First Day of School

Yes, I know I didn’t post on Saturday. I was just too busy trying to get ready for this week. I did take a little break in the afternoon to take Jasper with me to the bookstore/coffeeshop in celebration of their second anniversary. Jasper even found a book on metalworking that he thinks he can use.

Saturday night I had some scary symptoms that I assume were anxiety related, with the result that I got very little sleep and when I got up on Sunday morning to start working I was very dizzy. I made breakfast and got started on Spencer’s (24th) birthday meal, but I had to do everything sitting down and take frequent rests. I was so grateful when Lina arrived and offered to help! Mercy and Daniel also arrived from Dallas.

Somehow all the food got made and I didn’t take any photos of it! Spencer had requested pirozhki (Russian meat pastries), German red cabbage, and German potato salad, with cherry cheesecake for dessert. It sure was great to have nine people at the table and listen to all the talking and laughing! I was feeling much better by the time we sat down for lunch.

Later, Spencer opened his gifts and then we had dessert before he and Jade had to leave to go to a concert in another town.

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Then, just as I finally had time to work on my class preparations, the power went out. After flickering several times, it stayed off. It was a very warm few hours here. Daniel and Lina and Jasper played a board game. The rest of us sat in the living room wishing for some cool air. At least I was able to cook supper on our (gas) stove. We ate in the living room since our dining room has no windows and was very dark.

The power came on midway through the evening and I was so relieved as I still had a LOT of things to print and get ready for my class.

This morning I jumped right into my final preparations. Jasper helped me set up the dining room. Today’s class, my high school English class, is officially the biggest class I’ve ever had! Thirteen is the maximum number of bodies I can pack into my dining room in addition to my own. The students started arriving right on time. I have six girls (including two sibling pairs) and seven boys. I think it’s going to be a great class! Many of these kids are in my class for the first time, and several are younger siblings of former students. It was an intense couple of hours but I enjoyed getting started.

This afternoon I had an errand to run and then I went to the gym early as Lucy needed me to take her somewhere later. Soon the campus will be teeming with students again, but right now it is mostly just the sports teams that are there.

I have spent most of the afternoon and evening getting ready for tomorrow’s class of younger students. Trying not to feel too intimidated . . .

Parting Shot:

My high school class. I have an unusual number of tall students this year!

Unto the Hills

This afternoon when Spencer was here, one of the things he did was to retrieve his melodica to take back to his apartment. Just looking at a melodica takes me back to my childhood, when we had a melodica choir at school. One of the things we played was this hymn. I played the alto line.

Unto the Hills Around Do I Lift Up

John D. Campbell

Unto the hills around do I lift up my longing eyes
O whence for me shall my salvation come, from whence arise?
From God, the Lord, doth come my certain aid,
From God, the Lord, Who heaven and earth hath made.

He will not suffer that thy foot be moved: safe shalt thou be.
No careless slumber shall His eyelids close, Who keepeth thee.
Behold, He sleepeth not, He slumbereth ne’er,
Who keepeth Israel in His holy care.

Jehovah is Himself thy Keeper true, thy changeless Shade;
Jehovah thy Defense on thy right hand Himself hath made.
And thee no sun by day shall ever smite;
No moon shall harm thee in the silent night.

From every evil shall He keep thy soul, from every sin;
Jehovah shall preserve thy going out, thy coming in.
Above thee watching, He Whom we adore
Shall keep thee henceforth, yea, forevermore.

New Togs

You might want to skip today’s entry if you’re not interested in clothes or sewing. Today my friend Robin took me to a nearby town for a belated birthday lunch, followed by a trip to the shopping center containing my three most dangerous stores: Jo-Ann’s, Half Price Books, and World Market. I got a start on my Christmas shopping! It was a wonderful break from all the work I’ve been doing.

I wore my new denim dress for the occasion, wanting to see how I’d feel about it after wearing it for several hours. I am now in love with this dress. I have been designing it in my head since May, when a little girl’s tunic gave me an idea I thought I could incorporate into a dress.

Maybe I should first explain that my first two priorities for clothing are comfort and modesty. I do not care about fashion at all. If something I like is in fashion, I’ll wear it, but in reality I wear what I like whether it’s in fashion or not. I simply do not have any interest in being fashionable.

