Mark Twain

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do ...
Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain

Monday, January 31, 2011

"Great" is a great word!!

Some days are destined to be good ... sometimes great. Today felt like one of those days.

It started out a bit shaky. I was worried about my knee from yesterday's fall. As I rolled over in bed this morning and decided to get up, I braced myself for knee pain. I fretted that this injured knee would set me back on walking, again!!


Almost no pain ... in my knee. But my neck ... now that was another matter. My neck was just fine if my head remained upright, balanced on my shoulders, but when I bent over (like to get out of bed), a muscle in my neck tightened up in a serious way. Darn! I popped 600 mg of Advil with my morning coffee and that controlled the pain in my neck. The knee and the neck wouldn't get in the way of my walking. Great! I can live with that.

Lunch was shared with an old friend from a previous neighborhood. Thirty years ago we lived several doors down from each other. Our children played and walked to school together, and we became friends. We both moved away from that old neighborhood, but over the years our paths crossed several times, and we would catch up on our lives and that of our families. Some friendships seem to stand the test of time. They don't require lots of tending, they allow each person to change and evolve without judgement, and they respect each other's differences as well as being joyful in the similarities. That is what I have with this friend. And that was what I needed on this day. We laughed and enjoyed each other's company as if nothing has changed over the 30+ years. Lots of things have changed, but basically we haven't.

It was really great.

Coming home I was glad to find mom was doing well. She sometimes gets anxious when I have been gone, for no real reason other than I am not in the house. She is a worrier, always has been. It isn't something you can talk her out of after 84 years of worry. But today she seemed good. No negative reactions to my absence.

I was batting a 1000 in the "great day department"!

And to top off this great day, I finished a pair of knitted socks I started in January 2009. I consider that a very good sign. All of last year I dabbled around doing bits and pieces of my hobbies, but I focused on nothing and finished little. It wasn't so great. My hobbies have always been an important element in my happiness. Finishing these socks really felt great.

Really, really great. And they will look just great on my daughter's feet!

Last day of January 2011. The month started out very badly, but I am glad to see it is ending with a bang! A great bang!

Now to get more Advil!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Snow men in town

Although this snow as difficult to shovel, it apparently was fantastic for making a snow man. They were popping up all over the neighborhood and some of them were very cute.

The remains of the snow storm made the footing a bit more difficult today. Melting had occurred all over the neighborhood, and almost as quickly, as the water drifted over the sidewalks, it re-froze. The ice was sometimes hard to identify until you were upon it.

And our parking lot is still being cleaned out. We can get in and out with no problem but the side walks and the parking spaces have been huge obstacles for mom. She has been home bound a lot lately. But each day I make sure she takes "her walks" around the house for 8 minutes. She is tired after that. Next week I am going to bump it up to 9 minutes. She has also been very good about doing her daily exercises.

Despite the fact I have been supremely careful when out for my walks ... today I fell. I have been keeping to the streets. As you can see, many of the sidewalks not attached to residences are snow covered, as well as blocked by fallen branches. This road looked very clear - no snow or ice, so I was allowing my thoughts to drift when my left foot tripped and I fell forward. Can you see what tripped me up?

Here is a closer look. Stupid stick - firmly buried in the curb side snow.

I got up carefully and did a body-check! Everything seemed in working order so I continued on my walk. But now, while I sit at my computer, my left knee is sending me signals that maybe I was a bit premature on the body-check.

I felt like I could walk longer than I did, but it was close to lunch time and mom would be wandering around the kitchen looking for something to eat. Over the last 4 1/2 years, her ability to make choices - even the most simple ones - has deteriorated greatly. If left to her own resources, she would have cheese and crackers for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I am a big fan of cheese and crackers, and we always have them in the house. And I sometimes have that instead of a regular meal, but a steady diet of that isn't healthy. And she can't seem to see anything else. So I headed home. But I am really encouraged that my body is once again adjusting to the exercise of walking.

I feel happier today. I am making an effort to focus my thinking of happier thoughts and avoid those memories that bring me down. Keeping busy helps too. And walking is the backbone of it all.

This afternoon I am going to get out my spinning wheel and spin.

It is a good day!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Today's walk and Today's lesson

The walk today was beautiful. The snow still clings to the all the trees and plants in a way that is reminiscent of a holiday card. This storm surely did cause havoc in our area, but it left beautiful scenes behind. My walk today was very hit or miss. Most side walks were cleared in my area, but sometimes I was forced to step into the street. It wasn't a major problem.

And the walk gave me some very needed private time to sort through my turbulent thoughts. December and January have been difficult months in our household. So much of this time has been spent sick, fatigued, worried, angry, or upset. It has drained me so much that I hardly sleep at times, and find keeping focused on the regular things of life difficult. Peace has been missing, and I wanted to find a way to get it back. Strangely, the answer didn't come in my walk.

I read a posting from a blog I follow: The Totally Together Journal by Stephanie O'Dea.

I encourage you to check it out. Stephanie O'Dea is also the author of two crock pot cooking books (Make It Fast, Cook It Slow and More Make It Fast, Cook It Slow - both excellent books.) The focus of this post was to be happy! In fact, the title "Permission Granted" refers to permission being granted to be happy! Her blog post reminded me that happiness is a choice. And recently I was watching an old Monk TV show and the same theme - Choose to be happy! - was part of the story. Both the blog and the TV show seemed to have a message directly aimed at me.

