About Me

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Four years into widowhood, after one year of incredible happiness and nearly 14 years of single blessedness. Have given up perfect manicures and pretty hands in order to resume playing the soprano recorder and to see if I can figure out how to play bluegrass banjo. Singing in the shower. Still really, *really* love to knit!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Why yes, I *did* eat a whole box of Thin Mints

It’s a family tradition. [Besides which, Thin Mints are the sock yarn of the cookie world. Sock yarn doesn’t count as stash, and Thin Mints don’t count as calories.] Pour a mug of milk, rip open the Mylar sleeve, and chew until blissfully unconscious. The first sleeve was dessert after a sensible dinner last night, my own variation on Dutch courage, which I needed in order to tackle hemming up LittleBit’s costume. The second sleeve was celebration after shortening the skirt 5” and the crinoline 8”.

I found her a cute black ribbon corsage at JoAnn’s and a 4-yard bolt of black grosgrain ribbon for her sash. I also bought two packages of white double-fold bias tape to re-hem the crinoline. And then I realized I could accomplish the task far more easily by stitching two deep tucks in the top tier of the crinoline, thus saving all that ruffly lusciousness in the bottom tier. I must say that the dress is looking very Laura Petrie.

I think I want that corsage when we’re done with the costume. I wonder if I will have to arm-wrestle her for it?

I guess this means I can take the double-fold bias tape back to the store. That would pretty much cover the cost of a second corsage, if LittleBit decides she wants to keep this one. Though if she does, we’re going to have to make sure we don’t do the Bobbsey Twins thing at church some Sunday. We’re both a little too old for mommy-daughter dressing.

Knitting content
OK, let me state for the record that Firestarter is a whole lot easier once you move up to the larger needles on the leg. All of a sudden, those little twisted knit stitches are way less of a pain in the patoot. I pretty much twisted the night away, listening to and occasionally watching “Grumpy Old Men”. I borrowed it from Leslye when I took her bobbin back after work tonight. And I had forgotten how funny it is. The soundtrack is great.

Maybe I can channel enough Ariel tomorrow night at dinner that I have a better time than I recently have had at the dance afterward. [Well, not the “I like you, John, let’s go to bed” part. But the openness and the feistiness, that’s what I like and would like to incorporate more of.] This will be my third dinner with the pre-dance-dinner bunch, and my first not tagging along with Brother Sushi. He is mysteriously out of pocket this weekend.

And I have a coupon for free queso, woohoo! because I knew that Richard Nixon was a Quaker.

Superyawn:
I had a little fun with my managing attorney today. She made reference in an email to “the fact that Eli is going to whip Tom's bottom on Sunday”.

I shot back, “Eli Whitney? Tom Brokaw? Enquiring minds want to know...”

To which she responded, “Very funny. You ARE kidding, right?”

And I countered with, “I am the Anti-Sports, remember? [Though I do seem to recall that Eli Whitney has been gone for a week or two, and I can't picture Tom Brokaw spiking the ball or dancing around in the end field.]

“You'll be watching the Superbowl. As will my sister and at least one of my sons-in-law. I'll be reading a book or taking a nap. Or quite possibly knitting, with a movie in the DVD player.”

Do I have my priorities straight, or what?

On facing fears:
[Link for anybody who might need it.]

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Brainf@rts and Anthems and Dead Fondue Pots

Well, this explains it. I was looking all over the living room and kitchen for my “empties” the other morning so I could refill them with juice and milk. I’d left the bag under my desk at work.



Yes, I recycle my bottles. I have bought numerous of the “non-leaking” drink cups over the past several years, only to have them leak. And Snopes says that there is no harm in reusing the bottles, so I do. Not indefinitely, mind you, but for a few days, and then I pitch them. If/when I move to Fort Worth, there is a recycling program in place. The suburb where I live now doesn’t have recycling. Nor does it have mass transit. After I move, I will be a good citizen and recycle, and maybe even have a small compost pile. Right after I sew up and/or knit up some market bags. Let me get the kid graduated first.

I am galloping up the leg on LittleBit’s Firestarter. One small piece of my life is proceeding in an orderly manner. [And I realize that I have just invoked the wrath of the Yarn Muse and am likely to pay dearly for it.]

114 envelopes. That’s how many I opened, between the early mail and the late mail, last Thursday. I looked at them stuffed into the attorneys’ red rope folders, waiting to be opened, and I thought, “I wonder how many of them there are?” And now I know. And so do you. It took me almost two full hours to open the envelopes, date-stamp the mail, and replace all the staples with paper clips.

Better than half of the envelopes contained file-stamped vacation letters. Trial attorneys can’t just take off on vacation like ordinary mortals. They have to send letters to the court, stating which days they are unavailable and requesting that no court dates be set during that time.

Remember that last deep, cleansing breath re: the “West Side Story” costume?? Well, apparently I’m not done after all. Where’s that programmable parrot that Firstborn offered me?

The @#$%& costume got a qualified approval from the choir director on Monday night. She loved it; it’s beautiful, *and* it’s too long. No, wait, as of Tuesday night we also need a black flower to pin to the skirt, and a black ribbon for the sash, because suddenly it’s a little boring. LittleBit wore it to rehearsal last night, unaltered, and has been instructed to inform Madame that the first night I have available to shorten it, is tonight.

I’m just thankful that it fits LittleBit above the waist. Shortening the skirt will be easy, though time-consuming. The PITA [pain in the neck] factor in tweaking the fit of the bodice after finishing the armscyes and neck, does not bear contemplating.

I will be so very glad to sit down at the last performance and know that I will never, ever have to sew a costume for a high school musical again. Or at least not until the Bitties reach that age. At which point it might be fun.

I had one of my rare bad days yesterday. One of those mornings where my inward attitude might be most discreetly expressed as “I don’t want to talk to you. Or that horse you rode in on.” All day Saturday I was wondering why my chest was so tender. And on Sunday I found out. It is a good thing they are not performing “Flower Drum Song”, because if I had to endure “I Enjoy Being a Girl” while feeling this way, well it wouldn’t be pretty. Or printable. I thought I was done with this nonsense!

The day did get better as it progressed. I like my job, and I love the people I work with. And I was productively busy all day, and then there was Knit Night and my first order of Girl Scout cookies to pick up. I knit a bit on my own sock, and a few rounds on Firestarter, and committed to a gift project [baby afghan] with my Sisters of the Wool.

Killer of fondue pots. LittleBit and I had fondue for dinner the other day. I dumped the fondue-in-a-bag into the pot and plugged it in. Nothing. I don’t know if it’s a problem with the fondue pot per se, with the cord, with the extension cord, or just a random act of unkindness from the Good Housekeeping Fairy.



I ended up nuking the cheese, a minute at a time, until it was dippable. When we are in the mood for fondue, nothing else will do.

Want a sure-fire way to totally confuse your tastebuds? Nuke leftover fondue with leftover queso until gooey, and then stir in leftover bread pieces until you end up with inside-out toasted cheese sandwiches. [Perhaps the edible equivalent of Napoleon III in Mexico?] This is what Fourthborn would call “fon-goo”.

One anthem, to go, with a side order of Puffs.
This came on the radio the other day when I was driving in to work. At first I thought how applicable it is for this new adventure that awaits me; if all goes well, I will be moving several miles west of here.

And then I realized how applicable it is for someone else I know, for sadder reasons. Even though she hates country music. [Time to get in touch with your inner cowgirl. I’ll be happy to fire up the branding iron, unless you think an Elastrator would be better.]

Lifting my mug of 2% in honor of any of us who have ever had to start over, for whatever reason. Shoulders back, heads up, and when in doubt, eat chocolate!

“Because [we] can...”

Farewell to a Beloved Prophet

President Gordon B. Hinckley, a humble and delightful man who served as the prophet of God from 1995 until Sunday night, has passed away. I will miss him. I had such respect for his kindness and his wit. He was not afraid to state inconvenient truths politely and firmly. His counsel to the church, and to the world, has blessed my life and that of my family members.

Suburbancorrespondent asked in a recent comment:
“So...what's the story behind the adult conversion? Care to share?”

This seems as good a time as any to explain how a rational woman can believe in modern-day prophets and old-fashioned virtues. And it is a theme that I will most likely develop over the course of several posts.

Long ago in a Western state far, far away, there was a girl named Lynn with one older sister [think of her as Elinor Donahue on “Father Knows Best”: smart without being a know-it-all, talented without being a show-off, kind without being clueless, and elegant seemingly without effort; no sibling rivalry here!]. And two parents worthy of emulation. They were believers, but not church-goers, and they allowed me to attend church, or not, as I was inclined.

As for me, I taught myself all the Christmas carols in a little book that Texaco gave away with a fill-up, back when I was seven or eight. I remember sitting in my room in our first house in Boise, singing for hour after hour, not necessarily on-key. I would have been eight at the time. I went to Primary a couple of times with some of the LDS kids on our cul-de-sac. I went to church with my best friend in fifth grade, who was Catholic. I attended the Methodist church when we first moved, but they met in the chapel of a mausoleum, and while that did not bother me, the rudeness of the kids my age, did. I attended the local Friends church intermittently for two or three years when I was in high school, in part because one of my girlfriends did but primarily because there was a guy I had a crush on. My freshman year in college, I fell in love with a Catholic boy and started taking conversion classes, which lasted about as long as the romance did.

