Jan 31, 2018

Party Animals

This couldn't be simpler. Paper, stamps, and ink -- my favorite kind of card. (Of course, there's also the paper trimmer, $cor Buddy, the MI$TI and the cloth to clean the stamps and the Storage for all of these and the room to put them in, but that's the hobby we love....)

All stamps from Studio Calico's Party Animals (no longer available but there are many similar sets out there). Distress Oxide inks: Candy Apple, Abandoned Coral, and Worn Lipstick. Altenew black ink (came with a kit and is great.)

MOOD WHEN DONE:  Now I want to party! Oh, and thanks so very much for all the wonderful comments on this blog. I read every single one and appreciate them so much.

Jan 29, 2018


I had a problem. Although she was 25, Mary, my client, couldn't read and didn't have a telephone, and I needed to tell her the date of her court hearing.

What Mary did have was a TV that she had rented. Unable to afford the $300 purchase price, Mary signed a contract in which she agreed to pay $12 a week to rent the TV. If she made all the payments over a 2 year period, Mary would own the TV.

In case you don't have a calculator handy, Mary had agreed to pay $1248 over 2 years for a TV worth $300. By signing the contract, Mary also agreed that if she got behind in her payments she would owe, you guessed it, $1248. Did Mary know what she had signed? No, but she wanted a TV and $12 a week sounded good.

Mary came to see me because, after making 47 payments, she had missed one $12 payment and the rental company filed suit against her for the full $1248. It's been over 30 years but I'm still angry about that contract.

In Virginia, the fact that Mary could not read the contract she signed was irrelevant because she was an adult and had the capacity to take care of her own affairs. However, I planned to argue that the terms of the contract were "unconscionable" -- basically the terms were so outrageous that they "shocked the conscious" and, as a matter of public policy, the court shouldn't enforce them. At legal aid we made that argument a lot, and most of the time we lost. But every once in a while a judge would agree with us, and I had a feeling this would be a winner.

Since Mary needed to be at the trial, I drove out to her house to let her know the court date. Mary lived in a small brick rambler. The white trim was peeling and the front porch was cracked, but it was on a bus line and had enough bedrooms for Mary and her 4 kids. In fact, it was right next door to the hospital and the social services agency. Mary used her monthly welfare check to pay the rent, utilities, diapers, and things like the TV contract. I parked on the street in front of the house and walked up the steps. It was a hot, sticky, day. I rang the bell and was relieved when the door opened. I couldn't wait to get into the air conditioning.

"Is your mother home?"

A young girl, about 4, had answered the door. She was wearing dirty pjs even though it was 2 in the afternoon. Something that looked like peanut butter was in her hair. At that point what appeared to be the oldest of Mary's 4 children, a 6 year old girl, came to the door and told me that Mary was not home.

"Are there any grown ups there?," I asked.
"No," said the 6 year old.

Quickly, the other 2 kids gathered by the screen door wriggling to stand where they could see me. I could see behind the children that the inside of the house was packed with piles of clothes and toys and food and junk. It was a huge mess and I could hear the TV blasting.

I was alarmed. Kids this young can't be home alone, even for a few minutes. I needed to do something to ensure that the kids were safe, but in order to do that I would have to leave the house and find a phone (no cell phones back then.) And who would I call? Mary was my client. Could I turn her in for child neglect? I thought about staying in the house until Mary came home, but this made me uncomfortable. I didn't have permission to enter her home and what if someone claimed that I harmed the kids? Nonetheless, I decided to go in and wait for Mary.

As I entered the house, I was engulfed by a wave of heat and by a stench so strong that I started to throw up. I immediately backed out of the house and back onto the front porch. Of course Mary didn't have air conditioning. Quickly, I remembered that social services was right across the side street. It would only take me a few minutes to report that the children were alone. Could I do that? Could I leave them alone? What if they left the house? Could I turn in my own client? Was that even permitted? My mind was spinning.

I froze, caught between my concern for the kids and, frankly, my concern that reporting her would make me lose my law license.*** But, I couldn't stand on the porch outside with 4 kids huddled on the inside staring at me, and I didn't want to throw up in their house.  So, I did something foolish. I left the children in the house, darted across the street, ran to the social services office, and reported that there were 4 children home alone next door. I gave my name and Mary's name. My intentions were good, but those kids could have died in a fire in the time it took me to go to social services.

