Friday, March 30, 2012

Burning Issues

Well, it's getting better, fire-wise, here in Colorado -- but a heck of a lot of acreage (and houses) went up in flames before it started calming down. Two people (friends of friends) died, as well. (They were actually all packed and ready to go -- then he went back in the garage to get something. They never made it out.)
    We're supposed to get more wind this weekend, so the firefighters are trying hard to get the fire contained before then.
    Here's a slideshow of what's going on, as well as video footage from this family, who drove with flames shooting out on the side of the road. Frightening.


Guess how this fire started? From a 'controlled' burn set by the U.S. Forest Service.
    Let's see. We've had our driest March ever. High winds were forecast in the near future. (We get these a lot in the spring, anyways.) And the U.S. Forest Service decides to do a controlled burn.
    Smart, huh?

Other burning issues around here are Colorado's Mega Millions lottery: it's currently up to $640 million. People who never buy lottery tickets are doing so now. Friend Tommy dropped by and was all chirked up: he'd gotten 3 Mega Millions tickets, and 2 quick-picks, for a total of $7. One of the quick-picks paid off $70! "So I'm ahead already." I told him he had to buy us supper if he won. "Breakfast, lunch AND supper," he said.

Have a good weekend yourself. And no fires.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Almost Over... I Think. Sort of.

Now that the brouhaha over C&T's tote bags is calming down, Kate Spain has posted a final comment on the issue. I'm not entirely convinced she truly understands why so many quilting professionals -- and quilters, period -- had a problem with her actions. However, I honestly believe she's trying. And that's a point in her favor.
     Go here to read her post.

So what's next?

Authors will be a good deal more careful to identify the designer, as well as the manufacturer. I can't help but think that's a good thing. (I'm guessing they're also going to get the 'okay' to use fabrics in writing, instead of a handshake agreement.)

Designers may be more insistent on this identification -- and getting paid extra for product spinoffs. They'll also see authors and publications who are reluctant to use and/or feature their fabrics, without solid assurances that they're not going to be sued. (Or threatened with same.)

In the meantime, publishers (probably manufacturers, too) will be pussyfooting around the issue, and contracts are going to get a lot more stringent. Not necessarily in the author's or designer's favor, either.

Kate's holding out an olive branch by suggesting that she and Emily collaborate on a free pattern to be offered by Moda:
    Please let me know, Emily. I have no hard feelings, and I think you and I as artists share a lot more than anything here that may have divided us. I was thinking we might call the project something like “Reconciliation” or perhaps as a nod to you, “Scrappy Reconciliation”?

It's a nice gesture. If that 'no hard feelings' approach had been taken at the beginning of all this, it would have done wonders.

 But the mud-slinging will not wash off that easily.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

We Don't Need No Education...In Honor of Spring Break

A dozen teacher replies, including this one:

 Ever seen Blazing Saddles? (Bet you're thinking about the sheriff right now...)

And 15 weird student comments, including this one:


When Daughter #1 was in elementary school, her teacher asked the kids to give their mom's favorite phrase. When Daughter told me about this, I was hoping for something nicey like "I love you" or "You're a sweetheart." Guess what she said?

     "Now you stop that."


Fire!

Colorado's in flames.

We've had the driest March in more than a century. Yesterday the winds were roaring through at 30 mph or more, and embers from a controlled burn last week started up again. (Who schedules these when it's sooo dry, and the the weatherman says we're going to have wind? Don't they even read the paper, or look on the website?)

Last night, the smoke was pluming up in a huge rooster tail over the mountains. Today, it just held there like fog and spread along the horizon. The firefighters couldn't call in planes yesterday, not with the wind slamming around, like a little girl who wasn't getting her way. What a mess. They brought in two airtankers today, but the wind continued to throw occasional temper tantrums.

Two people dead, and another missing. More than 900 homes have been evacuated; at least 23 buildings are gone. Fires are still going strong in Jefferson and Boulder counties, in the foothills west of Denver. One family saw their home reduced to ashes when the 9News helicopter flew over it. They'd only lived there for a year. (Lots of photos on this particular site, if you're curious.)

Read all about it here. Here, too. And it's only March. What will summer bring?


At least the wind is calm right now. God willing, it will stay that way.

This photo was taken in the Bitteroot forest in Montana -- read about it here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Who Owns the Copyright?

[UPDATE: More on the subject -- and another comment from Kate. Go here to find out.]

I just had a chance to read C&T publisher Todd Hensley's response to the whole Kate Spain/Emily Cier situation. (I won't recap that in detail here -- go to my original post/update if you need a refresher course. Many thanks to the Alert Reader who mentioned C&T's blogpost.) 

     In brief, a fabric designer threatened to sue a quilt designer/author because she used Designer's fabrics without crediting in a book. (Manufacturer yes, designer name no.) The quilt in question used only that designer's fabrics. [There were two versions of the quilt.]
     On a tote bag. And in, of course, the book.

Hensley asks the important question:
     So who owns the copyright?
         *The author, who designed the quilt pictured?
         *The person who designed the fabrics used in the quilt?

Or is it the photographer who photographed the quilt?
The publisher who published the book's photos?

There are arguments to be made for every side of this convoluted case. The author wants people to know she designed the quilt. The designer, on the other hand, wants to be sure people understand those are her fabrics.
    But the photographer doesn't want others to help themselves without permission. The publisher sure doesn't want this, either! (The fact that Hensley is married to a fabric designer, Jennifer Sampou, makes this even more interesting.)

   When I first began writing, there was no question -- the copyrights went to me, the books' author. In recent years, however, some publishers argue that they should keep the copyright, since they bear the expenses. (And they refuse to publish your book until you agree.) I'm not saying C&T does this -- they don't. But others, like the American School of Needlework, do.


And if you own the copyright, you call the shots.
Except in this case.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday Stuff on the Way to Other Stuff

It's the most blowy day you could ask for on a Monday washday. The clothes on the line are desperately trying to fly to Kansas, and the dogs are halfway through their nine hundredth "I'm the boss" tussle. Time to wander around the Internet...hey, I'm doing 'research!'

More people are waiting to file bankruptcy until after they get their tax refund. (The article implies it's because filing fees have gone up -- but I wonder if they just want to keep the $$ for themselves, instead of their creditors.)

Human gene patenting -- and health care. The U.S. Supreme Court just struck down a ruling that said human genes can be patented, specifically two genes linked to breast cancer. (These, say the justices, fall under the 'act of nature' category, so can't be regulated.) Keep an eye on the Supreme Court in the next few days -- they're debating on the constitutionaltiy of the national healthcare plan

Ghost Ship: A Japanese fishing vessel, lost off Hokkaido, Japan during last year's tsunami, was found floating near British Columbia. (Shades of the Mary Celeste. Where has it been all this time?)

The AQS prizewinning quilts from the Lancaster show. (Oh my, these are nice.)


