Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday Letters

I've written a few Friday Letters to recap my week, say what's on my mind, and take the opportunity to offer a thank you or two. Join Paula here to share your own letters and read those from other "pen pals". Let's open the mail...

Dear GREs,

Please take it easy on Justin tonight. It was difficult enough to convince him that it would be a good idea to take a four-hour test (especially on a Friday evening!), but if you treat him badly I think it will be nearly impossible to persuade him that applying to graduate school might be a viable option. I hope I've spent $195 wisely; that would have bought some nice alpaca or cashmere yarn!

Dear Danielle,

Happy Wedding Day tomorrow! I know that you've been busy planning, making preparations, and checking off details for this big day, but keep in mind that this is one day. A day to be celebrated surely, but as your aunt and someone that has been married for 34 years, I want to say that we could all wear jeans, flannel shirts, and boots (you know Justin would prefer that!), you could get married at the farm, and you and Dan would love each other just as much, and your family would be just as supportive. Like you've said, all your dreams are coming true and you couldn't be happier; I know there will be much more love and happiness with Dan throughout your lives together.

Dear Winter,

Please bless Margene and the rest of the West with some cold weather and snow (dare I ask for at least a month's worth?) I know warm weather is lovely, but the West really needs that snow for the water it will provide, and the cold to kill mountain pine beetle larvae and garden insect eggs. Those of us in the rest of the country would be more than happy to share our cold and snow!

Dear Subaru Dealer,

I must say, I'm a little disappointed in your service. Admittedly, I was slightly grumpy due to the fact that I was bringing my car back for the second time on one recall; it was 3°, and my ice scraper broke while trying to clear the windshield on my recalled Subaru, but my grumpiness quickly turned to dismay when you told me that the coffee maker was broken. I understand this is not a life or death matter, but believe me, it is upsetting not to be able to enjoy a nice cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate while waiting for my car. This is especially true when we, the customers, are woefully deficient in coffee or tea, but get to watch you happily sipping your own hot beverages that you made with the showroom's coffee machine. Next time I make an appointment for service, I'm checking to make sure the coffee maker works!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

My Former Life as a School Library Assistant

Last week I wrote about my first career as a hematologist. This week I'll tell you about my second career, working in the fun and exciting world of elementary and middle school libraries.

Several people asked about the possibility of returning to hematology. Once my husband stopped traveling so much, my kids were older, and it was time for me to head back to work, I thought about going back to hematology, but that meant being on call, and working nights, weekends, and holidays. I worked every Christmas for years (every year except my last one!) and just wasn't willing to give up that much family time for a job. I had volunteered in the library at my sons' elementary school for seven years, so I was lucky enough to stumble into a job there within days of when I started looking. The pay wasn't great, but I had the incredible benefit of having my schedule match my kids' - even snow days! I got to be surrounded by books and the students were wonderful. There was always the challenge of helping kindergartners find a dinosaur book they hadn't yet read and explaining to fifth graders why we didn't have any biographies about Robert Pattinson, but it was a job I really enjoyed.

Our school district reconfigured, built a brand new middle school for grades 7 and 8, and I was offered the chance to work there. We had the fun (and it really was!) of moving all the books we had packed from the old middle school, configuring the library shelving, and starting completely from scratch. There were only two of us (the librarian and myself) but we served our 1000 students and almost 200 staff members well. We ordered thousands of new books, developed a curriculum to teach research to seventh and eighth graders, and built a library we were really proud of.

Then our newly-elected governor decided that school budgets had to be slashed. Like many states, New Jersey was in deep financial trouble, but Chris Christie (you may be hearing more about him over the next year!) seemed to blame most of the state's woes on teachers. Our school district chose to outsource all of our teacher assistants and custodians, get rid of eight teacher positions, and cull the "low-hanging fruit", as I was called during multiple school board meetings that year. At the end of it all, my "low-value added" position was eliminated.

