Saturday, April 30, 2011

my first foray into saturday confessions

My library friend Melissa does a linky party for her Saturday confessions every week, and today I'm bored and brave enough to join in the fun.

1.  I'm blogging at work.  I shouldn't be.  Shame, guilt, etc. (also no pictures because I'm not on my computer) which leads me to . . .

2.  It doesn't matter that I get a day off during the week when it happens, working on a Saturday puts me in the foulest of moods every time.  I'd like to blame my renegade on-the-clock-blogging to the foul mood, but I'd probably be loafing anyway, which leads me to . . .

3.  I need to think of something more positive.  No more grumbling . . . except for this.  I'm so mad at myself for the giant phone debacle.  I ordered a new phone on ebay on Thursday, but I haven't gotten it in yet.  I know this is a confession post, but I'm not telling you how much I spent on the replacement phone.  It's embarrassing.  Let's just say more than I paid for it the first time. I've been moving my sim card back and forth between the semi-functioning new phone and never-should-have-ditched-it-for-a-smart-phone old phone all week, which is a mess.  My new phone is on a FedEx truck somewhere in North Little Rock today which leads me to . . .

4.  I love tracking packages--or anything--online.  When you order from Domino's, they have an order tracker that tells you when you're pizza goes in the oven, who checks the order, when it gets into the car.  Since we moved, I've occasionally ordered from Domino's because we've had coupons and such, and they're so speedy.

5.  After Thursday, I wanted to take back anything I'd ever said about being good in hospital situations.  I went to see Grams at her rehab place, and she was having a really bad day.  It was so hard.  I fell apart on the way home, and then I didn't go see her last night even though my moma is there.  I had all these really logical excuses for why I didn't go, but I'd be lying if I said that how things were on Thursday didn't factor in to that decision.  I'm heading in that direction when I get off work tonight though.  Time to buck up, little camper.

6.  We're remodeling at the library, and there's a huge office upstairs that I'm coveting.  I don't know how many planets would have to align for me to get that office, but that motivation and the small butt-kicking I got from my Aunt Donna (who is known for her butt-kicking, but she rarely unleashes it on me, so it was some pretty powerful stuff) on Thursday all add up to applying to grad school for the fall, which leads me to . . .

7.  I'm scared of the GRE.  I used to be a standardized text rock star (not that it means anything), but the last standardized test I took was in 1996 (because I'm not counting the Praxis II).  I hear the Miller Analogies Test is easier and cheaper, so maybe I'm going to take that instead.

8.  I've become quite obsessed with twitter this week.  It makes me feel lame, and I've started following some folks this week who are so hilarious that they make me feel decidedly unfunny, but I sort of love it anyway.

9.  I was hungry a minute ago and had the option here at my desk to eat a 90 calorie chocolate chip cereal bar or a Dove truffle egg.  Betcha can't guess which one I chose.

I think that's quite enough keepin' it real for one day.  Pray for my Grams, if that's your sort of thing.  She could use it.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

what i might have known if i hadn't quit reading the bible

Friends of the blog will recall that my church was involved in a year-long Bible reading project last year, and faithful readers will still be disappointed that I got behind and quit reading in April, somewhere around the life of David.

Apparently if I'd stuck to project 4:4 long enough to get to Proverbs, I could have saved myself a heap of trouble this week.  Last night I posted a self-congratulatory description of my handiness and a recounting of the disassembling, repair, and reassembling of my phone.  Once I got the phone all back together I received and sent texts, played Angry Birds, and checked my email.  Everything was running in tip-top shape, and I was more than a little smug about my triumph over one more mechanical piece of my life . . . until this morning when my pride went-eth before destruction.

I was trying to call in to work to warn them about how massively I had overslept and how that would affect my arrival time, but every time I hit the speed dial, I couldn't hear the phone ringing or anyone picking up.  A couple of times when I tried, the screen went black.  I was attempting to drive down the road at the time, so I didn't do too careful an examination, but I knew that wasn't a good thing.  I supposed that I had put the internal earpiece in backwards, as it had been a tricky thing last night.  My earpiece didn't look exactly like the one in the video, so when it came time to reassemble, I could figure out which side was up.  The piece fit into the hole in four different ways, so I chose the one that seemed to make the most sense.  Clearly that wasn't it.

I did discover that if I could put the phone on speaker that I was still able to talk on it, but I determined that when I got home tonight, I would take the phone apart once more and flip the earpiece.  This was mildly inconvenient for today, but I was still quite confident in my ability to get everything back in working order.  But my haughty spirit was about to meet its (down)fall.

