A Question to My Readers

How many of you are starting to get completely fed up with the overt intrusion into our privacy? Maybe you are already fully there! What am I talking about? Well, let’s look into this.

Years ago I worked for BCBS of TX/IL/NM. It was at the time when the Blackberry first came out and was an absolutely amazing piece of technology. I still remember when they rolled out workplace email. That was HUGE!! For a minute. Then someone invented SPAM! Thousands of emails flooding your inbox on a daily basis. At the beginning they hadn’t developed the unsubscribe function so all you could do was delete them. Of course they showed right back up the next day. Oh bother!!

Well, today we can unsubscribe, HaHaHa! Have you ever tallied the amount of time you spend unsubscribing from trash? Then how do you remember if you have removed yourself from one list or another? I swear that there are still dozens of emails coming in from sites I have opted out of. Luckily, that intrusion is diminishing bit by bit, day by day. Why? Because it is being replaced by unwanted texts that waste not only your time, but for many folks, data usage blows up. Yep, you can opt out of these as well. Use even more of your data to respond “STOP” or “QUIT”. Now I even say it, OMG!!

These intrusions are frustrating at best, I know. The ones that really get me are the more recently occurring type. They relate directly to internet searches for virtually any topic you can imagine. The history of customer service can be summed up pretty fairly by looking at this procession of events.

Remember when you called a company for some kind of information you needed only to be greeted by some new fangled answering system that asked a ton of questions and got you nowhere but frustrated? Maybe it was you insurance, phone service, utilities, cable or some other office where you expect good, knowledgeable, human contact. You begin the call with one simple request for information. By the time you are able to connect with a flesh and blood service representative you are so furious at the amount of time and lack of assistance that your threads are bare. Then you get that person and they can’t provide the answer or they give you incorrect information. I know! I know!

Now, not only do you have even more complicated and less capable phone systems to prevent human contact when you need and want it, but you have the intrusions when you least want them. Take a typical search on the Google, say it’s for what houses may be available for sale in your neighborhood. You want to have comps so you can decide if it is the right time to sell or if it is feasible to do some remodeling. This is information you are perfectly capable of gleaning yourself. No need to call a local agent. You do your search and you choose one of the dozens of sites that provides comps. Before you even fill out the entire search form your phone is ringing and it’s not a recognizable number so you answer. It’s a real estate agent calling to assist with your search for a new home!? SERIOUSLY!!

I can’t get a decent human interaction when I am phoning a place of business where customer service is a definite requirement but I get a phone call from someone when I am attempting to perform a generic internet search and I haven’t even provided my personal contact information? Where are they getting my phone number, name, address, and other information from? Why are they calling, texting and emailing me when I haven’t given them permission to do so? How come they don’t answer their incoming calls and take care of them with such intensity and generosity?

This should really cause all of us to pause and wonder! How much privacy do you truly have with all of this technology surrounding you? Are you really directing your own life? What decisions would you make for yourself if someone wasn’t constantly behind the scenes orchestrating what internet, social media, and postal advertising was available to you? I bet at least 50% of the time 95% of us would make different choices in nearly every arena. Think about it!

Let me know how you feel about these recent developments in our societal interactions and share how they have affected your daily life. Love to hear from you!

God Bless!

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Life is Challenging

I know. Talk about stating the obvious. Sorry. I guess I am just stating it with purpose. I apologize for being very late with this post. It has been a bear of a week. My mother-in-law, who is elderly and in poor health, fell at my sister-in-laws Sunday night. She was down there visiting and, from what we understand, fell over her oxygen line when on the way to the bathroom. Well, I am sure you already guessed, she broke her hip and, yes, needed surgery. So, they did the surgery, and she ended up experiencing what is called “Postoperative Delirium”. That means, in a nutshell, that she is not regaining her full cognitive function. She is having difficulty speaking more than a word or two, she cannot chew and swallow, and she is not able to focus on anything. She is in a hospital 2 1/2 hours from home and the weather is typical Texas spring weather. Beautiful and balmy Monday, freezing rain and sleet Tuesday, overcast and cool Wednesday. You get the idea. Nothing much is getting done around here.

