Thursday, January 27, 2011

It Ain't Spring...YET!

I'm still in spring cleaning mode. Still. That's because of the weather, I'm sure. It's winter and we are having 50-60 degree weather here. What's wrong with this picture? Last year we had a lot of snow...Remember this?
February 2010 
Well, we're dry. And warm. And dry. 

Yesterday, I saw my daffodils peeking up in the soil--it's way too soon for that. And I'm worried about our water supply for spring and summer since I'm planning for my garden. In this town, our drinking water comes from the main river--which is the size of a creek or "crick" if you're from my mother's neck of the woods. I don't know where that neck of the woods are specifically but all my life, she's referred to creeks as "cricks." I used to get in trouble in school for spelling wash as "warsh" because that's how my mother pronounced it. Same with "squarsh."  And "warshing" the clothes, car, dishes, or floor. 

Anyways, I digress. It's Thursday. I'm allowed to digress a bit on Thursdays. It's in the rules. Or should be. 

ANY-hoo...
In this northern New Mexican town, we get our drinking water from our crick creek-sized  river and two reservoirs where the location will remain under double secret security, thanks to Homeland Security and TSA. We don't have an aquifer here. So we really depend on snowfall in the winter and rainfall in the spring and early summer until the monsoons come to help us with our water supply. It looks like I need to start conserving warmup water already. 

But because the weather is warm, I'm in spring-cleaning mode. I've managed to fill up several bags of garbage because I'm tossing out stuff and junk and what I consider to be garbage. I've got seven boxes full of stuff and junk and clothes to take to our favorite charity thrift store. That's this current load. And I'm not done.  I'm working on convincing my husband to part with some of his toys and some of the clothes he's never worn and the 15 backpacks, 7 rifle scopes (he only has one--maybe two rifles!) and 6 bows he picked up in a bargain or two or three. That's going to take some doing but as I pointed out--he can only carry one or two backpacks, rifles, or bow at time. The others are taking up space and driving me up the wall. 

Yes, I have cabin fever and we're not even snowed in. Strange how that works.  

Now back east, people are complaining about another snow storm. I wish those storms would not pass us by but there you have it. What was I going to do about the no-snow-no-show? Then it hit me!

I bought a beautifully made pendant from Ivy Koehn (pronounced cane). Ivy works in polymer clay. I discovered I'm easily addicted to artisan beads like hers. So last year, she created a lot of them to entice me. Because she knows there are bead addicts in this world like myself. And I was easily enticed and smitten. And bought quite a few of them. More than I probably should have but oh my...they're so pretty! And I'm a confessed bead addict! What is so fabulous is that she also has a store on Etsy as well as one on eBay
Just some of Ivy's beads I just had to have...
One particular pendant I had purchased from Ivy was a claysicle. Oh my....It was breathtaking. And wintery themed complete with snowflakes. *fans the air around her to help her breathe* Yeah I know...silly to get all lightheaded and flushed over a bead but just wait until you see it! I put it together with some other beads and it's my Snow Charm. I'm wearing it daily in hopes it will bring snow to our part of the country.  
This is my Snow Charm...in hopes it entices the weather faeries in making snow! 
A close up of this fabulous pendant by Ivy Koehn...Just simply gorgeous!      
 But that also brings me to another necklace I made. One I'm having a hard time parting with...meaning putting it in my store. The beads were made by Mary Ellen of BeeTreebyME and I fell hard for them. Two sets.And I've been holding onto them for the past couple of years. A few weeks back, I decided it was high time I did something with them before someone accused me of hoarding beads. Seriously. This is probably the only place where I could be accused of hoarding tendencies. I work hard not to go there but I also know there's a fine line between having beads and hoarding...a very fine line. Microscopic thin and fine. 

Anyway...This is my Winter Blooms piece. The one I'm having trouble putting into the store. 
Winter Blooms by ME from BeeTreebyME...complete with snow quartz.          
 And that brings me to another piece I'm having trouble letting go of and placing it in my store. Because I like it a bit too much, perhaps. Because it speaks to me. The pendant was made by Terri Stone of TLS Clay Design. I confess that I became hooked on artisan beads because of Terri's fabulous designs. But don't blame Terri--she creates and the Bead Addict must have! So easy to blame the Bead Addict for my bead purchases. This necklace was simple but vibrant. Every time I put it in the store box, it comes back out. 
Ocean's Vortex Necklace
A close up of the fabulous pendent from TLSClayDesign         

Spring cleaning means I should put these pieces into the store and sell them. Right? And if you hear a loud, screetching "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" that's the Bead Addict. Not me. 

So what do you have trouble letting go of? 


 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A New Beading Partner and Some Random Thoughts...

Come dance with me! I have a new beading partner! Meet Agnes--owner and writer of Beader Bubbe's Shop and blog! Agnes has been married for 36 years and has six grandsons! I'm really excited she's my partner. She lives on the East Coast where the weather has been slammin' them regularly. Agnes is very creative and inspiring! Check out her blog and her store and see what I mean!

