Saturday, July 27, 2013

It's a Dog Eat Dog World . . . And I'm Wearing Milkbone Underwear!

While we're discussing the ever changing and evolving "me" . . .

You didn't know we were discussing that?  Then you missed my last post.

Ok - now that you're up to speed, here's another area where the "authentic me" may be counterfeit.  Dogs!

My see-sawing thoughts on dogs, including some excerpts from this very blog:

Me, at age 50: " I will never be over dogs.  Dogs are best friends, comforters, companions, healers, and much more."  

Me, at age 50 yrs, 2 mo. "With the addition of Gabby to our household, and the subsequent squabbling between the two dogs, I may be closer to “over it” than I thought". 

Me at 50 yrs, 5 months:  "I'm over them.  SO SO over them!  I will never voluntarily bring another dog into my home.  So just scratch this one off the list."

Me, at 50 years, 6 months:  We became temporary foster parents for a lost puppy and I got slightly attached.

Me, at 50 years, 7 months:  The Big Red Idiot Dog ate my nativity.  Not a good day for human/dog relations.

Me, at 51 years, 10 months:  We bought a camper and I actually made plans to take the mutts with us.  

Me at 52:  "They have all been loyal, loving friends and each time we lost one, I swore there would be no more - but a house without a dog just doesn't feel right."

Me - at various times over the past year,to daughter begging to get a dog: "Why would you want a dog?  Do you know how much work they are?  Do you know how much they cost?  Do you know that they tie you down?  Do you know that they have to go out to pee at 7:00 a.m., even if YOU didn't go to bed till 4:00?"

Me - at the Humane Society last week, helping said daughter, who obviously doesn't listen to her mother, select a dog:  "I want to take them all home!"

So what is my authentic feeling about dogs?  I love them -- in theory.  In reality -- not so much.  I hate dog hair in my house and on my clothes.  I hate dog hair in my car.  I hate having the dogs who shed the hair in my car, drooling in my ear and trying to climb over the seat.  I hate paying to board them when we travel, which we do frequently.  I hate not being comfortable having people over because we don't have a good place to separate dogs from guests.  I hate combining dogs and guests because the dogs become the focus of all activities and conversation.  I hate holes in the yard.  I hate being woken up by dog nails click-click-clicking on the hardwood floor.  The list goes on...

I love that we rescued Gabby from "death row" at a shelter and gave her a second chance.  But, to quote Ray Kinsella in Field of Dreams - "What's in it for me?"  I am struggling to answer this question, so I decided to poll some of my favorite dog owners and see what they get out of dog ownership.  Though their responses varied, they all centered around companionship and unconditional love.  And I understand those things - I really do.

We got our first dog on our first anniversary, at the same time we decided to start our family.  During the next seven years of infertility issues, that dog was our baby.  She filled my need to mother.  Once our children were born, I never felt quit the same about another dog.

There are other benefits.  I have been in a few situations where one or another of our dogs acted as my protector. Occasionally, when Dave is out of town overnight, I appreciate having company in the house.  But for the most part, Molly (Springer Spaniel) sleeps under the kitchen table and ignores everyone who is not offering to play fetch with her.  I've played enough fetch to last at least ten lifetimes.  Gabby-the-Big-Red-Idiot-Dog, makes up for Molly's indifference with her overwhelming, in-your-face attention.  She training to not express herself with such exuberance - but it's a time consuming commitment.  

Maybe I'm just getting old.  After all, I devoted twenty years to full-time mothering. Maybe I've reached my limit of caring for helpless creatures.  Maybe I'm just selfish and resent the time requirement and invasion of my space.  Whatever the reason, I'm "dog tired" right now. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Real Thing

"Authentic" seems to be the new buzzword.  Live your authentic life, find your authentic happiness, discover your authentic beauty.  Ok, those all sound like good things, but what, exactly, is "authentic"?  Mr. Funk and Mr. Wagnall say authentic means "Not false or copied; genuine; real."    Oh - real.  So maybe this isn't such a new idea.  Coca Cola was calling itself the Real Thing way back in 1969.

A quick search on Barnes and Noble found books on authentic patriotism, authentic faith, authentic leadership, authentic success, authentic education, authentic creativity and authentic power.  Have we really been faking all these things up to now?

The one phrase that did make me stop and think was "authentic self".  I don't know if it originated with Oprah, but her website defines it as "the you that can be found at your absolute core. It is the part of you not defined by your job, function or role. It is the composite of all your skills, talents and wisdom. It is all of the things that are uniquely yours and need expression, rather than what you believe you are supposed to be and do."

