Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Rethinking One's Position

I've always been pretty conservative in my thinking. And I was raised in a very straight-laced Christian mindset. Oh, wait—what I'm saying is I was not thought to think for myself. I was taught to accept whatever I was told without thinking.

That oughta be a crime!

When all the furor about gay marriage started a few years ago, I was adamantly against it. I didn't discuss it with anyone—I was also raised not to discuss politics. I felt strongly that civil unions were fine for homosexuals. A civil union, properly defined, would give the parties the same rights as a marriage, but without the name.

Recently I've started rethinking my position. What shook my position was a statement made on a talk show about childhood dreams. If I look at the world around me and see marriage as the norm, and I—as a child or teen—dream about my wedding, in whatever form it might take, why shouldn't I be able to dream about my dream spouse-to-be, whether it be a man or a woman?

It's my dream!

<Old Story Sidebar On>
As I was sorting through these thoughts in my mind prior to writing this post, I remembered how Husband #2 hated my ever referring to him as my spouse. He wanted to be referred to as my husband or by his name. He seemed to feel my calling him my spouse dehumanized him (or maybe he thought it desexed him!).

But then, he was kinda rigid in his attitudes and beliefs.

Yet another marriage I'm glad I'm no longer enduring.
<Old Story Sidebar Off>

So I'm changing my position. If homosexuals wish to jump through the same marriage-and-divorce hoops—to fund the same lawyers—as heterosexuals, who am I to deny them that? If it comes to a vote, I'll vote "yes".

Me? Cynical? Nah!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Learning by Doing

Probably the biggest challenge with getting one's feet wet in any new venture is learning how to use the available tools.

My Etsy store shelves are holding a bunch of this and that—things I've lovingly made and things I'm tired of working around.

My biggest mistake, to date, was in not understanding the shipping profile. The user can set up several shipping profiles that will pre-fill some of the shipping options based on what is being shipped and where it's going.

I thought I was indicating I would only ship to the U.S. What I really said was I would charge the same price ($4.95 - Flat Rate Envelope or Small Box) regardless of where it's going.

I was thrilled last night as we were returning home from Easter with the Jazzman's family in Columbus to read in my e-mail that I had sold a pattern off Etsy. This morning, as I was preparing the pattern to ship, I realized it was going to Canada and that the cost of shipping would be about 5 cents more than the total cost and shipping the buyer had paid.

Live and learn. And be grateful the buyer didn't live across an ocean!!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Follow-Up on Overdue Decluttering

As I mentioned in Overdue Decluttering, the Jazzman and I went to look at a house two miles away. There was a lot wrong with the house, but I love the street and the lot and the neighbors. We called the realtor last Friday to make an appointment to draw up an offer. He called back that evening to tell us the bank had accepted an offer on the house.

Five years ago the house sold for around $190,000. On Friday, a young couple (40s is still young, right?) paid $52,000 cash for the house and were seen in the yard on Friday evening, clearing away debris.

The most disturbing part of the visit to the house was seeing how it had been allowed to deteriorate. Look at that beautiful hardwood floor and all the water damage. Even if I lost a property in foreclosure, I cannot imagine that I would let it go to hell like this. I have too much respect for the history of the house and the residents who had lovingly cared for it before I got there.

The most sobering part of the entire week was looking around my house and realizing how much needed to be done before we could sell or rent it.

I have a new goal in life: To get my house to a condition that if I decided today to buy another house, I could put mine on the market and host potential buyers tomorrow!

I've got a long way to go!!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

And How Do You Use Clothesline?

This weekend's decrease-the-stash project began when I unearthed three pieces of fabric that I had hand-painted about ten years ago. I found a coordinating polka dot print stashed away that I loved with the three hand-paints. Then I started wrapping and stitching.

This is my third effort with this technique. Effort number one used up a yard-and-a-half total of two companion fabrics that have been sitting around for about eight years. The result was an oval basket with handles on each end that is being used to hold the current knitting project.

Number two was a sort of plate that was discussed here. I used up about a half-yard of fabric and—after I was very unhappy with the result—a bottle of dried-up fabric paint to which I kept adding water. The final result is in constant use.

Effort number three is a bowl. It's almost big enough for a very large cat to sleep in.


His butt hangs over one end and his head the other, but he's happy. I finished the basket yesterday afternoon and took the pictures immediately afterward. This afternoon I glanced into the library and he was tucked into the basket again. I think he likes it.

And I like having four fewer pieces of fabric in my stash! Only about ten thousand to go!

Friday, April 15, 2011

I'm a Good Girl, I Am!

Spring has finally arrived in Northeast Ohio, and I can only hope that we won't get any more miniblasts of winter! The winter just passed was long and hard, and I'm not sad to say "Farewell!"

