Aug 22, 2017

31 Days of Gratitude: Day 22

Day 22: The Movies!

So grateful for movies. Such a wonderful slice of escape. Love going to the movies in an actual movie theater as long as everyone agrees that it should be a felony to have your cellphone on once the previews start. I dislike gratuitous or sadistic violence, and most action and sci-fi movies.

Here's a few memorable (to me) movies, in no particular order except The Godfather, which is the best movie ever made. Do not argue with me.

The Godfather -- The fact that my Italian born grandfather may or may not have been running a small time numbers operation out of his barber shop may have influenced my love for this movie. Plus the tollbooth scene. Plus cannolis. Plus everything.

If you haven't seen this, we cannot be friends. Drop everything, go watch it, and come back and resume friendship with me. But do not ever watch it with me because I know every line and will say each line 2 seconds before the actor does. Also, notice that there is orange in every scene.

The Godfather, Part 2 -- Sequel just as good as the original. OMG, the scene where Kay comes to see the children and Michael shows up.....

Life is Beautiful -- If you can watch this without crying your eyes out, you have no soul. The music is haunting.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople -- Bittersweet fun. Freedom!!

Casablanca -- If you haven't seen this, your life is not worth living. The best movie to get across the point that it's not all about us.

Goodfellas -- Henry Hill's story of growing up on the edges of the mafia is part hilarious, part tragedy, all addictive. I read once that it is playing on TV somewhere in the world 100% of the time.

Pollyanna -- One of the first movies I can recall seeing in a theater. 35 cents to get in plus a nickel for a Hershey bar. What more do you want?

Beaches -- my first date with Mike. Awww.

There are so many more movies worth watching. Here are a few:

Slumdog Millionaire, Uncle Buck, Dirty Dancing, Good Will Hunting, The Town, Rain Man, To Kill a Mockingbird, Jaws, Groundhog Day, Serpico, Apollo 13, The Wizard of Oz, Breaking Away, Airplane, Rocky, The Bridge on the River Kwai, West Side Story, Parenthood, Thelma and Louise, Bridesmaids, Toy Story, The Sound of Music, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids, All the Presidents Men, A Raisin in the Sun, Old Yeller, Father of the Bride.

Did I mention The Godfather?

Aug 21, 2017

31 Days of Gratitude: Day 21

Day 21: Mrs. Schwartz

It was pretty common in the 1950s and early 60s for Catholic churches to raise funds through a summer carnival. Our church parking lot/school recess lot was too small to host one, but Blessed Sacrament Church, farther away from the city, held one and I really, really wanted to go. My brother had ridden his bike there the year before and spent most of the fall taunting me with stories of cotton candy, the ferris wheel, and zeppoles.

By the following summer, I was 7 and determined to go. The problem was that it was too far to ride my bike at night, my parents had no interest in going or giving me a ride, and had a complete and total lack of understanding of the importance of the carnival. They weren't mean; it was just that back then their lives did not revolve around their kids' happiness. My father didn't get home from work until almost 8 at night, 6 nights a week, and my mom pretty much kept to herself in those days. So when I asked if they could give me a ride to the carnival, they just said no and moved on.

The carnival was 4 nights in August and when school ended in June, I set my mind to figuring out how to get there. But there was no point getting a ride if I didn't have any money to spend at the carnival. So my friend Carol (not her real name) and I decided to sell magazines door to door. We gathered magazines by asking our moms and the other neighbor ladies if they had any that they didn't want. Bingo! We ended up with about 25 magazines and decided to sell them for .10 a piece. That way we would each earn $1.25 and that would go along way towards financing my night at the carnival.

Carol and I put the magazines in a wagon and pulled them from house to house. Most ladies were nice and just said no, but Mrs. Callotti (not her real name) accused of us of trying to sell stuff that we had just been given as gifts. We backed off fast and kept running, hiding behind the shrubs of a house a couple of doors away, exhausted and laughing.

We decided to skip the rest of the houses of the ladies that had given us the magazines and headed across the street, which was sort of foreign territory to us. We went first to Mrs. Schwartz's house. There's always a mystery house in the neighborhood; people who don't quite fit in. In our case, it was the Schwartz's because they were the only house without kids. Mrs. Schwartz didn't sit on her front porch after dinner watching her kids play ball in the street or stand in the driveway shouting for her kids to come home for dinner.

All we knew about them was that, in addition to having no kids, they had potato chips delivered once a week! The Charles Chips truck would pull up and the man in a uniform would carry two big tins to their front porch and take away two empty tins. When I asked my mom why we didn't have potato chips delivered, she told me that people with no kids had a lot of money for things like potato chips.

Carol and I headed up the walk to the Schwartz' door and rang the bell. Mrs. Schwartz came to the door and was wearing a dress and had her hair done, just like Donna Reed. So this is what ladies without kids looked like. We politely asked if she wanted to buy any magazines, gesturing to our collection -- only ten cents each! She asked us to wait. Carol and I looked at each other hoping to sell a few magazines, but Mrs. Schwartz came back with 5 one dollar bills and bought out our entire collection for twice our price. Bam! We each had enough money for the carnival.

We jumped up and down thanking Mrs. Schwartz and she asked us what we were going to do with our money. The carnival we shouted!

And then I said, "except first I have to get a ride."
"Well," said Mrs. Schwartz, "I hope you get to go."
"Oh I'll figure out something. Thank you Mrs. Schwartz!!"

And back home we went.

That night my mom came into my bedroom where I was reading before going to sleep. "Did you ask Mrs. Schwartz for a ride to the carnival?"

