Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 in review

This was, on balance, a pretty good year. No floods (always a bonus), and no cross-country moves (cats are grateful even if they don’t know it). Still, we have yet to have what I’d classify as a nice, boring year.

What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before? I made real progress in fitting the clothes I sew. I’m getting the hang of some of it, finally.

Did anyone close to you give birth? Yes – our dear friends from Boston had their first child, a boy, this summer. We’ve been able to see him twice and he’s a happy, chunky little guy.

Did anyone close to you die? Not close to me, no. But I was surprised by how much the Boston Marathon bombing affected me. The blast occurred where I watched the marathon the year before and my friends always go there too. It was just pure dumb luck that none of them were there this year.

What countries did you visit? Canada, Ireland, Spain, Andorra and France.

What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013? I’d like to feel as though I know what I’m going to be when I grow up. I’ll write more about that later this week.

What dates from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? This year wasn’t as dramatic as last year, so mostly the dates aren’t etched anywhere. But here are some highlights not covered by other questions:

  • We bought a house and moved again (my 38th move and K’s 19th).
  • K had his first and hopefully last surgery – he recovered fully and quickly so all in all, this was a good thing.
  • We both sewed a lot – he made five shirts, three stuffed animals, a light jacket, and has almost finished a pair of shorts (guessing he won’t complete those until spring; it’s hard to get motivated to sew hot weather clothing when it’s below 20°). I looked through my blog posts and was startled to realize I’ve sewn a ton. I made seven dresses (one is not finished due to fit issues, and I managed to ruin one with the iron), one shirt, one sweater, two koozies, five bags, a baby blanket, three bibs and three burp cloths.
  • Because we sew so much, we got a second sewing machine . . . and a second iron. When Ikea opens here, we’ll get a second ironing board too (we love our Ikea ironing board, it’s worth the wait).
  • We traveled a lot – We saw Montreal, Honolulu, and Dublin and had a wonderful trip to Barcelona to celebrate our 10th anniversary.

What was your biggest achievement of the year? I got my lungs stronger and I’m off all asthma medications and officially asthma free.

Did you suffer illness or injury? Not really. I did get the very virulent stomach bug making the rounds at the first of the year, but nothing else.

What was the best thing you bought? Our house (the Little Yellow House). This house is perfect for us; we use every room and completely enjoy living here.

Whose behavior merited celebration? This year, I’d have to say my husband’s. He’s been so completely supportive of me and I couldn’t be contemplating some of the changes I’m considering without his love and support.

Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? I could list myself again the way I did last year, but honestly I think this question is a little strange. If I do this meme again next year, I’ll probably just remove it.

Where did most of your money go? Travel and fabric. We’re a little addicted to both.

What did you get really excited about? We really loved our Crazy Weekend™ trips. I personally was ecstatic that K’s surgery resulted in a full return to health.

What song will always remind you of 2012? Not sure this is the anthem of 2013, but I really like the song and the group.

Compared to this time last year, are you:

  • Happier or sadder? Even happier, which is a little surprising.
  • Thinner or fatter? Thinner, and so is K. We’ve been disciplined about our food budgets and also working out. 
  • Richer or poorer? Same as last year – richer, and not just in money.

What do you wish you’d done more of? Still struggle with the relaxing. That’s probably a lifelong issue though.

What do you wish you’d done less of? This year I did a pretty good job of not allowing negative nellies to take up space in my head.

How did you spend Christmas? For the actual day, we were at home. We spent this last weekend in Tulsa with K’s mother.

What was your favorite TV program? I discovered Benedict Cumberbatch when I saw the second J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek movie. Now I’m swooning over him in Sherlock Holmes.

What was the best book you read? I got into a genre actually, so I’m not going to list a single book. It started with Swedish mystery novels and then I just sort of gobbled up all I could find, then Norwegian and then Icelandic.

What was your greatest musical discovery? Jalapeno Funk Volume 3, specifically track 18.

What did you want and get? A house that was not too big, not too small and was just right. Call me Goldilocks.

What did you want and not get? Not a thing. I am very grateful.

What was your favorite film of this year? Star Trek Into Darkness.

What did you do on your birthday? We were home this year. K was recovering from his surgery so it was a very quiet day.

What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Clarity of purpose, a sense of what I want to do with my life.

What kept you sane? Definitely running.

Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? I have a massive crush on Benedict.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year. I don't know that this sums up my year, but I do love the song and see K and me doing this with each other.

How was your year?

Monday, December 30, 2013

The dragon flower bag

I made another bag as a gift this year, this time for my mother-in-law. She was with me when I bought the pattern and seemed to really like it, so I sewed it up for her.

I put my hand in this picture so you could get a sense of the size of the bag. The clasp is actually on the back side, not on the dragon flower side. The exterior is made from an ultrasuade material, the dragon flower is a really interesting cotton and the interior is also a cotton that in a happy stroke of luck pretty much exactly matched the exterior.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

My cat's Christmas

My mother-in-law is a confirmed dog person but still manages to get the best cat toys for our kitties at Christmas (which I know I've written about before). This year was no exception and Eddie in particular is having a ball with this present.

He's managed to get the toy out of the sucker gripper that kept it on the glass door, and has been carrying it around the house for the last 30 minutes. We'll need to make sure we put it away tonight or we'll never get any sleep.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

I am six years old in this picture – I remember this Christmas really well. We were in Denver, staying with my paternal grandparents in their mid-century ranch home. I recall the fireplace made of stacked stone, and the large back yard. That house was the pride and joy of my grandmother, but I don’t know why. She and my grandfather were older even by grandparent standards. My grandfather was born in 1891 and my grandmother in 1895. They had their first child, my uncle, in 1918 and my father was born in 1925.

Anyway, we were there with Barker, Marian (my stepmother), her four children and of course my brother and me. That was the Christmas my brother got up at some ridiculously early hour (I want to say 5 AM) to open presents. He was just five so you can imagine how excited he was.

Anyway – in this picture I am wearing all Christmas presents, starting with the dress from Hawaii, the lei and of course the watch. Notice too that I’m wearing the watch on my left wrist. But I did that because I was told to. In fact, I had put it on my right wrist until told to do otherwise. Left to my own devices, I've always worn my watch on my right hand, even though I’m right-handed. Wearing a watch on my left hand has always felt wrong and awkward.

Notice, too, the tea set, the doll, the Skipper doll (you remember, Barbie’s friend?) and the doll house furniture. I would have also gotten a stocking full of small presents and treats but of course by this point in the day, I was focused on those big gifts.

As I’ve looked through pictures taken throughout my life, I’ve also realized that my hair style has not varied much. In fact, I’ve had the same straight hair, partly somewhat on the right, usually with bangs and usually between chin and shoulder length.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Wherever I go

There they are. At least lately. They follow me to the bedroom when I am just going to read, they curl up with me on the couch (and leave me practically no room), and if I sit on the floor when we watch TV, well they swarm me then too. Crazy kitties.

They put out serious sleep vibes, I was
about to pass out here

Monday, December 23, 2013

No such thing – a family story

My ex and I didn’t teach our children to believe in Santa Claus. We thought that was not a good idea – tell them about a mythical creature who flies around the world in one night, have them believe it for their early years only to learn we’d lied to them. We preferred to teach them about Christ, stressing that His birth was what Christmas was all about. We didn’t mock or otherwise denigrate the Santa myth but we didn’t perpetuate it.

