I Have Strayed from My Purpose

August 26 through September 29, 2017

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After nearly 54 years on this planet, I am less certain of my purpose than ever.  I do, however, know my passion, and that is crochet.  Only God knows if that has anything to do with my purpose because I can’t see it, but at least He gave me the ability to make things out of yarn and a stick or else I’d be truly lost.  It does give me joy to make things for others.

So, while I may not have figured out my purpose, nor how it relates to crochet, this blog had a purpose and it has definitely strayed.  I began this as a place to hold myself accountable for all of the projects I wanted to enter in the 2015 State Fair, after failing at my attempt to enter a couple of items in 2014.  For a while, I was posting every day about my progress on whatever it was I worked on that day.  Somewhere along the way, I started slipping to once every few days, to maybe once a week, to a couple times per month.  And then I fell off for a few months when I accidentally missed the turn-in deadline in 2015 and then Bella died that November.  (I can’t believe she’s been gone almost 2 years!)

I also changed my posts from what I was working on to whatever might be on my mind.  So, the main purpose of this blog has shifted.  In fact, it doesn’t really have much of a purpose anymore.  Maybe that will change as I prepare for 2018’s fairs, or maybe I’ll stop writing here at all.

Having said all that, I’m going to update you (yes, you, the sole reader) on my 2017 State Fair results.  Tomorrow I’m going there to see everything on display.  Maybe I’ll post pictures on Sunday rather than after another month passes.  I never did post pics I took at the Fair last year.

This year I turned in entry fees for 18 items.  That’s 7 more than last year!  And, they cost me a dollar more as fees were increased.  It seems ridiculous, in retrospect, to spend that kind of money on what amounts to some ribbons and a little bit of ego boosting.  I could’ve bought more yarn with that money!  But, I guess if I were able to write it off on my taxes, I could count it as Entertainment.  When you rarely leave your  house, Entertainment comes where you can get it.

Let me back up for a second.  For those of you (whoever “you” are) who don’t know me, I don’t stay in the house due to physical or mental illness.  I work from home, and I’m one of those freaks who is reliable and responsible, so I don’t sleep, watch TV, or even crochet during the hours of 8am to 5pm.  Now, I may spend time on the Internet, but I have always had “down time” over the 25 years I’ve done this job, and that’s when I check news & email, write a blog post, look at crochet patterns, or window shop for yarn.  I always get my work done though.  As for after 5pm, I really don’t have much of an incentive to go anywhere.  My friends all have families, so they can’t drop what they’re doing on a Tuesday to go do whatever with me.  And, to be honest, at this point in my life, I’d rather be home crocheting and binge-watching Netflix or Prime.  If something special is happening, like the Fair or the RV show I went to with friends a few weeks ago, I’m outta here.  But, on an average day, it’s too much work to get dressed in more than what I have to wear to walk the dog, lock up Tilly in her kennel, and then worry that her barking lasts for most of the time I’m gone.  I suppose someday I will be able to leave her without the barking, and maybe someday after that I will be able to leave her like most normal dogs who sleep on the couch while their owners are away (like Bella did).  But, I don’t trust her yet.  Last week, she managed to get some papers off my desk while inside her kennel and chewed them up.  Luckily, it was a crochet pattern and a rent statement that I can reprint, but it showed me she’s unreliable about keeping her lips off my stuff.

OK…so…back to the Fair.  18 entries turned into 17 because I hated one item.  I changed up what I was entering in the Knit & Crochet Felting category at the last minute, and I ran out of time to perfect it.  I’ve now got about 10 months to fix it.

Here’s what I did turn in and where they placed (or didn’t).  Let’s start with what came home without a ribbon.  I’m not resentful about these like I was with the blanket last year.

These 2 items were entered in Holiday categories, which can be any kind of craft.  So, I’m competing against a much bigger pool of people than just those who crochet.  One was entered in the Christmas Ornament category and it’s the same pattern I used to make a gift for each of the guys at work last year.  I hope they liked theirs more than the Fair judges liked this one.  The other was entered in the Holiday Table Decoration category, which is quite broad.  Last year my Christmas doily got a 3rd place ribbon.  This one is, admittedly, not as nice.  The metallic thread made it difficult to block.  I like it, but it probably wasn’t “Fair-worthy.”  This is one category I may skip next year as it appears doilies aren’t really favored to win.  Unless I find time to make a really cute mice & sleigh display that I’ve had on my radar for years.

Now for the Honorable Mentions.

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I’m not too surprised my little ghost got an HM in the Halloween Table Decoration category.  Again, lots of competition.  I am happy he got anything at all, and he will be on display tomorrow.

I have varying levels of emotion about the rest of my HMs, including a bit of resentment about one of them.

(I neglected to take a photo of the shawl after blocking, so it looked better than this when I turned it in.)

First, I had a Hat and a Shawl that I thought would place higher, but I’m OK with them at least getting a ribbon.  I’m a wee bit disappointed about the Hat because I absolutely love it.  However, the Shawl was up against a ton of competition (one of the most-entered categories, aside from Afghans).  In fact, when I dropped off my items, I even saw another shawl that used the same pattern as mine.  Not surprising, since it’s one of the most popular patterns on Ravelry.

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My Sunflower got an HM in the Doilies up to 18″ category.  The first year I entered, I got a 3rd place in this category, but last year I also got “just” an HM.  I’m going to have to step it up for next year.  I love this doily though, and it was started as a gift for a friend, so she’ll get it when it’s done being displayed at the Fair.  It will be fun to see it there tomorrow with her.

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Finally, this is the HM that makes me scratch my head.  Last year, I lost 1st to a giant zebra head and felt NO remorse over that because it was spectacular.  This year, I think I lost to a lion’s head ’cause I saw it on the table at turn-in.  I don’t know what I lost 2nd and 3rd to, but I intend to look tomorrow.  Normally, I just wander around and look at everything, without trying to spot my competition.  This time, though, I’d like to know.  Last year I just happened to see what got 2nd over my little doggie who got 3rd, and I was perplexed, based on what I know about crochet and I know what pattern they used.  This year I want to know what beat out my amazing (in my opinion) little fox.  He wasn’t easy, and he’s one of my favorite items I’ve ever made.  So, I love him even if the judges didn’t.

OK, now we’re up to the 3rd place ribbons.  There’s just 1.

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As I write this, I’m realizing that I may be “wasting” my time on all these Holiday categories.  I’m not really into this for the ribbons, but I do enjoy them.  I’d be lying if I said I do it only for the fun of it.  Winning is part of the fun!  I like this, which was entered in the Valentine Decoration category, but would I have been able to make, say, an afghan if I hadn’t been making all these holiday items?  Plus, at $5 per entry, it would make more financial sense to enter 1 afghan instead of 5 holidays.  We’ll see what happens next year.  I do love pairing projects to the various categories I know I have the skills to enter.

There’s also just 1 2nd place ribbon.

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I’m thrilled that my little tree earned a 2nd place ribbon in the category known as “Christmas Tree, Felt or Other Fabric.”  It was fun to make.  You can’t tell from this picture, but I used lots of different shades of green yarn thanks to my hoard of mini skeins.  Some of them are very nice, not-cheap yarns that I have been able to acquire through swaps offering mini skeins.  I couldn’t afford (or would choose not to buy) some of these as full skeins due to cost, but I get to work with the yarn anyway through minis.  Love ’em!!

Get out your calculators now, so you can do the math and figure out how many entries earned 1st place blue ribbons this year.  17 entries – 2 no ribbon – 5 HM – 1 3rd – 1 2nd = drum roll… … …

8 1st place ribbons!  My best showing ever, so I am very happy and proud of myself.

First, the 2 that I was most surprised about.

The doily was made in 2016, but you’re allowed to enter items made within the past 2 years.  It wasn’t my first or even second or third idea.  Problem was, the doilies in this category have to measure up to 12″ and the others turned out (or were turning out) larger, despite what the pattern said.  So, with time running out, I chose this over some others in my stash, and it actually came in 1st.  I was really surprised since it seems that the Fair judges prefer solid color, more traditional doilies.  The little snowman mat is from an ancient pattern.  I actually made one of these as a Christmas gift not long after I learned how to crochet over 25 years ago!  I ran across the pattern in my cabinet this year, and I decided to whip one up for the Filet Crochet category.  I don’t think there was much competition.  Next year I’ve got ideas to make a really pretty table runner that will be more elaborate and “Fair-worthy.”

The next 2 are items I had a lot of fun with and had no expectations that they’d show so well.

The baby sweater & booties were made without any baby in mind to receive them.  I just loved all the watermelon sweaters that were being knitted by ladies in one of my Ravelry groups, so I went in search of a crocheted version.  The bag is made from a mandala pattern out of a book of over 50 (I had plans to make each one, in order, and then do something with them…one of these days).  I chose this one because it was “dense” and I wouldn’t need to sew in a liner.  I love how it turned out.  The pic does not do justice to the color of the yarn.  The main color is more teal than the blue it appears to be.  I also found a great source for purse handles and similar things at a site in China that has amazing customer service, cheap shipping, and reasonable prices.  Check out 8seasons.com if you need that kind of thing.

