Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pronation, Orthotics and Shoe Repair

Today I went to see an orthopedist as I was having ankle pain. Apparently I pronate, have chronic shin splints and maybe anterior impingement syndrome. In other words I need orthopedic shoes. The doctor asked if I wanted to start with over-the-counter orthotics (i.e. shoe inserts) or go straight for the prescription. Let’s see, shoe inserts or grandma shoes, inserts or grandma shoes ...hmmmm, tough decision but I went with inserts; mainly because I didn’t have an accompanying matriarchal wardrobe. I may be into knitting, sewing and baking but I’m not into knee high pantyhose (sorry Grandma)!

And speaking of geriatric. I also have bunions. Bunions! My big toes have always pointed in giving me trademark overlapping toes. But what I didn’t realize is this condition has a name; a technical scientific name - bunions! Oh sweetie my bunions are killing me; how perfectly elderly. For now I’ll stick with overlapping toes.

I left the orthopod in search of Superfeet. To the tune of forty-dollars I now own a lovely set of berry-colored insoles which will move from shoe to shoe. They sure beat the alternative.

I am also supposed to wear shoes with a raised heel. Not high heels mind you - those aren’t good for my toes - but shoes with a thick raised heel. I own a pair of those shoes - my danskos. But my danskos are broken and I wasn’t ready to spend another hundred dollars.

So I went to a local shoe repair shop. Surprisingly there was a line. Classical music was playing in the background, dusty shoe molds were hanging on the wall and an ancient sewing machine was whirling in the background. The place reminded me of a creepy old music shop. Don’t be silly I told myself as I studied the line of shoes that had been repaired. Slowly I began to puff up, chest out and shoulders high. In our disposable society it was great to see folks restoring footwear. I was a member of this group. I didn’t care if the place was creepy - I was proud to be there waiting in line. After ten minutes the repair man came out with a restored purse. He stared at me and said harshly, “I’m not accepting new customers. I’m booked through November.”

“Oh,” I said meekly and to my surprise my eyes teared up. My bubble had burst. I’d been denied access to an exclusive club. I couldn’t wear the golden slipper (or ailing dansko). I was unworthy. Those people, they were the chosen ones. I was not.

Shoulders schlumped and shoes held tightly against my chest I turned and left. I had planned a celebratory trip to the health food store but couldn’t bear it. I wanted to be alone. Then I remembered - I’d seen a new shoe repair shop just off the parkway - New Beginnings Shoe Repair.

I found it easily, parked then hesitated. What if I was denied again? They’re just shoes I told my hormonal self as I sucked in a deep breath and went through the door. A bell rang and a machine stopped. This place was clean, dust-free. A kindly gentleman came to the counter. Yes, he said, my shoes could be repaired. And he could polish them too. I exhaled remembering to breathe. My shoes could be fixed. They’d look brand new and be done tomorrow. Sweet relief. I didn’t need the nasty shoe guy who probably lived at the Bates Motel. I was accepted. I was part of the club. My shoes and my life will be given New Beginnings.


Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness . . . . sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it as though a voice were saying: “You are accepted.”

--Paul Johannes Tillich


Not that I'm in great pain - I'm simply hormonal and found that quote fitting; kinda like my new old shoes.


As I finished writing this New Beginnings Shoe Repair called - my danskos are finished - today! I’m going to pick them up now.


I hope today each and every one of you feels acceptance today. Here's to New Beginnings!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Frugal Friday

"All Things want to fly. Only we are weighed down by desire,
caught in ourselves and enthralled with our heaviness ...If someone were to fall into intimate slumber, and slept deeply with Things - how easily he would come to a different day, out of the mutual depth."

--Rainer Maria Rilke


I didn't realize how heavily I'd been weighed down until I cleaned my bedroom. The room hadn't seemed all that dirty. Sure it needed basic maintenance - dusting, vaccuming, etc. And I set off to do just that. But then I noticed all sorts of items scattered about: books, old yarn, kid's toys, clothes. And as I was sorting through the mess it occurred to me: I don't need this stuff. Not only do I not need this stuff , I don't want it. These objects were anchors pulling me deeper and deeper into the depths of disorganization and subsequent despair.

