Thursday, February 28, 2008

Slip Slidin' Away

Now that wrestling season is over, Will and I have returned to one of our weekly traditions -- an after-school drive through the Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is just outside of town, on about 7500 acres (300+ which once belonged to my family -- we lost our farm to the refuge in 1968, and no one in my family would step foot there until Maggie had a field trip in the 3rd grade. But that's a story for another day, and despite our painful history, I've come to love the refuge.)

So, yesterday Will asked to take a drive through the refuge. We always have our binoculars in the car for our refuge trips, and we have had some great sitings there. Usually, it's Canada geese and deer, but our best was seeing the river otters, who played and put on quite a show for us for over half an hour. Yesterday, we watched a gaggle of geese swim, then cross a peninsula of ice on foot, then swim away. It was really cute; they could have easily swum around the ice to the other side. They stood in line on the ice, waiting for their turn to get back in the water -- they got a little backed up when one of the geese stopped to think before swimming again. He was probably thinking, "This is all a little silly."

But this was all before the little accident.

There are only 4 miles of road in the refuge, unpaved. Sometimes we just make a small loop, but yesterday, since the boys were asleep in the back seat, we decided to drive down to the Meyers Cabin, the farthest away you can get from the entrance to the refuge. Although most of the ice and snow from last week's storm has melted, the roads in the refuge were still ice covered (Shady, not well-traveled and never treated with salt.) It didn't take long before I realized I had made a big mistake. I knew we had to turn around, and started a 3-point turn at a T in the road. But while backing up to get ready to turn around, things went south. We started sliding in reverse. It was pretty scary, but at last I got the car stopped.
But we were stuck, right beside a ditch. I couldn't go forward, and was afraid to try reverse again. Will and I got out to assess the situation. The road was as slick as glass. I fell on my rear, and Will slipped and his foot landed in the icy cold water in the ditch. We tried shoving sticks, rocks and some old clothes I had in the back (destined for the Goodwill) under the tires, but no good. Then Will said,
"Mom, I think the car is sliding."
And it did. Sideways.
Right into the ditch.
(You can see how far we slid from the tracks and brown mark to the right of the van)
And from the rear:
We had already called Clay, who was on his way with the jeep and a tow strap, but now we knew we were in big trouble. But we had slid as far as we could slide. We would just have to wait it out.
And then Tommy woke up.
He never wakes up very happy. He was upset and crying, so Will took him for a little walk up the road a bit, very carefully (some spots were in the sun and ice-free -- I guess that's how I got lulled into driving out too far). They came back when they got too cold, then Nathan woke up. I changed his diaper, and the boys took turns playing with the steering wheel until Clay got there.
(It took him about 40 minutes to get home, get the jeep and get out to the refuge. It was perhaps the longest 40 minutes of my life.)
He hardly ever gets mad at me, except when I overwork myself or make dumb decisions. And he didn't yell or curse; he just gave me that "I am disappointed in you" look, just like my dad did.
We strapped the boys into their seats. Clay hooked up the tow strap and we tried and tried and tried, but he couldn't pull us out. We knew we had to call a tow truck.
(Now, along with all this, I am getting worried because the sun is on its way down. The refuge is open from sunrise to sundown, when the gates close. Being in the refuge after hours is a federal offense with a large fine. I only know this because sweet Josh from Knit Night has a federal record for just this infraction! Soon after Will and I knew we were stuck, I had called the refuge offices and all the extensions offered on the voice mail, but couldn't reach a human to speak to. I did leave a message on the refuge manager's voice mail, but didn't hear back from him.)
After calling 3 towing companies, we found one that was free to come help us. He told Clay, however, that he had to call a conservation officer to come out with him. He further told Clay that people had had to pay substantial fines and had even gone to jail for damaging refuge property.
Jail. Holy shit. At that point, I was extremely glad I had taken a Xanax earlier.
When we knew the tow truck was on the way, Clay helped us move the car seats into the jeep and sent us home. On the way out, we passed the tow truck on the way in. Followed by a State Police car.
Oh my.
We made it home just fine, gave the boys some juice and covered up on the couch, waiting to hear when they were coming to take me to the Big House.
Turns out, when they got back to the van, the State Trooper himself slid down the road I had slid on, and the tow truck had to go get him out before he worked on the van. Then, he couldn't pull the van out; he had to use the winch and lift it out. The trooper and the tow truck driver were both good guys, Clay said. That makes it a little better.
Luckily, it was only $65 to tow the van out of the ditch. Clay then turned to the trooper and asked, "So what now?" The trooper waved him off, and told him everything was OK, just go home. So he did.
And he made it out before the gates closed. Whew, again.
After some crying, some scolding and some prolonged re-hashing of the whole story, we were soon laughing about it. Clay even said, "After you left, I took a couple of pictures with my phone, in case you wanted to blog about this." How thoughtful. I sort of wanted to forget the whole thing. I did a dumb thing, with my three most precious boys in the car, in the middle of nowhere.
But Will was a great help and support through the whole thing. He tried to take the blame, insisting that it was his idea to go to the refuge, and his idea to turn right and drive in a little farther instead of taking the small loop. He held my hand, and told me I handled the situation just right, not panicky. And I think he learned this lesson: if it looks doubtful, don't try it. I still feel a little shaky and stupid today, but I think I learned that lesson, as well.
This morning, as he left for school, he yelled from the front door, "Hey mom, want to go out to the refuge after school today?" Smart aleck.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Let's Talk

