Sunday, December 31, 2006

I have been intending to post some photos from Christmas, but just haven't gotten around to it. I thought I'd best get it done before 2007 arrives. I have 61 minutes.

My packages this year were shiny red with silver snowflakes. I was tickled to find silver snowflake ornaments that were the perfect accompaniment. I used different kinds of silver ribbons to accent. It worked pretty well. Still not sure what I'm doing this coming year.

Even Mary Ann got into the spirit of matching paper and ornaments this year. Cathy says Kim and I are not getting to her, though. :)

The big news for me this Christmas was that I got to be with both my brothers. We took some pix together about 15 years ago and hadn't had any since. So, one night at Kim's when we were all there, we took some snapshots. That's me, Jim and Jackie.

I also got to see Johnny, who I hadn't seen in ages. That's him with his parents, Mattie and Jim.

I think we did something every night and while it's great fun, we were all starting to get worn out. I arrived on the 23rd. On the 24th we were at Cathy's. BC and his girlfriend, Kaitlyn, got to open a couple of presents and me too since I had a birthday present there.

Christmas day everyone was there and it was great fun. I think Dylan summed up the afternoon for us.

But, after a little rest, we were able to laugh a bit more the next day. Dylan's girlfriend, Whitney, and a bunch of others were playing a game. I'm blessed to come from a family where we laugh a lot.

We were all happy to see Mia again. Nic and Andy arrived the day after Christmas. Even though we'd just seen her in October she had grown - of course. She's now six months old.

She became the star of the show. None of us could leave her alone. The poor little thing likes to lay down and we barely give her a chance.

She is a really good baby - very laid back - and very easy going. Nic and Andy seem really happy and I am so impressed with their parenting. They're both attentive without over doing it - a perfect mix.

This is Mary Ann and Jackie's first great grandchild.

And it's Jackie and Kim's first grandchild.

Cathy, like the rest of us, can't get enough of her.

There are more photos, naturally, but I'm going to pack this in before 2007 arrives without me getting this online!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

I am in Little Rock, having my own little retreat. I arrived tonight in the midst of a rain storm that has been unrelenting. Fortunately, it was not raining hard until shortly before I arrived. I didn't even go out to dinner but ordered pizza from a local spot - Le Star Pizzaria. It was very good and I've spent the evening writing.

Journaling with pen and paper has been difficult for me over the last bit of my life but I know it is an essential for me to stay on track. So, a couple of nights ago I made myself do it. And again tonight. Of course, now that I'm started it seems hard to stop. That's good.

Tomorrow I will go to the Clinton Library. I have never visited a presidential library, although I live a little over an hour from the Eisenhower one. But, I thought Clinton's should be the first one I go to since he's the only president I've voted for who got into office.

Tomorrow night I'm going to stay here again, and go home on Monday. It's fortunate Terry can house-sit for me. That makes it easier to be gone.

My plan is to use tomorrow night to do some more soul searching. It's New Year's Eve and I do not want to be on the road with the drinkers, so I will be here. It's also a good time for contemplation.

I have identified some ugly things in me and I want to exorcise them before a new year begins. Always best to leave the past year behind and start with a fresh slate.

On the world stage, the country is mourning the loss of Gerald Ford. Regardless of what you thought of him and his politics, he was a man you could respect.

And, although it has been little more than a footnote, Saddam Hussein was hanged yesterday. I am afraid that is not going to be good for the soldiers in Iraq. I can't figure out why, exactly, but it seems any dramatic event is bad and that is certainly a dramatic event. I'm not sure what people feel has been accomplished by this, but I hope it doesn't lead to more deaths.

Friday, December 29, 2006

I have spent a large part of the day trying to procure antibiotics. I have a bladder infection. It's not like I haven't had them before and not like I don't recognize them. However, getting others - who control the dispensing of pills - to believe that I know what it means when I have to pee every 90 seconds and it burns like hell - seems practically impossible.

The last time I went to the doctor while travelling it was incredibly expensive so I wanted to avoid that. I thought I'd just call my own doc since I knew what it was. But he was on call at urgent care and not in the office. Thankfully, another doctor understood my plight and OK'ed the prescription. So, from 8-10 a.m. that's what I did. It took another four hours to actually GET the pills. That was all Walgreens.

You know how they tell you that you can get your prescription from anywhere. Well, technically, you can. However, today it took 14 phone calls to various people and 6 hours for me to get 6 little pills to kill whatever is making me miserable. I'm thankful the Walgreens option was available, but don't believe the hype about how easy it is.

Blissfully, a stop at ye olde Wal-mart early in the day and a few dollars netted those wonderful little pills that make you less miserable. Thank goodness they no longer require a prescription. Of course, they do nothing to actually deal with the bacteria problem. But they sure make you feel better and I was mighty thankful for that.

In other, more pleasant, news... I stopped to see Mattie and Jim today and tonight we all went to Jackie and Kim's to see baby Mia again. They're going home in the morning.

Mary Ann is headed out tomorrow to see a UK ballgame. I'm so glad she's getting to go. Her friend, Janice, is spending the night tonight and they're leaving here at 3 a.m. I'm going to get up and take their picture with Ace Jackalope. He has a Wildcat Blue shirt to wear.

Jackie will go duck hunting and I will hit the road. However, I'm going to do some more sleeping between 3 a.m. and hitting the road.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

It occurred to me while watching the local news today that one way to keep your children close by is to teach them habits that make it impossible for them to function in the world at large. I was thinking specifically of bigotry today - if you raise your child a bigot they won't be able to go forth and function - so you'll keep them very close by you and in whatever circumstance you function in as a bigot. It's very sad.

I would think any parent would want their child to be able to function in any circumstance. But, obviously, that is not the case.

The Amish are right in this regard. They don't believe in school past the 8th grade because that gives children "worldly" ideas. Same principle - different application.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

I am so not a shopper in general, but Dec. 26 is one day when I am a die hard shopper. I left my brother's house at 4 a.m. - even before he got up to go duck hunting.