So, as I thought about my trip, I thought I would really like to have a plain, serviceable denim dress to wear—what used to be referred to as an “everyday” dress. I searched and searched online and did not find anything even remotely similar to what I had in mind. I bought the denim and continued working on the design in my head.

I have learned a lot about what is and isn’t flattering on me during my weight-loss process, so although I don’t care about fashion, I am interested in wearing clothes that are at least not unflattering! Given my size and my shape and my stage of senectitude, I have finally figured out what works for me.

As I’ve already mentioned, I worked this week to draft the pattern, using a ready-made pattern as my starting point but altering it almost beyond recognition—14 pattern pieces! In my head I knew what I wanted the dress to look like—but knowing what I want and having it work out are two different things. So you can imagine my delight last night when I finished the dress and tried it on, and it was pretty much exactly what I had wanted. Comfortable, modest, and very wearable. One of the things I incorporated was deep pleats on the sides to give me room to walk. The original pattern was very narrow and I have no interest in mincing about like a Japanese geisha in a kimono! The pleats enable me to stride unhampered, as nature intended.

No doubt some of you have already scrolled down to see the photo, and are asking yourselves, “That’s it? It’s nothing special!”  And it’s not—what’s special about it is that this plain dress is exactly what I wanted, and I succeeded in designing and making it look like the picture in my head. I will definitely make this pattern again!

Ye Have Not Because Ye Ask Not

It’s late and I’m tired. Today was all about sewing. One of the reasons I have been putting off my many sewing projects is because the fluorescent light over my serger table has been making a ghastly buzzing sound for over a year now. I really need the light, but the buzzing gives me a headache and makes me think gloomy thoughts. So I only turn it on when I’m actually using the serger.

Today I woke up with a headache, and after suffering through the baleful buzzing for hours, I felt worse. My husband came home from work and stopped by my sewing room to see me, and I asked him if we needed a new bulb for the light since it was literally making me crazy.

He methodically tested everything and his verdict was that the lightbulb was fine but that we needed new “ballast.” “Ballast” is a very mystical thing to me. What does it do? Why is it so necessary? Why is it so expensive? Granted, it’s not as expensive as moving me to the loony bin, so my heroic husband went out to get the ballast and then came home and installed it. Why did I never ask for his help sooner? I could have saved myself so much misery!

Guess what happened the next time I went into the sewing room and turned on that light? Nothing. Just beautiful bright light and total silence! Between that and a little caffeine, my headache faded away.

I worked all day on my new dress because I want to wear it on an outing tomorrow—to give it a test drive, you might say. I made it primarily for my trip. And I’ll talk more about it tomorrow after I’ve tested it in real-life conditions.

Rainy Relief

Watering our yard yesterday worked like a charm! It rained this morning, and again for a few minutes this afternoon! The temperature didn’t hit 100 degrees either, so it was a double win.

I have put aside my academic work briefly to work on the sewing I really feel I have to do. This morning I worked on drafting the final pattern for the dress I’m making. I hate drafting patterns so much, but I can’t figure out any way around it if I know what I want and no one else has had the same idea!

I did take a break this afternoon to go hang out with my friend Donna:

Donna is in town to visit her dad, and I try to see her when she’s here since she lives in Virginia and I don’t see her often. So we met up at Panera and spent some time visiting before we both had to get back to our responsibilities. It is always so good to see her.

Jasper had a rough day today and woke up sick, but he felt it was more of an upset stomach than more colon trouble. He slept away the morning and then took some activated charcoal and felt much better. By this evening he was up to going to youth group.

After supper I had finished my drafting and was able to do the cutting out. I cut out the dress, a skirt, and reshaped the hem of a dress I bought because I didn’t like it the way it was. Tomorrow, I hope to get most of the actual sewing done. And a lot more school work too.

Good News

So let’s start with good news, shall we? Jasper has been virtually pain free for the last three days! He still tires easily and has been working six-hour days, but he really seems to be finally doing better and that is such a relief for everyone concerned.

Lucy is back working at the university library in these last couple of weeks before schools starts. She is still battling some jet lag but should soon be back to normal.

I of course am still frantically trying to get a month’s work of work done in one week. I lost the morning today because I had to run several errands, but then I finally got some sewing done. I worked on my practice dress and made an unfixable mistake on it, but not before finding out what I needed to know before starting the “real” dress. I’m just mad that I can’t wear the practice dress because before the mistake it was shaping up pretty nicely.

