Monday, September 29, 2008

Peanut Butter Cups

As promised ~

The photo is a bit blurry but the best I could do. It gives you an idea of what a homemade peanut butter cup looks like. This batch had a bit too much peanut butter, which makes the bottom soft. I cut them up and keep them in the freezer. Each one is a delicious morsel of homemade peanut butter cup heaven.
Here's the recipe:
2 sticks butter or margarine, melted
2 cups confectioner sugar
1 1/3 cups crushed graham crackers
1 cup peanut butter
Mix above ingredients and spread in a greased 9" x 13" pan.
Melt 12 oz. chocolate bits. Spread over base mixture. Refrigerate. Cut into squares.
Makes 30-36 squares.
I used to make these at Christmastime to share with friends. I ran across the recipe when I was cleaning out my recipe file. If I cut them into small pieces and keep them in the freezer, they last a long time. I wanted to make them this fall to impress my youngest son, who hasn't been impressed by anything I've done lately. By the look on his face when he licked his fingers, my plan worked. Priceless.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Color Inside and Out

My lovely hibiscus continues to bloom and provide color in the kitchen ~

The view from the porch gets more colorful every day ~
The coast of Maine is feeling the effects Hurricane Kyle as it heads for Canada. For my area, that means copious amounts of rain and flood warnings for my county and counties north and south of here. One very wet August followed by a very wet September.

My house is on enough of a hill that we are not worried about flooding. My daughter may get home to find water in her basement, but she has a hose and sump pump at the ready. We learned years ago to keep everything up off the cellar floor.

It has been a gray, rainy day here at the homestead. We watched Charles Osgood this morning to catch up on the news, which I enjoy because he keeps the positive tone that I crave after the events of the previous week. It no longer takes very long to work our way through the Sunday paper because it gets thinner with each passing month. Today we supplemented our hunger for current events with a viewing of The Daily Show that we hadn't seen yet.

To satisfy another hunger I cooked up a special snack. Last week I bought a huge bag of chocolate chips at Sam's Club. While I put a few things in the cooler in the car and remembered to refrigerate a few more items when I stopped at my daughter's house, I neglected to remove the chocolate chips from my car...for about three hours. It was a beautiful day outside, but it got hotter in the car than I realized until I got home. About a quarter of the chips melted into a solid block of chocolate. I stuck the whole bag in the freezer and promised myself I would make homemade peanut butter cups so the melted mass did not go to waste. Today was the day, and there is a pan of potentially delicious candy just waiting to be cut into squares. If they turn out as I hope they will, I will provide a photo and recipe tomorrow.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Not Perfection

My latest post is up over at the 50-something moms blog. I just emailed someone about leaving PHOTO SENT on the end of the title. I don't mean to be picky. I think presentation matters. Those words included in the title are a message to the women who manage the blog that the photo to accompany the post has already been sent via email and are not meant to be included with the title upon posting. Someone may or may not be able to edit the title now that it's posted. Today that's okay with me. There was a time when I would have been anxious and pacing over the mistake.

I am a recovering perfectionist, which I wrote a bit about in my post Good Enough. A good friend left the comment, "Strive for excellence, not perfection." I took that to heart, so much so that I say those words often as I work to finish a project. It has helped to have a mantra of sorts to move things along, and I've actually finished projects that otherwise would still be undone.

For the first thirty years of my life I thought that perfection was attainable. My father used to say, "If it's worth doing, then it's worth doing right." In my childlike mind that meant that I should always do my best, and I translated that into the need to accomplish perfection. Whether sewing a dress, painting a room, writing a paper, or forming an argument, I wanted the end product to be the best it could be. That meant there was always more that could be done to improve the seams sewn, the painted edge of the molding, the sentence structure, and so on...and on and on. My mother or my husband used to say, "But no one else will know, Sharon." And I thought to myself, I will know. I will know that I didn't do my best.

I realized years ago that the bar was so high that I would never be able to reach the standards I had set. I was paralyzed because there were things I could not make perfect, and in trying to do the impossible I set myself up for failure. It was me that I needed to talk down off the ledge of perfection. The person I needed to please was myself, which meant that I needed to change my perspective. I have been working on that change for more than two decades.

