Saturday, March 31, 2007

To Be Or Not To Be

If you are reading this hoping for Shakespeare, sorry. I am not feeling that literate today. I am thinking about fads - those things whose mention is followed by "Thank God that is over." You know what I am talking about - excessive blue eye shadow, disco, pet rocks, streakers, "Baby On Board" signs, beanie babies, dashboard hula dancers, Furby. Aren't you glad that these things are history? Fads are things that seemed like a good idea at the time but in hind sight it is patently obvious that they weren't.

Then there are the things that disappeared only to return again - Care Bears, platform shoes, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. What makes anyone think that what was not such a good idea 10 or 20 years ago is a good idea now? Besides, it makes me feel really old to see them come back again.

I am waiting impatiently for some of today's fads to disappear. And, I will do my part to make sure that they never have a second chance. Do we ever want to see low rise jeans and reality TV again?

Why bring this all up today? Two seemingly unrelated things happened today that made me think about the life expectancy of those things that fall into the category of "fad".

It has been ten years since BK and I wrote and published the first edition of Holding Your Prayers In Your Hands. At that time, our spiritual director said to us, "You know that this Anglican rosary thing is just a fad and will probably not last." What is the proper response to such a statement? The Catholic rosary has been around for 600 years; maybe we will be as lucky? All we could say was that that was a risk that we were willing to take. I am happy to say that he was wrong.

Ten years later, the books are still selling. The only advertising we have ever done is by word of mouth and we sell roughly 100 books per month. Some of those sales are to bookstores who are repeat customers. Others are to individuals who are just discovering the Anglican rosary as a personal prayer tool.

We had a phone call yesterday from a man here in Denton who was interested in the book. Sparing many of the conversation's details here, the upshot was that we met him for coffee this afternoon. The enthusiasm with which he met us and our book was evidence that the interest in the Anglican rosary is still alive and fresh. We had a wonderful conversation about the book, the Episcopal Church, the spiritual life, and a mutual interest in St. Francis. As it turns out, our sharing culminated with this person saying that he has been researching the Third Order of the Society of St. Francis and he wanted to know if we knew anyone involved with this group. One would have to be blind to not see God's hand in bringing us together this afternoon. And it was all made possible through our book, the potential fad.

The other thing that happened that furthered my thinking on fads was the result of a trip to the sewing machine shop. (No, I am not going back to making my children's clothing like my mother did!) BK and I went to pick up our machines that were being serviced. We were about to leave when we saw what looked to be needle felting on a work table. No knitter will resist the urge to comment on seeing a hunk of roving and the accompanying felted project. Innocently we asked the woman working who was doing the needle felting. She got all excited and said that "that machine right there does it." Machine? Why does one need a machine? You can go to Hobby Lobby and buy all of the necessary implements, none of which is a machine. Okay, I'll bite. "How much does this machine cost?" $349. "Three hundred and forty-nine dollars?!" You can buy the materials to needle felt by hand for about $25 and have the satisfaction of beating the heck out of the fiber yourself. Why would anyone buy said machine? Here is where the fad thing comes in again.

We all know that needle felting is a "craze". You got it; that translates to fad. Once the fad is over, what do you do with this machine? Maybe it will earn a place in a museum next to 8 track tape players, rotary telephones, and televisions with picture tubes.

I will continue, as long as it is cool, to needle felt by hand saving myself more than $300 by not buying the Needle Felting Machine. Plus, I will enjoy the therapeutic value of pushing all those needles into the wool as a means of releasing tension. As for our book, we will relish in the satisfaction given us by "the fad" as long as it is to be.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Picture Is Worth A Few Years

Monday night is the high school soccer banquet. One of the traditions is to present a slide show with pictures of the graduating seniors. Each parent is asked to submit 7 or 8 pictures of their child. This is a lot harder that I thought it would be. How do you represent 17 or 18 years of life in a few images? I decided that I wanted to show the side of Brooke that not everyone knows. I wanted pictures of her doing things other than playing soccer. But which ones should I use?

In going through the boxes of photos (because I have never been organized enough to get them into albums) I came across those very first pictures. You know the ones in the hospital where the baby looks great and mom looks like shit. Scratch those. Then there are the ones in the cute little infant clothes that the kid only wore once. Nah. I knew the bathtub pictures were a "no go".

I finally settled on the following infant picture. I knew that after about age two, Brooke stopped smiling for pictures. I figured that I had better get one while the getting was good.

The Brooke that everyone knows now is the sarcastic, somewhat cynical kid. I chose the next picture because no one would ever believe her to be a clown.

Even when only three, Brooke had a fondness for cooking. I suspect that even back then we were willing to eat what she made.

The next picture was taken in the mountains of New Mexico. Brooke is holding an injured baby hummingbird. We did nurse it back to health and set it free. This was her first step to becoming a full fledged member of PETA.

Since about age 8, Brooke has been a soccer keeper. So, I had to include the obligatory goalie shot. Though I am a little sad that I will not get to see her play soccer anymore, I am very thankful that we made it through 13 years of soccer with no head injuries from colliding with the goal box and I no longer have to worry!

Brooke and Erin are remarkably close. I felt like I needed to include at least one picture of the two of them. This is Brooke's 8th grade graduation and Erin's 5th grade at Selwyn. It is also one of only two pictures that I have of Brooke dressed up. She cleans up pretty well bu this is a well kept secret.

I really did not want to use another soccer picture but Brooke made me take out the one where she had a mixing bowl on her head. . .probably because it was taken when she was 16, not 2.

Brooke wanted to include a picture with both of the dogs. Unfortunately it was very late at night and I had almost no battery left on my camera at the time so the choice of pictures was not good. I guess it gets the point across.
Notice that they all have on their Harley Davidson duds.

