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Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Break in the Heat

We already got a break in the drought about 2 weeks ago with some serious rainfall. Since that first Sunday in July we've had almost 5 inches - so this tiny quarter inch we got last night is just icing on the cake, not a disappointment. What I'm really welcoming is the relief from the blazing sun. A few cloudy days in the summertime make my whole body relax just as low humidity blue skies (what TheQueen calls California Weather) energizes it. This weekend, though, I'm ready to relax.

Which does not mean that TheQueen hath been slothful. She - er - I spent yesterday replacing things in the newly renovated bathroom. Pitching, Organizing and Replacing, that is. When we began the project I tossed bags and bags and BAGS of stuff - since I was cleaning out, not only the cabinets but also 20 years of hidden clutter in a knee wall space where a drier vent had to go. But even with that massive haul to the recycling center, I knew there was still crap that I didn't want to put back into my beautiful beige and white and green zen bathroom. More stuff was deleted yesterday and everything that I kept was put into white plastic Trays of Categorization and set on shelves that will be labeled. The idea is that if you want something - you can see what tray it is in and just take that tray out. On new TheQueen's Shelves there are More Trays of Categorization so that I can keep the vanity top bare - so that it can be wiped down easily - and regularly.

There are more organizational tweaks and there are some Organizational Vows that will be written, signed, and sworn to. But I will write about them later.  I am not going to post photos till it's all finished and there is still one bit, painted yesterday and not dry yet, so I shall stop talking about my Zen Bathroom and scrounge around inside my brain to see if there are Other Things I can post about. Other Things besides how ... when you clean up one area of your house you start looking at the rest of it with a critical eye. I tweaked things in my bedroom and even in the guest/office/packing/junk room. That room is so full of Stuff - yet it's the bigger of the two bedrooms. BD asked yesterday if I didn't think we ought to move into that room. It would be cooler in the summer since it's on the east end of the house though it was always the coldest room when LD lived at home - so ... I'm not sure. Besides. I don't think we can stuff everything that's in it now into a smaller space. Maybe. Just not sure.

But it's worth thinking about seriously, critically, productively.

Ah well. I don't really have anything I'm ready to share here yet. There are Other Things, but they're way too embryonic to talk about. Other than that - there is nothing to do today - except we might have guests coming. Might not, since it's so cloudy and the plan was to spend a day of play on the river ... we shall just have to see. And next week - I promise - photos of the Zen Bathroom.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hot Hot Hotty Hot Hot Hot - A Whiny Post

It's so hot. It's hellish hotness. It's sweaty hot, sticky hot, ugh hot hot hot hot.

I am supposing it's this hot in lots of places these days. I saw on some news broadcast that exty levendy hundred counties in America are under drought conditions. Why is summer so gal durn hot. Why can't we get snow in July, when we need it, instead of in January, when ... well ... we need it then too.

Whew. Well. That felt good.

It seems as if the only thing I do these days is seek ways to stay cool. I am sure that's not true ... it just seems that way. It's been my stupidest seeming summer. And if I get 1 stitch knit a week I'm doing well. Even ThePrince (Consort) said the project I was working on (that brown Egyptian Collar top) looked hot. It's fairly heavy cotton so ... yeah - it does look hot. I don't think I'd have worn it this week - and I have woven in only about 1/3 of the ends that need to be tucked beneath companion stitches. There is yellow silk on needles that is whining that I Never Pay Attention and I love Brown Cotton Best. It's not true even if it looks that way. Besides, Brown Cotton was in line first. It has waited 2 years. Still, I feel guilty. But my brain just cant seem to shift out of idle enough to do Knitting Math.

no preview This is the only knitting I feel like doing.

Here is how Jack keeps cool - crawling under the desk into TheCave. (please ignore the thighs)

I've been such a slug this summer. I still haven't put stuff back into the bathroom after the Great Renovation (why you have not seen any photos). Well... I'll cut myself a little slack. I am still looking for the right accessories to keep the bathroom better organized. I intend to keep this zen bathroom calm and peacefully uncluttered. I promise - there will be a photo blog soon. Proof that TheQueen is not a slug all the time.

