28 February 2014

Feline Friday

 We recently gathered a few items to mail to Bailey in Indiana, including some boxes of Thin Mints. While I stepped out of the room, Lily added herself to the box. I'd like to think that she wanted to visit Bailey at school, but she didn't fool me for a minute. She was only after the Girl Scout cookies. :)

24 February 2014

Once More, with Love

Grandma and Bailey at Grandma's 100th birthday celebration, December 2011

It seems like I just finished cleaning out my childhood home, but in the past couple of weeks I've found myself knee-deep in another one. Last week, we moved my 102-year-old grandma into a nursing home. Up until then, she had been living on her own. With my dad now gone, his executor duties have fallen to me so I've had to take the lead in figuring out what to do with yet another house full of stuff.

Luckily, my Grandma and Grandpa had an auction a few years ago before moving to this home, so the house was not nearly as full as my childhood home. With help from family members, we were able to move out all the furniture in the course of one day. Still, I've packed countless boxes and filled the recycle bin over and over. I've taken multiple loads to organizations in need. I guess the good thing is that, having been down this road before, I better understood the scope of this daunting task and how to do it this time around.

While this situation is very different than the one I faced last summer, clearing out Grandma's house still represents the end of an important part of my life. As I packed up her kitchen this afternoon, I noticed little bits of cookie dough still stuck to her rolling pin. I tucked it into my bag to take home. That rolling pin is a linking object to my childhood, and I'm not quite ready to let go of it yet.

But the most important treasures I brought from Grandma's house are her genealogy books. She's always been a meticulous keeper of family history, writing detailed notes and gathering information the old fashioned way -- by mail. Over the years, I've told her I'd be honored to keep her books and take on that role someday. Well, that "someday" has finally arrived. As I boxed up her treasured family history books, I felt the weight of responsibility. The torch has been passed.

Working through Grandma's situation has been difficult for me on many levels. I think of my dad each day as I embark on some new task or difficult conversation. These are tasks he would have tackled had he been here...heavy duties that he would never have wanted me to face. But this is the job I have to do, and I'll do the best I can with it. For Grandma, and for him.

21 February 2014

Feline Friday: Cupcake Kittens!

Merciful me...A few weeks ago, I discovered a link to Tiny Kittens, a wonderful foster home in Canada where mama kitties and babies are lovingly cared for until they are ready for adoption. I happened upon the site in time to see a new set of kittens being born. Because they arrived on National Cupcake Day, they are now known as The Cupcake Kittens! 

Now I have to check in on the six babies each day. In just a few weeks, they've grown so big! From time to time Tinsel hears tiny "mews" coming from my craft room and comes to check out the situation. She's not quite sure what to make of these squirmy little balls of fluff.

Check them out for yourself here. Just be prepared for your productivity to take a nosedive! :)

17 February 2014

Organization: It's Just Stuff

I'm still knee-deep in sorting through boxes from my parents' house. I'm also working through our basement storage area in an effort to pare down our own stuff to make room for some of the things I brought home. The bottom line is this: There is WAY too much of it. 

Why do we hang onto things? After all, it's just STUFF. We all know that RELATIONSHIPS are what's important in life, so why do we cling to STUFF?

In talking this through with my grief counselor, she pointed out each thing is a linking object to someone, or something, from the past. We're afraid to get rid of the object because we fear losing those connections. We're afraid we'll lose the memory if we let go of the object. Or worse, we're afraid we'll dishonor the person -- or the memory -- if we don't hold onto it.

So yeah, it's just stuff, but it's way more complicated than that.

I recognize that I have a problem with this. I cling to objects because they take me back to a childhood I can never revisit. They bring me closer to my mom. Or my dad. Or my grandma. Or my great aunt. Or they link me to a great great grandma I never met. The reasons are many and complicated.

On the flip side of this problem is PRACTICALITY. If I had unlimited space, I could keep everything. But the reality is, I don't have that luxury. So I have to make choices about what to keep and what to let go. And truly, there is no perfect combination of STUFF that will make me feel better.