By nature I am a happy person. I have had times in my life when the problems have seemed overwhelming. I have always found a way to bounce back. Big changes are happening in my life once again, changes beyond my control - and change always carries its own stress. I need to stay focused on the gift nature gave me, the ability to be happy, to choose happiness and then peace will return. I am sure of it.

Thanks, Stephanie.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mother Nature Paybacks

When you are angry with Mother Nature - be sure to keep your angst to yourself!

Last night we had a snow storm, but it left a big heavy foot print on our area. It was a fast moving storm, with alot of moisture in it, and it left behind a very heavy snow - about 6-8 inches. It was alot like wet cement.

I enjoy snow storms, but I usually don't need to go out. I can sit by my window and enjoy the beauty of the natural event. But last night the storm hit its stride around rush hour. Each report on the news seemed to get more dire. Snow, ice, freezing rain - all building up quickly and falling between the hours of 5 and 11.

Under normal conditions, both my kids had an hour trip ahead of them when they left their jobs at 4:30 pm. My daughter arrived at our house at 7:30 pm - 3 hours later. My son made it to his house at 8:30 pm - fours hours later. Terrible terrible trips. They reported problems with folks stranded in their cars along side the highway, four-wheel drive vehicles spun out off the road, buses pulled over because they couldn't make it up a gentle hill, near white-out conditions on route 95 hiding the road bed. Very dangerous.

Thankfully they made it to their destinations safely. My daughter says it was the most stupid thing she had ever done. If she had known what she was driving into, she would have gone home (four miles from her job) rather than trying to drive to my house. My son also had his periods of unease. Each reported their vehicles handled the conditions well, but each were concerned about sharing the road with those who did not have the right kind of car or were traveling too fast for the conditions.

This morning we awoke to a beautiful view. Snow clung to all trees, bushes, roads, yards, sidewalks. It was a very "white" scene. Watching its beauty was eye candy. But lifting the shovel filled with snow ... heavy with water ... was not so great. And as we shoveled, the trees were dropping their load of snow on our heads. We are very tired tonight. Tomorrow we will be very sore.

Last week I had a winter tantrum - angry at Mother Nature for sending a nuisance snow - freezing spit - I think I called it.

Guess she took me seriously! She sent me a decent storm - but I see it as "pay backs" for giving her the finger for sending frozen spit last week.

My apologies to Mother Nature - and to everyone else who struggled through this storm last night. The next time I am annoyed and requesting substantial weather - I will carefully word my angry response - making sure to describe EXACTLY what kind of storm I expect.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Winter's Day Chopping

Typically on a winter's day, if you are inspired to cook anything, I would bet it would be a stick-to-your-ribs stew, hearty chunky soup, bread that fills the house with a homey aroma or maybe a hot mulled apple cider. Those choices fill the magazine covers now.

Not me. I am usually not inspired by the covers of cooking magazines. Today I felt the need to cook - rather chop up - something different. Some might say "summery" even. I love to mix up a cold "black bean and whatever" salad with an olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper dressing. Here is my latest creation.

There is no recipe. It is always alittle different ... just whatever I feel like throwing into the bowl. My cold salads typically have the dressing described above, and always black beans and fresh cilantro (I totally love cilantro) but sometimes fresh basil, sometimes I add garbanzo beans, canned corn, usually onions and celery and just whatever I have in the house. This time I added cauliflower and radishes - that was a first for those items.

There was another first. Today I added pasta. Here is a closer picture of the pasta. Does it remind you of something?

This was "Dog Lover's Pasta" and the pasta should look like paw prints. I think it does when you look at it ... looking for a paw print!! What is too funny is that I also have "Cat Lover's Pasta" and they look exactly the same. :-) I got these specialty pastas from a children's fundraising event last fall.

I have said it before ... I am a big lover of winter.
But I am a big lover of summer dishes!!

Our cat history!

There are cat people and dog people.
I am a cat person!

Shocking as that statement is to my neighbors (I am always walking dogs.), those who have known me for a while are not surprised.

Over the last 41 years my husband and I have shared our lives with 9 cats. The first 3 were friends with each other - not related but close in age. They slept together, they cleaned each other, they played together. Life was simple. So simple that we thought the next bunch would be the same - so why not get 4 cats!

Life with the next 4 cats was like living in the Middle East - you never knew when hostilities would breakout, but it was a sad fact that they would. Peace was possible with major adjustments, frequent accommodations, and substantial barriers and bunkers. It was always a fragile peace. But our cats are part of our family, so just as we wouldn't get rid of a kid because he didn't get along, we wouldn't get rid of any cat just because scud missiles would regularly fly. It was a long 12-15 years for us humans!

But we loved those 4 cats enough to commission an oil painting of them. No, they never sat as close as they show in that painting. Artists are skilled at making unlikely things look likely, look natural. Don't they look like they are pals and just "hanging out" together on our deck during a sunny afternoon? It is the way we like to remember them. The painting hangs in our living room now. It will be one of those items that our children fight over after we are gone. "You take it." "No, you take it." "Please, I insist you take it." "Hell, no - I offered it to you first." I guess it is too much to ask that they check with "The Antiques Road Show"! :-) (From the bottom clockwise: Gandy, Alex, Teddy, and Cassie)

Anyway, now peace has returned. Maximilian and Wallace are the current cat residents. They are brothers and were selected as kittens because they were a "bonded" pair - able to live with each other without the benefit of bullet proof vests or automatic weapons.

