31 October 2014

Feline Friday: Monorail Cat Fail

We recently got a new couch with a thinner back, so naturally Lily decided to try monorailing on the back of it. Here's what a perfect Monorail Cat is supposed to look like:

And here's her first try at monorailing:
Not quite, Lily! Next time, tuck your paws under your ample body!

29 October 2014

Week 5, Day 3

I have vivid memories of my elementary school gym class. I'm standing with my back pressed against the red padded mats hanging from the cement wall, waiting for a captain to pick me for a team.

I stare at my feet while name after name is called. Lines of wiggly classmates form behind each captain until finally, I'm the only one left. I'm still looking at my feet, my back pressed against the pads, my face flushed as I try to hold back the tears. The teacher shouts, his voice echoing across the gym, "C'mon, guys! Somebody's gotta take her!"

Such was my early exposure to sports. I wasn't confident to begin with, and being the last to be picked only reinforced the notion that I could never be successful. I muddled along the best I could and even managed to win a race once, on a day when the fastest girl was home sick. But any confidence that might have developed was quickly squelched when the gym teacher bellowed at me, "You're physically unfit!" His words cut me to the core and from that point on, I mentally checked out of gym class.

Fast forward 40+ years. Yesterday I completed Week 5, Day 3 of the C25K program. It's a challenging day for a beginner because the running interval ramps up from eight-minute segments to one long run of 20 minutes.

It has taken me a very long time to undo the hurtful words of my gym teacher and believe that in fact, I CAN be successful. Yesterday as I finished Week 5, Day 3, I had only one thought:

Take THAT, you ***! :)

27 October 2014

Trusting My Instincts

 My parents dabbled in antiques. Dad had a particular interest in old farm implements and Mom enjoyed antique dishes and toys. Since they acquired much of their collection by going to sales, most of their pieces didn't really speak to me, so I kept a few that were the most meaningful and sold the rest at our auction. Over the years, my parents taught me a little bit about antiques, but last summer I realized I hadn't paid nearly enough attention.

As I tried to figure out what to keep and what to sell, I quickly learned that I needed to know the value. If a particular piece had significant value, I could set a "reserve" (minimum) value for the auction so that it didn't sell for far under what it was worth. So as I prepared for my estate sale last summer, I spent a lot of time talking to the auction staff about the value of particular items, as well as doing my own research on eBay. 

Through that process, I gained some knowledge about what's collectible these days, and I've built on it a bit as I've priced items for my case at our local antique store. I've only learned a fraction of what I need to know, but I do know that with practice, my instincts are getting a little bit better!

I'm very glad I trusted my instincts on this wire mesh waste basket! I found it last summer in the top of my dad's garage, filled with old Christmas lights. I have no idea where it came from, but given the age and style I think it may have belonged to my maternal grandmother. I brought it home (as well as the lights) mostly because I loved it, but I also suspected it might be collectible. The fact that it was up in the top of the garage was also a clue that Dad knew its value and tucked it up there for safe-keeping.

Yesterday I finally cleaned it up and turned it over to see if there was any identifying information on the bottom. (In looking at any old item, the first step is to turn it over! If you can identify a maker and/or a year, you can easily research the value online.)
 The bottom is slightly rusty but the manufacturer information is still visible.

A quick check of "sold" listings on eBay confirmed that my instincts were right on this one, as I found several that have sold recently for between $65 and $99! (You must always check the "sold" rather than active listings to see what items are actually worth. Just because a seller sets a particular price for an item doesn't mean it will bring that much when it actually sells.)  
So I gave the inside bottom of the waste basket a very light sanding to remove loose rust, but I won't be spray painting it as that could affect the value. It'll make a fun addition to my craft room...until I'm ready to sell it. 

I think Mom and Dad would be pleased that I'm finally learning a little about antiques. :)

26 October 2014

Photo Organization Project: Part 5

I am up to my ears in photos. And slides. And now negatives. Very, very old negatives from maternal grandmother.

What a treat! I've actually had these negatives since my mom passed away, but I haven't been inclined to do anything with them. Now that I'm working on my photo organization project, I figured that this is the right time to dig into the box.

