Rescuing a Critter and the Word “Digitize”

treeIn November, one of our cats discovered an unexpected house guest who had bedded for the winter in a potted plant we had brought in for the winter two months before. I was stretched out on the couch with my fractured leg propped up, when I noticed Peter’s gaze, his head motionless and his eyes glued to the plants that are in front of the window. Something definitely had his attention.

Suddenly, he jumped from the top of the couch – his throne, as we call it – and came to an abrupt halt in front of the the plants; his nose daring to sniff at something. I considered it might be a mouse – not an impossibility, but a rarity in a house with three cats, so considering I was in no shape to rise and investigate, I told myself it was just a spider, turning my attention back to the movie running on my Kindle Fire. Through my peripheral vision, I saw his Edward Scissorhands paw reach up slowly, tap gently on the side of one of the pots, much too close to my late aunt’s antique lace curtains. “Nooo!” I scolded, and sat straight up, enduring the sharp pain that shot through my knee, while the Kindle slid to the floor with a thud.  Peter didn’t budge.  Unusual.  Any ding-dong, bang or whistle normally sends him running to his haven under the bed.

But Peter wasn’t attacking as he would a mouse, so it had to be something he found pretty darn curious. Now, I didn’t much care that he was at play with a bug, and would have actually appreciated his effort to send whatever it was to the next world, but the thought of shredded lace was quite upsetting.  I summoned The Man from his Cave.

“A baby toad,” my hubby announced, stretching out his hand to show me thetoad gray, warted little beast.  Don’t get me wrong, I like toads. They keep my veggie garden free of nasty bugs.  But I did not want a toad living in my house!  I looked out the window at the snow falling and back at the helpless critter curled up to the size less than a silver dollar in Kevin’s large palm, obviously too weak to be frightened.  It wasn’t the toad’s fault, really.  I should have run a pencil through the soil of the pot before bringing it inside.  And it’s not like we didn’t have the equipment to offer temporary shelter, having had our share of turtles and lizards (Kevin has a thing for amphibians).  Then I saw the plea in his eyes when he promised, “Just until Spring.”    Geez.   Okay, I gave in, but only if we agreed it was not a pet and it would not get named.  So, he brought out the lizard tank and made a trip to the local pet shop for a few dozen baby crickets.

After about a month I noticed the toad was a little greener some days than others, its eyes were getting bulgy and its legs seemed to stretch out quite long.  Even the tiny warts on its head seemed to flatten and raise again with darker spots coming and going, as well.  One morning, we found it looking very green in one of several puddles on the floor.  No doubt it had made quite a splash when it somehow pushed open the tank lid and escaped with a giant leap to the neighboring, topless, 55-gallon aquarium for a midnight swim.  Okay, probably not a toad, but definitely an amphibian.

PaddyKevin secured the lid and to appease the little critter we put a bigger pool in its tank, replacing the mayonnaise jar top with a recycled frozen dinner dish. It immediately took a swim and jumped to the side of the tank.    Wait a minute.  Do frogs stick to glass like that?    Then I got a good look at its toes – or perhaps “pad-like suction cups” is a better description.  A quick search at some of the web sites where I’d been surfing for emergency amphibian care revealed that the yellow stripes on its legs clarified it was a Minnesota Tree Frog – a species that has warts and changes color almost like a chameleon.  It’s important to know whether it is a toad, a frog or a tree frog to give it proper care.  Although they are all amphibians, they each need a little something that the other doesn’t and if I’m not careful, this rescueTreeFrog operation could turn deadly.  So after four months of calling it “the toad” we began annoying each other with continuous corrections or we would sputter out, “the toad … uh, frog … er, tree … that dang critter in the tank!”

And that brings me to my two stitches for this post:  

I am a digitizer.   I am not a digitalizer.   To digitize is to create a derivative via technology.  To digitalize is to administer digitalis or digoxin.  (Do not ask me to do any digitalizing for you.  I might kill you.)

There is a growing acceptance of using the word digitalize in place of digitize and it has even become the #2 meaning in some dictionaries.  I suppose it’s because everything has gone “digital” in today’s world.  Look up digitalizing or its base word of digitalis and you’ll find a slew of explanations from its original floral reference to the name of a recording studio.  Look up digitize (or digitise, as it’s spelled across the pond) and it has one precise technological meaning.

