Recently in Self Improvement Category

In June on the longest day of the year, I'm reminded that it will be coming again as the days get shorter and the nights longer. It usually starts in September or early October and ends in March - sometimes April.

The greyness. The heaviness. The cloud. Around my head, in my eyes, on my face, in my body.

The tiredness, slowness, sadness. Even tears at times. Withdrawn. No energy.

I'm a low-key person, an introvert. I'm not usually upbeat or excitable. But, people who know me can and hear the greyness when it hits.

I remind myself that December 21 (the longest night of the year) is coming and I can look forward to gradually feeling better with more daylight.

This year was different. No grey, no tiredness, no sadness, no tears.

This is the first winter in I don't know how many years that I feel good. Clear. Rested. At peace.

Not much posting the last 4 months of 2008. On weekends, I've been wrapped up in making the Quilt Block Curtains for my craft room (photos to come!), and during evenings, I've been enjoying television sans commercials courtesy of our DVR.

I stopped crocheting at the end of July - I was bored with it and it was too hot to have yarn touching me. I've been thinking about it again though - colorful yarn is a huge draw for me!

Wardrobe Upgrade

I had been thinking about upgrading my "look" at work for about a year or more. Finding dress shoes that fit for Greg and Lauren's wedding in August was one of the triggers I needed to get started!

At the end of October, I began a hunt for shoes for work - is great! I ordered no less than 30 pairs of shoes from Zappos and 3 more pair from 2 other online websites. I kept 6 pair of shoes to use for work - for a total of 9 including the 3 pairs I bought in July. I also have 1 pair of Keds for home use. The remaining pairs of shoes were returned. Free shipping both ways!

The 9 pairs of shoes I have are: 2 brown (low heel, higher heel), 2 black (low heel, higher heel), 1 red (mid heel), 1 bone (mid heel), 1 taupe (low heel), 1 navy (low heel), 1 burgundy (low heel).

Since shoes for my wide feet were no longer a problem, an upgrade to my work wardrobe was in order to look a bit more professional. So, new pants were needed - pants that were not too short to wear with the new shoes! With new pants came the need for new tops. Thank goodness, JCPenney was having an excellent sale on the type of clothes I like to wear! The 2 weeks before Thanksgiving were busy, busy, busy shopping at 3 different JCPenney stores for items in my size. I even bought a $250 black, lined, long winter coat for less than $93 including tax!

I'm hot nearly all the time. Finding short-sleeved tops in my size, in colors I can wear, without frills and patterns (solid colors please!), wasn't easy. I found only a couple - one style that fit really well. So, I searched online and discovered I could order that top in other colors at So I did - along with several Pima Cotton (soft!) short-sleeve and 3/4-sleeve tops.

My wardrobe is lovely - and I feel great with my upgraded look!

I also bought new bathroom towels as well as new sheets and pillows for our bed! One set of sheets is deep purple, the other is deep red - very rich!

The Holidays

Thanksgiving was the usual quiet day. Mom and Bryan came for dinner - turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, pie and ice cream. We skipped vegetables in favor of more turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing!

Christmas ended up also being quiet. Greg and Lauren were expected but their flight was canceled. Because flights were filled with other holiday travelers and passengers from flights canceled in previous days during the snow storm, alternative flights were not available. So, they stayed in Oregon this year. Hopefully, they'll come down in spring for a long weekend. Mom and Bryan came for Christmas Eve dinner - Bill's wonderful cheesy lasagna!, garlic bread, and pie. Mom came over again for dinner on Christmas Day for yummy lasagna leftovers. We again skipped veggies both days in favor of more garlic bread and lasagna!



Through ebay or Amazon, I've bought Seasons 1-4 of Lost, Seasons 1-3 of Prison Break, and Seasons 1-2 of Heroes. While I've already seen these shows, I wanted something I could listen to - but not necessarily have to watch - while working on projects in my craft room. It's been great! I've caught a few things I missed the first time around in all 3 of those television series. I've also ordered the 4-disc collector's series DVD set of Gone with the Wind.


I don't read novels much, but I recently decided I wanted to read some of the classic stories that I missed in high school and wasn't assigned in college - as well as books I liked and want to re-read. The idea is to have books on hand to read here and there. I will keep the books I like so I can re-read them when I want to, and will donate the books I don't want to keep to the college library.

