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12 posts from November 2008

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sometimes Life Happens in Threes


What a wonderful Thanksgiving we had with family and friends.  It has been a perfect holiday weekend. Well, almost.  I'll get to that in a moment.  My Big Bear cooked the entire Thanksgiving meal, and created a fabulous dinner for all.  It wasn't like I was sitting around, though, eating bon bons.  I don't want you to think that!  Nope, I was cleaning the house and preparing for our guests to arrive.


Don't they look delicious?!!!  Bob roasted the whole turkey on the right in the oven in white wine.  On the left are 2 big turkey breasts and wings, since we all love the white meat around here.  Bob cooked them on the rotisserie on our grill.  They were juicy and delicious.  Yummy.


Before dinner, Bob prepared a snack table for everyone.  You know somethin...My Big Bear should have been a chef.  He loves to cook and try new things.  And he's really good at it too.  Oh, and see that white dish to the right of the paper towels?  That plate was filled to the brim and beyond with the "One-bite Tomato & Mozzarella Skewers" that was Beth's recipe from a few days before Thanksgiving.  We polished them off in a matter of minutes.


Sarah was a big help.  She wants to be a good cook someday, and she loves helping in the kitchen.  So she helped her dad prepare this wonderful meal.  


She was also the entertainment.  Playing the piano for everyone.


Bare feet, messy hair, but it sure was beautiful music!  She even played her 2 compositions for us.


She smiled ear-to-ear when we applauded her musical talents.


And Sarah loved on Hannah.  We all loved on Hannah - so much so that she peed on our kitchen floor.  But only a little bit.  There was just so much excitement!


Glen did what Glen does best - he played the Wii and all things electronic all day long until the guests and the dogs arrived.  


Yes, we had lots of dogs at the house this Thanksgiving - 6 in all!  And they all had fun playing with each other.  Just like best friends.  Glen was definitely in his element.  


And, of course, our Thanksgiving wouldn't be the same without a fire to warm us up.  Yes, that is a real fire.  We have 6 cords of wood that Bob and the boys split a few weeks back, after they built a log rack together.


And Matthew, he was interested in one thing - "Hand over the cranberry sauce."


"Yes! That's what I want! Yummy cranberry sauce?!!"


I think he polished off that entire dish, and Dad had to open another can.  Oh, and see that hair?  Yes, I know he needs a haircut, and YES, I will be giving him one today.  Oh, and those teeth?  My little bunny rabbit will have braces next year.  Poor little guy.  But look at that smile and those sweet eyes.  Isn't he a cutie-pie?!!


The guests started to arrive.  Alison brought her camera and we were both shutter bugs throughout the evening.


Mike and his friend Laura, showed up with their pups.


And Laura brought her friend, Debbie.  She is holding Alison's doggie - Maggie Mae in this picture.


And yes, I handed my camera to Mike, who took this picture of me and Big Bear sharing an affectionate moment.


And this is Max.  He is Mike's child.


And this is Poppy.  He is Laura's child.  They wanted to share in the festivities too.


And the white doggie in the back is Dovey.  She is Laura's child too.  Oh, and our Adolf would not stop sniffing Poppy's butt.  We could not explain that at all.


And with all the dogs in the house, if my mother had been here, she would have had a stroke.  As for us, everyone thought the doggies were every bit a part of the family and the fun.


Everyone had a fabulous time together.  


Great friends, wonderful family, good fun for all.


Alright, now you want to know why I titled this "Sometimes Life Happens in Threes" right? Well, I'll tell ya. Before the guests got here, Bob cut his right hand pretty good on a nail that was sticking out of a basket.  He was in pain, and we doctored him up.  He bounced back nicely.  So that was the first thing that threw a wrench in our weekend.


And, as tradition would have it in our family, we always pull out the Christmas decorations and the tree the day after Thanksgiving and decorate the house for Christmas the rest of the weekend.  Well, see that hole in the ceilin?  It would have been bigger had I not caught myself.  

I went up in the attic as Bob and the kids stood at the foot of the attic ladder waiting for me to hand boxes and decorations down to them.  I noticed a little antique end table that belonged to Bob's mother sitting in the part of the attic that did not have plywood flooring.  It had fallen into the insulation and between the rafters.  So, standing on the plywood floor, I leaned over, grabbed the leg of the table to pull it up and lost my balance.  My left leg instinct-fully stepped forward to catch my fall and it went through the floor (or is that ceiling?)  Whatever.  Bob screamed, the kids freaked out, I nearly had a heart attack.  


Bob was relieved that I didn't completely fall through the ceiling.  If I had, there's a good chance that would've been the end of me.


So, in Big Bear fashion, he asked me to come and sit on his lap, where he proceeded to cop a feel.  Typical.  Daggone him!  Like those pjs?  I'm the pajama queen.  If I'm not goin' anywhere, you'll usually find me in my pjs.  I love pjs.  I love comfort.  I don't, however, like falling through ceilings or have Bob get fresh with me in front of Alison who took this picture. Almost forgot! This was two of three events this weekend.

The third?


Nobody else got hurt, but Sarah got sick.  She has had a fever, cough, and has been feeling completely miserable since Friday.  That's got to have been the third thing, don't you think?

These kind of things always have a way of happening in threes.  Especially in this family.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.  I know we did!  Even with those 3 setbacks, it was perfect.

Love, Susan

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Ramblings of a Bluebird

By Bill Simms (the other brother)
Warning: This post is not for children's eyes!

DSC_2334.jpg by you.

Alrighty folks, I may have written a nice story about my brother, Mike, and yes, I have another interesting brother too - Bill, who also lives in Florida (at the moment) because he, too, like my Big Bear, lost his job as a commercial mortgage broker (or whatever the heck he does) and needs a job.  And yes Bill, I'm gettin' around to writing a delightful post about you too, but I believe in the old adage "age before beauty" which might explain why I wrote about Mike before you.  Don't take it personally. 

So, how about I start right now, sharing a little bit about my brother, Bill.  To all my readers out there - I am not responsible for the talking bird in the next set of pictures.  This post is courtesy of my brother, Bill - the other brother.  And, I might add that he has always been loads of laughs and has brought every member of our family to tears of laughter more than once.  He obviously has too much time on his hands to have sent this to me in my email this morning. 


Bluebirdtalks1.jpg by you.

Probably not.  I'm immune to the mess and the disorganization.  Just be thankful you don't live here.


Bluebirdtalks2.jpg by you.

He was fired a long time ago, which explains why the place looks like a bomb hit it.  So, Billy, since you're out of work, how about you come to North Carolina and help me clean and organize.  I'll even pay you a few bucks.  Emphasis on "few."


Bluebirdtalks3.jpg by you.

Bill - every time Bob builds a fire I pray he "doesn't" burn down the house since he finds it necessary to use a blow torch to light the dang fire every time.  Must be a male power thing.  I suppose that using a match would be too easy.


Bluebirdtalks4.jpg by you.

If you smell pumpkin pie, it ain't comin' from my house.  If Marsha doesn't get the hint by now that you want her to bake Beth's Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie, maybe you should find the pie pans and figure it out - or better yet, get in your car and drive North to our house for Thanksgiving - hint - hint. 

Your sister - Susan

Friday, November 21, 2008

Featured Author on Blogs.com!



I am proud to be a Featured Author and Blog on Blogs.com.  And to share the love, I named my 10 favorite blogs about life.  My Top 10 List about Life can be viewed HERE.  Of course, I had to provide them with a picture, and Big Bear's favorite picture of me is 23 years old.  Or is that 24?  Whatever, I don't care, I used it.  Nothin' like shameless self-promotion, right? 


