Suzy & Spice

a pinch of this, a dash of that

Archive for the ‘work’ Category

Random thoughts 01/10/10

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on January 10, 2010

I was writing an e-mail to a college roommate this afternoon when I realized that if she clicks the link below my signature and goes to my blog – which she’s likely to do because we haven’t been in touch since I started the blog – she will see very few recent posts.

So, even though I can’t seem to form a coherent thought lately, you need to know that I am not dead.

Random thoughts on a Sunday afternoon:

  • I’ll begin Accounting II on Saturday, Jan. 16, after withdrawing last semester so as to avoid a heart attack from everything that was going on in our lives (I mentioned the latest heart symptoms in my Sept. 12, 2009, random thoughts). I decided to try a Saturday morning class because I simply hate having to rush home from work, gulp down a few bites of something and rush to class, sit there for nearly 3 hours trying to stay awake and get home just before bedtime. Besides, I’m a morning person, and that’s when I do my best thinking (if you call me after 9 p.m. – or if you’re a former roommate [hi, Di!] – you’ll understand). My class this semester will be 8-10:40 a.m.
  • I finished reading In Cold Blood, although I never told you I finished it. I mentioned it in my March 22, 2009, post (a random-thoughts post that was a LOT more interesting than this one, and a lot less depressing than the 09/12 one, so check it out), and I finished it months ago, but now I have closure since I have told you about it. πŸ™‚ The book was great, if creepy. Killers with no remorse. And it’s a true story. I read somewhere that when Perry and Dick were hanged, Truman Capote (the book’s author) became physically ill and had to remove himself from the crowd of onlookers. Interviewing the killers, retracing the events of the heinous murders, left a lasting impression on him, and he was never the same. I believe it was his last book.
  • And this year I finally started reading the book on which my favorite movie was based – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Since the first time I saw the movie about 20 years ago, I’ve been in love with Atticus Finch (Bruce understands – I think). I kept telling myself I needed to read the book, but when I checked for it at the local library, it was always checked out. After several months (maybe even a year) of checking, I finally inquired about it at the desk, because the electronic card catalog kept saying it was NOT checked out. They said it probably had met the same fate as a lot of the other classics: Someone simply took it and never brought it back. Before Christmas, I finally checked again, and they had 2 copies! (Bruce was an English major and has many, many of the classics, but we’re not sure whether this book is in one of the boxes-upon-boxes of books that we have packed, ready to move “someday.)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Part 2 (because the above paragraph was getting long and this really should be a separate post): So I’ve been reading it, along with dealing with the usual Christmas chaos, which this year included getting new windows installed all over the house (the “2 1/2-day” job took nearly 3 weeks!), and trying to read a little of my Accounting I book to refresh myself since taking a semester off, and being tired and going to bed early. And from the very first sentence of this long-desired book, I was hooked. It just draws you in immediately, this tale told through the eyes of a 5-year-old tomboy in a small 1930s Southern town. I have to say, though, that this is one of the rare cases in which I didn’t immediately start to think, “The book is way better than the movie.” The movie is just so darned good, it actually enhances the reading of the book. When I read a book after I’ve first seen the movie, I try not to imagine the actors as those characters. Most times, the actors are too Hollywood, I guess. But in this case, I am imagining Gregory Peck’s portrayal of Atticus, and the kids who played Scout and Jem and Dill, and of Calpurnia and the schoolchildren and the neighbors. … I’m in chapter 10 or 11, and we haven’t even gotten to the rape trial yet. But it’s not slow reading. It’s written through the eyes of little tomboy Scout Finch, and it’s just delightful, because the actress they picked to play Scout is just perfectΒ  – not Hollywood at all (please, if you know anything about the actress that will burst my bubble, keep it to yourself!). And Scout and Jem and Dill and Atticus – and even Boo Radley (Robert Duvall), even though the kids haven’t laid eyes on him yet – those are the faces I see as I read. Brilliant casting.