To start with, I have recently acquired:

  • Little Women, Little Men, Jo's Boys by Louisa May Alcott (3 books combined in one hardback book) - childhood favorites
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
  • Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell - another favorite
  • The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series by J.R. Tolkien (box set of 4 books) - I generally don't like fantasy but I thought I'd give it a chance


After buying Melissa Etheridge's Christmas CD A New Thought For Christmas - which is excellent! - I fell in love with bluesy Christmas music. So, I bought several blues Christmas music CDs and discovered that Charles Brown and B.B. King have great Christmas albums!


Lots of spending in the past few months. But it's over now - at least for a while. I checked my retirement account savings balance yesterday and am disappointed, but not surprised considering the market slide in the past months, to see that it's down about $80,000! Ack!

Update for August

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A month since my last post! I'm just not feeling bloggy. Here's an update:

20080808greglaurenweddingrings.jpgMy son is married! Greg and Lauren tied the knot in a simple ceremony on August 8. I flew in Thursday evening and flew back Friday evening after a nice lunch for just the 3 of us after the ceremony. They took off for the weekend on a short honeymoon to the wine country about an hour away from where they live. Then, on Monday, Greg started his new job as an attorney working for a mid-sized litigation firm. Whew - big changes!

My new shoes: The brown Ros Rhommerson Cynthia shoes I wore at my son's marriage ceremony are comfortable - as long as I don't walk in them. Ack!

The muscles in my feet, ankles, knees, and lower back just weren't up to walking in 2 1/2 inch heels! Now, the black Hugh Puppies Sara shoes with a 1 1/4 inch heel don't hurt me nearly as much!

I don't think the problem with the brown shoes is the shoes - as I said, they're comfortable. I do think the problem is that I'm so used to wearing fully-padded New Balance walking shoes with basically no heal height, that the muscles needed to walk in 2 1/2 inch heels just aren't up to snuff! Because of that, I haven't yet worn the black shoes with 2 1/2 inch heels!

Our home: We're having 5 of the windows in our house replaced on Tuesday - livingroom, kitchen (front window), craft room, bathroom, and TV room - by American Vision Windows.

After that's done, we're thinking about hiring a painter to finish painting the outside trim (a project started last summer but not finished) and paint the house (we're still not happy with the medium grey colored stucco). I'm now thinking a creamy light yellow which will work fine with the white trim.

Bryan brought a girl for dinner! My stepson brought his latest girlfriend Brit to our house for dinner last night - something neither Bill nor I can remember him ever doing before!

Together, Bill and I have joked that, since Billy got married on 7/7/2007 and Greg got married on 8/8/2008 that Bryan may get married on 9/9/2009.

In fun, we mentioned that to Bryan several weeks ago and he responded that maybe 12/12/2012 would be the date he gets married! Of course, there's no rush for him to get married! I just thought it interesting that he brought Brit over for dinner.

Crocheting: No crocheting in the past 4 weeks or so. Just not into it right now.

Quilting / sewing: I bought storage containers and many more fat quarters at JoAnn Fabrics (I couldn't resist the 99¢ sale!) to add to my fabric collection. The weather has been hot so it's taken some effort to get around to washing and ironing all the new fabric - but I just finished this afternoon.

20080830kylebusch.jpg NASCAR: Kyle Busch won his 18th race of the year last night! As I type this, he's working on his 9th Cup series win! Tony Stewart hasn't (yet!) won a race, but at this moment he's one of the 12 drivers qualifying to be in the Chase for the Cup and he still has a chance to win this year's championship!

Clothes and shoes

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I don't have much I can wear for a wedding. Even the light blue pants, white top, and matching floral lightweight overshirt I bought for my stepson's wedding last year in Maui didn't seem to be appropriate for my son's wedding at the courthouse.

So I tortured myself last Friday shopping for 5 hours at a local mall. I got there too early for Macy's to be open, so I spent 30 minutes in Mervyns (found nothing, not even a bra that fit), then went to Macy's (one pant suit I liked but the zipper was broken and I thought I'd be too hot wearing it - and it was difficult to find a blouse/top to wear with it), then JC Penney (nothing), and finally ended up at Sears.

I'm short and too big for most regular sizes and too small for most Women's sizes. Also, the "popular styles" (big prints in loud colors, baby doll tops, low-waisted pants) just aren't for me. So, finding clothes is difficult.

I ended up leaving Sears with a pair of chocolate brown slacks and a coordinating 2-piece top set with a brown background and small floral print pattern in pinks and creams. Not what I had in mind when I started the day (light colors, possibly lacy top), but it works for me and I can wear it to work and other events that come up. The top is a little too big and I may look into getting it altered when I have more time after the wedding.


