There and Back Again

We just got back from a rather unexpected vacation. We took a family road trip to see my sister in Texas. Yes, I know it was over 100°. We went anyway. And we visited some great sites along the way.

We stopped at Yosemite. Beautiful place.

El Capitan in Yosemite
El Capitan

Although I didn’t get a picture, there was a couple of FAT squirrels making the rounds at the outdoor cafe seating at the Visitor’s Center. They were literally making the rounds. They weren’t begging from people, but they scampered from one table to the next, just in case anyone had dropped anything. Apparently, a LOT of people drop things. Sometimes even accidentally.

One of our stops at Yosemite.
Bridal Falls

We went by Mono Lake. It was so weird to see the tufa.

Mono Lake
Mono Lake

We also saw the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest.

Painted Desert
Painted Desert
Petrified Forest
Petrified Forest

I loved all the colors in the trees. I saw what I thought was gravel, washed down from a hill. Turned out to be petrified wood chips.

That's not gravel. Those are petrified wood chips.
Petrified wood chips

We saw Carlsbad Caverns. I’m sure glad they had railings all along the path, because all 3 of us were wandering around with open mouths and our eyes on the ceiling.

The Chandelier in Carlsbad Caverns
The Chandelier in Carlsbad Caverns
Carlsbad Caverns
Carlsbad Caverns

And our last stop was that big hole in the ground: the Grand Canyon. This is where I discovered the panorama on my camera, and played around with it…a lot.

A panoramic shot at the Grand Canyon
A panoramic shot at the Grand Canyon
Selfie at the Grand Canyon
Selfie at the Grand Canyon

Then, right as we were leaving, about 5pm, we saw a mama elk and two fawns. They apparently knew that it was safe at the Visitor’s Center, so they came right up. The fawns were skittish, but mama just kept eatings and ignoring all of us.

Elk at the Visitor's Center at the Grand Canyon
Elk at the Visitor’s Center at the Grand Canyon

Then we got home, and the cats were so thrilled to see us.

He's so happy to see us.
He’s so happy to see us. You know, on the INSIDE.

There were, of course, many more pictures. And if you’re the kind of masochistic person who likes looking at other people’s vacation pictures, the rest can be found here: 2015 Texas Trip

Happy Anniversary, Me!

Well, I’ve survived another trip around the sun! It has now been exactly three years since my stroke. I’m doing much better, thank you for asking.

It’s still not perfect, what with the limp, and occasional bout of extreme emotionality or difficulty recalling words. But the fog has lifted. I seem to have figured out the right drug dosage for the leg spasms at night. And I’ve gotten much better at remembering to use the calendar to keep track of things I need to remember. So life is pretty good! However, I doubt I’ll ever get an office job again. Only work-from-home for me. Speaking of which, leads on legitimate flex-jobs are always appreciated!

Three years. That’s about the normal time for length of stay on an air base, so of course, as a military BRAT, it’s been high time for some sort of change. I may not have the classic “itchy feet” syndrome of BRATs, but I usually go through some sort of major(ish) change every 3 years. So, (spinning the wheel), TA-DA, pink hair it is!

044

Yep, for the last couple of months, I’ve been dying most of my hair pink. I wonder how long I’m going to keep it up. But I learned how to heat set the “temporary” dye color. That shit ain’t going anywhere! At least not very fast.

And since I’m well past the “increased risk” zone of another stroke, apparently neither am I. This makes me very happy. But I can’t really explain to you all the complex emotions this makes me feel. I could be dead. Not like “I was in a fatal car crash”, but like “there are still people who DIE from strokes.” My family doesn’t get this. They tell me I’m nothing like my cousin, who was younger than I was when she died from a heart attack, less than a year after my stroke. True, I had insurance, and live less than 15 minutes from a great hospital that deals with a lot of strokes. She didn’t. And to my family, the fact that I had insurance makes all the difference. That’s a twist of fate. I’m supposed to be reassured by a twist of fate.

And it’s not like the near-death experience has made me the “live every day to the fullest” kind of person, either. If anything, most of my days feel like I’m in a terminal, waiting for a much-delayed flight. I feel like I’m trapped in molasses. It takes me days to actually get something done. I have to notice that it needs doing, then notice it again another 3 or 4 times, before I can summon the energy to actually do it. Spontaneity seems to be a thing of the past. “Hey, let’s go out for breakfast/lunch/dinner!” is no longer in my vocabulary. I can plan to do things, but frequently can’t find the energy to actually do them when the time arrives.

