21 June 2016

Hanging in the balance

Bird Girl
Right now, the earth is tilted in such a way that the sun appears to be at a stand still, hanging at the most northern point, over the Tropic of Cancer.  In the days ahead, the sun will appear to be shifting, so that it begins it's southern trip where it will reach the Tropic of Capricorn in December.  So for us in the northern hemisphere, we've officially had our summer solstice.  Those folks in the southern hemisphere are in their coldest season, winter.

What time is more appropriate then when the very sun seems to be hanging in the balance, to review some thoughts about life's moments on the precipice?  Some choose the new year to make resolutions.  Some reexamine their lives on their birthdays.  Some reflect on things when some major impending scare has occurred, leaving them with the huge relief to have escaped some threat of impending doom.  I say that any time is fine, including the changing of the season.

None of us can be sure of the future.  We might feel we have things well in hand, expecting things to continue as they are.  We might have vague or general ideas that first this and then that will occur.  We might be certain of certain aspects and particulars.  But the reality is, that very few things are certain in the future for each of us on a personal level.

Here's what I know for certain:  I know that my husband loves me.  I know that I've grown to love him more and more.  I know that I am.

I would like to think that we have plans and have taken the proper steps to implement those plans.  I'd like to think that I've built a wonderful support network and that I am a better person for it, tho I'd like to think that if any one person were to no longer be accessible in that network, that I won't fall apart and be unable to function.  I'd like to think that others value me as much as I value them.

I'm uncertain about quite a bit, actually.  I'm generally ok with that at this point in my life.  I'll continue to learn and become more certain about some things, I am fairly sure.  But I don't feel I need to know every.signal.thing.  In fact, I am quite certain that that is impossible for me.

What do I feel is hanging in the balance?  At the moment, for me and my love, not much.  We are not breathlessly awaiting some crucial verdict or news.  Our livelihoods are not dependent on this job promotion or that medical finding.  We are not wrestling with crises of faith or introspection in existential matters.  Our relationship is on firm footing and we are satisfied with our present circumstances.

Sure, improvement in many areas is desired and hopefully will either continue to come about or will take place when the conditions are right for them to do so.  I feel things are good for me and for my husband, as individuals and as a couple.  My wish is that all is well with you and yours.






10 June 2016

To DeRego's Bread: Dia de Portugal, de Camões e das Comunidades Portuguesas



Happy June 10th, Portugal Day!  Or Day of Portugal, Camoes, and Portuguese Communities {Dia de Portugal, de Camões e das Comunidades Portuguesas}.  If I was not already at home in my jammies, I'd pick up a bag of Portuguese Biscuits, made from Tony DeRego's grandmother's grandmother's grandmother's {I think that's the right number of grandmothers, but I most likely am mistaken} recipe.

I know next to nothing about Portugal, its culture, cuisine, or de Comoes.  But since wiki never lies to me, and I trust wiki implicitly, allow me to pass on some tids and bits garnered from a skimming of various wiki posts about a few things Portuguese.  So, let's begin with its location, Location, LOCATION.

Portugal is the western most European country.  This means it borders Spain and is the very long and narrow country with many sea ports into the Atlantic Ocean.  And while it's not bordering the Mediterranean Sea, Portuguese foods and flavoring share many of the same influences.

If you are interested in the history of this country, Luis de Camoes's 16th century epic poem {Os Lusíadas} of just under 8900 lines has enough fact thrown in with the fantasy to more than acquaint you with Portugal's roots, heroes, and language.  Doubtful there is anything I could add to de Camoes's thoughts, so I'm just going to summarize that the Iberieans, Celts, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and the Romans settled in the area and then were ousted by the Visigothic and Suebi Germanics, and then those goths were invaded by the Moors, who were then expelled too.  Eventually tho, in the twelth century, Afonso Henriques became King and unified some peeps and then spread their dominance into other parts of our world, the first global empire.  But ya know how it is with being king of the hill, everyone else is always trying to knock ya down and claim your territory, so eventually Portugal itself became slim and trim, with lots of colonies elsewhere, like Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada, Brazil in South America, and lots of Caribbean Islands.

There were lots of eras, rulers, revolts, and reigns over the years, what country hasn't gone thru that?  Now Portugal is a member of the European Union, with no other territories, tho Portuguese is the official language in Brazil.  The climate ranges from snow to arid to tropical to volcanic, and includes diverse terrain as well.

Skipping over a huge amount of textbook stuff, I'll just say that there is a tremendous amount of governmental, economical, financial, import/export, military, transport, tourism, science and technology, urbanization information to delve into, if that's your thing.  We all have hobbies, get in there and muck about to your satisfaction.  I'm comfortable not knowing all that, it's enough to say, "Portugal has a rich, well developed history within most any social institution, including education, health, religion, family, etc."

