Thursday, May 18, 2017

Making My Mark

I don't seem to be painting much recently.  I'm busy learning how to draw. Or perhaps I'm learning I always could draw and I'm learning that perfection isn't that important.

I previously told you about a little course I took called Drawing Without Talent through Sketchbook Skool. I was delighted with the results and wanted to learn more.  Danny Gregory had taught me that drawing with a pen would make me commit to my lines and I would, therefore, be more careful about where I placed them.  But that little course did not teach me how to shade with a pen.

Sketchbook Skool offers a variety of multi-week courses that have as many different teachers as they have weeks. I enjoyed the Drawing without Talent class so much I wanted to learn more.  Just as I was struggling to choose which course to take next they came up with a brand new one called Exploring. They claim they will only offer it once. It's a five-week course with five different teachers, and the very first one was Danny Gregory, teaching hatching and cross hatching.  Just what I needed!



Shortly after I signed up for the course I noticed an old friend on the Sketchbook Skool Facebook page. I mentioned that I'd just signed up for Exploring and she told me she had taken a course through Sketchbook Skool once but was very disappointed. She said there was "too much teacher info and not enough teaching."

I quickly discovered she was right.  Danny didn't break down the hatching process into daily lessons as he had done with the previous course.  He showed a lot of his own work, did one little demo and then gave us homework. That was not at all what I expected, and I told them so when I was offered a chance to give feedback.  I made a similar complaint at the end of the second week.  But then something magical happened.

I really enjoyed doing the homework for the second class, which basically involved drawing outside. I'm now looking forward to doing a lot of that this summer. I made some major mistakes on that homework assignment, but I like the overall idea so much I'm planning to rework it and use the image on a t-shirt or something. The next teacher actually reinforced that idea and showed us images could look whimsical and unreal and still be effective.

The fourth instructor gave us homework that sent me into a tailspin as it was a long, involved process of creating a concertina style sketchbook and then filling it with a particular theme.  I turned to the Facebook page and confessed that I was procrastinating because the mission seemed impossible to me. The monkey had me firmly in his grip.

The monkey refers to the little voice inside your head that tells you that you can't do something, or if you do, it's just not good enough.  (Check  out Danny Gregory's book Shut Your Monkey).

The Facebook gang encouraged me, shot the monkey and told me to put pen to paper and get on with it.  I did and felt a great sense of accomplishment when I was done.  Once again I discovered I really enjoyed the process.  I'm learning I can draw for the sheer joy of it and it doesn't have to be perfect. When I draw with a
pen I may make a few mislines but they are not mistakes.  They are simply part of the process and I can find ways to incorporate them.  I've also discovered that a bit of colour goes a long way to distract the eye away from these spots otherwise previously thought of as errors.

So while the Exploring course was not at all what I was expecting, What I got out of it was far more valuable than techniques on how to draw well. I gained confidence and the ability to accept whatever I create as just part of the learning process. No matter how good you are at something, there is always more to learn. I learned to play and regained the joy of making marks on paper. I had that in my youth before some high school teacher found a way to spoil it for me. Somebody should have shot......er, shut that monkey!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Thanking my Lucky Stars!

Some people are lucky, and some people are not. I spent the majority of my life never winning anything. Well, that's not quite true as I did win a record album from a radio station once when I was a teenager. That got me all excited, but I never did get it. I expected it to arrive in the mail, but perhaps I was supposed to somehow make my way across the city to fetch it. No such luck. I ended up more disappointed than if I had never won it at all.

My youngest son won a Mickey Mouse phone from an Ottawa TV show when he was about 8, and he managed to win a couple of summer camp trips too. I thought he had way more luck than I'd ever had. Perhaps it had just skipped a generation or something.

Things changed for me about 5 years ago when I suddenly had a winning streak. I enter contests on line and was doing rather well.  Then it petered out again and I was actually having bad luck for a while.

This year has been extremely lucky for me so far, though I expect that luck just has to run out any day now.

In February I told you about winning a big basket of goods from the merchants of Almonte. Since then the BzzAgent people sent me an Oral B Genius 8000 electric toothbrush to test. The thing is amazing as it works with my phone's blue tooth and actually teaches me how to do a better job of brushing while it gets my teeth dentist clean. It was worth about $200 but all I had to do was write a review.





 
Of course I managed to score a box of goodies from Sample Source too. That also takes luck and timing. I always count myself lucky when I manage to get one.

