Monday, June 27, 2005

Sandy's Spicy (But Not Too Spicy) Chili Recipe!

Today was a beautiful, sunny day, and I spent a large portion of it knitting. I haven't done that in ages. It was a great way to spend the day. (I did clean the kitchen a little, so I deserve a medal.) Marvin was at work, and I was wondering what I should make for dinner. So, I looked in the kitchen cabinets and decided to make chili. It was starting to get cloudy outside and looked like it might rain, so I figured chili would be a good choice.

While I was perusing the kitchen for all the ingredients, my son Noah called from his dad's house and asked me to come get him and drive him to work. So, I grabbed my purse and ran out the door. (He only gave me a few minutes warning.) I got him to work about 5 minutes before he had to clock in, so once again.....where's my medal? :)

On the way back home, I stopped at the grocery store to pick up some sour cream, because Marvin and I love to add a dollop of sour cream to our chili. I also got a loaf of bread. Luckily, I had just enough cash in my purse to pay for both.

When I got home, I took the ground beef out of the freezer and threw it in the microwave to defrost. I then continued my search for chili ingredients in the cabinets. Two cans of kidney beans - check. One can of chopped tomatoes - check. Packet of chili seasoning - Oh no! My ever present stash of chili seasoning packets was depleted. NOW what to do? I had spent all my money buying sour cream and a loaf of bread. I didn't want to raid Marvin's coin jar. Plus, I didn't really feel like going back out to the grocery store after 5:00. The place is a madhouse when people get off work.

So, I came back here to the computer, and frantically searched the internet for a recipe to make chili seasoning. There were lots of good recipes, but I didn't have all the ingredients for any one of them. So, I wrote down different ingredients that I saw, and I went to my spice rack to see what I could scrounge up.

Here's the result of my scrounging and mixing:

Sandy's Spicy (But Not TOO Spicy) Chili Recipe
by Sandy Davis

Make dry seasoning by combining all these ingredients in a small bowl:
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp dry minced onion
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 Tablespoons dry ground mustard
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
Stir together, and set dry ingredients aside.
(Looks like chili seasoning to me!)

Brown 1 pound of ground beef in a dutch oven. Drain off all the oil.
Put back on burner and add dry seasoning that was set aside earlier.
Add 1 cup water and mix well.
Add 1 tablespoon grape jelly
(the "secret ingredient" for every chili recipe on the internet!)
Stir to dissolve grape jelly.
Add 1 can chopped tomatoes
Add 1 can light red kidney beans
Add 1 can dark red kidney beans
Stir to mix ingredients.
Add 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Stir in about 1/2 cup ketchup
Add salt to taste (if desired - I desired, and added quite a bit!)
Stir again, cover and let simmer until it makes the whole house smell wonderful!
(about an hour, I guess)

Serve with chunks of cheddar cheese, tortilla chips or crackers, and sour cream.

If you're like Marvin, be sure to take some Pepsid AC before you eat! lol


Friday, June 24, 2005

Cool Story about My First Spinning Wheel

Let me tell you the story of how I found my very first spinning wheel for a great price.....

I started knitting about 2 years ago, and have been ADDICTED to it ever since. My family and friends never see me without needles and yarn in my hands. Since nice yarn is so expensive, I started wondering if I could possibly learn to spin my own.

I started reading every book I could find on spinning (I found about 10 books at the library and checked them ALL out). I also looked at all the spinning websites on the internet. (Cool stuff there!)

Anyway, back to the story of my spinning wheel....I tried to find a spinning wheel that I could afford for about two months. I watched eBay everyday, scoured the local antique and consignment stores, etc. I didn't think I would ever be able to afford to have a spinning wheel of my own. (I'm a church organist and piano teacher, so I don't have a ton of money.)

One day, I found a wheel at a local consignment store that was selling for $160. Even that seemed like more than I could afford, so I asked the person at the counter if I could buy it for $120. She said, "No, but it will be discounted by 20% if it doesn't sell in 60 days." I asked her when the 60 days would be up, and then I marked my calendar. I went by the store at least once a week to make sure it was still there. I played with the wheel, and learned how to get a good rhythm with the foot pedal.

I didn't really know if it was a good spinning wheel or not. I hungrily read the books I had gotten at the library, searching for information on how spinning wheels work. I kept asking myself, "Is that wheel at the consignment store a good one, or will I make a mistake by buying it?" I pulled up more information on the interet and started dreaming of actually having my own wheel. I pictured myself in a long flowing dress, under a weeping willow tree by a stream....spinning the hours away, while a little happy lamb frolicked nearby. (What a fantasy!)

Each time I went back to the consignment store, I would check the wheel again, adjusting the cord that kept getting knocked off the wheel by children or mindless adults. I caressed the soft wood, and said, "One day, you will be mine!" (lol) I think I've been a little obsessed, don't you?

Finally the day arrived when the 60 days were over, and I hopefully went to the consignment store once more. I kept saying to myself, "It's probably gone now. Somebody else probably bought it yesterday." I tried to resign myself to the fact that I might have to use my drop spindle for a little while longer. I walked in the door, and squinted to see where the wheel has been for the last 60 days. I saw the edge of it, peeking from behind a large chest of drawers! I felt like it was calling to me, "Sandy, are you finally taking me home?"