From L to R: B, me, and J
When J was nearly five (the age he is in this picture), I was finishing up Christmas shopping with the boys at a mall. As often happened, another shopper stopped to chat with us. I’m not bragging when I say that I got stopped a lot with my children because they were really gorgeous. I was usually told they should be Gerber babies or in modeling or something like that. The kids had gotten used to it, and we were always polite. This time, after commenting on his beautiful eyes, the elderly lady asked J what Santa was bringing him for Christmas. He looked at her and said, “Nothing. There’s no Santa Claus!” Her face fell, she sort of stepped back in shock, gave me the most disapproving look and hurried off.

Now there’s a follow up to that story. Not four or five months later, J lost his first tooth. He was really young for that, only five, and we hadn’t given any thought to what we’d do about the Tooth Fairy. So he came to me with his little tooth and asked me about the Tooth Fairy. Thinking quickly, I asked him what he knew about it. “Oh,” he said, “I know it’s not real but can we pretend?” Sure thing! And so my children got their ransom money for their fallen teeth.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

When he's good

Lately Wally has taken to sleeping on my lap in a different way. It's hard to explain but basically he hugs me with one paw and usually tucks his head into my abdomen. In this picture, you can see the paw but he got distracted by the sound of the camera so he looked up from his head tuck. It's an incredibly sweet pose, and he just purrs and purrs when he curls up like this.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Walk with me

I live in a neighborhood that was built in the mid- to late 50s (our house was built in 1958). I’m not sure why, but there are no sidewalks in my neighborhood. I don’t mean there are some or that they’re in bad shape. I mean there aren’t any. You have to get over to the four-lane very busy streets to have sidewalks and even then, you don’t get them 100%.

I read an article last week in Slate about how cul-de-sacs are bad for our health (you can read the article here) because we no longer walk. As with the lady in the article, we don’t walk because at least here in the Midwest, we can’t walk. Or if we do, we risk getting hit by cars because we have to walk in the streets.

Here’s another example. I walked to the mailbox this morning so I could get a letter out before the winter storm hits us later today (our carriers don't really pick up our mail at our mailboxes). You can see the route I took, it's the blue dotted line. There were no sidewalks until I reached 95th Street. I could have had some sidewalks if I’d taken the other route on Mission, but even there the sidewalk vanishes south of Cure of Ars Church.

It takes a lot of work for me to get close to the 10k steps a day that’s supposed to be so beneficial for us. I can generally make it on my running days . . . because I’m running 3 ½ miles. But on the days I don’t run, I’m lucky to get to 5K.

When we lived in Boston, I walked everywhere. We had large sidewalks that were generally kept clear of ice and snow in the winter, and the pedestrians ruled the streets. Not here. If I try to cross a street at a Ped Xing, I’m still taking my life in my hands. God help me if it’s dark and I’m wearing a dark winter coat.

What's it like to walk in your area? Do you live in a pedestrian friendly place or are you risking life and limb to get in a daily constitutional walk?

Friday, December 20, 2013

No, bad kitty, no!

I got some doggy biscuits for my mother-in-law's dog for Christmas and wrapped them up and put them under the tree. Here's what the package looked like this morning:

And I know who the culprit is. I told him that even though he's the size of a small dog, he isn't actually a dog and can't have them. He doesn't seem to care.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Winter running and me

I just started reading a blog called Shut Up & Run – she’s got a good perspective on running in general, and hasn’t been running for so long that she feels out of reach for me in terms of being way too experienced or what have you. Clearly she’s in a much different, more competitive category of running than I’m in or than I want to be in but that’s OK. I still enjoy the blog.

Recently she wrote about running in cold weather, and I liked reading about someone else who is maybe just a bit crazy.

I like running early in the morning, in the dark. There’s something about the dark that helps with the head-clearing part of running. Maybe it’s because I have less visual distraction?  I'm not sure, all I know is that if I've gotten a late start and it's getting light I don't enjoy my run as much.

And I really like it when it’s cold – the ideal temperature range for me is the low 30s, little to no breeze and of course no snow or ice on the ground. I’m not at all interested in slipping and breaking any of my precious bones. I generally won’t run if the temperature is below 20°F because it’s hard on my lungs. I’ve been very disciplined about getting my lungs in good shape so I’m not going to do anything to jeopardize that. That’s not to say I haven’t run in lower temps but it’s been almost by accident (didn’t realize it was quite that cold).

I have some good winter running gear that helps a lot.
  • Three pairs of running tights (two long pairs, one capri pair)
  • Two long sleeve running shirts (one is the most obnoxious yellow you can imagine)
  • Three running jackets ranging from lightweight to fairly heavy (I’ve had the lightweight one since 2007 and it even survived restoration after our first flood).
  • Three pairs of running gloves – again ranging from very lightweight to quite heavy
  • A beanie hat and a head band to cover my ears. If it’s really cold or – worse – windy, I wear the head band over the hat.
  • Two very reflective arm bands I use with the lightweight jacket (sadly, it’s black and the reflective bits have lost a lot of their reflectivity over the years).
I also take tissue out with me. My nose runs like crazy when I run in the winter so I’ve learned how to blow my nose while still running. At first I struggled because I tended to move my arms across my body when I ran. Learning to blow my nose while running basically eliminated that cross body movement – it’s kind of funny that I improved my running form because of my snotty nose!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Camera-shy – a family story

Recently my daughter-in-law wrote a post about her three year old son hating to have his picture taken. And I had to laugh and laugh because he got that trait directly from his father.

I’ve always kept photo albums and liked to go through them periodically with my sons – they got into it too, and would bring me an album filled with pictures of them and ask me to tell them all about what they were doing when the pictures were taken. The only problem was that B absolutely hated to have his picture taken. That dislike had started shortly after his first birthday and no amount of begging, pleading or bribing would get him to change his mind.

But he started to notice that those photo albums had fewer and fewer pictures of him compared to his brother J. Finally he asked me about it and I had to tell him that if he wouldn’t let us take his picture, well then soon there wouldn’t be any of him in the photo albums.

Right about the same time, he’d gotten absolutely obsessed with puppies, specifically puppies with long, floppy ears. He had a stuffed animal puppy that he adored with the requisite ears and carried that thing around almost as much as his blanket (which never left his side, day or night).

So all of this was going on right about the time for school pictures at J’s school. I talked with B about how this was a great opportunity to have his picture taken so we could put it in the photo album. He wasn’t at all sure about it but was willing to try. We had J go first in the school gym – J’s never been shy about the camera and he bounded over to the chair, sat down at looked toward the photographer and that’s when things changed.

The photographer held up a stuffed animal – yes, that’s right, a puppy with long, floppy ears – and said, “Smile!” J smiled, the photographer snapped the picture and then boom! As J was getting up, B ran to the chair, practically threw his brother aside, plopped himself in the chair, looked at the photographer and almost split his face in half with the smile you see here. I'm still not quite sure how the photographer got the picture because everything happened so very quickly. B still wasn’t happy about the situation, in fact he’d almost been in tears when we walked into the gym, but he got his picture taken.

I wouldn’t say he ever grew to love having his picture taken but at least he got over the three year old grumpies.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A quick December sewing update

Kent sewed some really cute stuffed animals for the grandkids this year. At first he was only going to sew one for the youngest, and then he realized that the middle child (also a boy) might like one. Finally he reached the conclusion that he couldn’t sew for two of the grandkids and have the third – the oldest and a girl – without a stuffed animal.

