Friday, August 18, 2006

Thinking You Are Something, And It Turns Out You Aren't

I was just remembering back almost 10 years ago... 9 years and 9 months, actually. I had been working for a year in the Computer Connection on the Belmont campus, and had finally reached the end of my ability to live on $1000 a month. I had let it be known I'd like to find a computer support job to the one person I knew in the field (brother Cy). It ultimately led to an interview and job offer with the William Morris Agency, which was far and away more than I had ever thought of for myself.

But it also wasn't what I'd really wanted, either. It was a corporate job, which meant responsibility and dress codes and loss of freedom. It was, to my way of thinking, the end of any Creative Dreams I might have had (which were vague at best) just for the Almighty Dollar. But I knew I absolutely had to do it; my student loans were coming due, my credit card debt was high, and I couldn't afford to live any longer on $8.04 an hour.

But I sobbed when I got off the phone with the HR person who offered me the job... because I really felt like it was the end of my ambitions; a job contrary to everything I was meant to be. I had just finished my 2nd major in theater, having had the intention to teach high-school drama. But I found out along the way that I was unwilling to go to any school other than Belmont which was safe and comfortable to me, and then when I applied to Grad School, the only programs I was accepted to were at Northwestern, with no assistantship or financial aid, and Austin Peay, which was pitiful. Funny - now that I look back, I have no idea when I decided that I would just give up Grad School entirely; it obviously didn't give me any pain to give up all the preparatory work I had done for auditions, resumes, letters of recommendation, etc. because I don't remember it at all.

I did take a year to try and "make it" as a working actor in Nashville with a variety of part-time jobs & housesitting. I don't think I got a single paying gig. I even had an agent, who sent me on 2 auditions, and then never called again. I slipped out of that idea easily too, and started helping people with their home computers as I was learning skills at the campus store. But I still clung to the idea that I was Creative, and that I should be in The Arts; everyone else seemed to think so too, even though I had by then realized that my performing talents were mediocre at best. But I expressed myself so... expressively! dramatically! Surely that meant I was supposed to be an actor...

So I took the System Administrator job at WMA, promising myself I'd only have to do it for 2 years till I could pay off my debts and student loans. I honestly didn't know how I could endure it. But I loved it - it was perfect for me, and I stayed until they asked me to leave, for reasons which still elude me. 8 years of almost flawless evaluations... oh well. The job had done its purpose - it had taken away the illusion that I was purely right-brain, and taught me how to use my left-brain.

So now 10 years later, looking at the person I've morphed into, and looking back at the person I thought I was... I wonder if I'm about to turn out to be something else again. Anyone who knows me well knows that one of my greatest fears is being called to the mission field. I can rattle off a list of Places I Don't Want To Go faster than people can think of where they'd like to go on their dream vacation. Uncomfortable, unfamiliar, unsafe - that's what I equate with missions, and despite the fact that I don't think I have a talent for it, fear getting sick in a 3rd world country, and hate the idea of giving up my safe and comfortable existence, I'm always ready to assume that I'm going to be "made" to do it someday.

It turns out I wasn't an actor. Maybe it will turn out that I'm not a computer geek. Maybe it will turn out that I'm another thing altogether.

Friday, August 11, 2006


It really amazes me how an artistic or intellectual passion feeds opportunities... I'm part of a loose confederation of women who get together every Thursday night to do cross-stitch and embroidery, and I've been doing it for a couple of years now. My friend Jen Core has a degree in Folk History with a specialization in created practical "art", which tends towards antique textiles. Anyway, she has started a survey research project called the Tennessee Sampler Survey, in which she is trying to document at least 150 samplers of Tennessee origin from before 1900. Jen hears about them or people contact her, then she professionally photographs, documents, and researches the samplers. I've attended 2 of her talks on the subject - she shows slides and talks about the similarities, the regional differences, etc. - and it's just fascinating.

Last fall, Jen and I had the idea of creating a sampler that would take elements from some of the prettiest samplers she's collected, and that we'd make it a group project - each month she'd design us a new band, and there'd be 10-12 bands that we'd work on over the course of 2006. There are a dozen women doing it in Nashville, and about that many in Knoxville. Each woman is given the charts and color codes, but you can make any changes in color or stitch you prefer, always keeping in mind that we want to try and keep it within the realm of work typical to Tennessee, but also allowing personal taste and preference. I may be one of the few to actually try and stick to her original design as closely as possible... and even I've departed more than 2-3 times from the original!

Anyway, we've already begun to make plans for a few museum and art guild showings of all of the completed samplers, as well as some of her photos and research of the survey, and I think it could go further as well... I'm hoping some grant money might be forthcoming for the TSS. I'm about 2/3 done with mine, and as you can see there's some blocks I still have to fill in. This is what we call a Band sampler, and it's VERY long compared to modern samplers. I doubt I'll ever be able to frame it, it'll be so wildly expensive! It's funny; individual elements aren't that pretty to most of us - we've all done motifs we liked better - but when you stand back and look at the combined work, it really grows on you (if you LIKE that sort of thing).

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A Very Special Day

Today is a very special day for me. "Why?" you might ask, if you cared to; "why is this a special day, Susan?"

Today is the one-year anniversary of my House Calls Computer business! I have survived, I have scraped by, I have learned, I have grown, blah blah blah. It has been one of the best years of my life, although not without it's pains and difficulties.

I have my friend Sally Higgs to thank; it was her idea, and I'm just grateful she told it to me, because I had no thought of it at the time. I called her up today to thank her for having said that it was something she thought I'd be good at, and inspiring me to try it, and she was completely surprised; she didn't realize that she sparked it!

