Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Changes are a comin'

Its weird how this happens to me, but every once in a while I’m jolted back to reality and I’m reminded I’m not independently wealthy now, nor likely ever will be. 

Recently Hotel CaliforniaSoft announced layoffs. I’ve had many friends affected (effected?) by this and it hits a bit too close to home for me.  It’s in times of uncertainty that I feel myself slinking back into my cave and pulling in the all the financial strings.  

I’ve been a victim of a layoff. Mine was completely unexpected and completely floored me. I thought, at the time, that I was an excellent worker and had been adding value to the team and company. It wasn’t until later years I realized it was personal, it was business.  And as Meg Ryan said in “You’ve Got Mail.” It was personal to me. 

In addition to these staggering layoffs at Hotel CaliforniaSoft, the contract community, of which I am one, is being hit hard too. Recently they’ve changed the amount of time we vendors can work at the company. We’ve enjoyed unlimited time – as long as your contract team wants you – AND no taking time off between gigs.  The agency workers (aka a-dash employees) sued Hotel CaliforniaSoft in the mid-90’s that caused their situation to be that they could only work for 365 days and then had to take 100 days off before returning to the company.  It was devastating at the time for many agency workers, but 100 days off, it turns out, is quite doable. 

Having a “vendor” status, I’ve not had to take the 100 days off (only once did I have to do that). In fact I could work for a team for as long, and consecutively, as they want me.  It’s a win-win. The team doesn’t have to retrain new employees every year, and I get to keep my job. 

Starting July 1st, the cards have been shuffled and dealt.  All contract staff, whatever your status, can only work at Hotel CaliforniaSoft for 18 months and then must take 6 months off.  This changes the game for me significantly. 

What this has done and made me realize that it’s really time to find a job in which I am not a contract employee. A real company, one that I can grow with and add value to on a full time basis. I’ve wanted to do this since I left my job before last, but the contract gigs are so inviting that I keep coming back. Oh and they pay well. 

There’s a lot of speculation flying around the contract world these days. And some great articles like this one that really shed light on what may come about for us using contracts as our livelihood. 

Contracting is not now, nor has ever been, for the faint at heart. You can lose your job at any time. (and Washington being an at-will state that’s true of any job really).  This happened to me in my last contract. They re-orged. Plans changed. Their focus changed and that meant I was gone. I know this. I live this. And yet for some reason these recent changes have me on edge more than normal. 

I’m unsure, at this point, how long my current contract will go. They “say” they want me through June of next year. I’m not a betting type, so I’m planning financially as if they don’t or cant’ keep me.  This uncertainty is what gets me.

I start to feel unsettled. I start to think more about my future and how I’m going to pay for my retirement – or taking care of the MomUnit in her later years. I start to get sweaty palms, and a rapid heart rate, and the anxiety meter is off the chart. 

I plan.

I document.

I review my budget again, and again, and again. 

And I get more anxious. 

Then I stop. Take a breath, or two. Maybe have a glass of wine, or two. And I start to really think about the implications of this new environment and what I must do to make myself feel safer, more secure. 

I start cancelling subscriptions to things that are unnecessary. Cancel the cleaners. Call the cable company and threaten to leave unless they drop my rates, etc. You get the picture. 

I still have a job and yet I’m feeling like I don’t. I’m feeling really insecure about  my career and where I’m going.  What I’ve relied on for years to pay the bills, may not be an option in the next year and a half. 

So, to make myself feel a smidgen better, I’ve updated my resume and have added myself to some job search engines and will start the search. It’s time to find a company that I can be an FTE and grow with. I know, in this world today, that nothing is really forever, but I’d much rather find someplace I can call home for a bit. And hopefully stop the worrying of having to find a job every year or so. 

Or I can marry some rich guy and this would all be for not.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Only time will tell...

This is completely not relevant to anything I'm going to blog about, but in 10th grade, at Quartz Hill High School the  marching band played "Only Time Will Tell" as one of our field show songs. To THIS day, I can still see part of the rifle routine in my head as the opening chords play.

I can't remember what I ate for breakfast, but I can remember that. Oh the mind...how I miss mine sometimes.

Right, so what's been going on since I last wrote a week ago. I think it's safe to say, absolutely nothing.  I actually had to pull out my daytimer (it's not really a daytimer, but its what I call it) to see what was what and here's what was what in the last 8 days.

Starting with the most recent:

Yesterday
Got the carpets cleaned. It's amazing how quickly one person and dirty up carpets. I hate that they are a light color and show everything, but I'd hate a dark color even more.  I pulled up the "path" carpet and boy can you tell the high traffic area. Gross. But they're all cleaned now.

Sunday
I did nothing but move furniture out of the living room and master bedroom in prep for the carpet cleaners. Oh, wait. I also unpacked all my scrapbook supplies and posted the pages I finished from the all day scrap. Oh and I cooked dinner - tacos. MMMM

Saturday
The annual all day scrap fund raiser that Seattle SIL does. I was very excited for it this year as I wanted to get my European Cruise photos done. And I mostly did. I had 20 pages "staged" and ready to go. I was sure I'd run out of stuff to work on, but alas, it turns out in 8 hours I can only do 20 pages. 

