Sunday, April 27, 2014

It's all about the pill



Or, I should say, my Sunday morning schedule is now all about the pill. Now that I have been diagnosed with Osteoporosis, in my spine, I have to take one little pill once a week. I need to take that on an empty stomach, so first thing in the morning, with a full glass of water. I must not eat or drink anything but water and I must stay upright for at least 30 minutes after taking the pill.






I chose Sunday to be the pill day because I can do my ironing during that 30 minutes of uprightness. Which reminds me I did trade my temporary fix to my ironing problems for the permanent flexible cord holder, and it works great.



Once my foot has healed and the pins are removed I can be upright for 30 minutes while I walk, either on my treadmill or outside.

I do prefer to walk outside in the early morning, but even more so, I love to run. Actually, that is probably a bit of an exaggeration, it is the exercise that I dislike the least and I quite enjoy it, certainly I feel good when it is over. But I have not been able to run in a long time unfortunately. I have mentioned more than once I believe, that a knee injury and subsequent knee pain has prevented me from running. The various surgeries on my foot, intended to solve the knee issues, have prevented me from working out for the best part of a year and still my knee prevents me from running. Walking is still an option however (when the pins come out) and I will just have to learn to like it. I guess I need patience, or a walking companion. Patience is the most likely.

Luckily, silver linings abound as always.

Because I am very disciplined about getting an annual physical, the deterioration in my bones is being taken care of and hopefully next year's density test will show improvements.That is the first silver lining, another is that I am forced to drink a full glass of water, always a good thing and I don't drink nearly enough water. Third, I get my ironing done early and out of the way and soon I will have a strong argument against skipping at least one early morning workout. Fourth, at least there is something that can be done to correct or control osteoporosis, not to mention detect it, this was not the case for my mother, nor my grandmother, both of whom had hip replacements. Though I guess the cloud could be seen to be that so far, they can't replace spines - and of course, getting old sucks.

And finally, number five is that I managed to get references to five of my previous blog posts in this one. Just follow the links above to see what I am talking about.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Husbands


If you read my book Peeling the Onion, you will already know how I met my husband.  And if you didn't read my book, why not? It is a very cheap read and well worth it. Even cheaper if you have a Kindle, and if you don't, why not?

Anyway, where was I? right.. my husband. Ever since I was a small child (as opposed to a small adult which I now am) I was obsessed with cowboys, the Wild West, and all things Texan. I absorbed Western Movies and my favorite hero was always the good baddie. That is the bad boy who had a heart of gold and despite his outward appearance and behavior, would never hurt anyone. In fact, went out of his way to help people and never expected or wanted any thanks for it. He was usually a little cocky and always very independent. Frequently he had a beard, and always he had a cowboy hat.


My very good friend Paul Neumann once told me that I had a very powerful mind and could create anything that I put my mind to. Perhaps he was correct, maybe I didn't actually create my husband, but I clearly created our ability to meet by all the steps I took to end up in Texas, and then finding a means to actually meet up with him once I got here (again read my book if you want to know how I did all that).


I am not saying that he is perfect, and he would be the first person to correct me if I did say that, but he is perfect for me.

What made me jump this train of thought I hear you ask? Well, 5 weeks ago I had an operation on my foot. I had two hammer toes corrected (see this blog post for more info if you need it) and currently (as I write) I am still hobbling around with a pin in two toes, and a foot in a surgical shoe, not easy to walk, let alone navigate stairs. So, Friday afternoon I came home from work and set about starting my end of week chores, the laundry comes first. I went upstairs to get the laundry basket and bring it down to the laundry room to discover he (the good baddie) had done that - he is not a morning person, and he leaves the house after me, but still before 6 a.m.  but he had thought to bring the laundry downstairs knowing that I would have to do it, and worrying about my ability to get downstairs, with a full laundry basket and a gimpy foot. It is good to take a step back every so often and take stock of the silver linings in your life. It is so easy to take them for granted.

This man treats my children as his own, considers their children as his grandchildren and they all love him for it, but not as much as I do. Apart from that, if you needed any more convincing, he does so many little things that make my life easier. He fuels and washes my car as and when it needs it, and he helps with all of the household chores and so much more. This is one of my favority photos of him.

