Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Bits and Pieces

I've been reading! You can get my take on three books -- "Eat, Pray, Love," "Snobs" and "Knit Two" on Chopsticks and String.

I'm back to work on Wednesday and start with an on-air shift on WKAR Radio during our fundraising week. If you care to give a listen, tune in online at WKAR.org and then click on the "listen" button. I'm there from 9 till noon, but the music is wonderful all the time.

I also finished some projects -- small knitting projects to be sure, but done nonetheless. Among them:

I got the button on this little purse. I'm rather fond of this small felted bag in its soft grays and burgundy tones. The button came from a trip to Williamsburg a couple of years ago. I've wanted to use them on something fun -- I still have a few left!

A scarf/hand-warmer set. My hands get so cold -- these fingerless mitts let me type while keeping warm.

I also made a darker pair for early gardening. No, I won't dig in the dirt with them, but they're good for when you're NEAR the dirt!

And here's another nice scarf with some lovely yarn. Soft variegated browns and grays.

Now if only I dared get glue or paint near my sling!

Monday, March 30, 2009

A New Kind of Shriner, Part One

The week before my surgery, I had a wonderful evening with two art friends, Jane Rosemont and my pal Kate.

Our task: to plan the shrines we would create when Jane returned from Bali and I had two arms!

Jane is delightfully eclectic -- her photography is amazing -- eloquent and filled with soul. Her portraits of people being people (doing what they do, being as they are, not studio portraits) are fabulous, with great depth and she is adept at catching every kind of image from graceful architecture to a moving scene. (Actually, her studio portraits are pretty cool, too!)

Jane came from a strong Roman Catholic background and has the best nun collection of anyone I know. Her travels and life experiences have expanded her scope and her deep sense of soul and spirit, life and whimsy, courage and grace -- and yes, color! -- always makes me smile and feel grateful I came to know her.

Her work (as seen on her website and blog) covers all sorts of media -- photography, mixed media, painting and assemblage. I had taken one shrine class from her before, and made this wee Stimpy from a mint tin.

Above, you see the front and one side -- the tin "sun" at the top is a tuna can, the beads are cat-oriented and the side has some of his beloved shrimp shells. The fibers are from one of the fiber-snakes he liked to play with, made from my leftover yarn. Because Stimpy lived for his Fancy Feast, a label and a photo of his bowl are mounted. The cat at the top is an repurposed button cover.

On the opposite side, his name is in wooden letters. The tin was "rusted" using an acrylic paint and dabbing technique.

But I digress. I was ready for more.

So, Jane was our leader. Kate and I came armed with our ideas and some supplies to play with.

You won't see finished work here -- that'll have to wait for another month or so.

But Jane talked about containers -- which run the gamut from mint tins to boxes to nichos to old Barbie doll cases to anything with sides that works.

And she has a good collection of things to put in these containers!

Like this sweet faced Madonna -- a doll head and body.

I have a nicho (I think that's right -- a tin shrine thing, for sure) and my theme is my dad.

I picked background papers and some of the bits for the "holes" (spaces) on the front -- a photo of dad, a bit from an old postcard my mom wrote, a stamp from India, some of his ham radio licenses, some army medals, that sort of thing.

I may use this India map as part of the background.

Kate decided to make a shrine to color.

Her structure is a small black box with compartments. She then began cutting up the pantone book in the teeniest squares. Some of these will hang, like mobile pieces.

Keep watching for our shrine adventures, part two!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Thank You!

A note: Our office e-mail program has been reconfigured. For a bit, I'm not getting all of my email -- definitely not Gypsy/blogger e-mails, though I am getting a ton of spam. So, if I don't answer your comments, please forgive me! They're working on it!

Many thanks to the wonderful Diana, whom you may know as "Oh" as in Oh, Books, Oh Paper, Oh, Life!

She passed along to me the "I Heart Your Blog" award!

I am so pleased, partly because I love her own blog so very much, and partly because it gives me the opportunity to pass it along to seven others. (How do I pick seven blogs? Especially when I have picked blogs before for other citations -- not to mention that Diana nailed a couple I would want to be sure to introduce to you?)

