On the Cuff

Instead of off the cuff . . .

Well, first of all today is Spencer’s girlfriend Jade’s birthday. I hope he took her somewhere nice for dinner!

I started off the morning with a sewing project. I know I mentioned here that I bought a fleece hoodie with ridiculously short sleeves a few weeks ago. I understand that my arms are freakishly long, but these sleeves wouldn’t even have been long enough for a short person! So I bought some coordinating fleece at Jo-Ann’s but then didn’t have time to work on it as I was doing so much gift sewing.

This morning I felt the time had finally come to sew new cuffs onto those sleeves. First I had to cut off the elastic, so I lost half an inch there. The new cuffs add about five and a half inches—and the sleeves still barely reach my wrists. But I figured making them any longer would just look too silly. So the whole process took an hour and a half, but then I had a warm cozy hoodie to wear on this winter’s day.

I spent some time working on my new curriculum project, did some organizing of my sewing stuff, and paid some bills. I took some knitting breaks. Then, I finally got started on the project that’s been hanging over my head for a couple of months now—measuring and pricing the fabric I hope to sell. I barely made a start, but I am highly motivated now because we are committed to going on a trip next month, but at this point have no way of paying for gas or lodging. Suddenly having to pay for Medicare has really been a challenge for us. (My trip to Tennessee was financed by a family member.) So I have got to have that sale before our trip.

This evening was our regular ladies’ night out, and I was delighted that we were joined by my friend Darlene, and by Susan, who’s been out of town for the last year. I so enjoyed seeing everyone and we talked longer than usual. This is turning out to be quite a social week for me.

Normalcy Returns

First of all, happy belated Burns Night to my Scottish friends. I say belated because by the time anyone in Scotland reads this, it will be tomorrow!

This morning I was more or less back into my routine. I sent off my signed contract for my next literature guide and have already started doing some background research for it. This time I am working on The Scarlet Letter.

It was a chilly day, but thankfully the rain had stopped. Yesterday we got three and a half inches. Today I emptied the rain gauge and stored it in the carport upside down as we are expecting a freeze tonight, and I don’t want to lose another rain gauge.

After a break of several days, I have enjoyed getting back to my knitting. I am eager to finish this “mindless” project so that I can start on a more challenging project. I figure I have about a foot left to go, and then there will be a border.

This evening none of us ate supper at the house. Jasper had a dinner at his church, and we had our usual dinner at our church. Tonight’s menu was all stuff I can’t eat except for salad, so I got a bowl of salad and so did Walter and then I ate them both. Our friends Gary and Anna sat at our table and I found out that Gary had also intended to come to the harmonica class yesterday, but was discouraged by the weather. This is so surprising to me. I thought playing the harmonica would be mostly of interest to young people, but the only ones I know of who planned to go to the class are north of sixty!

Third Time Lucky

Life sometimes takes some surprising twists, doesn’t it? One reason I made a point of driving home from Tennessee yesterday is that today was the rescheduled date for the harmonica class I tried to take a couple of weeks ago. I tried to get Jasper to go with me, but he refused, on the basis that he wouldn’t know anyone. I told him that I wouldn’t either, which was why I wanted him to come! I imagined it would be mostly young people and I’d be the sole representative of my generation.

When it came down to it, I hated the thought of going out today, because it was pouring rain and very chilly. But I had determined that I was going to do this, so I put on my big warm jacket and drove over to the church through the downpour, and then waded across the parking lot to the building where the class would be held.

I walked into the building to see a lady I know standing at the front desk. I greeted her politely and asked if she had come to work out (the church’s gym is in that building). To my great surprise, she answered that she had come for the harmonica class. She is a former professor at the university and even more “mature” than I am.

Well, there was no sign of the teacher, so we sat down to wait and talk, and within a few minutes I invited her to join my critique group. She is a fellow writer who used to come to our writers group meeting, and has been looking for critique partners. After we had been talking for half an hour, the guy from the front desk came over to tell us that the 1:30 class had been cancelled, but that the teacher still planned to do the 5:30 class. *sigh* Second time I’d got up the courage to go to the class, only to have it be cancelled.

Since I was out anyway, and cold and wet, I decided to stay cold and wet a little longer while I ran an errand. Then I returned home and pondered whether I should make the effort to go back to the church for the 5:30 class, especially since I had to be home hosting a Zoom meeting by 7:00. I decided to go ahead and go, and I could just leave early if necessary.

