Saturday, April 30, 2005

Well, I Guess I'm Glad She's Not Dead...

I was glad they found that woman from Georgia alive and well, but really folks. What is the deal with people sometimes?

My freshman year in college at the University of Washington, a girl from my class
disappeared out of the blue. The whole campus seemed to be out looking for her, and the TV crews had a field day with what could have happened to beautiful sorority girl Desiree.

A ticket agent at SeaTac came forward and called police, letting them know that she sold a ticket to Hawaii to a girl who fit that description. Nearly 2 weeks after she went missing, Desiree was found on Maui, sunning herself and apparently oblivious to the manhunt.

Her reason for running and not telling anyone? She was overwhelmed by the college
experience and wanted to get away from it all.

First of all, I understand wanting to get away from the stresses of living, and Lord knows, Maui is a great alternative to reality. Likewise with the recent news of Jennifer Wilbanks, the bride-to-be from Georgia -- I can understand all the stresses of wedding planning and being afraid to get married in front of 600 people.

But really. I would never put my family through something so terrifying as to go missing, leaving my husband to answer questions about the state of our relationship, and have everyone I know out looking for me and falling under possible suspicion of my disappearance. Especially after what happened to Lori Hacking and Laci Peterson in recent years.

I know it’s not a new thing to disappear without a trace and turn up somewhere else. I also know it’s not a new thing to disappear and find out later that your loved one’s body turns up in a ditch or a city dump, killed by a spouse or a random nutcase.

I can’t help but wonder if Ms. Wilbanks will end up marrying her fiance', or if he'll call it off since her actions show her true personality -- one that runs instead of deals with the stresses and strains of life by communicating her needs.

And why on earth did she run to Albuquerque? At the very least, if I ever run away, you can start looking for me in Bermuda.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Quilting


My Latest Work In Progress Posted by Hello

Part of making a quilt is patience...not just with the sewing, but sometimes in the design.

This quilt has been in the making for a while. It's sat in my sewing room while I've moved on and through other projects. Finally, I realized that I didn't like the way it was turning out, which is probably why I let it sit. This 8-pointed star is a rendition of an Amish pattern. I use the dark colors and black background similar to the Amish style in this case.

I went to the Amish Quilt Exhibition a couple of weeks ago, and it inspired me to finish this piece, changing the center so it had red in it, along with the red points on the outside. It felt like it finally had some balance it didn't have before. It will have a 9-patch border in the colors shown, with a black backing. I plan on machine quilting it.

When I made a similar one for my friend Meg's baby, I realized I REALLY liked the pattern and wanted to make another. I made this quilt without anyone in particular in mind...but as it's come along, I realized there's room in my house for one more quilt to keep.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Kitten Jack's Big Adventure


Jack, At The Door He Wants OUT Of... Posted by Hello

This story is about my kitten, Jack. Jack is about 8 months old now. He's getting bigger, and as always is extremely vocal. If you talk back to him and say "Oh Really, Jack?" he meows and talks even more. Please know in advance that no kittens were hurt during the telling of this story.
Well, Jack decided he would like to be outdoors. While Kitten Hopper lazily sits anywhere a patch of sunlight is, Jack plasters his face to the glass of any window. The other day, Brian said that I went to take Lucy for a walk, and Jack stood (on two legs) with his front paws plastered to the screen door, meowing at me as we walked away, and didn't stop til we were out of sight.

So, I decided on Saturday after more meowing in front of the door that I would put the leash on Jack -- just for a moment indoors -- so that I could see how he would respond to being on a leash, so that I could take him out to the back yard and let him walk around a bit and feel the grass under his feet without fear of losing him to the threats of the big city.

Well, that didn't go so well. The nanosecond I put the leash on Jack (one of those retractable ones), he stared at the line coming from his neck, and promptly bolted. Not, in a straight line, mind you, but under the dining room table with all those chairs and their legs. Within a few seconds, I could see he was going to get himself tangled up, so I let go of my end of the leash. Well, being a retractable leash, it started to retract -- right towards the already horrified Jack. He stared at it for a second as he realized this THING was chasing him...and he ran for the back basement stairs, with the leash bumping and chasing him all the way. The leash hit the door and bounced down the stairs, now ahead of Jack -- and it dragged him down with it. By the time I got downstairs to find out what had happened to the kitten, Jack had gotten the whole thing -- his collar and the leash, stuck, and it snapped off, and of course he was long gone. All I found when I got to the furnace was the collar and the leash, and no clue what happened to my kitten!