I don't remember if I mentioned this last night, but a few of those pieces were clearly not intended to be popped in and out of place repeatedly, so I knew doing another invasive procedure on my phone could be dangerous.  I opened the phone (which I can do completely without the instructional video by this point) and flipped the piece in question and had to put the whole phone back together before I could power it up to try a call.  Jess was my lovely assistant for this portion of the project.  Even with the earpiece flipped, I couldn't hear anything, and the screen-going-black thing happened each time I tried to call, making it impossible to turn on the speaker phone. 

So I cracked the phone open once more to try the piece another way.  Same song, third verse.  I took a break (to avoid throwing the phone across the room) and looked up the prices of phones on ebay.  Eventually I attempted to make it work one final time.  At this point, I've cracked one of the plastic pieces near the power button/earpiece area, and I still can't hear anything through the normal earpiece.  Sometimes when I attempt to make a call, it goes to a black screen and only starts to respond again when it feels like it, and other times when I try, the screen acts just as I should, and I can put the phone on speaker. 

Clearly I can't function this way indefinitely.  The point of a phone is still to be able to call people, despite what may or may not be my addiction to Angry Birds.  If everyone in the world would just agree to text-only communication, this would be fine, but I'm related to most of the texting holdouts in the world, so that's just not going to work.  If I hadn't lost my charger to the old phone back in January, none of this would have ever happened.  In the meantime, I guess I'll charge up the old phone in the car and switch the sim card over to it when I'm out and about anyway.  But since my delightful couple of months with new phone has ruined me, I'll probably end up on ebay working on a replacement.

Stupid pride, stupid thinking I can fix things, stupid broken phone.  I know there are problems in the world far greater than the tiny potatoes of my phone, so I'll stop whining about this now.   But I urge my imaginary readers to learn from this cautionary tale.  Don't be dumb enough to think that a couple of tiny screwdrivers and a youtube video can turn you into a phone mechanic.  Nothing but trouble down that road.  Remember Proverbs and save yourself from heartache.

Three final disjointed bits of information:

1.  Someday I'm going to be sorry about wasting this particularly awesome blog title on this whiny, rambling post. 

2.  I had really interesting stuff planned for the blog this week, but the real-time drama of my broken phone has consumed us.  Sorry for that.  Someday soon you're going to see a particularly exciting completed craft project, read an insightful and poignant description of my spiritual growth during the Lenten season, and experience the most perfect batch of poetry ever.  Now I know you're dying for me to shut up about my phone and bring the awesome.

3.  If you need to communicate information to me in the next few days, might I suggest email? I haven't gotten around to dismantling my laptop yet, so it should be safe.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

i can officially do anything

UPDATED:  See bottom of post for the continuing saga of the phone repair.

Last April after we moved, I did a bit of blogging about various home improvement projects.  Of course, everyone remembers the HGTV brush with fame (and if you don't remember, I remind you often enough), but I also wrote a post highlighting various furniture assembly projects and the frosting of my bathroom window.  I know you were blown away by my handiness then.  More recently in February in an incident that remains unblogged, I undertook another project.  The lid switch of my washing machine broke off, and after some internet research, an exploratory surgery, and a phone call to the Popster, I hotwired the washer, circumventing the lid switch and making it fully functioning once again.  It was a shining moment of achievement.  I'm fairly certain the Popster has never been prouder of me.

I'm really not sure when I developed this confidence that with a tool or two and some internet direction, I could accomplish tasks that I would have previously deemed outside my skill set.  Part of it probably comes from work where over the past seven years, I've learned to fix things that go wrong.  When I worked out in the branches, I didn't have the luxury of getting an immediate response from maintenance or the computer nerds, so I learned to try and figure things out for myself.  Since I've never really ruined anything that way, I suppose I just started considering myself handy.  And in my at-home life the fact remains that I've been a grown-up living on my own for ten years now, and when there's no one else around to fix things, I've trialed-and-errored my way through minor repairs, I guess.

So I say all that to say this:  last Tuesday I dropped my phone in the parking garage and cracked the screen.