I was in Paducah when things started opening and made the rounds. Fortunately, Greg got the Hallmark ornaments I wanted because the stores here are messing with the system - only giving 40% off or not marking things down. I didn't have to play their game since Greg was getting stuff for me. I am getting really darned close to being fed up with the whole business of trying to get every Barbie ornament and playing all these silly games trying to out guess the retailers and the manufacturers. At some point one gets tired of it and I am just about there.

Mainly I got ornaments for small, theme trees. Next year I think I'm doing a lime green, pink and cream tree - provided I have enough stuff to go on it. I'll have to see how much I've amassed in the last few years. It somes takes 3-5 years for me to gather up enough different stuff to make a pretty theme tree. I made an impromptu trip into Micheal's today and got these wonderful pink ornies for that tree, so I was glad I did that.

I also picked up a lot of blue things. I have a blue, white and silver tree, but I want to change the look of it a bit. I've been doing the same thing for a long time - it needs a new look.

Lots of places had either nothing left or practically nothing.

My biggest bargain of the day was a $30 cookie sheet for $4.99 at Elder Berman. They were on sale and I had a $10 off coupon so it was a great deal. I really wanted two of them, but I only had one coupon. So, there you go.

I'm headed out tomorrow for the annual Bath and Body sale - something I adore. I'll lay in some supplies for the coming year. Everyone has their indulgences, and that's one of mine.

Tonight we gathered at Kim and Jackie's to see Andy, Nic and Mia. Mia has grown since we saw her in October. We had Christmas with them and it was fun. Naturally, Mia was a bit oblivious to the whole thing, but I'm sure next year she'll be much more into it.

This afternoon, after shopping, I stopped by Mattie and Jim's new house. It's really cute. I really like it - it's nice. Johnny was there and I got to visit with him and that was great. I haven't had time to just talk to him in probably 10-15 years. When we were growing up I was closest in age to him and Bob so we spent a lot of time together. It was really good to talk with him.

They came over to Kim's tonight, along with Chrissy, who I hadn't seen in ages. I just love, love, love, love, love having both my brothers and sisters in law in one area. Because when they're there, everyone else comes to them. So, I get to see everyone with just one visit. Frankly, it makes me want to live here, too. I don't want to be the missing piece of the puzzle.

Monday, December 25, 2006

It has been a delightful day of Christmas celebration. We are so incredibly blessed.

I scored with four presents this year, which is a good average. My brother Jackie loved his hand warmers for duck hunting, Cathy liked her jacket, Mary Ann liked her jar opener and Dylan liked his laptop backpack. I liked that, too, but I was glad I gave it to him since he enjoyed it.

I will leave my brother's a little after 4 in the morning to be there when the stores start to open. My big hunt will be for next year's wrapping paper. I have a "thing" about wrapping paper - even I don't fully comprehend it - I just know I love it.

I will try to post some photos in the next day or two. Tomorrow Andy and Nic are coming down and I'll get to see them and baby Mia. So, that will be fun. We'll do Christmas with them tomorrow night.

Well, I'd best get some sleep so I'm able to bargain shop tomorrow. I know it's silly, but I like it. So, there you go.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

In a little less than an hour it will officially be Christmas. I always remind people you only get so many Christmases in a lifetime, so you should enjoy each one.

We have had a full day today. I finished my presents, tying on the ornaments and doing some last minute wrapping of a couple of things that would not travel well wrapped so had to be done on this end.

It is a joke in my family that Kim and I like to have coordinating paper and this year Mary Ann has done the same, complete with ornaments.

Jim and Mattie came out for a little bit today so I got to see them and it was good. They will be here tomorrow, too, and I'm really looking forward to being with everyone on Christmas day.

I went to Christmas eve services and it was great to be there. It's always a moving experience and it's good to see people I haven't seen in decades, that were kids when I was a kid. Lives can take such different paths - people younger than me are grandparents now and the mere thought of raising a child still overwhelms me. I guess that's part of what makes the world interesting - different things for different people.

We went to Cathy and Bob's tonight after services, and we will go up there in the morning to see what Santa brings BC. It will be a busy day filled with laughter, and it's hard to beat that.

I hope your day is perfect, whether it's with family, friends or your own good company. Enjoy it! Merry Christmas.

I'm home in Kentucky. Although I've lived elsewhere for more of my life, I spent the first 17 years in Ballard County, and I guess it will always be "home."

Tonight when I got off the interstate and headed toward Cairo, Illinois, the air became thick with fog. I realized that it's always then that I feel at home - when the air is filled with moisture from the rivers. It has nothing to do with state lines, which are in close proximity here, but it is all about the air.

The air is heavy and rich and visible. You breathe it in and your lungs feel full, as if they're being fed. We breathe in the rivers - literally - it nourishes our lungs, our bodies, our souls.

I'm not sure I'll ever feel at home in a place where the air is dry. Where instead of giving you moisture, it's trying to suck it out of your body. Where your skin and lips and hands are cracked and parched because the very air is taking your body's moisture from you.

I love the feeling of the moist air, surrounding me and everything else. It doesn't part when we approach, we're simply able to meld with it and become one. It envelopes us in the rivers from the safety of dry land.

I stopped at the confluence, as I always do. It was very quiet tonight with no boats docked nearby, which is very unusual. The stars were brilliant, and I could hear the water lapping at the edge of the bank. And, in the distance, the distinctive sound of tug boats, a given in this area.

When I drove across the bridge I did so with all the windows rolled down to get the full effect. I always do that, unless it's pouring rain. But, a little rain I don't mind and snow I relish. Tonight is clear and cool. And wet.

I have breathed in the rivers, tiny droplets at a time. I am nourished.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Happy Birthday to Me

It is officially my birthday - it's one hour and 31 minutes into it, actually. Birthdays have never been a really big deal to me - it's hard for them to be when you're born on Dec. 23. But there are times when I've wanted it to be a bigger deal and it's hard for the people around you to figure out when it matters if you're generally so casual about it. Sometimes being casual is just a defense mechanism, but I guess we all have some of those.