I know that most of you are not really interested in mom's brag book. Thanks for humoring me. I will leave you with one more picture. Needless to say, this one is not in the senior slide show.

Adidas is more willing to sit still for pictures than either Brooke or Harley.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Would You Like A Book With That?

Tonight was choir rehearsal night. If we are lucky, we do not have to come back to Denton to pick up the girls and then go back for rehearsal. Today we were lucky. So, in addition to some knitting time at the shop this afternoon and dinner out, we had time for a trip to Barnes and Noble while in Dallas. This is a favorite way to pass "unscheduled" time.

I got my cup of hot tea and brownie and sat down in the cafe to continue knitting on the bath mat that I started this afternoon. There were two gentlemen sitting at the table behind me. Usually I can tune out the conversations around me; however, this one caught my attention. I must confess that I spent the next few minutes eavesdropping.

These men were first trying to decipher all the different coffee drinks served in the cafe.
MAN 1: "Well, what is the difference between a cafe mocha and a mocha latte?"
MAN 2: "Maybe it is the amount of sugar. Or, how much espresso is in it.
MAN 1: "Does cafe mocha really have espresso?"
MAN 2: "I think so."
I don't think they were any more informed about the ingredients at the end than when they began their conversation. And, they never even got to the grande skinny mocha with a double.

Once they gave up on the coffee discussion, these guys turned to a sociological study of the people who frequent the bookstore. One of them said, "I think that people come in here, read the books, and then put them back on the shelves!" The other guy responded with amazement, "Really!" I thought, well, duh. In our family we refer to this as stealing words. Maybe so, but no one has ever been arrested for it as far as I know. I would hate to try and figure out the number of stolen words our "crime ring" has amassed. I don't feel too guilty though. I have paid for many books that are still on my shelf unread. So, I think we are even. Tonight I did buy the current issue of Spin Off - after thumbing through it first.

The next observation was that Barnes and Noble has free Wi-Fi. So, not only can people sit there and read books for free, they can surf the Internet at not cost as well. The gentlemen were quick to note that these people on the Internet don't even necessarily buy coffee.

All the data that these men collected led them to the conclusion that there is no way that Barnes and Noble could be a lucrative business - people don't buy the books, they don't order from the cafe, they just come in and take up space. They also observed that most of the people in the cafe at the time were men.

One of them finally came to the brilliant conclusion that Barnes and Noble must market primarily to women. The other agreed, "Yeah, I see women come in and buy stacks of fifteen books at once!" (I didn't realize I was being watched that closely) I am happy to believe that the female species is more well-read than their male counterparts, but I don't think that Barnes and Noble would be happy to know that they are perceived (by a few idiots) as a women's store. I guess I could consider it a compliment that these guys believe that women are more likely to read than men but, I know this is not true. The one man at my house is just as guilty of the stack of fifteen books at a time as I am. The only problem in our particular household is that there are three women so we outnumber his book buying 3 to 1.

I know that listening to the conversation of others is socially unacceptable, but this was just too entertaining. Maybe I am just easily amused. I hope that when people at the next table eavesdrop on our conversations that they find them a little more interesting and thought provoking.

I am fairly certain that the surrounding tables at the Mexican restaurant where our dinner conversation was initiated by my younger daughter asking, "If it is not OK for a girl to spend the night with her boyfriend but it is OK to spend the night with a girl friend, what are the rules if she is a lesbian?" Later in the meal she asked, "If you are bisexual, can you have a boyfriend and a girlfriend at the same time?" Be careful what you ask for Dr. Dobson. All those Republicans who think that the American family is disintegrating because families do not sit down together at the dinner table together should come share a meal with us. They might change their minds.

Right. This does assume that they have a mind to change. . . anothe topic that frequents our dinner table.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Mow, Mow, Mow the Grass

Despite the fact that we have just finished spring break, I must admit that it has not felt much like spring to me. Last week I was still wearing my heavy coat to soccer games. Everyone knows that the temperature in the stadium is always 20 degrees colder then it is any place else. But today, it felt like spring. In truth, this feeling did not have much to do with the weather. It was cool and misty, what some would call a dreary day. I taught until noon and then came home to mow the grass. The first mowing of the year makes it spring!

We have not had much rain though there has been enough to make the grass (pasture weeds?) grow. Mowing the grass in the country is a whole different thing than when we lived in town. First of all, it is four acres, three of which are not graded. And, no push mower for me, it is tractor time! If I could drive the thrill probably would not be so great but I can't, so it is.

As I start my trek around the yard, I begin to see the real signs of spring - a few wild flowers almost here, the early mesquite trees, the singing birds, all covered by a gentle spring mist. It was perfect.

I don't know why going around in circles on the lawn mower is such a cathartic activity and going in circles in the car, which is the theme song of my life, is so tiring. Granted, there is not a great deal of lawn mower traffic in the yard, but there are obstacles and perils here. For example, the branches on the trees seem to have grown - lower. Nothing that a little ducking can't fix. Remember the sprinkler heads for the septic system - I know they are out here somewhere. And then there is the array of dog toys that are scattered about. Adidas is on the deck thinking, "If you run over my Frisbee, I promise you that I will decorate with the kitchen trash." I also removed the ladder from the tree where Spencer had his adventure.

Being outside made me thankful for my surroundings. I love it out here in the country. The best part, no code enforcement to tell me that I have to mow; I can do it when I want to.

While I was riding around, I kept thinking of outdoor projects - the front beds need to be cleaned and planted, the (a) vegetable garden needs to be started, the trees need to be trimmed (I will have to hire someone to do this because I am not allowed to have my own pair of Alligator Jaws), other places in need of flowers called out to me - the possibilities are endless. So is the work, but that is OK.

