There's More to Life Than Knitting!

Join Suna as she stops knitting long enough to ponder her life, share her joys and concerns, and comment on the goings on in the world.
You are very welcome here, so feel free to comment and contribute!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Food for Thought #6

Today Lee asks questions that are too hard for first thing in the morning, especially after typing all those albums yesterday, but here I go.

Appetizer: Read the appetizer in full before acting. Focus on this screen. Then close your eyes and turn your head to the right. What is the first thing your eyes focus on when you open them?

I wish I could say Lee, but in actuality, I focused on the streetlight outside. It's so windy I had to look out and see if everything was still there.

Soup: When something good happens to someone you work with, how do you react?

I am generally happy for them. The only time I wasn't was when we were in competition for the same job and I came in second. And I really thought I was the better candidate. In retrospect, it's OK because that job got sent to India last year.

Salad: If something happened in your career that doubled your income, what is the first thing you would do?

I'd probably collapse from relief that I can stop worrying. After that, I would pay off any debt I had. Then I think I would put new floors and counters in the house. Wow, rivetingly exciting.

Entré: How do we acquire our drives, the parts of us that make us want to accomplish one thing versus another thing?

I guess I didn't want to be as financially struggling as my parents, and I didn't want to spend my whole life sitting in front of a TV smoking like my mom. So, I tried to do well.

Dessert: What made you happy today?

Since today just started, I will go with yesterday. A nice dinner with Lee, and a mini tuba concert from Tuba Boy made me happy. I will miss his last solo and ensemble competition, so I wanted to hear his solo.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Top 25 Albums (actually 26)

Lee did this on his blog, so I will, too. It's a Facebook meme that our friend Austin tagged Lee on. I guess you're supposed to list your 25 favorite albums, the ones that really get you, and say why. In any case, that's what I am doing here. And the photo is my two favorite young musicians, pondering whether they will ever make an album as good as any of these.

Beatles: White Album (The Beatles)(1968)

Like most every American or English person who grew up in the 60s, I love the Beatles. I enjoyed all their projects a lot, but this is the one I go back to time and time again. It’s so much less “commercial” and so much more raw. Songs like “Revolution” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” are etched in my mind forever. I guess I like how this one goes from hard to soft, quiet to loud, serious to funny…John to Ringo. It’s got something for everyone!

Beethoven, Symphony #9

I actually have a lot of classical and baroque music that I am fond of, but nothing whacks me in the gut like this piece. Every single note is a treasure. I have spent many an afternoon or evening listening to this. In fact, one reason I am glad for CDs is that I don’t have to stop and turn the record over to listen to this all at once. A part of me wishes I could perform in the fourth movement, just once. But a part of me knows that there’s one part where I’d start crying (where all four soloists sing together), which would mean I’d be all stuffy for the triumphant ending section. Really, if you want to see me cry, play this. And if you have never heard it (not just pieces of it in a commercial) oh please do.

Carpenters: A Song for You (1972)

This was balm to the teenaged Suna’s soul. I just wanted to be Karen Carpenter (or who I thought she was—obviously I didn’t know about her issues at this time). I played their albums endlessly, and really loved this one a lot. My poor mother was lucky she sort of liked this stuff, because I sang these songs over and over and over. I sang these in school a lot, both in chorus and solos. If only I were coordinated, I was sure I could have sang, played drums and wore granny dresses just like Karen! Look, I was a teenage girl. She was my Miley Cyrus, only an adult. At least I eschewed Donny Osmond. I did sorta like the Partridge Family, but Danny was my favorite before he became a famous has-been. I digress.

Slaid Cleaves Broke Down (2000)

I need to include someone local, and there’s no one local and commercially successful who impresses me more than Slaid Cleaves. He’s like the John Denver of the millennium—so cuuuute. But, I’ve met his wife and mother, so I will just remain a fan. I love his voice, even his yodeling, but mostly I think he is an amazingly talented songwriter. This CD showcases his songwriting talents the best, which is why I picked it. And his band is always really good, no matter who’s in it. I like that he has people I actually know join him sometimes, which adds to the fun. And he hugged me once.

Elvis Costello: My Aim Is True (1977)

This is another album that knocked me over the first time I heard it. This was different! This was loud and relentless but at the same time had something to say. So many of the punk and “New Wave” songs we were listening to at the time had one message and just hit you over the head with it (I am thinking of the Clash and such). But this skinny little guy with glasses and funny pants had something to say. I’ve always admired how Costello has explored different genres but kept his song-writing quality so high. But this one, with the young and angry Elvis, is my favorite.

John Denver: Rocky Mountain High (1973)

Oh, shut up. This album meant a lot to me. It was the first time I really listened to a guitarist and was impressed. And he WAS a good song writer! I always wanted to have “For Baby, For Bobby” sung at my wedding, but it would have made Jeff throw up, so I didn’t ask. This album has some beautiful songs on it, and I will always remember it fondly. I had such a crush on John Denver. The glasses, the hair, the hat. Yummy.

Bob Dylan: Blonde on Blonde (1966)

Yes, he sings funny. But I love his cryptic lyrics and varied song structures. This album reminds me of high school, when my boyfriend spent a lot of time convincing me that Dylan was great (he succeeded here, but failed with Patti Smith). Sheer repetition of this album finally wore me down, and I grew to love it like an old but battered piece of furniture. It grew comfy and began to fit in all my curves. I’ve enjoyed following Dylan’s career, but do wish we could have seen him live any time OTHER than his hyper-Christian period. Oh well, at least I’ve seen him live.

Enya: Watermark (1988)

I really love music that has a lot of layers. And Enya is the mistress of layers. This is my favorite of her projects, though there’s nothing she’s done that I didn’t enjoy. I like that most of the songs are in Latin or Irish, so you can concentrate on the pure sound. This also reminds me of Ireland the first time I went there, so lots of happy memories are associated with it.

Art Garfunkel: Breakaway (1975)

Yeah, you’d expect I’d put a Paul Simon solo album here, but no. I put this one on, because I listened to it for so many hours in high school. The selection of songs on this album was just wonderful. I especially love his version of “I Only Have Eyes for You.” It is some of the most beautiful singing I have ever heard. What a vocal talent.

Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton: Trio (1987)

These are three of my favorite voices, all singing together with lots and lots of three-part harmony. It’s practically heaven to me. There are so many wonderful old and new songs on this one! My favorite is “The Pain of Loving You.” I love songs about love and pain.

Indigo Girls Become You (2002)

You know I like harmonies, especially female voices singing harmony, so having an Indigo Girls album on here is no big surprise. These two women play guitar in a most kick-ass fashion, write amazingly powerful songs, and sing harmony so beautifully that those wonderful songs could be “la la la” and I’d still like them. I choose this album because so many of the songs had personal meaning for me when I was going through my divorce and my internal crisis. My friend Nancy Jo and I would sing along to this in the car and be, for at least a while, very happy, regardless of our dismal personal lives at the time. Glad we moved on!

Billy Joel: Turnstiles (1976)

Here’s another songwriter I love. I admit I am more fond of his early work. We saw him live not too long after this album came out, and he was an amazing pianist with the wit of a professional stand-up guy. Stuff happened to him, hurt hand, sucked in by the commercial music machine. But, I think he’s better now. I love all the songs on this, but particularly “Say Goodbye to Hollywood,” and my personal anthem, “Summer, Highland Falls” (“They say that these are not the best of times, but they’re the only times I’ve ever known. And I believe there is a time for meditation in cathedrals of our own.”)

Carole King: Tapestry (1971)

The first album ever given to me, it played in rotation with Mud Slide Slim until I could save up for another album! Luckily, I picked them well as a young teen, and this has certainly stood the test of time. Shoot, it’s on most anyone my age’s list of favorites, so I don’t need to go on. Carole King just hit the jackpot here with so many enduringly beautiful songs (and I adore that version of “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”), sung so well. Plus, it also had “You’ve Got a Friend” on it. I had a hard time deciding which version I liked best.