The librarian was left to try and run the library by herself, and it became evident how true this quote from Harold Howe really is, "What a school thinks about its library is a measure of what it feels about education." While it has really saddened me to see the library program we spent years building left by the wayside, my greater concern is for all the students that are now lacking an environment where they can learn to become literate seekers of information, educated users of all types of information technology, and enthusiastic readers. I know students rolled their eyes when we tried to teach them what plagiarism is and why it's wrong, and absolutely hated learning how to cite sources correctly, but it's still valuable and necessary information that, sadly, they are not being taught.

If you've made it to to the end, please accept my sincere thanks for reading my rant about the value of libraries!

@ your library. American Library Association, 2012. Web. 18 Feb. 2015.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Ten on Tuesday - Looking Forward

Today's Ten on Tuesday topic is 10 Things You Are Looking Forward To Right Now. I think this may be just what I need in the middle of February, with seemingly endless snow and below zero temperatures. So, in no particular order, I'm looking forward to:

1.   My second cup of tea.

2.   Getting my grocery shopping done. I've procrastinated this morning, and I'm going to regret it when I finally get to the store since there is more snow on the way. French Toast weather means everyone will be there buying eggs, bread, and milk.

3.   Finding my next really good book. I've been in a small reading slump and have been looking for a truly excellent, engrossing book. I'd love to hear your suggestions!

4.   Frank Underwood's return. I can't wait until February 27th!

5.   My niece's wedding this weekend. It will be a real treat to see lots of family and enjoy a wonderful celebration.

6.   Figuring out what to wear to my niece's wedding. My "wedding clothes" are more appropriate for spring and summer, and nothing in my closet seems right. It will be interesting to see what I end up wearing, especially because I really dislike shopping.

7.   Finally finishing these fingerless mitts. Another hour or two of knitting and I'll be done, but I've been spending too much time on ravelry and not enough time knitting.

8.   Working on my Campari Hitchhiker.

9.   More hyacinths! I've been forcing hyacinths so I have continuous blooms this winter and it's worked so far. I started three more this morning and it made me happy to hurry Spring along.

10. More amaryllis! Two of my amaryllis have surprised me with second flower stalks, and they're getting ready to bloom.

11. And for a bonus #11 since we only have 11 more days in February, I'm looking forward to these!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Friday Letters

I've written a few Friday Letters to recap my week, say what's on my mind, and take the opportunity to offer a thank you or two. Join Paula here to share your own letters and read those from other "pen pals". Let's open the mail...

Dear Orchid,

I'm thrilled that you're sending out a new flower stalk, complete with teeny, tiny buds! Don't tell your siblings sitting on the windowsills, but you are my favorite. You're the first one I just had to bring home from the grocery store and I love how you've rewarded me with reblooming every year since then. Thank you for a lovely February surprise!

Hey Starlings,

I'm sorry, but I just can't address you as "Dear" based on your incredibly rude behavior. I love feeding birds, and I don't even begrudge you guys some seed and suet. What I do resent is your bullying, noisy, messy behavior, scaring every other bird away from the feeders, making your angry squawks, and shoveling all the seed out of the feeders in your greediness. Please refrain from this in the future or I will be forced to take drastic action (as soon as I figure out what that is.)
P.S. Please share this letter with the squirrels.

Dear Dr. D,

Thank you for operating on Justin and fixing his hand. We saw you at a time when other things were a little difficult and overwhelming, so I also want to thank you for answering all my questions and never making me feel like I was a crazy person. You're a great orthopedic surgeon with a wonderful bedside manner, but you're also a pretty nice guy. When we spoke the other day, you said the treacherous ice that coated everything had brought patients in in droves, almost like you were selling 10 cent beers! I wish I could buy you a few beers (or beverage of your choice) and raise a glass to you.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

My Former Life as a Hematologist

Once upon a time, long, long ago when I was in eighth grade, I stumbled upon what I wanted to be when I grew up. As part of the unit on the circulatory system in biology, we looked at blood cells under the microscope. I was completely and utterly entranced. I learned that there are five types of white blood cells; red blood cells have a unique and perfect shape, and platelets are very tiny but necessary to stop bleeding. I also learned that someone that studied blood was called a hematologist, and that it was I wanted to be. 