It is still raining. This is a good thing. The stock pond across the fence needs water. I am glad for the rain water because Adidas likes to swim in this pond and it (he) has been smelling a bit undesirable. I would be more excited about the rain if I had already planted my gardens. Oh well . . .at least the ground will be soft when I get ready to dig.

I did haul the wet grass clippings to the compost bin. It too is in need of the moisture. If this is spring, I wish it would stay for a long while. I know that the hot summer sun will be here soon enough. But now, I am enjoying the smell of the fresh cut grass dressed with the warm spring rain. Spring is definitely in the air! Amen.

Friday, March 23, 2007

A Weekly Wrap Up

Today marks the conclusion of spring break. I must say that I have gotten used to the casual pace of the past two weeks. Today we did a little shopping here in Denton. We went to several local shops that we had not been to before. Denton is a funky little town whose charm is not always immediately evident. It does however have some awesome hometown restaurants, some unique little gift shops, and a whole lot of nice people. Not only did we discover some new shopping spots, but we did it on foot which offered a really up close and personal experience of the square and downtown. I am guilty of overlooking that which is right in front of me. Our walk this afternoon in the calming mist was an unexpected gift.

It has been a week since he had his tail amputated. Initially I was trying ti keep him in my bedroom so that the other animals did not annoy him. He did not like being sequestered at all. He thought that he was feeling fine and that he should go on with life as usual. So he did. He seems to have no ill effects from his surgery. He is running, jumping and acting very catly. I am most pleased about the fact that he does not seem to be scared of our dogs. They are certainly capable of annoying him but, he shows no fear. His tail is still bandaged (one more week). He likes to beat his stump against every one's legs. I assume that it must not be causing him any pain.

Harley is doing well. She loves her big brother Adidas. They work as quite a team for both good and ill. One of Adidas' attention getting stunts is to steal things off the bathroom counter while I am getting dressed in the morning. I have to chase him to the kitchen and offer him a dog cookie in order to get him to drop the stolen goods. The cookie trick still works with him but now when he drops the item, Harley picks it up and runs with it. I can't use the "Harley, want a cookie?" routine because she prefers to eat the crumbs from Adidas' cookies. I am outnumbered . . .and screwed.

I have not read anything that I had hoped to read during the break. The only consolation is that I did get a good deal of knitting finished. I have not taken pictures yet.

Here is the status of the project right now.

Erin took the picture for me. She asked what it was and I told her that it is a surprise. She allowed as how it looks like the front of a thong. I will admit that the Muse has been a little crazy lately, but a thong? I think I would be looking for a new muse if I thought knitting (or wearing) a thong was a good idea. And, it is not easily seen in this picture, but there is an intentional hole at the bottom of the triangle. Wouldn't this been an interesting design feature if this indeed was a thong. Honestly, it is not!

So now I will stop writing and knit some more. Hopefully I will not have to drag the secret out too long.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Because I Can

When I ask my kids why they are doing something that appears to me to be a little strange, (ketchup on salad, running around in a sports bra and sweats, watching senseless violence on TV in the middle of the night) Their response is often, "Because I can." This could be interpreted as a smart-mouthed response from a teenager; or, it can be taken at face value and mean exactly what they said - because I can.

"Because I can", when taken literally, elicits a sense of self confidence, which is not necessarily a bad thing. If only as adults we could hold on to that youthful belief that anything is possible.

Yesterday I found myself resorting to this very logic. I spent the afternoon at the knit shop working on a project for the next issue of Spirit of Knitting. No knitter can pass up the opportunity to take a survey of what others around the table are making. When the question came to me I responded with, "a knitted Frisbee." (I know that Frisbee is a trademarked name. It's knitted incarnation will be renamed before the pattern is published. But admit it, you all know what I am talking about. "Flying disc" would have required a little more processing time." After the looks that we all know translate to why the hell would you do that!, someone asked simply, "Why?" The logical answer was that the pattern is to be included in the next issue of the newsletter. What I said was, "because I can."

In reality, I could knit something that LOOKED like a Frisbee, but the truth is that I had no idea whether or not it would FLY like a Frisbee. And, I would not know until it was completely done. I guess in addition to my prevailing philosophy of because I can, there was also a healthy dose of Elizabeth Zimmermann's advice to "knit on with confidence through all crises." In my case it was only potential crisis - the Frisbee would not fly and I would have to come up with another idea for the upcoming (very soon!) Spirit of Knitting.

I reached the center, pulled the yarn through the last few stitches, and wove in my ends. Now, the moment of truth - the test flight. The shop was quiet so no one would be hurt if my potential Flying machine crashed and burned in the middle of the floor. My daughter stood at one end of the store and I at another; I positioned my wrist just right (this is the key to successful Frisbee launching), said a little prayer, and released the disc of knitted cotton cord. It flew! Deep down I believed that it would but it is always nice when the tests prove your hypothesis.

What would have happened if flight had eluded me? I would have learned that cotton cord Frisbees don't fly; I would have asked myself a bunch of "what else might work" type questions and learned something; I would have had one of those paper plate holders that keeps your hamburger from bending the plate into a yoga position. All of these would have been somewhat beneficial, albeit not the desired, outcomes.

Amidst my heightened state of confidence, I decided to take on another design project. This one came to me last night around midnight. I got out my paper and jotted a few notes, went to the stash to find some yarn that might work, and set about making my swatch.

Here is the yarn - a couple of skeins of Wildflower DK Fancy (43% cotton, 53% acrylic, 4% nylon) and a skein of regular Wildflower DK (51% cotton, 49% acrylic).

How do they determine those percentages? Those of you who know me well will not be surprised at the overwhelming orangeness of my yarn choice.

