Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Color Hues Quiz

Just took the quiz described by txsguinan, which she linked to from "Unhinged" (andreakingme).  It was fun and fast.  Here are my results...I guess it comes as close to true as anything... you are teal

Your dominant hues are green and blue. You're smart and you know it, and want to use your power to help people and relate to others. Even though you tend to battle with yourself, you solve other people's conflicts well.

Your saturation level is very high - you are all about getting things done. The world may think you work too hard but you have a lot to show for it, and it keeps you going. You shouldn't be afraid to lead people, because if you're doing it, it'll be done right.

Your outlook on life can be bright or dark, depending on the situation. You are flexible and see things objectively

Monday, December 29, 2003

Merry Cardinal

Here's part of my Christmas cardinal collection.  I collect certain kinds of ornaments..cardinals are big with me, as are anything with moon and star motifs.  This ornament was a serendipitous marriage of the two...so I fell in love with it.  I know it's late in the game to continue posting Christmas things...but I just love Christmas.  Don't be surprised if I'm still posting pictures of Christmas ornaments in July.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Drag out the Memories

What do I remember about Christmases WAY past?

The smell of those big tree lights--before anyone ever heard of "Italian" lights (which is what the mini-lights were called when they first burst on the scene)--inexorably dehydrating the Christmas tree. Does anyone else think of that? Remeber those C7 lights with the red and black twisted wire cords? The ones that, if you looked at them now, you would recognize as a house fire waiting to happen? I remember, by about December 26th, we were cautioned not to "turn on the tree" unless it was absolutely necessary (?!) But that smell, if I ever smell it again, will ALYWAYS take me back to the sixties.

I remember chocolate marshmallow Santas. The ones we weren't allowed to eat until we got home from church, because you had to fast three hours before taking Communion. Later, they changed the rule to ONE hour, and we carefully counted the minutes until the EXACT time we figured they'd be serving Communion at Mass...and pigged out pre-church.

I remember mountains of presents. We weren't poor growing up, but we weren't rich. We never had a brand-name toy in our lives. But the booty my parents bought for the five of us, for $15 per kid, filled the entire living room from the tree in the corner to the dining room door. Those Depression children really knew how to stretch a buck!

I remember decorating the house...we got a jillion Christmas cards each year. We taped them around all the doorways, taped them to the wall to form a tree-shaped collage, and still had a stack left over.

I remeber big family dinners, and sitting at the "kids table" until I was about 18...I was the youngest and didn't get to sit with the big people until we lost older ones to marriage and moves out of state.

All so long ago...it seems more like a movie than MY past. But nice to remember.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Here's the Downstairs Tree

Here's tree no. 2...  It couldn't BE more different from my bedroom tree!  This one is (a.)real, and (b.)NOT a theme tree.  Actually, I guess you could say the theme is 27 years of married life.  Every Christmas. we unwrap our family history and hang it up for all to see.  Our oldest 25-cents-a-box-Kmart-Christmas-clearance (1977.) A toothpick ornament made  by my oldest niece when she was in first grade...(she's 33 now, and the toothpicks are getting kind of frail).  A pipecleaner snowman made by my youngest niece.  Some felt and sequin ornaments I made when I was in eighth grade (those would be 35 years old now...yikes!) and  the  fancy beaded satin balls I made when I was jobless in the fall of 1986 (to keep myself from going crazy.) The family heirloom ornaments--the kind that you find in antique stores now, labeled as 50's and 60's kitsch--handed down to us by my mother.  THIS tree, though this is a poor picture, is a large part of what Christmas is about for me.  

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Spare Change

This has been the greatest holiday season, so far. We have done SO many fun things...attended two concerts, entertained family and guests, decorated like a TV show. There have been holiday seasons, not so far past, it seems, that were more of nightmare than dream. I've been so blessed this year, and I am grateful.

Yet, I have been starkly reminded that there are others who are not so fortunate this holiday season. We went to a concert in downtown Portland last night...the Holiday Pops of the Oregon Symphony to be exact. As the spangled, velveted, satined patrons alit from their SUV's, sports sedans, and limousines onto the sidewalk under the twinkling marquee, a tiny old woman leaned forward from her shelter in a doorway asking, "Spare change?" in a quiet, Asian-accented voice. Springing out of my husband’s new Hyundai, trying to sprint between the raindrops to the shelter of the overhanging marquee, I nearly barreled right into her. Normally, I practice the conditioned reaction to "spare change" requests that people here in the Pacific Northwest have developed, in order to avoid impoverishing themselves by acceding to street-corner beggars…I pretend I didn’t hear and keep walking. I walked past her without acknowledging her, because that’s what you DO. But my heart was broken for her.

