Friday, February 27, 2009

Television Incompatibility

How many television stations do we really need? If you ask John, he'd tell you that he can't live without the NASA channel, the Military channel, or the Western channel. I could. It's alright, though. I have an iPod with really good headphones. He also would have trouble living without whatever stations carry Numbers, Bones, and House. We also depend on Fox News and the Weather Channel.

Me? When I'm working on knitting, I like to have the Game Show Network running in the background. I can ignore it during difficult stitch counting or pattern-following areas without missing anything, but enjoy answering the questions when I'm just doing straight work. If I'm wanting to be entertained, I tend to gravitate toward the Food Network or Discovery channels. I also enjoy the singing and dancing shows, where I can argue with the choices made by the judges. Yes, I watch American Idol and Dancing with the Stars. I even vote, although that's difficult. 

Why is it difficult for me to vote? We have Voice Over IP. That means our phone isn't a typical land line. It goes through the computer's internet router. Since we had our California phone number for over 30 years, we kept that and added a Colorado number to it. Both numbers ring at the same typical telephone. You can't tell the difference if you're in the house. It acts like a normal phone. When we call out, however, it always looks like we're calling from California, since AT&T refuse to let us reverse the order of our numbers, making the Colorado number primary. None of their competitors will let us have two numbers yet—we checked—so we're stuck with this. So if I vote, I have to wait for California's show to end. They start two hours later than we do, since we get Central Time TV programming, even though we're really in the Mountain Time Zone. 

Here's why it all works for us. John and I both get up between five and six in the morning. That's where the similarity to our sleeping pattern ends. He goes to bed about seven at night. I follow him about four or five hours later. If I lie down more than six hours at a time, my back tends to go into spasm. It can hurt for a long time. I'm not fond of pain medication—or pain, for that matter. I've worked a system where I sleep about five or six hours at night, and take a couple of hours to nap in the afternoon, usually between one and four o'clock somewhere. I lie down and listen to an audiobook until I fall asleep. Sometimes it takes awhile, but not usually. Then I'm ready for the night.

John spends the mornings in his radio room,  has the afternoon for his shoot 'em ups, and after dinner he heads off to bed pretty quickly. That's when I can indulge myself in reality TV if I want to. I thought Top Chef ended nicely. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Knitted Sweater Vest for Mom

It's been awhile since I knitted anything with cables. Making this sweater vest for my mom was slightly challenging, but mostly a joy, since I knew she was excited about getting it. Unfortunately, when I finished the front, delighted to have finally finished the basic sweater so I could start on the detail work, which would take me another few days, I noticed that I had twisted one of the cables down near the bottom of the sweater.

It's worse than it sounds. This sweater vest is knitted from the bottom up. Redoing the front would take about a week. I set it aside and went to bed. Some time during the night I woke up, remembering what happens when you drop a stitch and don't catch it in time. The whole thing unravels. It can unravel all the way down a sweater. I got up and looked at the offending garment. The problem was about 190 rows down. The cables twisted every six rows. I went back to bed.

The next morning I looked at it again, then called John over. He was pleased to see that it was off the needles. I laid it out flat and asked if he saw anything strange. He looked about fifteen seconds, then pointed right to the mistake. He tried to convince me that it would just give the sweater "character." I knew it would be the only thing I saw whenever Mom wore it, though. Knowing Mom, she'd be sure to wear it when I was around, just so I'd know my efforts were appreciated. She's like that.

Knowing what I risked if it didn't work (having to redo the entire front) I still decided to try repairing just the cable. I put the other stitches on holders and used a crochet hook to pick out the cable stitches down to the problem area. I didn't cry, but I felt like it. I never did a repair job like that before, and I wasn't at all sure it was going to be successful. 

I figured I'd better take a photo before I started to work on it. I'm not quite sure why, but now that my plan worked, I'm glad I did. I also hope I never have to do such a thing again. It took a day and a half of squeezing the needles and cable hook into the tiny gap and making sure the yarn tension was perfect for each stitch so that it came out evenly on each row. Also, it was great fun constantly having to twist that sweater back and forth, counting to six and double-checking that I was making the cables right each time. I  actually got about a third of the way up when I realized I had started one row off, and the cables didn't quite match the ones on the other side, so I unraveled and began over. Why not?

