Monday, October 31, 2011

Day 243 of 365

A week ago I made a list. A list of everything I was going to accomplish on my week off. Let's see how I did.

I was going to:
  • Quilt all my unfinished quilt tops. (Finished some on Day 236, Day 238, and today. But still working on them.)
  • Do a tutorial for Stockings for Soldiers. On how to make the stockings, of course. (Check. Day 237.)
  • Call to get roofing quotes. Yuck. (Still yuck. And still not done.)
  • Write up directions for the strip quilt for my school's Project Linus blankets. (Nope, not in writing yet.)
  • Put the electric blanket on the bed. (Decided to skip it. Hubby always turns it up too high anyway.)
  • Dust, dust, dust. (Uh, no.)
  • Put new curtains up in the bedroom. Finally. (Uh, another no. Will wait until I get a new quilt on the bed.)
  • Rake leaves. Rake leaves. Rake leaves. (Not even once. It's windy, so I'm hoping the wind will blow them away.)
  • Take the casino bus for the day. Free food, $50 in free play. Yay! (Yep. Yay!)
  • Make final payments on all the medical bills that have been dragging on for ages - physical therapy, MRI, and ultrasounds. (Yep, all clear for now.)
  • If the hard freeze comes this week as predicted - pull up the pepper plants and pick the remaining pumpkins and watermelon. (Yep. And did a couple pumpkins with my daughter on Day 240 and went watermelon bowling on Day 239.)

Could have been better, but not too bad. Still have some things to get done this week so they'll have to fit in on my non-work days.

Another quilt top done for Quilts for Kids today. Embarrassingly it's the one from quite some time ago. The Wizard of Oz one from Day 157 and 163 that I never got around to finishing until now.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Day 242 of 365

How do you get yourself out of bed when you feel horrible? How do you force yourself to sit at the computer and write? And find joy in sewing again? For 242 straight days I've made myself do it. But some days - like today - I wonder if I can continue.

There are good days, bad days, and even worse days. I'm running a long stretch of days bordering on pretty darn bad. I still can't shake this flu and it's wearing on me. I'm tired, I'm sick, and I'm dreading going back to work this week. It's not like I don't feel crappy enough every day as it is, but now I'm having to dig deeper than ever to find the strength to keep moving forward.

My day's horoscope read:
If you're thinking about making a change in your life, take it slowly -- whether it's a major change or a minor one. Gradual transitions are much more advantageous than abrupt changes right now -- you need to maintain balance in your life. If you swing from extreme to extreme, you'll spend so much energy trying to get back on an even keel that your speed will be wasted. Slow and steady beats fast and frantic right now.

So no changes. I'll just keep plugging along. Writing, picture taking, trying to get through the day.

Although the only picture I could scrape together is a grasshopper staring up at me. While quite unattractive, he (or she) is quite interesting to look at up close.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Day 241 of 365

I put my clothes in the bedroom closet for the first time today.

Here's the deal - my husband is a clothes hound. He likes dressing well. Doesn't own a pair of jeans. He wears a tie to work every day. Loves button down dress shirts. Likes his suits. Over a hundred ties, dozens and dozens of dress shirts in every possible color, and a whole bunch of dress pants equates to a full closet.

The house we live in was build in the 70's with regular sized closets. Ever since we moved into this house - going on 14 years now - I've kept all my clothes in the den closet so that he's had room for all his clothes. So every single morning to get dressed for work I've had to head down the hall to get my clothes. But being in that introspective/contemplative mood this week got me thinking.

Why can't we share the bedroom closet?

It's not like he wears everything in his closet and I certainly don't wear everything in mine. So today (and without much prodding, either) my husband cleaned out a portion of his closet. He found some things to add to the donation box and summer clothes he could store in the den closet. It left enough room for me to bring in the few work outfits I have and hang them up.

For the first time ever, I now will be able to choose my clothes and get dressed in the same room. I have no idea why I didn't think about making this move sooner. 

I also have no idea why I chose to take this picture today. Sitting outside our local grocery store while hubby was in picking up some steak so he could have fajitas for his dinner tonight, I snapped a shot of the crisscrossing power lines. Maybe it had something to do with the stormy clouds in the background or the crows that had just flown by. Kinda Halloween-y.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Day 240 of 365

Having this week off from work has made me more introspective. Or contemplative. Whichever term fits best.

Hubby and I were in town today, and on the way home we decided to come the back way. It was a gorgeous autumn day with trees in many different colors - greens, yellows, oranges, reds, and some that even appeared to be a deep purple. Just like when the trees are blooming in the spring, the fall trees signal a change in season and a change in thought.

As we drove that back way home it hit me that I don't get out much. We live so close to so many things we don't take advantage of.

On the back roads, less than 10 minutes from our house, we drove:
  • Across the dam of the lake. A lake that we never go to.
  • By the Wildlife Refuge. Not a bird watcher so we never stop.
  • Through the fruit orchards and by fruit stands. Yet we buy our fruit at the grocery store.
  • By the winery. Since I don't drink wine, I've only been there once. 
  • By the park by the river. The one with the paved walking path I used to walk on years ago. And the one with the stocked fishing pond. And we don't fish.

Why do we not go to the lake or to the Wildlife Refuge? Why do we not buy our fruit at the fruit stand? Or stop at the winery for my hubby to do some tasting? Why don't I walk at the park anymore and why doesn't one of us get a fishing license?
    Questions with no answers. Laziness, forgetfulness, or busyness?

    And why did we grow pumpkins when we don't carve them?

    Thank goodness for my daughter forcing me to do something with them. (Not really forcing me - it was good mom-daughter time.) No carving, no messy seeds and guts to deal with. Just a pattern printed off the internet, traced onto the pumpkin with a straight pin, and cut out with some tools.

    Thursday, October 27, 2011

    Day 239 of 365

    After hours upon hours riding the bus to and from the casino, the time at the casino where I talked to no one, and the day I spent with my daughter today, I know some things for sure.