There are times when I am not completely satisfied with something I've done. Now, that's okay with me. I don't have to be 100% satisfied with everything I do. I do the best I can, and sometimes I need to let it go.

The interesting thing I've learned is that it's often not the physical thing I'm doing that is making me unhappy. There is something in me that is bothering me. I have learned to stop what I'm doing and acknowledge how I'm feeling. Then I ask, "What's really bothering me?" I've planted the question, so even if I keep going with the project or errands or whatever, I have acknowledged that something is out of kilter. Sometimes I stop completely and make myself a cup of coffee or go for a walk. I change gears if what I'm doing isn't working. I focus on what I'm doing at that moment. I intentionally think positive thoughts. Then my mind relaxes and releases what was gumming up the works: my fear about what's wrong with the car, my worry about getting/not getting the job I want, or my concern about something that is none of my business. Invariably, the physical thing I was doing gets easier and I'm content with the results.

I still like to do things well. The difference is that now I am not obsessed with perfection. I haven't done everything I set out to do today; there's always tomorrow or the next day or next week. And the small glitch with the title of my post at the 50-something moms blog? Well, that rates no more than a passing thought.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Autumn Has Arrived

The light has changed. The air is different. As a child, this was my favorite time of year because it meant school would start again. As an adult, I planned my wedding for September because we wanted to honeymoon in Maine while the leaves were changing color. [Our anniversary was last week. We were sleeping in bunk beds at my mom's house, so we need to make plans for a suitable celebration of our 31 years of marriage.]

This autumn may hold change for me. I have an interview next Wednesday, the first interview I've had in many months. I am excited about the possibilities of this job, the one I was told I was qualified for when the part-time position I wanted was already filled. This week I found myself thinking about meal-planning, and I stocked up on pasta and sauce just in case I suddenly find myself employed.

Once I heard about the interview, I called the shop owner in Portland who expressed interest in carrying IntiMats®. Based on the two conversations I've had with this young woman, I like her. I told her when I would be in town, and she said she probably wouldn't remember that I was coming but to come on by. She said she didn't have a calendar in front of her, but she didn't have that much going on. I hope we can work out an arrangement because I'd like to get to know her better.

Hunkering down. Finishing up projects. It looks like I may get most of the outside painting finished before the snow flies. What was I thinking when I thought I could do that work in a matter of weeks? It's been months.

Today I'm taking the car my son drives into the shop because the headlights have taken to working intermittently. Next week I have an appointment for my car because the oil pan has sprung a leak.

Yeah, I really need to get all of this stuff taken care of in case I go back to work....

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

More Than Miles Travelled

One thousand eight hundred twenty-eight miles. Maine to West Virginia to Maryland to West Virginia to Maine. Five days and four nights.

Ken and I physically travelled many miles last week. For me, it amounted to more than a trip through nine states. It was a trip back through time to a house I haven't lived in for more than thirty-three years, a house I left when I was nineteen, a house where I left nothing behind. I have been back at various times to visit, seldom to stay and never for very long. It was the house where I lived as a child.

In the thirty-three years since I lived there I have learned a lot about who I thought I was, who I wanted to be, and who I really am. I had to figure out what I could hold onto and what I had to let go. I needed to learn to be myself, in spite of who I thought I should be and despite who my family wanted me to be. This was my puzzle to solve, not my family's. It has taken me three decades to get on the other side of the should's and shouldn'ts. With time, a lot of work, and the love of my own children and husband, I have been able to accept who I am. Finally, I can be myself with my mother and siblings.

I was able to be honest with my father for the ten years before he died. It wasn't easy for me to say what I needed to say, and it wasn't easy for him to hear it. When he died in December 1996, I felt like I had made my peace with him. Last week, when I left the house, I took with me 85 of my father's LP albums and a dozen CDs; he loved good music and quality stereo equipment. Right now I have his Linn turntable in my living room, with plans to use it.

Time with family. Letting go of expectations. Acceptance of what is.

A week before our trip, I took Roger Housden's book Ten Poems to Set You Free off my bookshelf and started reading a poem each night. The following poem by Stanley Kunitz describes beautifully my thoughts before, during, and after my visit to the house where I lived as a child.

The Layers
I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Keep, Store, or Sell?

By the end of the first evening in Maryland, we knew that the refrigerator, washer, dryer, stove, and dishwasher were all in working order. This is good news in a house that has been mostly vacant for five years.