I've been doing some Internet reading about this problem and found three really good ideas to share. I've been doing some of these to a certain extent but definitely need to do more. All of these ideas make it easier to let go of linking objects.

1. One Category Per Day
"My best recommendation is to only (at least in beginning stages) to only deal with one type of item per day rather than a particular area. So shoes to Goodwill on Monday. Books to library sale on Tuesday. Magazines to laundromat on Wednesday. Old food to compost on Thursday..clothing to consignment on Saturday. Old kitchen stuff and whatever to Goodwill on Sunday. Just go to one place per day and work on one type of clutter...much easier...probably fastest way to get volumes of stuff gone. Set aside valuables or sentimental items for later on in the process."

 This is an EXCELLENT suggestion and enables you to move through a lot of stuff quickly. The key is to set up several labeled boxes or bins for sorting quickly. I recently sorted through all the books in our house using this method.

2. Take a Picture
"Technology is your friend! Take photos of your awards, scan those notes etc, upload/save them to a mementos folder, then discard the originals. That way you can still enjoy the memories without the clutter of the original items. Take pictures, put them in a scrapbook, and keep on your coffee table. You'll look at the scrapbook a lot more than you ever looked at the keepsakes kept in a box in the closet."

Another great tip! I used this often -- and am still using it -- to get rid of some of the bulky items. Do I really need these trophies? No, but I want to keep the memory. A picture does the trick. Eventually those pictures will go in a scrapbook.

I struggled with letting go of my doll buggy this summer. But look how big it is! Where in the world would I keep it? So I took pictures and let it go to a good home with a little girl who was thrilled to get it.

3. Do It for Your Kids
"My most potent motive to declutter and stay decluttered is the memory of clearing up after the deaths of both parents and my aunt. Each was a master of the "useful to someone somewhere someday" principle. Multiply that times three, add in the stuff they had saved from their own forebears, and the result was a huge nightmare. I do not wish to inflict that on my own children, and I relish the prospect of cleared spaces and cleared head to enjoy in my own old age."

This is my primary motivator, and something I'm still trying to achieve. Circumstances prevented my parents from clearing out their own clutter, but they absolutely didn't want to leave it all for me. There is absolutely NO WAY I'm going to leave all of this stuff for my daughter to handle. It's a huge burden, and I won't inflict it on her. 

If you're struggling with letting go of your own linking objects, I hope you'll find some of these tips helpful. I'm the first to admit that it's not easy, but I am finally making some visible progress. And it feels good.

14 February 2014

Feline Friday: Overstimulated!

 One of the side effects of Tinsel's kidney problems is a decreased appetite. In her case, it's a wildly fluctuating appetite. For quite awhile now I've had to practically stand on my head to get her to eat on some days. 

Fortunately our vet recommended an antihistamine which has the side effect of stimulating the appetite, along with clearing the nasal passages! It turns out that Tinsel is super sensitive to this medication: It works wonders! I give her a half pill (which is actually a half dose) whenever her appetite starts to wane, wait an hour, and there she is begging for food! For Tinsel, the medication continues to have an effect for several days and she can go for quite some time before needing another dose.

Normally you'd want to determine the exact cause of the decreased appetite rather than mask it with medication, but the vet has been unable to do so in Tinsel's case, as her kidney numbers are not low enough to explain it. This tiny dose is doing the trick for now, and I'm very grateful for that!

But here's the funny thing: Not only does this medication stimulate the appetite, it stimulates her personality, too! For the first few hours after taking it, she meows repetitively, becomes super friendly, rolls around, gives head bumps, and transforms into quite the daredevil! I kind of like the Overstimulated Tinsel. But the best part is that she's eating well! 

12 February 2014

Grandma's Scratchers

 I've neglected my blog because we are making plans for my 102-year-old Grandma to move to a nursing home this week. She's sharp as a tack but it's time for a change, and we are relieved that she'll soon have round-the-clock care and supervision.