I just got this phone in February, so it's under warranty, but of course, the warranty doesn't cover idiots who drop their phones, so my options were to spend a ridiculous amount on a new phone, deal with a broken screen for the next sixteen months until I can upgrade again, or according to the internet, I could order a replacement screen (ebay for less than $40) and replace it myself.  All that Ms. Fix-It confidence had me ordering a replacement screen post-haste.  I chose to spend an extra buck to get the screen that came with the special tiny screwdrivers.  That would turn out to be the best decision I've ever made.  So here's how it went:
 I assembled my cast of characters . . .
. . . and realized that there were no written instructions, and I was hopelessly out of my depth.  After a thoroughly informative youtube video, I was ready.  I intrepidly began working.
 I peeled off the back cover . . . 
 took out the battery . . .
attempted to take a picture of the tiny screw driver . . .
 that fit in this triangle screw . . .
and removed the four screws.
I popped off the camera cover.
 This bit was very tricky.  The video guy had no trouble popping this piece off, but I struggled and ended up cracking it.
 My prying tool was some oddly-shaped device I found on the mending desk at work.  It was eventually effective, but peeling these parts from one another might have been easier with the cute little plastic prying device that video dude had.
 As I was taking very blurry photos of this step, the enormity of taking my cell phone apart really hit me.
Here's the point of no return.  If cracking the screen hadn't voided my warranty, the moment that I broke this sticker I was all in.  
 I learned a lot of interesting terminology too.  That little tab thing sticking up on the yellow part of the phone is a ribbon cable apparently.
 Here are my phone's innards.  The two pieces are still connected at this point by the ribbon cable of the digitizer.  I actually know what some of those words mean.
 Enter the itty-bitty Phillips-head screwdriver.  The first screw came out with nary a problem, but the other one was stubborn.  I eventually worked on it so much that the head of the screw got wallered out, and the screwdriver was useless.  I won't recount the hours of frustration this caused, but I eventually put all my pieces in a plastic bag and took a break.  

Once I got home and buried my troubles in a couple shows on the DVR, I was ready to deal with that pesky screw again.  It wasn't pretty, but eventually I triumphed.  But in the meantime, I had forgotten about photo documentation, so there's no proof that I removed the screw, popped out the ear piece, pried up the metal plate there to disconnect the ribbon cable on the digitizer, separated the digitizer and screen from the back of the phone, then separated the screen from the digitizer.  I the replaced this sad, cracked digitizer with the new one and spent a distinctly frustration period of time getting the ribbon cable of the new digitizer plugged back in under that metal plate.  My helpful video didn't actually cover reassembly, but just told me to do everything in reverse, which is much easier said than done, but overall, I handled it. 
 The old, sad digitizer.
The delightfully uncracked state of my phone now.  

Careful examination will reveal that there's a bit more of a distinct crack between the screen and the back of the phone than there was pre-surgery, but since I'm now going to actually start using the case that would have saved my phone from the original breakage, the gap will likely go unnoticed.

After this largely successful foray into electronics repair, I feel like I'm ready for anything.  Maybe I'll try car repair next, though I'd be perfectly happy if my vehicle (pop quiz, hotshots:  What is my car's name?) didn't give me an excuse or opportunity to hone that skill anytime in the foreseeable future.

In the meantime, if any of my faithful readers have their own broken cell phone screens and are considering a home repair, you're welcome to my tiny screwdrivers, but be warned:  it's a high-stress situation.  Better have some silly putty on hand to ease the tension.

UPDATE:  I knew last night when I wrote the post that I could receive texts and check email and play Angry Birds, so I assumed that my phone was fully functioning.  When I tried to call work this morning to tell them how massively I'd overslept, I had some issues with the screen going black and not being able to hear the phone ringing or the person on the other end picking up.  Not cool.  I think I put the internal ear piece in backwards, but all my tiny tools are at home, so I'll have to work on that tonight--in the meantime, if you call me, and I can figure out how to answer, I'll have to put you on speaker (which I have verified does still work), so beware.  I should probably change this blog title to reflect this failure, but I'm sticking with what I've got until tonight's surgery proves I was every kind of fool for taking my phone apart in the first place.

Monday, April 25, 2011

never sorry i was there

I didn't mean to fall off the face of the blogging world again.  Of course, I never mean to, but I'm exceptionally talented at it obviously.

Since you'll never convince me that anyone besides my immediate family reads this blog, there's kind of no point in telling you, imaginary readers, what has kept me from my little internet kingdom.  but never let it be said I missed an opportunity to talk about myself.

Last Sunday my precious Grams (who faithful readers will recall fell and had a compression fracture in her back early last year) fell at church and ended up in the hospital with a broken hip.  My moma and the Popster were here for the weekend, so we were all at church together when it happened.  I'm glad we were, that my moma was already here and didn't have to make a decision about whether or when to come down.  The hard part is that any little thing that goes wrong with Grams these days sort of crashes her physically.  So in the process of waiting for her surgery to happen, we had a few bumps in the road, plenty of things to worry us in addition to the regular seriousness that comes with anesthesia and surgery on an eighty-one year old.  But she had her surgery, a hip replacement rather than fixing the break, and she's slowly improving, I think.  If all goes as planned today, she'll move from the hospital to a rehab facility.  She's still very easily fatigued, so my current prayer, in which I ask you to join me, is that she is strong enough to do the prescribed therapy and regain some of her movement.

