Yarn and Black Coffee

November 30th, 2016 by Karen

If you’ve never been to Eastern Oregon, then you probably know very little about it. If you’ve just ever passed through, but never stopped, then you’ll likely say it’s a desolate place, full of empty spaces, too much sagebrush, occasional cattle herds, and far fewer people. But for me, the high, dry desert of that corner of Oregon holds something amazing…family.

The history of my family in the area is storied and vast, tied up in the pioneer days of the country, and right around the time Oregon became a state. It’s full of hardship, hard times, and hard work. My ancestors founded towns and built roads. It’s the story of immigrants who came by ships to California and to Ellis Island, by wagon across the plains, by horseback, by train, and by foot. So much of who I am is tied to that pioneer work ethic.

We would visit in the summers and every other Christmas to spend time with my grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and extended family. Visits in my childhood consisted of a whirlwind of activity. Of feeding sheep and chickens. Of milking cows and giving bottles to bummer calves. Of shearing and hay and dirt and the fair. Trips to town where in the summer we were summarily tossed into the local pool for awhile, and in the winter it was to pop into the Emporium, Kinney and Keele, or D&B and to drive around and look at the Christmas lights, then maybe a stop at Albertson’s for something random…it was always cornstarch or bandaids or karo syrup it seemed. And then we would go to the Argus.

Passing through the doors to the newspaper was like entering another world. It smelled of ink and carbon paper, photo chemicals and freshly brewed coffee. While people outside strolled and smiled in a laid back way, inside that building was a bustling microcosm that was spun and danced, at least in my child-eyes, solely at the direction of my Grandma Chris.

She was five foot nothing on a good day with gray hair that later gave way to white and she was always dressed smartly in a coat and skirt or slacks and flat black shoes. And always the swipe of lipstick. In those doors, she was in charge (unless Fran was around, because technically he was the publisher) and we never could stay long because there was always something happening that needed her attention.

Grandma took her coffee black. So black I think you could strip paint with it. I remade more than one pot of coffee for her because it was too weak for her liking. She ran on the stuff.

She knew everyone and everything about everyone. She remembered the history of buildings and houses and who had lived where and thousands of details about places, events, and people long since past. She was the consummate storyteller, and if you were the subject of the story, you may or may not have appreciated it, but she would get the minutia cringingly correct, every single time.

When she wasn’t at the Argus, she became a teacher. Not in the school sense necessarily, but she taught constantly.

At her knee, I learned to pick straw from wool that my uncles and grandpa had just sheared, how to card it, and finally how to spin it. I learned how to collect eggs carefully so I wouldn’t break them and how to can a wide variety of things. I learned how to make pie crust from scratch and how to knead bread. I learned how to properly stack the woodpile (more than once) and how to change a typewriter ribbon. I learned how to knit, again, and again, and again. I learned not to walk behind horses or cows. I learned not to stay on the party line talking to friends because that was rude. I learned how to watch for black ice on the sidewalks. I learned that the top line of notes in the music book at church was the soprano line and that’s what we sang, but her handbell music was very different. I learned she loved Brigadoon and Big Band music, but not Sinatra. Never Sinatra. I learned that she loved Christmas and always treated each of us grandchildren equally, even though we were plentiful, and we each would receive something handmade from her. I learned that even though they bickered and argued, she loved grandpa unconditionally, probably because he was the only man who dared to stand up to her. I learned that family is everything.

She was the first one to put a book about mythology in my hands. In fact, she put a lot of books in my hands. She’d sit me down in grandpa’s tan leather chair next to the fireplace, hand me a book and just say “Why don’t you read this.” It wasn’t a question, but a statement. Read this. And this. And this. I must have read hundreds of books in that chair by the fireplace through the years. History books about Scotland, England, Europe, Egypt, America, the Owyhee, and the Bannock Indian Wars. Books about ghost towns, archaeology, the Nazca lines, burial mounds, settlers the world over, gardening, animals, and roses. Poe, Dickens, Alcott, Keats, Burns, and Tennyson. If it was in print, she was likely to hand it to me to read.

