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Before Foreplay

My Love (Photo credit: Jennuine Captures)

Seventeen years.

When we met, both Husband and I were skinny. Actually, I was slender. He was skinny. And we were dirt poor. And we had one kid, not two. And we had twice as much energy and half as many responsibilities as we do now.

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not writing

Aisle in Grocery store in New Orleans, 2008. (Langenstein’s, Uptown) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With a limited power supply and an unlimited list of things I’ve got to get done, the posts I’ve planned for the next couple of days will have to be postponed.  I’ll try to get a couple of ‘cool stuff’ links for you, but don’t expect deep insights.

In case you’re wondering, while I’ve not been here writing ‘hot, fresh content’ for you, I have:

  • Made several local grocery stores and one craft store meet their bottom line
  • Cleaned out my dry goods cabinet in my kitchen
  • Researched and printed out a half dozen each cookie and fudge recipes
  • Realized I forgot several ingredients
  • Twice
  • Realized my candy thermometer has come up missing and call Husband in a panic
  • Forgot, despite spending oodles of money at the store, to buy anything suitable for a dinner
  • Had failed (flat, pancakey) gingersnaps for dinner.
  • Decided that despite being unsuitable for gift giving, they’re pretty good.
  • also not writing

    Baked Cookies (Photo credit: FoodMayhem.com)

    Provided a handy resting spot for a tired kitten’s head.

  • Decided that I have a big, complex post about the second amendment coming.
  • Did NOT re-write that beautiful 200 words of ‘the novel’ that got eaten by the ether yesterday.
  • Did NOT finish putting up all the laundry I was SURE I’d be done with yesterday.
  • Made one batch of absolutely glorious chocolate fudge.
  • Decided that was enough for one night.
  • Went back to playing Sims 3 and watching Doctor Who reruns

also not writing

What are you up to today?

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Living with HIV

Pretty Red Ribbon Gear

My sister is living with HIV.

I don’t remember when I got the call, perhaps six months or a year after my mother died, so in 2000, maybe even late 1999. I know that all the open wounds from Mom’s death hadn’t healed yet and none of us siblings were very close at that time.

She was crying. Actually, she was totally, utterly freaked out. Or maybe that was a later conversation, after the reality hit. She’d tested positive. There’d been a workplace accident, and she’d gotten blood in an open cut on her hand.  And now she had a deadly disease. And I was stunned, and devastated, and utterly helpless.

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The Essential Thanksgiving

 

Turkey, despite all rumors to the contrary, is not essential to Thanksgiving, even in the US. Blasphemy, right? Thanksgiving is a harvest festival, and of course the fruits of harvest are important to the festival, but it is more than that. The essential Thanksgiving doesn’t require particular foods or table settings, but these ideals. 

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Blood, Bones and Butter in the window

Blood, Bones and Butter in the window (Photo credit: Marisa | Food in Jars)

When I put e-books on my library hold list to read and review, I am sometimes completely unaware of what I’ve just ordered. This was very much the case with Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton. I thought I had ordered a cookbook to browse through. Instead, I had ordered a memoir by a cook (a chef, really).

Happy, happy mistake. This is a meandering memoir full of foodie-licious details of French and Italian cooking and the sort of personal details that make you either want to put the book down for a moment to absorb what you have just read, or plow forward.

I read this, coincidentally, during a weekend devoted to making peace with my family of birth. Hamilton, too, describes such an event, and like mine hers was a fraught mixture of success and failure. Mine, however, is unlikely to be set down as a memoir, certainly not one as mouthwatering as hers.

I identified with the craziness of her childhood life, the mistakes of her young adulthood, the settled certainty of later choices and then the even later questioning of that certainty. I grew to care about the character even as I sometimes judged her as harshly as I judged myself.

Throughout reading it, I badly wanted to hand it to 15 year old overthinker to enjoy, but realized even with the impulse that he needed more life experience to truly appreciate this book, even with his love of cooking and dream of being a chef someday.