So away he went. I helped in that I actually stuffed the dogs and also did the hand sewing (he loathes hand sewing and I don’t mind it, well not much anyway). Here’s how they turned out:

She named hers Pinky Pie
Both boys got a Tiger Dog

I also did a Secret Santa exchange with some friends. We had a deadline and of course spending limits so I was pleased to be able to make a bag for Magpie from some absolutely lovely black wool and then line it with a sort of toile (it’s actually a stretch denim of sorts but I personally would never wear jeans made out of that material). I forgot to take pictures before I got the bag made, wrapped and mailed so she very kindly took some for me.



Monday, December 16, 2013

Caves – another family story

This picture was probably taken when I was four and my brother was three. Despite the poor quality of the picture, can you see that my brother’s shirt matches the detailing on my dress? His pocket trim is the same as the trim across my bodice, and if I recall correctly, my mother had a grown up version of this dress too. I think she or my grandmother made it – I’ve always thought my mother made it but Mana could have very easily done it. To be honest, I never noticed until I scanned this picture that my brother's shirt matched my dress.

Anyway, I think this picture was taken before we went touring inside a cave. The name escapes me all these years later, although I think it started with a C so perhaps it was Cumberland Caves. My mother might remember.

Mostly what I remember about the trip is being so proud that my dress was like my mother’s and also how very cold I got inside the cave, and how nervous I was under all that rock. Other than that, I don’t remember who else was with us or what else we did that day. I just remember being proud of my dress that looked like my mother's dress.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

I don't mean to be that woman

But when I say I want my hair to touch the tops of my shoulders, that's what I mean. It's a good two inches shy of that and now I have a bob again. While the cut is a good cut and I would even say it's cute, this isn't what I asked for. I'm just very glad my hair grows fast so I won't be grumpy for months and months.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

American Gothic -- a family story

Years ago, we'd moved into a new house in a new neighborhood. It was so new that there were no trees to speak of because the area had been cow pastures previously. So we added probably six or seven trees. The one in this picture was a gift from my parents and we planted it at the back of the lot near a stream/storm drainage system.

I love this picture for a couple of reasons. First the boys are so young (five and seven). I don't have many pictures of their childhoods (their father kept the photos, although the ones I do have are thanks to my sons and their wives finding and scanning lots of my ex's pictures). I also like how it mimics the American Gothic picture by Grant Wood. Finally, I like it that you can see how tired they are. They were rarely tired, but in this picture they are. They'd wanted to help dig the hole for the weeping willow and that was hard work for an adult, let alone a child.

I went by that house years later and all the trees had grown well. Sadly, our old house was about the only one with trees. I guess no one else bothered to plant any.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Where's the ice cream??

I can't find my favorite ice cream flavor this year. And this is the time of year it should be available. I'm going into mourning if Edy's isn't making peppermint ice cream any longer. Deep mourning.

Yes, I know there are other brands. I don't like them, they aren't as good. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

But wait -- a family story

From my childhood:

My sister Cindy always dreamed of competing in Miss America. I have early, early memories of her walking in the living room – swanning, really – with a book on her head. The goal was not just to keep the book on her head but entirely level. Plus she’d stroke the front of her throat with her hands in upward motions because that was supposed to keep your throat looking pretty or something like that. And she loved to hold beauty pageants in the back yard.

I was a very dramatic little girl and summer I was four, I apparently participated in her beauty pageant game with a great deal of flare and gusto one night in particular. My talent competition was singing, and so I composed and performed a masterpiece. Here's part of the lyrics:
I love you to the house
I love you to the store
But stay away, til I comb my hair
I wandered all over the back yard that night, singing and posing and singing and posing for probably 10 minutes.

And apparently my fame spread to our neighbors. I'd posted the picture you see here on Facebook and tagged my sister and my brother Doug. The neighbor commented on the picture and said that her children had heard that story all their lives. I can only imagine what they must think of the crazy little girl who lived next to their mother and sang about combing her hair.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Two funny stories

On Tuesday, our daughter-in-law told her three year old son that we were coming to their house for Thanksgiving. He got quiet for a moment then said with great sincerity, "I love Granddaddy. He's my boy."

I made a pork dish for dinner Wednesday night, only the guys didn't actually get pork at the store. They got a smoked pork butt with bone in -- also known as a ham. Now there's nothing wrong with ham, and as it turned out the dish was fine, if different. Our other daughter-in-law wasn't feeling very well that day (she got bitten by a spider and the bite got badly infected) and she was a little zoned out from the infection and antibiotics. She fell asleep on the couch before dinner but woke up enough to come sit with us and eat. She wasn't actually all that alert as the rest of us talked through the merits/disadvantages of the purchased cut of meat over what the recipe called for. I kept calling it a ham, while my sons called it pork. I'm not sure what roused Sophie but she looked up from her plate and very solemnly told me that this was the best ham she'd ever eaten.

Yesterday morning, I ran with my younger son. He's in great shape and thankfully he took pity on me and ran at my pace.This morning I am off to Jen's exercise class at the Y. Did I mention she's the instructor? And incredibly fit? This class is a weight lifting class so I just hope I can walk afterwards.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Day 28

Whew, made it – got all 28 days done.

Originally I started this project because I was having some stress at work and thought that by focusing on the things that matter, I might do a bit of personal readjustment. That’s happened, although not entirely in the way I thought it would. But at the end of these 28 days, I’ve got a long list of things I am thankful for (and I’m also thankful that this is the last one).

I have no idea how to say this in a way that won’t offend anyone. Fortunately, this blog isn’t widely read so at least any offense will be minimal. But here goes: I’m thankful for God and for what He’s done for me.

Keep in mind that this is my position. I’m not preaching or judging anyone for whatever beliefs they hold or don’t hold. That’s not the point. I’d just ask that you’d take this for what it is – my belief, my opinion and the 28th topic of my thankfulness.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Day 27

I am grateful for Kent. Well you knew I'd get to this topic before the 28 days were over, right?

In my previous marriage, I didn't understand the notion of spouse as best friend.

Actually that's not quite right. I was very nearly scornful of the idea that I could be married to my best friend, that husbands and wives could fully support each other, be 100% for each other all while seeing the spouse as he/she really is. I thought that was just a delusional idea perpetuated by sappy love songs on the radio.

I'm happy to say that I was wrong. I have that today. Kent sees me as I am and thinks that the "as I am" bit is just fine. Somehow he can still encourage me to aim higher, do more, try new things all without implying that I should do those things because I'm lacking now.

10 years into this marriage, I am still thankful to be loved by him and married to him.


Edited to add that I wrote this post Monday evening before we went to dinner. As is so often the case with us, we had a really good conversation at dinner about life and things that matter (there's something about a hotel restaurant that for us anyway fosters great conversation). I told him then that this post was coming and that everything he was saying and doing at dinner only confirmed how incredibly fortunate I am to have him as my husband.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Day 26

I’ve been thinking about all the traveling Kent and I have done over the last year, and really over the course of our relationship. I know traveling abroad has always been a popular activity, even well before commercial flights were around. But the time and money involved to go from, say, the US to Spain would have made it impossible for us to take the trip in October.

