Thursday, February 28, 2013

Graceful Envelope from Start to Finish - Part 3

Across the front of the envelope in white ink which doesn't show up in the scan, are the lyrics to The Wheels on The Bus.  Around the perimeter of the envelope, are the words to the verse I made up done in a loose Roman capital with a Gillotte 303. The people on the bus can sit where they want, thanks to Rosa Parks. I measured the stamp and left room where the stamp would be placed.

I wanted the overall effect of the envelope to be whimsical and childlike. Decided not to rule lines and used lower-case Copperplate for the hand.

The pen point caught the fibers of the paper or a blob of paint and made the "f" turn out quite fugly. I blotted it with a wet paper towel and then erased what I had written as the ink was still wet. I had used Ziller Glossy Black ink and when wiped it smeared a bit darker in the one spot. Waited for that to dry and then brushed on some gesso over the black area like white out. All this because I was too lazy to cut another sheet of paper, paint the background and letter. I was hoping to salvage my work. When the gesso dried, I applied another layer of black watercolor and plastic wrap. The writing would be difficult to see so I switched to Winter White Ziller ink. Not bad.

While the paint dried, I used watercolor pencil to color the bus and cut the bus out. The paper glued to the front of the envelope, plus the bus cutout would, most likely, cause the envelope to go over the one ounce weight for first class mail. Another stamp would be needed. I decided the flag stamp would fit nicely on the grill of the bus.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tuesdays with Elders - The Privacy Act

The Privacy Act of 1974 is a good thing. It prevents people from obtaining our personal information like Social Security earnings or our medical records without our permission. It proves to be a brick wall when trying to help Elders who can't or won't give permission.

Try calling the telephone company to dispute calls made to Jamaica, if your Elder hasn't given you permission to speak on their behalf. What do you do?

Convince your Elder to add your name or someone they trust to doctor's office, medical insurance, utilities, and especially bank accounts.

Since I was always with my parents at doctor visits, their doctor invited me into the exam room with them. Since my parents never objected, I became the de facto medical contact. I was able to make and cancel appointments, and to ask questions about medications, or medical conditions. Being the medical liaison also made it easy when emergency room staff or other doctors asked questions about my parents medical histories. I knew the ailments, medications, and dosages. Kept the medication list with me.

One area that is especially critical is to have your Elder add your name or another they trust to their bank account as a joint holder.

One fine, sunny Spring day, I drove my parents to their respective banks to have them add me as a joint account holder. Years ago,Dad had a secretary named Janet whom he liked because she ran the office efficiently. All the nitty gritty, mundane details were taken care of. I became the new Janet, paid the bills on time and Dad was free to pursue his activities at the Senior Center.

Initially, Ma thought adding my name to her account was a good thing. She happily signed the forms at the bank. Beamed when the Customer Service Rep told her she was doing a smart thing. My name on Ma's account lasted a month and then backfired in my face.

I had requested with both their banks to receive an ATM card. Since I didn't live close by to my parents, I could make purchases on their behalf without planning an expedition with them or have to drive to the house to pick up a check. One afternoon after running errands, Ma said she needed a prescription picked up. No worries, I told her I'd pick them up on the way home and would have Himself drop them off on his way to work. She worried how she was going to pay Himself.

I told her I had the bank card. It was just like writing a check. Big mistake being honest with her. Ma had a meltdown accused me of trying to steal her money. She wasn't dead yet, and I wasn't going to get a dime. The dementia bees were buzzing so loud, she wouldn't believe she had signed papers at the bank. The next day, Ma took a taxi to the bank and had my name removed from the account. She wasn't going to tell me she did this. As the taxi pulled out of the driveway, Dad called to tell me I became Child Non Gratis.

Having your name added as a joint account holder becomes especially important when dealing with Medicaid.

Next week: Missing Signs.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Graceful Envelope from Start to Finish - Part 2

In past years, I've sometimes made my own envelope. Usually, I find a blank envelope the size I want to use in the makings for greeting card box. That's what I did this time around. The back of the envelope isn't judged.

I cut a scrap of better quality paper, whatever my hand finds in the scrap box. I used a piece of Arches 90 lb hot press, watercolor paper which when the design is completed I will glue to the front of the envelope. I use this method because 1.) greeting card envelopes are not usually made from high quality paper, and 2.) the fear factor is taken away because if I make a mistake, I won't blow the envelope. I can always cut another sheet of paper for the front of the envelope.

