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!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Glad This Weekend's Over!

Poor little Suna had a mighty frustrating weekend, and Lee didn't have much fun either, so we were a bunch of grumpy guys and gals around here.

I spent all the end of last week and the weekend, when not running errands, working on a project to try to get a job. I was re-learning some software, and no, I refused to do something easy--I had to start a project from scratch, which meant graphic design, instructional design, technical writing, assessment creation, recording navigation...good thing I decided not to put in a movie! And the whole time I was doing it I kept thinking, "Gee, I could make this more interactive, or add this detail, or do this interesting Flash thing..." then I remembered there are only 24 hours in a day, and my days are filled with kid stuff, partner stuff, work stuff and obligations. So, I did my best. I got it all finished and went to "publish" it. Wham, no can do. The software could not find the source files. So, I spent hours looking at all the help files on earth...oh, and did I mention that my laptop had all sorts of "issues" during the week, requiring numerous reboots and fixes?

Gosh, just thinking of all this gives me pains. It didn't help that Beccano's and Parker's band performance at the Culture Fair went poorly (not their fault--they couldn't get a sound check), or that Tuba Boy's girlfriend had a migraine and he found out he didn't get into the other two colleges he'd applied for, and Lee was wiped out from a huge project at his work...we all had our issues! Note that Triskelion looked quite fine performing, as you can see above in this action shot of Beccano soloing!

Still, Lee and I got in some plant shopping and a trip to the outlet mall to get some fun things--he got me a new purse that strongly resembles my old one (I liked it fine but it was falling apart).

But, today has been a better day. I went to Home Depot at lunch and used wedding gift certificates to get us more plants and some nice pots to put large plants in. This will please Lee! And when I got to work, I was able to finish that project, so that I could upload it to the potential employer when I got home. Now I just hope it doesn't suck. Plus, I am hopeful that another potential employer will call soon--I did get a message. Sometimes you just have to wait out a storm and things will get better. Should have figured that out last Wednesday, huh?

More good news is that I have been walking Scrunchy almost every day for the past few weeks, and it has made a difference both in him and me. The weight I have put on in the last year or so is starting to reverse, slowly but surely. That's good--I need to fit into my "work clothing" again soon!

The final and best bit of good news from the last few days is that I have gotten to see my BBF and Wednesday Wonder Baby Abigail twice! I got to visit her precious baby self at home last Thursday, and then she came to the yarn shop Saturday. It is not just because I have known her since before she was born that I say she is a very, very, very cute baby. She really is. Look at her. She is most extraordinarily cute and baby-like. She even left an ear print on my arm while I held her, which I insisted on showing to both my kids and Lee. I love it when they do that. Babies are a fine thing for cheering you up, especially when you aren't up all night getting no sleep from them!

I have decided the rest of the week will just get better and better! It will!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ice Cubes Fell from the Sky!

Wow, did we have a storm last night! Quite a bit of hail, though not as much as the time when it hailed at the lacrosse game in the football stadium, which must have happened just before I started the blog. I guess it was more of late afternoon storm, since it was still light. I’d already made it to the yarn shop for Chicks with Sticks and gotten my coffee. We were all looking at the weather on people’s iPhones and knew it was coming, so some folks left. Others stayed, figuring they’d rather be in a building than drive through it. Good idea, too, because people’s windshields were shattering as they tried to drive.

It was even worse in Marble Falls, an hour or so away. Their streets got to be solid ice. We just got little rivers of ice balls.

It was fun watching the storm through picture windows, though not fun watching our cars get pounded. We had a little kid with us, and his reactions to all those ice cubes falling from the sky were very cute. He'd never seen it before, so his eyes were huge with wonder. The usual yarn shop child left before the storm hit, but was very concerned that “the volcano is coming!” (The tornado watch confused her!)

I am really sad at the damage done to all our plants in the yard. Our pansies were just incredibly beautiful yesterday morning. Both Lee and I were commenting on it. Some had 5 or 6 flowers each, and it was just a mass of loveliness. Now there are broken blossoms all over the ground. Our fresh, new tree leaves are bashed, too (they’ll come back). I was happy to see the little new tomato plants are still with us, so not all is lost. And at least we got more rain! The drought has been so bad that any rain we get is a good thing for the lawns, lakes and aquifers.

Of course there’s always a lovely rainbow after a storm, and this was no exception. At one point, it was a big, full arc and a nice partial double rainbow, but since I was driving home at the time, this photo taken at a stoplight was the best I could do!

I’ve had a lot of job action from my earlier interviews, so keep your fingers crossed. It seems some of them want me to get cracking already! I guess that is a good sign.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wednesday Wonders #12: Kelli Brew

Forgive my lapse, but I just don’t have it in me today to do a full-fledged Wednesday Wonders. If I had one, it would be Kelli Brew, a woman I went to high school with, who is living a life I very much admire: she is focusing on what matters to her most by living simply, consuming as few resources as possible, and enjoying the beauty of the people and places around her. She is also helping others learn to do the same, caring for those less fortunate for her, and being an artist (judging from her photographs, she is an artist!). She personifies “intention” in the best sense, and rather than preaching or hitting you over the head, she exemplifies her morals and spiritual beliefs by how she conducts her day-to-day life.