It’s my observation that the world trends with whatever is most commonly used, I suppose because it becomes tiring and seemingly rude to correct folks.  It’s one thing to not offend a customer, but it’s another to ignore the misuse stated by an industry professional.  While a novice in this industry, I referred to a Melco Digitrac as a “digitalis”, to the repeated frustration of my boss, so I’m not innocent of that error and certainly not trying to judge.  But for the sake of clarity, I’d like to encourage the experienced to kindly correct the newbie.  Don’t let it just slide by.  Maybe my personal plea is a battle I’ll lose in years to come, but eventually, I hope folks will see the value of sustaining a word with one precise meaning and the nonsense of using one with multiple meanings, as well as more syllables than necessary.

In my opinion, if one has trouble getting it right, the word “punching” would be the appropriate alternative.  Although it, too, has many other different meanings, it is quite acceptable, because punching tapes to create an embroidery design was the original method; hence, the original appropriate terminology.

That’s exactly how we are settling our current problem when referring to the critter residing in the lizard tank.  It just seemed to need a word with less syllables than “the tree frog” – a simple, yet more appropriate, word to eliminate confusion (at least that’s what I’m telling myself).  Kevin has named it “Paddy”.     Is it Spring yet? 

Digitized by Oklahoma Embroidery - EmbroideryDesigns.com

Digitized by Oklahoma Embroidery – EmbroideryDesigns.com

 

Inspiration in the Woods

© 2012 B. Landsberger“Look deep, deep, deep into nature, and then you will understand everything.” – Albert Einstein

During sunny seasons I want to lay in a patch of violets and clover, look up through the trees at the blue sky and watch puffy, white clouds float by. But I know better. My allergy problems are so unpredictable during the warmest seasons and I’ve had to accept that “smelling the roses” is not always the wisest activity for me. I allow myself to get caught up in the daily indoor grind, while stifling the feeling of being cheated out of outdoor pleasures. It’s not until the temps drop to the 60s and leaves © 2012 B. Landsbergermorph from the deepest greens to earth tones of orangey-reddish-browns that I’m pulled outside uncontrollably with the hope to find something remaining of Summer’s splendor.

Last week my big break finally arrived and I dashed out for a © 2012 B. Landsbergerwalk in the woods, camera in hand, hoping to capture the sustaining summery stuff. And indeed I found a few flowers, bees and a bunny or two that scattered faster than I could point and shoot. Startled by my rare presence in their domain, they sprang from under fallen branches and dove into the surrounding brush or below another pile of fallen branches. © 2012 B. Landsberger

© 2012 B. LandsbergerThe storms and flash floods in recent months have certainly made their mark. Splintered branches are dangling overhead, tethered by spiraling grape vines as thick as the branches they entwine. 

Many of the stately trunks bare scars that © 2012 B. Landsbergercause the mind’s eye to see faces with expressions frozen in time, revealing the pain endured when their branches were ripped away.  Their scars display the © 2012 B. Landsbergerstruggles that they had no other choice than to push through, and push they always do. I imagine it’s one reason they can survive for hundreds of years.

Some “tree expressions” take on a more extra terrestrial appearance after woodpeckers have their way, digging for bugs and creating coves perfect for winter nests – one of many ways Nature takes care of herself.

© 2012 B. Landsberger

Nothing goes to waste in Nature. That which falls to the forest floor is always put to good use as shelter for a variety of critters or it serves another purpose, as the fallen leaves that blanket the wild grasses, insuring the forest floor will return in Spring.

And there’s just something special © 2012 B. Landsbergerabout dead wood. Not one piece looks like the other; each with its own unique details of © 2012 B. Landsbergerlines and dots in a swirling grain of marbling tones.  I could meditate, ogling these images for hours, studying the shapes and flows of colors as the inspiration is absorbed.  It takes me on a non-drug induced, artistic high, reduces my stress factor, while at the same time, ideas are born … peaceful, yet motivating. And of course, I even ponder how these wonders might be digitized for embroidery or how to describe them in words. I find each piece of dead wood unique with a “story” that is incredibly fascinating.

