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Wednesday
Nov072018

First Snowstorm of the Season

We got the predicted storm overnight:

What you can't see in the pic is the wind. It's pretty ugly and blustery, and as I write this post, I am listening to dispatch send out rural fire departments on motor vehicle accident calls. An awful lot of people out there believe that having four-wheel drive allows them to drive 70 mph down snowy and icy roads. Which it does—until it doesn't, and then they end up in a ditch, hopefully without taking anyone else with them. 

[Our fire department just got paged out on a vehicle rollover call.]

The snow has let up for the moment, but I don't think we're done yet. 

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As of today, I have a job again; I have been put onto an orthopedics account. I think I will be there mostly to help with overflow work as the account already has a primary MT. It feels a bit like starting over as a newbie because will I need to learn all new terminology. (Fewer drug names, though, which is a plus.) And it is for only one dictator, not a pool of 15+ as I had on the oncology account. We'll see in the next few weeks how things shake out and whether or not this is a good fit for me. 

[The supervisor I spoke with about the account said that they have tried to put MTs on this account before and some of them have really struggled. Apparently the client is very particular and not all MTs are able to follow instructions. (????? Is that some kind of metaphor for people these days, that they struggle through life because they can't follow instructions?) One of the toughest doctors on the oncology account was one of my favorites to transcribe. And I love style guides. I don't think I am going to have problems.]

I will be totally okay if this turns out to be more of a part-time job. I realized this week—having had quite a bit of down time—exactly how hard I have to work to shoehorn everything I do into the schedule. I do it because that's the way things are, but it would be nice to have some breathing room. 

Stay tuned. Medical transcription is circling the drain, but it's not dead yet. 

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I have a lot of projects on my sewing list that never make it to the top because I view them as being a bit frivolous. Or maybe "frivolous" isn't the right word. Some of them might better be classified under "product development," or "learning the idiosyncrasies of the serger." I am not entirely sure. For some reason, though, I cannot bring myself to devote much time to them without feeling guilty. This week, I gave myself permission to monkey around a bit. I made these:

Spending time in a big city like Seattle makes me acutely aware of how many resources humans (especially in the US) consume. I am aware of it in Montana, too, just not quite to the same level. We have next-to-no recycling programs here anymore; the cynic I live with says that if that stuff was worth anything, people would be paying us to get rid of it. I see his point, but that doesn't mean we should be willfully profligate. I made a dozen cloth napkins that I keep in a basket on the table. I use them and toss them into the wash. (Getting the husband to use them took some convincing as he seemed to think they were for decoration.) We don't use a lot of paper towels, but I'd like to eliminate those altogether, too. I've seen tutorials for making DIY paper towels that snap together and go on a roll, like regular ones. I see lots of problems with that arrangement, however, including people not wanting to take the time to carefully unsnap each towel from its neighbor in order to use it. (After 30 years together, some things are obvious.) I found this blog post, instead, about a mom who made reusable paper towels out of terrycloth and flannel on her serger. She keeps them in a stack in her kitchen and grabs them as needed. These must have been on my sewing to-do list at some point, because when I went stash diving yesterday, I discovered half a dozen of these already cut out and ready to sew together. Did I abandon the project because I would have had to sew them together, turn them right side out, and topstitch them? Who knows. In any case, they run up magically fast on the serger and gave me an opportunity to play with serging corners. I've got quite a supply of terrycloth and flannel remnants—this is the beauty of a stash, people!—and I am going to make more of these and send them out for field testing. My kids would use them. In fact, I am going to see if I can source some cotton fleece and make a supply of makeup rounds, too, because DD#2 said she would use those in favor of disposable ones. 

[Not all my flannel and terrycloth combos are this loud, in case you were wondering. Some of them are more sedate. I do love that green, though.]

On the subject of field testing, I need to report that the red canvas Bramble Bag performed admirably on the trip to Seattle. Upsizing that bag to an inch wider and deeper made it big enough that my stuff is no longer falling out of it. Any future versions will be those same dimensions. I do want to replace the strap with a narrower one made out of some of the webbing I picked up in Seattle. A 1-1/2" strap is a bit too wide to be comfortable. I still love that bag design, though. 

