Monday, January 31, 2011

Giraffe is about to make his debut!

Have I ever told you all how much I love giraffes? I do. I had set a personal date of February 1 to show my drawings off, but alas, I hesitate.

For now, I will show you a cute youtube clip of an adorable baby giraffe! Give me to the end of the week to work up the nerve. . .

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

From NPR: Queen as they never thought they'd be heard!

I found this at NPR. It is Jake Shimabukuro on the ukelele playing Bohemian Rhapsody! This man may start a new trend in ukelele playing!

My involuntary invisibility cloak

I was never invisible until I became a mother. This magic cloak is what I wear when I hear the kids watching a TV show that they oughtn't be watching (something with vulgarity or violence) and I slip off my shoes and walk down stairs and stand and listen to what they are watching before I enter the room and confiscate the remote control and pull cords from the TV and explain that it is time to play a board game. (This is how you get a 12 year old boy to cry like a toddler, "I-just-want-to-watch-TV!-Why-won't-you-just-let-me-watch-it,-Mom?-You-treat-me-like-I-don't-matter!" He goes on. And on. And on.)

Sometimes I see a mishap about to happen and the kids see me at one end of the room and when a disaster is about to strike, when, for example, a child is getting something out of a cupboard from the middle-to-bottom of a stack, I am suddenly there to protect my young child from a toppling mess and all the kids are dumbfounded as I seem like I suddenly appeared at the other end of the room. Is that invisibility? Maybe not. Maybe it is just super fast action, but it's cool!

At other times, I feel invisible and it isn't sneaky or cool and I can't take off my cloak. I suppose it is just part of parenting. This is where the kids do a half-arsed job at completing a task and I an not only invisible, but I am also put on mute. My husband is in on it with them. Why am I being so picky, they ask. I have a rule here that you don't put the large, stainless steal bowls into the dishwasher. These bowls, which range in size from a small measuring cup to a giant bowl in which I make a triple recipe of challah, in general take up a lot of space. Two big bowls can take up all the space on the lower level of the dishwasher, and a few of the smaller ones on top can leave little space for anything else. They get treated like pans and have to be hand washed is only to make room for the dishes, unless there are not that many dishes. Since my kids take the path of least resistance and throw all the bowls in and leave dishes in the sink, I have to say than NONE of the bowls go in to the dishwasher, ever. What can I say? Kids are lazy and I think that people in general are lazy. So, I have to tell them over and over to wash the bowls (and the big pans, and even rinse the plates off before putting them in the dishwasher) and they can't see or hear through my invisibility cloak.

Unfortunately my husband does not see why I have to do this and this makes it harder. He asks, "Why can't you just finish that up yourself if it is so important to you?" I explain that it's because the kids will not always have their mother around to do things and that they have to learn how to handle it in real life so when they live at an apartment and save up for a house that they won't be clogging up their dishwasher and have to give back all of their deposit when they move. Of course asking him to follow up on the kids doing this has gotten me nowhere, as my involuntary-invisibility cloak works on him best off all! 

One of my good friends has a great son of 18 years who is the most responsible, reliable male on the planet. If he is not the most reliable male on the planet, he is in the Top 1000 Reliable Males on the Planet to have EVER Lived or Who Ever Will Live. Of course I met him when he was 16 and he really impressed me. What I didn't know was that only in the previous 6 months had he become normal. Before that, she was on him 24/7. For three months when he was 12, he had to do the dishes every day because he had been caught putting them into the dishwasher with food stuck to them and she'd had to pay someone over $200 to repair the dishwasher.  She would watch him load up, but before he loaded up, he had to clean the debris trap in the dishwasher, first, this was a chore that he hated because it often stank. With him mom watching him, he gradually started washing off the plates and one day, he went to the food trap and it was clean. This happened several times in a row and he said to her, "It's clean all the time."

She said, "You have been RINSING." All the times that she had told him to rinse made no difference on him, so after three months, it dawned on him to rinse the plates. She still wears the involuntary invisibility cloak, but she says that experience is the teacher in her house. With her other kids, she sees the same mistakes being made and she has to walk them through the whole process each time. Now her eldest son is doing very well-- he is a Mr. Fix-It and he can fix almost anything in his house and he is pretty self-sufficient. While I have no worries for how this kid will be as a husband (he is also very level headed) and keeper of his home, I know it didn't happen on accident. (I hope whomever he marries sends his mom flowers on his birthday.) My friend produced this guy with her husband feeling as mine does.

