Sunday, March 30, 2014

What I did over spring break....

This is of course the variation on what I did over the summer.  I didn't even wait for the actual spring break to start.  Friday the week before I left work at 10:30 and headed for home.  Alex met me at my house and I finished getting packed.  He loaded the van.  We hit the road about noon I think.

Our drive down was long.  With Alex driving, we went through Chicago - downtown Chicago.  I don't like to go that way but as passenger I don't get to pick.  Alex thought it would be shorter and mileage wise it was.  Time wise it ended up taking us like seven hours to get there.

Vicki fed us on arrival and Alex unloaded the car.  Everyone has made fun of my craft bag that I took but I did get to a good bit of my crocheting.

I've been playing with lace patterns.  I'm not big on working with thread so I've been using different threads to make lace projects.  One of them was a lace purple sparkle scarf which I gave to Vicki on Friday:


Friday and Saturday I worked on scarves.  Here are a couple of pictures of the different ones I made:
 




Vicki and I went to JoAnn Fabrics on Saturday and got some great deals.  They had yarn on sale and I tried out two new ones that I discovered I loved - Red Heart Shimmer which is a smaller yarn and soft.  It is easy to work with and sparkly which is always fun.  The other yarn was Deborah Norville Serenity Chunky - crayon box.  It is a heavy yarn and the colors were stunning - bright and fun.

Now in case you haven't heard this before when I get new yarn I want to dive in and start creating with that new yarn.  I had new yarn from the shopping trip and I had new yarn that Vicki had sent to me (but wouldn't let me touch - it was TORTURE!).  Friday and Saturday I worked on ruffle scarves.  These are quick and easy projects.  Of the haul of yarn, Vicki picked out the ones she wanted so I just sat and worked on scarves.

I could not resist the new yarn I'd purchased and started with the Crayon Box to make a hat, scarf and wristers.  The array of colors were just stunning and both Vicki and I loved how these turned out.

 




After the crayon box yarn, I picked up the shimmer yarn.  Oh that turned out BEAUTIFULLY!  Vicki's favorite stitch is the crocodile stitch and I had that book with me so I handed it to Vicki and told her to pick out a hat pattern.  The crocodile stitch is a yarn eater and she picked two patterns.  I ended up making her one of the hats in the book.  I also made a scarf and added the flower from the hat pattern to the scarf.  I also made her wristers using crocodile stitches and the stitch from the scarf.

  
I've also been putting off making slippers for her.  I've had the pattern for months but the yarn she wanted me to use was thicker and heavier than the pattern called for so I had to make adjustments.  I stayed up until three in the morning one night and finished her slippers.

 

In addition to all of Vicki's stuff, I worked on kitchen sets for two of my nieces.  Dish towels, dish clothes, sponges, and pot holders for both sets.

 

When I left Vicki's, my craft bag was significantly lighter - mostly because Vicki kept a lot of the items I made.  This last Friday on the drive home I worked on mesh bags and make up pads for myself.  I got those done on the drive.  Saturday Ken and I helped a friend move.  I drove and he packed the van.  While sitting in the van, I worked on potholders.  I got four of them done yesterday and today.

I also worked on Vicki's afghan.  It is octagonal and takes a long time to do one row.  However, I did work on it and got several rows completed.


Today I worked on a solution for Vicki.  She has to put Tiger Balm on her back.  Unfortunately she can't really reach where the lotion has to go.  In order to reach it she is using her back scratcher.  However, she is concerned about the balm having an affect on the wood.  So I crocheted her a cover for it so she can put the balm on the crochet cotton to go over the top of it.  I'll be mailing it to her this week.

In total, I've made the following:

17 scarves
4 dish towels
8 pot holders (4 of which were actually for me)
5 sponges
2 hats
2 pair of wristers
2 dish cloths
1 pair of slippers
2 mesh bags
10 make up pads
and a strange cover for a back scratcher

In addition to the crocheting, I made homemade pizza and meatballs for Vicki as well as putting tiger balm on her shoulder daily and cooking the meals with Alex.  It was a GREAT week, very relaxing and productive.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Editing

While organizing in my office this weekend, I unearthed the manuscript I had been editing.  My first thought was to just put it in the bin with the others for that overall story.  I couldn’t quite bring myself to do that.  I picked it up to move it to the bin and couldn’t so set it back down – in the way of course.  After doing this a couple of times I realized – I need to put this back in my purse and take it with me. 

Editing is a part of writing.  A good editor is worth their weight in gold.  There is nothing more irritating when you are reading a book than to edit it as you go.  If the manuscript hasn’t been edited thoroughly almost anything can slip through from a grammatical issue to a typographical issue to even a story inconsistency. 

