Fear, Fire, Foe, Awake!

I’ve had it up to my eyeballs with the panicking about the horrible days to come with the bad economy and the high fuel bills, and, andand…

Are the high fuel prices biting me in the ass?  Yep, and it’s not even winter yet.  I live in Northern New England in a wooden tent I can’t leave legally until February and I’m self employed.  Ain’t sayin’ it doan suck.

It sucks.

What I am saying is that I’m sick of the panic.

Could things get a lot worse than they are?  ‘Course they could.  Wait’ll hunger becomes an issue.  It could.

Still, what in hell happened to facing difficulty with courage?

The people that post solutions and ways to get through?  I salute you guys.  That’s some cool stuff.

The people who say, “Yep, yep, yep, hard times suck, but damn’f I’m going to let that stop me from enjoying my days as best I can”?  You guys are great.  Keep it up.

I think courage is important.

My two grandmothers both grew up without much.  It really colored both of their lives.  One grandmother was ashamed to own anything old, and was always embarrassed.  I loved her and everything, mind.  She had her good points — intelligent, good at solving problems in a way that would put most of my readers to shame…

My other grandmother had all that, but she had one little extra thing, and I think it was the spark that made all the difference.  She was proud of those same abilities she shared with her child’s mother-in-law.  She would frequently come up with a nifty solution to something, step back, take a deep drag on her cigarette and say with most prideful sarcasm, “Never improvised a day in my life.”

Now, notice both grandmothers were clever, and could kludge a solution whenever they needed to.  But that pride, that optimism and that flair?

Which of my grandmothers do you think enjoyed her life more?

Wardrobe SWAP

A storyboard for sewing a wardrobeWell, I’ve ordered the fabric for my new wardrobe. This is a bit of a leap, as I’ve never really committed to this much sewing before. But I really, really need a decent wardrobe, don’t have much money and with this, I’ll get a bunch of interchangable outfits for less than I’d get in a department store. I need stuff that’ll look good for teaching computer classes and all of ’em will be acceptable when I throw the jacket on.

The sash can be a sash or a scarf, so it coordinates pretty well.

This project is based on the Stage One of Sewing with a Plan, but I’ve adapted it a bit to suit my needs and desires… and the pattern I had lying around!

Basically, if there are two of a garment, I’ll only be sewing them in the solid colors. If there are three of a garment, I’ll being sewing it in the solids and the print. The one thing I don’t like about this pattern is that it doesn’t have pockets. Guess what I’m gonna add?

When winter comes along, I’ll be keeping this color scheme in mind when I’m choosing the yarns for my sweaters, and am going to be on the lookout for a decent pattern with longer sleeves for a blouse that’d go with these.

This becomes a basic “go anywhere” wardrobe. I need a suit? Skirt, shell and jacket. Hanging out? Shell and pants or a belt and shift if it’s hot. Nice dress? I can wear the jacket with a shift of the same color and dress it up or down with accessories. Since everything goes with everything else, I won’t get too bored with the looks.

Not bad for less than $150!

Don't DO That!

I love going through blogs to get ideas for stuff.   Since I’m going to actually sew a wardrobe for myself, I’m looking at colors, fabrics, ideas and what have you on blogs.

I’ve noticed several complaints along the same order.  Someone buys a pattern according to clothing size and is astonished when it doesn’t fit — commonly the complaint is about the hips.  Now, these are people with sewing-specific blogs, so I confess at being a little surprised that this has happened.

Someone who is new to sewing wouldn’t know this, but clothing size in ready to wear clothes is vanity sized.  Every few years, they’ll make a size 12 a little larger.   You know the famous line about Marilyn Monroe wearing a size sixteen dress?  That’s about a size 10 in today’s fashions.

Well, sewing patterns are not vanity sized.  To get the right size, you take your measurements.  No sucking in your gut to get a number you like better.  The point is an outfit that fits you, not the numbers.  You look better in clothes that fit, anyway.

When you buy patterns, look at the back.   Check out the bust, hip and waist measurements.  That’s the size you’ll choose to make.   Yes, your measurements might not match up exactly.  Ideally, you’d choose the size on the largest measurement and make pattern adjustments for the smaller one.  As a beginning seamstress (hem! hem!) you’ll wanna just make the outfit.  Trust me.  Bespoke tailoring is a well-paid profession for a reason.

It really astonished me that people who sew regularly were choosing pattern sizes according to ready to wear dress sizes.  I could see someone who is learning doing it (once!), but if you’re into it enough to have a blog about it and you’ve managed to accumulate a big stash and are showing off pictures of fancy sergers, it would seem to me you’ve been sewing long enough to know better.

And if your excuse is that you usually draft your own patterns, that’s even less of an excuse!  You know measurements are the important bit.


I was quite lazy today.  Swam a 900 and called it good.

I focused a lot on bilateral breathing during the workout.  It’s making me not look forward to the laps I swim using the crawl so much, but I’m gritting my teeth through it.  In a couple of months, I’ll be back to being smooth and fluid again.

