Monday, November 30, 2015

Keep Moving Forward . . .

NOTE:  I have no idea why Blogger insists on keeping two paragraphs of this post in red . . .

Today is the last day of NaBloPoMo.  Although I'm about ready for a little blogging break, it has been a helpful exercise for me and I'm really glad I decided to participate in it.

As I look back on this month of daily posts, one of the things that has been a somewhat regular theme is that of:  I am enough.  I put that in bold because I think that women, in particular, often struggle with this concept.  To know that whatever I have been able to accomplish is enough is a big deal  To know that I am enough, is huge.

As I have looked at my life in this past month I've spent a lot of time thinking about where I'm at, what shape my house is in, and how I want to move forward.  Writing daily made so many things clear for me!  But I was also helped along this journey by my friends.  There was one day early on in the month when multiple people helped me see the forest for the trees.  I thank them!!

First my trainer helped me see that I was doing well with Weight Watchers.  I had been back at it for seven weeks, and I'd lost 11+ pounds by that point.  I really thought I should have lost closer to 20 pounds by then because I was thinking that I should be able to lose 10 pounds a month and seven weeks was almost a month.  At the minimum, I thought I should have lost at least 14 by then, which would have been two pounds a week.  Well, no, I was averaging about a pound and a half a week. Seriously - that's awesome and I couldn't see it because I had an arbitrary number that wasn't right for me stuck in my head. So - Yay Me!!  He also helped me that same morning to see that my exercise "homework" could be broken down and that I didn't have to get all of it done all at one time - and that I didn't even have to get it all done immediately - that I could could start with one thing and build from there.  This is big because I have a tendency to be a bit black & white with stuff like this, e.g., if I can't get it all done at once, then I can't get it done.

And second -  I had been feeling the strain of my weekly podcast.  I started weekly production again in May of this year, but by earlier this month I knew that I was running out of material again, which would mean that I would begin to repeat myself. I spoke to two different, trusted friends and they were able to help me break it down.  I kept thinking that I had to hold on until the end of the year, when what I really needed to do was honor what I knew to true.

It was a banner day  :-)

Throughout the month I began to see more ways in which I could simplify my life - more things around the house that needed to be donated so that someone else could use them - and more ways in which I could take better care of my health and my spirit.

And so I have continued on my journey of health and wellness - I'm 10 weeks into WW now and am down 18 pounds.  I'll take that.  :-)

I'm not where I would like to be with my exercise homework yet - mainly due to an inflammatory bout of Wonky Knee, but I have gotten more stretching in and am working with the Dreaded Foam Roller nearly every day.  It's really helping.  Getting my mind past the persistent thought that I used to be able to pound out an hour and a half on the treadmill every morning and so should be able to do that again immediately - that was a pretty big deal for me.  I'm doing the best I can at the moment.  It's enough.

I'd like to say that my office is back to being a comfortable and inviting place rather than the last cluttered construction staging area . . . but I didn't quite get that far.   But I will, and, for now, that's enough  :-)

I decorated for Christmas a little early and have been enjoying it more than you can possibly imagine.  I didn''t go with the big tree, but the things I have around me make me happy, and I'm holding off another year on changing the star lights  ;-)

Probably the biggest decision I made in November was to end the podcast at Episode 111.  I used podcast interview footage I had been holding on to for the last three episodes and I released the last look at All About African Violets on Friday.  That was a little early, but having already had two days off made it seem like Sunday, so I decided to put it out there and move forward.  111 episodes seems like a good legacy, and 111 is a really awesome and powerful numberAll About African Violets is done now.  No special episodes are planned this time.  It was hard, but we all know that change is hard.  When a television show's ratings go down, it gets cancelled, and if you run out of material, you begin to repeat yourself.  I could see my viewership stats, and I was out of material.  The costs associated with keeping the server space on Wordpress were substantial; and, it took me anywhere from 4 to 5 hours a week to produce an episode every week.  I'm looking forward to having that money stay in savings and very much looking forward to having that time back in my life.  But mostly, it was knowing that I needed to say, "enough."  I'm proud of myself for getting that right.  :-)  It was time to keep moving forward.

The words "Keep Moving Forward" are really important to me.  They are very much about how I strive to live my life.  If "Dance Like No One is Watching" is my motto, "Keep Moving Forward" is my credo.  It's clear that November has been a watershed month in many, many areas for me - so many ways in which I have actively made a choice to let something go and/or move forward in some way.  I thank Samhain and NaBloPoMo for this.  Samhain for the natural drawing in of the spirit - this part of the year when it's time to percolate and think and prepare for what will come in the spring.   And NaBloPoMo for guiding me to get my thoughts out and down on the page.  Posting every day was very therapeutic for these 30 days past.

And now it's Christmastime  :-)  Enjoy . . .

Sunday, November 29, 2015

And While We Are Dreaming . . .

Time is not linear.  Dr. Who would say, it's "wibbly wobbly timey wimey." :-)  Mostly, though, I experience it as a spiral where I make renewed acquaintance of challenges I thought I had already met and conquered earlier on.  In the spiral of time these challenges just appear in a different place and time in my life and I am asked to reexamine them again.

I mean, you work through something and you think, "Great!  Thank God that's done." or "Whew! I'm through that now."  And then it comes around again at a different age or in a slightly different form and Gibbs slaps you, and you have to re-examine it and work through it again.  And you think, "Really???  Didn't I already DO this???"  But being in a different time and place in your life makes it new in a way you could not have imagined the last time it rolled around.  You find there's more work to do.

On my bulletin board - where I keep important stuff - is this:

You can click to biggify - but here's what it says:  "She packed up her potential and all she had learned, grabbed a Cute pair of shoes and headed out to change a few things."  and  "Her heart glowed with a degree of happy assurance."  On the bag, the tag says:  "To: The World," and the word "pluck" is in the middle.  A friend gave this to me because she said it reminded her of me.  :-)  I like to think that's true - that I pack what I've learned and have it with me at all times so that when time spirals a challenge around again, I'm ready -  Cute shoes in hand  :-)

There are a lot of quotes about time.
  • The bad news is time flies.  The good news is that you're the pilot.
  • The way we spend our time defines who we are.
  • The trouble is, you think you have time (Buddha)
  • Time heals what reason cannot.
  • Time doesn't stop and wait for anyone.  Move on!
  • Tempus fugit (that's Latin, for "time flies")
I could go on.

Mostly, I think that life is short and that we are meant to live it, not watch it pass us by.  We have a finite amount of time here, and I find that it moves must more quickly once you are of a certain age.

Tempus fugit, indeed . . .

Don't waste it, A.  Don't waste it . . .

This is one of my all-time favorite Jimmy Webb songs.  I didn't know that it was written with Ray Bradbury for musical called Dandelion Wine.  It's about time . . .

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Knitting Content :-D

How about a little knitting content on this blog?  :-D

I haven't forgotten about all the WIPs, and I continue to work through them.  I just finished #16 on the list, the Holidazed socks.

These were a YOSS pattern from December 2014.  I'm really glad that they are done and I didn't take an entire year to finish them.  :-D

They are very thick socks.  The yarn is Socks That Rock Mediumweight, in the Farmhouse colorway.  I like them.

Yesterday I also pulled out The Big Easy Gansey sweater - #8 on the WIP List - and discovered, to my dismay, that I had knit about 3 or 4 inches too far.  I mean, it was going to be a dress if I started the armholes as far up as I had gotten  :-D  Oh well.  Another project that has been sitting for more than a year.  I really hope I have learned my lesson about letting things sit around.  I will be so happy when that list is clear.

On the left is where I started - I took the photo on Wednesday morning for the YOSS Thanksgiving Finish-It-Up Challenge.  The one of the right is where I frogged back to - I'm about to pop in some Sherlock Holmes and curl up in the sunroom with this.  I'd like to at least get back to where I was - this time with the armholes in place  :-D

As always - you can click to biggify any of the photos  :-)

Friday, November 27, 2015

Here We Go . . .

