Monday, March 19, 2018

A Snow Sale!!

Ok - well, it is going to snow AGAIN.  Our weather people are now calling it a Four'easter.   10" is the current forecast + the 8th day off school later this week.  We might as well celebrate it in a way.  How about a SNOW SALE?  

So from now until March 31st, I have put a number of newly introduced threads and some old ones on sale 20% off with the code "SNOW".

On sale are the tiny silk purls with the new blue, red, and purple family added to the mix!  Plus the new braids, silk covered wire, silk covered plates and the older lacets.  So if you need something for a project (or the Harmony Casket), put in an order in while I am waiting for the latest snow-tacular to hit my region

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Snowtastrophe and More

I am feeling like the month of March is a wash.  As soon as we clear the debris or so off the driveway and get the power on, we get news of another major wallop to come.  (Apparently there is ANOTHER one coming next week)  It hasn't been since the all-time record breaking storms of 2015 that resulted in the snow mountains downtown from our 9 feet of snow we have been in this sort of situation here.  We have lost 2 days of school each of the three weeks of March so far!

So the latest is 22" of snow that dumped yesterday and we are on day two of no school this week.  Since we are leaving tomorrow for the Robotics East Super Regional, a snow day is both a blessing and a curse.  The kids who were working on a critical project can't get here.  The kids who were left had the phantom controller problem crop up again after 24 hours of perfect operation.  Three con-calls with the technical support, electrical diagrams flying back and forth, and authorization to open up the device and start measuring resistances of the circuits to give back to the manufacturer.  And FedEx again.  Hundreds of dollars of equipment to replace the burnt stuff is arriving in an hour again.  The kids who did get here through the snow were banging their heads on the wall.   They started working at 6am and didn't finish for the night until 10:30pm.  But a possible breakthrough.  This morning at 6am, they ripped the robot down for the fifth time in a week and started rewiring it again.  We pulled in favors from other engineers we knew over the phone to help us with this problem by brainstorming.  It is yet another example of how this group of kids just doesn't give up.  I would fly on any device they invent.  If we were stranded on a desert island in a plane crash - they would invent a speed boat from the wreckage and we would get home.

Last year's World Quarterfinalist Captain
next to our Finalist Captain trying to figure out what is
wrong with our respective robots while the snow raged.
On top of it - our rival robot team and friends at the local High School haven't been able to get in to work on their robot - loosing four days in a short cycle between the state championship and the regional.  So a desperate call came on Monday - could they join us in our house if school was called??  Yup.  So yesterday I had TWO robot teams here.  Today will be the same.  It was funny seeing two of the top robots in the world working next to each other in our basement and going through lots of problems - and helping each other all day long try to come up with solutions.  As all these kids were seniors - it is kinda a swan song of sorts.

In fact, in a move that said so much, they brought their robot and stuff over the night before and left it here so they could walk to our house through the snow.  I was stunned.  The same group that told us never, ever, ever to leave our robot unmanned because they had seen people sabotage before.  That was trust.  When you know our long history together, which I might write about, you would be heart warmed on how we turned the relationship around after year 1.

A month like this is tough.  I sit in a chair upstairs above the staircase to the workroom and embroider while listening to the noise in the basement.  Haven't seen my workroom in a few weeks.  I have gotten good at hearing the patterns of the robot and knowing what is going on.  Giving them autonomy to solve problems and run things - but listening to their comments and knowing when to go down and deal with the emotions of frustration or rising disagreement.  Sometimes coming down as an engineer and debating the solutions to help them.  It is surprising how having to defend your idea shows the holes in it or another solution that should be considered.  So you aren't giving them an answer - but a useful sounding board based on your own years of experience.  This is especially true when they are under a time deadline with a season ending problem as it has been the last week.  Yesterday I insisted that we put together a time line with any mechanical/electrical change to the robot along with every burnout and solution found.  It was so helpful as your brain just doesn't see where the problem really started and focuses on how 'it can't be that' or must be related to the latest error code.  It brought clarity to the desperate frustration and they got down to business of measuring everything - nothing was ruled out in the end as not being the source of the problem.  And yes - something we didn't think was it - was it and we found that the hardware company hadn't recommended the wiring of a unit correctly.  We dug up the obscure wiring diagram - and we are off again to the races.

It's a marathon through the snow.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Snowmageddon comes back! No Embroidery Today - Just Mayhem!

The Snowpocalypse hit us again yesterday with the second serious Nor'easter in a week, with another on the way on Monday.  We had done well in the Bomb-Cyclone of last weekend and had no flooding.  But this one got us!

