Friday, June 30, 2006

commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

ETA: Fuggedaboutit. I can't get Haloscan to work so I'm NOT messing with it any more! POO!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Seasons of Life

This evening I spent some time in my back yard, something I haven't done very often since I moved here 10 years ago. I've always seen yard care as a punishment -- a chore to avoid at all cost -- so considering the yard a place to enjoy has never been high in my thoughts.

I think that's changing, and that change is yet another signal in recognizing that I've entered a new season of life. I mowed tonight, and not my usual "just enough to get past it" mow. Too often I've been sloppy about corners and such. The goal's always been to get enough done to avoid getting a fine from the city.

Why is it different for me now? I suspect a large portion of the changed perception is due to having some trees removed. Yes, I am a tree lover and one thing that makes me very sad is the wholesale bulldozing of trees when some developers attack a piece of property in order to build highly over-priced McMansions.

However, these were specific trees that I despised. They were ugly. Some produced gnarly ugly fruit that only the birds and wasps could appreciate. They were very difficult to prune and groom. So last year, when some other pruning was required on trees in the front yard, I had the bad trees taken out too.

Also removed was a tall red cedar tree. The only thing that I could say nice about it is that some birds, and the squirrels, liked to hide in it. Oh, and I could say that it was nice enough to die easily. It was not a pretty tree, and it was a terrible source of allergens. It also resided right out my bedroom window so I could never enjoy having my window open.

OK, so I have more yard space this year since the Great Tree-Out of 2005. So... why do I seem to enjoy the yard more? I have big bare areas where the trees had kept grass from growing. That's not attractive.

Maybe it's not the change in the yard that's really significant, but it does work in tandem with the real reason. Getting control over some of the growth has given me some vision of mastering my space. It's as though it's becoming my own garden of Eden -- in that I've been given dominion over this space and I am responsible as its caretaker. It is up to me to make it as attractive as my soul desires it to be.

And yet, that's a symptom -- a shadow, if you will. The true key is that I am observing myself enter a new life phase. And it's one I treasure! Folks, I'm getting OLD.

I am. Not old, as in "start shopping for the nuring home and check the will." Old as in I'm in a third phase of life. No longer child. No longer caregiver (note: never had children, so I never got to do much of the mothering phase. I was a stepmother briefly. My caregiving was more for my mom during the end of her life.)

This third phase -- this growing old -- is new to me. I'm not sure what gifts it will involve, but I am excited.

You know when I first embraced this phase? A few months ago, after I had taken a shower and had washed my hair, I stepped out and started combing my hair. I just caught a glimpse in a split second of a halo... I couldn't believe my eyes so I stopped to look. Yes! There it was! A circle of white all the way around my hairline that I couldn't see when my hair was combed and dry. I looked again. YES! Not salt-and-pepper. WHITE.

It is just the color of my Grandpa Deal's hair. White.

That was the moment I decided I wouldn't color my hair any more. I embrace this change. I've earned it. (Any woman who has gone through hot flashes and night sweats can understand what I mean about "earning it." There should be SOME reward for that. Not that these things are nearly as bad to endure as I've always been led to believe. Menopause has been way oversold in a negative way. We've been cheated by that, women.)

Since the discovery of my "halo" I've started noticing little feathers of white hair growing in at my temples. If y'all remember Gov. George Nigh as he started going gray, you know what I'm talking about. He was very distinguished looking with the white temples. Why is it women aren't "permitted" to be happy with this natural progression? You don't call women "distiguished;" you tell 'em to make friends with Lady Clairol.

Well, I'm admitting that I've colored my hair for a while because it just seemed to be becoming duller. But I've never been happy about doing it. Now, I'm stopping. Yeah, it might look a little strange for a while. I'm hoping I can hold out long enough so that I can get my hair long enough to donate to Locks of Love. I'm about halfway there -- they request 10 inches of hair length so the hair can be used to make wigs for cancer patients. If I make it to 10 inches, I will be able to donate all the hair that is still my "natural" color and then embrace the NEW me fully.