Then recently I went to the Shop Local Showcase in Kemptville and, as usual, filled out slips for various draws I found there. I was present when I won one of the hourly prizes. I got a $25 gift card for Hard Stones Grill. Later in the week I got a phone call and found out I had also another basket full of stuff from the Royal LePage realestate booth.  That's almost embarrassing as that's the booth I went to first, when I was trying to discover who had called my name. And before I could even get into Kemptville to pick that up, a new friend, Gary Blake,  presented me with a lovely painting he had done out of appreciation for some little thing that required no reward. Lucky is one thing, but who can believe there would ever be so much of it all at once! It's been an amazing week!

I picked up the basket this past weekend, and it contained two bottles of Wayne Gretsky wine (one red, one white), four jars of Mrs McGarrigle's mustard, a $50 gift card for Heather's Healthy Harvest, another $50 gift certificate for the Brigadoon, and also one for a car wash. The rest of the stuff in the basket had to do with rolling your own sushi. That's not something that is likely to happen in this house, but I'll find someone who will appreciate it.  Maybe it's even you, if you tell me a story about how you do such things at your house or what on earth got you started.  I've had such great luck lately, I think it's time I gave something away.  You deserve a reward for reading this far, or for answering my question on Facebook. Only a couple of my facebook friends have done that so far, so this is your chance to see how I actually win things. I pick contests like this, where the odds are really good as there won't be a huge number entering. I'll pick the winner on June 5, 2017.  I'm sorry, but you will have to be living in Canada to win though I'd love to hear stories from the rest of you too..




Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Be Careful What You Ask For

For the second time this weekend someone has asked for my opinion and then likely not been pleased when they got it.

Are you one of those people who, when asked how you like someone's new outfit or hairstyle, tell them it looks great while internally you are cringing and wondering what on earth they were thinking when they spent that money?  Well, I'm not.  I assume that if you ask me such a question you really want to know.  Why would you go fishing for compliments? Getting them that way would always leave you wondering if you were getting a truthful answer.  After all you've just put someone on the spot and some people would feel it was impolite the tell the truth and possibly hurt your feelings. I, on the other hand figure you wouldn't ask if you didn't want to know. I'm doing you a service by giving you an honest answer.  You do have to keep in mind that it's just my opinion, and opinions vary from one person to another.  Mine is in no way special other than that you specifically asked for it.

I do a lot of surveys and reviews for new products. This not only makes me a bit of spending money but is also a safe, healthy way for me to express my opinions.  I even have it listed on one of those sites that if you ask for my opinion, you will get it.

Please, do be careful not to ask me how old I think you are, as someone did this weekend.  Before answering, I did say that it was a rather embarrassing question since I might get the answer wrong. I qualified my answer by first stating my own age, and then saying that I figured she was maybe just a couple of years older.  "Older?" she shrieked, as her hands flew to her face in shock.  I knew immediately that she was probably at least 5 years younger to be as upset as that.  But hey, I was faced with a lady selling skin care products that were supposedly anti-aging, and she thought they worked miracles. I thought she looked good for the age I gave her. On the other hand, if she's younger than I am, I have no use for those products as she had a lot more wrinkles than I do. Let's just say it's a good thing I'm not writing a review on that product line.  I was treading carefully by the time she asked if I'd be interested in purchasing any of them. I just told her I had a large supply of creams and gels at home and quickly wandered off.  I do hope she has at least learned not to ask that age question ever again......or any of the other ones she might not be happy with answers to.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Learn to Play the Game of Life

There is something called the game of life. I'm sure you've heard of it. Most of you play it well without actually thinking about it. But what is it?

Like any other game, it has rules. You have to follow certain rules to play any game, especially if you are playing with other people. If you don't they will tell you that you cheat. If you play by your own rules you are just messing things up and the game won't go well. Either way, others won't want to play with you anymore.

Society has set up rules of etiquette which are meant to make people comfortable with one another and other rules called laws, to keep people safe. People who get caught breaking the laws are punished for doing so. People who don't follow the rules of etiquette are simply not pleasant to be around and are often shunned.

