Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Road Trip

Things are crazy around here.  On top of all the other craziness, I got a call a few days ago.  My job just ended suddenly as of this Friday.  It was always meant to be temporary job, but the sudden termination was sort of unexpected.  On top of my Dad getting remarried at 87, my world is rocking on its foundations. 

We're planning a trip to Florida -- actually several trips throughout the winter and early spring -- and the rental car companies really rape you during the Christmas season.  A typical car goes for $1100/week!!  So we've developed the practice of taking an old car down there in the fall and leaving it until the spring.  But this year we didn't get around to it.  Jeff's been working crazy hours, so I insisted on taking the car down last weekend. 

It was a long long drive, but it was sort of fun.  It was nice to get away from the crazy and be alone for a few days.  I had a couple of good books on tape to listen to and I was able to stop and see the sights whenever I wanted to.  In fact, I stopped here:  (Jeff would NEVER have gone along with this one)

In fact, it was a nice little tourist trap with free cheese samples.  I bought two hunks of cheese and a cool cheese knife. 

Most amazing of all, though, I FINALLY got to See Rock City!  The most venerable tourist trap of them all!  Ever since I was a child, I've begged to go to Rock City and nobody would take me because (a) we were always in a hurry to get somewhere else, and (b) it's a tourist trap. 

For the unenlightened, Rock City started out as a pleasure garden for a wealthy couple who lived on top of Lookout Mountain in Georgia.  The views are stunning and it's said that you can see five states from Lover's Leap (Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama).  When the depression hit, the wealthy couple -- now not so wealthy -- opened their garden to the public for an admission charge.  The husband then had a stroke of advertising genius.  He agreed to paint barns throughout the South for farmers, as long as the farmers agreed to allow him to paint "See Rock City" on them    "See Rock City" became part of americana -- and I'd never seen it! 

So, I took golden opportunity while there was no one to complain that we'd be late to our destination or that they didn't want to go.  I paid my outrageous $20 entry fee and had a pleasant walk around some beautiful rock formations, and lovely gardens, and I saw beautiful views.  I SAW ROCK CITY! 
The entryway to all that is Rock City (and the gift shop -- who knew they would have a gift shop!?)

A stream running between enormous rock formations

Looking up into a Douglas fir

Most of the flora was labelled for identification

A damp but interesting passageway

The swinging bridge -- talk about a thrill ride -- it wobbles hundreds of feet in the air

Lover's Leap, where you can see five states

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Trying to Hold It Together

Geez!  It's been crazy around here for the past few weeks.  The girls both had personal crises towards the end of the school term, Jeff is working himself to death, and my Dad announced that he's getting remarried ... right NOW.  My world is a little off-kilter at the moment. 

I'm trying to be happy for Dad.  I know he's lonely and Harriett seems like a lovely person, but I don't know her at all.  I've only met her once, briefly.  I'm finding it hard to imagine her in my Mom's place.  I know that she isn't trying to fill that role, but in my mind my Mom and Dad are a matched set.  It's disorienting to think of him sharing his home with anyone else.

And the way they've gone about it is ridiculous.  Let me vent for a minute here.  Not only did he spring it on me, but they decided to get married on Christmas Day.  I guess that made sense for her side of the family because her son from Chicago would be in town, but neither my brother or sister could attend on that day and, if they were excluded, I was seriously thinking about boycotting.  Of course, all of the planning and information was being transmitted through my Dad, who is often a bit confused, because I don't even have this woman's phone number or address.  I asked Dad yesterday for her address and he didn't know it.  He just knows how to get there -- he doesn't know the apartment number. 

Anyway, it may all work out.  They agreed to postpone the wedding until Jan. 21st so everyone can attend.  And they also met with an attorney yesterday to sort out a pre-nup.  He's 87 and she's 88.  I want them to enjoy the years they have left and keep each other company.  I want to be happy about this.  I'm trying. 

