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Anybody can find fault

28 Aug

Anybody can find fault.  Fault doesn’t seem to get lost very often, and it usually doesn’t really hide that well either.  Sooner or later, fault always comes marching out, demanding to be recognized by someone, anyone, guilty or innocent.

But there sure are a lot of people who devote their lives to seeking out something that never was lost to begin with.  Why are so many people absolutely thrilled to find those faults and be the first (or even among the hundreds) to point out those faults so that everyone knows that they spotted them and recognized them.

Like get a life, dude.  (Or dudette!)

You don’t need a degree or any special training or even to be above average in intelligence (or anything else) to find those faults that weren’t really hiding.  These internet trolls that seem to delight in exposing each and every flaw and then dissecting it with minute attention to detail seriously have some issues.  Above all, they remind me of chickens.

I’m not being a smart alec about that.  Seriously, they do act like chickens.  I realize that most of America has never been intimately acquainted with chickens.  For many people, their closest exposure has been at a petting zoo or even just a news clip on television.  In reality, there’s nothing cute about a flock of chickens, especially if they have decided that they don’t like one of their flock mates.

It’s horrifying to see what they will do then.  They will literally, over a period of time, peck that chicken to death, while also driving it away from food and water and otherwise making their lives as miserable as possible.  It isn’t all of the chickens in the flock that do this, just a handful out of the group participating in this “troll” behavior is enough to result in the pecked chicken’s death.

Hence the expression of “henpecked” that we have often heard used to refer to a husband who is being micromanaged by his wife to an oppressive degree.

Sure, there are lots of theories about why these chickens will do this.  Usually, overcrowding and other stress factors will get the behavior started.  It can happen in free range chickens, but it’s far less common.  As a country person would say, “once in a blue moon.”  In confined and crowded conditions, even when the chickens have the recommended space and ability to go outdoors into the sunshine, it can really get started though.  The more stress and crowding, the more the behavior shows up.

Maybe mankind is just like a flock of chickens.  We’re getting more crowded and stressed, and we’re seeing more outbreaks of “troll” behavior.  On occasion, this behavior accelerates and becomes violent rather than just verbal (or written) attacks.  When this happens, the usual cry is to restrict access to potential weapons.

Gun control isn’t going to change the behavior, folks.  Chickens commit homicide regularly, and have never figured out how to use firearms.  I have a gun and have had guns most of my life, yet I have not committed murder, nor even shot at anyone.

I have worked armed positions in my lifetime.  I’ve also been threatened with a gun on more than one occasion, although not while working.  Usually, the threat was by a police officer of some kind.  Was the threat warranted? No, I wasn’t armed, wasn’t threatening the officer, was not committing a crime, and usually had no idea what was going on or why I had a gun in my face.  Each time, it turned out to be some kind of mistake, quickly resolved, and I was not handcuffed or arrested.

I must have some caveman DNA floating around and connected to my violent genes.  My weapon of choice has always been throwing rocks.  I’m pretty good at chucking them too or was before I got hurt.  Southern Mississippi, however, is starved for rocks.  Our rocks have to be imported from elsewhere.  I guess that’s why I haven’t done any rock chucking in a long time.

But I digress…

This troll behavior is an indicator of a deeper problem or fault in our society, one that we need to address.  It’s just as real as any tectonic plate’s fault on our planet’s crust, and indicative of an equally deep flaw in our society.  Fault in this sense is a very real concept regarding what is happening today.  This fault is an early sign of henpecking that can and eventually will turn homicidal in some individuals.  Granted, not all of these individuals will ever become physically violent in person.  Many of them may be too intimidated in person to even say “boo!” to a stranger, let alone become verbally confrontational.  Even so, they feel that they have the right to do so, often in very unpleasant ways, on the internet.

I’m not sure that the spirit of the right to free speech includes the right to say things just to hurt other people, whether it is merely an emotional hurt or any other kind of hurt, even if it is commentary based on truth.  I certainly do not think that condoning troll behavior and allowing them to surf the cyber world in search of fault which they can then use as their war cry as they begin yet another flaming attack on some unwitting soul.

Do I think I would turn homicidal? Not with the current level of stress and crowding, but I know that even I have certain points where I may well rationalize violent behavior if I am honest about myself.  Remember, the word stress is just another word for stimuli.  Breaking into my house when I am home is going to qualify as a stress.  So is attacking a family member.  Heck, even attacking my dogs is a stressor!  I also tend to get rather confrontational if I feel my home turf (aka house and yard) is being intruded upon, something I came to grips with last year when a neighbor’s dog tried to claim our backyard as his personal turf.

We have to find new ways of adapting to living in smaller spaces, to working closely with others, to living closely with them.  We have to identify individuals that have reached that magic red line that defines when they are going to become violent, and then come up with appropriate intervention.  All of that without causing new stress by stripping away personal freedoms and rights.

It’s a tall order, but the end result is worthwhile.  It means creating a society that encourages supportive and nurturing behavior rather than glorifying confrontational and violent behavior.  It means doing away, worldwide, with the concept of war too.  It means creating a worldwide society that encourages growth, on each and every level, as well as celebrating diversity and individualism.

