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Two Weeks Into Retirement

“Have you adjusted to retirement yet?”

If my husbands answers, he says something about my inability to sleep in/stay up late, but that seem to be enjoying my time “off”.

But if you were to ask me, I’d say that it’s going jolly well, although a bit slow. I’ve organized my studio.

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Yes, it still looks cluttered, but it’s only 20×20′ (give or take) and I have a lot of artistic hobbies. If I can see the area rug in its entirety, I consider the room “clean” and “organized”. Each hobby has its own area. (That’s Godot, my first faerie creation,enjoying my wicker chair. Godot is several years old now.)

I have cleaned out my closet and dresser, and presently have four or five boxes of items to donate to a thrift shop, much of which is business attire. I am not a business attire sort of person. I’m a blue jeans and tee shirt sort of girl, maybe a hippie dress in the summer, and I’ve recently discovered how comfy yoga pants really are (especially for those of us with a bit of a muffin top).

Have you been watching that series on Netflix about decluttering? Well, I have not. I don’t think she can help me. Much of what we own (that clutters our lives) is vintage and antique, unusual, and definitely collectible. And there are the books, which, if you have followed me over the years, are currently in shelves approximating the Dewey Decimal system. The books are a pleasure to us. Apparently, Marie Kondo, hostess of the Netflix series, believes that one should own no more than 30 books.

No. Just – NO. The unread ones beckon, the vintage ones scintillate, the antique ones are bound in leather, and the resource ones have SO.MUCH.INFORMATION in them. What butterfly is that? What herb & what use? What mammal? What bird? What rock? There are a ton of books on our shelves that beg, “Re-read me” even though I’ve read them several times over.

OK, I do have some cheap paperback mystery/romance books to recycle at our local library’s used book store.

I have also been s-l-o-w-l-y cleaning the bathroom. I thought I’d be done by now with such a small room (6×9′ give or take a foot) but it hasn’t worked out that way. I damaged my right rotator cuff and I have to do the work with my left hand/arm. I’m ambidextrous, so that isn’t a problem, but I do tend to use the right arm more out of habit and the sheer strength of the arm. I’m scrubbing te lodged in dirt out of the baseboards, scrubbing the stained white linoleum, and scouring the porcelain. The shower stall has been the worst: soap scum & mildew. I an claim I am finished with that corner now, but the truth of the matter is this: nothing gets rid of the mildew. Today, I bleached. No go. We’ll have to pull the caulking out and clean, then re-caulk with mildew resistant caulking.  There’s no getting around it.

However, I have scrubbed the soap scum off the glass doors and you can see through them clearly now. It’s amazing! I’m trying to do this without using chemicals, but sometimes I have had to capitulate. It is slow going, but I am loving the results. I’d rather have tile in that room and a little more color than white. I have managed to not hurt my shoulder anymore, and that’s huge. I’m not sure how it will work when I try to clean underneath the full-sized cast iron claw foot bathtub..

Meanwhile, I am also working on some of those myriad hobbies, but that’s for later.

My answer to the question? I only retired from the 9-5 routine. I have so much more work to do, and time to do it now! I love it!

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Dear Mom,

I finished organizing my tiny sewing corner. It’s not much. Yes, that’s polymer clay supplies in the crate above the yarn. What can I say: it fits. I use sewing supplies for making creatures, anyway, not really for sewing. Sewing is for mending. I just did not inherit your gene for enjoying creating with thread. Fabric, yes: it’s the texture.

Oh, I do want to ask you about that coconut head there. I really don’t understand it. It has a soft purple satin lining and that – that funky face. I’m not certain if it is racist or creative, but I can’t bear to part with it. My grandchildren may condemn me for it, so I will put your name inside it and a disclaimer. “Not certain if Mary Lou Wilcox made this or inherited it, and I don’t know its purpose, but I couldn’t bear to part with it because it was hers. It’s funky. You have to love the FUNKY. In any case, it was created circa 1950-1965. I think.”

After I took that photo, I started moving things around in the studio.

Looks like my bedroom when I was a kid, doesn’t it? I swear that was because my sister refused to pick up her things, not because of me. She was the guilty party. Remember: I kicked her out of our shared bedroom when I was fifteen. I piled everything of hers – including her bed – in the hallway. I was tired of being blamed for that mess!