So I purged. The slobbered on unraveled yarn (thank you Labradork) went into the garbage as did all junky plastic toys. Books I'd already read were listed on Half.com. Baseball hats found a basket in the closet and all laundry went into the hamper. Then I vacuumed, dusted and changed the sheets.

And the proverbial weight was lifted from my shoulders. I felt lighter, happier and more energetic. I learned a lesson last night:

Happiness is not made of stuff; it's made of Things.


An off-shoot of yesterday's organizing binge was the unearthing of a flannel sheet set- still new in the package. It was Christmas in September! I pulled those puppies out, gave 'em a quick wash and onto the bed they went. Aaaaaah! Nothing beats freshly washed flannel sheets - nothing!

We have a down comforter and duvet so we don't use the top sheet. As I was admiring the new sheets, literally rubbing the material on my face, it occurred to me the top would make lovely pajamas. "Oh how I wish I knew how to sew pajamas," I lamented as I wistfully folded the top sheet and placed it on my fabric pile with all the other forlorn top sheets; like poor discards at a toy factory - all they ever wanted was to be used.

This morning I had a moment between shoving my son out the door (he rode his bike the four miles to school) and waking middle daughter. I sat down on the couch and had a revelation. Who says I can't sew pajamas? If I can sew a book bag then surely I can make at least the pants!

I searched the internet (don't you just lurve the internet?) and found this which led me to this. Yippy skippy - I set out to sew some pajama pants. My four-year-old, a.k.a. guinea pig, got to pick the material. She went with a snowman theme. I used a pair of her pants to make the pattern. (Here's a hint - use a paper discard roll from the local newspaper; most newspapers will give you these rolls for free). The pattern was then transferred to the flannel top sheet and a bit of stitching later - new pajama pants!

We adorned the cuffs with ribbon for an extra little sumpin' sumpin'. My daughter immediately put on the pants and she has been wearing them all day. (Okay - so some stuff does make one happy; especially free stuff).

During my morning surf (it's a great way to wake up without all the water associated with traditional surfing) I came across this site with adorable baby pants sewn from old cotton t-shirts. I may just have to give them a go ... they look too adorable to pass up.


It's been two weeks since my last frugal Friday post. I am still using the same razor and have been religiously blow-drying it between uses. Now keep in mind - it's getting colder up here in the Pacific Northwest and I'm not shaving everyday. I typically shave every two to three days. But I'm still thrilled with it's duration. I'll keep you posted.


Happy Frugal Friday!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Estate Sale

The room is full of books, all four walls lined with dusty volumes: spines cracked and corners folded. Space remains only for the hollow door and bare aluminum window. The simple desk, scattered with papers, waits for your return. But you are not coming back, at least not back here. Instead I'm here to score a morsel for my collection.

I am not interested in the rest of the house. Except, of course, for the sunken tub, tiled red and buried in the bathroom like an upright barrel. How did you get in? And, for that matter, how did you get out? Did you not worry about frail bones shattering on ancient linoleum? Or had you come to terms with your own mortality? The world be damned! I want an upright tub. Tile it red, my dear, for red is the color of blood. Is it, I wonder, easier to read in an upright bathtub?

Your house is sparse with threadbare carpet and outmoded furniture. There are expensive paintings from China and elegant Indian tapestries but these are not for me. These are not my memories nailed to the wall; physical remnants should the mind falter and forget the road from there to here.

But here, in this room, I feel it. I’ve crawled inside and am plucking at grey matter, spreading the pages of your being. You and I are walking the same path. Buddhism Without Belief. Spirituality in a Scientific World. Good doctor, for I see your diploma, where have you gone? Body in flames I am picking at your soul, inspecting the medical reference section, the psychology section and the shelf and a half of buddhist works. Clearly you believe in the concrete, in evidence, in proof. But where is the proof in the Now?

