Saturday, December 28, 2013

Six Word Saturday

Losing track:  what day is it?

The extra time off work is messing with my equilibrium. I got up this morning really excited to read the Sunday paper.  Getting the morning paper here is a project:  I have to bundle up and walk out to the mailbox by the main road.  Imagine my irritation when I got all the way out there and there was no fat Sunday paper balanced on top of the mailbox.  God dammit!  Our paper delivery has been a bit unreliable lately, but it bugs me more when it is the Sunday paper.  I looked inside the mailbox.  Inside, there was a Saturday paper.  Stupid Saturday paper.  Who cares about the Saturday paper?  Yesterday's news.  I stomped home in a temper.  I am calling customer service!  This is an outrage!  I was just about to pick up the phone when I remembered.  Imagine what a great blog entry it would be if I had made the call.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Grownups at the Kids' Table

Ooof.  It has been a rough few days for me.

I have had a cold, and so has Chuck.  We handle illness very differently:  I keep blasting along regardless and double-dog dare the virus to stick around; Chuck gives himself a day of total surrender.  I find myself envious of his approach.  And you know how it is this time of year:  I am hosting something or attending something every night for the next week, including various over night house-guests each night through the new year.  Don't get me wrong!  I love it!  Well, I love the company.  I don't love the logistical puzzles or the self-applied pressure to clean out the inside of the fridge before my new MIL comes to stay.
 We had snow a few days ago, and were productive in the face of the storm.  Meet the '88 Isuzu trooper that Chuck rehabilitated and made into his "new" plow vehicle.
I got all of the wood stacked and tarped, and rigged lights on our stairs.  This is part Christmas aesthetic and part safety feature.  You can see our stairs are kind of scary.

Now it has been melty and drippy for a few days.  This has made the stairs much better, but our woodland "luge run" a bit worse.

Sara had a sledding party last night, so she was anxious about it; but judging by the pink, gasping faces and soaked mittens, a good time was had by all.  I like this kind of party:  Sara told me all I had to do was make dinner!  She invited five kids and Nate invited a couple of friends to keep him company, so nine kids, total.  

Sara's boyfriend, picture-perfect Nick, was in attendance.  Maria once asked me to describe him and give her an idea of what he is like.  It's very hard for me.  He is a darkly handsome, tall, polite non-entity.  He has yet to engage me in conversation.  I overhear bits and pieces of his conversations with others, which just confirm my assumptions:  he's very conservative.  Last night, in discussing gay marriage in Utah, which is legal since the courts overturned the state's marriage law two days ago ("Toto!  I don't think we're in Kansas any more!"), he told Sara and the other kids, "Well, if gays are allowed to marry, what will happen if there is some kind of crisis and only gays are getting married, and then no one will have children and there won't be any more people!"  HAHAHAHAHAH!  OK, I didn't laugh... I said not one word and kept at my self-appointed task of cleaning out the fridge, but with my ears perked up to hear how the other kids would respond.  Better that he have the (oh-my-god-I-can't-even-count-how) many logical fallacies of that statement pointed out to him by someone in his peer group.   Sara's friend Mo did the honors, and I kept my head down, snorting.  

At any rate, Maria, I keep my ears and eyes open and my mouth shut, for now.  

The kids came, they sledded, they played a lot of ping pong (and "Sting-Pong": when you lose, you get smacked with the paddle), they "chilled"... They ATE!!  I cooked a BOX and  a HALF of PASTA!  They ate it all.  I had them lined up down both sides of the big farmhouse table, and Chuck and I huddled like refugees at the kitchen counter.  I advocated on behalf of salad, and asked for particulars about the state of the luge run, but otherwise stayed out of the fray.

It was fun.  Fun to let Sara figure out the evening and the people on her own.  And it feels good that she loves having friends at our place and effortlessly refers to Chuck as her step dad.  

And while this hullabaloo was going on, I not only cleaned out the fridge, but did the ironing.  Quite a party!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

How do you say Stapler in Japanese?

I had a lot of fun in Office Max the other day.

First of all, I ran into one of Sara's teachers there, who sang Sara's praises.  The teacher and I were exchanging pleasantries; the amusing part was Sara, who was with me.  She was so embarrassed that she was writhing in agony.  The teacher and I both observed this and  took things to the next level:  giggling together, walking out to the parking lot with each other, etc...  Teenagers are embarrassed by the strangest things!  Which of course adds a lot of entertainment value to even mundane tasks.

