Thursday, April 28, 2011

So This Was My Day

Today the kids had standardized testing for four long hours. And that was just the math portion! We go back tomorrow for the language arts portion and another four hour ordeal. We've been prepping for this test since January. I am not a believer in standardized testing, but I wanted the kids to be prepared and not surprised by anything. Princess O was so nervous! Professor X seemed more interested in seeing his friends and reading his Pokemon book on his break. I reassured them both that the most important part of the test was just showing up. I seriously doubt the validity of these tests and the accuracy of measuring what one knows based on the questions given. For instance, the practice tests included questions about encyclopedias and phone books. Really? I had to explain what those are! Shouldn't the questions be about search engines and the proper way to conduct a Google search? At any rate, the math is over and after tomorrow's test, there are only four more weeks of school. Yay!

When I signed the kids into their classroom to take the test, I asked the teacher, "Are you guys going to review the procedures and locations of the fire exits?" Bah? I asked the same question last year. Shouldn't this be on the agenda, especially considering these are homeschooled students who are not accustomed to being in a classroom and probably have never participated in a fire drill? Both sets of teachers gave me a blank stare. Great. I showed my kids the fire exits. I quickly reviewed what to do in the event of an earthquake, a common occurrence here. The teachers' blank stares concerned me. I am pretty sure none of them even knew where to take the children or what the protocol should be in the event of an emergency. We were in a three-story building with over 400 students present for a lengthy testing session and not one person thought to prepare for the potential of an emergency!

One of the most important things I have ever learned was to think ahead. If you picture a situation actually happening, put yourself in it, go through the motions and options, you are much, much more prepared if the situation comes to pass. The people who have never thought about such things are the ones who panic, who stay in denial and stay in the building too long, who focus on saving things instead of saving their life. This book is a must-read. The author interviewed survivors of catastrophes and learned why these people were different, why they lived when so many died. It's an interesting perspective.

On a lighter note, here is my seat in the lounge with all the other homeschool parents. It felt like we were at the airport waiting for someone to arrive. I love being around my people, the homeschool crowd. Of course there was a serious lack of bras, but I think I'm getting used to that. There are always people reading, discussing curriculum and learning styles, and just savoring the time that they are not responsible for what their children are doing, but are confident that the kids' time is being well-spent. I was the only knitter, but that's okay with me. I tried to space out my activities so I didn't get lost in one thing all day, which is why you see my Kindle. I got some reading done, book one and book two, were both excellent choices.

The day passed quickly at first, but then slowly as I got weary of waiting and antsy to see my sweet redheads. Tomorrow Mr. M will accompany me and I will be happy for the company.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

stinkR Donates - Scarf 3

This scarf was a major time commitment. The garter stitch is simple but monotonous and before I finished this one I actually knitted scarf 4 and 5 to completion. The single color yarn of scarf 3 didn't help keep my interest, either! I enjoy seeing the character of the yarn change while I knit. Single color yarn doesn't afford that pleasure. I did a crochet border using fun fur, which I detest. I only used it because it is a suggestion from the charity for making the scarves unique. How unique are the scarves if everyone has it? But I digress. Fun fur is not fun. It's a hassle. It's messy. It's itchy. Maybe it's just not my style but other ladies love it. I also added a fringe using white yarn with a sparkly vein running through it. I don't usually add fringe because it's such tedious work. I am learning, though, that the little details bring so much charm to the finished piece that it's worth the effort.

Yesterday a close friend of mine referred to my knitting as art, my art. I was caught a little off guard hearing someone echo thoughts and feelings I have never expressed. I love it. I plan each project in my mind, spooling out colors and stitches, and sometimes I have to cast on immediately because I'm so excited to see the pattern emerge. If I am designing a piece that must be perfect, I bring out my graph paper pad and sketch a color picture next to the pattern I am imagining. Knitting is my passion. To have someone totally understand that and verbalize it so well with one singe word, a single sentence, to be known so thoroughly, is an exquisite feeling.