Likewise, for the last six years we’ve gone to wherever our younger son and his family live for Thanksgiving. Sure, we could technically drive there in the time we have available to take off from work. But what a very short time together that would be.

So yes, I’m really thankful we live in a time with airplanes and that we can afford to get the tickets.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Day 25

Christmas is a month away (if you celebrate).

And I’m grateful for something that’s fairly innate to me. I plan ahead – I mean I really plan ahead so most years I’m done buying Christmas presents in October. We are slightly behind this year but not by much. And celebrating Thanksmas with our kids and grandkids the day after Thanksgiving means we have most of it done now anyway.

But having that tendency to plan ahead and get it done means December is just not a hassle. And it means I can enjoy the stuff that matters – like the traditions I mentioned yesterday.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Day 24

I really like family traditions. Well OK, maybe I don’t like all of them but I do like a lot.

And it’s been really cool to see which traditions my kids have picked up as their own. One of the most adhered to traditions is what we eat at Thanksgiving – always turkey, my mother’s mashed potato recipe, a cranberry relish I make (with port, it’s good not yucky) and pumpkin pie. There are some other foods added in (after all, both sons are married and their wives have perfectly good family traditions of their own) but I’m still pretty pleased that things like my mother’s mashed potatoes are considered essential.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Day 23

You know, this is harder than it looks. Mostly I struggle with coming up with things that aren’t incredibly shallow or sound too preachy.

Anyway – day 23. Continuing on with the theme of friendship, today we fly to Boston and tomorrow we’ll drive down to the Cape to spend Sunday with our friends celebrating Friendsgiving. I can’t remember if this is our fourth or fifth year, but it’s definitely a great tradition. Things will be different this year since various friends have started having children. We’re going to have our big dinner earlier in the day so those with kids can get home at a reasonable hour. I will say, I remember when I was the one needing that accommodation so it’s fun to see things from the other side now.

These friends were the ones who really helped us through some very dark times in Boston. I’m not sure if they realize how much they helped us and comforted us, but they did. And as long as they’ll host Friendsgiving and we can afford tickets, we’ll be there every year.

So yes, for the third time this month I’m grateful for friends. This time it’s my Boston friends.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Days 21 and 22

Day 21

So I have a group of virtual friends – by virtual, I mean that 99% of our interactions are online. I’ve met two of the seven face to face and actually knew one of the two face to face people long, long ago and far, far away. We coalesced around . . . well honestly I don’t even remember the original catalyst. Two I grew to admire tremendously as I read their blogs, another lives in the Boston area and was already connected to a couple of the others, and anyway now we’re friends.

The other day I wrote that I was grateful for a couple of work friends (still am), but then I realized that these women are equally my friends. While I can’t exactly loan them a cup of sugar or take them out for drinks when things go poorly, that doesn’t negate the friendships we’ve created.

I see a common thread between expanding the idea of family the way my wife-in-law and I did, and expanding the idea of what constitutes friendships the way these seven women and I do. To my mind, both expansions are good things. My life has been enriched in ways I wouldn’t have realized years ago before the internet, before I made friends in online games.

I get it now. Just because I can’t hug a friend – because she lives thousands of miles away – doesn’t mean we’re not friends.

So virtual friends – that binder full of women I hang out with most days online – I’m grateful for you. As our monkey arm hugging friend would say: MOAAAH.

Day 22

A slightly more mundane topic of gratitude – but I’m off work today and off work all next week. I’m so incredibly grateful for that. I need a break.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Day 20

This is an easy one and based on events from today. I am so very thankful for my friends at work. Today they really came through for me, more than they know. All I can say is thank you.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Day 19

Incredibly grateful for mail like this:

We got that yesterday. You better believe I am thankful for Eliot (and Alison and Colin).

Monday, November 18, 2013

Day 18

Today I'm grateful I live in a climate that's more sunny than not in the winter. Oh and at a latitude that's not quite so dark in the winter months. Today in Boston, the sun rose at 6:38 AM and set at 4:19 PM. Here in Kansas, the sun rose at 7:04 AM and set at 5:02 PM. I know the daylight hours in the two locations are pretty close but here's the thing. In Kansas, I need my sunglasses on my way into work, and it's not full on dark when I drive home. I like having the light.

So there you go, a few measly minutes more of daylight makes me really thankful.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Days 15, 16 and 17

By the end of the week, I find it’s harder to post daily. I’m usually about as energized as a can of flat soda. So here are three more things to go on my gratitude list.

Day 15

For the most part, I’m glad I’ve lived such a nomadic life. Sure, there are times when I get a pang of envy or a case of “gosh if only” when I hear people talking about the life-long friends they’ve got or the connection to a specific place because of how long they and their families have lived in that area. But those times aren’t all that frequent and really it’s more like wondering what it would be like to have blue eyes or be tall or some other not likely to happen event.

I’m sure it’s all just a matter of whatever you’re used to – whether it’s living in the same house for more than four years (haven’t done that yet) or moving on average every 1.4 years (which I have done). And I’m used to being nomadic. Moving or making new friends or finding new favorite restaurants or dry cleaners or what have you just seems to be normal to me. I think the greater challenge will be to see if I can stay in this house that I do love so much for more than four years. Stay tuned on that one.

Day 16

Wally sticking his head
through the sewing machine
I am so very glad I sew.

And I’m downright tickled that Kent’s got into it too. In fact he’s already sewn two gifts for family this Christmas and has another three items planned.

I like that we can share this hobby, I like that we are both learning to really fit our clothing and I like that anymore it’s a slightly unusual hobby. You can see some of what I’ve made here.

Day 17

This one may sound frivolous, but I assure you it is not. I am beyond thankful to have a great cat sitter. Our cats ended up getting really wigged out during our time in Boston, and unfortunately the boys haven’t returned to a more normal, placid cat/Zen existence. In fact, Eddie has only gotten meaner when he feels threatened and we aren’t around (he never acts aggressive if we’re here – our Boston vet said he’s a cowardly bully and that’s pretty accurate). Wally is much more high strung than before we lived in Boston, and will just go hide when he’s scared. He’s gotten a lot worse about anything that smells like the vet. He hisses and attacks the other two cats if they smell like the vet, and he’ll hiss at himself if he’s the offender. Only Chloe is relatively normal.

Stacy refuses to give up on the cats. She swears she will get them to accept her and in the last 18 months, she’s made real progress. I hope she never does give up because otherwise we’d either have to stop traveling or the kitties would get kenneled at the vet’s. I shudder to think of what the readjustment period would be like after that.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Day 14

Here's another silly topic of gratitude.

I ran across this website when a friend shared the link with me. I don't browse it every day (hey, I'm not that much of a crazy cat lady) but sometimes I do. What I really like about this site is the notion that lots of other people, in other countries who are living very different lives than mine also love their kitties. Talk about a unifying element, that sense of connection with others over something as mundane as pets.

Go check it out. Yes, it's in Russian but really it's in purrs.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Day 13

Another fluffy topic but one I'm feeling today. I am very thankful today for carry out or delivery. Boston had a lot of carry out options, the KC area has fewer. But pizza gets delivered just about any place, I guess, and tonight it's getting delivered here.

Both of us had very long, challenging days at work and both of us have zero energy to cook, not even an omelet (which is my normal go-to dinner when I am beat).

