Dec 31, 2017

Mood When 2017 is Done

Hoping 2018 is full of love, peace, and good health for all of you and those you love.

Looking back on 2017, I thought I'd share my favorite (not in any order) cards that I made in 2017.

This hobby is such a gift and it always puts me in a good mood (except when I waste time getting frustrated...).

Also sharing some of my favorite moments from 2017:
  • Going to San Diego to celebrate my niece get her master's degree.
  • Nurse Patty at Mayo not leaving my side for 6 hours while I went through a medical crisis.
  • Being on the receiving end of enormous kindnesses -- from friends and family who offered to go to Mayo with me when it looked like Mike might not be able to go, to cards and calls and flowers and food and visits. In addition, 9 complete strangers with the same heart disease let me talk with them on the phone about their experience with the surgery at Tufts or Mayo (yes, I do my research.) 
  • Having my SIL travel from California to visit after my surgery. Loved watching her enjoy the little bit of snow we had while she was here.
  • Going to Toronto with Mike for a few days in August.
  • Seeing our son 3 times this year.
  • Having lunch with a friend from high school who I had not seen in about 20 years.
  • Celebrating my MIL's 85th birthday in Texas with family.
  • Standing my ground on some medical issues.
  • Hosting my niece and her 3 friends who came to DC for the Women's March.  
  • Meeting a young doctor from Turkey who is at Mayo who just started his electrophysiology (heart rhythm) cardiology fellowship. I could tell he was really nervous. When I told his supervisor what a great job he had done, he mouthed "thank you." Sweet. 
  • Playing arts and crafts with the adorable 3 year old girl on our block. (She loves sequins!).
  • Reading every single comment on my blog, FB, and Instagram. ((((You guys))))
  • Hosting a family friend and her friend for a few days while they visited DC. It was her friend's first time on a plane and first time in DC and he was so excited to see the city.
  • Talking to Susan Raihala on the phone. 
  • Meeting Liz Rydwin and her husband Ken for lunch. 
I hope I haven't left out anyone or thing, but it was a long year, so cut me some slack!

MOOD WHEN 2017 is DONE = Grateful for every moment of life, and hopeful that 2018 will be calmer. Happy New Year!

Dec 28, 2017

The Other Woman, Old Don Rickles, and the Graduate

As I walk in from the parking garage, I see the other woman and her husband making their way to the elevator that will take them to cardiac rehab. The other woman seems about my age, but walks slowly with a four pronged cane and unlike me, has not colored her hair.  Her husband takes great care with her, and even though his hair is also gray, he seems 15 years younger than his wife. Three times a week, her husband comes with her, holds her coat and bag, and sits in a corner and reads a book while she exercises. The few other family members accompanying patients sit outside, but they let him sit inside, right under a bank of monitors displaying our EKGs. I wonder what he's thinking and imagine him wondering when did his wife become his mother...

We are the only women in our time slot for cardiac rehab and find ourselves sharing the ladies room while we put on our heart monitors prior to exercise. Those monitors are sobering. They remind me why we are there. During my first two rehab sessions a patient had an emergency -- in one case they called the "rapid response team." I sat there watching them working on a woman in a wheelchair and overheard that her heart rhythm had gone into atrial fibrillation. Not a good thing and something I fear. I stopped bicycling and sat there staring and wringing my hands until one of the staff came over and distracted me with conversation and got me back cycling. I haven't seen that patient since. The other patient was a very tall, very thin, older man whom they asked to stop walking on the treadmill and walked him over to a chair. All I heard was that they were going to call his doctor. Never saw him again either.

Other than saying hello, neither the other woman or I have anything to say to each other or to anyone else. However, last week my curiosity prompted me to ask her why she was there. Last August she went out to dinner with her husband, came home and had a massive heart attack. The next thing she knew it was 7 weeks later, and was waking up from a long, very difficult, recovery from two heart surgeries. Too weak to go home, she spent a couple of weeks in a skilled nursing facility.  She's told it without emotion and we haven't spoken since. But, I'm stunned at the seriousness of her story.

I sit at the back of the rehab facility watching and counting all the other patients. The census changes but we seem to have settled on a group of 2 women and 9 men. I watch the other woman on her bike. She does the same exercise all the time, never increasing the time or intensity, staring off into the distance. She doesn't move on to other equipment like most of us, and appears to be going through the motions. Perhaps because she's the only other woman there, or because I know her frightening story, I watch her every time I am there, hoping to see a smile or a faster turn of her bicycle wheel.

Right next to me today is Old Don Rickles. He wears khaki pants, a button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and what look like very new sneakers. He has a shiny face, with just a scattering of pale gray hair circling his even shinier bald head. I call him Old Don Rickles because after seeing and talking with him a few times at cardiac rehab, I realized that he reminded me of an aged Don Rickles.

Old Don talks non stop. He talks to anyone who will listen while we wait for our 8:30 am time slot to begin, all lined up like school kids on little black plastic folding chairs along the wall outside the rehab room. I don't like sitting there. The chairs are too close to one another and, while I'm usually pretty outgoing, I'm not inclined to chat with anyone else at rehab. I'm too anxious. I sit there and fumble with my new phone, logging onto the unsecured hospital wifi so that I can listen to Pandora while exercising. I check the time repeatedly and take deep breaths. This place bothers me but I'm not sure why.

Old Don talks to me while we are standing in line prior to our session to get our blood pressure taken and our instructions for the day. He continues to talk as he makes his way towards his assigned exercise bike, talks as he adjusts the seat to fit his long legs, and continues as he very slowly sits down next to me. He stops talking when I put in my ear plugs, but later I see him chatting with the nurses as his vital signs are checked before he leaves.

I like Old Don. He just seems like a happy gentleman, but I wonder about what's under all that talk. Does he talk so much because he is lonely? Did his wife die and his children move away? Or does he just talk because that is who he is. When I see the half interested, but polite, look in everyone's eyes, I realize that I've seen that look in my dear husband's eyes when my own nervous talk goes on for too long! I hope that's all that it is. I really want him to have someone in his life when he leaves rehab.