I carefully controlled my steps through the store, so I wouldn't damage any of the antiques, and finally got to the wheel. Nothing had been damaged, thank God. I looked it over again real good. Since I had read so many books on spinning wheels, I was able to evaluate it a little better now. I realized that it was actually a very good wheel! It was spinning well, and the pedal worked good. It didn't squeak, and it was good and solid. Nothing needed to be tightened or repaired. I decided to go for it.

I walked back up to the counter and asked if I could purchase it for 20% off since it has been there for over 60 days. They said that I could, and I handed them the money. The nice lady at the counter carried it up to the front for me, and then she said, " is a box of stuff that goes with the wheel!"

To my amazement, in the box, there were all sorts of goodies! The owner's manual for the wheel said that it is an "Ashford Traditional Spinning Wheel" (Cool!) There was a nice set of hand carders, and several books on spinning. Along with this, there were about 11 small bags of different fibers for me to practice spinning! My eyebrows flew up and my mouth fell open when I realized the great deal I had just gotten! Get this.....I only paid $130 for all that stuff.


Friday, June 17, 2005

Sandy's Fun and Furry Steering Wheel Cover! Posted by Hello

Furry Steering Wheel Cover

Well, I decided to knit a steering wheel cover for my car with some leftover eyelash yarn. It turned out pretty cool, and I've been getting compliments on it all the time. Since it was such a hit, I decided to gussy up the pattern and print it on nice paper. Then I listed it for auction on eBay. Bingo!

I've sold about 6 of them so far, and I've made over 40 bucks! Cool..... So, I guess I'm a knitting designer now.....with just one design. :P

Here's a link to the eBay auction:

If it has already ended, you can probably find it here in my current auction listings:

I'm all for American ingenuity now. A crazy redhead can make money with just an idea, a tape measure, some yarn, needles, a digital camera, and a computer.

Knit on!

Monday, June 13, 2005

Knitted Items for Sale at Consignment Store Posted by Hello

Starting to Sell Knitted Items

Today is my first day of selling to the general public in a local antiques store. I had noticed the store as I was driving by a couple months ago, and told my husband about it. We decided to check it out, since we are always going to antiques and consignment stores. This one is kind of a combination of both. There are a few antiques here and there, but mostly new items.

We noticed that a few of the bookshelf units were empty, so we inquired about how to rent one. The fee was not that bad, so we decided to give it a try. I spent the last 3 weeks choosing items to sell, and pricing them. That in itself is a huge undertaking. I've also made a list of each item so that I can keep track of our inventory.

I have decided to try selling some knitted items that I make. Hand-knitted items just DON'T sell on eBay. I learned that very quickly. But they sell very well by word of mouth. I've sold several hat and scarf sets to friends of my mother and husband. So, now I'm going to try this venue.

My plan is to sell fuzzy flip flops and kitchen towel sets during the summer, then switch over to scarves and hats in the winter. I'll also be selling other odds and ends from around the house.

I've added a photo at the top of the page that shows a couple shelves of knitted items and knitting supplies from my display. Wish me luck!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

World's Smallest Spinning Wheel Posted by Hello

World's Smallest Spinning Wheel

I was looking for the world's oldest human on the internet, who was, by the way a woman named Jeanne Calment from France, who lived to the ripe old age of 122. Here's a website about her:

I ended up surfing the World Record webpage, and came across the World's Smallest Spinning Wheel!

There is even a video of the wheel in operation! Cool.....

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Tea, One of my Favorite Pastimes

Ok, here goes. I know I'm not a tea expert or anything. But I have been drinking tea for my entire life. I have found many "expert" sites on how tea should be prepared: sugar, no sugar, lemon, milk, steeped for 3 minutes, steeped for 5 minutes, leaves boiled in water then strained, leaves in an infuser, teabags or filter bags, etc. But, I just like to drink it almost any way....except unsweetened - yuck! But, then again, I am a Southerner.

When I was a child, the only tea we ever had was Lipton. My mother would boil a small pot of water on the stove, add 2 family size bags, and let it sit for a while. She would always let me have one of the empty packets, because I loved to hold it up to my nose and smell it. Oh my - it smelled so GOOD! Then, when dinner was almost ready, she would put some sugar in a large pitcher, then add the hot tea and stir it aggressively. When the sugar melted, she would add cold water to fill it up to the brim. My sister and I would help put ice in the glasses, and then we would carry them to the table. We never used lemon slices....we just drank it straight. The pitcher was always empty when dinner was done. DEE-licious!

When I became a teenager, I would try to make it myself. Sometimes it turned out just right, sometimes not. I learned that I needed to let the tea "sit" (brew) until it was just the right shade of brown. My mother never timed it, so it was pure guesswork for me.

When I entered college, I had to leave my mother's tea behind. It was heartbreaking to discover that no one else in the world could make tea as good as my mother. I tried it everywhere, but most people boiled the bags in the water, so it tasted like you were sucking on a tealeaf....bleh!

When I got married, we moved into a small apartment, and I had to set up my first kitchen. Was I nervous! The day we moved in, I had to prepare my very first meal...for 8 people! They had helped us move in our furniture, so it was the least I could do. I made beef stew in our crock pot, and it turned out pretty good. But the hit of the meal was my sweet tea, just like home.