So too is the bark of a living tree that continues to stretch and crack, evolving into vignettes of merging images only the mind’s eye can see.

© 2012 B. LandsbergerToo often I overlook the most brilliant beauty around me, believing if I don’t see what I yearn to see, then the beauty must not exist. But when I recognize the beauty that does exist – when I really look – it’s amazing!

“Look deep, deep deep into nature.”  What do you see?

[I see many things in the bark of this tree — turtles, faces, snakes, butterflies, Leprechauns, Angels, Jesus and more.]

all images © 2012 B.Landsberger ARR

Blog on Snooze

Absence makes the heart grow fonder … right?

Recent months have been just too impacted with this and that, making for very little blog time. Seems it’s when I have so many things to chat about that I don’t have the time to get it written.

Such is life. I’ll be back soon. Till then, wishing you fun in the summer sun and many, many smiles!

Celebrating with Art & Spirit

Last week when I officially became one of the golden oldies, I decided a break from the office was in order, even if it was a work day.  It was my birthday. I had the right.  Right?  So camera in hand, I set off to enjoy the blue-sky day, in 70-75 degree temps, and with no signs of allergy-triggered sneezing to stop me.

Facebook Photo – Red Wing Visitor and Convention Center

My first stop was at the Red Wing Arts Association Depot Gallery to capture the view beyond the railroad tracks that run behind the building. If you’ve never visited the RWAA Depot Gallery, understand that the building is exactly that – a neoclassical depot style that once served Chicago, Milwaukee and Saint Paul and Pacific Railroad, where folks passed through the front door to buy tickets and then out the back door to board the train. Built in 1905 it was restored in 1990 and the building is now listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. It continues to be an Amtrak stop and houses the Red Wing Visitors and Convention Bureau, as well as the office for the Red Wing Art Association.

I could have walked around the building for a pic, but walked inside with another agenda, hoping an art exhibit I’d heard about that had started on May 5th was still there.  A sign greeted me just inside the door, “Visions and Viewpoints – Artwork of the Dakota and Ojibwe People.” It described the free exhibition as a collection of works created by a dozen talented Native American artists. I had missed the events of the opening day that the director described as “awesome”, but although there were no story tellers and dancers on this quiet weekday (as great as that would have been to see) I wasn’t disappointed.  I came for the artwork that sang its own songs and danced its own stories.

There’s just something that tugs at me when I see Native American art. Maybe it’s the impressive works that depict Nature or the materials used from Nature, or maybe it’s the history and inspirational stories each item tells without saying one word.  Perhaps it’s the feeling of Spirit that exudes from the most beautiful, vibrant color combinations ever known to my eyes.  Or it could be that it’s simply a genetic thing, passed down from my Oneida great-grandmother.  But no matter what it is, it is

I turned toward the exhibition rooms while whispering, “Happy Birthday to me!”

The dance regalia held my attention for quite some time, being that I’m drawn to anything stitched. Without a crowd to weave and peak through, I was able to linger and mosey up close to examine every detail.

“Holy stitches!”  my self proclaimed.

Much of the work was not hand embroidery, nor was it embroidered on a computerized machine via a digitized file. The work was clearly free motion (or freehand) machine embroidery – a process that requires a high degree of control and patience, as well as time to achieve the intended shapes without distorting elements. (At least, that’s my opinion derived from one unforgettable experience of failed attempts.)

I bowed in deepest respect to artist Dana Goodwin’s dance shawl “Modern Woodland Floral”, a breathtaking combination of applique, embroidery and serious bling!

Other shawls of beautifully stitched stories adorned the walls, such as one by Chholing Taha, “Moose with Tree of Life” as seen at her website: Shawl Lady Dot Com.

The exhibit by a dozen Native American talented artists including paintings, sculptures and beadwork that reflects their culture, will be on exhibit in the Vogel Gallery at the RWAA Depot Gallery until June 24th.

Exhibiting artists: Nakoma Volkman, MN; Frank Big Bear, MN; Pat and Gage Kruse, WI; JoAnne Bird, SD; Laura Youngbird, MN; Chholing Taha, MN; Dyani Reynolds-White Hawk, MN; Charles Hilliard, MN-WI; Lori Ann Biggs, IN; John K. Sterner; Dana Goodwin and Dennis Williams, MN.

