Dec 13, 2006

Susan's on Burnside and Steve Brown Etc!

I'm now officially a contributing writer for the Burnside Writers Collective, run by Donald Miller and Jordan Green. You can read my On Fire for Jesus, or Ecoterrorism & Trader Joe's

And there will be more to come. I'll be doing an interview with actor Tony Hale for BWC.

Also, Jordan and I were just interviewed for the Steve Brown radio show. The show was streamed live, will air on the radio this weekend. Or you can listen to our program by clicking HERE!

Dec 12, 2006

Larry the Yuletide Yobbo

I don't know if I first read the phrase in David Sedaris' essay, "Diana the Christmas Whore," but Larry definitely is a holiday hussy. He's been playing "Run, Run, Rudolph" since Thanksgiving. I draw the line at those dogs barking "Jingle Bells." Still, I love Larry's love of Christmas, the glitz or the gloria.

We were at Doug's Christmas party on Sunday night, where the picture below was snapped. It was begging for a caption. So I gave it one. (the pink and yellow text).

But then our our talented nephew JOE added his artwork and commentary to the product.

Joe is feeling cheeky, because he just turned 16. So when we arrive next week, he has a license to DRIVE away in his escape car.

Joe? Nice work. But Larry wants his pimp hat back.

Dec 9, 2006

Disneyland: The Sappiest Show on Earth

There are many things I love about Larry. One of them, is that he loves Christmas: the anticipation, the music, the fun, and the innocence of it all. Which makes me afraid of what kind of crash he's going to have come January. But we'll jump that land mine when we come to it.

Larry also loves Disneyland, for many of the same reasons. It's hard to find a guy who's still got some part of his heart that's not gone cynical. And I love that about him.

So it only made sense that we should go to Disneyland for Christmas. Larry's friend Bill gave us three free passes, so we invited our friends Michael and Rebecca to come with us. Even better: fun, rides, and friends.

We all had a great time. We enjoyed the holiday decorations, the rides, and most of all, a good solid chunk of time with our friends. It was Larry's and my First Disney Christmas as husband and wife!

As for ridese, we saw the New, Improved "Pirates of the Caribbean," which was basically a spruced up ride with a few effigies of Johnny Depp popping up at key points. I'm glad they preserved the old Pirates. On the other hand, they completely redo the haunted mansion every Christmas to look like the film, "A Nightmare Before Christmas." Tim Burton's dark vision troubles me, but I liked what they did with the ride. I can get wary of this stuff, but it helps having people like Larry and Michael to point out all the imagination and creativity that went into the making of these things.

All things being equal, why not be happy? That being said ...

I HATE PARADES. Maybe because as a child, the Rose Parade reminded me that Christmas vacation was almost over. Or because I had siblings in marching band, and I hated standing on some rainy street corner just to catch my sister playing four bars on her clarinet, wearing a geeky red suit and Cossack hat. I just don't like 'em.

A hundred years ago parades were great, because people didn't have access to music, so going out and hearing a live band must have been thrilling. Like hearing Beck at Burning Man. And, a hundred years ago, parading around and being proud of America was acceptable.

But today, what does America have to be proud of or parade around for? The fact we're fighting a losing battle in Iraq? Nothing against our troops, they're the bravest Americans out there. But what else can we be proud of? The fact we make up 6% of the world population, yet we eat up 50% of the world's wealth? The fact we export Britney Spears and Paris Hilton? No wonder the Muslims hate us.

Well the Disney Christmas parade is great for kids who want to see Tinkerbell. Or the Waving Snow Whites and Dancing Poohs and Gesticulating Jiminy crickets .... flailing in place on a float, or jazz-handing it while marching. But it makes me mad. The same way I get frustrated when I walk into a church and they're forcing loud rock worship on me. I can't manufacture awe or joy on cue. Especially on loud cues. Yes, encourage me but don't shove it down my throat.

We avoided the parade, but we made sure to see the fireworks show.

I LOVE FIREWORKS! Larry and I watched fireworks this past July 4th, while a band played patriotic tunes and Aaron Copeland, and it was glorious.

The fireworks at Disneyland are always incredible. The music? Uh, well ...
The lights dimmed, the music soared, and some old lady came over the loudspeaker to narrate. In a really warbly, achy-breaky treacle voice.
Warbly old Lady:

Does your heart hold the magic of the holidays?
Is it filled with warm memories, just waiting to be discovered again?!
Well now is the time to open your heart!
Believe in that magic! And remember those treasured moments.
Oh they're still there, deep within you; waiting to touch you once more
So come along! As the Magic of the Season leads the way!
What does it mean? "Warm memories, waiting to be discovered again? ... Believe in that magic?" Nothing. It's a circular, vapid, treacly, stinking pile of POOH!!!

Well fortunately the old lady shut up, maybe she had a coronary. So the music swelled and turned into the song. Here are the lyrics to "Believe ... in the Magic"
Can you remember
How Christmas makes you feel?

That special magic in the air and all your dreams are real.
Can you remember:
The smell of gingerbread?