  • This bullet point is sort of To Kill a Mockingbird (hereafter referred to as TKAM), Part 3, but it’s technically about the author and not the book, so cut me some slack. πŸ™‚ Did you know that Harper Lee and Truman Capote were childhood friends? In fact, Harper Lee was Capote’s research assistant for In Cold Blood. And her character Dill Harris in TKAM was based on old friend Truman. Some say Capote was the real author of TKAM, but others say it’s a ridiculous notion, the different writing styles being one clue among many.
  • (Link to info about the movie To Kill a Mockingbird.)
  • The next book I read may be Breakfast at Tiffany’s (by Capote), another book I’ve never read but I’ve seen the movie. I didn’t like the movie the first time I watched it – not in spite of Audrey Hepburn but because of her, or at least the character she played. Audrey Hepburn is delightful to watch, but I did not like Holly Golightly the first time I experienced this movie (I tend to judge people I perceive as flighty and irresponsible). Fortunately, my favorite song, “Moon River,” is a big part of the movie, so there have been times when I’ve popped the DVD into the player just to hear that beautiful Mancini tune. So, because of the wonderful song, I’ve grown to love the movie and appreciate the sadness and lostness of the main character. But I imagine this will be one of those times when the book will be much better. It has to be – Capote has written so many wonderful books, and the film version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s (BAT?) is somewhat Hollywoodized, I think. And I want to know what the sad, lost Holly was thinking that early morning as she stood outside Tiffany’s looking in, after having partied all night in that iconic hairdo, dress and black evening gloves. All dressed up in party clothes yet all alone, and I want to know what she was thinking. A movie doesn’t give you that. (Unless it’s Ferris Bueller.)
  • Last year I decided to read more of the classics and am gradually getting around to them. I read slowly, and I tend to get sleepy when I find the perfect comfortable spot to read in, so it takes me a while to finish a book. But now that the holiday season is over, I won’t be watching Food Network as much, so I’m already reading more than I did in the fall. I tried some Solzhenitsyn (One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich) and Upton Sinclair (The Jungle), but those are books I didn’t finish. I’ll eventually get back to Solzhenitsyn, but the only thing I liked about The Jungle (it’s a really gross expose on the meatpacking industry) is that it has caused me to eat less red meat! I think the problem with Denisovich is that I’ve read too many concentration-camp books (I had the same problem with the movie Schindler’s List); maybe I’m desensitized to the issue, or maybe it’s that nothing on the subject comes close to my all-time-favorite book, The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom (β€œNo pit is so deep that the love of God is not deeper still!”). That is a book that I’ve read several times already but could read every year and never get tired of it. I’ve loaned my copy several times and just told the friend to keep it, then I go buy myself a new paperback copy. The tale of God’s light in a sea of darkness never gets old.
  • I’ve decided – officially – that Naps are a Good Thing. Because I finally have a job that allows me to take actual holidays off (I may never get used to that!), Bruce and I have spent a few long weekends at Mom’s lately (Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s). Thanksgiving weekend, I took a long nap (really, a short nap but a long rest) every single day. At Christmas we were busier, so not so many naps, but New Year’s I got a couple of good breaks in, with the exception of the day that Mom was noisy in the kitchen and I got up cranky at her (don’t worry; I apologized). Just goes to show how important naps have become to my mental health. I turned 47 in November, so I am not a spring chicken anymore. For sure, Naps are a Good Thing. (I’m thinking of trademarking that expression.)
  • A soft bed, a warm puppy and a good book – who could ask for more?
  • I have written a set of “goals” – not New Year’s resolutions – for 2010 (it will include naps, although not in so many words). I didn’t get them posted by the time we rang in the new year, so it may be March before you seem them here! Or I may post them tomorrow – just depends on how tired I am when I get home from work.
  • And of course I’m supposed to be reading my accounting book!