It's a good day for a big pot of soup. 

Tuesday
Nov062018

What Happens Next?

One of the e-mails that greeted me yesterday when I got home was from the Client Assurance Manager at the company I work for. She said that the clinic had asked her to remove MTs from their account because the volume of work had dropped so significantly. Would I please call her to discuss the possibility of other work, including vacation coverage? It was late in the day and there is a time difference, so we made arrangements to talk this morning. 

I doubt they will be able to find another account to move me to—the whole industry is in its death throes, honestly—although I won't discount the possibility of working part-time covering people who are sick or on vacation. She said they would very much like to keep me working with them and I appreciate that. In any case, all that driving I did this weekend gave me the opportunity to formulate a plan of attack for the next couple of months. I listened to several podcast interviews with small-business owners in the sewing industry. Their experiences very much mirrored mine when I was a knitting designer, and I am pretty clear that I don't want to go back to that. 

Another one of the e-mails that was waiting for me was from someone who had purchased a pattern from Ravelry but entered the wrong e-mail address for delivery. She sent an e-mail dated Sunday afternoon asking if I could send the pattern to a different e-mail address. Then she sent another one Monday morning. Then she sent a third one Monday afternoon. The tone of the e-mails kept escalating ("These are going to be Christmas presents and I need to get started on them!") I responded as soon as I saw her note and said that I had been traveling and needed some time to get settled and would look for her order and send the pattern to the correct e-mail (which I did). I am going to have to review the message that goes out with patterns ordered from Ravelry, because this kind of thing happens more frequently than I think it should. Someone orders a pattern from Ravelry and has a problem with the download and instead of contacting Ravelry, they contact me to fix it. Part of the reason I pay for a third-party fulfillment service for my patterns is so I don't have to deal with these kinds of issues. 

I really bristle at this expectation that designers should be available 24/7 to field any emergency. I suppose it's part of the overall expectation in the digital age that people should never be unreachable, but I don't like it. I find it intrusive. If I ever were to go back to working in some kind of creative arena, I would make sure that I have well-communicated boundaries about when I can and cannot respond to inquiries. It is the main reason I unplug when I am traveling—sometimes I want to be present in the moment with the people I am with. Sometimes I just want to be alone with the thoughts in my head. 

So what is my plan of attack? I am giving myself the gift of some time between now and the end of the year, at least, to put a lot of irons in a lot of different fires and see what happens. Some of that will include sewing-related activites but some of it won't. It occurred to me that this is one of the few times in my life when I am not single-mindedly in pursuit of a specific goal. It's an interesting place to be. I'll still be working hard at figuring out what is going to happen next, but I am doing it without a preconceived notion of what exactly it is I want to have happen. I appreciate that luxury. 

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I came home the "long way" yesterday, up through the panhandle of Idaho almost to the Canadian border and then down to Kalispell. It's actually only about four miles longer than going south and picking up I-90, but it takes a bit longer because it's not highway. One of the places I always stop is an old antique store just outside Bonners Ferry, Idaho. This place has all sorts of interesting stuff, and the inventory turns over pretty regularly. There is a space in the back of the store where a lady sells sewing-related items, scrap fabrics, old sewing books, etc. Yesterday, I spotted this, so I bought it:

She had them priced at $5.95 each. The construction is fascinating. Last night after dinner, I searched for a pattern for this style of potholder, but so far, no luck. The closest I came is a tutorial for a square one that is similar. It could probably be adapted for a circle. 

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We are supposed to get snow tonight; the snow level is going to come down to 2500' and we are at 3250'. The husband was up at 5:00 a.m. and out of the house a little after 6:00 a.m. because they are trying to get walls poured on a custom house foundation today. I know he's exhausted. This year has just been a grind. 

And now I am off to tackle the to-do list. Forward motion, always. 

Monday
Nov052018

Unplugged For a Few Days

I just got back from a weekend in Seattle, with stops in Spokane there and back. Our denominational board decided to have its quarterly meeting—which is usually held in Oregon—in Seattle, instead, so that we could participate in the 50th anniversary celebration at Seattle Mennonite.

