Archive for the ‘Living Life’ Category
The year began with an intense need: the dust had to go. As production had ramped up in the
garage woodshop, the sawdust was now a real problem. In the air. On me. Importantly, in the house. We either had to embrace a more, uh, rustic lifestyle, or we needed to fix it.
So we did.
The biggest tool upgrade I’ve ever done was the result. We installed a new dust collection system to help corral the by-product of all of the cutting boards that I was creating. That story became the most read blog post of the year … and was, more importantly, a very real upgrade in our living conditions. I was no longer breathing as much dust, and Velda was no longer having to remove as much dust from our home every single day. Thankfully, I had help from the Building Inspector & the Engineer. See the pictures and read the story, here and here.
With the equipment in place, I got busy in the shop. I began to make Magic Bottle Openers in earnest, and they proved to be the runaway best-selling product for me in 2016: I sold over 200 of them! It seems that many people know a beer drinker that needs a little magic in their life.
Making soap is science. Caustic chemicals are involved, and exothermic reactions result. Velda became obsessed with soap early this year, and started stockpiling. That’s good, as when she makes her cold process soap, it has to sit on the shelf for 4 – 6 weeks to cure before it can be sold. That necessitated a soap drying rack in addition to the 6 molds (and counting) that I have made her.
The results speak for themselves!
All of our machinations in the Mrs M world were just a side show for this year’s main event: the arrival of Camdyn Grace on April 1. Payton got her little sister!
Velda got to spend some quality time as Grandmother with both granddaughters before returning to our out-of-control hobby, AKA Mrs M’s Handmade. Mrs M # 2 got a pass for this year, as she needed to attend to Camdyn. Velda & I hit the spring events with gusto, using her new purpose-built display to incorporate the introduction of soap. The business bought a trailer to haul the goods, and we ended up doing 10 events in the second quarter. Results far exceeded our expectations. And, as much as we enjoy doing Mrs M’s, it was great to relax a bit through the summer.
And by relaxing, I mean we made more product.
We finally got to keep an important appointment in July, and got photographs made of Payton sitting in our family’s little rocking chair – a chair first purchased by Payton’s Great Great Great Grandmother Boring as a Christmas present 121 years ago today. That story was told here, A Family Heirloom.
There were no big work changes in the family this year. Christopher continues helping to manage Castaic Lake & Pyramid Lake for the LA County Parks & Rec department. He supervises cashiers, boat inspectors, and a vast recreation area. Following Camdyn’s birth, Alley returned to her job with the city of Palmdale processing building permits & such.
Brianna is in her 3rd year of teaching at Sierra Vista Junior High. She now has 2 choir classes (!) as well as English classes. She eagerly anticipates completing her Masters in Education in 2017, and being done with life as a student … at least for a while! Michael continues with Crane Aerospace & Electronics and continues to marvel at how truly large bureaucracies function.
Lauren is now the assistant manager at Sunshine Daycare, and continues to work closely with the kindergartners there. She loves the kids … here’s a story she shared just a few days ago:
Today I was asked if Santa was real by a first grade boy. In response, I asked him if he believed. He said yes, but that another boy doesn’t. I told him that some people believe and some people don’t and just because some people don’t, that doesn’t mean Santa isn’t real. If he believes, that’s all that matters. Then, I asked the boy who I was told doesn’t believe why he doesn’t believe. He looked at me stumped and explained that he just has no idea how Santa could possibly get to all the kids in one night. Before I could even speak, another boy butted in with “THATS WHAT CHRISTMAS MAGIC IS, ITS REAL!!”
I love working with kids.
Eric continues to manage the family business and decorate his house with Lauren’s help. Their latest addition is a new kitten, named Pivo – which means beer in Slovak – that they brought home just yesterday.