So check out my list!  Enjoy the blogs and the ramblings of the people that have inspired me to be a better writer, have made me laugh, have made me cry.  


These wonderful ladies are far more real than reading the paper and a heck of a lot more interesting.  


Thank you to Blogs.com for finding Raisin Toast to be a favorite blog and for letting me share my favorites with you.



Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gung-ho or Balance?


I've got problems.  Issues.  habits.  And they aren't necessarily good.  I get all wrapped up in a project, all gung-ho about it, and can't pull myself away from it.  I become so focused, so "in the zone" of what I am trying to accomplish, that I do nothing else until it is done.  So, as you can only imagine, so many other things suffer as a result of my immediate focus. 

My Big Bear made it a point to complain to me the other day about this problem of mine.  I can't say that I blame him, really.  I mean, it is frustrating when the laundry goes days without being finished and instead becomes a mountainous pile in the doorway of our laundry room.  Or, the kitchen table becomes a catch-all for everything from newspapers and mail to star wars action figures and lipstick.  Or, the children's lessons haven't been graded.  Or, I've been in the same pajamas for 3 days.  (just keeping it real here).  Nope, can't say that I blame him for complaining.


Maybe I need help.  I get all gung-ho to do something, or create something that is great - wonderful - fabulous - productive - prosperous, only to watch everything else around me crumble.  It's a real problem.  Take this "Raisin Toast" thing I have goin' on here, for instance - As a result of this place where I journal everything in my life that is important to me, I have neglected Red Easel.  Neglected to send out my monthly newsletters to my 500+ readers.  Neglected to update my artist listings.  Neglected to keep it up-to-date.  I should be beaten upon the head!  I should be scolded!  I should be ... should be ... feeling very guilty and sorry and downright upset with myself daggonit!  I have also neglected my art.  I haven't been in my studio to create a thing in about 3 months.  What's with that anyway?  Do I love writing more than painting?  I don't know.  Maybe I just can't seem to pull myself away from this dang computer long enough to find out.

This is ridiculous.  I have made a good name for myself in the world of fine art.  I have been published in the Who's Who of American Art and the Who's Who in Visual Art.  I have been published, garnered collectors, and recognized from North America to Paris and Italy.  I have won awards for my artwork.  Yet, I sit here like a lump-on-a-log writing instead of painting.  I should be stung with a cattle-prod.


So what is balance anyway, other than doing things on the right as equally as we do things on the left?  How can we find balance in our lives?  Who the hellacious knows?  I've been trying to find it all my life and can't seem to figure it out yet.  Obviously, nobody taught me structure, or I'd not have this problem. 

I need structure.  We all need structure.  My kids need structure.  Would you like to teach me how to do this?  You see, I don't like having a set time that I "have" to get up, although I get up early every morning with my daughter.  I don't like having a set time to do laundry or clean the kitchen, or teach my kids math.  I've been doing this thing called life by the seat of my pants for so long that I've come to like it this way.  But, as you can tell, it isn't exactly pleasing my Big Bear and for obvious reasons.


Maybe I should make a list.  A list of all the things I have to do every day and a list of the things I should do every day.  Then I should make a list of all the things I want to do every day.  Hmmm, I've never given this as much thought before now, and you know somethin', maybe I can figure this out - but do I want to? 

Then after I make this list I should organize it into time segments.  Time for writing, time for painting, time for teaching, time for cleaning, time for laundry, time for cooking (that's Bob's job - thank goodness).  Time for paying the bills, and going thru the mountains of paperwork that have accumulated in that bottom drawer in the kitchen.  Then my life would be in perfect order - ya think?  I mean really?  Do you really think this is possible without falling into the doldrums of structured boredum?


If anyone out there has any suggestions that might help me find structure and balance without getting bored with the day-in and day-out structure of life and responsibilities - especially since Life really is nothing but "maintenance" anyway - then please let me know.  I need help.

Susie Q

Sunday, November 16, 2008

What Else Can I Do?


...but bring a blanket to you.  Words that resonate in my brain thanks to a dear friend who lives in the cold breezes of Canada with 2 sons and a gift for songwriting, playing the guitar, and making beautiful music - Karla Anderson. 


Not quite 4 years ago, while watching Joan of Arcadia, which was one of our favorite shows for the longest time before being canceled, we happened to hear a song at the end of the show that was so beautiful I just had to find out who the artist was and where to get the music.  What I discovered was that the song's title was "What Else Can I Do?" and the artist and songwriter was Karla Anderson, a young Canadian artist and mother who was starting to make an important impact in the music industry with her emotional lyrics, soft voice, and gentle guitar. 


Big Bear and I, both, fell in love with her music and Karla and I soon became fast friends, talking about art, raising kids, being close to our mother, single parenting, having cold feet, and promising to have a girl's weekend together the next time she was in the States, and I'm holdin' her to it - "You hear that Karla?!!!" 


We email each other when we have the chance and I play her CD - Embassy Sessions - on a regular basis.  It calms my nerves and makes me smile. 

You can visit Karla at her website: www.karlaanderson.com.  Sign her guestbook too, as I know she'll appreciate you stopping by.  If you want to buy her fantastic CD, Embassy Sessions, you can get it at Indelible Music - then be sure and click on "Karla Anderson" once you go to their site. 


Karla has been hitting the charts since Embassy Session hit the music stores and the radio waves, and I couldn't be more proud of my friend, Karla, for working so hard to make her dreams come true - not just for her, but for her boys too.

Well, today, Karla emailed me and told me that she had a new video that she just posted on YouTube and she thought I would like it since the song she plays is my favorite.  Thanks, Karla!  And so, what else can I do?  But bring "her" blanket to you.  Enjoy the video, oh, but mostly - enjoy the music ...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Girls Just Want to Have Fun - Part 1

SusanB&Wage25 by you.

When I was in my 20s, suffice it to say that I was a complete mess.  No, I wasn't on drugs.  No, I didn't drink.  No, I didn't smoke.  Yes, I had many a guy ask me "So then, what do you do?"  I refuse to answer that for fear that it may incriminate me.  What I did do was burden myself down with responsibility for 2 baby girls by the age of 21 and a marriage to a nice young man who, yes, loved me, but whom I did not "love" in the same way.  It was all my fault.  I had screwed everything up royally.

SusanProm3 by you.

I was impatient to grow up from the time I was a hormonal teenager going to the prom.  I was impatient to jump to the finish line, get married, have kids, play house, play the part of the perfect wife.  I had read too many Sidney Sheldon novels and was living out the story in my own life. 

Plebes by you.

From the time I was 16 and old enough to date, I had been drawn to those handsome men in uniform.  Dang they looked good.  Real good.  I wanted one of them for my own.  I had visions of being a military wife and traveling the world with our perfect little family.  Told ya I was reading too many Sidney Sheldon novels.  Before I met one of those Navy men in my teens and fell in love, though, I dated a great guy.  And he is still a very dear friend today - Tim.  I told that story here if you're interested, but when I fell in love with Mike, it was a cliffhanger kind of love.  I fell completely off the cliff in love with this guy and I jumped without a parachute.  That upset Tim, of course, because he had plans of his own, but I had a thing for guys in uniform - they looked so - so - hunky.  Not that Tim didn't - he was his own hunk-a-burnin'-love in those days, and for that matter, he still does look like a somethin' somethin' for his age.  I occasionally wonder, though, what my life would have been like had I married Tim all those years ago.  But, I was a silly teenage girl who had her sights set on other things, and none of them were the direction that I should have been traveling.  While all my friends were thinking about college, I knew that I had to work to help my family out when I graduated.  Why?  Because my father had left my mother for a couple of years to run himself through the proverbial mid-life crisis and left us kids and my mother to pick up the pieces.

