Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Bionic Hubby

It’s been a tough couple of weeks. The Big Guy (hubby) just underwent a total knee replacement. It’s a popular surgery among aging baby boomers. Certainly it isn’t because it is “easy” - far from it. It has become very common and, in most cities, there are numerous surgeons and hospitals that do these procedures. To them it is “run of the mill” stuff. Believe me, to the individual, it is earth shattering, traumatic, painful and extremely difficult and frustrating, just to give it a few adjectives. From the spouse’s viewpoint, I can tell you, it is exhausting, frustrating and stressful.

Few things stress a relationship like being closed up together in a house for multiple weeks! Stress began with talk of the impending procedure as it was being scheduled. (We sort of knew it was coming for at least a year or two.) The Big Guy is one of those people who is a laid back Type B personality. He doesn’t worry or stress over things until there is something to worry about, even then, he tries not to think about it much. Therefore, he asks very few questions. I’m not usually a Type A worry wart but I do like to know what to expect and what the possible problems can be. I like to plan for contingencies, etc. I began getting frustrated when he didn’t have answers for my questions since he had never asked the doctor about these things. His theory was, “they’ll tell me what I need to know when it happens.”

I went online and researched the subject. I may have learned more than I wanted to know. I spent an hour and a half on the phone with the telephone admissions interview. (The Big Guy wasn’t home and had told them to simply speak with me.) The nurse described every step for the 3 ½ days of hospitalization. I began to worry full force. I don’t think the procedure itself was scary for me (it wasn’t MY knee). I think I was more worried about being able to handle him when they discharged him three days later and I was his sole source of care.

With the help of morphine, he was fairly comfortable for his hospital stay. We had the normal complaints most have as in-patients. They woke him up every 40 minutes or so to see how he was doing, the food was pitiful, the staff took their time answering the call buttons, etc.

There was one unusual twist - the thermostat in his room was broken and they tried to freeze him to death that first night when the room temp hovered around 55 and his body temp was hanging out in the low 100s. After 5 or 6 hours, maintenance finally appeared and, when they couldn’t regulate the air conditioning level, resolved the matter by simply turning on the heat. (This is August in Maryland!!!) By mid-morning that second day, the room had reached the 90 degree range and the nurses were avoiding the room due to the extreme heat. It was hard to tell if The Big Guy was running a fever or not. Once again, maintenance appeared and actually replaced the thermostat allowing us to finally create a comfortable environment.

There were a few tough times when it came to getting him up and moving. The Big Guy is, well, BIG. Thus, the name. Picture a football player, way past his prime and beyond paunchy. He was weak (what with the impromptu cryogenics treatments those first two days and pitiful excuses for nutrition). He was feverish. (Yes, we did finally establish that he did run an elevated fever.) Most of all, he hurt - big time!! The average nurse there ran about 5’ tall and slim - not much of a match for holding him up. They hesitated to take responsibility for moving him. His physical therapists were great but were only with him for very short periods of time each day. They did teach him to walk with a walker and let him practice going up a few steps. (He did two steps, twice, before they kicked him out.)

I was beginning to panic about bringing him home. We have several large square concrete steps in front of the house and then a flight of nine steps to get up into the living area of our split foyer home. Since he was scheduled to come home midday, there would not be much help available. I had to be the one to hold him up and I was beginning to doubt my ability to do that! As it was, he had no problem on the steps, using the walker for the outdoor steps and the rails for the indoor set. As they say, just coming home is excellent medicine for any ailment. He began feeling better immediately.

The correct wording is not my spouse had a knee replacement. It should be we had a knee replacement. It takes the whole household to get through this procedure. The Big Guy is quite patient and not very demanding but there were frequent needs that had to be met. He needed constant assistance with just about every activity. He was unable to get himself in and out of a chair or to prop his own leg up. He needed frequent ice packs, lots of fluids, medications, etc. He spent the first few days in his Lazyboy as the bed is just not comfortable at that point. (The doctors actually suggest the recliner.) I was afraid I would not hear him if I was sleeping in the bedroom so I slept in the other chair next to him for three nights. By the fourth night, I needed to lie down and sleep in my bed. I needed to snuggle into my pillows, pull up my quilt and relax. I needed more than two hours of sleep at a time. I was exhausted.

