Monday, October 28, 2013

Thoughts on Depression, Part II, one year later

Oh, how I hate this depression thing.  See when it was just a little bit, and I could jump back into life after a few days or weeks, I could pretend.  Now that I took the plunge and sought treatment, I'm labeled.  Every time I have a down time, I worry.  "Is it overcoming me again?  Is this just a little funk, or is it the Big Darkenss?  The Abyss.  The Nothingness."

Isn't that a charming way to start a post?  I've been really struggling lately.  Struggling with energy.  I could sleep all day long.  Most days even just standing and putting one foot in front of the other requires supreme effort.

I wrote last fall about the image of withdrawls and deposits I associate with this whole depression thing.  If I  have too many withdrawals in too short a time, or if the withdrawals are only few but big, I need to take time to slow down and refuel.  And with this depression thing, the positive balance slips away more quickly, and replenishes more slowly than it ought.  That's the primary lingering symptom which I still notice.  Or perhaps it's simply the effects of aging, and I'll always have this difficulty.  Who knows?

Either way, it makes me mad.  And sometimes scared.

I have been reminded lately of the Impatient Pot about which I wrote last winter.

I was disappointed last spring that I was not able to go off prozac.  I really, really don't want this to be a lifelong need.  I remember when I first started taking  medication for depression.  I was frustrated that I'd have to be on meds for a whole year.  An entire year of having to add this artificial chemical to my body to help my brain work right.  Or to screw it up.  Who really knows, right?

But when spring came this year, I was still seeing progress being made and and healing coming together.  I didn't want to risk a plateau in that progress and healing, when I still had what felt like miles to go to be well.  And I think that was the right choice.

I had a great summer.  Not 'great' in the sense of having many wonderful times.  Although there were definitely some of those, too.   But 'great' in the sense of catching up.  Making progress.  It was a very, very busy summer.  But throughout all the changes, and running, and obligations, I made progress.  Rather than getting knocked about, being pummeled by all the busy-ness, I moved forward.  I had fewer down days.  The many withdrawals of the busy times, physical labors, and mental overload didn't lay me flat.  I was able to move forward, catching up little by little, on the years' worth of behind-ness that defines my homemaking.

But now it's fall again.  I'm in a funk.  I feel the emotional drain.  Too many withdrawals.  So I rest.  And I try to find ways to refuel.  But the refueling is too slow.  And sometimes, too hard.

I haven't yet felt the darkness and nothingness of a full-blown depression closing over me again.  I'm not yet to the I-can't-remember-what-it-feels-like-to-be-alive state.  But I confess I've been a little bit worried.  A little nervous that it's coming.

Then I remind myself that I felt exactly like this a year ago.

I make myself notice the little things.  Even amidst the low energy days, there's good news.

For one, notice the the date on that fall post I linked above.  The one that talks about the funk I was in last fall.  It was written in mid September.  I made it a month longer this fall before that feeling took over.  I bounced back last fall, and likely I will this fall, too.

I talked to Joe about my symptoms the other day, and the fear I sometimes feel over them.  "Should I call Dr. Winjum and ask him up to my dose?  Has it come to that?"

Then I roll my eyes.  Here's the lady who used to prefer everything the hard way.  "Wallow through it.  God's teaching you something while you're low.  Rely on Him, not on meds."  And now I simply want to take a higher dose just to feel better.  I feel kind of like a junky. 

But I think, just getting the possibility of further medical intervention out on the table helped.  Joe knows I've been struggling.  He knows the dirty laundry is piling up and the dishes are not always finished.  The floors are not swept.  And very often, he has to cook.

Ugh!  Just putting it in writing makes me feel so bad.  "Exactly what have you been doing, Miss Mary?  Doesn't sound like a whole heck-of-a-lot."  And it's true.  It's bad when getting dressed feels like a great feat.  Or putting some left-overs in the oven for supper is almost more than I can manage.

To answer the above question, "I've been sleeping.  And crocheting.  And reading."

About one day in five, I can manage to accomplish something.  But when there are ten mess-makers in the houseten people dirtying clothes and dishes and floorsone day in five is simply not enough.  And so my family suffers.

"Where's a towel, Mom?  Are there any clean towels around here?"

"Are we having rice and beans for supper again?"

"Did this dish washer run or not?  The dishes look dirty."

And so on.

But I try to hold on to the little things.  There are good things, too, if I can remember to notice them.

We've managed to get all the way through a read-aloud already this fall.  In the few evenings we are organized enough to have the bedtime-and-prepare-for-the-next-morning routine done early enough, we've read Marguerite de Angeli's The Door in the Wall.  It's not a long book, but I chose it that way so that we could actually finish it.  I think we'll do A Cricket in Times Square next.  Or maybe Riding the Pony Express.  Or Twenty-One Balloons.  Something that the littles will be able to get into.  That way there's motivation for them to get their evening responsibilities accomplished in a timely manner.

