"I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing." ~ Dame Agatha Christie

Monday, March 24, 2008

Spring Has Sprung in North Texas!

Life is always so interesting in North Texas! Last Tuesday, I'm working busily during a severe storm and so very grateful I had not needed to travel to the job on the bus in the rain. Bam! I lost all Internet connection two hours prior to shift end. My boss "loved" it when I called from my cell to say I could not log back in until the connection was restored. (insert sarcasm here LOL)

We had several people taking off Good Friday, so it was easy to make up the time. I may no longer draw the same salary that prior jobs have provided, but I enjoy going to work every day when I log in from my own home office and that is worth much more than money.

I also realized something Wednesday while the apartment complex was taking care of the flooding that had occurred below me during the storms. I may never be comfortable living on the ground floor again. Even 2 1/2 years later, the fear in severe storms still returns.

The positives are piling up for both my novel and on turning my paper crafting hobby into a profitable sideline. Saturday, I walked to the closest branch library and picked up some basic time lines for British and European history so that I could refresh my memory on events that may or may not make their way into "The Great American Novel" (I call her TGAN for short). Katrina was on my mind there as well; the history section had several volumes on post-Katrina Louisiana and I tried to check them out but found myself shaking as I was holding them--guess I'm not quite ready yet.

I love the library--it must be in my blood! My first job ever was as a volunteer page because I was too young to work for a salary at the time. When I turned 16, I was hired as the youngest page (to that point) the Dallas Public Library had ever employed.

While waiting for collage elements to dry this weekend, I researched Pay Pal payment acceptance and will be establishing my Memory Works' Consultant website within the next couple of weeks. The link will be posted prominently here when the site goes live, so come visit and shop!

I am still researching digital cameras but have arranged the purchase of Photoshop Elements to learn digital design. I'd love to find some online tutorials for total newbies (any ideas?)

I have the distinct feeling that my "Books Read" list for March will be much shorter than the prior two months' this year--too busy moving on with life. Something about Spring makes me want to accomplish some more of my dreams. Research and playing with paper, ink, paint and glue are so much more fun than Spring cleaning, don't you think? After all, art today may keep the doctor away...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Movies, Messes, and Musings

It's Sunday, and I had plans to accomplish a lot of things around the house. My craft table (AKA dining room table) is covered with unfinished St. Patrick's Day card elements. My desk has Memory Works paperwork to be reviewed, classical music notes to be filed, unpaid bills to sort, quotes to add to my quotes file...it's after 6 PM and "John Adams" starts on HBO in an hour, so this blog entry will be the last thing done before then.

Yesterday was a great movie day--I braved the Dallas St. Patrick's Day parade throngs to see "The Other Boleyn Girl" with my dear friend Ruth. Neither of us had been to the Angelika Theater before and we loved not only the surroundings but also the fact that we were two of less than a dozen people at the early showing. The movie is marvelous (note to self: research what happened to Henry's illegitimate son by Mary Boleyn--unless that was a plot device). Both Ruth and I are Tudor buffs and I have adored Natalie Portman for years (another note--research her new line of vegan shoes). After a great lunch at a rather over-priced but still wonderful seafood restaurant (Hook, Line and Sinker at McKinney and Lemmon), I ran a few errands and came home to empty some of the saved programs on my DVR.

I pulled one of the 3 Johnny Depp movies I had recorded--"The Libertine" and thought I would stay with historical, period piece movies. As it not only had my heartthrob Johnny but also John Malkovich (another perennial favorite), I thought it would be a very enjoyable movie. Well--why didn't I remember that Johnny loves off-the-wall characters. Great story (based on a real person) but I was a bit caught off-guard by some of the visuals. I guess I had forgotten some of what is allowed with an "R" rating. Still, I cried at the end and will be researching John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester (can anybody see what a nerdy geek I really am?). Okay--so it is not a movie I choose to buy for my collection; perhaps one of the other two on my DVR will be ("Benny and Joon" and "Sleepy Hollow").

Over the past 48 hours, I also cleared a 2-hour History Channel program on Alexander the Great, several Carol Duvall episodes, another History Channel program on Judas Ischariot, and spent 45 minutes on hold with Time Warner Cable to ensure I would have HBO in time for "John Adams" tonight. Do they call that customer service? Yes, thanks to cordless phone technology, I managed to monitor my corned beef on the stove, read thru some e-mail, search the web for paper companies and place a Memory Works order, but still--holding for 45 minutes? My company (my day job is phone customer service) would never stand for those hold times! And, once I got the repair division, the agent could only make an appointment for a technician to come out; he could not/would not send a signal to the box to reset it, saying that I might lose service altogether if he were to do so??????????? So, next Saturday morning will be spent awaiting the TWC repairman.

Lest it look like all I have done is stayed glued to my TV, I must interject here that I read and do paperwork often while emptying the DVR. My craft table is arranged in such a way that I can watch TV and work simultaneously. My TV is on a turntable so it can be repositioned to be seen from the kitchen if I have my contacts in (I only have a 20" screen). I am Blessed with remarkable recall--I needn't watch a documentary to retain much of the information; listening closely is often enough and if I do miss a point or two, a DVR makes it easy to rerun a section of a show. The DVR is probably one of the greatest technological advances of my lifetime.

