Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Dec 26/06

Happy Holidays to everyone as they digest the food extravaganza of the past few days and groan at the thought of how much weight they have gained!

We had a nice, quiet holiday at my Mom's. Well, as quiet as it can be with a 3.5 year old who was wired for sound. My brother employed all kinds of techniques to keep the screaming mimi under control and less over-stimulated. My favourite gift was the blender which will be used to crush ice for strawberry daiquiris! My old blender was used by my mother to puree baby food for me so it was less than impressive at its ice crushing!

I made a surprise find in my cross stitch stash last night. I knew that I had a bag of 14 count Aida that I dislike because the fabric is very stiff and difficult to work with even after it has been washed. While moving things around in an attempt to find something else, I found about a metre of 14 count white Aida that is not stiff and awful. The fabric would not be my first choice because I almost never use 14 count or Aida anymore, but the possibilities are endless! Actually, my goal is to make Christmas ornaments as gifts for 2007 since I will be a poor student (!!) and the talk in other blogs about starting ornies now instead of waiting until close to Christmas has inspired me to think about digging out my Christmas patterns so I can really make a dent in my stash since I do not have to buy stitching fabric now. Plus, the 50 project challenge looms over me to complete before I get mired down in my Masters program in a year or so!

This photo amuses me so I thought that I would post it while my cat is not looking!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Dec 20/06

Whoo! I took a deep breath and told my boss about my school plans. I really dreaded telling him because I did not want him to feel disappointed in me for leaving the pharmacy in the relatively near future. What a relief to hear him say that he was really happy for me that I was excited about this undertaking and he thought that I would be excellent at International Development type stuff. He is open to my changing and scaling back my work schedule as needed to accommodate my school schedule, if necessary. I had wanted to wait until after Christmas to talk with him about it because he did not need that headache, but I had a list of things to run by him this afternoon so I added that onto the list. He appreciated me telling him now so that he would have time to digest the news!

Tomorrow night is the El Salvador work crew Christmas party! It will be great to hang out with the old bucket mates again! I am meeting with the executive of my Rotary club on Jan 8/07 to chit chat about sponsorship of more houses in ES and how to finance the project. Sometimes, I feel like I am caught in a vortex of activity when I look at all of the projects I am into and other times, I realize that I would not be happy if I was not volunteering for several things at the same time!

Tonight, I am finishing off 6 Christmas cards so I may be back later to post the pictures of my stitching!

Updated to add:

Projects 11-16/50.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Dec 13/06

This week has been a whirlwind. I spoke to my Rotary Club on Monday about my trip to El Salvador and now there are some plans underway for my next trip to El Salvador in 2007 as 4 Rotarians stepped forward after the meeting to ask that I take them with me on my next trip. My mom came to hear my talk which was great because she is always a great supporter of my travels even though sometimes I really have to convince her that is a great idea for me to backpack around New Zealand on my own or to go to El Salvador to build houses. Mom has had quite a week, too, as my sister graduated from her course last week and one of my brothers is now sporting his iron engineering ring. Go team!

In between emailing everyone that I can think of to set in motion a team of Rotarians for El Salvador and sponsorships for some houses there, I am also stitching like mad because I have realized that I am 2 Christmas cards short for gift giving. My eyes are about to fall out of my head since I am splitting my spare time between stitching and writing up Christmas cards which will be arriving a little late this year or early in 2007! Somehow I doubt that Canada Post will be able to get a Christmas card from here to North Queensland in 7 business days, but if it does occur, I will be buying a lotto ticket!

Well, words are starting to fail me at this late hour so off to bed I go.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Dec 8/06

I was reading through another stitcher's blog and I realized that I should declare my one exemption for the 50 Project Challenge. I have decided to stitch Christmas stockings for my immediate family to replace the ratty ones we are still using. My exemption is any Christmas stocking pattern that I think will be loved and cherished by my family members. (Just thought that I would declare that before I paid for the 2 I have won on eBay!).

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Dec. 3/06

This one is a bit of a cheat because it has been stitched for ages, but I just had it framed so that my Curl for Cancer team (Feb 3/07) can sell tickets on it to raise money. Not the greatest photo, but in my defence, this is the first time that I have tried to take a digital photo of my cross stitch pieces! The piece is a Paula Vaughn. It was stitched so long ago that I have forgotten the name of it and I am too cold and lazy to go dig out my patterns!

