Tis the Season for Soup & Tea … and Umckaloabo?

Sorry kids, no fun stuff to chat about in the embroidery design break room this week. I’m starting out the fall season with a sinus infection – not that I planned it that way, but I always plan for it. You see, I love where I live, but it doesn’t love me. I don’t know exactly what triggers my allergies this time of year in the Upper Midwest, but when the leaves start to turn, there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do to stop the watery eyes and runny nose. I try to ignore it, believing that an allergy is not an illness, but then my sinuses rebel and infection wins.  I’ve been staying indoors away from whatever that villain is out there, while snuggled up with Mr. Honey Bear, a box of tissues and a pot of tea, trying to get all the leaks dried up.

No need to fret, I’m definitely on the mend and will be back at work in the morning!  To speed the healing process, I’ve been searching the web for any home remedy I haven’t yet tried, and because the symptoms are similar, Google has suggested a few tips for the common cold. I’m finding a lot of information that contradicts what I had learned at an early age and evidently didn’t have to, like “Put on a jacket or you’ll catch your death!” And there are a few facts about a cold that are a bit bizarre. So, for lack of anything else on my mind at the present moment, and because no matter where one lives, sneezing happens, allow me to share ten odd but interesting facts about the common cold.

  • Colds are caused by one of multiple viruses: If the allergies don’t get me, something out there will.  According to MedicineNet.com, “More than 200 different types of viruses are known to cause the common cold, with rhinovirus causing approximately 30%-35% of all adult colds. Other commonly implicated viruses include coronavirus, adenovirus, respiratory syncytial virus, and parainfluenza virus.”   Most folks just don’t have a chance against this incredible army, so it’s just best to focus on preventative actions and be prepared with a few good remedies.
  • Cold germs can lurk for days:  As reported in the article “The Cold Facts” about 40% of all colds are caught by touching common items like refrigerator door handles up to 48 hours after the rhinovirus lands there. Just imagine all of the creatures that must be lurking on Walmart door handles!  Not that I suffer from germaphobia, but I seriously think it’s time to bring white gloves back in style; perhaps, pop them up to date, making one finger and thumb tipless for easy gadget mobility.
  • Colds require immediate attention: Waiting a cold out thinking that it will go away in seven days might work for some people, but do nothing and neglect rest, you risk reinfection for another seven days or more, which could then bring on nasties like ear infections, bronchitis or sinusitis, per MPR News – Common Cold Fact or Myth.  Yeah, that would be my downfall.  Sometimes being self-employed sucks.
  • Pasta is on the remedy list:  Health.com recommends Immunity Boosters: Chicken Soup and Other Healing Foods.  There really is a lot of help found in foods like good ol’ chicken soup that contains a mucus-thinning amino acid called cysteine, but any soup is helpful because it’s hot and will help break up congestion. Yogurt, bitter greens and pasta are others that make the list; though I suspect the recommended pasta might have something to do with its “comfort food factor”, and likely the real help comes from the mega-amount of garlic this article suggests to include in the pasta sauce. I once ate a tablespoon of minced garlic to fend off a cold. It worked – I think – or else, I was simply distracted by the burning explosion in my stomach.
  • Colds are kissable: This article at LiveScience.com says, “Cold viruses love eyes and noses but rarely leap mouth to mouth…”  Yeah, just try to convince my husband to give me a smooch!  Whenever he sees my puffy eyes and red nose he retreats to the man cave.  He’s a good husband.  He knows I need my space.  And he’s afraid of the witchy woman that appears when the sneezing begins.
  • A cold can make you fat: A study of Obesity in Children revealed the cause may be “an infectious disease transmitted by a common cold virus.”  Great!  I now have another excuse for being a chunky child. It certainly couldn’t have anything to do with all the cookies I devour to make me feel happier, just as I’ve done in the last couple of days, nearly polishing off an entire gift basket of Mrs. Field’s Cookies. It’s okay. Cinnamon has healing properties.
  • Colds like it hot and wet: The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases says, “Rhinoviruses grow best at temperatures of about 91ºF, the temperature inside the human nose.”   But sticking an ice chip in your nose immediately after intercepting someone’s sneeze likely won’t help because  “Seasonal changes in relative humidity also may affect the occurrence of colds.” 
  • Colds pick on workaholics, especially those who are burnt out: According to WebMD.com “… you are more likely to catch a common cold if you are excessively fatigued (and) have emotional distress ….” – just another good reason to slow that work wheel down or a cold will do it for you. 
  • Colds do not require a weakened immune system: CommonCold.org claims, “Healthy people with normal immune systems are highly susceptible to cold virus infection once the virus enters the nose.”  So, evidently an apple a day isn’t always the answer, but I’ll choose to ignore this fact. Otherwise, what am I to do with all my bottles of Echinacea, Vitamin C and Zinc
  • Colds can make you friendly: This one really cracks me up, though it’s oddly believable. Science reporter Brad Hader is quoted in a health blog as saying, “Cold viruses, for instance, were recently found to make people friendlier, especially during the period before symptoms appear but when the soon-to-be-sick person is highly infectious to others.”  My guess is it’s a strategy of the virus, manipulating its way into another’s nose.  As well, maybe that’s why I’m such a snarly sourpuss when the drips begin – just when I start to feel cheery, it’s gone in a sneeze. 