I did accomplish some more of the little chores though. I get a wild hare once in a while and push something through between cooking, cleaning, and laundry. This week I worked on an old coffee table that I am refinishing. It has been in the collapsing storage out back for about 13 years now. Originally it was a small dining table that my husband and I cut down into coffee table height for my father-in-law about 15 years ago. He used it for the last couple of years he was with us and we deemed it his “command center” . I guess no one around here wanted to deal with it after his passing so it just sat out in the gathering elements. Amazingly it was still in good condition and it is solid wood, so of course I saw an opportunity.

My whole adult life has been a process of looking for something that is discarded but salvageable, bringing it home (to my husband’s chagrin), and reviving it. For several years we had a retail store where we sold the multitudes of items that I reworked. We dealt with several interior decorator’s in Florida, supplying them with one-of-a-kind designs. I even used my own homemade milk paint and stains. In 2013 we lost everything we had to our name in a fire that consumed our store and our apartment above. With my health issues I did not have the ability to start from scratch again, so now I am back to the beginning. I find pieces and create my own art for personal use and, once in a while, I design and develop items for gifting.

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I will now. My mantra is “I love the smell of sawdust in the morning.” I try to work on this little concept of joy as often as I can because it helps me forget about the sad things for a while. Anyway, I wanted to share what I have accomplished so far because I am trying a new twist to my design this time. I am combining two of my favorites; distressed and reverse stenciling. So far I am loving it. I am still working through what look I want for the apron and legs, so it will be a few days, health willing, before I actually get back to it. (That ought to drive my husband sufficiently crazy.)

I started by lightly sanding the table just to open up the pores a bit. I don’t sand too much when I am working on a distressed piece. The only way to get a piece that looks authentically distressed or aged is to keep the characteristics that are unique to that aged piece. I am absolutely, positively, 100% opposed to the common craze of Chalk Paint followed by wax. If only folks would take the time to create, really create. Chalk paint has a devastating affect on wood and the faux look of multiple layers and colors followed by waxing grinds me in a dozen different ways. There. Said. I just refuse to do it.

Once I had the sanding done, I covered an entire section of the top with painter’s tape. I love the Frog tape but any removable tape works, even simple old school masking tape. (I would never try duct tape or desk type tapes.) This is where the reverse stenciling comes in to play. I have done this a couple of different ways, but I find what works best for me is to trace the stencil directly onto the tape. Then, with an exacto knife, I cut very carefully around the tracing. You can cut directly with the stencil as a guide if you choose, but I like the ability to change my design up a bit so that it isn’t quite so perfect and with tracing I have the option of doing that without cutting through the stencil.

After I removed the excess tape, leaving the design on the surface, I painted over the entire table top and sides. With this particular project I used a can of spray paint. (Normally I would make my own organic milk paint, but due to money constraints I have not been able to replenish my dye lot.) I chose a slightly off white color, not quite ecru, and I put a fairly stiff coat over most of the surface, especially around the taped design. I removed the tape from the top about 7 days after painting because I wanted a very well cured surface. By opening the pores with the sanding, the paint adheres very well once cured.

With the tape removed, the reverse pattern is very visible, as it is the original wood surrounded by an off white paint. Generally I would leave it as is and apply a nice paste or citrus wax protective coating and be done. The perfectionist in me loves the sharp, crisp lines of this style. I took this look and totally messed it up on this particular project. I put a 220 grit sandpaper on my little mouse sander and I went to work. This is the distressing part of the design element (and another disconcerting area for me when I walk in to practically every shop that advertises distressed, farmhouse, coastal, or rustic furniture and decor).