Today starts well. My legs are tired because I was at rehab yesterday, and then walked more at the local mall. I bike more slowly than yesterday but I finish my assigned 20 minutes and move onto the treadmill. I'm excited to be on the treadmill. Yesterday, for the first time ever, I kept a 3 mile-an-hour pace for almost 10 minutes and ended up with a 23 minute mile. It's pathetic for the average human, but for me, it is fantastic and I'm proud of myself. I work hard enough to need a towel to dry off my sweat. This feels good.

I'm 10 minutes into the treadmill today when I hear loud music breaking over the music in my headphones. I see a young man about 35, lean and looking quite fit, and what looks like his girlfriend or wife making his way around the the track that circles the equipment. I've seen him before and wondered what happened to bring him here, but I have no idea.

As he passes me I see his fist is raised in victory. They are playing Pomp and Circumstance and the staff and other patients are cheering and clapping, and for a long time. It's cardiac rehab "graduation" day for this fellow. He's completed 36 sessions and looks happy. The young woman with him is jumping up and down.

I tear up hearing the music and increase the sound on my phone, trying to drown out graduation day. Then I'm crying. I slow down the treadmill and try to stop, but the tears come in wracking sobs. The other woman's husband is sitting near me and looks up. Embarrassed, I stop the treadmill and head to the ladies room where I grab a towel and continue to sob. A nurse is alerted that my heart rate is too high so she finds me and sits next to me on a bench and talks to me.

I gather myself together, do the medical check out, and leave. By then the rehab room is empty. I walk out and see the next group lined up against the wall, waiting their turn. There's an endless supply of patients.

I'm exhausted from all the drama and walk slowly down the hall. Maybe this isn't worth it. We have a treadmill at home that I am already using and I can just do that. I see the other woman and her husband sitting together on a soft fabric-covered bench under a big window. I've sat on that bench myself -- when I needed to calm myself either before or after rehab. On a sunny day you can sit there wrapped in warmth and check your email and think great thoughts about stamping and Christmas and, sometimes, death. I'm a laugh and a half at rehab.

But today is gray and cold and they are sitting close and I can sense this isn't a happy stop. Before I can look away, her husband catches my eye and I try to smile. She notes that he's shifted his attention and looks up.

The other woman says to me "are you coming back next week?" "Yes," I say. And then I add, "Are you?"

And the other woman says, "Yes. Monday's a holiday so I'll see you on Wednesday."

That's all we say but it is enough. I'll be back.

Dec 23, 2017

Happy Festivus!!!

If it's December 23rd, it's Festivus, the annual airing of grievances. Needless to say**, it's my favorite day of the year!

1. Online shopping. 

You want to stop the "war"on Christmas? Quit shopping online! It's ruining our malls and ruining Christmas -- no more circling a lot to find a parking space, no more walking all day carrying packages and stopping to scarf down a buttery and salty Auntie Anne's pretzel, and no more listening to Christmas music in October (unless you want to). SAD!

2. People who say "ant" like the bug instead of "aunt" like taunt. 

Just stop.

3. Exercise 

I go to cardiac rehab 3 times a week and was very proud of myself. Apparently that pride was misplaced. One of the nurses there told me to go home, hop on our (Mike's) treadmill twice a week in addition to the cardiac rehab because "the American Heart Association says we need to exercise 5 times a week for 40 minutes."

I told her: "I'm 65. I've been exercising for a grand total of 2 weeks. That seems like a lot." No, she insisted I had to do it.

I checked. (Always check everything), and the American Heart Association's guidelines for "physical activity" say:
150 minutes a week of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise for those looking to keep their heart healthy. For those needing to lower cholesterol or their blood pressure, 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise 3 or 4 times a week.
All that multiplication gave me a headache, so I did further research and found that earlier this year, twitter went crazy when a cardiologist at the American Heart Association's annual conference posted this photo of all the cardiologists taking the escalator instead of walking up the stairs. HA!!!

Conclusion: walk 10 minutes from the parking garage to Auntie Anne's.

4. Fake Cheerios

My husband likes to buy cheap groceries. Luckily, I do the grocery shopping. However, after my surgery, he did it and he brought home Fake Cheerios (and fake everything else). Cheerios are (is?) the perfect cereal -- it's got the lowest combination of sodium, fat and carbs that I've found other than those cardboard biscuit things. And it tastes good, particularly if you don't drown it in milk. Fake Cheerios are (is) NOT THE SAME THING. I don't think he'll make that mistake again.

5. Stamp Companies Who Keep Trying to Sell Me Stuff

Just stop.

6. TV

What happened to TV? They keep taking off the Waltons and Little House on the Prairie and putting on shows that I am not comfortable watching with my own husband. Plus, you used to be able to watch good shows for free.

And to add to this grievance, the TVs themselves no longer have an on/off switch. Did you know that there is no way to turn off the TV other than unplugging it if you accidentally throw the remote control in the washing machine with your sheets?

7. TV Commercials

Speaking of TV, the shows Mike and I watch have the following commercials: Colonial Penn Life Insurance, catheters, adult diapers, buttons you press when you fall down and can't get up, the Jitterbug smart phone with really big icons and really loud sounds, chairs that you sit on to go upstairs, scooters, and prescription drugs. The first time I was put on a blood thinner, the ER doc said to me (really), "You know that commercial of the older couple flying a kite near a lake? That's the drug you'll take." I'm still taking it and have yet to see a lake or a kite.

8. Stainless Steel Appliances

Our house came with stainless steel appliances (and a gas stove, but I'll save that grievance for Festivus 2019). I hate them. If a murderer comes in here and stops to get a bite to eat, you won't need the FBI to dust for fingerprints.

9. People Who Tell Me to Drink 8 Glasses of Water a Day.

I haven't had a glass of water in over 60 years and I'm still alive. The 8 glasses a day thing is a myth (or as I like to say, a lie) perpetuated by the same people who bring exercise recommendations....

And finally,

**10. Sentences that start with "Needless to Say." 


So, Happy Festivus!!! Looking forward to reading your list of grievances!