Well, there is no shortage of wonderful spots to visit, new things to see -- whether they express the visual, the written or life in general. So check out these folks! (And others on my blogroll, too!).

Theoretically, you pass this on to seven blogs. Do your best!

Mike Smith at Dissent Decree always has something interesting to say (I recommend scrolling down to his fabulous post about "Snapper" who learns that all the bells and whistles on a camera can't make up for inspiration!)

Jane Rosemont has always had a wonderful web site but she has recently started a new blog, filled with her art and photography. (Check it out often, for as I write this she is in Bali, no doubt shooting beauty with abandon, but probably unable to add new content for a week or two.)

I've recently become enchanted with An Artist's Legacy, by Nathalie, -- a wonderful place to find beautiful things and lovely ideas. I always leave inspired.

Birds of the Texas Panhandle by Dale is one beautiful bird image after another -- with some fascinating commentary as well.

Bead Fluff is Mary T's spot, and she shares lovely things from her life as well as her art -- which is far more than beads, but also lovely drawings as well.

Bobbi of My Muse and Me responds often to some of the writing blog community's prompts, and in doing so through both poetry and essay reveals so very much of her world.

Finally, if you're an ATC fan, visit Maryellen at Liven, Loven, N Laughen for Art. She's a prolific ATC artist (and don't miss her Japanese haiku cards!)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Anno's Meme

Anno posted this MeMe (which, like some others, I always thought was "meme-rhymes with hem" rather than Me-Me! I second Rosemary's "Duh!"

This was a fun one and a little different:

Four childhood books I’ve read.
Trixie Belden Mysteries (the whole series, but I'll count as one!)
Back to School with Betsy (Carolyn Heywood)
Little Women (Alcott)
Misty of Chincoteague (Marguerite Henry)

Four “So-Called Classic” books read and never forgotten.
Sense and Sensibility (Austen)
Pride and Prejudice (Austen)
Jane Eyre (Bronte)
Tender is the Night (Fitzgerald)

Four personal modern “Classic Novels”
Gone with the Wind -- Margaret Mitchell
Memoirs of a Geisha -- Arthur Golden (some may dispute it's a classic; I loved it)
Mists of Avalon -- Marion Bradley
To Kill a Mockingbird -- Harper Lee

Four authors I've read again and again:
Jane Austen
Laurie Colwin
Anne Perry
Jacqueline Winspear

Four authors &/or books I'll never read again...ever:
Mrs. Dalloway (Woolf)
(I can't think of any others, though I'm not aching to read "Beowulf" again...)

Four books on my “To-be-read-list”:
The Ride of Our Lives (Mike Leonard)
Kitchen Table Wisdom (Rachel Naomi Remen)
The Vein of Gold (Julia Cameron)
John Adams (David McCullough)

Four books (originally two fiction and two non-fiction books) I'd take to a desert island -- but I think these are all non-fiction:
A Gift from the Sea (Lindbergh)
Home Cooking (Laurie Colwin)
Plan B (Anne Lamott)
Crazy Aunt Purl's Divorced, Drunk and Covered in Cat Hair (Laurie Perry)
Entertaining Is Fun (Dorothy Draper)
(OK, I know -- that was five, and actually I should add "Harpo Speaks" by Harpo Marx and any huge mystery by Elizabeth George. Then I'll have knitting, entertaining, recipes, self-improvement, faith and writing -- and a good yarn -- and I don't mean the fiber kind!)

Four book recommendations I have followed (and loved):
Two for the Road (Jane and Michael Stern)
Friday Night Knitting Club (Kate Jacobs)
Blink (Malcolm Gladwell)
Eat, Pray, Love (Elizabeth Gilbert)

The last lines of one of my favorite books (or at least one of my favorite books that was ready at hand):

I don't have a favorite -- I have lots of favorites. "Eat, Pray, Love" is at hand. And the line:

"Let's cross over."

Friday, March 27, 2009

Flower Fairy

This little ATC is my flower fairy, and she represents to me all the lovely good wishes and kind comments you sent along my way after my whining moments!

I thank each and every one of you.

It really is getting better -- the weather turned, which is a grand blessing, and I've been able to get out and walk a bit.