That takes my count to 10/50.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Dec.2 /06

Images like this one remind me that I have made the right decision. I have been in contact with UNBSJ and SMU about doing a Masters program in International Development Studies, specializing in Central America. Can you picture a Dal and a SMU diploma side-by-side?! The head of the IDS program in Saint John specializes in El Salvador and one of the most popular Spanish teachers at UNBSJ is from.....wait for it.....El Salvador. Does anyone else see a trend?

Anyhow, 2 years ago, I would not have imagined that I would ever be in El Salvador in the first place so who knows where I will be in 2 years from now, but it will not be behind a pharmacy counter unless I need some change to pay the rent. Life has led me in some unexpected directions and I suspect that there will be many more twists in the path.

My mom had a good laugh at supper tonight as she tried to picture her granola, oldest daughter and gun-toting army dude son out to change the world in their own ways. If she did not see us come out of her body at birth, she would find it hard to believe that we truly are blood siblings!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Nov. 14/06

So, now the question "What does it all mean?" is rolling around in my head. It is not the most profound question in the world, but I almost feel like an TV evangelist when I am telling people about my experiences in El Salvador.

For the moment, it means that I have stopped my mass consumption tendencies in their tracks. My house is about 1700 square feet and the place is rather full of things. It is nothing for me to pick up this knickknack or that cute, but useless little thing when I am at work or out and about. I found 3 wax potpourri burners the other day when I was moving stuff in my kitchen (and some of you have seen how small that room is!)! I also discovered that I have 10 kitchen towels crammed into a drawer which is about 9 too many for the amount of dishes that I actually wash! My rough figures tell me that I might have a fighting chance at saving up tuition for a masters program next September if I sell off the extra junk (or donate it to the Salvation Army) and do not buy any more.

There is a great deal on socks at work at the moment and before, I would have scooped up all kinds of pairs because it is a deal. Tonight, I very politely admired everyone else's finds and walked away. I also put away a cross stitch magazine that I had been coveting and hoping to get for Christmas, but I do not need more patterns.

The other thing that has struck me as well is my renewed faith in humanity. I am a lapsed church goer, but I definitely felt moved in a small "c" christian way when I encountered the generousity, love and friendship shown to me by everyone involved in this trip. We can accomplish so much by dropping egos, accepting people for who they are and reaching out with friendship. Too often we let prejudice, stereotype, gender, language, culture and money form a barrier that we do not allow ourselves to see past. The reality is that a mother in China wants the best for her child, just like a mother in Canada, or El Salvador or Papua New Guinea. My hope is that I continue to carry with me the joys of reaching across those barriers with a smile and a handshake to make a new friend and to have my life touch that of another.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Freddy, Guillermo and Guillermo Jr., masons extraordinaire!

Me with the ninos!

The goodbye party.

Joanna with the ninos!

Our first day on site in Panchimalco with Frankie and Guillermo.

Thanks to John for allowing me to download these photos from his public album.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Nov. 12/06

Well, it really is hard to know where to begin because there were so many experiences crammed into those 2 weeks. I was really fortunate that I was travelling with some really fantastic people because we all supported each other and cared for each other as we went through all of this.

The first thing that we had to get used to, besides the heat and humidity, was the barbed and razor wire that was everywhere, including all around the convent where we staying. Then, it was the men with guns who also seemed to be everywhere. I was a little unsettled at one of the Mayan ruins when one of the security guards kept catching my eye and saying "Buenas" to me. There is something off putting about a man carrying a rifle or semi-automatic even if he is gorgeous! The traffic was something else as well, but I quickly learned to look out the side window if I thought that our driver was about to pass someone!

We went to see the tomb of Oscar Romero on our first day there. I had heard a few things about him and his role in the civil war in El Salvador and I felt very moved as I watched people pray to him. I had a similar feeling when we went to the Mayan ruins in Cihuatan. Standing out in the middle of the ball court, I felt dizzy at the thought that there was a magnificent civilization there a few thousand years ago.

