Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A (Mostly) Uneventful Year

I didn't realize it had been this long since I made an entry in this blog. I always heard that time goes by faster the older you get, and it's true. It feels like only a couple of months ago that this year was new and I was still trying to absorb the shock that my Aunt Bernice, who I spent so many enjoyable hours with for most of my life, had passed away several weeks before and I was never told anything until a couple of scribbled lines on a Christmas card from a cousin who (I thought) knew what she meant to me...and the shock of losing my friend Sandi who was so instrumental in bringing hubby and I together...and the shock of losing our friends Mike and Al, all way too young (55, 61 and 56 respectively). Then there was a BIG situation hubby and I were still going through (finance-oriented) that was not resolved till this year and that I hope I/we never go through again. While digesting all of this and hoping this year would be better, January (mostly was). My cousin's dear daughter Janet and my LONG-time pen pal Ellayne (who I wrote to on and off since we were 15 and 16) found me on Facebook. It has been so awesome getting reacquainted with them. And that same month, I went to the annual Chili Cookoff at First Christian Church (not even being sure why, since it was SO different from the traditional liturgical type of church I was sure I was seeking) and that night, Jill, Mary Ann, Becky and Sharon found me. I gradually came to realize, to my shock after a year and a half of searching in vain, that THIS was the church where I was meant to be. So that was a big part of my life that was finally settled (even though a BIG part of me still feels unworthy to be considered part of a place with SUCH Godly, loving people).

The next noteworthy occurrences of the year were downers. Only a few weeks before we found each other again, my good friend Ellayne was stunned by the sudden loss of her husband, who was my age. Yet another somber reminder of the brevity and uncertainty of life. My dear friend Dianne's beloved dad Hal died in April at age 89 -- and I was crushed to not be able to attend his memorial service due to a severe migraine. In May, our darling "secret" dog Zane, a beautiful purebred collie who had lived in our yard with his two sisters since Dec. '09, suddenly died at the young age of 7. And my anticipated three-day trip to Portland and Salem (and potentially Eugene, but I didn't make it that far) in June was ruined by another severe migraine.

The next few months were pretty uneventful -- work most every weekday, stay up too late on weekends, crochet every chance I get, see Dianne every few weeks, try to get to church and to my Tues. night Bible study every few weeks. Then in Oct. and Nov., our wonderful senior furballs Jesse and Archie had surgeries a few weeks apart. First, Jesse had a tumor removed from his eyelid. We were shocked to find out it was cancer,, but the vet was sure he got it all. Then Archie had a hematoma removed from his ear. Aside from the first night when he forced off the bandage and made a mess, he recovered well. But Jesse's left eye gradually started looking weird, to where it looked like a oval divided diagonally, half solid black and half solid pink. So earlier this month, back to the vet he went. We were beyond shocked to learn that the cancer was back and the vet felt that the surest way to keep the cancer from recurring again (though there was still no guarantee)...was to remove his left eye. This was stunning news, but we knew we had to do whatever we can to save our boy. So, on Dec. 14, he had the surgery. It went well....but over the next several days, Jesse scratched the area and removed the stitches. So on the 22nd, he had to go back for a THIRD operation. Now he has to wear one of those dang cones around his neck to keep him from scratching it. He doesn't like it and we don't either, but there is no choice. It's broken my heart that our poor baby has had to go through all this, and we can only pray that he heals completely now and that the cancer does NOT come back. So the year, that started out so well, has not ended all that well. But we are thankful to still have Jesse and Archie, and that Susie (who turned 3 in Sept. and still has not bonded with me after 2+ years, but I do love her) and our piggies (including Pinky, the senior) are doing well.

On Sat., Dec. 17, Dianne and I took a bus trip to Leavenworth (a/k/a America's Bavaria) for their annual tree lighting, which was her Christmas present to me. It was a memorable day in a beautiful setting, and on the trip back, on the bus they showed the movie "Miracle on 34th Street" (the original from '47) which, incredibly, I had never seen. I really enjoyed it, so much that I watched it again on TV on Christmas Day. Christmas itself was quiet as usual, with hubby having to work at the kennel. I intended to go to church on both Christmas Eve and Day, but he was too tired to go Christmas Eve after working all day, so I stayed home with him. I heard it was packed Christmas Eve and not so the next day, but still a nice service. I made cornish hens and the usual simple side dishes, finished the latest fancy pink thread baby dress, and just took it easy the next day, then back to work today (well, actually yesterday -- so what else is new; when am I NOT awake after midnight!).

