Monday, January 30, 2012

No-Good, Very Bad Day

What's that children's book? About the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day? I had one of those today and, while I am still able to think of good things that I am thankful for today (I believe nosespray went in my Thankfulness Journal this morning, actually), the extent of my awakeness & attention right now is limited to watching Ugly Betty DVDs and knitting. Oh, and taking a quick picture (below) to show you my knitting progress. Other than that, ugh. Just UGH. I want ice cream, but I'm drinking water instead. Emotional sugar eater, what? Yup, that's me. Seriously, though, it's Monday. I should not be crying uncontrollably at work on a Monday. Especially when last week I cried briefly at work on Tuesday, which sort of was my Monday, as I had Monday off. And today's crying didn't even have anything to do with my job, really - it was caused by a very rude postal worker as I was attempting to pick up the mail on my way to the office. Note to cranky postal workers everywhere: You are not the only ones with difficult jobs and menial tasks to complete. Just because you hate your life or whatever doesn't mean that you can take it out on the rest of us. Seriously. I just want to get through a week without crying. Especially since the initial rude-postal-worker-crying turned into a few hours of I-miss-my-husband-and-baby-crying. Just weeping, crazy weeping. Ridiculous.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go knit a few more rows and drink 12 more glasses of water to stave of my sugar cravings.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Knitting by Faith

I am knitting together stitches of red and white wool that I hope will become part of a hooded scarf, most likely to give to one of my nieces. It's not always clear, however, how such projects will turn out when we begin them. One of the church readerboards on my way to work in the mornings recently stated, "faith is taking the first step when you can't see the entire staircase." So much of what we do, how we move through life, depends on faith - in ourselves, in others, in our previous knowledge, in our professional training, in physical laws, in cultural norms...the list could go on for days. We use the term, "take for granted," but isn't that just another way of saying faith?

I picked up a couple salads and had lunch with my mother at her school yesterday. We ate in the teacher's lounge with several other faculty members and one, a substitute teacher, told us about her experiences having a brain tumor several years back, a condition that not only threatened her life but took her sight away for more than a year due to pressure on her optic nerves (the tumor was located on her frontal lobe, near the corpus collosum, so it pressed down into her eye sockets as it grew). For a time, she saw only a haze - gray out of the right eye, colors out of the left. And then, one day she woke up and saw only darkness. Everything she did became "by faith" - trusting that her house layout would remain the same, believing that the doorknob would be at hip height, knowing that tasks may not look as expected, but they would be completed nonetheless.

I've heard it said that it is by faith we learn how to see. Just as I twist and weave two strands of yarn around my needles and look in awe as a pattern emerges, we learn to follow by faith tasks laid before us and to marvel in the pattern of life that is created. I have told many people, taking this job, making the move back to Oregon, it just felt right. When my husband got a teaching job just before the school year started I wasn't surprised - I had faith we were following a plan laid out for us. It is hard, yes, and sometimes we end up with knots in the yarn and things we perceive as flaws in the resulting patterns, but we are creating something here, and it is turning out to be something pretty darn beautiful.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Photos & Family Musings

So Angie is getting real excited about her upcoming photo shoot (2/13 - the day before my birthday!) for her new album release. She posted this self-styled photo with the tutu I made on her Facebook page yesterday:

I love it! What do you think? I'm real excited to listen to the rough cut CD Angie gave me last night to listen to, along with lyrics and chord charts for the songs she'd like me to sing back-up and/or play cello on. I'm actually listening to it right now as I type. It's good! I'm honored she has asked me to be part of such a cool project.

On a completely different note, it occurred to me mid-commute yesterday how much less my son will have to rely on his visual memory than I have as far as childhood memories go. Monkey, like most of small people his age, I'm guessing, takes technology for granted. "Let's make a video" is a matter of using daddy's iPhone, mommy's Blackberry, or the FlipCam. Taking pictures is a similar matter. When I was 6, photos were taken for special occasions on clunky cameras with 35mm film. It was a big deal when my mom pulled out her camera, the one her father gave to her when she was a teenager. People used to be lucky to have a photo taken of them at all in their lifetime. Today, we can take hundreds of photos in an hour without much thought or effort. Stop and consider that for a moment. Really. It's momentous.

