My brother Brian and I will most likely be the last generation of our family to work at Carson’s.

A few weeks ago, their owners Bon Ton announced that they are closing down all their stores permanently, including Carson’s.

We both were third generation of our family to work at the well-known Chicagoland department store. While I worked in the Men’s Department, first in Accessories and Dress Shirts, then in Slacks and Dockers — no snide remarks, I heard them enough when I worked there and would say, “I work in Men’s Slacks and Dockers” — and my brother worked in stock distribution, of the three generations of Facks who worked at Carson’s, our Dad had reached the highest out of all of us: furniture buyer.

The first job I ever knew Dad had was working for Carson’s on State Street in downtown Chicago. At the time I didn’t appreciate it, but the wrought iron facade of the Louis Sullivan building was an architectural masterpiece, both of early high-rises and of city architecture, of which Chicago reigns as Queen (if not King).
Read Carson’s

Remembering Oma 30 Years After Her Passing

The photo of my Oma that everyone thinks is me in drag!
The photo of my Oma that everyone thinks is me in drag!
30 years ago today (26 February), my Oma passed away from intestinal cancer, 1 month shy of her 66th birthday and about 1 month after the diagnosis. I was nearly 13 when she passed away, just shy of that age where you start appreciating the stories and history your parents and grandparents share with you, if you’re interested in family history and that sort of thing.

A few months ago, one of my cousins asked me what Oma was like, and one thing that struck me recently was that out of all my cousins on my Dad’s side of the family, probably only my brother Brian and I remember or knew Oma the best.
Read Remembering Oma 30 Years After Her Passing

Happy New Year… Nearly a Month Late!

Happy New Year… nearly a month late.

I have to admit that after I posted my Christmas decoration blog, I was facing burn out with all the tasks to complete at work (results, diplomas, international examinations, graduation, et cetera) and once we hit the Christmas break, I vowed I wouldn’t do anything I didn’t want to do and just relax.  It worked pretty much, which, for me, is no small feat.

Christmas came and went too fast for us.  Noel wasn’t well most of the break, so that meant we really didn’t do much.  To be honest, that was fine by me because I spent the time doing stupid silly things like playing Sims 3 (which ended up being more stressful than not because the damned newest expansion pack, Seasons, doesn’t work very well on pretty much everyone’s computers) and being a little creative.

The New Year hit me rather hard.  I admit, I cried.  I was glad to see the end of 2012, which had been such a roller coaster of a year for me, tacked on to the end of 2011 like the false ending of, well, a roller coaster you think is going to stop but it picks up again for another final lot of thrilling and scary spins.  I missed Jenah.  Some of my friendships seem to be getting more and more distant, and it’s hard enough to try to make friends in Christchurch as is.  I was homesick.  But I was finally feeling emotionally slightly better.

2013 arrived, and, at first, it felt no different from 2012.  There was still that apprehension about work with the Targeted Review of Qualifications (TRoQ) and our upcoming External Evaluation and Review (EER), all through NZQA, plus the looming threat of whether we’d get enough students to meet our funding requirements.  No pressure.  No pressure at all.

I don’t know why, but something came over me to say that life is not all about work.  I seem to be going back to that message all the time.  My parents and grandparents instilled in me the value of working hard in the job you are in to be successful, but this wave of longing to expand my horizons, almost to the level of panic, rushed over me.  And then I felt suddenly positive and creative and raring to go with that.

One of the creative ideas I have been toying with is creating my own Star Trek movie using CGI.  I have seen some excellent ones and some not-so-good ones, and it irks me that some of the not-so-good ones act like they are better than Aliens.  I’m not that great with the whole CGI thing but I do have a sharp image in my mind about settings.  It would obviously not involve the characters established in the movies and TV shows, so part of the challenge would be to set up new characters the viewers would care about.  And I was also thinking of cobbling together some of my ideas and characters in my fan fiction universe to accomplish the movie (although only a featured starship, one of the enemies, and a region of space would show up with a few cameos from some of the other characters).  I have been thinking of a good piece of drama.  Sure, there could be a few phaser blasts here or there, but a character drama really is what has made some Star Trek episodes and movies great in the past.  Plus, whoever helps me with the CGI won’t die from establishing too many special effects shots!