The last 4 are the ones I’m most proud of, for various reasons.  Either they took a lot of time, or they came out nicer than I expected, or both.

The red Jamie vest took me over 2 years to complete!  I had lots of months where I did nothing with it…in fact, I think there was actually nearly a year where I didn’t touch it.  But, I loved it the whole time.  There was no reason it took me so long, except that I knew it was something just for me, and I didn’t put a priority on finishing it.  I’m very happy that it’s now done and also earned a blue ribbon, despite the cat fur on it.  When I was blocking it, I left the room for 2 minutes, and when I came back, Maxi had sprawled across it.  Pins and all.  The little blue sweater was designed by one of my favorite designers (Brenda K.B. Anderson), and I’ve made a number of her designs over the years (including the felted bag that won 1st last year).  I loved making the sweater and, yes, the dachshund does go all the way around the back.  I won 1st in this category last year, too, and my toddler sweaters have earned special recognition at the last 2 county fairs as well, so I hope to find another amazing design to work on for 2018.

Finally, these 2 items are probably my favorites of the year (in addition to the little fox).  Both were designed by the same person (Johanna Lindahl, Mijo Crochet), and both use my new favorite yarn, Scheepjes Catona.  The shawl incorporates the same color palette used by the designer, although it would look amazing as a single color, too.  I rarely work with so many colors because I suck at choosing them.  However, when I saw this I literally gasped and knew I had to make it.  I also rarely make the same pattern twice, but I have a few gradient skeins in my stash that may become another version of this shawl.  As for the pillow, I’ve never made anything like this before, and I do see myself making more of these as well.  I want to do a Christmas version next.  My color choices for this were “borrowed” from another Raveler because they perfectly match my living room colors.  Problem is, with a dog and cat who use the couch as their own giant pet bed, I may not be able to display this for fear of it becoming a chew toy or a giant blob of fur.

So, there you have it.  Tomorrow I’ll see all of them on display.  I’ll take pictures, and maybe I’ll post them before next year’s Fair.  I don’t know what my next post will be about.  Maybe about the Fair.  Maybe about crocheting.  Maybe about Trump.  No, I’m going to keep my mouth shut about the last one.  Not worth the time, the effort, nor the elevation of my blood pressure.

Until next time, Happy Crafting, or Happy Whatever You Do that Brings You Joy!

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Fun in the Eclipsed Sun Road Trip

July 13 through August 25, 2017

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(Kids viewing an eclipse in 1963…the year I was born! From Time magazine.)

I’m just getting back in the groove after a whirlwind of a road trip vacation to, primarily, view the total solar eclipse.  I was able to cram so much into 5 days, and I was able to do it with 2 of my most favorite people on the planet.  If only every day were as free and relaxing as those 5 days were… But, life isn’t that way (until I win Powerball), so I’m going to write a post about it before my old brain forgets any details I’d like to remember.

Day #1 – August 19 – Home to Lamar, CO – about 580 miles, 9.5 hours of driving

I picked up my best friend, Jerri, at her house and then we dropped off Tilly at the Woodland Park Pet Resort.  By 9:00 AM we were on the road and headed toward Colorado.  Most of the trip was the same as when I drive to see my sister in Crested Butte, so there weren’t any new or exciting vistas or landmarks.  I’ve been driving that route for 20+ years, so I could do it in my sleep, and there are times when I may have done that.

When we got to Dumas, TX, we went straight instead of making the turn toward Dalhart, and that’s when the drive changed course from my usual route.  Both of the new “sights” we saw were Mother Nature-related.  The first was a huge thunderstorm that had the look of a tornado.  We could tell it wasn’t because there was no rotation and it wasn’t moving, but it sure looked like a funnel from a distance.

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In all my years of driving and all my years of eating sunflower seeds (sometimes at the same time), I have never seen a field of sunflowers.  Well, now I can check that off my list as I saw some on this trip.  The pic below was the first field I’ve ever seen, which was in eastern Colorado.  It’s an awful photo, but we really thought we’d see some more later with a place to pull off the road.  We did see another field in South Dakota (or was it Nebraska?), but it wasn’t convenient to pull over then either.  So, this, and a postcard I bought, will have to do:

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Lamar, CO is not too far north of the Oklahoma panhandle and is definitely in an agricultural and oil-producing area.  Wind farms dot the landscape along the way, too.  We arrived around dinner time, but we checked into our hotel first.  The room was acceptable, but I doubt that I’ll stay there again if I find myself stopping in Lamar in the future.  It appeared to be old but clean, but on closer inspection the bathroom wasn’t really very clean at all.  It wasn’t disgusting, and it may have been cleaner than my own bathroom, but as my sister said, “Those are your germs, not a stranger’s.”  Neither Jerri nor I showered there. The desk clerk was very nice though, the price was reasonable, and it was quiet.

What the room lacked in luxury, the town made up for with charm, friendliness and hospitality.  I had seen online that Lamar is home to a Petrified Wood Building.  My postcard collection includes many, many views of fun places like this, so I’m always thrilled when I get to see one in real life.  The building is now a used car lot.

Lamar is also home to one of the 12 Madonna of the Trail statues.  I have postcards of one or two of them, and now I have a photo of the one in Lamar, CO.

The statue sits on the grounds of a Welcome Center, and it was open for another 30 minutes so we went inside.  A wonderful woman named Margaret spent that half hour talking to us about the town and many other topics.  She is a great ambassador for Lamar.

We chose Pizza Hut as our dinner spot as I rarely get to eat pizza at home since I’m the only one eating it.  So, I only get pizza when my friends are in the mood for it, too.  The Pizza Hut in Lamar did not disappoint.  The salad bar sucked, but the pizza was absolute perfection…thin and crispy crust, light on the sauce, pepperoni slightly “toasted,” and even the water I drank tasted like heaven.  Yeah, I’m weird to be raving about the Pizza Hut meal we had, but couple that with an attentive waitress, and it was probably one of the better dining out experiences I’ve had in months!

After stuffing ourselves, we went back to our musty room (the indoor pool was across from our room, so it had the feel and smell of a humid day in South Florida).  I was so tired that I managed to crochet maybe 3 rows of an afghan square, and I may have read 1-2 pages in my current Kindle book before I passed out.

Day #2 – August 20 – Lamar, CO to Casper, WY – about 470 miles, 7 hours of driving (running total – 1,050 miles, 16.5 hours in the car)

We had no idea what to expect regarding eclipse traffic.  We’d heard reports of people sitting for hours on the highway in some parts of the country.  Jerri’s nephew told her that 60,000 people were expected to flood Casper, and I actually heard 100,000.  We were hopeful that by traveling on Sunday, a full 24 hours before the big event, that we would be OK.  We figured that people going up from Denver would either go throughout the day on Sunday and not all at once, or they’d go on Monday morning.  When we reached the outskirts of Denver though, we thought we may have been completely wrong about that.  Cars for as far as we could see.  I exited around Loveland and we got some gas, lunch, and alcohol — in that order.  Then we got back on the highway and creeped along for a few more miles.  Around Fort Collins, we exited again and went to Walmart for hot dogs, buns, chips & the stuff to make s’mores.  When we got back on the highway, we had to look at the GPS to see if we were going the right way because all the stopped traffic had cleared!  After talking to some folks later, we found out that part of the highway is always crowded.

When I started to plan this trip to view the eclipse, way back in December ’16, I had no idea where we would view it.  We had somewhere to sleep; I booked a room in Laramie (the closest I could get us to a town within the path of totality), and we were going to drive up to Casper from there on Monday, watch the sun go dark, and then drive back to the Denver area that night.  As for viewing, I figured we’d find a parking lot or park, plop down into our chairs, and wait.  As I learned more about the crowds that were expected to travel to view the eclipse, I worried that we would end up stranded somewhere along the way and miss it altogether.  I looked into state parks (full) and small town events (possibilities, if I could figure out where to send the fees), and Google street viewed wide open spaces where we might be able to pull off the road without getting run over or ticketed or gored by a bull.  Then, a couple weeks before we were leaving, Jerri’s nephew told her he and his wife and daughter were driving up to Casper from Denver to view it from his best friend’s home and we were welcome to join them!  He said there was 5 acres where we could pitch a tent, so I cancelled our hotel room, and my sister loaded her car with tons of gear, and we breathed a sigh of relief.  Then, as we were driving through Denver,  Jerri’s nephew called to tell us that his friend’s in-laws were offering us the use of their RV so we wouldn’t have to sleep on the ground!  It could not have worked out better.  The whole family welcomed us with open arms.  They cooked for all of us (I think there were 20 people at dinner time!), and the next morning they even had biscuits and gravy and extra eclipse glasses.

