Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Stitch in Time

If you were given the choice to read about my current misgivings and malaise over the sale process on my house and something much lighter and possibly funnier, what would you choose? 


So to bring you up to speed, I am presently spending my second Saturday in a row where I am outnumbered by small terrier-esque dogs.  My housemates are pretty cool, but they can be a little whiny when they want something.  Like food.  Or for me to let them back inside.  Or to be carried up the stairs.  Or to be released from the laundry room after they trapped themselves inside. 

Other than laundry, grocery shopping and a trip up to my house (tomorrow) to get some more socks for my sock drawer, my weekend is pretty low-key.  Perfect for project work.  And by that, I of course mean my embroidery project. 

You may not realize it, but I am not what one would call a "crafty" person.  True, I have come up with some pretty awesomely sneaky schemes in my time, but I am not referring to that type of "crafty."  I mean the type of person who is good at crafts.  As in "Arts & Crafts."  Never has been my cup of tea, at least for more than a day or two.

There are always exceptions.  If you took a look at my life vis-a-vis my friends at the moment, you might detect  trend.  They are all having babies.  It is great, especially for me who has the sole responsibility of buying awesome things for said babies while still being able to sleep at night, all night. 

But there is something about this onslaught of new life that brings out a teensy bit of a creative urge in me.  Certainly not an urge to get knocked up myself, heaven forbid.  Yikes.  But I find myself a bit more willing to break out the embroidery needles and thread if it means making something special for someone new. 

My mother and her friends are the top-level examples of this sort of behavior.  Between her gaggle of pals, they can all knit, quilt and sew any and everything a child (or child's mother) could ever want.  I cannot compete with this level of craftsmanship, you guys.  So I have chosen an alternative format:  embroidery. 

This time around, I decided to take things a step beyond cross-stitch.  You know those dish towels that old women love to use that feature colorful stitched pictures of flowers, squirrels or days of the week?  That is what I am trying to do.  Thankfully, I found a website that features tutorials, kits and patterns for all occasions.  Perhaps a more organized person would have started with something less important like a dish towel, but I am not that person.  I went right for the prize:  baby bibs.

So far, I have finished one.  It is decent looking, but I am sure that my great-grandmothers would have something different to say about my technique.  Unfortunately, they are all dead, so no chance of that happening.  I am about half done with the second bib and it looks to turn out better than the first.  When I am done, maybe I will post a picture.

These first two bibs are going to one specific friend who is due in a little over a month.  If it goes over well, I may consider the idea of more projects in the future, but for any of my other baby making friends who read this blog, do not worry.  All of your gifts will be purchased at the store and made by professionals. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Not the post I intended to write

To state the obvious, it is a new day.  A Saturday, to be precise.  A glorious Saturday, to be more precise.  Why?  Because it is a weekend free from obligations, at least for me.  To do with whatever I please.  Jealous?

You might be.  But you might also be my good friend J who is currently in Europe on her babymoon with her Swedish husband.  Then you would not be so jealous I would think.  But (for me) to be in Italy without being able to drink wine or eat unpasteurized cheeses, it might not be quite as awesome.  But J is not as much of a wino as I am in Italian situations.  This gal has travel mojo if such a thing exists. 

But this is beside the point.  Today I am going to do things that I want and need to do.  First item on the agenda?  Change out of my pajamas, which consists of an oversized t-shirt portraying Bucky the Badger holding a syringe and medical bag labelled "DVM" and a pair of flood-water length lounge pants bearing the Monchichi logo.  If you do not know what a Monchichi is, I am not going to tell you because you need to figure it out for yourself.  Needless to say, I look awesome.

From the point of pajama removal, I intend to don an outfit suitable for a brisk outdoor walk around one of the fine lakes of Minneapolis.  I am undecided about which one, but I would guess that Lake Harriet will probably be the pick as it is the best.  Oh, and Lena will be coming with me.  Maybe (for once) I will remember to bring along my phone so I can take some cool artsy Instagram photos. 

