Saturday, April 30, 2011

April Book List

I can't decide if keeping track of what I'm reading is a good idea. Because it turns out I read a lot of junk. (I learned the same thing when I kept a food journal - I eat a lot of junk food, too.) There is an occasional nutritional book. I enjoyed The Book Thief. I was enthralled by the Hunger Games trilogy. I was inspired by 365 Thank Yous. I wanted to be inspired by The Happiness Project, but instead just felt overwhelmed. (I probably need to buy the book, instead of just borrowing it from the library. Then I could tackle just one chapter/month at a time.) But most of my reading is junk. Books that I can leave around the house and in the car for the odd moments I can sit down and read a chapter or two. I actually have several books going at any one time. While I would love to have an e-reader for the convenience of carrying around several books in my purse (as opposed to the weight it currently adds by carrying around several actual books), I would still have a need to leave books scattered around the house in varying states of progress.

Books Read in April

41 - 01 Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins (4/3)
42 - 02 Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins (4/6)
43 - 03 Chicks with Sticks (It's A Purl Thing), by Elizabeth Lenhard (4/7)
44 - 04 One Night, by Debbie Macomber (4/9)
45 - 05 Testing Miss Toogood, by Stella Cameron (4/14)
46 - 06 A Match Made in Bliss, by Diann Walker (4/15)
47 - 07 A Most Unusual Lady, by Janet Grace (4/16)
48 - 08 Christmas Homecoming, by Lenora Worth (4/17)
49 - 09 No Place Like Home, by Margaret Watson (4/17)
50 - 10 Leftover Love, by Janet Dailey (4/18)
51 - 11 Home in Carolina, by Sherryl Woods (4/19)
52 - 12 9th Judgment, by James Patterson (4/20) audiobook
53 - 13 First Impressions, by Nora Roberts (4/22)
55 - 15 Must Love Mistletoe, by Christie Ridgway (4/23)
56 - 16 The Marriage Game, by Fern Michaels (4/24)
57 - 17 My Deadly Valentine, by Valerie Hansen & Lynette Eason (4/24)
58 - 18 The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak (4/25)
59 - 19 Stitch'n Bitch Superstar Knitting, by Debbie Stoller (4/25)
60 - 20 The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin (4/25)
61 - 21 Home Fires, by Luanne Rice (4/25)
62 - 22 Chasing Shadows, by Terri Reed (4/27)
63 - 23 365 Thank Yous, by John Kralik (4/27)
64 - 24 The Music Box, by Andrea Kane (4/28)

Friday, April 29, 2011

A new addiction. Or two.

I blame my mother.

My mom has always been a very practical, straight-forward person. For most of my life she has not only advocated, but has also demonstrated, a strong work ethic. Part of having a good work ethic was that work came first. Computer games, while mildly interesting, are something to be avoided because too many people get involved in playing them to the exclusion of doing their work.

I bought into this, and with the exception of solitaire (which I can play in the odd moments while my real work is loading and then easily stop when the computer is ready for me to work again) I have managed to avoid getting entangled in any of the games.

There was a brief period that I tried to get involved in Sim. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, my Sims characters refused to do what I told them to and I soon decided that I did not need to play a game that so closely mimicked my experiences as a mother of teenagers.

Recently, my mom ever-so-casually mentioned that she had found a wonderful game. She even bragged about her high score. This was so out of character, that I had to check it out for myself.

It turns out that this game is very addicting. I'll start off telling myself that I'm only going to play one quick game and then get back to work. But it doesn't take long to play one game, so I might as well play another quick round. And then another, just to see if I can beat the previous scores. And the addiction is on.

At first, I was a little put off by the fact that you find this game on the AARP site. I mean, I have years (at least two!) before I'm old enough to legitimately browse around on this site. And really, can you really expect to find anything interesting on a site for (clears throat self-conciously) old people? Other than the Mohjongg game, of course.

