Monday, November 28, 2005

40 faces

Stumbled across this cool blog website sometime in between T-Day and football-at-our-house preparations. Thought it was pretty cool, so joined up. Depending on when you read this entry, you may be able to see my smiling face on the site.

Wanted to use this photo of me. Was required to submit one less surreal. Oh well. Deal. All photos are posted in black and white, so I guess this one probably wouldn't have translated too well. Took this self-portrait about a month ago with digital camera. No editing. No PhotoShop. Just interesting lighting (afternoon sun), a big pane glass window (my office), and the tree outside.

Busy weekend. Seahawks by the skins of their shiny, overpaid teeth. Understand the appeal of the contest. Don't understand genuine agita of the spectators (including the three in my house, one of whom I love). It's a game. Understand that play is important in life (being the daughter of a recreation director). But its importance is in its ability to provide enjoyable diversion, not to induce ulcers. Feeling a little under the weather now.

Looking forward to feeling better tomorrow. Maybe blog some more. Maybe stop using choppy fragments. Maybe.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

thanksgiving day, part 5

What a day! And it's not over yet! As predicted, my list was vastly optimistic, and with only minor exceptions, I've been busy all day. I only just finished the stockings an hour ago. But they're done, tied up neatly, bundled by family, marked, and lined up on the dining room floor. Next year, I'm scaling back.


Here's the rest of the list as of now (with several additions).
  • Finish assembling stockings and pack up by family (continuation)
  • Make lunch for Ted
  • Rehang shower curtains
  • Have lunch
  • Watch half of Ocean's Twelve
  • Take nap
  • Finish assembling stockings and pack up by family (finally completed)
  • Prepare turkey and get it into oven
  • Call brother whose family is hosting Mom & Dad for Thanksgiving dinner, chat with niece
  • Call Mom & Dad, who'd already left brother's house and were back home
  • Blog

The turkey's been in for about half of the time it will take to cook. So, I must head back to the kitchen and commence preparation of the trimmings. Stuffing, squash, yams, peas with pearl onions (for me), corn (for Ted), and wheat rolls require prep and cooking. Baby carrots, cranberry jelly, and green olives with pimentos need only be allocated into serving dishes. Apple pie will go into the oven when turkey comes out of it.

Thank thee, oh Lord, for these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thine bounty. Grace said many times in my life, not just on Thanksgiving. I am thankful for the wonderful meal. For the treasures found and wrapped up for kids, mid-afternoon naps, and partially accomplished 'to do' lists. For a short work day tomorrow, and Saturday off to finish the list. I am not thankful for a temperamental blog editor who shall remain nameless as it repeatedly adds formatting that I don't want! But I'll forgive it. In the spirit of the day. Finally, I'm thankful to write my last Thanksgiving Day update for 2006. Maybe tomorrow I'll feel so moved by the fabulousness of our supper that I'll return to write some more. But tomorrow. Not today.

thanksgiving day, part 4

Man, these stockings are killin' me! But I'm betting it's less pain than that endured by the people who were underneath the street light that broke off during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. How terrible for them. A bit of a damper for the viewing audience. It's tough to be filled with holiday spirit when something like that happens.

So, I focus on my list.

  • Finish assembling stockings and pack up by family (almost done)
  • Investigate how to cook turkey (Explanation below)
  • Watch Macy's parade
  • Blog
I just have to add the candy to about half of the stockings and wrap them up, and I'll be done. Seriously, my back hurts from this assembly line work. It gives me a tremendous appreciation for people who work 40 hours a week on an assembly line. I don't know how they do it.

OK, so I've never actually cooked a turkey myself in my life. There have only been about three occasions where I was called upon to make Thanksgiving dinner, and in each case, I resorted to a turkey breast. This year, we ended up with a half turkey on the ribs. It can be stuffed and everything! More complicated than I want to get. So, I had to read the instructions that came with it to see what type of preparation I have to do, and how long it will take to cook. I'm all set now.

