Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Ornament I Always Look For

It was seventeen years ago last August. I was finally, happily pregnant with our third child. And then one morning I woke up to blood.

Not a lot. But for a happily pregnant mom-to-be, any is too much.

And so we went to the doctor, my husband and I. And the doctor and nurses hemmed and hawed, and said it was too early to tell, and tried not to leave us either too frightened or too hopeful. And they referred us to an obstetrician. Who hemmed and hawed and said, "It's too early to tell," took bloodwork, and told us to monitor things and, if all was well, to come back the following week for an ultrasound. (I marvel these days at how technology has changed.)

Later that night, the bleeding seemed to be subsiding.  But then I got the call from the nurse: My pregnancy hormone levels were far lower than they should have been, and this was really, really bad.  I needed to get off my feet and stay off for at least two weeks. No guarantees, but... This would give the baby the best (and perhaps only) chance.

(I later learned from the nurse that I was her first such call, and she wasn't sure how to handle it. "Should I tell her it will be all right?" she asked the doctor. "Oh, no," the doctor replied. "You can't do that.")

Two weeks of bed rest is easier said than done when you have a five- and a seven-year-old. But with the help of church friends, we did it. And the heartbeat on that ultrasound two weeks later was one of the sweetest sights I've ever seen.

But I had a hard time making plans. For the next few months, my mind was in limbo. I didn't want to buy anything, or make anything for the baby. Just in case.

Until December, when I painted this Christmas ornament. The hope ornament.

Every year, it is the one I look for.

(And how did the kid turn out? He's running half marathons. So you tell me.)

Monday, December 26, 2011

It Is NOT My Fault

I was sitting in the Christmas Eve service the other night. (A lovely, meaningful service. But it always is.) And the scripture reader started in with words from the prophet Isaiah,chapter 9, verse 2.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.

And immediately my Word Nerd mind, the part that Cannot. Stop. Editing. Ever. (seriously, it's a sickness) says, "'Shined'? I would have chosen 'Shone.'"

And then my brain is galloping off on a tangent, reflecting on the variants of the past tense of the verb "to shine" and when each is appropriate. (It's not that I'm by nature critical. Honestly. It's just that my brain can't stop tearing apart words and their meanings to see what's underneath, and then using the info to put the thoughts back together again.)

And then I realized what I had just done. Not only had I missed the entire scripture reading...

I had just grammar Nazi-ed the Bible.


Dear God, I am really, really sorry. But in my defense, you know that my brain is the way you made it.

I'll try not to let it happen again.

P.S. Upon reflection, I've decided that your translation was the right one anyway. So,y'know... Well done!

Merry Christmas!!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas At My House, Part II: The Gift Bags

I hate wrapping presents. HATE it. I always get done shopping and think, "Whew! Done!" And then realize, "Oh, wait, not really."

This year I have found the solution. I picked up a bunch of Christmas fabric for half price and am making reusable gift bags. Toss in the present, pull on the strings, slap on a tag, and done!  REALLY done. 

So far I've finished a couple of small ones and this big one.


Why does it take me to middle age to figure these things out?

P.S. This particular fabric is glittered. I mean really, really glittered. Which means that there is now glitter EVERYWHERE in my house. This morning I ran my fingers through my hair and it was like a glitter snowstorm.

Wonder if that's what it looks like when Tinkerbell gets dandruff?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Friday, December 16, 2011

Parenting Is Not for the Weak

Conversation between me and my 16-year-old after I found charred cardboard on top of my stove:

Me: Oh, by the way, congratulations on catching the burning top to the mac and cheese box before it burned the house down.

Him, grinning guiltily and giving me a thumbs up: Uh, yeah, thanks.

Me: Did it actually start to flame, or just turn black?

Him: Just turned black. Don't worry. We've had worse.

Me: Please don't tell me that.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Word Nerd and the Inner Thirteen-Year-Old Meet Again: Place Names

Best article of the Day:

Facebook Doesn't Recognize Town With Seemingly Offensive Name


“I’m a proud Effin woman,” said Kennedy, who is keen to connect with former residents. “There are other Effin people around the world, and they want to put down that Effin is their home town.”


The British Isles are littered with towns with seemingly offensive names, potentially paving a difficult path for online gatekeepers trying to stamp out vulgar language.

Appealing to a nation’s voracious appetite for puerile humor, Rob Bailey and Ed Hurst, the authors of the books “Rude UK” and “Rude Britain,” have compiled hundreds of names of places here that could be considered crass or boorish or just plain funny, including Crapstone, Slack Bottom, Golden Balls, Knob Field, Badgers Mount, Penistone, Foulridge and Ugley. (Of this random list, the last three are available as hometown options on Facebook.)

While the fondness here for double-entendres can’t be exaggerated enough, the names of many “rude” places date back hundreds of years to a time when no one would have sniggered at their mention, according to Bailey and Hurst. Foulridge, for instance, can be traced back to 1219 and alludes to “the place where fouls graze.” Pratt’s Bottom reportedly once referred to the bottom of the hill where the Pratt family lived.


I believe I speak here not just for myself, but for all my British ancestors and our "puerile humor" when I say: Come on, Facebook. Give these people an Effin break.

(Wait, was that the right word order?)

Word Nerd Note: The word "puerile" comes from the Latin word "pueriliīs," which means "childish." Which comes from the word "puer," which means "child," or "boy."

So now, when people chide you for laughing at "Slack Bottom," tell them it's okay. Because you're learning Latin. And how did they expand THEIR vocabularies today?

Monday, December 12, 2011

And We're Live!

My new website has gone live! (Still so much to do -- photos and patterns to search out, thoughts to put onscreen... But I figured better to go live now and construct it over time that wait till it was perfect. Which would be, y'know, never.)


My website devoted to making it easier to put "caritas" (love/charity) into our charity quilts.

I'll be trying to update at least the blog every couple of days. Quilters, I'd be honored if you'd put it on your blogroll.

Happy quilting!!

Monday, December 05, 2011

Sometimes It's Exciting to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

For the past few months, an idea has been germinating in my mind.

It all started with this blog post from my online quilting friend Nancy: "Quilts for Friends We Haven't Met Yet," about quilters who were troubled that quilts made for injured members of the armed services were referred to as "charity quilts." Here's a quote (but you should click on the link, because the entire post is worth a read):

The problem, as I understand it, is that quilts made for Quilts of Valor were referred to as "charity quilts" and, as such, carried an inference -- for some people -- of shoddy workmanship and/or inferior quality fabric. I didn't quite get it.

I make quilts to give to people I know and quilts to keep. I also sometimes make quilts to give away to people that I do not know, people who have had some sort of life-altering event and could use a little extra comfort. I think of those quilts as charity quilts, to differentiate from those I give to people I know. I use the same quality of fabric and degree of care in my work for all of my quilts. I wrote to a friend who was among the incensed and asked for clarification. I asked her, "What language would you suggest for quilts that are given away to needy individuals, to people we don't know, or to special causes? Charity means kindness, love, that kind of thing, doesn't it? When I hear "charity quilt" I don't assume inferior workmanship and cheap fabric. I think it is a quilt made for an unknown recipient out of love."

[...]isn't it a shame that such a fine word [charity] has morphed into something so shabby?

This post, of course, activated a lot of circuitry in my brain, both the quilting parts and the word nerd parts. Part of my response in her post's comments:

I see it both ways. "Charity" in our society has taken on a bad connotation -- it's bad to receive, and it implies the givers are somehow "better than."

Which is too bad, because as you said, the roots pf the word are beautiful. It come from the latin "caritas" which originally meant "preciousness, dearness, high price." Far from the "castoffs from the rich" meaning it's come to have. I believe there are also places in Bible translations where it has been used interchangeably with "love," right? (Hasn't 1 Cor 13:13 sometimes been translated as "faith, hope and charity"?)