Here’s a view of the sky over their little piece of heaven in Wyoming:

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Day #3 – August 21 – ECLIPSE DAY!! – then, Casper, WY to Keystone, SD – about 230 miles, 4 hours of driving that took 6 hours (running total – 1,280 miles, 22.5 hours in the car)

Jerri’s nephew offered to take us up to Casper Mountain to view the eclipse from another friend’s cabin.  I was worried about getting stuck in traffic, and my sister agreed.  Jerri did ride up there with him, but my sister, her friend Trudy, and I went as far as town to get t-shirts.  People were scattered everywhere.  The Walmart parking lot was crammed full of RVs.  Hotel parking lots and the green space around them were full of people with telescopes and folding chairs.  But, there wasn’t much traffic at all.  We went almost into downtown and found a guy selling shirts from folding tables in a doctor’s office parking lot.  Then we went back toward our new friends’ home and got coffee at a gas station along the way.  It wasn’t any more crowded than the place I stop to get a Coke on a workday in Dallas.  There were definitely more people in Casper than normal, but for a city slicker like me, it was no big deal.

After clearing our stuff out of the RV, we settled in to watch the eclipse.  Jerri and her nephew and his family did get back in time, and they told us about the crazy folks on the mountain who had set up chairs, air mattresses, and even an inflatable couch alongside the road.  Traffic was definitely heavier on the mountain, but it didn’t prevent them from getting up and getting back.

Around 10:40-ish we started to watch the sun.  I don’t recall ever looking at even a partial eclipse through the special glasses.  I think we did the pinhole thing for a partial when I was a kid.  So, looking at the sun through the glasses was interesting all by itself.  When the moon made its appearance, everyone gathered in the yard, and I don’t think anyone moved until totality ended a little over an hour later.

When it was nearing totality, we all commented on how bright it still was outside, despite just a sliver of the sun being visible.  The street light on the neighbor’s pole came on when the sunlight began to dim.  The chickens started to make some noise, but we weren’t sure it was due to the eclipse.  Apparently, Bruce the rooster is pretty…ummm…adventurous with the ladies, and he may have been stirring up the hens just because he could.  The 2 horses and 3 goats had been lounging in the grass by the fence behind the chicken coop (which is a cute little building that looks like a playhouse), but when we went to go pet them after the eclipse, we saw them all peeking from the doorway of the barn.  The temperature dropped and a couple of stars were visible.

Jan, the lady of the house where we were staying, pointed out something really cool: when not wearing the glasses, you could see the sun reflecting off the windshield of her vehicle, just like when you’re driving and see it bouncing off a car next to you; but when you put the glasses on and looked at that reflection, you could see the moon eclipsing the sun on her car!  She also saw the shadows of the partial eclipse that were cast by the leaves on a big bush in her yard.  I took 2 pictures of it but they don’t look anything like what I saw.

We had all been practicing taking safe photos.  My method was to look through my glasses at the eclipse and hold my phone up until I could no longer see anything because my phone was blocking my view of the sun.  Then I’d click the button to take a pic.  I got several pics of the sun, but it’s just a big bright blob.  What is odd is there is a crescent-shaped image below the sun.  It’s a mirror image of what was happening to the sun though because the picture was taken before totality so the dark area of the sun should’ve been opposite of where it appears.   Someday I’ll find an astronomer or scientist or photography buff and find out how that happened.  Jerri’s pictures have what appear to be pink flower petals around the sun.

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The moment the moon blocked out the sun was simply breathtaking.  I can’t do justice to it in words.  I was crying.  I was hugging people.  My sister had set her phone to play Eric Clapton’s “Change the World”  when totality occurred.  So appropriate for the setting, as well as for the times in which we currently live, which everyone forgot about for at least a few hours.  I have yet to see any photos or videos that accurately captured what I saw.  The cameras with special filters make the sky look black, but it was actually a beautiful blue with a black dot surrounded by a bright light.  See?  I can’t describe it well.

I had downloaded the SkyView app a few days before so I could see which planets and constellations were visible.  We saw Mars and Venus with Jupiter hovering just along the horizon.  There was a sunset all around the horizon, too.

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This is the last frame of the quick video I took during totality to show the sunset and stars.  Again…nothing like what I saw with my own eyes, which was a shimmering black spot.

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I didn’t spend much time looking at my phone because I didn’t want to miss all of the 2 1/2 minutes of totality.

When totality ended, the Diamond Ring appeared and we hollered to the kids to put their glasses back on.  It was so bright; it was like a spotlight had been pointed directly at us!  I don’t know if I saw Baily’s Beads, but that’s OK because what I did see was an experience of a lifetime.

I hope I make it to April 8, 2024 when I can view another totality that will last twice as long.  And, if I’m still in Dallas, I won’t have to drive even 1 mile to see it as it’ll be right overhead in my back yard.

We all lost interest in the rest of the partial eclipse once totality was over.  We were all talking about what we’d seen, how we felt.  We took a few peeks at the sun as the moon finished its trek, but it was anticlimactic compared to totality.

We also wanted to get on the road to try to beat some of the traffic leaving Casper.  We had to drive through Douglas, WY, which was another town in totality that we knew would be a stopping point for Denverites, so we figured traffic there would be bad.  However, it wasn’t any worse than a slow-moving rush hour, and we exited shortly after passing Douglas.  We thought we had escaped the crowds and headed toward Keystone, SD so we could see Mount Rushmore.  My original plan, way back in December, had been to pop over the state line so I could say I’d been to South Dakota, thus crossing 2 states off my list (I’ve now been to 40 out of 50!).  However, when we saw how close Mount Rushmore is to Casper (4 hour drive), we decided to change our plans and go there instead of back to Denver.

Just outside of Lusk, WY, traffic came to a dead stop.  We were on a 2-lane state highway in the middle of nowhere and had no idea what was going on.  We couldn’t imagine that the traffic was from people going home to South Dakota!  We creeped along and checked the Waze app when we had a cell signal, and it appeared that if we could ever get to Lusk, we’d be moving again.  I figured it was because Lusk was a small town and the 1 stop sign or stop light couldn’t handle all the traffic and their lone policeman couldn’t direct traffic fast enough.  I wasn’t far off.  There were 2 guys directing traffic at the Lusk Fairgrounds, which it appeared had hosted an eclipse party.

Traffic snaked out of Lusk and along a 2-lane scenic highway toward South Dakota.  We got into another small jam, which was caused by a 2-car fender bender at an intersection with another 2-lane highway.  After that, it was smooth sailing.

In Custer, I snapped a pic while sitting at a traffic light.  I have wanted to see Mount Rushmore since elementary school, and I was getting closer.

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That sign is a little deceiving.  There were still a few miles to travel.  Along the way, we passed the Crazy Horse Memorial.  Rather than pay the $28/car fee to go on the grounds, we snapped a photo as we drove by.  You can barely see the outline of his face, but I know I’ve seen it so that’s all that matters.

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We also saw a bright white mountain goat just before the entrance to Mount Rushmore.  And then, as we curved around to stop at the light at the entrance, to my left were the four presidents carved in stone!  It was surreal to finally see something I’d wanted to see for over 40 years.  My sister and Trudy missed the goat and the first peek at the Presidents because they were watching State Troopers search a car with Colorado plates.  They were both paranoid (without cause) that they’d be stopped too because of her Colorado plates (due to the marijuana laws, they thought they’d be profiled as mules, I guess).

Our hotel, the Roosevelt Inn, was a much better place to spend the night than the motel in Lamar.  It was clean and quaint and perfectly situated to view the vast main street of Keystone.

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We had dinner next door at Grizzly Creek, which even allowed Trudy to bring her dog, Sally, onto the patio and gave her her own bowl of water.

Due to the extra 2 hours of drive time, we weren’t able to make the loop through Custer State Park before going over to Mount Rushmore.  It was already getting dark when we went to eat.  I also didn’t know there was a lighting ceremony that started at 8:00, so when we arrived a little after 8 and the lights weren’t on, I worried that we’d somehow missed something.  The woman who took our $10 entrance fee said they’d be on “in a few minutes” though.  I wonder how many times she has to answer that question!

In the parking garage, there were license plates from different states on every car.  I don’t think any state was duplicated along both sides of the row on which we parked!  When we got inside the grounds, we walked toward the light (the boys were now lit up), and it felt like we were salmon swimming upstream because there were people coming toward us in waves.  That’s when we found out about the lighting ceremony at the amphitheater.

The grounds are open until 11pm in the summer, but the museum closes at 9pm.  So, we had to walk through it quickly to see a few of the exhibits.  Luckily, the gift shop stays open later, so I was able to add to my postcard collection.

While taking pictures, I used my SkyView app to see which constellations and planets were visible.  (It’s a really fun app; download it sometime.)  On the night before the eclipse, while waiting for Trudy to arrive (she drove up to Casper from Denver when she got off work), I pointed it at the ground and it showed the Space Station was at our feet.  It was amazing to think that it was on the other side of the Earth from where we stood.  So, at Mount Rushmore, I pointed it at our feet, and Orion was there, ogling my sister’s rear end.

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When we got back to our room (after Shirley & Trudy got dipped cones at Dairy Queen), we were all exhausted but amazed that we’d experienced a total solar eclipse in Wyoming (which is not the home state for any of us), along with a 4-hour drive that took 6 hours and culminated in viewing Mount Rushmore in yet another state.  I felt so alive and so grateful that I was able to have a day like that!

