Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Warm Fuzzies

I'm at work, and just got a phone call from my uncle, Harry. My dad has only one brother, his elder by four years, which makes Harry 72. A very spry, healthy and hearty man, thank God.

Harry is a Vietnam vet, who flew for the Navy. Therefore, I barely knew him growing up. When I was very young, I remember hearing his voice on cassette tapes he would send from Hawaii. I remember there being a collision when he was stationed on the John F. Kennedy, and my dad calling everywhere trying to find out if Harry was okay. And I remember one visit to Virginia Beach after Harry and his wife Darlene settled there with my five cousins, for each whose births Harry was absent. You bet I admire Darlene!

So, other than family reunions, I didn't know Harry well. Until. A few years ago, at a reunion being held at his home, we got to talking, mostly about my dad. You see, Dad suffered a stroke when he was a bit younger than I am now. He's physically well, but the stroke affected his speech recall, putting paid to his teaching career. Thus this man who was always the center of conversation, with a biting wit, now sits on the sidelines listening, fighting occasionally to find the right word to interject.

What this meant to me was pretty profound. Dad and I had a very rocky relationship growing up. I never felt good enough for him, and he repeated behaviors he disliked in his own father. But right about the time I felt grown-up enough to tell him how I felt, I no longer could. It would have been fighting an unarmed opponent, and think what you will of me, Gentle Reader, I have a bit more honor than that.

At the reunion, I told this to Harry, following by saying that I felt I'd effectively lost my father. And he startled me by saying he knew just how I felt, because he'd lost his only sibling, the brother that was the only one who would know what their youth was like. It was a huge bonding moment for us, and to a small extent, Harry stepped into the shoes my Dad never filled for me.

Now, the men in my family are traditionally very good hobby carpenters. When my younger daughter was graduating from university, I asked Harry to make her a cedar chest for her gift from us. He did a lovely job, only allowing me to pay for some of the wood. The same when he made an incredible display cabinet for me, and then he surprised us with a gorgeous swiveling double frame as a studio-warming gift.

Not too surprisingly, then, I wanted to make something for him. I settled on a scarf, the beginning of which you can see here. I fell for the yarn, and it reminded me of Harry's lovely blue eyes. The man was killer handsome in his youth, and is still a stunner, as you can see in this picture of him with my late grandmother from four years ago!

The scarf was my car knitting, even with the cables, since they were relatively big and easy, even with slippery yarn. I kept it in my "Emergency Knitting" bag, and worked on it sporadically. Then I realized it was getting close to being long enough, and Christmas was coming, and I did a full-court press (whatever THAT is) to finish it. It was shipped on Friday, with a note telling him what he means to me.

He called the studio today, confessing he couldn't wait to open it. Hey, I'm from this family, and I never expected him to! He repeated several times how beautiful the scarf was, and that he was very moved. He said it was one of the most thoughtful gifts he'd ever received, because he knew a part of me was in it.

It's so wonderful to have one's efforts appreciated like that! Granted, it was a small thing to make, but I did put love into every stitch. I wish we'd gotten to be close earlier in life. I'm sure it would have helped me grow into a better person...not much better, of course, because I'll be snarky till the day I die, but better.

Harry remarked how warm the scarf was. Funny, but I think it's keeping me warm too.

Friday, December 4, 2009

And There's More

I had another unexpected client come in and ask for a restoration and tinting job. The image is his late mother, and it's over 60 years old. As you can see, it's yellowed badly, but there wasn't much overall damage.

I got information from him about her coloring. He said her hair was black, and her eyes brown, but he had no idea what color her dress would have been. I suggested a red, so both flatter her coloring, and because the only lip color you could really get back then was, you guessed it, red.

Here's the resulting image, sent off to the lab for EIGHT 11x14s!

As promised, a picture of the stocking that will be a Christmas present for the DH's niece, whose name I drew for the gift exchange. This was a Knitpicks kit, and I'm very pleased with how it turned out, save one teeny tiny little detail I screwed up. I put the afterthought heel on the wrong flippin' side of the stocking! I missed a critical few words in the pattern. But she'll never know the difference and it's still cute, so oh, well. Yet again I remind myself of the Persian rug makers, who deliberately make an error in every rug they make, because "only Allah is perfect." So, I wouldn't want to mess with THAT.

Lastly for today, when my hands get tired of knitting with tiny needles working on DD's gauntlets, I'm working on a bit of spinning. With gift knitting I've hardly spun at all lately. Although the last thing I needed was more fiber, thankfully, need didn't enter into it. :-D I fell in love.

The roving is from the Copperpot Etsy store. She shares my love for purple, and I couldn't resist this beautifully prepared mix of merino, tussah, bamboo and a bit of silvery shimmery Firestar. It wants to spin pretty thin, so maybe a shawl will come from the 7+ ounces I got. Drafting is almost effortless with this stuff. The picture leans a hint more magenta than it really is, and it's a bit darker than this too, but I had to use flash or you wouldn't see how finely it's spinning up. It's yummy! I'll do my usual two-ply with it and see what I get. Good thing is, I know it'll be purple.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

In Living Color (not the show)

A lady came into the studio today with this 4x6 print, and a story.

The woman pictured is the client's sister. She was a ballerina - I don't know how professionally or anything, but since she's not a child here, I'm assuming (yes, yes, I know!) that she danced for at least some of her adult years.

Unfortunately, all of her pictures were lost in a flood. Need I tell you the devastation she felt? If I do need, you aren't appreciating your photos nearly enough. Go, now...appreciate them and I'll wait.

Okay. My client found this picture about two years ago, and as she says it, desperately wanted to have an 8x10 made of it, and have it tinted as a surprise gift for her sister. She called all over the place; no one did this kind of work.

Then she called us. Oh, yes, the DH told her, we can do that. Just bring it in for a quote. Once she did and I told her that I could do just what she wanted, she was thrilled. To the point of tears. Awwwww. Dammit, I was moved.

I hate being moved. Costs me money. I know this because I only charged her for about two-fifths of the time I actually used. Now, I could have done it in the hour I charged, but not to my satisfaction. And your Goddess simply MUST be satisfied. Ask anyone. Go ahead, I'll wait again.

So here you have it. The client specified the colors she wanted. She said she wouldn't care if only her sister were colored, but I don't think she really would have liked how that looked. The only thing I left as it was, barring cleaning up dust and scratches, was the sofa.

It does look tinted, of course - I defy anyone to colorize a black and white where you can't tell at all that it's been done. Heck, even Ted Turner with all his money couldn't do it. But I am pleased with it. Skin tones are especially difficult, but I think they look very natural here. Her face is sharper, and the contrast is much better too.

On the knitting front, I finished the stocking I was knitting. My younger daughter's birthday was Sunday, and I had found a hat/mitten combo I liked and thought I'd knit her. I sent her to the site to see it.

She emailed back showing me a pattern on the same site for gauntlets (think fingerless mittens) that she preferred. Since I love gauntlets too, I have about a dozen patterns for them. I sent her the .pdfs so she could choose one.

Being my daughter, she picked the most intricate set made on the tiniest needles. *sigh* They're my favorites too. They are by Rosemary Hill, aka Romi, and are called Verdigris. If you've never seen her shawl pins, I utterly love the ones I have. As well as my yarn ball earrings. Anyway, I'm almost done the first one...DD knew she wouldn't get them in time for her birthday...making them from Louet Gems in Pewter, one of the skeins Witt gave me in a color she likes and I don't. So that works!

Pictures of that, and the stocking, soon. I know you have nothing else to anticipate this time of year.

Friday, November 20, 2009

"Polite-ing to Death"

That, for those of you that haven't seen it before, is a Southern-ism. Whereas if you angered someone in NYC they'd rip you a new one, in the deep South things are different. Especially with the ladies. If someone, especially someone with a whip hand over you, is unfair or rude, you "Yes'm" the hell out of them. Everything is said in a tone of deep respect, not a word out of place, leaving the angry person no ground upon which to stand. (I know that is grammatically correct, but English is so awkward that way, basing so much on Latin rules when it's not really a Latin-based language. But I digress.)

So why do I mention that technique? Because customer service in all walks of life has resorted to it as a means of dealing with a consumer, irate or not, and to be honest, I am sick of it.

As an example...today I received an email from my younger sister, B. I had drawn her name for Christmas this year. With four kids in my family, spouses and adult grandchildren, we went to this system several years ago. Much more sensible. Said sister lives in Georgia.

The day before we did the drawing, my other sister J and I were shopping in Kohl's. She spotted some serving pieces in a snowman theme, and remarked that they would be perfect for B, who apparently has a snowman fetish of which I was heretofore unaware. When I drew B, I knew what to get.