Tuesday evening my sister came to the rescue with her French press, fresh coffee beans, and grinder - we would have coffee the next morning. My sister was recently married and is preparing to move to Scotland as soon as she gets her townhouse on the market. She and my mom started to talk about the possibility of renting a truck to take the things they would most like to keep to a storage unit in West Virginia.

Wednesday was a busy day. By 9:00 a.m. the old boiler was on its way out and the yard was getting a once-over. By mid-day there were four men in the house installing the new boiler, and the man in the yard was cutting back overgrown bushes.

In the midst of all the activity, Mom and I started packing glassware and dishes - some for storage, some for family, and some for sale. At one point I was filling four different boxes. We had to start somewhere, so we started with one piece at a time. When we finished with the china hutch, we started with the contents of the kitchen cupboards. We didn't get it all packed up, but we made a dent.

As the day went on, we talked with my sister and my brothers. I was going to get to see everyone on this trip! My youngest brother and sister-in-law, as well as my sister, came for a visit Wednesday evening. My younger brother and sister-in-law were able to come by Thursday morning. We had a chance to talk about the state of the house and consider what might happen next. We were all relieved that nothing more serious that a leaking boiler had surfaced; I was especially grateful that we found the problem before the first cold snap.

During this short trip, my mother once again began to think about selling the house. The man who did the yardwork keeps tabs on the houses for sale in the community, and he had referred my mom to a realtor several months ago. She said she plans to contact him again....

When we closed up the house on Thursday, we felt good about all we had accomplished on this short trip. My mom is making plans to return, possibly with her brother-in-law who wants some of the furniture. Mom made arrangements to have the yard maintained through the fall. Then she'll see where things stand.

Thursday afternoon we drove the 155 miles back to West Virginia. Mom took with her a collection of depression glass, a few precious knickknacks, and a small knickknack cabinet.

Mom, Ken, and I went to a dinner at a local restaurant in her small town. We had a chance to talk about all that had happened since Tuesday. She thanked us for coming and for helping her out with the house. We talked briefly about the options she has. I shared that I think she and I and my siblings are in different places in this process of letting go of the house. In the end, the only thing that matters is what my mom wants. I told her again that I will do anything I can to help. She knows that.

For me, the process is ongoing. More thoughts to share later....

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The First Afternoon in Maryland

Thank you for your comments on my last post. The thought of making a trip south had been percolating for several weeks. I put it off when my family came north to visit for a couple days. When Ken suggested a trip in mid-September, and then agreed to drive south, I felt compelled to go to the house where I lived as a child. My mother said she was willing to go with us, and the plan was hatched.

My mother's house is in a neighborhood of several hundred homes that were built post-WWII. Most are small three-bedroom houses built on slabs and, while some people have added a porch or vinyl siding, they look pretty much the same. When we entered the neighborhood this trip, I noticed that yards were groomed and houses were being kept up. Cars parked on the streets were fairly new and in good shape. This is good news if my mom decides to put her house on the market.

We did not know what to expect when we rounded the curve in front of my mom's house. Power lines cross a field next to her property so she has a yard three times the size of most in the community. Other than looking like it needed to be mowed, the yard looked fine. The house looked like I remembered, and from the outside it looked like it was intact.

Once inside, we breathed a sigh of relief. The house looked like it did when I was last there four and a half years ago. The new back door was still closed and locked, and there was no sign of a fresh break-in. Mom turned the water on and we began to take stock of what we needed to do if we were going to stay there overnight. Ken went outside to take a walk around the house, and Mom and I looked for towels in the hall closet.

Then I heard what sounded like a trickle of water. The hall closet is just steps away from the bathroom so maybe a faucet had been left open. Just outside the bathroom is a cubby for the water heater and boiler; that's where we spotted the steady drip and growing puddle. Mom quickly found a string mop and turned the valve that fed water to the boiler, which heats the water to fill the pipes that run through the concrete slab to provide radiant heat for the house.

We called to Ken to come down the hall, and the three of us watched as the water continued to trickle and drench the towels we laid down. Mom found the number of the company that last serviced the 60 year-old heating system. Someone would be over in less than an hour. Again, sighs of relief.