For now, the new project will remain a mystery. Stay tuned for updates as I knit on just BECAUSE I CAN. Or, maybe the better statement is because I BELIEVE I can.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Spring Break

In Texas, March is the month for spring break. The most common question asked during the weeks that precede the break is, "Where are you going for spring break?" I was under the impression that "spring break" implied a break from the busy-ness of the rest of the school year. The thought of having to get organized enough to go someplace - do the laundry that has mounded up in order to pack something to take, board the animals, find someone to watch the house and water the plants, stop the mail, stop the newspaper, find all the necessary supplies to take for my intended knitting projects - seems like too much work! I need the break from having to have everything under control.

Travelling for us was a moot point this year anyway. I was on break last week and the kids are on break this week. So, what are we doing for spring break? Last week while I was off I did do quite a bit of knitting. Truth to tell, I am not sure I did a whole lot that was productive other than the closet excavation. Ah! A real break.

This week, the girls are supposed to be cleaning their rooms. This is happening in very small fragments of time between sleeping, eating, watching TV and playing games on the computer. All of these things, with the possible exception of eating, are neglected during the regular school routine. SO this is a real break for them as well.

I did ask the girls if there was anything in particular that they wanted to do this week. They both want haircuts, Erin wants to go to the thrift stores and Brooke wanted an all expense payed trip to Central Market. All of this is doable. I am glad my kids are easy to please.

We went to Central Market yesterday. Brooke loves to go grocery shopping. ( I know, strange for a teenager.) More importantly, she loves to cook. Brooke has fixed dinner the past two nights - last night was white bean and roasted garlic soup and spinach salad and tonight, ratatouille and couscous. Two healthy meals that I did not have to prepare. Tonight I made the unhealthy dessert, Mexican chocolate pound cake. Brooke is a much more adventurous cook than I am. She will try almost anything - as long as it is vegan. It takes longer to prepare vegan meals because of all that is required to cook with vegetables - washing, peeling, chopping, etc. - but in the long run it is worth the effort. So, for a few more days we will have good food. I think Erin, our rabid carnivore, will be ready for the "normal" fare that is served during the regular school routine.

The haircuts and the thrift store visit will wait until the end of the week.

The older I get, the more I realize how important it is to not have plans for every moment of everyday. Spontaneity is a lot of fun. But with a life run by Daytimers there is no room for it. I find myself asking, "How can I take this feeling of truly being on break and incorporate even a little piece of it into my regular weekly routine? I am not sure what the answer is but the question deserves a little pondering. I suppose not sending Brooke to college next year and keeping her home as my personal chef is not an option. I'll keep working on it.

Happy spring and happy break to all.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Taste And See That The Food Is Bad!

By now every one has heard about the massive recall of dog and cat foods. I am thrilled that the media has done such a good job of continually updating the information and making available on their websites the list of recalled brands. However, I was greatly disturbed by tonight's report on the 10 o'clock news (probably NBC but I am not sure). They reported that the manufacturer had tested the suspect product on 50 dogs and cats and that seven of the animals had died and they expected more as the testing process continues. Why was it necessary to feed the food to more animals?

Consumers had been reporting concerns to the food manufacturer since February 20th. At that time, the manufacturer had received ingredients from a new supplier. From the end of February into early March, Menu Foods, a Canada-based company, had been notifued of the deaths of 10 animals who had eaten their food. They were quick to take notice; for that I am thankful.

I am furious, however, that in the testing process dogs and cats were intentionally fed the food. There seems to have been no question that there was a problem. The problem had bee traced to wet varieties of food, and possibly to a specific ingredient. Why then risk the lives of more animals? This is criminal.

During the peanut butter scare a few months ago mothers across the country did not invite all the neighborhood kids in for a nice PB&J "to see what happens". And, there was not a call for all those whose fantasy it was to be Popeye to come feast on all the spinach they could eat during the in the name of science during the recall of the contaminated greens.

Why is okay to test on animals? It seems to me between the animals who had already lost their lives and the ones who were eating the suspect food unknowinly, there were enough case studies out there that it was not necessary to create new subjects. I realize absolute control is important so that the studies are not flawed but to intentionally jeopardize the lives of dogs and cats seems like a last desparate step, not a first.

I will freely admit that I am not a scientist and therefore am speaking from my heart and not my head. Sometimes that is where the thoughts are formed best.

Below are some recipes for natural dog and cat foods that appeared in the June/July 2006 issue of Mother Earth News. I will admit that in the next issue of the magazine a reader wrote in saying that these recipes did not provide balanced nutrition for dogs and cats. They do sound good and for a little while, until the current pet food scare is over, I don't think that any dogs or cats will complain or starve.

2 Cups cooked oatmeal or Cream of Wheat
2 Cups cooked ground beef
2 Tbsp plain yogurt
1 small apple cut or sliced into small pieces

2 Cups cooked chicken
1/4 Cup grated carrots
1 Cup brown rice, cooked

Again, I am not a scientist but at least if you make your pets food, you will know what is in it.

I have always felt a little "cheap" because our two dogs and three cats eat nothing but dry food. In the current situation, I am thanksful for this.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Prodigal Son, Spoiled Brat?

I hate the Gospel reading for today - the story of the Prodigal Son - though it is not referred to this way in the Bible. There it is the story of the lost son. In case you don't know, the story goes like this:

. . . a man has two sons. The younger demands his share of his inheritance while his father is still living, and goes off to a distant country where he "wasted his substance with riotous living", and eventually has to take work as a Swineherd. There he comes to his senses, and determines to return home and throw himself on his father's mercy. But when he returns home, his father greets him with open arms, and hardly gives him a chance to express his repentance; he kills a "fatted calf" to celebrate his return. The older brother becomes angry, apparently jealous at the favored treatment of his faithless brother and upset at the lack of reward for his own faithfulness. But the father responds:

Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found. (Luke 15:32, KJV)

So what is it about this story that I despise so much? I have always believed that if you work hard you will get your due. And, conversely, if you don't, you won't. This story bursts that bubble. Not only are the son's not treated equally, the less faithful one is treated better. To me, this scenario is antithetical to all that I want to believe. If he who is less faithful does as well, or better, why even try?

