As the Year Winds Down

Some of my friends have been citing me as the reason they have considered a word for the year (rather than resolutions). I dug up my list of words, to be thoughtful for my last week of the year before making some plans for 2019.

2017: GOALS: achieved by finding both TIME and SPACE
2016: HABITS
2015: MASTERY (and COLOR) + “Finish the Unfinished Objects”
2014: CREATE
2013: FOCUS
2012: DANCE

I’m not sure how much I really focused on #Practice this past year. Sometimes my theme word gets me started right and then fades away. Other times, my theme word stays close to every part of my year.

I turned 50 in September, and it really does feel very different to be a fledgling 50-something than it felt to be a 40-something. But I’m not entirely sure how I want that to guide me or inform me in 2019.

Also, 2018 was difficult in other ways–the political climate both domestically and abroad–and my political awareness continues to feel bombarded by the news. I’ll find myself fantasizing about studying other languages so that I can fluently survive somewhere else, not trapped in the US as an only-English-speaking American. The Boyo is in his upper-division years at college, so there’s a time somewhat soon when Sweetie and I could make any move or change we want, based on our goals, not the Boyo’s.

Balancing all these thoughts, it’s an odd week now before New Year’s.

Here, please enjoy a selection of photos of me from 2018

New Burnt Normal

Yesterday was tough. First, there was a report that the #PeakFire had broken out on 118 at Rocky Peak. Suddenly, I lost all confidence that I would be able to go home from work, if the 101 and the 118 would possibly be cut off in the evening. First, I posted on social media.

I put away my laundry and toiletries and everything from the evacuation last night. I slept in my own bed. I got up at 4 to make sure I could get to work, driving the long way around. Now there’s a new fire on the 118, closing the freeway. I have no means to go home and no overnight bag or toiletries. #PeakFire #WoolseyFire

EDITED: I suppose I have to go back to the habit that I never go anywhere without 2-3 days worth of clothing and toiletries in my car, always.

EDITED2: Looks like the 101 *is* open, albeit slow and “red” on all the traffic maps. So I should be able to get home after all. And I’m packing my car-survival-bag. 

There was a time when I kept my clean laundry in a large duffel and a bag for my dirty laundy, both in the hatchback of my car. It meant I always had the means to survive for however long required, even if I couldn’t go home. And in the evacuation, that’s exactly what I grabbed to race out of the house: My clean laundry duffel and my dirty laundry bag. I was able to do my laundry while waiting out the fires at my sister’s house, and that’s what I’d taken back in the house when I was gratefully able to return home.

Then the absurdity of it all kept crashing in on me, at my desk, and I posted again.

Feels really stupid to burst out in tears just because I think I’m trapped at work, when others lost their homes or lives or loved ones. Fire nerves have me really frazzled. #WoolseyFire #PeakFire #HillFire

Now obviously I know better than to discount my own feelings and emotions and experiences. But it was frustrating all the same.

What I hadn’t expected was trouble getting to my home after work.

Offramp, left turn, roadblock, u-turn, fwy. Offramp, left turn, left turn, right turn, roadblock, right turn, left turn, roadblock but the cop would speak to me. Waved through, skip left turn with roadblock, left turn, right turn, last driveway before next roadblock. Home. #fires

EDITED: I also successfully avoided bursting into tears, talking to the cops who waved me through after my third roadblock.

I barely even knew the back streets. I live really close to a freeway offramp. Why would I need to know how to drive through curving residential streets behind me? Chatting with our neighbors, who also had trouble getting home, we’re assuming it’s to keep away possible looters from all the abandoned homes during the evacuations.

And then this morning was odd, for my drive to work.

Things that change when everything burns or is cutoff by roadblocks: (1) Getting gasoline. I usually fill up at the station by my driveway or the station one exit away, less than 2 miles away. It took 13 miles before I could exit on a non-roadblock to buy gas. (2) Getting a quick drive-thru breakfast sandwich. Usually I go two exits then back on the freeway. Today, my breakfast was 15 miles away. (3) Tonight when I go home, I will probably have to navigate the 3-4 roadblocks before being waved into the residential district again. (4) And when Sweetie and Boyo went for an evening walk, I was nervous they needed ID with addresses on them to be allowed outside on the streets.

Who knows how long we’ll have our new normal. Again, I didn’t lose my home. I didn’t lose my job. I didn’t lose any loved ones. Processing the small inconveniences is disturbing.

These are my views on the drive home.