So I make do. I buy four tickets to events so that Phil can always take our daughter and one of her friends, and I’ll be able to go, too, if I can. I cook when I can, but take-out is always available, or the pre-made meals from the deli at the grocery around the corner, and I keep freezer meals on hand for when even that’s too much. Phil is willing to do all the freeway driving when necessary (I’m looking at you, 4-hour trip each way to Nevada City for Camp Qwest). I declutter when I can, and lower my cleaning standards when I can’t.

And I keep in mind some of the people I met at the rehabilitation center. The ones confined to wheelchairs now, and I am thankful that I don’t need someone to wheel me around and keep me cleaned up. The ones unable to form ANY short-term memories, and I am thankful that I can, and can put that calendar to good use. The ones unable to form words or recognize items or people, and I am thankful that I garble words or slur slightly only on occasion. Mostly, I am thankful that I am here, and I may just be able to see my daughter grow up.

Wow, this has gotten a lot more morose that I’d intended. But it ends on a better note. That’s my life now. Some of it sucks; some of it just makes do; and there are still bright notes in it. And that makes it all worth it. So happy anniversary to me!

I’m Still Alive

Blind as a bat

<Le sigh>

My eyes are going downhill, faster than I thought they would at this point. I mean, I’ve been wearing glasses for distance since I was 33. I kinda like being able to read road signs before I’m right up on them. And those glasses worked for over 10 years. But then I started having trouble reading. I had to hold the book farther and farther away, and then my arms simply weren’t long enough, or I could get it far enough away to focus, but then the print was too small to read. And that was the tipping point. Anyone who knows me, knows that books are important to me.

So reading glasses became de rigueur. At first, I got a pair that looked a lot like my distance glasses, all wire rim and the lowest level. Those worked well for several years. Then I had a stroke.

They warned me that my eyesight might change, and to wait at least 6 months before getting a new prescription, if needed. Well six months later, the prescription didn’t change. Or a year later. Or two years later. But recently it’s gotten worse again. And I’ve noticed a difference in vision between the eyes. Strangely, the unaffected eye’s vision is worse.

So I increased the level for the reading glasses. And I developed a wide streak of “Don’t give a shit.” I picked out more and more colorful glasses, zebra stripe, purple cheetah.

But now…

It’s gotten even worse, quickly, especially when cross-stitching. I need to try stronger glasses. But in the meantime, I’ve had to make do. I have a Gazelle floor stand that I used to use for cross stitching. It’s an articulated arm that clamps down onto your cross stitch frame. I loved it, but I had to disassemble it when we moved, and this house is too small and dark to use it. But I also had a magnifying glass on a goose-neck clamping stand. I never used it when I was younger, but boy am I glad that I have it! I’ve clamped it to a shelf next to my desk, where the light is good, and I have to wear my reading glasses AND peer through the magnifier, but it works! I really need to get stronger glasses, or find a better option for the magnifier, but until I do, I can make this work, even if I do feel like Professor Trelawny.

School Woes

I know you don’t usually see posts about school during the summer, but then, these are not normal times for my child’s school. The school she attends is in one of the highest rated school districts in this state, and has consistently achieved high scores within that district. It’s a GOOD school. Which makes what happened even more bizarre and shocking.

The district reassigned all personnel to other schools, and is bringing in a new Principal and all new teachers. Did you catch that? ALL personnel. Which means they also reassigned the secretaries, the lunch folks, maintenance, and I don’t even know what else.

The district also refuses to tell anyone WHY, other than “tensions” which couldn’t be resolved, citing privacy issues.

Once again, I find myself in a quandary. My mother was a GS15, i.e. a government employee of the highest rank. She dealt with hiring, firing (yes, you can get a government employee, provided you have enough documentation…think years worth), base closings, veterans benefits and privileges in the GS hiring process, and union negotiations. So I’ve heard more than my fair share of stories concerning all these areas. As an employee, I’ve also been through a half-dozen or so corporate buy-outs, friendly and not so friendly. I’m well versed in government and corporate speak. I’ve seen both sides.