We share some things in common: We both love cats. We both work in education. We both love to work just about anything when it comes to beads. We both do not work with yellows or oranges because we can't wear those colors! We both like silver!

So putting my bead soup ingredients together for her was a challenge.  It should have been easy because we both work with so many materials and colors...but I found myself with several different sets of ingredients that would have made several different sets of beautiful somethings! And I wanted to send them all to her! I was going to send them last week but because of decisions, decisions, and second guessing, I didn't. I was afraid that she would think I was weird or something. I heard that!

I've  finally decided on which soup mix to send. I'll get it in the mail tomorrow so she gets it in plenty of time to oohhh and awww over it. I hope she ooohhhhhhs and awwwwwws over it. And I hope she doesn't think I'm weird or anything like that! No comments from the Peanut Gallery Puleeze!

Now for Some Random Thoughts:
A while back, one of my bead swap partners, Jayne of Mama's Got to Doodle sent me these gorgeous bird's nest earrings in copper in one of our swaps.  I fell instantly in love with them! The single egg represented my only child, my son, my pride and joy--ok you get it. And the double egg represented my husband and myself in our home, our nest, our sanctuary, our--well, you get the picture. I was so fascinated in how these were created that I had to learn how to do them myself. So after two weeks of reading tutorials and practicing and practicing and reading tutorials, I finally made a bird's nest pendant for myself. 
My attempts at creating a wire-wrapped bird's nest charm. 
The earrings sent to me by Jayne and the pendant I made to match! Yes--those are coffee stains in the background! 
Well that was so much fun, I made a couple more. That was exciting! And Fun!  I experimented with thicker wire and stones. And made a couple more. And that was exciting! And FUN! Next thing I knew, I had more than I could wear for any given occasion or more, so I put them up in my Etsy store.  
One of the necklaces in my store--made with African Turquoise stones.
Another necklace in my store--I LOVE the lavendar "eggs!'
Yeah--I'm dreaming of spring and my garden! Can you tell I miss my garden? I miss it terribly! But I'm planning on a bigger one and will do several plantings so I can have more produce to save for winter consumption. But I still miss my first garden.  

Since I've been daydreamin' about spring and my new garden, the bug to clean, declutter, organize, and deep clean has bitten me hard. So far I've organized, cleaned, and dejunked the laundry room and two closets. I've cleaned and dejunked the back room and am working on our bedroom and office. I know spring's not here officially but I am itching to get this house really, really clean! It's probably because we are unseasonably warm most days. So I'm tackling one room at a time and doing what it takes to get rid of dirt and grime and dust. And pet dander. And human dander. And junk! Egads, how much junk and stuff can two people collect?!?!?! Don't answer--I don't need people accusing us as being hoarders...yet!

I found out OxiClean powder is excellent for cleaning carpets, furniture, walls, and appliances. I gone through several boxes of baking soda and vinegar and gallons of hot, hot water. Most of my cleaning supplies are simple: Hot water, baking soda, white vinegar, lemon juice, salt, Murphy's Oil Soap, elbow grease, cotton rags, and microfiber cloths. I LOVE those microfiber cloths for cleaning. Use one in the bucket of solution and one to dry and polish--it's that simple. And I'm all about simple. When it comes to cleaning that is. A solution of hot water, vinegar, a bit of rubbing alcohol, and lots of newspapers works wonders for cleaning windows, but I'm going to wait on doing those. 

Interesting giveaways are happening this week. Lori Anderson of Pretty Things  and Lisa Crone of A Bead A Day are both giving away PJTool & Supply Impress Art stamping kits! How cool is this? Visit both sites but remember I want one of these sets! 



Finally, I'm slowly coming out of vacation mode. I should have been out of it already but--*sighs* I enjoyed it just way too much...for the first time in four years. I'm still not fully into teaching mode--which will happen this week when I have actual papers to grade. I think that's why I'm in spring cleaning mode--because I'm not fully into teaching mode. And feel I need one more project to grab hold of for my anal-retentive/overachieving/OCD diva kicks me out of house and home! Anyone else having a hard time getting back into the swing of "normal" routines? What's your solution?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Let Sleeping Cats Lie...

Cats are--in a word--ingenious. Especially when it comes to their sleeping places. If you think a cat will listen to his or her human when the human politely makes the request of "Please Fluffy--do not sleep with me or shed hair on my furniture" you are sadly mistaken. And perhaps misguided. Cats are not like dogs, happy to be in a home with food, shelter, petting, toys, play time, and food. Dogs are very happy to resume their natural roles of being owned because it goes back to the tradition of dog-human relationships. 