Because yes, the servicepeople definitely deserve appealing quilts made with love and care. But so do the abused wives. And the foster kids. And the people undergoing chemo. And the folks in nursing homes. And I think the vast majority of quilters are loving, caring people who would agree with me.


A few months ago, our church started a little quilting group. There are about ten or so of us. And one of the things we do is make "charity quilts." And I have seen first-hand how difficult it can be to make quilts with eye appeal from donated fabrics that weren't originally selected to go together and frequently wouldn't have been my own first choice for a quilt. (Not that they're bad fabrics. It's just that my taste for my own quilts runs to pure, bright colors, and our donated fabric is generally a lot more grayed and muted.) I look at these fabrics and my mind blanks on how best to use them.

That's when the idea arrived: Wouldn't it be fun to create a website with tips and ideas for creating nice quilts for charity from donated fabric? A site to help quilters restore the good name of "charity," helping to push it back towards its original "caritas," or love?

My nephew-in-law introduced me to Weebly, the web design site for complete amateurs, over Thanksgiving. I registered my domain name last night. Since then I've been busily constructing my "Caritas Quilts" site.

It currently has a lot of blank pages and details to be filled in later, but it's coming along. Expect to see it go live later this week.

I'm so excited!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christianity 101: I'm Not Sure I Pass This Test

My husband and I have decided that is is much easier to love and support Jesus's "least of these" in the abstract.

You know. When their dogs aren't peeing on your garbage cans.

We live right up the hill from our little church. And like most church people, for better or worse, we can be a bit...a bit...territorial about our grounds. So when an old pickup truck with an RV attached appeared in our parking lot in the middle of last week and stayed, we were curious.

We got the story this weekend. The owner is a woman, probably mid-forties. Long blond hair and a cowboy hat, very friendly. Nowhere else to go. She shares the RV with her two dogs -- dogs she would have to give up if she were to go to a homeless shelter or transitional housing. (If that were even an option in these times.)

The church gave her permission to park overnight last Wednesday. As of last night she is still there, plugged into our electrical grid, popping into the church to warm up or use the facilities whenever the doors are unlocked. She's always cheerful and friendly and doesn't seem at all threatening. I mean, she waved a very cheery hello to my husband and me as we were heading into bell choir practice last night. (You know. As her dog was copiously relieving himself on that garbage can.)

Nobody seems to know quite what to do with her.

See, when Jesus said, "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me..."

Well, that's sometimes easier to do in theory. Or from a distance.

Like it or not, right or wrong, it's just a lot simpler to write a check to support established organizations who have established structures in place than it is to personally deal with all the ugly loose ends that pop up when you're dealing with actual, real-life people. What to do with the woman who continues to have children she is not equipped to deal with? Or the alcoholic/addict who will never manage to break free, and doesn't even seem to be trying? Or the man who has been convicted of a crime so heinous that you can't imagine even sending a card, let alone visiting him in prison?

Or (hypothetically speaking, of course,) the woman who waves a cheery hello as she takes up two parking spaces, runs up your electric bill, doesn't leave when she says she will, and lets her dogs pee on your garbage cans?

This Christianity stuff isn't nearly as simple as it looks on paper.

Maybe that's the point?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Kid Does What He Says He'll Do

He (the sixteen-year-old) said he'd do the half marathon in 1 hour and 45 minutes. We didn't believe him.

He did it anway.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My Dark Side Goes to the Gym

My son starts high school at 7:30 each morning. I've gotten into the habit of taking him to school and then heading to our little no-frills gym. I am frequently the first one there, since high school is the first school to start. (Never mind that if they were paying attention to high-schoolers' biology they'd be starting latest. That's another topic entirely.)

So I go into the gym, and, since I'm frequently the first one there, I can stake out my spot on the elliptical in front of one of the four TVs and get my own choice of programs.

I must admit that I've started taking a tiny, dark, sadistic pleasure in the fact that the girly-girls who come after me (who would probably prefer to be watching the "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills") are forced to watch my favorite programs till I'm done working out. Like, y'know, European Champions League soccer reruns. In Spanish. (And yes, I did know in advance this morning that Lyon-Ajax would end nil-nil.)

Sorry girls. (Except not really.) Consider it a character-building experience.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

When the Word Nerd Meets the Inner Thirteen-Year-Old

So earlier, I had my TV tuned to the French channel, TV5 Monde, as I awaited the soccer game between France and Belgium. With commentary in French. (Because seriously, what else would one watch on TV?)

As I was waiting, the channel played a one-minute clip from "Monsieur Dictionnaire". (Literally, Mr. Dictionary. As you have probably figured out.) And O! Rapture! It was all about French etymology, the origins of French words! Instant love!

Today, the word was "mannequin," which originally meant the same thing it means in English, but which has now evolved to mean "model," as in Tyra Banks. Or Heidi Klum. Whoever you people who pay attention to female stuff watch walk up and down the runways and catwalks at fashion shows. You know. While I'm watching soccer and reading about words.

I don't know what thrilled me more about the M. Dictionnaire segment: 1) That there is a recurring little program devoted to French word origins, 2) that I realized I can understand etymological discussions in more than one language, or 3) that they referenced my favorite statue of all time, the Belgian "Mannequin Pis," who never fails to give my inner thirteen-year-old a fit of the giggles.

(And if that's not enough, here he is dressed for the English crowd):

UPDATE: So the google ad thing that makes ads follow you around the internet based on what you've done elsewhere, like google searches? It is now offering me lawn statuary. Top of the ad? Mannequin Pis.

Um...seriously, Google? Just because I find him amusing in Belgium does NOT mean I want him in my back yard!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Parallel Play and the Stained Glass Log Cabin, OR: The Quilting Retreat

There's a phase in child development, usually found in kids under 3, called "Parallel Play." Kids in this stage like to play beside each other, in the same vicinity, and quite aware of each other's presence, but they don't actually play with each other.

This kind of describes a quilting retreat in introvert-friendly Seattle. At least in my cabin. (And as an introvert, I mean that in the most complimentary possible way.)

Everybody sits in a room and works on her own project, some listening to music or books on tape on headphones. Sometimes there's conversation, like the latest mystery book, or how the college football game is going, or even politics (since we all seemed to have the same political leanings.) But mostly it's just everybody cheerfully concentrating on whatever she is working on.

Without planning to, I somehow stumbled into the most hardcore cabin on the retreat, a small group of women who have been working together for 20 or so years. I knew I was out of my league when I picked up a book of complicated quilts involving lots of 60-degree angles (not an easy angle to work with), and said, "Oh, these are lovely." And the woman I had just met cheerfully said, "Oh, yes, we all have quilts in that book." Then she thumbed through it to show me all of the amazing quilts in that pattern made by my cabin-mates.

Toto, I was not in Kansas anymore.

Wonderful time, though, and I got so much done! Specifically, I brought this quilt from "In my head" to "Ready for borders, then quilting." Hope to have it done by the quilt show in March!

(Update, March 2012: Success! Finished the quilt! If you'd like the incredibly simple, easy pattern, click here and download it from my site for free.)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Where Did That B of A Debit Fee Come From?

How did that debit card charge come about? A little bit of history from a political and financial news junkie.

Let's go back a year or two, to the happy banking days, when debit card swipe fees were completely unregulated. B of A and the other banks were raking in the bucks by charging big debit card fees to stores and merchants for the privilege of accepting debit cards.

Obviously, the service isn't free -- costs to a bank are about 7 cents per debit card swipe.* And banks do deserve to make a profit. But on average, they were charging the stores 44 cents per swipe, which gave them about a 500% profit. (By comparison, if you put your own money in B of A today and buy a 12-month CD, you would get one-half of one percent interest. Just, y'know, for comparison purposes.)