Artwork of the Dakota and Ojibwe PeopleAs for a photo of the view from behind the Depot, this is as close as I got. Lingering inside with this awe-inspiring exhibition of art and Spirit – “Views and Viewpoints” – cut my visit short.   It’s okay.  The outside view will always be there.

I proceeded to take an enjoyable little road trip along the Mississippi to Lake City for lunch on the shore of Lake Pepin. And that was only half of my celebration of gratitude for making it one more year, but I’ll save the rest for another time.  For now, let me just say, Day One of 60 was a very fine day, indeed!

Photos – “Visions and Viewpoints” Exhibition posted with RWAA Depot Gallery permission.

February Moonlight & a Month to Observe

Snow MoonThe full moon this week has brightened the night sky as if to proclaim the glory of February!  Seems appropriate considering all the events and celebrations – a list too long for this post – but allow me to touch on a few …

The rising moon caused a lot of ooo’s and ahh’s in Washington D.C. as it ascended above the capital; a photographer’s dream shot, as seen at “Daily Eye Wonder”. The Full Snow Moon is so named by Native American tribes because it’s a time when the heaviest snowfall is expected, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac 2012.

© Copyright by Concord Collections - EmbrideryDesigns.com

This winter there hasn’t been much snow landing in my Midwest backyard and no heavy storm is predicted (yet). Nevertheless, Groundhog Phil in PA saw his shadow on February 2, indicating there would be six more weeks of winter. Well, considering that in Southeastern MN, we woke up to thick fog that morning, I’m putting my money on Unadilla Bill in NE, a stuffed groundhog residing at Unadilla’s local pub of the same name, who has decided it’s time for Spring.

Floral Heart Applique by Adorable Ideas - EmbroideryDesigns.com

Floral Heart Applique - © Copyright by Adorable Ideas

Ironically, February “observances” are packed into the shortest month of the year, but 2012 is a Leap Year, so at least we’ll have an extra day for celebrations and create smiles for those born on February 29th. (Happy Birthday x 4!Leap Day is said to be a popular time for women to propose marriage, which I suspect might be a Sadie Hawkins moment for the impatient who didn’t get a ring on February 14th. And then those lucky ladies whose proposals are accepted, can plan a romantic wedding for the next Valentine’s Day, a somewhat popular date for getting hitched. The Dade City courthouse in Pasco County, FL even offers a mass wedding to avoid possible overflow.

There’s a slew of other things to observe this month – both respectable and bizarre – from Florida strawberries to spunky old ladies, according to a list at BrownieLocks.com.  Some of the national observances – both logical and odd – include:

Couch Flamingo by EMbroidery Patterns - EmbrideryDesigns.com

Couch Flamingo © Copyright by Embroidery Patterns

And here’s one that I need: National Time Management Month. To help folks manage precious time in both business and personal life, eResources has a few quick tips.

Let’s not omit global observances like International Friendship Month. I’ll mention Erich Campbellthe obvious – Facebook. I still have not yet updated to the new profile. Normally, I dive in and get the inevitable changes out of the way, but life has caused social networking housekeeping to fall to the rears. I suppose I should tidy up soon or it will likely be done for me. I’ve been hesitating wanting to find that one cool pic I can use for the header like some of the pretty darn good ones I’ve seen out there amongst my friends.  My current favorite is that of FB friend Eric Campbell, which displays a portion of his work that adorned last month’s cover of Stitches Magazine. Yeah, that’s pretty nice.

That brings to mind that February is also National Embroidery Month. Celebrated internationally up till this year, folks in all countries love embroidery. Like music and other arts, embroidery is an internationally understood language, whether or not it’s being observed in lands across the ponds. It’s one of the first skills achieved by humans, and an embroidery needle has been declared one of the earliest artifacts found in the line of tools. Embroidery has been used as a method of keeping records and defining honorary titles, as well as making a statement via art and decoration. The first hand embroidery machine, according to Wikipedia’s article “St. Gallen Embroidery” was invented by Franz Mange in 1828. It made gradual advancements up to the 1980s when Melco introduced the first computerized embroidery machine and Wilcom created the software to go with it.  The rest, as they say, is my history as well as other “old dogs” in the industry (and there isn’t a day that goes by we don’t learn a new trick.)

