23 October 2016

beeeee good

Starkville Oktibbeha County School District's mascot is the yellow jacket.  My husband is very supportive of their sports' teams, in particular, their football team.  In large part, this is probably because his mother, he, and his kids had all gone to school there.  Two of his grandkids went to school there for a few years, too.  Since then, they've moved on and now live elsewhere, where yellow jackets are considered pests and not a point of pride.

Years ago, when I first met Jerry but before we were even engaged, I knit on a loom a very long tailed, shaped yellow and black stinger hat with a deep brim.  Since then, he asked me to affix a retired Coast Guard patch the rim's front.  Now, when the weather warrants, he wears his hat to his  Friday night football games.  Folks usually ask him where he got it and if his wife would consider making and selling one for that particular person.  It tickles me, but I am super glad that he doesn't volunteer me, since I don't like working on deadlines.  Besides, I wouldn't sell themed hats, for several reasons.  One is that I'm not licensed to use the Georgia Hornet {which has leased its mascot usage to SOCSD to use as its yellow jacket.  The other reason I don't sell my yarned works is because very rarely would this be considered profitable.  Handmade items are usually labor intensive and that alone would drive up the price.  I tend to make stuff with particular recipients in mind, and then give those completed products as gifts.  For one thing, it avoids the entire entitlement aspect of what a paying customer might think is justifiable demands on their part.  And no one's feelings get hurt on either end of the transaction.

Having said that, I am way behind on projects that I've started, worked on, almost but not quite completed for others.   Several folks are waiting for their afghans, tho they are not pressuring me, they do ask from time to time.  Sometimes, I will work on something for someone, and they won't realize it is for them until I tell them that I am almost done.  Then for whatever reason, I end up setting the item aside for an indeterminant amount of time.  Eventually, I complete the project, but it's almost anticlimactic when I do.

So it seems to defeat my purpose to start a new project, but sometimes, I just can't help it.  Projects press me into working on them.  They might prey on my mind, demanding my attention, until I begin dreaming of them.  Case in point, my husband has shared with me this picture he found online of a sneering hat.  I know that if I made it, he'd wear it.  And I love making stuff for folks who appreciate gifts.  So I foresee this as being a quick project that would be completed within a weekend.  Now that our weather is cooling off, hats are "in".

Also, I can't keep a secret.  I used to be able to keep them and did so.  But no more.  I had planned to make this for Jerry, since he does use blankets to keep warm while watching TV or reading.  I saw this awhile back and thought, hm.  But at the time, I didn't do anything toward that end because Jerry has a multitude of throws, none of which I've made.  He used to use a Raiders throw and then an MSU one, and of late, it's been a Dr Who one.  But I think I'll give the throw a go!

It's like a snuggle sack, but open in the back and only done in the round from the knees down.  I think I'd skip the white wings and just do the stinger and body as the main part.  I'd also do it longer so that it can extend up his chest and so that a doggie or two can fit under it with him.  All three girls tend to pile up with him in the cooler weather.  Libby usually sacks out along his right thigh, sometimes on the blanket, sometimes under.  Chiquita is always to be found under the blankets, usually between his shins, keeping the lower part of his legs nice and toasty.  Sometimes Sophie curls up on his thighs, or sticks her nose out from the blanket so that she can breathe fresher, cooler air.

I'll post pix as I go.  But I'm warning ya, I'm not yet ready to start on these.  I've been chomping on the bit at another possible project and I want to have a go at it first.  More on that later.

10 October 2016

the passing of an age

Ms Foxy, my mom's cat that had been her brother's.
This past weekend, my uncle died.  We've not been particularly close over the past twenty years, since I've moved to the South, leaving Pennsylvania.  But as a child, then as a teen, I do have fond memories of the times I spent with my aunt and uncle.  I spent many weekends with them, just outside of town, at their little house on the hill overlooking the dam where the area kids swam in the summer waters.  When my cousin was a baby and into her toddler years, I watched her often.  We called her "Pipshin" at the time.  She grew out of that nickname, I'm sure.  My uncle had adopted her when he was in his mid~forties, the age I am now.  He had had an entire lifetime before she came along, and yet, his most important role would be as her father, that would last him another thirty years.  He died at just 74.

Foxy lived til the ripe old age of 18.
My mother was five years younger than he was.  He was the closest sibling in age to her, with three older brothers than that yet.  All of them are gone now, my mother included.  It saddens me, in that mild way of resignation, not sharp horrifying painful grief, that all my Grandma's five children have died, passing from this earth, residing here for such a relatively short time.  Mild resignation because that is the way of the world, that time marches on and we age, cycling through our lives, dying off, and yet time continues, sloughing through generation after generation.

Last summer, I saw a few of my first cousins, other grandchildren of Helen Evert, nee Blass.  I also visited with some distant relatives, of extended family, grandchildren of our grandmother's siblings, grandchildren of those first cousins, grandchildren of grandchildren.  Our Aunts Flo, Ethyl, Lorraine, and a few others from that oldest living generation holding down the fort while the rest of us milled around them like moons revolving around these founding women who birthed generations of variously surnamed beings who have continued the life cycle, taking our places accordingly, here but for a speck of time.

