Friday, December 25, 2009

How I Spent My Christmas Morning

  1. Drag myself out of bed at 8:30 (up til 1:00 am the night before; sang for Xmas Eve service) to get ready to go run the Nursery for the Christmas Day Service at church.
  2. 10:10 arrive at church. Hit first snag; door to downstairs is locked. Run get master keyring from Fr. Jerry, unlock door, take keyring back to office.
  3. Go in Baby Room. Smoke alarm beeping shrilly; battery dying. Try and stand on chair to reach it; not tall enough. Delay further action til room set up.
  4. Go to kitchenette to get pagers for parents dropping off babies. Door locked.
  5. Go back upstairs, up to the altar, ask Fr. Jerry for his keys again as I have locked the master keyring back in his office. Says his son has them. Find son, son says he had given them back. Go to sacristy, tell Fr. Jerry, someone finds keys on counter.
  6. Go get master keyring, take keys back to Fr. Jerry. Go back downstairs, open kitchenette. Keep keyring with me this time. Take out pagers and console, set up outside door.
  7. Can't find Sign-In notebook. Begin to wonder if this whole nursery thing is a good idea. Go back into kitchenette to find paper for improvised Sign-In list, miraculously find notebook in a box.
  8. Room finally set up, 10 minutes late. No babies yet... but also no assistant nursery worker, so unable to take babies in any case.
  9. Go to downstairs boiler room and find ladder. Climb up to beeping smoke alarm, take out battery. Return ladder to boiler room. Return master keyring to office.
  10. Get coffee.
  11. Sit for about 5 minutes until 11 am. No babies, no additional childcare worker.
  12. Put everything back, turn lights out, lock nursery. Go home.
Merry Christmas!
I should mention, I am more amused than annoyed. I do wonder if this was an important lesson or something... I can't seem to find the moral.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Christmas Letter 2009

Christmas 2009

Dear Friends and Family,

As I write this, I am still waiting on an answer to an offer I made on a house ON THE 4TH OF JULY WEEKEND. It’s a short sale, which means the bank gets to decide, and apparently such long waits are routine. I waver daily as to whether I should go ahead and start packing books and things, or act as though it won’t actually go through (which at this rate is entirely possible, since the bank’s delay will probably mean the house will go into foreclosure, and all my waiting will have been for naught.) So my apartment is a mess, with stacks of empty boxes waiting to be filled. And I am SO anxious to leave my apartment - I’ve been there for 10 years, and have most definitely outgrown it.

Apart from this Joy Deferred, it’s been a pretty good year in all other respects; steady work with my House Calls business and many new clients (resulting in periodic Flood or Famine), a full year of singing with my church’s newish Chamber Singers ensemble, and the regular hobbies and social activities I’ve been doing for the last several years. I’ve now been working part-time for the American Economic Association on the Vanderbilt Campus for 4 years, and I am glad to say I still like it and my co-workers!

Let’s see, anything else important... I did get a new car in April; a white Honda Civic, precisely what I wanted, with ridiculously low mileage on the odometer. It’s so odd how you can despise one car and love another. Although that love may well die when I have my first big repair bill!

My sister Greta and her family have moved to Batesville, AR after a year in a small town in New Hampshire (which I never even got to see!) and are living in my Grandmother’s old house. It’s so good to have them closer to Nashville, and conveniently located in the same town as all of my other maternal relatives! My nieces and nephews are all getting too big for words. They’re all too old to cuddle without much rolling of eyes. Although Henry (8) is still the little Hug Monster and will gladly provide hugs on demand. Elliott has just turned 16 and is driving quite well, so I have officially lost 50% of my value as an Aunt Within Driving Distance, alas! I still babysit for Amy’s kids occasionally, which is nice, when I’m not being The Evil Aunt Who Forbids Video Games; they don’t like her very much. We all got together this Thanksgiving at Amy’s and it was an absolutely fabulous time. It was PlayEatPlayDrinkPlayShop, and I think everyone enjoyed themselves.

Several women of my family (mom, sisters, aunt and cousin) went on a Girls Weekend in October to a conference in Memphis, but I think we quickly realized that we’d all rather just hang out together and go shopping. (I, of course, foresaw this, and made no effort to actually sign up for the conference in the first place!) We had such a good time that we’re already talking about when we can do it again. Mom is suggesting a villa in SPAIN. A bit of a jump there!

As always, I’m doing a lot of needlework and crochet in my spare time. This year I entered several pieces in the Williamson County and TN State Fairs, and won a few ribbons and one Best in Show! The prize money isn’t anything worthwhile (in fact, after entry fees and fair admission, I made precisely $1 from the State Fair) but it’s fun to do, and a prize ribbon is always a nice little pick-me-up. I suppose this means I have officially become the Old Maiden Aunt, and you may find me in years to come sitting on a porch in a rocking chair. With my laptop. And I finally finished my Tennessee Sampler after working on it off and on for 3 years! Now if I can just get low-interest financing to frame the thing...