Rather than go to the store and pack it all up myself, I went online - how I do 90% of my gift shopping, btw - and placed the order. I wanted to send it early because a) it was on sale; b) I had the money; and c) not much sense giving a holiday item that will be immediately put away. So I placed the order, and watched the tracking to see when she'd get it.

The cheapest shipping option was Fedex, but the kind where they get it there, then give it to the USPS to deliver. This seems to me like a Montague trusting a Capulet with their goblet of wine, but there you have it. Since no one was home to sign for delivery, they had to go pick it up at the Post Office. And one of the two pieces I sent was shattered. Not broken, decimated. B. called Kohl's to report it and they said they would credit my card.

Naturally, I still wanted my sister to have the piece I sent, rather than the pieces it became, so I called customer service, using the number on my email confirmation. Which did not take me to regular customer service, but to Kohl's charge card service. I don't have one, don't want one, and if you own a store card that you don't pay off every month, you're insane. Their rates are usury, pure and simple. But they kindly connected me to the correct department, and I got a rep right away, a rarity that I found pleasing. And even better, I spoke to someone in the USA.

And got Polited. I wasn't upset when I called, I know that doo-doo happens, but this is the way we're all treated now. Everything was over-enthusiastic. Provide your name, and you'd think you just went potty on your own for the first time. Confirm your address and they're practically orgasmic. When I called Sprint awhile back, everything was "Thank you sooo much for that information!" The woman I spoke with at Kohl's was very nice. Don't get me wrong. She got the item re-ordered for me, and was delighted to find it was on a deeper sale and I would save two whole additional dollars. She exclaimed over the adorableness, and informed me she should order one (I was forcibly reminded of the Target lady on SNL!). She told me of her deep longing to visit Georgia, and thrilled to tell me there would be no shipping. All very sweet.

And it made me irritated where I wasn't before. Yes, I know, you're thinking it's perverse of me. However, I prefer to deal professionally. I'm not adverse to a little schmoozing of clients when there is a relationship there, as in our business. But with luck, I won't speak to Suzy Sunshine again. No relationship to develop. Instead, a call that could have been completed in half the time was elongated by all the verbal ego stroking.

I'll grant you, it's preferable to the surliness I was on the end of on another call today. Another company with whom we have no business, nor would we, attempting to fax our voice line. After six of these in rapid succession a few days ago, I looked up the number on Google, found their voice line (no, you really don't want to mess with me) and called. Spoke to a young man who was properly apologetic and guaranteed to take care of it.

Uh-huh. Got six more today. After the first two, I called them, and this time got a young woman. She informed me that I would need to speak with the young man again, and he would have to call me back. I suggested that while I wait on that, she could walk herself to the fax, or call wherever it is, and ask them to knock it off. She got very snippy, told me I'd have to wait for the call, and hung up on me.

That sucks as customer service. If he does call, I'll rat her out in a heartbeat...after all, they are harassing ME, interrupting my work, so what right does she have to be pissed at me for asking that it stop? I didn't use any rude words, or raise my voice. And if they don't call me, you can be sure I'll be on the horn to them soon.

But on the up side, at least I didn't feel like I was covered in sugar syrup when I got off the phone. Not a good feeling for a diabetic. :-)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

My Elfine's Socks

I finished my socks this weekend, and after beating my mother and sister (more on them later) off with a stick, I managed to keep them! These are unblocked except by my foot.
Yes, I have cankles, and you can go sit in the van.
This are the Elfine's socks by Anna Bell. It's a free pattern which you may find here. I knit them in the Socks That Rock Spinel colorway. Here's a tighter detail of the picture above, and this color is a bit more true. These took about a month to knit, alternating with another project or two.This is only my third pair of socks, and I'm really pleased with them. I discovered that knitting plain socks doesn't suit me at all; too boring! But this was fun, so I'm looking forward to my next pair. Right now I'm knitting a Christmas stocking, but no pictures till it's done. Be patient, my little chickadees!
In a spirit of fun which, let's face it, is the best spirit of all, next to rum, I thought I'd share....
This weekend my mom and sister Joyce were in town for the annual birthday dinner for Mom and I (mine was Friday and face it, you sent NOTHING) and we went shopping. Well duh. So- we're stopped a light, and the little chippy in the pickup next to us has some noxious crap passing for music rudely blaring out her truck windows. Mom grumbles, and I said, "Hey, Mom (I call her that), turn your music up and drown her out!" When was the last time YOU heard Johnny Mathis cranked up, pouring out of car windows? I laughed my @$$ off!
The real kicker is that after we had our giggle and turned the music back down, the chippy had cut hers back too! I suspect good ole Johnny won her over. Riiiiiiiiiiiiight.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


One of the types of photography we do in our business is sports, including action work. Usually we go out, take pictures of the kids playing, then have the edited shots printed, and take them to the field and sell them toward the end of the season. Once we've sold at the field, we also put the images online to garner additional sales. This isn't just good for us...think of the bitterly divorced parents you know - Dad snaps up all the pictures before Mom can get there, and you KNOW he's not sharing. Or Grandma lives at the other end of the country but wants to get pictures too.

We hand out flyers as we shoot telling people what we're doing. We enclose flyers in the envelopes with the pictures we sell too. It tells them specifically that the password-protected photos will be available online after a certain date. So of course we get the semi-literate dweebs who call us three weeks before we even sell the photos, complaining that they cannot find them online. Yeesh.

But today the DH shared an email that had us both in stitches. A lady wrote in, wanting to know how to find the football pictures of her son online. The DH sent her a list of instructions, ending with "enter the password shown." The woman writes back a few days later saying she still can't get into the pictures, because the website wouldn't accept the password when she typed in "shown."

I laughed till I cried, but that wasn't the kicker. Oh, no. As DH checked the rest of his email, he found an order from her! Can't you just SEE the lightbulb going off, and her desperately wishing she could retrieve her prior email?

I can, and it's absolutely made my day. LOL!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I Feel You Should Know...

...I'm going to hell. Not a question any longer of "if", but merely "when?"

Very sadly, the husband of a member of one of my knitting lists succumbed to the H1N1 virus last week. It hit him very hard, he had to be on a respirator, and then he died. Everyone has naturally been expressing their condolences.

Today, a kind-hearted list member (so you know it was not I), wrote to say how sorry she was, and added that she understood, because she "lost" her husband three years ago. And the FIRST thought to cross my mind was, "Well, that was damned careless of you, wasn't it?"

So, yes, I'm going to hell. And if you laughed, I'll see you there.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Unsocial Networking

I don't tweet. Just couldn't care less, and don't think that I'm so important that you all need to know what I'm doing every moment of the day. But I do enjoy the interaction of Facebook a good deal. It lets me know what family is up to. I've reconnected to classmates that I've not seen in more years than I'm going to tell YOU. I get to follow what's happening with Scottie-owner friends.

All good. I even manage not to get too exasperated with the never-ending fantasy game updates; after all, I can turn most of them off. I find real life is enough for me, but I don't judge...much...those who cannot live without pretending to have a zoo or be a Mafioso.

So why are we kvetching today, children? I'll tell you - you knew I would! I am sick unto death of two things. First, the Debbie Downers (tip of the hat to SNL). You know them. Every post is something hugely negative. I don't mean simple things like my car just died, or my kid is sick. I mean EVERY post is, "Why are people so mean?" "I'm always messing up." "My boy/girlfriend is trampling my heart so I'm going to post on here so everyone knows what a nasty person they are." The DH has one niece that is perpetually posting these please-feel-sorry-for-me posts, way beyond normal teenage angst. Not that she's the only one. I have had to be privy to the marriage ups and downs of a Scottie person I barely know, and certainly don't want to know any better now. Enough with the pity parties! Few people will care, and your incessant negativity will ensure they've had enough of you all too soon as well.

The second thing is worse, in my opinion. And as we all know, it's my opinion that counts here. These are the people who think they're being clever by posting cryptic messages. I don't mean the wildly fanciful ones; I love those. For example, last night my sister posted that she was challenging the Bermuda Triangle. That's funny. Nope, I mean the kind of thing I faced this weekend.

We had a lovely Sunday with the DH's family. His mother and eldest brother had birthdays this month, and we got together at Mom's house to celebrate, and appreciate her new sun room. I gave her the QAL and it was a success. Food good, lots of laughter and all the siblings were present. Really nice.

Then we got home, and opened Facebook. The oldest brother's girlfriend posts that she is 'tired of getting the cold shoulder.' The DH's sister posts that she 'is glad the party is over and everyone got along...at least on the surface.' Huh? Neither of us detected any tension. Mom was a bit quieter than usual, but there WERE ten people there, after all. As far as we could tell everyone had fun.

So we asked. Both of them. What was going on? What's the problem? AND THEY WOULDN'T TELL US!!!

Now, post what you like, folks. But do not play these little passive-aggressive games with me. I'll just get furious with you. And you won't like me when I'm angry. I responded to both of them that I hope they had fun throwing this crap out, and refusing to explain, so that everyone else gets to worry fruitlessly.

