Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What are the chances

For reasons unbeknownst to me (I think it was a collaboration day at his school) Mr W was off yesterday. I had not arranged anything with his dad, so I took half a day off and worked half a day. I was busy doing bracelet stuff in the living room, which looks out to my yard as well as the neighbors' yard.

It was kind of noisy outside because the city was doing its leaf clean up, so there were street sweepers doing their thing, and tiny leaf bits being blown around. Around mid-morning, I'm standing behind Mr W, and he says, "Is that smoke?"

I jump the gun and say, "I don't think so. I think it's leaf dust". Then I look more, and it sure looks like there is smoke coming from the direction of the neighbor's compost pile. I had seen one of them go to the pile earlier, and had noted it because I had let the dog out and was thankful that she didn't bark at him. I head outside in my sweatpants and slippers, step up onto their approximately 8 x 8 ft. pile and it is indeed smoldering. In fact, it's burning a hole down into the pile a few inches.

I walk (briskly) back to my house, give them a call, and they're not home. The message was something like, "Um, this is Linda from next door. Your compost pile is smoking and I'm going to dump some water on it." And that's what I do. I dump two buckets' worth and that douses it.

This leaves me a little shaken. The pile is full of dry leaves, and sits on the property line, at the base of my wonderful (and about 50' tall) fir tree. It's between my neighbors' and my old wooden garages. It's entirely possible that the garages (maybe the tree?) could have caught fire. The corner of the roof of my garage is a few inches from my house.

The thing is, I am almost NEVER home at that hour. If I hadn't been there, things really could have turned out badly. They called later and left a message on the machine, obviously a little shaken at what could have happened and promising to check the ashes to their smallish outdoor fire pit much more carefully in the future. Those ashes sat all night, with lows in the 20's, and were still hot enough to burn leaves.

It's a head scratcher. I send sincere thanks to the circumstances that allowed me to notice.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Secret to My Success (sort of)

We are in the midst of a very laid back holiday weekend, the kid, the dog, and me. We've walked the dog for about an hour yesterday and today, so I sort of feel like that offsets the long periods of being sedentary. I'm also doing a small amount of cooking, housework and jewelry stuff, so am being reasonably productive. I'd feel weird if I got absolutely nothing done.

We went to my friends J and S's house for Thanksgiving this year and had a really nice time. We were picked up as Thanksgiving orphans there last year and I was glad when she extended the invite again because we had such a nice time. Another friend invited us to their family's gathering as well, and I feel lucky indeed that folks would think to include me and Mr W. I did something a little different and bought dinner rolls from a restaurant in town, and they were really good.

In the last week or so leading up to Thanksgiving, I caught myself starting to go down a line of thinking where I was just starting to despair because here I am, alone still, going into another holiday season. It's been almost 7 years now since the divorce was final, and there are times when I cannot believe I haven't found my mate, my guy, my match, my (dare I say it) soulmate.

And then the thought popped into my head to focus on the have and not on the want. As my kid and I both sit in my warm living room, using our respective laptops, having just had a nice meal, I feel blessed, lucky even, that I have a job and my health. Really, those two things make the rest of it possible. I feel that with a decent job and my health, the magnitude of my happiness rests squarely on my own shoulders. So the idea of taking note of what I have (mostly regarding intangibles, but being able to buy my kid a pair of shoes today as well) instead of the part of my life I want to be done and settled, has helped a lot. I feel more grateful than cheated.

I also talked on the phone with my dad and my younger brother and got caught up with their lives. It was good to hear they are both doing well, although my brother got laid off and like a lot of people is over qualified for a lot of the openings. I'm trying to draw him into selling his woodworking stuff on Etsy. You never know, right?

I'll probably do a separate post saying this, but I'm having a sale at my Etsy shop, 20% when you use the coupon code "Holiday".

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Catalog deluge

Yes, for me this is a deluge of catalogs. It's funny, for several years it seemed I got a few, three or four for the whole Christmas season. In this age of heightened environmental awareness I was A-OK with not receiving many (any) catalogs. I figured that companies were cutting back on printed materials to save money. 