And even this evening routine.  That's progress, too.  This is the first time since my kids started in public school four years ago, that I have energy enough left before bedtime to make sure they're prepared for the morning.  "Homework, backpack, coat, shoes, school clothes.  Jammies on, dirty clothes down the chute, teeth brushed."  If they get done soon enough, we get to read.  If not, it's devotion and bed.  But simply to have the routine in place is so much better.  And it's real tangible progress.

I have two kids home for school this year.  Again, that's progress.  Clara and Sophie never wanted to go to school.  But I didn't give them  a choice.  I couldn't.  Now I feel like I've come far enough that I am able to give them that choice.  Progress.

But there have been so many withdrawals lately.

The days are shortening.  The landscape is undergoing it's seasonal fade.  I have fewer reasons to be outside.

Many, many transitions in the last several months.

And more immediately, we took a big trip.  We came home and jumped into school.  That whole vanload of stuff needs to be cleaned up, organized and put away.  Yes, I know, it's been over a month.  Almost two months, in fact.  But imagine having time to air out, or launder and re-roll ten sleeping bags, car pillows, and two tents.  Haul and stack six or eight camping chairs.  A camp stove.  Two coolers.  Wash and re-pack all the camping dishes and cookware.  And so on.  It's a huge job when we're talking about our family.  And with them in school, and involved in various outside the home things, there's not many hours for them to help.  It's mostly done, but not quite.  I still have three bins of bedding stuff to label and a few odds and ends to repack.  Then to carry those last three bins and our big camping supply tote down to the other garage.  Probably only about a 1/2 hour job, but still, ...

The neighbors' garden produce came pouring in.  (Thankyou, thankyou to Joe for being mostly the one to get it preserved for winter use.)  Joe put up many, many jars of tomato sauce and salsa and apple sauce and chutney. 

The kids have been sick.

The washer was broken for several weeks.

Winter coats to dig out.

So many withdrawals.

A few days ago, I was scared.  Scared I was slipping.  Slipping into the fog.

Over the weekend, it was better.  I had a good day Saturday.  And so I feel as though a deposit was made.  Yesterday I had a more positive perspective.  This is just a tide I have to ride.

But today I'm low again.  I just want to crawl back into bed and let the house fall down around me.

I hate that my family has to ride this roller coaster with me. 

Joe, kids, I am so sorry we are going through this.  I love you all.  And I pray for healing.

I rest in the assurance of Jesus' righteousness, cleansing me for all the ways I'm failing you right now.  There's no despair here, since I know in the long run, it's all good, good, good.

But I also know that I am daily letting you down in so many ways.

Just hang on.  Through the storms of life, hang on.  God will never leave us nor forsake us.  Rest in Him.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Christian Friendship: A Heavenly Thing

I have several good friends from my high school and young adult years.  And the ones with whom I find the most commonality, and the closest affection, all have one thing in common.  They share my Lutheran faith.  These friends are able to build me up in the Gospel of Christ.  And when warranted, to tear me down with God's Law. 

One of my best friends, Lisa, called me last night.  She does this periodically.  Lisa is a family counselor for Lutheran Social Services.  Or the organization that was formerly known as Lutheran Social Services.  Lutheran CounselingFamily Service, maybe?  Anyway, as a counselor, Lisa travels to various communities in Southern Wisconsin to be available for parishoners of the LCMS churches in her area of service.   On some evenings, while she is on the road (with her hands-free phone set-up of course) she calls to gab. 

I love the unexpected phone calls.  If I'm busy, I sometimes have to say, "Sorry, Lisa, can't talk tonight."  But other times I might only say, "Call back in 15 minutes after I have the littles in bed."  Or something like that. 

Last night was a call-back-in-10-minute night.  After all my littles were tucked snugly in their beds, the phone rang for a second time.  And Lisa and I got to visit for about 20 minutes.  Of course I won't go into details about our conversation.  I probably couldn't even if I wanted to.  I can't remember specifics. 

But what I do remember is the shared foundation that underlies all our conversation.  We believe the same things.  We share the bond of a common world view, but more importantly a common "heaven view."   We can build each other up with God's gift of grace and forgiveness, though Jesus.  And we can also when necessary tear each other down with reminders of God's Law. 

Does that sound harsh?

It's not meant to be.  To those who are unfamiliar with Law and Gospel preaching and teaching, it can sound harsh.  When we as Christians talk about things like sin and guilt, it's not a hateful or arrogant thing.  But instead, a necessary realization that without Jesus, we are unable.  Unrighteous.  Nothing.  Worse yet, we are enemies of God.

We are guilty from the moment of our conception.  We are tainted by the sinful natures that we inherited from our first parents, Adam and Eve.  We commit sins of omission and commission; in other words, we fail to do those things we ought to do, and we instead often do those things we ought not to do.  No matter how hard we try, we cannot live up to the standard of perfection demanded by God's Holy Law.  And that separates us from Him and eternally.

But the flip side of that, the Good News of the Gospel of Christ, is that Jesus took care of that sin.  Jesus paid the ransom.  His perfect life is attributed to us.  So our Heavenly Father sees us as righteous.  And our debt of sin was paid by Jesus.  Through His sacrificial death on the cross, He suffered the eternal punishment that we deserve.  The breach is healed.  We are entitled to bask in the presence and perfect love of our Father. 