So I forge onward, fighting my involuntary invisibility cloak and hopefully my children will come out OK and get it.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thoughts on donating marrow

I get tested next week for more blood-- the National Marrow Match Registery is sending a kit up to Alaska and I am going in to get "a few vials of blood drawn." Excuse me-- a few vials? If I do well, I get to go in for a physical. Noboady hates being touched like I do. This is no small task for me, but when I think of what this kid and his family are going through and have been through already, every time I get squeamish I think, "It is the least I can do. I would want this from someone if my own kid's life was on the line."

Oh-- I found out that the person who I may get to match is a 16 year old young man. I don't know what his goals are, but I am asking G-d to just get him to graduate-- with the caveat that He knows I will then plead for the kid to go to college, get married if he wants, have kids, etc. G-d knows how I work, He gives an inch and I want a mile, but He likes it that way. I hope that whatever time my possible match has left-- be it one year or 80 years, that he is a good kid who legally enjoys every moment and that he does good things.

Suddenly, everything that I am doing is taking on a higher form. I sat down to eat Irish oatmeal this morning and I thought, "This oatmeal may improve my marrow quality and make it strong to help my possible match!" We are very broke right now post Christmas and we are eating simple but hearty meals like we did during Advent. Is this part of a greater plan, that I will be able to give this guy better stem cells? When I was pregnant, my babies drained me and took what they needed. (I was 120 pre-pregnancy and got up to 160 at my biggest and delivered 8-10 pound babies. They were born as babies, not tiny infants!) I'd be left with scraps of what was left and it was how it was supposed to be, but my marrow? I can make it healthier. What this kid gets is what I put into it. I am trying to think sweet thoughts into it. Am I a giant nerd? Do I think too much? This is a lot like being pregnant!

I worry that I might be anemic, but if the match is good, there are ways to fix that, I am sure.

This morning we had bad roads and I got scared as I drove then realized that I might be saving someone's life in a couple of months. While I didn't get stupid, I did relax. They prefer live donations and I felt better.

If I donate, it will probably be in the spring as the weather is getting better and the days are getting longer. If I have problems, which I don't get what they are-- something about flu-like symptoms and possible collection site infections? happen in roughly 1% of the donors. They tend to not be fatal and I can't think of a better time to be recovering for me and my match, wherever he is.

Match, where ever you are, know that my prayers are with you and your family right now! I know what a terrible event/diagnoses can do to a family and I hope and pray for a full recovery so you can lead as normal of a life as possible, and that your family can be strong and happy. Cancer doctors know that you need to live life, so follow their diections exactly-- if they say to stay out of the sun, stay out of the sun. Take the pills, plan to do what they say. (I know of someone who died post marrow donation after she got a light sun burn.) I am doing all that I can to ensure that you get strong marrow from me if I get to share mine with you. Please plan to be strong.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Guns and pansies

I do not agree with my husband's church. It's something going on post what they call the "Old" Testament, but that is beside the point. I was trying to get in with the women and to do their craft group with them and to teach-- I want that camaraderie in my life. I didn't get far. Earlier in the week, I went to the craft group and that went really well. I like probably all of the women. It was MLK Day and many of our husbands had our children so only a few kids were at the church with their moms. There were just enough that they were a manageable number and they were all good-- even the ones who misbehaved were good!

Today I went to a teacher training. I got my teenager out of school early so she could be in the training and I was looking forward to a fun afternoon of learning and mother-daughter time with people who I want to like.

The other ladies are wonderful people, but we have a slight disagreement on guns. When I grew up, I was taught to respect guns. A toy gun was still a representation of a tool. You didn't aim it at anyone, but you could aim it at things. The things had to have no one behind them. A lamp was OK, unless someone was on the other side or next to it. A wall was not OK because you had no idea of who, if anyone, was on the other side. (It was OK to throw darts if someone was on the other side because darts, real or fake, couldn't go through the wall. Duh!)

So at the training today, the leader was talking in her breathy voice about how to teach lessons when out of the corner of my eye, I saw a group of kids with fake semi-automatics and pretend guns circling the parish hall. (Fake semi's are plastic models that look like semi-automatics. Pretend guns look like sticks, pieces of toast, or PVC pipe.) They bothered me. Then the little brats came inside. I mumbled that they looked like a band of terrorists and a few of the moms giggled, "Boys will be boys!" Well, these kids were mixed and the boys included boys and girls and they were running. One of the moms didn't like the running and told them to run outside.

