Tuesday’s Tip Slightly Delayed

Due to one thing or another, I haven’t quite finished my Tuesday’s Tip post in time too be published at 5 AM, EST. I had considered staying up late Monday night to finish it, but my shoulder is rather inflamed and I think I had better just take some pain medication and go to bed.

Tuesday I have my next physical therapy session and we will have a break in the weather (so the weatherman has promised), which means we need to get errands done before the snow storms of Wednesday and Thursday/Friday arrive. I feel I am living Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter. We have had four feet of snow in a week and a half; a thaw, producing collapsing roofs all over town; a freeze, creating sheets of ice; and another foot of snow within six hours’ time.

Once errands are done (supplies restocked, Christmas packages mailed out to family with which we unfortunately never connected due to the weather), I can finish and publish the post. Thank you for your patience.

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Merry Christmas!


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The Weather Outside is Frightful

Yesterday, I planned to do some shopping, then come home and do a follow-up on my Tuesday’s Tip post. All my plans got shot down by…snow.

We’ve been experiencing an arctic air mass for about four days, with daytime temps in the single digits (this is not counting the wind chill factor which brought it into the negative double-digits). Yesterday, it started to snow at about 11*. I went out to do pick up a battery for my husband’s car (this just after getting my car’s battery replaced last week…oh, yes, and when we were generously given a car by a friend for our daughter to use this summer, we ended up buying one for that, too!). Most of my Christmas shopping has been done online this year, but Wal-mart was my one-stop choice yesterday for a car battery, picking up prints of my daughter’s senior portraits, and a few Christmas gifts for my three young nephews. From there, I needed to drive four miles south on the main street in the city to pick up my son from his school, then swing northwest another two miles to pick up my daughter from her school, with another mile and a half to return home. On a clear dry day with normal traffic and waiting on the kids this trip would have taken 40 minutes, tops.

THREE HOURS LATER we returned, safe and sound with no injuries to ourselves or damage to our vehicle, for which I’m extremely grateful. I knew we were in trouble when I came down the main street hill and saw that traffic in the three lanes on the other side was backed up due to semi’s not being able to get up the hill, their drivers attempting to put chains on. After I picked up my son, I had to go up that north hill to get to my daughter, so I took the next best route. We could have made it in my front-wheel drive, except halfway up, three cars in front of me started spinning out. There was no where to go; traffic was backed up behind us. I sat there, praying no one would do anything stupid (like the little sports car in front of me that kept insisting on making attempts up the steep face of the hill, then sliding back dangerously close to me…ugh!). Fifteen minutes later, police officers arrived on the scene, rerouting the traffic backed up behind us and then coaching the half-dozen of us stranded on the hill’s face backwards down the hill until we reached the nearest intersection.

We backtracked and arrived back at my son’s high school 50 minutes after leaving (from what would have been a normal 10-minute round trip) and proceeded to go the route up the main street’s hill, hoping traffic had not been closed. It hadn’t, but it was still blocked in some lanes. It took us nearly another hour just to get to the bottom of the hill from my son’s high school (again, normally a 3-minute drive, with traffic and lights). The hill was a mess, but the center lane was slowly moving. I was worried about the “slowly” part. Those of you who have front wheel drive know that you get a good run up a slippery hill and just drive fast, ignorning the fish-tailing as long as you have front traction. There would be no good run or start up this hill. We just crept along, foot by foot until about half-way up the hill, when the vehicles who weren’t going to make it spun off in the side lanes and those of us who could started gunning it and made it to the top! Success! Once we were up on the flat plains at the top of the hill, traffic moved slowly but steadily. I made it to my daughter’s boyfriend’s house, where she had walked through heavily-falling snow after hearing we were stranded on the first hill. We picked her up and brought her home. I was never so grateful to get there!