Max is a stomach on legs. Food is what makes him tick. Anything that remotely reminds him of food brings him on the run. The rattle of a pill container or the crinkle of a bag can send the wrong message to "the stomach with legs". He is not very smart, but the stomach is not the best organ to think with.

He has degenerative kidney disease that will shorten his life, so while we have him we cherish every moment - even though we rank #2 behind his dinner.

Wally is a thinker. He is smart. Frighteningly smart. That means problems because a bored smart cat can be a terrible thing. Bumps in the night, crashing sounds, puzzling out containers with secured lids, dancing on the computer keys - all are valid activities when you very smart ... and bored. He loves dogs, even crazy ones like Milo who he is still trying to figure out! And he loves my dog-walking coat. When I am not wearing it, he is.

He is healthy now except that he carries extra weight - we hear about that every single time we go to the vets. I have had "soul-searching conversations" with Wally about his expanding waist line, but so far it has fallen on deaf ears. The truth be told, cats seldom take anything you say seriously. Selective hearing is one of their "charming" traits. Only a cat lover could call that charming, of course!

My grand-dogs are very dear to me,
but if I had to choose between only cats or dogs,
cats would win hands down!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson

If you aren't familiar with Bill Bryson's work, you should really check out one of his books. My all-time favorite of his, A Walk in the Woods, was reviewed in a previous post. Currently I am reading The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid and it is every bit as good as A Walk in the Woods.

Published in 2006, this work describes the author's growing up in Des Moines, Iowa - middle America - during the 1950s. This story, however, is more than just a chronicle of his early life. Bill Bryson shares his memories of a time when America was changing, growing, inventive, ... a time when all things seemed new and possible. As an added bonus, he invites you into his imaginative childhood world, where he donned the persona of the Thunderbolt Kid (later to be called Captain Thunderbolt), often influenced by the super heroes of the time. He shares his remembrances of everything from the heyday of baseball, the unregulated life of a child in the 50s, cigarettes, sex, jobs and living in a new nuclear world ... to fictional characters as Superman, Roy Rogers, Sky King, Davy Crockett and Zorro. He seems to reflect on everything.

And, as expected, Bill Bryson has a way of seeing the world that at times is thought provoking and often funny. This book is no different. Each chapter begins with a quote from a local newspaper - quotes that often reflect the innocence and the culture then. And the quotes are followed by a picture taken in the 50's. One of my favorite pictures shows an ad with a mature man who is obviously a doctor smoking a cigarette. The bold words state: "More Doctors Smoke Camels Than Any Other Cigarette!" It made me smile. I wonder how many of those doctors died from lung cancer. Another picture shows school children kneeling down behind their desks with arms over their heads during an air-raid drill - part of the post World War II reaction to a possible nuclear attack. I remember those drills very clearly. Looking back to my own childhood if we were ever attacked by a nuclear blast, our desks and our arms wouldn't have saved us.

Reading this book is alittle like looking through an old family album of America, but the images are described in words. For those who lived through this time, the images are formed by your own memories of the times - the names and places may be different but the life experiences are pretty universal. And the enjoyment of this book is not limited to just the baby boomer generation - you just need to have been a child.

So while this book includes his trade mark humorous observations on his youth (making the book worthwhile all by itself), it also includes a touching and nostalgic look back at America - a time that is long since gone, but is a part of who we are today.

This is a great read! One of his best works. Be sure to check it out. If any of my family or friends are interested in borrowing my copy, I am glad to share.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Waltzing to Rock Music!

Yarn was made this weekend. And I did it. A beautiful brown, single ply, thick and thin, Merino and Bamboo yarn. And I am now sure the decision I made 7 months ago to purchase a spinning wheel was the right one.

The weekend began with the arrival of my cousin from Pennsylvania. She arrived with her spinning wheel, her new Kromski Harp loom and her knitting. Her weekend was totally productive finishing some spinning, weaving (a gorgeous scarf - my pictures don't do it justice), work on a pair of socks (using 2 circular needles, toe up, doing 2 socks at one time, and her first cable pattern - the woman is invincible!), and she helped me get moving on this spinning thing.

My focus was my spinning wheel only. We started by taking the wheel out of its carrying case and digging around in the archive of my brain to remember how to put it together again. My cousin spent time checking, oiling and testing the wheel to see if it was ready for the rookie spinner. It passed the test.

Then began the inspection of the many fibers I had purchased last year - trying to find a good one for unskilled hands. She prepared and attached a leader to my wheel and connected the unspun fiber. It was then time for me to "sit behind the wheel" so to speak, and do the deed.

So I sat down with my cousins voice echoing in my head, "You only get better by practice." Hmm, ... practice.

And the struggle began: pulling on the fiber too much or not releasing enough, peddling too slow and then too fast, drafting too much or not enough, stopping the wheel to fix all the funky stuff I caused after all the previous stuff I did ... all performed as if trying to dance the waltz to rock music. And the echo kept returning "you only get better if you practice" - so I plowed on.

And then something happened. I wasn't thinking about my feet so much. I guess they figured out what they needed to do finally. That freed up some brain function. And then I noticed that occasionally I was able spin continually for about 5 or 6 seconds before stopping. Yes, that seems short, but it is an improvement over spinning for 2-3 seconds before stopping. I also began to catch my own mistakes: I still made them but I at least I saw them.