    I know for sure:
    • I like gambling. I like the excitement, I like the distraction. I don't like the noise, the lights, the smoke. And I don't like losing. Having a set schedule where I knew I only had a limited amount of time to play made me become a more aggressive and panicky gambler. I didn't like that part either.
    • Last week's flu re-set my need for food. Since then I've still had an upset stomach so I've been holding to a limited diet. Now I like an empty stomach and don't want to be overstuffed again.  Even yesterday when I went to the casino, I didn't use my free meals. I had half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the ride down and the other half on the ride back.
    • I'll never eat a Hostess pie again. I love Hostess fruit pies. Grew up on them. The blackberry, the lemon - oh my! But last night when the bus stopped at the gas station for a restroom break, I picked up a lemon pie. (That peanut butter and jelly wound up not being all that filling after all.) After I ate the pie, I looked at the calorie count. I should have looked at it before eating it. 490 calories. I can't believe I ate those all the time as a kid. There are a lot of other things in a gas station at 10:00 at night to eat with fewer calories than that, so never again. 
    •  I should never buy lottery tickets. A gal at work has been buying these $20 Idaho lottery tickets and has been winning big. At that same gas station stop, with some cash from the casino burning a hole in my purse, I decided to buy one. Got on the bus, scratched it. Nothing. $20 gone just like that.
    • There are a lot of semis on the road late at night. And some of those truck drivers have interesting, bordering on dangerous, ways of keeping themselves awake/occupied. Like the drivers (yep, that's plural meaning we saw more than one of them) with a laptop in the front seat with a movie playing.

    But the thing I learned today was the best. Watermelon bowling can be fun on an autumn day. The several days of hard freezes have taken out the entire vegetable garden. My daughter and I spent the afternoon cleaning everything out of there. We picked a load of watermelon, but some were just too small and had to be thrown away. So we did what any logical mother and adult child would do. We took the smallest four and made a bowling game out of them. I don't know who taught my daughter how to bowl with watermelons, but she kicked my behind. It didn't last long though, because I ruined the game when I missed and my watermelon busted open when it went careening into the corner of the planter box.

    Today's picture is before the damage.

    Wednesday, October 26, 2011

    Day 238 of 365

    This isn't working anymore.

    I've been trying to use up some of my fabric scraps. I've been making block after block after block. As I was sewing a block the other night it occurred to me that it's not working anymore.

    It's not that the scraps aren't going together properly, it's not that I can't keep a quarter inch seam, and it's not that I don't like what I'm creating.

    It's that sewing isn't taking my mind off the pain like it used to. On Day 107 I had said, The only way I know to make it through each day is to try and keep myself busy with writing, taking pictures, and sewing and quilting for others. 

    It's absolutely true. I wouldn't have gotten where I am now without those things, but...

    It's getting harder. Harder to keep my mind off the pain. I don't know if the pain has become greater, making it harder to keep my mind focused or if it is something else. One of the reasons I enjoyed getting into the sewing so much is because it kept me from thinking about how bad I was feeling. It was a relaxing process, yet a process where I could focus on something else besides what I was feeling. But now, not so much. The temptation to take a pain pill is returning. A pain pill would provide relief, albeit temporary.

    I'm pursuing my own form of temporary relief today. I'm taking a break from sewing for the first time in a while and heading down on the casino bus. Maybe a little getaway for the day will make me feel better. (I doubt it, but you never know!)

    It does make me feel better having two more kids' quilts finished up before I head out, though.

    Tuesday, October 25, 2011

    Day 237 of 365

    I thought my work was done. The Stockings for Soldiers work, that is. I thought I was ending at 80 stockings. I made my contribution and that was plenty. I did my part.

    Yet on Day 225 I took material over to my mom's place to have her help with sewing some additional stockings. She sewed up eight more.

    But then another couple things happened.

    First - sometimes my husband is around when I'm taking my picture of the day. He's seen me taking pictures of kid quilts and turtle pillows and Christmas stockings, and usually never asks questions. The other day we were talking about the stockings - who they were for, where they went, and how I only sewed stockings. How the organization had a list of items they need donated so they can fill the stockings. Items that I wasn't collecting. Things like like gum, toothbrushes, fly swatters, trail mix. My husband wanted more details and even wanted a printed list. (You can find the complete list here.)

    My husband took that list with him to school. Shared it with some staff members, and now we have a high school club collecting items. I'll be picking them up here in a couple weeks. I'm not sure how much they're planning on collecting, but anything will be great!

    Then, number two happened.

    I needed a tutorial for the week. I still had some Christmas fabric around, so it was natural for me to do a tutorial on how to make the stockings. (I wanted others to see how quick and easy they were to make.) I put the video up on YouTube and sent the link to the organization for them to use if they wanted. I got a very excited sounding e-mail back. Among other things, it read: Thank you very much for thinking of our Project and for creating such an excellent and perfect video that will help other volunteers to have a very clear understanding of what we do and what we need.

    Take a look, and hopefully you too will be able to whip some up. If you do, I'd love to post your pictures! Just use the "Contact Me" button at the bottom of the page.

    Happy Sewing.

    Monday, October 24, 2011

    Day 236 of 365

    Since this week (and every week) I'm knee-deep in sewing for charity, I thought I'd do a recap of all the organizations I'm providing support for. (My projects for all these groups can be found under "Charity/Donations" at the top of my page.) Hopefully it might inspire you to do some sewing, too!

    If you are looking for projects where your sewing skills are greatly appreciated, here are my favorites:

    Operation Kid Comfort needs people to help make pillows and quilts for kids of deployed military personnel. They send you pictures of the parent and child which have already been ironed onto fabric. You use those pictures along with your own fabrics to create one of a kind meaningful quilts.

    Quilts of Valor needs quilters to help provide servicemembers and veterans with quilts of their own. You can make quilts, but they also have a need for presentation cases (like a pillowcase).

    The Painted Turtle is one of the Paul Newman Hole in the Wall Camps for seriously ill kids. They are always looking for folks to sew quilts or crochet/knit afghans, or even sew turtle pillows. (They send all campers home with a big ole stuffed turtle pillow.)