This concludes another portion of our semiregular feature, Random Thoughts. Tune in again, when you may hear Suzy say, “Has it been that long since I posted?”

Posted in books, dogs, fun, health, holiday, inspiration, journalism, movies, music, reading, work | 1 Comment »

The last two journalists in America

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on March 11, 2009

I never know whether non-newspaper types will enjoy these, but I like to share them, nonetheless.

This one is from The Washington Post.

Posted in work | Leave a Comment »

Christmas cheer-up

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on December 2, 2008

What a difference a year makes.

Last year at this time I was in full self-pity mode. I had a job I hated (after less than a month there), Bruce was sick (he spent seven days in the hospital a week before Christmas), we were broke and a friend died on Christmas Day. I had started gaining weight from the stress, mostly from the job. (In the 11 months I worked at that place, I gained 25 pounds. Just from emotional eating.)

I hadn’t put up our big Christmas tree in a couple of years – didn’t put one up at all last year, even the little one. Bruce and I didn’t buy any Christmas gifts last year, either. Yes, this chick had one very blue, blue blue blue Christmas.

Even the truths I knew about God were truths in my head but not necessarily in my heart. He promised never to leave or forsake me, but I sure felt forsaken.

That was last year. I can’t say the pity party is completely over (we still have a lot of the same problems we had a year ago – some even worse), but God has led me through the darkest part (at least I hope so!).

I have dragged out the Christmas decorations (yes, it does seem worth it) and have even put up the big tree. I went to Hobby Lobby this evening to buy a couple of extra strands of blinking lights (with some of my birthday money), and as I left the store a cool wind blew across me. But instead of thinking, “Brrr, it’s cold!” I said to myself, “What an invigorating breeze!”

I used to loathe cold weather, but I have grown to appreciate it. Tonight, after what could have been a frustrating day (because a utility crew accidentally cut a cable, my office lost its Internet connection, rendering me nearly helpless to do most of the account processing I usually take care of each day), I was actually thankful for my job. That, in turn, helped me enjoy the chilly wind and the crystal-clear evening.

Nearly every day I tell God how grateful I am for the job (sometimes I forget – I take it for granted, just like I always will). I could enumerate all the reasons, but that’s for another post. Let me just say again, as I have said a couple of times here, that it is an AWESOME company to work for.

It’s amazing how one little change can be such a big deal. Working at the hell hole I came from, I thought I would always have a job I hated, whether it’s because I deserved to, because I’m just a whiner who’s never satisfied or (and this is what I really thought) that most people have jobs they hate. No one can really love his job. You hear people talking about loving their jobs, but you think they’re crazy (or lying), right?

But now I get it, because … I LOVE MY JOB!

And it makes all the difference in the world. Yes, we’re broker than broke, Bruce is still sick (oh, yeah, and I was diagnosed with a heart problem a few weeks ago), and we still have to sell our house. But my life is pretty good. Bruce asked me today how I was doing, and I replied, “Fantastic!” before I could think. He was surprised. He hasn’t heard me say anything that positive in a long time.

I’ve even lost 13 pounds (and counting) since leaving the other job.

What else is good? I’ve had so much extra time, I’ve started baking again. Can it get any better than that?

And tonight, with the beautiful early evening sky, the tiny sliver of moon and the celestial conjunction of Venus and Jupiter, paired with the invigorating breeze, I felt lighter than air.

What a difference a year makes.

Posted in God, inspiration, work | 6 Comments »

Just checking in

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on November 14, 2008

I’ve started using that phrase with my mom lately – “just checking in.”

For the past 20-something years, I’ve called home once a week or so, even if there was nothing special to talk about. Since Dad died, Mom and I started talking a little more often but still not every day. But since Bruce got sick again nearly two years ago, Mom and I have talked every day, with a few exceptions (usually when I’ve fallen asleep early and forgotten to call). Mom just wants an update on my sweetie; she worries about him nearly as much as I do.

Lately Bruce has been better but still is not as healthy as he should be, so daily updates to Mom are not quite so urgent. But now we’re in the habit of talking every day – praise the Lord for free long distance!

So now when I call just because I’m supposed to, sometimes all I have to start the conversation with is, “I’m just calling to check in.” Sometimes I’m so tired I can barely talk, but I still have to talk to my mom. I just couldn’t end my day properly without it.

And lately I haven’t been posting here much because of so much going on in my life, but I wanted everyone to know I’m still here. I would like to post more, but I do come home tired from my new job (my new job that I still love, love, LOVE!). Learning an entirely new industry has its stresses, but it’s a good stress; I’m expanding my brain.

But that brain is tired, and blogging takes thought and effort. And even though I miss posting as often as I used to, I just can’t keep up the pace. So for now I’m …

… just checking in.

