False Alarm

Today was a day when I wished I was in another state—the state of Colorado, to be specific, so I could have gone to my daughter-in-law Tiffany’s baby shower. All that sewing I did last weekend was for the baby shower—6 sheets, 8 burp cloths, and a blanket. I sent them to Tiffany’s mother so she could take them to the shower. Everything was either space themed or dinosaur themed.

But since I was here in Texas, with way too much work to do, I did work—mostly for school, as my full teaching schedule starts up again on Monday and I am still trying to finish my grading from last semester.

At the same time, I had received an alarming email saying that my “local” World Market store would be closing. In my case, the closest store is an hour’s drive away—but I felt I had to make time to go and stock up on a few imported goodies for my Geography class.

I zoomed over to the store in very heavy traffic, and found the place doing a booming business with no sign of closing or going out of business. Today happened to be the day they were giving away free cookbooks, and a very patient young man helped me sign up as he was so determined to give me a cookbook. I asked him if the store was closing and he said no. I stocked up anyway. I mean, I don’t get over there all that often.

When I went to check out, the cashier looked in bemusement at the items I was getting. “That’s a very eclectic assortment,” he said. Yep. That’s me. Eclectic. I told him I taught a Geography class and had to get things from different parts of the world.

Meanwhile, Jasper took down the outside Christmas decorations and my husband heroically tackled the taking down of the Christmas tree. It is a huge job, and it took him much of the day. By the time I returned from my shopping trip, the tree was back up in the attic and my chair was back in its rightful corner. And Lucy and Tanner had returned from their day at the university.

We had our family dinner tonight because Walter and I have life group tomorrow, so Spencer and Jade came over to eat and visit with us. Jasper was at his gaming night but there’s not much we could do about that!

There are still a few decorations to come down, including my teacup tree, but I got all the ornaments off it this evening so the rest can wait until tomorrow.

Meanwhile, there is a stack of papers waiting to be graded . . .

In Which a Miracle Occurs

Huh. I guess I missed posting on Twelfth Night. I fell asleep at my computer trying to prepare for today and I guess I figured maybe I should go to bed instead of struggling to be alert enough to write something coherent. And our Twelfth Night festivities have been postponed due to Lucy’s being out of town (with Tanner visiting his grandparents).

Yesterday ended up being another very intense sewing day because I was trying to meet a deadline and I also had to make it to the post office to mail a couple of things before it closed. (I succeeded.)

I also stopped by the clinic and finally made an appointment for Jasper. His severely infected toe is not getting any better, despite his protestations, and I really do not want a repeat of what we went through with Flynn when he was a teenager. After a couple of years of treatments, including surgery and intravenous antibiotics, and thousands of dollars, he still ended up getting both of his big toenails permanently removed. The bad news is that Jasper’s appointment isn’t until the 27th, so he will have to suffer a little longer. If the subject of permanent removal comes up, we will jump on it.

For the rest of yesterday, I was knitting and also preparing for today’s tutoring session. My English classes don’t officially start until next week, but I have some new students starting with my younger class, so I had them come today so I could do my best to prepare them for jumping in midstream, as it were. I think it went pretty well.

After lunch I set off with dread in my heart. I could no longer put off a task I’ve been avoiding since July, which is when I bought plane tickets to Spokane for next weekend. Unfortunately, Walter won’t be able to accompany me after all, but I still plan to attend a reunion up there in the frozen north. My problem? Footwear.

I have no footwear suitable for wearing in snow, or even very cold weather. In fact, I have exactly four options: my three-year-old men’s flip flops, which are my everyday wear; men’s leather sandals; men’s clogs; and a pair of neoprene slippers which I pretend are shoes and which I wear when I am trying to dress “up.” None of these things will work in real winter conditions.

I have known for months that I would have to find boots of some kind by this month. But when shoe-shopping is fraught with frustration, disappointment, and humiliation every time for decades, it’s hard to make yourself do it. It’s not just that my feet are large due to my height, and wide due to growing up barefoot. I suffered a very serious injury to my left foot and ankle as a teenager, which was not properly treated, and the resulting arthritis has made it almost impossible to wear anything but sandals, flip flops, and clogs, no matter how high the price tag might be.

I trudged into the sporting goods store with very low expectations. I knew better than to even look in the women’s section. I glanced at the knee-high wellingtons and hoped that wasn’t my only option. As I expected, most of the boots on offer fell into the categories of very expensive work boots or even more expensive cowboy boots. After looking at all my options, I decided to try on a pair of “tactical” boots. Apparently these are designed for law enforcement.

This is when the miracle occurred. First, I was actually able to get my feet into them, and do the laces up over my misshapen arthritic ankle. Secondly, I was able to stand up and walk in them without gasping in pain. They aren’t by any means the most comfortable footwear I’ve ever worn (that would be my men’s slippers!) but I think I should be able to wear them for short forays outdoors while I’m in Washington, especially if I make myself wear them to walk in for a little while every day until I leave. I’ll just have to schedule my walks in them for times when someone is home to help me take the boots off, because it was a bit of a struggle in the store. Downright embarrassing, to be honest.