I was checking out when I over heard a situation at the check-stand next to me.  An elderly Asian man was there, bundled up to his ears in an enormous parka.  He looked anxious, and was making a "press the button" motion on the counter-top while saying a word in what sounded like Japanese to me.  This went on for a minute or so, but the cashier was stumped.  The gentlemen did not speak one word of English.  I watched his hand motions for a second, then inserted myself into the game of charades.  I made a "cutting" motion.  "Scissors?"  The man shook his head and made a "pinching" motion with his thumb and middle finger. Hmmm...  "Hole punch?"  I did a similar "pinch", but inserted a finger from my other hand in it, as if it were a piece of paper being punched.  His face lit up, but I wasn't sure, because that might look like paper in a stapler, too.  Then another customer called out, "Does he mean 'stapler'"?  The "press down with the heel of your hand" motion got his interest.  I asked the clerk, "Do you have a stapler back there?"  "Yeah."  He held it up.  "Is that what you want?"  Big smile!  Big nod!  OK!

The clerk said, "Aisle five", and went on to the next customer in line.  The Japanese guy's face fell.  He looked confused.  I held up five fingers.  "Aisle five."  I gestured at the aisle numbers.  "Aisle five."  Nothin' doin'.  I beckoned.  "Come with me."  We went to aisle five together and there was a wide array of staplers.  Heaven!  Stapler heaven!  He was thrilled.  He bowed deeply.  Then he grabbed my hand and pumped it energetically.  Then he gave me an enthusiastic hug.

If I had had a business card with me, I would have suggested he sign up for classes.  Or maybe I would have just enjoyed the moment.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Six Word Saturday

Sixteen years of sewing, finally done!

[This deserves a little more than six words for the sake of the back-story.]

When I started this quilt in 1996, I didn't know how to sew (and I still don't).  I had a few raggedy flannel shirts, and thought, "It would be cool to make a quilt."  If you look at the squares, you''ll see a green and blue paid with a few threads of yellow.  That belonged to Mike Ehlenfeldt, my high school boyfriend.  The brown and black buffalo plaid, and the pale green with weird little brown squares were Simon's.  I found the rest in rag bags and thrift stores.  Then, I saw an instruction manual in a handicraft store:  Make an Irish Chain in a Day.  Pfffft.  It assumed that the reader would actually own a sewing machine, a rotary cutter or have a clue.  I sure didn't.  But I looked at the pictures and thought, "I can figure this out".

Experienced sewers!  You would be shocked.  I made the squares by cutting out a piece of cardboard the right size and tracing around it, then cutting it out with a pair of scissors.  Many, many times.  Then I bought a spool of blue thread and a book needles and got started.  Tiny, tiny stitches in the evening after supper.  My cousin suggested that I get a ruler, a rotary cutter and a mat - thank goodness I did!  I remember sewing for hours and hours in 1996, after I had a miscarriage and needed to ward away misery.  I remember cutting the dark blue strips for the border the day Sara was born.

I rarely worked it after I had the kids, but I would have little spurts of productivity.  I asked for a sewing machine a few years ago, thinking that would speed the process.  By that time, I just needed to sew the borders on; but I didn't know how to use a sewing machine, so nothing happened.

Chuck is a good sewer.  When we started our relationship and he found out about this project, he insisted that I get the quilt back out, set up the machine at his place (my apartment was too small) and finish it up.  He taught me the basics of how to use the machine.

And here we are, at last.

Now there are other challenges.  I need to make a back.  I need to choose and piece together batting.  I need to make all the layers lie smooth.  I need to either quilt it or tie it.  I need to trim and bind the edges.  I have no idea how to do any of those things.  I'll figure it out.

Then, I will do things in a more ordinary progression and learn to make something SANE, like a tote bag or something!

Although I have this vision of a crazy quilt that is sort of fabric art and represents all the things I love to look at in my woodland home...

...or a tote bag...

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Chats on the Farmhouse Porch

Ah!  Time to kick back for just a couple of minutes.  Perhaps Patrice will have some virtual goodies:  cyber cinnamon rolls?  Virtual fudge?  It has been a busy time for me.  My daughter is starting Indoor Track practice; my son's room was so messy he actually needed adult assistance to figure out how to conquer it.  I haven't blogged as much as I want to, but BOY, have I been getting some things done!

I finally gave in and ordered an eclectic roaster on-line (my antique oven isn't big enough hold things like a turkey), which of course meant that I spotted one at my local grocery store later that day.  I started baking Christmas cookies; I made the masa for tamales (I figure if I make all the components in advance, I won't feel so oppressed by making them on Christmas Eve); I organized my recipes, which were a disaster; I made suet cakes for my bird feeder.  We cut a 12 foot tree and decorated it last night.  The kids love these huge, spectacular trees.  Their dad doesn't like celebrating Christmas and won't get one at all, so I go a little crazy and they love it.  Sara turned it on this morning so she could look at it while she was eating breakfast.  OH!  And I finished my quilt!  I have been piecing a queen-size Irish Chain for....16 years!!!  it's not really finished:  still needs backing, batting, tying, binding.  But the pretty part is done.  This deserves its own blog entry.  I'll take a photo tonight, after I iron it.  

