Monday, January 31, 2011

Being Invited to Dinner (Honorable Mention to Greg)

Clark Cousin's Reunion - August 2010
Don't you just love being invited to dinner?  I do!  I don't believe I have ever once turned down an invitation for dinner at someone else's house.  Anytime someone else is doing the cooking, I am so there.

When we lived in Arizona, it was very common in the winter time to attend several parties & potlucks over the winter months.  I wish I had taken more photos of those potlucks. C'est la vie

I'm afraid I haven't done very much entertaining since Gene and I have been together.  I used to do some big get togethers when I lived in Alaska (pre-Gene) but I think I kind of ruined it for myself by always over-doing it and having these great expectations about what my house should look like, and trying to be the "perfect" hostess.  It's hard to quiet those voices.  I realize I've been really stingy with my space and it's such a great place to have people over ~ I need to get over some of that old stuff.

So, we're having company for dinner at our house on Wednesday night. It's a young couple that I have not met yet.  Gene ran into this woman when he was walking Missy and has struck up a friendship with her and I'm really excited about having her & her significant-other and her 8 year old over for dinner.  She knows how to cook Thai food and is bringing a dish and I think Gene is going to make his chicken curry fried rice. I'll make something for dessert.  And, it will be just fine.  I hope it's the start of a really nice, easy friendship. We've got all these games of Sequence sitting here collecting dust and I'll bet their 8 year old will be a great Sequence player.  But if not, it'll just be fun to meet some new people.

We keep intending to invite our neighbors that live right directly next to us over. They are sweet people. They moved here in September from Georgia or Arkansas, I can't quite remember. But I do  remember their names! John & Sherry.  They are vegetarians. And, they have 3 cute dogs.

I need to start a list of people I should invite over.  Greg & Tara come to mind! They have had us to their house so many times I'm embarrassed that I haven't made an effort to have them over to our place. They are wonderful hosts and both could cook professionally if they ever decided to give up their day jobs. There's real pressure when you invite good cooks for dinner, can I get an amen?

Bob & Dorothy would be on that list. I really want to see their photos from their Alaska trip last year. It's okay to have a motive for dinner invitations, yes?  I need to stop fooling around and just make a date and have them over before motorcycle riding picks up. All dinner invitations will be off the table then, pun intended.

Well, looks like I have the start of a nice list of dinners to plan. This might actually get me through the rest of this cold, biting-wind winter we are experiencing. 

By the way, the photo I posted here is from my Clark Cousin's Family Reunion - August 2010.  Now, that's one dinner invite I could never turn down.  When we get together, it's all about homemade food.

My cousins shucking corn.

I'm hungry ......

love, susan

Remembering Names

Sunday road trip to Moses Lake via Othello
Remembering names. I have a gift for it. I can't exactly  explain how I do it but I'll try. A long time ago, when I worked in the banking industry, the bank used to send us for one-day seminars with Career Tracks. They gave excellent  classes on customer service and other business related topics. Somewhere along the line I picked up this trick that when I meet someone for the first time, I try to say their name at least 3 times during a conversation.  Then I try to find some characteristic about them that will help me connect and remember their name.

For example, recently I ran into this guy that I've met before but I couldn't remember his name and it was really bugging me. So I went up and talked to him and told him I was having a hard time remembering his name and he said, "oh, don't worry about it, everyone gets it wrong".  I told him that I pride myself in remembering names and that I really wanted to get it right.  So, he says, "it's just like "Peter" in the bible except the Spanish version.  Pedro".  Okay.  So this is how it works.  I quickly say to myself, okay this guy is Mexican -- Mexicans are Catholics (89% according to Wikipedia), Catholics read the bible, Peter has the same first initial as Pedro.  Pedro!!  His name is Pedro!  Not Jesus or Jose or Diego or Adrian.  It's Pedro. From that day on ... I will not forget his name.   By the way, Pedro remembered my name.  I am impressed by that.

You can use other things like "Blue Eyed Kevin", "Stan the Man", or other tricks like writing the name down and placing it where you can see it. When I worked as a receptionist, sometimes I would have a mental block regarding someone's name. That's when I put a little post-it note on my computer monitor with their name and leave it there until I have it committed to memory. If I still can't remember a name, I close my eyes and go through the alphabet in my mind and 99% of the time if comes back to me. It's a weird gift.

See, the thing is I have seen how it makes people feel when I remember their name. It gives me a thrill to see a warm smile wash over a new friend's face when they realize that I have remembered their name.  I know how I feel when someone remembers my name.  Does that happen to you?