In trying to figure this out, I decided that maybe the best way to understand was to place myself in the shoes of each of the three characters - the father, the "good son", and the "bad" son.

ME AS THE FATHER: From a parental perspective, I hope that I love my children equally. But equally does not mean that they each receive the same things. To me equality means that their individual needs are satisfied equally. If one needs shoes and the other needs a jacket then that is what they should receive. So in the case if the sons in Luke, what does each of the sons need? The bad one needs forgiveness. The good one needs . . .? Maybe to be recognized for his faithfulness. But then, his father did say that all was his all the time.

ME AS THE GOOD SON: At the risk of sounding egotistical, it is easiest for me to relate to this character. Not because I believe that I am perfect, but because my faithfulness does not waiver. I believe that I should work hard and love the Lord: that is what I do.

ME AS THE BAD SON: In theory, I have no problem with this character. My faith tells me that all who come to the Lord and ask for forgiveness will be given forgiveness. So, why don't I like this guy? Maybe it is because I don't like to think of myself in his shoes. Who wants to see them self as a miserable failure begging to be taken back. The sad reality is that we all have reason to do so nearly every day. Perhaps our personal situation is not quite as dire, but we each have cause to ask forgiveness each day of our lives. And even harder than asking for it, is accepting it.
Why? Because it is hard to accept something that you are not sure that you could give if the shoe were on the other foot. I find it much easier to take the stand of the "good" son - why are we throwing a party for this smuck?

So, the father is forgiving but clueless to the feelings of the good son, the good son is faithful but bitter, and the bad son is lucky but a loser. Who do I want to be? I find myself wanting to say the father, "Let's try some tough love.", to the bad son, "Okay dude, get real!", and to the good son, "Screw them both. Get a life of your own." Based on these observations, it looks like I have further reflection to do on this story!

I know, I have missed the point. As I come crawling back, I ask for forgiveness.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

That (Not So) Still Small Voice

I am a firm believer that listening is the greatest gift that we can give ourselves as well as others. We must learn to listen to that still small voice that often chatters below the frequency of our everyday world.. What is "that" small voice? This is a tough question because the voice seems to be constantly changing. Or, maybe the voice doesn't change but we are asked to hear it differently. Whichever the case, I am grateful that I am learning to listen.

Thursday evening I was taking the dogs out before bedtime. It was nearly midnight. We live in the country so the night time sounds are often a bit enchanting - coyotes howling, pasture grass rustling, an occasional dog barking. I love to sit on the deck and just listen to the night. I must admit that on Thursday night I was tired. The day had been going on for 18 hours already. It was definitely time for bed.

As I waited for the dogs, I was aware of the usual night time symphony but there was something different. I heard what sounded like a cat meowing. This is not one of the normal sounds. I had my husband come listen. He said it was the wind turbine on the house next door. I was fairly certain that the sound I heard was not that though it did come and go with the regularity of a whirling turbine. Convinced that what I was hearing was indeed a cat, I came into the house to make sure that all three of our cats were present and accounted for. As I called their names, Cambridge and Blair came running - probably in the hope that treats were to be distributed. Spencer, who always comes when called, did not appear. With flashlight in hand I headed outside to follow in the direction of the small voice I heard.

I was lead to the front of our four acre lot. As the meowing grew louder, I realized that it was above my head. There was Spencer about 10 feet up in a Mesquite tree and he was not coming down. He is an inside cat who never goes outside. For some reason he must have followed the dogs out earlier in the day without being noticed.

So here is the scenario. It is midnight in the country, pitch black, and the clawless cat is 10-12 feet up in a Mesquite tree. Think about those thorns! And, a stray dog, who is probably the reason the cat is in the tree, is lurking below. My daughter came to take the dog away and hold on to him during the rescue operation. Mike went for the ladder while I stood in the yard talking to the cat like he was my child. After several minutes of trying to stabilize the ladder in a place where we could reach the cat, we carried him down the ladder and back to the house.

He headed straight for the food bowl While he was eating, I noticed that his tail did not look quite right. As I got closer, I realized that the tip was only bone. Something (the stray dog) had stripped his tail. Spencer did not seem to notice. He did not seem to be in any pain as he went about his night time routine.

Friday morning I took him to the vet. He had to have about a third of his tail amputated. More than what was injured was removed to assure that no infection would move into his spinal column. He came home this morning and seems more annoyed by the Elizabethan collar he is wearing so he won't disturb his stitches than he does with his shorter, bandaged tail.

I am so grateful that I took the time to listen to the still small voice that said this is an unusual nighttime sound, the still small voice that said make sure all of your cats are safe, and Spencer's not so still small voice that led me to him in the tree.

Here is Spencer in is collar, which is definitely not his idea of fashion, and his shorter tail.

I am happy to say that he seems fine. He is eating well. He is trying to get the collar off. He did not fight the "pink medicine" as my children used to call it. And, he is happy to sit in my lap and purr!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Congratulations Ma'am, Your Child Is A . . .Nerd

This afternoon when I picked my girls up from school, Erin (14) was beside herself with excitement because she had been given a Dictionary of Mathematics to help prepare for a Math Team competition. She also had a stack of six or eight math tests that she studied for nearly three hours as we ran the afternoon errands and her sister went to Powder Puff football practice. . . Don't let the football thing fool you!

Tuesday night was senior night for the girl's soccer team. Each of the senior players was escorted down the center field line by their parents as the announcer read their high school activities and after high school plans.