We finally came up with a plan. I’d leave the cell phone next to his chair. If he called out for me and I didn’t hear him, he’d phone the bedroom. I knew the phone next to the bed would wake me. We had a peaceful night. I slept soundly for 4 ½ hours. I was a new woman come morning!!

And on the fifth night, he slept in the bed - at least for a few hours. We’re getting there but it’s a slow road back!

Oh - Give me a home on the worldwide web…

***This is another of a number of postings I plan to write about getting my online shop up and running. I plan to mix them in among my other mundane musings from time to time. It has been a learning experience all the way. But isn’t that what life should be?


Okay! I’d made up my mind to sell online. Everybody says it’s easy. I was ready and raring to go. I sat down at my computer, fired up Google and set about going into business.
I had to determine just where to build my internet home. Most signs pointed to eBay. I had never even looked at the site before.

Even those who don’t own a computer know about eBay, the world’s best known online shopping site. I know a lot of folks who buy and sell there regularly but I’d never gotten into it at all. My niece has been conducting business there for several years and had done fairly well. My biggest concern was the payment system. She insisted Paypal was the way to go and easy to set up. She doesn’t accept any other payment methods herself but some folks take personal checks and/or money orders. Her most basic advice was to study eBay a bit to be sure there was a market for my products and the price range was there.

Well, I sat down late one evening to just take a gander at what eBay had to sell in my product area - custom designed hand-painted infant/children’s clothing. WOW!!! Talk about a lot to look at ! I spent about 3 hours just skimming the listings there. I was stunned at the prices people were both asking and bidding for the merchandise - especially for those that were second-hand items, even if they were one-of-a-kind custom designs. (It did take me a few minutes to recognize what OOAK stood for.) I was so surprised and shocked that I went back again and again for hours each evening for at least a week. (I can see how some people become addicted.)

I carefully researched how to sell there, how to sign up with Paypal, shipping details, etc. I slept on it - for a whole weekend. I wasn’t really comfortable on the site. It was just so huge and I was afraid my things would get lost in the crowd. I felt like a guppy trying to swim UP Niagra Falls! I wasn’t sure I wanted to go the auction route and I didn’t particularly think their shop set-ups were what I was really looking for. I had also come across many former ebayers that had left the site due to constantly increasing expenses involved in listing there. I’m sure it’s the right place to be if you are involved in reselling merchandise or marketing commercially made items but I’m not sure it was the place for my custom designed, lovingly produced items.

I began looking at other marketing sites. There are literally hundreds of shopping sites and who knows how many that are specific to hand-crafted merchandise. Again, I set about checking out each one I came across. First, I’d just drop in and look the site over and check out the merchandise available there. Then, I looked into seller details and costs for each and, ultimately, set-up details for each. I spent weeks doing this. I finally narrowed the choices to a few craft-oriented marketing sites or simply starting my own personal website. I was a baby-step closer to getting online.

We went on vacation and I was forced to shelve my efforts for a few weeks. I did use that time to bounce the idea off my hubby and a close friend or two. All thought it was a good idea, unfortunately, none of them knew anymore about actually doing it than I did. (I’ve got to start hanging out with a more tech oriented crowd.) My husband was having trouble with the concept that it was taking me this long to get there and suggested I just “Jump in and do it, already.”

While I loved the idea of my own personal website - my business, I realized that there was no promotional or tech help there. I would be dependent only on my own promotion and key words. There might be safety in numbers (of crafters involved.) My own website would also involve designing my site from scratch and setting up a shopping cart system. I wasn’t sure I was ready for all that.

The various merchandising sites had different approaches to those issues. Some still required you do your site and simply link it to theirs. Others did your site for you (at a cost). Some had central check-out systems. All were priced accordingly. I was trying to start this business on a shoestring and I wanted to buy that shoestring at my local discount store. In the end, I made my decision based on cost. I joined and created

Please stop by and see my “shop.”

Thursday, September 4, 2008

“Who IS this old man sleeping next to me?”