Oops--it's 6:58, so to HBO I go for now...more musings later.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

St. Patrick's Day and Easter Designs

I absolutely love these designs! http://countdown.tentwostudios.com/ They are great for packing tape transfers, ATC's, bookmarks--this is the first place I go if I want something that I don't rubber stamp. All of Lisa's sites are full of ideas and creativity...go check it out, but be prepared to stay a nice long while.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Today in History, I Started a Love/Hate Relationship

Today, in 1959, when I was 4 years old, Barbie was born. http://www.barbiecollector.com/collecting/story.asp
I actually owned one of the first Barbies and since that was an era of having few toys, my Barbie was very well-loved. I remember some years later, we were given an opportunity at a Mattel promotion to trade-in our older Barbie for a new one and so I did. That was long before people thought to purchase dolls for their future collectible value as happened later with the Cabbage Patch and Beanie Babies hysteria, so I do not have a stash of perfectly preserved MIB (mint in box) Barbie items on which to base my retirement.

I played with my Barbie for years and added various family members as well. She was always a fantasy because she had the nerve and drive to be whoever I wanted her to be--doctor, lawyer, movie star, the first female President, and so many other professions that seemed unattainable for women in the early Sixties.

Then came high school and the dolls were stored in the attic. I went through the hippie stage and learned of Women's Lib. I married before I was ready and had children soon after, fulfilling my mother's dream for me, and my Barbies came out of the attic so my daughters could play and imagine their futures. One became so enamored of Barbie that even as an adult, she found herself collecting various styles.

I loved Barbie as a girl and am impressed with many of the collectible issues as an adult. Were finances different, I might even own a few primarily because of the subjects depicted (the two witches from the Wizard of Oz and the Arwen/Aragorn set from Lord of the Rings come to mind).

So, where does the dislike crop up? I cannot help but believe that Barbie, the first true fashion doll designed for girls, was the beginning of the cultural phenomenon I call "thin is in". Before Barbie, women could be built in any fashion and be seen as women--actually, many full-figured women were admired throughout history. Barbie is not the total cause of course, lest I be castigated by Mattel for maligning their toy; she has served a wonderful purpose for girls everywhere as they learn to fantasize their possible adult lives. I just wish they would come out with a true-figured model...perhaps the new sets could show Barbie wearing glasses and having gray hair. Or even (gasp!) a pot-belly from having children???

Nope, it ain't gonna happen. Society is too used to "thin is in" and those of us perfectly healthy women who are larger than toothpicks will continue to be looked past as if invisible. Beauty still means more than brains in our society, and perhaps even a plus-sized Barbie would not be able to change that idealogy...but what if Barbie had a brain????? (hmmmmmmm....)

Yesterday was Art Day for Me...

Once a month I get the honor of playing with paper arts (usually card ideas) with some dear friends. David graciously opens his studio on a Saturday afternoon and we all come for ideas, project sharing, and the opportunity to work with tools and stamps we may not have at home. It's wonderful!!!!! Only paper artists can cut, paste and color to our heart's content no matter how old we get in years (okay--we can add preschool/kindergarten teachers to that list I suppose). Seriously, I believe my ability to "think young" is due in large part to playing with color--colored paper, paints, markers, crayons--and I get to cut and glue, too!

David is my source for wonderful, white-core cardstock and other Close to My Heart products, so I want to plug him shamelessly here: http://www.davidm.myctmh.com/ especially since I seem to be a collector of CTMH MyAcrylics Stamps!

We actually spent time yesterday talking "Angel Policy" as a couple of us were expressing the desire to sell completed cards. Beverly, one of the group who has done craft booths in the past, has become a dear friend, so I know I'll be leaning on her wealth of knowledge as I pursue marketing some of my work. Although after seeing a selection of her cards yesterday, I'm not so sure I've got as much talent as I originally thought!

And we were also blessed to have Karen, our newlywed Stampin' Up consultant with us yesterday. Their cardstock is my other obsession; whenever I want solid-core papers, I pull out my SU! and start tearing away! Karen is reachable at http://www.karenpruett.stampinup.net/ and is my primary source for wood-mounted stamps.

So--back to the "Angel Policy". I've been in business before, so I know much of what has to be done tax-wise and with legalities such as city codes. I'm reasonably good at public relations and marketing. I now am faced with "studying the fine print" before proceeding with saleable stock. Not following rules puts negative karma into the universe and I certainly need no more of that LOL!

Yesterday was a total learning experience even if very little actual art was accomplished. I die-cut some shamrocks for cards to send and made a wonderful tag card with supplies provided by Karen. That card actually gave me the basis for an ATC idea for my Red Hatter buddies...