What a mess huh? It's fun to spread all your crap out as you work. I brought way too much stuff and didn't end up using at least three quarters of it.  Though all that "stuff" isn't mine. Some belongs to BeagleBabe too. 

Here are a couple of my most favorite pages.  If you're friends with me on FB you've likely seen these, so move along.

 
 
 

Friday
I did nothing but prep for what to bring to the all day scrap.

Thursday
Two scrapbooking classes from Big Picture Classes started.  I read the material and did nothing more. I have signed up for WAY too many classes that are happing at the same time.  You'd think I'd learn.

Wednesday
BOOK CLUB!  Gosh I love this group of women. We had a small group this month, only 4 of us. We opted to have it at my house since I had AC.  I'll be sending portions of the bill to book club members when I get it.

This month we read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I hadn't finished the book by the time book club came around, but had seen the movie. I thought the movie did a good job with the book. Sometimes you never know.  If you've not read it, read it. But we aware that it does take a good 30 pages to figure out the writing style and who the narrator is.

Oh, we drank wine. Dah. We ate pulled pork sandwiches with cole slaw on them...OMG soo good, and had strawberry shortcake for dessert. Did I mention we drank wine?


Tuesday
Toilet Shopping Tuesday!  Yes, Mrs. Landlord and I went toile shopping. The flapper in the master bath has been broken for going on 2 years now. In that time, I've fixed it once. Mr. Landlord fixed it once and the darn thing just won't fix.  So Mrs. Landlord and I got an estimate to fix the innards of the toilet. The price we were quoted was high enough that the decision was made to replace the toilets.  Thus the toile shopping.

I now know a bit more about toilets than I did last Tuesday morning.  No decision yet made on WHICH toilet but I do know I want the following:
1. it to work
2. white
3. round bowl versus elongated
4. it to work

The rest I don't care about. We're looking at dual flush and will likely weigh the pros/cons versus a regular toilet. They are quite efficient these days. So stay turned for Toiletmageddon 2014.

This just leaves last Monday.

I took the demons to the vet for their annual check-up.  Linus is weighing in at 10.9lbs. Vet said that was as fat as she wanted to see him get.  Hear that Linus! No more treats for you.

Lucy has a floating knee cap - it seems. Her right back leg gives out on her sometimes. The vet said it's like a trick knee.  We can do surgery, but she said, she is a cat and well, it's not really bothering her so let's just watch it. As she gets older, Lucy not the vet, she'll need some supplements to help with joints.  Well, the vet may too for all I know.

The ride there was interesting. Linus was singing the song of his people the....entire....way....
Meanwhile, Lucy was all, "ROAD TRIP".

Linus then sang the song of his people All.....the.....way.....home....
Meanwhile, Lucy was all, "Shut the hell up."

Too bad this photo doesn't have sound...

and voila...you're all caught up with my oh so exciting life.

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Hot Sunday Dinner

I'm so thankful that my landlords decided many years ago to take part in a home owners association deal and get an AC.  Us Seattle types aren't used to this kind of heat. And I do realize "this" kind of heat is nothing to most of you. To us, it's awful.

It's too hot for Lucy too.
 
I have the AC on and will continue to have it on through the week I think. And everyone who came to Sunday dinner last night were REALLY thankful I had AC. In fact, book club is being moved to my house because of AC.

In an attempt to keep the house reasonably cool, I lowered the temp just a bit and then turned on some fans. Still it got hot in here for me.  Probably because I was running around doing dinner and entertaining. Or because I'm fat and it's hot.

Right, so for dinner I kept it simple and did BBQ burgers. The Pantry Goats fiancé (yes you read that correctly - she's engaged) helped with the burgers. In fact he said he was good at taking orders as he was, after all, marrying the Pantry Goat. That got a giggle out of me.


I also made this kick ass Layered Orange Salad. The oranges aren't at peak for their season, but it was still good. The sweet and salty part of this salad really is what made it.

I also had some cantaloupe to use and some prosciutto to use and some balsamic glaze I bought in Spain. What better way to use it than to wrap the cantaloupe in the prosciutto and drizzle with balsamic glaze. Soooo good.

We had most of the usual suspects here for Sunday dinner. Seattle SIL and Mrs. Landlord were the two missing.


Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Because you need to know

Last night was an odd one at Chez Jenn's. And I'm not referring to the going's on's before bed time. I'm referring exclusively to things that went on after the lights were turned off.

And get your  minds out of the gutter!

First let's start with the house cleaner yesterday. She's an interesting bird and I'm not entirely convinced she should be a house cleaner.  She pulls the "Jenn dusting act" and doesn't actually move items, but dusts around them. People, if that's what I wanted, I'd do the dusting.

Anyhow, one of the things they do, which I love, is they change you bed linens. I leave out fresh sheets and when I go to bed, viola, clean sheets. Two things happened with her changing the sheets that are what I'm talking about happening after the lights went out.

Well, sorta.