SusanProm2 by you.

I sure looked upset about something in this picture.  Was I gritting my teeth?

I was a good girl, novels or not, I didn't want to spoil a good thing.  Until - just before Mike's graduation from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, I decided that a graduation present was in order.  So we spent a weekend together just before his graduation at the Thrift Inn on Rt. 50, growing up - together, scared out of our minds, hopelessly in love, and impossibly clumsy and stupid.

Why stupid?  Because we didn't think about protection back in the 70s - we just wanted to have fun.  And Whammo!  Mike goes off sailing out to sea for the next 5 years and I found out I was pregnant.  That should have been a wake up call for me to pull it together, go to college, stop reading Sidney Sheldon novels, stop listening to "Little Feat's - Waiting for Columbus" tape, and get a life for Jimi sake!

MikeSmithNApic by you.

I do think that the reason I turned to Mike for his attentions had a lot to do with the fact that my father was going through a  mid-life crisis at the time and had succumbed to a man-eating blonde beauty who had been married 7 times by the age of 34, and 2 of her husbands had committed suicide.  Oh, excuse me.  My life wasn't messed up at all!  Diana's?  Crapola! Did she ever screw up her life or what!  She was the poster mother for screwed up!  But Dad got sucked into her web and it nearly killed him.  I took out my grievances by seeking out comfort in Mike's arms, among other things.

Mike was, in my eyes, the hottest thing since John Travolta danced his way into my heart, and you can read a little bit about Mike and me here so that I don't repeat myself.  I was hormonal.  I was curious.  I was crazy.  I was in love - all consuming love.  I was a mess and I was pregnant.  Fortunately, I had a loving and supportive family, and supportive friends like Tim and Alison tooMy brother Mike offered to babysit.  He was such a good guy.  My brother, Bill, offered to play with the new little person.  He was good at that.  Billy had always made it a point to play with me when I was a kid.  Whereas Mike would snuf me off, Billy was always ready to race me in a game of making our beds, or wrestle me in the living room and tickle me till I turned red, or play tag or ride bikes with me.  Billy was the best brother ever!  Well, so was Mike.  I can't pick.  They both are great brothers.  At the very least, Billy was the most fun.   So, when my mother told Billy that I was pregnant, he was laissez-faire about the whole thing.  Billy was too busy with work and his own life to be bothered with the emotional upheavals of his little sister, but he was supportive and he told me he loved me.  My mom wasn't happy with me at all, and my dad, although I thought for sure he was going to kill me, instead said "Yippee!  We need a baby in this house!"  Yeah, right.  I needed my head examined.  

Mike wasn't about to get married.  He loved me, though, and he visited me every few months when he was docked within 400 miles.  He was good like that.   But he was committed to at least 5 years in the Navy after his graduation and wasn't about to think of commitment to little 'ol me until he was established.  He was smart.  I was sinking fast. 

img257.jpg by you.

As luck would have it, when I had Kathleen, Mike was there with me.  He had just docked in Philly and he drove like a bat-out-of-hell at 3am to my home in Brookeville, Maryland.  Then, he rode with my brother, Mike, to Sibley Memorial in Washington DC to be there when Kathleen was born. 

At about 3am, my mother had driven me 11 miles down the road from our home towards the hospital and I couldn't take it anymore.  Holy cannoli!  Who was this kid trying to kick her way out of my body and "get me to a hospital - NOW!"  I rode in an ambulance from Olney to Wheaton and then from Wheaton to Sibley.  A dozen times the medics asked to examine me and a dozen times I said "Heck No!"  I wasn't about to show my private parts to a complete stranger, much less have him examine me.  "Are you kidding?!!!"  So for the entire trip to the hospital, bad shocks and all, I screamed bloody murder (literally) and kept my knees clamped together.  Oh, how I prayed that I didn't have this baby in my underwear.

Once at the hospital, the nurse tried to hook me up to an IV and I slapped her away from me.  "Don't you dare touch me with that needle or I'll pull your hair out."  Then my doctor, Dr. Donald Payne (who married that National reporter Jessica Savitch - he ultimately hung himself and she died in a car accident - I told ya I have the stories to tell) As I was saying, Dr. Donald Payne (Payne - get it?  Pain? - I sure know how to pick 'em) came into my room and told me I was messing up his golf game.  "Sorry about that doc, but you didn't tell me my body is about to explode."  I managed to kick Dr. Payne in the ribs a few times during his examinations, because although I was 9 cm dilated, my water had not broken.  He came at me with this long plastic hook and I took my skinny leg and kicked him again.  Of course he had something to say about this "Susan, you have to let me break the water so you can have this baby."  - "Over My Dead Body!" I screamed.   His reply "I hope to hell you're not planning on having anymore kids, because this is impossible."  Tell me about it!  "Get this kid out of me!  Before I kill somebody!"  During a contraction, Dr. Payne broke my water while I wasn't looking.  Smart doctor.

Mike walked into my labor room between contractions (how nice of him) and tried to be comforting, but the truth of the matter is, is that he was as scared as I was and he didn't know what to expect or what to feel.  As soon as my contractions started to kick in again, he exited as fast as he could - and he didn't come back - until after Kathleen was born.  I can't say that I blame him, really.  Me and natural labor don't mix.  Remember, I wouldn't let anyone near me with a 10 foot pole, or a long plastic hook, so I ended up having natural childbirth. 

Kathleennb-1.jpg by you.

There is no way to describe the euphoria of having a child or the pain that comes just prior to that experience.  I may have still been a child myself, but I felt complete having Kathleen.  She was beautiful.  She was healthy.  She had long fingers and blue eyes.  She was perfect.  I sat up on my elbows feeling the heat from the lamp in my crotch and the stinging of Dr. Payne sewing up my ripped willy when he looked up at me and said "How do you feel?"  - "Feel?  Well, hmmm, let's see doc, if it weren't for this pain in my willy I'd say let's go dancin'!" 

Kathleennewborn.jpg by you.

They put Kathleen in my arms.  Clueless.  I was completely clueless.  Now what?  They let me hold her and nurse her for about 15 minutes, then they whisked her away to do more tests.  My mother was in the delivery room with me, holding my hand and helping me breathe.  After Kathleen was born, she rubbed my forehead and we both began to cry together.  My mom loved me.  She only wanted the best for me and Kathleen.  She wanted me to be okay. 

Mike made one last round to visit me and Kathleen.  He called his family in North Carolina and told them the news, and then he rode back to my home with my mom and brothers to Brookeville, had some breakfast, and left again for the ship in Philly.  It would be 6 months before I would see Mike again.

To be continued ...

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Message to Avaya - and Matt C.


I received a comment on my earlier Avaya story from some guy, Matt, who works for Avaya.  I just assumed it was only time before someone within Avaya would comment on that story.  Well, although I posted a response in the comment section, I decided to post my response in a "post." 

How do I know that you, Matt, work for Avaya?  It's not rocket science.  All I have to do is look up your IP address and I see that you are writing from Avaya Communication's Denver, Colorado offices.  Figures. Who told you to write this?  Jim Hirt?  I swear, do you guys at Avaya really believe that what you are doing is ethical?  Or, do you just have an ax to grind?