There is nothing cute or fashionable about my new boots. No woman my age wants to be out and about wearing police boots. But, if they’re functional, and if I can wear them without being in actual agony, that’s more than can be said for 99% of the footwear I’ve tried on in the last 20 years, so I’m calling it a win. And I found them at the very first store I tried!

I went for a walk around the campus at sunset (NOT wearing my new boots) and enjoyed the dropping temperatures and deserted landscape. Over the next few days the students will return and the school will roar back to life. I am already into class mode, trying to catch up with the grading that fell by the wayside during my holiday travels.

Mission Accomplished

If you’ve been reading this journal for long, then you may have noticed that I tend to sew in spurts. I can’t seem to find time to fit in a few minutes of sewing in my daily life, so every now and then I work really hard on a project for hours or days until I get it done.

Because I start teaching again next week, and because I’ve done so much traveling recently, I knew today was going to have to be a sewing day if I was going to do what I had committed to do—make some sheets for the baby bed I took to Flynn and Tiffany last month.

I had all the materials. All my fabric had been prewashed. Still, I had other things I had to do this morning, including running a couple of errands, so I didn’t even get the table all the way cleared for cutting out until noon. And I still had to do all the math to figure out what size rectangles I needed to cut.

Since this bed takes a cradle-sized mattress, I had to measure the mattress, figure out how the sheet would cover it, and add seam allowances, etc. Fortunately, I have a mattress here that goes with the cradle, because it would be really hard to fit the sheets properly without it.

The first sheet was a prototype and fit a little too snugly, so I made adjustments before cutting any more out. Once I had it all figured out, I could form an assembly line of sorts. Cutting out, ironing, serging, sewing, etc. I had to take several little breaks because nonstop sewing is really hard on my back and shoulders these days. During my breaks I worked on vocabulary for my students.

My goal was to get six sheets cut out and sewn today, and I did it. Whew! I know it doesn’t seem like much. Sheets are not complicated. These particular sheets are designed like an envelope with an overlap on the bottom, so they can’t come off the mattress no matter how wiggly a baby might be. But simple or not, it still took me all afternoon and much of the evening to get them done. I made four flannel sheets and two that are plain cotton.

In addition, I cut out a blanket and 8 burp cloths which I hope to assemble soon. I felt I had to take advantage of having the table cleared off, and cut out as much stuff as possible.

So for once I feel like I had a pretty productive Saturday. Meanwhile, Jasper did some blacksmithing with a couple of friends this morning and then helped fix a car and went out for coffee. Lucy and Tanner went to a wedding and then went out for coffee too. Walter did some work around the house this morning, but he is still pretty sick so he spent most of the afternoon napping. I think this illness is dragging on so long because he doesn’t get enough rest, so I’m glad he was able to today. Now that my sewing is done, I am looking forward to resting my aching back . . . .

Planning & Paperwork

Friday is the day I get to sleep in a little in compensation for having to go grocery shopping. I am glad the holidays are over and I am back to buying “normal” food. First, though, I had to plan next week’s Geography menu so I’d be able to get the supplies I’ll need.

I had a student come in to take a test after lunch and then I worked on paperwork for a while. I never run out of paperwork! I also made a run to Walmart to get things Aldi didn’t have, but I will have to venture forth to a third store for sure if I am going to get the ingredients I need for Geography class. Fennel, leeks, and rhubarb can be hard to find around here.

Since tomorrow is supposed to be a sewing day, I washed and dried the rest of the fabric I’m hoping to use. My grandchild will have some colorful things!

Now I’m waiting to make a late-night run to the airport with Lucy to pick up Tanner. Thankfully it’s just our local airport—not the one in Dallas.

A Glimmer of Hope

My husband’s cancer diagnosis isn’t exactly a surprise, given his family history. Both his grandfather and father died of cancer, and his aunt and uncle have both had it too. I knew he was at high risk for skin cancer because he is very fair-skinned and he worked outdoors in the sun for years. In my mind, it was not “if” but “when” he would get it. Somehow, though, that doesn’t make it any easier to accept when it actually happens.

So today my husband received in the mail the actual printed report from the dermatologist about his cancerous mole, and it definitely cleared some things up for us.

When the doctor’s office had called the report in to him, he was working in the garage and had no way of writing anything down. What he heard was “stage IV melanoma.” But looking at the report today, I saw that it actually says “level IV” melanoma, which is a completely different thing. After a few minutes of research, I had a much better idea of what has actually been discovered so far.

Level IV means that the cancer had spread down into the next two layers of skin, but NOT into the fat layer below. The thickness of the tumor was under the size that is usually associated with aggressive spreading, so it is actually unlikely that the melanoma has spread to other parts of his body.