"No, honest. But we sold her magazines just like I told you."

"Well, she called and told me she has always wanted to go to the carnival at the church and asked me if she could take you. I said yes. So behave and don't let her pay for anything for you. You have enough money."

And so Mrs. Schwartz and I went to the carnival. She wore white pedal pushers with a blue and white polka dotted sleeveless blouse. Her hair was swept up off her neck and held with a barrette. She looked like a movie star to me. We each bought our tickets for the rides and I told her she had to get a zeppole. She had never heard of one! We ate zeppoles and cotton candy and ice cream and finally, at 10:00, we went home. By then it was dark and the lights on the ferris wheel and the other rides sparkled like it was Christmas, only it was warm outside. As we walked to her car, I could hear the noise of the carnival and I thought that there couldn't possibly be a better night.

I saw Mrs. Schwartz after that, just to wave hello. One day a moving van pulled up and I asked Mrs. Schwartz why they were moving. She asked me to come in, and in her little living room was a bassinet with a tiny baby wrapped in pink. She introduced me to Barbara and told me that they had adopted her and were moving to a bigger house. I asked her if the Charles Chips guy would keep delivering to her new house. "No," said Mrs. Schwartz, laughing.

Mrs. Schwarz wasn't a mystery to me anymore. She was a mom, and just like all the other ladies in the neighborhood, she had traded in home-delivered potato chips for a baby.

Thanks, Mrs. Schwartz. Thanks for buying our magazines and for the carnival. I'm grateful even now for that special night. Hope you and Barbara and Mr. Schwartz lived happily ever after.

Aug 20, 2017

31 Days of Gratitude: Day 20

Day 20:  The Grocery Store

My maternal grandmother was the oldest of 5 daughters. She left Poland in the early 1900s, made it through Ellis Island, and settled in Connecticut. She worked as a maid/housekeeper and saved enough to send money for the next sister to come to the US, a story very familiar to most of us who were raised in the northeast. Four sisters made it to the US, but by the time there was enough money for the youngest sister to come over, it was too late.

The Soviet Union had taken over Poland and religion was prohibited. However, my great aunt continued to believe in her Catholic faith and continued to teach her children the faith. They sometimes went to underground masses, a violation of the law. Children were taught that such behavior was treasonous. So, my great aunt's young children reported their mom to the government authorities (their school principal). My great aunt was sentenced to prison in Siberia, released only when her youngest child was 18 and no longer in "danger" from her mother.

The things humans do to one another.

Fast forward to the 1980s and by then my grandmother is long dead, but her 3 other sisters send money so that their youngest sister can visit America. She doesn't speak English, but most of the family speaks Polish so they can communicate just fine. She is all right, but her children will have nothing to do with her. Nevertheless, she doesn't want to live in the US just in case the children have a change of heart.

She stays in New Haven for about a month and there are lots of family gatherings and parties. They cook and cook and cook as the large extended family comes to visit and they all sit around catching each other up on their lives. My mother and her cousins make large trays of kielbasa and kapusta and other eastern european dishes. When they aren't sitting around talking, they take my great aunt all over -- to New York City, where she goes on a Polish bus tour of the city, the Long Island Sound, Boston, etc.

On the day before my great aunt's flight back to Poland, my mom asked her what her favorite part of America had been. Surely it would be the Statue of Liberty, maybe the ocean?

Her answer: the grocery store.

My great aunt explains, "I had to take pictures in the grocery store because no one in Warsaw will believe that all that meat is available. All that fruit. I still can't believe that you can just walk in and buy as much as you want. We stand in line for hours just to buy bread."


So, today I am grateful for the grocery store.

Aug 19, 2017

31 Days of Gratitude: Day 19

Day 19: Sleep!

A few years ago when I was still working, we were waiting for a meeting to start. There were 5 of us -- all women in their late 50s/early 60s. Someone remarked that she hadn't slept well the night before. One by one we all piped up and it became clear that most of us rarely had a decent night's sleep, and by decent night's sleep I mean 5-6 hours. Sleep gets harder as we get older.

But there was another reason why no one was getting a decent amount of sleep back then. Many of the senior staff in our agency regularly worked through the night. I guess they would doze on and off, wake up, check their email and feel the need to respond. So I felt like I had to do the same. It was insane -- I mean we were working on things that mattered to kids, but we weren't doing death penalty work. One day I decided that it could all wait until the morning. And it did and sure enough, no one died!

My sleep improved, but not as much as I had hoped. Since I love to research, I read a lot on the topic and learned all sorts of reasons why many don't sleep well and all sorts of suggestions on how to improve sleep. I tried them but still didn't sleep well. I thought it would change when I retired.

However, apparently work was not the sole cause of my poor sleep. Now that I'm retired, I sleep better, but still have way too many nights with only 2-3 hours of sleep. However, last night I got plenty of sleep. I woke up this morning and the first thing that popped in my mind was "I'm so grateful for sleep." It may not be the most interesting part of the day but it sets the stage for a great day to follow. It's just one of those things that we take for granted until we don't have it.

Aug 18, 2017

31 Days of Gratitude: Day 18

Day 18:  Dogs

I'm grateful for dogs. Except for a few gone wrong, they are awesome!

I want a dog, but I don't want the mess and the cost that comes with one. I just want the good part, the part where they wag their tales and sit by your side and are happy you are alive. Mike really doesn't want a dog, but he'll go along because he's so nice. Not sure I can do that to him. On the other hand, he's never had a dog and that should be fixed.

Many of our neighbors have dogs, which surprises me because no one here has a yard. They walk their dogs all over the place. And I'm not talking tiny dogs, although there are plenty of those. Some of these dogs are gigantic, as in they look like miniature horses. Go figure.