Yeah, I know—it sounds like Utopia.

It really is Utopia, I suppose.  It’s not impossible  though.  Gene Roddenberry  dreamed of it with his Star Trek world.  I’m not the only dreamer.  The world just needs a lot more dreamers, a lot more people who are willing to ostracize and discourage those who want to be trolls, and willing to encourage people to be something they all possess the ability to be.

With a heart.

Maybe we need to remind everyone of our mothers’ old adage while we’re at it.

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Don’t forget to visit our new location for this blog at www.exogenynetwork.com!

Dear Troll, a letter to internet trolls

27 Aug

Dear Troll,

I know that you enjoy cruising the cyber universe to deposit your droppings of wisdom on everything from news to reviews.  You probably don’t care if you hurt others, but for the sake of my sanity, I’m going to pretend that you do.

My sanity has had a precarious hold lately.

Oh I know it’s not your fault.  You haven’t attacked me directly.  That is much too direct and confrontational for your tastes.  You would not dream of looking at your victim in the eye and behaving that way.   It is only on the internet that you feel so brave and faultless.  The truth is, you are the kind of coward that makes me fear the future of humanity.

To put it in language that even a troll can understand, here it goes…

Troll, you are a lily livered chickenshit yellow backed prick without the manners of a herd of hogs at a hog trough.  You don’t care who you hurt, as long as you are the very first hog that wallows in that trough of delicious destruction.

You are the very lowest of mankind, and I am ashamed to be from the same species as you.  In fact, your continued existence is the only reason I am sincerely hoping that I am really an alien hybrid resulting from my mother being kidnapped and inseminated with alien sperm.

Okay, that would horrify my mother too.  But seriously, I’d not mind finding out that I was not really from the same species.

These trolls are appearing everywhere, and now, with the continued spiraling out of control of governments and religions warring on the innocent, I am half-convinced that trolls are taken over military and governments across the globe.

Once upon a time, the country of Israel was created to create a homeland for Jews.  Now, we need to create a country, I guess we’d call it dungeon since Trolls are supposed to like dark and dank places anyhow, just for the world’s trolls.  There, they could snipe and find fault with each other, and do whatever else keeps trolls happy.  I have no idea if they reproduce or not.

Some things, I just don’t want to actually think about.

Like troll sex.

Mixing it up and using the creation option

18 Aug

I tend to get single minded about things sometimes.  While that can be a good thing, there is also a tendency to go overboard, perhaps.  The truth of the matter is, too much of anything is not a good thing.  So, focusing on variety being the spice of life, I have mixed up things a bit more around more.  I do at least two things every day, and which two things can vary.  I write, almost every day, in one form or another.  Other days, it might a whole list of options that are considered.  One that has been at the forefront has been the act of creation.

Something about creating something, whether it is written text or an object  of some kind, seems to give me joy.  It’s even better when it’s something that gives other people pleasure.  This act of creation is a fantastic outlet for me.

So I have been busy with that creation stuff.  Like I made a trio of simple skirts for my niece’s oldest, along with matching hair barrettes.  I altered the pattern to be more creative and use that creation option too.  Several skirts for my granddaughter have come out from under the needle of my machine.  I tried my hand at a bit more fussy sewing with a set of mother-daughter aprons (shhhh!  She hasn’t gotten them yet, it’s her birthday gift, and I’ll deliver them tomorrow!) and a lined messenger bag with specially sized pockets, also for my daughter’s birthday.  The messenger bag was an act of determination, multiplied by dynamic creation, and infused with love too.

I don’t know if I’ll ever sew another apron requiring miles of bias tape.  I also don’t know if I will EVER make another lined bag.

Now I know from years of sewing that free patterns, whether from magazines (in the old days) or online (the modern day), does not mean quality patterns.  Anybody can post a pattern, and that does not mean it’s a good one.

This wasn’t a particularly good one.  The directions gave me headaches, and the finished example used to illustrate the article looked somewhat…sad.  I should have known better, right?

Yeah, well maybe I missed the brain train.  Lord knows the pain train pulls into my station regularly, I may have been confused that day…

I’ve also had serious computer issues.  I use a laptop (long story) and my “new” one took a dump and quit on me about 6 months ago.  Without being able to afford a repairman (it’s not a simple issue, it won’t power up at all) it has sat, waiting, after Greg removed the harddrive and cloned it onto another one, which ultimately went into my old laptop, which he had repaired from it’s near-fatal blow from some kind of malware attack I had received via a chat client I used to use.  (I don’t anymore, btw.)  So, I was happily working away, although regretting the loss of the faster computer with more RAM and thus better able to cope with my continual multi-tasking, and just dealing with the occasional freezing that such a tendency induces in older and underpowered computers.

On Saturday morning, I had a notice on the laptop that it had received a Microsoft update and had restarted.  Okay, no big deal, right?

