January 16, 2009

A Lesson in Creative Slanket Misuse

What do you buy someone who appears to have everything they need and want (within your price range), is always cold (whether winter or summer), and has a tendency to wear coats in the house (even though the ambient temperature is 70)? A Slanket®, of course! Or at least that's what I bought my step-dad for Christmas this year.

And exactly what is a Slanket? Not to be confused with the Snuggie® knock-off, it's basically a fleece blanket with sleeves. The idea is that you can cover up with it and still have your arms free for reading, changing the channel on your television, talking on the phone and more. Sort of a backwards robe without a tie. Here's a picture of my step-dad, Albert, and his Slanket as it's supposed to be used.

But in the right creative hands, the Slanket has another use too. If you can convince someone you know or someone you would like to know to play along, you can have a Slanket for two by simply putting your heads through the sleeves. Now I'm sure the Slanket people never intended for it to be used this way, but when you look at the picture and really think about it, it's a great idea. They could go to a game, slip the Slanket sleeves over their heads, snuggle up together and stay toasty warm from neck to toe. Brilliant! Kudos to Albert! Here he is with my mom.

It's a simple lesson in creativity; take something and put your own twist on it. Just about everyone has done it at one time or another. My mom does it all the time when cooking. A friend does it with songs when singing. Another does it when she decorates her house with flea market treasures. Is there something in your life that you misuse for the good?

Perhaps sadly for me, I've always tended to be a rule follower. If the instructions tell me to use something one way, I am very likely going to use it that one way. If the recipe calls for exactly 1 tsp of something, you can bet solid money that I'm going to put exactly 1 tsp in, no more and no less. I wish I was more of a rule breaker, a rebel with my head in a sleeve, but I'm not. That doesn't mean I'm not creative, or at least I hope it doesn't. It does mean that I probably need to lighten up just a little. I think my goal for the coming week will be to find a creative use for at least one thing in my life. If I can come up with something really good, I'll post it.

January 11, 2009

The Real Us in Photos

The piles and piles of snow we’ve had in Spokane since December 17 prevented us from celebrating Christmas with my 91 year old grandma on December 25. Not only was it very difficult to get to the home where she lives, but even if we had, there was no way she could have walked on the snowy, icy walkways. So we waited until this past Saturday and decided to have “Second Christmas.”

Her gifts were wrapped and waiting. Mine to her was a memory book I created online, filled with recently taken family photos. I was careful to put names beneath the pictures in large type I knew she could read; however, this didn’t stop her from getting some of the names of the people in the photos wrong.

Mom and I have noticed that even though she sees herself in mirrors, because of her dementia, she often forgets that she’s aged. So when she flipped through the photo book, she repeatedly thought pictures of my mom were her (even though my mom looks nothing like my grandma did when she was 62). In my grandma’s mind, she’s still a spry young thing. There have been many times she’s caught a glimpse of herself in a mirror and has been shocked she no longer has red hair (from what I understand, she hasn’t had red hair since she was a girl).

I think we all have a distorted view of ourselves in some way. I have a hard time seeing my true weight in the mirror and I’m often shocked when I see photos. A friend forgets she’s in her 50’s and is surprised to see subtle little wrinkles in photographs. Another always thinks she’s taller than photos reveal her to be. And a male friend is convinced something is wrong with all cameras in the world because he couldn’t possibly have the bald spot that shows up in his photos.

I often wonder what makes us have these distorted views of ourselves and why photographs seem to reveal the truth. We all look at ourselves in mirrors every day, yet many of us are shocked when we see photographs. How did we all get magical mirrors that conceal the flaws we fear the most? Why don’t we see who we really are, not who we would like to be?

Ultimately, my grandma is one of the happiest people I know. In her mind she’s still very youthful and still has that red hair. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

January 8, 2009

Here Comes the Sun

I saw the sun today. It was 4:10pm and I had just started my car to head home. To my right, the trees across the street were highlighted in vibrant shades of gold and red as if they were on fire. I tried to get some pictures, but because my office is on a busy street and the sun was fading fast, this was the best I could do between cars driving past.

We’re slowly thawing out and the claustrophobia I was feeling because of all the snow is starting to ease. I no longer feel trapped by something far beyond my control. At work, the roof may be leaking, we may have cracks in the walls, and the snow piles may still be just over 7 feet tall in front of our windows, but the sun came out in all its wonderful glory and that made it feel as if everything is going to be OK after all. Of course it is. Life goes on and the sun always comes out eventually.