    Stockings for Soldiers needs people to sew up Christmas Stockings for our troops overseas. The quick and easy pattern can be printed off the internet. (My tutorial tomorrow will prove how quick and easy it is to make these.) They also have a list of items they are collecting to "stuff" the stockings with.

    Quilts for Kids. You can request their free quilt kits. They contain a pattern, fabric for the top and a backing fabric. You supply the batting (and the labor). They ask you send along an additional quilt from your own fabric, if possible.
     
    Today's picture is from my free fabric kit from Quilts for Kids. I sewed the top together on Day 229 and today I got it quilted.

    Sunday, October 23, 2011

    Day 235 of 365

    I have the entire week off from work and I'm ready to go. The flu is gone and I need to get myself moving. I need some goals for the week and I've got a good list started.

    I have a mixture of household tasks and sewing tasks to be accomplished. This week I will:
    • Quilt all my unfinished quilt tops.
    • Do a tutorial for Stockings for Soldiers. On how to make the stockings, of course.
    • Call to get roofing quotes. Yuck.
    • Write up directions for the strip quilt for my school's Project Linus blankets.
    • Put the electric blanket on the bed.
    • Dust, dust, dust.
    • Put new curtains up in the bedroom. Finally.
    • Rake leaves. Rake leaves. Rake leaves.
    • Take the casino bus for the day. Free food, $50 in free play. Yay!
    • Make final payments on all the medical bills that have been dragging on for ages - physical therapy, MRI, and ultrasounds.
    • If the hard freeze comes this week as predicted - pull up the pepper plants and pick the remaining pumpkins and watermelon.

    One of the items has already been started. I finished up the quilt top I made yesterday. I added a fleece backing and tied it with some excess candlewicking thread I had. Unfortunately, the only matching piece of fleece I had was a bit smaller than it should be, so the quilt isn't perfect. (At least by my standards.) They'll be no picture taking of it, but I'll make another one (need the practice, ya know) with the correct size fleece.

    A better picture was found outside today anyway. If that hard freeze shows up, these roses won't look nearly as pretty. But they sure are pretty right now.

    Saturday, October 22, 2011

    Day 234 of 365

    Nine. I have a backlog of nine.

    These last couple weeks I've been slowly working away on putting together kids quilts for Operation Kid Comfort and Quilts for Kids. Yesterday evening when I still wasn't feeling so hot I went into the sewing room to clean up some scraps. And counted. Counted the quilt tops finished that need to be quilted.

    I came up with eight. I don't know how that happened. Usually I might have two or three, but somehow with being busy with work and my daughter being here and me not feeling so great this week, I wound up with quite a pile. I've never had that many at once ready to be quilted. This is the time where I wish I knew someone who liked doing the quilting part.

    Yet this afternoon I made another quilt top for yet another charity project.

    The school counselor where I work is putting something together for Project Linus. Project Linus is another kids quilt/blanket donation/charity organization. I'll give more details later on the school's specific project, but I was asked to design a quilt easy enough for even non-sewers to make. 

    So I did. And that makes nine.

    My own version of a simple strip quilt. Straight seams, no need to match corners. Easy and quick. I'm working on putting together yardage requirements and clear and concise directions. (Guess my writing skills will be coming in handy yet again). This one will be backed with fleece, something new for me.

    Maybe I'll tackle that learning experience tomorrow. 

    Friday, October 21, 2011

    Day 233 of 365

    My daughter stepped it up again.

    She's been home these last couple days, hanging out, helping around the house a bit. She was planning on heading back home yesterday afternoon, but plans changed.

    Not long after I wrote here yesterday about how icky I was feeling and how I wasn't up to taking my husband to the eye doctor in the evening, things changed. Not in a good way. As the time got closer and closer to his appointment, things started deteriorating more and more. By the time I needed to leave I had developed a full blown case of the stomach flu. Hours and hours of it.

    Being too sick to even think, my daughter stepped up and took over. She picked her dad up, took him out for dinner, got him to his appointment, went grocery shopping, and filled the car with gas. She delivered him back home, unloaded the car, checked on her mamma, then turned around and went back to her place late last night.

    I don't know what I would have done without her. It was one of those times when you're so very sick you can't worry about anyone or anything else. All you want to do is be in your jammies and in bed. And last night I only had to worry about myself.

    My grown up, 23 year old daughter covered my responsibilities. Again, another proud mom moment. Just wish I was feeling better to enjoy it.

    I did sit up for a while today, just long enough to write and to put a pillow form into the pillow I had made for Operation Kid Comfort. This one will be going to a little girl who has a dad away in the Air Force.

    Thursday, October 20, 2011

    Day 232 of 365

    I don't get excited about too many things. The thought of having a few days in a row off from work was something I was looking forward to. Except knowing the pattern I've fallen into, it isn't turning out as exciting as I thought it would.

    Here's the pattern:
    • Go to work and work 10+ hour days.
    • Come home to dinner on the table (thanks to hubby). Eat dinner with little energy for conversation.
    • Go to the computer and work another hour or two.
    • Go to bed exhausted.
    • Wake up the next morning still exhausted and do the same thing.

    Heading into this going back to work thing, I thought the days off would be like when I wasn't working. Take my time getting up and getting dressed. No stresses, no worries. But now that I'm into it, it appears the stresses and worries (and e-mails to be answered) spill over from my work days into my days-off days. And the exhaustion from overdoing it on the work days carries over into my days-off days. With my days off from work having been sporadic, I've wound up using those days off as recovery days.

    There probably is a solution. Don't overdo it at work. Don't work once I get home. Don't answer work e-mails on days off. Easier said than done.

    Today is one of those days I'm paying for it. I'm off today, but had to do some work-related tasks. But the rest of the day has been icky. Not feeling well, tired, joints hurting. Knowing I have to take my husband to his yearly eye-doctor appointment tonight is not something I have the energy for, either.

    These are the times I realize that I've taken on too much and my health can't sustain it for much longer.

    But still a picture for the day. Thank goodness a butterfly happened to land on the window.

    Wednesday, October 19, 2011

    Day 231 of 365

    I got the word.