I married my first husband in that little Friends chapel, not so much because of any religious inclinations on my part, but because of the warm memories I had of the folks who attended there. I never should have married First Hubby. There was nothing wrong with him, but I was still reeling from something that had happened a few months before I met him, and I was so needy and baby hungry, and all my friends were getting married. We all know somebody like that, and for awhile it was me. I thought the simple fact of being married, would make me happy. Instead, I made both of us miserable. That marriage lasted two years, two weeks, and one day.

That was my first divorce, and the one bright thing that came out of it was that it humbled ~ as well as humiliated ~ me. In spite of all the garbage I have waded through in subsequent years, that is the only time I have seriously considered taking my own life. To the point that I went to a gun store and bought a handgun with only enough power to halfway do the job. Had I followed through, my family would have had to take care of a vegetable for the next eight decades. And I would have missed out on so much joy.

I had a professor who was LDS and happily married, who had become something of a mentor. I called him to say goodbye, and he was inspired to realize that I was not talking about just taking a semester off from school. He called his wife, told her he would be late for dinner and why, and where he would be, and how to reach him, and he came to my home and explained the spiritual ramifications of suicide, and he left with my gun and returned it for me because I was too embarrassed to take it back to the gun store.

That was 1975, the summer of Elton John’s “Someone Saved My Life Tonight”, and the chorus of that song has resonated for me ever since. That was a Friday night, and the next morning my professor and his wife were weeding in their yard, and their ward’s missionaries came by. [They had lived in their home for several years, he later told me, and the elders had never “just dropped by”.] The elders asked if he had somebody to teach, and he said that he did, but that I was out of their district. I had a call from the local elders later that morning and my first missionary discussion that afternoon.

The elders gave me a handful of tracts and a reading assignment, about the last half of Third Nephi and all of Fourth Nephi, in the Book of Mormon. This is an account of the Savior’s ministry to the Nephites after His death and resurrection. I sat on my back porch in the rocker that my father had made, reading as the sun went down, tears sheeting down my cheeks. The Book of Mormon is the only book I know of, with the promise that you can pray to ask if it is true and expect to get an answer.

That was my first spiritual experience as an adult. Or at least the first that I was aware of. I had had other opportunities to come unto Christ but had always resisted, not wanting to make a promise I wasn’t sure I could keep, and also afraid that an Omnipotent Being would mess up my life faster and more permanently than I was already doing on my own. This was the first time that I knew for certain that God was there, and that He loved me, and that He would help me if I asked.

[to be continued]

To return to the mundane, not much knitting yesterday. I bought yarn to make a pair of socks for Middlest, once I have finished Firestarter. I need to go add them to my stash on Ravelry.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Deep Cleansing Breath!

Behold LittleBit’s costume for West Side Story.



These are the darts at the neckline, neatly pressed. I finished the neckline [after trimming it about an inch lower so she wouldn’t choke] and the armscyes with commercially-made bias tape that I pre-curved with the aid of my steam iron.



This is the crinoline from one of her old formals, almost ready to be stitched into the skirt. I trimmed off the purple and left it skin-side out so it wouldn’t chafe, then zig-zagged it to the seam allowance of the skirt and topstitched all the way around the bottom of the bodice. Not as good a job as I would have done for something she would wear in real life, but plenty good enough for a stage costume!



I couldn’t find the zipper foot this morning, so it has a hand-picked zipper. I suspect that it is the only costume in the play with a hand-picked zipper. Not worth a photo, but here is some hem detail.



I’ve taken the morning off, not so much to finish this [though I’ll confess to ten seconds of momentary panic when I realized the zipper foot was AWOL] as to take care of other family business.

Deep cleansing breath. And another.

As Mr. Twisted says, life is good!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Random Churchly Stuff -- and a New Noun?

But first, some backstory. Our church has a lay ministry. And the work gets done by unpaid volunteers, everything from presiding over organizations and meetings to tidying the buildings on a regular basis. The bishop is responsible for everybody within ward boundaries. Which is way more than one man can handle, and the reason that he has two counselors, and other quorums to manage various responsibilities, and home teachers and visiting teachers.

Home teachers are a pair of brethren who are responsible for one or more assigned families. They visit each family once a month, give a spiritual lesson, and counsel with the head[s] of household on matters of concern to that family. Temporal, spiritual, you name it. Does the father need a better job? Are they having family prayers and scripture study? Does Widow Jones need somebody to climb up in the roof and clean out her gutters? Are they moving and need help from the Elders Quorum for the heavy lifting?

The Relief Society has a similarly-organized program called visiting teaching. Pairs of sisters are assigned to visit one or more adult women, take a spiritual message, see if there are any unmet needs that maybe the brethren might have missed, share hugs and laughter and fellowship. The purpose is to lift and strengthen each sister, to bring the love that God has for each sister into remembrance, to comfort the weary and the grieving, and to share the joy.

I am a visiting teacher. Have been for the past 30+ years, ever since I joined the church. My companion is a feisty lady about 20 years my senior, who is a lifetime member of the church. [I am an adult convert.] One of my visiting teachers is a new member and single mom, and her companion [whom I have yet to meet, due to scheduling problems] is a young wife and mother from South America. One of the sisters I visit teach is the literal sister of a woman who was a warm acquaintance if not a close friend, in my first ward in Texas. The other grew up and joined the LDS church in Southeast Asia.

I love being a visiting teacher. I have not always been the most effective one, particularly when I was assigned to visit sisters who wanted minimal or no contact with the church, but the sisters we visit now are just delightful and make it easy for us to come visit.

Last year I was assigned to be a supervisor over sisters who wanted the opportunity to report their visiting teaching via email. I have eight routes that I supervise, and while most of the sisters are diligent about visiting their assigned people, they are not always good about reporting to me that they have done so. [I confess that for most of my VT history, I have not been good about reporting to my own supervisors, which is probably why they called me to this position, LOL.] And we are big in this church on return and report. There are statistical reports that get filed quarterly, and while visiting teaching is only marginally about the numbers, like that cartoon has it, the job is not finished until the paperwork is done.

This is what I sent out to the eight companionships last night:

Sisters,
I have been remiss about sending you inspiring thoughts and gentle reminders.

Some of you have already reported your visits for the month; thank you!

If you have already visited your sisters, please let me know by return e-mail. [Please, oh please, do not make me have to call for your report at the end of the month. I field at least a hundred phone calls, every day at work. When I come home at night, and on the weekends, the last place that I want to be is on the phone. Even with my friends and sisters.]

If you have not already contacted your sisters, it's not too late. There is something within each of you, that inspired the RS to assign you to the sister or sisters whom you visit. You might have strengths your sisters need to draw on, or it might be the other way around: maybe you need to see how another sister handles her life with faith and courage. The one thing I am absolutely certain of is that none of us can get through life entirely on our own. We need one another, and notwithstanding our individual weakness, frequently it is that one infinitesimally small act of kindness that proves an immediate and immeasurable blessing to our sister.

Keep the faith, sisters! Hold to the rod, and with the other hand peck out an email to your intermittently humble and frequently irreverent VT supervisor.

I thank you from the bottom of my earlobes.


When I woke up this morning, there were two new reports waiting in my inbox. And I am going to chase people around between meetings to get their reports, because I really do not want to have to call them on the 31st.

On to another topic. I was reading last week’s Relief Society lesson, which included a map of locations that figured in early LDS church history. One of them was Adam-ondi-Ahman. And I wondered how far it was from where Brother Stilts was living before he died. About 50 miles. And I was about 60 miles away in another direction, back in 1980 when we went to Kansas City for a multi-level marketing convention when I was pregnant with Secondborn.

In reading Lehi’s account of his vision of the tree of life, I thought it was so interesting that before he shared what he had seen, he first described how his wife and two younger sons would be faithful, but that he feared for the souls of his two older sons. As we study the scriptures, we are encouraged to liken them unto ourselves, to find the solutions to our problems and worries in their counsel. And Father Lehi, 600 years before Christ, was doing exactly that. How was this going to affect the people he loved most?

I love the scriptures because of the truths they teach. I love the inspiration that comes as I read and study. I love how they open up insights into my own thought processes and behaviors. Sometimes they bring me comfort like the sweetest of lullabies, as in Doctrine and Covenants 112:10 ~ “Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers.” This has cheered and encouraged me, particularly during the struggles of the last two decades.

And sometimes it is more like a swift kick in the pants, as in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”. Particularly the next to last paragraph, about those who fail to fulfill their responsibilities to their children. It is oh-so-easy to point the finger at the father of my children and forget that when I do so, there are three more pointing back at me.

Singles Fireside
A fireside is an inspirational address, less formal than our regular church meetings, and typically held on a Sunday night. We are having one tonight for the adult singles. The speaker is a woman in our ward, one whom I both enjoy and admire. So I know where I will be at 7:00pm. I don’t remember what her topic is, but I know that it will be worth my time.

Sabbath Knitting
Today, at least at church, it will be Stripedy Stocking #2. Firestarter is great fun, and it requires thinking, much thinking, and much consulting of the chart[s]. Neither of which is conducive to reverence in my meetings. Yes, I am supposed to be thinking, but it is not supposed to be about the work of my hands.

