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.

When You Find What You’re Not Looking For

Yesterday (Palm Sunday) I ended up staying home from church because I had an unusually miserable night and was nauseated from lack of sleep. Strange as it may sound, my sleep problems have worsened significantly since I gave up caffeine.

Most of the afternoon was spent working on a special dinner to celebrate Daniel’s birthday (Mercy’s fiancé). Most of the dinners I make for Sundays are good, but not terribly time consuming. Yesterday’s dinner was much more labor intensive. I made a big broccoli salad, “real” mashed potatoes, parmesan-topped zucchini slices, croissants (admittedly from a tube), Korean-marinated grilled pork ribs, and carrot cake.

It was the first time we’d fired up the grill this spring, and the meat turned out beautifully. All three college students attacked the meal with enthusiasm. So did I, as I had planned all along on eating this one meal (minus the potatoes, croissants, and cake!). It sure was nice to be able to sit and eat with everyone.

This morning I followed Walter up to a mechanic shop where he had dropped off the van to be worked on. We hate to spend money on it, but at the same time he needs the van for work and if we didn’t get the work done, it wouldn’t pass inspection. Late this afternoon I drove back so Walter could pick up the van and then drive it straight to his evening job.

I also went on a fruitless trip to Walmart to look for flipflops for Jasper. They don’t carry size 15 there, so I had to come home and order online.

Meanwhile, I’m still shaking my head over something that happened this morning. I needed to pour some oil out of the frying pan. I keep my frying oil in the cast iron dutch oven that I use for deep-frying, so I pointed it out to Jasper and he put it up on the stove for me. However, when I removed the lid, I did not find any oil inside. What I found was a brand-new alcohol stove still in the box:

alcohol stove

I am more than a little mystified. I have no recollection of buying that stove, let alone why I would have put it inside the dutch oven. I love alcohol stoves, so it’s not exactly surprising that I bought one—it’s just that normally I remember things like that! I looked to see if I had bought it from Amazon, and I had—in 2014. No wonder I don’t remember. Now I can’t wait to go to the lake so I can make tea on this little stove.

Oh, and the oil? I actually have two identical cast iron dutch ovens. The oil was in the other one.

The Shivering Chauffeur

Today was rough. I was more or less non-functional, apart from coaching Jasper through his research paper. It was my first totally caffeine-free day, and even though I had been carefully reducing my caffeine intake for the last week, I still had a severe headache all day.

Even more troublesome than the headache was the cold. I woke up chilled and stayed that way all day. I could not get warm. I wore my sweatpants and a long-sleeved shirt and a sweatshirt, and I was still freezing. My hands and feet were like ice blocks. For much of the day, I wrapped my hand around my little handwarmer whenever I wasn’t typing. When possible, I would go to my room and climb under the covers to warm up while reading.  This is unusual for me—and no, it was not particularly cold outside. It was just me.

Then despite my weakened condition, I had to do a bunch of kid carting. I drove Jasper to youth group, then had a few minutes to warm up at home before driving to pick up Lucy and then take her to rugby practice. Again, a few minutes of huddling under a blanket and trying not to think about how hungry I was, and then it was time to drive back to the church to get Jasper.

We spent the evening finishing up his paper, and then I still had to prepare for tomorrow’s class. It’s going to be another chilly night and I just hope I can stay warm.

The Decaffeinated Day

Well, I survived the first day of the conference, despite the fact that they didn’t provide any caffeine. That is unusual. Most conferences I’ve been to have had a beverage table with water, coffee and tea.

So anyway, I got very sleepy on a couple of occasions, but I made it through all my classes and did okay during my pitch session. My manuscript was requested so we’ll see if anything comes of that. One of the teachers whose class I attended today had over 400 rejections before getting her first acceptance!

Drive to and from the conference was extremely stressful and I am dreading it tomorrow. I don’t know how people who live here do it every day!

After the conference ends tomorrow, I will be driving HOME. I am ready.

Home Again At Last!