Dec 21, 2017

Hello, how are you?

Just checking in to see how you are all doing! I've been busy with Christmas routines and continuing cardiac rehab and finally found a few moments to craft.

Printed this with Word and added a couple of stripes on the bottom with Altenew Alcohol Markers.  It's a subtle look but I love it. 5 minutes to make; 2 hours to photograph!

For those of you celebrating Christmas, I hope it is full of peace and love (and good food). In fact, I hope everyone's days are full of peace and love (and good food).


Dec 15, 2017

Crying, Cardiac Rehab, and Joy

At first my insurance denied coverage for cardiac rehab. Woohoo!!! More time to watch The Crown.***

Even though I was secretly thrilled at dodging rehab, the lawyer in me couldn't stand for my insurance to reject anything, so I looked into the rules and figured out a way for my insurance to cover rehab. I learned a lot taking care of my Mom....

Last week I started cardiac rehab. I go 3 days a week. The first session was an assessment -- 2 to 3 hours of sitting with a nurse answering a million questions, and being told how great exercise is. I started crying before I even left the house and cried throughout most of the assessment. The rehab folks wanted to call my doctor, but really, what would my doctor do other than add a note to my file "patient nuts," so I said no.

I showed up for my first day of actual rehab and burst into tears when I walked into the room. They brought me back to the assessment room and I sobbed for 15 minutes. It took 3 sessions for me to completely stop crying and wringing my hands. The staff was very patient with me. I'd make them some of my chocolate peppermint bark to thank them, but they are all about Heart Healthy Everything so that it seems like a bad idea...

Why the crying and the anxiety?

I'm not sure. It could be that, even though I'm on a heart monitor during exercise, I worry that my heart will go into an arrhythmia again. Or maybe it's that rehab is located in the heart unit of our local hospital, where I spent hundreds of hours with my Mom. Just driving into the parking garage makes me nervous. Or maybe it just reminds me that 2017 was not my favorite year.

Whatever the reason, I've stopped crying and, shockingly, now look forward to going. I'm still a little anxious, but yesterday I did the bike for 30 minutes and the treadmill for 20 -- that's 50 minutes of exercise, or 49.5 minutes longer than I've done in years.

The surgery did its job. I don't get out of breath when my heart rate goes up. I had no idea how limited I was before the surgery. I'm grateful to be better. I'll have to live with heart issues the rest of my life, but that life should be much better for, hopefully, many years. Any tears I shed now are tears of joy for my improved heart. This came at a cost -- and not just the money, but the toll it took on Mike. He went through a lot and I hope to make it up to him by being able to accompany him while he does some of the things he loves -- roaming around cities and checking out museums.

Now it is time to get off the sofa and finish my Christmas cards. And then, later today, walk on Mike's treadmill. Yes, I'm even exercising at home on the days I'm not at rehab. Now that really is nuts!

*** Are you watching The Crown? I love this show, particularly the guy playing Prince Philip. Such an interesting portrayal.

Dec 13, 2017

Hello hi

Fast card -- Stamped Hello from the Double Take set by The Stamp Market in Versafine black on this fun Alternew patterned paper (it's part of a kit) -- I got it on sale a few weeks ago. Dried with a heat gun but that didn't dry it enough, so I left the stamped panel to dry overnight.

Stamped hi from the same set in Versamark and embossed in white. The card needed more white, so I added some white Nuvo drops between the letters. Adhered paper to A2 card and done!

MOOD WHEN DONE = Happy! Needed a break from Christmas mania. Hoping someone will enjoy receiving this. 

Dec 10, 2017

All Good Things

When I googled "social media envy," I noticed that most of the articles tell us not to be jealous because social media does not reflect reality. That smiling family gathered around the perfect Thanksgiving table? Their son is on probation and just stabbed his sister with a fork. And Aunt Betsy's daughter just moved back home after deciding that working was for chumps. So feel better -- their perfect life is actually horrible. In fact, I pretty much focused on that point in this blog post.

But I got to thinking. I don't want to feel better just because I know that sometimes your life sucks.

I know that life is like a blender, with stuff that just keeps flying out, settling in our homes and our hearts in ways that fit perfectly and bring joy, and in other ways that are sharp and very painful, sometimes devastating. And my brain knows that it's not worth 10 seconds of my life weighing how much of the good stuff comes flying out of my blender compared to yours or some stranger I think I know on the internet.

So this season I hope your life is churning out all good things, and if you want to share them on social media, I will enjoy them. And if your life includes a few sharp or painful moments, I'm sorry. I hope those moments are very few and that you find some peace and joy this holiday season.

Dec 6, 2017

Advent Calendar Extravaganza with Taheerah Atchia

So happy to be part of the tremendously talented Taheerah Atchia's Advent Calendar Extravaganza this year! (Prize info at the end).

The Advent Calendar Extravaganza is "the" festive event of the season. This "hop with a twist" was dreamed up by Taheera Atchia and features surprise destinations each day! Joining in the fun with Taheerah are ONE HUNDRED special guests -- each serving up some fantastic Christmas inspiration! Just like an Advent Calendar, you'll never know where you're going to be visiting next until you "open the door"!

And that's not all! 

With 25 amazing sponsors taking part as guests as well, your crafty wish list is bound to get a boost with a chance to win a prize EVERY SINGLE DAY!

Join in the fun every day at to see what special surprises await behind the door!

Taheerah asked me to use products from my stash of Flora & Fauna stamps.  Since they are among my favorites, I was happy to say yes. I ended up making a Christmas and a birthday card.

I made this cute card way back in early October before surgery. I hope it will warm the recipient's heart. Love these penguins and sentiment from Flora & Fauna's Cozy Cuddles Penguin

Simply stamped them in Memento Tuxedo Black ink and colored with Copics. Hand cut a little banner for the sentiment.

And then I needed a birthday card the other day, so I made this quick, very CAS card. Love getting back to stamping.

Stamps from Flora & Fauna's Birthday Set and Texture Two. Colored that little bird with pencils and Copic marker. Paper strip from Altenew. 


It’s not a party without a prize - and with prizes every day there are several chances to win!