As the flora is beginning to green up, I'm needing to clean out the beds around the house to make room for growth. Last Sunday afternoon, while the Jazzman was golfing, I got out and did some raking and pulling.

I was reminded of the yardwork I used to do at my daddy's lake cottage. Here's my description from a post written in 2008.

One of my most prominent memories is of the summer when my boys were, I believe, two-and-a-half and one. That would have been 1976. My daddy had a lake house out near the back entrance to Walt Disney World where he would go from Saturday noon to Sunday night to fish and relax. The house sat on two lakefront acres and had lots of grass that had to be mowed regularly. That summer he was having heart problems again and couldn’t go out there every weekend. TJ and Tyler’s dad was working at WDW as an entertainment supervisor. Every Saturday morning we would pack up all the accoutrements two toddlers require and head out to the lake, 45 miles away, for the weekend.

On Saturday afternoon I would crank up the riding mower and mow the grass, which would involve about 45 minutes of riding around in the sun, heat and humidity. The result for me, every week, would be a screaming headache. As I sat on that mower, riding, turning, riding, I imagined my daddy whispering in my ear, “You’re a good girl.” He was one of only two people in the first 46 years of my life who made me feel I had any worth. To this day, when things are hard and I take steps to ease them, I hear daddy telling me I’m a good girl and tears come to my eyes. He was one of a kind and died way too early.

It never fails. Whenever I'm doing something hard and/or painful, I can hear my daddy encouraging me. We should all be so lucky—to have such a cheerleader on our side.

I've been trying to get to the gym every morning, and the surest way to do that is to beg Tyler to let me drive the babes to school, which is sorta on the way. I called him this morning, and he said, "I think they've been missing me this week, so I'll take them."

First, let me say, "What a good dad!"

And then it reminded me of my sophomore year in high school, when I had to catch the bus ("first on, last off") at 6:00 a.m. Daddy—always up early to make rounds and clear up outstanding paperwork before the day's surgeries and patients—would drive me the mile-and-a-half to the Rexall Drug parking lot and sit with me while we waited for the bus to arrive. That was the year when I have the most memories of him, the year I spent more time with him than any other.

Again, how lucky I am to have such wonderful memories. And my grandchildren are following in those footsteps.

Today's photos? Before and after of the beds on the west side of the house.

I'm a good raker and weeder.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Things We've Known That Are On The Way Out

My friend-of-30-years, JW, sent me a compelling piece of text this morning. I've searched and searched, to no avail, to try to find the original author of the piece.

With each new gadget that Apple or Amazon introduces, I shake my head and wonder, "Why do we need this?" and then "How did we live without this."

Sometimes I long for the days when we were not all instantly available to everyone in the world! Cell phones, text messages, even faxes. What was the world like before we had faxes? I remember hearing the teletype machine delivering the news when I had my first job as a promotion and public service copywriter in a television station. The only way my grandchildren will ever hear a teletype machine is if they find a museum of communications that houses one!

So close your e-mail program, turn off your phone, and read these sobering thoughts. (Thanks, JW!)

1. The Post Office. Get ready to imagine a world without the post office.
They are so deeply in financial trouble that there is probably no way to sustain it long term. Email, Fed Ex, and UPS have just about wiped out the minimum revenue needed to keep the post office alive. Most of your mail every day is junk mail and bills.

2. The Check. Britain is already laying the groundwork to do away with checks by 2018. It costs the financial system billions of dollars a year to process checks. Plastic cards and online transactions will lead to the eventual demise of the check. This plays right into the death of the post
office. If you never paid your bills by mail and never received them by mail, the post office would absolutely go out of business.

3. The Newspaper. The younger generation simply doesn't read the newspaper.
They certainly don't subscribe to a daily delivered print edition. That may go the way of the milkman and the laundry man. As for reading the paper online, get ready to pay for it. The rise in mobile Internet devices and
e-readers has caused all the newspaper and magazine publishers to form an alliance. They have met with Apple, Amazon, and the major cell phone companies to develop a model for paid subscription services.

4. The Book. You say you will never give up the physical book that you hold in your hand and turn the literal pages. I said the same thing about downloading music from iTunes. I wanted my hard copy CD. But I quickly changed my mind when I discovered that I could get albums for half the price
without ever leaving home to get the latest music. The same thing will happen with books. You can browse a bookstore online and even read a preview chapter before you buy. And the price is less than half that of a real book and think of the convenience once you start flicking your fingers
on the screen instead of the book, you find that you are lost in the story,can't wait to see what happens next, and you forget that you're holding a gadget instead of a book.

5. The Land Line Telephone. Unless you have a large family and make a lot of
local calls, you don't need it anymore. Most people keep it simply because
they've always had it. But you are paying double charges for that extra
service. All the cell phone companies will let you call customers using the
same cell provider for no charge against your minutes.