So here I am. Going gray; enjoying my yard. Definitely a new season has arrived.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Making happy birds


Awake at 6 a.m.
Enjoy quiet time in the back yard, pulling weeds and listening to the birds sing.
Shower and eat breakfast.
Get lawnmower from garage. Spend 30 minutes trying to start; spend 10 minutes on porch letting flooded mower settle down. Listen to birds sing while waiting.
Get mower started; mow front yard.
Sweep and hose off cranky neighbor's driveway to avoid complaints later. Enjoy that summer smell of water on hot concrete.
Replace hose spray head with sprinkler; position so bare spots get water.
Pull Virginia creeper from side of house and bag up for trash. (Boy, this project will take several days. I hate Virginia Creeper!)
Note birds doing happy dance in small puddles. Also note dirt starting to creep onto cranky neighbor's drive again. Dang it!
Move sprinkler to the other bare spot on the opposite side of the yard, under Bradford pear tree.
Sweep cranky neighbor's drive again.
Move mower to back yard for late afternoon session.
Sit on front porch until sweat stops pouring down face. Listen to birds sing.
Walk around to back of house and go in kitchen door, with tile floor.
Kick off wet Keds.
Get very, very cold drink.
Glug. Glug.
Refill cold drink; store in fridge while fixing lunch.
Grab cold drink with lunch and head for computer for e-mail fix.
Stop at picture window in living room.
Observe many birds doing happy dance together in sprinkler and puddles. Count types of birds:
Female cardinal
Mocking bird

Happy, happy birds. Happy, happy homeowner.

Maybe yardwork doesn't stink so much after all.

Friday, June 23, 2006

All about Trixie

This is an interesting way to see how much people know about you. You create your own quiz with a choice of answers. I'll be interested to see how much people know about me -- I really don't expect too many people to get many of mine right. It even may be a little shocking to some when they see my quiz. So take it, let me know what your score was, make your own quiz and post a link in the comments! Have fun, and be kind.

All About Trixie

Uh-oh! I think I've fixed the link. Try again, please! And thanks Other Trixie for letting me know it was broken!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Knitting for the World

Many of the blogs I read are written by fellow knitters. There seems to be an emerging grassroots desire to knit for others on a world level. I'm collecting links here (as much for myself as a place marker as for others who are interested in finding a way to put our sticks and string to use).

One that touches my heart is this: Soldiers Angels.
Soldiers Angels provides hand and foot coverings needed for wounded soldiers on Medevac flights back to the US. The simple fleece or knitted coverings are used to help keep critical patients' extremities warm. Everything needs to be oversized to fit on big hands, or over casts, bandages, and arterial lines.
"We can also use knit caps," the web site says.

Seen over at Crazy Aunt Purl's place is Operation Gratitude, a group formed three years ago to send care packages to the troops, especially those who may have no family to support them during their service. Operation Gratitude just shipped out its 150,000th box on Father's Day. For more information, check out Operation Gratitude's site or How individuals can contribute.

A tremendous source for community or charity knitting is Bev's Country Cottage. Here are many links for knitting for babies, families who have suffered miscarriage, the military, cancer patients, seniors, the homeless, and domestic abuse survivors.
There are so many links within links at Bev's Country Cottage -- I can't recommend her site too much.

A big one is Afghans for Afghans which is a humanitarian and educational people-to-people project that sends hand-knit and crocheted blankets and sweaters, vests, hats, mittens and socks to the beleaguered people of Afghanistan.

This grassroots effort is inspired by Red Cross volunteers who made afghans, socks, slippers, and other items for soldiers and refugees during World Wars I and II and other times of crisis and need.

In many communities, local knitters have formed knitting collectives for specific purposes. One of those is Warming Grace. This is a sweet, sweet heartwarming project. Warming Grace is an ongoing project designed to create blankets from knitted and crocheted squares for children dealing with cancer. So far 221 knitters worldwide have sent in enough squares to make 20 blankets!

Each knitting project and group has its own requirements, so please check with the project directors or their web sites before starting your work. Fabric content is particularly important in these projects -- most of us have stashes of acrylic fiber yarn, but natural fibers are imperative when knitting for the sick, infirm or bedridden for safety reasons. (Acrylic is a dangerous fiber choice as it will melt rather than burn. Safety counts!)

Well, my friends, there's a beginner's list of how a set of knitting needles and some yarn can make a difference in the world.

Of course I will continue with my local project of making prayer shawls.