Don’t get me wrong—it’s still cancer and it’s still scary. But after reading the report and looking everything up, I find I can be cautiously optimistic for the time being. He was able to make an appointment for a consultation with the surgeon for next Thursday. Maybe we’ll know more after that appointment, but in the meanwhile the situation doesn’t seem as dire as it did on Monday. I’m so glad he requested to have the report mailed to him!

Today everyone was back at work. Despite being sick for the last week and a half, Walter went to work, and so did Jasper. Lucy was back at her job in the library. And I had to start organizing my papers so I can have some hope of being ready to start teaching next week!

I also made an excursion to JoAnn’s in Tyler to pick up some fabric I ordered. I’m hoping that Saturday will be a big “sewing-for-the-baby” day so I wanted to make sure I had all the materials I might need. And I enjoyed the rainy drive. It wasn’t raining hard at all—just sprinkling.

A Finished Task

Yesterday I stayed home since I didn’t have a way of getting to church. Lucy was sick and stayed home also. I spent much of the day working on my big project. When I agreed to do it, I thought it would take an afternoon. It took 3 days! It involved drafting, sewing, writing, and photography. I am so glad to be done with it. The pattern is up on Etsy and I’ve put the word out to the people who requested it. So glad to be done with it!

Meanwhile, I have been taking breaks to work in the kitchen on advance preparations for Thanksgiving. And yesterday I made dinner and Spencer and Jade came over. Today I made some things and then failed miserably at making my favorite keto crackers because I left out a vital ingredient. Now I have a bag of keto crumbs.

Tomorrow will be mostly in the kitchen, but I get a reward at the end . . .

Tea and Society

This morning I was up before 6:30 as my husband finished packing and preparing to leave on his trip. He pulled out of the driveway a few minutes after 8:00—and I went and took a little nap before continuing on with my day.

I had a very long list as usual, and as usual I didn’t make much of a dent in it. I got some paperwork done while I drank my tea, and then started assembling the materials I’ll need for a big project I’m working on. I also made my final batch of chai mix, at least for the time being, and got it all bagged up.

At 11:00 my knitting student arrived, and we were able to make some headway on her hat. It will soon be finished! We had a nice visit too.

Then I had a couple of hours to work on a revision project, do some work in the kitchen, roast some pecans, and move the turkey from the freezer to the fridge so it can start thawing.

At 3:00 my friend Connie arrived for tea. Connie used to be my neighbor but now she lives in El Paso (750 miles away) so I only see her once a year or so when she comes into town for a visit. I used my new teacups which go quite nicely with one of my many teapots. I drank many cups of tea. It is always so good to visit with Connie. I wish their visits weren’t so short!

I like that fact that people came to see me today so I could be sociable even though I don’t have transportation at the moment.

After Connie left I made a loaf of keto bread and browned six pounds of meat for next week. Then I finally got to work on my sewing project.

One of the things I teach my writing students in my paragraph class is how to write a process analysis paragraph. They never go into enough detail on their first attempt, and I sympathize because it is very hard mental work to break a process down and then describe it in a clear and sequential manner.

My current project is one I’ve been putting off for a while because I knew it was going to be a challenging process analysis task. Recently on Facebook, I made the mistake of sharing a project I designed and made several years ago, and I had several requests for the pattern, which I fortunately had saved. But now I have to write out all the detailed instructions for each step of the project, and take lots of photos, which makes a quick and simple project into a huge ordeal. When I get it done I think I will offer the pattern on Etsy in hopes of getting some return on all my effort.

A Heavenly Aroma

You know what my house smells like right now? Happiness. Happiness in the form of chai mix spices. One of my big jobs for the day was to mix and bag and label a lot of chai mix, and the sublime aroma tends to permeate the house. I still have one batch to make, but I have to wait on more supplies to arrive. I buy my spices in bulk, which means I can’t just run over to Walmart to get more when I run out.

I’ve also done a lot of schoolwork, mostly reading to keep up with my students and planning the week ahead. And I’m trying to give myself a crash course in Scrivener (the writing software) so I can share my newfound knowledge with my writers’ group on Tuesday. I’ve been using Scrivener for years now, but I only use a tiny fraction of the features it offers and I’d like to learn more.

I prewashed some fabric for a project I was hoping to cut out today, but ran out of time. Probably because I ended up having to run a couple of errands.

Spencer played his first game today with the rugby team he has joined. I had hoped to go but just couldn’t spare the time. Lucy and Tanner were able to make it though. Unfortunately, Spencer’s team lost.

Meanwhile, Walter was doing yardwork by himself all day because Jasper was very focused on going to his gaming group today, since they were trying out a new “definitive” version of Age of Empires. I guess it went pretty well, but he is kind of frustrated because he paid for this new version but it won’t run on his computer.

Sammy was at a retreat today but returned in time for me to pick him up before supper. He started a video call with Janet (his sister) so we were able to talk to her for the first time since she left town back in the summer. And I took an hour off from work to watch a nature video with my husband.

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!

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.