The house was built for efficient use of space. The bathroom backs up to the kitchen and all the plumbing is in the common wall, so I wasn't surprised to see water on the kitchen floor. We started mopping and laying down towels in that room, too.

When the man arrived to assess the boiler, the verdict was that it needed to be replaced. No surprise there. It was original to the house. A garden hose was run from the boiler to the front yard to drain the twenty gallons of water still in the tank. It was time for a new boiler, and it could be installed the next day. Mom agreed without hesitation.

Then she called the man who mows the yard. My mother was ready to take care of business, and Ken and I were ready to help. After a trip to the grocery store, and four washloads of sheets and towels, we were ready for our stay. It was just the first afternoon and look at what had already been accomplished....

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Going South

I am going to be off line for the next five days. Tomorrow, before the sun rises, Ken and I will head the car south to West Virginia. We will stay there one night and pick up my mom the next morning. We are going to a suburb of Washington, D.C. to the house where I lived as a child.

When my mom moved out of the house five years ago she took just the clothes and kitchen items she would need when she moved into a small one-bedroom trailer with her second husband. She returned periodically to the house in Maryland for a few days at a time, to keep a dentist's appointment or tend to the yard or catch up with old friends.

As the years passed the visits grew more infrequent. After her stroke in June 2007 my mom stopped driving that far alone, and she's been to the house just a handful of times in the last year. Earlier this year the house was broken into, and there was evidence that someone had been living there. So she gathered a few more items to take with her, closed and locked the door, and hasn't been back since.

Ken and I are making the trip because the time feels right to see how we can help. In the past, my suggestions to sell the house were met with resistance. It may be that things are different now, and maybe we can be of assistance.

I will have sporadic and brief periods of access to the internet, so I will be off line until I get home next week-end. Please keep an eye on the events of the world for me and hold down the fort until I get back.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Today Was a Parade

Today, for the first time, I marched in a parade. It was important that I was there. The incumbent republican senator imported people, by bus, to march on her behalf - faces we did not recognize in a town that was not their own. This is my town. It was my parade. I chose to stand up for my candidates, with others who call this place their home. We didn't have helium-filled balloons or monogrammed T-shirts. We did have a reason to be there, a passion for a different way to govern. We said it all with our chant, "Change can't wait."

The parade had all the necessary elements.

An old-fashioned truck ~
and a milk wagon from days gone by ~
Every parade needs clowns and a flatbed filled with children ~
and bagpipers to play familiar tunes ~
Our rag-tag group more than made up for the lack of costumes with comradery and enthusiasm ~
and the ability to transform everyday motor vehicles into chariots for change ~
for the parade through the streets of our town ~

Friday, September 12, 2008

Life's a Bloom

The hibiscus plant that I cut back in February and repotted in May has decided it's time to bloom in a big way. The first bud opened this week, and there are 14 more in various stages of readiness to open and grace our presence. This plant has never looked so healthy.

I think the hibiscus is confused because autumn has also graced our presence this week. Temperatures at night have dropped to the low 40's and there have been warnings of frost up north, which means the rest of the state isn't far behind. Leaves are changing color. The days are noticably cooler and shorter.

So why bloom now? I have watered and fed and encouraged this plant all summer. I moved it out of harm's way when torrential rains or blazing sunshine threatened. Single blooms were few and far between, and I thought maybe the hibiscus was tapped out, past its prime, and ready for retirement.

Then, enmasse, buds began to appear, sending me the message that the plant is not finished with living, has not given up, and will continue to grow and prosper. To drive home the point the leaves are bigger and shinier than they've ever been. I don't remember when the plant has had this many buds at one time.

Blooming takes care and feeding, time and encouragement. Putting your color out there means taking risks and making an occasional false start. Coming into full growth requires help from others and a willingness to hang in there even when it looks like not much is happening.

I am going to take this lesson from my hibiscus: The journey is not easy, but the rewards are worth the work.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Wisdom of Robert Fulghum

Recently I discovered Robert Fulghum's newest book, What On Earth Have I Done? I have been a fan of his for over 20 years, have read most of what he has published, and continue to enjoy his work. This book is a collection of essays about Seattle, Moab (Utah), and Crete. Fulghum spends part of his time living in each of these places and brings each community to life with his stories.