Sabbath Sewing
I absolutely have to finish that blankety-blank costume today. I wonder what the antonym to procrastination is. Anticrastination? Amateurcrastination? It is on days like this that I wish I had a parrot that cussed. Trained, of course, by somebody else, so that I would bear no responsibility for what came out of its mouth. And when I needed an expletive, I could just rattle its cage.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Small Changes

I have lost maybe half a pound this month, since I resumed exercising. That’s OK; muscle weighs more than fat. And my goal isn’t to be svelte. It’s to increase my range of motion and my stamina. Any measurable weight loss is just lox on the bagel [since I’m not crazy about maraschino cherries, and I’m the one who gets to choose the similes around here].

When I first came to work in my office, I parked a good distance away from the elevator in the parking garage and took the stairs up. After I started my skincare business and had masses of product to lug upstairs for women in the building, I started using the elevator. And after I phased out that side business and took up knitting, I continued using the elevator, because I was usually carrying my big red tote, my knitting bag, and either a basket with my lunch in it, or a plastic bag from the grocery store that served the same function. Something like 40 pounds of stuff, all told.

When I learned last year that I had been walking around on a broken leg for two months, I started parking closer to the elevator. [We are too soon old, too late schmart.]* Now I’m beginning to develop a new routine. On the days that I will be going to the Natatorium right after work, I park close in. I have one hour exactly from when I shut down my switchboard to when I need to be in the water. Every minute helps.

On the days [I was going to say “that I have no class”, but that’s not exactly the image I wanted to convey] that my evenings are free, I’ve taken to parking about halfway between the elevator and the farthest reaches of the parking garage. My legs get a little extra stretch; I doubt that it will add up to more than a mile or so by the end of the year, but it’s a dozen or two more steps in the right direction.

*A digression. I googled that phrase to see if it was attributable to one specific author. I saw it on a pseudo-German sign in a gift shop some time back. There was a related link to this book. And the second review [the one by Eugene A. Jewett] contained this phrase in its synopsis of Chapter 5: “Any relationship … is controlled by the one who loves least”. Can I get an Amen? I think of that in terms of my first marriage, where I was the one who loved the least, and in terms of my second, when it proved to be the other way around.

So what’s the antidote? Brother Ray Charles would say it was “One Drop of Love”. I can’t believe there’s no YouTube for this song. If you can get hold of his My World CD, it’s on that, right after “Let Me Take Over” [which is my favorite song for East Coast Swing].

And now for some small people with big changes. BittyBubba is sitting up:



He looks so much like his mama did at this age. And here are the two Bitties, together:



Both photos by Secondborn, and used by permission. She says that she just knows that once he figures out how to crawl, her life is going to get very, very busy. Can you believe that he is six months old today?

I am easing my way up the calf on Firestarter. I think I’m going to like the designer’s transition from heel flap to full-blown ribbing.

Friday, January 25, 2008

OK, maybe I *do* know something after all

1. I know who the winners are in my movie contest. Tola sent me the first email. Tinks posted the first comment. They each get a set. Seems only fair, since I was less than specific about how the responses should be delivered. [The answer? Runaway Bride]

2. I know where I am on LittleBit’s sock, and I completed the heel yesterday. I say again, I know where I am on LittleBit’s sock!!!

3. I suspect that the choir director was not amused that LittleBit went to rehearsal last night without a finished costume. It was supposed to be ready last night. I went to water aerobics and out to dinner with a gift card I got for Christmas, and then I came home and read a book.

But the skirt is ready to attach to the crinoline, and the bodice is altered and ready for its lining. So it will get finished over the weekend. LittleBit said that she would be extremely disappointed in me if I were to take a vacation day just to finish her costume.

[Have I mentioned that I love this kid?]

And there is a comment waiting to be moderated, which will make a great topic for blogly rumination.

I’m off to the salt mines.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I have no idea what the h--- I am doing

1. The first item to prompt this declaration, was pulling LittleBit’s sock out of my workbag and realizing I had Not-Clue-One as to where I am. I will have to tink back until I reach terra cognita. I was hoping to work on it at lunch, but the break room was not sufficiently quiet for me to think this through. And I have some internal chatter [way more than usual] that is not conducive to concentration.

2. And while we are pondering imponderables, why does this song always make me weep? I was never an abused wife. And I abhor the idea of ending domestic violence by murder/suicide. Much better to end it legally – but permanently – get however much counseling is necessary, and go on to enjoy a peaceful life. [As Oscar Wilde said, “Living well is the best revenge.” I hold to that.] Nevertheless, her cry of “let the weak be strong”, even though we differ on what “strong” means, undoes me every time. I heard it on the way to work yesterday while I was listening for the traffic report.

And maybe I am a little more sensitive than I would otherwise be. The tenth anniversary of my divorce will be here in a couple of weeks. And I am certainly a stronger, wiser, tougher woman than I was when I married him, thirty years ago last September. In the words of another song, “It’s all right now. I’ve learned my lesson well. See, you can’t please everyone, so you got to please yourself.” Well, I’d add the caveat that for a truly pleasant life you’d better learn how to be happy, pleasing God.

I’ve gotten pretty good at pleasing myself. I’ve gotten pretty good at saying, “no, thank you,” though I suppose that I could always get better. I know how I like my eggs [a set of my handmade stitch markers to the first person who tells me what movie that comes from].

3. I keep thinking that I understand the concept of agency, particularly as it applies to my grown children, and I keep fighting the urge to tell some of them how to run their lives. Yes, I have read Richard and Linda Eyre’s excellent book, “Empty Nest Parenting”. I need to read it again. And I need to remember that most of my kids are doing very well, thank you very much, even if they’re doing it differently than I would. And even the ones who are struggling, probably need to figure it out on their own, with me standing on the sidelines with my mouth firmly shut, except to cheer them on.

I was talking over a couple of situations with The Man Upstairs on my drive to work yesterday morning, feeling cranky and helpless and all “why don’t You do something?”. And as has happened more than once in the past, I heard that quiet voice reminding me that they already *have* a Savior, and my job is to just be their mother and love them.

Not hard at all to love them, thank goodness.

I don’t want to be told when I make my accounting that the choices I made were equivalent to picking the chrysalis off my butterflies, leaving them weak and crippled and unable to fly. Still, it hurts when my kids hurt, and it’s hard to know how much to do, and when to stand back.

Poor LittleBit called me yesterday morning when I was in the middle of sorting a small mountain of mail, wondering where my sewing scissors might be. An excellent question. I gave her some possibilities, none of which had any basis in reality. Hey, I haven’t done any machine sewing since before the move in September. I remember seeing my shears, but your guess is as good as mine, as to *where* it was that I saw them.

I gave her the classic Martin Van Buren speech [the one that he gave to Joseph Smith when he asked for help from the federal government]: “your cause is just, and I can do nothing for you.”

And we know how well that turned out for MVB [defeated in his re-election bid and relegated to being a footnote in history]. Let’s hope I fare better.

On a brighter note, when I got home last night, LittleBit had successfully lobotomized the crinoline from her prom dress, the bodice was sewn together, and she had gotten the mess with her Social Security check straightened out.

So I won’t be rambling on and on as usual, this morning. I need to clear off the dining room table and set up my sewing machine so I can put her skirt together and attach the crinoline to a piece of white lining fabric, rather than the lavender which is its present companion.

I am so thankful for our good friend who was willing to drop everything and help.

Maybe once I get to work I can figure out what’s up with LittleBit’s sock.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Good news, "meh" news

My friend Sooz has a regular column at Meridian Magazine [there’s a link over on the left]. Her column is “A Beacon Light”. She has begun a lively and thought-provoking series on personal preparedness; and that is why I am going to include links to her articles for as long as she is on this particular soapbox.

Her column officially comes out on Tuesdays, but I learned several months ago that if I click on her name in the author list on Monday, 99 times out of 100 her new column will be waiting for me. [It used to confuse her when I’d write and comment on a column she didn’t know had been published. I think for awhile she thought I was psychic.]

I guess it would help if I gave you her nom de plume, wouldn’t it? Susan Law Corpany. The author list is on the left side of the Meridian home page. The column search is under “Archive” on the right side of their home page.

I will stop at the copy shop on my way to work this morning. Read her column, and you’ll know why.

I had a nice, easy workout at the YMCA yesterday morning. I just set the recumbent bike for “manual” and started pedaling. It was mildly amusing to start out at 56 rpm and finish up at 65 rpm. I wasn’t consciously speeding up. I just went with what felt good, and apparently once my legs warmed up, they thought we should go a bit faster. I didn’t care, so long as it didn’t interfere with my knitting.

Hey, I really do try to keep my priorities straight around here!

One of many things that I like about Central Market is the meat and seafood section. We don’t eat a lot of meat; we mainly use it to flavor our casseroles and soups. I like that I can buy *one* sausage link or a 5-oz piece of fish. Last Saturday I bought one bison sausage and two chicken-and-Roma-tomato sausages. I was in the mood for chicken as I drove home, and I knew that I had some leftover chicken stock in the fridge and about a cup of Arborio rice left in the pantry. I went onto Epicurious for “how to cook sausages” and found a recipe for beer-braised sausages. So I started the rice in one pan and the sausages in my cast-iron skillet. When they were browned on one side, I turned them over and [being entirely out of beer chez nous, imagine!] upended the last of the several-years-old cooking sherry over them, using some of that chicken-infused sherry to finish off the risotto.