Current Fascinations & Obsessions
British TV shows. I have always had an affinity for British comedy; well, this year it exploded. I became obsessed with quiz shows that you can only see clips of on YouTube, like QI (Quite Interesting), 8 out of 10 Cats, and Would I Lie To You?, along with Supersizers Go..., a show where 2 writer/comedians eat, dress and live as people did in an earlier time period, such as Elizabethan, Victorian, etc. It makes you profoundly grateful for our modern diet! But anything that combines history and humor is my idea of perfect entertainment. And Doctor Who is still on the top of my list, of course.

Radio Shows and Podcasts. I’ve become more addicted this year to a variety of audio shows, like NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me and BBC’s The News Quiz, as well as more amateur programs like The History of Rome, and Stuff You Should Know. A few years ago I realized that after years of fiction, I was really hungry for non-fiction and genuine information, as well as a return to the cultural History that I used to love so much I got a degree. Now years later, I know more about current and past events than I ever did when that was my educational focus! And they do a marvelous job of whiling away the hours on the road each week going from job to job.

Sitcoms. Thank goodness, they aren’t actually dead as they periodically claim in various articles. There are a ton of really good ones on at present; How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, 30 Rock, Better Off Ted... then there’s all the ones everyone tells me I should be watching, but really, I watch too much TV as it is. I guess it’s part and parcel of the current economic downturn that we need comedy more than usual.

I wish I had more of interest to share, but my life is fairly quiet these days, except for the occasional flood of work and church music. By the way, if you get the chance to attend a Handel’s Messiah Sing-Along this Christmas, I HIGHLY recommend it; it will absolutely knock your socks off! I almost wished that I was just listening instead of participating; the sound was so enormous! I will be producing the Christmas Concert at St. Bartholomew’s again this year (December 20th @ 7pm); please consider yourself invited!

God bless and keep you this Christmas Season and in 2010...

Love, Susan

Monday, November 09, 2009

Latest Obsession

I love the internet. It allows for the discovery of so many things you would never find or learn about otherwise. Despite my occasional lapse into Luddite musings on "what am I going to do to support myself when Civilization collapses a la 'The Road'," and "I really do need to acquire a farm and learn how to live off it exclusively," and "I wonder if I could get the Amish to adopt me," I am entirely addicted to the convenience of looking up whatever I find interesting on the spot.

This has lead to any number of UK-based entertainments, and massive quantities of historical tidbits. A week or so ago, I downloaded a BBC Radio show for my iPod, "Friday Night Comedy with Sandy Toksvig" and heard the voice of someone named Sue Perkins, who was hysterically funny. So I Wiki-d her name, and discovered a TV show she had made last year called "Supersizers Go..."

Hop over to YouTube, and I found entire episodes in 10-minute chunks. The show's premise is this: Sue and restaurant critic Giles Coren live for a week as people would in a particular time period, and eat the food of that period exclusively. They dress in the styles of the period, live in a period house, and generally do the activities and pursuits of the time as well. What adds an additional dimension of scientific interest is the fact that they go to the doctor for a checkup before and after, to see how the diet effects their health.

This is endlessly entertaining. I love history most of all in the context of how a society lives day to day... what they read, what they listen to, how they dress, what they eat. This show is NOTHING but social history, and hilariously presented at the same time; not in the "let's do an amusing show to teach children about history!" style, but because Giles and Sue are both such inventive and amusing people, their responses to some of the more appalling foods and activities is laugh-out-loud funny.

I think I've managed to watch all of the episodes, although the first one I saw, "Elizabethan," was such an eye opener, that it has given me an overarching impression for the rest of the series: Thank God we can eat vegetables. It has profoundly affected the way I regard my daily diet, and I hope will also prompt me to make some significant reductions in the junk that I typically eat.

Now, of course, I have moved on to reading Giles Coren's columns in
The Times, and although I think he needs to soften his aggressiveness a bit at times, I'm still rather charmed by the memory of how well he looks in Mr. Darcy's coat and attire, and how even in a Restoration wig or Brillcremed hair (1950s) he looks entirely at home in any period. And his habit of affectionately calling Sue "My dear" (she typically played his wife, in a rather sisterly manner) is quite appealing.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Letter to a Friend

Dear Mike,

Long time no... um... see? Doesn't really apply when we don't really talk on the phone (maybe once a year?), haven't actually seen each other in 20 years (that trip to Japan was exactly 20 years ago last month!) and don't really email each other unless I'm pestering you with a computer question. Yet I feel like I have a decent grasp on what's going on in your life through your blog and Facebook and stuff like that... you have three kids (Sarah, Jay, and Lily) your wife is Stefanie and you still live in MI and work at UMich. And you paint models. I can't really say that much about any of the people I went to high school with, and only one person I went to college with, and that's because I actually see him on a weekly basis!

So is this the typical friendship of the 21st century? We wrote a ton of letters about
anime and manga (BTW have you seen Ponyo yet?), met only twice in our lives, and yet we've actually managed to keep track of each other and have a fairly good idea of what's going on with each other and I can confidently send you a prayer request on occasion. That's pretty amazing when you think about it!