How can banks charge that much? Easy. There is no competition because the market is run by a few huge companies. There is no way for newer, smaller companies to break into the business and offer lower debit card prices because the current service providers have a stranglehold on the market. So these few banks had all the retail businesses over a barrel. They could charge smaller businesses whatever they wanted for the privilege of letting customers use their cards, and the smaller businesses had to pay it.

So the retail businesses complained to Congress, which has the authority to regulate this kind of stuff. (But these days rarely does.) And in one of the very, very rare decisions Congress has made recently that benefits the overall country instead of the portion of the country with the richest lobbyists, Congress said to banks: "Stop. This is unfair and bad for the country's smaller businesses. Something closer to 70% profit is fair, so twelve cents a swipe is all you should charge." And they asked the Fed to create rules limiting swipe fees. Which it did. Kind of.

Of course, in the interim, the banks and Wall Street screamed bloody murder and went to their Congressional friends with their high-powered, high-money lobbyists and said they couldn't possibly earn enough money with only a 70% profit margin. They complained so much and so well that the Fed balked and refused to create the rule with the 12 cent limitation, so the bill was rewritten to allow banks to charge approx. 21 cents per swipe, or a 200% profit.*

But, according to B of A and other banks, that is still too low to let them make the kinds of profits they used to make. And they kind of have a point, because they were using those huge-profit swipe fees to make up for some really, really bad decisions made during the real estate bubble. Such as, oh, I don't know, actively seeking out borrowers who had no chance of repaying their loans and incorrectly assuming they could sell those loans to other suckers before the game stopped. (Bad decisions which got them tax write-offs for their losses and bailout money. Just sayin'.)

So B of A and other banks were now looking at the losses from their other areas and saying, "Wait! What about our profits?!? We want our 500% swipe fee profit margins back!" But the rules protecting merchants from these fees have already gone into effect.

So B of A says, "Hmmm. We may be limited in what we can charge the retailers, but the law doesn't say anything about what we can charge our own customers!!"

And the debit card fee is born.

The end.

Not happy with your bank? Read this article on why Credit Unions are better.

* There are several different reports I've read which give different average cost per swipe, profit per swipe, etc., and the results are situation-dependent and not at all straightforward. (Some list cost at 7 cents, some at 8. Some lists expected profit from the original proposed rule at 70%, some at 100%.) But everything I've seen is within a few cents of what I've listed here, so I've gone with the numbers I saw originally. For more in-depth reading, go:


Postscript: And of course Congress has been listening to the lobbyists and is trying to deregulate and remove all rules on swipe fee limitations. Again.

Friday, October 07, 2011

So True It's Not Even Funny

(Thanks, Katie!)

P.S. I won't hate you for disagreeing with me, but at least read this first. Keep in mind that these people used taxpayers' millions to get back on solid footing after crashing the world economy, and then gave their executives multi-million dollar bonuses.

For the record, Goldman Sachs took $10 BILLION in bailout money from US taxpayers to stay afloat. This allowed them to stay in business through the recession while still paying their executives multi-million bonuses.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sisyphean Punishment, Labrador Style

You know in Greek mythology, where the punishment for Sisyphus was that he be eternally sentenced to push a heavy boulder uphill, only to see it go crashing back down before he reached the top so he'd have to start all over again?

I'm thinking that the modern-day equivalent would be eternally Furminating a black lab.

And this person hasn't even gotten started.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pretty Sure Dylan Thomas Was From Seattle

And here we have the poet Dylan Thomas, discussing this time of year in Seattle.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Rage against the dying of the light? You know what he's talking about, Seattlites. The time where you dig out the SAD light and the Vitamin D, dust off the indoor exercise equipment, and repeat over and over to yourself, "Our three beautiful months of summer make it worth it. Our three beautiful months of summer make it worth it. Our three..." as you try to remember why, exactly, you used to get out of bed in the mornings.

Wait, what's that you say? He was talking about death?

Ah, well. Pretty much the same thing. Although Seattle winters are only nine months long.

Related conversation with a friend from Boston:

Me: blahblahblah SAD light

Friend: A what light?

Me: SAD light. You know? Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Friend: I had never put that acronym together before.

Me: You are OBVIOUSLY not from Seattle.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Monday, September 12, 2011

On Woolly Caterpillars. Which Are Really Alpacas. Or Something

Confession: I have a very tangential brain. I'll see something, and it will remind me of something else, which will remind me of...

Well, you get the picture.

And so it was with this NPR article on Gypsy Moth caterpillars. (It's actually about a virus that infects Gypsy Moth caterpillars and is a very interesting read. Go ahead and click. You know you want to.)

But that got me thinking about the caterpillars I always see on the trails around here -- the black and red fuzzy ones that look like pipe cleaners. (Remember pipe cleaners, oh fellow citizens of a certain age?) I had always assumed they were called "Woolly Caterpillars," but I'd never actually seen anything written to that effect. And so I went to google images and did a search for, yes, "Woolly Caterpillar."

And found this, my friend from the trails.

Which, according to the article it came with, is not a Woolly Caterpillar, but a Woolly BEAR Caterpillar. Which can, according to wives' tales, foretell the severity of an upcoming winter. (For an article on whether this is true, click here. Because seriously, I have nothing better to do than give you more ways to throw away your life.)

But what I also found, whilst googling pictures of caterpillars, was this. (Go here. It's much better in context.)

I don't even want to tell you how long it took me looking at the little thumbnail-sized version of that photo to figure out I was looking at an entirely different species.

I need more coffee.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Why Did It Never Occur to Me to Put This on My Bucket List?

Unusual thing about me: I once helped catch a rattlesnake.

More unusual thing about me: I kind of liked it.

What happened was, I was leading a camp over in Eastern Washington, which is where the rattlesnakes live. (Here in Western Washington, I don't think we have poisonous anything.) But over there, they do get the occasional serpent, so the advice they give to all new campers is: If you hear the rattle, walk away and find the camp manager.

And of course I took this advice about as seriously as I take the in-flight "In case of a water landing, your seat cushion can be used as a flotation device" stuff. But then, one evening, we were walking up to the dining hall for dinner when a couple of the kids came running up and screaming they'd heard the rattle. Then we all watched as a snake, about 2-3 feet long, slithered over to the base of a pine tree and curled up there.

One of my young adult leaders sent a camper to get the camp manager, who arrived quickly with a broom and a large plastic garbage can. He sent the kids on up to the dining hall, and my leaders were quite eager to make sure those campers got there. (I'd thought that since I was a mere civilian and they were there working all summer at the camp, they -- particularly the big, burly 6'3" guy -- might take the lead in helping to catch Mr. Snake.

So it's me and the camp manager. He turns to me, hands me the garbage can, and says, "Would you mind...?"

So I'm standing there with my big blue garbage can, and the manager explains that I'm supposed to turn the can on its side. He'll poke the snake with the broom and urge it in my direction. My job is to make sure the snake enters the can, and then to flip it upright to trap him inside. Which meant that at some point I was going to have to be leaning over my tipped-over garbage can with my hand a couple of feet from where my three-foot-long friend the snake would be entering.

(Fortunately I didn't have time to think of these little details until it was all over. When there's a crisis? Do now. Think later.)

And that's how it went. Poke, rattle, wriggle, hiss, flip, and the snake was inside the upright garbage can and not at all happy about it. (For the record, rattling and hissing can really resonate inside a plastic can.)

Dave, the manager, put a lid on the can , then loaded Mr. Rattler into the back of the pickup to drive him up the canyon for release.

And I was left standing there in the dust thinking, Wow. I just caught a rattlesnake. That is SO COOL!

It never would have occurred to me to want to catch a rattler, but now that I've done it? I'm pretty dang proud.

This was not my snake. Actually, this is apparently two snakes.

Also, if you have any kind of snake phobia, I would highly recommend not doing a google image search for "diamondback rattlesnake."

Friday, September 09, 2011

Because Nothing Says "I'm a Follower of Christ" Like ...