"Brooke has played soccer for Ryan for 4 years and has earned her varsity letter. She has also been involved with Junior Classical League, Whiz Quiz, Literary Criticism Team, National Honor Society, and is a National Merit Finalist. She has coached Under 6 soccer and worked crew for the Denton Community Theatre.

As we reached the sideline, Brooke leaned over to me and said, "I am such a nerd!" True that. And her sister is doing a fine job of being one as well.

Both of my girls are lucky that they play soccer as well as participate in nerd activities. Most people don't realize that it is just as difficult for kids to be a nerd as it is for them to struggle with school. For many years Brooke had trouble embracing her academic gifts. She always enjoyed learning but was made fun of for it. Erin is a little more confident. She proudly says, "I am amazing!" Cocky, but true.

All children have gifts. In some they are hidden and in others they are in plain sight. It is our job as parents and educators to help each child that we come in contact with discover and nurture their unique talents and gifts. This is not always easy, but it is always necessary.

I am happy to be the proud parent of two nerds! They are fun to be with and the topics of conversation never cease to amaze me. However, they are like most teenagers in many other ways. They practice the fine art of procrastination, their mouths work faster than their brains sometimes, and they are convinced that dirty laundry is a design feature. None the less, I love them and am proud of them.


10. They would rather go to Barnes & Noble than Hollister
9. They can curse in seven or more languages
8. They really want to know about the multiplicative inverse
7. They often speak in dactylic hexameter
6. They recognize the scientific inaccuracies in CSI
5. They honestly believe that he who dies with the most dictionaries wins. And, the Dictionary of Mathematics trumps all others.
4. They own (and know how to use all the buttons on) a TI-89 and are damn proud of it.
3. The statement, "Personifying your food is unhealthy," rolls easily of their tongue.
2. They find transmissable spongiform encephalopathy a cause for excitement
1. They consider a good mind fuck with a parent as the ultimate in family bonding.

If your child manifests any of these symptoms, seek professional help immediately.

On second thought, to hell with the professionals. Hang on for dear life and enjoy the ride!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Writer Revealed

It is always risky to share poetry but, what the heck!


I am
The writer
Whose words
To make sense
For me,
Maybe you,
Of the quirkiness of life.
Possibility exists
For everything, for nothing,
Born and reborn in innocent hope
In my words
That are labor to me,
The writer,
I ask, "Why?"

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

All Dressed Down and Off to Wal-Mart

I had a plan for today. I set out to clean out my closet. Amazingly, I accomplished my goal. After only a few hours, I have neat drawers, thinned out hanging clothes, and more bags than I care to mention to go to Goodwill. I feel good about my progress but I am embarrassed by the numbers of things that I gave away and still I think that I have too much. I realized that all I really wanted to keep was my jeans, several of my favorite T-shirts, and 2 or 3 over sized button down shirts for times when it gets cold. Okay there are also the three sweaters that I have finished and the obligatory socks and underwear. If this were all I ever had to wear (and launder) I would be blissfully happy. Unfortunately, I had to keep some of the stuff I don't like to wear - those dress pants and blouses (not shirts) that make me look "professional" for those times when I have to look the part of a respectable professor, the funeral attire, a skirt because every woman needs just one, and a fancy dress in case I ever get the urge to play dress up. Most of these things I will never wear but I have to keep them just in case. And, these things that I don't like to wear also require peripherals - proper foundation garments and appropriate shoes. Frankly, if it can't be worn with tennis shoes or Birkenstocks, you should not be wearing it!

The point of all this is that I have a clean closet. This is something that I have been trying to do since Christmas break and I have not had the time (or possibly the inclination) to tackle until today. As Erin would say, "Gold star for me!"

I ran in to Wal-Mart today to buy an umbrella. This was to assure everyone that the severe thunderstorms we were having at 4:00 would be passed by the 5:30 soccer games. It worked. I now have a virgin umbrella. As I made my way to the checkout stand, I noticed on one of those strategically placed displays intended to make you succumb to impulse buying, what looked like a new kind of Pop-Tarts. As I looked closer, indeed it was. The new "Trivial Pursuit Pop-Tarts". I am sure you are wondering what in the heck I am talking about. These are toaster pastries with trivial pursuit type questions stamped on the frosting. And we wonder why American youth are overweight - and stupid! How ridiculous is it that our society is sp desperate to teach children something that we have stooped to using Pop-Tarts to educate them? This does raise some interesting questions:
How many Pop-Tarts do you have to eat to score well on the SAT?

If you eat your cheat sheet can the teacher prove that you were cheating?

Are the questions on the strawberry ones more difficult than those on the brown sugar cinnamon ones?

Do you win when you have eaten all the Pop-Tarts in the box correctly?

Were the marketers who came up with this ludicrous idea educated in a similar manner?

The consumer world never ceases to amaze me!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Time Is All Relative Anyway

I just returned from a two-day trip to Austin - some work and some much needed relaxation. I did a little shopping, ate too much good food, and spent time with friends. The sad thing about the time with friends part is that it was friends from Dallas! We have not been able to find/make the time to get together at home to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, and two birthdays. So, we decided to do it while we were all in Austin. As we were catching up and opening gifts, we all decided that celebrating this way was not so bad. Our time with each other was not carved out of an overbooked holiday season. We were able to actually enjoy the company of one another. We met at the Magnolia Cafe, a place that none of us had been before. Hence, a little mystery was added to the evening. The pancakes are great! It has been nearly 48 hours and I can tell you what I was given as gifts. I guarantee this would not be the case if we had celebrated during "THE holiday season." Being able to enjoy every facet of the evening we shared was a gift in itself. This is how traditions are born. We may celebrate our holidays again in March next year too!

What else did I do in Austin?
I have almost finished my Betina Jacket out of Noro Silk Garden. (Stay tuned for pictures.)

