Friday, May 29, 2009

Primarily Politics

We have a primary election here in a little over a week. I'll be working as an election official again. It promises to be a long day; the primary is only for one party - the Democrats - and as far as I know it's only for two offices - governor and lieutenant governor. If we're lucky, we might exceed the 65 total voters we had in an earlier primary. Since the polls are open for 13 hours (6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.), that's five voters per hour. I may take a couple of books, or at least a book and some knitting.

I will admit to knowing little about the candidates for lieutenant governor, not even their names. I should attempt to find out before the election, don't you think? In terms of the gubernatorial primary, I've been going back and forth between the three candidates for some time, but I think I've finally come to a decision. It's been an interesting process. I've been thinking almost as much about how I came to the decision as I did about the decision itself, but perhaps that's some of the baggage that comes with having a PhD in psychology.

One of the candidates, Brian Moran, was a total unknown to me until he announced his candidacy. Another, Terry McAuliffe, I knew of from his involvement in Hillary Clinton's campaign. The third, Creigh Deeds, has been my State Senator since 2001. He ran for Attorney General four years ago and lost by a mere 320 or so votes out of over a million cast. I've liked the way he's voted in the State Senate and have voted for him every time. My first reaction was that I'd back Deeds, but as time has passed I've considered and reconsidered. I just wasn't sure. I've given money to two of the candidates, Deeds and McAuliffe. Moran hasn't asked me for money, so I haven't given him any.

I've had each candidate's website bookmarked for some months, looking at various bits and pieces of each from time to time. A few days ago, I took one issue, education, and read what was on each website. Those of Moran and Deeds had a bit more detail to my mind than that of McAuliffe, and detail is good. I obviously want a Democratic candidate who can beat the Republican one. Terry McAuliffe brings with him a well-oiled political machine and lots of campaign donations. That may or may not serve him well in parts of the state, though, and his connection with Hillary will be used against him, I am sure, if he emerges as the candidate. Brian Moran hails from Northern Virginia, giving him strength in numbers, but that NoVa connection probably won't be seen as a positive in the more rural reaches of the state. Creigh Deeds will, I think, have a better chance in those rural areas, but will have to work to get known in NoVa and in Tidewater. And there's that statewide race he lost four years ago ... to Bob McDonnell, the person who will be the Republican nominee.

After many hours of pondering this--not obsessing over it but thinking about it while running or working out or doing mundane chores such as washing dishes--my decision came down to a very little thing that just sort of popped into my mind yesterday. Terry McAuliffe has pretty much done nothing since the start of the year but run for the Democratic nomination. Brian Moran resigned his seat in the General Assembly because he was prohibited from raising money while the Assembly was in session. (The Republican nominee also resigned from his post as Attorney General in order to concentrate on his campaign.) And Creigh Deeds? He kept his seat in the State Senate and worked through some hard budget issues in the legislative session. Did it hurt his campaign for the Democratic nomination? Probably, but it's what tipped the scale in his favor for me. Yes, he wants to be governor, but he also had a job to do as my representative, and he kept doing it. I like that; it speaks to his character. That's why I'll be voting for him when it's my turn to vote. When it came right down to it, Creigh Deeds cared about more than being governor; he cared about representing his constituents. And that's why I want him as my governor.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Forgotten, But Not Gone

One of the good things about decluttering is what you might find along the way. Yesterday, I found a 3 x 5 inch top-bound spiral notebook into which I jotted observations during one of our family trips to visit the husband's mother when she lived in inland British Columbia, in a town called Kamloops. On this particular trip, which took place in late June and early July 1999, we flex into Seattle then drove to Kamloops, visiting Vancouver along the way. Here, without editing, are those observations.

Elderly man - grizzled - homeless? - sitting in a McDonalds with a no-loitering, 30-minute limit to stay while you eat - doing elaborate counted cross-stitch.

Spider monkeys are the devil's work! (This appears to be in the handwriting of older son.)