Today’s prize is generously supplied by Flora & Fauna, so you’ll definitely want to win! Simply leave a comment on this post - then head back to and leave a comment there too! You must leave a comment on Taheerah’s blog as well as mine in order to be eligible to win! Don’t forget to grab the other surprise destinations from Taheerah’s blog and head over to them to leave comments there as well to improve your odds even more! You have until 23:59 EST on December 31, 2017 to enter.

Don’t forget Advent Calendar Extravaganza runs from December 1st-25th inclusive so make sure you visit every day for fabulous inspiration and amazing prizes every single time! 


Dec 3, 2017

I Hope You Made It

It was early November, and three days in as a legal aid lawyer, the intake sheet indicated that Henry and Mae (not their real names) were married and here for a "domestic relations" matter. I went to the waiting room and spotted them. Sitting together, they looked tired. May was in a maid's uniform that was a little too tight and Henry, thin as a reed, in baggy gray overalls, looked older than his 34 years. 

I brought them back to my office, and had them sit down as I walked around my big desk. I was 24 and looked 18 so I needed that big desk to give me some gravitas. I introduced myself, and asked them "what I could do for them." 

Mae handed me a picture of Kay and Keri (not their real names), their twin 9 year old girls, and then started to cry. I had yet to experience crying clients and had made the rookie mistake of having no kleenex in my office.

Henry looked lovingly towards Mae, and then handed me some paperwork. It was a custody case scheduled for an emergency hearing the next day (ugh). I didn't even know where the courthouse was. The State (in the form of the local social services agency) had sued to take custody of the girls. I might have been green, but I at least knew this was very serious.

Henry and Mae had been married for 12 years, and lived together in a 1 bedroom apartment with the girls. Henry towed cars and Mae cleaned motel rooms. They had no health insurance or other benefits and their income was low enough to qualify for legal aid. 

In order to take the girls away from Henry and Mae, the State would have to prove that my clients were unfit -- that their parenting caused serious harm to the girls. It wouldn't be enough to show that it was in the "best interests of the children" to live with someone else. And if the State succeeded, in order to get the kids back, my clients would have to show that they were no longer unfit. 

They seemed lovely. Immediately I thought that this was another example of injustice towards poor people. You can't take kids away from their parents just because they are poor! There was always someone else with more money! Without a free lawyer, Henry and Mae would have to go to court alone. Now this is why I became a lawyer.

I asked them, "Even if you disagree with them, why does social services think the kids are at risk by living with you?" 

"We are heroin addicts."


Both my brothers were, even back then, addicted to drugs. I coped by making believe I wasn't related to them. I really was the wrong person for this case.

I babbled, "Could you get off heroin to keep your girls?"

Henry told me that they were trying, but that it was really hard. They had no health insurance, and didn't know what to do. 

Henry and Mae were scheduled to spend 30 minutes with me. They were my last appointment of the day. They stayed 3 hours. I ended up just talking with them, getting a better idea of their lives, and how the heroin addiction affected the girls. If they weren't buying drugs, they could likely afford a bigger apartment. But, the girls were healthy and went to school.  Kay was on the honor roll and Keri was a solid B student. They both had pink ribbons in their hair and had big happy smiles. Not bad. Henry and Mae were warm and honest and clearly loved the girls. Maybe you could be addicted to drugs and be a good parent at the same time? Not possible, but why did I like them?

Then it suddenly occurred to me to ask the most important question -- how did social services find out they were on heroin?

Did I mention that I only been on the job for 3 days?

Desperate for a fix, Mae had turned to prostitution. She was trading sex for heroin for her and Henry. She got arrested but, although the charges were dropped, the police notified social services.

Words failed me. 

After what seemed like minutes, but was probably 20 seconds, I told them that I needed a moment to discuss their case with another attorney. He told me that I should argue that the heroin and the prostitution had no effect on the kids -- that social services should spend its scarce resources on providing drug addiction care for the parents rather than tearing the family apart and that living with their parents, as troubled as they were, was better than rolling the dice on stranger foster parents. Sounded good to me.

I got the more experienced attorney to come with me so I could at least find the courthouse, and the next morning we were in court. The State presented its evidence. It was bad. Then, Henry and Mae both testified and admitted to the worst of it. But, I also had them carefully describe the girls' day and how they had friends and went to school, etc. The girls slept in a fold out sofa in the apartment and were otherwise doing fine. The addiction and prostitution, though awful and serious, were separate and apart from their parenting. Not bad for a rookie lawyer. I was satisfied and sat down.

The State's attorney asked one question -- "Did you ever have heroin in your apartment?" It wasn't even a leading question, but this guy knew what he was doing.

Henry told the truth. Once the judge heard that there were drugs in the apartment, he ruled that the girls would go into foster care and set a court hearing for 45 days later. He spoke directly to Henry and Mae:

"I'm giving you a chance. You will see the girls every weekend. When you come back to court I want to hear from social services that there are no drugs in your apartment and that you are not engaged in any criminal activity -- no heroin or other drugs and no prostitution. Don't waste this chance."

And then he turned to Social Services and said "Let's get them into the methadone clinic."

There was a methadone clinic?  Yes, and it had a long waiting list, but they would get moved to the top.

The way the Judge put it sounded good -- I felt like we had won even though we had lost.

I met with Henry and Mae for 2 hours at 1 pm every Sunday in my office for 6 weeks. They gave me a status report and we practiced their testimony over and over. They were doing well. They saw the girls every Saturday, moving their work schedules if necessary. They went to the methadone clinic every day and the clinic staff signed a log indicating that they were passing their drug tests. They even looked a little healthier.

On the Sunday before the Court hearing, I told Henry and Mae that I'd meet them in the courthouse for the hearing, and that they should wear the type of clothes that they would wear if they were going to Church.

A couple of days later -- about a week before Christmas -- I spotted them as I walked into the courthouse. Even though there was a light cold rain falling, Mae was in a pink suit with a matching pink hat and matching pink heels. She had a white feather boa around her suit jacket! But Henry took the prize. He was in a dark gray suit, with a bright yellow tie, and was sporting a hat with a yellow feather sticking out of the band. I was expecting simple, quiet clothes. I couldn't decide whether this was good or bad, but in we went.

