On Finishing

Well, what can I say? If I posted regularly, you’d know it wasn’t me.

I’ve been in a finishing mood lately. So I pulled out a couple of old projects. There’s this:

IMG_2858

And this:

IMG_2859

They still need mounting and framing, but the stitching part is done.

I also pulled this out and did a bit on it:

IMG_2839

I also realized that as much as I admire Teresa Wentzler, the designer, I just wasn’t feeling a lot of joy over this. The colors are muted, and just not me. In fact, working on it made me feel almost guilty. I finally decided that it wasn’t going to happen, and there are lots of other patterns out there I could be doing that would bring me joy, so I decided to give it away. Apparently, it doesn’t bring anyone joy. I know Teresa is no longer designing, but I should probably go to the forums on her old website and see if anyone there wants it.

I’m also working on a quilt that I’m not showing pictures of because the recipient might just read this. I’m trying to get as much of that done as possible, because the place I contract with has another job they asked me to do. And as much as change messes with me, I feel like I’m slacking if I don’t bring some cash into the household. But I don’t expect it to take more than two weeks, and after that I can work on the major quilt project that is what actually started this whole finishing frenzy: the hand quilt!

Challenger

I remember exactly where I was. On the couch, sick with the flu.

It was the first time I can definitely say, “I had the flu.” I may have had a bad cold before, one of those snockery, blowing every 3 minutes when you’re awake, taking Nyquil and only waking up to take more, kind of colds. This was nothing like that. This was a hurt all over, barely have enough energy to make it to the bathroom 2 rooms away and need 30 minutes to get enough energy to make it back, can’t make it to the kitchen, don’t want anything even if you did make it there, shivering one minute and burning up the next, flu.

I was about 2 or 3 days into it. My ex, who worked out of a shop next to the house, was kind enough to keep checking on me, and supplying me with sodas, oranges, Advil, and Nyquil, which were the only things I was interested in. I had made it as far as the couch, and was lying there, cocooned in blankets, drifting in and out as soaps played on the tv.

Like I said, I was out of it, so I don’t know if what I saw was live or if they broke into the soaps to show a replay. I think it was live, but I don’t know. I remember being a little pissed that they’d broken into the show. I mean, by that point, it was just “another shuttle launch.” Yeah, I knew they had Christa McAuliffe on it, which was neat, but didn’t really affect my life. I watched that pillar of fire rise from the ground, leaving a smoking trail behind it. Then, bewilderment. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I knew something was wrong. I saw the weird shaped smoke, with things speeding out in the wrong direction, and the odd looping bit of smoke, and the not going up anymore, but figuring out what it was they were showing was just beyond me at that time.

As a wandering in and out over the next two days, I was alternately puzzled about what I’d seen, and wondering if it had all been some kind of dream. As I got better, it became apparent that it was real, and the harsh reality began to sink in.

Those astronauts. The explosion. It was real. They were dead. It was a disaster. It was a tragedy. It was the end of an era.

 

My Hometown

A place I can now say I’ve lived longer *away* from than in.

Long, long ago, and far away, in a galaxy the natives refer to as Scranton. No wait, that’s not my story. That’s a mix of Star Wars and my father-in-law. I was born a poor black sharecropper’s son. No wait, that’s a Steve Martin movie. Damn it, lemme try again.

I was born in Shreveport, Louisiana. I had a deep accent that still comes out whenever I talk to relatives there, and almost all of my relatives are still there. My Grandpa Magill retired there, and despite the fact that most of them had moved around quite a bit, or maybe because of it, they’ve almost all remained there. There are a couple who got out, but of course we all still have ties there. It is no longer a place that I call “home”.

I lived there until I was ten. Mostly my childhood memories are of homemade Halloween costumes, chasing after the mosquito fogging trucks (and yet it’s my sister who got cancer, not me…go figure), never quite fitting in, not having many friends, and always getting picked last for anything. Birthday parties to which no one showed up. Trick-or-treating alone. Moving…a lot.

The next time I lived there, I was in my late 20’s. I moved in with my sister.