Today Kate took me out -- we had lunch, got my passport photo and then she said, "You need merchandise!" so we went to Michael's where I restrained myself but did by some ribbon at $1 a roll!

Now I'm typing away, while I'm waiting for some work things to come back. Gypsy stands on the computer table, next to the keyboard on all fours just staring at me. I'm not sure what he thinks is going to happen, and I'd think his little legs would tire. Now and then he'll grab a cord, but for the most part, he just stands and stares.

A weekend awaits. Who can argue with that?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Gloomy Day

What a gloomy day today has been -- rain and cold. I had my first PT appointment since the surgery and left feeling rather depressed.

I'm just tired of feeling limited and so darned tired. Then having them tell me I'm doing too much. Only lift a pound or two (I didn't tell them I'd been doing more than that for more than a few days -- not lifting, really, balancing things.) Not being able to drive and having to rely on others... it just makes me feel bad. Not sorry for myself. Just bad.

So I cry. It seems like I cry all the time -- it takes absolutely zero to set me off.

The thing is, I'm uncomfortable, I'm limited. I'm not in pain. I have so very much for which to be grateful. Go figure.

Meanwhile, I do have that purr therapy I speak of so often!

So, tomorrow is supposed to be nicer, and maybe I'll be nicer, too!

I do have a "list."

Call gutter cleaner. (Check.)
Give Rick car that's leaking oil to take in for service. (Check.)
Pick up passport renewal paperwork. (Check.)
Do taxes. (Not yet.)
Sew button on felted bag. (Check)
Finish knitting matching handwarmers and scarf. (Check.)
Finish other pair of handwarmers. (Check.)
Take winter clothes downstairs. (Not yet; postponed)
Make chocolate chip cookies for friends who help me out (this weekend)

My boss gave me several assignments to add to the work-at-home list, and that's good, so I can work off the sick hours and not have to go into vacation time.

Thanks for bearing with my moaning. Cheery Jeanie will be back soon!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I'd Like to Be ....

A little stir crazy. I haven't been able to talk any doctor into letting me drive. (I know, it's like a teenager playing one parent against the other.)

A journey to the doc's office or grocery store is like a vacation! And while I love my space, with my purr therapist, plenty of entertainment, and a computer (albeit a slow one), I have had visions of places I'd like to be!

Mackinac Island, Michigan.

The Grand Canyon

Larchmere, near Shaker Square, Cleveland, Ohio.

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

Otsego Lake

The Creeper Trail, Virginia

Myrtle Beach.

Specifically, RIGHT HERE at Myrtle!

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Reawakening

It’s officially spring, and the world is waking up.

On my recent walk, I noticed ducks, fish in unfrozen ponds. Little bits of gold, flitting about -- still moving slowly in the cold spring water. They are waking up, too.

Even my own little sprouts of green are popping up – daffodills and narcissus, just waiting for me!

I’m waking up, too.

Yesterday I made a splendid Sunday dinner -- turkey breast, divinely moist with sage and thyme under the skin; stuffing (yes, I still love Pepperidge Farms crumbs, though all the best telly cooks talk about doing your own and I’m sure that’s better) with mushrooms, celery and an onion; homemade bread (OK, from a Rhodes loaf) and brownies with peppermint chocolate and candy bits on top.

It was wonderful -- and cooking it was such a joy I didn't mind when I felt terribly tired after..

I’m was so itchy to cook I almost couldn't stand it, even if doing so with one hand is far more difficult than one would expect.

It’s interesting how working differently from normal can really put you off your game. And how you learn to cope.

This weekend I put up my Easter egg trees. This I can do with one hand (especially because I actually got the trees themselves in place while I had two arms!)

And I cut branches for a third. I'll post pictures of these within a week or two, as we move closer toward Easter.

I’ve been writing thank you notes with my right hand. It takes awhile but it’s good discipline. I can make my bed and do all the things I have to do – maybe not easily, but I can do them. It’s not easy always, but again, it puts things in perspective.

It makes me think of my dad.

For the last ten years or so of his life, he was truly debilitated by his asthma, COPD and emphysema. Since I have the first two of those, thanks to a genetic thing, every time I get bronchitis I have pretty graphic flashbacks to the worst of my dad’s illness.