If you have a problem, put on your big girl panties and deal with it directly. Don't make everyone who's friended you on Facebook have to put up with your whining snideness. Because people can remove you as a friend....and you won't know. And how passive-aggressive would THAT be? Bahahahahahah!

Monday, October 5, 2009

QAL Part Deux

There's been a request for a larger picture, and it's true, they were small. So here's a bigger shot of the edge detail so the yarn may be better viewed. This shot makes it look a bit brighter in color, but you can see the yarn a bit more clearly.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

As Promised

I completed MMario's Queen Anne's Lace four days ago, and it's now blocking on one of our spare beds. As you can see, it's really too wide for the bed and I had to pin those points down over the side. I don't think it's much of an issue.The yarn was a gift from Witt, a couple months before he passed on. A friend of his had handspun it, but since lace wasn't so much his thing, he graciously passed it on to me. I still have quite enough of one ball to do something for me. It's a lovely mix of color that overall looks very like you see it here. It has slubs of hot pink and blue, and hints of cream. I think it's a wool/mohair mix, and it's taking blocking very well.

You can see the edge detail here. There are several different ways that people have blocked this shawl. Some block the diamond points as well, or instead of the ones I used. MMario's original was blocked as a flat circle. I looked at them all and preferred this effect.
And here's a center detail showing the beginning of the QAL's exquisite spiral. It reminds me of a mandala, as do many of MMario's designs. I'm still hoping for the Compass Rose he's mentioned. The man is brilliant, and I'm so glad I helped set up his group almost two years ago.
This shawl will be a gift to my mother-in-law, Dorothy. Her birthday is the 8th, and we're all gathering next weekend, so I will get the maximum brownie points with all the family there to see it. :-) Since I haven't told them about this blog - the better to kvetch when I need to! - no one will spoil the surprise because they saw it here. Dorothy loves purples as much as I, and has a friend in church who, she tells me, wears the most beautiful shawls. As subtle hints go, it was a little broad, but hey, at least she didn't use a baseball bat.
Seriously, she's a lovely lady who's gone on very bravely after losing her husband of 51 years. She deserves something pretty in which to wrap herself.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More Baby Stuff

I thought some knitting content would be nice. Since I'm a row and half from binding off MMario's Queen Anne's Lace, the next post will almost certainly be of that, and the story behind my version. But in the meantime, I couldn't resist using some leftover yarn (from a pair of socks I had done for myself) to make these utterly adorable baby socks. They are the Tiny Treasures Baby Socks by Terry Liann Morris. Pattern available here.

Yes, it's true that they are not exact mates. Neither are the ones made for me. I think they're WAY more interesting to look at that way, and since babies are very responsive to visual stimuli, maybe the little one due in a month will like them. Anyway, I do. I really like being able to use leftover yarn to make them.
I tossed the dime in there to give you some idea of scale, and I used the dime because I found it, and it was still in my pocket. I'm nothing if not lazy, although I DID bend over to pick up the dime. Free money is in the budget. :-)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Thanks For Asking.

Yes, I have been very quiet of late. Without boring you with a lot of detail, I got pretty sick last month, which is very unlike me. Thought I was better, and went back to work, just to relapse. Not pretty. Since then I've been playing catchup, and trying to help rearrange most of our house. We decided to rent the lower floor which has been basically unused since my daughter's family moved out, and we had to do quite a bit to get it ready. The DH did much of the work down there, and I rearranged things upstairs to accomodate the moving of furniture, etc.

But today at the studio we had a visitor I thought you might like to see. As you can probably tell, he was a very young visitor! Only about five inches long in body, and not much fluff yet to his tail.I think he's growing into these legs of his; I've never seen a squirrel look frog-legged before. And no, he's not blinking - he actually dozed off while we were gathered around him, and the DH took these pictures. Our employee Stephanie, who brought him some unsalted peanuts we had, and a peanut butter granola bar she had, nicknamed him "Peanut Butter."
This is my favorite shot, full of squirrelitude. What do you mean that's not a word? Just look at that face and tell Peanut Butter that!
I promise to be better, but no less squirrelly, in keeping you up-to-date. :-)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Hatter up!

No, not a typo, you silly wabbits. A pun for a little knitting content today.

Last month Gary offered me some more of Witt's yarn - mostly bits and pieces, odd balls (NOT a pun) that are unidentified. I put some that I knew I wouldn't use aside because Gary also intended to donate some yarn to a local guild of which Witt was a member.

So what to do with the bits? Witt used to make a lot of baby hats for charity and I thought of all the friends and relatives that have recently announced that they were expecting. Now, I have an issue, because I don't know what most of these yarns ARE. For sure they were not easy-care acrylic. Most serious knitters don't stash that. First, you can find it anywhere, but mostly because we're yarn snobs. We don't even have the grace to be ashamed of it. Even superwash wool is considered suspect by some. Now, I'll knit with the stuff if I am making a baby gift for a young mother, or someone else I know simply will not - or cannot - take the time to hand wash a garment. My preferences don't matter in a gift, those of the recipient do. So whomever receives a hat knit with some of Witt's yarn will not only have to be very special, but be willing to take that bit of extra care.

Since we were heading to the Outer Banks for the long weekend of the Fourth, courtesy of my brother-in-law's generosity in sharing the house he rents, I needed some quick car knits. Guess what I took? :-} One very bright striped wool, one muted that I think is or has in it some alpaca. (read: Goddess Crack). I knit one hat on the way down.

Then I knit this one down there. Pretty much have to be a girl's hat, but so bright! Babies love bright colors.

And the bottom one is knit with some yarn I picked up while I was down there, in the great "Knitting Addiction" shop. It is easy-care yarn, and it has what my friend Elaine calls "scrunch." You don't want scrunch. Knitting with it has the effect of biting into styrofoam. Never done that? Try it, tell me what you think. BUT...the hat is freakin' adorable! I call it Cherry Baby (any Four Seasons fans?), but you could duplicate stitch or knit in a few seeds and make it a strawberry or call it a tomato - I don't much care. I did the leaves spontaneously and just love the effect. I think I have enough to do a second. Maybe pick up some yellow and do a lemon. Or a pumpkin with rust. Or a blueberry!
I think Witt would have liked it, anyway. He loved people using patterns as springboards. I know he made me a braver knitter.
Now if I can just be a braver person, too. Things are at a bit of a crossroads in my life. Prayers and happy thoughts for a good outcome are very deeply appreciated.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bright Spot

As you know if you've read this for awhile, I moderate and/or own (there is a distinction which is not my own) several Yahoo groups. Most are knitting-related.

There are a LOT of knitting patterns out there. Some are free, in the public domain. Most are not. They are instead copyrighted works, the product of some creator's hard work and often, at least part of what puts food on their table. As you might expect, there are a lot of people who work to subvert that, sharing patterns illegally, even going so far as to sell reproductions of work still under copyright law on sites like eBay, which is just too large an organization to catch them all.

Sometimes, I understand people's frustration. There are patterns by designers whose names are legendary that simply are not currently available in print. Strenuous efforts to get them re-released, or the copyright re-assigned for publication are often fruitless. Buying originals is often far too expensive for the average knitter...no one is more average than I! But there is no pattern out there so marvelous that breaking the law to obtain it is okay.

As you also might expect, as someone who earns a living under copyright law, I'm pretty stringent about protecting the rights of others. I am not a lawyer, but I'm also not an idiot, whatever you may have heard. I've read the copyright law and it's mostly common sense. If you didn't create it, it's not yours to sell or otherwise disseminate. Pretty simple, one would think. But at least three or four times a year, mostly on one particular list, I have to rein in someone from feeling they are above the law. Oh, I know they don't think of it that way, but it's what it boils down to.

The most recent was someone wanting help with translating a stitch legend. She chose to try to do it by posting a photo of the legend on the list. That's reproducing a copyrighted work, and I didn't permit the photo to go through. Another list member got on her high-horse, stating that was not a copyright violation, because you cannot copyright an idea or process. True. But this isn't an idea or process, it's a portion of a printed pattern. She countered that she was a designer (I've never seen anything by her) and that she had studied copyright law for a year. Feeling a bit snippy - I know you're astonished - I reminded her that that that didn't make a copyright lawyer of her, and that as long as I was moderating the list, I would err on the side of caution and designers. I added that the conversation was over, and to her credit, she stopped. Most of them don't!

Now, I have to say this gets old. But today, someone who is extremely well-known in the area of lace design in the U.S. wrote to me. She is one of several prominent designers on this list. Since I haven't asked her permission, I won't use her name, but this is what she wrote:

"Hi Diana, Thank you for taking care of the laceknitters list so well.
Just wanted to let you know that I really appreciate it. Cheers! "
To quote Ruth Gordon when she won the Academy Award, "I can't tell you how encouraging a thing like this is." It reminds me again of something I try to practice, and sometimes fail...if you have a pleasant thought or compliment you're thinking about someone, voice it! You never know when that small word of encouragement will be the best thing that happens to them all day.
It sure made mine!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Everybody Into the Pool!

