Adventures with Lisa, Frank & Daisy Dewdrop

How I Started at Cafe Press
September 1, 2006, 4:59 pm
Filed under: My Shop & Products

I was looking at the local county newspaper’s web site, and noticed they were offering county-themed T-shirts. Frankly, I liked their idea, but not their designs. I thought, “Gee, I could do that.”

That was nearly two years ago now.

At first, I too focused on local themes, but then when I launched the Hillbilly line, sales started kicking in.

I have discovered that hillbillies live all over the country. Those who have purchased hillbilly shirts and worn them out have had people greet them, “Hey, hillbilly! Where ya from?”

When I launched the flood issues section, one of our locals bought a 100-year flood plain sweatshirt for her daughter – who works in FEMA headquarters in Washington. That was a really interesting sale within the “Social & Political Points” category.


By far, the geocaching line is most popular. Those who participate in the sport are fanatics. We are too.

The ScriptArt line is my favorite, although it has had the fewest sales. Most of those are in my closet. I love the elegant script and the way the message is hidden within it. Very few people will actually “read” the design. It’s like a hidden message.

The design that took the most time, far and wide, was the custom-created map of Gilmer County, WV. Most of the original artwork was done by hand (60+ hours) and then the labels and names were added digitally. There has not been a map like it created before or since.

The most recent lines added are “Beagle Adventures” and “I Heart WV.” I may never sell a picture of Daisy Dew Drop Looking over the Middle River, but beagle and dog-lovers in general must admit the photo does reflect a warm feeling.

The I Heart WV line came about when I searched other cafepress shops for West Virginia themes. First, I was disappointed at how little was available for the Mountain State, and second, again, I liked the ideas, but not necessarily the designs. In fact, I couldn’t decide on a single design of my own, and settled on my favorite three.

The Hand-drawn items – mandalas, butterflies, heart and ivy banners – are my attempts to keep my limited artistic abilities in development. I like the countrycharm they have, and the way the pen and inks transfer to digital.

I have been pleased overall with the quality of the items offered by cafepress, their shipping, secure online ordering and their customer service.

I have a minimal markup on all my products, trying to keep them affordable for those of us in Central West Virginia.

I haven’t “rolled in the dough” from my online store, but I have been able to cover the store costs, gifts for a few friends, and some shirts for my husband and myself.

For me, I enjoy knowing somewhere, out there, some stranger is wearing a shirt I designed. Someone’s home, clear across the country, has my picture on the wall. Heck, I may someday pass a car sporting one of my bumper stickers. Somehow, it makes me feel as if I have reached someone – encountered someone I don’t even know – in some strange yet personal way.


Backyard Visit
September 1, 2006, 4:10 pm
Filed under: My Weekly Column, Our Yard & Garden

A reader told me I should give updates on topics covered in this column in previous weeks. She was especially interested in my Aqua Blue Iris, and if they bloomed. Others have commented on the ducks on the lake, the geese, heron, and other critters I see daily. Well, the Iris bloomed, not quite as rich in color as I had hoped, but they got darker the longer they were in bloom. Each morning, I take my coffee to the porch and sit and watch the lake. So, as for the rest of the back yard and garden–come sit with me on the back porch and see.

This past spring, after a few days arguing over the number of goslings (“Six,” I said. “Five,” said Frank), we realized there were actually two sets – one set of six and one of five.

Gosling number six was odd. The “runt,” I suppose, he held up the crowd every time. By the third week, both parents ran their children together, from the pond to the lake, to the mud bog puddle–the runt always lagging behind. He didn’t want to go under things (fence) or over things (pipe) and often took the extra time to go around while four parents and 10 other goslings waited.

The situation was aggravated when a snapping turtle took a chunk out of the runt’s leg. The flock of 14 began to just leave him behind. Within a few days, we saw him no more. Assumption tells us coyote or bobcat brought his end. So, there are 15 geese–the parents and children–and Crip’s mate.

Crip was a goose born on the farm who couldn’t fly. His wings were deformed; the tips of them pointing down into the water instead of tucking neatly at his side. I suppose his name is not politically correct, but it stuck nevertheless, and in the afternoons I would feed him croutons. Eventually, he ate from my hand.

Each year we watched him call to the other geese as they flew off for the winter; Crip flapping and flapping his wings, but getting no lift. When the lake froze over, he would disappear–only to return when an opening in the ice appeared. In his third summer, he found a mate, and twice he watched her fly off with the others in the fall as he again faced winter alone. In his fifth winter, he did not return (coyote or bobcat again). His mate still returns each summer though, and that’s her, alone, over there.