It's only a cigar box, but it is packed full to overflowing. There are hundreds of negatives in this box.

 It's remarkable that the negatives are still in good condition, considering how they were stored. We found the box in my grandma's attic when she passed away in 2004, buried under a pile of insulation. The attic was freezing in the winter and sweltering hot in the summer. It wasn't watertight. Perhaps the negatives survived because they were protected by the insulation.

By holding them up to light or placing them on white paper, I can make out many of the images, and I cannot wait to have them developed into digital photos.

While many of the negatives are loose in the box, others are still in envelopes...with writing to indicate the time and event! As you can see, they are very old negatives -- these two envelopes are dated 1919 and 1920!

This envelope is especially interesting to me, as it includes photos from the Iowa State Fair taken in 1919! The fair is very special to me, and I cannot wait to look at these images.

 I took the box to the same small company which recently helped me convert some slides to digital files. Here's what I learned: It's very expensive to process old negatives due to the varied sizes and condition -- perhaps $3 each. So based on my conversation with the owner, here are my next steps: 

* Buy some white gloves for handling the negatives.
* Identify the most important negatives to scan by holding them up to light.
* Try scanning a few on my flat-bed scanner. Since I don't know how to do this and it's not obvious how to go about it, we'll see how it goes. I found several how-to videos online so it looks like it can be done.
* Depending on the results, take a few of the most important negatives to the developer for professional processing.

So it looks like this is going to be a labor-intensive process! We'll see how it goes. Stay tuned!

25 October 2014

Reconstructing My Childhood

If you've been following my blog, you know that last summer I brought home boxes of stuff from my childhood home. Much of it belonged to my parents, but a good portion of it is my own stuff which had been stored at my parents' house all these years. School papers, toys, Halloween costumes, my stamp collection...the list goes on and on. As I've sorted through my own boxes, it's been a real trip down memory lane.

I've always been very attached to my childhood belongings. That's why I still have a lot of them. For as long as I can remember, I've been sentimental and reluctant to part with things, and now I understand why. Each item represents a link to my childhood and (now) to my parents -- obviously a time and place that will never be again.

The other thing you might know about me is that I crave order. This trait tends to shift into high gear when I'm faced with circumstances that are outside of my control, like those of the past few years. In those situations, my first inclination is to organize. Order makes me feel calmer and in control, like everything is as it should be.

Now I'm faced with boxes of jumbled artifacts from my childhood. I'm sure some people would see them as meaningless objects from long ago. Others would dump it all. But not me. I need to put it all together. I need order.

 I've been sifting through mixed up containers of dolls, tiny shoes, marbles, and game pieces. I've been on a quest to reunite dolls with their clothing, tiny shoes with their mates. 

And as I fit together pieces of this puzzle, it's almost as if I'm reconstructing my childhood. Without my parents here to share stories about my childhood, I feel compelled to uncover them myself.

I need to remember my story, and this is one step in that process.

 So I scoured the Internet looking for pictures of my old Upsy Downsy doll set. As soon as I saw it, I knew that I still had all the pieces but over the years, they had become separated. Pulling it all back together triggered vivid memories of how much I loved playing with it. Do you see the orange bridge at the top of the photo? I found it in the box of mementos from childhood pets. Finding it there reminded me that my two turtles, Sadie and Sydney, had used that bridge. Without the bridge, I never would have remembered that little detail about these beloved childhood pets.

What will I do with my Upsy Downsy set? At some point I'll sell it, but first I'll take some pictures and write down my memories. It's the first step in letting it go. In fact, I'm sure I've got the letter I wrote to Santa requesting an Upsy Downsy doll for Christmas one year. It's a tiny part of my story.

I reunited my Little Kiddles fireman with his hat and his coat, then to my great surprise I found his fire truck and his tiny white ladders. In his little corner of the world, everything is finally as it should be. My parents gave me this fireman because my dad served on the volunteer fire department for many years. This little guy (blue as he may be!) is another tiny part of my story.

I know it won't change reality but I believe that by putting some order to these mixed up boxes, I'll be able to reconstruct my childhood and tell my story. And I hope that somewhere in those boxes, I find some healing.

24 October 2014

Feline Friday: TGIF!