The biggest complaint about self-published books is that they are poorly edited.  Part of the problem is that writers often cannot afford a professional editor and/or think they are good enough to not need one.  The thing is no matter how good you are – you need an editor even if you are your own editor. 

It is better to have other eyes on the manuscript because after the third or fourth round of edits you stop seeing what is on the page and start seeing what you think is supposed to be there.  A good editor should catch those things.  A good editor will tell you where your story lags or is inconsistent or doesn’t make sense. 

Editing is a tough job because authors (this one included) don’t like to hear criticisms of their baby.  Believe me their manuscripts have the authors blood, sweat, and tears in them.  The hardest thing as an author is to take a step back and say – what doesn’t work, what does, and why are you keeping something someone else says should go. 

As an author and editor, it is usually pretty easy for me to say add or delete (though deleting is hard for me) even when it is my own work.  However, I have people who will kick me in the bum if I don’t follow my instinct. 

For my current manuscript, I wanted to try out a different beginning so I rewrote it based on people’s criticism.  I like the second opening to the story but it didn’t pop and sort of slowed the action.  When I presented it to two of my readers, one liked it and one didn’t.  The one who liked it said it read more like a movie script than a book.  As I’m writing a book, I am sticking with the original opening. 

Having reworked it doesn’t mean I’m tossing out the opening.  If I ever get to a point where the book is popular enough to be a tv series or movie, I would do the other opening I wrote – maybe.  I listened to my critics and considered an alternative but ultimately made my own decision about how to rework (or not) the section of writing. 

Editor fees can run anywhere from $25 - $100 per hour.  Some editors won’t even look at your work for under a certain dollar amount.  Most editors want payment up front.  This sounds very demanding but I can tell you from personal experience it is hard to do work and then have the author not pay you – especially when it gets into bigger figures.
 
An editor is an advisor who will offer suggestions on how to make a manuscript better.  The author has to decide if they trust the editor’s experience and advice as well as whether the changes suggested are good for the manuscript.  It is your choice as the author – make it a wise one.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Coupons

With the new Roku, I just watched all the episodes of Extreme Couponing.  It is interesting to see the how people save money obsessively.  There are definitely some good ideas on using coupons. 

I guess I was inspired after Ken told me we couldn’t do stuff like that.  I said I don’t have the time to be that obsessive about it.  However, I did make more effort to sign up for our local store’s flyer. 

It was interesting to go out to their flyer and see what they have on sale.  In the past I thought this was a waste of time – I’m just going to buy what I need.  However, I realized if I shift how I buy from the buy what I need to buying what is on sale it will save money.  Obviously starting out, I’m still going to have to buy needed items but over time I’ll be able to stock up on certain items and then they will be at hand. 

For instance, this week there is a sale on pasta.  Unfortunately I couldn’t find a coupon for the pasta.  I can however, stock up on the items on sale as it is a really good deal.  Then I won’t need to buy pasta for a while – plus it is my favorite brand.  My favorite peppers are on sale for an incredible price.  We will buy several bags of them, bring them home, chopped them up, put them in the freezer.  This means when Ken is cooking all he has to do is go in the freezer to grab peppers. 

I’m still going to need all the normal stuff but I will budget to stock up on those items that are on sale so I won’t have to buy them again for a few months.  Then over time I will need less when I go to the store.  Matching sales with coupons increases my savings and lowers my grocery bill.  I’m not saving millions but if I can increases my savings at the grocery store it will help the overall budget.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Piles, Packing, and Organizing

I’m not really sure where January and February went.  March is already half done and I don’t know where that went either.  I know I’ve been busy with helping one daughter with health issues and the other daughters with different things.  However, I don’t feel like I’ve been able to catch my breath.  Stuff I intended to have done in January I’m just getting to and it is March.

This morning first thing – before my five day headache had faded to manageable – Ken and I were up and out of the house to run errands for gathering things to take to Vicki.  She sends me a list and gives me money – we go get.  One check mark off my todo list.

We come home and I play on the computer – answer emails, play Bookwork, write in my journal, and tackle piles.  Most of my writing is now organized the way I want it.  I still have some piles that I’m not sure how I want to handle but I’ve gone through several pile and have them labeled and put away.  Things are easily identifiable and accessible. Items I will use often are at hand and others are placed further away. 

Next on my list is some computer work which will take a bit and then I’m off to pack my crafting suitcase for my trip.  I’ve got many of those items ready to go in the suitcase it is just a matter of getting the suitcase out and putting them in.  Although there are a couple of things I want to pull from the craft room. 

When I’m done with these things – providing my headache hasn’t screamed back full force – crocheting will round out my day.  Ken is working in the basement.  The basement guys were here and fixed it last weekend so he can work on getting his workroom set up and the guest room set up.

