Upgrade

When I have felt blocked or stuck, what has worked for me is to let what is not working, sit, and find something that is fun and stress relieving. In my case, that usually means some combination of writing and/or a picture project. Tonight, I am doing both!

The frames on my wall in my current apartment have been blank, except for one, because I knew I wanted to upgrade my wall art, as mentioned in this post. A couple of weeks ago, I uploaded photos to have them ready for printing.  Although I printed more than what I would need for the three frames, I wanted to make sure that I had at least the preferred categories of pictures. The themes I decided to use were:

  1. wpid-20150621_222011.jpgBook Club – I facilitated the Kalamazoo Business Book Club (KBBC) for 26 months, and read nearly a book a month for the club. During the second year, I started the Business Book Lady blog, and I also made sure to take more people pictures (eventually) instead of just pictures of the book. The discussions were always great and it really was as fun as it looks in the photos. We also found our final home at an awesome location in Downtown Kalamazoo – The Michigan News Agency. The owner, Dean, was as excited to have us as we were to be there. It was fun to see her and the others once a month (at least) on a Monday night.
  2. 5k Runs -Running is something that I have slowly been developing during the last several years. It began when I realized that all it took was practice, which I wrote about here. When I enter races, most of the time I know wpid-20150621_233239.jpgfriends who are participating, too. One of my friends, not pictured, came to several of the events to cheer and take pictures, including the picture where the ground looks frosted and I am wearing a pink jacket. It was more challenging for my friend to stay warm while waiting than it was for me running. The Color Run (2014) was meant as a fun event, although some did run as if it were being timed. I went all out and enjoyed the chance to be messy and colorful. The One One Run is a group favorite. Although it is not timed, since it takes place on January 1st (at 1pm), it is much warmer (and faster!) to try to run instead of walk. The picture of me in the crowd was in the local online news! Also, sometimes I see friends I don’t expect, such as at the Kalamazoo Klassic, and the friend finishes the race with me. At the Borgess Run, one of my friends did not want to leave the grounds until we had the chance to meet up. She had participated in the 10k and I was in the 5k run.
  3. Startup Grind – I had thought about including a frame of startup events and decided since that had an entire book, the wall wpid-20150622_001330.jpgframe only needed Startup Grind, including the Kalamazoo chapter. The story had changed since creating the “Startup World” album, as far as this topic. I was part of the community until August 2014, when I became a part of the team. It is definitely different to plan and promote an event versus only attending, and I have been lucky enough to experience both sides. The top two pictures and the bottom right corner are all from the same January 2014 event where the night could have been endless. (Yes, the mingling was THAT much fun, besides the fireside chat that night.) The rest are team photographs. The group shot is when I was in California and had the opportunity to visit the Palo Alto headquarters. Since I already had contact with several of the team, it was natural to meet them in person. The day before, I had been able to hike with a mentor I had met through Startup Grind. The other three pictures all have to do with the Kalamazoo team. The Chapter Director is sitting with me and the banner. For a short while there were three of us, and we gathered for a meeting at a coffee shop, which I wrote about here. The picture of me with my bicycle was to celebrate being added to the team, AND be in at least one picture, since as a photographer I was not in any others.

wpid-20150622_001934.jpgMostly, the idea is that when I look at the pictures, they make me happy. I might change out the fourth one because it is about my Dad, which makes it a little bit sad. The page had originally been a part of a different display, which I didn’t keep. Since I  still wanted to preserve the page and have it out, I fit it to the 12 x 12 frame. The other three, though, are current and make me smile when I look at them and think about the different stories. Working on the pages has made it a productive, fun night, and has definitely been a stress reliever. What is your method to break out of a cycle of being stuck?

 

Thanks for reading! (and commenting/liking)

Stacy

Kalamazoo Fretboard Festival and the mystery of the “Banner” guitars

Gibson Gold BannerI first heard about the Kalamazoo Gals before the Fretboard Festival last year (2014). The Kalamazoo Gals were a part of the Gibson Guitar Company during World War II, basically covering many of the positions left when the men went to serve in the military. Although the story goes that the Gibson Company denies the information, there is evidence that the Kalamazoo Gals built particular guitars with a gold emblem, “Nothing is as good as a Gibson,” during the years 1942 to 1945.

John Thomas, a “recovering lawyer,” first discovered the story when he came across a photograph taken of a group of women outside the Gibson Guitar Factory. The Gibson Guitar Factory was originally located in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He decided to run ads in the Kalamazoo Gazette and area newspapers stating that he would be in town and was looking to meet anyone who had worked at John playing a "Banner" guitar. A picture of his book cover is in the background.Gibson or knew anyone who had. John not only received responses, he found some answers and new questions. John decided to write a book, which took him five years, and he is still finding answers and more questions.