Our surprise this year was baby wood ducks. Our first spring here, I watched in shock as baby ducks simply vanished from the water. The snappers would come up from below, and in the blink of an eye, take them down. There would be no fuss, no ripples, no squawking, no feathers. The duckling was simply there–then gone. All baby ducks came to the same fate that year, and for three years since, we’ve had no ducklings.

This year, the ducks tried again, and so far, so good. They’re very skittish, and keep to the shallows. Frank and I need only to step out on the porch, and off they paddle to the far end of the lake or under the willow tree to hide. See them go? Quickly look, or you’ll miss them.

The herons had a young one this year as well, and all three strut back and forth in the shallows across the water. They never come close, and Frank often claps his hands hard and loud to spook them away. “They can eat gallons of fish in a day,” he said, as they fly, slow and smooth, to another location. Clap your hands too, and you’ll see them fly. Don’t worry, they’ll come back.

Kingfishers seem to love us this year, as we have gone from the usual two to five. I don’t know if some are youngins–they all look the same to me–but their high-pitched squawk and fishing antics are entertaining. See them there on the edge of the bank?

Yes, in the morning I first watch the show, then I take a look at the plants that grow.

The back porch flower bed has established day lilies, gladiola, columbine and comfrey. The weed I didn’t pull for two years turned out to be foxglove. I swear, they are ugly until they bloom. The new perennial I planted this spring is doing well, but now I’ve forgotten the name or what it is supposed to look like when blooming. I let the Queen Ann’s Lace grow this year, and added two tomato plants and two pepper plants. One tomato plant is doing well. The others? Well, I think there is a little too much shade.

Around the east corner of the porch is the side garden which gets all the morning sun. Potted plants on the edge of the porch include two tomato plants, and another green pepper plant, which are doing well. Among the florals in the garden below, I have added a bush bean and a short-vined pumpkin. Both are now blooming. There are columbine (in three colors), day lilies, surprise lilies, perennial aster, forsythia, two Rose of Sharon, and bee’s balm. I managed to not pull some foxglove in this garden too, but they are weak, and short.

The pride of this side garden is my balloon flower. Buds look like little hot-air balloons before they pop open with a star-shaped flower. When I bought it, and for two summers since then, it bloomed in deep purple. This year, I added horse manure to the flower bed in the spring, and now my balloons bloom only in white. Oops.

These are my morning gardens, which I check barefoot in my PJ’s with coffee in hand. There are two more flower beds out front, and a veggie garden across the field–but I take pleasure in these in the evenings when I get home from work.

So, now you have shared my morning with me, and perhaps, some other time, I will bring you home for an evening visit.

The Molasses Festival Fairy Tale
September 1, 2006, 4:05 pm
Filed under: My Weekly Column

The time has come for the annual Molasses Festival, and I am sure in the mood for some festivities. With rising gas prices, local flooding, Katrina’s wake in the Gulf, the mayor’s (and Arnoldsburg principal’s) resignations, methamphetamine emergencies and the closure of another murder case, I’ve had enough gloom and doom to last me for a while.

I once read a quote saying, “People don’t want the true and simple. They want fairy tales and humbug.” Well enough humbug, I’m ready for an autumn fairy tale.

Once upon a time, a rural community in Central West Virginia lost public access to local school facilities. Instead of simply accepting the loss, the community took it upon themselves to finance land to provide the amenities they lost–ball courts, meeting space, reunion space, picnicking, play, and fellowship around food and recreation.

They borrowed money together–made a commitment together–putting thoughts of self aside to create a place for the community; a place for all to enjoy. Because of their self-sacrifice, willingness to work hard, and ability to put the cause above any conflict, they succeeded. Their legend lives on in an annual tradition that is still supported (and worked) by following generations who value what has been presented to them as a result.

If that isn’t a fairy tale, I swear I don’t know what is.

You see, I’m one of those people who believes a project will die (or will at least become intolerably complicated) as soon as you form a committee or board. I’ve seen (and have been part of) committees and boards which have really been some of the most torturous experiences of my life.

Typically, when a committee is formed, one of two things happens. Either egos get in the way of purpose, or you get a lot of talk and no action. Either way, committees and boards can be some of the most frustrating and abusive situations to endure.

In my mind, a board or committee which actually chooses a purpose, works consistently and cooperatively toward that purpose, follows through, finishes, and continues . . . Heck, that is a flat out miracle as far as I’m concerned.