I am thankful to Butterball for making turkey cooking easy. For a job that doesn't require me to stand on my feet all week assembling components over and over. For the phone call I just got from Ted saying that he's coming home from work now... a few hours earlier than expected! For watching giant balloons from the safety of my own home. For Brian Setzer who just has too much fun making music, especially the Christmas kind. For the sunshine intermittently shining on a day that started snowy and cold and blustery. For the fact that my parents, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews are all with other members of their families to enjoy the festivities.

Must finish the stockings before Ted gets home. We can have lunch together. I'm thankful for that!

thanksgiving day, part 3

I underestimate how much time it takes to assemble 12 "stockings." Way underestimate. But I'm having fun. Listening to the Christmas music and working away on filling these containers with dozens of little gifts and treats. I admit to having gotten completely carried away with stuffers this year. I'm very excited and was briefly tempted to take pictures of the completed packages and post them here. But then I realized that, occasionally, a few of the recipients actually read this blog (hi kids!). And there's no peeking! So, here's my chores list.

  • Finish assembling stockings and pack up by family (in progress)

I'm thankful for my wonderful family, and for the chance to spoil the youngest members every now and then. For Christmas music to work to, and the rapidly disappearing first snow outside my window. For Costco, Target, Papyrus, The Rainforest Site, and Pier 1, where many of the tiny treasures were procured. For a business trip that not only allowed me the amazing experience of going to Hawaii, but also gave me the opportunity to find really cool stocking stuffers. For my blue tortoiseshell cat whose nickname is the closest thing to appropriate for this holiday -- Sweetie Baby Kitty Pie, often abbreviated to just "Pie." That's Sadie, by the way.

Back to the assembly.

thanksgiving day, part 2

A couple hours into it, and I've checked the first four items off my list; five if I include this entry.
  • Launder bathroom #1 shower curtain and liner
  • Drano bathroom #1 shower drain
  • Have breakfast
  • Laundry
  • Blog
I am grateful for a home with heat, running water, and electricity. For cable TV and high speed internet. For a washer and dryer right here that doesn't require me to take clothes and linens outside of our home to clean. For Quaker Oatmeal Strawberries and Mango cereal, skim milk, and orange juice. For Drano -- what practical chemistry! For thick towels, two full bathrooms, and the smell of warm laundry. For four cats who help me with all my chores and remind me to stop once in a while to pet them and hear them purr.

Like I said, completing the entire list today is pumpkin-pie-in-the-sky (much as I love pumpkin pie, we're having apple pie tonight). But I'll give it a shot. Off to the CPGA to assemble stockings. Back in a bit. Here's the next cornucopia. Colorful, isn't it?

thanksgiving day, part 1

Today's list of chores is long.
  • Launder bathroom #1 shower curtain and liner
  • Drano bathroom #1 shower drain
  • Have breakfast
  • Laundry
  • Blog
  • Finish assembling stockings and pack up by family
  • Investigate how to cook turkey (I'll explain later)
  • Watch Macy's parade
  • Blog
  • Finish emptying/organizing desk clutter
  • Have lunch
  • Bring in remaining holiday wrapping paper, storage containers
  • Refill kitty litter bucket and bring upstairs
  • Call family to say "Happy Thanksgiving!"
  • Blog
  • Replenish tissues throughout house (all boxes tend to get empty at the same time)
  • Scrub bathroom #2 tub
  • Wipe down walls, ceilings
  • Blog
  • Vacuum/mop
  • Empty trash
  • Make little feast (feastlette? feastella? feastita?)
  • Blog
  • Enjoy traditional holiday repast with my husband who will, no doubt, be exhausted from this week's work
  • Relax
  • Watch Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special (in my PJs, just like when I was a kid)
  • Blog
There's no way on God's green Earth I'm going to get all this done. But you have to shoot for the moon to at least land among the stars. Happy Thanksgiving. Oh, and today's graphics will all be supplied by Microsoft Clip Art. All various cornucopia. Appropriate for this day that celebrates being grateful for the bounty in life.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

even dawn isn't this early

It's the day before Thanksgiving. In preparation for tomorrow's festivities, Ted had to be at work very early this morning (he left at 4:15am). For some bizarre reason, I got up when he left and have been awake ever since.

I fed the cats, made the bed, and turned up the heat. Read and sent some work email (I admit that it's fun to think about the recipients' potential reactions to my 5:30am messages). A few personal ones, too. Scanned a few blogs, read some news (not a good way to start any day), wandered around the web a bit. Not terribly productive and not sleeping. Does that equate to relaxation?

Now I'll try to be more productive. I'm off to the grocery store to pick up one last supply for tomorrow's dinner, and I hope that the crowds won't have built up just yet. I'll put gas in the car, come back home and have breakfast, then start work at 8:00am. Good thing the work day ends at 3:00 pm today. By then, it'll feel like the end of the day -- given the early start.

Ted works tomorrow, too. Aside from a continuation of chores from last weekend and cooking up a miniature feast, I may blog again. Funny how every instance of me saying that I don't have time to blog is followed by an intense period of blogging. Hmmmmm... .

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

mr. jones's determination

I'd been dreaming at the moment I woke up, about an hour ago (post-script, 1½ hours ago). In the dream, I was back in college. It wasn't my alma mater, but rather a performing arts school like Julliard or Berklee (in my youth, in my aspirational dreams). One of my classmates was James Earl Jones.

OK, it's a dream, right? So, sometimes things don't line up as neatly as they do in real life. Wait. In real life, things line up neatly? HA! Oh sorry. Tangeting. Back to the story.

So, I meet James, and he's this ambitious and focused young man who revels in elocution classes as he plots for greatness as the foremost voice in entertainment. This is his one and only goal, and he pursues it with fervor. I think to myself, "wait, that can't be right... he started as an actor and then people recognized the power of his voice." But my doubt was allayed when he pulled me aside and spoke to me of his plan.

He believed his voice would be the most recognized voice in the world, he told me. He knew he had to do a lot of ancillary work to enhance his voice talent -- Shakespearean acting, singing lessons, deep breathing meditation. But he was willing to do whatever it took, no matter how seemingly unrelated, in order to achieve his goal. Absorbed in his every word, I saw a vision of the future and, at that point, witnessed his success. Then I shook my head to bring myself back to the present, and a turkey ran past James and me, toward a wooded dell.

Dreams may seem like silly mish-mashes of unconnected details. I don't believe it. No matter how fantastical the story may seem in its dream state, I believe every detail is relevant -- nay, critical -- to the dreamer's life. Except that last bit about the turkey.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

where jazz lives

I've always loved jazz music, something I attribute to my Dad. In his college years, he would trek to New York City for evenings of music at Birdland. My brother, Chris, evolved the listenings to fusion in the 70s (Weather Report is still one of my favorites). I delved deeply into big band in the 80s, and spent much of the 90s steeped in jazz from Jellyroll to Dr. John.

While cleaning out my desk clutter (see, I'm still doing my chores), I found a list I used to keep. It contains the names of jazz musicians I saw at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley in Seattle. I went to the first show for the sole purpose of seeing Dianne Reeves, whose music I acquired a taste for after getting a free promotional tape of Never Too Far while managing a Strawberries record store in South Portland, Maine.

I had very little money and basically raided my food fund for the week to go to the show with several people from my office who I'd convinced to go. It was an amazing show. She was amazing. But equally interestingly, I was transfixed by Jazz Alley... a club literally entered through an alley. It was the kind of extravagance I couldn't afford often until I settled into a better job. Once there, I became a regular. The most amazing people played there (still do). Here is the list.

8/92 Dianne Reeves
1/95 Benny Green
2/95 Joey DeFrancesco, Jessica Williams
3/95 Lionel Hampton
4/95 Diane Schuur
6/95 McCoy Tyner
7/95 Joe Sample
9/95 Stanley Turrentine
10/95 Gato Barbieri
10/95 Nancy Wilson
12/95 Dianne Reeves
1/96 Tito Puente
1/96 Yellowjackets
1/96 Dr. John
5/96 Diane Schuur
5/96 Najee
6/96 Garfield High School Jazz Band (don't laugh... they're stunningly good)
8/96 Joey DeFrancesco, Karrin Allyson
9/96 McCoy Tyner
1/97 Tom Grant
2/97 Dr. John
12/97 Diana Krall
1/98 Tom Grant
2/98 Tito Puente
11/98 Jessica Williams, Kurt Elling (went to see Jessica, fell in love with Kurt)

There are several shows I neglected to note (for example, I know I saw the Rippingtons there, but they were not listed). But this is a good representation. Gosh, I miss Seattle. For now, I have to suffice with watching the Seahawks' crushing victory over the San Francisco 49ers. That's my prediction. Keep in my mind that I know less than nothing about football. I go to socialize and snack.

the chores

Ted has already been to the local laundromat and back this morning, cleaning the gargantuan mattress pad that would choke our own modest washing machine. He brought a book and a pocket full of quarters. It's 31° F outside.

The list of chores I wrote yesterday morning sits patiently on my desk as I wander to and fro doing bits of tasks, never actually focusing all my energy on a single one. This is how I work when overwhelmed by the volume of tasks. As evidence, I'm blogging between trips to the garage, Christmas gifts, and living room. One sentence at a time.

On the docket for today:

  • Laundry
  • Declutter desk, including drawers
  • Bring wrapping paper, gift bags, bows, ribbons, and tags into the house from storage
  • Bring new gifts (acquired yesterday at Costco) up to the Christmas Gift Processing Area (CGPA)
  • Assemble Christmas stockings
  • Write up Rebuilding Together Board meeting minutes

It's a deceptively small list. The reality is that the desk project alone could easily take me the entire day to complete, and I only have until about 2:30pm. I could get philosophical about how I have never really put my heart and soul into our current dwelling because I never thought we would be here as long as we have been. Earlier this morning, I stumbled across a blog that expressed that sentiment, and I recognized it immediately. But let's not get too deep here. They're just chores.

Ted took over laundry duty when he returned (I attempted to start it a couple hours ago, but didn't realize he'd taken the container of detergent with him; so the extent of my involvement was sorting and good intent).

The stocking assembly will be a pleasant distraction. I've already prepared for it by organizing all components on the dining room table, so it's just a matter of sorting items by recipient and artfully arranging them into the 'stockings' accordingly. I did bring up some wrapping paper and bows (though not everything) a little while ago, so we will be prepared to start some wrapping this week (not today). Scissors and six rolls of Scotch tape are already part of the CGPA.

And now to stop blathering on about it all and get on task! Hup-to!

Saturday, November 19, 2005


I want to write more. I think about it every day. It's in the transition from thought to action where I encounter the big challenge. Every day, there are topics I want to express. I send myself reminders to write about specific issues. Those email and voice mail messages are the electronic equivalent of sticking Post-it® notes all over my bag. I've bullet-listed groups of such reminders before, but will save doing it again now.

When ideas that I think are original come into my head, I wish for the opportunity to do nothing but work them out, putting aside responsibility and focusing on bringing the idea to life. As I've mentioned before, I'm a deliberate editor and thus believe that significant time must be spent to craft an idea well. That's really the biggest reason I don't blog more frequently: I want to ensure that I'm writing interesting ideas in my quirky and deliberate style, but can't devote the time required to achieve that style. To wit, this simple entry with very little substance has already consumed 36 minutes of my time. And I've said nothing! And I've said it in a very ordinary manner! (But with a rapidly expanding population of exclamation points, as if they alone infuse some sort of excitement!)

I'm done whining about this. Probably won't enter anything else for a while. Tomorrow, an extension of the chores I worked on today, then football and dinner with friends. Maybe I'll return to blog again on Thanksgiving day.

Oh by the way, the logo at the top is me. That is to say, I am Blue Pencil Productions. The only thing that regularly wins this stamp is our holiday newsletter (if I had enough time to take on side projects for BPP, I'd have enough time to blog more!). My friend, Doug, created it for me using the font I love so much Ted & I used it on our wedding invitations. Many moons ago, he'd created a background for my first personal website. It was cool and funky, pink with concentric circles. Heavens, that was ages ago.

44 minutes. It will take me a lifetime to write a book. I took me nearly an hour to write four tiny paragraphs about nothing.

Monday, November 14, 2005

hurt and hope

I've had this picture saved for a couple weeks, since it ran in MSNBC's The Week in Pictures. I haven't posted it because other things have been going on. Well, here it is now.

The caption said, "First-grader Derrius Richardson, right, comforts Magan Franklin on Oct. 3 on the first day of school at Harahan Elementary School in Harahan, Louisiana. Magan was forced to leave her previous school, Chalmette Christian Elementary in St. Bernard's Parrish, because of the effects of Hurricane Katrina. Her home was also flooded. She spent much of her first morning at her new school crying."

This picture affected me on a few levels. I can relate to Magan: she looks like I did at that age, and like a couple of my nieces not long ago. It breaks my heart to think of what she's going through, and how hard it must be for her comprehend everything that's happening when there's a country full of grown-ups who don't understand it. It also breaks my heart that this aching photo shows just one girl going through that pain, when there are hundreds of thousands of other people in similar predicaments.

The other side of the coin is in Derrius. I can relate to her, too. Her friendly face reminded me of when a new kid showed up in my first grade class, and I befriended him as if he'd been there all along. Her eyes seem simultaneously full of hope and compassion -- and she's six years old.

Every time I look at this picture, it brings tears to my eyes. For the hurt of Magan's pain, and for the hope of Derrius's friendship.

Real post time 12:49am

Thursday, November 10, 2005


By the time this Friday is over, my niece, Caitlin, will have attended the wakes of three friends -- all teenagers, killed in two separate car accidents.

Katelyn was a neighbor of Caitlin's family, already graduated from high school. She was hit head-on by a drunk driver. Katelyn loved kids and worked two jobs that allowed her to be around them, at a Babies 'R Us store and a mall carousel. She also excelled in art. She was 19 years old.

Carl was driving his 1994 Ford Probe when the car slid out of control and hit a tree. He died instantly. Carl loved to play the guitar, and he was into extreme sports, skateboarding, snowboarding, and snow and water tubing. This is his senior portrait. He was 17 years old.

Steve was riding in Carl's car. He suffered massive injuries and underwent two surgeries before dying three days later. Steve was an avid wrestler and Eagle Scout. He and his twin brother, Sam, built trails and bridges in a conservation area for hikers and snowshoers to use. His sister, Jess, is one of Caitlin's close friends. This is also his senior portrait. He was also 17 years old.

As if losing one friend isn't bad enough. Three in one week? I fear becoming melodramatic or overly pedantic. So I have nothing else to say except, 'rest in peace.'
Real post time 1:15am

Friday, November 04, 2005

bad math

OK, in the last post, I bragged about having 87 gifts purchased thus far for Christmas. Well, that's actually an underestimation because it didn't include the gifts that go into the stockings! Throw in a couple more procured since Wednesday, and the number now stands firmly at 225. That's right -- 225! There are a mere 29 items remaining on my holiday To Get list. At a bare minimum, I will get five of them over the weekend. I may try to do more. Maybe.