The poetry of Sylvia Plath

What do these have in common?
I am guessing that these are the only three topics that we didn't talk about when I spent the weekend in Louisville with some dear friends from high school. Will doesn't understand how talking can be considered a great time, but it was. We did visit three museums -- Glassworks, The Kentucky Museum of Arts and Crafts, and 21C's -- but there was mostly talking. And talking about where to eat. And eating. What could be better?

And, I think I may have made some knitting converts . . .

In other knitting news, I received an invitation from Ravelry last week. I set up my notebook, got a Flickr account, posted some pictures and joined two groups. Then, I spent many hours (I don't even want to guess at a real number, as it would be too embarrassing) reading posts, looking for patterns and coveting yarn. Luckily (luckily?), I was quite sick on Wednesday and Thursday, so I didn't feel too guilty about not doing something more constructive. But, as each day I think about having a cozy little knit shop of my very own, I think I will consider it research.

A few weeks ago on her blog, Holly asked if Ravelry would "kill the blogging star". I think it could be possible, but I have made a promise to myself to keep up with this blog and the Knittyboard before I go to Ravelry.

Of course, I also promised myself that I would exercise for 30 minutes and do at least an hour of housework each day before I knit one stitch or sat down at the computer. oops.

Not much time for Ravelry this week, anyway. Tonight is Will's wrestling banquet, and tomorrow is his birthday. Wednesday we have the boys, Thursday is knitting at the library and I have a catering job on Friday. But I might just pop over there for a minute or two . . . or three.


Monday, February 18, 2008

Sunday at the Theater . . .

Sweeney Todd has to be the oddest musical I have ever seen, and that list includes Urinetown. (Yikes!)
But you know what? I liked it. The story was gruesome, true, but the actor/musicians were fantastic and the staging was amazing (one of the best things about our seats up in the cloud club is the view of the movement on stage -- the other best thing is how cheap they are!)
At intermission, we watched people literally fleeing the theater. I have never left a production or movie in the middle; I guess I always hold out hope that it will get better.

I have, however, napped. (See above reference to Urinetown.)


Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Valentine from Haiti

Thursday was just one of those days. You know, when things just don't go so well. The highlight was going out to my car (after spending a hour convincing Grandma that A) she wasn't dying and B) we still loved her even though no one went in to see her on Tuesday or Wednesday because of the ice storm) and trying to turn the key in the ignition.

No go. Long story short, after towing, drilling, ordering parts and $435, I should get the car back on Tuesday.

When I finally got around to checking e-mail that evening, I found this note, from the priest at our sister parish in Gaspard, Haiti, St. Therese. Our parish sends them $965 each month, but in November, we were able to send an extra $3000, which they planned to use for building latrines for the school and church. In early December, a wild storm hit their mountaintop town, damaging the clinic, school, church and many homes. This was the first major trauma for Father Phechner, who has been a priest for just a little over a year.

Dear friends of Holy Ambroise,
I am very happy today in the name of the parishioners of Gaspard to write you to tell you how much you contributed for the working order of the parish. Thanks to your supports we could resist the different responsibilities of the parish. Even as the storm had hit us you were there to rescue us. Me particularly and all parishioners we are united in only one heart to tell you thank you for all grants received during the year 2007. God spoke in your hearts and I think that he fills you with her blessings and you continue to answer your vocation of Christian. Thank you and a thousand times thank you. That God blessed you and protect you from all pain. I am anxious to greet all people who contributed to help us towards the parish.
Fraternally yours!
your agreeable brother in Jesus Christ
Fr. Phechner Julmisse

Sort of puts things in perspective for me.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

I wrote this up as a Valentine gift to all the dishcloth knitters at Knit Night. You can find the pattern here.

I'm also working on the sweater sampler from The Sweater Workshop by Jacqueline Fee. I have already learned so much, especially with the stripe in the ribbing. Before I ripped out the Accordion sweater, I was really bugged by the way the purling stitches in the new color showed in the ribbing -- I never would have guessed that simply working a knit row in the new color would fix that.

