Sunday, December 25, 2005

Glory to the newborn King.

Merry Christmas! It seems like a good day to catch up this darned blog, since we are home alone [insert McCauley Culkin-type hands-on-face expression here] on Christmas Day, with nothing much to do.

So many fun and crazy things have happened in the past six weeks, it's almost too much to type out, which is why I've let this blog fall behind. We took a week-long trip to Ohio for Thanksgiving, and I took a four-day to trip to Memphis two weeks ago for a girlfriends get-together.

The big news is that we finally bought a house and will be closing on it the day after tomorrow. It's actually the house I mentioned in my previous post, way back in mid-November.

The house had been sold by the time I got to look at it, which was really disappointing. The following weekend, I took Todd over to see it just for a lark. We walked through the yard. I called our realtors to see if that sake was indeed going through, and theygot back to me a couple days before Thanksgiving to say that, indeed, the sale was solid. So I just put the whole thing out of my mind.

On December 5, our realtor Pat called us and said that the sale had fallen through. Amazing! We went over and looked at the house again, made an offer that night and had it accepted. All was well!

But then the appraisal came $12,000 less than the sale price. We couldn't make up that shortfall (not would we have, even if we could have) and neither could the seller, as they were selling it after only just buying the place in August.

We really thought the whole thing had just fallen through. And we were okay with that. The thought of doing all that painting, packing, and moving over Christmas was daunting. And we realized there would be some real storage challenges with this house, too.

But last Wednesday the word came down that the agents had worked it out between them to take a commission cut, and the seller was able to come up with the rest of the shortfall. So we got the house, at $12,000 less than we planned. A nice Christmas gift!

I'm sad to be leaving this condo...we've been happy here and I was really feeling ensconced and contented after I got my few Christmas decorations up in late November. Love the neighborhood, love the community, but we'll have some great times in our new house, too, I really feel it.

So we're here all by ourselves for Christmas...the first time in ten years that we haven't traveled to be with family for the holidays. I miss seeing everyone, but it's a relief not to have to travel, especially since this house thing popped up, and since I've been sick with a cold for a week, and still feeling under the weather.

We opened presents this morning...I got Todd a bunch of supplies for building his RC airplanes, plus a book on tablesaws and one on...what else, RC airplanes. He got me a book on herb gardening, the Back to the Future trilogy on DVD, and The Sound of Music on DVD, and two pairs of earrings from Super Hero Designs, which is a site my friend Suzanne stumbled across and got me interested in. Plus, some lavender soap and the loveliest garnet and freshwater pearl necklace/earrings set, both of which he picked up at the Newport News Fall Festival in October. Very nice indeed!
This evening we'll feast on roast chicken if I can bestir myself from the computer long enough to go down and get it started. Tomorrow the packing begins, and Tuesday we do our walk-through and closing. Wednesday will be the beginning of the taping and painting extravaganza...ugh! But how wonderful everything will look when it's all done.
I'll write up the rest of our doings in a couple more posts.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Excrutiating minutiae.

Another sitcom quote--Seinfeld this time!

I'm trying to keep up with my blog a little better. Everything is so blah here, though. We've been coming home in the evenings and vegging out, which isn't really like us, but we're both tired and frustrated at the end of the day lately. I feel like I've got pebbles in the shoe of my soul. Hm, that's almost a pun, isn't it?

I drove around to five different houses with my realtors yesterday was pretty good. I wanted to go back today so Todd could see it, and maybe write an offer...this morning our realtor told us it's already in contract. It was in contract when I looked at it yesterday--the listing agent simply didn't bother to mention that fact. I absolutely feel in the depths of my mind that we will never own a house. I know I get discouraged easily, but that's because nothing encouraging has ever, ever happened when we get involved in real estate!

It's easier to be content when I just don't look at houses for a few weeks. Our neighborhood here is so beautiful right now. I've always loved living here; each season seems like the most beautiful, until you get to the next one. The development is full of large trees and's like living in a park. If only we owned this dumb place, it'd be perfect.

I've been rearranging the store like mad this week. It's been quite fun. It's the one part of my job I really do like--straightening, consolidating, making things look better and more appealing, making displays that are easy for a customer to look at. I guess it's hardly surprising--that's the part of scrapbooking I like the best too! Finding just the right place for everything! Now I just need to apply that talent to our home.

For years, I'd been very organized with our possessions, keeping things organized and arranged, weeding out things on a regular basis. I like having a tidy house. But then we moved twice in less than a year's time, and it all fell apart and I've never gotten a grip on it since! In the fall, I always want to clean closets and get rid of things, but this fall there has been no time at all for that. I need to make the time--we've got a downstairs closet that's like a black hole. Stuff goes in, but it doesn't come out.

This is such a boring post, I want to delete it, but it's just as easy to hit publish instead. I guess.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Grocery delights.

I've been surfing around reading a few other people's blogs this afternoon, and I feel like mine is BOOORING!

Then again, my life is pretty boring, so that doesn't give me much blog fodder.

How boring is my life? Well, I made a trip to our new grocery store this morning and it was definitely the highlight of my week.

We have a plaza with a bunch of empty storefronts just up the road, and an effort is being made to fill the plaza and spiff it up some. So Farm Fresh put in a new store in one of the empty sections. We have a couple Farm Fresh stores over in Newport News, and I go to the one every so often, but this is great to have one right up the road.

Here's how truly boring our lives are--Todd ran over to the plaza to pick up Chinese food a couple weeks ago, and called me all in a tizzy because the Farm Fresh had just opened. We weren't expecting it to open so soon, since the sign had just gone up, and construction in Virginia seems to take about five times longer than it did in Ohio.

The conversation went:

"Hey, guess what? That new Farm Fresh is open!"


"YEAH! I'm in here right now!"


"YEAH! It's so cool!"

Weep for us poor thirty-something homebody losers, gentle reader.

Anyway, I finally made it over to check it out for myself, and it's quite nice. I'm a bit of a food snob. I don't really like to cook, and I don't eat right, but I like to have the option of cooking and eating right when the desire hits me.

I like seeing fancy spaghetti sauces and whole-grain breads and cheese with names I can't pronounce. I adore seeing well-lit, beautifully arranged produce and ethnic food sections that encompass more than just Italian and Mexican. I like finding foods from companies other than General Mills and Kraft.

And I don't mind paying a little more for the experience, either. Our other neighborhood grocery store is a Food Lion, and it's about the least-inspired grocery store I've ever seen. It's nice to have a pretty grocery store finally. I don't care if that makes me shallow.

Because I was there mid-morning, it was just me and a handful of senior citizens, so I walked right up to the smiling waiting cashier who said, "I can take you right here," had my groceries bagged in paper bags by a lovely girl, and then had a very nice gentleman wheel them out and load them in the car for me. I can't remember the last time I was attended by three whole people at a grocery store. I felt like Queen Elizabeth surrounded by courtiers.

This Farm Fresh also has a program where you can shop online, send in your order, then drop by and pick it up. The fee is only $4.50. I can't begin to tell you how tempted I am by this feature. It seems incredibly decadent to pay someone else to do my grocery shopping for me.

But you know, everything was so bright and pretty, I think I can suck it up and shop for myself for a while longer.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Leafy, leafy.

That's a Phoebe quote from Friends, by the way...for some reason, Todd and I have been quoting it for, oh, ten years now. It's just fun to say.

A few fall foliage pictures from our Sunday drive along the Colonial Parkway. This is a limited-access tourist road that connects Yorktown, Williamsburg and Jamestown, and runs along some of the prettiest rivers and streams you'll ever see.

I think this one on the left is sooo pretty. Love all the grasses and weedy stuff in the foreground.

This one below was taken in roughly the same spot as the other one, just facing the opposite direction.

That's all for now--Todd wants his dinner for some dumb reason. Heh.


Someday it will dawn on me that ingesting caffeine after 4 pm guarantees a jittery sleepless night. But I guess I'm a slow learner.

I had wonderful iced tea with dinner tonight...what a dope. Saturday night, I had wonderful coffee with'd think the lesson would have lingered in my tiny brain a little longer. It's 1:45 and I am sleepy yet agitated. My brain's all jumpy.