Here’s what happened. On the final day of school, a Thursday, less than 30 minutes after the kids were released, the teachers were notified of a mandatory meeting, in which they were informed that the district was having everyone in the school reapply for their jobs. Anyone who didn’t get rehired would be placed with a different school. About an hour after that, the district emailed all of the parents, informing them of the decision. The email said that there had been on-going tension at the school, and all attempts at rectifying the situation, including a last-ditch effort at mediation, had failed. Therefore, the joint decision between the Teacher’s Union and the District School Board was to have every last person (again, teachers, staff, maintenance, etc) reinterview for their jobs.

Cue the panic and confusion.

The School Superintendent held an open meeting to discuss the decision. She again stated that all personnel would have to reapply for their positions. She said that there were a few people that were not supporting the direction, spirit, and technology of the school. There had been many attempts to get everyone on board, but that a few individuals simply were not supportive. There had even been a last attempt at mediation, but it also failed. She could not name names, or even discuss it, due to privacy issues.

Then less than 48 hours later, the Superintendent said that all personnel would be transferred, and all new personnel would be brought in. She said that they were interviewing for exceptional, quality teachers to staff our school. Hiring would be done by June 30th, i.e. less than 3 weeks. Then she went on vacation.

As you can expect, there has been much confusion, anger, and tears. After much discussions between the Teacher’s Union, the District School Board, and the parents, this is what I understood.

The problem started when they started bringing in new technology to back up the implementation of Common Core. Apparently there were a few teachers who objected, and refused to use the technology (Luddites, in Silicon Valley. Who knew?) Things were escalated. Near the end of the year, the district called for an all-hands type meeting, at which the final attempt at mediation occurred. I remember that day. Without announcement, all teachers and staff were gone one day. They had all substitute teachers for the classes, and had district office staff handing the school office.) So the district made the decision to release all teachers/staff from their positions, and have them reapply, thus weeding out the people who weren’t getting with the program. Noone was fired. They still had jobs in the district school system. They would get reassigned to other schools if they didn’t get placed back into our school.

Now, I understand the reasoning behind not making the announcement till after school let out that last day. I understand that it was to keep the teachers focused on the school and end-of-year requirements, and stressing out the kids. It would have been a disaster at the school if they had announced it earlier. Never-the-less. The timing was like dropping a bomb. It sent everyone reeling. But at least the parents knew that the really good teachers would be coming back. We just didn’t know who WOULDN’T be coming back.

That’s when the Teacher’s Union and the District engaged in a little brinksmanship.

The Union, whose job it is to protect and back the TEACHERS (not the kids), determined that any teacher who was reassigned would automatically have a mark against them. Everyone would KNOW that if a teacher was reassigned, it was because they were one of the problem people. The parents would know. And their new school would know. So the Union position became an either/or. Either everyone remains in place, and we try again to fix the problems, whatever they were, or everyone gets reassigned, so that no teachers were singled out.

Now, I understand the Union’s reasoning. If only a few teachers were reassigned, then they would be viewed with suspicion anywhere they went. This was all over the local news. Every school in the district knew that these teachers were forced to reapply for their positions. If the new teacher at your school came from our school, it MUST be because they were one of the problem people who didn’t get rehired. The Union said no. If you’re getting rid of a few, you get rid of them all, so that all teachers are handled the same, and no one teacher gets automatically marked as trouble. I understand that.

The district said ok, fine. Then they all get reassigned.

So now it will be an entirely new school. The old teachers have been ripped out, forced into new schools. Parents have to “reimagine” the type of school we want. The kids, current and previous students, are devastated that they won’t see familiar teacher’s faces at school. There’s huge amounts of debate among the parents. One camp is trying to get the teachers reinstated. One camp wants to go ahead and move forward. There’s one group that’s demanding more transparency from the School Board. One group is sticking their fingers in their ears, and going la-la-la-la.

Personally, I’m to the point where I’m sick of talking about it. While retaining the teachers would keep the good ones around, it would also keep the luddites. Yes, there needs to be more transparency. Over half the parents were completely unaware there was a problem, let alone that it had progressed to this point. Yes, it will be difficult to start up with an entirely new team. No, we don’t know if the district will even listen to what kind of school the parents want. Yes, it’s awful to lose all continuity in the school.

But you see, I was a military BRAT. I went to four different schools, six if you count transitioning from elementary to middle-school, then to high school. I know the anxiety of having to walk into a school with an ENTIRELY new set of staff/teachers.

