Pickle Butts And Shut Up

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I made pickle wraps for No.8 Sis’ birthday party today. I schmeared a  slice of ham with soft cream cheese, and then rolled it around a big dill pickle. I repeated that about 6-8 times.

I sliced the wrapped pickles into 1/4 inch slices and served them as appetizers.



I know these aren’t very pretty, but they taste so good! And the bonus is that the two ends of the wrapped pickles, the pickle butts, were totally unpresentable, so I got to eat them all. Breakfast of champions.

Many years ago, I was visiting Mom in Elizabeth Fairchild. I think that’s what her one-bedroom apartment in St. Paul was called, anyway.

A bunch of other relatives were there, too, including No.1 Sis and her son, Dude. Dude had had enough of family time and wanted directions to get home to Rochester.

No.1 Sis was trying to give Dude directions, but Mom kept interrupting with an alternate route. Keep in mind, Mom had quit driving by then, and was probably trying to direct Dude via some twisty-turning bus route.

Eventually, No.1 lost her temper and shouted at Mom, “Shut up! Shut up! SHUT UP!”

That put a little damper on our Mother’s Day celebration.

A couple of unnamed sisters (1 and 8) were in the habit of telling me to shut up, too. Not nice.

With the encouragement of my therapist, Dr. Ima Shrink, I told them they couldn’t tell me to shut up anymore. Now they follow the letter of the law, if not the spirit.

When we played cards last weekend, I didn’t hear “shut up” once. I was shushed a time or two, asked if I was STILL talking once, and had to endure many eye-rolls while I was talking. So today’s party should fun. I’m just saying.

Stay tuned…

Entering Adulthood

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Costa Rica, like many Latin American countries, has a quaint custom called a quinceanera. It’s a lavish party with extravagant gifts to celebrate a young person’s fifteenth birthday. The girls wear ball gowns and tiaras and the boys wear tuxedos. It is a rite of passage into adulthood.




My family celebrated my transition into adulthood in a similar way, albeit without the party, gown, tiara or gifts. And I was thirteen.

My mother called me into her bedroom on my thirteenth birthday and told me, “You’re an adult now. You can go out drinking and partying all you want, but it’s your job to get yourself home safely”.

Harrumph. I thought to myself, what’s different? I’ve always felt as though I’ve been on my own.

I soon found out what the difference was, the next time I asked Mom for a dollar so I could go to the movies with my friends.

“You’re an adult now”, Mom growled, “make your own money”.

I had already bombed as a babysitter. I had an unfortunate tendency to only keep track of one child at a time. This was a problem living in a neighborhood where the average family had five kids. I should have asked the parents in the beginning which child was their favorite.

I asked Mom how I could make some money and she told me to get a job. But I was only thirteen and businesses couldn’t hire anyone under the age of sixteen. Mom’s advice? Lie.

I went to every business downtown, asking for a job while lying about my age. Of course, nobody believed I was sixteen, and I remained a sad little “adult” without a job for the next three years.

I would get an occasional babysitting gig, usually for a family with only one child (they didn’t know that’s all I could handle).

When I turned sixteen, I returned to the downtown movie theater and again applied for a job. The manager remembered me and asked how I could be sixteen now, when I was sixteen then. Um, I lied.

I got the job (that’s how desperate they were) and soon I was selling popcorn and candy and making $15 per week. And the best part of it all was that I could see movies for free.

Finally, adulting like an adult.

Stay tuned…


I Digress

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When I was growing up, Mom had the great idea to move all of the 5 girls that remained at home into 1 bedroom. I know I’ve told parts of this story before, but please bear with me. There’s a point to this.

The upstairs was unevenly divided in size between 2 bedrooms. The small bedroom had 2 built-in bunks under the eaves, and Dad built an additional triple-bunk along the wall.

The room had a half-height “closet” carved out from under the eaves.

The large bedroom was turned into a play-study-dressing room and held our 5 dressers, 5 desks, a love seat, and a record player. The room also had a tiny closet, but at least it was full height, and had 2 hanging rods.

Both rooms were stuffed to overflowing, but I loved to lounge on the love seat and play the 1 record we had over and over. The record was “The Best of Hank Williams (Senior)” and had many uplifting ditties, such as “Long Gone Lonesome Blues”, “Lost Highway”, “Why Don’t You Love Me”, and “I Heard  That Lonesome Whistle”.

My point is, I was programmed from a young age to try to fit 10 pounds of shit into a 5 pound bag. And be depressed. Very depressed.

Back to March, 2016.

I needed to clean the house for a Stampin’ Up party being held at my house last weekend. I had 3 months to do all the work in, so I worked on clearing out the art studio (because, priorities). Meanwhile, the living room, dining room and kitchen got worse and worse.