This was not, for me, an easy book to read. It was, however, fascinating and heartbreaking and full of truth in both its lurid ugliness and beauty. I hope someday to whip up a concoction this complex and delicious, and suspect, sadly, that I never will.

 

Wow, did that get poetical. Deal with it, folks. That’s how the book made me feel.

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Nuni, Chloe and Maureen at Renfest

Nuni, on the left, was a pirate princess that year. The headless wench is me. On the right is Chloe, who is not nearly as fond of dressing up and thus isn’t ‘asked to.

This has been a year of many losses for me, of two legged friends and four, and I always, on  or about Halloween, which is Samhain in the Celtic calendar, and the day before the Day of the Dead celebrate the lives of those I have lost. Remembering that shared pain is lessened, I recall them.

Some I cannot name. Confidentiality does not end with death, so the two therapy participants or family members of participants cannot be named, but I do honor them.

In addition, my husband’s grandfather, David Martin, a bomber pilot in WWII and lifelong curmudgeon extraordinaire, died this summer at the age of 95, having outlived his beloved wife ‘Bertie’ by nearly a decade. 

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Overthinker Masked for Guy Fawkes Day (Bonfire Day)

Overthinker Masked for Guy Fawkes Day (Bonfire Day)

Remember Dances with Dragons, that adorably assertive and clueless little boy? Or perhaps The Perpetually Grounded Son, who spent over a year being the source of many stories about the woes of being a parent? Or Teenager, who got tired of me calling him the Perpetually Grounded Son?

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English: two crocuses in snow Deutsch: zwei Kr...

Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Husband had shoulder surgery on his right shoulder just under two weeks ago. He’s still in pain, but this pain has an end visible. It makes a huge difference in my life.

I’ve been cocooning, reading a ton of books (reviews as I get a chance) kitting a baby layette and then crocheting an afghan for another baby (not done yet, but looking good), planning some sewing projects (planning is still much easier for me than doing, when it comes to sewing) and working upwards of 50 hours a week.

I fought a nasty head cold to a standstill and returned to exercising, and dealt with one mini-crisis after another in the nuclear and extended family. I started a blog for various fiction and poetry, and another that is a fictional account of the Knitpocalypse. No guarantee that I will keep up with either on a regular basis.

I’m watching the political horizon and see storms ahead that make me worry for my country’s future. I see the effects of long term stress and poverty on the people I work with and fight despair.

And yet, like my husband I feel half healed, like a long infected wound has been lanced and is bleeding free.  I can breathe again. I can find my balance and reach out to others. And in my own tendency to isolate when I most need to reach out, I find compassion for those participants in therapy who suddenly vanish right as I know their lives are taking a nosedive, only to reappear later having dealt with whatever it was, feeling strong enough to again delve into the depths of their lives.

As every year, when spring begins to peek out from under the dead leaves and (nonexistent, this year) snow, I renew with the earth and feel new creative stirrings.Energy wells up from wherever it was hiding all winter and infuses me with optimism.

purple crocuses with closed bloom Français : D...

purple crocuses with closed bloom Français : Des crocus violets, avec leurs fleurs fermées. Italiano: Infiorescenze chiuse di piante del genere Crocus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Image via Wikipedia

Bulbs are peeking up in my garden. The first crocuses (croci?) have already started to bloom and I’m about to have a carpet of daffodils and paperwhites, followed by tulips and lilies a little later. I have lettuce and cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cabbage, etc) in a flat under plastic in one of the raised beds, and have promised myself I’m starting the next flats this weekend.

It’s a beautiful thing, here in the Northern hemisphere, this spring. What are you doing to enjoy it?

To Stay Connected and Spread the Merriment Please Like my Facebook Page or follow me at @odanu on Twitter.

Return to Am I the Only One Dancing? for more, or go Walking Upstream for political writing.