It told me it was personalizing my desktop, and stayed that way.  Nothing we did resurrected it—it would not boot up.  I was on the verge of a melt down and we’ve not managed to drink our first cup of coffee yet.

Greg’s pretty patient, except when I’m melting down on him, then he’s not a very happy camper either.  He managed to pack me off to the office with my sewing machine, and he proceeded to try and solve the issue.  I took a nap.

A really long nap.

I guess melt downs wear me out?  It also gave him the peace he needed to work on solving the problem.  According to the flashing light on the cap lock, it was telling him that the CPU had crashed and burned.  That’s not a quick fix either, especially since it’s a laptop, which is really hard to work on.  We have no parts, nor do we have diagnostic tools to work on a laptop.  With Greg though, there is no such thing as defeat.  He also says there is no living with me without a functional computer AND my files, so he had a plan b to work on while I was snoring away.

He dug out his old laptop, which he had finally managed to repair.  (It was also damaged, but much more severely, by malware via the same chat client.)  It was the same brand as my old one—a Compaq.  He popped the harddrive from the laptop I had been using into the new one, added some RAM, and booted it up.  There were a few things to tweak, but soon, I was awake and had a computer I could use again.

But it had a really odd looking screen, and that was a clue as to what was coming next.  The video card driver on the harddrive was not compatible with the actual video card in the new old machine.  Should be an easy fix, right?

Nope

HP’s repair gizmo won’t install. Drivers for the video card don’t seem to exist.  Okay, I can live with an oddball looking screen, distorted pictures and all.  But that wasn’t the end of the video card driver problems.

The blue screen of death.

Yeah, we’ve all seen it.  The trouble was, I was seeing it often, and then the new old computer wouldn’t boot up either.  I was starting to feel like some kind of computerized jinx.

I’m testy, and I’m sent back to the office to talk to my sewing machine and play with my Kindle.  I start dreaming of embroidery machines and new laptops, but Greg manages to save the day despite my frazzled nerves.  He also attaches an external harddrive so I can back up the critical files: documents & pictures.  We even worked out a way to get it done easily without me freaking out and getting frustrated over complicated procedures.

Like the Cloud.

He couldn’t understand my objection to using the Cloud for backing up files, but Comcast, in their usual manner, managed to illustrate it in living color.

Our intermittent outage issues had been plaguing us all day on Sunday.  Sunday night, however, it’s a total no-internet-at-all situation resulting in a call to Comcast, where he started off the experience with a 30 minute wait to get to a human.

Keep in mind, we’re paying by the minute for this privilege, despite Comcast’s continual offers of telephone service (they can’t get the internet right, how would they get telephone right?) and then he gets “service is out in your area due to an accident.  It should be restored by 7 am on Monday morning.”

Now he knows why I do not like my files on the Cloud.  I cannot access them when the internet is down.  Just like I couldn’t access anything when I had no way to get to my harddrive and the data it contained, only with no cloud access, my computer is working just fine.  Sure, the cloud is fine for a general back up, but that’s not where I want my files kept.

He was thrilled.  Seriously thrilled.  But now, he understood what my objections were and why they were something that I was so adamant about.

But that sent my brain off onto another tangent too.

If a woman could sue McDonald’s for a cup of hot coffee scalding her, can I sue Comcast for frustrating Greg to the point of giving him another heart attack via their crappy customer service?

That’s the kind of thing I start to wonder in the wee hours, as I look at a screen that thinks it’s really a 16” CRT monitor but is really an LCD laptop screen…I think it’s a 17” one? (Heck I can tell you the model number, and have no idea what size the screen is.  Sad, huh?)  So, now I’m going to mix it up, wander off, and try to take a photo of the lovely messenger bag.

Or not.

I might wait and do it tomorrow, along with the aprons, when I have a model.  Actually 2 models.  Beautiful Daughter & her Mini Me, the spitting image of her mother, only with better hair.

See that’s another side of me too.  I am an official grandmother and I’m every bit as gaga as any grandma could be.  Plus, she’s my one and only, so I am seriously gaga about that little girl.  I have to keep a firm hand on myself to prevent me spoiling her excessively.

Yep, there is an “excessive” point when you are grandma too.

But she is a darling, most of the time.  When I see that less-than-endearing version, I am so disappointed too.  After all, as MY granddaughter, she is supposed to be perfect, right?

And since I do have to get up early to go see my darling, I’m going to leave it at that.

So tune in again tomorrow…or listen to me on the radio from 8-10 pm Central at bit.ly/uprn365  Oh, and go buy a book or two at bit.ly/giabooks  I’m trying to fund my project development for the next book, and could use some extra sales.

Just don’t forget–I really appreciate everyone who reads my blog posts, and for that, you deserve an atta-boy and a creation bonus point.  Create something, even if its something small.  It can be food or art or crafts or a really great poem or the best lawn mowing job that has ever hit your neighborhood.

Creation can be many things.

Here’s a cover of one of my books–my daughter and granddaughter were on the cover.

Kindle Parent handbook cover

You can find it right here.

Don’t forget–I’m moving my blog to www.exogenynetwork.com at the end of the month!