He regularly buys me flowers and he writes me poetry. Here are just a few of the poems he wrote for me. There are many more.







Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Showers and Manners

Looking at the very first invitation I have ever received to attend a Baby Shower got me thinking. How many different customs there are here, compared with when I was growing up in Ireland.

Some are similar, but with different names and very different rules of engagement. As a foreigner, in this country for the first time, one of the things I found the most difficult is to know what questions to ask. And who to ask.

There are customs and traditions that people grow up with and take for granted, and Americans have a habit of assuming that the way they do things is the only 'right' way, that everyone else does it that way, or they are wrong. In fact, many customs vary considerably from Northern States, Mid West and Southern States.

A big advantage we in Ireland have over most Americans is that we received constant US culture education from movies and TV shows imported from America. So, I knew about baby showers, but wasn't sure how much of what I had learned about them from the movies was Hollywood fantasy and what was fact. After all, the few movies portraying Irish culture, such as The Quiet Man could not be relied on as a true depiction of life in Ireland.

Certainly more people in Ireland are having Baby and Bridal showers, no doubt they see the advantages. Showers are hosted by someone other than the expectant mother or bride, therefore there is a lot to gain and no expenditure involved, at least not for the star of the shower.

So, what do you do when you get an invitation to a Baby Shower? the invitation says RSVP, and I do know what that means, "répondez s'il vous plaît" or 'Please reply'. I know so many people, on both sides of the Atlantic, who totally ignore the RSVP request, and turn up anyway.

Anyway, back to the Baby Shower. I did RSVP, next question is - do you have to bring something? Oh, I know you have to bring a present  - I know that is the whole point of a Baby Shower - but should I bring some food? I ask a few people, I am still uncomfortable because arriving with one arm longer than the other is a big no-no in Ireland.  (See my blog post here dealing with that subject). Then there are the silly games - do people really do that? apparently so. Why I wonder? I am guessing it is intended to encourage interaction between a room full of strangers.

The other shower, the Bridal Shower, is also something that didn't happen in Ireland. I have never been to one of those either but I was told that it is intended to be your opportunity to hand over your wedding gift to the bride. If you don't go to the shower your are not expected to give a gift, if you do go to the shower you had better bring a gift and hopefully it will one from the brides registry, so something she actually wants.

However, doing some research I discover that my information is not correct according to acceptable etiquette in the US - here is where I discovered this piece of information:
“If you attend a shower, you should give a gift,” Post says. “If you don’t go, you don’t have to.” However, showers and the wedding ceremony are separate, and if you attend and give a gift at a shower, it doesn’t absolve you of your responsibility to give a gift for the wedding itself.
We do have gift registries in Ireland, but without the shower, the usual process is to select and pay for something from the registry list and the store does the rest, gift wrapping (which you pay for also) and delivery to the bride. It is also acceptable to send or present the gift yourself, and it used to be that you had up to one year after the wedding to still be within the rules of etiquette. Apparently that has now reduced to 3 months, perhaps due to the much shorter life expectancy of some marriages, sending a wedding gift after the divorce is probably not advisable.


Traditions that are very similar both in Europe and in the US are the Bachelor party and the Bachelorette party, except that in the Ireland, and in Great Britain, these are called respectively Stag and Hen parties. Which doesn't make sense to me, either they should be Stag and Doe, or Rooster and Hen.




I do accept that the rules differ vastly from country to country and not just continent to continent, and, since I came to the US, I frequently get teased about my 'manners' as though they are something like nail biting that I should try to break.




Friday, April 18, 2014

Mission Statements and Magic

What seems like a very long time ago, I attended a three day training course in leadership. Our first task was to write our mission statement, something that had never occurred to me before, but it was sitting in the back of my mind waiting to be written down, it took me no time at all to do so, and still it holds true today:
To live life with courage and curiosity
To be honest in all my dealings
and to hurt no one intentionally
to leave my children and grandchildren
a legacy of love, pride and happiness,
so that they will not mourn my passing
but celebrate my life


Thinking about this reminded me of something else I wrote a long time ago, not expecting any response, but definitely not expecting the response I got from my son Ben.