I sat in my car outside the house watching the social services folks enter the home, and then went back to my office, full of conflicting emotions: guilt for leaving the kids, relief that the kids hadn't been injured while I was at social services, happy that I had reported the neglect, worry about all of them, and, finally, fear that Mary would file a complaint against me with the State bar for violating attorney/client confidentiality.

Mary still didn't know about her court date. A court judgment against her for $1248 would be devastating -- it could lead to the garnishment of her bank account and then eviction. That's how it worked when you were poor. You rent a TV and the next thing you know you and your kids are homeless.

I sent Mary a letter informing her of the court date for the TV hearing even though I knew she couldn't read it. Maybe she would share it with someone. I didn't hear from Mary, and was unable to get the hearing continued. We had the trial without her -- I got away with explaining that Mary was unavailable. Based on the terms of the contract itself, the Judge ruled in Mary's favor. Surprisingly, the Judge let her keep the TV and ruled that she didn't owe anymore money. Had the circumstances been different, I would have been celebrating a big win. But when I got back to my office I sent Mary another letter, this time informing her of the outcome.

I didn't hear from Mary and, as the months went by, I never heard anything about her filing a complaint against me. I thought about Mary and the kids and guilt tugged at me. I should have stayed at the house until she returned. I shouldn't have left the kids alone. And then, because we like to justify our actions, I'd think about how she had left the kids alone in a filthy house and at least I had done something. I wondered what happened when social services got involved. Eventually, though, the constant flood of new clients with their urgent problems shoved Mary and her kids to the back of my mind.

About 9 months later I noticed that Mary was scheduled to see me. I was prepared for her anger. Mary shocked me when she exclaimed in one big rush: "At first I was really angry with you. I wanted to sue you because you were my lawyer and reported me, but I knew I shouldn't have left my kids alone. After the kids were put in foster care, I did everything to get them back. The county helped me enroll in a reading program. I can read now! And I have a job working in the cafeteria at the hospital next door to my house and it comes with health insurance and the kids are back home. Losing the kids was bad, but it gave me the time to learn to read and to get a job."

I was stunned, as this was the last thing I expected. Before I could react, Mary handed me more legal papers and continued: "But now I have another problem. After I lost my welfare, but before I got a job, I couldn't keep up with the rent and my landlord is trying to evict me. I'm afraid I'll lose the kids again if I get evicted. Can you help me keep my house?"

Mary kept her house (and the TV still worked!). We worked out a payment plan with her landlord, made possible by the $700 that Salvation Army gave to the landlord towards Mary's back rent. (Salvation Army was one of the very few charities willing to give cash in situations like this.) Mary was lucky that she lived in a progressive, generally very well to do, county. In order to facilitate the return of the children, Mary was able to put her kids in county-subsidized day care (it was cheaper for the county to help Mary pay for day care than for the county to pay for foster care or welfare), so Mary kept her job.

I had a problem that day I went looking for a client who couldn't read and didn't have a phone. But Mary had bigger problems, and the kids had the biggest problems of all. I'm not entirely happy with the choice I made. I lucked out that day, and so did Mary, and so did the kids.

It's been over 30 years since I left legal aid. When I did, I left it all behind and rarely gave my clients a thought. I was overwhelmed by their problems and my inability to help many of them. My brain needed a break from that much sorrow and frustration.

But, as the years go by, I find myself thinking back to some of my clients, particularly the ones who achieved some measure of success. It was the nature of the job that I rarely saw or heard from them again. Whether a book, a movie, or real life, I crave a happy ending, and even though I know it may be foolish, I choose to believe that Mary and her kids left the worst of their problems behind them on that hot sunny day.

*** I never learned for sure if reporting my client under these circumstances was permissible under the Virginia Bar rules. However, I am fairly certain that it was permissible, given that the safety of others was at stake.

Jan 26, 2018


Reached waaaay back into the stamp collection for this WPlus9 Sweets and Treats cupcake set.

To freshen this up, I used some patterned paper from an Altenew New Day card kit and used coordinating Altenew alcohol markers to color the cupcake. Can you see the glitter around the white panel and on the cherry?  It's there -- Nuvo Crystal drops. The white layer is popped up for some dimension, because why not?

This sat in my house for less than an hour -- it's in the mail for a birthday. Bam!

MOOD WHEN DONE = Got my treadmill walks up to 28 minutes yesterday. I'm aiming for 35 and then I'll work on the speed. I'm slow as dirt at the moment!