Check out the photo below:

One of these five men is my great-grandfather, Alfred Causley, known as Alf to his friends. He was my mother's mother's father, a Barr Colonist who homesteaded near Lloydminster, Saskatchewan, in the early 1900s. He worked with the Canadian National Railway as a pumpman for 11 years in North Battleford before being transferred to the Dundurn District. This is how my grandmother and her brother came to be raised in a boxcar home. In 1940, he retired to Saskatoon, where he died in 1949, at the age of 75. This is one of two photographs I've ever seen of my great-grandfather Alf, the other being in an old photo album at my mother's house and picturing Alf, his wife and their two children standing in front of their boxcar home. I love that this photo has some of his friends and the family's personal effects in it, though. Imagine how much more precious those photos must have been when they were so rare and valuable.

My Christmas present to my father this year was a promise that I am going to interview him about his family so that I can write down all the stories that have not yet been told. Especially poignant, I think, since I didn't grow up with him - these stories will be new to me, as well as a gift to my child and his cousins. I want them to know where they come from in a way that my sister and I never knew growing up. I don't begrudge them the conveniences of capturing memories via modern technology - I just hope they take advantage of the opportunity to record their chapters of our family history.

Monday, January 23, 2012

An Unexpected Romantic Gesture

I feel like such a giant whiner even bringing this up, but it is hard for me to be apart from my husband this year. I am someone who really feels the emotions of others best through physical touch and experiences - a kinesthetic, visual learner by nature. When my husband isn't here, I don't get my fill of hugs and kisses. Regardless of how many "I Love You"s I receive over the phone, via Skype, via text or email, I still miss the hugs and kisses.

We got into a big argument last week. I'll spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say that Snowpacolypse 2012 manage to throw a wrench into our otherwise well-laid plans for spending the weekend together. Hmm, that's a pretty decent little synopsis, actually. You don't really need to read the angry text messages or hear about the heated Skype conversations. So.

I guess one benefit of living apart is the built-in physical buffer (160 miles, in our case) when you need cool-down time. Nearly two days went by as I seethed and he...what? I didn't know. I supposed he was still trapped in Snowpacolypse, but I didn't really think that I cared, at that point. Fighting with my husband really brings out the 5-year-old in me. After working a short day Friday (7 hours), I headed home and began my great scanning/shredding mission in earnest. It was slow going, but it needed to be done. Saturday morning, I woke up and was very excited to have my first *me* day in several months. After running errands for a few hours, I had lunch with a couple of friends, and then headed home again to continue scanning/shredding. Oh, it was a relaxing day!

Sunday began much like Saturday, with scanning/shredding and folding laundry. But then, be still my heart, came the romantic surprise. My husband appeared on my doorstep. He drove five hours roundtrip to spend only a few hours with me. First he scrubbed my bathroom within an inch of its life. Then he shredded the giant stack of papers I had already scanned and took out the paper bags full of shreddings to the recycling bins. We took a great trip to Baja Fresh for spicy sustenance, then watched a chick flick and cuddled on the coach. Perfect mini-date with my husband? Yes. Amazing, romantic surprise? Yes. Pretty much the best way of "showing" me the apology he'd already verbalized? *YES*

I'm all atwitter with romantical feelings!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Too, too pretty, no?

Brace yourselves, folks: There are going to be a lot of photos on this one! You may remember me mentioning that I seem to be becoming much more of a girly-girl now that I'm out of my twenties. Is that normal? I don't know, but I'm enjoying it. My current obsessions? Cupcakes and tutus, not necessarily in that order. I found this adorable tutorial for making a tutu...

It was so cute, I immediately added it to my Pinterest board, Things I Want to Make. A few weeks later, my dear friend Angie asked me if I wanted to do some back-up vocals and instrumentals on her new album. Um, yeah! I (half-jokingly) said, "Okay, but only if I get to help with the styling for the photo shoot for the album cover..." and then, a moment later, inspiration hit. Oh. My. Gosh. Angie *needs* a tutu for her album photo shoot. NEEDS. Yes!!! So I got started with a repurposed skinny strap nude tank and some light blue tulle...

You'll see that I followed the basic method on the tutorial, but instead of looping the tulle lengths onto a long ribbon, I tied a little knot and then stitched it onto the hem of the tank.

