Wednesday, April 30, 2008

My Virtual Age is 30.4

Peter Russell is a futurist. This is the same Peter Russell who worked with Tony Buzan who invented the concept of "mind maps." I've also seen mind maps referred to as "clustering" as a writing tip. I find them helpful and don't use the technique often enough.

Russell now has a test on his website that gives you a "virtual age," which indicates your health and vitality. It considers many things in addition to your physical condition.

My virtual age is 30.4. (This may explain why I perpetually feel like I'm 28.) Based on your virtual age, it gives you a life expectancy. My life expectancy is 90.6 years, or 16,300 days. Very interesting.

Frankly, I like this more than the actuarial tables, which say I'll live to be 75. I prefer 90, thank you. That is, as long as I can be active and actually LIVING. If I'm just being kept alive in the most technical of senses, and am not enjoying living, then I'd rather be gone.

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My days and nights have been in overdrive lately - so much going on with work and a ton of personal projects I need to accomplish as well. On Thursday at 11 a.m. I have my United Way presentation. For reasons I can't fully explain, this event just makes me totally anxiety ridden. Your good thoughts are most welcome.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Quote of the Day

Maintaining a complicated life is a great way to avoid changing it.                                                                                         ~ Elaine St. James
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Monday, April 28, 2008


Soon I will be going to Ohio for an artist's retreat. I am so eager to go. I was fortunate enough to go a couple of years ago and got so much writing done. They have generously offered me a spot again this year and although this is a very, very busy time for me with work I have been cramming as much into each day as possible so I can go to the retreat.

I think many people around me just don't understand my need to be "away" to write. It's because when I'm here there are so many other demands on my time, my brain, my creativity. When my "job" is writing, it will be different. But in the short term, I need to be "away" from the things that demand my energy in order to devote that energy to writing.

I'm blessed to not have any "crazymakers" in my life, to use Julia Cameron's term, so it's no problem for me to focus in that regard. It's about the other things that demand from me.

I recently read a quote by writer Jan Karon, that summed it up. "The business of living interferes with the solitude so needed for any work of the imagination."

I am looking forward to being alone in a little cabin in the woods, focused on writing what's in my imagination.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Taking Tea in Waterville Kansas at Victorian Days

We went to tea in Waterville Kansas today. Waterville is a town in north-central Kansas - about 30 miles from the Nebraska border, and about a three hour drive from where I live in Hutchinson. It has some lovely old Victorian homes and every year they have a day of celebration.

Teresa and I drove up and met Susan and Cynthia there. This is the first time I've been able to go to tea there. I've known about it for years but the timing never worked out for me to go.

It was held this year in a former church that is now privately owned and used as a hunting lodge. The gentleman who owns it was very generous in allowing them to use it for the tea. These folks were at the table next to us and I loved that we could see the stained glass in the background.

I have to say the food was very good. It's very good at Arlington, when they do tea, as well. I think I do very good food when I do a tea. However, it's somewhat rare for the food to be really good. It's often mediocre to rather poor. But today's was good.

As always, I want more savories. There were three here - cucumber sandwich, olive roll and a chicken salad with poppy seeds that was excellent.

The tea was nice, but there was no entertainment as part of it. Also, we were very rushed. There is no relaxing at tea. They are very interested in getting you out of the way so they can reset the tables. Not that anyone asked me, but I would suggest fewer seatings, and having more people at each. They could accomplish the same thing that way, but people wouldn't be so rushed.

I didn't drink any tea because I can't have caffeine and there was nothing decaf, but everyone was raving about the almond tea. I noticed some of my tablemates sometimes had empty cups. This is something I desperately try to avoid at my own teas for the MHA.

I've been doing teas for a few years for the MHA now. I learn something every time I do it. You can look at photos from 2006, and 2007. I also love to go to tea anytime I get the chance.

Waterville did a lovely plate, but I didn't get much of an "experience" for my $20 tea ticket. That said, I would go again.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Window Workshop Shows How to Repair Old Windows

This afternoon I took time off to attend a window workshop being given as part of the State Historic Preservation Conference being held here in Hutchinson. The workshop was a hands on experience and it was great. Really, really, great.

Left to right, Dennis Brown of Lawrence, Lloyd Armstrong of Armstrong Antiques in Hutchinson who lent his building for our workshop, and Mike Goans of Lawrence.

They applied liquid wood to strengthen it where it had started to rot and break away. Then they used wood epoxy to finish building it out. Cool process.

I was really fortunate that I got to do three different things they demonstrated. I was trying to hold back when they asked for volunteers but it seemed most of the people didn't want to get dirty. So, I got to mix wood epoxy and apply it, and to give window glazing a try. I think I can get that eventually. Greg tried that too.

We both own old houses. This is a skill we need! I especially need it since I had a window pane come out during a big wind storm this winter. Greg helped me do a quick jury rigged fix, because it was way too cold to deal with it then, but this summer I must get it handled. For real. I also have a window that's broken. Fortunately, it's not an old wavy glass one.