I'll post my latest crochet projects to my crochet blog by the end of the year, and look forward to another long weekend before the long, dark month of January. Hopefully the coming year will be better for my friends who lost someone so dear to them, and our sweet doggies will hang in there also. I have another hope for 2012 that I won't go into just now, what with all the false starts and literally giving up that it will never happen. I DID give up, but hopefully not forever. And that's all I'll say about that for now, except that I can't do it without the divine intervention I feel has eluded me all these decades....

Monday, September 5, 2011

Harry, Susie, Birthdays and Continued Battles

I just updated my crochet blog ( yesterday with my latest projects and also wanted to be sure to update this one before my 3-day weekend is over. It's my birthday tomorrow so it's a major bummer that I have to go back to work tomorrow. But at least it will be a short work week. I took this coming Friday and the following Monday as days off, since Dianne suggested we go to the Puyallup Fair on its opening day (Fri.) for free attendance with a can of food.

It's already been a month since one of our favorite little guinea pigs, Harry, passed away. We were blessed to have him almost 5 years. I did update my "furballs3" page at (the page on my site that's dedicated to the many piggies we've had) the day it happened. Little Harry had to be the prettiest piggie we've had -- he had silky long hair and was tri-tone -- white, black and brown, and he was very sweet. Now we just have four piggies left -- Pinky, Connor, Patches and Pudding -- and Pinky is getting up there in age; we actually got him (or her; we've never been 100% sure) shortly before Harry. The other three boys are still fairly young and doing well so God willing, we'll get to keep enjoying them for several more years.

Our other critters are also doing well, though our precious Susie has some sort of kidney issue. She has continued to be her frisky, happy self so we are praying it's something that can be easily controlled with medication. Rex just brought in another urine sample last week that apparently had to be sent to some out-of-town lab, so we're waiting to hear....Sweet Susie will turn 3 years old next Sat. the 10th, so I want to wish her a happy and healthy early birthday!

Other than that, life has continued to go on the way it always seems to: stay up too late due to insomnia and my "owl" nature, get up most days needing at least 2 more hours sleep, sit in an office for 8 hours experiencing brain overload and wishing I was elsewhere, go home, watch TV, crochet unless I'm too tired to even do that, stay up too late and do it all over again. Yeah, I'm glad to have a job when thousands of others need one, but I'm SO tired of being tired. I know I would feel much less tired and have tons more self-esteem if I ever lost these 50 pounds, but I lose a few and fall back into the same routine of not exercising because I'm tired and overeating carbs for comfort and because I would feel deprived without them.

Spirtually, I blame God for even the tiniest irritation, then feel forgotten by Him because He is not helping me with my weight and it's related symptoms (insomnia, headaches, and a faulty bladder and digestive system). Then each Sun., I go to my vibrant church and feel cared for yet unworthy to be around the others, who all appear to genuinely love God and are blessed by Him. I got my driver's license renewed on Friday and was totally taken aback to how droopy and tired my eyes looked and how fat my face looked. I pray with all my heart to somehow be able to have my next (2016) driver's license picture look a lot more like the 2006 one (which was really the only good d.l. pic I ever had) than the 2011 one. I plan to go to our church's ladies retreat the weekend of Oct. 7-9, so hopefully that will help me turn these issues around if I haven't by then.

I've had it with feeling and looking fat and sluggish day after day, month after month, and feeling so disconnected from this God I'm told loves me. Yet I am also very much aware that this Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of 9/11/01 and the horror that day brought to thousands of innocent people. It makes my everyday irritations totally pale by comparison and makes me feel guilty that my small problems get to me so badly....and yet they do. God, PLEASE change my heart....

Monday, July 4, 2011

Churches and Chairs

A major unsettled area of my life these past few years has finally been settled -- not in the way I would have expected as recently as a couple months ago, but, in a "coming full circle" sort of way, I feel I'm where I'm supposed to be. I've gone back and forth countless times since 2008 (as many entries to this blog since then will attest) regarding where my church home would be. Hubby and I had been attending a small non-denominational church for several years, and while we were (and are) fond of the pastor and his wife and the other people there, the services were very simple (a few praise choruses, maybe a solo or ensemble, a few more choruses, a sermon and an ending chorus), I'd long felt something was missing. (In the meantime, hubby began working most every Sunday and was unable to attend with me.) Through E-mail conversations with my sister-in-law and a subsequent visit to a small traditional Lutheran church, I became convinced that what I was missing was the beauty and history of the liturgical style of service. I wondered if I would find it stuffy and cold, but the opposite was true. It truly ministered to me, and for the next several months, I was excited about going to church. I soon became aware of some policy issues of the church's governing body that I disagreed with, yet I proceeded to join the church in Feb. '09, but ended up leaving (along with many others) three months later.

