Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Catching up -- December NewFOs

November was mostly a no-sew month.  But once my sewing machine was back from the repair shop, I got moving in December!   I had a lot of things to finish in time for gift-giving, so I not only started projects, I actually finished several!     I sewed 14 infinity scarves (one of the favorite gifts this year, quick and easy to make, and really appreciated by the recipients),
a tote or two and some zipper bags,
and I finished the grand-doggie jacket.
Then I started on a few kitchen towels out of scraps from my overflowing scrap bins.

Including this one for a Morse Code friend who invited me to lunch --- an embellished towel that says "dry" in Morse Code symbols (even though it is not a written language and is meant to be heard, not seen, I think it's pretty cool looking).   Towels might be my go-to gift next Christmas.   I am a fan of fun, easy and practical. 
I also made (and tested) two different styles of cozies for french press coffee pots at the suggestion of a friend.  They work about equally well, although the full cover kept the coffee about 5 degrees warmer after 90 minutes.   The person who received these as a gift uses the two of them together for coffee that stays hot as long as it lasts.

None of my projects were complicated or artistic, but for a slacker like me, I'm counting December a sewing success, and looking forward to a new year.  :)   I am linking up to Cat Patches NewFO party, as sewers and slackers alike celebrate our starts and finishes for the last month of 2014.   I hope the New Year brings us lots of joy, no matter what projects we use to move forward.  :)

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Beginning the Annual Year End Review

I have been reflecting on 2014, a year of good times and disappointments, as all of them are.  For the past two years my New Year's 'resolution' has been to have ridiculous amounts of fun and the Best Year Ever.   It's worked pretty well for me and there have been lots of laughs.   But since my birthday this year when I turned Really Old, I have been more pensive about it all.   Daylight is burning, I can feel the heat, and I need to think about what things are still important to do.   I am content with who I am, thank goodness, and my life is a good one, but there are lots of things left to do to make it even better.   I realize, a little late, that I have been far too reclusive in my life, and it is much harder at this point, especially given my definite preferences in people, to find the kinds of friends who would fill the bill.   I have a family I adore and one friend who brings great joy into my life but I can hardly expect them to fill every minute and the bulk of my time is spent alone.   But it does no good to brood over what I would have done differently (more children! more friends!) if I had it to do all over again.  And besides, old or not, I am having more fun than ever before in my life.   So . . .

I don't want to get caught up in regretting the past or dreading the future.  What I have is today, and so I am thinking this week about where to put my energy going forward.    I want to learn some new skills and do some new things, and it would be nice if they added bonus friends to my life.  What could I get pretty good at in a year if I started now?   Learning something new is good for the soul and often leads to meeting new people.  And since I would like to quit working in the next year or so, I really need to build a structure that will enrich my mind and my time going forward.  

My brother suggested learning to pilot a plane, but I am deterred by cost and my own fears.  Scuba is a possibility - despite the cost - but my doctor insists that I  not consider it until I take a stress test, which I expect to do this spring.  I am thinking of buying a mountain dulcimer, an instrument I played in college about a million years ago, but that is also slightly pricey and (worse) would most likely end up being another solitary activity.   I will probably buy a new sewing machine at some point -- I'm still having too many tension troubles with my old one -- and there will be classes to take if I do that, to hone my pitiful sewing skills, but sewing is rarely a group activity either.    

Next year I will continue to find time for the things I already like do, amateur radio, search and rescue, Morse Code, sewing and crafting and cooking.  I will certainly try to fish and kayak and hike more, whether alone or with people, outdoorsy things are very satisfying activities, mentally and physically.   And I am thinking about planning a trip.   I would be a solo traveler and know I do not much like to travel alone so I am considering a tour of some kind.   If I could find an interesting place where I could also do or learn something interesting that would be a bonus.   I might just write whatever ideas I come up with and decide by a blind draw.   Because really, it doesn't make much difference what I choose, it just matters that I do something.

So I have much to look forward to.   But I am open to new ideas about things new to me, and hoping that someone out there will introduce me to thoughts that will lead me into uncharted territory --  Do you have any ideas to throw into the hopper?  What should go on my list?  

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

November's End

I did very little sewing in November to show off at Cat Patches NewFO Linky Party, despite my best laid plans.    I'm not sure where the month went, because I felt like I was always busy but have nothing to show for it!  I started a charm-square tote but didn't have anything in my scrap pile that I liked for lining so it didn't go far.   I've ordered the lining fabric I want since I couldn't find it locally, and I'll get back to it as soon as my package arrives, along with the zillion other packages I'm expecting as a result of too-much-on-line-shopping!
And I started a dog coat for my Grand Dog, which also hasn't yet made it past the first step.   I did find a contrast fleece in my scrap pile and got a rough measurement on the dog, so this week I will hope to whip that little giftie into shape.
And that's all there is, folks.   (can you hear porky pig sputtering in the background or is that only me?)  I apologize to you and to the people who should have gifts waiting under the tree for this pitiful showing of what should have been the busiest month yet!   Hopefully I'll do a better job next time, very hopefully before Christmas.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Glad to be Home

I spent a few days in New Orleans, planning to spend some time with family.   In fact, nothing about the family part worked out, but I got to enjoy a little warm weather and sunshine.     Still, cold weather or not, I'm glad to be home.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Counting Blessings

My 8 year old granddaughter ran her first 5K race!    Her wonderful mother ran HER first 5K race because the little one needed a 'running buddy'!    The little one wanted to run the whole way holding hands, and so they did.  They both amaze me.