We had 2 dogs when I was growing up. My father brought the first one home over my mother's objection. She did not like animals. We called him Mikey and he jumped all over the furniture and knocked down a lamp and my little brother. He was huge and strong. One day Mikey disappeared. My mom said that he ran away to find a farm to live on, but a few years before she died she told me that, at her insistence, my father had given Mikey away.

Mikey, we hardly knew ya!

Years later, my father talked my mom into getting Ginger. Ginger was a mutt and friendly. She didn't do much other than sit near the heating vent in the winter and eat. But you could talk to her and pour out your troubles, which is exactly what a dog is for. Then my father died and my mom was in charge of Ginger.

I had no idea you were supposed to put dogs on a leash. Since our yard wasn't fenced, my mom just let Ginger run wild in the neighborhood. One day the the police brought Ginger to the door, warning my mom that the dog had to be on a leash. I was terrified. The cops were on our front porch!!! But, the NY Giants were playing on TV and I heard her tell them "the Giants have the ball and are about to score!" So the police came in and stayed until half time. No ticket and my mom still let Ginger out to run around.

Ginger finally got a leash when our neighbor, Mr. B, had a heart attack and his doc told him to walk every day. Mr. B had retired from working on the railroad (really) and spent a lot of time fixing his car in his driveway. Ginger used to lie there listening to his stories. After his heart attack, Mr. B would knock on our door and yell "dog patrol". My mom would open the door and Ginger would fly out. Mr. B would put a leash on her, and Ginger would accompany Mr. B on his walks.

Eventually we kids left, and it was just my mom and Ginger living in the house. Mr. B retired and he and his wife moved to Florida to escape the New England winters. My mom begged them to take Ginger, but they decided against it.

A few months later, my mom moved to an apartment about 10 miles from our old house and took Ginger with her, still insisting she didn't want the dog. But Ginger was old and limping and my mom felt she had no choice. Again, she just let Ginger out loose.

One day my mom got a call from another former neighbor, telling her that Ginger was lying on Mr. B's former lawn. Ginger had walked all the way back to the old neighborhood to die on Mr. B's lawn. By then I was a young lawyer working in Norfolk. My mom called me and said "Ginger is dead on Mr. B's lawn. What am I supposed to do?" Well, let me look that up in my daughter bag of tricks. I told her to call the police because what else was I supposed to say? And, yes, one of the cops who showed up was the same cop who came to our house years earlier.

I loved that dog.

Aug 17, 2017

Hand Drawn Happy Day!

Drew some fun balloons and strings, and colored very lightly (so no bleed through) with Copics. Then I re made the card 3 more times until I was happy!! So you are seeing version 4...

Added a sentiment from The Stamp Market and teeny stars from Concord & 9th, which are covered with Nuvo Crystal Drops.

And then I thought about making version 5 but decided enough was enough ...


31 Days of Gratitude: Day 17

Day 17:  Workers in clothing factories

Many of us older types grew up wearing clothes made by our moms. They made them in order to save money, not as a fun hobby. In fact, my mom wanted me to have a better life than she, so she refused to teach me how to sew because she wanted me "to have the kind of life where you could just walk into a store and buy something off the rack." (Not a huge amount of logic in this, but that's another story....)

So now I have the life where I can just walk into a store (or click on the internet) and buy something off the rack. The clothing isn't as nice as the outfits my mom made. Those clothes fit better and lasted longer (made big so I could grow into them!). I don't have coats with coordinating linings, or skirts with scalloped hems. But I can buy decent clothing at relatively cheap prices.

Clothing costs much less, when adjusted for inflation, than clothes cost 35 years ago. Of course, the clothes we buy are cheaper now in large part because they are made overseas by workers who get paid very little (although these jobs are often the better paying jobs in some countries). I'm not getting into the morality or the politics of this situation -- the effects on the US worker are well known.

Rather, I'm focusing today on my gratitude for these workers. It's not an easy life to work in a clothing factory. It can be loud and boring and sometimes dangerous. Yet these folks go to work everyday because they are just like our moms -- they want their children to have a better life. I'm grateful to them.

Aug 16, 2017

31 Days of Gratitude: Day 16

Day 16:  Elementary School

My goal in elementary school was to get all As and be ranked number 1. I failed at that goal, but still managed to learn to read, write, and do math. I also (almost) learned a bunch of life lessons for which I'm grateful.

I went to Catholic school at a time when they were mostly staffed by nuns. The nuns in my elementary school were part of the Congregation of Notre Dame. Back then, the nuns wore heavy habits with a rather bizarre looking head dress (a white starched thing with a long pointed thing sticking out under their chins). I cannot imagine how miserable they must have been in the heat. We didn't call them "Sister Whatever", but rather "Mother Saint Whatever." The nuns weren't paid and lived rather spartan lives. Yet they did their jobs without complaining.

Looking back, each year had its special lesson:

1st grade:  I was very excited on that first day. I was wearing my uniform, a new navy blue jumper and white short sleeved blouse and finally was going to learn to read. This was the very first outfit I owned that was bought in a store and not sewn by my mom. I tried it on so often my mom finally took it out of my room, only to return it the morning of the first day of school. We had to be there for an 8:30 mass. I was ready by 7:00.

The church was across a small side street from the school, and we were to walk across the street after mass and gather in the school parking lot by grade. My brother was ahead of me by 3 years and he told me that my first grade teacher was "Mother St. Buck Tooth." Sure enough, I found her -- she must have been all of 20, clad in this heavy habit on a hot day after Labor Day. She was easy to spot as she, indeed, had a wicked set of buck teeth.