25 September 2016

I like the color, suuuuuuuuuuuper.

Saturday a week ago, we had an incident coming home from seeing an Elvis tribute.  A local to that area woman ahead of me attempted to make a left  turn, where there was no turn to be made.  She realized she was in oncoming traffic and veered back into the lane she had vacated.  I was there already and so she hit the driver's door, then scraped into the back panel.  Everyone involved is fine and both vehicles were operational, no mechanical, electronic, or electric damage was done.  However, due to the age and mileage {my 2009 Toyota Yaris which I still think of as "new" just rolled over 105, 000}, the cost to repair the cosmetic damage would surpass the current value of the vehicle.  So her insurance company totaled it out and cut me a check, even tho I bought the car back, because the yaris is my friend and she still has lots of life left in her.  The damage is purely cosmetic and does not affect the safety or drivability of the vehicle, as the axles and frame are fine, as are the motor, lights, exhaust, and other relavent systems.

We talked it over and decided to sell my husband's smartCar and buy a slightly bigger vehicle.  The yaris doesn't have the best ease of access to the back seat, which makes it less than comfortable to get  in and out of.  It's doable, just not easy.  We're to the age that flexible contortions are not fun and we no longer enjoy a rousing game of Twister.  The first interested party in the bright yellow smartCar is buying it, so if you see it around town, be nice to the visiting professor, give a friendly wave.

Jerry and I visited a few websites, made a few inquiries, and then settled on a 2016 Chevy Spark LS.  Yesterday, we picked it up from Fikes, in Hamilton, AL.  They're celebrating their 40th, so if you decide to visit them, wish them a happy birthday.

The Spark is actually smaller than the yaris, in overall size; but gives the appearance of being larger.  At least, I think so.  The yaris's two doors are deeper, of course; but the Spark's four doors are nice to have at this point.  I do miss all the hidden compartments the yaris has, which allows me to tuck this here and that there and then always know where things are.  But the Spark's glove box will hold all the necessities and I don't accumulate much that remains in the car that isn't in its own bag, stowed in the trunk, like some crochet and knitting supplies and tools.  Since I can't knit and drive at the same time, I don't need to have the needles handily tucked into the door pocket, do I?

A feature about the Spark that is different than most, it has seats that can be adjusted in height.  This is my first vehicle with touch screen for the radio, GPS, and a video shot of the area behind you when reversing the car.  I will need to read thru the manual and tinker with the settings.  I don't think this model has the cruise control feature that my yaris did, but that's not essential, provided I remember not to allow my foot to trod too heavily with the passage of miles on the interstate.

Our new Spark, lime metallic

02 August 2016

Mermaid's Tail

There were six of us in what my mom called "the crew".  We all became friends by the seventh grade, tho some of us knew each other before that.  Five of us shared most of our classes, all of us ate lunch together, and we all loved to read.  Most of us loved to write as well.  We'd pass notebooks among ourselves, writing different stories, developing characters, giggling over dialog, and fumbling with plot twists.

I went to a different high school than they did, but we all remained friends on into our college years.  Eventually, we all drifted this way and that, with maybe these two people keeping in touch and these other two would periodically give each other a call, and then that person would connect with this person, and so forth.  Over the years, none of the six of us kept in touch with all the others, but there were always ways that all of six of us were in touch with someone within the group.

Four of us were able to spend some time together recently.  One person drove in from Wisconsin for two days, another person {from Ohio} took time during her family vacation to hang out with us, and the third person bused in from Virginia for four days.  They stayed with me here in Mississippi.  How far we've come since rural Pennsylvania some thirty plus years ago!

We visited, reread the stories that we'd shared, browsed thru pictures, yearbooks, and a scrapbook.  I took them on a driving tour of the area, stopping at Jilly Bean's to paint pottery.  Waverly Mansion provided three of us with a pleasantly interesting afternoon, after we had lunched at Flavors, the local Indian restaurant.  Two of us drove down to Lake Tiak O'Khata for their southern buffet, and a quick tour of the grounds before I had to be back in town for an appoint.  We all enjoyed two local coffee shops over the weekend and two of them were able to cruise thru our Farmer's Market before the pig roast here at our place.  It was a good time, catching up with each other and yet it felt like there wasn't quite enough time to do all there was to do, and say all there was to say, and ask all there was to ask.  But we've all made the connections and updated our contact information and hope to keep in touch in the future.

So why is the post's title "Mermaid's Tail"?  Aha!  My sharp eyed friends, I can slip nothing past you, now can I?  No! I cannot.

One of us has a daughter who texted her mom several pictures of a crocheted mermaid's tail, complete with fins, used as a body sack of sorts.  Not quite a sleeping bag, but more than a mere afghan.  Her mother flashed her phone at me and said, "can you make this?" and without hesitation, I responded, "yes.  Yes, I can."