I promise this all has an ultimate purpose. Not kicking Denise out of the bedroom – that was so long ago! – but the current mess in my studio. I’m moving furniture and storage units around so that I can clear a perimeter and have a nice, neat, organized studio again. I have a plan.

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This is hardly the end plan, but I did get one wall lined up. I can’t reveal my plan – I don’t have it written down and I only have a blue print in my head, but it involves changing out the contents of the red tool box, the round industrial soap container, the quaint tole house, and the locker.

I have so much crap.

Love,

Your oldest daughter.

PS – I really was the Neat Freak. You never had to ask me to make my bed or clean my bedroom after I kicked Denise out. I’m sorry you had to move your sewing room downstairs to give her a bedroom to sleep in. It really was for the best. And I really did love her.

Except when she dressed like me. I really, really, really hated her when she got up in the morning and put on clothes to match what I was wearing. We weren’t twins, you know.

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The Corner Purge

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Dear Mom,

I decided to sort through some of my sewing stuff. Well, it didn’t start that way: originally, I decided to pare down all my beading stuff, and store it in smaller containers because, well, I don’t really do much with beads that could be called ‘beading’ and I wanted tyo be able to see what I had on hand at a glance so I don’t go out and buy more. That led to the discovery of all the sequins in different containers – and I didn’t purchase those sequins. They came to me via you. I also uncovered the box of Styrofoam egg shapes that I was going to decorate for Easter some day. And with the egg shapes was a wreath form which reminded me that I recently purchased a heart-shaped wreath form with the idea of hanging a Valentine wreath outside after the Christmas decorations were down.

I went in search of ribbons and discovered what a mess my little sewing corner is. I have some of yours and some of mine, all knick-knacks and supplies hoarded over the years. Yes, you hoarded things long before I did, and I brought some of your hoard home with me after Dad died.

I spent a rough couple of days getting up and down, staring near-sighted at sequins, beads, and messes of ribbons, lace, and – this will crack you up – my assortment of screws, nails, pins, push-pins, thumbtacks, hasps, and the little tins I use to store those items in.

At the end of the day, I don’t think I made much progress, but I did darn a pair of socks that have been waiting on my sewing machine. I threw a lot of stuff into the “thrift store donation” box. I made the decision to toss the bits of ric rac ribbon you saved (really, Mom? four inches of silver ric rac and six inches of gold and two inches of red?). Oh, and I decided to donate about ten packages of unopened bias tape. I’ll never use it.

I hauled out the red-yellow-green plastic drawer set I bought years ago for Chrystal to store her toys in. I was using it to store fabric in, and mending jobs, but I really hated it and it took up so much room. I taped a “FREE” sign on it and set it out on the edge of the lawn, by the stop sign. It was gone within the hour. The fabric is tossed in a corner on the floor for tonight, but I have a plan on how to store it.

Finally, I got out my (new) hot glue gun, the basket of old laces, and the last of the silk flowers. I wrapped the heart-shaped wreath form, glued, and wired it to hang. Simple, and now that Christmas has been officially retired for the season (on Epiphany, not the day after like Dad always insisted we do), the wreath is a timely asset to the front door. I think you’d love it.

That’s enough for today –

Love always.

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Goals, Dreams, Hopes

“Do what makes you happy”

I have already accomplished one goal (website debugging) and my artist friend, Mary, has pointed me in the direction of another (making cabochons), so I figure I am starting the year in good form. That, and I didn’t have a hang-over this morning.

WRITE. Blog more often. Edit some long standing manuscripts. Keep up my personal journal. Send letters and cards more often (snail mail, the real deal).

PAINT. Bigger, better, more often. Take a class. Acrylics, gouache, oil, maybe even watercolors. Pastels. Colored pencils. On canvas, on metal, on wood, on ceramic, on glass. Maybe even on a wall or the side of a bathtub. Definitely on the stairs.

WEBSITE. I can check off getting it debugged. I paid someone else to do that this afternoon. After that, it will be maintaining and adding new content. (The website is different than this blog – I’ll post the link at a later date. I want it debugged first.)

CREATE. This is different from painting. Sculpt. Experiment with textures. Make more masks. Costumes for cosplay. Faerie houses. Polymer clay creations. Send my paintings off to make cards and cabochons.

GARDEN. Every opportunity. New plants. Harvest berries and grapes and apples and make jams, apple butter, and just plain eat the harvest. Vegetables. Kill weeds naturally Encourage birds.