I got the first Advent email from d365 this morning.  I signed up to get their daily devotionals for Advent and for Lent.  For Advent it's called Following the Star.  I like it.  It's a nice way to center and start my day.

I am so grateful for this 4-day weekend as we head into what can often be the craziness of Christmas.  I don't have a lot of holiday plans in place at the moment, but you know how things come up, particularly in December  :-)

There are three days left in NaBloPoMo.  It's been an excellent exercise for me and I'm very glad that I've taken part for the first time.

I motivated and went with my cousin over to the club for a great stretch class this morning (I'm  back in my jams already  :-D).  She had already been out shopping!  Every year she goes to the Home Depot for their door buster 99 cent poinsettias.  She got 15 for her house and she always brings me three.  :-D  Here they are!

I put them on a decorative glass platter on my little kitchen table.  They are way festive  :-)  And they're in excellent shape!

Christmastime is here . . .  :-)

This is my favorite Christmas carol -  I really like this guy's cover.  His name is Nathan Drake.  His website is called Reawaken. I like the space where he's singing, and I like the simplicity of his arrangement. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving . . .

Happy Thanksgiving!

I have so much to be grateful for - not the least of which was a wonderful dinner at my cousin S's house today with other members of my extended family.  It was excellent!  Tomorrow I'm going to the movies with my cousin ME.  We want to see Love the Coopers.  :-D

I hope wherever you are that you have had a Thanksgiving full of love and joy and family and friends, and really good food.

As we head full tilt into Christmas, I hope to remember the words of Julian of Norwich when things go completely sideways during the Holidays (they always do at some point  :-D ):

All shall be well.  And all shall be well.  And all manner of thing shall be well.

Her book, Revelations of Divine Love, was the first published book in English written by a woman.  In 1395.  Talk about a woman ahead of her time . . .  It's on my list to read.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Well Done . . .

I don't know what day I thought it was yesterday - I posted twice because I must have thought it was Wednesday and had missed my Ten on Tuesday post.

Clearly, I NEED this four-day weekend . . .

I did well on the train home today.  We got out a couple of hours early for the holiday tomorrow.  If I had hurried, I could have caught the special extra train that left at 3:15.  I didn't hurry.  I waited and got on the regular 3:20 train home.  It makes most of the stops, but I didn't mind.  I had a book with me that I'm reading - Cheryl Richardson's The Art of Extreme Self-Care.  It's quite good.

Even though most people got on the extra train, the 3:20 was a little crowded.  There were people standing in the vestibule, but I felt that many if not all of them would likely get off at stops before mine this time.  I was right.  :-)  I did have to do a little bit of my breathing exercise (breathe in peace, breathe out fear), but I was on it in a timely manner this time at the first hint that I might have an issue.  It worked.  :-)   I also sat in car 5 on a 6-car train.  Normally I would have been in car 4, but I dropped back a little further to hopefully avoid the congestion of people trying to get out closer to the platform steps down to the parking lot.  It was a good plan. Breathing, sitting strategically, focusing on the book, and looking out the window instead of at the doorway all helped me make it through what could have been another meltdown.

I'm feeling very good that I paid attention.  Yay Me!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Good Sunscreen and a Hat . . .

Well, it looks like two posts today - I forgot to click "publish" last night on Tuesday's post :-D

I am really looking forward to the 4-day weekend here.  I have a lot of things I'd like to do!

The violets need some potting attention, and I need some serious downtime.

Now that my collection of African violets is at 35 varieties, everything is much more manageable than when I had 50, so the thought of spending some time down at my potting bench is not daunting any longer.

I have bags to take to the Second Chance shop to donate so will do that on Saturday,

My office looks no better than it did when I posted about it a couple of weeks ago . . . so there's always something to accomplish in there  :-D

And, I am looking forward to some serious downtime for myself.

I don't have plans for Thanksgiving, although I will probably go over to one of my cousins' homes at some point that day.  But if I don't, I will make a good dinner - probably fish since although I can eat chicken again, I still pretty much avoid turkey.

Yesterday I went to the dermatologist for a body check.  I am very, very careful about my skin because I am so fair.  According to the doc, people as fair as I (and he!) have a 30% higher chance of getting skin cancer.  Good sunscreen and a hat.  My mom drummed it in to me.  She was even more fair than I am.  I did have one very bad blistering sunburn - over most of my body back in high school when we were all trying to get tan (never mind that I was never going to get tan - I did try . . . ).  I had to spend the rest of the summer in long pants and long-sleeved shirts because just walking outside in the sunlight was painful. I stayed inside a lot  :-D   It was a very bad burn and I was very lucky - particularly lucky that my face didn't scar. I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop on that, though.  It only takes one really bad sunburn to cause problems later in life.  So far I have escaped them.  I'm crossing my fingers  :-)

I have the most sun damage on my arms - a farmer tan that's not tan  :-D  There is some sun damage on my chest, too, but not too much.  And really, I'm mostly just freckled up a bit, even on my face.

The doc recommends that I use a daily sunscreen with a 30-50 SPF.  I have a 30 that I use in the summer for every day, but the Clinique one I like for winter wear only has 20 SPF, so I got some new stuff from the doc.  It's from a line called Revision.  I hope I like it - the comments are pretty good about it.  It has 50 SPF.  If I like it, it appears that I can get it on Amazon for a little bit less than what I paid, so that's a bonus  :-)

I've always taken good care of my skin, probably because I worked in live theatre throughout my 20s, 30s, and 40s.  I was always the the last out out of the dressing room after a show - I was taking my makeup off and being sure that my face was clean, toned, and moisturized.  I do use some retinoid cream now.  Pretty much everyone should, according to the doc.  He also advised that the stuff you can get over the counter isn't strong enough to make any difference, so if you want to use something like this, you need to get it from a dermatologist, or get a prescription - but it's not covered by insurance, so in my experience it's cheaper to get it from the doc.

He looked at a wonky spot on my face that has looked shiny to me ever since the accident last November.  At the point of impact I had turned my head and the side curtain airbag deployed across the right side of my head and face, burning (like a rug burn) and scraping my right ear and the right side of my face, and giving me a black eye and scratched cornea.  He said that as the abrasions healed on my face that the scar tissue in that area healed white, which is why it appears shiny to me.  There's nothing wrong, which is good, and I cover it easily with some concealer and the light base that I use.

I don't have to go back for two years!

So, take my mom's advice to heart:  Good sunscreen and a hat.  :-)

Ten on Tuesday . . .

This week's Ten on Tuesday topic is:  10 Things I am Thankful for Right Now

The email said that they added the "right now" to help make it a little different from your average Thanksgiving week post because they use this topic every year.

So - at the moment I am thankful for:

  1. Waking up
  2. A whole lot less pain in my knees.
  3. Finishing a November YOSS pattern hat.
  4. Ice melter.
  5. My hiking boots.
  6. SmartWool socks.
  7. Apples and peanut butter
  8. Christmas music  :-)
  9. The upcoming 4-day weekend
  10. A good skin check at the dermatologist
Somehow this didn't get posted yesterday!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Star Light . . .

I hold on to stuff.  This is not a new revelation  :-D  It's just that I find something I like and I hold on to it.  I'm not sure if this is a personal trait, or a trait of my Taurus nature - we're not keen on change, you know ;-D

These are my star lights.  They are strings of Italian lights with stars on them.  I bought them at IKEA at least a decade ago and they've held up quite well over the years.  Now, though, some of them are dying.  You're supposed to be able to change the bulbs, but, thus far, I have not been successful in so doing.

IKEA doesn't have them any longer - I'm thinking that they suffered from the same issues as the lights I used to have in my sunroom, because most of the time you can shake them and they come back on. 