I love people.  Since February is the love month ~ just thought you should know I love you, whatever your name is!  I know today is the last day of January but it's February somewhere, right?

love, susan

P.S.  I don't have the same gift for remembering places I've been. That's Gene's gift. That guy can remember every highway he's ever traveled.  How does he do that?


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Morning Guilt

She looks hungry, don't you think?
I am up with the chickens every morning, even on weekends. I don't have any chickens but if I did, we'd be sharing sunrises together.  I realize I've already written about mornings in a previous post, Who's To Blame.  The thing is just the other night, I had every intention of trying  to switch my writing to evenings but I'm finding it very difficult. I wake up with stuff on my mind and it has to go somewhere. 

Most mornings I get up and turn on the coffee pot.  I let Missy out and fill her food dish and change her water. Sometimes she'll eat her food so fast that the next time I look at her dish, I start to question whether or not I have already fed her. She always has this look on her face like, "you forgot to feed me". I have major guilt issues about that. My dog is too fat and I worry I haven't fed her enough. I seriously need therapy.

Sometimes I toodle around until the coffee pot finishes, grab a cup and head to the computer or sometimes the light box. Lately, it's been the computer more times than not.  Now, I have a treadmill that I'm incorporating into my morning schedule, which is where I need to be right this moment. 
Here's my To-Do list for today:

Grocery Store
Cut Gene's hair
Go for a drive
Shoot some photos
Make something fabulous for a late lunch(maybe something for later too, see Green Jello)
Attend Kristina's birthday party tonight!

Gotta go! It's going to be a beautiful day!

love, susan

Saturday, January 29, 2011


I'm really glad January is almost over.  Anyone who knows me, knows that I don't like cold, gray days and we've had a lot of them this winter. Did you know there are actually people who like gray, rainy weather? I don't understand those people. 
Enough about January. I'm over it in 2 days.  This post is about February ~ the "love" month.  

I love Valentine's Day. I love hearts and chocolate. And, I love love.  So, I've been thinking about it for a couple of days while I'm walking away the miles on my treadmill, that I should write down some of the things I love and write about them in February.  This post is designed to just get me started thinking about those things. I jotted down a few ideas and we'll see where it goes from there. I took a creative writing class one time ... a very long time ago ... and was taught to place a circle in the middle of the page and write one word and then draw a line from that circle and just jot down everything that comes to mind from that one word. The instructor said do not judge it, just write it. That's an exercise that has helped me tremendously over the years when I journal.  Try it sometime!  I'd love to hear what you come up with!

So, with the word "love" in the middle of my circle, here's what I came up with, in no particular order.  Don't be surprised if you read about these things I love in February. I count 33 items. Good food for thoughts.

Gene, Missy, Sunshine, heart earrings, being invited for dinner, remember peoples' names, iRoomba, buttermilk & potato chips, Oregon coast, weekend drives, the things our grandkids say, blue sky, good friends, AC/DC, coffee, Gene's curry fried ricesunshine (yeah, I wrote that twice), thrift stores, a good recipe, cast iron skillets, when green shoots come up in spring, unplanned road trips, when my friend Kathy from Juneau sends me books she has already read, receiving hand-written letters, writing letters, a good medium point blue pen, dogs, hearing my dad laugh, watcing Nancy cook, camping, good movies, surprise calls from Justin, and the beach.

 love, susan

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Challenger -- I Cried

The Challenger.

Wow. I can't believe it's been 25 years since this tragedy. There are a lot of things I have forgotten over the last 25 years but when this image came up on my screen this morning, I can remember exactly where I was and the awful feeling of watching the Challenger explode on TV.

I cried.

My little guy, Justin, was only 18 months old and we lived in a tiny apartment in Fairbanks, Alaska.  I drove a blue, 2-door, Cutlass Calais Oldsmobile and worked at the community mental health center.  I owned a  hot pink dress that I looked really hot in that wouldn't even go over my head now, if it still existed.   And, I cried.

Seeing this picture this morning is really weird and I'm totally fascinated with how memories are stored in our brains. How and why can I remember such details from so long ago connected to one picture, one event?  And, how is it my brain remembers the "feeling" of deep sadness when viewing this event on national television?
How can 25 years have gone already? I'm going to try not to cry .....

love, susan

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Too Tired For Words

My good friend, Linda, who always encourages me!
Just got home from the community education photography class.  Learned some new tricks. And, I'm dog tired.

Can hardly wait for the weekend to get here so I can get out and shoot. 