Another thing they showed us today was why we want to keep our old growth wood. I just KNEW I didn't want them replacing old wood, but I didn't know why. Now I do. Because when you look at the grain in the old versus the new it's a world of difference. Greg took tons of pix, which I'll hopefully get to share with you later.

I love hands on projects. That's how I learn. Monkey see, Monkey do. Monkey no get it when someone just tells me.

These guys were really good - obviously very good at their jobs.

I went to the banquet tonight, too. We sat with Amy, who we met just recently, and also with Chris from Oklahoma City. He was fun, too. I love getting together with people. I'm sorry I'm going to miss seeing Greg's girlfriend, Mia, when she visits next. I'm going to be out of town. But, it looks like Mark will be down and staying at my house, so that's nice. But, of course, I'll miss seeing him too. I just haven't worked out that being in two places at one time thing yet.

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The Brain's Reaction to Crisis

Harriet Brown of Madison, Wisconsin, recently wrote a piece in the New York Times about her two daughters being ill and how it affected her. She writes about how after the danger had passed for them she found herself reacting in ways she couldn't understand.

She wrote, "In times of crisis, the brain goes into protective mode, a kind of extended present tense intended to get you through danger without wasting energy or emotional resources. After all, there is no evolutionary advantage to worrying about the future when the future may never come."

Today was my mother's birthday. Since she died, April 24 has been a day when she's very much on my mind, even though birthdays were never a big deal in my family. Tomorrow was my brother Jim's birthday. I'm guessing April 25 will be a day when I think of him in all my future years. I know I will this year with his death being so recent.

Brown's sentiment here sums up a phenomenon I've noted in myself many times. I'm great in a crisis. Fabulous. But, once the crisis is over I crumble. That's when I fall apart in various ways. It's as if I know I just can't when the crisis is underway, but afterwards I make up for lost time.

When my mother died I went from writing in a journal almost every day to never doing so. In a year I wrote one and a half pages. I knew that writing would bring up emotions I just couldn't indulge. There were things to be handled. But, when April 24 rolled around the next year, almost a year since her death, I fell apart. It was ugly. It took me some time to put myself back together.

I no longer fall apart on April 24. It's more a remembrance now. I know tomorrow that Jim will be on my mind, but I intend to just be thankful for the time I got to spend with him the last couple of years, and not indulge in the sorrow. I don't know if I'll be successful, but that's my plan.

I do have something positive to think about on April 25. Tomorrow is BC's 18th birthday. It's hard to believe he's 18, but he is. I've always adored BC. He's a very charming young man, and always has been. You know how some little kids are just perfectly pleasant? He was one of them, even when he was three years old. He has never lost that. It has just grown with him.

Mark told me recently that when he went to Kentucky for Jim's funeral he had an opportunity to chat with BC for quite a while at the dinner after the funeral and was really impressed with him. He also told me something that made me smile deep inside. He said that when he was watching BC and me talking by ourselves at the end of the day that it seemed we had a special relationship. I asked what he meant and he said, "it just looks like the two of you are in on a joke that nobody else gets."

I guess in some way that's true. I'm still a kid in many ways and so we've always been able to relate to each other on that level. Maybe it's because I'm the only adult around who's not a parent. He's also the only one of my great nieces and nephews I've gotten to be around from birth to adulthood. And, yes, he's officially an adult as of tomorrow. Actually, as I look at the clock now it's midnight so I guess even as I write. He is now old enough to vote. And, unfortunately, old enough to fight.

Well, before I get back into crisis mode with that thought I'm going to close for today. And think good thoughts as I head off to bed.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Lawn Mower Shopping

I need to buy a lawn mower. I know, that's an ugly thing to think about. But, I do. I have one I got at a yard sale, but I can't start the thing on my own so it's really of no use to me. I'm going to set it out by the curb with a "free" sign on it and watch it disappear.

I want to get an electric lawn mower. It's more environmentally friendly AND I don't have to put gas in the thing, which means I don't have to carry gas from the station, which happens to be something I absolutely despise doing. So, electric is the way to go.

I have my choices narrowed down to:
Homelite UT13122, which is cordless, and sells for $317 at my local Home Depot store
Black and Decker MM875, which is corded, and sells for $229 on Amazon

Now, before you tell me how I should buy local, let me tell you that I can't in this case. Our Lowes store, which sells this product around the country, has decided locally they're not carrying this. As the woman told me last year when I was looking for an electric mower, "Oh, we don't carry those things. Nobody wants them." OK, well, guess what, someone does. Me. So, don't complain when I spend money online to get what I want that you refuse to carry.

I really wanted a cordless mower, but Consumer Reports tells me that cordless ones do not do as good a job as corded ones on thick or taller grass. And, the mower I'm looking at, which is their pick in that category, runs for 40 minutes and then has to charge for 17 hours. I don't think I can mow my lawn in 40 minutes. Maybe if I were running, but what's the likelihood of that? Pretty slim, I can tell you. So, that will mean that mowing will turn into a multiple day job, which is not something I like the idea of.

Of course, lets be realistic, when it's 100 plus degrees I'm not going to mow my lawn anyway, I'm going to hire it done. But, I wouldn't mind mowing it at the beginning and end of the season. And I will pay for that lawn mower pretty quickly, regardless of which one I get.