I knew Kelli as a sweet, nice and fun person in high school, but we were in different social circles, so I didn’t know her well. Now I wish I had known her better! I know her choices, living in the Gainesville, Florida Catholic Worker House in a downtown setting, with all kinds of people coming and going, can’t be easy all the time. Their car was recently stolen, for example. But, she has figured out what she wants to do with her life and (most important) she has found a way to make her dreams a reality.

One reason I can’t write up a full "tribute" today is that I am spending a lot of mental energy trying so hard to figure out a way to make my own life this meaningful. I want to do work I love, help others, and make the world a better place. But, I also want to make a reasonable living. I’m working on it, and realize that, like Kelli, I will have to make some sacrifices. But, I think it’s important at this point in our lives that we re-evaluate and figure out where we want to go. The economic downturn, along with the maturity that (I hope) being over 50 years old, combine to provide an unexpected opportunity to think about new possibilities. I know it’s important—I even dreamed about Kelli’s life last night—so it’s nagging at my subconscious! How can I take this inspiration and do something with it that’s right for me and my family? Probably just composting and recycling isn’t it!

Read some of Kelli’s beautiful blog entries, please, or visit the website about the work she and her colleagues are doing at the Catholic Worker House (a really amazing collection of doings and happenings there). There’s a lot to learn from their choices to live simply, locally and with care for the earth. You regular readers know I am not a Christian, but this is the kind of Christianity that I admire greatly and am proud to share the planet with.

So, I guess I did find inspiration enough to write a nice tribute to someone after all! Thanks to Kelli and her companions!

(The photo is one she took on a walk in the woods, shamelessly stolen from her Facebook pages--but she gave me permission!)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Back to the Old Grind

Spring Break is over, so the kids are back in school, and I'm back at the old grind of job searching. As you can see, I got yet another new shade of hair for this round of looking. It's a pretty fun shade of red, and Robert left some pieces of it the previous color, so it is like free highlights. I'm going to stare at this photo a lot to keep me motivated on my new walking regimen.

We had a generally very nice weekend--Lee and I had a nice dinner together Friday night, and Saturday night we went to a very nice party of mostly church folks and some GLBT community, too. The home we visited is really lovely, and best of all, has an incredible view of a greenbelt and sunsets. It was a great idea--a party of all appetizers. I am feeling good that I am getting back into the social circle of church, which I have surely missed for the last few years.

And speaking of church, we made it through a difficult and challenging song there, which pleased the person who wrote the lyrics very much. I am really glad I stuck with it, through the frustration of being the only alto for a couple of rehearsals. Lee's been the only tenor a couple of times, too, and he just couldn't cope with this particular number with no one to help him. I'm a strong singer, but must admit it's no fun to sing choral music if you're the only one (other than when I volunteer to be in a quartet or trio!). I know it's hard on our choir director, too. At least the sermon, on The Art of War, was enjoyable. Sometimes Rev. Chuck's not-so-subtle parables really crack me up.

I had felt pretty bad that I couldn't send the kids on the band trip this year, but they both said they really didn't want to go. Shoot, I did. I would have loved to visit New Orleans! It's been so long since I have been to Louisiana!

But, they had a good break. Beccano entertained himself much of the time, as the photo shows, but he also did lots of fun things with his friends. He even went swimming with his girlfriend! Tuba Boy and pals managed to get into a free show around the South by Southwest festival, and saw Bob Schneider and Raul Malo. He also went kayaking in the nearby lake--it really looked like a good time, from the pictures.

One thing I have to say about Facebook is that so many kids post photos of all their adventures that I get to enjoy what they do, even if I don't go. I appreciate that they let me be their "friend" just so I can see what fun they have. And thankfully, it all seems like the kind of fun I used to have at their age. Adventurous, but not dangerous, illegal or otherwise stuff a mom wouldn't like!

Well, off I go to do some "work" for a job I applied for. It should be fun, though. Thanks, as always, for reading!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Food For Thought #9: Theoretically Speaking

Appetizer: What did you have for breakfast this morning?

Coffee. Usually I have oatmeal during the week, a pastry on Saturday and nothing on Sunday.

Soup: Phish or Monkees?

Monkees. I am old.

Salad: What is your first reaction when you hear the phrase, “I don’t believe in evolution”?

Facts are not things you can believe in or not. But, go ahead and live your life that way, if that's what you're comfortable with.

I could say the flower is not pink. But it's still pink.

Entré: What do you think about attempts to legislate science or even just how science is taught?

It's certainly nothing new. I would prefer my children to be taught, and for me to learn, whatever the newest ideas are, whatever the newest evidence has been found for, and whatever discoveries are being made. Some ideas will be shown to be inaccurate or even wrong, but may lead to reveal other facts. I am not comfortable with forcing people to learn concepts that have no basis in reality or fact. I am not sure how that's going to work out in the long run, when things end up simply not working that way.