How many people can you cram into a phone booth? Or a Volkswagen? Thirteen people jammed into the high school shop teacher's closet once -- I was in the middle somewhere. (Don't ask.)


Is being greedy actually costing you money in the long run? The Tight Fisted Miser thinks so.

Did Gwyneth Paltrow really write her own cookbook? She thinks so -- but this cookbook ghostwriter does not. A lot of celebrities -- Martha Stewart included -- don't always write their own books. Contribute, yes. Write, no.
     Stewart's first book, Entertaining, not only was ghostwritten, but culled recipes from other sources, as well. Guess she thought no one would notice. See here for more. Ironically, Food Network dessert show host Anne Thornton was just fired -- for plagiarizing Martha!

Frugal Babe's griping about our habit of griping. Honestly, I have seen more sour grapes remarks under the comforting cloak of 'anonymous' these past few days...

And, from yours truly, posts on investing in books (I just sold a book on Amazon for $16.95 that I bought for a buck) as well as cheaper flights the Spirited way. (As much as a third of other airlines!)

The first daffodils are finally out around here... they (and spring) are most welcome.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Victory Quilts Book Review...And Giveaway!



The Kansas City Star (publisher of my Quilts of the Golden West book) sent me some books to review and give away...so here's the first! I'll be giving away a book every week for a while -- so stop by and see what's up. All you need do is post a comment at the end. Subscribe to the blog, or sign up for e-mail updates, and you'll win an extra chance at the book! Entries will be closed Saturday morning, March 31, at noon MST, and a winner will be drawn randomly Saturday night. 

This week's giveaway:
               VICTORY GIRLS:
         PATRIOTIC QUILTS AND RUGS OF WWII 
by Polly Minick and Laurie Simpson

     Two sisters came up with the idea for this extensive pattern book, inspired by their access to WWII era graphics, as well as family connections and quilts. One of the best parts of this book is that it's not just limited to quilts -- there are some interesting hooked rug patterns, too. And they use some of the favorite motifs from the 1940s era, including stars, eagles, and of course, the "V for Victory" motif that Winston Churchill made famous.
    Don't expect that these patterns are authentic down-to-the-last-thread copies of WWII designs. They're not. These are modern projects inspired by that time period, with design connections to quilts, rugs and other textiles from then. The difference can be subtle on occasion, but is definitely there -- kind of the same approach as Barbara Brackman used for her book Civil War Quilts.
    If you like patriotic themes -- or enjoy good clear directions and patterns that you can use to make the projects in the book, or adapt for your own work -- you'll find this book helpful. If you have family members who fought during WWII, or lived through the dangerous later years of the Great Depression, you'll also find plenty to interest you, as well.
   (Curious? Want to learn more? See pages from the book here.)


Now get this book for free, just by adding a comment! (For additional chances, subscribe by 'following' or signing up for e-mail updates -- one per.) Ends 3/31/12, noon MST.

There's a New Girl In Town

...and her name's Abby. She's all Golden Lab, and looks like a great deal like Charley, who's a Golden Lab/Chesapeake Retriever mix. Now we have two bodies to trip over, and two waving tails to knock over coffee cups and vases. But she's fitting right in.  Or on, as the case may be -- she's lying on my foot while I'm typing.

Stay tuned -- the next post announces a giveaway! And thanks for visiting.

 Abby, looking puzzled. She lives at the Bricks' -- can you blame her?

 Charley (l), with his old bud Jack (r). A Grandmother's Fan quilt top, too.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Tote Bags, Authors, Designers & Copyrights -- Plus Update

[Update on the Update! Kate Spain's posted a final comment. I'm not sure she still completely understands the struggle quilting professionals have had with her argument -- but we need to give her credit for trying.  Honest. Go see her blogpost here. 
   If you're curious about my take on the subject, you can see that too -- here.]

 [3/27 Update: Todd Hensley, C&T's publisher, has commented on this whole situation. Go to this post to get the scoop.]


You may not have heard the recent flap between Kate Spain, Emily Cier of Carolina Patchworks, Moda and C&T Publishing.
    But you should -- especially if you write books, design patterns, or just plain Make Stuff.

Briefly explained:
    *Emily Cier wrote a book called Quilt Remix. (She also wrote one called Scrap Republic.) Both books contain a variety of easy-to-make scrap quilts in bright, cheerful colors. C&T published them.  This is not Emily's first book, nor her first quilts. She's got some years of doing (and selling) this work.
    *Moda sent Emily a variety of fabrics for use in making the books' samples. This, by the way, is common industry practice. I myself got a batch of lovely reproes from Jo Morton via Andover Fabrics for use in my book, Quilts of the Golden West.  (Thanks Jo -- they were beautiful!)
    *Emily used the fabrics, including a selection from one of Moda's designers, Kate Spain. (Quilting-use fabrics are a sideline for Kate, who designs for housewares and a ton more stuff.)
    *C&T decides to print a tote bag with one of Emily's quilts on it, as a promotional tool. That quilt contains at least one Kate Spain-designed fabric. (This isn't the first time C&T has done this, by the way. It's been common practice for them for some years. See the tote bag in question here, or below.)
    Important note here: Kate's fabrics are not the only ones used in the quilt photographed. (Update: According to Kate, ONLY her fabrics -- her Fandango line for Moda -- are reproduced on the tote bag, though the pattern from the book was Emily's. I can't tell for sure, since side #2 is not reproduced on the Amazon listing.)
   It's a scrap quilt, people -- none of the designers' names are on the bag, nor are the manufacturers' names. According to Emily, she does give credits in her book. (Update: The designers are left out, according to Kate -- only the manufacturers are mentioned.)
    *Kate finds out. She also notices that her name is not specifically on this tote bag -- it's Emily's and the book title, instead.

    *Does Kate go to Moda, and ask them why in the world did they send her fabrics out to book authors? Does she remind herself that there are other designers' fabrics represented on this bag? (Update: Kate says she's the only one.) In the projects? In the book? (Update: Kate mentions she realizes that other designers' fabrics are represented besides her own.) Does she even understand the nature of scrap quilting -- that it's standard practice to mix and match a variety of fabrics from different periods? 
    *Instead, she sics her lawyers on Emily and C&T. Said lawyers threaten to sue unless the tote bags AND the books are destroyed and Kate gets $150,000. (If Emily's royalties are anything like mine, she'll be an old woman -- if ever -- before she even gets this much for writing the entire book.)
    *C&T caves -- and the tote bags are pulled off the market. Even after the tote bags become a non-issue, the lawyers continue to threaten. (Don't believe me? Go see Emily's comments.)
   *Kate publishes a response on her blog, which sounds genuinely puzzled and hurt that anyone would take her 'gentle' approach amiss. Kate says:
    
The most important thing to know is that there is no lawsuit, there never was a lawsuit, and I did not sue anyone. The book containing images of my fabric continues to be made available for sale and has not been changed by any action I have taken...
[a long discussion on copyrighting fabric designs follows]

     Similarly, an author or publisher cannot use images of my designs which may appear in their books (for example, as part of a quilt that's shown in the book) to manufacture/market other merchandise, such as thousands of tote bags, and sell that merchandise featuring my copyrighted designs for profit without first obtaining a license or permission from me to do so..

