December 2009

Today Beth and I went to the Lowes in Tilton and bought four dozen rolls of R13 insulation. I paid for it today (meaning we can take advantage of the tax credit this year), but they won’t deliver it until Monday. Va looked into the tax credit thing, and for every buck you spend insulating, Unka Sam pays 30 cents. That covered the delivery charge by a factor of two.

Now I need to get my butt in gear and use up the stuff that’s already in the attic so I have a place to put the 48 new rolls.

It was snowing when we left the house. While we were in Lowes, a full inch accumulated on the back windshield of my car. All told we got three inches. It stopped sometime in the afternoon, and I cleared the driveway at about 4:00pm with my brand-spankin’-new snowblower.

In a little bit we’ll head over to the church for a New Years party. But we need to eat some supper first. Jonathan is making burritos, and as soon as those are ready, we’ll chow down. Va’s going to stay home and work on a secret project that she was supposed to have finished a mailed off a couple of weeks ago. I’d give more details, but… it’s secret? Maybe?

If you were able to prevent someone from experiencing recurring acute pain, would you do it? What if this pain, if not prevented, caused the person who suffered from it to be a danger not only to himself, but to society as a whole? What if the cost to you were that it would alter your appearance in a way that you could easily conceal. And what if it would have no other adverse effects on you or anyone else? And what if the pain were not only severe, but was being experienced by someone you love? And what if by preventing this pain you ended up saving both time and money? Well?

Most people would answer “yes” to this without a second thought. It’s a no-brainer. But not to my lovely bride. I can hardly believe it myself!

Allow me to elaborate:

Every now and then I wake up with a very sore neck. The soreness is not only severe, it persists for days. That is the pain of which I speak. The danger to me and to society is that when I drive my car, it hurts so much to turn my head, that I can only barely check the rearview mirrors when I change lanes, or look both ways for oncoming traffic or pedestrians when I pull onto a busy road. Oh, I most certainly do check, even though it causes stabbing jolts to radiate through every fiber of my being, emanating from my neck. But I’m willing to do that so that I am not a danger to myself or to others around me. Think of the many children I have not thoughtlessly crippled by blindly barrelling into them in my bid to minimize my own personal suffering. Most people would characterize this as “a very unselfish act.” Indeed, the work of Mother Teresa pales in comparison. Were I not so humble, I would nominate myself for the Nobel Peace Prize.

I think that this neck condition is caused from mistakes I make in my sleep. And aren’t those the hardest kind of mistakes to avoid? Well, maybe they are, and maybe they aren’t. My theory is that the mistake I make in my sleep is indeed avoidable. When it gets cold at night, I snuggle up to my wife and she warms me right up. Except that if I snuggle my face up to the back of her head, her hair tends to tickle my nose. So I compensate by craning my neck to get my face away from her head. If I have the misfortune to drift off to sleep with my neck thusly craned, I wake up with this excruciating pain.

Then I hit upon the solution. In retrospect, the solution was so obvious that I was surprised I didn’t think of it years ago. It is so simple! My wife should shave her head.

If only she would shave her head, I wouldn’t have to crane my neck away to keep her hair out of my nose. I could snuggle up oh-so-close and wake up pain-free. But even though she claims to love me, she flatly refuses!

Yes, it would alter her appearance, but she could easily conceal that with a wig. The cost of this wig would be quickly mitigated by the savings we would reap from reduced expenditures in shampoo department. Once the wig were paid for, the savings would continue, so we’d save tons of money if only she would do this one, simple thing. She would no longer have to spend precious time every morning taming her locks, as they would be stowed safely on the dresser as she slept snugly next to yours truly. But no. She is restrained by her own vanity.

Has the spark gone from our marriage?

Tonight is cold and quiet. And windy. It’s 3°F outside (much warmer inside!) and the wind has been whipping all day. I stopped at Pizza Hut before coming home. We ate, and then I let Beth use my computer while I did a little more knitting. The scarf is over two feet long now.

Then I went up to the attic and did a little more casual insulating. Perhaps I was inspired by the weather. I didn’t do too much – just put some up on the north wall, all the way to the window (which is in the center of the room), and the space above it. Then Beth asked me to help her with her piano practice. Of course there was nothing I could do but advise her to keep practicing. And she did.