And what's more strange is that you are actually one of the few constants in my life! I stayed in the Nashville area for college and career, while most everyone else left or drifted away... and a guy in Michigan is actually a more faithful friend than 99% of them! You are still "Mike in MI" in my own personal mental shorthand after 2 decades.

This is neat. Really, really neat.

Anyway, hope you've had a good summer... it was really a surprisingly mild summer here in TN; July was in the 70s for most of the month, which is wildly unusual and made me a much happier person, especially because I didn't have much work and could actually relax a bit after 9 ridiculously busy months. Business is strong (thank God!) and although there are times I would like to tell people to stop calling me because I'm feeling overwhelmed, it doesn't actually happen that much.
Personal achievements:
  • Won Best-in-Show for my needlework sampler at the Williamson County Fair (winning through sheer mass rather than genuine quality, I suspect; the thing is about 4 feet long and took me over 2 years to complete)
  • Completed a "season" with the newly-formed Chamber Singers group at my church - we prepared songs for 2 Sundays a month for 8 months and did a full concert at the end of May. We start up again tomorrow!
  • Paid off the last of my student loans
  • Made an offer on a house (short sale; will take months to find out if I get it, stupid banks!)
  • Actually managed to exercise occasionally for the last 2 months
  • Decided I actually prefer the spinster life that stretches out before me... which lasted for all of 5 minutes until an absolute baby showed up in our office with an engagement ring. Fought my way back with the reminder that I do not have to buy clothes for a guy, nor pick up children from soccer.
  • Went to the beach with a friend for the first time in... ever. I've only ever been with family or by myself.
OK, time for your list back! Sincerely, Susan in TN

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Panda da!

I am SO pleased at how well this turned out! I couldn't find a pattern I liked so I sort of winged it; although I did find some amazing pictures of similar projects online that helped me figure out how to do the eyes.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

What Scares Me Most

You know, as a chronic hypochondriac, fear of illness is a regular companion of mine. It was made more complicated in my youth, when I was so fearful of doctors and needles that I would think I might have appendicitis... but was too scared to go get it checked out. It made for many fearful days. I eventually got over the worst of my fears and have had blood work and various shots in the last decade with minor angst.

4 years ago, I lost my job at William Morris, and went on COBRA for 18 (very expensive) months. Now as a self-employed computer technician, I have been uninsured for 2.5 years, and have only a small healthcare cushion in the form of Christian Healthcare Ministries; it doesn't cover much, but does serve as protection against a Worst Case Scenario of cancer or a car wreck. Most of the big expenses will be covered. Because I am overweight and take prozac, I can't even get insurance companies to respond to my application without requiring ridiculously high premiums, so I am grateful for this small shield.

In the midst of the current wildfire over healthcare reform, I am one of those who is personally concerned with the outcome. It is the difference between being able to go to the doctor when I have a bad fall and twist my knee, and sitting at home with an ice pack and ibuprofin and praying that it's nothing serious. That's fear. And in every news story, every debate on the virtues and failings of both the current American system and socialized medicine, the rage and the unwillingness to concede a single point is just that: fear. We are terrified of being helpless.

I hear an interview on the radio with a young woman who developed cancer and had no insurance and the horrors she endured as a result, and my instinctive response is to get a full-time job at Starbucks so I can have insurance.

I hear stories from Canada and the UK and Europe about people who had to wait months for an appointment and received critical care too late, and my instinctive response is to call my congresspersons and beg them to stop the proposed reform.

I hear nothing but fear and accusation, really. The government is in the pocket of the pharmaceutical industry... the government wants to dictate our care... we'll be taxed to pay for lazy slobs who can't be bothered to eat right or exercise... the insurance companies are really just out to make money... the doctors in the US don't care as much for their patients... the doctors in Europe don't care as much for their patients... People in Canada come to the US for critical care because they can't get it there...

Every time I try and make sense of the whirling dervishes of healthcare rhetoric, I become more disillusioned and confused, and feel less confident in ANYTHING that purports to fix the problem. In my worldly self, I would rather just let the American system stay as it is, and hope to get insurance again someday, because I have no faith in our government to effectively reform healthcare. I would rather be in debt for quality care, than pay nothing for essentially weak/poor care.

And then I remember the nature of society... to find a fear, and ride it into the ground. Once it was illegal immigrants, once it was Communism, once it was Indians, once it was smallpox, once it was Catholics, once it was the Plague, once it was the Vikings, once it was the Romans, once it was the Persians. All those fears which had genuine danger underlying them have long since passed, but our makeup as humans seems to require something to be frightened of. So by all means, let's be frightened of Socialism creeping in through the guise of healthcare reform; it helps take our mind off the economy.

I actually think it's sortof good for me to not have health insurance. Good health insurance gives you the illusion of having an armed guard to protect you wherever you go; well, that armed guard is easily recalled at any moment, so it's best not to rely upon it. I will be far better cared for by God than by Blue Cross, even though I cannot tell how or know what form it will take. When I fell down 2 weeks ago and twisted my knee badly, I cried because I was helpless and couldn't afford to go to the doctor. I told some friends, and asked for prayer. Advice rolled in from medical professionals: prop your knee up, ice it frequently, take anti-inflammatories for the first 24-48 hours, the first 2 days are crucial. Many, many people prayed. And my knee slowly and steadily grew better. Now, 2 weeks later, it's about 95% normal (I have hyper-extended knees, and can't fully extend it yet) and I scarcely limp at all. It is discernibly better each day.