Work has also been a little nuts.  I have a huge grant proposal due day after tomorrow, which I hope will infuse my program with some much-needed funding; and I have been hammering away at that since Thanksgiving.  We are going to do a couple of big holiday events for the students in my adult English as a Second Language program; and we are working on a contribution drive for our new building.  Our students (low-income immigrants and refugees) and volunteers have dug deep and raised over $2,000 to contribute.  Everywhere I turn, there is a job that needs doing.  But I am very happy.  Whew.  Blah, blah, blah, Patrice.  Sorry.  I have been dominating the conversation.

1.  Have you baked any Christmas cookies yet?

I have started, but I am planning to cut back a lot this year.  I used to eight different kinds, but we eat fewer cookies in my new life than we did in my previous one.  So this year, I will just do special requests:  Mint Sticks for Sara; Rum Balls for Nate; Raspberry Strippers and Almond Biscotti for Chuck.  And a Plum Pudding for me.  I have finished the brownie layer of the mint sticks, which broke again as I was removing it from the pan (a holiday tradition).  I will glue it back together with bright green peppermint icing tomorrow.

2.  Have you finished your holiday shopping, yet?

No.  But I have a carefully laid-out schedule of places to shop for different gifts, have already done most of my on-line shopping,. etc...  Plus, we don't do a lot of gift exchanging:  second hand and homemade are major components, so I'm about where I should be.

3.  If you had a team of reindeer, what would you name them?  

They would all have the same name:  the name I call everyone in my family:  "Na-Sar-Si-Chuck", followed by, "Uh...", then "YOU"!

4.  What was the most memorable Christmas gift you ever gave or received?

When I was a kid growing up in Wisconsin, our family friends, the Wilsons, often brought us kind of crazy gifts.  The best year was when I was about 7 or 8.  Mr. Wilson brought two packages, each one bigger than our entire tree, wrapped in rolls and rolls of paper.  When opened, they revealed huge bails of empty plastic milk jugs and instructions on how to use them in the construction of a swimming raft.  My dad built it and it floated in Little Hills Lake, where we have our cottage, for many years of swimming and diving pleasure.  It was still afloat when I was a college student.

5.  Patrice has asked for something new.  Well, the latest news from our barn in the canyon is that our sewer line froze.  In the place where we live, we have a septic leach field for gray water, and a holding tank for the toilets.  The showers drain fine, but the toilet line froze.  Poor Chuck has been working madly to try to get it thawed out, and called me a few minutes ago to say that he thinks that the heat he applied to it over night has worked.  I would not recommend one of his other remedies, though.  Pouring boiling water down the line may or may not work; but it will certainly melt the wax ring that seats the toilet to the bathroom floor.  The kids were strangely thrilled at the opportunity to pee off the back porch, despite the near-zero temperatures and quantities of snow.  Nathan did this with pleasure and style, of course.  Sara... less style.  "Sara, I said to piss OFF the porch, not ON the porch."  "I thought I had it nailed, Mom, but my aim needs work."  They will be disappointed to find, when they return in a few days, that we are back to living like ordinary people.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Chats on the Farmhouse Porch

I'm off to Patrice's for a Chat on the Farmhouse Porch.  It has taken me a long time to get there, because the roads are so bad.  First major snowstorm of the winter here in Utah.  The skiers are happy, but the commuters are less so.  .

1.  Please tell me the three most valuable things you learned as a child or young person.

That being a "drama queen" is annoying in a child, but it makes you a really great English as a Second Language teacher as an adult; that learning to navigate an argumentative supper table crowded with older siblings is a valuable skill for the future; that wearing black tights with black shoes will elongate the look of your legs.

2.  Do you participate in Black Friday or Cyber Monday?

NO!  NO!  A thousand time NO!  I hate to shop at all!  And I try to do as little gift exchanging as possible for Christmas.

3.  Do you pray?

No.  I'm an atheist.  Sometimes I wish I did, but I don't.

4.  Have you ever been invited to any parties to celebrate Christmas or New Year?

Yes!  I love parties!  I love attending them, and throwing them as well.  Last year, we went to an open house on Christmas Eve, had friends over for Christmas brunch and threw a party for New Years as well.

5.  Have you ever owned cowboy boots or a cowboy hat?  Or a cowboy?

No, to all of those (and a sigh of regret about the cowboy...)  I would like a pair of cowboy boots.  Maybe someday.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Looking for the Blessing

So, the low point of my day today was (as is often the case) my rental property and my tenants.  The kids in the upstairs unit are late with the rent again, and I have just fielded their second noise complaint.  That means I will have to write them up and, if they rack up another complaint, I will have to evict them. 

It has made me especially tense because one of the people I would have to evict is my step-son.  Yuck. 