To address envelopes, I always use an acrylic ink either Ziller or F. W. The acrylic ink won't run if the envelope is delivered on a rainy day or the postal carrier has sweaty hands. (-;

I wanted to paint a textured background for this design using gouache, an opaque watercolor, and plastic wrap. Laying scrunched up plastic wrap over the wet paint creates interesting crystal like patterns when the paint dries. When the paint dried, I used black or blue ink to see which showed up and which I liked better. The gouache background was too bold so I decided regular watercolors would give a more subtle background.

Rather than paint a school bus, I decided to draw, color, and cut the bus out. The cut out would give the envelope some depth and whimsy.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Graceful Envelope from Start to Finish - Part 1

A lot of thought and planning is the first step to any creative venture. With The Graceful Envelope Contest, the first step is to thoroughly read the rules. You can spend time designing a gorgeous entry, but will instantly be disqualified if your envelope is too big, too small, or doesn't fit the theme.
Judging is based on the interpretation of the theme including the stamp(s) used.

The theme for 2013 is Change. Since the stamp will be an important design element, the next stop is You can browse all the stamps, but pay attention to the issue date. Not all stamps will be available for use. It also helps to make friends with the counter clerks at your local post office. The clerks can tell you when new stamps will be coming in. Be kind and schedule your visit when your post office isn't busy.

I decided to use the Rosa Parks stamp. In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man. She disobeyed the separatist law at the time and was arrested. Her arrest sparked a boycott of the bus system. A year later,  the U.S. Supreme court agreed that segregating buses was unconstitutional. Her quiet act of defiance changed history.

I like to use the largest size envelope allowed for my canvas which is a booklet envelope measuring 6" x 9". Postage is determined by size and weight. If the envelope is large, an odd size (square), or too thick to fit through a postal slot, it will require extra postage. It used to be something like 11 cents more, but with the latest postal increase, I'm sure the extra postage amount has gone up, too. Your friendly, counter clerk will be able to tell you the exact amount. I don't worry about the nickels and dimes and just plan on using a second first class stamp on my envelope. The new freedom, liberty, equality flag stamp would be the perfect complement to the Rosa Parks stamp.

With the stamps picked out, a stream of consciousness approached helped me to visualize the envelope design. Besides Miss Rosa, bus was first image I thought of. Then school bus. Then kids on the bus singing The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round with a made up verse: The people on the bus can sit where they want, thanks to Rosa Parks.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

It's A Thingie

to prop up your cellphone. Found them at Target in the dollar bin. They came in white, light blue, lime, and black.

Stick the suction cup to the back of your phone, and your phone is propped up on your desk.

Clever, nicht wahr?

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Friday Five

I recently saw a Facebook meme that challenged people to name 5 movies that didn't contain the letter "S". The meme made it sound like this was not an easy task. Either the meme creator hasn't seen a lot of movies, or I have seen too many because I can think of a ton. Just from my Richard Widmark collection alone:

1. Broken Lance

2. No Way Out

3. The Frogmen

4. Alvarez Kelly

5. The Bedford Incident.

Add to my list. C'mon, you know you want to.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

What's This?

Can you guess what this is? Come back Saturday to find out what it is.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tuesdays with Elders - Assistance

Taking care of Elders and trying to keep them safe in their own homes can be overwhelming especially if siblings and spouse/significant other aren't always around to lend a hand. There is help. Lots of it, but there is a caveat.

Assistance for light housekeeping tasks, personal care, errands, shopping, fuel assistance are available. Contact the Senior Center in your community. The Social worker at the Center has a wealth of resources. The services are not entirely free, but are based on income. You pay what you can. The caveat is to get your Elder to accept the help and to pay the fee. You also, need to talk to them before their brains become addled with the bees of dementia.

With Ma whizzing through their savings, Dad was finding it hard to make ends meet on his social security check. The Brother and I slipped Dad a few bucks here and there, but with our own bills to pay there wasn't much else we could do.

The Social Worker at the Senior Center talked to Dad about the fuel assistance program. She was also in contact with me to see if I could convince Dad to get the help. We went to a meeting and the Social Worker helped Dad fill out the forms. The snag came when Ma's signature was needed on the form granting the Fuel Assistance Program permission to check their social security income. Ma was convinced we were trying to force her to take out a loan, and she wasn't going to have any part of that.  No amount of convincing her this was not a loan, would budge her trolley from the track because her ability to reason was gone.