Last Tuesday, a nice lady and her also nice mother stopped into the studio unexpectedly. They had a hand-tinted photo that they wanted to have restored, wondering if we did that kind of work. Kinda. It's my favorite thing to do here, because as much as I like working on the DH's photos, this is something that's just my skill, you know? It's true; I don't play well with others.

The piece is badly faded, bowed, and damaged. You can see here the big pieces that are flecked away, but there are tons of smaller areas that are gone too. The whole was mounted in a frame that has convex glass, and you can see the unusual shape. For those of you that have never been, it's obviously the Washington Monument, and the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. I believe the trees are full of cherry blossoms. While they're hard to view here (the original is about 20" wide) there are men and women in clothing that looks to be circa WWI to me. High hats, frock coats, full beards...but it's only a guess. One of my hobby-horses - date your pictures for future generations!

Now here is what a few hours of my time has wrought...a little more time, I confess, than I charged her for, but I know you'll be stunned to hear I'm a bit of a perfectionist. Lest you think I did all the coloring, much of it came back using the techniques I know. I added a hint of pink to the trees, and touched up the sky a smidge. The original color that showed where the frame had protected it was actually a very deep, almost robin's egg color, and I didn't want to go that far. It would look too fakey here, even though I have seen the sky that color in D.C. Now off to the lab for printing, and we'll cut it down to fit the owners frame.Ironically, as I was finishing this up we got a mail piece for some company in our town that was advertising their retouching prowess to my DH. Somehow I think he's happy with the person he already has.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


As some of you know, the origins of this blog lie in my inability to suffer fools gladly. Unfortunately, there are just so dang many of 'em out there, and way more than my share (pretty sure) find their ways into my life and business. Today we had a prime example.

Every year, we do pictures for several local dance studios. For two of them we do the traditional posed costume pictures, and for them and a third, we do action pictures. We take them during dress rehearsal and sell them to slavering parents who circle our sales table as if they were Great Whites and the photos were delicious chum. We refer to this as the "feeding frenzy," and cupcake, lemme tell you, it can get ugly.

Dance parents can be some of the most seriously entitled people (And what does your Goddess say about that, boys and girls? Right...no one is entitled but me. And today, the DH. It's his birthday.) that you'd never want to meet. Let's face it. By definition, most of these people have fairly substantial money. They pay for the classes, and judging by the remodeling one local studio owner just did to her home, they pay handsomely. And she earns it, don't get me wrong! They pay for costumes, where one silly, but cute, little hat can cost $25. Just the hat! Add shoes, tights, unitards and usually several iterations for different classes. Then there's competitions, extra lessons...let's just say that the pictures they purchase from us are just a small drop in the bucket.

Which is why, to my mind - a relatively good mind, all things considered and don't ask what things, it's none of your business - it's ridiculous for a few of them to behave as they do over these action pictures. Let me fill you in on how these work. Our photographers shoot the actual dances, aiming to get a few pictures of each child in each costume. Sometimes this is difficult. In very large classes, not everyone gets to the front. Often a picture where one child is centered will have a couple other dimpled darlings on either side.

After our first time selling, about ten years ago, we had to set up rules. Since these are one-of pictures, we tell the parent that they may only purchase a picture if their child is centered and in focus. If you cannot tell which child is the focus of the picture, we will tell you, and our ruling is final. This prevents greedy parents buying pictures because their child's elbow is in it....and oh! How I wish I were kidding! I have had parents call me from the field, wanting me to chew out my employees for not letting them have a photo. Guess what folks? Won't happen. I back my people 100%.

So last night, our most senior employee and an assistant were selling photos for one dance studio, while the DH was shooting at a reception for the local high school baseball team that just won state champions. Our employee warned us this morning that he had a grandmother who threw "a hizzy" (his words) because he wouldn't let her take a picture. Why? Because said picture was of the dance studio owner doing a major leap across the stage, with a group of children seated on hay bales behind her. This woman's child happened to be seated in the crowd on the bale! So of COURSE the picture was about her, not the featured dancer, right? Wrong. As it was, the woman went away with fifteen photos, for which she paid the amount we set for the 13 to 20 photos range. Now understand, these photos are also available for purchase online. Since they aren't mass-printed like the ones we sell on location, they do cost more, but she can get that shot if she really wants to.

Cut to today. Same woman, as we later find out, calls. We have action shots from last year. Usually excess are destroyed after six months, but through an oversight, these weren't yet. Our employee mentioned to several parents that they were still here if they didn't get to see them last year, hoping for some extra sales. When this lady calls, she tells us that since she bought in the up to 20 price range, she wants to come in to look at last year's work and get the additional pictures to "make up to twenty." She further tells the DH that the employee told her she could do this, and she is on her way in.

What? I think not. This guy has worked for us for 8 years, he knows that we don't combine deals across years or different jobs. For example, you cannot buy pictures from football and expect to combine them with baseball and get a price break. Never been done. So we call him up and ask what he ACTUALLY said. Nothing of the kind, of course. He told her he was just an employee and couldn't make deals. All he did was write on her envelope the number of pictures she bought, the amount, and his initials. No promise of anything else. Nor did he agree that we owe her more pictures so that she gets to the upper end of that 13-20 range. And he informs us this is the person who had the fit last night. Greeeeeeeaaaaaaaaat.

Woman arrives, and DH goes out to wait on her. He clarifies to her the policy on whose picture is whose, and the pricing structure. He tells her, very politely, that she got what she paid for, and if she wants additional photos, she'll have pay for them too. She maintains an even voice tone, but she is ticked and letting him know. According to her, the honor of our company is on the line. Our employee promised and wrote his initials to prove it. Of course, no promise is written on there at all. She would not have driven an hour and a half (later she admits she drove 20 minutes out of her way) and from another state without his word having been given. The DH points out after looking through her envelope that she even managed to snag another child's photo without being spotted, but doesn't take it from her, probably because he values his fingers. Remember the chum analogy.

As I walk down the hall from the office to the kitchette, she's holding forth about how she has a management position in DC (oh, there's an endorsement) and she knows a company should treat a person better, because "you don't know who they are." She also tells the DH that he is not living up to HIS expectations! Really? And you know what they are how, exactly?

I come back up the hall, and interject that she's right. We don't know who she is, but we do know our employee, we know he knows our policies and she doesn't, so out of the two, we know who probably misunderstood. She wants to know if I think she's making this up. I reply again that I feel she misunderstood, but that I know she was not promised what she thinks she was. She tells me she would not have driven all this way without being told that, and I informed her in polite terms that that was kinda the definition of "misunderstood." With what I felt was admirable restraint, I omitted the "DUH" I felt the situation called for. I'm sure you're proud.

Then she capped it with a threat to badmouth our company on all the social networking sites and the internet. I reminded her that libel laws were alive and well. She has absolutely nothing promising her anything, and while I also refrained from saying it to her, her greed-induced misunderstanding is not our fault.

The most fun part of it all was after she and her companion left. I turned to the DH and opined that she spent more in gas to come here than she would have saved getting the five extra pictures she mistakenly felt she was owed.

Now I can say it. "DUH!!!!"

Thursday, May 28, 2009

"And Flights of Angels...

...sing thee to thy rest." We said our goodbyes to Witt today in a lovely, tasteful service in his beautiful family church in Georgetown, in the District of Columbia.

This is the first time we've seen Gary since Witt's passing, and the hug was that much harder and longer because of it. He's doing well, at least externally. He'd asked us to print a picture of Witt and put a signature mat around it to have at the reception, so we got there early so he might have a chance to see it before time for the service. This was something he really wanted for himself, and I'm so glad we had one handy for him.

A lot of things were very meaningful to me. Psalm 121 was read aloud by all of us, and it contains a favorite verse of mine, "I lift mine eyes unto the hills..." I used to never be sure which I needed more in my life, the beach, or mountains. I decided awhile ago that the beach is for relaxing, and the mountains for living. So this verse was poignant, especially since it was at the cabin in the hills that he loved to visit that Witt moved on from us.

What moved me most...and judging by sniffles I heard, others too!...was when Witt's doctor of more than 20 years stood to pay tribute to him. Dr. Kane knew Witt very well, and his words had weight because of it. He said the first thing one grew to know about Witt, once you got past the externals, was that he didn't suffer fools gladly. This drew grins; we all knew that. It was something that initially attracted Witt and I to one another, when I used that phrase about myself - I know you're surprised - in an early email exchange. When he found someone rude, or foolish, or ridiculous in a non-pleasing way (he loved the kind of ridiculousness that was pure fun), one eyebrow would go up, his face would grow even longer, and he'd produce a gimlet stare that quickly reduced any idiots to gibbering. I loved it. Wish I could pull it off.