 

Sewing: Pin or Weights, which is better?

16 Aug

 

When working with patterns, it’s necessary to make sure that nothing slides around while cutting the fabric for the design.  That leads to the question of whether to use pins or weights.   Traditionally, pins are used to hold things in place.  With that said, using pattern weights to hold things down quickly & easily isn’t new either.

They sell special pattern weights.  I’m sure they are wonderful.  I’m seriously cheap though, and I’ve never bought them, although I have weighted many patterns over the years.

Long ago, I made a lot of small stuffed creatures, for gifts and for sale.  They ranged from a tiny stuffed rocking horse about 4” tall (for a Christmas decoration) to large stuffed dolls.  This is when I used  a lot of weights in laying out patterns.

But have you ever cut out a gusset or ear for a 4” tall stuffed horse?  Neither pin nor weight will actually fit.  Heck, a DIME won’t fit!  For those pieces, I would cut out a template from thin plastic or cardboard (disposable food container lids are great, as are cereal boxes) and hold that down with one finger, while I drew with a pen right on the fabric.  Not a special pen either, just a plain jane black ink pen, the kind you use for writing with.  Then, I’d cut out the pieces following the marked cutting lines.

But for weighting those patterns when I was churning out a batch I used food cans, straight out of the pantry.  Anything would work, but I favored tomato paste cans (small diameter) and tuna cans (short).  Tomato sauce ran a hot third in the weighting contest.

When would I weight instead of pinning?                  

I would only weight when it was a relative small, simple shape, especially if I was cutting multiples.  I also had to be familiar with the pattern.  I rarely would opt to use weights if I was cutting out a new pattern to make a prototype design.  I also would not be using a tissue paper pattern—they are too prone to floating, flying, fluttering and inspiring other “f” words.  I always cut out a sturdier paper pattern for a pattern design that I will be using repeatedly.  For those heavier papers, weighting works wonderful, as long as your table is big enough to lay out the pieces and weight them into place without having to shift fabric this way or that way to get at it.

Weighting also meant not using any tailor marks, which was part of the reason I had to be familiar with the construction of that particular design.  I personally found that transferring tailor marks on a weighted pattern was a situation that invariably resulted in disaster.

At the same time, weighting made a project’s construction much faster.  Eliminating 2-3 minutes of pinning may sound inconsequential, but when you are trying to cut, sew, and assemble a dozen of something after a long day of work, that 2-3 minutes may be enough time when it is multiplied over that dozen to actually put one of them together.

On the other side of that is the simple fact that saving 2-3 minutes of pinning on a garment can cause problems to appear in construction that could have been avoided if the pattern had been more accurately cut out after pinning it in place before cutting.  Don’t do it—you will regret it!

NOTICE: Don’t forget-this blog is MOVING to www.exogenynetwork.com so go check out the site as we work on getting it up and running.  For the month of August, all posts are being posted in both locations.

Work smarter

12 Aug

When you are disabled, minor obstacles start looking more like Mount Everest than a minor mole hill.  It’s all bigger and more dramatic.  It’s also more likely to provoke a total melt down as frustrations and aggravations drive you to your breaking point.

So how to overcome the Himalayas when even going shopping is a challenge?

By working smarter.

Face it, for most of us, disability does not equate an accompanying mental disability.  We are fully aware of our limitations.  We know when we are having an emotional melt down that may be a bit of overreaction to the most recent event but is the inevitable result of recent events that have now been provided with either a trigger or what most of us would call the last straw.

By using our heads when our bodies aren’t dependable, we can enjoy many activities that normally would be out-of-reach.  Ones that we’re technically not supposed to be able to do due to our own personal limits, whether it’s strength, endurance, dexterity, agility, or whatever.  The question is often then going to be how, and it means how can thinking mean that we can do the un-do-able?

By taking a bigger, more dramatic view of the un-do-able, maybe we can get an idea.  Sure, it sounds totally crazy to compare a desired activity for a disabled person to climbing Mount Everest, but it’s not unreasonable.

A climber is facing obstacles that should make the climb to the summit impossible.  Breathing the thin air alone, without the cold, wind, avalanches, falls, distance and all of the other obstacles s/he must face to get there.  Sure, a lot of people fail in their attempts, and some even die trying.  So what makes it a successful attempt?

  • Research—knowing what obstacles must be overcome and what tools are available to overcome them
  • Planning—having the necessary gear, support, tools, supplies, and transportation to get to the Himalayas and make that attempt, as well as the attempt itself
  • Preparation—assembling the necessary items and gaining the necessary skills to be successful
  • Assessment—knowing what your own limits and abilities are, and when to call it quits
  • Assistance—having a support team to help fill in the deficit areas of your physical abilities as well as skill levels

This is where our brains come into effect.  We have to figure out what it is we want to do, then find a way to do it, no matter what it is.  Granted, few disabled people are going to take up mountain climbing, even at a much lower summit height than Mount Everest, but the concept is the same no matter what the activity actually is.

Let’s take some practical examples.