I have had a couple of really special birthdays, and a lot of so-so birthdays and a couple of really bad ones. My guess is that my average is about like everyone else's. Whether they're good or bad has nothing to do with the age I am, but with the circumstances surrounding the day.

And it's not always easy to tell which it will be. One of the ones I expected to be the worst was one of the best. This one is shaping up to be a nice one so far.

Whatever will be, will be. It's another day of life and for that I'm thankful.

At this time of year I am reminded of how blessed I am in so many ways. I'm healthy, I have a home I love, I have friends and family I adore, I have a job I enjoy that I'm good at, and daily life overflows with so many "perks" it's incredible. And I am happy - delightfully happy - I have been most of my life. That's not to say I haven't spent some time at the therapist's office, but overall I have always been happy on some level.

As I enter my 45th year on the planet I am thankful that I can say that it all ended tomorrow I would have lived a full life. I've been given love and benefited from grace. I've given in to my whims. I've been needed and wanted and I have returned the same. I have hungered with a passion so intense it was overwhelming and I've calmly moved into choppy waters knowing they're dangerous. I've loved and lost and loved again. I've cherished the moments and counted the hours. I've longed for love and cried over spilled milk. I've walked away and run toward. I've left things behind and carried some of yesterday with me into every tomorrow. I've begged - and given -forgiveness. I've grieved, I've grown, I've gathered myself and my thoughts. And I've always known the sun's gonna come up in the morning. Some things are givens. And some things are gimmes.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


The Lope came by to take in the Christmas Tree. Read more about his visit at


Well, I generally do all my Christmas shopping early, but this year I just didn't find the goodies I expected along the way so I have been out today finishing up. I think I have only a couple of things left.

It's kind of fun to be out in the hustle and bustle. Of course, I didn't think that when this guy literally ran me off the road tonight, so I was driving on the shoulder. Then, of course, he slows down, like he can't figure out why I'm driving on the shoulder. I just assumed he was having a rough day and let it go.

It's fun picking out things for people. Hopefully I got some decent goodies. And if not, I got the second most highly sought after Christmas present - the gift receipt. (The first being cash, of course!)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I've been a good girl

I have been a good girl this year - you can tell because Santa has already come to my house to pose for a photo with me.

This is actually one of Santa's helpers, aka Gary Hughes. His wife, Peggy, is on my board of directors. I had my board over for dinner tonight to thank them for their help the past year. Being on a board is a ton of work, and it often goes without even a thank you.

We had a good turn out, with most of the board here. I have been blessed to have a great board the entire time I've had this job.

I cooked soups - chili, potato, black bean and veggie. I froze a little bit of the black bean, had two bowls of the veggie left that Greg and Jordan are eating, and sent the little bit of chili home with Trish. There is one bowl of potato in the fridge. So it all worked out pretty well.

They enjoyed the carrot cake and lemon tarts. Andrea, from the board, brought peppernuts, which I love but rarely make. I will be enjoying those over the next few days. It's a secret recipe from her husband's side of the family. She said they were married about 15 years before it was deemed OK to share the recipe with her. However, she said she'd share it with me so I'm tickled about that. They are tasty little treats.

Trish stayed after everyone else so we could talk about a few things regarding the election. I'm working on a postcard for her to use and have also been working on her website tonight. I know she will do a great job so I want to work to get her elected.

I have been cleaning up from tonight and am almost done. I have one more load of dishes and that will be it. This was my last official gathering of the 2006 holiday season. It's a little sad. I wish I had another couple of weeks to enjoy the season - it just goes too fast.

The saddest part of the evening was that Julie told me tonight she never got my card and the invitation to my Christmas party. I wish I had known because I would have so liked for her to be here but she felt awkward when it didn't arrive. I can understand that, but wish I had chatted with her on the phone before then - I was just so occupied getting ready I didn't call anyone. I just assumed she would know she was invited. She just assumed she would get an invitation.

Ordinarily, I would have no idea if I had sent a particular one or not - figuring I could have done something wrong in the sort - but in this particular case I know I did it because I printed a new envelope and added her husband's name. Were it not for that I'd have no idea - but I remember doing that.

It hasn't come back to me and it hasn't arrived at her house so I have no idea where it is. She lives less than five miles from me - you'd think that wouldn't be a problem. It was probably mangled by a postal machine and they just haven't fessed up to it yet.

I'm amazed things work as well as they do in the postal service generally, but it's sure disappointing in this case. I feel awful that Julie missed out. I was feeling sad that she didn't come. She was feeling sad thinking she wasn't invited. Just a big mess up all around that isn't anyone's "fault," but I'm sure sorry about it all.

Well, it's time for me to head to bed. I didn't sleep well last night and I need some rest!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas Carols Calm

I am not a big music person, but I own a lot of Christmas CDs. Nothing like some Bing and Frank to get the season started off great.

There's yet another benefit of Christmas carols, as has been reported in the last few days - they calm babies. Here's a story from the Casper newspaper, taken from Scripps Howard. I'm copying it over in case they take it down but the link is at the bottom.

Christmas music calms newborns, nurses report
Scripps Howard News Service Thursday, December 14, 2006

The holiday season is in full swing and it is giving nurses who work with newborns something to be thankful for. Their rows of usually fussy infants have been seduced into a collective calm, thanks to the tunes of Christmas.

"They are usually pretty cranky," said Amanda Ring, a women and children's health nurse at New York Presbyterian Hospital, Cornell Medical Center. "But when we put Christmas music on, they stop crying. It's amazing."

Studies have shown that babies are born with the ability to perceive and process basic musical sounds and patterns, often with a preference for those in major keys. It just so happens that most holiday music is written and performed in such keys.

"Because the way that our brains are wired, you don't need to have a fully developed frontal cortex to be affected by music," said Suzanne Hanser, chair of music therapy at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Even in adults, soothing music can be used to initiate a state of relaxed awareness in the brain, studies show. The music triggers neural impulses which themselves cause nervous system reactions that produce relaxation in muscle tone, brain wave frequency, and other reflexes.

"It's not surprising that newborns would feel soothed by almost any music," Hanser said.

But Ring said the infants are noticeably more content when holiday music is played compared to the usual classical or soft-rock music that flows from the overhead speakers in the hospital's two nurseries.

"It's a really busy nursery," Ring said. "There can be up to 22 babies in one nursery at a time and it's rarely quiet for more than 10 minutes. But with the Christmas music on, it can stay quiet for more than an hour and a half."

Christmas-music expert William Studwell, professor emeritus at Northern Illinois University, said the variety of yuletide tunes also proves interesting to babies.

"Slow music and classical music, such as Yanni, would not shake up the children, but it's boring," Studwell said. "Christmas music has such a different body. Some are secular, some are sacred, some are fast, and some are slow."

Another contributing factor could be the calming effect that Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole and other Christmas crooners have on the nurses themselves. Babies can pick up on the serenity of their caretakers, which then makes them happier, too.

Hanser agreed.

"(Christmas music) might have a great impact on the nurses themselves," she said. "As they pick up a child it may remind them of their family and celebration. Having a positive effect on the caregivers themselves, would enhance the whole environment in which the children and staff are behaving."

Hanser said that some kinds of Christmas music -- those songs with rich orchestration and often-loud sounds -- might actually be too stimulating.

"There are very upbeat carols and children's songs and those that get one in a holiday spirit," she said. "And then there are the very religious and sacred hymns that speak to the seriousness of the history behind the holiday."

Hanser said she would be careful about advising people to play Christmas music to newborns because of its volume.

Studwell disagreed. Even the upbeat, fast-paced songs, such as "Come All Ye Faithful," do not overwhelm. They lift.

Most important, he said, is the key in which they are performed. Lullabies are usually in major keys, which tend to be more upbeat and positive, even when they are slow. The same holds true for Christmas music.

The nurseries at New York Presbyterian play both types of Christmas music, with the volume kept low, Ring said.

"It's amazing," she said. "You just walk in and every baby is quiet."

Sundays are for Relaxing and Preparing

I slept in today - somewhat unusual for me - but it's good every once in awhile. I got close to eight hours of sleep last night so that's a lot for me. But I've been going almost non stop for a few weeks so my body probably needed the rest.

This afternoon Greg and I went to see Tuna Christmas at the Fox. It was put on by the local theatre guild and Steve and Denny, the two actors who played all the parts, were quite wonderful in it.

We've managed to sneak in a lot of Christmas activities this year - we caught Miracle on 34th Street on TV one night, we went to see Prairie Nutcracker last week, Polar Express in Imax and then this play today.

We also went out tonight to see some Christmas lights after dinner at Skaets. We went to the "rich" part of town. I guess it's all relative. I'm not a person who seeks new construction so that doesn't appeal to me. I need a house with some history, some soul, and some workmanship. A house you can build in a week is not one I want to live in. OK, of course, I'm exaggerating, but you get the point. If my blogs were really searchable like I want them to be I'd reference the bit I wrote some time ago in praise of old houses. But, that's another project.

I've been working on some MHA things inbetween today and also cleaning up from last night and preparing for Tuesday. I need to make my grocery list so I can hopefully only need ONE trip to the store. We'll see how that works out for me. Traditionally, not so well... but maybe this will be the magic time.

Leadership Gathering

It was nice to see folks from my leadership class. We had a good turn out - although there were people I really wished could come who weren't able to. Well, it would have been nice if everyone could have been here but that just isn't reasonable to expect during the holidays.

There was much laughter and that's always a good thing.

It was an ongoing joke that Connie was telling her boyfriend, Larry, to not touch the tree in case it started an avalanche of things falling. Dennis' wife, Sonja, was telling him the same thing. I assured them they could touch the tree, that nothing bad would happen. Eventually Connie couldn't resist, either.

Larry admired some blue bell-shaped ornaments I had on the tree, so I gave him one of them to take home. At one time I had four of them, but I think I've broken a couple. But, I had two so I sent one of them home with him since he liked them. I love to share things like that.

It was nice to see folks again. Leadership is definitely a bonding experience.

Everyone left pretty early - before 11. I rarely go to bed early, but I guess others keep more normal hours. I could have sat around and talked for hours yet. But I was definitely ready to sit. I turned my ankle a little bit in one of my many trips between kitchen and table and it was starting to hurt a little by the end of the night - enough I wanted to sit down. It was just some little funky thing I did and I'm sure it will be fine tomorrow.

One of the things I made tonight was Heavenly Hash Brownies. A number of people asked for the recipe so I said I would just post it here. I've been making these for awhile, but I'm not sure how long.

One of the first times I made them was for the opening of Pat Mitchell's studio. That seems like it was a lifetime ago, even though it wasn't that many years ago. Pat died in 2001 and she didn't have the studio too many years before that.

Life moves fast, very fast. Hard to believe that painting above my fireplace that she did has only been here less than five years. I've been in this house less than 5 years - Tuesday is the five year anniversary of when I closed. I moved in March the following year. That painting was the first thing I put up. In some ways I feel like I've lived here forever. In others it seems it was just the briefest of moments ago when I was making plans to spend the first night here.

One thing is for sure - life moves at a fast pace.

Heavenly Hash Brownies

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup margarine, melted
1/3 cup cocoa
1 1/2 cups pecans (optional)

1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows

Combine eggs, sugar, flour and vanilla. Melt margarine and add cocoa. Add that mixture to the flour mixture and beat well. Add nuts. Bake in a 9 by 13 pan at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

When out of the oven, cover with marshmallows and return to oven briefly to melt. Make frosting and pour over warm cake. Let cool before cutting.

1/2 cup margarine, melted
1/3 cup milk
3 T cocoa
1 pound powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Party Prep

I getting ready for my leadership class gathering tonight. It will be good to see everyone. I know some people are not going to be able to come and I'm sorry I won't get to see them, but it will be good to be with those who can be here.

I'm cooking - of course. I pretty much have everything done except the carrot cake frosted, that I can do in advance. At the last minute I will make the trifle. I have all the various parts ready so they just need to be assembled.