So there you go. A shallow topic but a real one nonetheless.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Day 12

Shortly after we divorced, my ex married a woman who’d also been married before and had some children. I had no idea what to expect as this was uncharted territory for me, but I needn’t have worried. She wasn’t at all interested in having bitterness or animosity between the two of them and me. She thought that the idea of family could transcend the traditional structure and that really, kids can’t have too many adults in their lives loving them.

I agreed with her entirely, and so we began an unusual friendship – I say unusual only because of the reactions we would get as we all sat together at concerts or plays, or I came over to their house. People were flabbergasted and thought that I should hate her or she should resent me or there should be all kinds of drama in our lives over this new blended family structure.But that’s not how it played out.

She coined a term for us: wives-in-law. She said she disliked the hierarchical nature of first and second wives and thought her term more appropriately described us. She was right, it did and I was glad to call her my wife-in-law.

Over the years, she’s always been great with my kids. I know if you were to ask her she would not call them stepsons at all but sons. I’m fine with that because really, kids can’t have too many adults loving them.

Sadly, she and my ex are in the process of splitting up. Technically I guess that would make her my ex-wife-in-law. I won’t call her that though. She’ll always be my wife-in-law.

R – I’m grateful for you today.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Day 11

This one may also sound self-serving but hear me out.

Active duty picture
I'm thankful I served in the US Army. And the reason for that has nothing to do with nationalistic pride (although I am very proud to be a citizen of this country) or because I was all noble and sacrificial (I was 18 and a very typical 18 year old at that, in other words NOT noble and sacrificial). Nope, I'm glad I did it because I was able to live abroad for three years and even more, I was a minority.

I believe everyone should have a chance to be part of a visible minority. I think it would go a long way toward breaking down barriers if we all had to experience being part of the not powerful. Since I was a white female in the military, I was a double minority. I don't recall the numbers that were tossed around back then (remember this was long ago and far away) but I do remember there weren't very many white women in my units.

That's not to say I think for a nano-second that I truly know what it's like to be part of the disenfranchised minorities. My "membership" was temporary and lasted only until my ex and I both got out of the military and returned to the States. People of color, or those with disabilities never get to leave their statuses -- it's not temporary.

Anyway, today is Veteran's Day. I'm glad I served.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Days 9 and 10

Day 9 

I am so very glad Kent and I can cook and moreover that we enjoy cooking. I was thinking about that at lunch yesterday. I'd reluctantly gone out to lunch with some co-workers and my reluctance wasn't about the company but about not having my own yummy lunch that I bring every day. And a tiny bit of it was also that if I'm going to spend money eating out, I'd rather do it at dinner, with Kent.

Anyway -- we do love to cook, and even when we get in cooking ruts (we are in a pizza rut right now), it's still really good food, it's far cheaper than eating out and it's almost certainly healthier too.

At the risk of sounding very shallow, Day 10's topic of gratitude is . . . my car. Yes, yes, I know. An inanimate thing! And yet I love my car so very much.

I got the Volvo just over a year ago and I got it because I felt really unsafe in the Fit (you may remember I'd gotten hit by another car, well actually the other car's door). My Volvo isn't a lot bigger than the Fit was but it's sure heavier. I'm confident that if someone opened his door in traffic the way it did when my Fit got so damaged that the door-opener's car would suffer more. In the case of the Fit, it barely damaged his car.

I've never loved a car before. I liked my CR-V a lot, it was the first car I'd had that had power everything and I loved that the car sat up a bit higher. But it was green with a khaki interior and that just never felt like me. Plus it was humongous, at least to me. But it was roomy, handled well in snow and ice and it served me well for nearly 10 years.

This Volvo, though, is just amazing. The seats are so comfy (and heated! and NOT leather!) and it's unusual looking but not a freak show car, and my MP3 player works in it and -- well I could go on and on but why? You get the idea.

I guess the true upside of me falling in love with a car is at least now I get it when other people wax poetic about their own vehicles. I'm not judging them now.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Day 8

This may sound like a variation on day 1 when I was grateful for my lungs being OK now. Because today I'm thankful for decent joints: knees, ankles, hands etc.

A co-worker who is a couple of years younger than I am has to ice her knee constantly. She stays very active but has issues with that knee and hasn't taken the time to let her knee heal up. Now you could argue that her approach is pretty short-sighted and I would completely agree with you. Nevertheless, she believes she can power on through and she's also positive this is just a congenital thing, rather like her bunions.

Fortunately for me, I don't have any congenital joint issues (nor do I have bunions). Any time I've had problems with anything, usually my ankles, it's because of an injury. When I first returned to running in 2006, I had some pain in my knee but I changed my shoes to minimalist shoes and I also revamped how I run and poof! No more pain.

Watching this co-worker walk is almost disturbing because she lurches from side to side, sort of how I think zombies walk. I did a quick bit of Googling and holy cow there are a lot of different types of abnormal gaits out there (here's a link to a description of eight of them)! I had no idea, nor do I know what, if any, kind of disorder she might have. I suspect it's because her knee is so unstable and I'm grateful I don't have that problem.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Days 6 and 7

Oops got behind by a day.

Day 6: I'd thought about listing sleep yesterday but thought it might seem frivolous, although I guess it's not any more frivolous than, say, Milk Duds. Plus I know a lot of people with insomnia and doubt they think it's a frivolous topic.

But here's the thing. I need a lot of sleep AND I get up early. When I say I need a lot of sleep, I mean I do best when I get a good eight hours every night. And when I say I get up early, I mean I get up at 4:30 AM five days a week (I sleep til the scandalously late hour of 5 or even 5:30 on the weekends). The math doesn't lie: if I'm to get the sleep I need, I need to be in bed, lights out before 8:30 so I can actually fall asleep on time.

Well let me tell you, people just love to poke fun at how early I go to bed. Some are incredulous that I occasionally go to bed even earlier. But think about it for a second. You eat when you're hungry, right? Why wouldn't you go to be when you're tired? So that's what I do. If I'm worn out, I'm going to bed.

That's what I did last night instead of posting Day 6. I went to bed at 7:30.

Day 7: The other day my daughter in law posted a video of her 3 year old giggling helplessly. It was so dang cute, and also infectious. I found myself giggling along because his laughter was not to be denied.

It reminded me of when my older son watched the Winnie the Pooh movie. He was not quite 3, and I think the scene that got him going was when Tigger bounced all over the place for the first time. My boy just giggled and giggled and giggled. He loved that movie and we must have watched it hundreds of times. We watched it so much that this summer when the grandkids were here and we rented it for them, I still knew all the lines. But what I really remembered was all the laughter.

So that's what I'm grateful for today. Laughter like that from kids I love -- it's just good for my soul.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Day 5

Because I live in a cheaper area of the country, I can splurge on Glenfiddich* 15 yr Solara Reserve. I love single malt whiskeys. They taste so very good and a little goes a long, long way. I especially like having one after a tough day or week at work.

In fact, the day we flooded in 2009, Kent had gone back to the drowned apartment to fetch some things that were above the water line that we knew we'd need -- things like toiletries, socks, the floating litter box (hey it was a litter box so who cared that it took a bath in Boston's finest water?). I called him from the crack house hotel to ask him to fetch a couple of other things (don't remember now what they were) and at the end told him to bring the (almost entirely full) bottle of single malt because I figured we would need it.

So cheers! I toast you on day 5 with a shot of Glenfiddich.