Dr. Kane spoke of Witt's presence - not just his size which was 6'7" if you never met him, but the sheer volume of his personality. You could not only not miss Witt, you could never ignore him. You wouldn't want to. He was a magnet, and we mere iron filings.

Then Dr. Kane brought me to tears. He made the point that over the years, Witt knew what was important to him, and guarded it fiercely and loyally. Family and friends. Knitting. Peace. He winnowed away the non-essentials to live his life as fully as he could, in the way he wished, every day. And Dr. Kane reminded us that this meant if Witt gave his time and caring to you, that he valued you, and your friendship; that you mattered very much. Thinking of all the times we spent together, even just sitting over a cup of coffee or visiting his and Gary's apartment and talking for hours, I realized more than ever how honored by his friendship we've been. And I grieve that little bit more.

One worry laid well to rest - Gary was treated with the utmost respect as Witt's partner and chief mourner. One never knows how some clergy view gays, but the rector was kind and deferential toward Gary and the rest of Witt's family.

It gives you an idea of the esteem in which Witt was held that a daytime service, midweek, in the crowded District, was so well-attended that it took about an hour for everyone to pass through the three person receiving line. And that was even when a few of us didn't take up the space because we'd spoken to everyone in the family earlier. Over and over I saw laughter mixing with tears as people shared, often with strangers, how they knew Witt and the profound effect he had had on them.

We were one of the last to leave, speaking again to his mom, sister, and Gary. We had closed our studio until four, giving us plenty of time to get home. We were quiet driving back, both pensive. The DH mentioned an errand he need to run on the way, and we decided to stop for lunch. As we ate an appetizer, I remarked that I felt like we were playing hooky, now that the service was over, and I liked the feeling. I suggested that we do it more often; take a day where we had no appointments, leave SuzyG the receptionist in charge, and just take off. Do a mental health day.

After the man who really knew how to live, we've decided to call them Witt Days. We'll use them to look for both peace and fun, recover our wits, such as they are, and go on.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Touch

Most of you don’t know me, of course, but I’m a pretty pragmatic person. But something that defies my logic happened today which I think you might appreciate.

A few months ago, my loyal followers know, we were taking pictures at a farm that has many peacocks. We came back with a bouquet of tail feathers the owner gave me. I gave a small one to Witt and Gary for Mattie, their cat, to play with.

We’ve been shooting this week at a dance studio which we do annually...it’s a full week commitment to costumes, tap and ballet shoes, and adorableness. This morning was the end, with the Tiny Tots, and we were packing up our cars to take things back to our photo studio. It's exhausting, and it was hot out, not to mention lunch time, so we packed as quickly as we could.

Now, I had been the only person in my car this morning, and it had been locked at the studio. But when I came out, there was a small peacock feather on the passenger seat. It was not there when I drove in. I have no peacock feathers at the house. We hadn’t taken any of the feathers to the dance studio, nor were there any on any of the 30+ types of costume we shot. There is no logical explanation I can see, and I've never experienced anything like this before.

I spoke with Gary for quite awhile this afternoon; the first time we've really had to just talk, not discuss details of the service being held for Witt on Thursday. When I told Gary about the feather, he didn't seem surprised at all. Then he told me he came back from a walk today to find a tiny three-leaf clover laying on the center of his keyboard, waiting for him. We both feel Witt was saying hello, and being Witt, found a clever and meaningful way to do it for each of us.

I've been asked to read some passages of scripture at Witt's memorial service. Please offer a prayer that I may keep it together, giving him the honor he deserves, and providing comfort for us all.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

In Sorrow

Almost exactly two years ago, I saw a post on my EZasPi list saying that the poster lived in a town just a little south of my home. I said hello, mentioned that we were local to one another, and that, dear Blogees, was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

His name was Witt, and he and his partner Gary had recently moved from the DC area. As we began exchanging emails, I found him to live up to his name - very witty, funny and playful. We were about the same age, and had a lot in common. I'm not a woman who makes friends easily, by my definition of friend. I have a lots of friendly acquaintances, sure. But for me, friendship is an intensely loyal and deep commitment. Sometimes, as in the case of my best bud in high school, someone I've known quite awhile breaks through in a moment of closeness, and stays there always. And sometimes, as with Witt and Gary, I never get a chance to throw up any of my habitual reserve, and they were in my heart right away.

A couple weeks after meeting online, the "Boyz" as they and we called them, showed up unexpectedly at our studio. We talked for hours. From then on, we would get together about twice a month, either for a movie or a bite to eat, coffee or just a chat at their apartment. Usually we'd pair off...Witt and I talking books and fiber arts, Gary and the DH whatever caught their fancy. We had that lucky friendship where everyone in both couples likes everyone else.

A year and a half ago, Witt and Gary honored me by asking me to officiate at their commitment ceremony. It was a lovely affair, just a dozen people at a favorite local restaurant/lounge. The DH did the photos, and they were beautiful too. The two of them completed one another in the ways I love to see in the happiest of couples, the way I'm lucky enough to have with my DH.

All the time I've known him, Witt's health has been compromised by HIV, and over that time, I've seen his energy levels go down. Anything we did together needed to be earlier in the day, because later he was too worn. A fever could spike out of nowhere. Meds needed adjusting. But I never saw or talked to him that his outlook wasn't positive and generous, that he wasn't full of laughter and love.

That light went out today in this world, and it's burning ever so brightly in another. Gary called this morning as we were on our way to work, and told me Witt passed on in his sleep. They were staying in a friend's cabin high up on a mountain side, as they did whenever they wanted to get away. They'd planned to go up today, but Witt pressed to leave yesterday, and that's where he left us. I can't help wondering if he had an inkling, or if he just wanted to be somewhere peaceful. He gave me a lot of yarn a few weeks ago, and that had me wondering if he wasn't feeling something then, too. The shock of hearing that he was gone so abruptly was beyond words. Witt was larger than life in so many ways, and the hole he's left behind, well...it will never fill.

People sometimes say of a loss that they know how you feel. I can't imagine how Gary feels. I can all too easily imagine how I'd feel if I lost my husband, and the horror is more than I can bear. All I can do is try to be sure we're there for Gary, and help him take the one step at a time the way that he told me he was doing this morning.

You know that mascara that forms tubes on your lashes, won't flake or run, but washes off with plenty of warm water? Guess what tears are made of? Witt would have appreciated the knowledge. It really sucks that I can't call and tell him.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Health Care

We're at a crossroads in this country, sez I, and I'm sincerely hoping we take the right path. Specifically I'm hoping we take it in the area of health care, by passing the President's plan to cover everyone in America. Personally, I'd like to see the sort of universal health care that the UK and Canada enjoy, but I can live with the Obama administration's plan.

"Live with" being the important term. I can give you the big picture, maybe better than some folks because I lived in England for six years. Yes, sometimes you have to wait a bit to be seen for non-critical items. Like you don't have to do that here now? In spite of what a Big Bucks gentleman's commercials would have you believe, I don't know a single Brit or Canuck who wants what we have, and I know several.

I could also point out to you that we already have universal health care, and I lived under that too, when I was an Air Force wife. Yes, I couldn't always count on seeing the same doctor. But I got great care, and I didn't pay a cent. We made less than we would have on the economy as a trade off, but only having to pay for my meals when I had my two C-sections? So worth it.

So please understand, I do have a fair idea of what I speak. For that matter, I usually do or I don't open my mouth. :-) But today I'm going to ask you to support this health care plan for all our sakes, and specifically, share why I need you to do so.

As you know, the DH and I are self-employed. Yes, we struggle some in this economy. But we struggle far more than we should to provide health insurance for ourselves. In 2001, when we had to purchase said insurance, we found it excruciatingly difficult. We finally got Mega Life and Health through the National Association for the Self-Employed. Would seem to be an excellent thing, yes? A group plan for those of us whom we're always told are the backbone of America. Maybe we are, but I think we're losing spinal fluid at an alarming rate. In the 8 years we've had the policy, our premium has more than doubled. We had to raise our deductible to $7,500 EACH just to keep it as "only" doubled...and needless to say, we don't have anything like that if we were seriously ill. To be fair, during that time I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes, but I'm very compliant and on the most minimal and generic medication there is.

And this policy covers almost nothing. One doctor visit a quarter is covered - with a co-pay; do you know any doctor that sees you for anything substantial then doesn't want to see you back in a week or two? I have to pay that out-of-pocket. I did physical therapy to avoid having to undergo anesthesia and a manipulation to unfreeze my shoulder, thereby saving them money, right? Sure did, because they refused to pay for the PT unless it was after surgery. All that, out of pocket. The prescription plan has a deductible, a co-pay, AND a cap of $1,000. With what the drug companies make in America, that gets eaten up FAST. I actually get my generic diabetes med cheaper at WalMart than I do in the plan I PAY FOR!