Were you scared? Did you falter? Did you question Him? Or were you ready; ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

I’m taking you with me. The cost was minimal. What a deal; two souls merged between the pages of Essential Crazy Wisdom and Glimpses of Abhidiahrma. From your shelf to mine we become one. You have been reincarnated.

Excerpt from Essential Crazy Wisdom:

"...Taoists and Zen masters listen for the rhythms of the natural world and adjust themselves to those beats. Staying in touch with nature's power and mystery reminds them continually of how little they know and how small they are. Issa's* haiku demonstrates the type of lessons that nature offers on how to live and die:

Simply Trust --
Do not the petals flutter down,
Just like that?

Elevating human civilization above the natural world may be a fatal hubris."

*Kobayashi Issa


Not bad advice for fifty-cents.


Today is Love Thursday over at Shutter Sisters. This week I'm loving estate sales, Essential Crazy Wisdom and, of course, nature!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Question: What does one give an eight-year-old girl for her birthday?

Answer: An old sheet. Well - not quite, today’s answer is an old curtain.


Yesterday morning my daughter greeted me at the door as I came home from work. She was beaming ear to ear. Her new book bag more than met with adolescent approval. It was in demand. Her friend’s birthday was on Saturday. The friend wanted a book bag just like Sis’s. And could you make one pulease? Today? And put pockets in it? And maybe a water bottle holder?

Apparently I am now in the book bag business. This time I followed the pattern to a “T” and made this bag with gussets. The material is a repurposed curtain. I even put in pockets (but no water bottle holder - this time).

We filled the bag with three hardcover books from my daughter’s out-grown book pile. And voila! An inexpensive birthday gift was born.


I’ve been knitting up a storm in anticipation of the holidays. I’ve made two of these Lucy Bags and am working on a third.

I also knit a little hat; little being the operative word. The pattern is Swell from Knitty.com. This is the second time I’ve knit this pattern and it turned out tiny both times (i.e. it will not fit my twelve-year-old son as I originally intended). I’m guessing this incarnation would fit a 12-month-old child. Only I don’t know any twelve-month-olds and am therefore not sure what to do with it. I lined it with mustard yellow fleece - for kicks and giggles. Maybe I should open an Etsy store...


Oh - it looks like my muffins are done, wait - let me go take them out of the oven. In the spirit of the season (hooray for autumn!) we whipped up these pumpkin delights. I took Maya’s advice and substituted chocolate chips for raisins. The muffins are worth it solely for the smell wafting through the house but they are also most delicious.


I love autumn - baking, stews, knitting, crafting; crisp mornings, warm afternoons, cozy evenings by the fire; the sounds of football pouring from the other room. Autumn brings out my domestic side. It's a time to take stock, to infuse the house with cinnamon and apple cider, to gather my family close. Maybe I was a squirrel in a previous life. I'm gathering my nuts for winter. Or, perhaps, I'm simply nuts. I'll let you decide.

Friday, September 19, 2008

When Old Becomes New Again

Last week I had a bee in my bonnet. I dusted off my sewing machine and attempted to fashion a reusable shopping bag out of an old sheet. I, not being a seamstress, messed up the pattern and the bag didn’t turn out quite right. My husband said it looked like a tank top sewn across the bottom (which actually isn’t a bad idea, hmmm....).

Anyway I chalked this attempt up to a learning experience and vowed to make the next bag closer to pattern specifications. The experimental sack went to live with my girls and their playthings.

Today my daughter came downstairs with the sack over her arm. “This,” she announced, “is my new book bag.” By some miracle it was large enough for her planner, PE shoes and lunch.

I was on carpool duty so we drove across the street to pick up our elementary school neighbor. The neighbor girl, at eight-years-old, is trendy and fashionable. In fact the backpack my daughter ditched for her new bag was a discard from this neighbor.

“Where’d you buy that?” asked the neighbor girl as she climbed in the car.

