Sunday, September 4, 2011

Day 186 of 365

It appears I'm not the only one in my family with Christmas on my mind. Just a couple days ago when my mom and daughter were here there was a discussion of Christmas gifts for my daughter. Then I wrote about Christmas crafts here yesterday, and just today my husband told me about something he wanted on his Christmas Eve list.

We have a Christmas Eve tradition of opening one present early, with the rest being opened on Christmas Day. Our tradition started because of a Batman Helicopter. 

Growing up, my husband's family let kids open one gift on Christmas Eve. The kids got to choose one wrapped present from under the tree to be the special Christmas Eve one. One year, the particular present my husband picked wound up being a Batman Helicopter. A plain, plastic, toy helicopter. A present he didn't ask for, a present he didn't even want. A present that forever tainted that eight year old's Christmas Eve experience.

After we were married, he made it clear there would be no early gifts. But that changed.

With both of us being educators, books are important in our lives. We have hundreds (probably thousands) of books of mine, his, ours, and our daughter's. And we have a tradition of giving books on Christmas Eve.

Every Christmas Eve, we open an early present. And every Christmas Eve, it is always a book we want. We look months ahead at books of interest. Books we can put on our Christmas Eve book list. And every Christmas Eve when we open that book, we spend part of the evening reading before going to bed. It's an important tradition to us.

So today as my husband was reading the Sunday paper, he saw an article about a new book coming up. A book about John F. Kennedy. Being a history teacher, he's big into JFK. Particularly JFK and conspiracy theories. He has videos, and we have more than one shelf here at home full of JFK books, and it looks like come Christmas Eve he'll be adding one more.

He's big into JFK, history, and patriotism. While I was working on getting ready for my tutorial, he came in all excited about having cut what he called a "Labor Day Special" bouquet. Unfortunately, he had to explain it to me - red, white, and blue (okay, purple) roses.

And the name of the white rose in there? It's the rose called JFK.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Day 185 of 365

I like September.

I like September because that means it's almost October.

October means fall and trees turning orange and yellow and cooler days. October means it's time to rake up the leaves, shut up the rose garden, and close things down outside. It means no more guilt about the lack of time spent weeding, or the scarcity of bouquets brought in, or having to worry about keeping things trim and tidy.

And almost October means almost November. November equals Christmas. The only holiday for me.

I love doing crafts, but I particularly love Christmas crafts. Homemade ornaments, stockings, tree skirts, wall hangings. Years ago I got the idea I was going to sell crafts at Christmas shows. I didn't. I sold some things at school, but never found the time to make up enough things to do a show. Then I had the idea I would just sell Christmas things year round. I didn't.

But being it is September, which means it's almost October, which means it's almost November (which means Christmas crafts to me), I'm kind of excited.

Excited that I feel well enough - and have the time - to make fun stuff.

I was going to do another sugar cookie tutorial today for Tuesday's video, but I'm getting a bit tired of cookies right now. I'll do the tutorial tomorrow instead and more than likely it won't be cookies.

By the look of the tons of fabric squares I received in the mail today (plus the yards and yards of batting that didn't make it into the picture), it might need to be sewing related.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Day 184 of 365

A new day and a new job.

A new job? Not exactly a new job, but today I was offered an additional job at my same school. A couple extra hours a week added to my current part-time position equates to a few more dollars going towards paying my health insurance.  Doing sort of the same thing I'm doing already, but just for a different program.  Two job descriptions attached to my name now and some new responsibilities.

The best part of this particular add-on job is I that I can do it from home. No need to go into school any extra days, no need to get out of my sweats or into dress shoes. T-shirt, sweats or shorts, and tennis shoes - now those are the kind of clothes I can live in.

Just hanging out in comfy clothes, doing my job (or at least a couple hours of it).

Comfy clothes or not, I'm so thankful I can be a productive person and have something to offer. Not too long ago I didn't believe I'd ever get back to work, that my days of contributing were over. I can't believe my brain is still working.

Something else that doesn't seem believable? One of our few still-green pumpkins in the garden. The vine found its way to the pea fence and I think it decided it's a good place to hang out until fall.

While my mind, body, and spirit was broken not too long ago, I wonder what will break first here- the pumpkin, the vine, or the pea fence?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Day 183 of 365

It's half over.

I am now six months into my year-long plan of taking a picture a day. My, how far I've come. Yet, ...

The other day I wrote about how posting on the blog early in the day relieves pressure from me. How after I post it feels like the important part of the day is done and I can relax.

Yes and no.

After 183 days you'd think I would have exhausted the picture-taking possibilities. Sometimes it feels that way.  I want every picture to mean something to me. Just like when I started writing here, my goal was to take a picture every day to show I had lived.