Some people like to prepare trifle far in advance and chill it, but I prefer to do it last minute so things are just beginning to meld when it's served. I like to be able to still taste the individual ingredients. I'm making it with chocolate brownies, strawberries and vanilla custard. It's a different combination than I've used before but I think it will be good.

I hope we have a good turnout. My experience in trying to gather groups like this is that it often doesn't work well. But, I'm hoping this is the exception to the rule and we have a good turnout.

Fortunately, the house is pretty much ready. I will run a duster over the floors and that will be about it. Of course I have some cleaning to do in the kitchen, but nothing major. I am a messy cook!

The Secret

Diana hosted an event tonight at The Dancing Grouse for people to come watch the movie, The Secret. There were six of us there.

It's all about the Power of Attraction and how what we think becomes reality. I certainly believe this to be true, and have witnessed it in my own life many times.

It's nothing we haven't heard before, but they do a good job of telling the story, and the production is very good.

I will want to watch it again. Of course, the question is why we don't all do what is suggested. *That* is the eternal question, it seems.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Breaking News!

My friend, Trish Rose, told us tonight she is running for city council. I'm so excited for her, and for the community. I know she will be fabulous. I'm tickled. I asked if I could share it here and she graciously agreed. So, get ready to vote in April!

Polar Express and More

Greg and I went to see The Polar Express at the Cosmosphere last night. They have an IMAX screen and it was really cool to see it there. Frankly, I liked it better than I did in the theatre originally.

I'm enjoying the holiday season immensely. Last night Teresa brought her mom over to see the tree. I love to share, so I was glad she could come. She was talking about divinity and how much she loves it. I haven't made any yet this year but if I do I'll make sure to save some for her.

I'm pretty much glued to the computer today. I have a ton of year end things to get out the door for the MHA and some prep things to do for things happening in January and February too.

I have a lot of financial things to do and that is my least favorite. But, it has to be done so I'm going to just get it done and be done with it. I don't trust myself with detail things so I have to check and double check and then have the accountant triple check. It's just time consuming and brain draining for me.

Tonight is our Chicks gathering. I'm not sure what to take, yet, but I guess I need to figure that out pretty shortly. It will be good to see everyone. I have my ornament for our exchange ready to go so at least that's done.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Reason for the Season

If one more person says "Remember the Reason for the Season" to me, I may explode with a long list of expletives that are not part of my normal speech pattern. Why? Well, because it's generally only used by people who want to point out to you that you - obviously - have no concept of what Christmas is, historically, really about.

I know all about what it is historically about - pagan beginnings to what is now a Christian celebration. I got it.

Just because I happen to like having a pretty tree, sending cards and wrapping presents in coordinating paper does not mean I have no concept of the religious meaning of the holiday. Nor, frankly, is that any of your business.

Even if I cut you the slack that it's kind of you to be concerned about my immortal soul, one "Remember the Reason for the Season" is sufficient. This week, one person has felt it necessary to say it to me in email twice, despite my ignoring it the first time. I chose not to respond to her latest email lest my fingers type expletives against my will.

I'm not sure reducing a religion to a catchy slogan is something I want to participate in, anyway. And, I hate to be the bearer of what must be unpleasant news for her, but Christmas is also about more than religion as well. It is an economic engine in our society, it is a time for family, it is a time for friends, it's a time for carols, cookies and charity.

Of course, for those of us who are Christians, Christmas is also about Christ. I just like to keep my religion private. When did that become such a crime? When did it become accepted that a person who isn't wearing their religion on their sleeve has none?

Some of us can practice our faith without trying to shame others into doing it our way. We also don't feel the need to reduce our belief system to one pithy phrase that can be repeated ad nauseum.


I've been trying to organize my desk tonight. How does it become PILED with stuff in only a couple of days? Maybe I need yet more shelving. I need something. I also think part of it is the speed with which things come into my life - it's too fast for me to keep up.

We had a screening this afternoon and weren't very busy so I had an opportunity to chat with the social worker, who was someone I hadn't met before. He was really a pleasant guy and it was nice to get to know him a bit.

I have a lot of MHA things to do yet this week and I'm hoping to get to relax a bit on Sunday. Greg's girlfriend, Mia, may come out this weekend. I haven't seen her in a long time so it would be fun to see her.

I have an event Friday night and a party Saturday night but on Sunday I'm going to relax. I may go see the Tuna Christmas production by the local theatre guild. We'll see if I have any energy left by then. I do have to rest a bit because I'm cooking dinner for my board on Tuesday - I always enjoy having them over.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Prairie Nutcracker

Greg, Mark and I went to see the Prairie Nutcracker at the Fox Theatre today. It was really good. The idea of the show was hatched right here in Hutchinson, Kansas.

It was a great way to spend part of the afternoon. We ended up sitting just a few seats from Mike and it was good to see him again.

There were lots of people there I knew - obviously it was the place to be this afternoon.

Otherwise, I have relaxed most of the day, as I generally do the day after the open house. I did do the dishes, aside from one cake plate which is still soaking.

I love it when the house is all clean - apparently not enough to keep it this way all the time, but I enjoy when it's like this for the briefest of time during the holiday season.

Christmas Open House

Last night was my annual Christmas Open House. About 40 people came and it was a nice gathering. I love mixing people from different areas of my life.

My friend, Susan, came early yesterday afternoon and helped get ready. She was a God-send! It made my day go much smoother and I could be much more relaxed. She also brought me the most beautiful Christmas gift - a beautiful Czechoslavakian glass tea set. It is stunning. I will try to post some pix later. She even brought blackberry sage tea to go with it. That's what I'm having tonight to cap off the weekend.

Sondra came, and as always was delightful company. We have known each other a long time. I was noting last night that there were people here I've known the whole time I've lived in Hutchinson and also people I just met this past year.

I got to know Kris at Kansas Dialogue in August and really enjoyed her and her husband John. They are tons of fun. I was so thrilled they came last night.

There were some people missing that are always here, including Teresa who had to be out of town last night. But there were also a number of people who came for the first time last night. It was a nice mix.