Day #4 – August 22 – Keystone, SD to York, NE – about 500 miles, 9 hours of driving (running total – 1,780 miles, 31.5 hours in the car, not counting a side trip into Custer State Park)

Since we missed driving through Custer State Park the day before, I really wanted to do part of it before heading home.  I’ve had postcards of Needles Highway since I started collecting 25+ years ago and have wanted to see it someday.  We looked at the map and realized we could do a portion of the loop, then part ways with Shirley & Trudy, and then we could backtrack to Keystone and head toward the Badlands (our last “tourist attraction” before the long trek to Texas).  Using a little map we got at the hotel’s front desk, we set off along a twisty road through the trees that slowly rose in elevation.  There were a couple of tunnels, and as we rounded the corner to enter one, we were met with a perfectly framed view of Mount Rushmore!  To show how tired we were the night before, I actually bought a postcard of this and didn’t realize we were going to see it the next day.  As such, I was already through the tunnel when I took a really crappy pic.  My sister was slightly in the tunnel and got a slightly less crappy pic.

This is not my pic or hers; it’s one I borrowed off Pinterest, which someone else borrowed from some other site, so you can see how cool it really looks.

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We were supposed to turn on Playhouse Road, which would take us to Needles Highway.  We did turn on Playhouse Road, but idiot here turned left instead of right.  We kept going and going and finally came to an intersection that should’ve been the Needles Highway.  It wasn’t.  It was a highway we didn’t even see on our map.  Once we figured out what happened, I felt like crying.  I wanted to see Needles Eye and the narrow tunnels so badly.  I had to remind myself of all the amazing scenery on the roads we had already traveled.

We got dumped out at a highway intersection with a gas station where we filled up and got more snacks and said our good-byes to Shirley and Trudy.  My poor sister had a 10-hour drive home (which turned into a total of 13 hours over 2 days, due to horrible Denver traffic; she ended up getting a room in Leadville because she was beat and didn’t want to drive anymore).

Jerri and I continued on to Rapid City and made a stop in Wall, SD.  I have old postcards of Wall Drug Store and it was another “must see” place on my list.  We ended up driving past, turning around, and never getting out of the car.  It was nothing like what I imagined based on the old cards I have.  It reminded me of the strip of t-shirt shops in downtown Branson.

We got back on the highway and headed to the Badlands.  I had a whole route planned out that was going to take us through most of the park and then come out near Interior, SD where we’d take back roads all the way down through South Dakota and into Nebraska until we got to our next hotel in York, NE.  Well, something went awry, and we missed our turn/road/exit (still don’t know what happened).  We ended up at a different entrance, paid $20 to drive through but only went as far as the visitor center and turned around.  It was an eerie landscape and worth the ticket price, but we decided to cut it short since we’d already lost time in Custer State Park.

In the time we were there, we did see 3 bighorn sheep (Jerri’s pictures are better than mine since she was able to hang out the window).  And the drive was kind of surreal.  We stopped for postcards, of course, and had hoped to pick up a brochure about the park and what we were seeing, but there wasn’t anything there.  A small museum had some exhibits, and 2 rangers were answering questions, but there wasn’t anything (free) to take.  Instead, Jerri read the Wikipedia article about the Badlands as we drove out.

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South Dakota is really a lovely state.  The western portion in the Black Hills is somewhere I would settle in a heartbeat.  But even the more “desolate” central portion has its charm.  I doubt it was charming in pre-modern times without central heat and air, cable television, and Internet, but it’s interesting and diverse.

We arrived at our hotel in York, NE about 8:00, grabbed a breakfast for dinner at the Iron Skillet Restaurant in the Petro Truck Stop, and went back to our room where we crashed just as easily as we had all the other nights on our trip.

Day #5 – August 23 – York, NE to Home – about 590 miles, 9 hours of driving (running total – 2,370 miles, 40.5 hours in the car)

We woke up in our 5th state in 5 days (Texas, Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska) and prepared to drive home.  It was hard to not get down about the end of a wonderful trip since there would be absolutely nothing of tourist value along the way.  In fact, most of our drive would be along the Interstate.  I thought about a quick side trip to Lindsborg, KS, which is a small town with a Swedish heritage that I have also admired via postcards.  But I needed to pick up Tilly by 5:30 or else pay another day of boarding, so we kept on driving.

As we neared home, the clouds started to build for afternoon storms, so we had fun with finding shapes in them.  We also played a US States game — one of my many talents is the ability to list the states alphabetically, so we started with Alabama and talked about what we’d seen in each state (if we’d been to it, of course).  We made it to New Jersey before we tired of that.

Here’s the coolest thing, apart from the clouds, that we saw all day.  It’s at an equipment sales lot in Gainesville, TX.

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A little after 5:00 we arrived at the Woodland Park Pet Resort to discover that Tilly had decided that morning to eat her bed.

Tilly and I then drove around the corner and dropped off Jerri and finally headed home.  It was nice to see Maxi and to cuddle up with the two of them.  But, I would give up some of my yarn and postcards to have the ability to drive around the country more often than once every two years or so.  We are lucky to live in such a vast, beautiful part of this amazing planet.  And when you keep the radio and TV and Internet turned off, it can feel like we are one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.  We met so many people along the way and every single one of them was friendly.  Like Jerri said, “We took a little piece of them with us, and we left a little piece of ourselves with them.”  It doesn’t hurt that both of us can talk to fence posts and come away with a story.

My next trip is to my sister’s in Crested Butte for Thanksgiving.  Always cherished but nothing different from any other Thanksgiving.  I don’t know where I’ll get to go after that.  As my mom used to say, “Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise,” I’ll get to go somewhere.  I have 10 more states to cross off my list!

 

 

 

…And a Dog is Going to Save Me

June 17 through July 13, 2017

The day after my last post, I adopted a dog.  One year, 7 months, 17 days after Bella died.  I have missed her every one of those 595 days, and I’ll miss her for all the rest of my days to come, but I now have a new furry friend to love.  I hope she knows it doesn’t mean I love her any less.  I still talk to her when I feel like it throughout the day, and I still say good night to her when I turn out the light before bed.

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I waited a long time because…well, just because.  I just wasn’t ready.  I didn’t know if I wanted to walk a dog 3-30 times per day in the rain, cold, or heat.  I didn’t know if I wanted to be accountable to a pet that needed to go out 3-30 times per day, which meant I would have to go back to counting the hours I was away from home.  I didn’t know if I wanted to take on the responsibility for another living creature (the cat’s been very low maintenance).  I didn’t know if I could handle potty training, behavior problems, potential chewing crises.  I didn’t know if I could bond with another dog the way that I had completely and totally bonded with Bella.

Over the course of those 500+ days, I looked at a lot of dogs online.  Between the local SPCA, animal shelter in my town/county and surrounding areas, Petfinder.com, Operation Kindness, and even the shelter & rescue sites when visiting my sister in Colorado,  I am certain that I viewed the pics and profiles of several hundreds of dogs.  I seriously considered a few dozen.  I’d look at the picture of one that looked especially promising and say, “When I get back from my trip to Colorado, if you’re still available, I’ll come visit you.”  Or, “When I’m recovered from cataract surgery, I’ll come meet you if you’re still on the site.”  I never did.  Closest I got was sending an email about a dachshund to a woman at a rescue group.  I was about to go out of town for the conference in February, so I told the woman I’d get back with her when I returned.  I didn’t.  I also spent some time with a dog at a PetSmart adoption event, but she looked way too much like Bella and she absolutely refused to walk on a leash, so I had to let her stay with her foster…who had a pool she could swim in and other dogs to play with, which made me want to ask the foster to take me in as well.

What I was waiting for was some kind of sign.  Like, a friend saying, “I’ve got the perfect dog for you!”  Or, a dog knocking on my door.  I also wanted to know, 100%, that the dog would be healthy for a very long time, that it would take treats from me with a “soft mouth” the way Bella did and not take off my fingers, that it would be housebroken with no slips (ok, a rare one), that it wouldn’t chew up my furniture or steal yarn (thanks, cat, for showing me that that’s a real thing), and that it would love me as much as I loved it.  I knew Bella loved me because she hated 99.9% of all the people she ever met.  Well, “hated” is too strong…disliked and distrusted are more accurate.

So, when I saw Tilly on the SPCA website, I am not sure what made me decide to finally drive the few miles down the road to see her.  She wasn’t one of the “OMG! CUTEST!” dogs that I’d shared pictures of with my sister.  She didn’t look anything like Bella, which is a type I am attracted to (black Lab mix).  She didn’t have anything on her profile to describe her personality or explain her background.  Still, I went.  And she wasn’t there.

