spring break part II

Miss L’s Spring Break was mostly rained out but hopefully between a Painting with a Twist activity, roller skating, and a couple of movies at the downtown second-run theater (Rogue One and Lego Batman), she wasn’t too bored.

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We kicked things off with Mexican.

04.2017_sarge game

We love board games. And by “we” I mean all of us.

There was, however, a LOT of time spent in pajamas.

04.2017_me and emmett

The swans are nesting at Kensington and the rookery is full of cranes. I can watch their nests all day – they’re like something from another time, enormous shaggy piles of sticks and twigs, with prehistoric birds rising from them and circling.

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We went to the library and I always end up reading her books as well as mine.

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She has, of course, already requested another Disney trip for our Spring Break next year, so I guess I will start saving my pennies again.  🙂

 

spring break part 1

It rained all week. On Thursday, I went through the drive-thru of one of my fave local coffee shops for a dozen donuts for a colleague’s birthday, and I watched the “regulars” through the rain-splattered glass and felt that it must be a nice way to start the morning. It’s one of those places where you walk out smelling of coffee and baking.  Alas, there was no time for me to linger, the rain-soggy box was thrown into the passenger seat and I was off, although I did extricate the blueberry cake donut at a stoplight as a consolation (blueberry cake donuts 4-ever).
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We have no spring trips planned. This coming week’s Spring Break for Miss L will be an exercise in “staycation”. She won’t be thrilled about this, but we’ve done fun vacations for the past few years (Chicago, Disney, and North Carolina beach trip) so it’s time for mama’s bank account to recover a bit.

Yesterday the sun came out long enough for me to start raking and begin some basic yard cleanup, but after filling five lawn and leaf bags I feel as though I am making the situation worse. There appears to be no grass whatsoever in my backyard.
03.2017_backyard

Note the clear and humiliating line of demarcation between my yard and the dentist’s. His is sod!!! It’s not fair.

Today I will spread some grass seed and attend to a couple of other tasks, including the somewhat nasty one of trying to figure out what to do about my infestation of horrible house sparrows in all my nesting boxes. I don’t want to stoop to killing them but I think I need to block the entrance holes with something.
It was a big week at Miss L’s elementary school, with Book Fair and conferences. Miss L had a great conference and one of the funnier moments was finding out from her third grade teacher that one of Miss L’s self-stated goals is “to get into a good college”. I think we actually LOL’ed at this.
I volunteered for two nights at the Book Fair and realized that I probably should have been a cashier in real life. It’s incredibly satisfying for me to have short, well-defined tasks with a beginning, middle, and end. Greet the customer. Scan the books. Take their money. Give them change. Hand them their books and receipt with a huge smile because that task is over, they will walk away, and everyone will be happy. I ended up working way past my shift end on both nights because they weren’t fully stocked with volunteers. The first night was fine, but the second night I was actually bleary-eyed by the time we started closing the registers and counting money. Still, I really love being at the school and I always wish I had more free time during the day to do more things there. However, Widget Central (and my mortgage, car payment, our health insurance, and bills) has me inexorably in a firm grasp.
Still, it’s now the weekend, with a couple of days off next week with Miss L, and I plan on baking, sleeping, and watching another 30 episodes of Forensic Files. I leave you with a screenshot of the My Favorite Murder podcast’s Instagram account, which after their recent live show in Portland managed to combine three highly topical themes – donuts, cats, and murder, with their personalized Elvis the Siamese donut (fellow listeners will recognize Elvis as the show’s mascot). I wish someone would make me an Emmett donut.
Happy Spring Break for those of you celebrating! xo
03.2017_elvis

balance

Although I feel like I’ve been doing a good job staying on top of things at work, and even managing to do some creative things on the side that keep me contented, there’s always something in my life that feels a little out of balance. Sometimes it’s just a little thing like realizing I haven’t had a proper haircut in over a year. (Cutting it myself and going to Great Clips for bang trims twice don’t count.) Sometimes I feel like my self-care gets a little sidetracked. I have a uniform for work of heels-dress pants-cardigans in the winter, and I get my haircolor delivered from an e-salon every few weeks, so I manage to keep my greys from showing, but honestly, other than that, I’m pretty low-maintenance. I don’t get manicures, and I never use lipstick. So I made an appointment at my salon and got a haircut.

