Wednesday, July 29, 2009

There will be no stopping me now

Last year we bought a Mac laptop for my son to use at college An I-touch came with it and I claimed it since everyone else in the family has an I-pod. I didn't do much with it until I discovered I could download books from my library onto it. I kept trying to take advantage of the wireless capabilities to read e-mail and my favorite blogs but the print was too small. I just didn't get it until my daughter showed me how to enlarge the screen. Duh! So now I get it and I'm fully mobile. As my son said when I sent my first text, "Welcome to the 21st century."

Monday, July 27, 2009

Portions Toll or the Summer of 95, Part 2

I'm feeling pretty proud of myself. The E-Z Pass got another workout last week when my daughter and I took off for Washington, DC on the second leg of our college tours this summer. I haven't mentioned it here, but I grew up in a town of about 300 in southeast Nebraska. Not a lot of traffic. So I'm always amazed that I've learned to negotiate Big City traffic. I do it in Philadelphia all the time, but I wasn't too sure I'd be able to manage DC. But manage I did with the help of Mapquest. It was a smooth trip down with plenty of time to spare before the first tour started. And what a tour--the college should be paying the guide much more because she really sold my daughter and me on the place. Only one missed turn getting to the hotel where we collapsed for the evening. While my daughter slept, I completed the background stitching on the two ornaments you see above and finished a book. Day Two of this tour was a marathon. We started off in a taxi (original plan was to take the shuttle from the Metro, but the timing wasn't right) and arrived at a beautiful campus that my daughter will probably never set foot on again. Neither one of us could see the appeal of being a student there. Then another taxi into the city (again, I had planned to take the shuttle and the Metro, but it was raining and I had forgotten my umbrella). Another information session (attended by some of the same people we saw at the first campus), a tour and two hours later, we were on the Metro back to the hotel to pick up the car. And head home at 5:00. There is a point in Arlington where six lanes converge into three. I remember my dad getting our green Chevy station wagon through that point when I was about 9 and last week it was my turn to squeeze the minivan in among all those cars. The traffic was crawling, but that gave me plenty of time to point out the monuments and the Capitol Building to my daughter. But what is with those exits on the left? And how come I was always in the far right lane when I needed to take one?
Tomorrow we embark on the last leg of this adventure. I'll only need to go on I-95 for a few miles to get to the airport. That I can manage.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Stitching Progress

My mother had two sisters, one six years older and one ten years older. Neither married and since their parents (my grandparents) both died when I was six, they spent most holidays at our house. Only the middle sister is still alive. When my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and later, after Mom's death, my aunt was a great comfort to me. She'll be 91 in a few weeks. Last year, she had some health issues and gave up driving (!), and then several months later moved into assisted living. I try to call her every week. The last time I spoke to her, I talked about how my usual summer plans to clean the house from top to bottom weren't working out well. She reminded me that the housework will always be there and that I should really be using my free time to do things I enjoy. What a wise woman!! So I've taken her advice and I've been stitching, quilting and reading the days away with only small twinges of guilt now and then.

I put in a lot of time on the Keep Me Sampler (pictured here). There's a bit more progress since this picture was taken. I had some dye lot problems with the overdyed threads that have been resolved. (note to self: purchase extra skeins for these multi-year projects)

Last Sunday, I went to a sampler exhibit with some members of my sampler guild. We are stitching the Petit Sampling Etui as a guild SAL. When I was discussing it with another member, I realized I'm not nearly as far as I should be so I've been working on that.

And lastly, I've been piecing a quilt that will be my sister's Christmas present, and I finally, finally, make the backing for the quilt top I finished last year for my son.

I'll have to call my aunt and tell her that her advice was great!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Turning Twenty

My second child's birthday is today. He's 20 which means we now have only one teenager. He was born on the most beautiful Sunday and was the perfect baby. But there were subtle signs early on that something was not quite right. At the age of 4, he was diagnosed with ADHD and we made the decision to medicate him. I know that not every parent would have made that decision, but we felt it was best for him and for our family. Still, he was immature and struggled socially in elementary school. Just before his 14th birthday, he was given the diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome, a condition that some place on the autistic spectrum. It was a huge blow and when we got the diagnosis, all I could hear were doors closing. We were able to find private schools for his middle school and high school years that provided a smaller class size. We also got therapy services from a psychologist and social skills groups. Our son joined the cross country team at his high school at our insistence, and although he wanted to quit after the first practice, went on to dedicate himself to the sport. We carefully researched and chose a college that provides a supportive atmosphere and then held our breath when he left us last summer. He managed to get along with a roommate, attend all of his classes, get a terrific grade point average, make some new friends and contribute to the cross country team. It meant so much to me last fall when the cross country captain went out of his way to tell me that my son was such a motivation for others on the team. Once again, this summer, our sweet boy stretched his limits and became a camp counselor. I've never heard him so happy and enthusiastic as when he talks about his experiences with the kids. He's made some mature and thoughtful decisions. Of course, we have no way of knowing what his future holds, but it certainly looks bright.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

