Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Beware the Undertow

When I was a kid, we vacationed at the sea, swimming in the Atlantic Ocean and basking on the beach. We usually went to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, long before it became whatever kind of expensive Mecca it is today. We camped. Early on, we camped in a family sized tent, and we had all the camping accoutrement that were probably stereotypical for a family in the ‘60’s – camp stove, inflatable mattresses that were really swim floats, heavy sleeping bags padded with cotton batting, a cooler, and a station wagon. Later, we tried a camper of the type where it’s like a folded up trailer, and the top pops up and presumably provides room for four people to sleep. My sister pushed me onto the floor in the middle of the night most of the time, so I can’t say as it really slept four. The tent was better.

In comparison with today’s parents, our parents were criminally negligent; so were everyone else’s. My sister spent most of the time doing whatever tweens do when they’re not being watched, and I was told to, basically, go stand in the ocean. Every so often, one of our parents would remember us, and we’d have to go sit on a towel near them, sticky and sandy and thirsty. I generally wound up, over the years, trolling for sharks’ teeth, which were everywhere, digging up little sand creatures, getting wet sand in my butt, and with half of my one-piece swimsuit twisted around somehow. In good years, I’d have a floatie of some sort, and I’d pots around in the near surf. I did learn to swim and got more courageous, which is when I first started hearing about the Undertow.

The Atlantic has a ferocious undertow, and it has a terrible reputation for being sneaky. It doesn’t matter if you’re close to shore or further out, if it wants you, like a great, soulless Kraken, it comes after you, slurps you up, eats what it wants of you, and spits out a token reminder of you. Maybe. Every summer, we’d hear tales, some were perhaps vacation myths designed to keep kids from being reckless, of kids snorked out to sea and never seen again, by the Dangerous Undertow.

One year, the Dangerous Undertow struck for real. I didn’t realize it right off, and I think my parents tried to keep the information from us at first. The mom and dad from another family, camped only a few spaces away from us, had gotten to be friendly with my folks in that campground way adults do. They had a couple of teenagers, a son and a daughter, who were older than my sister and I. Their kids would hang out with my sister sometimes, but I was too little and none of the teenagers had any time for me, so I barely knew them.

One day, as I was digging up seashells and peeing in the surf, or whatever, I heard screaming down the beach. I sat in the sand and looked around. The adults were beginning to stand up to look for trouble, too. I looked out at the water, there were very few lifeguards then, and noticed that the swimmers and rafters were heading in, except for the lifeguards, who were heading out. A big bell started ringing somewhere, and mothers and fathers ran like hell, grabbing their kids out of the water and counting noses. My sister came tearing down the beach, too, and we four huddled on our beach blankets, watching what had become the center of attention – the distraught parents who were friendly with my folks.

The mom was screaming, the father was shouting, and both of them looked like they were going to explode or collapse. I sat there, digging in the dry sand with my green plastic shovel, not having a clue as to what had happened. Except for the sound of the waves, the occasional clang from the bell, and the screaming of the mother, the beach was silent. Eerily silent. It stayed silent for a long time. A very long time. The bell stopped clanging.

Parents hustled their children back to camp to wash up, change and go do something distracting. My Dad took my sister and I back to our tent, but my Mom stayed on the beach, which I thought was weird. My sister was crying, and my Dad looked grim. I wanted to go back and dig up more seashells, but Dad said that no one could go back to the beach that day. He and I went looking for somewhere to go fishing instead, after we had cleaned up. My sister decided to stay behind.

We couldn’t find anywhere to fish, oddly, but I don’t think my Dad was looking all that hard. We potsed, we piddled, and we stopped in one of those ubiquitous, all-purpose general stores that dotted the South in the ‘60’s. My Dad conversed in quiet tones with the clerk while I lusted after a Moon Pie and a Mountain Dew. I got the Dew, but the Moon Pie got vetoed. We drove around some more, and finally picked up, glory be, a pizza to take back to camp, since it was nearing dinnertime, and the sun was setting.

The camp was quiet when we drove back in. Mom was back at the campsite, my sister was still in the tent, red-faced and blowing her nose, and we ate our pizza in silence for the most part. I wanted to ask what was going on, but my kid antennae advised me to shut up and sit down and wait for further information. I colored. We all waited.

An hour or so after dark, an ambulance screamed by, a commotion started down by the beach, and it moved towards the center of camp, where our tent was. There was wailing and angry, tormented shouting and the sound of many feet on packed sand. We looked at each other, then towards the commotion. It was the parents, being led back to their campsite after all those hours on the beach. Every other parent or official who’d been waiting was with them.

I got sent to bed, like that ever does any good, and I lay there, listening, wondering what had happened in my world. Eventually, news filtered back – the son and daughter had been rafting, and the son’s body had been recovered, but there was no sign of the daughter. The Undertow had gotten them.

Over the next couple of days, about a third of the people in the camp left. We didn’t. It took a while for the lingering miasma of despair and loss to clear, but the sunshine and the waves, and the seashells, and the crabs, and the shark’s teeth, and the salt-scented summer breeze remained. As did the Undertow. Parents were more vigilant, for a while, and there were plenty of official-looking adults traipsing up and down the beach, but eventually vacation became vacation again, only different.

The next summer a spring-loaded tent peg busted out my sister’s front two teeth, and she had to get emergency dental work and suck baby food through a straw for a while, which is, I think, what prompted the acquisition of the crummy pop-up camper for the following year. She got older, I got older, my parents got closer to divorce, and vacations went by the wayside.

I’ve since vacationed in Virginia Beach, Atlantic City, Kauai, on the Lido, beachside at lakes, Great Lakes, inland seas, near streams, and puddles, and rivers, and duck ponds, and I’m still here. Somehow, deep down in my psyche, I’m probably still holding on to my plastic shovel with vigor and determination, and I probably still have plenty of sand in my emotional pants. But I try to keep a weather eye open for the Dangerous Undertow, whatever form it may take.

Oddball Word of the Day

vox barbara (VOKS BAR-ber-uh) a questionable word formation or usage, esp. of pseudo-classical elements, as a Neo-Latin scientific term

(from the guide to MMMW, edited by Laurence Urdang)

Friday, January 19, 2007

Five Things I Did Yesterday

I’m busier now, in a wider variety of ways, than I ever was when I had a paying job. Most folks don’t really believe that housewives and stay-at-home moms are all that busy. I think they have, as I did, an idealized view of how smoothly things run around the house, with errands, and with kids. It’s been my experience that people who haven’t been SAHMS think we have all the free time in the world for leisure activities (or for things THEY want us to do). I don’t know why we set ourselves up with unrealities to envy, but I think it’s pretty common. Anyway,

1. Physical Therapy: I’ve gone into detail already about this earlier this week, so there’s not much to add, other than the recuperation time is down to about 45 minutes afterwards, and then I can go do other stuff. Which I did, including an early lunch date with my spouse, a weekly thing we do instead of dinner out. I’d prefer dinner out, but then he gets all squinty and unpleasant about the expense, so we compromised.