The Judge kept it informal. He swore in the social services worker and just let her tell her story. She confirmed all the good things but felt that 45 days wasn't enough to ensure the children's safety. She wanted the see Henry and Mae clean for 6 months before the girls were returned.

The Judge looked at me. What did I have to say?

In my head I pictured the ruined family moments caused by drugs. I agreed with social services. As much as I liked Henry and Mae, I'd seen my brothers "get better" only to "get worse." These were little kids, and going back and forth between foster care and addicted parents could make an awful situation tragic.

So I stood up and did what I had sworn I would do when I became a member of the bar -- I zealously advocated for my clients. My brothers weren't in the room and my clients weren't Kay and Keri -- they were Henry and Mae. I laid out all they had done and emphasized how difficult it is to be in foster care and how returning the children would make it more likely, rather than less likely, that Henry and Mae would stay clean. I spoke non-stop for 5 minutes, painting a picture of parents who would do anything to get their kids back. I reminded the Judge that the law required that social services and the court do what was needed to reunite the children with their parents and indicated that Henry and Mae would welcome surprise inspections to their apartment as well as random drug testing.

But then the State's attorney reminded the Judge that Henry and Mae had only been clean for a few weeks. He urged the Judge to keep the kids in foster care, but increase visitation and slowly reunite the kids with their parents. He made sense to me. I looked at Henry and Mae and they were just staring at the Judge, holding each other's hands tightly.

Henry and Mae won. The Judge ruled that the kids could return immediately. Foster care had its own risks and he wanted to give them a chance. There would be close supervision of the family, but on December 19th, Kay and Keri went back to Henry and Mae.

A few days later, I found a box of chocolates on my desk with a Christmas card signed by Henry and Mae and Kay and Keri. I shared the chocolates with my coworkers, but saved that card for years.

We went to court every 6 months for the 2 years I remained in that particular job. Henry and Mae stayed clean and the kids stayed with them. They even managed to move to a 2 bedroom apartment. I lost a lot of similar cases as the years went on and saw many parents fail, but this was a win.

At Christmastime, I think of them on that rainy day in December when I walked out of Court with a crying woman wearing a white boa and a smiling man with a yellow feather in his hat. It was a good day.

I often wonder what happened to the girls after I moved away. Did Henry and Mae stay clean? Was there an eviction, a job loss, or a car accident that pushed them over the edge and back to heroin? I would never know.

Merry Christmas, Henry and Mae and Kay and Keri. I hope you made it.

Dec 1, 2017

It's December 1st Folks


There are probably people somewhere who do not stress about Christmas. And most of those people would be men!  In my house, I'm it -- gifts, cards, cooking, etc. If it wasn't for the Mom/Wife here, December 25th and the days leading up to it would be just like November 25th and the days leading up to it. 
Wait, that's not fair to men -- in September I met a woman at a crafty get together who had made all her cards, signed them, addressed the envelopes, and put the postage on them. I knew we had nothing in common and went and got a brownie.

So here it is, apparently 24 days to the big day, and I have a few cards made.  And I bought a couple of gifts. That's it, and I don't care. Oh, I'll get around to sending cards and I'll buy and wrap the gifts, because it really isn't that hard and I enjoy it anyway.

But here are my priorities --  

-Connect with someone who is spending Christmas without his wife for the first time in over 50 years, and to a friend with a very serious illness.  

-Be here when our son comes home, with his favorite Brownie Cheesecake fresh out of the oven. 

-Make lasagna for Christmas because that's what the husband loves and turkey and mashed potatoes for the son because that is what he loves, and fried cauliflower because we all love it, even though there will only be 3 of us.

-Walk every day because it's good for me.

-Play board games that I don't really understand because my son loves them (and loves to beat me!).

-Eat too much.

-Finish reading Beneath a Scarlet Sky.

-See the Stars War movie with husband and kid even though I have zero interest.

-Find time to spend with friends.

-Be grateful every day for every blessing.

-Hope that everyone else's life is as amazing as it looks on social media, even though I know it isn't possible. 

-Listen to Christmas music and watch all the lights.

-Obsess about political stuff because I cannot help it. 

-Stay out of the hospital!!

-Be hopeful for 2018.

How about you?  What's on your list?


Nov 28, 2017

Recovery and a Thank You

It's been awhile, so I thought I'd let you know how I am doing. (Short version -- fine.)

After a few rocky times, I think I'm on the road to recovery. I am driving (yeah!), and pretty much self sufficient. My doc says the surgery** was a success. I can feel a difference. I used to have chest pains every day, but I haven't had a single one since the surgery. I also used to pretty much fall apart after noon, but I find I have more energy than before. I'm still a little short of breath, but it's anemia, not the heart, so it is a temporary thing. 

Nevertheless, I wonder if having the surgery was the right thing to do. That pulmonary embolism was crazy painful and could have killed me or damaged my heart. I'll be on blood thinners the rest of my life (which is not that uncommon but is concerning). Plus, the whole scene was very hard on my husband -- at one point he slept on the living room floor because he didn't want me to be alone and I was in too much pain to sleep in a bed. The man is a keeper and I hate to see him so worried and exhausted. He's still fussing over me and I suspect it will take awhile for him to recover....

And even more worrisome, at some point, both Mike and I began to feel very vulnerable. It seems like just yesterday that I was accompanying my Mom to the ER and doctors' office and handling all that drama. I was really good at handling the drama when I wasn't the patient. Now we are the patients -- Mike also had a medical scare this fall -- and it's a whole other game. We started talking about moving to a home without stairs and then stopped and pulled ourselves together. We are so not there yet! We just need time to get 2017 in the rear view mirror and are already planning a short getaway sometime for early 2018.

So the jury is still out on whether the surgery was a good thing, but this jury doesn't need to vote. It's over and time to move on and I see good things ahead.