Ha! It does not appear, if the four catalogs each from LLBean and Landsend are any indication, that companies are doing anything of the sort. I must have gotten on some lists so I'm getting a bunch of new ones as well. 

I have them close to me so I can take a stab at looking at them, but I'm not so motivated at the moment. Truth is, my buying list is pretty short. Mr W wants one big thing (again), so he'll be easy to buy for, and I have a pretty good idea for the short list of nieces, nephews and parent that remain. Since I got them, though, I feel sort of obligated to try to look at them. Maybe tomorrow.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Two small peeves

I do some of my grocery shopping at Whole Foods. I'm not a zealot when it comes to organic, but they try to use local farmers, and I like that. I also try to pay attention to the Dirty Dozen, the list of the most pesticide-contaminated produce, so I can buy those organic when possible. I also like their already-made pizza dough and we go through a lot of pizza here. On the other hand, I could have bought blueberries from Argentina yesterday if I want to, so it's not like everything there comes with a little halo around it.

Anyway, I was picking up a few things. Silly me, I was surprised to find so very many people there until I realized that they were shopping for Thanksgiving. I got in and out pretty quickly, and at the checkout, the clerk asked me, "Would you like to donate to the food bank to buy a meal for a family today?"

This pisses me off. In my opinion, it feels like they are guilting people into donating because we all feel like we're perceived as a little elitist for shopping there in the first place. Or am I reading too much into it? Do their superpowers only work on me?

I declined. And not because I'm selfish, but because I already donate cash to the food bank every month as part of my charitable giving. Do I tell the clerk that? What do they care, although do they look with distain at people who are so out of touch they can't even fork over a couple of bucks for the food bank? Maybe I should just smile and say, "I'm already a donor there." Probably. All those years of Catholic school makes the guilt triggers almost permanent...

Anyway, on to my second peeve. This one is not confined to WF, but to all store parking lots. What is it with people that they can't return their carts to the designated place? They they feel compelled to leave the cart between cars, or hoisted up on a curb? I don't know why this annoys me so. It probably has to do with my sense of fairness and not wanting to make extra work for other people. It happens everywhere, even at Target, where the cart corrals are easy to find and close. There is no resolving this, although I sometimes choose those carts if I'm on my way in.

Small things, really. But I feel better now :-)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

No mind readers

I am outraged, outraged, I tell you that my 17 year old car is starting to have problems. Well, not really, but there's a tiny part of me that is sad because this feels like the beginning of the end for my trusty 1995 Civic.

It's running fine, and starts up without protest. There's just little things that one would expect to fail on such an old vehicle that are starting to fail. The A/C stopped working last summer, for example. Recently, I was walking past the driver's side, rolling the trash can back to its spot by the garage, and my hip bumped the side mirror, breaking it such that it swivels now, and is pointing down. Sigh. A headlight went out this week, too.

17 years on the original two headlights. That is impressive, and I'm not really complaining that these relatively minor things are going wrong. They are a forecast of things to come and it's time to look for a new car.

I had thought about walking into a dealership and just getting exactly what I wanted. I've already decided to keep the Civic, as a second beater car and because it's not worth much. But common sense prevailed and I made an appointment with my wonderful mechanic to give the Civic a once-over and oil change it needs to get it in as good of shape as possible to buy me time to look for a car. The end of the year is supposed to be a good time to buy a car, right?

Having sold the van, and living by myself, taking the car in for service presents some mobility challenges. What I usually do is put my bike in the trunk, drive to the mechanic's (1/2 mile) and ride my bike home. Then I ride my bike to work the next day (3 miles), and also back to the mechanic's to get my car.

Yesterday, I was at my spinning class (the biking kind) thinking that I had to then go home and put the bike in the trunk, etc. Somehow, the idea popped into my head to say to the class, "Hey, I need a favor, could someone follow me to my mechanic's and give me a ride home?" Two people volunteered, and J, who lives up the street from me, gave me a ride.