So we're now trying to get policy through Blue Cross Blue Shield. A very reputable company, which we now know Mega is not...they are dissed by everyone who is stuck with them. We went to an insurance broker, told him everything about us, and he got a quote for us. The underwriters quoted us at Tier 4. Middle-of-the-road, 1 being best, 7 being you're next to terminal. Based on the deductible we could live with, we'd be paying a little more monthly, but it would be real coverage, and we were delighted. We went in and did the official paperwork, hoping to have it in place by the beginning of the month.

A few days later, our agent called. They came back with us on Tier 7! Nothing changed, no new conditions, and he was as shocked as we were. I flat told him, absolving him, of course, that I felt this was fraudulent, a classic bait-and-switch. We asked what we could do to appeal. He didn't know, having never had this happen to him! We asked our physician to write a letter for us, and bless him, he did, stating that through my own efforts my blood sugar is well within normal, and I could probably even go off the med for it. He added that there was no reason I shouldn't be at a lower tier. The agent faxed that to his contact, and they came back at Tier 6. However, he also had us write a letter directly to BCBS Underwriting, giving us word for word what it should say, also including the doctor's letter. We've not heard back anything from that, and it's been about two weeks. Prayers are welcome.

A doctor recently told me that we were playing Russian Roulette, having the insurance (so-called) that we do, and he's absolutely correct. And folks, that shouldn't be. We work hard. We don't make much, and we're paying on health insurance about half what our house payment is. In this country, where we have so much, people working their butts off shouldn't have to be afraid of losing everything just because the insurance industry is greedy.

Do you know the majority of bankruptcies are due to health care costs? Trust me. I am afraid. One of us gets seriously ill, and we have to chose between treatment and losing everything. And we are very much not alone. So please, for the sake of all of us, let's get real coverage for all Americans.

I'd sure sleep better.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Just Because

A DJ friend of mine posted this on Facebook, and although I should know better, I have to pass it on.

Meanwhile, the SIL is at it again. I may have to verbally rip her a new one. I am SO good at that!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Quickie

Just a small smile....I don't know why anyone would be surprised that Senator Arlen Specter decided today to change parties and become a Democrat. After all, the man is 79, and has fought cancer three times.

He's trying to make it into Heaven!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Stitches of Looooove

This is my 100th post. No cards necessary, unless they be gift cards.

"Stitches of Love" has become a sort of inside joke between the DH and I. It began first, I think, when I was knitting the Lily of the Valley stole for my younger daughter. It was meant to be a wedding gift, and I worked on it very constantly until the wedding was called off. Later, it was a gift before the wedding that did happen. She's a constant challenge, this kid.
Anyway, when I was working on it, I was very full of hope for her, and sentimentally (yes, even I succumb occasionally!), I felt a bit of hope, a dream, some love, was caught up in every stitch. When I said this to the DH, it became Stitches of Loooooooooooooove. LOL.
The laughter continued when I began a gansey sweater for him. He'd look at me and say, "Knit, knit, knit!" to which I'd reply, "Stitches of Looooooooooove!" Then the darling man (humph) lost thirty pounds. I stopped work on the sweater, feeling a wool swimming pool would not flatter him in the least.
Two years later, and I've finally taken heart to try again. This time it's a beautifully cabled aran sweater called Iain. Put out by Figheadh Yarnworks, you cannot purchase it directly from them, but I got it from Patternworks. It calls for Cascade's Ecological Wool, and I let the DH pick his color. Thing is, he picked Awassi, which is a lovely tan and white marled yarn. I was really worried that the texture wouldn't show up well in a non-solid, but I think I worried needlessly.

I began the sweater on Feb. 26th, and in spite of having to write a history paper about Elizabeth I and Mary of Scots (with footnotes and bibliography) which was about 11 pages, I'm still making good progress. It's worked circularly until it divides for the armholes...done that, and I'm almost done the back. This is a detail. Note that since it's unblocked, the center cable is puckered like it's been sucking on a lemon. It hasn't. The smaller side cable is a bit compressed too, but it won't be when it's washed and blocked.

You can see all the cable work here, the broad double-cabling in the middle and then the two simpler cables on either side. The rest of the texturing is a lovely basketweave. This color is a bit more true.

And another angle that shows just how much that center cable is drawing in. Flattened out there is almost a full inch of purl at the narrowest part of the cable. It looks so cool, doesn't it? And even without blocking to make it pop, there's plenty of texture easily seen.
This sweater has the added benefit of having given us another phrase - "Cables of Cuddles." Yes, we're ridiculous together.
But I know you won't tell.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


As those of you who've read my profile blurb know, I'm a wedding officiant. Those of you that haven't read it, go 'head. We'll wait. {humming the "Saving Grace" theme. Seriously great song.} You back? Okay.

Today I got a call for my services. A local alterations/tuxedo place has some of my cards, and this lady, whose name is Brandon, interestingly enough, picked one up. I sensed some hesitancy right away. That's not too unusual. For most brides, this is the first time that they have done anything like this, and they aren't sure what they should be asking, or need to know. I try to gently lead them into the information we both need.

But that wasn't the reason for this bride's hesitancy, although there were several. First, she's Catholic, from a big Italian family. Her fiance is a WASP, and they don't want to wait a year for him to convert to be married in the Church. So while they want a wedding expressing faith, there's a bit of a line to walk. Not a problem. Many of my couples are of mixed, little or no faith whatsoever. I reassure her on this point.

She tells me that many ministers want them to join their church before they'll do a service. Ludicrous, to my mind; being forced to join a congregation is hardly a recipe for a meaningful religious experience. Others won't do an outdoor wedding - I've done more outside than in.

I learned long ago that when someone has an objection to something you're trying to sell, or win them over to, that the third objection or problem is the real one. And so it was. Brandon opens with, "I'll be honest with you; we've talked to another non-denominational minister." Okay. I have a pretty good idea who that is, there aren't many around here, and more about her shortly. Brandon continued, telling me that the minister wasn't happy with them doing their own vows in addition to the traditional ones, and I haven't any problems with that, as long as they are respectful. I don't care if they provoke laughter, you understand, just not be rude. The bride assures me they'll be in good taste.

Then the kicker. Brandon has an autistic son whom she wants to be the ring-bearer. The other minister said she wouldn't be responsible for that, that Brandon would have to provide someone to walk with him down the aisle so that, and I quote, "...he won't freak out."

Do I need to tell you that said minister lost this service? Whether I get it or not (her phone was dying and she'll need to call me back), there is no way in Hades this couple would hire her. This mother is mortally offended and well she should be. Her son is used to her family, and she is surely the best judge of whether or not he is capable of being her ring-bearer. It's just outrageous that this minister had the nerve to say this.

I'm not surprised, though. I've sadly heard way too many stories about her. A DJ with whom we've worked many times told me the first. He was doing a wedding, and the bride is frantic because it's past time for the service to start and the minister is not there. When she finally does arrive, she insists on the remainder of her payment being made upfront before she'll start the service, stressing the bride even more, and disrupting everything.

Now, I'm all about getting the green upfront, doncha know? But I do it no later than a week before the wedding so it's one less thing to worry about for the bride and groom. I certainly wouldn't hold up a service for which I were late (has never happened, btw) to demand payment. After all, the marriage isn't legal till the minister signs the license, and if you're worried about payment, you just wait to do that part till you're paid. No muss, no fuss. This minister also touts her 'counseling' the couple. I don't believe in counseling a couple; most ministers have little to no psychology training (I do and still don't force-feed counseling on them) and most couples resent the imposition. But I've been twice told that her much-vaunted counseling consists of a five-minute meeting to get the contract signed and get a deposit...at least once in a McDonalds!

Of course, I cannot tell brides any of this without looking bad myself. But I'm furious for Brandon's sake, and for my own. This woman is giving those of us that really care about making the day all the bride dreams of a bad name. And no one has the right to rob a child of being a part of his mother's wedding day, even if it might require a bit more effort.

A minister shouldn't just behave with at least a modicum of dignity. She should make sure she accords it to everyone else, too.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

...And LIKE It!

There's a commercial out now that makes steam come out of my ears. Most men would find that alarming in their wives, my DH just reminds me I have a blog for such things. Have I mentioned his brilliance?

Anyway, in this commercial, Mom is using her phone/computer hybrid to get and try out a new recipe. It's reading her step-by-step instructions on how to make paella. Now, I should, in the interest of fairness, mention that paella (pronounced pah-A-yah, long A in the middle) is the fruit of the gods. I have eaten paella in three different countries, and it's my favorite dish. So Mom, all excited, emails her family "Paella for dinner tonight!" Should be happy dancin' all 'round, right?