The book, “Kalamazoo Gals: A Story of Extraorinary Women & Gibson’s “Banner” Guitars of WWII,” has a companion CD which features Lauren Sheehan playing a different “Banner” guitar on every track. The CD, titled “The Light Still Burns,” is a chance to hear what the guitars sound like. Due to war regulations, the materials used for these guitars were different than previous versions. For example, only 10% of the guitar could have metal and therefore a metal piece that usually went down the middle was changed to a wood version. Here is a link to a video of Lauren performing a cut from the CD titled “So Sweet.”

I do not find this fascinating because I play an instrument or have been into guitars. What I do find interesting is the other point that John mentions in his presentation: no one wants to acknowledge the Kalamazoo Gals and what they did. Even some who he met commented that it was “just a crummy job.” These were women who had already lived through the Great Depression, and were happy to just  get by and survive, based on what they told him. The official history, John found, stated that no guitars were being made during wartime because the company was participating in the war time efforts instead. The Kalamazoo Gals, advertisements, and other evidence John has discovered during his journey have pointed otherwise.

Stacy with the Gibson "Banner" guitarThe presentation ended with John urging the audience not to leave until they had held and played the guitar. It was a chance to experience what these unacknowledged women had created. Someday, I hope to be able to play one. For today, I did have a chance to hold the Gibson “Banner” guitar and wonder why “Nothing is as good as a Gibson.”

Thanks for reading (and commenting/liking)!

Stacy

Moving for the New Year

It’s the beginning of a new year, which is usually filled with resolutions and updated goals or intentions. In my case, I normally tend to carry on with anything I am already working towards. The start of 2015 is a little bit different only because I moved, again. I’ve moved just enough to offer what I believe are some important items to consider.

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First item to note is that I moved from a full size house to a studio apartment within a house. When you have a full house, you tend to have things like wastebaskets and boxes of tissues in many areas.

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If the apartment seems a bit saturated, it definitely is. In fact, some of the waste baskets have become temporary storage units. What is your waste basket to room ratio?

Besides the over saturation, I have some other points to mention:

  • It is a great idea to continuously downsize. I started working on that in November, before I knew I was going to move in December. It did help, and I haven’t stopped.
  • I was lucky enough to miss any snow (or rain) moving in Michigan in December. You may see just how lucky when you read the next point.
  • Unless you are hiring movers, a December move means limited help. Friends who are usually willing to are extra busy with the holiday season, if they are even around. I literally had to work on it day by day, based on what I needed when and who had a schedule to match.
  • If you can get help packing, take it! One day, packing seemed large and endless. Having even one friend helping was a big relief.
  • Short moves are not as easy as you may think. I once had a move to the house next door. When there was a big group and we could do it like an assembly line, that worked. Items still need to be contained in something to carry across the yard.
  • When neighbors have friends who will help, make sure to clearly set any expectations. Is it volunteering? Are you buying a meal? Is there some other exchange? This is especially important if you have not met the friends. It can make a tough day that much more stressful.
  • My preference is having one long day to get everything moved. The one advantage to the day at a time, especially with a small space, is that I could reshuffle things each day. I have managed to keep a basic living area clear.

Overall, I am super appreciative of the friends who have helped and cannot state it enough. When the temperature stayed at thirty degrees or above, I was able to ride my bike and carry what I wanted in a backpack.

Other surplus items:

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  • power strips
  • lamps

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  • wall art

I had to be extra choosy about which items to keep and which to get rid of or change. The wall art, especially, I decided I am going to upgrade. Most of the items mentioned in this post I still had in the next house. When I finish, I will update what the walls and shelves look like for my current space.

What are your tips or extra items?

Thanks for reading!

Stacy

Friends of Local Songwriters

Stacy and Sandy

 

When Sandy and I first decided to check out Chili Pepper Songwrite Nite two years ago, I never imagined that I would make it every single time. As I described in Storytelling in a Song, I was totally hooked. Since that time, I support however I am able to, whether it is sharing a status, going to someone’s show, or recording video to help with a portfolio because I am able to and I like doing it. It has been my pleasure because I love listening to the music from the group and hearing their stories. There’s more than that, though, because I have made friends.

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The Chili Pepper show tonight was additional to the normal third Sunday of the month since a “Father” of the group, Marc-Alan Barnette (MAB), came to visit this weekend from Nashville.

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Besides providing an educational as well as entertaining show, there were presentations included. One was to Rene, also known as “Uncle Bingo.” Rene connected the seven in the Chili Peppers together, and is constantly doing that with and for musicians and songwriters. Tonight, he was personally thanked by the group with an award that was presented by Dani.

