Friday, October 21, 2011

Dear John

It has been 4 years since my husband died from the affects of chronic alcoholism. Everytime I think I'm making progress, I am reminded that I still have a lot of work to do around how my life has changed for having been exposed to his disease.

My "A" (the other anonymous program) sponsor told me that I HAVE to write a letter to my husband telling him the things that have happened in the past 4 years. She doesn't normally require her sponsees to do a "must" thing, but she's making an exception for me. Really?

This letter will be a work in progress, posted here. My sponsor thinks there will be many chapters to my letter and I think she's right.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Wip it, wip it good. No, I can spell - it's wip for work in process. I have many such projects in my craft closet. Some are closer to completion than others and if the road to hell was paved with good intentions or wips - I'm a shoe-in.

This quilt is for my sister. It is now in the almost ready to be basted and quilted stage. Then I have a bajillion more to make for her....she's my best non-paying customer - as are all my quilt recipients. After cutting the sewn together 5" squares and cutting them into pinwheels, I was left with 2" squares of all the fabrics in the big quilt. I assembled the tiny 2" squares into a mini wallhanging version of the before quilt. I used a fusible grided interfacing and ironed those little suckers to it and took the easy way out of assembling this pretty little thing. That gridded interfacing was a god-send. And fast, too.

I know my sister will love these beauties, whenever she gets them, even if it's not until next year!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

attitude of gratitude

Tomorrow. Today I have another gripe. This seems to be a common theme in my life right now and I need to do some serious work around why things are bothering me so much lately.

I am in the process of making some Christmas wallhangings, one that needs (needed) to be done by this weekend. I don't think that's going to happen, but that's another story in itself. My gripe is the pattern I'm using and the fabric requirements per the instructions. I am making a snowman from one of Patrick Lose's books. It's a cute pattern and fits into the theme of "chillax" for the event it is for. I plan on making a total of 4 of these wallhangings and planned my purchase of fabric accordingly. I used the book's directions for fabric requirements and purchased 4 times the amount listed. Mistake. Big mistake. I have enough orange fabric to make 50 quilts. Granted, something should have clicked in my brain that says something like "how could you possibly need 1/4 yard of fabric for a carrot shaped nose?" But, the directions stated 1/4 yard and I'm a good follower and purchased 1 yard. I think I used a sum total of 4 inches by the width of the fabric for the 4 quilts. That means that I have 32" of leftover orange fabric. This same situation has carried over into all the fabrics the quilt calls for. Too much leftover fabric. I could've purchased fabric I would love to use in another quilt and not all this leftover stuff.

Note to pattern designers. Please, please, please be realistic when it comes to how much fabric is required to make a quilt that you designed. The orange carrot needed at most a fat quarter. And I could've made 4 carrtos from that fat quarter.

Nuff said.

Friday, October 7, 2011

look into my father's eyes

To say that I didn't have a good relationship with my father would (in my opinion) be an understatement. For as long as I can remember, I had a disconnected feeling about him. I could recall stories where I felt so detached from him as a father that I don't think it was all in my head. As early as 8 years old I knew there was "something" about him that didn't sit right with me. When I was in my early teens I made a vow that I wouldn't kiss any boys until I was able to kiss my father goodnight as I saw my sister do (without reciprocity). That lasted about a week. It felt weird, unnatural to force myself to do something that felt so not right.

My father held Bachelor degrees in Psychology and Social Work. My father couldn't display any love or affection to his children. My father died when I was 19 years old. I never got to ask the questions; never got to hear the answers.

My father was the photographer in my family and because of that, there aren't many pictures of him and somehow, I've managed to have all (or most of them). There are some deep psychological reasons for this, I suppose. One very good picture of my father, a closeup, had been damaged by water or something that left spots all over the picture. My sister had requested a copy of this picture, but I needed to photoshop the damage.