When I had children, I discovered the virtues of hot tea. I bought Lipton regular size bags (the only brand I'd ever had), and boiled water, put it in a cup, and then added one tea bag. I would let it sit just like always, and then took out the bag and added a spoon of sugar. Yum. It was just what I needed to help me relax from working and taking care of my little ones. Some days, my nerves would be frazzled from dealing with them, so the tea was NECESSARY. Hot baths were my other escape. Thank God for bathtubs, fragrant soap and locking doors. Sometimes, I would bring of cup of tea to the bath - that was heaven. Candles and soft music helped too. Man! I need to start doing that again!

Since that time, I have tried several other brands of tea, but I prefer Lipton for making a pitcher of sweet tea.

About 10 years ago, when I was in my 30's, I decided to try the "special" teas I saw in the grocery store. Darjeeling, Chamomile, Earl Grey, Chai. I learned which teas I preferred, and kept a supply of them in the cupboard. Hot tea is still one of my favorite ways to unwind.

Now, I have a "Mrs Tea" teapot (like "Mr Coffee", but it has a pretty ceramic teapot). I found it in a Goodwill store for 5 dollars! (There's a photo at the top of this entry.) I snatched that up right away, and it has never been completely dry since. I think I make tea in that pot at least 3 or 4 times a week. It is a great way to stretch my tea bag purchases, because I can make an entire pot of tea with just 2 regular tea bags! : )

I usually start my mornings with Tazo Awake - a very nice black tea. It is so smooth, and the fragrance soothes my soul. I also love Tazo Earl Grey, Bigelow Peppermint, Stash Christmas Eve, and Stash Christmas Morning. There are others that I like to try, but those are my big time favorites. Sometimes, my day will start with a cup of tea and a granola bar. It makes a perfect breakfast.

Drink on!

Monday, June 06, 2005

My fingers are knitting when they aren't playing music!

I got in a few rows of an afghan square at the church service yesterday morning. I always try to carry my knitting bag with me to church every week. When I'm finished playing the organ, and the preacher is delivering his sermon, I grab my bag and fish out a small project to keep my hands busy. I just can't stand to sit there with nothing to do.

I'm not being a bad girl....really! I mean, I've been a church musician now for 25 years, so I think I've heard PLENTY of good sermons. A lot of topics have been preached on so many times over the years, that I feel like I could get up at the pulpit and deliver the sermon myself. So, instead of sitting there twiddling my thumbs, I put yarn and needles in my hands!

The square I was knitting at church is for an afghan our charity knitting group is working on. I'm making my squares with moss stitch so they will add a little contrast and texture to the afghan. I'm looking forward to seeing that afghan all put together.

Now, I'm itching to complete some of my current projects so that I can make something new. The other day, I had a few minutes to spare, so I stopped at Walmart just to look at the yarn. They had a new eyelash yarn that was SUPER soft! I just had to buy a skein. I'm going to use it for MYSELF this time. I usually always end up selling or giving away everything I knit. I also bought a skein of Lion Brand Chenille Sensations. I've never tried it before.

At first, I was going to use both yarns together to make a scarf for myself. But the chenille was worming loose all through the stitches of course. (I knew that would happen, but wanted to try it and see anyway.) So, I have decided to make two separate scarves with each yarn. They will both be for ME! The colors are beautiful: deep teals, blues, violets, emerald green. I can't wait to see them wrapped around my neck with my red hair and teal eyes. Should be nice!

Friday, June 03, 2005

Selling and Buying on eBay!

I wonder how long it's gonna be raining? I really don't mind, since I'm a home body anyway. I just keep knitting and spinning and working on my needlepoint. I love the sound of rain on the long as it's not leaking through my ceiling. : )

I just got a great package in the mail today from an eBay auction win. Here's the link: It had all kinds of cool stuff! The picture in the auction does not do a very good job of showing the items.

There is a very nice crewel stitchery kit of flying ducks. I can't wait to see that when it's finished! It might take me a year to complete, but it will be worth it, I'm sure. There are also some counted cross stitch Christmas placemats. If I get the initiative, I'll make those for my mom. I hate to do cross-stitch, because my vision has gotten so bad. But, if the pattern is big enough, I'll be able to handle it.

There were also two knitting booklets for making baby afghans and baby outfits. I really need those, because I've recently started doing charity knitting. The other ladies at the group will want to borrow those books! The main thing that was pictured in the auction is a book of Christmas cross-stitch patterns. I don't know if I'll ever use them because of my vision, but I'll either decide to keep it, or sell it on eBay myself - closer to Christmas.

So, as you can see, that auction was a great deal! I paid about $12.00, including shipping. The crewel embroidery kit alone would have cost more than that in a craft store!

I've been lucky listing a few things on eBay. For example: I went to a thrift store the other day and picked up a few needlepoint kits for about a dollar each. I listed them on eBay, and made about 80 dollars! That was a shock! Sometimes, you just get lucky on eBay, you know? There have been other times that I haven't made a dime on a listing.

Once, I was in a bookstore, and came across a bunch of Suss Poncho Knitting Kits that were priced at $30 each. I thought, "Those will never sell in a bookstore". So, about a month later, I went back, and they were all still there at 75% off! So I bought as many of them as I could afford. They each had 8 skeins of cotton yarn, size 9 bamboo knitting needles and G crochet hooks, so they were definitely worth the money. I don't think they were worth $30, but they were reasonable for 75% off.