Wrong. Snarly teenage son gets the text on his phone, and immediately leaves Mom a voice mail, "I don't know what Pah-ella is, but I'm not touching it!" Mom shrugs philosophically, picks up the phone, and orders a pizza.

WTF?!?! Not in MY house! Freakin' brat doesn't like what's put on the table, and he can go hungry. There are starving children in (insert any country here...they all have starving kids, sadly), and you turn up your nose at my cooking? And then expect me to order and pay for another meal for you? I don't THINK so. Especially when you haven't even tried the paella, let alone know what it is.

I grew up in a house with four kids, and parents who were public servants. There were plenty of nights where meat was scarcer than I'd have liked, or soups were made from stock boiled from a chicken carcass, and stretched with macaroni. Chili would get rice added for the second night, and to this day I'm not big on baked beans, it being a cheap protein Mom had to serve often.

In my parent's home, you ate what was on your plate, and you better not gripe. In the economic climate we're in, where so many of our neighbors are struggling, it's a good lesson to be teaching our kids...be grateful you HAVE food on your plate.

Unless it's peas. Then I'll revert to childhood, fill my mouth with them, and suddenly need to visit the bathroom. ;-)

Friday, March 27, 2009


I've been really enjoying watching and listening to this and thought you might too. It's a much better camera view than the one on our local nest. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Glass Houses

I'm in a lather today, and not because my legs need shaved. They do, but that's a different story. No, today is a personal matter, so I'm going to share it with all of you. :-)

As many of you know, my father-in-law passed away last May, leaving behind his wife of fifty years. While their daughter lives local to their mother in VA, their sons live in two of the surrounding states, and in Chicago. Not a 'whip around the corner and check on Mom' kinda sitch. So my DH has been very good about calling his mom more frequently, and we've gone down to see her more than we did when my FIL (Father In Law, if you aren't familiar) was alive. It's a bit over an hour through lousy traffic and bad roads to get there, and being self-employed means we have a smidge less time than the 9-5 crowd, but all in all, we're not doing too badly by our lights.

The problem? My SIL (you can work it out, right?). She is partially employed in a church pre-school program, has one kid in high school and one 20 year old who's employed full-time and living at home. She was a huge help in straightening out Dad's estate, the bit that needed done, and on her falls the responsibility for going to doctor appointments with Mom. Not that Mom can't drive perfectly well; she can. But it suits the SIL's chronic martyrdom to schlepp Mom to this stuff, then fill everyone else in while simultaneously telling us how difficult it all is, and by the way, we don't do enough. Every email tells us what we NEED to do...call Mom, visit Mom, send Mom a card.

I have resented this all along on many levels. First, the SIL is now paying back for a LOT of help over the years. She has, by her own admission, never had to hire a babysitter. She's had enough free meals to stock a restaurant. None of her brothers have had these kind of benefits. To my mind, aside from the natural duty one owes good parents...and these are very good people!...she owes considerably more.

Second, these men are all in their late forties/early fifties. I honest to God don't think they need their baby sister to tell them how to have a relationship with their mother. It's neither her place, nor her business. And third, it's counterproductive. No one likes to be nagged!

This has been chaffing my tail for awhile, but for me, it came to head last night. About 10 minutes before I got out of class, the DH posted on Facebook that he was sitting in the car, listening to tunes and waiting for me. She posts back that he "should call his mother; she misses his Wed. night calls."

What? He has called her precisely ONCE on a Wed. He usually avoids that, knowing she's at church on that evening and being unsure when she gets home. She snipes back that Mom is home by 8, same as he called before.

For your smiling, even-tempered Goddess, this is the final straw. But of course, this isn't my sister. My one sister who would act like this, I'd have no compunction about ripping a new one. Not fair of me to cause a rift in a family that I only married into, right? So I posted a comment, saying, "Hey, knock it off! I'm the only one that gets to nag him. :-)" The smile softening it, of course. Ha.

This morning she posts back that it is 'not a nag, just a suggestion.' Really, sweetie? I don't think so. A suggestion happens once. When every email and text and message ends with a 'do this for Mom', it's flippin' nagging. I'm here to tell you.

But you know what? I am VERY good at suggestions. I have a few for SIL. First, get a life. Okay, a little non-specific, but this woman does nothing that isn't circumscribed by church or family. Second, quit babying your children! Her 20 year old daughter who works full-time is still living at home, which a lot of people are in this economy, but to the best of my knowledge she is not paying anything toward her upkeep. And get this...she doesn't DRIVE! Mommy takes her to work and everywhere else she goes. SIL says she wouldn't want her daughter to try driving if she's scared to...even with a free car that Grandma has upgraded from. Of course she's scared; she's spoon fed it, because if she drives, she's out from Mommy's control. Growing up means putting on your big girl panties and dealing with it. Although a pretty young woman, she's never had a boyfriend. Mom and Grandma take pride in the fact that she's not interested in boys (not girls, that's not it); I say it's freakish for a woman her age.

THEN I would suggest she take her 14 year old son to an obesity specialist. The boy has back boobs and waddles, I kid you not. His parents constantly undercut his diet. I've been at a restaurant with them where he tried to substitute a salad for fries on a meal. When the waitress said she could add a salad, but not remove fries from the cost, his dad said to bring 'em anyway, and then both he and his son ate them all. I've seen the kid polish off a whole basket of dinner rolls without one word from his folks.

But let a teacher mention that maybe he's too heavy and needs some help, and Mommy raises holy hell and gets said teacher sanctioned, losing a year of raises. For speaking the truth! He has no friends, and no social life outside church. His uncle the EMT has speculated that the boy will have diabetes soon if he doesn't already, and it will be a miracle if he gets out of his twenties without a heart attack. I suggest that with the rampant hypochondria she and these kids have, maybe she should pay attention to the real issue.

I also suggest that instead of bitching that her husband ignores her, she quit dressing like a frumpy Puritan, try some lipstick and a smile occasionally, and do something to expand her mind. Her only conversation is bragging on her kids and gossiping about church folk. I'd ignore her too. The man works very hard and is a sweetheart; cut him a break.

I suggest too that you use the spa gift card your brothers gave you for all the work you did when Dad was dying. Maybe they have a treatment to pull the pole out of your ass.

See? I told you I was good at suggesting! I feel much better now. :-)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Music to Mine Ears

Wait till you have four and a half minutes in which you want to do something special for yourself, and listen to this. At the risk of being trite, this is deeply meaningful to me, and I think you'll enjoy it too.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

In Hot Water

I have an old friend from high school. Truth to be told, he had a bit of a crush on me back then - no accounting for taste, is there? - and if I'd had a brain stronger than my hormones, I might have entertained the notion. He's a wonderful, caring person who is raising three sons, the eldest with Downs Syndrome. We re-connected a few years ago, and mostly stay in touch, as many of us do, with jokes we email back and forth, and occasional "What's up with you?" emails.

The catch in this friendship is that we are politically opposites. Now, I don't bring politics up much in this blog. They matter to me a fair bit, but I don't like to defend myself and my beliefs or attack anyone else's. Usually. Mostly because I don't care to indulge in a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent, if you get my not-too-subtle drift. I have several friends who are WAY right of center; even my one daughter was indoctrinated that way by her dad. I get along with them because, once I know their politics, I suggest we agree to disagree and just drop it. Life is too short, I'm not out to convert anyone, and they sure as hell won't convert me.

I've also asked not to be forwarded right-wing propaganda pieces. I'm an extremely rational person, I am not moved by propaganda except to get ticked off at the idiots who think everyone out there is dumb enough to swallow it whole. I should say I mean this for ALL propaganda. Distortions hurt everyone. But today, my dear friend sent me this piece of crap...

"Are you fed up with the spending, and planned spending, in Washington?

Do you want to make a statement?

April 15th is tax day in America. So try this one: send 1 tea bag to Washington D.C. from April 1st through April 15th. The idea is to give our elected officials an overwhelming signal, something that they can't ignore. You don't have to say anything at all - just send an envelope with a tea bag in it. Or you can add something like “Remember the Boston Tea Party”.

Please send this to your local representatives and also to:

Nancy Pelosi

Senator Harry Reid

Barack Hussein Obama"

I stripped the attached addresses for space, and because I don't want any of you doing anything so bloody asinine! These people are trying to fix the most devastating economic jam this country has been in in most of our lifetimes, and this is how we're going to repay them? If there was ever a time to drop the partisan bull, I'd have to say this is surely it. People are actively suffering in this country. Even if we don't agree with every plan or piece of legislation to get us out of it, we ought to be hitting our knees every night asking God to grant that it works in spite of our fears. And Raunch Limpballs (thanks, Sara!) should be horsewhipped for hoping otherwise, the drugged-up pig.