Candy canes and sugar plums dance inside your head.
(blah blah, something about reindeer)
The magic lives when we believe.

Remember the caring
A season worth sharing.
Believe in the magic in our lives
Just open up your heart,
And re-live the feeling.
Just remember the magic
Yes remember the magic … one more time.


I thought I was nauseous when I got off Space Mountain.
Yeah, NOW I remember how Christmas makes me feel: manipulated!

Look, don't get me wrong: I love sentimental things. I choked up during "Soarin' Over California." No, it's not a ride about Kierkegaard in L.A. It's the ride that takes you over all these gorgeous vistas in our state. A glorious reminder of God's beauty.

And I love sentimental movies. "Elf" makes me cry, so does "A Christmas Carol" and "It's A Wonderful Life." But those films had a message based on something real: a character's soul was lost and needed to find its way back. Or an innocence that was believable and loveable.

I know children have a capacity to fantasize, and to believe in magical things. And maybe the fact we adults lost that capacity is a tragedy. But it's one thing to have a capacity for wonder and magic, and quite another to believe in a mythology of ... money. Consumerism.

I felt sad for all the little girls who came to Disneyland, dressed up in the Tinkerbell costumes their parents went into debt to buy. I saw them standing in line, eyes wide and waiting. But I was so afraid, what would happen when they got into the park. When the Big Parade came by with the REAL Snow White on the float ... Or when the "real" Tinker Bell came flying out of the Matterhorn and hovered over the REAL Cinderella's castle, I wonder if all those girls are girl going to realize the truth. "YOU'RE NOT TINKERBELL!"

Ah that's where I need Larry and his indefatigable love of innocence.

Larry: For one day you get to forget your troubles, you get to remember what's important in life.
Susan: Buying Mickey Gear?
Larry: No, the simple things ...
Susan: Like The New, Improved "Jack Sparrow-Pirates of the Carribean with Johnny Depp?"
Larry: No, things like friendship and joy and innocence.
Susan: Then why didn't we go to the beach?
Larry: Because the ocean is poluted.
He's right. Those are the things that are important. You can find the fun and joy and freindship at Disneyland. Or the consumerism at the beach.

I just don't like being forced to enjoy manufactured feelings, or believe some empty mythology. "The Magic Of the Season:" or "the Year of a Million Dreams." Don't rain a syrup bomb on my parade.

Check out the WHOLE Christmas fireworks show, with all the treacley talk, on You Tube

Warning to diabetics: You may go into a coma

Dec 5, 2006

Thanksgiving, Pt. 2

Larry and stayed in at the Comfort Suites in Castle Rock, courtesy of my mom. We were just a few miles from my sister Nancy's place: they're a family of six, plus my mom who lives with them. My brother Jim was there, and so was Phill's dad Lowell. SO with nine people in their small ranch house, Larry and I welcomed the hotel: a quiet place to relax, a bathtub with no toys, and a toilet with no trainer seat or urinal cake. Yes, it would be great to have a little place to retreat to.

After being awakened by the terse discussion between a motel tenant and security guard, Nancy called to recommend a place for Larry and me to get breakfast, in downtown Castle Rock. So Larry and I headed a bit south to the old area of Castle Rock.

The Comfort Suites was fine, of course. But it felt weird, like I'd stayed there before. Maybe because I had: at the Hampton Inn in Franklin, Tennessee, the Holiday Inn in Provo, Utah; and the Residence Inn in Salt Lake City. Same building.

And come to think of it, each hotel was situated in the "hotel chain" section of town, across from the "restaurant chain" section, down the street from the Target/Wallmart section. There must be only one urban planner in the US, and he's phoning it in.

Larry and I loved going into old town Castle Rock and finding the place Nancy suggested: an old diner with high wood-backed booths and a real soda fountain. Problem was, they didn't serve breakfast after 11am. Who did they think they were, McDonalds?

We strolled around the local antique mall and headed over to Nancy and Phill's place in Sedalia. Nancy and Phill's 13 year old son Matt was happy to see Larry: that meant an extra hand to help them dig a trench for the new electrical cable, going out to the barn. Larry hurt his wrist in a bicycle accident a few weeks ago and he couldn't work a shovel, so Phill insisted Larry not worry about it, but Matt was a little bummed.

A few minutes later, I found Larry and my brother Jim, plopped out on the couches with their dueling Mac laptops and reading glasses. While Matt was digging a trench. But soon their second son, Jonathan, persuaded Larry to go to the barn to see the goats and their one chicken, Goldie: the Lone Free Ranger. There was Larry in the middle of a Green Acres episode.

The day went by quickly. Nancy offered to make broccoli cheese soup for dinner. I saw a look of terror wash over Larry's face. Fortunately, none of the trench-digging men wanted for soup either; they wanted restaurant cooking! So everyone else took off for Applebees, and Nancy and I stayed home to make pies.

I wanted time to talk to Nancy. We don't get to see each other enough. We're a thousand miles apart. And it's not just physical distance.