My husband -- a guitarist at our church who loves to play praise music -- was recently listening to our local Christian radio station, Spirit 105.3, when an ad came on for The Bravern.

You know, Seattlites. The Bravern. The self-described "prestigious" mall created for the obscenely rich, where parking areas aren't listed by a simple Red, Green, or Blue. (Because that's so...proletarian.) Oh, no, Bravern shoppers park in Ruby, Emerald and Sapphire. Seriously.

And of course this mall advertises on a Christian station. Because hell, yeah, nothing says, "I am a follower of Christ" quite like an Adrienne Landau cropped silver fox jacket, only $6975, worn above $995 Valentino Jewelry-Bow Couture d'Orsay pumps.


Seems like a very good time to revisit our social justice haiku:

In Jesus's Time
Camels were really teeny
and needle's eyes HUGE

Friday, September 02, 2011

Quilter's Block Recovery -- my Fall Flower Flimsy

For most of this year, I've had Quilter's block. NOTHING captured my attention or tickled my fancy.

Then I saw a quilt with some flowers that looked striking but not that hard. AND I had just bought some incredibly bright 10" fabric squares that I had no idea what to do with. So my Fall Flower Flimsy was born. (Non-quilter, a "flimsy" is a quilt top that still needs to be quilted.)

The 10" fabrics weren't quite 10" (grr, although the online fabric store did replace them, so Yea!) Which left me cutting the flower blocks down to the odd size of 9 1/4" It worked, though -- no problems fitting everything together. The triangles on the flowers were sewn with the "slap on a square, sew corner-to-corner, then cut the excess" method. Bigger green ones were a 2.5" square, yellow/red centers and smaller greens were 1.6"

This left me with twelve VERY bright flowers. To make the bright fabrics play nicely together, I added the green and black sashings to tone things down. The black is almost all 1" strips I had already cut for Seattle Streets quilts, and the green is leftover backing I've been looking to use up. The black sashings finished to 1/2", the green to 1", the cornerstones to 2" square.

Now to figure out my NEXT project! Or else figure out how to quilt on my sewing machine to finish this one.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Word Nerd Speaks: Mural

There was an article in today's Seattle Times about a Seattle elementary school which painted a giant picture of a whale in the middle of the street to get the attention of drivers, reminding them that there are schoolchildren in the area.

Kids paint mural for safety

And my inner word nerd said, "Waitwaitwait, hold on a second."

Because if you're looking purely at the "where did that word come from" definition, a painting on the street/floor/ground is not a mural. Because the word mural originally meant "wall." Not even "wall painting" -- that meaning didn't come around until about 1850. Nope, "mural" just meant...wall. (It dates back to the 15th century or so and comes from Latin -- "muralia" -- with a pit-stop in France -- "muraille" -- before coming to English as "mural.")

And even in 1850, "mural" didn't mean painting. For a picture painted on the wall, people used the phrase, "mural painting." It wasn't until the 1920s that the "painting" part of it got dropped and left us with the meaning we have today.

So what is that painting on the street in South Seattle? I have no clue. There does not seem to be one discrete word used to describe artwork on the floor or gound.

Interestingly, though, if you start google searching, you'll find a lot of references to "floor murals." Which, based on original meanings, would mean "floor walls."

This expression (floor mural) kind of epitomizes the delightful way words and phrases skip over and around their original meanings to force their entirely new definitions into common usage.

Have I mentioned recently that I love words?

UPDATE: I'm still searching for an English word for floor art, but in my searchings I have found the Sanskrit word "Rangoli," which seems to describe the tradition of Indian floor painting as much as the art itself. Check out the designs -- they're quite cool!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Why Introverts Need Skype, Reason #5497: Articles About Bull-Semen-Related Traffic Jams

I am an introvert. I like people just fine, but in general I am happy being an introvert.

But there are days like today when you just kind of need to reach out and touch someone. You know. When you find articles like this:

Bull semen spill causes scare, closes highway

(Reuters) - A spill of frozen bull semen bound for a breeder in the state of Texas triggered a scare on Tuesday that temporarily shut down a U.S. interstate highway during the morning rush hour.

The incident began when the driver of a Greyhound bus carrying the freight alerted the fire department he had lost a part of his load while negotiating the ramp on a highway near Nashville.

"We didn't know what it was, but we were told (the canisters) were non-toxic," said Maggie Lawrence, a fire department spokeswoman.

When firefighters arrived on the ramp, they saw "four small propane-sized canisters (that) began to emit a light vapor," Lawrence said.

In addition to the vapor, the canisters also let off an unpleasant odor and the ramp was closed while emergency personnel tried to determine what was in the containers.

The bus driver turned around to retrieve the canisters. Once emergency personnel learned the smoking canisters were nothing hazardous and that they simply contained frozen bull semen that had been stored on dry ice, Tennessee Department of Transportation and fire department workers cleared the ramp.

"It was no different to us than if a mattress fell off a truck," said transportation spokeswoman B.J. Doughty.

Resulting conversation with a fellow introvert:

Laurie: Best headline of the day: Bull semen spill causes scare, closes highway

Friend: Best or worst?

Laurie: oh, best. definitely best.

Friend: "When firefighters arrived on the ramp, they saw 'four small propane-sized canisters (that) began to emit a light vapor, Lawrence said."
I'm sorry, what?

Laurie: I know, right? What kind of bulls were these again?

Friend: Yeah, bulls, or unicorns?

Laurie: If it were unicorns, I kind of doubt they would be shipped on Greyhound.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Twitter Humor

It's funny 'cause...


(Spotted on Failbook)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

On Camp, and Innocence Lost

I am a news junkie. Newspapers, news magazines, websites... I am there. So normally when an event like last week's massacre of innocents at a Norwegian camp would occur, I would be the first to know.

Not last week, though. Because, ironically, I was at camp.

Camp. You probably know it. The innocent place. The place where everyday cares slip away, and your most pressing thoughts are:

1) How can the ocean be so infinite?
2) How is it that I can feel God's presence here so much more than in real life?
3) How, exactly, does one get a mosquito bite on one's butt?

Probably the same thoughts experienced by those young Norwegians before they were gunned down (with American bullets) by a madman.

But the result of the irony of where I was when this happened is that I cannot think of this tragedy without imagining the faces of our campers on the bodies.

That one could be Amanda, the soccer fanatic. This one, Jake, the flirt. That one over there, he could be Cameron, the clown. If things had been different, all of them could be...they could be... They could so easily be our own kids.

Being at camp when something like this happens makes it impossible for me to depersonalize. Because these kids, theirs, and ours, are real.

My first thoughts, on hearing the news, were practical, the Bear-Grylls-meets-terrorist-attack kind: What would I do, at our camp, in a similar situation? Where would I go? Would I grab kids and run down the open beach, toward the tribal lands, where we would be safe quickly, but open targets to long-range weapons? Would I encourage them to go into the water, to swim around the point and towards safety into town? Or would I grab them and run into the woods? Onto the chapel trail, or the trail below the cabins, or the trail above the dining hall? All of which, eventually, lead to the single, only road to camp, which might or might not be safe?

And what about my own kids, who are there as leaders, there to protect the campers? Who would I, the mom, protect first?

It's an academic exercise, of course. It could never happen here.


My denomination, the one that runs the camp, has been targeted by Glenn Beck because of we are a "social justice" church -- one which believes that justice and dignity should not be reserved for only those with money and power. In many eyes, this makes us a target. And if the Norwegian tragedy shows anything, it is that all it takes for evil to be manifest in the world is for one deranged person to take a disturbed ideology and act on it.

In his 1500+ page manifesto, Anders Breivik, the Norwegian shooter, quoted Muslim-hater and Fox News sweetheart Robert Spencer 64 times. Sixty-four. Spencer claims he is innocent and this is not his fault. And yet he worked so incredibly hard to plant the seeds of fear and hate.

