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Friday, April 4, 2014

April's New Year's Resolution

April at last. At last. Spring spring spring. So happy it's not winter any more.

Mind now, Spring is taking her own sweet time. The poplar tree has yet to unfurl the tiniest leaf - so it's not officially spring. Maybe today it will be. Surely by the end of this weekend that harbinger tree will have it's mist of gold clouding it's branches.  But 3 days without having to wear a coat is spring enough for me.

We're back from a Birthday Visit with LD and PD in South Carolina. It was a perfect trip - easy driving, no bad traffic, and of course - mountains of happy love from the moment we got there till the moment we drove off. The young darlings took us to the most magical place: Forty Acre Rock 

It's really 14 acres - but what a place - surrounded by several thousand forested acres that we trekked through - complete with caves and waterfalls!

And of course - there's no trip to South Carolina without hunting down Haile landmarks. Here I am, looking like a bobble head ...Lord - that man just can not take a good photo of me.

Here's the Birthday Boy himself - with his second cake. 

I took knitting and actually got a few rows done on my Fiona Ellis sweater but the knitting mojo just hasn't been there this winter. (not much else has either) I did get in some practice sketching though and am getting more confident about putting pencil to paper.
 But I know you all came here to read about my April Resolution, right? It took me a while to decide just what I wanted it to be but then fate - in the guise of an HVAC crew stepped in and made the decision for me. The Guys With Tools are here putting in a Mitsubishi Ductless Heat Pump system here at TheCastle. Here is Unit 1 and though it does feel big - and does feel different - honestly, that wall is so cluttered already - it hardly matters, now. Does it? And warm in winter, cool in summer does have to come at a cost. One aesthetic will just have to move over to accommodate another.

As for the Resolution? Well - first the back story. On the second floor there is a 4 foot knee wall, accessible by 6 cabinet doors. Perfect spaces to cram STUFF and over the years I have done some serious cramming. And for more years than I like to admit I have started my New Years Resolution list with Clean Out The Knee Wall Closets. Three of them have been done. Three are disasters. The Guys With Tools had to get into one of the disaster areas and now all of that stuff is dumped on the guest bed - so no. Nobody is invited to spend the night till I get that put away. So April's resolution will be to restore order to at least one gutted knee wall closet and also the other disaster area that must be shifted in the spare room. That spot where I have dumped yarn bins, family photos, Unfinished Knitting Projects, and who knows what else. The Guys With Tools have to get behind that mess too so, duh. Right. Resolutions by default - but I will be so glad when they're accomplished, so relieved and so proud, that I plan to reward myself with a desk to put in that corner of the room and make it my home office.

And then I will follow Juno's example and crash on the sofa.

Monday, March 24, 2014

March Mission Accomplished

My New Year's Resolution for March was to create a Christmas Card mailing list. It's the kind of mindless fun sort of job I enjoy - but it's really so mindless it was hard to make myself sit down and actually create it. Then suddenly I realized it was almost April and I hadn't begun. And so. Sunday morning I sat down with the huge stack of old cards, envelopes, and the crusty Rolodex and began to type.


I haven't decided what I want to do for April - though we have HVAC guys coming early next month to put in a ductless heat pump. Mitsubishi ElectricMitsubishi ElectricMitsubishi ElectricFour Mitsubishi Hyper-Heat Ductless Units, in fact. Here's what they look like.


So it might behoove me to clean out the corner in the spare room that is heaped with yarn bins, fiber tubs, laundry baskets full of family photos, a spinning wheel, a chair and several bags of unfinished knitting projects. That might be my April Resolution - or better yet - putting it all back in useful and accessible order might be the real resolution.  Sigh. Sounds like werk to me. 

A more fun resolution might be 

So now it's discourse between head and heart - or conscious and subconscious - or Left Brain and Right Brain. Either way - I will probably do at least some of both. And with that TheQueen will bid March adieu with this fascinating photo of the sun's reflection in a pool of water.  Juno is intrigued. Or is it Callie?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Happy New Year and Knitting Too

Time for those New Year's Resolutions.