Dessert: Has the word “theory” been stripped of its scientific meaning or become loaded with excess emotional baggage?

As with all words, meaning will differ depending on who is speaking, who is listening, and the assumptions they each make and share. Same as it ever was.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wednesday Wonders #11: Baby Abigail!

This week’s Wednesday Wonder is again a little late, but that’s OK, so was the Wednesday Wonder.

Today I welcome little Abigail G. to the world. My new BBF (best baby friend) was born on St. Patrick’s Day, a week after her “official” due date, to a very happy Katie and Andrew. I am so happy that this has worked out for them so well, and welcome them to the exciting, scary and rewarding job of parenting. And don’t think it’s just an 18-year gig—you get to worry about this child the rest of your life! But the rewards are great!

I really enjoyed being there throughout Katie's pregnancy and listening to her baby joy and her baby worries. It's hard to balance being a good listener, not giving too much unsolicited advice, and sharing helpful information, but I gave it a shot! I hadn't been around a pregnant friend since my days with the nonprofit. I am glad I have another pregnant friend who's up next, too! I'll have two little girls to hold when their mommies' arms are tired!

I am looking forward to meeting Abby and seeing what the little being I’ve been chatting with through the barriers of Katie’s body for so long actually looks like (I hear she has hair!). I am hoping both parents and baby are getting some rest and bonding time together—everyone deserves a “babymoon.” Welcome, welcome to one of the world’s newest citizens. May you live a life of endless learning, wonder, and most of all, peace.

I’ll post a picture when I have one—the only photos I know of are on the dad’s Facebook account, and I am only friends there with the mom!

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Rain Clouds Part and It's SUNNY!

It rained all last week, which didn’t help my mood much. It cleared up yesterday and I have been feeling a lot better since then. It helps that the weekend was mostly very pleasant, and that the work week has started out with a bang, too! And look, even the birds are cheerier (taken from my vantage point on the front porch, watching the finches eat seeds off the rosemary bushes. I didn't even know they had seeds on them.)

There was lots of teen fun all weekend—almost always there was someone under 21 hanging around who wasn’t my child. They are really enjoying spring break! I broke out the dehydrator Friday evening and started cutting up fruit. The next time I looked up there were 7 sets of eyes on me—five kids and two dogs’ worth! All four original Triskelion members were there, plus a bonus boy, and they all seem to like fruit. It was fun chatting with them and tossing them bits of food as I loaded up the dehydrator. Later that night, we (and Parker) went to Mesa Rosa, which made a chilly evening much happier.

The dehydrator remained popular the next night, when it was Tuba Boy’s turn to have a bunch of friends over ( he also had ONE girl—must be the thing to do, and I do say they are less screechy when there is just one of them). As they played the Zombies board game, I chatted with Debate King (the one who won his specialty in the tournament last week) about the dehydrator for at least a half hour. He really, really liked it. He even asked me if you can dehydrate lunch meat. Hmm. Why not ham jerky? All the while this kid (a very tall, big-boned person with a beard, so it’s hard to call him a “kid” really) was playing Beccano’s acoustic guitar beautifully. He serenaded the other kids with hilarious blues songs all night.

It was so darned damp in the house that the dried fruit started to un-dry rather quickly, so we know we need to get better storage for it. But it is delicious and very nice in oatmeal, as I had hoped! I did strawberries, pineapple, kiwi fruit, bananas and oranges. Next: jerky!

I had my share of grown-up fun this weekend. I detailed a lot of it in the knitting blog, but I want to say how much I enjoyed entertaining Katie, who is overdue with her first child, little Abigail. I dragged her off to the JoAnn’s Fabrics store, and the next day went over and visited her at her new house, which they just got all unpacked and ready in time for the birth. It was nice talking to her and reassuring her it would be OK. I also went to a baby shower for Jen, a very traditional one with games and stuff. Wow, all my knitting pals are competitive. The organizers are scrapbookers, which meant all the decorations were very, very detailed and cute. I got tired just looking at them, but they did a really nice job.

It was just a fun, good weekend. I even got to spend some time with Lee—we made a trip to Fry’s, and we enjoyed a nice quiet evening last night. He hasn’t been feeling well—back issues, so he needs to take it easy for a while. I made dinner last night, but it wasn’t very good beans and rice. I’ll try to make something better next time!

Today at work was great. I had some good stuff to do show up, which I liked. And I got three job-related phone calls. They ranged from yet another call about my own job, to a call about a marginal possibility that is sort of far away, to a guy calling me up and offering exactly what I’d love to do and had hoped to do at 3M—using that fun e-learning software to create training modules. This guy had some good ideas and the place sounds great. I have an interview there next week, so we’ll see how it goes! At least that’s all encouraging!

But wait, there's more! When I came home, there was a request for an interview in my email. Turns out to be another of the places they contract with at work. I sure know that stuff. Wow, this was not a bad day to be in the job market, considering!

When I got home from work, there was another surprise: Parker had straightened Beccano's hair. It wasn't straight, but it was straighter. I put it in a nice thick braid, which is what you see here. Wow, that boy has thick hair!