Posted in family, work | Leave a Comment »

Out with the old, in with the new

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on October 18, 2008

I left my extremely stressful job last week and started a new one Monday. I don’t have a lot of time for detail this morning (groceries to buy, lawn to mow, fall flowers to plant, football to watch, etc.) but did want to update those of you who still check my blog occasionally.

I don’t want to disparage my former employer, so I won’t mention the name, but just let me say that my new company is a breath of fresh air. Or maybe I should say I can actually breathe at my new job – and take lunch breaks, and go home after eight hours. I loved the people I worked with at the other place, and the new job is somewhat a career switch (going from publishing to investments), but the new company is an extremely efficient, well-organized place to work. They seem to know what they’re doing.

The main thing is that I want to serve people by helping them with their finances (and I want to work at a place that doesn’t cause me insomnia).

I have been a volunteer with Crown Financial Ministries for the past few years, and that’s a little different from what the investment firm does, and yet the same. It all boils down to being good stewards of what God has entrusted to us.

So here’s to my new employer and 40-hour weeks!

Posted in debt-proof living, God, money, volunteering, work | 6 Comments »

Same hospital, different patient

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on October 7, 2008

After so many months visiting Bruce in the hospital and having to make trips back and forth, the shoe was on the other foot this week.

Monday morning I went to the ER after telling a co-worker, “I feel kinda funny.” After having a couple of weird little symptoms over the weekend (that I hadn’t told Bruce about) and the co-worker telling me I looked “really flushed,” I decided to get checked out.

After a few tests I was diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse with mitral valve regurgitation. They did some tests Monday and kept me overnight for observation, and today was the TEE (transesophogeal echocardiogram). That test was done after the cardiologist heard a heart murmur during the regular echocardiogram but decided to get a better view by making me swallow an ultrasound transducer. Let me tell you, that was not fun.

I didn’t tell the second doc (the one who explained the TEE yesterday and performed it today) until right before the procedure that I have a strong gag reflex (I can’t even clean wet hair out of the shower drain without gagging – it’s not pretty). He had mentioned that some people have trouble swallowing the transducer. You have to gargle this viscous numbing solution for a few minutes, then swallow the solution, and if that doesn’t quite do it, they spray more numbing stuff down your throat. After the third spray I threw up the viscous gel stuff (I’ll spare you the details – let’s just say there’s a reason they don’t let you eat for several hours before a procedure like that). The doc said he had had patients who had trouble with the stuff but the throwing up was a first for him.

So he had to put me under – or at least he tried, I was told later. (One thing I did forget to tell him is that not only did I inherit the gagging thing from my dad, I also inherited the need for stronger drugs than most people require – Dad once woke up on the operating table during back surgery.) They give you an amnesia-inducing sedative, so I don’t remember, but apparently I was alert throughout the rest of today’s procedure. Let me just say that I’m really glad I don’t remember, although my sore throat is a constant reminder albeit a really good excuse for frozen yogurt when we got home this afternoon.

The bottom line is that many people live with mitral valve prolapse with no problems. The TEE showed more damage to my valve than they were expecting, but after one doctor (the one who did the TEE) brought up the real possibility of surgery (the scary, crack-open-your-sternum kind of surgery), the original doc said he just wants to monitor it closely. I have another echocardiogram scheduled for December, then he’ll see me every six months. I intend to seek a third opinion, however, just to be sure.

One of the lessons here is that early detection is extremely important. I had ignored a couple of things going on with me over the weekend, but when I got to work Monday and had the strange lightheaded feeling, I decided not to ignore it any longer. Ironically, those symptoms don’t seem to be related to the heart valve problem. I don’t believe in coincidences, so the other symptoms, however minor, may have saved my life – maybe not this week but down the road. (The link I provided above says mitral valve prolapse isn’t dangerous, but I also have the “regurgitation” part, in which blood leaks back into the chamber and can cause other problems.)

Bruce was telling the doctors that with his Crohn’s disease we’ve learned a big lesson about ignoring symptoms. In 1998, he nearly died before I could get him to see a doctor. When I finally told him I was taking him to the hospital, they discovered the disease that has taken so much out of him these past 10 years, and especially the past 20 months.