And then I promptly scribbled down her favorite colors and we continued to chat about this, that, and the other thing.  At some point over the next few days, I could have said, "hey, let's take a look at a few options and discuss some stuff."  But, no!  Apparently, that is not the way I work.

Mermaid's tails can be constructed in all sorts of manners, using all sorts of materials.  Even if you decide on a particular fabric, using yarn, knitting or crochet, or a combination thereof; there are all sorts of textures and stitches and the like to be determined.  I mean, if you going to put that sort of work into it, that sort of time and attention, then you want to be sure to do just the right thing, in the right way, don't you?  I do, I want to make this something that this young woman will enjoy using, looking at, cuddled and swaddled in.  So after a few exchanges of pictures and explanations and questions and answers, I now have settled on a pattern and a basic idea of what is what.

The color swatches didn't transfer well, so I could not show them to you here; however, three main yarns will be incorporated into the mermaid's tail.  Turquoise, dark teal, and a variegated teal/blue/green will be accentuated with three additional shades.  Those splashes will be lime, emerald, and indigo.  I plan to take pictures as I go!

I'll be using a fan or shell stitch, of multiple double crochet stitches to create the tail itself.  The fin may be crocheted or knit, I'm not sure yet.  Generally, when I crochet, I do the entire item in crochet.  If I am knitting, I knit.  I don't usually blend the two, but the fin might be nice in a rib knit.  I have time to think on that while I do the tail.  So, Elizabeth, your mermaid's tail is coming up!

{the picture does not feature Elizabeth, nor is that the pattern I plan to use for the mermaid's tail; it is, however, similar enough to give you the basic idea of what the end result will be}

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.

02 April 2016

Happy Birthday

Dear Jerry,

I love you, you know.  There are times when you probably don't know how much I appreciate you as well.  Like now, for instance.  Even though you were sick yourself for about a week and are still feeling the lingering effects, you still take care of me, in my own whining, gross, pathetic moments of "honey, would you...?"
      *in this case, ... could mean but is not limited to:  bring me a cup of tea; make me a pot of tea; put honey in my tea; cover me with the blanket I just threw on the floor; bring me my inhaler; pick up my inhaler I just knocked on the floor; heat my neck roll; bring me my hot neck roll; bring me a towel to wrap the too hot neck roll in; buy me a bag of lemons; get me another box of tissues; bring me a bag to put my used tissues in; pull off my socks; take my temperature; put on my socks; tuck me in; help me out of bed; take the dog out of bed and close the bedroom door; bring me the lil'st dog so I can cuddle her; hold my hand; bring me the pillow;  no, not that pillow, the other pillow; make me jello; bring me a popsicle; heat me some soup; put the soup away; call the doctor's office; drive me to the clinic; give me a hug; hug me again; wait, i need to cough; ok, now another hug; tell me a story...

Even when I am at my worst, you love me and I appreciate that oh so much.  Because I know how hard it can be to put up with me when I am irritable, sniveling, snotting, whining, impatient, and confusing.  And I appreciate you because I know that you don't have to put up with me, but do it anyway.

I love you so.  I know that we had special plans for tomorrow, your birthday.  I know that you understand that it is not an optimal time for either of us, and I know that sucks for both of us.  Even though you have a whiny wife full of flu right now, it won't always be this way.  And we'll celebrate your birthday when things are looking much better.

In the meantime, do something for you, and not for me, and not for our three lil dogs.  Have a happy birthday in some meaningful way that is special for YOU.  I love you,  Debra

Oh, and would you please shut the drapes?

31 March 2016

Fever, in the morning, an' fever all thru the night...

The past two weeks have been exhausting.  And wild.  Fever and me is an odd combination at best, because my mind becomes very manic, and I free associate at a speed that can frighten me and then I get really mad that others don't understand my ramblings, especially if they are questions that really bother me, and no one can answer them because they are sane and not privy to the inner working of my brain which when exposed to fever engages in hallucinations and delirium.  It's seldom pretty, tho it can be greatly amusing, much later, not at the time.

Well, sometimes, it's amusing to others even at the time, just not to me.  I didn't even have a high fever when my family woke me after I fell asleep in front of my parents' friends' TV which had a baseball game playing.  They got a HUGE kick out of eight year old me demanding to know, "where's my thing, to catch the stuff?" while opening and closing my upraised hand.  It was a non~existent catcher's mitt.  A feverish teenage me insisted that my mom bring me my shoes, because I had to go to the bathroom.  Oh the family stories go on and on and on, and are filed under "Duhm Ass Things Debbie Says {when feverish}".

Thing is, generally speaking, I know when I'm running a fever, I know that this train of thought has left the realm of reality and is running rampant, having jumped the tracks of predictability.  And I'm still not able to control it.  Even if I had the energy to, I couldn't. The train isn't quite as friendly and welcoming as the Soul Train, nor does the soundtrack include some groovy hits ya can dance to.  It's more of a nightmarish snarling, hellish brutal train that keeps going, gnashing and spewing half formed ideas and tangents.  You'd think that this would have served as some creatively artistic juxtapositions fodder for me.  But no.  Not really.  Or maybe the truth is that there is plenty of material, but I lack the commitment and bravery to submerse myself into that world when I am NOT feverish and could actually write coherently enough to produce such mind benders.  The debris from that devilish dude is grimy, gritty, and greasy.  There is nothing attractive about even the tiniest shreds, nothing.

