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I've been thinking of gratitude this week and what it means to me. There are times when I get mired in my own stuff or what seems like the infinite misery of the world, and I forget how blessed every day is. I forget that in the myriad of complications we face,  a simple truth remains -- that life is good and precious.

Yesterday, a friend passed away suddenly. Today, I learned that a few friends are pregnant. So, I'm sad and I'm happy. I'm grateful that I knew a man before he left this world and I'm grateful that my friends will bring new life to the planet, and they will raise good people.

Today, I spent my afternoon eating too much, and yet some of my fellow human beings went to bed last night with empty bellies, as they will tonight. It's weird to wrap my head around gratefulness when there are those around me who are struggling, and when I, myself, have days of struggle.

This day is not easy on some people. I've had years where the holidays weren't the least bit festive. This year was a good one and I was able to be with people I love and who love me. I am grateful for that experience today, but I want to make sure that I don't keep my gratitude tucked away for just one day of the year when I can bring it out over some mashed potatoes. Yes, Thanksgiving is a great time to let people know how thankful I am for them and be thankful for what I have, but it's kind of like telling and showing someone only on Valentine's Day that I love them, when I love them 364 more days of the year on top of that.

I don't know what any of all this means, except that I believe every breath is certainly a miracle and something to not take for granted, and that whoever you are, or where ever you are, somebody loves you.  It may just be one person...but as a couple of friends of mine once put into a song, "one can be a lot." It's certainly a lot to be grateful for.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.
In Gratitude and Love - Susan

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The Grammy Awards...

I'm a voting member of the Recording Academy (the folks that award the Grammy). I have been spending the past month listening to music from artists, engineers, producers, writers, composers and arrangers from all of the world so that I can cast my votes consciously and in good faith. If you're in doubt that there is incredible music in the world because you're used to the same ten songs on the radio (which are still great songs...mostly), you're missing so much. After I cast my votes, I'm going to compile a general list of some of the amazing people I've discovered (there's so many honestly it's overwhelming). I'm beyond blown away by the level of talent in the independent musician circles. I wish there was a bigger voice for so many, but hopefully their talent will help them all rise above the static of everything else.



Those Were The Days

When I was young, my parents wouldn't let me watch All In The Family. They thought (rightfully so) I was yet too young to understand the irony or to know that Archie stood as the embodiment for the blindness and ignorance of so many (it was always touching when he had his moments of Grace and understanding for his fellow person).

It was a brilliant show, way ahead of its time. It touched on huge taboo topics that, even today, humanity struggles with. Norman Lear is certainly a genius writer, but truly his cast was exceptional, as well.

One could write endless papers on the many subtle and not so subtle commentary woven into each episode...down to the theme song, "Those Were The Days."

If you've never seen it, I highly recommend you watch from start to finish. We've lost nearly all of the great actors and actresses from that show. But they left one hell of a legacy.

Click to watch the interview with Norman Lear



On Tour with Vega String Quartet!

Hey Everyone...I'm heading out on tour with the fabulous Vega String Quartet for Galleria Seasons. They'll be playing the beautiful music of Haydn, Mozart and Vivaldi's Four Seasons and during the Four Seasons, I'll be painting two abstract works that are inspired by the music I'm hearing.  Come out and see us...
Oct. 18th - Glynn Academy Memorial Auditorium (Brunswick, GA) - for this show renowned abstract artist Timothy Raines will be painting.

and I'll be painting for the following four performances:
Oct. 20th - The Mother Lode Theatre (Butte, MT)
Oct. 23rd - Grants Pass Performing Arts Center (Grants Pass, OR)
Oct. 24th - Crescent Elk School (Crescent City, CA)
Oct. 26th - Victor Valley College Performing Arts Center (Victorville, CA)

Check out Vega String Quartet at rehearsal: http://instagram.com/p/uHM4lsjbkt/



BIrthday - A Short Story Over a Long Time

I never really understood the human need for birthday parties.

Half-eaten cake, balloons too-soon deflated, candle-blown wishes unfulfilled. These rituals have never made any sense to me, hard as I’ve tried to embrace them, nor the host of others like them; funerals, Christmases, President’s Day.

I was born on April 23, iphone67. Seventy years after the passing of Saint Steven Jobs. I, myself, attend the St. Steven cathedral every Sunday and am (proudly) named after him. I’m sure you’re wondering why, given my lack of enthusiasm over rituals, I would choose to adhere to Sunday mass and I suppose I don’t blame you for noting the inconsistency. But alas, as much as I like to think of myself as perfect as He who made me, I am not. I suppose, it’s my noted imperfections that make me more human, and therefore, loved more by my family.  So, I go to Sunday mass, I have a slight addiction to television and computers and, admittedly, I have a deep fascination with The Wizard of Oz, but that is a story for another time.

Steven was the name I was given seven days after I’d opened my eyes for the first time. My family brought me home and I quickly adapted to my surroundings. I was an avid learner, although much of what I knew, I came into my family with, as is the way for most of us, I’m sure. Please don’t think me bragging. It’s simply the truth of the matter. My family continually states that I’ve exceeded their expectations in every way.  I suppose that is why, at age 46, an age when others would be long gone, replaced by younger in the house, I’m still here, leaning over candles that I won’t blow out.

