Friday, December 20, 2013

Another tote

Okay, here's my next bag.  It's also technically reversible, but I wouldn't.  This one has an interior pocket with a zipper.  This is the first zipper I've ever sewn in my life. It kinda looks like it too, but I guess practice makes perfect.  I also put a charm on the zipper and a key chain on the strap.

Kitchen towel totes

I've been busy making tote bags for my daughter for Christmas.  Everywhere I go I pick up a cloth tote bag or grocery bag as a souvenir of my visit.  Whenever I get back, my daughter will invariably say, "that's cute, can I have it?"  Sometimes I give in, sometimes not.  That aside, any time my daughter visits, she picks up stuff from the house and takes one of my reusable grocery bags to take stuff home with her.  So I'm sure she will use the bags I've made.

The first bag I made for her is a reversible/reusable grocery tote.  The main bag (patterned one) has three smaller pockets on one side.  Those pockets hold a calculator, a coupon organizer with small scissors inside, and a notepad and pen, all the things she uses to make a grocery list and go shopping. On the other side of the bag is one big pocket that holds four more reusable grocery bags.  All of these are made from dishtowels so they're made of heavy cotton fabric and are washable.  I pre-washed them so they wouldn't lose their shape the first time she washes them.

The second tote bag I made for her is also reversible and made from dishtowels.  There are loops at the top center on each side of the bag to hook keychains or sunglasses.  I have put a key chain on one side.  I put a pocket on the inside, but since it's reversible, it could also go outside.  My pocket is kind of messy because it was an after thought and too big, so I had to add a button closure so things inside it wouldn't fall out.  My stitches are messy, but considering I haven't made anything on a sewing machine since I was twelve, and I didn't measure, it's miraculous that it turned out this well.  Back to work on more Christmas projects.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

New music

I was looking over the NPR's 50 Best Albums of 2013 list and came across Kacey Musgraves' album, "Same Trailer, Different Park."  I remembered hearing the interview a while back and liking her music, so I listened to the interview and her songs again, to refresh my memory.  Now I remembered, I LOVED her songs, her lyrics in particular.  They make me want to write.  I love it when something stirs that in me.  Take a listen to a couple of her songs.  There's nothing unusual about the music, but the lyrics are not what you would normally hear in country music songs.

Here's a story on her that aired on  CBS Sunday Morning News

Here are a couple of her videos:

Follow Your Arrow

Merry Go Round

Blowin Smoke

I guess I know what's going to be added to my iPod.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

How do the days and weeks so quickly come back around?  The end of the year is rapidly approaching.  I begin cleaning the house and preparing for Thanksgiving tomorrow.  We expect 16 this year, not our largest gathering, but still plenty.  After Thanksgiving I have one week left of classes, then finals, and a progressive dinner, a race to get exams graded and grades turned in, then one week to get all my Christmas gifts made and holiday baking done in time for Christmas.  Everything seems more rushed this year since Thanksgiving comes so late.

I won't be teaching over winter session this year, so in theory I should have about 5 weeks off before the Spring semester starts in January.  During my "time off" I will be reading ten massive books and prepping for a new course I will be teaching in the Spring, "Genocides of the 20th Century."  Since this will be an entirely new class, I have to create all new lecture notes, PowerPoints, a syllabus, assignments, and schedule films and speakers.  This means I will be in the office 5 days a week to get this done.  It's a lot of work, and had I known last May that I would be asked to do this, I would have worked on this while recovering from surgery.  Oh well, I'm happy to be given the opportunity to teach a new course, and one that I find endlessly fascinating.

I would be freaked out right now if I hadn't been studying genocides since 1997 as a hobby, also, I've assigned all of the genocides I will be covering as paper assignments since I began teaching in 2007.  Each semester I would assign a different genocide for my students to research.  I would require them to use a specific number of scholarly articles from JSTOR.  I would have them search for obscure information on the genocides.  This forced me to read all the scholarly articles that they would find, so I could make sure they were understanding the articles and using them properly.  This kept me reading scholarly articles on genocides, because if left to my own devices, I would have likely squandered my time.