A little later, one of the daughters of a high ranking man of cloth said something snooty to Cloud when she told her to take the giant PVC pipe out. That was when I decided that I needed to go home and that I'd not be teaching there and I pretended to check my messages and made an abrupt getaway with Cloud and Starshine, who'd been pretty quiet and had played really nicely with another little girl.

As I was leaving, a small band of kids were running inside and one of them pointed his fake semi-automatic at me. I told him to point it at the ground and he sneered at me and pointed it at my head and yelled, "BLAM-BLAM-BLAM!" I pretended to ignore him and looked at him again when I was 20' away and he was smiling with his fake gun pointed at me. I realized that with such disrespect that I personally can't go back there and do much of anything.

I texted my husband and he said that boys would be boys and blew it all off and said I was over reacting. Somehow, I am not supposed to gather from this that he doesn't value me! Whatever-- but I was greatly annoyed. My husband is a member of the church board and I really wish (for the sake of me being able to do more than have dinner with him) that he had at least faked concern, "I can see how you would find that scary since you were raised to respect guns. I'll bring it up at the next church board meeting that we ask all parents to have their children leave their fake guns at home." (He said that if we were together that he'd have talked to the brat's father, but I seriously doubt that he would have done anything. I don't go there and I am not really a part of the group. If he thinks that I was over reacting in what I told him, he wouldn't have done anything. He claims that he has taken guns from kids, but I just don't believe it!)

Anyway, as quickly as I got involved, I decided to leave, as has Cloud and she won't teach there, either. It is sad because I would like to be a part of a religious learning group, but I do not belong there. I don't have an issue with people having guns and using them properly.

Several months ago, I FaceBook'd a quote that had to do with the Korean War and taking away guns and one of the mothers from that church got upset thinking that I wanted to take away her guns. I thought that bickering at my FB page was overreacting and a bit invassive, and since she had helped me a great deal in an emergency, I was wont to slam her about anything. I couldn't possibly bring up my concerns without being publically slammed by her and her friends with basically how my husband feels.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I may marrow someone!

On Friday of last week, I got an email, and today a letter from  I signed up a few years ago when my neighbor, Kelly Marre had a donor drive. Her son, Logan, had died of childhood leukemia not long before that and I showed up more to support Kelly. I couldn't fathom the pain she was in, but there she was, being strong and bold in spite of the hurt that she felt at having her son taken from her at a young age. (I think he was 12 or so.)

I spoke to the marrow registry today and they need more blood from me. The proceedures were described in detail and I was asked if I still wanted to before we went on with making an appointment for blood collection and 15 minutes of questions. I know what it entails-- doctors and needles, but this patient has been through worse. I would hope and pray that anyone who could save my life or my child's life would do the same. I would do it even if it meant that I had to run across hot coals. I'd hesitate at donating a kidney because I might need my other one up the road, or perhaps my children might need it, but marrow regenerates. Less than 1% of the people who donate have problems, but the percentage of people who die if they don't get that donation is. . . a lot higher.

Anyhoo-- If our numbers are good, I will have a physical to make sure I can handle it. I hope and pray that this patient gets a donor and if I can be of help and get selected, that I am in the best shape possible.

I wrote the following on Saturday--
I got a message from a marrow donor program that I may be a match to someone! Wooooo! I am so excited! I called the number and they were happy that I was so excited because there is a lot they check for and I was already bumped up a tier before I called.

Please pray. I hate doctors and I can’t stand needles. I shared this on FB because my friends, many who are doctors and people who put their lives on the line all the time, inspire me and are pumped that I am doing this. I know that I will have to be seen if I have better number matches as I go through whatever medically neccessary "hoops" are needed to be able to help someone out. I need courage! Especially when people who know the details are saying how much they admire me, knowing what I am about to go through. (Gulp!) What I am about to go through? LOL

Marrow matching is last on the list-- you go to them when you are running out of time. I keep thinking, “What if it were my child needing this? Needles are nothing!” This person may be bargaining with God, pleading for life, just a few more years to see a grandchild, to see a child get married, or to get married him-or-herself! I know I will do whatever I can to help this unknown person-- giving marrow is easy in comparrison to sharing a liver or any other organ.