But sometimes it feels that my life isn't exciting enough to document. I'm just an average person living an average (or in most cases, a below-average) kind of life. While we traveled extensively in the past, we're not doing that anymore.

I have thousands of pictures I've taken all over this country. The White House, nighttime fireworks over Disney World, The Space Needle in Seattle, taxis in New York City, Graceland, Florida beaches, the aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans. But that seems such a long time ago, a different life.

Nowadays it's so much simpler. Just looking at the categories of pictures tells the story. Sewing, gardening, charity.

It occurred to me this blog has allowed me to focus on a simpler life. It gives me a reason to look for something important in each and every day. While occasionally I might feel guilty I'm not posting pictures of exciting things like trips and parties and celebrations, the pictures are a genuine representation of the person I am.

I am a homebody. I like to cook and sew and garden. And who knew I would be someone who likes to make things for charity? (Certainly not me.)

Even though I sometimes feel pressure to find a picture, I always come up with something. Something unique, or important to me, something I've made, or something that fits in with how I'm feeling. I guess the universe is on my side, cheering me along.

Looking back to six months ago, I could never have predicted where I'd be now.

Back on Day 1 I had blinders on. It was dark and I couldn't see anything around me but the pain. In that first post I even struggled coming up with things I was thankful for. But over the course of the last six months, having a purpose - taking a picture and writing about it - forced me to get myself out of bed every day. Getting out of bed for many of those days (and still some days now) was/is an impossible feat. Getting out of bed and having to do something was even more impossible.

But I've done it. For half a year.

I'm still taking pictures and writing every single day. My charity work continues. I do weekly how-to videos now. I committed to an exercise program for four months, and now I'm at it again. I'm back to work doing a new job I enjoy. My confidence which was so sorely missed over the last 18 months is returning.

Although, the pain relief I was hoping for never came to be. It's as bad as before, but I'm developing better ways (mentally and physically) to cope with it. I still have my same frustrations with pain and fatigue, but I'm managing.

A couple people have asked me if I would continue this past the 365 day mark. Maybe. I am absolutely certain that if it wasn't for this "project", I wouldn't have made the growth I've had. I can't imagine I'm halfway to where I want to be. How long does it take people to be where they want to be?

At this six month anniversary, I didn't celebrate. But it just so happens this is the day my mom came to my house for the first time since she moved back from California. My daughter was here, too, so we spent some time today in the kitchen and with some garden produce. All of us now have plenty of food to take to work, home, and freeze.

Our table at the end of the day told the story:
  • 71 tomatoes, 30 jalapenos, and 5 bell peppers picked from the garden.
  • 1 batch of salsa made (from the garden produce).
  • 9 loaves of zucchini bread baked (from garden zucchini).
  • 6 jumbo sized banana muffins (from leftover bananas).
  • 10 fried peach pies (from dehydrated peaches brought back from California).

Three generations of women baking. Probably a celebration in its own right. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Day 182 of 365

When I was in high school I used to watch General Hospital. Luke and Laura was big then, as was Rick Springfield. And who could forget Richard Simmons on the show?

Richard Simmons.

He used to be on the show, then he had a show of his own. I admit it, I watched. Didn't necessarily exercise with him, but I watched. Then, as a young mother trying to get baby weight off, I found a Richard Simmons album. It was basically an exercise video without the video. He'd cheer you on, telling you what move to do next, counting off, all while you looked at the pictures that came in the album.

With the advent (and finally our household purchase) of the VCR, I bought one of his Sweating to the Oldies tapes. I liked the music, and I knew he had a good track record of working with overweight folks. Over the years, I've worn out the tapes.

But last year while recovering from my first shoulder surgery, I found some Richard Simmons DVDs. I bought all of them. (I think there are like five or six.) My plan was to use them once my shoulder got better. But I wound up with shoulder surgery number two and those DVDs have been sitting on the shelf ever since.

Not for long. I have a plan.

On Day 167, after 120 consecutive days of exercising, I stopped. I started back in April and ended in August. And as of two days ago I still had not started back up.

I had worked so hard to keep the streak alive. I had worked my way up to 3-5 miles a day on the exercise bike on Level 4. (It only has 7 levels.) But once I started back to work, the fear I had about not being able to maintain it came true. My evenings had been long, we had just buried my mother-in-law and I was feeling worn down and weak.

I'm still trying to adjust to this new routine of trying to balance work and home. I've been thinking on an exercise plan, and now I have one I can live with.

Those days I don't have to go to work are going to be exercise video days. With my old pal Richard Simmons. Yes, it's dorky, but I have to admit, it's kinda fun.

The other part of my plan started yesterday.

Each Tuesday I have a meeting going into the evening. Since I get to leave the house a little bit later in the morning because of it, I had some extra time to walk up and down our block yesterday morning. (It's been several years since I've done that.) I enjoyed it so much I did it again today. Unfortunately I can't say getting myself dressed and outside walking by 7:00 AM is easy. And I can't say walking is a pain free exercise for me.