So many seeds.

I will return to camp next year, and my guess is that there will be some new security measures in place. With luck, they'll be like the ones implemented after the Catholic church sex scandal, subtle enough to protect us all without being too obvious to the kids who are there to experience God's love and creation while escaping real life.

In the meantime, I will pray for a longer-term solution: an end to the hate.

(Or at least an end to the public promotion of it? Is that too much to ask?)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Vat Vould Freud Say About ze Penguin?

My future son-in-law is a nerd in the best sense of the word. (And I live in Microsoftville, Washington, and used to teach chess to small children, so I know what I'm talking about.)

And so when I found the following article, I figured it had his name written all over it:

Batman Villains Psychoanalyzed by Mental Health Experts

In it, mental health experts who are attempting to de-stigmatize real mental illness take a look at the issues of fictional characters. The Joker, for example, shows symptoms of psychopathy (a personality construct) rather than psychosis (a mental disorder.) So he technically does not suffer from mental illness. Says one of the authors:

"Just because a behavior is aberrant or considered 'crazy,' it does not mean that the behavior is the result of mental illness."

And so I posted the link on Andy's Facebook wall. Got back the following response.

"I think I'd prefer to just classify them all as 'Evil Super Villians.' It makes punching them much less morally ambiguous."

Hmm. Can't argue with that.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Pretty Sure It's Because Seattlites Recycle

Conversation this week with a friend in Chicago. Who fortunately shares my sense of humor and would immediately do the same thing to me if the situation were reversed. Because otherwise, we probably wouldn't be friends.

Friend: Supposed to not drop below 90 this week.

Laurie: I just did 10 mile rollerblade. Mostly sunny, 66 degrees, light breeze, low humidity... Not that I'm trying to make you jealous. Or anything.

Friend: I am literally sitting here checking the weather to see which t-shirt to wear - as in how sweaty I need to prepare to be - before I walk into hell. 94, high humidity. I hate you.

Laurie: Then my work here is done.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Scandal! Scandal! (Unless you watch Fox News)

Wow! HUGE scandal at News Corp, parent company of Fox News. Phone hacking on what Newsweek described as an "industrial" level -- 4,000 people -- not just royals and the famous, but of average joes and crime victims as well. (Including probable attempted hacking of 9/11 victims.) Arrests all over the place, and the head of Scotland Yard just resigned after it was discovered that the people who were supposed to be investigating law-breaking at News Corp were instead on their payroll.

If this keeps up, I fully expect that Fox News (which has been oddly silent about the whole deal**) will suddenly discover that the Black Panthers and ACORN are using Weiner photos to impose Sharia law.

(Because, of course, the best way to draw attention away from your own lack of ethics is to create and attack an imaginary boogeyman.)

You heard it here first.

** Actually, Fox News has not been completely silent. Fox and Friends have, inexplicably, tried to make this about "hacking," comparing themselves to B of A and Citibank. Who they're EXACTLY like! Except for the tiny little detail that News Corp were perpetrators of hacking and B of A and Citicorp were victims. Minor, minor difference: B of A was hacked. News Corp hacked.

But then again, verb tenses never were these people's strong suits.


And, because I can never resist a Word Nerd afterword:

Rebekah Brooks, former head of News Corp's newspaper business and most recent arrestee, as well as close personal friend of Prime Minster David Cameron, is being described as News Corp head Rupert Murdoch's "protégée." The word protégée (feminine form of the word "protégé")comes from the French verb "protéger" which means "to protect."

Which Murdoch did, right up to the point where he needed to throw her under the bus to save himself.

Bummer to be you, Rebekah! Might want to choose your protector a little more carefully next time!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Happy Bastille Day!

(Just kidding, France. We in the US always care about another excuse to blow things up.)

In related news, The US Women's soccer team celebrated Bastille day a day early by vanquishing the French women, despite the fact that the French were a much more polished and technical team. Which, come to think of it, kind of describes US soccer in a nutshell.

Up next, on Sunday, the Women's World Cup final match with Japan. If you're not yet on the bandwagon, you should be.

U!S!A! U!S!A! U!S!A!

(Will post more real posts soon, I swear.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What a Difference Two Years Make

Two years ago, it was cancer surgery and preparing for chemo.

Now it's graduation and preparing for a job. (Yes, he DOES have one! Can I get an Amen!! And not only that, so does his girlfriend!)

Cancer taught all of us a lot, I think. Things like

-- bad things don't just happen to other people
-- thank GOD for healthcare reform!! If it hadn't passed and he, like 85% of college grads, hadn't found a job with benefits, he'd be out in the cold for follow-up treatment.

And most important...
-- when a girlfriend goes to chemo treatments with you every day for hours on end when she could be out doing something else? She's a keeper.

Congratulations, Mike and Marie!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Money Management Training, One Stringed Instrument at a Time

My son has spent the last three years teaching the Chess Club at his old elementary school. It's a 1.5 hour commitment per week, plus all the stress of lesson planning, plus the added stress of trying to keep 30 kids occupied (if not focused) when the only room made available to you is the gym, which is normally a place for running and screaming.

But in the end, the money makes it all worth it. He just got his yearly paycheck of $400.

"That's great!" I said. "And the good thing is, unlike last summer, you don't have a choir tour coming up where you'll be tempted to spend it all."

"Yeah," he agreed with a sigh, "It's funny how it adds up. I didn't think I was spending that much, but, y'know... A latte here, a ukulele there..."

It is true. I hear that ukuleles have been the financial downfall of many a strong man.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

"How to Play Strip Soccer"

First off: I, myself, (my middle-aged self) have absolutely no desire to play strip soccer. And for this the world is grateful. But, because I have YET AGAIN had my blog discovered by someone using the search string, "How to play strip soccer"?

Well, what can I say? I am nothing if not accommodating.

For the record, the reason my blog originally popped up for this search was because I talked about both quilting with fabric strips and soccer. Little did I know. And I found it so funny that I wrote about it, using the actual phrase "strip soccer." Which means that now this blog is pretty much the go-to place for all things strip soccer related.

My mother would be so proud.

But in the years since the original google search, I have unintentionally (and not altogether willingly) come into possession of actual knowledge on how to play strip soccer. And, because I am starting to feel guilty at having nothing in this blog actually relating to strip soccer for these google searchers, I am going to share it with you.

(No, don't thank me. It's what I do.)

Are you ready?

This comes to me via a friend who just happened to be in a bar watching the Netherlands-France game from Euro 2008 when a guy walks in and says he is going to remove one article of clothing for every goal Netherlands scores.

Now, normally in a situation like this, you are utterly safe. 0-0 is not an unusual score at the end of a soccer game. 1-0 and 1-1 are also common. Two goals is considered big, and three? Over the top. So when a guy walks into a bar and starts stripping down? You truly believe that it's no big deal.

Final score in this instance, however? Netherlands 4-1 France. And the guy was not wearing socks. You do the math. I hear there were some terrifying moments at the end, and the entire bar was rooting whole-heartedly for France.

And so, in summary, boys and girls who have arrived here googling "How to play strip soccer"?

Play at your own risk. Because one of the teams just might be a Netherlands.

Oh, and also? For the sake of the rest of us? Please play in the privacy of your own home.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Finally, he is gone

"I've never wished a man dead, but I've read some obituaries with great pleasure."
-- Mark Twain
-- Clarence Darrow

"Turn on the TV/Radio/Internet. Osama bin Laden has been killed by US troops in Pakistan! For certain, they have his body."
-- text from Andy, my future son-in-law

"Mission accomplished."
-- me, on Facebook

My sixteen-year-old son doesn't remember 9/11. He was in first grade at the time. He's studied a lot of world history this year, especially war history. He's looked at figures like Mao Tse Tung, Stalin, and Hitler, and he was reflecting on what it was that made Osama bin Laden so bad.