Our slate is wiped clean and we are assured of the promise of Eternal Life with God in Heaven.

If we don't see the purity and "harshness" of God's perfect demands, in His Law, we don't realize how we need Jesus.  We need to see and be reminded of our need for the Righteousness of Jesus, our Savior.   

Even after the assurance of eternal life because of the atonement with our Father through Jesus,we still must live in this sinful world.  We are broken.  We are surrounded by brokenness.  We have our families to raise and our spouses to love.  We have neighbors to serve and communities of which to be an active part. 

All these things come with various challenges due to both the imperfect state of the world in general, and more specifically of each person in the world. 

It's a great blessing to have someone with the same core beliefs off which to bounce ideas.  To talk about parenting.  To talk about Sin and Grace.  Law and Gospel.  To help us see the ways we are wrong.  And to remind us of where to go for wisdom and healing.

So getting back to my friend Lisa, and her wonderful periodic phone visits, I couldn't tell you anything specific about most of the calls.  We're simply friends sharing the trials and joys of our lives.  Sharing the inanities of every day living.  Building each other up and tearing each other down.  Pointing out sin, and comforting with the reminder of the Gospel of Redemption that makes us righteous.

Lisa called again this morning.  A morning phone call is a rare thing.  We're both busy being moms, homemakers, wives, etc.  It's hard to make time to indulge in the pleasure of a friendly phone call.  But Lisa called today to rejoice with me in the gift of our friendship.  Simply to express her pleasure and gratitude for what God has given us in our abiding friendship. 

I remember once, in the early days of Lisa's and my friendship, my mom and I had a little argument over the way I tended to make friends.  My mom, in her efforts to raise me with good habits and the ability to make wise choices, was worried that I only chose friends who agreed with me, or who were fun to be around.  Shallow friendship indeed, were that the case. 

I remember, in my immaturity, fumbling for a response.  Fumbling for the right way to explain.  I remember wanting Mom to understand that the reason I valued my friends so highly is because we can talk about the "real things" of life.  The "bigger picture." 

I won't go so far as to say the advice of these friends was always sound.  And I'm quite sure I didn't always offer sound advice in return.  We were young adults trying to figure things out.  Trying to find our footing in this unstable world. 

But Thanks be to God!  We had a Foundation.  A firm Rock upon which to stand.  We fumbled our way through life's big decisions and life's little problems together.  We knew what was right and wrong.  And we knew where to go to find the righteousness we so desperately lacked.

Throughout the years God has blessed me with many life-long friendships.  Through my early years in Lutheran high school and my one year of Lutheran college, and then continuing into my young adult years and the friendships I made at church during my time at a secular University, I have the continued friendship of a rich circle of wonderful people.  People with whom I share the corest convictions. 

Is that a word?  Corest convictions.  The deepest part of myself and who I am.  The Foundation. 

Thanks be to God for the gift of Christian Friendship. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Busy hands make warm ears

I've been making headwraps this fall.  They are alleged to be the hot item in headwear this season.  My friend Amy put me on to the idea and I've gone from there to come up with a design that I find satisfactory for my crochet abilities and usual concentration level, and also creates a nicely shaped end product.  Add flowers if you like, or leave them plain.  Switch yarn colors at the end of a round, or add an additional strand for a bulkier wrap.  This is kind of a "Casual" pattern, in that I'm not good at counting and remembering, so I tend to say, "Yep, about here."  If you want it more precise, you can easily count out rounds to create a more uniform pattern.

Inge and Clara
Start with a yarn you like in a color you like.  For a bulkier yarn, or if using two strands, use a larger hook size, maybe J, K, or L.  For finer yarns use G, H, or I. 

I like my pieces to be flowy, as in have movement, so I tend to use bigger hooks.  But you have to balance your need for warmth with your need for flow.  I live in Extreme Northern Minnesota, so warmth is pretty important here and sometimes, flow has to be sacrificed.  I make all different kinds and thicknesses.

Inge, Clara, and Sophie

The basic process is to chain a row, and then stitch around it.  Around and around.  But in order to shape the ends into a triangle, you do a little picot stitch at each turning.

To make the wrap:
  • Make a chain long enough to reach from ear to ear on the head for which you are making the wrap. I go to about the bottom of each ear, stretched across the forehead along the hairline. 
  • Single Crochet back along the chain, to the end.
  • Chain three and then single crochet into the first chain. This will create a little point or bulb on the end. This is also called a picot. 
  • Tuck the beginning end of your yarn out of the way, and using the back loop of the original chain, single crochet along the other side of your original chain. 
  • Repeat row three, to form a picot at this end.
  • This is the end of round one.
  • For consecutive rounds, keep repeating this process of single crochets and picots. I like the look of it when I use only the back loop of the single crochets, but I've done it using both loops, too. The wrap will have a little more texture or grain when you use only one loop.
To form the button hole:I do this when my ends almost meet up in the back. This may vary with how loosely or tightly you crochet, so you may have to play with the last two rounds a little bit to get it right.