And I actually had NO change. I had stuffed my evening bag with lipstick, powder, my ID and credit cards. No money. And I was pretty sure she didn’t take VISA… I tried to put her out of my mind, and couldn’t. I knew I had to give her something. All this consideration took place in the wink of an eye…suddenly, I was dunning my sister and her husband for cash so I could put something into this poor little lady’s hand. My sister coughed up two bucks. I went back to the woman and pressed it into her hand. She said, "God bless you." And I blinked back the tears.

But her image stuck with me as we gave our tickets at the door, stepped into the marble vestibule of the concert hall, and ordered a couple of glasses of chardonnay to sip while we waited for my husband, who had gone to park the car. I was kind of relieved I had not put cash into my evening bag. All I had was a fifty dollar bill, and I had decided not to take it with me, because it would be too easy to lose. I’m pretty sure I would have given it to her if I’d had it with me.  …Maybe I’m NOT so glad I didn’t have it.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

More holiday pix

Just wanted to keep the holiday spirit flowing.  This is my niece, Leah..she's 11.  And my dog, Lucy...she's 3.  Picture was taken during the Thanksiving weekend when my house was full to bursting with family from down south (Eugene...120 miles south.)
Not a great picture, but I wanted the file size to be small enough so that it didn't take an hour to load.  I managed to fix Leah's red-eye with the software that came with my camera.  Didn't work on the dog, though.  So she looks like the mirror-eyed dog from hell.  But the antlers are cute, anyway.

Out of Character

Did I not just write an entire entry about being introverted? Then why was I inspired, today, to email my husband and tell him to bring his bosses home after work for a holiday drink? Well, it was a lovely day, I had no other plans, and the house looked fairly decent with all the decorations finally in place. So I guess I just thought it would be neat to have someone come over and enjoy them with us.

Now, I am no great housekeeper. I worked full-time, and more, for many years, and I just sort of got out of the habit of keeping house. I developed a very high "crap tolerance." Days worth of dirty dishes in the sink didn’t faze me; the bed got made when we changed the sheets (PLEASE don’t ask how often that was), and vacuuming was a quarterly affair. When I "retired" to working part-time and running my own business a few years ago, I determined to improve in the housekeeping department. But after 25 years of developing rather slovenly ways, my best efforts are not always sparkling. I keep the place looking passable, but I don’t think anyone would be tempted to eat off my floor.

So I ask again, WHY did I ask my husband to bring the boss home for a drink? "Passable," even darned decent for my husband and me, becomes something completely else when the prospect of having actual guests looms over the horizon. (Or in five hours time after the invite, to be precise.) I logged off, slammed down the laptop and morphed into the white tornado. Pushed unsightly items into unused bedrooms, shut the doors and hoped the guests wouldn’t ask for the "grand tour." Vacuumed, mopped, scrubbed, and dusted my fingers to the bone. Ran to the liquor store and bought a $28 bottle of Vodka. Threw together some holiday munchies. Tried to make myself look presentable. Whisked open the front door and played the delightful holiday hostess.

They were here for about an hour and a half. Only drank about 20% of the damned expensive vodka. Ate some of the hummus and spinach dip. Complimented us on the house. REALLY liked my dog. Husband was so appreciative of my asking them over, it was almost painful. And now I am exhausted. But it feels good.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Alone, Above and Apart

Journal-surfing yesterday, I came across two separate references to the label of "introvert." One writer was really struggling with the appellation. Another seemed to wear it as a badge of honor. Let’s face it, people, if we all weren’t card-carrying introverts, we probably wouldn’t be spending the time we do pounding on these keys and filling up these pages. And, like the over-thinkers we are, we sometimes get to wondering (obsessing) about whether it’s okay to be our quiet little selves.

In my own life, I’ve found that I cherish and nurture my introversion, most of the time. As long as I can retreat to my quiet places when things get hectic, I maintain my balance. I have always needed time alone to recharge my batteries. But it can be a double-edged sword. If I am frightened or wounded, I tend to retreat into myself, and STAY there. And then it becomes a struggle to get out again.

I’m in the midst of one of those struggles right now, in fact. And it’s been a long, difficult one. Six years of heavy losses had driven me deep inside myself. I’ve been swimming back to the surface for about three years now. So odd to talk about this in terms of YEARS. I look at it, written in black and white, and think what a long time it’s taken me to GET OVER IT. Can’t imagine how much of a weenie other people must think I am. And yet, how can you set a timetable for grieving and healing? It takes a complicated blend of LETTING yourself recover, and MAKING yourself well. Now that I am finally hammering away at the wall I had built around myself, I find that I have missed an awful lot. I’ve been so self-centered the last few years, I feel like Rip van Winkle. I’m lifting my head, blinking, and thinking, "My, how the world has changed…"

I’m still an introvert. Probably always will be. Like all other secret indulgences, it’s fine—even healthy –in moderation. But, like drinking, drugs, or chocolate, can be dangerous if taken in excess.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Bedroom Tree