Also, of the ten books I am using for source material to build the class,  six I have already read in their entirety at some point since 1997, and the other four I have read a great deal of, so I will be doing a lot of re-reading, reminding myself of the details, and scanning for parts to use as excerpts for the class.  Since this is an undergrad class, I can't assign more than four books.  The kids would run like hell in the other direction.  Even though my course flyer warned students would have to begin reading the books prior to class beginning in January, and that only serious students need to apply, my class filled up fast when registration opened, so that's a good sign. Based on the outline  I had already created for the class, and my previous experience teaching history and genocides, I was told my class would count toward the Social Justice minor the university offers.  I really hope I'm able to pull it all together and I deliver a great class.  It's important to me to teach more than core courses, teach something I'm passionate about, and have an impact on my students.  No pressure, huh?  :-)

Sunday, November 24, 2013


I'm taking a break tonight.  I've been grading papers day and night all weekend while M was out of town.  It was just as well, it is FREEZING here!  I've had to venture out a few times because the dog demanded it, but even under three layers of coats, a scarf around my face and gloves, the strong winds just cut right through me.  So tonight, M is back home and we have retired to bed early, we've got the electric blanket cranked on high, and are settling in to watch the American Music Awards.  Katy Perry just opened the show.  Her voice sounded deeper and a little off, like she might have a cold, but the set was gorgeous.
American Music Awards

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Of Brains and Music

I am teaching history to a group of music majors this semester.  Tonight I have been grading their papers on Beethoven.  This has been a learning experience for me.  While grading the papers, my first response has been shock at what horrible writers they are, their grammar and the mechanics of their sentences are a mess.  I don't consider myself an authority on grammar or the English language, but I like to think I can string enough words together to make sense. 

After my initial shock at the jumbled mess of their words, I found myself astounded at their complete understanding of musical composition, how instruments and sounds moved, how holding notes, or teasing sounds out of violin strings could change the emotion of a piece of music.  Reading their descriptions so enthralled me that I went to YouTube and began playing the pieces they were describing, not only of Beethoven, but other composers they were comparing him to as well.

Their understanding of how Beethoven composed his music as opposed to how other masters composed their music, and how the sounds and emotions differed was breathtaking.  Throughout my life I've heard many pieces of classical music, and I can count the pieces on one hand that have moved me. 

I never understood or liked classical music.  Much as I couldn't understand musical composition, these students couldn't understand the mechanics of grammar construction.  Tonight, however, by re-reading their descriptions of different pieces of music, and playing that music, those particular sections of the music, side-by-side, I think I finally get it. 

I'm having one of those moments of awakening.  I'm listening to music that although I've been exposed to it before, I've never really understood how to listen to it before.  I am amazed, I am moved, it's like a few words in a foreign language have finally clicked for me. 

Whereas my brain naturally understands words and how when they are put together in different variations can mean different things, these kids' brains hear and feel music in ways that I have to be taught to understand.  I'm getting chills just listening to what they've been describing.  I must thank them when I see them again next week. 

Here is a link to Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" that I have been listening to over and over.  It starts out very moody, painful, then veers toward lonely.  The kids have told me about Beethoven's penchant for unavailable women, and his longing for closeness.  In this piece they described his desolation, and how some notes hit bitterness or anger.  How he's slowly working his way through his emotions.  Then a light, as he starts to regain strength, understanding, pushing through his depression and working his way to a position of lightness.  You can hear the lightness as the notes go higher, and then he slips back to sadness and the notes lower again.  And their descriptions go on.  Anyway, listen for yourself and see if you can hear and feel what they did.
Moonlight Sonata

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween

 I've been too busy lately.  How many times have you heard me say that? 

M has been insisting, for oh, about 3 years, that I fix the gargoyle and get it back up on the roof. 

I've had best intentions year after year, but never got around to it. 

This year I did it, with the help of a friend.  The poor gargoyle had been chewed really badly by mice.  Add to that, the chicken wire he was formed with was starting to fall apart. 

His neck, both wings and a leg were broken.  I would need to strip him down to the wires and re-build him.  That is not a quick or easy task, thus me putting it off for years.