I was overcome by the love I felt for my children, being so far away from them I wanted to let them know how very important they were to me and how much I had enjoyed every moment of their existence and appreciated every second of their presence in my life. I wanted to try to be sure they missed nothing of their own children's lives.



So I wrote this:
To my children:
As I made a collage of photos of the three of you,
As toddlers and through the years
It made me miss not just you as you are now
But as you were when you were babies
Toddlers, children, and adolescents.
Don't miss one second of your time with your babies.
The time flashes past so fast and yes,
I can hug the grown up men and woman,
And do every chance I get,
I am very lucky to have such a good relationship with you;
But I can never hug those babies, toddlers, or children again.
I am very proud of you, but then, I always was.
Remember, in the middle of the night during a colic attack
Or during the teething stage,
Or missing a big event or occasion for lack of a babysitter;
Remember - that time is precious and will never come back.
I know it is not necessary to tell you this -
You will all be terrific parents
... remember each tiny stage is precious.
When I wrote this my daughter was the only one of the three to be a parent, she had two sons and was a proving to be a wonderful mother. Now, with my eighth grandchild about to arrive, I was right! They are all terrific parents.

What I was totally unprepared for was my son Ben's response:
Things my mother taught me
All I want is to be half the parent to my child
that you were to me
I want to teach it all the things you taught me.
Always say thank you
don't spit,
eat the chocolates I don't like,
Put rubbish in your pocket (not on the ground).
Be good to people but don't let them push you around.
Respect women.
Never let anyone hurt the people who are close to you.
It is good to be early.
Listen.
Try not to sulk,
Let people make their own mistakes, be ready to pick them up.
Be big enough to admit you are wrong.
Enjoy every day.
You have taught me this and much more,
I love you mum,
you will always be 'My Pal'
There are a number things I feel obliged to expand on here.  'eat the chocolates I don't like'.  OK, I don't think it was child abuse, but .. I used to absolutely love Black Magic chocolates, except for the orange cream, strawberry cup and coffee cream. So, as soon as my children were old enough to eat chocolates, when I got a box of Black Magic, I taught each one in turn to like one of these unpopular flavors. They still do much to the hilarity of  family and friends. On the other hand, perhaps I did them a favor. Very few people like these particular flavors and therefore their favorite is always available. But, for some reason I do feel a little guilty about it.


'Put rubbish in your pocket ...' I have always been obsessed with littering, how dare anyone just throw their rubbish (trash) on the ground. Growing up I always put my trash in my pocket to dispose of properly when the opportunity arose, and I taught my children to do the same. They always had pockets filled with candy wrappers, gum, popsicle sticks and many other items. I think the rest of the points are self explanatory, except for the last one.  That brings tears to my eyes even today.

When Ben was 18 months old he had a severe ear infection and gastroenteritis, I couldn't get his temperature down. The doctor finally decided we should bring him to the fever hospital. At 2 a.m. on a freezing December morning I held him in my arms as we drove to the hospital (long before seat belts and child seats) and in a brief moment of rest in his deliriously high fever he looked at me and said 'My Pal'.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Silver Linings

... and irritating whinings.


I firmly believe in silver linings. Sometimes they might be hard to find, but they are always there.

 OK, I admit that I have a Pollyanna complex.




Once upon a time, for a short period in my life, I believed that behind every cloud was an even bigger cloud. If you read my book, Peeling the Onion, you will find out how I managed to get past that short, dark period in my life. And once I did start to see the silver lining I realized just how difficult, and unpleasant, I must have been to be around. As a result I have to make an effort to be sympathetic with people who constantly whine and find fault with petty things like the weather or a disturbed night. Particularly when there are so many people much worse off, but with a more positive outlook.

Sometimes I think being negative is a habit that people fall into when they are bored, lonely or generally dissatisfied with their life but don't know how to change it, or perhaps don't believe it is within their power to do so. I can't believe it is a ploy to get attention or sympathy, because the main reaction I have is irritation and I really would prefer to spend my time with people who can see the silver lining and who take the time to count their blessings and I am sure most people feel that way.