Before / after:

03.2017_makeover

I’m not one of those people who think that women of a certain age should have short hair – I think all ages of women look fine with whatever hair length they feel pretty in. However, for me, the shorter length definitely feels like it’s shaved a few years off my middle-aged  skin (although the more flattering lighting & filter help a lot, too, lol). I love the length, it is so much easier and more flattering, and feels healthier. My stylist is also a master at selling me additional products. After my cut, she always whips me over to the makeup table and dusts me with fairy glitter powder and touches up my brows and puts lipstick on me so I can see what I look like when I take a modicum of care with my  appearance. She said the salon owner is one of those women who think lipstick should be worn EVERY DAY and so all the stylists make sure to have it on. I had a friend like this at my old job – she said her mother had drummed into her head that lipstick was a MUST and when she was in the delivery room after giving birth to her twins, her mom bustled in and extracted a lipstick from her handbag and surreptitiously touched her up. “Just a little color, dear, you look so pale.”

She sold me on the lipstick and I’ve made a vow that it won’t just dry out in my drawer, I’ll actually use it every day.

Running and meditating have also fallen a bit by the wayside, and I feel their lack. I can easily get back on track with meditating, but running is taking a bit more effort. I think I finally just hit a wall with the treadmill at lunchtime – I am SO SICK of treadmill miles and so I have to start getting outside. The red-winged blackbirds are singing in the swaying reeds and that’s my signal. So today I woke up early and put on my running shoes; it was drizzling out and the temptation to just crawl back into bed with coffee, Emmett, and my laptop was strong. But I laced up and went out, just for a quick one, and came back exhilarated and wet to the skin. Just as I locked the door behind me and kicked off my wet shoes, the heavens opened up and it poured.

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It was a good start to the weekend, which holds not much more than a trip to the vet for the unsuspecting felines to get their happy pill prescriptions refilled. I’m sure I’ll need a nap after that. I hope you are all staying balanced and getting everything done that keeps you on track and happy and fulfilled.

good kitty.

2015.03 emmett leash 2

This picture came up in my “one year ago today” feature in Facebook and it was timely because Emmett just got a brand-new Kitty Holster and can (hopefully) enjoy going outside a bit more, with safe supervision. He’s always loved going outside – he’s the type of indoor cat that, if I make a move to the front door, will rush for it with crazy yowls and be out on the front porch in a flash. He doesn’t go far (because we’re always there to grab him) but he does love to chew on a stick or two. (Sarge could care less – he likes his nice comfy house and will watch, nonplussed, from the front hall as Emmett rolls around ecstatically on the brick walk.) Unfortunately, although his pet-store harness was cute – it had a little skull & crossbones on it – it was also no match for him. He quickly learned how to sunfish out of it and lead us on a merry dash (once into the neighbor’s garage).

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I bought the Kitty Holster from Amazon and although we’ve only used it a couple of times, I see a big difference. It’s much more substantial – more like a wrap. It firmly fastens with wide Velcro strips around his tummy and chest, and although he doesn’t like being so contained, I can tell he won’t be able to wriggle out of it very easily.

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We have to be very careful with his outings, as the neighbor has a dog and there are two horrible neighbor cats who frequent our yard, but I am hoping that at some point Emmett can enjoy being out with us on the front porch or back patio, maybe with a long leash. We shall see.
03.2017_emmett snow

 

knitting round-up

03.2017_emmett with knitting

On a bit of a whim, I decided to felt the two pairs of mittens I’ve finished this winter, because both pairs are a little big. The first pair was a learning experience because I didn’t use a smaller size needle for the cuffs, and the second pair was made of alpaca mill ends that I thought might look more “finished” if they were felted. Both are cozy, but just a little bit floppy and ungainly for comfort.

The first pair turned out, but the alpaca mill ends didn’t fare so well. Some of the yarn weight was very inconsistent, going from bulky to super-fine, and unfortunately the super-fine bits just didn’t hold up in the felting process.

Grr!!!! But live and learn.

 

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the ones that survived the felting

I’m currently trying out a pair of worsted-weight socks with a pattern by Susan B. Anderson. This has been my “knitting at gymnastics” project for awhile now (I get my best knitting done at Miss L’s 1.5 hour gymnastics class). I didn’t really gauge it so the first one came off the needles baggy, with sort of elephantine ankles, but I think that will be okay for winter – I can wear a pair under them and have them be sort of slipper-type socks. The pattern is a little confusing because it’s modified from her sock-yarn pattern and you have to keep flipping back and forth between the two patterns because she is prone to say things like “continue in original pattern”. But we shall see. I’m using a very inexpensive craft store yarn which is satisfyingly glossy and soft.After these, I’m starting up another pair of traditional woolen handknits because during my power outage, I wore my old Jaywalkers for three straight days and never had cold feet once. Emergency Socks are good to have.