So I thought I'd write what my SBF girlfriends call a "ketchup post."

Store news: I am so eager to quit my job. However--

My friend Cheryl is taking over as manager, and there will be a desperate need for several part-timers. Much as I'd like to drop a lighted match on the carpet and run away from that place forever...I am needed. At least for a couple afternoons a week. And since I know I will miss that paycheck, miniscule as it will be, I think I am stuck there for the forseeable future.

But No Teaching and No Weekends. On this there can be no compromise!

Designing news: I finished 14 cards for the Paper Crafts book I was asked to contribute to. Last week I had to make some last-minute changes, type up all the supply lists and instructions and mail them off. It was a panicky day or two, but oh, what a relief to drop them in the bin at the post office.

Consequently, I am finding it hard to get enthused about creating anything for the latest magazine call that entered my e-mail inbox a few weeks ago. It's for an issue I've had a lot of luck with in the past, but I am having a hard time forcing myself to sit and stamp. What I have come up with has been less than good.

However, I discovered a new company that has no design team that I'm aware of, and that I would like to work for. So tonight I directed my energy to making a layout with their stuff. I'd like to make three or four layouts, plus a couple cards, and toss them out to see if I can get a bite. The first layout went together well...I haven't scrapped a page in EONS.

Life news: We're slowly making our way through Season 1 of Gilmore Girls on DVD. I'm completely amused by how much Todd likes it. Because it's a fairly girly show. But we just fast forward through that dreadful Carole King theme song, and try to ignore the super-girly "da-da-da" vocal snippets that get played during scene changes. I'm soooo not a chick-flick kind of woman, but this is a good show. The acting and writing are excellent, and it pulls you right in. Definitely in the same vein as Ed and Northern Exposure, but with female protagonists, which is a mighty refreshing change.

My aunt, uncle and cousin came down for a day visit last weekend, and we took them up to Yorktown for lunch, walked along the river and nearly froze to death, and walked through the town, which was only slightly less cold. My cousin Alan lives in Charlottesville, which is about two hours away from us, so John and Molly decided to drive on out to us during their weekend visit to Alan.

It was such a great little visit...we appreciated them making the trip!

We went to a Halloween party/poker game that Saturday night at our friends Dawn and Dave's house. I am feeling such a desire to entertain. We just have no room in this condo to have a party. Having two or three people over is pushing it. One of my many regrets about losing that house in September was that it was laid out perfectly for entertaining. Ah well. Maybe I'm just not ever meant to break out of my "I hate people" persona.

This past weekend we drove up the Colonial Parkway to Williamsburg to look at the fall foliage, which really started looking glorious about a week ago. I had made a rush trip to Williamsburg on Thursday and I wanted to go back when I had time and a camera to get some shots of the leaves. I'd upload the pictures right now, but Todd has hidden his digital camera somewhere, and I can't find it. Maybe tomorrow.

I'm really not sure how I'm feeling about life right now. I seem to veer wildly between quite cranky and fairly mellow. It's a fun ride. *eye roll*

I still feel like I need that breathing room and I'm not getting it. Cheryl started at the store today and I was showing her the ropes and talking through some of the issues with her, and I am so sick of devoting precious brain power to that place. I desperately want to turn it all over to someone else and walk out the door and never come back. The problems are big...I've been unable to do anything about them...and now I simply don't care. But Cheryl does and she needs my help, at least for a while. Ugh. I can't believe I'm sitting here in the wee hours thinking about that store. Double ugh. It's sucking the life out of me!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Life in a Nutshell

(Stole my favorite Barenaked Ladies song for the title there)

I can't believe October is over. And that I lived through it. And that I blogged so little of it. And that November is supposed to be my "finally get a break" month and it's not looking good at all for that break. That nice little mental health, take a few days and make a plan break.

I guess I'm finally an adult. I've spent so much of my life avoiding being busy, now it's my turn for that crazy 21st-century lifestyle that I've been hearing so much about.

I've always been someone who needed lots of time to just think. Think my thoughts. Daydream and skygaze. It's part of the reason I don't have kids, since I have it on good authority that a mother doesn't get so much as an unaccompanied bathroom break until all her kids leave home for good. I need my alone time!

On the other hand, I am also a person who is prone to sliding into deep pits of introspection that lead into deeper pits of depression if I'm left unattended too long, so it really is good for me to be busy and have stuff to tend to and people to talk to.

I just gotta find that perfect balance. Ha ha.

In other news, look at what greeted me at the door last night:

I knew I was going to be getting home after dark, so I called Todd and told him to pick up some Halloween candy on his way home from work. I never know if we'll have T-or-T-ers or not...I didn't even really think about the candy factor until about 4 p.m. Monday.

So when I rounded the corner of the house, there was Sir Todd in full SCA garb, handing out Nutty Bars to the rugrats. Yes, Nutty Bars. His heart was in the right place, but Todd still doesn't grasp the concept of Halloween CANDY, apparently.

And he only bought three boxes of Nutty Bars, which he went through in about 15 minutes. And the kids kept ringing the doorbell. There ensued a mad rummage through the pantry, which only yielded a bag of little raisin boxes from some past healthy-eating kick of mine.

So a bunch of neighborhood kids were very disappointed at the end of the evening, to up-end their bags and find a box of raisins in with all the good stuff. It was dark, so Todd was able to hide the truth of what he was putting in their bags...otherwise, I think he might have gotten some really evil toddler looks.

But isn't he cute in his costume? Made my heart totally melt.

I had more stuff to share, but i think I'll save it for later.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

My day

Various happenings in my day today...

I had my very first ever pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks this morning. My friend Suzanne has been raving about these for a few years, and she's right--they're yummy. (Apparently Suzanne indulges in these so often that her 5-year-old son thinks there should be a Harry Potter-type spell called "pumpkinspicelatte.")

I indulged in three seconds of beauty when an orange butterfly landed on a pink flower right in front of my windshield at the Schlotsky's where I met Todd for lunch.

I told Todd that his company needs to stop hiring guys straight out of college, because it's making me feel really old when I meet them. (Two of the newbies came to lunch today.)

My driver's side window broke again, leaving it stuck three inches down.

I had the easiest, fastest, pleasantest merchandise-return experience of my life at Old Navy.

I bought a black hoodie with white racing stripes on clearance, and it rang up for even less than the marked price...woo hoo!

I mailed my tags to Paper Crafts for the April/May 2006 issue. I was flattered--they asked me to make a couple tags to fill in some holes because my name came up as someone who could do fill-in projects with a quick turn-around. Woo hoo again!

And now I sit here blogging while I have, at last count, thirteen other things I could and should be doing. It has been a week or so of craziness...I worked all day every day last week and weekend while Karen was in Vegas at Memory is my first day off in over a week. In the evenings, I've been working on cards for a Paper Crafts book I was asked to contribute to, which is the most exciting designer-type thing that's happened to me all year. It has been stressful to try to cram them in around work, but the actual creation process has been blissful. Of course, I still have two more to do, out of fourteen total, so I may still hit a snag. Those are all due on Friday.

John and Viv, my parents-in-law, are coming on Thursday for a visit, and John and Molly, my aunt and uncle, are coming down for a day trip on Saturday, which is also my birthday. So I am trying to get the house spiffed up a little...I let it fall soooooo far out of whack when I am working a lot.

The good thing is, I've been so busy, I haven't had time for my annual birthday funk, which started hitting me right around my 31st birthday and has made a repeat appearance every year since. I can't help it, it bothers me, getting older. It was fun till it just sucks. Three more days until 35 tackles me like a bully and pounds my face into the ground. Not that I'm upset about it or anything.

Monday, October 10, 2005

My guy.

Todd left Saturday morning for a few days on the Outer Banks with a pile of windsurfing friends from Ohio. This group is called Central Ohio Windsurfers (C.O.W.S.--their logo is a cow on a windsurfer) and every spring and fall they rent some houses on the Sound side of the OBX for whoever wants to hang out and catch some waves for a week.