Alas, there seems to be hope for my allergy-triggered sinus infection, as well as for similar afflictions like colds and flue. While watching Dr. Oz,  (seemed appropriate today) I learned that Echinacea is not as helpful as once thought for colds and flue, and instead he suggested a proven new kid on the American block called Umckaloabo, an African plant that stimulates the immune system, and it even prevents the spread and growth of infection. Guess I’ll be doing a little shopping online later, far away from multiple viruses lurking on shopping baskets and door handles. But first, I think I’ll sit back and enjoy the last of the cookies and a nice, hot cup of honey-laced tea.

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Sometimes Change Ain’t So Bad

Ping, pong, the game is on! Within a week after Facebook launches Smart Lists, Google+ opens the public gate. I find the strategy of these two social network giants fascinating. It reminds me of the product wars that have kept us entertained throughout the years like Coke verses Pepsi – neither side will ever win at pleasing everyone all of the time, but their battle achieves pleasing most of the people some of the time. Each challenges the other by making improvements that require changes, keeping users on their toes. As I’ve said many times, I hate changes. They interrupt my work and slow me down. Just when I learn how to do something well, the rules change. But that’s life on the Internet for you. There’s just no sense in arguing – it’s easier to just hang on for the ride.

The last couple of decades getting to know the Internet has been a carnival ride for me. Sometimes it goes up and down, or bumps and slides or spins around, but unlike a bumper car or Merry-Go-Round, its appearance, as well as its functions keep evolving. I’ve learned to bend with it, because without the Internet, my digitizing service might not exist. I actually have to laugh at my resistance in retrospect of the changes I had complained about – those that eventually made my world a much better place to be – and I’m really only irritated by those that didn’t happen soon enough.

Take email – or should I spell it e-mail? Actually, at one time I didn’t like the dash (-), thinking it unnecessary. It was a new communication method at the time; certainly it deserved a new complete word!  But I gave in, and now that the dash has been drilled into my finger’s little brain, they (whoever makes these decisions) have decided: dash or no dash is acceptable if consistent throughout the piece.  That is not always do-able when quoting a published article.  Often I have to remove or add the dash, to be consistent with the quote that I don’t feel the right to change.  It’s little changes like that drives a writer buggy. (Thank goodness my finger’s little brain also knows where the backspace key is.)

Besides the spelling change, functions of email clients continue to upgrade with changes that occasionally boggle the mind. I admit, sometimes it’s for the better as for security reasons and spam control, but other times I suspect it’s just to make you think they are busy creating things you need – trying to ping another email client’s pong. Well, I don’t need all of the glam, tabs and options – just let me read my emails!  But whether or not I’ve liked the changes in email functions, acceptance has been necessary to continue communications for custom digitizing orders. In its beginning, email saved at least a week of discussion-time, because it allowed receiving colored artwork for quotes, eliminating the need to ship artwork via overnight services, and there became no need to interrupt someone’s day with a phone call for discussion about the job. Eventually, changes by email engineers made it possible for binary attachments, allowing instant delivery of the design file in time for the embroiderer to test it and report any errors like a forgotten lock stitch, which then allowed getting a revision back to them within minutes. That was a moment we old dogs proclaimed, “I love email!” (dash or no dash).

Email led the way to global connections via “Email Discussion Lists” where people of the same industry or interests all over the world could communicate and share their ideas. Ah yes, the first “cloud” had arrived. And it worked so very well for years, a go-to place to find answers, share information, meet new people and get in touch with groups of old friends; not to mention emails could be stored in an organized manner on or off line. Some lists were generated through private forums and others were found in groups at sites like Yahoo.com. It seemed a good thing, though it was not without its restrictions, with each list establishing rules for the content of posts – the most effective way to offend no one and keep the peace.