Cat-human relationships went a different route. Cats were worshipped as gods. And they remember--it's ingrained in them as part of their DNA. Therefore, cats are not owned by humans--they own them. Yes indeedy. This might be breaking news to a lot of cat lovers out there but do you really believe that you chose that beautiful, arrogant feline in your home? HA! That beautiful, arrogant feline CHOSE you! Or that sweet, sometimes a goofball cat chose you. Or that sick, needing human intervention chose you. Or that loving, spoiled, prissy kitty chose you. It doesn't matter which type of cat (or all of them) resides in your home with you--the bottom line is that cat chose you to serve him or her. 

I know. It really makes one think a bit. Kind of lowering to be viewed as a servant instead of a master, huh? There lies the difference between dogs and cats. It says a lot about pet owners too, huh? We won't go there. 

Back to sleeping arrangements.  D and I have learned to share our queen-sized bed with as many felines that can fit around, on top, in between, and next to us. On any given early morning, we have as few as one or two cats or as many as seven sleeping with us. We count our blessings that not all of them demand time with us while sleeping at the same time. We have tried to provide as many sleeping sites as possible, but sometimes, cats will do what they want in spite of our endeavors. (They were worshipped as gods, remember?) 
 Sometimes a padded chair will work. 

 Cozy afghans on a couch work wonders for sleep.
High places invoke the feeling of safety for slumbering.
A sheepskin and afghan lined basket can work. 
Some cats prefer privacy...
Others don't mind sharing an empty box.
And others prefer cuddling with your favorite quilt!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Window Shopping


I'm sitting here today, tired and sore from cleaning closets yesterday. I have one more to clean  and organize (mine!) but I ran out of steam last night after we got the last one organized to hold my husband's camping and field equipment. All that climbing up and down the step ladder, hauling boxes here and there, and decision-making! Do you realize I probably spent more energy on decision-making than I did climbing the stepladder umpteen gazillion times? It can be difficult to decide what to throw away, what to keep, and what to give to the local charity thrift store. 

"Really, Cathryn...do you NEED to keep those papers of wanna-be poetry from when you were in high school? Let alone those papers and notebooks from Professor's L's sociology class(es) back in 1999 and 2000???? And while we are at it--why did you hang onto every 3.5x5 inch floppy disk?? It's not like you can USE them now, huh? Ok you can keep that first ever email you received from your son when he was summering with his father. But the rest of this HAS to go!"

So I decided to concentrate on regular chores...you know the regular chores: laundry, dishes, meal planning, cat boxes, claw-clipping, answering student emails, and the like. 

But what I'm really doing is window shopping on Etsy.  In between the laundry cycles. I haven't started on my dishes yet and I won't do cat boxes until D comes back with bags of cat litter and boxes of baking soda...so I'm window shopping. And dreaming a little. The kind of daydreams that include winning a huge lottery where working at my paid job would be a choice--not a necessity. 
So here are some of my favorite finds on Etsy today. This is subject to change with the availability of the product, what I absolutely need versus what I want, and how much I'm willing to sacrifice to get it.

Found this lovely pendant at M.E.'s BeeTreeByME. I love her stuff and have a whole drawer full of her artistic creations. This is perfect for my favorite aunt who is getting married this May. I would pair this pendant with these beautiful pink opal beads....
That I found at Anna's Almost Precious. What do you think? I've been lusting after these beads for a while and need some reason to get them. What better reason than making my aunt's wedding jewelry? I'm sure Anna will have other things I can use to make wedding party jewelry, huh?
I love this shawl! It's delicate and warm and very feminine! Violet of Violet's Underground does beautiful crochet work. She also does baby clothes and Barbie doll clothing as well as crochets some amazing flower jewelry!
If I'm buy shoes this year, these would be the ones! How precious can you get with blue-eyed kitties? I found these sapphire-eyed kitty shoes at InkWear's on Etsy.  She also has tshirt I want badly to wear when I'm cooking. :D

For some reason, I'm totally drawn to the colors in this necklace. I love the symmetry and the balance of the moody and dramatic. ClayHappy does some awesome polymer clay and resin work. 
I don't have any need for wearing a lanyard, but if I did, I would choose this one by LanyardLady. It speaks to my Celtic blood but it's also elegant and classy. She's got some great lanyards if you need one. 

 
 With the International Bead Soup Party coming up, I'm really tempted to buy these sassy and bold beads from TLSClayDesign for the swap. They would pair up with carnelian and burgandy beads so deliciously!

Now my friend Kat makes some awesome jewelry, like this Water Lily Bloomin' Necklace. I'm so totally in love (or is it lust?!?! Or just a super-dooper strong LIKE????) with this necklace. It reminds me of Monet's Water Lily series...soft and ethereal. I buy Kat's destash items from her store. But I WANT this necklace! 

 Now this speaks to me. It looks similar to my birth stone and it's on copper. I found this at Jo's Jewels. I also buy from Jo--her clearance or destash goodies. I like destash goodies--can you tell? But this is on copper and I love copper!

I love Kristie Lou Brigham's Mermaid Pendants. I have a couple but one can never have too many mermaids, right? Ok--I probably have enough but this one is beautiful and special. I don't know why I want her except that she speaks to me! 