*I'd link to their web site but it's got an annoying net nanny feature that requires you to verify your age before entering the web site. I wouldn't inflict that on anyone.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Day 4

OK I'm really thankful we live in a relatively cheap area of the country.

One of the few benefits that came out of our time in Boston (other than the amazing friends we made) was learning to manage our money. Even when times were really tough -- and in a city with such a high cost of living plus down to one income plus a mortgage that was double what we'd paid in KC, times were tough -- we got strict, buckled down, got a bit lucky in that nothing else catastrophic happened and even saved some money. But it wasn't easy, not by a long shot.

So being here, where our mortgage is just under half what we were paying, plus we no longer pay $400 a month to park two cars on patches of dirt, plus gas, insurance and heck even food is cheaper? Well it's just enough to make me thankful.

The Little Yellow House

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Day 3

Milk Duds!

Why yes, they are left over from Halloween (for which we got exactly one group of kids for a total of four Trick or Treaters. FOUR KIDS!).

I took the rest of the candy into the office (Butterfingers, York Peppermint Patties, Kit Kat bars, Twizzlers, and I forget the rest) but we kept the Milk Duds. Wikipedia and other sources say they're called Milk Duds because of all the milk in the candy and because the original idea of having a perfectly round piece of candy failed. I sort of wondered about that.

They are small candies and since they're caramel, they aren't something you can eat quickly and best of all they are relatively cheap in terms of calories. So all you Leawood kids who didn't come to our house for Halloween, Kent and I are thankful you skipped us.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Day 2

These gratitude things are posted in no particular order of importance. It's more as something occurs to me so you shouldn't read anything into me calling out being thankful for the cats before I say I'm thankful for Kent.

And yes, I'm thankful for the cats. Even when they barf or lay horrendous stink bombs or wake me up in the middle of the night. I get to giggle at their silly antics, I love having a purring cat curled up on my lap and when Kent and I watch a movie, it's just so cool that all three make sure they are near us. They're either on the couch or lying on our slippers on the floor.

Hard to feel as stressed when I see this

Friday, November 1, 2013

28 days of gratitude?

You've seen it floating around the web, I'm sure -- probably on Facebook or maybe someplace else. I'm going to give this a try (although in all honesty, I may collate a few days and post them all at once; work is insane right now so it's hard to commit to a daily update).

So. Day one -- what shall I say?

This one is easy because I ran today. I am so very thankful my lungs are (finally) in good shape. I ran 3.4 miles this morning at just slightly over 10 minutes per mile. Since I'm not built for speed, I won't get all wrapped around the axles over my pace and instead will rejoice in how quickly I recover, and even more how I don't wheeze.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Four years ago

We had what ended up being more than a little excitement what with a 31 inch water main breaking. Every year, the memories are just a bit less . . . I don't know, raw maybe? Some things haven't changed all that much though. The kitties are still very skittish around strangers (they weren't before all the reconstruction, and the unexplained sound of running water makes both Kent and me horribly nervous and uptight.

And we'll never willingly choose to live in a basement apartment or a house in a flood plain (even a 500 year one) if we can possibly avoid it. Honestly, I doubt we ever choose to live in a condo again. You're just too much at the mercy of your potentially insane neighbors.

Here are some pictures of our street the day we flooded. I thought I'd posted them before but couldn't find them in my blog so here you go.

That tiny bubble you see is where the water main broke

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Cats as still life

"Helping" again while we sewed.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Kitty weigh-in

Well there's no good progress to report. They are either holding steady at their weights (which the vet said ought to come down) or in the case of Eddie, just outright gaining.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

More letters from me

Dear Brooks,

Success! You delivered on a running jacket that's actually reflective!

Dear Wally,

Where did you take my Road ID bracelet and two of my reflective arm/leg bands? And why did you take one arm and one leg band? Couldn't you at least have left me with a matching set?

Cats these days . . .

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A rant

Dear Nike, Reebok, Road ID and JogALite (also to a lesser extent Athleta),

What is up with the lack of reflective material on your workout clothing??

I have a Nike running shirt that I otherwise love but it has the teeny-tiniest of reflective stripes at the back of the neck (it’s hidden under my not very large pony tail) plus a slender sliver on my left shoulder. That’s it.

Because I cannot imagine wearing a crossing guard vest while running, I bought “reflective” strips from Road ID (top) and JogALite (middle) that are supposed be very reflective – they wrap around my arms and legs and honestly I don’t know why I bother. They reflect very little although the JogALite strips are made from plastic so the plastic is shiny. Not the same thing though.

Reebock isn’t any better. Neither is Athleta, although my running bra has some reflective materials on it. That doesn’t help much though since it’s October, and oh yeah, tomorrow morning when I run the temp is supposed to be around 30°F. So it’s not like I’m wearing just the bra.

By the way, bright colors don’t equal reflective material. Your neon running shirt won’t help me with being seen at 5 a.m. when it’s utterly dark here and I’m out running in a neighborhood without sidewalks.  Grrrr.


Dear Brooks,

Your running shoes have an amazing amount of good reflective stuff on them. That’s why I’ve ordered your reflective running jacket and can't wait until it gets here tomorrow after work. I sincerely hope it’s as good as your shoes because if so, you will have a die hard fan for life from me.

The reason for this rant is pretty simple – I nearly hit a runner one evening a couple of weeks ago. Like me, he had some reflective stuff on but like mine it really didn’t work. I saw something similar this morning – two women stupidly walking down the middle of the street, one had a thin strip of reflective tape on her jacket but it was very, very dim. I only saw her because the sun was finally starting to come up.

New labels

I got sewing labels a few years ago; I thought it would be nice to put labels in the things I made (especially gifts) so I ordered some. I couldn't quite visualize the size of them when I ordered the first set and honestly, I wasn't sure if I would use them or not so I got small (cheap) ones.

But they are really tiny and I never put them in the clothes I make for myself. Kent had gotten himself some labels and I liked his so I ordered from the same company.

Here's a picture of the old ones (on top) and a new on the bottom:

As you can see, I've stayed with the same sort of color scheme (and added a kitty). I really like that I don't have to cut the label to size.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Warm and cozy

Last night, even though it wasn't really cold out, we turned on the fire (it's gas). We take turns sitting on the hearth, soaking up the warmth. Toward the end of the evening, we realized we weren't the only ones enjoying the fire:

Chloe is around 13 or 14 years old. I got her in October 2001 and the rescue place estimated that she was one or two years old then. I always suspected she was closer to one because she was still so kittenish in her behaviors. Either way, she's getting up in years now and I think the warmth of the fire is soothing. I sometimes think she's getting arthritis, and if so then I'm sure the fire really feels good to her.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


In the never-ending quest to rid the house of cat hair (a quest doomed to failure), Kent was vacuuming under the built-in book cases between the dining room and the kitchen. He started hollering for me, telling me I had to come see this right now!

Here's what I saw:

Photo bomb by Eddie

We've been in this house nine months and never knew there were drawers at the bottom of our book cases.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

You're one of my kind

One of the blogs I read is written by a collection of veterinarians who specialize in cats (yes, I do love kitties). There’ve been a lot of interesting articles on the blog but one in particular got me thinking about my own three cats.

The article discusses the nature of social groupings in cats and asks readers how many exist in their own home. Naturally enough, that got me to consider Wally, Eddie and Chloe.