I had a big crowd for awhile and then there were just a few of us left, but it all worked out perfectly.

I made a few different kinds of sweets and also had some things for those who can't eat sweets. I even made a sponge cake from scratch, with Julie in mind. She didn't come, but others enjoyed it. I sent the rest home with Jesse - his dad is diabetic so I thought maybe he would enjoy it.

Of course, Mark was a huge help as he always is. And Greg was taking photos and helping out in a variety of ways. He even took out my trash and recycling the night before. Mark did tons of things for me - from grocery shopping to carrying things to the basement and on and on and on.

I'm blessed to have great friends.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Peanut Brittle

Yesterday I made Peanut Brittle for the first time. Mama didn't like peanuts so we never made peanut brittle and I have just never gotten around to making it before.

Julie makes it every year with her family and some friends, and she brought some to Creative Sisterhood the other night. I've had it before and it's just delicious. Of course, how could something who's main ingredients are sugar and liquified sugar (syrup) not be yummy?

Once I had the mixture cooking I realized that neither of the two candy thermometers I had were working properly. So, some guess work entered into the process.

My mother always made candy without a thermometer, but I ain't my Mama. I need tools to help me. Even with them sometimes I get it just right and sometimes I get it close to right.

I think I cooked my peanut brittle a little longer than Julie did because mine is a more carmelized color. But, it's tasty. And, I have to confess, I love the crunch when you twist the cookie sheet and it cracks on its own. Fun!

OK, so maybe I'm easily amused. OK, so I know I'm easily amused. But, hey, I'm happy most of the time, too... so there you go.

I'm sure this will not be my last batch of peanut brittle. I'm also thinking cashews or almonds would be good instead of peanuts. Again, what can't be improved by being encased in cooked sugar?

As I write this, I have a sponge cake in the oven. Oddly enough, I've never made a sponge cake either. Considering how much I cook it's amazing I haven't, but I haven't. There has to be a first time for everything.

I used the recipe from the nut factory:

Traditional Peanut Brittle

2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup water
2 cups raw Spanish peanuts
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. butter
2 tsp. baking soda

Heat and stir sugar, syrup and water in a heavy 3-quart saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Add salt. Cook over medium heat to soft ball stage (234 degrees). Add peanuts at 250 degrees. Cook to hard crack stage (290 degrees), stirring often. Remove from heat.

Quickly, stir in butter and soda. Beat to a froth for a few seconds. Pour at once onto 2 well-buttered 15-1/2x10-1/2x1-inch pans, spreading with spatula. If desired, cool slightly and pull with forks to stretch thin. Break up when cold.

Yield: About 1-1/2 pounds of peanut brittle.

Beautiful Morning

Well, it is warming up a bit here - it's up to 18 at the moment. I woke up about 4:15 but didn't get up until around 7. I napped and did some writing and reading. But about 7 I remembered that my trash was by the back door instead of out in the alley and it's trash day.

Why? Well, to keep people from rooting through it. There aren't any cans in it - I recycle those - but there is something incredibly fascinating about my trash to someone. I understand why celebrities hate it when people go through their trash. I hate it and it's not like someone is going to print the contents of it in one of those trashy tabloids at the check out line.

I've got a red velvet cake in the oven. I was debating heading out to the Dutch Kitchen for breakfast but decided I should cook instead. I'm on track with everything but I will need to be busy today to stay on track. I have a few cleaning things to do yet, and a tiny bit of finishing on decorating but overall things are in decent shape.

Of course, my office door will be closed. It's always a disaster. It's a wonder my fingers have not been crushed by the stuff piled on either side of the keyboard crashing down on them at some inopportune moment.

Besides, the office is my more private room downstairs - it's where I spend a lot of time and where I do a lot of my thinking, planning, organizing. I'm starting to feel more private about such areas - not sure why, but I am.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Glass Coffee Tables

Well, I'm up and doing things at 4:30 a.m. I went to bed last night before midnight so of course I woke up early. I have a speech at 6:45 this morning but I'm going to get some things done around the house before then.

I have only a couple of days to finish cleaning before my party, and I haven't done any of the cooking yet. But, that's all relatively easy to do.

I am generally pretty casual about cleaning - even when I'm having people over. But for Christmas I make an effort to have the house really nice. It's exhausting. I know now why I don't do it all the time. How do people manage to keep everything pristine all the time?

If I were a person who didn't have much "stuff," I suppose it would be easier since a large amount of the time is spent de-cluttering instead of actual cleaning. But, I'm a person who has stuff and I have been all my life. As I approach my 45th birthday I just don't foresee that changing.

Yes... 45 on Dec. 23... hard to believe. Yesterday I got a "nice" lecture from an acquaintance about my penchant for younger men. It's not that I only like younger men - it's more that only younger men seem to like me. I'm not sure what that says about me, but probably something negative about my maturity level. But, lets just be positive so early in the day and say it's my vivacious nature and excitement about life that they find appealing, instead.

I just do not meet men my own age. I don't know where they are - it seems there would be lots of us - we're the tail end of the boomers - but they must all be home watching television. And it's not like I'm hunting for them, anyway. Generally, people my own age, with a few exceptions, are wrapped up in such mundane things I can't even have a meaningful conversation with them. There's too much soccer practice and too little substance.

When people talk about the idea of "shared experiences" with people my own age because we grew up at the same time, they aren't taking into account that we were in college in the eighties - post pill, pre AIDS. Cocaine was readily available and we were trying to dull the shame of the disco era. Whatever shared experiences we had we're probably not proud of - if we can even recall them. Sometimes they're just a jumble of images of naked bodies and white lines on glass coffee tables.

This is an opportune time for me to mention I have never owned a glass coffee table.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Quote of the Day

�The men the American public admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.�
� H. L. Mencken

I ran across this quote today and realized just how incredibly true it is. I have witnessed it in my own life and certainly in our country's life.

Creative Sisterhood

Tonight was Creative Sisterhood and it was a really good gathering, although we missed Virginia. She is sick and Martha is not feeling great either, although she did come.

