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I revived my father’s vintage Emerson Resuscitator Model TC case. It looked like this image, only minus the equipment:

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And green. Mine is green.

Somehow, I neglected to take a “before” photo: before I tore all the plastic forms out, before I stripped the vinyl cloth out, and even after I did all that to show what it looked like stripped bare of everything I could remove. Some things I could not remove.  The idea was to create a mobile display case that also doubled as something I could carry product and paraphernalia in when I start doing my own shows at local fairs. Because of the residual little “shelves”, I figured the trunk (which measures 26.5 x 10″ and is 6.5″ deep.

I thought a cork lining so I could also use push-pins to hang mini paintings, and then vacillated for months on the sides: what fabric? Should I paint it? What should I paint on it? What about the leather? Wow, cork is expensive at Michael’s! Oh, thicker cork is cheaper at JoAnn Fabrics. Buy and procrastinate.

These are my common excuses to not do something, and I milk them. I tell you this because I want to shake those core beliefs I have acquired and change them. This is my year to stop sabotaging myself.

I decided to heck with the questions, just DO IT. Pick a fabric, pick a varnish, and glue the dang cork into it. I unrolled the cork and laid it out to flatten. I hot-glued the fabric in and used varnish to seal it so it won’t unravel. And today, I cut the cork. I won’t tell you how badly, but suffice it to say I had to cut twice.  And change razor blades. And set books on the cork to help it seal to the glue on the wood.

But before I did that last step (the books), I took photos (the glue I used is slow drying) of the finished (well, inside finished) product.

I can’t remove those supports. The rivets go through the entire case.

I can use it to carry things around in, plus set it up like this on a table with some of my larger mini’s (5×7″ and 4×4″). It’s 1/4″ corkboard. Probably last me a year or two before I have to replace the cork. Eventually, I’d like to paint the outside, but that’s not a stress point at this juncture.

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When I do paint it, I will have a vision for it. For now, it can look “Shabby Chic” and be functional. That’s all I ask.

 

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You can see the floor in my studio.

Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, when I am stressing I clean. I clean to avoid the object of my stress. I clean because it gives me control over something when I feel something else is beyond my control. I clean because I can think better when my work space is less cluttered.

I was stressing over my art website, which has been giving me fits all week. Rather than sit at the computer and face it, I sorted beads. I organized the locker. I moved all the latex house paint cans into the red Snap-On tool box. I purged my acrylic craft paint, and I sorted my projects. I even tackled the paperwork sitting on my desk top (you know, the stuff that needs filing). I cleaned and organized the closet in the Master Bedroom (you don’t want to know how bad that was).

Half-way through this purging of the soul process, I decided I needed to try one more time. Call one more tech person. And this time, I asked the right questions. The tech person at GoDaddy had me back in my website and uploading photos within five minutes. He merely disabled a plug-in that had a glitch, and there I was! Back in business.

I have a clean closet in the Master Bedroom, a neatly re-organized studio, and a greater appreciation for just asking for help. I also have a better understanding about web-hosting and what I am paying for, something I should have learned back when I first purchased the domain name and started paying for a self-hosted website (many thanks to my friend, Mary Ann, for helping with the terminology). I also learned about keeping receipts for websites, paying closer attention to the dashboard, plug-ins, and maybe watching some videos on “how to” do things on a website.

Now, about those projects that I sorted through and need to finish…

There is a shift in the universe. I walk my usual trail around the parking lot where I work, but my mind does not settle. I stand in the office and watch cold rain fall and puddles form in the parking lot, and I wonder why I am here. Why am I here? Why don’t I feel the love for this job that I used to have? Why do I feel cut off?

I turn to prayer for answers, and feel nothing. That’s OK, I tell myself: you don’t always get to feel something, faith is not a feeling, but a way of looking at things when you cannot see the answers. There is still a shift in the universe.