While fixing the picture I had to zoom in pretty tight to fix all the little pixels. Some of the damage was around my father's eyes. Something happened. I finally felt some softness about my father. I saw kindness in his eyes that I never saw while growing up. I fixed them. I am fixing me. My father in some way was a damaged man who never healed. I am a damaged child trying to heal.


No Shit. Friday couldn't come sooner or fast enough.

I like my job. I really do. I don't like some of the people I work with, though. For the past few years the attitude of some of my co-workers has deteriorated beyond any hope of changing for the better. It has become so "normal" to be negative that they can't or won't see the problem. I can't stand it any more. I would just love to scream "get the hell out of here if you can't come to work with a better work ethic". The other piece of this headache of a puzzle is that my boss has pretty much wiped his hands of the success/failure of the business. He's all into himself and probably deserves to experience the outcome of his indifference. I care. I care a lot. I probably care too much.

This past spring was especially bad with the co-workers and my boss was ready to terminate at least one person immediately. But being the sometime co-dependent that I am, I suggested that he wait until the winter time and have a real heart-to-heart talk with the person and offer to give some paid time off to reconsider the work ethic and see if he/she could come back with a better attitude. I am eating my words. Choking on them, actually.

Near the end of the day yesterday, a customer called wanting to place an order for Friday delivery. First time customer. First impression customer. FAIL!!!!!!!!!! I couldn't believe what I was hearing from this one here (huh?), cut-off time is 3pm (huh? it's not like customers are beating down the door this time of the year), blah, blah, blah. I was mortified. I was pissed. I wanted to scream. And yet the continuing co in me says not to say anything to the boss (he's not around anyway) because I'm not ready for change or confrontation. Sick, huh?

TGIF - I can't wait to see what happens today.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

steve jobs r.i.p. - words to live by

Steve Jobs passed away yesterday from pancreatic cancer. All the money in the world (and he had a fair share of it) could not save him from an untimely death. He gave a commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005 and while it is on the www, I copied it from

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it's likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.

This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope it's the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much

Rest in Peace, Steve Jobs. Your vision will be sorely missed

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

my other family

If you have a job, you probably spend more awake time with your co-workers than you do with your own "home" family. I know I do. I spend over 8 hours a day with my "work" family - a diverse group of about 26 people. We all have different backgrounds, family values, economic status, and most importantly, personalities.

I usually tell people at my "A" meeting (no not that group), that I don't live with active alcoholism anymore. And that's true - at my home. Work is a different story. Certain circumstances have come up recently where my boss is around the office more than usual - and this follows a 5 week vacation that he recently took. I now work with active something. I can't say for sure it's drinking or drugs of some kind. But, it's there. There's been a shift to indifference about the outcome of the business, turning over and assigning more responsibility to his son, who in my opinion, is not ready for any of the responsibility due to lack of experience and immaturity.

I really need to practice my program of "one day at a time" and turn it over to my higher power, hoping and praying that I can detach from this new form of insanity (hopefully temporary) and live my own life and not worry about theirs.

Monday, October 3, 2011

rainy days and mondays........

I live in northern California where it's pretty much accepted that we don't get any measurable rain from about June until November/December. Well, not this year. This seems to be the year of Mother Nature's revenge. Tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, fires, droughts, earthquakes.

We are supposed to get measurable rain today and even more on Wednesday. That means, for me and many others, it's time to clean out the gutters. Not an entirely desirable job. It's gross, rotting vegetation that's been living about 12 feet off the ground. Enter reason #2 for not cleaning out the gutters - they're off the ground. A lot. I have a fear of heights that keep me from replacing the batteries in my smoke detectors, finishing the painting of my kitchen ceiling and trimming my beautiful, PITA tree (mimosa). Time to conquer my fears or risk having a bigger mess and problem down the road. And I'll have to do it again when said PITA tree drops its leaves, pods and silk flowers. UGH!

On a positive note, I won't have to water my plants for at least a week and we're supposed to go back into the 80's by the weekend. Yeah!!!!!!!!!!!!!