Then, he had a fall that for awhile still allowed him to move about on a walker but eventually required full-time care and a wheelchair.

I remember him, living in the apartment he moved into when his health began to fail, a number of years after my mom’s death. There were times when he could get around – slowly, but certainly adequately. He’d drive his little red Tempo to the nearby grocery store, where everyone knew him by name and he’d talk their heads off, because, as my cousin David says, “Ken never met a stranger.” Dad would talk to anyone, anywhere for as long as they’d listen. (This is not always a good thing!)

(The Tempo -- now that's a story for another day!)

He had friends, but at that age, many had died – or faced other challenges that made visiting difficult. If it wasn’t for his beloved ham radio, I fear he would have been in far worse straits emotionally. I so wish he’d had the Internet then – and blogs. Oh, dear – he would have been manic!

For dad, cooking was a challenge. It was easy enough when he could be the grill-meister or do big breakfasts. But mom was always the family cook and though Dad tried to adjust with easy recipes and the microwave (a silent thank you to some inventor out there!), he never mastered it. Or liked it all that much.

(I will say I do remember his reading “Chesapeake” by James Mitchner and coming up with a pretty close version of the oyster stew in the book. I was so proud of him that even though oysters are one of the few seafoods that don’t knock my socks off, I relished every taste.)

It was difficult to walk, to reach for things, to operate as he always expected he would – and should. Fully able bodied. The dad I remembered. Dapper not disheveled. Funny, not frustrated. Healthy, not ill.

Now, I’m far from that point. My life has been made somewhat inconvenient with only one arm, but I’m on a timetable, I’m improving, and this is short-lived. I can use both hands now, even though one must stay in place, strapped in the sling. And while I’m not able to lift much or do much in the art line, I’m moving about really well and will do more so in a few days and weeks.

But think about it – anyone able-bodied can lose that ability at any time. And for a longer period than a few weeks. Maybe forever.

A car accident, a serious illness, a bad fall.

In one of Becca’s recent post she mentioned the recent death of Natasha Richardson. I’d also spoken with others about this – she was on the beginner’s hill, for heaven sakes. This woman should not have died. It’s a tragedy.

But there are so many others who have similar injuries but live. With extreme consequences.

I am fortunate that kind and loving friends have visited, done lovely things to cheer me up, brought me food, help out. (And clean my cupboards, Rick! Thank you!)

Not everyone has that. And if you are the caretaker (a role I assumed for many years), you know that any single person who can help in any way – a ride to the doctor, a dinner, a surprise visit) is a blessing. A gift.

My friends Richard, Jim and Bonnie were my blessings when my dad was ill. At the peak of things, they divvied up nights to give me time off. And later, their visits were the brightest spots of his day.

I always think I’ve tried to help people. But I’ve learned over the past few weeks that there are ways I can help more; differently. A surprise visit or an unexpected gift (and it doesn’t have to be big or expensive) is a huge boost! A ride? Oh, my! That’s unbelievable (I still haven’t figured out how I’m getting to my PT appointments if I don’t cheat. Or cab it. But I have that option – not everyone does.)

I’ve discovered I really love having the time to do things like read at length, watch a DVD, fiddle with things here and there, and have some quiet time.

I’ve also discovered that I’m very used to socialization! Make note: visit elderly friends. Bring them treats.

My friend Judy writes mostly on special needs in her blog Winter Ramblings. One of the things she has noted there and in her book Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs is that special needs can occur at any time. Many of the issues she deals with really extend beyond children but work with anyone who for whatever reason can’t do the things others can.

Yes, lots to think about. A reawakening.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

An Appraisal!

If you're a fan of PBS' "History Detectives," as I am, you are fascinated with the stories they investigate. Someone may have a book, supposedly signed by someone famous and given to their great grandfather. Or a typewriter, presumably the one Ernie Pyle used in World War II. Or a book of slave songs -- was it the first slave songbook?

Elyse Luray is one of the four "history detectives" who appear in the show (it returns to some TV stations in reruns now with new episodes in June).

She recently came to town in our library's speaker series, discussing the show at the main library and doing appraisals at two branches.