With all this going on, my normal routine flew out the window.  My moma and aunts took turns staying with Grams in the hospital at night, and that first night when my moma stayed, I bullied her into letting me stay too so that I could be help and company.  At about four in the morning when we had six or eight people in the room working on Grams's breathing, my moma finally admitted that she was glad I was there.  I think if that night had gone differently, or if I hadn't been there to see how bad she got in a short amount of time, I might have done the rest of the week differently.  But it was scary, and I saw it happen, and I couldn't go back to normal while that was going on.  I stuck around at the hospital on Monday, missing work, and waiting for her to start improving.  We finally saw her surgeon that night and knew that the surgery would likely take place on Wednesday.  I had a few things going on at work on Tuesday that I really needed to show up for, and I was in Searcy without a car, clean clothes or other life essentials like my laptop, so I came home and went to work (and packed up enough of my life to last me a week and ran about forty-thousand errands while avoiding a tornado) on Tuesday.  I was back in White County by Tuesday night and spent almost all my waking hours (and possibly more of my sleeping ones) at the hospital from Wednesday to Friday night.  I helped throw a baby shower on Saturday and went to Spring Sing on Saturday and just made curfew to get back into the hospital to spend the night before they locked the front doors.  Last night I finally came home and if I can get off the couch in a minute, I'll be going back to work like a normal person.

Through the whole process, I received mountains of love and support from my peeps and facebook friends and church family and coworkers.  Things got a little crazily short-handed at work towards the end of the week, and I was going to come back and work, but my boss wouldn't hear of it.  It was through an email exchange and a phone conversation with her that the thoughts behind the title of this blog crystallized.  She went above and beyond in covering for me last week, and through it all, she encouraged me to stay right where I was providing what little support and comfort and entertainment I could for my moma, aunts and Grams.  She understood so perfectly the need within me just to be there and gave me the means to be there without worry or guilt over what was falling apart at work.  It was an immeasurable blessing, and I know that in the coming weeks if I need more of that flexibility and understanding, it will be there for me.  I love working where I work for that reason alone.

I tweeted one day last week that I was "good at hospitals,"  a fun fact I wish I didn't know about myself.  It feels like I've had more opportunities than I'd strictly like to hone that skill.  One of the many things that's occurred to me this past week during my hours of introspection is that my life is perfectly set-up for me to be the good-at-hospitals girl.  Almost eight years ago, I stopped doing the job that I had thought was my life's calling and drifted into the library as a temporary stop while I figured myself out.  What I found at the library was maybe the job I was supposed to be doing all along, a job that I love in its own right but also a job that I can leave at work most of the time, a place with bosses and coworkers who let me drop everything to go and do what I need to do for my family.  And it's not just work that makes my life so easily portable.  I'm not married.  I don't have babies to take care of--I don't even have a fish to feed.  And as long as I have a cell phone and even an occasional internet connection, I can be in touch with anyone I need, no matter where I am.  It's a life that bounces instead of shattering when dropped.

When I realized last night that I wanted to write about being there, I got nervous that talking about how I've been able to be physically present for my family this week was somehow going to be an insult to the people who couldn't.  That's not what I'm trying to imply in any way.  I guess it's just that I don't always think my life is that great.  I like my job fine, and I have great friends and great family and belong to a great church, but it's not exactly the stuff of which little girl dreams are made.  It's not what I pictured, not where I set out to be--it's just where I am. But when something like this comes along, and I get to be right where I want to be, taking care of my people, with no geographic obstacles or unavoidable commitments or even complicated logistics blocking me, my life is absolute perfection, and this is not the first time I've had cause to notice it.  It's maybe the best blessing of this life I didn't want. 

And when my complaining soul finds things to regret about my life, I'll never be sorry I was there.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

an open letter to the pioneer woman

Dear P-Dub (I can call you P-Dub, right?  I mean, we're friends and all now),

I should warn you that I used to do these open letters all the time (or once a week for about a month), but they became kind of dangerous.  See I really just do them for laughs, never expecting that the addressee will ever actually read them, but it turns out this here internet-thingy is a public forum, and sometimes moving truck companies and basic cable television networks will stumble across my amusing little letters, and weird stuff occasionally follows.  Once I began to understand the might of the open letter, I sent them into semi-retirement, only using them in safe and controlled conditions.  I've always known that the time might once again be right to send an open letter out into the world, but no offense, I didn't anticipate that it would be for you.  The open letter is my secret final weapon against the one person who I hope to lure into friendship (and marriage) through the blog.  But I'm not going to devote that letter to FHDM until I'm sure I'm ready for us to happen because as I think I mentioned a few sentences back, the open letter is a powerful tool with unexpected and far-reaching effects.  But now that you and I are friends I'm not afraid to send this open letter out into the internet-void.  I mean I'm assuming you were going to look me up and start following the blog anyway now that we've met, right?