Here's what the tutu looks after the first layer of tulle. I totally made marks at regular intervals around the hem of the tank before I started sewing in order to ensure even layers. I'm definitely a nerd like that :-)

Things started getting a little fancier during the second layer. I interspersed some black dotted mesh within the strips of light blue tulle. I didn't want the whole thing to get too dark or serious, but at the same time, I didn't want Angie to end up looking like a puffy blue cloud.

The third layer saw the addition of some super-long strands or, as Angie called them, "The long pieces for me to step on." Ha! Well, at least it makes things interesting, right?

This is a gratuitous tutu shot, post fluffing and wrapping some lovely little bows in the black mesh up near the top. Don't you just want to pet it??

So Angie came over to try on her tutu. Our friend Dawn came over, as well, and pointed out how much Angie looked like Cartman (from South Park) in her ginormous sunglasses. Ha! Of course, we had to pause for a photo.

And then the tutu went on. Look! Almost unconsciously, Angie morphed into a cutie wanna-be ballerina, complete with rounded arms. Dawn is lurking behind the door there. You can't see her, but she's there.

The next step was for Angie to explore her modeling skills. This look is...I'm not actually sure what this was. But it made me laugh, so I thought you might enjoy it, as well.

Okay, all straightened up now.

Oooh, let's see what's down here!

Testing the spin-a-bility

Aaaaw, like a little princess!

...and finish with a yoga pose!

Doesn't Angie look absolutely serene now that her tutu is complete? Let the album cover photo shoot begin! Want to see what Angie does when she's not modeling tutus? Check out her blog here.

Let me end by saying how happy I am to have move the original tutu tutorial pin to my Things I HAVE Made board on Pinterest :-)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Scan It, Shred It, Repeat

I have an exciting evening planned. The scanner and I are getting to work making digital copies of a giant box full of records. Then 3 binders and a stack of clear sheet-protectors and I are going to organize, alphabetize, categorize, and label the records from 2009, 2010, and 2011. Then the shredder and I are going to make short work of all the records from 1995-2008. To keep morale high, the computer will independently play a Sex & the City marathon and I will take frequent trips to the kitchen for mineral water refills. Oh yeah, I sure know how to live it up on a Friday night!

When I agreed to serve as Treasurer for a professional organization I am a part of, I had no idea how much *stuff* would come along with that position. No, I'm not talking about the time commitment, the many trips to the bank, or occasional reports to pull together. I'm talking about STUFF - a *giant* box full of paper that arrived a few short
weeks after I came on board. Holy fire hazard!

As one of the youngest members of this professional organization, I felt it was my duty to go beyond the basic duties of Treasurer (you know...taking care of the money!) and to digitally organize this mess of records I received in the mail, if for no other reason than to avoid paying $40 to ship the box to the next Treasurer at the end of my
term! And yes, I'm being ageist and I'm sorry if that offends you, but in my experience older professionals tend to be far less open to change than those of us who don't remember life before the internet. So anyhow, I got permission to take us digital (or more digital - they did ask me to keep paper records for the past 3-4 years) at our annual meeting last May, but of course haven't made the time to really dive into the project before now.

My original plan was to scan everything and then burn it
onto CD-Rs, like one for each year of records. Two copies would be made of these CD-Rs; one would stay with the current Treasurer and the back-up copy would be kept with one of our members, who happens to be an accountant and does our audit every year. Simple, right? Except it still leads to clutter, because every year we add another CD-R. Aargh!

One very pleasant side effect of starting my new job back in July was an opportunity to explore more online storage options, aka *The Cloud*. I love the cloud. It's like having a really, really big purse that you can open up anywhere there's an internet connection. My PC at home? Check! My PC at work? Check! My colleague's Mac in Nebraska? Check! Another colleague's Blackberry in Colorado? Check! It's beautiful, I tell you!

So my current cloud storage of choice is Dropbox. It doesn't allow you a tremendous amount of free storage, but you can "earn" additional space by recommending Dropbox to friends. When they make an account and install the easy-peasy-downloader-thingie, you get more space. Isn't social media beautiful?

I think feeling so unsettled and home-less this year has really made me appreciate cloud storage even more. No matter where I go, there are my files. I actually have two accounts already: one for work and one for home. It's right up there with Facebook or Pinterest, as far as addictability goes, but with far less chance of wasting a ton of time playing on it. Dropbox is utilitarian, and I love it.