And finally, I've been lusting, drooling over these vintage harlequin glass beads. I remember seeing them as parts of jewelry when I was a kid and I always wanted a necklace or a pair of earrings made with these beautiful, fiery beads. Well Brie has them. And I can make my own jewelry sets with them.  On copper. 

Ok--laundry cycle is finished and the dishes are calling to me. I guess they've been sitting in the sink long enough. 

So where do you window shop when you have a few moments? What would you buy if you win the lottery??? 






Friday, January 14, 2011

Caturday

This is my son's suggestion--having a Caturday. According to my son, I should have one post per week dedicated to cats...cat advice, stories about the cats, cat photos...well you get it. He said it was because the name of the blog was "Chile Cats" after all. 

So here's to my first Caturday post. Complete with  photos. 


"I hunted a stocking! I hunted a stocking!"

"I don't know why the humans want to invest in a paper shredder...I DO the job very well!"
"Get your own damn thingy...this one's MINE!" 
"You make a nice pillow Sis..."

"Anything that's simple enough for the humans...
"....ought to be!"

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

It's Starting...

Have we ever discussed my sense of timing? No? You're sure? Then we need to do so. And I can do it in three words.



My timing sucks. 

I'm either early or late but rarely am I right on target.   I envy those who can predict down to the milli-second of what's needed to be done and WHEN.  Because I'm rarely right on target, I prefer to be early. I discovered this little obsessive-compulsive habit when I returned to college. (Actually, the habit's been there all along, but it came out in force in college.) I was the student you  hated--the one who turned in her papers a week before the due date. The one who started working on her master's thesis while still an undergraduate student. Yeah--THAT student. Because if I didn't turn things in early, I totally missed the boat with the assignment. 

If you can hang in there for a minute or two longer--this is going somewhere. I promise.

So last fall, I decided to open an Etsy store. There were various reasons for this decision, but mainly I had to do something with all the jewelry I had been making. There's only so many women in my circle of friends and family to whom I can give jewelry to for birthdays, holidays, special days or celebrations, and just because.  My beading was outsupplying the demand. And I had been able to ignore it for a long time because it wasn't like I was outfishing a source or geographical area, right? I wasn't actually doing anything unconscionable like deforestation or removing mountain tops. Right? Right? 
Chocolate In Butterscotch Earrings
Another reason to open a store is the Bead Addict. Do you know how hard it is to look at a beads and findings and beading tools and walk away from them all when the Bead Addict is literally screaming in your head? She's hard to ignore all the time.  Some days it's easier to herd cats than it is to ignore her incessant demands to get this bead, purchase those strands, and ohmygod-look-at-those-prettypretty-stones! The Bead Addict can screech like a banshee when it comes to artisan beads. Would I be paying outrageous amounts of money for one bead if she wasn't digging her fingernails into my brain with her screeching? Probably not. Ok...may be I would. Even without Bead Addict vociferating her relentless demands to buy, buy, buy, and buy now. May be.  
Enticing Agates Necklace
 A good reason to open an Etsy store also came from my ever-growing bead stash. Hello! I've gone from a simple Plano box of beads to three rolling carts, two file boxes, and more stashes than I ever thought I would. Beads are addictive. Or maybe I just have an addictive personality or genetic material. Or because beads are addictive. Hmmmm...

As I type this I dare to glance at my desk, which is covered in beads, findings and chains, tools, wire and other stringing materials, loose beads, bagged beads, strung beads--you get the picture. It's not neat or orderly--which is what I need. My school materials are crammed in where ever I can squeeze them and not within easy reach and definitely not organized. Which adds to the mess on my desk. (I have beads tucked inside the paper tray of my printer--it's that bad!) This disarray, chaotic mess drives me a bit insane. Ok...totally insane! 
Ice Blue Princess Earrings & Necklace Set
So I went through my beads carefully and decided that some beads had to go to make room for the ones on my desk that have no place to call home.  It wasn't an easy decision but I had to make it. There are beads I've had for years that I haven't used. This both upsets and delights the Bead Addict--because it's her fault that I have so many beads we--I haven't used in years. She's the hoarding type when it comes to beads--can't let go of a single seed bead in case it could be used in some future jewelry project in some distant, misty future. But I'm more practical and realize that if we make a few pennies off these beads, then we can naturally afford to buy more beads, and may be we can get enough pennies to purchase artisan beads! 

But I found right after opening the store back in October that I underestimated the amount of work it was going to take--which seriously conflicted with the amount of classes I was teaching at the time and the amount of students I needed to to whom I need to attend. I also discovered it's not as easy to take a picture and post it on Etsy and watch it sell later. Those cute sales descriptions have to come from somewhere...and the photography skills needed are more than my point-n-shoot camera can handle...and I have to market my wares, which can cost more money than I had budgeted for.  Then there was the time factor...time to photograph my stuff; time to write descriptions and figure out prices and policies; time needed to market everything on various sites.  
My Garden Necklace
When my holiday/winter break came around, I was more excited at seeing my son and getting ready for the holidays than I was in working the store. The decision to close up shop for a bit was painless. Nonetheless, the decision to reopen took some considerable thought and planning and learning more than I realized at first. 