Tom Petty: The Last DJ

Yes sir, another ugly singer with a weird voice. I can pick them, can’t I? But I love his songs and I love his band even more. This is another thickly layered band with lots of underlying keyboards and loud, yet clear guitars. Gee, I am glad I wrote this. I am figuring out what I like in rock and roll. I love Tom because he’s from my home town. And I love this album, not his most popular or anything, but a personal favorite because “Dreamville” is on it. I wrote a whole blog post on this song, because it describes Gainesville, Florida so well. Even the air smells good there. Thanks for that, Tom!

Prince: Purple Rain (1984)

He likes purple, I like purple. He’s 5’2”, I’m 5’2”. My dad’s name is Prince…so of course I liked this album. No really, honest, this thing got to me for the same reason so many others on this list do: densely layered sound with lots of pure guitars wafting over head. And the songs are superb. This is one fine album.

Rockpile: Seconds of Pleasure (1980)

This is some killer rockabilly by the great Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds. What cute exports from the British Isles they were. I got all the albums these two made around these years and treasure them all. It was loud (very loud in person—I lost my hearing for a while after seeing them and Blondie on the same bill), fast and fun. And those guitars…whee!

Linda Ronstadt: Heart Like a Wheel (1974)

I played this album so much that the tracks got faint. I probably know all the words to every song, too. “Faithless Love” is on here. I have sung that so many times when I was all alone and wanting to wallow in self pity. Linda’s voice is my absolute favorite, and I tried to learn from her, since I didn’t get voice lessons when I was a teen/young adult.

Linda Ronstadt: Prisoner in Disguise (1975)

This is my favorite Linda Ronstadt album has some of my favorite songs of all time on it, such as the title track. It was where I learned “I Will Always Love You,” too. Then I went out and bought a Dolly Parton album! She is just amazing at choosing songs that are perfect for her range and vocal qualities (wish I had that luxury).

Simon and Garfunkel: Sounds of Silence or Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme (1966)

I can’t choose between these two, because each has songs I really like and a couple I could live without (and they came out the same year—let’s treat them like one double album). As you have probably guessed by now, I really like strong vocal harmonies and complex guitar parts. So, naturally you will find Simon and Garfunkel here. This is music I know I will love my whole life. Paul Simon is an amazing talent, and this was during some of his finest songwriting years. And I love Art Garfunkel’s voice. I’m glad I’ve been able to sing a few of these. It is so much fun.

Bruce Springsteen: Born to Run (1975)

I remember sort of feeling faint the first time I heard this album start. It’s a good thing I was lying down at the time. This one was love at first listen. And after dozens and dozens of times, many live performances, numerous videos and singing “Jungleland” in the car, it has not grown tiresome. I love the sound of this band. I just want to go hug every single member of the E Street Band and thank them.

Bruce Springsteen: The River (1980)

Granted, Bruce’s voice is not to everyone’s taste. So, you don’t need to comment that his singing is not your cup of tea. I like pure female voices and raspy, grumbly male voices, I guess (see the Elvis Costello, Tom Petty, Warren Zevon, and Bob Dylan listings). Anyway, I love this album almost as much as Born to Run. Iplayed side 2 to death, because I was so fond of “Drive All Night,” an obscure track but one that always made me cry.

James Taylor: Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon (1972)

This is actually the first album I ever paid money for and bought for myself. It’s pretty impressive that it is still one of my all-time favorites. But, it has one of my top five songs of all time, “You’ve Got a Friend,” on it, plus “You Can Close Your Eyes,” which is my favorite lullaby of all time. I really love to listen to Taylor sing and play. His songs are complex, yet smooth.

Pete Townshend: Empty Glass (1980)

I lived by myself for a year, my first year in grad school. I spent most of that time in a small attic, learning about linguistics and listening to this album, over and over. I just loved the song "Just a Little Is Enough" (whoa, it's deep, I thought, after listening to it a few hundred times), though three or four others on this one also make my top favorite song list. This is when I realized Pete didn't need Roger Daltrey to sing his songs. He is just fine on his own. This is just a beautiful piece of music, and if you find it, get it.

The Who: Quadrophenia (1973)

It kills me to only list two Who albums here. But I assure you I love Tommy and the Who by Numbers a lot, too. Quadrophenia, though, came into my life right when I needed it. It was perfect for the disaffected intellectual teen who just wanted to go sit on the beach and make life go away. And it was loud and it had naughty words in it. And my boyfriend kept writing me notes with lyrics on them. I thought he was so poetic. No wonder he became an English professor.

The Who: Who’s Next (1971)

This is my favorite album of all time. Every track’s a winner. I wish the Lifehouse project (another long Pete Townshend project, which was originally where a lot of the songs were going to be) had been completed, but then, these songs wouldn’t have been put on an album in this order, and my life would have been just a wee bit less fulfilled, somehow. Oh those sounds. Like Born to Run, the notes in this just made my synapses dance.

Warren Zevon: The Wind (2003)

Warren Zevon is one of my favorite songwriters. I like how he could write crazy things like “Werewolves of London” and “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead,” and love songs like “Accidentally Like a Martyr” and “Reconsider Me.” And he was such a funny, interesting guy. I really wish I’d been able to see him live in concert. His piano playing really gets to me, though the guitars on his albums also tear through my soul. This album is his last, and has so many wonderful contributors and so many incredible songs. Wow. I miss him so much.

Honorable Mention: O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack, The Traveling Wilburys, Wings: Band on the Run, Sinead O’Connor: I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, Bach: Well Tempered Clavier, The Beach Boys: Pet Sounds, Green Cards: Weather and Water

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wednesday Wonders #8: Gwynneth of Braesgate

Yesterday was a hard one. As if the job disappointment wasn’t enough, we had come to the very hard decision that it was time to let Gwynneth, our Welsh corgi, go off to join all my past canine and feline companions. It was not a fun thing to do, at all. I know it was right—she couldn’t walk anymore and had lost control of her bladder and bowels. Not fun for either her or us. Picking her up to bathe her after these incidents was hurting me, too, as was the close contact (I have grown allergic to her dander since her illness). It was so hard for her to get around, not being able to walk or see. Lee and I took her to the vet, hoping for a peaceful last few minutes, but it didn’t work out that way. She got all scared and upset when they were putting in her IV, which took forever. I feel horrible about that, and about how upset she was when we were trying to comfort her during her last minutes. I wanted her to peacefully transition, but, as usual, her plan was to make a lot of noise and fuss. I guess it fit her disposition.

To honor the 12 years we spent with her, I have made Gwynneth of Braesgate the Wednesday Wonder this week. We got Gwynnie right after we moved into this house. We had decided the kids were old enough for a puppy, and that since I worked from home, it would be not too bad training one. I chose the breed, looking for something not too big or small. I now wish that the cute “frapping” the corgi magazines and websites all talked about had been adequately translated to “incessant sharp barking.” I was ready for the “blowing of coat” aspect of corgis, but I think I thought it would last a few weeks a year, not about half.

We got her from a breeder in San Marcos, and were able to meet her parents. We were relieved that she was raised in the home, not a cage or anything. She was the puppy that seemed to like us the most. We enjoyed her puppyhood a lot, and even did puppy training. She failed at “lie down” because she was so short-legged that you couldn’t lower a treat enough to get her to go down. She loved to go for walks, but had a life-long habit of wanting to hold the leash in her mouth as she walked. So, we let her do that, and she did fine. We walked her a lot, for years, until the mean neighbor chased me down on a walk with Scrunchy, because I’d used up all my poop bags and he went again. I was heading home to get another bag, but he was so awful that I just never walked the dogs again, other than a couple of short ones since Lee moved in. (The joy of walks is diminished by having to carry smelly dog crap around with you, anyway, though I agree it is nice to clean up.)

Gwynnie always “smiled” like my mother, and sometimes I got the feeling she was like Mom. Who knows, maybe people show up again as dogs. This agnostic grants that anything is possible, and I have no proof either way. But it’s a nice thought.

