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Archive for May, 2009

Farewell Sweet Tracey

May 23rd, 2009

Tracey when she was a spry 16 year-old

Tracey when she was a spry 16 year-old

This has not been a good month for the cats that make their home with me. All was going well. JV, the most recent addition, was convincing Heidi, the crazy semi-feral cat, that I wasn’t going to eat her and Tracey was muddling along after marking her 21st birthday with a round of jello shots (no, I’m only kidding about that!). Then, JV’s kidneys gave out on him - I think he was older than he looked - and on Tuesday of this week, Tracey died.

I adopted Tracey and her brother Butch (who died a week after Thanksgiving in 2007) as kittens from a farm in Atlanta. They were complete farm cats - they had never been inside a building much less used a litterbox. They hid under my clawfoot bathtub for weeks after I got them and litterbox training was a struggle. I remember crying and thinking that I had made a huge mistake. But then a miracle happened - they started using the box as god intended and they allowed me to pet them. Soon, we were three of a kind, Butch and Tracey curled up together and me right alongside.

Butch threw up on this quilt many times

Butch threw up on this quilt many times

We went through a lot together. After Atlanta there was DC (where Butch spiked me while I was sleeping and I was too exhausted to get up and clean the wound - I still have a scar), Ft. Wayne (where Butch slashed me across the eye accidentally and I thought I had gone blind - another scar), Akron, Sarasota, Akron, Lakewood, Kent, and Akron again. It got so that if they saw the carrier after I had pulled out the moving boxes, they started to shudder. They had to deal with my crazy theatre hours and my major life change when I went back to grad school and on to WKSU.

Somewhere along the way, we established routines. Tracey would sleep on the bed with me each night and sit with me in the morning. Butch would watch TV with me at night. They ate a variety of dry food, but insisted on Nine Lives tuna - nothing else and no other brand. Tracey loved milk (I still have a half-gallon of lactose-free milk if anyone wants it). Butch threw up - a lot. And I’m not really sure how to live my life without them. Now that Tracey’s gone, I can leave doors open and go out after work if I want. I don’t have to make last-minute runs to the grocery store because I’ve miscounted the cans of tuna. There is only one working litterbox in the house, and young, healthy cats are so much easier to deal with on this front, it’s like almost not having any.

And I miss it. All of it. I have to clean the surfaces of my house and really scrub off from Tracey’s dying days, but I’m pretty sure the new cat countdown has already started.

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Being a Church Member

May 10th, 2009

Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent

Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent

Today, I signed the book at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent.  The church began its life as a Universalist church in 1868.  It’s much smaller than my previous church, West Shore Unitarian Universalist, which is one of the largest UU churches in Ohio.  When I signed that book, I became a member of UUC of Kent, and there is a lot of responsibility that goes along with the simple action.  Because of that, I have only been an official member of two churches.  If I couldn’t play a role in church life, I wasn’t going to be a member.

And that is essentially what prompted this major life change.  I’ve been going to West Shore since 1997.  By the time I signed the book, I had been pledging for two years and teaching Sunday School for one.  I had a large group of friends that were also active and even after I moved to Akron, it still made sense for me to be there even with the hour drive.  But, things change and one by one, my friends started coming to church with less frequency

Wayne Arnason and Kathleen Rolenz - minsterial team at West Shore

Wayne Arnason and Kathleen Rolenz - minsterial team at West Shore

(marriages, babies, moves, etc.).  I was teaching Sunday School a lot, meaning that I rarely attended services and I was isolated from the grown-ups during coffee hour.  When gas hit $4 a gallon, I had to reevaluate whether I could be an effective member of the church community.

As much as I had given to West Shore through my service, the church had given back to me in abundance.  Teaching Sunday School allowed me to follow the development of a group of smart, funny, talented young people.  Being a member of the Board of Trustees and the Committee on Ministry proved that others believed me capable and valued my opinions.  West Shore gave me the chance to make a difference - over and over again.  Many of the people I met there became my dear and trusted friends - bonds that withstood all of our life journeys.

Melissa Carvill-Ziemer - minster at UU Church of Kent

Melissa Carvill-Ziemer - minster at UU Church of Kent

I’m looking forward to growing into my new church community in Kent.  Last year, I decided to take a breather from West Shore and try a variety of churches.  The first week I went to UUCK - and that was all she wrote.  Joining a small church has challenges that are different, but no less present, than joining a large church.  For both, you have to discover your niche - a crack in the masonry where only you can fit.  That’s my new task.

I don’t say goodbye to my old church and its ministers, Wayne and Kathleen.  Only until later (Jane’s wedding is coming up at the very least).  They were very gracious when I told them I was resigning my membership in West Shore.  And, Wayne was the one who suggested that I check out Melissa’s sermons (they are all great writers - Melissa has the perfect personal touch for being a UU minister).  So, it’s a corner turned.  A minister years ago said, “You will encounter many paths during your life.  When you are deciding what path to take remember, there are no right or wrong choices.  Each will simply take you in a different direction.”  I’m on a new path - I’ll keep you up to date with what I see along the way.

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Happy Train Day!

May 9th, 2009

empire-builder-montanaI really like riding trains.  When I was a kid, my family made several long trips (to Seattle, down the coast to San Francisco, to New York) by train and I had remembered them fondly.  I’ve also heard horror stories of non-working restrooms (actually, most of the bad stories involve restrooms in some way).  But I wanted to have that adventure again and a few years ago, I decided to visit my cousin in Salem, Oregon, and travel by train.