So, on top of everything else, when I came downstairs early Saturday morning I noticed water near the kitchen sink.  When I opened the cabinet, water spilled out on the floor.  I turned around and went back to bed.  It was too much.  Later, after I'd screwed up my courage, I pulled all the sodden crap out from under the sink.  It was a lot of wet stuff but it wasn't the first time I've had plumbing issues with that sink, so most of it was in plastic containers or wrapped in plastic.  The pipes were dripping in three different places.  And continued to drip after I turned off the water supply taps.  It was a mystery.  I sopped up the mess and put bowls under the drips and called the plumber. 

Of course, since it was Saturday, the plumber didn't answer and I left a message.  A few hours later, I left another message.  A few hours later, I called another plumber, picked out of a hat.  Fortunately, the second plumber came right away and showed me that the 25-year-old faucet on my kitchen sink was kaput.  The water was still flowing because the cut-off taps were so old and stiff that I hadn't turned them all the way off.  He didn't have a faucet in stock to replace it, so there was nothing he could do for me except charge me $100 for the service call. 

Then Jeff called from the airport.  He just flew in from Colorado and his car wouldn't start.  Would I come and jump him?  I tried, but the car wouldn't start and he went into a rage when I insisted that we leave it and deal with it the next day rather than waiting who knows how long for AAA to come.  He had had a long and difficult day and a dead car was the last thing he wanted.  In the end, I took him home and headed back out to Home Depot -- armed with an Internet video on "How to Replace Your Kitchen Faucet." 

It was after midnight when I finally finished installing the brand new chrome finished Delta faucet with two spray options and a built-in spray wand.  Everyone else had gone to bed.  It worked and it didn't leak (although I didn't put everything back in the cabinet until I was SURE).  It was a victory. 

Out goes the old faucet

In goes the new faucet

Waiting for the cabinet to dry ...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

What a difference a year makes!  Yesterday was the anniversary of my weight loss surgery.  There's no denying that I'm still plump, but I'm 85 pounds lighter, no longer diabetic, off my blood pressure meds, off my cholesterol meds, off my CPAP, and much more energetic and full of life.  It wasn't easy, but I can say definitively that it was a good thing. 

For the first time in -- forever -- I've got most of my Christmas shopping done early.  I might actually ENJOY the Christmas season for the first time a long time.  I remember distinctly a few years ago when Sherri Buckley and I were in the bell choir together.  We were playing the bells for midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and both of us burst into tears because the stress of the holiday was coming to a head and we both had hours of gift wrapping ahead of us.  I don't want to do that again ... ever. 

The Christmas season starts for me with the Friendship Spinners' annual retreat at Shakertown.  Like many of the members, I'm not very good at attending the monthly meetings -- which usually involves driving a couple of hours to a location central to the scattered members --  but I try not to miss the annual retreat.  I've never met a warmer group of about sixty ladies (and several men!).  We joke, we laugh, we discuss our lives, and we go out of our way to welcome new people and shy people.  It's probably the most comfortable group I've ever been a part of.  I can sit alone and spin quietly or pick up my chair and join any group.  No one will freak out if I take a walk by myself and everyone will welcome me if I join in their conversation.  It's such a blessing and a release to be there. 

This year I brought curried sweet potato soup and spinach dip to the potluck.  I didn't make my usual springerles embossed with the lady spinning, and some people were disappointed.  Maybe next year.  The potluck spread was perfect for my new dietary requirements!  I could sample some soup and have crackers and a cookie any time during the retreat, so I could eat little bits all day long.  Perfect! 

I scored big on both the gift exchange and the raffle.  As my gift, I brought a Christmas angel made out of roving and 4 ounces of suri alpaca for spinning.  In the exchange, I received a brightly colored handwoven floor rug made of those little pot holder loopies!  It's so cute and cheerful and perfect for me since I don't really weave and couldn't have made something like that for myself.  My number was called in the raffle and I went home with a lovely skein of brown handspun shetland.  I also brought home one of the wonderful baskets that Ken was selling.  They're made in Africa by tribal women and the money goes directly to support them -- and they're fantastic baskets. 

Our room at Shakertown,  the cabinet cleverly hides a TV

The West Family Wash House, where we hold our meeting every year

Shaker woven coverlets in the textile museum

A shaker dress

A shaker shirt

Colorful beeswax candles for sale in the gift shop -- I bought some red ones
Shaker collars and underthings

The wagon ride all decked out for Christmas

Shakertown, of course, provides the perfect atmosphere for a retreat.  It was all decked out for Christmas -- but simple and serene as usual.  Lorain and I shared a hotel room, which brought my expense for the weekend to a grand total of $44 since I didn't eat in the restaurant. 