Apparently you can. Because I have a new favorite thing:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

WIPs, no FOs

I don't have a lot of progress to show this week on my knitting. I'm still working on the self-striping socks, and both gussets are finished. I just have to turn the heels, and knit the ribbed cuff until I run out of yarn.

I started a baby gift, even though I said I wasn't starting anything new until I finished a current project. But it's a baby gift, and I had to be sure to have enough time to finish it. I'm making a Ten Stitch blanket, using Lion Brand's Amazing yarn. I know it's a bit unconventional as far as colors for a baby, but since the parents-to-be are a bit unconventional I think that they will like it.

* ~ * ~ *
Blanket Update:
112 squares in 116 days
(Status: I blame the baby blanket)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Oh no, I'm at it again.

Thanks to my sister, I'm reorganizing my life. Again.

Last week my sister showed off a wonderful notebook she found at Staples. It's an Arc system, and I fell in love with the moveable pages. The possibilities were too good to pass up. So I bought myself one to use as a calendar book. And I'm planning on another to use as an on-going To Do list. There's probably also going to be a third for podcast notes.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Just say yes to one of the dresses. Please!

I went shopping with my daughter, and we came home with her prom dress. I had to promise I wouldn't post a picture of it until after the prom. But how about a couple of hints of how our shopping trip went:
Just as a word of advice, don't try to get a vote on which dress is the best one. After narrowing it down to five choices, the vote was 3.5 people liked dress A, 4 people liked dress B, 3.5 people liked dress C, 4 people liked dress D, and 4.5 people liked dress E. Which meant that she had to try on each dress again. And then text pictures to more friends to vote on. But at least we finally got it down to two choices.

So she tried on dress 1, then dress 2. Then we went back to dress 1. Then back to dress 2. Then to the food court to talk about it. Then back to try on dress 2 again. Then to try on dress 1 again. She tried on the dresses at least four times before I finally bribed a salesgirl into helping her make a choice. (I'll give you five dollars if you get my daughter to buy a dress in the next 15 minutes.)

I think my daughter is beautiful in the dress she finally choose.

Friday, April 22, 2011

It's a fruit, not a vegetable.

I actually have a favorite thing this week. It's my mom's cherry tomato plant. I am totally amazed at how well this plant is doing. I remember when it was a tiny, sickly looking thing that was totally overwhelmed by the pot she had it in.

Now just look at all the wonderful cherry tomatoes she has! The really cool part is that the plant is still producing more. I was able to pick a bowl full of yummy fruit (popping several right into my mouth), and there are still more that are almost ripe. Plus there is still a lot of blossoms that will eventually become fruit. It's amazing to me to see all the stages shown on just this one plant.

Mom's growing the tomato plant in a special hydroponic container. I'm not too terribly clear on how it all works, but it's something about having the roots suspended without soil. Her friends own a shop, EZ Grow Green, and they have a lot of truly amazing hydroponic gardening supplies. There is an indoor garden that I totally lust after. But for now, I'll just help mom harvest her tomatoes.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mom!

It was mom's birthday, so my sister and I joined her for a day off. We went up to Fort Pierce for lunch and yarn shopping, then just hung around and enjoyed each other's company. Nothing real exciting, and yet it was.

So much so, that we've decided to make this a monthly date.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Three Lessons in Baking

I made more cookies today. I wanted to give away some of the pretty butterflies and Easter Eggs I decorated on Sunday, but that would have left us without any cookies. And since PJ is actually eating them (he usually doesn't eat any of the cupcakes or treats that I bake since he doesn't like sweets), I would have felt guilty if I gave them all away. So of course I had to make more. (That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.)

Maybe Sunday was a fluke. Or maybe I just got overconfident after Sunday's success. Either way, today's baking adventure was a definite learning experience.

