Sunday, March 29, 2015

Doing Sew Sew

I don't know if I've found a solution for my pain problem, but maybe it's a coincidence that after taking Imitrex and Zzzquil, an ice-pack night, getting an incredibly painful machine-assisted massage (seriously, my back, neck, and shoulders seemed to be covered in tender points that day and I almost cried when they were touched), and a new pillow, the next day I was pain free, like I hadn't been in excruciating pain for weeks.  

A decent pillow, standard-sized so that the support inside doesn't squish out to the ends.  It's like I went to Diagon Alley and purchased the Pillow of Painless Slumber.  For $8.  Maybe I need to replace my pillows a couple of times a year. I don't know for sure but I'm going to have serious guilt about doing that because it feels like a huge increase in my carbon footprint. 

I've been spending a while again on refashionista.net, inspired by her refashions and wondering why I can't do the same.  Oh yes.  I remember now.  She's a size zero and pear shaped.  I'm... Well, let's just say I'm a couple sizes bigger than Marilyn Monroe and I'm an hourglass too.  And I don't have a Goodwill Distribution Center (or store) nearby.  I'd need clothes bigger than myself to cut down.  Meh.

I need to finish my knit skirt, which only lacks its waistband and elastic, but I'm scared to finish it and become deeply disappointed when I try it on.  I hemmed for hours yesterday.  I came to the conclusions that some of their instructions were absolutely wrong, which means the pleats for my skirt will be on the wrong side.  

Oh well, my pencil skirt pattern came yesterday and I suppose I can try it out just for laughs.  

I just know it won't look good when I'm finished, and I'll have wasted a lot of money when I finish.  I can sew just fine -- no problem with that skill.  It's just that my body is all wrong these days for anything less than a muumuu, and you can just add that to the list of reasons I'm not pulling out of this round of depression.  

Friday, March 20, 2015

First Day of Spring

And I've got some serious blahs.  All right, just call it a depression resurgence. It's one of those conditions for which there is no cure.

I've spent most of Spring Break alone, and though I know it's really bad for me, there wasn't any way around it.  We had two days of sunshine and warm weather, and then winter came back.  *sigh*. I didn't accomplish all I wanted to, but I did get a major start in that dreaded renovation project.  After a couple of days, my mental "This is too hard -- what's the point?" kicked in with a vengeance.  

Part of it was the house, and part was my health, and though I've shunned all doctor contact for now, I'm wondering if my hip pain isn't just the beginning of a more serious problem.  My nerve pathways have all been lighting up with pain like a set of intermittent Christmas lights for the past few weeks, and I'm wondering what's going on.  My last day of work, every joint in my body was aching.  It hasn't really let up yet.  Neck, shoulders, knees, ankles, hips, elbows...  All hurting right now.  Every time I get up, whether it's to get out of bed in the morning or just to go to the bathroom, walking is painful.  

What's going on?  I don't know.  My dad has newly diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis, but I was tested for that, lupus, and mononucleosis a few years ago when I broke out in a neck-down rash and my wrists and fingers curled inward and I couldn't straighten them. I now spend my days wondering if mom's osteoarthritis is starting to hit, or if it's dad's RA.  I feel like I can't dodge either one now.  

Of course, the joints aren't all that hurt.  I've found my forearms flashing pain and my glutes too.  Places that aren't even joints have joined in.  Seeing as I lack a competent doctor to check these problems out, I can't see the point in going for tests, one office visit charge at a time.  You could go in with a broken leg and arm, with a gaping head wound, and all the doctors I know would say, let's stitch that up this week, and you can come back to get the leg fixed in another few weeks, and the arm a few weeks after that.  

My thought is that I'm already injured in numerous ways, so how about LISTENING to me tell you what's ailing me instead of trying to figure out how to squeeze more office visits out of me?  There's always that possibility that if a doctor really examines the case, they might find the symptoms to be the work of one treatable condition.  

I'm trying to eat healthily with juicing, but I'm having a hard time starting again.  It's an unshakeable defeatist attitude, and yet I know I'll feel better after a few pounds are gone. I don't want to go to the grocery store.  I don't want to drink my juice after I've made it, and I feel like I'm going to fail anyway.  The lack of crunchy food gets to me.  Maybe I should try making some baked veggie chips.  Zucchini turned out to be wonderful, but they do not go very far.  Maybe baked sweet potato chips.  