Was it really a bad accident? I don't know if I'll ever know. It might have been just a bad wrench of the knee muscles. But it also might have been something worse that was healed through prayer. And I survived it (quite well, actually) without consulting with the healthcare industry. It was not fun being scared... but I much prefer the method and results.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Susan is on the Warpath

I have been "pimping" (for lack of a better word) Carbonite's online backup service for over 2 years now, to clients and friends. I would venture to say I have persuaded dozens of clients to sign up for their service, and it hasn't been all bad. It has saved the files of several people whose computers died spectacularly, and considering most of them would have had no backup at all without it, it has been an admirably cheap solution.


I have just discovered their appalling, pitiful excuse for customer support, and a loophole they've provided for themselves in the Terms of Use that none of us ever read; basically, they can delete your files if your computer doesn't connect to the carbonite service for an undetermined length of time. Your computer dies, and you don't get a replacement quickly and re-establish your carbonite account? Say goodbye to 5 years worth of family photos. Your internet goes out for a week? Too bad. You'd better hope that your computer doesn't die before you can get back online and let carbonite rebuild your entire backup from scratch!

It costs $19.99 to get "priority" phone support; ludicrous, if the product that I am paying for won't work, even after following all of the online support. It took over 20 minutes of painfully slow online support chat to discover that my client's backup had simply been deleted - after several "did you try this?" comments from "Ralph", I finally asked point-blank "DO YOU SEE MY DATA ON YOUR SERVERS?" 5 minutes later, he finally responded that the data had been deleted.

So now I am on a mission - to warn all of my clients and friends that is an unreliable and basically dishonest service, and they would be better served to switch to either or, as I intend to do myself. Both are well reviewed and have good value for cost, while carbonite is only #9 out of 10.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Current Fascination

I loathe walking. Well, not LOATHE, but Sincerely Dislike. The only ways I can endure it is if I specifically am walking to GET somewhere (like, when I was in England and walking was absolutely necessary and therefore unnoticeable), or if it's a particularly beautiful walk. It is my great good fortune that I have recently gotten permission to go for walks in one of the most lovely places on earth (IMHO). It's a gated community not too far from my apartment, and it's just breathtaking - rolling hills, beautiful mansions, tons of deer.

It's also home to masses of birds, especially bluebirds. This, to me, was a sign, insofar as I have a Sign... the first bluebird I ever consciously recognized was in a wilderness camp, as I was leaving the wedding of a dear young friend who was almost like a son to me. I remember seeing it fly overhead and suddenly knew that THAT was an authentic bluebird, and I had seen it on the day of Neil's wedding, which meant it would be a happy one.

In the years since, I have started spotting them with more frequency, especially in the last year. Each time I felt a thrill, and had the conscious thought that Something Good was imminent. So to see so very many on my recent walks in my little demi-Paradise is like a confirmation (I admit, I'm not sure of what precisely). I don't believe in totem animals; I am a sucker for certain ones like cats and bunnies and Pomeranians... but I do attribute a positive significance to bluebirds.

I remember first reading about the concept of "The Bluebird of Happiness" in Ballet Shoes, by Noel Streatfeild - the girls were in a pantomime of Maurice Maeterlinck's The Blue Bird, which tells of the quest of 2 children for the Bluebird of Happiness. Of course, my interest in the signficance of bluebirds is rather spoilt by the nauseating song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" with its line "If happy little bluebirds fly/Beyond the rainbow/Why oh why can't I?" (I am bored silly by The Wizard of Oz. Never cared for it.) But still my fascination remains, partially due to the rarity of spotting them. Cardinals and bluejays aplenty, but few bluebirds. They are made precious by their scarcity.

New Bit of Brilliance

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


I had a lengthy and spirited debate with some friends this past weekend about the Healthcare debacle and the Obama Administration's proposed plan. Even among a small group of fairly mellow and affectionate friends, the words sometimes became heated, and I went away feeling a vague feeling of dread and discouragement at some of the facts and figures revealed during the discussion. If a group of smart and respectful friends couldn't come to any reasonable conclusions over the current healthcare situation, how could we possibly expect the government to make all the right choices and truly benefit the public?

The fact is, they can't, and they won't. It's easy to get bogged down in the details of various systems throughout the world, and to be furious at the perceived inequties... but the underlying fact is that we live in a broken world, and we're probably going to f*&k it up, no matter how good our intentions. It's just too big, and we're just too selfish, incompetent and lazy to fix it. The economy will rise and fall, healthcare will grow impossibly complex, the environment will continue to deteriorate, and people will be treated badly and unfairly by other people.