Lesson 1: Logical math cannot be used when baking cookies. Since I had fun decorating a dozen cookies, logical math lead me to believe that I would have twice as much fun decorating twice as many cookies, and even more fun decorating three dozen. The truth is that, although decorating a dozen cookies is fun, decorating two dozen cookies is work. Continuing to decorate cookies after the first two dozen, instead of freezing them to decorate another time, shows a real lack of judgment on my part.
Lesson 2: Children, even teenagers, are too smart to fall for the "wouldn't you like to have as much fun as I'm having" ploy. There is no way you can trick (or entice) them into decorating the last dozen cookies. This is especially true if they've been listening to you mumbling and grumbling while working on the third dozen.

Lesson 3: The consistency of the royal icing is extremely important. You cannot use a piping consistency for flooding, or a flooding consistency for piping. If you decide to listen to a tutorial that says you can pipe and flood with the same bag of royal icing, then you should follow the tutorial's instructions for the icing's consistency.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Edible Canvases

Lately, I've been fascinated with food blogs. Specifically, cupcake blogs. In my search for more cupcake ideas, I've started following cookie blogs as well. It's absolutely amazing what can be done with royal icing on a simple sugar cookie. So I decided that I absolutely had to give it a try.

I used the sugar cookie recipe from Glorious Treats. The recipe is wonderful. I did make the mistake of leaving the dough in the refrigerator overnight before rolling it out. I had to let it sit on the counter to warm up about 2 hours before I could work with it. (Too chilled, the dough just crumbles.) Also, it would probably be a good idea for me to buy a rolling pin before I make my next batch. I used a drinking glass, so the cookies were an uneven thickness. (Not to mention that I worried the whole time that the stupid glass was going to break!)

Glorious Treats also had a really good Royal Icing recipe (although I had to add more than the 6 tablespoons of water listed) and a tutorial on how to decorate the cookies. Another good source for decorating tutorials is Sweetopia.

I made polka-dot Easter Eggs.

And then I got adventurous and made fancy Easter eggs.

Then I got artistic and made butterflies. I really like the butterflies.

The cookies are almost too pretty to eat.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

It's so hard to say goodbye

I had a call from my old boss. She needed help figuring out what reports had to be done and when they were due. So I loaded the files from my computer (I had them all, since I had been using my personal computer -- they had never gotten around to providing me a work computer) onto a flash drive, and I went in to help her out.

It was the right thing to do.

It was also a chance for me to say goodbye to my students. I wasn't that keen on seeing my co-workers, since none of them had bothered to try to get in touch with me when they realized I was gone. (I admit to still having hurt feelings.) But I did want to see my guys at least one more time.

And I'm glad I went in. My boss surprised me with a "Good Luck, Sandi" cake and flowers. More importantly, I got to talk with each of my students one more time.

Then I got into my car and drove away one last time, crying my broken heart out.

I gave the flowers to my mom. And then I sent out three more job applications.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wednesday's Works in Progress

I would have thought that being out of work I would get a lot of knitting done. Instead, most of my time has been spent working on applications and trying to get major housecleaning done. The only real time I've had to knit is when I'm sitting in the car, waiting on my daughter. So I've been able to get a lot of my Sock Blanket done. And I've been working on a pair of toe-up socks. This is left-over yarn from the Yoga Monkeys, and I wasn't sure how much I have. Hence the toe-up instead of my preferred cuff-down socks. The pattern is just a plain vanilla sock, since the self-striping yarn doesn't really need a fancy stitch pattern. It's hard to tell from the picture, but I'm almost done the gusset on one of the socks, and will be turning the heel very soon.

When I do get to knit "for real," I've been working on my February Lady Sweater. This has been sitting around for a while, and I'm not sure why. I love the combination of handspun and Malibrigo yarns. Because I only had a couple of skeins of the Malibrigo left, I decided to put the body on hold and do the sleeves. Then I'll go back and knit the body until I run out of yarn. (It's going to look much better once it's finished; it's very difficult to wear a sweater properly when it's still on the needles.)