And, I, too, worked on a pair of socks - but I was doing it the old fashion way: one at a time, top down, using double pointed needles. My only real claim to fame on these beauties is that I am working on the foot of the second sock - so the end is within sight. Since the start was January 2009 it is about time they were done. I started out making them for me, but they will go to my daughter when they are complete.

Having my cousin here for a visit tops the list of weekend treasures. Spinning a bunch holds second place. Mom really enjoyed the visit - fascinated by the weaving. And then there was the food (the corn bread and bacon vegetable soup were yummy at lunch on Saturday), and the wine (thank you Australia for Yellow Tail) was great, and the sharing (catching up on our lives, planning for future visits) was long overdue ... these weekends always great fun.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Winter Tantrum!

While standing in my PJs and robe, and drinking my morning coffee, I look out my kitchen window. My eyes do not believe the view. Is it possible that we have missed yet another snow storm here in Columbia.

I look outside my window again. Nope, no real measurable snow - just frozen stuff.

Its no secret I love big storms. Big snow storms. Big, big snow storms. And here we are in the middle January and we have only spit ... "frozen spit".

I am done with this!!

I put my coffee firmly down on the counter. I march purposefully across my kitchen floor. I open the slider door. Carefully I step across my frozen deck. I look up and raise my angry fist at the sky, saying all the four letter words that I know, ("snow" being one of them, of course) and then in a very loud ugly voice I scream:

"Frozen spit!
I am insulted!
Is that the best you have?
Can't give us a real storm!!
Totally pathetic.
D- in my book."

And then my neighbor opens his window and peeks out.

I freeze. Our eyes lock. My fist lowers slowly and becomes a wave. His eyes shift left and right, looking. My other hand pulls my robe closed. He closes his window.

I turn and step back to the house, but before I close the door, I raise my defiant fist once again to the cold gray sky.

Well, really, it was just one finger this time. I will let you pick which one. :-)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Time and Choice - thoughts

Ask anyone you know, there is never enough time to include all the things we want in our lives. There is work, family, exercise pursuits, the housework, cooking, pets, friends, and if you are lucky, there is leisure. Fitting in all the commitments, meeting all the expectations, dealing with the frustrations and short comings of each - simply stated - keeping all the "balls in the air" never seems to fit within the scope of 24 hours. Even if you love all these things, too many things cause stress. And living with the constant pressure can wear you down physically and emotionally. I know. I have been there.

Years ago I had a job that seemed to absorb most of the available hours in the day. An argument can be made that I let it - but the fact was there was no "me" time. My husband and I made pretty good salaries, and we felt the trade-offs for not having enough time were worth the money. What little time was not spent working, was devoted to family issues. The kids were teens and needed pieces of our time. I couldn't ignore them - they weren't adults and we weren't finished raising them. And when we could carve out recreation, it was always expensive recreation. We had the money and we needed big change to get a break from our regular overwhelming lives. But I never sat down to read a book, or knit or take walks or find any time for "me". Even when I watched alittle TV at night, I had work on my lap. When I think back on that time, I think of it as a sad time.

After years of living like that, I looked in the mirror. The person looking back at me seemed like a stranger. I saw everything in black and white - right or wrong. I didn't have time for shades of gray. I stopped caring about the needs of others, even with some people very close to me. They were all functioning adults, they needed to take care of themselves, and if they seemed to step out of line the least little bit - whether it was true or not - I moved on. No time for that. Relationships take time. I didn't have time. I was busy, busy, busy. It was a super-sized life. And I never once considered that maybe I was the problem. Maybe I was trying to squeeze too much into 24 hours. Maybe I was the one who was falling short in managing my own 24 hours.

Since then I quit that job. And I eliminated many optional things (I kept the kids - and I am glad I did 'cause they turned out sensational.) Yes, we had less money. We had to "make-do" more often. But we survived and the person I saw in the mirror after a time was someone I recognized once again - because all the qualities in me that I hold dear weren't really gone, they were just beaten down with "not enough time".

I have decided to stop wishing for more time. We all have the same 24 hours. I am the manager of my own personal 24 hours. If I am unhappy with the way my own 24 hours plays out, I am the only one who can do anything about that. And that is where choice comes in.

It has been my mantra years. "You always have a choice." You have the choice to quit a job that is too demanding, to get another one even if it pays less. You have a choice to leave the house dirty or to hire a house keeper. You have a choice to say "no" to commitments that might be more than you can manage at present. You have a choice to eliminate stressers from your life (Keep the kids, though! That worked out great for me). Taking those steps can be difficult, making hard critical choices about what needs to go and what can stay in your life is really really hard. But it is worth it if you are still recognizable when you look in mirror. I have decided that time and choice are intimately linked.

My life is simpler now. I learned that lesson very well years ago. Keep it simple. We don't have the money we once had, but we have more time. I didn't say I wasn't busy - there are days when I feel like I am just treading water. Care giving is often that way. But it is simpler - mostly because I made it that way. When mom was hospitalized, I knew exactly what to do when I felt overwhelmed. I cut my life to the bone - and focused on only those things that mattered in that moment - and at that moment it was mom. It was still stressful, but not impossible.

And for those who would argue that I have simplified this whole topic too much, that there are some lives that are impossibly busy, overwhelming, and can't be avoided ... I would say ... there are always choices.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

HiyaHiya Interchangeable Needles - A Review

These little gems found their way to my home on Tuesday. Pictured are my new HiyaHiya interchangeable knitting needles in their beautiful fabric cases. I purchased them at And Sew It Goes, a quilt and knitting shop located in Savage Mill, Maryland.