So it's all about the bags. Except it's clear, it wasn't. Look at Emily's response:


    As Kate said, she *did not* file a lawsuit — this is true. Instead, as I’d said, her lawyers formally and repeatedly threatened a lawsuit if several specific conditions were not immediately met, including payment of large sums of money and other conditions...
- And regardless of the tote bag issue, Ms. Spain did indeed go after the book. Kate said that the subject was not my book, but the totes used in marketing my book (which I referred to as “the trigger” in my previous post, in order to help maintain Kate’s anonymity while the tote was removed from sale).  This tote featured a photograph from the book (which included a fabric printed with her licensed designs, as well as my name and the name of the book in large letters). Although she may have personally considered this the core issue, her attorneys targetted both the tote *and the book* in their demands. Moreover, C&T had contacted Kate to deal with the tote once they’d heard she was unhappy with it and before the lawyers were ever involved. As I said in my original post, even after they had removed the tote from sale and agreed to several other demands with regard to the tote, Kate’s lawyers continued to press the issue of the book and refused to withdraw the threat of a lawsuit — until C&T got their own lawyers involved.

 Authors and pattern designers everywhere are saying, "There but for the grace of God, go I." Me included. These people are just a tad concerned that if they use any Kate Spain fabrics in their book or pattern samples, and those quilts are photographed and used for publicity -- or win a national prize, God forbid, which also means photographing and publicity -- Kate will once again decide that she should be credited and duly compensated.

     The real terror here -- what if every fabric designer makes this demand? Or decides that since their work is represented, they 'own' the property their fabrics are pictured in -- or on? What if they send you the fabric...does that mean you can trust that they will not take this approach? What if they give permission -- then once the book is in print, change their minds? Do you have the financial wherewithal to hire a lawyer, or withstand the loss of income if your book is cancelled or destroyed? Will the publisher believe enough in your book(s) to redo and/or keep on publishing them, after all this? The possibilities here are truly stomach-churning.

    It's one thing to credit your sources. And I strongly believe in doing just that. But crediting every single fabric designer in a 150-plus patch scrap quilt? I have a mix of fabrics in my own stash that date back to the 1860s, but also include my grandma's Thirties feedsacks and leftover strips from the cutting room at Quilter's Newsletter, where I was an editor for some years. Many no longer even have the selvage that mentions the company and designer. (What bothers me even more about this is one of fabricdom's best-kept secrets:  many designers slightly change older prints, then can legally market the designs as their originals. Jinny Beyer has done it many times over, including the prints for her millenium fabric lines. Not every 'repro' is marketed as such.) 

    The sad part about this: I love Kate's fabrics. Obviously, Emily did too, or she would not have used them. They're bright, cheerful and very appealing, too.
    And I don't have an issue about asking permission for producing promotional stuff like notepads, tote bags and such. Although again, these are pretty standard when it comes to publishing contracts -- and it could be easily understand that Moda agreed to this when they sent free fabric for express use in making quilts shown in the book.
    But that doesn't matter. They didn't get Kate's permission

Kate says,
     I am also thankful, thrilled and extremely humbled to see people use my fabrics to make special gifts for friends and family, or to sell their unique handmade quilts, aprons, cosmetic bags (you name it) on Etsy and elsewhere. Btw, i have a heading on my sidebar where I happily promote these shops. I'm also happy to see my fabric being used for school/church/quilt guild fundraising raffles or in quilt pattern designs, tutorials, books, magazines, and on blogs. In fact, Moda and I give fabric away to inspire and encourage you to create. I will continue to donate to and support your good causes and to encourage your creative pursuits.

Isn't that just what Emily did?
* * * * * * * * * * *

UPDATE:  This post has been getting a lot of visitors, including Kate herself. Kate took the time to comment, including further explaining her viewpoint on some of the issues I've mentioned. I respect and appreciate that. Please take the time to read and consider her comment seriously, as well as the others -- and definitely take some time to read both Kate's and Emily's posts on their respective blogs. (Links are above -- just in case you don't want to go back and wade through, here they are again. Kate's blog is here; Emily's is here.) 
    This is a complicated situation, and as such, cannot be treated lightly. This case has the possibility of huge future implications for authors, designers and anyone who enters competitions. These are frightening for anyone who makes their living or pursues their passion this way, all reassurances by Kate or any other fabric designer aside.
   If you leave a comment on either blog (or here - yes, yes, please do!), remember: ALL parties in this situation should be treated with respect, whether you agree with them or not. No insults or belittling -- all that sort of behavior does is make you the commenter seem mean and petty. Also, please don't hide and use 'anonymous.' If you feel strongly about this, you should be using your name.


The tote bag that caused all the fuss -- from the Amazon listing. If you're thinking, 'Gee, these look a lot like fabrics from the Fifties through the Seventies'...you're right.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Respect's the Same in Any Language

Have you seen the President Obama sign language video?

A deaf student signs to him, "I am proud of you." Without missing a beat, Obama signs back, "Thank you." Watch carefully-- he does it quickly. But he does it.



Wow, what a kind and thoughtful thing to do.

The whole story's here, including a video link to the student's reaction to the whole thing. 


Interested in (Really) Early American Textiles?

...Because if you are, Early American Auctions is currently offering an outstanding set on Ebay, including several very early George Washington handkerchiefs and fabric yardage pieces. Like this c.1806 piece, detailing the cherry tree incident ('I did it, I cannot tell a lie'):

(He didn't actually do it, by the way. One of his biographers, Parson Weems, made up the story.)

And 'The Death of General Washington' handkerchief:

Yowza. (The price is that, too -- they're asking nearly $5000.) Then again, you should probably get this one, too -- a c.1800 'Tears of America,' also mourning Washington:

Its current price: nearly $15,000!

You hardly ever get to see these rare pieces...and now many of them are for sale. Quick -- go take a look.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Some Weeks Are Like This

...as in discouraging. 

Went to go look at a bookcase on Craigslist. Got lost, stopped to ask for directions. Then on the way out of the driveway, promptly backed into the poor guy's fence and broke a post.
     Sigh. That's what he gets, I guess, for being kind. (Yes, I talked to him about it, and left my card.)

Thankfully, it was just one post, and a few rails knocked down. But after the glorious events earlier in the week, including being crowned and dealing with the 'shadow man,' I am just waiting for the next fun thing to happen.


In the meantime, you may enjoy some of the stuff I've wandered across on the Internet. Like:

*Ten really old things that are still working -- including a lightbulb that hasn't burned out for 111 years.


