Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Gen-X Christmas Letter

Christmas, 2006
Dear Friends and Family,

It's been a busy year for the gang, and we're so proud of each and every one of our accomplishments in the last 12 months... so let's just dive right into all the good news!

You'll recognize Lola in her trademark feather boa... as she finishes the final year of her doctorate at Vanderbilt in Medieval Philosophy, she is contemplating not one, but SEVEN teaching offers at various institutions from Sydney to Mozambique to Seattle. We're hoping she takes the one in Paris so she can finally marry her current amour, the fabulously wealthy divorcee with the famous parfum line!

Armundo is happily re-ensconced in his hometown of Lisbon, but we were all sorry to see him go... after so many years in Nashville setting up various bank security systems, he finally decided that it was time to go back home and accept his responsibility of running the family llama business. He has promised many shipments of top-quality alpaca to Susan in return for scarves, blankets, and other crocheted tchotchkes.

And Pam? Well, Pam is still our little ray of sunshine! After the huge success of her first book,
The World is a Beautiful Place and Everyone Just Needs to Shut Up and Enjoy It, a whirlwind book signing tour of the US and Canada has left her quite fatigued but exhilarated. Plans are already underway for similar promotional tours in England, Ireland, Dubai and New Zealand. And her next book? Silly! I'm not allowed to say a word about it!

As for myself, the simple comforts of home are still my greatest joy. Strolling through the halls of my enormous rustic farmhouse in Leiper's Fork, the staff barely have to make an effort to scurry out of my sight, since it was built with many cleverly concealed alcoves to duck into. So I still have the illusion of privacy! Nicole and Keith Urban are always popping by on their way to Bread & Co. in Green Hills; I do keep telling them that the Starbucks in Cool Springs has better coffee, but they just laugh and say they enjoy the drive! So silly.

Back to Reality

My House Calls Computer Service business has grown steadily in the last year, and although every month is its own little Adventure, called "Will Susan Make The Rent?" I feel like I'm making progress. I'm still working part-time at the American Economic Association on the Vanderbilt University campus. My AEA bosses have been amazingly flexible with my schedule, which I'm very grateful for, and I quite enjoy my time there. I have some more website design clients now as well, so I feel like my work is full of my favorite word - VARIETY. I think I've doubled my computer knowledge in the last 12 months!

The nieces and nephews of many a previous Christmas letter are growing steadily - Elliott the oldest has become a teenager this year (NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!) and the rest are becoming more and more mature and interesting every month. My Knoxville Nieces Taylor, Maddie & Ginny (Woggy) are no longer terrified of me, which is a definite improvement and I only wish they were here in Nashville so I could see them every week too. I babysit my local babies El, George & Henry and Emma almost every Saturday which is one of the highlights of my week, despite the fact that I feel like I'm constantly saying "No, you can't," the entire night. As you can imagine, I am a continual disappointment to them. (No more dessert pizza for you!)

This has been the Year of The Accursed Car, which has been more than a little frustrating. I found that red cars are indeed a BAD IDEA for 2 main reasons:
1) They are statistically more likely to be pulled over for speeding, and
2) They are statistically more likely to be in accidents. (Really! the guy at the body shop confirmed it!)
Granted, when I was in my little white Civic, I did have to replace the front hood three times from my apparent invisibility to 2 large trucks backing up and a careless deer, but three different incidents in one year (both sides and rear bumper)? That's a red car for you. Of course, I also attribute my problems to the fact that it is a Toyota Corolla and not a Honda as I would wish. From the minute my roof got dented & dinged by ACORNS while on my first vacation after purchasing it, I have been ill-disposed towards my car. So, useful lesson from this? Avoid red vehicles.