You may be interested to know that, in the time it took me to write this post, edit this post, and find cute little illustrations to go along with it, I've already scanned and filed all of 2010 and am now hard at work on 2009. Yay, me! I was actually supposed to be up in Tacoma this weekend, but a freak, massive snowstorm made a safe drive pretty much impossible. So, here I am - at home, alone, with time to work on a big organizational project and maybe even to do some laundry, clean my room, etc. I'll keep you posted on my progress. If you had some unexpected time off - an hour, a day, a weekend, etc. - what major project would you like to take on?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Flurries & Preparations

[Note: This post was written on Monday morning - and I ended up getting to my office in Portland about 3 hours later than planned :-P]

The drive to the train station this morning was peppered with crunchy snow drifts and slippery ice patches. My husband drove and I enjoyed the view. I love how safe I feel when he drives - it's like I can completely give up control over the vehicle because I know he has our best interests at heart.

So after stopping at Cutters Point coffee shop in downtown Tacoma and watching the sun rise over the bay while taking the first sips of a Red Velvet Frappe (yum!) we finished the last leg of the commute and arrived at the tiny, adorable Tacoma Amtrak Station (not to be confused with the ginormous bus/commuter station just across the street & down a bit). I was one of the first people here which was probably a bit of overplanning on my part, as the train has already been announced as delayed 20, 25, 30, and now 50 minutes in arrival. This is an example of how the Pacific Northwest is not prepared for cold weather, I suppose: the switches on our trains don't have heaters built in as they do in other parts of the country. Bust my buffers!

It makes me think about an old joke we had when I rowed crew in college, though: hurry up & wait. Rush, rush, rush so you can sit, sit, sit. It's all a matter of preparation. Really, though, isn't that what life is? A series of preparations? Education is a preparation for working as an adult. Dating is a preparation for marriage. Eating is a preparation for burning calories. Sleeping is a preparation for staying awake tomorrow. Antecedent, consequences, antecedent, consequences, as regular as train wheels clicking down the tracks - once they're defrosted, of course.

My word this year is *intention*, which to me is an integral part of preparation. It doesn't change what you do, so much, as being aware of *why* you're doing it. I'm sitting here in this train station with the intention of returning to Portland so I can put in a good week's work and spend another full weekend, guilt-free, with my family. I am preparing to return to my home, which is with my boys.

Can you believe I left this comfy little workspace behind?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Snooooooow Daaaaaaay!!!

[Note: This post was written on Sunday morning]

What is it about snow? The sheer joy and excitement of the world covered in a beautiful white blanket of cold, fluffy, icy flakes - it's irresistible! My sweet baby is outside having a snowball fight with my bigger boy right now. Apparently, 33 is not too old to wage a backyard battle with your offspring. As for me, I'm watching the Golden Girls on TV and the snow falling through the window. My amazing mother-in-law made big, fluffy pancakes and garnished them with blueberries for breakfast. I can neither confirm nor deny inhaling four of them in quick succession. There's now a homemade pot of spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove in preparation for tonight's dinner. Mmmm...there are definite gastric advantages to having three generations living under one roof.

My dear husband is getting restless now. He's definitely the get-out-and-do-something person at our house and bad weather seems to just magnify these desires. Me? I'm more of a homebody. If I had my sewing machine up here with me this weekend and a stash of fabric, I'd be happy to sit by the window and sew until bedtime. Yup. Now *that* sounds like a wonderful snow day to me!

Marriage is all about compromise, though, right? So I will choose to enjoy my husband's restless-in-bad-weather side and get myself bundled up for a little trip to...who knows? Movies? Bowling? Last year we braved an ice storm in Dallas to go to a local mall and walk around for a couple hours. Getting there was a bit nail-biting, for me, but we did have a grand time once we arrived safely. It's rare to be in a mall in DFW with the corridors & stores nearly empty - glorious!

It does make me thankful, though, that we live in a part of the country that rarely gets snow. I'm not sure I could stand a few solid months of restless husband syndrome every day, LOL

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sound Check? Check!