Desperate for answers that do not seem to be forthcoming from the Great Beyond, I search for answers on Amazon Prime, in the Kindle store. Cheap answers: I don’t want to spend a lot of money on self-help books I’ll likely get bored with and delete. I settle on two.

Becoming Me: Embracing God’s Dream of You by Staci Eldridge. Intriguing title: “God’s dream of…” Does God dream of me? By chapter three, I was wishing I had purchased the paperback version so I could highlight and write in the margins. I’m a little over half-way through, and I still have to sit it down and chew on the information. It’s deep. It’s challenging.

It’s about girlfriends. I’m a terrible girlfriend. The introvert of introverts. I don’t talk on the phone. I barely text or IM. I hardly ever call someone to hang out with – they call me. I wasn’t always this way, but I haven’t felt fully comfortable with girlfriends since we moved into this house and I started to get my heart broken by friends. I have some baggage to deal with.

But that’s not even all of it. I also bought (for cheap) a book on finances. Worthy – Boost Your Self Esteem to Grow Your net Worth by Nancy Levin. Until I opened this book, I would have told you that I have a healthy self esteem. And I do – in every area except finances. And, apparently, girlfriends.

I gave up answering the questions at the end of each chapter. I’m just reading through the book right now, then I will go back and read it slowly, and deal with the elusive questions about how I feel, think, and understand money. It’s about facing my fears and getting rid of my excuses. It hurts. It’s honest. It’s overwhelming.

These books came into my possession as I stand on the brink of a new chapter in my life: launching myself an an entrepreneur and an independent artist. Before I purchased them, I wondered: Am I self-sabotaging? What am I doing to hinder my own dreams?

Turns out: Yes, and plenty. I’m full of excuses. I’m old, I hurt, I’m tired, I have a Day Job, I don’t have the money… I have a lot of fears to face down.

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I have dragons to slay. Fears and excuses are dragons.

I don’t understand websites, coding, and why my art blog went down suddenly. I need to educate myself so I know the questions to ask and where to go for help. I’ve never bothered to do that. (My son-in-law, Sam, once told me, “You don’t read the manual.” He was right. I don’t. I try to do things on my own and when I run into a brick wall, then I start looking for the manual that I misplaced.)

It’s not that hard: a ten minute video on coding or websites or wordpress. Free tutorials everywhere, just search. TAKE THE TIME.

I didn’t pay for support on WordPress. I kept thinking I should do that, but… excuses. Now, I know why I needed to pay for support. Had I paid for support, help was just a phone call away. (No worries – mistakes like that can be easily fixed by paying for support NOW.) I didn’t understand the difference between my web host and the site where my site is located. My friend, Mary Ann, pointed that out to me and I felt like bashing my head against the desk: So Stupid. No, I’m not. I just didn’t think. Thankfully, my web host was gracious and helped me find the error in my site: it’s malware in the WordPress end of the site, and it doesn’t affect my personal blog (this).

My website is only an example. It is hardly the only place I have limited myself – or taught my children to limit themselves. But – no guilt. Guilt has to be dispensed of as much as fear has to be.

I have a litany of things I can’t do: jog, for instance. I’m an awkward runner. People – my brother – made fun of me when I was a teenager and trying to run. I run “like a girl”. But I have spent decades watching other people jog and it’s not that hard to imitate. I’m no more awkward than some of the people I have observed. I can jog, and I can learn how to jog. I have no marathon goals, but I can learn how to jog, for my sake and for my dog’s sake. Age has nothing to do with this. (I jogged three laps around the office tonight, just to prove that point to myself!)

So what is limiting you? What views about finances are holding you back? What dreams do you want to achieve that you are afraid to pursue? I’m sixty. I’m going to change my life. No excuses.

What excuses can you slay?

ARGHHHHHH. Between GoDaddy and WordPress.org changes, I have been effectively locked out of my Two Crow Feather Woman Site (I can write posts, but not upload photos, and I am unable to change security settings). It’s infuriating because this is my Retirement Plan Site (aka: I sell art work). I just sold a nice commission to a very happy customer, and I want to post that on my website, but… The Happiness Engineers at Word Press take 24-48 hours to respond.