She was mostly a very happy dog, and would have been an ideal canine companion except that she just barked too much. Way too much. If she saw someone moving on the cul-de-sac, heard a car, thought maybe there was a cat outside, or whatever, she’d start to bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Slightly off rhythm. And that inspired the other dogs to join in. I have to admit it was incredibly annoying. And we could never cure her of jumping up on people, no matter how many knees to the chest we delivered or how we ignored her until she did the right thing. Only blindness cured that—she couldn’t aim anymore. Her other annoying habit was trying to eat other dogs’ food. Poor Scrunchy can’t eat as quickly as her, and for years we have had to stand between them so she wouldn’t rush over and finish his food. Rose eats so slowly that it took Lee quite some time to get them all calm and only eating their own stuff! Again, blindness helped. Lee took to scattering some of her food near her dish, so she’d get all distracted ferreting that out that the other dogs would have time to finish their meals.

Gwynnie liked all the other dogs, and she and Scrunchy had a blast when he was a puppy. They played and played. They’d tug on the same chew toy until they were totally spent. Those years were fun, when we had those two and lots of time to spend with them. She enjoyed Rose, too, even when she couldn’t see her. Rose learned to bring a toy to Gwynnie to play with her.

The last couple of years were hard for Gwynnie. As you probably know, she suddenly went blind right after one of my jobs ended. I spent so much money on the various vets, when I didn’t have anything to spare. And we never got a better diagnosis than “some fungus or something.” She did OK until 6 months or so ago when there seemed to be something wrong with a foot. They said it was the fungus and that it would only get worse. Then it became harder to walk, as I’ve mentioned. The last few days were really bad. She made a lot of mess in the house and was cutting herself on the legs by dragging them. A couple of people I know have mentioned having dogs like this, where the front half seems happy and the back half so sad. How do you know when the balance between OK quality of life and not-so-OK quality is reached?

I wish I’d had more time with the dogs the last few years. I like to have someone home with dogs. It worked out fine when I worked from home, then when Jeff was home most days. When Lee came, not only did two more dogs show up, but when we are both working, the dogs end up alone during the day. They get into mischief then. This is not really how I wanted it. And I feel bad for the dogs not having much human company. At least they have each other. I hope that the other three don’t get too sad when they realize she’s gone. Buddy will be breathing a sigh of relief, since she and he didn’t get along to well at first, and she was always getting in his way during the mad scrambles to eat or greet some poor unfortunate visitor. On the other hand, as the photo shows, toward the end, Gwynnie and Buddy spent a lot of quality time together. She used him as a guide dog sometimes, following him wherever he went (to his annoyance—he has been known to pee on her).

I guess you can see I have mixed feelings here. I really enjoyed Gwynnie, especially when we just had two dogs. It was challenging accommodating her special needs for the past couple of years, but I didn’t mind all that much—it’s part of the commitment you make when you get a pet. I do think the house will be quieter, and there’s at least a little chance that some time we could go out of town and have someone watch the other dogs for a couple of days.

I guess Gwynnie’s like any of us. She had her good and bad points. She was loving and kind, and fun to pet. She’d roll over and wag her stub of a tail to get you to rub her belly. She was not big on begging for table scraps, once we cured Jeff from giving them to her, and she was very good about getting into her crate when told. It was her haven and she’d run in there any time there were raised voices in the household. She insisted on participating in gift opening every Christmas-- always right in the middle of everything, loving the bows and boxes. And when she could run, she was like a rocket playing fetch. That’s my best memory of her, running like a low-flying missile with her toy in her mouth.

Thank you to everyone who has said nice things to me about her passing. I appreciate all the words. Pets really are members of the family, and there’s a hole in your life when you lose one. I’ve lost both my cats and Gwynnie in the last few years. Gwynnie and Seamus weren’t that old, either. I wish they could have stayed longer. I could use a break on this kind of thing, too.

I have a baby shower to go to this evening, so maybe that will cheer me up. I wish I’d managed to block the baby blanket, but I was a bit overly weepy and sad last night.

The Pattern Repeats

If you are a long-time reader, you are probably expecting this post by now. It seems to occur every 6 months or so.

Yes, it's another work-related disappointment. I no longer have the tantalizing hope that I'll be offered a permanent position on the team I'm in now.

Apparently they had one full-time equivalent, and had hoped to make that be my position, but a woman in the department who's got high connections wanted someone to work for her, so it went there. And that's all I'll say in case someone at ALE reads my blog. Ask me in person for details!

I don't think I made the cut for the other position at ALE, since it is being advertised outside the company. I'm hoping a colleague will put me in for one of the two positions at that other department, though. It's doing something I would like to do.

So, it's back to the networking drawing board. I have possibilities, of course, so I'll be fine. I just get to have my 1.5 days of incredible disappointment before picking myself up and starting again! Mainly I am mourning that nice feeling of not worrying about income for a while. That seems to last 7 months of these 9-month contracts!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Rock and Roll Generations

Here you see it, the pinnacle of motherhood: your kid's first appearance performing at a bar! There's no denying it: these are kids who will go on to actually get gigs some day, judging from how they did last night.

The only hitch in the deal was that somehow Parker got it into her head that the open mic night at scenic Nuno’s North (corner of Parmer and MoPac, in that building that’s been like 8 different things in the past 12 years) started at 7. Instead, it started at 9, with the first guest band not on until ten. That left a rather awkward group of parents, relatives and friends to sit and chat for two hours in something that strongly resembles a “dive.” All of us came, even Jeff (which was very sweet of him to drive all the way up from south Austin to watch musicians perform for free—not his idea of fun usually). Tuba Boy and Scrabble Queen came, but she had to be home before the band could start. Parker’s entire extended family, including grandparents and her best friend, were there, and Dean’s family had extras, too. So, we must have brought in 20 paying customers, making us popular with the bartender, anyway. We managed to survive the wide-ranging conversations, and I knitted a lot.

The show opened with the “house band.” I don’t know who they were. I think two long-haired brothers and a woman named Dawn. They all looked to be my age or a bit older, but were quite rocking. Lee and Jeff had comments on their technique, but they did 3-part harmonies well, played a fun selection of rock classics and a couple of originals, and whoa, the woman named Dawn can shred a guitar. I think her solos were very educational for Beccano and Parker. The fact that the lead singer broke three guitar strings but kept going, and that the other two had back-up songs ready to go while he changed strings, I hope also made a good impression about how the show must go on.

Then, “Tri-Skellions” were introduced (close, anyway), and I was very proud of them for not acting intimidated by their predecessors. They walked up, settled in and played their songs. Even with no mic on Parker for a bit of “Revolution” they plugged away. Beccano played guitar on two songs, and bass on “My Generation,” which needs backing vocals. But, he did a fine job on his bass solo. You couldn’t see him shaking! Dean is quite good on drums and showed no signs of faltering—there were some tempo issues, but that’s no surprise in an early gig for new performers. Parker’s singing was relaxed and she rocked out on a few. In fact, I think “Hey Joe” would have been super if the guitar hadn’t been turned up too loud! When they were finished, the emcee said to give them some more applause, because, “They are our future!”

The best part of the whole performance, though, was how the audience treated the kids. There were a lot of middle-aged rockers there. Much long gray hair. But, they listened and after each song, applauded very loudly and warmly. Not polite applause, but genuinely appreciative. After the kids played, I went to the bass player in the house band, who was running the show, and thanked him for letting the kids on, and said that was their first actual performance. He said he was surprised it was their first time, and told me, “They are welcome to come back, any time. And I mean it, man, any time!” He said it was nice to hear kids play “our music.” Beccano said a couple of other guys said the same thing to him—that they liked the selections, and to keep playing. It is really encouraging for them to keep practicing, keep learning newer and harder songs, and to play more.

Now we just have to get Beccano looking less John Entwistle-like on stage. Gotta make him move. I know he just thinks he needs to become more comfortable with “his guitaring,” as he calls it.

If you’re my Facebook friend, you’ve probably already seen links to their performance videos, courtesy of Parker’s dad. Here's the YouTube link where their videos are posted, by Parker's dad. And at last here is the link to the neighbor rant of yesterday.