Dad saw a commercial for Joe-4-Oil, The Citizens for Energy program. He called and,  got a $300 fuel oil delivery. It wasn't much, but it helped him to limp through the winter. We tried again the following year, but there was no oil. The year after that, the phone lines were jammed from morning til night and the website did not accept applications.

A big shout out has to go Tropic Heat, the oil company the folks had for over 60 years. It's a family run business, and they were very sympathetic to the financial situation. They kept a tab, didn't charge interest, and let Dad pay what and how much he could.

There is help. You have to look for it, you have to ask, and you have to be willing to accept the help.  Which brings me to next week's topic: The Privacy Act

Monday, February 18, 2013

Saturday, February 16, 2013

In Memoriam

Derry 16. Feb 1942 - 4. Oct. 1990
Friend, I will remember you.
Think of you. Pray for you.
And when another day is through,
I'll still be friends with you. - John Denver.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Friday Five

Ceej auditions for the NBC Peacock
A couple of recent blog posts about junior high school, triggered some memories. I'm sure it's not a time anyone would want to repeat. An awkward age fraught with questions of self worth especially if one hasn't blossomed yet.

I attended a parochial elementary school which went to eighth grade. I didn't want to go to a parochial high school, and fortunately for me, my parents had spent most of their money on sending my brother to a parochial prep school, I got to go to public school. There were three junior high schools in town covering grades 7 through 9.

I went from a tight knit class of 48 (all in one classroom!) to a sea of a couple of hundred kids. Most of my parochial school classmates went to the two other junior high schools in town or to parochial high school. The only person I knew was Himself, but he was in eighth grade, and I saw very little of him in school.

1. Going to the public school was a culture shock. Students didn't have to stand up beside their seat to recite. Yup, I got laughed at most of the first day because that habit was so ingrained. For the first time, I didn't have to wear a uniform, but there was a dress code. Girls had to wear skirts or dresses. Mini skirts were all the rage, though there was no weekly hem inspection to make sure hemlines were at a modest length like I had in 7th and 8th grade. We were not allowed to wear trousers or jeans. My class did petition the principal to wear slacks. We were granted this privilege only during the winter, and only if we wore a pantsuit a la Carol Brady from the tv show, The Brady Bunch.

2. It was the first time I had male teachers. I, and every  other girl in the school, fell madly in love with The Algebra Teacher. He was also the assistant football coach so I went to home games to watch him. All the girls stalked him. Stayed after school to clean the blackboards in his classroom. Hung around his car in the afternoon, or his parking space before school. There was a long line to dance with him at the 9th Grade Dance. Was a long time before I washed my right hand.

3. We were allowed to take electives, but parents had to approved and sign the form. My mother took me to enroll in the school so as the guidance counselor presented options Ma yayed or nayed them. I wanted to take technical drawing. Ma deemed that a "boy's" class. So instead, I had to take a half year of cooking and a half year of sewing. The cooking class was fun and the teacher was nice. We got to make things, and to eat them. At the end of the year, all the cooking classes put on a spaghetti dinner for the teachers. I did not like sewing. Didn't like the teacher and she wasn't too fond of me.

4. I had French starting in 6th grade, and would not be given credit for first year French class. The guidance counselor figured that the 3 years I had French were not accredited. On the first day of class, the French teacher asked who attended the parochial school  I raised my hand. I was informed she would not call on me the entire year as I already knew what she was teaching. Happened in 10th grade, too. I didn't bother reviewing and that hurt me in 11th grade when I struggled to make a C.

5. I did not have gym classes in parochial school. Found the locker room to be another culture shock.  We did have to wear a gym uniform. It was a navy blue, sleeveless shortall. The armholes were small so the edge of the material cut into your arm pits. Not very comfortable. A white sweatshirt if the weather was cold, and white Keds oxford sneakers.  I wouldn't have minded gym if we played softball or kick ball. Gym was an endless round of push ups and sit ups and running  laps for The President's Council on Physical Fitness test. We also did stupid floor exercise dances and an embarrassing dance to a song, Chicken Fat.

Oh, and one more, because junior high wasn't all bad.

