Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Siblings Weekend Scrapbook Part 5

So here's another page from the sibling weekend scrapbook I made for Mark.

This was another photo that I really liked and wanted to highlight by itself.  The base paper is a two-toned dotted light blue paper.

I added a little bit of color by adding a small banner.  (I'm not a huge banner person, so 2-3 penants is usually about all I do.)

I also added a touch of color with a multi-color dotted washi tape, which one edge of the photo overlaps.  I used the title "Not all those who wander are lost," which I thought went nicely with the photo of the alley.

Finally, I added a journalling card that has the words "made my day" in blue on it, tying back to the blue paper.  I also thought the phrase went well with the journey / wandering metaphor of the photo and title.

So that's the page.  Pretty simple, but that way it doesn't distract from the photo, which is taking us on a journey through the streets of Boston...

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Review of The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis

I was intrigued by the premise of the book, which recounts the real estate market crash.  Lewis gives insight to the Wall Street forces that created the crash.  There are some very interesting characters that we follow who were the few who recognized what was happening, and ended up profiting from the crash because they bet it would happen (as opposed to the Wall Street firms who were (unknowingly?) creating the problem and betting against a crash).  The characters (who are real people, since this is nonfiction) and the general premise I think are what carry this story.  However, Lewis delves into many detailed explanations about the numbers--bonds, stocks, CDOs, mezzanines, alt-A's, short, triple-A rating, basis points, spread, credit default swaps, subprime, long, etc.   Even now most of this detail is lost to me, and I think largely unnecessary to the meat of the story.  At one point Lewis explains that this world was so complex and convoluted that even the people who were creating and selling the credit default swaps didn't understand what they were doing, let alone the Wall Street CEOs.  And knowing that would have been enough for me; perhaps Lewis felt that the reader wouldn't believe this without seeing all the nuances and details, but for me the real story was the push and pull of the (idiosyncratic) characters as they tried to make sense of all of the Wall Street craziness.  I think giving the 50000 foot view of the numbers, but following the characters would have yielded an excellent story that didn't leave me as bored.

The other part about the details makes the end very frustrating to me.  In the end of the book the government steps in and bails out the big Wall Street firms, without even really understanding what had happened and who was culpable.  Yet, in this book Lewis seems able to lay out everything that happened and the reasons for it, which should make it clear to any reader--and especially the U.S. government--that the unregulated actions of Wall Street is what was at fault for causing a national disaster and ruining the credit--and more importantly, the lives--of millions of Americans.  But was Wall Street held accountable?  Not in the book, and still not to this day in April of 2016.  Perhaps with this explanation, Lewis was hoping to educate government officials, or incite action by citizens.  But if Lewis was hoping to enact change with this book, it has not yet come.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Siblings Weekend Scrapbook Part 4

Here is another page from the Siblings Weekend scrapbook that I worked on.  I really liked this photo of this lamp light that Mark took, so I wanted to feature this photo on a page.

I separated the page into four quadrants visually.  In the top left I used a journalling card with the title "What a Trip!"  Mark's sister filled it in, rating the trip a 100.

Because the background paper and the journalling card were both grey-ish, I wanted some pops of color to go with the nice colors in the photo.  I used this star paper to make another place to journal.

A close-up on the cool photo:

Finally, I used my circle punch to punch out these two little icons that I liked and I pop dotted them in the bottom right corner.  Again, there are colors in these designs that tie back to the star paper and the photo.

That's all for now!  Keep an eye out for the next post from this scrapbook!  :)

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Stray Hold Law and HB 4915

For pet owners in Michigan, you may not be aware of a change in the enforcement of the stray hold law.  The Humane Society of Huron Valley (HSHV) explains the issues very well here.  They urge people to contact their representative to tell them how important having a stray hold law is, both for pets and pet owners.  I adapted the HSHV explanation (below) and emailed my representative.  I urge others to do the same!

Dear Representative X,
The stray hold law ensures that owners have a chance to find their lost companion animal.  Without a stray hold law, an animal entering a shelter can be immediately adopted, transferred to another facility/group, or put to death without giving owners even one day to find their lost pet.  And even if owners find their lost pet in a shelter, without a stray hold law, the shelter has no obligation to return them to their rightful owners.  

Following MDARD’s announcement, Michigan now stands nearly alone in the absence of a state mandated stray hold.  I firmly believe in the importance of stray hold times as a basic and essential protection for pets and their owners.  Right now many pets and pet owners are now in a precarious position.