Todd had gone down with the group several times while we were living in Ohio, and now he makes the much shorter trip down from here, usually just for part of the week, to see his friends and catch up on Ohio news and oh yes--windsurf!

It's Sunday night and I'm already missing the guy. I knew I would be working the whole time, because Karen is at Memory Trends and I'm running the store by myself all week, and when I'm not at the store, I am working on the cards for this Paper Crafts I really thought it would be nice to have him gone so I could just focus.

But I miss him!

So I thought this would be a good occasion to talk a little bit about this guy who lurks in the background of my blog world. I have beenfriends with Todd for almost 20 years, ever since our senior year of high school. We've been married for more than thirteen years. And even after all that time, my world becomes a happier place every time he walks into the room.

Todd is quiet but gregarious. He loves the company of others, but he's usually sitting back and taking it all in, rather than out in the middle of the action. He loves women. I mean, he genuinely likes women...he likes to hear what they talk about and think about, and he shows so much respect to every woman he knows.

Todd is Hobby Guy. Over the years I've known him, he has:
--built his own speakers
--designed and sewed a sail for a catamaran
--sewed his own medieval garb for the Society of Creative Anachronism
--designed and built a suit of armor and a chain mail coif and a wooden mannequin to display it
--designed and made a shield
--designed and sewed a coat of arms banner
--modified a paintball gun to his own specifications and designed and built a rack for his paintball guns
--flown remote control airplanes
--dabbled in archery, fishing, gold-panning, and rollerblading
--become devoted to windsurfing

He has a garage full of machine tools and woodworking tools. He has the largest hammer collection I've ever seen. He is at his happiest when he can pursue a hobby that requires him to design, modify, or improve the equipment. He fairly hums with contentment when he's hunched over a workbench.

Todd is not a demonstrative guy with most of the people in his life. He's not real huggy or kissy, not physically affectionate with anyone, really, except for me. But when someone he cares about is talking to him, he completely listens to what they're saying. He hears so carefully and completely.

With me, Todd lets his affectionate side out, and he always has. His love language is touch...he always needs to hold hands and give gentle pats, and to be touched in return.

Todd is my rock in life. I never had a person in my life who accepted me completely for who I am, until I met him. And he doesn't just accept me or put up with me, he really enjoys me for who I am, warts and all. He helps me keep my sense of humor and my sense of perspective.

So I am blessed. Really, honestly blessed to have Todd in my life every day. Love you, sweetie! Be careful on the waves and come home safe!

As a matter of opinion
I think he's tops,
My opinion is he's the cream of the crop
As a matter of taste to be exact,
He's my ideal as a matter of fact!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Vegetable soup

The days are still pretty warm here, but the evenings are starting to cool down some. I bought some mini loaves of oatmeal bread at the relief sale and thought some soup would go nicely with the bread.

I found this recipe at last spring, and it is quick, easy and delicious. Oh, and good for you, too. I cooked some up after work tonight and it smelled great. Tasted wonderful with the bread! And warm apple pie for dessert...yeah, baby.

Quick and Easy Vegetable Soup

1 14-ounce can chicken broth

1 11.5-ounce can V-8 juice

1 cup water

1 large potato, diced

2 carrots, sliced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 cup chopped fresh or frozen green beans

1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels

Salt and pepper to taste

Creole seasoning to taste (I don't know what Creole seasoning is, but I use Emeril's Essence in this, and it's quite good.)

In a large stock pot, combine broth, V-8 juice, water, potatoes, carrots, celery, undrained chopped tomatoes, green beans and corn. Season with salt, pepper, and Creole seasoning. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes or until all vegetables are tender.

I love recipes like this because they are such a great way to use up odds and ends of frozen veggies, and you can add leftover meats or whatever.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Weekend hijinks

We had a super time Friday and Saturday with my brother Jeremy's family. For one thing, this was our first chance to see Marissa Kathryn, even though she's been available for viewing for almost four months. I feel terrible that it took so long to make it over to cuddle and smooch on her, but Jeremy and Tracy assure me that she wasn't much fun the first couple months, anyway. (Colic.)

So here she is.

She's at that point where she makes such expressive faces when you talk to her, and gurgles and crows back at you. She is precious. Here we are having a little conversation:

Here's Todd with Marissa and Natalie.

Natalie is a delight. She chatters nonstop and says the most hilarious things. And she absolutely adores Todd...she always has. Todd took his remote control plane to the backyard to fly it and Natalie was right there asking a million questions. Here he is fixing a part that came unglued during a landing--Natalie is supervising.

And here's our girl climbing on the swingset. Isn't she a beauty?

Nat is proud to be a big sister, but hasn't quite grasped yet that babies are delicate and not fond of being stepped on, head-butted, and otherwise manhandled. This was a relatively safe moment for Marissa...I like how Natalie is clasping her little hand.

Saturday we went to the Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like...all the Mennonite churches in Virginia get together to auction things for the relief work the Mennonite Church does here in the U.S. and around the world. Quilts are the big draw at these auctions, and go for a ton of money, but there are also art pieces, handcrafted wood items, etc. There's always an apple butter booth with a huge vat of apple butter bubbling away and jars to buy. A baked goods building with pies and breads and all manner of sinful delights. Ice cream and funnel cakes and lots of delicious food, cooked up and served by various churches from around the area.

I came away with an apple pie, a gallon of apple cider, and a quart of apple butter. Also a handcarved elephant from the Ten Thousand Villages booth. Todd is determined to one day buy a splendid quilt at the auction, but last year we couldn't bring ourselves to pay the kind of money it would take (anywhere from $500 to $2000), and this year, I didn't really see any that I coveted.

Here's Jeremy, Natalie and me at the sale. Can you believe we're brother and sister? He's only a foot taller than me. Sheesh.

It was great to hit the road and get out of town, even if just for a day or two. We came back Saturday night and I trudged off to work Sunday morning. But it was an awesome weekend.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Long week.

I've been too discouraged to write this week...the house fell through on Monday, we've looked at a few really lousy houses since then, Todd is having a brutal week at work, and I am just tired.

Over the weekend, I really felt like life was starting to turn around for us after this long summer, but nope, it's just more of the same. We'll be okay, it's just a confusing and discouraging time as we try to figure out what we need to be doing for our lives.

I am off to Harrisonburg to visit my brother's family tomorrow and hoping for some "niece-cuddling" time to cheer me up. I'm not sure if Todd will be able to come along or not--depends on work.

One good thing happened today--I was asked to be part of a group of contributors to a new Paper Crafts book. The deadline is killer--two weeks to complete 12-14 projects!--but I am soooo flattered.

I bought Seinfeld, season four, on DVD to cheer myself up this week...what an awesome season that was. The Bubble Boy, crazy Joe Devola, I'm lovin' it. I know all the episodes by heart because we've had them on tape for 13 years, but the DVDs are a nice upgrade. I watch the shows and think about where I was when they were first on TV.

The first half of that season, fall 1992, we were newlyweds living in a crummy apartment in Pittsburgh. The second half of the season, spring 1993, we were still newlyweds, but living in a much nicer apartment in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Seems like an eternity ago. Life is so different. We are so different. Overall, I'd have to say it's better now. I miss the...I don't know...the optimism of being 22 or 23 years old and knowing that life is only going to get better. I don't have that feeling anymore. But I am a lot smarter than I was back then, and that's a goooood thing.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Late-night ramble.

Yes, it's 4:30 am, and yes, I'm up. Have been since 1:00. I came home from work at 5 last evening, and Todd was cooking up some burgers, bless him. I had made a pasta salad in the morning, so all I had to do was tip the food into my mouth, stagger upstairs, read for a few minutes...and then I just dropped off into deep, deep sleep. At like 7:15.

So then I snapped awake at 1:00 and I've been wandering the house since then. Watched some news, watched a Seinfeld tape. Had a bowl of cereal since there's no other food in the house. Pondered the dirty dishes on the counter and the fridge that needs cleaned out. Came upstairs and did some blog-reading. Now I'm trying to decide whether to bother going back to bed, or if I should just stay up. I don't have to be at work till mid-afternoon, so maybe I could sleep in a little.