We had our Christmas celebration tonight and exchanged presents. I love that, of course. Diana gave us all an antique ornament and mine was one I had admired in her store the other day. Teresa gave us each the cutest little stockings - so adorable. I had little ornaments that were frames and I put a "Creative Sisterhood 2006" bit inside each one. Julie brought homemade peanut brittle and Martha brought nuts from the Nifty Nut House.

I had made an orange cake tonight with orange glaze. I could not stop eating the peanut brittle and I also had a piece of cake so that's a lot of sugar for me. I don't often tempt fate that way with regard to the Atrial Fib. For reasons no medical person can figure out, and that makes no sense to me, when I eat a lot of sugar it brings on an A fib attack. So, I avoid eating much sugar. I've had more today than usual but I did not eat any all day long, anticipating I would have dessert tonight. Hopefully it won't be a problem, but I'll be more cautious tomorrow and not push it.

It was a good evening. And it is nice to have the Creative Sisterhood here.

And it prompted me to work on the house more. Tomorrow night I need to pretty much finish the house. I'm taking Thursday and Friday off to cook for the party, after a speech Thursday morning early.

Tomorrow I have a lot of MHA things I need to get out the door, prep work for the screening next week, and some other things. So, it will be a busy day.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Christmas Shame

OK, for many years Greg and I have had this ongoing conversation - every Christmas - about how I overload the tree so much that it leans. It leans because I put more ornaments on the sides people can see.

Well, over the years Greg and I have come up with some ingenious ways to stabilize the tree. OK, truth be told, Greg has come up with them and I've pretty much just copied them.

At the moment the stand is bolted onto a 4 by 4 wooden base. I did that myself, just for the record, although it was copied after one Greg did years ago.

This year the tree has been leaning much worse because it has bent the stand - specifically the hole where the tree pole goes into it.

So, I knew what it needed was to be wired into the wall. How did I know this? Well, it's yet another technique Greg used at various times to hold the Christmas trees up.

When we lived together every Christmas was an extravaganza of engineering. Since we split up (almost a decade now, I think - wow) I made this big deal about he couldn't bitch about my trees anymore because he wasn't doing anything with them. However, guess who I called everytime I had a Christmas tree crisis. Yes, you guessed it - Greg. I swear, he is the best ex-bf a girl could have.

When I was with Nathan, he joked one time that Greg was entitled to complain about my Christmas trees forever, just because of what he had gone through in the past to stabilize them.

OK, fast forward to last night, when I'm on the phone with Greg saying, "When are you coming home?" He got stranded in Joplin due to the weather. Well, tonight he returned and stopped by to work on the tree.

The plan of attack was to drill a hole in the baseboard and screw in an eyelet. Then to take heavy guage picture wire and snake it around the pole, without disturbing the thousands of lights that are all over the place - including wrapped around the pole. Then position the tree and wire it into place.

Of course, this meant that Greg had to get behind the tree. Did I mention it's in a corner?

One of the things I've been teased about for a long time is that it's hot around the tree because of all the lights.

Needless to say, I was getting Greg cold water and anything else he wanted.

Fortunately he escaped with only some icicles attached to him. And only one ornament got broken in the process and that was my fault and not specifically related to the tree being moved around.

THANK YOU, Greg, for securing the tree into it's place. I told him he gained at least another three years of teasing me about the tree.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Christmas Tree

This is what I've been doing the last few days. I think this tree is one of my finer creations.

I have enjoyed going through ornaments and remembering special times and people.

I bought this blue and white tree ornament when Matthew and I were in Amsterdam.

I will try to post some more ornament pix, but I really need Greg's magic touch. I took a dozen or so and this was the only one that was in focus. And they look so much better with natural light instead of flash.

Houston Whiteside Tour

Today was the Houston Whiteside Tour. There were four houses and one was Sharon's house. I had hoped to see her and say hello but she wasn't there.

I love old houses and going on the tour reminded me of how much I need to do in my own house. I guess that's how it always is.

Next year the MHA will have a homes tour the first Sunday of December. We alternate with them so next year will be our turn. I have three houses but am still hunting for more.

Cookie Messengers

So I'm decorating a Christmas tree tonight when the doorbell rings. I assume it's Terry dropping by since he's about the only one who really believes me when I say it's OK to drop by. It's always so pleasant to see him so I was smiling when I opened the door. And good thing...

Because there were about a dozen people on my front porch - ranging from 20 somethings to kids. They hand me a plate of homemade cookies and wish me Merry Christmas. I was so flabbergasted with this pleasant surprise I didn't even question who they were or why they were cookie messengers.

There was a handwritten, photocopied note attached to the cookies saying, "Merry Christmas. We are going to change this world. Christmas is a time to celebrate the day God decided to verse the downfall of all creation. Jesus came to this world to make and show the way to be truly human nad restore creation to all its glory. May all the Earth be filled with the Glory of God because... Jesus reigns forever. P.S. Love Wins.

There's no note about a particular church or group, although it is Sunday night of course.

I love the part of the message that "We are going to change this world." There is such optimism in that. No wonder I like younger people - they're optimistic that the world can change. Most of the people my age have long ago given up on making any real change in their lives or in anyone else's.

All in all it was a pleasant surprise. And a new experience. And you know how much I love those - I try to think something new, or do something new, or learn something new every day. Keeps life fresh. Who wouldn't want life to be fresh?

Checking In

Susan called last night, saying that when I hadn't written since Nov. 30 she was concerned about me. So, I thought I'd best do a quick check in.

I did write a post since then but it must have gotten lost in a computer crash or other such foolishness. It was probably just a rant about politics or something - I don't even recall - I'm sure I'm still ticked about whatever it was, though. I'll get back to it as soon as I recall...

I've been busy decorating and tidying the house. Frankly, if I kept my house in more order all the time it wouldn't take me very long to get ready for things. But, I don't. I'm just not a tidy person when it comes to housekeeping. I am a "lived in" person so things are always "casual" at my house. But, once a year, for Christmas, I try to make it more organized. It will, unfortunately, be out the window again in no time. Thank goodness I have an upstairs where I can take things I haven't yet organized. Of course, it needs some major work up there - but that's more than just tidying. After the holidays perhaps I can get to some of that.