When you reach your desired length, rather than doing a picot at the end of the row, chain five or six or more and then single crochet in the first chain to make a bigger loop. Then continue around until you are back at the loop. Then single crochet in each of the chains of the loop. You can fasten off your work at any point in the next round.

Some tips I learned in the process. These may or may not make sense now, depending upon your level of experience. But they may help clarify a few of the difficulties I found.
  1. It's in the nature of crochet to kind of twist as you work it, so you may feel like your ends are twisting or curling. Don't give up. They do kind of curl in opposite directions, if laid flat, but it's not at all noticeable when you're done.
  2. If you find your picots tend to lean to far to one or another edge, you can do a single crochet at the end of each row, too, to kind of work it into the correct position at the end. I had to do this on some rows with some of the yarns.
  3. Sometimes you need a little more length still, then go all the way around. Sometimes I've even done another row, or a row of slip stitches around the loop. You don't want your loop too thick, or hit hangs off the button too far. But if you need, a second row of single crochet is usually OK, or a row of slip stitch so that you can do another round to add length at the opposite end.
  4. If you want to get some extra width, you can try this method. It's a little more counting and concentrating, but makes a little different shape and texture:  For each end of each round, do 5 sc, 3 hdc, and then dc until you are within 10 stitches of the end. Then revert to 3 hdc, and 5 sc to the end. The next round, use 7 sc at each end; and if you need more rounds continue to increase the sc at each end by 2. That will keep the width in front of the ears rather than where you want the taper for the button.

Wraps for little ones.  The roses on these are from the method described here.

The two right wraps in this picture are done with this method.  The upper one is a looser stitch with more stretch and less warmth.  All three are for adult heads.
Although only the far right wrap is done with the method described here, I included this picture to show the examples of double strand wraps.  The left two wraps are very thick and warm. 

The left hand wrap uses the method described in Tip # 4 above.  I was using a remnant of yarn from a scarf and kept running short.  by increasing the stitch width, I was able to make better use of the yarn length to finish the wrap.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Threads Across Time

Proud parents with our very lovely Louisa

In all the blogging I'm committed to regarding our vacation, I kind of forget sometimes to include news of the regular sort in my blogging.  And I even forget sometimes to tell about news of the more special kind. 

Blake D and Louisa
Louisa was honored by her classmates this month to be on the homecoming court.  She didn't expect to get the honor of homecoming queen, since that's voted on by the whole student body.  She is not in sports, and was gone for a year, so has not been as socially active and known by the younger kids as most of the other candidates.  But as one of my friends put it, "Wow, gone for a year, and her classmates still think highly enough of her to give her this honor!"  And it is an honor. 

Grandma, Louisa,and Grandpa

She wore the dress her Grandma Bergetta wore to junior prom in ( I think) 1962.  But more fun yet, Louisa's Grandma had gotten it second hand from her Aunt Bobby.  And Bobby's Mom, Bergetta's Grandma Roberts, had made the dress for Bobby.  So if you kept all that straight, the dress was made in the mid to late 1950s by Louisa's Great, Great, Grandma Roberts (Great Grandma Kindler's mother.)

Louisa chose to spruce it up with sequined pink strappy sandals and a sequin belt.  She looked marvelous, if you ask me.  And I'm proud of her decision to a cool retro dress with sentimental value rather than having to wear the latest new style.

Addendum from Grandma, "I forgot to tell Louisa that when I wore this dress for my junior prom, May 3, 1963, I met her grandpa for the first time. I'm so glad she asked to wear it. She is lovely in it. B"

The Pastor Plays and We're Ready to see Matt

Surf's up!

Days 9 and 10, Tuesday, August 27 and Wednesday August 28
We arrived in Escondito, at our friends' the Lawsons', last night at about supper time.  Leave it to us.  “Hi, nice to see you.  Nice to meet you.  What've you got for us to eat.  Oh, and did I mention we need a special diet?”   But Rob and Kristen were prepared, and so good-hearted.   And Kristen was ready for us.  She served a lovely and wonderfully tasty supper for us.

It's kind of a pastor thing.   We know that wherever we are and wherever we go, the pastor in that area will be there for us.  Just as we'd be for them.   It's very good for the men to have a cohort to kick back with and shoot the breeze, and talk shop, etc.  And it's fun for us women to get to know another pastor's wife, and to know that we've got friends all around the country.

We did laundry.  Oh, Kristen, I hope you know how appreciated that is.  We had so much, … smoky from campfires and damp from the rain, ... stinky from sitting in a hot vehicle for several days.  Ugh, this small gesture was say beyond the call of duty.

We made posters for Matt's graduation, to hang in the van windows.  Things like, “Abrahamson, Plt 1070,” “Delta Company,” “Go Matt!” and etc.

The Lawson kids had to go to school today for a short time. But their folks took them out of school early so that they could all take us to the beach at Oceanside.