I'm not very coordinated with those cords, but maybe I'd get better if I were using one all the time.

I'm open to suggestions. If you have thoughts to share I'd love to hear them. I know I'm getting an electric one but beyond that I'm still deciding.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Anti-Freeze is a Pretty Green Color

Antifreeze is a pretty green color. However, it's considerably less attractive when it's unexpectedly in massive quantities on the pavement under and around your parked car.

Greg and I went to Skaets after work today and when we came out there was a river of green under and behind my car. I thought, "hmmm... was that there when I went in?" A quick turn of the key, and seeing the "Low Coolant" warning on the dashboard, told me that it was from my car.

Oddly enough, late this afternoon I had called to make an appointment for an oil change. Surprisingly, they could get me in tomorrow. How convenient, huh?

I had some bottled water in the trunk of the car that I had bought two winters ago to make sure I always had water with me when on the road. I had thought about tossing it because it had been in the plastic so long. But, tonight it went into the radiator instead. We drove the few blocks to the repair shop, with the heat going, which wasn't a problem tonight because heat was welcome.  (If your car starts to overheat, run the heater - winter or summer - it draws air over everything and cools it off a bit.) The car never even got near being hot, and we were still trailing a stream of water, tinted green, by the time we got there.

Terry, so often the rescuer, drove down and got us and took us back to Greg's. My van was there because he had used it to get some plywood. I'm fortunate I have another vehicle I can drive while mine is being repaired. Obviously, they hadn't planned on it being anything this complex. But, of course, it could be something very simple. We'll see. I left Jason a note on the dashboard.

Life is full of surprises!

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Creative Sisterhood

Tonight was Creative Sisterhood and it was a wonderful evening. All six of us were here and it was amazing to have the circle full and to share with each other on a meaningful level. Fabulous.

Of course, I shared my collage tonight. The only person in Creative Sisterhood that was at the retreat is Teresa so it was new to everyone else. It's good to get perspective from people who haven't been involved in the process. I know the group gave me some insights.

I made a new cake tonight. Yum! I have been working on a cookbook of recipes from Creative Sisterhood gatherings and realized as I was doing it that I cook a lot of chocolate things. I intended to do something different tonight. But, next thing I knew, the chocolate was melting with the butter on top of the stove and... well... the rest is history.

I had requests for the recipe so said I'd just post it. Frankly, the cake was pretty ordinary, but the frosting was amazing. I think this is the best frosting I've ever eaten. I changed the recipe, so I'm giving you my version here.

Chocolate Cake and Frosting

3 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup butter or margarine
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup baking cocoa
1 Tablespoon baking soda
        (yes, Tablespoon)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups sour cream
1 1/3 cups boiling water

Cream sugar and butter. Add eggs and blend in vanilla. Mix in dry ingredients. Then add sour cream and mix. Add water and mix. Batter will be a little thin - not runny, but a little thin.

Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. This makes three layers.


1/2 cup butter or margarine
4 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate
2 (1 ounce) squares semisweet chocolate
5 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

I made a double batch of icing and I do have some left, but I'm giving you the "normal" amount. What is printed here is NOT doubled. I generally want about 1 1/2 of a batch of icing so I almost always make a double batch.

For frosting melt butter and chocolate on top of stove over medium heat. Cool slightly while you mix sugar, sour cream and vanilla. Add melted mixture to sugar mixture and whip.

This frosting is fluffy and rich, but not overly sweet. If you want it sweeter you could use less unsweetened chocolate and more semisweet. The original recipe called for equal amounts but I thought that would be too sweet.

And, by the way, if you want those pretty swirls on your cake, use the back of a teaspoon. I was showing that to Virginia and Martha tonight. I frost it normal, so it's all covered, then I make the swirls out of the frosting that's on the cake.
If you want the sides really smooth, use a cake decorators trick and dip your knife or spatula in hot water first, then twirl the cake with the knife up against it and it was "melt" the frosting into a smooth side. I do swirls all over mine. I prefer that homemade look.
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Monday, April 21, 2008

Sedona Arizona Vortexes and All

I was recently in Sedona, Arizona. Isn't that beautiful?

Now, look closer. See all those little dots below? Those are all houses and condos and people and things to serve them. It ruins the effect a bit.

Of course, while in Sedona, I wanted to visit the famous energy vortexes. I did. With all the requisite hiking that entailed. I went to all three of the ones in Sedona.

I felt NOTHING. Nothing. Nada. Rien. Zilch.

As you know if you've read here for any amount of time, I'm quite interested in such things. The energy healer I go to is well respected in multiple circles. I've benefited from Reiki from three different practitioners. I've had readings done. I'm a believer. I was ready. I was primed. I was open. I was disappointed.


Supposedly, the vortexes have different kinds of energy so you may not feel the energy at one of them if it's not energy you need. The first vortex I went to involves the entire rock. As someone told me, "it's anywhere on the rock." It's a big rock.


But, supposedly what's neat about Sedona is that all three kinds of energy are available so everyone can benefit. If there were anything to feel. So, I went to the next one. It's easy to get to, at least.