No one would have known of my predicament if I hadn't spoken up, you know? I'm normally firmly in the mindset that I have to figure out a way to do these things on my own, but not always. She was glad to help, and I think people often are if you don't abuse the privilege.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Craft show recap

I did my first craft show last Saturday, and it went just fine. I sold about $150 worth of my stuff. Not as much as I had hoped, but not bad considering there were only 12 vendors. The set up was kind of odd, as my table was in a cluster of tables and the vendors were in the area inside the cluster, and it was cramped. I had Mr W with me, and I thought we'd be able to sit together and he'd help me, but there wasn't room for a second chair. He camped out in the kitchen of the gallery, and had his computer so was fine, although a little buggy at the end of the day.

I didn't forget to bring anything, I did the sales tax correctly, and people were very nice. I sold a little bit of each type of item I had, except the buttons. The thing I sold most of were the $3 book marks. The little bags I have to hold things are too small, so I need to order larger ones (yes, this post is also to remind me of things). Several people looked at my bracelets and said, "I've never seen anything like that". Thanks! 

I made the display boards from cupboard doors that I got at the place in town that sells salvaged doors, windows, etc. I might redo the holes, move them up and farther apart, so I can fit more on the boards. I went to an estate sale and got the matching napkins. I like the effect. I even ironed them! 

I admit I had some anxiety about doing a craft show (yes, I'm a little embarrassed at that sentence) that has since evaporated with me thinking, "what was I tweaked out about?" The anxiety is about not knowing how things will go. Simple uncertainty. It's good to have that every once in a while because it shows me that getting tweaked isn't worth the effort. 

One show down, two or three to go. I'm going to make some ornaments this weekend, but otherwise have enough stock to do the rest of the shows. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Take my leaves, please

I've lived in my little house for seven years now. Technically, I own two trees: a towering fir that sits behind my garage, and the little apple tree I planted a couple of years ago. Neither is big on fall leaf production. My neighbor has an oak tree on the property line, and I do have two serviceberries on the patch between the sidewalk and the street (we always called it the tree lawn).

Every fall, I revisit the dilema of raking. I don't particularly like to rake, and it seems to me that it makes sense to wait until almost all of the leaves are down to get started raking. This has the potential of annoying the neighbors, as fallen leaves blow to their property. I admit that there have been one or two years when the raking got away from me because a storm came in and blew the leaves away. I have only felt mild guilt at this.

There are renters on the corner that have done a major (as in 10-15 garbage bags' worth) raking job three (3!) times this fall. Their grass has looked immaculate after each effort. For about 2 days.

This year, the leaves on the tree lawn were definitely sitting there waiting to be raked, and I felt the obligation to get them up and out. I think what also made it easier to get out there and do it was that I purchased yard waste pick up from my trash company. So I filled up the bin, plus a couple of bags that will get put in the bin next week. I'll throw whatever's left into the compost pile in the back of my yard. There are a couple of places in town that will accept the leaves for composting for a very small charge.

My leaf duty is almost done for the year. The leaves that are left are contained in my fenced yard and aren't going anywhere, so I can get to those after the craft show this weekend.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

No, you can't have my hope

As the election season mercifully draws to a close today, I'm thinking about the sermon at church this past Sunday. It was about election ad fatigue and how it is not so very hard to get beaten down by the advertisements and feeling like a lot of bad stuff will happen if the other side wins.

This is a quote from the piece the sermon was based on:

"My husband will say on those occasions when the weight of the world is closing in and the evidence against hope mounts as I read the news, when I start confusing cynicism with pragmatism, and I sigh, “I’m so tired, I’m so discouraged”—he’ll say, in the kindest way: “What kind of entitled grandiosity of privilege is this, to think that you or I or anyone has the right to sever the bright thread of hope, the tradition of dedication to the common good and faith in the people’s power to imagine great change and great risks and then take them; the beautiful, proud history of work for human rights and freedom? We’re only here to pass it on,” he’ll say. “All you have to do is keep the fire burning for a little while, and pass it on. You have no right to put it out.” Not in so many words, but that’s about what Ross will say." 

