Friday, January 31, 2014

Looking happy

I like these two pictures together. The one of my grandmother isn’t dated but she looks very young to me, maybe the same age as my mother is in the next picture. Isn’t her dress amazing? I wish I could ask her about it – did she make it? Was it for a special occasion? What color was it? And in the photo it looks shiny, so I wonder what kind of fabric it’s made from.

I described this next picture to my mother and she remembered it immediately. She is not quite 15, and I love the way she seems to be so pleased with herself here. She said she was getting ready to start her sophomore year in high school, which startled me. I realized I’d never put it together that my mother was either one of the younger ones in her class or the older ones because her birthday is in September. As it turns out, she was one of the younger ones.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Why I don't ride bikes

I was a typical little girl, I loved my roller skates and my bicycle. I loved the amazing bike I got when I was 10 – it had those giant U shaped handlebars and a banana seat. Oh I was styling with that.

My first bike -- I was six and
lived in Nashville
Because my parents were divorced, I generally had two bikes at any one time. My mom and dad had a bike for me wherever they lived at the time (they gave me the banana seat bike) and my father and stepmother had a bike for me in Bryn Mawr. Usually the Bryn Mawr bike was a hand me down since I had three older stepsisters and an older stepbrother there.

The year I was in 6th grade, I lived full time in Bryn Mawr and I had a new bike with skinny tires. I don’t know if they actually were English tires but that’s what I was told they were. All I knew was that they were a lot thinner than any tires I’d ever had before and that’s important to this story.

One warm spring day, my next older stepsister had gotten a call from a boy in Kentucky where her father lived and where she had a lot of friends. She really wanted one of her Bryn Mawr friends about this wondrous event and so I set off on my bike. Keep in mind, this was before call waiting or second phone lines and cell phones were still only seen in science fiction, so the only way this friend would get the news right away was if I dashed off and told her.

Disaster struck when I was close to the friend’s house. I was so excited and not paying much attention when the skinny front tire of my bike slipped into the gap between the sidewalk and the lawn. I remember this part so clearly – the curb was on my left, and so was the edge trimming I’d slipped into. I started to fall over toward the left and I thought “This is going to hurt.”

Next thing I know, I was on the ground but not where I fell. In fact I was nowhere near where I fell, I was about three blocks away from that spot. My bike was on top of me and some man was yelling at me, asking me if I’m OK. (Looking back as an adult, I bet he wasn’t actually yelling at me but he was most insistent. He probably saw me pass out and got pretty freaked out by it.)

I told him I was OK. He asked my name but I couldn’t remember and I kept thinking you don’t tell a stranger what your name is. Then he asked where I lived, and that took a bit to dredge up out of my foggy head. He asked if I could get home and I guess I said yes because he let me go and I started the long walk home. Even if I’d wanted to ride my bike, I couldn’t have because the seat was twisted.

I got home and what was really weird was no one noticed I’d been gone, and no one noticed that I had a pretty scraped up left side of my face. I had the most tremendous headache for about a week. I don’t remember who fixed the bike seat, heck maybe I did that. And that boy never did call again.

I continued to ride bikes for years; that was my transportation option until I learned to drive. But I never liked it after that. I lost that joy of just riding and riding that you see kids have. I tried wearing a helmet later on, as an adult and that only made things worse for me. So these days, I'd rather run or walk or drive my car.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

I can't even

It’s so cold here.

How cold is it, Elizabeth?

It’s so cold that the night before last, I was restless 14 times due to the cold. And last night I was restless for two hours. See?

Here’s our current temperature right now:

I’m supposed to be sewing my lovely Simplicity dress only I chose summer fabric and the sleeveless view. Now to actually make the dress, since I’ve changed sizes, I would need to try it on every step of the way to ensure things fit properly. Let me tell you, I am not undressing and putting on a half-finished summer dress in this weather. No thanks. I’ll just be late to the sew-along party.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

If you want it, here it is

I’ve gone on and on about how I generally won’t run when the temperature is below 20°F (the exception being if it’s close to 20 and not windy). So when I do get some better running weather, I feel obligated to take advantage of it.

