Christmas Letter 2014

Happy Boxing Day (2nd Day of Christmas) and may all be well with you and yours!


I’m learning to live as a Human Be-ing and not so much a Human Do-ing . . . enjoying a “broad margin to my life” as stated by Thoreau. I’ve taken to calling the little pond near my house Walden Pond. I can see it well in winter because the leaves are gone, one of nature’s little trade-offs. Today it’s sparkling in the sunshine. A Y friend and I agreed that our doing less now is partly because home is so very comfortable. I cook more, using the veggies from my Terripin Farms CSA. I had a great Christmas Eve with storytelling friends. enjoying raclette while telling stories and laughing and generally having fun . . . and reading Green Eggs and Ham in Latin — who knew?

My comfortable little eco-home is a bit less quiet, as builders work to “complete the subdivision.” We knew it had to come, and it has brought some very nice new neighbors, but the wildlife will miss the empty lots. There is still common ground, what a friend called “decorative woods” (I hope it’s enough), and the process of building homes is quite fascinating to watch . . . our own Bob the Builder!  Their piles of left-over wood remind me of the scrap wood blocks my dad made and this story


A dozen or so favorite authors keep me happy by writing books I love. Students used to ask, “Is every author your favorite?” Here are just a few recent loves: Elaine Viets, Susan McBride, Louise Penney, Laurie King, *Hank Phillippi Ryan, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Margaret Maron, Nancy Martin, Brandon Mull . . . Edith Maxwell writes mysteries set on an organic farm much like this one

My wonderful library keeps me supplied with books and DVDs (all sorts of favorite shows from PBS, plus old favorites like Twilight Zone and Quantum Leap). Readers and Stitchers, book groups, and our monthly Second Monday Story Swap are all fun. I still knit apple baby hats for friends, and am currently making socks for myself with yarn from a shop called Hanks. I have to take more breaks to massage my “angry” thumbs, but it’s not a race.IMG_0114

Gateway Storytellers meets every other month, and I am in the process of handing over the newsletter responsibility to new officers in January. I’ve been doing it forever, and there should be more than one person able to carry on a task. Our Riverwinds friends meet in Illinois, and the Festival will continue, first weekend in May as it has for 30+ years.

The body requires maintenance to stay mobile. I teach tai chi twice a week, because Charlotte couldn’t keep doing it, and was very good about teaching me enough to be able to step up. I’ll be giving a short class at the New Year’s Day open house (free t-shirts and snacks for attendees). I don’t teach aqua aerobics anymore (a new rule about having to retrieve a ring from the bottom of the 5’ water which I couldn’t do), but I attend. Going over in a bit to do the old routine, which I’ve missed, with whoever shows up (no one, so I did it by myself; maybe more will be there Monday). There are no classes right now . . . doing our own thing is a good break in routine.

I used to mail holiday letters (closer to New Year’s because teaching was so all-consuming), then switched to mostly email, with only two friends needing paper copies. I’ve been neglecting email lately and do most of my (over?)sharing on “social media,”
sporadically on this blog
and daily on Facebook plus a few videos
My videos on YouTube   one more video here

Lovely surprises: warm enough weather for a sunset walk. Then when I went out to open/close the mailbox so the paint wouldn’t stick it shut, I saw a beautiful moon! Also, in addition to finding the little auto-parts bird in the “Room of Requirement,” I also found my official Certificate of Credibility, issued after a student, denied some concession, told me that was “why you have no credibility with your students.” Colleagues, including Cindy Menkhus, Sherri Pogue, Donna Wallace, signed it, and then most of that class asked to also sign — take that, ornery student! Fun times remembered . .


Wishing you all the best in the coming year!


On the Third Day of Christmas, I just read in Deborah Crombie’s _A Share in Death_ “. . . your life isn’t trivial or inconsequential. If the things that matter to us every day weren’t important, no one’s death . . . would be much loss.” Good reminder to savor the ordinary!