I've set up my Excel spreadsheets for the store, but am going to revise them to work better for me. I've rephotographed most of my jewelry sets because #1) my hard drive with the previous photos crashed and #2) I learned some helpful hints to make my stuff hopefully  more attractive until I can afford to purchase jewelry mannequins. I've also ordered business cards and learned I need a light box and found instructions to build one. I've also been reading how to make my descriptions more personable, rather than typical corporate-chain store-advertising. I'll be spending a bit more time on the computer than I used to do to promote my wares on Facebook, and other forms of social media.  I've also decided on a plan of action for which pieces I'm keeping as gifts, giveaways, and for myself. Afterall, if I can't keep a few special pieces for us--the Bead Addict and myself--then I'm never going to shut her up!

And I reopened today--My Other Vice,  complete with a sale on certain items. I hope to get my destash items in there soon so other bead addicts jewelry designers have a chance to look through my stash and find that perfect set of beads they've been missing to compliment the focal they have in their stash. I'm also hoping new bead junkies beaders will find my destash items just what they need to build their bead box. 

It's probably not the best timing since it's right after the holidays and everyone is broke, but that's how we got to this point in the first place. My timing issues, remember? But Valentine's Day and Easter are fast approaching. *gently nudges* April and May will bring graduations, confirmations, holy baptisms, bat mitzvahs, proms, and weddings. Not to mention Mother's Day. *nudge-nudge-nudge*

So go look around. You don't have to worry about any sales pressure. You don't have to buy if you don't wish to. But come back often and have a cup of coffee or tea if you prefer while you browse. Stay for a spell and enjoy. You may recognize some beads from some of my (and hopefully your) favorite artisans and as the store grows, new artisans as I discover them. Drop me a line or two and let me know what you think or what you'd like to see. 


Sweetheart's Blush Earring and Necklace Set





 
 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Herding Cats!

This blog comprises my own opinions and does not include any feline  opinions...or objections for that matter. Please keep that fact in mind before forging ahead.

Have you heard that expression? "It's like herding cats!" I've learned it means that something or some task is next to impossible--or at best--extremely difficult. I really don't know about that since I...ah...er...herd cats on a daily basis.  And while some days can be more trying than others, most of the time, it's not difficult to get them to head in the direction you need them to go.

Go ahead and laugh at me. But after eight years of managing ferals, combined with a lifetime of being owned by cats, I think I've got it down pretty much and pat. *grins at you* The first clue you need is to make them think it's their idea in the first place. Yeah, I know. It's easier said than achieved but that's the main concept in herding cats. However, that's true about motivating anyone into doing what you need them to do, right? Cats are not that much different. 

Ok--there are two exceptions. Every cat remembers when they were worshipped as gods. Sure that may have happened hundreds of thousands of feline generations ago, but  they remember. They also wish you and I and every other human being would remember this important piece of feline history as well. So be respectful. You don't need to bow down and worship them, but please be respectful. Basic courtesy makes them shiver with delight and gets you mousey points. (Similar to brownie points in human terms.) 
What?!?!? Think like a HUMAN!?!?! You've got to be insane! 
The second exception is that cats do not think like humans. This bears repeating. Cats will not lower themselves to think like humans. After all, they believe they are much more intelligent than we are. Their level of intelligence is not defined by mere IQ exams presented by humans. Cats have better percipience of all matters that are important (they do not count politics, religion, or world view/philosophy as important). So if you give a cat's actions human translation, you are in danger of being too simple-minded to understand their lowest level of communication. 

So with those two facts in mind, herding cats can be relatively easy. Motivation and reward works with cats. For instance, when my husband is filling up the food and water bowls for the ferals outside, his biggest concern is the indoor cats who are trying to make good on an "escape." Escape as in getting outside long enough to roll in the dirt, and for fun, have their human friends play chase. Meaning the humans chase the cat until they are ready to go back indoors.  They don't see the consequences of possibly getting into a catfight with the ferals or getting hurt or getting lost because that falls under politics, religion, and/or worldview/philosophy. Remember--those things are not important to cats at all. 

Therefore, it's up to us mere humans to understand what it will take to keep the indoor kitties separated from the feral kitties. We use motivation in the form of treat bag noise to entice them away from thinking about escaping. The reward is what comes out of the treat bag. We don't feed them their treats in a bowl because we realize we are dealing with hunters. So we toss the treat bits out and about and that allows them to "hunt them suckers down and eat them with joy!" That little bit of motivation is often enough to keep them occupied while D carries out bowls of food and fresh water for the ferals outside. 