I mentioned that I was putting up a tree in my bedroom. Here it is, along with the mantel decorations on the fireplace next to it. Yes, I have a fireplace in my bedroom. We have owned five homes in 27 years, each one with a master bedroom the size of a closet. I was determined to hold out for better during our last home-buying experience. There may be plenty wrong with this house…including a yard that won’t grow grass, siding that is possibly going to turn to mushrooms, and bumps in the linoleum where the subfloor nails were pushed up by the last earthquake. But I have a 300-square-foot bedroom with a vaulted ceiling, by golly!
Now I’m going to try to post this before I get kicked off my modem again. There’s something wrong with our phones in the neighborhood…it’s like we’re all talking on one big party line. When someone calls the neighbor down the street, my phone rings. When she goes online, I pick up the phone and hear her modem noise. It’s most annoying. And impossible to spend any time on line without being bounced off. Here goes nothing…

Journal Envy

As I meander through aol’s Hometown, I encounter a recurring theme: journal-envy. At some point, every journalist compares her writings to the creations of fellow writers, and comes up wanting. I’ve gone through it myself…in fact just about every time I read another journal.

Now that I’m writing stuff that people might actually read, I feel like I USED to know how to write, once some long forgotten time ago. Many years ago, a career in journalism was the only thing that ever crossed my mind as a reason for going to college. But I didn’t go.

I ended up using my writing as a tool to maintain my sanity. I wrote about myself. Filled journal pages with angst. Poured out through my pen the things that I couldn’t talk to anybody about. Used my spiral notebook as my own personal psychoanalyst. And it worked. There are times I KNOW my writing kept me sane. Unfortunately, writing for oneself doesn’t keep the skills sharp. When you aren’t really trying to communicate with anyone else, you forget how. Forget what might be interesting to other people. Forget how to entertain. When all you’ve done for the last thirty years is write to yourself, some very important skills become very dormant.

I actually stopped writing for awhile. I had a job I loved, I had friends, I had a great relationship with my family, and my marriage was rolling along on oiled wheels. I was free, or I thought I was, from the sadness and disillusionment that had always sent me to my journals. I felt like I had finally grown up.

In 1994, things started to go rapidly downhill. I lost my job, left my friends behind to move to another city. In early1995 I was in Illinois waiting for my sister to die. The old sadness and confusion were coming back, only this time, they came from outside, from things that were happening to me, not in my head. I reached for my pen again, and haven’t put it down since.

What I would like to do now is take my writing to the next level. Obviously, by writing here, I’m showing I want to start communicating with other people. To entertain and inform. To share, and maybe to help someone else get through something I have struggled with and learned from. And so I shall try…

Wednesday, December 10, 2003


I have the world's WORST job history.  There's something about me that just DOESN'T shine, working for other people. Because I'm a perfectionist?  A control freak?  Dunno...I start out every new job trying so hard to be perfect that I turn into a total harpy.  Then, if I should be so lucky as to not be fired for being a bitch, I become CERTAIN I could do a better job running the company than the owners.  Or the owners' kids---which is REALLY the kiss of death.  I've had exactly two jobs in my life where I was actually successful, challenged, appreciated, and LIKED by the people I worked for and with.  Not a very good record for someone who's been in the workplace for 30 years. 

I've filled pages and pages of journals with my job woes.  After awhile, I began to recognize a pattern (DUH!)  Of course, I began seeing this when I was 28 years old.  It took me almost twenty years (and the passing of my father-in-law [$]) to finally decide to break the pattern.

Two years ago, we plunged into the festival concession business.  Bought Big Red (our huge, mostly unroadworthy trailer) and a bunch of used restaurant equipment, and spang! started that "own business" I'd been wanting (needing) for years. 

Then the question became, what to do with the off-season?  Six months of the year, the trailer is up on blocks.  And I need soemthing to do.  But I DON'T need to work, thank God.  So I've been kicking around the idea of volunteering for a long time.  A couple of weeks ago I just fell into the right opportunity.  Started my first day today.  How can I describe the freedom of NOT being paid to work?  Completely pressure-free.  I apologize for arriving ten minutes late.  "Oh, we don't worry about that around here..."  I get all kinds of strokes about how "on the ball" I am.  Better than money, at this stage of my life.  The jar of Hershey kisses on the desk is really the only compensation I need!        

Vote 'im Off

Overheard at a McDonald's, one counter worker to another:  "I don't like President Bush.  If this were Survivor, he'd be voted off the island."

I don't know how to respond to this.  At first, I just thought it was really funny.  The comment echoed my feelings about Bush.  But when I got to thinking about it, it became sort of un-funny.  Is this how the average American understands the political situation in our country?  When you say the word "vote" to the guy next door, is reality TV the first thing that pops into his mind? 