Some people don't do well in life and wonder why. They simply have not learned to play the game. If for instance, you hate your job, not because you don't like what you do, but more because you think your boss is stupid, then you have not learned that it does not matter if the boss is wrong. It only matters that you do the job he or she expects you to, in the manner they request. Your job is, in effect, to make your boss happy. That's called playing the game. If you cannot, in good conscience, do what is asked of you, find another job, or do that one so well that you get promoted to being the boss yourself.  A little warning here. There will always be another boss over you unless you own the business. Even then you have to follow the rules set out by the government or the business society. There is always a game to play. Only the players and the rules change.

Marriage is another game. You have to work together to make it work. The rules require that you do not insist on putting yourself first all the time. As in most situations, the happier you make the other person, the happier they are willing to make you.

These days a lot of technology has come into our lives and suddenly we are forced to learn new games. I don't mean video games here. All sorts of things we used to do every day are now done with this technology. Simple things like banking, check-out counters in some stores, and paying at the gas pumps have all become computerized. Some people aren't comfortable with these new technologies and refuse to play those games. They insist on doing things the old way. That can complicate life somewhat as time goes by and they fall further behind in what has now become standard technology.

The government has been trying to get us all to do our taxes online for several years, and since some of us don't want to play that game they have now made it harder to find the correct address to mail our forms to. They are also insisting that they should be able to automatically deposit all payments from them, rather than send out individual cheques. They are busy changing the rules we have grown up with. Not everyone is willing to accept these bullying techniques, and some people, can you imagine, are just not equipped for this sort of technology. Of course, that would make it more difficult to play that sort of game without actually hiring someone to do your taxes, etc.

But I digress.

If things are not going well for you, stop and consider just what area of life you are having trouble with. A life lived by one's own rules very seldom goes smoothly. Stop trying to play the game by your own rules and many of your problems will disappear. What are others doing that makes that life work well for them? Take time to learn some rules that will make your life easier to live and enjoy. Life is just a game. Learn to play it well.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Adventures in Flooring

When a man has time on his hands and you aren't watching him, he will create a project that you are not necessarily ready for. That's basically what happened here.

We have lived in this house for forty years now, and the old carpet had seen better days. Actually, it had some sun faded spots when we moved in, but those were only noticeable if you moved the furniture. Underneath it, the carpet was as good as new.  A year or so ago, the carpet decided to buckle, but only during certain kinds of weather. We knew we were going to have to do something soon. Then last fall it developed a hole. Just a
small one, but a hole just the same.  I turned my back and the carpet was torn out.

We've been living with plywood in the living room ever since. Normally one decides what they are replacing a carpet with before removing it. One of the main problems was that the existing coat cupboard had been added after the carpet had been laid, and was built right on top of it. How does one get a new carpet to fit under there?  We did look at carpeting but eventually decided to go with a hardwood floor instead. When we were in the market for a house, I knew only that I didn't want any wall to wall carpeting and I didn't want a dining room. Well, I have no dining room, and only the living room had the carpet. Now, after forty years, I get the house I went shopping for.

But what did we know about wood floors? Did we want hardwood, engineered hardwood, or laminate?  While we had already decided that my office will someday have laminate flooring, I didn't really think it was suitable for the living room. Apparently, it's been greatly improved over the years though, and we did consider it for a while. We had no idea what engineered hardwood was and had to look into that too. Hubby probably drove our flooring guy a little crazy with all his questions. Me, I was only interested in the colour. I grew up in houses with hardwood floors and wanted it to have the look I  was accustomed to. I understand hardwood is a lot easier to care for these days, which is good, considering I'm now too old to be down on my hands and knees waxing floors like my mother used to.

The question we were frequently asked was what kind of wood do you want. But I don't know anything about woods real or fabricated. We were presented with a few samples, which were not what I had in mind. They were either too light in colour, too textured, or too dull. We decided to take ourselves to the supplier and look at what was available. There were certainly a lot of choices, but my hubby and I both went immediately to the same one. That made it an easy choice. Red Oak. Of course, it came in three different grades, but if I'm going to invest in a hardwood floor, I want the best.  The rustic stuff would have been pretty, but not in my living room. The other one had boards with too much variance in colour and when we had a sample of that, it almost looked like stripes in places. We picked the top grade because it had a more even tone. Watching it being laid, I knew we made the right choice.

But first, we had to clear all but the three large piece of furniture out of that room. That certainly made a mess out of two other rooms for a day or so. The job got done, and we are pleased with the results. I may get an area rug, just to anchor the furniture. My 43-year-old tables will be replaced too. You know the kind.....boxy with cupboard doors....  I want something smaller, that I can just dust mop underneath.  

