Saturday, February 26, 2005

And just like that, she was gone...

My Grandma was special.

A force to be reckoned with, she had 94 long years of life on this planet.

When she was born in 1911, people were just beginning to ride in cars, World War I (The war to end all wars) had yet to break out. There were still plenty of people alive who would be able to recall The Civil War.

Grandma came to see us every summer, and spent lots of Christmases with us. She was the grandmother most kids wanted -- one that would go anywhere with you and spoil you rotten.

But she didn't just spoil us, she tried to instill important lessons in us too...I remember when I was about 5 years old, she took me to the hospital when Grandpa was dying to show me what emphysema does to someone and caution me about the dangers of smoking.

She took us to the Oregon Coast, down to The Enchanted Village, or over to Aunt Bea's to say hello (she wasn't my aunt, but don't tell Grandma that, if you were a friend you were like family).

Sometimes for Easter Mom & Dad would send us to see Grandma and spend the week with her. She'd make matching dresses for my sister and me, and of course my big sister would be horrified at the thought of being dressed just like me.

She let us dress up in her old catillion gowns and we'd sit in the back of her 1970 Pontiac and she'd drive us around town so we wave at people and we could feel like princesses. Even my sister liked that.

There were many trips to Dunkin' Donuts up the street from her house, where she'd let us eat as many donuts as we wanted. If Mom had only known, she would have been mad.

Grandma's greatest gift to me was that she taught me to sew. When I was 7 she put me on phone books to reach the sewing machine, and 30 years later I've made countless quilts, outfits, wedding dresses and other things for people -- all because she took the time to share her gift with me.

I know she sewed well into her 80s for others as well, and I know it was hard on her when she couldn't do it anymore.

She had a way about her, and anyone who knew her knows exactly what I'm talking about. She lived life how she wanted to, and sometimes dragged us along with her.

Even though the Grandma Peterson I've known for years has been gone for a long time now as life faded from her, she will still be missed.

Thanks for everything, Gram.

I love you.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Job Hunt

Well, isn't this fun.

I've been laid off for less than a week, and I'm looking for work. I'm learning that the unemployment office requires you to look for work by making five contacts per week, and today I can't find anything to apply for.

I interviewed for a job at a newspaper not far from my house, and was told a month ago that I would get a second interview. I've called, e-mailed and tried to stay "in touch" as I know the job could take forever for them to fill, and yet nothing. I've been reassured several times by someone who works at that company that it can take a month for them to get me in, so why did the hiring manager say he'd get me in at the end of the week? Another person in this world living on Fantasy Island, I guess.

Meanwhile, I wait. I never was a very patient person, and being unemployed really hasn't helped that cause any. I want to be working now, and if not now, I'd like to know when.

I made myself a deal. Every day I would do some form of exercise so my butt doesn't look like it did working my last office job when I take my next one. I also promised myself I'd apply for one job a day (minimum), and that I would walk the dog.

So far I've been able to keep that end of the bargain. I've lost 3 pounds in the past week (sorry if this sounds too much like Bridget Jones' diary as she calculates drinks drunk, smokes smoked, and weight lost and regained). I guess that's a good deal. But the only jobs I see in the paper this morning are to work for the local newspaper selling them in stores as people come in, which I'm just a tad overqualified for, and a job so far south that I'd be sitting in the traffic cluster called "T-Rex" -- a highway expansion project south of Denver that would take years off my life trying to get to, and it's not even close to full time work.

So perhaps today will be a trip downtown. I've already showered, so it shouldn't take much work to dress and get out of the house for a while.

Meanwhile, I look at my cats -- Jack the kitten playing with my slippers, attacking the doorjam, and knawing on the bench that holds his food bowl. Ah, to be a cat, and only need to obsess when the food bowl is empty.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Indignance vs. intolerance

This isn't an easy blog for the day, but I have to get it out of my head and out here on the web where others can read it and help me chew on it.

I have an interesting family dilemma going on. I have a brother who's gay and has been out of the closet for some time. Now, we're not here to talk about his gay-ness. It's there. Let's all just get over it. The question for me is about some friends and family members who are struggling with this, and how he responds to it.

On one hand, I am entirely sympathetic to him -- knowing full well he stayed in the closet for years, I don't think we need to shove him back in every Christmas so someone else in the family doesn't have to deal with his gayness. On the other hand, I know how conservative some friends and family members are, and that they do occasionally speak up on the matter, but really are just quietly uncomfortable with discussing the whole topic. So far nobody had started any holy wars about this issue.

Well, until recently. A family friend sent this brother a book titled something unbelievably hilarious to those of us who are at least understanding of the homosexual community. It read "You Don't Have To Be Gay!" Packed with pseudo facts and anecdotal stories of gay men gone straight, it was a personal affront to my brother, natch.

