Archive for March, 2007

March 30, 2007

Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes. Oscar Wilde (1892)

Last year, my mother gave Shannon a sewing machine for her birthday. Or rather she told Shannon she’d pay for one, so ever since then, Shannon’s been researching and shopping (on line, of course). The new Singer machine arrived earlier this month, and Shannon asked me if I’d teach her to sew on it when I came up for my annual spring visit.

Back in the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I took a Home Economics course. I was in the 8th grade. Looking back, I’m glad I did, because I really learned how to do things right when it came to preparing fabric, measuring, cutting, and assembling the pieces to create a finished product. It’s really kind of fun, and over the years, I’ve made all sorts of things for the houses we’ve lived in (curtains, dust ruffles, shower curtains, tablecloths, pillow shams, etc.), numerous Halloween costumes as well as special outfits for school presentations (for instance, on Pioneer Day I made Shannon’s cute little gingham dress, complete with a red poke bonnet!).

But it’s been awhile since I’ve opened up my 30 year-old machine, and I was a little leery of teaching Shannon how to sew on an unfamiliar one. Oh well. I decided that we could both learn together and teach one another how it worked. In a way, it might actually be a better learning experience for her, as she would have to figure some things out for herself (without my hovering).

The pattern was simple enough. PJ pants. Flannel. No zippers, few steps (12 in all). She brought the pattern and the prepared fabric to my hotel room on Friday night, where we planned to begin our adventure in sewing. After a good dinner, we settled in by the fire and got to work. (did I mention that there was snow outside?)

It all came back to me… how to line up the fabric to insure straightness, measure the pieces, cut them out, etc. I then read the pattern instructions to get ready for our Saturday tasks, and saw that the very first step involved making two buttonholes (for the drawstring).

Buttonholes! On my ancient machine, that was quite a complicated process, and I wondered if this were the best way to begin learning. I know I didn’t start with buttonholes! But we had reached the point of no return, so I just resolved to face the consequences.

The next day, we went back to Shannon’s house to do the actual sewing on her dining room table. Her little Singer machine is compact and MUCH less complicated than mine is. We got out the buttonhole foot, and figured it out almost by feel. We were encouraged by how easy it was. First we made one, then the other.

At this point, we were supposed to sew the two pants legs together, and following the instructions as written, I discovered that there was something wrong. The notches didn’t match (the marks you make along the seams to match the pieces together). We studied this problem, but decided that there was no other option but to sew with the mismatched notches, which we did. And then when we turned the pants right-side out, we discovered that we had one buttonhole on the front and one on the back! Oops!

After much laughter, we discovered the cause of our error, which was that we didn’t reverse the pattern piece when we cut out the second leg. But no real harm was done, since they were both basically identical, so all that we needed to do was create a third buttonhole in the front! Shannon expertly made one (and really nailed it this time), and the pants were complete. Once the drawstring was inserted and the hem sewn, they were just right! We both celebrated our success despite the fact that instead of an extra buttonhole, her pants have a unique “hole on butt”!  

Sometimes when we make mistakes, it’s a good thing, because it teaches us to do it right the next time. It may not feel that way at first, but when you look back on it, you will understand this concept. I pointed out to Shannon what I had overlooked in the pattern cutting-out stage, and believe me, she will not make that error again!

On to the next sewing project!


The Unsqueaky Wheel
March 21, 2007


Me and my Shadow! Strollin’ down the avenue…

It’s awfully quiet as I write this on Wednesday. I’ve just left the dogs at the (very fancy) kennel on the eve of my trip up to New York to visit Shannon. I hate this part of the process, as the house is not the same without them.

 The continuing saga of Bailey has given me pause to stop and celebrate Shadow, the perfect dog. It’s the age-old story of the dutiful older brother with a pesky little brother who does all he can to attract attention, whether it’s positive or negative! I know some families like that. But I digress…

 Over the last three years, our young (and very cute and sweet) upstart has hogged the limelight, has been the recipient of numerous lectures about doing something naughty (of course, he has understood every word), and has repeatedly butted into whatever it is that Shadow is doing. And then recently, since Bailey’s been in the dog hospital, once AGAIN the focus has been on him, and not on Shadow.