Let's see... How to put lipstick on this pig...  I should be grateful that I have this nest-egg.  Not everyone has money to invest in a run-down piece of shit like mine.  Tomorrow is a new day. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Chats on the Farmhouse Porch

A quick nip into Patrice's warm kitchen.  Maybe some of those snacks that she had for her staff and volunteers are still there, but it's late in the evening.  I am often the last one to arrive at the chat!

If you are celebrating Thanksgiving, what are you looking forward to most on Thursday?

I am looking forward to running a 4-mile "turkey-trot" with Chuck and my step-daughter, Kaitie.  Sunny California, flat and at sea-level.  What could be finer than that?

My favorite Thanksgiving dish is stuffing.  Hands down.  Just give me a big ol' plate of it with gravy, and I don't need no stinkin' turkey.

Do you ever go through periods of time when you get hooked on a specific food?

No, that never happens to me.  Unless you count Honey-Nut Cheerios.  That has been my favorite breakfast (the breakfast of THIS champion) for about 15 years.  I actually get up in the morning and think, "Oh, goody!  Time for my O's!"

What's the best stuffing for a turkey?

I love all of them, in all of their wet-bread glory.  But a great stuffing would have apples, walnuts and dried apricot.

When you were a child, were you ever in a Thanksgiving play, pageant, mock pilgrim dinner, or anything different to celebrate?

No.  Boring childhood.  I watched Charlie Brown do all that in his Thanksgiving Special, though.

Next entry from Santa Barbara!  Yay!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Six Word Saturday

Mixed teabags.
English Comment?
Constant Breakfast?

(What would you prefer?  Having had a lifetime of English comment, I will take the constant breakfast.)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thursday Thirteen

Time to play Thursday Thirteen!

How about thirteen things I am looking forward to about our Thanksgiving trip to Santa Barbara?

1.  Cheese popcorn and Diet Dr. Pepper:  my two road-trip treats.  It's a thirteen hour drive.  There has to be an incentive!

2.  Pumpkin pie.

3.  Having a long weekend with Chuck and without chores.

4.  Arriving at Chuck's parents' house and warming my back at their gas fire while having a cold beer.

5.  The four-mile turkey-trot that Chuck and his daughter and I will run on Thanksgiving morning.

6.  Walks on the beach!

7.  Surfing.  I'm taking my wet-suit.

8.  More pumpkin pie.  For breakfast!

9.  Having time to read my book.

10.  Visiting with my new in-laws, who are thinking about paying us a visit during the Christmas holidays.  We will have some plans to make!

11.  Rigging up the Hobie 16 and going for a sail.

12.  I will take my yarn, needles and my new "Knitting for Dummies" book and get a little expert advice from my MIL.

13.  I will do a photo blog while I am there.  Could be interesting.

Only a few more days!  And if I do all the things on that list, I will be seriously impressed with myself.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Budget Babe

Well, I think that today's high point was being able to contribute to the kids' college accounts for the first time since my divorce.  It's because of the rental property.  It doesn't make money every month, but this month I made enough money on it that I was able to sock a little away.  Yay me!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

RIP Mr. Squishy and other Odd Happenings

Yesterday was crisp; in the Canyon, it was cold.  The walls are steep; and after about Halloween, we get no direct sunlight until Valentine's Day.  I worked outside for a little while after work, plopping shovels full of compost onto a screen and seeing what fell through into my bucket.  I do indeed have some "black gold", but not much.  Not after I picked the banana peels, carrot butts, etc... out of it.  The compost bin is just an open box.  Maybe next year, I will incorporate a black plastic cover for it and see if that helps things break down faster.

I chatted with the fellow who is interested in buying the wooded lot next to our house.  He was back there thrashing around in the brambles again yesterday, placing stakes and then pulling them up again, trying to find a footprint for his dream home that is going to work with the county's restrictions (which are formidable) to building in the Canyon.  He has not bought the lot, yet.  He will see if he can actually build anything before he closes on the purchase.

Chuck is not feeling well.  He has a scratchy throat and a stuffy nose.  Still, he got up off the couch and came to find me in the kitchen when "I'll Take You There" by Mavis Staples came on the radio.

How do I get the actual YouTube in there?  Advice?

We had a little bump and grind and a a little smoochy stuff while he sang, "I'll take you there!" in my ear.  Made me drop my spatula.  If you are local, I would recommend turning NPR off at 6 PM (It's just a repeat of "All Things Considered" from  a couple of hours earlier) and turn on KRCL to listen to Bad Brad Wheeler's show "Drive Time".  He's got the most eclectic mix of stuff to dance to, stuff sing along with , stuff to embarrass the soccer carpool with...  It's all there.