** By the way, did you happen to catch The Good Doctor on ABC last night (11/27)?  The little boy with the heart problem has my heart condition and had the same surgery I had.  Although the writers got a few details wrong, I thought they did a decent job. 

I received many, many get well cards, emails, comments on the blog and on Facebook. My husband saved all the cards and I recently reread them. I think I was too sick when I first received them to focus on them. They are beautiful and it was so kind of so many to send them. Thank you all so very much for taking the time to encourage me in whatever format. My family, friends, and the stamping community are truly a blessing in my life.

Nov 9, 2017

Mission Accomplished - A Walk and a Card

I used a terrific set from Stamplorations called Yuletide Deer. It is designed by the very talented Deepti Malik.  Deepti kindly sent me the set to help me get through surgery. Is that sweet or what? 

Very few supplies -- navy and white cardstocks, detail gold embossing powder, Versamark, Nuvo gold drops. Simple.


After I wrote last night's post, I really didn't think I had it in me to get up and start moving again. But I did. I was showered and dressed by 8 am. Walked down two flights of stairs, grabbed some $$ and my phone, and headed outside. It's a cool and gray day and everything was wet outside. No stopping on a bench. So, I walked half a block to a pastry shop!

Our neighborhood is new so I have been surprised at how inaccessible the shops and restaurants are. Only Target has accessible doorways -- the kind where you can press a button to open the door. I had thought that the law required all new businesses to have these types of doors, but apparently not.

So when I got to the pastry shop I tried my best to open the heavy glass and metal door. No luck.  My arms are weak from the surgery (the breast bone is cut in half and we are cautioned not to lift or pull anything heavy in the weeks after surgery) and the blood clot -- using them is painful, so I've avoided that. It took three shouts for the woman at the counter to see me and come and open the door.  I explained that I was recovering from surgery, but she didn't look convinced.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed a nice cup of tea and a croissant. After 15 minutes, I walked back home. And then I made my way up to the 4th floor (stopping at each level) and made this card. I didn't sit as getting up and down is difficult due to the arm issues, but that kept me on my feet, which is great. When the card was done I took a quick photo with my phone. Terrible lighting but good enough.

And then I sat down and a shed a few tears of happiness. Thanks so much for your encouragement and support. It means a lot!!

MOOD WHEN DONE = fantastic

Nov 8, 2017

The Crash

I was 14 and in the bathroom, brushing my teeth. The bathroom was a few feet from the living room. We lived in a tiny Cape Cod style house, built after WWII to house veterans and their families.

My mom was constantly painting or wallpapering the rooms. She made coordinating curtains and slipcovers and bedspreads. She would make things like placemats and dust ruffles and covers for the toaster so that everything matched. One day I came home and she had covered my shoes with the same fabric she used to make my bedspread. My mom took matchy/matchy to new levels.

She went through color themes like some moms changed hair styles. At one point every room was beige (maybe she was depressed?). Then everything was orange and green. Once she finished the last room, she'd start a new color theme and begin ripping out wallpaper. I guess house decorating was her hobby. On this particular day, the house was decked out in pale blue and cranberry.

The bus was coming in about 10 minutes and I needed to hustle. Suddenly, there was a loud boom, and the house shook. I wondered if there'd been an earthquake. My parents yelled to see if we were ok. We were and we all ran to the living room where we could see the front of a car that had crashed through the wall, ruining the white and blue and cranberry wallpaper.

This was problematic for several reasons. First, none of us was ever allowed to be in the living room. My mom wanted one room that was ready "in case the priest came by" (the priests used to go door to door unannounced once a year for a church census). And, most importantly, the car ruined my mom's pride and joy -- her pale blue wool wall-to-wall living room carpet. She had saved for years for that carpet and had decorated the living room around it. It was a great source of pride to finally cover up the hardwood floors. (Back then hardwood floors were considered low rent.)

This was a disaster.

This week has felt like another version of that day.

My recovery from heart surgery has been slow, but steady. I left the hospital weak, covered with an awful skin infection, and very nervous about the potential for a return of the atrial fibrillation (abnormal heart rhythm) that had kept me at Mayo longer than planned. It wasn't easy for Mike to take care of me, particularly in those first days after discharge. As he put it, "I can't do what you did for your mom." But he did, and we flew back home four days after discharge.

Since then, I've made a point to move around as much as possible -- despite some pain and shakiness, I took a shower, got dressed, and walked outside every day. I did a little cooking. I took myself out to lunch in the neighborhood on a particularly beautiful day. I went up and down stairs, and finally late last week I was able to sleep in our bed. I even learned to use Uber so I could get to doctor appointments on my own!

But this past Sunday night, a pain in my neck and shoulder that I thought was caused by tension skyrocketed. Every time I breathed in it felt like a knife. I was in an ambulance and shortly diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism, fluid on the lungs and heart, anemia, and a partially collapsed lung. Eventually they also identified a blood clot in my leg.

The ER doc told me I was lucky that the clot was small. It travelled through my heart, but did not damage the heart. I was lucky to be alive. YIKES. I still haven't finished my Christmas cards so death is not in the picture. Plus, I owe a ton of thank you cards to dear friends and family and I think I'd rather die before buying thank you cards.

I'm sure you understand.

After the car hit our house my mom had the pale blue wall-to-wall carpeting removed. She got back out the braided rug that had been in the living room; the one she cleaned by putting it over the clothes line and beating it with a broom; the one that made her feel tacky and poor. But, eventually she decided that the hardwood floors were gorgeous and easier to keep clean. The braided rug looked "colonial" and therefore was wonderful. She and the living room recovered from the crash. She put up new wallpaper and sat in the redecorated living room (alone!) and called it her happy place.

I feel like those clots crashed into me in the same way that car crashed into our living room. My careful recovery feels ruined. I'm sitting on the sofa most of the day, too afraid to move, tired, and depressed. I've got my own ugly braided rug around my neck.

So, tonight I decided that 3 days of this pity party are enough. I can't sit here waiting to get better. The less I do, the weaker I get. So tomorrow I'm getting dressed and going outside -- even if it is just to sit on the bench in front of our house. The stairs are hard again because the temporary lung issues cause shortness of breath. But I can just climb them more slowly.