Back from the library, having put the rest of my planned errands on the mañana list AKA “not today.” Rainy and a bit dreary I could handle, but the tires slipped a bit on the road and as Dad always said, “Watch out for those other drivers.” When Stephen Michael Hahn was small, the Parents as First Teachers visitor asked what one does on rainy days, with expected answer being wearing raincoats, boots, etc. He said, “Stay home.” She wasn’t allowed to give credit for that answer; I’m saying now he should have gotten extra credit (I’ve been called the Queen of Extra Credit), and that answer should have been added as the best possible answer. Think of how many problems would be prevented if people stayed home in treacherous weather . . . . Y’all stay safe! ❤
Post Office was on my list . . . postponed by rain. I mailed Christmas letters with Harry Potter stamps. Still don’t know what happened to the stamp order I posted two weeks ago.

P.P.S. (part of my response to a friend’s email)


I’ll put in a photo of the little bird.  It was a gift from a worker when I went to a junkyard in search of a window handle for my Pinto, rather clever work.  I had lost it in the move, half-thought I might have given it away, but I went through a bag of things in the spare bedroom (Room of Requirement is a Harry Potter reference), the same bag in which I found lost photos.

Angry thumbs might be arthritis, possibly related to the sarcoidosis, or just years of use.  My chiro says a majority of post-menopausal women have thumb issues.  As with all such problems, the key is to keep using them, but respecting the limits.  My aunt’s doctor told her to keep doing crochet so her hands wouldn’t stiffen — she made doll clothes, easier to hold and quicker to complete.  I’m making baby hats and socks for myself, though there is one sweater I should finish.

I can relate to the fear of getting lost, no sense of direction at all.  Perhaps walking a short route or taking a friend . . . Dr. Paul Lam’s tai chi DVDs are pretty easy to do.   One can also work short stretch/movement breaks into the activities of the day, and it does warm one up, too.  Hardest for me is to try to remember to do occasional stair climbing . . . the second floor condo made that automatic, but now if I want to be able to climb when I need to, I have to consciously do some stairs sometimes, down to the basement, or at the Y.  Stairs also help me relieve some of the lower back stiffness.

Knitting, Crocheting, Sewing

Knitting, Crocheting, Sewing — “Lost” Arts Found Again

“My” McClay Library* has a Readers and Stitchers group that meets monthly, and my sister has Stitch-In twice a month at her library.  For a few years it seemed that needlework would become a lost art, and then there was a resurgence, thank goodness!


Grandma made beautiful lace on handkerchiefs and pillow cases, and clever little crocheted pouches to hold our milk money for school.  She taught all of her grand-daughters to crochet, but I was left-handed, a “puzzlement” until she happened upon a book with left-handed directions.  “You’re good with books,” she said, “so this will help.”  I realized much later that she could have taught me knee-to-knee instead of side by side, but the book did help.

Mary and Mother, Verna004

A Junior Achievement friend taught me to knit in high school, and I found that knitting in class helped me relax and focus.  A few of my teachers didn’t like it, but in a rare act of rebellion, I persisted.  Knitting during political meetings in college earned me the soubriquet of “Madame Defarge.”   I’ve also taught others, because even with so many books and other conveyances of knowledge, the best way to learn is to have someone show you one-to-one. I’ve knitted many sweaters, some with storybook themes, and many, many baby hats, gifts to those I’ve met along the way.

Hats for baby Emily. blueberry2 Peterson026


And water bottle holders are very handy . . .





When Mom was sick, I knitted sweaters for her grandchildren’s stuffed bears.  These were the perfect small and quick projects, on which we could consult and plan colors and patterns when she felt up to it.  Stephen didn’t like that his bear’s sweater was sleeveless, so I knitted two sleeves and called for him to come over (Mom was home by then) with bear and sweater.  With very little assistance, he sewed the sleeves on himself with the precision of a master craftsperson.  It runs in the family . . .



Mom crocheted and sewed with great talent.  She sewed most of our clothes, better quality, better fit, and less expensive than any that could have been purchased.  I loved picking out pattern and fabric and having Mom create something just for me.  I only mastered basics, but when I first developed an allergy to latex, Mom, who wasn’t sewing much then, advised me as I made non-latex garments.  It felt very like “Little House on the Prairie” . . . “and then Mary spent the afternoon sewing undergarments.”  I managed a perfectly presentable swimsuit, too, but I was glad when Decent Exposures began making latex-free clothing.

I rather wish I had some of the clothes Mom made me . . . but I “wore them and wore them until I wore them out.”

Reference “The Thrifty Tailor”

Kate Dudding’s variation on that story with knitting pattern


* McClay also hosts our Story Swap 6:30 pm on the second Monday of the month, just a few days from now 😉