My low point today was a return to conflict with Simon.  We had been doing well- he even brought me a present when he got back from England, to thank me for taking care of the kids in his absence.  We were going to meet to talk about Christmas presents for the kids; and when he called last night, I thought we were going to set a time to do that.  But things moved rapidly: he didn't have time to meet; he couldn't make an appointment; he didn't have time to meet me for coffee; he is too busy; and according to him, I just seem to think that, after my custodial time is over, I'm DONE!  He is left doing all the hard work, picking up adn dropping off....

Si, are you trying to tell me that you need help?  If you need help, just ask me specifically for what you need and I will try to help you.

He has to pick her up from school three days, NO!  FOUR DAYS a week and it's not fair.

[This is the custody schedule you asked for, Simon...]

Si, are you trying to tell me that you need help?

YES!  YES, I need help!

Why don't you just tell me-

He had hung up.

Sara had overheard and was irritated.  She told me that in fact, she calls him every day after school and asks him:  should she take the city bus to his office?  Or would he like to get her?  She says she takes the bus to his office as often as not.  She also says he is mostly upset because he is very busy dating a new lady who wants him to have more free time for her.  The kids are miffed because he says that having custody of them cramps his style; yet he was out past midnight on Saturday, up again to take another lady out to breakfast, and then went out to spend the afternoon hiking with the lady he had been out with the night before.  When I picked up the kids on Sunday afternoon, they had barely seen Simon in the last 24 hours.

And finally, a moment of silence, please, for Mr. Squishy, my feather pillow.  Mr. Squishy was a thrift-store purchase, so old that he is made of the blue and white striped ticking that was ubiquitous for pillows two generations ago.  He was pretty limp when I got him, but he supported my neck in just the way I like.  When I had the mastectomy, I would use Mr. Squishy to hold my battered chest in place.  He was my road-trip pillow.  But my family teases me about him, now.  "Mom!  There are only about 100 feathers LEFT in that filthy old thing!"  He was starting to wake me up in the night, my neck stiff and my shoulder sore.  I went and got another pillow from tha linen closet last night and traded the pillow case.  Chuck said, "You don't have to do this, you know!"  "Well, I'm not sure.  I'll just set him over here on the chair until I make up my mind."  I slept great, but what am I supped to do?  I can't throw him out.  He's not fit to put in the linen closet, as if someone else might use him.  He needs a home.  A no-kill shelter for pillows.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Six Word Saturday

[With delight]
Expected guests!
[With disappointment]
Visit cancelled.
[With resignation]
Movie tonight?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Chats on the Farmhouse Porch

Whew!  I just came barreling up the porch steps at Patrice's place, a day late for our Chat on the Farmhouse Porch.  Yesterday was just so busy!  Luckily, time kind of stands still there.

1.  Would you rather sit in front of a fireplace with a roaring fire, soak in a lovely bath or spend your free time in front of a computer?

Definitely NOT the computer.  I sit in front of one too much at work.  It would be a toss-up between the bath and the fire, except that it is easier to hold a book in front of a fire.  Roaring fire wins!

2.  Milk chocolate or dark chocolate?

Only dark.  Milk tastes too sweet to me, now.

3.  Have you tried a recipe from a blog or Pinterest?

No.  I have a subscription to "Cooking Light", so I feel obligated to try as many of those recipes as I can every month.

4.  Do you have a guest room?

Yes, and I love it!  It has a view out the front of the house, and the best bed (in my opinion) in the house.

5.  Is your hair curly, straight, or something in between?

When it was long, it was totally straight.  Now it is short and ...not curly...just messy!  All the cowlicks I never knew I had are now plain to see.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Chat with my BFF

I don't actually have a BFF.  There are so many wonderful women that I would call my friends, but I don't have a best one.  Is that odd?  Or do lots of people not have a best friend?  Maybe most women my age confide more in their husbands, or maybe their mothers or sisters?  I confide in Chuck about everything, but where do I go when I need feedback about HIM?  Well, here.  This is it.  My Blog Friend Forever.


Chuck and I have been married for three months, and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE him.  But I loved him before we were married.  Marriage freaks me out and makes me feel unsafe.  I have been trying to figure out why, off and on.  I actually came home after dropping the kids off this morning and went back to bed for two hours.  I call this "returning to my nest".  I do it very rarely, but it has happened a couple of times in the last few years.  Chuck came and held me for awhile and I told him that I feeling scared about marriage.  He doesn't get it.  He is happy.  We never fight; I make a happy home for him; we have a life full of interesting people and things to do; we have a great sex life.  Yes, to all of that.  I agree.  Yes, yes, yes. 

Why, then do I feel sad, worried, whatever this is that I feel? 