I left Thursday morning and drove to Spokane. (I effectively have no job at the moment, but more on that in a future blog post as things are still a bit up in the air.) DD#2 and I went out to dinner and got caught up. I left early Friday morning, in a pouring, blustery rainstorm, and headed for Seattle. I thought I might stop to see where DD#1 is working (in Bellevue), but she had a full schedule, so I skipped visiting her and went right to Seattle proper. 

DD#1 and her boyfriend live in an apartment at the edge of the University of Washington campus, where he is a third-year dental student. I have been to her apartment twice, but that's enough that I can find my way around without too much trouble (and with a bit of help from Google Maps). For all that I cannot spatial percept my way out of a paper bag, I actually have mad navigational skills. Who knew?  

My first stop was at Pacific Fabrics. There are four stores in the Seattle area; this one was near Northgate Mall, in a little strip mall about a mile not too far from DD#1's apartment. Stepping into that store is a bit like going back in time. It reminds me very much of what fabric stores used to be like in the 70s, with lots of round racks displaying bolts of fabric. The constant barrage of Beatles music helped set the mood, too. (I am not a Beatles fan, sorry.) I was a bit disappointed not to be able to find any fabric to buy. There were a few prints I liked, but not enough of them, and the beautiful iridescent navy linen that caught my eye was $30 a yard. That's a bit rich even for me. I did find some very nice fine-gauge 1-1/4" polyester webbing in both black and red:

Alas, there was no identifying information on the bolt, nor were the people at the cut table very helpful. I will have to see if I can track down the manufacturer. I like this almost better than the seatbelt webbing. 

I left Pacific Fabrics, somewhat sad that I wasn't able to find any fabric for the Fika Tote (one of the projects on my list), and headed for the nearest Jo-Ann Fabrics. I struck out there, too. Feeling somewhat discouraged, I drove over to Seattle Fabrics. I had been to this store before. It is not easy to get to and parking is somewhat limited. It's also something of a disaster area inside. If you know what you need and know where to look for it, I think you might be okay, but otherwise, it's a jumble of fabrics and trims. They specialize in outdoor fabrics such as Cordura nylon and pack cloth. I managed to locate the seatbelt webbing and although it said "self serve" on the sign, one of the employees took pity on my deer in the headlghts look and helped me get what I needed, which was two yards each of black and red 1" webbing:

I had no luck finding navy blue webbing at either store. I would have liked some of that. 

So all my plans to find fabric in Seattle were for naught. I had a sum total of four yards of webbing in black and red. I decided to call it good and head down to the place where we were staying for our board meeting. Our denominational administrative assistant, Barb, outdid herself. She found us a wonderful house in a nice neighborhood. There were 14 of us altogether—11 board members and some spouses—and we stayed in a Craftsman-style bungalow with eight bedrooms. I had a small bedroom to myself at the back of the house on the lower level. Eventually, everyone arrived and we got transportation sorted and headed to Seattle Mennonite for dinner and a hymn sing:

Seattle Mennonite has an interesting history. They were the beneficiaries of a very large endowment left to them by someone who had been cared for by a Mennonite nurse during WWII and then again by Mennonites at the end of his life; he left a large sum of money to the church which they have used to hire staff and provide services to the community. They have a ministry to the homeless in their area and helped to build VA housing next door to the church. We were really happy that we were able to join them for their celebration. 

Dinner was catered by a local Turkish restaurant. I love ethnic food. After dinner, about 60 of us gathered for an hour-long hymn sing. I love hymn sings. I love to sing—I am not a soloist by any stretch of the imagination, but I am a solid alto (and can sing tenor) and if you need a section leader, I also have great sight-singing skills. Alas, as the pianist, I only get to sing at our church if the song leader decides to do something a capella. For me to be able to sing for an hour with a group of accomplished musicians is a real treat. 

For their 50th anniversary, the quilting ladies at Seattle Mennonite decided that they should make 50 comforters to donate to Mennonite Central Committee. They were stacked up in the sanctuary. I thought Margaret would appreciate this:

We had our board meeting on Saturday, which included a visit from some young people who have started a church in Olympia, Washington. (Olympia is about an hour and a half south of Seattle.) They have expressed an interest in affiliating with the Mennonites, so we invited them to meet with us and have lunch. The young woman currently in charge of their church is quite a dynamo and I hope they continue to grow. I got the binding sewn down on the second checkerboard quilt during the morning half of the meeting and added a few more inches to a prayer shawl in the afternoon. Multitasking is my middle name. 