Cooking is a hobby I have enjoyed since I was young.  I really love doing it, and it is always a challenge that I’m thrilled to try.  The objective is to make the recipes, serve them all at their optimum temperature, without any errors.  I actually liked playing “guest chef” and cooking for others.  Holiday meals were something that were fun to prepare because of their complexity, volume, etc.

Obviously, post-disability, it wasn’t as much fun.  Some things were nearly impossible and even simple tasks had turned into my own versions of Mount Everest.  I wanted to make pizza crust, from scratch.  Before, that was a no-brainer.  Now, it was impossible, or so it seemed.

The mixing and kneading were impossible, but solved easier.  I owned a big Kitchen-Aid mixer that really hadn’t seen much use.  Now, I learned to use it for mixing pizza dough.  Rolling and stretching the dough was then the new mountain.  I was not getting that done with one functional arm.

I tried a French rolling pin, I tried the kind with ball bearings.  It didn’t work.  Clean up was a misery.  Sure, I could just wimp out and ask Greg to do it—he’s not inept or unwilling.  That wasn’t the point.  I wanted to do it myself, like I was a toddler helping my mother cook.

In the past, I had had a nylon cylinder rolling pin that I had used.  That’s what I wanted to try, but I couldn’t find one for sale.  Greg solved that for me.  He bought a fat dowel, the biggest he could find, and cut it for me.  There were two—one for the narrow side of a half sheet baking pan, and one for the wide side.  Two problems solved—clean up and rolling, all with one solution.  The dough couldn’t get away from me inside the lipped pan, I had a one handed rolling pin, and I had something I could theoretically clean myself.  It also works great for cookie or biscuit dough.  I haven’t tried it with pie crust though, as the size makes a round disk of sufficient size impossible.

We thought ourselves into a solution for a problem by drawing on past experience (cylinder rolling pin) to find a new solution (dowel rolling pins) and improved it by using the half sheet pans to further solve the problem.

We use the same process for camping solutions.  I love camping, and I’ll be the first one to admit, I could not go camping in a tent by myself.  I’d never enjoy it and I would also probably never get the tent up, even if I was using an instant tent (they are great, by the way!).  But, with help for carrying and the major tasks like setting up the tent, I can enjoy camping still.  Sure, I’m not going on hikes or chopping up firewood anymore, but I’m there.

I did try to solve the backpacking problem.  Due to reduced endurance and other health problems, I have reluctantly admitted that backpacking is out of my reach at this time.  Maybe I will find something that lets me take short, easy trips in the future, but this year, it was a bust again.  Instead, I’m doing it vicariously by creating recipes for DIY meals, sharing knowledge, and evaluating gear in a much closer space.

Then there was sewing.  I was afraid to try it for a very long time, longer than I’m even willing to admit.  That delay was based solely on fear.  I was terrified that it was going to be one more can’t in a world filled with too many can’ts for my taste.  Finally, I got things together, plugged in the machine, and tried it.

Here is where working smarter became really important.  I have a very limited amount of time to actually work on anything before problems are going to appear, all carried along by the all-too-familiar Pain Train.  (I find that assigning silly names to stressors, they become less threatening.  Try it sometime!)  Most of the time, it’s about five minutes.  Sewing isn’t something that is done fast, so this short period of time to do anything physical with it means that I have to make that time really count.  It’s like sewing with a toddler underfoot, in a way.  Continual interruptions and distractions.

I’m also not talking strictly about sewing machine time.  It’s any physical task—laying out patterns, cutting, pinning, whatever. This short time span for actually doing anything means that we’re going to take the tactics of the armchair quarterback.  We’re going to think about it and plan a whole lot in comparison to actually doing anything.  Then, we’re going to look at what we are doing, think about it again, long before we start doing it.

That’s not a bad thing.  You soon learn that ripping things out is heartbreaking.  Not only have you invested one or more work periods into making the mistake, you’ve now got to invest more work periods into removing that effort, all before repeating the investment.  It’s like buying a house with no bathroom, giving it away, and buying another one because the first one didn’t have a bathroom.  It’s a major investment, not merely a bit of time, when you are physically challenged.

Disabilities can change your perspectives on a lot of things, as well as cause a major shift in priorities.  You soon learn that some things are not important and don’t really matter.

  • Makeup. I don’t wear it anymore.  It wasn’t worth the investment of time, energy, and pain to get it onto my face.  I don’t care what the rest of the world thinks.  I’m not going to conform to their perceptions or make that investment of myself to conforming.  I’m just not willing to risk sticking a mascara applicator into my eye to be “beautiful” in someone else’s eyes.
  • Hairdos. I’m not going to bother.  I have long hair and I wear it tied up, usually in a doubled over pony tail.  It’s often lopsided too.  I thought about cutting off my hair, but then I’d have to do something with it.  Like comb it more often.  As it is, it gets brushed when I’m leaving the house or someone is coming over—it’s neatly confined so it doesn’t get messy.  No French braids, no fancy do’s, unless my daughter is around and feels inclined to do it for me.  Greg is pretty hopeless at this task, despite his best efforts.
  • Fashion. My idea of fashion is that it is comfortable and I can get it on and off with minimal help.  I don’t care how it ranks in terms of fashion.  Sure, I like pretty stuff, but my idea of pretty and the world’s idea of pretty might be entirely different.  I’m really fixated on the tactile experience of clothing—I like things that feel good to me.  I like cheery stuff, but rather subdued colors.  In summer, I like cool fabrics too.  Winter, like everyone else, I like warm fuzzy ones that are snuggly.  I avoid ruffles and lace like it’s going to give me the plague.  I don’t like buttons and zippers—they are hard to manage.