I really love to learn something new.
Peace, and love.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Shawl, A Hat, A Party

I finished up Sue's Harley Shawl. It's actually Barbara Walker's Dayflower pattern, knit up with Paton's Divine on #13's. It's 15" wide and ended up about 6' long.

Sue really liked Nate's hat, so I thought I would make a hat up for her in a soft yarn (although she is yet to lose any of her hair). The yarn is Tesoro from Jo-Ann's, 100% wool --I'm not sure they carry it any longer, as it was in the clearance bin -- and I used a twisted rib stitch. I wrote up the pattern; if anyone would be interested, I'd be glad to post it.

Maggie graciously modeled for me:

And here's little Nate, blowing out his candles. Clothes off, but new shoes on. Let's just hope he doesn't celebrate every birthday in the same outfit.

Will has had an outstanding week, winning the Heisman Trophy in the NCAA Football video game -- we had an ice storm and he has had two days off school -- plenty of time to build a powerhouse Purdue program and defeat every team on the schedule. He is currently beating Florida State in the national championship. I'm so proud.

I knocked the ice off the jeep and slowly made my way into church this morning to play for a funeral; the backroads and side streets were still skating-rink slick this morning. After last week's tornadoes, I'd have to say this is the weirdest February weather I can remember.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Offer it up, or Would the Pope Shop at Wal-Mart?

In his Ash Wednesday message, Pope Benedict said, “We should offer up the small and great trials of our daily existence and insert them into the great compassion of Christ." (He had started a flurry of news reports and blog posts last November when he wrote this in his encyclical, Spe Salvi ):

40. I would like to add here another brief comment with some relevance for everyday living. There used to be a form of devotion—perhaps less practised today but quite widespread not long ago—that included the idea of “offering up” the minor daily hardships that continually strike at us like irritating “jabs”, thereby giving them a meaning. Of course, there were some exaggerations and perhaps unhealthy applications of this devotion, but we need to ask ourselves whether there may not after all have been something essential and helpful contained within it. What does it mean to offer something up? Those who did so were convinced that they could insert these little annoyances into Christ's great “com-passion” so that they somehow became part of the treasury of compassion so greatly needed by the human race. In this way, even the small inconveniences of daily life could acquire meaning and contribute to the economy of good and of human love. Maybe we should consider whether it might be judicious to revive this practice ourselves.

I've heard Grandma Shirley say "offer it up" many times, but didn't really understand what it meant until recently. So Sunday evening, during prayer time at Youth Group, I talked to the kids about offering up the little things that bother them this week.
Then yesterday, I got a chance to do so myself, as it was a day of irritating jabs, little annoyances and small inconveniences. My silly phone won't hold a charge, Staples no longer carries the cartridge for my Lex-mark picture printer and Clay left on a trip. But the biggest annoyance of all was going 3 rounds with Wal-Mart.

Question: How many Wal-Mart employees does it take to tell you that they won't exchange the HP picture printer you bought for Maggie at Christmas?

Answer: Apparently, 6.

Question: If you only have 30 days to return an electronic device to Wal-Mart, why doesn't it say that on the receipt?

Answer: or rather, answers:
1. It should have.
2. "Because you purchased another item besides the camera/printer bundle, it didn't put it on there." When I pointed out that the other item purchased that day was also an electronic item, answer #1 was invoked again, and we were sent to the Customer Service Desk.
3. "It says so right there." This accompanied the customer service rep's sweeping gesture to the sign posted behind her. (Honestly, it was Vanna-like, and although I was offering it up, I really did not appreciate the "you are a dumb ass" tone in her voice.) When I explained to her that I do not make my purchases at the Customer Service Desk, and therefore would not have had occasion to see that sign, she said, "I'm guessin' you'll want to see a manager." But it was not a manager who came when she called. It was two other women, who huddled together over the receipt for a few minutes before they said they would call the electronics manager, who just might have to call his superior, who is a "female person". ? So, we waited for Chris, the electronics manager who said:
4. "We tell all our customers they only have 30 days for a return." I told Chris that my husband had purchased the printer, not me. I also assured him that if Clay had been told he only had 30 days to return an item, he would have remembered. And, I argued that if Clay had fallen down dead after purchasing the printer, I wouldn't have known about the 30 day policy -- it should be printed on the receipt. To which he replied,
5. "Well, we can't print it on every receipt." You can't? Funny, you can use up six inches of register tape to tell me in English and in Spanish to go to to take a customer satisfaction survey. You can print the date, time, store number, phone number, manager's name, a detailed description of my purchase, the website address, some kind of bar code and "Have a Nice Day" on my receipt, but you can't always print the return policy?
He took my receipt, looked it over and said, "Oh, this was a day-after-Thanksgiving special," as if that would clear everything up for me. Offering it up before my head exploded, I calmly noted that the date on the receipt was 12/21, clearly not the day after Thanksgiving.
As he tried to explain about this special, (which had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the return policy was not mentioned on the receipt), I realized that my cause was lost.
I was not going to win this argument against people who were just trying to uphold company policy, albeit in a convoluted, condescending, mis-informed, make-it-up-as-you-go-along manner.
Chris said he would call the manager, but Maggie and I had had enough, and knew that talking to one more person who had to toe the company line wouldn't help. We hadn't yelled, cursed or even lost our cool. I took the receipt back, told them I was very disappointed and left.
And the saddest part of all? No one ever said they were sorry. Not sorry for our inconvenience, not sorry that the policy isn't clearer, not sorry that they couldn't be of more help.
Despite all this offering up, my compassion for WM is at an all-time low, and I want to say that I will never shop there again. But between the store and the distribution center, WM has provided many jobs here. WM is generous to the community.
And there's no place else in town to get a spool of thread.
So I've written a letter, and decided I won't be going back until I finally get that "sorry".
This story does have a happy ending. We came home and called HP. After a few minutes of telling them what was wrong with the printer, they are sending us a new one. Just like that.
Offer it up. Peace.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Happy Birthday, Nater