Learned a really cool trick using a little post it note above the flash.
Ken Breshears ~ really great instructor and professional photographer.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Racked With Guilt & Endorphins

Poor "Missy". She looks at the treadmill and I'm certain all she sees is missed opportunities for long walks. There is not a dog alive that loves going for a walk more than she does. 

We got this new treadmill on January 7. I've been on it almost every day but today. I woke up with a screaming bad headache but feeling better late this afternoon so going to try getting some time on it before the day is over.

I signed on verbally for a challenge with a friend who lives in Oregon to "walk 1,000 miles in 2011". I got the calculator out and figured that's an average of 2.73 miles per day.  I can do that. But I've got some miles to make up for since I got a late start with this challenge. 

I'm an early riser (4:00 a.m.) but I must have a cup of java in me before I can even think about walking. Then there's this blogging habit I've gotten into which takes some time.  It takes 45 minutes for me to walk 3 miles so I'm going to have to juggle my schedule a bit since I also need some time in front of the light box if I'm going to hang on to my sanity.  So I was thinking the other night as I laid my head down, perhaps I should start blogging at night.  Let this post be the start of that!

Back to Missy.  Since we got this treadmill, I've noticed when I get on it and just get my stride going where the endorphins are kicking in, AC/DC is screaming their live version of "Thunderstruck" on my iPod, she'll stand at the top of the stairs at the door to be let out.  I am on to her.  She doesn't like the treadmill. She's such a high maintenance dog. It irritates me so much, I have taken to putting her in her kennel while I'm on the treadmill. It must be sheer torture for her as the kennel is in the basement not far from the treadmill.  I don't know what else to do and the guilt just racks me. Guilt that she's not getting walked during the cold winter mornings and guilt that she has to be in the kennel while I'm getting my walk in. 

Gene has assured me that Missy sleeps all day and he does take her for walks, weather permitting.  I was home pretty much sleeping all day today and she does sleep all day.  Still ... I feel guilty.  I promise her every day when I'm walking on that treadmill that the weather will get better soon and we'll all be going outdoors to walk. I don't think she cares about my empty promises.   

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Monday, January 24, 2011


Wow, another whirlwind weekend. You'd think I would have learned by now that I can make plans but not plan the results but I'm not quite there yet. I'm a work in progress.

I have this great bread recipe hanging up on my fridge that I'm dying to try but I never got 3 hours in a row at home to try it. Oh well.  Maybe next weekend. 

The only thing I really had planned for the weekend was the photo walk on Saturday morning and maybe the plunge. The weekend was all that and a bag of chips, for sure!

Every Monday morning, I go to work and the boss says, "hey, Susan, how was your weekend?".  I usually say the same old thing, "oh, it was fabulous".  I don't ever really go into what I did because I'm not really sure anybody cares that much but in my mind I try to think about my weekend and I can honestly say that we pack so much stuff (ususally fun stuff) into our weekends that I can't even remember it all.  So I try to just pick one thing that's my favorite and mention it.  This weekend I would be hard pressed to find only one favorite thing. Finding the bald eagle on Saturday was a huge deal for me. The motorcycle ride in the middle of winter in Tri-Cities was a first for me and it was totally refreshing. The car ride out to the park yesterday charted new territory for both of us.  We ended up at the top of a mountain (or mole hill, whichever you prefer) and got a grand view of the Boise Cascade paper mill at Wallula pictured here.
Gene used to work in paper mills so he's a little nostalgic about them and he always wants me to get pictures of any that we pass by.  I probably have enough of this particular paper mill but I know it won't be the last time I shoot it, if he's in the car. 

He also made a special stop to shoot the photo of the car at the beginning of this commentary.  I think it might be an old Packard.   Driving out in Finley really took me back to my folk's place in North Pole.  My dad was a collector of old cars.  There's a real charm to Finley that I think a lot of people miss.  Living out in the country has its freedoms and one of them is to use your land the way you want to.  I saw some roosters tied up in someone's yard with little houses for them to go into.  We suspect they might be fighting cocks but who knows? It's a little weird to have chickens tied up but who am I to judge?  I would have loved to have snapped a photo but I'm afraid we may have been shot at if we stopped.  People out in the country might not take kindly to strangers stopping and taking photos of their .... chickens.  When I lived in Alaska, I saw plenty of sled dogs tied up in the same fashion and thought nothing of it. 

So, another weekend has come and gone and I'm working towards the next one. This week will be fun because I signed up for a 2-night photography course through community schools and 3 of my friends will be there on Tuesday & Thursday night. I love having something to look forward to. One of my friends just got a new camera so I'm hoping this is the beginning of some future get togethers with our cameras in hand.