Huh? What's that? It's March? Well? So? Who says you can't make resolutions as the world is beginning to emerge from the misery that was the past 2 months? Heck. It was all TheQueen could do to put on shoes and go to work every day. There wasn't anything left to help her Make Plans for Better Times.

But that was then and this is now. This morning I woke up with this old Lovin' Spoonfull song playing in my head. Something about the light, the angle of the sun, the sounds outdoors, seems to have magically opened up the cobwebby windows in my head and I can see clearly enough to actually make plans. But in thinking about those plans it dawned on me that, this year, at least, I don't want to plan too far forward. Perhaps it's because, to quote Susan Miller from AstrologyZone, "Mars has been tearing through my earned income sector since December 7, and it seems I've needed to spend it as fast as it has been coming in." No duh after a heart attack at Christmas just in time to wipe out the deductible of 2013 and suck up the 2014 allotment. And things Financial don't look any better in April when: "Next month, we will have two very hard eclipses, April 15 and 29. The one that will affect you more will be the one April 15, and it will affect the source of your income." Ouch!

Oh well. C'est la vie - et c'est l'argent. Guess I won't buy any frivolous stuff for a while. Thank goodness I don't need any new clothes, either. Mental note to self "Do Not Look At Elann dot Com's March Specials".

Anyway - back to the New Year's Resolutions and planning ahead and all that stuff. It dawned on me that I don't really feel like tracking down and tackling any Big Things this year. What I have is a whole bunch of little tidying up things that need to be done, in no particular order.  So for the rest of this Has To Get Better year, I plan to tackle one small tidying-up chore a month. One irritating bit of sloppiness in my life will be eliminated.  One corner of messiness will be made into a retreat of serene and pleasurable organization. 

And No. I'm not assigning all 10 of them right now. I will pick one each month - the one who's completion would make me happiest right now. And Right Now that chore is to update the address book. We have a hideous rolo-dex that ThePrince wants to keep but I'm going to take that, the bag of Christmas cards with envelopes, and the drawer stuffed with Other Correspondence, and create my very own database. Yes. Yes. I know how to do this. I even think it's fun - it's such a Virgo thing to enjoy - like filling out forms. Just thinking about being able to print address labels for Christmas Cards makes me happy. 

Creativity? Where is the creativity in TheCastle? Well - there actually has been some and there's quite a lot more up ahead because, in fact, some of my Other Messy Corners involve Drawing and Knitting, Prayer and Writing. In the darkest days of late January I picked up a copy of Knitters Magazine and fell deeply in love with Fiona Ellis' pink cabled sweater. (Shush. Do NOT ask me about my oatmeal Aran sweater. We aren't ready to talk about that yet.)

You can see it on the web page - with the number 58 beside it - that's the page number where you'll find it in the magazine. I love and admire Ms. Ellis SO much. I feel blessed to have taken a class from her and have longed to knit at least one of her designs ... which is a rare desire for TheQueen, who tends to only knit stuff she's made up herself. Of course, with finances hijacked by Mars and, even in the wretched month of January, the budding desire to tidy up the clutter in TheCastle, I didn't want to buy any new yarn. Diving into the stash, though, I found a bag of, now discontinued, Louisa Harding Jasmine - in this pretty coral color. It's a blend of cotton, bamboo, silk and polyester and there is probably only enough to knit this sweater with short sleeves - but it knits to gauge and will make the best warm weather sweater to throw on in chilly air conditioned offices come this summer. 

In an effort to cheer up his deeply depressed queen, ThePrince has been reading Tolkien out loud and this has proved to be a wonderful project to knit while listening. I almost never knit flat pieces but I'm following the directions on this project. Slow going,  a little sloppy with guttered purl rows, but I'm okay with it and definitely not in any hurry. Here is what I've done so far.