First, as I entered my room I saw that the top sheet wasn't actually tucked into the mattress. I hate to have the top sheet free and all because it's, well, it's just weird and I have flash backs of my bed being short sheeted in high school

So I unmade the bed and tried to fix this problem.  Only after I started fixing it, and unmaking the bed, I decided to flip my mattress.

In trying to flip said mattress, with my two "helpers", I managed to throw my back out and was in a bit of pain. 

Which led to taking Tylenol PM - 2 pills. Which I never take because it means the next day I'm more useless than normal.

I think it also makes me walk in my sleep.

Which leads to the second point of things that happened post bedtime last night.

The sheets I used for new sheets yesterday were, in fact, brand new sheets. I had washed them and folded them ever so nicely. Only I didn't realize they were made out of sandpaper.

Good Lord were they rough sheets.  As I went to bed, a bit groggy from the Tylenol I remember thinking the sheets were rough and I should get up right now and change them. I didn't.

About 1am, I got up and swapped out the pillow cases only for a softer set.

About 2:30 am, I got up and swapped out the top sheet for a softer sheet (though not a matching sheet to the pillow cases).

About 3:45am, I unmade the entire bed, and put on a fitted sheet - that matched the pillow cases. Threw on the top sheet, but didn't tuck it in, and went back to bed.

I got up this morning and didn't actually remember right away what I had done. I do recall, vaguely hearing a large thump when I was swapping out the top sheet and think I pulled it and a cat off the bed too quickly. Lucy wasn't exactly talking to me this morning so I think it was her.

My point to this blog...is a PSA announcement:
PSA - DON'T FLIP YOUR MATTRESS BY YOURSELF. IT CAN CAUSE SERIOUS INJURY.

At least I think that's the point...

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live

Admit it...you've been sitting there just waiting for me to post something.

I know. I'm all that and a slice of bread.

Seriously? You've been waiting right?

Ahem....insecurities aside, let's get to an update.

My last blog post was about my baby steps BACK into eating healthy. I'm on week 2 of this adventure and I can report with great enthusiasm that things are going GREAT.

The little victories I had last week and leading into this week have kept me motivated. I'm currently working on an app to capture that motivation and slap me upside the head with it when I stop feeling it.

The one thing I can say that has been the biggest difference I've seen in this week and half is how I feel emotionally.

For several months now - probably since right after losing BigBro - I've felt kinda depressed. Most the time. I haven't wanted to do things that I normally enjoy. I've just felt blah. I didn't want to say, "Hey everyone I'm depressed!" because I kinda felt it would pass and that I'd be back to me. I have, however, been able to put on one helluva good show, I think.

But here's the thing, this eating healthy thing and the small victories have really perked me up.  I've felt - emotionally - better in the last week and half than I have for months. Who knew? (well besides every single living person).

Consistent exercise still alludes me. I've added packing my gym bag and putting it by the front door to my nightly routine - and that helped yesterday. Though I battled with myself about whether I wanted to go to the gym or not.  I played the typical Jenn game of, "oh just drive by."  Then, "oh just park." Then, "well you're here you might as well go in."

I did, admittedly, sit in the car for a moment and had a little Jenn fantasy - or nightmare rather - of walking over the threshold of the gym and all these bells and whistles, and flashing lights would go off with a big sign dropping down saying, "SHE'S NOT BEEN HERE FOR MONTHS!!!"  Turns out, that didn't happen.

So here we are, just 9 days in and I feel like:
1. I've made some good solid choices.
2. I've done GREAT in the planning and prepping section.
3. I still have a hard time when it comes to eating out and making good choices.
4. I still have to force myself to the gym.

But I feel good. Oh and as for the song lyric reference from the song Brave, I was brave yesterday and stepped on the scale for the first time in, well a very long time. I was pleasantly surprised to see it wasn't as bad as I thought. It was bad, no doubt about that, but it was still a necessary step in this forever continuing, never-ending journey.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Baby Steps

I know you're wondering how my week has gone with my new eating healthier plan. Well, lucky for you I have a few minutes to tap out some interesting, and riveting information about my week.

First off, baby steps.  I've done this a thousand times and I have tried over the years to manufacture some plan that works with me, my thought process, and my life. I'm not an all or nothing type of person, apparently, when it comes to eating healthy.  Oddly I am in other aspects of my life. 

So this week my goal was to plan healthy meals and eat as many of them as I could.  I knew I had two dinners out in which I'd be faced with making a smart choice.

I successfully ate my planned lunches and dinners this week. Feeling good about making smart, healthy choices about my dinners and lunches and a few snacks.  When you're prepared with good stuff to eat, you eat good stuff.

Then there was the eating out.  On Tuesday we had our dinner club and we went to a restaurant called the Islander on Mercer Island. It was my pick and I picked it primarily because they had a turkey dip sandwich. The photos looked so good I just knew I had to try it.

The bad: I did have it and had onion rings with it. Now granted I didn't eat the entire sandwich but that was really because it wasn't that great.

The good: after dinner it was decided to go have ice cream. I was stuffed and knew if I went I'd eat ice cream. So I bowed out and went for a walk/jog instead when I got home. One small victory.