*A guy who scooped up incorporation papers for the Southern California Dart Association -- and now wants everyone to cough up $$ for the privilege of being sued. (P.S. He first got angry because they did not include his middle initial -- "M." -- on their member listings.) This is an longish story, but worth the read.

*Dealing with roommates -- how do you share your food and kitchen with a stranger?


*Finding money: if you don't return it, are you truly a scuzzball? 
    (I have some thoughts in this department, too.)

*Or just make more money, to begin with -- five creative ways to do so. (There are more ideas in this vein, too, if you explore all the links.)

*Can you train people like Pavlov did his dogs?
(Like Buck and Goonie before him, Charley now knows that the sound of ripping tape means someone is finishing up orders -- and headed to the post office. And that means a chance to hang his head out the window and play Batdog.)

*And for all the serious types out there -- an easy way to make glitter nail polish.

Back to work -- and write the nice man. Maybe, the Brick suggested, we could put up the replacement post on his fence ourselves. I have to offer. 




Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Weird Photos...And the Crowning Moment

Hey, that's what happens when you visit Chez Brick...you get a sampling of all sorts of ideas!

Like this set of photos that look photoshopped...but according to the report, aren't. One of the strangest has got to be this one...

I once paddled a kayak around Bellingham's harbor in WA. Thinking about that -- and looking at this -- gives me the creeps.


More photos here (including some very cool cloud effects).


Plus ten of the world's most famous doctored photos.

And eleven 'curiously coincidental' photos. Including this one:


It has not been a fun day. Spent a big chunk of the morning getting ground down, buzzed at and fitted for a crown. (Not the royal kind, unfortunately.) The best part was having the dental assistant give me a big glob of grape-y stuff to bite down on. Instant pain -- something was cutting into my cheek! But I couldn't protest because it was filling my mouth. "Hold still for 5 minutes," she said. I concentrated on doing just that, and eventually the pain dulled.
      Finally, she pulled out the mold (because that's what it was)-- and looked disgusted. "Well, we can't use this -- it's all bloody." I wonder why! (The second attempt was successful, and thankfully didn't hurt.)

Two more weeks of only chewing on one side of the mouth. (It will be about 5 weeks total, including the time for the root canal.) And the crowning glory (or insult) for both root canal and crown will be the bill: approx. $2400.
    For. just. one. tooth. I told the Brick if we ever get mugged, forget about me. Just protect that tooth!

Monday, March 19, 2012

He Died

Something strange happened this morning. The Mama called... the man who birthed me died Friday night.

    Gordon Pant was 73, as near as I can tell. He left behind several wives and eleven acknowledged children. (But not all of them on either count. Some of the wives were legal, some were common-law. And I'm definitely not on the 'kid' list. I'm not the only one, either.) He lived in Sparta, MI for some years...Six Lakes, MI for a while...and I'd heard he was in Arizona or Florida for some time. He had emphysema.
     To my knowledge, after his brief marriage and divorce, he never made an effort to contact me. Never. In all these years.
     Every spring, just before classes let out, Myers Elementary School hosted a hayride out to Long Lake, with a big picnic afterward. One year, Dad was to drive the tractor pulling the haywagon. Boy, was I proud! I bragged to everybody in sight about it. One kid said, "He's not your dad." Snotty-like.
    "What?" I yelled back. "Of course, he's my dad!"
    Afterward, I marched home and reported to Mom that some stupid kid had...
        That was how I found out about Gordon.
    
     For a long time, he lived less than 15 miles from the folks. (If you're wondering about child support, incidentally - not one cent.) In high school, I worked at the local hardware store, where every red-blooded male in the county visited sometime. If Gordon was there, he never revealed himself. Nor did his parents. The only adult relative who ever said anything to me directly was an aunt...who strangely enough, was also the mom of one of my dearest cousins-by-marriage.
     Gordon had another daughter, about the same age. I must have looked enough like this 'shadow sister' to be twins. People would occasionally ask if I'd gotten a job at Meijer or elsewhere; invariably, they were talking about her. I wonder what she is doing today.
     I was a lucky girl -- I had a father and mother who both loved me and weren't afraid to show it. (And a little brother who was a stinker -- but has grown up into somebody wonderful.) My dad died three years ago back in February. I miss him so much, and look forward to the time I will see him again.
    So who is this person - this man with a name I briefly carried, whose genes are in my blood? Without his input, I wouldn't be here. But he is not my father. He never earned that right, nor did he deserve it.
     All I have ever seen of him are a few wedding photos, and a letter he wrote my grandparents, asking for their blessing to marry. (The latter turned up unexpectedly in an envelope of things found after my uncle's death. He was the executor for Grandma's estate; the letter was kept all those years.)
     There's one more piece of evidence: my profile apparently resembles his. A college roommate knew the Pant family, and said I looked like them. (Shades of the 'shadow sister,' no doubt.)

     It has been more than 35 years since I left Sparta -- more than 25 since we moved to Colorado. Did this 'shadow man' ever wonder about me?


UPDATE: This appeared in the Grand Rapids Press March 22. It's the first photo I've seen of him since I was 7 or 8.


PANT, GORDON WILLIAM Gordon William Pant (formerly of Sparta, MI), age 73, passed away Friday, March 16, 2012 following a brief illness. He is survived by his loving wife of 50 years, Ganelda (Brower) Pant. Gordon and Ganelda had eleven children; Vonda (Ramon) Prieto, Gordy (Laurie) Pant, Sam (Dorothy) Pant, Mark (Lucinda) Pant, Randy Pant, Jeffrey Pant, Karen (Allen) Wilks, Kathy (Scott) Wilks, Matt (Sarah) Pant, Doug (Bryony) Pant, Clayton Pant, daughter in law; Jody Pant, 28 grand kids and two great grand kids. Gordon was born and raised in Kent City, Michigan. Gordon loved fishing, going to the casino, playing poker with his boys, and the thrill of a great bargain. Relatives and friends may meet the family from 2-4 on Saturday, March 24, 2012 at the community room of Station Creek Retirement Community, 10010 Crossroad Court, Caledonia, MI 49316. There will be a time for the family and friends to remember Gordon at a memorial luncheon following the visitation. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Faith Hospice - Development Office, 2100 Raybrook St SE, Suite 300, Grand Rapids, MI 49546.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A New Way to Recycle Plastic Bottles

These are made from plastic bottles!
Really...

Couldn't you see them used as embellishments elsewhere, too? (Yes, including quilts.)

You'll find a how-to tutorial on my Pinterest 'Craft Projects' board.

I Wondered About This...