I started out in Akron, Ohio (you can’t do this now, the nearest train station is Cleveland, but they have long-term parking, so it’s ok) and went to Chicago.  The train station is very close to Michigan Ave., so I never mind the lay-over (it’s usually at least a couple of hours, they don’t send out that many cross-country trains anymore).  They have enormous lockers for luggage - it’s easy to store stuff and go out for a meal, etc.  On my trip, I called my friend Cathleen, who only seems to see me when I’m waiting for my train connection, and we went out for Chinese food.  It was like stringing multiple vacation destinations together!

After I caught the Empire Builder for the trip west, I was seated in a car with other people headed for Oregon.  They try to separate out the long distance vs. the short distance travellers.  Amtrak going west has double-decker cars that include larger restrooms.  If you want a sleeper, there is a shower and all of your meals are included.  I ate in the dining car quite a bit.  The food is good and you eat family style (ie with random people - no seat wasted) so you can have interesting conversations.  It’s not terribly expensive, but I did take fruit and peanut butter along for snacks or light eating.

I was on the Empire Builder for 48 hours.  We went through some of the most beautiful country the US has to offer.  From Chicago to the Wisconsin Dells, the Minnesota prairie, stunning fields of sunflowers in North Dakota, mountains and rivers in Montana and Idaho and on into Oregon.  The train travels into Glacier National Park and stops at the lodge, which was originally designed as a rail stop.  Porters still come up from the hotel to take luggage from visiting passengers.  For long stretches of the trip, Park Rangers ride in the observation car and gave presentations.  You could also watch movies there at night (on these average-sized TVs hung from the ceiling).

The best part of the trip was how relaxing it was.  I read two books (which I exchanged for different books at Powell’s in Portland) and was able to enjoy just sitting and staring out the window at the scenery.  I didn’t have any trouble sleeping, but I’m not very tall and now, I might splurge on the sleeper.  I managed to keep clean and changed clothes daily (I even changed into pajamas at night).  Most of the people in my car were traveling through, so we were familiar with each other and it was very convivial.  Going by Amtrak made the journey part of the adventure and I had a very nice vacation.

My next goal is to take the central route across the country and then go up the California coast (which is supposed to be beautiful).  Happy Train Day!

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Craft Project for April: Bag out of bags.

May 1st, 2009

This is the bag of bags.

This is the bag of bags.

Last month, when I was visiting my cousin Robin in DC, we made a pledge to make a new craft project each month.  So far, so good!  I plan on posting details here and hopefully in a shared flickr account.  There are no rules or restraints, opening up a lot of possibilities.

For my first project, I made a reusable grocery bag out of used plastic bags.  I saw an etsy tutorial about fusing the plastic (which, of course, I couldn’t find again once I was ready to start the project) and I used another shopping bag as a pattern.

Here’s how it started.  Last month, I was vacuuming my livingroom and I suddenly looked up and thought, “What’s in that shopping bag I’m vacuuming around?”  Now, I do vacuum on a regular basis, but I always saw that the way my year goes, I’m in a work-induced coma until April (at which point I snap out of it and realize that my house is a mess and there are two strange cats living in my basement).  The giant shopping bag was filled with the bags that held all of the Christmas gifts I gave people.  In fact, it had been sitting, filled with trash, in that spot since I was wrapping pressies before Christmas.  That would be (for those who have lost count) more than 5 months ago.

Post pressing plastic pieces awaiting assembly

Post pressing plastic pieces awaiting assembly.

Yikes!  Then I watched the etsy.com tutorial on fusing plastic bags together to make basically a sturdy sheet of colorful plastic.  I needed lots of bags and I had them.  This week, I went through the sack and separated bags out by color and size.  It was a mix of #2 and #4 plastic.  Each side needed to have 6 to 8 layers.  I got my stacks and put them between two layers of plain brown paper with the print facing in.  Then I ironed the stack until it melted.  I was using a heavier piece of paper, so I had the heat up to cotton (no steam).  The melting part was a little haphazard.  One side melted too much and I could see some holes.  The front and back aren’t quite melted enough.  You’ll want to keep the iron moving and check frequently to see how it’s going.  Then flip the whole thing over and do melting on the other side.  Repeat with all 5 pieces.

I had drawn a template on the brown paper using the measurements from the other bag.  I lay down the melted pieces and trimmed to size.  I used a size 16 needle to sew it, and I didn’t have any skipping issues.  I started by folding down around an inch on all of the pieces (except, obviously, the bottom) and stitching it.  I had some lightweight belting that I wasn’t using and that became my handles.  I sewed the pieces together using a generous 1/4′ seam allowance and trimming things even.  Then I found a pack of white single fold bias and bound all of the seams.

The finished project, all set for shopping.

The finished project, all set for shopping.

Et, voila!  My favorite part is how the Target bag and Geoffrey from Toy ‘R’ Us work together on the one side.  Quite accidental and lovely.  I used around a dozen bags (some were those really big bags that I never know what to do with), a 4-yd package of bias and maybe 1 1/2 of webbing for the handles.  I didn’t purchase anything.  And now, I have something fun and unique to go shopping with!  Fun!

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