The second eating out happened last night. I went to Seattle SIL's house to help her and Blueberry get prepared for the garage sale they're having today and tomorrow. I knew we'd be eating out after. Seattle SIL and I went to a local brewery around 8pm. Now, that's LATE for me to eat. I'm usually a 5pm or 5:30 kinda girl. So I was starving.

My normal MO is I'm starving and therefore must eat...a lot.  Instead, I asked Seattle SIL if she wanted to split one of the sandwiches.  Naturally she was all for it. So 1/2 a sandwich and fries. Again, a small victory for me.  I know the right decision was to order something healthier and maybe no eat the fries. BUT I also know I'm a fry kinda girl. 

At the end of the week I'm feeling good about most my decisions. Yes, there are improvements that could be made. And Yes, I plan on making them. But for me I really need to find a way to eat healthy and still enjoy the foods I love. I know, logically, I will never lose as much weight as I need to with this thought process. But it's not about losing weight to me. Yes that's a by product of healthy eating and working out, rather for me it's about being healthier.  Every right choice I make, makes me healthier.

I just know the diet gurus would have a field day with that theory.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Notes to Boys

Oh Lord, this book took me down some painful, but amusing memories.  If you want a good laugh, and you were once a teenage girl, I highly recommend this book.  It proves that no matter what age you are now, that at one time you were a teenage girl and boys were all you thought about.

Notes to Boys is by Pamela Ribon. She's a stand up comic - she says - and has authored a number of humorous books. I've got two more on my list to read by her and can't wait to get started on them.

This book is about Little Pam and her journals.  Pam grew up in a small town in Texas in the age BEFORE the Internet.  God how I remember those days..where passing notes was the only way to really, truly embarrass yourself (if I haven't shared the story of a kiss that happened with a boy I was in love with all because my best friend at the time shared a note I wrote to her with him! Oh I was embarrassed...but it was sooo worth it.)

Anyhow, this book is Bigger Pam sharing the notes from her younger self - Little Pam - that were wrote to boys when she was a teenage girl trying to figure out love through the eyes of a 15 year old.  Do you remember 15? The drama. The every day drama of whether a boy liked you or not. I cringed when I read some of her notes and giggled at the reality that I too probably passed notes like some of these to boys.

So the book is not a running list of her notes. She has a running commentary throughout that is what makes this book so funny.  You pick up on the older Pam's personality quite quickly and as she comments on Little Pam's notes you just find yourself laughing out loud.

This would be a great summer read and I'm sure you'll find yourself saying, "Oh god, I think I said that to a boy." Or "Oh God I wrote that to a boy."

And for the record...you couldn't pay me enough to be 15 again.

I accidentally bought this book actually. I was searching for a book club book and didn't have the name right.  Instead of Boys in the Boat (a completely different style and story than this book) I ended up with Notes to Boys...and I'm glad I did.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Let the Games Begin

I think it goes without saying that eating healthy and exercising is not a strong suit of mine. It's odd really since being a Capricorn I'm supposed to be very self-disciplined. Hah! I can be with certain things (like finishing all the ice cream) and yet something as necessary as keeping myself healthy, I cannot.

I've started feeling icky again and realized I've gained back a good amount of the weight I had lost the year dad died (2012).  From July of 2012 through to Feb 2013 I stayed the course. I didn't gain, I didn't lose, I just maintained. 

I was wogging then. Three times a week.

Then my wogging partner broke her foot.

I won't blame her, but it seems to me SHE's the reason I regained weight. (Did I also mention that Capricorns like to blame people?)

Seriously, she's not the reason. I am the reason. She stopped being my guiding force and so I stopped.

I commented to someone the other day that I wish I was the type of person who, when stressed, leaned toward working out. Instead, I lean toward food.

And so back to starting to feel icky.  I know it's time to get on the work out train again. I've been telling myself for a month or more and I keep finding excuses.  I'm the queen of that, and something I'm quite good at.

This weekend I made a plan. I really think planning is key for me to keep myself on track for eating healthy.  I made myself a menu plan, I did my grocery shopping, and I've prepped everything for the week.  Getting my meals together shouldn't be hard at all now. I have a plan.

And we all know how much I love to plan.

The plan for exercising is a bit more complicated. It requires me actually being motivated to go right after work. I get off work early enough to get to the gym, so there's no reason I shouldn't be going. 

In order to make it  more likely I'll go to the gym, I've packed my gym bag and have it ready to go to work with me.  I've found that coming home and thinking I'll go back out isn't likely to happen. I'm home. I'm tired. I'm not going back out.

So, who knows what's going to happen now. I'm not making any promises. I don't really care if I lose any weight. I do care that I start exercising and eating better.  My life is important to me and to ensure that I live longer these things have to happen.

Stay tuned. I know we've been down this road before. Trust me, I'm rolling my eyes as much as you are. It's the story of my life.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Beware! Personal Stuff Ahead!



You've been warned. This blog will be a bit personal. If when talking about boys, love and the sort you get squeamish. Or if you experience any dizziness, drowsiness, sweating, twitching, irritability or other side effects – you may not want to continue reading.