HB 4915 was introduced by Representative Mike McCready to help rectify this issue.  While we desperately need this bill, I oppose it in its current state based on two serious flaws:   

1)    Cats as second-class pets:  The bill reduces stray hold times to “zero days” for cats that are “candidates for adoption or sterilization programs.”  Though I strongly support a bill that promotes Trap, Neuter and Return -- where unowned cats are sterilized and returned to their original location -- as the only proven effective means of reducing overpopulation, the vague use of the word “candidate” leaves the option to euthanize stray cats at intake, as sadly many Michigan shelters would still prefer to do.  Further, I believe “adoptable” cats, like dogs, should also be held for the minimum hold times of 4 or 7 days to give owners a chance to find them.

The hold time for both dogs and cats should be the same, and support clear provisions for sterilization programs that return cats to their original location.  Even if a lost cat is mistaken for an outdoor/feral cat, returning them to their original location is more likely to help them to get back home.  One study found that cats left mainly to their own devices are 13 times more likely to find their way back home than those that end up at a shelter. 

2)    Wide discretion to euthanize before hold times have expired:  The bill also states that “(A) AN ANIMAL THAT WOULD BE SUBJECTED TO UNDUE SUFFERING” can be immediately euthanized.   The language here gives too much discretion to shelters to define “suffering.”  Many common or treatable conditions such as fear, arthritis, blindness, contagious disease, or old age could be used as justification to immediately put a lost animal (dog or cat) to death, without regard to hold times. 

I recommend a definition of suffering as suggested by Nathan Winograd, Director of the No-Kill Advocacy Center. “Irremediable physical suffering" means an animal who has a poor or grave prognosis for being able to live without severe unremitting pain even with comprehensive, prompt, and necessary veterinary care, as determined by a veterinarian licensed to practice in the state.”    

Respecting and promoting the loving bond between people and their companion animals should be at the core of animal sheltering work.  Basic stray hold times applied consistently to both dogs and cats, and clear definitions around justification for euthanasia provide important protections to both people and animals.  I want to see increased adoptions and sterilizations, and the elimination of unnecessary shelter euthanasia across the state—not stripping families of the right to reclaim their lost animals.

Please make these changes to HB 4915 and then pass the bill ASAP to ensure that Michigan pets and pet owners are protected.  My pets (cats and dogs) are beloved members of my family.  I want to see stray hold laws applied equally to both dogs and cats, allowance for responsible TNR, and well-defined reasons for euthanizing an animal before their stray hold time is up. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Siblings Weekend Scrapbook Part 3

Here is another page from the Siblings Weekend Scrapbook that I did for Mark.  I liked the blue sky in the picture, so I used a similar blue paper as the base page, and then used yellow to matte the photo and provide some relief against the blue.

I had some Smash journalling cards, so I used one here ("The BEST part was:"), which then my sister-in-law filled in with a memory.

I was using a lot of Simple Stories product, especially from the Travel line.  I used the "Right Now." chipboard sticker on the photo to highlight the great moment captured, but also the moment that was alluded to in the journalling.

The selfie they took was pretty good, so I didn't really crop it down.  It has a nice monument in the background, and the blue sky and sunny day is really nice.

More pages to come!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A PSA on Domestic Abuse

I'm always a bit worried when I see some characteristics in a relationship that reminds me of domestic abuse.  I think most people only think about physical domestic abuse because it often leaves visible scars that we can see; what we can't always see is the scars left by emotional (or other types of) abuse.  Also, I think it's easier for people to disregard things that actually are emotional abuse by saying things like "that's just the way that person is," or "that person just gets really jealous."  But if you see a few of these traits, they start to build a bigger picture of abuse.

You're in love and you only want to be with that person all of the time.  You don't worry about not seeing your friends because that person is your world and you're very happy just to be with that person.  But as time passes and the relationship moves from the honeymoon phase, you think again about your friends.  You'd like to go out for a girls' night and catch up with everyone.  But he gets pouty.  He doesn't want you to go out and leave him alone--he'll be lonely while you have fun with your friends.  At first you think it's cute that he misses you, but the poutiness becomes more agitated; over time he gets mad when you try to go out with your friends.  He becomes so difficult to deal with that you'd rather not go out just so you don't have to deal with him being upset with you.  Maybe your friends get tired of you telling them no all the time, or maybe you just stop answering their phone calls, but after awhile you don't have anyone outside of him to talk to.

