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Archive for January, 2008

A sic tummy…I haz it.

Today I’ve had three classes in the lab, which is challenging on ANY day. One of the classes was the lowest-level of English as a Second Language, which means that these dear students, so eager and excited to be improving their English language skills, didn’t understand a word I said.

And of course, they all nodded their heads in agreement when I asked, Do you understand the instructions?

And then they all nodded their heads in agreement when I asked, Do you need help?

And then they sat there, obligingly, blinking-ly, when I told them to go ahead and start their recordings.

Bless them.

Usually I’m up to the challenge of the limited-English students. Today, however, my tummy is troubling me. Not enough to stay home like my friend Evan, did (Hi Evan! We’re sending the truant officer after you!), just bad enough to make me stoopid and overwhelmed in the face of communication barriers.

At the moment, I’m hiding in my office. I don’t want to talk to the students. I don’t want to answer their questions. I love each of them dearly, but right now, I just want to eat my oatmeal for lunch and veg out.

Here’s what I’ve managed to accomplish during my lunch break.

First, I checked the LoLCats site to get my daily chuckle. While there, I created my own LoLCat image.

Then I checked all the blogs I normally read, and a couple of others. That took awhile.

While on a friend’s blog, I saw her little banner that asked “Which Austen heroine are you?” I don’t normally do these things, but today I did. It seems that…

I am Elinor Dashwood!

Take the Quiz here!

Now, a part of me wanted to copy that little bit of html and put it on my sidebar, announcing to all the world that I AM ELINOR DASHWOOD, when it it occured to me that…. I’m not.

I’m just not Elinor Dashwood.

We may share many of the same qualities, but Elinor Dashwood didn’t spend the last three hours talking very slowly, using small words, and trying to untangle the mysteries of computer usage without actually using any current computer jargon for a mixed group of international students. Instead, Elinor Dashwood entertained a small group of closeknit friends and neighbors while discussing philosophy, manners, and the local gossip.

Elinor Dashwood did not wake up this morning, bolt down a cup of coffee during a long commute to her office. Elinor Dashwood probably had eggs and country toast for breakfast, with a jot of tea, before going out to the garden or completing her housekeeping tasks.

Elinor Dashwood will not go home tonight and prepare a presentation on project management in eLearning before falling into the bed. Elinor Dashwood will probably drink sherry in the parlor and read quietly for pleasure or do needlework while someone plays the pianoforte and reads poetry to her.

So, where’s that little bit of html code that will actually make me Elinor Dashwood? That’s what I want to know….

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Grandpa’s Field Trip

Little did I know that the famous Pioneer Woman and I are leading parallel lives this week!  No, I’m not suddenly living life on a cattle ranch in OK, married to a man called Marlboro Man who makes my heiney tingle.  [I am married to a man who smokes Marlboros and makes my heiney tingle, but that’s another story…]  No, my brush with fame is #8 on her to-do list: planning the garden and fixing the rototiller.

 For weeks, Grandpa and I have had this day set aside to take his beleaguered rototiller to the tractor repair place, and I think we both jumped out our beds this morning with the same thrill, akin to Christmas morning, that buzzed in our heads excitely:  It’s tractor field-trip day!

Since Grandpa can’t drive himself these days, we had to carefully pick the best day to drive the trailor with the Landpride RTA 1558 Rototiller Attachment down country roads to the rural outpost of Griffin, Georgia and Wade Tractor Repair.

Okay, Griffin is no longer a rural outpost of Atlanta, but is now a bedroom community of suburban metro-Atlanta, but there is still just enough agriculture in that neck of the woods to keep a tractor repair and sales company in business.

Tony was gracious enough to drive Grandpa’s big van for us, and I just sat and enjoyed the ride, trying to catch all the country wisdom that my grandpa let fall.  The sky was bright and wintery, and the sides of the road were still covered with patches of snow.  Where the Flint River had puddled out into swollen pools, the last residues of ice-crusts floated on the edges and the murky surface.  In all, it was a lovely drive through woods, pastures, and old country homes.