But I told him it’s because I read too many magazine articles about people who ignore little things until it’s too late. Monday morning I just finally decided to stop ignoring the little signs, even though they turned out to be “merely” stress related. Bruce and I joked yesterday that my job, which has caused me an extreme amount of stress in the past 11 months, may have saved my life. Who knows? It may be true.

But as I often say, I think it was “my guardian angel working overtime.”

Thanks to all of you who have been praying for us.

Posted in Crohn's disease, family, God, health, medical, work | 4 Comments »

Happy birthday, Dad

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on July 11, 2008

Bennie Lee Taylor was born July 11, 1938, in Izard County, Arkansas, the second of four children born to Joseph Benjamin and Tressie Lee Hinson Taylor. He died Dec. 23, 1997.
x
He would have been 70 years old today.
x

I had in mind to write a long, glowing tribute to my dad, but time (and my eyesight) has gotten away from me today. So I’m going to try to capture some of his life in pictures and not write all the things that are in my heart (it would take too long this evening).

First up, some photos from when he was a boy. (Descriptions below.)

Dad as a boy with family, 1930s and 1940s.

Dad as a boy with family, 1930s and 1940s.

In the photo at top left, he’s the baby, with his mother and his brother Tom. Top right, he’s the boy on the left. That’s his mom behind him; the other woman is one of Grandma’s three sisters, Retha. In the middle is dad’s sister Joan (pronounced JoAnn), and on the right is brother Tom. In this photo, it seems Grandma is pregnant with Uncle Carlos. Below left is Tom, Joan and Dad. In the last photo, below right, is Grandma, Aunt Ednora (another sister), Uncle Tom, Aunt Joan and Dad. (And, gosh, after staring at this picture for hours, I just noticed two babies in the arms of their mothers. I was so focused on Dad and his siblings! Grandma is probably holding Uncle Carlos, and Aunt Ednora β€” or “Aunt Gobb” β€” is probably holding her first born, Janice.) I assume all of these photos were taken in Izard County.

The next phase of his life shown here is high school. Here’s his senior portrait. Wasn’t he handsome?

Dad senior portrait

Dad senior portrait

Dad was VP of his and Mom's senior class

In this photo of the Class of 1957, Cave City, Arkansas, he’s in the bottom row, third from the left (he was class vice president). My mother (with the same last name, coincidentally β€” they weren’t married yet) is the first person in the second row (Dorothy Taylor). They got married on Nov. 7, 1958, and she didn’t even have to change her name.

Dad loved his family, and here are a couple of photos of us with him.

Mom, Dad and J.T., Christmas 1960

First is Mom and Dad with J.T. on my big brother’s first Christmas, 1960. J.T. would have been just under 3 months old. And the next one is quite possibly my all-time-favorite picture, because …

Dad and me in his favorite chair

Dad and me in his favorite chair

… it reminds me of one of my favorite memories of Dad. I inherited my chocoholism from him, and when I was little (OK, even when I was big), Mom would serve us chocolate ice cream. I would hurry and gobble up mine out of my little blue plastic bowl, then climb into Dad’s chair with him and, ever the little helper, join him in finishing his ice cream. We don’t have photo evidence of this nightly ritual, but this is the place where it all happened.

A big part of Dad’s life was cars. He was a mechanic but also knew how to restore classic cars inside and out.

The photo above is dated June 1963 (when I was 6 to 7 months old), but we have lots of photos with dad and cars. I simply didn’t have time to go through all of them last weekend when we were at Mom’s. This photo was probably taken in Coalinga, California, where we lived then.

As for the two photos above, Dad built this car from a kit just a few months before he died. I’m going out on a limb here, because it’s a little too late too call my mom tonight (and even too late to call Uncle Carlos in California), but I think it’s a 1929 Mercedes Gazelle. I had it in my head that it was a 1937, but I found a 1929 one online that looks just like this one, and 1929 now rings a certain bell in my head. I typically wouldn’t publish something until I was sure, but I want to post this on his birthday. I will straighten out the details as soon as I can. (You would think that after watching Dad and Uncle Carlos work on so many cars in my lifetime I would be better at identifying them.)