  In this wretched weather - when we are not having watermelon for dinner this is about all we're good for.

So. What is TheQueen about to do on this hot hot hot day? Yes. That's right. It's Thursday morning. She's going to the gym for a weight lifting class.

Yes. She is crazy.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

My Amazing Mother

I have always had the most wonderful relationship with my mom. I could never understand the classic mother/daughter struggle, even though, as much as anyone could, I got along with Dad too. Of course - it could be that I am just such a stellar person that nobody could ever not get along with me - at least, it's fun to imagine so. Still, we shan't investigate that too deeply, now, shall we?
The truth is - I've had a school girl crush on my pretty mother ever since I can remember. She always made sense to me - even when Other People said she was ... well, let's use the word "flaky". She was like some magical fairy - like Glenda the Good Witch as she was portrayed in the movie version of Wizard of Oz. (the literary Glenda is much more like a wise headmistress at some very well run girl's school - nothing near as ditsy as the lady with the frizzy hair saying "Home?!? Why didn't you say so? I thought you wanted to go to Kansas!")

Mama always knew a song you hadn't heard before - and she had a pretty voice to sing it with. She knew how to take a pair of scissors, make 2 cuts and VOILA! You had a new dress for your doll ... even if you couldn't sew. Till she grew old and crippled, her house was spotless and I don't remember ever seeing her clean it - not dust it, push a vacuum, or wipe a counter.And yet there were the odd bits of clutter that kept our home from looking like some magazine lay-out. I know I got my trick of keeping one room "company ready" from her.  Granted she had daughters who were assigned house cleaning chores but we never had to do it all. She was a durn good administrator, now I come to think of it. 

She believed that everybody needs a day off now and then, and gave us carte blanche to pick the day - just so long as we weren't avoiding real responsibility. The knowledge that you could duck out of school some day for no real reason except you wanted to was like having a jewel in a treasure box - no school year ever lasted too long with that sort of wealth. 

Her weakness was food - which she could barely cook - we had some awful meals interspersed with a raft of bland food, punctuated, now and then by inspired deliciousness. She was quick to resign cooking duties and all her daughters were given free rein in the kitchen. I began cooking at 12 and I'm still having fun with pots and pans. Mama, otoh, preferred to eat the 4 C's: cookies, candy, cake and cheese - with a little ice cream on the side. She struggled with weight all her life and it curtailed a lot of her choices once she crossed into Old Age. And yet - she'll be 90 on her next birthday - so .. she's contradicted all the statistics. Not that I would want the Old Age she's had - because it's so sedentary and so alone. Still and all - it's something to think about - this striving for eternal youth we Baby Boomers cling to. 

Yesterday I visited her and took along a notebook of stories, memories and poems she wrote in the 1980's. I hadn't realized how many of these I had not read. Her memories included the tale of her parents' cross country road trip in the 1910's, driving a Stanley Steamer from Pennsylvania to California. They included stories about being a student nurse at the hospital in Wimber, Pa. They included tales of boys she knew who died in WWII. They also included one painful episode from my teens. They are powerful and they are precious.

Some of her stories were about how hard it was to be the Not Pretty sister in a big family with a terrorizing bully for a big brother. And yet - she refused to be crushed by that. She decided that if she couldn't be pretty (???!!!???) she could still be attractive and boy could she attract people to her ... like flies to a honey pot. I know there have been, from time to time, within the family and without, people who thought Mama was either silly or insincere or something. They were wrong. Mama was what she was - and she wanted to belong. She was willing to add to her store of social tools to fit in, but she never compromised her own gifts to do that. She enjoyed flirting. She liked to sparkle at the center of attention. But she never gave up her essential self. As I said - she merely added a dressing to the salad.

And it was that belief that, if you didn't like what you had you could do something about it, that she passed on to me: Perhaps the greatest gift a parent could give a child - the gift of action - of choice - of possibility.

Obviously ... I still have a crush on Mama. 