ALERT - More Quilts Stolen - ALERT

One of my teaching colleagues, Karen Combs, was working in New Braunfels, TX.
She wrote, "On March 16, 2012, sometime between midnight and 6am at the Courtyard New Braunfels River Village, my rental car’s driver window was broken and my teaching suitcase was stolen. The hotel is located at 750 IH 35 North in New Braunfels, Texas. The police were called, they stated the break-in looked like the work of a professional.
It was a “smash and grab”. The vandals did not know what they were taking and it will have no value to them.  It means the world to me. . ."
     It may have been just another theft for them, but for Karen, they stripped her of her teaching samples for one of her most popular classes -- and much more, including her teaching supplies. I can just imagine how heartbreaking -- and discouraging -- this is for her. She went ahead and taught the class sans samples and supplies. I've taught for the New Braunfels guild before, and I'm guessing they treated Karen with the same grace and interest they displayed to me. 


Karen tells more on her blog -- please go there, and keep an eye out for these quilts! If you have any information, feel free to contact me, or e-mail Karen directly through her blog. And pass the word, if you can. Let's find and get these quilts back to a talented teacher.

Some of the pieces missing include:

 Batik Cascade Ribbons (Patchwork Illusions)

Duo (Patchwork Illusions)

Rainbow Cube (Patchwork Illusions)

Trio (Patchwork Illusions)


 Dark Crystal Star (Patchwork Illusions) - quilt top

Light Crystal Star (Patchwork Illusions) -- quilt top

Ribbon Cubes (Patchwork Illusions)

Patchwork Illusions quilt block sample assortment

Stacked and Wrapped (Patchwork Illusions) - quilt top

 Cubed (Patchwork Illusions) - quilt top




Friday, March 16, 2012

Learning More About St. Patrick...and Dublin Coddle

I've got a post on five frugal ways to celebrate St. Patrick's Day over on Tight Fisted Miser. Have a look! It includes a recipe for Dublin Coddle, as well...or check out the recipes on the Holiday Goodies blog, including one for Irish Stew. Enjoy, and Happy St. Patrick's Day!



the gentle saint hisself, courtesy of Wikipedia

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Getting Ready for St. Paddy's Day... Oh Pooh

All week long, the Holiday Goodies blog has been full of Irish recipes...including an admission that Corned Beef and Cabbage (recipe included) is not truly Irish-Irish! (Well, sort of.) 

Take a look. And from this Irish lass, a very happy St. Patrick's Day. All pooh poohing aside.



When Irish eyes are smilin'...


Morning Songs

     What did you wake up to, as a kid?
My bedroom was on the second floor of our big, drafty farmhouse. No heat, except for what came up the open register from the floor below. My dad, a big Dutch farmer, couldn't carry a tune in a barrel, but that didn't stop him.

(Yelled up through the register)
Sweetly sings the donkey at the break of day,
   If you do not feed him, this is what he'll say:
   HEE-HAW, HEE-HAW, HEE-HAW!!!



Try waking up to that on a cold winter morning.

     The alternate choice was:
Good morning, good morning, good morning,
It's time to rise and shine...
Good morning, good morning, good morning, 
     I hope you're feeling FY-NE! (sung very off-key)

Our own little children woke up to
Petunia, Petunia, open up the door!

The Brick also remembers singing 'The Dummy Line,' which chorus goes like this:
On the Dummy, on the Dummy Line, Rise and Shine,
Rise and Shine and pay your fine
When you're ridin' on the Dummy, on the Dummy Dummy line.
 

     Poor little dears.

     I thought about this when April Dykman mentioned she woke up to "Time to make the doughnuts..." Maybe it was based on this commercial:



Dad would have grinned at that, for his favorite breakfast song was
Give me another cup of coffee, for it is the best in the land;
Put another nickel in the jukebox, for I am a truck-driving man...


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Replacing the Windows: Update

A few months ago, we replaced the dining room, laundry room and kitchen windows. Four windows total: two smaller and two huge picture windows, one of those by the window seat.

Our dining room (site of the picture windows) used to be the draftiest place in the house. At night-time, you could look out toward the mountains, count the sparkling lights...and literally feel your feet freeze, toe by toe. The day after the windows were replaced, the Brick and I looked at each other -- no drafts. No need to run the portable heater. Even Charley the dog was comfortably sprawled out, instead of curled into a doughnut. Aahhh...

And most of the noise we'd taken for granted was gone. (Our house overlooks the highway, and the sound just crawls up the hill on quiet evenings.)

The best news came when we got the utilities bill. (I should mention here that we keep indoor temps at a bare minimum -- 60-64 degrees -- and shut off heat to the unused areas.) Last year's bill, on the coldest months, was about $130. This year: $65.
    It wasn't a fluke. The second month's bill again showed a $65 savings!

So month by month, we're paying ourselves back $60-65 toward the cost of the windows. That's a payback that will add up.

(We had our windows done by Prestige Products, in the Denver area. Fair, ethical and a high-quality product, with very reasonable prices. Ask for Dustin, and tell him the Bricks sent you.)

Living Like Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway has been a close confidant ever since college. I have fond memories of being in Paris with him while the rain pattered against my attic window. (Yes, dear readers, I lived in an attic during grad school at the University of Michigan. Room and board were free while I kept the family's house clean and their young daughter company. Oh yes, and walked the dog at lunchtime.)
     Some of his books are heartbreakingly memorable, like A Moveable Feast, The Old Man And the Sea, and For Whom the Bell Tolls. Others, like Islands in the Stream, wander around until you give up in disgust.
    I've learned a lot from this hard-living (and loving) man, including:

*Get to the point.  At his best, he's crisp, firm and concise. At his worst, he sounds like a dirty old man or a drunk. Or both.


*Don't take yourself so seriously. Others did. In fact, he did too, later in life. (I suspect he actually started to believe the sycophants and hangers-on.) But the vintage Hemingway was always looking around with open eyes...including at himself.


*Travel as much as you can. Even if it means doing it in third-class railways (ever sit up all night on Amtrak?) or skimping on clothes to do so. The experience will stay with you all your life...and affect your work for the good.


*Read as much as you can. Hemingway always had a book (or two, or three) going. His first wife Hadley remembered once smooching with the great Hem -- only to find that he was reading a book behind her back!


*Discipline yourself. Writing was a regular part of his schedule. (Like Lewis Carroll and Thomas Wolfe, he liked to do it standing up! Certainly better for the stomach and leg muscles.) Sure, he goofed around a lot, and did far more than his share of drinking. But the words still got produced, day after day. (Stephen King is also good at this sort of thing. He reads a lot, too.)

*Do it with gusto. Whatever he did -- good or bad -- he went into it full-bore. Not a bad way to live.

Ernie in 1939 -- courtesy of Wikipedia. For a full bibliography, look here.)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Ten Things that Should Always Be in Your Pantry

Keep these ten ingredients around, and you'll always have something to eat -- even on short notice. They're generally cheap, play nicely with each other, and stay edible for six months to a year -- if not more.