Then back in about 2007 or so, some college guy came along with “The Facebook”. I signed up shortly before they eliminated the “The” but I never really expected to use it much.  At that time, it appeared pretty blah in its simplicity, and I was content with my Email Lists, anyhow. So my Facebook profile sat empty for quite some time until a few clients encouraged the idea and I began using it with a focus on its possible use for business networking. Gradually, the benefits came to light as many industry folks started adding up in my Friends List. I could upload photos of work to share without using another network photo site, or post a question about creating my web site using direct links without getting accused of spamming, or even make a complaint on my own wall without getting branded as a flamer – not that I am, just that I can.  Alas, freedom – that is, until my non-industry friends and family showed up and trying to “cross-communicate” turned into a roller coaster ride.  How could I post a cheerful embroidery post to my industry friends when a non-industry friend had just posted his dog had died?  So, I began posting more cautiously to not appear thoughtless, but that meant trying to keep up with reading all my friends’ posts. Eventually, I took advantage of the Lists feature that allowed reading a Stream of only posts in each list, but then came another problem of sorting through each list to be sure I didn’t miss anything important. I desperately needed organization.

In the last couple of months, I’ve been taking rides on a Tilt-A-Whirl, spinning in the beta, limited-member Google+ Circles while considering the switch from Facebook. I was drawn in by having the ability to send out a status post to only those in one particular Circle, such as my “Industry Circle”.  It certainly would avoid confusing friends and family with comments of embroidery language like, “use a craft blade to slice away the birdnest below the plate.”  Nope, Uncle Charlie just wouldn’t understand.

So the Google+ Circles feature was looking pretty good and the only problem was trying to get everyone to move on over, but it seemed only a few of those using Facebook for business were interested. Others couldn’t see the benefit, unless there was a way for a fast, total migration of info, photos and notes – not an option Facebook would allow.  Folks became infuriated, claiming it was their stuff, but Facebook had other plans in the works. Then last Friday I logged in to discover Smart Lists and suddenly heard Eric Claption singing, “Come back baby, you’ll find a change in me!

With only brief announcements to the general public that Smart Lists would become a standard feature of Facebook, some folks have been voicing loud complaints since its launch on Friday.  The 3-5% of us who had pre-existing lists under Most Recent found them moved to the left column along with a few additional lists, such as those in the local area or high school pals; and those who didn’t have lists discovered that lists were automatically made for them by smartly comparing information in profiles. Many Facebook folks who never had a reason for using the previous optional list feature were angry about the change, but as for me, I’m standing up in grand applause!

So, I figure, since it’s made me quite happy and others not, I should at least offer some information to help the nay-sayers who now feel like they’re walking through a confusing carnival Spook House. The Facecrooks Blog explains that Smart Lists is “pretty useful when you’re sending invites to a select group of people, as it automatically lists those who are close by.” The blog post also notes a few flaws, such as, “… since the list depends on the data listed on user profiles, it runs the risks of some people getting excluded. For example, if an old classmate did not list his school on his profile, then he might not get counted when the classmates list is developed. In this, Facebook has basically given people another incentive to complete their profiles.” Facecrooks offers a lot more helpful information in the post in how to use this new Smart List feature – or not, up to you.

And that’s the bottom line – Facebook members are not obliged to use Smart Lists. Even though the lists were automatically made for each member during the upgrade, Smart Lists are simply there if you find its function more convenient. You also need not keep particular members in the lists that were automatically created; it’s a completely editable feature. Take a little time to check out the Facebook Smart List FAQ page where you will also find info about posting a status to only one list or another, or to everyone as you have in the past. Also, don’t forget to check out your Privacy Settings for new related options.

No doubt about it – Facebook has definitely made a change that makes me smile! But yeah, since Google+ has ponged Facebook’s ping by opening membership to the public, I’ll still be hangin’ around those Circles now and then to see who shows up. I never could resist a ride on the Tilt-A-Whirl.

Additional note: More new functions arrived after this post and likely more changes will continue to occur. To ease some of the confusion, check out a very informative article at AllFacebook.com.

Time for a Fall Thread Break

The fall season begins on September 23rd this year – technically, that is. I depend more on what Mother Nature has to say about it. She seems to know more than the meteorologists, though, granted, she does have more experience. So, when I see leaves and seeds twirling from the Ash trees and the leaves of two particular Maple trees in the neighborhood begin to change color, as far as I’m concerned, fall has arrived – no doubt about it.

Perhaps it’s not time for the The Autumnal Equinox as the Old Farmer’s Almanac explains, “‘The word equinox comes from the Latin words for “equal night.” The fall and spring equinoxes are the only days of the year in which the hours of day and night are equal as the Sun crosses the celestial equator.'”