Velda has now been with Kaiser for 15 years, but has transitioned away from her nursing home responsibilities into more of a community-based primary care role. She runs clinics at several area assisted living facilities, and has more than 150 patients that she provides care for in their homes. Is she busy? You bet. She often explains to Mrs. M’s customers the reason she makes soap and lotions: “I have yet to give someone lotion and make them cry!” Not so in her “real job,” where many need to be led through their aging or end of life crisis, and tears are common.
I continue with Smarts Broadcast Systems as Director of Marketing; I’ve now been there 5 years. One of my favorite things to do with them is interview broadcasters; those interviews publish in the Small Market Radio Newsletter as well as on our website. You can read those interviews, here.
Today, we are blessed to be with all of our kids at Christopher & Alley’s house. It just doesn’t get much better than that.
Merry Christmas to you and your family. May the holiday spirit stay with you throughout a wonderful 2017!
Here’s the thing. I don’t really want to write a political blog, but today, I have to. If you want to tune out, then, please, go. No problem. Come back tomorrow and there will be pretty pictures of sunsets. Or animals. Or something.
Today, though, is my birthday. It’s my day. All day. And since this is my blog, every day, today I’m going to write about what I must. Please don’t mistake my typically light-hearted approach for a lack of caring about this serious and potentially explosive issue.
Today, I’m writing about things I’m not supposed to have an opinion on.
Today, I’m writing about Black Lives vs. Blue Lives vs. All Lives.
You see, I’m not black, so according to many I’m not supposed to have an opinion on black issues. It’s like the woman thing: I’m not one, so many believe that I should have no opinion on things that I can’t experience, such as pregnancy, or child-birth, or hormones.
Those perspectives have some validity. Some. Further, I’ve never experienced “driving while black,” so how can I know what it’s like to be truly afraid when being pulled over by a cop? Media reports would have me believe that too many cops just want to kill people of color.
If you believe the media, that is.
And, if you believe the media, Black Lives Matter has an important message that needs to get out. At this point, though, it’s very much at issue whether that message is helping us, or hurting us, as a society.
Here’s one thing that’s wrong with Black Lives Matter. The Movement, if I can call it that, feels that they have the right to say what they want whenever they want. They want to be rude and condescending if it suits their personal goals. They’ve interrupted public gatherings. They’ve blocked traffic on freeways. They’ve done all manner of things simply because they want to get attention for their cause. The Movement feels that they deserve more attention, because they aren’t getting enough consideration.
They want me to believe that Black Lives Matter … and I do. I did. My beliefs had nothing to do with a demonstration on I-70.
And I don’t know about you … but I’m certain that I learned that being rude is NEVER a way to get people to help you. At this point, it’s hard to care what BLM is concerned with when all I hear from them is racist screaming.
There’s another problem: the Movement has now been usurped by evil doers, like the sniper in Dallas. He used a BLM protest to target and kill policemen … and far too many people in the Movement act as if they are happy with that. OK with that. Not responsible for that.
They act like they’re getting attention now, so that’s a good thing. No matter what caused that attention to happen, and no matter what pain has resulted.
That, simply, shows a callous disregard for human suffering. That is unacceptable.
It’s not OK for black lives to be treated as having less than full value … but it’s also not OK for that tragedy to be used to justify the suffering of others. Yes, we have social issues that continue to need to be addressed. Political issues that need to be addressed. But harming more humans, other humans is not the answer. More deaths will not help any of us.
I don’t see the world in black & white. The world is much more nuanced than that … as Trevor Noah recently explained on The Daily Show (full video link is below):
I am pro-human. I am pro-American.
I am anti-hate. Anti-discrimination. Anti-rudeness.
Those that seek to divide us are wrong.
We are human, and we all fall short of the glory of God. We humans make mistakes, every day. We must endeavor to end them, however, and strive to be fair to all of our fellow humans. OF COURSE our police should be fair to all. OF COURSE our citizens should be treated fairly and given every opportunity our freedom allows.