Then I sliced up the sausages into manageable bites and stirred them into the rice and stirred in the remaining jollop from the skillet. There was enough salt in the sausages and the chicken stock to flavor the rice without making my ankles puff up like blowfish overnight. I had a sensible portion for dinner last night and divided the remainder into two storage containers for lunch this week.

LittleBit brought home some extremely frustrating news from rehearsal last night. The dress which she purchased at the thrift shop with her own hard-earned cash, and which passed muster with one of the drama teachers the week before last, was rejected last night. So after I bolted my dinner, we went to the fabric store and spent $40 of my hard-earned cash on fabric, notions, and a pattern. We have two days to make this dress, and my evenings are already committed. One of our good friends is helping with the cutting and the fitting. I am going to remove the crinoline from LittleBit’s gown for the Military Ball her freshman year, shorten it, and attach it to the skirt. Since I know that I cannot get the bodice fitted tightly enough to please the drama teacher, I am delegating that to LittleBit and Leslye. I will make the skirt, attach the bodice, and put in the zipper and the hem.

I am in a much better mood this morning than I was at the fabric store last night. We ran into several other cast members and their moms, all of them just about equally thrilled. I know that when I see LittleBit dancing the cha-cha and mambo up on the stage, it will be worth it, but now I understand how my mother felt about the whims of my ballet teacher when I was in fifth and sixth grade, and why she opted out of a third year of dance lessons for me.

Paraphrasing an old saying, the choir director’s right to swing her baton ends where my pincushion begins. She has already used up all the goodwill she amassed with me when Firstborn was in her choir twelve years ago. But as LittleBit reminded me last night, I only have five more months of divaliciousness to put up with, and then we are done.

I finished the toe increases on the second Stripedy Sock before going to bed last night. It was a happy way to end the evening.

I am trying something new with the links today. They should open a new browser window. Let me know if that doesn’t work. Thanks!

Monday, January 21, 2008

My House Smells Like Fennel

Because I had a coupon for $10 off on seafood with a $40 purchase, I brought home not one but two packages of fish on Saturday. Yesterday, after church and choir practice [more on that later], I came home and made “Pan-Roasted Halibut with Braised Red Onion” from Williams-Sonoma Cooking for Yourself. Except that I didn’t have halibut; I had flounder. And I didn’t have a red onion; I had a fat sassy shallot. And I also didn’t have any fresh thyme, and my dried thyme was nowhere to be found, so I used fennel seeds and my new mortar and pestle. I did have the cast iron skillet that Brother Sushi helped me pick out a couple of years ago, and I did have lemon juice and unsalted butter. And I did follow the suggestion to substitute fettuccine for the new potatoes.

I only ate half of the fish. Today I will take the leftovers to work, along with the last dab of leftover mashed potatoes, and certain people in the office will say, “Ewww, it smells like fish in here.” And I will eat my healthy lunch and cheerfully ignore them. Next time I will try the recipe as written, but I was quite pleased with how my substitutions turned out.

The natatorium, which is owned by a municipal government, will be closed for MLK Day. And I will not have to go get the mail at the Post Office today, so I’m not sure where my exercise will be coming from. I doubt that eight more toe increases on the Stripedy Sock’s mate, though certainly exciting to this knitter [or any other], will get my heart rate anywhere near the aerobic zone! Once I get the increases in and a couple of straight rounds worked so that I can place a marker, I think I will set the sock aside until next Sunday. I have really been missing LittleBit’s Firestarter while in the throes of finishitis, and I think it would be pure pleasure to work with fatter yarn and fatter needles for awhile.

Choir practice. I love to sing. I’m one of those people you see in other cars on your drive to work, singing along with the radio at 65mph. And we have a gifted choir director in our ward. He manages to be both passionate about music and kind to his singers. I have rarely sung in our choir since moving into this ward almost five years ago. Why?

(1) Exhaustion; until recently all I wanted to do after church was to go home and sleep. The CPAP has made a huge difference in my energy level, and I am thankful.
(2) Bronchial issues; I am occasionally asthmatic and cannot use a rescue inhaler because it makes my asthma worse and wreaks havoc on my joints. I never know from one day to the next [in allergy season, at least] if I am going to wake up a soprano, or a tenor. I am still not entirely un-crouped from the bug I picked up in November; it comes and goes like Boy George’s Karma Chameleon.
(3) LittleBit likes to come home immediately after church, refuel, and head over to her father’s and sister’s to visit. Now, of course, she also has to factor work into most of her Sundays, but I am enjoying the blessings of letting her get her driver’s license.
(4) Her father is also a singer, and when he was still attending our ward, he was usually in the choir. I can pick his voice out of the congregation when we are all sitting in our pews; it is all the more so when we are two out of twelve or twenty up in the choir loft. For better or worse, I still hear that man’s voice in my bones.

But yesterday I was feeling well-rested, and breathing easily, and LittleBit was at her final meeting of youth conference, and her father was presumably attending his new church, and I just wanted to sing. So I did. I took one look at the sheet music and knew that those top notes might as well be on Mars, so I moved myself on down the line to sing with the altos, though I have to fake a couple of their bottom notes. [I am a mezzo with limited range. Basically, the B below Middle C, up to about E-flat. Twelve notes. Nobody writes music for my voice. :( ] And I got to sing with the second sopranos for a few measures. I have three more weeks to learn this music, so I didn’t need to bring it home. And next week we start work on the music for Easter!

I think between the water aerobics and the singing, I’ll have my pipes cleaned out in no time at all. I really need to find the sheet music for my recorder and tootle around with it for a few minutes a day. [Playing trumpet did wonders for LittleBit’s ability to manage her asthma.]

I’m off to read my scriptures and root around for sheet music, though I think it’s far too early to subject the neighbors to the squeaks and squawks of a born-again recorder player. And then I’ll head over to the YMCA; I just called, and they are open. Woohoo!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

“You’re my favorite mommy!”

Always a nice thing to hear from your kid. The occasion? My telling her that I’d picked up more of the vanilla-almond granola when I went shopping yesterday. She has always been my “please” and “thank you” kid. Yes, I know that we’re not supposed to say “you always” or “you never”, but I stand on the statement. Gratitude is one of her spiritual gifts, for which I am not only immediately but eternally thankful.

She is a very happy camper this weekend. HerBoy did something above-and-beyond at camp and was awarded the privilege of having a family member or other loved one come out for a visit. Since they’re both smart enough not to ask if I would let her go, he was able to get a weekend pass and come here. He’s staying with HerSushi, who rode with her to the airport to pick him up on Friday [because it’s the little airport in BigD, and some of the neighborhoods between here and there, are iffy].

We had our youth conference this weekend. The service project was a 5K to benefit one of the local members, who was paralyzed in an accident about a year ago. HerBoy ran with her and also went to the dinner, fireside and dance last night. He’s met the bishop, the stake president, and most of her youth leaders. And one of our friends got a picture of him looking at LittleBit with the same expression that 1BDH had on his face for Firstborn at Secondborn’s wedding. Can’t wait to see it. If I can get permission from both photographers, will post it here eventually.

They held a special sacrament meeting for the youth this afternoon, so LittleBit and HerBoy headed back out to his mom’s in Fort Worth for a quick visit before church. I missed seeing her lovely face in our ward today, and I recognize that it was probably more comfortable for him to attend with people his own age than with all of her supplementary moms, dads, aunts and uncles. I will be interested to get the bishop’s impression.

On to other topics: I think that if you drop my new pedometer on its head, it bleeds footsteps. I managed to bounce it off my waistband twice on Friday. I also coughed a lot. And I’m reasonably sure that I didn’t walk three times as many steps on Friday as I did on Thursday, but I ended the workday with 1500+ steps. Weird.

I read a fascinating article over the weekend, by a surgeon who is also a sculptor. He has an interesting perspective on plastic surgery and what goes into the development of a skilled and successful plastic surgeon. A couple of the pictures are icky, but maybe you all have stronger stomachs than I do. If all else fails, put your hand over the picture and repeat loudly, “La la la, I can’t see you!” Let me know how that works.

And now I present to you, a finished object.



I don’t know why the image skews when I rotate it 90°. But what I wanted most to show you was how well the finished stocking goes with the skirt. And by that objective, this picture is a success.

Yes, the second sock is already on the needles. That’s it you see about mid-shin in the picture above. Here’s a close-up.



Didn’t want to lose my momentum.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Look What Punkin Gave Me!

What a neat surprise to find in my inbox when I got home from the play last night!



Per her instructions, I am to choose 10 other bloggers for this award**, so in alphabetical order:
1. Celtic Memory Yarns
2. Daisy Cottage
3. Dances with Wool
4. Fiberjoy
5. Knitspot
6. Punkin
7. So, the thing is ...
8. The Life and Times of Florence Knitingale
9. Twisted Knitster.
10. Vortex of Chaos

Like Punkin said, there are several more that I would like to put on that list. First and foremost, my daughters’ blogs and the one of my best friend’s daughter. And Tola’s, of course. But they are all very private people, and some of their blogs are private.

