Thursday, June 30, 2011

Goodbye June!

I am so HAPPY  to be saying goodbye to June!  

My June was, in a word gray ... 

and hard, ...

and cold, ...

like the weight of the steel bars of a prison cell pressing against my chest and slowly suffocating me.  

I fell apart during June.  I couldn't bring myself to do any real blogging.  I didn't pick up my camera for over two weeks (and I'm now hopelessly behind in classes and challenges).  I didn't scrapbook.  I also didn't exercise much and definitely went off the wagon with eating choices.  And I didn't care.  In fact, I've been on a wicked sugar binge lately, much like an addict.  Sad I know.  I went through the motions of living, without truly being present in the moment.  Sure there were a few bright spots and moments of levity, but for the most part, June sucked. Big time. Sucked. 

 I recognize my behavior as a depression brought on by the "new normal" of living with an unemployed spouse and having both him and the girls home full time. But I had to live with it to get to this point. I guess I'm starting to adjust and find my way through it.  This art journal page was my response to one of the early days of missing my quiet time:

a close up:

I actively worked at trying to pull myself out of my funk by reading uplifting books and working with my Art Journal.  This was one of my happier pages during June.

And here is a background I'm working on.  I'm not positive where this page is going yet, but I do have a quote in mind.  The teal patterns are actually tissue paper I picked up in Target's dollar section. 

So I happily bid June adieu and look forward to coming alive again in July! Adios June! Auf Wiedersehen! Au revoir! Sayonara! Later dude...  

Monday, June 27, 2011

21 Years Ago Today...

I became a first time mother and embarked upon a journey and an adventure that even today amazes, astounds, bemuses, confuses, delights, enchants, frustrates, and gratifies me! (yes, I could have kept going through the entire alphabet, but figured I'd spare you)

Not the most flattering photo of me, but that's what a new mother looks like with no makeup and after being awake for two days straight!

 And now Sarah is 21. Legal even in the U.S.A.  She is smart and funny and sweet - the BEST #1 kid a mother could ever ask or hope for. I am so proud to be her Mom!

All of Sarah's friends are away for the Summer and she is working today. So nobody around to take her out clubbing for her 21st and make insane memories. Not exactly the day she had hoped for... 

Happy Birthday Sarah! I hope your day turns out to be far more than you anticipated! 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Picture Inspiration {11/52}

"In the Distance" - captured the moon on a bright sunny morning at the beach with my Canon Point and Shoot!

Picture Inspiration {13,14,15/52}

From the Ground Up (a bug's eye view):

On a particularly overcast day. And yes, these flowers do lay right on the ground!

A Bird's Eye View:

And Double Vision - the same thing from two perspectives. In which case I just used the two photos above in a diptych.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Art Journal Play

I've been playing in my Art Journal. These are my newest pages:
The crazy face image came from a paper bag that Sarah brought back from Italy and gave me my mother's day gift in. That just gives the page some extra meaning to me.
And here's the close-up:
The wording for this page comes from a Chrysler Town & Country advertisement!

In my case it was particularly appropriate after a whinefest by Rachel about how much she dislikes our family and how we never do anything "fun" together. Yet, she was unable to name a single "fun" activity she would like to do as a family that did not involve spending money. Obviously we have no intention of going into debt to take the ingrates on a family vacation.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Crazy Hail Storm

We had a crazy hail storm last week. The skies got dark and within minutes it was raining, then hailing... like crazy.  In the 23 years we've lived in this home, we've never seen hail like this:

Literally bouncing off the ground when it hit.  And so loud. I went out to take photos and got hit with just one - more than enough to convince me I didn't want to be out walking or driving in this nonsense!

The Aftermath.  And off in the distance, the neighbors out checking their cars for damage. We keep ours in the garage!

Those hail stones in Jay's hand. Some were the size of giant gumballs!

Even the smallest ones were bigger than the normal pea-sized hail we get on rare occasions.

And within minutes, the whole thing was over.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Project 64 {23 & 24/64}, Picture Color 6/12, and a Mystery

Last weeks color for Project 64 was "Timberwolf".  After looking unsuccessfully all week, I found it today, right under my nose:

Yes, my trackball mouse (that in my opinion looks more like a fish on a hook than a mouse) was a perfect match!

This week's color is Olive Green and I had the perfect thing sitting on my desk:
This lovely mail art from Rinda! With a beautiful card inside made from repurposed ATC cards. Loved the Artspiration - thanks Rinda!

Yesterday's Picture Color prompt "Seeing Spots" had me photographing this plant:
And this Daylily - the first to bloom this year!

Last, but not least, I have a mystery to solve. Today in the mail I received this adorable envelope:

Obviously posted from somewhere in the U.K.
But no return address... Inside, this gorgeous card that doubles as a CD holder:

But no note, no signature. Now the style screams Jacky to me. And I remembered this post with some strikingly similar papers and style... so did I solve the mystery? Is this beauty from you Jacky??

Chocolate Tasting - Round Six

And I bet you thought the whole chocolate tasting thing had vanished off the face of the earth!  Truth is I haven't been eating much chocolate lately. It started with not having any with me during the trip to Cape May. And I just didn't get back in the "habit" once I returned and life got crazy.  But I have eaten one bar...

