Saturday, October 31, 2009

No Chicken Patties

We've learned a couple things about being the parents of a college student since Heather was a freshman.  At her first Parents' Weekend, we registered for brunch and the college president's speech, and dinner that night, only to see her expression when we spoke of dinner in the cafeteria - her face said, "Do you know how many different ways they can fix chicken patties?" So we took her off campus to a local eatery (not many options near Houghton, NY, but they sure beat the cafeteria) and from that point forward, handled campus visits very differently.  By the time she graduated, we brought food from home, used the dorm kitchen to cook, and all her friends piled in, sitting on all available surfaces, and happily eating home cooked food with whatever miss-matched dishes and utensils we could find.

So when the announcement came about Friends and Family Weekend at Wells, we planned to whisk Jason away for dinner, and last night ate and early dinner at the Pumpkin Hill Bistro.  (Aurora, NY has many more fancy eating options than Houghton!) Delicious!  And not a mention of chicken patties on the menu.  Interestingly, he had mentioned being the oldest student living on campus earlier, and ordered a glass of wine with dinner.  We overheard the waitress proofing a young woman sitting near us, who didn't have her wallet, so was denied her beverage of choice.  Jason quietly commented, "See, I told you I'm old" when I said, "She didn't proof YOU!"  We had saved room for dessert - which was described by a decoupaged list on a rolling pin!  Very scrapbookish, I thought!  Jason had something chocolate, I had a frozen mousse with lemon curd, and Paul had an apple thing in fried filo dough.  Yummy.

We're proud of Jason - he's taken the long way to his Bachelor's degree, but may very well value it more than the student who just travels the usual route of hgh school, college, and graduation.  He seems to be working hard, fitting in the quantities of reading and writing required for the philosophy, anthropology and religion courses he's taking.  When I joke that the workload makes a nice Algebra course look appealing, he quickly denies that, so I guess for him, the demands at Wells are worth it!  We're leaving him alone the rest of the weekend as he's working on a paper due Tuesday.  The professor for that course has criticized his use of the passive voice so I offered to read it for him and give suggestions.  MY English professor would be proud of my identification of passive voice - we'll see if I'm able to offer helpful suggestions.

We went back to the campus to see the play Pygmalion.  The cast included students and a long time staff member who reprised his high school role of Eliza's father - I chuckled when he whistled "I'm Getting Married in the Morning" as he left the stage at the end of the show. 

So yesterday's blessing was the avoidance of the dreaded college cafeteria chicken patties, and our enjoyable visit with our Wells College student son. 

Sunday, October 25, 2009

99 cent jeans

Yesterday’s blessing was thrift store shopping. I was drawn out by a 50% off sale at Thrifty Shopper, operated by the Rescue Mission. By the time I got there (they opened at 8 am for this special sale and weren’t going to close until 10 pm!) it was mobbed. I’ve never seen so many people at once. They had two cash registers going and a line for both. The lady ahead of me only paid $26 and some change for a huge pile of clothing, and the woman beside me had already been to the Baldwinsville store, which was having a similar sale. I found Jane Eyre (on my list of Books I Should Read) and a brand new flannel bathrobe that ended up costing $3.50. I’m tickled by the robe as the one I’m wearing is ragged beyond description – it too came from the thrift store and now will have a second second life as dust cloths. I’ve been searching for a robe for a while and today my patience paid off. Just last week I had one (for $35) in my hand at the LL Bean outlet store, but I put it back. I'll have to hem the sleeves, but that's a small price to pay.

Before heading home I made the rounds of the other two thrift stores, scoring a cookbook of New Orleans food at the Salvation Army, and my deal of the day, 99 cent jeans at Volunteers of America. Every week they pull clothing with a certain color tag and discount them to 99 cents.  Usually you can understand why those items haven't sold - they're weird colors, old styles, and so forth, but today was my day - the jeans fit perfectly - even the length is right.  A satisfied shopper, I turned the car for home and lunch, smiling about my 99 cent jeans.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mom’s Knitting Bag

I don’t know what prompted me to respond when an announcement was made in church that they need some knitters to make prayer shawls – the last thing I remember knitting was a uterus for my childbirth classes years ago (don’t laugh – it’s a lot like a mitten, but no thumb!) Nonetheless I carried home a sheet of instructions and three skeins of bright blue yarn. I dug out some knitting needles from my mother’s knitting bag – a while ago while cleaning and purging at her house, she gave the bag of needles to me – and started casting on 69 sitches.