Lily says TGIF!
It's been one of those weeks for me, and I think she agrees! 

17 October 2014

Feline Friday: Smart Tinsel!

Poor Tinsel. With Lily in the house, she doesn't get as much credit as she probably should for ALSO being a very smart kitty. Sure, Lily's the one who rings a bag of bells for food, but Tinsel knows what that sound means. She comes running for a snack every time.

And it was Lily who discovered that I keep Temptations in my nightstand (in retrospect, not my greatest idea of all time), but Tinsel watched and learned. Now she knows where to find the Secret Treats.

And trust me, there is no denying this face!

13 October 2014

Selling Old Stuff: Vintage Halloween

Back on June 1, I opened a case at one of our local antique malls and so far, it has been going pretty well. Mind you, I have very LOW expectations. I'm not looking to make a lot of money with this operation. As long as I sell enough to cover my monthly rent and make a little (and sometimes it's a VERY little!), I'm good. All in all, it's been enjoyable. Given more time and a bigger space, I think I could really get into it!

I took this picture last week when I stopped by to add a few things to the case. It's getting a bit cluttered, so I'm going to do a major overhaul sometime soon. I'll be adding two wooden display cases to hold some of my smaller knick knacks so I can better utilize the space. In addition, I'll be taking out some of the items at least temporarily and replacing them with new. 

 It's anyone's guess what will sell! At the beginning of October, I added some vintage Halloween items from my childhood to the case. (I do not like thinking of myself as vintage...sheesh!) The pumpkin candy holder, the skull, and the old cups sold right away. Don't worry...I kept several very cool old Halloween items, including my original Trick-or-Treating pumpkin and some vintage Halloween decorations. I'll try to share them on the blog sometime soon.

I unearthed several of my old masks and was surprised at how well-preserved they were! The queen mask sold immediately. I have to say she's kind of creepy!

I don't recall ever wearing these two masks. I'm glad they've gone to a good new home!

I think the spy mask and costume are pretty cool. To my surprise, this one hasn't sold yet.

But some lucky soul bought this witch mask. I have pictures of me in it when I was a witch for Halloween one year. I will say it made a pretty good costume back in the day!

Local friends: If you see any of these old masks out on Halloween, be sure to let me know! :)

Stay tuned for more updates about this new venture!

11 October 2014

Fitness: Still at It

I think exercise tests us in so many ways, our skills, our hearts, our ability to bounce back after setbacks. This is the inner beauty of sports and competition, and it can serve us all well as adult athletes.
Peggy Fleming

Back in June, I promised to write more regularly about my adventures at the gym. I have had the best of intentions of doing that but fell short. I've been going to the gym pretty regularly but have had a bit of slippage in my fitness plan. So I've regrouped and am back on track. Silly pun, I know. :)

I first started treadmill running a few months before my dad passed away. When I started, I wanted to challenge myself to do more than I had been doing at the gym, and the idea of running appealed to me. Little did I know how well my running program would serve me as I worked my way through the agonizing months following his passing. I would come home from a brutally hard day sorting through the contents of my childhood home, too exhausted to think, yet I could hop on the treadmill and just run and run. It took my mind to a safer place, where the only thing I had to think about was that day's running goal.

Then over the winter, things began to unravel with my grandma, and I found myself missing time at the gym. I was still in a dark place emotionally, and this time I let it affect my running. Truthfully it affected my entire physical self. Headaches, stomach aches, side aches...you name it. Each "ailment" kept me from running. Somehow I got away from the very thing that had helped me feel better about myself. I re-started the C25K program more than once but each time something got in the way.

After Grandma passed away in August, I finally decided it was time to put myself first for awhile. I opened up my C25K app and started over, this time vowing I would not make excuses. I told myself that I could take longer than 9 weeks to complete it this time. After all, what's the rush? And it would be OK to repeat a day once in awhile if I didn't feel ready to move to the next day's plan.

As of today, I'm ready for Week 5, Day 1. I've cut myself a little (but not too much) slack, and I feel solid in what I've accomplished so far.