So, despite the fact that it was the manic weekend before my surgery, of course I had to go.

I have a tea set that my father's great aunt, a missionary in China (or somewhere near there) brought back to the states. He guessed this was at the turn of the century. And, along with the tea set she brought some wee shoes and a kimono, which is lovely and really deserves to be hung and not squirreled away in the closet. (to do list.)

While I didn't expect her to tell me its story (my own details are sketchy enough), I hoped she could put a monetary value on it, and possibly clear up its country of origin.

Well, let me say that if the estimates are correct, the set is not turn of the century but possibly 1920s. And the value is $500. Give or take. This is in part because I have the teapot, cream and sugar, plus 9-12 of the plates, cups and saucers. The teapot was the deal breaker.

The interesting thing about this is how I felt afterwards.

I was a little bit relieved.

This set is exquisite. When you hold the plates to the light they are translucent and each one is individually handpainted with some Kanji on the back -- presumably the artist's mark?

And I never use it.

It sits in the china cabinet where I see it daily and occasionally pull out a piece to admire. Then I put it back. Because what if it's worth a whole lot -- I mean, a really whole lot! I'm not God's gift to graceful movement and I've dropped more than my share of lovelies in my lifetime.

It's totally irreplaceable. I saw some of the larger-sized (dinner) plates -- I only have one of those. They were at a pricey antique shop in Shaker Heights and I think they were $900. Now, there could have been differences, they were up-marked, they weren't the same even though they looked it, it could be a dishonest shop... nonetheless, that was enough to scare me off.

What if I break something? Or it can't take the heat of the tea? I can't really replace this.

Now, Elyse is admittedly not an Asian expert and she asked the other appraiser on site for his opinion -- he came up with the dollar amount. And while $500 is not chump change, it certainly isn't $1500.

I know the set came from abroad, I know it's from the family, and that's what matters. And it's not so darned valuable that if a plate slips from my hand, I go all hara-kiri and fall on my sword (or chef's knife).

That's a relief.

Now you see, this is somewhat ironic. I have always believed you use the good silver, the good china, the crystal, because suppose tomorrow you're run over by a bus and you didn't? Wouldn't that be sad?

But this I just couldn't use.

Reality check welcomed. Sometime this spring, when I can hold it in both hands, I'm using it. Carefully. Maybe a tea for friends; maybe just with Rick and me. But I will use it and celebrate a family legacy -- and something beautiful.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Pink Strawberries

It's Pink Saturday!

Visit Beverly at How Sweet the Sound to link to other pinkies!

Today, I take you to the Shaker Square Farm Market in Cleveland, Ohio for what I'm dreaming of -- fresh, pink strawberries! Yum!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Be careful what you ask for… (or, Mr. Clean comes to visit...)

Two weeks off. Just what I always wanted – really!

I know that they are making my shoulder better, though it didn’t hurt that much to begin with. (Yes, I know, we don’t want it to get worse…)

And truth be told, most of the time it’s not that painful. Not broken-bone painful, for sure. More like “hurts” – like when you do something that hurts – or even REALLY hurts – but not constantly. (Except when I do my exercises; now that’s more than hurt…, but even that's getting better.)

The big thing about this is I feel so bloody helpless. This huge sling is more like a cast – it hangs out so far I can only wear a couple of things and while I’m no skinny, the Jabba the Hut image is one I see every time I go to the bathroom sort of freaks me out.

My friend Kate calls it the lawn chair – and it is like hauling a lawn chair about…

The sling is hooked up to a big blue pump that goes to cold water packs under the shoulder padding. For the most part this feels good, but it’s just heavy. (“It ain’t heavy, it’s my cooler…”)

The other end is attached to a cooler that plugs into the wall (if you read Rick’s Chopsticks and String post, you know about the perils of the cooler.)

So, if I go anywhere from the bathroom to the computer to the kitchen to bed, Ice Baby comes with me, with Gypsy baby close behind.

Or, a lawn chair and a cooler.

Fortunately, Gypsy has only walked on my shoulder once.

It’s such an ordeal (and carrying around a cooler built like it was for a 12 pack with power cords and filled with ice and water isn’t easy) so I generally stick to the sofa.

