249, or Last Minute Laurel

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I gave myself a month, A MONTH, to clean my dining room for my Stampin’ Up party and it’s not done yet. The party’s tomorrow. Here’s what I did all week.

Saturday: Did my taxes. Helped No.2 Sis shop for furniture for her new townhouse. Played cards with the City Sisters.

Sunday: Cooked Heroin Chicken Tenders, yum. Made a lot of progress on clearing the dining room table, then got distracted by making just a few more cards before getting the last of my stamp sets put away. (Ooh…look! Something shiny!)

Gorgeous Grunge cards

Monday: Was going to read a few pages of a novel. Got caught up in it and didn’t put it down until I’d read the whole thing. Compulsive much?

Tuesday: Got a call from an old friend who was feeling down. Talked to her for two hours until I had her laughing hysterically. Well, it was either my jokes or the wine she was drinking.

Wednesday: Started another novel. Don’t I ever learn? Read it through to the end.

Thursday: Called No.2 Sis to meet me for dinner at a local restaurant. We sat and talked for three hours. I should have left a bigger tip.

Friday: Got Gypsy Blue’s oil changed and wipers replaced. Gassed her up. Went to the bank. Went to the hair salon. Organized my underwear drawer (because THAT’S important).

No.2 Sis came over and helped me out by packing up 5 bags of recycling (I let go of a large swath of my magazine collection) so I could finish putting away my stamping supplies. Took Sis out to dinner to thank her for the help. Went to the grocery store for party food. And I’m ALMOST ready. Just a few (dozen) things to finish up tomorrow before the party.

Yes, my name is Laurel. Last Minute Laurel.

In high school at Our Lady of Sweet and Sour Perplexity, I would often go into the math study room the hour before advanced algebra class. Some nervous math geek would ask me what I got for an answer to one of the homework questions, and I say “Just a minute, I haven’t done that one yet”.

I’d start to calculate the homework problems until I came to the one that was causing them trouble, and then confirm whether or not they had the right answer. I realized later that their shock wasn’t because I had the right answer. It was because I was starting the assignment minutes before it was due.

I always thought that I did my best work under pressure. I know now that it’s not my best work. It’s just that I do the MOST work under pressure. It’s the adrenaline, you know. I’ll be ready for tomorrow, but I’ll be sure to do it in the most stressful, adrenaline-filled way possible.

And I wonder why I’m so tired most of the time? (Note to self: Google symptoms and treatment of adrenal fatigue.)

Stay tuned….

p.s. The cards were made with Stampin’ Up papers and inks in Pacific Point, Soft Suede and Whisper White. The stamps sets are Gorgeous Grunge and One In a Million, also from Stampin’ Up.

p.p.s. I found this cool website that articulates the lessons I’ve been trying to teach myself the past year. It’s www.TheTortoiseKnowsBest. Check it out.

p.p.p.s. I shared this at Chic on a Shoestring.



244, or Picking Up My Spirits

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I’ve felt kind of blue this week. Do you think it’s because I haven’t done any weekend maintenance for a while, and the house is a mad mess? Yah, maybe.

It’s Thursday night and I need to go to bed soon, but I decided to clean up the entry hall first. I rarely use the front door, so the hallway gets ignored. However, I have guests coming in a week and I don’t think it’s very welcoming to usher them in through the garage, so the hallway must be cleaned.

cluttered entry hall

The wreath on the door is a Christmas wreath (how embarrassing). Some of the boxes are full of things to find homes for, but many are empty and need to be recycled.

uncluttered hallway

I didn’t unpack any of the loaded boxes. I just found an out of the way place for them. I changed the wreath to an all-season one, and broke down the empty cardboard boxes. I got 1 bag of recycling, which puts me at 244 total.

I feel better. Amazing!

Stay tuned…

p.s. Friday is the Vernal Equinox. Spring is here! Don’t forget to dance naked in the moonlight!




A Little Dining Room Progress, and Masculine Cards

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Here’s my thought process when trying to clear the dining room table:

  1. I should clear the dining room table.
  2. I’ll start by putting away my stamp sets.
  3. Before I put them away, I need to make Stamples of the newer sets for my book.
  4. But first, I have to assemble the stamp sets.
  5. And then make the Stamples.
  6. And then wash the stamp sets and lay them out to dry.
  7. I see I’m very short of masculine cards and I have nephew and brother-in-law birthdays coming up.
  8. I’ll make a few cards before I put away these stamps.
  9. Now I’ll rewash the stamp sets, let them dry, and put them back in their cases.
  10. NOW, I’ll put the sets away.
  11. The studio closet has bins packed with stamp sets with no room for more.
  12. To make more room, I have to pull out long unused sets and put them in my box of stamps to sell on e-bay.
  13. NOW, I’ll put the new stamp sets away.