I've been living without real insurance for almost 3 years now; after I lost my job at William Morris, I had COBRA for 18 months and spent a small fortune to hang on to it, to squeeze every last drop of medical support I could from it. When it ran out, I applied with my insurance agent for a single plan, and found out that I'm horribly expensive to insure - I take Prozac, and I'm overweight, which makes me well-nigh uninsurable. I
could get a plan, but would pay more than I could really afford. I would pay hundreds each month, all for the possibility of serious illness. I just can't bring myself to do it - money's tight, and in general I'm quite healthy. For those few days each year when I might actually need to see a doctor, I would pay thousands.

I did sign up for Christian Healthcare Ministries as a sort of emergency cushion - for $150 a month, I have access to a lump sum of money I can count on to pay for the big stuff, like cancer or a car accident. No preventative care, or x-rays, or prescriptions - the deductible is something like $5000. But it's better than nothing!

Sometimes it is scary, when I'm not feeling well and I don't know the cause... or when I think about the decades to come where my health will inevitably deteriorate. But the fact of the matter is, I don't feel like worrying about potential medical needs - I don't want it to be the Big Thing in my life. When did it become so huge, so significant a thing, where we would scream at each other in Town Hall meetings and go batsh*$ crazy on the news? Yes, our health is vitally significant, and quality of life is important... but our increased reliance on societal structures to take care of us, be it medical, or Social Security, etc., is not a good thing.

I'm going to have to rely on God to take care of me... I doubt I'll have enough to retire, and yes, I may end up with diabetes or cancer. I will probably have no spouse (and certainly, no children) to provide for me either. This means I only have God to fall back on when things start to fall apart. The government may help a little, if it hasn't all gone completely to pot... but in the final analysis, God will be the one doing the heavy lifting.

This is undeniably scary... how he'll take care of me is a source of much anxiety to me. But after stripping away all of the illusions of insurance and government provisions and familial support, he is all there is left to us. I have reason to believe he's Good and has my best interests at heart... and this is something I
don't have reason to believe about the government.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Theory

Time is like embroidery - on the face of it, it looks reasonable, rational and well-ordered. But underneath, it is a seemingly disorganized mass of erratic stitches; threads that seem to have no correlation to the pattern above, and yet each stitch is placed in such a way so it will appear harmoniously above.

How can our lives within the insubstantial "seen" transcend that fabric while we are still here and corporeal? Maybe it's not time travel, or The Matrix, but another state of transcendence... Perhaps this is how ghosts have become part of our mythology - how can they be envisioned when we do not return to this "seen" after death? Perhaps the linen is worn thin in places (since entropy is inescapable) and we are able to see the incomprehensible mass of stitches underneath.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

My Review of "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies"

Finished Pride & Prejudice & Zombies last night. It had some genuinely funny moments (the Readers Guide at the end which was a parody of those Book Club "questions for the readers" was laugh out loud funny), but I didn't care for:

1. constant descriptions of gore,
2. inconsistencies between Japanese and Chinese culture, like a reference to Darcy's housekeeper being in a kimono, but with bound feet - stupid mistake to make!
3. copious illustrations, which were done in the style I call "Generic Old-Timey", which in this case meant that the women's clothes were not even remotely Regency.
4. the poor execution. They had a really amazing chance to do a subtle concept, but decided to go a bit more slapsticky and departed JUST enough from the traditional narrative to make it seem a bit cheap. The writer gave the Bennet girls warrior abilities (to fight zombies, they were trained by a Shaolin master!), and therefore, the difficulties of their situation as helpless and unskilled women, and therefore dependent on marriage for a future, is stripped from the narrative so it loses something...

BUT, I would definitely go to see a movie version! I think it would would be much better served by a film adaptation. And the writer's decision to give British society such a genteel approach to the zombies (calling them "unmentionables" and "the sorry stricken") has moments of genius. But it was inconsistently blended, and so I found myself reading in a very disjointed way - I was continually being jerked out of the story. But it certainly gives one food for thought! Because it's almost a deconstruction of the original story, it sparks the imagination with "what if"s, in an Alternate Universe sort of way.

I wanted it to be better. But it has stuck with me, which I suppose is something!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Iran and Democracy

All week I have been following the Twitter feed on the Iranian Uprising over election fraud, as well as a really good continual tracking blog on The Huffington Post. (I don't know WHEN writer Nico Pitney gets any sleep - his blog posts are around the clock!)

Anyway, it's inspiring and exhilarating and deeply moving to read various tidbits from individuals in Iran who are resisting tyranny and the Khamenei government's efforts to block anyone from trying to write about the events online. See an example (from Huffington Post) below:

4:16 PM ET -- "Maybe I will be one of the people who is going to get killed." A blog post in Persian, translated by the NIAC.