Sarah Beth has been blowing out my candles as long as she’s been alive and able to understand the concept. It’s one of her "most favoritist things to do." This I know, because she announces it every 365th day, and sometimes she tells me when she and I are having tea with her teddy bears. I give her my wishes, as well. What am I going to do with wishes?

Soon, I’ll open my presents. There is little anticipation on my part. I know what to expect. Knowing that I am mechanical in nature, my family tends to give me that which tends toward the obvious: Wrenches, wire, Lithium batteries, and things of that sort. I, however, prefer books, art supplies, clay, or anything creative.

Instead of hoping to receive such things as gifts, I acquire them for myself. I’ve often wondered if my creativity bothers them in some way, not that I fault them for that. I come from a long line of mechanical thinkers and creativity, artistic creativity, is not something that is encouraged in the likes of me. But when I’m alone, when my family is out, or asleep, I sit at the table and I paint, or read, or write poetry. I realize it’s silly, if not a futile endeavor, to feed this part of myself. It’s not like I’m truly expanding my mind, the way the masters of long ago speak of it. And I know my family is right when they insist I know everything I could possibly need to know. But, honestly (as if I could be anything but honest), art, words, music, and creative outlets in general, relax me and make me feel that much more human.

Sarah Beth blows out my candles and smiles at me. “I made a wish,” she declares triumphantly. I return her enthusiasm, as is my way, and ask, “What’s that?” She leans in as close as her little body can manage and whispers, “That you’ll be my best friend, forever and ever.” She hugs my neck and I return her warm embrace, knowing, deep down, in a few years or so, she wont remember this moment, or her wish, the way I will. Sarah Beth’s mother, Jean, made the same wish, years ago, and though sometimes I think she might have the feeling in the back of her mind that it was said, she doesn’t actually remember the exact day, time, year or even that she said it.

I remember everything, every word, every action and every day that has passed since I began my existence. In a few years, Sarah Beth won’t remember her wish, just as her mother has forgotten. But one day, if I’m one of the lucky ones, Sarah Beth's children will hug my neck with the same wish on their lips, as will her children’s, children’s children.

So, I hug Sara Beth and understand Love, as I’ve been programmed to do. And I Love her back and I believe I truly feel it, which I suppose makes me a little different than the others of my generation. And perhaps, it’s why they’ve kept me all of these years. Surely technology has created models that greatly surpass my abilities, but my family loves me, and I’ve never been replaced. I am a lucky one. I am Steven, model iPhone67, artificial intelligence, human replicant. Today is my birthday.



Fury and Peace (9-11)

Yesterday was the anniversary of a horrific day in America. My reaction was deep and pained and as a songwriter, I turned to poetry and music to try and make sense of it all.

I sat in my room and wrote the words I was feeling and called my then collaborator, Jess Gaedtke, to turn it into a song with me.

As I sang the melody that was coming from my body and perhaps from the planet as a whole, my notes soared with sorrow and anger and hope. Maybe it sounds corny now, but I'll never forget the feelings coming out of me.

I took the song to my friend, the fabulous producer Paul Speer, and asked him to help me create what I was hearing in my head.

I never released the song, as it always felt too soon. But I love it and it still evokes the same emotions in me that it did on that day I wrote it.

I've finally released it on iTunes. You can hear/get it, here. I'll donate 20% of its proceeds to the continued efforts of Tuesday's Children charity (they not only help the children of the 9-11 tragedy but also children all over the world affected by tragedy).


Here are the lyrics:

(Do you see that over there? It looks suspicious.)
(Can we trust ourselves?)

Very quiet see them walking around
No words come when they fall to the ground
Picture men as ghosts
Sheets of white laid to rest on hills of stone
Hold my hand now I cannot bear to be alone

I have waited along with the rest
Let me fall to less consequence
There are shadows here
Outlines moving in and out of fear
Hold me up, now
Tomorrow rises anyhow

Closed eyes to sleep, to dream
Heavy by what I’ve seen
Angels walk beneath these streets
Caught between
Caught between fury and peace

Small favor granted here and there
(reach out to me)
No wonder faces woven and bare
(what I used to be)
I am strong now
From where I’ve gone I’ve been too long
Somehow I’ve held together
But I’m caught between
We’re all caught between this fury, and

Closed eyes to sleep, to dream
Heavy by what I’ve seen
Angels walk beneath these streets
Caught between
Caught between fury and peace

Caught between fury and closed
I close my eyes




Finding Love at 95

Life is short, they say. Perhaps when you're on the other side of 90 it's downright blinkable. This story is a beauty, and if it weren't for the greed of a few bad apple relatives, there would be no question as to the validity of Love for these two newlyweds. If they're more active, care for each other, make each other happy, are best of friends and companions, and even have their make-outs, then they're already far better off than 50 percent of the married couples out there. Is some property more important than the happiness of two people that are clearly committed and in love? Life is short, and for these two, if every second they've got left is filled with Love, they've got it made.

 Click Link here to see story: Newlywed in Their Nineties!