The Black Live Matters movement is a problem. They seem to believe that if they scream at people who are not their enemy, then they will achieve their goal. They seem to believe that everyone must embrace everything they say, yet they need not be responsible for how they are communicating their message of separateness and hate.
While BLM protestors were marching in Minnesota – just hours after the shooting in Dallas – they were chanting “Pigs in a blanket, fry’em like bacon.” That incredibly insensitive, ill-timed message of hate has no place in our society.
Police should protect and serve all of us. However, it’s foolish to think that they do not need to be concerned with their safety while dealing with the great unwashed public of all colors … which includes evil doers. And unthinking drunks. And emotionally unstable criminals. And hallucinating drug users. And rude people who don’t think they need to obey instructions from anyone, including legitimate authority figures such as our police.
My nephew is a police officer, and he had an occasion for some community policing this week with a young black man who wants to be a police officer someday:
I trust Paul is a more accurate representative of our society than those hateful protestors in Minnesota. I believe he best represents us – Black. Blue. All of us.
End of political statements. You’re entitled to your opinion, too, so please feel free to send me your thoughts.
On your birthday.
Meanwhile, please enjoy the links below that offer a full spectrum of opinion on this issue.
I’ve thought that for some time now … oh wait, I meant possessed.
But in this case, she is definitely obsessed with the making of soap. She’s mastered the lotions, balms & scrubs that Mrs M has now been selling for a couple of years (!), and soap is the latest challenge accepted.
She’s spent months researching ingredients. Trolling user forums. Buying protective equipment. And, she’s actually been making soap – which truly looks like a science experiment, complete with goggles, rubber gloves & caustic chemical reactions.
And she’s doing it all in the name of cleanliness.
She’s discovered a lot: believe me, I know. I’ve been hearing about it over breakfast & dinner for months now. No complaints – the more she talks about soap, the less she talks about the body fluids & such that she encounters in her real “job.”
So I’m a fan of soap discussions.
As she learned & improved, she’s upped her game considerably. She’s grown from making soap in a small silicon mold to ordering 3x custom, large molds and a 500 bar Soap Drying Rack from me. I’ve
convinced demanded that she buy quality software and a custom soap slicer (a 12″ mandolin that cuts 1″ bars 12 at a time – and beautifully) so that her soaps will be as good as they can be.
She went one step further and bought a shaver & a steamer so she can manicure each bar. I drew the line there, but once she’s
possessed obsessed, there’s little to do but get out of her way.
So sayeth the wisdom earned over the 38 years of our marriage. I’ve
endured loved every minute.
(ed note: I love Friday the 13th, and today is “our day.” Happy Anniversary, Velda!)
There. Taken care of for another year.
The webmaster (me) has finally gotten some screen time, so the soaps are now up and for sale on Mrs M’s website. Please visit www.MrsMsHandmade.com.
Finally, a part of this product introduction has been my researching what it will take for us to up our game with product photography – I just haven’t been happy with the inconsistency of my shots of the boards you’ve been seeing lately. We bought a photo array just for product shots (amazingly inexpensive, by the way!), and here are the soap shots from our first session:
After I whined about clipboards being old-fashioned, my computer decided to exact its revenge. I was working on Monday, when my computer’s “clipboard” function (cutting & pasting) stopped working. When that happens on a Windows computer, there’s just one thing you can do: reboot.
After I rebooted the computer, I restored my desktop applications, which means I eventually re-booted my financial software, Quicken. And Quicken had a message for me. It had decided to email me a 6-digit code, which I needed to enter into the software within one hour if I wanted to look at my humble checking account balance again.
My financial information was being held hostage in the interest of better security.
But why? What happened? The details were all available when I went to the Help tab in Quicken (indicating that many, many other people are wondering what’s being done to their software). It was all online, in their parent company’s (Intuit) Announcement # 1319233. You can read it here, if you like. Intuit has decided to implement “Multi-factor Authentication.”