"I will participate in the demonstrations tomorrow. Maybe they will turn violent. Maybe I will be one of the people who is going to get killed. I'm listening to all my favorite music. I even want to dance to a few songs. I always wanted to have very narrow eyebrows. Yes, maybe I will go to the salon before I go tomorrow! There are a few great movie scenes that I also have to see. I should drop by the library, too. It's worth to read the poems of Forough and Shamloo again. All family pictures have to be reviewed, too. I have to call my friends as well to say goodbye. All I have are two bookshelves which I told my family who should receive them. I'm two units away from getting my bachelors degree but who cares about that. My mind is very chaotic. I wrote these random sentences for the next generation so they know we were not just emotional and under peer pressure. So they know that we did everything we could to create a better future for them. So they know that our ancestors surrendered to Arabs and Mongols but did not surrender to despotism. This note is dedicated to tomorrow's children..."
My God, what can we possibly say to that?! Can you imagine preparing yourself for possible death in this way? If this new revolution succeeds, then Iran will far surpass America in the sacrifices required for Democracy. We've not had to truly fight and sacrifice in a long, long time for Liberty (despite what current extremists might say to the contrary); we've become soft and complacent. But they will be heading out soon for an unsanctioned demonstration, where they have already been warned by the tyrants feigning a mandate that they will be prosecuted... which means, attacked and beaten and killed. All we can do here, really, is pray; there's no material assistance we can give like after a natural disaster. Money won't help with this sort of battle.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Crisis of Faith

Boy, this is a doozy.

I have been listening to Sarah Vowell's The Wordy Shipmates audiobook this week for the second time (I adore her writing, and have listened to/read all of her books several times), and it is hitting me much harder than it did the first time through. While not as entertaining as her other historical treatise Assassination Vacation, it is so packed with interesting little historical tales that it is still good the second time through.

It is all about the founding of the Massachusetts Bay
colony; John Winthrop and his utopian "Shining City on a Hill," Roger Williams and Anne Hutchenson, the native Americans... and lots and lots of appallingly UNCHRISTIAN behavior. Vowell is an atheist, despite a religious upbringing that mirrors my own in many ways, but she does not despise religion to the point where she condemns all of it; I think she is reasonably fair-handed in her descriptions of the more egregious abuses of those who came to America for religious freedom.


It has kicked up a whirlwind in me about how horrible we Christians can and have been throughout history. A truly honest appraisal of the history of our faith is so galling in what it reveals in our contradictions to the love of Christ, that it cannot help but make you wonder how we can possibly make any claim for the morality of our religion. How can we possibly expect anyone to hear a sermon about what Christ did for us, and how they should join our faith, with our track record over the last 2 centuries?

I still have faith in Christ; I'm not questioning my belief in him... but how can we say we're really following him with things like the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the wars of the Protestant Reformation, and the near genocide of the native Americans in the name of founding a Christian nation? How can we get SO MUCH wrong, if we think we're doing God's will? I can explain the violence of their methods a little bit by remembering how incredibly brutal daily life was through the 1800s... when brutal methods are practiced by everyone as a matter of law, government, and general social life, it tends to seep over into the subconscious. In our human weakness, I can
sortof understand why they would think a suitable punishment for contrary religious beliefs would be to slice off the offenders' ears and banish them from the area.

But we're supposed to be above that! And for a society so newly enraptured and soaked in scripture, (since translated Bibles had only been actually available to the general population for a few decades) you would think that directions from Jesus like the Sermon on the Mount would be the new set of rules for daily living... instead, it was a constant barrage of Calvinist fear and trembling and "you must behave like
this or you're damned."

With every disillusioning chapter of this book, I find myself searching desperately for a rock to hold on to, and with all of the falsities and sins of Christian history being burned away in my mind, the only thing to remain is Christ and the Bible. I cannot make amends for the sins of our Christian forebears, nor can I end the modern church's ugly battles over homosexuality and abortion. The only thing I can do is try and saturate myself in the 2 commandments that Jesus said were the most important: Love the Lord your God with all your mind, heart and soul; and Love your neighbors as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. If I'm doing my part by sticking to those 2 tenets, then I'm doing what God asks.

Related Vicissitude:

In a more practical sense, the Christian charity that would result if all Christians automatically behaved as dictated by these 2 tenets, would have VERY interesting political ramifications. I'm so continually disgusted by the Conservative Right's 24-7 rants about the efforts of Obama's administration to ameliorate some of the more devastating effects of our current economic crisis--because I'm always thinking now, "If we Christians were doing what Christ told us to do, then our government wouldn't need to create such legislation." Taking care of the poor and the sick and the helpless is part of Christ's mandate for us; but we're not really making much of an effort. So the government is having to do it. Attacking them for actually making an effort to help the pitiful (despite the probable freeloaders who will take advantage of the system, and the inevitable, ill-conceived methods of relief that might make things worse) is a nasty, mean-spirited thing for Christians to do. Make such legislation unnecessary by your charity.