Tomorrow Tuba Boy and I are taking the afternoon off to go look at Southwestern University, where he might go to college. That sounds like fun! I guess I'll be missing a few hours of work over the next few days. But for all good reasons!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Food for Thought #9: Mentoring

Lee says: Everyone is a mentor, and everyone has at least one mentor who has helped defined the guiding principles of their lives. (Ignore the numeric disagreement between noun and pronoun. It’s a symptom of my current contract where that disagreement has been institutionalized in the style guide.) Mentoring can be anything from helping a friend with homework to providing life-changing guidance.

(I could not find any pictures of people I mention in here other than one I already posted, so I included a photo of me and Parker during the pre-wedding frenzy. Perhaps I am mentoring her here, as I believe we were formatting a sign, or something.)

Appetizer: Do you view yourself as a mentor? Why or why not?

Heck yeah! And being a mentor is a role I take seriously. I am honored to have the chance to mentor people. I really feel good when I can mentor new or not-very-confident knitters and help them become independent, problem-solving, yarn-addicted companions who have a fine lifelong hobby and a skill they can pass on to others. I am also very happy when I can serve as a mentor to teens and young adults. Everyone needs a confidential, nonjudgmental older friend to talk things over with, run things by, and get input from. It’s another thing I can pass along, as my mentors did for me.

Soup: Other than your parents, who was most influential in shaping the choices you made in your life?

Well, I read a lot, so much of the direction my thought processes went in came from books. But, when I was a teen, I talked a lot to some of our neighbors, who often gathered at our house and talked about their issues. I learned a lot of what I didn’t want to do (marry young with no education, get involved with nice folks who happened to be drug smugglers). And I learned a lot of good, too. I talked a lot to my boyfriend’s mother and grandmother (Delores and Boo), who modeled the kind of parenting and love I wanted for my children. And the high school boyfriend, Corey, influenced me the most. We talked and talked about our religious, political, philosophical and practical beliefs. I would say he’s my biggest influence. In college, a civics professor named Fred Shenkman took a lot of us kids under his wing—I’d say my political beliefs were strongly influenced by him. And in grad school, I’ve already talked about my adviser, Georgia Green Morgan, who also strongly influenced me (and continues to). And finally, when I was first out working and starting my family, the dear and wonderful Roberta Bishop Johnson steered me in the right direction by providing a clear example of someone who loves all of humanity, respects everyone, mothers with all her heart, and uses her considerable intellect to help others. I would be very different if I hadn’t met her (she is a future Wednesday Wonder). All these were adults I could talk to about anything, and whom I could rely on to tell me the truth, even if I wouldn’t like it.

Salad: Other than your children or siblings, whose life have you influenced most?

That sounds like just one person. I don’t really know who I influenced the most, or if I even influence anyone. I probably influenced Tina a little. Maybe Jody some. I’m pretty sure I’ve helped Parker out some, and maybe a couple of Beccano’s friends who have asked me things in confidence. And of course, I have influenced some knitters, but do you really know how you influence people? They usually don’t report back and tell you! I do know that I TRIED to influence a couple of people in my nonprofit job and am sure I failed royally on one.

Entré: What is your favorite experience as a mentor or mentee?

I remember a time when my friend Nancy Jo and I went to visit Roberta at her house, when she was dying from breast cancer. She knew she’d probably not see us again. We spent a long time sitting with her and listening to us share her “institutional knowledge” of the organization we all worked and volunteered for, but also she shared advice for us as parents of school-aged kids—for Nancy Jo as a lesbian just coming out of the closet, and for me as someone very confused about relationships. I am confident that this was one of the most important days of both of our lives.

Dessert: Do you have to know someone personally for that person to be your mentor? Please explain your position.

Hmm, to me, being a mentor involves exchanging information with each other—it’s a two way street, and each participant gets something out of it. People I don’t know but who influence me a lot I would more consider role models—like Barbara J. Walker has been for me.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Getting Rid of an Old Shell and Defining My Own Success

Wow, I am a moody cuss. I had been having one of my periodic down times, and was perversely making things worse by reading the news, reading newspaper comments about the huge layoffs at the place where I am working now, listening to coworkers bemoaning stuff, and wallowing in all the bad news my friends and family are having.

(For example, Lee has ill relatives, Tuba Boy lost his job today, and yet another friend was laid off here.)

I told myself I need to get a grip on my attitude, and shed off the negativity shell just like our cicada friend in the photo shed its irrelevant shell. That means I have to focus on whatever positives I can come up with, and most important, get myself a plan. Once I have a real plan, I always feel better.

I have found some jobs to apply for, which I will do tonight, but a listing about Microsoft training that I saw on Craigslist reminded me that there’s no reason to not contact that nice training place I used to freelance at NOW to see if they have any openings. Well, that was an easy fix. They will be happy for me to do more for them! At least this means there will be SOME income after I transition out of this contract! I can still interview, teach knitting and see if I can do freelance editing, too. Whew.