I know I probably shouldn't have weighed myself in the middle of the day, but I did. Woo hoo! I finally broke the evil number and have officially lost 10 pounds this month! I knew my clothes were fitting better, but the number on the scale never changed. It fluctuated between two to three pounds heavier or lighter. Not anymore! I am so pleased. All the sacrificing of my time and energy has definitely paid off. This will absolutely keep me motivated to get up early and walk on the treadmill and then hit the track in the evening. Maybe my DH can be persuaded to buy me some new running shoes, too. Yes!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spring Break Day Two - Project Organization

Today's project was to tackle the homeschool shelves and get them organized. Here is the Before picture.

What a disaster area! I had the help of the short people and we knocked it out pretty quickly. Here is the After picture.

Aahh. Everything in its place, looking neat and ready for the last month of school. If I stop being so lazy about putting things away maybe it will stay like this. We'll see. All I know is, my work for today is done and I am knitting for the rest of the day. I love spring break!

Monday, April 18, 2011

So This Was My Day

I rolled my fat behind right out of bed the first time I woke up and got into my shorts and onto the treadmill. I think if I do it first thing the exercise works like coffee. I haven't even be drinking coffee in the morning lately because it feels like I walked for nothing if I do. I walked for 30 minutes while knitting scarf #4, purple with white sparkly trim. I'm really curious to know how many inches I can knit while I walk so I think I might start measuring.  My youngest son was awake way before me and his eyes were already glazed over as he played the Wii.

I like to use the treadmill as my office. I make phone calls, answer e-mails, and update my Twitter, all essential functions in my life right now. I can keep the phone calls short, too, because I am out of breath. Usually I am waking up a couple hours behind everyone else I know so I can call pretty much anyone I need to and they will be available. Today I finally got to talk to BFF who has been busy with work and we haven't connected for a few days. We decided to make a spontaneous park trip so we could chat face to face and discuss the book we are reading together, A Lion Among Men. We're almost finished with it and I will say good riddance when we are. Not my favorite Maguire novel. I am eager to read The Time Traveler's Wife next. That's one of my very favorite books and the movie didn't even come close.

A quick trip to the grocery store and then home to clean. All day I told the kids, we are cleaning when we get home, we are cleaning when we get home. So what happens? The boys are messing around, not cleaning their room, and Mr. M gets hit in the head and his cut opens and starts bleeding. I was, how can I put this in a ladylike manner, pissed beyond belief. Absolutely, 100% pissed off and I let them know. I yelled at them, issued consequences, and made them both lay on their beds. One result was that my daughter kicked into turbo and finished up all the cleaning on her own. I shall richly reward her with at least $5. The yelling was a release, I must admit, after several days of their constant disobedience, bickering, and goofing around. I hate that this is what it takes for them to respect my commands and listen. I don't want to be the mean mom. Bah. Not my best day. Not a good way to kick off spring break.

So I hit the track. I ran and ran and ran (okay, I only ran 1/2 a lap about five times, but it felt like I went far). I think I ran it all out. The post-walk feeling is an incredible high for me when I get a good workout. I love passing slow people and crowds. I feel so healthy when I get a good sweat going.

And then I went home and made dinner, which turned out wonderfully. Now I am headed to my favorite chair to knit and I am hoping these leg cramps fade out before bedtime.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

White Girls Can't Rap

I was playing some music for my husband on the way to the game the other night. He doesn't listen to "hip" music at all so I try to corrupt him with some whenever I can. He's strictly a jazz man. Period. End of story. He doesn't like lyrics and thinks rock is horrible. How did I end up with this guy, right? I listened to everything popular, especially alternative rock, for years. I plead ignorance. I didn't know how much he hated Pearl Jam and the Cranberries when I married him. But that's another blog altogether.

So I put on a particular song by Katy Perry, California Girls. I love every version of this theme. I was born in California and even though I have lived all over the country, I never lived anywhere I would rather claim as my hometown. (that's another blog topic, too!) Anyway, we're listening to the song and I told him that I thought there was one really funny part, where Snoop Dogg says, "I'm all up on ya 'cuz you're representin' Califon-ya." You've heard it, I know. And maybe this is just my own whiteness coming out, but I really trip out on how that phrase is put together.

