEEP! I’m one of those folks that gets nauseous and sick when I’m sleep-deprived, and yet there are so many people I know: 1) those who survive, reluctantly, on 5-6 hours a night; 2) young parents, never able to get more than a few hours at a time; 3) those who just don’t seem to need more than 4 hours a night and that means YOU, Ken, you damn freak. All of this conspires to add to my sense of guilt for not being one of those folks who get up at the crack o’ dawn and “go for a run” before breakfast and the morning paper. Perhaps, I think, I would actually go to the gym every day… spend time in meditation and prayer… make a lunch for the day and start dinner in the Crock-Pot… if only I could get up at 5!

Instead, on most mornings, I get up at 7… so I can lounge in bed and slowly awake while watching last night’s rerun of The West Wing (how I lurve you Bradley Whitford & Rob Lowe!) until 8. I feel very bad about this, I assure you. But you know, I am usually in a good mood as a result. One should not underestimate the benefits of a Good Mood.

So, back to my friend and her comment. She’s in a tough job, starting at the bottom to work her way up, and the company LOOOOVES to see how much they can push you before rewarding you with a pitiful salary and job insecurity and the dubious cachet of a line on your resume that doesn’t always pay off as it should. If she sticks it out, she will officially be one of those Go-Getters who can be anything she wants to be. But how much fun is she having as a result? Maybe she has a nice low-sleep threshold, but what if she doesn’t, and just gets by on coffee? What is the quality of her life then?

If you go through every day of your life except maybe weekends feeling tired & run down, WHAT IS THE ADVANTAGE of living that kind of life? Sure, it implies you've got a character with moxie, gusto, competetiveness, worthy of joinging The Trump Organization… but is it any fun? Do you like working when you just want to lie down and sleep? Does your brain work well under those conditions? Are you performing at your best? (Now, this diatribe only applies to those who choose to sleep less so they can do more… new parents are exempt, since we all know they’d like more sleep, since that’s what they’re always telling us, sensible and weary people that they are.)

Anyway, I had an epiphany a few days ago, and the guilt lifted when I realized that the QUALITY of my life was (partially) dependent on sufficient sleep. The implied virtue of those who deprive themselves of sleep in order to get ahead no longer hangs over me, Hallelujah! I am now free to sleep my 7-8 hours and know that in it’s own way, Sleep is my Gym, my Healthy Diet, my Positive Attitude.

A Small Chunk of Holiday Bitterness

December 8, 2005
So I mentally wrote this last night as I drove home, only to walk in the door and promptly forget it. And it was GOOD - really good... THEN. Let us see if it can be re-created, shall we?

So, last night, I went to TJ Maxx to buy Christmas presents for my new part-time co-workers over at the AEA. I'm sure it's perfectly clear to everyone that I'm in Straitened Financial Circumstances at present, what with the Unemployment and starting my own business, etc. But on Tuesday I came in to find 2 gift bags on my desk and the realization that in this office, everyone gives little presents to everyone else "but you don't have to if you don't want to," what with the fact that I just started 3-4 weeks ago. Well, of course I don't want to! But I must.

Why? you may ask. Because it's necessary. Because I'm going to be working with these 9 women for some time to come, hopefully, and you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Because we're not to the place where I would share the information that I'm perpetually broke and borrowing money to pay bills from my family. Because they are all best friends from childhood and later, and although they aren't cutting me out in any way, I don't need to set myself apart from the group any more than I already am, what with the part-time aspect of my job, and the fact that I don't come in til 9:30 and leave at 6 (they're really good to me here!) Because they have asked me to come with them to Boston for the AEA Conference in January, are paying my way and my salary, and I'm going to be working with these women all day, every day for a week. Because they are Nice Women. Because I am a Nice Woman too.