I have several sets of interchangeable knitting needles acquired over 10 years. Each manufacturer offers slightly different qualities in their interchangeables. The HiyaHiya sets shown here provide the best options of all the manufacturers I have tried.

On first glance, the fabrics used to create the cases are beautiful. The picture shows 2 cases - blue and purple. I also saw a red case and a turquoise case. Picking a case color was hard. The colors are bold, vibrant ... very eye catching. The cases are constructed compactly - measuring approximately 6x6 inches square - and are small enough to fit in a purse. In addition, there are 2 zippered pockets for notions. When opened, there is a flap of fabric that covers the needle tips and is held in place with Velcro. A tie is used to close the case. From my perspective, the case is one of the selling points for these needles. Small, compact, organized and beautiful.

Upon examining the needles, it becomes evident that this manufacture has provided the largest choice of needle sizes ranging from size 2 (unusual) through size 15 US. To get the full range of sizes you would need to buy two sets (small set has size 2-8, and large set has size 9-15 - as shown). This is an improvement over other manufacturer's offerings. Most in my knitting group felt that sizes 2-8 would be most useful. I like the fact that you can focus your purchase to buy exactly the needles that you would normally use rather than including sizes you would seldom use.

Another common complaint about interchangeables is the quality of the join where the knitting needle meets the cable. I have a set of Addi Turbo Interchangeable - a gift from Christmas 2009, and I find their join to be less than adequate - it catches the yarn as you knit. My other sets (Denise and Knit Picks - both cheaper sets than Addis) are actually better than Addis set in that regard. The HiyaHiya has a very smooth join - better than all the others. The cable and the needle heads screw together rather than snapping or being tightened with a "key" of some sort.

The price point for these needles tends to fall below the Addi Turbo Interchangeable but above the Denise and Knit Picks Interchangeables. If you buy both the small and large HiyaHiya sets, then the price point falls in the range of the Addi Turbos, but with the Addis you are getting fewer needle heads.

And so I am thrilled with my purchase, and I would recommend them to knitters as the best option available on many levels. But knitting needles are like purses or wallets - each person has their own idea of what makes a great knitting needle. The needs and expectations of each knitter are different. However, if you are selecting your first set of Interchangeable Knitting Needles - please check out these beauties. I think you will be impressed.

Snow Lingers

This snow has lingered and it has held it beauty in many ways.
Here are some views right outside my back door.
A picture perfect snow.

They are well fed, don't you think? :-)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Goals - OK, I lied.


I said I wouldn't do this. But I will. (So will you ever be able to believe anything I say?)

In 2010 I had goals. I worked out what they would be during the whole month of January. That should have been a big red flag right there - who takes a whole month to work out goals!! Indecision? Maybe. Commitment issues? Possibly. A forecast of my mental state for the year? You betcha!

This year I have a few goals. But I am going to keep it simple. If 2011 is anything like 2010 - no point in getting carried away with big plans.

Goal #1 - Get Focused!

Last year was a "craft ADD year" for me. I couldn't focus on one thing if my crafting life depended on it. After Thanksgiving, there was a great wasteland of nothing-ness. I went from doing a gazillion different things and to doing nothing, na-da, zilch. Gotta do better this year.

Goal #2 - Use 5,000 yards of yarn.
I have an embarrassing amount yarn. Last year I decided to count the yards of yarn in my stash (a diversionary tactic to keep from doing actual knitting, you understand). Based on my totals as of May - if I knitted 5,000 yards of yarn a year, I wouldn't run out of yarn until 92 years of age (gads!). I am 63 - you do the math. I went on an immediate yarn diet, but broke it this month when I rewarded myself., Still, 5,000 yards a year is a reasonable goal.

Goal #3 - Spin.
Now you wouldn't think that a person who has as much yarn as I have would need to make more yarn. You would be wrong. I have a great spinning wheel, several lovely spindles and a bag full of beautiful fiber. My spinning cousin is coming for a weekend visit in a few weeks, and my plan is for her to help me get launched using my wheel.

Goal #4 - Weave on my hand looms.
A new craft this year and two projects underway. Yeah ... this needs more of my attention. I love the look of the finished product.

Goal #5 - Complete 2 knitting projects - and maybe more.
I have 2 projects I am working on presently: a pair of socks I started in January 2009 (yes, 2 years ago ... don't go there), and a sweater I started in June of 2010. There are a few other projects that are in my mental list to begin (a sweater for Kris, another sweater for Milo, a shawl for mom, and a sweater, vest or shawl for me), but I am refusing to start them until these 2 are done.

Well, we will see how long that lasts.

Five goals - few enough to be do-able, nonspecific enough to be achievable, inclusive enough to keep me connected to the stuff I want to do.

Keeping my fingers crossed!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

One Joy of Winter


I am a huge fan of winter and all of its faces ... including the white bearded winter face of snow. Tonight our first snow of the season has arrived - a measly 3-4 inches is predicted. But it counts - it is not a dusting - like previous snows.

I love the snowy view from my front step. I live on a terraced hill, up from the street. The shadows of the trees, the brightness of the street light, the quiet of the snow covered road that curves into my development, always fills me with a peaceful feeling.

My peaceful feeling this night was not shared by my unexpected house guests. Tonight Meathead and Grimace are having a sleep-over with grandma. And since neither one of them can use the toilet, we went for a walk.

Tell me.

Does this look like a "peaceful" face?