The day before the party, No.2 Sis came over and helped me bag and box all the junk from the public part of the house and load it into the private areas. We tried to stuff 10 pounds of shit into 5 pound bags and then hide it from sight. Instead of making progress on the house, I made digress…congress?…regress? I made regress.

Now the laundry room, Queen bedroom and Studio look like this.

messy room digression



























And I’m depressed. Very depressed.

Stay tuned…

p.s. I signed up to be a Stampin’ Up demonstrator after the party. I know it helps depression if you can make decisions, any decisions, and take action, any actions. But sweet pickled Jesus, what have I done?



The Ghost of Christmas Past, or 309

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Okay, let’s face it. It’s 2 days until Christmas and I’m not going to decorate the mantel.

I got the tree put up. I got my shopping and wrapping done (thanks Mrs. Mary Kay, AKA No.2 Sis). I got my Christmas letter written and my cards sent out.

I’ve had the first of four Christmas celebrations. And I’m done. Well, except for the three parties this coming weekend. Then I’m done.

I was looking through some old photos of Christmases past.


Christmas past - 1



Christmas past - 2


Christmas past - 3


Besides doing all my Christmas chores this week, I worked on cleaning out the Studio. I donated 2 more boxes to Goodwill. That makes 309 bags, boxes and small pieces of furniture removed from the house since January, 2014. I thought I’d be done by now. Hah!

Stay tuned…

Hawaiian Shirt Day, and 271

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I really wanted to wear a Hawaiian shirt to work tomorrow. It’s casual Friday, and some of the guys wear Hawaiian aloha shirts in the summer.

I pulled a shirt out of the back of the closet and noticed it needed ironing. Normally, I would give it the bachelor press. You know, throw it in the dryer with a wet towel. I decided to actually iron it though, and I have photographic proof of this startling occasion.

Aloha shirt

I did have to dust the iron, though.

Although Mom didn’t teach me much, she taught me how to iron. She started me on Dad’s handkerchiefs, and eventually worked me up to shirts. Collar first, then the yoke, the sleeves, the lapels and the body. It’s an art form, you know.

Of course Mom taught me other things that I’m still trying to forget.

Romantic relationships: “Men only want one thing. Control that, and you control them”.

Self-esteem: After looking at my face, sadly, “Well, at least you’re smart”.

More on romantic relationships: “Men don’t like smart girls”.


After ironing my shirt, I decided to catch up on the shredding. I wasn’t able to finish, because I ran out of bags. I really should have thought it through before I recycled a whole bag of paper bags last week. Oops.

I filled 4 bags with shredded paper, so that puts my total count at 271.

Overtime ends tomorrow, and I should have more time after that to work on the garage or the studio (I’ll flip a coin). The overtime I put in netted me an extra $380 in June. Yay!

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”!


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…


Sad Time for the Geek Orthodox

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This is a sad time for myself and all others of the Geek Orthodox persuasion. Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek’s Mr. Spock, passed away yesterday. Mr. Nimoy will be greatly missed. Peace, my brother.

Meanwhile, I mustn’t use grief and illness as an excuse for inaction. I’ve previously mocked my mother, in the most loving way possible, because she retired 5 months early so she could clean her 5 room apartment. She figured 1 month per room should just about do it.

I’m having a Stampin’ Up party in a month so I have to clean my dining room. I have to say, I’m developing a bit of empathy for Mom right about now. My dining room looks like more than a month’s worth of work. The trouble is, I make a little headway cleaning, and then I want to play with my stamps, which causes a LOT of backsliding.

And then I think to myself, perhaps it would be best to continue to work on my art studio so I can move my stamping supplies back there, where they belong. And once again, I’ve lost focus. Sigh. This is my standard operating procedure.

So…dining room. I have the table loaded, the hutch loaded, the chairs loaded, boxes behind the couch, and a pile of things in the corner by the kitchen. I’m going to focus on clearing the chairs (without adding to the other piles).

Bad chairs.

Dirty, dirty chairs! Bad chairs, bad!

Good chairs.

Good chairs! Who’s a good chair? That’s right, you’re my good chair!

Stay tuned…

Brainstorm- How Can I Make Some Extra Money?

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No.3 Bro is a salesman extraordinaire. He’s been to all these sales technique and marketing seminars where he learned how to brainstorm, among other things. Then he taught it to his family. Brainstorming is just throwing out every idea you can think of to solve a problem. No judgment is allowed.