Time to switch gears and go be a secretary today. 

love, susan

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Don't Get Your Feathers Ruffled

I know what it means to get your feathers ruffled but I've never actually seen real ruffled feathers until today. This goose stuck out like a sore thumb. He/she was friendly. Luckily, I had a few leftover peanuts in the shell in my pocket from yesterday so Gene had something to feed the geese and ducks today. 

We went for a ride out to Finley, Washington, to a park called Two Rivers.  There was only one other car there and they were there to play frisbee golf.  We stepped in a lot of goose crap as we walked across the park but it was really quiet and different than yesterday's experience.  
I love the color of these ducks, mallards I suppose.

They were very pushy and when the peanuts ran out, they didn't have the time of day for us.
I've never really looked at a ducks foot but Gene encouraged me to do a close up. Very leathery looking.  Kinda icky.

Another beautiful day in the 'hood!!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Scavenger Hunt - January 22, 2011

I don't know these people. They showed up today for the scavenger hunt. They love taking photos so much they put on their winter gear and dragged their equipment out to the park just like me.  This guy had the hugest lens I've ever seen. I didn't get a chance to ask his name but I'll bet he's got some freakin' nice photos from the walk today.  Here he is showing another club member how to change some settings.  That's the beauty of belonging to this club. There are about 350 members and lots of them are willing to share their love & knowledge of photography.

 This is what they use for the game "Frisbee Golf".  I had never heard of it until Justin was in college in Flagstaff.  The object is to throw the frisbee towards this contraption and have it land in it.  There were people playing today but by the time we got to the course, they were gone.

 I don't know these people either. I just thought it was cool they were out feeding the birds.  I swear, this town came alive today!  It was just awesome to see everyone outside enjoying the sunshine.   Even the geese look happy.

 Gene said, "Susan point your camera up to the sky ... GEESE flying", and I got one!!!  Ah, freedom!!!

What an awesome day.......
This was my favorite find today.  A young, bald eagle.  He was the first thing I saw as we left on our scavenger hunt. Of all the things on my list to find, this was something I was sure we'd never see today. And, there he was. I couldn't believe my eyes.  My little point & shoot did pretty well as this guy was way at the top of a very tall tree.  I am happy the picture turned out at all. 

I had the most fabulous day today.  After the scavenger hunt, we drove over to see the "Polar Plunge". It was too crowded and we had "Missy" with us so we didnt' stay long. I did snap a couple of pics of crazy people who were getting ready for the plunge.  This was my favorite character today. 
Just as we were heading home from the Polar Plunge, our friends Bob & Dorothy called and asked us to join them for a scoot over to Prosser by way of the backroads and Horse Heaven Hills. I rode with Gene & snapped this pic! Nearly froze my hands off but it was worth it. Wonder what tomorrow will be like?

love, susan

Sunshine on My Shoulders ... Makes Me Happy

When I headed out the door for work yesterday, it was drizzling rain and gray skies. I hung my head as I got in the car and the gloominess just seemed to spread to every cell in my body. Every bone seemed to ache and my head felt a little foggy. It was still gray at noon time and I stayed in for lunch. But, by 5:00 p.m. there was hardly a cloud left in the sky and we had another fabulous sunset. On Thursday, we had such a beautiful sunset that our bookkeeper called everyone to come to his office, which has the best view, and literally it looked like the sky was on fire. My camera, of course, was at home.  You'll just have to take my word on it that it was  more than spectacular.

This morning, there is nothing but blue sky and sunshine. What a difference in my attitude! I think I can live today. Nothing perks me up like blue sky and sunshine.  This morning I'm going out on a photo walk with some friends from the Tri City Digital Photography Club. (If you click on this link, you can see lots of great photos from the Tri-City area daily.)  We met in the fall for a photo walk and I had a blast. You can see my fall scavenger hunt pics by clicking here: Scavenger Hunt. Today should be really interesting as I can't imagine what the leader will have on her scavenger list. I'll definitely be wearing my cuddle duds (long johns).

After the photo walk, I'm heading over to watch one of the young attorneys in our office take the "Polar Plunge" into the Columbia River. It's a fund raising event for the Special Olympics of Washington. He's done it before and survived. I hope to snap a pic just before he hits the water.  

It's good to be alive today.    Photos to follow later today ...... 

love, susan

Thursday, January 20, 2011

And Then It Hit Me!

Gene's daughter shot about 3 years ago
Every single day this week I have been sitting at my desk and each time I type the date on a letter, I have had this nagging feeling that this week had an important date but I couldn't put my finger on what it was. Usually I can sort of go through the imaginary catalog of important dates in my head like birthdays, deaths, appointments, national holidays, etc.  