    The results of the ultrasounds on my hands were not good. I had an ultrasound on the hands about a year ago and, in comparison, this one is worse. The swelling in the joints and tendons of my hands and wrists has increased. The joint destruction is continuing. With the aggressive treatments I'm on (injections of Methotrexate and injections of Enbrel) he should not be seeing ultrasound results like I had.

    According to the doctor the hands are a good "dipstick" of the body. By doing a simple ultrasound of the hands and wrists you can determine the type of problems going on in the other joints. If it's happening in the hands, it's happening elsewhere. If the issues are getting worse in the hands, they're getting worse throughout the body. So it's not necessarily just about the wrists and hands, it's about what that information represents. 

    When I started injecting Enbrel on Day 15, I couldn't believe I had gotten so desperate for relief. Then on  Day 92 when I had to start injecting Methotrexate I thought I had crossed my last line in the sand. Except now there is another line waiting for me. It's time for the last ditch effort, the thousands of dollars per session treatment.

    The infusions. It's time for IVs.

    Several in the first month, then one about every month afterward. Right now the doctor's office is working with my insurance company to decide coverage, but it appears it will only cover a portion of the exorbitant cost.

    My daughter knows that with me only working part -time, finances aren't exactly strong right now. So she asked me what would happen if I refused the IVs. If I refused, things would continue to deteriorate and my body would never be able to recover. My joints would continue to fail and the pain would continue to get worse. Although, even with this new super-aggressive last treatment option, things could continue to get worse.

    I feel kind of stuck right now. Do I put our family into financial stress to pursue treatment? Do I cut out one of the activities in my life - writing, working, or sewing - to try and keep me from using my hands too much? Do I do nothing and hope for the best?

    Right now I'm in do nothing mode. I'll keep on the current treatments until I hear back from insurance. That will buy me some time before I have to make any decisions.

    Time to sew, write, and harvest some of the last of the garden. Pumpkins, watermelon, kale, peppers, and some not-quite-red tomatoes.

    Tuesday, October 18, 2011

    Day 230 of 365

    I couldn't be prouder of my daughter nowadays.

    The teenage years weren't the best, though. Having both parents as school teachers didn't help things much, and having her dad as her teacher for a couple classes during high school didn't either. She was more interested in volleyball than studying. Yet we sent her off to college, paying her way - tuition, room and board, books and supplies, and some spending money. She rarely called home, and when she did the conversations were short. She was more interested in a social life than going to class.

    Two years of college and she was back home. (Probably with the classes she did pass it only equaled one year.) She decided the working world was where she was headed. She moved in with my mom in the big city, hoping for better job opportunities. She couldn't find anything for the longest time, but finally as the Christmas holiday rolled around she got hired as temporary holiday help.

    But bless her heart, the girl who was raised with a good work ethic but never put it into practice worked her tail off at that holiday help job. And when they let the holiday help go right after New Year's, they found a position for her. Then earlier this year when they did a round of layoffs store-wide, they moved someone into a different position so she could be kept on.

    Now two years later that hardworking girl is still there. Loving her job and doing great at it. And little miss 23 year old calls home every day.

    We are proud of her commitment to the working world. As a mom, I'm just as proud of the work she did for the tutorial this week. She bought the ingredients, prepared the workspace, and crafted what she wanted to say. Cool and confident on camera as she made Scarecrow Cupcakes.

    Way to go, girl!

    Monday, October 17, 2011

    Day 229 of 365

    Guess I'm going to be sewing by myself forever.

    I first thought I could get my daughter to help. While she doesn't mind helping me bake, she's made it clear that there will be no sewing for her.

    Next I thought I could get my husband to help. He did some pressing for me on Day 144 and wound some bobbins for me last week when he was sick, but no sewing for him.

    Then I thought I could get my mom to help. I even hinted back on Day 144  that I wanted to get her involved. And then last week on Day 225, I took over some stockings and felt I cut out for Stockings for Soldiers. I was able to get her through a couple stockings while I was there and she worked on some more after I left. But she wasn't exactly excited to be working on them. Guess no sewing partner there.

    So back to myself. Me, myself and I, doing some type of sewing day after day. Sewing with a purpose. Sewing for others. I'm so excited about doing it, but I can't find anyone around me with the same excitement (or even a bit of interest).

    No worries. A few hours solid hours of solo working time can equal a couple of quilt tops for Quilts for Kids.

    Sunday, October 16, 2011

    Day 228 of 365

    For some reason I'm not having much luck making zucchini bread.

    I've been attempting to make more zucchini bread for a month now. I made a big bunch of loaves a while back and was planning on taking them to work to share. (I had promised a couple gals I'd bring them a loaf.) But those loaves never made it into the school building. For I had a meeting I had to attend before going to school that day. And that meeting wound up lasting all day long. Zucchini bread sitting in the very hot car all day wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing. But these loaves were piled together in a bag along with my lunch. The density of the bread along with the weight of the lunch I never got to eat created smashed loaves. The loaves got carted home with me (and were bad enough I threw them away), with a promise to the gals I'd bring fresh, non-smashed loaves soon.

    So a few weeks back I went to make fresh loaves. Shredded the zucchini and got the ingredients out. My flour canister was empty and no flour bags could be found anywhere. I never run out of flour or sugar. But back on Day 71 when my husband and I were talking about an anti-inflammatory diet we decided to stop buying flour and sugar. And we had gone used up what we had. So no zucchini bread.

    Last week we went to the grocery store and I picked up flour so I could finally make the ladies some zucchini bread. Then we picked several zucchini from our garden yesterday. We used one in our full-of-veggies stew last night and were going to use one on the grill today. That left us many more to shred for zucchini bread today. I got them shredded, got the ingredients out and... I only had a bit of sugar in the canister and none anywhere else in the house. Just barely enough sugar for one batch of zucchini bread. But I have plenty of shredded zucchini.

    Tomorrow the ladies will get their freshly made zucchini bread.

    If I had more sugar, I would have made a dozen or so loaves and probably would have eaten more than my fair share. Thanks to no extra sugar in the house I kept from eating too much. And thanks to no extra sugar in the house I was able to take the time I had planned on using for zucchini bread making and baking to do some sewing instead.