After the spinning wheels were packed up and everyone dispersed, I drove to Lexington and picked up Linda.  We went back down to Danville to attend a "Lessons & Carols" service where Kate was performing with the Centre Singers and the Centre Choir.  Danville's main street was breathtaking.  All the trees lining the street were festooned with white lights and it looked like a wonderland.  The performance/church service was lovely, consisting of congregational caroling and choral performances punctuated with pertinent bible readings.  Ally met us there, so we got to see both girls.  It was a moving ending to a happy day. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

After Thanksgiving

Sam is sad.  His girls left yesterday morning after being home for Thanksgiving break. 

We celebrated Thanksgiving for the first time at Kathryn's new house in Paducah (which meant a 10 hour round trip on Thanksgiving day for Jeff and Ally).  Kate and Dad and I went down on Tuesday and stayed until Friday afternoon. 

Unfortunately, my camera battery was dead on Thanksgiving so I didn't get any pictures when everyone was together.  Here are some pictures of the day after and a cool video of Uncle John's Model T in action. 

My niece, Mary Beth, and her boyfriend, Ted.  Mary Beth is working on her PhD in Mathematics at Duke
 and Ted is at Boston University working on a PhD in Physics.  They're adorable together!

Kate teaches the chickens to cross the road.

Kate and one of Aunt Kathryn's very tame chickens

My nephew William practices the fine art of chicken tossing.

Taffy is a good dog.

My sister Kathryn presides over her table with my nephew Jay

Kate poses in Uncle John's Model T truck

Just turn your head sideways ....

By the way, Kate seems to be over whatever it was that was bothering her.  It has been a tense couple of weeks with lots of doctors and tests -- but no one could quantify anything but a racing heartbeat and some strange blood pressures.  Larry thinks it was a "perfect storm" of stress, a flu bug, and a reaction to some medication -- none of which would have caused her symptoms independently but all together they packed a punch.  Anyway, I'm glad she's feeling better and thanks to everyone for your concern and prayers. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Every Day Luxuries

As I was making dinner last night and taking things in and out of the refrigerator, it struck me to be thankful for that refrigerator.  Seriously.  Refrigerators are a very new phenomenon in the history of mankind.  Even within living memory, the best people could do were iceboxes -- and that, itself, was an innovation.  I don't know how I could cope without a refrigerator and freezer.  All of your food would have to be either eaten immediately or dried, salted, or smoked. 

I read an article once in the Phi Beta Kappa Journal (Jeff's subscription, not mine) that I've always remembered and wish I could get my hands on a copy.  The article began with a vivid description of a messenger riding hellbent for leather down the mountain with precious cargo, handing his package to a waiting companion with a fresh horse, and falling spent from the saddle.  It turned out that the valuable package was ice from the mountain to cool the emperor's drink.  The point of the article was that even the poorest person in America today lives better than an emperor in days gone by.  It somehow stuns me to think that King Henry VIII used a latrine all his life. 

So, that's what I'm thankful for today:  refrigeration.  Even on a cold wet day, it's a good thing.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Sign of the Season

I just wanted to share these two short videos I made yesterday.  A huge flock of migrating birds landed in my neighbor's yard and were making all kinds of racket.  I thought the videos were pretty cool.  How do they all fly at once like that without running into each other?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Fighting Entropy

Entropy.  That's the enemy.  We spend our lives fighting it and, ultimately, we all lose. 

Last night, Larry invited his sister to go to the movies with us.  Mary's a nurse and she's had a bad week.  She cautioned Kate, "Don't ever go to nursing school."  There was never any danger of that.  I thought, though, about the high burn out of nurses.  Their work is physically and emotionally exhausting, God bless them, and they never win.  They're constantly fighting an enemy -- disease and injury and death -- that never gives up.  Their lives are an endless parade of scared and complaining people in need.  No wonder they burn out.  It's like swimming against a tsunami.  No ... it's not like a tsunami ... more like a relentless tide.  Sometimes you think you're making progress and doing well, and then the force of the ocean overtakes you. 