DD#1 and her boyfriend came and picked me up for dinner Saturday night. We went to a restaurant about a ten-minute walk from their apartment, called Sebi's. It features Eastern European cuisine, and when I walked in, I said, "Oh, this smells like Grandma Szabo's house!" I had pierogis for dinner and palacinky (I found about five different spellings—my mother will have to tell me which one is correct) for dessert. Pierogis are circles of dough filled with mashed potatoes and cheese. My grandmother would boil the pierogis and then put them in a big bowl and pour melted butter and bacon and grated brick cheese over them. GOOD STUFF. Palacinky are crepes filled with sweet cream cheese and smothered in fruit sauce. I needed to be rolled out of there but it was a great dinner. My kids know the best restaurants. I ate with them again on Sunday morning at a little restaurant two blocks from their apartment called Portage Bay. This place features all sorts of locally-sourced ingredients. I had an egg scramble with spinach and wild mushrooms.  

It was raining again—hard—as I drove out of Seattle and headed back to Spokane. I met DD#2 for dinner after she finished her shift at Nordstrom and then crashed at the hotel. I was back in Kalispell around 1 p.m. today and got the car unloaded. It's cold and rainy here and it will be a good night for sitting next to the fire and catching up with the husband. It was a good, relaxing weekend. I have some work to do tomorrow—I make a point of not checking my e-mail or social media when I am on these trips and things tend to pile up. It's good to be unplugged for a few days, and I figure the world can manage just fine without me. 

Wednesday
Oct312018

The "When I Have Time" List

I know my supervisor hasn't wanted to admit that our account has gone away, but yesterday, she finally acknowledged that we are probably done with that clinic. I logged in and saw that there were about three dozen reports in the queue, but they weren't downloading to me. I e-mailed her and got the response I had been anticipating—she was trying to spread the work around and because I had done quite a bit on Monday, she wanted to give the other MTs some of it. That's fair. I told her I would just take yesterday off and find other things to do. She said that she and someone from the clinic were going to sit down today and discuss the way forward.

She asked me what other specialty experience I have. It's not much; I've done a bit of ortho, but for the past eight years, I have mostly concentrated on oncology. I've also done some editing of voice recognition-generated files and would be willing to do more of that, too. She said she would try to find us other accounts to work on. I am willing to switch—I do love this work, after all—but I told her that I would only be willing to switch if I can continue working as an independent contractor. If the only work available is shift work, especially late in the day or overnight, then I'll just stop working as an MT altogether and find something else to do. 

It makes me sad, as it would make anyone sad to give up something they loved. I will just have to work through that. In the meantime, my response to situations of this sort has been to keep moving forward with something—anything—that makes me feel productive. I keep an informal running list in my head (are you surprised?) of all the things I need to do "when I have time." These are tasks that usually get pushed aside in favor of spending my limited free time on sewing or something that I find relaxing. For the past couple of months, I have been looking at my closet thinking that it needs a good cleaning. I spent about four hours on it yesterday. I filled three bags with items to take to the thrift store. I pared my wardrobe down to the things I really needed and the items I enjoy wearing. Hopefully I can augment what I kept with things I can make for myself. 

So we'll see what happens. If nothing else, all this extra time means that the house will probably get a much-needed deep cleaning. I am not in danger of working through my "when I have time" list quickly. It's a long list. 

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The piano tuner is coming to tune my piano in a couple of weeks. It desperately needs it. Every fall, when the temperatures drop, the piano lets me know it's time for some TLC by going out of tune. It's not bad enough that a person without musical training would notice, but it makes it painful for me to play. And I don't have perfect pitch by any stretch of the imagination. I have very good relative pitch, though, and apparently that's enough. 