I’d rather take my cue from the trees. They tell me it’s time to get everything possible done that needs to be done outdoors or put it off until next spring. I’ve missed quite a few fall activities in the past while my nose was stuck to the grindstone, so considering I had most of my week’s work caught up, I decided to close the office door behind me for the weekend and do like the trees. They don’t care what the calendar says – they just do whatever feels right to them.

I didn’t really feel like doing any particular thing, and it’s a little too early for taking pics of full fall colors, but I definitely felt the need to get away from anything embroidery-related. (Don’t get me wrong. I love my work, but some days I simply need a “thread break”.) My husband, Kevin, was working, so it would have to be a solo event no problem, there are many things to cross off the list before it snows I can do alone.  Considering I haven’t had my old – ahem, vintage – ’87 Grand Am out of the garage for some time, perhaps a visit to the car wash was in order. I really should remove the dusty cat paw tracks left on the windshield an embarrassing validation of being the neighborhood’s “eccentric cat lady who lives next to the woods”.

First, I checked email (something that must be done daily for design deliveries or custom quotes) and caught a local online news brief – “Jesse James Days in Northfield, MN”.  Ah yes, the annual event that pretty much closes down the historic part of Northfield for a few days of celebration, complete with a craft fair and carnival. On September 7, 1876 the James-Younger Gang were defeated when trying to rob the bank – an accomplishment that would put Northfield on the historical-outlaw-legend map.

Now, I’ve lived 14 miles from there for over 40 years and had yet to attend the fun. Oh, I’ve seen it from the highway when I’ve passed by on my way to the neighboring Walmart – with clenched teeth and a dash of bah-humbug, because I can’t easily get to my favorite shops in historic Northfield. No, I didn’t want to go there today and besides, it just didn’t seem like the thing to do without Kevin – it’s a family sort of thing, right?

I kept pondering that question while watering the now-lanky petunias draped over the sides of their pots – another sign of summer’s end. I heard the reply whispered in my head, “Chicken!” – a snarky accusation of being too afraid to drive through the traffic and push through a maddening crowd alone. “Am not!” I murmmered like a whiney, little girl. Understand, people scatter out of the way of Kevin’s truck, where they tend to just walk over the hood of my pee-wee car. And without 6′ 2″ Kevin to scout the way through the people, I might not find the best place to view the reenactment of the bank raid – my main objective. Why go, if I don’t see the show?  Just then the Chicadees began squawking, tired of waiting for me to leave the deck so they could get at the bird feeders, and I swear, their crabby “chic-chic-chic” started to sound like “chic-ken-chic-ken chic-ken”.  So, who can argue with a little bird?

I parked in a lot at the edge of the historic area, assuming I had plenty of time to walk to where the reenactment would take place. It was then I discovered that my car clock was beginning to lose time (or else Kevin had tried to change the radio station again). I grabbed my purse and camera, then looked up to see a scene straight out of the movies – the “James-Younger Gang” approaching along the river, obviously on their way to rob the bank. I knew I had to move fast. I took a hit off my inhaler to fend off an allergy-triggered asthma attack and made sure my shoe strings were tied and tucked into the bottom cross-lace; lest I cluts out.

The side of the street with the “best view” was packed with people, so I, along with other last-minute-arrivals, opted for the spot near the “wings” of the reeinactment. Not a bad place, really, considering we were actually standing in front of the original bank building, now the Bank Museum. I couldn’t see the action on the other end of the street (that I’ve seen in videos anyhow) but I indeed saw a lot of action, as well as details, including the packing tape that held together the barrel of one of the rifles. (Really, boys, get yourselves some new guns!”)

I began taking pictures, fighting the sun behind me that was casting a nasty shadow in the street. Only a few manual shots of the people in period dress survived, because the auto-focus kept choosing the building on the other side of the street. Silently cursing my lack of digital camera skills, and having an underlying hatrid of auto-anything (evolving from the control it robs when digitizing), I kept battling the stubborn auto-focus when I noticed the T-shirt hanging above the crowd in front of the shop across the street.

And then, there it was … the word I read a zillion times a day, painted on the window, “Embroidery”. Well, look at that!  Champion Sports does screenprint and stitches! I did not know that. I made a mental note to stop in the next day I cruised through town, deciding (after a quick look around for any sarcastic birds) I’m not about to struggle through the crowd of the elderly with canes, the parents with strollers and children with ice cream cones!