And so, it seems appropriate to decorate this post with designs by different digitizers, many who offer their designs via EmbroideryDesigns.com where I work a few hours each day as one of their customer service reps. It’s a part-time position, but I don’t really consider it a “job” – more of an educational pleasure as I exchange knowledge with countless embroiderers, chatting about the new machines on the market or thread breaks and such, when I’m not rescuing an occasional lost password or suggesting the right stabilizer or design for their project.

Butterfly by Moonlight Design - February Masterpiece Embroidery

It’s somewhat of a fun break in my day from operating Moonlight Design Embroidery Digitizing or working on stock designs as a participating designer at Masterpiece Embroidery, or writing “Punching Sense“, my column in Stitches Magazine, as well as various other duties like creating and updating tutorials for I-Cliqq Software (FYI to users: a new tutorial is penciled in for the near-future so to catch up with recent awesome updates.)

Yes, I have to admit I have a sometimes chaotic, but fulfilling, career that often swallows my time. On the other hand, it also offers me something many folks continue to search for – making a living at what I love to do. After all, if I wasn’t making money at it, I know I’d still be spending time at it anyhow.

Brillian Rose Hearts by Sweet Heirloom - EmbroideryDesigns.com

Brilliant Rose Hearts - © Copyright by Sweet Heirloom

And “doing what I love” brings to mind a video that seems appropriate to mention by movie director Tom Shadyac that I saw on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday last week called, “I Am I could write an entire blog post about my opinion on this thought-provoking and inspirational documentary, but I’ll let you make up your own mind if you catch the chance, and for now I’ll just close with my brief two stitches: worth watching! 

Happy February! 🙂

Precious Treasures Come Home

Twenty years ago I had to say “good-bye” to special things dear to my heart – precious treasures that had been handed down to my grandmother from her grandmothers. These items disappeared after her death, and it was somewhat of a heart-wrenching experience to have to accept I would never see or hold these beautiful heirlooms again. It’s certainly not because I wanted more stuff, and I would have been completely content had another family member acquired them. But because no one in the family knew where they had gone, I was sad for my grandmother who had taken care of these things with diligent tender-loving-care, just so to leave them to her family to enjoy, as her mother and grandmother had done.

I had been told all of the stories. I knew the value of each piece (more sentimental than monetary) and after years of trying to find them, I had finally conceded they’d never be found again. Instead, I turned my attention to compiling her stories, keeping the promise I had made to her before she died, as I reported in my post, “Mission Accomplished ….”  Little did I know then the mission wasn’t over yet.

The evening I had completed the stories and gathered photos and information to include on CDs to send cousins, I took a break by doing a little Ebay gazing. I was in search of “spaghetti poodle” figurines to add to another that had once belonged to my aunt (daughter of said grandmother). Before my aunt passed, she had broken one of the pair and she mentioned sadly that she would have liked to acquire a few more and pass them down to any granddaughter who might appreciate their value. I recently became aware of two darling little girls who are her great-grandchildren and felt that’s where I would eventually send my aunt’s lone survivor at the right time, along with others I might collect – but first I had to find a few.

I typed “spaghetti poodle figurines” into the Ebay search box and started to sift through the list when I was surprised to see two cat figurines – very familiar cuddling cats that made my heart leap. I had purchased a pair exactly like them when I was 8-years-old for a Christmas gift to my grandmother. It actually was my first work experience. After seeing them for sale at the corner drug store, I begged my father to buy them so I could give them to her, and he in turn gave me the option to work for them at $.10 a chore. When I reached the $3.00 mark he then advanced the remaining $4.00 to be sure that they weren’t sold before I could earn enough (and yes, I indeed worked it off.)