Saturday was a relaxing day--we did a little garage-saling in the morning. I got a couple picture frames and some little wooden boats, and Todd latched onto some tools and a pair of roller blades that he plans to strip for parts. Never mind the fact that he hasn't roller-bladed in three years. Oh, and the roller blades fell on top of my wooden boats when he braked hard for another sale. Harumph.

Came home, took a nap, and then headed to Yorktown for a quick dinner and Todd's office outing. His company does something fun for employees and families four times a year (in lieu of raises, snort) and this was the fall event. We took a cruise on the York River for a few hours. It was nice, they had some yummy catered finger foods and the breeze up top felt great. Some of us engineer wives have gotten to be friends, and it's been months since I saw any of them, so it was great to catch up.

Sunday I went off to work and taught a make-and-take to three people. It's an altered clipboard and I can't believe the word-of-mouth on this project. So far I've taught it to more than twenty people. I'm going to re-vamp it for October, make it boy-themed instead of girl-themed, and see if I can pull in a few more students.

Oy, October. I got all motivated and decided to offer six, count 'em SIX, make-and-takes for the month. People have been pestering Karen about wanting more--primarily because they want something for nothing, since the m&t's cost five bucks and I don't get paid for teaching them, besides my hourly rate.

Now I'm kicking myself for setting up such an ambitious schedule, on top of (hopefully) moving, (hopefully) getting my car fixed, and (unfortunately) putting in a 60-hour week while Karen's at Memory Trends. Should be delightful!

I set up my escape plan, though...I plan to be out of this job by mid-November. If I give notice in mid-October, that should give Karen time to replace me. And then I will be able to do all the holiday insanity without trying to juggle it with work. I already hate the holidays and all the traveling we have to do...having to juggle work around it would send me over the edge and turn me Hindu or some other religion where you don't have to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas.

So if I can just get through October, it will be gravy from there. Right? Right?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Friday night's alright for lounging.

I can't believe I had to resort to ripping off Elton John for my post title. Especially since I hate Elton John!

But we are having a super do-nothing Friday night, and it's great and sorely needed. I'm putzing around on the computer...Todd is downstairs in front of the tube, watching American Chopper...we had grilled steaks and baked potatoes and fresh green beans for dinner...things are nice at our place tonight.

House stuff is buzzing along. Financing is set up. Interest rate is locked in. Deadline for the original buyer to get her act together is Tuesday, and no one seems to think she's going to be able to pull it off. So on Tuesday, we'll know if the house is ours.

I pulled out one of my Mary Emmerling decorating books last night...first time I've looked at a home decor book in three years. You could say I'm all a-twitter.

Other good news: Fiskars picked up a card I made to use in an upcoming Hobby Lobby craft flyer, and also picked up a layout that will appear on the Fiskars website. And Therm-O-Web requested two projects to display in their booth at the Memory Trends show next month. So although I'm not going to Las Vegas, my work is. I hope I can get to the next big show, I hope, I hope!

Weirdly intermingled with all these good vibes is the dread we have as we watch TV and wait to see what will happen to Texas and Louisiana. To know that people's lives will be changed in the sweep of wave and wind and to know we're all powerless in front of's humbling.

My friend Becky lives in northern Texas, and I thought she expressed this well:

"So much sadness lately--it weighs so heavy on the heart, and makes you realize how frail these 'homes on earth' we've set up for ourselves are."

We're wrapped up in our own lives right now, for sure, but we are also thinking about the lives of all the people in the path of this storm. We know how lucky we are and how quickly that luck can change.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up...

Anybody remember the old Carol Burnett show? The look she'd get in her eye when she'd play a deranged person?

This is sort of what I'm talking about...I felt a little bit like that today, LOL.

I'm still trying to track someone down to get my car fixed. I finally went back to my insurance agent today and asked them to get on the phone, because I feel like I'm being passed around at the other insurance agency. The problem is that the accident and the driver situation are both complicated. But I think I made some progress today. I still have to try to deal with it myself, though, to save having to file a collision claim on my insurance and having to pay my $250 deductible. Fun times!

My job has really been a...fascinating...experience. Watching a business take a nosedive is very educational. My boss asked me yesterday for ideas to try to improve business. I gave her some back in July when business was already bad, and nothing much came of it. Today I gave her a couple more. Nothing will come of it. I can't go into a lot of detail on a public blog, but it ain't pretty, and there's not much I can do. I feel bad but she's the one who has to take charge, and she's not. Slightly stressful.

Aaaaannnnnddddd....***drum roll***......the offer we made on the house was accepted today! But don't strike up the band just yet--the contract with the previous buyer has to expire before the house is ours. If she scrapes together the financing she needs, we're out. But everyone seems pretty dubious about her actually being able to pull it together. According to my friend whose boss is the friend of the sellers...they're giving the original buyer until next Tuesday. After that, the house is all ours. Yipes!

I'll wait to gush about the house until gushing until I know it's mine, all mine.

Anyway, feeling a little deranged, but generally cheerful. Kinda like Carol.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

House-hunting sucks.

Such a chaotic weekend it was!...first the wreck, and then on Saturday my friend Cheryl called me all a-bubble about a house that had just come back on the market.

The house belongs to friends of Cheryl's boss, and the buyer's financing fell through, so the house was re-listed on Saturday.

As chance would have it, we were right in the neighborhood when Cheryl called, so we headed off to look at it, and it's wonderful--nice neighborhood, lots of amenities--a real "apple-pie" house. down to the maple tree by the front porch. But at the very tip-top end of our price range. A squeak beyond the tip-top end, actually.

And although we've been talking about calling another realtor and starting another house-hunt (we pursued it briefly in February-March), we hadn't gotten around to doing it yet. So Saturday was spent tracking down an agent, running mortgage/house payment numbers, and bringing our checking account up-to-date. We were balancing statements from November forward--how sad is that? We're slackers, what can I say.

Sunday while I was at work, Todd got the scoop on the house and talked to a banker about getting us pre-approved, which was no problem. The house situation, on the other hand, is complicated...apparently the current buyer has until October 9 to come up with the cash shortfall that prevented her from being able to close.

We met with our new real estate agents on Monday, and Todd went over to look at the house with them after work--however, five or six other agents and clients decended on the house while they were there. So much for the inside scoop.

This disheartened me greatly...we can afford to offer the list price, but not a cent more, which doesn't make us very strong against so much competition. I felt that writing an offer was a waste of time, but we sat down and did it anyway. In our favor, we can close on the house right away, and our financial situation is excellent--good credit scores, good pre-approval, etc. But if anyone offers them five, six, seven thousand more than the list price (not uncommon in this market) then we can't compete.

Without telling the story of our past few years, I'll just say--we have terrible house karma. The house gods hate us. St Joseph has us at the top of his shit list. So I am not expecting much from this venture, even though Cheryl tells me that she and her boss are calling the house "Janelle's house." LOL. Our agent dropped off the offer last night and 24 hours later we still haven't heard anything. But if nothing else--this has pushed us into finding agents, getting pre-approved, seeing a new neighborhood, and starting the process. I wish I didn't dread it so much!

Friday, September 16, 2005

Five car pile-up

The one day I leave home without my cell phone...turns out to be the one day I could really use the darn thing!

I had the day off today, which was great, because I had to get a layout and a card for Fiskars done today so I could FedEx them by tomorrow afternoon. Well, they came together really quickly and easily--that must have been my good karma for the day!--and I decided to run over and FedEx them this afternoon so I wouldn't have to bother with it tomorrow.

Coming home, I had two options--go back the way I came, which is the southern end of the "loop" between my house and the main shopping area, or take the northern end of the loop. Since traffic was getting heavy, I decided to take the northern end. I was so hungry and really needed to get home and eat some late lunch!