In the past two weeks, I've consumed enough water, tea, lemons, limes, oranges, honey, and oatmeal that I am truly at a loss for why I am still fighting this infection, virus, bacteria, whatever the hell it is.  We've both seen docs and have been told different things, but the treatments remain the same, mucus relief, acetaminophen, rest, and all the aforementioned  items.  Yesterday, Jerry felt pretty decent for the first time in a week.  I've not seen him get hit this hard in the seven years that I've known him.  He even went out and ran some errands for a few hours this morning.

I, on the other hand, am sinking deeper into a morass of fever, fatigue, wheezing, chest congestion, and mucus.  The main reason I've not returned to the doc is because I highly doubt there's going to be anything different about the treatment and I really Really REALLY don't feel like sitting with others who are also sick but who are much more generous with sharing their spewing germs.  However, I do realize that my own judgement might be seriously clouded and since I am feverish, I might be slightly manic, and therefore not making the best decisions...so in the interest of health, I am open to specific suggestions.

Jerry brought me home some wonderfully cool sweet frozen treats that make my throat feel so nice, my mouth smiles, and my tummy goes, "what's this?  what's this?  this new fangled thing?  this loveliness that makes me sing?  what? Is? THIS?"

I hope everyone has welcomed spring in their special ways and has been enjoying the beautiful weather.  Stay healthy!

17 March 2016

Esther, Easter, Eostre, Ostara, Austro

When I first moved here to Starkville, fifteen years ago, there was a Coffee Bakery across from WalMart in a strip mall.  Leona Jean {or Jane, sometimes I couldn't tell Jenny from Ginny, so Jane and Jean were interchangeable for me until my ear picked up some of the more subtle differences of the southern speaker, even tho Leona was not from here, I think she'd been here sufficiently long enough to let the syrup settle around her vocals} was the owner and main worker, I grew to know her and her regular clientele over the first several years.  Mr Charlie was one of the oldest gentlemen I've ever met and he told me a few things that have held true over the years; including that the last frost of the year would be Easter Weekend.  Which makes sense, really, considering that Easter is the first Sunday after the full moon on or after the spring equinox.

This year, Sunday March 20th will be the coolest night on our calendar, if the current weather forecast is accurate.  It'll get down to 33 degrees fahrenheit, which will leave some nice frost rime, that will disappear as the day warms up.  Easter is the following Sunday this year {a movable feast, which is why Easter can be midMarch thru midApril}; current weather predictions are saying that it's to be about fifty degrees that night.

When I was a child, in Pennsylvania, we had Good Friday and Easter Monday off.  Folks down here in the south don't really know much about Easter Monday, I've learned over the years.  Good Friday was a somber event, tied in with Easter Sunday; most folks who were semi~religious would attend sunrise church services on Easter {and Christmas midnight mass}.  Our Easter Mondays were when most organizations had their Easter Egg Hunts, chocolate egg sales, and clearance on Easter candy and dresses in the retail stores.  It was a solid four day weekend which allowed for some family travel.

Here, I've noticed that many schools will offer week long Spring Breaks coinciding with Easter.  Spring Breaks tend to nicely divide the semester in half, if the break occurs in March.  If break isn't til April, then the first part of the spring term seems to be unbearably long with students whining and teachers grinding their teeth in response to the petulance.  This is because most schools here in the south end in the beginning or midMay at the latest.

When I lived in Pennsylvania, our school years ended in June, with college letting out near the end of May.  I remember one year when we did let out til the end of June and some seniors had to be excused from school early because their colleges were holding sports camps and freshman orientation.  I do believe that was the year we had snow under the holly tree in June.

To me, Easter was always a time of new growth on its way.  You might not yet see the spring grass poking thru the snow, or the buds on the trees; but you knew that winter was winding down and spring was soon to make its appearance...eventually.  It meant that several churches were making their cherry, crispy, peanut butter, or coconut eggs, coated with chocolate and sold on the counters at most convenience stores and gas stations.  My friend and her father always made lots and stuffed the freezer full.  They wouldn't last long, because we all had our favorites.  Mine were the peanut butter.

We'd see lots of new dresses, worn under winter coats, and there'd be lots of spring balls, dances, and concerts.  We were just happy and eager to be thru with the harsh long winter and stuffed noses, hacking coughs, dry skin, and phlegmy chests that some of us broke from cabin fever into spring fever with a rumpus that usually set us back healthwise.  Easter bunnies, chicks, and eggs, sometimes the occasional white chocolate lamb with blue candy eyes were found in baskets.  Easter hams, with cloves and pineapple rings, made their appearances at family gatherings.