I will be back tomorrow with a tribute to a special family member.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Weekend of Triskelion Excitement

Well, we sure had an eventful weekend!

One night Beccano had Parker and his girlfriend over. I have to say that listening to the sounds of their interaction were really nice. I love listening to kids having a nice time with each other, and the peals of girl laughter were really pleasant to hear. I could live without the deafening shrieks some girl children put out, but these two don’t seem to be shriekers. Besides, Parker and I enjoy our little banter, too.

Saturday was perhaps the busiest knitting shop day we’d had in ages, and at least three of us ended up helping teach various people, because there were so many customers. I helped mainly with a birthday party of an 11-year-old. If I’d known I’d be doing that, I’d have brought some props and been organize, but at least they all got going—some doing really well. I didn’t have much time to enjoy with friends, but I did get to teach my own students and it was much less stressful than last week!

Beccano spent all day Saturday at Russia Day on the UT campus, and he really liked it (I recall his intense fascination with Russia a few years back—he surprised his friends at being able to read the alphabet). Lee did a whole bunch of yard work, then he and I went to Costco, where we hadn’t been in a long time. We got a membership, but had hardly any time to shop because we arrived as they were closing (at 6 on a Saturday!). At least we got some nice shrimp pasta that we all enjoyed, even Tuba Boy on one of his brief visits home. He spent most of the weekend flitting from gathering to gathering, when not working. It’s great to see him enjoying his senior year so much. I always know what happens, since his friends post photos of every single event on their Facebook pages.

Sunday was our most adventure-packed day, though. It started with a really fun time in choir, where we sang “The Age of Aquarius” with only a bass (choir director’s amazing son) and a little piano backing us. We had so much fun rocking out that we wished it would not end. That’s us in photo #1. Plus the sermon was even good—all about social networking and how it isn’t ALL bad. After that, we rehearsed for next week’s Dixieland band performance, and it went much better once I knew when to sing the verses! Tuba Boy brought the tuba, and we had the trombone, too. Lots of fun, and since there are two songs I don’t sing on, lots of knitting time.

We dropped by Parker’s on the way home, to see if perhaps Beccano needed a ride from band practice, and Triskelion (currently him, Parker and Dean E.—see photo) ran out, quite excited at their heart-stopping band rehearsal adventures. They’d been rehearsing in the garage, and had decided to film themselves doing “Revolution” by the Beatles (of which they do a fairly calm version). In a fit of poor timing on his part, that was when Grumpy Neighbor of Parker (GNOP) decided to drop on by and let them know how he felt about their performance. As he proceeded to point his finger, F bomb a 16-year-old girl, insult her father, and rail about her effing dogs, the camera continued to roll. He told them to stop rehearsing or he’d call the police. Seeing that they had all this evidence of trespassing and verbal assault, the kids decided to call 911 themselves. I wish you could have seen the glee on all three kids’ faces as they shared how “cool” the police officer was. Apparently, they were playing nowhere near loudly enough to be a problem at mid-day in a location with no noise ordinance in the first place. But GNOP really shouldn’t have wandered over and been all nasty to the young folk. The officer headed on over and explained all that to poor ole GNOP. Anyway, if you are my Facebook friend, you can see a link to the little film clip and here it is on YouTube, which has received rave reviews from Parker’s dad’s friends (who are much more, shall we say, aggressive, than mine, heh heh) and my friends. It’s especially funny to everyone I know who’s in a death metal band. Kids getting yelled at for playing Beatles songs on tiny amps. Hilarious. It's a rite of passage for young rockers in a garage band, though!

To further Triskelion’s musical education, Lee and I later took them to the Artz Ribhouse benefit concert last night. We didn’t get them introduced to too many famous people (just Jeff, Stephen Taylor and Danny Santos, seen here with Parker). But, they got to enjoy the spectacle of me listening to Slaid Cleaves. I couldn’t go into a trance-like state, though, because people we so loud you really could not hear the bands. What do you expect, though, when most of the audience knew each other? It was a real gathering of every Americana and bluegrass musician and fan in the greater Austin area. We did see a bunch of friends there, and enjoyed all the cool stuff in the silent auction. But, we didn’t stay too long. It would have been more fun a) with seats and b) if you could have heard the music. It’s a good cause, though. Blatant ad: If you live here or ever visit, please go to Artz! The music is always good, and you may spot a famous person, or at least someone Suna knows. They have new ceiling tiles so it’s slightly less dive-like now, too.

Lee and I really enjoyed the three teens a lot, so it was worth bringing them. And tonight we see them again, as they are trying for their first open mic night at Nuno’s, which is apparently on the corner of MoPac and Parmer. I hope it goes well for them. From what I can see from looking on the Web, the place is something of a dive and not run by the nicest of folks, but hey, it could be just fine. And the review said it was kid friendly. Triskelion seem to know all their songs, so at least they are ready!

Well, it’s going to be a busy and perhaps rather emotional week, so think of us as we blast through it. I hope by tomorrow we have photos of the band from tonight!

PS: I did want to share this hilarious link to the best review of the Oscars that I have read so far. We didn't get to see the show, but this made me feel like I had been there. It's a humorous one, form the viewpoint of some ancient show-biz Queen.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Foor for Thought #5: Travel

Today Lee asks us about our travel adventures. Or lack of them.

Appetizer: Have you ever travelled outside your native country?

Why, yes, I have. I have been to Canada (barely), Mexico (twice), Ireland (lots of times), England, Wales, and Switzerland (one day, with jet lag). I have also been to the US Virgin Islands, which technically is the US, but also is sorta not.

Soup: What's the farthest from home you have ever ventured?

I guess that would be Switzerland. It was on a work trip for my ex, and we tacked a visit to his family in Ireland onto that. I had a baby and a toddler at the time, so rousing their jet lagged selves to do anything at all in Switzerland was hard. The promise of seeing a train got Tuba Boy motivated, so we got to enjoy the famed Swiss punctuality with a little train ride, followed by a mandatory Toblerone purchase. The next morning, I had to fly to Ireland alone. The worst part was getting them on and off the plane, and through customs, since both were asleep (Tuba Boy kept falling asleep standing up, and Beccano was at his Michelin Man portliest) and I had to part with my stroller. Thank goodness for total strangers who helped. The ex joined us after his work conference and that became the infamous trip where we left Beccano in the middle of downtown Dublin, asleep in his stroller. Ha, good memories, since we got him back, and he never even knew he'd been abandoned. Henceforth, we developed a very strict "who has each child" checklist.

Salad: Do you plan to travel abroad any time in the future, however long it may be? If so, where?

Well, I guess some day I won't be a contractor living in the middle of the Even Greater Depression, so I guess I'll go. It appears I will need to go to New Zealand or Australia, which are OK, I guess, since they lack people who will attack me and killer parasites (see below). If it were up to me, I'd like to visit pretty much everywhere in Scandinavia, Iceland, everwhere in Europe, every single inhabited island off the coast of Europe, all of the Virgin Islands, Nova Scotia, British Columbia, and perhaps Argentina.

However, I have no immediate plans to go to any of these places.
Entré: What would deter you most, fear of being targeted as an American, the security considerations of your on nation, or something else?

The following things would deter me:

  • The fact that I am a woman will keep me out of any country that is predominately Islamic until I have a lot of proof that the country is moderate and doesn't plan to kill me if my ankle accidentally shows. It will also keep me away from some Asian countries

  • I've already learned to deal with anti-Americanism by not talking whenever possible and dressing like the people who live where I am going, not like an American. I'd wear Obama buttons right now if I went to Europe, since I hear that helps. But there are many places I just would not go. Right now, Russia is one place. I am fine with not going where I am not welcome.

  • Then there are diseases and parasites. Sorry, but I have had enough friends get horrible things that live in them then pop out, contract malaria, or get some really awful, long-lasting illness after travel. I am just gonna skip the Amazon, thanks. And most of Africa (seems like every country there has a disease/parasite issue, a crazed government issue, or fundamentalist Islam issue).