Sometimes, she’d come to the living room with her camera bag slung over her shoulder and say “Let’s go.” She’d bundle me into the car and we’d go bouncing down some dirt road that almost wasn’t a road anymore to some nearly forgotten family cemetery she’d heard about. She taught me how to carefully pull the weeds from the stones and she’d take pictures of each one. I learned how to use charcoal and tracing paper to get a rubbing of the name on stones that were too faded to read and she’d take pictures of those too. She always made sure that I did a really good job on the stones of little ones. We would talk about why sometimes there would be so many in a short span and I learned about typhoid, and cholera, and consumption. I learned sometimes there were stones outside the fence, usually belonging to horse thieves and rustlers, though as a child I didn’t understand what the genteel sounding ‘lady of the night’ on some of them meant. We took photos of those ones too. I wish I knew where all these pictures ended up, but knowing her they’ve been in the safekeeping of a museum or college for some time now.

My other best memories mostly involve the kitchen.

One time she and I worked and toiled for hours and hours making gallons of jars of apricot jam only to have part of the center butcher block in the kitchen collapse right as we finished, breaking half of our work. She and I stood there in shock for a moment and then just started laughing. Grandpa tried to come through the kitchen right afterwards and all he got for his concern about the loud crash was “Dammit Bill, your boots are muddy! Get out!” which was hilarious because the floor was covered in still hot jam and shards of glass. We must have mopped and re-mopped that floor for two days before your shoes wouldn’t stick to it.

Another time my cousin Jen and I decided that we would clean the entire kitchen for her as a surprise for their wedding anniversary. We took everything out of all the cupboards, cleaned the shelves meticulously, then put it all away. In different places, of course. She did thank us graciously for our thoughtfulness, but then we got to help put it all away properly. It took hours and she sat and drank coffee while we did it.

One year at Christmas, I brought all the makings for tamales with us as a surprise for Joel as it’s his family’s Christmas tradition. I was slapping tamales all alone in the kitchen and she came in for another cup of her famously strong coffee. She watched for a few minutes, then sat herself down with me and said “Well, that looks like something my arthritic hands can still do” and between us we made over a hundred tamales and laughed heartily together at family stories she had told before, but were no less funny for the retelling.

As dementia slowly stole her away in her final years, the moments we shared grew fewer, but no less cherished. In my aunt Nancy’s kitchen we sat at a more recent Christmas, just the two of us, me with a skein of yarn crocheting away and her with her coffee. In silence, we watched my cousins and uncles and the great-grandkids outside as they sledded and played in the snow. Then she suddenly grabbed my wrist and said “You’re Leah’s eldest, but I can’t remember your name.” I told her ‘Karen Michelle’ and she sighed “That’s right. I forget too much anymore. I’ve been meaning to tell you, there’s a cupboard on the third floor at the ranch in Jordan Valley. It’s full of all my yarn that I made and fabric that I bought with my egg money. There might be some roving there too for the spinning wheel, but I can’t remember. I may have already spun it. I want you to have it all.”

I didn’t have the heart to remind her that the third story of the ranch house was long gone before I was born and that I had only seen it in pictures and heard her tell stories of the dances held up there and the bats and the squeaky stairs.

She wanted to give me one last gift. How could I tell her no?

I simply squeezed her hand and told her thank you. And she smiled her huge smile at me and drank her coffee.

I miss her terribly already.

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Posted in Family | 4 Comments

Of Bee Stings and Highway Robbery

August 19th, 2016 by Karen

I have an allergy.

It’s not small.

It’s not an “allergy du jour”. It isn’t a personal choice. It’s not something that just makes me feel bad and then I get better. It isn’t something to get attention.

In fact, it’s pretty fatal.

I am allergic to bees.

I wasn’t always allergic. I was stung often as a child and never had a reaction until I was about a sixth grader or so and that changed. For the better part of my life now, I have had to carry an emergency bee sting kit. The first one was a little orange box that came with me everywhere. It lived in my backpack all through junior high, high school and college. It contained 4 antihistamines in a blister pack, an alcohol prep pad, a string tourniquet that was green (that stuck in my head) and a loaded syringe. The syringe was a little tricky…the plunger was a set of offset rectangles and you had to uncap the needle, press the plunger until it stopped, rotate the plunger, jab yourself in the leg and depress the plunger again to inject. There was also a second dose in the syringe, but you weren’t supposed to use it unless you needed that much epinephrine all at once. Then, you had 40 minutes or less to get to a hospital.