And I know kids are resilient. They’ll make it through. Regardless.

The Motivation

If you see any, please send it around my way. I seem to have lost mine.

I’ve been frequenting http://www.strokeboard.net/ recently, and been hearing people tout Baclofen, which is what the docs in the rehab center had put me on originally. I’ve been having some trouble recently with the spasticity in my leg, so I went back to my doc and talked to her about it. We’d switched to Tizanidine for some reason, but we couldn’t remember why, so we decided to switch back and see how it went. But I needed some antibiotics too, so she prescribed those too. And I switched and added the antibiotics all at the same time. I think that might have been a mistake.

Two days after starting the new drugs, I started feeling the fog descend again, along with nausea and dizziness. I asked the doc about it, and she seemed to think it was the antibiotics, not the Baclofen, so I suffered through. Sure enough, the nausea and dizziness departed at the end of the antibiotics. And the fog lifted. But not entirely.

I think.

That’s the problem. I think I made too many changes at once. I can’t tell if the fuzziness I feel is new or not. I seem to have more difficulty prying my ass out of this chair, though.

Time to see the doc again.

<sigh> Am I ever going to get a break?

The Making of a Pattern

I’ve been kind of alone in this whole pattern making process. I mean, I’ve bought other people’s patterns before (shout out to Teresa Wentzler, whose design work is now sadly closed, but forums are still accessible), and I’ve seen how they look. And I have the professional version of PatternMaker, now, sadly, unsupported. But I had what I’d call a steep learning curve. I’ve never actually known anyone personally that used it. And I certainly didn’t feel comfortable asking professional designers questions about how they published their patterns. So I figured it out on my own.

In the beginning, I did it all manually. I mean I quickly saw how to export the pattern and the info sheet to JPGs, but I did everything manually after that. I had to export both a pattern picture with the lines and center markings, AND a solid color image with no graph or marking to show what the finished product would look like. I went into my image editor and manually cut the pattern picture into quarters so that I could show them enlarged in my pattern book. I figured out a way to add grey borders to the inside edges of patterns to show overlap. I figured out how to watermark the solid color image. I opened a new document, and pulled each piece into that doc, along with all the requisite formatting and tinkering. Then I exported that document into a PDF. That was before I even started on the work for creating a listing on Etsy. I had to make a list of steps so that I wouldn’t miss any steps…because I did a few times. The list had 17 steps.

But then, a revelation! I discovered the Professional’s version had a feature called “layout”. That made a lot of things a lot easier. But it also lead to learning more features needed for what layout required. I learned how to mark “Layout regions”, dividing up the pattern into sections that I could then insert into the layout, so that the pattern was displayed enlarged in sections. This, by itself, has saved me literally HOURS. I learned where to fill in information so that it could easily be inserted into the layout, without having to retype it each time. I learned how to save layouts, so that I didn’t have to recreate them each time. Again, HOURS saved.

So now it seems simple. Finish design. Fill in info for pattern name, notes, and fabric type. Set fabric size. Turn off grid, turn on solid design, export to graphic. Mark layout regions. Go into Layout mode, select pre-made layout with 4 enlarged quarters + 1 detail + cover page + info page. Insert graphic on cover page. Check the 4 quarters are correct. Select the detail enlargement. Check the info page. Print to RTF. Pull up graphic in image editor, and add watermark. Pull up RTF and export to PDF. Start the Etsy list process. Easy-peasy. Especially after the 17 step manual method.

But I still didn’t know anyone to talk to, to compare methods with. And then I discovered that fellow Seamonkey, Joel (hi Joel!), also had set up an Etsy shop to sell his patterns. Well, it took a while to work my nerve up to talk to him about it. But I finally did. Come to find out he’s using PatternMaker too. Not the same version, but still! And he had an excellent recommendation for CutePDFWriter, which is software that allows printing directly to PDF, which saves me another step. So he had some recommendations for me; I had some recommendations for him. I hope he enjoyed the exchange as much as I did.

Now I just have learn how to DRAW!

Sometimes Free Ain't Free

Ah, what a difference a day or two makes.