First of all, your comment clearly shows that you do not have a grasp for the English language, either that, or you are typing on your blackberry with your thumbs.  It makes no difference.  Most of the Avaya executives we know have the same problem - they speak without thinking, or they write without editing first, making corrections, or sounding intelligent.  They don't.  They don't care either.  All anyone has to do is read your comment to figure that one out.  Your comment is quoted verbatim below:

"Its funny how you say Bob got fired because of the "bottom line" and then you say how good a work he was because he exceeded his numbers. Then you talk about how he should have a job because "Bob is currently supporting our family of six and his elderly mother who is in a nursing home for Alzheimer’s patients" and that makes your family more important then any other family out there. All I could think is it must be easy for you to blame other people and not look in the mirror. Its always easier to blame then it is to correct the problem. Maybe you should be helping Bob with the kids and not writing a Blog posting with 2000+ words. On the good side Bob sounds like a great guy and if he is a hard worker he will get a job that he like better and being laid off might be the best thing for him."

Commenter name: Matt

So, in response to "Matt" who obviously has a problem with my Avaya post ...

Corporate Welfare

It wasn't "Bob's" bottom line that was the problem, it was Avaya's - they just wanted Bob to pay for it - and a few others on his team.  Yes, we are a family of six, and "NO" that doesn't make us, or our situation, any better or any worse than anyone else's out there who are having to deal with the same issues due to layoffs or the economy. I'm not blaming anyone - except maybe the fools at the top executive level within Avaya who pushed my husband, and others, to the curb without good reason except to appeal to "their" bottom line.

I resent you insinuating that I don't help with my children. You obviously don't know my family or me very well.  But that is a bold statement you made nonetheless, and an ugly one too.  Why am I not surprised?


Secondly, I have every right to write about the failings of a company that dragged my husband through the mud. If you want to see his numbers and what a great employee he was with Avaya - then dig 'em up.  You may have access to them, being that you are kissing the butts of Avaya Execs anyway.  Maybe that is why Avaya is sinking. So much bitterness and butt kissing at the top.

Corporate Cat

No, Matt, we are not "more" important and I don't claim to be, I am, however, the only one who was bold enough to speak up - in defense of my family and my husband. Why? Because I love him and I don't like to see anyone in my family trampled by the likes of greedy guys like the ones who laid off my husband.  I have to look out for "my" family.  I can't save the world, but maybe I can save my family from losing our home.  We're not suffering - yet - but prevention is 9/10ths of the cure.  And, this is a free country and I have every right to free speech - aka speaking my mind.

If you can't understand why I wrote this article or why I made it a point to discuss the failings of a company who "used" my husband, then I feel sorry for you, you are obviously doing very well and have a secure job within Avaya.  And, have never had to face the possibility of losing your home or paying your mortgage with your savings and retirement, or measly 2 week severance. You apparently have not been affected by the current economic situation and haven't a clue how difficult it is to find a job that pays what you've been earning for years during an economic meltdown, or tried to support your family after an ugly layoff.   Good for you, Matt. It must be nice to read stories about people who have been affected by corporate failings and then blame the one who got laid off.  How about just kicking the horse when he's down to bruise him some more? 

Mass Layoffs

By the way, Matt, what is not posted on my site, or in this story, at the request of the authors, are the dozens of emails that we have received by others who have been affected by the layoff in response to this story, validating the assertions of the lack of integrity within Avaya.  Managers have been coerced into trying to invent reasons to layoff their staff, and for the few that have refused or resisted, those managers were sacrificed instead. Numerous employees have reported that their end-of-year bonuses and commissions have been reduced or eliminated due to technicalities, exceptions, fabrications. This story repeats itself over and over again.

Even the out-placement services are amazed at the stories that they are hearing from former Avaya employees regarding Avaya's egregious behavior.


We are aware that this may be a result of the private equity ownership of Avaya on behalf of Silver Lake Partners and Texas Pacific Group. Their overzealous greed for return on their investment in tough times is most likely what is driving the results that we see. They, like so many others on Wall Street are the foundation of the economic mess that we are in, and it has become pervasive throughout corporate America.

Stay with Avaya long enough, Matt, and you, too, will become an Avaya victim.


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Faith, Family, Friends, and Green, Green Grass

FrontofHome11.jpg by you.

Amazing.  It only took us 3 years to grow this gem of green grass and I must say, my Big Bear did a great job.  I love this time of year - the leaves change color and the sun is bright.  The days are crisp and breezy.  Just the other day, I was up bright and early and looked out the window to this glorious bed of grass that is now carpeting our lawn.  I grabbed my camera and clicked away. 

FrontofHome17.jpg by you.

I don't mind telling you that it does frighten me a bit to think that all of this was for naught. Bob having lost his job in September, forces me to reflect on our blessings and I hope they continue.  It isn't getting easier, that's for sure.  We've put so much into making this house a home, and a comfortable place to raise our children.  We've remodeled, repainted, relandscaped - so much effort, and to think it could all be lost if Bob doesn't find a job soon.  It gives me the chills just thinking about it. 

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I live on faith.  In these tough economic times, I believe we all need our faith, our family, and our friends.   For me, it helps to write these feelings down.  I have discovered that I have a wittier sense of humor when Big Bear is happy (and employed), and although he puts on a brave face right now, I know he is stressed and worried about the future - our future. As am I.

When I was outside with my camera, Sarah ran up to me - "Mom! Look!"  She and Matthew had been stacking logs on the new log rack that Bob built 2 weeks ago, when she found this log with a hole the shape of a heart.  I'm not going to get all sentimental here, but that log and that heart pretty much sums up our life here. 

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As for the job search, nobody appears to be hiring.  Bob did interview, twice, for a large local company, but unfortunately, they pulled the plug on all hiring until spring.  In the meantime, Bob spends his days looking, researching, making calls, networking, and trying to make headway in his career.  So, I hope that you will bear with me during this difficult time.  My humor may not be as rip-roaring as it was just a couple of months ago, but I'll be back on a lighter note soon - promise.

I know we aren't the only ones out there having to dig into our savings and retirement to survive between jobs, and we certainly won't be the last.  For all those families out there who are struggling to get by - I'm with ya.  I am praying for all of us, and I have faith that this too will pass. 

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For now, I enjoy my time with my children and my Big Bear, I love working on Raisin Toast, I've opened up a plethora of good memories from years past digging thru all the old family photos and restoring them in Photoshop, and I've been painting - between mountains of laundry and trying, without much success, to keep this place clean and organized.  Forget it.  Impossible.  That is not the most important task in my life anyway.  The laundry can wait a day or two.

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And more news from the homefront - it seems that I have Mersa (MRSA).  I thought I got bit by a spider on the right side of my right hand.  That was 2 months ago.  Since then I've tried almost everything to clear it up and nothing has worked.  When the infection continued to spread to the size of a quarter, I called my doctor.  I'm on one of those nuclear bomb antibiotics in hopes that it fights this infection before it gets into my bloodstream.  I lost a dear friend to Mersa 14 years ago, and I'm not about to follow in his ill and deadly path.  All of this and we no longer have health insurance.  Doesn't life stink sometimes? 

Okay, even I'm not finding this post to be filled with pleasantries, but hey - that's life.  At least that is my life at the moment.  And yes, I know that this is only a moment in the scheme of things. 


Esoterica:  Blessings will find us if we only have faith.  - Susan Vaughn

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Growin' Up With Mike

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Yep, that's my big brother, Mike.  Walking fast, always in a hurry, wound-up, politically incorrect, Mike.  He is my oldest brother and will be 61 this December.  Hard to believe!  But, despite him getting up there in years, he still listens to Jimmy Hendrix and Led Zepplin and plays air guitar on a regular basis. 