I walked through the adoption area though and looked at several of the others who were.  I knew them all from the Internet, and I found out more about them by reading their paperwork.  “Doesn’t like cats.”  Don’t blame you, buddy, ’cause some days I don’t either.  “75 pounds.”  Ummm…I’m guessing you eat way more than I can afford.  “Pit Bull mix.”  I’d take you but my apartments would kick us both out since there are breed restrictions…no restrictions about jerks who play music too loudly, or who have kids who repeatedly slam into your garage door, or who cook some nasty-smelling foods sometimes…but no Pit Bulls allowed.  I did spend some time talking with a volunteer who was sitting in the “cell” with a senior black Lab mix who looked so much like Bella I was about to cry.  The pup was very sweet but she was 10.  3 years younger than Bella was when she died.  I don’t think I can get my vet bills paid off in 3 years, and I also don’t think I can go through another roller coaster of emotions like that again anytime soon.

As I was about to leave, another volunteer asked if she could help.  I told her I’d come to see Tilly, but was told when I arrived that she’d been taken to an adoption event.  The woman gave me a flyer and said it was just down the street.  While we were talking, a young man came in and also asked about Tilly.  I said, “Oh, no, I was thinking of going to see her here,” and pointed to the flyer.  He told me to feel free.  So, I went.

They were about to close up for the day, but I could see her standing by one of the volunteers in front of their mobile shelter van.  I told them I’d come over from the SPCA facility because I was told Tilly was there, so they let me walk her around a little bit.  Then they brought out her paperwork.  They told me she’s heartworm positive.  They told me she was adopted out for about a week and returned because of housebreaking and chewing issues.  Just like when I (used to) choose men, I may have had boundaries about what I wouldn’t accept, but sometimes I’d just throw those boundaries to the wind, and that’s what I did here.  Medical and behavioral issues were both no-nos, yet here I was writing a check for $25 and filling out the paperwork to take her home.  I even let them take a picture of us before we left, and I don’t ever let anyone take my picture.

Here is the first picture I took of her.  We’re in the mobile shelter, and she’s waiting for me to sign everything that would allow me to take her home.

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When the volunteer and I reviewed the notes about Tilly, she reassured me that SPCA would cover all the costs for the heartworm treatment.  She read me the comments that the previous adopter had written, and it sounded to me like Tilly just needed someone to have a little patience.  Since I work from home, I could take her out a bunch of times and not give her a chance to go potty inside.  I could also keep an eye on her so she wouldn’t chew on the coffee table (as she did at the adopter’s house).  And, I have a crate that was bigger than what Bella needed, and Tilly is 15 pounds lighter than Bella, so it would give her plenty of room for chilling while I went to Walmart and the office (about the only 2 places I go anymore, unless I get to leave town).  The main thing that drew me to her, besides her pretty coloring and sweet face, was that she likes cats.  And she was good with dogs (there was one wandering around from the senior living facility where the event was held, and they got along well).  She walked well on the leash, too, which is a must for me since I can’t just open a door and give her access to a yard.

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So, we headed home together.  I got about halfway there when the volunteer called to tell me she forgot to give me Tilly’s pills, so I turned around and went to the SPCA to meet her there.  While waiting for her to arrive, a couple came in with some crates and blankets they were donating.  The man came up to Tilly and knelt down to pet her.  She licked his face and was so happy that he was paying attention to her.  That kinda sealed the deal for me.  As much as I loved being the only person Bella loved, it could get a little embarrassing when she’d either bark her head off at other people or run and hide.  Tilly wasn’t going to be that kind of girl.  And it showed me that, no matter what her past had been like, she trusted people, men included.  She might be ahead of me in that regard.

Introducing her to the cat didn’t go as smoothly as I’d planned, but that wasn’t Tilly’s fault.  The cat was not amused.  Even though I’ve been telling her for nearly a year and a half that I was either going to trade her in for a dog or just get a dog for us to share, she didn’t believe me.  So, when I brought a dog home, she was not a happy camper.  She ran under the couch and stayed there almost all of Saturday.  When Tilly and I went into the bedroom to relax in there, the cat did come out to see why it was so quiet.  As you can see, she was still keeping her distance.

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For the next few days, we all got to know each other a little better.  I was starting to understand, though, why the previous adopter had taken Tilly back to the SPCA.  Despite taking her outside first thing in the morning, last thing before bed, 20-30 minutes after each meal, every time she woke up from a nap, and every time she looked at me funny, she would take FOREVER to find a spot to go potty, and then sometimes she’d just stand in the yard so we’d come inside after 30 minutes of hanging out in the rain.  And then she’d go potty on my $12 Ikea rug in the living room.  Sometimes just minutes after coming in from a marathon session of slowly wandering around to smell every blade of grass.  One of the things about heartworm treatment is the dog isn’t supposed to be outside for long, especially in the heat, and it’s not supposed to get too excited or overworked.  So, I was loving that I didn’t have to feel guilty for not going on a mile walk during 100o temps.  Yet, we were still spending the same amount of time casually wandering the immediate area.  And sometimes it was all in vain.  I was now feeling like a non-happy camper myself, and the solitary life with a cat was looking more appealing.

However, I had proudly told the SPCA volunteers that I worked from home and felt that the potty problem would not become a problem for us, so it was more about my pride than anything else.  No way could I take her back there after saying that I knew how to fix it.  So, we kept working on it.  And, I’m happy to say that, almost 1 month later, it’s almost licked.  Today is Thursday, and I think she’s had just 2 indoor pee accidents this week.  One was my fault because the steroids she’s on do make her thirsty, which makes her have to pee more, and I had forgotten what time I had last taken her out and was busy with work, too.  The other was in the middle of the night.  I have been hearing her when she gets off the bed, waking up myself, and then taking her out, no matter what time.  One Friday at 5AM, I was rewarded by being attacked by fire ants.  My foot is still covered in red dots, but at least they don’t itch anymore.  The accident she had this week happened on a night when I just didn’t know she’d left the bedroom.  I need to teach her to alert me.  Bella would simply nudge me; my sister’s dogs ring jingle bells hung on the door.  I need to figure out Tilly’s signal as mind-reading is getting old.

We are still working on her barking when I put her in the crate when I do go somewhere.  I’m not worried about her going potty while I’m gone since she always goes on that cheap rug I can easily replace (and there is vinyl flooring under it so it’s not getting into carpet or padding or anything like that).  What I am concerned about is the possibility of furniture destruction and/or the consumption of any knickknack-ish things, most of which are the few crocheted or sewn items that I keep on display.  So, I put her in the crate with an Oinkie and tell her I’ll be right back (Bella always believed me).

I hope to someday get her to the point of being like Bella when it comes to my leaving the house.  She wouldn’t even follow me down the stairs to the door.  She’d stand on the top landing, peeking around the corner at me.  I’d tell her I loved her, that I’d be right back, and ask her to be a good girl.  When I got home, she would be at the bottom of the stairs waiting for me.  I don’t know how she knew the difference between me going down to leave and us going down to go out to potty, but she did.  God, I do miss her.  So…in order to keep the peace with my neighbors (I have no idea how long Tilly barks when I’m gone; I get in my car as fast as possible so I don’t have to hear her so I don’t stick around long to find out), I am hopeful she’ll either stop barking in the crate or no longer need the crate.  Time will tell on this, I guess.

It has worked out well with Maxi though.  They’re friendly.  Not cuddle buddies, but getting closer.

Here they are, after just a few days, in proximity to one another on the couch:

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And here they are a few days after that:

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While sitting at my desk, I could see Maxi was in the dog crate and thought that was funny.  So I lifted my phone up high enough to take a pic without getting out of my chair as I thought that might make her move.  When I looked at my phone to see the pic, I was so surprised to see that Tilly was in there, too!

So, all in all, I think I’ll keep her.  And, as the title says, I think she’s saving my life.  One day at a time.  I have to get off the couch or out of my office chair more times per day in order to go outside with her.  I have to walk around while she looks for the right spot (thankfully, that doesn’t take as long anymore, but it’s still a little exercise).  I have someone to really take care of (the cat is pretty self-sufficient).  And I have someone who loves me in a way that only a dog can love.  Sorry, Maxi, but that’s just how they roll.

 

Fast Food is Going to Kill Me!

May 3 thru June 16, 2017

All you health food nuts, or plain ol’ healthy eaters, are probably going, “Well, DUH!”  BUT, I’m not talking about how it’s going to kill me from heart disease or diabetes.  It’s going to give me a stroke due to high blood pressure from dealing with idiots who work at fast food places.  (NOTE: not all people who work at fast food places are idiots; I have friends who own a local place and they’re brilliant and kind and funny…but, I’ve encountered a lot of idiots.)

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I eat fast food maybe half a dozen times per month.  I might get a breakfast biscuit at McD’s on a Saturday or Sunday when I get up and moving before 11am.  (Yes, they do serve breakfast all day now, but you DO NOT want to order a biscuit at 7pm.  It will be a leftover from that morning, if you’re lucky, and it will have been nuked, and it will be hard and tasteless by the time you drive the mile to your house to eat  it.)  I also meet friends a couple times per month at Whataburger or Long John Silvers or a local burger joint where we can sit and visit for as long as we like and don’t get the stink eye from a waitress who wants us to leave so her next tip can sit down.  And then there are the days when nothing in my house looks worth the effort to cook (or throw together as I really don’t cook), so I’ll go grab something.