And then it hit me this afternoon.  It was our anniversary on Monday.   I called Gene and told him and we got a good laugh out of it.  I had spent most of Monday with dilated eyes after my doctor's appointment. He took me to lunch after the appointment to our favorite Thai restaurant since I couldn't really see to cook anything, and then came home and I slept all afternoon. 

Too funny!  Guess I'd better jot this date down in my Outlook and place a "recurring" marker on it. 

So, this afternoon (while I was working -- multi-tasking) I spent some time thinking about getting married on the edge of the Colorado River in Laughlin, Nevada seven years ago. We had planned a trip there for a round-up.  The week before our 3-day weekend to Laughlin, he casually mentioned something about getting married while we were there.  I said, "if it's hassle-free, I'll do it".  No wedding gowns, no reception, no walking down an aisle for me. We found a non-denominational preacher woman to come down to the river with a witness and we did it.  

I love being married to Gene. I love it that we both forgot our anniversary and it's okay. That's how it's been from the very beginning. Easy. He makes me laugh ... a lot.  Sometimes he'll wake up and know that I'm still trying to sleep and he'll just start laughing, softly at first and then it'll turn into this hysterical, gut-wrenching, tear-making laughter ... at nothing.   Well, mostly he's laughing because I'm still trying to sleep. I can't be mad at him. Have you ever seen his blue eyes?  And, he's always talking about his mom.  There is not a day goes by that he doesn't mention her in one fashion or another. I love that about him. When I bake sweets for him, he says his mom would have liked me.  I know my mom would have loved him, for sure. 

Anyway ... I'm glad I figured it out. The anniversary date, that is.  Marriage? I haven't a clue. I just get up everyday and try to see myself through his eyes.  He makes being married really easy.  Love you, Gene!

Chinatown -- Honolulu, Hawaii

So ... my ex-husband's sister and her beautiful family are in Hawaii on vacation right now. She has been there before but the others haven't.  I am totally enjoying their daily updates of things they're doing complete with photos. They have been snorkeling and eating at cool places and the other day they went on a shark adventure.  They were on the north shore and now they are in Honolulu.  I hope they get a chance to go over to Chinatown for lunch.  

Chinatown was right up there as one of my favorite places to go while we were in Honolulu last year.  Gene and I are not your typical tourists.  We like to go where the locals are and it's not always glamour & glitz.  As a matter of fact, if it has any glamour at all we usually high tail it out of there quickly, although I do enjoy people-watching in glitzy places like Las Vegas. (I digress).   Chinatown is not glamorous but what it is ~ is colorful and interesting.  And, authentic.

I hope Ally takes her family over the Chinatown for lunch before they leave Honolulu. There  is a huge indoor market with tables in the center that are set up cafeteria style. There are food vendors all the way around the tables so everyone can pretty much get whatever they want for lunch. There are lots of really weird things to eat and  though I am not very adventurous culinary-wise, Gene is. 

Mostly, I really loved sitting with the Asian people who obviously live and work in the area. I pretended I was in a foreign country every day we visited Chinatown.  We went there 5 days out of 7 for lunch!   I believe  traveling to Asia is in my future .... 

If you go to Chinatown in Honolulu, I would recommend Ruby's Bakery, which is on the main street. We happened in there one day for something sweet and ended up sitting down for lunch. We found ourselves riding the bus there every day after that for lunch as it was the best food we could find for a decent price. We tried something new every day and near the end of our visit, the waitress suggested we try her cook/husband's special dish which was not on the menu. Garlic shrimp.  I'm not a big shrimp lover but who am I to disrespect the cook? OMG! I felt like family after being treated to such a great meal.  Everyday when we got ready to leave, the  waitress and her sister (family run business) would say, "we'll see you for lunch tomorrow".  The power of suggestion has never worked so well.
Chinatown.  Whenever you are in a city that has a Chinatown .... you should go there. Seriously.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Things Worth Keeping

While I was on a photo walk with my new friend, Hannah, I shot this sign which is the name of an art gallery in downtown Richland. The store wasn't open yet so I just looked at all the cool stuff in the window.  Chances are extremely high that I would never buy anything in this store but I'm glad it's there. Somebody must be buying stuff there because in these tough times there are a lot of businesses going under.  The rent has got to be pretty high.