After the first one I was a bit disheartened, but thought maybe it was just that I didn't need that energy. Then I felt nothing at the second one and my faith wavered a bit, but I was still ready and hopeful. So I went on to the last one.

It was a beautiful hike and lovely surroundings. And, it's always inspiring to be in nature, but that was all there was to it.


By the way, this "ancient" energy was somehow undiscovered until the 1980s when someone wrote a book mentioning Sedona and the supposed energy vortexes. Could it be someone who had an interest in taking people on tours of these sites? Don't waste your time.


Well, that's not actually true. What I felt was that anything that might have once been there has been stamped out by the millions of tourists tromping over it, or been built over by the thousands of condos.

Everywhere that could be pristine beauty had been built on. And if it couldn't be built on as is, it was leveled so it could be built on.

Notice how the orange construction tape and the heavy equipment blends right into the landscape?

Sedona had the potential to be one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. But, unfortunately, its beauty was scarred by the soccer-moms-to-be in their requisite Columbia sportswear running everywhere. They were surpassed only by the hoards of seniors who seemed out to prove they were still fit enough to hike faster than the soccer-moms-to-be. Naturally, they traveled by vehicle to get there.

All of the construction to house and move and supply the hordes was just embarrassing. Why do towns let themselves be ruined by out of control development? I guess because those who stand to benefit from development are the very ones who are generally in control.

Frankly, it's hard for me to have a spiritual experience with a few hundred other people tromping along beside me talking inanely about their vacation homes. Then there was the other end of the spectrum - the people with the drums who don't know the 60's are over and tie dye is out of fashion yet again.

Bear in mind I mention drums being a person who has attended drum circles. However, we did not go plop ourselves on a rock where lots of other people are coming to see the same thing we are, and then proceed to discuss our latest bar hopping experience with our companions, all the while ruining the photos of the beautiful rocks people have hiked in to see. I blurred their faces - no need to embarrass anyone. These folks were at least relatively harmless, other than ruining some photos for people. But I'm betting none of them are asking a builder to level some land so they can build a condo.

The only thing that seemed to draw people from these spots was shopping. Now, I'll be the first to admit, I'm not much of a shopper. I don't get it. It doesn't excite me. I buy things - a Christmas ornament here and there, a nice bit from an art museum, a remembrance of a trip - but the "oh my gosh, there's a store, I must stop and see what they have that I want to pay more for than its worth and carry home to donate to goodwill in a year" excitement that grips others is lost on me. However, you'll note every parking spot is taken. So what do I know? I guess I know I should own a store in Sedona.

It's just a shame that a place that was once so stunningly beautiful is so overrun that it's ruined.

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Wall Street Journal notices Quilting and Paducah

Paducah, Kentucky has a special place in my heart. It was the closet "big" town when I grew up. We went there shopping when I was a kid. In the last few years it has become Quilt City USA, and it has been a big boon. Even the Wall Street Journal has noticed.

As usual, when something good happens in a dramatic way, it can be traced to one person/couple. It's no different in this situation.

It's amazing that Paducah has only about 27,000 people compared to the 45,000 where I live, and yet Paducah is a much "bigger" city. There's much more shopping, far more restaurants, a thriving mall (as opposed to the mall in Hutchinson Kansas where I live that has never been full the 20 years it has been open), and a booming tourism business.

I'm very interested in tourism and its effect on communities.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Lee Iacocca on the State of our Nation

Lee Iacocca has a new book out called, "Where Have All the Leaders Gone?" Here's a small excerpt:

Leaders are made, not born.  Leadership is forged in times of crisis.  It's easy to sit there with your feet up on the desk and talk theory.  Or send someone else's kids off to war when you've never seen a battlefield yourself.  It's another thing to lead when your world comes tumbling down.

On September 11, 2001, we needed a strong leader more than any other time in our history.  We needed a steady hand to guide us out of the ashes.  A Hell of a Mess.  So, here's where we stand.  We're immersed in a bloody war with no plan for winning and no plan for leaving.  We're running the biggest deficit in the history of the country.  We're losing the manufacturing edge to Asia, while our once-great companies are getting slaughtered by health care costs.  Gas prices are skyrocketing, and nobody in power has a coherent energy policy.  Our schools are in trouble.  Our borders are like sieves.  The middle class is being squeezed every which way.  These are times that cry out for leadership.

But when you look around, you've got to ask: "Where have all the leaders gone?"  Where are the curious, creative communicators?  Where are the people of character, courage, conviction, omnipotence, and common sense?  I may be a sucker for alliteration, but I think you get the point.

Name me a leader who has a better idea for homeland security than making us take off our shoes in airports and throw away our shampoo?  We've spent billions of dollars building a huge new bureaucracy, and all we know how to do is react to things that have already happened.

All I can add is, "Amen, Brother Iacocca. Preach on!"

I hope someone is listening. Perhaps the voting public, for example.

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

AQS Quilt Show in Paducah Kentucky in April 2007

In April of 2007 I attended the American Quilt Society's Quilt Show in Paducah, Kentucky. Afterwards I wrote a story about the winner of Best of Show, Sharon Schamber.