I wanted my teacher to know that I was smart enough to already know her name, so I walked up to her and said "Hi Mother St. Buck Tooth. I'm Joanie and it is my first day of school. I want to learn to read." It's been almost 60 years and I can still see her brief wince. She didn't yell at me, just bent down and said, "My real name is Mother St. Thomas. That another name is a bad name that we won't say again." Shut up Joan.

2nd grade: We went to mass as a class on the first Friday of every month. After one such mass, Mother Saint Zenias, who had just celebrated being a nun for 50 years, called me to the front of the class and yes, made me eat soap for talking in mass. Shut up again Joan.

3rd grade: A new girl showed up. That never happened. Her name was Liz and we became best friends, a friendship that lasted through the end of high school. Liz died last year. I wish I had know she was sick; I would have showed up. Friendship is everything when you are a kid.

4th grade: Something went wrong with our nun teacher. She got sick. No one told us what the problem was, but we went through 17 different substitute teachers that year. It brought out the crazy in all of us. That's my excuse for what I did.

I was terrified that I couldn't memorize the multiplication tables, so I brought mine with me to the math test and put it under my butt, hoping to cheat off it. I never got a chance to cheat because I couldn't figure out how to look at it without getting caught. However, the substitute teacher saw me trying to look under my butt at the sheet, and accused me of cheating.

How could I be guilty of cheating when I couldn't see the cheat sheet?? I sat there and told this imposter teacher that, at most, I could only be guilty of attempted cheating (I was a big fan of Perry Mason back then). I don't remember exactly what she said until the end of our conversation when she told me that she'd be keeping a close eye on me. Luckily, she disappeared only to be replaced by yet another substitute. Winning a case isn't always the best thing that can happen.

5th grade:  Mother St. Barbara Elaine let us have drinks in the hot afternoons. We were each assigned a day to bring in jugs of Kool Aid or plastic cups. None of the other teachers did that and we looked forward to it every day. We'd put away our work and she'd walk around pouring Kool Aid into each of our cups. We couldn't drink until the last kid had Kool Aid in his or her cup. Then she'd stand in front of the class with her cup, raise it up, and say, "To the Blessed Mother." And then we'd all drink the Kool Aid to the Virgin Mary in one big gulp. Adults can be interesting.

6th grade: I told my 6th grade teacher, Mother St. Joseph, that I was writing my life story and someday it would be a famous book. She told me that I was "vain." It was pretty clear by her tone that vanity was a sin. Shut up Joan.

7th grade: By then our class really was out of control. We had never recovered from the 4th grade debacle and a bunch of kids were way behind. And once again, our teacher disappeared and was replaced by numerous substitutes.

One substitute was Mrs. Larson. She told us we were incorrigible and was going to only teach us useful things since it was a waste trying to stick to a curriculum. She taught us little tricks to remember how to spell certain words -- for example: she taught us the difference between "principle" and "principal" by telling us to remember our principal is our "pal". Well our principal was some super scary nun and definitely not my pal, but I got the point.

She taught us fractions by bringing in pizza pies at lunch time. Mrs. Larson taught the boys how to tie a good knot in their ties and how to polish their shoes. At recess, she taught the girls how do double dutch. I learned more from Mrs. Larson than any other teacher in elementary school. There's more to school than books.

8th grade:  The great Northeastern blackout happened on the night before we were scheduled to take a science test. I hated science but I really wanted an A and planned on studying for hours. But the lights went out and it was dark, so I couldn't study. My father called home to tell my mom that he and other men were out with flashlights directing traffic and had heard rumors that the blackout was caused by the Russians bombing New York.

It was possibly the end of the world so I assumed that, between the Russians and the lack of light, the science test would be cancelled. When the lights went back on later that evening, I watched Peyton Place instead of studying.

Mother St. Catherine had other ideas and proceeded to distribute the science test. I raised my hand and reminded her that we couldn't be expected to study in the dark. I left out the Peyton Place part. Mother St. Catherine responded:"You don't wait until the last moment to study." I got a D. Don't wait until the last minute to do stuff.


I'm grateful to this school and to the nuns that staffed it. It's a relic of the past. We had 40 kids to a class and probably outdated books, etc. We had no science labs, field trips, gifted education, special education, or anything fancy and I suspect some kids didn't fair well as a result. But I did ok. I graduated knowing how to read and write. And I eventually learned my multiplication tables. I'm still practicing when to shut up though.

Aug 15, 2017

One Layer Graphic Hello

Only used The Stamp Market's Memo set, and ink and paper.  My favorite type of card!

The pink and green inks are Distress Oxide, and, unfortunately for my wallet, I've fallen in love with these inks. They provide amazing coverage on solid stamps -- stamped each image only one time.

And that's that.

I'm off to go to Chris Franco's Close to My Heart Open House this morning. Love meeting up with stamping friends!


31 Days of Gratitude: Day 15

Day 15:  Social Security

If you are in the US, you know that Social Security is the program that provides $$ for folks in their older years. It also provides $$ for children under 18, when a parent participating in the Social Security program dies, and for disabled individuals. In June of 2017, 61 million people collected SS (about one in every six Americans). As we baby boomers age, that number will go up and then drop a bit.