Thankfully, somewhere along the way, the kit was modified. Gone is the useless tourniquet, the antihistamines and the alcohol pad. The EpiPen is a self contained autoinjecting syringe. You take it out of its plastic case, remove the safety tab and slam it against your thigh. It auto fires, you hold it in place for 10 seconds, and that’s that. It’s an incredible improvement over the former version because you don’t have to think about it at all and it takes just seconds to use. Believe me, when you’re terrified and struggling to breathe, thinking goes right out the window.

Kits typically come in pairs with a tester blank (no needle) so you can practice or show others how to use it. They come in pairs for a damn good reason. Sometimes, a single dose doesn’t work and some severe allergies require two. You take the shot and there’s some relief and then suddenly you’re gasping for air again. There’s ZERO predictability with this. There’s no test. Just sometimes, you need more meds than other times. As my friend Todd says, two is one, one is none.

The symptoms of anaphylaxis aren’t a walk in the park. When I’m stung, it’s as if someone has suddenly set my skin on fire. The sting site burns intensely and swells excruciatingly quickly. (Thankfully, I’ve never been stung in the face or neck, but the prospect scares me terribly.) My chest starts to constrict, I struggle to breath, and I get very, very dizzy and have to sit down to avoid passing out. The best way I can describe this to someone who has no allergies is that it’s like someone is holding your head underwater and you desperately need to take a breath, but instead you’re going to drown and you’re also on fire. The after effects last for days. Sheer exhaustion, the shakes, the nausea. The last time I was stung, it took more than a week before I was really recovered and then I still had a raised rash on my thigh where I was stung that was about the size of a dinner plate for more than two months. After that, it blessedly stopped itching, but then the whole thing became oddly scaly and discolored and lasted for about 6 months. Very unpleasant.

EpiPens are not something you take for fun. It’s not a recreational drug. It makes you feel absolutely AWFUL in about 10 seconds flat. It’s your most stressful day, 5 pots of strong black coffee, and the biggest panic attack ever all rolled into one. You can feel the drug race through your veins. It hits like a freight train. You’re suddenly drenched in sweat, your whole body is shaking, and you just want to throw up everything you’ve ever eaten. These feelings last for hours. It’s horrible, but you’re breathing, so you’re grateful and just head to the hospital for the follow up, because sometimes even two doses isn’t enough.

The last refill, I paid somewhere in the vicinity of $125 out of pocket, or a little more than $60 per injector. Kind of high I thought at the time, since before that, it was around $80 for the pair, but it’s not a choice. I had to have it. You’re supposed to replace your EpiPens every year.

Now, the company that makes the EpiPen, Mylan Pharmaceuticals, has hiked the price to $500 or MORE. This is $250 per injector, more than twice the price I paid for a pair previously. It’s an enormous price increase, and one that thousands of families will struggle to absorb. Mylan has been big on touting that they offer a coupon, but it only reduces the cost to $400. Not much of a savings.

For those families, they will weigh the exorbitant price increase against their personal safety and the safety of their children. Some will decide to take their chances and switch to carrying around just strong antihistamines and hoping that they don’t have a severe reaction. Some will push the limits and not replace their expired EpiPens, hoping that the slow degradation of the drug will provide them at least a little safety. Some will grumble and go ahead and purchase new EpiPens, but not because they support Mylan, but because their allergies are too severe to survive without the refill in their pocket. There will be an uptick in severity of hospital visits and likely an increase in related deaths as well.

Me, well…my EpiPens have expired.

I know they last longer than just a year. I know that they are still usable if the liquid is still clear. I know that they are less effective than they were. I know that I should replace them. It’s Russian Roulette not to.

But summer is almost over and maybe, just maybe they’ll be forced to rethink their pricing in the next month or two.

And then I’ll get my refills.

I know I’m going to need it again someday.

Because it’s not really a choice.

If it were, no one would choose to be allergic.

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Great Search Discovery Tool for Bloggers – SEMRush

June 1st, 2015 by Karen

Occasionally, I receive products for review or include advertising in my posts, but no one impacts the honesty of my opinion.
Through the 16 (holy crap) years that I’ve been involved with online marketing, I’ve seen a lot of changes. From the dot com bubble, the crash, the recovery, FTC guidelines, tax changes, you name it. The biggest thing though that I’ve seen affect affiliates and bloggers most recently is all the changes in search. You get everything somewhat dialed in and then BAM! You’re hit by whatever Google’s favorite black and white animal du jour happens to be. Yes, it gets rid of a lot of the riff raff, but all too often I see the baby thrown out with the bathwater.