I spent yesterday fighting entropy too.  I made a pretty good dent in cleaning out the garage.  It's not saving a life, but it's still a small part of the good fight.  Making order out of chaos.  Opposing the natural inclination of things to fall into decay. 

As I was writing this, the sun came up.  A new day.  I know I can't beat the enemy.  So, maybe that's not the goal.  Maybe the goal should be to make things as good as they can be for as long as possible.  Which means continuing to clean out the garage today and fixing Genny's hutch to she can't get out and run wild in the rain like she did last week. 

There's a cardinal and a titmouse on my bird feeder.  Ephemeral things, birds.  They look sleek and healthy though and I'm contributing to that by setting out food for them.  I'm helping them fight the entropy another day. 

I wonder what makes us keep going.  How do we have the courage and hope and energy to hold back the chaos?  Like a dike around Holland, we push back the waters.  We mend the dike here and it springs a leak there.  While I cleaned out the garage yesterday, the dishes piled up in the kitchen and Kate and Jeff left stuff all over the family room.  If you're lucky, you can only hope to make marginal progress over the entropy.  But I'm not ready to throw up my hands and give up.  In fact, I'm sort of encouraged by the realization that I can't be expected to win.  I only have to do what I can do.  That's giving it a good try, for myself and the people I love. 

Now that it's light, I can see that I left the lid off the rabbit food last night.  The feeder birds are curious about the rabbit food and occasionally perch on the edge of the plastic container, but no one has tried to eat it.  I'll probably have to throw out at least part of it.  Chaos wins a small victory.  But I have the lid and more rabbit food and the will to fight. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Social Bunnies

I'm still getting a kick out of the new rabbit habitat.  Andy and Genny have gotten used to their new homes and are starting to interact with each other in a way they weren't able to before.  At first, Andy just chased Genny around and she ran away.  Now he's calmed down and she's starting to feel comfortable having him around.  She seems to get a thrill out of going into his hutch and looking around. 

I'm having more fun interacting with them too.  This morning I took two pieces of banana out to them and stood inside the fence.  Andy came right up to me for his treat, but Genny hung back and approached me slowly.  Soon, though, I had a rabbit eating out of each hand. 

I got some video of them hopping around the pen this morning and Genny went over to Andy and gave him a nose bop.  As I understand it, that's a rabbit greeting.  I love this new pen set up!!! 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fall is Here

Thanks to the girls' helping me clean out the basement last summer, this morning I could quickly locate the Halloween decorations and put them up -- for the first time in years.  The scarecrow sitting in the chair is named Raymond for Ray Bolger, who played the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz. 

I'm not really into scary Halloween stuff (although I did once make severed fingers for a girl scout Halloween bake sale -- they were delicious, but didn't really sell for some reason). One of the families down the street used to really get into it when their kids were young.  They had coffins on the lawn and monster make-up and gruesome murders.  I heard on the radio about a display in Georgia (I think) that looks like someone has been trapped under a riding mower and blood is everywhere.  It apparently gets 911 calls every year from surprised and concerned people. 

To each his own.  I don't really want gruesome death that close to me. So, I go with the happy jack-o-lanterns and cutesy costumes. 

I continue to be delighted with the new rabbitry.  Larry came over and watched the Bengals game with us yesterday and he was amused by watching Andy chase Genny all over the pen.  I'm pretty confident that Andy's shooting blanks.  For one, the vet said so.  For two, a few weeks ago I held her in position and let him do his best.  I don't think he actually even got the deed accomplished.  Anyway, there were no results.  So, I'm sometimes letting them out together.  Genny is quite capable of getting away from him or putting him in his place when he gets too frisky -- and she's so heavy that it won't hurt her to run around the pen a bit.  