A little lunch

Our gracious hosts, Rob and Kristen

Rob grilled hotdogs and Kristen had packed chips and cheese sticks, and frozen water bottles.  She also provided the beach towels, so we wouldn't have to pack wet ones up again when we left.   I had a big drink cooler full of water, and a bunch of folding chairs.  The Lawsons had boogie boards and a shade tent thing called an Easy-Up.

Slathering up.

The weather was nicely warm and the waves were just right.   I was so happy that Joe got out there and had fun in the surf.  He body surfed with the kids and bounced around.   The kids did both body surfing and boogie boards.  Those who did the boogies boards ended up with many scrapes and scratches, from being buffeted and dragged across the bottom by their boards.

The Family

I mostly stayed near the edge with Inge, since she was a little bit afraid of the constantly moving water and sand.   She and I stayed in the shallow water, at about knee deep for me.  I was holding her. Some of the waves came up to about my waste.   But because Inge was so nervous, I tried to stay where most of them only splashed her a little as they wrapped around my legs.

"It's coming!"  Emma, Stella, and Donna

Playing in the sand
After awhile Inge was content by herself, as long as she stayed in the very shallow water.  So I foolishly let Joe coax me out to the deep.  I didn't really know what to expect, since I hadn't played in ocean waves since I was on a high school choir tour throughout the south.   One of the stops on that trip had been a day at Padre Island, on the Gulf Coast of Texas. 

Joe went out to where the bigger swells were cresting.  I went out to about waist deep, where the waves would come in over my shoulders, but then rush on past.   I was not quite ready, in my mind at least, when the first crest came.  And it was a biggy!   I turned to press my back into it, thinking that perhaps I could withstand the onslaught and simply remain standing until the swell passed.

But no.

I was standing in waist deep water one minute.  The next I was plunged into the maelstrom, hitting the bottom, sea water forced into my eyes, nose and mouth.  I floundered around, kind of going with the flow, until I felt air above me and sand beneath.   I clumsily found my legs and slowly emerged from the torrent.  Wet, bedraggled, and feeling a bit sotted.

And then I was done.   That was enough beach playing for me until next time.  I returned to the easy-up with Kristen.   Joe needed to play in the surf.  It was wonderful for him to cut loose and simply play.   I got some girl time visiting with Kristen in the shade, as our kids and the dads all played.  It was just what I needed, too.

Kristen and I having some Mom time

Have sand, will bury

Sophie and John flee the maelstrom

The kids were surprised their dad spent so much time in the water. They asked him about it later,
“How did it feel, Dad, to play in the ocean?”

“It was … like a great big release.”  And with that simple statement, I knew that all the work and planning and stress of the trip was oh-so-worth it.  Anyone who knows my husband well will know that “a great big release” was just exactly, perfectly what he needed.

Rachel and Louisa's henna tats

After we were done at the beach, we headed south to San Diego and the Wyndam Gardens Motel.   It's a lovely building with graceful wrought iron railings on long porches across the upper levels.  The foliage is mostly a variety of palms.  Some are kind of short and squat.   Short only compared to the towering ones above.  They have very big leaves that spread upward and outward toward the porch railings.   The littles were very intrigued with these big stiff leaves.   They found it very interesting and cool to be able to stick their arms through the railings and touch these amazingly big leaves.

When we got to the motel, Joe's Mom and Dad were awaiting our arrival.  They had flown in yesterday, and so spent the day today touring the USS Midway.   They took the city bus a short distance, and then met the trolley that took them through Old Town and down to the USS Midway.  It was fun to hear about their day.  The smaller kids enjoyed seeing Grandma and Grandpa in such an unexpected place.  "How did you get here?"

We indulged in a rare meal out that evening, in a real, sit-down restaurant.  We headed first for a barbeque place adjacent to the hotel, that was alleged to be able to serve gluten free food.   But it was packed to overflowing.  The line was spilling out the door and onto the sidewalks.   Since we were a group of thirteen, and several of us were small, hungry children, we figured we better not attempt the wait.

We continued on to Red Lobster.  We had eaten in a Red Lobster once in Chicago.  That would have been about the time Matt was a baby, so, nineteen years ago.  They were able to accommodate Joe and his dad's special dietary needs, and we all had a great time.

After we walked back to the hotel, we got the kids ready for bed and tucked in as soon as possible. They were a little revved up, so it was kind of hard to settle everyone down, but we have an early start tomorrow to all the excitement at the base.  Joe's parents have a room with two double beds, so Stella and John are staying over at Grandma and Grandpa's room. 

I can't believe we're finally going to see Matt!  It seems like it's been forever.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

How a Lazy Evening Became Productive

As 5:00 came and went, the school kids had gotten home, had a quick snack, and then were off to Wed school at 5:00.  I had diced potatoes in the oven.  Garden fresh potatoes from Dawn N., with ricotta cheese and home rendered lard stirred in, topped with parsley, sage, and thyme from my beds.

I had not gotten out to mow.  In fact, I had decided not to mow today, since I've had a little nagging sore throat all day.  I had a good school and chore day around the house, so I was using that sore throat as an excuse to watch a movie or something during Wed. School.  I was tired.