I am not a religious person, and I don't pray, mainly because I truly believe that I am responsible for my own life and laying that responsibility on any other person, power or potentate is pointless, somewhat cowardly and shirking my responsibility to myself . Having issued that disclaimer, The Serenity Prayer does express my feelings exactly, after I replace the first six words with these six:
I will have the sense to... accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
Now that works for me.

As always, when I start to ponder something like this, I consult Google to see what information is available to support or oppose my opinion. I was interested to find a few articles all with the same theme, that whining is a habit. It would appear that over two years ago therapists in the US moved away from the traditional sympathetic attitude towards their clients, and have started to cut-short continuous whining. Perhaps Jane Lynch's portrayal of a therapist in Two and a Half Men was not so far from reality after all.

Here are links to a few of the articles I found:

The Buffalo News online, this excerpt made me stop and think - and vow to look more closely at the beam in my own eye, after all, I could be accused here of whining about whiners.. right?
"If you want to keep other people from whining, the first step is to stop engaging in it yourself."
It would be nice to think that the corollary is also true, that if you see only silver linings, so too will others? Or maybe we need to find out what the next step is.

Psychologytoday.com blog also made me think, it is possible to become more competent and develop internal strength, but it is not easy and I guess some people just can't do it. Perhaps I need to be a bit more tolerant and understanding?
"They will continue to whine until they develop more of a sense of competence and internal strength, which will not happen overnight."
The Wall Street Journal published this article by Elizabeth Bernstein. This is her definition of whining:
"Whining, as defined by experts—the therapists, spouses, co-workers and others who have to listen to it—is chronic complaining, a pattern of negative communication. It brings down the mood of everyone within earshot. It can hold whiners back at work and keep them stuck in a problem, rather than working to identify a solution. It can be toxic to relationships."
I do know that I enjoy life so much more when my glass is half full and silver linings abound.







Wednesday, April 16, 2014

It is so inconvenient

... growing old.  I recently spent at least 30 seconds attempting to remove a stray hair from my face then I realized it was a wrinkle, and I do use a magnifying mirror. It reminded me of something my mother used to say, 'failing eyesight is a compensation for old age', she could no longer see the stray hairs, nor most of the wrinkles and worked on the premise 'what you can't see won't hurt you'. I think I need to have my eyes tested again.

There are so many products and procedures out there claiming to reduce or eliminate wrinkles, but physically picking them off your face is not one of them, it doesn't work and neither do any of the more expensive so called solutions. The solution is to accept the inevitable and sit back and enjoy the ride. Of course, one would hope that you have been doing that all along.

According to wiki :
"A wrinkle, also known as a rhytide, is a fold, ridge or crease in the skin. Skin wrinkles typically appear as a result of aging processes such as glycation, habitual sleeping positions, loss of body mass, or temporarily, as the result of prolonged immersion in water. Age wrinkling in the skin is promoted by habitual facial expressions, aging, sun damage, smoking, poor hydration, and various other factors."
If, like me, you have no clue what glycation means, here is a wiki you may, or may not, find helpful. I had to reread it a few times before it started to make sense to me.

I found an article from the Daily Mail online and, despite being now considered by most definitions, and most people, to be elderly, I still found it hilariously funny.  I tend to think in pictures and the picture this article conjured up made me wish that I were a cartoonist, but I managed to find the cartoon above that works, and I assure you, it is free to use on personal blogs, so no copyright infringement. You will notice the large noses, ears and feet in the cartoon.

The article lists many of the changes old age can cause - here are the headings, go to the article here if you want to see how they expand on each affliction:
  • The pitch of your voice changes - men's voices get higher, women's drop
  • Your ears, nose and feet get bigger
  • Soap will give you skin allergies 
  • You'll clear your throat more often
  • Teeth look longer
  • Weight gain
  • Sneezing more
  • Extra moles
  • Waking up with a headache
  • Getting tipsy more quickly
  • Visible neck pulse in women
  • Watery eyes
  • Being disturbed in the night
But it's not all bad news: (though I do think that Getting tipsy more quickly could be seen as a pro rather than a con.)
  • Migraines become less painful with time
They didn't mention:
  • Wrinkles
  • Thinning bones
  • Memory loss
  • Aching joints
  • Facial hair growth in women
  • Hair loss in men (and some less fortunate women)
And I am sure there are many more. Thankfully I have not yet experience too many of these side effects of old age, no doubt I will in time. Here are some of my more favourite quotes on the subject of life, old age and death.