1.  That we never fight could be a pathology.  Maybe we are just so conflict-averse that we gloss over things.  How will I ever know there is a problem?  I used to know there was a problem.  Simon got mad. 
2.  Chuck says that he loves me more as time goes by.  But many of the things that I used to take as signs of his love are fading or gone:  flirty texts; flowers; lit-up face when I show up; grabby, breathless kisses.  So, if those are no longer indicators, what are the new indicators?  In my old marriage, the indicators were almost non-existent, so I don't know how married people express love meaningfully after the breathless stage is over.  My first marriage had less affection from the start, so there was not much opportunity to sing sappy Neil Diamond / Barbara Streisand songs.  PLEASE.  NOW IT'S RUNNING THROUGH MY HEAD...How can you miss what you didn't have?  But if, later in life, you start getting it?  You REALLY don't want to lose it.
3.  Maybe what he really loves about me is something that has nothing to do with me.  Like I have two kids who fill the house with noise and company. Am I a mid-life crisis?  JUST MAKE SURE YOU'RE MORE FUN THAN A SPORTS CAR.  KIDDING.
4.  My mom and dad split up when my dad met a woman who was "the love of his life".  It lasted five years.  Then they split up and, after the passage of some more years, he and my mom got back together.  What if that ending is going to be my ending, too? What if my sub-conscious has been mirroring my father's narrative and doesn't know when to stop?   WHAT?!?  YOU ARE NOT THE AGENT OF YOUR OWN DESTINY?  A DEAD DAD RULES YOUR DESTINY?
5.  Maybe the only reason we are so content together is that we are not trying to merge our money.  We have such different spending / saving habits that I want to keep money separate.  I suspect I am not supposed to feel that way. LOTS OF COUPLES DO THAT, ESPECIALLY THE SECOND TIME AROUND.  NORMAL!
6.  I am ridiculously self-conscious.  I expend too much effort in trying to anticipate what he wants and needs.  Why am I doing that? 
7.  I don't know how to act in a friction-free situation.  I had an MO when I was married to Simon.  Avoid conflict.  Give this relationship all the effort you can, and don't let fights happen.  I don't know how to RELAX in a marriage.
8.  Being single felt safe, because I could say things like, "We are both free agents, and we are together because we really like to be."  Or, "I am here because Chuck makes me happy.  If he stops making me happy, I will leave and do something else."  Now, I feel as if any positive motivation to be together is subsumed by our legal obligation to be here.  How do I manage that dynamic?  IS MARRIAGE THE ONLY OBLIGATION, KATE?  LOVE GOES HAND IN HAND WITH OBLIGATION, NO MATTER WHAT.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Quince Vodka

I am sipping quince vodka.  A friend with a quince tree presented it to me and I feel honored.  It had aged for two years, chunks of quince crammed into a bottle of vodka.  It has a delicate flavor and aroma, and a slightly pink hue. 

I have had a decidedly so-so day.  I slept strangely, so my neck and shoulder are cramped and sore.  Chuck has been welding all day under the plow vehicle, and is tired.  He is already breathing deeply, starting to drop off to sleep.  I remain bemused about marriage.  I don't remember worrying this much in my first marriage - about how to keep him happy and engaged.  I am fearful that he will become indifferent and my life will become what is was before. 

Simon is back from his business trip to England, and has brought me a gift:  a nice box of tea.  This is the first gift he has given me since our divorce.  It came with a card, thanking me for being willing to take the kids for an extended period during his absence.  Sara is annoyed.  "It's a little insulting, him thanking you for parenting us.  You're our mother, after all."  I agreed, "But what he is really thanking me for, in a roundabout way, is for being flexible."  It just comes out sounding funny. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thursday Thirteen

It's Thursday, so time for Thursday Thirteen !

Today, I will list thirteen things that are stressing me right now, in order of stressiness.

1.  My social life.  Why do I have to make all the running?  Every weekend, I call up friends.  Dinner?  Music?  Bike ride?  I'll get back to you later.  Not sure.  Already have plans.  And no one calls us to see what we are doing.  Sometimes I feel like a reject.  

2.  My rental unit.  The upstairs tenants have not paid rent this month.  They are racking up late charges.  One of them (my stepson) has gathered his share, but the others have not.  I have a mortgage payment to make; utilities to pay; and I just spent $3,400 on electrical upgrades, which  put my cash flow into the "Danger, Will Robinson!" range.  I can't spend any more money until I have collected more rent.  But the rent doesn't come!  The deadbeats are not responding to me.  Pretty soon, I will have to evict them.  And since they are all on the lease, I will need to evict my stepson, too.  Maybe Chuck can convince him to get the non-paying people out and find new housemates.

3.  My work load.  I need to be at work more, but I am being pulled away to meetings, training, etc...

4.  My relationship.  We're married!  We are on old married couple!  How can love survive that?

5.  My body.  When I am not in the right frame of mind, I can't bring myself to work out. I sit gathering wool instead. And then I become more miserable, and gather more wool.