Even tho I like culture of a particular people more so than governmental, military, sports, and economics, like architecture, dance, literature, cinema, music, and visual arts; it's the cuisine that sings to me most.  It snags my attention and fills me with a hunger for spices, flavors, meats, veggies, and herbs that are uniquely combined and prepared into meals, desserts, and even drinks that I've not yet experiences.  So let's see what Portuguese delights we can find, shall we?

Fresh breads, fruit, yogurt are served to breakfast, along with coffee similar to espresso {bica}.  A typical lunch might take a couple hours, eating leisurely, with a few courses including soup {which may be caldo verde, with a potato base, along with kale and spicy sausage}.  Dinner might not occur til later in the evening than most of we Americans are used to eating.  An early sup is served at 8pm, some lasting til ten or midnight.

Olive oil serves as base for most dishes, along with garlic, parsley, and herbs.  Common spices include saffron, chili pepper, bay leaf, cinnamon, and vanilla.  A wealth of vegetables make meals healthy.  Meats in addition to fish, include:  lamb, chicken, pork, and beef.  Cheeses are also plentiful.

Fish and other seafoods figure into the Portugal diet, because both saltwater {Altantic Ocean, seas, and bays} and freshwater {rivers and streams} are so prominent throughout and around the country.  Dried cod is prevalent in cuisine, along with grilled sardines, pork, and beef.  Rice stewed in blood is a regional dish {I can probably pass on that, right off hand, but prepared right, I could probably give it a try}.  Wine is plentiful, such as Madeira, and so is the pastry.  Flour, eggs, and almonds can be prepared in so many delectable ways that I'd never tire of it.  Altho, I do love me a good rice pudding with cinnamon, as well.

Portuguese heritage is not something I can claim, but it sure sounds interesting and I feel full have reading about the various foods.  Almost full, that is.

30 May 2016

Creating Memories & Remembering My Childhood Memorial Days

Earlier today, I watched my youngest step~daughter create a magical setting for her daughters' sixth and first birthdays' photo shoot.  Mary had gone all out, making a special chandelier, two tutus, purchasing lots of supplies, and designing a tea party the likes Alice, the Red Queen, and the Mad Hatter were proud to be in.  This took lots of time, effort, imagination, creativity, and coordination of other folks to have a cake, cupcakes, photographer, friends, baby, lil girl, props, props, and more props on hand.  It all come together and I mostly stayed outta the way and admired all the details.  There were actually two sets, one was the teaparty scene, the other was the Red Queen and all her cards {"off with their heads!"}.  The costumes for the girls' included amazing tutus, the elder child was the Red Queen and the baby was Alice.  And my husband was the Mad Hatter {it's not a stretch for him, really, add the top hat and wah~LAH}.

I was thinking about the memories created today.  I know that the six year old will remember this day for awhile, I hope she looks back on today, perhaps when she sees the pictures years from now, and thinks, "I remember that!  It was so cool, I got to be all beautified and I had so much fun."  I'm pretty sure that the adults will all remember how much Mary put into this, and how her friends were so supportive and helpful.  Jerry, my husband, will remember as much as he can; he so enjoyed being in the pix with his granddaughters.  And altho it's doubtful the baby will remember, she will have the pictures, her first birthday invitations {the photoshoot in part was taken so that the invitations will be able to feature some of these shots from today's teaparty}, and some video of her tromping around in the cake.

Today is Memorial Day, I thought of the women in nearby Columbus, Mississippi and the flowers they put on both Confederate and Union soldiers' graves, known and unknown.  This created this noteworthy day, that was then declared "Decoration Day".  Eventually, it was renamed Memorial Day, a solemn affair to recognize and remember those who died while in service to the USA's military.

Many communities celebrate this entire weekend, as the start of their summer, with parades, fireworks, picnics, concerts on the green, opening of the community swimming pool, etc.  When I was a teen, in Catawissa, PA, my father and his friends led a somber march up the hill of East Main to the cemetery atop the hill, where several cannons and many military graves were located, along with a memorial to the fallen.  Speeches, a 21 gun salute, and taps completed the important ceremony.  Often, there was a cook~out at our house afterward.

Even further back into my childhood, I remember my father playing his copy of "Ballad of the Green Beret".  The record itself was green.  The vocals were those of Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler, a medic with US Army in Vietnam.  He'd also co~written the song.  It was a number one single on the Billboard charts for five weeks in the spring of 1966.