Yesterday SS celebrated its 82th anniversary and I realized that I'm thankful that it exists. Unfortunately, a lot of folks can't or don't save towards retirement and SS ends up being all or most of their income. HINT: You cannot live decently on SS alone, unless you have no debt, don't like to eat, and are very healthy OR live with your daughter. (Yes, that's one of the reasons my Mom lived with us.... )

Speaking of which, if a relative on SS dies, contact the Social Security Administration immediately. It's not uncommon for thieves to scan death notices and then try and steal the dead person's SS number. Plus, you don't want those SS checks to continue to pile up on your deceased relatives account. It's a pain to give it all back.

In any event, I'm grateful that SS exists -- not just because the husband and I will collect it, but because it is often the only thing keeping some folks alive.

And that's my social commentary for today.

Aug 14, 2017

31 Days of Gratitude: Day 14

Day 14: Harris Teeter

There's a Harris Teeter grocery store about a mile from our house. I'm grateful to it for one particular reason -- it hires disabled workers.

Checking out the other day, I noticed a man about 35 bagging my groceries. He had on a Harris Teeter ID, but the unusual thing was that his arms were flailing around quite a bit. There was nothing typical about his behavior and it took me a second to process that Harris Teeter had hired someone whose behavior just might upset a customer.

Good for them.

It doesn't directly help me, but I'm still grateful.

Aug 13, 2017

Hand-Drawn Cacti

Sometimes you just want your own little images. Used the book Botantical Line Drawing by Peggy Dean to draw these cacti. Kristina Werner used the book here.

Practiced a bit on typing paper and then went for it. Have no idea what I'm doing, but it was fun to draw these. Colored with Copics. Sentiment from Technique Tuesday.

MOOD WHEN DONE = Accomplished!

31 Days of Gratitude: Day 13

Day 13:  Farmer's Market

There's a farmer's market around the corner from our home every Sunday -- and I don't take it for granted. It's even there in the winter. By then there aren't many vendors, but our favorite vendor, a bread company, is always there. One of the owners is an older woman whose hair is silver and _____, meaning silver and pink or silver and purple, etc. Sometimes it's silver and a variety of colors to match a holiday. In the colder months she wears brightly colored coats or striped capes. She's clearly having a lot of fun. Plus the bread is fantastic.

There's usually a guitarist or other musicians (last Sunday there was a 4 piece band) playing music with a box to collect donations. They set up tables and chairs for folks to eat the prepared foods. And, at times, it feels like every baby and dog in the area is there.

Walking over and chatting with the vendors and getting fantastic peaches or corn or cheese or apples, etc. has become a tradition for Mike and me.  Mike always buys kim-chee (shudder). They also sell prepared foods, such as pies or apple sauce, dumplings; sometimes there's an ice cream truck or a guy serving made to order crepes, or crab cakes. Every Sunday we say we are going to buy some of the prepared food and every Sunday we put it off until "next" week. No clue why we do that, but it's been 4 years of farmer's market and we are still doing it.

There are times when it is hard for me to walk more than a few feet without stopping to catch my breath. On those times, Mike patiently waits and carries all the food. Other days I'm fine. That's just the way it is for now. Before we head out for the market, I always have a moment when I wonder which kind of morning it will be. Being a little short of breath is not that big of a deal, but it really upsets Mike, so we walk slowly, particularly when the sidewalk slopes up, hoping for a good day.

Here's hoping today is a good day for all of us.

Aug 12, 2017

Hello Friend

Inspired by some fun cards Julie Ebersole recently posted. Love her light fresh look! Not sure I quite got the look, but it's cute anyway.

Stamps from Impress Flower Power, inks are Distress Oxide (amazing coverage).

MOOD WHEN DONE = Excited. The husband is coming home (today Saturday), after being on travel for work for 5 days (including a travel delay). Apparently I need him. HA!

31 Days of Gratitude: Day 12

Day 12:  Grateful for My Dentist

No one likes going to the dentist, but my dentist, Dr. Robert Levine, makes it tolerable. They are always on time, squeeze me in for emergencies (broke a tooth this week), and make it as pain free as possible. The dentist takes forever to administer Novocain, meaning it takes maybe a full minute to inject the stuff. By taking this long, the shot doesn't hurt. Why don't all dentists do this???

Dr. Levine also took care of my mom so I got to know the place quite well! They were very kind to her as she aged and that made it easier for me. Very sweet of the staff to send a sympathy card to me when she died. Speaking of the staff, they are all very nice and easy to deal with.

As my mom used to say, What more do you want?

Aug 11, 2017

31 Days of Gratitude: Day 11

Day 11:  You!

Keeping it short today.

There are a lot of ways to spend your precious time, and I'm honored and grateful that you read this blog.

Thank you.

Aug 10, 2017

Using Dies to Make a Sweet Letterpress Baby Card

Needed a new baby card, but decided not to invest in a baby set, as I don't need baby cards very often. Looked through the stash and came up with this fun die from Hero Arts Balloon Animal Birthday. Also used a sentiment from a Hero Arts messages set, twine, Altenew Buttercream ink, and a custard card from Memory Box (a perfect match with the ink).

It is easy to use your dies to make faux letterpress, but you'll need a few other supplies (which I bet 99% of you already have). I followed the directions from this outstanding video by Katherine Shudrova (although I admit that I did not roll the stack of dies through the Big Shot as many times as she does).

In order to use dies for letterpress you'll need:

1. heavier cardstock (I used 110 lb from Michaels) to make the stack of dies
2. Die
3. Big Shot or other die cut machine -- with a clean plate so you do not etch the set of stacked dies
4. Typing or scrap paper
5. Embossing mat
6. Dye or Hybrid ink (pigment will make a mess)
7. Vellum
8.  Cardstock or card to impress (again I used 110lb from Michaels)
9. Adhesive

I'm hooked on this technique.  If you decide to use it, let me know as I'd love to see your work.