So, I asked myself, "Self, are you authentic?"  Self reminded me that I had written about that very topic two years ago, when I turned 50:  
       I am a Baby Boomer.  I am a registered Republican.  I was a stay-at-home mom.  I am a college drop-out. All of these statements are true and when you read them, you form a picture of me based on the stereotypes of those categories.  But that's not a complete picture - that's not really me.  
     For years I bought into the ideas of what I should be and what I should like based on labels and expectations.  Family has their own idea of who I should be, based only on history.  Every time we move, a new community forms their view of me with no history.  Few people have the complete picture, and I've spent a lot of years pretending to be what each of them expected, and apologizing when I wasn't.  But I'm over it.
     I'm over pretending to like "classic rock" because that's what's expected of my generation.  I'm over apologizing for listening to light opera and classical music.  I'm over apologizing for not having a "career".  I'm over dumbing myself down to not intimidate.  I'm over reading books I don't enjoy, just because they look intellectual on my blog.  I'm over being anything but me.
     The best friend I've ever had was a lovely lady named Wanda.  She took the time to ask questions and listen so she knew my history, plus she paid attention to what was happening now so she new my life - she knew me.  And she accepted that with no provisos.  That's a rare quality in a friend. Although she's been gone more than six [now 8] years, she left me with the knowledge that the true "me" is a person who is worthy of friendship, and that's the best birthday gift of all.
The problem is that the "authentic" me from just two years ago is no longer accurate.  For starters, I am no longer a registered Republican.  This is not the time or place to debate the reasons for that change, but it poses the question, "Does being "authentic" mean you can't change?  Is the real me today the same as the real me from 1982 wen we got married?  Or 1990 at the birth of our first child?  Or 2010 when we became empty-nesters?"

A young lady who was close friends with our daughter during their high-school years, recently told our daughter "You've changed."  I don't think she meant that in a positive way, but Amanda's answer was "I hope so."  At twenty-one, she is glad she's not the same as she was at sixteen.  But does that mean she was not being her "authentic self" in high school?  Wait, that's a bad example - no one is authentic in high school.  But you get my point, I hope.  

Let's go back to Oprah's definition.  My jobs and roles have changed many times.  I'm no longer a bank teller or a mother of preschoolers or a church pianist, so I agree, those things are not the real me.  I know my attitudes and opinions have shifted as I've gained life experience, so that can't be it.  What about my "skills, talents and wisdom" - the things that, according to that quote, are essential to the authentic me?  Of course they have changed.  The me of 1982 only knew how to cook three things and didn't have a clue about parenting. (Another bad example - I'm not sure I do now.) The me of 1995 was a more talented pianist than I am today.  And wisdom?  I am no more educated than I was in 1982, but I am certainly wiser!   

So I'm left with the definition of my authentic self as being "all the things that are uniquely me".  But what are they?  My love of books and reading has never faltered - from age five to age fifty.  Surely that must be part of the authentic me.  But my reading tastes have changed.  So is the real me a mystery lover or a fan of gothic romance?  Everything that comes to mind when I try to think of what is "uniquely me" is actually a composite of how I was raised, the choices I've made, the places I've lived . . .  classic nature AND nurture.

At fifty-two, I'm much more comfortable in my own skin than I have been at any other age, but sometimes I still catch myself downplaying some characteristics and emphasizing others, depending on the situation and the crowd. So is there really an "authentic" me?   Yes, there is. She talks too much and she likes to be alone, yet she rarely talks to herself.  She loves to be creative, but has no noticeable talents.  She likes to write, yet her posts tend to be rambling discourses on nothing.  And every now and then, she goes shopping . . . and usually comes home with a really gaudy accessory or a box of junk from a second-hand store.  

Sorry world, but that's me - the real thing.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Peas, Beans and Corn by Jennifer Wixson

Reading "Peas, Beans and Corn" is like "coming home to a place I've never been before."  The second installment of Jennifer Wixson's Sovereign Series brings back characters that are familiar and comfortable.  Her blend of history and romance creates an inviting story that makes you want to pull up a chair and listen awhile.  Devoid of today's artificial drama and narcissism, the Sovereign Series is a glimpse of old-fashioned graciousness, morality and charm."

This blurb is probably the best summation of a book I've ever read!  But that opinion may be a bit skewed since I wrote that blurb.  Yes, I'm famous!  Along with that tiny paragraph - found inside the back cover of Peas, Beans and Corn - I am mentioned in the acknowledgements of Jennifer Wixson's latest novel.  So clearly, it's all about me.

Well, ok, maybe Jennifer should get some (all) of the credit, since she wrote this lovely romantic tale.  This is the second of four planned books in the series (Hens and Chickens was published summer 2012.)  As I re-read my review of that book I noticed that the words I chose - honor, respect, simplicity and, most of all, charming - apply to the second installment just as well.