Inge, Donna, and Stella asked for a movie so I told them they could watch on the kitchen computer.  But after several failed attempts, they reported that the kitchen disc drive drive didn't work. 

"Sigh," said I.  Then to myself I added, "I suppose I could get off my chair and let them use mine."

I didn't think my disc drive worked either, since it's had trouble with certain formats lately, mostly written material and audio files.  But I remembered Joe saying that different formats read differently, so don't assume something won't work.  We popped Willy Wonka into my machine and voilà.  It worked. 

And so I got up and got busy.  I scrubbed three acorn squash and put them on a lower shelf in the oven.  I may as well get as much use as possible out of the heat that's there anyway, right?  I got the meat for supper ready, but it was too early to put it in the oven, too. 

So I headed outside at about ten minutes to 6:00.  I got the mower out of the detached garage and up to the house to fill it.  I mowed the first few strips and had to empty the bag already.  "Uffda, it's going to be a long job."  That grass was way, way, way too long.

I'm not going to say when we mowed last.  But suffice it to say that if I had a tail, it would be far between my legs.

I mowed a few more rows and emptied my bag a few more times.  Then I ran inside quickly to slide the meat into the oven along with the other things.  I was feeling very high by that time.  Invigorated and energized.  Up. 

Besides the accomplishment of actually getting started on the mowing, I had much food in the oven.  Squash for a meal, plus enough extra for about three coffee cakes or custards.  I had potatoes roasting, enough for at least two big meals.  And tonight's meat was was easy to pop in, being left over roasted turkey from the end of last week. 

After sliding the meat into the oven, I was right back out to the mower.  Up and down, around and over.  Up and down, around and over.  Empty the bag.  Start again.  By 7:00, the kids were done with Wed school, but I had just a corner of one section left to do.  It was getting dark, but I was determined.  On a roll.  Tenaciously trying to finish.  Perhaps I ought to have waited.  I ended up not finishing anyway, since I ran out of gas with about five minutes worth of mowing left.  But worse yet, I hit a rock under one of our spruce trees and shot it at the garage door.  I couldn't believe it when I looked — a 2" round dent, and triangle of torn metal about an inch long in the middle.

We turned it into a good lesson, though.  I had all the kids run out and look.  "This is why we don't leave rocks in the grass.  And this is also why we don't play near the mower.  Imagine if that was a child's head rather than the garage door."

I had said to a friend this morning, "I really do love push mowing. I love the exercise and the, ... oh, ... exhilaration of the accomplishment.  But I also really love afterwards the relaxation of a summer evening, sipping a cool drink, looking at the nicely groomed green grass and other summer glories, and listening to all the summer sounds. Somehow, the pleasure of it eludes me at this time of year..."

I didn't go out and sit to enjoy the newly mowed grass after mowing this evening.  But I did enjoy the freshly mowed sections of grass much more than I imagined I would.  Even in the fall drabness, those areas that were freshly cut looked very good.  I can't wait to get out tomorrow and do some more. 

What Happens in Vegas ...

Again, this is a post from memory, as I wrote nothing at the time.  And I am not sure what happened to our pictures from this day.  I thought we had taken a bunch, but maybe on one of the kids' cameras.  I only found a few and the were not that interesting.  Oh, except this one advertising an upcoming Air Supply show.  I remember listening to the annual countdown on New Years Eve my Freshman year in high school listening to see how many of their songs made the list.  I had some sort of competition with the neighbor boy between my band and his. 

Day 8, Monday, August 26
Vegas, Baby!  A place that wasn't on the list of sights to see on this trip.  I have nothing tangible against Las Vegas.  But I don't have money to risk losing.  I am far more impressed with the Beauty of God's earth than with glitz and flash of hedonistic America.  And, ... well, they don't call it Sin City for nothing.

It just wasn't high on my list of American Southwest family tourist destinations.

But it was raining on the north rim of the Grand Canyon.  It was raining on the south rim.  It was raining in Zion National Park.  It was raining along this entire section of our route.  And not just a little rain.  One of those steady, three day soakers that sends the water careening down the dry gulches of the American southwest in raging torrents.  As we were coming into Las Vegas there were places the muddy water had washed onto the highway.  The following morning's newspaper had pictures of flash flooding in nearby many areas.

So we ended up in Vegas.  Where we knew no one, and had done no research on what to see or do.  We considered a day trip to Hoover Dam.  But we crossed that off the list after some unsuccessful checking on parks in the vicinity.  We had purchased food for camping that needed to be used.  Some of it needed to be cooked.  Any outing we planned had to include a shelter and a grill for our noon meal.  Most of the park information for that area was somewhat vague as to the availability of grills or fire pits.  We did have our campstove if we needed to use it, but cooking on two small burners is kind of a slow process for the volume of food we needed to cook.