Let’s be clear: Intuit decided that my data in my software on my computer just wasn’t safe enough, so they required that data from their server be entered into my software to confirm that I am me. That’s exactly what their pop-up screen said when it demanded I jump through hoops for them:
They had absolutely no indication that I was not me: the account was fine, the data was fine. They just decided to force me – and all of their customers – to do something because they felt that we needed more security. This isn’t Big Brother, exactly, but it certainly is a big company thinking they get to decide what’s best for me, and then making me dance to that tune.
And worse, as I jumped through the hoops, they lied about it. They said I asked for this to happen.
You know how I feel about people who lie.
I never asked. Perhaps you could argue that since I had installed the software last year, and then allowed it to update itself into this new security configuration, then I had “asked.” But I would disagree. I didn’t ask. I just wanted to balance my check book.
Intuit decided, in the interest of “security,” that my password on Quicken (which is unique), the password on my computer (which is necessarily different!), and the lock on my front door (again, different!) is not enough to secure my data. After all, they said, they wanted to make sure I am me.
I was steamed enough that I contacted customer service, and Wena A eventually told me that this feature could not be disabled … but that I was welcome to tell customer service my opinion of it. Thanks, Wena. Really, thanks.
I don’t think this was about getting me more security. I think it was about job security for some programmers at Intuit. They clearly figured out a way to generate more work by making me jump through their hoops, all in the name of “security.”
No thanks, Intuit. This customer that has been with Quicken since I bought my first computer in 1986 will be looking for an alternative that trusts me to know that I am me without having to check for me.
My desktop computer auto-updated last night. What does that mean?
When I turned on the monitor, I was greeted with a log-in screen. That means the computer had restarted itself during the night. Windows had auto-updated itself.
And that’s all too often a bad thing. A very bad thing.
Radio stations are often run by Windows computers (but not MY clients!). Those computers will also auto-update if the station is not careful … and that will generally knock the station off the air. Off the air is a bad thing. A very bad thing.
So, when I realized I had auto-updated, I knew I might be in for it today. And I was.
The computer was OK, all in all, except for my browser. I prefer Mozilla’s Firefox, and when I booted it this morning, it froze almost immediately. I re-booted the program, same result. I re-booted the computer, same result. I re-installed the software, same result. Repeat. Same result.
I opened another browser and looked for alternative solutions. News of a wide-spread problem. Tech tips. Clues. I got nothing.
I tried to disable add-ons. No joy. I re-booted in safe mode. No joy. I re-booted the computer … yeah, I kept doing the same exact things. No joy.
I set the problem aside so I could work for a living, accepting that any work on a browser would not be done on Firefox. Interestingly, my work’s virtual desktop, delivered on a cloud, worked fine. And it uses Firefox in that environment which worked perfectly. (sigh)
Back to my problem. Right before I left for lunch, I re-booted Firefox, which immediately froze. I walked away with it “not responding.” When I came back from lunch, Firefox was fine. I don’t know what the issue was that caused it to lock up, but the program needed time to solve its problem. I had to be patient enough to give it that time, and all was well.
Patience is a virtue. And if it was easy, anybody could do it.
- Get back to
runningwalking again. Man does not live by cutting boards alone.
- Do fewer events for Mrs M. Eliminate the small events, and do bigger ones. Eliminate triple bookings, and almost all of the double bookings. Less is more if you get smarter at doing what you do.
- Note to self: get smarter.
- Watch more Dodger games, even if they are not available on 70% of LA’s TV sets.
- Figure out something cool to do July 13-15 of this year. Not sure what that will be, but the celebration needs to be more than a really good blog post.
- Do a really good blog post.
- Get Mrs M’s website working as a retail site before the boss of me decides to fire me.
- Blow out the
garagewoodshop. And I mean, really blow it out. With a blower. Get the dust out, and don’t let it get this bad again (the new & much better dust collector and random orbital sanders make that possible).