So I spent $40 on some (really pretty) Christmas ornaments, $5 on giftwrap, and spent my one precious free night at home this week bundling, wrapping, and ribboning a dozen gifts, when I can't even afford presents for my family (who have strictly forbidden me to give them anything at all this year) or my best friends. I have to give presents to a bunch of women, some whose names I don't even know yet, instead of to the ones I really care about. And I really wonder at times like this, if being a Nice Woman is a good idea.

Dang. My invective has lost power since last night, when I was still fuming over this. Why is it that my best writing is when I'm mad? I don't like being mad!

My work has really picked up lately! Thanks to all the folks who've been spreading the word about me. Of course, I'm always tired and never have any free time to relax, but there's a bit more money coming in. Now my eyebrows are above water occasionally...

The Christmas Card Letter, 2005

November 26, 2005
Dearest Friends & Family,

This year has gotten away from me in a way I had not anticipated 11 months ago! It’s mid-November as I begin to write this, and I marvel that I am being so wasteful as to sit and write a holiday letter when it’s one of the rare evenings that I have free in weeks. Plus the sink is full of dishes, I need to make 2 birthday cakes for tomorrow, and the new Harry Potter movie has just opened and I don’t know when I’ll get a chance to see it at all! Yes, YOU and Entertaining You this Christmas is my priority. Don’t you feel special?

2005 has been one of those Good-For-You years, the emotional equivalent of eating leafy, dark green vegetables and low-fat dairy products. Except that it’s been a Maturing and Patience-developing year. In April, the Big Ole Office Move at William Morris took place, and I survived it, but only briefly… 10 weeks later I was let go, and ever since I have been alternately goofing off and well-nigh killing myself to make ends meet. All my naïve assumptions of immediately finding a new and more impressive job were, alas, ill-founded, and so I have been dabbling in useful activities like clerical work, running errands, babysitting, and pretty much any McJob with a flexible schedule I could find. Including ironing.

On the more positive side, I started my own small business – House Calls Computer Service. As the name rather ...umm... creatively states, I make house calls to provide computer services... It’s enjoyable work, and I think I have a knack for it, especially in giving tutorials. I’m still in the early stages, and I find it difficult to keep myself from giving discounts to my customers so I’m not making enough from it to live on yet, but everyone is amazingly enthusiastic about my future prospects. I also started a regular part-time job working on web design for the American Economic Association on the Vanderbilt University campus – every bit helps! Now I race from house call to house call around the Nashville-Brentwood-Franklin area to keep my workdays filled.

The Latest Hobby
This year I’ve been an obsessed embroiderer – a “Stitcher” as the regulars call themselves. If I am sitting in front of the TV, I am working on a cross-stitch/embroidery project without fail. And as with every hobby, I've assembled a new batch of friends, who gather a few times each month to sit & sew. I've even started a monthly Sewing Bee (renamed "Crafting Bee" when a bunch of scrapbookers wanted in on it) at St. Bartholemew's Church.  See previous vicissitudes on the subject below...

The Chilluns
Well, there are no new babies this year, and from what my sisters are telling me, there won't be any more in the future. So I am having to console myself with Emma, who is halfway through her Twos and hardly classifies as a baby anymore. *sigh* But she's chirpy and cheerful, and whooo! strong-willed. She wants what she wants, when she wants it, and if it means screaming for 20+ minutes, she has the strength and determination to prevail until distracted by something shiny. She Shall Not Be Moved. At the same time, she's the easiest child to put to bed, although in recent months she will stay awake for an extra hour or two, putting on her own late-night talk show over the baby monitor. Chirp chirp chirp. Plus she looks exactly like Charlie Brown's sister Sally.

Eldest Nephew Elliott is 12 this year, and my heart just SINKS when I think of it. He and George (8) are ardent Boy/Cub Scouters with their Dad, who has developed a widespread reputation in Middle Tennessee as quite the Troop Leader. They WILL be Eagle Scouts. Henry (4) is finding that Emma is an adequate playmate, since he can boss her around after being bossed around by E and G for years. The Knoxville triplet of Taylor (7) Maddie (5) and Virginia (3) have finally lost their shyness of me (what am I saying... Maddie never met a stranger!) and as a result we are having much more fun when Greta and the girls come to Nashville for a visit. We all went to the Gentry Farm Pumpkin Fest in October on what ended up being the coldest day of the month, and those girls went about wrapped in various borrowed sweaters, ponchos, and Aunty/Mimmy arms.