This morning, I've got Genny out alone.  I need to see if she's learned how to get back into the hutch.  Andy caught on quickly and yesterday he hopped in and out several times, as if he were testing the system.  Genny doesn't seem quite as bright as Andy.  She's mastered coming down the ramp out of the hutch, but she hasn't shown much inclination to get back in.  In fact, she's dug a little scrape right under Andy's hutch in the shade and she likes to hang out there.  This is not ideal, of course, because IT'S RIGHT UNDER ANDY'S HUTCH.  It's essentially Andy's bathroom.  I need to figure out how to discourage this behavior ... and fast.  I tried putting the butterfly net that I use to help catch them over the scrape.  I thought it would have negative connotations and she would avoid it.  But, no.  She settled in and calmly began to chew holes in the net and push it out of her way.    

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Rainbows in my Hand

This morning when I put my milk glass in the sink, I was confused by a rainbow that appeared in the bottom of the glass.  I couldn't see any rainbows anywhere else in the kitchen, so I figured the glass was acting as a prism.  But it wasn't ... and it took me a while to figure it out.  I have a prism hanging in the window, but it couldn't cast its rainbow anywhere that I could see.  When I put my hand in just the right place, though, I could catch the rainbow.  There's a message in there somewhere. 

I'm excited about my new rabbit compound.  It's not perfect, but it's much better than I had before.  I didn't want to show pictures before because Andy was living in a dog kennel that I converted into a hutch eight years ago and Genny was living in a hutch obviously build for short haired rabbits.  I tacked some tarp on the sides to protect her from the elements, but it really wasn't satisfactory. When Kate was at home, she would run outside every time it rained -- even in the middle of the night -- and throw beach towels over the hutches to keep the rain off the bunnies.  Realistically, I'm not going to do that.   

I've been worrying about their living quarters for a long time.  At one time Adam, the handyman turned thief, was going to build me new hutches, then a man in Lawrenceburg was going to but backed out.  I've been looking for hutch plans to build something myself, but I couldn't find any that I liked and, honestly, I just don't have time to do it.  So, it's been preying on my mind. 

I found a hutch online that I liked and put myself on a list to be notified if they ever went on sale, and a couple of weeks ago they did.  So, I bought two. 

They have both good features and bad, but they were the best I could find to meet my needs.  I wanted shelter on three sides from the elements and an enclosed shelter for them to retreat to.  These hutches have a small area on the right that makes a little nest area and is enclosed on all four sides except for an archway entry.  The problem is that the floor is solid in the nest area, so I had to replace it with a wire bottom in that area for Genny.  She's a slob.  Andy seems to been keeping his wooden floor pretty clean so far. 

The vertical wall of the nest area is on hinges and can be let down to make a ramp.  So, I put the fence of their exercise pen around both hutches and I can let the ramps down and let them run around at will. 

I know the wooden walls aren't ideal because they'll get soiled and chewed, but I don't know how to get around that and still provide shelter from the elements.  I thought I had a brilliant idea.  I had a bunch of peel and stick vinyl tiles in the basement, so I lined the walls of the first hutch I put together with vinyl tile -- easy to clean and less chewable.  Unfortunately, the when the tile got warm in the sun the glue released and they all fell off -- frightening Andy to pieces.  So, I used my back-up plan, which is spraying the wood with some bitter stuff I had for Sam to prevent chewing. 

Anyway, these hutches look SO much better as a suburban neighborhood feature and I love the exercise pen yard for them.  Overall, I'm delighted with them!  The girls are coming home on Wednesday for their fall break and I can't wait for them to see the new rabbit homes. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011


It seems like I'm always playing "catch up."  There's never enough time in the day. 

Anyway, I haven't posted for a few days but I haven't been totally remiss.  I've been thinking of good things for each day -- just not writing them down. 

Two days ago, my good thing was my cuddley fleece slippers.  They're very snuggley and comforting when you wiggle your toes. 

Yesterday, I was thankful for the fresh air, which I'm representing with this beautiful picture I got of the clouds early this morning.  Since the weather has turned cooler, I've come up from the basement and I've been sitting in a reclining chair by the open patio door when I work.  It's not quite as convenient as my office area downstairs, but the fresh air, sunlight, and bird song more than makes up for it. 