I finished the knitting on my Booga Bag. However, it is difficult to find a hotel room equipped with a washing machine. So, it is not felted yet. That will happen in the next day or two.

I also visited my favorite bookstores - Book People and Bookwoman. I bought:
The Spirit of Silence; Making space for creativity by John Lane

Morning Food by Margaret S. Fox (This is a cookbook of breakfast and brunch foods. I made the Ole Souffle for dinner tonight. It was pretty good. I am anxious to try some of the coffee cake and bread recipes.

The Joy Diet: 10 Daily Practices for a Happier Life by Martha Beck

Faith and Feminism: A Holy Alliance For Spirited and Spiritual Women Throughout History by Helen LaKelly Hunt

Secret Leopard poetry by Rosemary Nissen-Wade

This week is spring break. I may actually get some of these books read! I do have to clean my closet first. New books are a great incentive plan.

We also stopped at a new yarn shop, Bluebonnet Yarn Shoppe, north of Austin. Believe it or not, this was the work part. They were very interested in Spirit of Knitting. Yeah! Of course it would have been rude to go in there only to hock our goods so I did the polite thing and bought some yarn - a few skeins of cheerful Kureyon (in case I need to make another Booga Bag), a ball of Tofutsie sock yarn, and a few patterns. I showed a great deal of restraint, I think.

I spent an entire weekend doing exactly what I wanted to do. I had time with friends, time with books, and time with yarn. I found Nirvana! I realize at this moment it is temporary. But I am blessed to have had a glimpse of it. With the hope of another 48 hours like the past, I can greet the normal daily grind with a smile on my face.

And then there was this daylight savings time thing. In my journey to Nirvana, I did not even miss the hour that magically disappeared. What time is it anyway?

Friday, March 9, 2007

What If . . .The Internet

As part of a casual conversation on the way home from school yesterday, my oldest daughter announced that she was learning Romanian. She allowed that since Romanian is similar to Latin, and she has studied Latin for five years, this new skill should not be too difficult. When I inquired as to how she was learning Romanian, the answer was, "the Internet."

I wonder how my life might have been different if I had had access to the Internet as a teenager. Would I have discovered that I have talents and abilities outside of music? Would I have stumbled onto some little niche job that incorporated all of my quirky interests? Would I have found a college that better suited my learning goals? Who knows. All I know is that the world is whole different place for teenagers now than it was nearly 30 years ago when I graduated from high school.

Teens now have what seems like an infinite amount of information literally at their fingertips. Any interest that they might have can be explored on the Internet. Before the Internet, how would one go about studying Romanian? You would have to find a teacher, find time, ad find money to pay them. And, how much of these things would you have to exhaust to discover whether or not you had a knack for languages?

The Internet offers diagnostics for everything from are you overweight to would you make a good CIA agent. I realize that many of these sites are not "official" but even in an unofficial capacity, learning happens. We all have access to information on anything that we can dream about. Everything becomes real. I think that the most fascinating part of the information superhighway is the ability to find information that may spark an interest that can then be pursued in a more traditional manner, like college.

I am not naive; I do know that all that resides on the Internet is not good, But then, all that is on the shelves of the public library is not good either. How we choose to use the Internet is like all the choices we make in life - you can choose the right way or the wrong way. It is OUR choice.

So, I sit wondering what I would be doing now if I had been surfing the net back then as I do now. Maybe the only thing difference would be that I would be responsible for taking up a whole lot more server space with pointless blog entries . Who knows . . .

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Those Who Can, Do. Those Who Can't, Yell.

It is Tuesday night so I have been at high school soccer games - girl's soccer. Though soccer certainly does not generate the crowds that football does, the fans are every bit as enthusiastic and vocal. It seems that these few hours each week are a cheap version of therapy for some. All of their adult frustrations are released by yelling at referees and all of their unrealized childhood dreams somehow come true by yelling at players on the field.

As the girls' T-shirts say, "No helmets, No pads, No Timeouts - Soccer". Soccer is two 40 minute halves of non-stop running, pushing, kicking, sliding, and downright rough ball playing. It makes me laugh to hear the middle-aged, overweight fans yelling at the girls to "run faster!" Most of them could not run from one end of the field to the other much less do it for 40 minutes. And, the kids make scoring a goal look much easier than it really is. It would be interesting to see how many fans could score a goal from outside the 18 even with an unprotected goal, forget one that is being tended. Why do the fans think that it is acceptable to yell at the girls when they miss a shot, misdirect a ball or, God forbid, make a mistake? These players are human beings - most of them children. Maybe before each soccer season begins, the parents should have to play a game against the girls. Or, better yet, the parents against the parents from another school and the kids can sit in the stands and critique every move giving particular emphasis to mistakes. I bet that would change the atmosphere in the stands.

And what is it about some parents who think that because they didn't or couldn't do something when they were in high school that their kids are going to do it and they, as adults now are going to somehow be fulfilled?. And not only are they going to do "it", they are going to be the best at it.

I don't want to live vicariously through my children. I am not dead yet. I still have dreams of my own. And, believe it or not, I still have the means to accomplish them in my own life - not through the lives of my children. My girls also have dreams and aspirations. Granted these include tattoos and pick-up trucks, but it is their life. My job is to guide and support them as best I can. And, during soccer games it is my job to wash their uniforms and sit in the stands a cheer FOR them. And, be grateful that I am not the one running for 80 minutes or defending a goal from balls being fired at me like bullets on a battlefield.

We can not walk or live in someone else's shoes. The only comfortable shoes are your own. Find the best fit and go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Thank you Henry David!