  • I am not overly worried about US security. I think I am boring enough that they won't throw me in jail when I come back, and since I don't have too much money, I think I'll be OK on the customs form.

Dessert: If you could go anywhere in the world for free, where would you most want to go?

Right now, honestly, I'd either go to my dad in North Carolina and help him move or go home and hang out in Gainesville, Florida for a while. I'll go all those other places in my head, I guess.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

How Do You Spell Relief?

I spell it "Southwestern," because that's the college Tuba Boy got into. That means he at least gets to go somewhere! He even got an academic scholarship award, though it will need supplementing with a needs based award, for sure! Hope he gets some of that, too. We are pleased that he got into a good quality school, and since this is the closest one to where we live, I like it a lot! (The school is in Georgetown Texas.)

I feel like I can relax a bit and wait patiently for the other results to come in, knowing he has a spot.

I am proud of him, too, for getting some academic recognition.

Now we just wait and see what's next. What's next for Beccano is driver's ed, since his "Driver's Ed in a Box" arrived in the mail. Both them boys are going to get some schooling, yep. And both are costly, LOL.

There's still no word on my job future, so I'm hoping something comes up soon!

That's it for me, just a small happy note!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wednesday Wonders #7: Connie Barlow and Michael Dowd

I’m a real sucker for people who make a conscious choice to really live their convictions, and this week’s Wednesday Wonders are real examples of that. Connie Barlow and Michael Dowd are a husband-wife team who feel so strongly that science and spirituality are not in conflict with each other, but instead complement each other, that they have spent the past seven years roaming the continent giving talks about their findings. Barlow spoke at my UU church on Sunday, and Dowd did a talk there last night.

What they have to say is interesting, and you can read about it on their website or in their books. I didn’t find anything they said terribly new or different, since it was straight up and down how I look at life, the universe and all that, but as Lee pointed out, they said it well—better than either of us could have.

The main point Dowd (author of Thank God for Evolution) made last night is that the language of religion is needed, because humans need some metaphoric way to look at things they don’t understand (he called it night language—the language of dreams). He then said that, as humans uncover how things work (atoms, galaxies, evolution and such) the night language gets replaced by the day language of facts. The deal is, both are ways of looking at the same thing that help humans make sense of their world. We have a drive to do that. We’ll always need the “night language” because we’ll never run out of stuff we don’t understand yet. But the two aren’t at odds—instead they work together. Knowing how things work doesn’t make them any less wonderful, doesn’t make our world less something to revere, and so on.

There’s plenty of other interesting stuff they talk about, but I encourage you to go see them if they come to your town. They speak at liberal churches and other such places (including Christian ones—what they say is not incompatible with most Christians’ cosmologies). And they are very intelligent people—when asked hard questions, each had excellent, in-depth answers that showed that they had put a lot of thought into every aspect of their work.

The reason I want to honor these two is that they act on their beliefs, not just talk about them. They drive a van (with their cute logo of Jesus fish and Darwin fish kissing) that’s their office and home, and stay with strangers as much as possible. They obviously spend hours and hours developing presentations, making videos, writing books (not just popular ones—Barlow is a well known scholar as well), and marketing their stuff. It is obvious they aren’t out for personal glory—they deeply care about the future of humankind. They truly want to share their sweetly optimistic view that in the long run, we are moving toward a more globally cooperative and tolerant society, yet acknowledge that any great leap like this will be born on the ashes of some awful times (like now! They have a chart!). Like any evangelist, they truly believe that if people just hear their good news/gospel, they will join the movement.

Now, I don’t know if the above is true, but I certainly admire them for working so hard to see if they can make it so. They are doing their part to manifest their vision. They’re being the change they want to see (how unoriginal of me, but hey, it’s a good line). In sort of envy this. I felt like that’s what I was doing in my previous career—working to create a world where people parent their children naturally and respectfully. Now, well, I edit courses on how to use blade servers. Not the same.

I think we need more Barlow and Dowds, and we need to inspire people like me to get fired up about something important and DO something about it. At least I have shared the Thank God for Evolution campaign with a few of my friends. It’s a start.

More on Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow

Their book site, all professional and snazzy, where you can see videos and read reviews of Thank God for Evolution and order assorted merchandise I notice that on their Café Press stuff, they don’t take a profit. (They also don’t charge for their talks—just take donations.)

Thank God for Evolution on Amazon

The Great Story: simple website with educational information on how they view the creation story

Michael Dowd bio

Connie Barlow bio

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Better! Thanks to Tuba Boy and Coleridge

I am feeling a bit better today, even after a trip to the dentist. I must have just had a case of the "nerves" or something. Tuba Boy was very sweet to me yesterday and said his girlfriend reminded him of me--I guess we both go whacky every so often. I told him how fascinating it was to me when I saw him starting to read books I read at his age, to get interested in topics that interested me, and well, reminding me a lot of myself at his age. He looked at me like I was SO silly, and said, "Well, what do you expect, Mom? You RAISED me, didn't you? Of course I'm like you!" I held my tongue as I thought of all the parents I know who wonder who the heck that kid they raised is, and how the heck they got that way.

Here's just an example. Last week, I think it was Thursday, we decided to all go out to dinner. We went to Chili's and had a most excellent time. Both boys were rather "up," probably from all those Love Hormones rushing through them, and chattered so long and hard during the meal that it's a wonder they ate. Afterward, they asked to go to Barnes and Noble. Well, who can turn down a child who wants a book? So, off we went. I got a knitting magazine, Lee got a Frank Zappa CD, Beccano got a guitar magazine, but Tuba Boy wanted a book of poetry. We'd had a long and deep discussion on poetry on the way to dinner--he was disgusted at a poem he'd read on a test, because all it's references were so superficial and not the fun, deep metaphors he prefers. We'd had quite the discussion on the merits of various poets you read in 12th grade. So, anyway, Tuba Boy had decided he liked Coleridge, and wanted to read more of his work. When we asked the lady at the kiosk where the poetry section was, she got that "OMG, a smart kid" look on her face, and took us WAY over to where they hide that stuff. There was not much of a selection, and only one giant illustrated Rime of the Ancient Mariner filed under "Coleridge." Tuba Boy was not pleased, but I pointed out some anthologies to him. Then I noticed that both of them were $56. Wow, those Norton Anthologies have gotten expensive in the last 30 years. At last, I saw it. A reasonably priced collection of Romantic poems, with a good selection of the stuff he wanted. Everyone left the store very pleased.

I have to tell you this. My very own offspring buying a poetry anthology because, "Mom, I think I really like poetry," makes me feel like the most successful parent in the world. I feel like I need to write High School Boyfriend a note and let him know that even though he never actually fathered a child, he sort of has a son. His legacy lives.

And really, between his love of Facebook Scrabble and this, all that financial aid form stress may well be worth it.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Suna, She Gots Issues

Just Some Pansies
Originally uploaded by sunasak
(The reader needing cheery perky stuff may wish to skip this, because below I try to figure out why I had a hard time coping with things that weren’t all THAT bad, really.)


This weekend we got up extra bright and early and went to a workshop to fill out Tuba Boy’s financial aid forms, without having filled out our tax forms because Lee does them via a guy in south Texas and does not do them early like I always have. Trying to guess all the numbers was an interesting experience. But at least we got the form filled out by the deadline for his first school.