Year-End Picks
Books: Freakonomics, and Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince. HP is a bygone conclusion; I'm on the verge of actual memorization of the entire canon. Freakonomics is in response to the steady lean towards non-fiction I have been experiencing in recent years - it's absolutely perfect for people like myself who think Economics = Boring.
Movies: Hitchhikers' Guide to the Universe and Pride & Prejudice. Both British, both funny, charming, romantic and highly entertaining. Of course, I haven't seen the new HP movie yet... but it's British too, isn't it?
TV: The Colbert Report (Comedy Central) and How I Met Your Mother (CBS). I'm so happy to find some funny shows after what seemed to be a serious drought. Stephen Colbert is so good at parodying Fox News & CNN, and Neil Patrick Harris WILL win the Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Emmy this year.
Music: Anoushka Shankar's Rise. After gaining a fondness for Indian musical influences through my passion for Bollywood, I stumbled on this and just love it - some amazingly nifty combinations of South Asian & Western instruments.  (She's the daughter of Ravi Shankar, and Norah Jones' sister.)

Technology: the iPod & Podcasts.  This thing is awesome - yes, it's great because on a road trip I can pre-load a dozen books-on-tape or more... but then there are downloadable Podcasts, which range from fan discussions of the TV show Lost, to interviews with the historic artisans at Colonial Williamsburg, to ABC's Nightline.  I feel smarter and smarter every day!

And now, the confession: These are practically the ONLY things I have seen/read/heard this year! It's just been really, really busy.

This coming December feels very odd to me, and I don't quite know what to expect from it.  Turning 37 (30!) does make the biological clock skip a beat (or smash it), and after 8+ years in a generously predictable pattern tied in to my job and year-end bonuses, I don't know how Christmas will turn out now that the routine is gone. The whole Holiday Season is off the tracks for me. But that's how life is supposed to work, I guess - God periodically takes us out of our comfort zone and down a different path. I just hope I arrive at the next stopping place soon and can get comfy again, despite the highly beneficial nature of the rocky hike!

May God bless and keep you this Christmas and in the coming year!

Love, Susan

What Women Want

September 13, 2005
[Before I begin my rant, I just want to thank everyone who has been calling me for computer help - my business is growing at a steady (though not explosive) rate, and week after week, amazingly, I've been able to pay the bills. Thank God. I just sit back and see my financial needs being met! Although I am feeling more ignorant about computers daily...]

So anyway... The other day, I was attempting to explain to a younger friend about something that ever so slightly annoyed me in an older, married women-friend. I was trying to articulate the alarming wholesale enthusiasm she had for the current trend of mass-produced, artificially-cheerful, girlfriend-sharing, bubblebath, margaritas, chocolate, shoes and shopping-bedecked STUFF. You know what I am talking about, although it's just now reaching the point where it's becoming really noticeable, especially at places like TJ Maxx and the gift & cards section at Borders. I'm talking about the product lines that have descended like a hailstorm upon the market that make quippy little remarks about our EXTREME PASSIONS for things like the aforementioned chocolate, bubblebaths, and shopping. With our girlfriends.

I'm talking about the birthday cards that inevitably feature 3-5 older women, usually from about 20-50 years back, doing something outrageous as a group and "celebrating" their girlfriend-ness. See? Even old ladies from way-back-when had fun with their girlfriends!

I'm talking about the notecards in bright fuchsia and black with a single high-heeled pump or an Audrey Hepburn "Breakfast at Tiffanys" hat that just screams how much the sender/recipient loves fashion, especially Manolo Blah-niks.