I also decided to make a list of my successes. So often we view ourselves as successful vs. unsuccessful only based on what our capitalist US society deems important: how much money we make, and our job title. When I look at myself through that lens, I am inclined to feel pretty bad about myself. I went from a director-level job that paid well for a nonprofit to the lowest person on the totem pole doing my lowest-paid contract position so far. I appear to be sliding down.

Defining Your Own Success

But, maybe we need to define our own success, like my friend Diana did with her book on breastfeeding. Women with supply issues may not have a standard "successful" experience, but, if they define their own success, they can feel really good about what they can do. So, in that spirit, here are things which I have decided prove that I am a success!

  • Given instructions, I can knit almost anything.
  • I have raised two sons, one to age 18, who have not been arrested or fathered their own children.
  • I’ve learned to identify many of my negative patterns and to intercept them early (such as panicking when I have no plan).
  • I have finally found a partner I truly love and want to stay with the rest of our lives.
  • I’ve learned to be happy with what I have, and how to enjoy life, even with fewer resources to draw on.
  • I can cook a holiday meal all by myself if I have to.
  • I pay all my bills online. That makes me feel really successful and way less forgetful.
  • I have practiced treating people kindly, and meeting malice with kindness. And now people seem to like me a lot more.
  • I have made a commitment to peace and have stuck with it. I have a consistent viewpoint on that, which spans all sorts of areas of life.
  • Great progress has been made in my effort to avoid us vs. them thinking and to not lump all members of any group together. This has led me to have interesting friends and acquaintances from many cultures, races and religions, not to mention political viewpoints. I feel very successful about this.

OK, that’s plenty. If you are having trouble with feeling down on yourself, try this exercise. You may well see yourself in a very different light.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wednesday Wonders #10: Beccano!

This week I want to salute someone in my own family. Just don’t mention it to him, OK? Today’s Wednesday Wonder is my son, Beccano. Yeah, yeah, I go on and on about these kids all the time, but here I go again. Maybe once I write this you’ll see why.

Beccano has always been an incredibly creative person. That’s a given. Just look at that art he finished yesterday. It’s like my doodles used to be, only, well, better. And he made the stencil for the shirt in the picture of him, which was taken just a week ago. But, the creativity is just a part of him, and not why he’s been impressing me lately.

Beccano has had a hard time with traditional schooling. He is not someone meant to thrive in the US school environment. I am not a good homeschooler, and never had the money for a private school, so he’s had to muddle through. You may recall he had a really bad time at the end of elementary school (though it was before this blog). He was able to pull himself together, thanks to good therapy, and got through middle school OK. High school has been harder for him. And the last 6 weeks were a mess. He didn’t understand his Spanish (irregular preterits) or his Geometry, and even though he tried, he couldn’t bring up his grades. Here’s why I am proud, though. He does NOT take his issues with school as indicators that he is not an intelligent, worthy person (like I would have in his situation). He understands that he has a processing issue (that is what the testing revealed), and that it doesn’t mean he’s stupid. AND, he has buckled down and is getting more help, actually doing his homework (one of his unhelpful coping mechanisms is to just “forget” things—he is much better at this, but not great). He didn’t do this because we yelled at or threatened him. He did it because he knows he needs to get through high school and because he wants to do band contest. I am proud. I am just as proud of him as I am of his brother’s good grades!

I am also very proud of what a well rounded person he’s becoming. He keeps up with current events and can talk intelligently about all kinds of subjects. He is serious about music and actually practices. A lot. That is a huge change for the better—when he finds something he likes, he WILL concentrate! And he is moving past some of his isolationist tendencies. While his friends always call him the funny one and seem to enjoy him a lot at school, we never saw them here and he never hung out with them until recently. Thanks to joining the band, he has had to spend time with friends outside of school. That has enabled him to actually get a girlfriend, and has encouraged him to go to a party and a couple of school events. He’s really pushing himself to move beyond his comfort zone. This is a huge step toward maturity in him.

Plus, I see how kind he can be, how he cares for his friends and puts up with their quirks, and how he expresses appreciation to others. I am impressed with how he treats his band members and the kids in his circle, even if he complains about some of them, sometimes. He also seems to treat the girlfriend very well, too (I guess he’s watched his brother). It’s clear that he is loving, generous and thoughtful. The best recent example is that he went out of his way to get me the birthday gift I wanted, even though it was a financial stretch for him. I think he was as excited about it as it would have been for a gift for himself. I certainly responded in a way that reinforced the idea that giving is a good thing. But, that wasn’t hard, because I really, really love these Converse All Stars with a “The Who” theme. I have very happy feet!

It’s very heart-warming to see my little boy with the distant eyes growing up to figure out how he can be himself yet interact with the rest of the world positively. He’s different. Not standard issue. But, he is growing more flexible and confident. I just can’t wait to see what he does next, and know he will succeed in his own way, on his own terms.

That’s my Beccano!