    Nine patch quilt blocks for my next little girl's quilt for Operation Kid Comfort.

    Saturday, October 15, 2011

    Day 227 of 365

    Change is here. It's that time.

    The clothesline is down. When our trees were pruned last week the workers had to take it down, so back to the dryer we go. No more fresh smelling laundry, no more weekly shoulder workouts from hanging clothes on the line. No more using the clothespin bag I made on Day 29.

    Our irrigation water is done for the year. No more fighting the sprinklers or the pump. No more watering the grass, no more stray sprinklers hitting the house. No more watering the roses or the vegetables. What's there is there, and there will be no more growth this year. We've stopped pruning the roses and we've stopped weeding.

    When we wind up the year in the garden it's always a welcome relief. In the spring we're itching to get outside, but by the time October rolls around we're ready for it to be over. While we haven't had our first frost yet, the nights have been cool enough to stop things from growing much. Our tomatoes that were green on the vine a couple weeks back are still green. Our pumpkins are being picked and we're holding out hope our watermelons will have just a bit more time to ripen.

    We have a bit of a window to relax before we really close the gardens down. As soon as the leaves turn colors and fall to the ground it'll take constant raking to keep them corralled. As soon as the first frost hits we'll have to clean up the vegetable garden. And as soon as we have several hard freezes, it'll be time to cut the roses back.

    But right now all we have to do is wait and enjoy the nice days we do have. And enjoy those roses that are still blooming.

    I may not know the name of this miniature rose of ours, but I do know it's a pretty one.

    Friday, October 14, 2011

    Day 226 of 365

    My blog has done a lot for me.  It's made me realize I'm not alone out there.

    It also has given me a place to:
    • write down my thoughts.
    • complain or celebrate.
    • show off my skills.
    • show off sewing projects.
    • get encouragement from others.
    • keep track of my exercise streak and mileage covered.
    • document my life.
    It has given me a reason to:
    • take a picture every day. 
    • buy a new camera (so I can take better pictures).
    • get out of bed.
    It has let me:
    • practice my writing.
    • practice getting my thoughts together after having them scattered by too many pain pills.
    • do a bit of teaching (with my tutorials).
    • share the stories of my life.
    • prove I am committed to kids and service members (with my sewing projects).

    The one regret - the one area it hasn't had an impact - is in the weight loss department. As much as I wanted it to, it really hasn't led me towards healthier living.  I have not led myself to healthier living.

    But my destiny is in my hands. And it starts now. I've talked the talk now it's time to walk the walk. Tonight I enjoyed my last un-healthy meal, my favorite one I remember from childhood.

    Two McDonald's cheeseburgers, fries, and apple pie.

    My last supper. (Bad-for-me one, that is.)

    Thursday, October 13, 2011

    Day 225 of 365

    I'm not into astrology, but I do read my horoscope every day. I like reading the one on Yahoo because it seems to have some kind of positive affirmation for the day. In a lot of cases it just confirms that the plans I already have for the day are right on. Part of mine today read:  

    Right now, it's okay to luxuriate in the comfort of the familiar. Your family offers you immense joy, and they are very receptive to listening to whatever you want to discuss.

    Hmm. My plans fit perfectly.

    This morning I'm headed to get ultrasounds on my hands. Since where I'm having the ultrasound isn't too far from my daughter and mom's place, I'm headed there next and am spending the day there.

    My daughter is a bit stressed about me coming over because of what is expected of her. I'm bringing my camera and tripod and we're going to work on a tutorial for next Tuesday. That is, I mean she is going to work on a tutorial for next Tuesday. She's doing a cute little fall decorated cupcake. I'm looking forward to it whether she is or not. My horoscope did say my family will be receptive to listening!

    I don't know how receptive my mom is going to be, though. She hasn't gotten her sewing machine out in I don't know how many years. But she's going to have to get it out today.

    When I did the 80 stockings for Stockings for Soldiers on Day 222  I didn't use up all my Christmas fabric and felt. I have some left so I cut out some stockings and felt, have some straight pins stuck in the owl pincushion I made on Day 195, and have some thread and wound bobbins. It's all ready to take with me today.

    It's not too hard to guess what my mom will be working on.

    Let's hope my horoscope was right about my family being receptive to listening.

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

    Day 224 of 365

    Someone at work told me today they were worried about me. That my eyes don't look the same as they did when I first started back to work.

    Like I've written before (way back on Day 28) my eyes always give it away. Here's what I wrote then:
    After several years being sick and still working, it became exhausting having to be "on" all the time. I had to work hard at keeping up a good front. Some people knew I wasn't well and would ask about how I was doing. While I didn't want to admit how bad things had gotten, sometimes the lack of spark in my eyes gave it away. So working was double exhausting - having to work while sick and in pain, and having to keep faking happy as long as possible. It wore me out.

    I might as well have written that fresh today. I'm there. Back there. Exhausted, feeling bad, and putting on a fake front. It's no wonder. Today was the perfect storm of the three part-time job hats I'm wearing. I was at work by 7:30 this morning and I finally left the building a while after 6:30 this evening. Who leaves a school building that late at night? If I had the energy, I'd raise my hand on that one. But I don't have the energy. Not right now.

    I know I'm doing some things right. Things I wasn't doing months back, things that should help me through these 12ish hour days. But I'm also doings some wrong things.

    I'm doing the right things by:
    • continuing to write every day.
    • going to work a just few days (albeit long days) a week and being home a couple days a week.
    • taking the time I need in the mornings to get my body moving.
    • sewing for others.
    • continuing to look for my picture of the day.
    • staying off of pain pills.

    I'm doing the wrong thing when I neglect my health. I'm not eating well. I'm skipping meals, then eating a large meal to make up for not eating. I'm not pacing myself at work. I go and go and go until I can't go anymore. Then I come home, totally exhausted with no energy to do anything. How did I let that get out of control? What happened to paying attention to my energy and pain level and getting a hold of it before it got away from me?