The windows on the north side of my home are oversized.  That's my kitchen window - here's another view so you can see how large it really is. 

And they are the same in the living room - just more of them.

And one more in the dining room, which is where I'm standing in the above photo  :-D

And the star lights are absolutely perfect.  They hang all the way down and they look so awesome! 

And I'm thinking I'm going to have to find some other sort of lights to hang because enough of the strings are out now that I think they look wonky.  Those windows don't face the street, though, so they only look wonky to my neighbors.  They haven't complained.

As previously mentioned, I thought I had two more boxes of them downstairs, but I don't find them at the moment.  Oh well.  I will take another look because, you know, God forbid I should have to change . . .

Sunday, November 22, 2015

All Things Considered . . .

First snowfall of the season here yesterday and it was substantial - the second worst November winter storm in Chicagoland since they started recording this stuff  :-D

I shoveled the driveway - it was my workout for the day since it took me about an hour.  Because the ground was still quite warm, the initial snow was slushy and wet, particularly closer to the house.  There was no point getting out the snowblower even though I got gas for it and was ready to go - the slush would have just clogged it continually.  I got out there before dark, but it fell quickly and I did the majority of it after sunset.

That's the moon through the branches of my neighbor's tree.  It was pretty.  :-)  The mailman came very late yesterday - he asked me if I wanted him to come back later and help do the driveway.  So kind.  I continued on because I wanted to get it done before the temps dropped - it went down to about 11 degrees last night.

And it will warm up this week - by Thanksgiving it will be back up in the 50s!  So it goes.  Winter is definitely here.

Because of the bad weather yesterday, a lunch I had scheduled up on the northwest side was cancelled.  That meant that after my early WW meeting - interesting drive over there - my day was my own.  I did the first shovel of the driveway at about 5:30 a.m.  It was more sluicing than shoveling - pretty much just a layer of slush that I used the shovel to slide over to either side.  When I got home, I decided that it was time to get my Christmas stuff out  :-)  I've been trying to do it for a couple of weekends without success.  So my house is decorated.  That makes me all happy  :-)

The awesome star lights that I have hung in my windows for probably a decade are now on their last legs.  A number of the strings have gone out, and, although they say you can change the bulbs,  I have never been successful doing so.  IKEA doesn't sell them any more.  I thought I had a couple more boxes of them downstairs, but I didn't find them.  That doesn't mean that they're not there - it just means that stuff got moved around earlier this year and they could be on another shelf  :-D  I still need to put my old candelabras in the two front windows, and that's about it as far as anything that shows from the outside.

Inside I have holiday pillows and what I call The Polar Bear Family.  I brought two of the big one upstairs, but left most of the rest put away.  Going through everything gave me the opportunity to, once again, downsize Christmas.  I have plenty to go to the Second Chance shop next weekend on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

This is BunBun.

She has her own little Bun-size Christmas chair that I found somewhere, and she's pretty much a Christmas fixture.  I made her forever ago.  She's really very cute.  Her body is mostly the red fabric of her ears.  Her dress and pinafore are separate pieces, and you can't see them in this photo, but she has bloomers on that match her pinafore  :-D  It was an old Simplicity pattern, I think.  It's likely still around here somewhere.  probably in the basement . . .  She had a sister named Winky.  Linda the Chicken Lady has her, although she may have downsized in her big move to the West Coast.

The laundry is going, and I got two scarves washed and blocked drying in the guestroom.  As is customary, I fell asleep in the chair for at least an hour, and my knees seems to have stopped hurting.  I'm crossing my fingers, but I've take two days off from the Dreaded Foam Roller.  I will do it tomorrow for good measure just to be safe, but I'm feeling very, very hopeful there.

Really quite an excellent weekend, all things considered. :-)

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The ABCs of Me . . .

Alrighty then, I swiped this from Crazy Knitting Fool and have been saving it for just such an occasion, i.e. a day where I have a ton of stuff to accomplish at home and need to get cracking rather than sitting in front of the computer  :-D

A - Age: I'm as old as my tongue and a wee bit older than my teeth.  Thank you Gramma. (Seriously, according to my Irish Grandmother, a woman who'll tell her age will tell anything ;-) )
B - Biggest Fear: Being trapped or unable to get out/away (PTSD after last November's car accident).
C - Current time: 10:09 a..m., Central Standard Time.  It's snowing.  First snow of the year.
D - Drink you last had: Water.  It's pretty much always water.  Or tea.  But at the moment, it's water.
E - Easiest  person to talk to: My friend, T, knows where all the bodies are buried  ;-D
F - Favorite Song: Geez - you cannot ask a musician this question  :-D  Seriously!!  Do you mean favorite song to sing?  To sing along with? To dance to? To pipe? To listen to? From a musical? Ancient music? Popular music?  Sacred music?  This week's favorite?  Last month's favorite?  Do you see the problem here?  :-D  Go listen to Barry White and the Love Unlimited Orchestra play Love's Theme or to Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars. Or this. Or this. Or this.  Or - oh please, don't start me up, we could be here all day . . .
G - Grossest Memory: Yeah, no. No one needs to know that  :-D
H - Hometown: Chicagoland  :-)
I - In Love With: No one at the moment . . .
J - Jealous Of: Those closely and easily in touch with the intuitive side of their nature.
K - Killed Someone: ?!
L - Longest Relationship: Hmmmm, probably with my job  :-D  That's kinda sorry, isn't it?
M - Middle Name: Adrienne  (yeah, you're all wondering about that now, aren't you?  ;-D)
N - Number of Siblings: a half-brother and a million cousins who might as well be my siblings.
O - One Wish: A great and abiding love . . .  I'd settle for world peace, though.  Neither appears imminent, I'm afraid.
P - Person you last called: My friend, T.
Q - Question You’re Always Asked: "Can you really play the bagpipes?"   Yes, yes I can.
R - Reason to live: You know, every morning I wake up is a good reason to keep going.  I'm grateful for every day that I am given on this earthly plain.
S - Song you last sang:  LOL - It's either the choral Amen at the end of church on Sunday or I was singing along to Uptown Funk in the car.  Can't remember which one was last  :-D
T - Time you woke up: 5:00 a.m.  Yes, it's stupidly early for a Saturday.  I know.
U - Underwear color: Rose with purple dots :-D  And yeah, I had to look to be sure  :-D (hey, I got up really early)
V - Vacation Destination: So many - too many to choose just one.  I'd go back to Morocco  and/or Scotland in a New York minute.  Places I haven't been - Russia, Japan, Hawaii, and the Pacific Northwest
W - Worst Habit: I have a longstanding and unrequited love of cupcakes.
X - X-Rays you’ve had: Too many to count - from dental X-rays to an MRI of my brain (good news, there - I apparently DO have a brain).  Most recently, three or four views of my knees.
Y - Your favorite food: Steak.  Potatoes.  Pesto.  Shrimp.  Popcorn with butter.
Z - Zodiac Sign:  Taurus.  A pretty typical one, I might add  :-)

How about you?  Care to share?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Ice, Ice, Baby . . .

Whoever knew ice could hurt so good . . .

And no, I'm not going to subject you to Vanilla Ice and his ripped off riff.

Ain't nothin' like the real thing, baby - with its strange mashup of natural disasters and monster movies . . .

or concert footage with the luminous and amazing artists.

I couldn't decide - you can watch them both  :-)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Again, Part II . . .

Yesterday I touched on two core issues for me.

Not core as in my body core, but core as in issues/things I have to face, and face, and face again because I have not yet learned to manage them.

They are:  (1) Inflammation; and (2) the size of my ass.

I'm like that crockpot cookbook that I have:   Fix It and Forget It.  (there are a TON of them :-D)

I've spent my life thus far thinking that I can fix something and then forget it and go back to what I was doing before.  Seriously.  How long is it going to take me to get that I must make lifetime changes where these two issues are concerned?!