 It reminded me of the pottery shops that were within a block of the courthouse in Yuma. I used to walk on my lunch hour in the winter when it wasn't blazing hot and I'd walk past this one little store front where a woman sat everyday with a a piece of clay on a potter's wheel, making shapes out of earth.  She had an old, golden retriever who was always sitting at her feet. We'd exchange smiles. I never went into those shops until after I left my job at the courthouse. One of my friends at hospice was looking for some unique Christmas gifts so we took a ride downtown and I finally went into that pottery shop.

I love, love, love hand-made pottery. But the thing is, I always want to meet the person who made it. I think artists are the most interesting people. Anyway,  I ended buying a couple of coffee mugs and these super cute little coffee scoopers. I gave one to my dad's life partner, Nancy, and she says she thinks of me when she uses it. I wish like crazy I would have bought one for myself, but I didn't. And, I wish I had taken my camera with me just once to snap a photo of that woman making pottery with her dog at her feet.

The friend I took downtown that day bought me a little salsa dish with a spoon from that shop for a going away gift when I left Yuma.  I have never used it, but I treasure it.  Another friend bought me a really pretty mug from the same store.  I  carried it around after I moved here  but I recently gave it away to a friend who really admired it.

I do that sometimes ... just give things away.  When I worked at hospice in Yuma, I used to wear this lilac, purple'ish shirt in the winter time. One of the nurses always had to say something nice about it every time I wore it.  On my last day at work there, I gave it to her.  This was not an original idea of mine.  Before I worked at hospice, one of the legal secretaries at the county attorney's office, Blanca, had a really pretty lacy shirt that I always loved when she wore it.  One day I came to work and she had put it in a pretty bag and gave it to me. 

Some things are worth keeping and some things are worth giving away.    

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Trading Time for Money

Back to work this morning after an awesome  3-day weekend. I could really get use to working a a four-day week, or even a six hour day. I'm not quite retirement material yet but as I get older, I appreciate my time off a lot more than I used to.  

A friend wrote a comment on one of my recent posts and it got me to thinking about all the jobs I've had since I was old enough to trade my time for money. Maybe the best way to write about it is to 'list it'. So, I'm going to reach way back in time and see if I can remember all the paying jobs I've had:

Babysitter, house cleaner, movie theater person, counter help at a drive-in, cashier at JC Penney, gas jockey, bank (sold gold, mortgage loans, collector, insurance clerk), receptionist, case manager, administrative secretary, legal secretary, executive secretary and legal assistant.

I've always worked. My parents were working people. Mom always had a job pushing papers and my dad was a logger and then later on worked as a heavy duty mechanic. When we were in high school, times were tough and my sister and I held babysitting jobs nearly every weekend. People would call ahead to "reserve" us as babysitters were hard to come by back then. We used our hard earned money to buy school clothes. My sister was a saver.  I never could keep a nickel in my pocket.  I'm way better at saving these days.

I actually love working.  I love the structure of having to be somewhere and planning the rest of my life around that. Confession: I used to have a lot of trouble with 3-day weekends because I felt like I should be at work on that third day.  Weird, I know.  But I've actually learned to enjoy those extra days off.  

In looking back over the last 30+ years of working, I can tell you my two most favorite jobs were ones where I worked with people.  I had a job at the community mental health center in Fairbanks, Alaska.  I think I worked there for about 3 years. I loved that job so much I would have done it for free. I actually would arrive extra early and get the coffee started and just sit in the beautiful building. It was called a "clubhouse model" which was fashioned after a center out of New York. It is a place where people who suffer from chronic mental illnesses can go to get a lot of services all under one roof. We had a psychiatrist, nurses, case managers, housing people, and vocational rehab. We had a huge kitchen where our clients would cook up lunch every weekday. We also had a pool table and TV along with a place to do crafts and a big center room where a "community meeting" was held everyday. Nobody was better than anyone else there ... we were a team of human beings helping other humans beings. And, for me, often times it was the clients helping staff ... teaching us patience, kindness, tolerance, love, joy, etc.  In our clients, I found many who had gifts that simply blew me away. We had artists and singers and writers and comedians.  I learned a lot about myself working there. And, I learned the meaning of not judging a book by its cover.

Later on, after I left that job, I moved to Juneau for a year and worked in hospital administration. Upon moving back north to Anchorage, I went to work at the community mental health center in administration for three years. It was quite a different experience there but I made some awesome friends who were on the team and we did a lot of fun stuff outside of work. 

The other job I loved and would have no problem doing for  free  was at hospice in Yuma.  When I had first arrived in Arizona, I interviewed with them and had been offered a job but turned it down. Five years later, I interviewed again and took the job. I regret I did not take it the first time.  There's no better place to learn about living than working in a place that helps people through the death process. It's a strange paradox.  At hospice, I found real-live angels in every single person who worked there.  I only worked there about a year and a half but it's an experience I will not soon forget.  If I ever have a terminal illness, hospice will be the first people I call. 