The AQS post has been a very popular post over the last year. I have had multiple requests to see photos of other quilts. I intended to go through the photos and make individual posts about various quilts, vendors, etc. However, that hasn't gotten done and isn't likely to.

It's time for the show again. It starts April 22, 2008. I won't be able to go this year, but it has at least spurred me to get my photos from last year online.

So, I decided to just make a monster post of all of them. However, I've spared you wading through 100 plus photos here. I put them in another spot, so you can click over to it.

I didn't even do any editing on them, other than to make them fit the template and sized for the web. I don't think there's any possibility you'll be able to see it on dialup. Sorry for that, but with this many photos I just don't think it's feasible.

Time just goes by so quickly. In some ways it's hard to believe that has been a year, but in other ways it seems like it has been 10 years.

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Friday Night

I decided to email a few people and see if folks would want to meet at the Anchor Inn for dinner tonight. Seven of us were there. It was a good group. We laughed a lot and then five of us went to the Fox to see Waitress.

Jan had this beautiful green purse and when I sat down next to her my first words after "hello" were "cute purse." As I reached over to touch it I said, "oooh... what a cute purse... I covet this purse." Jan just starts taking stuff out of it and says, "I want you to have it." I protested - genuinely - "Jan, I can't take your purse!" "No," she insisted. "I want you to have it." By this time she had removed the THREE things she had in it. (billfold, cell phone, keys)

Anyway, overwhelmed by her generosity, I said, "thank you, thank you so much, that's so sweet." I really couldn't believe she just handed it over. And it is a really cute purse, as you can clearly see in the photo. What you can't see is that it has a really pretty lining in it, too.

Once I was at the car, where I could let my own purse contents - which include far more than three things - explode, I put the essentials into the new purse for our trip to the Fox.

What a cute movie Waitress is. Greg said he left desperately wanting pie. Nancy wants to know what the green pie was, and so do I. It wasn't key lime. It looked more like guacamole. Maybe we thought that because we'd all just eaten guacamole, but I don't think so. I loved Andy Griffith in it. He was my favorite character. And, I'm sorry, but girls that skinny can't make pie that good. I'm sure that's the reason they get her pregnant in the movie - we can only suspend disbelief for so long.

As you might expect, I have Greg to thank for the photos. He had a nice perk in his evening. Between dinner and the movie he ran home to do something and checked his email. He had email from Maxim magazine, wanting to buy a photo from him. So, he had dinner, sold a photo to Maxim, and then saw the movie. Not bad for a Friday evening.

We all had good nights. In addition to the cool purse, I got a call from Gary that he has found another garden for the Hutchinson Garden Tour set for June 22. So, all in all, a good evening.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Tulip Appears

I have a couple of tulips popping up now. I planted a bazillion of them 3 years ago. They were beautiful the first year. The next year they were scarce and that has continued. I'm not sure how people get them to proliferate every year. I don't have the knack. So, I'll just enjoy the ones I have.
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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Life and Times

A week or so ago I got a long email from my cousin, Mike. Mike is a couple of years younger than me and although he was "pesky" when we were both very young and those two years mattered much more than they do now, by the time we were teenagers I had developed a real fondness for him. I don't know if he felt the same way or not - I'll have to ask him sometime. But that fondness has only grown as adults.

Many years ago, Mike stopped in Hutchinson on his way to meet his future in-laws out west. He and his wife to be were both in the military and she was still abroad as I recall, so Mike was going to meet them without her.

Mike retired from the army a year or two ago and is now working with the Las Vegas Police Department. He and his wife settled there because it was the only place on which they could agree.

It was so very good to hear from Mike. He talked a bit about how life changes and how the decisions we make can have such impact on us. Of course, he traveled to many places because of his position in the Army that he might not otherwise have gone. And, naturally, he talked about family - those that are gone and those that are still with us.

I found myself doing the same when I responded to him.

Yesterday my nephew, Johnny, called and we talked for over an hour. At some point we were talking about something and I joked that he'd known me for 46 years (my age) and I'd been talking for 44 of them, so he ought to be used to it by now. He paused for a moment and said, "Sometimes I just cannot believe we are as old as we are. I think about it and I just cannot believe I'm almost 49 years old and you're 46. I just can't believe it." I could hear the wonder in his voice and I know exactly what he means. I feel it every day too.

We talked about how we became the people we are today and how that wasn't something we ever would have imagined when we were kids. I'm planning to visit Morocco within the next year, which seems odd for a girl who grew up in the Kentucky countryside, at the end of Terrell Road when it didn't even have a name. That girl who never traveled as a child grew up with a wanderlust that can only be quenched with far away lands.

Johnny travels all over the country, bidding on multi million dollar jobs that involve all sorts of experts - from carpentry to iron workers to a host of other things - none of which he is an expert in. It's hard to believe this is the same kid who was, like me, always a little uncertain.

Maybe therein lies the answer. I was always uncertain as a kid - uncertain of almost everything. Few things felt stable to me. Fortunately, some of the huge ones felt secure, but lots of things seemed to be constantly shifting. I think maybe that gives a kid a need to build security of their own when they can control it, or it gives them the ability to be comfortable with that shifting.