Decide what matters to you, and don’t invest your efforts into things that don’t matter to you.  That’s the first step to working smarter.

  1. Look at the obstacles that you face when you are attempting a desired activity. What do you need? Is it skills or help or tools?  Do you need something that is specialized or not commercially available? How do you get this new tool or device?
  2. Work out the obstacles one at a time. Facing a hundred can’ts is a world of difference from facing one of them at a time.  A hundred is impossible, but one isn’t, and that’s a simple fact.
  3. Be realistic without accepting defeat. That’s a tough balance, but it’s one that we have to strive for.  I’ve accepted defeat for the backpacking thing…for now.  I may find a solution, but it won’t devastate me if I don’t, as I have accepted that the abridged version is better than none at all.  I have to accept that some things are going to remain forever out of reach now, some of which I never intended to do to begin with, like skydiving, mountain climbing, snow skiing, and bull riding.
  4. Believe in yourself. You are not defined by what you can’t do or can do.  We are all more than that.
  5. You can contribute to the world at large. You have knowledge and skills, even if you aren’t capable of physically using them anymore.  Share them, and see your passion for past activities come to life again.  Just because you can’t do them does not mean that your knowledge can’t live on by sharing it and teaching others.

Working smarter doesn’t mean you have to be disabled somehow to use it.  Anyone can use the same principles to reduce their life clutter and achieve greater things.  It’s just about establishing priorities, coming up with a plan, assembling the tools, and then moving forward towards your goals.  It is not rocket science or quantum physics!  You can do it.

10 Aug

I bought a blouse pattern recently from Hot Patterns.  I’d heard great things about their patterns, and decided that I would try the Classix Nouveau Peasant Blouse.  It looked like a simple, straightforward kind of blouse.  Most importantly, it looked like one that I could get on and off easily without help.

Now sewing may seem like an odd choice for someone who is disabled enough that I choose clothing for its easy on/off abilities.  The reality is that I have lost almost everything that I dearly love in terms of hobbies due to the same disability.  Everything is now the abridged version, if I can do it at all.  None of it can be done without someone helping me through some of the process.  For an independent person, that’s nearly torture.

I waited over four years before even trying to sew.  I was terrified it was going to be another thing that I could not do, and not trying meant I didn’t have to face another barrier that was not going to vanish.  Finally though, I gathered up my nerve and tried.

I can sew, but I have some serious limits that mean that everything takes a lot more time than recommended, and is far slower than my previous abilities would have allowed me to complete things.  A two hour project now typically takes at least two days.  There is no such thing as quick and easy anymore.

I discovered that regular scissors were hopeless.  Too much reaching, too much hand movement, and it resulted in too much pain and frustration.  Special scissors, approved for arthritis patients, made things easier.  Electric shears, which I had used before, require too much arm movement and work more quickly than I dare go with an arm that sometimes has its own agenda, unrelated to the rest of me.  Greg is also willing to help me with anything I am trying to do.  It’s likely much easier to help rather than deal with me during a total melt down.

I have a fantastic sewing machine that nearly sews things for you.  It has little vibration and rarely misbehaves. So with that running, I can get to work.  For 5-10 minutes, or about enough time to do one seam.  Then, it’s break time.  It’s aggravating to someone who likes to just finish something now, but I’ve had time to adjust.  I only get mildly annoyed at this continual interruption that being me mean I have to have.  The payoff of facing that mild annoyance is the ability to create something without excessive pain resulting.  It gives me a sense of accomplishment that I can rarely have independently anymore.

So, without focusing on the restrictions that my disabilities have foisted upon me, I can now tell you about the pattern I am attempting to sew.

I’ve learned a lot.  First of all, if you want to use Hot Patterns patterns, you had best have internet access or else enough experience that you really don’t need written directions.  They have great tutorials on YouTube and they are also on their website, but the directions aren’t written for someone who prefers to see it written down in black and white.  Okay, I’ll suffer through trying to watch a video and then translate it to what I’m doing on the table and sewing machine.  I am not sure I like that though—it’s a pain to have to go back to the tutorial and then try to find the spot, say for the neck, and replay that portion.  I also am one of those people that do not do well with being told how to do something, but rather I prefer to read how to do something.  I was told long ago that it is a learning style, and I need to see it clearly rather than hear it.  Until now, that had never been a problem with learning how to put a particular pattern together.