Hazel's Amazing Mother (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition) (Picture Puffins)
We have a book in the library by Rosemary Wells: Hazel's Amazing Mother. I read it at story hour every May near Mother's Day. It's my favorite story about how amazing mothers are and whenever I read it I think "Yup. Bess' Amazing Mother" Because boy did I have one. If you know an amazing mother - especially if she's a new young mother - you might want to give her a copy of this, come next Mother's Day. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Why Is She So Silent? - and Where Is The Knitting?

Ah well - the knitting is on the floor by the corner of the couch in the den where it awaits an audience with TheQueen. It's at the point where it requires Knitting Math and it's been so overwhelmingly hot this summer TheQueen's Brain has not felt up to calculations beyond simple equations like

"If There Are 5 Lbs of Ice in the Freezer, How Many More Pages of a Georgette Heyer Novel Can TheQueen Read Before She Has to Make a Run to the Store?" 

 And there is a wonderful (but cotton) project that just needs a tediously endless number of ends woven in. Her Highness has to go to the Big City this weekend and she'll be a passenger in the car - there will be time to stitch in bits of twisted cotton and I promise - there will be a photo next week. This is an old project that was a wee bit too tight so there wasn't much inspiration to finish it. TheQueen is a wee bit smaller this summer and she'd really like to wear (and show off her design skills) this transitional garment (it'll work just great all the way into October here in the skitzo climate of eastern Virginia)

If you can't wait - here is a photo of it on a slimmer lady taken when it was almost done - 2 years ago - Shame on me!

As to Why She Is So Silent ... well ... because she - er - I, (don't really have to do this 3rd person thing throughout the whole blog, do I?)  have been overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by heat first of all - days and days of triple digit temps and drought. Trees have dropped leaves like it was October, I can't believe the corn will make a crop and doubt the beans will either. In 30 days we've had 5 days over 100 and 1 inch of rain. Temps have dropped a little, into the frosty high 80's but we're still wickedly dry.

Silence was also engendered by a mold allergy attack that just would not go away ... but wouldn't get really bad enough to take to the doctor. Till Monday, that is, when I finally felt so awful I wheedled my way into the doctor's office and got on some powerful meds. Within hours the rock lifted off my chest and I was able to sleep the afternoon away.

Of course, sleeping the afternoon away came at a heavy cost because this is the absolutely busiest and most stressful (and fun too) summer at work I've ever experienced. The first Tuesday of July we had our highest book circulation ever - 497 not counting the honor books. We flew past that top statistic this past Tuesday  with a daily count of 552 books that required staff handling. Mind now - this is a tiny community of 11K people and a small library with a staff of 4 fte. This is humping. In fact - if you divide that number by the number of staff hours we had that day, somebody was handling a book every 3.75 minutes - and interacting with the book checker outer ... the library user - being nice and making them happy enough to want to come back. There were also 60 people at the story program in the afternoon (to be nice to) and something like 60 Other People on the computers ( who want help applying for a job at Old Navy and think is a good email address to have)  and there were the 500 books to put back on the shelves ... And none of this people interaction stuff has anything to do with:

Board meeting prep
Budget issues
Switching our library computer operating system to Something Else
Contracting for More Technology ... downloadable audio books this time
Leak in roof with subsequent wet ceiling tile falling onto bathroom floor
Backed up condensation tube in A/C unit - might be related - might not according to the HVAC man

Yeah. I'm already looking forward to my next vacation. Haven't wanted to even think about all this - but since it's now at the point where I have to Act - it helps to write down what's going on so at least I know how many fires I'm going to have to tend ... or put out.

Oh yes - there is also TheQueen's Social Schedule - which has included 3 waves of wonderful guests (happy happy happy) and a Wedding (Happier Happier Happier). And TheReunion is still up ahead. oh my.