**("Give the award to 10 people whose blogs bring you happiness and inspiration and make you feel happy about blogland. Let them know by posting a comment on their blog so they can pass it on. Beware you may get the award several times.")

I also chose not to list The Harlot, MDK, Wendy, or Grumperina [I just started reading her blog a month or two ago, and doesn’t she make a lovely bride?]

So what’s on the agenda today? Did my monthly drive-by-fooding of the missionary elders. Tanked the car. Got my nails done. Came home and made pumpkin cheesecake. Cooked the last of the butter-yellow potatoes in a bit of chicken stock with a fat pinch of dried rosemary and then mashed them within an inch of their lives, stirring in two spoonsful of horseradish and the last of that yummy sharp cheese that went into both batches of bread cheese pudding, and a splash of milk. Et voila! Two small storage containers to take to lunch next week, and a respectable serving for lunch today.

I’m about to head over to FW to make a kamikaze shopping raid on Central Market. And have learned by sad experience not to go there hungry. Otherwise I buy more food than we, or in this case I, can eat in a week, and then good stuff goes bad and I get cranky with myself.

There is a dance tonight. I need to call Brother Sushi and find out (A) if there is going to be pre-dance dining with that group of nice folks and (B) if there is room in his truck to tag along. And maybe, just maybe, I will finish the first Stripedy Sock before crashing tonight. Two more rounds until I put in the eyelets, and then I think five or six rounds after that and perhaps the picot bind-off I used in Fetching. I am resisting the temptation to go to the ribbon shop and get the ribbons to weave through the eyelets, because one of them would just sit in the closet and get dusty while I knit sock #2, and the other would get creased and crumpled from being tied in a bow. And who knows how long it will take to knit up this second one? I would hate for an orphaned ribbon to get lost in the move, come June...

Friday, January 18, 2008

Edith Wharton wrote something cheerful?

This quotation was the thought-for-the-day on my planner yesterday, “They seemed to come suddenly upon happiness as if they had surprised a butterfly in the winter woods.” Lovely! It’s from Ethan Frome, perhaps the most singularly depressing novel I have ever read.

Which brings to mind a couple of other quotes. Mom was fond of quoting Thumper’s mother to me. And I have been known to repeat it to my girls, but probably not as often as I should, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say [anything] at all.” And something my Dad said, “There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it hardly becomes any of us to talk about the rest of us”). See this related link; [Dad quoted the variant.]

So, Ms. Edith, I take at least some of it back.

Things I realized yesterday morning [with a wind chill of 15ºF] that I will need if I start riding the train:
1. A real coat
2. A raincoat
3. Multiple small folding umbrellas
4. Wellies, preferably in the most obnoxious color I can find.
5. Sneakers, for other days

Note: BH&G online has two interactive programs [membership is free]:
1. Plan a Garden
2. Arrange a Room; I played in this one for a good chunk of the evening, last night.

Work was a little screwy and weird yesterday. I tumped a cup of apple juice [chilled to perfection, no less] over fax confirmations that were neatly lined up on my desk. Unfortunately, *before* I had scanned them. At which point I was ready to shut down the switchboard and lock up my desk and head to the Natatorium for a wee bit of stress relief. Also unfortunately, it was an hour and a half until quitting time.

It was so nice to go to the pool after work and let all remaining frazzledness splash away in the water. Some of the moves are getting easier. And the wristband on my watch was infinitesimally looser when I woke up yesterday morning.

Today is payday, always a good thing. And I will pick up that second gi-normous towel that I need, and maybe a terrycloth robe for when I first climb out of the pool. I’ll check the catalogue where I found my wonderful faux-fur-trimmed robe that I bought last winter, and I’ll also look locally, when I get the towel. The robe is nowhere near as important as another towel.

There will be no swimming on Monday, as the pool will be closed for MLK Day. But I think I will go tomorrow at 9:00am, before I get my nails done. I’m going to have to get them done every two weeks, religiously, instead of the 3 or 4 or 5 I do now. They grow slowly, unlike my hair, but I damaged the moons on both thumbs when I was a girl, smooshing them in the business end of old-fashioned wooden screen doors. [No, not on the same day.]

And so each thumbnail has a slight longitudinal furrow, which is no problem until it’s time for a fill, at which point the natural nail sometimes wants to curl away from the acrylic overlay. Nail Dude dremels away my natural nail on the underside of the tips, every time he does my nails, but sometimes time and/or money gets away from me. I should have gotten this done last weekend, but I was too busy having fun measuring rooms at the rental unit, having lunch with my friend, and sorting out how to get from one neighborhood that I know, to another.

OK, we’re officially off the topic of nail maintenance and on to something slightly less boring: pedometers. I have a freebie through Corporate by way of one of the insurance agents in Dallas who is a hunting buddy of the former managing attorney. [Are you paying attention? There will be a test.] Please don’t tell my agent I was cheating on him!

And yesterday I walked something like 539 steps while at work. This is approximate, because every time the pedometer rocks, it ticks off one step. I would hate to think what a good case of the hiccups would do for the day’s tally! I’m not sure whether to be pleased that I got in so many steps while being tethered to my desk, or sad because there are so few opportunities to move around during the day.

Still, I am doing *something*. And there is another dance tomorrow night; I will probably go, if only for the exercise. Because we all know that most of the guys who are even remotely interested in dating, are chasing what another friend calls “the fertile ones”. [Thumper’s mom, Lynn, think about Thumper’s mom.]

Time to report on my knitting. There was some, but again, not enough progress to be worth photographing. The ribbing is now 3.25 inches long. It’s ribbing. And I have entered one of those Black Holes of Knitting, where you knit and knit and knit, and at the end of the day you have maybe half an inch more than when you started.

But at least it’s not an exquisitely fashioned leaf in laceweight silk yarn. Oye!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

"Charcoal is good for the teeth."

At least, that’s what Mom used to say. Behold last night’s noble experiment: vanilla almond granola. First mistake: setting the oven for 375°F instead of 300°F. Next mistake: Reading blogs instead of following my nose. Result? Utter culinary chagrin.



This picture is not only blurry, but underexposed. The lightest color on my pan was the darkest color that you see here. I wish there were a way to import smell into Blogger. Although you should probably feel thankful that I can’t. Good news is, my kitchen vent fan worked wonderfully; I didn’t set off the smoke alarm, and yes, I have a fresh battery in there. And the whole mess was small enough to fit back into the oatmeal container, the better to schlepp it out to the dumpster.

That’s three cups of old-fashioned oats, plus a cup of six-grain cereal, plus over a cup of sliced almonds *and* four whole teaspoons of vanilla that I have to throw out. Not to mention half a stick of butter.

This is what I get for browsing half a dozen recipes and then winging it. Yes, I will try this again. And next time I will pay more attention to what I’m doing.

What was so fascinating, that I cremated the granola? My friend and I are playing on various paint company websites and emailing color ideas for the outside of the rental unit to each other. And just about the time I was seriously getting into it, my computer decided it was tired, so *I* should go to bed. Now I know how my kids felt when I used that logic on them!

And all that knitting that I thought I was going to do last night? Well, apparently virtual paint chips fall neatly into the category of Oh Look, Shiny! Still, there was some progress yesterday; I have about three inches of ribbing done now. I probably should try the stocking on to see if I want to add one more inch, or two.

[fumble fumble mutter grunt]

Two inches it is. I am just cresting the curviest part of my calf, with about 3.5 inches to go if I wanted to knit all the way to the crease at the back of my knee. Which I do not. When I was a little girl and wore knee socks, I hated having anything touch me there. Not my knee socks. Not the hem of my skirt. I wonder if my nerves are wired funny there?

I just realized that I have handed the perfect straight line to Firstborn. Which makes it a good time to log off and head out for some knitting á là recumbent bike. But first, a mini-rant:

So, we turned in the paperwork in October to make the transition from my receiving the Social Security check on LittleBit’s behalf, to her receiving it on her own behalf while she completes high school. [He can quit. He can get fired. He can’t stop being 65+.] Said paperwork including information on her bank account for direct deposit.

And it should have hit her account last Wednesday.

And it didn’t.

And because she is now a legal adult, Social Security can’t talk to me about why her money is not in her account.

I sent her a text message: “You will have to deal with SS directly. 7a to 7p Mon-Fri. [toll-free number] Not set up for direct deposit. Oye. Check mailbox”. And when I hit “send”, I felt one more responsibility slide off my shoulders.

She’ll handle it. And she’ll handle it well.

Welcome to Grownupville, baby girl!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Confession:

I listened to “Suavemente” three times before leaving for work yesterday morning. Even did a little merengue down the hall when I went to grab my shoes and my knitting. *Love* to move to that song. I tried to get a translation of the lyrics for you and quickly decided that it’s probably a good thing that I don’t speak Spanish. But maybe I should have been suspicious at the pairing of the few lyrics I could understand [“kiss me, gently”] with such a lively beat. I watched a second video, with a different singer, when I got home last night, and I think maybe the racy lyrics go with *that* version. Bleah! Bleah!bleah!bleah! I needed to go rinse my eyes out with something.