Then she took a bath and I put her to bed. We finished Book III of the Lord of the Rings (that is, the first part of the Two Towers). Tomorrow we will pick up with the adventures of Frodo and Sam.

This morning I dropped off the grant application at Sam’s Club. We’ll see what happens. We asked for money for playground equipment for the school, as that seems to fit the bill for what they’re looking to fund. I just didn’t think they’d give us money for our Latin America trip.

Snowing in Concord

Snowing in Concord

Yesterday I was wishing it would snow again since the rain made bare spots in the lawn. Today I got my wish. I was sitting at my desk with my back to the window oblivious to the weather. Then I turned around and this is what I saw. Snowflakes as big as basketballs. Well, maybe golf balls. They were big for snowflakes anyhow. I guess we got two inches.

When I got home the first thing I did was clear the driveway with my new snowblower. I am pleased to report that I didn’t even break a sweat as I did this. With the old snowblower, I would most definitely break a sweat every time. Maybe I shoulda kept it around though, because I really don’t get all that much exercise.

Once the driveway was cleared Beth and I trudged our way across the road to our neighbors and brought them the last fruit basket. I would have brought it to them on Christmas Day, but I saw them leave just before noon, and they were gone for a long time. Go figger!

I slept late again today, and that’s going to bite me tomorrow when I have to get up and go to work. I guess I shouldn’t complain about having to go to work though, as there are plenty of people who wish they had that problem.

It was raining when I woke up, and I guess it continued with that through most of the day. We still have some snow in the yard though. I hope we get some more snow again soon though, because I don’t like having bare spots in the yard. It’s just not as pretty! I did take a look at the roof of my house again. There was still snow up there above where I insulated, but plenty of bare roof where I haven’t yet. So that is clearly having the desired effect. There were no ice dams on either side, but I expect there would be on the back side if conditions were just right.

I did a little more knitting, and then Va, Beth, and I headed into Concord. First we ran a few errands, ate lunch at Olive Garden, and then we went to the church. I loaded all our unsold fruit into the trunk of the car. It came to about eleven or twelve cases. Beth and I drove that over to Friendly’s Kitchen which is a place where homeless (and not homeless) people can get two meals per day. They were delighted to see a dozen cases of citrus, and the lady helped me load them into their walk-in fridge. Even though we had that much fruit left over, we still managed to turn a profit on the fruit this month, so I do not at all regret buying as much as I did. In fact, I think I should always order an extra four cases for them. They do important work.

After that we ran a few more errands. Va had intended to get a Raggedy Andy for Beth for Christmas, but it somehow had fallen off the list. We found one at Toy-R-Us. Then we stopped at Target and I found a flashlight designed to clip onto the brim of a cap. Well, I don’t wear a cap, but I do wear a hat with a brim. I had even thought about trying to outfit it with LED’s and a battery at one point, because the standard headband lights just don’t work well with my hat. But there is no need to do that now. I tried it out when I got home and was mighty pleased.

When we got home, Beth was asking me to teach her how to knit. For that, she’s going to need her own needles, since I am in the middle of knitting that scarf (it’s about 18 inches long now), and it looks like it’ll be a couple of weeks before that’s done. Meanwhile, I had been eyeing some yarn Va bought five years ago or so so she could use it to make “hair” for a prop. It’s some super bulky yarn, and in my reading on the subject, I found that super bulky is great when you want to knit something fast, such as… a scarf. For that you need bigger needles though (as in more diameter). And what is the essence of a knitting needle anyhow? It’s pretty much a smooth, pointy stick. I figured I had some dowels in the basement that might be pressed into service, so I went down there and found some half inchers. Then I whittled points on them and smoothed the points with a block plane. Then I showed Beth how to knit a scarf. We’re using the garter stitch on hers so she won’t have the “tendency to curl” problem that mine will be cursed with. It worked pretty OK, except that I left out the “smooth” characteristic. The wood was catching yarn fibers. As soon as we finished a row though, I took the free one back to the basement and sanded it down. Then she knit another row and I gave the other one the same treatment. They’re working pretty well now, and her scarf is already five inches long. If she can keep her interest in it, she’ll have a scarf in no time.