Nancy, Phill and I shared a house, back in the 1980s when Nancy was getting her masters in English at UCLA. She had short hair with a streak of electric blue in it, and she listened to Paul Simon and U2. Nowadays she wears long hair and longer skirts; she listens mostly to Christian music, and she talks mostly about God. She got rid of her Thomas Pynchon novels to make room for her home schooling books.

Yeah, Nancy home schools her four kids, takes care of my mom, drives her eldest daughter Emily to dance class, and Phill takes Matthew on hiking expeditions. I've watched my sister get quieter, and it hasn't sat well with me. Come on, what's wrong with Paul Simon or U2? What's wrong with girls wearing bathing suits? What's wrong with TV? (well, now that I've watched a bit of TV, I understand but .. but …

Phill and Nancy have retreated from much of American pop culture and "the world." What's wrong with the world? Didn't Jesus love the world?

But with Britney Spears recent foray into partying commando in mini-skirts, who can really blame them? In fact, who can blame the Muslims for detesting us? But that's another story. And while we disagree on a lot of things, I look at their kids: they're terrific. They're well-adjusted, they treat other people with respect. They get a lot of discipline and a lot of love. And it shows.

Still, I often miss that fighter part of my sister; the one who loved Charles Dickens and literature, who wore dangle earrings and her hair like Princess Diana with a blue streak.

A couple years back my sister and I had a big argument over my ex-boyfriend, because we'd become friends again.

N: Susie. You can't do that.
S; He's going through a hard time. I'm trying to be a friend to him.
N: What if tomorrow he meets someone and tells you he doesn't want to see you ever again?
S: If he meets someone, great! But he's not going to blow me off, because I'm his friend.
N: No, he's a wolf, Susan.
S: Nancy, I can't talk to you about this.
N: Susie. you're hardening your heart to the Lord. I can hear it in your voice
S: What you hear is me, trying to keep from telling you off for treating me like a child!

The conversation devolved until I told her I had to hang up. We didn't talk for a couple months. That was Thanksgiving, 2004. We didn't talk until January 2005. She admitted she was still hurt about a comment I'd made about James Dobson back in May 2003 … I'd gone back to New York to move out of my apartment, three weeks after I'd broken up with this same Ex. I called her in tears, and she scolded me: "do you really want to go back to a guy who isn't going to heaven?"
I hung up on her then too; and later wrote her, saying I identified with the broken and wounded than with the James Dobson people who seem to have everything together.

So in January 2005, I apologized for whatever I said about James Dobson in May 2003.

I had another apology to make: she was right about my Ex: he sucked me dry for emotional support, and then snuck out of town without telling me. He WAS a wolf.

Whatever disagreements I had with my sister and her life, she'd been right about many things. And maybe ditching her Thomas Pynchon novels for Second Grade spellers wasn't too "off" either.

When I got engaged this past summer, she sent me this book by some neo-Amish woman about how to be a good wife. Defer to your husband. He's head of the house and his opinions are now yours. Dressing like a man is an abomination. The book freaked me out. And when Nancy came to visit in July and met Larry for the first time, she asked me, "Susan: Does Larry put Jesus first?" I got very angry. It seemed like her idea of being a Christian was wearing Amish clothes and memorizing scripture and retreating from life altogether.

But now here we were at Thanksgiving, 2006. A lot had happened. I got married. And you know, I did want to defer to Larry. I didn't want to be some passive idiot, but I was tired of being a Lone Ranger, Leader of One. I wanted to relax and be a woman, and let Larry lead. And that's not easy for Larry, leading.

I don't agree with Nancy on a lot of things, but I could stand to be open.

She's gone through a lot as well. Nancy and Phill had been part of an independent church, led by this 31 year old pastor who likened the spiritual life to climbing a mountain. In fact, Everything was an analogy to mountain climbing. Their 13-year old son Matt said: "I know Jesus spoke in parables, but he didn’t' keep using the same one!" Their church imploded when the pastor had a meltdown and went off on one of the members, and nearly half the church has left.

The refugees have been gathering at my sister's house, and Phill has done a lot of emotional mop-up of the people who got hurt. Phill said it's been difficult, but also very healing. "I've been reading Galatians, and it really needs to be about grace!"

Nancy said as much as we stood there making pies. She talked about grace, and how hard this year was on their family, but how much she has learned about grace. She's got a peace I want. I don't want the long skirts, but I sure want the peace she has.

And on this trip, she didn't ask me if Larry put Jesus first. She just said, "Larry's a great guy. And he's so perfect for you."

Songs of Praise for Christmas

It's time for me too toot the self-promotion horn. I had the privilege to write another special for DirecTV. Songs of Praise for Christmas is co-hosted by Amy Grant and Darrel Waltrip, and features performances by choirs and musical artists.

It’s on DirecTV Channel 103, NONSTOP, 24/7, for an entire month. If you don’t get DirecTV, call a friend and tell them to Tivo it. If they don’t have Tivo, well, there’s still papyrus.

Gaudete, gaudete Christos est natus!
Ex Maria virginae, gaudete!