My husband was at work and I called him to let him know we arrived safely. He was confident the roads would be cleared by the time he got off at 11 PM (it was 5 PM at this time). I wasn’t so sure. The city had officially closed all roads and was on red alert (snow plows going 24/7 until all 967 miles of street have been cleared…right now, they are focusing on two main roads on both the north and south hills, keeping the routes to the hospitals open, and maintaining the freeway). At 8:30, he called again, saying 40% of the work crew had left, and what was my opinion. I told him I thought he’d better come home because it might take a few hours. He had better luck than I did and it only took him about an hour to get home from what normally would have been a half-hour trip (however, most of his route was on the freeway, which crews were doing a valiant effort to keep plowed).

Today, the city is shut down…no flights, no bus service, no schools open, businesses urged to remain closed unless absolutely necessary. One thing I love about Spokane, it’s a very neighborly city. Right now, it’s 8:30 and our neighbors have already come out and shoveled our front sidewalks. Yesterday, during my harrowing three-hour journey, I witnessed numerous acts of kindness–stalled vehicles being pushed, allowing cars waiting at intersections into the already congested lanes of traffic, people talking calmly and compassionately to each other after getting into fender benders (“are you OK?”). For the next few days, neighbors will help each other dig out cars; shovel and snow-blow snow of walks, driveways, and alleys; rake snow off roofs; check to see if power and water and food supplies are OK; and offer to run errands for each other. There will be verbal thanks and goodies exchanged “for all your help.” I can’t think of a better way to enter into the Spirit of the Season.

This photo was taken Sunday morning, and is identical to what it looked like yesterday morning.

This morning, about 2 feet of snow, compacted.

Full of Gratitude

Julie Cahill Tarr of GenBlog challenged the Genea-Bloggers to post two things for which they’re thankful. I’m a little late to the game, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to express my gratitude over the events in the past week and a half.

First, I’m thankful to all those people in my life who have been so wonderfully kind and thoughtful to me lately. Going into surgery was a Big Deal, as it was my first surgery ever and my only real hospitalization other than being born and giving birth.

  • *Thank you to Dr. Christopher Lang and his surgical team for doing major repair work on not one, but two, tendons (I just discovered this in my followup appointment yesterday!) as well as filing off that painful bone spur, leaving me with only four tiny incisions that are healing quite nicely. Thank you to Naomi, the intake nurse at Holy Family Hospital who was so warm and caring, and took the time to make sure I was comfortable and anxiety-free before surgery. Thank you to all the other staff at Spokane Orthopedics and Holy Family who made my medical experience a positive one.
  • *Thank you to my husband, Norm, who was a surprisingly good recovery nurse (lest this sounds like a back-handed compliment, if you but knew the Midkiff inability–it extends to his siblings and daughter–to withstand even the thought of blood or bodily fluids, you would understand my gratefulness for assistance with things like changing dressings, etc.)! Also, thanks to my children, Missy, for her willingness to run errands and fix meals, and Matt, for help with lots of household chores.
  • *Thanks to Brenda (my daughter’s future mother-in-law 😉 ) for taking me to the hospital early on surgery morning after my husband had to work the night before, for the meals cooked and goodies baked (I swear my next surgery will have to be a tummy tuck!), and for taking my teens to their home now and again to give me some needed time to myself.
  • *Thank you to my friend, neighbor, and walking partner Kristy for the delicious meal and thoughts and prayers.
  • *Thanks to the staff at Garry Middle School for their cards, e-mails, phone calls, prayers, visits, and meals; special thanks to Diane, Monica, Kelleen, and Judy, as well as to Pat, my sub. It is wonderful to look forward to going back to work again. I miss you and the students!
  • *Thank you to Norm’s and my family members who also sent e-mails, phoned me, visited, sent prayers and thoughts my way, and sent yummy care packages!
  • *Thanks to members of the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society and the Genea-Bloggers who have sent good wishes via e-mails and comments.

I feel blessed to have so many caring people in my life!

Secondly, I am grateful for quality medical care. We know the frightening and stressful experience of what it is like to live without medical insurance, and so we are doubly blessed that between my husband’s and my employers, we can now pick and choose the providers that are best suited for our family’s needs. I’m also grateful that we live in a country where medical service is close by and of high quality. I feel very blessed that my employer allows me to accumulate sick leave and that because my husband and I work opposite shifts, it has allowed us over the years to always have someone home when the kids are sick, without using up a lot of our own sick time. It is because of this that I am able to take off so much necessary time from work to fully recuperate.