Over the next couple years, I ended up going back to that church a few times (still having differences with the governing body but feeling unable to let go of that particular church). I attended a Presbyterian church and then a Methodist church regularly for some time and had attended the membership class for both, but didn't feel led to make that final step. I still felt convinced that I needed a liturgical service, but there are only a certain number of that type of church within a reasonable distance of where I live. At times I thought I would never find the right church for me, or that it simply didn't exist. I wanted so badly to resolve this situation and it was so frustrating to feel it just would not happen for me.

One day early this year, having returned once again to the Methodist church but again feeling it wasn't right, I searched online for what felt like the umpteenth time. There was a church called First Christian whose web site had caught my eye before. I could tell it was not a liturgical church, but I could also tell it seemed like an alive and vibrant place and had a lot of activities going on. I attended one Sunday and the people were so very welcoming but the service, as I suspected, was contemporary. But I thought, "I could go to some of their activities without attending the worship services".

Shortly thereafter, I decided it would be fun to attend their chili cookoff on a Friday evening. I made a few rounds sampling the chili and trying to decide which to vote for when four ladies invited me to sit with them. I lost track of time as these ladies proceeded to interact with me like we had always known each other. I had never experienced anything like this at any other church. As I left that evening, I was confused. Why did I feel drawn to this church and these people, when I wasn't looking for a contemporary church? Well, I'd need to attend other activities there while I continued to look for the right Sunday worship service -- because I wanted to see these ladies again. They actually seemed like people I could become friends with, something I'd been desperately missing. I have Dianne, but she's 35+ miles away and we only see each other every 4-6 weeks.

A few weeks after that, I began (and am still) attending a Bible study every Tuesday at the home of one of the ladies from the chili cookoff. This became such an anticipated weekly event (despite my thinking I did not want to go anywhere on a weekday evening after a long day at work) that, at first occasionally, then more often and finally every week, I began attending on Sundays also. I found I was getting more used to the contemporary services because of the love of God that was so evident everywhere at this church. To my astonishment, I decided a few weeks ago that THIS is where God was leading me as my church home, and I was officially welcomed as a member on June 26th. It IS very different from what I thought I was looking for, but I'm convinced it's the place I've been looking for all this time. As I mentioned on Facebook, I feel privileged to be there but also unworthy to be among such genuinely Godly people, and I pray more of what they have will rub off on me!

In the meantime, my dear friend Dianne has settled into her new smaller 1-story home in a gated 55+ community a couple miles from the home she'd lived in the past 11 years, and she and her 3 little dogs are really enjoying it. I went there to visit her a week ago Sat., the day before I joined First Christian. She knew her mom was looking for a recliner and phoned her to see if we could take her to ReclinerLand in Auburn to look for one and then go out to eat, and she agreed. I said, "I wish I could get a new recliner; mine broke a couple weeks ago!" I'd sat in, sometimes slept in and bounced around in the poor thing the past few years and it was getting pretty rickety. Then one weeknight, I went to push the footrest down and it didn't go down. I pushed harder and the right side came off! We have a spare recliner that was actually quite similar, so I figured that would now be my chair.

While Margaret and Dianne were looking at recliners, while having NO intention of buying myself a new one, I tried out some of the more affordable ones for future reference. I came to a $742 chair in a dusty medium gold fabric that was on clearance for $295. It was SO soft and comfy. As with my church, I felt drawn to it. It just felt SO right and though the color was not my first choice, it was neutral and I felt it would look good in our great room. I told myself, "I work hard and need a comfy place to relax when I'm home, and the price is right". After arguing with myself for 20-ish minutes while Margaret ordered her chair, I decided to buy the comfy gold chair. I thought my hubby would have a fit (since we had the spare recliner and also said he could fix the broken one), but to my surprise, he agreed it was a practical purchase and a good price! It was delivered this past Saturday and I'm enjoying hanging out in it this 3-day weekend. I'll post its picture here, but it looks nicer in person than in the pic. I love my chair!