    And another thing - since the mornings have gotten darker and the weather has turned cooler I've stopped walking. Actually, I've stopped all exercise. I don't know how that happened, either. I was walking and also hanging out with my buddy Richard Simmons. But somehow, some way, it stopped. I didn't even make the conscious decision to stop. I wake up one day and realize I haven't exercised in a couple weeks. How does that happen? How is it that I could have been so committed to something (I had 120 days in a row earlier, doggone it!) and yet lose that commitment? Why have I let my mind get cluttered with so many other things that I've forgotten the most important thing of all - me?

    I've lost my way. I've lost what I had. I've lost my focus on myself. And I don't know where to find it again. So many questions, so few answers.

    Guess I'm like the colors in our burning bush. Change is slow, and I'm certainly not all there yet.

    Tuesday, October 11, 2011

    Day 223 of 365

    I think my family is probably getting tired of me pushing them.

    I feel like I have some experience with the I don't feel well enough to do anything feeling. When I see someone in the family with that feeling, I've been trying to make them do things. Not something big, but just something. I know how important it is to have a purpose when things aren't going the way you'd like. I know what it is like to get up in the morning and not want to get out of the pajamas. I also know sometimes it's mind over matter. That despite how terrible you feel, you can do at least one thing you can be proud of. One thing to prove you were here. One thing to look forward to. If you asked me at the beginning of this project if that were true, I wouldn't have believed you. Even now there are days where I'm not sure I can do it.

    But I do know the power of the one thing.  For the last several months my one thing has been the picture of the day. But I think the greatest contribution I've made is the sewing for others. It's the thing that gets me out of bed, the thing I look forward to, the thing I'm most proud of.

    I want others around me to experience the power of the "one thing". So yesterday, when my husband was home sick and wanting some attention and I was in the middle of piecing a kids quilt, I made him wind a box full of bobbins for me. And he was happy he was able to contribute. Happy he learned something new.

    It's like the fried pies and my mom. Trying out different recipes and different doughs gave her a purpose. Something to work on, something to think about, something to look forward to. Last week I made her do the tutorial, and this week she's doing a tutorial again.

    This week is donuts. Quick and easy donuts made out of canned biscuits.

    Monday, October 10, 2011

    Day 222 of 365

    As I worked through my day at home today, it hit me. My life has changed and I don't know if it'll ever go back to the way it was before.

    I realized it when I was sitting in the office chair, at the dining room table, while eating. For every meal and every single time I sit at the dining room table I have to use the padded office chair. Ever since I hurt my back two years ago the straight back wooden chairs that go with the set - the ones that everyone else sits in - are too hard on my back. I tried putting in a seat cushion once but it didn't help.

    I realized it as I took a shower. When I had my knee replacement a year and a half ago, I had to have a shower chair. When I started using that shower chair, I noticed it was easier to take a shower. Not just because of the knee issue, but because of the back issue. I'm unable to stand but a few minutes and bending over is rough. Using a shower chair allows me to take a shower without as much back pain as before.

    I realized it when I used the bathroom on the elevated seat. It was suggested I use one when I had the knee replacement, and again it seemed to help keep the back a bit calmer. I tend to delay my restroom trips at work (I know, it's a bad practice) because it hurts the back getting up.

    I realized it as I was sitting down and shaving my legs. Long gone are the days of standing and reaching.

    I realized it as I squeezed the toothpaste with the heel of my hand.

    I realized it as I was tying my shoes. At noon. It took me that long to get my fingers to be able to work.

    And I realized it as I was having difficulty grasping the pen when I was writing a note to include in my box for Stockings for Soldiers.

    While my body has required me to make adjustments that a 46 year old should not have to make, I still can sew on my machine.

    80 stockings are now finished and ready to go out the door tomorrow.

    I have to think that despite my grumblings about my body, those troops who will be receiving these stockings have bigger issues to deal with than I do.

    Sunday, October 9, 2011

    Day 221 of 365

    I've never been one to ask for help. I imagine most people are that way. Too afraid, too embarrassed, too proud. Too concerned about trying to be independent.

    I've tended to be independent. I left home at 16 and was in college by 17. And being married to someone with a disability who doesn't drive forced me to assume an even greater level of independence. I've been the one driving us everywhere despite ice, fog, and blizzards, and the only one who pumps gas. I've been the one who uses the drill and the saw every time they are needed. I've been the sole lawnmower fixer and weed eater repairer. I've been the house painter, the bill payer, the checkbook balancer, and the tax preparer. The tech support person.   Every "assembly required" thing in this house was put together by me, along with anything requiring tying whether it be a rope, a shoestring, or a dress tie. And 99.99% of the pictures taken over the last 28 years were taken by me.

    Over the years, I've gotten my husband to do more things here and there without help. He now uses a can opener by himself. He's gotten a nice collection of clip on and zip up dress ties. Just last week he learned how to text, and this week I showed him how to pay bills.

    Recovering from three surgeries in less than a year required me to finally start asking for help. Both my daughter and husband had to pitch in more than they'd ever had before. It was a welcome (and necessary) change for me. But since then, I've again been holding back on asking for help.

    25 more Christmas stockings for Stockings for Soldiers. Independently. All by myself. I probably should have asked for help in getting to 80. I might just do that pretty soon.

    Saturday, October 8, 2011

    Day 220 of 365

    I'm not a big comfort food person. I didn't grow up on casseroles and I'm not into mac and cheese. I don't even remember too many of my meals growing up.

    As I think back on my childhood, it had two parts. Pre-divorce and post-divorce. Up to 3rd grade and 4th grade and on.

    My parents divorced when I was a kid. A few months before my eighth birthday, we packed up the house in San Jose and moved about 80 miles away to live with my grandparents. We left the old house behind and I left my old life behind. I have few memories of the pre-divorce years, and the memories I do have revolve around the pictures I have from back then. Mostly birthday parties. The only food memories are birthday cakes, grilled cheese sandwiches, and fried eggs. (I'm sure my mom cooked, I just don't remember it.)

    I remember some foods from when we moved in with, then moved next door to, my grandparents. Those fried pies from earlier this week. Tacos. Okra. Homemade pizza with Little Smokies on them. Sourdough bread. And fried chicken and mashed potatoes.