Today we had to run our sprinklers for the first time of the entire summer. Normally we have to water often throughout July and August if we want to keep anything alive. Also the last few days we have hit triple digits for the first time this year. So I hate to complain because overall it’s been a cooler and wetter summer than we are used to.

Blindsided

Grief is a strange and slippery phenomenon. By now we’ve all learned about the stages of grief, and we take note of them as we work our way through them. “I’m at the anger stage,” we remind ourselves. “I’m depressed.” “I’ve reached acceptance.”

And then we think (or maybe it’s just me) that once we’ve reached the “acceptance” stage, we’re more or less done. The ocean of grief that threatened to overwhelm us has been tamed. A membrane has formed over the surface, and before long, we find we can step all over that part of our internal scenery without even being consciously aware of the deep sea of sadness lurking below.

One day—it might be years or decades later—you have a dream, or you see a face that reminds you of that face; or you hear a laugh; or you smell a scent that brings back a memory; and suddenly, with no warning at all, that shard of memory falls like a dagger into your interior landscape and pierces the placid surface of your equilibrium. Now once again your soul is awash with sadness and you have no defense against it.

This happened to me this past weekend. I nobly offered to go to my brothers’ high school class reunion in Dallas, because it was close for me and because they couldn’t go, and I thought I’d go and take some photos for them and it would be great. And in a lot of ways, it was great. Most of the people in that room were people I hadn’t seen in almost 43 years. Everyone was so kind and friendly and made a real effort to include me even though I was from the class that graduated two years before theirs.

What I had forgotten, what I hadn’t even considered at all before driving over there, was that my brothers’ class was also my friend Jill’s class—my dear friend Jill who died the summer I graduated from high school, in August 42 years ago. And since I hadn’t thought about that, it never occurred to me that Jill’s roommate might be there—but she was.

I was already anxious when I walked into the room, but when I saw that M was there, it was like being sucker-punched in the gut. I had not known M well in school. I had known her solely as Jill’s roommate, to be honest. So when I saw her, all I could think of was Jill and how much I still miss her. The longer M and I talked, the more I wished I could tell Jill all about it, about seeing her old roommate and getting caught up on her life. I just wanted so badly to see and talk to Jill, even after all these years.

The situation was further complicated by the fact that M is herself grieving the loss of her brother, who died in a plane crash a few months ago. So I worked very hard to hide my own grief even as the waves continued to crash onto my internal shore.

This wound was so unforeseen, so unexpected, that it seemed like a fresh loss. I had planned to listen to an audiobook on the way home, but I couldn’t. I was, as my daughter likes to say, too “emotionally compromised.” It may take some time for that membrane to reform, but meanwhile, I’m learning to let the waves of grief wash over me instead of trying to resist them. Sooner or later, this too will recede and I’ll be left with the dull ache that is “normal” for anyone who has suffered loss. And the thing I always hang on to is this: I was so fortunate to have known her, to have been her close friend, to have walked all those miles at her side, to have succeeded in making her laugh out loud so many times. The grief is the price I pay for that. It’s worth it.

Weekend Adventures

I laugh now when I remember that I once thought I’d have all kinds of “free” time to work on my hobbies by the time I reached this age. Instead of slowing down, life seems to be speeding up!

On Saturday morning I drove into Dallas again, this time to attend a class reunion. It wasn’t my class that was reuniting—it was my brothers’ class which graduated two years later (my twin brothers). Both of my brothers had hoped to make the reunion, but circumstances made it impossible for either to attend, so I had volunteered to go and represent them.

I arrived at the hotel in the early afternoon and joined a congenial group, most of whom I hadn’t seen since they were fresh-faced tenth graders. They were all so kind and welcoming, and I enjoyed talking to them throughout the afternoon. I also got some knitting done, which is always a good thing. And I remembered to take photos for my brothers!

At suppertime, we all assembled at a nearby Indian restaurant. I would have liked to stay for the rest of the evening, but I had a long drive home ahead of me, so I said goodbye to everyone and left directly from the restaurant. It was a rough drive as I was dealing with some tough emotional fallout from the day’s events, which I have written about in a separate post.