Jan 24, 2018

Paper Hugs

Love this sentiment, although these photos make it hard to see. Here's a close up from the card below. 

It's from the Paper Hug set from The Stamp Market, which is only 5 bucks. I've had it for awhile and decided it was time to revisit. It has a coordinating set of heart dies, but since I already have a couple of several sets of heart dies, I decided I could do without them. Choices!!

The top card uses Wild Honey and Picked Raspberry Distress Oxide inks. If you look closely you'll notice that the front of the card is 2 triangles pieced together.

Distress Oxide Candy Apple and Picked Raspberry inks:

Peacock Feathers Distress Oxide ink.

MOOD WHEN DONE: Good! Hope you are too.

Jan 22, 2018

Keeping Those New Year's Resolutions?


Having trouble keeping those New Year's resolutions?

This may help.

*  *  *

I put down the newspaper and thought, "So that's how it works." I was 14 and wondering how girls got a boyfriend. Well, Ann Landers supplied the answer -- you start dating when you are 16. I missed the part about how she said that 16 was the minimum age to start dating and immediately concluded that my phone would ring on my 16th birthday and I'd start dating.

My 16th birthday came and went and, shockingly, the phone did not ring. I dated a little, but only with fix ups so I could go to the prom, etc. -- my friend's brother, a friend's boyfriend's friend. After high school, I dabbled with a little dating over the years, but not much.

Fast forward a couple of decades to January 1, 1988 -- and I woke up and decided it was time to stop waiting for the phone to ring. I was in my mid 30s and I wasn't thinking about marriage, but I did want to go out and have fun -- movies, dinners, concerts. So I made a New Year's resolution to date 5 different guys that year. I was working at the Department of Justice, where there were at least 4 times as many guys as women, so maybe something would happen.

By June nothing had happened. I started to wonder about my resolution. Maybe I needed to do something to make it happen?

I took a leap of faith, wrote a check for $100, and put an ad in the personals column in the Washingtonian Magazine (this was before online anything). To avoid paying for a post office box or giving out my address, I paid extra so that the magazine would collect the letters, and then send them to me.

My ad got published and I sat back and waited.

And waited.

source: wou.edu
Finally, about 3 weeks later, a large manilla envelope came in the mail stuffed with more than 100 letters. I dumped them onto the sofa and thought about reading them right away. Then I realized that these letters were too good to keep to myself, so I hosted a brunch at my house and invited about 6 other women. As we were eating bagels, we dove in and started reading them. Any possibilities were put on the coffee table and the rest tossed aside.

A large group of letters were from men who lived an hour or two outside the DC area. Toss.

One of my friends, a lawyer at legal aid, shrieked when she got to the end of one letter. "OMG, this guy is my client! I just handled his bankruptcy." She ripped it up without telling us his name.

Another friend sat back and said, "Wow, this is Elliot's best friend." Elliot was her husband. I felt like we were invading this guy's privacy. Then again dealing with strangers was a little scary...

And so we went until we had 7 letters on the coffee table.

I contacted each of them and went out with 3 of them.

The first was Ego Man, Elliot's best friend. He was a lawyer who worked for Congress. He told me that he was "smarter than anyone else" on the Hill. Hey, 1/5.

The second was The Grape Guy. He also worked in DC and would only meet me on the mall in DC. He grew grapes and brought me a huge bag of grapes -- as in a Hefty garbage bag size bag of grapes. Was I supposed to make wine? We ate our lunch on a park bench, which was fine. He invited me for a second date, but as we spoke it was clear that he only wanted to meet on that same bench. 2/5

The third guy was Mr. Fatal Attraction. We met at a local restaurant and liked each other and decided on a second date. After the second date, I invited him back to my house for coffee.

He interpreted the invitation differently. When I pushed him away, he said: "When you invited me in for coffee, you invited me to stay and don't try saying otherwise." He wasn't kidding and was still all over me.

Instinct took over. I looked him in the eye and said, "Have you seen Fatal Attraction?" Yes, he replied. "Well, I'm that woman in Fatal Attraction and if you don't leave this instance I will destroy your life and I'm not joking." He sat back and, luckily, got up and walked out.

What was I thinking??

It was September and I was 3/5. I needed 2 more dates. And then a coworker asked me out and promptly dumped me after one date. At first I was miffed but then I realized:

Only one more to go!!