Upon seeing my pink hat, knitted for the Women’s March in January, Miss L promptly wanted one of her own. I was a little reluctant to knit her a pink one, because it’s been so politicized, so I made her one in pale grey and lined it with a bit of leftover flannel I had.

03.2017_lily flat hat 3

03.2017_lily flat hat 1

I’m no seamstress but I figured people rarely look inside hats so my sloppy stitching job would be safely hidden. 

Miss L is a Girl Scout and part of our annual responsibility is hocking cookies for a couple of hours at a grocery store booth. This usually consists of the Scouts horsing around, rapidly becoming unfocused, complaining that they are hungry / tired / have to go to the bathroom / insert random grievance here while the moms scramble to keep them from freaking out and sell the cookies at the same time. However, when a dignified older lady wearing her Sunday best stopped to purchase a box of Thin Mints, I noticed her shawl and asked if it was handknit. It was, she said beaming, and we discussed how handknits are immediately discernible to a fellow knitter. Quite precious. Her pattern was the Papillon. I’m not a shawl wearer but if I were, I’d be queuing that.

Otherwise, I’m watching Outlander for the knits and the scenery. Jamie is acceptable but the actress who plays Claire is too arch and fragile and prickly. She always seems inexplicably mad at either Jamie or Frank and this is annoying. But her wristwarmers and cowl? To die for.

03.2017_floppy socks and outlander

And here you get a gratuitous picture of the exceptionally floppy worsted weight sock AND a screenshot of Jamie from Outlander in the background, brandishing a sword manfully.

 

the simple, the plain, the ordinary life

So I was one of the 800,000+ people who lost power in Southeast Michigan’s windstorms last week. I was, however, lucky from the word ‘go’ that despite the gale force winds, ALL of my old trees stayed firmly planted, as did my roof and siding, as many of my friends and neighbors were not so lucky.

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My neighbor, who has frequently throughout my tenure living in this house, berated me for the tall pine trees that border my property (because they “make her yard too shady” – never mind that they are thirty years old if they are a day, and have been here long before either of us bought our houses, and which I shall NEVER EVER CUT DOWN) was unfortunately the recipient of a downed pine tree. Not one of mine. No damage to her house or any of her property, but dare I say, karma?

I was out for just about 72 hours. The timing on Mother Nature’s side couldn’t have been worse, because despite the unnaturally warm winter we’ve mostly experienced, the power outage was concurrent with an extreme drop in temperature, into the teens F. for 2 of the 3 nights I was out. Fortunately, Miss L’s dad and stepmom had power, and immediately took her, so I didn’t have to worry about her safety and comfort (can I say again how lucky I am?)  I had many offers of shelter, showers, charging places, wood, etc. but I had nowhere to take the cats. Plus, I stubbornly wanted to be in my house to make sure the pipes weren’t freezing and bursting. I was ready to go down with the ship, like Royal Tenenbaum’s ideal epitaph.

03.2017_royal epitaph

I have a woodstove that kept the house in the ’40’s during the outage, which was sufficient to sustain life and keep the pipes from freezing. I also have a gas range so I could boil water, and do a little cooking. But all in all it was a miserable and dehumanizing experience. The cats crouched and stared at me accusingly, and the three of us burrowed into sleeping bags and fleece blankets on a pad in front of the fire at night. Dirty, stressed, sleep deprived from feeding the glowing-sided baby chunks of wood throughout the night, refrigerator full of rotting food with no way to effectively clean it. Where I once loved the smell of woodsmoke, I began to thoroughly detest it on my clothes and greasy hair.

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I read at night by flashlight, made coffee in the mornings in the French press, and rigged the garage door so I could manually open and close it. At night, I pulled Finn in; in the mornings, I pulled him out so I could sit in the driveway with the engine running to charge my phone and check the DTE outage map. It never seemed to change. I didn’t receive any estimate on when my power would go back on, no responses to my emails. When I called to check my status, I was informed by a robotic voice that they could not match my phone number with my account even though I was looking right at my account with that phone number on my mobile app. I know that they had linemen working around the clock to bring people back up, and they brought in many crews from other states to assist – I don’t blame them for the outage. But it would have been nice to have a bit of an idea as to when I could expect power back. For a few bad moments, I was pretty sure I was going to run out of wood.