6.  My body some more. I HATE, HATE my figure.  And people (who are not me) think I am slim.  But they don't have to look at my butt.  Which is big.  And sliding down my legs, 'cause I am getting old.

7.  My bills, bills, bills.  This month need to fill  the propane tank.  It's going to cost the better part of $900 and that is a big chuck of my monthly income.

8.  My husband's ex.  Why does Chuck's ex-girlfriend need to be building her dream-home next door?  She is going to be right next door forever! How do any of us ever move on?

9.  My soccer carpool.  Sara's practice way out in Riverton, more than 30 minutes away.  Some other moms and I are going to rotate driving our kids out there.  However, I don't have seatbelts for all of them in my tiny car, even if Nathan isn't with us.  And since I don't have time to take Nathan home before I have to drive, I don't have capacity, period.  Who can I strap to the roof?

10.  My program.  We are going to move to a new building in a few months, and everyone thinks I can build a bigger, better, more beautiful adult education program when we get there.  Sure, the building will be bigger, but how do they think we will be able to afford to do all the cool new projects everyone expects?  Guess who has to figure out how to fund it?

11.  My Christmas plans.  I would like to buy Chuck a wedding ring.  But if he doesn't buy one for me, will he feel bad?

12.  My kids' future.  If I can't make any money on the rental property, I can't put anything in my kids' college accounts.

13.  My credit security.  I was contacted by my credit card company to say that the security of my credit card has been compromised and that they need to send me a new card.  Blah.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Chats on the Farmhouse Porch

1.  Have you ever gotten a pet from rescue?

No, mostly because I haven't had pets.  In my new life, there are yet unexplored pet possibilities, though.  And I noticed Chuck tracking little kitty paw-prints in the snow this morning.  A lot of people dump their unwanted pets in the Canyon.  Chuck has adopted several kitten by hauling them out of the underbrush by the road.

2.  What pumpkin goodies have you had this fall?

None, can you believe it?  I LOVE pumpkin!  However, I'm stingy with my money and don't buy many treats for myself.  I need to bake my famous pumpkin cheesecake soon.

3.  What are the best and worst rooms in your home?

Our barn house is so open-plan that our rooms meld together.  But I would say that I love the kitchen most.  I love the warmth and aesthetic of the antique stove; the area I have all set up for making hot drinks; the rolling island that keeps my pots handy and includes a wine rack.  I love the dish shelves that have track lighting concealed behind them to make a soft glow.

The basement is the absolute worst room, not just in our house, but in any house.  It may be the worst basement in Salt Lake County.  I emotionally washed my hands of it the day I moved in.  It is Chuck's workshop and is an explosion of wood, sawdust, mysterious tools and  broken stuff... There are many things down there that I am at a loss to explain:  an old bowling ball sitting on the floor, half covered in saw dust; two church pews, one assembled and one disassembled, that block access to other things (we already have two church pews upstairs).  I can't put things away down there, because I don't know where anything goes.  I have asked for a little shelving area to keep a few things (Christmas decorations, wrapping paper, Halloween costume parts, my grandmother's china, etc...) and Chuck was kind enough to make space for me.  But since then, my access to "my" area has been blocked by stuff that I have to climb over and around. Pieces of antique pew block the bottom shelves of my area. I hate going down there.  But I don't say anything to him.  I have my way about the order and cleanliness of the rest of the house, and I don't want to be too controlling.  Technically, it's his house, after all.

4.  If you could have a real "bricks and mortar" type business, what would it be?

A nursery!  I would grow strange and beautiful plants!  All I need is capital and ability.  Or, I wonder if it is fun to be a "life coach".  How does one even become a life coach?

5.  What's your favorite tropical fruit?

It has to be mango. That is my favorite everything fruit.

Thanks very much Patrice, for this special opportunity to complain about the basement.  It was fun.

Monday, November 4, 2013


Do any of you watch old Fawlty Towers episodes?  You know when the wife is on the phone, ignoring customers,drawling, "Oh, I KNOW!" 

Lately, I have found myself hearing from family and friends who have received breast cancer diagnoses.  Two people  in the last two weeks. 

I guess I know how it feels.  In the case of my sister-in-law, she wants to talk to me about how it feels to get a body part cut off.


In the case of my friend, do I understand the fear of the still-unknown-and-soon-to-be-determined prognosis?


However,  what do any of us know of other people's pain?  How well did I come through breast cancer?  Awesome!  Unless you want to count the emotional blow-torch that I applied to my life afterward.

Anyone who is familiar with my life is aware that I don't have any wisdom.  Or knowledge or answers or solutions.