And here's where I'm going to end up. (back view) I'm just about ready to start the decreases and to knit that little flourish of a cable at the top.

There has also been drawing - for pencils and pens have called out to me in a sad lament. Well - they did a few weeks ago and I responded.  Though creaky - my hands are starting to feel more confident with each day's practice. Yes. Lots of faerie stuff - and we can just pretend it's inspired by Tolkien. If there is more to say later - it will be said. 

Mostly it's just fun. 

So. That's the state of things here in TheCastle. TheQueen is moving forward into 2014 at last, with a lighter heart and sunnier outlook than the cold drear of January would have predicted. It is now Tomorrow - and we are all At Tara. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Pussy Cat Pussy Cat, Where Have You Been?

She's been to Champlain to visit TheQueen

and watch her melt down into the Deep Pit of Frozen Darkness that is Winter 2014. Ugh. 

And though I doubt anybody even still checks in on this silent blog - I am not yet ready to abandon my Voice-Of-The-Inner-Self. I have been having a little extra-blogatal fling on SparkPeople where I have also been grousing about how tough things are and how blue I am. Or rather - I have been faking it till I make it with reasons why ... at least February is better than January. So - in an effort to put up a minimum of 2 posts from TheCastle in February - here is a compilation of those reasons why February 2014 is better than January 2014.

1. It's not as long a month. With only 28 days even if February has its own set of downers - we won't have to live with them for long. 

2. Every evening the sky will be lighter on my drive home. Yay for daylight - which brings more opportunity for sunshine - which means the cold will lessen, my house will be easier to heat, and I won't have to hover by the wood stove quite so attentively.

3. Starting the month without shoulder pain.  My shoulder responded very well to physical therapy. What is better - I know how to keep it from hurting. I'll have better posture as well - so I'll look slimmer. almost 3 reasons in one. 

4. February had a Super bowl party with my Richmond cousins - in a house big enough that my constant chatter didn't interfere with other people's enjoyment of the game 

5. February had a birthday party for my GF and there was cake. And smoked salmon. 

6. February has not had a single day that got colder than 15 degrees F. 

7. Baby Puppy Juno was fixed so we don’t have to worry about accidents. Yay. 

8.  In February I weighed less than in January – not much, but you know don’t you …. less is just so sweet. 

9. I pulled out my pens and my sketchbook and drew some. I’m rusty – but I’m drawing. 

10. We hiked through White Oak Swamp, my enchanted forest – the place that heals me, that inspires me to write and to draw. 

11. There were moments when real happiness clothed my heart – not just the fake-it-till-I-make-it jacket I had to wear the rest of the time. 

12. In February someone stopped me as I was walking to the post office and said “I wondered who that cute teenage girl walking down the street was – and it was you!”      Now friends – I haven’t been confused for a teen for 30 years. It’s not that I actually did look like a teen, but that someone nice enough to think a compliment was even nicer and stopped to share it. 

As the days rolled by this February a subtle change began to take root in the heart of TheQueen, and there came a day when she knew she had rounded the depression corner onto joy street. 

And just how many of you ever read Joy Street, by Frances Parkinson Keyes? It's the sort of novel you'd find at your grandmother's house when you were a girl visiting during the summer.  You'd pull it off the bookshelf and slip on up to the room you were using, the one your daddy slept in with his big brother, to lie on the bed and escape between its covers. 

The library still has my favorites of hers on the shelves ... all except Steamboat Gothic, with its cracked binding ... It is on the "Can't Part With It" shelf in my office. La - I am thinking the library needs to do a Featured Author corner and push her. 

Yes. Of course I'm an ENFP. Why do you ask?

Okay - back to February - which, in spite of all it's difficulties, still has more reasons why it's better than January. 

13. Baby Puppy Juno has stopped scratching on the door - which makes us feel less besieged and assures the safety of the very expensive new front door we will be putting in come springtime 

14. emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon Day, and the annual valentine poem from Himself ... 