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I don't think Mike grew up past the age of maybe 28.  That's when his aging (or should I say maturity) stopped.  But that's a good thing. 


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Mike has always been a cool guy. (That's him on the right). I think he likes to think so too.  I'm proud that he's my brother (Billy too, but again, that's another story).  I have always been proud of Mike, except for the time that we got into a scuffle in a hotel room when I was about 5 years old and I kicked him in the shin and he ran to our dad yelling "Susan kicked me in the shin!"  My dad was very upset with me and I couldn't talk to Mike for the rest of the evening.  Dad scurried me off to bed.  I think I was bugging him to play some game with me or something and he wasn't interested.  I can't blame him actually.  I mean, I am almost 12 years younger than he so he would have been about 16 or 17 when we went on this family trip.  I don't know of a 16 yr old boy who wants to play games with his baby sister, do you?  


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I have always looked up to my brother, Mike, despite the fact that he told me to "shut up" and "get lost" 90% of the time.  Either that or he completely ignored me.  The other 10% of the time he'd say something like "Yeah, what do you want?"  or "I can't be bothered."  This is normal sibling conversation, right?  I always thought so.  Not much has changed, really, except now I don't kick him in the shins. 

I love this picture (above).  I think it is my favorite picture of all time.  That's Mike on the right and Billy on the left.  That's me - wide eyed and bushy tailed peeking out over the crib rails.  Wasn't I adorable?  Still am.  I'm still adorable.  Hear that Mike?  I'm still your adorable, precious little sister.  Nah-nah nah nah - nah.


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I think I was always in Mike's way growing up.  (Maybe that's because I was his favorite).  Favorite what?  No, you're not going to shut me down on this train of thought - I was definitely Mike's favorite.

I wanted to be around him. (But that's because he insisted on being around me - yeah, right.) I wanted his approval on a regular basis.  He was never much of a huggin' kind of guy, but I was always huggin' on him.  Billy too.  Actually, Billy was a lot more fun when I was growing up.  So I hugged and chased after Mike and played hide and seek and bikes and cars with Billy.  Billy played with me and didn't complain as much about it.  Mike didn't want to be bothered.  Oh well, Mike and Billy were both the greatest brothers ever.  They still are.  


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We grew up with motorcycles in our family.  My mother never rode, and always complained about it, but my dad and both of my brothers, Mike and Billy, had motorcycles of their own and they went riding all the time.  This is a picture of my father - in the middle - and Mike on the right with one of my father's friends, Mr. Miller, (on the left) who was convinced by my dad to go buy himself a mid-life crisis motorcycle as well.  Don't you know it?  When you look at this picture - that 2 of the men are living out their second childhood and the other guy - you know - that other guy on the right?  That good-lookin' kid in the gray sweater?  He was trying to be all grown up in this picture.  Such a big shot, don't you think?


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The first motorcycles we had in our family were 3 Bridgestone 350s.  I thought they were the coolest things since banana seats on bicycles.  I loved to ride on the back.  I did not, however, like riding on the back of Mike's motorcycle, because he was skinny and it was hard to hold on.  He was so skinny, in fact, that I could hold on to my own elbows when I wrapped my arms around him.  I didn't feel all that safe, although I trusted Mike was a good rider.  Until that time he ran into the back of some woman's car on his way to college and landed on the pavement in front of her car - that is, of course, after bouncing off  the hood of her car and scaring the crap out of the poor lady.  He was on crutches for what seemed months.  No more Bridgestones after that. 


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Maybe he was driving like this when he had his accident.  (This is Mike with my daughter, Kathleen - goofin' around in the early 90s).  I preferred riding on the back of my dad's motorcycle because my dad had some cushion in the front (you know the cushion I'm talkin' about, right?) and for a moment - and only a moment - I felt safer and more comfortable.  But once we got goin' down the road, that was another story.  I swear, every time I rode with my dad, we'd get into an accident, and every single time he ended up sitting on my head.  "Get off my head!" I'd yell, and it always seemed to take my dad forever to get his butt off my head.  Dad either got stung by a bee and we'd fall over, or he'd take a curve too tight, and we'd fall over, or he'd brake too hard and we'd fall over.  It wasn't a good experience.  And afterwards he'd say the same thing "Don't tell your mother or she'll make me sell the motorcycles and you don't want that do you?"  "No, Dad, I don't want that - but I don't want you to SIT ON MY HEAD ANYMORE EITHER!"   So, incident after incident, I'd ultimately end up riding with Mike, and fortunately, I was never in an accident when I rode with him.


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My dad and brothers ultimately upgraded to Harleys, and it has been Harley's ever since for me and my brother Billy, but Mike?  Nope.  I can't remember what ever happened to this Sportster.  He must have wrecked it.


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Mike got himself this Yamaha back in the 80s. (sometime after the Sportster disappeared no doubt).  I never understood this choice in motorcycle.  It wasn't all that comfortable to ride on either.  But he liked it and I suppose that's what matters.  Of course, when I got my first Harley in 1989, guess who wanted to be the first one to ride it? 


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Well, besides me, of course - how'd you guess?!!  Mike.  He never did ride with me, though.  You know, side-by-side down the road.  When I finally got good at holding the bike upright, (it's tough trying to pick up a Harley once you've successfully dumped it in the road).  I'd ask Mike to go riding with me, and as usual he'd say "no."   I suppose he didn't want to ride his Yamaha alongside my Harley - me being his younger, bratty, baby sister and all.  Or maybe he just didn't want to be in my company when I dumped my bike - again.  Note: This is precisely how I got my nickname "Stop & Drop."

Mike, however, never hesitated to come over and say "Where are your keys?" - "Keys to what?" - "Your bike.  I'm going to take it for a ride." - "Oh, really? Were you planning on asking me first?" - "Do I have too?" - "Crap, Mike, forget it! - "Ol, come on Sus, let me take it for a ride."  - "Okay, here, take the dang keys, but you better not get a scratch on it or you're buyin' me a new one!" - "Yea, yea, yea.  See ya."  And off he'd go on my Harley.  Mike is demanding like that.  Always has been.  Maybe that's because he's gotten away with it all these years.


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Mike has always been a movie and music buff, too.  He should open a movie or music rental store.  He also collects autographed football jerseys and baseballs and books, and baseball hats.  At one time, he had a room in his home designated specifically for his collectibles, posters, framed jerseys.  It was a museum.  Told ya he was a cool guy. He was also a drummer in a band they called "The Yankee Doodle Dandees."  Mike could play "Wipe Out" as good as .... uh .... what was that guy's name from the 60s?  I'm having a memory loss moment.

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Mike is also a Redskin's fan.  Not just any Redskin's fan, either, THE Redskin's fan of all time.  At one time not too many years ago, he was involved with a group in Florida called the "South Florida Washington Redskins Fan Club" and he'd arrange for a bunch of members to go to the Virginia training field - Redskin's Park - each year to meet some of the players and get a tour of the facilities.  It was always a fun time.  

Now here's a funny memory - sometime back in the 70s, Mike went to Redskin's Park for tryouts for the team.  Can you imagine that skinny guy on the drums making the Redskin's team?  He wouldn't have survived a day - trampled.  Totally trampled.  Then I'd have to kick someone's butt for trampling my big brother.  "Yea, yea, yea - get lost."  