I'm using the yarn to make towel and dishcloth sets, which I sell at a local antiques store for about $6.00 a set. I'm selling the bamboo needles for $5.00 a set. I listed the patterns for auction on eBay, and they sold for $6.00. So, I've made back the money I put into them, plus some extra!

If you ever want to look for needlepoint kits on eBay, here's a link:

Here's a link for finding spinning supplies:

Here's one for knitting stuff:

I look in those 3 places EVERY DAY! Sometimes, you can find some really great deals. I've been blessed so far.

If you're into other crafts, here's a link to all eBay craft auctions:

My husband is into military stuff, so he always searched eBay along those lines. He should have gone into the Navy, because he lives and breathes military. It was his original plan to be in the Navy, but for some reason he had to change his mind. I think his first wife was pregnant or something. Now, he's 43 and he dreams about what his life would have been. He watches JAG and any other naval show that comes on tv. Whenever I see a naval show on the Discovery Channel or A&E or the National Geographic Channel, I yell, "Marvin, your show is on!" He'll say, "What channel?" We have too many tvs: One in the living room, and one in each bedroom. I mean, we have a small house, and these tvs just take up too much space. :P

I've been tempted to put a tv in the kitchen, but I think I'll try to survive without it. I would like to have a computer in there, though, so I could use recipes from the internet without having to print them out. Our society has changed so much, you know. You don't need a cookbook anymore, or a phone book, or an encyclopedia. You don't need newspapers or magazines either, really. Everything is on the internet.

I mean, I could live in a cabin in the mountains with my spinning wheel for the rest of my life if I wanted. All I'd need is a connection to the internet and a good strong mailman. : )

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Story of My Life

I had a nice time yesterday visiting with two of my sons, Josh and Noah. I was only planning on seeing Josh, since we had scheduled our visit two days ago, but Noah decided he needed to "run some errands", so he came with us for a little while.

Josh is almost 20 now. He's been studying computer science at NC State University. He wants to go to UNCC now so he can be closer to home. I like that plan. He's a good guy. Has his own website. He knows a lot more about computers than I'll ever know. He has lived with his dad now since he was about 12 years old, and his dad was working on computers at that time. So, Josh, being the inquisitive kid he was, had his head down inside every computer to see what his dad was doing. Therefore, Josh knows just about everything about computers....inside and out. I'm proud of him.

My middle son, Noah, is a little more complicated than that. I can't quite figure out what he will turn out to be. He is 17, and absolutely full of himself. He plays guitar and sings really well. But, he just can't seem to fit into normal society. (Sounds like a musician to me!) One day, he'll find his niche. Until then, I'll just keep observing and praying for him. He and I argue all the time, because as I said, he doesn't fit the norm. I just keep expecting him to grow up, but it ain't gonna happen just yet. I am proud of him for one thing. He got a job that's cool.

My youngest son, TJ, lives with his dad and step-mom, and they tend to keep him to themselves. I believe they think I might "contaminate" him or something. Oh well, at least I had some special times with him when he was a baby. I know that they are good to him, so that is an encouragement. I think about him every day, and I pray for his happiness. Sometimes, I'll spend a few hours looking at his pictures and crying over my loss. But, I just want him to have a normal childhood, without any "tossing back and forth" between homes, like Josh and Noah had to endure. I would rather go through emotional pain myself than to inflict any pain on TJ.

Anyway, my kids and my family life are a real mystery to most people. So, I'll try to explain it a little better:

When I was 19, young and naive and stupid, I married the first man who would actually go through with marrying me. I had been asked by quite a few, but they were never serious. I was a beautiful girl, but my self esteem was non-existent. Most guys picked up on that and ran over me like a piece of old carpet. Little did I know that my husband would do the same thing. I was always the "victim", and cried myself to sleep at night. It was a miserable marriage. Somehow, through miracles of God or something, I got pregnant twice while we were married. He always said it was my fault for getting pregnant, and at the time, I cowered and cried. I'm stronger than that now, after years of therapy and growing up, but at the time, the situation was terrible. Needless to say, the marriage did not last.

When Josh and Noah were young, I thoroughly enjoyed mothering them. I would read them stories, sing lullabies, play games, go for walks, go to the park, and take vacations with my parents. I was a single mother, working full time, taking them to daycare, playing organ at church, and hoping beyond hope that I would find another husband. I was deeply depressed, and sometimes shouted at the boys over little things. I was exhausted from working so hard, and we had no money. Once again, my life was miserable.

It was at this time that I realized something was up with Josh. Noah seemed to be developing much quicker, so I thought he was a "super baby". But, in some ways, he was passing Josh. I decided to look into getting some tests done on Josh. As it turned out, Josh was diagnosed as Autistic, with tendencies toward Asperger's Syndrome. At least, now I knew what was going on with him. I did my best to research the disability and help him cope from day to day. The internet didn't exist at that time, so it was not that easy.

I eventually started dating again, but those experiences were not always the best in the world. I dated one guy for 2 years, thinking that he would be a great husband for me. The problem was, he was someone else's husband, and refused to venture past the "separation" stage. They had been separated for 5 years, but didn't file for divorce. Weird. I was so stupid to hang around that situation. At least it came to an end, and I quit torturing myself. Other relationships didn't last as long, but they were not very serious either.