Sigh.

It’s like “Lady Marmalade”, which had a resurgence in popularity because of Moulin Rouge. I get a little cranky when they play it at our dances because yes, it is great to dance to, but I have enough French to know that she is not inviting us to play badminton with her.

Or “Who Let the Dogs Out”, which my girls assure me has nothing to do with dogs. I guess I am blowing my street cred here.

I read an interesting article yesterday. And this one. Hubbies: if you’re nearing retirement age, don’t shoot your wife in the foot financially. [Or wives, if you are the primary breadwinner.]

Firstborn has dibsed the quilt rack and the boudoir bench. Maybe I can persuade her to take them off my hands this weekend? 1BDH is going to bring home one of those blade thingies from his office so we can finally scrape the beauty consultant sticker off Lorelai’s rear window. It’s one of those things that I don’t think about until something on my face itches or I do something thoughtless while driving. I don’t want people to think, I’ll never buy X because that one lady with the sticker on her car braked suddenly.

I love my water aerobics class, and I am so thankful that my toes have healed up so I can go. The teacher took all the medical information that I gave her and wrote out a customized program and measured me all over like she was going to slipcover me. They measure every six weeks. I am already starting to feel greater range of motion in my shoulders and traps. And my back is beginning to loosen up.

Maybe another half inch of knitting yesterday; not enough to justify dragging out the camera. I think there will be much more progress when I go to bed tonight: no aerobics until tomorrow night, and this will be the only evening this week that I am home.

[And I want to shoehorn gardening and redecorating and someday a boyfriend into this schedule? Am I nuts?]

Don’t answer.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"Suavemente"

Just in case you’re feeling as groggy as I was right after lunch yesterday. This Elvis has not left the building. This is one of my favorite songs to dance to.

Something that percolated into my brainpan during church on Sunday was the understanding that I will need to get rid of a few things if I move into the new place. [Now Firstborn, don’t you fall off your chair, honey!] I will want to keep the fainting couch, and this might be an excellent time to get it recovered: have it picked up *here* by the fantabulous upholsterer who has recovered several projects for one of my more frugal attorneys and have the finished product delivered *there*.

I had a quiet but unmistakable impression that the kitchen table, one of those generic farmhouse tables with massive white-painted legs and a butcher-block top, and which I still really like, is needed elsewhere. My first thought was to put it in my studio and use it when I cut things out, but I think I would rather have a tall, folding crafts table like Secondborn’s, because it will take up less space when not in use. And if there’s someone who needs this table right now, then they should have it. [It would also give me more room to repack-and-stack all the things that I’ve unpacked since we moved here in September.]

And I think that my quilt rack, an ornate metal one which I bought at Bombay ten years ago with its matching boudoir bench, would be happier elsewhere. Both have boxes and stuff piled up on them at the moment, and when the quilt rack lived at the foot of my bed in the old apartment, it rapidly became the drop-off spot for clothing that I was too tired to hang up at the end of the day.

If I lived alone and had only the items that I truly needed, I wonder if I could keep a reasonably tidy house? It’s certainly an idea worth pursuing. [Of course, “need” is a somewhat flexible concept, particularly when there is a Williams-Sonoma less than five miles away from the new place. I wonder if there is a mom-and-pop kitchen store in Fort Worth like the one I’m getting to know my way around here?]

Firstborn asked a very thoughtful question Sunday night while I was catching up my laundry and helping her with the mashed potatoes [I will miss hanging out at her house every three weeks or so to do laundry, but on the other hand it will be nice to have my own stackables in the kitchen and to be able to do laundry at 2:00am if so inclined]. Is LittleBit truly ready and eager to move out, or am I pushing her out of the nest before she’s ready to fly?

I told her that LittleBit has several options lined up for after she graduates, and that she is anticipating them eagerly. She is determined to prove that she can make it on her own before she ties the knot. [No, this is not the announcement of an engagement.] She has wanted a job since she was in fifth grade. She likes earning her own money and shopping for bargains. She’s certainly no worse a cook than I was when I married First Hubby! She has way more life skills than I did at her age, and an old head on her young shoulders. I think she’ll do just fine.

One of my girlfriends at church came up to me before sacrament meeting and said, “You can’t go. I read your blog post before I came to church, and you can’t move out of the ward.”

Which is when I told her that when I saw the chapel that would be my new church home if I were to move, I had that same sense of peaceful recognition that I did when I saw the one in Fredericksburg in 1991. It may not be that I am supposed to move into my friend’s rental property. [Though I hope that it is.] But if I were a betting woman, I would just about bet the rent that I am supposed to be in that ward, at least for a space of time.

And that is when her face visibly un-tensed, because she knows that feeling, too.

I have been a seat-of-the-pants woman for most of my adult life. That is what brought me to Texas 29 years ago. While the part of me that loves math and Bach and lists would like to have it all spelled out before I take one step out into the unknown, experience has shown me that the best living is right there on the cusp of faith and obscurity.

I have kept things as stable and ordinary as possible for my girls, these ten years that I have been a single mother. I stayed in the same ward as long as I could, moving into this one to put us into what was initially a better neighborhood, and LittleBit into a better pocket of the school system. I never moved more than three miles away from their father, to make visitation easy for him. [And for those of you who are newcomers to the blog, you will be amused/appalled when I tell you that he and I are once again in the same apartment complex, and that LittleBit and I live downstairs and one over from his previous apartment here. He and Fourthborn are now a couple of buildings away.]

In five months, LittleBit will be done with the local ISD. Don’t stick that fork in me just yet, but I am almost done! Yes, I know that once you’re a mom, you’re never really done, but my relationships with my adult daughters tend to be a whole lot simpler and more civil than when I was trying to pilot them through the shoals of adolescence. We are, mostly, respectful of and comfortable with one another. And my relationship with LittleBit is certainly moving in that direction.

Which means that I have just about worked myself out of a job. And will probably have another forty years of adventures still left in me. Hence the cooking-for-one cookbooks and the search for a nest that like Baby Bear’s bed, is just right. And much pondering while I drive to and from work about what God would like me to do with this increasing supply of free time.

Another half-inch added to the Stripedy Sock yesterday.

Monday, January 14, 2008

"I've got Patrick"

Click on this link. Scroll down to where you see the woman in the butterfly dress. Read the caption.

*Now* I get that reference in The Devil Wears Prada. Early on, Andi is told ~ and I will spell phonetically what I hear, even though I had three years of French in high school ~ “Call de Marshall Yay.” Andi is totally at a loss, so Emily reluctantly rescues her and announces to Miranda, “I’ve got Patrick.”

And now I know what she said, and whom she meant. Or, alternatively.

That “plink!” you heard was one more pebble of ignorance being chipped away.

[I found CreativeFlairChic through a link on May December Home. It’s one of a handful of home decorating blogs that I read on a regular basis.]

There is progress on the Stripedy Sock, though not enough to merit a photo. I have about two inches of ribbing done; I think there will be four or five when I am finished. And I am toying with the idea of a row of eyelets just under the bind-off, so that I can thread some French silk ribbon through and tweak the fit.

And now if you will all excuse me, I have a rendezvous with Mr. Recumbent Bike.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

I am such a good Do-Bee!

Does anybody else remember “Romper Room”? At the end of the show, Miss Mary would ask the Magic Mirror who had been good a good Do-Bee that day, and then she would read the names of children whose parents had written in. [I remember that Mom did that once, for me. It’s official; I must have been a good kid when somebody was looking, if only once.]

So why do I think I am a good Do-Bee now? Well, I’ve already started working on my 2007 federal tax return. Logged in, merged last year’s information, and logged off. One goal for the weekend is to complete both Schedule C’s; shouldn’t be hard since I’ve sold off most of my inventory. And then I’ll just have to wait for my W-2 and interest information.

Why the rush? Well, this is the way that I used to do it: have everything assembled so that when the W-2 came in the mail, I could do my return in about an hour and get my money within the week. The timing of last year’s return was an affront to my sense of How Things Are Supposed to Be.

I’ll put the refund, if there is one, into savings toward my move. And next month we have three paydays, so there will be significant disposable income on the 29th because the only deductions will be for taxes. I’ll allow myself one small splurge and throw the rest into savings. And I found out Friday morning that my yearly bonus will arrive in my paycheck on 25 April. Woohoo! That will go into savings, too.

That way I can rent a truck for the move, and have the good brethren in this ward load it up and be done, and the good brethren in the new ward can meet the truck and empty it and be done. And I can buy a stackable washer and dryer at the scratch-and-dent and have it delivered to the new place. And a new vacuum.

That’s assuming there *is* a move, come June.

[I also need to remember to refigure my W-4 once LittleBit graduates and flies the coop. I don’t want any nasty surprises come April 15, 2009. I also don’t want a huge refund; I used to love it when that happened, but now I’d rather have the money for day-to-day expenses, or add it to my 401K contributions.

Speaking of which, I got the yearly report on my 401K and the company retirement benefit and used the online calculator to figure out where I’d be financially if I work another 20 years and contribute the same modest amount per month into my 401K. It sounds like a very nice, comfortable place to be until I remind myself that 25 years ago I was making $8 an hour temping occasionally and just amazed that a kid from the Gem State could be earning so much money.