Our visit with the audiologist went well yesterday. Every time we go to have Monkey's hearing tested, I realize I don't know what to call the audiologist. Dr. So-and-So? Are they doctors? Probably a dumb question, I know, and something I swear I'm going to look up every time we go there. But of course I don't and a year or two later I end up on my way to another appointment with Monkey, walking in the door and realizing I still have no idea what to call the audiologist. Classy.

Our appointment was at an office that mostly serves adults. Monkey did his best to behave but, you know, he's 6, and a two hour appointment is a long time for his little brain to focus and his little body to sit still. He did his best, though, and so did I. I was silent and helpful in the little soundproof room, handing Monkey brightly colored pegs as the audiologist signaled me and keeping my emotions under control. Sounds crazy, right? Getting emotional in the soundproof room? But you have to understand what it's like, sitting and watching your child being tested, watching him not hearing things that are audible to you, feeling the sting of not knowing, not ever having the slightest hope of knowing *WHY* your baby was born with this disability, never knowing if it was something you did wrong or a freak genetic mutation or what, only knowing that there's nothing you can do about it, that you're helpless to help your baby do something that you used to take for granted every second of every day: hear.

It hurts, but it gets easier. This is the first time I didn't cry before, during, or after the hearing test.

The results of the testing yesterday were right in line with the previous results, taken three years ago for the right ear and two years ago for the left ear, the latter having been retested following surgical insertion of a tympanic membrane tube to deal with recurring ear infections throughout infant/toddlerhood. Now that Monkey is 6 ("I'm 6-and-a-HALF, mommy!"), we can be fairly confident that the results of the tests are accurate and reliable. Plus, while his right ("little") ear still shows a moderate hearing impairment (not a surprise, as he still lacks an open ear canal on that side, a condition identified as aural atresia) tests done via bone conduction indicate that Monkey's inner ear is in perfect working condition - which takes him one step closer to being a candidate for constructive surgery and/or implantation of a post to attach a bone-conducted hearing aid.

As my husband keeps reminding me (thank you, dear!), this is the year of gathering information. Still, it's hard not to react emotionally to information about my baby's ears, whether it is good or bad. Right now, I have a mommy rush of excitement in the pit of my stomach, a feeling of relief and joy that, for the moment, the path is smooth for my sweet boy, for us as a family. I'm not naieve enough to think that the entire journey will be this way but, for now, I'm savoring the moment.
Next stop? Appointment #2 will be next week with a local ENT, whose job will most likely be to review the file, ask a few questions, and refer us to a specialist. Dot your Is, cross your Ts, and follow the steps the insurance company wants you to take. We're gathering information.

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Ride in the Dark

[Note: This post was written last night, but I was too exhausted by the time I got home to get it uploaded - sorry!]

I'm writing this on my Blackberry while sitting on an Amtrak train, somewhere between Portland and Tacoma. Part of making the long-distance living arrangement work this year involves keeping our travel budget minimized, and with train tickets coming in at slightly less than a tank of gas, it makes sense for at least one weekend commute per month to be done via train. Not putting 300 miles (round trip) on one of the vehicles is icing on the cake, in that regard. It does require advance planning and minimized flexibility in schedule changes, but nothing terribly vexing.

True stories I'm learning on my first train commute: You get about four times the personal space on a train as you do on an airplane. There are power outlets provided if you want to work on a laptop or watch a movie. Most of the seats are on the top layer of the train so you get a nice scenic view (right now, it's pitch black outside, but I have gotten some interesting glimpses into people's house windows when we roll through the little towns!). Do I sound like a commercial yet? I also like the slightly burny smell that happens when they throw the brakes at the stations. Hmm...that last statement looks weirder written down than it sounded in my head...oh well!

Monkey has the day of school tomorrow ("bad weather" day built into the school year) so we will be spending the morning together. At 12:00, we will head over to Daddy's school and pick him up so the three of us can visit an audiologist, the first ear-related doctor we've seen since moving this summer. This visit marks a new season in Monkey's life, really in our family. We are beginning the process of seriously gathering information about the possibility of Monkey undergoing a series of surgeries for his "little ear" - more on that later, I promise. For now, let me just say that this train ride I am taking tonight, hurtling through the dark on a path unknown, with someone else behind the throttle, is symbolic of the journey we are beginning with our Monkey. I can only pray that God continues to show us where to take the precious child he has entrusted to us.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Change Your Life, Change Your Style

My wardrobe is undergoing an unexpected transformation currently. While it has taken me somewhat by surprise, I can't honestly say that I completely dislike the process. It makes sense, I suppose: I turned 30 at the beginning of 2011 and moved 2,102 miles/2 time zones/about a gazillion light years as far as weather conditions and local style go. Dallas, Texas does not mesh well with Portland, Oregon, and fashion is just the tip of the iceberg! So pair those major changes with moving from being a contract board-certified music therapist to a manager of a major agency in my chosen profession - which can be tricky considering I am new to town and younger than most of the contractors I manage, most of the professionals from agencies we contract with, and even most of our clients. Yup. Time for a change.