Please pray for the person who may need me, that they get help from whomever is chosen. Please pray for their health and their well being and for their family and friends who stand by them. Please pray for all the people on the list, and sign up to be a donor.

I am so thankful that I might get to help save someone’s life-- and God help me, that I am not the one needing it for myself or my family.

Please also pray for the surgeons and medical people involved. I initially wanted to know if I could meet the person who I am donating to a year after the proceedure if they are OK and they said that I might, but I kind of like the idea of something so huge of a help to go unacknowledged. I will share what I am doing and write about it because I want to promote marrow donation, and here-- prayers for all of the people involved, including potential matches, people running donor drives, people who could match up but who feel to busy to sign up, are needed for this to work for the patients. For my readers who pray or do vibes, please pray and do vibes for all the people on the list needing matches, and sign up to be a donor.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

It sure is windy out in the Valley!

We have really had some of the worst winds that we have ever had. Gusts have been well over 80 mph, and yet life goes on with no closures since the roads are dry. Still, grocery shopping is not fun. Twice this week, I have had my shopping cart yanked from my grasp and had to run to retrieve it. I got slammed to the ground the other day when I took the dogs out for a walk. Am I really not that strong?

I can’t sleep when it is like this and the latest has been happening since the day before my birthday. One of my friends had a house next door burn down. She said there was a knocking on her door and that the fire had engulfed it before the rigs got there. This is where a 12 minute fire like "mine" would take less than three minutes. Of course I read this on FaceBook and didn’t sleep for several days. There is nothing paranoid on my behalf for worrying. It’s like pregnancies where once you have a problem, others become more realistic. Our house shakes and I hear shingles breaking off the roof, wind comes in via the oven vent and the elctrical outlets, and I had wind blowing down my chimney as I sat next to the fire while I knitted. It has never been this bad. I actually relaxed to let myself sleep by thinking of things that are far worse and being thankful that I wasn’t dealing with them. I was not dealing with my ex husband in court. I wasn’t on the phone with my dad making mean jokes about my reproductive-ity and my “hobby.” These things normally annoy me if I think of them, but when I figured it out, knowing that only my house could trap me and burn down but that I wasn’t under a threat, I was OK.

The winds are not abating after a day or two—this is the fifth solid day. We have a few breaks and then more wind. We should call this season, “wind-er.” What is the etymology of winter? I keep imagining Ol World Russian families, Jewish and Christian alike, forced from their homes by Lenin’s goons, and making their way across the fields and the frozen rivers in weather like this. I imagine how desperate they were to get away where there was no safe place, so the 20 jog steps to my car are no real big deal and I try to not complain. I have been hit by my car door, though. Getting groceries in requires that I take the big canvas shopping bags to the store with me (they have more space and are sturdier) and I fill up my driver’s side back seat. I call the kids from my phone and they come out with jackets zipped and I hold open the car door while they step in front and grab bags.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

If a person says, "I am just being honest. . ."

run. Don't talk to them again, ever.

There was probably a diplomatic way to deal with whatever they wanted to do, but what do people with MPA's know of diplomacy or kindness?


Wednesday, January 05, 2011

I made it into another new year!

We got through New Year's Eve and on New Year's Day, I have my first group of people to my house since I lived in South Anchorage at my parent's ranch. For twelve years, our old house was full of CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome.) My husband's sister and her husband and family of five kids came over. It was really nice. My husband's sister is better than me in every way and she has intimidated the heck out of me since we met. In spite of a stroke, she is a pastor's wife and is on top of everything. Her kids are perfect. For her to not intimidate me, I am not sure of what she could do. Would she have to walk around swearing like a sailor and try to be more "earthy"? I have no idea. Her kids are all in their mid teens (she adopted a couple-- after a decade of more miscarriages than she could count, she always had sticky pregnancies when she adopted newborns!) All of her kids are super fantastic. One in particular makes you feel like you are the most important person in the world when he speaks to you. Another one played Pachelbel's Canon in D for me and I started to cry because it was so beautiful.