I haven't even mentioned the Construction at TheCastle. We had our bathroom gutted and restored at the end of June - and yes there are photos but I haven't put everything back in place - partly because it's been too hot and partly because there is still a tee tiny item left to be done. I promise. Soon soon. Just realize that bathrooms are also places that fill up with clutter and the detritus of 30 years. I threw out 5 tall kitchen trash bags of junk before the MenWithTools arrived and I expect to toss another 2 bags of junk before I start the restocking process. And from now on - As Gawd Is Muh Witnuss -  no new makeup comes into this house without its half used predecessor being tossed. I do NOT need 40 shades of anything but if I ever should need a new shade, tube, wand, stick, cream, bottle or puff - I will go buy a new one. I will NOT keep an ancient one around ... just in case.

Right now, everything is Very White - with soothing beige and grey and soft green accents and until I tire of this Clean White Newness, my plans for covering all the walls and cabinets with a garden mural complete with blue-sky-and-puffy-white-cloud-ceiling can wait.

So my friends - that is Why She Has Been So Silent.

I'll try to do better in the future.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

12 in 12 for July - just a wee bit late

Alas, and just a wee bit chagrined about how I did in June with that month's selection. 

Not So Well. 

But then again ... if looked at from a different angle, pretty durn well after all. 

June's selection was to pick a big life goal and do something every day towards achieving it. The motivation behind this habit which I would like to incorporate into my every day life is the desire to not let time pass without making a push to do the things I want ... and suddenly waking up and finding out it's too late. Behind THAT motivation was a vague sensation that some things ... not necessarily a bucket list of them ... but just things I'd always thought of doing were no where near happening. For example - taking a boat up a fjord in Norway. 

The trouble is - I got stuck on that Norway trip and couldn't think of anything else on the list and was too tired, too busy, and maybe just too chicken/lazy to move on even that known desire. The trip idea stems from a photograph in my 4th grade geography book, taken from the top of a mountain, looking down on a single boat steaming up a fjord. I have never ever forgotten that picture and how I felt the first time I saw it. So... allow me to pause and at least look up fjord tours on the internet ...

There - I feel a lot better. 

Trouble is - throughout June I couldn't seem to think of any other Big Life Goals that I wanted to achieve. Obviously I need to carve out some dreaming time to create such a list. I will do that this month - both for work and for my life outside of work - because ... I would love some destinations. 

But even though I couldn't come up with any New Ideas, in fact, I did do something every day that moved me towards a B L G. I tracked my food daily. And I drank water regularly. And I exercised when I was feeling healthy and did not exercise when my allgergy/cold was at its worse. And I got right back into the exercise routine immediately I felt better.  And I made serious progress in my weight loss and my nutritional health.

Every day I did something that got me closer to the  B L G  of a healthy body! So July was a resounding success that showed up on the scale and in the red dress I wore on Friday to a wedding - a size 12 red dress from a shop that does not shrink the numbers on their size tags. 


And I prayed positive good healthy prayers. Maybe not every day but frequently.
I also complimented staff - if not every day - often, in order to let them know that I value them and exactly why I do. 
And I did this during a particularly stressful period of work and bad weather and upper respiratory crud. 

What do you know - now I think about it - I did pretty durn well in June. 

So what's on tap for July? 

Well - I am going to pick something I already began adding way back in January - because I am still having stress and bad weather and even a tad bit of lung congestion. I choose: 

4. The Charles Schwab list at work 
At least he's the one credited with the idea - you list the top 5 things you need to do tomorrow. Prioritize that list. Then - do those 5 things first, every day, even if you do nothing else. If there is something on that list you did not do today, it becomes the top item on tomorrow's list. The key here is you do it every day. I've diddled with this and know it works - but - I've not been consistent with it. 

I would absolutely love to end July with a string of accomplishments behind me and a wide open August with some vacation time to kick back and play in. I actually have the accumulated leave - but I wouldn't take it if I was behind at work. There are 23 days left in July and let's say 14 or even 21 days in August to apply the Charles Schwab List to my work life. Then I could take the 3rd or 4th week of August off ... and Stay Home!!!!  Yep. And right now - a week off, doing only what I wanted to do, or nothing at all, is a BLG. I know that Charles Schwab list is just the ticket to a week of stress free freedom. 