So now that it's done, I'm satisfied. Do you suppose it was worth it? To me it was. I'm not sure how much Mom would have cared. I'll wash and dry it, since it's a little wrinkled from being crumpled in my lap during the crafting process, but I should get it in the mail this week. I don't think I'll tell her it's done, either. Surprise! I'm hardly ever glad she doesn't have a computer.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ben and Ruth in Holland

Ben and Ruth made it safely to Amsterdam last night with our grandchildren. They flew all night, crossing however many time zones necessary, and landed safely this morning. I got a quick text message saying they were in their house, the heat was on, and they were going to take a nap. He also said they might have Voice Over IP phones by tomorrow.

That all sounds easy enough, but there were some concerns about them actually being allowed in the country at all. They'll probably blog about it once they're back online, but from what I understand, there are three ways to get into the country. You can have a visa, a work card, or a return ticket. They didn't have any of those things. Since Ben's being transferred, the visa and work card will be granted once he's there. You have to be be in the country to get them, and the paperwork is underway already. Since they'll be there for approximately three years, the return ticket would be a bad idea, so they flew one-way at company expense.

Add to these potential problems the fact that the person who was supposed to meet them with their house key has been out of the country for a week or so and they hadn't been able to contact her before boarding the plane. So if they did get into the country, they weren't sure if they could get into their house. If they did get into the house, though, they faced another possible situation.

You can't get a bank account over there until you have an in-country source of income. His job over there starts March 1st. His first paycheck will come after that. Then he can get a bank account. You can't turn on your utilities with cash or an out of country check. It has to be a check drawn on a local bank. Consequently, they weren't sure if they were going to have heat for the first couple of weeks.

Finding out last night just how many things could go wrong for them, I did what I always do when I wish I could take problems away from my kids. I pray. I get stomach cramps. I spend a sleepless night running back and forth to the bathroom and eventually remember to take Immodium. I was sure happy to get that text message this morning.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Which Way Did They Go?

For this entire week, I haven't seen a single deer on our property. This happens a few times a year, and I always wonder where they go when they're not here. Also, why do all of them disappear at the same time? They don't thin out gradually. One day they're here, and the next, they're not. Just last week, there were a couple dozen deer running around here—grazing, looking contented and happy. They would munch and watch me watching them. Do you suppose they get together and have conversations?

"Hey, Bambi, let's go see what they're growing on the other side of the hill."

"Gee, Faline, we were there a couple of months ago, and it wasn't nearly as nice as this. Remember? And it was a long walk back. You complained all the way."

"Well, I want to go, anyway. We never go anywhere anymore."

"I suppose you're going to keep at me until I agree, huh?"

"See, you're getting smarter every year."

"Well, let's see if we can get the whole herd to go along. Maybe the house people will put out some new salt licks while we're gone."

No, I don't suppose they talk. There are probably very good reasons why they disappear for a couple of weeks once in awhile. I just wish they'd leave a note or something, so I'd know when they're coming back. I miss them.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

He Makes My Life Easier

Too many accidents have led to arthritis and constant back pain. Some of the everyday tasks in the kitchen tend to aggravate the muscles of the back, and can have consequences that last hours, if not days. One of the most annoying of these is sautéing ground beef. There's something in the motion that feels like it's ripping me apart by the time I'm done.

For most of our married life, I did anything I could to avoid cooking anything that used cooked ground beef. We didn't have spaghetti as often as my family would have liked, even though it was one of my better recipes. If you think about it, if you cut out the cooked ground meat, there go your tacos, burritos, taco salads, chili, and more than a score of other tasty and inexpensive meals.

Just before John retired, I had so many "helpful" friends tell me I wouldn't like what I was going to get. They said I'd have half the money and twice the man, including whatever problems we had together. Well, the half the money would be true if we still lived in California, but since we paid off all our bills before moving to the more affordable State of Colorado, our money goes further than what we were getting while he was working. As for having twice as much of him, that's been a blessing. Yes, I'm gradually working my way back to the ground beef.

One of the ways he makes my life easier is to take that job away from me. We buy ground beef from our local Sams Club. I get about six pounds at a time, and he puts it in our biggest skillet. He sautés it so beautifully that every grain is separate and equal. It's almost democratic. It's perfectly seasoned with salt and a little onion powder. Once it's drained and cooled, I waltz in and use the vacuum sealer he bought me. I separate it into airtight single meal bags, labeled and dated, and stick them in the freezer. When I want to make something using ground beef, I just pull one out of the freezer.