While the only good defense I’ve seen against search algorithm updates is to write good, solid content and keep your nose clean, it’s never a bad idea to keep a steady eye on what your competition is doing as well. There have been many tools for this over the years, but many have fallen by the wayside and the good ol’ Google sandbox is just not what it used to be.

In talking with some other long-time industry friends, one mentioned SEMRush. Now, I’m always skeptical of new tools (The best! The greatest! Better than the competition! Seriously, get new copy.) but this one had me intrigued, mostly because of the data available. Those of you that know me well, know that I’m a data kinda girl and prefer cold, hard numbers to ‘gut feelings’.

You simply enter a domain (yours or a competitor’s) and the search returns a plethora of data points from organic keyword positions, advertising spend, and PLA research to display advertising information, but the best part in my opinion is the keyword research and backlinks sections. What to know what the going rate is for a keyword? No problem! How about who is showing up in organic results for a term? There’s a live updated, exportable list. You can even see backlinks, anchor text, keyword difficulty, indexed pages and so much more.

Best part is the tool has a free version as well as three levels of paid versions for those who need additional data points. The free version lets you do several searches before you have to register, but honestly the amount of data you can uncover is totally worth it. I was pleasantly surprised at just how much I was able to uncover in just a short amount of time and I’ll be looking to use it to improve several of my other sites. You should definitely check out the SEMRush tool and let me know what you think!

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Is it Summer Yet?

April 27th, 2015 by Karen

The sheer amount of stress and physical exhaustion from the past couple of days has about done me in.

I did a ton of volunteer work the past couple of days. Not required work, but just what needed. It was exhausting, but incredibly rewarding for me personally.

It was also a huge, welcome distraction from the crap going on in my life.

Stuff that’s wrong:

  • I’ve had a family member stuck in Nepal after the devastating earthquake.
  • A huge project is due at the end of the week for the middle kiddo and he still needs to finish it up.
  • The jerks at the Modern Language Association decided apparently to change their standards sometime in the past couple of years and only now did I find out about it (despite approximately 12 research papers by my kids, turned in with ‘antiquated’ formatting on their bibliographies and NO feedback from ANY of their teachers). Sorry, but standards should be standards and not something you waffle about and then add italics to down the road.
  • Inconsistent use of a required system at the school for homework assignments. (Sorry, but my kids aren’t the only ones who can’t remember your instructions. Put it in writing.)
  • Failure by one teacher to use said system AT ALL. My 92 year old grandpa uses Facebook. Your ‘too old to figure it out’ excuse is invalid.
  • Both kids having to repeatedly re-do assignments because they failed to follow the unclear, unwritten instructions.
  • The youngest kiddo’s complete and total inability to TURN IN COMPLETED HOMEWORK ON TIME.
  • One of our fences is falling over and it’s the one with the crazy scary German Shepard.
  • Both kids aren’t seeing much playing time in baseball/softball, which in the case of the youngest, severely impacts her ability to pay attention.
  • The oven broiler element fried itself and melted.
  • I have a migraine.
  • Everybody sucks.

Stuff that’s right:

Yep. That’s what I can come up with at the moment.

I’ve found myself increasingly agitated this month and angry. I feel like Bruce Banner. I’m always angry. I just want to be left alone and do my work and have things run smoothly. Instead, I feel like we’re hitting every bump in the road and I’m being poked with a sharp stick nonstop.

Poking a bear doesn’t end well for anyone. Just stop.

Summer just can’t come soon enough.

Posted in Life | 0 Comments

Right hand, left hand

February 18th, 2015 by Karen

ashesToday is Ash Wednesday. It is probably one of my most favorite of the Catholic Holy Days because every year, we get to hear Matthew 6. Something about this particular chapter has always rung with supreme truth for me. It’s a road map for every day living.

Don’t act holier than thou just to attract attention in public.
Give charitably, but do it in secret. No one else needs to know what you do for others.
Pray in the quiet of your heart, privately as a close conversation with a loved one.
Prayer is not for babbling on and on in order to try to sound important or holy.
Forgiveness is a two way street.
Fasting should be done in secret and without complaint.
Worry less about material goods and more about those intangible gifts of the spirit.
You cannot follow both God and money.
Worrying will not prolong your life or bring you material goods.
Concern yourself only with today’s worries, tomorrow will come in its own time.