I have an Etsy shop. I sell digital cross-stitch patterns of geeky/nerdy/internet/sci-fic things that interest me. They’re weird, and sometimes profane, and I have a lot of fun with them. I’m not trying to live off the store, just make some pocket change, and maybe brighten someone’s day with my, admittedly, weird and snarky sense of humor. So I’ve never really cared about the fees that get charged. I figured anything I get is more than I’ve got now, and it’s not like I have to put any additional time into a pattern once it’s published (usually – sorry for the few errors that have been caught!). So I felt like it was free money!

But it’s tax season. I recently asked our accountant about the status of the store, and she vomited a bunch of taxese at me, and asked that I bring in some totals. Ya know, gross receipts, fees, that sort of thing.

So I sat down and started pulling information together. Gross receipts were easy. Etsy likes you to know that figure. Then there were Etsy’s fees. Things got a little harder. You get a bill each month. I downloaded the bill for each month and started looking at it. It got easier when I figured out how to cross-reference sales, to show sales fees. Then I figured out that the remainder was listing and relisting fees.

But then there were Card Processing Fees? Those were a little more hidden. Seems that if customers pay directly with a credit card, there’s a fee for that…and it’s more than Etsy’s fees.

So there were extra fees with credit cards that I hadn’t been thinking of. What about Paypal? Etsy doesn’t show any fees when customers pay with Paypal. But….in digging through Paypal, whaddayouknow? Paypal fees too.

Well, I finally puzzled through all of it. Come to find out, my net sales are HALF of gross sales.

So I’m feeling a little ambivalent now. I mean, it’s still pretty much free money. I’ve already done the work, and the patterns can continue to sell without additional work. But now that I know I only get half of that money makes me feel…I don’t know…ambivalent. <Sigh>

My Etsy Store – A Money Pooping Cow

So I talked about my Etsy store, and I wanted to let you know what’s been happening with that in the last year.

I had tried selling various things, hand-dyed fabric, tutus, but none of it sold. Looked like the shop was going to waste away.

I kept thinking about the idea of revenue streams, and “work once and get paid multiple times.” I looked around at all the stuff I like doing. I knew I didn’t want to deal with having to ship things…that’s too much like work.

And it finally came to me.

Several years ago, I’d bought HobbyWare’s Pattern Maker, a program which allows you to design your own cross-stitch patterns. And being me, never wading in cautiously when I can jump in up to my eyebrows, I went whole hog and bought the professional edition. I’d used it to create a graduation pattern for my brother. I tried to create some pattern of Georgia O’Keefe’s flower paintings. I’d updated it until the company stopped supporting it. Somehow, through all the various hard-drive failures and new computers, I’m managed to keep it around.

I started making little patterns, mostly Firefly quotes at first, but I branched out to anything that tickled my geeky, nerdy, sci-fic sense of humor. I figured out how to make those patterns into PDFs that are easily uploaded, and set them out in the Etsy shop.

Turns out, a lot of people have the same geeky, nerdy, sci-fic sense of humor.

I love it. I spend several hours coming up with and creating a pattern. List it. And if other people find it interesting and amusing, it sells. Over and over again. And as long as it sells a few copies, I’ll keep relisting it.

I remember hearing Jonathan Coulton describe his music career. He didn’t go through traditional recording studios. He released his music on the internet, directly to consumers. He described it as turning the internet into his own personal “money pooping cow.” That’s how I think of my Etsy Store.

Life, and Other Things

Wow. Over a year since I posted. Well crap. Sorry about that.

Got this dandy new blog site. Got all the old posts reposted. So what’s been happening? Life. I gotta tell you.

Managed to convince the landlord to change the pool pump. Then we got a solar powered pool skimmer (i.e. the lily-pad), and a new electric pool cleaner for the bottom of the pool (i.e. the kraken!). Cut our electric bill almost in half!

We went on JCCC4!

I made more liqueuers.

We went to Kublacon. Kaylee got sign in/out privileges, and made good use of it.

Kaylee went to Camp Qwest, and spent a week with her cousins at the Grandparents in Kansas. We took that opportunity to visit Las Vegas.

The 2nd anniversary of my new life came and went. I meant to write…really.

Kaylee started 4th grade.

Phil and Kaylee went to see Bill Nye.

Thanksgiving in Kansas.

More gingerbread houses.

We went to see the Mythbusters Tour show.

We went on JCCC5.

We had some of the wiring in the garage redone.

That’s pretty much it. Life from then to now. Just wanted to catch you up.