By the end of all that, I’d pretty much spent the whole day on clearing one corner of the dining room table. However, I came up with 3 styles of masculine cards, for a total of  10 cards made. And I kept them all in the same colors, to minimize the paper and pads I had to put away. That’s a win-win, right? Or a win-tiny win, perhaps?

1 2

The paper and ink colors are Stampin’ Up Kraft, Pacific Point, Soft Suede and Whisper White. The Stampin’ Up stamp sets (from top to bottom) are Nature Walk, By the Tide, and The Open Sea.

Stay tuned…



Retirement Plans A, B, C….

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My first job as a mechanical drafter was at a company called Peerless Chain. To the employees, it was known as “Cheerless Pain”. I wasn’t thinking about retirement at the tender age of 20, but the company had yearly profit-sharing that went into an account for my old age. Unfortunately, I quit before I was fully vested, and most of the money went back to the company.

I worked temp jobs for a few years after that, so I didn’t have profit sharing or an IRA, or a 401k. Nor did I have health insurance, sick time or vacation time, for that matter. By the time I settled into another permanent job at “Brand X”, I was 27 and I knew it would be wise to start saving.


Stay at “Brand X”  and invest my profit sharing, and later 401k, in mutual funds until I turn 65. When I projected out my earnings over the next 38 years, I figured I’d have about $3,000,000 in investments.

The reality was that I was laid off after fifteen years with “Brand X”. They were bought out by a large corporation, and everyone got the sack. A few years before that happened, I spent 75% of my retirement account. Don’t ask me what I spent it on. It seemed really important at the time.

After eight months of unemployment, I was hired by “Brand Y”.


Stay at “Brand Y” and invest my 401k in mutual funds until I turn 66 years and 8 months (thanks, Reagan). Since I was basically starting over, I knew I couldn’t save millions, but maybe $800,000 was possible.

The reality was that I was doing pretty well saving and investing for several years. Then the Twin Towers fell on 9/11. Being in an aerospace engineering company, things were pretty harrowing for a while. Then, when the economy totally collapsed (thanks, Bush), I got laid off again.

I was only out of work for about a month when I was hired for my current position with “The Company”. I was able to take my entire retirement account (what was left after the crash) with me.


I realized I couldn’t make it to 66 years and 8 months. I decided to retire at 56 years, 6 months. I planned on moving to Mexico where the cost of living is low.

Unfortunately, you can’t make penalty-free withdrawals from your retirement accounts until you’re 59-and-a-half. I thought it was 56-and-a-half. Oops.

The other problem was that Mexico had gotten extremely dangerous over the years. I didn’t want to live in constant fear.


Stay at “The Company” and keep adding to my 401k until I can retire at 59-and-a-half. Sell my house and move to a small town to lower my cost of living.

Sad to say, my financial adviser felt this plan was unrealistic (harumph). He didn’t think I’d have nearly enough money to retire at that young(ish) age.

Also, I hate small towns.


Stay at “The Company” and keep adding to my 401k until I can collect Social Security at age 62.

This is the most realistic plan, assuming “The Company” doesn’t get sick of me and kick me out on my full and generous bottom. I just got a new boss who’s about 25 years younger than me, so we’ll see. If I do get laid off, I always have the nuclear option.


Sell the house, cash out my retirement account, and live the high life in Las Vegas until the cash runs out. Then take a Thelma-and-Louise style tour of the Grand Canyon.

Stay tuned…

p.s. After Mom saw “Thelma and Louise” she told me, “I just don’t know why girls these days can’t have fun without shooting somebody”!


More Memories of Spain

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No.2 Sis and I went to Spain quite a few years ago. We spent the first night in Madrid, then toured the Andalusia region in the south, then zipped over to Portugal for two days, then back to Madrid.


After we checked into our Madrid hotel, I looked into getting tickets for a flamenco dancing show. The clerk at the front desk didn’t speak English, so I knew I’d have to call the nightclub myself. Between my high school Spanish and my Rick Steves’ phrase book, I worked out exactly what I wanted to say. I dialed the number on the brochure, and when a man answered, I recited my prepared speech.