Nathan turned two yesterday. Perhaps I should have washed his face before taking his official picture.
I was taking some pictures to add to Grandpa Dale's Valentines -- I hope these make him smile.
Nathan likes to go the library, get into things he shouldn't, climb where he musn't and watch Max and Ruby. So, he's having a Max and Ruby party. Here is his cake:
And my attempt at making a Max: I don't think it looks so much like Max, but Will says that a perfect representation would be difficult because Max has a very weird body. He always knows just what to say . . .
We got Nathan a big dump truck, but Clay really had to search for one without a CAT logo. Sheesh.
Off to the party -- pictures soon.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Friday, February 1, 2008


- Laverne was right; Phantom on Sunday was the best I have seen. The chandelier didn't seem to fall as rapidly as I remember, but Will said it was exciting. Between the show, lunch and a stop at the bike shop, we had a great day.

- I abandoned The Friday Night Knitting Club and put it in the Goodwill pile. I just couldn't stand it anymore, and it would just be mean to pass it along to a friend. I did peek at the "shocking ending" people wrote about on, however. The ending only further convinced me that this is much less a novel and more a screenplay. Abby gave me A Thousand Splendid Suns for Christmas (I suspect her mother picked it out) and I think I will start it this weekend.

- I finished the orange shawl; Maggie said Nate's mom loved his hat and would like one, so I'm casting on for that today.

- It was painful, but I ripped out Tommy's sweater, and am looking for the perfect little hooded cardigan for him. Off to the library.

- Funny story. I witnessed a wreck after dropping Will off at school on Wednesday -- I'll get to the funny part in a moment. Girl #1 pulled out of the gas station and didn't see Girl #2 who ran right into her. Girl #1 drove a shiny new car; her bumper and fender shattered into a thousand little pieces all over the road (I suspect because it was bitterly cold). Girl #2 works for a rival gas station and was out checking prices (let's not even go into that); her older model car was wrinkled up accordian-style, but both girls were fine. I was on my way to Mass, but gave the girls my cell number. During Mass, I left my cell phone in the school kitchen; I was on my way back to the kitchen, talking to someone in the cafeteria, when I heard it ring. Our friend Doug, the school janitor and all-around goof, answered my phone with, "Georgiann's answering service," then after a few seconds said, "I'm sorry, she's pretty drunk, and I think she's been smoking a little pot this morning, too."

It was the police.

Luckily, the policeman was in my high school class and knows Doug, so after my initial mortification, it was all very funny.

Remind me not to leave my phone where Doug can get to it.

Some bloggers are great at regular themed postings -- work-in-progress Wednesdays, new yarn acquisitions on Fridays -- Jo posts a book report every week. I don't know how successful I will be, but I think I will try to post a recipe every Friday -- not so much for posterity, but to remind me of how I made something. I tend to make a dish differently every time because I forget to write down how I did it. This week, I made chicken chili, and Will said it was one of my best efforts. Clay just ate until his stomach hurt -- high praise, indeed.

White Chicken Chili

1 large white onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
8 c. chicken stock
4 cups cooked chicken (this time, I poached 5 Market Day Chickensteaks and shredded them)
2 jars of white beans
1 can diced green chilis
2 cans white whole kernel corn
3 T. diced jalapenos
2 t. ground cumin
1 t. cayenne pepper
1/2 t. white pepper
1 t. oregano
2 T. lime juice
2T. chopped cilantro

In the soup pot, saute the onion and garlic in about 2 T. olive oil until translucent. Add everything else except lime juice and cilantro, and bring to a near-boil, then turn down heat and simmer for about half an hour. Right before serving, stir in lime juice and cilantro. Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream and extra chopped jalapenos.

peace and warm soup to all