Saturday, February 27, 2010

Grateful for Being Where I Am

It rained a good deal this week in my part of the world and all of us who live here are glad. We need the water. It is still snowing in the mountains and that is good too. Good for the people who live there and need the snow to attract the skiers. Good for the rest of us who depend on that snowpack for our summer water needs. Maybe it will be possible to have a garden this year. I missed my basil and tomato plants last summer. I long to be at least partly food self-sufficient.

As I watched the news reports of snow in the East, I was glad that I don't live there. Prayers, especially for all those who have no power. Spring cannot come soon enough, I am sure.

The news report about the humongous earthquake off the coast of Chile, also made be glad that I don't live there either. More prayers. Earthquakes scare the bejabbers out of me. 2010 seems to have had enough already. I start thinking of moving back to Toledo, Ohio--my real hometown, where my family still live, when I get scared about earthquakes.

Transporting about 25,000 pounds of furniture and household stuff 2500 miles would not be a minor task. Since we had 10,000 pounds when we moved out here, the amount is a guesstimate. I keep weeding out things that I don't need, but somehow the weeding isn't going fast enough! If I could just clap my hands together (since I can't click my heels.)

Better, for now at least, to work on being grateful for where I am. Daffodils are blooming. There may be enough water for basil plants. Oatmeal buckwheat muffins sit in the oven waiting to be consumed over the next few days as my bread. (I nearly said "scarfed" instead of consumed. They are so yummy that they do tend to disappear rather quickly.)

My dining room is full of the lovely smell of herbs since I "booked in" some of the new herbs that came this week. More to do tomorrow. This consists of emptying each bag into a big aluminum bowl and then measuring the contents back into the bag it came in to see how many cups each bag contains. The herbs are sold by weight. I concoct my potpourris by measure. Having the measure is essential, both to know how much I can make before I will need to buy more, as well as the all important cost factor that is at the foundation of every small business and pricing decision.

I am grateful to be where I am tonight and hope that tomorrow will be a good day. Prayers for healing and sustenance go out to all those in danger from the weather. Prayers always go out for my family and friends. Thank you to you all, those who read my blog, those who befriend me.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Reflections on Week Just Past

The fragrance of daffodils fresh cut from the yard filled my house with a delicate and delicious perfume. I think of the neighbor who shared the King Alfred bulbs with me when she bought a huge bag from Costco one year. She is gone, but her memory lingers in the beauty of the daffodils and in the knowledge that I gained from her sharing. They are fragrant, even being grown especially for the perfume industry and they are an ancient symbol of the Resurrection.

The photo shows some of the daffodils as they appear outside this year. It has either been too wet or too murky to take good pictures this year, so they will not be as well documented as they have in the past.

The next day the heady fragrance of lavender filled my dining room while I worked on lavender sachets and dream pillows for my herbal craft business. More about that after the items are posted on Etsy. The lavender did not quite overpower the daffodils, but they did not exactly blend either. Probably not compatible ingredients for the same perfume or potpourri.

Monday saw a furry visitor to my Pyracantha as well. One squirrel firmly planted herself and ate and ate and ate of the red berries. The next day robins filled the bush. The squirrel slipped in at the back and later a squirrel (perhaps the same one) appeared in the rose bush eating the rose hips. Poor baby, there are almost no berries left now and the robins, after stripping the bushes, have moved on in their migration.

Tuesday, February 16. would have been Papa's 90th birthday, if he were still alive. I wondered what he would be like if he were still alive. Wiser and just as full of intelligence and humor. A little more wizened too.

Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. This year is going by too quickly already. Time doesn't fly, it flees! Easter is just around the corner.

Thursday my sewing machine and I actually cooperated to get an hour's worth of work done. So often we fight. It was nice to go to it and be able to just do the tasks. Of course, setting it up properly does help! For me, this means reading the book that came with it every time I re-do anything. (Putting the bobbin in and putting the needle in are two of the pitfalls. Threading the needle is another.) Reading the book and checking the diagrams takes so much less time and energy than cussing and screaming, that it is amazing that it took me so long to realize that was the way to go. (Better for the blood pressure too.)

Now it is Saturday already. Time to bake bread and do laundry and clean the kitchen. I am grateful for the show of nature (glad I was inside when all those birds were outside) and grateful for simple weekend chores. If the sun actually shines that will be cause for gratitude too.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Word Should Come with a Warning

Yesterday I spent hours to layout and print four pages in Microsoft word. Two sheets, both sides on business card stock. Word supposedly has a template for this under envelopes and labels. Trouble is, it doesn't work very well. After screaming, yelling, coughing and using quite a bit of creative but very loud swearing I was ready to abandon not only the project but all hope and any attempt to do anything. I wanted comfort food, a hot bath and a novel. I settled for the novel--after finally getting my pages done and broken up into tags. Tomorrow, if all goes well, I will have some pictures of the products.

The warning, "Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here", ought to flash on the screen whenever one attempts to do any kind of layout in Word. To be absolutely fair, of course, I am using Office 2000 with WindowsXP. Maybe that is the problem.

I do fairly well with most layout in Publisher. Publisher is looked down upon by my acquaintances in the Desktop publishing world, but it serves most of my needs nicely. It massacres business cards. It too has a template that isn't a template.