Few people really cared that bunnies hiding hardboiled colored eggs made little sense from a religious point of view, but made tons of sense from a historical and traditional perspective.  Most families spread newspaper out on tables and set out cups of dyed water, along with wax crayons, and dozens of hard boiled eggs for the kids and some adults would decorate the eggs too.  As I got older, different fads came into being, stickers instead of paintbrushes and little metal egg holders instead of spoons.  It's been so long since I decorated eggs, I don't even know what is available now.  We'd have little contests like which egg was the most beautifully decorated, from the different age groups.  Then for weeks afterward, we'd be eating hard boiled eggs in our lunches, egg salad, egg salad sandwiches.  My mom would pickle eggs with red beets so they would last longer and because that's when we had the most hardboiled eggs available, eggs being on sale at the grocers for a good price.

Whatever your way of observing this occasion,
 do have a good one!

27 February 2016

Good Mornings

My husband tends to get up hours before I do; so he has usually had plenty of time to store up the ideas that he wants to share with me, by the time I come out of the bedroom.  I've learned over time that I ought to spend a few minutes stretching in bed after I awaken, then go brush my teeth and wash my face, take my meds, and in other ways get ready to face my day before I leave the master suite.  Otherwise I am bombarded with news and my enthusiastic husband before I even get my first cup of tea.  This way, I'm at least awake enough to focus on most of what is tumbling from him in one massively compressed jumble of words and thoughts.

I know how my parents felt when faced with teenaged me.  So sorry to have sprung that on you guys.  So sorry.

But, I'm also humongously grateful for my husband's unfettered joy.  He makes me smile and there is a certain contagion that excitement brings about.  His joyous "I've been up for hours and look how productive I've been" happiness makes me feel more lively and more likely to also be productive with my own day.

It's an adventure, stepping out of the bedroom most days.  Now that my husband's been retired from full time employment for almost a year, he's enjoying his own time in ways that cannot always be fathomed, nor predicted the night before.  For instance, one morning last month, I came to the breakfast table to find that surrounding my plate of pancakes {pancakes, guys, PANCAKES waiting for me at my place; amazeballs, right?} were all sorts of things my husband found that morning when he was in town, getting eggs for my pancakes.  There were flowers, carnations, one of my favorites.  A huge bag of chocolate peanut butter cups, several bags of pistachios, a bunch of bananas, an I Love You card, a jar of honey, a few boxes of tea, a box of colored pencils, and a few puzzle books.  Awesome!  I am so loved and spoiled, I know.  I appreciate his appreciation.

There's been mornings I have walked into a freshly mopped house; mornings when the aroma of cooking food curled around my nostrils and hummed me awake; mornings when incense filled my head with tropical relaxation; mornings when the common bathroom's contents {except the bathtub} were in my living room because "things needed a good cleaning"; and mornings when the front door was propped open to admit some fresh air and I'd poke my head out to find my husband resting on the front swing, with all three dogs clustered around him in their small harem style, adoring him.

I am learning to really love my mornings, with my husband.

25 February 2016

Unfinished Projects: Turquoise & Chocolate Brown Striped Concentric Squares

On The Needles:  turquoise and chocolate brown striped throw,
done in stockinette and garter stitches,
as one piece with concentric square pattern.
{{it rests on a yellow and white "scrambled egg" blanket from
my childhood; pretty sure we have a few pix of my brother
wrapped up in it when he was about ten and not feeling too well}}
Last fall, I dug out all my crochet, knit, and loom projects in progress that had been piling up over the previous few years.  Some of them, I decided to rip out {sometimes called "frogging" because you rip~it, rip~it, rip~it} and reuse the yarn.  Some squares, hexes, arcs, and eyes are actually pieces of other larger works that have been shelved and so may be salvaged to continue these quiltghans {crocheted afghans made to resemble traditional quilts such as double~ring pattern {sometimes referred to a the wedding ring or double wedding ring} or grandmother's country garden}.

So that was my intention, to finish all the projects in progress or to rip them out, so the yarn could be reused.  I realized that life would continue and that people would be making requests, babies would be born, and other gift giving occasions would occur.  So I knew that I would end up starting and finishing other new works that would be done while finishing some of these older projects.

close up of center square
Sometimes, I would probably be able to find a suitable older unfinished project that I could finish and give as the gift that would fulfill the occasion's intent.  But usually not, since most of the items that I knit or crochet are done specifically with that person in mind, so baby blankets are made with their parents' request for color scheme or design taken into consideration.  Most couples have certain tastes and a brown and turquoise striped throw might not suit her 80's retro floral Laura Ashley print overstuffed couch.  I've got coral and cream for that.

So, how then did I end up with so many unfinished projects from years back?  In part, because I was learning new techniques and wanted to do something constructive while learning; so I was making a wide scarf using that stitch or combination.  In part, because I was going to be traveling and needed something light and small, like a cotton shawl.  In part because I was making lapghans for charity for this or that group and I was able to donate thirteen, but these two were not completed in enough time to make that deadline.  Their loss is someone else's gain.  Maybe.  Probably.  Ok, definitely, IF I finish that throw in time for this birthday or that event.

more detail
Currently, while I am knitting two other baby blankets that were requested for April; I'm finishing this chocolate and turquoise striped afghan.  I unearthed it last night, because I wanted to have it completed for an impromptu gift possibility.  Because who doesn't like to receive something that says, "I appreciate you" when it's not normally a gift giving time?