I'm talking about the Chick Lit that is inevitably bound in hot pink, bright orange, or robins-egg blue. Usually all three.

I'm talking about the margarita/martini kits, anything with the I-Live-To-Shop philosophy emblazoned upon it, and the assumption that chocolate is a longed-for source of comfort to all women.

I don't personally care about any of this stuff (except occasional chocolate, but not for medicinal purposes), and yet it seems unkind and cruel to mock it to friends; usually because many of them were married too young, never discovered their personal tastes and preferences, and so are gladly latching on to these proffered escapes from their husband-work-kids existences, because they don't have time to develop anything on their own. The free time I take for granted (well, not entirely for granted; I certainly suffer when it's taken away from me!) to read and drive and watch TV and movies and do stuff blissfully alone is denied to so many women.

So I don't feel inclined to make fun of it; rather I grieve for the women who find these offerings novel and entertaining... because they don't have the time and freedom to find anything beyond them that their own soul really responds to.

If you see yourself in this, try reading The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim. It's a cure-all for what ails you. Yes, I know you saw the movie. Yes, it's very good. Read the book anyway.

House Calls

August 17, 2005
I must say, being swept along with an idea makes life SO much easier - you just let the current take you. Last week I decided I would advertise myself for home computer service, since for me it's much more satisfying and profitable than stuffing envelopes for a temp agency. Since then, I've just proceeded as though it was my full-time job, and it has proven far better an idea than I could have anticipated.

For years, whenever anyone asked what I did for a living and I said computers, most responses were "man, I need to get someone in to look at my computer, it's so slow!" or "I need wireless set up" or "I need to be shown how to use such-and-such." So, rather lazily, I decided to start making house calls, and this is the result:

Stay tuned!

State of the Susan

June 23, 2005
I am an amazingly fortunate and well-loved girl, let me tell you! We Southerners know how to cuddle and care for our own, as I have had amply demonstrated to me in the last 6 days. Granted, I did send about 100 folks on my email list a notice saying I was no longer at WMA with my new email address, so the News of Grief was out there... but so many people have been emailing, calling, and praying that I haven't had too much time to dwell on the difficulties of my situation. I haven't been this socially active, for, like, EVER. Almost daily there's been an invitation to lunch, or a horrified friend wanting details over dinner & a movie, etc. It's nice to have people outraged on your behalf!

Other developments: I have been dismayed to discover how filthy and cluttered my apartment is by the light of day. This is a strong indication of how lazy yet overworked I've been in the last year, as dusting has become an activity only attempted when guests were imminent, and spiders and roly-poly bugs have had free range of the areas behind furniture. Plus I have been forced to add even more to the clutter by bringing in the boxes of junk from my office. I have nowhere to put this stuff, let alone the gracefully placed stacks of books, boxes, etc. already scattered throughout my apartment. 742 square feet is JUST NOT ENOUGH. I need another room.

But that doesn't allay the underlying problem--that I no longer have any excuse whatsoever not to clean up the place. I think we have fully established that I have enough time now. I must root out the Packrat Within, and start hauling out unnecessary detritus to Goodwill and Amvets. <whine>But I don't wanna...!</whine>

Spirits are high, as I dearly love to talk about myself and how I'm doing, and this week has been one non-stop Me Me Me Me session. But I am beginning to get tired of Me, so I will be glad when all of the main people are fully apprised and I can start trying to figure out What To Do Next. I am hoping for a quick, clear and inescapable notification from God as to what my future plans are to be. Yeah, right.

Starting Something New

June 18, 2005
Yesterday I was let go from my job at William Morris Agency, after 8.5 years. The basic reason was that I was no longer a good fit for the job (which has expanded a great deal over the years), but I was appreciated for all my years of service with the Nashville office. I was a little teary-eyed, but managed to maintain my composure until I was out of the office. The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent in a not-unpleasant state of shock, as I enumerated to friends and family how nice it would be to have free time for several weeks, and maybe try something new, and how nice to be able to sleep late on Monday! A couple of friends came over to commiserate with me, we went out and had a fun dinner, and I got to bed early.