As often happens with me, this was the right book at the right time. The page before the title page lists Questions asked of children by parents and then repeats the list as the Questions he still asks himself: "What on earth have I done?" "What in the name of God am I doing?" "What will I think of next?" "Who do I think I am?" Since these are some of the very questions I have been wrestling with for the last year, it felt like I had found a kindred spirit. I knew that even if I didn't find any answers, I would find stories that made me laugh.

And laugh I did, sometimes right out loud. I reflected on aspects of my own life. I also cried because some of his stories get right to the heart of what life is all about. The stories are so varied and told so well that I will not try to retell them here. I did want to share three small excerpts that particularly struck a chord with me.

In a story about baptism, Fulghum ends with these words: "The Great Law of the Conservation of Matter and Energy says nothing is ever lost. Everything is saved. Everything comes and goes. It only changes form. Water is essential to life. As is earth and energy. We exist in the flow of the mud and light."(p. 185) We live with what's hard and what's easy, some days we trudge along and some days we fly high.

In a story about his barber on Crete, he writes about how he feels like a member of the community. Fulghum writes: "And I am old enough to know that in this life you see what you look for, and you get what you are open to receive."(p. 230) This so beautifully echoes all that I've read about being present, having a positive outlook, and staying open to possibility.

One of the last stories in the book revisits an essay, The Meaning of Life, that first appeared in Fulghum's second book. Here he gives the background for the story and shares what happened many years later. The main character in the story is the man who established The Orthodox Academy of Crete, a place where people from all over the world come to resolve conflicts and share ideas. The man carries a small round mirror that he has had since he was a child, when he would use it to reflect light into dark places. Fulghum shares the man's explanation of the meaning of his life:

"I kept the little mirror, and as I went about my growing up, I would take it out in idle moments and continue the challenge of the game. As I became a man, I grew to understand that this was not just child's play but a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of light. But light - the light of truth, understanding, and knowledge - is there, and that light will only shine in many dark places if I reflect it. I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have I can reflect light into the dark places of this world - into the dreary places in the hearts of men - and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise. That is what I am about. That is the meaning of my life." (p. 291)

This man on Crete started with the idea of creating a place where groups of people, who see no way they could ever be in the same room with each other much less get along, could come together to find ways to solve their conflicts and share ideas. His idea became a reality, a place where dreams are realized. That story exemplifies presence, vision, and possibility.

I needed to read these stories right now at this time in my life, to hear again that it matters that I continue to dream and believe that those dreams are possible.

I needed to read these stories at this time in our country's history. We cannot buy into all the negativity swirling about because that means we believe it, and that is what will become real for us. We deserve so much more than that. We can keep moving forward as we look for the light. If we look for the best, we can find it. And we can shine our own light into the dark places.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Monday Musings

I didn't sleep well last night. There is a lot riding on today, and I woke up thinking about the possibilities.

On July 31 I submitted an application online for an Innovation Grant sponsored by Whirlpool. I learned about it two days before the deadline through a post on Jamie's blog JPD [where she writes about the how's & why's and the ups & downs of having a small business]. Today is the day the winners will be notified. Any prize would be an amazing boost because each winner is invited to the Whirlpool plant in Michigan to meet with experts who know about business plans, production, and marketing. It has been fun to dream about winning a prize. After today, I will know the reality.

Today is also the day that one of the most active and influential nonprofits in the state will review resumes for a position in their office. I read the announcement for the position weeks ago and imagined what it would be like to get the job. I had to decide if I wanted to merely think about what it would mean to work there or if I wanted to put myself out there and apply. I have been putting myself out there for over a year, and the results have been less than stellar, as in few interviews and no offers. This position in this nonprofit is the cream of the crop for someone who wants to do what I want to do. So on Friday I went by their office and dropped off a cover letter, resume, and writing sample. Today I woke up thinking about this job and how long it will take to hear one way or the other about an interview.

I have always been a planner, so these last-minute applications are really out of character for me. I am also surprised at how I give each opportunity my best shot. I don't know which contact or application may lead to a job or business opportunity.

So today is a big day, and while I was musing about the possibilities this morning, the phone rang. Now I believe in positive thinking, and I really do think the universe is paying attention, but I jumped when the phone rang. I collected myself, sure that it was too early for an answer to either opportunity.