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Ads

Well, it looks like you don't have to worry about seeing ads on my blog.  Certain things are required that I am not equipped to do.  First they want me to post my personal contact information on my blog, making the private very public.  If I wanted to do that, I'd have made my blog publicly listed.  Second, I must also buy my domain name from them, and I'm not going to do that either, because I don't want to spend all my time redesigning websites -- I've done that so many times, and playing with html coding has NEVER been my idea of fun.  Or even worthwhile. I quit that stuff years ago.  I have a full time job and it isn't coding.  I've been waiting for days, and still haven't received the confirmation / refusal email I was told I'd get in six hours. So never mind. I'll just sit here and eat ramen noodles.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Skirting the Issue

Recently I decided to start a little bit of sewing.  Again.  I'd bought myself a nice new machine a few years ago, but was hesitant about using it because of all the troubles I'd had with its predecessor.  The bobbin case always had tension problems, and I didn't know enough to fix it myself.  

Fortunately, the new machine is computerized and has a drop-in bobbin instead, so user errors are reduced. I haven't had the problems I did with the other one, and I'm partially attributing that to my gaining a few years of maturity.  The other half is that the old machine wasn't a reliable model.  I've even been able to do some sewing on knits with the new machine without any ruffling problems.

I'm going to attribute THAT to all of the helpful information available on the Internet.  B.E. (Before Internet), I was truly on my own, and counted myself lucky to have made anything attractive at the time.  I made several pretty items.  

Lately I just can't find clothes that suit me and flatter me, and I hate clothes shopping.  Pinterest has me sure I can throw together a lovely A-Line skirt in no-time. 

Ok, so I did, a few days ago.  I went to Joann's armed with a 50% off coupon and bought $25 of fabric for about $12.50.  I'm really falling in love with that store, now that good coupons are coming my way.  I finally understand why the clerks at the other store were surprised that I didn't have coupons. They have some GREAT coupons and sales!  Who would bother spending full price if they can get half off? 

I bought some batik fabric from the quilting section. (Shut UP.  Yes I know, but their apparel fabrics seriously displeased me.) I had already done my measurements and calculated is need two yards to be on the safe side, instead of the recommended yard and a half, because darn it, I don't have a 25 inch waist anymore.  I also wanted some extra so that I could add pockets.  

Thus began the comedy of errors.  I promise you, I did understand all the steps before I began.  

Basically, you seam up the sides and then attach the waistband, then insert the elastic into the waistband-casing.  Pretty simple. I had cut out the pockets using an online pattern and instructions from another site.  Since I wasn't yet sure exactly where to put the pockets, I left openings in the side seams so that I could determine placement after trying it on.  No problem.

I seamed the sides, leaving the pocket areas unstitched.  Then I pinned the folded waistband, and was about to start seaming it on, when I realized I had it pinned to the wrong side.  Repinned and seamed. *sigh.*. Tried it on, and discovered that I should have cut the elastic shorter.  By about four inches. I guess my waist isn't as huge as I thought.  I opened up a seam, pulled it out, then cut and seamed the elastic.  Then I hand sewed the opening shut.  

I figured it would look nice to zigzag over the raw edges and then topstitch the waistband down for a crisper look.  I was right.  It looked more professional that way.  Then I tried it on to decide pocket placement, and discovered that there were no pocket holes. 

Oh wait, there they are.  Down by my ankles.  I'd sewed the waistband on the bottom instead of the top.  Because I was using a non-directional print, it didn't matter.  I just closed those seams and opened the seam on my hips with my seam ripper.  Yay.  

I wish I'd attached those pocket pieces before I seamed the sides of the skirt.  It would have been easier, but I really had no clue where they should be before a first fitting.  So with a little maneuvering, I got the first pocket in and tried the skirt on again. Well, in the process I DID manage to sew in a lower section of the skirt, I had to fix that and do it right, paying better attention the second time.  

Proud of myself, I put my hand into my pocket, only to find that the pocket was too small for anything other than my tightly crammed fist.  It'd never hold my phone or keys.  As gargantuan as the pocket was when I cut it out, I was surprised it was so tiny finished.  So I redesigned the pocket for the second side, and with a massively oversized pattern, I got a pocket that was slightly larger and usable.  

The first pocket, I just enlarged on the inside.  *sigh*. Frustrating.  Okay, now that the pockets are useable, I try it on and ...