It was November. My officemate, Carole, was getting married and invited me to her wedding. I was pretty new to the office and didn't know any of the other 10 or so office folks at the wedding. Carole looked beautiful in the candlelight. An older guest slipped on the floor and an ambulance was called. Other than that, I barely remember the wedding. A few days later one of the guys at the wedding, who worked in my office, called me -- would I like to have lunch?

I had no idea who he was, but I decided that lunch could be a date and I had a resolution to keep.

I went to lunch and it was just chatty. We talked about work but nothing personal. There was no hint of it being a date. I got back to the office and wondered  --  where I was going to find Date #5? Why is this so hard?? A few days later I bump into Mr. Lunch. I'm at the vending machine getting popcorn. He's leaving the gym. We said hello and that was that.

Tick tock. It's December and keeping this resolution has become a thing. I need to find #5.

A couple of weeks later, right before Christmas, Mr. Lunch called me again and asked me out for dinner. So that lunch was a date. I had met my New Year's resolution and didn't even know it!!

This dating thing was starting to look like fun...I wondered who #6 would be.

Turns out there was no #6. A little over a year later, Carole and her husband came to my and Mr. Lunch's wedding.

Sometimes keeping a resolution is a good thing...

Jan 17, 2018

Opening and Closing

The other day I visited a doctor's office for a routine check. The office is located in the hospital. As I turn the car into the hospital grounds, I quickly come to a halt. A long line of cars is clogging the entrance. After a few minutes, I make it up to the door of the building that also happens to be the spot for valet parking. Normally I would continue on to the parking garage, but it was bitter cold and gray, and I was running late, so I decide to splurge and let the valet park the car.

When I'm done with my appointment, I wrap my scarf around my head, go outside to the valet station and pay, and rush back inside to wait for the valet to bring my car. The waiting area has two sets of sliding doors, with a space of about 10 feet separating the sets of sliding doors. I assume that it was designed that way to limit the amount of cold or hot air that would blast into the waiting area. However, on this day, both sets of doors are opening and closing every few seconds. I am really cold, but I need to stand near the doors in order to see my car when it pulls up.

A dark-haired man, who appears to be in his 30s, is standing in the space between the doors, slouched up against the wall in one of the corners. He's wearing jeans and a jacket and looks like he wants to be anywhere else. Two little kids, a boy and a girl about 3 or 4, run back and forth in that same space, laughing and banging into the walls. Every time they run, they cause both sets of doors to open and close.

These kids are making me cold. I hate cold. I get cold in October and stay cold until April. Every October Mike and I plot moving to warm weather and every April we decide to stay in the DC area. I'm wearing gloves, a warm fuzzy scarf big enough to wrap around my head and neck, and a down coat. Even decked out in all those warm clothes, I'm cold. Plus I hate wearing the scarf over my head. I get bed head when I do. Whatever pouf I can get out of a blow dryer in the morning is immediately ruined by wearing a scarf. Oh to have thick curly hair!

I step back away from the glass doors, but then I can't see the driveway, so I have no choice but to stand closer to the doors. I feel the wind sweep in, and every time a door opens I get a little more annoyed. I want these kids to stop. I want their father to use his common sense and common courtesy and bring his kids inside. How can he just stand there, barely paying attention, while his kids run around letting all the cold air into the building? Doesn't he feel the cold?

I wonder if he and the kids visited the hospital to see his wife and new baby. Maybe that's why the kids are so wild -- a new baby can do that. But he doesn't look excited. He's not looking at his phone. He's looking down at nothing.

Finally, I see the young man look up as his car arrives and he calls to his kids. Thank goodness they are leaving.

Just then I see a thin, worn, frail, young woman wearing a dark green coat that hangs off her body, get up from the seats and slowly make her way past me and through the doors. I hadn't noticed her sitting behind me. She has a silk scarf wrapped around her head and dark skin around her eyes. I can tell that there is no hair under that scarf. I think she has cancer.

The woman joins the man and their kids and walks slowly to the car that is waiting by the curb. I watch as the valet rushes to open the door for her. The father puts the kids in carseats in the backseat, while the valet puts on the seatbelt for the woman. He seems to recognize the woman. After a minute, the father gets in the car and they drive away.

The sliding glass doors stay closed and I am warm again, but my heart isn't. The man wasn't visiting the hospital to see his new baby. He was there with his wife for something not good. Was the treatment just too hard or did they get devastating news? Or maybe both.