    I still use the same homemade pizza dough recipe and sometimes still use Little Smokies. Tacos occur frequently in our dinner menu. I still like good sourdough bread. Fried chicken and mashed potatoes? Probably the meal I remember that's the closest thing to comfort food. We make chicken here at home, but bake it instead of fry it. I still love mashed potatoes.

    But I have another meal that feels like comfort food. I imagine it was in my childhood somewhere, yet I don't remember who made it (mom, grandma, or great-grandma?).

    Chicken and dumplings. Nothing better on a cool fall day.

    Friday, October 7, 2011

    Day 219 of 365

    My husband has his funeral all planned out. He knows who he wants officiating, where he wants it held. I would suspect it'll be a full place on that day.

    He's a popular teacher, well known in the community, and is someone who never shies away from visiting with students who have long since graduated. He might not see someone for 20 years but still recognizes them right off the bat and is able to strike up a conversation. I made fun of him for years because no matter where we went - including out of state - he would see someone he knows. Now it's no longer funny. It's expected. And he never forgets a face.

    Being I've never been a social person, that's a skill I don't possess. Even people I should recognize, I don't. I imagine it comes from being engrossed in work and not people. Getting good grades and being smart has been my claim to fame. But I always compare myself to other people. When I do that, someone is always smarter, nicer, friendlier, more patient, better dressed. The one that bugs me the most is when I say to myself, "She/he is a better person than I am."

    I say it a lot. I look at the qualities in other people and I see so much that I lack. It's not so much about being a perfect person, but wanting to be a better version of myself.

    Right now the one thing I can turn to as proof of becoming a better version of myself is my sewing for others. I'm not sure why, but kids and soldiers (and kids of soldiers) have been the focus of my sewing.

    Today, Stockings for Soldiers. 30 more stockings done.

    Thursday, October 6, 2011

    Day 218 of 365

    The abrupt change in our weather has signaled an abrupt change in my thinking.

    Weather wise, it was 90 earlier this week and here today it appears the temperature might not get out of the 40s. Just a few minutes ago the weatherman said with the wind we have we have windchills in the 20s right now. Quite a shock on the system.

    Another shock on the system happened yesterday. Something at work made me realize I've been putting myself last.

    One of the biggest draws to taking this job was that it was part time and I had some flexibility in my schedule. That it would leave me time to recuperate in between work days, give me some down time to regroup. For some reason when I started back working, I thought I'd focus on work the days I was there, and my days off would be clear-headed and not about work. It hasn't quite worked out that way, and part of that is my own fault. I've fallen into the work is more important than anything routine. But yesterday's incident gave me the wake up call I needed.

    A change of attitude on my part was in store. And that change of attitude came in handy today.

    Our big, huge shade tree that keeps our roses shaded in the mornings and our back patio cool in the evenings has slowly been dying off. Every summer while sitting on the patio we talk about how thankful we are for such a tree. How heartbroken we would be if anything ever happened to the tree. We love that tree.

    So a few weeks back we had a tree company take a look at the problem and they decided it might be some type of stress. Fast forward to today when we had that same tree company come out and prune the dead stuff out. When trimming up in the trees, bad news was delivered. It appears a fungus has overtaken our tree. There is no cure. And within 4-5 years our tree will be dead. I remember a few years back when we had to remove our big, beautiful front yard shade tree. I loved that tree so much I almost cried the day it was cut down.

    If it wasn't for my new attitude change today, I would probably upset at the thought of losing this backyard tree. I am upset, but it's something I can't influence so it's not worth my worrying about.

    That's what I realized at work yesterday. I can't change anyone else, I can't change the situation, or the amount of work, or who should do what. My limited amount of energy doesn't need to be spent on any of those things.

    My energy needs to be spent on being happy. It's in my hands. It's not dependent on anyone else. It's not dependent on good luck or bad luck. Not on money or things. Not on cold weather or warm weather. Not on a job or on a tree.

    My happiness belongs to me.

    But being happy when my husband wants me to eat some freshly picked-from-the-garden kale? I'm trying to be happy on that one, but I'm not sure I can get there.

    Wednesday, October 5, 2011

    Day 217 of 365

    I've learned quite a bit in these last few days.

    Did you know that:
    • If you grab the end of a shower curtain the wrong way you can get a big papercut?
    • If you sew Christmas stockings for hours and hours you'll be using your foot pedal a whole bunch, and then your foot will be cramped up for several days making it difficult to walk?
    • If you take off your wedding ring because your hands are achy and swollen, you'll never be able to get it back on again?
    • The one and only time you don't have your camera close by is the day a coyote runs out of a cornfield into the middle of the road, waits for you to stop the car, then just stands there, daring you to do something?
    • If you get overworked and can't keep your head on straight you could forget a friend's birthday? And that the only way you finally remember is because the friend tells you days later? (Sorry, Jan.)
    • When you take curtains down from the west-facing window behind the computer and don't get around to putting up new ones because you haven't bought a new drill, the sun will shine in your eyes in the late afternoon and evening? And that the best way to keep the sun out of your eyes so you can keep typing is to wear a baseball cap you found behind the door?
    • The white you see on the slice of bread in the morning isn't necessarily freezer burn? When lunchtime rolls around and you're eating that sandwich made from that bread it might taste a bit weird? And only after the sandwich is eaten does it occur to you it was not freezer burn but mold?
    • When you have a spiky haircut and your hair starts falling out because of the medication you are on, people can see right through to your scalp everywhere? And if you decide to grow your hair out so people don't see your scalp so much, you'll still keep losing hair just as much but now you'll be leaving it behind everywhere?
    • Cats are like teenagers? They wind up somewhere they have no business being and car keys are sometimes involved.

      Tuesday, October 4, 2011

      Day 216 of 365

      My mother made me do it. To be honest though, I made her do it.

      On Day 183 I was celebrating my half-way mark. Half way to my journey of wherever it is I'm going.

      On that day, my mom and daughter were here and we did some food-related activities. Picked tomatoes, bell peppers, and jalapenos. Made salsa. Baked zucchini bread, banana nut muffins, and fried some pies. Fried pies. A leftover from my childhood.

