Thursday, April 17, 2014

Time for an Update

I realize that I've been silent about our situation and a few of you have very kindly sent me emails and notes checking on us. It's time for an update, although there really isn't much that's newsworthy.

Patrick worked through the end of March closing down the local operation, disposing of furniture and equipment, shipping the stock to other stores, and terminating all the services they used locally. During the last week, he was asked at the last minute to rent a truck and drive the remaining equipment and stock first to Houston and then to Lake Charles, Louisiana. It was a difficult experience. It would have been much easier if he could have just walked away and been finished when they notified him of the impending closure. But, they compensated him for the extra work, so it was a worthwhile endeavor.

So, even though we knew it was coming for several weeks, he woke up on April 1st to the reality of being unemployed for the first time since 1979. I have to say, he's been very disciplined. He gets up with me every morning and gets dressed. He's taken over the laundry (okay, I sort it for him) and the housework. He's also been working on cleaning out the garage. I must confess, our garage has always been a mess. It's where we tend to drop things. But when he moved the remnants of 30+ years from his office to our home, it filled it to the point that my car won't fit in until it's cleaned. Fortunately, the kids are coming in the weekend after Easter to do the heavy lifting. Hopefully, my car should have it's home back after that.

He's been meeting weekly with a job coach who is helping him plan his job search and learn how to look for a job in the 21st century. That's a big plus considering how much the process has changed since 1979. He's learning about, LinkedIn, and the plethora of other job sites. He's already been on two interviews, one of which was very promising, but he hasn't heard anything from them yet. The other one wanted him to be a door-to-door salesman for an electric provider ... all commission with no benefits. No thank you!

As for me, I've been able to increase the number of days I'm working. Rather than the three days a week I usually work, I've been working almost every day. It's not much extra money, but it makes me feel better psychologically. I'm also very busy most evenings and weekends with sewing and alterations. And, just to be clear, we're okay for now. Patrick's severance package will run through the end of July and that includes our medical and dental insurance. We're very hopeful that he will have a job by then.

We are very grateful for all the people who have offered to help in his job search. One of Katy's lifelong friends has even hooked him up with a recruiter she uses in her business. We have really found that people are very kind and helpful. I'll let you know as we move through the process or as things change.

Now for today's news. I have a black eye. That's right. It looks like someone punched me. Yesterday morning I opened the upper cabinet to reach for a coffee pod. When I did, a metal lid fell off the top shelf and hit me right on the top of my cheekbone at the eye socket. Here's what it looked like immediately after it happened.

A day later, it's significantly darker and wider and has blended into the dark circles that are always under my eyes anyway, making it look much worse than it is. It really does look like someone punched me in the eye.

We went out shopping this afternoon and I noticed an interesting phenomenon related to my black eye. When I saw someone I know, they would ask me what happened to my eye. But, interestingly, strangers looked away and didn't make eye contact. I'm guessing they assumed that I had been punched. They looked away rather than ask if I needed help or if I was okay. I'm kind of conflicted about that. I don't really think strangers should get all up in my business, but I'd like to think that if I needed help someone would offer.

We're headed for San Antonio tomorrow. It's Katy's birthday and we're going to take her out to lunch. Then we're going to babysit tomorrow night so Travis can take her out for her birthday.

I hope you have a great weekend.

The Magician's Cat Print Campaign is Live!

As I promised yesterday, I'm letting you know that the Kickstart campaign for a printing of The Magician's Cat is live and ready for your support.

Here's Monica's note:

The Magician's Cat Print Campaign is Live!

I just pressed the launch button on Kickstarter to try to make a print version of The Magician's Cat! Here's the link:

The campaign includes:
  • Loads of original art rewards 
  • Stretch goals that give backers cool bonuses! 
  • Copies donated to Animal Welfare for fundraising! 
I hope you'll take a look and tell some friends! And if you enjoy my work and want to help me keep making art, make a pledge! :)

And of course the free ebook is online now -- available in multi formats for your eReading pleasure. Thank you so much to everyone who helped make this happen!
If you are able, I hope you will support Monica's efforts.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I've Got a Treat for You

My cousin James' daughter, Monica, is an artist who works in Austin, Texas. I got a note from James this evening letting me know that Monica is giving away downloads of a children's book that she wrote and illustrated. I contacted him right away and got permission to share it with you.

Here's what James said:
Some of you may be aware that in high school, Monica wrote and illustrated a children's book titled The Magician's Cat.  Light and whimsical, it tells about a shy cat with a strong work ethic and devotion to duty who struggles to find some balance in life.  (The underlying "message" is a soft sell; the appeal in the book is in the light verse and the artwork).