My goal didn't change throughout high school. I designed an independent study on comparative hematology and became further interested when I learned about functional and anatomic differences in reptilian, amphibian, and avian blood cells. It was easy to choose a college once I found one that offered a major in medical technology. After college I worked in hospitals in Pennsylvania, Florida, and New York state, following my husband while he attended graduate schools. We had agreed to take turns in school, so in 1983 it was my turn to start my M.S. degree in hematology at Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse.

It was a heady time, full of interesting and exciting classes, along with the less exciting experience of working in the hematology lab every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night on the 11-7 shift so I could make enough money for tuition. I finished my classwork in two years and had just started my research when my dream job came along - Supervisor of Special Hematology. That's where all the really interesting hematology tests were performed - coagulation factor assays for hemophiliacs, testing for von Willebrand's disease, hemoglobin electrophoresis for thalassemia and sickle cell disease, D-dimer assay for thrombotic disorders, and platelet function tests. I was lucky enough to get the position, so my research got pushed to part-time. Eventually I did finish my research, wrote and defended my thesis, and published an article (gripping reading indeed!) in a peer-reviewed journal. Before I had my kids, this was probably my biggest accomplishment!

Having my kids changed things. I had worked as a hematologist for 14 years, but with two small children and a husband that was traveling three weeks a month, my having to be on call and work nights, weekends, and holidays began to take a toll. Trying to work at home was less than successful when I found out that toddlers and permanent red and purple stains for blood slides did not work well together. I wasn't a good hematologist, nor was I a very good mother during this time, so my career as a hematologist came to an end. I remember my former life as a hematologist fondly, but my life as a mother has been even better.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Ten on Tuesday - Love, Actually

In honor of Valentine's Day, this week's Ten on Tuesday assignment is to finish the sentence "I love . . . "

 1.  to knit, especially for those that I love.

 2.  warm socks.
 3.  macaroni and cheese.

 4.  to sleep in.
 5.  temperatures above 32° F

But all I have is 28.5, lots of ice, and a frowny face.

 6.  fingerless gloves.
 7.  a good book.

 8.  hot tea.
 9.  that Justin finally had all his stitches removed yesterday and his hand is healed!

Bad photo, good results!

10. my family with all my heart.
11. that I have so much goodness and love in my life that this was an easy and fun list to make!

Hoping that all of you have plenty of love in your lives !

Friday, February 6, 2015

Friday Letters

I've written a few Friday Letters to recap my week, say what's on my mind, and maybe even take the opportunity to let a few things go. Join Paula here to share your own letters and read those from other "pen pals". Let's open the mail...

Dear Mike,

Happy Retirement! I've known you for over 30 years, first as a member of my husband's dissertation committee, then as his boss, and eventually as a friend. I'll miss your great parties and hearing Mike stories at the dinner table, but I think that your shooting endeavors (photography and guns!) will provide some new tales. I want to wish you only the best and hope that you'll find your retirement a new and exciting challenge; you've always risen to challenges in the best way possible. I can't wait to celebrate tomorrow night!

Dear Beer,

Thank you for your multi-purpose deliciousness! You've always served as a delicious drink, but this week you've proven that you are also a wonderful ingredient in baking. You were great in Cheesy Beer Bread and made Cinnamon-Raisin Beer Bread so good that I've eaten half a loaf by myself. I may even be trying you in chili this weekend!

Dear Tea,
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach, especially when I have to get out of bed far too early and shovel horribly heavy snow in frigid temperatures. I love thee purely, or with sugar, honey, creamer, or milk. I love thee in the morning, the evening, and all hours in between. Thank you for helping me get through this week!

