Sunday, February 14, 2010

Forever speaking in plural

Forty-seven years a widow.
Thirty-five years since her youngest child grew up and left home.
Ninety-two years - she's outlived most of her peers.
And yet, she still speaks in community:

"Look!  A package came for us!"
"Let's open it up and see what they sent us!"
"Who will do our laundry?"
(Never mind that her laundry for the week
consists of only 1 towel, 2 washcloths, 2 housecoats, 
2 nightgowns and sundry undergarments.
All signs of a solitary life.)

She spends her days in solitude,
her nights with hired health-care help.
Her weekends are long, broken only
by a random visitor.

But the heart-kitting work of relationship
never quite fades away.

She still speaks in plural.

I think that I will too.

Photos by my Emily girl, age 14.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Knitting, reading, and hospital sitting

Four nights a week,
I spend 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.
with a 92 year old woman.
It's been a tough year with medical bills, 
so we have been thankful for this opportunity
to earn extra income.  I'm tired, but...
a body does what a body's gotta do.
(FYI:  A single medical helicopter flight 
ran $18,000.  At first, insurance said they 
would pay 1/2.  Now, they will pay at 80%)

My elderly friend has been in the
hospital for the past week, so I've been
there through the nights too.

Lots of night hours to improve my yarn hold.  I use the English method but am trying to learn the Continental method.  I like both.

Turns out I hadn't been holding my yarn correctly
for the most efficient knitting.  I'm often in such a 
hurry that I don't always take the time to learn
the best way to do something.  Things go better when you do.
Point made.  Lesson learned. 
Been doing some emesis basin holding,
ice chip feeding,
and lots of reading, too.  
Very little sleep.
It's just for a little while, though.

It's hard to watch suffering,
but she doesn't want to be alone.

Who does?

She's in surgery today.  
Praying for her tired old body
and the family that is represented at her side throughout the day.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Finished projects: Knitting, and keepsake embroidery

Today is my mother's birthday.  She was born in 1936.  Mom has been wanting me to make her a hat.  She was very specific with her instructions.  She wanted a knitted stocking hat, with a rim to roll.  So, I obliged, using a Paton's wool.  I enjoyed diving into knitting again so much, that I immediately planned three more projects.  (I can't do ANYTHING in moderation...)  I'm finally going to try to make socks (and doubting my abilities with the dpns.  :)

I really did love the colorway on this particular yarn,
but it does not photograph that well.  I think it
looks a little too random, even making it look like
the stitches are messed up in the ribbing.  They aren't.  
Really.  I mean it.  I hope that mama likes her hat.

This is another project for mom's birthday.
It's something she asked me to "fix" awhile back.
She had a piece of embroidery that
had been her mothers.  In fact, it was the 
last thing my grandmother Violet ever
made.  Grandma had Alzheimer's Disease,
and as she began to fade from consciousness
mom (who was her primary caregiver,) 
gave Grandma little projects to try to
keep her engaged in life and reality.
Grandma wrote in a journal for awhile, but
eventually that devolved into scribbles, 
mere lines on lines.  This embroidery, I would say,
was a bookend to Grandma's last rational moments.
Grandma has been gone for over a decade now,
and the fabric is fragile.  I had a hard time
deciding how best to preserve it, then
finally decided it should be behind glass.

I appliqued it onto a piece of cotton, purposefully 
sewing it over the right side of the fabric so
that a faint design showed from beneath.
Next, I will fasten it around a piece of stiff
board (by sewing the edges,) and place it in a frame.
I think she'll be pleased that I've finally finished
this project, as well.  On Sunday, I'm cooking dinner 
for my mom and dad, and we'll celebrate 
Jeff's and Ben's birthdays at the same time.
It's birthday season!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Pictures by Emily (Holly's oldest daughter.)

     Hi, this is Emily. My mom asked me to post some of the pictures I've taken (and played around with a bit on gimp,) and post them on her blog. I picked a few of my favorites, so here they are. :)

This was taken on mom's birthday, at our grandparent's farm. 
It's of Mariam, almost two years at the time.