The amazing Betty White on old age:
“It’s not a surprise, we knew it was coming – make the most of it. So you may not be as fast on your feet, and the image in your mirror may be a little disappointing, but if you are still functioning and not in pain, gratitude should be the name of the game.”  ― Betty White, If You Ask Me
Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez Colombian-born author and winner of the 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature:
“The truth is I'm getting old, I said. We already are old, she said with a sigh. What happens is that you don't feel it on the inside, but from the outside everybody can see it.”  ― Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, Memories of My Melancholy Whores
A favorite author of mine from way back, Sir Terence David John "Terry" Pratchett, OBE:
“It is said that your life flashes before your eyes just before you die. That is true, it's called Life.”  Terry Pratchett, The Last Continent
And I save the best to last, Mark Twain:
“I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”  Mark Twain
"The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time." ― Mark Twain
So, if you haven't already done so - start living fully and enjoy the ride.



Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Anxiety and Vulnerability

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As far back as I can remember I have suffered from anxiety. Clearly it has not yet reached a level to be designated as a disorder so perhaps anxiety is the wrong word, but I do worry. Among other things, I worry about being late, getting lost and forgetting appointments.

I constantly get lost as I have no sense of direction, but because I expect to lose my way, and be late, I leave more than enough time and so I am almost never late.









In particular when I am traveling, I worry about missing flights, missing connections, getting the wrong flight, being diverted, losing my luggage and just about any other possible inconvenience imaginable.




I was talking to my mother in law about this recently and she had a hard time understanding why I would worry about something that might never happen, or over which I had no control. I, in turn, had a hard time explaining that by worrying about it, I felt that
a) I would be prepared if it did happen
b) I would have something to celebrate if it didn't happen
and
c) I was somehow protecting myself from it in fact happening, a sort of insurance.


Obviously c) doesn't work because all of the above have happened more than once, with the exception of getting on the wrong flight. However, I will still worry about that just in case. On the other hand, on the occasions when I have missed flights, connections or lost my luggage, I have handled the situation calmly and without stress, all of the stress related to these incidents had already been experienced, and as I almost expected it I was emotionally prepared and there was nothing left to to be upset about. Perhaps there is even a certain element of 'Ah-Ha! I knew it!'

Strangely I do not worry about crashing. I think I concentrate on the unimportant details because underneath it all, I have to agree with Mildred that there is no point in worrying about things that are beyond your control, or maybe I only worry about those petty details because they are things you can prepare yourself for, on the other hand how do you possibly prepare yourself for a major catastrophe? You don't, so why worry?

Recently a friend of mine blogged that it showed strength to be prepared to expose my vulnerability in my book, Peeling the Onion. I just don't see it that way. The way I see it is if you expose all your vulnerabilities, then you actually protect yourself against others 'exposing' you.  Somewhat like when being blackmailed, if you go public first you take control and remove the weapon from someone else's hand. I fear that sounds horribly negative. And no, I don't ever expect to be blackmailed, nor do I consider it possible that anyone would try to use my vulnerabilities against me, but let them just try!

I firmly believe that by exposing my vulnerabilities, I am actually disposing of them. And by worrying about missing flights or losing luggage, I am disposing of the stress and when/if these occur I am in control. Hmm, perhaps it all boils down to being in control?




Monday, April 14, 2014

One man's house plant



... is another man's outdoor plant.

Two very common house plants when I was growing up in Ireland were Bizzy Lizzy also known as Impatiens, and Yucca.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that both of these plants grow outdoors in Texas. In fact Yucca grows wild across the state, but even more surprising to me was the fact that it produces flowers, and really beautiful ones at that.



flowering yucca
potted yucca





I have often seen Yucca plants in a pot indoors in Ireland, I had never seen one produce flowers.