Thanks times a million for coming to the Arkansas Literary Festival on Saturday!  It was kind of the best work-related thing that's ever happened to me.  I tend to avoid Lit Fest because it's so busy and chaotic, and all the people make me crazy.  And honestly, if I'm not working, I don't really dig hanging out at the library.  It's a great place, but I feel like I spend enough time there without devoting leisure time to it.  But you were totes worth the crowd and chaos and hanging out where I work without getting paid.  Even the line waiting with the rabid PW fans was mildly awesome. 

To tell the truth, I'm the reason you were invited in the first place.  I've been a fan for a couple of years now, and when you were on the cookbook tour (was that 2009?), I may have become a little obsessed with talking about you at work.  It helped that I won a $75 amazon gift card in one of your Geography quizzes (Kansas City, if memory serves).  The cool thing about the folks I work with is that I'm the young, hip, fun girl, so anything that I like, they buy into--not that it was a hard sell.  They fell right in love with you too, and because I had brought you onto the radar of my boss (maybe you met her today?  Lisa, but not the Lisa who moderated your session), she suggested you to Mr. Lit Fest, and the rest is history--or the beginning of our awesome friendship.  I don't typically use the word awesome so much.  Forgive me.

You already know the highlights of the day as you were there hanging out with me and stuff, but let me take you through the good times you missed out on.  I worked the Book Fiesta in the morning before you got there (remember I told you about making the salsa and getting it on my shirt?), so everyone else got there at various stages, but by a few minutes after noon we were ready to head for the line.  We were in a pretty decent spot too.
I realized that I'd left my camera upstairs not long after we got into line, so while Martha was taking the twins one at a time to change their diapers on the lawn in the little garden area outside where we were waiting, I ran back up to my desk to get my camera.  I asked if she would reenact the lawn diaper changes for me once I got back, but she apparently didn't want her babies' private business enshrined here on my blog.  Go figure.

In that brief time while I was gone, the line was growing and growing.  Some sweet lady behind us offered to take our picture all together since someone was getting left out of all the ones we were taking ourselves.  I know it's confusing, but Martha's holding Jackson, who's really Amy's baby.  That's Luke you can see in the stroller, but sweet Calla got cut off--but of course, you remember what she looks like anyway.

In addition to the diaper changes, the twins had to eat lunch in line--the sacrifices those babies made to meet you are impressive, huh?  Trust me that nothing should ever come between Luke and his eating schedule.  The boys likes his food.

The vestibule where we waited was airless and sticky with all those warm bodies, so I was quite ready to get inside the Darragh Center which I hoped would be pleasantly cool.  You may recall it was not.  We were melting in there too, so I speculated then about how many paper towels or tissues you were using to soak up the sweat from your armpits and wondered if you had enough to share.  If I'd gotten to ask my question during the session, that's what it would have been. 

Oh look, Calla's in this one--but now Luke is in the stroller.  I think he was asleep by this point maybe.

I was trying to take a picture of Calla who was down the row being really cute when my camera batteries died.  Can you believe the horror?!?  What would I do if we couldn't have a our picture made together later?  I had not come prepared for that possibility.  Luckily Nichole had.  She gave me new batteries and saved my life.
 (Thanks, Nichole!)

Jackson waited until he was inside and sitting down to eat, but out of respect for Amy, I'm not going to show you that picture (though thanks to the Hooter Hider/Modest Mommy/nursing bib it's a perfectly respectable photo). 
Hey!  There you are.  Of course, you'll remember this part.  You really did a fantastic job, and you appeared completely undaunted during the whole laptop/slideshow debacle, so despite whatever you feel about your lack of strength as a public speaker, I thought you handled yourself like a pro.  And I'm sure it didn't hurt that you're so beloved that we all were just giddy with seeing you and hearing you and getting to laugh with you in person, and no one in the audience cared about the a/v issues.