Oh!  I know.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Friday, November 1, 2013

October Ends in Pictures

Trail run

Sugar skulls, painfully acquired for my Day of the Dead party

 I have been cleaning out my grandmother's trunk, and the final step is to remove these HUGE nails!  Who did that, and WHY!?!  Someone trying to create a homemade iron maiden?  Well, they were easy to take out.
Window washing

 My new tenant is moving in tomorrow.  Oh, happy day!
 And the electricians have been putting the final touches on the major electrical upgrade I had done.
Upstairs tenants decorated for Halloween.

Replicolor, the photo developing company owned by our friends Scott and Charlene

Sara's entry in the Reflections art contest.  The reflected glare is NOT her creation.

 Some days I am too lazy to brew coffee.  I know this will gross some of you out, but I just poured some of yesterday's stale, cold coffee into my cup and reheated it in the microwave.
Ooooooh!  Paper Halloween witch on my desk!

For my lesson on furniture

 BidSync is the network that I use for applying for grants from Salt Lake County.

Lentil soup prepared by our student Maria Martinez

I will be teaching one of my groups the difference between day and night.  

 We have been very lucky this month to have free yoga classes at the school, thanks to our former volunteer tutor Lisa Stachitus.

 Sara was hanging out with friends, watching "Young Frankenstein".  I picked her up on my way home from work.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Junk in the Trunk

 It was cold today.  So much so that I cooked our supper on wood and was grateful for the warmth.
 UPDATE from my previous post!  One of my students at Guadalupe School, Berenice Cruz, called me from Tenochtitlan Market to tell me that she had found sugar skulls!  YIPPEE!  There were thirteen of them.  I asked her to buy them all.  It is a minor bummer that they are already decorated.  It's kind of minimal, don't you think?  I think further decor is a possibility.
 I'm glad that search is over.  I had tried unsuccessfully at Rancho Market earlier in the day.  No sugar skulls; but I felt compelled to take a picture of these roach-killers.

This evening, I sorted out my old trunk.  There are family things in there; but also assorted books and fans and hankies and hats that are old, and cool, but have nothing to do with my family.  They are just things that people picked up at auction sales.  My grandfather had a weakness for auctions.  I think that is where we acquired the "Encyclopedia of Methodism".  Not an heirloom.  But what do you do with an antique book, published in the 1870s after it has floated around your house for a while?  Here are some things I found, though.
My grandfather Plueddeman's music theory book

Pieces of very, very old, woven bedspread.  There are two of these.  i think I will frame them and hang them up next to my 1876 sampler.

 Did any of you ever read "Devil in the White City"?  If so, you will be interested in the keepsake picture book of the 1898 Columbian Exhibition, or Chicago World's Fair that I found, wrapped carefully in cardboard and tissue.  I would strongly recommend that book.  It is an engrossing work of non-fiction and an astounding read.

Obituary for my great-great grandfather

My great-grandmother's wedding dress, which she sewed herself.  i had to show it to Sara - incredible how tiny women were then.  No one is every going to fit into this dress again!  

"Little Sally Mandy's Christmas Present" was a third birthday present to my dad from his grandmother in 1934.

 My great-grandmother's cook book.  I turned it to the pages all about how to cook rabbit, just to horrify Sara.
 Two of my grandmother's dolls are in the trunk.  The kids call them "the creepy dolls".  In fact, Sara used to have bad dreams about them climbing out of the trunk and coming to get her.  This one really is kind of hideous, because of her zombie eyes.
 This one isn't so bad, though.
 My great-great grandfather's eyeglasses.
And, most interesting was this photo of my grandfather, in an envelope addressed to my grandmother in 1922.   I will tell you what the letter says.
Dear Madam,

I have taken notice during the past few years that you have consistently remained single in spite of the possession of wonderful charms and singular talents, as well as fair features and graceful poise, not to mention a softly modulated voice and a quiet savoir faire.  I have often gazed for hours, unknown perhaps to you, into those angelic eyes and have seen there a love light which I have longed to claim for my own., but until now I have lacked the courage to make my feelings known to you.

All that I ask in this letter is an opportunity to tell you in a personal interview how I think that I could make you, the dream of my life, happy.  I am sure that I am fully qualified by past experience and education to treat you kindly and respectfully, and if you desire I can give you references from a number of other girls whom I have courted.

Enclosed you will find my photograph, which I assure you does not do me justice.  However, you will notice that I am very handsome.  Notice the high forehead denoting intelligence, the heavy lips signifying generosity, and the prominent ears, a sign of willingness to listen to reason.  Notice also the kindly sympathetic expression in the eyes and now, the neatness of apparel and luxuriant growth of hair; and do not fail to observe that no hirsute adornment mars the beauty of my upper lip.

I hope that  you will have read this letter thus far, and in that case I have but one request left.  Will you please grant me an engagement at which I can further press my suit, or take me on trial for several years, and if you do not find me satisfactory, I will grant you alimony for the rest of your life.