I frequently bemoan the lack of those values in movies, television and life-in-general.  Especially with the current turmoil in the world, The Sovereign Series is welcome chance to slip into a world where people care about their neighbors, promises are kept and the past matters. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Zentangles, my newest hobby obsession, are basically doodles on steroids.  I've been a doodler for years, but Zentangle takes the patterns I draw in the margin of the phone book while talking, and makes them into artwork.  The variety and possibilities are endless, as are the websites, Pins and books available.  I picked up this book, The Art of Zentangle by Margaret Bremmer, to get me started, but I have found plenty of inspiration online for free.

I have a long way to go to create some of the incredible drawings I've seen, but I'm having a lot of fun learning.  Here are some of my creations:
My first attempt - started with the bird outline

Started with outline of dress - lesson on more intricate patterns

Learned some lessons in perspective and shading from Art With Mr. E.
My favorite so far.  I love incorporating words into the Zentangle.
I hope this inspires you to try Zentangles.  It's the perfect summer passtime - fun, relaxing, easy to take with you to the pool, the baseball game, in the car . . .

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Needlework Tuesday: Vindication . . . of a Sort

Last week I hesitantly posted a picture of my experiment quilt block.  It was a disaster!  And, honestly, I was ready to give up the notion of ever being a "real" quilter.  But I had Friday off work, so I decided to give it another shot before setting fire to my batting. Block #2 is a long way from a home run, but at least it's in the ball park. 

Part of the blame for last week's fiasco falls on my tendency to get in a hurry, or to get frustrated and quit trying, so I set out to follow the instructions to the letter, take my time (I walked away frequently) and be precise.  However, there were two other contributing factors  - one easily corrected, one that continued to sabotage me. 

First was the presser foot I was using; more specifically, my assumptions about it.  I thought the tines (for lack of the correct technical name) of the foot were 1/4 inch wide, so keeping the edge of the foot at the edge of the fabric would give me a 1/4 inch seam.  Turns out it's just a smidge under 1/4 inch, and when you're dealing with one-inch squares, a smidge becomes an issue.  

The second factor was vague and/or incorrect instructions.  They actually encouraged a "scant" 1/4 inch seam, which is what I was doing unknowingly that caused things to not line up.  The instructions for the flying geese (the triangle pieces) assumed a more advanced sewer who had a clue.  You can see in the picture above that the points of some of the "mountains" are not right - the tips got cut off in the seam.  It wasn't until I was making the fourth one that I finally grasped what the instructions meant to say, and corrected my method.  The one at the top of the block (above) is perfect!

Here are the two complete blocks for comparison.
Block #2 (bottom) actually finished to the intended 12 inches.  Yea for measuring instead of assuming!  Because I only purchased a fat-quarter of each fabric, I had to shuffle the colors to have enough fabric for a second block.  Were I to make more of these blocks, I would use the top color combination, but I'm having serious second thoughts about attempting this right now.  For now, the two blocks will remain on my pin-board as a reminder of two famous quotes:
I think I can, I think I can . . . - The Little Engine
Slow and steady not only wins the race, it makes precise quilt blocks. - The Tortoise

Needlework Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Heather @ Books and Quilts.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Safety Pin Bracelet

Even though there's not a Pin It/Do It Challenge this month, I finally got around to trying a craft idea I found on Pinterest ages ago - a Safety Pin Bracelet.  The link on the pin is no longer good, but the picture instructions are self-explanatory.

I made my version in alternating rows of silver beads and blue/green/purple metallic beads.  I filled all the pins during one evening in front of the TV.  Threading and tying the elastic cord was a bit challenging.  With a nod to Demi Moore in A Few Good Men, I strenuously recommend a large needle for that job!

This is inexpensive craft.  I barely made a dent in the two tubes of beads, which cost approximately $2 each. I can't even guess the number of bracelets you could make from them.  The elastic cord and safety pins were also under $2 each.  It took 85 safety pins to fit my wrist, which is large, so adjust accordingly.  Here is my finished bracelet:

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Count Your Blessings . . .

Just some of the many reasons I love Green Acres in the summer:

Brave little Honeysuckle - trying to bloom even though it's too short to reach the trellis yet.
Variegated petunias
Wave Petunias - package said red, half bloomed purple
The hollyhocks are back after last summer's drought.