This time the teacher was there. However, instead of a class I received a private lesson because no one else showed up. My friend who had been there earlier wasn’t able to come at the later time.

So anyway, I was extremely uncomfortable being forced to interact with a complete stranger. Every molecule in my body wanted to run away. But I was there to learn, so that’s what I tried to do. He didn’t want me to play my nice chromatic harmonica. I had a cheap little diatonic harmonica that I brought just in case, so we worked with that, but it turns out that one of the reeds is defective, which made it very challenging. I did pretty well on the Battle Hymn of the Republic, though!

Anyway, I think I learned enough that I can make some pretty quick progress once I get a harmonica that isn’t broken. He assumed that I knew nothing about music, which of course isn’t true, so I grasped a lot more of what he tried to explain than he thought I did. And I will have to create my own tablature for my chromatic harmonica, which is not at all difficult for me after the hundreds I’ve done for the autoharp.

So I got what I wanted out of the class, which was basically how to notate music for the harmonica so I can create music that I can read instead of trying to memorize everything, which was my previous approach. I have ordered a somewhat nicer diatonic harmonica to practice on.

I rushed home to get ready for my writers meeting on Zoom. We talked about goal setting for writers. Every single one of us has at least one unfinished project that we’d like to finish this year. For me it is the second book in a trilogy. I finished the first one and got about halfway through the second one before stalling—back in 2012. I think the time has come to finish that thing.

After the meeting we had our usual video hour, during which I got back to knitting. I need to finish this blanket so I can get to work on the other projects I have planned.

Oh, and by the way, in my virtual exercise challenge I have reached Rivendell!

Following the Moon

Yesterday (Sunday) I was up at about my usual time getting ready to go to church with my dad. He stopped by the condo to pick me up and we made it to church in time for Sunday School. Everyone there is always very friendly and welcoming. The main church service followed—much more contemporary than ours, but still pretty Baptist!

Dad and I both napped in the afternoon, and then I went back to Dad’s house to sort some more of the food and get ready to Zoom with the kids. Flynn’s family came on, and also Lina. I was glad Dad got to see his two great-granddaughters.

My favorite Paisley moment was when Flynn was reading Paisley One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, and he asked her if fish had cars. “No,” she explained, “they have scooters.” So now you know.

After the Zoom we drove back over to Dad’s church for an all-church chili cookoff. (We just had to take a dessert.)

I discovered there are some cultural differences between Tennessee and Texas. The various vats of chili (there were at least a dozen) had to be labeled from 1 to 5 to indicate the “heat” of the chili. Dad doesn’t care for spicy chili, so he chose a #1. I like a little bit of spice, so I went for a #2 variety. It was very tasty, but as a Texan I would have labeled it as a “1” or even “½.” So when I returned to get a little more, I went for a #3. It still barely qualified as a #1 in my book. However, it was also very delicious. Kind of makes me wonder if I should have gone straight for the #5 chili!

One of the ladies there put a little pressure on me to consider moving to Tennessee. I finally deterred her by explaining that my granddaughters live in the opposite direction!

One of the things I decided I could do to help out was to remove the stacks of old magazines from my aunt’s condo. Even if she ever is able to return, they are all outdated and I’m sure will never be looked at again. How many magazines did she have stashed around her house, you ask? Well, this many:

And this many:

That is a lot!

I got mostly packed up after returning to the condo in the evening. I had a restless night, complete with flashing porch light, but still jumped out of bed right at 6:00 this morning. After loading the snow-and-ice-covered car, I stopped by Dad’s place to drop off the key and the linens and say goodbye.

It is almost a two-hour drive to the east side of Nashville where I meet my aunt and uncle at Cracker Barrel for breakfast on my drive home. This morning there was a nice fire crackling in the fireplace. We had a great visit over breakfast, even though Cracker Barrel has discontinued my standard breakfast order and I had to figure out something new. Although it adds to the length of my trip, two hours with my aunt and uncle is well worth it.

After that, the rest of the day was mostly driving past an endless parade of state troopers (in Tennessee) and eighteen-wheelers (everywhere). Shortly after I passed Little Rock, I noticed a fingernail moon hanging high in the clear sky above the rubicund dregs of the sunset. That moon was like my guiding star for most of the rest of the way home. Shortly after I passed Texarkana, the moon finally sank too low for me to see, but I have to admit I’d rather stare at the moon than at an endless succession of big trucks.