Well, he had bolted up the side of the basement wall where there's a spot that he apparently still fits into the heating duct. I called, and called, and called...no collar = no bell, so I couldn't hear him, and he was apparently rendered speechless...Finally, DH started the search with me (I was terrified that he had been hurt), and I finally heard a single meow -- coming from the heat duct.

I came upstairs and started opening the cold air return vents, and sure enough, there sat Jack. Of course I couldn't reach him easily, and he just sat and glared at me until I backed up enough to let him run out...which he did. After checking him to make sure he wasn't injured, he spent the rest of the day under the couch, looking at me with a hatred that I cannot explain.

Now, after all that trauma, he didn't "speak" to me or anyone else for the rest of the day. That night I went to Pueblo to go out with some friends, and when I returned the next day, all was well again. Below is a picture of Jack I took from outside...I was replacing the glass in this section of the screen door with some plexiglass, and he spent the whole time trying to figure out if he could escape. He did get out that day, which is why he wanted to get out again...

Now, I've heard they have halters for cats to use (I guess the whole "leash on the collar thing doesn't work for other cats either)...and I'm wondering... NAH.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Travel Agent Julie

Yesterday my aunt and my Mom said they would like to join us in Paris this September. We were thrilled, as I know they will love the city and I've just been dying to have someone else in my family travel to Europe and see the beautiful sights of the City of Light, as Paris is known.

There's a lot of fun and excitement in planning a trip...one might even say that half the fun is in the planning and looking forward to the trip itself. Yesterday, I spent most of the day looking for the best fares and booking tickets for everyone. I managed to get my Mom and Aunt on the same flight to Paris out of Houston (they're meeting there from other places on the West Coast).

I also booked my husband and my tickets as well. While that part was relatively easy, the hotel I have reserved for four now needs to change to six people travelling, and that seems to be where the fun comes in.

Christophe, the reservations guy at the hotel in Rue Cler where we're staying was a bit confused. I tried to make another reservation for my Mom and Aunt, and we're running into a language problem. He knows French and "Hotel English", and I know English and absolutely no "Hotel French".

Ah, Christophe, all I know is "hello", "please" and "thank you" in your language. I'm sorry to be an American with limited language skills. Perhaps today I'll bust out the French dictionary I have and try to pick up a couple more words every day until I get there.

First thing this morning I received an e-mail confirming my 2 rooms, when in fact we need 3. Well, I said "we now need 3 rooms for so-and-so", naming each of the pairs, and reiterating the dates.

This is one of those times when I feel a certain amount of nervousness. Paris hotels book up quickly in September, particularly anyone who is mentioned with glowing recommendations from Rick Steves, travel guru. Of course I want to make sure it's right, since I don't want my Mom and my In-Laws and me standing on a Paris street corner with nowhere to go.

I just got another three e-mails, only one is correct, and it appears I have more than one room added. So I got offline and called him on the phone. "Bonjour, Parlay vou Anglais" I say in my best French to date. "Yes," Christophe says. "Is this Christophe?" I ask. "Yes," Christophe says. Well, we talk a bit. He said he sent me an e-mail a half hour ago confirming everything, and I say "yes, but it says we're arriving on the 19th, and we are coming on the 18th." Yes, Christophe says. Don't worry. You have three rooms on Sunday the 18th for 7 days.

"Great," I say. "Merci" (using my last known French word unless I can work the word "Croissant" into the conversation).

OK. Now, maybe, we're set to go.

Monday, April 18, 2005

"Relax"

I got laid off from my job in late February. Since then, I've dutifully applied for jobs, interviewed with a couple of places, and gotten one rejection letter.