The yarn shop was also more challenging than usual, which led straight into going home at 5 pm and finding out house guests were on the way. Turns out Lee’s family just gets in the car and shows up, unlike mine, who tell you months in advance if they are visiting. It’s just one of those different ways of doing things that frequently occur, but I was sorta ill prepared for this, since Lee’s step-son from the previous marriage had said he was coming a half dozen times before and not made it. I hadn’t even met him until he showed up after our wedding ceremony. I’d gotten ready the previous times when nothing happened, so I got lax and forgot which weekend it even was. (I thought last weekend was Valentine’s weekend, not Son of Lee birthday weekend.) And I had no idea they’d be spending the night (he brought the very well dressed fiancée too), so I had not made sure there were clean sheets and towels, plus there was an immense television on the guest bed. Son of Lee moved it. Now it’s on the old entertainment center that also needs to go somewhere other than the dining room (it seems to be the staging area for extra stuff and I can’t keep it the way I’d like it to be). Back to topic, it was good to meet another person from Lee’s family, of course, and I realize having the room ready, food available for visitors’ breakfasts, and the rooms made livable is not as important to others as it is to me (it’s a woman thing or something like that). As it was, they arrived at 10 pm, talked for two hours, went to sleep, went to church with us and left. I hope it was worth the drive from Houston! At least it was an interesting enough church service, and Lee seemed quite ecstatic about the time together, so it probably was worth it!

Stress Continues

Things didn’t really improve for me after church, though I had a nice time talking to Tuba Boy while waiting for a rehearsal for a church service band. I couldn’t even manage to sing “When the Saints Go Marching In,” a song I certainly know HOW to sing. They, accidentally written words on the wrong parts of the sheet music, so I kept trying to sing the chorus as the band played the verse. I am sure the choir director, who was just hanging out, thought I was nuts because I was having so much trouble on a simple song. At least she realized it when she looked at the music. And poor Tuba Boy had no tuba, so tried to play bass instead. He still has not learned the notes on guitar. That is amusing, since he is so good at reading music on the tuba. So, that was unpleasant and stressful.

Stress Tightens Its Grip

Sunday afternoon we decided to do something fun and different, which was go spend our wedding gift certificate to Ten Thousand Villages, one of those stores that sells fair trade doo-dads from around the world. I was counting my knitting and realized Lee had missed the only useful exit for getting to South Congress, which got us off on the wrong foot. Then it became difficult to find a parking space. And then on the way out, I didn’t look up in time to see that Lee was going straight into a road that was really a very crowded parking lot. It ceased to be fun, though it continued to be different. Suddenly we were in the car with someone we thought had moved out two years ago! Since one of the hardest parts about living with Jeff was when he (invariably) got angry in traffic, poor Beccano and I probably had post traumatic stress kick in, so we tried to just be quiet. We all did live through the journey and even had an OK time at Things Celtic, where I got Beccano a silver necklace that reminded him of his band’s name. I had not intended to get myself anything, but a similar necklace with a moonstone in it, which the owner of the shop had bought in Glastonbury made me feel a lot calmer, so I got it.

Love in the Air

That’s enough of me being grumpy about my weekend. The good news is both boys now have girlfriends. That’s a new one! I’ve always liked Scrabble Queen, the one who’s been hanging around with Tuba Boy a lot recently, and it is weird to see them dating only because they met in first grade. And wow, she is an amazing Scrabble player (we’ve been playing on Facebook, which is loads of fun). I don’t really know Parker’s Friend, who is the object of Beccano’s affection, but she seems just fine and cute, and Parker can vouch for her. The three of them spent Saturday together and it sounds like they, at least, had a great time. I must say having BOTH boys with girlfriends makes me feel old, but I am glad Becanno has started communicating with the opposite sex more.

Uh-Oh, More Self Analysis

I do know why it was so hard for me to get through the weekend, though. For the past week or two I have been even more sensitive to the mental states of other people around me than usual. That’s quite unfortunate timing, since I’ve been running into double and triple whammies of very strong, very scattered states of being. Nearly everyone I spent a lot of time with for the past few days has been overwhelming to me. I put on my bear necklace and it helped some. Even if it’s just psychologically helpful, that’s fine with me! It is no wonder I had more trouble than usual coping with various things—at times I felt like I was in a completely unfamiliar world, where the people around me understood what was going on and I was coming from some other culture and was just clueless as to how things work in the new world. (That’s how I felt when I had that unfortunately inappropriate job last year.) At least in the end I was kind, a good hostess, patient and more patient.

Spring Is Also in the Air!

But, all is not lost. At least time is marching on in a good way, and signs of spring are popping up all over the area. In fact, I looked up at the redbud tree Saturday morning and was really surprised to see some early pinkness. Woo! All the really early plants are saying hello, so I’ve enjoyed the “tulip trees,” some flowering pears, a shrub with very pink blossoms whose name I can never remember, and of course, my pansies. They are leftover from the wedding, but they are looking a lot better now that the really cold snap is over, and when I sit on the new porch, I am delighted by their fragrance. The yellow ones really smell good.

Everybody has a rough weekend occasionally, so I’m not too worried.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Food for Thought #4: Valentine Edition

Here's a nice photo of the heart doily I knit for the yarn shop last year. Very romantic, I know.
Appetizer: What is your strongest childhood memory about Valentine’s Day?

I remember in first grade the redbud trees were blooming at Valentine's Day (we were in Florida, so trees bloom early). My friend Jones Phillips, who was a "delicate" boy and I decided the falling blossoms looked like hearts, and for days played a game of "Valentine's Cupids" where we sang a song and picked up the flowers and sprinkled them on other kids. It's really a nice memory.

Soup: Who was your first crush?

Also back in first grade, my crush was the charming, freckle-faced red-head (hey just like Lee's!) Paul Woodfrin.

Salad: Did your crush return the feelings?

Oh, yes indeed. He attempted to kiss me one day and I spit on him. It's the worst trouble I ever got in at school. Our punishment was that I had to go play at his house and "be friends." Oddly, my mother also made me go play at Jones's house, too. He had a lot of GI Joes that he wanted to dress in my doll's outfits. I also remember he would NOT eat the crust of bread, and I think if I'd known the word "wimp" at the time, I would have called him that. Both were nice boys, though. Mom never drove me down the block to play with girls. Perhaps because there were 4 other girls my age on my street, but, hmm.

Entré: Other than the massacre, what does Valentine’s Day make you think of?

Not much. I've never had a bad time with the holiday, and never been overly thrilled. I like telling people you care about that you like them, so that's OK. And I like pretty cards. I prefer the candy on February 15, when it's half off, though.

Dessert: What are you going to do for your Valentine this year?

Lee and I had a nice meal last week, when the kids were out of town, and we got our new patio furniture then, with our wedding gift certificates. That was plenty of romance! Tomorrow Lee, Tuba Boy and I will go to a financial aid form workshop. That is less than romantic. I'd wanted to go to a yarn shop in south Austin, where the founders of the Ravelry online community will be visiting, but I need to do my other yarn shop work after the workshop, so that's out. Maybe the kids will make me cards or sing me a song, and we can have a nice meal.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Looking Brighter on Darwin Day

Things are looking brighter in a lot of ways, which is always good.

But first, let me wish everyone a Happy Darwin Day! It's the 200th birthday of a pretty interesting naturalist and geneticist! I guess he was right there among the first geneticists. His work sure has made a lot of the mysteries of the universe more clear. But, he's not like a fairy, where you have to clap and prove you believe in him. The dude found out a lot about how life works. It's not something you have faith in. It's facts. I sure wish they had used a word less easy to misunderstand than "theory" when describing evolution.

As a digression, it really, really worries me that so many people find something there's NO proof of (some deity) to decide not to believe in facts. Saying, "La la la la la" in your head doesn't stop reality. Oh well. I have to remember we had a President for eight years who sincerely believed his God was going to come down and fetch him and his buddies pretty durned soon, so it was fine to use up the world's resources, kill off endangered species and ignore signs of planetary changes. His God didn't care about Earth, so why should he? Great, now he's just my neighbor.

Wait, wait. I didn't need to write any of this. Please go here and read what Roger Ebert, our Wednesday Wonder of the week has to say about Darwin! He's so good!

Off tangent now. I realize Lee already posted this picture on his blog, but I wanted to show you the patio furniture we put in front of the house. Doesn't it look inviting? And coordinated? Of course, it started to rain like the second the last piece was finished, so we haven't had a chance to enjoy it much yet, but we will! It's actually all wet in the photo. I'll try to get photos in nicer light at some point. We hope there will be fewer mosquitoes in the front, because even after getting rid of the pond, it is pretty bad in the back. Plus there's no grass. I'd hoped we would have funds to get the one big tree that's over the house and probably inviting critters into our attic cut down this year. Who knows. But the furniture's a bright spot.