It seems practically everyone I know is in a reflective mood of one sort or another. I certainly am.

Adulthood gives us the benefit of dealing with each other with enough life experience to know what's important and what's not - at least to some degree. We are able to interact without the intensity of childhood difficulties being interjected into every conversation. Thank God for that.

It's amazing how adulthood seems to wash away so much from one's younger years. Is it a natural process or is it one we consciously embrace and encourage. I don't know. I just know it happens. And I'm thankful for it.

When I hear people say they'd like to a kid again I just cannot imagine such a thing. I'd much rather be an adult and have some control over my life.My childhood certainly wasn't horrible, but I have no desire to live it again - once was enough, more than enough.

I don't think any of the adults around me had any sense of how scared I was as a kid. I spent most of my days, and certainly my nights, terrified of what was going to happen next. I think part of the reason I have so much trouble sleeping as an adult (it's 1:53 a.m. as I write this) can probably be traced to all the hours I laid awake at night as a child literally shaking with fear at what the next day would bring, or what news would come in the darkness and change our lives yet again.

I can remember many nights of staring into the darkness, with my heart pounding, just waiting... waiting for whatever was next... alternately wishing it would arrive so I at least knew what I was dealing with, and other times willing it to stay in the future and not ever be part of my present. I learned early it was good to be alert in the nighttime - not to let your guard down - because the phone may ring at any moment. People die, accidents happen - the world arrives on your pillow and snuggles right up next to you making itself quite comfortable.

All these years later that terror is still there - I'm not sure we ever move past those early experiences - but I can function despite it. And it's held at bay by consciously refusing to acknowledge it, and by being grateful for all the good. But I do sometimes wonder if everyone is going through their days terrified on some level or if it's just me.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

When we went on our retreat in Ramona, Susan brought a bouquet of fresh flowers for us to all enjoy. When we left, she generously gave them to me. They're the same bouquet you see in the photo of the chair I reupholstered.

On the way home that Sunday afternoon, the sun was coming into the car and making the flowers almost translucent. I snapped this photo somewhere along the way. I love the delicate nature of it. I decided I would share it with you.

I've had one of those days when I've been just busy, busy, busy, but can't tell you exactly what it is I've done. I had my MHA meeting tonight and had to get materials ready for that. After the meeting, Julie and I went to Skaets and talked. I hadn't had a chance to visit with her for an extended period of time for awhile.

I'm fortunate to have the circle of friends I have. I had lunch with Trish yesterday, and dinner with Teresa. Today was lunch was Greg and tomorrow is lunch with Jade. It's good to have a strong social network. Actually, it's essential for good health.

Creative Sisterhood meets next week and I've been thinking a lot about it the last couple of days. We seem to have reached a crossroads a few months ago and I'm not sure where we're at. I guess we'll figure that out as a group.

I had a lovely email today from a local woman who teaches computer classes and said she always uses my blog as an example. She asked if I'd be willing to come in and speak to the class. I certainly would. I'm not sure what I could tell anyone about blogging, but I'd be happy to answer questions.

We all need to say CONGRATS to Trish, who became Mayor today. Hard to believe she has been on the council for a year already. Time flies.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Tax Day

Well, tax day is upon us. I filed electronically and mailed in my signature form for the federal tonight. I was not in any hurry to get them done because I knew I would owe money because of freelance work I did this past year. I was right - about $300 total. How convenient, huh? They might as well just keep my "stimulus" money and lets call it even.

I'm one of those people who doesn't really mind paying taxes. In fact, if I could have more services - like real health care - I wouldn't mind paying more in taxes. You know, the people in Denmark are the happiest on the planet and they pay about 50% in taxes. But, their education, health care, and a host of other things are paid for. They also don't have their fingers in lots of military pies.

When I pay taxes I like to think that ALL of my tax money goes for things I want to support. MY money is going for things like roads and libraries and schools... and none of it is going to build bombs. OTHER people's money is building bombs.

I've long had this idea that we should get to decide where some portion of our tax money goes. Just like they have all those check off boxes for the presidential campaign and such, we should have boxes for other things. You could check off if, say, 10% of your mony should go to schools or libraries or whatever. It would be some indication of what the American people wanted. Wouldn't it? Seems to me like it would tell our government something about how we want our money spent. I suppose that doesn't matter to anyone except us. There's a flaw in every plan, I guess.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Reupholstering a Chair and Stool

This is what I've been doing, off and on, for the past few weeks. Reupholstering this chair and stool. I bought this chair for $12.50 some years ago and it's one of the most comfortable chairs I've ever sat in. It, however, was not pretty.

You'll notice the right arm is a little askew. It had some "issues" shall we say. Issues I was able to address at the real site of the problem, which was not at the arm. But this chair is so comfy it's where I always go to read. In fact, it was on the blog in July last year when I was reading Harry Potter.

The stool was in better shape, if you like that 1970s bright orange look. I paid $4 for it at the same store at a different time. Sad to say, this store is no longer in business.