This was taken on the same day as the former picture. 

This was taken early fall. I uploaded it, then used a "paint" option on 
gimp to make it look like a painting. (The original's very cute, as well.)

Taken during a family vacation in December. The setting for the 
picture was the front porch of a rustic cabin in a preserved and
restored village.

One of my favorite nature shots. :)

     My blog: Indecision

In which I slaughter a pumpkin and feel absolutely no remorse:

It's February, and that means that gardeners everywhere are dreaming about which seeds they will plant.  Some, like my sister who lives outside of Macon, Georgia, have already planted their first garden of the year.

We are still living heavily off of last year's garden and orchard harvests, and thankfully so.  This pumpkin, and his siblings like him who rest comfortably in my cellar, were not part of a "planned" community.  He was a volunteer.

I have one section of my yard which is given over completely to vines.  Space on our lot is such a premium for growing food, that I simply let the vines grow wild.  Cucumbers go up and over the wire fence, so do a Christmas pole bean.  This year I let the pumpkins do their thing.  Sometimes, I get a cross-breed that I'm not sure exactly what it is, but I think they are interesting so I just leave them alone and see what they will become.

So, this fellow was a volunteer.  I did not plant him.  I let his vine grow because it intrigued me; it looked different than the others.  I suspect that he came from the remains of a child's jack-o-lantern, but I don't remember that we had any just like this.  It is much heavier than the traditional pumpkins used for carving, though, with a dusky skin and flesh that is dense.  It has been a great "keeper," giving me seven basketball (or larger) sized gourds that have lasted this long in the winter season.

This last year I grew butternut squash (still have a few of these waiting to grace the table in March....), little pie pumpkins (which I used early to make pies and muffins because they don't keep as long,) an acorn squash and these big boys.  All in all, a lot of beta carotene in my basement, sending up orange love to fill my kid's nutritional needs.  There is virtually no effort to growing squash (pumpkins, gourds, etc.)  If you have the room or even a place for them to grow "up," they are a wonderful investment that will feed your family thru the winter.  It's interesting to watch pumpkins grow on a fence, too.  They start out hanging high and small, and as they develop they reach for the ground.  If you've never planted squash, I encourage you to give it a try.  It really is fun.  :)

To prepare my pumpkins, I cut them open and scoop out the insides.  (If you throw the refuse back on your garden, you've just planted next year's squash garden.  See?  It's a step saver!)  Some people like to prepare their pumpkin like this, then just bake it, covered, in the oven for an hour or so.  I don't like to do it this way - I don't know, I just don't like the texture as much.  I'd prefer to cut them, scoop them, then cut them into strips and take the peel off with a sharp paring knife.  It *is* very hard on your hands, though, so if you have difficulties with your hands or if your hands aren't very strong, you may wish to use the oven method.

Mariam helped me every step of the way with this pumpkin's demise.  I suspect that I could have moved much more swiftly without the, and yet, she was very cute with her assistance.  I gave her the job of putting the peels into the bowl.  Every time I gave her a strip, she said, "fank you."  "Can I have another one?"  Every.  Single. Time.  :)

I chop up the strips, add water to cover, then cook the pumpkin for about 35 minutes.  I drain it in a colander, then run it through my blender.  (Tonight though, I saved out a couple of cups of raw pumpkin to dice and add to stir-fry.)  I do not like to can pumpkin - it takes too long and is messy.  Some experts say that you should not pressure can pumpkin, but I just can't tell my mom and sister that.  They've been doing it for decades with much success.  I don't like to freeze it, either, as it gets watery.  I'd rather let them stay whole, in my cellar, until I am ready for them.

The last time I "slaughtered" a pumpkin, I used it in the following ways:  4 cups went into a pumpkin/chicken curry.  (Divine.)

*I say "slaughtered" because it absolutely feels so vicious to attack and slice open the poor pumpkin.  If you need to take out some aggression....this is a good task for you.

Four more cups went into two loaves of pumpkin bread and 2 cups went into two dozen pumpkin/chocolate chip muffins.