PHOTOGRAPHY. Every.Chance.I.Get. Have the camera at the ready and my phone (love that macro lens on mine!) charged at all times. Experiment. Birds, flowers, insects. Food, beer, and what my coffee cup is up to at any given time.

My coffee cup painted Italy/T-Rex one morning. The designs are often interesting. I post the pics on Instagram.

INSTAGRAM. Follow more. post more. @thejacidawn Build my art business.

REMODEL. I have my Pinterest account full of ideas. My husband, when I showed him some of my ideas, said, “I’m not the handyman you think I am.” I replied, “I didn’t think you were going to do these. I am.” Because, yes, you are not a handyman – after 39 years of wedded bliss, I have this figured out.

My projects include: painting the press-board stairs after I pull the ugly carpet off of them. Paint the bathroom floor or tile it. Trim the parquet in the kitchen. Paint the kitchen cupboards with chalk paint. I have more in mind, but I’ll start there.

DE-CLUTTER. This is huge. We need to clear out the “collectibles”. The vintage, the odd, the antique. I have books (paperbacks) that I can let go of. I have boxes of stuff that needs to be put into scrap books. I’ve already cleaned my closet of work clothes (I’m keeping a pair of black slacks and a simple black skirt for professional events or funerals). I see either an Etsy or E-Bay store in my future.

That’s the short list. I start tomorrow morning. (C’mon – today is a business holiday. And I already paid for a clean up of my website. #goalaccomplished )

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New Year’s Eve : What Now?

I have debated whether to write this morning and look back at the past year or to wait until tomorrow and start all over. 2018 was nothing short of a disaster for my personal goals, and – yet – it heralded a positive lifestyle change in the very last moments.

There were days when I felt I was in a black eddy, sucked into a whirlpool of mediocrity where all creativity, imagination, and desire was sucked out of me. I got up in the mornings, went through my paces, drank my coffee. The highlight of my weekdays was my ten o’clock and 3 o’clock breaks at work, when I’d wander down to a nearby duck pond and visit the semi-tame puddle ducks there. Occasionally, something interesting would happen on my walks (I did rescue some ducklings caught in a drain). More often than nought, those walks were times of prayer, meditation, and questioning.

The job was losing its luster. Good changes came in waves, but I felt no enthusiasm for them nor for the bright and shiny new tech tools that were dropped in front of our collective noses like carrots before the proverbial horse on a treadmill. I nibbled, but the taste seemed bland. The company offered carrots and I wanted apples and molasses-sweetened oats.

There were high points to the year, of course: my garden, the birds that fill our little 10,000 square feet haven of pesticide- and herbicide- free patch, the trip to South Dakota and home,  our exploration of the local brew pub culture. and our grandchildren and their parents coming for a long visit. The presence of our grandchildren pushed me toward being creative again: they begged to see and play with my little canvases of animals.

The ale caused me to gain weight.

The lowest point of the year was the loss of my father-in-law, a man so red-neck and boisterous that his loss sucked a hole in our universe. It’s hard to describe Sonny without describing all his shortcomings, but it was those very things that endeared him to us. Sonny’s life was construction, hunting, fishing, hunting, and fishing. Did I mention he loved to hunt and fish? One cannot think of Sonny without thinking of rifles, camo gear and fishing rods.

Emotionally, psychologically – the year was a cess-pool. I stepped carefully around my own illness, uninspired, tired, drained – it was as though I looked at my creative self and murmured, “Someday, I’ll rescue you, but for now, you stay locked in this tower room. I can’t help you, and you can’t help me.” I don’t even have the long hair to lower to a prince in disguise (nor did I sense there was a prince to come to my rescue).

I made the decision to jump out of the frying pan into ice cold water sometime before the fourth quarter of the year: I would retire at the end of 2018, putting to rest the anxiety of getting up every morning and doing work that didn’t benefit me in any other way except to put money in the coffers. It was a freeing decision. I applied for Social Security early and began counting down the days and hours. 2019 would be the first time in my life that I would have a little income coming in and a whole lot of time to myself (no small children) in which I could pursue my dreams. It wouldn’t be lot of money, but enough to help cover the bills and feed us.

The change came a tad bit earlier than I expected: my employer sent me home at 10AM on Friday with my last paycheck. I was retired.