I have really neglected my online life the last few months. It seems real life is overflowing in so many directions I can't get it all reined in and kept that way for any amount of time.

This past week I was thinking I was on-track with a lot of projects and was going to get it all under control this weekend when I got a new project on Thursday evening. But, it's a graphic design job that results in me saving a few hundred dollars in the coming months, and making it possible for me to travel more, so I'll just have to work it in. And it's actually a fun job - I just don't have time to think about it and make it as creative as I'd like.

I had planned to get so much Christmas stuff done this weekend and I have done a lot. But I spent a large part of Saturday with "life stuff" - grocery shopping and other "hunting and gathering" necessary for life.

But, I'm just thankful I can afford to grocery shop and that I live where goods are plentiful. As I was shopping this morning, overhearing a man be downright rude to his wife - telling her what she could and couldn't buy in a quite terse tone, topping it off with how stupid she was - I reminded myself that I'm blessed to make my own way in the world and not have to deal with that sort of behavior out of anyone.

Rarely do I see couples shopping when it seems harmonious. I'm always reminded of it being a hallmark of spousal abuse when the husband won't leave his wife alone for even a few minutes. I'm sure it's not always the case, but I'm sure it is sometimes too.

I never know what is appropriate for me to say or do in such a circumstance. This is not a child, but a full grown woman, capable of making her own choices. But this morning I just used the technique suggested in cases where children are being verbally abused and said to the man, "excuse me, would you hand me one of those cartons of sour cream?" It seemed to distract him enough he got off her back for a moment. Who knows if it makes any long term difference, but it at least diffuses the situation for the moment. I didn't really need sour cream, but I'll just find a way to use it.

I'll be baking a lot in the coming week. My annual open house is next Saturday, the 9th. I still have decorating to do and some cleaning to do and on and on and on. But, I will just do what I have time and energy for and let the rest go. And on Saturday, at 5 p.m. I will retire to a bubble bath and leave whatever is not done undone. I refuse to be caught up in trying to make things "perfect." It's simply not possible. So, 90 minutes before the party begins, I will soak and relax and get ready so I can enjoy my own party.

I have about a dozen more cards to send - ones that have been returned or that I just got addresses for. I must get that done this weekend so they arrive in a timely enough manner. I always hope that everyone's card/invite arrives in time and I don't leave anyone out because I'm not thinking it through as much as I'd like. I used to have to limit my guest list because of space but now I can invite more because I have a bigger house. So, that's nice. If you're someone I like enough to send a Christmas card to, you're someone I'd invite to my house - it's so much easier! Of course, it's a busy time of year and so it ends up being a relatively small gathering. But, that's nice, too - it's cozy and comfy.

We were lucky here in Hutchinson and got only a tiny bit of snow, whereas less than an hour away from us parts of the state have been declared disaster areas. I am thankful. I just wasn't ready for a major winter storm quite yet. Maybe in January, after I get back from Kentucky, and after my conference in Texas, then I'll be ready. I'll enjoy a few days of holing up in the house and drinking hot cider and watching the snow. I just wasn't ready yet. Of course, we don't get any say about the weather - it just is.

I have more Christmas shopping yet to do this year than usual. Generally I'm all done by Thanksgiving but I just haven't found those special things this year yet. Of course, I haven't been into my stash to see what I have that I may have forgotten about. I need to keep an ongoing list in my PDA so I always have it with me and can reference it on trips and such.

Well, I must get back to one of my many tasks at hand. Needless to say, there is much to do in my world, as I guess there is in everyone's this time of year. However, today I am taking time to go to the Houston Whiteside Homes Tour. I always enjoy it and it only happens every two years so I don't want to miss it.

No doubt I'll come home feeling bad about the progress I've made in my own house in the past 4 1/2 years. A friend suggested the other day that when I get into another serious relationship, finding a man who's a contractor - a really, realy, really good contractor - would be wise. Unfortunately, as I pointed out to her, a good contractor wouldn't have time to be working on my house - he'd be busy with other people's houses. So, there you go. One of life's many conundrums.

Friday, December 01, 2006

End of November

On this last day of November I've been in constant motion. I have pushed a ton of projects out the door, but still have a bunch to do. I really want to work more on my house but it seems I can't find time to do that. This weekend I'm devoting myself to that, although I am going to attend the Houston Whiteside Homes Tour on Sunday.

I had lunch with Leah today. It was good to see her. I just don't get to see her enough. It has been many months since I've had lunch with her.

Tonight I went to dinner with Sondra and as I was leaving to go pick her up I walked out to catch the tail end of a beautiful sunset. I was sorry I hadn't gone out a tiny bit earlier, but was glad I caught the last minute or two of it.

Tonight I have finished the DSB for Altrusa District Eight and have worked a little on the house. Of course, in the midst of bringing Christmas things up from the basement I decided to stop and change the furnace filters. It was the beginning of a bit of an ADD extravaganza, which resulted in my doing a variety of tasks.

I'm trying to convince myself to go take the trash out to the alley but it's 16 degrees with a wind chill of 5 and it just doesn't sound appealing to go outside at all. Besides, my dumpster is already full. I'll just let them empty it tomorrow and refill it during the daylight hours - that sounds like a better plan.

Besides, if I wait I can bring the dumpster up to the house where it's less likely to have people rooting around in it. I don't know what people find so appealing about my trash, but they can't seem to leave it alone. Which, as I've covered before, I find incredibly creepy. Honest to goodness, it's just trash - there is nothing exciting in it.

I hadn't gotten around to sharing this photo I took the day after Thanksgiving of Greg and his mom. We went to eat at the Gateway Creamery in Joplin, which is a cool place. It was the first time Greg and I had been there.

Anyway, they had this cool game table which we all played with. I really, really sucked at it. Greg sucked at it. Miss Joy wasn't bad at it.