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In the evenings, after our excursion to Redskin's Park, we'd check out Old Town Alexandria and it was impossible to keep up with Mike.  Walking alongside Mike requires track shoes.  Mike has to get where he's goin' in 2 seconds flat.  There is no such thing as strolling along, enjoying the scenery, taking your time.  "Come on Susan, get a move on, you're too slow" he'd always say.  "Slow?!  You're too darn fast!  Cool your jets, RELAX!"  Then Mike would mumble some frustration under his breath.  I've never been able to keep up with Mike.  He walks too fast.  Mike, you need to slow down bud.  Take a breath.  Stop and smell the roses! 

If I say that to him, though, he tells me to do the same.  Sibling bickering.  Does it ever end?


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Oh, how I love this guy I call "my brother," though we still bicker like teenage siblings from time to time.  I'll never forget the first time he brought me to happy tears, though.  I had been involved with Wendy Ward Modeling at Montgomery Ward's in Wheaton, Maryland, when I was about 14 years old.  I was a little thing.  Skinny.  Kinda tall.  Starting to fill out and learn how to wear makeup and fix my hair.  That is why my mother signed me up for this modeling adventure.  They taught young girls good graces and correct posture.  How to walk and wear makeup.  It was fun. 

For graduation, I participated in a fashion show and my family was in the audience.  Mike didn't want to go - he had better things to do - but he relented and came to the show.  I remember how excited I was that Mike was in the audience.  I don't know how to explain it except to say that - yes - I was happy my parents and my other brother, Billy, were there too, but Mike?  I wanted Mike's validation.  I wanted his love.  I wanted his approval.  It's a little sister thing I think. 


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As I sashayed across the stage in my pretty dress and hosiery, I recall looking at my brother Mike in the audience and he smiled at me.  I felt like a Princess.  I was never happier than when he was there to cheer me on.  After the show, Mike patted me on the top of the head and said "Great job, Susan.  And, uh, you were the best lookin' one in the whole show." - "Wow! Really?" - "Yep.  You looked really pretty out there."  I melted.  I was mush.  I was goo.  I was rosey all over.  I had tingles up and down my spine.  My brother, Mike, thought I was pretty?!  Wow, was that great or what?!!

Of course, things change when you get older.  All you have to do is take one look at this picture (above) and you can tell that the only pretty one in the picture is my daughter, Kimberly.  This was Thanksgiving 2005.  That sure was a great time. 


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Before that day of compliments when I was 14 years old, Mike was drafted to serve our country during the Vietnam War.  His draft number was "2" and I was terrified that he had to go to war and that I'd lose my big brother.  Nothing has ever frightened me more than the thought of Mike going to war.  In this picture, my dad is hugging Mike at the airport just before he was to leave for basic training.  We were all in tears.  


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Mike was cool about it. I don't know how siblings, parents, husbands, wives, children - do it these days.  The only saving grace nowadays is the internet and email and mobile phones.  You can communicate with your loved ones no matter where they are.  Back in the 60s and 70s we didn't have that luxury.  If they were gone - they were gone.  You didn't know anything unless you received letters from the front lines.  It was a difficult time.  


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Mike left for basic training, and because he was in college, he was spared having to serve in Viet Nam.  Rather, he served in the Air Force Reserves for 6 years.  He looked so handsome in his uniform.


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There's just something about a guy in uniform.  Even if he is my brother.


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I sure thought he looked darn handsome.  He came back from basic training all buff and clean cut and square-chinned too.  He was hot stuff back then.


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Mike has been my rock when I've needed him most.  When I was 19 years old, I got pregnant with my daughter, Kathleen, who is now 29 years old.  (Now that's hard to believe)  Okay, don't get me goin' on that story.  My mother and I were in the kitchen of our home and Mike came home from work and my mom told him to sit down.  "What's goin' on?" he said as he looked at both of us.  Mom had an obvious concerned look on her face and she said "Your sister is having a baby."  Mike didn't skip a beat, he immediately said "Great!  I'll babysit.  When's the baby due?"  Now is that a great brother or what?  I cried, of course.


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All through my pregnancy, Mike was loving and supportive.  He took me to doctor appointments when necessary, regularly reminded me to take my prenatal vitamins, and always made sure I was comfortable.  He even helped me pay for the doctor bill after I lost my job at the bank.  I will forever be grateful for all his love and support during that difficult time in my life.


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During the late 70s, Mike was manager at our parent's restaurant - The Olney Inn - for several years before it burned down in 1978. (Again, that's another unbelievable story for another time), and after that incident, he got a job selling cars at Bethesda Ford.  He has been selling cars ever since.  I've never quite understood that career choice, because, to tell you the truth, my brother is a great cartoonist.  His cartoons are ripe with political humor and more.  He should have been a cartoonist.  He would have been syndicated for sure.  Maybe he will try if I keep buggin' him.  I've only been buggin' him about it for 40 years.  I'm good at that.  I'm his baby sister.  It's my job to bug him - but not kick him in the shins.

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Mike sure is special to me.  He is happily married to Marcella, a beautiful woman, and a caring, devoted wife.  Marcella dotes on Mike all the time.  They have been married 4 years now.  Mike was married for 12 years prior to meeting Marcella, and he had a son, Kyle, who is so much like Mike it is like watching Mike grow up all over again.  Kyle is 15 years old.  


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Mike and Marcella are the cutest couple. I just want to pinch them.  Mike - you and Marcella need to come to North Carolina for Thanksgiving so that I can pinch you and drive you crazy.  No excuses.  Nobody is going to be out buying a Lexus over Thanksgiving anyway.


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Mike lives in Florida and works at Lexus of Palm Beach.  If you ever decide to buy a Lexus, ask for Mike Simms at Lexus.  He'll give you a good deal and won't try to snow you over either. Tell him you know all about his Redskin's junk collection, or his 55,000 baseball caps, or his framed signed jerseys.  He'll look at you like your nuts.


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So why am I writing this story now?  Well, probably because I just uploaded about a hundred photos of Mike and Marcella into my Flickr account and I couldn't help but smile thinking about him and how much he means to me.  And, more importantly, I want him to join us for Thanksgiving.  Mom has been visiting with Mike and Marcella in Florida since May (that's the longest she has been away from us since she moved in with my family 10 years ago) and she needs to get back home.  We're hoping Mike and Marcella will drive Mom home right before Thanksgiving and spend the holiday with us. 


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Just before they go on another holiday together for 10 days - like this one to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.  They're always goin' somewhere.  What a pathetic life they lead.  Cruises, South Florida sunshine, beaches, fancy restaurants on occasion, trips to the South Pacific.  Pathetic.  I should be so fortunate!  


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You see, I need Mike's approval.  I need his love.  I need his hugs.  I need his fast pace and his sarcasm.  I need his occasional validation.  I need his slap-stick humor at the dinner table.  I need him to clean out my garage and edge my lawn. 

Mostly, I want him to be proud of his little sister.  Because, you see, I'm still needy.  I'm still a kid inside.  I don't think any of us ever really grow up.  I know I haven't.  



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Because, when Mike, Billy, and I, get together, it's like we're 3 kids all over again.  Of course, I'm always the baby and the nuisance and I'll always be their little sister.  I have lots of memories growing up with 2 brothers.  Good memories.  Difficult memories.  Interesting memories.  Crazy memories.  It has been a good life thus far.  I've been blessed.


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And - you - Mike - take off work will ya?  Get your butt up here for Thanksgiving and drive Mom home.  And besides, if you don't, I'm going to post this picture of you getting burned all over the internet.  Uhhhhh, oops.  I already did.  You're still comin' right?