There's a spot where you cross the "line" from Newport News into York County, and the road goes from four lanes, 45 mph to two lanes, 55 mph. But just as you speed up, there's a little ratty-ass convenience store on the left side of the road all by its lonesome. No left turn lane for it, so if anybody wants to turn left and pick up some cigarettes or a lottery ticket, they hold up all that speeding-up traffic behind them for a minute or two until they get across. It's always been an accident waiting to happen.

Which is exactly what I was thinking, for the umpteenth time, as I braked hard behind a line of three or four cars who were waiting for Mr. Pickup Truck to make his left turn and get out of the way. No sooner did the thought move across my brain than--WAP! suddenly I was rammed from behind and sailing toward the back end of the car in front of me.

It's amazing, but I've been driving for almost twenty years and this was my very first-ever traffic accident. I braked again as hard as I could and managed to get by with just a tap on the car in front of me. Then I pulled off the road, turned off the car, and saw that my flip-flops were lying on the floor by my feet. I think I got my shoes knocked right off my feet!

Turns out there were five of us all together...I was the second car from the front of the line, so I didn't get it too bad. The woman behind me said she saw the car that caused it come barreling up behind us in her rearview mirror, and she knew we were gonna get hit. I'm not sure the driver even slowed down--just plowed into the back of a car, which plowed into the back of the next car, which plowed into me, and I bumped right into the car in front of me. Like bumper cars, only more expensive.

The cops and paramedics were there within five minutes, but none of us were badly hurt. Some sore necks and shoulders, and the first woman who took the impact got bruised when her airbag deployed, but thankfully we were all okay. It took the cop forever to get all the information and the story--I wasn't able to leave the scene till more than an hour later.

At first I thought I just had a small dent in my rear fender, but on closer inspection, the whole right rear panel is askew, and the right rear door won't open. I think it might be a pricey fix-up job...and that lady has four more cars to pay for, including her own. God save me from ever causing a pile-up like that!

Anyway, it was an experience!

My Life as a Designer (so far)

I thought I'd write a little synopsis of how I stumbled down the path to becoming a craft designer. I'm still a newbie at designing, at least it feels that way. I've been trying to assess where I need to go from here, and writing down where I came from might help me with that. And if it helps any other wanna-bes out there, that'd be swell, too.

I started scrapbooking in February 1998, and I fell head over heels in love with it right from the start. In 1999, I came across the world of scrapbooking message boards, and fell in with a wonderful crowd at Scrapbook Addict. In 2000, a group of us (23-24) broke off and formed a private board.

I'd been a devoted scrapbook magazine reader from the start, but it wasn't till I built up these friendships with this group of women that I finally started thinking about submitting my work. We all encouraged each other along the way. From that original group, we had quite a number of CK Hall of Famers and PK Power Teamers in the first couple of years, and many of the rest of us also had work published here and there. These girls are talented, is all I'm saying!

I wasn't in the exalted ranks of the HOFers, but I did get a couple things published in Creating Keepsakes in 2001, as well as an HOF honorable mention in 2001. Then in late 2001, I really hit the jackpot with the new CK heritage book that was being released. I ended up selling them eleven layouts, and it's still one of the total highlights of my publishing life, LOL.

During these first few years, I also had some design team experiences, some writing experiences, and some teaching experiences that sure didn't seem like much to brag about at the time, but that I can see were really valuable, now that I look back. At that stage, every little thing I tried added to my skill level, and became something I would build on later in some way.

Throughout 2002, I had a few layouts published in Creating Keepsakes and Simple Scrapbooks...not a lot, but it was nice. Submitting scrapbook layouts became frustrating for me, though, as the style of the work and the quality of the photographs being published became dramatically more sophisticated during that year in particular. I mean, it was like a quantum leap in scrapbooking that year--and although it was wonderful to see scrapbooking becoming more and more artistic, I felt like I could not keep up, between making sure I had ALL the new products and taking high-quality photos of everything in my life. I got sick of toting a camera around! And although I felt confident that my style and talent were good, I definitely didn't have that "extra-extra something" that we started to see in scrapbook designers around that time, and continue to see.

And the painful thing about submitting scrapbook work is that you start to feel like your life itself is being judged and coming up lacking. Scrapbooks are so personal--the photos, the stories--and when they're rejected, you feel like your life is being rejected. I know this isn't true, and the feeling wears off over time and as you continue to submit (thank goodness), but I know there are some reject-ees out there who will agree with me--it smarts.

So by early 2003, I was starting to back away from the world of scrapbook submissions. Then somehow, I saw a call for submissions at the Creating Keepsakes website. However, it was not for CK, but for Crafts magazine, as it was known then, which is published by the same company, Primedia.

Crafts was putting together a card idea book, and posted their call at CK, which, to my knowledge, they had not done before and never did again. I had not done a lot of cardmaking, but I sent in a few cards, and they requested two. This book became Card Creations, which has had two very successful follow-up versions published since then.

Crafts magazine morphed into Paper Crafts magazine right after this Card Creations call, and because I had had a submission accepted, my name ended up on their designer list. This meant that when a new issue was being put together, a call for submissions would go out to the designers on the list. It completely blew my mind to be "in the know" for once in my life!

Paper crafting for publication was so much easier than scrapbooking for publication! Not easier in the sense of technique and effort, but emotionally easier. If my card or my craft idea is rejected, it feels SO much less personal than having my scrapbook page with my beloved photos and my personal journaling rejected.

So I started submitting to Paper Crafts, and to its sister publication Stamp It! I didn't have a landslide of acceptances, but enough to keep me plugging away at it. Having stamp projects published was especially gratifying, because I was newer to rubber stamping than to scrapbooking, and had gotten dragged into it kicking and screaming, LOL.

Late last summer, I received a call from one of PC's writers, who had been given my name by one of the editors. They were putting together a series of project inserts for Fiskars, and the inserts would run in three consecutive PC issues in 2005. Was I interested in designing for them?

Well, the only Fiskars tool I was really familiar with was their orange-and-grey paper trimmer, but I wasn't going to turn down the opportunity. So I was shipped two big boxes of stuff and spent the next four months working on projects for the inserts. There were five designers selected and we all contributed projects.

This was a real challenge for me--in a good way. It was the first time I began to understand the real job of a designer--to make the company's products look good! It was the first time I got a tiny glimmer of an idea about being a designer "for real" and maybe starting to think beyond the comfy groove I had worn for myself in magazine submissions.

Right about the time the first Fiskars insert came out, in the April May 2005 Paper Crafts issue, I got a call from one of the marketing people at Fiskars, asking if I'd be interested in coming to Wisconsin for a day-long seminar. I wasn't really sure what to expect, but it sounded promising, so I flew to Wisconsin at the end of May.

The seminar itself wasn't terribly enlightening...Fiskars had a lot of new-hires, and they had put together a day of classes to familiarize employees from all areas of the company with the craft and sewing products Fiskars makes.

What made the day mind-blowing was that Fiskars had also pulled together a group of women who have done design work for them over the years, as well as designers who were newer to the fold (like me). I met designers that I had seen on TV, designers who had written books, women with years and years of experience in the craft business in general.

By early afternoon, I was so overwhelmed by how far I was in over my head, I had to go to the bathroom and have a little anxiety attack.

One of the designers had shared a cab with me from the airport to the convention center, and she took it upon herself to introduce me to some of the other designers there and make me feel welcome. A group of us had breakfast the next morning, and then shared a shuttle and an airport lunch before heading off in our different directions.

The breakfast and lunch discussions changed my life, I think. I learned about the Society of Creative Designers and what being a member could do for my career--this was when I started thinking of what I do as a "career!" I started to see how vital networking is, and how desperately I needed to polish my professional skills. It was like the windows opened and I began to see dozens of possibilities for myself.

These women were some of the kindest, most generous people I've ever met--so eager to give me information and advice, so eager to hear my thoughts and experiences. I can't thank any of them enough for what they did for me in those few hours.

So I came home and did some thinking. Think, think, think. And that's about all I've been doing. Right on the heels of that trip, my LSS job slid from 25 hours a week to 30 hours a week, and somehow that change, with the later addition of having to teach classes, has really put a crimp in my designing time and desire. Maybe I'm just lousy at time management, I don't know, but I feel like I'm running in circles most of the time and never finding time to devote to design work. It could easily be a full time job, between following magazine calls, keeping track of submissions, applying for design teams, attending trade shows, and of course, actually sitting down and making stuff, LOL.