Sign in downtown Seattle: 100s of beautiful girls and 3 ugly ones.

Some adults need to be sentenced to play. They say they play, but their play usually has an end in mind - something done on a computer, a game won. We need adult-sized McDonalds ball pits and play structures in which adults can be sentenced to spend time - to have fun for the sake of having it.

Wash the Works (Smithers, BC): combination car, truck, RV wash; laundromat; and public showers.

From the Interior News, a weekly paper in Smithers, BC. Under a wedding portrait: Gino & Val Mangone and Randy & Mickey Brandvold would like to announce the marriage of their children Trish Mangone and Trent Brandvold May 1, 1999 in Fornie, BC. On Sunday, July 11 at 2 pm we will be having a bar-be-que and ball game for friends and family at Bev & Don Lubbers. Come and meet Trish. Please bring your lawn chairs, ball gloves, and beverages. RSVP to 847-3393 or 847-3943.

Paraphrase of headline in a Western Canada farm paper: The Gophinator Meets the SPCA.

The Full Vancouver: skiing/snowboarding, etc. and golf, tennis, etc. in the same day. Done on Canada Day 1999 - 6 meter base at Cypress Mtn. ski resort north of Vancouver. (I should make it clear here that I did not personally do the Full Vancouver; I only read about it in the paper.)

The shorter the missed putt, the longer the obscenity. Newspaper ad on side of a bus in Seattle.

The Path to Totality

Jesus loves you. Everyone else thinks you're an asshole.

Please don't take that last one personally. I really wish I'd written down where I saw that or what prompted it, but I didn't. At least I recorded it for rediscovery almost ten years later. Indoor archaeology at its best!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Creative Process, II

I managed to get more done on the side of the cabin this morning. So you don't have to hop back to my original post, here's the cabin I'm trying to duplicate albeit in a liberated manner ala Gwen Marston. I got the three window units done last time, so today was all about the side wall of the cabin. First, though, here are a couple more fabrics I bought thinking they might have a place in this quilt. I thought that the middle one might work for the front yard. It was covered with snow when we were there, but I'm thinking of doing it as grass in the quilt. The pine trees on the other three are pretty cool, and there's the cool clouds on those fabrics as well.

The first step this morning was figuring out how big to make the house. That was pretty simple. I measured the window units in the photo along with the fabric ones and figured that I'd multiply all the photo dimensions by approximately 6. I actually looked for red fabric with some thin black lines running through it, thinking that the lines would work for the faint lines between the blanks of siding in the photo. Thinking about how to do those lines again convinced me that the best was was to cut the red fabric into strips, sew the strips back together, and let the seam line act as the faint line between planks. Here's half of my piece of red fabric cut into strips 1.25 inches wide. This will make the planks in the cabin 0.75 inches wide. So I sewed the strips together into units of four strips, since that gave me the width I needed to put above and below the window units. I also made one unit of six strips since that gave me the width I'd decided to put between the windows. Here's a shot with the second window unit about to be added to the first. And here's a shot of the finished side unit. I put the top window in just to show where it will go when I add the second story. I took the leftover units of red strips and cut them up a bit more, and sewed them to the second story window. I also did a strip of white to be the edge of the roof. Before I can put the second story unit together, though, I need to decide on a fabric for the sky. I pulled two blue batiks out of one of my drawers full of batiks (I know; I said "one of") and laid each out with the red side unit and the photograph I'm working from.
As you might have guessed, I'm going with the second blue, which seems almost a perfect match for the blue in the printed photo. I think it will contrast very nicely with the red of the cabin.

I might have kept going, but it was approaching lunchtime and I'd been through Harry Chapin's Portrait Gallery almost twice. The next step will be to figure out what to use for the chimney and the roof so that I can finish the second story unit. Then I'll start thinking about the deck and fence on the left side of the cabin and whether to include the basement windows and wall at the bottom of the side unit.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

What I Might Do this Summer (Second Time Around)

For some known reason that I don't feel like divulging - okay, it was to avoid doing something else - I just put at least one label on all my previous posts. In doing so, I noticed that I set forth some goals for last summer with a follow-up in the fall as to how I did on them. As the radio announcer reminded me this morning, Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, so I might as well try to come up with a list this weekend.