Here's another example of herding cats--making them go where you need them to go. For the past year, Arby was terribly ill. We had her in Dr. J's office nearly every other week for nearly the past year. She was difficult to diagnose and difficult to treat. She lost weight and because she's not a large cat in the first place, losing a few ounces constantly did not bode well for her. Her coat became ragged, she lost her playfulness, and she was miserable. We contemplated euthanasia but neither D nor I nor Dr. J were ready to give up just yet. Arby is a fighter and whatever was making her sick was not taking the life out of her. 

Finally, Dr. J tried a radical therapy---a shot of antibiotic + steroid + Vitamin B12  once a week for a month to see if that would kill the bacteria in her gut that was giving her acid reflux. To top it off, we were trying daily doses of Mylanta to help curb the acid that was burning her mouth and throat. Arby HATES shots. She doesn't care who gives them, she hates them. She uses claws, fangs, and twisty moves and then more fangs and claws to let us know she's not happy about getting shots. By the time the shot is administered, more than one person is injured, reaching for bandaids and white vinegar and a thesaurus (to swear effectively and creatively).

So remembering to think like a cat, I made a deal with her. She could eat off my plate every day as long as she let me give her weekly shot and two daily doses of Mylanta. She could eat people food as much as she wanted if she worked with me and didn't cause too many injuries in dosing her. She agreed. That night I took  choice, tasty bits off my plate and placed them on a small plate for Arby. 

It worked. Within two weeks, she was responding well to this new therapy and gaining weight. Within a month, her mouth wasn't ugly red or sore. She eats a combination of people and cat foods daily. She only has to go in occasionally for shots, instead of once a week. Her coat smoothed out and is silky. 

And she's been playing again. 

Nonetheless, Arby is feline and cats do not like to be caught. So D will literally herd her into the kitchen where she lets me pick her up for her daily dose of medication.  Somedays, she makes him chase her around the house. Other days, she prefers to get this nasty tasting affair over and done with quickly and runs into the kitchen so I can dose her. The motivation is to keep herself healthy so she doesn't have to deal with Dr. J and his shots...the reward is eating people food. 

So the next time someone tells you that something is "like herding cats" remember that it's not as difficult as it's made out to be.  






 

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Second Annual Bead Soup Party

I wasn't going to join this year's Bead Soup Party, that's hosted by Lori Anderson of Pretty ThingsI told myself my time was very limited this semester and I just couldn't possibly squeek in one more item to my schedule. I participated in the first two bead parties and had a blast! But this year is different. I have to teach, get my store up and running, and plan this year's garden. I'm also part of the Assessment Team and have to concentrate on that as well. 

But you know me...despite my being logical and practical...I couldn't resist the siren's call of another rip-roaring, exciting, bead soup party! Yes I did! I sent my email into Lori this morning. Bless her--she organizes all us women into some reasonable, flowing, fun-loving group. That's no easy task. The thought of organizing a bunch of talented, intelligent, unique, artistic women makes me tremble. In fear. Give me college students any day of the week!

That giggling you hear in the background is the Bead Addict. She's thrilled to no end that I relented to her incessant pressure to join this year's Bead Soup Party. She's bead-greedy for one thing. For another, she's been complaining that I haven't bought her--me--us a lot of new and interesting beads lately. Not like we don't have whole drawers full of beads or anything like that...Maybe this will keep her occupied so I can get the store up and running without hearing her complain that we can't possibly sell this set or those earrings or THAT necklace--because they are simply too pretty! 

I like the bead soup parties because they make me stretch out of my comfort zone. I also meet new women who are creative and talented. My first bead soup party partner was Elizabeth of Turquoise Sky Whenever I wear that set I created from this Party, I am reminded with fond memories the emails and the developing friendship. 






My next bead party brought me in contact with Dana of Dana's Jewelry Design who sent me pearls--my absolute favorite of all favorites! 



Yeah--I like bead soup parties...and I'm eager to join in this year! Please go to Lori's place and join in the fun! The requirements are fairly simple; a blog, beads, and  an email! 




 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Civic Duty

A week before the last semester ended, I got a notice from the Distric Court  with the dreaded words, "Jury Summons." I got out of jury summons last time I got a summons because I was a student. This time I'm not so lucky. 

I went to the court house on the appointed day and saw a lot of different people there, all waiting with a tinge of anxiety and nervousness. A couple of us started talking. As soon as they found out I was a statistics professor, they immediately claimed that I would not be required to serve since no lawyer--in his or her right mind--wanted to cross a stats professor.  Yeah, right. 

But could you see me sitting on some jury and some attorney spouting off a bunch of stats to impress the jury?!?!? I'd be asking how that attorney reached their "statistical conclusion?" Not to mention I'd want to know their methodology, including how they collected their data, which statistical analysis was used and why, and actually see their findings. I like evidence...hard evidence. And just let a lawyer use that worn out phrase of "Studies show..." or "Research has proven...." Yeah--I'll be all over that one! My students aren't allowed to use such gobblety-gook in my classes! I doubt the judge would appreciate my asking "Which studies..." or "Which research..."