In other news, I found another software package to serve as our school library’s card catalog: OpenBiblio. It’s a LOT simpler than Koha, and I had it installed and configured (for testing purposes) on my laptop in under five minutes. It took a little longer on the production machine, and I still have a web server issue to work out with it, but it is ready for Va to start keying in the data. Woot!

Today after church I took a two-hour nap. Ahhh. When I got up, I played a game of Go-fish with Beth and David. We have some cards that depict various species of trees native to North America, with four related species grouped together. When you get all four, that would be a match.

Then I went to KFC and picked up a bucket-o-chicken for supper. We ate. I knitted a bit. That’s pretty much my day! I’ll likely knit a bit more tonight as I’ve already put Beth to bed and can’t very well work in the attic above her head while she’s trying to go to sleep. Maybe I’ll do some of that tomorrow.

I love the holidays, especially when I’m not selling citrus in the freezing cold wind. I stayed in bed today until breakfast was ready (pancakes! my favorite!) Then I surfed the web for a bit and worked on the scarf I am knitting. This is my first knitting project, which I’m working on so I can earn the Pathfinder Knitting honor. I’ll still need to knit a second item as well.

I did a little reading in Wikipedia on knitting, because I wasn’t sure if I was creating a stockinette stitch or a garter stitch. Turns out, it’s a stockinette, which is unfortunate. Once I figured out that’s what I was doing, I read further:

Stockinette-stitch fabric is very smooth and each column (“wale”) resembles a stacked set of “V”‘s. It has a strong tendency to curl horizontally and vertically because of the asymmetry of its faces.

Yeah, it has that tendency, and I can attest that it is quite strong. Oh well. I should have used the garter instead. I had originally intended to use an all together different pattern, but I’m pretty sure I was doing it wrong – all the way wrong. It was turning out to be a mess. I experimented, but eventually gave up, turning to something simple (with a strong tendency to curl). Anyhow, this scarf is nearly a foot long now I guess.

If I can master some of these other techniques, maybe my next project will be a viking hat complete with horns. But that might be a wee bit on the ambitious side. But if I could pull that off, it might make a decent fundraiser for our mission trip. Or not. I’m pretty sure I’ll be pulling far less than minimum wage if I try to knit my way to Latin America.

Beth and I went over to our next-door neighbors’ house. I’ve only met them once, but thought it would be good to bring them a gift basket of oranges. Selling them in ten degree weather makes you think of all kinds of reasons you should buy them, and gifts to neighbors you don’t really know ranks pretty close to the top of that list. We rang the bell and the door was answered by the woman of the house with a two-year old in tow. She thanked us for the fruit and then told us that they had all come down with some sort of bug last night and hadn’t even opened their presents yet. They must feel pretty bad!

Then we went to Don and Melissa’s house (behind us) with their platter of oranges. They invited us in and I sat down and visited for a bit. Penny had followed us there and was barking every now and again to remind me that she was out there and wanted in. But we didn’t give in! Melissa told me that the sick neighbors had the pukes and were out of clean sheets. She had offered to bring them some clean ones, but they declined, and since they were already friends with them before they moved in, I figured they wouldn’t accept clean sheets from us either (or I would have offered).

After 20 minutes or so, Penny started howl-barking as if to warn off an intruder. Yeah, it’s a different sound compared to the “let me in the house” bark. I decided it was time to go, because I didn’t want Penny eating any of our neighbors’ guests!

We hiked back down to the house and chillaxed a little more. I did more knitting. And then I went to the attic and insulated two more rafter’s. Well, maybe that’s three rafters, I dunno. I was two rows of insulation, and two rows fit between three rafters. That took me all the way to the north wall of the house. I also started on that wall a bit, but didn’t finish it. After all, I was chillaxin. While I was up there I found I had eight more rolls of insulation than I thought I did. It was neatly stacked behind the stack I could see, but since it is piled up against a sloping ceiling, it wasn’t as high, and I didn’t see it until tonight.