Website for Beccano

Triskelion on MySpace

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Soon-to-Be-Jobless Humor

I had a funny experience today. I got four phone calls about jobs. I’d get all interested (at least for the first two), then it would dawn on me. These calls were for MY job. Luckily this was not a huge surprise, so I can laugh at it. I had a nice chat with the woman who runs the department where I am now, and it was warm and friendly. I got the explanation for a couple of things (like why no one has called me for the “real” advertised job I applied for--the usual hiring freeze), and we talked about options, like me coming back in the fall. I wonder how many more calls I will get about my own job? I am quite qualified for it!

I’ve got another month here, then I need to be doing something else. Ideas are appreciated, though this time, I have some good ideas of my own, and I think some options!

Monday, March 9, 2009

A Rockin' Good Time

I hope your weekend was good—mine was just fine, though the time change threw us all for a loop and we were dragging by the end of Sunday.
Friday was a lot more fun than we’d thought it would be. With Tuba Boy off at his state debate tournament (they did OK but didn’t get any awards), and we thought Beccano off to watch some male beauty contest at school, Lee and I figured it would be a nice relaxing evening, which we really needed. But, I came home from work to find three teens in the kitchen making pizza—Beccano, Parker and their new French friend. Then Beccano’s girlfriend arrived. That ensured plenty of giggling. We actually had a really pleasant time sitting on the new patio and chatting. The photo is of French Friend sitting next to our fountain, on which we lit the flame for the first time. This picture was taken at night, but wow, that camera has some fine flash. When Lee came home with pretzels, the party was set. Eventually, Dean of Triskelion also came, and the teens wandered the cul-de-sac shrieking until I told them to cut that out. I may be a cool mom, but shrieking in front of a cop’s house is never a good idea, even if that cop is a former band chaperone, himself. I really do like having the kids around—sure makes it easy to keep track of them, and they are very funny and smart.

Saturday was another good day all around. I had a very nice time at the yarn shop, starting with some nice, quiet time chatting with the owner, and ending with me getting some delicious Italian Crème cake for the gang, to celebrate my birthday and another lady’s. I was surprised to get a couple of gifts, and really humbled at that. I think, because I am not a very inspired gift giver or birthday remember-er, that I get really touched when I get gifts or people remember me. I sort of feel unworthy, but I also feel happy to know such nice people. And that’s what’s important.

After I came home, Lee and I went to the garden supply place and had a great time wandering around discussing various plant choices. It’s so nice that he likes plants as much as me. We ended up choosing two really pretty variegated ginger plants to put in the new bed out by our air conditioning units, and some really pretty coleus plants to fill in around them. We got all kinds of different ones, since it was hard to decide which variety we liked best. The photos show them all planted. We have pink polka dot plant (hypoestes) in the front of them. I don’t know if pink really goes with the orangey coleus varieties, but I am sure it will be festive. Right now the polka dot plants are taller than the coleus, but if these grow like the ones in our back yard tend to, that won’t last long. Lee also put in the ones I rooted from last year. One variety is in its third year—plant recycling!

We actually have a lot of plant recycling at our house. Both our nicest geraniums made it through another winter with little damage, and though a recent wind/cold event did some damage, our poinsettias are also on their third year. It appears as though a lot of our begonias made it, as well. There’s a white one on at least its fourth year, but to my surprise a few that were in the ground made it, too. I see some pinks coming back, and even one or two plucky verbenas. We won’t have to put many new plants in for a while—the pansies are going out in a blaze of glory and I don’t want to pull them up yet.

Saturday night was really special. To celebrate Lee’s and my birthdays, we went to Segovia’s a Spanish restaurant in South Austin. The trip didn’t take any time at all, because it was almost all highway. And the food was yummy. Lee and I drank homemade sangria, which was dry but fruity. Parker and I had some amazing beef stew with cool seasonings in it, like cinnamon. It was so rich and tasty. Beccano had a steak, and Lee had roast suckling pork. I think I liked it better than he did (again, wonderful seasonings). What Lee and Beccano liked most about their meal was the “seasoned vegetables.” Sounds bland, but wow, whatever they seasoned them with was amazingly good. Parker and I practically fought over Beccano’s rejected red peppers (He ate every single morsel of his steak and mashed potatoes, though). But the dessert was best. So glad I decided to have some, because the bread pudding was the best I ever had. And I LOVE bread pudding and order it whenever I can. Honestly, I can only think of one other that sticks out in my mind as on par with this, and that was at a very fancy steak house in Chicago.

But, the reason we went down there was not the food! We went to see the first official gig of JT and the Quartertones, Jeff’s new band. First there was a guy and his sister playing gypsy-style classical guitar, and I liked it a LOT more than I thought I would. The melodies were really catchy and the technique quite wonderful. I was relieved that JT and company also did very well. There was a good turnout, including lots of people I don’t know, which means he’s actually been making some friends. Of course, he later saw all the flaws, but I don’t think anyone else did. It was a nice mix of his songs and cover tunes, and the versions of his songs were fresh and new. His solos really wowed the kids, so much so that Beccano wrote him and told him. Jeff said that was the first time he ever wrote him that wasn’t a response to something he’d sent. Parker took some pictures, but I think most of them didn’t come out. I hope we can get one, anyway.