I’ve always been kind of a wallflower, and maybe that’s why I latched onto this Bible chapter as a child. This is the first time I heard “it’s ok to not be the center of attention”. As a shy kid with a speech impediment, I would much rather quietly observe and participate in activities and that carries through to this day. I still struggle with being noticed…whether it’s speaking in public or receiving a compliment, I often find it very uncomfortable. Also I admit, I worry too much about a vast variety of things and probably too little about some things that should be more cause for concern, but my propensity for worry is something that I recognize as a challenge to undertake. I’m a work in progress.

Now that I’m an adult though, the biggest meaningful part of this excerpt for me concerns charity. But when you give alms, your left hand must not know what your right is doing; your almsgiving must be secret, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:3-4 My discomfort at being noticed likely dovetails into this a bit, but I truly do prefer to give something to someone quietly, quickly and without recompense. I’ve always found that small things mean so much more than something impersonal. Could I write a check and make a donation somewhere? Sure. However, a loaf of homemade bread will feed someone physically and spiritually today. A couple of bags of hand-me-down clothes will take care of my friends’ child and ease her worry over where she’ll find the budget to buy new things for her growing child. A hand made hat or scarf will keep someone warm, not just today, but next year and the year after that. A cup of coffee bought for the person next in line at the drive-through will brighten their day and hopefully they in turn will pass that joy on to another person in their life. These are things given with thought and with love, privately and without need for fanfare.

Does this mean that charity should never be public? No, of course not. When a community rallies to a cause that is crucial to the well being of the community at large, that camaraderie is important in that it supports all involved. There is nothing wrong with participation…it’s when we twist it to glorify ourselves individually and our individual contributions that we go astray. Charity should be undertaken simply because it is the right thing to do.

Last year, I was blessed to have been able to attend the Bar Mitzvah for the son of a wonderful friend of mine. As someone who had never had the opportunity before, I found the Temple services stunning. Catholic Mass follows so closely to its predecessor (remember, Jesus and the disciples were all Jewish!) that I was nearly brought to tears several times. It was a beautiful experience. During one of the services, the Rabbi brought up the Jewish tradition of tzedakah, the concept that righteousness and fairness is an actual obligation. We are obligated as followers of God to aid those in need, despite our own financial standing, and to do it without being asked. This is why in Luke 21, Christ points out the donation of the Jewish widow at the Temple: “When he looked up he saw some wealthy people putting their offerings into the treasury and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins. He said, “I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.”

No one asked the widow to donate to the Temple. No one was standing there enforcing a 10% tithe of her income. No one was standing there keeping track of who gave money to the treasury or withholding services if they did not give. Despite her poverty, the widow was still called to donate what she could to help others in the community who were less fortunate. She simply did what she felt was necessary. This is the true meaning of charity; giving what you are called to give in support of those who are in need.

One other aspect of tzedakah that the Rabbi mentioned was that it is also an obligation of the giver to ensure that funds entrusted to an organization for the good of the community are properly managed and spent effectively and wisely. How often do we just give blindly because “eh, it’s for charity” or “it’s a good tax write off”. This sort of blasé indifference is something we all fall into from time to time. It can be a difficult question to ask, but finding out just where your donations are going can be a real surprise. You may find that while you thought a donation was going to feed the poor, it in fact was used to buy a sign. Or that you believed you were helping cancer patients, but in fact you essentially lined the pocket of some CEO. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give at all, in fact it’s the opposite. It’s an admonishment to give fully but that you should do your homework first so what you give is used properly. Being informed makes us all better stewards of the resources available in our communities and ensures that help is given to those who need it most.

On Ash Wednesday, it’s traditional to “give up something for Lent”. I’ve always thought that was rather odd…as kids we were encouraged to give up sweets, or soda, or television, but I never found that spiritually satisfying. How does my giving up chocolate glorify God? (Side note, giving up cake when your birthday always falls during Lent is a real drag. Only made that mistake once.) For the past several years, rather than giving something up and refraining from something, I’ve made the conscious choice to give something UP…to try to do something every day that glorifies God.