Fire Experience: The Woolsey Fire

Having done a “bug out” for a fire evacuation for the first time, I can look back and give ourselves about a B+ grade overall. We were able to get organized as a family pretty well. I managed to grab clothing, toiletries, passport, laptop, phone charger, my favorite pillow, and some handicrafts to keep me busy for an unknown number of days. (For those curious: I grabbed one SCA dress and there was one bellydance outfit already in my car. If we lost everything, I would have had one of each.) Turned out my toothbrush was missing from my standard travel bag of toiletries. But my sister had more toothbrushes at her house, so that was an easy remedy. When I left my sister’s place, I forgot to pack up my shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush, and toothpaste. But overall, we managed to evacuate efficiently. Both my Sweetie and Boyo forgot shampoo when they grabbed their toiletries. Sweetie forgot a phone charger that went to a wall outlet (just had a USB cord version). And Boyo forgot the power cord to his laptop. Sweetie also grabbed absolutely all his Santa gear, since that’s his living for the next two months. Final tally: we all had our passports and the “important papers” folder, clothing, shoes, important gear, prescriptions, and each other.

My sister lives “29 miles away” from my house, which I normally consider an hour away. Her new home is tucked into some extreme canyons and hills, so I had zero cell coverage at her home. It’s very odd to only have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and email available, and no calls or texts. I created a “meme image” that I could post on all the social media just to let friends and family know how to contact me.

Sweetie and Boyo went back home a day before me and spent extra time running the humidifier and fans to air out and improve the air in the house. Plus they had time to unpack the Santa gear and start airing it out from the heavy smoke smell. We were *extremely* fortunate because the fire skipped our neighborhood entirely. There’s open wilderness across the street from us, and fire came to that hill. But we are on the edge of a densely packed residential section and the fire fighters saved us all.

The rest of this area is not as lucky. There are still freeway closures. There were homes lost about 1-2 miles due east of us (“south” on the 101 freeway from us). And the wilderness between the 101 and PCH is where “Old Mullholand” runs along the ridges of the mountains. I don’t know how many homes and ranches were lost. And there are still active fires being fought.

For now, I am just inconvenienced. I have to drive long paths out of my way to go around the freeway closures. And I am awake today before 4 AM, to make certain I can get to work on time / early. But I have a home to go to. I have my entire family. My job was not affected.

I am thankful beyond belief.

* * * * *

Also? Apparently I handle the stress of waiting by making things by hand that require my attention.

Complete photos here on Google Photos

Challenges and Updates

Challenges from Do Weekly Podcast

Several of my friends are small business owners. A few of them are even full-time small business owners. One of my friends is a co-host for a podcast that presents challenges for small business owners. Check out the Do Weekly Podcast, where you’ll get an entertaining discussion of the latest challenge and how the hosts have done on their own progress for the same challenges.

Having found the podcast after they were already nearly 30 episodes in means that of course I’m starting from the beginning, and not from the most recent episode. Also, I’m not a full-time entrepreneur. I have a day job, full-time, regular business hours (with a commute in Los Angeles traffic!) plus I support the freelance work of my partner. Also, I have my dance instruction part-time and my crafty pursuits at home. But since there’s not a support group just for posting about the Do Weekly Podcast, I decided I should start a few blog posts when I work through the challenges.

Let’s start from the beginning, shall we?

Episode 001: Update your about page

I definitely have several challenges that compound the efforts it will take to complete this task. Just one “About Page,” really? Nope, this is going to require that I look over ALL my websites and the ones that I support to ensure I haven’t let things just get old and dusty.

I used to have a weekly task so that I would make certain all the sites I work on had their themes and plugins up-to-date on WordPress. That’s a technical and administrative task that just requires I check the sites, click “Update” where needed, and make sure everything’s working. And while it could be automated in some ways, it also cost me money once when I tried automating the task. So instead, I just do the work manually. I’d fallen behind on doing this weekly, and I got caught up today over lunch. Time to put a task on my calendar so that I don’t forget to do this weekly at a minimum.

Next, in order to work on the About Page challenge, I should probably prioritize the business-related sites first and then look over the vanity sites second. I did manage one major update to a biography that I wrote in 2010 and left untouched ever since. Now it’s updated to 2018 and had several fixes applied. The list isn’t complete yet, but that’s the challenge I’m going to work through until it’s done.

Various States of Things

Beyond these fun things like challenging myself to improve my websites and my various “businesses” (both literally businesses and more figuratively so), things are going pretty well lately.

  • Since my last update, Sweetie conducted two more weddings, both for family friends. I made a reversible stole for his wedding outfits which I’m quite proud of (photos below).
  • I started a large silk spinning project during July’s “Tour de Fleece,” photos of which seem to resemble heads of cabbage (see the full photo album) when you’re scrolling quickly through social media posts. I also launched into some cotton processing by hand (which will take quite some time to work through).
  • Sweetie performed for a week at the largest Scandinavian festival in the US. I managed to make two pairs of pants, two tunics, and hand-woven trim for both tunics for his viking closet (see full photo album).
  • We did a large photo shoot to update his Santa photos, presenting me another major opportunity for website updates to queue for my days off.
  • I had the fun of being a guest on a podcast with a friend of mine in September. I’m just so impressed with my various friends who are producing podcasts. Los Angeles traffic is only endurable because there’s so much for me to listen to as I drive. You can check out and to listen to those.
  • Teaching dance continues to go well. I have a handful of regular students at two locations, with both supporting a Level One and Level Two class.
  • My old injured knee still gives me trouble, but my new massage therapist is a miracle worker and I’m seeing improvement weekly.