My ex-husband got re-married, and I started seeing that my boys were suffering at school and church because they couldn't commit to anything like the other kids. For example, at church, Noah wanted to be in the Christmas musical, but he couldn't be there for every rehearsal, because he went to his dad's church every other week. That was disappointing to both of us, because he had a great singing voice. Also, at school, they would misplace homework and library books and other things, because they didn't know which house they left them at. It was so frustrating for everyone. Lots of times, I ended up paying the total price of library books, because they ended up lost at their dad's.

Also, during this time, I was still going through deep depression, crying myself to sleep at night. I felt so unworthy, because every guy I dated ended up leaving. My life was a failure. I was a church secretary at this time, and confided in the pastors. They encouraged me, and prayed for me, but I was still so blue. I eventually changed jobs, and started working in a more professional environment. I was making better money, but was paying lots of money for daycare. Believe it or not, I didn't file for child support. I was such a doormat.

Since my depression wouldn't go away, and my life was in shambles, I decided to talk to a psychologist. I went to several different therapists, who always said, "How do you FEEL about that?". I would say, "Well, I feel kinda bad, you know?" They just never really helped. My biggest help came from God. He was always there. I spent hours pouring my heart out to God, and writing in my journal.

I was always crying it seemed, and was starting to think the world would be better off without me. Josh and Noah would just have one home, without any worries of being pulled here and there. I contemplated suicide, but just really couldn't bring myself to go through with it. I discussed this with my therapist at one of our sessions, and he immediately set me up with a psychiatrist who put me on medication. It didn't help much, but at least I was crying a little less. My mouth felt like it was lined with leather, so I was constantly thirsty!

During this time, I received a phone call from my high school sweetheart. He was going through separation from his wife, and was lonely. He wanted to see me. Well, I had already ridden that rollercoaster, so I was rejecting him left and right. There was NO WAY I was going to date a married man again. Well, he persisted, and I finally relented. I agreed to meet him at McDonald's and go to a movie from there. (I didn't want him to know where I lived - I wanted an escape, you know!)

As soon as I saw him, my heart turned to butter. God, he was gorgeous! The skinny guy I dated in high school had grown into a muscled mass covered with beautifully tanned skin, topped with a bearded and mustached smiling face. My heart was flipping over and over, and I just gushed. Needless to say, we ended up spending quite a bit of time together. We had dated for about 2 weeks, using every moment of our available time together. Stupid me.....I ended up in bed with him, pushing aside my beliefs because of my loneliness. Big mistake. I ended up pregnant. (Am I a descendent of a rabbit or something?)

Well, we decided to try to make a go of it. I moved into his house and told everyone that we were getting married. I quit my church job, because I felt like such a hypocrite. My ex-husband caused quite a stir, threatening to take the kids and move to Florida. (He's always so supportive, you know.) But, I was holding onto this dream with everything in my being. I wanted a husband, and I wanted this guy to be it. The problem was...once again....he was someone else's husband. And he hadn't even filed for a divorce. Bummer.

Well, this situation was bound to end in catastrophe, and it did. He decided that he didn't want to get married. I lost my job at work, because they were making cuts. I had to keep paying for my insurance through Cobra, which by the way, is very expensive. Since I needed money, I filed for unemployment. I was pregnant, depressed, and was crying myself to sleep again. (I had to quit taking my depression medication because of the pregnancy, of course.) Things were looking pretty bleak. I was still living with "loser guy" because I had nowhere else to go, and I felt like it was his job to take care of me since I was pregnant with his child.

When TJ was born, I was filled with joy. He was such a sweet, beautiful baby, and I mothered him well. I nursed him every day, and watched him grow from just my mother's milk. It was very rewarding. I had found a job as a secretary, and I was pumping milk every day during lunch. I was still hoping that TJ's dad would marry me (I know....stupid!), but it didn't work out. He was too busy trying to find another girlfriend. I got really mad at him when I found a letter from a girl he had visited without my knowledge, and I moved out of his house.

So, here I was, a single mother with three boys now, living at my mom's house without a good job. She was helpful, but constantly criticizing me. She kept saying, "Why can't you keep a man, Sandy?" I just cowered and cried. One day, on the way home from daycare, I wrecked my car - totalled. Man, my life was getting worse by the minute. One good thing did happen, though. I finally started going back to church. I prayed to God, asking Him to forgive me for turning away from Him....and He accepted me, of course. He always has and always will love me....even when I'm a complete idiot.

I got involved at a very large church, and ended up being the interim organist for about 6 months. It was so exciting....the services were all recorded for television, and I felt like life was finally getting better for me. The singles group was so much fun. I made lots of friends, and got back into bible study. It was the best thing I could have done. I found a much better job, bought a new car, and found a house to purchase! God was rewarding me for coming back to Him. Things were looking up. : )

It was at this time that I looked at my life, and realized that it would be better for Josh and Noah to have just one home. I felt sorry for them being pulled back and forth all the time between the two homes. I cried and prayed over it for about 2 years, and eventually told their dad that they could live with him. It was heart-breaking, but I knew I was doing the right thing for them. I would still be able to see them, because he lived just down the road. So, it wasn't that bad.