I woke up in a considerably different state of mind. As the day as progressed, the shock has been wearing off, and the pain and grief has been setting in. When you're single, I really think that your job is something akin to a spouse. Carrying the analogy a bit further, losing your job can be like being divorced or widowed. The tears have been flowing off and on, and the vast, yawning gulf of "what do I do now?" is before me. I think that perhaps I'm meant to do something else now instead of computer support, but what that might be is unknown to me. I like my stable existence, and am happiest when I have a routine to follow. But now I feel adrift, abandoned, with no solid ground in sight.

This might be one of those life-changing seasons I go through periodically, where God (who loves me too well to leave me as I am) starts making changes on my behalf. I can recognize the ultimate advantages and rewards, but it's pretty painful during the process. I feel a little panicky about what Monday will be like, without my routine to cling to; common sense and my Dad say I should start the job search immediately that morning. Part of me rebels at the idea, because I would like to have at least one whole month without working, just to see what it's like. But I also know that I don't do terribly well when I'm idle and have nothing but ME time. Yeah, I need it, but not for days on end!

I am fortunate that I am well-enough provided for that I don't have to snatch the first job that comes along; but I think I will feel much better if I can find something suitable and get settled in. In the meantime, I am available for some computer consulting and whatever part-time jobs that might come along.


June 14, 2005
I am currently engaged in a wholly engrossing activity of truly nerdish/geeky proportions; I have become a chronic embroiderer. My favorite activity most nights is to come home and watch Simpsons episodes while I do needlework. I am keenly aware that this is the most appallingly boring activity most hip young thirty-somethings could ever imagine. But there are several compelling reasons why I feel the need to sew.

[BTW, did you know that the word "suzan" in Farsi means "needle"? See?!]

  • One, because it keeps me from being an irredeemable couch potato. As long as I am Productive, I don't feel like my evenings in front of the TV are a complete waste.
  • Two, because it keeps me from eating from boredom - it is impossible to eat and sew simultaneously.
  • Three, because it impresses the hell out of almost everyone. A well-executed sampler or project as a gift will pretty much make every other gift look tawdry, cheap, and ill-considered. "See? I love you more than everyone else!"
  • Four, because it is beautiful.
  • Five, because it is real.

Four and Five deserve some elaboration... some "embroidery," if you will. All day long at my IT job I manipulate bits of nothingness - I produce NOTHING except documents that more often than not never even get printed - ghosts of words that are read by someone in an email and then deleted, never to be made tangible. Needlework is the one inescapably real thing I do outside the office that actually displays talent and skill beyond my ability to hook up a user laptop on a DSL wireless network and connect via VPN to the office network, or add a show venue address to an enormous database.

It used to be that most of the things produced with needle and thread were useful in some way - you made clothing or upholstery or bed linens yourself. But now there's no need - it can be done more cheaply and quickly by machines in factories, or by women at home on sewing machines. Almost the only hand-sewing done now is for art's sake - quilts, cross-stitch, needlepoint. And when you use real linen, and cotton or sometimes silk thread, there is a tangible, beautiful product completed after many hours. It takes focus and it takes patience. Except for little projects, most needlework projects take weeks or months.

It's sometimes my only grasp on what is real, what matters, what is meaningful - with a TiVo, iPod, and Blackberry, I can literally spend HOURS on intangibles that have little value or benefit (unless it be to inspire or educate... but for me, usually it's just for entertainment). I come home after herding invisible bits and bytes around an unseen network all day, and I pick up a piece of fine linen with threads of scarlet and purple, and I am making something far more enduring than the report on client earnings I generated that morning, or the software installed that afternoon.

And of course, like I said - it impresses the hell out of everyone.