I was pleasantly surprised myself, when I realized that not only was I able to pick up where I left off and follow the item's pattern {I very rarely do written patterns, counting on the item itself to point me in the right direction~~if I can't remember what I had envisioned the completed item to be}, but I was also able to add twenty rows last night while watching "The Deerhunter" with Jerry.  True, it is a three hour movie, the 1978 multi~Oscar winning film stars Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep, and others.  But I think the main thing was that I remembered how long it took me to do the first part of this afghan and sometimes, knowing how much I've grown in various ways allows me to not feel like I've become stunted in growth.

22 February 2016

Strap on Your Thinking Cap, Folks

When I was a child, a few of my teachers would say things like "let's all put on our thinking caps".  The first young man who told us to do this actually went thru the motions of buckling on a helmet; movements which we students aped with enthusiasm, because most of us still loved school and adored our teachers.  Since I moved around some, there would be times when I would be ahead of the rest of my class in certain subjects and I'd get a smidgen bored.  I remember our math instructor for both fifth and sixth grade was fond of saying this and every time, I'd imagine what my thinking cap would look like, if it were a real thing.

First, I thought of the leather helmets the old time football players wore.  But then, that seemed like it would block ideas instead of encourage the thinking process.  Then I thought of the smooth plastic looking helmets that had white chin straps that I'd seen kids that had seizures wear...I quickly discarded that notion, because those helmets seemed to be a dangerous idea, especially since I had seizures myself and knew that the back edge on that could cut right into your neck and do some real damage.  Then I thought of more complex sorts of headgear, like that worn by scientists in my brother's comic books and on the back cover of the sci~fi novels he read.  But those seemed very top~heavy and I wasn't sure my neck could hold my eight pound head and a rig like that up.  So that was not going to be my thinking cap design.  During the 80s, the movies brought Back to the Future to us and Tron, where we saw contraptions like this.

Personally, I associated this style with ambulatory EEGs and thought it probably came the closest to being a thinking cap; but it didn't produce and encourage thought.  It recorded brain activity and not even very well, it seemed to me; the print out was wavy lines on graph paper versus a clear depiction of which area of the brain was stimulated at what time when you had what thoughts.  Still, it was a great deal better than most of the ones I had thought of so far, including the metal caps that would end thought...like those found on the electric chair.

Then life happened and about ten years ago, these thinking caps started to surface, knit usually.  That actually did appeal to me, and probably would have been one of my first choices for my thinking cap, had I seen it when I was ten, or twenty, or even thirty {I was a PhD student at that time, I so would have worn it for inspiration...instead, I wore my psuedo~intellectual hat of tan corduroy for the days when I felt decidedly stupid...let the others wear jackets with corduroy elbow patches to beef up their appearance of smarts, I had a thinking cap; no one knew it was a thinking cap, no one but me.}

Several days ago, Umberto Eco died.  He's not my favorite author; in fact, he doesn't even make my preferred authors' list.  However, Eco is an acquaintance's absolute favorite author, she adores him and his writing style and enthusiastically called the readers among us to devour and discuss ALL of his work.  My response was:

Debra Wolf no. i'll support your reading him, your right to consider him one of your favorite writers of all time, and am willing to hear why {or read why} you have afforded him that honor; but i personally find his writing to be too full of tangents and pretentious leaps to willingly read any {let alone all} of his stuff....shudder. Even my mother, who loved the movie "The Name of the Rose" found the book to be overly wrought with tedious, ostentatious bravado to be worth finishing. Several years later, I thought perhaps my tastes had matured enough to tackle "Foucault's Pendulum" ~~ I was grievously mistaken. Even writing this comment, about his writing, finds me taking on despicable airs in his fashion....ugh.

Please give me a reason to like him and his writing and I will certainly give it a shot.

 To which she immediately rose to the challenge and suggested several titles, essays, and admirable qualities of Eco's.


So, I've given the ole thinking cap a good dusting, spit shining it to a sparkly polish, and will be donning it tomorrow when I stop by the local public library to collect some of these writings.  I do imagine I'll have the facial expression this cat sports; but then again, attitude debra, if you mean to give this a fair shake, you must suspend the attitude.  Look for an update later this week regarding this mission.

19 February 2016

McCall Smith Gifts

A few weeks back, my husband was about to place an order for three books, two of which were Thorne Smith titles.  When he mentioned this, I thought, "aha!  Smith!  Books!" and it triggered a series of other thoughts that I won't discuss here but that did eventually lead to Alexander McCall Smith, the rather prolific author who seemingly knows no boundaries of genre.  McCall Smith's most well known series is most likely the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, which currently has seventeen titles and is going strong.  At the moment, I'm reading The Kalahari Typing School for Men, a lovely idea Mma Makutsi has for a business venture that is her own, with minimal overhead, and lots of students.  My husband ordered me 44 titles of McCall Smith's, including the rest of this series.  He's amazing, sigh, my husband is.  He spoils me so.