So, another 700-mile road trip successfully completed. I left at 7:00 this morning and arrived at about 9:40 this evening. I could have been home at least half an hour sooner if there hadn’t been two major traffic slowdowns. I arrived home to a clean kitchen and a gleaming stove, thanks to my handy husband, who also located and fixed our plumbing problem while I was away.

The rest of this week is very busy so I won’t have much time to catch my breath . . .

Hell’s Foundations Quiver

Onward, Christian Soldiers

Sabine Baring-Gould

Onward, Christian soldiers,
Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus
Going on before.
Christ, the royal Master,
Leads against the foe;
Forward into battle
See His banners go!

Refrain

Onward, Christian soldiers,
Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus
Going on before.

At the sign of triumph,
Satan’s host doth flee;
On then, Christian soldiers,
On to victory!
Hell’s foundations quiver
At the shout of praise;
Brothers, lift your voices,
Loud your anthems raise.

Refrain

Like a mighty army
Moves the Church of God;
Brothers, we are treading
Where the saints have trod.
We are not divided,
All one body we,
One in hope, in doctrine,
One in charity.

Refrain

What the saints established
That I hold for true.
What the saints believèd,
That I believe too.
Long as earth endureth,
Men the faith will hold—
Kingdoms, nations, empires,
In destruction rolled.

Refrain

Crowns and thrones may perish,
Kingdoms rise and wane,
But the Church of Jesus
Constant will remain.
Gates of hell can never
’Gainst that church prevail;
We have Christ’s own promise,
And that cannot fail.

Refrain

Onward then, ye people,
Join our happy throng,
Blend with ours your voices
In the triumph song.
Glory, laud and honor
Unto Christ the King,
This through countless ages
Men and angels sing.

Refrain

Here and There

I know you all are riveted by my light bulb stories, so I feel compelled to tell you that the motion-detecting lightbulb on the porch can detect motion through a closed window shade. I was both impressed and amused. Fortunately, I was also tired enough to sleep through most of the light show.

I made it over to my dad’s this morning relatively early, but he had a very slow start after a rough night, so I just enjoyed a leisurely cup of tea. Eventually, he was ready to start work on the project he’d chosen for today—organizing the large stockpile of nonperishable groceries he has accumulated.

We got a good start on it before leaving for lunch. We met our friends Stretch and Eunice at a local restaurant and had a good visit over lunch. Afterward Dad and I ran a couple of errands before heading to the nursing home to visit my aunt. It was a difficult visit as she really struggles to comprehend her own reality and can be very combative.

This evening I did a little more food sorting but have mostly been hanging out with my dad. Tomorrow is my last day before heading home on Monday.

Unintended Consequences

Last night after I posted, a tragedy occurred. I was sitting in a chair in my dad’s living room, with my computer on my lap and my very large mug of tea beside me, and my dad tried to hand me my bag that I had asked for, and it kind of swung out of control and knocked over my almost-full mug of very excellent tea. Fortunately no tea spilled on my computer—but it sure went everywhere else.

We both leaped into action. A stack of papers were soaked, but most of the tea went into the carpet. Dad handed me a roll of paper towels and I spent quite a while putting down towels and then stepping on them to soak up as much tea as possible. My lovely hand-knit socks also became saturated with tea.

When I was unable to blot up any more, my dad stepped in with his famous cleaning mix (that he makes himself) and sprayed and scrubbed. This morning it was still a little damp, but not stained, and it has since dried. Whew! I’m still mourning the loss of the tea, though . . .

I spent the night in my aunt’s condo. In the past, I have stayed in the guest room, because I was her guest. This time, I decided to sleep in her bedroom as it is much better lit than the guest room. Her windows have translucent shades on them that close from the bottom up. The shade in the bedroom was halfway up, so I pulled it up some more, leaving only about six inches open at the top of the window. Then I went to bed.

I am a restless sleeper, often tossing and turning during the night. And last night, every time I moved or rolled over, the light on the porch outside clicked on and flooded the bedroom with light. Every. Time. Now, I knew that the outside lights are triggered by a motion sensor—but I couldn’t figure out why they were reacting to my turning in bed.

This morning, I went outside and I think I understand. My dad told me the motion sensors are in the actual lightbulbs. There is a light right outside the bedroom window. And even with my vaguely-remembered high school geometry, I could see that there was a clear line from the light bulb, through the six-inch section of open window, and to the bed on the other side of the room. Tonight I’m gonna pull that shade all the way up. Having that light flashing on every few minutes was very disconcerting. But also kind of hilarious.