I did find out about a kind of cool sounding place just on the Vegas side of the Hoover Dam area.  On our next trip down to that part of the world, if it ever happens, we'll have to put Hemenway Valley Park, along with Hoover Dam, on our list for the next trip.  "One of this park's main attractions is the Bighorn sheep that come down from the mountains to water and graze." (from the Boulder City website).

Thankfully I was reminded by one of my online friends that she and her family live in Las Vegas.  Oh, yes, online friendships... My daughters tease me because they see the double standard.  We exhort our kids to only have online correspondence with those they know personally.  But on the other hand, we are all part of various on-line communities.  And we come to know and love the people we meet there.  And to depend upon them for support and advice.

I'm part of a Confessional Lutheran women's facebook group.   Many of these women are pastors' wives.  Many homeschool.  Many have large families.  All these women are committed to raising their families to know and understand what it means to be a Lutheran.  To train up our children to know firstly that they are sinful and live in a sin-filled world.  And secondly, but more importantly, that Jesus has died to save us from the guilt of our sin, so that we can one day have eternal life in Heaven with Him.  And that this righteousness, that is ours through Christ, is a free gift.  A totally free gift.  The Lutheran view of Salvation through Grace alone, Faith alone, and Scripture alone, and that also depends totally on God and His grace to give us the gift of faith through His Word and Sacraments, is unique among Christians.  We seek guidance and help in all areas of our parenting through our facebook friendships. 

And so we becomes close friends although we don't really know each other personally.  And to some we become closer to than others.  We have private message or e-mail conversations, or even write letters, call, or visit when  opportunities arise.

Erica S. is one of these friends who I've gotten to know a little better through private conversations.  Besides having in common the Lutheran and mothering and pastor wife parts of our lives, I've often thought that our families would get along especially well.  Various topics of interest that have come up seemed common to us.

And yes, Erica lives in Las Vegas.  But I had forgotten that.  After I posted from the hotel in Vegas about our plans changing, and about being in Las Vegas with no particular plans, Erica sent me a message suggesting that if we have time, we should try to meet in person.  I explained our dilemma of needing an outing that would include cooking our camping food.  And also that my teenaged girls wanted to experience a little bit of Vegas, and to shop at a Ross.

The day turned out splendid from our point of view.  We met the at a park in their neighborhood.  A park with both a shelter and a grill.  Their two little ones played with our little ones on the well-appointed playground.  They got sopping wet in the drizzle, but it didn't seem to bother any of them.  Erica and her husband, Vincent, visited with Joe and I.  Joe cooked burgers, while Erica and I got the other foods set out.  The teen girls worked on photos for the "Planking in Vegas" project they plan to produce.

We had a lovely visit.  After lunch, the invited us over to their home.  Erica had noticed me putting our dirty dishes into a plastic bag to wash later at the hotel, so she kindly offered the use of their kitchen sink.  And she threw the kids' wet clothes in her dryer.  So very thoughtful and kind.

The kids played some more.  The men played.  They watched break-dancing videos and engaged in feats of valor with wooden practice swords, escrima sticks, to be precise.  They talked theology and science fiction/fantasy, among other things. 

After the clothes were dry, we moms and the older five girls took off to see the city.  We shopped at Ross and TJ Max, and found a few things.  We drove the strip and saw the sights.  Said sights would include a moving billboard of three scantily clad or unclad women advertising a certain phone business.  Yep.  Stuck in downtown traffic behind the truck that was the billboard.  Stop, start.  Stop, start.  All the way through downtown.  Mostly naked ladies staring us in the face.  Two pastors' wives and a carload of teenaged girls. 

We went to the Fashion Show Mall on the strip.  We zipped off the strip to catch a quick supper at a fast food Mexican joint. 

Then back to the strip to meet the rest of the gang.  Vincent and the S. children decided to call it a night and so they didn't come downtown.  They were all tuckered out after a day with the Abrahamsons.  Imagine that!  But Vincent gave Joe directions to meet us at the Fountains of the Bellagio.  Louisa had seen the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc, in Barcelona, Spain, so was interested in this famous fountain, too. 

As things happen, especially where the Abrahamsons are concerned, things got a little confused.  Erica and the girls and I thought we were meeting in the lobby of the Bellagio.  Joe with the littles thought we were meeting at the fountain, along the road near the parking lot.

We women folk walked through the indoor gardens adjacent to the lobby, and when Joe still wasn't there, we went down the hallway to the chocolate fountain. 

Joe and the kids watched the fountain go.  Every fifteen minutes.  For about 40 minutes.  They saw three of the repetitions.  Inge had to go to the bathroom and so fussed nearly the whole time.  And really, what's a dad to do?  He is trying to keep order on a 4, 6, 7, and 9 year old in a jostling crowd.  The nearest restroom is who knows where, but no doubt at least a several minute walk through the jostling crowd.  And he had no idea when we were finally going to arrive or what the hold up was.

We women finally ran out of things to look at inside the Bellagio and so Erica gave Vincent a call to see how long ago Joe had left and where he expected Joe might be.  Ah-ha!  Down by the road.  So we hurried down the walkway along side the fountain.  Scanning the rows of people gathered to see the fountain.  Stopping so we didn't photo-bomb any of the many shots of people posing along the walkway.  Somehow managing to get separated into three groups on the way down to the road. 