Love you big brother - SusieQ

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Dear Mr. President Elect

I woke up this morning and couldn't help but write down my feelings of relief and elation over the election of Barack Obama, but nothing that I said seemed to be anymore relevant than anything that anybody else has noted or written, so, in a moment of loss for words, I turned to my new friend, Charlie Pratt, because I knew he had something profound to say, and sure enough, there it was - just what I wanted to say, only much better than I could have ever expressed.  Thank you, Charlie! 


By Charlie Pratt


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Mr. President-Elect,

Welcome to the next four years. You seem ready.

I was never hosed with water for being controversial, and neither were you. I was never beaten with night sticks, and neither were you. I was never threatened, harassed, pushed, spat upon, lynched, or killed. And although it pains me to admit it, I never made headlines or laid shoulder into the cause of social justice by sitting defiantly on a bus, breaking an athletic record, collecting an armful of Grammys, sitting first on the Supreme Court, or rocketing into outer space.

And neither did you.

There is a painfully short list of parallels that I can draw between my life and yours, and it’s the brevity of that list that gives me pause as I watch you speak tonight. l don’t believe in man-made saviors, and I don’t believe that any one man, no matter how well-meaning he might be, can speak for all. Even tonight, you knew that, addressing not only the thousands who were standing in front of you with tears streaming down smiling cheeks, but the thousands elsewhere, in quieter company, sat watching with worried eyes, with caution, unsure of what to feel.

There are many things which my mind, at this moment, can’t comprehend.

But then again, I’m just a white kid that loves to write, grew up in a stable home, in private schools, and without fear. I, even with all those good things at my disposal, do not and most likely will not have the privilege to pull up a seat in the Oval Office, on the business end of the desk that even kings, queens, and prime ministers pay their respects to. You sir, have achieved that, and for that I say well done.

What I do know is that there are times, stretching, painful times, times when people seem most far apart, times when people feel most unlike those that oppose their view. There are times that lead us there, into those places of quivering, electric evolution, those places where everything we knew to be normal was challenged by the collectively abnormal. And those times, as unsure as they may be, are the times that break us from our habits, the times that burn off the dross, the times that separate the wheat from the mountain of chaff that so often weighs good Americans down.

You sir, carry with you the hope of a generation - of two generations - whose voice has largely gone unheard, ignored and, when spoken of, twisted or improperly inflated. I, the aforementioned Caucasian lad, cannot begin to say with any measure of credence that I understand what it means to have a grandfather - or grandmother - who was been denied a meal, a seat, or a restroom because of their skin. Politics be damned, I am glad to say that on this night, regardless of what may come, that I saw it. It was there, for a few moments sir, it was there. I saw a glimpse of a new day, a day which has no itinerary that I can predict, a day which will most likely ask more of me than the previous day, and a day which, in its smallest measure, will narrow the gap of arrogance between myself and those that have the natural audacity to be born to different circumstances than I.

You may screw up, sir. I don’t know yet. You don’t know yet. You may prove yourself to be a worthy and fine addition to the legacy of Presidents. You may silence your detractors, or you may invigorate them. The circumstances of your Presidency may dictate more of your legacy than you’d be willing to allow. These things just aren’t for sure.

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Either way, I just want you to know, it’s nice to let it all go for a few moments. It’s nice to not know what lies ahead. It’s nice to not retain the sense that I have it figured out. It’s nice, Mr. President-Elect, to entertain the idea, if only for a moment, that our leader is willing to listen. When I was a boy, I raised my hand so often in class that my teachers regularly skipped over me to listen to the voices of others. I can’t help but think that this is that time. My voice has been heard for so long, it’s time for other voices to have their turn. Surely, whether pachaderm, jackass, or whatever-lies-between, we can agree on some basic principles of kindergarten decorum.

In my life, I’ve enjoyed a long, wondrous time of peace. Our shores are vacation spots, not landing zones. Our borders are boundaries, not fronts. Our wars have been fought elsewhere, and diplomacy has been such that we have kept the peace with nearly all of our fellow nations.

I hope that this peace can continue, so much the better if we can peel the scales of prosperity off our eyes just a bit further. This is the progress things; this is now it happens. It doesn’t happen because of a single election, it happens because of a thousand - a million - things that have come before have clicked into place and set the stage for some small bit of new unfamiliarity that, if it does its work, might very well ignite the powder kegs of habit and release us from the chains of assumption.

Perhaps, Mr. President-Elect, we will never agree on certain matters of politic. Perhaps we cannot meet in the middle on some things. To me that seems fairly normal, like what happens between friends, once they know each other long enough. But those differences certainly aren’t the end of the story. They certainly don’t signal the end of our attempt to be a more perfect union.

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It is merely the beginning, and our attitude is at least as important as our action.

This, for reasons I can’t quite yet describe, feels like a beginning. Hindsight may very well prove us all otherwise, but in this moment, sir, I say that I am proud to be an American. It is not the first time I’ve felt this way, nor will it be the last. It is a perpetual thought, gripped by the memory of those gone before, proven by the blood and flesh of those not now with us, and preserved by those willing to not only look ahead, but to remember what has been.

I do not lament the last eight years, although now that I think of it - my perspective on that period is not for this letter. Those times have passed and these times have come. We just don’t know, Mr. President-elect. We just don’t know. But we do stand, each of us, for the hope of America.

Not of party or politic, but of liberty and justice for all.

God bless America, Mr. President-Elect. Whatever I can do to help.

- Charlie Pratt


As for me, I am as proud as ever to be an American.  I believe Barack Obama will lead this nation down the blessed path of strength and faith again.  I believe he is capable, maybe more than any President before him, to lead this nation with strength, integrity, and respect for every American.  Change begins with us.  With you and with me.  We need to bring back the power of goodness again.

- Susan

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Are You Geographically Challenged?


I had this response - "I'm geographically challenged" - posed to me this morning at 7am, but it wasn't a question, and no, this is not a lesson in geography in the sense that you are thinking.  This is an entirely different post for me and one that is quite out of character.  However, I felt compelled to leave my bedroom and come downstairs to the comfort of my sofa at about 7:35, in an attempt to temporarily save me from the one who is "geographically challenged."  Now do you get where I am going with this? 

Just a brief, and a bit personal, history here - I have back issues.  Not the kind of back issues that most healthy people develop, either, as they get older.  I've always had back issues.  Scoliosis.  Spinal fusion.  Degenerative discs.  I'm a mess.  It happens.  Deal with it, right?  I do.  And that is why I sit on this sofa and write.  Laugh at that will ya?  Still, my big bear is, in every sense of the word, compassionate, cuddly, warm, and snuggly.  And he always - every day - when he comes to bed, or when he wakes up, always manages to take his hand and find its way to my lower back.  The warmth is healing.  His love is healing.  It's a wonderful moment that we share.  But....

Yes, I said "But," or, wait a minute, is that "Butt?"  Okay, (shaking head here), I really did mean "butt."  ahem, cough, cough.  You see, with this momentary surge of tenderness and love from "My" Big Bear comes challenges.  Challenges that I am certain afflicts 99.9% of the male population, and probably less than 1% of the female population.  Geography. Because although his hand will find its way to my lower back and he'll , on occasion, give me a butt scratch (Hey, I don't care what anyone says about this, a back scratch is good, but a butt scratch is great), his hands within minutes will gravitate to other areas that have absolutely nothing to do with pain.

You see, this morning, after his hand found its way to my lower back, I asked him if he would rub my hip.  That's because 2 days ago, while attempting to move a piece of furniture from my front hall to my music room, I lifted one side so that Matthew could put diapers (yep, diapers work great for sliding furniture on hardwood floors) under the legs, I did something to my lower back and left hip that has been a painful reminder that I'm getting older here and not the spring chicken I used to be.