January 5, 2009


I recently watched a news program that proclaimed people are growing more nostalgic and seeking out things from their past and beyond. Dance halls are filling with young and old doing the west coast swing, lindy hop, and waltz. People are frequenting stores that specialize in soft drinks and candy from days gone by. Sales for traditional board games are up as much as 26%. I believe it. When times get tough, I long for something familiar and comforting.

Several people on the program were asked what one thing they would like to see return from the past. The longed for included cozy bookstores, handwritten letters, and old television shows such as The Dick Van Dyke Show and Gilligan’s Island. All of these are slower, quieter, a little more relaxing than the glaring, blaring, in your face things of today. A big box bookstore just isn’t the same as one that is locally owned, where hidden treasures await you and the owner knows your name. Can you really compare a handwritten note or card to a text message that that includes the line “btw, where r u?” And although there are some funny modern sitcoms out there, I’d pick Rob and Laura from The Dick Van Dyke Show over any present day sitcom couple.

After much consideration, I decided on the thing I would bring back and make popular again if I could; music from the 60’s and 70’s. I think some of the best music in modern history was written and performed during this time, and they are the songs that make up the soundtrack for my childhood. I was fortunate enough to have grown up surrounded by a good variety of music, so it wasn’t just rock but country and other types as well. I think it shaped my appreciation for all types of music today. Through good times and bad, the music from this era defined moments in my life, told stories I could only imagine, broadened my thoughts, and helped make me who I am today. There are some songs from this era that I could do with never hearing again, but there are so many more that are classics worthy of being brought back. Some of my favorites, even today, bring a feeling of comfort and calm to me.

So that’s what I would bring back if I could. What would you bring back? What from your past gives you a sense that all is right with the world? What is the one thing that makes you feel like you just snuggled under your favorite blanket with a warm cup of hot chocolate? I’d really love to know. Post a comment or send me an e-mail.

This is What Happens

What happens when I get bored shoveling snow, looking at snow, thinking about snow, worrying about snow? I start trying to take pictures of objects inside my house. Below are a few I took today. I usually stick to objects outside, so these are a departure for me.

January 4, 2009

Shut Down

I had such high hopes for January 5. It was going to be the day I finally got to go back to work; the first time in three weeks I actually worked five days in a row. But as the famous line from the poem goes, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Work has been canceled again due to snow. Ugh.

But this is my year to be positive, so here’s my spin.

Operations have been suspended because the sheriff closed all the schools and colleges, not because our building is unsafe. I’ve been told that the roof of our building was cleared on Friday and the building is safe for us to return to… someday. Tomorrow I will be outside in the crisp, fresh air getting more much needed exercise. I will also have time to work on a few things at home that need to be done.

We’ll see what Tuesday brings. Until then, I’ll just keep shoveling, writing, and taking pictures. Here's another I took in my front yard.

January 2, 2009

A Sunny Winter Day

After watching the noon news and seeing that more business roofs had collapsed, I looked out the window and saw blue sky and sunshine. It was a wonderful reminder that all is not bad. There is beauty in the midst of disaster. So I took my new camera out for a few pictures around the house.

Blue sky! Woohoo!

This little guy was very busy putting holes in my telephone pole. Probably not a good thing, but he sure was cute. Can you see him in all the brown on the pole?

Practicing close shots with the new camera.

This was taken from the end of my driveway facing up the hill.

And this was facing down the hill. As much as I hate shoveling the snow after the plows go by, I'm really grateful they have been plowing our hill regularly.

More blue sky; a very welcome sight.

Berries (life) in the snow.

Sunshine through the trees. Yahoo!

January 1, 2009

Black Eyed Peas and Good Luck

In Texas we have a tradition of eating plenty of black eyed peas on January 1 in order to have good fortune the rest of the year. I’ve done this most of my life. There were a couple of years when I was convinced that eating the peas actually brought me a bit of bad luck and I stopped, but we all know that’s just silly. Right? The peas can't bring luck, good or bad, can they? Why take the chance? Whether they do or don’t, I ate the peas today and enjoyed them. I love family traditions.

I hope everyone was able to indulge in their own family traditions today and hope 2009 brings all of you good fortune, whether you eat the peas or not.