The last three days have been long and filled with driving. Even a few years ago, I would not have believed myself capable of taking such a long trip by myself. Here is a summary. In the last nine days I have:

  • Driven a total of 3039 miles
  • Given away five of my handmade dishcloths
  • Visited a cousin’s family twice (and spent the night at their house)
  • Visited Lina’s friend Jennifer twice, also spending the night
  • Been reunited with a dear friend whom I hadn’t seen in 35 years
  • Driven through 7 states: Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania
  • Gotten lost in the streets around Villanova University twice
  • Attended my third Realm Makers writers’ conference
  • Failed miserably at spreading joy by offering tea to my fellow attendees
  • Had appointments with three entities, all of whom requested material from me
  • Had three awesome roommates
  • Ingested quite a bit more caffeine than I am used to
  • Gotten into heated and bitter arguments with my phone GPS
  • Arrived safely home


Regarding the question that some have asked: “Was it worth it?” I am still cogitating on that one. My feelings about this experience are complex and puzzling at the moment.

What a Day I Had!

You know what bugs me about this fancy hotel? There is no comfy chair to sit in. There are two lovely queen sized beds, so presumably the room was designed to accommodate two people. Yet there is only one chair–a desk chair. No comfy chair in which to sit and knit and contemplate the meaning of life. I feel like they could have afforded to put a chair in here. I would really love to put my feet up and be comfortable while writing about today.

So anyway . . . after the second almost-sleepless night in a row, I started the day off at a distinct disadvantage. I had a very strong cup of tea with my protein bar breakfast, but it didn’t seem to make much of a dent in my exhaustion. The convention center is literally right across a narrow street from the hotel entrance, so I got there about 7:40, which was good because the check-in line wasn’t all that long yet. I don’t remember it taking so long last time!

I had to walk out in the middle of the first keynote address because my first appointment was at 9:00. Yes, I was nervous! When we were let into the room, I looked for the table labeled with my agent’s name, and I eventually found it, but I was very puzzled because there was a man sitting there with a computer, and the agent is a woman! Turns out she was unable to come at the last minute, so she was conducting her interviews over Skype. It was unexpected, but it actually went really well. I pitched one book and she asked for a full manuscript, so I told her about another book I’m working on and I felt like we hit it off pretty well.

I was much less hopeful about my second appointment at 10:00. That agent had been much farther down my list and I wasn’t sure she even represented the kind of stuff I like. But you know what? She loved my story idea and asked for a query letter, synopsis, and first five pages. So surprising!

One thing that both agents mentioned was how efficient and succinct I was in telling them what my book is about. Ha! I’ve had plenty of practice . . .

After the second interview I went back into a class and tried to pay attention, but I could. Not. Stay. Awake. I took one of those little “5 hour energy” shots and it perked me up until about halfway through the next class. I was so embarrassed about my drowsiness that I finally left the class and sank down in a chair in the lobby and dozed off until lunchtime. I felt guilty about it, but I was out of strategies for staying awake.

Lunch was a pleasant surprise. Instead of the boxed sandwich lunches that we had last year, we got two kinds of salad, roasted veggies, roasted chicken, meatloaf, rolls and desserts. I was so tickled. I could eat both of the salads and the chicken so I didn’t have to eat more protein bars! I sat with two interesting ladies and we had a great conversation that mostly centered on New Orleans, the Civil War, and World War II.

During the lunch hour, we had another keynote address followed by the infamous Gong Show. It is both entertaining and instructive.

The first class after lunch was really excellent, but by the end of it I was fading again so I gulped down my second energy shot. It did not help. I fell asleep in the next class and then sneaked out in shame. My falling asleep had nothing to do with the quality of the class. It had everything to do with the quality of my sleep for the last two nights!

This left me in a quandary over the last session. I had signed up to participate in an interactive session titled “So Close and Yet So Far.” In it, I would have a chance to present my work to a panel of agents, editors and writers and ask for their help in determining why I haven’t made a sale yet. Yikes! I was afraid of two things. First, that I’d end up sounding like a complete idiot, and second, that I’d fall asleep in front of everybody. I wanted so badly to just sneak out and go back to the hotel, but I did sign up for it and I felt obligated to follow through.