Here's a simple pattern for these: Using size 11 straight needles, cast on 57 stitches. K3, P3 each row. It should not look like ribbing. Most take three skeins of yarn. When you are ready to add on the third skein, first make the fringe (this can range from three to nine inches long -- later I'll add more detailed instruction on fringes.) Finished dimensions are roughly 28 inches by 60 inches. Wider and/or longer is fine -- try to keep them in scale with the size of the recipient.

Of course I've ventured into using the prayer shawls as a means of artistic expression also, and I've deviated from the standard pattern lately for particular people. It is much faster to knit the basic well-accepted prayer shawl pattern, and there is a sense of community in the simple uniformity that comes from knitting the same thing thousands of other knitters have done.

Here's a link to the original Prayer Shawl Ministry.

Whether you are a knitter or not, there are many ways to support these types of ministry. You can help establish a group in your community, whether in a church or some other gathering group. Or you can help by supplying materials so others can afford to continue their work. Or you can help identify projects or potential recipients. Or you can help provide postage so these things can get to the people who need them.

Thanks to all of you, knitter or not. If you find yourself wanting to help in some way, please pay attention to that small inner voice and do something. You'll help make the world better, I promise. One little change can make a world of difference.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Random thought triggers

I'm developing this list as a writing exercise. These are some key phrases that bring flooding memories back to me. Your challenge, should you decide to accept it, is to develop your own list of memory triggers.

These are not complete sentences. In some cases the phrases alone would mean nothing to anyone else. That's what makes the exercise such a personal experience -- the few words I jot here are the keys that unlock chambers filled with scenes from my life.

And now... the list, Part 1:

Yost lake
purple irises
bologna wrapped in white butcher paper and a half-gallon of milk
Sunday evening sand bar picnics
sand plums
vinegar bottles
sprinklers and hot sidewalks
cold watermelon, sweet iced tea and the smell of Salems
quilts spread out on new-mown grass
band concerts in the park
kite flying
Gibble Gas station in Guthrie
Zero candy bars
Oh Henry candy bars
Hospital vending machines
Highlights for children
Sunshine on a black linoleum floor
Rope swing in a pear tree
Blue gingham dress
Clothesline poles and fences
Roller skating
Lolo Hall, weather girl
Galloping Gourmet
Shooting free throws
Running track
Snapping green beans under the walnut tree
Wagons and trikes
Blue bicycles
Yellow house
Dairy store
Walking to the library in rain
Popcorn and ironing
Soap operas

Friday, June 16, 2006

Friday 5:37 p.m.

Head hurts.
Head hurts.
Head hurts.

The work week is over. No annoying carry-over problems. It is finished.

Head hurts.

I am hungry. This morning I needed to go to the hardware store and Radio Shak to acquire necessities. On the way I stopped at McDonald's for breakfast.

I picked up things like washers for the garden hose, spray paint for my clothesline poles (nyah! I still HAVE clothesline poles and I don't think many people can say that!) I also picked up some stylin' turquoise colored coated clothesline wire. This weekend I want to put my handy solar dryer back in service! I've lived here 10 years this month and I've never used my clothesline! First, when I moved in, there was no way for me to get from the washing machine in the garage to the clothesline in the back yard without going all the way through the house to the front door and then back around to the back yard.

Since then I've remodeled the kitchen and had a window changed into a door. I love my door. Now I can go directly from the kitchen to the back yard. I even had a set of steps built -- so much better than just falling to the ground! My grill and smoker -- as yet unused :^( -- reside just outside the back door. It is just a few more steps out to the clothesline.

With utility bills soaring and my relative income not keeping up, I'm turning back to simpler days where self-reliance and do-it-yourself determination made it possible to survive. (Oh come on now, I'm not using an outhouse or chopping my own firewood. I'm just going to start using a clothesline as much as possible to save a few bucks!) I also plan to start sewing some of my clothes again.

Head hurts!

In keeping with my simplicity movement, I wish I had started something cooking in the crock pot this morning. I would have something to eat by now. But no, my fridge is fairly empty and I've well depleted the pantry. And I am hungry.

Head hurts.

I am free tonight. Nothing hanging over my head. No social obligations. Computer runs virus scan on Friday nights so I won't be shackled here in my chair. I love times like this.

Head hurts.

I wrote more than 4,000 words this week -- actually much, much more, but then had to cut it back to the ballpark of 4,000 words. More trimming was done by others. Number of published words will be slightly less, I predict. I also did some photography to go with some of those words. Nothing worthy of sharing here.