2. Tutoring/Counseling: Straight from lunch, I tutor at the middle school. I’ve had one student in particular for over a year now. Yesterday after discussing and doing superlatives and comparatives, then mathematical functions with fractions, the student opened up to me about problems in the home. We talked quite a bit, the student seemed relieved and more relaxed, and I recommended talking to the teachers and the social worker, in confidentiality if necessary, and perhaps coming in and staying late to be able to study more effectively. I then followed up by cluing the social worker in, insisting on confidentiality, and toddled home to meet my own kids as they returned from school. They decompress at me, which I also consider bonding/mom time, and then I get an hour with my daughter, watching Dr. Phil before more stuff happens.

3. Knitting Group: I handed off parenting to my husband when he got home, and headed off for my once/week knitting group, noticed I had no gas, and filled the tank on the way there. It was a lively group, with 6 people, two of whom are newbies and needed instruction and reassurance, swapped numbers with another new member (but not new knitter).

4. Making Dinner: Thursdays are supposed to be “eat leftovers” nights, since I’m off at knitting during the usual dinner hour. I can usually count on the hubby to feed himself leftovers, and the kids are capable of it, but sometimes they forget, don’t want to, or get focused on their games and time slides by without them eating. Last night was such a night. I could only talk two of them into leftovers, so I heated those up, cooked burgers for my daughter and myself, and added leftover warmed up veg.

5. Tutoring, again: Got a phone call from a newbie knitter from earlier at knitting group, who needed to talk about needle size and gauge swatching, handled that, then while eating dinner, helped my youngest with his polynomials and word problems, then showed my daughter the ways of writing a compare/contrast essay on The Great Gatsby vs. a movie of same, and helped her with her outline, including looking up all the right terms (since kids can never find last year’s handy reference papers, and I can never remember the stuff) for a proper, detailed literary analysis. We discussed themes, methods of choosing what to include (need evidence!) and proper argument techniques.

Which left me with 15 minutes to spend with hubs before Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, which we all watch, hubs headed off to bed, and I chased around after the kids, getting them to bed, too. It was a pretty good day, all told, no appliances quit or spewed anything, no one got in fights or cried, my back is feeling better every day, the pets are healthy, all the homework got done with little or no stress, I got to do something for myself that was fun, and I got a decent night’s sleep.

I think about how much more physically demanding it was when the kids were small. All that running around and worrying about them whacking each other with Tonka trucks or sticking things in electrical sockets (because eventually they DO figure out how to bypass the safety measures) was exhausting. And it was intellectually stultifying, too, small words, careful consideration of what’s appropriate discussion around small kids and their very big ears. They get sick less often now, which means I get sick less often, too.

This is easier physically, but more demanding intellectually and emotionally. It never dawned on me, when I was holding their tiny, newborn little bodies, that I would someday be trying to dredge up decades old experience with quadratic equations and English papers and hints on cellular respiration or saponification, but that’s just as much of parenting as changing a diaper or cubing cheese or turning Barney off and going to the park.

I suppose I can paraphrase JFK here and say, “Ask not what your SAHM can do for you, but what you can do for your SAHM.” And, in case you’re wondering, cleaning the living room would be a great idea!

Oddball Word of the Day

anchorite (ANG_kuhr-ite) n. a hermit; recluse

(from the guide to MMMW, edited by Laurence Urdang)

German Idiom for Friday

Er weiss ein Lied davon zu singen. - He can tell you a thing or two about it.

zB: Mit unartigen Schuelern ins Ausland zu fahren, ist wirklich keine Freude. Frag mal den Franzoesischlehrer - er weiss ein Lied davon zu singen.

auf Englisch: It's no joy at all going abroad with badly behaved pupils. Ask the French teacher - he can tell you a thing or two about it.

Origin: Old German folk songs usually had an unhappy ending. Hence idioms containing the word "Lied" are associated with an unhappy outcome.

(from the Guide to German Idioms by JP Lupson)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Devil Wears Koigu

Well, I’ve gotten a good start on the Koigu pattern for “Charlotte’s Web Shawl”. It was a little confusing at first, until I got someone to read the pattern to me as I knit it, then I had to get used to the lace pattern, which is not at all complicated.

Here’s my progress so far…

Because I am ornery and obstreperous, I am not using Koigu. I like Koigu yarn just fine, it’s pricey, but it gives good yardage, feels fantastic while knitting, and seems like one of the best quality yarns around. The dying is expert and appealing. The pattern calls for like six different colorways of Koigu, and it shows a couple of really lovely, multi-colored shawls. And, that’s the problem. I like to wear bright colors, and I already have plenty. I like to wear patterns in bright colors, and I already have plenty. If I fling a widely multi-colored shawl on top of that, I’ll either look like a bag lady with expensive tastes or a gypsy matriarch. While it really is one of my goals in life to routinely embarrass my children, that might be too much for even me, so I decided against the blaze of variegations.

I thought about my wardrobe and what I usually wear – which is pretty casual and wash and wear. It also tends towards purple/lilac for the time being. I don’t know why, I just find myself wearing the purple family more often than any other specific color family. I also knew I wanted a shawl I’d wear, so it needed to be soft, useful colors, and I wanted to keep some variations in the colorway because that’s a part of the pattern or overall shawl character. I opted for Artyarns Supermerino, which is also a superwash yarn. Their yarn is nice quality, although they sometimes make some interesting choices in colors for dying. I picked a variegated purples yarn and ordered it through DiscountYarnSale in bulk.

The Artyarns Supermerino is also a worsted weight, heavier than the Koigu line, so I went up two needle sizes as well. I think it looks pretty good so far, and the Artyarns is certainly smooth, soft, and easy to work with.

I’ve heard a lot of people doing the online equivalent of squealing and hooting with glee over this pattern, which did influence me a little. I also looked into it and realized it would be an easy beginner lace pattern, with a chart, and despite my years of experience, I have not had great experiences with charted patterns. I figured I could build my confidence so that I can do the Peacock Feathers shawl later this year with less trepidation.