I hung back and let everyone else go first. They were all a lot younger than me. One was an adorable young lady who has written a picture book about axolotls! I was interested in that since Flynn has a pet axolotl. Then it was my turn and there was nowhere to hide so I had to stand up and talk about my book. Not the one I pitched this morning–a different one, that I’ve been reworking the beginning of. One of the people observing the class was Isabella, a lady I met at the seminar last month. Bless her heart, she all but cheered me on audibly all the way through!

The panel members were very encouraging. They said to resubmit it ASAP to the editor who rejected it, but asked me to resubmit it if I fixed the issues she had pointed out. The axolotl girl popped up and offered to read the first 50 pages tonight and give me some feedback! I was so tickled! Then, as the class ended and I was getting the girl’s email, one of the agents walked up to me, handed me his card, and said, “I want to read your book.” Just like that. I want to read your book.

I almost burst into tears. It was so unexpected. I had not even considered pitching to that agent because I didn’t think he was interested in the kind of stuff I write.

This morning when I walked across the street, I was really hoping that I’d get a request from that first agent—and I did. I honestly did not dream that I’d get two more agent requests today, and that one of them would be completely unsolicited.

So, when I finally got back to my hotel room, do you think I was able to rest? Nope. I was too jazzed about that final request and I finally sat down and ponied up for the hotel wi-fi so I could sent the 50 pages to Lauren, the girl who offered to read them. I ate the chicken salad I’d brought from home and drank another strong cup of tea. Then I changed into my “nice” dress and walked back across the street for the cocktail party/reception. This was something I skipped last year but I felt I should make the effort to be there this year. (They do sell water and soft drinks too.)

I ended up talking for a long time and sitting with Stephanie, the other acquaintance I made at the seminar I attended last month. I was so proud of myself for actually socializing. Then when I was waiting in line to get a drink, I was next to a social worker who writes sci-fi and motivational books! He was fascinating to talk to and I enjoyed hearing a little about his life. Once we were all in the ballroom, they had two of the attendees get up and read some of their poems. Wow. Powerful stuff. Not the kind of poetry I write or gravitate toward, but as I said, very powerful and well done.

So there you have it. In my mind, today was a win. Successful interviews and some actual human interaction. Tomorrow I can just relax and enjoy the classes. No pressure. Nothing to dread except the long drive home.




So Drowsy

Sorry about the lack of a hymn yesterday. I lost my internet connection and was too tired to stay up any later than I already had.

Yesterday was the first Sunday in a long time that I didn’t have to take my autoharp to church. Gwen played the piano to accompany the singing, and that was a treat for everyone, but especially for me!

Afterwards we had a potluck dinner. So. Much. Food. I didn’t dare eat even a smidgeon of dessert, even if I had room (which I didn’t) because the new meds have not been doing a good job of keeping my blood sugar in check.

Today I was up early working on class stuff and doing the reading. I had to make an emergency run for milk, only to find when I got home that dog food was also an urgent need.

I did manage to get in some autoharp practice before setting off for my lesson at lunchtime. There was just one problem. By the time I reached the north side of town, I realized I was dangerously sleepy. If I had been driving the Suburban, I would have simply reached into the console for one of the caffeine tablets I have stashed there. Instead, I was driving our “new” car, formerly belonging to my mother-in-law. There was no caffeine.

I tried every trick I knew to stay awake, but by the time I reached the first small town on my route, I knew I was endangering my life by staying on the road. I pulled into the parking lot of a Dollar General and dragged myself inside, where I bought two energy shots. I drank one and set the second aside for future emergencies. I took several deep breaths, closed my eyes for about 30 seconds, and said a prayer before heading back out.

Over the next few minutes, my ability to focus came back and I was able to function. I’m not sure why I was so overcome, but I’m glad I had the sense to take action before something tragic happened. I was a few minutes late to my lesson but that is nothing compared to what could have happened.