Eight Musical Things about Me

I’ve been tagged by Thomas, Amy, and George to participate in the “Eight Things about Me” meme, and I thought I’d sort of copy Jasia (imitation being the most sincere form of flattery) and stick to one theme. My theme is musical instruments, ones I either mastered or attempted to learn.

1. Piano – I started lessons with some books my grandmother (I think) sent me when I was a girl in Alaska. The trouble was, we didn’t have a piano at home to practice on. I would stay after school and use the school’s piano. I quickly got bored, and never advanced learning beyond reading the treble clef (reinforced by the band instruments I later learned to play). Whenever I look at bass clef, it’s like trying to read a foreign language or writing with my left hand: I can do it, but it takes too much concentration to be of any use. These days, I can pick out a tune with my right hand and accompany it with a few chords on my left (this also translates to playing the organ, of course). This is a skill I would like to someday improve.

2. Flutaphone – When we first got a music teacher for our Southeast Alaskan elementary school (someone who flew over from Ketchikan a few times a month), like most beginning band students, I learned to play the flutaphone. The fingering translates very nicely to a recorder, which has a much nicer sound to it than a flutaphone (sorry, Bill!).

3. Flute – I loved the idea of playing a flute; it has a nice, graceful sound to it, and being a girly-girl little girl, I of course, attempted to try it. Two problems: I got dizzy trying to make it create a sound, and my hands and fingers were too small to create the necessary fingerings (I still have the smallest hands of any adult that I know!).

4. Clarinet – so of course, the next instrument to try was the clarinet. I could reach the keys just fine and it was another natural segue from the flutaphone and recorder. I played clarinet in elementary school (5th – 7th grades) and then again in high school band (9th and 10th). I attended a small private school that did not have music classes in 8th grade.

5. Cornet – this was a huge switch for me. The cornet is nearly identical to the trumpet, but it has a shorter, more open bell and produces a mellower sound. This was my first introduction to the brass family, and it was done (where else?) in a Salvation Army band while I was in college. Not only did I practice on my own, I actually took trumpet lessons at Spokane Falls Community College to improve my technique on the cornet. Sometimes I would practice on the bugle at Camp Gifford (a trumpet-like instrument without valves; notes are created by a change in lip position, and so only certain tunes–like Reveille and Taps–can be played on it).

6. Flugelhorn – yes, Virginia, there really is an instrument by that name. Another British-style brass instrument, it looks like a cross between an alto horn and a cornet and is held in a horizontal position like the cornet. However, the flugelhorn has a larger bell AND a larger mouthpiece, the latter making it much easier to produce sound without so much tension in the embouchure (cheek and lip muscles). It also has a fourth valve for alternate fingering ease. I absolutely loved playing the flugelhorn because not only was it easier than the cornet (whose high notes I could never quite attain), but many times the music written for it was a soft counter-melody that gave me a little glory as a “soloist” without the anxiety of putting me directly in the spotlight. I played this instrument with The Salvation Army Western Territorial Band in the 1987 Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade, a very high honor. The Pasadena High School Band and The Salvation Army Band are the only bands that have a standing invitation from the Tournament of Roses Parade. All others are accepted by special invitation only.

7. Altohorn – After I learned flugelhorn, if there was an altohorn player absent during band practice or a performance, I would occasionally substitute for them. This instument, held vertically, looks like a small tuba and is just a little larger than a flugelhorn. The Salvation Army Bands are based upon the British brass bands where the fingerings for the instruments (with the exception of the trombone) are identical for all the notes. This allows for easy switching and substituting when running short on players.

8. Autoharp – Someone donated a couple of instruments to The Salvation Army church my parents were pastoring in Southeast Alaska when I was a girl. Using music where the chords were already written in, I would strum the strings with my right hand while pushing down on the marked chord keys with my left. Oh, yes, a concertina was also donated, but other than playing around with it, I couldn’t really utilize it during actual congregational singing.

There you have it: eight things about me. If you’re reading this, consider yourself tagged!