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Hat at Zazzle.com

Grounding your child is one of the most common discipline methods of parents in many parts of the world. The concept is pretty simple: Take away freedom of movement or specific privileges from a misbehaving child for a specific amount of time, with the dual purpose of encouraging positive behavior through closer supervision, and reducing negative behavior through reducing opportunity. Unfortunately, many parents ‘break the rules’ of grounding, thereby making it far less efffective.

Here are some basic ‘don’ts’ to keep you on track:

1) Kids who have misbehaved are like abusive spouses in that they are almost immediately apologetic and sweet. For many parents, who feel vaguely guilty for grounding their precious child, this serves as an excuse to serve up an un-grounding. Do not do this. Notice the good behavior, thank him or her, and smile, but don’t relent on the punishment you initially set up. Teenagers learn from this and will only be ‘good’ when they’re grounded and the payoff is high.

2) Despite my joking about Teenager being the Perpetually Grounded Son, it is not a good idea for a grounding to be longer than about a week. If you need to set up structure for your kid for a longer period, make it a rule and not a grounding. For instance, since Teenager does well with a lot of structure this year he is expected to finish his homework (or as much as he can) at the school library before coming home in the afternoon, and is off electronics (computer, video games) on weeknights through the first quarter until we assess how his grades are and adjust. Remember that when your child is grounded, you’re essentially grounded too, so the shortest, most effective time is best.

3) Don’t be afraid to customize groundings for different kids. They will complain about fairness, but it’s not about fairness, it’s about results. Kid A might need to be on total lockdown in her bedroom for a week to prevent a recurrence of bad behavior, while Kid B does well if you take away texting and phone privileges but allow her some TV time.

4) Don’t forget to tell your parenting partner* what the punishment is and why. This goes back to ‘kids are smart’. The parent that isn’t ‘in the know’ is all too likely to automatically approve a request in passing to go to a friend’s house or use the computer, and the parent that set up the consequence for bad behavior is then undermined (sometimes wholly accidentally) – which leads to:

5) Don’t undermine your parenting partner’s consequences. If you don’t agree with them, discuss it privately with him or her and decide between you whether the consequences will be amended or not. Either way, present a united front to the child.

*A parenting partner is anyone who helps raise a child. This can be a parent, stepparent, grandparent, friend or neighbor, ex spouse or partner, grown child, or anyone else who accepts a significant role in the child’s life and helps you with parenting tasks. If you don’t have a romantic partner or ‘natural’ parenting partner, it is often a good idea to develop a friendship with another singleton parent with compatible parenting views to ‘spot’ and support one another, and provide respite fore each other.

And a bonus: Don’t forget that the purpose of grounding isn’t punishment, but helping a child or teen regain control over his or her behavior through limiting choices. Punishment might feel good in the short term, but it rarely helps in the long term.

To Stay Connected and Spread the Merriment Please Like my Facebook Page or follow me at @odanu on Twitter.

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 A strong thunderstorm came through on Sunday and our power went out at about one in the afternoon and didn’t come back on until almost 9 pm. Before it went out, though, I finished this:

This was the relatively easy drawstring skirt from the funky pieced batik fabric. It would have been even easier if I hadn’t done the rickrack accents. Rickrack is a PITA to work with.

After the power went out I read through my sewing books, my Threads magazines, and hung out with the family and ate BBQ.

It was quiet and peaceful and lovely. The power should go out more often (on absolutely gorgeous summer days with perfect temperatures).

Of course, I didn’t get any writing done (except this), so everything will be a bit delayed this week.

To Stay Connected and Spread the Merriment Please Like my Facebook Page or follow me at @odanu on Twitter.

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Posing with ‘Tommy’ at the Kansas City Zoo

Every now and again I’m startled when I’m out in public with one of my sons, who quite naturally (in my eyes) are polite and thoughtful and show interest in and respect for other people. When whichever son I’m with is out of hearing, suddenly a clerk or a fellow shopper or someone else at the event approaches me and asks how I did it.

How I did what?