This week is Thanksgiving and my birthday, a big fat mind-battering birthday that I am having trouble feeling good about.    Yeah, sure, I know I'm supposed to be grateful, and -- working for a hospice as I do -- I am well aware of the alternative.   Even so, this has been a toughie.

A few ago, a friend at work made me a birthday cake, although she was not sure exactly when my birthday is.    I wished for years that some friend would acknowledge me that way, but this was not a year when I really wanted it noted.    See, my ungrateful heart again.   But the cake was delicious,  made with pineapple and walnuts, even though it was called a "granny cake," which made me feel even older.   To my surprise, another work-friend gave me a large piece of traditional fabric from her home country Zimbabwe.    About 5 yards of material.    So sweet of both of them.

As I have done most every year since my kids were small, I spent Thanksgiving alone.    I've kept busy, goodness knows there is more to do than I will ever get done.  I did a little cooking, a little cleaning, a little sewing, a little internet shopping, and put up my little fake tree as required under my Grandma Contract since the Littles generally come over on Christmas morning.   
 I had a surprise phone call this morning from a friend in another state,  a sweet way to start my day.  Later, I phoned my brother who was spending his day alone by choice,  and I made dog cookies (stars and angels) for my Grand-dog's Christmas gift to put in the freezer until then.   (And I am on Dog Duty since the pup is alone today, so I snuck one over for her to test to be sure she'd like them!  I was not surprised that she did -- they are actually pretty tasty!  She was not all that impressed with me before, but now she treats me like I am her best friend!)
She was so pleased with the cookie treats that she agreed to model the beginnings of her Christmas jacket, too!

Today I made a supper of leftover middle eastern food.  Tomorrow I will cook Thanksgiving dinner for my son's family, and the next day I will go to visit my daughter, so obviously they will have to take all the leftovers home, and my clean up will be a breeze.  Good planning!

Best blessing of all, my great nephew was born this week.   I haven't met him yet, but I can already see that I'm going to like him.  :)   Life is good.
Feeling old and eating leftovers might not be the gold standard for spending a Holiday, but I have no serious complaints.   There is a lot to be grateful for.    I hope it has been a very happy Thanksgiving for all.   

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Always Learning - Equal Time

I posted a comment on TripAdvisor after I was involved in the nature walk where I saw the trapped raccoons, and the trapper sent me a note.      This is what he said:

     "Hi, I am the trapper who's traps you saw in the refuge. I am very sorry to have ruined your day and just wanted to touch base with you and let you know the racoons were in no way in any pain and I do check my traps every single day they are out. I do my best to prevent any harm to the animal."
I answered him, thanking him for his reply, said that I am not opposed to hunting animals for human use but that I don't like to see them suffer, and I asked why the animals are trapped.   He answered me, 
    "I do my best to check in the morning hours as the raccoons tend to only move at night.  I'm certain I was there shortly after you had taken a walk.  There is still a very large fur market as well as meat market, everything I harvest is taken care of humanely.  I sell the fur and donate a lot of meat throughout the winter.  I don't want you to get the impression I or any trapper for that matter is just out to kill animals.  It is a very useful tool to help manage certain animals, raccoons in this case (especially in the refuge) can wreck havoc on turtle eggs, waterfowl eggs and young, and many other animals.   Hopefully this helps give you a little bit of peace of mind.  If you have any questions feel free to ask.  Thanks!"
    He also told me that he is taking precautions to keep the animals further away from the trails now because he doesn't want visitors to be upset, especially the young children we sometimes bring along.   Aside from making every effort to respond to my concerns, he has given me a lot to think about.    And as I told him, no matter where I end up on the issues themselves, I admire his willingness to  have the conversation.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Mid November in the Middle of the Mitten

What do we call this time of year?  Late Fall?  Early Winter?   It is getting cold, that's all I can be sure of, and there is a dusting of snow again today.   I am toying with the idea of buying snow shoes . . . I've never worn them, any tips or advice?
A friend and I took another beautiful walk in our local Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge this week but this time it was not nearly as much fun.  We look forward to these interludes of peace, the return to nature.   We see deer and birds and muskrat, an assortment of critters who are always surprised to see us there.
But on this walk, we were horrified to find live raccoons caught in traps right next to the pathway, their paws clamped down under a sleeve designed, no doubt, to protect the public from the sight of their poor paws.    There was no way for us to free them, or even to put them out of their misery.   We found a ranger who told us bluntly, "we have too many of them," and promised at least to let the trapper know so that they would not have to sit and suffer for long.  