Isolation and Economic Abuse
Then there's the cell phone, or rather, the lack of a cell phone.  When cell phones started getting big, you didn't think you needed one.  You had a land line, and that was good enough in order to get ahold of friends and family.  He, being the gadget guy, got one of course.  But you were not an early tech adapter, and so felt no need to get one.  Time passes.  Cell phones become more prevalent, but land lines still work fine for you.  You still don't think that the expense is worth it for you to have one also.  Maybe then you have your first child.  You are ecstatic, and you stay home with the baby, and life is great and your first born makes you so happy.  After a few weeks you know that you want to be a stay-at-home parent.  He doesn't make a ton of money, and things might be a little tight, but you'll be able to manage on his income.  And thank goodness you kept the land line, because you're going to be at home a lot more now, and you won't be able to afford to get that cell phone for yourself that you'd been kind of thinking you were ready to get.  More time passes.  Then maybe he gets laid off.  Now money is really tight.  He keeps his cell phone because when he's out job interviewing and such, you might need a way to get ahold of him.  And most of the time it doesn't occur to you that you might need or want a cell phone, except that time the car broke down in -10 degree weather when you and the baby were on the way to the grocery store.  But even then it's not so bad.  An emergency like that doesn't happen often, and besides, you don't have the $50 each month for the cell phone bill.

Economic Abuse and Male Privilege
But thank goodness, he gets another job.  It took awhile, and because you wanted to make sure your toddler had all of her basic needs met, you willingly made sacrifices to save money.  And when he didn't seem to be making as much of a sacrifice, that's ok because he's the one trying to get a job; he's the one supporting the family, so he deserves that soda and snack when they stop to get gas.  But now there is an income again, and life seems a little more stable, although money is still a little tight.  While he's at work, you take care of your toddler, which is still great, but since you spend so much time at home, you're wanting to take your toddler out and about to do things during the day.  Except that money is still tight, so you'll have to stick to free or really cheap activities.  So the library becomes a favorite place when the weather is cold and wet, and the park down the street is perfect for those sunny days.  And your first born is walking (and running!), but is still young, so she won't know the difference.  Besides, you can't spend your whole day out and about anyway--there's still things that need to be done around the house: the dishes from breakfast and lunch, vacuuming, the laundry pile has turned into a mountain, the lawn needs to be mowed, and oh! he's going to be home a little early today, so you better make sure dinner is ready.  After all, he works all day at his job to support you and your daughter.  And while his job may not be physically taxing, he comes home and is tired, doesn't he deserve some time to relax while you get your daughter into pajamas and ready for bed?  And you haven't forgotten about the time you were busy all day and hadn't had a chance to replace the dead light bulb on the garage, and he was very upset and had said some heated words because he couldn't see when he pulled into the driveway.  So you take care of your home because it is the world you and your daughter live in, and despite the fact that your daughter is now getting big enough to have a normal bed (instead of her crib), you make due because there's a lot of bills and expenses and with each paycheck there just doesn't seem to be enough extra to buy your daughter a bed.

These are just a few examples of scenarios that can add up to a larger picture of abuse.  Each thing on their own may not seem so bad, and over time someone who is a victim may not realize that she

  • no longer has any friends to talk to
  • doesn't have a way to call for help in times of emergency (when she's not at home)
  • is wholly dependent upon her partner for financial support in a relationship where a power differential makes access to this financial support difficult
  • she's required to work a "double shift" by being the caretaker of her child during the day and at night and take care of the household chores that might otherwise be split more equally in a two-income household

The victim has become trapped, with no one to turn to and no means to get herself out even if she wanted to--and that's assuming that she isn't afraid of some sort of physical (or otherwise) retribution.

So, I think education is very important, not only for those who might be the victims of abuse, but also the friends and family of those who are being abused.  A good diagram of different types of abuse is the power and control wheel.  This shows examples of the types of abuse from above, as well as others.  In addition, more information can also be found at great resources like The National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence and the Handbook for Survivors of Domestic Violence from the Ann Arbor Safe House.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Siblings Weekend Scrapbook Part 2

Here is another page from the recent Siblings Weekend scrapbook I had made for Mark.

The page has the design of a thought bubble, which I used to frame the photo of Mark and his sister.

I used a piece of washi tape as a decoration at the top of the photo.

I used this little ticket stub embellishment to describe the moment / day / trip.

I also added this little tag, which someone stills need to fill in!