This isn't as crazy as it sounds. Nieces, nephews, goddaughters, siblings, parents, friends... it's a good-sized group of people. Oh and actually, it's a bit of an overestimation in places because it includes Christmas-proximate birthdays for which we shop simultaneously. Then, the stocking gifts are small in nature and cost (just large in number). OK, I guess the 225 number sounds more impressive than it is. Although I contend that it's still a feat because there are, in fact, 225 individual items involved here. Actually, more than that because that number doesn't include all the stocking candy (which, if counted by piece, would certainly inflate this number to impressive levels!) and the stockings themselves (not actually stockings but clever receptacles to hold stocking-type goodies). The assembly line required to fill the stockings is quite a production! It takes the entire dining room table (with two extra leaves) and most of the chairs to organize it. The cats are usually a big help.

Wow, serious digression at the end of that monster paragraph. A sure sign that I'm tired. Time to go dream of sugar plum fairies.

Real post time 12:47am

Thursday, November 03, 2005

it's official

I'm ready for Christmas. Yesterday, I purchased the first of my annual Christmas CDs (for a buck less at Costco than is selling it). I usually get 2-3 new ones each year -- a tradition I started sometime around 1988. Doing the math, it is safe to say that I have a healthy collection. Last year, when I uploaded them all to iTunes (a process that took forever), they totaled about 1000 songs after duplicates, and that doesn't include the portion of my collection on vinyl and tape. It is getting increasingly difficult to find compilations that have more than a couple songs that I don't already own. Thank goodness for artists who make new albums, like Diana Krall.

Ms. Krall has recorded several Christmas songs in the past. I have an EP of a few songs she released a while ago, and every now and then, she'll contribute a single song to a compilation. I'm glad she's finally gotten around to recording a whole album of holiday music. Although I haven't cracked the cellophane yet, I have great faith that it will be excellent. I think I've mentioned her in previous entries. She is one of my favorite artists. There's not a song she's recorded that I don't like. The arrangements are stunning and her interpretation is as close to perfect as is possible. I thought she was cool all along, but when she married Elvis Costello, I knew I was right.

Anyway, back to my being ready for Christmas. Our shopping list has 87 check marks (gifts purchased), most of the stocking stuffers accounted for, and only a handful of remaining items to find. Today, I allowed myself to start listening to the Holiday playlist on my iPod (although I only listened for about half an hour... don't want to risk premature overkill). I'm still a bit hesitant about the lawn ornaments, store displays, and television commercials I've already seen, but I guess they're no more eager than I am. The plastic Santa on the green lawn with the (finally) changing foliage is a juxtaposition of epic proportions, though.

Bring on the holidays!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

flavorless bananas

About a week ago, I had a midmorning banana for a snack. I don't usually snack between breakfast and lunch, but for some reason, I was hungry that day. The banana's color was just shy of being the perfect ripe yellow, and the fruit felt firm without being rock-like. The stem nub at the top, however, refused to allow my admittedly weak fingernails to break it so I could pull down the peel. I resorted to using a plastic knife from my lunchtime flatware reserve and cut just deep enough to start the peeling process.

Midway down, the flesh turned from a yellow so pale it was almost white to purple-brown in a large elliptical bruise. I expertly sliced the offending portion out with plastic ease and tossed it into the trash. Now, having used the knife twice already, I decided to slice thick silver dollar sized discs and eat them one by one (as opposed to my traditional method of peel-peel-peel-bite-repeat).

The first bite was quite bland. Oh well, it was the tippity top. Maybe the rest would be better. Second disc was equally bland. And the next, and the one after that. It was one seriously flavorless banana. I thought to make some pithy comparison of the feckless fruit to life, but decided against it. I'm just not that deep and occasionally attempt to prevent myself from being that trite.

Since then, Ted bought another bunch of bananas from Costco. I've had one each day since they arrived in our house and graced the carefully crafted banana rack on the dining room table. They are delicious and delectable. Firm and fantastic. Awesome and alliterative (no wait, that's me! ::wink::). Mmm, mmm.