Retraining my body from one thing to another is something I’ve encountered a lot in my life.  The first time was the transition from dancer to martial artist.   You ballet dancers out there, imagine that instead of extending the leg with a pointed toe, you have to pull your toes back so that the first body part presented is the ball of the foot?  Why yes, I’ve broken toes kicking before.  Why do you ask?

The next time I had to rebehave was when I switched from Isshin-ryu karate to Kyokushin.   See, in Isshin-ryu, a straight punch is delivered with the fist vertical and the thumb on top.  It’s fast, and yes, you can break a board with it.  In almost any other style of karate in the world, a straight punch  starts with the  fist  (made with the thumb folded across the fingers) knuckles to the floor at the hip, and the delivered with a twist bringing the knuckles up as you strike the target.  I still revert to the vertical punch when I practice, but can keep it together enough to do a proper kata in those style that do not habitually use the vertical punch.

I suppose that if you’re drawn to activities that are highly technical, that you just kind of have to get used to the fact you’ll have to retrain your body from time to time.

Don't Lie to My Kids

Look, I don’t think driving drunk is okay.  Hell, I don’t think driving sleep deprived is okay, either.  It’s not nice to the people you might run in to.

That said, what the Oceanside, CA School District decided was okay in trying to teach this lesson is completely unacceptable.

They thought having the California Highway Patrol come in and tell some high school students their friends were dead in a drunk driving accident, letting them freak out and then saying, “Nope, everything’s okay, it was just an object lesson!” was just fine and dandy if it saved a life.


I’m all for teachable moments.  But you have to use your brain.  The lesson that was taught there was, “You can’t trust us to tell you the truth if we have an ulterior motive.”

Fair enough.  Those kids can’t trust the cops or the school district to be honest if they have an ulterior motive.

Is that the example you want to set of how an adult should behave?

Is that the level of sensitivity you want them to show people they have power over in years to come?  Don’t fool yourself that we’re talking all that many years, by the way.  In five years, some of those kids will be teachers.  I bet some of them are camp counselors, swimming instructors or lifeguards right now.  You want them to get that Machiavellian with your children?

Even so, there are better ways to teach a kid not to drive drunk.  How about… talk to your kids about alcohol?   I’ve told my kids flat out the average rates at which a human processes a drink.  They’ve watched adults in their lives decide not to drive a car because they’d just had a drink. They’ve heard them say things like, “Can someone else drive?  I’ve just had a glass of wine.”

They’ve been told you can overdose on alcohol.  I even told them the story of me drinking a certain quantity of alcohol on a bet and how a friend insisted I throw up when he found out what I’d done.  I also explained that if he hadn’t done that, my son would never have been born, because I’d’ve died.   Growing up Southern Baptist means your alcohol education is sketchy at best.  At the time, all I had to go on were my parents quite moderate drinking habits on the one hand and the church and my school’s (considerably lighter) scare tactics on the other.  I’d internalized that as long as you don’t get behind a wheel or make a stupid decision about condom use, alcohol really couldn’t be dangerous and the school was being its idiotic, dramatic self.

My children are getting a lot more facts.  Parents, if you think your moderate drinking habits are a good example, don’t rely on that.  The schools might be using scare tactics.    The kids might blow off what they hear in school.  You make sure your kids get the accurate facts.

Will they always follow through with intelligent choices?   As badly as it scares me, probably not.  But goddammit, they know they’re getting told the damn truth.  They trust me to do that.  If an activity is mildly risky, they know bloody well I’m not going to lie and blow the risk out of proportion because I don’t want them to get hurt.

I sincerely hope the parents in Oceanside raise holy hell about this and stop that sort of nonsense!

Bilateral Breathing

There are a lot of reasons swimming is not the world most popular form of cardio.  It’s expensive (hell, I got a part time job at a gym just so I could use the facilities instead of having to pay out of pocket for them!), it’s time-consuming (you won’t get a good swim in for under an hour, what with the getting to the gym, changing, showering, etc.), and it’s difficult.

Yes, difficult.   If you come to me bragging about how your father tossed you in the water when you were five and now you’re like a fish, I’ll laugh at you.  You probably don’t have the technique down to swim laps comfortably or effectively.

That last seems to be the biggest sticking point.  I’m trying to think of cardio that’s more technique-based than swimming and frankly I can’t!  Though I’m sure a Helpful Reader will point one out.

No-one would say that I’m a poor swimmer – prolly not even those Total Immersion folks.  But there are still techniques I don’t have down, even averaging three miles a week.

I’ve decided I’m spending the summer becoming fluid with bilateral breathing.  When doing the crawl[1] I usually breathe on every fourth stroke.  That’s always breathing to the right for me.  It’s lousy technique.  And it occurs to me that if I’m swimming a mile a week[2] with bad technique, then I’m practicing bad swimming.

So now I’m forcing myself to breathe every third stroke and switch sides every single time.  I’m clumsy as hell in the water right now and feeling like a dork for waiting as long as I have to force myself to use proper technique.  As a martial artist, I should know better.

Martial artists are usually cautioned in one way or another not to train their non-dominant side to be stupid.   You’re constantly drilling so you can lead equally well with your dominant or non-dominant limbs.