So this year I re-wired his broken appendages and put a piece of PVC pipe in his neck to reinforce the chicken wire.  The problem is that chicken wire isn't that sturdy and once you add on layers of newspaper, plaster and paint, the form starts to sag.  
Well, I did most of the work, but a friend spent a couple hours with me last weekend and helped plaster half his body, so that lightened the workload, and now the gargoyle is back on his perch on the porch roof, complete with glowing eyes and mouth, just in time to scare little children for Halloween.  Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


I am finding myself in a quiet place in my head right now. I am contemplating the death of a friend, not terribly close, but he was a gem of a man, so sweet, funny, a great husband and father. There was so much life in him, that his sudden departure is leaving a lot of us around him, breathless with the shock. I don't have to make sense of this, death doesn't have to make sense, it just is. I know why he died, medically it makes perfect sense as well. What doesn't make sense is why him, why now. Why didn't death stop for the drug dealer, the child molester, the murderer? Why take such a wonderful person and leave behind those causing so much damage? That's an age old question, without an answer, because as I said, death doesn't have to make sense, it just is, and it is inevitable. Before our friend died, I'd been thinking about death for a few days. My thoughts and his death were totally unrelated. I remember thinking at the time, "why am I dwelling on death?" Is something about to happen, am I sick? Then I decided it was just me slowly becoming acquainted with my own mortality. I am realizing that I am in the last half of the book of life and death is now not just some distant thing that will happen, it's now gaining on me. Oh I realize I am probably decades away from it, it's just now becoming a real presence in my life. I am no longer young, immortal, carefree and too busy to contemplate the big picture. So I am sitting in my head, thinking, wondering, watching the horizon, looking out for death.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Caught on tape

My sister-in-law caught us on tape in the Letterman audience.  

Melanie is in the purple shirt and my orange shirt looks yellow next to her.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Trip to Bountiful

We went to see Trip to Bountiful tonight, starring Cicely Tyson and Vanessa Williams.  The acting was wonderfula and Ms. Tyson was funny and moved like a much younger woman.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Honeymoon in New York City

Whee!  We got to watch a taping of the Late Show with David Letterman.  Tom Selleck was the guest. It will air Friday night.  We were sitting in the left section of the audience, on the aisle, toward the back. See if you can pause it when it airs and find us.  I was wearing an orange t-shirt.

For CK

The library of the St. Florian Monastery in Austria. Photo: Getty Images

Sunday, September 29, 2013

It's official!

We pulled off a surprise wedding last night.  I had to keep quiet about it on the blog so friends who read my blog wouldn't find out.  We invited everyone to a pig roast and then surprised them with a wedding in the middle of it.  It was so much fun!

Thursday, September 12, 2013


I've been totally wasting time today while my students were doing a written assignment in class. Instead of grading other papers while I waited, I kept going through my blog and looking at old posts. I need to find a way to preserve my blog electronically, maybe on a jump drive so that I can keep it for my kids. I've decided it's like my personal journal, a record of the things I did, the way I felt about things, and the people I connected with through my blog. Sadly, I'm not posting as much as I used to, and some of my favorite people, Tshmom, Great White Bear, are no longer blogging. Others I have just lost touch with, DeBambam, and thankfully others who have stopped blogging, I am friends with on Facebook, Michelle, and Melody who still posts occasionally. I have been wondering lately if the blog has served its purpose for me and if I should just shut it down, but then I think, I still want to keep in touch with Naomi, CK, Trish and Wunelle. I still enjoy reading other people's blogs, even if I don't comment very often or very much when I do (CK). The thought of stopping entirely also makes me sad, it's like a chapter has closed, but I don't know where the next chapter is. So, I will keep writing, if only sporadically. I will keep reading, regularly, and maybe even comment on occasion. I don't know if I need to take this blog in another direction, or what. So bear with me through my absences, and then maybe, a sudden burst of writing before I drift off again. I'm still figuring out where I'm going.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