And here's a trick question.

Are they dragging me into or out of my house on this beautiful evening?

Their only goal was this!!

"Grandma, we saved the middle spot for you. Put the camera down and come to bed."

Monday, January 10, 2011

Favorites of 2010

I know.

This is not an original idea or post. But I like the idea of remembering what is special from the previous year!

So before the month of January 2011 totally slips away, here is my list of "2010 Special Favorites". They are in no particular order. Believe me, narrowing it down to 10 was hard.

So here goes.

1. My kids - Everyone says their kids are special. But this year my kids did more for me than just be "my kids". Previous posts tell the story. It is sufficient to say that they demonstrated in small, quiet ways what wonderful adults they have become.

2. My coat - Ok, so I agree this sounds strange. But my dog-walking coat was my friend so many times in December. To state the obvious, it is a warm coat even if it makes you look 15 pounds heavier. This coat goes all the way down to my ankles and when the collar is pulled up, it covers me to above my ears so a hat is seldom necessary. And at the hospital, this coat served as my blanket many many times, and at other times it was a wonderful pillow. I was never too hot or too cold. It is the best coat I have ever had - and last month - it was my best friend.

And when I am not wearing my coat, Wally is wearing it. No joke. The coat has a rustling sound when it is moved and I always hear it slipping to the floor.

3. My mom - I have learned alot about myself through taking care of mom. Last year the lessons learned unveiled many of my short comings.
  • I am not the patient person I always thought I was. I am learning patience.
  • I am not as understanding about the complexities and frustrations of aging as I thought. I am peeking inside the aging process. It is pretty scary in there.
  • I am not as generous or kind a person I think I am. True generosity and kindness is expressed when you respond to a need without being asked and when there is no expectation of recognition. Learning, learning, learning.
4. Big snow storms - My God! I love a big, big snow storm. And in 2010 we counted our snow in"feet". It was very big!

5. My blog - Who would have thought writing to yourself could be so rewarding!!

6. Tuesday knitting group - My Happy Pill. Boy, if I could stick my knitting group into a bottle and sell it, the world would be a better place (and I'd be rich) ... or maybe we would all just warmer in hand-knit stuff.

7. Tai Chi - I returned to Tai Chi last Wednesday after missing 6 weeks - my legs were very unhappy! The rest of me was thrilled!

8. Time with cousins and my sister - Simply stated ... I don't get enough.

9. My four-legged family members - Max, Wally, Meathead, Grimace and Milo. It's a real zoo here sometimes!

This is Max. He isn't allowed on the kitchen table. He is on the kitchen table.

And, in typical cat fashion, he seems to be saying, "No, I am not on the kitchen table and, no, I am not checking out your purse for cookies - and there are no cookies in there, just in case you were wondering.

10. My good health! This year I did little to improve or even maintain my good health. At the risk of making my daughter totally nuts - I will share.
  • I didn't do the walking I wanted to do.
  • I didn't always eat right.
  • I sometimes missed taking my pills (this week I went back on my blood pressure medicine when I causally discovered that my pressure WASN'T normal on its own *sigh*. I bet the same can be said of my cholesterol medicine).
  • In December borrowed aggressively against my good health with lack of sleep and worry.
And I am still relatively healthy. But not stupid. I am back to focusing on me (when I'm not focused on mom.)

So that is my list. Do you have a list?

Today's walk: 4458 steps, 1.8 miles, 36 minutes

Sunday, January 9, 2011

More steps towards normalcy


Not sure what that is anymore. So many events, people, activities ... got pushed out of December and moved into January. As a result, January is turning out to be exceedingly busy.

But we did some normal things this weekend.

Last night we celebrated "Christmas Eve" - well, I guess it was more like New Year's Eve. Our December 24th guests, our son and his girl friend and her parents, came to dinner last night. We weren't sure how many people were coming. I had initially planned for 12 possibles, but the numbers slipped and in the end we had 6. The further you move away from the holidays, the harder it is to get everyone together. Schedules are so busy.

Although I don't care for daily cooking, I do like preparing a big meal for a group. And it is always fun to open the table up and set it. In reality my fully extended table doesn't actually fit in the room. We need to angle it from one corner to the other to make it fit. But with only 6 people it felt a little like we were sitting at a large formal table where everyone sits several feet away from each other. :-) We don't have "formal" anything for the table, so it was hardly fancy. Regardless, it was great to have a smaller informal gathering with such lovely people.

The next normal thing happened this morning. Mom awoke a bit shaky - not feeling all that well (and lately that has been our "normal"). She did not feel well enough last night to come to with our guests ... which was a shame - she needs more social opportunities. But this morning she got dressed and came down for breakfast and then announced she was well enough for church. So we went. And it did her good to get out of the house and attend Mass. It was an effort for her to be sure, but when she got seated in the church, she looked so much better with the smile on her face. And it was heart-warming to see people she knew greeting her and welcoming her back. Her name was still in the Church Bulletin with others who needed prayers.

So the weekend had some normal things in it - more normal than anything we have done in awhile. And it is beginning to feel a little more like my normal life.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Last Christmas 2010 Hurrah!

In trying to catch up on all the things I missed in December, I discovered this article and video in the Columbia Patch - an online local newsletter for our city. The article is from December 22, 2010 and was written by my son's girl friend. She writes occasional articles for this wonderful newsletter.