Now that I’ve got your attention, you’re gonna continue reading? Aren’t you? AREN’T YOU?

I’m currently reading a funny book called Notes to Boys by Pamela Ribon. The author has been a prolific writer her entire life. And she’s a slight hoarder.  She’s saved ALL her journals from the day she first started one.  Her most interesting journals were those from when she was a 15 year old girl. 

Now having been a 15 year old girl (30 years ago – gulp) this got my attention.

Her journals are really her angsty, teenage, hormonal self who has written to boys she’s liked. And her “experiences” with said boys.  The book is full of drama and crying and vowing to never EVER talk to XYZ boy again, only to flip the page and she’s in love with a new boy. If you’ve been a teenage girl, you know how this goes.

Anyhow, let’s just say I relate well to these stories.

This book is what started a thought provoking week in which I’ve considered stepping out into the dating world again.

Then Sunday happened.

I will preface the conversation I had with someone with that I tend to read into things a lot…and then I sometimes churn on them and make myself either sad or angry.  The person I was having a conversation with probably doesn’t even know that what she said hit me to the core and made me a bit sad, and a lot angry.

Let me also say that my BFF Blueberry and I have a sordid history with boys that I like who turn out to like her. It was how I lived through my college years. I would meet a new boy. I’d cultivate the friendship. He’d meet Blueberry. I’d become “just friends” while he would ask me about her and how to ask her out and if she was dating, etc.  I am sure that Blueberry never understood how painful this was for me. AND she wasn’t doing it on purpose. THAT’s what pissed me off more. She was just “that” kind of girl that guys flocked to. She was tall, gorgeous, perfect skin, smart, and she didn’t know she was any of those things.  I, was the complete opposite of her.

Fast forward to the  mid 90’s. We were at some friends house having dinner – and by WE I mean all of my really close group of friends I had in the mid 1990’s.  Suddenly one of the friends says to Blueberry, “I think we need to find you a boyfriend. And I have someone I’d like to set you up with.”  The conversation continued around how single she was all the while I’m sitting there even MORE single than she is. She’d had a boyfriend in the last decade. So feeling a bit bitter I piped up and said, “Hey! What about me.” To which my friend replied, “Oh Jenn. You don’t need any help.”

Um hi! Single still. Apparently I needed help.

Back to this past Sunday night. I was having dinner with a friend and somehow we started talking about dating. She said, “I’m a little surprised Blueberry is still single.”

Which I heard as, “I’m not at all surprised you’re single.”

So instead of brushing it under the table I asked, why she was surprised Blueberry was still single, but not surprised I was.

I think I caught her off guard a bit and she back pedaled and said that I seem to be so professional (not sure what this has to do with being single), and put together (ahhh false), and have my life together and organized (maybe but what does this have to do with finding Mr. Right or whoever he is?)

What I heard, “Because you’re fat and no one will love you.”

That, my friends, is what went through my mind. The full, naked truth of what, apparently, I think about myself.  I had to take a moment and excuse myself to the ladies room to ponder, briefly, why that ran through my mind.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that was the running commentary in my mind on a regular basis. And that is why, perhaps, I’m still single. 

Now, I know PLENTY, of overweight men and women who are happily married and in love. Logically, I realize weight is not the entire reason. I get that. Logically. But the  mind and the heart are often not in sync and now I have to deal with this emotion that bubbled to the surface.

Why couldn’t it be something easier like, daddy issues? Oh god! Do I have daddy issues too?

So at the end of the day, I was hurt.  Not by what she said, well kinda by what she said, but more by what I thought. Unless of course she meant that I was single because I was fat, which is just mean.

Always picking on the fat kid.

There you have it. My gut has been cut open and I’ve publicly discussed something that has plagued me for years. And I know that I’m a good person and that any guy would be lucky to have me - blah blah blah…which is clearly easy to say and/or type, but if I don’t actually feel that way, than saying it means nothing.  Me thinks I’d better start working on that self-esteem of mine.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Killing Kennedy: The end of Camelot

I happen to love the month's Seattle SIL picks the books for book club. She always picks biographical type books. Historical, non-fiction types. Those types of books are rarely on my radar. Once in a blue moon one will float to the top and I'll read it, but it's not my go to.

So when Seattle SIL picked Killing Kennedy by Bill O'Reilly (whom I'm no fan of) I wasn't sure. I knew I'd love the content about Kennedy, but wasn't sure what to expect of something written by Bill O'Reilly.  I wondered "how much could actually be true?"

The book goes through some easy years of Kennedy through his assassination in 1963.  The author - Bill - focuses on the details without boring the heck out of you. I found I learned quite a bit about Kennedy and the White House of the early 1960's.  For example, I had no idea Kennedy was a philanderer. And that Jackie knew about it and didn't really care much.  I also had no idea they had a third child, Patrick, who lived just a couple of days. 

This book gripped me in a way I hadn't expected. I enjoy reading about history mostly (and I enjoy the history channel quite a bit) and expected this book to be dry and boring. It was none of those things.  Bill O'Reilly (despite his controversial nature) did a stand up job recounting the days Kennedy learned all the intricate details of being the President of the United States.