Also, during those years, TJ's dad grew up. He got divorced, and started dating a really nice girl. They got married, and TJ enjoyed visiting with them and her son from a previous marriage. They were involved in a local church, and TJ's dad was becoming a good Christian man. We were doing the "back and forth" thing, and it was just as hard as it had been with Josh and Noah, but TJ was still very young. The same time I chose for Josh and Noah to live with their dad, I also decided it would be best for TJ to have one home as well. It was a good decision. TJ's stepmom was very good to him, and his dad worshipped the ground he walked on.

Needless to say, I was still lonely. It seemed like everyone else in the world could find a partner but me. I had dated some guys, but nothing ever worked out. I did have a really good therapist, though. Thank God for that. I finally found someone who gave me advice and "exercises" to do. All of my demons were purged, and I was becoming a much more confident person. I ended up joining Together dating service, and dated some nice men that way. Eventually, I put a personal ad on Yahoo, and met my sweet husband, Marvin. That's another story, because Marvin is the love of my life. I'll tell that story later.

Somehow, through the ups and downs of my life, I have maintained my faith in God. It wasn't His fault that I chose to do such stupid things. The bad parts of my life were always in response to my turning away from Him. Whenever I repented and poured my heart out to the Lord, He rewarded me with prosperity.

Some people might judge me and say that it's not prosperous to lose your kids. But, I see things from a different eternal view. I know that God watches over my children every day. I pray for them, and I still love them just as much as I did when they were placed on my belly on the delivery table.

Josh is almost 20 now, and his Asperger's syndrome has made life a little difficult, but he is still successful. Noah, at 17, is going through teenage rebellion, but I know he will grow up to be a good guy someday. TJ is almost 11, and is doing well in school. He seems to be a happy kid.

My boys are sometimes mad at me for not spending enough time with them, but I try to hold back and let them have a normal life with one family. One family has enough troubles of it's own. I sometimes bring them over to the house and we spend a little time together. It's hard to find things to do together now that they are older. They don't want to play games anymore, and they don't want to take walks. They don't want to go to the park and feed the ducks. They make fun of me for knitting and spinning. But, at least we're talking.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Musings on my Childhood, and Loving Piano Lessons

It's raining's been raining all day actually. Marvin is snoring in bed, and I am, once again, not able to sleep a wink. So strange how I can't sleep anymore. If you're a night owl like me, then you know how quiet the world can be at night. I just love it. Sometimes, I'll go outside and look at the moon and stars and think about how amazing the sky appears. I used to want to be an astronomer....counting the stars and watching for UFOs....and then I found out that you have to go to college for at least 12 years for that. So, I decided to stick with music. : )

So, instead of counting stars, I try to enlighten people with my piano playing. You know, being a musician is a very enjoyable job. I'm doing what I love, and I get paid for it. When I was a little girl, I begged my mother to let me take piano lessons.....and dance lessons, and singing lessons, and acting lessons. So I guess she didn't take me seriously. I mean, we lived in a small house at the end of a LONG dirt road, and we were kind of cut off from society. So, I guess that colored our family's view of the world.

Back then, the internet didn't exist, and our television only received 4 channels. NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS. Our big highlight on TV each year was "The Wizard of Oz". I must admit that the witch scared the bejesus out of me every time. I usually hid behind the recliner during those scenes. My step-dad loved to watch Hee-Haw, so he could stare at the pretty girls. We would all watch it together and laugh at all the predictable jokes. Hey, at least we were bonding.

During the 70's, we watched all the Sunday Night Mystery shows like Columbo, McCloud, McMillan and Wife. I still love Columbo to this day, and have purchased the DVD sets for Season One and Season Two. It's so nice to watch it without any commercials, and it makes great viewing on my knitting and spinning nights. I just wish I could get a signed photo of Peter Falk. I have an 8x10 glossy that I bought on eBay, but I haven't got the nerve to ask him for an autograph. I should just go for it, I know. I'm just being silly.

Back to my story about begging for piano lessons from my mom.....

When I was little, my mother always said "NO" to any request for lessons. I used to watch the lady at church on the organ and just be amazed. I would glance over at the pianist and dream of being able to play. My grandmother had a piano at her house, so when we went to visit, I would sit at the piano and play the keys. I used to stretch my arms out as far as they would go so that I could play the first and last keys on the keyboard. Then I would "walk" my fingers in on each key until they met in the middle. Sometimes, I would pretend that my right hand was an angel coming down from the heights of heaven, and my left hand was a demon coming up from the depths of hell. When they met in the middle, they would have a fantastic battle!

Sometimes, I would pick out a tune, like "Happy Birthday" or the melody from "The Entertainer". I just kept wishing and wishing that I could take piano lessons. My favorite class in school was music. Our music teacher would gather students from several different classrooms and we would sing or play with percussion instruments or xylophones. I was in my element. The music teacher's name was Rebecca Kay. She was so sweet, and she could play the piano so well! One day in music class, I went up to her and handed her a sheet of paper. On the sheet, I had written the words to a song I had made up. She asked me to sing it for her.

"Spring is here. The bells will ring. And when we're out, the birds will sing.
They'll sing, they'll sing....they'll ring, they'll ring.....the whole day through when it is spring."