I could write a lot about my grandma but for today, I'd just like to share these pictures taken back in December. Grandma is known far and wide for her crocheted dish scrubbers made from netting. She has always wanted to show someone how to make her "scratchers" and we decided that my daughter, given her love of knitting, was the best candidate. Knitting and crocheting can't be THAT different, right? ;)

Grandma reports that Bailey was a good student, but Bailey said Grandma wasn't the greatest teacher! It seems that the 102-year-old teacher went a bit too fast for the 20-year old student at first. :)

But after a bit more study, she started to get the idea.

 Before making a scratcher, Bailey first had to remember how to crochet. Grandma watched while she got the hang of it.

Eventually Bailey was able to make a scratcher on her own, although it took her considerably longer than the 20 minutes Grandma needs!

You can see that Bailey's blue scratcher is bit more tightly crocheted than Grandma's. But I'm sure that in time, she'll get the hang of it.

I'm so glad that Grandma was able to pass on this tradition. Such a blessing.

07 February 2014

Feline Friday: Cereal Milk!

 It doesn't matter how quietly I open the refrigerator door or where I try to hide: If there is a bowl of cereal in my hand, I've got one or two kitties in competition for a tiny taste of the milk in the bottom of the bowl! 

On this particular day, I stealthily took my cereal up to my craft room in hopes of avoiding what you're about to see. But NO! Lily rousted herself from a deep sleep in the back of the closet and tracked me down! Take a look at her technique, perfected over hundreds of breakfasts...

First, The Staredown:

Next, The Reach:

 Then, The Hook -- she actually hooks her paw around the edge of the bowl and pulls it toward her!

 Sit down, Lily, while Mommy finishes her cereal! Lily complies, but only for a few seconds. During this brief pause I hastily gobble up the remaining bits of cereal because I KNOW what's coming!

As if on cue, the second attack begins:

 Her final tactic, The Stand:

Okay, Lily, I give up! Really, who could possibly say no to that soft tummy? And those precious white feet?

05 February 2014

Treadmill Running

One Saturday morning last February, I met up with a friend for coffee. I hadn't seen her much over the prior year, so it was funny when we discovered that we had each been toying with the idea of doing a bit of running. While I had been going to the gym regularly, I had never tried running (unless you count that race back in 4th grade...more about that later!) and didn't have a clue how to start. Then my friend showed me an app she had just discovered: Couch to 5K

Although I've never been a couch potato, the idea of starting from NOTHING and going to SOMETHING held great appeal to me. With a C25K program, you learn to run in short intervals over a 30-minute period, gradually increasing your running and decreasing your walking until you reach the 5K mark, generally around nine weeks. So my friend and I embarked on the C25K program separately but together, checking in with each other frequently to offer support and encouragement throughout the spring. Little did we know that we would both go on to lose our dads unexpectedly within just a few weeks of each other.

 Later, my friend told me she believed there was a reason we started running at the time we did. As we talked about it, we agreed that it was empowering to achieve some success at something neither of us had ever attempted. Learning to run gave us confidence and reminded us that we were stronger than we thought we were. It may sound crazy, but we believed that if we could learn to run, then we were surely strong enough to navigate the completely foreign territory of losing our dads. 

As we've each worked through the grieving process, we've found treadmill running to be a huge stress reliever. We've laughed at our ineptitude -- falling off the treadmill (okay, maybe that was just me!), having to repeatedly start the nine-week program over, and being completely unable to conquer the terrain, bugs, and humidity of outdoor running.

But through all the angst of the past months, we've each kept at it. And I'm happy to report that, after more than a few stops and starts, I'm finally back to being able to run 30 minutes without stopping on the treadmill. It's a great feeling, and every time I meet that goal, I leave the gym smiling.