Head hurts.

I am going to stop now and forage somewhere for food. I will take my car and use up some precious gasoline to buy food that is not good for me or my diet. I will consume plenty of dark brown bubbly goodness in the form of Diet Coke.

Oh, I better remember to turn the sprinkler off. I was so excited to put a new washer in the garden hose that I've let the sprinkler run virtually all day.

Hmm. Sprinkler water hitting the hot concrete driveway. I bet the smell alone will make my head stop hurting!

See ya!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Tired, hot and sweaty

It was another long work day. To wind down, I went out to the back yard for a few minutes, thinking about what I'd do if I had the money to do some landscaping. The frustration of poverty set in about the same time the mosquitos started biting, so I changed gears and went to clean out the garage.

Yeah, that garage of mine ... it is was the pits. There was no way I could walk from one end to the other, which has been a major frustration.

Habitat for Humanity is making a donation pickup tomorrow, so it was a great opportunity to cull out things I no longer need or want. Once I got started, I really got the purging fever!

As a result, there's a big pile of stuff on my front porch with yellow Habitat for Humanity stickers all over them to identify them as donations. The floor has been swept (well, much better than it has been in years). I found things that I tossed in the wash and will bag up to add to the pile in the morning. They are useable items but far too dirty to donate as they were.

The final status of the garage:

Lawn equipment neatly lined up and accessible (YAY!)
Like items grouped together (YAY!)
Old, useless items discarded in the trash (YAY!)
Floor swept (YAY!)
Found sprinkler and watered front yard (YAY!)

Sure, there is more to do, but continued work will be much easier with a clearer floor surface.

GAH! I just scared the fool out of myself when I spied a june bug on my shoulder. I guess that's the price I have to pay for delaying this task for so long.

All that's left to do tonight is to finish washing those items, then take a long, hot shower before collapsing into bed. Hopefully it will be at a relatively human hour. Maybe I'll get a "full" night's sleep tonight for a change!

Monday, June 12, 2006

If it's not one thing ...

My apologies to anyone who has been browsing around for something to read. It's been a little hard around here and I've found my refuge in knitting at odd hours. I know not all y'all are into the knitting, but there's something very soothing about it for me.

Anyways, I've been feeling like I'm hanging on by the proverbial thread. Many stumbling blocks keeping me from staying on track and on time with my little money-making efforts. Unfortunately that throws a wrench in things for other people which makes them as stressed as it does me. Not good for any of us. But maybe that's why they call it "work" instead of "recess." Sigh.

It's that time of year when being outside for my job leads to physical complaints: Instant sunburn (I've taken to wearing a wide-brimmed straw hat when I know I'll be out for a while.) Being on construction sites brings additional problems like being caught in a soaking downpour and getting sucked in by a river of red mud or getting a 6-inch abrasion on my leg from coming down on a stake supporting a concrete form. Stepping in shifting sand around lumber is dangerous. Oh well, I will have a lovely large bruise for a while. Enough to keep me from wearing short dresses or short shorts in public, for which the public says "THANK YOU."

I'm falling apart physically in so many ways. My blood pressure is at the "astronomical" level. My blood sugar issues put me in a semi-stupor at odd times. My sleep schedule is past ridiculous. And will someone PLEASE turn the air conditioner down!! (fanning self delicately). Being a woman of a certain age has its sucky moments for sure. Kind of like adolescence in reverse. If you thought 13 looked bad, try looking at it going backwards at 90 mph!

I'm also house-sitting for an older friend who finally made a trip to see her daughter. She hasn't been away from home since 2000, she told me, and she loves to travel. She lost her husband in February and I had to have a conversation with her recently about a visit I had with him in the hospital. He wanted me to make sure that she got out and went to see friends and family once he was gone, because he felt so guilty about clipping her wings. That was all the encouragement she needed to get back out there.

I spent some time over at her house doing "ladder tasks" for her one evening. You know what I mean by that -- changing the batteries in a clock and rehanging it in a new location; adjusting a curtain that was mounted too high; moving decorative items on a tall shelf. Those were the jobs I used to do for my mom, mostly -- changing light bulbs and cleaning the bugs out of the fixtures.

She called me today to check on things and to mention some flowers that need a little water. I'll go by later to take in today's mail and newspaper and give the plants a drink.