This pattern is working out for all those purposes. I would not personally hoot or squeal over it; I think the stitching actually looks a little rough and scrambled, and I know I’m doing it right. It’ll no doubt even out more after blocking, but that’s not going to change certain PSSOs and the like, the orientations of which are the tiny points of disagreement I have with the design.

I will give the pattern two thumbs up, though, for HAVING NO MISTAKES in the printing. Anywhere. That’s rare and wonderful, and I want to give kudos where they are due and deserved. I would recommend this pattern to anyone who is thinking of beginning lace knitting, too, which is also praise I’m pretty stingy with.

So, I’m looking forward to getting deeper into the shawl – until I hit that phase that’s like the 8th month of pregnancy where you just wish it would be over, finally. I’ll post a picture of the finished shawl for sure.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

It’s Another Tequila Sunrise…

Actually, it’s not. When I think of that song, which is all mellow and relaxed, or even when someone says “Tequila Sunrise,” I think of waking up so supremely hung over that barfing would be a welcome change; that the just-awoken hung over person is confused, cranky, headachy, queasy, squinty-eyed and mean, and probably slept in the clothes they passed out in, so they’re no fresh spring daisy by anyone’s yardstick. The song probably refers to the mixed drink by that name, but I wouldn’t know since I get all caught up in my imagination and stop listening after the first four words.

However, excepting the hung over bits, I’ve had a few nearly “tequila sunrise” mornings myself ever since I started physical therapy. I never would have believed how exhausting it is – I mean, it looks, from the observer standpoint, like either a lot of very gentle exercise or isometrics. Ha, ha! How tough can that be? Ha, ha! I should have known better from the funny/grim stories my cousin, the physical therapist, has let slip from time to time. She and her cohorts think it’s funny when rehab patients call them the “Spanish Inquisition”. I used to think so, too.

I’m in week 5 of a six week prescription for PT for my over-flexible lower back and soggy lower abs, which have led to bad posture, back pain, and a lack of stamina overall. There are medical reasons for why I got here, but it would bore me to discuss them; I can only imagine how dull that would be for a reader. So, let me tell you about my Sadistic Drill Sergeants, aka Physical Therapists, and their evil schemes.

SDS #1 weighs 8 lbs and is perky. This would normally be enough for me to want to slap her and lock her in a closet, but I told myself I was there for her professional skills. She evaluated me. When a doctor evaluates you, he looks at you, notes observations, does some non-invasive stuff, maybe whacks you on the knee or orders some blood tests and other lab work. When a PT evaluates you, it’s like being in a caffeinated cartoon – stand up, sit down, sit down again, stand up again, wave your arms around, wave your legs around, stand on one leg, lean against the wall while the PT shoves you, push back with your arms, legs, neck, feet, don’t push back, bend over, squat, do half a sit up and stay there for a week or two, balance on your left pinkie toe, bounce on what looks like a giant playground ball, and march, waving your arms around without falling off. And, don’t let’s forget range of motion – hamstrings? Just wrap your leg around your neck and hold it there; bend over to one side, then the other, then forward and backward, rotate your head like an owl, but don’t hark up any pellets, and have you ever thought about orthotics? AAAAAAARGH!

I actually came through the evaluation OK, with lots of exclamations of “good!” from perky SDS#1, with my needs confirmed. She gave me a modest list of small, targeted exercises to do twice daily until the next appointment, two days later. I thought I was feeling moderately spry until I started walking down the hallway to leave and realized I was leaning to the left and lurching along, bent cockeyed, looking like Quasimodo with a purse. I blamed it on the purse, and cleaned all the loose change out of the bottom of it when I got to my car. There was a lot of loose change. Sitting there in my cushy seat, not exercising much more than my arms for turning the wheel, I thought to myself, “well, that wasn’t so bad.” All I can say is that being snockered on endorphins doesn’t last nearly long enough.

When I got home and went up the three shallow steps into the kitchen from the garage, it hit me. I buckled over and ground out a few choice words as one of my eyeballs began protruding unnaturally from its socket due to a tsunami of pain rocketing up from my lumbar region, and I wheezed and stumbled my way to the nearest Aleve bottle. Four hours, one nap, and a well-used heating pad later, I could sit up again without clenching anything or moaning involuntarily. I felt like a complete disaster as a human being. And I still needed to do my second set of exercises.

I stalled. I dallied. I made charming dinner table conversation, attempting to keep my family there until I felt up to exercising again. Then, I knew I had to do it, so I tapped into my inner marathon runner for endurance (I don’t have an outer marathon runner; if I did, I might not need PT), and did my exercises. Slowly, carefully, and with great focus and attention. If there had been an observer, he or she might have wondered what on earth was causing me to lie on my back, feebly waving the occasional limb around like a dying beetle, grunting and squinting up one eye. I dare anyone my age who isn’t a personal trainer to do them without making at least one involuntary noise and one tiny squint.

And when I got up, I felt different. I ached, sure, but my spine felt looser in a good way. I could actually find a lower ab muscle. I couldn’t do much with it, other than wonder where the hell it had been for so long and why was it twitching frenetically, but I could find it. I was encouraged. I went into the living room, cranked the heating pad back up to “broil” and lay down to watch TV with my husband. I woke up at about 3 am, feeling like I’d had drunk way too much tequila, so I went back to sleep. In my clothes.

It’s been pretty much like that ever since. SDS#1 has given way to SDS#’s 2 (short and not so perky) and 3 (a regular sized person with a sense of the ridiculous as outrageous as mine), all of whom have the same evil sense of humor and matter-of-fact way of assigning new, brutally difficult, painful exercises as if they were doing nothing more challenging than sharing a low-fat banana bread recipe with me.

I have progressed, and I can tell I’ve made strides. It’s hard every time, and it needs to be. I’m so tired at night that if I don’t make sure to go straight up to bed after my second set of exercises, I’ll wind up sleeping where I next perch, which has to date included the couch, a chair with no arms, a chair with arms, and the floor, where I was still lying, resting after finishing a new set of exercises. I haven’t broken or strained or sprained anything.

I can walk easier, stand easier, last longer without pain, and that makes me happy because it’s why I wanted PT in the first place. I can put up with quite a few tequila sunrises as a trade-off.