6. Music. This is one of the saddest parts of the change story. The
music industry is dying a slow death. Not just because of illegal
downloading. It's the lack of innovative new music being given a chance to
get to the people who like to hear it. Greed and corruption is the problem.
The record labels and the radio conglomerates simply self-destruction. Over
40% of the music purchased today is "catalog items," meaning traditional
music that the public is familiar with. Older established artists. This is
also true on the live concert circuit. To explore this fascinating and
disturbing topic further, check out the book Appetite for Self-Destruction
by Steve Knopper and the video documentary "Before the Music Dies."

7. Television. Revenues to the networks are down dramatically. Not just because of the economy. People are watching TV and movies streamed from their computers. And they're playing games and doing lots of other things
that take up the time that used to be spent watching TV. Prime time shows
have degenerated to lower than the lowest common denominator. Cable rates
are skyrocketing and commercials run about every 4 minutes and 30 seconds. I
say good riddance to most of it It's time for the cable companies to be put
out of our misery. Let the people choose what they want to watch online and
through Netflix.

8. The "Things" That You Own. Many of the very possessions that we used to
own are still in our lives, but we may not actually own them in the future.
They may simply reside in "the cloud." Today your computer has a hard drive
and you store your pictures, music, movies, and documents. Your software is
on a CD or DVD, and you can always re-install it if need be. But all of that
is changing. Apple, Microsoft, and Google are all finishing up their latest
"cloud services." That means that when you turn on a computer, the Internet
will be built into the operating system.

So, Windows, Google, and the Mac OS will be tied straight into the Internet.
If you click an icon, it will open something in the Internet cloud. If you
save something, it will be saved to the cloud. And you may pay a monthly
subscription fee to the cloud provider. In this virtual world, you can
access your music or your books, or your whatever from any laptop or
handheld device. That's the good news. But, will you actually own any of
this "stuff" or will it all be able to disappear at any moment in a big
"poof"? Will most of the things in our lives be disposable and whimsical? It
makes you want to run to the closet and pull out that photo album, grab a
book from the shelf, or open up a CD case and pull out the insert.

9. Privacy. If there ever was a concept that we can look back on
nostalgically, it would be privacy. That's gone. It's been gone for a long
time anyway. There are cameras on the street, in most of the buildings, and
even built into your computer and cell phone. But you can be sure that 24/7
"They" know who you are and where you are, right down to the GPS
coordinates, and the Google Street View. If you buy something, your habit
is put into a zillion profiles, and your ads will change to reflect those
habits. And "They" will try to get you to buy something else. Again and

All we will have that can't be changed are memories.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Overdue Decluttering

Or: Choosing the Right Perspective.

The Jazzman and I have been occasionally driving past a certain house for nine months while we waited for it to go through foreclosure. The next-door neighbors on one side are friends of mine. Two doors over on the other side, the homeowners are friends of the Jazzman. There are a number of features I like about the house, the two most important being a very green and secluded backyard and a dead-end street.

We have set up an appointment to go see the house tomorrow. It's available for a small amount of money (as are most houses in the area), but would need quite a bit of work (as do most of the houses in the area!).

I've been in my house two-and-a-quarter years, and really love this house. But there are a helluva lot of steps to traverse in this house, and it's not air conditioned. The older I get, the more I miss the cool, conditioned air in the summer and the more I despise all those steps. And we ain't gettin' any younger!

But my point in telling this story is what the thought of packing did to me, as I sat and pondered a potential move yesterday. Omigod! I have probably 15 storage containers filled with fabrics of all types. I have silks and linens and fine apparel-making fabrics that I have picked up on many trips abroad. I have high-quality cottons for quilting. I have interesting fabrics perfect for making purses. I have quilt batting and soft animal stuffing. I have buttons to die for and enough thread to stretch from here to California. I have three sewing machines and a serger.

But sewing isn't my only passion. I have a small cabinet plus four or five boxes full of beading and jewelry-making supplies. I have a basket of cross-stitch supplies and two boxes full of knitting supplies. I have fabric dyes and fabric paints and all the buckets and measuring devices and stretchers I need to use them.

And books. Do I have books?! Tyler and I subscribe to the theory that a person is known by the books he keeps. And so I have kept books. My library bookshelves were so full I couldn't unpack my cookbooks. Yesterday I spent 2.5 hours culling the books that—although I love them—I will never read again. I organized the shelves by topic or area of interest: law; cooking; glass; pottery; fiber; jewelry-making; adoption; art; fiction; …. The box that the cookbooks were in now is full of books to go to the Mahoning County "Friends of the Library" store. And I have another 100 or so arts & crafts books in the basement.