Years ago, I'd listened to an audio of McCall Smith's The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs, which is the second in the Professor Doctor Moritz~Maria von Igelfeld series.  The good Professor Doctor is a somewhat silly, yet troubled, man who manages to get himself into some rather sticky situations and then goes on to make them worse by being unable to concede that he has made a mistake, perhaps misspoken, and surely is not qualified to do whatever it is that he has taken on.  I'm rather looking forward to reading this myself, instead of listening to it while I crochet endless granny squares that were both brightly colorful and not my tastes.  But first, I'll read Portuguese Verbs, because I like to read books in series in the order which the author either intended or published them...sometimes that is the same order, but not always.

I do not have all McCall Smith's series, since I've not collected all the children's books.  But I do have those titles in The Sunday Philosophy Club.  The first book of the series is pictured to the left.  I don't want to get all the characters from all the series confused in my mind, but this will probably be the next series I tackle after the Ladies'.  Sometimes, this series is called Isabel Dalhousie books, named after the protagonist.

I do recall listening to some thing with a little boy named Bertie, who wore pink denims but whose politically correct mother insisted that they were not pink at all.  I did not realize when I checked the audio out from our local public library that it was actually part of the 44 Scotland Street series.  I'll wait awhile to get into this series, since there are so many to titles to read before I can even approach this.

Then I came across yet another McCall Smith series, Corduroy Mansions.  I'd not heard, nor seen, these prior to a few weeks back.  It too does appear to be a location specific driven series that focuses on the set of characters living in that particular place.  It's not a children's series, though the cover might appear to be so.

The very first book of Alexander McCall Smith's I'd listened to years ago was The Girl Who Married a Lion and Other Tales from Africa.  It would become my favorite of his.  I do like his Precious series, a children's series set in Botswana, featuring the main character of his The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Mma Precious Ramotse, when she was a child herself.  I do plan to get the rest of the children's books, but for now, I am satisfied with what I do have.  That also includes several of his stand~alone novels, like the Forever Girl and Emma:  A Modern Retelling.

Thank you so very much, Jerry.
I do so love and appreciate you!

16 February 2016

Tax Time and Drivers' Licenses

Extremely long time readers will remember that about ten years ago, the State of Alabama sued me and I won, all by my lil ole lonesome, going against several attorneys' advice.  I actually was able to prove that the State of Alabama owed me, but that I was willing to waive that, if they would drop the ridiculous case they thought they had.  Should they want to move forward with it, then they would not only fail to prove that I owe them, but they would actually end up paying me.  The case was dropped, ohpsie; and I received a very nice apology, which is filed in the appropriate place, under T for taxes.

Since I have been married, we've been having a tax service prepare and file our income tax forms and returns.  I didn't want to mess with taxes preparations and also knew that I was not up to deal with the headaches and hassles of this exemption, that retirement, the other thing, and so forth.  Usually, I have some sort of idea how all of it will play out and then feel the satisfaction of confirmation.

However, yesterday, I realized while we were sitting at the office that I'd not done my usual preparations; so quickly pulled out an envelop and flexed my memory a fair bit, pulling together figures that we'd gotten together last summer for this agency and that one over there, regarding my mother~in~law's health expenses, for the first half of the year.  Also, my husband retired from his second career last spring, and started another part time  job last fall, and there were some additional medical expenses for me that weren't usual, and so forth.  I was also tired, a bit frazzled, and the baby was tired, so my husband and I were taking turns walking her to help her relax and go to sleep.

The first thing that went wrong was that my driver's license was expired, since last November.  Ohps, but luckily I had another valid picture form of ID, my military card.  Then a whole slew of things happened, some of them twice, that shouldn't have happened and some things that should have happened didn't.  And our tax person said, "gosh, I'm glad you're sitting down cuz you owe a bit under ten thousand dollars."  My breath stopped for a few moments until I remembered that inhaling is NOT always frowned upon.

Then it sounded sort of like this, "aheeeeeckah."

It woke the baby who began to cry along with me.

But we then discovered where some of the multiple mistakes were and within 45 minutes, the forms were corrected and looked to be very similar in overall appearance to our past years' tax returns.  WHEW!!  Glad, oh so glad, that we caught those before the final version was accepted.

However, I had a HUGE headache when I got home, and felt dizzy and stressed thru the rest of the evening; my confidence was a bit shaken and taxes are not something to be taken lightly.  Last night, I experienced several sleep paralysis episodes and scared my husband horribly with tea~kettle screams that start quietly hissing and gradually build into shrieks.  Oh so much fun, yeah?

Early this afternoon, I was standing in the overcrowded DMV waiting for their software to go back online.  I'd already paid, the receipt was already in hand, however, they were not able to take my picture because that's when everything crashed.  For the entire state of Mississippi, in all the DMV offices, for about half an hour.  Half an hour doesn't seem like a long time, until you're not feeling so great and the office is full of not so happy campers who are seemingly staring at you because YOU somehow gummed up the works.  What?  Do the cameras break when they take your picture too?