So what does that mean for my personal style (or lack thereof)? Well, some things will never change: my number one concern was, is, and always will be comfort. I c
an't focus entirely on work if my feet hurt or my waistband is pinching, if I have to constantly pull up my top or tug down my skirt. Also, it's cold here. Like *cold* - SERIOUSLY! And yes, I know that all of you in the Midwest, East Coast, and everywhere North of me are snickering right now, but you have to remember that I've been enjoying (okay, sweltering in) triple-digit temperature for quite a few years now and my inner Oregonian has perhaps been sweated out. Brrrrr!

So my closet, once full of Bermuda shorts, capri pants, cap-sleeve blouses, sandals, and sundresses is suddenly becoming a haven for ankle-length leggings, long-
sleeve layering tees, heavy wool sweaters, maxi skirts, jersey skirts, slacks, flats, long scarves, and wooly mittens. Did I mention I'm freezing? And that I bought *two* wool jackets back in the Fall? It's certainly a change from the past few years of hot flashes and dripping sweat rivulets! But I don't want to be boring, you know? I need inspiration and to find the perfect way to make Professional Emily look as smart as we know she is, but still keep Personal Emily warm and comfortable until it's time to go home and change back into my normal clothes (aka sweats & an old tee of my husband). My INTENTION is to look like a grown up and to feel like me. Point me in the right direction, people! I need help!

See? I have skirts! Warm, comfortable, made-by-me skirts!

Subtract the baby bump and the necklace and this could be me on a typical day. Note: This isn't me, though! Thanks for pointing out that I was unclear there, Rachel :-) flats...I love them all!

Yes, please!

This is not me - but I would wear this! Just add something warm over that tee

...and, finally, the ubiquitous comfy Portland scarf

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Medicine I Really Needed

So I thought I knew what I needed to recuperate fully from the great plague of December/January: antibiotics, vitamins to build my immune system, avoiding human contact, lots of yogurt & leafy greens, and plenty of rest (thanks for the advice, doc!). Turns out she forgot to add a few things to the list, though. Thursday night, I was wrestling with whether I should drive up to Tacoma as planned this weekend or not. Besides my nephew's birthday party on Saturday, my Monkey has been in serious Mommy withdrawal this week and I'd promised to make the trip up. My husband was also hoping to spend some time with me. Let's be honest, though: driving about 300 miles roundtrip in less than 3 days is not exactly "taking it easy," so I wasn't sure if I should stay in Portland and rest up or get in the car and go. I finally decided to go, against my better judgment, because I didn't want to disappoint any of the 3 aforementioned guys.

Turns out I made the right choice. Yes, I did spend about 3 hours driving on
Friday and another 3 hours driving today, but in exchange I got 10+ hours of perfectly restful sleep on Friday AND Saturday nights (amazing how much better you sleep in your own bed with your husband next to you, isn't it?), as well as...

A lovely pre-party walk with Monkey, my sister, and her 3 kids in the "wilds" of Seattle.

To help my husband put together the bike Monkey got for Christmas
(complete with tiny, adorable training wheels) and to watch Monkey take his first ride on a beautiful, sunny, Sunday afternoon in Tacoma. You can't use those adjectives often, this time of year!

Look at those blue skies!

One of my mountains, Rainier, popped out to say hi when I was heading back to I-5.

Mt. Saint Helens also was visible as I headed South for Portland. Unfortunately, the bright blue skies turned to crazy-heavy fog around Exit 45, so by the time I crossed the bridge into Oregon I could barely see the car in front of me, let alone Mt. Hood!