May 11, 2005
It has always been slightly distressing to me that despite my vibrant, sparkling personality, I have never acquired a nickname. I have always been rigidly, unyieldingly "Susan". There has been the occasional "Sooze," "Suze," and "Suzie-Q" but never with any consistency to be considered official. Not even my nieces and nephews have come up with an informal nickname, unless you consider their first attempts at saying my name, which tended to lean towards "Shzughjen" - apparently my name falls into the category of Difficult Consonants for Children Learning to Speak. My friend Rachel has been nicknamed "Kitten," which is so wonderfully inappropriate that it is FABULOUS. It's perfect for her persona in it's ironic, Ann-Margret-in-an-Elvis-movie cuteness.

So this has been a topic of conversation several times in recent weeks, by some coincidence. I was just sitting here, and glanced as I often do, at my Bunny calendar, with it's oh-so-cute pictures, and went "Bingo!"

I am a sucker for little, cute, fluffy bunnies, puppies and kittens. I am apt to squeal when seeing them. Really. All adult sensibilities drain out of my body upon sighting such Cuteness. This, despite my fondness for macabre, black comedy. I turn into a 5 year old chasing a baby chick on Easter. Perhaps this tendency has continued into adulthood because my fondness for Cute Things was never accommodated as a child. I have some Hello Kitty items of recent purchase, carefully selected to appear kitschy and ironic when noticed by others… but really, I like them because they're adorable.

I don't particularly admire cuteness in human beings, but this weakness for baby animals… what can I say, it's chronic. So, I henceforth wish to be known as "Bunny". It will take a while to get this ingrained in my circle of friends, I admit - but I will strive to make it happen, even though I am an aged 36 (29) and such habits are hard to pick up as an adult. But if I am expected to make a habit of going to the gym, then I think this is certainly MUCH easier to instill.

My New Office

April 15 , 2005
The Dreaded Office Move is over, more or less... I am in my new office, and the worst of it seems to have passed. The fact that I can actually snatch a few moments to plug this in is evidence of it, even though there are a half-dozen things I should be doing. Anyway, I have a little photo essay on my Photos page of my new working environment; it's very classy, stylish, etc... yet I keep thinking "Yes, well, this is all very nice. [pause] So when are we going back to our real office?" I did go back this afternoon to get some odds and ends, and it was just so grimy and battered-looking, I was quite scornful. Which is sad, because I was happy there, and at the time thought it quite well-appointed. I am mean-spirited and shallow - that's all there is to it...

I am located in the most well-hidden spot in the office - you have to go through 2 rooms to get to my office door. I am tempted to hang a sign over the door such as:

  • Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here
  • Ship's Doctor
  • Center of the Onion
  • The Burrow
None of which are particularly clever or apt, but I am reeeeealy tired. Perhaps someone has a suggestion or two?

How Susan Dropped Off The Face of the Planet

March 3, 2005
So Leslie Crowder calls me up in the midst of a typically busy day at work, which pretty much stops me cold since I’ve talked to her exactly twice since high school… and wants to know if I’m ok, since my website has disappeared. Having been talked by The Naud into switching my web hosting to godaddy.com which is Good and Cheap, [two points of the Triangle of Construction Desireability, for those not in the know… if you are having work done on your house or building from scratch, you can only have 2 of the following 3 things: Quality, Cheapness, and Speed. If you want it Cheap & Fast, you sacrifice Quality. If you want it Good & Fast, you will Pay Through the Nose, and so on] I neglected to change the nameservers until my Earthlink hosting had completely run out. Do I understand any of this? Not really; I have to go through the whole website hosting re-education process every other year or so for various websites, and it never seems to stick.

So Leslie had just wondered if I was still alive or massively depressed, and I was able to reassure her that I was not Dead or Depressed. As the only person who had caught this Loss of Site, I promised her a shout-out in the form of a new entry, and I promised to say that it too would be an entry Forced at Gunpoint. [Sorry about the excessive capitalizations – I’m in an 18th century/AA Milne phase this evening and it just has such a distinctive tone, don’t you think? It’s amusingly ironic as well as helping to emphasize points without underlining or italicizing.]