So far so good. I know how to knit and I know how to purl – the pattern calls for 3 of each stitch, repeated to the desired length. Well, that’s most of the pattern – there was a curious description of slipping the first stitch in each row as if to do the opposite stitch and then bring the yarn backwards or forwards, etc, etc.  I was lost. Tried to do it, ripped the whole thing out, and cast on 69 stitches again. Dug out two old craft books describing knitting, and made another attempt. Ripped it out again. Gee, I wish my mother lived closer – she could show me in an instant. Got online – did you know YouTube has MANY illustrations of knitting, purling, and increasing and decreasing, etc? A couple hours later, I cast on the 69 stitches again. Still not much progress so I ripped it out again.

The next day during my lunch hour, I called Kathy, the prayer shawl ministry chairperson and described my dilemna. It’s hard to talk someone through a knitting crisis over the phone, I guess (maybe we need a camera and we could Skype!) It seems I was making more of the "slip the first stich" directions than I needed to, so I told Kathy I might need to cut off the first several hundred inches of tattered yarn and start again. She calmly said to do that if I needed to.  I did and cast on 69 stitches again, and started once more.

Progress, maybe. I’ve gotten through the six rows of the pattern and started my second repeat. I have a long ways to go to make it long enough to cover anyone, but if it’s the praying that counts in these shawls, it’s already had its quota. Imagine how many prayers will be knitted into this shawl by the time I’m finished.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Our Daily Bread

Thursday’s blessing was receiving Paul’s paycheck and a commission check. Our cash flow has been a little stressed lately – school taxes paid the end of September, a car repair I forgot I had put on the credit card until the bill arrived, and an upcoming bill for car and house insurance, in addition to the usual bills. For quite a few years, the phrase from the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread,” has been especially meaningful to me, with the emphasis on ‘THIS day.’ God has give our family all the material things we need and much of what we want. We’ve sent our kids to private high school and college, endured times of unemployment, and through those financially challenging times, God’s been faithful to provide for us. Now things are a bit better, though we once again are helping a child in college and are more seriously preparing for retirement. God’s timing is always perfect – Paul’s checks came on Thursday, it was pay day for me, and I’ve mailed the various payments. The checkbook’s a little flat ‘til next week, but once again God has blessed us with the bread needed for this day, plus a little extra.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Blessing of Running Water

On Monday as I placed pictures of the Baez girls on a scrapbook page titled "Carrying Water" I was reminded of the blessing of running water. I took advantage of the Columbus Day holiday to work on pages of the scrapbook about my summer trip to the Dominican Republic to help build a house.

Without any prompting that I could see, the girls in the family picked up buckets and walked the two blocks to the cistern to get water needed to mix concrete for the house our mission group was helping to construct.

The cistern had a metal cover flush with the ground and required bending down, filling a 5 gallon pail, hauling it up, pouring it into buckets for carrying, and walking back to the house to empty it into a 55 gallon drum. The yougest girls had 1 gallon buckets, but the oldest sister at one point carried not only her 3 year old sister on her hip, but a 5 gallon pail of water with the other hand. I struggled, water sloshing, to get my partially filled bucket back to the house. I won’t complain when I pay my city water and swer bill every quarter. It’s a blessing!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Yesterday's Blessing

Some years ago, I was very stressed in my job. I spoke with my pastor, telling her when I got in bed at night my mind was a swirl of frustrations about the day and dread for what was to come. She suggested praying about my blessings from the day instead; each time a negative thought crept in, I would focus on a good thing God had given me that day. It made quite a difference in my stress level.

These days I like to scrapbook, and follow several scrapbook blogs and forums. One appealing challenge was to scrapbook your blessings, but getting the page designed and put on paper seemed unmanageable, so I decided to journal each day. Since I generally start my morning with coffee and my devotions, it seemed easy to use a notebook and list the blessings – of the previous day. So most days, my journal entry starts, Yesterday’s blessing…

October 12, 2009
Yesterday’s blessing was making pesto from basil grown in my garden and stirring it into hot pasta to be served with scallops. Other years, my basil has been scraggly and meager. Hardly enough to add a few leaves to a recipe, never mind pulverizing 2 cups in the blender with garlic, olive oil and walnuts. This year it's done well; it's bushy and full - wish I knew why! I trimmed most of the leaves from one plant before transplanting it to the cold frame we built this fall. I wonder if it will winter over or if the snow will kill it?

After we ate dinner, Paul said we’d have garlic breath for sure, but it sure was good!