So with this post as an introduction, I hope to share a bit about my running from time to time on my blog. I firmly believe that if I can run, anyone can! :)

03 February 2014

Kit Central!

I've been busy lately making kits for my February Graphic 45 card classes. This is my 12th and final class using the Graphic 45 Place in Time series. We've been using this paper line for a year now, making a new card set each month!
Circumstances led me to make the kits at home this time, something I normally don't attempt due to two four-legged helpers who seem to take an active interest  -- especially in TWINE. Fortunately the cold weather led my little helpers to take longer naps than usual, so I could finish my kits without having to wrangle the twine out of their little paws! LOL

 We have a heavy duty paper cutter at Memory Bound, so I cut almost all the pieces for my kits and brought them home to assemble. With the big cutter, I can cut through 20+ sheets at the same time! It's a great tool -- but you definitely need to adhere to that old adage: Measure TWICE, cut ONCE! One mistake instantly multiples to 25! LOL Fortunately I made it through all the cutting without mistakes this time. WHEW!

Okay, for some goofy reason, I just love seeing all the components assembled like this! :)

With all the cutting done, I sorted the components for each card:

Then I placed them in piles and tucked each pile of pieces into an envelope:

 I did this for each of the six cards, multiplied by the number of kits I needed to prepare. You'd be surprised at the number of pieces for a class with six cards! Although it takes time to prepare, I've found that it makes everything so much easier if the majority of pieces are cut ahead of time. 

Once all six cards were done, I stacked them into a pile in the correct order and tucked them into a large bag with the rest of the supplies, twine/ribbon bag, instructions, and photos. I always LOVE seeing a kit come together!

Here are just a few of the kits I made for this particular class. This one is going to be fun!

Once these classes are done, it's on to a new and completely different set of classes for the next calendar. I'm going to be very busy creating for the next few weeks, and I'm looking forward to the challenge!

01 February 2014

Grief: In the Tunnel

I usually try to keep my blog a happy place. But the circumstances of the past five years have altered me permanently, and to deny or ignore that fact would be inauthentic. To be sure, the grief I've experienced is huge to me, but I know that others have experienced profound loss, too. So even though it means occasionally departing from happier topics, I hope to share some things I've learned from time to time, with the hope that it might help someone else who is traveling this long and lonely path.

The Tunnel
When I first started meeting with my grief counselor, I told her that I felt "stuck" in my grief, unable to move forward and fearful that I was actually moving backward. She assured me that I am indeed moving forward, even though it doesn't always feel like it to me. At first I found that to be a curious concept, but it made perfect sense to me when she shared an analogy which came to her one summer while vacationing in Europe. As she traveled between two countries via a long, dark tunnel, it occurred to her that grief is like that tunnel.

Let me see if I can put this into words. When you first enter the tunnel, you can look back over your shoulder and see the familiar country you've just left. That country represents the life you knew before grief. It's dark in the tunnel, but you can still catch glimpses of the light behind you. It enables you to see just enough to find your way. You keep turning around to glance at it. It's comforting.

But as you progress through the tunnel, the familiar light behind you disappears and there is nothing but darkness surrounding you. You think you're moving along the path, but without light behind you or any sign of light ahead, you can't be sure. There is nothing but darkness. It's quiet. You're scared. Are you lost?

Finally you begin to see a tiny dot of light up ahead. As you move closer to it, you can begin to make out a landscape. You make your way to it, but it is altogether unfamiliar territory. As you emerge from the tunnel, you discover that you're in a new country. You don't speak the language. The terrain is different. You don't know your way around. This is your new life, and it bears almost no resemblance to the life you had before you entered the tunnel.

If you're on the long and lonely path of grief, too, I hope you'll give some thought to this analogy. Although it may be very dark in the tunnel right now, trust that there is indeed light up ahead. Believe those who have traveled through the tunnel that one day, you'll begin to see it. And know that somewhere along the path, you'll find a way to embrace the possibilities -- albeit new and unknown -- that await you on the other side.