*Peanut butter. Mix it with melted butter for an amazing sauce, put it on bread...or just scoop it out of the jar with your finger.

*Canned tuna or shrimp. Good for salad, heaped on crackers, or mixed with pasta.


*Some kind of crunchy cracker. Bread would be excellent -- if it lasted. But a cracker can hang in there for weeks, provided you keep the package sealed. Rye-Krisp is great; so are water crackers. Even plain saltines will do the trick -- but they get stale after a few months.

*Canned soup. One can's a help -- five or ten are an emergency fund, provided you bought them on sale with coupons. My own pantry is never without Campbell's brand chicken noodle soup. (Yes,  I can tell the difference from generic. Stir in an egg for more depth, and/or add a can of tomatoes/green chilies.) Other good soups are chunky-style; these are excellent heated and poured over rice or noodles. Clam chowder not only can be eaten as-is, but used as a pasta sauce, too.

*Pasta. Macaroni, fusilli and those little bows cook fast. Spaghetti and linguine look more elegant. Your choice.

*Dried onion or garlic. Just a shake of either livens up the plainest dishes. Dry onion soup mix is good, but salty.

*Eggs. In just a few minutes time, you can have them scrambled, fried, poached -- or even a fancy-schmancy omelet. Fresh eggs are best, but only last 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator. Keep a jar of dried egg whites in the pantry, and you'll be able to use it indefinitely.

*Dried milk. You don't have to drink it mixed straight out of the box -- but it's a godsend when you're low on regular milk, or the local grocery store ran out because of a blizzard. (This has happened several times in Colorado -- in as little as a week.) Stretch your regular milk further by using dried milk powder for cooking, or mix the reconstituted milk in with the regular to make it go further on a tight paycheck week. 


*Some kind of cheese. A slice of Cheddar or Swiss melted on toast gives you a hot meal in just a minute or two. (It's good in soup and mixed with pasta, too.) Grated Parmesan keeps practically forever.


*At least one complete meal in a can. Corned beef hash, beef stew, even tamales can fit the bill. One old boyfriend's dad swore by La Choy brand chow mein; he was partial to the beef version. There will come a night when you're on the way to the flu...or just got home, cold and hungry...or had a rotten day. Heat it up, put on your favorite movie, and relax.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Monday Stuff on the Way to Other Stuff

So how did I start this wonderful new Monday...and week?

By finishing off a root canal. Part of my mouth is now filled with gutta percha -- which, if I am not mistaken, is also a primary ingredient in rubber rain boots.

Oh goody. 

More work on the basement floor. (Getting used to grinding sounds, and a faint cloud of dust drifting upstairs now and then.) Some business stuff -- and a lot of restoration work. A huge pile of boxes to move and shelves to fill down in the new inventory area. (At least we actually have an inventory area again. This setting up after the flooding of last May is finally becoming routine.)

There are encouraging signs of life. CU and CSU are still in the running in college basketball. (Michigan made it too, but just barely. Sigh.) Harold Camping finally admitted he was wrong about the whole "end of the world" thing. And Mystery Guitar Man's latest has a nice beat.


   

I also found instructions for:

*Setting up a loft bed (includes a link to a 200-sq ft. cabin that looks intriguing)
*Making money from your trash
*Starting a babysitting exchange
*Pasta with asparagus. (The only better way to cook this harbinger of spring is to wash it, toss the spears in a few tablespoons of olive oil, sprinkle on some garlic or your favorite spices, then bake about 15 min. at 400 degrees. Crunchy, fresh and delickety...I am swooning at the thought.)

On the homefront, there's a new freebie pattern on the Brickworks website, thanks to Lion yarns -- directions for this cute (and easy!) crochet shrug. Couldn't you see it in pastels, too?


Tight Fisted Miser ran two concurrent posts of mine on marriage -- and getting separated.
And a bunch of Irish recipes for the upcoming holiday are on the 'Holiday Goodies' site. Erin go bragh.
       The daffodils in the backyard flower bed are almost blooming. Come on, Spring!



One of the best Monday videos ever.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

W-w-w-e-e-weekend

Boy, it's been a trudge.

I got back late Friday from a few days in Granby with the Peaks n' Pines Quilt Guild. (Hi guys! I had a great time!) It was fun...but I've been dragging ever since.

Maybe it's the time change.

Maybe it's the time spent cleaning. (It was getting pretty grubby around here, what with Charley shedding and all the dust kicking up.)

Maybe it's spring.

We went and saw the new Sherlock Holmes movie tonight -- and I fell asleep right at the critical scene in the munitions factory. (Apparently not enough explosions were going off.) Friend Chris, who generally sleeps through most movies, snoozed through the entire thing. (She's become a walking review. Her friends will say, "Such-and-such movie is Really Great -- Chris didn't go to sleep at all!")

A snack helped...sort of. Maybe I just need sleep.

Off to go get it. Talk to you tomorrow.


Friday, March 9, 2012

Don't Buy From Amoozle

This deal website was offering BOGO gift cards, from Amazon, American Express, Target and Wal-Mart. I read something from a blogger mentioning it...
      So I bought some cards. $149 and change.

And got absolutely nothing.

Fortunately, I paid with Paypal. And after two long weeks of waiting for Amoozle to contact them, they refunded my money.

Whew.

I have a feeling they'll reappear again, though their website is currently offline. If they do, this is yet another one of those "too good to be true" items. Don't fall from it.

Don't buy from Amoozle.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I Heard They Could Be A Little Catty...


Checking stitches, no doubt.

(Thanks for sharing, friend Marcie!)

Further on Fluke - New Info On Contraceptives Testimony

More has come out about the testimony of Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law student who testified in front of an House panel on health care.
     Fluke said, “Without insurance coverage, contraception, as you know, can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school. For a lot of students who, like me, are on public interest scholarships, that’s practically an entire summer’s salary. Forty percent of female students at Georgetown Law report struggling financially as a result of this policy.”
“One student told us of how embarrassed and powerless she felt when she was standing at the pharmacy counter, learning for the first time that contraception wasn’t covered, and had to walk away because she couldn’t afford it," said Fluke. "Women like her have no choice but to go without contraception.”

Did you know:

*The panel members were all Democrats...and chaired by Nancy Pelosi. (What - the Republicans were all on vacation?)

*Fluke was the only witness. (Apparently others were unavailable, too.)

*What survey was her statement about "forty percent of female law students" based on?

*Fluke made it clear she was testifying in support of the regulation that requires all health insurance plans to cover sterilizations and contraceptives.

*She is also the past president of Georgetown Law Students for Reproductive Justice, a group I'm sure had nothing to do with this issue in the past.

*“You might respond that contraception is accessible in lots of other ways," Fluke told the Democratic panel. "Unfortunately, that's not true." Apparently Ms. Fluke is unaware that many insurance companies currently cover contraceptives -- including for those patients who need it to minimize polyp growth and other female issues.