If you asked John, I'll bet he'd say it was no big deal. He figures he's just making a contribution to my feeding him. Actually, though, I know that he never complains, no matter what I serve. He does it for me. And you know what? It's just one of many things he says and does to make me forever grateful that he's home with me, and not still having to head out to work every day. If you're facing retirement, don't fear the "half the money, twice the husband" scenario. It just might turn out to be full of blessings and surprises.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Meaning of Dreams

My mom has started having recurring dreams. This is the second time she's asked me what they might mean, and last time I did some research on the computer, and couldn't find anything that might apply to an 88-year old great grandmother who doesn't do any childcare. Maybe someone who reads this can help.

Some of these dreams are calm, but many of them are terrifying nightmares. They're all about small children. Most of the time she's looking for the little ones. They're either lost or stolen, and she can't find them. Sometimes she sees them in the distance, but no matter how hard she runs, she can't catch them, and they disappear into the distance. Sometimes she can't see them, but can hear them screaming. She says a few of the dreams have had her chasing the kids, and they're running away from her. She's not angry, she's scared, but the children are afraid of her and they don't understand that she's trying to catch them in order to protect them.

Whenever one of these dreams wakes her up, which is now about two to three times a week, she can't get back to sleep. The first time she mentioned it to me was about six months ago, so I think it's gone on long enough. She won't talk to the doctor about it, because she thinks it's "just dumb." 

Anybody have some ideas I can give her? This has really got her spooked.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

My Valentine

We've never really celebrated Valentine's Day. Don't get me wrong. I always buy a nice card for John, and a little gift of some kind, but that's as far as it ever goes. It doesn't really show up on our radar beyond that. It's never bothered me, because as a kid, Valentine's Day was the worst holiday on the books.

Being the new kid in class was traumatic if you arrived just before Valentine's Day. Back when I was young, it seems like every teacher would have the kids bring Valentines with names on them, and everyone would have a little bag on their desk. Kids would go around and put the cards in the bags. If they didn't know the new kid, usually me, then the new kid didn't get a card. It wasn't unusual for me to leave my class of 30 to 35 kids with only two to three Valentines in my bag. It was a mighty ugly feeling. Because of that, I got used to being a Valentine giver, not a receiver.

Last night I was sitting in my chair watching an old black and white movie, "Topper," on television while I worked on knitting the cabled sweater vest for my mom. John came in and stood there watching me. I paused the movie and the knitting needles. 

"What do you want to do for Valentines Day?" he asked. Obviously I was surprised. We never do anything. 

"Do?" I asked.

"Yes. Let's go out to lunch or something."

And that's what we did. We had a late lunch at the Cracker Barrel before going to church. It was really nice. I felt very special, and let him know how happy I am, living my life with him. These days, that man is just full of surprises.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Room With a View

We do have lots of room here, and each room has a view. We love being home. I remember when we'd look forward to being on the road. I craved travel when we lived in the suburbs of California, just the chance to go anywhere. Now there's just nothing quite so fine as being home—unless it's being home with friends or family here to enjoy it with us.

These photos reflect just two of the mornings that have blessed us since we've been back from our last trip to California. The first was taken just before daybreak one morning. The other was taken a few days later, just after the sun came up. Both these photos were taken looking toward the hills in the West, so the sun is rising behind the house, and I'm
on the front deck. The crisp air smells so fresh 
and clean.

It's a grand way
to start
a new day. 

Thursday, February 12, 2009

My Biggest Smiles

So many things make me happy. Those who know me are no stranger to my smile. Perhaps the one thing that makes me the happiest, though, is when I make a gift for someone and it turns out to be just right. 

On our recent trip to California, I spent a couple of weeks sitting on the bed in our hotel room, following a sweater pattern line by line as I made sweaters for my two granddaughters. When I saw the pattern picture, I knew the girls had to have these sweaters for Easter. They have inset tulips along the bottom, front and back, and the tulip has always been their mother Ruth's favorite flower.

Whenever I make something like that, I realize that several things can go wrong. I've made things that weren't to people's taste. I've even made things that didn't fit. My friend Stacey's baby Hanne got one of the little outfits that Kate outgrew before it was finished. It was an old fashioned jacket with a lace bottom. 

I'd never done lace knit before, and kept having to start over. It was pretty confusing, but both little girls finally ended up with their jackets and hats. I don't have photos of my granddaughter yet, but got a few of Hanne, so I'll include them. 

