Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Not looking.

I just realized that I never look in a mirror anymore.

After a brisk 20 minute shower, hair drying, and minimal makeup, I'm ready for the day. And I never look back.

What freedom.

It isn't that I don't care what I look like. It's just that I know very well indeed that what looks back from the mirror doesn't match the way I feel on the inside. There are silver hairs and crow's feet, a slowly developing turkey neck and jowls . . . the signs of relentless, encroaching middle age.

In the plastic surgery, high impact workout world I live in, I should be appalled at this state of things. I'm well aware that I may be judged lacking in the looks department, and even pitied because I'm giving in to my age.  Instead, I feel free. My genetic code and super-busy life are irrefutable facts in life-as-I-know-it, so why fret? I find joy instead in my family, handcrafts, gardening, walking the trails at Dunwoody Nature Center, church fellowship, friends, scoring a bargain at a thrift store, cooking good food, and learning something new.

As long as I'm tidy and the clothes are somewhat coordinated, I'm fine.

I'm not looking. I'm enjoying.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I heard that! (not really)

I've discovered that what I thought was gradual deafness as my parents hit their 50's was actually selective hearing.

I can no longer hear my kids when they whine while the garbage disposal is running.

The washing machine drowns out eye rolls and gusty sighs.

Sarcastic comments from the back seat are just not audible when I'm driving . . . anywhere, at any speed.

I can't hear my kids bickering when I'm vacuuming the carpet.

As the kids get older, and more vocal, my hearing worsens.  I just can't discern their enunciations, pronouncements, or pontifications.

Selective hearing? Oh, no. I must admit to age-induced hearing loss.

That's my story, and I'm sticking with it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Don't forget your coat!

I saw something amazing today at the park. A school field trip group chose to sit in the middle of the parking lot rather than in the picnic area to have their lunch. The kids, dressed in crisp school uniforms and showing marvelous manners, sat obediently adjacent to their chaperones' cars and vans.

I stared, struck by the sight. Why did the teachers prefer such dining space over the ample seating around picnic tables in the meadow?

I deduced that the cold temperatures were the culprit. Most of the children were wearing sweaters and light jackets rather than winter gear, due likely, I suspect, to the fact that this cold snap has caught most of us off guard. The only sunshine in the park at that hour is on that parking lot and over the ballfields. So perhaps the teachers were trying to give the kids a bit of warmth.

I kept my fingers crossed that one of the Parks or Sanitation department trucks didn't come lumbering through while they were eating.

We live in transition from house to car or van to school or work. Why spend good money on heavy coats, don hats and gloves, when they'll be needed such brief moments? I tell my kids we need to have heavy coats in the van in case we break down - be prepared for anything!  They roll their eyes and "forget" to grab a coat, leaving me to trudge indoors, grab the gear, and toss it in the back just in case. No, we've never been stranded. But I'm a mom. So I imagine the worst and prepare.

The one or two truly cold days, those blasted ice storms we get with some regularity, as well as the occasional, much-looked-for snow day, makes special demands on our coat closet. We cobble together waterproof coats and bottoms from Scout gear, snow bibs picked up at Goodwill (I try to stay one size ahead), hiking boots, rain boots, and hats. Why spend good money on ski gloves and hats when they're used so infrequently? They kids get soaked and frozen, I keep the dryer running so their mittens and hats dry out, and somehow they find plenty of time to enjoy the snow.

During the Tour de Pink this past weekend, it was really, REALLY cold in the pitch dark of the early morning. My daughter's Girl Scout troop tied pink balloons everywhere and I kept careful watch on them, while taking occasional breaks at the roaring wood fire manned by my son's Boy Scout troop (yay!). Many of the grown up volunteers were dressed for a usual Southern October, which meant they were freezing their bike shorts off. Strong Starbucks coffee kept us warm for the first couple of hours, then the McDonald's across the street did a brisk business as we darted in and out for some more liquid warmth.  (We had a wonderful time - the survivors' race group was awesome, Miss Georgia a darling, and the coordinators friendly and energetic.)