- Stop thinking about new products to come out of the woodshop, and get them done. Coming in 2016 (and these are just the ones I’m committed to NOW):
- Routed Bowls in many sizes
- Wine Bottle Holder
- Wine Bottle Server
- Wine Bottle Picnic Table
- Mission Candle Holders
- New Baby Block
- Stacking Toy
- Make other things for the family.
- Get on top of the landscaping thing. Get rid of the plants you’ve wanted to get rid of for many years. Just one weekend a month….
- Get the spa working again. And spa. Get the waterfall working again. And, uh, flow.
- Take more pictures that aren’t new cutting boards. Man does not live by cutting boards alone.
This is the year that we pushed the envelope.
Who knew there was an envelope, much less one that we needed to push?
Last year, Mrs M’s did 23 different events. This year, our push resulted in doing 44 events on 65 days. We traveled north to Livermore, west to Goleta, east to San Dimas, and south … well, we didn’t go very far south. Maybe next year.
In order to feed the monster that Mrs M’s became, we had to make product. A lot of product. We learned to make things after work. The Mrs M’s learned to do quadruple batches. If we could do it more efficiently, we learned to do it.
It’s a hobby, you see.
We do it for fun. Honest, we’re having fun!
The fact that we’re so frequently asked to explain the why behind Mrs M’s must mean that we’ve taken a step into the unusual. Who in their right might would redecorate their family room with drop cloths and cutting boards? Who would get up at 5am just to go to an event on a Saturday? Sleeping in on weekends is only a distant memory at this point.
And we call it fun.
Meanwhile, the family continued to grow. Payton continued her dance classes, and learned a lot. As you can see, she’s now learned to mug for the camera!
Christopher had the big professional news this year. He still works for the LA County Parks department, but he moved parks, from the Placerita Natural Area, to Castaic Lake. He went from being in charge of animals and plants to supervising cashiers, boaters and lifeguards.
Alley continues with the city of Palmdale, but she had the big personal news of the year: Granddaughter # 2 is on the way, and is expected to arrive in late March. Or early April. She’ll let us know. Because that’s what babies do.
Michael continues with Crane Aerospace & Electronics, and Brianna continues in her 2nd year of teaching at Sierra Vista Junior High here in Santa Clarita. Brianna also began work on her Masters in Education, so she’s keeping up the in the race to be the most degreed person in their home.
Speaking of races, Michael & Brianna both completed 2 racing milestones this year. They completed their first full marathon (the Walt Disney World Marathon, of course) as well as the Disneyland Half Marathon. That completed Disney’s “Coast to Coast Challenge,” meaning they got another medal.
Because it’s all about the bling.
In addition, the Disneyland Half they completed was their 10th annual; they’ve completed each of those races. Lauren has run many of them, as well, and it all started with those 3, joined by Velda and I, running the first Disneyland Half sponsored by Kaiser, Velda’s employer. Ten years have just flown by….
Lauren & Eric celebrated their 8th anniversary this year: all three of our kids began dating their sweethearts when they were 16.
Speaking of family, we were ecstatic to learn that our cousin Claire had been accepted to UCLA, and would be living in Westwood for the next 4 years. She’s having fun as a Bruin, as any college freshman would, and stretching her horizons at the same time.
Her family visiting regularly is a great bonus, too!
Claire wanted a break from studying one weekend, so she came to play vendor with Little Girl & I at a Mrs M’s event. Claire became the Intern and she even sold stuff, so I know she’s got skills.
This blog is now 3-1/2 years old, and I’ve been a daily blogger for a couple of years now. Lots of thoughts have been shared, and the number of readers continues to grow. A new blog series launched this year, The Board Chronicles, which traces our experiences at each of the vendor events we do. Non-vendors are now reading them to see what craziness we’re up to, which is both rewarding and totally unexpected.
I’m glad you enjoy watching our family from afar, and hope that you have a very Merry Christmas.
Here’s to a GREAT 2016 as well!