 With very few exceptions, Shadow has yielded. Since he does not squeak, he doesn’t get the grease. By that, I mean that because he is such an excellent dog, I tend to not pay attention to him. Rather the focus falls on Bailey who seems to always find something to keep him busy (at the expense of household items, architectural features and/or fashion accessories!). Did I mention m&m’s?

 This is a life lesson for people. As it has become more clear to me that exemplary behavior needs to be celebrated, I am now trying to dote more on the one who makes it easy to be a pet owner.

 I can go back in time, to 1996, when Guy Mauldin presented me with Shadow on August 18. He was twelve weeks old, and an awfully cute little fuzzball. We had prepared for his arrival with all the equipment a dog would ever need, and I had read all the books I could find about training dogs from the library.

 I treated him like a baby, which he was, and established a routine that in many respects, still holds true today. Get up early, eat breakfast, take a walk, “work” (outside work being the most fun), lunch, a nap (ahhh! ideal), more work, a stroll to the mailbox, greet the dad, then cookies after dinner. It has been a good dog life.

 When I say “work”, in the early years, that meant “school”. I’d read the books about how to teach a dog to do this or that, and I’d work with Shadow to train him. He was such a breeze to teach! Once or twice was all he needed to pick up on a trick. I thought I was brilliant, but of course, it was my dog that was brilliant.

 The first things we learned were “Sit”, then “Shake”, then “Speak”. I know the last two sound like funny things to teach early on, but I’d just say the word “Shake” whenever he would wave his paw or the word “Speak” whenever he would bark, and he associated the words to the actions right away! Hand signals, and all. It got to the point where I could say, “Shadow, SIT!” and he’d plunk his behind down, wave his paw and bark, because he KNEW that was the order of worship (so to speak!).

 My funny story from those early years comes from a puppy appointment at the vet’s office. What brought this to mind was a recent visit there with both dogs, where I actually witnessed a woman come to the front desk with her little fluffy white dog and say that there was something wrong with the dog because it barked all the time, and she wanted the vet to find out WHAT was wrong with the dog. And if it weren’t something that he could fix, well then, she was going to have to give the dog away because it was driving her crazy with its barking. It made me so mad to see how some people don’t take responsibility for their dogs and train them. A trained dog is a happy dog. An untrained one is a misery.

(note: it may sound like Bailey is untrained, but that’s not the case. He is a wonderfully trained dog. It’s just that when he’s bored, he’s got to have something to do, and that’s when he gets in trouble!) But I digress again!

Back to my story… When Shadow was less than 15 weeks old, he had the “Sit/Shake/Speak” routine nailed, and I was SO PROUD of him. So I thought I’d show off at that same vet’s office when we were checking out (unlike that poor woman who had no clue). There we were at the desk with other folks milling around… I attached Shadow’s leash to the holder and firmly and loudly said, “Shadow, * * * * !”  I meant to say, “Sit” but it came out wrong. The woman behind the desk snickered, and Shadow looked up at me with his head cocked. Mortified, I backpedaled…”No, no, don’t do that! Shadow, Sit!” And of course, he did, at which point we all laughed.

 Me and my Shadow. He has been a constant source of pride and pleasure over these past eleven years, and how blessed we have been to have him teach Bailey the nuances of what to do when it’s time to go outside (you stare at the back door and then look at the person and then stare at the back door again), and then again when it’s time to come in (you bark ONCE at the door). I didn’t teach Bailey that… Shadow did.

 What a magnificent creature he is, loved by all, old and young, cats and dogs alike, even the usually mean ones. It’s amazing to watch him reduce a snarling dog to a tail wagging one.

 The photo is of Shadow at our church’s youth choir’s annual Pumpkin Patch (St. Luke’s Pure Pumpkin Patch, come see us this September/October!). Little Snow White was afraid of all dogs until she met Shadow there. Her mother was THRILLED that her little girl approached and petted our sweet dog. He has a special soul, that dog, and we love him so!