Oh Yeah, the Green & Blacks was up for consideration.  Similar to the chocolate from Barcelona, this one was a straight up solid dark chocolate bar. 70% cacao.  No fillers or flavors, just chocolate.

Not bitter, not sweet at all. Just dark chocolate. The melt factor was okay. Not outstanding, but it'll do - better than Barcelona. I'll give it an 8/10.  I think I prefer my chocolate a little sweeter. Dove still wins. :)

Picture Color 6/11 - Best of Both Worlds

The prompt was for the pink/red color combo...or to choose another combo that we never "got."  I have to admit I never "got" the purple/orange color scheme so prevalent in Halloween scrapbook kits. But when I created this Art Journal page to celebrate my 50th birthday, the color scheme just "happened" organically.

And now, thanks to a functioning computer, access to PSE8 and my external monitor, I'm actually able to show you this page properly post-processed (it needed some brightening) and in the correct orientation.  Ahhhhh.... that's better.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Picture Inspiration {10/52}

Dishing It Out - Find Inspiration In the Kitchen:

Picture Color 6/10 - Creating with Color

Top Ten Tips for Software Customer Service

Warning - this post is actually a bit of rant... and a public service announcement... the alternate title might be "how to lose a customer in ten easy lessons."

1. Sell the Software as a Download Only product.  It saves you costs in manufacturing, packaging, shipping... and heck, your Customer didn't really want a box with a CD and instructions right? Cause we all know that all software these days is simply "install and play" right?

2. Offer a Back Up Disc at an additional fee.  Because customers LOVE to pay extra money for the privilege of getting another copy of something they already paid for.  And it's not like your program isn't ridiculously overpriced to begin with. So why not upsell?

3. Make Sure to Send a Disc that is Corrupt and doesn't work.  Because when your Customer actually needs it, that corrupt disc will cause them to call you - at which point you'll have an opportunity to sell them another one!

4. Don't Offer a Manual, Tutorials, or any information on how your product works. Printing manuals is expensive. And who needs it?  Hey, your customer can get all that on the Internet! And they don't mind spending hours clicking from one site to another trying to figure it all a scavenger hunt. Or paying extra to purchase an online class.  Seriously, it's all good.

5. Make Sure Your Support is Email ONLY.  Because customers certainly don't want or need an immediate answer to their problems. The glitch they are experiencing isn't a life or death matter; it can wait!  They don't need to talk on the phone or chat online to get things resolved quickly. And those 800# phone calls and staff for a chat center really impact your bottom line.  Anyway, customers like sending an email and waiting... really... no reeeeeally - they do!

6. Take Ten Days to Answer Email. Literally. Ten. Days. Each and every time they email you. I mean go ahead and post on your website that average response time is three days [subject to lengthier turn around in periods of high volume.]  But never ever ever respond sooner than TEN DAYS.  Because Customers love to wait when they have a pressing problem.  See #5 if you don't believe me!

7. Allow only 30 Days from Purchase for Download.  If the customer hasn't downloaded in 30 days, surely they didn't really want the product anyway.  And there would never be a reason to need to re-download the software after the 30 day window.

8. Bury your Contact Information so deep within your website that Customers will never find it. It saves you a lot of harassing phone calls.  Besides, customers don't really want to talk to you anyway. See #5.

9. Staff Your Call Center with Rude, Insensitive People. Just in case one of those pesky customers actually gets through, you don't want somebody sweet and polite on the phone.  That would just encourage the customer to call again.  And you certainly don't want that.

10. Stick to Your 30 Day Download Policy.  Regardless of the customer's sob story.  Computer virus?  Crashed hard drive? Toddler spilled soda on the machine and fried it? Not your problem - you gave them what they paid for - a single download of your product.  Okay, not like you even offered a multiple download option or anything, but really, how many customers could possibly need it anyway?  While the Customer is in the depths of despair over the loss of so much information and work, offer to SELL them a back-up disc for an additional fee.  Don't back down, even when they tell you the first back-up disc they bought was corrupt and never worked.

This post is brought to you courtesy of Shimelle's Ten Things from the "Beyond Blogging for Scrapbookers" class and my current love affair with ACDSee's Customer Service.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Project 64 {22/64} & Picture Color # 9

The color for last week for Project 64 was "salmon".  Today's prompt for Picture Color was "the texture of color".  This photo is a two-fer!

Computers may come and go, but my trusty laptop case has been with me since the beginning! Back and forth to week, to crops and through countless airports.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Digging Out From The Depths

My how time flies when you are NOT having fun!  My last post was actually written in advance and auto-posted.  I haven't actually blogged since ... ummm....May 31st?  Back when Jay was still leaving the house to go to work and I was dealing with a loaner computer. :(  Did you miss me?  I suppose not much since I've been reading blogs and commenting on them. Maybe you didn't even notice my absence.

The truth is, I have been struggling.  Sometimes choosing to be happy, choosing to see the opportunity in a challenge or the good in a ridiculously difficult situation is hard.  And sometimes it isn't just hard, it is damn near impossible.