Monday, March 5, 2007

I Got That Helium Feeling

It is not often that I have the "helium feeling". The helium feeling is when I feel like a balloon that has just been released, not escaped but released, from someone's hand and am free to float wherever the metaphorical wind happens to carry me. Translation: there is nothing that has to be done right now. Oh, I have a TO DO List, but none of the deadlines are tomorrow. Better yet, none of them were yesterday. This may sound like a strange feeling to be excited about but it is so rare that I do not have some task looming overhead. I am not sure why I find myself always working deadline to deadline. For the most part, I am not a procrastinator. Writing is the only thing that I feel that I do best under pressure. Don't ask me why. Maybe my muse masquerades as pressure.

So, what shall I do? I can read. I can knit. I can surf the web. I can play games. I can stare aimlessly in to space. I can play with the dogs. It really doesn't matter what I do. The point is that I can do whatever I want to right now. I do not have too many evenings like this. I guess that is why I am struck by this feeling. Here I sit writing about it rather than doing something with my free time. Oh, maybe this is what I want to be doing. It is always eyeopening to me to watch how I spend my time. If I can look at myself as if I am a spectator in my own life, I learn much about who I am. Right now, I feel like if my whole life were spent with the helium feeling, I would write more and hopefully much better! But, on most days, I am not the helium balloon; I am the balloon who has popped and left pieces strewn across the path. That's OK too. There are lessons to be learned in whatever state I happen to find myself.

POP! The soccer uniforms have to be washed right now for games tomorrow night. One should not have too much of a good thing. Wait! There is that cliche thing again - possibly misstated. Maybe that makes it an original thought.
Hmmm . . .And, how do we know if a clam is happy? Does a clam get that helium feeling?

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Cliches, I Can't Live With Them and I Can't Live Without Them

I must begin by saying that I really hate cliches. They are an unoriginal way to express original thoughts. Having said this however, I am going to annoy myself and say that in the last few days I have been struck by the notion that enormous gifts really do come in small packages. The package that I speak of is the tiny puppy we found abandoned a few weeks ago.

Harley is sweet, funny, cuddly, and quite bright. She also chews, bites with those sharp puppy teeth and has accidents in the house. The gifts she has given me far exceed the expected joys of raising a new puppy.

I must admit that when I decided to bring her home on that very cold Thursday, I was not looking forward to house training and all the other lessons that must be taught to a young canine. I was especially dreading the interrupted sleep that comes from middle-of-the-night trips outside and the crying that may come from being in a new environment. I have been pleasantly surprised on all accounts.

The first night we had Harley, she slept the entire night (my entire night which is midnight to 5:45 am) curled up in the crook of my arm. She did not wiggle, cry or wake to go outside. No accidents either! She and Adidas (our 2 year old lab) get along wonderfully. He takes his role as a big brother seriously. Now Harley spends a big part of her nights curled up against him. They share toys and bones and Adidas is getting better about sharing me. It is amazing to watch the bond between two animals grow and solidify. As I write this, they are sound to sleep-both in Adidas' bed under my desk. (The camera is never handy when I need it!)

Just like babies, when a puppy needs something, she need it right then, which will often be an incredibly inconvenient moment to the owner. I have found these moments to be the greatest blessings of all. I am forced to take an unscheduled break from work to take the dog out every few hours. While outside, I smile as she frolics in the emerging spring grass. I share her simple pleasure as she chases a blowing leaf, maybe for the first time, across the yard. I am reminded just how beautiful and refreshing the outdoors really is. A few minutes sitting outside quickly brings new energy to the staleness of the day's routine.

I am also grateful to my friends that had a "Puppy Shower" for us the other day. Harley received treats, toys, a bed, and a hand knit sweater! I feel a little guilty that many babies do not enter this world with as much. Though the presents are great, it is the support of friends that is truly the gift. Adidas thinks it is a good deal too. Everybody acknowledged that new big brothers need something a little special as well. He loves his "big boy bones" and Oreo cookies.

This is getting too sappy for me! I think I will sit for a few moments in my chair and say thank-you for all that I have been given. And, revel in the truth that I am as happy as a clam!

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Knit One, Tattoo

Yesterday afternoon several of us were sitting around the knit shop. The afternoon class had ended and there was very little customer traffic, In walked the postman - a postman with not much personality. On the surface, the mail he brought was equally dull. The most interesting piece of correspondence was the Oriental Trading Company catalog full of that printable crap to help advertise your business. I hate to admit that we had WAY too much fun perusing its pages.

Here are some of the products we suggest:
1. Shot Glasses - for those of you who want to make the Cables After Whiskey sweater. Or, those who unintentionally made a sweater that resembles drunken cables and thus need to drown your sorrows.

2. Canvas Bags (minimum order 1000) This should be enough to store almost all of your "works in progress".

3. Giggle Sticks You remember these. They are those plastic tubes that when you shake them, they laugh maniacally. Every knitter needs one for those late nights when you are knitting those last few rows before going to bed and make one of those idiotic mistakes that would make your friends laugh until they cry. Pick up your giggle stick, shake it a few times and consider yourself humiliated. No need to bother your friends in the morning.

3. Personalized Pencils These can be stamped with inspirational messages such as: How am I supposed to know what row you are on?, Is this really six inches?, or, Don't forget, socks come in pairs!

4. Temporary Tattoos Don't you think that every knitter should display their allegiance to the craft by affixing a temporary tattoo to an appropriate part of their anatomy? Maybe the strategic placement of one that says NO POOLING HERE. What image best represents your fondness for knitting? The more important question is where will you put your tattoo?

Once we are all inked, Vogue Knitting should publish the "Tattoo Edition" displaying the "natural fiber" of knitters. It could happen! Choose your design now.

I laughed a lot yesterday while we were being silly. What a wonderful feeling. All In A day . . .

FYI If you can't wait for an order from Oriental Trading Company, Sharpies work great for applying body art.