After the 20-minute reenactment of the actual 7-minute bank raid, I patted myself on the back for proving the Chickadees wrong. I am not “chicken!” But I am getting … well … let’s call it “vintage“.  My adrenaline had gotten me this far, and with the realization that the car lot was quite a hike away, I was overwhelmed with appreciation for the many times Kevin has fetched the car and saved me the steps. He deserved a gift. So I stopped at one of the vendors’ booths near the Bank Museum where a printed cup caught my eye – the quote of town merchant, J. S. Allen, who on that infamous day had demanded, “Get your guns boys. They’re robbing the bank!”  [I would credit the vendor, but in my haste, I failed to see the name and later found only a price sticker at the bottom. Note to decorators: your name is your most valuable marketing tool – get it out there on your stuff!]

I walked along the river where the vendor tents lined up from one end of the historic area to the other. I didn’t have the urge to buy anything, but couldn’t resist checking out the beautiful handmade crafts, paintings, jewelry, pottery and much more made by some very talented folks. After crossing the walk bridge, I was drawn to the silhouette of a man in an alley leaning against the wall of his shop, and next to him, what appeared to be a rack of T-shirts. I felt a bit sad for the fact there wasn’t a customer in sight and felt an odd sense of duty to patronize the poor fellow – until I got in front of the opened door and saw customers packed inside where it appeared Larson’s Printing was doing a mighty fine business!

Pleased to see Gildan on the label, I picked out my size and color of a T-shirt printed with a familiar Northfield Bank Raid design – one I’ve seen worn for years – so I just had to ask how long the shop had been in business. After a brief conversation we determined I had once digitized designs for his work contracted through my then-employer, Write On Embroidery back in the 80s and early 90s, until he added embroidery machines to his screenprinting business.  We exchanged business cards (making this spontaneous day a tax deduction) and promised to keep in touch.  Sometimes little thread breaks can lead to unexpected opportunities.

Pictures can be viewed in my Facebook public album: Jesse James Days ~ 9/10/11

Those Who Labored Without Question

“This day off was brought to you by millions of workers who dedicated their lives to the struggle for labor equality, workplace safety, and the few things still fair about our jobs that we take for granted every day.” – B. G. Henson

I read this quote on a friend’s social media status yesterday and was grateful for the reminder.  Many of us plan our schedules around holidays, dates, and seasons to use the time to play catch-up, whether at work or home.  For me it was the laundry.  It then became a busy two days with many backed up domestic chores getting crossed off the list and I’d nearly forgotten the reason for the holiday and those who worked to achieve its national observance.  Sure, I was not “making money” but there certainly isn’t anyone in today’s world who would dare claim housework is not labor.  Labor Day, after all, is a day to stop all labor, if you can – if your job isn’t absolutely necessary to keep the world running.

Jackson Farmstead, Mount Pleasant, MN

Residence of my ancestor John A. Jackson's Farmstead; lithograph published by A.T. Andreas, 1874.

A good enough reason for me, I put down the mop yesterday and turned my attention to my ongoing family history project of compiling my research for CDs promised to cousins. Sure, it’s work, but also done to honor my ancestors whose labor my own could never compare. So I started to sort and compile photos and information, but seems as soon as I begin reviewing the information, I get lost in the Big Woods. No, not the Laura Ingalls Wilder novel, though the location is definitely the same place. Five generations ago, my ancestors settled claims in Minnesota, directly across the Mississippi River (Lake Pepin) from where the Charles Ingalls family lived on the Wisconsin side. I have read Laura’s books, a recommendation by my late grandmother who said Laura’s descriptions are near to exact of the life her own mother had in the Big Woods in the mid-late 1800’s.  No matter how difficult life became, my ancestors pushed on, surviving brittle cold winters in claim shanties, defeating hunger by eating only frozen rutabagas for months and clearing away the timber and stones to prepare the land for pasture or fields in the heat, rain and snow.  Their tireless pioneer spirit to labor forward with determination through excruciating struggles is nothing less than amazing.  They never questioned why – they just did what they had to do.

And that brings to mind the next day we will always remember when many did what they9-11 Memorial had to do without hesitation.  This Sunday is the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 and many of you are planning something special to remember the victims and the heroes of that fateful day. If you are seeking a design to embroider for a 9/11 project, Moonlight Design is offering, once again, the 9/11 Tribute design free to download. (The zipped file contains all embroidery machine formats.) This design originally was sewn by many embroiderers who contributed garments to the volunteers at Ground Zero and featured in the December 2001 issue of Stitches Magazine, among many designs created by digitizers who contributed to “the cause”.  Please accept this design to use on any item intended for commemoration of the Firefighters whose heroism will never be forgotten, as well as for those who continue to serve.

And now, because this is a short week when many of us will be playing catch-up at work for the time off we took to celebrate it, I’ll not occupy your time with more of my words. Till next week … wishing you many smiles!