Everyone talks about the things that make them feel old but I think the biggie in my life lately has been the fact that I’m now married to what appears to be an “OLD” man. How did this happen? I mean, I know a few years have slipped by and, after all, he was a bit gray when we first met. (He found his first gray hair by age 21! His dad was white-haired by age 40.)

There have been little age-isms sneaking up on us all along the way. There were the obvious signs - reading glasses, which he insists get worn low on the nose and angled, an array of “daily“ pill bottles on the counter for blood pressure, sugar issues, cholesterol and arthritis! Then there were the little petty things that a wife notices (and friends are too kind to mention - at least in front of you.) Things like insisting on using exact change in the grocery store if he has it. I never thought I’d be with the old guy holding up the line to count out 21 pennies! Or, for that matter, the one handing off the stack of coupons and then questioning whatever one might kick out. Of course, he very carefully reviews his receipt as he gets it to be sure they didn’t overcharge for the produce or such. Yes, I’m with the dude swimming in the ocean in a white T-shirt and baseball cap because “he burns easy.” (This began only a few years after we began dating!) In more recent years, he’s also worn those little nylon swim shoes into the water to protect his touchy tootsies. Then there’s the specially shaped neck pillow in bed and the afghan draped over his lap in the evening. Oh yeah, and the evening “naps” in the Lazyboy!

Don’t even get me started on the bed habits. I didn’t know it was possible to snore in all those positions! I try to sleep through the clearing the throat routine in the morning. We saw Bill Cosby do his live routine about this back when we were young. We thought it was hilarious then. I should have realized he was just further along the timeline than we were.

There is an upside to your hubby getting older. They generally need to make more restroom stops frequently. Cross country trips are much calmer when you’re not always the one saying you need to make a pit stop. Few have been my idea for several years now. I just enjoy them as they occur.

Well, sometime in this past year I’ve had disturbing thoughts about him getting really old. There have been numerous times at restaurants, malls, festivals etc. when I realized the elderly man walking toward me with the old man shuffle was MY man! I’ve worried when he came in from shoveling snow or working in the yard, huffing and puffing and a bit flushed from the exertion. There have been times when he made the strangest noises while sleeping that I actually watched to be sure he kept breathing. (I don’t confide those moments to him, of course.) There was the time it dawned on me that he was now several years older than my dad was when he passed on.

The real wake-up call was when he scheduled a Total Knee Replacement. And, provided this one goes well, he plans to do the other one in the foreseeable future, too!

The doctor finally stopped telling him he was too young for the procedure. I guess he really is OLD !!!

(***The bad news is, he didn’t rob the cradle. I’m only a few years younger. What does that say about ME?)


***Another posting in the series about starting my online business.

The first thing involved in setting up a website is coming up with a name. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? For some, it may be. For me, it was quite frustrating.

It helps if the name you’ve been using all along has the right internet ring to it. Mine didn’t. Bear in mind my products are designed for “babies” and are “cute”, “soft”, “cuddly” and made with “loving hands“. The business name I had been using in the real world reflected that. It was cute on a tag attached to a cute little outfit featuring cartoon-like ducks. For the record, none of these words work well when used in various search engines. Images of children’s clothing does not tend to be the first thing coming up on the list. Use your imagination! It wasn’t quite what I was after.

Your site name should be catchy, fairly simple and, when Googled, should not produce a thousand other businesses flaunting the same title. So, I needed to come up with a new name. I tried using my first name in the name of my business. My name is Sue (“How do you do?”) Every town in the USA (and beyond) must have some gentleman’s club, bar, masseuse, or some other adult-oriented business run by someone named “Sue, Suzy, or Suzanne”!! Who’d-a-thought!

I moved on to attempt to work with a handle or two I’ve come to be known by elsewhere on the net. Some of you have known me by “Sassy.” Not a good choice for a child’s product!!! Some of you have associated me with a beagle-oriented handle. (NO! I don’t look like one!) For the record - those that recognize that handle might find it interesting to know it was a combination of a favorite pet and my former profession.

When hearing the tales of searching these various words, a friend suggested working with the word “doodle” as my work consists of children’s items decorated with my own artwork and children tend to doodle. I played with it a bit and tried some combinations coming up with one that I thought was wonderful using the ”Sn” from Snoopy, one of the world’s most famous beagles and “doodle” to form “Snoodles.” My creative juices flowed quickly. I’d already thought through my icon, etc., when I ran it through Google. Somebody else was already using the name and the product was child-oriented (coloring books) and used images quite similar to my own artwork. Definitely not available for my use. Back to the drawing board!!!