Later while we were standing in line waiting for book-signing, Nichole said, "wasn't she just like you thought she'd be?"  I had to agree.  Your warmth and genuineness and humor were exactly as I'd pictured them.  I guess everyone else thought so too since we waited and waited and waited for the line to wind around for us to see you.  Poor pregnant Monica just had to sit down, so we actually had a folding camp chair that she sat in and moved and scooted as the line meandered.  The babies held up like champs through all the waiting.  Both boys took naps and Calla only got a little fussy.

And then, at long last, we made the last corner and saw you, wearing those boots you've talked about so often, sporting the haircut you got last week (is it creepy that people know so much about your life sometimes?), and charming the socks off everyone whose book you signed.  It was interesting to hear the sorts of things people brought up to talk about with you as they had their moment:  homeschooling, being from Oklahoma, favorite recipes.  I could tell that everyone felt as I did, that she'd known you long before she handed your her book to sign and that like me, she'd considered carefully what to say in her brief time with you to make a connection--to help you know her in some small way as she knows you.  Everyone might as well have said, "Hi, Ree.  I think you're great, and more importantly we're alike.  If I lived down the gravel road from you, we'd be friends, great friends, inseparable.  Instead let's be long-distance friends.  You won't regret it.  After all, all those things you say, those funny things that happen to you, those foods that you love, I do all those things too.  We're alike, you see."  But saying that would come off just a shade stalkerish and desperate, so instead we honed in one one detail, one thing to tell you that would make us special, make us important to you, if only for a moment, because you're important to us.  And you delivered for us, listening to those snippets and details, responding with your sweet smile and appropriate questions, and acting for all the world as though you had all the time in the world to talk to us.

When my moment came, it was no different.  I was grateful to Lee Ann (the Lit Fest girl who was opening the books and handing them to you) for telling you that I worked at the library so I could act like I was a little more special, a little more in-the-know than all the other folks who had passed through the line.  I got to confess to you that I had salsa on my shirt, a splatter from earlier in the day when I had made your restaurant-style salsa (best salsa ever) for the Book Fiesta in the children's department.  We got to bond for a moment on the perfection that is your salsa, and I felt the residual glow of your admiration for the cute babies in our group. 

If there was one thing we could have done differently that would have made the moment pure, over-the-top perfection, we would have all crowded around you for a group picture.  It would have been a lot like that first picture up at the top (but with Luke and Calla out of the stroller) and with you as our new friend right in the middle.  When I think back on the day, that's how I want to remember it, that's the picture I see in my heart. 

From all of us who have had those moments with you, thanks.  Thanks for being everything we imagined you would be:  the ordinary girl who loves butter and hates laundry, who delights in her kids and feels nervous about her weight, who does embarrassing things and owns up to them, who finds beauty in quiet everyday moments of family, food, and friends.  Thank you for giving us your attention, for treating us like long-lost friends or new friends you'd been waiting to meet, just as eagerly as we'd been waiting to meet you.

Thanks for it all,

Ellen (your new best friend)

P.S.  I didn't tell Amy or Martha or Monica about that second extra conversation we had as I saw you on your way out.  They don't know how we talked about our fall Getaway and the Lodge.  So once you figure out the details of how that might work, let me know.  I can't wait to tell them.

P. P. S. I'm sorry it took me so long to get this posted.  I got it mostly finished on Sunday, but then internet vanished from our home until today.  It's not because I wasn't giddily excited about reliving our day together.  Don't let my technological issues come between us.  Please.

P. P. P. S. To anyone reading this who doesn't know about Pioneer Woman and her amazing-ness, get out from under your rock and go here.  You won't be sorry.  Promise.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

stanley strikes again: another guest post

Faithful readers will remember that Flat Stanley graced us with a guest post here back in February.  Since that time he's traveled to other blogs and made some cameos on various facebook profiles, and today he's back again (well, not physically) to make a report on some of his other travels.  The blog is yours, Stanley:

So after I spent a fun and relaxing time visiting Nana and the Popster, Aunt Ellen, Uncle Shane, and Hailey, I was ready for some kid interaction again. That’s what led to what may have been the most dangerous adventure of my illustrious career‐‐spending a lot of time around . . . The Sandlins.

Things started off pretty calm. We ate lunch at Mac‐Mac’s house on a Sunday which is what her bunch of Sandlins usually do. They all had big people food, but Elijah was nice enough share with me a plate of smallish morsels which were more suitable to my unique digestive needs. After lunch we retired to the deck for dessert and a visit. I mostly watched Elijah eat. I think that he must have learned about the Last Supper at church that day, because he was practicing reclining at the table.  Rob‐Bob wasn’t reclining, but she was wearing clothes that looked suspiciously like pajamas so it was basically the same thing.