When we bought our current home, the previous owners had left a plant holder in the front yard, it had some very sad looking pansies in, this is the only photo I have of what it looked like back then. I liked the plant holder, and while I like pansies, I also know that they tend to throw their seed all over the place and soon become as difficult to control as weeds.




Last year I planted impatiens (bizzy lizzy) in the pots. In fact I use the term planted very loosely. I actually bought four pots of impatiens, multiple colors in each pot, and the pots were a perfect fit for the planter, so I planted each pot in the plant holder. They flourished all summer and into the fall, but this past severe winter did away with them.

I waited until the middle of March before considering exposing new plants to the cold spring we were having, and then waiting a further month while I searched for the same pots of impatiens but couldn't find them. As I do enjoy pottering in the garden and impatiens are very plentiful at every garden center, I decided to buy the smaller plants in multiple colors and reuse last years pots, with fresh potting compose make my own mixture. While shopping for the plants we came across these beautiful versions and bought 3 in large pots, 2 in smaller pots and then a tray of small impatiens.




It took less than an hour to clean out the old pots and plant these beautiful flowers. We have a lot of trees on our lot, so we have to pay attention to buying plants that will do well in the shade, these flowers are perfect. They now sit between a number of oak trees in the bed in front of the house, and so long as I remember to give them a little water during dry periods, they will give us a great display of color right into the early winter.



As the smaller plants grow and fill out with various colored blossoms they will be as spectacular as they were last year, if not even better with the larger New Guinea Impatiens in the center.









Sunday, April 13, 2014

Getting organized



As I became more engrossed in my embroidery, and the embroidery design software, I finally got to a point where my sewing table was a cluttered mess. For every design that I create, I have two pages printed out showing the design on one page and the color chart for that design on the second.


PE Design view


It would be so much better if I could work with these designs directly from the computer, rather than having to print them out, but so far I have not found any way to display this information on the screen other than from within the PE Design software, one file at a time in a print preview screen which is a bit cumbersome.

Print preview
Windows explorer view
However, there is a second reason to have the information printed, as you can see from this screen shot, windows only displays the icon for PES Design, and cannot read the image, I now have so many designs, both those I purchased and many more that I have created myself, that it is difficult to remember what they are without the printed page, showing not just the image, but also the name of the file.

It is also not just advisable, but strongly recommended, that you sew a sample of each design before applying it to the finished item. I have mentioned before that I have allocated a relatively new queen size set of sheets for this purpose. The sheets turned out to be very uncomfortable and after establishing that three washes didn't improve their comfort level, they were re purposed. I now have literally dozens of small scraps of sheet, with stabilizer backing applied and sample designs embroidered on.

It doesn't make sense to not save these because I know that I will quickly forget if I have already tested a pattern, but by keeping the sample together with the color chart and file name, I can quickly access patterns I have already tested.



For this purpose I purchased a large three ring binder and 20 x 4 pocket pages, plastic pages with pocket the perfect size for my samples, the pockets claim to hold up to 4" x 5.5" cards or photos, and I am sure they do, but they also hold my samples.




When I purchased my embroidery machine I was not at all sure that I would get full value from it, so I searched for a bargain, rather than spend a huge amount of money on a top of the line machine. One of the main things you pay for in an embroidery machine is the hoop size the machine can utilize. My machine is wonderful, was a great bargain at under $300. That was 25% off, but the hoop size is 4" x 4", not very big but a perfect size to fit in these pockets.




Now I can store the samples, together with the printout of the design and color chart, so not only are they not scattered all over my sewing table, they are also easy to find when I need them.





However, I see storing the print out as a temporary measure. I find it very hard to justify wasting paper and therefore I am working on a plan to store all this information in a spreadsheet, where I can have an image representing the design, the color chart and the path to where the design is stored on my computer, and I can also indicate whether or not I have a sample already stored in my binder.


I can access this spreadsheet directly from my computer when I need it, and therefore no longer use precious paper for this purpose.









Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Anti Fatigue Mats

I absolutely love tiled floors, and my second choice is wood flooring - the best of both worlds it what I have, wood - actually even better, bamboo flooring in the living areas and tiles on the kitchen, bathroom and entrance floors. The tiles are porcelain, but nonetheless they are hard on elderly feet and legs if you (me) are standing for long periods, which I do because I so love to cook. And, love less, cleaning up after a meal, but oh! I am so anal about keeping my kitchen clean.

Enter the anti fatigue kitchen mat. A cushioned mat placed strategically where the most standing is done, by the sink, the stove, the fridge and, in our case, in the garage by the second fridge and the workbenches.



When we first moved into our newly remodeled home we bought, what we considered to be expensive, anti fatigue mats from Home Depot. They were study, and while not aesthetically pleasing they were functional.



My husband is actually much more anal than I am and very quickly he was unhappy with the way that the mats were wearing, the problem was that the color was wearing off. He wanted to paint them, but luckily he is anal enough that he wouldn't use just any paint and could not find the paint he would trust - the paint I would trust doesn't exist, I am sure of that.


We were in Costco one day and saw anti fatigue mats for an incredibly low price, can you say 'you get what you pay for'? we bought two knowing we were taking a $13 dollar chance - we have gambled with more than that and lost, and we pretty much lost our $13 dollars.




They worked for a few weeks, but very quickly the corners started to curl up and they became more of a danger than a comfort. We moved them to the garage, where upside down they worked beautifully in front of the refrigerator there.



So the search was on for something to replace them. We found some mats on our favorite Amazon, they looked perfect, a nice wedge shaped edge that wouldn't curl, the cost no longer looked expensive at $35 each, in fact that looked pretty good.

What color? the choices were relatively varied: slate, tan, espresso, black.. of course, they had to be fancy names but we were smart enough to be able to translate them into real colors and decided on the tan as (in my opinion) that would blend well with our decor, for my husband the criteria was that would not be offensive.




When they arrived I was somewhat disturbed to discover they had a snake pattern finish. I am averse to killing animals for their skin but of course this was plastic so I decided to give it a try, and definitely it was comfortable to stand on and it did blend in with the decor.





We now have to wait to see if these work in the longer term before we get two more and dispose of the second choice that Larry will paint if we don't.






Monday, April 7, 2014

Unexpected

When I finally gathered up the courage to publish my first book, Peeling the Onion, I thought that would be the end of the road. I had written most of it over a period of about 5 years, in a series of essays rather than one continuous story. I revisited it, at first fairly frequently to flesh it out, pare it down or just correct typos. I 'published' the stories on my personal website, where it sat, if not forgotten definitely neglected. Then I revived it, refreshed it and posted it on a blog, finally I self published it after much encouragement from my family.

The book relates some of the major experiences in my life, or at least, the events that made the most impression on me, as true as my memory and perception allows, any untruth is more by omission than distortion of facts. I saw no reason to dwell on topics that might be painful or unkind to others. And, naturally, there were long periods in my life that were absolutley not worth writing about. Most of the book was written as a form of therapy for me, and I suppose the fact that I did find sufficient belief in myself to 'go public' must mean the therapy worked?

But that was not the end of the road, it was the beginning of two new roads. The first, more obvious one, is the second book, which I am currently working on - in so far as I am researching my subject and arranging and rearranging my ideas in my head, soon it will be time to start the real work. But meanwhile, the second road was completely unexpected. As I watch the sales I wonder who is reading my book? what do they think of it?  I guess that is why well known authors do book signings, it is not just to sell books, it is to meet the readers and be in touch with who is buying and reading their work.

I never expected how much I need to know about the readers and what they think. And yes, of course I hope they like it and have nice things to say, but more so, I hope that they gain something, no matter how small, from reading it. I never did fully believe that we can't learn from other people's mistakes, in fact the older I get the more I believe we can, if we really want to. We may not learn their lessons, but we can take our own lessons from an other's experiences. So even if they don't like it, even if they have nothing but criticism, I still want to hear it so that I too can learn.