My dad’s plans for the morning didn’t work out, and instead he ended up getting my aunt’s car back from being worked on. I stayed in the kitchen and made a batch of split pea soup in the Instant Pot at his request. I mostly followed the recipe except for putting in probably close to twice as much ham as was called for. It was done in time for him to have some for lunch and he was happy with the result. He’s got enough for at least three other meals now.

This afternoon while he went shopping, I returned to the condo and spent some time reading and resting before going out for a walk along the lake, which I always try to do when I am here. It was a beautiful sunny day and I loved watching the breeze ripple the water and listening to the water slapping against the rocks on the shore. I envy people who live right near the water. I love it.

Eventually my dad returned with Chinese food for supper, but first he wanted me to help him remove a leaf from his kitchen table. It was a surprisingly challenging task, involving my dad having to get down on the floor under the table three times. But we were finally successful and now he feels the table is a much more practical size for a guy who lives alone.

We spent a quiet evening and I will soon be heading back down to the condo. Tomorrow we have a pretty full day planned. It will be interesting to see how it goes.

Parting Shot:

This is another photo of the lake. All those rocks are underwater.

Semis All the Way

Or for my overseas readers, HGVs. After two days on the road, I am safely at my dad’s house in eastern Tennessee. Yesterday I slept in and then had a hard time getting up and packed and ready to hit the road, so I ended up leaving an hour later than I had planned.

It was drizzling when I left, and I continued to drive in light rain until shortly before I reached Little Rock, Arkansas, after which the rain became much heavier. That stretch between Little Rock and Memphis is one of my least favorite roads to drive because in the last few years it seems to be overrun with commercial vehicles to the point where I’m kind of excited to see another car or pickup truck on the road.

North of Little Rock traffic came to a standstill for over half an hour, with GPS estimating the blockage (due to an accident) would last at least 90 minutes. My GPS found me an alternate route, but I still had to move forward in occasional six-inch increments until I reached an exit I could use.

By the time I took the detour and made it back to the “right” road (I-40) the sun had set and the rain was pouring down in buckets and I was surrounded by massive eighteen wheelers. It was not a fun drive, especially since the truckers seemed to be universally lacking in common sense, not to mention common courtesy. I suspect that many of them were also illiterate, because they certainly seemed unable to read the speed limit signs.

I’ll be honest—driving at night, in pouring rain, surrounded by hundreds of barbaric truckers, is one of my very least favorite things to do. The upside is that it is so stressful I can stay wide awake with no need for caffeine.

I arrived at my cousin’s house a good hour and a half later than I should have. This is my cousin Miracle Mark, who almost died last March and who is miraculously still alive. (Really. It’s a miracle.) I spent the evening visiting with him and his sweet wife Teresa and then snuggling down in a very comfy bed.

This morning we had a little more time to visit before we all had to leave the house. Teresa was taking Mark to a doctor’s appointment and I of course had another drive ahead of me.

It was a gloriously sunny and very windy day—such a change from yesterday’s gloom and downpours. Tennessee isn’t really at its best in January, but it was still a mostly lovely drive and although there were a lot of trucks on the road, it seemed more like fifty percent compared to last night’s ninety percent. And there were only a handful of speed traps instead of every ten miles like usual. I don’t speed, but I do get tired of being told every few minutes that there’s a speed trap ahead.

The worst part of today’ drive was going through Nashville, which I hate because in order to stay on I-40, you have to keep exiting right, then left, then right, etc. I wish it could just be a straight shot through town.

After leaving Nashville, the road starts rising, and my spirits rise right along with the altitude. I’m not sure why this is, but up to a point, the higher the altitude, the higher my spirits. I love driving up onto the Cumberland Plateau like I did today, and it depresses me to drive back down at the end of my visit. The same is true of my trip to Colorado. After Amarillo, my mood improves with every mile as I drive higher and higher.

My dad wanted to meet me in town for supper, but I arrived in town at 3:00 in the afternoon, so naturally I went to the yarn store first. This town has a lovely yarn store and I haven’t made it in there during my last few visits. They had some lovely shawls on display and I was successful in finding a couple of patterns that I’m hoping to use with some of my yarn stash. There may have also been some sale yarn that insisted on coming home with me.