I will need to buy another 48 rolls or R13 to finish the job, and I plan to do that before the end of the year so we can claim it on our taxes.

I didn’t have to go to work today. I stayed in bed until 9:00 which felt great. When I got up, I puttered around the house for a bit, and then around noon we all piled in the car and went to Pizza Hut for lunch. Then we did some shopping, which is crazy, I know. But it wasn’t too bad. The kids bought gifts to exchange with one another, and they also bought a few small things for Va and me. Then we came home and quickly cleaned the house so it wouldn’t look too deplorable for photography. The kids quickly wrapped the gifts, and then we opened them.

We did end up getting Jonathan a laptop, even though he has not yet graduated. He has done everything possible up to now anyhow. He’s waiting on teachers, and I expect he’ll be finished next week sometime. Or the next. Anyhow, he had the laptop for less than an hour before he had Linux running on it. Then he started moving his files from his old clunky desktop to his sleek new lappy.

All the kids seem happy. What more could a person ask for Christmas?

Tonight was our last night selling citrus at Sam’s Club. David and I were the only ones there for the first two hours, and it was bone-chillingly cold. I remembered that I had some hand-warmer things in the glove compartment of my car, and I slipped one into each of my shoes to try to thaw out my toes. It seemed to work. My toes never did feel “warm”, but they did quit feeling frozen.

About an hour into it, one of the managers came outside and asked if we were from the church next door. I told her that yes, we certainly were, and she handed me a grant application. They had just gone over their books and found that they still had $2K or so of grant money to donate this year, and they wanted us (and the Salvation Army) to apply for it. Cool!

When I got home I took a look at the grant request form. They want us to explain how the grant will help the local community. Hmmm. I’m convinced it will help the local community, but I’m not convinced of my ability to convince them that it will.

We’ve been selling the fruit to raise money to take our Pathfinder club on a mission trip to Latin America next December. It’s going to cost about $1,500 per person, and I estimate that we will send about 20 people. That’s $30K, which is a lot of money (to me anyhow). We don’t have a specific destination yet, because we’re planning to go on a trip set up by Maranatha, and they have not yet announced which trips will be available that far into the future.

My task is to explain how sending kids on a mission trip to Latin America benefits the local community here. My thoughts are that when the people who go on this trip see how the undeveloped world lives, they will be forever changed. They will seek a life of service to their fellow man, and that almost has to benefit the local community. But will Sam’s Club see it that way? I don’t know!

When I asked them for permission to sell fruit at their exit door, they knew that I was from “the church next-door” which is entirely true. They approved my request before I ever got a chance to explain the Pathfinders part. The one thing I do know about selling ideas is that you should quit selling when they say yes. Otherwise, you might talk them out of it!

I could request the money to fund the Pathfinder program. We already have funding, but more never hurts. Our club absolutely does benefit our community, as we do all sorts of things (that I often chronicle here) in that vein. For example, we collect canned goods for the needy, prepare lunches for the homeless, perform flag retirement ceremonies, go carolling at the police and fire stations, visit nursing homes, and visit shut-ins. I have plans for us to pick up litter at parks, trails, or streams, but I haven’t yet managed to work that in yet. We worked on the Disaster Response honors so that if there is a disaster, we will be ready to help. We provide a positive environment where kids learn to serve their fellow man. The list goes on and on.

On the other hand, we could use it for more than just Pathfinders. Perhaps we could build a storage shed to store some of our Community Services supplies (used clothing, food, and furniture, etc). Our church routinely hands that sort of thing out to people in need, and in this economy, that need is ever-present.

So while the prospect of this grant money is very exciting, and the managers at Sam’s have all but told me it’s ours, I’m still trying to figure out how to fill out the request form.

We went to Sam’s Club to sell fruit again. Sales were down. I guess it took 30 minutes to sell the first package, and that pretty much established the pace. I’d guess we sold seven, not counting the three I bought for our neighbors. On top of that, it was even colder than last night (it’s 18 degress right now), and the wind was just as strong.

We did pick up a couple of really nice donations though. Maybe it was pity, but we’ll take it anyhow.

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