“We didn’t buy it!” my daughter proudly retorted, “My mom made it!”

“Oh,” said the neighbor with a pregnant pause. I cringed.

“That’s awesome!" she finally said, "I wish my mom could make stuff like that.”

I breathed a sigh of relief. The bag met with eight-year-old approval (every one in their right mind strives for eight-year-old approval, right?).

I drove to school with two happily chatting girls and a set of old sheets who’d gained a new lease on life.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Love Thursday

Hoards of brand spanking new people have invaded my life; one, two, three, four, five, six. Yup - six babies. Sixty tiny little toes, sixty delectable fingers, six bellies begging for raspberries. And none of these children are mine; they are the offspring of my sister, friends and co-workers. Lucky me I don’t have diapers to change or late night feedings. I get to step back and enjoy these sprites for what they are - pure unadulterated beings. And I am reminded of the potential. The innocence. The joy.

I’ve been watching the mommies with their bulging bellies and swelling chests. Their momma shuffle as the days come near. I remember the dragging feet, the pulling of ligaments and the kicks to the ribs. I don’t remember feeling the glow. It's as if the queen bee took residence within their pregnant hollows and honey now drips from their pores. They are - to put it simply - beautiful.

And then the babies with their sporadic movement, O lips and satin smooth skin. They smell like a summer’s evening; lilacs and honeysuckle drifting through an open window, curtains fluttering in the breeze. Even the yeasty milk of babies’ breath is endearing like bread rising in the oven - organic, natural, homemade.

To hold these babies, carefully cradling their heads and nuzzling your face against theirs, inhaling -it’s as if you’re inhaling the universe. You’ve breathed in the world - you belong to it and it to you.

And I can’t help but be jealous. These babes have their whole lives ahead of them. But sitting here, writing, talking to you - I realize I have the rest of my life ahead of me. And you - you have the rest of your life ahead of you. We are but neonates with the same kinetic energy as these infants I hold so dear. We all have the potential to watch, to listen and to learn. We are all innocent, joyful and beautiful.

So today, on Love Thursday, I’m loving life; people everywhere, big and small and full of potential.


Tomorrow is another baby shower. Here's a little something I knit up for the occasion.

The gift tag is printed on magnet photo paper and can be put on the fridge after the gift is opened. I hope she likes it!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Two nights of work have caused my eyelids to droop. Today they'll be propped with toothpicks as I attempt coherent interaction with my family. I'm off tonight then back to work tomorrow for another fifteen hour night shift. Of course two clients were late this morning stretching fifteen hours to sixteen. I was crabby coming home.

NPR was discussing the McCain campaign and the economy. I couldn't help but feel we are in for more of the same - my retirement savings drifting away, our house price steadily falling, decreased income, increased expenses and a country at war. Quite honestly I'd gotten myself into quite a funk by the time I pulled into the driveway.

Then I stepped on the porch and saw this pot of geraniums blooming brightly in the sun. I can not tell you the last time this plant was watered. We haven't had any rain. This lovely blooming geranium stared up at me and shouted, "You need less than you think. You too can thrive!" And thrive I will. But first I think I'll take a little nap.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Frugal Friday

Well those of you who read my blog know we are financially strapped. We are working hard to meet our monthly obligations and decrease our debt. I am happy to say we've cut this month's discretionary spending in half (i.e. food, merchandise, etc). So far this month we've only spent $13.95 at restaurants. Hip, hip hooray! We've two more days in the credit card cycle and I'm trying to avoid spending additional money so I can pay the balance in full. This means getting creative with food.

I scoured the cupboards and found half an onion, fresh garlic, black beans, azuki beans, tomato paste, beer, soy sauce and spices. Put it all together and you have...bum ba da da dum! Vegetarian chili! Tonight will be our third night with this lovely concoction.

I also found yeast, flour, butter, baking soda, oil, an egg and salt. What does that spell? Homemade Pretzels! You can find the pretzel recipe here. They were a huge hit and didn't last long. I may just make another batch today.