31 Days of Gratitude: Day 10

Day 10: Color

It may seem odd to be grateful for something so basic, but imagine a world where everything was gray, black, and white.

I'm thinking of the sky on September 11th -- it's probably been just as blue on other days, but, standing outside my office building for 2 hours while waiting for my husband to show up so we could leave the city together, I had a lot of time to look at the sky. I was about 4 blocks from the US Capital and we had heard a rumor that another plane was headed for the Capital. So I guess I was looking up without realizing it. Every clear blue sky reminds me just a bit of that awful afternoon.

I'm also thinking of our the red glass backsplash in the kitchen. It's the kind of thing that realtors tell you not to do because only 1.3% of buyers will like it and everyone else will hate it. But why live in a house decorated for the next owner?

Speaking of red, I'm thinking of my husband's eyes. Before his hair turned white, it was red and his eyes were (and are) the exact same shade -- kind of an orange/red/brown tint. Gorgeous.

And of course after a long rain in the spring, the grass is that beautiful shade of green that only lasts for a day.

Finally, nothing is prettier to me than Christmas and its blast of twinkling lights and bright displays. Even brown/gray trees against the blue/gray skies are beautiful.

So, yes, I'm grateful for color. It sweeps across our days and nights, just there for the taking.

Aug 9, 2017

Sending Love

Inspired by this beautiful card by the oh so talented Yana Smakula. Love how the background supplies the sentiment.

Flowers and leaves from Essentials by Ellen Courage and sentiment from Waffle Flower Balloon Messages.


31 Days of Gratitude: Day 9

Day 9: I am so grateful for Ativan.

Ativan changed my life. Let me explain.

In the early 80s I was on a flight from Orlando to DC. I had spent a week with my "little sister" from the Big Brother Big Sister program. She had moved away and we met up in Orlando. It was an awesome week.

In any event, the flight was bumpy and I froze in fear. That one flight triggered a fear of flying that eventually turned into a full blown phobia. I did not fly for over 10 years. That messed up our lives. Then September 11th happened and I got angry and decided that I would get back on a plane. My doc gave me 10 Ativan and I took 5 for the 45 minute flight from DC to New York City. I slept the entire weekend and I now fly regularly, as long as I have Ativan (but I take a lot less!).

However, I saw a news story this week that global warming is increasing the frequency and intensity of turbulence. I'm not sure there is enough Ativan to keep me flying if things really get bad. So, could everyone (except me of course) please stop driving cars and using air conditioning so that the earth cools off and I can still fly?


Aug 8, 2017

31 Days of Gratitude: Day 8

Day 8:  I'm grateful that I had a (pretty much) fun career.

My first paycheck was from Yale University. I was 16. I had a two-week job doing something related to key punch cards for an early computer system. Got it because my girlfriend's father knew someone at Yale.

Went from Yale to Wawa. (Wouldn't that make a great name for an autobiography?) Got this one on my own! Lasted one day. Fired because I couldn't lift a crate with 4 gallons of milk. The ladies who fired me were nice and gave me a donut on the way out...

Moved on to waitressing at The Farm Shop, which sold ice cream and sandwiches. Cried like a baby when someone stole my $1 tip!!! Then I went on workmen's comp because I twisted my wrist scooping ice cream. And that was the end of that.

Then I got a job as a cashier at Stop and Shop. This was a great job because it was a union job. I got it because my father knew somebody. $1.95 an hour when minimum wage was $1.60. Worked at this job through most of college.

I was horrible as a supermarket cashier. Oh, I pressed the right keys and gave the right change and packed the groceries with the cans on the bottom and the bread on the top, but I stuck to the rules like a nun on steroids.

You can't buy foreign products, or paper goods, with food stamps. No one was going to "break the law" under my watch. I separated out all the canned Italian tomatoes and toilet paper, so the old Italian ladies on food stamps were forced to spend cash on them. "Buy American" is great until you try and make tomato sauce with tomatoes grown anywhere but the home country and you have to spend your utility money on toilet paper. Plus, it was humiliating. Old ladies avoided me. Seriously. They chose to wait in line to get any cashier other than me.

I left Stop and Shop in protest when they promoted a cuter girl to work in the office when I was clearly superior!! I stuck to the rules and she was letting people buy imported oil with food stamps!! My parents told me to get another job, so ...

I got a job as a child care worker. I took care of 3 little kids after school and during the summers while their parents worked. Loved that job. They lived in an upscale area and had a built-in pool and kept kosher. I was fascinated by the kosher rules. (Do you see a theme here?)

Their father was a world renowned child psychiatrist and the mom was a child psychologist. Why these two smart as a whip folks hired me remains a mystery. They were fantastic people and encouraged me to apply to law school, which I did. I was so sad when I learned that the Dad had died so young.

I had a bunch of law school jobs, and after I graduated, I worked at legal aid for about 10 years, then the US Department of Justice for a couple of years, followed by 26 years at the Department of Education. I had funny, smart, and hard working coworkers at every job and always had great assignments. Legal aid showed me another world; I met my husband at DOJ; and I laughed every day at the Department of Ed (great coworkers plus a bureaucracy that begged to be mocked).

Fun times.

Aug 7, 2017

31 Days of Gratitude: Day 7

Day 7:  Grateful for Air Conditioning and Good Luck

[Oh, and for the 1.25 of you breathlessly waiting for my next card to post, never fear. Cards are in production. Just having some creative arguments with myself!]