For those of you concerned about its original state, I just covered over it and did not remove the orange, nor put any holes in it. So, should that come back in style, I can easily remove my flowered cover. I didn't take pix of the stool reupholstery because there wasn't much to photograph - it's pretty straight forward.

But I did take photos of the chair process.

OK, here's how you're supposed to do it. You take the chair apart and keep the pieces to use as a pattern. You cut out the pieces just like the old ones and reassemble. I didn't do that. This chair had been recovered before and it wasn't the best job as far as I could tell, although it apparently was done by a professional. Frankly, I think mine looks better, even though this is the only thing I've ever recovered, except a piano bench once, which must be the easiet thing ever to do.

This wasn't "easy," but it wasn't very difficult either. I think it probably would have gone smoother if the chair had been in perfect shape to begin with and I'd had the original pattern to use. I had to do a couple of things more than once, because I was making it up as I went, but I'm happy with the final result.

First I disassembled...

And I found what I'd read about... glue. Yes! Apparently professionals use the equivalent of hot glue to make piping and attach it. I didn't use any hot glue, but apparently it's an option.

I started here, at the side on the chair, but I have no idea if that's the right place to start. It worked for me. I'd just start wherever it looks like you can remove a piece to start.

Once I had everything off, I reused the batting they had. It was amazingly clean. I did add a layer of clean quilt batting.

When you're using stripes or plaids or anything with a design, you have to figure out how it's going to be placed on the piece. I just flopped the fabric up there and figured out how I wanted it to be before I started stapling anything down.

I decided on the red stripe down the middle. Then I just worked on one side and then the other, to keep it even as I stapled. Oh, and I did invest in a $29 electric staple gun. Frankly, if you're planning to do a lot of this, get a better one. This is worth every penny.

As I said, I didn't use the old pieces for a pattern, so I was winging it. One of the mistakes I made was not thinking through the bottom part and I cut it because that's how theirs had been done - they had an extra piece over the lower wooden part of the seat. However, had I thought it through I could have just let mine wrap around and be stapled underneath. But, I didn't think about it. So, I made a little skirt for the chair instead of making it fit the wooden piece.

Oh, and that reminds me of the arm being loose. Rarely is the root of the problem obvious. It's like a door that's not closing properly. People always look at the handle. About 95% of the time, the problem is on the hinge side. Same deal here. You could see people had messed with the arm - there was glue and a broken mending plate. The actual problem was at the bottom, where the back and seat had separated. It was easily fixed, with a mending plate and four screws.

OK... the cushion. I've always heard that the cushion is what separates the men from the boys when it comes to reupholstery. I can't say that it's any trickier than anything else. Meaning it's not really very tricky. I don't know why it has this reputation.

If you're going to do cushions, you've got to do piping. That's the rope part around the edge. You buy this cotton string in the sewing department that makes the rope part. Then you cover it with fabric folded over it and sewed closely. The trick to the whole thing is a zipper foot. You MUST get a zipper foot for your machine. It's made to allow the needle to strike on the outside of the zipper foot, meaning you can sew very closely to the rope inside.

I bought mine at the local sewing center and it was $5.99. It snaps on and fits a number of different machines.

Supposedly, all the fabric for doing piping is cut on the bias - that means diagonally. I didn't do that. I just used strips cut straight with my rotary cutter.

I found that pushing the fabric covered rope slightly while I was sewing helped keep it tight. Of course, you can just go back and sew any place where you wandered again, because it will be inside the seam when you're done.

There may be some special reason for doing the bias cut, but I don't know what it is, and because this is the first piece I've done I didn't want to use that much fabric since I need it to do multiple more pieces. And my planning was about right on this chair. I had intended for it to have the floral seat, and to have enough of the plaid to make a pillow later for another piece of furniture. I've probably got enough for one regular pillow and one small one. So, my estimates were good.

One thing about a bias cut is that it would bend, but I didn't have too much trouble with that. The cushion corners weren't bad without the bias cut.

If you want to try it, I found this site particularly helpful. I didn't have any of the specialized tools, but I can see their benefit. I will probably try to get some of the tack strips and metal jaw things before I tackle another thing. I thought this chair would be the easiest one to do.

I did cut some cardboard and used it anywhere edges were needed to keep them straight, like on the bottom skirt. That tack strip stuff would be very helpful for this sort of thing. But then when you fold the fabric back down you have a nice straight edge.

Remember you have to get the design you want in the middle of your cushion or the footstool. I put the fabric over the footstool, with the design where I wanted it, and drew on the edge of it with chalk, using the original piping as a guide, so I marked the size of the top of it. Then that's where I sewed the piping on my new fabric.

The stool took about an hour to do. The chair I have spread out over so long a time frame that I don't know how long it took. I just had it in my downstairs sunporch and would close the door when I wasn't working on it. I'm guessing if I had just done it from start to finish it might have been 5-6 hours, and includes the time I spent redoing a couple of things. Overall, it's not nearly as difficult as people would have you believe. I bought my fabric a year or so ago when it was half off so I have well under $100 invested in both pieces.

Overall, I'm pretty pleased with the final product. It's not perfect, but I'm content with it.

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Full Weekend

I've spent some time this weekend journaling about my collage. This is an important part of the process and has been very enlightening for me.