It surprises me how few people actually do give feedback. Of course, my family do and while I am very grateful to them for their support, I want to hear what friends, acquaintances and total strangers think about it too, which is why I am so grateful for the reviews I have received on Amazon.com and do hope that there will be more.

Now, time to get on with book number two.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Sisters

A recent 'like and share' image going around Facebook made me stop and think about how much my sisters mean to me.


I was exceptionally lucky to have two sisters, and even more so because one was older and one was younger. Both were outgoing extroverts and I was a total introvert and I was cushioned on either side by them throughout my life. Of course, I wasn't always aware of how lucky I was to have them. Like most siblings we went through periods of conflict. Sometimes with one, sometimes with both, but by the time we reached our teens we were very aware of how lucky we were. Now that we are 'a few years' out of our teens we are eternally grateful for each other.

The first time I really appreciated having an older sister was when I was invited to my first real party, that is my first boy/girl party. I was about 14 years old, I was a complete and utter tomboy and proud of it. An invitation to a neighbor's birthday party - a boy neighbor at that - took me by surprise. Of course I was aware that he was probably scraping the bottom of the barrel to make up even boy / girl numbers, but I was still bemused and confused. I suggested to my mother that I probably needed to consider moving from my bobby socks into hose for the occasion. She didn't consider that a good idea. Thank goodness my older sister took charge and insisted that not only should I have hose but also matching fashionable teen shoes. I do wish I could find a photo of my whispies. They were the absolute height of teen fashion back then. Leather slip on shoes in a multitude of pastel colors with a tiny heel, a pointed toe and a small strap across the foot just above the toes. I got my whispies in a soft orange shade.

Here is a photo of the nearest thing I could find, these are actually made by the same Whispies Shoe Company in the UK, no longer in business now. Imagine these are slightly lower, but the heels are as narrow, my shoes were a slightly more orange shade, no bow, but a tiny thin strap across the foot with a tiny decorative buckle on. I felt so grown up.


Not only did my sister insist I had whispies and hose, she brought me up to the local drapery store and helped me to purchase my first pair of nylon stockings and garter belt. Sunbeam mystic tan nylon stockings, they cost 4/11 that is 4 shillings and 11 pence. And they made my legs so itchy I wondered how anyone could stand to wear them.

My sister helped me to pick out a suitable dress to wear and lent me her stiff petticoat, a big fashion item in the 50's, but the stiff nylon lacework added to the itching. She gave me very strict instructions on how to behave at a 'mixed party'. I was warned that I must never, ever refuse to dance when asked, no matter how I felt about it. It was rude, and we had been brought up to avoid being rude at all costs and no matter how my legs itched I should not scratch them, not only would I ruin my stockings, I would also look ridiculous. She also told me to find somewhere to sit or stand, depending on the way the room was laid out, close to another girl my own age and then to start talking. She knew that I was normally tongue tied and shy, so she stressed that it didn't matter what I said, just not to stop talking.

Apparently I had a very high regard for my sister's wisdom back then, as I do now, because I did exactly as she instructed. Avoiding scratching at my itchy legs, I found a spot beside a pleasant looking girl my own age and started talking. I have no idea what I said, but I picked the perfect girl and in no time at all conversation was no trouble. Her name was Caroline Gill and we remained firm friends for a number of years after and the party was a portal for me from childhood to teen, thanks to my sister.

Two years later it was my younger sister who guided me through my first Saturday night teen dance. In Ireland when I was a teenager, local tennis clubs held dances every Saturday night, they were called Tennis Hops and I have no idea why. The Tennis part was simple enough, but the Hop part defeats me, we didn't hop, we jived and twisted. You will think that I was a slow developer, and I guess you would be correct in that assumption. I believe the minimum age for admittance to the tennis hops was 15. My younger sister was 13 and I was 16, she had been a number of times and never had a problem gaining admittance. Back in those days there was no ID. Your age was determined by the person taking your money at the door.

My sister wanted to go dancing and none of her friends were available to go with her, no decent girl went alone so she talked me into accompanying her. At the door I was questioned about my age and she was not, but she vouched for me and so they let me in.

I am just sorry that my daughter doesn't have a sister, I suppose not everyone can be so lucky.