And since I'm talking about knitting, if anyone is interested in joining the Second Annual KIP Hunt we are now taking sign ups in Ravelry. The hunt is our way of celebrating World Wide Knit In Public Week, and it is open to everyone regardless where you live. The Hunt was a lot of fun last year, and we're hoping to make it even bigger and better this year. Please come join us!

* ~ * ~ *
Blanket Update:
103 squares in 102 days
(Status: Managing to keep up with daily square)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Today is a pink ruffles & butterflies type of a day!

Yesterday was blue?

When I was in high school, my grandmother fell in love with a book by new author Jean Auel. I think she read the book two or three times, then insisted I read it. Actually, she bought me a copy of The Clan of the Cave Bear because she didn't want to give me her copy.

Now you have to understand, this was unusual. Not that Gramma fell in love with a book. Previous to Clan of the Cave Bear, I remember Gramma insisting that I read James Michener, Pearl S. Buck, Erma Bombeck, and Roots. But she was always willing to give me her copy when she was finished, with the understanding that I was to pass it along to the next person in the family. So when she bought me my own copy of Clan of the Cave Bear, I knew it was a special book.

Over the years, I think I've read that book at least twenty times. Maybe more. I've read it enough that I can pick it up and open to any page, and know exactly what is going on. I can probably quote the next sentence, if I really put my mind to it.

As each of the sequels came out, Gramma and I would race to be the first one to read it so that we could spoil the plot for the other. (Me: Hey Gramma, did you know that Ayla...? Gramma's reply: Wait to you read how she ....!)

On top of all the wonderful memories the series brings to mind of my grandmother, I really love the books themselves, just for themselves. My daughter recently reread them (yes, I had insisted that she read them when she was in high school - it's a family tradition, after all) and she was totally embarrassed that any of us would have ever admitted to reading this level of literature. Since I routinely admit to reading Harlequin romances (hey, they're cheap junk food for the mind when you don't want to have to think!), I personally still love my Children of the Earth series.

So I was very excited when my daughter told me that Jean Auel was going to be at the Strand to sign her new book, The Land of Painted Caves. This is the last of the Earth Children series, and I really wanted to visit my daughter and meet Ms. Auel. Unfortunately, money and timing conspired against my making the trip.

Since I couldn't be there, and she knew how much it meant to me, my very wonderful daughter sent me this:

A copy of the first book in the series (since my copy mysteriously disappeared), and a copy of the new/last book.

BOTH of which have been signed by Jean Auel!

Guess what I'll be reading this week.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

It's like eating M&Ms.

On Wednesday, I was given a skein of Trendsetter Flamenco yarn. A new knitter had brought it to the group, hoping for help in figuring out how to knit with this mesh ribbon yarn. None of us had ever seen it before, but we gave it a good try. I was intrigued by the challenge this offered, so I kept at it. In fact, I outlasted the yarn's owner, who declared she was sick of the whole thing and gifted it to me. Then I felt bad. It was her yarn, and I had hogged it so long that she felt had to give it to me.

But since she wouldn't take it back, I took it home. Today I was able to figure it out thanks to the pattern I also received with the yarn and a wonderful video on youtube. I knit a couple of rows, just to get the scarf started. Once you know how it's done, it's really quite an easy and fun project. So I feel like I should return the yarn to the original owner and show her how to do it.

Of course, it wouldn't hurt to do a couple more rows - just to make sure sure that it has a good start...

(I think I'm going to need to order a couple of skeins of this stuff. AFTER I knit another row. Or two.)

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Off to a good start

1. Lose 100 lbs (lose 5 lbs per month).

This goal is probably getting a little tedious by now. Every so often I announce how I've gone on another diet. And then there are updates on how much I've lost for the first month or two. Then I'm mysteriously silent, quieted by the shame of abandoning the latest diet. But I really do want to lose 100 lbs by the time I reach 50. This time the doctor has gotten involved. I'll try to keep any comments on this topic to a short update on the loss-to-date (which is 8 pounds, by the way).