It's odd, this space of unemployment I'm in. You get this feeling that the whole world is going to work in their cubes, and I continue to sit in front of my computer, wearing yesterday's sweatshirt, not bothering to put my contacts in, and feeling like my sole purpose in life right now is to keep my two cats company during the day.

It's something of a rollercoaster, not the big ones, just sort of one of those kiddie coasters that don't go too far up or down. I have days where I enjoy being off work, keeping house and working on little projects here and there. Then there are days like today where I drink too much coffee and start getting nervous about my future.

It's hard to put a finger on it. Perhaps it's just that feeling of being an outsider in a workaholic world. Perhaps it's my own Protestant work ethic that says "I should be doing something".

I also don't want to take a job just for the sake of working. I've done that before and wasted two years of my life here, two years of my life there, just because I had a job and didn't see the need to change it.

I certainly have gone in phases of letting life happen TO me, then having phases where I take charge and make some positive moves. Right now, I'm definitely in limbo as I consider what my next direction will be.

Meanwhile, I should relax and just think about what I want to be when I grow up. But "Relax" is a four-letter word to me...especially when other people tell me to do it.

In reality, I want to work for a company or organization that helps people -- and I don't mean "helping people finance their house"...I mean more of a social service.
I don't have to get rich doing it...I just need enough to pay my bills and do a little traveling now and then.

Is that so bad?

I think I need to plug in my yoga dvd and breathe.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Things That Scare Me.

Is this middle age coming on?

Today I volunteered for several hours for the 9News Health Fair.

9News is the local NBC affiliate, and they sponsor these health fairs around the state where people can get bloodwork done, have their prostates checked, breast exams done, bone density scanned and get various other things done.

Well, I was Bone Density room gal, punching buttons on the computer as literally hundreds of people came through my room where I scanned their foot, then had them talk to the person who could interpret the numbers to see if they had osteoperosis either existing or on the horizon.

In the faces of all those people I saw few youngsters (a couple of gals in their 20s with their Moms), a couple of women in their early 30s, but most are boomers -- those in their 40s and up.

These were not rich or poor, ok, some were -- but for the most part these were decently educated working class people, and they had to get to a free health fair and line up at 7 a.m. to get their bloodwork because they either lacked insurance or their deductible was so high that they couldn't afford it otherwise.

What the hell is this country thinking?

I wasn't at a soup kitchen for health care. These are not normally needy people. They're not really down and out, or in any other way needing a handout. But they came in droves and waited patiently in long lines to be seen by me and so many other volunteers.

This is just one of the breakdowns I see in our social safety nets that bothers me more and more. I start wondering questions like "What the heck is health care going to be like by the time I'm 95?

Is this the kind of crap that keeps middle-aged people up at night? Is this why I wake up at 2 a.m. and can't go back to sleep? Because I start thinking things like "This country's going to hell in a handbasket"?

Yeah. It felt good to volunteer and interact and meet people. It also scared the crap out of me how many there were.

Yeah, when my President says the middle class is just fine and dandy, he oughta - oh never mind.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

One Small Step for Juliekind...

I've been doing Weight Watchers for almost 3 months now. In that time I've dropped 23 lbs.

Today I checked a Body Mass Index calculator today, and my BMI has dropped from 28.8 (overweight) to 25.4 -- that's within .4 of "normal/healthy".

I'm a big believer, for obvious reasons, in the WeightWatcher's philosophy. First, I'm not doing any damage by eating no carbs and all fat, or vice versa. As it turns out, fat and carbs work together to store energy (fat) in your body, so if you just eat one or the other, you're bound to lose weight, at least in the short term.

WW makes sure you eat a balanced diet...one that allows me to have a cookie or other dessert, but encourages me to eat more veggies and other "low" or "no points" foods. You also get extra points if you exercise each day.

I have always identified with Oprah -- who has struggled with her weight much more than me -- but said that she hates exercise, but does it anyway.

As I've seen the results of my work show up in my ever-loosening clothes and increased energy, I am inspired to continue. Plus, I figure, with no current job, I have NO excuse not to eat right and exercise!

By the time I go to Paris this fall, I want to be down to my goal weight, and need to buy a whole new wardrobe!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Back To The City of Light


The Eiffel Tower Posted by Hello

We're going back.