Here's the way I expressed it to my husband.
"It's funny how they made 'all up on you' rhyme with 'California.' He totally has to mispronounce the words to make it work." (Right? I'm right.)
His response, after he was done laughing so hard he almost went off the road, "Well, he says it the way most people would say it, babe. He's not correctly pronouncing the words, but that's the way people talk! Maybe it's because you're white."
My response, "Oh, well. I still think it's funny." I pronounce words correctly, that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with being white. I looked out the window while he kept laughing. He laughed so hard he made me start laughing! I was being totally serious and I thought he would get me, but he didn't. That's okay. I was laughing that he thought it was funny when I thought it was obvious.

But do you see my point? Seriously, those words don't rhyme. I realize my ethnicity and my upbringing might come into play here. No, I don't talk like I'm off the street. There's nothing wrong with that because I don't need to talk like that. I can if I need to. Hey, I know the words to plenty of rap songs! Summertime by the Fresh Prince, Bust a Move by Young MC. I can flow! Of course, it may sound something like Amy Poehler on Parks and Rec rapping Prents Just Don't Understand. And I guarantee you would be able to understand every word.

I am in Love...

Sunday afternoons induce my husband into a coma-like state and I usually escape to my favorite fabric store for a solitary ramble, touching and thinking, imagining and being inspired. I saw some absolutely spanking buttons, but the mug cozy project I would use them for is on hold right now. I think I will pick buttons and then match yarn the next time I do a round of those. The yarn pictured above is of the "happy" colors of yarn I bought to use for my donation project. I didn't notice this before, but my stash is almost exclusively dark or neutral colored yarn. The scarves for the women's shelter need to be happy colors since this is the first Mother's Day gift many of these ladies will get. I am trying to stick with spring hues since, duh, it's spring. I scored these skeins on sale, too. Bonus!

I fell in love in the yarn aisle, yes, it's true. I was walking past the knitting needles and I thought I heard my name. I turned to the left, but no one was there. I heard it again, a whisper. I looked to my right. There, hanging so still I would never have noticed them if they hadn't whispered to me, were the most beautiful knitting needles ever. EVER! Exotic rosewood knitting needles, gorgeous sticks that insisted on being mine. I studied the dark coffee color of the the wood and the exquisite design at the top. My heartbeat quickened, I took a deep breath. I couldn't turn away. My hand went out to the package and trembling fingers took hold of it. Once I touched them there was no letting go. They begged to be possessed by me. (Plus, I had a 50% off coupon and that made the decision so much easier!) I am eager to feel the smooth wood needle gliding between my fingers, weaving yarn, and producing something unforgettable.

Now, I just have to find yarn worthy of being cast on. Hmm.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

stinkR Donates - Scarf 2

Today I finished scarf #2 and it came out beautifully. I am constantly thinking about and praying for the woman who will receive this as a gift on Mother's Day. I sure hope she likes it as much as I do! The colors are vibrant and the garter border seems to keep the stockinette from curling in too much. I need to find another quick pattern to use. I'm not happy with the curling issue and I don't want to have to block every scarf. I don't have the room or the time to do that.

See? This is my work area, a tv tray. I would love to set up a small craft table next to my chair so I could work in the living room with everyone, but still have enough room to spread out. On the needles you can see scarf #3. I keep a few projects going so if I get bored with one I can switch to something else. Scarf #3 is awe-some and I can't wait to post some pictures here. I am planning to crochet a border around it since the pattern is very simple and the yarn is one color. Each scarf needs to have some character, some pizazz, so the women feel like they are getting something special and not mass produced.

On to the next! I am starting scarf #4 riiiiight now.

Random Thoughts This Morning

I have so many different thoughts floating around in my brain I just need to release them. This entry may not flow, but who cares.

I got up early, not as early as I wanted but still early, threw on my running shorts, pulled back my hair, and hit the track. The sun was already blazing. The air was fresh and crisp, yes, crisp. I don't get to feel that early morning air on my face very often, unless I'm driving the kids somewhere, and it was invigorating. I did my laps, ran a little bit, and just felt the weight rolling off my shoulders. I enjoy a great release of tension when I can just work things out through exertion. Plus I was alone, no kids, no talking. Just me and my thoughts, humming. It was a good workout mentally and physically. Definitely need to do this more.