Not a lot else is new. I completed the Barbie in the cream and burgundy striped gown (pic coming soon to my crochet blog at, and now my large glass cabinet where I display my Barbies is full. So I'll need to figure out a display method for a few more I plan to make. I'm currently working on a green shawl (same pattern as the peach one I made for one of the graduating senior girls at church) in sage (looks more like apple green) Simply Soft that I found for half price on my recent trip to Portland and Salem which turned out to be a disappointment (got lost a LOT despite multiple Google maps and was sick with another of my major migraines the entire third day). That was hard to take after having to postpone this trip last year, but joining my church and having my new chair has helped ease the pain. usual as this time of night, I'm not sleepy. Hopefully I will be soon, so I don't sleep away half of my very rare day off work. Happy Birthday, U.S.A.!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Goodbye, Secret Love

Since New Year's Eve 2009, Rex and I have had three lovely collie dogs in our lives. These are really not dogs we adopted in the same sense of our current pet dogs Susie, Archie and Jesse, or our other past pet dogs chronicled in the Furballs section of It was more like we became their caretakers when their original "mom" became terminally ill and their original "dad" could no longer care for them. This was not my idea, as we already had three dogs and had only adopted Susie three weeks before. But apparently, according to my husband, these folks could find no one else to take all three collies. (I found, and still find, this hard to believe. There are rescue organizations that would have be glad to have them. I think it was just that Rex wanted them. It was easy to see why; all three were so sweet and docile, and very beautiful.)

Though I didn't like the idea, and it has been strange to generally not be able to tell people about these lovely dogs (since technically, we are only supposed to have four dogs in this county), I grew fond of the collies, and they have literally been no trouble. All they ask is to have food and water brought to them each day, and to be together. I understood why their former "mom and dad" asked that they not be separated. The only issue has been that Zane, the lone male, who I believe was about 5-1/2 when he and his mates (Bella and Terra, age 4) came to stay in our yard, had an occasional seizure which seemed to be some form of canine epilepsy. He would be on his side for about 15-20 minutes and then would gradually get up and seem to be fine again.

Though all three collies are very pretty, Zane definitely had the classic Lassie look. He was the only one of the three who occasionally came inside. He spent the least time in the large doghouse Rex built, so he would often get wet in the frequent rain, and we would let him in for a few minutes and dry him off (just a few minutes, since he and the girls were never housebroken, as they had always lived outdoors). He seemed to be having seizures less often than he used to and seemed fine. At the age of not quite 7, he seemed to be in the prime of his doggie life, and we naturally assumed to have him and his sisters for several more years. But tonight, Rex saw Zane laying in the same position in the rain for quite some time. He went to check on Zane but he didn't respond. So Rex carried him inside on a board, dried him off and covered him. He never did stir from that position and died sometime tonight. This is so sad and unexpected; sort of like when our Gus suddenly died of a stroke at not quite age 7. We wonder if that's what happened to Zane. It's not the same devastation as when Gus, my indoor buddy, died. Zane lived outside and I didn't have that same bonding with him. But I wish I could have known Zane better. He was a wonderful dog and we will miss him very much. I think it will be harder on Rex since he spent more time with the collies than I did. Rex just had his appendix out three days ago, and though he is healing quickly and should be able to return to work soon, I know he was not planning to have to build a doggie coffin later today.

It's so hard sometimes for me to understand and accept many of the things God allows to happen -- and to not happen. I don't know why he took Zane and Gus at a relatively young age when they should have had several more happy years. Even more so for several of the human friends who passed on last year -- Sandi Lee, Al Haymaker, Mike Peterson. Then there was my having to miss Dianne's dad Hal's memorial service on Good Friday, after I rearranged my work schedule all week so that I could be there to support my friend and pay respect to her dear dad. Instead, I was hit with the mother of all migraines and was too sick to go anywhere that day. It really hurt me to miss Hal's service, and especially because, as I wrote in my last blog entry, I'd resolved to sacrifice and cut back on foods I craved and FINALLY lose the weight. I felt as though I was being punished for doing the right thing. As a result, I AGAIN gave up on this lofty goal and AGAIN resolved it will never happen, instead indulging in those foods I crave. I figured, if God isn't going to bless my efforts and instead shoot me down with a major migraine, then why deny myself? It will be quite some time, if ever, before I again muster the resolve to lose the weight. It's hard to have that resolve when God won't help me, as He knows I can't do it alone. I had decided it was too much with my work and church schedule to rejoin TOPS, but I know how to lose the weight on my own. I've done it before. I just don't feel inclined to keep trying when my efforts keep getting shot down.