(1) The last shall be first, eh? My final goal for last summer was to try to get the house a bit more kempt, as in the opposite of unkempt. Didn't make it and may never, but I might as well try again. One of the topics on my list of possible posts is how our big trip has really left me with the urge to downsize a bit around here. After living for two months in the same one pair of jeans and three pairs of cargo pants, and feeling as if I could have done with less, do I really need the dozen or more pairs of pants in my closet that I haven't worn in over a year? Or the suits I got back when I had a job that demanded my presence in an office or at meetings looking quite professional? I certainly don't need all of them. So my first goal is to follow through with this. I've got a pile of clothes to be donated going in the closet, after which there's lots more to tackle. Some people have junk drawers. I have one, plus the upstairs of the garage. You get the idea.

(2) Make at least one something out of the found objects and pieces of paper I brought back from the trip. Hopefully, I'll make more than one, but one is a good place to start. Perhaps I'll start with the spoons. There may be a strange cosmic cause, but I found a spoon or part of a spoon on the street in almost every major city we were in. It got to be something of a joke. "Find another spoon, Mom?" Or maybe I'll start with the flat eyeglass frame since I have several ideas about what I could do with that.

(3) Get my yellow belt in Myo Sim karate. I started going to karate classes in December, figuring that it could only help my kendo, which it has. I'm now at the point, though, where I've been taught everything I need to know for my yellow belt. Lots of things need work, but assuming I can put that work in, it would be nice to have the belt to show for it. My kicks probably need the most work, and I could be a lot more comfortable with falls. I would also like to be able to do the self-defenses without taking so long to think of what the next move is.

(4) And the first shall be last, in the vein of (1) above. I think my first goal last summer was to knock more items off The Fifty. Since I still have a few to go, I'll add that to the list for this summer, too. I got a start on the second Harry Potter book in Spanish, so perhaps I'll finish that. And perhaps I could do the collage item on The Fifty with some of my trip paraphernalia. Since I'll soon be halfway through the decade of my fifties, I'd better get that list done so I can rest up for The Sixty.

Okay, that's four items, the same as I had last summer. Some will be easier to do than others, and some will be more fun. They will at least keep me from getting bored. And if I go work on one of them now, I can keep avoiding that other thing I don't want to do.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Creative Process, I

I don't usually think to photograph things before I've made them, but it hit me today as I was starting to work on a new quilt that I should document this one. Since the intended recipients of the new work don't know about this blog, I should be safe posting about it here.

The quilt is for the husband's Norwegian cousins, two brothers who were so wonderful to us during our recent visit there. How do you give one quilt to two people who don't live together? You make it for the mountain house they own together. The quilt itself will have a representation of the house done in the style of Gwen Marston's Liberated Quiltmaking, a style I wholeheartedly embrace because it largely frees me from the tyranny of matching corners.

The first step is to make the house. Once it's made, I can decide what to put around it and how big the whole thing should be. Here's the photo of the house that I'm using to work from. In the liberated tradition, the house on the quilt will not look nearly as neat and precise as in the photograph; however, I want it to be recognizable as the mountain house.

Yesterday, I purchased some a few fabrics that I thought would work for components of the house. This morning, I pieced the three window units. I started with this fabric. Here's a closer look at it.