My husband put in a request that I pick up bagels on the way home. This is no problem since the bagel place is on the way home from the track. If you remember to bring your money. And ID. And ATM card. All of which I left in the pocket of my jeans. I didn't want to carry a purse into the stadium because I always end up carrying out a wet purse. Gross. So I had to go home, get my stuff, go to the bagel place, and go back home. I felt my shoulders creeping back up toward my ears. I just kept telling myself to relax, it's not a big deal. So when I got to the place and saw that they serve Thai tea boba, I thought, yes! I know the drink probably adds a ton of calories. Yeah, well. It was worth it! I think this Saturday morning alone-time should become routine.

Yesterday I begged my mother to come out early and watch the kids for me so I could go shopping before the game. I literally had to beg since she would prefer to hang out with me rather than the kids. She is not a typical grandmother (do those exist anymore?) She agreed and I got to spend a few hours on my own. This is an exciting time for someone like me whose life pretty much revolves around meeting the needs of the people around me. I love to serve my family, I do, however, I am not one of those women who are lost in the serving. They lose their self. No, no. I know women like that and I see how easy it would be. I went to the brink. I caught myself and I turned and ran the other way. I need me-time, quantity depending on what my schedule has been like and how the kids have been behaving. Anyway, I headed to the mall and shopped for myself. I went to stores and department that I never go into with the kids. The boys cannot handle shopping in certain departments. I can't think straight with their incessant giggling and touching everything. I forget what the heck I'm doing by the time I've repeated, "stop it!" several times. Which is why I have worn the same bra for about five years. Sad, just sad.

I found myself walking fast, like I needed to rush, and I purposefully slowed down. I told myself not to squander the time, to look up and look around, to soak it all in, let my thoughts go where they needed to and not worry about anything. I don't know if other people need to do that. Are we all so caught up in the tyranny of the urgent that we don't know to slow down and really live in the moment we find ourselves in? I don't want to live like that. I want to see the people I'm passing and wonder about them. I want to chitchat with the guy behind the counter when there is no line behind me. I want to smell the air and try new food. I even made myself take different streets since I have felt like I'm in a driving rut lately. I ate lunch alone, no one clamoring for more this, more that. I soaked in the solitude. The hours passed too quickly.

Today I am getting a lot of knitting done. I need to finish 8 scarves today to make my goal and I seriously doubt that will happen. I wish we had a big backyard and I could sit outside in the shade and knit, listening to the birds and letting the sun warm my skin. Someday I would love to have a little nook for myself carved out of the backyard, maybe a hummingbird feeder or two. But that is a topic for another blog.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Baseball Game Highlights

This was the view of the field from our seats at the game tonight. We always get good seats for our anniversary and these were probably the best we've had so far. Of course, if there had been a good game to watch, these would have definitely been the best seats, but, alas, the game sucked. Big time. We left before it was officially over. Here are the highlights.

The ice cream. Usually I don't like to spend money on food at the stadium because it's atrociously expensive. This time, however, since I wasn't using my hands to clap or high-five, ice cream was a necessity. It even came served in a pink, plastic helmet. Love it! A delicious treat to take my mind off the game.

Two highlights I don't have pictures of but are worth mentioning. During the Dance Cam on the big screen, the camera panned to a shot of a couple boys dancing, young buys, probably about 10 years old. As soon as they noticed themselves on the big screen, the chubbier of the two boys raised his shirt up to his chin and started shaking his belly. It was hilarious! Loved it! The camera quickly shifted off of the chubby kid, but I was rolling! Good for him, having a good time. He got a lot of cheers so I'm sure he was pleased with himself. The camera returned to his section later in the game, but as soon as he started raising his shirt again, it moved. I loved it.

The other highlight was seeing a fan of the opposing team getting escorted from the stadium. I didn't see him causing a problem, but he must have been doing something to get people riled up. I think the stadium noise level was highest when we were all cheering as he did the walk of shame. Good times. Of course, as we were walking to the car, one of our own fans was being put into the back of a police car. He kept saying, "Oh, it's like that? Are you serious?" The police officers just opened the door and made him get in. Too bad. No cheering for that one.