My father was a paratrooper in the US Army, Vietnam, performing special reconnaissance.  Stateside, his base was Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  He is still alive, having fought for many years as a citizen, as a veteran for veterans' rights, specifically those of Vietnam Veterans, and even more particularly for those who'd been exposed to Agent Orange.  He and his friends attended the 1986 "Welcome Home" Parade in Chicago.  It is because so many Vietnam Veterans were so outspoken for so many years that Veterans' Rights have improved and been granted retroactively to those who served during Korea and even for World Wars I and II.  Altho our veterans are not always treated in accord with the service they have provided, you can thank a Vietnam Veteran for fighting for not just your civilian rights, but also our country's veterans' rights, such as they are.

Daddy, I'll always STAND UP next to you.  Thank you for standing up for me, even before I was here.  Please know that altho I don't say it often, I am very Very VERY proud of you.

23 May 2016

Southern Spring

End of May already?!?  It may seem summer is firmly entrenched here in Starkville, but that's not so.  We are about two~thirds into Southern Spring, with about a month left of the season to go.  Why, it's downright balmy here!

Small Melon Basket that Mom made in Spring 2013
If you think short sleeves, short hems, and short shorts signify summer in the south, you are sadly mistaken.  It means spring has sprung.  Summer's coming, tho.  And when it gets here, we'll be wondering why we rushed spring's loveliness and days of seventies and eighties.  Enjoy where and when we are right now, the mornings when sixties demand a light sweater to calm the goosebumps, the days when we might break a sweat as we move thru the sunny afternoons, the cooler evenings that are just right for sitting on the porch swing, and the nights when temperatures dip down in the fifties.

To my northern roots, the signs of summer are here:  school's out, pools are open, and Memorial Day is this weekend.  Watermelon's in the market, lettuce and summer squash are being harvested, and Sonic's half~priced shakes are here.  So I've had to shift what summer means to me, those things now mean spring is mostly gone and summer is right around the corner.  Summer now means a heat and humidity as thick as egg drop soup, nights that are a reprieve from the direct sun, panting dogs, tea, tea, and more sweet tea, sweating while I'm toweling off from the shower, pig roasts, grilled meats and veggies, huge salads, and wondering how in the world our ancestors ever managed without air conditioning while wearing so many layers of clothing.

All that's coming soon enough, for now, I'm going to enjoy what's left of spring and try to finish up the last few knitting projects with heavy yarn before I start some lighter weight projects.

21 May 2016

pain in the ass is exhausting, she mutters


I never know until it's written, where exactly I'm going when I write.   I might know where I think it's going, but I might not always be able to keep it on track.  Sometimes I write to think, and in those cases, that shit most often doesn't see the light of day.  In fact, it usually is not lingering around in places that might be stumbled upon by others cuz I'm thinking and my thoughts are not always beautiful, shiny, happy thoughts, ya know?

Lately, my thoughts have been somewhat scattered more than usual, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it has given a few friends some cause to express concern.  So here's some of what's been going on with me that might explain observable signs of discomfort and lack of focus.  Overall and in the long run, this is an awesome thing; but for now, it's a bit awkward.

Most of my life, I've had some curvature of the spine that deviates from the healthy norm.  As a child, I'd other health issues that took priority.  Whether this spinal curvature is due to different length legs, or the different lengths of my legs are due to the spine curvature is a moot point at this time, because they both exacerbate the worsening of the entire condition of things.  Over the years, I'd tried several times to seek relief, sometimes undergoing physical therapy for months, having frequent massages, exercising and stretching, etc.

I've grown accustomed to ever present discomfort in my extreme lower back, spreading over my hips, and sometimes up into the thoracic region or down into my thighs.  If you've spent any amount of time around me, you'll notice {sometimes with irritation} that I am shifting around, trying to find a position that will either give some sort of relief or at least not contribute to the severity of the discomfort.  I don't even realize that I'm doing it til someone asks if I'm alright or if I'd like them to drive or if they can do something for me.  I appreciate their concern, really I do, but it also makes me feel a little like I'm being bratty, like a child who can't contain themselves and is squiggling.  I don't want to be rude, and honestly, I am paying attention to YOU, even if I am not paying attention to my own actions enough to realize that I am sending you signals that I am bored, frustrated, or impatient.  My squiggling has nothing to do with you and I don't want you to alter your delivery or to feel bad or self~conscience.  It's not you, it's me.  Really.

Well, lately, I've had quite a few xrays for seemingly unrelated complaints and even tho most of them haven't been done for the MD's concerns for my back, my spine does show up in them.  Even tho I am not a radiologist, I can see that this here vertebra is not aligned with the others, that this area of vertebrae actually seem to twist, and there is this general shift in shape, be it that it's not a straight line but a slant or that this curve is sharper than it should be, even going the wrong way.  But also, since I am not a radiologist and since I don't want to be seeing problems where there aren't any; I consulted several professionals who can examine xrays and reassure me that there is no problem that warrants any more concern than my "simply" losing weight.