Bill also wrote Killing Lincoln and Killing Jesus. It just so happens that when I was purchasing the book on my Nook, I accidentally purchased Killing Jesus.  Now I find myself interested in both Killing Jesus and Killing Lincoln. 

My recommendation is to read this book. It's 248 pages and is a quick read.  My "bullsh*t" meter only went off once or twice, but some quick fact checking on the Internet (which always has the truth-hahahah) showed that what Bill wrote was "truthful" to some.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day

I miss you dad.


The journaling reads: This man came into my life in 1981 and took over the role of "dad". He had three sons and never had a daughter...until now. He taught me so many valuable lessons that it's hard to even list them off. I am who I am because of him. We lost dad two years ago and I miss him more everyday.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Teachers

This time of year I’m constantly amazed at all the FB posts of kids graduating, or mother/father’s announcing how excited they are that their child is moving on to the next year of school. And then this year something amazing happened, I had more and more of my teacher friends post that they will miss their students.  Those are great teachers to me. 

So it got me to thinking about the teachers in my life that made an impact. Chances are HIGH they have no idea the impact they’ve had. And while I know they most likely won’t ever read this post, I think it’s a sign of good karma to put out there how appreciative you are of someone. And heck, I’m friends with some of them on FB (I still call them Mr. XYZ and Mrs. XYZ on FB even though they’ve told me to use their first names. I just can’t do it.) and so I may send them a note telling them.

Let’s see…where to start. I’ll start with college and work my way back. 
 
Thinking….thinking….nope no faves in college.
 
Though Mr. Gonzalez was my instructor for The Seminar in Cervantes in which we read Don Quoixte in Baroque Spanish for the … entire…semester.  And while he may not have changed or impacted my life in a positive way, I do know that Blueberry and I have a favorite saying now because of him. I used to say, instead of “I have homework.” I’d say, “I’ve got a date with Cervantes.” Oh good times. 
 
Moving on. 
 
I think high school is where the vast majority of teachers really have an opportunity to impact a student.  I have two in high school that really stand out. 
 
First, Mr. Nelson.  He was my European History teacher in 11th and 12th grade. I purposely took another European History class because of him.  He was so enthusiastic about history that it was contagious.  It helped, I think, that I was at TASIS at the time. Being smack dab in the middle of Europe made the history more approachable and viewable. 
 
Mr. Nelson offered extra credit in class. He offered for us to go downtown with him on Saturday (a sacred day to any kid in boarding school cuz you could get off campus) and “show” us history.  When I showed up to meet him that first Saturday I was sure it was going to be him and me, the history nerd.  Instead I rounded the corner of the salon to see my entire class sitting there with him.  Granted our entire class was only 5 people. But I think that says something about a teacher when his students WANT to learn more.  And sure we were getting extra credit, but not that much. 
 
Years later I can remember random dates because on each of our tests the last page was a list of treaties or events, and again for extra credit, if you got the rate date for each you’d get one point. Which could make or break a grade really. So I would memorize dates like no buddies business. To this day, when I see one of those VW Westfalia camper vans I say in my head, or sometime out loud, “Treaty of Westfalia, 1648” Go ahead, go check Wikipedia. I’m telling you it was 1648. 
 
So, to Mr. Nelson who helped me LOVE European History to this day (I watch the History channel all the time), I say thank you.  
 
Mrs. Penn is the next instructor who greatly impacted my life. She taught Spanish at Quartz Hill High School.  I had her for first and second semester (Spanish 1 and 2).  The moment the first bell rang in class she was speaking Spanish to us. Our handouts were in Spanish, our homework assignments were in Spanish. She fully believed that you had to immerse yourself 100% in order to learn a language. She knew she only had us for 40 minutes a day, so she took full advantage of it. 
 
It wasn’t very long into class before I realized that Spanish came easily to me. I understood how a language worked, somehow.  But what impressed me most of all is how much ENGLISH grammar we learned in Spanish class. She taught us about grammar and so I discovered, in 10th grade mind you, what a pronoun was. Or an adjective.  Amazing!!
 
Looking back I giggle to think I was almost 16 before I fully understood what a pronoun was and it was a SPANISH teacher who taught me it.  
 
Anyhow, I continued to take Spanish throughout my high school career because of Mrs. Penn. She made it so inviting to learn.  It was interesting, and exciting.  She taught me how to love another language.  Consequently my college degree was in Foreign Language and Literature.  Was she responsible for me being fluent in Spanish? Maybe not, but she was definitely a driving factor in it. She helped me discover something I could be passionate about, and could do well. So thank you Mrs. Penn.
 
Side note – I still correspond with Mrs. Penn every Christmas.  We exchange Christmas cards and every year it’s in Spanish. To put that into perspective, I was 16 when I was in her class.  I’m 45 now. Do the math. 
 