Realize that I'm far too big-hipped for this style to look good on me. :). Too much gathering, and the fabric was too stiff and unflattering.  So I washed it with fabric softener and put it through a no-heat cycle in my dryer to beat it up a bit.  I am so frustrated right now. It's a pretty skirt, on the hanger.  If I can bash it a little softer, it might hang right.  Or maybe I should sew weights in like the Queen does.  I'm just not sure what kind of weight to use that won't damage my machine. 

Problems that I had: 
1.  Cottons are stiff, especially quilting cottons.  Knit would be better, for the draping ability, but there's not much choice here, unless you are happy with solid colors. I'm not. :(

2.  I didn't have an actual pattern, nor a photo of a woman my size wearing it.  The model was very thin, so the skirt looked great on her.  I work better with patterns.

3.  Gathered waists are not flattering on an hourglass figure.  A tapered waist would be better, but I'm not sure about finding such a pattern for my size.  This is why I haven't been wearing skirts. They don't look good on me now. Actually, nothing looks good on me now.

This is all a very funny situation, with all my mistakes and such.  The only part that isn't funny is how bad I'm feeling about myself right now. 

When I first started thinking about sewing a skirt again, I did purchase a Simplicity pattern for knits. Hopefully, that pattern with some knit fabric will make me happier and I can expand my pitiful wardrobe.  As it happens, I've got several yards of a dreadfully heavy knit that I bought in 2012, intending to make a multipurpose wrap with it.  When the fabric arrived, I discovered how thick and heavy it was, to my disappointment.  It's just been hanging around... I wonder if I have enough to cut out a skirt pattern? 

Well... Just made my first mistake with the new pattern.  I read it over carefully a few times while my dog got all in my face for affection, and discovered that I didn't buy the right size pattern.  Have I mentioned how upsetting it is that I've gotta buy a plus-sized pattern, and Simplicity's pattern numbers are far HIGHER than my contemporary size actually is?

And the answer about the fabric is: no, I don't have enough of the red fabric to make anything, though I have enough black...  Like I need another black skirt in the springtime.  Maybe I should just go on and dress like a witch every day. 

No idea what to do with three yards of already-cut red knit jersey.  Ideas?

Money Grubbing Teachers? Ha!

I'm trying an experiment today. I added advertising on to my blog to see if it actually does earn any money. However I am aware that I do not have a high-traffic blog, nor a high interest blog for the masses.  If it does generate any income, I will work on a better blog that isn't just me expressing my thoughts. I do have my travel blog that I add to periodically, and I think I'll do the same thing with that one.  It's personal thoughts too, but those are things that I have learned from traveling, and I do have a few unique ideas on that.  

Now, lest you think that I am simply a greedy person, let me point out a few things about my chosen profession. I am a public school teacher, and I have not gotten any kind of raise at all, not a cent for cost of living, in over five years.  Once I had attained 15 years of teaching experience, I stopped having any ability to get a raise. That is simply the way the pay scale is structured. Teachers cannot get paid more money because they have extensive experience. Rather, our experience is completely disregarded past the 15 year experience mark in my state. I don't know if that is the case in all states, but it is certainly true in mine.

Furthermore, we are expected by everyone to continue paying for additional degrees that we do not get paid along the way for. In other words, we are expected to continue our education on our own dime and not be compensated for it by pay raise unless we finally earn a new degree.  The doctorate that would gain me a couple of thousand dollars a year more in pay would cost me far more than that to achieve. It used to be that for every 10 or 15 semester hours we earned (and paid for ourselves), we would get a tiny pay increase. But that is over now.  Only another full degree will earn that tiny pay increase. So, you can understand it it feels very much as if we are being encouraged not to get any higher education in our field.  

So I'm not going to attempt earning a doctorate degree.  Too bad for whomever that might affect. I simply can't afford it now or in the future, and in my case, it would only be for bragging rights. Very expensive bragging rights.

Here are some assumptions and reality about teaching:

1. We are allotted a small amount each year for purchasing consumables, but often that ends up being pencils and paper and folders and erasers that I give away to students because we are expected to supply them with their school supplies now.  (I do not, however, give them cash on the frequent occasions that they ask me to, to support their personal interests outside of school.)  That allotment is never enough to pay for everything we need, and it can't cover the costs of the decorations that make students excited and welcome in a classroom.  I can't get it in cash, anyway.