Apr├Ęs-walk we shall return home where I will shower and prepare myself to be in enclosed public spaces for I must venture forth to the craft and grocery stores.  This is not part of my normal routine, mind you, but I have need of some items that I do not have in the house at present.  Like embroidery hoops.  And food.  

After that excursion, it is anyone's guess.  Most likely I will be putting the embroidery hoops to use in a new but totally legitimate way.  I have a "project" to do.  I might play the piano a little bit.  Or call a friend.  Read a book.  Watch a movie.

And tomorrow?  Who knows?  Maybe I will take a madcap adventure up to my house and fetch the mail and check on the plumbing.  Being in this limbo phase where I still own a house full of my stuff while waiting for the lender to process the short sale request is both extremely easy and excruciatingly difficult.  Easy because all I really have to do is wait and difficult because I still have to pay ALL the bills associated with the property until it no longer belongs to me.  And as I do not get to enjoy much time up there any more, it seems like a colossal waste of funds.  But hopefully it will all work out in the end.  By Christmas, I hope.

Why so much braggadocio about my leisurely schedule?  Well, it is not designed to make anyone jealous.  Really.  It is more to make myself feel more positive about utilizing my time well.  With so many friends pregnant, dealing with new babies, getting engaged or married or going on fabulous vacations, I need to remind myself (in public forum) that my life is really not too bad either.  

If you did not know, I am well aware that I am 32 years old.  I choose not to label myself the same way as others might:  single and childless.  Or rather, I choose to make those labels positive.  I am happy to be here.  

This week was the five year anniversary of my youngest brother's death.  He was 19 years old.  He was vivacious, hilarious and loquacious.  He (like me) loved to use lengthy vocabulary words.  I miss everything that he brought to my life and the lives of our family members and friends.  But he could have been none of those things and I still would have loved him because he was my brother.  

There are so many things that he could have become, but we can only speculate.  His new days do not continue and he no longer has the opportunity to take a simple walk around the lake or call a friend to chat.  Every South Park episode and every Ben Folds album that has come out in the last five years has passed through without his commentary.  

But I have seen them.  I have heard them.  It is because of this that I choose to do the things that I do; I do them because I can.  I will live my life and take whatever comes with it.  If that does not lead to marriage and children, so be it.  Those things, while wonderful in a general sense and in the lives of people I know and love, do not define a person.  I love my friends because of who they are, not because of their marital or parental status.  Those things have become part of who they are, but it is not their sole definition.

Has this become a bit of a manifesto?  Possibly.  Should I get started on all the things I said I would do?  Definitely.  So that brings me to the end of this entry.  At the outset I did not intend to get as serious, but I have to go where the current takes me when it comes to writing.  Excuse me now, I need to go for a walk. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Generation gaps

Tomorrow is my first night of class and I am already experiencing the expected pre-first day of school jitters.  Will I make friends?  Will the teacher like me?  Will I get a good grade?  In all honesty, I do not know if there are grades to be had.  Often in more informal class settings such as I expect to find, it is more about the process than measuring the result.

This is fine, but it also makes me a little sad.  You see, I am a good test taker, especially in foreign language class.  Not to shock you, but I always carried 100% or higher in French class in high school.  Perhaps it was because I loved learning the language.  Or maybe it was the flashcards and reviews I obsessively made for myself.  Maybe I just like to "win."  Who knows?

Four years ago, my family took a trip to Sweden and Norway.  As a lark, and to prepare ourselves just a teensy bit for the language barriers, my mom and I took a Swedish class through a local community education program.  It was taught by an older native Swedish woman who was quite lovely and patient.  Our class consisted of about six to eight people, depending on the night.  My mom and I were by far the junior members of the class.

I learned many things in this class.  Yes, I learned some basic Swedish vocabulary and grammar.  I also reaffirmed my aptitude for learning language and desire to win, much to the annoyance of my mother.  But I also had many of my preconceived notions about the elderly put to the test.

You see, I have long believed (based on what older people have told me) that "back in their day," students respected their teachers, worked hard and never spoke out of turn because it was such a privilege to learn.  I never doubted this information because really, why wouldn't I?