This cold snap will quickly pass and by Halloween, the kids are likely to be sweating again under their costumes. That's Fall and Winter in the South: mild enough to forget your coat, then brutally cold without warning.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Peanut butter and Scooter the Wonder Dog

Some of Scooter's happiest moments are spent eating something. Okay, ALL of his happiest moments involve food.

He started life abandoned beside a dumpster with his eleven siblings. By the time we found him at the DeKalb animal shelter, there were just two left - Scooter and a sister. (Scooter's name was "Purple" for reasons known only to the shelter staff.) Since his formative days were hunger-driven, Scooter forevermore became food-obsessed.

Pour a cup of dog kibble in his bowl, and it's gone in sixty seconds. Or less.

Drop something on the floor, and Scooter comes scrambling into the kitchen. His keen sense of hearing even catches the dull thud of a crumb on carpet.

Training was a breeze because Scooter could be convinced to do anything for a treat.

Above rawhide chews or kibble, the heel of a loaf of bread or a food scrap, Scooter loves peanut butter. He loves it stuffed in his Kong and surrounding his flea & heartworm medicine.

Most of all, Scooter loves an empty peanut butter jar. He'll lick and nudge, sticking his entire snout into the plastic jar, straining to reach the few scant traces at the bottom. Once he's wiped it clean, he'll give it up reluctantly for the recycling bin.

I guess he comes by it honestly, because peanut butter is the food of choice for the entire Knitternall family. We eat peanut butter like crazy, in sandwiches, on spoons, in cakes and cookies, and on waffles with syrup. So Scooter's love of peanut butter is easily indulged. The trick is not letting him overdo it. We're not sure what would happen if we let Scooter eat all the peanut butter he wants, but I imagine a little bit goes a long way.

I'm making waffles for supper tonight. It seems like a great option for a rainy, cold evening. Scooter will follow my every move when he sees the peanut butter jar on the counter. But it's a new jar, so he's out of luck. Unless, of course, one of the kids has an "ooops."

"Uh, oh. I smeared some peanut butter on my spoon. By accident. Scooter, come here, boy!"

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Room for reading.

I believe my reserve list at the Dunwoody Library is the longest ever. I just tried to add one more book. The system bounced me out because I'd exceeded their limit. Harrumph. There are just so many intriguing books coming out in the next few months. I finished Dan Brown's Lost Symbol this past week thanks to a loan from the McA's.  And I listened to Elizabeth Berg's The Year of Pleasures audiobook during my recent visit to North Carolina. Both were quite satisfying.

I get leads on good reads from friends, buzz on bestseller lists, and trolling around Barnes & Noble (my favorite bookstore).  My current reserve list is heavy on chick lit, but - I'm a chick.

The forgotten garden : a novel /     Morton, Kate
The girl with the dragon tattoo /  Larsson, Stieg
Knit the season : a Friday Night Knitting Club book /   Kate Jacobs
Sarah's key . . . Tatiana de Rosnay 
U is for undertow /  Sue Grafton
Hardball / Sara Paretsky
Have a little faith [a true story] /   Mitch Albom
Half broke horses : a true-life novel /  Jeannette Walls
The help  Kathryn Stockett
The weight of silence /  Heather Gudenkauf
Her fearful symmetry : a novel /   Audrey Niffenegger
Since the DeKalb Library system isn't keen on investing in knitting books, that particular list gets tucked into my knitting bag for the next Atlanta Knitting Guild meeting. Their borrowed books library is generous and very helpful for budget-conscious stash and pattern building.

More audiobooks are hitting my reserve list now that I've discovered how very pleasant it is to listen to a story while I'm knitting. (And driving long distances.) If the Dunwoody Library doesn't have it, I can always download a must read on my Ipod. I'm slow to embrace technology, but I do get there eventually.

It's raining outside (yet again), my Preschool Phonics class is prepped and ready for tomorrow, and I have some reading and knitting to enjoy.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bruster's Ice Cream is for sale.

In his latest blog, John Heneghan has spread the word about the pending sale of our favorite ice cream shop, the Bruster's location right behind our neighborhood.

Oh, so tempting.

In my awake-at-3AM musings, one of the repeating fantasies is owning a shop. Of course, that usually means a yarn shop. I even made an offer for Dunwoody Yarn before it closed, but the owner had some drastically unrealistic projections of its value and cost. Perhaps there was a small sigh of relief when I didn't close the sale, because it's one thing to fantasize about owning a shop. It's something else entirely to RUN a shop. Sales tax and employee management, business licensing and inventory control . . . those are the not-fun and not-my-domain essentials to retail business. But there's this space in the heart of Dunwoody Village that would be perfect, with plenty of room for classes (major revenue source) and patterns as well as all the luscious yarn and tools knitters love.

Since these are my fantasies, I then envision a business partner who loves doing that stuff, giving me the freedom to focus on the marketing, traffic-building special events, and inventory selection. (Two names always come to mind in this scenario: Beth and Lisa. You know who you are.)

Back to Bruster's.

The "abstract" trumpets sales of $300,000, which covers all expenses including $35,000 for a manager. Hmmm. Con: to maximize profit, the owner needs to be the manager, covering most hours of an operation that runs 11:00 am to 9:00 pm seven days a week + opening and closing chores (longer hours during the summer). Pro: my kids would have steady jobs during weekends and summers. Con: I'd have to pay my kids. Pro: wonderful daily engagement with our community. Con: having to take care of  pesky details such as sales tax and facilities management and employees and banking and . . . Pro: I could walk to work. Con: I'd have to be at work all the time.

It's tempting.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Rainy days and Mondays always get me . . . UP.

This morning, 18 Webelo Scouts worked gamely on their Naturalist badge in the pouring rain. About half had raingear; the rest were dressed for a sunny day. "Be Prepared" is the Scout mantra and a darned good foundation for life.

It was really, really raining at Dunwoody Nature Center.

Really. Raining.

Normally, I head for work quite reluctantly when it's raining. Not because I don't want to get wet or messy. But because I love rainy days at home. I love knitting in the rain, cleaning the house in the rain, baking in the rain, and watching the latest NetFlix DVD's in the rain. But, I also love my work, so I just transferred that cozy indoors-when-it's-raining-outside feeling to the Nature Center.

This weekend, I drove in and out of rain when I visited my parents in Greensboro, North Carolina. We're all reached a stage in life when they need to be closer to me, so I can support them when they need help. It's a gut-wrenching, scary decision for them to make, and we don't make it lightly or quickly. I decided to drive back the same day because my Sunday plate was so full, so I left Greensboro around 5 PM and got home before midnight.

Somewhere in the darkest, rural section of the state line between Georgia and South Carolina, I ran through standing water. It was pitch black outside, so the water was not visible. I surfed over the water, fishtailed a bit, then the tires grabbed pavement and I was safe.

Okay, it took a few more miles for my heart to stop racing.

That's kind of a metaphor. You're racing through the day, getting from one must-do to the next, when you hit something you couldn't see coming. There it is. Either you get through it or it stops you in your tracks (or something worse).

This time, I got through it.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pizza memories.

Whenever I go out of town, I come back to find a pizza box in the fridge.  T likes to treat the kids to one or more meals at their favorite food places, which nearly always includes pizza.

Our family has a thing for pizza.

Long before pizza became one of three standard kid meals (with macaroni & cheese and chicken nuggets), it was date night fodder for my budget-strapped college years, a source of income during summer breaks, and a trendy must-have during the food-silly eighties.

For several summers during high school, I waitressed at the Village Inn in Goldsboro, North Carolina, earning tons in tips and taking home a fresh hot pizza as a bonus each night. (I think I may have invented thin and crispy crust, because my mom kept asking me to make the crust thinner and bake it longer.)

I was at North Carolina State University when Domino's made the brilliant leap from pick up to guaranteed-in-thirty-minutes delivery, filling dorm room trash bins and saving all-nighters from starvation. I confess that I never really liked Domino's - the crust is too chewy and the sauce not that wonderful, but it was cheap and available. When we wanted really good pizza, we walked across campus, jaywalked across Hillsborough, and lined up for Brother's or Two Guys. Just about every first date I ever went on began at one of those two restaurants.