This is the view through the sunroof during the drive home. I love being in the car at night, driving with the windows down, cool air rushing in and swirling through my hair. It's a sublime feeling, something I've enjoyed ever since I got my driver's license and cruised back roads in Texas, or just going home from clubs, so late that it's early morning already. I enjoyed tonight's drive mostly because we went through a downtown area of large buildings and bridges. I relaxed and laid the seat back a little so I could gaze through the sun roof, feeling the motion of the van on the freeway. The moon was peaking between rooftops and I closed my eyes. A moment to savor and remember, always. Best part of the night.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

stinkR Donates - Scarf 1

This is Scarf 1 that I just finished tonight. My goal is to knit at least 10 scarves to donate to a charity that will distribute them to women's shelters for Mother's Day. I think this is a great kick-off for stinkR. I have found that knitters rarely keep their knits for themselves. I think I have two scarves and one pair of arm warmers. I should knit my own mug cozy someday! Until then, I'm off to continue Scarf 2 that is already on the needles and about 10 rows in.


I have noticed something about myself this past year. I am a good listener. People have told me this for a while and I know it's true. I like to listen. I think that might be why I was drawn to transcription as a career. But I also enjoy getting to know people and their concerns and happiness. Interesting conversation is one of my favorite things. It can be an old friend, a stranger, an adult or child, I just love interacting with people. I find myself a lot less reserved, more willing to make random conversation in the grocery store line, the library, the park, anywhere.

However, there is a point where listening is not what I want to do. I want to talk. I have something to say just like everyone else, but it seems I have trained those around me to just talk to me and not listen to me. Or if I do venture into sharing some aspect of my life, too quickly the conversation turns to their own issues and mine will be left unanswered. Okay. I have adapted to this and I think that's why I seek out this blog, just to vent, let out random thoughts and information into the void.

I think, too, this has made me a more private person. I am so hesitant to share my dreams and feelings. One of my very best friends told me once that I am "such a private person" and I realized she was right. But I didn't know how I got that way because I don't remember always being like this. When I was younger, I talked all the time about myself. I am discovering that some of my closest friends don't know about all the things I want to do in life, things I keep close to my heart. I think this should change. I love to talk. I love to have deep conversations about writing and books and politics or sports, but very rarely do I get the opportunity to exchange ideas with someone on anything but a superficial level.

Today was one of those days where I listened all day. I think my friend was talking to me before she even got out of her van. I think she didn't take a breath for four hours. I could feel words inside me, wanting to escape, but instead being pushed down. Pooling in my toes, filling to my knees, swelling to my navel, and lodging in my throat, unspoken. Words are curious things. Unspoken words are burdensome things.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Question You Should Never Ask, Ever

Today was a busy day. I got up early to pack lunches. I grabbed my organized paperwork and the kids and we headed to our homeschool overseer's house for our meeting and then a field trip to the agricultural fair. We had a great time but that's another blog. In the back of my mind all day was the idea of the double date planned for the evening. I knew I wouldn't have to make dinner and that my make-up would be seen by people other than those who live with me, always a perk. I was excited, logged some time on the treadmill in anticipation of the delicious Thai food I would be partaking of, and just had some pep in my step all day. Until...

When we were dropping of the kids, my father-in-law asked me a question that he has asked me before on a few occasions. He always gets the same answer so I really have no idea why, why, why this man continues to ask. "Are you pregnant?" Bam! It's like a punch in the face. I truly do not understand why anyone would ask a woman this question without some knowledge of getting a positive answer. There I was, ready to go out and have a good time, and then not. Instant tears, instantly bummed out.

Okay, yes. I have gained some weight, and, yes, I carry it on my body in such a way that someone would get that idea. I admit it, I know it. I'm working on it. Actually, I have been really hard-core working on it and have lost a little bit, very little. Sigh, sigh, sigh. It's just a blatant reminder of how far I have to go. And it really sucks to get blindsided with that when I think I look pretty good! Dang! Ask me in the morning when I just wake up, fine. I can move on with my day. Ask me when I'm tired and need to go to bed, no problem. I can sleep that off. But don't ask me when I'm all done up and ready to go out. It killed me. Bah.

So I made it out of their house without crying. Kudos to me. Then I forced my husband, who was actually very willing, to take to buy a new shirt. Which meant I then needed to go home and change my jeans and accessories because of course there was nothing in the store that matched. But we made it on time still and the evening was salvaged. I actually had a great time and put the whole unfortunate incident out of my mind.