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It didn’t stop there, though. Clayton, who was the emcee for most of the night, handed the microphone over to Charlie. This time the award was for someone who was not just a fan, but an actual “friend.” Reread what I wrote at the beginning and it basically is what Charlie was stating…about me. How cool is that?

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I don’t do anything because I expect something back. In fact, much of what MAB discussed was that songwriters write to touch lives and the money is a bonus. Expecting more probably means that you are in the wrong business. I support local music and musicians, and this is an awesome group. I totally appreciate and am humbled to receive the award and thank all the Chili Peppers for it. The only thing I am sorry about is that I cannot connect with them more regularly than once a month. Anytime I can, I definitely do.

Nate and James

If you want to know more, please visit (and “like”) their Facebook page and also M89 Sports Bar & Grill.

Thanks for reading! (and liking/commenting)

Stacy

Lessons in Baking Muffins

 

Recipe for gluten -free blueberry muffins

I haven’t baked in a really long time. In fact, when I decided that I wanted to try a recipe for gluten-free blueberry muffins that came with a product I bought, it wasn’t something I could do right away. First, I didn’t have many of the ingredients. Once I was able to find the missing pieces (which included going to a natural health food store), I thought I was ready. For some reason, though, I could not find any muffin pans. I’m pretty sure I had them. If they did exist, then they must have been lost during one of my moves, which could go back a few years. Finally, I had all of the ingredients AND a new muffin pan. Whew! Like I said, though, I haven’t baked in awhile.

Ingredients and mixing bowls

The last couple of days have been cooler summer weather, and I decided to take advantage of that. My only plan for the Fourth is to relax and do things around the house, whether or not I go anywhere later. Baking muffins seemed like a good place to start.

Empty baking cups

I discovered more missing items – such as measuring spoons. At least I found my measuring cups! As you might imagine, though, I put too much or too little of some of the ingredients. Also, whether it was the measuring or the mixing or both, I could definitely taste some of the parts that would normally blend in better. Overall, though, if I hadn’t tried, I wouldn’t have known. This is being considered a practice batch, and the next attempt will be that much better after what I have learned!

Picture of the muffins

Experimentation can be fun, as long as there is a chance to learn and not an expectation of perfection. Many times, the tolerance for having a learning curve is low. In those cases, I tend to not want to try in the first place, or feel super frustrated when it doesn’t turn out right. On the other hand, when I can just have fun and note the things to change for next time, there really will be one!

What do you think?

Thanks for reading! (and commenting/liking)

Stacy

Why I LOVE the Library

Shari and Stacy

Ever since I can remember, I’ve not only loved to read, but I’ve also been a fan of the library. Since I grew up in a suburb of Detroit, I could have multiple library cards for the various cities. It was special to go to the libraries, especially what seemed like the “bigger” ones in the area. A close friend of mine actually is a librarian at one of those. Unfortunately, she is disheartened because of the financial issues the city, and therefore the library, is facing. In Kalamazoo, however, it appears to be a different story.

Library Cards

I have continued the regular use of the public libraries as an adult, and I have a card at Kalamazoo and a (reciprocal) one in Portage. I used to have several others until I stopped visiting the libraries and the cards expired. Even when I lived out in Gobles, I had a card through the Van Buren District Library, which covered the local city one.

Book Stack

As the facilitator of a book club, I find it important to make sure that book choices are available at one, if not both, of the mentioned libraries in the area. I also look for books on audio, which is a preference or necessity by some of the members. In this case, I am visiting at least once a month for a new book club book. Usually I am reading multiple books in a month, and visit more often than that.

Stacy and Laurie

Several years ago I learned how to utilize the library’s local resource room. It is fascinating what one can dig up, whether for genealogy research, or local history. The seating is a nice and wide area, allowing space to work. Sometimes I sit there with a different project, just because.

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A music service I discovered that has been useful is FreeGal. I can download up to three song selections each week. Although they don’t have every artist available, the songs that I do find are MINE TO KEEP! I have added many that I don’t necessarily want to buy or that I did buy as a CD and adding a download was an easy way to include it on my music player (which is my phone). I can use it through Kalamazoo only, so having a reciprocal card in Portage does not matter. It has to be your home city’s library.

Hacker Gals

Since I am working on what I hope to have as a non-profit business, a free library program called ONEplace is available. They offer classes and other resources specific to non-profits. The few classes I have attended have been a great experience, both for learning information and meeting new people. It is challenging enough to start any type of business, and a non-profit has additional work that for profit businesses do not. It is nice to know there is support to learn how to best handle the situations.