I know I need to lose weight, I knew that ten years ago when I started to gain more rapidly than I could control.  Exercise at that point was near impossible, as even walking would cause my back to tighten to the point I could not breath without creating extra pressure on my mid back that would in turn further aggravate my lower back and hips.  When walking back from my mailbox brought tears to my eyes, I realized that I needed to bring this to the attention of my GP.  That was the second or third time that I'd had PT for this as an adult.

So I've absolutely no doubt that losing weight, strengthening my core muscles, and exercise would help tremendously.  I also know from the many times that I've gone thru programs to address those issues that there are some structural problems that are at the root that if they are not corrected, then the main discomfort continues to exist, because it's hard to retrain muscles that are having to support bones which are rotated, shifted out of alignment, curved, slanted, etc.

Occasionally, I will experience a flare up of sciatica, the pressure of a pinched nerve that radiates down my left leg.  That actual pushes the discomfort into a painful level that is very attention demanding and cannot be ignored for any significant period of time.  During those periods, sleep alludes me altogether and my nerves begin to fray in other ways, making me tense, sharper, snarkier, and more irritable as well as more irritating.

Usually, my daily discomfort runs about a three or four on a one to ten scale of severity.  This past Sunday, the pain was a steady nine.  Back pain is something I tolerate quite often, but the raw grating nerve sensations in my left leg and thru my hips can reduce me to a sniveling teary whiner eventually.

I think that as I age, I am becoming less tolerant of pain and discomfort.  It is increasingly a problem that I am aware of and so I have begun to take steps to address it.  I feel that this time might be the time that we can make more permanent changes to the deeper underlying issues.  And I am so excited!!

At first tho, there will be some new discomfort as the muscles are doing things they haven't been doing, as bones are shifted into more correct positions and those muscles are taught to be supportive, while other muscles are relieved of their massive duty that has been constant for so long.  It's taken a looooooooooooooooooooong time to get to this point, it's gonna take a long time to get untangled.  Not nearly as long as it did to get so bad; since that was not done deliberately, and fixing it all will be deliberate and constant.

So at the moment, I'm a bit uncomfortable in some new ways; but overall, it's for the a great goal and outcome!  Some problems we can't alleviate, like the degeneration of discs, the arthritis, and the bone spurs present on some vertebrae; but we can keep the mild degeneration from becoming more severe and the arthritis from progressing.  We can decompress the two crucial areas {in my neck and in my lower back}, we can work to correct the two areas of rotation {again, in my neck and lower back}, and we can hope to straighten the overall spine so that it doesn't have the wibbly, wobbly, timey, whimey thing going on.  So I am extremely happy that this is being addressed.

20 April 2016

Amy's Afghan {take two}

I know that I thought the last afghan I did was going to be Amy's Afghan, and it turned out to be, in a way.  The project veered off course, and became an experiment in various colorways using Lighthouse Mist, a fuzzy mohair, and assorted worsted weight yarns, simultaneously.  I did give it to her, but it was not THE Amy's Afghan that I was striving for.

However, I'm on the right path now, baby!


This is Pagoda in Caron Simply Soft, with LightHouse Mist, the variegated mohair that contributes the pleasing shifts in colorway.  The Pagoda is what gives it the overall teal foundation.  This is about two thirds as long as it's going to be, because I have yet another skein of Caron to go.

The overall length will be a bit over five feet.  Altho, when it's done, Amy may decide to consider it the width.

The original plan was to add two more panels, one on either side.  That would make the blanket much wider than the over length.  However, Amy might decide to turn it so that the panels become layers that make the blanket seven to nine feet long {I've not yet decided} and five foot wide.

When the other yarn comes in, which might be as early as tomorrow or as late as next week sometime, I'll post pix of that and make a decision on the final intended dimensions.

But for now, this panel, at this stage, is about 3x4.

08 April 2016

getting back to it

back of afghan
So for a week, I propped myself in the recliner and drank honeyed lemoned teas, eating the occasional bowl of oatmeal.  I hacked and coughed and engaged in other whining activities.  I did NOT knit.  Mostly because I didn't have the brain power to stay on target.
front of afghan

The next week, I ran higher fevers, which induced delirium that make total sense to my addled self at the time.  One of those episodes included me lecturing myself on refraining from knitting because I didn't want to pass on some contagious infectious disease to the recipient of said item.  This still makes sense to me, even in my recovered, non~feverish state.

However, I'm slowly beginning to feel more human and less like a sluggish slumped candidate for the next Mucinex commercial {I'd make an excellent Aunt Bertha, doncha think?}.  These past few evenings, I've been knitting some more rows onto this afghan.  I'm not crazy about it myself, but I think that the recipient will like it and that's the important thing.