I’m not going to tell you what it is; that defeats the purpose. I would however encourage those who are reflecting on this season to find a fulfilling way to mark this period of penitence with something with spiritual meaning.

Posted in Family | 0 Comments

Flipping Tables

February 5th, 2015 by Karen

Warning: Rant ahead. You’ve been warned.

I am angry.

No. I am downright furious.

What makes you think that you have any right to demand of me a written permission slip stating that I am an active member of my faith?

Do you come to my house and see that we say grace before our meals?

Or that every day of Advent we read a Bible verse as a family pertaining to the names of Jesus and then discussed what each verse meant and how we can better live our lives as Jesus taught and then decorated our Christmas tree with those names?

Do you know the worry that plagues me every time my children altar serve for you that they won’t make a mistake and you won’t look at them with that horrid thin-lipped cross look you give?

Do you know that my eldest child attended the ‘training’ you gave and immediately afterword informed me that they would no longer altar serve because they felt they wouldn’t be serving the altar anymore but you personally?

Do you even realize that your disapproval has a profound effect on children and can make them fall AWAY from their faith?

Do you know how much it pains me that for the last year and a half I have been physically unable to fully kneel during Mass?

Do you understand what it’s like to live with crippling depression and that sometimes just getting out of bed is a blessing and benediction in and of itself?

Do you know that one of my most prized possessions is an inherited communion set that was brought from Europe when they immigrated and squirreled away by relatives through the years “just in case”?

Do you understand what sort of devotion this taught me from people who once were terrified of openly professing their faith?

Do you have any idea what our school was like just 2 years ago when I had a child that was falling apart at the seams because of a teacher that the administration REFUSED to deal with?

Can you even see the good that our school does now and just how damn hard the parents work to keep it going?

Do you see the amazing things that the current principal has done and how hard she works or are you only capable of criticizing her work?

Do you realize that I finished my 40 “required” volunteer hours in the first 3 weeks of the school year?

Do you have any remote inkling of the kind of financial sacrifice we have made for the last 12 years so our children could have a Catholic education?

I am a baptized Catholic.
I was an altar server for many years and one of the first girls to altar serve at the Cathedral.
I am a confirmed Catholic.
I am a married Catholic.
My children are baptized Catholic.
The eldest is confirmed Catholic.
By the grace of God, I will die Catholic.

At 17, in a town meeting of approximately 100 people at our parish, most of whom I knew as they were Knights of Columbus, I respectfully objected to moving our thriving youth ministry from a useful and large location in the parish hall to a tiny 10×15 room that we would be unable to meet in. I detailed the reasons I thought it should be kept where it was and, if it couldn’t, why the new location was unsuitable. I was told TO MY FACE by our parish priest that because I was a girl and a teenager, my opinion didn’t matter one bit (his exact words) and to sit down. When I took offense, I was SHOUTED AT to get out. Only one adult in the entire meeting came to my defense and I will never forget the look of shame on the faces of the other adults in the room as he chastised them. I was still humiliated.

That was not the last time a priest told me I was worthless because of my sex or my age.
I’m sure it will happen again.

However, I’ve made damn sure that my children know the opposite is true. I am the one in power here. I am the one teaching the next generation of Catholics. I am the one who taught them their prayers at bedtime, the one that listened to them countlessly stumble over the words as they learned the creed, the one that sang “This little light of mine” a billion times in the car until my ears bled. I’m the one that answers the hard questions about death, abortion, and rape. I’m the one who nudges their busy bodies to a modicum of respectfulness in Mass and takes the time to explain why we do the things that we do and the meaning behind each and every little thing in the sanctuary. They see me try to offer up my own faith, such as it is, in the best way that I can.

On the other hand, you speak at them, not to them. You refuse to answer their questions. You demand respect rather than earning it. You talk incessantly of vocation, yet show little of it and never discuss that parenthood is also a vocation.

You want to know why there aren’t enough boys becoming priests? It’s because you belittle their mothers.

News flash. Faith is not a once a week obligation. It is not money in an envelope. It’s not so a bunch of people can come listen to you jabber away about how much the parish needs to donate or how we should come to Mass every week. (Pro tip: That’s called preaching to the choir…the choir is already at Mass. You don’t need to tell them to come.)