But it’s when we arrived at Wade’s that the real fun began!  It was like a tractor wonderland!  Even as we drove into the service entrance, Grandpa and I were itching to check out some of those shiny new tractors on the lot.  But first, the rototiller…

le rototillerHere’s our sad little rototiller, just waiting for expert service.  Apparently, the drive chain broke and ballbearings knocked around inside the drive case. That sounds really bad…..but we have to get it fixed before spring!  Afterall, the mule is long-dead, so we have to make the tractor work.

Grandpa wavesWave for the friendly readers, Grandpa!  He’s such a sport to ham it up for the camera.  Yeah, I know, he’s just as besotted with his grown-up granddaughter as he was with his baby granddaughter.  That’s the benefit of being a granddaughter…you really don’t have to be grown-up all the time.

Wow, what a relief that can be, too!

Now that the rototiller was safely entrusted to the care of the service department, we were free to browse the sales lot.  Wild horses couldn’t have pulled us back into the van without poking around!

rtvHmmmm maybe what we need is a new Kubota RTV, Grandpa.  Can’t you just hear him saying, Oooooooowheeee! I gotta get me one of those! This once independent and still fiercely proud man can’t help but think, Maybe they can take my driver’s licence away, but they can’t keep me from driving one of these beauties around my farm….  And Grandpa, you’re right.  I’ll be your enabler….

We just have to sneak the RTV past Grandma and we’re home free! 

Oooooo Tony! You look HOT in that Kubota Supergrand Cab tractor! 

You can till my fields anytime you want!

Slide on over, Sexy, and make room for me!  (And turn that luxurious heater on, too.  It’s really cold out here! )

tony in kubota

But WAIT! What do we have here, tucked in between the newest, fanciest, prettiest tractors on the market today?

old ford

There it is, the perfect tractor…the tractor that revolutionized small-scale farming in America.  The 1953 Ford Jubilee.  All the shiny, all the climate-control, all the new pales in comparison to this old friend of Grandpa’s.  Here’s a tractor he can really appreciate.  [Of course, he has a 1954 NAA Jubilee at home.  Never buy the first year of any model!]  Grandpa, tell Tony all about it…

How does it look under the hood, Grandpa?

 gp and old ford

Do you mean to tell me that you didn’t know this tractor originally came with a positive-ground battery?  [Uh, no, Grandpa, I only know what you tell me…but I believe you…]

jubilee 2 

So, it just goes to show once again that new and shiny may catch our eye, but old and familiar warms our hearts.  I’ve learned that this is true of tractors, and it’s certainly true of Grandpa’s.  And even when you think you might know enough to recognize a Ford Jubilee when you see one, you can always learn something new about how it ticks.

I hope I never stop learning about how my Grandpa ticks.

To wrap it up, here’s a final picture of my Grandpa’s old tractor, taken today with snow still in the tire treads.  It’s old, dependable, strong, familiar, and fun.

Just like my Grandpa.

snowtire

 

 

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Napping on a cold day

Animals really know how to live.  They eat.  They play.  They nap.  They are happy doing all those things, but even happier when their busy humans join them in their daily activities.

Today, while staying in from the cold and knitting the second sock, I issued an invitation to my pets.  Well, actually, I sat on the sofa and covered up with a warm blanket, but of course, they saw it as an invitation to join me on the sofa and proceed with the napping portion of their day.

Here’s Abby and Lia, curled up and sound asleep. That’s me under the blanket.

Nap 1

Obviously, Lia got the choice seat next to Mommy.  Lia is not the kind of kitty to keep all the joy and love to herself though! She’s more than happy to “pay it forward”, as seen here where she spreads a little love Abby’s way.

Nap 3

Naargarph….” says Abby, as she rolls over to snuggle Lia even closer.  Hey, Lia, is that close enough?  I bet you’re feeling warm now, squeazed in between Mommy and Abby.  Actually, she looks pretty comfortable….

nap 5

Now that’s what “sisterly affection” looks like in our house!

nap 6

Awwww….the feline kissing and hugging continues!  When you see love like this, suddenly you believe that peace on earth is achievable as long as there are warm blankets for everyone.

Nap 7

What’s the matter, Abby?  Is this too much kitty love for you?  Hey, where are you going?  Soon, Abby moved to the end of the sofa where she could get her nap on in peace.  Napping is serious business, not to be interrupted by grooming.