I’m pretty certain that GoDaddy deleted files they suspected were malware and that affects my site. GoDaddy is great to buy your Domain names, but I’m firing them as web host support and hiring someone else (TBA).  (Thank you, Mary Ann.)

I sometimes hate technology in that I am just not that tech savvy, I don’t know code, and I want someone else to help me. My son, the Geek, refuses. Of, so does my youngest, the Second Geek. Because, you know, I might pester them to death with techie questions I want answered for FREE.

Can’t say I blame them.

I work an 8-hour day at a “Pays the bills” job, so can’t sit on hold for hours with a tech company, trying to sort out the alternative employment plan. Right now, I’d love to be free of “work for wages” so I can work on the web site of “works for passion and money”. I’m often too tired at the end of a workday to deal with these frustrations.

Gripe Gripe Gripe. Whine Whine Whine. Bangs head on desk. I’d rather talk to the IRS about taxes than deal with this.

Which reminds me: I need a tax advisor for a small business for this year. I’d rather grow wings and fly away to some fey garden.

I absolutely hate being tied to the facts of death and taxes; I’d rather be off chasing faeries and mysterious things. I suppose it’s the anchor to my kite string: death, taxes. and IT issues. Especially IT issues.

Hopefully, I get my art website back up and functioning soon. Meanwhile, I will try to concentrate on gardens and ancestry.

Oh, ancestry. My dad left me a note inside a book of lyric poetry I decided to take to work today to read. How did he know I would open that book and read his note?  His timing kills me. I cried.

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The intro is about the Aryan migration(!!) also known as Manifest Destiny, and something I really cannot condone – except it happened. The lyric poetry of the story (think Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) is beautiful. Skip the intro and the story told is lyric, if not un-politically correct. But neither is Hiawatha nor Evangeline.

Not sure how I ended here, except I can’t post to my art site. Yet.

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My morning break at work this morning included a walk around the strip mall where I work. It’s a pleasant walk: a lot of privacy, greenery, even a duck pond when I want to go that way. Rain threatened, and some drops fell, but it was warm. Pleasant.

I picked up a cherry blossom that had been blown off one of the many trees making up the landscaping. Delicate. Pink, red veined, and multi-layered, the stamens yellow, and the weight of it insignificant. A blossom. So fragile, so temporary, so beautiful. So intricate in design.

It is, at moment like this, when I think that lack of faith in a Greater Being takes more faith than I have. The tiniest of creations: the mite upon the mite that lives in my eyelashes, for instance. The delicate beauty of a blossom that will only be open a few days, but is so delicately arranged and created. An apple blossom that only needs a bee to complete the pollination, and there will be an apple in the late summer. God seems closer when viewed from the minute. God seems larger, and yet – less large – when one considers the design of life.

I dropped the blossom under a flowering tree, and as it fell, I felt my father’s hand brush mine. Or my mother’s. Or both. Papery thin, warm. I felt my sister’s skin under my touch as I braided her hair one last time. Tactile memories of people who have passed from this dimension to another. I felt their presence beside me. Fleeting memory.

How do you go back to work after such a spiritual phenomenon? It is hard to concentrate. Hard to think in the logical planes of every day existence. Spiritual things are not logical. Logic is a man-made concept of filing and order (I raise my hand: I am guilty!). Then spiritual happens, and you’re left standing on the side of the road, wondering how you could possibly have felt your father touch you, and he’s been gone for nearly six years?

Think of friends in life and death struggles: if God could create this blossom, could God not heal a four-year-old child held captive in his own mind by a disease? I said a prayer for Xander. He’s a four year old boy trapped, the grandson of a dear friend, and the victim of a debilitating disease that has left him trapped in his own mind. I have my own grandchildren and can only imagine.