So that's my 12 in 12 selection for July - See ya on vacation.

Friday, July 6, 2012

One Year Ago - One Year Later - Still Loving My Daddy

July 6, 2011 was a Wednesday and everybody connected with TheQueen knows that Wednesday means Story Hour/. The previous week had been full of family and sadness as Daddy's life slowly ebbed. I had been by his side almost every day but at last I had come home for a spell - however brief - to check in on my work world. Driving in to work, I had just reached the big highway when my heart was gripped with a tearing pain - a sensation like some skin or membrane was being pulled off of me. I stopped the car and gasped for breath. It only lasted a moment but it was powerfully strong and it took me another few minutes to feel normal again.  I told myself it was just anxiety coupled with imagination, even though I actually know I am every bit as fey as Mama. I just put the experience and any concllusion I might have had about it in the box of Things To Think About Later ... at Tara.

But once I got to the library one of my staff told me to call my sister right away. I did and sister told me, in a sober voice, that "Daddy had an incident this morning." 

"At 20 to 10, right?" I answered.

"Yes and we have an appointment with hospice at 2:30"

He was still alive, but only barely. They had removed the Oxygen Pump Of Torture to feed him a little applesauce and instead he began to suffocate. Vital signs plummeted. The full force of the medical establishment leapt into action and he had rallied but I knew. Sister knew. Daddy probably knew too.

I went ahead and held the Story Hour, then went home to pack. BD was confused and frustrated because he, of course, hadn't felt that tearing sensation - and though in more sober moments he trusts my antennae, in a crisis, he must fall back on the Haile Mathematical Mind. We are what we are and I am an iNtuitive, Feeling Perceiver. He is a Sensory, Thinking Judge. Different Gifts.  

There was a terrific rain storm as I hit the city limits. (What I wouldn't give for a terrific rain storm today ... Daddy? Can't you talk to the weather guy?) My memory of that day was of all grey colors - the grey sky, the sandy grey look of the hospital, the dusky light in the atrium. Sister and I chatted with the hospice nurse. "You're positive you want to do this?" she asked. We both answered "We love him! Would you make your daddy live like that just so you could keep him near?"

"They'll come for him" the nurse told us. 

I thought she meant some different part of the hospital staff. "The doctors?"

"No. 'They' will come. He won't go alone. I've seen hundreds of these passings and sometimes I've even seen 'Them'." she told me in a dead serious voice. 

And they did. About an hour after he had sunk into a medically induced state of non-anxiety he suddenly sat up and began talking to someone at the foot of his bed. Then he lay back, sank into sleep, and then slipped away for the last time. 

It was his and Mama's 65th wedding anniversary. Imagine that. I miss him almost every day, though the dragging downer feeling has lifted some. I know, having had to bid both a beloved father-in-law and a most precious mother-in-law goodbye, that the ache will lessen as the warmth of the memories grows. Oh - yes - sometimes the missing hurts - but it's always that good sort of hurt that makes you glad - like when it was time for a baby tooth to come out and you'd nudge it till it tore a little. You knew it was time for something new - time to step into the next stage of life - or, as in the case of death, time for the first stage of what comes next. I am sure it will be wonderful since everything I've had so far has been so wonderful. 

In fact, one of the wonderful things that comes next is the next generation of children stepping into the world of grown-ups: To grow up, to graduate, to marry. Today we will celebrate at a wedding of young cousins who are starting out on their own Next Stage. How special that it will happen on the anniversary of a marriage that lasted for 65 years. I wish them the same - or better! I suppose every day is some sort of anniversary of someone's momentous first step into the unknown. In fact - today will be a step into the unknown for us all. May it be a marvelous adventure - for the bride and groom, for the greater family, for each and every one of us. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Socks' Story

On a spring day in 2001, ThePrince(Consort) and I were driving off the flats when, just at the top of the bank of Farmer's Hall Creek we noticed a yellow flash streak across the road in front of our car. "It's a puppy!" one of us shouted out as my prince slammed to a halt. He backed up a bit and there, at the old road into Rose Hill was a pile of brush. From behind it, suddenly popped up one, two, three, four, five! Five little mongrel puppy heads.