That was all fun, fun, fun, but we were out really late (for us) on the worst night of the year to do it—by the time we got home it was “new time” after 1 am. That may explain why I am having time transition issues.

Yesterday we went to church, even though we weren’t having to sing or play, because it was the annual youth service. I am disappointed that Tuba Boy didn’t get to participate this year, but they did really good jobs without him. The kids are so grown up. The musicians were amazing. Brenna’s a professional, so that didn’t surprise me, but the two other kids who sang and played were not. And they were wonderful. Made me all weepy on “Imagine,” even. Plus we had a French horn solo to enjoy at the end. And they wrote really well and said great stuff about community service. Yay to all of them and their parents for raising such fine men and women. The day got really long because we stayed for Steering Committee, but I am glad we did it. We are at least contributing again. Or I am again and Lee is doing more than just music. The rest of the day is a blur of knitting, plants and tiredness. Tuba Boy made it home in one piece, and that was good.

Today I have been anxiously following the progress of a fire near a friend’s home in another state via Facebook and Twitter. Love modern technology. And later Lee and I are having dinner with minister Chuck and his woman friend, who I really like. That will be a nice ending to the day, I hope.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Food For Thought #7

Bonus photo is our red bud tree at night.

Appetizer: When it comes to the weekend, do they usually measure up to your expectations?

I tend to wish they were longer, so I'd have a day with nothing I felt obligated to do. But, on weekends at least I get to do the "work" I like (teaching knitting) and I get to see my friends at church and usually sing something, which is another thing I like to do. So, those aren't horrible obligations. I always hope to get a LOT of knitting done, but to also do fun things with the family. One of those usually happens!

Soup: What good thing happened this week that you were not expecting?

My oldest son gave me a birthday gift, but more wonderful, a hand-made card that was really, really funny. Those are the kinds of things you will always treasure. I keep carrying it around and showing it to people.

Salad: If one end of a scale is, “I like to have every second of my day planned and executed according to that plan”mand the other end is “I like to take life as it comes, completely spontaneously,” where do you fit?

I'm in the middle, I guess. I would like to know I am going out of town, but if we took a different road or went somewhere else, that would usually be fun. And I like knowing we are going out to eat, but where is not important. I generally want weekends unstructured, if I can swing it.

Entré: Do things just happen, or do we control what happens in our lives?

I have a strong existentialist bent, which would mean that there's no master plan out there, but I think each decision we make affects what direction things will go in.

Dessert: What are your plans, if any, for the weekend.

Teach knitting, move the bird to a new spot in the house, go to a birthday dinner with family and friends and see a friend's new band, go to church and see the youth service, go to a fund-raiser concert in the evening. Next weekend is a baby shower.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Wednesday Wonders #9: George Lakoff

This week I have a lot of work and a lot of evening appointments, so I can’t write as much as I’d like to.

Nonetheless I just have to give a little “shout out” (not my favorite recent idiom) to someone I always wanted to be when I grew up (or a female version thereof): George Lakoff. I know, in the past four years I have mentioned him a bunch of times. But he popped back up again today, so it’s time to make him an official Wednesday Wonder.

Why today? I ran across an article he wrote in the Washington Note that does a wonderful job of analyzing Barack Obama’s use of language to present ideas in a new light.

I’d been waiting for an article like this for some time, having grown very weary of reading about how the conservatives took nice, neutral words and turned them into awful things (liberal, choice, feminist, atheist, Democratic) and turned anyone who self-identify themselves with one of those terms into demons. (I still can’t find my horns or pointy tail, but I’m sure they’re somewhere.)

The article above points out seven very interesting tenets that come through the things Obama says and writes. My favorite one is making progressive values American values. It hints I could even be proud to care about others, want a fair wage for all, care about the state of the whole planet, and other fine progressive ideas.

But, back to Lakoff. He is the linguistics professor who most impressed me in grad school. I loved how he looked at how people really use language, without trying to force it into an artificial model of how language should work (a la Chomsky). Sadly, I didn’t go to grad school at Berkeley, and I didn’t get to use all his ideas in my own work. I truly wanted to be able to take my skills in looking at language and people and do something useful with it. I never have gotten the chance, but Lakoff did.

He’s managed to take his ideas beyond academia and apply them to current events—things people are actually interested in! He’s managed to get interesting jobs in fun liberal think-tanks, where he can interact with other smart people and apply pragmatics and semantics concepts in all kinds of ways that provide real and useful insight into how humans communicate concepts way beyond the actual literal meanings of words.

What I really admire about him is that he stuck with his beliefs even when they weren’t popular in the mainstream. He didn’t shrink away from his point that conservatives were not-so-subtly manipulating the American population until finally more and more people actually paid attention to him. Then he spent a lot of time trying to get progressives (as he calls us, so as not to use the tainted word “liberal”) to come up with our own metaphors for our viewpoints. He must be so thrilled with Obama and his advisers! We finally have someone who CAN use language to convince people of a point on our side!