Of course, the sweaters I started in California weren't finished there. I completed Ashley's, and finally finished Kate's. When I made Kate's, though, I figured out a better way to make the buttonholes, so I took Ashley's apart and re-knitted the front section and sewed it back together. What's another week to a Grandma when you're retired, anyway?

Well, I'm smiling now, because the sweaters arrived at Ben and Ruth's home today, and they not only fit,
but Ruth loved them. 

Ashley wore hers today, and Ruth says it looks like Kate's will fit as well. When she said they were the nicest things I'd ever made for them, my smile was as big as it ever gets. You sure can't buy that! When Ben called later to add his thanks and say how pretty he thought they were, I was practically dancing.

There's little enough a Grandma can do from so far away for family and friends she loves. This makes me happy. I'm so glad it makes others happy, too.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Time to Wash Out My Ears

Talking with my friend Sherrie tonight on the phone, we covered a multitude of subjects, from our grandchildren, all girls, to time zones, and how our television programs come on Central Time, even though we're actually in the Mountain Time Zone. When something starts at my house, it'll start two hours later at her home in California. The early programming is nice, especially on nights when a body might get tired earlier. That could happen. Some day.

Out of the blue, Sherrie shocked me. I couldn't believe my ears. 

"Have you ever been unfaithful?"

"No, I've never been unfaithful. Why would you ask me that?"

She started to laugh. Finally I understood. She hadn't said what I heard at all. She had asked, "Have you ever been on Facebook?" 

We had a good laugh. I guess my ears are as congested as the rest of me. It's just a good thing I could honestly answer the way I did, or we wouldn't have ended up laughing about the misunderstanding. It's always good, though, to have that one person in your life who could actually get away with asking you anything. She could if anyone could. I just wasn't sure why she'd want to, for a minute there.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Brain is Working

Today I forced my still-sick body into the car to go for my annual neurology checkup, and found out my brain is still working. That's always good to know. I lost a considerable amount of memory tracking after the last seizures, and I'm beyond grateful to have been referred to Dr. Joseph Schmitt in Loveland, Colorado. 

He saw me frequently at first, and ran so many tests I knew he wasn't leaving anything up to chance. He asked questions about my childhood. He adjusted medications. He explained why listening to audio books would help reconnect the synapses that weren't connecting in the communication center of the brain. I felt like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz, singing, "If I Only Had a Brain." 

Today the only question I missed was, "What day of the week is it?" I sure thought it was Wednesday, but it was only Tuesday. Being sick probably had something to do with that, but as I told him, since we retired, the day of the week doesn't mean much to me anymore. My knitting needles don't care what day it is. Neither do my books or camera. And when I write, it doesn't matter at all what day it is. If I had to miss something, that would be the least problematic. I can get the day of the week from my watch. 

Now I don't have to go back for a year, unless I start having seizures again. He'll call in a few days to let me know the results of the blood test. It determines whether or not my medication levels are still correct. He takes good care of me. And it's nice to know that my memory hasn't gotten worse from a year ago. Some days it seems like it has. I suppose I just forgot how much I didn't remember then.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Queen For A Day

When I was quite small there was a television program called "Queen For a Day" where several ladies would be featured. They would each have a sob story, some reason their lives were really hard, tragic or pathetic. At the end of the half hour, one of the ladies would be crowned Queen for a day, and given many gifts to ease her life and bring her joy. That show always fascinated me. I got my turn this week, but not on television.

We arrived home from California just in time to celebrate my birthday. It had to be the best birthday I've ever had. If I said that last year as well, then just accept the fact that my life just keeps getting better. The morning was split, partly with my knitting needles, working on sweaters for my granddaughters, and later with a wonderful novel. It's Melissa Mayhue's newest Highlander novel, and when she combines magic and Scotland, it's a perfect read.

John took me to lunch at the Olive Garden. We gallivanted around town for hours, then had frozen custard at Culvert's, and finally went over to the Cracker Barrel to pick up take out dinners (in case we ever got hungry that night). He did. I didn't. Mine kept until the next night. And we were home enough for just about every person I love to call and wish me a happy birthday. I think those calls, and the cards I received, just made the day all the more special. 

I had realized on our way home from California that I might be getting sick. My chest felt congested. Luckily, I didn't really get to feeling nasty until the night after my birthday. I got up during the night and took some cold medicine, and have been under the weather since, but I don't care. I'm still happy. At least I'm home.