15. The fact that there is a Himself still alive to write me a valentine poem - (Just thought of that one. Never ever ever forget to say "Thank You, God" for that one) 

16.  Finally was able to hire the new employee at work so the workload has lessened on us all. Everyone is happier. 

17.   A couple of days of blue skies and 60 degree weather flashing across Virginia, allowing us to walk about town in shirtsleeves, smiling at people, feeling the promise of daffodils and lilacs and soft fluttery new baby leaves on the trees. Not here yet - but coming. 

18. The dead tree that fell down in the big wind on Friday (tornado warning wind) did not fall on the house. I am convinced that if that wind had blown in  January ... we'd be fixing the roof. 

19.  An hour and a half of sweet time with Mama, watching the old home movies. We haven't put them on CD yet so in order to share them with her I have to haul a small, but heavy VCR playback machine to her nursing home and set it up on her rolling tray. Mama's pretty much bed ridden and her world is a hospital bed and a big window - happily looking out on a little spinney full of birds and squirrels. 

20.  38 minutes on the stationary bike before work Wednesday - though long before reaching the half way point of my workout I realized that this high intensity routine that makes me breathe hard and sweat a lot is an essential part of my life. No. It is an ESSENTIAL part of my life. It's what makes it possible for me to stay on an even keel - to look at life as full of possibilities instead of crowded by threats. The long quiet slow hikes across country are also valuable for me - a hike through White Oak Swamp can ease my soul - but not in the same way this intense, hard, but brief, physical effort does. One is like a good night's sleep - the other is more of a brisk shower. And I absolutely need both. 

And I just had the sudden memory of my crazy father - the world's most difficult and challenging (and wonderful and horrible and magnificent) dad. He really was a terror till he retired, bought 3 horses and rode like Gerald O'Hara across the countryside for the next 20 years. All those years he worked in his desk job he was an unpredictable misery to the whole family. Once he could burn off hundreds of calories a day by pushing his body hard and fast he became so much happier, so much more fun, so much more the man he wanted to be. 

Obviously the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. I won't let exercise get pushed to the side for so long again. 

So. There are my 20 reasons why February is better than January. I will actually have a few more for the Other Blog but this is enough to prove to any remaining followers of TheQueen - that she's alright and will be receiving visitors on the 12th at 4. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

January does NOT define the whole year

“When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this - you haven't.”

 - - - Thomas A. Edison

I love this quote. I don't usually hunt down quotes - but I always enjoy a good one when it comes along. Besides, Edison said many pithy things that are worth noting and here was just the message I needed to read. January had pretty much sucked all the joy out of me - the list goes on and on (and on and on and on) Yesterday, on the last day of January, when I drove up to my mail box and opened the car window - the aroma of sludge poured into the car - and followed me all the way home. I  knew the farmer was going to be spreading it soon - but the olfactory notice just about knocked me out. Think grungy bus station bathroom times infinity.

I have been having a hard time getting in the exercise I like this winter. It's been difficult to get to the gym because
1. was out of town,
2. had meetings for work,
3. gym was closed.

My back-up for Not Enough Gym Time is the freedom of walking for miles and miles through my woods and over my fields - and past my neighbors' fields and woods as well. Even though we don't let the farmer put sludge on our farm, we're surrounded by fields that are be-sludged and fragrance knows no boundaries. So now - walking is out till enough rain and warm weather cleanses the air.

My first thought yesterday was "there goes my weekend exercise. Just another opportunity for fat to leap onto me"  But this morning's quote reminds me that I can work out right here in my own home. I have equipment. I can even go into town and use the gym. It will just require a change in my plans. It just means I haven't exhausted all the possibilities.