You want donations to increase through punishment and punitive measures, but that’s not how donations work. Even the concept of ‘tithing’ 10% is outdated and is an Old Testament obligation under the Laws of Moses. It doesn’t free modern Catholics from the obligation to help the church, but there is no set dollar amount here.

As Paul states in 2 Corinthians 8:12-15:

For if the eagerness is there, it is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have; not that others should have relief while you are burdened, but that as a matter of equality your surplus at the present time should supply their needs, so that their surplus may also supply your needs, that there may be equality. As it is written: “Whoever had much did not have more,and whoever had little did not have less.”

I have nothing left monetary to give you that I haven’t already given to the school. I have also given my time and my talents above and beyond what I have been requested to do. This well is dry and you will have to make do with the blood, sweat and tears I have already given to you.

I’ll fill out your damnable and offensive permission slip because I’m like the woman with ten silver coins who has lost one. I’m going to search and find every last cent I can to care for my family.

I still think you’re a small minded bigoted bureaucrat paper pusher with a Napoleonic ego.

Oh, and since we’re picking nits here, you did promise to be a presence on campus this year.
According to the jr. high student, you’ve been to their classroom once and that was last week. According to the elementary student, you’ve never even been to their classroom.

Might want to take that log out of your eye first there, sport.

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Leap From The Lion’s Head

February 5th, 2015 by Karen

So I’ve started on a new business venture with a friend.

I’ve done this three times already and each time, not only was I personally disappointed, but it affected our family financially and broke my trust.

I’ve been understandably nervous about it, but this time, the pieces just seemed to fall into place. My strengths are their weakness and my weakness is their strength and of course neither of us can do any of what Joel does. It’s a good complimentary set of skills and I think it really helped that we eased into things over the past couple of months. It really set a lot of my fears to rest.

The entire new team attended a conference in January together and we received fantastic feedback and congratulations from friends and colleagues and I think that was the final shot in the arm. I’m super stoked about this upcoming year professionally and I’m actually excited about work every morning again.

Great way to start off the year!

Posted in Work | 0 Comments

GIANTS!

October 29th, 2014 by Karen

I’m so ridiculously excited! The San Francisco Giants just won the World Series in Game 7 and it was all down to the very last inning. I totally ruined a fingernail chewing on it and it hurts to type, but man oh man did Bumgartner come through in the pitching department!

I knew that Fanatics would have gear pretty soon after the game and they did not disappoint…they already have a bunch of stuff available, including the Locker Room hat and a rather spiffy women’s cut shirt that I’m thinking about getting myself!

giants hatgiants shirt

The pictures will take you straight to the products…and if you’re kind enough to click on them and make any purchase on their site, I’ll get a smidgen back. Don’t feel obligated though!

Now we can start the countdown to Spring Training…

Posted in Life | 0 Comments

Pretty Handy

October 8th, 2014 by Karen

In the ongoing saga of our dryer, I have -finally- had a win.

About six months ago, it started making a terrible squealing sound. So I did what most self respecting business women do…I called a repairman. The amazing elderly gentleman who was my go-to guy for everything repairs retired a few years back and we’ve had pretty good luck with appliances, so I wasn’t sure who to call. It’s like playing Russian Roulette with your modern conveniences at stake. I asked friends for recommendations, and I read online reviews. I searched for unhappy consumer complaints and finally we settled on a local company that we felt was reputable, McNally’s.

Joel called them, they transferred us to a repairman. He came out, looked at it, said he would order parts and left. A week later, we hadn’t heard from him, so we tried the number he gave us. Disconnected.

Frustrated, we called the company back and they said there must have been a mistake and they’d have him call. Sure enough, in about 2 hours he called us back, apologized, and told us he was still waiting on one part. Several days later, he and an assistant finally came out, took about 45 minutes and replaced the front bulkhead and the drum support bearing on my dryer and that was that.