My hubby caused this project to happen, so now he will have to put up with a bit of redecorating.  That's only fair, eh.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Dishing It Up

Back in the days when I wrote a weekly column for one newspaper or another, I used to say that it gave me something to think about besides what to have for supper. That's a big decision, you know. Planning meals and cooking them so that everything is ready at the same time is hard enough, but making sure there is at least something everyone at the table will like is no easy chore.

The column had a deadline so I had to be constantly thinking of new things to write about, and how to get the information needed to make sure I was being accurate.

I don't have a column anymore. I just have this blog. While some blogs do have a strict schedule as to when they are published, mine is more of a hobby, so I just write whatever comes to mind at whatever point in time that happens. I no longer hand off one column, give a big sigh of relief, only to .....just seconds later..... find myself under pressure to come up with a new idea.  In other words, I'm back to sometimes finding that the biggest decision of the day is figuring out what to feed my guys.  Even once I make that decision, I might discover that I would have been better off not to have made the choice I did.  Let's look at two recent examples.

My grandsons were coming for the weekend. They were to arrive on Friday evening, and I wasn't going to be home at the time of arrival, so I thought I'd make it easier for their dad to feed them. I made Sloppy Burgers.  The weather didn't cooperate, and by the time they did get here, it was 8 pm and they had already eaten. No problem. They could have the burgers the next night. But the next day they were invited to a friend's place for dinner, so the Sloppy Burgers that were meant for Friday night got pushed to Sunday. Well, then the freezing rain started, and since they don't live anywhere near here, the time to head home was just after lunch, instead of after supper. We had a hospital visit to make, so I left them knowing that they wouldn't starve.  Their dad made them Nachos for lunch instead and my hubby and I were left to eat as many Sloppy Burgers as we could hold for supper Sunday night just so I wouldn't have to throw them out.

Monday I decided to take a chicken out of the freezer so it could thaw and be roasted on Tuesday.  Tuesday I discovered my hubby was planning to go work out with one of his black belts, so I figured a lighter supper would be better. I had some chicken burgers in the freezer, and there were still some buns left from the weekend. Just before we ate the call came though that the other person had to work late, so they rescheduled the workout for Wednesday.  Lovely. So I'd cook the thawed bird on Wednesday and he could eat as little or as much of it as he wanted, and the rest could be for the next night. Then a good friend calls and wanted me to go with her to the Brockville Aquatarium Wednesday afternoon. She had free passes from the library. Well, I wasn't about to turn that down!  We had a good time and got home later than expected, and I knew I couldn't get that chicken to cook in time for supper, so we had Fish and Chips along with some cold slaw. Quick, easy and satisfying. Along comes Thursday and hubby suddenly decided to take the afternoon off, and run me into Ottawa to see if I can get my camera fixed (that's a whole different story). We didn't dally, but I arrived home even later than the night before. That darn bird had to go in the oven or I was going to have to throw it out! So, dinner was an hour late that night but it tasted good. Anything served that late is bound to.

I'm always hearing how important it is to plan your meals ahead of time so you can buy what you need to make them. I usually buy what I'm out of, and whatever is on special that I know we could eat, and then decide day by day what to pull out and cook. This past week of good planning only ran me into trouble and frustration so I'm issuing a warning to my guys......I'm going to cook the way I write my blog.  What ever comes to mind is what will be served up.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

More Than a Band-aid Solution Needed

For most of my life, I have been glad that I lived in a country where I knew the medical system would be able to take good care of me in my old age. Well, I'm getting there, but now I'm afraid. I'm very afraid. Under the current system, I'd probably just die waiting to get looked at.  That might even be preferable to the suffering some patients have to go through while waiting for treatment.
Within the past month there have been two trips to the emergency room at two different hospitals, and honestly, I'm just glad I wasn't the patient either time.