Tomorrow is a whole different day and I’ll have to figure out what I will be doing then.  Probably more organizing and packing but you never know.  If the headache I’ve had for five days continues I may just spend the day in a dark room doing nothing.  I’ve decided the worst thing about a headache is I can’t crochet while I’m home sick.  It hurts too much.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Crochet Addiction

I'm going to visit Vicki for a week.  Ostensibly it is to help her with her shoulder - make sure she gets the Tiger Balm on it and isn't doing too much with it.  However, that is not the only thing I will be doing while I'm gone. 

Our week is going to consist of a lot of me nagging her to stop doing stuff, watching movies or tv shows, and for me crocheting.  I've started organizing what I will be taking and realized my crocheting will take up more space (i.e. a bigger suitcase) than my clothes. 

In my defense, we aren't doing anything other than hanging out in her apartment so I have to make sure I have enough to keep me busy.  Plus I have to take stuff to do when we hang out with her friend who is coming over to craft with us.  Plus I have to have contingency projects in case I get bored with what I am currently working on or if I finish them all.  The hard part will be in narrowing down on the things I have going on in my head for projects.  I have definite ones I'm working on with deadlines but after that I have things I want to experiment with.  For these, it is a difficult question of how much to take.  When I'm at home, it is easy enough to just grab what I want but with going to Vicki's how much of these possible projects do I want to commit to taking with me and how much space will I have for these types of things.

My daughter suggested I make a to-do list - something I've been avoiding because I seem to have an addiction to those as well.  I've started one - a bit detailed as is my usual obsession with them.  It is a spreadsheet with different columns for the different parts of each project. 

I've got plastic bags with zippers from sheet sets and comforters that I'm using to pack projects together.  This is great for keeping everything organized and preventing damages from occuring while I'm traveling.  I really like these and when I return I may use them for storage in my craft room as well.  When I finish the projects, I'll be able to put them back in the bags to keep everything organized.  Does this sound obsessive? 

On top of my crochet projects, my daughter wants me to bring down my stuff for the quilts I make for the girls.  Don't get excited - I'm not a quilter.  Essentially I take large sheets and pin them with batting and then sew them together.  I use yarn to tie them.  I made each of the girls one when they were little and I've told all three of them it is time to get rid of them.  They refuse until I replace them.  I've had the material for a long while now but can't kneel on the floor to pin them together.  Vicki says she will do it for me.  This may require a third suitcase. 

People are going to think I'm moving in for a month when I show up at her place.  The good thing about this is everything will be on wheels so should be easy to get in and out of her apartment.  I may have a bit of an addiction when it comes to crafting and crocheting. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Dropped Cable

In the last two months my cable /internet provider informed me my bill would go up to about 175 a month.  I could not afford this.  I called them to ask what they would do about it.  I got horrible customer service. Apparently they only want to get new customers and don’t care about keeping their current customers. 

In the past I’ve gone back and forth, argued, let them raise my blood pressure and essentially spent weeks being miserable at the thought of even talking to them on the phone.  I asked them what the cost of internet alone would be – they told me $45.  I looked at a different provider’s website for internet and the cost was $30. 

My daughters all have a Roku.  This is a device you attach to your tv and can access television shows and movies through Amazon, Netflix, Hulu and so on.  My one daughter also got an antennae for her tv so she could get local stations. 

We looked at the pricing and here is how it broke down for us:
            Roku (2) – 150 (one-time cost)
            Antennae (2) – 50 (we bought one for 10 and one for 40 which gets more stations – one-time cost)
            Amazon prime – shared with one of my daughters – my cost will be 40 annually
                        Since we are sharing the prime account, my daughter and I will be sharing the cost of shows we both watch
            Netflix – shared with one of my daughters – my cost will be 4 monthly

It took some getting used to but I’m finding I am not missing cable.  The DVR feature I liked so much is even better because the shows on Amazon and Netflix don’t have commercials. 

At this stage I’m estimating my costs will be roughly 50 a month for internet and tv rather than the $120 I was paying before they raised my rates.  The $200 investment I think will be worth it over time. 

I believe this will save me a lot of money, which is always a good thing for my overall budget.

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Burden?

You would expect those closest to you to best understand your limitations.  They don’t always.  I suffer from arthritis among other things.  Pain is a daily – minute by minute part of my life. 

Many of my family members treat me as if I’m just being lazy when I am unwilling to do certain activities.  One of my sisters always has her family events in her basement.  This is fine for everyone except me because I cannot do stairs.  It hurts that she is so inconsiderate of me, but at the same time, I don’t want to demand the party be in another part of her house because it is her house. 