The other thing I learned about Hot Pattern is that I should watch the tutorial for a pattern before I buy it.  The blouse I bought is put together differently than I am accustomed to, and it hasn’t been easy.  That may not be their fault, but rather the old rut thing—doing something differently is probably good for me, but like many other people, I sometimes get into ruts of wanting to do it exactly the same.  Nothing about this pattern has been the same.

Including the measurements.

The pattern is multi-sized, and I took my measurements (with help even) and then re-took my measurements, just to be sure.  As I checked my size, I told myself it was high time to get a bit more serious about weight loss than I have been, as the size I was going to require was two sizes larger than my usual off-the-rack size.  That’s not uncommon with patterns—they don’t use the same sizing as clothing manufacturers do.  I think it’s part of a global conspiracy to further erode the confidence of women and ensure they remain ambiguous about their personal body image.

But body image aside, I laid out the pattern pieces, cut out the cloth, and proceeded to start putting this blouse together out of some cheap fabric I had bought out of a clearance bin.  It’s not pretty fabric—it’s a rather bleah medium brown with small white dots.  It certainly isn’t a slimming or fun print, but it didn’t require pattern matching or fussing a I was cutting it out.  I felt like I was sewing a tent together.  Not only was the construction method different than the patterns I’d sewn in the past, but it seemed huge.

I felt like I was literally making a tent.

Finally, I reached a point where I could try on the garment, though it was far from finished.  Greg laughed.

It was quite obvious that I had been sewing a personal tent.  The garment was big enough that Greg and I could both wear it.  At the same time.

There is a reason Hot Patterns advocates making a “muslin” (test garment out of cheap fabric with a similar hand to the planned garment).  Maybe it is because their sizing chart isn’t very accurate?

So, I was now faced with a choice.  I could rip out the seams, cut the pattern pieces down two sizes, and resew it.

That’s a lot of work.  I also can’t really see the thread I sewed with (dark brown) to make ripping it out very easy.  Greg does a lot of stuff for me, but did I really want to ask him to rip out all of those seams?  I thought about the problem for a bit.  Then, I thought about the oversized “blouse” in a cotton fabric.

It would make a great over-blouse to wear in cooler weather.  It’s practically a painter’s smock in its original design, with a simple shape, raglan sleeves, and an open v-neck.  Add a couple of spacious patch pockets, and I’ve got a great top to wear while doing things and wanting an additional layer, plus it’s already sized to wear over clothing.

Am I just rationalizing my laziness?

Maybe.

So I’ll make it two sizes smaller in more cheap fabric.  That’s okay.  It seems likely that it will be easier to sew after the first one.  I also know that making these test garments is good practice anyhow.  Nothing is more disappointing than using expensive fabric only to have it be ill fitting or make an error in construction.  Not all fabrics are forgiving of having seams ripped out either.

I’ll finish the garment—it has three steps left now before I’ll be snipping off the last stray thread tails and deeming it done.  Unless I add the pockets, which will be relatively easy to do.  I think I will add them—and sizing one just to fit my Kindle.

I’ll call it my indoor jacket for when I want an additional layer, but not an actual coat.  It will go great over a t-shirt, as well as being something easy to pop on to go to the mailbox or make a store run too.  Yep, definitely a case of rationalizing going on here!

 

Notice: Don’t forget–this blog is being moved to www.exogenynetwork.com very soon.  During August, posts are being made in both locations.

Sew aggravating! Plus size patterns and new book

3 Aug

I recently got the sewing machine out and faced the music about whether or not I was still capable of sewing and enjoying it after becoming disabled.  I have a large collection of sewing patterns, but I bought a simple, easy-to-sew pattern to use for my initial foray into sewing again.

I was ecstatic to discover that yes, I could.  I couldn’t sew very long, and cutting the fabric is a huge challenge that has resulted in Greg being recruited…but I can do it.  I was off and running again, with something that I could do and enjoy.  I refreshed basic sewing skills through making my granddaughter and grand (or is that a great?) niece some skirts that were ideal for twirling in.  The pattern I used just asked to have the techniques upscaled  a bit from beginner to more finished, as well as for a bit of embellishment.

My creative juices were flowing again, only this time, it’s a calorie free pleasure!

That has me working on the next non-fiction book.  I’m going to do a book of projects, including sewing patterns and instructions, for dogs & their doggy people.  It’s a sort of super-sized pattern, I suppose, although it’s also about teaching people to make customized projects that actually fit their dog, rather than being merely a duplication of off-the-rack projects that may or may not work for their beloved companions.

So, while I’m working on that project, I decided my next project for myself would be some clothing.  I wanted a new sewing pattern or two as well.

Now that sounds easy enough, right? After all, women’s clothing sewing patterns are available with hundreds of variations.

Wrong.

With disability, I’ve gained a lot of weight.  Far too much, to be honest.  That has resulted in my clothes size going up.  A lot more than I’m comfortable admitting.  I need  plus size sewing patterns now.

Then, I made a horrible discovery.

Major pattern manufacturing companies don’t have much in terms of options for plus size sewing patterns.  To make it worse, they also don’t have much in anything I could wear.