Oddball Word of the Day

canticle (KAN-ti-kul) n. a hymn or song of praise

(from the MMMW, edited by Laurence Urdang)

Friday, January 12, 2007

Five Spam Types That Irk Me

I should first admit that I sometimes read real life junk mail. I’m curious, I’m a compulsive reader, and I like to know what’s being touted from time to time. I also sometimes look at spam to see what’s cooking. Sadly, spam often lacks the tacky charm, the emotional thrill (“You may have already won!”) of paper junk mail.

1. Stocks to buy: If I were interested in buying stocks, the last thing I’d do would be buy those on advice from some wanker with a fraudulent return email address. Which is just one step below buying swampland in Florida, because at least the swampland might offer me a picture of a ‘gator as a consolation for being monumentally stupid.

2. Penis Spam: I don’t personally own one, and if I were to forward the p.spam to the possessor of same in my life, he might get so insulted that he’d consider not bringing it home for my entertainment anymore. And, life’s too short to play with your….. well, you know what I mean.

3. Lose weight now: Thank you. I’m sure I want to take advice and buy products on weight loss while sitting idly in front of my computer from someone who is doing the exact same thing. I’m pretty sure my Grandmother was right when she said, “go do something, dammit” although she might have just wanted me to get off the couch so she could sit down. If she were around annoying me today, I’d have Buns of Whole Wheat or something, instead.

4. Unintentional Spam: Sometimes neophytes, or even experienced computer users, will want to send their new email address, a particularly spicy anecdote, some wonderful pictures, a prayer for the troops, or a joke to everyone in their email address book. Unfortunately, we may have quit corresponding 5 years ago, I may be in your address book as a result of someone else’s galumphingly inept emailing, or I just don’t know you at all, and what really concerns me is how you got hold of my damned address. Second in this category are emails that have been repeatedly forwarded until I have to click more than twice to excavate the message you wanted me to see. Please, peeps, cut and paste and save time for those you wish to enlighten, entertain, or harass.

5. Credit card/paycheck loan Spam. No, just no. No today, no tomorrow, and no for everyday after that in perpetuity. Are they insane? Where’s the trackability? The accountability? Just thinking about it makes my eyeballs spin in opposite directions.

Fortunately my ISP traps most of the spam, so I don’t spend too much time choking and whacking the keyboard with my fist. What it doesn’t get, my home spam filter gets. I even have to check them periodically to make sure they haven’t inadvertently snagged a worthy message due to some phrase or trigger word. But it’s worth the small annoyance to get rid of the much bigger one. I hope someone comes up with a fix-all for the spam soon. In the meantime:

EnLarga your penus NOW and youf boss will advance you aLoan, so you can buy my EFEDRAgaranteed wt. Loss products – and some !!!Penny Stocks!!! While I tell you this one about a farmer…”

Oddball Word of the Day

usury: (YOOO-zhuh-ree) n. 1. an extortionate, especially illegally high, rate of interest, 2. the practice of lending mooney at such a high rate of interest.

(from the MMMW, edited by Laurence Urdang)

German Idiom for Friday

aus einer Muecke einen Elefanten machen: to make a mountain out of a molehill

zB: Sein Benehmen war gar nicht so anstoessig, wie du behaupten willst. Mach doch aus einer Muecke keinen Elefanten.

auf Englisch: His behavior was nowhere near as offensive as you make out. Don't make a mountain out of a molehill.

(from the Guide to German Idioms by JP Lupson)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Inversion Hat

I got bored with the beige and brown stocking cap, so I made it an inversion hat. An inversion hat is one where the ribbing is at the end, or top, of the hat instead of at the brim or beginning. Once you get used to shaping in ribbing, it’s pretty easy to do, but I still like to plan it out. Here’s the worksheet I did prior to beginning the “inversion”. If you can see it, there’s a little rosette at the lower left, which shows what the top of the hat should look like.

Then here’s a picture of the finished hat, with the top looking like the sketch (if you can tell, despite my crummy photography).

There are a couple of key points to decreasing in ribbing to get straight lines, rather than ribbing that skews off, sometimes very attractively, to one side or the other.

1. Since the knit stitches protrude and the purl stitches recede, to make the decreases less visible, decrease by knitting the last knit stitch over the first purl in a K2tog manner. To keep it even, on the other side of the purl “field” you then slip the last purl and the first knit stitches in a knitwise manner, and knit them together, making sure the knit stitch is the one on top. By doing this, you get straight lines of knit arrowing in towards the center top of the hat. If your knitting style, which is probably different from my ECU self-taught manner, has you scratching your head over this, reverse them – maybe doing the SSK first and the k2tog second makes more sense.

2. This also causes decreases to occur in a big hurry, so it’s necessary to think about how many rows of knitting you’ll need to do between decrease rows so that your hat does not decrease too rapidly and then not fit.

3. Some people think it’s OK to decrease in the purl field, and sometimes it can be. I’ve always thought that left a bit of a visible lump in the middle of the purling, which I don’t particularly care for.

…and a bonus hint – I could have done the top in all garter stitch for a little interest. I’ve found that if I decrease on the knit stitches on the RIGHT side, they are less visible. The reason they do is because in garter rounds, it’s the purl row that protrudes and the knit row recedes; there fore, the knit row hides the decrease.

So, for the sake of specificity, here’s my little inversion hat pattern:

Sock weight yarn oddballs (no idea how many ounces)
Size 2 US circs, 16”, 1 set size 2 dpns
1 crochet hook, size F US for finishing.

Gauge, mine was 10r and 6 sts/inch. It is pretty flexible, just as long as the hat fits and the top decrease area works out to be about 4” in diameter/2” radius. (Don’t let the geometry terms stress you out)

Cast on 102 sts, knit in rounds for 7-8 inches. Check back down to CO edge and insert marker at approximate spot for beginning of round on current round.

Switch to K2P4 and knit 10 rounds in ribbing.


1st Dec. Round: K1, (K2tog, P2, SSK,) repeat pattern between parentheses around to next to last purl stitch. Slip one stitch, remove marker, put stitch back on original needle, insert marker (now one stitch before where it used to be) and do final SSK (now AFTER the marker). 68 sts, or close enough for horseshoes.

K 10 rounds in K2P2, as established.

2nd Dec. Round: K1, (K2, SSK) repeat around as above, switching to dpns. You will now have all knit stitches on your dpns, 34 of them (or close enough for horseshoes).

K 1 round even.

3rd Dec. Round: K1, (K2tog, SSK), repeat pattern in parentheses around to last stitch and just knit it. Should be about 19 sts.

Snip a long tail and pull yarn through and pull tight. Weave in ends.