Teachers, in my opinion, are all too often underrated. It’s a horrible job to me. You have to deal with so many parents who think they’re kids are awesome when they may not be. On top of working for close to nothing, and dealing with all the social issues today's kids have to deal with.  Never in a hundred years would Mrs. Penn in 1984 had to worry about being shot at in school.
 
Teachers today are not only teaching, but are parents, counselors, etc.  They are raising societies kids in a way. There are some horrible teachers out there, I’ve had a few, but at the end of the day, I’m going to choose to believe there are more Mr. Nelson’s and more Mrs. Penn’s out there … and someday their students will look back and be super appreciative of those teachers.
 
Did you have a favorite teacher who impacted you?

Friday, June 06, 2014

Red, Red Wine....

It shouldn't be too surprising that this song is stuck in my noggin this morning considering last evening Mrs. Braspir, Seattle SIL and I went on yet another wine walk. 

This wine walk was in the Hollywood School winery district - still in Woodinville, just a different set of wines. I kinda felt like these wines were WAY more expensive and WAY out of my league when it comes to purchasing. I'm a relatively cheap wine connoisseur.

Anyhow, Woodinville is home to roughly 100 wineries. The number keeps changing depending on what article you read, who you talk to, and the month.  So I'm rounding to 100. My goal this year was to taste at ALL The wineries in Woodinville. If they stayed static, this wouldn't be a problem - other than me becoming a wino.  But as the months have gone on my list has ebbed and flowed with regards to available wineries.

New ones have been added, and some I've already tasted are no longer "on the list". The "list" is this handout that Woodinville provides that's essentially a map of wineries.  I suspect these missing wineries still exist, but have chosen to not be on the list for whatever reason.

Anyhow...that's a long winded way to tell you that I've adjusted my goal.  Instead of ALL the wineries, my goal is 75 wineries.  As of last night, I've tasted 30.  I've got a long way to go by the end of the year. I'm going to have to go tasting on my own it seems.

This wine walk was a fun adventure. The sun was out and it was a beautiful evening in Seattle.  We started - after I told Seattle SIL the wrong direction to go - with Trust Cellars. They had several to choose from and I opted for their Cabernet Sauvignon and their Cab Franc.  All were delicious and all were out of my price range.  And nothing, in my opinion, to write home about.

Moving on...

Our next winery was Dusted Valley - characters abound here.  The pourer was a sassy blond woman who was all to happy to tell us all about their wines, their winery and stories behind some of their names.  I tried their Grenache and their Mourvedre. Delicious wines. If I had an occasion to bring a NICE bottle of wine, I'd go here to get it. They had an interesting wine too called Squirrel Tooth Alice and they had a fantastic story about how they got the name. They had a photo of this old timer woman who lived in the late 1800's / early 1900's who died at 98 in the 1950's. Anyhow, I'll let their site fill in the blanks, "The namesake of this old Dodge City, KS lady of the night lives on famously. The sex appeal of this wine jumps out of the glass with loads of seductive allure. You're gonna love 'er. If not, you'll have to have to answer to Alice's pet ground squirrel. No kidding. She had a pet ground squirrel...How else did you think she got her name???"  Crazy...and while I didn't taste it Seattle SIL did and loved it.

Our  next stop was William Church.  I love their logo and sorta love their wines. I had their 2 Spires and their Bishop's Blend. Both were decent, alright, they were good. But again, not in this girls price range. I had tasted at William Church before so I kinda knew what to expect here.

Our next stop was back to where we started - the ticket pick up - at Otis Kenyon. Now it could be that this was winery #4 and our taste buds were almost drunk OR it could be they just didn't have wine that was complimentary to my pallet. Either way, I wasn't a fan.

The next winery is out of Oregon and was offering a free tasting ... so we HAD to do it. Torii Mor was a fun, lively little tasting room. The young gal who helped us was BURNT to a crisp by a sunburn that just made me ache.  I opted to taste their Port blend and...OH....MY....God...it was delicious. Seattle SIL and Mrs. Braspir followed suit and it wasn't long before we were pulling out our wallets. We bought ONE bottle between us (it was expensive...very expensive - $45) and we figured we'd split it and have it as a special wine for our annual trip we do. I can't wait to taste that Port blend again.  We didn't taste any of their other wines. We were too in love with the Port.

Our last stop was Zerba (not Zebra).  The guy in there seemed less than enthused to be helping us and frankly I didn't like their Cab Franc blend I tasted at all. I may not know that much about wine, and what makes a good wine, but I would like the wineries to at least make an attempt to tell me what they're tasting and why it's a good wine. 

After this winery it was determined that we all had had a bit too much and that we should go sop up the wine in our systems with some Mexican food.  So we went and sat for a good hour and chit chatted in the sun (I sat in view of a Mustang Cobra convertible and drooled the entire time...then a Shelby convertible came and parked next to it...I was in heaven). 

I love these two women as they are ALWAYS game to go and do something like this. We laugh a lot, and talk about nothing overly important or sometimes deep, important stuff - but we always have a good time.

Oh I almost forgot, we weren't drinking on an empty stomach. When we do the warehouse walks they have a food truck there so we can get quick, good food. While there are restaurants in the Hollywood School House area, we didn't want to waste an hour of the wine walk eating, so I brought snacks.