Plus my wonderful mother-in-law sent me home with chocolate cupcakes, which I had been craving aaaaaaaallllll week! Yummy!!! I definitely
had more than enough ideas for my Thankfulness Journal this weekend :-)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Birthday Trio for Boy Boy

It all started with a mustache...

Well, a mustache pattern...

Well, the plaid pants and the glasses led to the idea for the mustache...

Maybe I should just start at the beginning...

Our nephew, Boy Boy, is celebrating his 6th birthday this weekend. Since he's all about animals right now, I decided it would be fun to make him some squishy playmates. After browsing around online (thanks, google images!) I settled on a chunky, bear-like creature, complete with little ears and arms. This is the pattern I made out of two pieces of 8.5" x 11" paper.

After cutting out two creature outlines from some leftover creamish burlap, I thought about what I wanted this little guy to look like. Awesome glasses were a must (my brother-in-law rocks some cool specs, as do my husband and I) and, since they live in a Seattle suburb, maybe some hipster plaid pants? Good thing I had scraps from Monkey's first kilt sitting around. The glasses were cut from a scrap from the apron I made last year. A few facial features, ear insides...looks like a little creature!

Look, it's Mr. Smartypants! I didn't do anything fancy to attach the detail pieces, just zig-zag stitching around the edges. The pants are on the front and the back of him - I don't want to give a 6-year-old a creature to moon people with, after all!

My dad was terribly amused when I showed him Mr. Smartypants and I shared with him my plans to make two more creatures (a group is always more fun, right? Plus Boy Boy has two sisters and may be called upon to share...). We brainstormed for a little while and dad came up with the coolest idea! We just needed a mustache...a comb over...some tight red pants...

...and, voila! GianCarlo Orlando was born! Make sure you pronounce it "zhawn-CAR-lo or-LAWN-do" - named by my Swiss father, of course. If his mustache looks familiar, it's because it was made from the pattern that I'm rocking in the first picture above ;-)

So we had two, one designed by me, one by dad, and absolutely no clue what to do for the third one! We kicked around quite a few ideas, but it wasn't until I made an impromptu trip to a fabric store for stuffing and happened to see some suede on super-sale that I came up with the perfect idea.

Virginia Hula-Hoop, as dad decided she should be named. Doesn't she just look like a chubby bundle of joy? Now, just when you thought this fun little project couldn't get any better, I had the great idea that my dad should write a cute little story to introduce Boy Boy to his new playmates. Hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did :-)

Virginia Hula-Hoop, GianCarlo Orlando and Smarty Pants are a team of youngsters. They like each other and are dedicated to making other people feel good.They have been friends for a very long time, almost a lifetime. They first met in Kindergarten. They spend a lot of time together.

GianCarlo was born in Orlando, Florida. His parents had come from Italy and moved to Florida when they were very young. His dad was a truck driver. He drove his truck all over the United States. On one trip he drove through the Pacific Northwest. He liked it very much. When he returned from this trip, he said to his wife: Cara Mia, I have seen the most beautiful place. I think we should take GianCarlo Orlando and move there. Cara Mia liked that idea. They packed up their belongings and moved to the Pacific Northwest with GianCarlo. GianCarlo was only a baby at the time.

Smarty Pants is the son of a college professor and a lawyer. He loves to read and solve mathematical problems. That's why he knows many things and is very smart. He also smiles a lot and is always friendly to other people. He mows the lawn for an elderly woman and runs errands for his mum.

Virginia Hula-Hoop was born in Hawaii. Not far from their house there was a big volcano. Sometimes it had hot lava flowing down the mountainside and into the sea. At night it was glowing red-hot. That looked very beautiful. Virginia loved to sit in the back yard in the evenings with her parents and watch the glowing lava.Her dad was very athletic. He taught Virginia the Hula-Hoop. One day he got a letter from Washington State. They wanted him to come there and teach people how to grow strong and healthy. The family decided to move there just before Virginia started Kindergarten.

Virginia Hula-Hoop, GianCarlo Orlando and Smarty Pants are very excited to meet their new friend, Boy Boy, and his family! Please feed them lots of cupcakes, give them smiles and hugs when you see them, and make sure they brush their teeth before bed.

Angie Has Much More Energy Than Me

Okay, I've done it. I finished the dress upcycle on my $2 knit jumper from Value Village. And after two days of napping and telecommuting and sewing (with a little eating and antibiotic-swallowing thrown in there) there is absolutely no way I'm going to upload & edit & post & label all the pictures tonight. Plus, I'm going to have to wait until I wear it for someone at work to take a photo of me modeling it so...I guess I'm going to leave you with a teaser!