Imagine my shock, confusion and horror to discover that my mom and I were the most polite and respectful students in the class.  Our older cohorts routinely spoke out loud to one another while the teacher was explaining important information.  This alone not only irritated our kindly Swedish teacher, but it also meant that when the time came to practice what we were to have learned, none of them had any idea what to say our how to pronounce it because they weren't listening when she explained it.

Now I am not an unfeeling person.  I understand that people learn at different paces and levels.  You can't control the fact that people can sit and listen to the exact same lecture and retain different facts or details.  But when you have half of a class that is not listening at all, you are losing from the start.  And I get impatient. 

But then again, you are supposed to respect your elders, which is why I never voiced my irritation to the offenders.  My mom and I ranted about it on our own, and our teacher even finally gave in and snapped at them on more than one occasion.  Lest you think that they apologized and toed the line, be prepared again to have your preconceived notions challenged.  These folks actually had the nerve to get mad at the teacher.  For what, I never knew.  But gosh darn it, if they wanted to waste her time along with ours because they couldn't be bothered to pay attention, so be it.

So I think I am justified in being a little nervous about a repeat performance tomorrow night.  My hope is that the location of the class at a church in a somewhat questionable neighborhood might make it less attractive for the older folks to approach.  But I doubt it.  I mean, who else would be interested in learning Norwegian?  Besides me, of course.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Tummy rejuvenation

I am pondering the possibility of conducting an experiment with myself as the test subject.  This may essentially destroy any objectivity of the findings, but as the sole person who could potentially benefit from the results, I must say that I do not care.

To be delicate and ladylike, I am going to inform you that I sometimes (quite often) suffer from minor (major) indigestion.  I always love how they call it that in Pepto Bismol commercials when really it is just a cure for the runs.  Oops!  Did I break the etiquette barrier?  Sorry.  I guess it's too late to keep the feminine mystique going.

Back to the point, I have dealt with sporadic bouts of indigestion since I was in my mid-teens.  I am told this is not uncommon, especially in women.  And wouldn't you know, I am a woman.  So the odds were against me from the start, it seems. 

Up to now, my general stance towards this problem has been to be watchful and aware of my reactions.  I have been able to nail down a few different foods and beverages that seem to lead to more rapid and painful reactions, but it is never 100% correct.  Most medical advice has gone along the lines of using an elimination diet to see if that helps and then slowly add back in different offenders to see who are the most likely culprits.

But I have a strong suspicion that I already know the chief offenders:  dairy and eggs.  This explains why mayonnaise has been on the "no-fly" list for a while, but why am I able to sometimes eat ice cream? 

Whenever I think about this situation, my thoughts always return to a good friend of mine who actually is allergic to eggs and nuts.  At present, she is nursing a baby who has problems with dairy, so for the moment, she is off that too.  When you first hear this, you might think it doesn't sound that tricky.  But keep in mind that when I say egg allergy, that means anything made with egg as an ingredient and not just straight up eggs.

Still doubtful?  Take a look at the ingredient lists on some of your common foods.  You will be amazed how many things have egg, milk, nuts or some variation of these things in them.  I mean, just consider breakfast for a moment.  What do you normally have in the morning?  Cereal?  What kind of milk are you using with that?  Cow milk?  Can't have it.  Almond milk?  Forget about it.  Better stick with soy and hope that it doesn't fall on your allergy list as well.

Obviously, eggs in all forms are out of the question.  As is yogurt, butter, peanut butter and many types of granola that contain nuts.  In the end, you are left with meat (bacon and sausage), fruit (but in moderation) and oatmeal.  Not bad, but it sure takes the fun and variety out of the morning.  Personally, I am a toast person, and since I do not think peanuts are a problem for me, I am OK, but if not, then what?

This dietary lifestyle almost lends itself to quasi-veganism.  The kind that lets you eat meat but not other animal byproducts.  Which isn't bad, right?  But it is a lot of work and requires thoughtful choices.  So in the interest of improving my digestive health, I have consulted with my friend and will hopefully be getting some helpful tips and resources to make a good attempt at bringing more normalcy to my daily routine. 