The thing is, no one in the family sent this...and yet my brother has recently decided to discuss this issue with everyone in the family, fanning the embers of a conversation that no one really wants to have except him. On one hand, I see why -- I mean some people's bigotry or biases against something is in my view, not something to be condoned or encouraged. On the other hand, I feel that those who are more conservative on some issues aren't necessarily bad people, we just happen to agree on some very important issues. For that reason, for example, I will not leave any children I have to be raised by a more conservative member of the family, but rather a like-minded sibling if I were to die prematurely.

I guess for me it comes down to the difference between me being indignant at someone's behavior and beliefs or intolerant of them. I do believe it is imperative (especially in this day and age) that people learn to be more tolerant of each other. I can defend my ideas to the ground (act indignant that people are being racist or classist, for example), but it doesn't mean I have to be intolerant of them. In keeping the conversation going, more progress can be made than by slamming the door on the relationship. I realize that this could be construed as complacency, but that's not what I mean at all.

I don't think it's a matter of semantics. I think it's a matter of accepting that other people have different beliefs while still defending your own. Intolerance instead says "you're wrong, and you're wrong until you believe what I do." Sure, the people who sent this book were out of line and should be talked to, but expecting anything to come of it seems a bit naive.

Meanwhile, the loud voice in my head keeps saying ala Rodney King of the 1990s riots "Can't we all just get along?"

Saturday, February 19, 2005

"Panic Won't Pay The Mortgage"

I just got laid off from my job on Friday. I knew it was coming, but it didn't save me from having a hard time with it.

Work had slowed to a crawl as my job duties were transferred to people out of state, and I found myself often walking the dog in the mid-afternoon, starting dinner before my husband got home -- living the life of a part time stay-at-home wife. I tried enjoy the time because I think everyone sees people walking their dogs in the mid-afternoon and wish they could too, but instead they have meetings or other places they're driving to.

But when D-Day came, for some reason it felt strange. I'm sure on Monday when I wake up with nowhere I have to be it will feel even stranger.

This morning I realized that we have a $1,200 tax bill along with my unemployment...that it is going to be tight in the coming weeks unless I find a job quickly. As I started to tell my husband how nervous I was about this (perhaps overstating my feelings by saying I was "scared out of my mind", which in reality I don't think I've ever been), my husband had the perfect words for me: "Panicking Won't Pay the Mortgage".

Well, if he's not right again. I guess if I sat around and got all depressed and didn't leave the house for several weeks, that's not going to get me a job either. Ha.

My husband is one of those people who can tell me "It's going to be all right" and I believe him. He has a way of making me realize that we're in this together, and despite the ups and downs our lives have taken these past 5 years of marriage, we're a team.

I got an internet joke today about how it was a "chain letter" but instead of a letter, we were to pack up our husbands, send them to the person at the top of the list, and in a week I'd get 15,124 more husbands, and one of them had to be better than the one I had. I laughed as I read it to my spouse...I wouldn't trade him for anything, not even 15,124 other choices no matter how rich or otherwise different they may be.

Yeah, I'm lucky.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Ode to Chocolate

I am a chocoholic by nature. It occurs to me to give it up, but then my little addicted brain voice says "Why would you want to do THAT?"

Instead, I've learned to manage my habit. It's the last one I have, you see. I quit smoking so many years ago I forgot when, and I only drink alcohol occasionally, so chocolate is all I've got left for a vice. (Let's not talk about coffee, 'cause I can quit that any time I want).

Chocolate does not need to be interfered with. By that, I mean by additives of nuts, fruit, or other of what I call "thinners"...Chocolate should be pure, unadulterated and unencumbered by any other flavors, unless it's by more chocolate.

I make a double chocolate cookie that has insane amounts of chocolate in the dough, and twice the chips of Tollhouse cookies. I call it "Chocolate Held Together By More Chocolate Cookies". They're a big hit at parties. My husband has friends who will come to my parties and stand directly by the plate and eat them in succession until they're gone.

One time a child of a co-worker came by selling chocolate bars. All he had left were the ones with big almonds in them (figures). As I opened it up at home later that evening, I told my husband that I didn't think chocolate needed nuts in it, and his response was "well, what if the nuts need the chocolate?" He's got a point. But I do not need to help the nuts.

Some of the people I feel most sorry for in the world (at least in the category of those living with some sort of dietary restriction) are those who are actually allergic to chocolate. I wonder what life would be like if I liked chocolate but couldn't eat it.

I think that would be about as bad as having a warmongering Texan in the White House.

Ugh.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Ever wonder why you were somewhere, then had the question answered?

I've been working for a company that is well outside my normal industry for more than 2 years now. I started there as a temp, and was hired on permanently shortly thereafter. I never felt like I belonged there, never felt a sense of permanence or allegiance to the company, but it was a paycheck.

I finally started working in the marketing department a year ago and had been having a wonderful time with a great new boss. However, we learned late last year that they were moving our jobs to corporate headquarters out of state, a place few if any of us really would want to move.

Well, this week is my last week, and as the transition has been happening, I had less and less work to do. I offered to help out the training manager with putting together some binders and other projects for an upcoming seminar she's doing.

Last Friday, as we worked together, she told me that she hadn't been feeling well for some time, and that she felt like there were "a ton of bricks" on her chest.