“Bueno”, he said, “que es su nombre”?

I started giving him my credit card number.

“No, no! Que es su nombre”?

I tried giving him my phone number, my hotel address and room number, my measurements…


I told him I didn’t understand, apologized, and hung up. Moments later, I smacked my forehead with the palm of my hand. Numero is number. Nombre is NAME! How humiliating. Well, the flamenco show started way past our bedtime, anyway.

The next day we took the train south to Valencia and started touring in earnest. We had booked two nights in a quaint little guest house recommended by Rick Steves. It was as charming and as inexpensive as he said it would be. Unfortunately, it was a little more rustic than we were prepared for.

The beds were foam mats on concrete slabs, covered with thick, heavy, fur-like blankets. The blankets were necessary because it was winter, there was no heat, and the windows didn’t close. There was an Andalusian festival going on, and there was flamenco music and dancing outside our open window until 4:00 in the morning. At least we had some entertainment as we laid awake, shivering.

We checked out of there a day early because both Sis and I developed horrible backaches from the primitive beds. We wandered around a bit, pulling our rolling suitcases over the rough cobblestones. We were looking for a more modern hotel that the guidebook said was nearby. We couldn’t find it, but we found a taxi stand.

We showed the driver the hotel we wanted to go to and he pointed back the way we had come. “Bueno”, I said, and started getting into the cab. He shook his head and mimed to us that we were very close, but because of the narrow one-way streets, he’d have to drive us in a big loop to get us to the new hotel.

Whatever, I was not getting out of that cab. So the driver gave in, drove us in a big loop and dropped us about a block from the taxi stand.

I regret to say, I then became the cliche “Ugly American”. I was polite, and apologetic, but I insisted on seeing the room before we checked in. They showed us one room, and one of the two beds was acceptable. We asked to see another room, and again, one of the two beds was acceptable.

I asked them to switch the beds so we could be in a room with two comfortable beds. They were lovely, and accommodated us. Thank Goddess they spoke English, because it could have gotten even uglier with a language barrier.

Stay tuned…





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I’m still working on the dining room in anticipation of my Stampin’ Up party. It’s scheduled for 3 weeks from today.

I’m doing things in order of easiest first. Last weekend I unloaded the chairs and put away all the junk that had been piled on them. This weekend I took on the pile of stuff by the kitchen.

Dining Room Corner

There were boxes of jewelry making supplies and stamping supplies. I put them in the art studio closet in an organized fashion. I still have too many stamp sets that I don’t use. I’m tagging them with a price and putting them in a “for sale” box. I’m planning on putting them on e-bay this month.

I put the step stool in the garage. I recycled the empty boxes and threw away the little styrofoam cooler.  The boxes and the cooler added up to one bag, so that puts me at 243.

Now I want to make some more cards. This is my open work space on the dining room table.


I guess clearing the table should be next, yah?

Stay tuned…


Goodbye, Thelma and Louise?

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On Monday night, I got a phone call from my BFF “V”. She wanted to wish me good luck on my biopsy. “Or is it autopsy”, she asked. “I get those two words mixed up”.

It’s biopsy. I’m definitely not ready for an autopsy yet.

Last time, it was Louise with a suspicious spot. This time, Thelma was acting up. What? You know I named my car; you think I’m not going to name my breasts?

So I had the biopsy on Tuesday, and found out Wednesday that the tissue was cancer-free. That’s a relief, especially since my mother and my maternal grandmother died from breast cancer. I also have a sister and a niece who are breast cancer survivors.

I’m still agitated, though. I feel like I have two ticking time bombs strapped to my chest. I may have to take some preemptive action. More research is required.

After my mother survived her first bout of advanced breast cancer, I was surprised to see that her brush with death hadn’t seemed to change her. Where was her passion, her drive, her fight to live? I asked her what she wanted to do with whatever life she had left. She thought and thought, and after a few minutes she said, “I’ve always wanted to take a wildflower photography course”.

Soooo, no mention of her 9 children, or her many grandchildren. Okay, wildflower photography. The siblings and I bought her a nice camera that could be manually adjusted or entirely automatic. She never used it. She never took a photography course.


Now that I’ve had another cancer scare, the question I have to ask myself is the same. What do I want to do with whatever life I have left? I don’t have to think about the answer. I want to be an artist. I would say I am an artist, but I don’t really practice making art much at all. Kind of Mom-like, aren’t I?

It’s time to stop dreaming, and start doing!

Stay tuned…