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the naked truth
CC by Conrad Quilty-Harper coneee @ flickr

Funny true story: Many years ago, when the Perpetually Ground Son was just a baby, I lived in a little house with a walkout basement and no air conditioning.  It was a hot summer day, my oldest son was at his grandmother’s and PGS was taking a nap.  Hubby and I were curled up on the bed ‘in the buff’, watching TV, and I fell asleep.

Hubby and I were and are big Star Trek fans, and Star Trek can be relied on to be available even to a family without cable on a regular basis.  While I slept, Hubby was watching Star Trek, the original series, and probably reading a book.

When we sleep, we often process the things that are going on in our lives.   At that point in my life I was very worried about money (remember, new baby) and a new job that I’d been at for less than a year, and planning our wedding (Perpetually Grounded Son was an engagement present— oops) so, a lot on my mind.

Well, as often happens in Star Trek, that iconic Whoop Whoop Whoop of the Red Alert went off, and (I have to take my husband’s word for this — I have no memory of it) I sat straight up in bed, yelled “Oh, Shit!  Battlestations”, and ran across the room to the glass door that led to the back yard — stark bare-assed naked.

My husband said he was laughing so hard he barely had time to stop me.

And that is the naked truth about it.

Hope you’re having a great weekend!

 

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Cat Confederation

Before even selling a single story (buy my story, people!) I already have the first fan fiction being written in my Cat Confederation universe.

One of my test readers is my 13 year old son, Trouble.  He has an assignment for his Gifted Education class where he is supposed to write a mystery, and he decided to borrow a couple of characters from my universe and give them their own story. He has promised me I can post it when he finishes.

I am so proud (and so thrilled that he finds the universe engaging enough to ‘borrow’ from).  Yeah, I’ll probably be one of those authors that encourages fan fic.  Hoping I’ll have the opportunity some day.

 

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A couple of years ago, our neighborhood went through a rash of burglaries when some kids from a nearby subdivision tried to form a suburban “gang” and terrorize the area.  Fortunately, they were a bunch of posers, and the trouble soon petered out.

During that time, our neighbor’s fence was graffiti-ed, and in an unrelated event, a professional theft ring stole tools out of my husband’s work truck, waving a gun at the neighbor in the process.

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Creativity

Cover of On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Tonight the theme of the link farm is creativity.  In fact, that is likely to be a theme or sub theme throughout much of the week.

On Writing:

Elizabeth Bear talks about a technique of taking all pronouns out of a piece while drafting it

Toni McGee Causey tells us where she gets her ideas

And Patricia C. Wrede talks about how The Enchanted Forest Chronicles: Dealing with Dragons / Searching for Dragons / Calling on Dragons / Talking to Dragonsto wrap up the disparate story lines of a novel

On Tangling Yarn Creatively:

indigodragonfly previews several more luscious hand spun, hand painted yarns themed around characters in Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The Yarn Harlot shares her latest success

Wendy Knits shares her progress on Twisty, an Aran sweater

Creativity Around the House:


The 99 cent chef shows us how to make yummy breakfast burritos

and Sara Noel over at the Frugal Village covers several creative ways to make our houses homes, including restoring ugly lampshades, substitutions for wine in cooking, and homemade simple truffles.

See you in the morning!

Related Articles: 

Happiness Ain’t About the Preaching

On Food: The Cheap Food Art of Doctoring Dinner

Ten Things to Do on a Sunny Saturday that Don’t Cost a Dime

 
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The first time I attempted knitting

Back around 2008 or so, I was looking for an inexpensive way to make a whole lot of Christmas and Winter Holiday gifts for friends and family. Not knowing what I was getting into, I picked up some cheap aluminum crochet hooks and knitting needles (not knowing which way I was going with this), and a bunch of squeaky acrylic yarn (mostly Lion Brand, which as acrylic yarns go, ain’t half bad).