I have struggled with my weight forever because I never actually learned Maintenance when I reached my goal at Weight Watchers, lo these many years ago.  And, I have inflammation throughout my body because I'm obese and because I like sugar and all the crappy junk food that is so prevalent in our Western society today.  Really - I'm a walking talking ball of inflammation and it sucks.

Alrighty then . . .

Now what?

It's pretty simple, really - eat better, get more exercise, take my anti-inflammatory, use the damn Dreaded Foam Roller, continue to avoid added sugar (and seriously pick and choose when I really want to have something sweet knowing that if I choose to eat it I'm going to be in pain and likely suffer intestinal distress).  Oh, and I'd like to develop a yoga practice to help with flexibility and hopefully also inflammation.

Is that all????

I suppose it's not as difficult as it sounds.  I did live an ovo-pescetarian lifestyle for about a year - it was good, but it was not sustainable for me over the long-haul.  However, living that way is easier than you might suspect and I am moving toward it again.  There are some things in the house that need to get used up and not purchased again, and I am able to eat chicken again, which is going to make my life SO much easier than the last time.  So, I won't be strictly ovo-pescetarian.  I have a new label:  flexitarian. :-D  I suspect that cheese is going to have to be pretty limited again.  I'm really not looking forward to that part, but it's one of the things I have definitely been eating more of this year so it could be part of the problem, particularly since I'm way down on the sugar and still experiencing such pain. 

In the meantime, however, I'm cranky and mad and feeling really quite put upon.  How come everyone else can eat whatever they want?  Seriously - how come???

Maybe the answer to that is that not everyone else can.  Maybe I just think they can . . . In any case, I'm not comparing myself to anyone else any longer.  I have a serious reason to get my act together and strong focus to have the size of my ass be closer to Rhode Island than Kansas by the end of spring next year.  It's a goal I've set for myself.

We'll see how it goes.

There will be field reports.

I did have a good conversation with the doctor today - I never got to ask my usual million questions on Monday.  He thinks that starting a yoga practice will be a really good thing and will likely help.  He would prefer that I not explore acupuncture at this time, not wanting to add another modality until we have a better handle on what's going on.  He's firmly convinced that it's all lifestyle related and I'm sure he's right.  Continuing with WW, eliminating sugar and highly processed foods again, and adding flexibility exercise are going to help probably more than anything else.  One thing he is OK with, however, is my exploring the use of tart cherry extract.  I'm not going to do the juice because it's full of sugar, but I ordered some gelcaps (no sugar!) and am going to hope that they help, too.  Apparently they help a LOT of people.

I've hurt myself with that f-ing foam roller twice so far.  I don't have the strength to accurately use it around my shins so now I'm also rolling a golf ball around on the front of my legs - all around my shin bones - just to get some relief there, too.  Now the doc wants me to do it TWICE a day.  I'm not sure I can . . .  JesusHChrist I cannot even tell you how much I hurt yesterday.  I'm praying that it's going to get better in the next week.  I'm supposed to check back in with the doctor then.

Even though I am cranky about this mess I've gotten myself into, I am extremely grateful that I do not have arthritis. "No evidence of joint damage" are good words to hear. Many of my cousins have had it for years and they are all younger than I am.  I keep telling myself that it comes from the other sides of their families  ;-)   That may not be true, though - my mom had three different kinds of arthritis.  All the more reason why I am so grateful that I have none.

Enough!  This song makes me smile - a good way to start the day, right?  :-)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Again . . .

This was Monday's sunrise here in Chicagoland - the view from my deck.  It was a stunner.  I just thought you might like to see it  :-)



My visit to to my primary care doctor on Monday was informative - as it always is - except that it left me facing the same problem I've had in some form or another all along.  My knee is not loose, although he did have me go for an x-ray to be sure.  And the x-rays came back with two perfectly normal knees.  No issues.  And even more important, no arthritis.

However, if you've been keeping score at home, I'm sure you already know what I'm going to say next.

Yes.  Yes indeed.  It's inflammation.


It's disheartening.  I've been off added sugar for weeks again, and I'm down more than 15 pounds since mid-September.

And it's F-ing INFLAMMATION.


Linda the Chicken Lady suggested acupuncture as a possible treatment, but I haven't had much success with acupuncture in the past.  In my heart, I'm reasonably sure that gaining weight again this year has been a significant contributing factor in my having joint pain again.

I declined another course of prednisone even though I know that I would not hurt for awhile if I took it.  But, having just taken the P-Bomb in August, I was not anxious to take it again even at a lesser dose.  Besides which, it really only masks the symptoms, which would come quickly back once the course was done.  I was advised that daily use of the Dreaded Foam Roller would be just as good as massage and much cheaper, since I already have one of my own at home.  I don't use it on my upper body or on my shins, but I do use it on my hammies, calves, IT band, quads, and glutes.  I don't do it very well - it's difficult to do and it hurts like hell, but I do the best I can, and I know it will eventually get easier the smaller I get.

I started last night.  I couldn't bring myself to start on Monday.  The Dreaded Foam Roller is extremely painful to use, but it does offer some relief, which is one of the clues that this is inflammation related rather than a loose joint problem.

And so, I've decided that I will continue with my anti-inflammatory twice a day, I'm using the Dreaded Foam Roller to the best of my ability, and I will look at getting more stretching in.  Yoga for the Rest of Us, here I come.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Ten on Tuesday . . .

The Ten on Tuesday topic for today is:  10 Places You Hang Out
  1. The train platform.  I hang out there waiting for the train every morning unless I am running late, in which case I am not hanging out - rather, I am running up the steps and hopefully directly on to the last car if the conductor is kind enough to wait for me.  It's always 50/50 depending on how late I actually am, but for the most part, if they see you hustling, they will hold the door for you.
  2. The train itself.  I hang out on the train twice a day :-D  I get a lot of reading and knitting done on the train.
  3. My sunroom.  I hang out here more than anywhere else, and of all the construction done in my home earlier this year, I think I like the changes in this room the best.
  4. My home office.    I hang out there when I'm writing stuff or whiling away some time online.  This is where my computer lives.
  5. At work.  I'm hanging around there all day, working  :-D
  6. A book store - any book store.  I used to hang out a LOT in book stores.  Unfortunately there aren't any anywhere near me any longer  :-(  If there were, I would definitely be hanging out there.
  7. My Weight Watchers meeting.  I hang out there once a week  :-)
  8. Ravelry.  It's the online knitting and crocheting community.  I hang out online there.
  9. Facebook.  I hang out online there, too, but I'm looking at curtailing the amount of time I spend there - somehow it doesn't feel very healthy to me at the moment.
  10. The Art Institute of Chicago.  One of my all time favorite places to hang out.  I don't hang there often enough.
If I had kids I probably would be hanging out at their sports games or concerts.  And if I had a dog, I would be hanging out with it wherever I could find a dog park.  And if I drank coffee, I would probably be hanging out at Starbucks. And I'm wondering why I don't hang out at the movies much anymore, because I like movies.  And if I had a significant other, I would be hanging out with him.  And if it was back in the day, I would be hanging out in dance clubs, dancing, but it's now, and that's my relatively staid list of where I hang out  :-D

Where do you hang out?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Field Report . . .

Today's Field Report is health related!

Back in August, I went to see my asthma doctor.  I was not in a very good place at that time.  In fact, my breathing was so wonky that they couldn't do the spirometry testing because they knew they wouldn't get anything close to an accurate reading.  Nothing was OK.  I ended up having to take the P-Bomb and another Z-pac (my third in 10 months), and my blood pressure was 145/80.  I had no idea that uncontrolled asthma could affect so many areas of my body in so many adverse ways.