Chloe has never been interested in other cats; in fact, for a long time she was downright hostile toward her own species. Little Sammie tried to kitty pile with her but she was having nothing to do with him. After he died and we got Wally and Eddie, they too tried to kitty pile with her. Age had not softened her solitary ways but the boys did not care. They still played with her and tried to snooze with her. The playing often got out of hand because she’d get angry with them and the kitty pile naps were a non-starter. Sometimes Wally could sleep near her after she was asleep but that was about as far as things got.

A long time ago!
The boys were a different story. They are litter mates and for the first few years, they slept in piles around the house, groomed each other and just generally behaved as though they were one cat in two bodies.

I’m not sure when things changed but certainly by the time we flooded the first time, they were no longer quite so cozy with each other. By then, we’d stuffed them in their carriers for a cross country move, and made them live for a couple of months in a teeny, tiny place that didn’t allow cats and certainly didn’t have any room for kitty romping. And then we flooded. All three were in the apartment with me when the water started coming in, and I’m sure they picked up on my own fear and uncertainty as I shoved them none too gently into their carriers. And of course who can forget the first night in the crack house hotel, followed by living for three weeks in the basement of a very generous friend and then moving again to a temporary apartment . . . yeah, that was a lot for the cats.

After reading that article, though, I realized we do have social groupings. It’s just that I’m at the center of these groupings. There’s Wally and me, Eddie and me, and Chloe and me. Wally and Chloe have a tiny bit of warmth to their relationship but I’m still in the middle of that. And I get in the middle of the Eddie/Chloe relationship because that’s still not a very friendly environment.

I didn’t put Kent in this diagram because I wasn’t sure how to depict his status. When he’s home during the day, Eddie sleeps on his lap almost all day long. That's hard to show in a diagram, wouldn't you agree? And I aligned the cats the way I did because Wally does mostly interact in a positive way with the other two. But they all swarm me.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Pieces of paper

Usually I end up with bits of ticket stubs in my purse or suitcase from our trips. Then I'll pull one out at a random moment and ask Kent if he wants to go to wherever the ticket is from. For several months, I'd ask him if he wanted to go back to the Sistine Chapel but finally I cleaned out my purse and tossed that ticket.

So what you have here is a collection of the tickets and receipts we got while in Barcelona, along with the explanations for each of them.

Click the image to enlarge

Sunday, October 13, 2013

I'm so tired

I’ve written before that my friends and co-workers think Kent and I are insane for our four day Crazy Trips™. These are the trips we take to another country or away from North America. Generally we leave on a Friday, land on Saturday morning and go like gangbusters until Sunday evening, when we fly home again. The Crazy Trips™ have to meet some criteria in order to work for us: Delta has to fly there, and we need to be able to get there with just one plane change (not always so easy when you live in the middle of the country). To date, we’ve gone to Rome, London, Montreal and Honolulu using this method.

Last week, though, we flew to Barcelona for a more extended stay. Getting to Barcelona from Kansas City requires two plane changes (which ups the odds of encountering travel delays) and obviously takes more travel time in general. But we knew we wanted to have a special trip for our anniversary so we considered the time well spent.

But oh my golly. I am so extremely exhausted and it’s not from jet lag. I adjust really fast to the time zones. No, I am flat out beat from traveling 24 hours there and 24 hours back again and just not getting enough sleep. As much fun as we had (and we really did have a great time) and as many interesting things as we saw, it’s still been exhausting.

Truly I find the Crazy Trips™ far less tiring. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go blow my husband’s mind and take a nap.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

By the numbers

Today is our 10th wedding anniversary. I thought it might be interesting to see the time we’ve spent unemployed or on short term disability expressed as a percentage of our total amount of time married.

We’ve been married 520 weeks now, so I totaled up the amount of weeks for the various categories and then figured out what percentage of 520 they each were. Obviously the percentages add up to more than 100%.

No matter how much of our time together was spent on some not fun stuff, I’m just amazed and happy that it sort of doesn’t matter. Yes, those bad times happened and yes, they were fairly wretched – especially the ones I didn’t put in there like number of times we flooded or the number of dry wall holes we had or things like that. Those don’t bear thinking of, not today.

So here’s to us. Here’s to the best 10 years of my life and here’s hoping we grow really old together before it’s all over.

It's really weird that we've lived the longest in Boston.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

What we'll do for a cup of joe

We bought a small coffee pot yesterday.

We ran the numbers on buying our morning coffee every day from a cafe or from Starbucks and realized that for a couple of Euros more, we could get the pot and the freedom to have our coffee the instant we wake up. So for 22 Euros, we gained a lot of flexibility.

Of course we can't bring it home, so the cleaning folks will have a practically new pot if they want it. And we will have had our coffee first thing in the morning, which will really count on Friday. Our flight leaves Barcelona at 6:30 AM and I can promise you, no store will be open two hours prior to that. This is Europe, after all.

Have you ever bought something like that on vacation, something you know you can't take home with you?

Friday, October 4, 2013

This is spinal tap

A friend of mine had to have a lumbar puncture the other day (she is fine now) and unfortunately she developed a spinal headache as a result of that puncture.

Her situation brought back memories of my own spinal tap and spinal headache, although her treatment was different than mine. Let me explain.

I had c-sections with both my children and I chose to have a spinal block for the anesthesia. If you know me well, then you already know that I have an extreme phobia of needles and all things related to needle-administered drugs or therapies or really anything. I hate needles. I hate them so much that for the first three of my seven major abdominal surgeries, I refused all pain medication because it was administered by a shot. I’m not sure why my phobia is only about needles because my pain tolerance is actually quite high (see also no pain relief because it came by a shot). There’s just something about being punctured and feeling the drug enter my body that’s horrifying to me. No thanks!

So for me to have a spinal block was a huge act of love. I knew it was best for my babies and I steeled myself to endure those horrible needles both times. But with my second child, I developed a spinal headache. As my anesthesiologist explained it to me, I was leaking some spinal fluid through the puncture, and as a result my poor brain was sort of sagging in my skull and that’s why I was in so much pain. I’ve never been so aware of the anatomy of my skull and my brain pan as I was that day.

He told me there were several options for fixing this leak. He could administer a blood patch at the site of the original spinal block. Um no thanks, that’s a needle. What’s behind door number two? Well, he said, we could restart your IV. Oh hell no, that’s even worse. Are there any other options?? Yes, he said, we don’t know why this works but if you drink caffeine that can fix the problem.

I didn’t yet drink coffee (that love affair didn’t begin for another decade), but I did like drinking Coke so I told him line them up and I’ll slug them down! So I got a bunch of Cokes, slugged them all down and miracle of miracles, it worked.

My friend chose the patch. I’m guessing she doesn’t hate needles as much as I do.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

All the cool kids are doing it

I don’t remember where I read the article, I just remember that it described the power of peer pressure on things like weight, dietary habits and exercise routines.

The article provided the results of some research study that essentially said we drift toward the norms of our social groups – so if we hang out with sedentary people, we are more likely to be that way and if our friends are a few or more pounds overweight, that becomes our normal and we will end up there also.