Okay, what else is associated with me? I have an extensive collection of reindeer items - figurines, toys, decorations, etc., and I do make quite a few reindeer related items at Christmas. Not a good base for my company name as it might limit sales to the holidays.

Moving on… this phase of my business launched when I started painting tropical fish on items for some babies and toddlers in the family. My signature item is a whimsical fish. (The Big Guy is very tropical fish oriented and our home is decorated “in early tropical fish.”) Some of the first clothing I painted, going back a number of years, featured fish on adult clothing. Those were more realistic images and reflected some of our favorite species with magnificent flowing fins. After playing with the fish theme for a little while, I finally came up with Splashin.’ It had the right cartoony, whimsical sound I was looking for and was easy to remember and use. It wasn’t in use and wasn’t suggestively inappropriate. It doesn’t limit my product options. I took it and ran. was born!!! Please come by and see my shop.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


The Big Guy has always been way into financial planning. His idea of a good, stimulating evening is to finish up dinner with discussing the health of our financial condition with me. (I sometimes feign attention.) Thanks to his constant attention to that matter, and living what I often refer to as “frugally” in a number of areas, we’re entering our second half of life in okay shape financially. Retirement should not bring visions of poverty to us. As I inferred above, I don’t always give it my undivided attention.

I guess I started to have an inkling of how close retirement really was when our closest friends began retiring, one by one. Our “gang” consists mostly of couples whose men have worked together for over 30 years. In an unusual twist of fate, we found the female portions of these couples also got along really well and have socialized together for many years now. I have other close friends, including one who has been my “bestest” friend since we were twelve, but the ladies in our gang are the ones I confide in, kvetch about The Big Guy with, and share recipes, photos and jokes. They are as close, if not closer, than my actual family. These buddies of mine are now moving away as the hubbys turn in their ID cards and hard hats and wave good bye to the company life they’ve lived for several decades.

When folks in Maryland retire, most consider moving away as the cost of living and the tax rate is just not retirement friendly. Just crossing the state line to the North, to either Pennsylvania or Delaware can do wonders for your retirement dollar. Climate here is not usually the primary reason for moving on after retirement. Maryland weather is not all that bad in comparison with so much of the country. There’s plenty to do here and it is centrally located. It’s a good life, if you can afford it.

The first of those friends retired about seven years ago. The most recent, and perhaps our closest friend in the gang, left just about a year ago. That’s when The Big Guy started seriously discussing his time table. He started out planning to retire this September. He quickly adapted that plan to be “the end of the year.” We started making some half-hearted travel plans in our heads. Suddenly, in late March or early April, he came home saying he was considering this past May. That struck panic in me.

I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t picture us as the retired couple together 24/7. The fact that I stopped working two years ago didn’t play into my vision. We jokingly refer to it as retirement but I’m not old enough to collect a pension or Social Security. We had our reasons for my leaving the working world but I’m just not ready to share my home time with him that closely. I enjoy that time alone. I will admit to trying to discourage it. It was selfish and there really wasn’t a good excuse for me behaving that way.

I think that momentary plan was triggered by his company being sold for a fourth time in five years. There is always uncertainty in such transitions and the long-time employees feared tinkering with their pensions and retirement health plans. There was a grace period where they would be able to go out under the old owner, a known entity to them.

My prayers were answered. The new owner agreed in negotiations to stick with the same plan and the current employees relaxed a bit. We slid back into the late Fall/end of the year range again. Now, he’s even talking about staying until the end of next year. That gives me a long time to prepare mentally.

I have a new mantra : “Prepare for retirement.” I’m not talking about financial plans. I’m talking about sharing MY space. I also have a new goal in life - try to help The Big Guy find some sort of hobby outside of the home. He’s really not the golf type. Any suggestions?

Monday, September 1, 2008

A Young Crafter Starts Selling

Hopefully, an old dog can learn new tricks. I’m trying a lot of new things this year. The blog is just the latest of the new activities. I’ve also joined forums and started a website to sell my creations. Supposedly, a blog is just a natural progression from those endeavors.