Now, shoes are another matter altogether. Because I have lower back issues and I work at a college where the style is causal, I wear New Balance walking shoes all the time - even to work. For the wedding in Maui last year, I was able to get away with a pair of white Keds (because Hawaii is casual). Neither will work with the brown pants for my son's wedding. And none of the cheap pump-style shoes I still have in my closet from 10+ years ago are the right color - and, of course, none of them are comfortable.

Lately, I've been considering looking into buying dress shoes that actually fit my feet and are comfortable, so I can wear something besides New Balance walking shoes for those occasional meetings with administrative personnel at work and when Bill and I go out to "dress up" dinner places once or twice year.


So, I did a Google search for "women's wide width dress shoes", selected the first hit for since I've heard of them before. Zappos has a very nice search engine! You can search by type of shoe (dress, causual, etc.), by size, by color, by width, by heel height, and by price. Shipping to you and return shipping are free!

Last Friday night, I ordered 2 styles of brown shoes in what I hoped would be a size that fit me (the same size as my New Balance shoes - which was all I could start with since I haven't bought dress shoes in many years). They arrived Monday - quick! A little too long and a bit too tight. So, on Tuesday I ordered a smaller, wider pair of one of the brown shoe styles and 2 different styles of black shoes in the New Balance shoe size. Those 3 arrived today - and they all fit! So, the first 2 pair will be returned.


Now, I have 3 pairs of nice looking dress shoes! One in brown (Ros Hommerson Cynthia), two in black (Soft Style Sara, Ros Hommerson Ritz). I'm kinda excited by the shoes!

And, I am very excited that my son is getting married!

Update for the end of July

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Well, let's see, the past 2 weeks have been a bit eventful!

My son is getting married! Yup, I'm gonna have another daughter(-in-law)! Whoop!

Last year, my stepson Billy got married on July 7, 2007 (777 or 7-7-07 or 07-07-07 or 070707) - a popular day to get married last year!

Greg proposed on July 19 in a field while they were picking raspberries and, practical people that they are, they decided to skip a big wedding ceremony (and all that goes with it) and get married right away - on Friday, August 8, 2008 (888 or 8-8-08 or 08-08-08 or 080808). Eight to the Chinese culture is a very lucky number. Neither of them is Chinese, but I'm sure their marriage will by a good one! Lauren and Greg make a great couple!

Greg asked his current boss, a judge, to marry them. The simple ceremony will be at the courthouse.

Parties (more formally known as wedding receptions) will be held at family homes in Oregon and California for family and friends local to those areas. We haven't set a date yet, but at our house, the party will be a small affair with close family and a few close neighbors.

Then, on Monday after the wedding, Greg starts his new job as an attorney for a mid-sized litigation firm. How cool is that?! Married and a new job all in the same 4 days!

20080803newrefrigerator.jpg On the home front: The new refrigerator fit perfectly! Whoop! We love the clear shelves and drawers - and can now see what's inside the drawers and we can stop forgetting what's in the them!

Bill and I are heading to the lake tomorrow! A whole day off together!

On the crochet front: Two more lap blankets are done (no photos for posting yet) and one more started.

On the quilting front: Yes, I said "quilting"! I began piecing blocks together on July 12 and have finished 4 since then! Also no photos yet.

Hot day at New Hogan's Lake

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22 years ago right after we met, Bill took me to New Hogan's Lake in Calaveras County to go jet skiing. He got hooked on jet skiing a few years earlier and had bought 2 used ones. Wow! They were great fun!

We were very frequent Hogan's visitors for quite a few years, until we got busy, the kids got older, the jet skis wore out, and we sold them (the jet skis, not the kids!).

We still go to Hogan's on occasion to spend a day together in the hot sun and the cool fresh water - which is what we did yesterday! We definitely didn't go last year, and I'm pretty sure we didn't go the year before either.

We were curious to see just how low the water level was since there is a drought here in California this year. One website says the water level is at 43% of capacity. As you can see, the water is low - but it isn't as low as it was for 1-2 years in the 1990s! Then, we drove quite a ways down to reach water and lots of thick mud.


We don't have the jet skis anymore, but Bill took one of his two kayaks for his entertainment. I, the less energetic one, read a book, watched Bill kayak, watched the group of jet skiers who also had a water ski boat next to us (Bill figured there was about $100,000 worth of toys in the cove!), and enjoyed the fresh air. Thank goodness for the cool water - it was hot hot hot!

20080620hogans2.jpg 20080620hogans3.jpg 20080620hogans4.jpg

A good day


Today is the first of 11 3-day weekends for the summer. I attacked my long-time running list of Things To Do - and had a peaceful day organizing and relaxing!