The doc adjusted my maintenance meds and told me to come back in November so we could get an accurate spirometry test. The P-Bomb did its job (and it sucked, oh well).  So did the Z-pac,  and I've slowly made a breathing comeback  :-)   In the mean time, we did try a different asthma maintenance med - about three weeks ago - because I felt like I was using my rescue inhaler a little too often, but bone pain is not a side effect that I'm willing to live with, so I went back to my current med and have done pretty well on it.

On Friday I went back to the asthma doc for my check up.

My asthma is back in the realm of controlled, but I still have a ways to go.  I'm still having to use my rescue inhaler more often than I would like, but my spirometry test was really very, very good, and I think it will be even better when I go back again in March because he's switching me to a newer version of the maintenance med that I already take.  It's a slightly different delivery system and dosage, and it's supposed to work better, I'm willing to give it a try as long as bone pain (a rare side effect that unfortunately I get occasionally - usually only with really high doses of inhaled steroids) is not part of the deal.  So far, so good  :-)

Oh - and my blood pressure was 120/78 which is back down way closer to my formerly normal 110/70.   Yay!!

While I was there, my asthma doc took a look at my right knee because it's been hurting so much.  He's not an orthopedic doctor, but he is an internist and has had a lot of experience with his own knees.  After some manipulation (that hurt), the short story is that my knee appears to be "loose."  He suggested that I get to my primary care doctor and have it looked at, and said not to let anyone operate on it, just request physical therapy.  And so, today, I'm headed over to my own internist and will have both my knees and my right shoulder checked out.

After a short discussion with my doc's assistant, my guess is that today will yield X-ray(s) and some PT, and maybe a stronger anti-inflammatory.  But I'm not a doctor so I will have to wait and see.

To paraphrase the late, great Bette Davis:  This getting old ain't for sissies!

Cross your fingers  :-)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

525,600 Minutes . . .

Yesterday, November 14th, was the anniversary of the car accident I was in last year.  It seems like a very long time ago, now, and yet, while I was at a large Christmas market yesterday way out in Grundy County, I dealt all day with the effects of the PTSD that I carry as my lingering reminder.

I managed it pretty well - my normal breathing exercises and coping skills worked pretty well for me this time, although I did have to leave some of the buildings - in fact, I was hugely relieved every time I was able to get back outside of every one of them.  Unfortunately, the fair - the 3 French Hens French Country Market's Holiday Market - was not well laid out and merchants and vendors were jammed in to both buildings and tents in such a way as to leave almost no room for a center traffic aisle to walk down.  In addition, there was only one way in/out in all locations (although one merchant took pity on me and let me slide out the back of one of the tents at their stall).

I know they manage building, tent, and outdoor vendor entrances and exits for theft avoidance and control, but if there had been an emergency in any one of those buildings or tents, it would not have been pretty.  I mean, think about it - stall after stall of highly flammable items jammed into a fair building or tent that was itself jammed with far too many people - and in the buildings only one SMALL (regular door size) entrance/exit . . .

I'm surprised I did as well as I did.

It was more an antique/Christmas market, and nearly all the Christmas stuff was "antique" in some way, either actually old, or the Shabby Country Chic look, where things and fabrics look sort of rusty/seriously faded/weatherbeaten.  That style was the order of the day and pretty much every vendor had, if not the same stuff, the same look.  It's not my style.  I love Shabby Chic as much as the next person - but the chic part was missing yesterday and most stuff just looked shabby and used to me.  I would have liked some variety in the offerings.

I don't think I ever have to go to this particular Christmas market again . . .

The good news, is that I made it out of there without spending any money (except on some food items)  :-D  That's a first!!

Some of the food there was good - some Mennonite folks from Shipshewana were there so I got some bread and butter pickles which were really good.  I got some kettle corn because it's usually amazing, but this stuff wasn't even a patch on what we get at the Michigan Fiber Festival.  Thankfully the bag was not giant. I had some yesterday afternoon and threw the rest away.  The other interesting food item I got was a cupcake in a jar, which has layers of cupcake alternated with layers of filling (in my case, strawberry) and then frosting on the top, all tucked in to a small, straight-sided Mason jar.  It looked better than it tasted, and, of course, was a sugar bomb so I'm feeling pretty lucky this morning that my joints are not aching.  I also got some dip mixes, as did my friend, C.  The ones I got were for my cousin's husband R., who loves stuff like that, and who was planting my two little bare whip trees in my back yard yesterday morning.

I wish I had taken some photos to share with you - unfortunately, I was so focused on keeping myself together in the crowds that I never thought to pull out my phone.  I did see at least one interesting idea for my own Christmas decorating using a small birdcage, so that was great and I'm going to try it.  And, it was also great to be able to catch up with my friend, C., who met me out there.  We don't get to catch up as much as either of us would like because we live on opposite ends of the city now.  Oh - and sorry to the very short woman whom I apparently kept bumping with my purse in an effort to move past her every time I thought there was an opportunity but there wasn't.  She was pretty irritated with me.  I hope she's over it by now.

It's been a year - and, in my experience thus far, the first year after a life-altering event is always the hardest.  I am definitely changed from who I was a year ago, but I'm still standing, and I still believe that everything happens for a reason.  What happened to me was awful.  But I was so, so lucky. I was injured, but mobile.  My bruises and my eye have healed.  My new car was totaled, but I have a newer - and safer - car.  I hobbled away from a serious car accident, and have healed and lived my life this last year.  I didn't always live it well, but I did my best.

It's time to keep moving forward . . .

Happy New Year


Saturday, November 14, 2015

Friday, November 13, 2015

A Little Bit of Cleanup . . .

I did a little cleanup on my blog this week - removing some old badges, broken links, etc., and realized that I have been blogging more or less regularly since June of 2007.  That's a pretty long time I think.

Blogs are not the be-all end-all that they used to be, and many blogs that I've had on my sidebar had not been posted to in, in some cases, more than a year.  Facebook - and Instagram, and Twitter seem to be the way to go, but I don't seem to be able to express myself in one photo or 140 characters or less . . .

So I keep at it here, I guess, because it's important to me, and because I like to read.  I do, and I figure if I like to read there must be other people out there who like to read, too.  I try to tag my posts appropriately and I know that there are folks who read my blog and comment from time to time that I have no idea who they are in the real world.  I kinda like it that people I don't know are touched in some regard by my words.

I'm always looking for interesting blogs that are posted to regularly, so if you know of some, please share in the comments. :-)

It's also time to do some house cleanup.  I dubbed 2015 "The Year of the House" back in January because of the construction that was coming. It entailed massive basement cleanup and then massive construction first in the basement and then upstairs. My living room, guest room, and office were relegated to staging areas.  The living room and the guest room were put back to rights months ago . . . but my office still looks very much like it did back on April 18th when I originally posted this photo:

It's a little better now, but not much . . . It's my plan to begin work on it bit by bit.  My Saturdays for most of November are already full with fun outings with friends, so I will need to work on this over the next weeks and see how it goes.  I'll keep you informed  :-D

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Holding On . . .

We're under a high wind alert here in Chicagoland.  It started last night at 6 p.m. and goes through tonight at 6 p.m.  It rained, too. 

The leaves on the London Planetree a/k/a Sycamore tree in my backyard are holding on for dear life.  It leafs out later and holds on longer than any other tree around my home.  You can't tell in this early morning photo, but the wind it still blasting away out there.

And I am reminded that in order to know when to let go, I have to pay attention.  Is what I'm holding on to serving me?  Am I happy holding on to it?  Am I missing something else by not letting go when time is up?

The wheels of change are sometimes slow . . . but they are rolling  :-)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Poppies . . .

It's Veterans Day here in the U.S. There will be veterans today selling poppies today in the city - and probably at the train.  I get one from every veteran I see and I wear them proudly.  It's ingrained in me.  When I lived in Southern California I couldn't find any poppies on Veteran's Day.  I remember asking my mom to please get one for me and send it.