Last Friday night we went to Assateague to have a bonfire and dinner on the beach with friends as we awaited the launch of NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft at 11:27 that night. I've only seen a few launches in the daylight, so this was my first nighttime launch. It was AMAZING! It went off exactly on time, a half circle of orange lit up the sky at the horizon and then the rocket appeared out of that half circle. We watched as the rocket separated from a couple of its booster rockets and then arched over us and flew out over the ocean. It will go around the Earth a few times as it sling shots itself to the moon for armospheric tests. I didn't take my fancy camera with me so I snagged these shots off of Google. The launch shot looks pretty close to what we saw and obviously the other is a shot of the rocket prior to launch so far as I can tell. Another cool thing about this launch is that they recycled ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) and used them for a peaceful mission.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

My current moment of zen

I had never heard of Avicci before my friend posted this video on Facebook, but since she has, I have been listening to this over and over.  I love it when a piece of music speaks to me.  That's magic.

Okay, I don't know what Blogger is doing.  It's placing and showing the video link when I'm in edit mode, but then it's not there when I publish.  *sigh*

Here's the link if you want to go see it:  

Wake Me Up

My current moment of Zen

I had never heard of Avicci before my friend posted this video on Facebook, but since she has, I have been listening to this over and over.  I love it when a piece of music speaks to me.  That's magic.

Wake Me Up

Monday, August 26, 2013

Playing the waiting game

The next time you have to wait for a repair guy, who says he will be there "bright and early" for a three day repair job, check his definition of bright and early. When he wasn't here by nine, I called and was assured he was loading the van and would be here by ten. It's almost eleven. I wonder what time zone he's operating under. He's only coming from 5 minutes away, so it's not like he's stuck in traffic.  

Since I have to wait for him, I couldn't go to yoga today.  Never being one to sit idly by, I did dishes, cleaned the knick-knacks on the porch, put up new ones, did a plaster repair job in the stairwell (waiting for it to dry so I can sand and paint it), disassembled and cleaned the light in the front entry, blogged/griped about it, and now I'm going off to fold laundry.  Guess it was good I got up bright and early. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The way my mind works

Two weeks ago we made a weekend trip to Ohio to see my mom and sis.  When we came across the West Virginia state line into Ohio, we saw signs for the country music festival,
Jamboree in the Hills.  

 I grew up going to Jamboree in the Hills.  It's considered the Super Bowl of country music.  When I went, in 1977 (its first year), 1978, and 1979, it was a two day country music festival.  It's now a four day festival.  I remember this big open field, and a huge stage set up at one end.  It was kinda the Woodstock of country music.  Everyone would come through the gates running with lawn chairs, coolers, babies, grannies and try to get a spot close to the stage.  We got in to the first five rows each time.  Then you lathered on the sunscreen, put on your hat, pulled beers and snacks out of the cooler and settled in for the best artists in country music.  Country music artists would arrange for their tours to be in the area each July to make an appearance at this festival.  Because I was young and cute, my mom would send me backstage to get autographs.  Thankfully I got autographs and nobody accosted me.  I got to see Johnny & June Carter Cash, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton,  and other giants of country music.  At the time, I wasn't that in to country music.  In the 70s, western swing and honky tonkin, boozin, cheatin' songs dominated the genre, and I couldn't relate to any of that.  

What I did like was bluegrass music, and that influence coming into the music of up and coming artists.  One of the artists who impressed me back in 1977, was Lionel Cartwright.  He was a young teenager and playing with the stage band, New Generation Express.  I was so impressed that someone so young could have such a demanding job, and he played so many instruments.  I watched for him each year after that when we went to the festival. 

Well, the years went on.  I stopped going to the festival and grew up.  I sometimes wondered what happened to that Cartwright kid, when in 1989, he had a song on the country charts and happened to be on tour in Texas, and came to the town where I was living at the time.  I went to see him in concert.  This was a big deal for me because I had a new baby at home, I didn't have much money, and to pay for a sitter and go to a concert was not something I ever did.  The night of the concert was planned down to the minute.  I had to be home by eleven, when the sitter had to leave.  The concert should have been over in plenty of time.  Well, the night dragged on, and Lionel Cartwright was way overdue to come to the stage to perform.  I was starting to panic that I would have to go home before he ever got to the stage.  All that money for the evening wasted.  The friend that I was with sent a note backstage to let Mr. Cartwright know my predicament.  He got on stage before I had to leave, and met me after the performance and took a picture with me.  He was very kind.  Somewhere in my attic is that picture.  Anyway, this is how my mind works.  Traveling to Ohio to see my mom, see the sign for the festival, remember seeing Cartwright as a teenager and then years later as an adult.  Here's the song he had on the charts in 1989.  It meant something to me because I used to listen to the radio when I was a kid, staying up late at night with the radio against my ear, listening to stations up and down the east coast.