No one in our neighborhood had an air conditioner -- until the Pirellis (not their real name) got a window unit. Mr Pirelli wore a suit to work every day and they got a new car every two years. No other man wore a suit unless it was a special occasion, and everyone else's cars were used. I didn't know what Mr. Pirelli did for a living, but my Mom said that he had a "company car" and therefore, I assumed he was rich. It wasn't until I was older that I realized that we were living in a section of our town with tiny tract houses built for veterans. No one had a lot of money, but I guess the Pirellis had more than most of us, or they didn't waste it on stupid stuff like milk and bread.

I was 9 and I used to walk by their house, and see the air conditioner sticking out the living room window and think about what it would be like to escape the heat whenever you wanted to do so. I'd see myself sprawled out on their living room floor wrapped in a blanket reading Nancy Drew while everyone else sat on their front porches complaining about the heat.

During one particularly wicked heat wave, I tossed and turned, unable to sleep. My bedroom was upstairs and it was sticky and hot. I went downstairs, but it was miserable there too, so I went outside. I grabbed a lawn chair that was leaning against the back of the house, opened it, and sat down. My thighs stuck to the plastic webbing on the chair, but the air was a bit cooler outside, and I could hear the brook behind our house moving along. It was dark and late and I felt like a grown up sitting out there all alone. There were worse ways to spend a hot summer evening.

I heard a sound to the left and turned my head. The Pirelli's house was two doors down and I could see their backyard. It was 11 o'clock, but someone had turned on the kitchen light and the glow from that light lit up part of their backyard. Soon, Mr. and Mrs. Pirelli were sitting in their back yard smoking cigarettes. At one point I could hear them talking.

I was baffled. Why would anyone sit in the heat when they could have been inside nice and cool? I didn't want them to see me sitting outside in my short pj's so I walked back in the house, took out a book, and read for awhile. But, I kept thinking about how lucky they were and how unfair life was. Shouldn't everyone have the same things? If the Pirellis had AC, shouldn't everyone? Who was passing out all this luck and when was I going to get some of it?

I fell asleep reading, and a few hours later, I heard the sirens. Everyone in the neighborhood ran outside. The Pirelli's backyard was on fire, and with the hot dry summer, the fire was spreading, heading for their house. But, the fire department put out the fire before it could damage much of the house -- the back of the house was scorched, and the side of the screened porch had to be replaced. Their yard, and part of our neighbors' yard was burnt. No one was hurt.

I wondered if the Pirelli's cigarettes had caused the fire, but I didn't say anything. It was too big a thing to say about adults. But I overheard the grown ups talking and the fire department said it was caused by a cigarette. I felt sorry for the Pirellis -- everyone was talking about how they could have burnt down the entire neighborhood.

I got to thinking -- were the Pirellis lucky because they had air conditioning and the fire was put out, or unlucky because their yard caught fire and everyone was talking about them?

Later that day, after dinner, I asked my Mom -- what did she think? Were the Pirellis lucky or unlucky? Were we lucky or unlucky?

She looked at me, handed me a towel to dry the dishes and said:

"When you were 3, I was on my way outside to hang some clothes. But you were too quiet, so I went back in to check. You were playing with matches and just as I walked into the living room, your pajamas wooshed up in flames. I fell on top of you and put out the fire."

Pointing to her arm, she continued, "See this little scar? It's from the flames. We were all VERY lucky that day. "


The past has a way of staying beyond its welcome. The matches I lit when I was 3 were the last matches I ever lit. To this day, I am unable to light a match. My hands just won't do it. And sometimes, when I hear our central AC click on, I think of the night the Pirellis yard burnt and the little scar on my Mom's arm.

Lucky indeed.

Aug 6, 2017

31 Days of Gratitude: Day 6

Day 6:  I'm so very very grateful for my vision. A couple of years ago an opthamologist told me I had glaucoma. My optic nerves were damaged and this wasn't good. All drama ensued and I got a second opinion that same day from a glaucoma specialist. He wasn't sure, but said I had a "very high risk" of developing it and would probably lose some of my vision as I aged.

I needed to be tested every 6 months for 2 years to see (HA!) whether the problem was something I was born with and unlikely to advance, or glaucoma.

I've finished the 2 years of tests and there has been no change in my optic nerves. This means it is likely I was born this way. That's good news. I've gone from a "very high likelihood" to "we don't know but don't worry about it. Come back in a year."

Works for me!

Aug 5, 2017

31 Days of Gratitude: Day 5

Day 5:  Grateful for clean air and water.

I met my husband while we were both working as environmental lawyers for the Department of Justice. Our job was to sue companies on behalf of the US for violating Federal environmental laws. For a time, I worked on this case, involving an entire town destroyed by a pollutant.  Good heavens, I was completely out of my league -- lots of science!  Mike was much better at it.  In any event, I learned how dirty our air and water and land has been, and how much it has been cleaned up over the years.

If you like to breathe and/or enjoy the lake, the bay, the ocean, the river, or the pond, or eating seafood, you can thank those annoying Federal and State regulations, and advances in technology. I'm grateful for whatever we have all done to help clean up this place...

Aug 4, 2017

31 Days of Gratitude: Day 4

Day 4: Retirement

Retirement is amazing!!!!!!  Husband keeps asking me what my plans are for the day (as he leaves for work).

NONE! That's the whole point.

Aug 3, 2017

31 Days of Gratitude: Day 3

Day 3: I'm grateful for the gift of guilt.

"So in everything, do unto others what you would have them do to you, 
for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."  Matthew 7:12

My secretary buzzed. A new client was waiting. It could be a middle aged man seeking to appeal a denial of social security disability, a mother sued for not paying a bill, a couple whose children had been taken away by the city, a family being evicted, etc. 