The way things are now, I come home so sick of scrapbook stuff, that the last thing I want to do is go upstairs to my study and look at more scrapbook stuff. And my DH wants attention, and the house really looks better when it's not encrusted in filth, for some reason. And I let most of the optional calls and deadlines slide, because I can't turn my mind to it.

I'm not a novice at frittering away time--I did it before I had the LSS job, too. But having this job, and realizing I want that time to pursue something else, has made me really determined to do better for myself once this job is over. And I know the end is coming with the job. Either I'll quit within another couple months, or the store will close and save me the trouble.

So I feel like right now is the time for me to definitely do what I can, designing-wise, and meet the challenges that pop up. But more than that, this is the time to plan what I will do once the job is over and I have the time to really walk down the path with purpose. I've only taken a few steps, but I have a feeling there is more to see and do in the near future. I just have to be prepared for it.

I highly doubt that all this is as fascinating to anyone else as it is to me, LOL, but I thought maybe someone somewhere might like to hear how this process has been for me. If anybody has any designing stories of their own to share, please do! I'm eager to hear them!

Saturday, September 10, 2005


A strange switch happens around here at the beginning of September. The weather gods turn the dial from "unbearable" to "quite pleasant," and it seems like it happens overnight.

Thus, my friend Beverly picked a perfect time to spend a few days in Virginia Beach--she came down on Labor Day and left three days later.

Bev has come down the past two years and stayed with us, but this year she decided to upgrade to an oceanfront hotel room on the beach--good choice! I drove down on Tuesday morning and stayed over till Wednesday afternoon...we hung out and had a super time. It was so relaxing, just what I needed.

Here we are on a sailboat cruise of the harbor and river in Norfolk.

The top picture is the sunrise over the ocean, the view from Bev's hotel room Wednesday morning. We spent a couple of hours on the beach that morning, watching the choppy waves. I've never seen them so foamy--it was like watching whipped cream crashing and splashing on the shore. We've had just a ton of wind down here for five or six days, and it was particularly windy on the beach.

It was just great to spend some time with my friend and think about stuff other than the boring minutiae of my days. Somehow, sitting on the beach helps me think through things without really having to think. Don't know if that makes sense. It's like my brain can slow down and leisurely assess life while the rest of me is caught up in the display of waves and sunshine.

And Bev and I have known each other for such a long time...there's always old memories to laugh over and new things to talk about too, since we only see each other once or twice a year. I enjoy her company so much.

Thanks for giving me a Bridget Jones-style mini-break, B! Next time, can it include Colin Firth and/or Hugh Grant?

Tell them that it's human nature

I don't know how an entire week has rushed by again...I think about blogging, but I don't seem to find the time and clarity of thought to actually write anything down.

I have to say this awful hurricane has consumed much of my mind for days and days now. We spent so much time flipping between CNN, MSNBC and Fox News, it was kind of starting to take over our lives. There's nothing I can say about the magnitude of the situation that hasn't been said by a million other bloggers and journalists and pundits. But what I was thinking this week was that it's a window into human nature on a scale you usually only get from novels by Tom Wolfe or satire by Jonathan Swift. We've really gotten to see it all:

--Opportunism. Those looters whose footage we keep seeing over and over again...I'd call them opportunists. Same with the murderers and rapists who terrorized innocent people. They saw an opportunity to get something, whether ten pairs of Nikes or a sick and twisted sense of total power, and they seized it. But just as opportunistic are the politicians who are leaping on a natural disaster to get in a few more licks at an administration they despise, and snatching a bit of face-time for themselves while they're at it. And the reporters (admittedly a minority) who turn rescue operations into their own personal ratings grab. Geraldo Rivera, I am SO talking to you right now. Maggots feeding on corpses are higher on the food chain than these people.

--Buck-passing. Or as the Bush sound bite team would have it, "the blame game." Everybody has a reason why they couldn't fulfill their part of the disaster response...and the reason is...."He/she/it/they [wildly pointing a finger] didn't fulfill THEIR responsibility first. Don't blame me. I just work here." Here's a thought: how about taking responsibility for what you could have/should have done differently? There's plenty of blame to go around, Mayor Nagin, Governor Blanco, President Bush, Mr. Brown and Mr. about just taking on a teeny bit of it? Stand up like the grown-ups you should be and shoulder that load.

--Hardness of heart and head. Also known as "Those people never should have been there in the first place"-ism. I've seen most of this particular attitude on the Internet, mostly from people who have never seen a hurricane in their lives and yet can state with perfect conviction what every single person's response should be to every single storm that kicks up in the Atlantic or the Gulf. Why expend sympathy on people who didn't do what YOU think they should have done?

--Drum-beating. Here's where we take a tragedy and use it to beat the drum for our own personal complaint. Bush is a racist, he's killing black people. The welfare-state caused this--but global warming most assuredly did not. And how about that war in Iraq--you just know it's to blame for part of this. Maybe this falls under opportunism, I don't know. Maybe it's a little more well-intentioned. I mean, it's good to start talking about why this hit the poorest and sickest the hardest--what an eloquent acquaintance of mine reminded us are "the least of these." And why so many of those poor and sick also happen to be black. What's disheartening is how this conversation always--always--falls back into us/them, liberal/conservative, Democrat/Republican, who-can-scream-the-loudest rhetoric...and the very real problems never get truly addressed. If that's not human nature, I don't know what is.

All right...the good thing is that human nature has a flip side. It doesn't seem to surface as often as the other side, but it's there:

--Bravery. The six-year-old boy who took care of six babies, all of whom were evacuated without their parents. The people who tried to organize and lead others in the midst of complete chaos when there was no leadership. The rescuers who braved sniper fire to save lives. The cops and firefighters who tried to hold a city together and who now have so much blame heaped on them for failing. The National Guardsmen who now patrol the dark corners of New Orleans.

--Generosity. Half a billion dollars raised in a week, and that's just for the Red Cross, I believe. The state of Texas stepping right up to take in its neighbors. My local Red Cross chapter has gotten so many calls from people wanting to volunteer, they can't process them all right away. And story after story of people who loaded up trucks with food, water or equipment, hopped in and drove straight to the Gulf from all over the country, using their vacation time and their own money.

--Skill. We've seen and heard about incompetence at pretty much every turn, but how about the displays of extreme competence we've seen? Like those Coast Guard guys plucking people off rooftops with harnesses and baskets? They make it look so easy, and you know it's not. How about the city of Houston mobilizing volunteers, staff, and supplies at the Astrodome in a matter of hours? Oh, oh, oh--and can we get a round of applause for the doctors and nurses who practiced their skills in hospitals and nursing homes and hotels and on sidewalks, without electric power, without enough food and water, without the most basic medical supplies? Ventilating patients by hand for hours and days? Gold medals all around. I admire people who have skill and know how to use it in a crisis. What would we do without people like that?

--Grace. We haven't seen too much of that on the news either, but it's there. The Mississippians who looked at the bare spots where their homes were and could still muster a smile of gratitude for what they still have: their lives and their families. Strangers taking care of the babies or elderly people that fate placed next to them in the Superdome or on a street corner. Another acquaintance of mine has been volunteering at a distribution center in northern Louisiana, and she has story after story of people who come in seeking pants, underwear, toothbrushes, medicine. The volunteers press more and more into their hands, but each of these people, who have nothing left in the world, says "No, no, I don't need all that...there are so many others who are worse off than me. Save it for them."

That's grace. And though the cynic in me shakes my head and sometimes smirks at the outrageous and heartbreaking side of human nature that Katrina brought out...the rest of me is so inspired by the gorgeous and loving side that she brought out as well.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Five Things About Me

I got tagged to do a list--I feel so privileged! Mimi passed this challenge along to me:

Five Random Things About Me:

1. I was number three in my high school graduating class--I married the guy who was number two, the little turd.

2. Pie is my favorite food. Any kind of pie, it's all wonderful, but my very faves are apple pie with lots of spices, key lime pie, and coconut cream pie.