Today is also called or has been called Remembrance Day, Poppy Day, and Armistice Day. The latter was what it was called in the U.S. until it was changed to Veterans Day in 1954. The poppies are a symbol of the blood spilled and lives lost during World War I.  The armistice was signed early in the morning of this day in 1918, agreeing that hostilities would cease at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month.  World War I was known as "the war to end all wars" or "The Great War."

In Flanders Fields was written by a Canadian physician - Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae - in 1915. 

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe.
To you from falling hands we throw
The torch, be yours to hold it high.
If you break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

I will wear a poppy today in remembrance of those who have gone before.  I am thankful for them and their sacrifice, and I will think of them especially today -  at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month.

I leave you with two tunes.  The first is On The Road to Passchendaele.  The Passchendaele Ridge was the site of the Third Battle of Ypres (the Second Battle of Flanders), one of the worst battles of WWI, from July to November in 1917.

The last is The Bloody Fields of Flanders

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Ten on Tuesday

The Ten on Tuesday topic for today is:  10 Things to Shout When You Hit the Jackpot

I have actually won a progressive jackpot slot in Las Vegas. It was years ago now, and I was with a large number of my family and extended family.  My cousin, Mary Ellen, and I were playing the Slingo machines at Paris, and she happened to walk away to go to the Ladies' just before my machine hit.  I wish I could say I was eloquent in my shouting, but . . . um . . .

1.  What the . . . ?

2.  Mary Ellen?

3.  Oh My God . . .

4.  Mary Ellen!

5.  OH MY GOD!!

6.  Mary Ellen!!

7.  Mary Ellen!!!

8.  Mutt!!!  (our childhood nickname for each other)

9.  MUTT!!!!

10.  MARY ELLEN!!!!!!!

Not too exciting, but that's about how it went  :-D   I yelled her name until she came back, because you can't leave your machine or someone else will take your jackpot.

It wasn't a giant amount, but it was four figures, which was awesome.  They come right over to you on the floor, make you sign a tax form, count out the cash, and you're on your way.  I tipped the cashier guy and was instructed by another cousin to go immediately to my room and lock it all in the safe - which I did.  And then I didn't get to gamble for the rest of the trip  :-D

Monday, November 9, 2015

What's Blooming . . .

It's 31 degrees this morning.  I guess it's finally time for my winter coat.  It's still beautiful in my house, however.  Here's a look at some of what's blooming here at the moment  :-)

With the violets - it's purples and blues and with the other stuff, a lot of reds and pinks.

This first one is Wisdom.  This is the fist bloom on it for me.  I wait until they bloom before they get potted on.  That way I know they are blooming true to their description before I spend time and care on them.  This is a plant from one of my favorite hybridizers, Kent Stork. This blossom is what's called a single/semidouble pansy.  That little tiny "extra" petal in the center makes this one a semi-double. This plant is a standard - the size of the ones you generally see at a florist or in a big box store.

This is Paula's PB and J.  Also a standard, tt was hybridized by a wonderful grower and friend from the East Coast, Paula Bal.  Her plants are gorgeous - I'm growing another of hers at the moment, too - Paula's Fidgety Frankie.  It's still a baby, so no blossoms yet on that one.  This is also a single/semidouble, and because there are multiple blossoms here, you can see one that's a single, and two that are semidoubles. The shape of this blossom is called a star.  This is also what is called a fantasy blossom.  A fantasy has speckles and/or streaks of another color - in this case pink/coral.  The fantasy is not pronounced on my plant but it's still blooming true to its description.  I'm not usually big on fantasy blossoms, but I love Paula's.

This is a semiminiature trailing violet called Cajun's McKenna Trail.   This one is hybridized by my friend Belinda Thibodeaux.  This is a double blossom, also a star.  Isn't is cute?  :-)  Known for her huge variegated standards, this semimini is a gorgeous departure for her.

Did you know that African violets came in different sizes and colors with such varied blossoms?  Believe me, this is just the tip of the iceberg where that is concerned!

This is what in the African violet world is called an "other gesneriad."  Other gesneriads are cousins to the African violet.  This is Columnea 'Firebird.'  Of all of the other gesneriads (and there are a LOT), I think that columneas are my favorite  :-)  The blossoms look kind of like flying fish!

And finally, my Christmas cacti seem to be Thanksgiving cacti, because they are ALL in bloom at the moment and they are really, really pretty.  In the past I haven't had a good track record with these plants, but I've done pretty well with the group of four that I have at the moment - most of them are more than a decade old.  In fact, one of them is much older - it's a white one and it was my mom's.  I really didn't want to lose it, so I worked hard not to croak it.  These all grow in windows with southern exposures in my sunroom.  My mom had hers in a south window, so I followed her example.  I'll have to take some photos so you can see all the different blossom colors - they are a riot of blossoms at the moment.  I give them a shot of the African violet food in August/September and they seem to like it  :-D

Sunday, November 8, 2015

That'll Do, Pig. That'll do . . .

Yesterday  I said I was going to have to start saying no more often.  I didn't realize that I was already doing it.  As I look back over this first week of NaBloPoMo, I am very, very glad that I decided to participate.

Not only do I call myself a piper, I nearly always describe myself as a writer. Getting stuff down on the page is important somehow.  It's where and how I often work through things that are troubling me.  The act of writing often makes things very clear for me - and one thing I have discovered about myself in my life thus far, is that I often am doing something or am already on the path toward a goal before I become fully conscious of it.  I think that sounds a bid odd - but consider the following. . .
  • Prompted by the construction in my home early this year, I began a serious downsizing of pretty much everything in the house.  I knew that divesting was going to be best for me in the long run and it felt very right to be letting things go.  I figured I should learn more about it, and all of a sudden - it was everywhere, so I picked up the Kon Marie book and read that I'd already pretty much done what she espouses.
  • I was a member of Ravelry group, but I never went all in - I paid $106 for patterns and I got every pattern I paid for, but I knew when to say enough and I backed away.  The group turns out to have been led by an alleged con-artist.
These are just two examples, but I found myself this week standing up and saying either "no" or "enough" before I wrote yesterday about needing to start doing it.
  • Last week I was approached by a nominating committee to take a place on a board for an African violet organization.  I respectfully declined.
  • Last fall I test knit for a designer and she made a big public deal about gifting all her testers with project bags.  No bags.  I followed up with her six months ago and she had a sob story about why they weren't done.  I followed up a few days ago on Friday, and of course there was another excuse.  I wrote her back and pretty much called her out on her shit.  I wasn't rude, but I was very clear that if she never intended to send these bags she never should have mentioned them in the first place. And then I told her I'd make it easy on her - I thanked her for the opportunity, and told her I'd skip the bag.  Her response?  "I'm sorry you feel that way."  Really???  More like, sorry you caught me in a lie. My last word?   "Live and learn . . . "  I cut my losses and said ENOUGH.
  • Yesterday, the chair of an African violet show next spring asked me take a job for the show, and for only the second time (first time, see above) in my African violet life, I said no.  I've always said yes - but this time, I knew that it was best for me to say no.  Man, it was hard, though, because this woman is organized and she'll do a wonderful job.  I would love working for/with her, but the timing is all wrong, and so I said no.
And so, clearly, I'm already on the path I need for myself - and it's good.  I'm taking care of myself by saying no when I need to, and I'm happy about that.

I affirm that what I do is enough.

What I am able to accomplish on any given day - it's enough.

What I do is enough.

I am enough.

There it is - that power that I am taking back. When I choose my activities so that they support rather than deplete me, I know I'm on the right track.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Limit Your Collection . . .