Maybe this was more than you wanted to know.  But I think it should be interesting and for once I can write about something other than my job and the dogs. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Just call me Florence Nightingale

The final night of the puppy siege is done.  All survived with no injury.  If only the pups had kept up their first night initiative to sleep on separate chairs...

Regardless, we now arrive at Sunday morning and are excited that my father is returning today to take over the bed-sharing with two of the dogs. 

As the moment, the pups are all resting after having been outside, fed and Dingo'd.  All is right with the world.  I must now get myself clean and presentable so I may go out and get my delayed pedicure.  A home improvement emergency led my friend to request a rain check on our outing, and since I am nothing if not flexible, I agreed.

Turns out it was probably a good thing that it worked out this way because we had a bit of an emergency of our own here yesterday around the time I was to leave. 

Now that the weather has turned glorious and cool, no one minds being outside, especially the dogs in this household.  Yesterday around noon, I turned two eager pups outside for a romp and bathroom break while I retreated downstairs.  No sooner had I picked up a pillow when I heard a strange squeal come from a distance.

At this point several thoughts raced through my mind.  I was well aware of the hunting capabilities of the terriers and I also knew that sometimes small animals such as rabbits and squirrels can "scream" when they are dying or in distress. 

Prepared for the worst in the form of bloody carnage, I raced back outside to witness Thor, the boy, huddling down next to the strawberry patch and emitting a pitiful and piercing whine of pain.  Lena, the ever valiant, was leaping through the air in an attempt to bite and vanquish what appeared to be a small bee or wasp.

As I stepped out the door, Thor came racing in on three legs, sounding like a siren the entire way.  Lena came with him and even Pippi emerged from her slumber to check out the situation.

He came in the house and allowed me to look at his tender little back foot.  I quickly deduced that nothing was broken or bleeding, so I took precautionary measures and administered Benedryl with peanut butter.  One of the advantages of having several veterinarians in the family is that one learns some of the common responses to bee sting emergencies rather quickly.  As this was not Thor's first encounter with a bee that ended badly, I knew the drill.

Medicine taken we retired to the cool of the basement where I kept the trembling Thor in my lap until his little heart stopped racing and he fell asleep.  When he awoke, he was fine.  I assumed that all memory of the injury was gone, but when I put them outside later in the afternoon, he refused to walk in the grass other than a brief trip out to pee.

By nightfall, he was better and this morning he is back to his old self. 

But just think if I had needed to go anywhere or keep an appointment.  Would I have left him?  Probably not.  It is really amazing how much the lives of animals can take over our best laid plans.  Thank goodness I will be getting a good night's sleep tonight to recover from all this excitement.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Impulse buys

Just when I start to mentally prepare myself for the next wave of babies coming into the lives of my friends, one jumps right in early to surprise us all.  This afternoon at work, I received a text message from my friend who was due with her first child on September 23.  She lives out in a more rural area of the state, so I do not see her nearly as often as I would like and updates are a little harder to get through.

Nonetheless, she texted me to announce that her baby girl was born this morning and that everyone was doing great.  It was such a shock coming just over two weeks early and I was so unprepared for the news that I gave an audible yelp of surprise from my desk. 

Immediately, I sent a message back and we exchanged a few words.  Not too many, however, because if there is one thing I know about child labor from all the stories I have heard is that it wears you out.  I am totally excited to eventually get all the gory and painful details of the act of childbirth, but I think I will wait until she has a little time and distance between present and the experience. 

One of the unexpected reactions I experienced immediately was to find myself on the verge of tears.  Not totally inappropriate, but I am generally speaking not a crier at happy moments like weddings and births.  But this news nearly had me bawling with happiness.  I kept in check as I was at work and did not feel like freaking my new coworkers out completely, but I did share the news with the gal in the cubicle next to mine.

As I meandered through the craziness that is Babies R Us after work in search of some new baby gifts, I analyzed my tears a little more.  If I had to name a reason (aside from just happiness), I realized that I have been carrying a little bit of tension over my friends and their pregnancies.  A couple of years ago, this would not have been the case, but the heart-wrenching loss of my best friend's first born just over a year ago did a number on my sense of tranquility when it comes to babies.