I did pretty well for the first 48 hours or so but the last night & day, it really took its toll on me. I realized how quickly the situation brought me down. I imagined I was living in “Dr. Zhivago”. I’d wake at night and see the moon hanging in the branches of the willow tree and feel entirely alone, with no connection to the outside world (except for regular messages from my brother, who has bottomless loyalty and empathy, and never failed to make me laugh). It made me think of the poem “The Moon and the Yew Tree”:

The moon is no door. It is a face in its own right,
White as a knuckle and terribly upset.
It drags the sea after it like a dark crime; it is quiet
With the O-gape of complete despair. I live here.

I probably could have made it another 24 hours, getting down to the last of my woodpile; I was at Home Depot buying batteries and Envirocare logs, which my brother had suggested, when I got the notification that my power was back on. I didn’t believe it; the app had told me the same thing several times while I was actually sitting in the freezing house, staring at it as it cycled back towards “OOOOPS OUR BAD, YOUR POWER IS NOT ACTUALLY RESTORED!! LOL”. I drove home quickly; the dentist next door was still running his generator. I ran up the steps, greeted Emmett in the foyer with a head scratch, and flicked the light switch. Nothing. I sagged with disappointment and then girded myself for another dark, cold night. Then I heard a beep from the kitchen and the grinding noise of the furnace waking up in the depths of the basement. I flicked the switch again and stared at the miracle of modern electricity.

03.2017_lights on

I guess the upside to a few days of inconvenience is the realization of how blessed I am to live the life I do. It humbled me and made me ashamed at how many people live without the daily blessings that I take for granted; power. Heat. Water. The knowledge that I have safety and a roof and the ability to take care of myself, my child, my pets.

I cleaned the house, vacuumed, ran the washer and dryer, took a blistering hot bath perfumed with lots of scented bubbles; slept ten hours in my own bed, with the humidifier and the heated mattress pad cranked up to the max, and woke in the morning stretching and sighing in utter bliss. I had coffee while catching up on my Internet tasks. I picked a Sarah Blondin meditation before going to fetch Miss L (and take her dad and stepmom a dozen donuts to say thank you) – and the meditation was perfect:

“to the wealth that waits for me to turn my gaze toward it; to the simple, the plain, the ordinary life I get to live, I would like to say thank you; I would like to share my most sincere gratitude and love and appreciation to the simple, the plain, the ordinary life I get to live. I would like to say a most sincere thank you for all of the glory that waits for me to turn my gaze toward it. I thank you. I love you. I thank you.”

murder, malpractice, arson, harassment, and thin mints.

03-2017_boyz

This weekend didn’t feel much like a weekend, except for the relaxing evening I spent binge-watching old episodes of Forensic Files on Netflix. I think I’ve spoken about my love of true crime before, and my addiction to a variety of true crime podcasts. What can I say? It started young. I had a biography of Ed Gein on my bookshelves in high school. I’m sure the woman behind the counter at our town bookshop (“The Printed Word”) thought I was ’round the bend when I slapped that baby down on the old-timey glass topped counter (probably along with the current rolled-up paper horoscope and the latest “Seventeen” magazine). So anyway. My brother & I were DM’ing and I sent him a pic of a screenshot and then of course Facebook did that thing where it puts together a slideshow of your photos with a suggested title in case you want to share it and no lie, it was a picture of my cats and this screenshot of the creepy Forensic Files mad bomber that I’d sent to my brother and the suggested title, in purple neon, was “Big Friday Night!” I had to laugh. Fuck you Zuckerberg.

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Yesterday I was asked back to “role play” at a workshop for prospective mediators-in-training. I took this course two years ago and really enjoyed it (and actually it’s not only where I learned to mediate, it’s where I was exposed to meditation, seriously, for the first time). The past two years I’ve been asked back to role play during 4 test mediations and I really enjoy it, even if it means giving up a Saturday. I was a grieving widow, the amputee victim of medical malpractice, a young female victim of sexual harassment and retaliation, and an insurance adjuster investigating an arson claim. I prepare for all my roles and really get into it.

Miss L is in the thick of Girl Scout cookie season so this morning it was up and at ’em to another cookie booth. It was the last one this year and hopefully by the grace of God I can someday shake the nickname of the “Pusher” around Widget Central. (Pronounced “POOOOSHER”. As in – “you want cookies? Go see the POOOOOOSHER in Legal. She’ll hook you up.” *sniff* *furtive glance* *wipe nose* *slink off*) And if you haven’t already, try Breyer’s line of Girl Scout cookie ice cream. The Thin Mint ice cream goes right to the vein.

Hope you all had a lovely weekend of whatever it is you like to do. xo