If you ever hear that I have gone to jail it will be because I actually caught someone dropping of a litter of puppies in the woods, because "after all, they come from wild animals, they can survive in the woods." After I had broken both this evildoer's knee caps I would have walked off calling out "see how well you survive in the woods!" as I brushed my hands in satisfaction. There is very little that can get me steaming, but people who are too lazy, selfish, maudlin and thoughtless to make even the worst of the possible "right" choices and put down a litter of unwanted puppies are at the top of the list.

Okay - off my soapbox - because really this is a tribute to Socks, who came to us out of the woods 11 years ago and last Friday, left us to go back into the woods. It was a very hot day and though she hadn't taken a walk in weeks, this time she decided to follow ThePrince(Consort) over to White Oak Swamp. Whenever she does go on that walk, she peels off and goes to some secret place she loves over there - someplace off the path and known only to her. She always rejoins us, often twice or thrice during a stroll, but certainly she's always there at the tar road, ready to head back to Jacob's Gut for a cool dip and sip. This time, she did not. BD said he saw her twice on this stroll and her breathing was labored - but she soon slipped away to her special place and though we've searched for her numerous times, she has not been found. We don't expect to see her again.

Socks was a mixture of every kind of dog grown in Upper Essex - She had little tiny paws with huge tufts of fur between the toes. She had the golden fur of a Labrador retriever but the thick ruff of a collie. Her triangular ears stuck out to the sides for years, though as she aged they pointed straight up. We would call her "Yoda" and "Airplane Ears" but always with the gentle tone that makes a dog feel loved. Her main activity was sleeping on the bed, her one virtue was that she wiped out the moles in our front yard. She had acute hearing and a stubbornness that precluded ever changing her mind.

Of course, when she came to us she was just a scrawny little yellow puppy, homely to almost ugliness, and totally unwanted. Of the 5 puppies we scooped up that day, BD found homes for 4 of them. He returned with this one little puppy and a pleading look of puppy depravation on his face. "We can keep her. We have hundreds of acres. We can certainly make room for one more. Between the two of us we have 4 arms, we can pet them all......"  TheQueen was not convinced. She already had 3 dogs. Nobody needs four!! But the menfolk in her life prevailed.

BD had to leave town for a week and he swore that if I kept her that one week, he would find a home for her when he returned. Of course - nobody can leave a woman home with just a puppy for a whole week and not trigger her possessive maternal instincts. I began to notice things were disappearing and one day my glasses vanished. I posted watch on that little yellow puppy and when she picked up one of my socks and dragged it beneath the dresser in the den, I followed. There was the whole cache of hidden treasures, all of them carrying my scent. This little dog was creating a den full of her beloved's objects. My heart melted.

Socks loved to be wet. She loved to sink herself in the dog swimming pool, right where the lane crosses the little stream we call Jacob's Gut. A few years ago she caught one of the severe tick-born diseases and though she recovered to some extent, from then on she began to retreat. She loved to get under the yurt and burrow into the soft dirt. Every morning she'd come up to the house to get a biscuit and visit for about an hour. Then she'd slink back under the yurt, to reappear at dinner time. She would follow Jack up to the house and watch Dog TV in the winter (the fire in the stove) or lie on the floor in the den if we were watching a DVD. When we went to bed, she went back out to her little nest of soft sandy soil.

In some ways, she became less of a pet and more of a neighbor who just dropped in now and then. But she always got to do things her way. And so Socks, who became our 4th dog, and then our 3rd dog, who, when Ike died moved up to become our 2nd dog, was here to welcome baby puppy Jack and become our 3rd dog again. Then, last spring, when Priss left us, she became our 2nd dog, and now .... she is gone.

Fare the well, Miss Socks, Yoda, Airplane Ears, Yellow Thing. Go back into the spirit of the woods and know you were loved.