And I'll go upstairs to my 4th floor craft room, even if all I do is sit there and take in the scene. I miss my stamps. I miss being around them, and the dies and the paints and inks and papers. I miss my box of adhesives and the sequins that end up everywhere except on my cards. I miss the view from the 4th floor, even if it is just an apartment house. I even miss the ugly wall-to-wall carpeting in that room.

It's my happy place and I can't wait to get back and sit there (alone!) enjoying a bit of my old life.

I'll let you know how it goes!

Oct 24, 2017

Heart Surgery Update

Had heart surgery on Friday, October 13th up at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester MN. The surgeon cut out of piece of my heart that was too thick and blocking blood flow, and also did some work inside the left atrium of the heart. The purpose of the surgery was to increase the amount of oxygen in my lungs so that I am no longer short of breath, have more stamina, and can up my stamping game!  It is also supposed to delay or prevent the onset of arrhythmias. Oh, and the internal defibrillator I had was removed. Amen to that.

The best part about having the surgery is that I'm no longer debating whether to have it. That amount of anxiety will wear you down. Time will tell whether the surgery was successful but I am already at peace with it.

Now recovery begins. I am very pleased at how far I've come already and hope to be back in my craft room in the next month or so. Thanks for reading this -- my blogging has been intermittent and I am always happy to see that I have folks who are still here.

MOOD WHEN DONE = Grateful for the best husband ever.

Oct 7, 2017

Winnie and Walter World Cardmaking Day Hop

Winnie & Walter is celebrating World Cardmaking Day with a bang. There's a sale, challenges, and this blog hop. All details can be found here.

More than delighted to be part of the Winnie & Walter World Cardmaking Blog Hop. There's some super serious talent here (some of my favorite crafters) and I cannot wait to see what they are sharing. You should have come from the mega talented Nina Marie Trapani's blog.

Plus prizes!! 5 random winners in total will be drawn from all the comments left on the different stops along the hop. Deadline is October 13th. Each winner will receive a $25 gift certificate to the Winnie & Walter shop.

I've got two cards to share. First up is one of my favorite color combinations -- gold, white, and black.

The sentiments and dies are from Winnie & Walter's In Bloom: Frenchy's Festive Florals with Angelica Suarez. And I LOVE this sentiment.

The "tree" triangle is cut out of Modern Graphic paper from Essentials by Ellen. It is black and white paper, but I put it through the Minc to add gold foil on top of the black dots.  The Joy die is stamped and layered 5 times to get a nice thick focal point.

The next card was a snap to make. Fell in love with this simple Noel cutaway die. Used a very bright red cardstock (Holly Berry from Memory Box) to go with the bold typography.

The next fantastic cardmaker on the Winnie & Walter blog hop is Vanessa Menhorn.

Hope you are able to carve out some time to stamp today!

MOOD WHEN DONE = What the heck am I doing as part of this lineup of stampers?? Thanks to Taheerah with Winnie & Walter for inviting me. Haven't done design work in over a year and this was fun.

Oct 6, 2017

Courage for Everyone

There are some moments -- the really big ones -- where folks face a life threatening now or never moment -- the amazingly courageous fire men and women who run into a burning building, the person who jumps down onto the subway tracks to pull a fallen passenger to safety, or the neighbor who picks up the phone and calls child protective services when they witness a parent abusing a child. Those are the moments where courage does roar.

However, this card is for those other moments -- the ones we all face -- the moments of our daily lives that seem overwhelming, but are numbingly common.  It's for the parents of an addict, the wife of a man dying from cancer, the single mom who never has enough time or money to take care of her kids, the homeless man who stands on the median of a busy street near my house collecting money, the woman entering a nursing home, the lonely teenager with autism, the woman whose afraid to leave the house, the worker whose supervisor is a bully, the woman overwhelmed by depression, etc.

In other words, this card is for everyone, because we all need courage at times.  It uses a sentiment from a fantastic Essentials by Ellen stamp and die set called, fittingly, Courage. It was designed to raise funds for breast cancer research as well as bring awareness to the disease. But the sentiments also work for all the other moments in life where need to stand up a little taller and face things that we don't want to face, and still put dinner on the table and make the bed (and sometimes go upstairs and make a card).

I hope you have courage to face whatever is going on in your life. If you were paralyzed by fear or anxiety yesterday, I hope that today you are standing a little taller.

MOOD WHEN DONE = I'm good! I like the card, the sun is shining, and now it is time to clean up the mess I made creating it and the cards I'll show you tomorrow....

Sep 28, 2017

Life Update

I've gotten tons (ok, 2) questions about my health. Here are answers to some questions no one has asked.

1. What's going on?

If all goes as planned, in a few weeks, some guy (or maybe a bunch of folks in training -- please don't let me be your first patient!) is going to knock me out, cut open my chest, separate my rib cage, turn off my heart (no clue and have not googled), connect me to a heart lung machine, cut through my aorta (I think), remove a piece of my heart, and reverse each of those actions.  If it goes well, I will then wake up and be miserable. If it doesn't go well, see question #6.

It is also possible that, after a new round of tests, these geniuses will tell me that surgery is not needed. We shall see.

2. What is the point of the surgery?

The purpose of the surgery is to improve "quality of life."

A piece of my heart is too thick and is blocking some blood from going to my lungs. Not enough blood = not enough oxygen = getting short of breath and fatigue = impaired card making skills = even poorer photography skills. The latter two are unacceptable and I am willing to risk death to finally master where to put the sentiment on a card.

3. Will you live longer if you have this surgery?

The standard advice is that this surgery doesn't improve life expectancy. However, I get an email every time a medical journal posts an article on the topic. Really, I've gone that far down the rabbit hole.

Like most US voters, I tend to only read and remember stuff that I like, so yes, it improves life expectancy.

4. I thought you had this surgery in August. What happened?

I was supposed to have this surgery in August, but I cancelled the surgery. I wasn't confident that the medical team would take proper care of me after surgery (folks I spoke with who had this operation there recently were very unhappy with their post surgical care).