I'm still attending the contemporary church I described last time and still struggling with how contemporary the services are compared to what I'd grown used to the past few years. But the place is so alive and vibrant, that I can only hope the love of God shown by the people there rubs off on me. Though it's not what I thought I was looking for in a church, it's what I need at this time, and who knows, maybe for the long haul!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Losses and New Beginnings -- continued

I didn't realize I hadn't posted to this blog since January 1st. I guess I was concentrating more on my new crochet blog (, even though I've only posted once to that one in 2011 so far. Soon I'll be adding another entry there with the latest few Barbie (and Skipper) gowns I''ve crocheted.

Spring finally arrived a few weeks ago, and was most welcome despite chiller-than-usual temperatures. I always enjoy the later sunsets and longer days. The weeks continue to rush by, with too much time needing to be spent at my demanding but necessary full-time job and never enough of the leisure time I treasure. Even though it seems I'm seldom able to take any days off work, I'm now out of vacation days till they're renewed in a few more weeks. Since I'll be at my present job 5 years as of May 15 (hard to believe), presumably I'll now finally get the long-awaited 3 weeks per year, so I can take a couple mini-vacations per year (funds permitting) and an occasional day at home to catch up on things or just hang out. Definitely looking forward to being able to do a bit more of that.

Sadly, I have another loss to report -- actually two. A few weeks after the thrill of my long-time pen pal Ellayne finding me on Facebook after many years, and the joy of learning she'd been happily remarried for the past 10 years, I was sad and shocked to learn of the sudden passing of her soulmate, who was my age. This was a terrible shock for my friend and she has been very much in my prayers. Just another solemn reminder that tomorrow is guaranteed to no one.

Of all weekends for me to not check my E-mail till Sunday night, this weekend was not the one I should have delayed. When I finally got online a few hours ago, after a relaxing weekend of going through recipes, a long-overdue washing of my car "Bianca", and a nice Palm Sunday church service, I found my dear friend Dianne's daughter Lisa's Facebook message that her grandpa and Dianne's beloved dad, Hal, had passed away Friday night. Hal had gone into the hospital a couple of weeks ago following a heart attack and things looked dire, but from what Dianne said Monday when I last spoke with her, it looked like her dad was stabilizing and hanging in there. I was going to phone her this weekend but figured when I didn't hear, that the situation remained the same. Now I wish I had phoned. Hal was 89 and a devoted Christian, so Dianne can take comfort in that fact (I have no such assurance with either of my parents). But I know that this is still a painful ordeal for her. I will check in with her tomorrow and hope she will understand my not having done so earlier. Hal was a wonderful man who I had seen many times over the past 21 years that we've lived in Wash., and I too will miss him.

As for the new beginnings continuing, since 2009 it's seemed that every time I think I have my church situation figured out and have made a decision on which church I belong at and will join, something happens to change that. I went from the non-denominational church Rex and I attended for several years to the small Lutheran church I have many happy memories of and where I feel a piece of me still resides, to the Methodist church, back to the Lutheran church, back again to the Methodist church. I thought I finally settled on that Methodist church, and still, something was missing. I enjoyed the services, and doctrinally, I felt comfortable. I just felt I should have more of a sense of belonging and fitting in with the others after having attended for several months. I wasn't sure why, a few months ago, I felt led to visit another non-denominational church; I was sure it would be way too contemporary for me. But I felt led to attend nonetheless. The service was indeed very contemporary and not at all liturgical. This was NOT what I was looking for in a church service. At the same time it seemed like such an alive, joyful place that I felt drawn despite my resistance to the style of the worship service. I learned they were having a chili cookoff that Friday, and I thought that sounded like fun, and I wouldn't mind having some free delicious chili! So I went. I made the rounds a few times, sampling the various offerings, when four ladies invited me to join them at their table. For the next hour or so, I experienced more fellowship and friendship from these lovely ladies than I literally ever had at ANY church I had ever been to. This was the missing link at the other churches -- this could be the answer to the isolation and lack of friends I've felt, well, pretty much my whole life. But again, this was NOT the style of church I was looking for. So now what do I do?