There are exceptions. I certainly don’t want to insult any of our park boards, the Senior Citizens board, Historical Society or others who do a fine job in their volunteer positions. I think they too are miracles. Professionals. Almost martyrs at times.

But when I learned the history of the Molasses Festival (and the Ox Roast), I was amazed by the character, work ethic, sense of community, willingness to sacrifice time, courage to “think big,” and ability to cooperatively take on financial risk . . . I just don’t see much of that happening again in my lifetime.

Alas, I suppose that is a humbug frame of mind.

But fairy tales are things of the past. Nostalgic, magical golden tales of days when dreams came true, hard work paid off, and people took care of their own–and “their own” included all those who lived around them.

Fairy tales have princes and princesses, horse-drawn carriages, melodic music on stringed instruments, feasts spread across tables feeding masses, markets full of hand-made or home grown merchandise, games and competitions, and the fellowship of the shared harvest.

Gee, I guess the Molasses Festival really is a fairy tale.

Steinbeck on Journalism:
September 1, 2006, 4:03 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

“What can I say about journalism? It has the greatest virtue and the greatest evil. It is the first thing a dictator controls. It is the mother of literature and the perpetrator of crap. In many cases it is the only history we have and yet it is the tool of the worst men. But over a long period of time and because it is the product of so many men, it is perhaps the purest thing we have. Honesty has a way of creeping into it even when it was not intended.”

John Steinbeck

Comments Off on Steinbeck on Journalism:

You Are What You Think
September 1, 2006, 4:03 pm
Filed under: My Weekly Column

“What a man thinketh, that is he; this is the eternal mystery… Man becomes that of which he thinks.”

–Upanishads (c. B.C. 800)

Hindu Poetic Dialogues on Metaphysics

If our thoughts are negative, our lives become negative. If our thoughts are positive, our lives become fruitful. I’ve been thinking a lot about positives and negatives this week.

Unfortunately, negativity is contagious. It will spread through a room on the tail of a rumor in seconds flat. This happens because so many of us have a negativity habit.

The upside of it all is . . . positive outlooks can also be contagious. A smile is most often returned by a smile, and laughter can spread like a rumor. I like people who are prone to smile and laugh easily. They make me feel better about life and living, and make life brighter. They make life fun.

Michelle Yatauro, the newest member of council, makes me smile. Skeptics and hometown conservatives may wonder about her fashion style or her sense of flair, but I say that someone who dances in the street with the Heartwood performers can’t be bad. Besides, I like someone who enjoys life. Michelle smiles, and is quick to laugh. It pleases me to think that these characteristics will now be joining us on a regular basis at council meetings. In my mind, this can’t be a bad thing.

At the same time, I also reflected this week on negative minds, on those who spread their negative thoughts and prejudices around them like thick dust–making life dingy and gray. I wonder what thoughts pass through the minds of those who harass neighbors, call people names, or have only doubts and no hopes for the future. I think of those who believe God is a God of punishment, and not of love. Of those who have such heavy and cold hearts.

How sad they must be. How eaten by anger. How unfortunate that their misery is spread to others around them in their lives.

We have the power to overcome this.

In a recent behavioral study, scientists discovered that if they spent ten minutes talking to people about old age, sickness, and poor health, the people would leave the discussion walking slower, with poor posture and tender footing. If, however, they talked to people about flowers and sunshine and sunlight and life, the people were more tolerant waiting in line, dealing with difficult situations, and just dealt with life with a more pleasant outlook.

Why do we allow the words and behaviors of negative people affect us physically? Why would we tolerate the negative thoughts of others which literally make us physically ill, less productive, and more susceptible to emotional burdens?

At the same time, are your words and actions breeding physical sickness in others? Do conversations with you make people feel light or heavy? If you are constantly negative, doubting, being dramatic, sharing the supposed downfalls of others–how do you feel knowing you are literally making people sick? If there is an epidemic in this nation, it is an epidemic of negativity.

Why do we let the doubts of others keep us from happiness, health and success–as individuals or as a community? Why let our own doubts lead us to failure again and again? Why do we allow this?

Do not allow it. All it takes is a little faith in your heart in the goodness of life and living. Do not allow the negative words and behaviors overcome your feelings of light. A small light can eliminate darkness. It can happen. All it takes to balance a negative speaker is a positive one. All it takes to keep a negative thought from affecting you is a positive thought.