So, it’s not like I’m living off this stuff.  Although, the stuff I call “dinner” is probably not any better.  Last night it was a single serve bag of microwaved Orville Redenbacher Smart Pop, a handful of sunflower seeds from Trader Joe’s, and 4 (OK, 6) sugar free vanilla creme wafer cookies.  And a giant glass of water.

When I do go to these places, it’s usually a comedy of errors.  I say “comedy” because it really is laughable, and all of my friends joke about how my orders are always wrong.  In fact, my BFF texted me last night after her order was messed up while treating her granddaughter to dinner.  She said it was like she was having dinner with me. 🙂

Now, the main reason my order is always messed up is because I eat like a kindergartner.  I’ll relate some of my experiences later on, but first, let me tell you what I like, and don’t like, to eat.

This is a short list of my favorite foods (obvious things, like Doritos and Oreos, have been left off):

  • peanut butter sandwiches – but the bread has to be white and super squishy soft – PB&J on whole grain bread is nasty – surprisingly enough, I do not care if it’s creamy or crunchy, BUT I don’t like the kind that separates and has to be stirred – ICK!
  • grilled cheese sandwiches – and I mean GRILLED, not toasted with barely melted cheese, and not so greasy that it’s a flat pancake of goo – and it’s even better if the grilled cheese has perfectly crispy bacon on it – if the bacon is not crispy enough, I’ll simply remove it and won’t eat it
  • pepperoni pizza with light sauce – since I hate tomatoes, the sauce had better not be oozing out the edges or else I’ll scrape most of it off with my fork – bonus points if the pepperoni is on the crispy side (but I’ll still eat it if it’s not, unlike with bacon) and if the crust is thin and crispy (are you seeing the theme of “texture”?)
  • cereal – my favorites are Special K, Cheerios, Frosted Mini Wheats, Frosted Flakes, and Lucky Charms – I hate Cap’n Crunch, Rice Crispies, and a host of others
  • scrambled eggs – and only scrambled – preferably with a bit of cheese mixed in and the eggs had better not be runny – if I’m at someone’s house and they’re only making fried eggs, mine better be hard – but I hate hard-boiled eggs (are you catching on how weird I am?)
  • salads – here’s where it gets tricky – since I’m practically a vegetarian who hates vegetables, I am picky about what goes in the salad – NO tomatoes or cucumbers, for example – essentially, I like lettuce, cabbage, carrots, radishes, maybe a piece of cauliflower and then I throw on cheese, sunflower seeds, bacon bits, and anything else crispy
  • chicken – but I will not eat it if the bones are still there – reminds me too much of what it was before it was fried or grilled – so I prefer breast meat cooked in a multitude of ways, fried chicken sandwiches, or some kind of “finger” (I won’t ask the stupid question about why they’re called that)
  • turkey – I love a good Thanksgiving turkey, and I’m always happy when my brother-in-law saws into it and serves the pieces rather than putting the whole bird on the table – and I avoid looking at the carcass later – as for fast food turkey sandwiches, the only one I can really stand is Jimmy John’s because it is isn’t as slimey and obviously processed as what is served at Subway
  • fish – as above, no bones – I prefer fried (of course!), but I will eat a nice trout almondine or some other preparation of a filet
  • shrimp & clams – as above, fried is the way to go
  • veggies I will eat are preferably raw: the lettuce, cabbage, carrots, radishes, cauliflower I put in my salad, for example, or a handful of baby carrots as a snack or with a meal – however, I will eat green beans on occasion (Thanksgiving), as well as corn, and I’ve never met a potato I didn’t like (unless it was mashed…again, it’s all about the texture) – in addition to despising those nasty, mushy, seedy tomatoes, I am not a fan of onions UNLESS they’re those itty bitty onion string things that come with some meals in restaurants – not to be confused with onion rings, which are about as bad as a tomato
  • fruit – I don’t eat much of it because it goes bad too quickly at my house, but I love apples and bananas – sometimes I’ll be adventurous if someone is serving a fruit salad, unless there are berries in it, which I will avoid spooning onto my plate
  • hot dogs – very rarely – and they have to be the skinny cheap ones and on a bun and that’s it – no condiments except maybe a sprinkling of grated cheese

This is a list of what I won’t eat:

  • ketchup, mustard, mayo, salad dressing, tartar sauce – everything I order is plain (a huge hint about why my fast food orders are always wrong) – I will eat BBQ sauce on occasion, and sweet & sour sauce on tempura chicken or shrimp, but that’s about it in the sauce department
  • pork chops – if I’m at someone’s home and that’s what they serve, I’ll eat it – but not a fan – same with just about every other form of pork (ribs, ham, etc.) except bacon and pepperoni (is that pork???)
  • beef – I’ve always disliked a big slab of red meat, and now I’ve recently stopped eating cheeseburgers – the little skinny ones from McD’s used to be on the “will eat” list, but I’ll tell you why they aren’t anymore
  • berries – I hate berries – I love the flavor of berries in jellies (NO jams or preserves!) and some other foods, but to eat one whole is gross – I have no idea why…I have no idea why I am like this – I’ve been like this forever – I remember my mom being THRILLED that I would eat a grilled cheese from an A&W in Seattle, which is probably one of my first memories – apparently, I wouldn’t eat much so she was happy to find something I liked – years later, I recall my cousins falling off their chairs every time I took a bite of dinner, thinking that would make me eat more and be more adventurous – nope
  • hot beverages – no coffee, hot tea, or hot chocolate for me, thank you
  • pretty much everything else

Despite all those self-imposed restrictions, I can always find something to eat wherever my friends go.  I’d rather it not be a place like Taco Bell though, as the only stuff I’ll eat there are chips and cheese sauce or cheese quesadillas.  The new Naked Chicken Chips do look intriguing though.  If we go to a specialty taco place, like Fuzzy’s (YUM!!!), I always get a breakfast taco or a tempura fish sandwich.  If I end up at a regular Mexican food place (there’s at least 1 on every corner here), then I’ll have chicken fajitas, BUT there’s no need to bring me anything other than the chicken, flour tortillas, and some cheese ’cause I’m not going to put anything else on them.  Chinese?  It’s sweet & sour chicken or shrimp.  Red Lobster is my best friend.  I can get fried clams, which remind me of the Howard Johnson’s in Dillon, SC (first place I ever had them), and Red Lobster is the only place I ever eat clams.  And don’t get me started on those biscuits.  I’ll take 2 baskets, please, for ME!  (Actually, I usually only eat 2 biscuits total because I’d be too embarrassed to order 2 baskets of biscuits and nothing else, although that would suit me just fine.)

So, where’s the rant about fast food?  Here it is!

These are a few of my most recent experiences, which occurred just within the past month.  I’ve thankfully let go of, and forgotten, most of the rest that occurred before.