That was back when hamburger was a dollar a pound, and now I pay $4.28 for the ultra-lean. I have a sneaking suspicion that the cost of living is not going to fall any time soon. But if this move goes through, I will have a significant savings on my rent, and if I ride the train to work, I will cut my auto expenses by more than half. I drive 250 miles a week, just to get to work and back.

I could do like my best friend at work does, and drive my car to work a couple of times a month [oh, say, payday] and park in the lot across the street; that way I could not-coincidentally go to the yarn shop in Dallas before heading home to Fort Worth.

Jerry, would your condo association have conniptions if you had a container garden on your patio? Do you get enough light to do that? I think there are dwarf varieties of berry bushes that should do well in your climate. We used to have a copy of Square Foot Gardening, and the one concept that has remained is that you can get more carrots from a properly-prepared square foot of garden than you can in an X-foot-long running row. I don’t remember if X = 20 or 50, but it was startling enough to stick in my head for 20+ years. Just a thought.

I finally, *finally* reached the end of the ball last night, about half a round shy of what I think is going to be my final increase on the calf. I tried it on, and the calf fits perfectly. But now the toe is a little long. I will probably go back and frog it slightly and do a three-needle bind-off. Or maybe try the on-the-needles faux-Kitchener I read about on Knitting Daily. Though I really don’t mind Kitchener stitch. Next time I won’t start with 8 stitches; I’ll go with 10 or 12. I really like the fit on the heel. It combines the best features of a top-down heel flap with the controlled fit of a toe-up.

If I want sock #2 to match as perfectly as possible, I’l have to do the skinny cast-on again and then frog it back, but at least this time I will know and can do it while the sock is still basically a shallow cup instead of the Holland Tunnel.

No pictures today of the Stripedy Sock, as it doesn’t look all that different from its last profile shot. But probably in a few days when I am done with the ribbing. I think I will use EZ’s sewn cast-off and stop an inch or two shy of my knee. That way if all this new vigorous activity has its desired effect, and I have to reblock the stocking to fit a narrower calf, it will not suddenly become a thigh-high.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

“A Hazy Shade of Winter”

When I was working out, this song came over the speakers. Not the original version by Simon and Garfunkel, but a cover that featured female voices while retaining the killer guitar line and a good measure of the intensity.

I only knew The Bangles from a couple of quick references in the first season of Gilmore Girls, back before I got fed up with them. [The Gilmores, not The Bangles.] Hey, be gentle with me! Please remember that I spent much of my 20-year marriage mired musically with the B’s Brothers: Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms.

When we moved to the Hill Country ~ in Texas, when we say “the Hill Country”, we mean our hills; we don’t ever stop to consider that you might have them, too ~ and I couldn’t pick up the classical station in Austin, I switched allegiance to the oldies rock station out of San Antonio and never really looked back. But there is a gap in my musical education that you could drive a herd of longhorns through, beginning in September 1977 and ending, more or less, in the fall of 1993 when the girls started school here in North Texas. With four and then five girls in a compact car, I cranked oldies to keep them relatively civil to one another en route.

KVIL brought me somewhat up to date. The morning DJ, Ron Chapman [since retired], loved Celine Dion and Richard Marx and Jim Brickman. His show is where I first heard Paul Simon’s “Obvious Child”. I alternated between KVIL and KLUV, which is the kinder/gentler oldies station here. So I’ve missed out on Stevie Ray Vaughan [but I bet I can catch up], and I have Mom to thank for my love of Eric Clapton.

Setting the topic of music aside for the moment, I am pleased to report that there is only a golf-ball-sized amount of yarn left on my first skein of Ditto, for the Stripedy Socks. I went with my friend and possibly future landlady to the most-LYS and happily enabled her to get laceweight yarn and a pattern for a shawl for her daughter. Spent a lovely half hour or so, fondling the yarn and getting high on wool fumes but kept my promise not to come home with new yarn for the stash.

I know, I know, most uncharacteristic of me.

Today I learned just how small “740 square feet” is. Small enough that when I walked into this apartment after my excursion, I had an almost overwhelming urge to take up yodeling. [And here I’d been feeling a wee bit cramped after moving from the larger, unsafe apartment to this smaller but much safer one.] Big enough for me and my stuff, but not so big that any of the kids could quit their jobs and come live with me.

You remember my rambling on about the upside-down tomatoes? There is *one* upright for a clothesline in the back yard, its empty arms just waiting for a couple of five-gallon cans full of potting soil and nightshades. There is room for a real garden once I know what I’m doing. I’m thinking berry bushes, and whiskey barrels full of things that would take over an in-ground garden if given the chance.

There’s no garage, but where it stood, there’s enough space for a storage shed if I wanted to get one. [I would naturally run that by the owner first.] There is real tile on the kitchen counter, which she would like to keep, and which I really, really like, so that’s no problem. There’s a security system.

The windows are large and rather lovely, and there’s plenty of natural light. The carpeting is every bit as ugly as she said, and so we have the option of refinishing the hardwood floors or putting in carpet; I’m leaning toward the latter.

The outside needs repainting, and we’ve discussed a couple of colorways. I would have carte blanche with the interior colors. *And* I love to paint.

There’s a Super-Target a couple of miles away, a Central Market roughly a mile away, and a Tom Thumb about halfway between the new place and Secondborn’s. So, lots of options for grocery shopping, and I’m not far from two major bookstores and have spotted several used-book stores. My friend treated me to lunch today at a lively Mexican restaurant, and there’s an art supply shop coming soon in the same shopping center. I would be half a mile from one excellent LYS and less than five miles from another. There is a needlepoint shop not far from the first LYS. And all those museums.

She is taking out every bit of sheetrock and replacing it. Which will take some time, and which makes me feel a little less nervous about the timing. The previous renter did not properly balance the window unit in his bedroom, so water leaked down into the sheetrock, and some of the framing will probably have to be replaced or shored up. She’s replacing the water heater, and the wall heater in the living room, and installing ceiling fans in every room but the bathroom. Those nice sleek ones that hug the ceiling.

I can see my boudoir set up in the east bedroom, and my studio set up in the west. I would put most of the existing bookcases into my studio and see about getting an Ikea system for the long wall in the living room, where the previous renter had his entertainment system.

And I located a park-and-ride for the commuter train on my way out of town.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled knitting.

Friday, January 11, 2008

WIP, Actually Progressing!

Just so you know that I’m not imagining upward progress on the calf increases, here’s a cheesecake shot of the Stripedy Sock.



And a profile of the heel, which is Wendy’s Toe-Up Heel Gusset. And fits wonderfully.



And the calf increases, which I am doing every third round.



I tried it on again this morning, and it fits like it was made for me. [Which is the whole point of knitting socks for oneself, right?]

Last night’s workout went very well. I couldn’t believe how much more flexible my wrists were as I drove home. And I feel great this morning, not stiff at all.

So I’m heading over to the Y for a tryst with the recumbent bicycle. It’s a jeans day at work, my lunch is packed, I knitted while the tub filled, and life is good.

Tomorrow I get the oil changed on Lorelai and then head over to my friend’s rental property to check out the living space. Remind me to take my tape measure and a pad of graph paper so I can sketch the rooms if I like it as much as I think I will. I spent a little time yesterday at the virtual paint store, thinking about color combinations, but that’s not particularly useful when I don’t know how the rooms are shaped or how much light there is.

LittleBit is wiped out. Rehearsals every night this week, plus work on Wednesday, and she has an eight-hour rehearsal tomorrow. It’s a good thing that HerBoy is back at camp for more training. And it’s a good thing that the play is only a month away.

I, on the other hand, am feeling like a 45-year-old again.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Thoughtful Thursday

1. I *need* an additional bath sheet. My swimsuit dries out nicely overnight, but my towel does not. It would be nice to have a second swimsuit as well, but I don’t strictly *need* one, so I’m going to wait until this one is worn out or I need a smaller size.

2. I think that lunch should probably be my big meal of the day. Not so big that it drives my nose down into my keyboard in the afternoons, but big enough, and diverse enough, that I have what I need to keep going until quitting time, without resorting to Cherry Coke or a Hershey’s Special Dark.

3. People really are pretty darn nice. Most of them, anyway. Just in case you were wondering.

4. I like cooking, when I don’t have to rush and when I have good ingredients to work with. Being friends with Brother Sushi has done wonders for my palate, my imagination, and my confidence in the kitchen. He is an *amazing* cook who has dined in five-star restaurants. And likes my cooking. [Proving once more that the age of miracles has not passed!] If I’m stumped about what goes with what, I pick up my cell phone and call him. Once I had a recipe that required orange liqueur. Hello? Mormon girl cooking here! He thought that if I used a couple of tbsp of undiluted orange juice concentrate and threw it into a hot pan, it would give about the same effect. He was right. Close enough for my purposes, anyway.

[Wonder if it would work equally well with undiluted white grape juice concentrate or red grape juice concentrate, thus avoiding the issue of cooking wine entirely? Maybe I should just find a nice single man who owns a winery and convert him to the church, and then I’d have acres and acres of Cabernet juice to cook with! Not to mention, to quaff with my pasta.]