Last night we were all laughing a bit when all the schools closed for today and there wasn't any snow on the ground - the TV weather people all standing in town swearing that our town was at the rain-snow line and it was gonna get bad.  The kids had been sent home early from school, I did the traditional run-to-clear-the-store-shelves thing, and we were hunkered down.  And then it just drizzled.  We were so confident that we ate the fresh bread that was supposed to be the emergency peanut butter-sandwich meal.  Then it hit.  Yea.  It did overnight.  We woke up to almost nine inches of really heavy snow and trees everywhere snapped in half.

It was all looking good - we had missed out on the agony - we got plowed out and had a snow day with our huge robot push going on to get ready for our super regional on Thursday.  We had power.  Kids were pouring in.

And Mr. Mayhem visited...

At 9 am it went to hell.  The trucks were outside looking like they were taking care of a line down on our next door neighbors house (robot kid) and the power all of a sudden went off.  The power company made the choice of cutting the power to the grid of 200 houses instead of cutting the line to her house to make it dead (it was in the road).  Yes, 200 houses!

So I went off to another robot house with power to charge cell phones, computers, robot batteries and controls.  While I was there - I got a text from my husband telling me he had lacerated his face.


So he walked into the garage door that was opening really slowly (backup battery) while carefully looking at the ice he was walking on.  Sent me a pic of his face and it was a detour to meet him at the urgent care to glue up his nose while the robot kids were sitting in the dark waiting for me with their batteries.

So while they are operating on my husband's face - I get a call from our neighbor - the power company informed her that she had to get her own electrician, have them reconnect the downed line to her house, move the tree, then call the town inspector, and get them to inspect.  Then the inspector would enter the PIN number into the power company system and our neighborhood would be put in line with the rest of the 475,000 people needing restoration of power.  OMG.

That process starts tomorrow at 7am with the electrician (hopefully).  They tell us to expect days.  UGH.  So I abandoned the hubby with the doctor and started looking for a hotel with the lovely and bored urgent care receptionist.  She called out phone numbers and I found hotel after hotel without power or full.  Finally one that could take us tonight but full the rest of the weekend.  UGH.

Run home with Mr. Glue Face and the robot kids are ready to beat the robot with a hammer as they are so frustrated and in the dark.  The control system fried with some short.  Ok Fed-Ex, you are my friend and I call to order a new one.  I think Mr. Mayhem had gone into overdrive!  So they are told to load the robot and fix-it stuff in our truck to take it to the hotel.  We also take the load of clothes from the washer.  Seems one kid had loaded all his clothes into it before the outage.  They are wet and there is nothing to wear (of course).

At this point we realize with our neighbor that we are the only ones of the 200 homes that know what is up and we have retirees, handicapped neighbors, people with new babies, wheelchairs, etc just in our little corner so we go out and go door-to-door to spread the bad news that we will all be out for a few days - and they come out and start spreading the word too.  

Our street is a major pass through and some idiots start moving the cones to try to drive past them to go through.  So she and I got the bright idea of drawing the tree back into the street to block it.  The dead power line was down and it was getting dark and any SUV that did that would get caught in it and if they were lucky - it would snap and keep us from fixing it.  If they were unlucky, they would pull down the pole and kill themselves.  So it must have looked hilarious to the Comcast truck that pulled up - watching two middle-aged women drag a huge tree back into the street.  But he could see the issue, leaned out his window and said 'that was so smart - you just saved someone's life'.

So tomorrow we load up the robot field and stuff and truck off to another team kid's basement to work all weekend.  They have offered showers too.  Think we will sleep in the cold house - doesn't look too good on the hotel front.

They have called school again for tomorrow in town and will open our high school as a shelter.  The robot team hip-hip-horayed for that as our 3-D printer is dead - minutes before they were going to print the part needed for this weekend's work.  We will pull in a chit with the town team at the school and get it printed there!

But in the most twilight zone move, my youngest's school called at 8pm and REVERSED their earlier snow day call of 5pm.  Yea.  Never heard of that ever.  I am not getting up early (we are several towns away) and getting him to school where they had 20 inches of snow.  Just for the half day before Spring Break.  Yea.  No.  Not happening.

SOOOOO... if you don't get questions answered, orders out, etc. for a few days.  Ya know why.  It's the Robot-Zombie-Snowzilla event around here keeping me from it.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

What's on my Frame?

I have been working on the Harmony with Nature casket non-stop for several weeks and am getting really close to finishing the front of the piece.  Thought I would show a picture of what it is looking like.  The lion is not finished - as his mane is just the under layer and the details for the lion aren't added yet.  But I am especially excited about the two flowers on the sides.  One is almost finished (I need to tack the 3-D parts down) and the other just has the under layer stitched.  But I think the extreme dimensional nature of the big flowers will be so cool.  Getting excited to get it finished!