  1. One night this week, I couldn’t stand 1 more PB&J, so I decided to go get a fish sandwich.  I recently stopped eating cheeseburgers.  While having one at my favorite burger joint about a month ago, it suddenly hit me what I was doing.  I was eating a cow.  A poor, sweet, big-eyed, moo cow.  I’ve always known this, of course, but a cheeseburger is a nicely disguised form of beef, unlike a steak.  So, I put it down, half-eaten, and haven’t had another since then.  This makes it more difficult to take my kindergartner appetite out for fast food.  So, I was going to get a fish sandwich from Wendy’s.  Got to the menu and saw it wasn’t there anymore.  Order taker confirmed they stopped selling it.  Strike 1.  Drove to the opposite corner to McD’s.  Ordered the fish combo but wanted a water.  I’m trying to cut down on diet drinks after a co-worker who drank Diet Cokes non-stop all day was diagnosed with aggressive bladder cancer (prayers, please).  So, I asked for water instead of a soda or tea (oh, I forgot about iced tea…I only drink unsweetened with several splashes of lemonade, which is impossible to order at a drive-thru).  The order taker added it all to the screen, including the water, but then said that I couldn’t get a water, unless I paid extra for a bottled water.  Excuse me?  If I were to go inside and they gave me an empty cup, I could darned sure put ice and water in it, so why couldn’t they do the same?  And, besides, wouldn’t it be a bonus for them if I skipped the soda that costs them money and got FREE water as part of my combo?  I told them that was insane and left.  Strike 2.  The only other place nearby that has fish sandwiches is Whataburger.  Not my favorite fish sandwich, but that was my only other option.  So, I went there and finally got my fish.  I also refrained from having the same discussion about water by ordering an unsweet tea and added the lemonade when I got home (which I had forgotten I had when I ordered at McD’s, but by driving off I proved my point…yeah, right, like they’re now allowing water with a combo as we speak).
  2. This next story is a few days before no-more-cheeseburgers day.  I met my BFF for lunch at McD’s and ordered a plain cheeseburger (the little flat ones; not the Big Mac or Whopper or whatever it is they sell).  I should’ve known it was going to be tricky when the manager, who was at a register with an employee and they were ordering food for themselves, yelled at one of the other employees who were just standing around to take our orders.  Way to manage!  You go, girl!  The kid took the orders and then went back to chatting.  As we waited, we could see the place was in disarray.  Overflowing trash.  Nearly empty straw bucket by the drink dispenser.  Dirty tables.  But, there were employees everywhere.  Just not working much.  My friend got her order and I continued to wait.  I could see my plain cheeseburger being made and wrapped and then slid into the slot for pick-up.  2 kids were discussing something really important as they stood in front of the slots with my tray that had my fries, which were growing colder by the second.  (McD’s has the best fast food fries, but you’d better eat them hot ’cause they are the worst when they’re cold, and don’t put them in the microwave to heat them ’cause they’re worse that way than cold.)  Anyway, the drive-thru had a customer that pulled ahead (a scam, BTW, that only helps their order times and screws the customer into getting at least part of their order cold while they fulfill whatever “special” thing caused you to pull forward).  The kid who was waiting for my burger grabbed the bag and said he’d take it out.  I asked him if he could please give me my burger first.  He looked in the slot and said, “It’s not ready.”  I said, “I watched it being made.  I saw it go in the slot.”  He told me, again, “It’s not ready,” and then asked where his plain cheeseburger was, which caused the people in the back to speak to each other in Spanish and then put together another plain cheeseburger.  The one that I’d seen them make previously was still sitting in the slot.
  3. While on my vacation to Colorado a couple weeks ago to see my nephew graduate from high school (YAY!), I got to my Amarillo motel pretty early.  After I checked in, I started driving up the service road to see what I could find.  I usually get there late and end up eating whatever snacks I have left, so this time I went exploring.  I decided I wanted Long John Silvers, so I pulled up to the speaker.  No one said anything, so I kept waiting.  I finally drove to the window and sat there.  I could see lights were on and the sign said “Open” in red neon, but no one ever came to the window.  In addition to seeing the lights, it looked kinda dirty and messy inside so I decided I didn’t even want to go in.  I left.  I ended up with a perfect grilled cheese with bacon that I ordered to go from IHOP.  Not a bad outcome, but I was jonesing for some of those crispy bits that you get with your LJS fish.
  4. The next morning, I stopped at my usual McD’s in Amarillo when I’m on a trip to/from Colorado.  I’ve had issues there before.  Most notably was the inability to make proper change.  It caused a major to-do for them to figure it out.  On this trip, however, I paid in almost exact currency, so it was all good.  That part, anyway.  I ordered my usual…a biscuit with only cheese on it.  After paying, I waited what seemed a little longer than normal, and the guy at the window noticed it as well.  He asked the food handlers where “his” biscuit was, and someone pointed to one of those oversized bags that they put the big breakfast platters in.  He said that wasn’t it.  They said it was.  He looked inside and then handed it out the window to me with an apology for the delay.  I pulled away and parked, opened the bag, and inside was one of those platters.  With a biscuit.  And a slice of cheese.  Next to it.  Cold.  The hash browns weren’t even on the platter with them; they were separate in their little sleeve.  I just sat there shaking my head for a few seconds.  At least there wasn’t a nasty piece of sausage on there to pick off.  And, thankfully, they had sliced the biscuit for me as there were no utensils.  So, I slapped the cheese on there, stuck it back in the bag for a little bit to get it to melt some, and drove off.  I finally ate it about 3-4 miles down the road.  And now the biscuit was almost as cold as the cheese had been.  $3-ish well spent.  Said with sarcasm.
  5. There are no fast food places in the town where my sister lives.  We also don’t eat out too much when there.  We did order pizza one night, which was perfect, and we went to 2 places for lunches, and my sandwiches were right both times.  Hooray!  But, that streak ended when I got back to Amarillo for the night on my way home.  I decided to get a quick, easy, usually foolproof grilled cheese & tots from Sonic.  After what seemed like a long wait, I finally got my order (the Sonics around me freak me out ’cause they’re so fast it’s almost like they read my mind before I ordered, although the food isn’t as impressive).  I tipped the server and went back to my room.  The grilled cheese was definitely not grilled.  It was toasted, darkly, to the point of being nearly burned, which is what it smelled like.  And if there was butter on it, it was about as much as whatever saliva you might leave behind if you licked a piece of bread.  The cheese was barely melted.  And, the tots were cold.  I ate 1 bite of the sandwich and 2-3 tots.  $7-ish well spent.  Again, the sarcasm.  This time I used the Sonic website to register a complaint.  A few days later I got a call from an Amarillo number.  I didn’t answer it.  I didn’t want to hear excuses or “I’m sorry.  Come by next week and I’ll give you a free order of tots or an ice cream cone.”  I live 6 hours away, thank you very much.

So, if you come here some day to read this, and it’s clear that I have passed into another realm (where, I hope, there are perfectly grilled cheese sandwiches with crispy bacon…and perfect pepperoni pizzas…and a ton of dogs running around, especially Bella), then it may be that I had one final run-in with a fast food worker who does not know the meaning of the words “grilled” or “crispy” or “plain.”  And who can’t put water instead of soda into a cup.

 

 

“Where Does the Time Go When It’s Not Around Here?”

November 1, 2016 thru May 2, 2017 (!!!)

The title of this post is a line from a Barenaked Ladies song called “Great Provider.”  It’s one of their early songs, and the line is one of my favorites to cite.  The concept of time flying has been an ever-present aspect for most of my life, but it applies even more so in this contemplative state in which I live now that I’m past 50 years of age.

My last blog post was October 31 of last year.  WTH?  My first thought was, “Where did the last 6 months go?!?!?”

Let’s see where it went…

I worked.  I went to Colorado for Thanksgiving.  I crocheted a whole boatload of stuff.  I had dinner with friends.  I binge watched a lot of Netflix and Amazon Prime.  I organized and de-cluttered.  I bought more yarn.  I continued the love-hate relationship with my cat.  I missed Bella every single day.  I missed the redneck nearly every single day.  I ate crappy food.  I played Wizard of Oz Magic Match on my phone.  I went to a conference out of town for a weekend.  I collected more patterns from Ravelry than I’ll live long enough to utilize.  I added more books to my Amazon wish list than I’ll live long enough to read.  I may have washed my car twice.  I may have used my vacuum in the house 2 or 3 times more than I’ve washed my car.  I got my nails done once.  I don’t think I’ve had a haircut (other than what I’ve hacked off the ends myself).  I had my teeth cleaned.  I had cataract surgery on both eyes.  I added to my debt thanks to the cataract surgery.  I swapped yarn and other goodies with friends on Ravelry.  I’ve read a couple of books and skimmed through a few magazines.  I bought a DVD set of some exercise plan.  I left the DVD set of some exercise plan in the unopened box.  I’ve planned a trip to see the eclipse in August with my family.  I’ve texted with my niece about all things great and small.  I had a nice text conversation with my nephew about politics.  I’ve nearly had a stroke thanks to the election results and the things our President has said and done since.  I’ve prayed.  A lot.  I’ve cried.  A lot.

And that, my friends, is where 6 months went.

Is that what everyone’s 6 months looks like?  If so, then I know why so many of us feel depressed and sad and lonely and afraid.

What I’d like my 6 months to look like is a lot different.

I’d still work.  I’d still crochet.  I’d still binge watch.  I’d still read.  I’d still have dinner with friends.  I’d still visit my family.  I’d still hang out on Ravelry.  I’d still miss Bella.

But the main thing I’d like to do differently is travel more.  I’d have a house instead of an apartment.  I’d have a dog (maybe in addition to, rather than instead of, my cat).  I wouldn’t care that I haven’t seen or heard from the redneck in just over 3 years.  And I wouldn’t care who he’s spending his time with.  I’d eat better.  I’d walk and exercise more.  I’d be debt-free (except for the mortgage on that house I’d be living in).

Those are my dreams for every day, which add up to the weeks, and the months, and eventually the years.  It doesn’t seem that much to ask for, to hope for, to pray for.

When I turned 50, I wasn’t entirely confident that my life was going to be perfect, but I had hope and looked forward to the days ahead.  I was part of a community.  I had a man I loved and respected and felt safe with, both physically and emotionally.  My dog was happy and healthy.  I was almost debt-free.  My job was running along smoothly.

Fast forward 3 years.  The man and his community that had accepted me is gone.  My dog is gone.  My debt is definitely not gone but has grown.  I still have a job but it’s done a 180 as far as daily routine and a feeling of security.   I did get an associate’s degree from college and I do have 2 better-functioning eyes.  But I have the debt to show for both, and I haven’t continued my education because I simply can’t take on more debt.

I’m scared what this post will look like 6 months from now.

What I do know is this: I’ll have celebrated another birthday.  I’ll have seen my nephew graduate from high school.  I’ll have seen a total eclipse of the sun.  I’ll be preparing to spend another Thanksgiving with my family.  I’ll have crocheted more stuff to enter in the State Fair.  And yet I’ll probably have more yarn than I have now.  I’ll have read a few more books and watched a few more shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime.  I’ll have eaten more dinners with friends.  I’ll still miss Bella.  I’ll probably still miss the redneck.  I’ll still be in debt.  I’ll have signed another year’s lease on this apartment.

What I don’t know is this:

 

 

 

And that’s what scares me.