3. I have 20 cousins and I'm the oldest of them all, on both sides of my family. Almost exactly 20 years separate me and my youngest cousin.

4. I went to the National Spelling Bee in 1984, when I was 13 years old. Dropped out the afternoon of the first day on the word "ceraceous." (It means "waxy.")

5. I love 1950s sci-fi movies. Classic movies of all kinds, really, but I have an especially soft spot for those aliens and space monsters and mutants that everybody thought were coming to get us 50 years ago.

I think I will tag Bev and Suzanne with this. It'll give Suzanne a chance to bring her blog up to date! LOL!

Thanks, Mimi! *smile*

A moral challenge

I never ever thought I'd quote Al Sharpton in my life, but that's what he said on CNN today...America is facing a moral challenge. I think he's right. How we respond to these people in need will say a lot about what kind of person each of us is.

In my compulsive Internet surfing, I've come across so, so, so many groups and organizations that are scrambling to provide aid. Individuals, too...several Peas at the Two Peas board are volunteering at the Astrodome and other shelters in Texas.

I wanted to share this e-mail I got today from the craft designer guild discussion group I belong to. I know there aren't many of us who can whip up a quilt, but I know for a fact that I have a linen closet full of sheets and blankets I don't need. Maybe you do, too.

To quilters everywhere:
The devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast is
beyond belief. Here in Houston our hearts are heavy with sorrow
for all the horrible losses, and we are preparing to welcome the
thousands of refugees that are being bussed to us because they
have lost their homes or have no access to whatever is left of
their homes. Like so many other people, we want to help.
Therefore, we are launching a two-part drive for Hurricane Katrina
relief, and we urge you to join us in this project. We're calling

PART 1: Urgent Donations to the American Red Cross Disaster
Relief Fund.
IQF will match EVERY donation made by quilters to the American Red
Cross, up to a maximum of $10,000, on a dollar for dollar basis.
In other words, if you make a $25 donation, we'll match that with
another $25 donation. If you make a $100 donation, we'll match
that with another $100 donation, right up to the maximum. To avoid
delays in your donations reaching the Red Cross, and because we
have trusted quilters for more than 30 years now, just email us
with the amount of your donation that you sent to the American Red
Cross Disaster Relief Fund. Every penny of every donation--up to
$10,000--will be matched by International Quilt Festival. You have
my word on that. Please use this email address:
and use the subject line: RED CROSS DONATION.

Many thousands of the Katrina refugees are being sent to Houston
RIGHT NOW, and no one knows how long they will have to be here.
Most of them escaped the hurricane's fury with only the clothes on
their backs--nothing more--and they may have absolutely nothing to
go home to. They don't even know. The Astrodome is ready as
temporary housing, but there is a serious shortage of bedding.
Part 2 of QUILTERS COMFORT AMERICA is the collection of quilts of
all kinds to be distributed to the refugees here in Houston so
that they have something soft to sleep on instead of the hard
concrete floors of the temporary shelters and something warm to
cover up with against the chill of otherwise welcome
air-conditioning (we've been in the 90s and 100s for weeks now).

If you have some that you don't have plans for, send them, as
long as they are no smaller than baby quilt size. If you are a
professional, you may have sample quilts that have become
shop-worn or faded but are still clean and very usable in an
them!--we are IN an emergency! Be sure to put a
label on the back of your quilt or sign it with a kind thought and
your name and date. Every piece will go to a refugee family driven
from their homes by the hurricane.

To participate in QUILTERS COMFORT AMERICA, send an email to (subject line: COMFORT AMERICA) to let us know
how many quilts you are sending. That will help us help the Red
Cross in its planning. Please do not expect a confirmation that
your quilt has been received or any kind of nice thank-you.
Sometimes we just have to do things because they are the RIGHT
things to do--this is one of those times. People need help...the
kind of help WE can give.

Use this address to send your quilt/s and bedding:
c/o International Festival
7660 Woodway, Suite 550
Houston, TX 77063
(Please note: for security, do NOT use the word 'quilt' ANYWHERE
in your address label or they may be stolen!)

Many of us have also amassed linen closets full of old but
completely usable sheets--perhaps a size you no longer use, or
juvenile prints that your college age kids don't like anymore.
Clean sheets and blankets are also most welcome to QUILTERS
COMFORT AMERICA. Naturally, everything should be clean and fresh.
These folks have lived with enough mud and dirt to last them the
rest of their lives--let's give them a clean bed to rest in.

Quilt Festival will serve as the collection point for quilts and sheets,
and we will deliver them DAILY to the American Red Cross
staffing the refugee centers in Houston, where they will be
distributed by the Red Cross volunteers. Because we are right here
in Houston where more than 25,000 of the refugees will be, we can
make a difference RIGHT NOW...if you'll help.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hurricane Katrina Blog for Relief Day

Today is a day that bloggers in seven countries have set aside to post information about their favorite charity that will be providing relief effort for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

There are dozens and dozens of organizations that will be doing what they can for the Gulf Coast...the one I picked to spotlight in my blog today is Mennonite Disaster Service, the North American relief service of the Mennonite Church. Mennonites around the world work for peace, justice and healing, and MDS is already mobilizing to provide help to the Gulf Coast. I'm a little biased, but Mennonites are just about the hardest-working, most-dedicated, givingest people out there, at least the ones I've been privileged to know, love, and be related to. They will do a good work with your donation, so please give. Thanks!

For suggestions of other charities, check out this list at Instapundit.

For weeks and months, I have been in the biggest complaining, whining, bitching and moaning mood...upset about a bunch of little things in my life that felt big and overwhelming. I've expressed some of that here in my blog. Katrina delivered a much-needed slap in the face and a dose of reality about how lucky, fortunate and blessed I am.

The need and the horror are just overwhelming...I feel very much the way I did after September 11. Worse, actually. Let's all stop and think about what we can do to help--even a simple blood donation is a valuable gift. We have a chance to pour out love and comfort on our neighbors--let's do it!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Tragedy on tragedy

Boy, I had a hard time getting to sleep last night...I stayed up till after two o'clock watching the hurricane coverage on CNN and it was disturbing. Really disturbing.

Jeanne Meserve, who I've seen a hundred times on CNN, had called in a report to Aaron Brown earlier in the evening, and they replayed it later. I've never heard a reporter so affected by a tragedy. Her voice was calm but you could hear the horror of what she'd seen that day as she tried to get through the report. You can listen to it here at CNN; click on the link to "watch an emotional account" which seems like a dumb way to describe it, but oh well. I thought she completely conveyed how horrible things are in New Orleans, and she did it in a very personal way.

I also saw a brief local New Orleans interview with a man who was wandering the streets with his two boys, disoriented and in shock. When he told the reporter that his house had broken in half and his wife had been swept away, the reporter burst into tears.

What made it hard for me to sleep was the thought of thousands of people trapped in their homes, in the dark, in the heat, pinned up in the attic with the water rising. The thought absolutely makes me sick--it's like all my worst nightmares come to life. What can you do but pray? Which I did.

I am not a tragedy junkie. I don't follow coverage of high-profile kidnappings and murders and their subsequent trials. Somehow it receive infotainment from other people's nightmares. But when things like this happen--September 11, the Asian tsunami, hurricanes--it feels important to me to pay attention for a while. Not because there's much of anything I can do personally, but just to show respect, to show that it matters to me what happens to people. To prove it to myself if nothing else. And to pray. So often in life that's all you can do, and to me, sometimes, it feels terribly inadequate in the face of overwhelming catastrophe. I have to hope and believe that what I pray makes a difference somehow. I don't know.

Monday, August 29, 2005

More pics

I never got a chance to post more stuff about my trip home to Ohio two weeks ago, so here's a few more pictures from the wedding:

On the right, my lovely mom and her lovely granddaughter. Mom sewed Kylie's flower girl dress, and also made the flower girl basket and ringbearer pillow. Mom is a talented seamstress: in 1992, she made my wedding gown, three bridesmaid's gowns, and then whipped up a little something for herself to wear. That was her most ambitious undertaking, but she has also done a lot of sewing for the grandkids. When I was little, she sewed most of my clothes, and often made my doll a matching outfit. Nice memory!