I found Joe, and he kind of threw Inge at me.  "She has to go to the bathroom!  Immediately!"  I grabbed Inge and started the way back up the sidewalk to the lobby.  Along the way I found Erica and the girls with her, and pointed out Joe to them.  I found the bigger girls, and told them where to head.  And then I, continued on to the bathroom, hoping that by the time we were done, everyone else will have found each other. 

All told, we women got to see one of the musical selections that the fountain presented.  Joe and the kids saw three.  But I'm not sure Joe really enjoyed it, since he had a crying little one, and no clue how to help her, and whether she might at any minute wet her pants and her dad.

And where was our cell phone in all this?  Safely in the van, of course.  Where we could use it in case of a roadside emergency...


Eventually we all found each other, used the bathroom, and saw both the water and the chocolate fountains.  We said our goodbyes to our new friend, Erica.  And then we assembled in the van to head to the hotel.  Tired and ready to sleep.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Oh, really?

"There's a problem.  Your current weight is higher than your starting weight."

This is the lovely words of wisdom my Lily Slim ticker had for me when I tried to update my info.

Yeah, duh.  Would I have avoided my ticker for the last eight months if I didn't already know there was a problem? 

Sheesh.  One would think they might have found a gentler way to say it.  Or maybe they could program the tickers to show and increase, rather that having to tell me it's a problem.

So, yes, I've updated my ticker.  It was time.  But it's not quite accurate due to the, uh, aforementioned problem.  Hopefully one day soon it will start to creep downward once again.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

This meaning or that? aka, Demonstrative Adjective or Demonstrative Pronoun?

I'm a rules person.  I like my grammar nice and neat.  But I find myself frequently telling my girls, Sophie and Clara, during their homeschooling, that some aspects of grammar are open to interpretation.  For example, when to use less common punctuation such as an M-dash, a colon, parentheses, ellipses, etc. 

Yesterday we ran into one that was so clear to me, but the curriculum materials had explained it differently.  I asked Joe, and he agreed with the curriculum.  I looked it up in Writers Inc, and ... gues what!!  I won!!  I mean, I was right.

The dilemma:  Is the word that always a demonstrative pronoun?

When the girls do their grammar lessons, they are given an excerpt from their current reader, a paragraph or two, perhaps five to eight lines.  They are instructed to make certain grammatical observations and notations regarding the given paragraph.

In the example that caused the murkiness yesterday, they were to find and mark all the pronouns.  The hint they were given:  "The words that and which are pronouns."

I don't disagree that that and which can be pronouns.  But I don't think they are always pronouns.  Especially not that.  I still have to think a little bit more about which.

That can be a demonstrative pronoun.  Can you please bring that to me? 
That can also be a demonstrative adjective.  Can you please bring that pencil to me?

This explanation is clear as a bell to me.  It's so fundamental to how I "think grammar" that I absolutely wouldn't consider it even worthy of discussion.

But in Clara and Sophie's grammar lesson, there was that hint:  "The words that and which are pronouns."

The selection in which those thats occurred?
My story will tell much of that little strip of land called Canaan to the south, between us and the accursed land of Egypt, which was only a name to me when I was a child.  For all the wealth and all the armies and all the glories of the nations have passed through that little land and probably always will; and the story of the kings of Canaan is the story of the world.  (from Hittite Warrior, by Joanne Williamson)
I've shaded the two thats in that selection.   Both to me are quite obviously adjectives.  That strip.  That land. 

When I found myself once again in disagreement with the curriculum, I asked my husband, Mr. Languages.  "I've never heard of a demonstrative adjective.  Those are pronouns.  That is always a pronoun."


But I was unwilling to let it go.  I pulled out Writers Inc, the recommended writing manual for use with our curriculum. 

According to Writers Inc,
504.3 Demonstrative Pronouns
A demonstrative pronoun points out people, places, or things without naming them.
This shouldn't be too hard.  That looks about right.
These are the best ones.  Those ought to be thrown out.
That would seem to imply that the uses in the paragraph above are not pronouns, since the definition specifies, "without naming them."  And none of the examples are of the same construction as the paragraph in the girls' school lesson.

"I'll just look up demonstrative adjectives, to check what they say there."

Writers Inc on adjectives,
from section 513.1 Types of Adjectives
NOTE: Some words can be either adjectives or pronouns (that, these, all, each, both, many, some, etc.).  These words are adjectives when they come before the nouns they modify; they are pronouns when they stand alone.
Yes, I'm a little competitive.  Just a little, really.  But I felt like spiking the football.

But there's still that which to deal with.  My gut reaction is that it's a subordinating conjunction, introducing the dependent clause.  I don't find which in any lists of possible subordinating conjunctions.  But there are so many possibilities, that the lists usually say something like, "and many other words," or, "etc."  So I can probably include it there if I want.  Count it as one of those mury places in the English language. 

But I have to admit that it might just be a pronoun.