I also wasn't satisfied with the evaluation I got. It wasn't personal. For example, before I let anyone decide that I need an operation on my heart, I want someone, preferably Dr. Doug Ross, in a long white coat, to LISTEN to my heart and lungs with a stethoscope. And, if you do not listen to my heart and lungs, please do not describe the sound of them in my medical records. Also, the super smart specialist who wrote the book on my heart condition told Mike and me that "there isn't a single good cardiologist in the Washington DC area."

Big egos worry me. I mean, just the act of randomness would put a good cardiologist in DC on any given day.

So, as hard as it has been for both Mike and me to wait for the surgery, I am glad I did. Whether I'm right or wrong about cancelling, you shouldn't go into a major medical thing without confidence in your team.

5. Do you have confidence in your current team?



Not really. I trust no one.

I'm in the freak out stage. Mike just suggested I find something good on Netflix and spend all day binge watching it. Apparently he has no idea what I do all day.

6. Have you made a will?

No, you may not have my Distress Oxide inks. I told Mike to keep them for wife #2.

7. Your joking is a pathetic attention-seeking attempt to quell your nerves. How are you really doing?

I'm pretty much a pathetic, attention-seeking, nervous mess. Otherwise, terrific.

MOOD WHEN DONE = I'm excited and a bit nervous. It's an adventure I'd rather not be on, but I'm beyond grateful for the opportunity to feel better and live longer. I've got an excellent medical team and good health insurance. I have Mike and my son and family and friends. If the surgery goes forward, I should feel better and live longer. If it doesn't go forward, I will spin around and celebrate and place a really big stamp order.

It's a win-win.

Sep 27, 2017

Inspired by Lisa Spangler

Last year, Lisa Spangler (whose work I adore) posted this Christmas card on her blog. LOVE. Decided to make my own version with supplies I already had, and this is what I came up with.

Painted the branches from Essentials by Ellen (designed by Julie Ebersole) Christmas Scribbles set (retiring and out of stock!! What?) with white gouache paint, and stamped on a Memory Box Licorice card.

White gouache or acrylic paints provide the only real solid white coverage against dark cardstock that I've ever been able to achieve without embossing. I did not add any water so the card did not warp. Squirted some gouache on a palette and used a small brush to paint onto the stamp. Make sure to wash the stamp and brush right away!

Added Nuvo Crystal Holly Red drops and a green foil Joy die cut (also designed by Julie but does not appear available anymore).

MOOD WHEN DONE = Of all the Christmas cards I've made this year I think I like this one the best (so far!).

Sep 25, 2017

Trio of Autumn Cards

Vintage Leaves dies from Stampin Up. Just fooling around trying to make something different.

MOOD WHEN DONE = No time for moods!! Running around crossing things off my pre-surgery list of things to do. EEEEK.

Sep 15, 2017

Holly Red Bear

Look familiar?  This is the same card as this one, except the card base is a Memory Box Holly Berry card, and I used a Technique Tuesday sentiment (from a really old set).  Cozy Cuddles Penguin set from Flora and Fauna. White gouache paint accents.

I made these red ones first but Mike was "meh," so I made the different version in white. Not sure which I prefer....but I think it is the white.

MOOD WHEN DONE = Made a whole bunch of these, so feeling accomplished.

Sep 13, 2017

Simple Warm Winter Wishes

So easy to make and, since I loved this so much, I had to make a few more.

Flora and Fauna Cozy Cuddles Penguin. One layer, just stamps, ink, and paper -- a style I like more and more. If you like this, check around your stash as you can easily substitute other stamps.


Sep 5, 2017

Copper Thanks

The weather has gone to hell in so many parts of the world, but in DC there is a hint of fall in the air -- very unusual this early. So I was inspired to make a card with autumn colored leaves, but snuck in the outline of a butterfly because it is still summer.

Leaf from Fauna & Flora, Butterfly die from The Stamp Market and the thanks die from Poppystamps (cut with copper cardstock). Adhered vellum and the thanks with Elmer's spray adhesive. Distress Oxide inks.

MOOD WHEN DONE = Just fine!

Sep 1, 2017

You're Fabulous

Really, you are!

Bows for You by the Stamp Market. Distress Oxide Worn Lipstick and Picked Raspberry. Black Nuvo Drops.

MOOD WHEN DONE = Fabulous!

Aug 31, 2017

Happy Day

Here's a fun 4-Bar sized card to make someone happy (I hope). The graphic little mountains (?) are from Flora & Fauna's Cozy Cuddles Penguin set and the sentiment is from The Stamp Market's Bows for You.  Peerless watercolors.

MOOD WHEN DONE = Well, happy of course!

What Happened When I Blogged About Gratitude for 31 Days

Day 31: What Happened When I Blogged About Gratitude for 31 Days**

I can't remember what prompted me to start the 31 Days of Gratitude series. However, whatever it was, I'm grateful for it! This has been a terrific experience.

The best part of writing about gratitude was the time I spent thinking about what to write. It shifted my brain from its usual cycle of worry/anger/annoyance to happier thoughts. I'd wake up and say, ok, what am I grateful for? What am I going to write about? And that process sparked some fantastic reflection. Memories flooded and I felt the abundance of a good life. I'd look around, literally and figuratively, and identify all the good things.

Doing this didn't wipe out the sources of my worry/anger/annoyance. There still there. It didn't totally change my personality -- I'm still a skeptic, a worrier. But, the edges of that skepticism and anxiety were worn down just a bit, rounded by gratitude and a bit of joy.

I also loved reading your comments. I'm still working my way through responding to each of them. If you haven't taken the time to read them, you may want to do so. They are terrific. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

Finally, I felt kind of funny writing about some parts of my life. I didn't want to come off as someone with a perfect life. Social media has a way of leaving the wrong impression and making everyone's life look either perfect or tragic. Mine's neither.

So thanks for reading along and it if you are trying to cope with garden level anxiety, this is a great mechanism to shift your focus to the positive.


** If you've just found this series, you can start from the beginning by looking on the right side of my blog at the list of blog posts in August 2017.