Jay's home now. All the time.  Officially unemployed. My quiet "me" time in the morning is gone. Any ability I had to center myself on my own, in private - gone. I spend free time proof-reading resumes and cover letters and trying to reassure him that everything happens for a reason and it will all work out in the end. And in another week the girls will be out of school and home full time too. I'm dreading Summer in a way I never thought possible.  At the same time, I know I have so so much to be grateful for. I know that I have a roof over my head and food on my table and that won't change no matter how this situation plays out. Sometimes it is hard to comprehend feeling so grateful and yet so overwhelmed in the same breath.

I got "my" computer back on June 2nd, (it actually belongs to my employer) but I'm still trying to get it fully functional again. It has been...well...frustrating. And time consuming.  Between all that and one other little piece of teen drama that I can't even share, I think I've broken down and cried more in the past ten days than I have in the past two or three years. I haven't felt like taking pictures. I haven't kept up with online challenges or classes. Exercising and eating right have fallen by the wayside. I haven't been able to blog. I've written a half dozen or more posts in my head, but actually sitting down to a computer that feels like a stranger to me, and trying to catch you all up with what's been going on... just didn't seem within my capabilities.

You know how when your computer gets "wiped" you lose all those glorious settings and automatic things that you've spent weeks, months, years... setting up and perfecting to make your life easier?

I immediately reinstalled PSE8, but just today figured out how to reinstall my Pioneer Woman Actions.  I seriously can't live without those!  (You can download them from the link). I immediately reinstalled iTunes, Google Reader and my "next" button, my "pin it" button for Pinterest, and my "wish list" button for  Recreated my email signature.  Turned off that stupid automatic email notification that interrupts you every five minutes.  Put back the desktop wallpaper with the pretty ocean scene.

So why am I not fully functional yet?

  • I still need all my printers installed - only Jay knows how to do that.  Since I lost that before the end of May, I don't have my Best of Days pages printed out.  I NEED them!
  • I need to get the hub working to recognize all my peripherals (monitor, keyboard, trackball mouse - the computer itself is a laptop and not a great workspace for anything digi related).  That requires another call to work, and probably taking the computer back in.
  • The tech at work who wiped my computer forgot to back up my .pst file for my personal Outlook profile.  Luckily I had a back-up here at home... dated June 2, 2010.  Yeah, it's been a year.  So I lost the entire past year worth of email (all those Picture Series class emails, sign on info, taxes, etc.), and contacts and calendar.  By the way if you sent me your contact information (mailing address) in the past year... I NEED YOU TO SEND IT AGAIN.  It's gone.  Email to scrapdreams at verizon dot net.
  • The other thing I "lost" as a result of the computer virus was my ACDSee program and all the photo tagging I've been working at so diligently for the Picture Freedom class.  And all the tagging I had already done of all my digi scrapping supplies.  Hundreds of hours of work.  I'll tell you all the reasons NOT to buy ACDSee in another post.
The good news is that I'm finally back to a place where I can sit here and write a blog post.  Hopefully that means you'll be hearing more from me soon!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

One Little Word Blog Hop - June Edition

Hello and Welcome to the One Little Word Blog Hop! If you came here from Jamie's blog, welcome! You made it to the right place.  Grab a drink and stay awhile! I love visitors!

If you are a regular reader, you already know the drill! ;) The entire hop goes live at 8:00 a.m. Pacific (11:00 my time) so if you are early, just check back later to catch everyone!

My one little word for 2011 is "happy". I am focusing this year on what it means to be happy, what makes me happy, how mindful I can be about choosing happiness.  Sometimes choosing to be happy can be a challenge.  Like when your husband loses his job right before your 50th birthday.  Circumstances can really suck sometimes.  But I choose to see this life challenge as an opportunity for Jay to find a job which makes HIM happy.  He is finally free from the oppressive atmosphere that has dragged down his spirit for the last several years.  He isn't as optimistic as I am.  I'm hoping I have enough optimism for the both of us and the Universe will see fit to hook him up with something truly wonderful!

So, here are my "Best of Days" pages for May.  I forgot to print anything out until May 16th, so the first half of the month is fairly blank.  But I made up for it during the second half and I even included Jay getting word that his position had been "eliminated" as the best thing that happened on the 24th.

I finally did this portion of the assignment from April.  I love the way my "Note to Self" background came out - it's all different scraps of paper and the stitching is just done with a pen.  But it reminds me of my crazy quilting days!
And I did a version of the April letter that I'm good with sharing:

The whole painting the edges thing from the iScrap class has stuck with me.  Really helps to brighten up this book!
Our May pages involved setting goals.  I set a few really short term for May and some longer term to run me through the Summer months.

I even created a third page (not shown) so I can add more goals after these ones are underway!

Your next stop on the hop is Jill's blog. Enjoy!
Here's the entire blog hop list, just in case you get lost:

Cheri <------- YOU ARE HERE
Jill <-------- NEXT STOP ON THE HOP
Lynn W
Melissa S
Lisa A
Jen S
Monica B2
Karen D

Many thanks to Margie for continuing to host this blog.  I know it is a lot of work keeping track of all of us!