Still – that cherry blossom. So delicate. So intricate. So fragile. So fleeting. I can’t believe it was created by chaos, by a random explosion in space a bazillion years ago. How did that create life? How did that create cherry blossoms? Or four year olds? Or give me that passing moment “between” when my parents touched my hand as I dropped the blossom back to the earth?

I have no concrete answers and you can comment or argue until the sun sets and rises again. I just think it takes more faith to not believe in something than it takes to believe. Take the fleeting flower blossom…

Easter weekend. Resurrection Day. Churchless, but not faithless. No rain, warm(er) temperatures. The garden beckons.

Not the garden in which He sweat blood as He tried to convince Himself He could walk the Via Dolorosa for people He didn’t even know – for people who would, in the next 48 hours, spit on him, deny him, and even hammer nails into his hands and feet.

My garden is a much more pleasant place. It is a place of hard labor, aching back, bruises, and puncture wounds brought on by the Hawthorne or the black-cap raspberries, but still a pleasant place. A place of contemplation, of worship, of prayer.

A place to spend a pleasant Easter weekend on my knees. It is a place of death, resurrection, and change. A place to cull the unwanted plants (not always weeds, but sometimes, something I thought I’d like and, later, rued). A place of destruction in the winter, and beauty in the growing season.

There’s something immensely satisfying when I get both rain barrels set up, and the floor beneath the rhododendrons cleared of old leaves, the ferns trimmed back, and I can see the hostas and lilies poking their brave green stalks heaven-ward.

I removed the privacy screen when the crazy renters moved out. The new renter has small children, but I love to listen to children boss each other around. It’s a far cry from listening to the former renters swear and fight and talk baby-talk to the pet tortoise. (Photo on the left is from last summer, before new neighbor and plastic backyard toys. I also took down that trellis. The honeysuckle refuses to grow over the trellis, and insists on growing over the shed.

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I will let Nature prevail, and the honeysuckle can grow the way it wants to. The mason bees (their home is hidden by the honeysuckle) buzzed me as I worked. My amaryllis are ready to bloom – I put a fence up to keep them from big dogs. Anywhere there is a fence, it is to protect my plants from the dogs.

Ferns got trimmed or dug up (yes, I kill sword ferns), weeds pulled, new support provided for the Comfrey in the corner (which will top 5′ tall by mid-summer), new support for the lady fern (which grows to be majestic in the summer, but fades completely in the winter, unlike the sword fern). Daphne the goose shows a lot of wear, but she’s ready to protect the lady fern from the dogs.

The Lenten roses are nearly done. The big sword fern under the mountain maple and the wild yew has been trimmed back. I cleaned the fountain rocks, although I have yet to put in the fountain and ponds (see the forms behind Daphne), and i hacked at the English ivy behind the shed (who thought introducing English ivy would be such a great idea? Haul him to the guillotine! Off with his head! Oh, he’s already long since passed. We just deal with his idiocy. I should try to move some of that ivy into the house as a houseplant…)

Yes, that is a Stegosaurus on the fountain rock. I like to think of it as The Shy Stegosaurus, a Scholastic book I still own.

My back ached, my leg muscles burned, my hands begged to be set free from the labor. My heart cried out to the God I worship. Let me spend a little more time with You!

I moved my broken bench (it’s only wrought iron!) and put the scary kids on the lattice work of it. I like the scary kids (they’ve certainly faded a lot!) – a pause here to say that I believe the God I worship has a wonderful sense of humor, and He probably likes the scary kids as much as I do. Certainly, He directed my steps when I found them for sale at the local thrift store and I rescued them.

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I planted all the plants I purchased at Gardenpalooza*, taking care to place them where they would have enough room to grow and blossom. The trellis went over my grape vine, which is only beginning to show signs of renewed life, but which will soon be out-running me efforts to contain the vines to the trellis. I can’t wait.