Abby naps alone

And all the while, Oliver does his best impression of The Neutered Prince and the Pea.  It was just too crowded on the sofa, anyway…

oliver’s nap

Is it any wonder that I didn’t leave the house all afternoon?  Nope, I stayed warm and cozy in my own little cocoon of peace.  I hope your Sunday afternoon was as restful and peaceful as mine.

 

 

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Sock-cess!

Well, just in case you thought I had fallen down in my pursuit of wooliness, I wanted to give you an update on Sock-It-To-Me-2008!

first sockUsing the basic sock pattern found in Learn to Knit Socks!, I have successfully completed my very first sock!  I even dared to alter the pattern a (very) little by making the ankle a bit longer.  Well, ten rows longer, be exact, so that it would be more of a boot sock and less like an ankle sock.  And it really, really works!  I immediately tried in on, and in doing so welcomed it into the reality that is my life at home: a thousand pet hairs.

sock againHere I am modelling my new sock.  It fits perfectly, and is exceptionally wooly!  In this picture, you can not only see the completed blue wool sock molding itself to my comely foot, but you can also view my fashionable polar fleece pajamas, so heralded of late!  Abby may look like she’s disdainful of my new knitted creation, but really, what she’s saying is…

“Mommy!  Your sock is so beautiful I must turn away in shame!  If only I had opposable thumbs with which to create such wonders, but alas, I am resigned to chasing cats and making my toys squeak in order to preserve my canine self-esteem.”

Well, maybe I exaggerate a bit…really, she’s just turned her head to chase Alys around the dining room table.  Her life is complete without arts and crafts projects, unless you count tearing empty toilet paper rolls into little bits of wet cardboard a craft….

next sockNow, all I need to do is finish a second sock to accompany the first!  Why, wait! What have we here….? I do believe it’s the first four rows of the mate to this sock.  Ah, I love knitting on a snowy day!  Almost as much as I love polar fleece.  But not as much as I love Abby.

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My morning…

[Yawn…stretch]

Good morning!  It’s 11 am on Saturday and I’m proud to say I’ve been out of bed exactly seventeen minutes!  How luxurious!  I had all three cats and Abby cuddled up against me, warm and furry, and I just didn’t see any reason to get out into the cold.

Tony is still away at a men’s retreat for church, but he should be home in about an hour.

But for now, it’s just me, the critters, and The Dog Whisperer

Snow fallingWhen I woke up I could still hear the sleet and the rain, but the precipitation has now transitioned into sofly falling snowflakes accumulating on my deck and roof.  It’s just lovely……

What makes the whole thing even lovelier is that I’m still sitting here in my polar fleece pajamas, drinking coffee out of a ceramic coffee cup without a travel lid.  I haven’t enjoyed coffee out of a real cup since school started back, and it’s this tiny detail that conveys to me in a whisper don’t hurry yet, you have nowhere to go….

Thank you, critters, for keeping me warm and snuggly in bed this morning. 

Thank you, pajamas, for being soft and comforting.

Thank you, Father, for sending the beautiful snow falling in the woods around my peaceful home.

And thank you, coffee mug, for keeping me moving slowly this morning.

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why is my house littered with toys?

Pets, like children want your attention almost all the time.  Abby will clean out her toybox trying to find the one toy that will entice me to stop working on the computer and play with her.  So this evening, when I looked down on the floor next to my chair, here’s what I saw.

Abby’s toys

From the top left to right, the cast of Abby’s favorite characters are 1) Teddy Bear, 2) Squeaky Squirrel, 3) Squeaky Puppy, 4) pajama pants tug toy, 5) Quacky Duck, 6) Chewy Bone, 7) Squeaky Cow.  At the base of her feet in the upper right of the corner is toy #8, Squeaky Shark.

Yes, in the course of an hour or so, Abby pulled out these toys and brought them over to my place at the table.

Play with me!Eventually, Abby gave up and tried to convince Oliver to play with her, instead.  Apparently, he’s not as attracted to the computer.  Unfortunately, he’s also not very attracted to Squeaky Shark.

“Hey, Oliver….want to play with my Squeaky Shark?”

“Ew, dog….that toy smells like dog breath! No way!  Besides, I’ve got all these magazines to read…”

Poor Abby.  I should post this message now and go play with her.  Afterall, she’s brought me all these great toys!