  1. Air in tires and tires rotated at Big O Tires (finally! was on the list for a few months)
  2. Clean my car windows inside to remove the blurry film of gunk that accumulates over time (finally! was on the list for a few weeks)
  3. Remove the torn car seat cover from the passenger side seat (I had already removed the driver's side seat cover years ago) (finally! been meaning to remove it for months)
  4. Remove every piece of clothing from my closet that doesn't fit, that has a stain, that is so outdated that I wouldn't wear it even if I could fit into it
  5. Sort through all of the extra hangers I've accumulated over the years; determine which type and color of hangers to keep; in my closet, replace hangers in colors I don't like with colors I do like; group similar types and colors of hangers together and put in a box for donation
  6. Remove a bunch of buttons from my jewelry box (new clothes sometimes come with extra buttons and they end up in my jewelry box)
  7. Organize my sewing box while putting the buttons away and looking for a particular button
  8. Sew that button on a blouse so I can wear it again
  9. Watch a sappy movie while cuddling with Cleo and cry at the end
  10. Finally get around to putting clothes to be donated in bags - 8 plastic food-shopping bags!
  11. Go to local donation place with clothes and extra hangers, discover they had already closed, come back home, and put the to-be-donated stuff in my craft room for my next weekday day off next Friday

And, now, Round Table pizza for dinner while watching the NASCAR truck race! Go Kyle Busch!


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Another month since I posted… still not much going on. Bah.

Crochet: 4 completed lap blankets for donation, as well as a round "color wheel"-style lap blanket just big enough to cover my knees (which sometimes ache from being cold when I'm otherwise comfortable or even warm!). I made the color wheel-style blanket just to see how it could be done - and then I quickly got bored with it.

Gardening: Lots of plants moved or pulled out or planted in both the front and back gardens. Photos were taken before tearing down the vines and after, but I'm too lazy right now to fix 'em up for the blog and post 'em. The gardens have lots of color and are semi-full (some brown spots where soil shows through!) and will be very full as the weeks go by!

Bay Area weather: Too freakin' hot last week, especially Thursday through Saturday. I melted several times. Gardening in the heat is best done after a thorough soaking with water from the hose from hat-covered head to shoe-covered toes - I high recommend it! Sunscreen too, of course.

New stove/range: The very old 40-inch stove with 2 not-working burners and 1 not-working smaller oven was finally replaced. After a third burner decided to stop working, Bill was left with 1 burner and just couldn't seem to get the hang of cooking with only one. We talked about getting the stove repaired but discovered it would cost almost as much as getting a new stove. So, we got a new stove! It's another white 40-inch stove with 4 burners and 2 ovens (one small, one regular-sized) - a Frigidaire 40-inch Freestanding Electric Range with Self-Cleaning Primary Oven (FEF450BW).

Our now grown children will be surprised that the stove was finally replaced! For a very long time, there were only 2 working burners! I have photos of the old stove and will get photos of the new one soon(ish).

Greg's visit in late March: My son's visit with me in late March - and Bill's visit at the same time with his son in Maui - were great! Greg and I did a Lost: Season 2 marathon during his visit! We also went to SFMOMA in San Francisco one afternoon and walked around Yerba Buena Gardens across the street. I have photos to show, but I'm too lazy right now get them posted!

Bill did get stuck in Maui when Aloha Airlines went bankrupt and stopped flying planes, but I was able to do magical things via the Web that he couldn't do via the phone or in person! I got him a flight home the same day he was supposed to return home! Whoop!

My job: I moved to a new office space in the same building I moved to last summer. I'm now in an office with 2 yellow walls and 2 white walls, a long window, a smaller window, a lovely 3-sided desk, and its own air conditioning unit and portable heater. It's in the "north wing" of the building (actually, the garage of the old house converted to office space). There's a great view of the Bay from the smaller window, but because I'm light sensitive, the blinds are always closed so I don't really have a view at all. But that's OK with me - I have quiet and personal space and am quite comfortable in my new office!

The college switches to a 4 10-hour day schedule for the summer starting next week. I'm using comp time and vacation time to do 4 8-hour days instead. Nice!

NASCAR: As I predicted, Kyle Busch is kicking butt this year! ! And, Tony Stewart is also doing well, although he hasn't gotten a win yet this season.

Gas prices: I saw regular unleaded gas at $4.01 and $4.03 at two different gas stations on my way home today. Yikes. When will it stop? Or, better yet, go back to normal?


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I just realized I haven't posted in a month! Not much going on, I guess.

On the crochet front: There are 5 more lap blankets to photograph and post about. I'm currently working on 2 more. I've been adding to my pattern collection through regular hunts on eBay.