      When I was growing up, we lived right next door to my grandparents. I spent all my days afterschool at their house and my grandmother used to make fried pies. I remember her electric skillet sitting on the counter as she fried them up.

      I've never made them myself. I didn't even know how they were made - I just remember some type of fruit was involved and that they were delicious. So when my mom moved back to Idaho and I knew she was coming over, I wanted her to teach me to make fried pies. So on Day 183 I got a taste of how they were done.

      If she only knew what she was in for.

      Since I started these tutorials, I've been looking for things I've made or baked to show off. Except I'm not a fried pie expert. So I sent my mom on a mission. In between the time she made them at my house a while back and this week, her task was to find the best combination of crust and filling. She used small canned biscuits, jumbo canned biscuits, and pie crusts. She fried some, she baked some. She tried a dried peach filling, a dried apricot filling, and a canned apple pie filling.

      She's researched and taste tested and is ready to unveil her recipe. It uses a bit of oil, a can of jumbo biscuits and a can of apple pie filling.

      So today's tutorial is my mom showing us all how to make fried apple pies, just like her mom did.
       

      Monday, October 3, 2011

      Day 215 of 365

      I've heard you are either an Elvis person or a Beatles person. You can like them both, but you always like one more than another.

      I'm a Beatles person. When I first discovered music in the 70s I was listening to Paul McCartney and Wings and John Lennon so I became interested in the Beatles. My memories of Elvis were not positive back then. By the time I started paying attention he had let himself go and was not very attractive. It wasn't appealing to watch him perform.

      But years later I'd heard so much about Graceland that it went onto my bucket list. When we did our cross country trip a few years back it was one of our must-see places to visit. Stepping into the mansion was like stepping back in time. Same carpet, counter tops, and furniture, all in 1970s color scheme.

      Only then did I appreciate Elvis more for what he had done than for what he had become. I started to like Elvis more. Over the past couple years I've even bought some Elvis fabric. Until yesterday I had no idea of how I was going to use it.

      As I was cutting up all those stockings for Stockings for Soldiers, it occurred to me I might use some Elvis fabric. I was second guessing whether it would be a good choice. But Casey Kasem helped me decide. Last night I was listening to a repeat of his show from 1977. A year I remember well. How can someone forget when Leif Garrett and Shaun Cassidy had hits in the top 40? This repeat show mentioned several times about Elvis' death. (He had died just a few weeks earlier.) As I heard them talking about him again and again, I remembered the importance he played in music and sewed up those Elvis stockings.

      11 more down.

      Sunday, October 2, 2011

      Day 214 of 365

      I don't know what it is about sewing that makes me enjoy it so much.

      In my lifetime I've tried cross-stitch and counted cross-stitch. Candlewicking and crewel work. I've tried tole painting and scrapbooking. I've made wall hangings, pillows, padded picture frames, and Christmas ornaments. I've painted a garden scene on the side of our shed and I have scrapbooks full of pictures.

      But I always come back to sewing.

      Somehow attaching pieces of fabric to make some type of creation is relaxing. I love visiting fabric stores, I love buying fabric, and I love sewing the fabric. And these past few months the best type of sewing for me has been sewing for others. Sewing for those I don't know has given me a purpose.

      If it wasn't for sewing for others, I couldn't throw numbers around like these. Since March 5th I have made:
      • 17 kids quilts sent to either Quilts for Kids (for sick kiddos) or Operation Kid Comfort (for kids of deployed soldiers), and one to another organization
      • 14 presentation cases for Quilts of Valor (for veterans)
      • 2 quilt tops - one for a soldier, one for a diabetes auction
      • 24 turtle pillows for The Painted Turtle Hole-in-the-Wall Camp (very sick kiddos)

      57 items.

      Now I get to throw some new numbers around:
      • 4 more kids quilts to be done for Quilts for Kids. Two need to be quilted, two more kits are on the way.
      • 5 more sets of pictures (which will equal 5 more quilts) for Operation Kid Comfort are headed my direction.

      And a new project.

      Stocking for Soldiers kicks off October 10. Stocking for Soldiers sews Christmas stockings, fills them with goodies, and sends them to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. While I may not have the goodies to fill the stockings, thanks to my fabric stash I have plenty of Christmas fabrics. They provide the pattern, I make the stockings. At least 80 stockings worth. (I still have more fabric, but stopped cutting at 80.)

      5 down and 75 to go.

      Saturday, October 1, 2011

      Day 213 of 365

      Today was a biggie. Two biggies. They might not seem biggies to most people, but they are to me.

      First one - my husband sent a text message. He's made very few calls on the cell phone before (maybe a total of 4 or 5), but has never texted. Ever. He's not big into technology. While I have a certificate in teaching technology, he thinks computers are more trouble than they're worth.

      But as we sat waiting for the next biggie to start, he asked me to teach him how to text. He didn't have a clue about what buttons to push or even how to find where to write a text message. He now knows how to read a text and reply to a text. He was quite proud (extremely proud) of himself. He texted me all afternoon even though we were sitting right next to each other, and he even fired off a couple to our daughter.

      The second biggie was about us, and especially me. Over the past couple years, I have been pretty much home-bound. But I've gone to the movies with friends, with my husband, and even by myself during these last couple months. I made it to a concert just this past week. I feel like maybe I'm starting to be part of the outside world again, and today nudged me a bit closer.

      Last Saturday on Day 206 we had gone out to eat, and when leaving the particular establishment (Buffalo Wild Wings), lots of Boise State football fans were pouring in to watch the game. We've never gone anywhere to watch the game but our own house. Never went to a bar or tailgate party. Nowhere. We've always watched the game alone. But when we saw all the fans last week and saw all the TVs in this particular place, we told ourselves we'd visit during the next afternoon BSU game. (When I made that commitment I didn't know it was going to be so soon.) But late this morning we went in and left about 4 hours later. Had some appetizers and later a lunch/dinner combo. We (even me) had a great time watching the BSU football game with a place full of Bronco fans.

      2 biggies. And 63 TVs full of Boise State football.