I’d spent way too many years living in Northeast Louisiana. As a woman, my degree was worthless there. My sister was moving back to Shreveport to continue going to college. She was going to live with a roommate, but the roommate backed out at the last second, and she was freaking out a little about it. I suggested that since she needed a roommate, and I could be under-employed in Shreveport as well as I could anywhere else, we should try rooming together. We were both a little leary (and we weren’t the only ones), since our childhood relationship hadn’t been the best. So we decided on a test first. We took my grandmother’s dually truck with a cab-over and went to New Orleans to fetch the stuff she had in storage there. That was a hilarious time, and a totally different story, but we decided that it hadn’t gone half bad, so we decided to give rooming together a try.

We agreed that the bedrooms would have to be at opposite ends of the apartment, and we’d have to have our own bathrooms. So we went looking for a 2/2 apartment we could afford. Hilarity ensued. Cabinet fronts falling off in our hands, cockroaches scattering upon entry, ad infinitum. But finally we found it. A 2 bed, 2 bath apartment that we could afford, and didn’t seem to have any problems.

I don’t recall any problems with her, the apartment, or with the city, but it never really felt like home. I recall problems with relatives though, one in particular, but that, again, is another story. But like I said, the town never felt like home. I’m sure there were places to go dancing, but I only found two, and neither one clicked. I’m sure there were nice restaurants, but I don’t recall any that I could point to.

I do recall hanging at the house, playing with our cats. We both had one. Her cat, Ozzy, loved chasing the cat fishing pole, and would leap all out with abandon, determined to catch it. My cat, Psycho, fell out of the 2nd story balcony, and looked up at us, as if to say, “How the hell did that happen?” He also hated it when you laughed at him, and would retaliate, as our brother well remembers from when he lived with us that summer. I remember driving to Little Rock with her, to see her fiance. However, I don’t recall making any friends, or even acquaintances that I spoke to outside of work.

That fall, my Mom got another GS job, in Denver. We visited her over Christmas. She was in a studio apartment at the time, so it was tight with all 5 of us there, but it was fun. I’ve always claimed that she started calling me on Sunday, with the want-ads. She was having a house built, with 3 bedrooms, and kept trying to get me to move.

Like I said before, I could be under-employed just about anywhere. My sister was starting to plan her wedding, and I was soon going to be a 3rd wheel. So I decided to move to Denver. My Dad was retiring from the Air Force, and would coming in through Dallas, so we decided the move would happen when he came in. My sister couldn’t afford the two bedroom apartment on her own, and didn’t want to wait til the last moment to find a one bedroom apartment, so we ended up moving most of my stuff into storage, and the rest of all our stuff, both of us, and both cats, into a one bedroom apartment with a very understanding landlord. Within a month, I was gone.

I’ve been back once for my sister’s wedding, once to introduce my fiance to my crazy relatives and give him a chance to back out early, and once for my Granny’s funeral. There is one more event I will attend. Other than that, as I told my fiance on the way back to the airport, “I am so not from around here any more.”

Hi! I'm Crickett.

My name is Crickett Jacks Hutchinson. The name I was born with is not really important. I only answered to it for part of the first 12 years of my life. My parents and other family, and therefore most of the people I knew, called me Crickett.  It was fine at first, but when I started school, people started teasing me about it. When we moved to Nebraska when I was about 10, I tried to insist on using that other name, but of course my family slipped up and called me Crickett…in public…and I spent about a year being alternately angry and humiliated about it. When we moved to Germany in 1976, I decided that since I couldn’t get rid of it, I would damn well own it! And I did. The name I was born with was used only for official purposes.

I’ve been Crickett for 40 years now. When I got married in 1998, I made it official, in a roundabout fashion. I know you’re supposed to go through the courts, and take months and shit. But the DMV allows you to change the last name on your license with just your marriage certificate. So when I went into the DMV, I casually asked the clerk if, while we were at it, if we could change the first name, too. He looked at me skeptically, but I showed him my checkbook, and my business cards, all in the name Crickett, and told him I wasn’t trying to skip out of any debts or anything. I just wanted it to be more official. On new jobs, I was tired of having to explain why official documents didn’t match my name. I thought it wasn’t going to fly, that the DMV wouldn’t allow it. But he was young, and impressed by the boobs, I think. He finally shrugged and was all, whatever, and I got my driver’s license in my completely different name. So after I had a driver’s license, I went to the Social Security Office. Since I had one piece of “official” identification, they issued my new SSN card without a blink. So now it IS official.