And yet when we left the refuge hours later, the animals were still there, no longer alert, breathing heavily and clearly suffering.   A very upsetting sight.   I have never shot an animal, but I would have been glad to have my pistol that day.  
In happier news, my grandson turns 10 this week, double digits!    It is hard to remember when he  was as small as a construction cone and fascinated by big machinery.    He has been a joy for me for the entire decade, that's for sure, but growing up way too fast for my liking, as kids tend to do.  :)   I will be going today to hear him play cello and his little sister play violin at their orchestra concert, what fun!
And, on the geeky side of my life, I have finally dipped my toes into another area of amateur radio with my first packet station -- I built the Raspberry Pi that forms the guts of the system and, after a series of mess-ups and mistakes, it was finally set up today and I sent my first digital messages this evening.    Now I'm waiting to see whether they worked and what I'll get back.   Who doesn't love to get mail?!   And I enjoy getting it in many forms these days, by snail mail, through your comments (!), by Morse Code and hopefully now in a digital form, too.  

I hope you are all enjoying a variety of contacts with the people you care about, too, as winter approaches.   Stay warm out there! 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

November Already

This has been a beautiful weekend, and I should be more content.   Today, at least, I am tired, and that helps.   We had our monthly search and rescue field drill last night, a 4-hour night drill in the woods, and the combination of tromping through the underbrush and a late night were good for me.   (That's me in back in the floppy hat, all that bundling on top of my natural padding!)  It is challenging to do compass work and keep a bearing in the dark, it is challenging just to walk through the uneven terrain, over fallen trees and through puckerbrush when you can't see anything beyond your flashlight.   There was ice on the puddles and frost on the ground by the time we finished for the night.   But so much fun!   And the skills we learn in a night search will make daytime searching seem easy by comparison, or so we hope.

Not much else is going on.     My sister gave me a pair of inexpensive earrings that she bought for me specifically because they are called "Waiting For My Lover" earrings.   She loves omens and symbols, as do I.   They are cute and I was pleased.   I have the best guy friend in the world, a perfect almost-brother, and grateful for that, but there is still an empty space in my life.    But the earrings broke right away, which seemed too clear an omen to me, and made my thoughts turn to the things I do not have.    I have spent a lifetime giving my heart where it was not wanted, and at this late date it is extremely unlikely that there will ever be a Yin for my Yang.   I have never wanted to be anything other than a partner in a loving relationship so it is hard for me,  no matter how old I get, to shake the yearning for what seemed to be a  destiny.   My life is good and I am grateful for family, for health and for good friends, and I spend my days trying to make life better for other people, but I expect I will still feel cheated when I finally die because this has seemed since childhood to be my only purpose, and yet it has eluded me.     It doesn't help that I will officially be Very Old at the end of this month.  Shake it off.   It serves no one to stay too long in self pity.
Life goes on.   My work continues, although our hospice is shrinking.   I'm not sure why, since people are dying as often as they ever did.   Some blame the changes in insurance, or upper management, or the many competitors that have sprung up, making it a very different market than when we were the only hospice in town.   My manager gave me a Spirit Angel for Pastoral Care Week last week, perhaps as encouragement, to show that she values what I do, although I keep telling her that it would make financial sense to lay me off with so few patients.     A sign of my burn out, I guess, that I am so eager to leave, but so far I am still working.

Tomorrow is Monday, and it all begins again.  But this weekend was fun, filled with cold air and exercise.  Life is good.

Friday, October 31, 2014

I've been keeping busy with work and search/rescue drills and committees, trying to adjust my mind to the increasingly cold and gray weather.    The trees are getting bare and although it is still a beautiful world, it is clear that Winter Is Coming.
I only got a few projects done to link to Cat Patches October NewFO party this month.    I made a couple more slinky eternity scarves to put away for Christmas,  not an impressive accomplishment since they literally take 15 minutes each to complete.
My only Real sewing project was to finish another Paris-themed bag for my wonderful daughter in law.   I haven't given her this one yet, I might use it as wrapping at Christmas.

I started placing charm squares for another tote but have not had time to even stitch the basic seams yet, much less pick out a lining fabric.
In other projects, I had one of my grief groups paint their idea of what gratitude feels like, and although I did not paint my own vision of that feeling, it was interesting to see how it looks from different stages in the grief journey.   It takes my breath away.

Friday, October 17, 2014

October Weekend

Although my sister texted me that this is the season of Duman Gloom (don't you love the way that Siri mis-spells and misinterprets?!), it has been beautiful.   Today a friend and I took a 6+ mile walk through the Shiawassee National Wildlife Preserve, and although it was damp and cloudy, it was so pretty that it almost hurt to see.   The trees were still in full color, the geese were flying in by the hundreds honking all the way,  the caterpillars were wearing their winter coats, we found a butterball mushroom the size of a human head, and I even saw a tiny frog.   Another best day ever.