If you're in the mood for some good reading tonight, may I suggest that you check out my lovely friend Angie's new blog, Every Other Day? Angie is beautiful, talented, smart, funny, athletic, and...surprisingly single! She actually broke up with her boyfriend just a week ago or so and decided the best way to rebound with good spirits was to date as much as possible, like every other day or so. And so, Every Other Day was born, in which Angie will attempt to go on a date and write about the good, the bad, and the unwashed (we're in Portland, remember?) for all of us to read about. This experiment will continue until Angie ends up married, kidnapped, or she just can't stand all of the drama anymore. Seriously, drama. One of the guys she dated is sending her incessant love-letter emails! Yikes!

Check it out, let me know what you think. Personally, I'm enjoying the vicarious thrill of dating wildly like a young person again. Date on, Angie!

See? Cute, right? No wonder the dates are lining up for this social experiment...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Can a Care Package Include Tulle? Please?

So today has been an interesting day. I've taken three 5-hour naps over the last 24 hours so, while I'm not feeling fully rested (or on any kind of normal sleep schedule), I am awake and functional enough to get some report editing done for work. Last week was billing, this week is report editing/delivering to our clients - thank goodness some of this work can be done from home with a reliable internet connection! I also tried Skyping in to the office this afternoon so I could follow along with one of my coworkers meeting with our interns - that did not go as well. One of the drawbacks of having your offices housed in an historic (100+ years old) building is that the internet connections are not amazing. Plus, since it's a community space, we currently share bandwidth with any Tom, Dick, or Harry who's logged on with his laptop somewhere in the building. Not an ideal internet situation!

I talked to my boss via telephone earlier today and she reminded me to take it easy, even though I will no doubt begin to feel "restless" as my symptoms subside over the next 24-48 hours. It's amazing to have someone already know you so wel
l after less than 6 months with a company, I tell you what! I am feeling a little restless, already, but not so much physically as creatively. My sleep is restless (due to the cough) and I wake up with my brain overflowing with cotton and thread and jersey knits and tulle...oh, the tulle. There is a plain, blue-gray, $2 from Value Village jersey knit jumper hanging on the hook outside my closet. It has been hanging there for several days and it is *mocking* me. Come on, Emily...upcycle me! I have a plan. It involves black sleeves, bringing up the neckline in the same black jersey, and then wrapping the whole thing in layers and braids of black tulle. Yes, that's right, tulle for everyday. I have a dream! Unfortunately, I have no tulle.

What do you think are the odds of someone bringing me a care package, like, now? With maybe some chicken soup, a DVD I haven't watched, and...tulle?

What a Start, Eh?

I have been sick since December 10. In case you don't have a calendar handy, that's 24 days of my own mini-plague. I first headed to the doctor on Day 9 and was diagnosed with viral bronchitis. Yay for no antibiotics but, at the same time, boo for viruses that can linger. They did hook me up with some codeine cough syrup, which helped a little with the night time hacking - talk about a controlled substance! I had to sign five release forms to get that stuff!

I won't bore you by recounting the waxing and waning of symptoms over the past 15 days, but suffice it to say that by this morning I decided I couldn't wait until my doctor's office reopened tomorrow and headed to Urgent Care. A few hours later, my concerns were confirmed. Or, as the doctor on call put it, I have "definitely earned some antibiotics!" Both ears infected, a raging case of strep, and of course the chest congestion from the lingering bronchitis. The good news? Chest x-ray showed no pneumonia. And, let's be honest, x-rays are always kind of fun, right?

The real kicker: 24 hours on antibiotics (doses 4 times a day for 10 days) before I'm not contagious, and then "avoid human contact" for at least a week. Apparently, you people are making me sick. Well, probably not you personally, more like the people I've been sharing air with. Definitely makes the work week a little...challenging, but I'll do my best. My INTENTION for this week is to give my body the time and supplies it needs to heal. I'm going to take care of me. Lots of rest, leafy greens, vitamin C like crazy, and probably some time spent reading lovely blogs, a good book or two, and maybe a little sewing. There are worse ways to start a new year!