I realized that my sister-in-law's light does not make what I feel like is darkness on my part more dark, but more light. I do not trust people who are extremely complimentary-- I always wait to hear the, "but" that shakes me to my core and makes me realize that everything good that was said meant nothing. Not with her. I watched her with my kids and her exuberance and enthusiasm had them wanting to show her how amazing they are. Even when I knitted some dishcloths for her, she was so excited that I almost ran off to get the rest of my work to show her. (OMG! I want that talent that she has to bring out the very best in people! What a great super power to have-- to pull the very best from people! I so much wish I wasn't immune to her, as well as having been skeptical of her.)

When I say that my sister-in-law is a perfect person, this does not mean that she looks down on anyone. Quite contrary to this-- she is very accepting of everyone. She really looks at every person as a unique creation of her Christian god. She runs huge fundraisers and teaches and does everything very well. Yes, her light showed how chaotic my life was. I told her how amazing she is and how stupid I feel when I am around her and she said, "You've had no time for what I do! You are finally able to go to the bathroom by yourself! What do you know of what you can do? You are just starting to crawl out of the nursery!" She got a degree before she started having children, she had them later in life-- and by then she had mastered a lot of "advanced" jobs. She told me to always push the envelope and learn, but to be aware of my present limitations.

My brother-in-law is an amazing athlete as well as a pretty wise guy. He runs a huge congregation but used to be a counselor. He is always passing on some wisdom and while I won't quote what he said to me because I am not sure if he meant to say it, I will say that I think that I could not pass this guy on the street without him saying something profound. Every moment to this guy is a teaching or learning moment.

My eldest is studying in another state, but my second eldest came over to help me make lunch for everyone. I am amazed by how she knows me so well that we work without talking in the kitchen. We have a sixth sense with each other but while she isn't shocked by it, I completely am shocked when I turn to do something and she is already on it and in the same way I do it! She loved being over here and seeing everyone, too.

My 14 year old daughter was being a pill. I adore her, but she is in a stage where every time she is asked to do something, she slouches and rolls her head and eyes back. I make her do push-ups instead of other forms of punishment and she is getting huge biceps. Instead of this decision on my part curing her of smart-alec comments and her attitude, she has advanced to push-ups with clapping and she is getting good at them. She doesn't change her attitude, but she is getting into shape for her sports! I envision her doing really well at the varsity level and having to attribute her great conditioning to her cheekiness!

We got through Christmas break. This year was not terrible in the least, although I had braced myself for it. My kids are older now, which helps. . . and my mom bought them a Wii! I never wanted to be a mother who put her kids on the computer or games like that, but Wii is not a sedentary game system. We set them up in teams and the looser of a game looses his turn to someone on his or her team and the winner plays one game extra and if he or she wins again, they only play one extra game before handing the controls to someone else on their team. They cheer each other on and yell and get quite excited. Wii is not a typical electronic game. As for me and the Wii? I still don't know how to turn it on and the TV confuses me.

My eldest son turned 13 last night. This is the one who has Aspberger's Syndrome. He obsesses over how lawns are mowed and, in the winter, how snow is shoveled. As he has gotten older and begun to articulate himself better, I am liking what he has to say. His career will probably be in something to do with property maintenance. His Aspberger symptoms may turn out to be an asset, after all!

I have a couple of shawls on my needles at the moment. What I don't like about knitting is that I feel like I am painting by number with it. I know my stitches, but you have to work off patterns. A good knitter can look at something, squint their eyes and point out where you did a knit when you should have purled, or where you did a double increase instead of a triple increase and then explain how you did well to compensate, "because no one else will look this closely!" and this annoys me. Few look that closely and those comments on minor mistakes are more to show off, as in, "Look how much I know and can see a mistake!" than on the overall appearance of the piece. I do not do shoddy work, but some people are so into precision that they become machines when they knit. I like taking simple patterns and spicing them up with color and texture. This doesn't mean that everything that I do is bright-- there are lots of stunning, sensual neutral colors, especially in angora blends. I have met people who hold patterns in their heads. I don't have many in my head, but the local yarn store says the patterns are like math equations. I told her that I have not been able to do well and with confidence and certainty she said to me, "Knitting will make you able to remember math equations." She explained that knit patterns are physical manifestations of patterns, that once I can retain them, that I will be able to go into abstract ideas and that it will get easier, especially with the kids getting older.

Knitting is more expensive than drawing. As much as I spend on chalks, I spend more on yarns. Working with yarn takes up more time and of course, I like nice yarn, but I can also do some good work with not-so-good-yarn so it doesn't matter that it's not great.