I also can't help but notice the cheap campaign tactic resurrected...do you see Speaker Pelosi's middle name? No? How about Sen. Reid's? Uh-uh. Wonder why we see the President's? You don't think they're trying to imply anything, do you?

No, I don't think we should rubber stamp every move; that too would be asinine. But let's try to give them space to make it work, and not find it necessary to tie up their staff in pulling Lipton's and Bigelow's out of envelopes. We're in enough hot water. If we want to make tea, let's do it for comfort, not dissension.

I take mine with Splenda and cream. Thanks for asking.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

I Love My Job

But before I get into that...thank you all for your kind words on the loss of Twilight. I still look for him when I get home, but you don't get to be my age without knowing that the sense of loss eases.

One of the blessings of our new studio is that it has long been established as the place to have senior portraits taken. Last year we moved in right as the first mailing should be hitting. Although the previous owner was very helpful in providing marketing templates, everything was done in Adobe InDesign. I use Photoshop to beat the band, but the two programs are more different than similar. So your favorite Office Goddess had to move a studio, learn (partially) a very complex piece of software, familiarize myself with the marketing materials, search out and adjust images to plug into them and have it all done in time to go to the printer. I was NOT amused. But I know you're not surprised to know that I did it, and we had a very successful senior season.

Now it's time to gear up for the class of 2010. The man who puts out the marketing materials we're using is running behind. See the not amused line again. But he did get out the catalog, which is what requires the most work, and it's what I spent about seven straight hours working on today. It would have been less if I were more familiar with InDesign, but since this is my only use for the product, I don't spend a lot of time in it. I got my bearings again, and then really got rolling.

I had a blast. I went back through the images for over 1oo seniors, picking and chosing the ones that would fit the theme, and provide a good balance of race, sex, and builds. No, I don't want everyone to look perfect. That discourages the majority...but I DO want to make them feel that they will look their best when they come to us. We work very hard to make sure that they do; senior pictures are a very lasting impression. Some of the images in the catalog are positioned in such a way that they need a knock-out picture for maximum impact, and I was having trouble deciding on one of them. My difficulty was that I needed a real close-up, but horizontal. Most of the DH's work is vertical unless it has to be otherwise.

So I found this. This was not an image that had been ordered, so it hadn't been retouched yet. She's pretty, but she's not impossibly beautiful. The image has potential.

I cropped in tightly, and cleaned up her few blemishes. Her skin texture was a bit uneven, and her lovely eyes needed to be brought out. Ordinarily this would have been most of what I would do. But remember, I said the image I used had to have real impact because of its positioning. I decided to go a bit further....

And this is the result. Nothing that makes her look unlike herself...no 'glamour shots' effect where her own mother wouldn't know her. More like she had a really good night's sleep, maybe a facial, and visit to a makeup counter. I'm really pleased with it. The catalog is all set, and tomorrow I'll open it up and look at it with less blurred eyes.

Bet I will still like this, though!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Twilight's Gone

Sometime last night, Twilight passed away. We have no idea what may have been wrong; he was, after all, a feral cat, and it could have been almost anything.

Twilight had vanished a couple of days ago, not being there to greet us as he always did, and not touching his food. We were worried, but thought he might have decided to hole up in the shed at the end of our property, or maybe had just gone back to hunting full-time. It didn't seem right, though; he always seemed to be either on the side deck, or on or next to the front porch. And he liked his food. It's been so bitterly cold this winter for our area, and that food kept his warmth up. He always purred so loudly when we fed him, and seemed so grateful when we'd dump the ice out of his water bowl and give him fresh.

Then he was back. But acting off, still not eating well, not moving around as much. He'd still get up to herd the dogs, especially Jack, but when the dogs came in, he'd just plop down on the walkway instead of coming back up to his food bowl as usual. A couple of days ago I very foolishly cast caution to the wind and picked Twilight up. I didn't even have anything on my hands to protect them, and fully expected to be scratched to pieces for my trouble. Instead, he let me carry him up to his nesting area, giving him skritches and petting him, with him only squirming a bit to be put down when we got there. Honestly, I was stunned, and didn't know whether it was a breakthrough, or he was worse off than I thought.

But we couldn't see anything wrong. I did notice that he was favoring his left hind leg just a bit, yet he was able to walk on it. He was always a 'talker', but he got very vocal the last couple of days. I fretted that he was in pain somehow, but again, no sign of injury...and if I had hurt him picking him up, he showed no sign of it. For about a day and a half he apparently ate nothing, even when we tried to hand feed him. DH took out a piece of pork roast yesterday afternoon, and Twilight wouldn't touch that, so we put it in his bowl.

Then last night, the DH came back in after taking the dogs for their final potty break, and said a good amount of food was gone, including the pork. We were relieved. Twilight was out with the dogs, but the DH said he was suddenly very wobbly in the back paws. We checked on him later, and he was in that shelter he never used.

This morning, he was still there, and the DH told me he was gone. Now someone please tell me why I am grieving for a cat I never wanted, never saw before November, and never even had in my home? For cripesakes, I'm allergic to the creatures! So why did I cry all over the poor DH's shoulder? Dammit.

I'm a firm believer that people...and animals...come into our lives for a reason, to meet a need we have, or for us to meet one of theirs. I'm not sure what we might have done for him that he couldn't do for himself, but I know it made us happy to feel we had a bit of his trust.

In one of Nature's little ironies, I saw the first snowdrops of the season, such a lovely sign that Spring is around the corner. It usually makes me feel so happy.

Friday, February 20, 2009

PAI Friday

We're in the studio alone this morning, the DH and I. SuzyG is off galivanting with others from the direct sales company with which she is affiliated, and we're quietly getting things done. Okay, the DH is getting things done. I'm goofing off on Facebook sending a Friend from History to Jake. I felt he deserved the Marquis de Sade, mostly due to my sick sense of humor rather than any proclivities on Jake's part....of which I'm aware. But instead I sent him Rasputin, seeing as how he was just re-elected president of the local university history honors society despite claiming not to want the honor again. I think he cast a spell. I'm sure he's capable of it.

BTW, he sent me Mary Shelley, the woman who dreamed up Frankenstein and his monster. I choose to believe it's because she was an intelligent, creative woman who was ahead of her time. If it's something to do with the subject matter, well, let's just say that Jake is safer with my chosen interpretation.

Anyway, nice and quiet, until we hear someone clomping up the front steps and across the porch. DH goes out to greet him. Have I mentioned the staff as a whole tries to avoid having the Office Goddess deal with the general public? I, of course, am bemused as to their reasoning. Sure I am. So, this man says he has pictures to pick up, under this or this name, and that we've called him a few times.

I should think we have. The pictures have been here, and paid for, for SEVEN MONTHS! Mind you we have orders that have been here, again, with the money already spent, for years. As the DH goes into production to pull the order, I hear the guy comment that he was here at nine, because "he expected we would be open at nine."

Oh, really? Because everytime we leave a voice mail, and he's admitted to getting several, we state that we're open from 10-6, Tues. through Sat. That information is also posted on the parking lot side, and the front of the building, is on the voice mail message at the studio number, and is on our website. Secretive about our hours we are not. We don't do a traditional 9-5 so that people who do can come by after work and ...gasp!...pick up pictures. Actually, a lot of area shops don't open till 10, probably for the same reason.

DH ignores the comment, which is why he's out there and I'm selecting a friend for Jake. I hear him hand the man his photo order, and the guy remarks, "That doesn't seem like much!" Um, dude? You ordered three pictures back in JULY, and you're getting three pictures. They didn't atrophy over time, we didn't deduct pictures for a storage fee (hmmmm! note to self to look into that!), and if you think it doesn't look like much, maybe you should order more photos of your dimpled darling dancer daughter.

I was doing a slow burn. Actually, maybe this is why Jake got Rasputin.

Change of topic....

A small worrisome note...we're not sure where our feral kitty, Twilight, is. Yesterday morning he wasn't acting like himself. He didn't herd Jack, his favorite Scottie, nor did he leave his nest in the alpaca-fur-mulch in the front hedge area, not even for food and fresh water. When we checked on him, he looked at us sleepily but didn't budge. I joked that perhaps he'd been catting around the night before. Witty, no? No? Okay, have it your way.

But last night he didn't greet us by rolling around on the walkway as he usually does, and although food had been eaten, there was no sign of him at all. This on a very cold blustery evening, where he'd normally be scarfing down the kibble for warmth. This morning, still no sign, and the food was untouched.

So the DH, big softie that he is, and I are pretty concerned. If the weather had warmed up considerably, I'd say he was off hunting more interesting things to eat, but it was brutal last night, and the couple nice days we did have, he was still around. Maybe he's moved on, but it seems odd when he has steady food and water.

*sigh* I'll let you know if Twilight shows back up.