 Sure is quiet around here… 

mmmm, m&m’s!
March 17, 2007

Proverbs 25:16  If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, or else, having too much, you will vomit it.  

M&M’s are great. You can eat a handful for a little taste of chocolate after supper, and not feel too full. The trick is to not eat too many! If you are the type who can’t stop, well… then you must be related to our Bailey. 

Bailey! What am I going to do with that dog? God made him extra cute and charming for a VERY good reason, because sometimes I get so mad at him I could just pop him! But then I look at that dear little  face, with his yearning expression, and I just melt. It’s impossible to stay mad at him for very long. 

We had a dinner party on Friday evening, so I filled two candy bowls with my favorite peanut M&M’s. One bowl sits up on a tall side table in the dining room, and the other is in the living room on a table right next to the sofa. Nobody ate very many that night, if any, as we were all full of birthday cake. 

Saturday came and went; it was an ordinary day of comings and goings. That evening, Joel and I decided to go out to dinner at a restaurant nearby, and honestly, we weren’t gone for very long. Neither of us had opted for dessert there, so when we returned, I thought I’d go get a handful of those tasty treats (see above), and headed for the dining room stash.  

Oops, my foot kicked something in the dark. When I looked down, it was the crystal bowl that had previously held the M&M’s! On the floor. Empty. hmmm….  

So I went into the living room and took a look at that bowl. Empty, too. But at least it wasn’t on the floor!   

I went back to the kitchen, and asked Joel, “Did you eat those M&M’s from last night?” He said no, so I had to assume that some other creature in this house had eaten them. Summoning up my best Nancy Drew skills, I immediately suspected Bailey, who all of a sudden was looking mighty guilty. He KNOWS when he’s been busted. 

(I had no doubt. It was not Shadow, the perfect dog) 

Chocolate is toxic to dogs, so once AGAIN we called the nearby animal ER, and they said to bring him in. It’s one thing to take your dog to the ER for a reason that is no fault of his own. It’s a whole ‘nother story when he is a total doofus. Boy, was I MAD!  

Of course, he was petrified when we arrived, because he remembered that place from when he was so sick in January. After he went to the back for treatment, the technician told us that she could actually smell the M&M’s on his breath, so we knew for sure who was the culprit. 

It concerned them that his heart rate was going so fast (because he was so upset), so they kept him overnight for observation, even after he had purged everything up. So in spite of being mad, my own heart softened, and I worried all night about the poor thing.  

Early Sunday morning, he was more than ready to come home, so I went to fetch him, forked over another $300 and brought him home. He was SO anxious to leave that place, and when we got home, he… (ahem)… kept eliminating and eliminating until he finally emptied himself. Needless to say, I never made it to church that morning. 

The moral of this story is that eating too much of anything is bad for both people and dogs, which is something that Bailey painfully learned. Especially peanut M&M’s! Let this be a lesson to you!

Amazing Grace!
March 10, 2007

This week, pewperson yields her seat to guest blogger, pewperson, jr. who wrote the following essay: 

 My mom and I have had an inside joke since I was very little. It probably doesn’t make much sense to anyone else, but we think it’s hilarious.  

So you can better understand it, I’ll set the stage. You see, neither of us would be very good professional dancers. I would be the one who ended up so consistently on my butt that the only choreography parts I could get would be for me to scoot around backwards, trying to avoid other dancers, and to wave my arms around in the air whenever appropriate.

My mom, on the other hand would be allowed to stand in place and wave her arms in the air (ed. note: I could be a tree!!). The reason her feet should not move is because she has a tendency to run into things, so when the choreographer would realize the threat of liability lawsuits from the other dancers, he would give her a nice little spot to stand in so that she would not knock down yet another one.

The only problem with this set up is that inevitably I would scoot backwards into a line of dancers or a very large piece of scenery, which would eventually mow down the entire company. If any were left standing, they would be at the mercy of my mom’s arms, which would then smack someone in the face to complete the take down.  

Our inside joke? It is that we bestow the title “Princess Grace” upon one another, based on who has more bruises in a given week!  

This past week I won hands down. A good friend of mine and I decided to go see a movie that we had been anxiously awaiting. After running into the world’s worst traffic jam, we managed to get our tickets at the exact instant the previews started, so we were greeted with a pitch black movie theater and the inability to see the stairs (because those little lights in the floor are always hopelessly ineffective).

Right as we hit the first step, Molly tripped, setting us to snickering as we climbed higher. I found a row in the middle, and as I was confidently trying to maneuver my way into it, ran into the armrest on the end, which made me scramble to quickly get into the row, which made me miss the fact that I was one step above the row I was trying to navigate, which made me fly through the air over the aforementioned armrest and onto my face on the floor. Landing on my purse with a large crash, I burst into laughter as a concerned gentleman behind me worriedly asked if I were ok. We finally sat down, so as not to hurt ourselves any more, and Molly asserted that everyone in the theater probably thought we were drunk. We laughed again, which did not help our case for sobriety, and finally enjoyed the movie (ironically, the movie was titled, Amazing Grace!).

At this point I look like someone severely beat me due to my very graceful face-plant. As you may likely assume by now, my mom and I have a good chance of being the least graceful people in the world. But both of us have realized how funny it can be, even if it sometimes hurts. It’s always important to laugh at yourself every now and then!  

For their birthdays my parents got new bicycles. My mom is being very careful so that she doesn’t win our title next week. My dad, on the other hand, is starting to look like someone has taken a cheese grater to his legs. I think we have a new winner… 

Galatians 5:4 Ye are fallen from grace.

The Ugly American
March 1, 2007

1 Peter 3:4 You should be known for the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.

My passport is about to expire, so I dutifully downloaded the forms to fill out and made a note to myself to go get a new photo made. I’d just had a haircut recently, so I was waiting until it grew in a bit more. But then one Thursday, when my friend BB said she thought my cut looked really good, I thought, “OK, this is the day!”

Gilding the lily more than the usual, I carefully touched up my make-up, thinking that if this photo was going to last me for ten years, it had darn sure better look good! And away I went.  

Not knowing any better, I just stopped by the local photo shop that had a sign out front advertising ‘Passport Photos’. The man had me stand in front of a blank white wall, and as he readied the camera, I smiled my best smile. 

But wait! The guy lowered the camera and said, “No smiling allowed.” I’m thinking, he must be joking! Is he for real? Was he pulling my leg? I couldn’t imagine why there would be such a rule. What on earth is the justification behind it?  

So I clamped my lips closed, but then I got the giggles from trying so hard NOT to smile. Then he laughed, and then I laughed some more. Finally, he managed to take a photo, and commented, “That’s fine.” I waited a bit for him to print them out, paid the fee, and then took a peek. 

EWW! I look awful! There I am in the glare of overhead fluorescent lights with the stark white background washing my face out. My mouth is set in a hard line; it looks like I’m grimacing as I was trying so hard not to laugh. For sure any customs inspector will think to himself, “What an ugly American!” when he flips open my new passport. I can only hope that my unfading gentle, quiet, inner beauty will shine brightly as he passes me through the checkpoint! Right…. 

Oh well, at least my hair looked good in the picture! But while we’re on this subject, I must admit that I paused a long time at the blank on the form that asked for hair color. What should I say? The REAL color (who knows for sure, but what little I see is gray!), or what Danny makes it every month? Kinda reddish with highlights? Finally, I wrote “brown”. Will I go to jail for lying? Will you come visit me if I do? 

The last question on the form asks for an emergency contact. I hesitated over that one, too. All these years, my dad has been that person. But of course, he is unable to fill that role now. And so it was with more than a little bitter sweetness that I made the decision to transition to a new emergency contact. This ugly American now has a new, beautiful American emergency contact… my precious Shannon!