My dad had asked me to do some grocery shopping for him, so I did that before driving over to the restaurant to wait for my dad. We had a nice dinner before heading back to my dad’s neighborhood. I am staying in my aunt’s condo this time as my dad got rid of his sofa bed. My aunt is still in a nursing home, so I have the place to myself. It’s a little bit weird, because everything is laid out and set up for her to return.

Any online activity will be taking place at my dad’s house because my aunt’s condo has no internet access. So we’ll see how much I’m able to blog while I’m here.

Oh Happy Day

Yesterday (Sunday) was a happy day at our house. One of the things I stayed up late to do on Saturday was make a pie crust. So yesterday, while I was cooking breakfast, I also made lemon pie filling and got the pie in the fridge so it would be cold by the time we returned from church.

We went to church and Sunday School as usual and then had two hours to finish getting everything ready. I made the meringue for the pie, browned it in the oven, and put it back in the fridge. Made some ham salad for sandwiches and set the table. Tidied up a few things and washed some dishes.

Mercy and Daniel arrived from Dallas right at 1:00. We hadn’t seen them since October. They had planned to come shortly after Christmas, but their bout with Covid made that impossible. We sat down to eat lunch, and Lina arrived to join us after a few minutes. Nothing makes us happier than having our kids come back to visit!

After lunch we had a lovely belated gift exchange. I was so glad to be able to give my last handmade gifts of the Christmas season—an apron for Daniel and placemats and some zippered bags for Mercy. And I was able to give them some tablecloths also—to fit the folding table that we no longer use.

I had to excuse myself from the merriment for a while so I could work on supper. Our favorite Tex-Mex dip takes a while to make and I needed it to be in the oven before the Zoom call.

I set my computer up on the end of the table so we could all sit at the table and see Flynn’s family on the screen. As usual, both Paisley and Eliana were very entertaining. Paisley was wearing the dress I had knitted her and I learned I definitely made it big enough. It’ll probably fit her better next fall—but it still looked very cozy and warm.

By the time the Zoom ended, the dip was done so we set up for a convivial dinner around the table. I used to think six people was a “small” gathering but now we are thrilled to have even that many!

After supper we had a little more time to visit and have lemon meringue pie before Mercy and Daniel had to leave. Mercy, Lina, and Walter all work for educational institutions, which means they have today off for Martin Luther King day. But Daniel has to work, so they couldn’t stay late last night.

After the driveway hugs and waving goodbye, Lina came back inside and watched a video with us before heading home to Nacogdoches. It was a wonderful day, well worth skipping my Sunday afternoon nap for.

And—I got to sleep in for the fourth morning in a row since Walter didn’t have work today! We still can’t use our washing machine, so that is making life more complicated. Fortunately, Walter can take laundry over to the campus and do it there since he has a washing machine at work.

He spent several hours today trying to deal with the washing machine drain situation, but had no luck. He also cleaned out the car very thoroughly in advance of my road trip later this week. He discovered two worrisome things. One is that there is a leak in the back that needs to be found and stopped. The other was a nest made by some critter underneath the pull-out tray in the back. The nest is currently unoccupied, but I hate the idea that critters at some point figured out how to get in.

My neighbor Kim came over this afternoon for the first time since before Christmas. It was good to get caught up a little. And I spent a couple of hours making little bead ornaments for my mini Christmas tree. I got it at a dollar store years ago but it’s a cute little tree (about a foot tall) and I’ve wanted for some time to make better ornaments for it. I hadn’t put it away yet for that very reason. I also finished sewing the drawstring bag I started the other day.

Parting Shot:

The four kids who were here yesterday, including our oldest, youngest, and middle child!

Days of Darkness Still Come O’er Me

I Will Sing the Wondrous Story

Francis H. Rowley

I will sing the wondrous story
Of the Christ who died for me.
How He left His home in glory
For the cross of Calvary.

Refrain

Yes, I’ll sing the wondrous story
Of the Christ who died for me,
Sing it with the saints in glory,
Gathered by the crystal sea.

I was lost, but Jesus found me,
Found the sheep that went astray,
Threw His loving arms around me,
Drew me back into His way.

Refrain

I was bruised, but Jesus healed me,
Faint was I from many a fall,
Sight was gone, and fears possessed me,
But He freed me from them all.

Refrain

Days of darkness still come o’er me,
Sorrow’s path I often tread,
But the Savior still is with me;
By His hand I’m safely led.

Refrain

He will keep me till the river
Rolls its waters at my feet;
Then He’ll bear me safely over,
Where the loved ones I shall meet.

Refrain