Yesterday (Sunday) we had another joint service with the church that shared our building for several months earlier this year. This other church is a black church. It grieves me to say that, because I don’t think churches should have colors. I don’t understand the practice of sorting people according to race. It has never made sense to me. I mention it in this context only because their church culture is even livelier than the one practiced by our current church. The service was very loud and almost rowdy—but the sermon was good and the room overflowed with good spirits and goodwill. (To be honest, it was kind of a rough atmosphere for an introvert.) After the main service, there was a baptismal service with I think close to twenty people being baptized! Our two churches plan to continue working together in the future. I think it will benefit both congregations.

Spencer and Jade came over for supper, as they normally do. Spencer showed up with a black eye which he acquired during a rugby tournament on Saturday. I’m glad he still gets to play some occasional rugby.

Today I got up and went right to work on my very very long to-do list. I have this one week to do a TON of planning for my classes (that start next week) and my trip that will be happening next month. If only I didn’t need sleep . . .

My Faith Has Found a Resting Place

My Faith Has Found a Resting Place

Eliza E. Hewitt

My faith has found a resting place,
Not in device or creed;
I trust the ever living One,
His wounds for me shall plead.

Refrain

I need no other argument,
I need no other plea,
It is enough that Jesus died,
And that He died for me.

Enough for me that Jesus saves,
This ends my fear and doubt;
A sinful soul I come to Him,
He’ll never cast me out.

Refrain

My heart is leaning on the Word,
The living Word of God,
Salvation by my Savior’s name,
Salvation through His blood.

Refrain

My great physician heals the sick,
The lost He came to save;
For me His precious blood He shed,
For me His life He gave.

Refrain

An Excursion, A Return, and An Announcement

You may have noticed I didn’t post last night—because I was in Dallas going to bed early and being responsible.

I drove to Dallas yesterday morning so I could get there in time to have lunch with Mercy before she went to work. We met at an Ethiopian restaurant I hadn’t been to before, because it was closer to Mercy and Daniel’s place than where I usually go. The restaurant was deserted but they had their lunch buffet set up and we had plenty of choices. It was the perfect place to have a quiet visit over good food. The whole time we were there, only two other customers came in.

We said our goodbyes when Mercy had to leave for work, and I headed down to my friend Joanna’s house to spend the rest of the afternoon visiting with her and her mom and her husband. I hung out with them until I was pretty sure rush hour traffic had died down, then drove up to Mercy and Daniel’s apartment.

To my embarrassment, I miscalculated and knocked on the door of the wrong apartment! So Daniel had to stand out front where I could see him. Mercy was already at work, but I visited with Daniel for a few minutes and then went to bed absurdly early—before 9:30!

After a strange and rather fitful night, I sprang out of bed at 5:00 this morning when my alarm went off. Lucy’s plane was due to arrive at 5:10, but I figured I’d be doing well to reach the airport by 6:00.  I got my stuff out to the car, chugged down an energy shot, and then felt nauseated for the rest of the morning.

Meanwhile, I got on the road and was stunned to find it already crowded with traffic. Before 5:30 in the morning! I learned something about myself, too. I find other motorists so much more annoying at that hour of the morning. Well, let’s be honest. I am not a morning person. Just about everything irritates me at that hour of the morning. I watched motorcyclists zipping in and out of traffic and wearing zero protective gear, and felt quite certain that if I were to attempt that feat at any time of day I would die quickly and horribly.

Lucy let me know what gate she was at, but I didn’t get there as soon as I’d hoped because I had to be rerouted due to construction. Dallas roads are always, always under construction.

Since Lucy was already on the curb waiting, it was very quick to load her stuff and be on our way back home. We stopped to get her some breakfast and she dozed off several times after telling me she hadn’t slept since Tuesday night. She spent much of the day resting.

By the time we arrived home, it felt like the day was half over but it was still before 9:00. So I took a quick shower and then went to do my regular grocery shopping. Jasper had had to stay home from work again due to pain so he was here to help me put food away when I returned.

This afternoon my friend Robin came over for tea and a visit. It was good to get caught up on each other’s lives.

This evening I had a writers’ group meeting—but I didn’t go. All this socializing is wonderful, but as I’ll be socializing again tomorrow, I felt I needed a bit of a breather. So I went to the gym and walked and then came home and knitted while watching another documentary with my husband. Tomorrow I’m driving all the way back to Dallas.

And finally, FINALLY I can share the news that I am going to be a granny come February! We have known for some time but weren’t allowed to say anything until today. Flynn and Tiffany are the proud parents.