I answered the phone, surprised to hear that it was someone I've been trying to contact for almost four weeks. I had filed this under "a good lead that is not going to develop." This was the person I called on the recommendation of someone who had filled a part-time position but thought I was qualified for a full-time position with the same project. Until today I have only been able to leave messages at the number I was given, and I have been unable to find an announcement of the position. On the phone, she explained the reasons for the way things have transpired, which are typical at the start of a new project. There will be just a week between the announcement and the calls for interviews, so she encouraged me to email her my resume soon. I can do that.

This day started with two possible opportunities on deck. With one phone call another possibility has been added to the list. I am grateful that the journey continues....

Saturday, September 6, 2008

My Favorite Kind of Saturday

There was a relaxed start to the day with a leisurely breakfast of cereal and coffee, followed by reading the newspaper and my favorite blogs; today's laundry was started and yesterday's was folded and put away; took care of paperwork; ran into town to visit the ATM and take a walk; got home to start ham for dinner and blueberry crisp for dessert; prepared to top off the day with a DVD. Now that's my idea of a perfect Saturday in September.

Last night Ken and I had a night "out." We started at the Portland Museum of Art, which has free admission Friday evenings from 5-9. This is the last week-end for an exhibit of photographs of Georgia O'Keefe and her home in New Mexico. The gallery was crowded but it was worth the effort to see the unique collection and get a feel for O'Keefe's life in the desert.

Afterward we went to dinner at a restaurant we've wanted to try for some time. I made reservations the last time I was in Portland because I had a feeling I would have something to celebrate. Well, having a store interested in carrying my product is something to celebrate. Dinner was excellent - we each had the mixed grill of tenderloin, scallops, and shrimp. We shared lemon creme brulee for dessert, and I had one delicious cup of coffee.

I mentioned to Ken earlier in the evening that we may be able to catch a movie, and he was game. We caught the last show of Vicki Cristina Barcelona, Woody Allen's latest. It was typical Woody Allen with a Spanish flavor. We were able to see it in an intown independent theater, no glitz or blaring commercials but some fun previews.

This evening the rain is coming down in sheets, providing a loud backdrop through open windows. It's time for dessert and a movie, The Natural on DVD. Ken rarely requests a movie from Netflix but something reminded him of this Robert Redford classic, so I moved it to the top of our queue. For those of us without cable, satellite, or a local video store/library for rentals, Netflix is priceless. And that blueberry crisp should be just the right temperature....

Friday, September 5, 2008

Let the Connections Continue

Yesterday I needed to buy fabric. No, really, I had to go into a fabric store, touch everything that was 100% cotton, imagine how each pattern would look as bias tape, and decide which ones I wanted to take home with me.

Yes, I need to make bias tape. I need fabric that will make unique edging for an IntiMat® because last week I met a woman who is interested in carrying them in her store. This is a first!

It all started when I took an IntiMat® with me to Portland to show the owner of the store that is planning to close. I wanted her opinion. She said it was lovely. Then she said there was a shop around the corner that may be interested, so around the corner I went. The owner was in the shop and liked the idea of the IntiMat® as a soft towel, especially for babies. She asked if I could do another type of edging. I said sure! We discussed fabrics and colors. Our plan is to meet the third week in September.

In the meantime I have work to do. For now I will make up a sample or two, and I will take the others to show the range of possibilities. A friend who lives in the Southwest is looking for interesting fabric from that part of the country.

My favorite part of this whole story is how I found the first store on the recommendation of my daughter and the second store on the recommendation of the first store owner. Connections. Personal contact. Two things that are hard to find when working alone, while they are essential in business, and in life.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Politics and Pundits

I should have known better. I knew it wasn't good for me. At 11:30 last night I was drinking my third cup of coffee and munching on potato chips as I watched Charlie Rose and the pundits at his round table talk about the evening's speeches.

Yes, I tuned in last night at 10:00, against my better judgment but feeling like I should see what the republicans were going to say. I watched the speeches of Rudy G. and Sarah P.... Well, actually I listened and glanced at the television while I checked what my favorite pundits were saying online. Their impressions were the same as mine about the negative tone, the mocking of the democrats, and the absence of talk about what they would do for the economy, education, health care, equal pay, and how our nation is viewed by the eyes of the world. I felt deflated when I crawled into bed at 12:22 this morning.