When you choose to distress a piece, you really should take heed to study the item and consider the use it would receive over the years. For instance, this coffee table. If it were newly painted and then sat in my living room in front of my sofa for 10-15 years, where would it most likely see wear from use. Well, I sit on my couch with the table in front of me and I put it through real life situations. Where do my feet land and rub if I put them up? Where would my magazines be when a drink gets spilled and causes the cover to stick? What type of scratches would appear if I were to throw my keys or my purse on it surface? Now you understand, this is exactly where I used my sander and a few other items to put the stress marks on the table.

After creating a nice, not overly processed, design on the table top and sides, I use the 220 grit and lightly sand the entire surface so that the paint will no have a sheen. This is a crucial piece before the next step because the stain will not adhere to a bright paint as well. Yes, stain. I know, I know. I argued for a good 15 minutes with the salesman at the Sherwin Williams store where I bought my stain. (Again, I just have not replenished my organic stains that I prefer.) This gentleman asked what I would be using the stain for and when I told him he said I would not be able to put stain over paint. He told me that I would need to glaze over the paint or it would never dry and cure. I explained that as long as it was water based paint and water based stain it will work and I have been doing this treatment to furniture for over 25 years. He disagreed with me and claimed he had tried this and it had taken over 3 weeks for his project to dry beyond tacky. He almost lost a sale by arguing with me so much but that’s another story.

I am here to tell you that if you are sure to use a latex paint (or an organic milk paint), sand lightly to take the sheen off, and use a water based stain (or organic fruit, nut or wood stain), this will work perfectly, it will dry quickly, and it will cure within 48 hours. If you finish the surface with a paste wax or citrus wax I would suggest curing for 7 days to get a very strong bond, but you do not have to wait that long. You will get a successful finish if you wait only 48 hours between application of different mediums.

You may wonder about using polyurethane as a final finish product because of it’s durability and shine. That is perfectly fine if that is your choice. It works just as well as long as the poly is also water based. The reason I choose paste wax or citrus oil blend is personal choice. The citrus oil blend nourishes and seals the wood. Paste wax seals and protects the wood. Both products are free of VOC’s. Since I have severe asthma, I do not want the VOC’s in my air. Quite frankly, I am tired of eating, breathing, and drinking all of the chemicals that are poisoning Americans today, also.

To wrap this up for today, I have stained the table and it has dried so I am just waiting 5-7 days now before I put the citrus beeswax on it. Plus, after thinking about it, I have decided to paint the apron and stain the legs. We will see the finished project if the weather ever clears up and quits blowing gale force winds so I can get outside to sand and paint.

Switching Gears?

So, it has been a couple of weeks since we last spoke. I have definitely had a lot going on. It is unfortunate that this time has been a weary experience, yet one we all share in some form or another, at any given time. At this stage of my life, I am sad to say it is not unexpected.

My mother-in-law has been ailing for quite some time. She is elderly and it is a culmination of many things we will all experience as we age. She deals with congestive heart failure, COPD, and diverticulitis on a daily basis. It is challenging and she tires quite easily. (This is the reason we moved home after being gone for 15 years.) She went to visit my SIL, about 2 hours from home, a few weeks back and while she was there fell hard. This resulted in a broken hip, which happens frequently as people start to lose their balance, their legs become weak, and they experience neuropathy with an aging body.

To say this was a stressful ordeal for her, as well as the rest of our family, is an understatement. When she had surgery to replace her hip she did not fully recover from the effects of anesthesia. She suffered what is known as Postoperative Delirium. This is not uncommon in folks who are elderly and have other health complications, but it is dangerous. In many cases, the patients never fully recover. In Margaret’s case we were lucky, but we did not know that would be the outcome at first.

She gained consciousness after surgery, but without the ability to focus, speak, or eat. She remained in this state for seven days before we began to see any semblance of her regaining her cognizance. By the Grace of God, she has since recovered enough that she has moved to a Skilled Nursing Facility. Where we go from here will be a test of her will and our patience but we are blessed with the forward momentum we see daily.