I have a basket full of logo'd mugs that I've collected over the years. I used to throw parties where there were 30-50 guests; I needed those mugs. The most people I've had in my house at once since I moved in was 10. I don't need those mugs any more.

Whenever the Jazzman and I talk about this potential new home, I'm mentally calculating how long it would take to plan and execute the renovation and how much crap many treasured belongings I could dump release into the universe in that period of time.

But even if we look at the house tomorrow and say, "There is no way in hell we are taking on that project, ravine in the backyard or not," I have a new mission in life. And I'm going to stay on it until I feel much less overwhelmed by stuff.

You are never going to see me on A&E's "Hoarders".

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Remote Knit Along

I started knitting for the second time in my life two-and-a-half years ago. Now if I take a trip and don't have at least two skeins of yarn with me, I become very anxious. Gotta keep those hands and that brain busy.

I have several knitting blogs feeding my Google Reader. One of these, Random Musings on Crazy For Ewe, is written by Ellen, the owner of a local yarn store (LYS) in southern Maryland. A couple of weeks ago, Ellen posted a couple of photos of an interesting and challenging scarf. The more I looked at the second photo, knit with yarn from my favorite yarn manufacturer, Noro, the more I wanted to knit that scarf.

This is the hardest pattern I've attempted since my knitting rebirth. It's absolutely not a pattern where you go on auto-knit while you watch TV or carry on a conversation. I cannot tell you the number of times I've had to backtrack a row or more to correct errors. The pattern includes lace stitches (the holes you see in the picture) and left- and right-leaning decreases (the angled blocks).

There are sixteen rows to one repeated section, and 25 sections in the scarf. Those sixteen rows are A&B (repeated four times) followed by C&D (repeated four times). Ever the geek, I set up a spreadsheet to be able to keep track of where I am in the pattern.

I've chosen Noro Aya for the scarf. Aya is a combination of cotton, silk and wool. And Noro's hand-dyed colors are a treat to the eye.

I have to admit I don't totally love this color. (I like to support LYSs, so ordered from Crazy for Ewe without actually seeing the color.) The part I don't like is the pink and the blue. I'm not a pink or blue person, although the pink and blue give it a little feel of spring (which we need right now!). I asked Ellen for suggestions, as my most-favorite color was out of stock. I told her what colors I normally wear, along with my hair and eye colors, and accepted her suggestion.

When I pulled the yarn out of the bag, I loved it. But Noro, in winding the balls after dyeing, had deftly tucked the pink and blue deep inside the ball. Had I been in the yarn store and actually seen the ball of yarn (or had I spent more time on the link Ellen sent me), I probably still would have bought it. I can't blame this lack of love on Ellen! Maybe this scarf will force me out of my box a little (she says, smiling).

The blue is an ice blue, which is gorgeous (although not so much on me). The pink is delicate and lovely (although not so much on me). And the greens and browns—totally my colors—are fabulous. I really could cut the yarn when I reached the blue part and remove the blue and pink from each skein, using the blue and pink on some project for my girly-girl granddaughter. But I'm way beyond that point now, being 170 rows into the scarf!

So I will complete it, and grow to love it. Maybe I'll even buy a pink tee-shirt to wear it with this summer! Or green. Or brown. There are lots of possibilities.

(And—really!—I could have given you better images! I coulda shoulda taken it to the basement and set up my Soft Box to take the photos. I'll do that when it's finished.)

The downsides of knitting along remotely is that you don't get to participate in conversations, make new friends, and learn from others' mistakes.

But each Thursday afternoon, as I make time to sit and knit, I'm buoyed by the knowledge that a number of women with like interests are sitting together not far from my old hometown, knitting and enjoying each other's company.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Fitting In

I've written a number of times in this space about feeling, throughout my life, that I didn't fit in. I know I'm not alone. Lots and lots of people don't fit in where they've been dropped on earth.

I loved and respected the environment at Interlochen Arts Academy when my younger son was a student there. That school made it possible for hyper-talented young people who didn't fit in at their home school to meld their lives together and fit together in the creative Eden that is Interlochen Center for the Arts.

I've just finished reading Jodi Piccoult's "Nineteen Minutes." I loved this book!

First, the method Ms. Piccoult used to lead the reader into the mind of the characters was brilliant. I felt such empathy for Peter. I wanted to take Josie out for a mocha and tell her, "You're better than this!"

Second, the topic and Piccoult's treatment of it was riveting. I couldn't put the book down. At times when I would have been listening to something on XMRadio or watching something on television, I was turning on my iPod to get further into the book. And yesterday, while cleaning house, I turned it on to start from the beginning again.

I loved the way Piccoult put her words together. I loved her descriptions of places and things and seasons and feelings.

And, of course, now I've got to explore her body of work and listen to her entire catalog. ("Nineteen Minutes" came out in 2007. Where have I been?!)

What have you been reading?