We Can Put a Man on the Moon

Can it really be FORTY years since the first moon landing??? I remember it as if it was almost yesterday. I was a mere child of 15, volunteering for the summer at a state institution for the mentally handicapped. This was about 50 miles from my home, so my fellow volunteers and I were housed in a dorm on the campus of a community college. One of the college students set up a TV with about a 15" screen in the common room and we all watched the historic event. Only 40 years since we've been able to say "We can put a man on the moon, but. . ."

The moon landing is just one of the historical events that I try not to let my elementary students know that I've witnessed first hand. Not that they would be able to calculate how old I am, but their parents and even more importantly, their teachers (my co-workers) can. I've now reached that certain age where I am the second oldest faculty member at one of my schools and believe me, the parents and teachers look younger every year. In fact, I have children the same age as some of the faculty members (and unfortunately, a few of the parents). And I remember a couple of them when they were students in our building. I have to remind myself not to raise my eyebrows when they call me by my first name.

All of this is leading up to the fact that my birthday will be here-again!-in 3.5 weeks. I'll be turning 56 and I have to tell you this one is hitting me hard. I breezed through 40, 45, 50 (well, maybe not so much), and 55 only to come slamming up against 56. I keep thinking about how that's only 4 years from 60 when I hope to retire. I already feel like I'm a dinosaur at work although I do have much wisdom to offer those 24 year olds. And I've had a couple of minor age-related health problems. A pain in my hip after walking that my sister, a physical therapist, thinks is probably a touch of arthritis. (She insisted I'm not too young to have arthritis, but what does she know? She's only 54). The nice dentist I consulted yesterday said that my toothache is probably because the filling last week came close to the nerve and that as we get older, it takes us longer to bounce back. Yeah, I'm relieved I don't need root canal (yet), but I have a toothache because I'm old??? Sheesh!!

Monday, July 20, 2009

We Need a Little Christmas

I mentioned in this post that I finished a needlepoint project because I wanted to work on something new during a few car trips this summer. I finished ornaments 6, 7 and 14 during the trips to my son's camp and to Newport. Ornaments 20 and 21 were earlier finishes. I took them all to the finisher this week and am choosing a few more to work on. These are by Kathy Schenkel and will be placed on an Advent tree. . .eventually.

I apologize for the delay between posts. Life intervened in the form of a lot of pain following a dental appointment. That issue still isn't resolved, but I'm going back today so I'm hoping it will be taken care of. We also had an overnight guest on Friday. I always look forward to seeing him as he is one of the most upbeat people I know. Another friend was over on Saturday afternoon which was a perfect day for sitting out on the deck. Due to the houseguest, I had to do a little extra cleaning, but I also managed to get out to lunch with a friend and cut out the pieces for a quilt I'm making for my sister for Christmas.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Quilting Disaster

I have been making a quilt for my daughter for quite some time now. It was a learning experience as I had to "fussy cut" the fabric to make the block that you can partially see here. I had nearly finished it before I started a quilting class in March. That quilt involved cutting several hundred 2.5 inch squares and sewing them into 100 nine patch blocks. It took awhile and my cutting board was littered with the squares. I finally finished the blocks last week and cleared the cutting board so I decided to finish the top for my daughter's quilt last night. All I needed to do was cut and sew on two borders. All went smoothly until I was giving the top a good pressing and checking for stray threads. That's when I noticed the tear on the left side in this block. Aargh!!!! I have no idea how that happened! Fortunately, I have a good amount of this fabric left over due to changing the design of the quilt after I bought the yardage. So I was able to cut a new block and sew it in. Whew!! I'll show a picture of the entire top when my helpers are available to hold it up for me.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Portions Toll or the Summer of 95, Part 1