The children’s father used to say that we needed to convert all our neighbors but one, and have that neighbor keep the wine etc. at his house, and then we could just go over and borrow a cup of whatever when we needed it for a recipe.

5. Have I mentioned that my planner pages are being discontinued? They are lovely, brown, and wordy: restful to the eyes and stimulating to the mind. And, when 30 June rolls around, to be no more. But there is joy in Mudville, because Non Sequitur is the new featured design!

My friend Linda, who like me has raised a sizable family in a small space, turned me on to Non Sequitur about seven years ago. Fourthborn loves “Danae”; I didn’t care for her [an estrogen-powered Bart Simpson, if you will] until Lucy the miniature Clydesdale came into her life. Lucy humanized her for me, but then I’ve always been crazy for horses.

And Kate, the “normal” sister, now has Petey the dog to talk to her. I love how in Non Sequitur, Joe the dad can talk to both the animals [unlike the parents in Calvin and Hobbes], though he’s still as clueless with Brenda the clam shack owner as most of the guys who show up to the local singles activities.

6. Did I remember to tell you that the best part of Friday night was having dinner with old friends and new ones? It was great to see DJ the DJ, and the music was way-better-than-OK, but the dance *per se* was “meh”. There were 15 of us at the restaurant before the dance, including two guys I hadn’t met who seem refreshingly normal. And I won a free appetizer for next time, for answering a trivia question correctly.

The question? We were given a number of categories and settled on “religion”. [The manager at the restaurant probably didn’t know he had over a dozen Mormons sitting at his table.] So when he asked, “What religion was President Nixon?” my hand flew up into the air as if it were spring-loaded. I then had to explain to the others how I knew such an obscure-to-them fact.

I told them that my mind is a depository of all sorts of obscure and generally useless information. And that when he was president, I was attending the local Friends church, so several of my friends were Friends, or Quakers. So, for me, it was part of my personal history.

And next month I get to eat for free.

7. I would like to fire up a dinner group again. Two years ago I had a small dinner each month, for the first several months of the year. And it was so much fun for me. But where we’re currently living, I’m not interested in emptying the rest of the boxes, so one way or another it’s going to have to wait until LittleBit graduates. Then I will know if I am staying here, and can just spread out into her room, or if I am moving to my friend’s rental property.

Normally I would be driving myself nuts with the not-knowing, but at least for the moment, I’m fine with it.

8. I spent a little time with a recent issue of “Texas Monthly”, which had an article on a local woman who has a herd of dairy goats and a small commercial cheese operation. Central Market carries her cheeses. I plan to buy one next weekend. If you like chêvre, here’s a link:

9. If last year was The Year of the Leg, and/or The Year of the Foot, then I think I have just discovered *this* year’s health challenge: people who wear too much cologne. Here I was thinking that I’d finally gotten my lungs happy after nearly two months of respiratory rattling, when in comes a plaintiff who had marinated herself in [a really very nice] cologne, and I could feel my pipes seizing up. Ironic, now that I’m making an extra effort to eat well and move more. Will this stop me? No, but it might slow me down a little.

10. On the other hand, I’ve slept well the last two nights, and when I woke up yesterday morning, there was only the slightest ache in my shoulders and upper back from my workout the night before. And I woke up today with happier lungs. I’m going to the Y in about an hour, and I’m going back to the Natatorium for more water aerobics tonight. The bag is packed and waiting by the front door. I didn’t actually make it to the Y as planned, yesterday or the day before. Tuesday I felt all spazzy and over-scheduled, and it just made more sense to stay home, make myself a good breakfast and a good lunch, and try to slow down a little.

11. The great experiment with the crock-pot and the chicken didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped. It tastes OK[ish], but the rice sort of blew up into coconut-flavored sludge. I divided it out into four portions and then ate half of one for lunch yesterday and will kill the rest of it at lunch today. But I am not looking forward to eating what’s left of it. I am torn between trudging my way through it bite by bite as penance, and separating the chicken from the sludge and only eating the chicken. You guys have no idea how deeply ingrained is my aversion to wasting food. I lost 21 pounds in three weeks back when the children’s father was in school and we were eating oatmeal twice a day to stay alive. I try to be frugal and responsible with my food dollars. [I have some serious issues going on here, people!]

So, does anybody have any suggestions what I can do with about three-fourths of a gallon of coconut sludge? I have three medium sized containers staring me in the face each time I open the fridge, and I don’t want it to go bad. Grape leaves and a melon scoop, for redneck dolmades? Wonton wrappers and an apple corer for tiny East Asian burritos? [Baked, but not fried, in keeping with my wanting to live to be 100?] Maybe if I stirred in some pineapple chutney to loosen things up?

12. I scheduled this year’s well-woman and mammogram and am waiting for a referral for my colonoscopy. It’s been three years since my first one. When I went last time, I was new in the ward, and one of the women in the Relief Society presidency drove me there and back. She will get diamonds in her crown, as they say, but she’s always looked at me a little funny ever since. I have no idea what I might have said in the car on the way home. [Apparently I cuss like a sailor when I’m sedated. Ask LittleBit, who was there in my room when I went under for my gallbladder back in 2001.] Now I have a couple of friends I can ask, so I’m comfortable on that score. But I am *so* not looking forward to drinking that gallon of gack to clean out my pipes before they scope me.

13. Middlest blogged some bad news. I am still processing it, and it is her news, so for now that is all you will get from me. But if you wanted to put her on your list of people you pray for, that would be a good thing, and I think that she would not mind. [And if she does, I have no doubt that she will tell me.] Maybe this will put an end to some of the sniping that goes on among some of my girls. Time to forget your differences and put the wagons in a circle, ladies!

I am going to pet the yarn for awhile and go work out.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Ms. Snarky Delivers!

Delayed gratification. It’s the difference between a two-year-old and a grownup. [Well, that and the ability to reach up and turn the doorknob.]



This was my desk at work, with a stack of mail waiting to be opened, and the box from Snarky Designs with my November Sockdown prize yarn. See how good I was being? Don’t you just love my first attempts at airbrushing?



And this is the yarn itself.



Would you like a closeup?



How good is this yarn? Well, if I had a firstborn male child, I’d cut airholes in the box and send him back to her with a note saying, “More yarn, please!” The wool fumes kept me happily awake all afternoon.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

I've been everywhere, man!

Cue the music!

Or, alternatively, this one.

I saw this on Wanda’s blog. Naturally, I had to play, too! Though I have to confess, I’ve been to way more of the places on Brian Burns’s Texas version than on Johnny Cash’s recording.



And one province in Canada.



Caveat: I think I've been to Delaware and Maryland. About ten years ago, I was getting my AAS in interpreting for the deaf, and we took a field trip to Washington, DC, at spring break. I would have to sit down with a map of the area and remember all the historical sites that we visited. It was one of those “If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium” trips.

The highlight for me was a sprint through the Smithsonian with one of my fellow students. That year there was a room of kimono, displayed cuff to cuff so that the seasons moved almost imperceptibly from one to the next to illustrate the turning of a year. I remember that the artist was something like 80 years old and that each kimono took over a year to complete. There were dozens of them, each more beautiful than the last. [And obviously, he had a studio, with people to help with the gruntwork.] Somewhere in all this chaos, I have a postcard of one of the red ones. When Linda and I hit that gallery, we came to a dead stop and nearly wept with joy.

How can it be Tuesday already?

I turned off the heat last night, and I think I need to turn the AC back on. I am distinctly warm, and I don’t think that it’s going to get any cooler between now and when I leave for work. [Holy cow, it was 75°F in here! Now wonder I was feeling sticky!]

I went to the Natatorium as planned last night, and since I was able to roll out of bed this morning without the assistance of a crane and a winch, I’m going back for seconds after work tonight and before heading over to Knit Night.

I’ve mentioned how warm and welcoming the ladies at Knit Night are. First impressions of this new bunch are pretty much the same. I don’t think there’s anybody really young in that class, “young” being defined as the roughly the age of my daughters. It seems to be mostly boomers like me and a few geezers and geezettes. Most of whom seemed to have far greater mobility than I do at present. Quite a few of them said hi, either before the class or afterward, and were very encouraging.

And I like the teachers.

So I will be a little later than usual to Knit Night, and redolent of chlorine. I’m trying to figure out how dinner works, if I get home at 7:30 three nights a week. Last night I just made a pimiento-cheese sandwich and washed it down with a mug of fruit juice. This morning I woke up ravenous but wanted to write more than I wanted to eat.

I’ve had a small glass of milk and my first-ever mug of Mexican hot chocolate. [There will be more of same, some other day, even if it does involve standing at the stove and whisking for ten minutes or more.] And I know that I need to send down a big shot of protein, but I also want to leave for the Y in about 15 minutes. And there are two chicken breasts that really need to get cooked today and a pan that didn’t come clean in the dishwasher and had to be soaked, so I’m thinking that the crock-pot is the next best plan. I wonder if I can adapt that great recipe I found in RealSimple?

Would the real mommy please show up and take charge?

I know that in a few weeks I will have adjusted to “the new normal” and have figured out how to balance the need for greater range of motion with the need to eat, and knit, and read, and ponder. But at the moment I feel much as BittyBit did when she was stuck sitting upright because she couldn’t hook that second knee under her and crawl.