Aaaaand here I am telling other Christians how to behave. It didn't take me any time at all to start judging, did it?! *sigh*

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Lengthy Absence

I do apologize excessively for my extended absence from this blog; it's been an exceedingly busy 6 months, and only now has it wound down enough to have the leisure to go a-blogging. Let's see, what noteworthy comments have I to make...
  • I sang backup in the cover band "Banana Bread" with friends Rebecca and Monique at the end of March for my friend Rachel's 30th birthday (she sang lead). It was quite fun, although with the schedule I've been enduring lately, it made my attitude less than agreeable at times!
  • I went to the beach for the first time in 4 years a couple of weeks ago. I pretty much was running at top speed until the night we arrived, at which point I had an anxiety attack at the sudden and unexpected drop in my stress levels. Obviously, I need to make sure that I kick back and relax more regularly in future!
  • I joined a Chamber Singers group at my church last fall, and we are having a big concert on Sunday May 31st. You should come!
  • Facebook is marvelous. The high school reunion I REALLY longed for, that of my Choir group the SophistiCats, is now an almost quarterly event, as we are getting together periodically for dinners. We could NEVER have made such wide-ranging connections without the help of Facebook! Our director, Bobby Jean Frost, is the sort of teacher who changes lives, and it was amazing to have her come to our last dinner and find out what she's been doing since retirement.
  • Work is steadily increasing... not to the extent of being full-time, but enough to keep the bills paid in conjunction with my part-time job at the AEA. It'll be 4 years come August!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Historical Comedy

My latest obsession: historical comedy; namely, the cartoons of Kate Beaton. Go visit her site, especially if you have a historical or literary bent (or have ever watched Black Adder obsessively). You might not get all of the references, but go nonetheless. In the example below, we have a Victoria and Albert scenario...

Friday, March 06, 2009

Epic Auto Saga

Aren't I doing a better job of posting consistently lately?

I feel like I need to start this off like a Bard, "...and this is the way of it..." (Stephen R. Lawhead holla!). My Toyota Corolla has been burning up oil in the exhaust for a few years now, and it has gotten so bad that I have to top up the oil TWICE between oil changes... basically, every 1000 miles. It's been looked at by 2 exceptional mechanics, whose attempts at repair have been fruitless, because it needed major surgery to fix - leaky valve covers was the proposed problem, which would necessitate taking out the engine, which would necessitate $1000 or more.

When the engine light went on for the 3rd time in the last twelvemonth, I said ENOUGH. I was not going to replace another O2 sensor and catalytic converter. I had never been happy with the car, which I bought from Carmax when my beloved 98 Civic Hatchback was dying. EVERYONE said, "oh, a Toyota's as good as a Honda!" so I believed them. I have just discovered that, in fact, the 2001 Corolla was MADE BY GM. Yes, THAT GM. I have been driving a GEO PRISM for 5 years now. It's the same car under the hood.

So, my dislike was entirely justified. It wasn't helped by the fact that red cars are statistically more likely to be pulled over for speeding (as I can attest to) and it kept getting hit or dinged (twice by my sister). Just dismal. So I decided that it mattered not that it wasn't paid off; I would sell it and hope to break even, and go get myself another Civic so this wouldn't happen again.

I got a broker - very kind man named Marvin Nischan, who found a buyer for my Corolla, then went to work looking for a Honda that met my very basic requirements (price, any color but red or yellow, under 70K miles, AC and automatic). He and I both knew that it would be hard to find, as Hondas are in high demand in pre-owned sales. He found my dream car... but it was residing in the Hell known as Crest Honda, and they wouldn't deal with brokers. So he gave up any commission he might make, told me about it, and I went into battle. It was worth it - white car (the color I wanted!) dark gray interior (the color I wanted! doesn't show dirt) 2004 Civic, with only 18,900 miles on it, and a really low price.

I will not detail all of the frustrations and road blocks that arose for the 48+ hours I struggled to win this car... I will mention that although I was treated respectfully and politely by all staff at the dealership, they would attempt to get me to finance the car at a ludicrous interest rate (12.99%) by not letting me know the rate until I'd signed all the other paperwork. "Well, THAT will have to change!" I said when I finally spotted it, "I know I only paid half that on my last car!" The financial director claimed that "things had changed" in the last 4 years which explained the higher rates, but that he would try to improve it.

I took the car to my mechanic to give it a once-over, and called everyone I could think of who was knowledgeable about car sales to tell me what the going rate on car loans was... I finally got my bank on the phone and discovered their lowest rate was 4.9%, so I went back to Crest to (politely) give them the chance to cut their rate in half. Nope, 8% and no lower. So, off to the bank!

I waited over an hour and a half to see a bank officer to apply. By now, I was tired, frustrated, and not really sure I wanted that car anymore, but I would just think about how dreamy the car was; white, 19K miles, low price and a Civic!, and I would decide to struggle on. The loan officer was SO nice - overworked, but nice and patient and willing to help in any way she could. God bless Joan Watkins at US Bank!

More paperwork and proof of income would be required. More fuss and bother and delay. Staying away from Crest helped. When finally Joan said I needed this past year's tax return to prove my income (I'm nowhere near to having that done!) she suggested that to not lose the car, I might go ahead and accept the higher interest rate at the dealership, and then refinance in the next few weeks after my taxes were done. As I prepared to go back and do just that, my mom stepped in and gave me an alternative arrangement; she'd pay upfront, and I'd finance it later. That way there was no chance of any penalties or additional costs.

