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!