Today, my good thing is a simple thoughtful act.  When I was at Nancy's house for meditation a few weeks ago, I asked her permission to pull a dandelion from her yard to bring home to the rabbits.  This week, when we were at Georgette's house, Nancy brought me a bag full of dandelions!  The rabbits have had treats all week!  It was a small thing -- I'm sure Nancy and Eric were getting rid of the dandelions anyway and they were only going to be thrown away -- but Nancy had to think of me and the rabbits and had to find a plastic bag and put them aside for me and remember to bring them to Georgette's house.  

Out of that simple thoughtfulness, the rabbits and I have had so much enjoyment.  They've had several treats and they get excited when they see me coming with the bag.  Genny runs impatient circles around her cage when I come to her door. 

I hope I will be inspired to do something like that for someone else today.  I'm sure I'm paraphrasing here, but I remember a saying of Mother Theresa's that goes something like this, "Do no great things, only small things with great love." 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Shopping Spree

On Saturday, Jeff and I had dinner with our friend Larry and, as I was getting ready to meet them, I realized that I don't have any winter clothes anymore.  All of my 3X stuff hangs on me (thank goodness!).  Anyway, now that weather has started to be a little nippy, I need some new warm clothes. 

On Sunday, I took a box of my old sweaters out to Goodwill and thought I'd look around while I was there.  OMG!  I found some amazing things and ended up buying 21 winter tops for a grand total of $60. I really went nuts and overbought, but I only bought things that I really liked and that looked good on me.  Honestly, I put back as much as I bought. 

I ended up with four Land's End cotton turtlenecks, a Talbot's cabled pullover sweater, a Talbot's maroon cardigan, a Crofts & Barrow heavy cardigan, and a multitude of cotton long sleeved knit shirts in a variety of colors.  I'm set for winter!

The weather has been so lovely for the last few days.  This is my favorite time of year.  I've come up from the basement to work in the family room  -- even though it's a little less convenient than my office -- so I can have the patio door open and can enjoy some of the cool fresh air. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Blooming Angora

Today's good thing is that I finished the skein of angora yarn for Sarah's mother in South Korea last night.  It's one ply of Andy & Genny fur and one ply of a luxurious 80/20 merino silk top called chocolate cherry (black, white, and red).  The result is greys and blacks with a pop of red every now and then.  It's not the most colorful skein in the world, but who knows what colors Sarah's mom likes, and this is fairly neutral.

You can see the lovely angora halo
already starting to bloom

On the way out of the gym this morning I made it a game to greet everyone with a cheery "good morning," instead of slouching by anonymously.  It's surprising the lift you get from being greeted by eight or ten complete strangers. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Catching Up

I've been busy since we got back from Florida!  Wednesday, Kate called all upset and sick and wanted me to come down to Danville -- so I got a room at Shakertown and went down to be a mommy.  Of course, by the time I got there, she felt much better and her cold and sinus infection are almost completely gone by now.  :) 

I took Sam with me to Shakertown because they have a few pet friendly rooms there and I thought seeing Sam would cheer Kate up.  It did.  He was so funny!  A cow mooed outside the window and he was so confused.  First he barked, and then he hid.  He had no idea what that horrible creature could be! 

Kate came home with me over the weekend and got some more rest.  In fact, by Sunday she felt well enough to sing a solo for the meditation after communion and received a spontaneous round of applause after the service.  :)

On Saturday, I got to go to The Wool Gathering in Yellowsprings, OH with Lynne and Kerry and Mary Anne.  It was a beautiful day and I had a blast soaking up all the wooly goodness and seeing so many of my friends.  The fiber people have their own community and I just kept running into people I know.  It was a good feeling.

Kerry, Mary Anne, and Lynne

This gentleman let us pet his beautiful French Angora

My friend, Lisa, was there with her
excellent Blue Faced Leicester wool.
It was great to see her in person, instead of
just through the Internet!

Lisa's hand dyed Blue Faced Leicester locks

Some of the many gorgeous offerings of wool!
Of course, I added to my stash.  First and foremost, I bought a takli -- which is a small support spindle -- and a bowl for it.  I also got a little bit of fiber to spin with it and, of course, two skeins of sock yarn (which doesn't count as stash, right?), some buttons, and some other odds and ends.  

Additions to my stash
Last, but not least, the caterpillars are growing by leaps and bounds.  Here is one a few days ago:
And here are two of them today: