Thursday, January 31, 2008

More Valentines, Winter Food

Finally, I managed yesterday to finish my cafepress shop Valentines. There are three more designs and I even have two of them in Spanish. They are pretty and I am pleased. (Shameless plug over, post continues below.)

The weather continues to be colder than normal for our area and the house has the feeling of a permanent chill to it. Reminds me of Papa calling the living room the "root cellar"! Of course, he grew up in a house that had a root cellar and a summer garden. His Grandma for sure kept apples in the root cellar. I wonder if she also stored onions, potatoes and turnips there?

Onions, potatoes and turnips would make a good soup. Kale would be good in it too along with garlic. Garlic is definitely a seasonal vegetable although most of the time we probably don't think of it that way--it just tastes so much better before it sprouts.

Pumpkin makes good soup too. Although it is better in pie and in muffins. Split pea soup and bread pudding are two more wonderful winter foods that do come to mind. I love split pea soup. Bread pudding is not worth making (or eating) if it is a low-fat version. This is one of those things that are just better when made the original way.

Cooking is one of the arts our culture is losing because we spend too much time commuting and too much time working. I have wondered for years if we would be healthier with a shorter work week. Then again we might just watch more dumb television and stay as unhealthy as we are.

Finally, I am disappointed that John Edwards dropped out of the Presidential race. I am glad to see that his agenda of eliminating poverty is going to be continued by the remaining Democratic candidates. I still don't see anything about helping the disabled or the elderly and so I am skeptical. However, it was the last Clinton administration that made at least a start toward improving disability benefits. So much more needs to be done and I hope that it will be.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Wednesday, Mittag

Mittag, the middle of the week. I always begin the new week on Monday feeling as if I have a huge, luxurious stretch of new time ahead of me. Time for new beginnings, new projects, new deadlines, finishing old ones. By Wednesday I am starting to feel harried, there isn't enough time, I'm not going to get it all done. Yesterday I was hit by the cold weather hanging on and a case of winter blahs so that the post-polio syndrome surfaced to the top and I ached all over and couldn't ignore the aches; was cold and shivery and couldn't get warm and just gave up and napped and curled up in warm places--which is not where the computers live.

valentine designs need to be finished on CP, publicizing needs to be done, mushrooms need to be sauteed and frozen for later use, the dishes and laundry need doing. I can take my pick! None of them appeal, but there is at least a long list to choose from.

Monday night I discovered that I was editing the wrong file from my novel. Carefully, lovingly editing the file that was not the last edition. So now there is that to take care of too.

The Amaryllis now has two full-bloom flowers and two buds. Very pretty and delicate.

Some advice to young newlyweds came into my mind as I began this post--so it seems that the bloom is off the rose, prune and nurture the bush that it may re-bloom. I see my roses in my mind's eye, sitting out in the cold now, looking quite forlorn. They need pruning and when it warms up a bit, feeding. They were glorious last year after attention was given them. I think it is a good analogy. I will pass it on.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sunshine Monday

We are having a "clearing weather" day and the sun is trying to shine! It is beautiful but too cold. My amaryllis is opening even more and growing on the kitchen counter.
Only three more days of January and then February will fly by and hopefully Spring will show signs of arriving.

Last night I seriously edited the first half of the first major section of the novel I spoke about several weeks ago. This section has been edited so many times, that it would be really great if I could just leave it alone. Even now I am tweaking and what is far worse, finding typos. Oh if I could only type! I see what should be there and what is and so am a rotten proofreader.

Finding the next section, which is much bigger and which exists in both the physical, printed listing mode and the files on computer mode and will have to be recovered in both will be the next task after I re-read the rest of part one tonight. So tomorrow's work is well cut out for me as is the next week or more.

Finding a writing coach, finding an agent and finding a publisher are all tasks I have been putting off for a decade. This seems like the year to finally reach out and try. (I can always just give up and pdf file the whole thing and share it with those who want to read it the most.) (She thinks in her less confident moments.)

It has been a long time since I worked on this project, long enough so that I am almost reading it as though it were written by someone else. That is good. On the other hand, I don't think I could do the research now, even with the Internet. I just tire too quickly and too easily. So more progress reports lie ahead.

In the meantime, the Valentines are so pretty and colorful. I do hope I sell a few.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today is the second Sunday in Ordinary time. It is a gray, dreary day with a break in the rain. Very ordinary for this time of year.

The first reading is from Is 8:23-9:3 and contains the texts, "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light," and "You have brought them abundant joy." I love the concept of abundant joy. Not just joy, not just a smidgen or modicum of joy, but abundant joy. It has a wildness to it, an overflowing quality to it. Moments of joy are rare in most lives, but here we have plenty of joy, joy everlasting. Can we stand it? Once we have known it can we go on without it?

The responsorial psalm is Ps 27:1-4, 13-14 and contains the texts, "The Lord is my light and my salvation", and "One thing I ask of the LORD; this I seek: To dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life". The first text about light and salvation amplifies the line from Isaiah. Dwelling in the house of the Lord all the days of our lives is our joy; this we seek. To make our hearts ready and to make them a dwelling place for God all our lives. To make our homes places of peace, kindness and security that all who enter may experience the light of Lord, the blessing of faith, a taste of abundant joy, which is salvation. Harmony and kindness need to enter into our daily lives that the Lord may dwell in us and with us and through us. There can never be too much kindness, too much courtesy and they are like abundant joy, overflowing in our lives Kindness and courtesy are catalysts too so that the light which is in us never goes out and the Lord may reach out through us to others who need to be brought into the light of salvation.

The second reading is from 1 Cor 1:10-13, 17 and contains the texts, "that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose". This unity is necessary perhaps if the light is to continue to shine and joy be maintained but is it a practical possibility when no two minds are alike? We are not being asked to give up our minds, but to bend our wills--kindness and courtesy again will help to keep divisions from growing. When I first read these words this morning I could not help but think of the growing fracas in our political parties which we call the electoral process! (But that would be a different post.)

Finally the Gospel is from Mt 4:12-23 and tells the story of the calling of Peter and Andrew, James and John to be disciples. Jesus says, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men." He then begins his public ministry teaching, preaching and curing those who are sick or maimed. Teaching and preaching we still recognize in our ministries, but it is harder to find healing, although the charism of healing still exists.

So it is an ordinary Sunday with some extraordinary ideas. WE are called to be the people of light, to follow the Lord in that light in ordinary as well as extraordinary ways and one of those ways includes the power to heal--to cure illness and to heal divisions. Words for our time as we ponder a Presidential race that will open health care to all or continue to keep some people out; that will continue to base our economic life on the principle of scarcity or that could become a light in the darkness finding a new foundation in abundance for all.

I truly believe that we need to think deeply about some of these things; to see that our religious and spiritual lives are not divided from our economic activities or our
political choices. Ethics, morals and faith must inform our choices and we need to have a national debate not about whether this candidate can beat that candidate in the primary, but what it means and what we want it to mean. We are called to be the people of light in all areas of our lives. Can we shine light on the darkness of our economic uncertainty and our political future? Let us try.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Daffodils are Almost Here!

Finally, we are having a mild day so I poked my nose outside. The little Christmas tree doesn't appear to be making it, which makes me sad, but isn't surprising. It was charming while it lasted. The daffodils are shorter this year than in the past--they need to be separated, replanted and fed. The buds are swelling into yellow though, which means there will probably be flowers soon. Daffodils are one of the most beautiful flowers in the world in my opinion, and these, being King Alfred, are fragrant as well. I did not realize until last year that daffodils are actually grown for the perfume industry. (So it is never too late to learn new things--as my keyboard demonstrated to me yesterday.)

The roses need trimming and so do most of the potted herbs on my porch. That will wait for a slightly warmer day. Today, I could almost feel spring coming, but I think it is still a fairly long way off.

A friend stopped by with persimmon cookies--very yummy, so I must ask for her recipe!

Reading one of my favorite blogs, Seraphic Singles, yesterday, I realized that I had missed the feast of St. Agnes. January 21 is her feast day and my maternal grandmother was named for her, so I have her name as my middle name. A twelve year old virgin martyr is a little bit difficult to live up to when one is a teenager--but since that time is long past, I guess I can mellow a bit toward St. Agnes, who has caught the eye of poets and artists for many centuries.

How many Catholic women have been named Agnes down through the ages? Not as many as have been named Mary or Ann or probably Martha. Still it would be quite a few. And how many Catholic women, entering religious orders, took the name Agnes? Quite a few more. My favorite religious sister, and one of my favorite teachers, during my grade school years was named Sister Catherine Agnes. She taught catechism in my fourth, fifth and sixth grade years. She prepared me for confirmation and fostered my love of reading. I remember her with fondness and hope she is well--most probably in the next life now.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Fixing the Computer Keyboard

Last night I was struck with the need to write in one of my projects on my desktop computer. This need felt almost as urgent as hunger and as I began to attend to it and expected to settle into the flow of writing, I found instead the frustration of a sticking space bar. I thought that I must have hit something by mistake, or accidentally set something like a short cut key that was causing the space bar not to respond.

Today, I discovered that the keys pop off and the space bar itself comes out and that after ten years of constant use and no dust cover there was a mass of felted dust under those keys. So I cleaned and I fiddled and the space bar works, as Papa used to say, "like a champ". Bravo! Hurray! Now no money will be spent on a new keyboard--I can keep saving for a DVD player--and what is even more of a triumph to me, I don't have to scroll through the multiple choices offered in keyboards. Yes! So pleased.

So I feel accomplished and triumphant. Peace reigns in this little corner of the planet while the music of rain (no wind, thank heaven) accompanies my enjoyment. It is good to be ending a week that has been busy and productive with a sense of contentment and the feeling that some leisure pursuit is probably allowable. Guilty pleasure television or the news whichever turns out to more interesting is ahead of me and so is a nice warm bed.

Life is good. Oh yes it is and I am grateful.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Catching Up and Looking Back

Today was a day for catching up. Two big Mary Kay orders will go out tomorrow, I believe and so the packing and paperwork that accompanies them had to be completed.

My new young helper came and the Christmas tree is back in its box in the closet until the end of the year. I am looking forward to bringing it out again and watching it sparkle but I am looking forward to everything in between first! Valentine's Day (and Ash Wednesday) are next. Then Easter and May and all the summer flowers. Fall is far away, but it is always my favorite time of the year. Right now I am thinking about the warm time, to ward off the chill.

My helper and I also sorted through papers in one room and books in another. I have two oversized (enormous, actually) book cases, stuffed full of books in two different rooms of my house. Both need to move on, but one is positively inefficient as it is in my bedroom, blocking a perfectly good outlet that cannot be reached. I have been looking at this room, my bedroom and thinking about life in a wheelchair. Crammed with clutter as this room is, it makes my life more difficult. It will cost no money, only time to clear a certain percentage of the books and make more space for the person who "lives and moves and has her being" in this house.

The process has begun with a small number of books cleared to the go away pile, a smaller number moved to other places and alas the majority going back (for now--how many times have I said that in the past!) Going through the books feels like falling into the sins of my past life--so many books accumulated, so much time spent reading, maybe there was something more productive I could have been doing back then? Certainly, I can't help wondering how much money I could have earned in interest on savings if I had borrowed the books, instead of buying them. (There is a truly not heartening thought for a cold, dreary late January afternoon.)

Beloved books on medieval history, liturgy, calligraphy, spirituality and even my four Mary Stewart novels, the best retelling of the Arthurian legend, emerged from the dust today. Now at least I have a sense of where some of them are. Two little Lenten books are now where I can reach them to use them this year and the Arthurian novels where I can re-read them. I will have no regrets if I buy no new books this year. There is plenty to read right here.

Looking at them--there were even several on herbs and gardening--reminded me of the stages of my life, the progression of interests where there even to three or four little paperbacks of Freud's writing and one of Jung (that one hit the discard pile! I can't stand Jung.) There will be things for a yard sale when the sun shines again.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Cold, Cold and More Cold

The news is full of stories of snow on the hills. The Santa Cruz Mountains have snow. The East Bay hills have snow. Mount Hamilton and so it goes. The pictures on the news and on the new tv (so beautiful) are gorgeous. Cold and snow are getting old. I long for spring.

My new amaryllis is about to bloom on the counter. She thinks its spring! It is hard to tell if this is going to be one flower or two. Watching a plant like this grow is awe inspiring and hopeful. It will not be winter forever, even though right now it feels like it will be. The daffodils have buds, but fortunately are waiting for the weather to warm up.

Briefly the poinsettia sat outside--Christmas is over and I thought it time to reclaim the counter space--and then I realized how cold it was so she came back in and lends her splash of brilliant color to my space. I appreciate this especially in the mornings when I first wake up and look out and see this beautiful color.

Today I worked with my Mary Kay business, filling two orders to mail and I am so grateful. February's bills will be paid. Praise God and on to working on March!

We have new products that I know are going to be fun to share with people--mineral powder foundation with a special, beautiful brush and new lipsticks. Perfect for this spring. Just a little money will go a long way to revitalize last year's clothes, which will seem new anyway after all the winter scarves and boots and coats are put away.

Today I also looked at an unfinished writing project and couldn't believe how long that one has been waiting for me to come tend it. Maybe 2008 is going to be the year of finishing unfinished projects. More about that later, if I begin to make progress.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Valentine Cards are up and for Sale

So I stuck it out yesterday and finally my pictures loaded in the toolbox to the right! I am so excited. These are my Valentine cards. They are so pretty! Each card is an individual print printed by Adorama Pix--best prices I have found, excellent quality and the service is so fast that the package is almost here before I finish reading the email that says the package has shipped!

All of the cards are glued onto four-fold 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper so that they open to form a generous letter-writing space. The paper is Astroparche, white with matching envelopes. I love this paper for it has a nice look and feel almost of antique paper or parchment. Reminds me of my calligraphy days.

All of the cards are priced $3.00 each. Email me at to order and I will bill you through Paypal.

All of the designs are also available on a wide range of products through my cafepress shop. Please click through the link to the right.

My Peace design, Fred is Peace, on cards and small banners will follow soon.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sunday in Ordinary Time

Or should I just call it computer frustration again? I am locked into what seems to be an endless upload loop for a small picture file that blogger can't seem to upload? Anybody else remember "do loops", I think that was what they were called from Fortran in the seventies? If the programmer forgot to close the loop they ran endlessly. I wonder if something like that is going on here. It is so frustrating not to be able to fire off an email or pick up the phone and request help.

I took two programming courses in the seventies. Fortran, which could have been quite interesting and elegant, if the small programming exercises had related to anything I wanted to do. I remember that they seemed like the word problems of high school that had plagued me in algebra and geometry. So I didn't get very far. Then I took COBOL. Yuck. No way would I have guessed then that I would spend so much time at computers all day and sometimes well into the night.

till it would be good to either have the function work, or have a message appear that said that the system was down, or too many people were attempting to use it, or whatever. Since computers are mindless--as Papa used to say, "they only do what you tell them to do"--it would be nice if somebody would tell it to tell me. Sigh.

It is the Second Sunday in Ordinary time. I liked the old designations of Sundays after Epiphany better. The first reading is Is.3, 5-6. (Getting the punctuation right here is almost as tricky as it was in Fortran.) The Lord says, "You are my servant, Israel...I will make you a light to the nations." We are servants. We are also lights. How do we shine on this cold, gray, dreary January day and to whom do we spread for our lights, which are really the light of the Lord? Good challenge.

The responsorial Psalm is Ps 40:2,4,7-8,8-9,10. Why are the verses so chopped up? Some day I will get organized enough to have the Bible at hand while I do this and see what is left out. "And he put a new song into my mouth," is my favorite line today. I need a new song, one of praise and thanksgiving, not of grumping.

The first reading is 1 Cor 1:1-3. Paul addresses the letter to, "you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy." Do many of us think about this, in between the computer frustrations, the weather complaints, the rising gas prices, all of the ills and travails that so quickly and completely overtake our daily lives, that in the midst of it all we are called to be holy? I remember thinking about it a great deal when I was young. I had a passion for it. As a child I believed that each of us was called to be a saint. I haven't given it much thought lately. Maybe it is time to take it out and look at it again. Then the concept of called. Not on the phone, not through the email, not to one more task before wearily crawling into bed, but really, truly, genuinely, fully called by God. Called to be the persons that we are yes. Called to our vocations, yes. Most of all called to be holy. Makes me think of the dervishes whom read about in one of Merton's books when I was young--I would like to twirl with the very giddiness of the concept. Called to be holy. A little joy and much holiness to leaven today's grayness and blah ordinariness.

Jn. 1:29-34 is the Gospel. John the Baptist baptizing Jesus and proclaiming him Lord. So it is the Feast of St. John the Baptist, conflated into ordinary time after all. (When I went to look for the readings in my lazy Internet way, I was expecting to see the header, Feast of St. John the Baptist. Funny we are called, today, and all days to be holy, but we no longer acknowledge those who were. Maybe we are embarrassed by them. Their hair wasn't neat enough, their clothes were too worn, their table manners weren't up to par. The canon of the saints does include quite a few real and venerable characters after all.)

So let us proclaim the Lord and seek holiness--as well as the simple solutions to our simple problems. Happy Feast.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Computer Frustration

So Blogger is supposed to do all these really nifty, neat things like add a slideshow, or a picture. Yesterday and again today I spent much too much time trying to make a pretty little slideshow out of the Valentine images that I posted on Flickr the day before. No go. So try to post a long picture that I had made as a collage in my Photoshop instead. Insufficient preferences for how I want the text to appear. I am not pleased!

I want to offer these Valentines and other cards to readers as a part of my attempt to support myself within the boundaries of disability and Social Security restrictions. When the software doesn't work, it is discouraging to say the least.

So I am grumpy. I am giving up on it and going back to working on my CP shop. Hoping someone, somewhere will find me.

More, I hope tomorrow, when the grumpiness may have subsided.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Tempus Fugit, once more

Sometimes, I really can't come with a good title. I had this problem as a student too. What to call the thing? Once in a while a title leaps out and establishes itself and even sets up the writing flow. Today isn't one of those days.

The sun is shining and in the background of my writing is the sound of a leafblower or lawnmower. (I know, I know it is January! It is also California.) We are due for rain next week and even without it I can see the grass and weeds growing. Can't quite hear them, but definitely see them.

Yesterday, I woke up to a full email inbox that included Mary Kay orders. This always keeps me busy and makes me happy. I love it when people say, "Mary Kay has the best moisturizers"--we do. Or when they ask if we have a product--usually the answer is yes. And I am excited about the new mineral powder foundations. Even I will try them, although since I work at home and nobody sees me, it may seem silly.

More computer problems to solve as follows:
why oh why won't the image in a layout print as dark as it shows on the screen and
when oh when am I going to get my dsl to work?

I hope that this afternoon I will have a Spanish valentine on my cafepress site and that all of that will finally be in order.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Gratitude and Learning New Things

Saturday I received an email from an old and dear friend who found me on the Net! Thank God for Google. She and I had lost touch from our grad school days, when we did CPE together. Her oldest son is now moving to my area. This is so cool!

As if that was not enough excitement for one weekend a dear friend in my neighborhood who with her husband, is in the vintage resale business, called to tell me they had found a television to replace my old one. Only now, with the new one plugged in and working do I realize how deprived I have been limping along with the old set that much of the time wasn't much more than an expensive, glorified radio! Of course, the remote doesn't work exactly the same way that it did for the old one, so in addition to my gratitude for beautiful color again, I am learning how to operate it. Learning to drive may have been easier!

My next learning curve was with loading images on Flickr. Grrrh! I did finally figure it out, but not after fits of language unbecoming, tears and the conviction that I should just give up and quit. Finally, I found a way that not only worked, but was quite easy to boot! So why couldn't they have pointed me to that first?

Now I only have one more new thing for today. Figure out how to load those into my header here as a slideshow. Probably will take me a week. Or a month of Sundays.

In the meantime, my Valentines are ready on Cafepress. I am especially excited about and fond of the new 3.5" buttons and the single card option. The two combined will make a nice small card and gift combination for under $10. Since we have all just survived the retail blitz of Christmas I don't see why Valentine's Day can't be just as satisfactory if it is modest. Most of us probably don't need another calorie blitz this close to Christmas either, so these things aren't edible, just pretty and sweet.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Valentines and Irish Tea

I have been making valentines all this week, sitting in on CafePress's shopkeeper chat session and thinking in red and pink. The Valentine's are almost ready, anyone who would like to look can go here

  • Roses and hearts seem made for each other! I have valentines that I am making too and will be posting them here soon and over on Etsy as soon as I figure that out! So even though Christmas is just over and the weather has been gray the valentines are quite cheering.

    A neighbor brought tea yesterday and I discovered that true Irish tea is brewed much stronger than American tea. It turns out that this beautiful young woman is from exactly the part of Ireland that I have been trying to describe in my unfinished novel, A Priest Forever According to Melchisadech: a Story of the Irish Famine and the Holocaust.

    This feels like a blessing that I am truly supposed to finish this book after all. My niece and my sister both want me to do so. I am excited and happy.

    Tuesday, January 8, 2008

    Weather Continues Perfect for Knitting and Puttering

    It's raining again. Not, thankfully, windy. So it is a cozy day to sit here and play with my valentine's designs at Cafepress, make a to do list for the young lady who will come help me later today and finally remember to blog.

    These last few nights I have been using a cozy, very light wool shawl that I originally intended to put up for sale on Etsy. It took so long for me to knit it that I decided it was my "Christmas present to myself". A beautiful hand-dyed mix of red and cranberry and blue that is reminiscent of berries, it is also feather-light. Described by the eBay seller as fingering weight and perfect for socks, it would have made a lot of socks!

    That reminds me that I need to learn to knit socks. I have lymphedema so my legs are different sizes, with one swollen so that no knee sock fits. Since I believe in dressing warmly before putting the heat up, hand-knit by me stockings to fit woudl be a practical boon. Maybe this winter. If not, maybe next summer.

    I am finishing two pairs of "wristers" or fingerless gloves that I found I had not completed last winter. One pair for this computer and one for the other. Soft, warm wool from Lorna's Laces that may just be the prettiest wool on the planet.

    It is good knitting and puttering weather, so on to the puttering. If all goes well there will be pumpkin muffins later.

    Friday, January 4, 2008

    Weather Watch, Wind and Rain

    Today the storm is passing over and it was a grand one! Not my favorite kind of weather by any means because of the fear that accompanies the wind. Power outages in winter are not something to be taken lightly, even in mild California. So I sit here listening to my furnace furnacing a way, giving thanks for the light (from compact fluorescent bulbs shining over the dining room table and using the laptop. Praise God the power is on! I am so grateful.

    Weather makes us aware that humans truly are not in charge. There are other forces bigger than we are. We could manage our resources better. Here are some thoughts on that.

    Make sure that everyone in our neighborhood or community who is elderly, disabled or fragile in anyway has someone to contact them in case of bad weather. Have some community resources of generators that can be loaned out for those who are housebound, bedridden or terminally ill.

    Make sure that there are volunteers who will do things like cleaning gutters and street water drains for those who cannot manage this themselves.

    Pay taxes to help those who cannot trim trees get it done. This is part of taking care of the common good for if the untrimmed tree puts the power out and the wait for restoration is two days, it isn't only the poor person (likely also elderly or disabled) who will suffer cold and darkness, but everyone else as well.

    Consider making our energy companies not-for-profit so that the money that we pay can go to compensate the crews who restore power and not the stock-holders and executives who rake in high salaries and perks.

    Well, that is my rant for the day. Back to being grateful. It is more becoming to me! (And listening to the rain drops fall.)