Well, I learned that this church had several small groups starting in a few weeks. I thought, why can't I keep going to the Methodist church on Sunday but join one of the small groups from the contemporary church to fill my need for fellowship and friendship? So about 8 weeks ago, I started attending the small group on Tuesday evenings at Mary Ann's house. We have been studying the book, "God Will Make A Way: What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do" by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Mary Ann and Jill, two of the ladies who befriended me at the chili cookoff, are two of the members, in addition to several other wonderful people I'm feeling increasingly close to. It took a leap of faith to begin attending this group through a church that I was sure I had no intention of being part of, but I'm so glad I did. In the meantime I continued attending the Methodist church on Sundays, tried joining the choir, signed up for their monthly brunches, but still the unshakable feeling of not belonging continued. So.......for the past few weeks, I've been attending worship services on Sundays at the very same contemporary church that I felt was everything I was not looking for. I still struggle with the lack of any liturgical elements to the service and the emphasis on praise choruses that, to me, sound like someone made them up as they went along -- and yet, it appears God led me there. I have an appointment with the pastor this Thurs. after work, and hopefully he can help me resolve the reservations I have. Everyone I've met at this church loves God so much and is readily able to extend that love to someone like me who desperately needs to be more like Christ. So I think that's the kind of environment I need to be in, in spite of the service style.

The other new beginning is, after deciding a few weeks before that I was going to give up on the idea of ever losing the excess 50 pounds I've carted around for decades, it seems God has led me to try one more time. I can't even remember now who expressed the thought that changed my mind or if it was just that God put it in my mind. But it went something like, "You're thinking of food all wrong. The purpose of food is not to be a comfort or a stress reducer. The purpose of food is fuel for your body, PERIOD. If it tastes good and is enjoyable to eat, that's a bonus. But that is NOT the main purpose of food." Now, I've known this all along as well as I know my name. But when the thought came to me a few weeks ago, it was like something clicked and the next thought was "TOPS". I had attended weekly TOPS meetings (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) on two other occasions for several months and did make some progress, but quit after only losing 15-17 pounds each time. So I decided, I MUST have the in-person accountability. It's become clear I can't do this on my own. So I'll attend each week and not quit, and will either make steady progress or give up the whole dream once and for all -- but I can't let that be an option. This weight is making me sluggish, causing insomnia, headaches, and major lack of self-esteem, and will shorten my life. It HAS to go, and this is my last hope. The love I've experienced these past couple months from my new Christian friends is empowering me to become what God wants me to be. I started last Monday, getting off to a slow start (still too tired to exercise much), but God willing, in the long run, THIS time will be different.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Lost and Found.....and Another New Beginning

Well, I made it to 2011. Several people I've deeply cared about did not. If I'd posted this last weekend like I planned to, I was going to call it "More Losses". That is true, as on December 20, I was stunned to learn of my biggest loss yet for the year. But since then, I've also made a couple of finds -- and am trying now to look ahead rather than behind.

After learning earlier in the year of the passing of our friend Al, then Rex's friend Dick from Chicago in Sept. (he was 69), and then the loss of our friends Sandi and Mike (see previous post), I prayed, PLEASE, God, no more losses. Yet, I knew there was one person I hadn't heard about for some time and didn't have good news about when I did hear earlier in the year -- my 85-year-old aunt in Chicago, whose home I spent many enjoyable visits at over the years, and who I had not seen since I was last able to visit Chicago in '98. Financial and job issues made it difficult to get back there again. Then I stopped even getting Christmas cards from her a few years ago, so I asked my cousin for periodic updates. The last I'd heard, she didn't even know my cousin (her daughter) any more. So of course, I've been concerned. But I figured that surely, if anything happened, she (or someone in Chicago) would notify me. Well, that notification came in the form of two scribbled lines on a Christmas card received on Dec. 20: "Mom died Nov. 12. It's been hard getting through the holidays".

Of course, when something like this happened, you blame yourself for not doing a better job of staying in touch, yet you also wonder how your relatives 2,000 miles away wouldn't have realized I never stopped caring about my aunt and why they wouldn't have thought to call, send a quick E-mail, a card in the mail -- SOMETHING -- when it happened, not two scribbled lines six weeks after the fact. I couldn't have afforded, or gotten time off work, to go to her funeral, but that's not the point. "Out of sight" does not mean "out of mind". I don't want to write much more about this, since it is still an upsetting situation and not the way I could have imagined things would end between me and someone I literally grew up with. Hopefully one day, I will see my aunt again and she will realize that.