[Blogging failure's note:  There's a picture of this--Stanley in a chair, Elijah lying down eating, and Robyn wearing Razorback pajama pants--but technical difficulties prevent it from appearing here.  Sorry, Stanley--and Mac.]

Next, I went home with Mac and Jenni and their kids. Things were okay there to begin with, but then Jenni made me help cook supper. I even had to cut up the onions!! I was so afraid that I’d start crying and smear my face that I could barely keep the knife straight. Lucky for me, Jenni kept a close eye on me and made sure
that I was safe.

After that, I just sat around being bored for a couple of days. There was a lot of big talk about cool things that I might get to do, but you know how Mac is – long on talk and short on follow‐through. Eventually, we decided that I’d get to play Vikings with Elijah, and boy was I excited about that. It took about three or four days of shopping online for us to find just the right equipment for me. We got the helmet and battle ax right pretty easily, but Elijah was VERY picky about what my shield and armor ought to look like. Eventually, we settled on a round wooden shield with an authentic dragon design on it. Elijah says that the horns on my helmet are cow horns and that the brown part is made of leather with metal bands just like the toy one
that he has.
 [Random historical note: Did you know that Vikings didn’t really wear horns on their helmets? A painter invented that particular bit of fashion for them several hundred years later. Thanks Wikipedia!!]

Once I had all of my Viking gear on, Elijah tried to show me how to make a warrior face. Apparently Vikings did a great deal of growling and snarling and more than their fair share of screaming. I sort of wonder if Elijah and the rest of the Sandlins might be descended from the Vikings…

As usual, one friend or playmate was not enough for Elijah. He wasn’t really happy until his dad got in on the action too. Luckily, Mac’s basically a big kid, and he was more than happy to don his Viking helmet and take up his weapons for a rousing Nordic battle.

 After all of that violent rough‐housing, I decided that I needed a little break. I thought that playing house with Josie would be a nice change of pace. She let me cook a little in her singing kitchen, and we all sang along, “I like to eat red apples and yellow bananas, orange oranges and purple grapes, I like some colorful fruit, every
day, then I’m off to play!” Jenni told me that I was a welcome guest in her home but that she heard that silly song about six thousand times a day and was sick to death of it. I stopped singing immediately as I was afraid that she might make me chop the onions again.
 Luckily though, she had a better idea. She showed me a place where I felt right at
Josie really liked playing house with me. We opened and closed the door and turned the porch light on and off. We looked through the windows and rang the bell. Jenni did a good job of making sure that Josie didn’t tear my arms off too. I was so grateful that I didn’t even sing any of the songs that the musical door liked to play.
Later on, the Sandlin crew was invited to a picnic at the Wisdoms’ house. I decided that I wanted to come along to meet Elijah’s friend Gabe and his parents, Mr. Jeff and Mrs. Nancy. Mr. Jeff is Mac’s best friend and he’s friends with Aunt Ellen and Uncle Shane too. He and Aunt Ellen used to eat lunch together in college and the days when Mr. Jeff and Aunt Ellen were both at the table were always especially hilarious.  At least that’s what they tell me. I also wanted to visit their house since it was the house that your mom and dad used to live in before you were born. Mac told me stories about going to Katelyn’s birthday party over there and watching her eat the cake when she was a baby. Elijah even took me back to her old room where Gabe lives now. I said that it was a nice place but that I would have liked it better if you had lived there.

[Technology fails again:  imagine you're seeing a really sweet picture of Elijah and Gabe and Stanley holding hands.]

Josie was playing on a toy piano, and Jenni told me that she’d love to hear me sing along with her. It turns out that she really loves my singing so long as I’m not doing cover songs off of the playschool toys greatest hits album. Between the bright colors of Mrs. Nancy’s kitchen and dining room and the way that Josie kept trying
wad me up, it was hard to concentrate on getting all the notes right and remembering all the words, but I managed. I even got a standing ovation!
Well, the picnic was great fun, but I wanted to see some more of what all went on at the Sandlin house from day to day. Since tax season was going on, Jenni spent a lot of her time filing returns. I got to help a little. We’ve made sure to remove any relevant information that might show up on the tax forms. We wouldn’t want Jenni to lose her job.

I was going to go to Harding to see Mac’s work, but things there got kind of crazy. It turns out that they’ve offered him an interview for a permanent teaching position in the Bible department, so he’s having to act extra professional right now. He said that he’d make it up to me, but I didn’t know what he had in mind.