Maybe it is irrational, but it will probably be like this until sometime next year after the last of the expected babies for my friends and family members are done.  In the meantime, I am channeling my feelings into shopping and maybe even a little embroidering project and possibly some more cross-stitch.

In other news, my doggie weekend continues uneventfully.  Tomorrow I am getting a pedicure and leaving them to their own devices for a bit.  Sunday I may go out again.  Crazy, I know.

This morning, I had a bit of a crazy impulse moment.  My company's internal website just started locally based social pages for internal sharing, and on a procrastinating whim, I decided to peruse the page for the Twin Cities.  I was attracted to a thread in which a coworker was consulting the experiences of others to help him decide if he should pursue an MBA and if yes, where he should go.  The responses were interesting, and I found myself briefly considering a return to graduate school.  Fortunately, the financial requirements put me back in check.

However, in reading the thread all the way to the end, I found that the original post-writer came back to offer up a little explanation of his background and perhaps to brag a little bit about all the seemingly ah-maz-ing things he has done thus far.  Rather than just snort in disgust and move on, I read.  Maybe it is all part of the whole "don't knock it until you try it" mentality that led me to read Twilight.  Maybe.

Either way, I was caught by a casual description of the author's experience taking Norwegian language courses through a local Norwegian-American church organization.  To clarify, I have always wanted to find a way to take Norwegian classes that are affordable and could maybe, possibly, hopefully one day give me the ability to converse with natives.  On the off chance I ever get the chance to go back to visit (or live).

So I braved the work firewall and went to the website of the church.  Classes are starting next week and the price was reasonable.  I signed up.  It is funny because just the other day I had marveled at the fact that this was the first fall since 2008 that I have not had homework.  Not that I expect a ton of homework to come with this class, but I look forward to practicing my skills on my grandfather and maybe others in my family.

PLUS... the name of this blog is in Norwegian, right?  It is time to acquire the skills to support the awesomeness of my blog name.  Good justification, at least to me it is.

Check back periodically and see if I can manage to insert some useful phrases and demonstrate my linguistic prowess.  I promise to try my best.  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Branching out

It is truly a magical time, you guys.  I have spent this year (so far) doing a lot of new things.

New job, moving and selling my house, paying for new school loans.  You know, fun stuff.

Oh yeah, and I finally gave in and read the craptastically "amazing" Twilight series.  I would apologize to all of my friends and potential friends and readers for my assessment, but I am entitled to an opinion and now that I have actually read all of the books, I am qualified to express it.

If you are not familiar with me and my ways, you may not be aware that I have a tendency to resist things that I sense are silly or will waste my time.  This is, of course, subjective to my personal taste as some may argue that I willingly spend a great deal of time on silly endeavors such as blogging, reading or talking to my dog.

The whole Twilight thing is a case in point.  I knew the basic premise of the storyline for the "saga" because several of my friends were fans and felt compelled to share.  Also, I am not blind or deaf.  I have seen all the hoopla on TV and online about the books, movies and more importantly, the actors who star in the movies.  Even my idyllic romp through Tuscany in 2010 was marred by friends giddily traipsing through the streets of Montepulciano pretending to be Bella, Edward, Ginger or whoever it was that was in that part.

My point is that I spent a great deal of time making fun of the books based on what I had gained through hearsay and not through personal evaluation.  And I always find that arguments are much more compelling when one has the facts.  So I read them.  And now I can mock them.

This brings me to another such scenario:  Pinterest.  Earlier in the year, I watched with skepticism as one of my dear friends whiled away the hours exploring the "wonders" of this website.  When I asked her what exactly it really was meant to be, she had a hard time explaining it.  She invited me to join, but I sensed that it was perhaps a magnet for the crafty or wannabe crafty set, and I declined.

But eventually, like many things, I capitulated and decided to make an informed decision.  I joined and navigated my way through the rules of "pinning" things to my "boards."  It was actually fun at first, but my interest dwindled a bit after a while when reality set in and it became clear that I was unlikely to ever use any of the fabulous recipes or make any of the seemingly easy projects.