Susan's Picks for 2006

TV: Doctor Who, Heroes and Eureka. Let your geek flag fly! Three series that would be classified as Sci-Fi/Fantasy, but transcend the genre. The top of the heap? Doctor Who, definitely. Writing, acting, plot, you name it, I love it. The Brits really do know how to make a TV show, especially because they make fewer, and spend more time and money on what they do make. I can't recommend this (newly established in 2005) series highly enough.
Movies: Casino Royale. I used to read the original Ian Fleming novels when I was younger, and this really feels like the books. Not that I didn't enjoy the ones they've made over the last 30 years, but those were silly, fun fluff. Daniel Craig as James Bond is layered, compelling, and BETTER THAN SEAN CONNERY. I mean it.
Books: Dead Bunnies by Bryan Currie. A new Christian writer in the vein of Anne Lamott and Donald Miller, he tells really funny, personal anecdotes and envisions the world and events as part of an amazing Big Picture. Plus, his relatives live in Batesville, AR too!
Music: Songs from the Labyrinth by Sting. The fact that he would spend his fan capital on a collection of renaissance songs by John Dowland is something to be applauded. I really enjoy this kind of music ever since I got to sing madrigals in high school (I like popular songs that you can sing along with; I don't care as much for music that nobody but professionals can perform). Not everyone will like it, and it may be considered a vanity project, but it's definitely worth listening to a few times (not just once; it gets better with repetition).

As I write this on the verge of a very busy month, I hope that all of you, my friends and family, have a wonderful, meaningful Christmas holiday. The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you – Amen!



Saturday, November 25, 2006

Getting It All Done

Why, whywhywhywhy, is life so unevenly distributed? Why must I endure 2.5 months of inactivity, only to be "rewarded" afterwards by unending overload? The number of activities and jobs I'm juggling at present is, of course, a blessing, but I don't feel very blessed. I just feel overwhelmed.

A list, for your perusal:
  1. I turn 38 on Dec. 3rd. No pressure there!
  2. My car continues to be a burden to me. Whilst on my long drive over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house, the damn engine light went back on. I thought I'd gotten that fixed less than a month ago! So, looks like the catalytic converter may need replacing (as initially suspected) which means a few hundred. Again.
  3. Then, the body work disaster continues. They didn't have it ready for me by the vaguely agreed-upon time last Tuesday, so I took it out before the final detailing... which it needs badly, so I'll be returning it. Plus, one of the back door locks is loose so they need to take the whole damn door apart again to fix it.
  4. Both of these car issues will, of course, necessitate leaving it for an extended period in 2 different shops. Do I have the resources for dealing with these transport snafus? No, I do not.
  5. Next week I have to do the monthly website, which is apparently a third larger than usual, and needs must be done by Thursday evening.
  6. But I am also wanted for a new part-time job for the month of December that is 20+ hours a week. I want this job, really I do - I need the money badly - but now my schedule is filled without any room for my:
  7. Regular Clients. I have 4 who want my help next week, and I honestly don't know how I'll fit them in with my currently full schedule.
  8. And finally, I am out of money. 2.5 months of reduced work means reduced income, and I have rent and health insurance due in the next 10 days... and there is NO cash coming in during that time except for dribs and drabs from the at-home clients I manage to fit in. I need a minimum of $1000 to appear miraculously in the next week.

I just feel overwhelmed. This is one of the 5% times when I need a spouse to take on some of the burdens! Cause my family? They've given enough, I can't call on them again. Plus the humilation of having to ask for help again is just too much at present, because it will inevitably produce a lecture (an entirely justified lecture, at that) on how I should either a) be saving more for such emergencies, b) get a real full-time job for security, or c) not be so emotionally battered by such slings and arrows.

Needless to say, the lectures don't help. They just make me feel like more of a failure. Which I suppose I am, even though none of them would ever use that word.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Why Won't They Leave Us Alone?!

A friend sent me this article from Wired magazine and I recommend everyone read it – we need to know what's out there, and what malicious developers are capable of.

Attack of the Bots
"The latest threat to the Net: autonomous software programs that combine forces to perpetrate mayhem, fraud, and espionage on a global scale. How one company fought the new Internet mafia – and lost."

The question I have is, if it's so insidious and almost un-winnable a battle, what are our options? The thing I used to say to frustrated users was "get a Mac." It's still the most immune machine out there at present!

Thursday, November 02, 2006


My friends Ken & Lisa had their first baby a couple of months back, and Lisa is exCEEDingly fond of Peanuts. When this idea occurred to me, I knew I had to carry it out.

It was harder than it looked; finding a tiny yellow t-shirt for a newborn that looked like the ones worn by Charlie Brown was difficult and I ended up buying it online. Then the zig-zags... I used a twill tape that had to be carefully folded into points, then tacked down (fusible tape) then appliqued on... it took over three hours and I had to start over a couple of times.

But the result was DEFINITELY worth it!