It might become a tradition.  You may also notice our wine glasses are essentially travel coffee mugs but like a wine glass (they even have lids that go with them) we got these when we went on the Mt. Rainier Railroad wine tasting thingy last year. They were all the rage. Every winery we entered someone said how much they loved our glasses. One gal even took a photo.  Maybe I should buy a bunch of them and set up shop out there and sell them! I'd be RICH!!!

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Scrapbooking and the like

I don't talk much in this blog about my scrapbooking hobby.  And I thought I would share with you some insights I've had recently as they relate to scrapbooking.

First you should know I've been scrapbooking since 1998. My Aunt J - bless her - visited and she brought with her a scrapbook. I had heard of scrapbooks, but never had seen one like this. She explained what it was, etc...and I was hooked. It would go nicely with my other expensive hobby of photography.

Fast forward 16 years (and probably thousands of dollars) and my scrapbooking has changed significantly.  When I first started, scrapbooking was in its infancy. It was new and the products available were, well, limited.  Over the years, the products have improved, and scrapbooking became a BIG deal. (It was started by the Mormons BTW and most of the first businesses were owned by the Mormons. Not sure why that matters - but it seemed interesting to me). Anyhow, the trends of scrapbooking, like anything, have changed over the years as well. Looking through my scrapbooks you can see how trends developed.

The most recent trend is to use one or two photos per page and then add so many embellishments that an average page can cost up to $10. Not the style for this girl.

However...I had a revelation recently. 

I'm currently taking a couple of classes on scrapbooking. One of the classes is called the Arts and Science of Scrapbooking. The idea of the class is to determine what side of the brain you function with, and then do the challenges for the other side of the brain.

There are two instructure's: one who's left brained and one who's right brained. They give each other challenges and the objective of the course is for you - or me rather - to do the challenge that is opposite the side of the brain I use most. I'm predominately left brained, so I'm supposed to do the right brain challenges. Seems easy enough...turns out not so much.

Somehow in the course of these challenges it was mentioned that you don't have to scrap ALL your photos.

Say what?

That's right, it was said out loud....You....Don't.... Have... To... Scrap.... All.... Your.... Photos....

Wait...my head is still spinning!

I've ALWAYS scrapped all my photos. And this idea of NOT scrapping them hit me upside the head and suddenly I felt relief that I didn't have to scrap them all.  The idea is you just pick the "best" ones and focus on them was just so refreshing.

I think I knew this in the back of my head, but I never gave myself permission to just scrap the good photos. Now I've given myself permission, a whole new world has opened up for me. I should also add that a realization that NO ONE ever looks at my scrapbooks kinda helped. I mean by the time you get say a European vacation scrapbooked everyone has already seen the photos, so why bother.

Anywhoooo....


This is the place where the "magic" happens.  I've worked hard to get this space organized in a way that has everything "relatively" within arms reach and my work space open for creativity.  I have found that by getting myself a bigger desk to work with, I just spread out more and tend to have less space. Go figure.

So one of the right brain challenges for this class was to look through my stash of paper until a sheet of paper reminds you of something.  I found this paper and while I didn't pin point it at the time, it made me think of photos of myself with my camera. I rarely scrapbook photos of myself, so figured why not step out and tell the story as to WHY I take photos at all.

 
Another challenge was to do a collage. This challenge forced me to learn how to make collages in PSE. Which I couldn't really figure out so I went to another option in Picasa.
 

Here's a good example of picking only a couple of photos. I have a TON of photos of the fur kids and have wanted to scrap some of my favorites.  Giving myself permission to only scrap the best really helped me focus on the best ones and find a balance for it.


Totally a left brained layout. I admit it. I had been trying to figure out what to do with all the gelato photos from the trip. This layout was presented in class and it was perfect for those photos. This layout taught me how to resize photos in PSE - I know you'd think I would have already figured that out. AND I learned how to create specific frames for my Epson PictureMate so it prints 2X2 photos.


And lastly, this class along with another class on sketches I'm taking, has allowed me to let go of so many photos and really focus on the story behind them. I've not done a good job of journaling because well I figured who cared. No child of mine will be looking at these scrapbooks 50 years from now and wanting to know my life story.

But, what I did find was telling my own story was cathartic.  Especially when it came to BigBro and the DadUnit. I miss them both so much and scrapping about them really helped me heal a little.

I gave dad a coffee cup once that said, "Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad" and it is soo true.

 
Wasn't expecting to see BigBro's headstone next in line after dad's.
This celebration page is my example of picking the best photos for me. 300 people showed up to his celebration of life. I took 100 or so photos.  But the real story, for me, were the people who showed up that I cared about. And that's the story I told.
Celebrating BigBro.
I realize this blog isn't for everyone, and some of you probably don't care at all. AND in rereading it, it's really all over the place.  What I'm trying to say, I think, is that after 16 years of scrapbooking (47 scrapbooks in total), I'm still learning.  I'm learning how to use my stash, break out of my norm, and be open to some change - for once.  And in the process of all this learning, I've healed a little.