Well, it's time to get my keester moving this morning. I still have 30 minutes to do on the treadmill, breakfast to make and slacks to iron before I head off to work.  Ta ta for now.

love, susan

Monday, January 17, 2011


I had my phone turned off for a short time last night and when I turned it back on, I had a voice message from my son. I've learned that when he leaves me a voice message it's always something good.  He said he was working at the office last night for about 3 hours and he'd be up late so I could call him back anytime. Of course, I called him back.  (And, I saved the message. I love playing messages back from my favorite guys.)

He had great news. He passed his oral tests (3 of them) for his master's degree! He went on to explain that taking oral tests means a lot of studying, in his case it's been the last 4 months. He made an appointment with the board of 3 professors who would hear the orals and it consisted of three consecutive 45- minute question & answer sessions with only 5 minutes in between each to take care of other business. I asked him if he was nervous and he said yes.  But he did it anyway.  And, may I just say he's a trailblazer in that he was the first one in his class to get the oral exams out of the way. Am I proud of him? You better believe it. 

I've always been proud of him ~ no matter what he decided he was going to do in life. When he moved to Yuma, I took him down to the local Applebee's restaurant and waited outside while he went in to see about a job.  He came out with a huge smile on his face as he had been hired on the spot.  I saw a glimmer of hope in his face that everything was going to work out just fine. He worked there a couple of months and learned a lot about working for less than minimum wage ($2.31 an hour plus tips). He learned a lot about human nature at Applebee's.  One time I told him maybe I should get a part-time job at Applebee's so I could stow away some extra cash and he said, "oh, mom, no, no, no .... I don't think you're cut out for it". He went on to say that some people are pretty awful to food servers and he thought I probably didn't have thick enough skin for it. I suspect he was right.  I try to remember that every time I'm being served in a restaurant ~ try to be extra nice to my server, for that exact reason.  The thought of someone being mean to my son or anyone's son or daughter just makes my heart hurt .... a lot.

He paid off old debts and became totally debt free while sleeping on a futon in the living room of our very small place in Yuma. He went on to another job at DaBoyz Pizza where he did delivery.  His Grandpa Clark had given him a car that had belonged to Grandma Walker and he drove it until it wouldn't go any longer.  He found a little Geo Metro over by the Salton Sea in California and so he and Gene made a road trip over to pick it up. He delivered pizzas in that little Metro all summer with no air conditioning in 110 degree weather. He survived it by drinking a lot of water and perserverance. He spent one summer at Nancy's place. We never heard him complain, not one time.

I totally believe the experiences we have, good and bad, make a framework for how we handle the future. My wish is that Justin never forgets what it was like to deliver pizzas in 110 degree weather.  I hope he never forgets what it feels like to serve food to ungrateful people for $2.31 an hour.  Or, what it's like to sleep on a futon in the living room.  He's a survivor.

Justin's life is a dream come true for me. It's what I dreamed he would do a long time ago. He used to think he was getting a late start for this college thing but I knew he was right where he was supposed to be all along.  What a trip!

So, last night we talked about celebrating his and Amanda's upcoming graduations in May. We're making plans for a 2-week road trip with Flagstaff at the center of it. I'm not a future tripper but I gotta say I'm totally stoked about the next 6 months. Justin and Amanda don't know where they'll be going after graduation. She will find out in March which school(s) she will accepted to for her Ph.D. program. Keeping my fingers crossed for Colorado.  I know ... it's not my life.   But I can wish for things, right?

In the meantime, they both still have a couple of classes to finish up but it seems to be a downhill coast from here.

love, susan 


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Movies, Men & Mice

Richland has a local theater. We have yet to attend any plays there. It isn't because we don't want to go, it just seems we always have something else on our busy social calendar.  Yesterday, I snapped a pic of the billboard just for fun. 

I was also thinking about no. 8 on my 20 Rules I've Broken list.

I worked in a movie theater when I was in high school.  It was the best job ever and I'm sure it's why I have such a love of movies today.

My sister and I grew up in the really small town of  Haines, Alaska.  There weren't a lot of jobs to be had so I was lucky to get out of the babysitting business and work at a real job. It was a very small theater but it had a balcony and it was the local hangout on Friday and Saturday nights. We only ran one movie a night and I can't remember if we ever had more than one movie in-house at a time. It was very expensive to rent the huge reels and the manager, Archie, had to reserve them far in advance to get good movies to Haines.  We had to be able to cover our costs of renting the reels so he made sure we got popular ones in so people would spend their hard-earned money to come to the theater.  Those were hard times back then and not everyone had a job.  Not so unlike today.  Going to the movies was a treat ~ it was what you saved your babysitting money for.  But working in the theater afforded awesome fringe benefits!

I did every job there was at the theater except I never ran the projector. Archie was an old fashioned kinda guy and it seems he left that job for the guys. The reels were heavy and you had to be paying attention because there was a little white dot that would come up on the screen at the end of the reel and you had to have your finger on the 2nd projector and turn it on as soon as you saw that white dot. This lined up the 2nd  reel to start projecting when the 1st reel ran out.  Do any of you remember seeing that back in the day?  Sometimes, if the projector guy was asleep at the wheel, the 1st reel would run out and all you'd see is white screen.  Uh oh!

I worked in the concession stand a lot. It was a very small counter with a big popcorn machine, soda dispenser and assorted candies. Back behind the movie screen, we kept all our candy & popcorn supplies. The popcorn was kept in a huge metal barrel that had a heavy lid on it.  One time somebody forgot to put the lid back on all the way and a mouse fell into the popcorn seeds and met his demise. It was disgusting. I'd love to tell you that we disposed of the entire barrel of popcorn seeds but that's not what happened.  Archie was a sensible guy and he told us to just take a big scooper to remove the poor mouse and not to worry about. Apparently he thought the extremely hot butter flavored grease we cooked the popcorn in would take care of anything that might otherwise cause harm.  I know.  Ick.

I also worked the ticket sales at the front door.  LOVED that job. I got to see all my friends come in and see who was dating who. It was wonderful to be behind that plexi-glass. I had a secret crush on more than one cute guy and since the only other thing to do in Haines was party, often times everyone would come to the movies first and pass the word about where the party was happening after the show.  Usually it was at "11 Mile".  That's a topic for another post ... undoubtedly.

A couple of us had keys to the theater so when a particularly popular movie would come in, we would go late at night and run it for ourselves & a few select friends.  We would bring our own big plastics cups to fill with crushed ice, soda and usually some kind of alcohol, as the paper cups were counted ~ that's how we figured our income. Archie had an inventory sheet that we would have to complete every night after the show to see if we met our expenses and to match up with the $$ taken in.

The movie that made the biggest impression on me back in the day was "The Exorcist". To this day, I really can't watch that movie.  It scared the crap out of me then and just the thought of it now gives me shivers. It had an "R" rating and while Archie did a really good job of keeping kids out of the theater when we had "R" movies in town, us workers watched them whenever we could get together for a late night showing.  Those were the good old days!

When my son was a teenager, we went to a couple of movies every year.  If it had been up to me, we would have spent every single weekend at the movie theater. I love everything about going to the movies. Love the smell of popcorn, the comfy seats, surround sound and most of all the big screen. I love the experience of going and sitting next to someone you care about. Today, on the rare occasion when we do go see a movie, these memories come back as if it was yesterday.  It's been 30-plus years.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

List: 20 Rules I've Broken

I happened onto a website yesterday that has 346 creative writing prompts.  Prompt No. 305 is "List 20 Rules I've Broken".  That sounded kind of fun. These are in no particular order, just writing as they come to mind. 

Have you ever broken any rules?

1.  Didn't pick up my dog's poop in the park.
2.  Drove without my seat belt on.
3.  Had ice cream for breakfast.
4.  Took a shower in an RV park where I wasn't staying.
5.  Drove wrong way on a one-way street.
6.  Blew through lots of stop signs.
7.  Stole potatoes from a little old lady's garden when I was a teenager.
8.  Stayed to watch a 2nd movie at the theater when I only paid for one.
9.  Wore white shoes after September. (what a stupid rule!)
10. Skipped a lot of high school classes to watch "The Young & The Restless".
11.  Definitely have broken "The Golden Rule".
12.  Drank long before I was of legal age.
13.  Had two boyfriends at the same time. 
14.  Drove while intoxicated.
15.  Watched lots of R rated movies when I was a teenager (I worked at a theater).
16.  Stayed out past curfew a million times.
17.  Surfed the net while on the job.
18.  Peeked at Christmas presents under the tree when I was a kid.
19.  Snuck out the back door at boring parties.
20.  Trespassed when clearly I shouldn't have.

Well, this has been an interesting exercise.  I actually might have some new topics to blog about later on. 


You Made My Day, Dude!

A couple weeks ago while I was driving back to Portland after spending the night on the Oregon coast, we came up on some road construction ...