So before we get too far away from Christmas 2010 - I wanted to share this wonderful movie with you. Follow the link and after you read the article, click on the video link. It is wonderful. It will give you a smile to start 2011.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

With my "peoples"

After being forced to miss 5 weeks of knitting group, I returned today with knitting and camera in hand. And it was restorative. And although some folks don't care to have their picture taken, everyone was gracious and happily posed for the picture. (and I am sure that my causal mention of tears if anyone refused had no bearing on their decision to participate.) :-)

Of course I had missed a bunch of conversations over those missed weeks - there was an interesting match-making arrangement underway. And then there was a conversation about a clown and a hobo and some sort of pleasurable event (you had to be there for that one!). Oh yes, there was knitting as well. It is a knitting group, after all.

It is hard to express just how much I missed this group. They are my weekly "happy pill". These are my "peoples". How can you not be happy when surrounded by such wonderful friends and talented knitters.

Hope you have a group like that!

Blog as if someone is reading - or not.

I stumbled upon a posting with a title that caught my eye. You Should Blog Even If You Have No Readers. Catchy title and it seemed to mirror my own ideas. But reading this excellent posting, I realized that I was clearly blogging for very different reasons than the writer suggests.

My apologies to Nathan Marz, the writer of the posting, if I have failed to capture the essence of what he wrote. I encourage you to follow the link and read the posting in his own words.

Mr. Marz espouses that writing makes you a better reader. Through writing you learn to organize your own thoughts and find holes in your reasoning. Writing allows your thoughts become words on a paper where they are more easily examined rather than ideas floating in your mind. And through the writing process you are better able to see the strengths and flaws of your own work as well as the work of others. He makes several other points, but in short, writing makes you a smarter and a better person.

Early in my blogging journey, I discovered that writing was a reward in itself, but I wasn't sure why. I don't have a product to sell. There is no religious or political message I want to deliver. I don't even have a creative talent like art, music or photography I wish to share. And while I agree with the ideas in Mr Marz's post, I don't do this to be a smarter or a better person.

Over time writing has helped me sort out why I enjoy blogging. There are so few times in life where you can have the total flexibility and freedom of self expression. Selecting topics, expressing thoughts and ideas, sharing fun experiences or life's difficulties, publishing on your own schedule, capturing the right pictures ... all these are rewards for me.

But there is more. The blogging process slows me down. It gives me time to think and write about things that are important just to me. It forces me to find joy in the everyday occurrences of life and sometimes even in bad situations. It houses the memories of the large and the small events of living.

Mr. Marz would probably see my reasons for blogging as "side benefits". And maybe they are, but if it wasn't for the side benefits, I would close this blog down.

And as for writing even if you don't have readers? The idea of a readership has grown and sprouted legs with me. I am not sure why. It has been fun to reconnect with some people who I seldom see. I love the idea that someone just might be reading what I write and have taken the time to write a comment. Would I stop writing if everyone went away ... absolutely not. The blogging process is for me. The reader interaction is icing on the cake. But I like cake more.

I blog as if someone is reading, or not.

Monday, January 3, 2011

First Walks of 2011 - and Max the dog

Rainy, damp, cool - that was January 2 - yesterday - and I walked. And it was a terrible walk. Within the first 2 minutes I was reminded by various parts of my anatomy that I had fallen on January 1st.

I was out at 5:30 am with Meathead who needed a walk. It was a chilly, quiet New Years Day morning - and still dark. I walked down a grassy slope. Suddenly my right foot started to slide and then my right leg folded under me at an odd angle while the rest of me rolled to the left. It was an awkward fall. I did a quick body-check and counted myself lucky that I was not injured.

However the little aches from the fall made themselves known on my first walk of the year: my right knee, then my right calf, then my left big toe, then my right heel and so on. Heck, it was a complete nag, nag, nag for about 30 minutes. I decided right then that tomorrow I would take a handful of Advil before going out. Ok, maybe just 3 Advil would do. No sense risking liver failure just to get a walk in.

I walked 1.7 miles - 4,375 steps in 34 minutes. So that those are my baseline stats for 2011. No where to go but up!!

Today, January 3, it was sunny, I was loaded up with Advil and ready to do the second walk of the year!! It was hugely better. No little reminders of my fall. Just a constant reminder that I have lost endurance with all my false starts in 2010. The fatigue will lift with time.

I walked 1.8 miles -4,530 steps in 34 minutes. Slightly more mileage and steps in the same amount of time as yesterday.

And this year I plan to track stats only related to my walks - just like my good friend Happy One.

As I was swinging past the ball park I was pleasantly surprised to see my "dog friends" out going through their retrieval practice. The day was perfect for running and enjoying life.

Those folks who read my post from early December
( will remember these 2 dogs and their owner. At the time they were going through a retrieval regimen in our local ball park. ... just like today. I couldn't help myself. I stopped to talk to him.

The dog I identified as a lab mix is, in fact, a full lab, bred from championship lines well-known in the retrieval competitions. His name is Max. Max has participated in a few competitions, but is now being trained to become a Search and Rescue dog. How cool is that! His owner stated that retrieval competitions use real birds instead of the orange bumpers. He doesn't want Max retrieving birds. He wants him to be focused on finding humans and the bird retrieval would be a distraction.

The dog I identified as a full poodle was, in fact, a Labradoodle - a mix of a lab and a poodle. (Hey, at least I knew they were both dogs!! ;-) ) His owner pointed out that the Labradoodle wasn't so focused in his training - guessing the poodle side of his personality was a little more dominant. He sure looks like a poodle even up close. But he is put through is paces regardless.