Front of the Harmony with Nature Casket underway

Tulip that is 4" tall

Monday, March 5, 2018

A Heart Warming Trend - Good Stores with a Cause

One of our robot kids - a soul who is way older than his age - has a sister with developmental disabilities due to epliepsy.  She is wonderful, sweet and also a beautiful girl.  The other day, I had helped them with laundry for the week (frozen pipes) and she brought me the loveliest flowers and we had a long chat about her job hunt which has been a perennial topic for a few years.

We have known her now since she was in her mid-teens and going through first a high-school special program and then a college-age program to prepare her for living independently and gaining job skills.  While there are programs out there to train, the transition to actually finding a meaningful job is horrible.  I hadn't known this until the last few years.

While some people, notably some autistic people, are satisfied with repetitive and detail focused jobs, others such as those with downs syndrome are 'people people'.  Downs adults are highly sensitized to others emotions and will reach out to you in ways that are so cathartic and caring.  People with epilepsy sometimes can't drive and many others with disabilities aren't able to travel like that either - so they need to find jobs which they can get dependable transportation, limiting the choices.  And jobs are often found in grocery stores where the tight margins, bad hours, and no training cause situations that produce verbal abuse by the other employees to the disabled person (and often worse, especially for disabled women who are vulnerable and working the midnight shift).  I have no end of stories of things that have happened to her in jobs she has managed to get - and just getting in the door is a long story of trial.

We have all been trying to get her into an elderly home situation where she could work in food services or something there - knowing that as soon as she is in the door, she will never leave as the residents will just love her (I have in the past watched her interaction with older people - she is a natural).  She loves playing games and is such a sweetie that they will all 'care for her' - she would be a natural in a wing with the memory impaired.  I was thrilled beyond belief when she finally, after years, got such an opportunity a few weeks ago and we are crossing our fingers that it is a home run.

So it is with this day-to-day experience of watching a child who just wants so bad to be independent and contribute to other people meaningfully that I am soooooooo excited this morning.  I had noted that a new store opened up in town a few weeks ago and planned to visit.  It is a comic book store - and a type that looks so organized, clean and bright inside - with plenty of space for game playing, snacks and a drink fridge.  The type of bright place that a mom says - yes, hang out there.  My brothers have been involved or owned stores like this in the past and didn't listen to my suggestions to make them spaces a mother would let her pre-teen hang out in.  I always thought that they might be missing their mark in making it more of a young male adult space.

Store owner Omar Masood and store manager Sally Hoops
Well - the Boston Globe did an article on the store this morning and I about jumped out of my chair!  The store was founded by parents for their Down's syndrome child off a new model for businesses.  He is obsessed with super hero and comics and thus is quite knowledgeable.  Very often people with some disabilities focus on something they love and develop deep knowledge - our friend Ron Suskind's autistic son is an expert on Disney (Really - download the movie about them today, Life Animated,  and watch it - you will think differently about autistic kids afterwards).  The store has a neurotypical-abled manager and some regular employees but the rest of the employees are disabled and many are interns from our local high school program learning job skills in a fun and people-centric environment.  Brilliant.  Good Morning America just did a bit on them.  I hope when people from around the nation visit Lexington to see our history - they also visit Omar.

A business that is focused on providing a safe job atmosphere, promoting positive interactions between the public and disabled people to break down barriers, and giving them a place where their expertise can be on display is a god-send.  For us mom's in town - a place where our kids can go for a snack and a card game night and knowing that the staff is caring and also has a heightened awareness for inclusivity overall is a community dream.   It is now going to be our next place for a robot kid gathering - likely today.  I can imagine now my kid heading to the center with his robot friends for a break and screaming over his shoulder 'going to Omar's' and smiling.

You may have heard about the coffee shop called Bitty and Beau's that was awarded the 2017 Hero award by CNN.  An amazing story and the store has rocketed to success.  They are starting to think about franchising around the USA as a way to provide employment for disabled people that is meaningful and joyous.  They were brilliant about it, hiring managers who had business experience but also social work or special education experience as well.  So they are both manager and teacher/helper as well.  When I read about it - I had called our robot mom with the daughter and said 'we need a Bitty and Beau's in town' and we are just the right place for it.

And now we have something just as good and kid focused - and I am thrilled!

We need more businesses like this in communities everywhere!


Sunday, March 4, 2018

The Book will be Published!

Just to make sure everyone knows - the Fashioning New England book made its goal!  A significant reason it did was the readers of this blog and the Mary Corbet's group.  The days we promoted it - it jumped significantly in supporters - so thank you!!

Now I will have to follow up with the museum about their experience after it comes out this fall and learn and think about how I can plan for something like this in the future!


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Fashioning the New England Family

We are sooooo close as a textile community to doing one of the first textile publications funded by the Kickstarter method!!  SIX more people and the goal is met and this book will happen and we can all think forward to more books that we all want being done!!!  This is getting exciting and I am hoping a few readers that haven't gotten around to it might step up today.

If you don't know what I am talking about - read this blog post from earlier this month.