Various Photos

Just a few highlights.

New reversible stole for “Ceremonies by True”

New reversible stole for “Ceremonies by True”

Silk lap pulled apart to spin–and be mistaken for heads of cabbage

One of the new viking era tunics, with hand-woven custom designed trim


Fiber Retreat 2018

Four days in the mountains with friends, crafts, textiles, and fun – Griffin Dyeworks Fiber Retreat

Posing silly with my double-weave bag on my head

I am back from a Thursday through Sunday annual event known as the Griffin Dyeworks Fiber Retreat. I took fewer pictures this year than any year I have attended, but I was fortunate so many friends shared photos on Facebook or via email to me. (The full album link: can be found on Google Photos.)

Thursday is set-up day, and so it just included the long drive up the mountains and unloading TONS of gear into the lodge. I had searched my fiber stash at home last month and pulled everything undyed that could possibly go into the dye pots. I split my unspun fiber into small bags so that friends could try out half an ounce of just about anything: Various breed of Wool, silk, and cellulose fibers. I also brought four boxes of threads on cones that could be reeled for weaving (or embroidery) — both cotton 10/2 and silk 20/2 threads. Several friends raided the stash early on Thursday night. I hope I get to see what they make over the years.

Only one of my two roomies was there Thursday night. We nearly stayed up WAY too late, chatting and catching up, saying “Good Night!” three times before we finally drifted off.

Friday morning, I was headed back to the lodge at 6:15 AM to start Coffee Bar of Splendoor. I like to have the coffee ready before 7 just for the other morning people. The day got VERY warm very quickly, so the class schedule was shifted to try to not have folks overheat. I spent the morning making measured warps for Andean Backstrap Weaving demos. Then in the afternoon, we held the rescheduled night “crafts tasting” in the air conditioned dance pavilion. My two roomies both wanted to learn “how to be like a five-year-old” learning to weave. I definitely learned A LOT about how to demo the skills and help interested new weavers acquire understanding.

Learning Andean Backstrap Weaving as new “five-year-olds”

Friday evening no one attended my drop spindle class before dinner, but Liz and I had fun spinning and socializing together. I went through my spinning fibers like a rich man counting money, finding some great fibers to send home with Liz, some to donate to the raffle, and something fun to spin as a quick sample.

Hipster artsy photo

Then I started to learn about double-weave on a rigid heddle loom, using three rigid heddles for a 4-harness twill warp. It was slightly jarring to go from Andean weaving (with minimal tools and process-based solutions) to a western weaving structure (with tool-based solutions). But I got a good start before we all collapsed in a very hot cabin. Fortunately our other roomie found the fan in the closet to save us all! Yay!

I woke even earlier Saturday morning… I don’t know why that happens. But I was in the lodge by 6:10 AM and had coffee ready earlier than usual. Once again, no one came to the scheduled drop spindle class. Another friend hung out with me, spinning for a while, and a special spindle went home with her. Then a new student dropped in right before lunch. We broke our lesson into two parts, before and after eating. I believe that she really got a great start on her new spinning skills.

Our Featured Instructor was Melinda Sherbring (Mistress Eowyn). Somehow around her busy teaching schedule, she managed to hang out Friday as I warped up Andean bands of three-pairs. And now in the afternoon on Saturday, she was interested in weaving bands before her afternoon classes. We got to cover just a few skills, but her interest was definitely aflame!

I attended a class on how to tie a “monkey’s fist” in a rope, which was fun. And then I taught “Slow Movement for Crafters” which was a blend of ATS slow bellydance and stretches using a chair as prop or seat. Many friends complimented my slow music playlist, and we all got to shake out the kinks in our bodies from hours of sitting still doing various crafty tasks.

Dancing and Stretching together

I was super pleased to win a few things in the raffle, including a South American print tunic, a wool felted bag, a small hand loom kit, and two spindles. I spent the rest of Saturday night finishing my double-weave bag, then collapsing in the cabin. We finally went to sleep near midnight.

In the lodge by 6:15 again this morning, and then fully packed up and in my car by 10:15. I couldn’t have done it without such awesome friends. The car isn’t fully unpacked yet, but I couldn’t bear to unpack in 102°F (39°C) heat. Hopefully it will cool off soon.

Overall, it was an excellent weekend. I loved spending so much time with old friends and making new friends. I found several things to improve for Andean Backstrap Weaving demos, which I look forward to implementing. And I got a nice start on the Tour de Fleece. The rest of July will be filled with spinning and spinning photos.

Artsy photo of the cashmere/tussah silk I am spinning