I'm not thrilled with the piano tuner I have now; he does a good job, but I miss Frank, my friend who tuned this piano from the day I bought it. Frank played the euphonium and knew I played the trombone, so he used to bring low brass recordings with him when he came to tune the piano. After he finished with the piano, we would sit and have some tea and listen. Frank died of leukemia a few years ago.

There aren't a lot of piano tuners in this valley and the ones who are here are always busy. The guy I use now is very brusque and business-like. But I'll be glad to have this piano back in tune. (Practicing more is on the "when I have time" list, too.)

I am waiting for this to arrive in the mail:

I ordered it literally minutes after I saw the announcement about its release on Facebook. There are a couple of arrangers whose pieces I enjoy playing so much that I will buy anything they put out. C.E. Walz is one of my favorites. She has a wonderful, easy style. The Mennonites also have more than a passing familiarity with Sacred Harp and shape note singing, so this will be very appropriate for our church. 

Tuesday
Oct302018

Sewing Bits and Pieces

Yesterday afternoon's sewing time was spent working on parts of several projects. The hardware came for Bramble Bag 2.0 so I finished the strap:

Yeah, the reds are not the same. Reds are tricky. I don't like the ones that lean toward orange. For now, it works. When I can get to Seattle Fabrics, I'll see what they have, and as I intend to be using this bag on that trip, I'll be able to match the colors more closely. Or I could go with black. I also think I prefer the 1" wide webbing (this is 1-1/2"). For what it is worth, though, I love the seatbelt webbing. It's so much nicer than the cotton or the polyester plain weave webbing. 

I made the pocket and sewed it to the front of the Caravan Tote. Now I just need to add the snaps:

I'm glad I decided to go with the pocket. I think it's a nice addition. (It looks crooked but that's the camera angle.)

And I got the rest of the Tim Holtz fabric from the fat eighth bundles cut into subway blocks. I was going to wing it and just sew pieces together randomly, but I decided to be deliberate about the placement and lay it out on my design wall, instead:

This is going to be a bigger quilt than I thought it would be (my design wall is a queen size white flannel sheet tacked to the wall). I haven't even used all the blocks yet. 

Looking at this quilt reminds me again that I really do prefer scrappy, or at least not perfectly coordinated. Sometimes it's nice to get a curated bundle of fabrics—these are all from the Tim Holtz Dapper line—but I like what Mary Fons refers to as "rogue blocks" in a quilt. They are blocks or colors that throw things off-kilter just a bit. I am not going to try to put any rogue blocks in this quilt. It will get put together the way it is and it will look great when it's done. Still, there is something about it that seems too matchy-matchy to me, for all that Tim Holtz does tend to mix up prints and colors in his fabric lines. I do like that is is more masculine looking. Quilt designs for men are few and far between. I also think the subway blocks were a great choice for preserving the integrity of these prints, some of which are large in scale. 

Obviously I cannot make anything without analyzing the living daylights out of the whole process. It is what it is. 

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DD#2 texted me yesterday to tell me that her history professor gave her a shout-out in class. The students got their term papers back and the professor noted that DD#2 was the only one who had done the citations correctly and she is a business major (history minor). She is a senior; this is not a lower-level course. The history majors are required to have the Chicago Manual of Style, but apparently having it doesn't mean knowing how to use it. 

I know I am starting to sound like a broken record, but I get so tired of the lack of effort put forth sometimes. I have been part of a group e-mail for a couple of weeks regarding our upcoming board meeting in Seattle. I sent an e-mail yesterday responding to a question, and one of the other board members responded to me, but called me Janice instead of Janet. 

Sigh. 

This person has a fairly common name with a unique spelling, and when I respond to her, I am very careful to spell her name correctly. How hard is it to call me Janet instead of Janice? At least no one calls me Jan; we have another woman on the board by that name so no one has yet been tempted. I hate being called Jan, and if you call me that, I am likely not to respond to you. It's JANET. That's not difficult. 

The husband said that his employees have taken to showing up at 9:30 and leaving at 4:30 (we pay them hourly). It means the husband is stuck on the job getting everything done for the next day. He hasn't been getting home until about 7:00 p.m. every night. 

I have a good friend who is fond of saying "Excellence is a choice," but more and more, people seem to be living by the motto, "Choose Mediocrity." And it's making me tired. 

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