I was kind of relieved to hear things put that way. May we not confuse cynicism with pragmatism.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

As promised

Here is a clip of my banjo instructor and I at the recital last night. It wasn't nearly as harrowing as I thought it could be. Glad I did it.

Friday, November 2, 2012

And next, we have Linda on the banjo

I have my first ever banjo recital tomorrow. I'm trying hard not to get tweaked out about it, because it doesn't mean anything, and I know the songs, and it's a more than friendly crowd, and most importantly, I WANT to have this experience. 

I'm doing two songs, Blackberry Blossom, which is sort of old-timey/bluegrass, and Cripple Creek (not the one by The Band...). They are songs I have played as practice for months and months, so I know them very well. It's funny how each time you play, though, it's a little different. 

The picture above is from a jam that my instructor had a couple of weeks ago. That's me and my banjo in a contemplative moment there on the right. Actually, I didn't know the song, and there was someone to my immediate left, so I was holding the banjo upright while I was waiting, to make a little more space. 

As an aside, can you see my shoes? I do most of my clothes shopping at the consignment store. It takes more time, but it's so much cheaper that it is largely worth it. It's hard to find shoes that work for me because I think if shoe are comfortable, people hang onto them. As a result there are a lot of 5" pumps for sale and, well, I just don't have occasion to wear such shoes. But I was perusing the racks the other day, and happened upon the mules you see in the photo. They are really pointy-toed, they have a 2" heel, and they look like cowboy boots, although they cover just a little more than what a regular tie-up shoe would. In other words, they are cool shoes that I probably would never buy. And they fit! And they were $18! So I had to have them. They are not walkin' shoes, but I loves them anyway. 

OK, back to the jam/recital. I'm glad my instructor hosts these jams, because they, like going to the Old Time jam downtown, are such good practice. In my mind, this music is meant to be played as part of a group. 

But she also hosts a cool recital once a year, at the local Grange. I remember when Mr W took piano lessons for a year, he had a recital and it was about what you'd expect. Kids in their good clothes playing the same piece of music over and over. No. This recital is more like a party, where there is food and drink and everyone has chosen what they will play. My instructor will play along with me, and sing the words to Cripple Creek. 

I'll see if I can get someone to shoot a video. It'll all be over in about 3 minutes. Then I'm having a glass of wine. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Happy Day of the Dead! It was a good Halloween last night. It's not unusual at all for Halloween to be cold and snowy here, so the mild weather brought out a lot of trick or treaters. I live one house off of a major trick or treat destination, where people drive their kids in, park on the side streets like mine, and work up and down that avenue.

Given that my dear dog barks (as I'm pretty sure I want her to do) at everyone that comes to the door, I decided I'd sit outside with my laptop and candy bowl and hand out candy that way. That worked pretty well. The people I bought my house from (7 years ago!) stopped by, with the little girl whose birth prompted their move saying, "this is our old house!". How fun. They've got two kids now and we chatted for a bit. I love this house and its location and told them so.

I've been trying to get up earlier, given Mr W's middle school schedule, so my alarm is now set for 5:05 am. I most definitely do not pop out of bed rarin' to go, but don't use the snooze button and don't fall back to sleep while NPR is playing on my clock radio. This is going fairly well, and I'm trying to get to bed a little earlier so I get 7 hours or so.

All week, I've been sleeping for almost exactly 5 hours, then I wake up, use the facilities, and go back to bed for a couple more hours. Several times in the last couple of weeks, I've woken up at 3:08, or 3:13. I think it's wild that a body/mind can wake up at the same time fairly often.

Last night worked the same, but instead of just waking up after a dream ended, I was dreaming that I had my hand down near the edge of some covers on a bed, and a scorpion scuttled out, got on my hand and stung me! I could feel the stinger, like a needle, then it took it out. I was afraid to brush it away because I thought it would bite me, too. I think that's why I didn't brush it off. Note to self: scrape that little nasty thing off post-haste should you ever encounter one on your hand, OK?