Another nice bright spot is that Tuba Boy has been hanging around in the media room with us some the last couple of evenings. He's watched some TV with us, and we've been playing Scrabble on Facebook. He's good, too! That's just so nice and familial. Most nights lately we have at least one boy in the room chatting with us for a while. I like that. It's so easy for them to go in their rooms and type/play guitar all evening.

We are getting a few more positive leads on jobs, too. In this economy, that is all to the good!

By the way, it's birthday season for people other than Darwin, too, so happy birthday to all my wonderful February and early March friends. There, does that cover it? It seems like nearly everyone I know was born in mid-February through mid-March. I know it isn't true, but there sure are a lot of them!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Wednesday Wonders #6: Roger Ebert

Sometimes you don't realize someone has affected to you until you get hit on the head with a realization. This week, that realization came about for someone whose work I've been enjoying for decades, the film critic and essayist Roger Ebert.

I read his reviews in the newspaper the entire time I lived in Illinois (he was from Urbana-Champaign, where I lived for 16 years, and graduated from the same university I attended). Ebert was always the one my film critic boyfriend said was the "good" one between him and Gene Siskel. And of course, I watched their television show on cinema, some years more faithfully than others, but I did always enjoy his perspective on the movies (did you know he is co-owner of the phrase "Two Thumbs Up"?).

Yes, you wouldn't know it to judge by how few times I've been to the cinema, rented a film, or bought one in the past few years, but for most of my teens, 20s and early 30s, I was quite the cinema student. I even sort of minored in cinema studies as an undergrad (not to mention listening to the boyfriend, who was a future professor of film criticism). So I listened to, read about, and discussed Ebert's opinions. He impressed me as a very thoughtful, articulate man who was not a shill for any big business or organization. That's always refreshing.

I didn't pay a lot of attention to movie critics in the 90s. I was busy gaining weight, raising small children, becoming part of my community, becoming a breastfeeding counselor, moving to a strange new place, and learning HTML in the 90s. I totally lost my intellectual edge.

I did notice when Ebert's partner on the TV show, Gene Siskel, died. I was glad Ebert kept going. And I was saddened to learn of his illness. More important, though, I was very impressed at how he treated his recovery. Few of us have had to go through what he has. One successful cancer treatment, then another, and finally complications that led to an inability to speak. I have spent time imagining what it would be like to make your living using the spoken word, only to lose the ability to talk. It would be discouraging. And what if you made your living on television and people were constantly talking about your looks (I remember lots of fat jokes about him), then your face became disfigured? Would you want to run and hide? I might.

Roger Ebert didn't. When his voice got "funny," he continued to be on the television, assuming, and rightly so, that people would be more interested in what he had to say than how he sounded or looked. He had lost no mental acuity.

And when he could not speak, he still didn't hide. He made the point (as I read on wikipedia) that
"We spend too much time hiding illness." And thank goodness, this man continues to write.

Last week, I was going my usual blog reading and ran across something he wrote, not really about film, but about politics and human nature. It was an entry on his blog, one that tangentially was a "review" of The Reader, but went into so much more detail about other things. It was called "Let Me Tell You What I Think,"

I finished reading this essay simply full to the brim with respect for Ebert's humanity and intellect. I am so glad he didn't go off and hide (and grateful for the Chicago Sun Times for keeping him on staff).

Here's the part of his essay that got to me the most. My blogger friend Ray said, upon reading it, "It's like he is reading y mind!"

That wise man Mark Twain told us: "In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from others."

This is true. It is even sometimes true of me. Perhaps of you. However, there are certain areas in which I consider myself an authority, like the movies. I have devoted years to learning about the Theory of Evolution. I think Creationism is superstitious poppycock. I believe the problem with the literal interpretation of the Bible is that anyone can easily discover its support for the opinions they already hold. I believe Conservatism has proven itself disastrous every time it has been implemented in this country. I believe George W. Bush was not only the worst president we have ever had, but the first, as far as I know, guilty of being an accessory to murder and subverting the Constitution.
--Roger Ebert

Yeah, Mark Twain is a Wednesday Wonder too, doncha think? Now, Ebert has a Roman Catholic background, so he is not anti-religion. He's just anti-ignorance. There's a huge difference.

After reading further in this long and insightful essay, Ebert is raised to hero status in my book. And I have to thank him for having his writings online, because that enables others to comment. And do they ever comment! There are some amazingly intelligent, articulate and thoughtful responses to Ebert's essay that impressed me greatly. And to top it all off, I learned a lot!

So, this brilliant, strong, persistent and courageous man, Roger Ebert, became a shoe-in for Wednesday Wonder as soon as I read this piece. I went back and read more, and now look forward to his future blog postings. Thank goodness he has not been silenced.

More on Roger Ebert:

Let Me Tell You What I Think: a great essay
Wikipedia bio:
His Amazon store:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Boy Meets Guitar, At Last!

Not much has been going on around our house. Lots of television watching (the Grammy Awards and Presidential press conference were both fun to watch as a family, because it sparked lots of conversation).

I did want to share this photo of one happy young man. Tuba Boy finally got to touch his guitar Sunday night. He returned from his debate tournament quite ill, but id didn't stop his face from lighting up with joy when he saw his new lifelong companion (people keep guitars longer than spouses--I read that somewhere). He kept saying it was so shiny. He didn't want to smudge it or mess it up. However, we soon heard sounds, so he did go ahead and touch it.

Last night I got to enjoy listening to both boys playing together. It's way more entertaining than Guitar Hero or Rock Band! I love how helpful Beccano is to his brother, as he shows Tuba Boy how to play various songs.

In good news around the house, it rained yesterday, and it's drizzly today. We have not had a rainy spell in quite a long time. We jokingly think that we brought it on by both watering the entire front and side yard AND spending two days building new patio furniture for the front patio. While I am happy for the rain, I sure would like to get more use out of the lovely spot we have created (which we hope will have fewer mosquitoes than the back patio). Of course, we'd like to be able to take a picture for our blogs, too!

(Send good job vibes to me and Lee, please--we need to start looking again, since we both expire at the end of March!)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Up and Down!

The last few days have definitely had their ups and downs. Rather than wax philosophical, I'll just give you some examples. The photos you see here are part of one of the "ups" I'm talking about. This is Dan of Danny Ray's Music (remember, he was my first Wednesday Wonder--now they have a better website) pretty darned excited to be opening the case of a new guitar. The guitar I had ordered for Tuba Boy in November. It finally came on Friday! I took a series of photos of him taking it out of the box, opening the case, etc., and I'm showing three of them here. Isn't it pretty? It's a Schechter Corsair with optional Bigsby thingie on it. So what's down about this? Poor Tuba Boy set off for Dallas on Friday for a debate tournament. He came home for three minutes this afternoon then ran off to work. He'd been patiently waiting for this new lifelong companion (OK, maybe not so patient--he asked me close to daily whether it was here yet or not), but has had to wait three extra days to see it thanks to his schedule. Oh well, I know he will love it.

Saturday was mostly good, but there was the downer that I seem to have been attacked by allergies again. Still, I got to see a few knitting friends, do some teaching, and go with Lee to get some wonderful outdoor furniture for the new patio (we'd been waiting and waiting for Home Depot to get some in, so we could use wedding gift certificates on it. Photos of that will come as soon as there's light to take a picture. Lee had quite the challenge putting it all together. That makes two weekends in a row of putting together furniture for him.

