Monday, November 28, 2011

No Credit Card? You can shop online without one!

My wife and I try not to use credit cards unless there's an emergency. Some people don't have a credit card. How do you take advantage of Cyber Monday deals when you don't have a credit card, or don't want to use a credit card?

It's easier than you might think.

Banks and credit unions sell Visa gift cards. The idea is that one can buy a Visa gift card and give it to someone instead of cash. I don't look at those as gift cards.

I see them as prepaid credit cards. In fact, they offer a better deal than a credit card. Visa gift cards only cost a couple of bucks to buy, and you can deduct the cost of the card from the value of the card.

When you want to make an online purchase, you enter the numbers from the gift card and make your purchase. Online retailers accept the gift card as if it was a credit card.

Head to the bank and get a Visa gift card, then head to your internet connection and take advantage of those great deals from internet shopping sites. While you're at it, let me suggest one--one where you can buy a set of great books by  a guy named David J. Steele (me!):

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sobriety, the Holidays, and Me

There's nothing wrong with having some drinks during the holidays. For many, it's part of the holiday tradition.

I'm a survivor of Wernicke encephalopathy, which means I can't drink. I used to drink a lot, by any standard. Drinking almost killed me, and I've written quite a bit about that.

I'm sure it's hard for some alcoholics to stay sober during the holidays. I'm lucky. It's easy for me to stay sober during the holidays, and I'm grateful for that blessing. I don't feel jealous, and I don't get worried about those with glasses of adult beverage in their hands. I get a kick out of it actually, and find myself glad I don't want any of what they're having. I sip my decaf and smile.

I remember hearing the whispers no one thought I could hear the morning after. The whispers of concern, quiet concern, about the quantity I consumed the night before. I remember feeling bad about things I might have done or said, but that were gray memories the morning after the holiday. I don't miss the wondering, or the whispers.

Is it hard for me to stay sober during the holidays? Nope. I add sobriety to the long list of things I have to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving. Merry Christmas.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Quilt for My Bride

We've been married almost twenty years, and my wife is still my bride. I don't have to close my eyes to see her in that white dress.

This Christmas she's getting a quilt. Another quilt. A special quilt. It'll be special to her, anyway. It will be special because I'm making it. It will be special to her because, like her wedding dress it's white. White fabric, white stitching. A lot, I mean a boatload of white stitching. It's whole cloth quilt. Whole cloth quilts are quilts made from one piece of cloth. In this case, the piece of cloth is 102" by 102".

There's a story behind this quilt. There's a story behind every quilt, which is part of what makes them special. Here's the story behind this quilt, this quilt for my wife:

In 2002, I moved to Cleveland to stay with the BSA when my position in Wisconsin was eliminated. I rented a one-bedroom furnished apartment, and she stayed behind to sell the house and finish the school year. She's a teacher and we agreed she would never move during the school year.

I was lonely and started making a quilt. It's my fifteenth quilt. It's not hard to make a quilt. You only need to know how to do a running stitch. Get good at it, is my advice. To make a quilt, you're going to do a lot of running stitches, mostly tiny ones. Thousands of thousands of tiny stitches. That's what makes it a quilt. Tiny stitches through three layers: top, batt, and back.

I started the quilt in that apartment. Worked on it day and night. When she moved to Cleveland and we bought a house, I put it away in a closet. Never forgot about it, but didn't do any more work on it. When I got sick with Wernicke Encephalopathy, I stopped quilting. She has asked me several times why I stopped quilting, and I didn't have a good answer. I think part of the reason I stopped was that I always drank when I quilted, and without drinking I wasn't sure I could quilt anymore.

That was a foolish notion. I can't think of anything I can't do better sober than I could when I was drinking. The test came about three weeks ago when I decided to finish that quilt and give it to her for Christmas.

Honestly, I can't see any difference in what I'm quilting sober and what I quilted with a few beers under my belt. That's a good thing. It answered my fear that my hands wouldn't be good anymore. I have essential tremor--a medical condition that makes my hands shake--and beer helped me steady my hands enough to thread the needle. Now sheer stubbornness helps me thread the needle. I just keep poking it until I find the eye.

In any case, this quilt is going to be a beautiful addition to our bedroom. I have miles to go before I finish it. I've been quilting for at least four hours a day for the past two weeks, and have to keep up that pace until Christmas if I'm going to finish it. I'll tell you this... I'm going to finish it. That's how I work.