Another challenge would be to build up my non-Star Trek writing.  The problem with this has been that I get so bogged down in consistency that I can’t seem to just write something down and worry about the nitty gritty later.  I did have a successful shot at writing a short story for an anthology I wanted to create, although it worries me because the supernatural angle seems to have been done a bit too much.  I want to make it as realistic as possible from several different characters’ viewpoints but hopefully leave the stories ambiguous in the readers’ minds as to whether or not the characters are reading supernatural things into everyday events.  In my mind, this could lead to starting my Masters in Creative Writing in 2014, because I need to have several stories built up in a portfolio before I apply.  The thing that worries me is I feel very devoid of ideas right now.  The same old ideas keep churning over in my head, and I’m trying to distance myself from anything that can be construed as autobiographical or semi-autobiographical to be honest.

Of course, in all this, I’m afraid I won’t do well enough or that the standard I set is too high and I can’t reach it or I’ll just plain burn out or lose interest before I finish.  And the biggest worry is rejection.  But then again, what do I have to lose if I don’t do it?

Just last week, I received some devastating news.  My cousin Greg, who was a year younger than me almost to the day, passed away suddenly.  It has rocked me to the core, and made me more apprehensive about my own destiny and my own life.  If the earthquakes have taught me anything, it’s that you don’t know what’s around the corner.  Do I work my butt off to get these things I listed above done, and hope my work somehow becomes a footnote in history, or do I just drift my aimlessly in life like a boat without a rudder and hope I’m remembered for good reasons when I go?

Yes, 2013 is going to be an interesting year indeed.

And Now, What You’ve All Been Waiting For… Christmas 2012

Christmas lights all blurry
Christmas lights all blurry

Okay, so apologies for the delay in getting the Christmas 2012 blog going.  With work being busy, and Noel and I having a gazillion things to do lately, one or the other of us has been dragging our feet at one time or another.

All the Christmas decorations are up that will be up for this year.  We have quite a collection of Christmas decorations and things, and every year we miss a few here or there.  This year, we’re missing our Santa with a snowglobe (with a list of who’s naughty and who’s nice), our Christmas train for around the tree, and other little bits and pieces.

Our traditional Christmas tree
Our traditional Christmas tree

Noel and I have built up our Christmas collection over the years.  In our front living room, we have a traditional Christmas tree (pre-lit) with red and gold ornaments.  We skip the garland or tinsel because we have two rather rambunctious cats who would get the tree on the ground in about three minutes flat by tugging on the stuff til the tree couldn’t take it any longer.

Alas, I digress.

We also have a large light-up reindeer that sits in the window next to the tree.  It has Christmas lights through its antlers to make it look like it’s a bit clumsy.  It reminded Noel of Jenah so, of course, he had to have it.

The piano has a Christmas carol book open on it (this year: “Joy to the World”) and a small Christmas tree with white lights.  This year, Noel has added a menorah for Hanukkah, sitting on our relatively new hall table (right beside the front door).

Christmas wreath on the front door
Christmas wreath on the front door

Outside, we aren’t as garish as some of those houses with 9 gazillion lights, but we decorate what I think is tastefully.  Noel (who is less afraid of heights than me) climbs the ladder every year to put them up and take them down, and nice enough to put up with what he calls my OCD to make sure the lights are all on solid and not different random patterns (it irks me!).

This year, Noel brought out one of his super-duper cameras and took a picture of our house as the sun was almost fully set.

The house as the sun sets
The house as the sun sets

The funniest thing is that, this year, we seem to be the only house on our block to have such a display up, so people slow down and admire it pretty much all evening, which is lovely.  Glad that we can bring at least a little cheer to other people in what’s been a very topsy-turvy last two Christmases for Christchurch and the Canterbury region.

You might recall I said “our front living room” before.  That’s right.  We have two living rooms.  It’s rather typical in newer New Zealand houses.  The front living room is what I’d like to think is similar to where visitors were first received in old English homes.

The back living room is connected to our kitchen, with a breakfast bar and dining room, in an open plan.  We place quite a few Christmas knick-knacks around the place in that area.  The main Christmas feature, though, is our white Christmas tree.

White Christmas tree
White Christmas tree

Jacqui’s mother Ann bought this tree for under $5NZ at Farmer’s, where she works, a few years back.  It’s been an extremely durable tree and been well worth the investment.

This year, Noel and I bought new lights for it.  The first lot of lights were strings of 25 LED lights (blue) that had sparkly tinsel on them.  We would still be using them if they hadn’t been so short!  So we raided TradeMe and found 3 10-meter, 100 LED light strings; the above is the result.  I think it looks stunning.

While I realise all my friends and family are not Christian, and they know I respect them for whatever or whomever they believe (or don’t believe) in, Christmas is a very special time for me.  There is something in the story of a father who loves those under his care so much that he sends his own son to be sacrificed to save those under his care.  For me, though, I have very good memories of Christmas (for the most part), of fun with friends and family, and that’s why Christmas is so very special to me.