Eventually I get home and take off my coat and gloves and scarf. Sure enough, my hair looks wacky,  full of dry winter static. I go upstairs and run a wet comb though it just to settle it down and then blow it dry. I stop and look in the mirror and my mind wanders back. My heart is doing well and she may be dying. My life is opening and hers is closing.

I want to go back to that waiting room and smile at the man and his kids. I want to replace all my petty annoyances with respect and patience. I want her to have my hair and not a turban. I want to be grateful for thin static hair and not wish for thick curly hair. Just for a moment, I want to go back and trade places with her.

I can't do that, but simply being grateful for my good fortune doesn't seem enough. And, it's not enough to wail at the injustice. I'm not sure what is enough, or if there is an enough. But, I hope I have more patience the next time I see a man lost in thought as his kids bang against the wall, causing the doors to open and close, letting in all the cold air.

Jan 16, 2018

The Least Bad Recovery

I've heard that many, many people are talking about my surgery and asking:  "How is she doing?"

In short, I'm the least sick person you know. In fact, I have recovered better from heart surgery than any other patient ever.

I walk better than anyone.
I talk better than anyone.
I drive better than anyone.
I stamp better than anyone.
And I definitely eat better than anyone.

ps.  Unless there are any developments I'm hoping this is the last of the post surgery updates. I am looking forward to a boring year!

Jan 15, 2018

Birthday Cupcake

A soft card, stamped in Spun Sugar and Seedless Preserves Distress Inks, and watercolored with Prima Metallic Accents. It shimmers!

Here's a TERRIBLE PHOTO of the shimmer:

Stamps from Altenew Layered Cupcake stamped on Bristol paper, which is whiter than watercolor paper and can handle small amounts of water. I like it!

MOOD WHEN DONE:  Happy to add to my birthday card stash. I'm always behind!

Jan 13, 2018

A Papyrus Copy

I saw this box of cards by Papyrus awhile ago and fell in love with them -- the blocks of color are so fun.

So, I decided to make my own. I mean, why pay $16.95 for six cards when you can make one with $17,000 worth of supplies? Sentiment from an Altenew set that came with a kit. 

And, since I liked it, I made another with different colors. See, all those supplies come in handy! This would make a cute valentine.

Get it?  I love you to pieces, as in pieces of cardstock? Sorry... Cute saying from Right at Home's Tiny Sentiments


Jan 11, 2018


I've had this Altenew Bold Alphabet die for a while and am always looking for ways to justify the cost. Even buying it for 20% off, it was still pricey. But I think it's a keeper.

Colored Heavyweight Yupo paper with Jacquard Products Pinata Color Exciter pack (alcohol inks). The heavy Yupo paper is very different from the regular -- the regular is thin and "floppy." The heavy is quite stiff. I think it works well for die cuts.

Used regular, dirt cheap, Rubbing Alcohol to move the ink around. Works like a charm. It also cleans up all my stamps. Love that stuff.

Unfortunately, despite many takes, I was unable to take a photo that shows the light gray flower and leaves under the letters -- but it's there and looks great! In the light, the gold on the letters shines so brightly!

MOOD WHEN DONE = I'm good.

Jan 8, 2018

Easy (and Cheap) Love

Every year I say I'm going to buy a Valentine's Day set, and every year I don't. So, I'm going cheap again this year by using supplies I already have.

Selected 2 papers from a coordinating set of patterned papers from Pink Paislee's Oh My Heart collection. Wanted a small sentiment to tuck under one of the hearts and this little "xoxo" from Hero Arts was perfect.

Finally, I was feeling wild and crazy, so I took a marker and draw a line down the side of the card.

I've got another version that I'll post later this week.


Jan 5, 2018

Ellen Hutson Mix It Up Challenge: A Happy Accident

My original plan was to place the beautiful Concord & 9th Floral & Flutter butterfly right on the watercolored portion of the card. However, when I used the white panel with the die cut space to help me figure out where to place the butterfly, I decided to keep the panel -- trimming it as shown. Gold embossed the sentiment from Essentials by Ellen Hello Gorgeous, speckled some gold acrylic paint, and adhered a few sequins.

This card is for the Ellen Hutson January Mix It Up Challenge. The requirement is to use anything from Concord & 9th and the Essentials by Ellen line. Done!

MOOD WHEN DONE = Happy! Mike is off from work today and we are debating whether to walk 6 minutes in the bitter cold and wind to see a movie this afternoon. Brrr....