I also got a quick education in digital cameras versus scanners. Let's list the pros/cons and make a buying decision, shall we???? I have a perfectly servicable printer for the moment. I have no extra space at present to add a scanner. Digital cameras are now quite reasonable in price. My PC has the ability to download most memory cards direct into the PC. Digital prints are cheaper printed elsewhere than on a home PC. Looking at it on paper, the camera is the way to go, so I'll be spending the next few weeks also looking into purchasing a camera.

All in all, I cannot think of a way to have spent a Saturday afternoon that would have provided me with more fun or more knowledge all at the same time. I love my art buddies!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Books Read 2008

I am a devotee of Paperback Swap (http://www.paperbackswap.com/), and I have decided to keep a log of books read this year. Here's the list for January 2008 in chronological order:

Bound for Murder by Laura Childs (a keeper for sure!)
New Orleans Mourning by Julie Smith (first of a series--another keeper)
Mozzarella Most Murderous by Nancy Fairbanks (another series I collect)
The 27-Ingredient Chili Con Carne Murders by Nancy Pickard
Murder Most Frothy and Latte Trouble both by Cleo Coyle (I keep them all!)
Face Down Upon a Herbal by Kathy Lynn Emerson (new to me but I want the series)
Magyk by Angie Sage (Young Adult--the rest of the series is on my PBS wish list)
The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett (my worst January read; I don't understand the hype)
The Poyson Garden by Karen Harper (great Elizabethan mystery; want the series)
The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey (fantastic stand-alone story)
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (started my annual re-read of this series)
Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon (I love Jamie and Claire!)

In February, I finished the following:

Voyager by Diana Gabaldon (volume 3 of the Fraser time travel saga I read at least once a year!)
The Scottish Rose by Jill Jones (time travel romance--looking for more by this author)
Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon (Jamie and Claire and tears and laughter)
Beads of Trouble by Barbara Burnett Smith (okay since I'm a proud Texan but not a keeper)
The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon (love the McKenzies too!)
A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon (please, please hurry with volume 7)
Love in Vein edited by Poppy Z. Brite (couldn't wait to mail it off again; love Poppy as an author but this was horrid and gory and I couldn't enjoy any of the eroticism for the weird...)
Beads of Doubt by Barbara Burnett Smith (nothing memorable except for the Texas setting and the emphasis on the need for funding for cancer research (cervical cancer? see, I said the story wasn't memorable)
The Gourmet Detective by Peter King (first of a new "keeper" series; learned a lot about food, mystery authors, and classical music all while being surprised by a plot--talk about multi-level reading LOL!)
Charmed Destinies (a trio of novellas headed by Mercedes Lackey--all were awesome!)
Death on a Family Tree by Patricia Sprinkle (loved it and hope it's a series)

So, not too shabby for the first two months of 2008, even if most of these are "cozy mysteries", the sheer number of pages in the Outlander series is staggering. I have discovered seven new series to explore and hopefully collect (at least in paperback), and only suffered 2 huge disappointments--Terry Pratchett's Discworld may be visited by me again thru the library but won't warrant purchasing and I know to stay away from the more erotic volumes of Poppy Z. Brite (her New Orleans-based novels Liquor and Soul Kitchen are wonderful!!!)

Monday, March 3, 2008

History is Closer Than I Sometimes Realize

I was dealing with a software issue today at work when my client made the comment "Oh, the wonders of technology," in a rather disgruntled tone. We laughed, and I was astonished to realize that I remember heavy, black rotary dial phones--the only choice being wall or desk models. We had Exchanges--not Area Codes. Princess phones were a huge fad for a while, then lo and behold, they developed push-button technology!!! Exchanges such as FRanklin or TAylor were translated to digits--FR1-2345 became 371-2345 and TA4-5678 was now 824-5678. A second extension was sometimes (if you had been very good and studious in school) allowed in your bedroom once you reached your mid-teens. Mind you, it wasn't a separate number, but you could talk without standing in the kitchen (before 9 PM of course).

I could go on and on but this has suggested a new project for me--a mini book showing the ways I have been able to communicate throughout my years. Adopted children like me can't always pass conventional genealogies to their descendants, but personal history is another matter. Has there ever been another generation since the Renaissance when technology has developed as far as fast? What a Blessing to live in such an age! And what a greater Blessing to realize that all this communication is nothing more than a way to produce more noise and stress unless a person has the strength and presence of mind to set communication boundaries.

(to be continued)...

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Great Unknown

Okay--I've done it--stepped into the great unknown world of blogging! I had promised myself that 2008 would be the year I would start writing again, so this will hold bits and pieces of my novel-in-progress, my thoughts on the world, favorite quotes and lyrics, and once I have access to a scanner, I'll have a place to display my art.

It's Sunday and a day for reflection of where I am in my life. It's also a day of promise for me. I can step out of my comfort zone and begin becoming the woman I wish to be. If I had been told at 25 that I would live to be 52, I would have laughed, and yet here I am! Not a single thing in my life has gone according to my plans, my childhood dreams, or my wishes, and yet I wake each day in gratitude and wonder for the good in my life.

Let the feast of life begin!