Oddball Word of the Day

desuetude (DES-wit-oood) n. a state of disuse

(from the MMMW, edited by Laurence Urdang)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Phrase Migration

I think each step of my parenting journey has led to a different catchphrase for me. That’s probably because different things have been demanded of me, based on what the kids’ needs were at the time.

When they were babies, my phrase was “Dare to be calm.” I posted it on the refrigerator, on an index card on the windowsill over the sink, and had it as part of my daily affirmations. Babies, when not sleeping, were in a constant state of urgent or immediate needs, it seemed to me at the time. They were hungry; they were wet; they were poopy; they were bored; they had a rash, an itch, a fever, diarrhea; they were teething; they needed an immunization; they were hungry, wet and bored again. Sigh. It just went on and on, 24 hours a day.

Sleep deprivation played a big part in my choice of phrase. As I became less resilient, less patient, more stressed, it was easy to freak out, to feel overwhelmed, to want to shove my head down the garbage disposal just for a few more inches away from the latest wail. None of that was doing any good, so I re-read my Dr. Spock book. I watched humor shows on PBS, while holding babies. Finally, it dawned on me. Very rarely, in fact, almost never, do babies die of wailing. It is possible to go and stand in the garage for one full minute and curse like hell where no one can hear you, bang a hammer on a workbench to take out your frustration, and then return, with greater patience and less stress, to take care of the screamer. When there is more than one screamer, it sometimes takes superb logistical management skills to get them to sit in two or more different corners until you return, but it can be done.

Over time, my garage breaks and extended bathroom breaks helped “Dare to be calm” become a habit. I didn’t have to physically leave the situation in order to stop acting like every holler was a forest fire. I stopped being an overcaffeinated, REM-deprived Smokey the Bear Mom and became Zen Mom. Om.

I taught my older babies/toddlers Meditation in the Moment before it became a popular parenting strategy. “Let’s all take a step back and breathe deeply three times. Let me hear you breathe. Breathe in, sloooooowly. Breathe out. No spitting. Breathe in, breathe out. Put down the squirt gun, I AM watching. Let’s start over. Breathe in…” and so on. Sometimes it worked smoothly; sometimes it was more of a struggle. But it did work, mostly because the only other choice, from experience, was mayhem and screaming, and I had had enough of both of those.

Which led to the phrase for the preschool years “Make your life easier by limiting choices.” Given unlimited choices and/or a doormat mom, preschoolers will be fretful, cranky, sweaty little despots with snot-covered upper lips (an un-charming look which a friend refers to as the “glazed donut” face). They are never happy, and they make sure no one around them is happy either.

By this time, with three kids, I had given up trying to be the nicest mom any kid ever had, and learned the real lesson of parenting (I think), which is, they need someone to be unapologetically in charge; they need a confident leader. As a sidebar, whenever I watch Super Nanny, this is what I see her teaching the kids and parents – first teach the parents to lead without apology or exception, then teach the kids how to follow. It makes all the difference. Anyway, part of what I learned was to stop offering them too many choices.

It started with scheduling. If I let them wander around in their pjs, without saying anything about getting dressed, then sure as the sun rises, at some point during the day there’d be a problem, they’d whine and roll on the floor, a preschool mutiny would ensue, and stress would begin. So, no choice, they didn’t get breakfast until they were in their day clothes. I also limited breakfast choices – hot oatmeal or Cheerios. I didn’t even buy anything else, much to my husband’s occasional dismay, since he really favors Corn Flakes for a late night snack.

As they got used to it, they became calmer and surer of their universe. I could hear them telling each other things like, “You have to clean up now, Bunny, Mom’s going to read Dr. Seuss to us before we help with dinner!” The more they settled into the routine and became adept at it, the more choices I could creatively add in – at one point, for several years, I made up a menu grid for the month. They each got to pick a dinner (with certain food categories mandated) for each week, and, regardless of how peculiar it might be, if it met the nutritional requirements, we made it, and we ate it without complaint. Mostly.

They would negotiate with one another; Bunny would say, “Spawn, I don’t like peas.” Spawn would reply that he liked peas and Doodle liked peas and Dad liked peas, so she was outvoted. Then she’d ask if they could also have salad (notice that’s “also”, not “instead”). Spawn would, with his very young brow furrowed, seriously consider the request, then decide that salad, too, would be OK, and he’d have me add it in.

When they started public school, the working phrase mutated to “It takes a united team to raise a child, but when in doubt, the parents trump.” Mom and Dad have to agree on standards and practices that meet or exceed school expectations, and that’s the baseline for what we expect and support our kids in doing. And we have to stand by that, every step of the way, or it’ll fail because one thing school kids will unfailingly do is test limits every minute.

Sometimes it has meant making choices the school didn’t like – in 7th grade Spawn had a class called, “Skills for Adolescence”. Now, had this been an etiquette class, or a practical, hands-on class on dealing with interpersonal conflict resolution or study skills, I could have stood behind the school and defended the appropriateness and/or applicability of the class. It wasn’t. It was one of those time-waster, creates more problems than it solves kinds of classes – offering speculative, hypothetical situations that my rurally raised kids don’t encounter, and asking them to make decisions and show decision-making processes for situations that have never even dawned on them, much less occurred. And, at that age, lots of kids are not particularly good at extrapolating situations; they’re still grounded in the tangible – they like math problems to have a definite answer, and they still expect the world to be more black and white than gray.

Spawn did not like the class. He was getting a D in it. I got a call from the vice-principal and another from the teacher, and we agreed to meet. I prepped by reading the workbook, which made my eyeballs catch fire, and when I read Spawn’s perfectly reasonable responses, my eyeballs went nuclear. We met. Their concern was that Spawn had decided to answer every question with, “I’d ask my Mom first.” I asked them what was wrong with that, and they replied that they were looking for answers like, “drugs are illegal and a bad idea, and I could get in trouble, and I should tell school officials right away.” I countered with wondering how Spawn’s answer was wrong, still, since asking advice from a trusted and known adult authority figure was a very good idea before taking any action of a highly significant nature, and why they felt that a minor child should circumvent his parents in making decisions in those important situations. They had no comeback, just asked for more detail in the future.

Spawn got a supportive earful, too. I told him I understood his dislike of the class and let him hold forth about it for quite a while. Then I reminded him that we had standards of academic performance, and that if he was aware of what answers were expected, I expected him to bring the grade up to a C, but that beyond that, I supported his protest of a do-nothing, parent-undercutting class which he found offensive. In retrospect, I think that was one of the best moves I ever made with him; I gained his trust, his willingness to share his problems with me, as much as a teenager will, and his respect, since I had shown him respect, too, and still maintained family standards. The school discontinued the class three years later.