(Update: Last night I got unhooked from the cooler! Hooray!)

Typing is hard, the computer is slow and typing is worse. I now type like e.e. cummings (and am now going back with caps on to uppercase stuff. So, apologies for booboos.)

Now those of you who know me well know that I am not exactly God’s gift to housecleaning. Yes, I AM a master of understatement.

And we won’t even start on the clutter. I never met a dish I didn’t like and Goodwill (where I got my big clothes before surgery, along with some leftovers in the basement) could do well by a return visit.

Having said that, I prided myself on having the house as clean and tidy as possible before my confinement. I can’t handle unmade beds and don’t like dishes in the sink all that well. The table was clear, the floor tidy. I knew I’d make my own mess, and I didn’t want to start with one.

I didn’t count on a visit from Mr. Clean.

Rick, bless his heart or maybe not, decided he needed to clean my kitchen cupboards.

Now, he wasn’t without reason. I’ve periodically had wretched battles with kitchen moths and lately they have returned, obviously nesting between Trader Joe treats, Fiestaware and Hall china patterns. I’m very good at slapping them down and squishing them against the cupboard, a can, the counter, with nary a look back. Gypsy is awesome when they fly low, and on good days, we work as a team -- I bat them down low and he finishes them off.

Rick is less tolerant.

So, he took everything out of the cupboards and put it on the table – and the floor. And all I can see is the stuff.

“Choose things,” he says. I’ll take the rest to the basement.

Do you know how hard it is to choose things when your arm is in a world of hurt? (Yes, now it’s not so bad, but during this escapade it was pretty nasty.) Everything is a mess and I can’t even find a chair to sit in. I can’t make important decisions. So, I cry. Repeatedly.

And, it’s not just choosing. It’s Mr. Clean making remarks as he scrubs the cupboards inside and out. “Why do you need this?” he asks.

“Because I do,” I say, and then I cry some more.

“Geez,” I hear, followed by muttered expletives.



It was like when Joan Crawford had Baby Jane locked up in her bedroom, unable to escape while Joan lived her demented life in another room.

No, he didn’t serve me rat. Or parakeet or whatever it was Joan served Bette. He’s a very good cook and has been most attentive, changing the ice in my cooler faithfully and making excellent dinners (including a pretty fabulous tikka masala).

Well, until he dismantled the stove and now no one’s cooking in it.

But I will say they stress level has been pretty high…

I almost called my cousin from Cleveland to come put stuff back, but we seem to have reached an agreement on what stays (for now).

Rick won’t let me put things back in the cupboard (which is admirable – so I wait till he leaves). But don’t worry, I’m not overdoing it. I only do the things I can reach.

Meanwhile, Mr. Clean – or Joan, as the case may be – really got far more than he bargained for. (Probably reminding us both why we don’t live together.) And I’m most grateful to him for all his work. (Especially while I have been mostly reading and watching PBS mini-series on DVD while he does this).

He turned something relatively disgusting into something that really looks wonderful. That is probably is fine incentive for me to keep it that way – especially since I’ll be wearing this sling for a long while and won’t be able to carry things up from the basement for at least a month or so. Maybe by then I’ll get use to it.

He’s back at work, till the next cooler change. Maybe the stress level will go down….

(Update: The kitchen is pretty well put back together and most of the stuff put away from the other room. I'm getting very good using one hand and sometimes two, even tho' I can't really use the arm at all. (and if you knew how many times I kept correcting that sentence you would know the typing isn't that great yet!)

And yes, the stress has reduced, and yes, I'm appreciating my kitchen and Mr. Clean.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Wearin' o' the Green

Happy St. Patrick's Day! These are a few of my "green" photos!

Spools of Shepherd's Wool from Stonehedge Fiber Farm

Tulip from my last year's garden -- tight shot!

Tulip -- wide shot!

Harry Heron at the wetland park at the end of my street. (aka, Rick's ditch.)

Last year's Lilies of the Valley!

Marvelous mint!

Shopping at Horrock's -- Vases!

My favorite bottles from Horrock's -- I just love these!

Faux tulips at Horrocks.

My friend Annette's hosta garden at the lake!

Enjoy St. Paddy's!

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