On the Bay Area weather front: There have been a few rainy days in the past few weeks, but mostly it's been sunny - and today is just beautiful! I still haven't gotten the gardening bug, but I expect I will with more sunny weekends.

On the home front: Cleo and Jasmine are healthy and loving. Bill and I are healthy, not-so-wealthy (but we're comfortable), and wise!

Bill has said he wants to take very other Friday off during the time the college where I work switches to 4 10-hour day work weeks this summer. Hmmm, we'll see if that really happens! The workaholic in him may not let him take 3-day weekends through the summer. He works most Saturdays now - which means 1-day weekends. What's he going to do with himself during regular 3-day weekends? Hmmm, let's see…I suppose he can start by finishing painting the trim on the house! Right now, we're probably not going to re-paint the house, since the medium grey color looks better with the white trim.

On the money front: Gas prices are going up. Food prices are going up. The stock market goes up, then down, then up, then down. Interest rates are down. My retirement account balances are down.

On the California state budget front: The state is cutting education budgets this year and next year. This "year" is a fiscal year that ends June 30, 2008. So, the budget cuts for this "year" need to be made out of the remaining 3 months or so of a budget that was prepared in fall 2006 and has been guiding the college since July 1, 2007.

And next year's budget (July 1, 2008 - June 30, 2009) is also being cut, including that we won't be getting increases in funding that had been expected (well, as "expected" as you can get when you know the state is having budget problems). So that means another hiring freeze, increasing expenses (for utilities and supplies and equipment and computers and software and …) out of a budget that isn't increasing, and more cut backs and doing without at the college.

We haven't come back from the last big budget cuts several years ago. We still put off buying office supplies. We still have unfilled positions, with other people picking up those duties - which makes for very busy (and potentially burned-out) workers.

There are things we should or could be doing that we can't do because there aren't enough people, there isn't enough money for the people or supplies or equipment, there isn't enough time in the day to do what needs to be done.

Ack. Enough of that depressing talk.

On the family front: My son will be visiting for a few days next week! Whoop! And I'm taking 3 days vacation next week. I think a 2-day work week is just what I need - as long as the nice sunny springtime weather holds!

Bill is flying to Maui on Tuesday to visit his son for about a week. And, no, I don't mind him going to Hawaii without me. After our last trip to Maui in July last year for Billy's wedding, I'm all Maui-ed out and don't want to go back. Too windy, too crowded, incompetent airline staff, reserved seats that weren't reserved, too windy, too crowded. Did I mention too crowded and too windy? Oh, and incompetent airline staff and no seats reserved even though I reserved seats? Did I mention crying - not just a few tears, but real crying - in frustration and anger and flying-related stress after finally getting through security? No, I'm definitely not ready for another Maui trip.

Or any other trip requiring a airplane.

Even my December trip to Oregon to visit my son just about wore me out - 2 flight delays and a flight switch.

On the job front: After over 6 years at the college, I still enjoy my job. There are projects and enhancements - and a redesign - that need to happen, but I don't have the time and there doesn't seem to be money in the budget to get me a reliable, knowledgeable assistant, so those things are remaining undone. As they have for the past 3-4 years. The website design is 6 years old and needs to be changed. I'm gradually, as time permits, doing what I can behind the scenes in the XHTML markup to make it more straightforward to switch over to a new design when (if) the time comes.

I like the people. I like the higher education environment. I like the campus location, nestled in the foothills surrounded by open hillsides, trees, cows, horses, birds, and squirrels. I feel I'm appreciated, valued, and respected as a person and in my job. I'm not so keen on some things and a couple of the people can be very irritating, but the advantages and things I like far outweigh those.

On the NASCAR front: My boys Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch are doing well so far! Kyle is number 1 in points! I still say he's gonna win the Cup this year.


I feel relieved

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Imagine meeting with an IT manager who actually seemed to listen. and care. and be willing to do more than just mouth words. Wonderful! Over the next few months, I hope to feel much more secure about a few web server-related issues at work. Whew.

Sketch of Cheryl

About Cheryl

Enjoys crocheting, gardening, cats, NASCAR (especially Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch!), reading, photography, snorkeling in Kailua-Kona with sea turtles, Sizzler's Mega Bacon Cheeseburgers, hot and iced decaf coffee, dark chocolate, color (yarn, fabric), playing around with web technologies - not necessarily in that order! Still very much a beginner with quilting, knitting, and sewing. Donates crocheted lap blankets.

List maker, detail-oriented, organized, leans heavily toward perfectionism. ISTJ. Libra.

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