So... I've been processing this idea for a while here: Sometimes I feel like I live in an alternate universe - that I'm in the "what if" existence of some George Bailey, and by his absence, I am living in caution, tepidness (tepidity?) and selfishness, only living half the life I might be living in another, more complete universe. I wonder if I'm a Mary Bailey, living a dowdy and lonely life as a pitiful librarian with no husband and kids because MY George was never born. Not that I feel in any way pitiful - I would say that I generally enjoy my life - but perhaps it could be so much more than it is, and far more satisfying. Anyway, that's all I have on this idea now - read the novels of Jasper Fforde for a far more entertaining articulation.

My office is moving on April 1st - we're scooting over to Roundabout Plaza, the new building right next to the statue "Musica" - a heroically-sized, copper-green statue of the nine muses. Classically Nude. Quite the eye opener! I sometimes just start laughing when I catch it out of the corner of my eye. Not that I have any problem with nude statuary or that I think it's in any way inappropriate; but it just feels so out of place in a city like Nashville. We're not exactly known for our historical art & architecture, beyond the Parthenon. Come to think of it, Musica would be far more appropriately placed in Centennial Park. But it's visible from our new office-to-be, and so I will have to grow accustomed to nekkid men & women every time I pass a window.

So, I will be dropping back off the face of the planet again for a couple of months while I deal with the massive effort this will require - so much stuff to move -- 8 years of accumulated computer detritus in my office to sort & throw out. Hopefully I'll be back on earth in late April.

Pretensions of Dining

January 12, 2005
OK, I was at J. Alexander's for lunch the other day, and a more confused confluence of fine dining and fern-bar excess has rarely been seen. Not that I did not enjoy my lunch, or the atmosphere, or the service. But they seem to be suffering from some confusion as to what their niche is in the Nashville dining world.

Hostesses in black, wait staff in white shirts with black ties, white cloth napkins. Dim lighting, dark lacquered wood finishes, a visible wine cellar with rows of bottles. The large, heavy cardstock 1-page menu had the entire back devoted to the wine selection. Oh, ok, it's leaning towards Sunset Grill-quality Fine dining.

Then I examine the menu. Typical selections, until I spot this: Mr. Jack's Chicken Fingers Dinner. The description starts something like this:

Made with Mr. Jack's famous South Carolina low-country recipe...

OK, folks - we are talking CHICKEN FINGERS here. Strips of boneless fried chicken, put on all menus to order for finicky children or as comfort food for the adults. They are not regionally famous - I don't go on vacation and think to myself, "Hmmm, I think I'll order a local delicacy... where's the chicken fingers on the menu?" Secondly, they are not state specialties, either. South Carolina is not famous for it's chicken fingers, let alone the LOWER HALF of the state.

I ordered the chicken salad open-face sandwich on foccacia bread. When the plate was finally placed in front of me, its contents rose almost to my chin - a good half-pound of chunky chicken salad, on an 8 x 6 inch slab of foccacia, with another slab of foccacia off to the side with tomatoes, lettuce and a dab of dressing to place atop the heap and squash it into submission. Plus the huge portion of thin-cut french fries, rising majestically from the plate like a golden haystack.

This was fern-bar quantity, not the discreetly cautious portions of a fine dining establishment, where everyone working there is slim and café-chic stylish, and the food reflects similar restraint. I could not finish half of it. It was worthy of TGI Fridays... and perhaps, was a last respectful gesture on the part of the JA kitchen staff, since the local TGIF had been closed down recently. Their competetor had died because it had been unable to adapt to the changing diets of a more sophisticated population, and yet J Alexander's acknowledged their kinship, and in sorrowful respect, heaped my plate high.

Journal Archive - entries prior to 2005

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