About a week after all of this began, I took a call from my little sister in Michigan. Most of my family is in the northern area of Michigan and I have been very fortunate that both of my parents, and my maternal grandmother, are still around. My Gram is 96 years old and she is still kicking it. (She just recently gave up driving because it is too difficult to get around in the winter snow and ice.) The call from my sister was actually in regards to my Dad.

The night prior to her calling, my Dad and Mom had a discussion which my mom had shared on in her FB page. My sister wanted to call me before I read it online and panicked. My Dad is suffering from congestive heart failure, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease in his elderly years. He explained to my Mom that he is ready to go home. He just wanted to be sure that she would be okay without him. My parents have been together, essentially, since they were eleven years of age. They were engaged at 16, married at 17, and have been married for 59 years. He couldn’t leave if she wasn’t ready to let him go.

As both of my parents have a strong, abiding faith, my Dad has no doubt where “home” is and what will be waiting for him when he gets there. My mom understands this as well. She has assured him that she will be fine as she has 2 daughters, a son, and a granddaughter all living close by. She is living in a very nice retirement community across the hall from her cousin and 1 building down from my Gram. With her assurances, my Dad has asked that she not hurry and not worry. He will be there when she is ready.

My Dad and his baby, Daisy Mae

Now, I know that all sounds so nice and quaint, but I don’t want it to be misleading. This is a very, very difficult situation for all of us. Our family has always been close, even when we are arguing. There is an abiding love that is driven by our faith in God and reinforced by the way we were raised. My husband says that our family is like a Budweiser commercial during the holidays, which in and of itself is another story. We were just blessed to be raised in a part of our nation where the family farm is still common and it is a small town where everyone literally knows everyone else.

I spoke to my Dad later the same day my sister called. I asked him how long he could wait for me to come say goodbye. He said he would only be with us a short while longer so come now if I was going to. So we did. The trip to Michigan is usually a 20 hour drive that we take in 3 days so as not to overstress our already disabled bodies. This time we drove straight through. (I really need to express my deepest gratitude to my two local SILs and my BIL here, along with both of my sisters in Michigan. The trip would not have been possible without their help.)

The trip started out as pleasant as possible, given the situation. That is, until we got to just below Grand Rapids. Here we are in a Texas truck, that has no snow tires, and we come into a winter storm with ice and sleet on the roadways covered by white out conditions for big chunks of our route. There were several accidents that caused course corrections, but we did make it. I will fly past the details, but Jim and I were able to spend 5 days in Michigan with family, and my Dad. It was a blessing to have that time.

On the way home we had a very uneventful trip, until we got just east of St. Louis. Yep, you guessed it. Another gracious winter storm. This one on the wrong end of the expedition. It held tough until we passed Ardmore, OK. I can assure you that God is indeed GOOD. While passing flipped big trucks, jackknifed trailers, and car collisions, He led us through with no problems. So we lost a little time on each side of the trip, but all in all it was a good

I have learned, over the past two weeks, when we age and we are ready to go home, there is a compassion that ascends upon those we love to help comfort them. I also know that the will to continue can transcend even a bad stint with anesthesia. Basically, we know when God is calling us home and when we still have something unfinished, and His timing is always perfect.

My Dad continues to spend time with us, but we count the time by hours rather than days. He is tired even when he is not asleep. He is lucid enough to join in conversations about an hour or two a day. He has told my sisters that we shouldn’t stay away for more than a day or two because he may not see them if they do. He is calm, content, and ready. We are all proud to be his children and he has extended family, through marriages, that are glad to have had the chance to know him. He has life long friends, that he still shares what time he can, who consider him a brother. It has been a life well lived.

One last thing I would like to express is my deepest gratitude for the numbers and numbers of friends, family, and even strangers who have prayed, and continue praying, for the peace and serenity we need to pass through the days past and ahead. There is no better support we can give each other outside of sincere prayer. There is a deep lesson for all to learn here. Thank you and God Bless to all. Can’t wait to see you again!