This week, 2 cups will go into stir-fry (so will a bag of well-drained shredded zucchini from last year's garden...that's another super cheap, prodigious and easy thing to grow), 1 cup will go into the tomato sauce for Monday night's pizza (shhhh.....), 4 cups will go into a curry soup for me and hubby (I won't over-laden the kids with curry again this week.  They love it, but I can tend to wear them out on a good thing if I'm not careful.  I'm happy to eat curry pumpkin soup all week long for lunch, while they eat more kid-friendly foods.), and the rest will go into another batch of muffins.  They really love those muffins.  (That's not my exact recipe, but it is close.  I usually use an unrefined sugar and olive oil, but those are easy to change.  I've also learned that I can cut the sugar back to one cup and not miss it at all, particularly if I am adding chocolate chips.)  Pumpkin is so unique in that it can mesh with curry or soy sauce, or tomato, or something sweet.  It tends to pick up the flavors of the food it is in.  I like to find ways to use it that do not include sugar.  I'm definitely no sugar Gestapo, and yet, we get plenty of that.  With a "fruit" so rich in nutrients, I hate to only use it for dessert.

So, there you have it.  That's how I spent a half an hour of my Saturday morning.  I won't pretend with you and tell you that I *love* butchering pumpkins - in fact, I really don't like doing it at all.  :)  Just wanting to be honest....

And yet, in terms of sheer usefulness, pumpkins are a very good investment in terms of gardening, storage, volume, and nutrition.  Just like anything else, a little bit of work, even if I don't want to do it, yields some very good and beneficial results.

Can you tell that I'm looking forward to Spring and Summer?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Our Homeschool: Grading papers

I spent most of yesterday grading papers.
Essays, worldview studies - years 1 and 3, short stories, creative writing, the beginnings of a novel...all single tests,
grammar worksheets, scripture handwriting, art journals, algebra...
oh, my.

This does not include the daily papers
and journals and art projects 
from my youngest four children.
It does not include all of the private interests...
guitar, piano, computer science, typing,
photography, design, foreign languages... 

My "old" children (ages 17, 15, 14 and 11) are at
the stage where grading involves a lot of
reading, writing, and interacting - for me.
It is interesting, as the conversations have
been taken to a whole new level.  It's not enough
for the most part to check off boxes (has it ever been?)
The big kids need analysis, feedback, suggestions,
encouragement, and constructive direction.

Some days, I wonder whose idea it was
to have three teenagers right in a row, and then
I remember that the first two were "our" idea...
and the third one was a "surprise" to us...
(but not to God.)  :)

It is a very challenging task, but a good one, 
a very rewarding one.
Some weeks, I groan when I feel the 
weight of the stack of papers - but as
I dive in and see how they are 
learning and growing and developing...
well, honestly, it is sometimes 
overwhelming to think that I am in charge
of this huge task.  I'm in charge of supplying
and talking and grading and holding to accounting...
and when I can't teach something I'm in
charge of connecting them to someone who can.
But what a privilege - to share so deeply 
as young people begin to formulate and articulate the
ideas that will frame their thought processes.
I want to equip, to ignite, to foster.  I want to challenge
them to surpass me and their Dad, 
to go beyond what they can learn from me.

So often, that begins with a small comment beside a 
written paragraph, a "what if," or a "have you
thought of this angle of things?"  It begins with a huge
stack of papers and books, a pencil, and a 
few refills of the afternoon coffee.

Thanks, kids.  It's a joy to journey with you.
Looking forward to next week's stack ~

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Winter is for finishing up projects: Embroidered pillowcases

I finished another project last weekend.
This is a set of embroidered pillowcases
for my nephew and his new bride.
He is a Marine, and as a rather new Marine with
a new bride, he will probably not be settling into one
residence with any permanency.  I wanted to 
give them an heirloom of sorts,
an old fashioned gift, but also wanted something
that they could easily pack up and move.  
I hope they like this set and that it fits the need.

So...they were married in August.
Of last year.
I might be a little late.