Dear Hearing Aids,

Thank you for enabling my mother-in-law to become a part of the family again. She really is a wonderful person, and even though it's taken years of persuasion and arguments, regaining her ability to hear with your help has made a huge difference for all of us. We no longer have to yell directly at her, become frustrated and angry, or wonder why she is asking me if I want mustard when the conversation is about quilts. She's been able to hear her newest great-grandson, and will be listening with the rest of the family when her granddaughter exchanges wedding vows in a few weeks. In fact, my husband and I are a bit envious of what you can do, including your cool remote to adjust you for different conversational situations, so we'll be looking into getting our own hearing aids in the future. My kids have told me they have things to say and they want me to listen, so I think I may need you!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Best One Yet

This amaryllis (Dancing Queen!) must have known I was suffering (along with many, many others) from a bit of winter fatigue, with lots of snow, ice, and sub-zero temperatures, because it has produced some exceptionally beautiful and long-lasting blooms.

There's also a second flower stalk, so hopefully the blossoms on that one will continue to remind me throughout February that Spring will be coming!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Three Easy Pieces

I met my nephew's girlfriend for the first time in November. She's a very interesting woman/PhD candidate, examining the relationship between gender and the application of alchemical knowledge and techniques in early modern England. Not surprisingly, I know nothing about these topics, but we also chatted about how to keep your ears warm while wearing your hair up. I do know a little bit about how to keep your ears warm and also wanted to practice the Old Norwegian cast on; I decided the perfect way to accomplish both things was to knit Thing 1 and Thing 2 for her.

My niece is getting married soon, so I needed to come up with a gift for her wedding shower. She's had her own house for several years, so doesn't need much "stuff". I decided some dishcloths and a check were a good choice, since Danielle Does Dishes.

While my most recent knitting has consisted of small projects for others, I only have one other easy piece to finish before I return to my regularly scheduled selfish knitting!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Pleasures - Guilty or Not

This week's Ten on Tuesday is 10 Guilty Pleasures You Enjoy. The first five are easy.

1.  Animal Crossing - This is a mindless, simplistic video game for the Nintendo DS that is really a waste of time, but its mindless simplicity is why I enjoy it. Oldest son Ryan even got me a DS for my birthday several years ago so I wouldn't have to borrow his. You create a character, build a house, plant trees and flowers, weed, and wander around the town. I don't play often, but it's a perfect way to spend a carefree hour once a month.

2.  Guild Wars 2 - I blame my sons for this one. They both play this massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) and encouraged me to join in when Arenanet recently had a huge 75% off sale. I thought I might get $10 worth of enjoyment out of the game, so I bought it, created my first character, and now amuse my sons when I join their party. I probably won't waste too much time playing because it is so complex (and more importantly, cuts into my knitting and reading time!), but I would like to level up my Ranger a bit.

3.  Cheez Puffs - Although these are non-nutritious, empty calories (and not even really food!) that coat your fingers with orange powder, I still like them. I honestly haven't eaten any for several decades, but that doesn't stop me from thinking about them once in a while.

4.  Using pretzels to eat chocolate ice cream - For some odd reason my parents used to yell at me when I did this as a child ("Use a spoon!") but I love the sweet/salty combination. I haven't enjoyed this combination in years, but my cart just might veer towards the Häagen-Dazs this week.

5.  Binge-watching House of Cards - I could barely tear myself away from the TV when we first got Netflix and I sat down to watch the incredibly evil genius of Frank Underwood. I'm currently rewatching Seasons 1 and 2 (in small doses) in eager anticipation of Season 3, and I enjoy this so much I don't even feel guilty.

And that's really it. I've thought a lot about this, and if it's pleasurable, I often do it without feeling guilty. If I feel guilty that's usually a good sign that it's something I shouldn't be doing, shouldn't be doing so much, or shouldn't be doing now. I have lots of pleasures - spending time with my family, reading, knitting, baking, chocolate, Thin Mints, and sometimes I even do several of them at once. So says Claire Leto!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Superb Owl

I don't really give a hoot about the Super Bowl, but I will be enjoying 
some of this Superb Owl wine tonight!