The College Search Project has been launched in earnest for my daughter. This post should actually be "Portions Toll", Part 2 since we have already made a trip up the PA Turnpike and I-95 to northern New Jersey where we visited a Very Famous institution of higher learning that it would probably take a miracle for my daughter to be admitted to. Although, who knows, maybe VF will need a 5'3" brown-eyed blonde who has barely had time to breathe in high school to make their class of 2014 perfect. But I digress. The trip that is the subject of this post involved heading down I-95 for 5 hours on Thursday to visit my daughter's Top Choice and back up 6.5 hours today. Same 300 miles, but way more traffic today. We crawled north past D.C. and Baltimore. I bonded with the US Air Force Retiree in the small orange car with the knitted heart hanging from the mirror and the couple from PA in the blue SUV with Two Men and a Truck moving boxes in back. I'm sure they also have fond memories of my red minivan. I would personally like to be able to give a medal to the person who created E-Z Pass. Using mine must have shaved, oh, 5-10 minutes off those grueling hours in traffic. Doesn't sound like much, but believe me, those minutes are crucial when you've been driving for 5 hours while your teenaged daughter sleeps and listens to her I-pod.

We had a great time wandering the campus at Top Choice and my daughter confirmed her belief that it is the right place for her. Let's hope the admissions people think so also. I won't mention the city that TC is in because it would instantly identify the college and I'd like to spare my daughter further indignity if she doesn't get it. (Or spare the feelings of all the other great colleges she won't be attending if she does get into TC.) However, this city has a small shopping village that houses a needlework store, a quilting store, a bead store and a knitting store. Heaven!! I picked up this chart at the needlework store. I've had it on my list for awhile and when I saw the colors of the Valdani threads, I had to make a purchase. We also picked up these fat quarters for a quilt for my daughter and these for another quilt I'm planning A successful trip all the way around.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Born Digital

I resisted getting a computer in our home until my oldest was in the fifth grade. We were about a year behind most of his classmates in joining the trend and we didn't have the internet at home for another two or three years. Now, about 13 years later, we have a desktop computer and four laptops (one for each of the kids and one for me from my employer) plus a wireless network. (I resisted going wireless when I last purchased a printer, but I'm beginning to see the advantages of having one). All of this equipment is in pretty much constant use--I'll even admit to IMing my children when I am on the desktop in the basement and they are on laptops in their rooms (but for a really good reason as I was having trouble with some sort of computer application, probably the iPod). So it was really frustrating last weekend when our internet service was out for two days. Questions came up several times about various things, mainly about the college admissions process that our daughter is currently involved in, and I said each time that I would have been able to provide an answer if I'd had the internet. It's amazing to me how much I've come to rely on easy access to information along with e-mail and texting.

I used some of the "down" time over the weekend to read Born Digital by Paltrey and Gasser. It's pretty dry and I think they spend a lot of words hammering home their points. Really all you need to read is the final chapter to get the gist of the book. But I was struck by their estimate that their children who are millenial babies (or Digital Natives) will have spent 10,000 hours as active users of the internet by the time they are 20. They say that this amount of time is roughly equivalent to what a musician is expected to practice in order to become a professional.

All of this has obvious implications for educators and how we deliver instruction, but it also gives me pause to think about how I'm spending my time online. I love reading stitching and quilting blogs and looking at what the shops have to offer. I love being able to get access to book and restaurant reviews instantly. I love that I was able to get airline tickets and book the hotels for two upcoming trips in less than 30 minutes. I love that I was able to buy theater tickets to surprise my son for his birthday. But. . .there are those days when I can spend an hour or more surfing just to unwind. I'm having to make choices about using my time that my parents never had to make (wonder it they felt the same way about television). It's a matter of learning to prioritize and figure out what's really important. (Edited to add) And what would I be really good at if I spent 10,000 hours on it?

What are your thoughts?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Savor Summer

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I work in a public school. I provide a special education service which means that I must follow a federal law governing the rights of the students. One of those rights is that parents can sue the school district if they make a case that appropriate services are not being provided to their child. For the first time in over 25 years in the schools, I was involved in such as case. The issue was more with classroom services than with my services, and our lawyer feels strongly that the school district will win. Nonetheless, I had to participate in the legal proceedings last week and testified for two hours. It is an understatement to say that it was a nervewracking experience, one that I hope never to have to repeat. I spent most of the day following my testimony laying around the house and trying to regroup. Gradually over the weekend I managed to pull myself together and my energy is returning. I'm now allowing myself to fall into my summer schedule--leisurely reading the paper in the morning, doing a major cleaning project in the morning, reading, stitching or quilting in the afternoon. Ahhhh. . .

(The design on the pillow? It was a freebie several years ago.)