So why Crickett? Apparently, when I was born, I was late, and a little over 2 lbs. What hair I had was snow white. Combined with big, blue eyes. Someone – nurse, aunt, doctor, depends on who you ask – said I looked like Jiminy Cricket. The Cricket part stuck.

Why Jacks? The man who married my mom, adopted me. He and his brother were, themselves, adopted, by a family relative. It was one of those family adoptions that genealogy trees have so much trouble with. I kept it as a middle name to maintain the connection. That and if I messed up in signing a check, I could always just add the new last name, and make it look like I meant to do that.

Hutchinson? Well I finally married a man whose last name I was willing to take.

So don’t ask me about that other name. That person doesn’t exist. Now the only one to call me that is my college alumni association, looking for donations. They use some weird combination of names, looking for someone who has never existed. They don’t care enough to find out my real name, so I don’t care enough to donate.

What’s your name? How did you come by it?

This Year's Numbers, New Accounting software, and New Year's Goals

Last year, I discussed my Etsy store numbers, but in rather vague terms. This year, inspired by my friend Nicole Decker (a fellow SeaMonkey), I’m using real numbers. Perhaps it will help other folks. Last year, my Etsy store grossed $279.96 during 2014, for a net of $162.88. I’ve already got the numbers for 2015, and I’m happy to say that the numbers have greatly improved! Gross revenue was $876.70. Net was only $134.09, but I invested in materials to do many more of the Barren Fields kit, and had a splurge on Dover books and digital design patterns right at the end of the year.

I spent a lot of time last year, trying to pull the numbers in for our accountant. This year, I tried to pull the numbers into a spreadsheet each month, so it wouldn’t be such a big task at the end of the year, and mostly I succeeded. But at the beginning of this year, I heard about the (free basic) online accounting program Wave, so I decided to try and pull everything into that, and see how the numbers compared. What I found was that I know crap about bookkeeping and accounting! But I muddled through, looking stuff up as I went, and making best guess efforts. I had to create and delete an account a couple of different times in order to get the system to pull info from Etsy, Paypal, AND a checking acct, but in the end, that worked.

Unfortunately, it won’t pull the listing fees charged by Etsy, or the Direct Checkout fees. But I had already pulled those myself, and was able to input them myself. (Note to self: explore the loading of CSV files into Wave) I have to say, with the loading of transactions, having to figure out how to sort out entry of postage, and VAT, California tax, listing fees, Direct Checkout fees, and Paypal fees, I think I have a much better grasp of those numbers and how they fit together. Not that Etsy makes finding those numbers easy. No, that would be tooooo easy, and would let you actually find out how much you’re paying in fees for each item. They’re all upfront about the listing fees. But it’s the Checkout numbers that are hard to find. I use Direct Checkout, and Paypal. Paypal is easy enough, but Direct Checkout is a whole nother beast! And what kills me, is they make it difficult to identify a transaction throughout. They use Listing number and a Transaction # for the basic transaction, but then an Order # on the Sold Orders CSV, and a Payment # on the Direct Checkout CSV. It does include an Order # on the Sold Orders CSV, but it’s not easy to match things up. I ended up using the buyer’s name most often to identify which charge applied to which order. I ended up going through the Orders segment of the Etsy shop to identify who paid CA tax, VAT, and/or postage.

After all said and done, what I discovered is that Wave was only a few dollars different from the spreadsheet!

Next year, I’m going to see how Wave works out on a monthly basis. Does it pull in transactions as they occur? Can I enter fees more or less as we go along?

In addition, my goal is to post at least one pattern each month, since the day job doesn’t seem to have work available. I’ll be trying to make seasonal patterns, in addition to the quotes. I keep looking for more memes that I can make into a pattern.

Yeah, I’m going to try to go the gym more often, and eat better, and all that jazz. But everyone makes that goal. But this year I think I’ll be able to stick with it more. I seem to have rounded a corner in terms of energy and focus, and just endurance all around.

So how was last year for you? And what are you hoping for in the new year?

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.