I decided not to go to the poetry event yesterday because I wanted to work on this project. I also didn't want to spend all day outside when it was in the 50s and windy. I get cold. I'm always cold compared to everyone around me - I always have been. I consider the electric blanket to be an under-appreciated marvel of engineering.

Collages have many layers of meaning once you start really looking at them and considering the juxtapositions you didn't notice when you were putting things down. It's also helpful to have other people look at them with you. That's a central part of the visioning process as described in the book. I was very fortunate to have a group to do that with during the weekend. Plus, Teresa and I have talked about them twice since then. She always spots things that might otherwise slip notice.

I do as well, when I take time to look and contemplate. Then it takes me awhile to process it all.

So, that's what I've been doing this weekend, as well as other things. Of course, a Saturday when I'm in town means Roy's generally. I also finished a project I've been working on at home. Pictures will be coming soon of my little project, but I've been working on it off and on for some weeks so I have to assemble the pix from various places on the harddrive.

Then last night I got to have dinner with Tara, who I met on the Food Coma Caravan. (Of course, that's yet another thing I never got around to blogging - seems to happen a lot - and this trip was when Flat Wayne first made an appearance.) She and her husband were in town to visit his family and while he was out with his uncle, she and I went to dinner at Dutch Kitchen. I instantly liked both of them as soon as I met them. Todd worked with Carl, and Carl invited them to join us on the FCC. I was so thrilled they did.

I've been thinking lately that I wanted to add some new friends into my life. In that wonderful way the universe provides, Jade literally walked right into my world - and I'm so thankful. And, then I get an email from Tara that they're going to be in town, which was lovely. She tells me they have a guest room in KC just waiting for me to visit. I always stay with Mark when I go to KC but it might be nice to have a weekend when Tara and I could just talk for a couple of days - and Mark might enjoy not having to play host for a change.

Anyway, when I woke up this morning at 4:08 - way too early for a person who went to bed at midnight - I was thinking how great it is to wake up on a Sunday morning and feel like you've already had a very full, fun and productive weekend - and you still have a full day ahead of you. I tried to go back to sleep for about an hour and finally just gave up and got up.

I'm still running around in a robe, hoping I feel the urge to go back to sleep. I left the aforementioned electric blanket on because one of life's great pleasures is crawling under it when your legs are a little chilly. I know. It's simple. I'm often thrilled by simple things. I think it's one of my secrets to happiness.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

MCC Sale

When did you last buy a jar of apple butter that was still warm? I'll give you a minute to think.

Exactly. Me neither.

But Friday night at the MCC sale I was able to buy a pint jar that was still warm from the kettle. It was $6, and that seems like a bargain to me.

This is Grandpa Kauffman's recipe and it has been offered at the MCC sale in Hutchinson for about 20 years. But there has been a five year gap, and this is their first year back. Supplies were limited, so I wanted to make sure I put my hands on some. They made two kettles, starting at about 5:30 Friday morning. By 11 a.m. they had finished the cooking and were ready to pack it. Two kettles made 512 pints. Although I didn't go back to the sale today, I'm sure they probably sold out.

I try to never miss the MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) Sale. It raises money for hunger relief around the world. These events happen around the country and this is a large one.

It's almost like travelling into another country. It's certainly another culture. I know "Mennonite" in some places is kind of a scary thing, but that's not the case here. The Mennonite congregations are full of wonderful people as far as I can tell.

I was so glad they had good weather - as opposed to last year when there was snow.

One of the big events is the quilt auction. They have tons and tons of quilts of all sorts. They're all on display for people to look at before the auction.

They also have the "sit and sew" area where people can sit and quilt, and the rest of us who don't know how to do it can watch and learn.

These ladies were visiting while they sewed.

I, of course, had already stopped by my very favorite display, "Quilter's Corner," where they sell donated items - from vintage fabric to quilt tops to doilies. I will try to take some photos of the huge stack of goodies I bought, but you can get a sense of them by this photo of Greg and Cleta. Greg had to hold my box while I went to take photos of the quilts.

The sack on top is his stuff, but you can see my doilies peeking out of the corner of the box. I ran into Cleta and her husband, Tom, when I was headed to take pix. When I came back they were visiting with Greg.

There are also other interesting little bits at the MCC sale, and lots of food. We ate at the German buffet, of course, and then started sight seeing.

Right next to the apple butter was the pysanky egg display. I must refer you to Greg's piece from last year for more details about the process. As usual, I leave the details to him.

The young lady showed me these two eggs. The one on the right is a wooden one. Her mom, Janet Regier, copied the design onto a real egg. The darker color on the wooden one is because of how it's done. The main color is applied and then the other things are done on top of it, giving them all a muddy look. The egg done by Regier has just one color on each space on the egg, so the colors are all more distinct.

The MCC sale is one of my favorite events in Hutchinson. I am always surprised more people don't go and enjoy it, but I rarely run into anyone I know there.

Last night I did see Jay and Lois Huber and it was great to say hello to them. I worked with Jay for many years, we even shared an office for a while, and always really liked him. So, it was good to bump into them.

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