2. We have fully furnished and decorated classrooms supplied for us.   While it is true that there are desks and chairs supplied for myself and my students, there was no chalkboard or dry erase board in the room. I spent my own money at Lowe's to find building materials to make my own dry erase boards to fill in those gaps, because I couldn't use my supply money there, and I'd already 

3.  We have paid holidays and summer vacations, and we get paid for snow days when school is cancelled.  The truth: we are paid to work 200 days, and we are not paid our fully earned salary each paycheck.  We often work more than 200 days, unpaid, to get things ready.  We knew that when we became teachers.  Imagine for a minute what it would be like to have 20% of your salary, before taxes, withheld so that in the summer when you're not working, you still have money coming in.  That's money you earned the previous calendar year, which you were not paid.  Now imagine you had no choice about pay options.  I will say this: it works for me.  I get paid once a month, 12 times a year, and it makes me budget very well.  I've got no complaint about the system, though that first two months before I got my first paycheck were very difficult.  

It's all very American and capitalist. Don't worry, your teachers aren't getting paid for time off, EVER.  We don't ever get a free ride.

4.  Despite no pay increase whatsoever in five years, my health insurance has tripled in that time, my deductible has skyrocketed, while my benefits and coverage have been decreased, and property taxes on my run-down little house in a bad neighborhood have doubled my monthly payments.  Oh yes, I'm single, with no roommate.  Isn't that peachy?  

5. I love my job... But you need to understand this: when I get my unpaid week of Spring Break, it doesn't mean my hours become subject to your convenience.  I do not suddenly need to have my appointment with you become 8 am on my time off, when it is usually late in the afternoon the rest of the year.  Consider that I might have work to do at home during those daylight hours that I normally can't do during my wintry work week when it is dark at 4:30.  Consider that I'm exhausted from burning the candle at both ends on teaching days when I already don't get enough rest.   I'm sorry.  Spring Break is for teachers, staff, and students.  If you aren't one of those, please don't expect us to give you the break when we've earned and need that break ourselves. You could've been a teacher, too, if you wanted to deal with all this stuff, and get an unpaid week off too. :)

So, I apologize if the forthcoming ads bother you.  I can't get overtime at my job (besides, John Q. Public thinks teachers should be working 24/7 anyway because he doesn't want his angels at home with him, EVER -- he was probably one of those difficult students all through school anyway), so maybe I can earn a couple of dollars a month on this, since I don't have the time or energy to write the "Great American Novel" that is the teacher's cliché.  Lol. I promise, I'm working on some useful posts that will possibly be worth reading.  

Just remember that often, the John Q. Public that says all teachers are bad, all schools are bad, and the education system is broken is usually the ill-behaved kid who was in and out of correctional interventions on the few days he did attend school, and was only present to ruin class for everyone, and prevent the teacher from teaching a meaningful lesson.  Check their records -- they won't be the decent student, ever. 

I'm not averse to a second job.  I've done that repeatedly over the years. Currently I'm creating custom monogrammed shirts, but it's slow-going.  I've had one customer. Lol. At least I can beautify my own world a bit.  So far I've made myself a couple of shirts, a whole BUNCH of really classy kitchen canister labels (VERY helpful in my dark cabinets) and a couple of gifts.  Again, lots of people expect me to provide everything as a gift for them, and they don't want to hear that it's costing me a lot of money to do that. I... can't afford that. Sorry. :). Everyone wants me to be their mom so I'll make them stuff for free.  They don't even want to pay for materials, much less machinery costs, and how dare I need to make a couple of dollars profit after spending hours on their item.   So business is slow, because I have a take-it-or-leave-it attitude, rather than a you-are-so-wonderful-to-me-you-deserve-lots-of-gifts attitude. :). So few people who fit in there.  Less than I can count on one hand.

Hey, I've gotta eat.  I need money to pay for all those vegetables that make me healthy enough to pay my crazy insurance and not get any benefit from it.  Lol. I figure if they really want me to make something for them, they'll accept paying for it or do without.  I'm sure there's someone else around who can afford not to charge you for anything.  Right?

Well, I'll take care of myself.  No one else will.  :)

By the way, did I tell you that I'm driving a 13 year old vehicle, and I know diddly about working on it?  :)


Friday, March 6, 2015

Isolation Illness

I'm sitting at home, housebound in the second round of winter storms that has cancelled school in less than a month.  I believe that cabin fever leads to mental instability.  At least for me, it isn't good for my outlook.  I wanted the (yes, unpaid) days off work, but we're approaching ten days missed, and my house is ultra boring when I'm home all alone.