It was a silly little song. Believe it or not, I had written 3 verses. Mrs. Kay was so proud of me. She had me sing it for the class, and told me that she would write a piano accompaniment for it that night. I was so excited! The next day, when I walked into school, my song was posted on a bulletin board at the entrance of the school. Mrs. Kay had written it up real nice and had decorated the board with music notes and clefs. I couldn't believe it! I was so proud!

I was even more excited when she offered an even greater honor to me. Every year, each grade would have an assembly at the end of the school year, recognizing gifted students. (The school had grades 1 through 8 at that time) She asked me to sing my song for EVERY assembly! She was an angel sent from heaven to me. I couldn't believe I was going to get to perform for the whole school! She practiced with me, and I was so pleased to hear the piano accompaniment.

The assemblies all went by like a dream to me. Performing music was in my soul. Mrs. Kay wrote a letter to my mother that said, "Get this girl some piano lessons!" I was in the 3rd grade by then, and my requests had been falling on deaf ears for 4 years. But, my mother was no longer deaf when she read the letter from the music teacher. She was proud of my song, and she started calling all her friends on the gossip chain about it. (That's how she is.....she's a TALKER!) So, eventually by talking to every person in Union County, she discovered the name and phone number of a nice piano teacher.

I finally got to take piano lessons! I was ecstatic!

It was kind of funny how I started lessons. My mother wasn't willing to buy a piano, because "it would be a waste of money". So, my first lessons were practiced on a CHORD ORGAN. You remember those? A little tiny keyboard with about 12 or 14 notes, with some buttons that you pushed to play chords on the left. At least, I could find a C, D, E, F, G on there. I devoured my piano book. I was mastering each song without a problem at all. My piano teacher told my mother "Get this girl a piano!", because I didn't have enough keys on the chord organ to practice anymore. Thank God for my piano teacher, Catherine Ritch.

My mother searched the classified ads, and called about the pianos that were in her price range. Then, she and my piano teacher agreed to go together to look at some of them. I went along, of course. I wanted to be involved in the choosing! We ended up buying a lovely brown studio piano with the name "Westbrook" emblazoned above middle C. It had been well taken care of, and it cost $400.

When we got the piano home, I immediately put all my piano books on the music stand and played every song. It felt SO GOOD to have a real piano of my very own. I played constantly, driving my entire family crazy. The piano was in the living room...the same room as the TV. So, they always made me stop playing when they wanted to watch anything. Sometimes, I would stay on the bench, and play VERY SOFTLY until they didn't care anymore, and gradually my volume would get louder and louder. My stepdad would end up yelling, "Quit banging that thing!" But, I just couldn't stay away from the piano.

During the summer months when school was out, I played and played. When my mother was leaving for work in the morning, she would wake me up and give me breakfast. As soon as she left, I went to the piano. When she came home from work, I'd still be playing. She would come into the living room and say, "Have you been playing piano all day, Sandy?" I would nod.

Music books were my passion. Whenever I went for lessons, I would look through my piano teachers files and ask for new books. She would choose things that were appropriate for my level, and I would learn them immediately. Catherine was such an encouraging piano teacher. She gave me tons of recognition at each recital. "Most Practiced Student" "Best Student" I had such nice awards sitting on my piano at home.

Some of my favorite pieces were in a large book titled "Sensational Seventy for the 70's". Carole King, James Taylor, Elton John, Bread, The Beatles, you name it. If it was on the radio in the 70's, it was in that book. I would play and sing my heart out. I still use some of those pieces today when I perform.

And I still have that same piano in my living room. It's in my house now, of course. That poor piano has been moved so many times. A piano leg was broken during one move, and during another, one of the bench legs was pulled loose. The broken legs were repaired with clamps, screws, and metal bars. It's not as pretty as it once was, but it still sounds great.

I don't practice as much as I did when I was young. I don't think my hands and wrists could stand the constant motion anymore. I actually prefer to practice on the grand piano or organ at my church anyway. The instruments are much nicer, and they sound heavenly in the sanctuary. Sometimes, when I'm practicing on the organ at church, I'll hold the last chord of a loud piece and look up at the huge stained glass window behind the choir loft. I feel so close to God during those times.

I just thank God for giving me that silly little song in the 3rd grade. If I hadn't written that song, and if Mrs. Kay hadn't convinced my mother to let me take piano lessons, I would still be dreaming of being a pianist.

My ridiculous health condition

I tell ya. My crazy Tuesday absolutely obliterated every ounce of energy left in my little frame. (Yes, I have small bones....that's why it's so hard for me to carry around all this body!) When I first woke up this morning, I made myself get out of bed so that I could go to my charity knitting group. I really enjoy being there, even though I usually am in bed at that time of day. I'm a night owl, and I stay up knitting until 2 or 3 in the I usually wake up at about 11 or 12. The charity knitting group meets at 9 in the morning! Gah!

So, I made myself get up and stretch my sore muscles. I'm always aching, it seems. My left knee bothers me constantly, almost like a toothache. Actually, my entire left side bothers me. My left hip feels like it has been twisted out of joint, and my left foot never seems to fall on the floor right when I'm walking. I think the rest of my left side compensates for this by "drawing up" or something. I must have damaged my spine during childbirth, because it's been hurting like this since my middle son was born 17 years ago. And my weight gain started then too. I used to be a trim, beautiful girl, weighing about 120. Those were the days. I had so much energy then!