In fact - here are some of the ones I can think of right off the top of my head:

Saturday afternoon at the gym
Putting on some up-beat music and using my aerobic step
Playing an exercise DVD I've never even watched all the way through and learning something new
Getting in the car and driving someplace new to take a hike

My exercise limits are only in my mind - not in reality. And those other things that have felt like leaden weights pressing on my heart? Every one of them has at least 4 solutions. There is enough money to pay all those doctor bills. There are delicious foods that I can cook that won't pile on the lbs. I will be able to hire the new staffer at work on Monday next so we won't feel stretched so thin.  Cold will moderate eventually and we can use the parts of the house that have been shut off. We will find the contractor we want to hire to put in central heat. In fact - time will bring solutions that I can't even imagine. One month does not define a whole year.

So what do you know - I had intended to make this blog a long list of all the things that beset me in January - I think perhaps to brag a little about how tough I am to have survived them all with only a bit of weight gain and a  bruised joy center. But instead I think it's better to see those troubles as merely prods that pushed me in a different direction. Nobody likes change (unless it's a wet baby) but everyone grows by adapting to it.

That extreme cold and the heart attack made us finally get up off our backsides and begin the process of putting in central heat.
The new county hiring policy made me  have to think a lot more seriously about what I am looking for in a new employee.
Even the sludge has made me reevaluate the resources I already have.

Many years ago (many many) I had to go through an extreme crisis. I had one girlfriend who knew the details of what I was experiencing and one day when I was weeping on her shoulder, wailing "Why me? What did I do to deserve this?"

She gave me the greatest gift and the only comfort I could possibly use. She said "Bess, honey. It's just your turn."

Immediately I was released from the guilt of causation. And not just me. Everyone involved with my personal crisis was absolved. Bad things come along in everyone's life. Cold, skunks and sludge, crummy employees you have to fire, even heart attacks - they're not judgments. They're things. They're not pointing fingers saying "You Are Bad. You Brought This On  Yourself. You Deserve It"  They're just ... things.

Outside things don't define us - it's what we do with those outside things that define us. So. May you always remember who you are - not who you think you look like you are - and you are someone who has choices, possibilities, and options. If no where else - you have them in your heart.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Where Have You Been, Oh Queen?

I can't believe January is two thirds gone and I still haven't gotten resolutions written or my house clean or any knitting done or even anything creative started. It's as if Mercury went into retrograde the moment I put the last box of Christmas ornaments up in the attic. (It didn't - and doesn't till Feb. 6, btw - so there's that to look forward too as well) TheQueen is decidedly sluggish and inclined to feel blue and sorry for herself.

Mind now - I like down time. I actually look forward to January as a time to indulge in sit-down, indoor pleasures. I just haven't sat down, indulged in pleasure or even been able to think of any pleasures in which to indulge. I am thinking it's reaction to a bunch of blue inducing stressors that washed over me in December. Things like Heart Attacks and Losing my Weight Watcher meeting.

Oh yes. And there has also been pain. This is something I didn't talk about as it seeped into my world - certainly not to BD with his heart attack or my children who were only here for a short visit. I didn't want to trouble them. I wasn't even sure this was real pain and not just some selfish reaction to being around someone who was really sick. I secretly worry that my sisters are right and I am a selfish pig who thinks it's all about MeMeMeMeMe.  I didn't want to talk to the doctor if I wasn't really in pain. I didn't want him to know just what a hypochondriac I really am. No doubt about it - I am really scared of sickness and if I see it in one place I can see it lurking outside every window.

But the truth is in December I was in pain. Lots of pain. Unable to sleep pain. Sick to my stomach pain. Familiar shoulder pain that, off and on, over the course of almost a decade, several doctors and I have tried to find a solution to. We've looked at heart ... because of shooting pain down my left arm. We've looked at spine, especially neck, because of the tingling and faint numbness in my left hand. We've concentrated mostly on the neck and we just haven't found anything concrete.

I finally did make a doctor's appointment and immediately began to feel better - which just made me more sure that I would get that dread diagnosis - the one every woman hears far too often: "STRESS"  Well duh. Sure. I was under stress. Who isn't? I was also in pain.