I told her that while I didn't want to scare her -- that was a similar description my Dad gave 12 years ago -- and he didn't see a doctor (famous last words: "I'll be fine") -- and that he had died suddenly several weeks later due to a heart problem.

Well, that got her attention -- she called her doctor, was asked to come in, and I didn't hear from her all weekend. Come to find out Monday morning she had had a heart attack!

I don't know why -- I guess because I figured if someone else had been there maybe they wouldn't have said what I said to her -- or had a similar experience to jump-start her into going in...but what if I hadn't been there? What if I had said nothing, or just said "oh, just rest up this weekend, you'll feel better"?

I suddenly felt like the time I spent at this company was worth it all...maybe, just maybe, my saying something had helped save a life, or just prevent her from having more damage done.

Of course most people know that chest pain is not something to play around with -- but when it's YOU -- do you think "Oh, it'll go away" or that "It can't happen to me".

Boy, I've been there a few times. I let a sore throat get so bad I couldn't eat -- and by the time I got to the Ear Nose & Throat specialist, I had absessed tonsils that were threatening to close my airway. Left untreated, the doctor said the "mortality rate was 40%". That got my attention, and my tonsils came out.

Have you been ignoring a sign?

My favorite website for health -- the Colorado Quitnet -- for those who smoke or have other tobacco addictions, this is one web site that will help you kick the habit one final time: www.quitnet.com

Sunday, February 13, 2005

You're Going to Laugh at the Romance of this...

My husband took me down to Lowe's yesterday and had me pick out a new kitchen faucet. We live in a 95-year-old house in which no home improvement is inexpensive or easy -- so this was quite a feat.

He's under strict orders to not buy me jewelry unless I ask for it, and when I say "I want a vacuum cleaner" for Christmas or "We need a new faucet for Valentine's Day -- It is NOT a trap! I REALLY want that!

I included another photo of the kitties because hey, kittens are cute. Even big 20-lb. ones like the one on the left. Happy Valentine's Day!



My Valentine's Day Present & Gratuitous Kitties Photo. Posted by Hello

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Jack & Quilts

This is a picture of two of my favorite things -- I have many to show you, but these are two of my favorites: My kitten, Jack, and my major hobby: quilting. We'll talk about Jack in a later post, but here's what I learned about making a quilt.

My grandmother, who's still cantankerous and kicking at 94, taught me how to sew when I was 7 years old. She sat me down on phone books to reach the height of the table, and set me loose on Mom's 1960 Singer, which I ruthlessly stole when I left home for college at 18. I loved sewing, and I was a natural...She taught me the basics of reading patterns and buying fabric, and off I went -- first learning to make clothes, then becoming the family mender.

When I was 13 and visiting a friend in the family at college, I saw a quilt she and her Mom had made for her before she went to school. Made of plain squares, I took one look at it and said "I can do that". So my first quilt was turned out round about 1980 for my brother as he went to college -- longer and thinner than it should have turned out, but full of Dad's shirts, sister's skirt and a bedspread for a backing. Over the years I've made quilts for everyone in my immediate family -- for friends' babies, and the like. The one below is a recent one I made for my sister.

Quilting is a unique art -- one that requires you to do math (yes, you have to remember some of that geometry like A2+B2=C2), be creative, have an eye for color, and well, a fair amount of patience. You also have to be willing to make mistakes. But people I know who have never sewn before can be taught -- it's all really a matter of taking the time to try.

Favorite quilting web site: www.equiltblocks.com

What have you done that's creative lately?




Meet Jack Posted by Hello

The First Post of What Will Be Years of Blogness

I'm new to this...so new, in fact, that I am hardly prepared to say much today...but this is exciting! I guess we'll start with an introduction:

My name is Jules, Julie, really...but everyone calls me Jules. I love where I live, and I love to travel, hike, play and have fun. I am happiest when I make people laugh. I'm not afraid to look stupid in the pursuit of making people laugh either.

I am married -- for 5 years now -- to my high school sweetheart, who came back into my life after 10 years' absence...we live in Denver, Colorado, where we have a house and pets (2 cats and a dog).

I travelled a lot last year -- I got to go home to the Northwest (Seattle/Portland area) a couple of times, went to New York City to visit my actor-brother Joel. The year before that I went to Europe.

One of my pet peeves is the recent lack of tolerance for those who wish to express their political views -- even negative ones -- in the wake of 9/11. I am shocked, dismayed and frankly -- pissed off -- at the attacks on those who speak their minds. I wish everyone understood the importance of Free Speech as a foundation of our society...if we're not free to criticize our government, NO ONE is free.

I will spend my blog time wisely -- I will do my best to entertain, inform, delight and perhaps make you mad sometimes, but I promise you, there will be rays of sunshine when you will actually catch yourself thinking about something in a whole new light.

Now, back to work with you.

My husband, dog and I backpacking in the Maroon Bells Wilderness outside of Aspen, Colorado Posted by Hello

Julie Hiking in The Cascade Mountains Posted by Hello

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