I probably should have showed you the shop first. He built it (with the help of older brother Tom β€” and me, on one of my trips home from California) specifically for working on cars and puttering on his many projects. He had “retired” in his 50s because of a 30-year-old injury and heart problems, but he certainly couldn’t sit idle inside the house. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, he loved to be outdoors when he could. The shop was out back behind our house in Batesville. Dad could fix anything β€” from a broken record player to an old lamp. Besides mechanical stuff, he could do carpentry and electrical. A Renaissance man. His mind never seemed to stop, and he could answer almost any question I had for him, whether it pertained to politics, the economy, agriculture, the Bible, sports, physics or just about any subject you could name (except maybe pop culture). Most of it was self-taught.

These three pictures show three phases of construction of Dad’s shop:

Barely started …

… well under way …

.. and complete.

I mentioned in a previous post all the work Dad put into the piece of land where we lived. Below is a segment of it. This was the best picture I could come up with in a short time.

I can’t close this without mentioning Dad and our dogs.

In the photo above is Dad with my dog Mesa (a mix of four breeds) and his dog Chance, a miniature Pinscher (a larger version of our Pepper). Chance, named by my nieces after some cartoon character in 1994, was Dad’s little buddy (mine, too). That photo was taken by Barney Sellers in Barney’s yard across from my parents’ house in Batesville. The bottom photo is of Dad and Chance on the deck that he built in the 1970s. My sweet Mesa and little buddy Chance have been gone from us for years now, but you know you will be reading more about them whenever I write my dog tribute post.

This last picture was taken on the deck of my Uncle Tom and Aunt Willa’s house in Batesville when Uncle Carlos and Aunt Judy were visiting from California. (I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it, but Uncle Tom was a carpenter. Of course he built the deck).

Front row: Ben Taylor, Bruce Oakley, Suzy Taylor. Back: Tom Taylor, Dorothy Taylor, Carlos Taylor, Debbie (?), Willa Taylor and Pam Taylor. Not pictured: Photographer Judy Taylor.

The photo was taken on Oct. 4, 1997, the day Bruce and I put our wedding rings on layaway, and less than three months before Dad died.

For now, this is all I can share in pictures, although the memories of my dad are still fresh. For those of you who didn’t know him, I know you would have liked him, and he probably would have liked you.

He was my hero.

Posted in dogs, family, inspiration, nature, work | 5 Comments »

Why wee all need editors

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on June 26, 2008

Here’s another reason not to get rid of copy editors. Nonjournalists will probably enjoy this article more than the one below.

It’s from The Washington Post. You may have to register, but it’s free.

Posted in reading, work | 4 Comments »

An elegy for copy editors

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on June 19, 2008

I was born to be a copy editor, and copy editing is what I’ve done most of my life, professional and non.

I still do it in my job now, with about half a dozen other jobs thrown on top.

Here is a tribute from The New York Times to those of my dying breed. It explains pretty succinctly what we do.

I agree with all but the last line: “If newspaper copy editors vanish from the earth, no one is going to notice.”

On the contrary, readers notice all the time, and are not hesitant to point out mistakes. Copy editors are seldom praised for their good work, for their good work makes them invisible. But they are often condemned for letting someone else’s errors through or when they make one of their own.

Thanks to NYT writer Lawrence Downes for this tribute.

Posted in reading, work | 2 Comments »

No complaints, Day 2

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on May 12, 2008

Today is technically Day 2, because I started not complaining yesterday. So I have a day and a half under my belt already!

I did a pretty decent job today, but I want to ask you whether these count:

1. Observing, as I drove home from my job at 9 p.m., that the gas at the corner is 10 cents higher than it was this morning, while remembering that last week it rose 11 cents in a day. That’s a 21-cent increase in less than a week! Does making such observations count as complaining? If everyone complains about the price of gas, does it count?

2. Having the phrase “drama queen” leap to mind in reference to another person. Maybe that’s not complaining; maybe it’s judging.

We’ll work on judging next week, right after I’ve mastered the art of complaining without sounding like I’m complaining.

Posted in friends, God, humor, inspiration, work | 3 Comments »