At one point, when my frustration level had mounted and my sense of anguish over waste time had risen, I opened Adobe's InDesign and found, as I had in the past, that it simply seems so complicated that I can't navigate it. I tried in Photoshop and then gave that up and went back and finally conquered Word.

I think my next product is going to have to be something that doesn't fit with a business card size tag. Sigh.

Life is complicated! It seems that the more that I try to simplify it, the more complicated I make it. (That could be the underlying problem with Word too.)
My products are coming along nicely. I am recreating a line that I made twenty years ago and I am excited. The new line has variations, of course, and even the variations please me. I will write about this in another post, soon, I hope.

The complication is that the design process doesn't stop with the product, but must include the packaging and labeling. Sometimes this design process can be fun, too, but not when the software, which is supposed to make our lives easier, makes the completion so difficult that much of the creativity is subsumed in exhaustion.

At one moment yesterday, I was just grateful to get the thing done. Grateful to put the new little products in their neat little bags with their pretty tags on business cards. They look nice and professional, the way I want them to.

I am grateful too, for electricity that makes it possible to sit here at my computer with a light on and my space heater running. So many folks have been without power in the blizzards, that I am simply glad to live here and think of them and send up a prayer that they too will be restored to comfort and heat and light--and even to struggling with their computers.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Remembering my Godmother

My godmother, Mary Catherine (Mertes) Walker, died Jan 23, 2010. She was born August 31, 1917. World War I had less than three months to run its course in Armistice in November. She was twelve years old, not quite ready for high school when the stock market crashed in 1929. When it came time for High School, Mary Kate, as she was known throughout her lifetime, attended Notre Dame, the same school that her first-cousin, Helen Rose (Mertes) Manor had attended before her. (Decades later, my niece Jennifer also attended that high school and took great pride in looking up her predecessors in the archives of the school newspaper.)

I seem to remember that Mary Kate took a secretarial course after High School and she was able to find work in spite of the depression and the advent of World War II. Shortly after the war she married Charles Walker, "Charlie" and they settled down to the tasks of raising a family--six children, five girls and one boy.

I remember this family well from my own childhood in Toledo and the time that my sister and I spent several days with them while our parents supervised the loading of all our belongings unto a moving van and the cleaning and closing of our little house prior to our own great trek across the continent in the 1955 Chevy Bel Air sedan that I sold a few years ago to someone who was eager to restore it.

I have been thinking of Mary Kate for the last ten days. How many loads of laundry did it take, hauled up and down flights of stairs to keep a family of eight clean and dressed with towels and bedding to boot? Please remember that in those days most of the clothes and all of the linen--even the kitchen dish towels --needed ironing. (And on Saturdays, my godmother took her turn bringing the church linens she had also found the time to launder to the church where she joined several other women in cleaning the sacristy and setting out the linen for Masses the next day.)

How many pounds of potatoes did she peel and cakes did she bake in the years that it took to raise a family of six children? Not to mention the children and grandchildren. In addition, like the church laundry, there would have also been baking for the church bake sales and cooking for the potlucks, spaghetti dinners and fish frys that every church holds to raise funds. That doesn't include the casseroles delivered to people in the parish when illness or death struck a house.

Over the last decade Mary Kate and I talked on the phone occasionally, not frequently enough. I drew on her deep faith and quiet strength to go forward with my own life. She told me, "If you fall asleep while you are saying your prayers, your guardian Angel finishes them for you." (Does it count if you meant to say your prayers, but fall asleep reading yet another mystery novel from the library, because you have to get them all finished before the library volunteer brings some more?)

Like my father, she never had an unkind word to say about anyone or anything. "If you can't say something good about someone, don't say anything," was a watch word that she lived by. Like my parents, too, she lived the everyday virtue of charity in her kindness, courtesy and service to others.

Last week, partly out of necessity, and partly, I think because I was remembering Mary Kate and my mother too and pondering how much work these women quietly did everyday to make our lives glad, I found myself in a frenzy of "multi-tasking" household chores. One afternoon I had bread in the bread machine (no bread machine in the 1950's), laundry in both the washer and the dryer (no dryer until the mid-1950's) and muffins in the oven. At one point I almost muffed the muffins--forgot they were in the oven and they nearly burned. In between, I washed dishes. Nothing compared to the dishes Mary Kate, with eight people in the house, washed everyday.

By the time I ate my supper that night, I had appetite, felt that I had earned it and savored it, simple as it was. (Tomato soup and muffins.) I thought about housework, including cooking, as I have for the past year or so, as the foundation to the practice of the virtue of humility. Just as kindness and courtesy are the foundation of the virtue of charity.

Most of us are not called upon to practice heroic virtue. Still finding the virtue in homely things may keep us well enough in body and in spirit to live a long and happy life. Saying the rosary every day, (or a comparable practice) as I suspect my godmother did isn't a bad idea either.

I am grateful for the life of my godmother and the lives of my parents and others whom I miss who have gone before me. I miss her and I will continue to miss her along with Mama and Papa. It was a simpler life in someways; I have nostalgia for those long gone days, partly because I was a child then. (Perhaps that is another blog post.) Remembering Mary Kate and my parents will give me the foundation for continuing my own life in this all too modern century that I live in.