*She must not shop much, either. Birth control pills were available for as little as $9 a month at the Target pharmacy just three miles from the Georgetown Law school campus. (True, they are generic. Maybe she won't buy generics.)

*A CVS pharmacy only two blocks away is more expensive -- its month supply of the same pills, Tri-Sprintec (the generic of Ortho Tri-Cyclen) costs $33. In other words, about $400 a year.

     When asked about the accuracy of Fluke's testimony, Rep. Hoyer’s (the Minority Whip) spokesman Daniel Reilly said:  “Mr. Hoyer takes Ms. Fluke at her word and believes she provided accurate testimony to the [Democratic] Steering & Policy Committee regarding important women’s health issues.”  (Read the report on Fluke's testimony. Plus Fluke's background and past actions.)

Do you suppose there was an agenda here?

Charles Dickens on Blogging

"In this branch of literature, it is quite a mistake to go to work on the 'exhaustive' principle. In article-writing, as in extempore preaching, the great difficulty is to know when to stop...
     But Voltaire exclaimed, 'Woe be to the man who says about a subject all that can be said!' With printed discourse, as with personal companionship, it is better that your friend should regret the shortness of your visit than that he should yawn at its lengthiness."

        From "Writing for Periodicals," Sept. 23, 1865 issue of Household Words


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Free Breakfast This Week

Live near Denver, CO?
     Wilmington, NC?
     Columbia, SC?

Chick-Fil-A wants to take you out to breakfast!

From now through March 10, register for breakfast at one of the Chick-Fil-A locations, and the entree's on them. All you have to do -- go register here.
   And enjoy.


Looking for Money in All the Right Places

Boy, are we tight on cash right now. 

We're not the only ones, obviously. Donna Freedman hasn't had a paycheck for about a month. Others are really having to watch it, budget-wise.

Our struggle has a lot to do with timing. A bunch of bills came in all at once -- and of course, they all needed to get paid yesterday. One big invoice was supposed to happen in installments -- instead, we had to pay it all. Plus our friend Thom had the time to refinish the basement floor. (That's why I hear grinding noises as we speak, and a gentle cloud of dust keeps drifting up from the back door.) It will look beautiful when he's finished...but thanks to Safeco denying our insurance claim, that's $1300 out of our pockets -- not theirs.

So what's next? Trolling the sidewalks, looking for spare change? (Actually, I do keep an eye out around parking meters -- the best place in the world to find coins. Or the coin refund slot.) Instead, we'll:

*Stop spending. No trips to Walmart, or leisurely jaunts to the movies, until the next paycheck, about 3 weeks from now.

*Stop eating. (Well, sort of.) The refrigerator has several dibs and dabs, and the freezer is stuffed. Pantry's pretty hefty right now. I think of these as emergency funds, and they're going to prove it this month. We'll get by.

*Use gift cards. We have several, gotten as presents, plus those earned from Swagbucks. (See the 'swidget' at right to learn more about this helpful program.) Plus, I've got a free burger waiting on a Red Robin 'royalty' rewards card. If we have to, we'll cash them in.

*Check savings. Here's another emergency cache I am so grateful for right now. Years ago, I made a pact that 10% of my teaching income, no matter what, would go into an extra account. That money paid property taxes this year, and it's going to fill in some needed spots this month, as well.

*Take stock. We have several savings bonds coming to the end of their interest-bearing lives. Now's the time to cash them in. We've also squirreled cash away in several spots For Just This Reason. (The Brick and I come by this trait in good stead -- our parents are wonderful hoarders for a rainy day. When his mom died some years ago, we were forever finding pockets of cash hidden here and there, under furniture or pushed toward the back of a drawer. Some of the coins were quite old.)

*Clean up and square away. Several clients haven't been billed for their work -- those invoices are going out this week. I've got four restoration jobs in progress; two are near completion. Guess what's going to get finished off, as quickly as I can?

We've been through tight spots before, and this is nothing like that. We'll be fine. Now, if I can only tell that persistent little farm girl voice inside to shut up. She keeps whining that we'll be out of the street, begging for nickels...


Monday, March 5, 2012

Frozen Dead Guy Days

...was way too chilly.

Yeah, I know. It's supposed to be cold in March. But 40-60 mph winds? We had trouble standing up -- bigtime. And the coffin races and polar plunge were postponed until Sunday. (More here, via the Denver Post.) We did see a number of hearses, some weird skeleton-painted people...and one of the coffin race teams, dressed like Monty Python's Holy Grail and intoning, "Bring out your dead." (bong)

Daughter #2's boyfriend Keith won the Salmon Toss -- 30 pounds of salmon flying through the air. Good on ya, guy! (And he won a $100 gift card, not the salmon. Shoot, maybe he should have plumped for the fish.)


Monday Stuff on the Way to Other Stuff...


Oh, all right. Things are better than that...

Remember the Suffragette Quilt that I was taking guesses on? The final sale figure, not counting the buyer's premium, was... (drum roll please)

     FOURTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS.

I honestly thought it would come in closer to $5,000. My appraiser buddy estimated above that, at about $7,000. This is a nice little bump in what political/patriotic antique quilts have been going for lately...hopefully it's also a sign that antique textiles are going to go back in value to what they were (and should have stayed all along).
    In honor of those brave souls who guessed, you ALL get a free copy of Hanky Panky!  (Sure, you low-balled...but then again, so did I.) Just e-mail me at cindyjbrick@gmail.com with your address, so I can get your book in the mail. (You have until Saturday night, March 10, to do so.)
      And thank you for entering.

For some odd reason, a lot of what I wanted to show you today was in video form. So here we go...

 Michigan won the Big Ten Championship in college basketball. All I can say is...GO BLUE!



After all, you can take the girl out of Michigan (1984 for me)...but you can't take the Michigan out of the girl.


Pinterest: have you tried this fascinating online bulletin board site? You can 'pin' anything on a series of boards you design and choose for...or copy others...or just wander around. There are bulletin boards on any numbers of subjects, including cooking, gardening and inspirational (or silly) quotes. 
    You can see yours truly's boards here on the Pinterest site. This photo went on my "Inspiration - Especially Color" board. Something about that wonderful mix of orange and pink -- normally, I don't care for either shade, but mixed together, they're dynamite. Must translate this into fabric...

From the "Be careful what you wish for -- because you may just get it" department:  A guy tries to set a world record for being buried alive. He's still setting it...oops, maybe not.

And Rush Limbaugh makes a fool out of himself. Again. (The sad part is that I actually agree with his basic stance. I'm not against contraception. I just think people should buy their own, instead of making the state or insurance companies do it for them.)
     Pat Robberson comes in a close second, with his comments that the tornadoes of last week occurred because of lack of prayer. Pat, do you honestly want to play God? This is dangerous, you know. (See the previous department...)