I had a good lesson, and was given a specific skill to work on, so that was good. I adore my teacher, Ann, and today she looked so pretty I just had to take her picture:

2-22-16 Ann

She is such a blessing in my life and I am so thankful for her.

By the time I was most of the way home, my drowsiness had returned and I was glad I had to stop for dog food, as it perked me up just enough to get me home! I had to take a nap before I could even think of tackling supper or the huge pile of work I had waiting for me.

I was so happy to hear my mother is out of the hospital now, after being there since Friday night. She is facing some new health challenges and I would greatly appreciate your prayers for her.

Parting Shot:

2-22-16 by Ann's driveway

This is one of the tiny creeks running by Ann’s driveway. The moss is so vivid and pretty.


Last week, in the days before my weekend foray to Dallas, I was frantically trying to finish a knitting project–a knitting project that I started three years ago and which has added much stress and removed much joy from my life.

Three years ago, when we were in Atlanta after attending a family wedding, Flynn took me to Jo-Ann Fabric so I could spend a gift card. I’m kind of hazy on what exactly happened, but somehow I ended up walking out with four massive skeins of tonal red bouclé yarn and a promise to make Flynn an afghan with them–for his birthday in April of 2012.

If you’re not a fiber fiend like me, you are probably wondering what bouclé yarn is. It is a fuzzy invention from the pit of hell, sent into the world to goad mild-mannered middle-aged ladies into using or at least thinking of using unladylike language. It’s even less fun when you have to knit two strands together and try to keep the color changes more or less in sync.

2-16-15 Flynn's afghan 2

So, I would knit a few rows and then let the thing languish for months. After a while, it began eating at my soul. There it was, unfinished, mocking me from its basket month after month. I knew the time had come to just grit my teeth and get the job done, so I’ve been working pretty steadily on it the last few weeks. Since I knew I’d be seeing Flynn this past weekend anyway, that gave me a good deadline to work towards.

2-16-15 Flynn's afghan 1

Flynn seemed happy to get it at last. I’m pretty sure I’m even happier to be rid of it! Now at last I get to knit something fun without feeling guilty about it!

Yesterday I had to play in church after having almost no practice but it didn’t go as badly as I expected. I was expecting a pretty full table for supper and I made plenty of food, but it ended up being just Spencer, Jasper and me. I can’t even remember the last time we only had three people at the table for Sunday dinner!

Today I got up early to start preparing for my classes. The work I normally do on Saturday had to be done this morning. Caffeine was required. My first class was down by two students but all of my essay students showed up for class on President’s day!

Afterwards I got to talk on the phone to both Walter and my mom, and now I’ve got to get in some practice before my lesson tomorrow.

Caffeine Saves My Day

This morning it was a bigger struggle than usual to get up. I have begun having occasional nights when I don’t sleep well at all and this is very unusual for me. Normally I fall asleep almost instantly and stay that way till I have to get up.

I had promised to take Lucy out to get coffee, and I had to stop at the dollar store anyway, so off we went in the middle of the morning. Despite having had a tall mug of very strong tea, I was struggling to stay awake enough to drive.

Taking a nap when I got home was out of the question, so I had to resort to more caffeine. I did more school with Jasper and then did some autoharp stuff to cram for my lesson before leaving at lunchtime.

It was such a beautiful and pleasant drive up there–I savored every moment of it. I had promised my teacher I’d bring the used autoharp I recently bought to start teaching the kids with. She agreed with me that it has a lovely sound, and she volunteered to help me rearrange it so the chords are set up the same as mine (which makes everything so much easier). Once again I got to cut some new felts and we ended up with a second autoharp that is just like mine. The fun can commence!

The lesson itself was rather short. She helped me with a couple of hymns where I had a hard time finding the exact right chord in a couple of places. I proudly played my “C” scale for her. Now that I’ve got it just about memorized, I will tackle another scale for next time.