My message to you is this: If I can do this, anyone can. I'm the girl who was last to be picked in gym class, the one taunted and teased for her lack of athletic skill. Maybe "it" for you is not running. Maybe it's swimming or yoga. Find something physical you enjoy, and just get started. It may help you in unexpected ways one day. 

The body achieves what the mind believes. 

10 October 2014

Feline Friday: The Sweetest Thing

 I know she's really my daughter's cat, but Lily and I have such a strong bond. Each morning after she eats her breakfast, she likes to sit on my lap. And lately, she's started holding my hand.

She actually grips my finger with her paw, as you can see here.  
 It just melts my heart!

04 October 2014

Photo Organization Project: Part 4

Do you ever start a project with the very best of intentions but find that you have to set it aside for awhile? Or a very long while?
That's what happened with the massive photo organization project I started last fall after my estate sale. In a nutshell, I brought home a ton of completely unorganized photos and slides from my parents' house. I needed to integrate them into my photo boxes so I could begin to determine which ones I might like to scrapbook someday.You can see how this project started HERE.

Shortly after I started this project, my 102-year old grandma (my dad's mom) started having a variety of issues and it fell to my cousins and me to get her moved to a nursing home. That happened in February, after which I was responsible for clearing out her household items and selling her home. Grandma passed away last month, having lived a full and long life. I feel very fortunate to have spent a lot of quality time with her and hope to write more about this later.

Long story short: My life has been essentially on hold again since January of this year, so my photo organization project fell off of my radar screen for awhile. Finally a few weeks ago I was able to get back to where I left off last November. It was a good feeling!

First, I finished my very "rough sort" of photos by decade and then by year. I still have many older photos I can't specifically date, but hopefully I'll be able to get close by looking more closely at furniture, clothing, cars, and other clues in the pictures themselves. I filed undated photos separately.

As I sorted photos, I actually tossed quite a few. (Shocking, I know!) Many of the photos I brought home were from vacations my parents took in later years. I kept photos they were in but tossed all but a few scenery pictures from each trip, keeping enough to provide context. Of course, I kept all the photos of trips I took with them because I have memories of many of those experiences and may scrapbook them some day. (MAY is the operative word here!)

Next I brought out my own photo boxes which are indexed by year and month. I took a year's worth of photos from my parents' house and began to sort them by month, dropping them into my box. Again, there were some photos which I could not specifically date, so I filed them separately. Once I'm done with this part of the process, I will go back through each box and toss duplicate photos. My mom and I usually had two sets of photos printed and then exchanged them, so there are plenty of duplicates in these boxes.

I'm also in the process of sorting through our old slides and having some professionally digitized, so I'll eventually print the most important ones and add to these photo boxes.

It's a big project, but I'm hoping now that things have settled down a little bit for me, I can finally finish it. It will be a great feeling to have all of the printed photos in order so I can decide what to do with them.

Then maybe -- just maybe -- I'll be able to get back on track with my scrapbooking! :)

03 October 2014

Feline Friday: Re-Training Lily

Those of you who have read my blog for awhile may remember that many years ago, I taught Lily to ring a bag of bells for her food. Lily's a very smart kitty and the training process was remarkably quick. She even went a step further -- quite on her own -- and took to ringing a possum. Yep, you read that right. Possum. You can read more about it -- and see a video -- here and here.

Lily's bell-ringing skills even led to her first (and possibly only) 15 minutes of fame, as she was once featured on the website of Bell Outlet. As you might imagine, this was one of the highlights of my life. :)

Well, I'm sorry to report that Lily's incessant bell-ringing led to Spouse occasionally taking away her bell for long periods of time. And for awhile my life was so complicated that I didn't insist on bell-ringing.

Long story short, Lily became complacent. She began to expect food without bells. She sat in front of the fridge, waiting for it to somehow open. And it usually did! As time went on, she barely touched her bag of bells. And eventually she seemed to not remember what to do with it.

In short, it was a sorry state of affairs.

 So this week I decided to refresh her memory. I placed her paw on the bag of bells, then gave her a treat. To my surprise (and relief), Lily remembered her old trick after about 15 minutes of practice. Soon she was back to jiggling her bag of bells. Confidently. Loudly.

 And now incessantly. :)
Good girl. All is right with the world.