Last week I also baked a loaf of wheat bread, two loaves of zucchini bread and a batch of homemade pitas. I've had the weekdays off work (thus time to bake). I must admit I'm loving it. I sincerely wish I could retire but don't see that in my near future.

And since I want to retire sooner than later (if you count 15 to 20 years as sooner) I'm looking for other creative ways to save money. I briefly toyed with the idea of not shaving but the hub quickly put the kabosh on that. Apparently he has no interest in being married to Sasquatch. So to appease my husband I searched the web for ways to save money on razors and found this site. According to the Chicago Tribune razors wear out from micro rust buildup and not from cutting hair. This rust can be massively decreased by keeping the razor dry. As such I started blow drying my razor after each use. I'll let you know how long the razor lasts. And on a side note I also blow dried my hair. Shockingly hair looks better when styled. Go figure.

Next I found the Diva Cup - a reusable replacement for tampons and maxi pads. Essentially it is a collection cup that you place up your hoo. This cup has gotten great reviews on the net (and this hilarious one over at Motherhood Uncensored). I am going to give it a go. Hopefully it will arrive before my next cycle. I must admit I'm a bit nervous about the whole thing but as the reviewers state - if a baby can fit through there then Diva Cup will fit just fine. Let's hope so.

I'm also trying to get an early start on Christmas and have been knitting up a storm. I bought all the necessary supplies with Ebay proceeds. My PayPal account is diminishing, however, so I put a few more things up for sale - some ties and Timbuk2 bags. If you are in the market for stylish ties and/or hip urban bags check out my auction here.

And finally we've been using the library. I've been diligent about due dates and returning things in a timely manner. I checked out an entire Spanish course and am going to load it onto my ipod. Learning a foreign language is one of those things on my life list and free lessons from the library sure beats $550.00 for Rosetta Stone.

The thing about frugality is ... more care goes into the things I do. My family gets fresh homemade food. Christmas gifts will not be purchased - my love will be knit into the yarn. My kids and I spend quality-time together walking to the library. Voluntary simplicity really is “Living in a way that is outwardly simple and inwardly rich.” *

*Quote from Duane Elgin

Tee hee hee! I put a google ad up on my blog just to see what happened. Well this thing is pretty smart and it pulls key words from the blog to target an appropriate audience. Now it's running toilet ads. Anyone want to buy a toilet? Tee hee. :o)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Adventures in Plumbing

Some of you may remember my toilet woes. Originally the toilet wouldn’t flush. That issue was expertly repaired. Then the same porcelain beauty developed a new problem - one that began suspiciously close to the last repair; the tank periodically filled. Not wanting to delve further into toilet anatomy I ardently ignored the leak. I did so for several months. Then I opened my water bill - $80.00 over previous summers. As I poured over the bill I heard the toilet fill. At the same time someone reached inside my head and yanked the pull chain on that dusty old lantern - the light bulb finally went off. The toilet required repair.

Toiletology 101

Step one: Investigate the problem. The water level is not too high; it’s not spilling into the overflow valve. The problem must be the flapper valve.

Step two: Replace the flapper valve; a quick and simple repair. First remove the old valve and take it and the four-year-old to the hardware store. Find and purchase new valve, drive home and snap valve into place. Wipe hands back and forth and stand proud. You are queen of the home, mother extraordinaire! Then listen to the tell-tale filling of the tank as the toilet continues to leak.