But I sure do get to see pretty things that early in the morning. Today's picture is from some sunflowers at the end of our block.

    Tuesday, August 30, 2011

    Decorated Fishbowl Sugar Cookies - Day 181 of 365, Tutorial Tuesday

    That one year during parent teacher conferences parents had no idea what the usually responsible teacher had hidden by a tote bag on the floor behind her desk.

    Every time parent teacher conferences come around, teachers make sure kids clean and organize their desks. Lots of times parents want to check out their child's desk, and many, many times those parents are surprised/shocked/excited at how clean and neat the desk is. (For most kids, the desk goes back to pig-pen status within a couple days.)

    Teachers also like for their classrooms to be nice and clean. Desks straightened, countertops wiped down, chairs neatly arranged around the tables. But I had a fish problem.

    It just so happened this particular year my daughter came home from spending time with grandma with a fish. A goldfish kind of fish.

    I've been traumatized by goldfish before. When I was a kid growing up my brother and I each had a goldfish. And I cleaned the tank. But cleaning the tank required getting a Cool Whip container for the fishies to swim in while the tank was being emptied. I wasn't exactly an expert fish wrangler. I could catch them in the little net, but to keep my hand covering the net while I carefully transferred them to the container? Not so much. More than once the little slimy creatures tried to make a run (or should I say leap?) for it. Leaped themselves onto the counter. Flopping all around. I had enough problems worrying about them touching my hands while they were in the net, so you can imagine the difficulty I had in grabbing them as they writhed around the counter. Downright frightening! Those fish didn't make it all too long.

    So when my daughter came home with that fish, the fish tank cleaning memories came back.

    We gave it a good go with that little fish. We cleaned the tank and we fed it regularly. But we had water problems. We lived in the country on a well with bad water. We eventually bought water at the store for fishy. Little daughter didn't take much responsibility with the fish, so I decided to take it to school where it could live in city water and be our class pet.

    The students were more than excited to clean the tank and feed it and watch it swim around, right there on the counter next to the drinking fountain.

    The town's water (and the school's old pipes) wound up being not so great for fishy and he started floundering in March of that year. He wasn't swimming as much, and although I brought in bottled gallons of water again, it was appearing to be a bit late for recovery.

    But I didn't expect that just a few minutes before parent teacher conferences were to start, Mr. Fishy would be barely moving in his bowl. Having a lethargic, appearing-to-be-dying fish on the counter for all to see would not be appropriate for parent teacher conferences. So I did probably what seemed appropriate at the time.

    Cover the bowl with a tote bag and hide him on the floor behind my desk. He stayed there all night.

    At the end of conferences, the custodian took pity on me and took a walk to the boys' bathroom with our pal. There will never be anymore goldfish in my lifetime again.

    Except for these. Don't forget to check out the video that goes along with them.

    Monday, August 29, 2011

    Day 180 of 365

    I don't know why I think I should have control over things in my life.

    I've had control issues before. I want to be in charge. But each time I think I should be in charge, making the decisions for my life, the universe thinks otherwise.

    Such as what happened today.

    I left the house this morning with a plan. A plan I was excited about. I had to do some not fun things, but the reward was going to be great. It was a plan that allowed me to go to the movies all by myself. (Oh, how I've been wanting to do that!)

    I had an morning eye doctor appointment which would be over in time for me to get to the next city and go out to lunch before my next appointment - an MRI on my back. I'd finish with the MRI in plenty of time to get to my 1:40 movie. Then I was planning on hitting Home Depot for a new drill (the kid we hired, then fired, this summer broke ours) and a tool for the sprinkler system. I'd have enough time for all those things, plus visiting my mom, plus picking my daughter up from work.

    But my day didn't turn out that way.

    The eye doctor was running late. I didn't leave my 10:00 eye doctor appointment until after 11:30. No time for lunch as my MRI was in a different city at noon. I made it to the MRI, on an empty stomach, with a few minutes to spare. But the MRI folks were running late. I didn't leave there until after 2:00. I missed my movie (and the next wasn't starting until 4:30ish). And after spending an hour lying flat on a hard surface without being able to move a muscle, my back was a mess. No energy or patience to tackle Home Depot, and no pain pills to ease the pain (I gave those up ages ago).

    I did go to lunch - not until close to 2:30. And to think I skipped breakfast so I could get popcorn at the movie I never did get to see.

    I guess today wasn't a good day for a movie. Maybe I'll try again another day. Or maybe just give up. The stars are just not aligning for me.

    Looking back on the day, the highlight really happened first thing this morning when I was in the rose garden.

    My wonderfully fragrant Double Delight rose, still wet with dew.