In the last four or five months, I’ve been able to return to my previous workout habits because my lungs are finally well enough for me to do so. I also have a FitBit now (which I wrote about here), and as my real life friends can attest I talk about pretty frequently. The upshot of all of this is that I’ve become the change agent in my circle of friends. Now they are being more mindful of the foods they eat and they are the ones choosing to find and actually do exercises they enjoy. One of my friends has started running, and I’m so proud of him because he really likes it a lot and has decided to enter a 5k race because he wants to see how he’ll do. He knows I don’t run races because (a) I’m way too competitive already and (b) I need running to be fun, but that’s not stopping him.

I have to say this feels pretty good. I don’t know that I’ve ever really been a positive influence like this before but I like it. I like it a lot.

Monday, September 30, 2013

No pictures for this one

Last week at my annual dermatology checkup*, I ended up having my first ever mole biopsy. I've had a few moles removed – always at my request – but never a biopsy. So I didn’t realize that the doctor was going to use what was essentially a small melon baller tool on me. I don’t know what I expected, but that wasn’t it!

She told me to keep the wound covered and to daub Vasoline on it before I put the bandage on it. And being the very compliant person I am, I did just that.

Now I should mention that I react poorly to latex so I already use latex-free bandages. But I knew something else in those bandages also bothered me and it’s gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. Turns out I, along maybe half the population, get contact dermatitis from the adhesive on the bandages. I know my skin is pretty sensitive. I get contact dermatitis from most soaps used in public restrooms, sometimes my rings trigger it, and I definitely cannot wear nickle-based earrings. But I hadn't put it together that in addition to latex, my skin was also reacting to the adhesive.

For the last week, I’ve rotated the fresh bandage in a counter-clockwise direction. My hope was that I could spread the expsure around and let the reacting skin calm down before I had to put a bandage on there again. My strategy didn’t really work so well. In addition to having the round melon baller wound, I now have radiating spokes of very angry red welts coming out from the circular wound – it’s almost like a sunbeam only it’s not a very happy sunbeam.

So no pictures because frankly, it’s kind of gross looking. But the good news is the mole was utterly benign.

*You do get an annual checkup with a dermatologist, right? Skin cancer is no joke. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

I'm a fan girl

A few more things I've recently discovered and love:

  • FAGE yogurt. Oh my goodness, so much better than Chobani and we won't even talk about high fructose corn syrup brands of yogurt. I put four ounces of the plain Fage 2% yogurt in with a half a cup of the Kirkland Ancient Grains granola for breakfast each morning. So incredibly tasty.
  • Our new Breville toaster oven. We use our toaster oven nearly every day, either to make toast or toast up some tortillas or reheat food that wouldn't fare as well in a microwave. We loved the one we had before we moved to Boston but it was huge. Since we had a teeny tiny kitchen, we gave it to Ben and Jen and got a Black & Decker one. That one was not really worthy of the name toaster oven. We always had to flip the bread and move it from one side to the other so it would toast evenly. And reheating was a crap shoot. If I set the oven any higher than about 300F, the food scorched. The new one is the compact version, although I would never call it small. But! I haven't had to flip or move bread when making toast and best of all, I can reheat things at proper temperatures without them burning.
  • Munro American shoes. I just bought a pair yesterday and I think the company must have secretly traced my foot to use as the last. They come in narrow widths, the heels fit my heels and there's enough room for my long toes. No, they aren't razzle dazzle shoes and who knows if I will like other shoes they make, but I love this pair

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Well this is depressing

The cats are not losing weight. If anything, they are gaining. On the plus side, their super duper expensive food has resulted in less poo in the box. That's always a good thing. But it hasn't resulted in less cat girth.

Here are their results to date:

I'm pretty much stumped at this point. We're trying to do the right thing by our cats' health but clearly this isn't working.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

I have been a little busy

New Look 6071
And I have pictures for you this time. I have a dressmaker’s dummy (form?), which works for showing the clothes. Truth be told, I’m a little disappointed with how it works to use for actually fitting my clothes. I can adjust the thing a bunch of different ways, but at the end of all the dial twirling, it’s still just measurements around – there’s no way, for example, to make the back narrower like mine and forget about getting the bust to be my size. I think this dress form is maybe a B cup. We won’t talk about my cup size – suffice it to say, I’m a bit further down the alphabet.

But the dress form at least lets me show what I’ve finished.

First up is the New Look dress I mentioned last week. I promise the dress doesn’t look quite so saggy on (again, it’s hard to replicate the human body on a dress form) but you can see how the cross over stuff looks. I'm very pleased with the way this dress fits me; best of all, I did no altering.

Frankendress 1
Next is a dress I cobbled together from two patterns (a Frankenpattern if you will). I’m quite pleased with this dress actually. The original pattern (McCalls 6069) calls for a cowl neck in the back, and I found that both annoying and excessive. So I took the back bodice from another pattern, re-drafted my armscye and here’s the result. The fabric is pretty interesting too. It's a sort of waffle weave, almost like long john material only much thinner. There are tiny sparkled throughout – it's a subtle effect, but they're there. I want to find a skinny black patent leather belt to wear with this and I may take this on our trip next month. If you’re wondering, the dress form has a winter white turtleneck on it. I find the white less distracting than the red of the form. Unfortunately the white sort of shows through plus I didn’t pull the sleeves through (didn’t want you to think this is a jumper).

Frankendress 2
Next is a dress on its third life. It started as this skirt, which I realized was not at all flattering on me and even if it were, I’d never wear it. Then I remade the skirt and added a bodice to become this cowl neck dress (which is, yes, McCalls 6069). Again, there’s just too much material and I never wore the dress. So now it’s resurrected itself one final time. I like the neckline on this dress and I’ve always loved the material. I think/hope it’s a keeper in this form.

Finally, today I did another Frankenpattern. I have a waterfall cardigan that is about as tailored as those things gets. I also have a pattern for a more typical waterfall cardigan but didn’t want swaths and swaths of fabric in the front. So I traced out the front of the RTW cardigan and sweated bullets over the armscye. I like the fabric, I’m so-so on the results. We’ll see if it continues on in this form or if I give up on it or make it come back as something else.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I'm in love

With a brand of socks. Let me explain . . .

So colorful & comfy!
I’ve always bought cheap running socks. My running socks needed to meet just one requirement: they had to stay up on my heels. You’d think this would be an easy requirement to fulfill, but that wasn’t the case. Things only got worse when the running sock fashion turned to the invisible socks. (Did you even realize there are fashion fads in running socks? Seriously . . . )

Oddly, I had the most success with Target socks. They were made of some cheap technical material so they wicked away any moisture, and they stayed up on my heels. I bought probably seven pairs and used them a lot. Alas, in the last few years even Target has moved on to the invisible running socks and so my supply has been dwindling.

When I got my new running shoes last month, I tried them on with a pair of balega socks. They felt amazing on my foot and helped the shoe fit even better. So I got two pairs.

But they had a problem and for once it wasn’t centered on staying up on my heels. No actually they were too big. If you look at the size chart, technically I’d wear an M in these socks. My feet are nothing but skin and bones, I’ve got hardly any meat there at all. Really I need an S. So I ordered three pairs directly from the company – I got three different types and all three are a size S.

Wow what a difference. They stay on my foot where they should and are just all around amazing. Of the three styles I bought, I love them all but one pair is too thin to use with my current running shoes. That’s OK, I wear other shoes too, other athletic shoes even, so I am positive they’ll get worn.

The only problem now is I have two pairs of size M socks. Kent’s got great big clodhopper feet so he can’t use them. Maybe the cats can play with them.