Best of all, the perennials shown, plus Peonies, Columbine, Surprise Lilies and a half-dozen lilac bushes were planted by the previous owner.  Each year we're a little closer to restoring her beautiful gardens.  I still want to uncover the brick pathways connecting the flower beds - now overgrown with grass.  Pinterest suggests vinegar to kill the grass between the bricks, but I haven't tried it yet.  Any other ideas for killing grass ONLY on the walkways?  Ideas other than me and a shovel?  Tried that one last year and gave up after about 3 feet.  All help appreciated.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Looking For Me by Beth Hoffman

Teddi Overman found her life’s passion for furniture in a broken-down chair left on the side of the road in rural Kentucky. She learns to turn other people’s castoffs into beautifully restored antiques, and eventually finds a way to open her own shop in Charleston. There, Teddi builds a life for herself as unexpected and quirky as the customers who visit her shop.  Though Teddi is surrounded by remarkable friends and finds love in the most surprising way, nothing can alleviate the haunting uncertainty she’s felt in the years since her brother Josh’s mysterious disappearance. When signs emerge that Josh might still be alive, Teddi is drawn home to Kentucky.  It’s a journey that could help her come to terms with her shattered family—and to find herself at last.  But first she must decide what to let go of and what to keep.

Book #1 from my Summer Reading List is complete, and what a great start! 

As happens occasionally, I find myself wondering if the person who wrote the jacket synopsis actually read the book.  While the blurb above is technically accurate, it does not do the story justice.  Then again, the best books defy description, so perhaps the magic of this story can't be captured in a few sentences on the cover flap - or in a blog review.

I was drawn to this book by the antique furniture angle and expected a "small town girl makes good in the big city" story, with a bit of a mystery (the missing brother), and some romance.  It is all that - but more.  Librarians are scratching their heads and wondering where to shelve this one.

You could actually remove the missing brother (if you can remove something that's missing - ?) and still have a good book, but his story "kicks it up a notch".  Josh's story is told in mainly in flashbacks, which I found odd at first, but revealing it in crumbs rather than chunks is part of what gives the story that indescribable "thing" that makes it special.  

I could try to tell you exactly why this is such a special book, but then you would be wasting time reading my poorly written thoughts when you could be reading this beautifully written book - which I highly recommend that you do.  

Looking for Me added two entries to my Favorite Quotes page:

About her best friend, Olivia - a specialist in book restoration:

Mirroring my passion for antiques was Olivia's strong relationship with books.  She devoured them and often read as many as five a week.  She hunted them down, mended their wounds, and brought them back to life.
And for the "been there" department:
My mother's eyes became watery and sad.  "Not all that long ago, I went to bed thinking I looked pretty good for my age.  I swear, when I woke up the next morning, a haggard old woman was staring back at me in the mirror." 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

"Independent" Thoughts . . .

 Our July 4th celebration started a bit early with an Omaha Stormchasers (AAA farm team for the Royals) ball game, followed by fireworks.  The bank that sponsored the display gave out "prism" glasses that added a kaleidoscope effect .

Our seats weren't bad - row 1, behind home plate.

Also this week:
The lettuce crop got a bit out of hand.  Salad anyone?
I took my first walk around the section for the summer.  That dot of white on the left side is Green Acres.  The strip of yellow on the right is a wheat field being harvested.  Only a half-mile to go!

The walk was worth the aching feet and - ugh! - sweat.

The ditches were full of lilies . . .

I met these ladies who, for some reason, made me think of my sisters and I
- 1 blonde, 1 redhead, 1 brunette.  Hope they don't mind the comparison.

And this was the reward at the end of the road.  Priceless!

Have a safe and happy 4th of July.
God Bless the USA!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Needlework Tuesday: Better Late Than Never

This weeks excuses for not getting much sewing done include a visiting father-in-law and moving from part-time to full-time at work.  In spite of those obstacles, I did manage to get two small things accomplished.

I made a trial block for the full-size quilt I'm contemplating - my first.  If you look closely - and please don't - there are some measuring and cutting issues relating to my math/fraction challenges and getting in a hurry.  It's a bit catty-wampus in places but, from a distance, I can still get the idea of how the colors work, and I'm happier with the combination that I expected.  I have enough fabric left to make a second attempt with more attention to the instructions and details.  I'll report back on how that goes and then I'll face the decision of 1.  Do I want to commit to a queen-sized quilt with the increased work commitment?  and 2.  If yes, do I want to adjust the pattern measurements a "smidge" to make those 9-patches just a hair less challenging?  I'm not sure I'm prepared for 1" squares, even using the strip-sewing method.  Maybe I just want to focus on simpler things like these place mats:

At least they will be place mats - as soon as I add some batting and backing . . . and quilting.  I have four tops put together and I hope to have them usable by supper-time on the 4th.  I'm not specifying what month.

Excuse #3 for my lack of sewing is a new obcession . . . uh . . hobby.  Zentangles!  Come back in a day or two and I'll show you what I've been up to.

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather at Books & Quilts.