I also picked up copies of Debbie Stoller’s Stitch and Bitch and Happy Hooker, her beginning books for knitters and crocheters, respectively. On a whim, I went by Dollar Tree on my way home (because there is always an excuse to buy a couple of things at a buck apiece) and found, hidden in the back, a bin full of strange and wonderful novelty yarns for a buck a skein. I filled up my basket with them, not yet realizing that sometimes novelty yarns can be very hard to work with.

I got home and let the stuff sit. A month, maybe longer. I read the books. I read them again. I got them thoroughly damp reading them in the bathtub. Still the stuff sat.

Finally, the gears started turning. I picked up a crochet hook first, because, really, one hook is simpler than two needles. The patient lessons my mom had given me when I was little came back to me, little by little. I tore the same three inches out over and over, though, because every single time I did a row, I had either too many stitches or two few, resulting in a wavy scarf that got thinner and thicker at random (with more experience, I now call this a “design feature” instead of a mistake).

Finally I gave in and just kept crocheting until I got something long enough to wrap around my head a couple of times. Looked great, and it was very soft. I threw it in the wash. Acrylic, right? Wrong. I’d managed to pick up a couple of skeins of 100% wool. I now had a lovely length of felt that was far too short to wear.

When I dive in to something, I dive deep. In the span of a month, I’d made a granny square receiving blanket for a newborn and at least a half dozen different scarves for family members — anything that could be made in your basic rectangle.

Christening Blanket for my Cousins

Somewhere in the middle of that, I decided I wanted to knit, because some things need to just be knitted, not crocheted. So I pulled out Ms. Stoller’s other book and with it in my lap, and another squeaky acrylic yarn (I checked, this time) I set out to learn to knit. It took me a couple of days, heavily spiced with unsavory words, to cast on and knit a very few rows.

I would consistently get a few rows in and drop a stitch or create some other design catastrophe (again, now known as ‘design element’). I knitted one very ugly, uneven scarf, and gave it to my husband, who still wears it. Then I saw another scarf pattern, one I just had to make for myself (Lion Brand’s Scarf Hood pattern, made with Homestyle yarn).

I was still having that same problem with dropping stitches here and picking them up there that I had when I crocheted, but with knitting, fixing a mistake is far more difficult than with crocheting. After I finally decided I just couldn’t stand the level of ‘design element’ in the scarf hood I was making for myself, I pulled out the Stitch and Bitch

book again (now thoroughly understanding why the word “Bitch” was in the title) and went through the section on how to ‘unknit’ and use other techniques to back up and fix knit work.

Soon I was able to fix my mistakes with far less cursing involved, and completed several elongated rectangles that people oohed and ahhed over at gift giving time. Some of them were actually quite pretty. I didn’t take a picture of any of them, because I didn’t think in those terms then, but trust me, they were really, really cool.

The next step was to learn how to make things that were different shapes other than rectangular. I made a beautiful butterfly wing shawl, which I also didn’t take a picture of, and also gave away, and then a pretty little black hat with a brim, yet again given away sans pictures.

Dogwood Cable Hat

Next I made wet pixel’s “dogwood cable” hat for the Cave Dweller in Reynolds Whiskey. This time, i was savvy enough to click a picture (you can’t tell from the picture, but there are lots of ‘design elements’ in it) –>

My first attempt with cotton

This also involved learning how to use a circular needle and double tipped needles, which, all things considered, is easier than it looks. So is cable knitting, actually. Even lace knitting is just doing repetitive, soothing motions over and over, while counting to make sure the holes go in the right places.
< — Sock knitting was next. I knit three pairs for myself and one pair for my cousin before running out of steam. Then I discovered sweater knitting.

My first attempt at sweater making

I found an absolutely luscious yarn called, fittingly enough, Rapture, by Reynolds, and a pattern by Drops Design, and made a sweater (which fits like a dream and suits me well) –>

After abandoning one project (which will be detailed in a later post), I am currently working on the Anjou sweater, out of French Girl Knits, which I will also go over in a later post.

If in the meantime, if someone wants to attempt to convince me that color work is really not the most frightening, dangerous thing ever, I’d love to hear it.

 

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