What a difference from last week, when I watched the democratic convention every night. I'd start each evening with the Jim Lehrer NewsHour and stay with PBS as the speeches started. I like the reporters, political pundits, and historians on public television. I rely on their balanced reporting and commentary. Each night at the convention the speech-makers presented what the democrats would do for America. Sure, they talked about how they differed from the republicans, but the essence of every speech was to lay out the specific changes a democratic administration would make to improve the lives of Americans and rebuild relationships around the world.

Last week I felt inspired and hopeful about the future. Hillary, Bill, Joe, and Barack made me think about what's possible. I thought back to what Bill Clinton was able to accomplish as president. This country can flourish again, if the democrats win the election.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Jon Stewart Is Back In My Life

This evening, for the first time since we moved into this house, I was able to get The Daily Show online! This is unbelievable. We have tried on and off for 15 months to tune in, with no luck. This week, of all weeks, I have found a way to stream full shows, able to watch Jon Stewart in all of his Indecision 2008 glory.

I had planned to watch some of the republican convention on television. Really I did. I thought I owed it to the democratic process to tune in for at least some of the hullabaloo from the other side. However, with the past week-end of lies and hypocrisy, after the past eight years of lies and hypocrisy, I just couldn't do it.

In desperation I turned once again to to see if there was any chance I could watch bits of Jon Stewart's biased, sarcastic coverage of the democratic convention from last week. Imagine my surprise at the new lay-out of the website, the new catalog of weeks' worth of shows, and my ability to click on a screen of The Daily Show and watch the entire show in its unedited, uninterrupted glory.

I thought I would watch just the show from last Tuesday, which highlighted Monday's events at the convention in Denver. It was refreshing and funny and went by much too quickly. Okay, I thought, I will watch Wednesday's show...but my appetite for political satire was not satisfied until I had watched all the shows from last week.

The bright spots in all of this are: 1) I can talk Ken into watching the shows this week-end because he hasn't seen them yet, and 2) I will be able to watch The Daily Show coverage of the republican coverage once those shows are available.

Oh, life is good.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Labor Day

Today is September 1st and Labor Day. When the first Monday in September is the 1st of the month, Labor Day is the earliest it can possibly be. I've been confused about what day it is for weeks, so I'm glad to finally have a handle on the day, date, and month.

I'm ready to start a new month. The first two weeks of August it did nothing but rain. Then we had ten days of gorgeous summer days followed by warm summer nights - the best August has to offer. For the last week the warm, sunny days have continued, but they have been followed by cool nights - a sign that autumn is on its way. It has gotten so cool at night that I've started moving the hibiscus under the porch roof or into the house to protect the buds that have appeared in the last several days; I've been encouraging this plant all summer and may finally have something to show for my effort. If it's going to get that cool at night, it might as well be September.

Ken and I, our sons, and our oldest son's girlfriend spent the last August afternoon in Portland at a SeaDogs [the AA team for Boston] game. We had seats in the picnic area, compliments of our youngest son's current place of co-op employment. The tickets included lunch, which had all the ingredients of a good old-fashioned cook-out and the best ice cream sandwiches you have ever eaten - called SeaDog Biscuits, they are made with chocolate chip cookies and vanilla ice cream. Mmmmm good. The game was pretty good, too, with a come-back in the 8th inning to within one run, but we lost 5-4. The SeaDogs have made it into the play-offs, though, and we had a fun day at the ballpark, so it was a good time all around.

Last night Ken built a campfire in the fire circle we have in our front yard, a term I use loosely for the piece of uneven ground between the driveway and the tree line. We didn't want a full dinner, so hot dogs cooked on sticks over an open fire sounded like the perfect meal, and they were delicious. Fresh rolls and a choice of ketchup or mustard. Cold beer. Plenty of wood to throw on the fire. Then when the embers were glowing red hot, we had the ideal conditions to roast marshmallows for s'mores. Decadent overindulgence too good to pass up.

It was a family week-end that felt like more than a transition from one month to another, one season into another. It was time together that marked the transition from a family of parents and children to a family of adults ~ related friends who decided to spend time with each other for no other reason than they wanted to ~ people with interconnected lives who now stand alone more often than not and still choose to come together when given the chance. It was a week-end that helped me move a bit further along on my journey, as I looked back at how far I've come.