*violet Lochroma – planted in a container. Sweet laura – Peruvian lily – planted to the very left in this photo: grows 30″ tall and spreads 20″. Abutilon red tiger – planted out front with a mental note that it is not hardy below 35 degrees, and will need to be heavily mulched in the winter, but it grows 4-6′. And the checkered lily (already faded) in amongst my purple tulips.

By this time, I was covered in silt from head to tow. My fingernails were stained black from the holes in my gardening gloves. Prayers had been rolled out and sung in soft mutterings as some plants met their deaths and other plants were trimmed. My garden, which is more of an exercise in what works and what doesn’t, an exercise in mistakes and corrections, of error and forgiveness, of contemplation and peace – my garden began to take shape for the upcoming summer.

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As sort ogf a ;ast thing. I used all of my shepherd’s hooks to stabilize my wild black-cap raspberry bush. The green that is growing to the left is the part of the wild vine that I will cull this summer. The new shoots will be trained to the right. I fell in love with black caps when we moved to Ely, and there was a wild bush that grew on the north side of our house. One weekend, when my parents were away and I was house-sitting, our kind neighbor came and cut the black cap back. I freaked out on my mom, who went to the neighbors to explain that the vine was for me. I loved the raspberries.

They have more thorns than a Himalayan blackberry, another uninvited introduction and the bane of many a Pacific Northwest gardener, but the wild black-cap raspberry is a native plant. And so yummy.

 

A number of years ago, I bought this fun wrought iron plant stand at a yard sale. I was in love with it and intended to use it for a bird bath. The downside to the purchase was the ugly vintage pot that came with it (I couldn’t buy the plant stand without the pot). The upside was that I stopped at another yard sale where I purchased my little secretary desk, and the woman who helped me load the desk into the back of my car fell in love with the pot. I donated the pot to her for helping me load the desk, and we both gopt what we wanted.

Later, I purchased a deep bowl at a thrift store, and – ta da! – had a bird bath. A bird bath that attracted bees and wasps to their deaths. Ugh. I tried a wire across the bath (photo with the dragon fly), but the birds and the dogs managed to knock it off all the time, and I still ended up with drowned bees, flies, and wasps. Last year, I made a little safety raft out of matchsticks, in the hopes the insects would crawl up onto it and thus save themselves. . Insects don’t understand the concept, and I continued to have dead ones in the bowl.

The problem is the slick sides of the bowl. The porcelain that makes it so desirable for human use is deadly for insects.

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I don’t have that problem in this birdbath, poured of rough concrete. If insects land in it, they can get back out of it because they can grip the concrete. (Don’t ask about the crows that dump questionable food items into it, in an effort to soften up the Kentucky Fried Chicken leg bones so they can eat the bone marrow. Or worse. Crows are like raccoons, with a desperate need to “wash” their food first, and to the detriment of any other bird needing a bath or drink).

I digress.

This year, I saw a very neat idea for creating a bee watering station, and it occurred to me that instead of a second bird bath, what I really needed was a bee watering station where the bees, wasps, and flies wouldn’t drown. Now, bees and wasps play a very important role in our eco-system, and most wasps are not akin to the common (and hot-headed) yellow jacket or bald-faced hornet. In fact, most hornets are calmer than most yellow-jackets, and only become agitated if they feel attacked (like when you step on their nest in the woods). I will go out of my way to deal with a yellow-jacket nest, but I tend to leave all other wasps, hornets, and bees alone.

We are in a bee crisis. Non-native honeybees are dying off, the native bees are threatened, and the rusty-patched bumblebee was just added to the Endangered Species Act. My yard is a veritable haven for native bees, from iridescent green sweat bees to tiny black bees to Mason bees to dozens of bumblebees, all the way to honeybees, mud-dauber wasps, and how-many-other wasps and bees I-don’t-know. Protecting them is as important to me as providing habitat for the birds that frequent our yard.