At first, I was a little nervous when he said that I’d need my Viking helmet and ax. I wasn’t sure if I was up for all the yelling and snarling again so soon (though Elijah never seems to get tired of it). Luckily, this time I wasn’t doing anything as dangerous as playing with Elijah. I was only battling a host of vicious dragons.

I figured that I’d better attack the most dangerous dragon first, but the Night Fury was so fast that I couldn’t get to him in time. Instead, I smacked the Monstrous Nightmare across his nose with my ax. He fell to the ground with a howl of pain. I dodged the darts that the Deadly Nader shot from its tail and quickly tied the
Hideous Zippleback’s two heads together in a knot. Just then, the Night Fury flew back down. Being the nimble fellow that I am, and knowing that Night Furies can actually be quite friendly when treated right, I sprang onto his back and began flying through the air.
It was a pretty spectacular end to a long and exciting stay with the Sandlins.  As much fun as it was hanging out with the Sandlins, I’ve been sort of anxious to get home. I bet that you are missing me just as much as I’m missing you. So I’m climbing into my big envelope and coming home via the good ole’ USPS. I’ve got lots of souvenirs from my travels and lots of great memories. I can’t wait to see you and tell you all the details about my trip.
Your Pal,
Flat Stanley

Saturday, April 2, 2011

a work in progress

In February I learned that they were starting a group at my church who would take plastic shopping bags and turn them into sleeping mats to be given to homeless people.  Apparently this is a real thing that people do. I was intrigued and thought I'd like to help, but I missed the first few meetings of the group for one reason or another.  My friend Lacey had been attending, so I checked with her to make sure that latecomers were welcome and went to my first meeting about three weeks ago. 

Here's what I learned and what I've been working on (with varying degrees of success) ever since:
First you need a plastic shopping bag (No, those aren't my hands.  Shane was my helper for this photo shoot.)  Straightening and flattening ensue.
This is a Dollar General Store bag from my favorite Dollar General in Clinton, Kentucky.  Once it's flattened, you fold in half.
And in half again (or into fourths).  You can do this without the folding, but I think it makes it easier to do the cutting that's coming up.
Trim off the bottom seams.
And trim off the top, making a straight cut under the handles.
Then you fold in half the other way and cut.
And fold in half again and cut.
 This gives you four loops from each bag.  You tie the loops together the same way you tie rubberbands together.

If you do that with lots and lots and lots of bags, it turns into plarn (plastic yarn--catchy, huh?) and you use the plarn to crochet the mat.  Here's the ball of plarn I'm working right now.
For the record, that is my giant hand I'm using for scale.

I left that first meeting with a smallish ball of plarn (not the one pictured here), the most giant crochet hook in the world and the rough idea of how to create a mat.  I didn't bother to tell anyone just how long it had been since my moma had taught me to crochet.  I was confident in the internet's ability to reteach me anything I needed to know about crochet, and I was not disappointed.

I watched a video or two about the single crochet stitch, and I went for it.  Chaining was the only thing I really remembered about crochet from that fourteen year old lesson, so I started with confidence.  And honestly, it was simple.
That's the chain and the giant crochet hook.

I had a bit of a hard time feeling confident that I was placing my stitches in the right holes for that first row, but when I got to the end, it looked mostly uniform, so I flipped it and trudged on.
 Once you get past the tricky (for me anyway) first row it's soothingly repetitive--unless you're me, and you realize three days (and several rows later) that you've been routinely skipping one stitch each row so you're should-be-rectangular mat is well on its way to becoming a triangle.  Anyone familiar with my knitting history will not be shocked that I had to take out all my progress and start over multiple times before I figured out what I was doing wrong.  Now it's all smooth, blurrily-photographed sailing.

 Here's what it looked like on Monday (when I first started using the giant ball of plarn that my moma and Shane and Michelle helped me make.

And here's what it looks like currently (with my favorite brown flip-flop used as scale).  Without measuring, I think it's dangerously close to half-way.  See the two yellow stripes in the center?  The slightly shorter one on the left is where I was on Monday, so I've gotten a braggable amount done this week, if I do say so myself.
I didn't realize until yesterday that it's grown a bit wider as I've progressed.  I'm not adding stitches (because I count periodically now to make sure I've got the right number), but I have a problem maintaining constant tension.  That's the reason I quit crocheting all those years ago when my moma taught me.  Oh, well.  I don't think it's too bad, and maybe I can keep it under control.

And that giant ball of plarn?  Here's what it looks like now:

It takes a lot of bags to make a mat, obviously.  But so far my lovely family and friends have kept me well-supplied, and I think I'll eventually have so many of them trained to make plarn that I won't have to worry about ever running out.  I'll try to remember to take a picture of the finished product for you.