Today was window day, so here's how I did the upstairs one. First, I'm going to show it as closed because it's easier that way. As you can see in the photo, it's two panels of two panes by two panes, with a wider strip of white between the panels than there is between the individual panes. So here's the piece of fabric I started with. I could have gotten all anal and cut out individual panes to sew together, but that's far too time-consuming and not nearly liberated enough. So I simply folded this over in the right places and stitched the fabric together to leave a thin strip of white in between the panes and a wider strip of white in between the two panels. Here's the finished piece, along with the two lower window units. They're sitting on the red that I may use for the side of the house. And there you have it. A wee bit of piecing on a Friday morning, done with Josh Groban's Awake on the CD player. The next step will likely be surrounding the windows with red fabric for the sides of the house. I haven't decided yet whether to use the solid red. I may hit the Memorial Day sale at the local quilt store after my workout tomorrow morning and see if they have a red with some sort of black lines running through it. Or maybe I won't. In other words, I'm making no promises about when the next post on this quilt will go up. In terms of my time, making this is competing with working on a project for my job (money is always nice) and learning a new statistical computing package or language (challenge is always nice, too). We'll just have to see how the long weekend goes.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Every Quilt Has a Story

I actually finished my latest quilt, Cattitude, in February, during the storm of preparations to leave for two months. As a result, I didn't get anything posted about it. That's a good thing, because a lot can happen in two months. Every quilt has a story, and the story for this one had a plot twist right after the trip. I designed Cattitude for younger son's then-girlfriend with the intention of giving it to her for Christmas. Note the "then." He broke up with her right before Christmas, during final exams at the university they both attend. (No, I don't condone such behavior.) After the shock wore off, I e-mailed the young lady and confessed that I was about done with the quilt I had intended to give her for Christmas but was now worried about its connection with younger son. She expressed gratitude for my making her a quilt; her mother quilts, so she knows what goes into a quilt. She suggested that I give it to her for her birthday in February instead. In February, she suggested I wait until after the trip. After the trip, she said she couldn't really take it since she would always connect it with the painful breakup.

What to do? First, I often finish quilts right before they need to be given, meaning that I'm forever thinking "I could have ..." or "If only I had had the time to ..." in terms of the quilting. Because of the Christmas to February delay on this one, I pretty much got to quilt it as I wanted to not as I had time to. I really, really like how I did this one. I quilted in a bunch of detail on the cat, and then echo-quilted around it in the center panel. It doesn't really show up in the photographs, but the quilting is pretty awesome. I don't usually confess to being proud of my little creations, but I'm proud of this one.

Partly because of the pride I felt in Cattitude, I could not just replace the label saying for whom I designed and made the quilt, put on a new label, and then give the qult to someone else. It was designed and made for one particular person; that was part of its story. It would be dishonest to tell someone else I made it for them. I wrestled with this for a while, until a solution presented itself. One reason I designed Cattitude was that the young lady loves animals but could not have a pet in the dorm. The label subtext on Cattitude is that "because everyone who wants a cat should have one." Because of that, Cattitude will be going to a dear friend's son, who is graduating from high school and heading off to college, and who will undoubtedly miss the family cat when he goes. He'll understand that the label, with his name added to that of the originally intended recipient, is part of the quilt's story. Yes, every quilt has a story, and every quilt needs a good home. I'm betting that Cattitude will have one with its new recipient.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Personal Trip Planning

When we visited Angkor Wat, we stayed at a place called the Golden Banana Bed and Breakfast. It was all we could have wanted: cheap (very), clean, free breakfast, free wireless, and an owner who insisted I really should stop at the hospital on my way to the airport after being bitten by a dog. The husband didn't think the skin had been broken, but it had, so the stop at the hospital could have been a lifesaver in that I was able to start the treatment to prevent rabies immediately, with no interruption to our trip.

I probably never would have found the Golden Banana on my own. I found it thanks to the nurse practitioner I saw for a ring finger that kept locking up when I bent it. In the course of the exam, the subject of our plan to visit Angkor came up, and she said she'd stayed at a very nice bed and breakfast there. One personal recommendation and a look at the website were enough to convince me that was where we should stay.