I'm going to be spending my day today at the Fall Meeting of the Illinois African Violet Society.  It should be interesting.  I will be doing my best to not come home with any plants, and I think it's going to be a lot easier to do this time because I am reminding myself right now that I have chosen to take back my power in this season of Samhain.

Sometimes taking back your power means that you have to let some stuff go, and as much as I love my African violets, I have been working this year to truly "limit my collection."  I speak about this with great regularity on my podcast because African violets are so beautiful that it's very, very easy to all of a sudden have way too many.  The late Pauline Barthomew's book, Growing to Show was where I learned about this concept, and it seems I have become the standard bearer for it now.

For those of you who don't know, I produce a weekly video podcast called All About African Violets.  I started it on July 1, 2012.  It ran for 18 months and then I took a break for about six months (I produced some special episodes during that time).  I started weekly production again on May 24, 2015.  It's been a labor of love from the beginning.  So has my involvement with the Illinois Society, the National Society, the Missouri Valley Council, as well as with my own plant stands.

For me, taking back my power generally means that I have to begin to say no.  This is not easy for me, but as I am taking stock of my life and how it's operating at the moment, it's brilliantly clear that I'm going to have to start saying no with much greater regularity.  And the first thing that I'm going to need to do, is say no to too many plants.  If you know me in person, you're likely snickering now, but I'm serious this time. In fact, I took a tentative step in this area yesterday morning when I tossed out the cuttings of an old Pothos vine.  I have enough houseplants in the sunroom.  I didn't need another one.

Yes, you read that correctly - in addition to all the violets I have, there are 10 houseplants and one orchid in the sunroom.  I also have four of what are called "other" gesneriads.  African violets are members of the gesneriad family and some of their "cousins," which are also gesneriads, are quite fun to grow.  I have a Columnea "Firebird," a Petrocosmea kerrii (a species), and two Streptocarpus plants.

Earlier this year I was down to between 25-30 violets and it was still a little challenging to take care of everything.  Many plants had suffered neglect.  I decided that coming back from prolonged neglect (these beautiful plants are quite resilient!) would be a great way to pick the podcast back up after the break I had taken.  And so I did.  I went to the National Convention at the end of May, and you pretty much can't help but come home with plantlets and leaves . . . before I knew it, my collection was back up to around 70+ varieties.  I have been culling them ever since.

Although this sounds a little counter-productive, it's not unusual.  I often try new varieties, vintage varieties, and species plants that I have not grown before just to see how they do for me.  In any case, I never plan to keep them all.  :-)

As I mentioned in my Field Report on November 2nd, for most of my African violet growing career, 50 was my number.  I knew I could grow 50 varieties well.  I successfully got my collection down to 49 and I could not understand why I was still having such a terrible time keeping up with them.

Surprise! 50 is not my number any longer.  When 50 was my number my life was very different.  I was married then, but at the moment I'm single.  That means that there is no one else to pick up my slack.  If something has to get done around here - laundry, groceries, cooking, etc. - there's only me.  Hard to admit, but I can't do it all and do it all well, and so rather than feeling constantly out of control and exhausted, I'm taking back my power and truly limiting my collection. At the moment, I'm feeling like 30 maximum sounds doable, but if I get there and it's not, I have no problem dropping the number a little further.

Last night I pulled quite a few plants from the shelves to take to the meeting today, and went from 49 varieties down to 35.  This is AWESOME!!  One went to its Great Reward, and the rest are in this box, ready to go to the silent auction today.

This is going to be a process, and it's not an easy one for me, although my podcast viewers would probably beg to differ.  They see me let plants go to their Great Reward all the time.  I think they think I'm heartless.

Believe it or not, however, I do have a sort of strategy about some of what I'm growing, but it's fluid, so things are changing all the time.  In addition, I donated my 2' x 4' four-shelf plant stand to the Garfield Park Conservatory earlier this year so I don't have as much shelf space as I used to.  That has majorly affected my growing strategy:  many of the plants in that box will eventually be really large and I just don't have the space any longer.  There are also a mini and some semis in there because I'm more of a standard grower.  In any case, In my quest to get down to around 30 varieties of African violet sooner rather than later, last night was a huge step in the right direction. Yay Me!!!  :-D

If you'd like to see the method I use to get as far as I have, watch Episode 86 - Limit Your Collection of my podcast. It's about half an hour long and the info I share is good if you're looking to limit your collection.  Any collection  ;-)

Friday, November 6, 2015

Am I Still a Piper?

I stopped my piping lessons earlier this year.  A perfect storm of events seemed to blow me completely off-course - I'd been in a bad car accident last November, my asthma was uncontolled (unbeknownst to me at the time), finding practice time was challenging, and construction and its concomitant dust and chaos was in full swing in my home.

My physical crash injuries are healed, and my pipes are sitting here in my office - and the sheepskin bag is probably a total mess after having sat for so long - and yet I can't seem to pick them back up yet.  And the knitting project I mentioned trashing a few posts ago?  It was my first kilt hose . . . no wonder I played so poorly the summer I competed - they were full of the energy from the alleged con-artist.

I suppose I can't blame poor playing entirely on that - I truly wasn't ready to compete, and my tunes were very challenging (that's how Ian Whitelaw, my awesome teacher rolls - challenging all the time  :-) ). My teacher lives in Southern California, and while FaceTime lessons are pretty wonderful, there really is no substitute for in-person lessons. 

This is me a couple of years ago on Cape Cod the January before the summer  I competed.  Man, it was so cold that day!

Competing that summer was not at all like I had envisioned it.  I've been to my share of Highland Games in both Illinois and California, but when you compete, it's an entirely different experience.  For me, most of all, it was a very lonely and frustrating experience, because (1) I don't play with a band; and (2) I wasn't playing well for light music (what you likely think of as pipe music :-) ).  So, I was on my own, and because my teacher is not local, most of the time I didn't have anyone to help me tune, or to encourage me.  I'd see two of my local former teachers from time to time, but they have their own students and oftentime judging responsibilities.  They'd help me tune if I found one of them, but they really didn't have time to do any handholding for a newbie who wasn't one of their students any longer.  At one games I hung out with my friend and her band, and that was great, but she didn't complete much that summer and without her there, it wasn't comfortable to hang with her bandmates.

So, for most of the summer, I was on my own, with my pipes and my chair-in-a-bag (best present ever from my cousin K).  In addition, that summer was hot - except for the very first games I attended, which was in the 40s in the morning during solo play, the rest of the summer was brutally hot.  So, imagine an 80-90+ degree sunny day - and you're in thick wool kilt hose, a heavy wool kilt that weighs about 5 pounds, a long-sleeved shirt, a velveteen vest that you have to keep buttoned, a tie, a wool Glengarry on your head, and the MOST uncomfortable shoes you have ever worn in your entire existance..  I was a dripping, miserable mess nearly all the time.  I'd just look around for a stand of trees somewhere, and take my pipes and chair over to find a little shade, but a lot of time I'd go home early and not stay to watch massed bands at the end of the day.

When you're not in a band, you don't have anywhere to leave your stuff so you end up carrying it around all day at the games. I know what you're thinking, but I don't leave my pipes - any musical instrument - in the car alone.  Ever.  My first teacher drilled that into me.  Seriously - if I'm traveling with them and I stop for gasoline and a quick run to the Ladies', the pipes go to the Ladies' with me.  They are a musical instrument - temperature affects them, and someone could steal them.  Never leave a musical instrument in the car alone.  Just don't do it.  Never do it.  Never.  Ever.  This seems like it should be common knowledge to me, which is why I'm always so surprised when I read on Facebook or hear on the news that some musician somewhere had their car or van broken into and their priceless guitar stolen.  Really Dude????  You LEFT your priceless instrument alone in parked vehicle?????  Anyway - my pipe case doubles as a back pack, and my chair-in-a-bag can be left in the car, so I'd go back to my car, change my brutal shoes, leave the chair, and walk around the games for awhile.  But more often than not, I'd just get in the car and go home early.