And so I described that morning to him. And I got to the part about the people jumping from the WTC, holding hands, to keep from being burned to death, reclaiming one last bit of control over their fates...

I remembered those people, and I started to cry.

Ten years later, that day still has this effect on me. Nobody who was not there can understand the feelings of helplessness, of impotence, that we all experienced. The "Oh, Lord, more? What's next?" that enveloped us as the attacks piled up.

And nobody who was a part of this country that day will ever be able to forget it.

The USA! USA! chants and chest thumping from last night are responses I understand but don't relate to. I can never rejoice when someone dies. (Although I'm not going to judge the people who do respond that way. They have their 9/11 memories as well.)

But when it comes to this particular death?

I am certainly not sad about it either.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

All I Have to Say About the Royal Wedding

I cared about the Charles-and-Diana wedding. (Diana and I were of an age, after all.) And we all know how THAT turned out.

So I just have two things to say about this wedding:

1) Good luck, kids!

2) I want these:

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Real Person Underneath (Belated Easter Reflections)

He is tall, dressed warmly for our unseasonably cool Easter. His melodic accent suggests African origins. When we load up the car, he politely asks if it would be okay for him to take the front seat, as his legs are so long...

We are at Tent City, my husband and I, to pick up any residents who might want to come to our church's Easter charity dinner. Nobody can remember exactly when we started doing this dinner, but our best guess is 1992. Since then, in every year but one, our family's Easter afternoons have been spent at church -- serving food bank clients, the homeless, or people who just want someplace to go for company and a hot meal.

In a nice coincidence, Tent City arrived in town the day before. Their 100 residents are staying at the Catholic church down the street from our house. They will be here for three months.

This is their second visit to our neighborhood, three years after the first. There haven't been anywhere near the protests this time around that the first visit created. And nobody seems to see the need, this time, for the brigades of parents lined up along the streets to protect the schoolkids walking by who might be damaged by their proximity.

This time around there were no angry town hall meetings where solid, middle class types refer to Tent City residents as "those people." The feared crime wave never materialized last time, and the churches have managed to hold onto their right to help the homeless on their own property. This time around, the Tent City residents are our neighbors, if only for three months, and I am proud of my city for this.

There are five other people in my car as we head down the hill toward my church. It is not a long drive; we live in the older section of town, where everything is centrally located. On our one little hill there are seven churches.

As we drive, I make small talk with the man next to me. His name is "O," and he is originally from a small country in southern Africa. He moved here for college, he says, a well-known university in the southwest. We discuss that state for a moment, and he explains to me which universities are located in which towns.

"What did you study?" I ask.

"I studied engineering."

"Oh," I say, "my daughter's fiance studied engineering. Mechanical. What kind did you study?"

"Nuclear," he said. "I am a nuclear engineer." I am surprised, of course, but work hard not to show it. And so we talk about nuclear power, and about the economy, and about how the Japanese nuclear crisis has damaged the prospects for nuclear energy in the US.

And then we are at my church, and the conversation is over. I will never know the rest of the story, or how he, a nuclear engineer, ended up here, in a homeless encampment in Washington state.

A few months back I was at a meeting, preparing for another trip into the women's prison with an ecumenical prison ministry group I belong to. The scripture for discussion that day was Matthew 25: "For I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me something to drink..."

One of the women in the group asked the obvious question for these times: "So does this mean we need to give money to every homeless person on the street who asks for it? What if they're just going to use it for drugs or alcohol?" I have known her for years, and she is a good person, but her tone is mildly dismissive -- a tone I think we have all heard frequently these last few years.

What I said, the first thing that came to my mind, was, "I think that what it means more than anything is that when we view people in any circumstance, we need to be sure that as Christians we try to see the humanity underneath."

I said it firmly. I even meant it.

Yet I don't always do it. Sometimes it's so much easier just to look away. To turn towards our own safe and comfortable lives and deal with our own small problems, to cocoon ourselves away from people who are not like us.

It's easier. But that doesn't make it right. As Christians in America, we need to go out of our way to put ourselves into situations where we will be reminded of this.

Even when it's just a short drive down the hill.

As the dinner ends, the Tent City residents head toward the car with my husband. (Except for the three who don't need to get back immediately and volunteer to stay to help clean up.) "O" seeks me out specifically to say goodbye.

"Thank you very much," he says, reaching out to shake my hand with quiet dignity.

"I hope we'll see you again," I say.

And I mean it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Happy Passover!

To any Jewish readers out there, Happy Passover!!

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Pressing Problem (OR: Seattle Streets with Muslin)

Look! Look! (But don't look too closely.)

Since I made my first Seattle Streets quilt four years ago, I've been wondering what would happen if I went with muslin -- for a mosaic tile look -- rather than black for a stained glass look. I tried it out this week, and this is what I came up with.

I really like it, but... Wow. The piecing is awful! Very crooked and puckered. Although technically I think it may be the pressing that's awful.

In quilting, you generally press seams toward the dark side so that they don't show through the lighter fabrics. This means that when I use black, the seams get pressed inward. In this top, with the lighter fabric, I pressed them outward instead, and I am shocked at how differently they behaved! Trying to control these seams and make them go in straight lines was like herding cats. Maybe it's just a question of experience, though? It did seem to be working better toward the end.

I still like it, though. (And the fabric itself is very pretty and spring-y. Click on the photo to see it better.) I'm going to add borders, then quilt it closely with cotton batting, then wash it in hot water to shrink it. That way it will look like I PLANNED for all the puckers!

(Aren't I ingenious?)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Of COWs and Copyrights

My blog-friend Nancy enjoys posting the occasional COW complaint. COW being "Cranky Old Woman." (And if you like my blog, you should check hers out also. We have a lot in common, both of us being progressive -- i.e. relatively liberal -- Christian quilters.)

I am not old, of course. I mean, I'm barely middle-aged. (Assuming I'll live past ninety-eight.) But "Cranky Middle-Aged Woman" doesn't acronym very well, so for today I'm a COW.

My complaint is not an earth-shattering one. This is not earthquakes and tsunamis, or war, or hunger. On a cosmic scale, it's infinitesimal. But it frustrates me.

Have you ever gone through the creative process, creating something that is unique and interesting and entirely new? The process goes something like this.

1. Need/desire. "I wish I could..."
2. Analyzing the possibilities. "I wonder if...?"
3. Zeroing in on the most likely. "Could this one be...?"
4. Trying it out. "It just might work..."
5. Ironing out the bugs. "If I do it this way instead..."
6. Success! "It worked!! Hallelujah!"

Finishing the process to come up with something new and unique is very much like going through childbirth, I think. It leaves you feeling proud, and exhausted, and incredibly possessive. And so it was for the only quilt pattern I've ever created, Seattle Streets.

This was not an easy pattern to come up with, because it requires a way of thinking that's completely different from standard quilt thinking. (If you're a quilter and care, it requires you to look at piece measurements and seam allowances in an entirely different way from the usual. This makes the original thought process more difficult, because you're breaking the usual mold, but it makes the actual implementation much, much simpler.)

So anyhoo. I created this pattern four years ago, and went through a long thought process about whether to try and publish and sell it. I knew it had at least a fair chance of success because it was the three things a good pattern needs to be: a) striking, b) unique, and c) very, very easy. (She said humbly.) But in the end I decided that commercial success was less important than just getting it out there, plus there's kind of a standard quilting pattern format that I didn't feel like following. So rather than sell it, I turned it loose online. I pointed out in the written section that it was a copyrighted pattern that I was making available for free. All I asked was that people remember (and be sure others knew) that this was my pattern. Mine. (Remember that "possessive" part?)

In other words, I gave most of it away. The only thing I kept for myself was the name: Seattle Streets. And the name was important. Because the name was what linked my baby, the final result of the creative process, to me, Laurie.