6. There were also extracurricular clubs to join, and you didn't have to be a cheerleader or a jock.  I joined the Art Club.

What did you like or hate about junior high school?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day! I thought I had another week! No worries, while out running errands I'd pick up a card that doesn't have a rhyming sentiment. Himself doesn't like gushy cards. The card rack was pretty much picked over, but I managed to find a nice card simply stated. Then I thought a little presento. Oh, and maybe something small for the girlies. They would all like a bit of candy. The cashier cheerfully rang up my card. That will be $97.23

Happy Valentine's Day

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tuesday with Elders - Driving Mr. & Mrs. Daisy

I wish it looked this cool.
In 2006, I became my parents' chauffeur in between shuttle flights with my own girlies. With my parents it was an endless succession of doctor visits and grocery store expeditions. They had doctors for every toe. Some weeks, we would go to the Big Toe doctor's office, the Little Toe doctor's office and the Mahket.

Some days were hysterically funny because Elders with dementia lose the ability to edit. Think of toddlers saying the most outrageous things at the most inappropriate times. Some days, they put the stress in stressful especially the 6 hour from the time I left my portal until I returned shopping expeditions. (I don't miss those) The process was a long learning curve as I learned how to negotiate the road map that had no legend.

Ultimately, it comes back to the tug of war of control. I wanted my folks to snap to on my schedule. Ma wanted me on hers. Negotiating wasn't an option because it's hard to reason with a person who has lost the ability to reason. Setting boundaries wasn't easy either. There were days I lost my cool. Like the day I pulled the car over after being screamed at because I was going "the wrong way". I yelled at my mother to "Get out, if you don't like the Route of the Number 9 bus!".  Chalk that up to Pre-OPD.

I learned lessons in patience. It was easier to sit and wait for Ma to scrub the sink, wash the floor, or sort through her papers or any of the other things she just had to do before an appointment or shopping. I could sit and visit with Dad. After all, I was his support system. I had Himself, friends, and a blog where I whined. Dad had me. And we rolled merrily along on square wheels, not elegant, not efficient, but we rolled.

Next Week: Getting Assistance

Monday, February 11, 2013

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sixteen Tons

And what do you get? Another day older and a back ache in bed....

Halfway done.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Blizzard of 2013

Made with Slideshow Embed Tool

Thursday, 2/7/2013 The 35th anniversary of the Blizzard of 1978.

At 3:30 PM, the college where Himself and The Eldest works announced the school would be closed for the entire weekend. At 7 PM, the college The Youngest attends announced the school would be closed on Friday. Everyone was going to be home safe and sound during the storm.

Friday, 2/8/2013 Innocuous little snowflakes began falling at 9 AM. We had adequate provisions. Water for 7 1/2 flushes. Another 5 flushes. 8 gallons of drinking water or 4 more flushes whichever comes first. Home-made cheese pizza 1. Home-made cheese pizza 2 because someone snacked on the pepperoni. At 9 pm the snow was coming down at a pretty good clip with blowing and drifting snow. And at 1 AM we still had electricity. Gottseidank!

Saturday, 2/9/2013 8:30 Still snowing. Still have electricity and still can flush. Ink inspects things from the front window. View from sunroom slider.  11:30 and the clean up begins

Noon: Path to the mailbox cleared. Outer wall of driveway is breached. Opening of the driveway cleared. Time for lunch and some ibuprofen. Front of mailbox still needs to be cleared. Cars and half the driveway still need to be shoveled.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Friday Five.

This past month, I've been without a washing machine. Got me thinking about things that I really miss and can't live without.

1. I miss my washing machine. I don't mind doing the laundry. It's not like you have to go down to the river to beat your wash against a rock to get it clean or to scrub your clothes on a washboard. Put in a load, add soap, press a few buttons and ta-da clean clothes.  What a pain in the ( ! ) to lug laundry to the laundromat. It's just not a Little Princess thing to do. Hopefully, by the time you are reading this, the washing machine will have been repaired now that Sears finally got around to sending all the parts the repairman needs. He was here on 30. Jan. Arrived on time, and found, though he ordered all the parts he needed, the parts department didn't send them all. (Update: The washing machine was repaired Wed. morning. Thank you, J and A.

2. The same week the washer went on the fritz, I ran out of Tetley tea. I had some decaf tea, I keep on hand for my friend, Red, but it just wasn't the same. More like drinking colored, hot water.