I think that people who say that they don't like bagpipes have never really heard them.  They've heard someone like me who is isn't a very accomplished player and whose pipes are often not quite in tune.  They just need to hear someone like my teacher, Ian Whitelaw, play. 

Am I still a piper? I'm not playing at the moment and sometimes I wonder if I will ever play again.  But I just looked up at my bulletin board - right in front of me:

 If you click to biggify, just left of center you'll see some wooden tiles.  The one visible says, "Be willing to change your words and beliefs."  And to the right, that red ribbon is my Second Place medal for Piobaireachd my first time out of the gate. (And I suppose if you study that board you'll know an awful lot about me by the things I hold precious . . . )

And here they sit, right behind me in the wreck of my office (which has not yet recovered from being the last construction staging area)  . . .

In front of me.  Behind me.  Might just as well be a part of me, because truth be told I cannot imagine not having them.  I cannot imagine not playing them again.  I'm not exactly sure when, but something is telling me it's sooner rather than later.  And, no surprise, it's Samhain - I need a project to look inward with as I'm never well able to do that on my own.

Am I still a piper?  Yes, yes I am.  I still call myself a piper.  I know at the moment that I'm merely adequate - And I didn't start until I was 40, so I know I'm never going to be a world class piper like my teacher, Ian -  but that was never important to me.  Neither was playing in a band. I just love to play and I never lose hope that I will eventually be more than adequate.  I really miss playing, so I think that spark is still alive somewhere in my heart. But most of all, like I said - I can't really imagine never playing again.  In my musical soul, I'm a piper.

I'm crying now.  Who cares if I never compete again.  Who cares if I never play in a band.  Who cares if I never play as well as Ian. I just want to play because I'm still a piper!  Time to take back my power (it's there, on the board, just to the right of the tiles).

Is it time for you to take yours back, too? 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

'Tis the Season . . .

A walk through the Loop in Chicago is never dull - or should I say it's always interesting?

Although there are many constants, there always seems to be something new or different going on, or something I haven't seen for awhile.  I'm often on a slightly later train that forces me to walk underground to make it to work on time.  Today, though, I managed to catch my own train, which means that I got to take advantage of the unseasonable temperature on my walk, and experience some interesting and some irritating things.

What is it with people and their cell phones??  A giant man ahead of me walking up the ramp from the train platform had his head in his phone and was walking so slowly that he was jamming people up all the way back to the train.  I finally tapped him on the shoulder, said, "excuse me," and moved quickly ahead of him.  He mumbled something in response, and 400 yards later had apparently figured it out,  had put his phone away, and blasted by me - because, you know, I'm just not that fast a walker.  Geez.

I saw my first Christmas tree this morning - in the florist's window in the train station.  Full size.  Fully decorated.  And some of the windows in the store formerly known as Marshall Field's were clearly winter/holiday oriented already.

I'm already listening to Christmas music because it makes me happy.  :-) I love it and see no reason to limit listening to it to four weeks of the year.

And in Daley Plaza the construction for the annual Christkindlmarket has begun.  It takes a long time to put up all the stalls and it runs from November 20th through Christmas Eve.  There's one out in Oakbrook, too.  I think I should have known that, but I didn't  :-D

Something different this year - well, it's just a return to the past, really - is that for the first time in 49 years, Chicago's Christmas tree will not be present in Daley Plaza.  Mayor Emanuel has decided to move it to Millennium Park. I'm not sure how I feel about this, since for most of my life it's been right there in there middle of the Loop - first when that location was known as the Chicago Civic Center.  It became Richard J. Daley Center, Richard J. Daley Plaza on the 27th of December, 1976, a week after Mayor Daley had passed away after 21 years in office.

So, the tree moves back to Michigan Avenue.  You know what the French say, don't you?

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Uh huh . . .   ;-)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The WIPs . . .

Time for an update on all the WIPs!  If you've been keeping score at home, when last we talked, I had  just finished the Elementary Watson Socks (and I'm glad I didn't frog them   :-) ) and had whittled the Big List down from 16 to 9.

After Monday's Ravelry meltdown, two more of my WIP projects bit it. I've reclaimed the yarn on numbers 12 and 14 on the Big List.  That means that I'm down to 7 WIPS on the Big List.  This is pretty great!!  I have four sweaters (one of which just needs to be blocked) and three pairs of socks still on the needles.

In addition to the old stuff lying around, I do have some projects in process that are current YOSS projects: two Montego Bay Scarves - one just needs the fringe braided and one is about halfway knit.  I also have some Apothecary Cuffs that are nearly done.  These were all October projects.  For November, I cast on a pair of plain vanilla socks mainly so I would have some train knitting.  I can pretty much knit plain socks without a lot of thought, and they are a small project which makes them perfect for train knitting.

I anticipate having these last three projects done by the end of next weekend.  Cross your fingers  :-D  I've been working on the last Holidazed sock off and on.  Initially it was going to be train knitting, but I have to pay attention or I mess up the stitch pattern  :-D  So, plain vanillas it is.

A few of my friends are also attempting NaBloPoMo 2015.  If you'd like to check out their blogs, they are:

A Windy City Gal (that's Linda the Chicken Lady - who is no longer in the Windy City and doesn't have any chickens anymore  :-D)

Stories from the Mist (Candy who used to be here and now is also on the West Coast)

Crazy Knitting Fool (Krysten who lives in Detroit and also has a video podcast)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Ten - Oh Wait . . .

Yesterday I watched a group on Ravelry implode and completely unravel.  I had been a tangential member but left the group a couple of weeks ago because I had wondered for a long time if the group was on the up and up and I finally paid attention to that still small voice within and walked away. 

I received everything I ever paid for, but many other were not so lucky.  I - probably naively - believed that all monies paid for patterns were actually donated to the charities for which they had been earmarked by the designer/leader(s).  I don't believe that any longer, and it saddens me.  The things that the designer/leader(s) of this group allegedly did or possibly failed to do are so wrong on many levels and it bothers me that money I thought was going to a worthy cause most likely did not.

In fact, it bothered me so much that I went back and removed all posts I had made in the group.  Further, I went to my Ravelry download library and deleted all the patterns I had purchased (or gotten free) from this designer.  I'm about to frog two projects from those patterns that were in process and will reclaim that yarn, but I have one project that was finished and I feel so strongly that the energy attached to it is so wrong, that I'm going to dispose of it - I don't even think smudging it would remove the negative energy, which is why I'm getting rid of it rather than donating it - why should anyone else be touched by such negative energy?

It's another lesson for me in paying attention to my gut feelings.  The person who introduced me to that group about four years ago is no longer on Ravelry, and I wondered at the time . . . something felt a little off but I liked some of the members in the group, and I recognized others whom I knew to be real people because I had met them in person.  So I joined and mainly lurked (being a group member but not posting much).  I didn't join in on a lot of things because I'm already busy enough on Ravelry as a moderator of multiple groups.  Mainly I picked up free sock patterns that I thought I might want to knit, occasionally paying for a pattern when a coupon code was offered. 

I'm most saddened for those group members who are now kicking themselves for not "getting it."  Some of them were fleeced not only of money, but of their trust.  From what I've read, it appears that The Powers that Be at Ravelry and their legal team are now involved at some level in whatever way it affects them from a business standpoint, but group members are on their own to pursue whatever remedy they may wish to attempt to pursue.  I'm thinking PayPal got a LOT of email yesterday . . . 

It's a nasty, rotten mess all the way around - no matter how you slice it.

Live and learn, I guess - and, to paraphrase the late Maya Angelou - when we know better, we do better.  Well, most of us do . . .

This was supposed to be Ten on Tuesday, but the topic was of no interest to me this week.  I'll try again next time.