I'm not the most politically savvy person in the world, and I haven't always been mindful of my civic duty.  But the events of the last few years have made me wake up to the fact of how important my vote is.  I've learned this from watching the tube, sure, but not from tuning in to "Survivor."  More like from watching long days of coverage of 9/11, and from watching Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld stand in front of the American people and lie through their teeth about the reasons for attacking Iraq.  Important things are happening now.  Serious choices have to be made in the voting booth.  And the guy at the machine next to me might just be thinking he's voting someone off the island.  Well, at least I hope it's Bush. 


Wednesday, December 3, 2003


Well, I promised pictures of the finished product.  It's hard to take pix of outdoor Christmas lights, so this is the best I could do.  What you can't see in this picture is the lights and stars running down the fence to the right.
I'm not sure if I'm actually DONE...it's my general habit to keep adding as long as the extension cords and outlets are available. Probably going to put some lighted garland around the door, and also put some lights on the topiary (it's rosemary..and it needs a haircut) to the right.  And did I mention that we will be putting up three Christmas trees in the house?  One in the living room, one in my bedroom, and a table-top number in the family room.  I love doing all the decorating, but when it comes time to pack it up and put it all away again, I wish I could wave a magic wand and have it all disappear neatly back into the packing crates.

Closet Diva

I have a THING for velvet and glitter.  Sounds kind of funny coming from a former hippie, I know.  When it comes to the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I am ALL about glitter nail polish, rhinestones, red and black velvet, and lame.  I discovered a shop that's an absolute hoot.  It's a ridiculous little place in Old Town--a tumble-down twenties storefront with an inside to match.  Every square inch is heaped with dresses, scarves, jewelry, throws, beaded headdresses, sequined masks.  Anything outrageous or over-the-top.  Jilly, the proprietress, has connections to several garment importers; she gets these samples and sells them off.  Everything is one of a kind, most things come in sizes small or extra large and nothing in between (and small is SMALL...probably sized to fit some tiny Asian woman.)  You have to look at everything on a rack to find something you love in the right size.  But you always do, at least if you're me. 

I got this bee in my bonnet that I wanted to add some things to my holiday wardrobe.  Not that I don't already have a half-dozen velvet dresses hanging in my closet...  So I went to Jilly's yesterday.  God, she had some beautiful dresses.  I must have tried on about a dozen.  She kept bringing me things.  Brought me one that was SO pretty, all silver glitter on a purple ground with rhinestone buckles on the straps and drapey...things round the neck.  It was a small, but I thought, what the heck.  Took me five minutes to squeeze into it, and of course I looked like an overstuffed bratwurst in drag.  And then...I could NOT get it off.  Felt like I was trying to extract my entire body from a Chinese handcuff.  Finally managed to squirm out of it..did you know, glitter has teeth?  Chewed the hell out of my arms and neck, AND even embedded in my face.

I chose a more understated red velvet number with sequined straps.  AND a red sequin halter top.  AND a black beaded top.  AND a brown velvet jacket.  Spent $104...and felt like a million when I jumped into my van with my free red foil gift bag (for customers that spend over $50) full of treasure.     

Tuesday, December 2, 2003

Holiday Stuff

Well, THAT holiday is over! It was an absolute zoo around here for four days.  Had three sisters, one mother, one brother-in-law, a niece and a nephew here from Thursday through Sunday.  Mom slept in a rented hospital bed in the living room, the two extra upstairs bedrooms were full to overflowing, and one sister (with allergies) slept outside in our RV.  I'm sure nine people doesn't seem like a huge crowd to some, but, as I said, we're used to just the husband and me rattling around in this big house.  The rest of the family lives 120 miles south...so when they visit, they come en masse and usually stay for a few days!  It's exhausting, but I enjoyed the heck out of it.  And I think everyone had a good time.  SO different from some of the crappy holidays we had just after my dad died.  Back then, it seemed like we would never enjoy each other as a family again.  This is one GOOD lesson I've learned in the past five years:  Never say "never." 

So, now I'm going to spend the entire week putting up outdoor Christmas lights.  On Sunday, Matt and I climbed up on the roof and did the "upstairs" part of the lights.  It wasn't raining (unusual for the Pacific Northwest this time of year) so we thought we'd take advantage of it in order to lessen our chances of falling off the roof and becoming holiday statistics.  Yesterday, I TRIED to continue the momentum.  Put up two strings of fancy lights, fussed with their exact placement for about 45 minutes, and THEN plugged them in.  Of course they didn't work.  About a half hour into the process I thought, you know, I really should have tested these before putting them up....  Duh!

Today, I'm off to the pool, and then I'll come home and TRY to finish the lights.  I need to get a picture and post it when they're done.  They're really quite a production.  Our house sits at the end of a long block...kind of a showcase location in the neighborhood.  So,of course, I feel obligated to make it LOOK like a showplace during the holidays ;-).  Our electric bill is way high in December...