Lionel Cartwright - I Watched It All On My Radio

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Some good can come of cleaning.  I finally found a poem that's been haunting the back of my mind for years.  I could never find a copy of it until now, and there was only one copy.  So I will now post it here so I will never lose it again. 

If He Knew Me

He would know without asking, when the melancholy comes on.  He would notice the way I hug myself, and the way I lean upon, the counter strewn with dishes, no desire for industry here.  He wouldn’t have to ask, “is something wrong dear?”  

He would know the well-worn path, my mind treads upon.  He would see the distant look, and know that I was gone.  He would notice the little things, the way my keys were thrown, upon the table with discarded mail, he would know, he should have known.  

He would know my heart’s desire, but dreams are never shared, with one who doesn’t really know, by one who’s really scared.  If he really knew me, he wouldn’t keep me here, a trophy for a dusty shelf, that means so little there.  

He would see my heart’s not in it, never really was, and never ask the reason why, he’d know it was because, another fills my heart, no other could hope to touch.  He’d know the melancholy, came, from hurting just too much.  

If he really knew me, then he would be the one, to comfort all my hurts, when day was finally done.  He would know my every mood, the rise and the fall.  If he really knew me, I wouldn’t be here at all.  


I've been bogged down with cleaning my home office.  It's taking me forever because I seriously have written thousands of poems, a dozen or so stories, screenplays, and songs, so I find myself reading through a lot of it and passing judgment.  Not being too self-critical, just realistic, at LEAST 99% of what I've written since the age of 7 (43 years) is driveling crap.  No joke.  The rhymes are forced, the topics maudlin, and I'm quite stunned.  You'd think after writing for 43 years, just out of sheer practice I would have produced much better stuff.  *sigh*  All I can hang on to is that I probably have one short book's worth of decent stuff. 

In addition to my writings, I'm coming across pictures.  I'd been wondering what ever happened to that picture of my mother that I took of her on her 50th birthday.  I found it in a folder in my filing cabinet.  No idea what it was doing there.  Anyway, here it is.  I bought her 50 white roses for her 50th birthday.  I also came across one of the few pictures in existence of me with my original Brooke Shields eyebrows before I discovered tweezing and got rid of them . . . one of my regrets. 

Me aged 12, Owego, NY
My mom aged 50, Austin, TX

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC

So now I will tell you about Stanley Park in Vancouver.  This park puts Central Park in NYC 
to shame.  It is over 1,000 acres in size.  It was opened in 1888.  Here below is a link to the 
park's website.  Below is an aerial view of the park.  You can see it is surrounded by water 
on all but one side.

Here is an aerial view of Lion's Gate Bridge as it enters Stanley Park.  There are dense 
woods with old growth trees, 120 miles of trails and roads.  There is a 14 mile / 22 kilometre 
paved seawall for Runners, bikers, and skaters that circles the park.  There are a number of 
beaches, a pool, an Aquarium, a number of public gardens, and a bowling lawn.  There are 
numerous overlooks of English Bay, lagoons, 4 restaurants, 6 concession stands, a miniature 
train, various sculptures, Gardens, and totem poles.

Here are some pictures of the totem poles, the flower gardens, views of the City skyline, etc.

I dined at the cafe at Prospect Point when I visited with Michelle, and I dined at the Fish 
House when I returned on my birthday with my family.  The food was good at both places, 
although the service was really slow at the Fish House.

Next up I will show you sites of Gastown and Chinatown.

Last full day in Europe

Ahh, all good things must come to an end.  Our European vacation is drawing to a close.  We leave Nice this morning to drive back to Barcelo...