3. Ice storms across the Midwest brought a wind storm here. A huge tree two houses up the road went down taking the power lines with it. It wasn't so much the loss of electricity for a few hours that was the problem, it's not having electricity to power the well pump to have water to flush the toilet. The joys of living in the Back o' Bourke as my Ozzie friends would say.

4. During the past few storms and power outages, the iPad has proven to be a much used tool in the storm preparation kit. I've been able to report power outages to the electric company and to follow their updates on Twitter as to when service will be returned. It also helps to whine on status updates about my plight.

5. I also like the comfort of aloe and lotion in my facial tissue and because I'm such a Little Princess toilet paper has to be soft and fluffy, too.

What things can't you live without?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Graceful Envelope Contest

Like the blizzard that is supposed to hit the Boston area tomorrow, the deadline for The Graceful Envelope Contest is fast approaching. The contest is a bit earlier this year than past years. Entries must be postmarked by 25. February 2013. This year's theme is A World of Change, and speaking of change don't forget first-class postage has increased to 46 cents. Contest rules and regulations can be found at the Washington Calligraphers Guild. Children's entries are also accepted and would be a fun activity for them.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Tuesdays with Elders - OPD

O.P.D. Old People's Disease. My cousin coined the phrase. The bottom line is control. You're familiar with the hand pulling the puppet strings on the cover of Mario Puzo's novel, The Godfather. Ma's hand was the inspiration and model for the cover design. Ma, bless her, is the puppet master. She pulls the strings, and we dance because sometimes it's easier to go along to get along.

OPD is also a tug of war. The Elders trying to maintain control and caregivers having to step in and take control. Roles reverse. Parents become children and children become parents.

The first major obstacle is when to take the car keys away. Once Dad retired, he took control of the car keys and Ma never got a chance to get behind the wheel. Dad had two fender bender accidents within a five year period. Both accidents were his fault, but he felt he was being discriminated because he was an Elder.

The Brother works for a major US car manufacturer and had taken care of the folks' cars. The folks were able to buy cars using The Brother's discount. The Brother took care of all the maintenance (oil, tires), taxes and insurance. Dad just had to put gas in the car. The Brother had just finished paying the high insurance premiums from the first accident when Dad had the second. This time, the little green car was beyond repair, mainly because it was over 10 years old and parts couldn't be found.

Even if The Brother could have gotten parts, the folks didn't have money to have the car repaired because Ma was pissing through their savings playing lotteries, paying psychics, and other scam artists. The Brother felt guilty about Dad not having a car. I told The Brother it was a blessing in disguise. We no longer had to worry when Dad got behind the wheel. We didn't have to stress about his safety or the safety of others on the road. Taking away his car keys and freedom would have been a major battle. I suppose the Fates felt sorry for us having to deal with Ma and her dementia so we were spared the drama. Dad still had his car keys. The car was still  in the garage. Dad didn't have the money to repair the car or to buy a new one.

Next week: Driving Mr. and Mrs. Daisy

Sunday, February 3, 2013

I Spied with My Little Eye

a robin! Actually, Ink spied the bird first. Ink was sitting in the front window making the odd chattering noises he makes when he sees snacks on the lawn. I went over to see what had him all excited. A robin. Yeah, I hear you, a robin, big deal. But it is. I've never seen a robin this early in the year before. Never. Ever. I suppose the mild weather has the critters all confused. I'm not complaining.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Friday Five

1. 24. January marked the 29th birthday of the Apple MacIntosh computer introduced in 1984

2. At the time, I was working as a computer programmer for a software company in Rhode Island. The company sold back office accounting programs to banks and small manufacturing businesses. We customized the programs to suit the clients.

3. One morning, a bunch of the fellas (the company only had 2 female programmers) were crowded around Mike's office. There was a lot of laughter, and Mike was taking a lot of ribbing.

4. On his desk, was a small, white box which he claimed was a computer. Personal computing is the wave of the future. Companies will be able to publish their own brochures and business cards.  We laughed. We worked on real computers, a little larger than the size of a modern day washer and dryer. The computers did real work: general ledger calculations, financial reports. It's a nice looking paper weight, Mike, though a little on the big side. It's a %^#$ toy. It won't ever take off.

5. What idjits we were.

Where were you in 1984?