When my husband I were first married, we traveled extensively all over the country and Canada. We loved trying old-style Chicago and New York pizzas as well as all the "new" concoctions popping up in trendy restaurants in every major city. I remember one particular brick oven corner bistro in Toronto, which featured a nicoise pizza that turned out to be really good. There were also some fairly hilarious concotions, like the place in San Francisco that thought sushi and pizza could work together. Yuk.

For several years after the kids were born, I made homemade pizza every Friday night for friends and family. Favorites became barbecued chicken and onions, goat cheese on pesto, and blonde (feta + provolone + mozzarella on olive oil and garlic). Eating out with kids in tow inevitably brought us to one of Greensboro, North Carolina's cherished pizza places, where the kids could nibble on the bland cheese they love and we could have more "grown up" variations. Pie Works, Sir Pizza, Lucky 32, and Elizabeth's . . . . yummmm.

For the past decade, we've lived in Dunwoody.  If we're tired and busy, we call Papa John's. If we're feeling celebratory or are craving a favorite offering, we head to Fellini's Mellow Mushroom, or Dagwood's. If we're feeding a group of the kids' friends, we pick up pizza. For birthdays, rain days, snow days, sick days, or busy days, there's always pizza.

We like pizza. A lot.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Good news in a bad-news week.

While mildew winnows its odors throughout the house and we await the judgment of the insurance adjuster, it's good to focus on glad tidings.

Peachtree Charter Middle School made AYP. It's nice to have that federal stamp of approval while we're undergoing Charter renewal.

Dunwoody Nature Center has a delightful new sign. At long last, after struggling through bureaucratic dodgeball over the sign (design, placement, size, and ownership), a friendly new sign directs visitors to the education center within Dunwoody Park. (Kudos to the City of Dunwoody folks who helped us cut the red tape!)
I finished knitting a pair of socks for my mother, to be shipped this weekend to her in North Carolina. I love knitting socks. I love the math, the dexterity of manipulating three and four skinny little doublepointed needles, and the magical way the heel turns, the gusset slopes, and the toe grafts so tidily into place.
Preschool Phonics is flourishing in its new home at Dunwoody Nature Center. Yesterday, I held class in the Playhouse, a huge hit with the children. We worked on centers inside the playhouse, hiked to the Treehouse for a phonics game, then went on a vowel hunt in the park. It's the missing component of the program - integrating physical movement and fresh air into the curriculum.  The children arrive so eager to begin and are showing marked progress in just three short weeks.
I found canned pumpkin! After Cathy Cobbs published her easy-peasy pumpkin bread recipe in the Dunwoody Crier, there was consternation in Dunwoody because the poor pumpkin harvest last year has led to shortages of the canned goods. I love pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin anything, so I'm glad I could stock up for the holidays ahead. (Note to fellow seekers:  Ace Hardware in Dunwoody Village has fresh "pie pumpkins" for sale.)
The Atlanta Knitting Guild is flourishing as it celebrates its 25th anniversary.  Last evening, special guest Candace Eisner Strick had us giggling with her ribald humor and awestruck by her gorgeous designs and yarns. Seems she just put a $12,000 roof on her house and needs to sell many yarn kits. I'm happy to oblige. I wish I had time to take one of her workshops this weekend (there are a few spots still available).
Stitches South was so successful this past summer that they're doing it again in April. I am SO going to be there. I can't wait . . .
I watched a kid dart into traffic on North Peachtree in front of PCMS, crossing the road barely within the green and most definitely before traffic had stopped moving through the intersection. He was grinning maniacally and close enough to one vehicle that one more step would have put him under its wheels. Heart pounding, I leaned on the horn, glared at a group of friends laughing at his antics, and called the school to rat him out. (Yes, I knew his name.) The good news? Bonehead wasn't struck by a car
Fall.  The weather has cooled a bit, leaves are beginning to fall, and it's really, really hard to work at a desk when all this outside is around. Fall is my favorite season of the year.
Play the "glad game" with me. Pollyanna had it right.