Come to think about it...I think they--meaning the people being called to serve--might have a point.  

So I went to the orientation and stood in the back of the court room by the doors. The first thing I noticed was the odor. Plainly speaking, it stunk. It was bad enough for me to prop  a door open for some fresh air until the bailif came by and said they had to close the door. I whispered to him that the room smelled. He gave me a weird look and I realized he did not smell what I did and that he was probably marking me down as a possible trouble maker. And I seem to fall into that category easy enough. 

There was the usual film about how this civic duty was righteous and honored, and required for citizens of this nation. Ok...I get that. But I personally feel that the our judicial system is...well...flawed. And I think it's best to leave it at that...until when I'm not serving as a potential juror. :D 

So when the judge came in and did his spiel about how we are all serving a higher calling, I almost felt like I was back in church--or one of them I attended as a child.  (Come to think of it, a court room is very similar to a church in its set up. Hmmmm...that requires some pondering!) When finished, he then asked if there were any questions. I caught my arm before it became visible up in the air, waving. I really didn't want to be the one to start a bunch of questions--especially since no one else seem to have any. I don't want the reputation as being a troublemaker early on...especially in front of a judge. 

Anyway--every Friday evening, I have to call this number to see if I'm needed the following week. I'm not looking forward to this while trying to teach. I can see this causing lots of late nights and/or early mornings in my attempts to keep my grading up and not fall behind. But we shall see. If I'm lucky, and the fates have already decided I'm in good favor, I will not have to serve.  


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Planning...

Because I teach college level courses, my week takes a bit of planning. Involved in the planning is thinking how much my students will need my assistance throughout the week. This gets a bit tricky because of the type of classes I teach and the requirements for each course. 

Yesterday, I worked on my syllabus for my Intro to Stats course. This course teaches beginning college students the basics of statistics and introduces them to the concepts of research. Since this course is strictly online  and means not having any interaction with the students (outside a telephone conference or two),  it means I have to develop step-by-step PowerPoint presentations that answer all questions. If you've worked with PowerPoint, you know the slide presentations can be short or extremely long. My Intro to Stats students will be using Excel to do their statistics. That little bit of information means doing lots of screen shots and then modifying them with arrows and text to help them understand the information I'm trying to convey.  
A Sample of the Screen shots modified for PowerPoint slides
 I learned that if I post their information and assignments on Monday and made it due the following Monday, I would not get them graded in a timely manner. Much to the disgruntlement of my students, I now have their homework assignments due on Saturday nights by midnight. Because there is no interaction between me and the students--outside a few telephone calls, I have to grade differently. Grading for strictly online courses is distinct from grading face-to-face or voice chat classes. For face-to-face or voice chat classes, I only have to explain "why this is the correct answer" once. With online-only classes, I have to explain"why this is the correct answer" thirty times.  That can take me an hour per student to grade stats assignments. And there have been times when I've spent two or three hours in an attempt to understand where the student is coming from and how they reached the answer they did. 

Planning also means looking at the time I'm available to my students so I can answer their questions. Normally, I hold office hours for each class on a different day of the week. For example, my online-only class is on Mondays--the day I post their lessons. Tuesdays was for my Intro to Social Welfare students; Wednesdays for my online voice chat graduate stats students; and Thursdays and Saturdays for the interactive TV and face-to-face graduate stats students. The days I was available to my students were the days I was teaching their classes. This was also equally frustrating because if a Intro to Stats student sent me an email on Wednesday, chances are I would not even get to that email box to see it until the following Monday. 

But Cathryn, why is that? Why can't you just open  up your email box and see what the students are sending?  

Thanks to new technology called Blackboard, I have a separate email box for each class I teach. All the classes are separated, with their own desktop, email box, chat rooms and discussion boards.  So when I'm in one class, I cannot access any other class, unless I close out the class I'm in first. It's made worse because I teach for two separate universities and each have their own distinct, individual Blackboard accounts. To solve this, I told my students to call me if it was important, meaning they cannot complete their assignment without assistance from me or if it involved an issue that interfered with their learning (family crisis). But that also means my phone is always busy--or so the complaint goes. 

So planning my semester means parceling out blocks of time so I can be available to all students. I was going to hold an open office day on Tuesdays until I realized that I would be in meetings all day on Wednesday--which means my Wednesday students will not have access to me until class time. So Friday becomes the open office day for all students.  It also means that Sunday is my only real day off since I hold review sessions on Saturdays. 


All in all, I would rather teach college level than elementary or middle school or even high school. I can't imagine what those teachers go through just trying to plot out each quarter and semester. My classes are fairly easy to put together once I figure out a schedule. My hat is off to those who teach children. 