For example, Mom had lost her car and trailer home in her second divorce. She wanted to brainstorm ideas on how to get another car. She came up with:

  1. Buy a car.
  2. Rent a car.
  3. Build a car.
  4. Steal a car.

Well, it just so happened that No.1 Sis was buying a brand new car, so instead of trading in her old car, she gave it to Mom. That wasn’t on Mom’s list, but the brainstorming was still the impetus for getting a car. It worked!

I need to brainstorm about earning some extra money. I earned over $100 extra in November selling my hand made jewelry. I “earned” over $100 extra in December by cashing out my change jar.


Here are the brainstorming ideas to earn over $100 extra in January.

  1. Work extra hours at my job.
  2. Get a second job.
  3. Sell jewelry on Etsy.
  4. Sell stuff on E-Bay instead of donating it.
  5. Sell lamp and dining room light fixture on Craig’s List.
  6. Do tarot readings on-line or at a psychic fair.
  7. Win big in Las Vegas.
  8. Don’t gamble while in Vegas, and save the money currently set aside for that.
  9. Find over $100.
  10. Steal over $100.
  11. Print over $100.

NOW, comes the critique of each idea, which should help me narrow it down to a plan of action.

  1. Overtime hours have to be at the request of management, and they have not currently made that request.
  2. I’ve found some on-line work, but so far it seems to pay about $1 per hour, or seems to be a scam where I actually lose money.
  3. It could take a while to get customers on Etsy.
  4. I don’t have $100 worth of stuff to sell on E-Bay, but it’s a possibility for earning a lesser amount.
  5. This is a strong possibility. I paid around $400 for the dining room light fixture and $250 for the lamp. If I could recoup even one-fourth of that, I’d still make over $100.
  6. I’d have to set up the on-line readings and try to build a following. That’s more of a long-term project. I’d have to find one or more psychic fairs, but that’s a strong possibility. I should make a new sign, though.
  7. Win big in Vegas? That’s always my goal, but it’s out of my hands and in the hands of the Fates.
  8. Saving money by not gambling in Vegas doesn’t actually “earn” me any money, but even though I’ve already resolved to cut my usual gambling budget by half, I’d come out further ahead by budgeting $0.
  9. 10. 11. I just threw those in as an homage to Mom.

So it sounds like Craig’s List is the best idea. Meanwhile, I’ll research some psychic fairs and make a new sign.

I’ll also remain very, VERY open to the Universe letting me win big in Las Vegas.

Stay tuned…

p.s. I linked this to Cozy Little House, and Chic on a Shoestring.


229, & Timing Weekend Maintenance

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It recently occurred to me that I’ve never mentioned why I time my weekly maintenance cleaning. It’s because I get overwhelmed by the mess and think it’s going to take forever, so I don’t want to start. I figure that if I time how long it takes to tidy a room, it will eventually train my brain to not be so overwhelmed.

If I tidy up every weekend, it can take as little as 5 minutes for a room to look lovely again. If I skip for a week (or two or three), it can take over an hour to get a room looking decent again.

When I was little, before my Dad built us a triple-decker bunk bed, I shared a room with No.2 Sis, No.4 Sis, and No.7 Sis. No.2 and No.4 each had their own bed. No. 7 had the top bunk in a low bunk bed, and I had a trundle bed that pulled out from under the low bunk.

There was not nearly enough storage space, and we were all pretty unsupervised, so the bedroom was always a huge, HUGE mess. It was overwhelmingly, mind-boggling messy.

About once a year Mom strong-armed us into cleaning our room. It was usually right before Christmas, so Mom could threaten us with the prospect of no gifts if we failed to comply.

We’d scurry around, stuffing things into the tiny, shared closet and the inadequate dressers. When there was no more room to squeeze anything else in, the older sisters pulled out my trundle bed and piled it high with stuff, and shoved the bed back under it’s companion bunk.

I was threatened with death if I moved anything off the trundle bed. Then someone would call Mom upstairs; she’d inspect the room, and give the go-ahead for Christmas.

Meanwhile, I spent the next week or so sleeping on clothes, toys and other crap. The wire hangers were the worst, but I took death threats pretty seriously. Eventually, the floor would fill up again, and I could shove the junk off my bed to join the piles.

So, my brain is now overwhelmed by mess. I become immobilized, and hopeless. It’s called “learned helplessness”. Thank you, Psych 101 class.


Kitchen: 25 minutes to unload and load dishwasher, scrub the Foreman Grill, clear and wipe counters, and go through a big pile of mail and craft paper scraps. I came up with a whole bag of recycling, which brings my bag count to 229.

I also cleaned up this messy candle holder with this technique I found on Made From Pinterest. I didn’t have any cleaning vinegar, so I used regular white vinegar. Big improvement, so it’s going into the on-going donation box instead of the garbage.



lime deposits removed

Cleaned up candle holder.

Stay tuned…