Fast forward. I've done a couple of revisions to the pattern over the years, and it's gradually made its way out into the real world. I get probably thirty hits a week on this blog looking for the quilt, and I get the occasional email with photo from quilters who've actually made it (which always make my day.) I have no idea how many times it's been done, but it doesn't matter. My baby, Seattle Streets, is out there in the world, being loved.

The only minor issue is that the pattern, as I wrote it, is very flexible. And by "flexible" I probalby mean "non-specific." It does not say, "Cut three 3" strips of Color A and two of Color B" because that's not the way my brain operates. But it is the way some people's brains operate, and so when a left-brained, analytical quilter offered to put together some numbers in exchange for teaching the quilt in a class, I said, "Sure."

Last night I got an email from her. Her class is coming up this weekend. She offered to send me a copy of "the pattern." Which seemed a bit odd. I already have a copy of the pattern. MY pattern. Then I clicked on the class website she linked to, and not only has she created her own pattern, she has renamed it as well -- a name that has no relation to the real name, Seattle Streets. (Although she did say, "Also, you will be able to see that I gave you big credit kudos.")

So I am apparently mentioned inside the class handout, but the photo on the website (a website which belongs to a major quilt company, which schedules the classes) lists an entirely different name.

The COW awakens.

First I politely expressed that I was "troubled" to see my pattern listed by another name, even with kudos, given that this is a violation of my copyright. (Yes, patterns given away free are still copyrightable. This is MY pattern.) I asked that she change it. She blithely responded that with the class this weekend, it's too late for that. But she'll be sure to give me credit.

The COW becomes enraged.

My email response was not particularly nice. It contained sentences like, "You are in violation of copyright. For you to treat this pattern as if it is a product of your own creativity by renaming it is both an abuse of my generosity and a violation of the law."

I know, right? What can I say? Don't tick me off.

But I look at it like this: you can take my kids shopping and buy them clothes, but this doesn't make them your kids. Same for creative stuff. Even when she figures out numbers in a way I chose not to, this is still my pattern, Seattle Streets.

I know it probably doesn't seem like a big deal to most people, but again, when I made the choice to make it widely available, all I chose to keep for myself was the name -- a name that would be linked back to me through things like google searches. When that name is taken away, so is my connection to my own creation.

Does that make any sense at all? Or do I just sound like a crazy COW?

So, in the end, she apologized for handling it this way but said she has no control over the website. She will be sure that all written materials very explicitly mention the quilt name and my name, and that all particpants in the class (30 in all) know that what she has given them came originally from me. And she's pretty sure that the link to her class with the photo listed under the other name will be taken down after this week's class.

In the end, I am not a happy bunny, but this probably doesn't reach as far as "legal issue," especially given that there aren't any real monetary damages. (I mean, I gave it away for free!)

So what do you do?


Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Dear Paul Ryan: (UPDATED)

To the Honorable Representative Paul Ryan, R-WI

Dear Mr. Ryan:

Even though I am a Democrat, I am extremely glad that you have brought up the issue of entitlement reform, especially Medicare reform. Because anybody who's been paying attention knows that the current system -- all payments and no cost controls, as my generation, the Baby Boomers, prepares to retire -- will eventually bankrupt the nation.

Here's what I don't get, though. You're proposing eliminating the current extremely efficient government-run Medicare system (3% overhead) and replacing it with free-market private-company insurance, which averages 20-30% spent on overhead and profits, including millions in pay for health insurance executives. Yet you're saying the overhaul will save the government trillions.

So where's all the extra money for the private company overhead and profit and executive pay going to come from?

Oh. Right. My pocket.

Sorry, Paul. Try again.



UPDATE: Just found this very interesting chart. Note how expected government spending goes down only $600, but expected healthcare spending per person goes up almost


?!?!?!? Yeah. That's what I'm talking about.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Pretty Sure That Being 98% Dead is an Acceptable Excuse for Not Recycling

A couple of years ago, my husband, a native Pacific Northwesterner, had to go to some training at his company's Dallas office. The first morning he was there, he had a Diet Coke. When he finished, he asked the guy in charge, "Where do you guys put your recycling?"

The guy gives him The Look and says, "We don't do that s**t here."

All righty, then.

This attitude is entirely foreign to Seattlites. Because we DO do that s**t here, in a fairly big way. Recycling of pretty much everything is curbside and included in the cost of your garbage pickup. So we go out of our way to try to make sure that most of the things that can be recycled are recycled.

But not this week.

See, what happened was, my family was in Disneyland, where we played a fun and exciting new game called Influenza Tag! First my youngest son, then my husband, then my daughter and her boyfriend, and finally, the day before we came home, me. Chills, aches, fever, cough, the whole deal. Sick to the point where, once we got home, lying on the couch listening as my husband went through the mail made me want to scream at him to PLEASE STOP the excruciating assault on my eardrums from the rustling paper!

So what I did when I got home was stagger into the kitchen and, being the mom, took a look to see what had gone over since we'd left. And that included the 3/4 gallon of milk. Which was definitely bad. Seriously, gag-inducing bad. And I should have dumped it down the sink right then and there, but instead I set it on the side of the sink to keep anyone from drinking it, made sure the cap was on tightly, and staggered to bed.

(Not sure what I was thinking. Maybe I had images of the Milk-Dumping Fairies sneaking in to do the smelly deed while was asleep?)

But anyhoo. That was Tuesday. Today is Friday. I am starting to imagine that I might be able to picture a time when I might someday feel almost human. So I wander into the kitchen and...

Dang. The full milk jug is still there. Except now it's more than one color and bulging in a frightening way.

Pretty sure that being 98% dead is an acceptable excuse for tossing the whole thing gently into the garbage can.

Isn't it?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Seattle Streets from Sheila

From fellow quilter Sheila. (Have I mentioned before how much I love getting these emails and photos? A lot. Is how much.)

Laurie, Thank you so much for this pattern. I am sending two pics, one of the top and one of the blocks up close. I wasn't sure how much fabric to cut when I started so I ended up with enough squares for two quilts. I made the 15" block. I will take them to church and we give our quilts to either a benefit for a local person with health issues or to a girls ranch for teens in some sort of trouble. The ladies at church thought it looked like stained glass and really liked it. I started with 6", 5" and 4", but when I cut the first strips apart they were a little blah so cut up some 2" and 3", really made a difference. Thanks again, Sheila

The quilt:

Close-up, so you can see that this is made of prints, not solids like it appears in the larger photo:

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Hairdresser Dilemma

So here's my dilemma: My hair desperately needs cutting, and my hairdresser of the past ten-plus years is not calling me back. Two calls, when it's never taken more than one before. (Second voicemail I left was more, "Hope you're doing okay.")

This is a two-part issue. First and most important, I'm hoping she's all right. I wouldn't say we're close friends, but when you chat with somebody for forty-five minutes every six weeks, you bond. And the last couple of times I went in she was extremely stressed and depressed over a separation and pending divorce to the guy she's been with since high school.

I'm hoping she's fine, perhaps off with friends, maybe in someplace tropical. Which is a possibility. But when she's gone on vacation before, she's always changed her voicemail. This time she didn't -- the message is the same as it's always been.

Or maybe she's had the flu. Or maybe she's just busy.

I hope she's just busy.

And no, I don't think she's dumped me. (And isn't it funny how relationship terms tend to slip into talk about hairdressers? I've been with her a lot longer than some people stay married!)

It's interesting how seeing somebody regularly while not having an actual relationship with them limits your ability to check up on them when they're out of touch. You don't want to butt into their personal lives because you assume they're fine and doing great stuff without you, but...

I just realized today that I could call the salon she works at, since I've been calling her cell. So all day today I've been trying to figure out what to say. How do I make sure she's okay without being tactless? It would feel weird to say, "Is she all right? She's not returning my calls," if there is no issue and she's been seeing clients the whole time.