Case in point is this week. Now normally I’d run every other day. But looking at the lows for each day – because I run early in the morning, when the low temp applies – it’s clear that I can run today and tomorrow and then forget about it until . . . well I don’t know when. Nothing looks promising on the long range forecast.

So I’ll run today and probably tomorrow too. It’s not ideal but it’s the only chance I have.

Friday, January 24, 2014

A quick retrospective

I’ve been scanning old photos from my family – I do mean old. Some are of great-great grandparents and whatever was written on the backs of them has faded with age.

I didn’t realize that I had high school senior pictures of my mother and my grandmother. I have one of me too, although mine wasn’t in black and white. But Picasa makes it very easy to alter photographs and so I’ve converted mine to black and white just for fun. Looking at my grandmother's picture, I see a very strong resemblance with my sister Amy. I'd never really noticed that before.

Mana (my grandmother)

My mother

And me

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Pumpkin heads

Last year, Eddie (he whose picture is at the top of this blog) suffered a blow out of epic proportions. Seems one of his anal glands got massively impacted with disgusting solid stuff, developed an infection and then blew up like a volcano. He showed no symptoms before the blow out, so we had no idea until we saw the gaping wound. In fact, I didn’t realize that cats could even have this problem. I thought it was strictly a dog thing. That was an expensive lesson to learn. He needed to be sedated to have the wound treated, and then needed a long term antibiotic plus the donut of shame. We endured non-stop hissing from Wally that lasted for nearly a month and poor Eddie was horribly traumatized by the entire event.

This year, not to be too graphic, his butt started smelling weird. Yes, I know, animal butts and butts in general don’t smell good but his smelled weird. When I’d pet him along his spine, I’d get to the tops of his legs below his tail and I could feel big solid things in there. They seemed to be the size of big acorns and when I’d squeeze, I’d smell more of the weirdness. As was the case last year, though, he had no other symptoms – he never dragged his butt on the carpet or anything. Still, just to be safe, I took him to the vet.

I am so glad I did. Once again, both glands were horribly impacted. The vet told me that the stuff she got out of there was almost entire solid, so I’m sure the poor cat was in pain. She gave him a shot each of antibiotics and steroids, because she knew there was no way we could get pills down that cat. I’ve given pills to plenty of cats before but Eddie is not only large, he’s quite strong. When he doesn’t want something, well it’s just not going to happen.

She also suggested getting more fiber into his diet. She gave me a couple of cans of prescription fiber food to get us started. In the meantime, I asked around my friends for advice – I’ve got some animal experts among my friends and the suggestion that came up over and over again was to add some canned pumpkin to his diet.

Folks, the cat loves his pumpkin. In fact, all three of them love it. I stir it into their canned food and they eat every bit of it. This week, Kent tried an experiment and just stuck a dollop in each bowl next to the canned food. It was all gone, as though they'd used a vacuum on it.

Sadly, we aren’t yet seeing any change in Eddie’s weight. Chloe and Wally have drifted ever so slightly down but my fat boy is growing ever larger and more in charge. As long as his glands stay clear, I guess I’ll have to be happy with that.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

My grandmother and college

So here’s another family story. This picture is of my grandmother (Mana) and isn’t dated although she looks quite young. She wrote on the back of it that she thought her dress was pretty and she hoped whomever the recipient was would also think so. I suspect Mana made the dress herself – she was quite a good sewist.

I don’t know all the details of this story, so here's what I do know. Mana’s parents didn’t have a lot of money but they did send her to college for either a semester or a year, I don’t remember. Then they told her it was her sister’s turn to go and so Mana never got to finish college. She ended up marrying my grandfather and having four children: my mother, my uncle and twin girls, my aunts.

You need a bit of information about me for the rest of the story to make sense. I’d joined the Army right out of high school and didn’t start college until I was 29. I dropped out a couple of years later as my entire personal life imploded and wasn’t able to go back until my late thirties.