Patient One at Hospital A presented with a bad back. It was not a new problem but it was a crisis situation and getting worse. The patient got to the hospital okay, but was left to sit for so long that the pain was getting unbearable. I suggested, by text, he go back to the desk and tell them. He said he could no longer make it to the desk. We decided to go to the hospital to see if we could help. By the time we arrive Patient One had finally been moved to the treatment area where he suffered some difficulties getting on and off of the bed. The nurse stood back and only offered to put the side of the bed up for something to haul himself around on......as if someone with a bad back could do that. He was left alone for some time back there too, with no call button, if he'd needed help. After finally getting to see the doctor, and getting a shot for the pain, it was time to go. Patient One indicated that he could not just walk out of there. A wheelchair was found and brought to the doorway. Apparently, even though that part of Hospital A is new, wheelchairs do not fit through the doorways of the treatment rooms.  He then had to make his way to it under his own power, and then the nurse just walked away.  So, still under his own power, he slowly, and painfully managed to wheel himself out towards the lobby. We spotted him and took over. I don't know what they thought he would do with the wheelchair once he reached his vehicle, but it would have been just left in the parking lot if I had not been there to take it back in.

Patient Two had a knee replaced at a different hospital last Monday and was sent home on Wednesday.  She lives alone but the health system doesn't care about that. She managed to line up some friends and family to help her as much as possible for the first week. She had supper Wednesday night but by morning she was nauseous. Since then she had not been able to keep anything down by the time we saw her on Saturday.

We were to take her to get her dressing changed but found her freezing, nauseous, and her nose had gone numb and the numbness was spreading.  Not good. She called the clinic where we were supposed to take her and they told her to call an ambulance to ER instead.

ER is the pits these days.

The ambulance took Patient Two to Hospital B, but when they arrived the paramedics took her off the gurney and put her in a wheelchair.  Her leg isn't supposed to hang for long, and it was an hour before she even got seen by triage. In the meantime, she kept getting worse. First, the numbness spread to her arms and legs. The knee was not supported properly so it became very painful, and she was in obvious distress.  I asked whoever I could catch if there was not a wheelchair with a leg support that she could be moved to instead, and they said they didn't have any.  I know they exist over on the surgical side of the hospital. Why didn't they call for one?

Then her mouth started to bleed.  This is all while still sitting in the hallway, with the paramedics, who were sorry, but eventually had to leave as they were getting calls. The triage nurse was sitting in her little room, fully aware that things were going downhill, and still insisted that she had to see some others first.

So when Patient Two finally got moved into the Emergency room, her brother was expected to move her from the chair to the bed, and I was left to change her into a gown. She apologized for that, but shouldn't have been made to feel that anyone other than hospital staff was responsible for her. I mean, they are the ones trained to move people about, right?  We, on the other hand, are senior citizens, with no such training, and could have dropped her, or hurt ourselves doing what trained professionals should have been doing. She was left alone with no call button, just like Patient One, even though she had this strange numbness spreading throughout her body.

She said she felt like she had a dead animal in her mouth, because of the blood. Nobody ever looked to see why she was bleeding, or where the blood was actually coming from.  They just said they couldn't let her eat or drink anything until they knew what was going on.  They didn't even offer to let her rinse her mouth out.

So then it took another hour for a doctor to show up to look at her. She kept mentioning that she was nauseous right from the moment the Paramedics arrived until the doctor finally saw her,  but nobody ever gave her anything to catch whatever might decide to come up.  After I got her into the gown, all that extra moving around made things worse. She said she was going to be sick, and I ran to find something to catch it in. Luckily I found something just in time.  And still, there was no way to rinse out her mouth. A nurse spotted me running around the empty hallway, and later came with a clear plastic bag with a cardboard funnel on it, saying that was better than what I'd brought. She never took the other away, or even looked to see what was in it.

We knew by then Patient Two was badly dehydrated, which the doctor confirmed when he finally showed up.  He treated her for that, and the nausea, got her dressing changed and ordered bloodwork.

The bloodwork showed she was low on potassium.  That's no surprise either as they had her on potassium while she was in for surgery, but never sent her home with a prescription.  So they put her on a potassium drip and then told her she could leave.  And of course, then the nurse just walked away.

I stuffed her back into her clothes and we could hear them down the way saying she was gone now. There was no way she could be gone without a wheelchair. I went out and let them know we needed one just to get her to the car. This was at least the third time I had to try and find someone. A call button would have been a great solution.

I'm disgusted with the entire process.  How does anyone cope with an emergency situation if they are on their own?  Not even coming in by ambulance helped.  Not everyone has someone who can come to do the things the medical staff used to do. Not all of us who do come are capable of all the duties now heaped on us.  I no longer feel as though our health system is set up to care for us properly even in an emergency situation. Our system is definitely broken.