Then the same evening I learned about my aunt, another of our sweet guinea pigs and one of my favorites, Joey, the black longhaired fellow who looked like a mop and was such a cutie, was dead in his cage. So now we are down to five piggies. Thankfully, so far, the other five, and our doggies and chickens, are doing well.

After that, finally, things began to look up a bit for the last 11 days of the year. Since my job is so busy and I haven't gotten much time off (that should finally change a bit after this May, when I should at last be eligible for 3 weeks vaca per year), I looked forward to the day and a half off for Christmas and the day and a half off for New Year's. It's been nice to hang out at home with the pets, do some crocheting and watch holiday programs and movies on the tv. On one of the figure skating specials, a Canadian program (including Kurt Browning, one of my all-time favorite skaters), much of the background music was provided by a country singer named George Canyon (ideal name for a country singer!). I knew I'd heard of him but wasn't sure why, but I was impressed enough by his voice and music (and looks!) that I left the program on the DVR to watch again, and went online to learn more. It was then I realized why I'd heard of him. He finished in 2nd place on the 2004 edition of "Nashville Star" (the former country version of "American Idol"), and I'd voted multiple times for him since I didn't care for the fellow who ended up winning. Why George didn't become a huge star in the U.S. as he did in Canada, I have no idea. Though I don't buy many CDs any more, I bought his current one off eBay, the rationale being that this is the only way I'll get to hear him, since his music is not played in the U.S. (which, again, is a mystery!).

The other highlight of the quiet Christmas weekend, besides giving Rex his present (a Gevalia programmable 12-cup coffee maker, which he seems to like), was that I finally got my "Comfort N'Joy" crochet blog online -- it's at and has been well-received by those who have visited it. I realized a couple years ago, when I had posted my 5th crochet page under my crochet section of my site, The Evergreen Refuge, that most crocheters and other crafters nowadays seem to be showing off and discussing their creations on a blog as opposed to multiple pages on a web site -- and besides, even if people do still visit my site, I don't know that they are going to all five pages (I may reverse the order of those pages so that my more recent items show up first), which is a shame. So -- The Evergreen Refuge Blog (this one) will now be pretty much a narrative of things that are going on with me, whereas the Comfort N'Joy crochet blog will be just that! I hope many people will bookmark it and visit regularly. I'll also eventually post pics of some of my earlier creations on Facebook, so that people who know me on there can see them.

And speaking of Facebook, four days ago came my biggest find of the year -- an even bigger find than NCIS, which has honestly become my all-time favorite TV show (and I thank God that Dianne's mom Margaret told me about it this past summer!). I was looking at my E-mail on my lunch break at work when I came across a Facebook friend request. As soon as I saw the name Ellayne, it was all I could do to not fall out of my chair. The last name had changed, but I knew who it had to be -- a lady who I had originally become penpals with MANY years ago when she was 15 and I was 16 (back in the days of snail mail; no one had heard of E-mail). We exchanged long letters for many years, eventually lost touch, re-established contact after Rex and I moved to Seattle (STILL before the days of E-mail) and lost touch again. I continued to keep many of her old letters all these years, thought of her often and often wished I could find her again. I even looked on Facebook, but didn't have her new last name. But mine was the same (and I had recently added my maiden name to help people find me), so she found me! I was SO thrilled to hear from her -- and I'm going to send her a long message later tonight. I hope we never lose touch again!!

So that was a delightful surprise to end the year. I've had another relaxing long weekend watching several good Bowl games (including the UW Huskies' big win in the Holiday Bowl over Nebraska -- YAY, Huskies!) and finishing some Christmas crocheting (we never did get our tree up, so that gave me something Christmasy to look at). It will be rough to get back to 5-day work weeks for awhile (at least for me; Rex's hours may go down somewhat again for the winter) but we are thankful to have our same jobs in this economy. As for resolutions, I don't really make them but I WILL strive to do a much better job of not letting relatively small annoyances irritate me, to go to bed earlier (by midnight) and be less sleep-deprived, and as for the weight loss thing -- OUCH -- I want it so badly but I just need to want it more than the instant gratification of overeating. We shall see....