Home Movie Scene

The beginning of the month was the introduction of a brand new area to the library that I am super excited about! It is called “The Hub.” They have computer stations set up with equipment to be able to copy items to a digital format, and another set of computers to create productions. Today I fully used the allotted two hours to copy old movies and one project from VHS to digital. Most of the movies were originally Super 8mm converted to the VHS. You can also copy pictures, negatives, slides, audio cassettes and vinyl LPs. Did I mention I was super excited? Right now they are only open a couple of days a week, and users are allowed two hours a day. I missed out on my other two hours earlier this week and have started planning for next week’s. I literally could have stayed there all day and would have been quite happy about it. I cannot wait to try the production part!

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Overall, a library has consistently offered me something of value my whole life. I am glad the ones where I live continue to have new ideas. Even for the basics of reading books, I can own less stuff yet receive the same value. If I decide I need the book on my shelf, it is still not as expensive as buying everything. Besides books and what was mentioned here, I can also check out music and movies and even e-books. Really, what’s NOT to love?

Thanks for reading (and commenting/liking!)

Stacy

Family Pet

 Whisker Kitty

As cliché as it may sound, I am heartbroken over the loss of my kitty. In fact, although I always referred to him with “kitty” in his name, it was more equivalent to being the youngest or only child and being called the “baby,” regardless of the age. Whisker Kitty was just shy of being 14 years old when I had him put to sleep a week ago.

Whisker Kitty

Based on the number of responses I had on posts about Whisker Kitty, I know many people relate. What is it that makes the loss so sad? Whisker Kitty was originally adopted while I was married. We had moved to the country and had mice problems. Getting a cat is what my (ex) husband suggested. I had never had a cat, or any pet, previous to that, since I don’t count fish. Whisker was about 5 months old when we adopted him from the 28th Street Animal Clinic in Grand Rapids. On the day we took him home we had to stop for supplies– food, a carrier, toys – so he sat in my lap on top of my winter jacket (it was December). Between being sick and scared, he defecated while laying in my lap. If that wasn’t bonding, I don’t know what is. Although I didn’t know much about cats, I learned along the way and we became best buddies. My “little buddy” continued with me on the adventure back to Kalamazoo from Gobles and even managed to “know” more humans he would hang out with when they visited.

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It was not an easy road for either of us and it was nice knowing he would be around to greet me or guard or try to herd me towards wherever he wanted me to go. Although he actually had been sick for a while, it wasn’t painful and he didn’t exhibit any signs of being ill until I had to take him to the vet a couple of weeks ago.

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The way I am handling this loss is to write and create an album. You are reading the writing I am sharing with the public. For the album, I can share the process and some of the pictures and background. Obviously, for a cat, there is only so much he did, and it would be true of all cats – eat, sleep, and play. He had favorite (indoor) spots, though, and favorite toys. Plus, we lived in four locations in Kalamazoo, with pictures in each. I am making a new digitally based album which includes scanning pages from his first “kitty” book and then adding more recent photos and stories.

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My favorite pictures of all are the ones I managed to get of Whisker WITH me. It was not easy to do and every once in a while I would get a great one, including the one below taken on my last birthday. I’m hoping that like anything else, I’ll be able to look at these and smile instead of cry. How long does it take to mourn a pet? My house feels empty right now. I am guessing it takes as long as it is going to take, and eventually I will decide if another cat will fill the emptiness.

 Stacy & WK

What is your story?

 

Thanks for reading! (and commenting/liking)

Stacy

Why the Bus Reminds Me of the Bar

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Maybe it seems a weird comparison – the bus and the bar. However, after making a new “friend” on a recent bus trip while totally minding my own business, that’s exactly what I thought about, since it would happen at the bar, too. I’ve been using the bus for most of my transportation during the last six or seven weeks, and here are some other reasons why I believe there is a similarity:

wpid-20140405_224843.jpgMost people take the same bus at the same time and either know others on the bus because of that, or they know people from the community. In these cases, it is a big network of friends, including the driver. At least half of the bus is in on the conversation, such as when I explained what the Color Run was on the way to it.

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When it comes to the bar, people tend to go to the same ones on the same days and general times week after week. By doing this, they become familar and make friends with others who also follow the pattern. It is weird, then, when “Norm” isn’t sitting on his favorite stool.

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One time I was riding the bus and I watched as a guy got on for free, claiming that all he had in his pocket was a $20 bill. The bus drivers do not give any change and he was allowed on anyways, for free. This guy happened to sit directly in front of me, and when he turned around I could smell the alcohol. If you can imagine Joey’s line from “Friends” coming from a middle aged drunk guy, “How YOU doing,” and not think of a bar, then you might as well stop reading here. Luckily, something else caught his attention because he turned towards the front to speak to someone else, relieving me of having to say much.