I just don't like feeling trapped.  I'm actually starting to feel physically ill from being stuck here with nothing better to do than craft away the hours.  

Nobody can come visit (only one person would, anyway) and I can't go out and visit anyone myself.  While the street just past my driveway is melting free of snow and ice, above that it is still covered, oddly enough, and I shudder to think that much of my neighborhood is still too slick to risk my AWD vehicle on.  No friends to visit around here anyway.  I'm not sure I have any friends at a distance who'd want a visit either.  

It's the way it goes.  You get to a certain point in your life and everyone abandons you at once.  Is there a point to going on? Well, it's hard to say during an ice storm's aftermath, when people bombard you on Facebook, wanting not friendly contact, but a shot at making money off you because they're selling something.  (I obviously lack that selling skill, LOL). 

The scrap afghan I've started in memory of my mother is now halfway finished.  I've used a satisfying amount of my scrap yarn, and it's a little over three feet wide.  I have to go wider because of a special request to make it wide enough for two to snuggle under.  :). 

Know what would make me truly happy with this project?  To use up every last tiny ball of scrap yarn, so they'll stop rolling around under my feet, getting in my way.  The deliberately crazy combinations of color amuse me, because they look very 70s to me, and really do bring to mind how my mother's long-lost afghan looked. I may get away with only having to buy some navy yarn to finish it up.

Next up will be a few gift items.  I need to make a scarf for my fella, but something tells me it can wait until next year because it's about to suddenly get warm for good.  I need to make balaclavas for my nephews -- maybe this time they'll hold onto their hats as if they realize their aunt spent many hours slaving away on them, and not treat them like they were a Wal-Mart dollar purchase from China, easily thrown away and not cared about if they are casually lost.  Sometimes I hope that they realize the aunt who makes them hats nearly every year will at some point die, or become unable to knit and crochet because of inherited rheumatoid or osteo arthritis.  The goose who laid the golden eggs didn't live forever.  

I want to make some baby gifts for the next generation... Maybe baby quilts again, if they'll promise not to treat them as grease rags after wrapping a single child in them.  Maybe some sweaters and booties, maybe some bibs.  I don't really know - I guess whatever strikes my fancy.  It just seems pathetic for a childless woman to become obsessed with making baby things.  

It would probably be less painful for me to develop a serious interest in television instead, and make nothing further.  The things I make are my babies, and it hurts to see them discarded so thoughtlessly. It's stopped me from making things for certain people already -- they take what I do for granted, as if I've blinked my eyes and magicked the stuff into existence absolutely free, without months of loving labor.  They demand custom work after an original design is completed -- for me to absorb the sometimes considerable extra cost in time and materials.

Maybe I should just start showing myself that same level of care, and treat myself with the respect I wish others would, by improving my health and my surroundings.  

I've been doing some sewing lately, because it finally occurred to me that having a nice computerized sewing machine almost obliges me to sew more.  But that doesn't make a lot of sense most days, considering that I'm the one who bought it.  I suppose I should just consider myself enabled, and quietly make myself a heck of a lot of useful and pretty stuff.  The first thing I made with it was the curtains in my classroom, and that was certainly a worthwhile project.  It's too bad I can't sew some light for my house, and maybe some new kitchen cabinets.  Well, since I can't update the kitchen, I'm gonna paint it.  It may take me weeks to accomplish, but I think it will make it a better place.  

I've been drawn to sewing zipper pouches lately.  I can see making myself matching earbud pouches, toiletry pouches, makeup brush rolls, and a matching makeup bag for my next European vacation.  But you know what? I already know that's a crazy thing to do, because I won't enjoy the extra bulk of additional organizer bags to slog around.  Maybe a toiletry bag in my gym bag, but really, for travel, I'd rather use an ultra lightweight Ziploc bag that I can easily see through, that's already waterproof, and easily replaced if it gets damaged.  
 
Every time I travel, I challenge myself to pack even lighter than the time before, so unless I'm going to hang a tiny pouch or two from my belt loop or a neck strap (which I might just do), extra pouches just mean more bulk to carry.  And lift.  And organize. And protect.

Big confession: I'm not sure I'll bother with all my makeup next time I travel.  I might just go with lipstick, eyeliner, and mascara.  The only time I got hit on the last trip was some man in the Metro giving me some appreciative looks. Lol. While I was flattered, I was also amused because I looked ROUGH.