I’ve always been creative and crafty. I think it is hereditary in our family. For as long as I can remember I’ve made things from all sorts of craft supplies. As early as junior high school, I was making and selling something most of the time.

I think my first “commercial” product was tissue paper roses. I believe I was in the 7th or 8th grade when I started making tissue paper roses. I attached them to stem wire with florist’s tape and added silk rose leaves. I produced them in bunches of either a half dozen or dozen, added baby’s breath and wrapped them in green tissue paper tied with a silk ribbon. I sold them to friends, teachers, my parents’ friends and any acquaintances I came upon. I took orders for specific colors or color combinations. I don’t recall how much I sold them for but I recall I was making a fairly good profit. I remember needing a ride to school fairly frequently as I had too many bunches to carry with my books and such. It was a one-product line and eventually I saturated my local market but it was a good run while it lasted.

I soon moved on to other products. A friend of my parents owned a small gift shop in our local shopping district and I convinced her to sell my merchandise for a very low mark-up. I remember one of my big items at her shop was small crocheted boots in Christmas colors which I stuffed with peppermint candies and a candy cane. They sold for a buck or less back then. I could get 12 or so from a hank of yarn and could make 12-18 in an evening after homework was done. I found other outlets for them, too. The shop where my mom got her hair done carried them for me and Mom sold them to her fellow teachers and some of the ladies at church. Because they were reasonably priced and made great “token gifts,“ they sold well. They were a big product for me and I sold them at the holidays for a number of years.

I moved on to supplying items for consignment shops, doing craft shows and eventually, after graduation and some college, owning my own shop specializing in hand-crafted merchandise in a tourist town. Eventually, I needed a steady, dependable income with things like regular hours and benefits. I moved into the real working world but I never stopped crafting. For many years I supplemented my regular income with craft sales and learned it was a good source of extra cash.

Over the years, the nature of craft shows evolved and changed. Consignment shops have, for the most part, disappeared and the few that still exist have extraordinary markups. “Crafting” has become a recognized profession and is, in general, much more structured. The biggest change to the craft world, however, has been the internet. Ultimately, the internet has effected all aspects of our lives but in the world of crafts, it’s impact has been enormous.

So… I felt the need to start a website!!! I did but it wasn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever done.

Recently, I told my peeps the saga of starting the site. (Okay, a better description might be my “ladies that lunch” - but we don’t wear red hats with purple pantsuits!) I had them laughing so hard, tears were streaking their make-up! I hope to entertain you in weeks to come with the adventures of getting this business off the ground. Unfortunately, you’re also going to have to sit through some of the rest of my life, too. I hope you’ll find some of it entertaining, some of it informative and some of it, well, maybe some of it will just be a plea for sympathy!! We all need some of that sometimes.

Please come back soon.

Blogging ...

I never thought it would catch on. I mean, in general, do we really care what total strangers have done all day ? Apparently, we do. I find I can get lost for hours reading blogs that I’ve accidentally stumbled across. Some are so interesting to me, that I either go back and read some of the archived items or mark it as a favorite so I can come back to it in a few days and see what happened. I guess it has the same appeal as T.V. soap operas have had for years - we are a curious population and people do want to know. That is “a lot” of people want to know, my hubby not included. He ranks it right up there with the top ten “Dumbest Things People Do.” I guess he’d get spastic if he realized I started one of my own! Either that, or he’d figure someone else is interested in what I have to say so it lets him off the hook for paying attention.

I’ve always kept journals and, for the last few years, I kept it on the computer instead of in book form. Unfortunately, when our hard drive fried last Fall and simply swallowed everything on it, I lost a year or so worth of thoughts and memories. But then I thought, is it like a tree falling in the woods with no one to hear? If you thought it, and wrote it, but no one ever read it, and then it disappeared, did those thoughts really happen?

Speaking of thoughts, why do we say we have “random” thoughts? Do most people plan their thoughts on a daily basis? Is there a prescribed method for thoughts or a correct or incorrect form? These questions can truly boggle a mind - especially one that’s really full of random thoughts!!

I think I need a nap.