[And it’s really going to snow tomorrow!]

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One of the benefits of never having a free moment to write a blog post is that the thoughts you have that you want to blog about have plenty of time to percolate until they become a full-on rant.  Like this one.  I must have composed this post ten times this week in my head, and each time I just got madder, and madder, and madder.  [Which also makes the final post longer and longer.]

It all started on Monday, when I read this little article about the strains on a friendship that can occur when one friend has children, and the other doesn’t.  This is a subject near and “dear” to my heart, since it very accurately describes my friendship with Emilie.  Where once we had so many things in common, including hobbies, workplace, goals, and even neighborhoods, there can be no denying that her life has taken a sharp right turn down the path of motherhood, while mine has not.  I love her, and I love her daughters, so I wouldn’t consider that our friendship is strained by any means, but it has become a long-distance friendship in more than one way.

The article itself was rather a “duh” article, as Emilie and I discussed later that day over instant messaging.  It’s not really news that new moms have new priorities and responsibilities that may take them away,  however temporarily, from their previous friends and habits.  Likewise, it’s not really news that women without children may not want to talk about children every minute of the day.  Like I said, duh

But what really got me thinking, and eventually got me riled up, was this comment by someone named Kris, who wrote:

This article fails to mention one phenomenon I’ve noticed since I had 2 kids (most of my female friends are still single/childless): The “dog mom syndrome”.  I have several female friends who are childless (by choice) who have decided to get a dog instead. Although I am glad they have creatures to love, who love them — afterall, I had two dogs of my own before I had kids — I do tend to get very irritated when any little tidbit of “what my kid did today” gets a response of “what my dog did today”. There are an astonishing number of single women out there who think their dogs are their children. As much as I love dogs, they aren’t children.

If I had the opportunity to write an email to Kris, this would be my response. 

Dear Kris,

Trust me: we know our pets aren’t children.  I know the difference between the relationship that Emilie enjoys with her daughters and the one I share with my dog,  Abby.  I am not looking forward to Abby’s wedding day, to the birth of her children, to sharing an adult relationship with Abby as I grow old and she matures into a beautiful and strong individual.  For that matter, I will probably not send charming portraits of Abby in my Christmas cards, I will not proudly look on while she performs in school pageants, earns merit badges in Girl Scouting, marches with the high school band or excels in track and field.  In fifteen years, when Emilie will be watching her daughter Eleanor graduate from high school graduation and go off to college and the promise of a bright future, I will most likely be looking at my dear dog, Abby, and sadly waiting for the day when I will have to take her to the vet and hold her in my arms one last time while she undergoes a  lethal injection to “put her to sleep”.  I completely understand that my dog is not my child.

That being said, Abby is the love and the joy and the opportunity to nurture I am given today.  It seems that, although I was called to be childless in my life, I was not relieved of the urge to nuture and care for innocent lives.  What I learn about my capacity to love and treasure life I often learn through my relationship with my pets.  I am still growing, learning and experiencing through this relationship and it’s important to me.

It’s not that I think my pets are children, or are even close to being human. When I tell Emilie stories about my pets, its not to compare my dogs and cats to her  children, it’s just sharing a part of my life that is important to me, and trying to find expression for the love and maternal feelings that I haven’t been able to explore via biological children.

Being true friends should involve more than just sharing things that you have in common, and is more about sharing each other’s thoughts, loves, and joys and pains, regardless of whether or not they are held in common.  Being true friends mean listening to each other’s stories and caring about hearing them because they are important to your friend, and that makes them relevent to you.

So perhaps, Kris, the problem is that you can’t be a true friend to the people you call your friends.  When you hear their stories, you are the one who draws comparisons between their pets and your children; you are the one who becomes intolerant of their stories when they share what’s important to them.  Because ultimately, friendship is not about children or pets, it’s about caring for the hearts and souls of each other throughout all the seasons of life, the ups, the downs, the weariness of late nights with sick children, the worry about a dog who ran away, the pride of Christmas pageants, the pride of new tricks learned, the shared joy and sadness at bittersweet college send-offs, and the bittersweet final send-off of a beloved pet. 

Friendship is about friends caring about the things that affect each other. It can be nothing less and still be friendship.

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