Let’s amend that.  They had very little, if anything, I would wear.  They had even less in things I wanted to make at this point.  There was a handful of sewing patterns for plus sizes.  There were more options for maternity clothing than plus sizes in their sewing patterns.

As I recall, when I was pregnant, I spent a very brief time in maternity clothes compared to how long I’ll be in plus size clothing.  I’m not alone in that either–just walk through any mall or big box discount store (you all know which one I’m talking about here) and you’ll see plenty of plus size men and women, and you’ll see some that dwarf even plus sizes.  A lot of them surely sew? Or want custom clothing?

Apparently they either make their own or make do with off-the-rack clothing.  Maybe that explains some of the “fashion” we see on the plus size crowd.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m no fashion plate myself.  I pay very little attention to the latest fashions, actually.

What I want is along the lines of classic, with a focus on easy to sew, easy to get on, and easy to get off again.  Oh, and comfortable to wear.  Right now, I wanted a simple tiered skirt pattern and a pattern for a pull on tunic with a collar and options for either short or long sleeves.  On the sleeve thing, I could adapt a long sleeved pattern to a short sleeved one, even if it didn’t include that as an option.  I wanted the patterns to be designed with sufficient ease to make them out of lightweight and medium weight cotton or cotton blends as well–while summers are boiling hot in Mississippi, winters can be chilly too.  Sounds simple enough to buy a sewing pattern like that, right?

Wrong again.

I came up with exactly zero for the tiered skirt or the tunic in sewing patterns.  On the tunic blouse front, there were some pretty awful designs, usually with ruffles, some odd asymmetrical design, or horrible extended collars that had dangling bits to tie (and get caught in things when I’m doing stuff around the house.)  Even a full skirted, easy-to-wear dress wasn’t an option, as the offerings leaned towards knit fabrics (too hot for summer) zippers in the back (impossible for me to put on without help) boat necks, ruffles, more asymmetrical designed skirts, and overall just too fussy for my more tailored preferences.

Searching the independent pattern companies was my next option.  With higher overhead per pattern, their patterns are slightly more expensive, but my experience has indicated that they usually have far better directions as well as come in a bigger variety of sizes on one pattern.  This is fantastic if you tend to need one size on top and another on the bottom, or are sewing for more than one person.

Plus size patterns had slightly better options here, but once again, I was out of luck on the tiered skirt and the pull on tunic.  If you know of a small pattern company that has more classic and plainer designs, comment and tell me!

We can insert a long suffering sigh here.

So, years ago, I had made a pair of pants using a pattern from Suitability.  This company caters to the equestrian crowd.  The pants pattern, long discontinued, was for a zippered pair of unisex pants with cuffed ankles, waistband, was lightly gathered at the waist (maybe just in front?) and was the absolutely most comfortable pants I have ever owned besides my karate pants.   No matter what you were doing, they never restricted your movement.   They looked great too.  Unfortunately, the pattern was lost in moves, and I never could get another one.  (if anybody has that pattern…I think its name stared with a b?  You’d be my friend for LIFE if I could get it again!)  I even wrote to Suitability and plead my case to them, hoping they had a forgotten pattern package lingering somewhere…but no such luck.

I did find a pattern that looks like it might be a great one for me.  This time, instead of Suitability, it’s with Hot Patterns.  Hot Patterns also had a free downloadable pattern for what they called a waist coat and we’d call a long vest.  I may make that too!  They call them cargo pants, and they come in a multi-size pattern with both long pants and capri pants.  Instead of a cuffed bottom, they have a drawstring bottom.  I think I may just have to order that pattern…

So, without a pattern that I can purchase for the desired pieces I want to make, I may have to either design my own or modify some existing pattern into something I’m willing to sew and wear.  Not easy, but not impossible, even though I’m far from what I’d consider an expert seamstress.  I’m just long on sheer guts and creativity, I suppose?  I also know what I can and can’t do easily in terms of sewing, so I’m not going to jump off into the world of sewing a fitted fully-lined blazer just yet.  I have had a number of years in hiatus from sewing anything at all.

With regards to my upcoming book with projects for the dog lovers and their four legged companions, there is a list of projects already appearing, but I am still thinking about what people would want to make.  Everyone loves the quick & easy projects to use up scraps, recycled clothing, and cute projects, but what kinds of things should I include?  What do other dog lovers want for projects?

Personally, I think that sewing a dog bed is very expensive compared to ones that are purchased–I’m not inclined to regard that as a good project.  Most people don’t have the heavy duty machines necessary to sew actual collars and harnesses out of poly or nylon webbing either.  (I don’t!)  Are people more inclined to make things for their own dog or for gifts for their doggy friends and their companions?  Should I include items for the people that love their dogs as well as the dogs themselves?

So many (or should I say sew many?) choices to make!

What do you think I should include?  Comment and tell me!

Don’t forget–this blog is being moved to a new location.  Go check it out at www.exogenynetwork.com and click on Gia Scott Blog.

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