Cooking has become very difficult.  I can’t stand at the stove long enough to watch items cooking.  This means my husband is stuck cooking.  More than that though, I need to have items packaged in a way that is easy for me to grab and go.  It sounds ridiculous but to make a sandwich by the time I’ve gathered all the items to make the sandwich I’m almost in tears from the pain.  To gather items for breakfast and lunch during the week, I look for simple solutions like poptarts (not a health solution).

I don’t mean to complain – the people in my life have the best intentions.  I can sit and do nearly anything – cut things up, package, season, mix, and so on.  However, walking around to gather or standing to cook is painful.

Most people just go through their morning routine and if they forget something it is just a run back to get it.  What I do is plan out my steps – literally, I plan every step of what I will do because the more steps I take the more pain I’m in.  If I forget something, I gauge whether it will be worth the pain of retracing my steps to get the item – especially if I have to go back up steps.

I wish I could do all the things I used to.  I miss taking hikes, cooking, doing all the everyday things I used to.  Sometimes I feel stuck in the recliner.  I often feel like a burden when things need to be done or I want things done but can’t do the tasks myself.

In the past, if I wanted a room rearranged I would just do it.  Now it is impossible for me to do this type of task on my own.  I’m a take charge type of person, if I don’t like how something is I just fix it.  Sadly I can’t anymore so I have to ask.  This makes me feel like a burden on those I have to ask.  I’d rather do without than ask.  If I don’t ask then people won’t look at me as lazy.  If I don’t ask then I am not beholden to people.  And yes I know if I don’t ask then it won’t get done.

I’ve gotten good at telling people what I can do but I’m not very good at telling them what I need help with.  Is this because I’m stubbornly independent?  Is this because of the reactions I’ve gotten from people in my life?  Probably a bit of both.  If I think on this logically I know people are willing to help but there is still that voice in me that says do it yourself or let it go.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Yarn and Customer Service

I’ve waxed poetic about yarn and how much I enjoy working with it.  I recently bought a skein of yarn to make an order fit a minimum to get free shipping.  I looked at it online and said well that looks interesting and it isn’t too expensive. 

When my order came in and I got the yarn in my hot little hands I was pleased with the texture and the feel of the yarn.  One small skein I used to experiment.  I have been playing with making lace by the inch.  I picked out one of the patterns from the book I got on Amazon and started making it.  It was a thicker yarn so the pattern was going to work up into a scarf. 

Loved the pattern, worked up quickly and easily, I could mindlessly work on it while watching tv.  Unfortunately, I got several rows in and discovered a break in the yarn.  Here was another end – generally for a skein you have two and this one had more than that.  I ended up cutting off a large length of yarn as it was frayed and joining. 

One skein scarves – particularly lacy designs – don’t always work up nicely to have joined material in them.  Too often you can see where the yarn was joined and it is a blemish in the scarf.  Fortunately I was able to hide the join fairly well.  

In talking to my daughter, I told her to remind me not to buy the yarn again.  She told me to complain to the company.  I did but thought nothing will come of it.  After all we are talking about yarn which can and often does break and has flaws.  

I was surprised when I contacted the company and got a very prompt response.  They had questions which I shot off answers to as soon as I saw the email.  Within an hour or two of contacting Lion Brand company (http://www.lionbrand.com/) they put in an order for a new skein.  

This good customer service is surprising – not because I’ve had bad experiences with the company but just because I feel good customer service is declining in general.  The promptness of their response and their willingness to address the issue has made me willing to go back and try more of their yarn.  

Good job Lion Brand Company and thank you for all you do.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Big 5 - 0

I turned 50 today (sort of) and I know that the typical response is you poor thing.  I’ve heard from many women that getting older is so hard on them.  For me, I don’t get this.  The older I get the better I feel about myself and more confident I am. 

It may have taken me a while to get here but I like who I am and where I am in life.  Life is perfect and I’m grateful for those family members and friends who enrich my life. 

My daughters are incredible and amazing.  I may have stumbled through raising them but I don’t think I damaged them too much – relatively speaking.  Ken has been with me for more three fifths of my life.  He has supported me through all my ups and downs.  He is my best friend and dearest love. 

If this is my halfway mark (I can only hope) then I look back on the first half of my life and realize I’ve had a varied and interesting life.  I’ve had loss and difficulties for certain.  However, my life has been enriched with learning in all the best ways from people smarter and wiser than myself. 

In my teens I dreamed of traveling everywhere and doing all sorts of ridiculous things.  I’ve traveled in a different way.  I may not have gotten to backpack through Europe or explore the pyramids but I’ve had other – better – adventures.  Life is not just good… it is DAMN good!

Fun Versus Work

I have the feeling I'm going to be struggling with balancing out the need to have down time while I also have a long long list of things...