These lessons are such an encouragement to me. I know I mess up a lot, but it is so helpful to know that I am still making headway and improving bit by bit. The demands of having to learn new songs every single week are a great way to stretch myself and learn new things. If I fall victim to dementia (heaven forbid), it won’t be because I let my brain lie around on the sofa and watch TV!

This evening I supervised Jasper in making the first of the two cakes he’ll be entering in the harvest festival tomorrow. I’m so thankful we didn’t knock ourselves out to enter a ton of stuff like we did last year. Two cakes is plenty!

Now, all we’re waiting for is for the travelers to arrive. Flynn, Mercy and Spencer left Mary’s house at lunchtime and should be arriving very shortly. The eerie silence of the last few days will be over!

Considerably Rumpled in Spirit

Lucy Maud Montgomery

Well, I assure you I have not been neglecting you. I just haven’t been able to get online on my computer since arriving in Nashville.

Yesterday was quite a triumph for me. I have never in my entire life driven 589 miles in one day, all by myself. When we go on trips as a family, Walter does the driving and I do the sleeping. I have had 32 years to get good at this and in fact I am a very good sleeper on the road. However, as you know, sleeping and driving are mutually exclusive, so yesterday when I got up at 5:45 after a rotten night’s sleep, I hardly felt like spending the day behind the wheel.

By the time we set off at about 7:15, I had some misgivings about my ability to stay alert. I warned the kids that we might be making frequent stops for me to sleep. I had a thermos of tea which I planned to drink with my breakfast, but when we actually stopped for breakfast an hour and a half down the road I knew that I needed something stronger than tea. Yes, my friends, I resorted to coffee.

We set off again and my eyelids were still drooping. Then, after a few minutes, they undrooped. I started talking. A lot. “I think the coffee’s working,” I told Lucy, and she just cracked up. In a situation like that, caffeine seems like a miracle. The rest of the day was an endless procession of CD’s to listen to and sing along with, various forms of caffeine, and stops for meals and restroom use. I was really flagging at the end, but I was spurred on by the prospect of seeing Mary and Jordan, and we made it safely to their cozy apartment in the early evening.

The night was a little difficult due to various reasons, but I think we all got adequate sleep and this morning after Jordan left for school we had a couple of hours to visit and eat breakfast. After lunch Mary took us on an excursion to Centennial Park so that the kids could see the replica of the Parthenon. I sat on a nearby bench and happily worked on my knitting until I had an unhappy realization. The project, which I had actually hoped to finish today, required a different size needle for the last few inches–a needle which I had neglected to bring from Texas. *sigh* And my “backup” knitting was in my car back at Mary’s place. I posted a Facebook status about my predicament, and Mary and the kids immediately came in search of me.

We headed to a local Starbucks to wait for Jordan to get out of class, and as we walked in both Mary and Lucy were given invitations to a rave! Jordan eventually appeared and we went back to their apartment, where I transferred over to Val and headed off for my aunt’s house.  This is when the spirit rumpling occurred. I have a GPS but it is sometimes hard to follow, especially while also trying to drive in rush hour traffic, and I took two wrong exits and had to make a couple of very stressful U-turns before I finally made it to my aunt and uncle’s house.

My mom and two aunts were waiting for me and full of sympathy for my driving woes. We had a nice visit and a delicious supper and then my cousin called (the one whose father’s life we will be celebrating tomorrow) and he was having a very bad day and he wanted to know if we could choose the hymns for the service tomorrow. So we put our heads together and came up with five hymns which all happen to be hymns that I really love and I am greatly looking forward to singing them with my family.

Eventually I had to say goodbye so that I could come check into the timeshare which my parents arranged for me to have for the next three nights. Once again, my spirits were rumpled as I negotiated traffic in the dark, went to the wrong building to check in, found the right building, checked in, and found out that my timeshare is on the third floor of a building with no elevators. There was a lot of huffing and puffing, let me tell you!

Mary and Jordan and Lucy all brought Jasper over and they helped bring up more stuff. Tonight Jasper is with me and Lucy is staying at Mary’s. Tomorrow they will switch. I certainly hope I get a better night’s sleep tonight!