Have yourself a great Monday. And drink some coffee -- quick.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

On the Carnival Merry-Go-Round:

The blog carnivals, that is!

You'll find my post on retiring to Panama at the Festival of Frugality...


As well as the Yakezie Carnival and the Festival of Financial Planning

And some other places, as well. This was a popular post. (Must be all the people longing for warm weather...and spring.)

See what you think -- I'd love to hear your opinion.


Friday, March 2, 2012

Win A Hanky Panky...Easy!

Today's the last day to guess on what the Suffragette Quilt will sell for.

Have you always wanted to try appraising? Here's your chance to do it -- and if you come within a hundred dollars, less or more, of the final price (not including buyer's premium)...

A copy of Hanky Panky will be winging your way!

Take a look at the quilt here. Comment here about the price you think it will go for.

That's all you need to do. I'll let you know what the gentleman's bet I and another appraiser have on it, when the show's all over.

Bullies: A Common-Sense Approach

I have been thinking more on the issue of bullies, and the recent spate of Luann comics settled it. (See the March 2 comic, and read backward if you're not familiar with the teenager Luann and her friends.)

 There are bullies in all of our lives -- whether we're threatened by one, or we're one ourselves. For me, it was the Holbrook girls, who ran havoc over the school bus. (Hey -- we should have sent them after Osama bin Laden..they would have cleaned his clock in minutes. These girls were scary.) In middle school, it was a group of cheerleader princesses and their hangers-on. And in high school...well, I was lucky. Didn't have any to deal with there, perhaps because I was so busy trying to keep up with schoolwork, band, Madrigals...and working every day but Thursday at the hardware store.

And with both the Holbrooks and the hangers-on (Lisa VanderWerff, are you still out there?? You may not remember this as vividly as I do), it came down to this:

I didn't back down. 


For one thing, I called their bluffs. In the open, in public. (Bullies love the shadows and little secluded corners -- it makes them feel even more powerful.)
For another, I didn't punch or threaten them. I just said I wasn't going to cooperate. Play ball, as it were. And I said it point blank, in public, where others could hear me.

Sure, they threatened back -- particularly the oldest Holbrook girl, who said the next time I rode the bus, she was going to wipe up the aisle with me. Expressed in very choice words, complete with a few swear words I'd never heard before. 

Was I terrified next day? You bet. Did anything happen?
Nope. And nothing the day after, and after...

Bullies don't like to perform their nasty games in public, in front of a crowd, if you're standing up to them. It makes them seem little and petty. True, sometimes you do get beat up. (That's the way life is, sadly.) And you will have nasty words said to you. But -- and I know this from experience -- you will be stronger. And the bullies will be exposed -- publicly exposed -- for the cowards they really are.

Sometimes you do have to fight back. Daughter #2 was being kicked in the shins regularly by a boy in elementary school. Finally, after a few weeks of this (and the teachers either refusing to do anything, or suggesting she'd made it up), I told her to kick him back.
     I then got a phone call from the Vice Principal, asking if I'd told my daughter to do that. (Obviously the bully had gone whining to the nearest teacher, and Daughter had answered honestly.)
    "Yes!" I said. "This little boy has been kicking our daughter for weeks now, and he's been allowed to keep doing it."
   "Well, Mrs. Brick," the principal said sternly. "We don't advocate violence around here."

But that boy never kicked Daughter again. (No one else did, either.)

Are you dreading having to deal with some bullies right now in your own life? Face them -- in public, preferably. Tell them they no longer have control over your life. Don't threaten them back-- that's stooping to their level. Don't attack. The point is: you have better things to do with your time and energy than waste it on these people.
     They're just not worth it.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Brotherly Love...And Setbacks

Drifts of snowflakes obscuring the horizon, and the temperature's dropping. We have had a lovely little skating 'pond' at the bottom of the steps. The Brick hit the icy spot at full tilt the other night, and nearly executed a quadruple somersault. I'd better get out there and salt it more.

One Frugal Girl had some interesting comments about brother-sister relations. Actually, she was talking about the importance of saving your money, bit by bit, for something really important. Her brother took the opposite tack, blowing bucks on his latest fancy.

My wondering: how does OFG's brother live today? Does he still rush through his money, then expect his sister to pick up the slack?

Little Brother (who is 5 inches taller and 2 1/2 years younger) saved everything. I mean EVERYTHING. He stashed every bit of candy he got under the bed -- then expected me to share mine. The smell of stale candy eventually got to be a constant out the door of his room.
     He also could sell -- he won practically every contest for it at school. I would have said it was partly the blue eyes and shock of blond hair, or the cowboy boots he insisted on wearing. But as an adult, he can still sell the pants off anyone I know...with the exception of Daughter #2, who could sell you your own shirt, and you would thank her for the privilege.
     We weren't poor growing up -- after all, we lived on a farm my parents owned (for the stunning price of $10,000) and we had plenty to eat and wear. We went on trips, too -- camping. Really Poor people didn't get to do that kind of stuff.

     But we also had some things drilled into us from babyhood:
     *Go to school. Get the best education possible. (My dad only graduated from 8th grade.)
     *There's no money for school. You'll have to work for it.
     *No job is too humble if it's honest.
     *Times are bad? Work harder.
     *Suck it up. If you can't do it yourself, it's not worth doing.

    So Little Brother went to work at 14, at the Case dealership my uncle owned. (And Dad was Parts Manager.) Using the money from that job, he bought a farm, and stocked it with pigs. (He also paid for the college fees left after financial aid.) From the proceeds of the farm sale plus his salesman's job (his wife also worked), they lived like misers -- then put that money into a tool-and-die business.
     That business eventually grew to include two more. Its sale -- he kept working there, as well -- let him start a new business, making and selling wood pellets for stoves.
     Which went bust.

It wasn't his fault. He and his partner put in long hours for no pay, and worked their hearts out. (In fact, he worried his way back to high school weight -- and high school was more than thirty years ago.) It seemed that when one machine was repaired, another would go out. They had trouble finding enough sawdust for pellets. Finally, the electrical power source went bad. (Did you know that if the local electric needs updating, they're going to ask your business to pay for it?)
     So now he's faced with shutting everything down. Selling the machinery he put together with such care and high hopes.
     And starting over. 

The money is the least of it. As far as I know, this is the first thing Little Brother has put his hand to that didn't work out. Discouraging? You bet. They're back to counting every penny, and I know he is blaming himself for this business not being a blinding success. (It's a family trait.)
     The Brick quietly listened when we got the phone call -- then smiled and said, "The great ones always have one failure." Didja hear that, Little Brother? It's not the end -- just a temporary setback.

I remind myself of that, as well, when I miss out on a teaching gig, or don't sell the book I'd planned on writing. Just temporary...that's all.

Spring? What Spring??

As of early Saturday afternoon, we have more than a foot of snow on the ground -- and it's still coming down. It literally happene...