So now what? Keep on keeping on. There is nothing more I can do to drop this weight. I hate it. Being overweight is miserable. I can't enjoy my food. I'm cutting back on the things I love most, late night popcorn and good chocolate. The exercising I won't complain about. I love the rush of a good treadmill session and ab workout. Stretching is soothing. If I can be outside on the track, bliss. It's a long, long road. I guess tonight's question should fuel my fire.

Monday, April 11, 2011

I Can't Think of a Title

Tonight was a great night at my writer's group. Last time the group critiqued a couple chapters I had written about a year ago when I started working on my mystery novel. There was not a lot of positive feedback. I completely revised it and the critiques tonight were so encouraging. I can't remember anyone ever getting a 100% positive critique from someone, there is always room for improvement, but most of the group had at least one positive thing to say about the new chapter. Whew! As a writer, I have no problem airing my feelings or telling a story about my life, but writing for characters that I have made up is something else entirely. Dialogue tags and backstory, dang. I have so far to go still. And I'm willing to go! I want to go. I just need to make writing a priority and guard my time in a way that I can write every day. Which is why I am here.

Of course, there were a couple, shall we say, jackasses in the group who didn't give good feedback. One in particular is very patronizing and I showed great restraint in not answering certain parts of the critique. I am definitely not a confrontational person, not at all. BUT, I have reached a point in my life where I believe my words are important. My feelings are important. Blending words into feelings is important, blending feelings into words is important. Some people, are simply not worth the words. I let the moment pass when I could have given a rebuttal or explanation to this person. I chose to not say anything and simply looked, disdainfully I hope, in their direction. After a year in this group I know who to listen to and who to ignore. This was someone to ignore.

After my group, I went to Starbucks to meet a friend who I have known since she was in junior high and I was her counselor. I wasn't sure how the conversation would flow since she is in her 20's and I am a very different person than I was 5 years ago. I didn't want to slip into the counseling role with her. I think there is great potential for a real friendship to develop and that is the direction we took. Am I really in my late 30's? I feel so much younger most of the time. I was sitting with her hoping that I wasn't coming off as an older lady trying to be younger because honestly I was just having a good time. Ah,well. Who knows. Maybe I appear as a totally different person than I think I am. I know people like that and I hope I'm not one of them. But I don't think she would have wanted to get together if I was, right?

The highlight of the night, besides the good feedback and great coffee and conversation, was that I arrived 10 minutes early to Starbucks and spent the time looking through a knitting catalog and making notes. Good times!

What I've Been Doing Instead of Writing Here

My days have been taken up with homeschooling mainly. The standardized tests are coming up at the end of the month and even though I don't give a hoot how the kids do, I don't want to send them in unprepared. Last year, Professor X came out of the test troubled that he didn't know what alliteration is. Doh! Guess we missed that standard. They are both enjoying the work, mostly workbook pages and online games, which is more structured than our unit study projects. I personally prefer the unit studies because they are more freestyle, but some structure is good every now and then.

I have taken a big leap with my knitting. I made the first round of mug cozies for friends as gifts. I filled the mugs with coffee and biscotti. I still haven't found the perfect mug, something round with no taper, but I will keep searching. I'm thinking Ikea might have what I want. I have perfected the arm warmers and feel very confident these will be a great product to match with scarves for stinkR. I also committed to donating scarves to a local charity who sends them out to women's shelters. Mother's Day is coming up and the pressure is on. My goal is ten scarves per week. So far scarf #1 is still on the needles.

Tonight my writer's group is critiquing the first chapter of my mystery. These people know their stuff. Which is why I did a complete revision of what I previously submitted. They wanted a dead body in chapter one! Now, none of them actually read mysteries and I am not sure what to do about that, but at some point writing is writing and I followed their advice. We'll see how it goes tonight. The first critique wasn't so bad.

Not much else that I want to report. I have made an art of my time alone. My reading commitments are twofold now, two book groups. I have also finished so many books that I need to add to my reading list. I feel like 100 books is an attainable goal for the year still. The driver's license curse continues. I got such a horrible picture that even my best friend said, "I think you look better in person." Yep. It's that bad. Ever since crossing that 30 threshold this weight is refusing to drop. I kicked it up a little, hitting the treadmill and the track more. DH is actually on the track with me, too, lately and that's much more fun.