Line Dance Ladies

And last, if not least, are the potential fights. The one I saw developing was between two females. Not what I really wanted to witness, although it was sadly funny. The instigator clearly wanted to get a reaction out of somebody. She was sitting in a seat near all the paper schedules and would grab some and throw them to the ground, and kept doing that long enough for another passenger to start yelling at her. As soon as there was yelling, the bus driver was involved, defending the person being yelled at, as in, the same one throwing papers to the ground. That didn’t sit right and basically continued the argument, eventually leading to the litterer getting off at the next stop, the yeller picking up the mess and getting off the bus shortly after.  She was upset because another passenger was being loud. When she complained to the bus driver, the response was that “talking is allowed on the bus.”

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I guess that makes the drivers the bartenders. They are still my heroes for their daily endurance, amusing or otherwise. I am thankful that the bus is an option. So much for getting away from the bar scene, though.

What do you think?

Thanks for reading! (and commenting/liking)

Stacy

 

 

 

Where the Sidewalk Ends

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Although titled the same, this post does not have anything to do with the popular book written by Shel Silverstein. Instead, it is about the actual sidewalks of the area. Or, rather, where they are supposed to be.

If you live in the Midwest part of the United States then you already are aware of how much snow there was to deal with during this winter. The fact that there were two snow days (in a row) at the university that is usually the last to close states quite a bit. What I want to know, though, is there really an excuse to not clear the sidewalks?

The picture above was taken in the past couple of days. It hasn’t snowed that much in March, so it would have been a great chance to finish clearing any sidewalks that any place in the area was behind for shoveling. Yet, I walked through more snowy paths than I can even say. Some, I couldn’t even tell where the sidewalk was supposed to be and had to walk in the street. I’ve been noticing many pedestrians using the streets, too, because the sidewalk doesn’t exist! Drivers in the area complained when the roads were hard to get through. Great! Once those were done, why weren’t the sidewalks finished, too? Who is responsible? I can’t quite figure that out. I know it can be tough, too. I lived on a corner lot with a long driveway for three winters. The pedestrians and the postal carriers deserve to have a path to walk! It may have been tough to do, and I was glad when neighbors helped. Bottom line was that I did it.

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And then there are the bus stops. Do you see the mountain to stand on around the sign? Considering that many who use the bus system may be using a cane, using a walker, in a wheel chair, blind, or bringing young children, why is a site like this the norm more than the exception? This picture was also taken in the last couple of days when the temperature was up into the 40’s. It might look like a sidewalk exists. Actually, it was a muddy lake. I had no choice about wearing boots because even though the streets were clear, the rest was a sloppy mess.

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What are other areas like? What can we do to bring attention to the public and fix this before someone dies from using the street as a pedestrian and gets hit by a car? What are your thoughts and experiences?

Thanks for reading! (and commenting/liking)

Stacy

Sunshine Personality

Neighborhood Cat

When it comes to cats, although they each portray their own personality, they also do many things the same. The cat in the picture belongs to the neighborhood, as far as I can tell. While it bathed in the sun under my porch, MY cat had the same idea somewhere in the house.

Me

The question is, what makes that personality, whether a cat or a human, shine through? At least as humans it seems we are bound and determined to “do things right.” Sometimes that means listening to lots of advice. That advice can be contradictory, too. So, where do you draw the line? How do you choose what fits your own personality so that is true to you and shines through?

Whisker Kitty

Cats, especially when left alone, do exactly what they want to do, when and how they want to do it. At least, I know mine does. He totally has his own personality.

Stacy & WK

The reason I’m even contemplating all of this has to do with speaking about Hacker Gals. It is something that was created based on my own insights, experiences, and passion for a problem I want to help solve as much as I can, at least locally. Advice on how to “pitch” has taken me in circles and I am hoping to break that trend. At first, it was a challenge to explain. Now, I know exactly what I want to say, and I sound rehearsed. It is not because I am presenting to a group that I get nervous, as many have questioned. My time in Toastmasters fixed that issue several years ago. I believe the nervousness is inward, and may be related to the fact that I want to do it the right way, with “it” being the business of creating and spreading the word about Hacker Gals. The best piece of advice has been to relax and let my personality show through, yet the “how” still escapes me. Maybe I’ll curl up in the sun on a bean bag chair and present from there.

Have you found yourself in this type of dilemma? What are your thoughts?

Thanks for reading! (and commenting/liking)

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