 





  
 

Monday, January 3, 2011

The New Semester

Every new semester offers its own sense of excitement. This semester starts next week and there's a new book involved. I haven't even read it yet--just scanned it briefly when it arrived. I haven't looked at thePowerPoint presentations or my lesson plans or the assignments. I haven't written the syllabi for the classes I'm teaching. For the first time in four years, I've been enjoying my time off. 

There's two issues for me with that statement. The first is I really enjoyed my time off--really, really enjoyed it. My son came home for a very short visit (one week) and I resolved to teach him new recipes to take home with him as well as enjoy his company. My husband and I spent much needed time together. The cats got to have Mom's attention for more than just a few minutes at a whack.  I got to sit down and bead every day to my little heart's content. That right there was such a balm to my frustrated, anxious, and disappointed psyche. Beading is very necessary for my soul.

The second issue is that I enjoyed myself. Meaning I'm behind on getting ready for this upcoming semester. I'm going to have to bust my butt to get ready to teach next week.  And I need to do this while I'm still enjoying my time off. Because I don't have to be at work until next week.

See what I mean?!?!?! ISSUES!

Seriously, I LIKE teaching statistics. It is a challenging and innovative class to teach. It makes me look outside my comfort zone while pulling students outside of their comfort zones. It expands the mind and opens up whole new possibilities. It's rewarding when I run into a former student months or even years later and they tell me they actually have been able to use what they learned in my class.  
  
I've had to reflect on some concerns that cropped up last couple of semesters with both my undergraduate and graduate students. One of the main problems is that I teach statistics. Statistics is one of those courses that every one is required to take and it's also one of the most dreaded courses to take. It's the course that even mathmeticians hate. So most students come in with the student role attitude.

The student role attitude is simply this: "I don't know why this course is necessary. I'm never going to use this information in my career so it's another one of those waste-of-my-time-and-money courses. I'm doing to do whatever I have to do to survive this course, get through it, and get out with my GPA (Grade Point Average) intact."  

Some of you may recognize it immediately. From the first week of classes, I'm fighting an uphill battle from the get-go.   I have to overcome that student role attitude with difficult material and a frustrating class. Having taken several semesters of statistics myself, I understand this. I can even relate to the students because I've been in their shoes. However, most of my students need this course and the knowledge for licensure, competency, and/or state board exams. 

So I tell them from the get-go: "I'm not worried about your grades. I'm more concerned about you learning this material. If you learn the material, your grades will be good." 

Unfortunately, most students are worried about their grades and could care less about learning the material. Some of my graduate students are on a special scholarship that pays for their tuition, books, travel expenses, computers, and gives them a nice living stipend. Those students have to maintain a B or better in grade point averages (GPA). If their GPAs drop below a B, they lose their scholarship and have to repay all the money back. It really makes learning difficult when one's mind is anxious about passing a course with high enough grades. 

Another concern is the rampant cheating that occurs in my online courses. Because of this, I have to revamp my assignments every semester so they are not easily recycled into the next semester. Some semesters give me more difficulty because of the possibility of cheating. Last semester, I had a married couple and three roommates taking my class. This meant for exams, I had to devise three separate ones so none of the students could take advantage. However, this doesn't alleviate cheating on the assignments. Most of the time I can catch that because students who are cheating usually will give the same wrong answer, especially when it's an answer that really far out. The chances of that happening are slim.  

I've had to develop a zero-tolerance to all forms of cheating for all my classes. This disturbs me. Last semester, I was forced to fail students for cheating. That always frustrates and disappoints me when I'm left with no other choice but to fail students for cheating. Interestingly enough, I don't have a problem failing students who fail to show up to class or do the course work. 

Finally there is what I call the Demanding Student. The Demanding Student is the one that will use up most class time and interferes with other students' ability to learn. The Demanding Student does not want to work for his grade, but expects me to give him a decent grade. The Demanding Student can give me all kinds of reasons why he cannot get the work done but insists that I give him extra time to complete assignments. The Demanding Student comes to class unprepared and views the review sessions I hold for ALL my students are his one-on-one personal time with me.  Failing to convince me, the Demanding Student starts using attack mode, such as filing grievances against me, naming me as part of a lawsuit against the university, or sending me emails several times a week, telling me how unfair I've been to him. When the Demanding Student fails the course, he immediately demands to receive either an Incomplete grade  or at least a C so that he does not lose his scholarship, funding, or class standing. 

He is the most draining on the instructor and his classmates. It's bad enough when an instructor has one Demanding Student in a semester, but it makes teaching difficult when there's several Demanding Students in a class several classes. By the way, the Demanding Student is the only time I pull out my "adjunct faculty" card. It's similar to the "Get out of Jail Free" card in Monopoly. As in: "I'm adjunct faculty...I may not be here next semester to teach so you HAVE to get your work into me this semester." Or "I'm adjunct--that means I'm on contract and my contract ends on such-n-such date. I'm not working for free after that date."

So while I prepare for the upcoming semester, I'll be thinking of hopes and opportunities. Have you run into similar situations where you work or in your life?