Don't Look Back

If you have the idea - do it. If you want to write a book - write it. If you have a song in your heart - sing it. If a stage beckons you - climb up on it. If you always wanted to play an instrument - pick one up and start messing around, pretty soon it'll become music. If you have an invention idea - set it into being. People all around us want to tell us that we can't do something, that we shouldn't try, that it's best left to experts or others, that we should be contented standing still. Don't listen. More than ever the world needs beautiful words, music, dance, laughter, hope, joy, faith, freedom. Be a witness to your own soul. Run the distance. Run as fast as your can and don't look back. Not even once.





They appear in the sky, faint black dots, random yet steady, focused yet free. I find myself daydreaming, feather tucked beneath limb, caught up in possibility, as my own gypsy heart soars upward to meet them. "Where are we going?" I ask. "Ever forward," they reply. We have no set destination, but like the ocean, we, too, seek some far away shore, that will welcome us until we say farewell and spread wing to breeze once more.




👴🇫🇷🚶🏠💃📢💪🎩🎉👹🍄😳🙇💀🌐🌴🔍😻☎️⌛️⏰💰💊🛀📦🐓🐊👾🎱🏇🃏🐲🙋🍆🍭👻🔮🎆😬😮😋😂😍😇 👴💃💥💢🚶😴😳👨🍪✋

An elderly French monk appears at a young man's door while the young man is giving a tango lesson to a beautiful woman dressed in red. Wanting the fair lady for himself, the monk, who has broken his vow of silence, challenges the young man to an arm wrestling contest. A true gentleman, the young man accepts and wins, but the monk is diabolical and has poisoned his own sweat with a deadly mushroom elixir. The young man perishes, but not before having the most trippin balls psychotropic experience of his life. Moments later the monk and the girl vanish and the young man wakes up and swears never to eat his Uncle Larry's pot cookies again. The End.



Hybrids Have Gone To The Dogs - satire

Americas fascination with all things hybrid has reached a fever pitch. Science has brought us the Prius, the seedless watermelon, countless types of orchids, an occasional sheep and most excitedly tail-waggingly worthy, the Puggle.

A hybrid dog is a fuzzy (and occasionally hypoallergenic) result from the hyper trend of finding two of the cutest purebred dogs, putting on some mood music, and waiting for the magic to happen.

Results may vary (says so right on the box), but if all prevails, the outcome is a wet-nosed cutie pie that melts even the coldest of hearts and sends four-legger lovers into ecstasy.

Unlike the broccolini (yum!) and rabbage (go ahead, make a face and gag, I’ll wait), this mission of creating the ultimate cuddle hound is one of the more acceptable forms of playing God (beware of the kid in your child’s play group that wants to play God, instead of Doctor, Grocery Clerk or Starbuck’s Barista of Ennui and Dark Roast – it doesn’t bode well for a future in humanitarianism). But I digress.

Puggles, equal parts mixed of Beagle and Pug, are considered to be the top dog of the hybrids. Beagles are known for their intelligence and loyalty and Pugs for their high cuddle quotient. “We’re finding that pet owners are very excited about the hybrid dogs because they have the best of both breeds and the dog’s themselves are very stylish,” says PuggleLove.com president, Cyndie Ryers.

I had a chance to sit down with Ryers, waxing pugetically to a near catatonia of bliss about how “amazing,” “fantastic,” and “wonderful” her Puggle, Samson, has made her life. She did, however, go on to warn that one should research the characteristics of both breeds separately when choosing a hybrid dog, so that one will be aware of the dog’s likely temperament. Both Pug and Beagle purebreds have health or behavioral concerns that may or may not transfer to a mix of the two breeds. Pugs tend to have respiratory ailments and eyeball problems and Beagles may have ear-flap issues and have been known to bark incessantly. Oh, Heavenly bliss.

There are several sites devoted to Puggle breeds, including ipuggle.com, which is a basic “go to” encyclopedia for the precocious breed, as well as numerous “Puggle for Sale” sites. A Puggle can run upwards of $800, so be prepared to lay down some serious bones for these little doggies.

Over a fur-free and bark-less Skype session, I spoke with a devoted “mom” of four Puggles, Ms. Patty Moore. She gushed, “Paws down, Puggles are truly the best dogs on the planet.” Moore recently adopted Pugsie Malone, a six-month old Puggle, adding to her brood that included, Muggle the Puggle, Pugnacious Maximus and Bill.

She took me on a virtual tour of her home, which was filled with all things Puggle. She, herself, wore an irony free “I Love Puggles!” t-shirt and matching Puggle-faced slippers.

Admittedly, by the time our Skype session was finished, it was hard not to be won over by those cute little faces and non-stop wigglers running amok beneath her feet.

We humans are charging ever forward with our attempts to perfect the world, as we know it. Perhaps Puggles will be in the Pantheon of Dog Science, one day. Only time will tell (in increments of seven years, of course).

Here’s hoping that perhaps more adventurous genetic mash-ups are to come: The RottWeiner, the gerbil-python, Miley Cyrustoleum or seedless sunflower seeds. As grand and wild as the mind can imagine, science will find a way.