Last year, Monica decided to update the artwork (and create some new drawings) and to publish the book as a FREE ebook and launched a successful Kickstarter project to fund the efforts.  Earlier this week, she made the book available online.  
You can access files to download to your computer, your iPad, or your Kindle by going to:
Downloadable pdf

ePub ebook download

Mobi ebook download
James only had two requests:
1) Let family and friends with young children and grandchildren know about this book and how they can access it.  The grownups will appreciate the artwork as well!
2) Tell them also that on Thursday, April 17 (noonish), Monica is launching another Kickstarter to fund a print run of the book for those who prefer to have a hardcopy for the kids' library.  If any of you fall into that category, you can assure yourself of one of the first copies with a small pledge to the Kickstarter campaign.
I will publish a link to the Kickstarter project as soon as it's available. If you are inclined to pledge, sooner is better.  A good start at the opening of the project builds momentum and may make the difference between a successful (funded) project and one that doesn't make its goal.

I'm also including a link to Monica's blog, No Borders Studio. You might want to have a look at her other projects and illustrations.

I hope you enjoy this beautiful book. Please feel free to pass the word about the free download.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Change is Hard

Life has thrown us a big, giant curve ball. We found out last week that the company Patrick works for is closing their local office. That means after 35 years of working the same job, he will be unemployed at the end of March. There will be a modest severance package, but we don't have all the details of that yet.

We are both having a hard time coming to grips with this new reality and working through what our next steps might be. We are not quite old enough to just go ahead and take retirement. The most troubling aspect is the loss of our health insurance.

Facing forced career change is never easy. That's especially true at 62 years old. I must admit that I'm very angry. It seems to me that this company has little regard for an employee who has been a loyal worker for many years. I know that I've got to work my way through this anger in order to make this into a positive change.

We have only just begun to explore some alternatives. I'd like to use this as an opportunity to move closer to Our Little Princesses. But, truthfully, we will see where a job opportunity arises and follow the work.

We have always met our financial responsibilities head on. It is very important to us to pay our bills on time and to live within our means. The prospect of losing our income and having to juggle and stretch to meet our obligations is scary. I've been trying to do a little research and gather advice about how to prepare for unemployment and loss of income.

I know it's been a long time since I've posted. I just don't seem to have enough hours in the day. I've taken today off to try to get some rest. For the past few days, I've come home from work and literally fallen asleep sitting straight upright in my chair. I'm gong to try to get in a trip to the grocery store today and maybe do a little sewing for myself if I don't spend the entire day sleeping.

If you have any advice or tips for us in dealing with this situation we're facing, I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Day After Christmas

It's the day after Christmas. All the packages have been opened. Way too many sweets have been eaten and there are still way too many leftovers. I don't really have time for much of a blog post. Our Little Princesses are still visiting along with their parents. But I'm taking a quick moment to share this very sweet scene that I captured with Grandad and 2-year-old Junie this morning.

I thought it was just precious. I hope you're enjoying your holidays.

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Coastal Christmas Tree

I can't believe that it's December 23rd already and I haven't posted since we got back from vacation around the middle of November. I have been crazy busy with sewing and alterations along with substitute teaching. I love all of it, and we can certainly use the money, but I really miss writing and hearing from all of you.

Last Friday was an early-release day so we got out of school at noon. After that, I picked up my very good friend, Janna, for lunch and our annual git exchange. I took this opportunity to photograph Janna's beautiful Christmas tree. She did her tree with the same theme last year and I was hoping she would do it again this year.

The white tree features a beach theme with white lights and blue garland. This year she painted and added the beach picture to accent the wall behind the tree. I think it's a nice touch.

All of the ornaments on the tree are in keeping with the beach theme. There are sandcastles, mermaids, octopi, crabs, ships, starfish, and many other beautiful ornaments. The tree topper is a big blue starfish. The most interesting ornament on the tree is a doll that was a gift from one of Janna's friends. Her friend, who is now very advanced in age, owned the doll since her childhood. A close-up look shows how delicate and fragile it is. Even though she's made of plastic, the doll looks to be held together with old elastic thread.

I fell in love with Janna's tree last year and I like it even more now. I hope you've enjoyed seeing it.

Our Little Princesses will arrive before noon tomorrow and I still have much to get done. There are gifts to wrap and beds to make. I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas surrounded by those you love the most.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Learn the Address

I'm a day late with this post, but I just heard about this project today. Filmmaker Ken Burns has challenged all Americans to commit the Gettysburg Address to memory. It's a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. You can even go to Learn the Address and upload a video of yourself reciting or reading the Address.

My favorite thing is the mash-up of all of our living presidents and some celebrities reciting the address.

I grew up in the days when rote learning was the standard. I can still recite many of the things I learned in school. I know the Preamble to the Constitution, the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, the Concord Hymn, Hiawatha, the books of the Bible, and a few others. But I can only remember about half of the Gettysburg Address.

I'm making a pledge right now. I will memorize the entire Gettysburg Address and post it on the web site. Will you take the pledge too?

And, while we're at it, how about we ask all athletes who represent the USA at the Olympics to memorize the words to The Star Spangled Banner. I don't think that's unreasonable.