In October of 2003, I took this picture of The Eiffel Tower at night. I took a lot of pictures of the "Le Tour Eiffel" while I was there. It's hard not to.

We recently learned that we will be able to go back to Paris, we had hoped to do it this September, but weren't sure if we'd be able to afford it. In the past couple of days we found out we can.

I've seen New York, London, Paris, Rome, Athens and Istanbul. While there are still many many cities to visit, Paris is on the short list of places I'd love to go for a week, put my suitcase down, and make myself a temporary local.

Despite all the rumors of rude French people, particularly Parisiens, we found them to be friendly and helpful. We started our conversations with "Bonjour!" and they immediately switch to English, since they can tell on that one word that my French is absolutely worse than their command of my language.

When we were there last time, I got sick and had to cut back on all we could see in a few days. I spent all of four hours in The Louvre, long enough to see the Venus de Milo, Mona Lisa and a few other points of interest.

We missed so much we swore we'd go back. So now we are.

Tres cool if you ask me!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

A Day With The Amish


A Quilting Day Posted by Hello

I quilt. A lot.

The quilt that my kitty is sitting on is one I made for my sister for her 40th birthday. Slowly, I have made a quilt for every member of my family. It’s my turn to make another one for me. I needed some inspiration, so today I went to the Denver Art Museum, because I heard they were having an Amish Quilt Exhibition.

That, and being unemployed, I had the whole afternoon in the quilt exhibition, and a little time out to see the rest of the museum.

I have made many Amish inspired quilts -- the tumbling blocks, the ocean waves, just to name a couple. I was surprised at how many of them I’d already made. But then there was the level of detail and stitching that I’ve never done, and the darker monotone colors, where I usually prefer prints -- the brighter the better.

The Amish Quilt collection was stunning. I felt like I was looking at paintings on the walls instead of blankets -- some with pieces so small I peered closer for a look to make sure they were really THAT small.

I love quilting, and more specifically, I love giving them away. It’s one of the few gifts that is unique to me -- one that I can share with my friends and family that I know will be appreciated. Whenever I get panicked that I’m too practical and not artistic enough I just go look at my 2,000-piece hand-quilted double wedding ring quilt. Then I get over it. At least I know I’m crazy enough to make that quilt -- once anyway.

I can hardly wait to pick out the next pattern for my quilt.

Check out www.equiltblocks.com for free patterns of quilts, along with different color variations of classic and new patterns. Then decide to make one, even if it’s just a single block.

I dare you.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Northwesterly Winds

It doesn't seem to matter how long I live in Colorado, I am still amazed at the weather and what the clouds do around here.

It amazes me how quickly the weather changes here...As I walked the dog at the lake this afteroon, I noticed the gathering clouds to the Northwest (where most of our weather comes from). The ominousness of it all still makes me wonder how the pioneers made it here, with the weather changing so quickly, and their shelter to be sure, less substantial than my home.

We're expecting anywhere from a foot to 2 feet of snow in the next couple of days. The pioneers here sure didn't have the benefit of radar satellites to warn them of the impending storm.

Late spring storms like this are a boon to Colorado's water supply, and fairly common. In fact, it's a myth that we get hit with a lot of snow through the winter...most of it hits in March and April. It is amazing to me how quickly Coloradans are able to out like ants whose farm has been destroyed, although people will be late for work on Monday, it won't be because the highways aren't cleared.

The weatherman has been earning his keep these days. The only thing I wish he or she would do differently is not say things like "Northwesterly winds will be 15-25 miles per hour." Does that mean the wind is coming out of the Northwest, or headed in that direction? It's a mystery to me. Not a big one, mind you, but a mystery nonetheless.

I wonder if my escape artist cat will be quite so anxious to be outside tomorrow if it snows 2 feet.

I'm going to have to get him on a leash and find out.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Jack The Kitten Smells Freedom


Jack The Kitten Smells Freedom Posted by Hello

Jack's our new kitten. He's getting bigger these days -- at 7 months he's long and lean, but still looks kittenish.