I used to get sort of nauseated by the repeated themes of the day blared out on every news medium by the people in charge of G.W. Bush (I don’t care if he DID say all the decisions were his, I just can’t believe it—though there WERE a lot of bad decisions). Even though nothing got through my thick skull, I felt battered by talking points and inane reinterpretations of events, with my only respite the lampooning of those very things by Stewart and Colbert. I am now soothed by the subtle and nuanced shapings that Obama’s team comes up with. Yeah, the goal is the same, to get people on board with some plan or another, but the delivery sure is different (see the link above for examples.)

What to Read by Him?

I’ve said it before: Lakoff’s wonderful book, Don’t Think of an Elephant (2004)is one of my all-time favorites. It really helped me see how conservatives were messing with us and we weren’t messing with them back near enough. I haven’t gotten his latest, The Political Mind: Why You Can’t Understand 21st-Century American Politics with an 18th-Century Brain (2008), but I will.

Want to know more theoretical underpinnings to all his political analysis? I recommend Metaphors We Live By (1980) by him and Mark Johnson. It’s where I started thinking more deeply about metaphor, and a book I treasure—I realized metaphors are not just cheesy things in poems and songs, but ways of shaping human thought! It just about killed me! (Ha ha, snuck in a war metaphor—English is full of them.) I also recommend Women, Fire and Other Dangerous Things (1990), an academic book that does a great job of defining the entire field of cognitive science, which is the thing I’d be doing if I were still doing what I always wanted to do (other than knit).

Well, that was me, not being long-winded. I will try not to put any more linguistics professors on the list. I guess I have just been thinking about linguistics a lot lately.

More on Lakoff

Books on Amazon
Rockridge Institute: where I always wanted to work, but it’s dead now. Lakoff founded it.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Life Goes On, and Is Fun!

I haven’t had time to write about recent goings on, because I’ve been so busy doing stuff. That’s a good problem to have, isn’t it? The weekend was really good—Saturday was spent driving all over the place to look at yarn with Deana and Dawn. It was SO windy that I really felt sorry for Deana having to drive. The wind did a number on my poinsettia plants at home, too. Once I got home, it was fun, fun, fun with Beccano and Parker working on a screen printing project while at the same time, Tuba Boy, Lee and a bunch of high school seniors were playing their role playing game. Lee made delicious burgers that pleased everyone who had one, too. Parker said it was the best burger ever.

Sunday was SO busy that I got pretty wiped out at one point. We had to be at church early, so we fetched band kid Jeremy, who wanted to visit the church, and got there in time and everything. I think the Dixieland Band sounded pretty OK, even with some of the missing solos and such. At least the sound balanced. One woman fled, saying it was too loud. I don’t know how you can get brass instruments any quieter than they were. We had a nice sermon on passive resistance, then another Dixieland song, where apparently my “belting out” on “When the Saints Go Marching In” went OK. There really wasn’t much singing in the arrangement. Oh well. After an endless music committee meeting in a frigid room, Lee and I got to go home for a tiny rest before heading back out to get some spring décor items and hangers for heavy pictures. What an exciting life we lead, I tell you. It was just a bit more running around than I was up for, so I relished the nice grilled cheese sandwich we had for dinner!

Meanwhile, Beccano had gone off to a birthday party for a former Triskelion member. I am glad Parker dragged him there, because apparently they had tons and tons of fun. I guess I was mostly happy to see Beccano doing social things with friends, and was especially pleased to find him on the phone giggling about goings-on at the party long after it was over. Such normal behavior! At his age he deserves to be having some fun with friends, laughing and gossiping!

Yesterday didn’t end up at all like I’d planned. But that’s OK, it was good! I am all about doing things a little differently right now, so when I got home, rather than sitting in front of my email and passing out from post-work exhaustion, I looked down and saw Scrunchy, who was really happy with me for getting some goop out of his eye. I decided to take him for a walk. He sure had a good time, and he only pooped once (I hate carrying poop bags). I think I’ll try to walk him as much as I can, and see if I can get someone to bring Rose along, too. I had stopped walking them when Gwynn went blind, because she went into such hysterics when one of them left. No one could read, watch TV or enjoy being at home if someone took a walk with one or more of the other dogs. But, the dogs need exercise. And so do I!

When I got home, Beccano and Parker had just gotten back, and I listened to the daily high school drama for a while on the lovely new porch furniture. We had decided to go with Parker and her mom to see a band nearby, but just before leaving, Beccano called out to us to look outside. It was one of the loveliest sunrises I’d seen in a long time. We had a blast taking photos and running around in the beautiful orange light. I hope you enjoy them, too! We did head out to see Parker’s dad’s guitar teacher in an R&B band. Lee loved the music—I know that’s the kind of stuff he’d love to perform. It was a bit chilly, but fun to listen to good music (or what will be once the singer backs off a bit—he’s good but was overpowering the system), eat good food, and enjoy the high school giggles between 2/3 of a Triskelion.

I’m glad we did something different last night! We all had genuine fun! More of that, please! I hope Tina comes over this evening, as planned. It might be another fun night!