By the time I was able to go back to school very part time, my grandmother was dying from colon cancer. I flew out to see her in early February that year for a final visit. She was still entirely herself, her brain and personality hadn’t been impacted by the disease and the only time there was any impairment was when she had to take her pain meds.

I sat with her that Saturday, and she had me tell her what I was doing with myself. She’d drift off from time to time and at one point woke up enough to say “I’ll be with you momentarily.” That simultaneously made me smile and feel really sad.

Anyway, the point of the story is this. After I’d told her my plans to finish school even if it took me five years, she patted my hand and as fiercely as she ever said anything, she told me “You finish college. Get that degree.”

I flew home the next day and she died the following weekend. And I did finish college, I did get that degree. I had a chance to walk around KU the day I graduated (because you’d better believe I walked down the hill) and I told Mana that I did it, I’d finished and it was partly because of what she'd said.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Work it

The other day a friend commented that I have a lot of workout videos. I actually have fewer now (lost some during our first flood) but generally speaking, she's right. Then another friend asked if I would mind listing what I have along with why I like or don't like each one.

I'll caveat all of this by saying that I'm no fitness expert, and I am speaking only from my experience with each of these workouts (I have one that I've never done, so it's not listed here). Also what's important to me may not matter to you. For example, in my workouts I want:

  • Good cues (let me know what's coming next)
  • But not long drawn out explanations for each exercise (that gets old after the first three or four times using the workout)
  • Accurate and even repetitions (please count your reps, I don't want to do 8 on one side and 12 on the other)
  • A decent stretch (I struggle with flexibility and need stretching in my workouts)
  • Solid ab work (I've had a lot of abdominal surgery and it takes a lot to keep my belly in shape)

Also, I don't have any joint issues and with the exception of some scar tissue problems in the lower left quadrant of my abdominals, I don't really have any other issues either. Obviously, if you've got joint or muscle issues then your experience may differ a lot.

When the weather permits, I run every other day and on the non-run days, I do one of my workout DVDs unless I'm doing free weights. I've got that routine memorized so I don't use a DVD for it any more.

I've also started using a Bosu ball for some of the free weight workouts. It adds a level of difficulty for balance and stability that I like a lot.

So here's my line up of workouts (you will need to click on the image to actually read it):

If you still can't read it, post in the comments and I'll figure out another way of packaging the information. And if you've got a workout DVD you just love, let me know. I'm always looking for more workouts.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The dollhouse

This is not really a family story, although very nearly so.

My grandfather on my mother’s side worked with wood a lot. I have a jewelry box he made for me, plus a Christmas carving of the Madonna on a donkey while pregnant, and also a wrought iron two dimensional sculpture of the Madonna and the Christ child mounted on wood. All are lovely and incredibly well done.

He passed that love of working with wood on to his son, my uncle. My uncle made amazing furniture, truly artisan work and I wish I’d had the foresight to have him make some for us. He understood wood and could make the beauty of the grain just appear out of nothing and the lines of the furniture always worked with whatever wood he’d chosen to use.

He also started making a doll house years ago when my cousin was a little girl. My aunt made some soft goods for it, and my grandfather even made a table or two. But she ended up not really being into dolls or their houses and so he never finished it. Long story not so long, my mother knew I was obsessed with miniatures and that he had this unfinished doll house and so he gave it to me.

I think you can access the photo album with the pictures of how I finished the doll house here. Each picture in that album has a description of what you're seeing. Finishing it was a lot of fun but once we knew we were moving to Boston, we were stumped on what to do with such a big piece of furniture. My daughter-in-law’s parents live close to the Kansas City area, though, and they agreed to take the doll house and store it in their basement (which isn’t nasty and damp, but lovely and finished).

Well we are back in the KC area and apparently J’s folks were afraid – yes, that’s right, afraid – we would want the doll house back! All the grandkids play with it every time they visit – all seven of them. And anytime people with children come over, those kids play with the doll house too!