And then (much less important, and I hope you don't think I'm too shallow for even mentioning this), there is the hair issue. My hair is driving me insane, and she really is a wizard at taming my wayward curls and cowlick, and in the next month I'm doing some stuff that's going to require wash-and-wear hair. So I'm going to have to get my hair cut by somebody one way or another, and I have no idea how to do that if she's not available.

But mostly I'm hoping she's okay, and trying to figure out what to do to find out. That's my dilemma.

What would you do/say in my situation?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dear Egypt

(If your eyes are as old as mine, click on the picture to enlarge.)

From NPR.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Laurie's Prayer

A Facebook friend tonight was lamenting the hurtful actions of an elderly relative. My response:

I've recently found myself wishing that aging meant wiser, kinder, more thoughtful. Instead I'm finding that it just means that people become more of what they were before, for better or worse. Hugs and prayers to you and your family.

My prayer:

Dear God, as I age, please let "more of what she was before" be a blessing, not a curse, to the people around me. Amen.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

The Word Nerd Speaks: "Cahoots"

My favorite word today is "cahoots." No, it's not a word I think about often, but it was in the Seattle Times today, in an article about a Marine Captain stealing Iraq rebuilding funds.

Prosecutors say Schmidt, instead, worked out a deal to award the contracts to an Iraqi contractor, the Al-Methwad Company, which was in cahoots with his wife.

I have actually said "cahoots" out loud three times since I started writing this. (And you just did it too, didn't you? And now your co-workers are looking at you strangely. I'm sorry. But isn't it fun to say?)

Etymologically speaking, the word "cahoots" is used only in American English, and it has almost certainly has French roots. But there are two divergent thoughts on where it actually came from. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, it probably comes form the French word "cohorte," meaning "cohort," meaning "companion or confederate."

I don't know about you, but I find that kind of...disappointing. Boring, even. There is no visual in that definition -- nothing I can see or hold onto. So let's go to the other one:

1829, Amer.Eng., said to be perhaps from Fr. cahute "cabin, hut" (12c.)

I like that one MUCH better! Not only do the pronunciations align much more closely, but the usage does also. You don't say, "they are cahoots," the way you'd say, "they are cohorts." But you would say, "they are in a cabin with," just like you'd say, "they are in cahoots with." And can't you just SEE the outlaws, up to no good, conspiring together in a cabin?

I love words.

BONUS word for today: Did you know that a group of moles is called a "labor"? Usage:

"With all the piles of dirt in my yard lately, I figured I had a whole labor of moles. Turned out there was just one. But he had a singularly strong work ethic."

Thursday, February 03, 2011

I Wish We Could Fix the Anger

Watch this video. No, I mean REALLY watch it. If your first instinct is to mock, please push that aside. Instead, try to get a feel for who these people really are, outside the video.

I've probably never met them, but I might have. I'm thinking I may have seen them in the rodeo audience, back when I was young and riding horses in a mounted drill team.

Or they could have been in the Ever Open Cafe in my just-post-college years, where I waited tables to earn the money to move from Colorado to Seattle. Yeah, I think that was them, smiling at me when I walked by, sipping coffee at the formica tables. Helping me to fund my escape, one one- or two-dollar tip at a time. (Because you don't survive long in a tough semi-rural world by being too free with your cash.)

Or maybe that was them last month, when I went back to Colorado to visit my parents, sitting the next table over at Old Country Buffet.

Yeah, could have been. But even if not, even if I've never seen them personally, I've seen enough like them that I can tell you a few things that are more likely true than not.

I'd guess that he walks a bit stiff these days due to a life of hard physical work. He rarely removes the ball cap, except for the National Anthem. He won't tell off-color jokes in mixed company, and if he and I were heading into a room at the same time, he'd leap forward to open the door for me.

I'd guess that she's a longtime church member who has sung in the choir since she was a child. She probably does some kind of hand craft as a hobby and gives what she makes away. And if you're feeling poorly, my guess is she'd be the first to make you a casserole.

In short, I imagine they are, at heart, decent, both of them. Salt of the earth.

So what happened? How did they end up on YouTube, singing an affronted, self-righteous paean to a woman so narcissistic that she somehow managed to make a recent national tragedy all about her?

My guess can be summed up in two words: Fox News.

Before you think this is me, being a knee-jerk liberal, I'd like to point you in the direction of something written by a conservative over on the FrumForum (hardly a bastion of liberal ideas, because I like to get my news from all sides.) It's from an article titled, only slightly tongue in cheek, "Fox Geezer Syndrome."

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been keeping track of a trend among friends around my age (late thirties to mid-forties). Eight of us (so far) share something in common besides our conservatism: a deep frustration over how our parents have become impossible to take on the subject of politics. Without fail, it turns out that our folks have all been sitting at home watching Fox News Channel all day – especially Glenn Beck’s program.

Used to be I would call my mom and get updated on news from the neighborhood, her garden, the grandchildren, hometown gossip, and so forth. I’ve always been interested in politics, but never had the occasion to talk about them with her. She just doesn’t care.

Or didn’t. I don’t know when it happened, exactly, but she began peppering our conversation with red-hot remarks about President Obama. I would try to engage her, but unless I shared her particular judgment, and her outrage, she apparently thought that I was a dupe or a RINO. Finally I asked my father privately why Mom, who as far as I know never before had a political thought, was so worked up about Obama all the time.

“She’s been like that ever since she started watching Glenn Beck,” Dad said.

The author goes on to talk about his frustration with his mom. Not with her political beliefs (they're both conservatives), but rather with her constant, 24/7 unrelenting anger about them. I know about this kind of anger, because I've seen it in my own relatives.

The author goes on to say that this isn't entirely a Fox News thing; MSNBC is guilty of anger politics as well. Can't disagree with that -- I like Rachel Maddow, but I never watch MSNBC either because I find constant anger from either side to be a bigger burden than I want to bear. (Although you don't want to get me started on the people who want to steal my cancer-survivor son's heathcare. But that's another topic.)

The big difference between the two channels, though, is the age group they reach. And let's be honest. There aren't a lot of people who are sitting at home all day watching MSNBC. And the more exposure you get to anger politics, the angrier you get.

For anybody who's thinking "So what?" Another story. Charles Alan Wilson, a 64-year-old from Washington, is serving a one-year sentence for making death threats against Senator Patty Murray.

Friends and neighbors saw Charlie Wilson, carpenter and handyman, as a kind, hard-working guy who brought over fresh berries and apples, "the perfect neighbor...the guy wouldn't hurt anyone." It wasn't the Charlie they knew.

Yet, there's the politics behind it all, said one understanding friend of 40 years. [...] A cousin suspected that Charlie, who became housebound due to his poor health, spent too much time watching TV. Another friend agreed. "His brother got him a computer and he was able to stay connected with family. And he watched television and found Glenn Beck." The friend said he, too, found Beck, a Washington native son, about the same time.

"I understand how [Charlie's] fears were grown and fostered by Mr. Beck's persuasive personality. The same thing happened to me but I went in a different direction with what I was seeing. Rather than blame politicians for the current issues, I simply got prepared for what Glenn said was coming.

I won't even get into what I think about Glenn Beck and his complete disregard for facts. What concerns me even more than that is the way he and his cohorts stoke fear and anger among a group that is already uneasy about the huge amounts of change they've seen in their lifetimes. That's difficult enough for anyone to deal with.

But what happens when you take this unease and throw in "news" organizations dedicated to creating imaginary boogeymen under their beds? ("Kenyan president!" "Every Muslim a terrorist!" "Dead birds a sign of impending doom!" "I'm the only one who doesn't think you're stupid!") What happens is that life goes from disconcerting to terrifying. And that's just what the anger politics people want -- viewers who are so terrified and angry that it's all they can think and talk about.

I wonder if the children and grandchildren of the two folks in the video wish they could get their old grandma and grandpa back.

I'll bet Charles Wilson's sure do.