Jack talks. Jack lets you know what he wants. He sat at the door commenting on my progress as I was working at replacing a couple of broken plexiglass panes in the screen door. These panes are only 3 1/2 inches wide, and when I got back from the glass shop ordering the replacements, it didn't take 10 minutes for Jack to figure out his skinny little kittenness could escape. I heard a shudder as he squeezed through the door, turned around, and saw Jack sniffing around the front yard.

Jack would like to be an outdoor cat - but we live in the city, so I just can't let him run loose, or his life expectancy drops sharply. And he's so cute and cool, who wouldn't want him to live the longest possible life? But the little squirt just begs to be let out. Of course he's less than thrilled with me on that one issue.

Just call me The Warden.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Puppies and Kids

My dog Lucy and I were walking down Tennyson Street near the post office, where there is a cool new techie/art school for kids.

We came upon the school where a long line of little kids (about kindergarten age) were heading back into school from their play yard.

Sure enough, as the little kids saw her I heard the teacher say "leave the dog alone, guys". Well, we made it past the whole line of kids except one little guy, and Lucy just whined (she loves kids). I heard the teacher say "aaawww", so I stopped and let the kid pet her.

Well, this little guy had his arms around her neck in no time, and my dog was licking his face, and the little guy closed is eyes and just grinned. A few other kids came up and petted her, but the little guy at the back of the line held on and beamed this beautiful smile as Lucy licked his face some more.

For a moment there I saw pure happiness, both for my dog and for the little boy who I imagine wants a puppy like that at home. I sure hope he has one, but if he doesn't I know he at least got to play with a dog at school today.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

His Popeness

I've watched with interest all the Pope coverage this week. If you've been in a cave this past week, Pope John Paul II died last weekend, and the world has been converging on The Vatican City in Rome to pay their respects.

I was raise Lutheran, and yet for no particular reason I have always watched with great interest the Catholic Church. I remember the first time I asked my Dad why The Apostle's Creed says "one catholic and apostolic church" (all lower case), when we're clearly not Catholic.

Well, it turns out that "catholic" means "all", at least that's what my Dad told me.

I was married once to a cultural Catholic. With 6 brothers and sisters born in 7 years, my ex's family had the appearance of being a good Catholic family, but I don't think a single one of them actually attend any church at all.

When I was an exchange student in Brazil in the mid 1980s, I had the opportunity to go to a couple of Catholic weddings and I was amazed at how Brazilians, while technically Catholic (every town has a cathedral or smaller parish in the center of town), few of them take Catholicism seriously, at least until the Pope plans a trip to their country.

As CNN reports, there are an estimated 1 billion Catholics in the world. That's roughly 1/6th of the world's population. I can't help but wonder how many of those are simply "cultural Catholics".

Not that there's anything particularly wrong with that.

Ever since I went to a good Irish Catholic funeral, I decided that that was the kind of funeral I wanted. A nice big procession with the priest swinging that smoky thing. But since I'm neither Catholic nor Irish (nor do I know enough Irish people to fill a church) this might be a dream that won't go on to be a reality.

However, when I visited The Vatican on a European vacation with my husband less than two years ago, I was further intrigued by the Catholic Church. I saw St. Peter's Basilica, the Cistine Chapel, and the Vatican Museum, and can't help but have a deep respect for the Church.

That said, as a child of a Lutheran Minister, I wouldn't be here if my Dad hadn't been allowed to marry because of Church rules. As the niece of another Lutheran minister, I realize that as a woman I wouldn't be able to be a Lutheran minister like my aunt did. And as a married woman myself, I would have balked at someone telling me I couldn't use birth control to plan my family.

I wonder sometimes if the Catholic Church will ever "get with the times" on these and other issues. If there's one thing I don't like about the Church, it's that the pure and simple fact that I am missing male equipment makes me a 2nd class citizen, unable to participate fully in the Church's heirarchy.

It's for that reason and many others that I watch Catholics and the Church with great interest. I guess it's kind of like watching one of the primates in the zoo.
Now don't get all upset for me making such a comparison. I'm not calling Catholics monkeys or anything. I just think we're all different, and like all the animals of the earth, we may be tied together by evolutionary changes, but it doesn't make us all alike.

And that's ok by me.

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