We are what we think. Upanishads said it in 800 B.C., and bright scientists say so now. It is a scientific fact.

Not all news is good news, but there’s no need to let bad news lead us astray. Don’t allow the negatives of life force you to focus on burdens and blockades.

We may not always be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but don’t let anyone tell you it’s not there.

Spiders & Pigeons
September 1, 2006, 4:02 pm
Filed under: My Weekly Column

The view from my office windows is not the greatest. One set of windows faces the wall on the backside of the bank, and the others face the windows of the apartments above Classic Creations.

This does not mean, however, that I am not exposed to the sights of nature.

Every morning when I arrive at the office, I have to tear down a spider web that hangs across the door. Every day, I tear down the web, and every morning it has been rebuilt. This spider (or combination of spiders), whom I have named George, and I have gone through this each warm season for three years. He never gives up.

Recently, a new development has arisen at the back windows. The problem began when my radio reception went kaput. The reception was never that good, so I never gave it much thought . . . until the antenna wire began flicking back and forth past the window.

“What the . . .?”

At first, I feared the wire had been caught in the central air unit, but the yanking was not consistent or strong, and curiosity got the best of me. I cleared off the table by the window, opened the glass and stuck my head out.

At the other end of the wire, about nine feet away, was a pigeon trying to pull the wire into her nesting area.

“That’s not good,” I thought, and pulled the wire back, winding it up and hanging it on the window where it exits the building.

The next day, she had it unraveled, and was yanking on it again. She tugs on it, gets it to the nest, and when she lets go, it falls back to the roof again. She flies down to grab it, and tries again.

It has been three days now, and she has not given up.

Tear down a beaver dam, and they will simply begin building again. Dismantle a bird’s nest or wasp’s nest, and they begin all over.

Ever encounter a bird that sees its reflection in your window? He will beat himself to death trying to beat himself (thinking it is another bird) to death.

I find it interesting that animals are not daunted by failure. I guess humans are the only ones who have the option to quit, give in, move on–most likely because it is our emotions that lead us to these decisions.

For animals, it is a matter of survival to try and try the same thing again. For humans, it is a choice. We can choose to keep doing things the same way, and we can choose to change our approach, our methods, our means. We can choose to try again, and we can choose to give up. We have the ability to adapt.

The thing that makes us human is our ability to learn from failure. That is what makes us an intelligent species.

I hope that none of Grantsville’s council members gives up. I hope that our mayor and recorder have the tenacity of George the spider. But, the time has also come to stop making the same mistakes that have been made in the past. Hiring practices, parking tickets, radar regulations–all these processes have established procedures and rules which must be followed.

Let’s just follow them, shall we?

If we don’t learn from past failures, we’re nothing more than a silly pigeon, tugging on a wire that won’t go. And sooner or later, someone’s going to yank on the other end.

A Lazy Day?
September 1, 2006, 3:59 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’m finally getting caught up with the house chores after our five days away last weekend. We left the house in such a mess, in the middle of hay season (second cutting), and then I came home with all these new ideas.(It’s also weed season here in West Virginia, so I’ve been mowing, cleaning, writing with itchy eyes and the nose-faucet running on high.)

House cleaning duties were extended while we were gone by teeny tiny spiders. While we were gone, they strung cobwebs all over everything – the lamp shades, bookshelves, every nook and cranny in the house. An interesting development that took two hours with a broom and feather duster to remove before I could even dust or vaccuum.

As for the new ideas, most of that is the result of the various reading I did on the trip.

I read an article in Writer’s Digest magazine about “the basics of a writer’s web site”, and thus, upon my return, spent a day reworking (Link listed as “What I’d Really Like to Do” at left.)

Then, with a few new ideas and the Daisy vacation photos, I added some new designs to, putting Daisy on T-shirts and posters. I also added a new theme with items saying, “Don’t worry about what people think, they don’t do it that often.”

None of the new designs have sold yet, but I did sell four “Hillbilly” shirts in the last two weeks, and a couple of shirts that say “I go where my GPS tells me.”

While camping, I also had (what I think) is a great idea for a guide book, and I spent about two hours yesterday working out a book outline.

I also have ideas for three or four magazine articles, and researched potential markets. After taking a four-day free online course about writing query letters, I hope to start sending queries within the next three weeks.

I have a problem with one story though, I had the research file on the floor (yes, that’s a filing location at my house) and Daisy peed on it when she first arrived, and I think I threw it away.

I’d forgotten about it until now.

So, with that piece, I’m going to have to back up and punt.