Oh boy, did I feel it when it happened.  Fortunately, I managed to get the piece of furniture into the music room, albeit painfully.  Within minutes I was popping 3 Advil and 2 extra-strength Tylenol as if they were M&Ms.  So, the requests for kindness emerge - "Honey, can you rub my back and hips?" and naturally, at least in my house, he'll comply, but not without his own requests. 

It starts with "Sweetie, can you rub my feet, their killing me?"  then he'll turn around on the sofa and plant his head firmly in my lap - "Can you rub my head and neck?"  then the t-shirt comes off "Can you scratch my back and rub my shoulders?"  Now this is all fine and good, but give me a break here!  As I was saying, though - we ladies generally don't have an issue with geography.  If our man asks for a head rub, that is exactly what he is going to get - a head rub.  If he asks for a back scratch, he is going to get - as sure as sugar - a back scratch.  If he asks for a foot rub, we're not going to gravitate to the thighs.  I can hear the men out there asking "Why not?"  Because we're women, silly!  We don't think like that!  We know our geography, and this is one geography lesson that we want over - soon - especially when you've been married as long as we have.

Then there's that momentary show of kindness from my Big Bear that makes me feel guilty.  You know the moments - when your significant other shows loving tenderness by rubbing your back (or scratching your butt) without being asked?  That's my bear.  He does, however, have an issue with geography, and came right out and told me this this morning - "I'm geographically challenged, what do you expect?""I expect that if I ask you to rub my hip that you won't gravitate to my front or my thighs and that you will rub my hip." - "But I don't want too" was his response.  So I said "Good morning dear, I'm going downstairs." - "You're leaving me?" - "Yes, I need an Advil."  - "Aw, darn, and I thought I was going to get paid for that iPhone I just bought you the other day." 


Which leads to the other arrangement in marital life that works - most of the time.  Bartering.  Listen up you young ladies out there who are newly married.  This is a great device for getting what you want.  It works.  Men will do anything for a little nookie.  Promise.  Anything.  What you need to understand, though, is that they have to get the work done first.  Never pay him first or you'll never get done what you need done.  For instance, if you need him to help you clean the house and do the laundry, or you need his help moving all that crap in the hallway up to the attic (because it has been there for 2 months and you're sick of tripping over it) or you need him to fix the leak under the fridge before it destroys the hardwood floor, or run an important errand for you, or take the kids out for 4 hours so you can nap - you have to barter.  Bartering is good.  It gets the things done around the house that you need done - most of the time.

Then again, when it comes to paying him back for a gift that I didn't ask for in the first place (although I love that little iPhone), no bartering required - unless, of course, you want to show him your love and appreciation, which is always a good idea. 

This morning was a little different, though.  I was sound asleep, and suddenly I feel the warmth of his touch on my lower back.  I love it when he does that.  But (oh, wait a minute, I think I meant "Butt"') when he starts getting all mushy and cuddly and snuggly, you can bet that his hand wasn't going to remain on my back.  "I'm geographically challenged" was his response.  "You got that right." 

Must be a testosterone thing.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Lefty to You Maybe ...


I like to scout around on the net from time-to-time, and occasionally, I come across a real gem.  And for anyone out there, blogger, writer, or reader, you know just what I mean when you find something to read that is written with passion and wit.  Not to mention written well.  Someone who has an excellent grasp for language and humor all wrapped up in one package.  Well, let me tell ya that when I ran across the blog of Charlie Pratt aka "Charlie Writes" or "Diary of an American Boy" I was hooked. 

Charlie's wit and wisdom are fantastic, and so is his writing.  I'm a regular to his blog now, which is the result of his soon-to-be published life growing up as an American Boy.

His most recent post was right-on (or is that left-on?)  Anyway, it was a great read and I wanted to share it.  Maybe you should drop by Charlie's when you have a moment that you want to sit back and smile, laugh, or just read a little bit of life growing up as an American Boy.  - Susan


By: Charlie Pratt

I’ve been a left-winger for nearly three decades.

This left-leaning state I’m in doesn’t preclude embarrassing flashes of Bible Belt conservatism, waves of milquetoast, moderate boredom, and yes, Virginia, even moments of raucous, unhinged liberalism. Sometimes I prefer not to tell people about it. They tend to start staring at me in the way that smart girls stare at dumb boys who say things like “my dad thinks you’re hot” and “could we, like, you know, do it later?”

You see, I don’t want to intimidate anyone with my leftist advantages.

Statistically, leftism makes me better at sports, though I’ve seen little evidence to support such claims. Just to be fair though, there was one time my right-wing saved the day. A portly nine year-old named Dane smacked a line drive in the general direction of my face, which was out near shortstop. Ol’ Lefty couldn’t make the grade, I’m sad to say, but Righty was ready, Rawlings-wrapped and quick to the helm, moving quickly to prevent imminent facial damage and an unfortunate yearbook photo. Even Lefty couldn’t say much against such timely action.

Being left-wing also makes me smarter, according to numerous research studies conducted by lab-coated correlation addicts, the same people who like to tell me about the New England Patriots uncanny ability to win, when the temperature is below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, gas prices are above $3.65, and there’s a harvest moon. I’m not sure whether those studies were conducted by left-wingers or right-wingers, but to the veracity of such studies I can say, without reservation, that they’re completely spot-on. I am totally smart. You don’t stand a chance. Unless you too are a left-winger, of course - in which case, it’s dueling Rubik’s Cubes at ten paces. We’ll see what’s what.

You might be asking yourself why it matters at all, and why I’d choose to reveal my leanings today, and so close to an election.

This year, it seems we care - more than ever before - not about finding success, but about the reasons one should despise the other. We’ve disembarked the port of Sanity and are sailing, without map or compass, into the Nutty Sea. The right wing thinks the left wing will ruin everything and sink our creaky old ship, while the left wing (who swears it’s the right wing that is creaky and old) can’t stand that our creaky oldness is causing the other creaky old ships to hate us.

I know, I know, they’re all telling you that choosing one or the other does matter, because of this reason, this issue, this study, this damning bit of video, this press gaggle gaff, this association with this unsavory individual, this misspoken word, this inability to swoon female viewers, this strange middle name, blah, blah, yak, yak, vomit in my jacket hoodie. Someone take me shuffle-boarding, please. I need a laugh.

So, in the spirit of unity, as Americans, as people of the world, or to whichever magnanimous category you consider yourself a party to, think with me for a moment about ten good things that require the use of both the left and right wings.

  1. Applause
  2. Hugs
  3. Double-high fives (I think we can agree they’re far superior to the single high-five)
  4. Driving (One-handing the wheel doesn’t get you out of shifting into reverse, fella)
  5. Raising the American flag
  6. Signalling a touchdown / field goal / safe baserunner / 30-second time out
  7. Preventing the narrowing garbage chute from squishing you and your unexpectedly plucky team of rebel fighters
  8. Opening a jar of delicious pickles
  9. Providing a well-written, smartly-directed film the much-deserved dual Ebertian thumbs-up
  10. Showing your giggly, drooly new nephew the nuance and charm of “here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open the doors, see all the people”

So keep that in mind, as you cast your vote with either your left wing, or your right. It’s not all there is.

There’s more.

A whole hell of a lot more.


Question for my readers: Please let me know if you would like to read more of Charlie's wit and wisdom here on Raisin Toast!  - Susan

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