All day I've been chasing a pretty interesting economics story. It's a bit like going from zero to 90 in 2 seconds. I've gotten quite an education on a topic I was not familiar with. Whew! I love it when that happens but it sure pushes the adrenaline through my system.

To top it off, I was on the phone so much my phone battery went dead. Arg! I need to find a non-battery phone that takes a headset so I could actually listen and type at the same time. That's why I got the cordless phone to start with. Trying to work without a headset is an occupational danger!

I'm taking a break for a bit now that most people's work days have ended. The phone should be silent for a while. I realized just now that I never got lunch today.

Please forgive me if my comments have been sparse on your blogs. My best wish is that I can settle back into a more balanced life soon.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Tree of Life

Here's a project I started working on last night. This is a trial run on a "Tree of Life" pattern. Hoo-boy! This is a tough one! I'm surprised I finished this panel as quickly as I did. I have some changes in mind for the second attempt, but I will make use of this one as well.

The concept of my design will be to use this as a center panel of a larger piece. The notion is to create a piece that can be auctioned to raise money for a low-income housing nonprofit organization. The twining branches represent the connection between individuals and community. The early concept is to add a strip of a pattern called "Joyful Children" at the bottom and surround the whole piece with the "Little Pink Houses" from the Glad Rags I made for the wedding.

I may do an edging on the outside in a leaf pattern -- representing how we can scatter our efforts to the world.

I'm sure there will be changes and adaptations as I go along.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Ready for the wedding

I'm getting myself ready for the wedding this evening, but here are the last three of the hand-knitted dish cloths I made as my gift to the young couple.

Here we have a microfiber Jack O'Lantern; a lace butterfly and Little Pink Pig. He may not show up terribly well because of the choice of yarn. I've learned to use a plain, one-colored yarn for these instead of a swirled kinky yarn that competes with the pattern. Anyway, you can make out his beady little eye and his curly little tail, I think.

At the end is the little bundle all tied up in ribbon with a card.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Thursday, June 01, 2006

More pointy sticks and string

It has been noted that I haven't posted since Sunday. Oops! Well, yes, I've been tangled up in more yarn, working with a smaller pair of knitting needles than usual. A young lady from my church is getting married on Saturday and I've been working on some hand-knitted dish cloths as her present from me. I've got five done so far and if I have time I'd like to get another couple done. I'll tie them up with a ribbon and put them in a basket, if I can find one that I like.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Anyway, I just finished knitting this one, a dragonfly. I hope you can see the patterns that are knitted into each. It's kind of hard to photograph the texture without going to greater pains than I'm willing to at the moment. Dragonfly is spending the night pinned to my ironing board. He's been sprayed with water. This process is called blocking, and helps stretch out the finished cloth to relax the yarn into its new shape. It also helps open up the stitches so the pattern shows better.

Here are the others:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

This is the hardest one for me to see, unless I hold the lower edge higher than the top edge. It is a daffodil. The leaf and stem are to the left. There is a large flower top center, and a smaller flower going to the lower right.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Here is a blue butterfly. He's a cute one.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

This one is a red apple. He may be hard to see since this is a flecked yarn. Looks pretty good in real life.

Without a doubt, this one is my very favorite. It's called "Little Houses." I call it "Little PINK Houses." There's a whole neighborhood here! I hope to find some other patterns that have this kind of open work. I think a lot of my friends are going to be getting "Little Pink Houses."

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Anyway, that's what my hands have been doing while my brain has been spinning. A lot of negative, self-critical messages have been playing and I'm trying to fight off a substantial depression by keeping these things that I love close at hand.

I've also started working on my next prayer shawl. It's a dark blue. So far it's just over six inches, trying to get somewhere between 60 and 72 when finished. Usually it's good if they get to 60, but I'd like to make this one a little longer, and I have the extra yarn. It's great when I can buy out deeply discounted lots of yarn (60 percent off!) at the Hancock's Fabrics just a few blocks from my house. I can make a prayer shawl from three skeins, but I buy all they have if there are only four or five skeins left of a particular kind. 60 percent off!! Even broke me can manage to scrounge up a few bucks for that kind of bargain.

It's late ... I haven't been getting near enough sleep for the past few weeks, which is only compounding things on the dark side. So I'll bid you all a good night and ask that you all be blessed with a restful night.