Fortunately, my doctor took me seriously. He's an O.D. rather than an M.D. and he manipulated my arm and shoulder till tears sprang into my eyes. And he prescribed physical therapy  for my rotator cuff.

Happily I'm a good candidate for exercise treatments since I actually love exercise.  And in just over a week I'm feeling so much better I'm almost giddy.  I told the therapist on Tuesday that one of the exercises he gave me felt so good I could do it the rest of my life.

"That's exactly what I expect you to do" he told me with a twinkle in his eye.

And so - perhaps at least one New Year's Resolution is to do the PT exercises ... every day for the rest of my life.


So TheQueen has been down in the dumps but obviously, if she can talk about it, she's on the mend. And I am.

One thing that came out of the Heart Attack was the decision to put in central heat and we have been interviewing contractors and talking to people with all sorts of heating systems. We've about narrowed down our choice of heat source and are now only have to pick a contractor. We're waiting for their bids to come in. In more house improvements, it looks like we'll be getting a new front door. BD is going to look at one a carpenter found tomorrow. It's a complete unit with door, transom and side windows and it exactly fits our door opening. We've talked about this almost as long as we've talked about putting in central heat. It's rather thrilling to think they will both happen this year. There Will Be Photos.

As well, little tendrils of creativity have stirred beneath the soil of my discontent: A twinge of excitement when I looked at the two bags of knitting beneath my bedside table - A hum of energy coursing into my fingers when I looked at a new art book full of interesting exercises. I am reassured that life will return to TheCastle - the new and improved castle at that - and more, and less pitiful, posts will appear.


At Tara.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Goodbye Christmas, Hello New Year

It's always bitter sweet when we have to say goodbye to Christmas and this year is no different - I'm so glad it's gone and I so wish it was still up ahead. This particular Christmas was so strange because nothing turned out the way I planned it back in November. I took lots of time off this year so that I could do serious socializing and instead I've been home pretty much the whole time. Not that I mind being home - I rather love it - but it was just different - not as carefree as usual. And then - not what I'd been hoping to do either - dashing off to have lunch with J and gathering with the Richmond loved ones on Boxing Day. Ah well. So. It was different. It was still wonderful. And ... I'm still glad to pack it all up too.  

 But since this is my blog ... and as such is a bit of a diary - here are some highlights to remember - like visiting Mama with LD. I went back again on Monday too and Sister and I had a lovely time looking at an old scrap book full of newspaper clippings about Mama's Wonderful Daughters.
Here is the new 4-some smiling on Christmas eve. PD is one of two great gifts of the season - now Mrs. Darling, as of December 20. Aren't we lucky?

 And here is my Big Darling, home from the hospital (YAY YAY YAY THANK YOU, GOD) and hinting about opening presents - which were plentiful this year. Santa was particularly generous. Even Mrs. Santa had a gift or two.
The Little Darlings added so much to the festive feeling and yet were able to get off alone at least a little bit - after all - this sudden early visit was biting into their honeymoon.
 There was lots of rain on the weekend but it cleared up enough to get in beautiful hikes with my two labradors - dang - I thought Callie was in this picture - but she's such a speed demon it's hard to catch her with the camera unless she's up on the couch. Juno, otoh, is always ready to strike a pose. She was 40 lbs on Christmas Day - 5 months and 40 lbs! Whew.
The sun went down into a clear horizon on the last day of 2013 - not anything to create a vivid sunset but one that looks like we'll have smooth sailing in 2014. At least - that's MY plan and I'm stickin' to it.

And now - here we are - on the far side of Christmas and even well into next year. There's no more holiday left - just the sweet memories - the little disappointments - the big scare - and the enormous monumental gargantuan mountain of thankfulness that I'm here with BD and we ain't goin' nowhere.

When the werk of putting Christmas back in the attic was done I did take my annual bubble-bath, then fingered the pages of last year's journal and plotted out my new year's resolutions. I'll be back with a post about them tomorrow - at Tara.