Happy holidays!

Christmas lights and ornaments
Christmas lights and ornaments

Christmas Shopping

Christmas Presents
Christmas Presents

I hate Christmas shopping.

It’s not that I begrudge buying presents for other people.  Noel would tell you that I try to be a very giving person (and I hope I succeed).

It’s that I worry about if the other person will like the gift and also if it is too much / too little to give them.

These are pretty stupid things to worry about, I am sure, because I try to be the type of person who is gracious in accepting gifts, even if they aren’t exactly up my alley.  People are giving me gifts out of the goodness of their hearts, and I take them in the spirit that they are given.

To be honest, I’d rather have someone come out and say, “I’d like item A, item B, and/or item C for Christmas.”  It makes it a lot easier to get the item or even get some inspiration from that.

Noel is very hard to buy gifts for.  He’s kinda the guy who has everything… So when I get a flash of inspiration on what I can buy him, I’m always nervous he’s going to buy whatever I’ve bought already, or buy the only gift idea I have for him.  (You might laugh, but this does happen sometimes.  I try, as gently as I can, to steer him in a different direction.  One year, I actually told him, “No, you don’t want to buy that.”  He did get the hint…)

I kept getting upset about buying him a Christmas present this year because I had zero idea what to get him.  Every time I asked him, he’d say, “Oh no, don’t buy me a present… You paid for us to go to see your family this year” or something similar, and inside, I’d be getting more and more upset because that answer wasn’t helping me figure out what to get him for Christmas.

So, in the last few days, there have been a few flashes of inspiration, and I finally chose the gift I wanted to get him.  I did have to shift around some cash to make it happen and got some advice from a good friend.   Noel’s present is paid for, wrapped, and hidden somewhere safe… Phew.

Now, for the next lot of gifts for other people…

PS.  I did promise that I would show you our Christmas decorations for Christmas 2012.  We were waiting on some new lights for one of our Christmas trees, and they arrived Tuesday.  Noel put them up, but I haven’t had time to put the decorations up… I’m doing that this afternoon.  Hopefully my next blog will be to show you all the pretty things we do with the house for Christmas in our own modest way.

Ghosts of Christmas 2010 and 2011

On 4 September 2010, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck near Darfield, New Zealand.  It was felt far and wide, and, even though Christchurch (where I live) was 40 kilometres away, the earthquake reinvigorated faults throughout the region.

By the time Christmas 2010 rolled around, we had had a few moderate aftershocks (in the 4 and 5 ranges), but the planet below us seemed to be keeping quakes to those levels.  We set up our trees and decorations, celebrated the Christmas holiday, and counted ourselves lucky the September 2010 quake hadn’t done more serious damage.

Read Ghosts of Christmas 2010 and 2011

Christmas Observations

Well Christmas has come and gone but I still love looking at the lights at our place.

Just a few observations on Christmas:

  • Christmas brings out the best in some people and the worst in others.
  • Christmas is a time of giving… and some people are only good at taking (LOL)
  • Christmas is a time of giving… and some people graciously give too much (but hey, we’re not complaining about that)
  • Christmas is a time of good cheer… and some people who aren’t cheerful all year ’round adequately demonstrate they aren’t cheerful at Christmas either
  • The shops are shut for a day. For f*ck’s sake! (My fav phrase although it’s on the Little Britain: Live DVD!!!)
  • Even if you say Merry Christmas or send someone a Christmas text message or whatever, you might not get that back… but hey, if you did it out of the goodness of your heart, who cares?
  • Christmas is a time to spend with good friends and family… and I am fortunate enough to have my good friends here to spend Christmas with, and fortunate enough to live in a country (and have a lifestyle) that allows me to talk to my family for an hour and a half on the phone on Christmas (um even if Grandma’s old phone was a bit dodgy, i.e. Brian turned up the volume to hear with and all he could hear was him talking louder!!!)
  • Christmas is the best day (well, besides birthdays) to spoil the kids! It’s great to see their faces light up with the cool toys and gadgets they get in this day and age.
  • Christmas (and to a degree Thanksgiving and New Years) makes me even more thankful for all the blessings and opportunities and lovely people I have (and have had) in my life. For those who I am close to (and you know who you are), I love you dearly. So when I say it, I mean it!!!

Anyway… I’m not mentioning names for some of these (um, the bad ones are to people who aren’t even on myspace as far as I can tell) but are just some observations I wanted to share with everyone.

Scott 🙂