I also want to thank Eric Wyse for letting me work on his office computers when I was still learning my way, and Daystar Counseling for being the most relentlessly appreciative and encouraging clients I've ever had. And if I had not begun this business, I wouldn't have gotten to know the Searfosses, the Granberys, the Epsteins, the Solareks, and the Stewarts. How infinitely poorer I should have been!

Monday, August 07, 2006


I've been working non-stop since January, except for July 4th. I need a vacation. But how this is to be achieved, I do not know. My dilemma is trifold:
  1. Money - don't have any. Won't have any.
  2. Time - if I take a week to go somewhere, that's a week without any income. Which, as stated above, I am lacking in.
  3. Company - no-one available. This used to be a non-issue since I preferred to go to the beach on my own, but after 10 years of doing so, the novelty has worn off and after 3 or 4 days I get bored on my own. And even if there was a friend available to go, I don't have any friends that I'm close enough to to be confident of a fun time after the first 24 hours. I'd love to go with my sisters and their kids, but they already went to the beach together back in the spring. Without me.

*sigh* I guess I'll take a 4 day weekend and go to my Grandmother's in the Armpit of the Universe, Batesville. There, I will take naps, shop at the Super Wal-Mart, and sit and watch Wheel of Fortune and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire at 6 pm. If there's anything else to do there, somehow, it just won't happen. There's a movie theater there. Do you know how many movies I've seen in Batesville in the last decade? Two. I get in that house, and barely leave it for 3 days.

And the conversations? *sigh* I love my Grandmother, but...

Could this BE any more of a pity party? I think not.

[cheerfulmentalreinforcement] Be glad you have your health... your home... your family... your friends... steady work... Project Runway... [/cheerfulmentalreinforcement]

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Handy Household Hints!

So I got one of those emails with all of the "Did you know that hydrogen peroxide will remove blood from clothing?" tips, and I find them fascinating as well as frustrating, since I know that I will be completely unable to remember any of them when the need arises.
  • Candles will last a lot longer if placed in the freezer for at least 3 hours prior to burning.
  • To clean artificial flowers, pour some salt into a paper bag and add the flowers. Shake vigorously as the salt will absorb all the dust and dirt and leave your artificial flowers looking like new! Works like a charm!

And then I thought... how do we know that any of these are legitimately useful? What if someone's just messing with us? And I came up with these:

  • To remove grease stains from jeans, saturate the area with vodka. The enzymes in the alcohol and the blue dye in the denim will break up the grease!
  • To remove unused stamps from envelopes, dip the corner of the envelope in ice water & a small amount of lighter fluid for 5 minutes - the stamp will peel off and float to the top of the water!
  • To kill weeds, spray windex all over the affected area, and watch them disappear in 24-48 hours!

I mean, who's to say if any of these tips actually work?! Don't these sound plausible? Yet I made them up as I was typing this. All this to say: don't be willfully gullible.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

King Arthur

I was just sitting here watching one of my absolute favorite movies, Dave starring Kevin Kline & Sigourney Weaver. I really love this movie, even more than I love "The West Wing" which is another one of those political "works" where realism oozes into idealism every once and a while. Except that Dave oozes into idealism and stays there.

WHY am I so enchanted by this film? Is it because it's a modern-day fairy tale? I think that may be part of the reason. But I think it's primarily because of an essential longing I have for a King Arthur. I've lived with cynicism about politics my whole life, but here in this basic Prince and the Pauper story, we are given a leader with integrity, compassion, intelligence, and an understanding heart. He is a GOOD MAN, and he wants to do what is best, not what is politically expedient.

It's the same reason one of my favorite books is Avalon by Stephen R. Lawhead. It's subtitled The Return of King Arthur, and is a fictional "what if" story where Arthur returns to rule England in modern times. He's got all the same qualities we wish for in a ruler, and have not seen... ever, I guess.

I guess there've been some enlightened despots along the path of history who have been rulers you could follow and trust with your whole heart - King Alfred comes to mind - but the fact that the word "despot" has a negative connotation indicates that probably 99% of the despots of history were evil or self-seeking. But in actuality, Plato (or Socrates, I forget which) said that not democracy, but an enlightened despotism was the best form of government. Democracy/Republicanism (not the party but the form of government) is only the best form of government that is actually ACHIEVABLE.

CS Lewis often refers to the return of King Arthur in his writings, and I've only come to realize why in recent years... he's the ruler we all wish we had, but won't have until the end of time.

Puffy Foot

I suffer from a rare condition I choose to call Puffy Foot. It means that my left foot & ankle are Perpetually Puffy. It's not an attractive condition although it's painless and I can't detect any disabilities as a result of it. And yes, I've had it checked out and scanned and there's nothing they can find that's causing it. I've had it about 5 years now.

There is one major drawback to this: shoe shopping is a bitch. It is impossible for me to find a pair of shoes that fit both feet well. Flip-flops and other thong sandals are the best solution, but that only works for about 6 months of the year. The rest of the time I am forced to wear a right shoe that is too loose, and a left shoe that is too tight. I have to discard over 75% of the shoes I try on as a result. What I really wish is that I could buy shoes in different sizes - a Size X.5 for my left foot, and a size X for my right. (Yeah, like I'm telling you my shoe size!)

And when I do find a shoe that fits my left foot, there's the problem of "does it look OK?" Certain styles are positively horrific, as they press the Puff upward, leaving a roll of flesh above the leather. (Isn't that a lovely mental image?) Sure, it might fit, but it looks like I've recently eaten a bowl of salt.

I found out recently that my maternal grandmother has the same condition. Just the left foot; not both. Once again, family genetics has "blessed" me with an undesirable trait. Massive quantities of moles? Check. Thin, fine hair? Check. The physique of a 19th C. Austrian farmwife? Check. Excessive fondness for baked goods? Check.