So – what now? I’ve dinked around all weekend, itching to start my projects. My mind is aflutter with ideas. I’ve filled my Pinterest Boards with DIY projects. I’ve begun to reorganize the house (at least in my mind). I’m trying to take a four-day weekend before I jump in, but it’s very hard. That artist stuck in a tower seems to have discovered the secret entrance and a whole world is outside, beckoning that imprisoned creator into the open.

My next post will be the definition of the “what next?” – the hopes, dreams, and resolutions of a bird whose soul has been set free. I hope to start soaring.

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The holiday season has started slowly for us. The household just was not ready for the onset of lights, decorations, and cheer! For instance: last year, I decided that if my neighbors were not going to play along, I was done with over 15 years of putting up outside lights and decorations. It takes a lot of work to do even the modest amount that I was doing, and so I boxed it all and dropped it off at a thrift store in January.

This year, 6 of my neighbors decided to put out Christmas lights in their yard or windows. Some of those neighbors have been subjected to my annual display and never once bothered to play along until I got rid of all the outdoor stuff. As Rodney Dangerfield would say, “I ain’t got no respect!”

We were late going out to get the tree, partly because of company over the Thanksgiving weekend, and – well, the loss of the family patriarch on my husband’s side. We would have gone into the mountains, but… Darn! The snow levels dropped to 3500 feet, making it impossible to get up to where wild noble firs grow. We were left with finding a tree lot with fresh trees or a U-Cut lot with wild-looking noble firs. There’s a tree shortage, and prices have skyrocketed. Oy vey, as my mother would have said.

We crossed that bridge with a very nice (but rather huge) noble that cost us $40 less than we expected to pay (whew! and thank God for short measuring tapes in the hands of those who charged us!).

Tree is up and the house (inside) is over-decorated as per usual. All the Santas, the snowmen, the ornaments, the Nativities (yes, I have more than one or two), and the wall hangings are up. We even hung our stockings, but it is a sad display without Harvey’s and Murphy’s stockings. Darn dogs!

Therefore, I made plans for us to attend an “Irish Children’s Christmas” at our favorite brew pub & tap house: Feckin’ Brewery.  We arrived early (no surprise) and locked in a first-class seat to watch the festivities. My grand plan was to stay long enough to see the Irish dancers, listen to some music, and watch the dog show (“best Christmas sweater on a dog”).

I dressed up these two over the years:

They were never very willing, especially not the dog on the right (Murphy, the German Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, who preferred to eat anything I tried to dress him up in). Harvey just looked sad, which was pretty much his default setting: looking sad and put-upon by his human family. Murphy always managed to look quite cheerful, especially as he demolished whatever costume I attempted to dress him up in.

There were seven dogs at Feckin’ today, which is possibly a record low. Usually, the number of dogs vs. children in the pub is about equal, but considering the Santa Claus draw, the children easily outnumbered the four (and three-) footed crowd. (Yes, one dog had only three legs. It gave me a doggie hug early on.) I tried to take photos, but the crowd was standing room only and I could not get close to the stage. Suffice it to say that the Standard Poodle should have won, the three-legged dog did well, and the dog that did win was a sweetheart.

Then Santa Claus arrived and even children who no doubt do not believe got into line to shake his hand and take a gift. Then, again, maybe all the little ones present believed, unlike my own children and grandchildren.

My daughter told her entire kindergarten class that Santa wasn’t real. That was in 1991. Yes, I am the mother that received THAT phone call. I assured the Kindergarten teacher that it was an anomaly, because *I* believe. Somehow, I never could pass that faith in the jolly old fellow on to my descendants. Just this last November, the four Alaska grands informed me that Santa is not real.

“How do you know that?” I asked. They couldn’t provide an answer, so I stand by my belief in Santa Claus.

I miss them so much at holiday time, and my Georgia grands as well. Hanging out at the pub amid a crush of young families, small children, and a few brave doggos is my compensation. I’m happy my husband was a willing conspirator (even though he also does not believe).

Oh, what are we to do with all these nay-saying folks whilst Santa and his elves are loading up the sleigh?

“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!”

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Thanksgiving Narrative

Our daughter came to visit. She lives in Alaska these days, with her husband and their four children. They booked their trip for two weeks with one caveat: our son-in-law had to leave after one week (which was last Monday). The rest of the family leaves tomorrow. Therefor, we had our big dinner last Sunday.