Here’s a picture from last week of our grandchildren playing away with the house. My son and his father-in-law shortened the legs of the stand my uncle made. That way the kids can play with everything more easily.

Honestly, even if we did have room for the doll house now, I would never ask them to return it unless it was a burden to them. I have to admit, too, that it's a lot easier not to watch little hands playing with the furniture my grandfather made. I'd get all wrapped up around the axles worrying that they might break things rather than focusing on what matters; the kids are having a lot of fun with something my family made.

Monday, January 6, 2014

He is a little ham bone

The youngest grandchild absolutely loves the camera. My daughter-in-law had told me that but until I actually watched him ham it up, I didn't realize exactly how much he loves it.

Here he is at our house last week.

Friday, January 3, 2014

I've joined a sew-along

I've put a badge on the right side of my blog – all it means is that I’ve joined a sew-along for this specific pattern (Simplicity 3833). I’ve made this dress once and love it, and knew I’d like to make it again. I want to use the fabric in this photo. I bought in Idaho a couple of years ago and wasn’t sure what to make with it. I think this pattern will work well.

As with the first version I made, I’ll line this dress too. The pattern doesn’t call for it, but it’s easy enough to do. I may also make a short, vintage jacket to go over the dress, from the pattern on the right in this picture. Or maybe I’ll make it with sleeves. I'm pretty sure I have enough of the fabric to do one or the other. It’s nice to have options.

There’s a schedule for the sew-along, which I’ll do my best to follow. But mostly I’m just using this as a way to get some sewing done first thing this year. I admit, it may be difficult to stay motivated sewing up what is essentially a warm weather dress when Kansas is in the middle of an arctic season. But at least I'll have something to look forward to when the warmer weather gets here.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Time for a cool change?

I’ve always envied those people who seemed to have been born knowing what they want to do with their lives. I knew a few of them in high school and their certainty of purpose awed me. I had no idea what I wanted to do, which is partly why I joined the Army after graduating. I figured being in the military would buy me a few years to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up.

That lack of defined purpose stuck with me for years. Even after graduating from college, I didn’t really have a plan or a clear goal for a career. I had flirted with the idea of law school but real life intervened there (one child developed a serious chronic illness and the marriage, which had limped along for years, finally died). Plus I was hampered by fears of failure and felt as though I was an impostor, thinking I could do these things. I was also really interested in counseling psychology but was even more afraid of going for a PhD in clinical psychology, in terms of time, money and effort. Still, that dream persisted.

In 2005, I’d finally worked up my courage to pursue the counseling degree. I’d done my research and found an M.S. program that was well respected in the area, and would prep me for getting licensed in both Kansas and Missouri. But I needed two more undergraduate courses: a stats class and one more psychology class so that spring I took the stats class and an intro to industrial/organizational psychology class.

Now keep in mind, I was still really scared about this career change. You don’t get rich by becoming a counselor or therapist, especially if all you have is an M.S. But I believed that a PhD wouldn’t be worth the time and money at this stage in my life – the juice just wouldn’t be worth the squeeze. I still thought maybe I was being presumptuous by thinking I could do any good in this field. Long story short, I let my fears derail the original plan and I ended up not going for the counseling degree. Instead, I got an M.S. in industrial/organizational psychology.

But that dream of being a counselor, that desire has never left me.

Here I am, nine years later with an M.S. in psychology, and I’ve enjoyed some of the work I’ve done. But I’ve realized the areas I’ve enjoyed are the ones that help people rather than organizations. It probably sounds like a subtle difference, but over the course of the last six years as I’ve practiced in this area, that difference has become bigger and bigger.

If you’re still reading, I’m almost done. All of this prefaces the changes that I’m in the process of making – I turned in my notice at my job last month. I’ve narrowed down the counseling programs to two choices. I’ve identified at least one area where I can volunteer that will get me moving toward the field I want to be in and frankly, I’m still scared to death. I'd love to know what you think about this change. Am I crazy to think I can do any good here? Should I just suck it up and return to corporate America? I'd like to know what you think.