I’ve done the same thing with the other two as well. If the school stands on legitimate ground, they have my full support. If they’re trying to get away with shoddy, slipshod practices, I have words with them, and, if those make no changes, then I remind my kids that they have to live up to OUR standards, not the others. I try to help them to understand that their education must be wrested from the unwilling members of the school, and gratefully accepted from the able and adept. It has yet to be easy.

And now, we’re moving into the college years. It feels like the parenting catchphrase is becoming, “Trust them to fly; they may occasionally need navigational help.” And that’s hard, too.

Oddball Word of the Day

reboant (REB-OH-ent) adj. loudly echoing or reverberating

(from the MMMW, edited by Laurence Urdang)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Wasting Time

We each got some kind of computer or handheld game for Christmas, and we like them. Consequently, we are not getting much done around the house right now, as we’re all trying to figure out our games and get better at them. It’s hard being a firm, decisive parent who tells their kids to quit playing games and do their chores, when I myself have just spent an hour and a half trying to get two of my Sim characters to fall in love, and failing miserably. Yes, thank you, I can say hypocrite, I just don’t want to.

All this game playing, with the differing situations and options and scoring, has also made dinner conversation peculiar, even for my family. Last night the conversation went something like this:

Hubs: Well, children, what did you do today? (I always hated this question as a kid myself because I instantaneously forgot everything positive I’d done, and sat there with my mouth hanging open, feeling like a moron. Usually my kids feel the same way.)

Doodle: I killed about a hundred allies.

Bunny: I grew three crops of rutabagas and married the mayor.

Hubs: (open mouthed) (silent and stunned)

Me: I think Dad meant what did you do in school.

Doodle: Nuthin’.

Bunny: Oh. I found all my new classes and got handouts and books.

(Large chasm of silence)

Me: So, Doodle, why would you kill allies? I thought allies were your friends and helpers?

Doodle, enthusiastically: Well, I’m supposed to be really sneaky and like a double-agent, so if I kill my allies and then pretend I just barely survived an attack by the “enemy”, then I get extra points!

Me: Cool! Sounds fun!

Doodle: Yeah! I’ve got all these great weapons, like a megatronic phaser blaster and…

Bunny, interrupting: I got a thousand points for marrying the mayor!

Me: Oooh, why?

Bunny: He’s really hard to get to know, and he’s rich.

Me: (slapping head and thinking of what this is teaching my daughter in terms of relationships) AAARGH!

Hubs, finally getting it: I’m hoping to chuck my racecar driver through 6 flaming hoops tonight, after the news.

Doodle: What news?

Hubs: The real news – you know, stuff that happened today, out in the real world.

Doodle: When will it be over? Can I trying chucking a driver, too?

Hubs: 7. OK, that would be fun!

Me: Bonding, dear?

Hubs: (winks at me and says to Doodle) Maybe we could also try crashing into stuff with trucks.

Me: (slapping head again) AAARGH!

Bunny: Hey, Mom, do you get extra points for marrying someone difficult?

Me: No, you just get ulcers and headaches.

Bunny: In Sims?

Me: No, in real life.

Bunny: What about in Sims?

Me: I think it just takes longer and then they’re always a little cranky with each other. Better to marry someone with whom you share interests. And work hours.

Bunny: That sounds like it would work better in real life, too.

Me: Why rutabagas?

Bunny: Big cash crop. I’m stinking rich now.

Me: Handy. Got any kids?

Bunny: No, but I adopted a flock of chickens. That’s not working out so well, though, they keep wandering through the house and that ticks the Mayor off.

Me: I probably wouldn’t want chickens in my house either. Got any homework?

Bunny: Nope. Just reading the class rules and stuff like that.

Me: Homework, Doodle?

Doodle: Nope.

Spawn (wandering in from work): Hey, what’s up?

Doodle: Dad and I are going to chuck people through flaming hoops and crash trucks into stuff after the news!

Spawn: Coooool! Can I watch?

Me, exasperated: Don’t you have homework from college?

Spawn: Naw, we just got class rules and got lectured about not being slackers.

Me: AAAAAAAARGH! OK, that’s it. All of you kids do some chores, I don’t care what, dishes, laundry, vacuuming, picking nits out of each other’s hair, I don’t care, just do something productive!

Spawn: Mom! I just got home from work!

Me: Laundry. You get to do laundry. Go fold something.

Bunny: Geez, Mom, what am I supposed to do? I don’t have any homework and my room’s clean!

Me: Help your little brother do dishes. And don’t look at me like that!

Hubs: (snickers) So, what did you do today, dear?

Me: Seven thousand things that are all incredibly boring and don’t sound like much and which no one will ever notice because I do them so routinely and seamlessly. You?

Hubs: Pretty much the same.

Me: Thank you.

Hubs: You, too.

Oddball Word of the Day

tutoyer (TOO-twe-yay) v. to address or treat (a person) with familiarity, especially where no familiarity exists

(from the MMMW, edited by Laurence Urdang)

Friday, January 05, 2007

Five Good Things About Folks with ADHD

My husband and both of my sons have ADHD. It often makes life very trying, it can certainly be frustrating, but there are moments of lightness and humor that are pretty fun, too.

1. They think I am unusually smart because I can remember stuff that they haven’t even thought of since it flickered off the screen of their attention span. Sometimes, as a Mom and wife, this works out to my advantage – I can play head games on the unwary, swearing up and down that they really did like stuffed green peppers the last time I served them, although I always give myself up as a prankster after poking at them a few times. I have been dubbed the family Oracle because I remember what the dentist said to them the last time they went, where they probably left their shoes, and why so-and-so is no longer speaking to them.

2. They are very forgiving. They don’t remember what the hell they were supposed to be mad about unless it was truly huge and/or they did something to lock it in their memory cells. Before any of them were diagnosed, I used to think they had more grace and kindness than anyone I’d ever met. Now that I know they’re just senile as all hell, I still like to think of it as grace, merely unintentional grace, and it gives me an example to follow in my own mind.

3. They are very energetic. Sometimes this gets bad or annoying when it hits the frenetic stage. Other times it works out pretty well for me because I could easily slide into a state of permanent mediation and physical indolence, which would cause me to be mistaken for a large piece of damp laundry occupying couch space. Having a son or husband twitter through the living room, inciting small mayhem or a desire to sally forth and DO something is a good thing.