Using Ancestry’s MyCanvas Program for Creative Christmas Fun

Oh, my.

I can’t remember the last time I’ve such fun with graphic design. Maybe a number of years ago, when I created my family tree website. Or when I purchased Paint Shop Pro and learned how to pixel paint.

Except when I was building my website, I was still new to HTML coding (which I taught myself, with the help of online tutorials like Lissa Explains All), and when I was pixel painting, I was trying to figure out how to create I-frames (what I did worked with Internet Explorer, but not with Mozilla Firefox–my browser of choice).

So my creativity was tempered with a lot of learn-on-the-fly and frustration.

Lately I’ve been hearing a lot about Ancestry’s MyCanvas program in various press releases on blogs–a program in which you can create personalized items like family history books, recipe books, photo albums, posters, calendars and the like. I had tried out playing around with making a family history book a while ago, but it didn’t really interest me. There’s this hesitation I have about putting genealogy into print, knowing that a family history is never really complete or accurate (thus my preference for websites and blogs, where one can easily update, correct, delete or add information as it becomes available). I received an e-mail yesterday from Genealogy.com, a member of The Generation Networks family, of which Ancestry was also a part. This message was advertising several MyCanvas products–including calendars–at 20% off (they’re $15.96 through December 24; order by December 11th to receive in time for Christmas via standard shipping or by December 16th via expedited shipping). Now for several years I’ve been envisioning making a family calendar to hand out as early Christmas gifts at our annual Robbins Reunion dinner the end of October, but do you think that I’ve been able to get on the horn and actually even attempt to create one? Oh, no…not procrastinating me!

So I thought I’d take MyCanvas out for a test drive with a family calendar…and all I can say is: oh, my!

Twenty-four hours later, I’ve already got three calendars in the works. The first is for my extended family, which will use the classic default holiday/seasonal background pages (I’m just a sucker when it comes to holiday decorations and the like!), each of which I plan to upload images from my PC of family members who celebrate birthdays or anniversaries that month. Another is for a family member that I know would appreciate some of the lovely designs of teapots that I purchased on CD this summer from Pats Web Graphics (I use my photo-editing program to convert images to .jpg files…MyCanvas also accepts .png files). The third is for my husband’s family, featuring the postcards that his great-grandmother, Rena (Lerfald) Westaby received in the early 1900s from family and friends while she was working as a maid as a young single woman in the Midwest. Here are some screenshots from that project. Behold, the cover:

Here’s the front and back of an Easter postcard, which I have stored in my online Picasa album (MyCanvas also works with SmugMug albums):

Now here it is featured on an April calendar page, using the wonderful digital backgrounds and embellishments of MyCanvas:

Okay, one more! I’ve got to show you the December page:

I’ve already got plans for calendars for the next few years: ancestral photos, documents (you can use the ones you view with your Ancestry subscription, too), recipes, you name it. The nice thing is, you can make a basic calendar with all your family’s important dates, and then copy it, personalize the graphics, and add/delete events that are customized to each household. And what’s more, it is a simple, one-handed easy-to-use project–perfect for someone like me, recovering from shoulder surgery!

Hello, my name is Miriam, and I’m addicted to MyCanvas. And no, I wasn’t asked to write a post about this.

My Sister Calls the Shots!

This weekend, family history was made. My sister, who earned her RN degree in June from Spokane Community College’s Nursing Program, took her state board exams on Friday. Sometime this weekend (I can’t recall exactly when, since my post-surgery pain meds have me acting a tad more loopy than normal!) I called her to find out if she had gotten her results. At that time, she was frustrated because she was having Internet or computer problems and couldn’t access the website where the information was posted. Today I got the e-mail that all her friends and family members have been waiting the past few years to hear: “I passed!”

We couldn’t be prouder of her! She has overcome so many obstacles that life has thrown her way. She attended school full time, worked full time, and single-handedly parented three active little boys. She’s failed, gotten back up, dusted herself off, tried again, and succeeded. I’m blessed to have this woman as my sister and as a role model for my daughter. Congratulations, Kat! I love you!