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If I’m the pilot for my time, I’m doing a really good job of nosediving it right into the ground.

I am the only one who can soar smoothly through the clouds.  I know I can work on the grief about Bella.  I know I can quit thinking about the redneck.  I know I can eat better and walk more.  I could even get a second job (ugh) to help me pay off the debt in 30 years rather than 40.

But I’m going to need a bigger, better, faster plane to get the rest of my baggage off the ground.

 

Returning to My Roots

October 12 thru October 31, 2016

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I have always loved the library, and I have had a library card most of my life.  Since I like to own books (goes back to my childhood, I think, and the security I get from having them around), the library has been more of an information-gathering place, or a place to check out movies, or to get audiobooks for traveling, rather than a place to get books to read since I’ll have to (gasp!) return them.  I’m getting over that now with the advent of ebooks.  I did discover mystery series authors, like Nevada Barr, Joan Hess, and Sue Grafton at the library.  When I first started my job 25 years ago, I would take my lunch hour to go get books to read in the abundant off-time during work (this was pre-Internet!).
After I voted earlier this week, I went into the library to get a card as I haven’t had one since moving into my apartment four years ago.  The library to which I am now a member is the awesomest one I’ve ever been a member of!  (Based on the problems with that last sentence, you probably wonder if I can even read.)
I got the card primarily so I could do Interlibrary Loan (ILL) of crochet books.  There are some $20+ ones on my Amazon wish list that I will never buy, partly because of price & partly because they’re like music CDs: you might only want 1-2 patterns from the whole book.  ILL costs $2.50, which is fair enough for 1-2 patterns, so I’ll be able to print a copy of a couple pages and then return the book.
Well, last night I went through the entire list of crochet books that my local library system has (about 125 or so) and requested they hold all the ones I didn’t already have or didn’t want.  I think it was about 15-20.  7 of those are already ready for pick-up, 4 are being transferred from another branch, and a few more are checked out so I’m in line.  Easy peasy.  No need to wander aimlessly through the stacks looking for them!  And the ones at the branches further from my house get transferred to my branch, so I don’t have to drive all over town.
Then I went through my Amazon and Ravelry wish lists to see which books I’d be willing to cough up $2.50 for and found a few, which I requested through ILL.  No guarantees they’ll be able to get them, but it’ll be cool if they do.
Next I noticed they have access to Zinio, a digital magazine site.  Turns out they have Interweave Crochet, which is the best crochet magazine!  So, now I can get it FREE every month.  Buying that magazine is like buying CDs too…lots of clothing patterns I’d never attempt but what they do have that I’d like to make, I REALLY want to make.  You can’t download the whole magazine, of course, but you can print a few pages, which is perfect.
Zinio also has Games magazine, which I subscribed to in the ’80s or ’90s, I think.  Again, I can print pages and work some puzzles (on the rare occasions when I’m not working a puzzle on my iPad).
Finally, they have the holy grail of magazines (IMO)…The New Yorker!!!!!!!  I’ve thought of treating myself to a sub every year, but then I realize I don’t need all the clutter (as I would want to keep them for the covers, of course), and I’d be mad if I got hooked on it and couldn’t afford to get it again the next year.  Now I’ll get an email every time the next issue is released!  I stayed up ’til 1am reading it, and it was all about the election.  (Don’t get me started on that topic.  I began composing a post about that a couple weeks ago, and my BP probably rose to 300/200.)
In addition to Zinio, they have access to OverDrive ebooks.  I just did the coolest thing, which prompted me to write this post.  I looked at my non-craft book wish list on Amazon and typed in the title of the first book on the list.  They had it!  So, I checked it out.  Now, for the cool part.  When I clicked the box to choose reading it on my Kindle instead of right then in my browser, it took me over to the Amazon site, where I very easily clicked on a link that sent the book right to my device.  I don’t understand all the wizardry that makes that happen, but I’m so excited that I will now always have access to whatever I want to read.  My next course of action today is to cancel my $9.99/month Kindle Unlimited subscription.  Who needs it when I have all of this other stuff at my fingertips, thanks to my tax dollars at work?!?
I’m going to visit my sister for Thanksgiving, so now I’m wondering how to get some digital audiobooks so I’ll have something to listen to in my car on the 14-hour (each way) drive.  (I think I’ve listened to every episode ever made of “This American Life,” which are on my iPod).  I guess if I can’t figure it out, I can always request the CD version of whatever I want online and pick it up at the library.
Life is good. 😉

Wanted: Motivation

September 10 thru October 11, 2016

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Way back on September 9 I told y’all to check back the next day to see if I’d made any progress.  Despite not posting anything since then, I did make a wee bit of progress on a few items for that surprise package.

I decided to scrap a 3rd attempt at a cowl and gift the 2nd one I made.  However, a Ravelry friend surprised me with a knitted hat version of the SAME PATTERN!  It’s fantastic, so I’m going to be able to gift that instead of the cowl I’m not happy with, so now I’m happy. 🙂

The other cowl I planned to make…a plaid one…was a catastrophe.  I crocheted everything and then started on the overlay stitches to make it look plaid.  I hit a snag, literally, with the yarn and when I snipped what I thought was an end to be woven, it was partially the crocheted fabric, resulting in an unfixable hole.  The cowl kinda sorta went flying across the room, and when I calmed down I picked it up off the floor and placed it into a project bag.  Someday I’ll frog it and use the yarn for something else.  I made a plaid washcloth instead.

I have 3 WIPs that I’m not enjoying.  One is a coin purse that needs the lining and zipper sewn in.  I’m thinking of asking a friend who sews if she’d like to contribute her skills to this project.  Another item is a cup cozy that doesn’t look nearly as cute as I’d hoped, so I’m not sure what to do about that.  And the third is a stuffed lion that I have absolutely no interest in finishing, but I must or I’ve got to go shopping for an alternative.

In one of my Ravelry groups, we’re doing WIP Wednesdays.  It’s supposed to motivate all of us to finish our WIPs, no matter how old they are nor how much we hate them.  There have been 2 Wednesdays so far, and I got very little done.  There are 2 left before these gifts will be delivered, so I’m hopeful I’ll do better.

I’ve already scrapped 1 item that I really wanted to make…a fish that turns into a piece of sushi.  I don’t know if I’ve got the time or the patience to do it right now, after reading several project pages on Ravelry that say you need both time and patience.

The successful part of this post is that I finished a notions box and a Bernie Sanders doll, and I’m pleased with both.

There are 3 projects I haven’t even started, and I have just 10 days left to finish it all!  One is a beagle and the other is a cat.  I also need to figure out what to do to replace the fish.  I’m thinking an acorn-shaped potholder.

The 10 days I have left are not really going to be 10 good days for crocheting.  On Friday, I am going with a friend to west Texas, so maybe I can concentrate in the car and get something done.  On Saturday, I’m going to Oklahoma to a friend’s family reunion, and I’m driving, so that day is a loss.  I’ll take some projects with me, but between the talking and domino playing, I will probably not make any progress.  We’re spending the night too, so that means at least half of Sunday is a wash.  That leaves a bunch of week nights, which are not usually my most productive times.  About 3:00-4:00 I start thinking about what I’m going to work on when I’m done with work.  Then at 5:00 I turn on the news, try to decide what to have for dinner, maybe play a game on the iPad, and then about 7:00 or so I get out my hook.  That pattern has to stop or I will not finish.  It’s going to also take me at least 1 full evening to finish wrapping everything!

And, because I’m always thinking about the next thing that I’m certain will be more fun than whatever I’m working on, I’m already spinning the wheels about what I’ll do when all of this is O-V-E-R.

I’ve mentioned some ideas here already…working through gifted patterns I’ve received (from oldest to newest), and using up old stashed yarn (starting with the least yardage so I can make some quick progress).  I’d also like to pull random magazines and leaflets out of my pattern cabinet and work every item in that particular book that interests me.  Then I can part with the book and get it out of my house.

The de-cluttering project has continued, although I’ve stopped taking pictures to document it.  All of the boxes of craft items I’d stashed in a corner are empty and the items I’m keeping are consolidated into 1 box that fits in the closet.  I have not, however, finished the desk (as I hate sorting papers and have nowhere to put them right now anyway), and I haven’t gone through the kitchen & bathroom drawers and cabinets.  Maybe when the weather changes my attitude will too.  The desire to rid myself of stuff is still quite prominent.  If I wasn’t so attached to so many things, I’d put it all into totes and haul it all to Goodwill.  But, I must sort and ruminate and put it into “Keep,” “Donate,” “Sell” piles that then get sorted and ruminated upon some more.  In fact, last night I went through 2 boxes of postcards as I need to open my eBay store again.  The result of over an hour of sorting (when I could’ve been crocheting) was a small pile of cards to send to a friend, an even smaller pile to sell, and 2 boxes of cards that are essentially as full as they were when I pulled them off the shelf.

OH!!!  I just remembered why I came here to post today!  I was going to show pics from the State Fair!  I guess I’ll have to do that tomorrow.  Or, based on past experience, a month from now.