That is not to say that I do not check on things periodically.  I like to see what other people are into, for the most part, that is.  Some people are just a little overzealous in the amount of pins they collect.  I mean, seriously, WHEN are you ever going to find time to do any of the 300+ DIY decorating projects you have lined up for yourself?  Are you really a sewing master?  Do you really think that sprinkling epsom salts on your stovetop will make it clean?  (Don't actually do that, it's not a real tip.  I think.)

Despite my pessimism and slight irritation over some of the pins I have seen that are either downright wrong or insanely stupid, I find that the most perplexing situation I have found involves MEN who use Pinterest.  Let me qualify that statement:  STRAIGHT men who use Pinterest.

In specific, there is one male pinner I follow who really isn't a close friend, but he is a Facebook friend and I have known him since childhood, so I thought maybe he would have some interesting or funny things to share.  After all, he is a comedian.

At first, his stuff was pretty entertaining.  Then he started pinning fashion ideas for himself.  Again, not a terrible thing, but a little weird.  Maybe my personal experience is too limited, but I do not interact with many men who give that much forethought to their wardrobe.  But whatever, cool.

Then he started a board entitled "girls, do this."  Don't freak out, it is nothing dirty.  It is, more or less, a way for him to show the women of the world what kind of fashion and accessories he finds to be attractive.  Sort of a template for women to say, "See gals?  If you dress like this, I will find you hot and might consider making you my girlfriend."

Oh, did I not mention that he is single?  A girlfriend might actually take offense to this unless he was paying tribute to her natural style by telling other girls to be as awesome as her.

And it really isn't that the outfits or shoes are ugly, inappropriate or demeaning.  It is just weird.  I do not understand the purpose.  Is it to be funny?  Flirty?  Assertive?  Ironic?  As far as I can tell, these are things he really does like. 

But this leads me to the inevitable fact that in order to pin these items, he has to go looking for them.  Sure he could troll the fashion boards of female friends and just repin.  But I get the sense that he is going out to clothing sites and pinning directly.  Either way, this guy might just have too much time on his hands.  It may be time for a "pintervention."  Do you like that?  I am sure I am not the first to use it, so I won't lay claim to it, but it is good.  I know.

OK, so it is time to take my next allergy pill.  You know how I know?  My eyes are burning.  And no, it's not because I am mocking too many people tonight.  It really is allergies.

Oh, and wish me luck.  I am in charge of all three dogs tonight which means slumber party!!!!!  But we cannot stay up too late; it's a work night. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A little something for you

Slow and steady wins the race.

This is my mantra as I try to focus my eyes long enough to complete an entry.  You see, my seasonal allergies have smacked me in the face and nearly stolen my sanity.  As a person who rarely gets ill, this is as close as I have come to being really ill in quite a while, and it is not comfortable.  Thankfully, my life is not too crazy-hectic at the moment, so I will survive.

Last weekend represented the first time since starting my new job that I have had any time off other than regular weekends.  True, it was a government holiday, but I will take what I can get, even if the freebie day is consumed with snot-rags and hallucinations.  Sadly, when I really stopped to think about the last time I took a true "vacation" day, it starts to look pretty bleak.  As close as I can figure, it happened sometime in April.  Yikes.

When I have had lucid down moments lately, I have taken to thinking about where I want to be one year from now.  If all continues to go as scheduled, I should be done with my home-owning relationship by that time and will actually have the freedom to really reconsider my life.  Work wise, things are pretty good.  I like where I am and I like my prospects.  True, it is no library job, but the amount of rejection I have faced on that front has left me desperate for working in a place that actually wants me. 

It is strange, though, because I have spent so much time wishing that I could ditch the trappings of the big city life for a simplified existence.  Now that I am facing the possibility of pursuing such an option, I have no idea where to start. 

But rather than continue to rant about this, I am going to heed the ache behind my eyes and get ready for bed.  I just wanted to be sure to write something in the month of September before things start moving along too quickly.  So there you have it.  Something.