Have I ever mentioned how dead this yard was when we moved in here, the summer of 2002? Not an insect buzzed and not a bird flitted through. We began organic (for the most part) gardening, feeding the birds, and added my first birdbaths. Now, the yard is a haven for buzzing and singing.

The pictures on the Web that I found showed shallow bowls filled with clear marbles. I searched high and low at the thrift store until I found a shallow bowl that I liked (not plain white!). I already had a vase full of glass rounds and polished agates, so filling the bowl was a cinch. The frog was a bonus. When I switched out he deeper bowl, I found at least half a dozen drowned mason bees in it (already!!). My hope is to never find a drowned bee again. And I like the addition of color to my garden.

Speaking of which…

I found this funky bowl-thing-fountain at the thrift store. Somebody actually paid that $49.99 price for it. It’s freaking UGLY. I paid $6.99 to save it. I mean, a little acrylic paint, a sealer, and a couple of my assorted ceramic frogs…

And, yes, water. It’s not exactly utilitarian as a bird bath, but the bugs and birds can get a drink, and I get to enjoy the funkiness of it.

I included slugs in the title of this post, and I really intended to have more photos for that portion of the blog, but it didn’t happen. Here’s the deal: we have a slug problem. I live in the Pacific Northwest, in the rain-forest side of the state. When I was a girl, my family would come from Nevada to visit here, and my sister and I took perverse pleasure in pouring salt on slugs to watch them die. It’s awful, and really not humane. I’m older now, and I like to just cut to the chase.

I hate slugs. I loathe slugs. Non-native snails are right behind slugs on the loathe list, and neither one is loathed because of what it is, but because of the damage it does to my plants. Slugs are a special kind of pestilence in the garden, devouring irises almost as soon as they provide fresh greenery. I have tried everything. Beer in shallow dishes just provides you with a dish full of drowned slugs that you have to dispose of. Disgusting. And inefficient, because you have to 1) change the beer daily, 2) buy beer you won’t drink (which would be any IPA in my case), and 3) expensive because beer isn’t cheap.

I’ve carried a bucket of bleach water around with me and tossed slugs into that. It’s as disgusting as slugs drowned in beer. I have (and still do) practice slug tossing (ala the book “Slug Tossing” by Meg Descamp, which I read many years after I decided the only real solution to slugs is poison. But Meg is hysterical, and I love her book). But, yes, poison. Corey’s Slug and Snail Death.

You don’t want your pets or the birds to get into this stuff. So here is how I conquered that problem creatively. Use decorative ceramic planters.

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See that pot underneath the frog fairy planter? There’s a supply of Corey’s under there with plenty of access for the pestilence to get to it. I set up these “feeding stations” around my garden, even where the dogs frequent, and always close to the plants the slugs like best. Dogs can’t smell it, birds can’t get to it, and slugs crawl in and die. They die, dehydrate, and compost and I never have to deal with their slimy carcasses, and nobody innocent gets poisoned. It’s one of the very few instances where I bow to the use of poisons. It’s not 100% effective (or, rather, slugs are more prolific than worms or bunnies, so it only catches the ones I want caught, and the rest go on procreating under the deck or whereever they hide in the daytime).

I wonder how I came to have so many ceramic frogs??

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This is my dad. He promised me that he would come back as this ceramic frog. I brought him home and, suddenly, I had a plethora of little ceramic frogs to put in my garden. Coincidence? Maybe. But I wouldn’t put it past Dad.

Now – a total digression. I was going to take a photo of the chickadee watering station (aka ant moat) over the hummingbird feeder. EXCEPT that the female Anna’s was NOT moving out of the feeder. These are taken with the 50mm lens, from about four feet. Yes, she let me get that close.

That ant moat above the hummer feeder is where the chickadees, juncos, and Townsend’s warbler get water. They disdain the bigger birdbath for the ant moat.

(And, if you are wondering – yes, the ant moat works to keep ants out of the hummer feeder – so long as you keep the moat filled with water.)

I should write a book on gardening in the Pacific Northwest. Hmmmm.