Rationally, I knew it didn't have a damn thing to do with me; but irrationally, I thought about every time that I have ever been to the DMV's here in Mississippi for myself and how something major goes wrong every time...like the time they changed the format of the drivers' licenses and somehow they couldn't get the printer to line up the card with the info and printed me six licenses before one came out sorta lined up right.  It looked so fake but they were tired of fooling with it, so just gave it to me and said that if I had any problems, just have the officer call them.  However, two days later, I removed my license from my wallet and the lamination peeled off and so I had to go get another anyway.

Eventually, we were moving along again and I double checked my license to be sure that all was well {one time, they didn't type in my entire address and it just read "Highway 12 West" with no house number}.  The weight was off, but I didn't care that it read one hundred pounds less than I weigh.  Considering that this license is good for eight years, there is a chance that the weight noted will be correct at some point.  Or not.  I don't think that matters as much as getting my address right and having a picture on there.

07 February 2016

Curds & Whey

A few years ago, I tried beet kvass for the first time.  It was in a small sample size, less than a shot.  I wanted more, immediately, because it was so tasty.  It's a salty, slightly sour, fermented drink with a lil fizz made of beets, whey, water, and salt.

Last year, I drank all of the bottle I bought in one big gulp.  And still my body screamed for more.  It was that good.

This last week, I was over at a friend's house, having lunch.  We had a little beet kvass and I asked her about how she became interested and what the history of the drink is, then we moved on to how to make it.  She shared one of the basic recipes and when my husband went to the store, I asked him to pick up a couple few beets.  And some yogurt, because that's what I was going to use to drain off the whey that I would need.

For days, I kept pouring off a smidge of whey from the yogurt and then I contacted my fermenting friend and asked her about draining the yogurt and she suggested thin cloth or thick cheese cloth.  So I dumped the yogurt into a clean hanky and suspended it from a hanger over a bowl to catch the whey.  I was so excited to be able to make the beet kvass that I emptied a full cup of whey instead of a mere quarter cup over the beets and salt.  oohps.

That's ok, tho.

So I had a few bites of the creamiest, thickest, mildest, yogurty cheese ever.  It was yummy and extremely rich.  Can't wait to try the beet kvass!

06 February 2016

Mma Ramotswe, bush tea, and contemplation

Alexander McCall Smith is a rather prolific writer, who loves Africa, particularly southern African countries and cultures.  McCall Smith has related some of the oral folk tales of the region in written format, and I do think he performs his own readings of his work for the audio versions for Recorded Books.  He's also written multiple series, most have elements of humor.  He makes his homes in Scotland as well as Botswana.  In addition, McCall Smith is a medical and legal profession and has written texts in both fields.

One of his ongoing series is The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, set in Botswana, featuring Mma Precious Ramotswe.  When I first heard of this series, I actually listened to an audio book of some title further in the series, because the description on the back of the CD case didn't say that it was part of a series.  I was crafting, most likely crochet, while listening to it; and one of the first things that stood out to me was the slower pace, the more contemplative and reflective nature of the principle characters, and I felt I could breathe freer, more easily.  I began to listen more closely, and to not multitask, but to be more deliberate in my own movements.  I enjoyed the audio book more thoroughly than I'd thought possible.

The characters did something often that made little sense to me at the time, but upon reflection makes much sense.  They drank lots of hot tea, even in the intense heat.  I drink lots of hot tea, but I also drink lots of cooler tea.  However, it makes sense to drink hot liquids in intense heat.  When you drink iced drinks in the summer, you create more of a temperature disparity between your core body heat and the heat of the environment around you.  This can make the day's heat feel intolerable to you.  However, drinking hot liquid keeps your inner core temperature warm as well and you won't mind the day's heat as much.  Try it sometime and see what you think.

I was curious too, about this bush tea they drank so frequently.  Since I had just began to drink rooibos, or red tea, I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that this red tea, or rooibos, was the same sort of tea that the author probably had his characters drinking.  Rooibos is very popular in southern Africa; which would make sense, since that is where Botswana is.

Recently, I found the first five books in the series for sale at the First Monday sale, at our local public library for three dollars.  I've been mooching the others from BookMooch, and have the first eight now.  Last week, I began to read the first book and enjoyed it immensely.  I've been reading more about Botswana, and other nearby countries; because I am curious about the culture ~~ the language, the food, the customs, their attitudes regarding family, women, men, elderly, marriage, education, etc.  Their traditions within the arts, the animals and insects that are common and part of daily life, their homes and clothing are very different from ours and each of those things help to shape their thinking and way of life.

By opening this one book, I've opened a whole new world that didn't previously exist for me.  This is the beauty of reading, the wonders of learning, and the absolute coolness of thirst.  If you've not read these and would like to, your public library might carry them.  If not, they can probably borrow them from another library for you.  Check it out!