My grandmother proudly displayed them on a shelf in every home she lived in, and though she moved around quite a bit, the only damage I saw on them the last year she was alive, was a little chip on one paw and the tip of the tail of one figurine and they both had lost a few of their plastic whiskers. During that last visit I also noticed a little dirt on the chest of the other figurine, and when I began to reach up for it with the intention of washing it for Grandma, she called from the other room, requesting a glass of water. They were then forgotten until after she died, and I began inquiring with family members of their whereabouts. Eventually, I realized all of her cherished heirlooms had mysteriously vanished from  family possession.

I wouldn’t allow myself to fancy the idea that these cats were one and the same, but I bought them at $24.95, believing they would bring some solace for the loss of all else, and mostly because no matter their origin, they reminded me of Grandma. When they arrived a week before Christmas, I carefully unwrapped each one and then became giddy as I saw the chips on the tail and paw on one and the dirt spots on the chest of the other. At that moment, I believed it was truly a God-send for having kept my promise of writing her stories, and all I could think of saying with tremendous glee was “Merry Christmas to me! Thank you, Grandma!”

I set them in a place where I can see them as I write and then turned my focus back to finish making and sending the CDs of her stories to my cousins. After the last CD was mailed, I again returned to Ebay on a search for those poodles. But first, there was “feedback” to do for the seller of the cat figurines, and curiosity led me to peak at the seller’s store.  A familiar cup was first on the list – one just like the cup Grandma served me coffee in while she told me one of her most important stories.  And then the matching saucer.  And the dinner plates.  And my grandfather’s wedding cufflinks and tie clip set, the coin bank he had as a child, the gifts sons brought home from WWII and on and on and … oh my, it was all there – everything I had given up hope of ever seeing again in this world!

I contacted a cousin who agreed we had to get these treasures back into the family. I started hitting the buy button and bidding on most important items and those I suspected might be wanted by various cousins. The hardest part was waiting for the items on auction to end at 1 a.m.  While trying to win the apothecary bowl that Grandma used for crushing herbs and nuts, I became a determined, crazed mad-woman – a side of me I’d never met before. I snarled threatening expletives at every counter bid (followed by “sorry, Gram”) until it became mine after nine bids. The last minute of the listing became the longest 60 seconds of my life until I read “Congratulations! You have won this item!”  I screamed.  Then, I cried.  Then, I laughed.  Then, I screamed, cried and laughed until my hubby woke up and asked if I’d lost my mind. “Go back to bed honey, it’s only a dream,” I told him quietly, not wanting to shock him with the approximate $2200 total of the scored treasures. Fortunately, he shuffled back to bed and wasn’t aware of the cost until after the sweet seller dropped about $600 worth of shipping from the invoice.

Am I crazy?   Perhaps.  But my heart is full.  And I know my grandmother is dancing in the clouds right now.  I owe that lovely lady very much.  Had it not been for her, I would have never learned as much of what I know about surviving the struggles in life or the significance of family values, which I gained by listening to her insightful stories. As well, she taught me how to bake an apple pie, sew an apron, crochet a doily and hand embroider my first stitch.  Grandma encouraged me to keep drawing and writing, both of which I make a living at today, and she looked at my first digitized embroidery sample and proclaimed, “God has found a place for you in this world.”  Even now, Grandma has taught me to never give up hope.  As she used to say, “Whatever will be will be, and nothing can stop it if it’s meant to be.”  Once again, Gram, you were right!

I may not be done shopping or I’d mention the terrific Ebay seller who deserves a zillion-star rating for handling this overwhelming order with an understanding heart. But it’s best to remain quiet awhile – I’m just trying to bring these precious treasures home and I don’t want to bid against friends or family.  (Cousins may contact me about any item they’ve been looking for.)

Thanks for waiting on this post, folks.  Blog time had to be sacrificed for Ebay time.  Also, I am adjusting the blog schedule for the next post to be made in about two weeks when I hope to have even more smiles to share and possibly a couple of stitches!  🙂

Pardon me while I pause …

I’m posting late and unfortunately have to ask for an extension of your patience, folks! Life is not allowing time for a blog moment. Due to a fantastic family emergency (which I’ll reveal in the next post) I will not be able to post again for a week or so. Be assured I’ll be back as soon as I can! Till then, allow me to say, don’t ever give up on finding what you thought you lost. If you have enough patience, and it was meant to be, those lost things will find their way home! 🙂