4. Their needs for tangible materials to cope with their memory/attention problems has made me more reliable, more organized and more receptive to using the same or similar strategies. When my husband and I were first married, I couldn’t believe how horrible his time sense was. I got him a better watch, a pocket calendar, a wall calendar, and finally, over the years, he added in his own reminder computer programs, little pocket doo-dads and the like to help him remember important dates and appointments.

When the kids headed off to school and we went through the forgotten homework, books, assignments, and so on, I was the first Mom to insist on a Day Planner for the kids, follow-up homework hotlines, the option of an extra set of books for home, and to drive, with unrestrained fervor, the first 504 plan for an ADHD kid through the local school system. Assignment books and follow up methods are now de rigueur for all kids in the schools.

I decided, about 6 years ago, that between doctor appointments, following up on homework assignments, and various activity meetings, I needed a day planner, too. I am never without it now, and I’m glad I got one. When I started having to remember things for not just the five of us, but also for my Dad, it became crucial, particularly for scheduling his medical appointments, which sometimes need to be done a year in advance.

5. I’ve gotten incredibly good at estimating time myself in order to teach my kids how to estimate preparation time for getting to school or other appointments without having to dash out the door, already late, with their pants unzipped and wearing only one sock. I also clock durations, so that I can use actual data in future estimates or even in arguments with them. They hate that, in a kidly way. No more can they argue that they can’t possibly do the dishes because they have a date – I ask what time the date is, then inform them that if they will quit whining, they can get the dishes done in 13.5 minutes if they focus, have time for a quick shower – 8.5 minutes, get dressed – 5 minutes for the boys, 12 for my daughter, and still have time to drink a glass of milk before they leave. And they’ll be on time. They give me the look. I return it, raising it one set of maternal eyebrows and adding that they’ll also be in my good graces if they get hopping.

I usually win, and they love me anyway – because they can’t remember how many times I’ve pulled the same damned stunt on them!

Oddball Word of the Day

nudnik (NOOD-nick) n. an importunate or tiring person; a nuisance

(from the guide to MMMW, edited by Laurence Urdang)

German Idiom for Friday

jemandem nach dem Mund reden: to say what someone wants to hear

zB: Um im Berufsleben weiterzukommen, redet Heinrich dem Chef immer nach dem Mund.

auf Englisch: To get on in his career, Heinrich always says what the boss wants to hear.

(from the Guide to German Idioms by JP Lupson)

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Midyear Knitting Report

Yes, I said that right. Each profession seems to define the start and end of a year differently, fiscal years, school years, sales years, tax years, etc., so I get to define a Knitting Year for myself. It begins when the temperature hits 40 degrees for the first time after summer, and ends with the first full week of temperatures above 70 degrees in the spring.

I define it this way because, unlike most time periods of my life, which are rational and predictable, I am a whimsical wooly caterpillar when it comes to knitting – I knit for the weather I’m experiencing, and neither force of will, nor aggravations over UFOs (unfinished objects), nor a driving need to have a project finished in time for some particular event will cause me to pick up a handful of yarn during warm weather. I can occasionally fudge my way through with cotton and small kitcheny (and kitschy) stuff when it warms up, but I have an innate resistance to knitting while sweating.

I’ve already mentioned over the course of the last few months, directed projects attempted and completed – Hats to the Capital, Knit for Kids sweaters, things send to the Pine Ridge Reservation. I did wind up finishing the Fishwife’s Shawl (or whatever it’s called) from Cheryl Oberle’s book on Folk Shawls. I could be more impressed, and probably will be once it’s blocked. Right now the fishtail stitches at the bottom border are a little bunchy compared to the looser garter stitches of the main body.

I had an unpleasant surprise over Christmas, which I had to knit for – somehow the plastic storage box with the stockings in it had been breached since it was last seen, and mice had eaten away a large portion of my daughter’s stocking. It was not reparable. Her teddy bear’s stocking (she’s had the bear since she was 4 years old or so, and the bear is as much a part of our family as our live pets) had also gone missing. My imagination has placed it in a mouse den somewhere, acting as a sleeping bag for some elderly grandmother mouse, wearing Beatrix Potter tiny glasses and a mobcap.

So, I knit up another stocking for each of them, with fluffy cuffs and contrasting heels and toes. They were ready with 48 hours safety margin before the Big Night. The bear was worried, but we’re all OK now.

Since then, I’ve been in knitting limbo. It’s warm out, unusually warm, and that’s put a hitch in my get-along. Normally, in January, I’d be working on the last third of at least one afghan, finishing up a nice patterned sweater, and launching into mittens. I’ve stalled on a baby aghan in donated yarn (and therefore quite neon like colors of screaming yellow and eye popping bright pink), a mitered afghan lies under the coffee table only half finished, and the only thing I’ve been working on steadily, if half-heartedly, is a roll brim stocking cap in lightweight sock yarn of tan and brown. Bleah.

So, I’m planning instead. Some of my former “wanna dos” are still undone. I hope to do a Charlotte’s Web shawl this year and that pair of Sanquahar gloves I’ve been eyeballing for much too long. I have the yarn and the pattern for the Peacock Feather shawl, but I’ve been dawdling along, a little daunted by the lace charts. I think I’ll take either CW or PF in to my Chix with Stix group, now that we have another experienced knitter and see if she can bolster my skills and confidence. I’d also like to get three oddball afghans done, including the mitered squares one from under the coffee table, and then send them off to Pine Ridge. That should probably hold me until summer arrives.
I’ll post pictures along the way.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Tag! I'm it!

I've been tagged by Judy, as follows:“THE RULES: Each player of this game starts with the ‘6 weird things about you.’ People who get tagged need to write a blog of their own 6 weird things as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to leave a comment that says ‘you are tagged’ in their comments and tell them to read your blog.”

OK, I’ll bite on telling six weird things about myself, probably mostly because I am a diehard list maker, and anything that needs to be numbered already has points in its favor (shall I count them???). I’m not tagging anyone else – not because I have some large objection to it, I just don’t know that many Bloggers personally that I feel I have sufficient friend points with to tag. So, if you are reading this and would like to add your six eccentricities via a comment, please do. Or, if you’re a Blogger, tag yourself for me, and leave me a note so I can read about you.