But, ever since I delivered my middle son, my weight has gradually increased. I used to go for walks all the time, and really enjoyed it! But, now the pain has gotten to the point that walking hurts too much. I try to do workout videos sometimes, but the pain just always gets in the way. I guess I should try a chiropractor or something. Maybe I have a slipped disc? or a pinched nerve?

I mentioned my pain to my doctor, and she did lots of tests. They found out that I have a thyroid disorder called hypothyroidism, which means that I don't have enough thyroid. :P So, I take Synthroid for that. But....silly me.....I still haven't gone back to have my thyroid level checked. So, I might not be taking the right dosage. I just need to make myself go back to the doctor again.

My doctor also said that I am ANA positive, which means I could possibly have Lupus. Bummer! She sent me to an arthritis doctor, so that he could determine if I have lupus. My experience at that doctor's office was AWFUL! I was anxious already, you know, since I was afraid that I might have some really bad health condition. So, there I was....nervous and waiting. I was kind of looking forward to getting some answers, though.

I filled out all their questionnaires, and waited for my appointment. When my name was called, I winced as I lifted myself from my chair, and then hobbled over to the nurse. She wisked off down the hall, and expected me to just take off after her. I followed as best I could, and then finally caught up with her as she was impatiently waiting at the examination room. As I went into the room, she said, "You look like you don't feel too good." Hmm...I wonder why I came to the doctor?

Well, this lady had a motive it make me feel absolutely worthless. She said with a very nasty voice, "You know you wouldn't feel so bad if you lost that weight!" - she paused - "I'm just saying it like it is. The doctor will say the same thing." I just looked at her and said, "Listen, you can't talk to me like that. I didn't come here to be belittled and criticized. If I wanted that, I would call my mother!" She just kept up her tirade, without once glancing at my chart. I was quite insulted, and my feelings were hurt, so I said, "Quit being so mean to me! I can't believe you're talking to me this way!" She tried to make things all better by trying to give me a hug. I immediately bristled and waited out her hug while rolling my eyes to the ceiling. I mean, who does she think she is, treating me like this?

When the doctor came in, I was drying my tears. He said, "Do you cry often like this?" I said, "No, your nurse was very rude to me. She hurt my feelings." He then commenced to interrogate me about my mental health, asking things like, "Have you ever seen a therapist about your depression? You show classic signs of needing medication." I was so shocked to see the conversation turning this way. I wanted to say, "My mental condition has nothing to do with the way your nurse just treated me!" Instead, I said, "Listen, I came here about my arthritis....not about any MENTAL condition."

He then continued asking about my mental history, and was taking lots of notes. I grudgingly answered his questions, and then asked, "What about my arthritis? Do I have lupus?" He then FINALLY looked at my chart and started asking me his usual spill of arthritis questions. He didn't pay much attention to my answers, either, which really ticked me off. What happened to the furious notetaking he was doing when we were talking about my mental condition? He hardly wrote a thing now, and flew through the questions too fast for me to properly respond.

Apparently, he was finished talking to me, so he rose from his seat and showed me about 3 exercises to do for my arthritis. He said that they would do some x-rays and other tests. He then said, "You really need to lose weight to help your condition." I just looked at him and said, "Yes, I know that. Do you realize that I have a thyroid disorder?" He looked at my chart and said, "Oh yes. you do, don't you? Well, maybe that has something to do with your weight problem." Exactly. Finally someone had brains enough to look at the responses I filled in during the 1 hour questionnaire process in the waiting room.

He handed me a prescription for depression medication, then told me to go down the hall for my tests. After he left, I promptly tore up the depression prescription and just shook my head. I went down the hall and did all the x-rays and tests they requested, then I high-tailed it out of there. What a jerk! I was so mad, I was shaking.

I called my husband and told him all about my experience. He told me that I should call my primary care physician and let her know how they treated I did. She was so nice and listened to my whole story. I asked her if she could recommend a different doctor to me, and she said that she would.

About a week later, I called the arthritis doctor's office to see if I could get the results of my tests, since they never called me to report them. They said, "You need to come in for another appointment to talk to the doctor. The doctor will go over your tests with you then." Well, I refuse to be in the same building with that doctor or his assistant again, so I said, "I refuse to be in the same building with that doctor or his assistant again." She said, "Maybe another doctor here can help you." I said that I was treated very badly by the doctor I saw, and if that's the way they do business, I don't want to go there anymore. I asked her if someone could please discuss my test results over the phone. I also recommended that they contact my primary care physician to discuss the results with her.

Well, they never called me back, and they never told my primary doctor anything either. But I DID get a bill in the mail for the remaining balance on my x-rays and tests. Well, I refuse to pay that bill until they tell me my results.

So, now I'm in a Catch 22 situation, I guess. I have xrays that I can't see, and tests that I don't know the results of. I still have the same problem I started with, and I'm nervous about going to a different doctor. What if the same thing happens again? I just don't know which way to go.

Oh well, at least I can get my thyroid level checked by a nice doctor. I think I'll try to do that one day this week. I'll eventually find another arthritis doctor who knows how to treat patients. But right now, I'm just too shell-shocked.