So I got my car. I'm debating whether or not it was an answer to prayer, or whether or not I tried to force it to become an answer to prayer. I do know it was prayed for, and that it was precisely what I wanted, and did not think I could actually get!

Why am I reciting all of this in a blog posting? Several reasons: 1) to put out there that Crest Honda should be approached with real caution, (and cash, if you're buying); 2) that some Corollas are lemons; and 3) that a car to a single woman is as important as a child, and almost as emotionally draining. I am exHAUSTED. I will be driving this car into the ground (or 10 years, at least) because I do not want to have to go through this again anytime soon!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Brilliant Children, and the Old Maids Who Love Them...

Long-time readers of this blog have heard often about my friends Shane and Anna, and their newish son YoYo. In every conversation with Anna, she tells me yet another amazing remark that YoYo made this week. I am convinced he will be either the next Einstein, DaVinci, or some equally important titan of human history. For a three year old who's only really learned English in the last 9 months, he has an insightfulness and a clarity of thought astonishing in a kid who can't read yet.

He's also hysterically funny at times. To set up today's example; I will occasionally call or visit the Caudills, but by no means am I a constant visitor. I do have Auntie privileges (I am referred to as Aunt Susan) but in general I see them once a week at most. Despite the lack of regular interaction, I think YoYo likes the idea of me (while not disinterested in me, he doesn't feel the need to stick by me when there are toys at hand - he is a focused Playa), enough so that he will speak of me even when I am absent, although I can't imagine why.

Anyway, Shane just sent me this:
So Anna was talking to her mom on the phone, and Yoyo didn't want to talk to Nana... so he comes out of his room on his toy phone saying, "oh, yes aunt Susan. what aunt Susan? would you like to talk to my little boy, aunt Susan?" and hands me the phone. "It's aunt Susan, she wants to talk to you."
I laughed so hard I cried. He just keeps coming out with these bizzare little diamonds of comedy and observation.

Here's another sample of his unexpectedness:

There's nothing like a little boy from China bouncing around to T-Bone Burnett!

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Plague in Middle Tennessee

Since early January 2009, I have been fighting against a tide of malware, viruses, trojans, rogue agents, and shyster software unlike anything I've dealt with in the last 2 years. It's been great for business, but it's no fun for anyone to have to deal with. So here's some preventative measures you can take - even if your system is clean at present, having the tools in place will be handy if you do get infected)-. It will take probably an hour or two, but might take longer if it's really deeply rooted.

1) If you are needing an antivirus software (if you don't already have one, or a Norton/McAfee subscription is running out) then AVG Free is the best solution - it's free, and works better than either of those 2 major softwares! You can easily get it at

2) The quickest way to run a scan and clean up your system is to download and install Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware, also available at It's the simplest, fastest and most thorough software I have found for this purpose, and I have used it constantly since "the Plague" descended in January.

3) Also consider getting the latest version of Ad-Aware from It takes a while to download, install, and update, but it can sometimes find problems that MAM and AVG miss.

Between these three tools (all of them are free) you can be 95% certain you've cleaned up any nasties on your computer. MAM and AA can both be installed safely, since they are anti-Malware, and don't have any conflicts with each other, but make sure you have removed any pre-existing antivirus software before installing AVG (you can only have one AV software at a time!)

Bear in mind that if you have some of the more virulent and malicious softwares on your computer, it will probably fight letting you download, install and scan with these tools. You may need to download the software to a flash drive on another computer, then install it on the infected computer. Sometimes you can't even do this, and the only solution is to take out the hard drive and hook it up to another computer and run the scan from there - that way it's essentially powerless to resist. I can do this if necessary.

That's a lot to throw at you, but it's the approach I've been taking for some years now, and it generally works. You can contact me if you get stuck, or if you don't want to hassle with it! :)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Middle-Aged Child

I was struck this morning by a particular dilemma that I will probably be struggling under for the rest of my life; that of being an immature adult. I live the life of an adult - I work, live alone, drive myself places, I spend my time with other adults, I do responsible and mature things - but I feel so terribly childish and inexperienced at odd times. I don't know anything about REAL self-sacrifice; the kind that only comes with marriage or children. And as such, I feel retarded in my maturation process.

I still call guys "dude" - and I'm a middle-aged woman! I just spent an evening practicing music with a cover band, all of whom are younger than me, and was telling them all about the new Demetri Martin TV show. It's not that I'm trying to stay young; but I can't stop doing certain childish things. At the same time, my favorite activities include needlework while I watch PBS history series. I delight in toys from Doctor Who, and I like dispensing advice to new mothers. I collect pictures of kittens and bunnies, and I crochet afghans.

At some point, I was supposed to put away childish things, and yet because I'm single, it's never really happened. At what point do I gracefully transition into being a middle-aged woman, when I have no children, no house, and no husband? I'm not complaining - I like my independence and the freedom to come and go as I please, and am glad to avoid the frustrations and sacrifices of marriage... and St. Paul recommended the single life for people who had the gift for it. But without those experiences that go along with family life, how do I ever catch up with my peers?

There are worse things - I am well and generally content. But somehow, I feel like an Excessively Late Bloomer.