Everyone in our house is well! (No easy feat!) So January 3 is a great day for a whole bunch of reasons! Hope your January 3 was great as well.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Rewards - a good thing!

Several days ago I visited my local yarn shop (LYS). For me that shop is All About Yarn!

It has been awhile since I visited the shop, and I discovered big changes had been made. The shop was able to expand its showroom by expanding the back room into what looked like yarns for babies and children. Very appealing. In addition, they were able to create a classroom space - very important for a yarn shop. Finally they gained more storage space - freeing up their current storage space for an office. Very nice changes.

The shop is appealing as well because it is run by 2 women and their daughters as shown in the picture.

Since my daughter was at home with mom, I decided to stop in for a visit to my LYS on my way out to get the grand dogs. It had been about 6 months since I had stopped in. This past year I avoided visiting yarn shops and online shops because I was on a self-imposed yarn diet. When you have enough yarn to open a small store - you need to put the breaks on yarn purchases. And that was what I did since April. But my spirits needed a lift and a yarn store always does that for me.

While there I decided that I needed a reward for surviving the last 6 dreadful weeks. I didn't know exactly what the reward would be, but I knew it was waiting patiently for me in this shop. I just needed to discover where it was hiding. I love playing "hide and seek" in a yarn shop.

The trouble with having an expansive yarn stash is that finding new yarns that call to me is harder. When I did my yarn inventory last winter I was very pleased to discover that I still LOVED all the yarns I selected over the years. I was still eager to use all of them. But now new yarns have to be very special for me to buy them. Still the thrill of the chase - the hunt - add to my enjoyment of the purchase when an ideal candidate for inclusion in my yarn "collection" is found.

Such was the case this trip. I searched and searched throughout the shop. Many beautiful yarns and many new books. But nothing called my name. And then, without warning, something did catch my eye. A beautiful fire engine red Namasta faux leather bag called Monroe. It was a bit smaller than my other Namasta bag which was more of a large tote. The Monroe is a cross between a purse and a tote bag. The more I examined it the more excited I got. Many pockets, zippers, magnet closures, room for a knitting project, but also room for a wallet, note pad, keys and stuff. And my iPad, phone and iPod Touch would fit as well. I loved it. On my arm it went. I made one more sweep of the shop - and discovered that the bag also came in black and a deep purple - called Egg Plant. The picture doesn't do the purple color justice. The red was definately beautiful, but purple seemed more my style.

As I was rounding the store, in a basket on the floor was a beautiful Rainbow Shawl kit by Fiddlesticks Knitting in the collective colorway called Earthy: Basil, Curry, Sable, Copper, Suede and Bottle Green. Don't those colors just sound wonderful? The yarn is JaggerSpun, Zephyr Wool-Silk: 50% Merino Wool and 50% Silk. Very soft. The shawl pattern is done in an easy to work Feather and Fan lace pattern and is recommended for beginner lace knitters or TV watching for the more experienced! Sold! I have done the pattern before and have done lace as well. This was the yarn and pattern that was calling my name.

I left the shop feeling very good. This year has been a very slow knitting year for me. I couldn't seem to get moving on projects. Even when I spent all that time sitting in the hospital and rehab - I didn't knit much - maybe 4 rows on a sock in 6 weeks. I guess worry and fatigue had a killing effect on my hobbies. But the desire to knit and complete stuff is growing again. I need to get my stash/collection organized and get moving on some real projects. I am eager to pick up my handweaving looms again as well. And there is a spinning wheel that is just screaming at me all the time. The spinning wheel, called Agatha, will get her turn when my spinning cousin comes for a visit later in the month. I really need more hands on instruction.

My other Namasta bag? As you can see, it is a lovely Celery Green color. I gave it to my daughter. Milo has a lot of "needs", and she hauls his stuff to my house every weekend. Her current tote was fine but showing wear. This Namasta tote was perfect for her. And I am so glad to see it getting used - it is a beautiful tote and it was a shame for it to sit idle in my den.

The coming year feels better with each day! I am encouraged.

They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away.
I wonder how many apples I can force my mom to eat in a day :-) .

Side Note:
That day when all the world looked good to me, my visit to the yarn shop was successful, and I had my grand dogs babies in the back of my car coming for a visit ... that day ... as I was pulling into my parking lot - my daughter came out the door with a worried look on her face. You know you are in trouble when your adult child (substitute caregiver for my mom) meets you outside with a serious look.

While I was gone, mom had thrown up twice. Coming in I could tell mom was not feeling well and the un-said message we were all trying to avoid (the "elephant in the room" as the saying goes) was - are we heading into another hospitalization. Well I am glad to report all turned out well (for a change). Mom's post nasal drip had become excessive that afternoon - and what she appeared to be vomiting was lots and lots of mucous (I mean serious amounts - without getting to graphic.) Her vital signs were normal and she had just finished a long course of antibiotics. So I decided she was well - willed her to be well - demanded of the fates that she be well (hoping desperately I was right). I told her she wasn't sick, and in an hour or so I would feed her. If she kept it down, she was fine. If not, maybe she wasn't fine. But we wouldn't jump to any conclusions (even though we all were jumping to conclusions).

Thankfully I was right. She was fine. We all slept in our own beds that night! The black karma that had been following us since the end of November was pushed aside by pure force of will on my part, and we are moving forward.

Period. The End.

As of January 2, 2011 - all are healthy.