On the left, my lovely mother again, along with yours truly. All of my outdoor wedding pictures have light poles, telephone poles, and telephone wires running through everyone's heads...some creative photo editing will be required when I scrap these!

I was thrilled to find this dress at 30% off at the last minute--summer dresses are mostly gone from the stores, but this one fit well and was fairly flattering as well as cool.

This was a sweet moment--the last dance at the wedding reception, and Kylie was exhausted after a very long and important day. Her daddy took her out for one last dance...precious!

I wish I had a picture of my slow dance with Tanner...the music started and he was on the floor and motioned for me to come dance with him. The song was "I Will Love You So For Always"--who sang that one, anyway? DeBarge? It was a glorious 80's ballad, that's all I remember. Anyway, I sang some of it to him while we danced, and he was quiet for a minute and then said, "That's the stupidest song I've ever heard." Well, that's romance for ya, kid. At least, that's how we did it back in my day.

One day while I was home, I took Tanner and Kylie for the day and started them off with a treasure hunt. I hid small prizes and clues in five or six different places around the area, and they had a super time finding them all. This shot is from a walk we took in the rain at one of the parks where I hid stuff. The following picture is right after they discovered a prize in the big flowering vine at my parents' house.

I never seem to take as many pictures as I intend to, but as the pile of photos "to be scrapped" grows, I realize I don't need to take as many as I think I do. I wish I had gotten one of my grandparents, but other than that I did pretty well. I did get one of myself with Grandma at the wedding.

In other news, my cold is finally on its way out after 10 days and counting. I'm still coughing and hoarse, but the spark of life is starting to come back, LOL. I got my Stamp It! project sent out via Express Mail this morning, and on my day off tomorrow I plan to turn my attention to a few other things that are cluttering up my desk. After that, time to create a couple September classes.

We've been glued to the coverage of Hurricane Katrina since Sunday afternoon, when the situation was looking positively apocalyptic. It's still terrible and awful, but it sounds like the very worst-case scenario for New Orleans was averted at least. Poor Biloxi, though.

Hurricanes were never something I paid much attention to until we were introduced to Isabel in 2003--our very first hurricane experience, mere months after we moved to the coast. That was enough of a taste for me, and we got off very light with just the inconvenience of no electricity for five days. Others in our area weren't as lucky. Now they've started talking about this tropical depression 13 in the Atlantic, and I am wondering if we're going to get another taste this year. For some reason, I have a feeling we'll see a hurricane here this season. Hope I'm wrong!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Crap on toast

Sometimes you just want to sit down and have a nice long cry. Except you don't have time. And even if you did, it would just make your nose stuffy. More stuffy.

I came down with the Cold from Hell last Saturday--the same day that Karen, my boss, broke her foot at the pool. We've been trying to tag-team and give each other breaks so that she can be home and rest her foot and I can be home and sneeze/cough/moan....but it's been exhausting. If I'm not at the store, she has to be, and vice versa. I am so over that damn store, I can't even tell ya.

Every other day (or so it seems) I'm teaching a make-and-take, trying to croak out instructions umpteen times and attempting to be upbeat and perky, which doesn't come easy at the best of times. Business at the store completely sucks. I've felt like crap on toast for six days and counting. I have a magazine assignment that should have been in the mail yesterday and still isn't done yet. And another magazine deadline tomorrow. And a project proposal request sitting in my in-box that really needs some thought and attention. The toilets are filthy, I haven't been to the grocery store in weeks, our bedroom looks like a clothing bomb went off, and every time I cough I pee my pants. I've been coughing a lot.

This is the first day I've felt good enough to come here and bitch about how awful I feel. How sad is that? LOL.

So in the past week I have gone from feeling resentful, frustrated, and feeling miserably sick, resentful, frustrated, and overwhelmed. Not a move I wanted to make. Kind of makes me afraid of where I'm headed next week, know what I mean?

Friday, August 19, 2005

Just stuff

It's been so long since I've been home, I feel weird about jumping into my blog world again. So much to say and share!

I flew home last Friday morning (home being northeastern Ohio) to attend my cousin Janine's wedding. Janine is dear to my heart because I babysat her and her brother quite a bit during my senior year of high school, when she was three years old and I was 18. Their parents worked second shift at GM, so I would go over after school, stay all evening, spend the night, and get up and go off to school the next morning. I did this two or three days a week from Ocotber to May. Janine and her brother are a big part of the reason I don't have kids was a major dose of reality to take care of a three-year-old and four-year-old at that age!

But I loved them and still do, and it was a joy to see Janine marry her special guy on Saturday. Here they are looking very happy! They looked happy and relaxed all day, and seemed to have fun, which was good to see--some couples are so stressed out when the wedding finally rolls around!

My niece Kylie was the flower girl and took her duties very seriously, although she and the ringbearer were slightly confused as to exactly which aisle to go down and where to stand. There was a lot of wandering up and down the aisle during the ceremony. Kylie wore a dress that my mom sewed for her, and she looked like the world's prettiest girl. Here she is blowing bubbles as we stood outside and waited for the couple.

My nephew Tanner was very interested in the proceedings, too, althoug it was hard to sit still for the whole ceremony. He looked very handsome.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Stopping for a breath

This has been a crazy week, but I'm finally ready to start packing for my trip to Ohio. Woo hoo! I'm flying out tomorrow morning. Heading home for my cousin Janine's wedding and a few days' visit.

Taught the altered clipboard make-and-take one last time Wednesday night, to six people, so that brings the total to 22 students for three make-and-takes. Not bad at all! I'll be plunging right back into a full day at work and another make-and-take the day after I get back next week.

That's all for now...I have to pack and get things together and then collapse for a little while. Later!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Is it Monday? Whatever.

It was a little steamy here today...I stepped outside when I got home from work to take a few pictures of the crepe myrtle bushes on the street, and the camera viewfinder fogged right up. I think it's kind of cool-looking, though.

From the Ask-A-Stupid-Question Department: a woman called the store yesterday afternoon from her car, trying to find the store: "I'm at the intersection of Route 17 and Victory. Which way do I go?"

Um. As I am not in your car, I would have a hard time answering that question, since there are at least three possible choices. Which direction are you headed in?

"Uhhh...I don't know."

I'm sorry, I just don't get how a person can drive around in their daily life and not have a clue at any given moment which direction they're headed in. Now, if you picked me up and plunked me down in say, downtown Manhattan with no reference points, then, yes, I would be hard-pressed to know which direction I was headed in. (At least until I bought a map, which would be my first stop.) But in my own hometown?

Me: "Okayyy...well, you need to head south on Route 17--"

Her: "I don't know which way is south."

We had to break it down to landmarks and it took forever! "Is Wal-Mart behind you or in front of you? Is it on your right or your left?"


It would be so incredibly disorienting to never know what direction you were going, or whether a particular road runs north-south or east-west. I know people (well, mostly women) who live this way--my mother and sister are two of them--but sheesh, it must be hard!

Thus endeth my superiority trip. I may not have many talents in life, but by God I can read a map and retain the information! Pat, pat, pat on my own back.

Found a dress to wear to Janine's wedding today, plus jewelry, plus slenderizing undies to {hopefully} smooth out the lumps and bumps. What a relief to get that done. I actually knocked quite a few things off my to-do list this morning. More pats on the back for me!

I have not had a single day off work since Saturday, July 23. Now, I'm not working 8 hours each day, but still. Friday, when I leave for Ohio, will be my first day off in three weeks. I can't wait for Karen's husband to get back so he can be with their kids and I can stop working every freaking day! Days of the week have become meaningless. Monday? Friday? Saturday? Okay, I'll just take your word for it.

It's not so bad, but I'm finding myself getting more and more impatient with people and their stupid questions. So if you come in the store this week, just keep your trap shut!