Except we noticed that after about a week, the dryer was running kinda rough. Checking the repairman’s work, I saw that the bulkhead was actually cracked in both corners and not sitting properly. Unhappy, I tried his number again but it was still disconnected. Screw it. I popped the cracked piece back into place myself and hoped it would hold.

frontbulkhead2frontbulkhead

So we lived with the busted piece. Occasionally, it would work itself a little loose, so we’d push it back into place. Mostly it was just annoying. Then, the dryer stopped working well. It couldn’t spin a full load of clothes, so we started running half loads. Finally, the barrel started sticking. Time for an actual fix. But I wasn’t about to trust another craptastic surly repairman. I spent a little time on YouTube and decided this was something I could do myself.

bearingbearing2

I took apart the dryer and removed the cracked bulkhead and discovered that the support bearing was not only worn through in spots, but part of it was shattered and only had two glides, rather than the four required for proper operation. I thought that perhaps they had just fallen out since the plastic was cracked, but there wasn’t any sign of them at all. I also discovered that the sticker with my model number had been removed. Great.

modelnumber

I spent the better part of my Saturday trying to figure out what model of GE dryer I had and never actually found the answer. I was able to get fairly close though in terms of appearance, so I was hoping that a repairman worth their salt would be able to get me the rest of the way to the proper model number. (for the record, I have a GE Super Capacity/8 Cycle/Heavy Duty/Quiet By Design dryer that was originally purchased in 2000 or 2001 from Wards) Surprisingly, there are exactly zero helpful appliance part shops in our area. We went to one location only to discover they had recently gone out of business, I knew our old repairman’s place was long gone, and the only other place was McNally’s. Gritting our teeth, we went into McNally’s only to be told that 1) the repairman they transferred us to doesn’t actually work for them, despite having the same last name as the store and they -never- mentioned that when we called the first time, 2) without a model number, they couldn’t search for parts and 3) despite having the broken parts in hand, they couldn’t guarantee that replacements of those exact parts would fit our dryer so they couldn’t help us at all, but since the parts we brought in were “expensive” and the bulkhead alone would be “well over $100”, we would be better off just buying a new dryer. Which of course they sell.

Yeah right.

So we came home extremely frustrated. Back online we went and, after an obscene number of searches on various part sites, we settled on getting our parts from RepairClinic.com. They had a great return policy (not knowing our model number, we were concerned that we would be ordering the wrong thing), had the parts we needed at a reasonable price, had decent pictures of said parts (schematics are great, but photos are SO much better), AND they had step by step videos on each of the parts.

We ordered on Saturday night, the parts shipped on Monday (from Romulus, MI, which amuses me to no end), and we got them today at 1:04pm. I had the dryer totally repaired and up and running by 1:30pm. Horrible repairman took twice as long. Heh.

I am so damn proud of myself and the physical labor involved was much easier than I had expected. Best part is, I can actually stop using the makeshift clothesline in my backyard now and the kids can stop complaining that their clothes are stiff. I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited to do laundry.

dryer

Lessons Learned:

  1. Keep all appliance model numbers somewhere where unscrupulous repairmen can’t remove them
  2. Don’t bother with repairmen.
  3. Definitely don’t shop at McNally’s
  4. Do it yourself. It will save time, money, and headache.

By the way…that part that was going to be “well over $100”? Cost me a whopping $39.95. I’m laughing all the way to the laundry aisle.

Posted in Family, Life | 3 Comments

I find your lack of planning…disturbing

May 7th, 2014 by Karen

Everyday, I work with a variety of website owners. Some are go getters, some are more laid back. Some know exactly what they want, some need a little hand holding. I do my best to work with them all equally. My job is to help when help is needed, offer support when necessary, and fuel enthusiasm always.

I do this by having a plan.

I have a Yearly plan. I have a Quarterly plan. I have a monthly plan. And every morning when I sit down at my desk, I make a daily plan.

Now, I’ve been doing my particular marketing job now for fifteen years, so I certainly wouldn’t expect someone who is just starting out to have the same level of planning that I require of myself. That being said, lack of planning is a major cause of critical failure of sites, businesses and entrepreneurs.

You cannot plan for your next market roll out if you don’t have credible numbers to back up your ‘gut feelings’.
You certainly can’t find where your customers are losing interest without taking a look at your analytics.
You will be hard pressed to make appropriate purchasing and pricing decisions if you haven’t made a cohesive budget plan.
You should not bitch out a qualified marketing person who’s efforts are actually driving you sales when you don’t even know how many sales you are making.

I know that anger is sometimes just the manifestation of fear, and in this particular case, fear of failure. I get that.

But screaming at me for an hour isn’t going make your business plan magically appear.

Only you can make your plan.

Thanks for helping me decide to update mine.

Posted in Work | 0 Comments

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