We did take some time out Saturday night to have an early Valentine's Day, since the kids were both otherwise occupied (Beccano was with his dad). Lee made the big sacrifice of going to a loud restaurant, and took me to Z Tejas. I love that place. We did have a delicious meal. We had these sizzling dumplings with shrimp and pork in them for appetizers, and for the meal I had crispy salmon with an amazing avocago/crab salsa on it, while Lee had seafood enchiladas. He had some rich chocolate pie for dessert. My dessert was a mango margarita. I probably paid for that with a poor night of sleep (that would be a "down") but it was worth it to me. As we were leaving I said we needed to go to a store to get dark chocolate to put in my Big Bowl of Self Esteem for my big boss at work. Then I heard, "Hi, Sue Ann!" and there was the big boss, right behind us! Good thing I hadn't said anything bad about him ('cause I don't have anything bad to say, actually--nice dude).

Today was a real mix. We did a song I like a lot in choir and I think it went OK. I hope we went up to the front and exited fast enough. And we got new church t-shirts, whee. Unitarian Universalist shirts are always so so lovey-dovey. But, they are cute.

After that, I am very proud of myself. I got through a music committee meeting AND a steering committee meeting. I had not been to a steering committee in a number of years, since some guy insulted me, called me names and raised his voice at me and no one defended me. The dude was mistaken, but I decided it wasn't worth trying to participate if I couldn't feel safe. I hadn't felt safe there for a while at that point, anyway. I finally decided things had changed enough that I could go back, and I decided I was needed again, too. Go me.

Of course, there was a down today. Darn me. I was a little stressed with all the meetings (I must have unresolved trauma or something, bwa ha ha). And I managed to leave my brand-new just-finished sock AND my Blackberry in the little room where the music committee had met. This was in a building I do not have a key to. Darn it!! Wah! I do hope I can go fetch it tomorrow at lunch. What if I missed an important text message? A fantastic job offer! Free ring tones! ACK!

I guess I'll survive. Anyway, those were my ups and downs, thank you very much. Now Lee, Beccano and I are enjoying the Grammys. I am now going to admit to this: I thought Miley and Taylor singing a duet about being teens was very, very sweet.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Food for Thought #3

Appetizer: What was the last song that got stuck in your head?

Well, I had no idea what the name of this song was. So I typed in lyrics and discovered it is "Dyer Maker" by Led Zeppelin. I apparently do not know the name of ANY Led Zep song. I keep having to ask Beccano and Parker what the names of the ones they play are. Anyway, this song is in my head right now. "Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, you don't have to go-o."

Soup: What does that song make you think of?

Triskelion, the band Beccano and Parker are currently in. I love all the band member drama, rehearsal issues and equipment lugging. It's what I wish I could have done in high school. But nooooo, I sang a lot of madrigals.

Salad: What is your favorite song in a language other than your native tongue?

"Lo siento mi vida," sung by Linda Ronstadt.

Entré: If video killed the radio star, will the Internet kill Literature?

Really. That's a question? Things will continue to change and (dare I say) evolve, and the kinds of literary experiences people have may differ. But, humans love to tell stories and listen to stories. That won't stop.

Dessert: What was the last thing you read for the pleasure of reading?

Rolling Stone or Car & Driver magazine. I forget which is the last one. Interesting. I listed physical objects. The last thing I read for fun was someone's blog. I love reading little snippets of other people's lives.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Wednesday Wonders: LS

It’s Thursday, so it must be time for Wednesday Wonders. Who has caused me wonder this week, you wonder? Why, this week it isn’t a person, but a group of people. I’ll call that group “LS,” because that is what we call it, too. It’s an email list of women who met because they were all leaders of groups in the same world-wide nonprofit organization. We shared a love of our children, a particular philosophy, and the organization. While some of us have waned in enthusiasm for the organization, our bonds to each other have remained strong.

Why do the members of this group cause wonder in me? They are one of the finest examples of the good that the Internet can do: when one member is down, others sympathize. If there’s a crisis, a member or members will physically GO to help, or call the member in need, or gather resources needed to get them whatever they need. It happens over and over. There are so many ups and downs. Some of us don’t have much money. Others have sicknesses. There are very challenging children to deal with. There are spousal issues, and much more. These women talk about whatever matters to them, even politics and religion, and while there are disagreements, a large core of women have stayed together and worked through them. Humor has always been a big help, and we have shared many laughs along the way. This is a great audience for whatever funny thing your child has done!

I am amazed at the kindness, patience and understanding these women exhibit toward each other. After over a decade together, many of them are like sisters, visiting each other on vacation and looking forward to organizational meetings to get together. If someone’s child is traveling, she knows where there are surrogate mothers waiting to lend a hand or space to crash. It’s wonderful to see how the bonds have grown. I am not putting in any riveting specific details, to maintain the privacy of my fellow LS members, so just imagine tragedies and comedies that your friends go through, and you’ll get the idea.

These days, lots of women (and men) feel isolated. Neighbors aren’t the friendly faces they used to be in the past, and we are often so busy there’s no time to visit even neighbors we like. Some people meet like-minded souls at church or their kids’ schools, but some don’t have that option. People who are a little “different” often find coworkers don’t have much in common with them, so that’s not a way to meet people. Mothers at home have even fewer options if they aren’t totally mainstream. Thank goodness the Internet Is here to help us find people with whom we share a common bond!

I feel very lucky to know the ladies on LS, even though I may not exactly be Miss Popularity there (my old job did not always win me friends). I like just watching them interact and seeing how they treat each other, and I appreciate how people with whom I've had disagreements in the past have been patient with me (and vice versa) and become real friends. I have a couple of other email lists (a spiritual one and a knitting one) with members I am very close to, as well. These communities make me feel lucky to be connected. Internet connections mean more to me than I can say. I guess it’s one reason I blog and read my friends’ blogs, just to keep connected with people I care about or am interested in. Thanks to all of you who read, and especially to those of you who comment. And thanks to ALL of you who I met on the Internet!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Creativity Crash

I'm usually a pretty creative person and ideas usually flow quickly when I am asked to write or say something. I have a topic I need to say some things about as a consultant, and for some reason, my usual stream of thoughts has dried to a trickle.

I'm wondering what's up with that. I know that some small sadnesses are making it hard for me to be as enthusiastic as normal:

I'm still agonizing about what to do about poor Gwynnie. Her front half still seems to fine and her back half so not.

I don't deal with suffering well, and when I saw a deer just after it was hit by a car, struggling to get up and looking panicked, it just about killed ME. Worse, I knew the people who hit it, and they were pretty upset, as well. At least I could confirm that someone did call the game warden. This was made more ironic by the fact that we had served venison chili at the Superbowl party we attended. But, I know that these deer didn't suffer. I am fine with eating meat from animals that were put on earth to serve as prey, especially ones who get sick and suffer when there are too many (e.g., those poor deer). I just don't like to see any living creature suffer.

I lost a lot of sleep Saturday night when Tuba Boy did not make it home until 3:30 am. It turned out his debate tournament went long and he was in San Antonio, so it was a long drive home. But, his phone battery was dead and his friend didn't answer either. I was so worried. (On the other hand, he and the friend came in second in the tournament and qualified for State! And he was very chagrined to find out he'd worried me so).

Tuba Boy's car broke down, and he was so scared when smoke poured into the passenger cabin. And I was not real helpful. I hope I made up for it by taking care of getting it towed to the repair place and being there to give rides when needed. At least that did not happen in San Antonio.

So many people are getting laid off. It's scary.

I've messed up a couple of times at work lately. That gets me all worried that this will go down as huge black marks, like last time, and I won't get a chance to stay here. Gee, whiz, Suna. Those were all little mistakes. Everyone has a few of those! I guess those wounds from last year are still overly fresh!

None of this is huge, just weighing on my mind and making it hard to let go and brainstorm. I am hoping that, by writing this down, I can let some of the things go. The car won't be too expensive, at least we hope.

It was just Imbolc, the season when you look for signs that days are getting longer and spring is coming. We have wildflowers coming up in the garden, and I could see to find my clothing in the bedroom this morning when I woke up. There are many positive signs out there--job opportunities (more for Lee, but a couple of little things have popped up for me), Tuba Boy did qualify for State, and Beccano's band sounds great (they are Triskelion in Austin on MySpace).

I'll try to relax and think about that business idea and get into my creative space. I can do it.