When I go to Virginia Beach this summer, I want to try to swim from the pier at 14th Street down to Rudee Inlet[3].  Open water swimmers really should be good a bi-lateral breathing so they can compensate comfortably for surf conditions, current and that sort of thing.

[1] The stroke isn’t freestyle, it’s the crawl. Most people use that stroke in freestyle events because you want to use the fastest stroke possible in said event, and the crawl is fast.

[2] I break up my laps with three different strokes to use different muscle groups and try to avoid a rotator cuff injury.

[3] The challenge won’t be the distance.  I swim farther than that every workout.  It’s the fact it’s open water.  Very different from a pool!

The New Thirty

What the hell is up with the contortions about what age is what?

I got it first almost ten years ago from an OBGYN who was fitting me with an IUD and scolding me about my weight, saying that biologically I was more like my grandparents in their late teens, so I should be careful.  I never quite understood that.  Three generations isn’t enough to promote a change in aging that dramatic.  I do appear younger than my grandparents did at my age, but that’s because I am more careful about sun and don’t smoke. That’s about it.  I don’t look younger than my non-smoking mother did at my age — and that’s a time period about which I have quite clear memories, as I was already an adult.

It hit me again recently when I was looking up long hair care techniques.  I’m a swimmer, I wear my hair about waist length, and I dye my hair.  Since it’s quite chemically-abused, I was checking some stuff out.

There was the usual advice that when a woman hits forty she should cut her hair (anyone really wanna bet that in six months I’ll be sporting a short hairstyle?  REALLY???? Sort of impending chemo-therapy, and using my hair to make a wig, we’re talking SERIOUS improbability)

Then I ran across this article that explained that it’s okay for a woman past forty to wear her hair long “because forty is the new thirty.”

No, forty is still forty.  And it’s okay to wear long hair under one condition: That you want to.

I always liked Gloria Steinem’s retort to the reporter who told her she didn’t look like she was forty.

“This is what forty looks like!”

Earthworms and Tomato Sandwiches

I just had a tomato sandwich.  Why yes, I was thinking of Harriet the Spy.

Then I got to thinking about all the books I really enjoyed as a kid and the Ramona books started fluttering through my mind.

About a year ago I went to Portland, Oregon to visit some friends.  I never mentioned it to anyone, but in the back of my mind, I was always kind of peeping at the crowds and looking for Ramona Quimby.  I don’t think the Portland I saw with the Voodoo Doughnuts and was the Portland Beverly Cleary was portraying. (Though Powell’s, on the other hand…)

I always had this idea that when Ramona grew up and became an architect (I always felt like she’d be an architect when she grew up) that she’d run across Henry Huggins and actually start dating him.   And he’d propose to her.  And he’d do so with an earthworm ring.

Back in the Pool

I got my lazy ass into the pool for the first time in a week today.

After my gall bladder attack, I just didn’t feel motivated.  I even asked the doctor if working out was okay (secretly hoping for a “no” and an excuse not to).   He laughed and said that as long I was not in the middle of an attack I should be fine.

So, no excuses.  I swam.

They keep that pool too damn warm in the summer.  I know they do it because of the people in aqua fitness and aqua therapy rehabs that just cannot take the cold.  Dandy.  In the summer, competition pool coldness is fine with me.  Ah well.  I wouldn’t want it to be too cold for people that really need the water workout and the warmth, anyway.

I had oatmeal for breakfast in my new lowfat diet.  Since I’ve been having oatmeal for breakfast for the past few months, this was not exactly a huge change.  I’ve been using powdered milk as creamer instead of half-n-half.  I like half-n-half better, but I’ll be goddamned if I buy those stupid low-fat “products”.  I’m not bloody well going to buy low fat cheese.  I’m just eating nonfat yogurt and gonna be done with it.  It’s summer, the produce is good.  There’s plenty of real food I can eat — I love fish, turkey and chicken.  Salads are my friend.  Strawberries are almost in season.  I make a mean beans and rice.  I bet I can come up with a really tasty yogurt-based salad dressing, too.  I’m a great cook and don’t need to fall back on fake food.

Thank God I can still cook in wine.

Fun Client Week

This week seems to be Have Fun at Work Week here at Figart Consulting.

Got a couple of clients who have a quirky sense of humor.  God, it I love it when that happens.

Being a freelance writer is funny.  Sometimes you get these really interesting projects.  If you have a particular hobby horse, you sometimes get paid to ride it.  I always like that.  All my projects this week are stuff I actually have a real interest in.  This does happen more often than not, because if you’re really into something, your proposals start sounding all excited.  And let’s be frank, if you’re hiring a writer, having one that’s enthusiastic about your topic is always nice.  But sometimes you get some weird, or boring stuff.

Sometimes you have a project where when you start researching it starts to scare the living bajesus out of you.  I had one not too long ago.  It was Friday, Press Enter, The Happiness Patrol and 2001: A Space Odyssey all rolled into one.  I’ve uncurled from my little ball, though.

But not this week, thank goodness.  I’ve got a couple of ones where I’ve rushed home from the gym with an Oh boy!  I get to noodle about something I like and get paid for it!

Why, yes, I do love my job.