The husband and I found our favorite Caribbean dive resort, Small Hope Bay Lodge, where we honeymooned and to which we returned four other times, in much the same way. As we were planning our wedding, I was chatting with some colleagues about possible honeymoon locations with sun and water for diving. Henry, a somewhat portly, quiet man with a very dry sense of humor, who worked in the budget office across the hall, said that he knew where he'd go for that, and suggested Small Hope. I asked him for more details, and it came up that he had never actually been there himself. Rather, he read travel guides thinking about where he would like to go if he could. He had decided that if he ever went to the Caribbean, he'd like to go to Small Hope. This being before the days of the Internet, I did some travel guide reading of my own, and the rest was family history. We went there a total of five times, and each time I would come back and thank Henry as I told him how much we had enjoyed it.

Not too long after our last trip to Small Hope, I quit working to go on sabbatical with the husband, have younger son, and become the full-time mother-at-home I had wanted to be since older son had been born. I lost touch with Henry, though I heard a few years later that he had retired. A few years after that, I read his obituary in the local paper. I pictured him, sitting at night reading travel guides, and wondered if he ever got to some of the places he'd read about. I don't know if he ever made it to Small Hope Bay Lodge, but I hope so, because we never would have made it there without him. Thanks, Henry. Many, many thanks.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

For Me? A Blog Award!

While I was away for two months and not blogging here, this blog was the recipient of a "One Lovely Blog" award from Sherrie at Just Books. According to the award guidelines Sherrie posted, I'm supposed to pass this along to 15 other "newly discovered" blogs. The only problem is that I haven't really discovered 15 other blogs recently. I'm not even sure I read 15 blogs regularly. I try to read Debi's regularly. Neil Gaiman's, too. I haven't been as good as I would like about reading Annie's blog regularly. I'd like to read Kara's blog more often. For the next two weeks, the two blogs I'll be checking more than daily are the ones my younger son is keeping as he and his older brother tour Europe. One is a photographic journal of their travels; the other is a self-portrait he takes each day. This is how I know where they are or have been since they don't really have a set itinerary to follow.

It's interesting to have this blog win an award from someone I don't even know. Obviously, someone who posts a blog to the Internet should consider that anyone who happens across it might start to read it. For that reason, I try to post things that I think people other than my immediate family might be interested in. This has included book reviews, reflections on one thing or another, a tribute to my father on his last birthday (since he's got another one coming up this week, Happy Birthday, Dad! You make 80 look like the new 55!). I invited a large number of people to follow my blog of the trip. I've never really invited anyone outside my family and a few close friends to this blog, though I do have the URL posted on my Facebook page, access to which is limited to my Facebook friends. I'm flattered and a bit proud that someone thought this little corner of my world worthy of mention. So thanks, Sherrie, and I'll try to keep up the good work. There will be another book review coming, maybe even later tonight. First, though, it's back to making my mom a special Mother's Day dinner. The pie (from my good friend Mrs. Smith) is cooling on the table, the potato salad is chilling in the refrigerator, the meat loaf is cooking in the oven, and I'm about to start on the ginger candied carrots. I'm getting hungrier just seeing, smelling, and writing about it all.

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to all who play the role of a mother, be they biological or step or just a mother figure to another person. It's Mother's Day for me, too, but since the sons are in Madrid, Spain at the moment, the day will be more about my honoring my own mother and making all her favorite dishes for dinner tonight. First, though, is breakfast. Then, it's off to three hours of martial arts workout and class where I may or may not be the only mother in attendance. Then I have some errands to run after which I hope to post a more proper blog post while doing various dinner prep things. It seems that this blog got an award from another blogger while I was away and only posting to my trip blog. I should also do my final book review for Annie's What's In a Name-2 challenge. And then there's the post I'd like to do about waste disposal and recycling around the world, or at least the parts of the world I just visited. There's also a post I'd like to do about getting travel suggestions from other people. There's also a post about ... Yeah, this whole being back in the real world and having things to do can really cut into one's blogging time.