1. I talk for my animals. I talk for other people’s animals in front of my family. I have a hard time not doing my anthropomorphizing interpretations in front of other people. For example, when I speak for my Labrador, he has a kind of kid voice and a little trouble with his double els. He “smews the smews”, he doesn’t “smell the smells”, for example. And, if he crawls up on hubs and looks adoringly up at him, I wind up saying, “I love you Dad. You smew like beef. Do you have beef? Dogs like beef. In case you were wondering. Scratch my neck, Dad.” When he looks hopefully at one of the kids and wags, my mouth says, “Hey, Spawn, let’s go run really fast in the yard until our ears flap in the breeze! Then we can roll in the grass!” Or something equally strange.

My mother-in-law’s dog, Maggie, comes to visit sometimes, and she always “sounds” like Marcie of the Peanuts comic strip/cartoons. She’s a little nervous, so when she goes to beg for pats from hubs, it’s, “Sir? Sir? Sir? Will you please rub my head, sir?” And so on. Oddly, my family has not yet committed me involuntarily for observation; instead, they wonder what kind of voice I’ll give a pet, even one in a home we’ve just visited.

2. I have a huge yarn stash, but I don’t think that’s particularly weird for a knitter. I also have a stationery stash. I love really good quality paper. I love stuff with my name printed on it, and if it happens to be on good quality paper, even better. I have personalized memo pads left over from a job I haven’t had for almost 20 years, and I think the company went defunct over a decade ago, but, by gosh, I still have those pads. I finally threw out the stationery with our old address from 10 years ago. It might be a “Kilroy was here” thing buried deep in the warehouse of my mind that makes me keep this stuff and/or like it.

3. I am strangely attracted to sticks. Perhaps I was a Labrador in a former life (which would explain a LOT) and never got in that one last game of fetch. When I was a kid, my Dad gave me a pocketknife, as one of his life truisms was that everyone should have a pocketknife. (So, there, TSA!) We would sometime sit out in our back yard and strip the bark off of sticks with our pocketknives, side by side, not talking much, just spending time together. Sometimes, when we went fishing together, those pocketknives came in handy for cutting bait or tangled lines, or whiling away time while waiting for a bite by whittling on a stick.

I’m invariably very happy when I find a nice stick – fairly straight, not too many knots or boles or whatevers, and about three to four feet long. The first time my now-husband, then-date and I went camping, I was thrilled to find a nice stick. I waved it at him and said, “Hey! I found a really nice stick!” He laughed like hell, even bent over and hooted and slapped his knee. I was at a loss as to why that was so funny until I realized he hadn’t heard “nice stick”. He had heard “nice d*ck”. Guys are so weird.

4. I don’t trust raisins. I know they’re healthful, full of iron and fiber, and I can eat them out of a package that has just been opened with no problem. If they’re in a salad or food, or it the package has been open for a while, I don’t trust them to be raisins anymore. They could be flies that drowned in the mayonnaise, or maybe I thought they were going to be chocolate chips in my cookies, but they turned out to be raisins instead, and that really disappoints my expectant tastebuds. When they’re dry, they get that funky brown crusty thing going on, which is just wrong for food products to have – it looks like tree fungus or something. Don’t ever serve me Waldorf salad at an open-air picnic, either, no way. Those could be flies, and, man, I’m not even coming close to taking a bite of it, not to please ANYONE’S mother. Besides, mayonnaise on fruit is….wrong.

5. Ice in my cold drinks – I like more ice in my cold drinks than anyone else I know. I will pile it up precariously over the top of the glass before putting the beverage in. Fast food restaurants, regular restaurants, whatever, no one ever puts enough ice in my drinks but me. I have no idea why. After it’s been shaken down and slightly melted by the beverage, I put more in, too. I also drink the melted ice, so it’s not going to waste, and I kind of like watered down drinks anyway.

6. I put reading material in the bathroom that is too boring for me to concentrate on elsewhere. OK, that’s probably hitting the TMI marker pretty hard for the more squeamish among you, but it’s true. I get scholarly magazines from two organizations I belong to, and while they are certainly worthy publications, I just can’t get into them while sitting on the couch or at the table, or riding in a car. I fall asleep or get exasperated with waiting for the point to be made, or even some really stirring verbiage. While enthroned, it’s a different matter, and I really do read them then, and then I can feel secretly smug and virtuous. I don’t read much in the tub anymore – I’ve dropped too many novels into the soapy water over the years and choose not to run the risk anymore.

OK, what odd things can you tell me about yourself?

Oddball Word of the Day

cunctator (kung--TAY-ter): n. one who delays or procrastinates

(from the guide to MMMW, edited by Laurence Urdang)

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

That being said, I suppose it’s time for a wish list after such a long break from posting.

Wishes for 2007

1. God and good luck save us from any more of George Bush’s maniacal governance. I don’t know how much more of his corrupt administration and morally bankrupt choices this country can take. We’re heading downhill fast for third world status in terms of economic stability, international financial status, and we’re already in the sh*tcan of world opinion for his deranged warmongering. Our education system is largely a joke, and living in the US feels, every day, more like the reason for the tag, “Some days it’s not worth chewing through the restraints.”

2. I hope that environmentalists will be able to make themselves heard and that changes will be made. The first dolphin group has just become extinct, and I don’t think it’ll be long before extinction of species becomes everyday news. Maybe it already has, and we’re not hearing any of it, here behind Mr. Bush’s Irony Curtain.

3. I wish people would quit asking me what my resolutions are for 2007. I don’t DO resolutions. I set goals as I go along, as they seem appropriate. Are there things I’d like to accomplish? Sure. But my life has been, and with all probabilities examined, will most likely continue to be way more unpredictable than not, and setting a lot of optimistic resolutions would just wind up frustrating me as it used to before I gave them up.

4. I hope my physical therapy works. Right now, I think it’s working, and I hope my insurance carrier doesn’t give me any malarkey. I need to have my back strength again. It’s really hindering me, not being able to walk or stand for more than 10 minutes at a time without having to find some support. I hate that. I really don’t want to even consider surgery.

5. I hope my kids mature a little; I hope they become a little more confident, a little more forward-looking, a little more self-reliant, and a little more compassionate this year. I don’t know what lessons I’ll need to learn to pass on to help those hopes, but I do hope I recognize them when I see them.

6. I hope I don’t lose another family member this year.

7. I’m hoping to get the den bookshelves cleared of old, ratty books and books I don’t like.

8. I’m not going to hang myself out to dry if none of the above occurs, and I hope I remember that!

And, here’s hoping that you all have a great year!

Oddball Word of the Day

pyrogen (PIE-ruh-jen) n. any substance which causes a raised body temperature when it enters the bloodstream of man or an animal

(from the MMMW, edited by Laurence Urdang)