The building of the houses was an experience that I have great difficulty in describing and I am so glad that there were others there with me because they know without me having to say how moving it was for me. We tried to leave our Canadian sensibilities behind as we walked into the barrio/shantytown, but it was hard to see people living in corrugated huts and outdoor latrines. Everything was walled in and behind barbed wire. As the week went on and we learned more about our masons who were supervising the build, we were amazed that these guys only make $6 a day for working from sun-up to sundown. Habitat for Humanity generally uses the same masons time after time unless the men move onto other jobs. The masons come from all around the country and HfH houses them wherever the building is being done. My chief mason had one of his sons working as his assistant and another son was chief mason at a neighbouring home. Guillermo, our mason, was awesome. It was not long before we were all laughing and having a great time despite our HUGE language barrier. HfH did provide us a translator so the question periods had to wait until Kendall made her way to our site.

One by one, the children slowly joined in. In my pidgin Spanish with my phrase book, I introduced myself to them all and learned alot of Spanish from them. It is not usual for women to do outside work at the home so the teenage girls were the last to join in after a few days of quietly and shyly watching us. The kids made alot of the work easier. When we had to move bricks, we all formed a line and passed the bricks along instead of having to carry them through the (hazardous and cramped) work site. It seemed like the smaller the kid, the more eager they were. The kids ranged in aged from 2-16 and they all chipped in. I know that alot of it was related to the novelty of having the 3 gringos around at their house.

For me, my relationship with the children is what truly makes the whole experience so special. I am a great believer in the importance of children and their role in the future so I worked hard to include the children by getting to know their names as soon as possible and using my phrase book to communicate with them. I had extra work gloves so the kids were always wearing the extras as they worked alongside us. One boy named Frankie was exceptional. He worked the hardest out of all of them and we were most amazed watching this 11 year old boy shovel concrete like a man. My hope for him is that he can afford to go onto university and that he escapes the drunkeness and joblessness that we saw amongst so many young men in that town because he is such a bright and compassionate boy.

OK, I will stop here for now so that I do not start crying (again) before I have to leave for work this morning. Yup! No rest for the weary. My co-workers have been working straight out while I was away so they are enjoying some days off now that I am back in town.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Nov. 11/06

I returned home from El Salvador on one of the most important days of the year in my life. I hope that all the Canadians reading this took a moment to remember those who have served in the name of our country.

In the past 2 weeks, I have added 3 more countries to my list: El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. And what an amazing 2 weeks! The team of Beth, Russ, Jay, Bobbi-Jean, Al, Ed, Joanna and me flew out of Moncton on Oct. 28/06 and met up with John and Elaine in Houston to fly onto San Salvador. We met up with a team of Rotarians (Bruce, Ann, Caroline, Craig and Suzie) from Yakima WA USA who were also in El Salvador to build 2 homes sponsored by their Rotary club.

There is nothing like bonding over a pile of chispa (concrete) being mixed by hand while the hot Salvadoran sun is beating down on you causing you to sweat more than possible. My Spanish was non-existent before arriving at the work site in Panchimalco, but through a combination of gestures, some phrases from my handy pocket phrase book plus some French that slipped out on occasion, we developed some hybrid pidgin language that allowed us to communicate with the masons and the families. The neighbourhood we were working in could be described as a shanty town with many of the buildings being made out of corrugated tin and having outdoor toilets. Stray dogs and chickens were everywhere!

We worked hard all week. I am sure that I lost at least 10 pounds that week between sweating like a firehose in the heat, sun and humidity (Whine! Whine! I am a Canuck after all and we think it is hot if the temp goes above 20C)and carrying more buckets of chispa and moving more bricks than I care to think about! The children were amazing as they worked as hard, if not harder than we did. One little boy named Frankie jumped right in a few minutes after we arrived and he worked alongside us all week. Not too many 11 year-old kids here in Canada are keen to shovel dirt all day or carry bricks and soil around and to do it with great pride in their work. The house was being built for his aunt and soon we had all kinds of kids ranging from 2-16 years old working alongside us. I quickly learned the Spanish words for brother, sister, cousin, aunt, uncle and neighbour! Our mason, Guillermo, and his son Guillermo Jr. had the patience of Job and a great sense of humour! Their work probably would have progressed much faster if they did not have to trip over and supervise the 3 gringos!

There were a lot of fantastic and touching moments. Every morning I waved hello to a family who lived up the hill from where we building. They would sit out and watch us all day, every day. The mother always called out "Buenas Dias!" to us and gave a big wave. I was so surprised to see her at the goodbye party and she came running up to me to give me a hug. One of my workmates got quite ill one day and it was so touching to watch Frankie take her by the hand to lead her inside so that she could lay down. Watching the kids pose for photographs and then to go running to see the digital images of themselves. Seeing the community mark the Dias de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and taking in the atmosphere of the street festival. Being blindfolded to hit the pinata (my years of tennis and softball came in handy there!) and breaking eggshells full of confetti over people's heads at the goodbye party (it took days to get that stuff out of my hair and clothes!).

Despite their troubled history and economic woes, the Salvadorans that we met are a wonderful people. I learned from them that life is not about the stuff that one owns, but how one uses and shares that stuff with friends and family. The love and affection that I saw and felt amongst them is more valuable than all of my assets combined. Suzie said it best at the goodbye party when she said to the Salvadorans, "You may think that we came here to help you, but you have helped us more."

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Oct 22/06

Part of one Christmas present is complete! My brother is a soldier in the Canadian army and I have his name for our family Christmas present exchange. I found this pattern on this site and stitched it on some plastic canvas that I had in my heap. He loves to read so I think that it will make an awesome book mark.

So, that makes finish #9. Only 41 more to go!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Oct 19/06

Some more Christmas card finishes:

As you can see, I have been practising some of my hardanger skills (or lack thereof) that I learned recently! There are actually two of the heart shaped, Emie Bishop designed cards that I have completed, but I could not fit all three cards into the scanner so you will just have to believe that I have truly completed projects #6, #7 and #8! The nordic design is a combination of part of a sampler pattern I found in a magazine that I bought at the Rotary book sale and me playing around with some hardanger stitches.

I think that I am going to concentrate on Christmas cards and small projects until the New Year. There are several large patterns that I have collected over the past few years, but I have not decided when I will do them and in what order. Doing the small projects is giving me some time to play around with different things and perhaps this playing around will point me in some sort of direction. Seeing the stash lists that other people have posted makes me feel less quilty about the stuff I have amassed over the years because there are others out there with much more stuff!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Oct 15/06

A little bit of mea culpa here. While I am diligently stitching away at my 50 project challenge as I attempt to reduce the madness also known as my cross-stitching stash while not buying anymore patterns, I kind of succumbed a little bit. My Rotary club held its annual booksale this past weekend and someone had donated a stack of cross-stitch magazines. Yup! You see where this going. At 25 cents a piece, it was hard to pass up so I came home with 7 new-to-me magazines. It was a moment of cheap weakness as I just could not pass up such a great deal! In my defence, there were several really cool patterns that I had noticed at Michaels when I was there last and after standing in front of them long enough that the staff was giving me the "potential shoplifter" eyeball, I walked away emptyhanded.

Also yesterday, I met with most of the team that is going to El Salvador on the HfH program. Everyone seems very interesting and well travelled. This being New Brunswick, it turns out that one of the other women is someone I graduated from high school with! One of the other women had a huge back of soccer balls donated to her so I have to figure out how to deflate three of them and tuck them into my backpack along with all of the other stuff I have to pack before I even think about clothing!

As I type this, the news is on and they have just reported the names of the two soldiers killed yesterday in Afghanistan. My brother is graduating from ROTC this December and is that much closer to being posted overseas so this kind of news makes me so sad. I believe in the work that our soldiers are doing in Afghanistan, but the thought of my brother possibly paying the ultimate price is too difficult to even begin trying to digest. To do what I can, I have a yellow ribbon decal on my car and I wear red on Fridays to show my support for our soldiers.

Well, I should get out into the beautiful day we are having to tackle some of my autumn yard work that needs to be done before it is too late and things get buried under snow.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Oct 8/06

Oops! I started out with the wrong date because a peak at the clock tells me that it is now past midnight. My body clock is a little awry because I am sleeping 10 hours a night to regain any energy at all as I recover from bronchitis.

As part of my long weekend sloth session, I worked on some projects and finished 3 cross stitch Christmas cards:

Apparently, I have a little to learn about uploading photos because something is not lining up correctly, but you get the idea. So, that means that now I have completed #3, #4 and #5. Only 45 projects to go. Already this is excruciating because I found a magazine at work that is chockful of great wintry designs. The magazine is hidden in my stash at work so that one of my siblings can buy it for me after we do the Christmas present name draw this weekend.

Happy Thanksgiving! gobble, gobble!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Oct 5/06

Well, it is hard to believe, but in 23 days I will be well on my way to San Salvador, El Salvador to participate in a Habitat for Humanity program. How cool is that? It all still feels very surreal to me even at this stage of the game as I pile up stuff I need to cart with me and make arrangements for malaria prophylaxis. Here is a link that the HfH group sent us volunteers to check out some of the places we will be.

As always, I hope to check out pharmacies and the needle work of the region as I do on every trip.

My own needlework and running and everything else that I enjoy doing in my spare time came to a screeching halt for the past couple of weeks as I battled the stomach flu which morphed into bronchitis. Today, I wheezed out 3km as I finally felt well enough to even put my sneakers on my feet. Now that I can actually come home from work and not pass out cold from exhaustion, I shall pick up the threads of my life again (pun intended!).

Monday, September 25, 2006

Sept 25/06

The rain and wind were something short of ferocious yesterday and I was/am still recovering from a lovely bout of stomach 'flu so I stayed in and finished project #2:

As soon as I get around to getting a photo of my piece, I will replace the picture I have posted that is from Teresa Wentzler's site. The embroidery part was been completed for a couple of years, but somehow it got stashed in my basement and was recently uncovered as I was moving things around for some renovations. Yesterday was spent either hunched over my ironing board or sewing the thing together. I did choose to not put any backing on the bell pull as was suggested in TW's finishing directions because I place alot of importance on the niceness of the back of a piece and I want to be able to admire my handiwork.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Sept 24/06

Okay, after much back and forth, I decided to attempt the 50 projects challenge as well. I do have some things that are coming from eBay so for me, the challenge starts after I had bid on those items last week. With that being said, I finished my first challenge piece last night (I scanned it in so I apologize for the quality of the image!):

This piece was completed for a class on Hardanger that I took recently at the Count On Us store in Saint John. The teacher was June Bull.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Sept 17/06

I really must get myself hooked up with a digital camera because that certainly is half of the fun in reading the cross stitch blogs that I have wandered through. Because of the other bloggers, I have looked and bought some awesome stuff like HAED where I bought a beautiful pattern of irises.

Not much to report in terms of my current project of baby bibs and a receiving blanket. I have almost completed all of the cross-stitching and will hopefully soon be backstitching the receiving blanket. There is a bit of urgency to get these things done ASAP because I am leaving for El Salvador for two weeks to participate in a Habitat for Humanity program at the end of October and I am also involved in the organizing committee for the 2nd Annual Hampton Pharmasave Skins Spiel. Oh yeah, and I still have to work, sleep, eat and shower in there some time as well.

On this blog, the blogger refers to a brilliant idea that another blogger came up with and that is to buy no more patterns until she has finished 50 projects. Intriguing, but I suspect that I would almost immediately be an abject failure because I just can not stop myself from buying patterns even though I would have to retire now to ever have a chance at completing the patterns I have already accumulated. My craft room was severely culled over 6 months ago when the flooring was re-done in that room, but patterns, sweet patterns! How does one resist the urge?

Monday, September 04, 2006

Sept. 4/06

Last night, I finished the three bibs that I was making for three new babies in my life. The bibs will be soon winging their way to Sweden, Norway and the last one will be given to a friend here. I used Charles Craft bibs and stitched a free design from DMC:

The design was quick and cute. Depending on the sex of the child, I stitched the bow in either pink or blue or both in the case of the baby whose sex I do not know.

My next project will be a receiving blanket with the same bear for my friend having the girl.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

August 23/06

Well, it is that time of year when the cross stitch magazines start coming out with the Christmas projects to remind us of the upcoming December insanity. I started some of my cross stitch cards recently to send out as cards/gifts to a select few. The current batch are from Design Works Crafts which I picked up on sale at Lewiscraft in the past year. These small projects are most enjoyable in between bigger projects because the cards take less than a week to complete.

Before starting the cards, though, I made sure that I was done stitching the Marks and Kattens table runner so as to not violate my rule of only having one project on the go at a time. One thing that I have noticed in reading the blogs of other stitchers is that most people seem to have multiple projects on the go. My craft room would be more out of control if I did that and I would lose my focus on the different projects if I bounced back and forth. Oh well, different stitches for different folks!

My stitching time has been greatly curtailed these days because of training for the local 8km run called the Hampton 5-miler and the flooring renovation that is underway in my basement. There are just not enough hours in the day to get everything done and sleep, too!

Monday, August 07, 2006

August 7/06

Scanning through the various cross-stitch blogs that I have tagged up in my favourites has reminded me of some new-to-me patterns that I have acquired recently. It will be a few weeks before I can seriously think about starting them because I am finishing up a hydrangea table runner that I bought in Sweden, a Marks & Kattens design. Their website seems to be down for updating, but I will add it to my links for when it does come back up. Once the table runner is completed, I have 2 bibs to do for friends who are preggers and due in the next few months.
THEN, it will be on to the Fairy Tale Sampler by Jennifer Aikman-Smith of Dragon Dreams. The saying on it is perfect for a friend who is going through a divorce from a moron. I also recently purchased a book about Christmas stockings called "Christmas Stockings" from the David & Charles Cross Stitch Collection. The family stockings are a tattered mess after many years so I am considering making a new set of cross stitched ones. That is an ambitious project so I may just end up doing one for my nephew instead! Last, but not least, I found a beautiful design of maple leafs in autumn by Foxberry Cottage Crafts of Nova Scotia. I am always thrilled when I find beautiful Canadian designs because they are hard to find.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

August 2/06

Okeydokey, tomorrow is my birthday. It is hard to believe that I will be 35 years old tomorrow. Jeepers! Where does the time go?

I am looking forward to a nice, quiet day tomorrow. My big plans are to have a bunch of building suplies delivered from Kent's to finish the flooring in this place and to visit my dog's grave. Jessie went to puppy heaven last week and I am missing him more than I thought possible. He was so sick towards the end and I spent so much time fussing over him that I was at a loss for a few days because that had been my life for so long. My two big consolations are that I got to say goodbye to him the way that suited the both of us and he is no longer sick.....And here I thought that I would not cry again......For a 14 year old dog with arthritis, a heart murmur, cataracts and an itchy skin infection, he never once moped or whimpered about how crappy he was feeling.

Some things I am looking forward to: the QA convention in Toronto and a trip to Halifax to visit with my sister. Good times.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

July 6/06

Today was one of those days that I could not have predicted the end at the beginning. Mind you, I started off the day trying to figure out why all of our prescription refills were showing expired when they had not expired. A call to technical support and some playing around with the computer led me to discover that somehow one of our terminals was showing that it was November. Once that was changed, our problems were solved.

Work was work and I left early to go deliver a thank you card and to get my haircut. Mom and I went to a strawberry festival at our usual time and place so we ran into alot of people from our old community. We had some interesting dinner companions and had quite a chat with someone that Mom described as a "character" afterwards. I thought that he was cool, but I was also wishing that he was about 15 years younger!

I was supposed to go out for a run tonight, but I had to review a continuing education program because I had forgotten about the review and it is due tomorrow. The program was boring as hell and my dial up connection dragged out the agony. By the time I finally quit (70 minutes into it and still a couple of sections to go.....), I woke up enough to hammer out a not so favourable review. Now, I sit here thinking that I should go to bed so that I feel like running tomorrow after I take the dog to have his toenails trimmed. Such an exciting life, eh!

Friday, June 23, 2006

June 23/06

Hmmmm...I was just thinking that it has been a while since I updated this blog and boy, was I right! So much has happened since the last entry that it is hard to know where to begin.

Most recently, I spent 2.5 weeks in Scandinavia. Spending time with my longtime penpals was awesome as was the stopover in Gothenburg and Frederikshavn. Alot of thinking and navel gazing was done during that trip and now, I am feeling good about some changes that I need ot make in my life. Having a cancer scare a few weeks before that trip also brought my life into focus for me. It sucks that it takes something like that to realize what is important and what is useless jetsam that is bogging me down! One result of the navel-gazing that I can share publicly is the de-cluttering of my house. I had kind of started getting rid of stuff a few months ago when the floors were being re-done, but now I am being ruthless. If an item is not extremely valuable or absolutely necessary to my existence, then I add it to the yardsale pile. That pile contains stuffed toys with the sales tags still attached, a gift set from the Body Shop given to me by someone I am not keen on, a wooden dishdrying rack, and little bits and bobs of craft projects I have made over the years. The difference this de-cluttering has made both in my mind and in my house has been huge! The stuff and the maintenance of the stuff was weighing on me. Divesting myself of useless items is freeing me on so many levels. I am able to see much more clearly these days.