2. Exercise regularly for 3 months.

I started going to the gym two weeks ago to walk on the treadmill. I started out doing 20 minutes a session, five days a week. I've just increased my time to 25 minutes, which is almost half a washcloth. I plan on getting up to 30 minutes a day, then adding something else (maybe water aerobics) three times a week.

14. Organize my papers and receipts.

I decided that since I don't have to go in to work, I have the time this week to do my own filing. This task should have been a lot easier than it is turning out to be. How in the world did I ever let it pile up the way I did? I finally separated everything into 7 boxes, and my plan is to only worry about one box a day. By the end of the week, I should be organized.

15. Give up soda for 1 month.

I haven't had a soda since March 21, 2010. That's 16 days without a Cherry Pepsi. Not that I'm counting.

19. Send out birthday cards for a year.

I like birthday cards. It's a wonderful feeling to get a bunch of cards in the mail, acknowledging your special day. So I've up a list with all the birthdays that I know for my family and friends. (If you would like to make sure you made the list, send me an email or call me with your snail mail address.) My first birthday card goes out next week!

41. Change my job.

Over the past year or so, my job had gotten increasingly focused on the paperwork. Since I started as the clinical person, we more than doubled the number of program participants. On top of that, the required reports have increased. It used to be that I only had to do a simple calculation for the monthly report; now we need a full written report that includes not only the goal but everything else the participant has been involved in. The quarterly reports used to be a two or three sentence paragraph; now it's a full encompassing report.

I missed being able to spend time working directly with the participants. It wasn't just that I liked working with them. By not having the opportunity to observe the goals directly, it was very difficult to write goals and adaptations for each participant.

When I set this goal, "change my job," I had hoped for the opportunity to talk with my bosses about my growing frustration. Even though they didn't give me the chance to make changes when the program supervisor retired (which would have been the perfect time for it), I really hoped that they would be open to re-distributing the responsibilities between my position as clinical supervisor and the program supervisor's.

Obviously that is not going to happen now.

On the other hand, I am definitely changing my job.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Adjusting to life on the outside

I guess this is my new office.
Still no window view!

I spent the weekend moping around. I cried for myself, and the job that I already miss more than I expected I would. (After spending so many of my weekends working, I couldn't figure out what to do with myself.) And when I wasn't pitying myself, I was crying for my students and the huge losses they were going to have to suffer through. (Too many service providers are finding themselves in my position, out of work because the funding just isn't there to pay them.)

But today is a new day, and I am determined to go forth in a positive manner. (Doesn't that sound good? I worked hard to be able to say that!) I decided that I was going to stick to a regular work routine. So this morning I got up early, as normal (not that I really had a choice, since Becka still had to be at the bus stop at 6 am). I went to the gym and spent time on the treadmill. Then I got dressed up, and spent a couple of hours in my "office." I've updated my resume, and started organizing my personal files and receipts. I feel very virtuous.

Okay,I probably should admit that I also spent a couple of hours knitting with my friend Paula at Barnes & Noble. Because what's the point of having all this time off work if I don't have some fun.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

It was April Fools, but true.

Warning. This is a long post that tends toward the ranting side.

I was laid off yesterday. After six years with Exceptionalities, after all the love and devotion and dedication that I had given the agency, after all the extra hours I had put in because things had to get done whether they paid me for it or not, after coming to think that Exceptionalities was my life's work -- I was laid off. With the funding cuts, difficult choices had to be made. And one of those was that the administration had to be cut. And even though I was the one who kept the place going through my boss' cancer and the madness of our long-time program supervisor's retirement, my bosses decided that the new administrator was more valuable than I was. All my time and dedication earned me two weeks severance and a payout on my accrued vacation time. (Vacation time that piled up because I hadn't been able to take any time off while running everything for so long.) I'm bitter. I'm angry. And I'm mostly sad.