I often played a game at work. In the few seconds between first seeing a client in the waiting room and sitting down and listening to the story, I tried to guess what the client's problem was. I had just turned 25 and had been working as a legal aid lawyer in Norfolk, VA for 2 months.

My client was tall and had white hair. If I had to guess back then, I would have said she was 70. I don't remember. I'm not sure I ever asked. As I walked her back to my office, I imagined that her husband was a navy officer (Norfolk has a huge navy base), and, having spent a lifetime of moving all over the world with him, he had found someone else, closed the bank accounts, and wanted a divorce. It happened, and a lot of those women ended up at legal aid.

I glanced outside. The snow had picked up. Snow was unusual in Norfolk -- it was too close to the coast to get much snow. But on this Friday, it looked like we were beating the odds. The office was scheduled to close early, but this client was a "walk-in", meaning she had no appointment and someone deemed her problem to be an emergency.

I noticed that my client was wearing a warm wool coat and had on boots. Her white hair was short and framed her face nicely. Her hair was a bit wet from the snow -- she really should have been wearing a hat or scarf in the storm.

I took this woman's coat, hung it up on the wooden coat rack, and asked her to sit down. In the two months that I was a lawyer, I had learned that the most efficient way to get anyone's story was to let the client speak uninterrupted for at least a minute. A minute is a long time when your head is filled with questions, but clients needed to get out their version of the story before they could listen to me.

"What can I do for you?"

The woman with the snow white hair leaned back. Her eyes looked tired, with the sheen that older eyes sometime get. Maybe I said she looked 70 to feel better about what happened. Maybe she was 80?

"I have no where to live. I have no where to go."

She looked at me and I looked away. I stared at the falling snow. My office was near the river and had a beautiful view. For a moment I watched the snow hit the river, and melt away, again and again, becoming part of the river. It was silent and beautiful.

I turned back to the woman and asked her to explain.

The woman with snow white hair began talking, but I don't remember what she said.  She had no where to live. No where to live that night. No where to sleep. No car. Nothing. I don't remember the reasons. Whom do you sue for a place to live? I had no idea.

I was honest with the woman. I told her that I didn't think she had a legal problem, but if she wouldn't mind waiting a minute, I would check with one of the other attorneys.

"I'd love to wait here. It's warm."

I knocked on Gary's (not his real name) door, asking if he had a moment. Gary had a moment. I asked Gary what to do. Gary had been practicing as a legal aid lawyer in Richmond for ten years and I often sought out his guidance. Plus, he grew up in Norfolk and knew his way around. He would know what to do.

I don't remember much of my conversation with the woman but I do remember Gary's exact advice: "Throw her back out into the snow."

I stood there. I looked at him and asked him what he meant. Gary said, "She doesn't have a legal problem. She has bad luck and no money. There are no shelters. Either ask her to move in with you, rent her a room, or throw her back into the snow."**

I walked back into my office fuming. What a jerk.

I returned to my office and glanced outside. The snow had picked up. Almost every day I met someone whose life was a mess, who needed money and time and love. I wasn't there to prop up their lives -- I didn't have enough money to support all these people. I was just there to do my job, just like Gary. Maybe she was on drugs or alcohol and just wanted money for a fix. Maybe it was a big joke and the entire staff would come in and yell surprise and we'd all laugh about what Gary had said. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

A few minutes later, I apologized as I walked this woman to the door of the office and wished her luck.

I don't know what happened to her.

Most of life is routine, the moments melt into one another, eventually unrecognizable and forgotten. But some moments never leave. They stay sharp; they settle into our bones; they keep us up at night.
I've tried over the years to make it up, to make up for throwing the woman back out into the snow. But I'll never make it up. There are some things that can never be fixed. 

I hope the guilt stays in my bones, where it prods my heart and soul to try and be a better person. It is the only thing worth salvaging from that day and for that I am grateful.

MOOD WHEN DONE = pensive

** There are shelters now.

Aug 2, 2017

31 Days of Gratitude: Day 2

Day 2:  Grateful for the neighborhood where we live. It used to be a huge suburban movie theater with a vast parking lot and some type of scrap metal business.  About 6 years ago it was transformed into a "walkable" neighborhood. We walk everywhere -- Target, the movies, dry cleaners, urgent care, nail salon, beauty salon, restaurants, bakeries, Paper Source (!!!), etc.  Living here makes it possible to have only one car. In fact, our car sits in the garage on most days.

Our backyard is a tiny deck overlooking an ally. As such, many folks would not be happy living here and would not like living in a commercial/retail area. There's also a ton of construction going on, including right smack in front of our town home. It's a mess but, I love being surrounded by people and, on a nice day, will find a bench and just people watch. Can't beat the show!

MOOD WHEN DONE = grateful!!

Aug 1, 2017

More Fish Cuteness

Another card using Memory Box's Fishy Tales.  May be addicted to these fish.

These are popped up and combined with a sentiment from a Hero Arts messages assortment set. Hero Arts releases a few of these a year and I use them ALL the time.  Added a little glitter to the bubbles for obvious reasons (HA).


31 Days of Gratitude: Day One

August always feels like transition time -- it's still hot, but the stores are filling up with sweaters and I'm seeing more and more Christmas cards.  Sometimes it feels like August is just the rest stop before fall and all the fun begins! 

So, instead of waiting for the (wonderful) cooler weather, why not use these 31 days to document gratitude?

Day #1:  Grateful for good health. Yes, I have a few health issues, but they are manageable. So I'm grateful for good health for me and for those I love.

MOOD WHEN DONE = Pretty zen right about now.