Step three: Elect to replace the gasket. Remember that you already have a gasket in the garage from your previous excursion. Retrieve said kit. Remove the bolts from under the tank and pull the tank from the back of the toilet. Attempt to budge the large plastic nut on the underside of the tank. Realize you don’t own a wrench large enough to move the nut. Wander up and down the street begging for a wrench. The third house will relent. Return home. Wrestle with the nut while the toilet tank is balanced precariously on the lid. Envision the tank falling, porcelain crashing over bare feet. Stabilize tank between thighs. Shun the gym. Who needs gyms when there are plumbing projects to tackle? Check watch. Realize that you need to start cooking the pork shoulder for dinner. Intermittently braise shoulder and work on loosening nut - washing hands in between tasks. Finally loosen nut and remove flush valve. Change flush valve but leave old gasket on bottom because it appears in good shape and appears permanently adhered to the tank bolts. Replace all fittings. Fill toilet. Listen to the toilet run. Shlump shoulders, sigh heavily and turn off toilet water supply.

Step four: Panic because you are late to pick up your son who has a doctor’s appointment. Load the four-year-old into the car and race to the middle school. Freak out because cars are already lining up and there is no place to park. Park on street in the next neighborhood over and haul the four-year-old old out of the car. Coax her to run. Watch her melt into a pile on the sidewalk. Half-running half-walking carry the 50 pound child to the school. Once again shun the gym. Retrieve son and go to doctor. After doctor pick up middle daughter and her friend from the elementary school. Watch middle daughter fall apart when she discovers you are not armed with a snack. Ground middle child. Take friend home.

Step five: Return to your house. Send bawling girls to their room. Send boy child out to play. Disassemble the toilet once again. Cut the old gasket such that rubber remains around screws. Replace with new gasket. Reassemble toilet. Fill tank. Listen to the toilet run. Wipe tear from corner of eye and debate about calling a plumber.

Step six: Stare at toilet. Stare at instructions. Stare at toilet. Have an epiphany. Notice that the refill tube from the ballcock is seeded too deep in the overflow valve. Trim tube. Clip tube above the overflow valve. Place food dye in tank. Close eyes, cock head and listen to the sound of silence. The toilet has been repaired. No sweat! Well, okay, a little sweat but it's fixed, it's fixed!

I think I passed Toiletology 101. Know anyone who needs a plumber?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

First Day of School

Today was the first day of school. After a lackadaisical summer with few set plans I was ready for a routine. Our new morning regimen went smoothly: kids up, tummies filled, showers taken, bodies dressed and out the door to school. Then little sis and I found ourselves at home, alone. What to do, what to do? We tried out a few yoga moves then she watched PBS while I googled “Home Schooling Kindergarten”.

You see I’ve been feeling a bit guilty. Last year little sis dropped out of preschool because she did not like it. This year we are keeping her home for financial reasons. And I’m wondering if she’s missing out on a necessary educational experience including pre-reading, pre-writing and pre-arithmetic. Then I came across this website; and in particular this article. The gist of which is that children should not be expected to learn to read or write until they have appropriate proprioceptive abilities (i.e. knowledge of where their body is in space and time). Additionally complete neuronal pathways between the right and left hemispheres of the brain are necessary for full reading comprehension. These pathways and abilities are formed through activity and play; not through rote memorization. Ahhh - sweet relief! We’ve been doing it right all along by permitting unstructured playtime.

As it turns out she may be ready to learn to read. First off she loves books, she can write her name and she adores puzzles. She can also stand on one foot with her eyes closed and she can recognize shapes drawn on her back (both indications that her right and left hemispheres are communicating). But can she skip with opposite arms swinging? I don’t know. I don’t even know if she can skip. The same holds true for jump roping. So it seems we have some work to do, jumping and skipping up the ladder of success.

If only the rest of us could climb that ladder with joy and abandon - what a different world it would be!


Today we walked the mile down the hill to the library. Halfway there we stopped to inspect leaf prints moulded into the sidewalk. I was busy explaining to little sis how the leaves fell and made imprints in wet cement when she interrupted me with a huge grin on her face, “Mom? This is going great!”

Looks like autumn is off to a good start.


This weekend I was cleaning the girl’s room and I came across this little diddy written by middle daughter:

One day in Oregon Chloe, Shan Johsen, Nastia Lukis and Alicea sacramony were training at The new gym Bye Ben and jerrys. They were working out there core body.

Don’t you just love it!