I also had to work most of the time they were here, so we didn’t go on some of their Oregon Adventures (the zoo and Oregon Museum of Space and Industry -OMSI). Don did, however, teach the little ones how to play croquet – well, sort of. We don’t have a proper course in the backyard and some items are broken, so – well, you make do. Don taught htem how to use their opponent’s ball to help them win.

We hitched a ride in their rental van to the Oregon Aquarium in Newport on Sam’s last Saturday here.

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The aquarium was a huge hit. Sharks, halibut, crabs, starfish, flounder, sting rays – too many fishes and creatures to list.

Sunday, the 18th, we broke out the fine china and the heirloom silver. We had a real sit-down dinner with no “Little kids” table: turkey, mashed potatoes, rolls, black olives (Grandma always instigates a long session of children placing olives onto their fingers and popping them into their mouths), and cranberry sauce (jellied, of course!). There was a pumpkin pie chaser, topped with whipped cream (but not the real stuff because someone gifted us with the aerosol can type and we decided to use that).

Monday, the 19th, everything fell apart. My sister-in-law called me at work and advised me that her father – my husband’s father – had passed away. He simply did not put the oxygen tubes back into his nose, and he passed in his sleep somewhere between the evening of the 18th and the morning of the 19th. Life suddenly went sideways.

I closed the office and hurried home to tell my husband. We cried. We made phone calls, we made the painful decision to leave our daughter in Portland – in the middle of her vacation to see us – so we could travel to eastern Oregon to mourn with Don’s siblings. It.Was.Awful.

I worked part of the day Tuesday – long enough to tie up loose ends and make sure I was covered for Wednesday. Wednesday, we hit the road. We spent two nights with Don’s mother. Don’s brother was living with their father and found him on the morning of the 19th (“He looked so peaceful”). We had Thanksgiving dinner – impromptu – at the truck stop on the south end of La Grande (great food & service). Don and his older brother looked at their father’s collection of camouflage hunting clothing and tennis shoes. There’s nothing for women in Sonny’s estate, unless that woman is well-schooled in the art of fresh water fishing and deer/elk hunting. That was the sum of Sonny’s life: hunt. Fish.

Friday, we drove back to Portland in some of the worst weather I have ever had to drive in.

Let me take a moment here to tell you about driving. I’ve crossed over Cabbage Hill and Meacham in freezing fog and snow. It’s scary, even carrying chains. Semi truck drivers decide to pass just because one truck driver is going five miles an hour slower than the other – and they’re both going around 40mph, while you are going 70 or 80. You have to stomp on your brakes to allow some redneck trucker to pass the other trucker who is going five miles and hour slower (but you were going 20 to 30 miles an hour faster).

That’s not the scariest. The scariest is driving through the Columbia River Gorge on I-84 in the rain. The rain started when we passed the John Day Dam. It poured. Other drivers didn’t turn on their head lights nor their taillights. There were just blank spots in the rear-view mirror or in the headlights that meant there was a car – possibly -traveling there. From Hood River to Cascade Locks, the ruts in the freeway filled with rainwater. The water grips the tires and turns them sideways. The driver’s job is to keep the steering wheel straight. A car precedes you and the entire windshield is covered in water for 3 seconds. You just hang onto the wheel, steer straight and keep your foot off of the gas or brakes. It is terrifying, Anytime you hydroplane is terrifying: a trip down the Columbia River Gorge on I-84 is doubly that.

Add in the woman talking on her cell phone while navigating that section of road.

It is only by the grace of God that I don’t freeze up behind the wheel. I fall apart after I reach home and am safe. Damn. Headlights. Taillights. WTF is wrong with people that they don’t understand this simple rule: windshield wipers on = headlights and taillights on.

We’ve had two nights with grandkids since that wild excursion to reunite with family over loss. Croquet, soccer, fire, roasted marshmallows. Tomorrow is our last night together.

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Tonight we ended with grilled salmon (courtesy of our daughter) and roasted marshmallows. Tomorrow, these wonderful little people and their mother fly out, destined to their Alaska home. We will miss them.

We will miss their Georgia counterparts.

We miss out children and our grandchildren.

We miss our fathers” John T. (Jack) Wilcox in 2011 and Garald C. (Sonny) Presley in 2018.

That’s a hard “G” as in “Gary”.

 

 

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