I didn't have a chance to say my goodbyes to anyone. They waited until the end of the day to give me the news. To be fair, they probably expected that I would have time next week to say goodbye since I was offered the opportunity to work during the two weeks severance pay. (Really? You lay me off with two weeks "goodbye pay" as consolation, then expect me to come in to work those two weeks? Just because in the past I've always been willing to go above and beyond for my job, doesn't mean I'll continue to do so when the job is taken away.) The not being able to say goodbye hurts, though. I loved my guys. I know it's not politically correct to call the participants "my guys," but I really cared about each and every one of them. I knew their families, their histories, their likes and dislikes, their personality quirks. I fought for them, advocated for them, loved them like they were my family. They were my family. And I'm crying as I type this, because of the unfairness of it all.

The horrible thing is that I can't blame my bosses for having to make the choice. (I blame them for the choice they settled on, but not for having to make the choice.) My situation is one that is happening all over the state of Florida right now. It's the result of a government that chooses to not only ignore the needs of a population that doesn't have a voice to speak up with, but is also deliberately taking away their basic human rights.

On Thursday, Governor Rick Scott issued an emergency ruling in Florida to cut med-waiver service payments by 15%. This is a huge cut. And it was effective immediately (on April 1st) with no prior warning.

If you're not familiar with the med-waiver, it provides funding for people with developmental disabilities of mental retardation, autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and Prader-Willi syndrome. In Florida, there are approximately 35,000 people served by this program. Some of the people are in group homes funded by the program, and others are able to stay in their family homes with personal care providers who come in to bathe, change, and help care for their needs that the family can't physically handle. The waiver also provides meaningful day activity (education and work opportunities) so that a person isn't literally lying in bed for three years with only a television for company (as in the case of one of my students). Medical needs (such as doctors, dentists, and therapists) are also funded by the waiver.

Friday, without any warning, every service lost 15% of their funding. Personal care workers who earn only a little over minimum wage, lost 15% of their paycheck. Group homes, mostly mom and pop establishments, lost 15% of their funding. Transportation companies (the only way many of our wheelchair-bound citizens can get anywhere) lost 15% of their funds - an almost certain death sentence to the companies in these times of rising fuel costs! In fact, many agencies and services are racing around trying to figure out how to keep their doors open. Because as much as those of us in the field would like to think that we are doing our jobs out of a love for the disabled population, the truth is that all of us have bills and expenses that we have to meet. And without a livable paycheck, we can't keep caring for the people we've been caring for.

Governor Scott's decision to balance the state budget on the backs of the disabled is going to have horrible consequences, but the public won't know because the disabled don't have the voice to be heard. And it's terrible and awful, because someone should know what we're doing to them.

VG lives at home with his mother and father. His father is disabled (back injury, and his mother supports the family driving a bus for the school district. VG is blind and deaf as well as developmentally disabled. His mother relies on a personal caregiver to come in every morning to help VG get up, get dressed, and eat breakfast. VG can't manage these tasks on his own, and his father can't physically handle helping him since VG isn't able to keep his balance when walking. Without the personal caregiver and the ADT day program that VG attends, his mother will have to give up her job to stay home and take care of him. Which means that she will need to get public assistance, since there won't be a paycheck coming in to the house.

GA is 70 years old, with a developmental disability and cerebral palsy. He's been in a wheelchair all of his life. For the past 10 years he's lived in a group home. The owner of the group home is a nurse, so for the first time in his life GA is able to enjoy life without pressure sores or gastric episodes. He has been getting regular physical therapy, so his muscles are loosening up enough that he can hold a marker and color pictures. He's also been receiving speech therapy, and even strangers are able to understand his words now. He loves the social aspect of going to day program. With the cuts, his group home may have to close. And I don't know what is going to be left open for him to go to.

I could go on and on and on. I'm worried for my guys. I'm worried for the field. I'm worried that nobody is going to care that isn't in the field or that doesn't have a child with a disability.

And I'm worried that because I'm no longer there, I won't be able to make a difference.