cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
We have returned safely home from our trip to Wisconsin for the funeral of Phil's grandmother, Romayne. There was (just our) family cabin time and snow and more travel and funeral and funeral ham with cheesy potatoes and then the kids besieging their teenaged cousins and (extended) family stories and drinking and family gossip and very poor sleep (because my three-year-old has been waking--and staying--up at 3 AM, and also that hideabed was awful) and the most country kitsch motel I've ever seen, let alone stayed at.

Today there was a lot of driving home. The kids had predictable we-hate-traveling meltdowns and less-predictable we-hate-chicken-nuggets meltdowns. We made it home, hitting the beginning of rush hour traffic. Then I found and cleaned up all six places the cats had puked and pooped around the house, changed the cat litter, and wrangled the kids through dinner and homework and baths and bed.

And nobody killed anybody.

And I am all disoriented due to travel and missing work/school days and daylight savings time starting, so I thought today was Wednesday and I was going to save this to post in Small Victories Wednesday. It is Tuesday. I am still very proud of this victory, though, so. Posted.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)

It feels like this week has been full of socializing, although that's partly because any week where I see friends more than once feels crazy-busy!

It also feels like this week has been horrible for productivity, and that is true for a couple of reasons. Primary among them is that I have been a bit stuck in the two novels that I'm writing in parallel. Not stuck as in I-don't-know-what-to-do-next, but stuck as in I-need-to-plot-the-next-bit (side project Codename Dragon Succubus) and I-need-to-do-lots-of-research-first-and-I-don't-wanna (main project Real Name Scorpion Dance). And I've been feeling somewhat stressed and responding to it in my usual unhelpful avoidance way. Grr.

Speaking of which, notice how I'm writing a journal entry now instead of writing? Sure, my goal is to write a journal entry every week and it's been over a month since my last one, but that doesn't mean it isn't avoidance. It just means I am super-well-supplied with other things to do. Like sort through the thousand-plus emails in my inbox, which is next on my avoidance plan for the day. Oops, sorry, this is my Mother's Day Away. Make that my "Relaxation Plan." There, that sounds better.

I've started using my gym membership to the YMCA, which is going pretty well. During the week, when Cassius is in preschool, timing doesn't work out so well for me being able to go and take a full class and use whatever's left of the 2 hours of free babysitting to write, so I usually just hit the machines for a while, shower, and then edit for a half-hour before I have to pick up the kids and get on a bus to take Cassius to preschool (his preschool is in the afternoon). I do like the working out part, though, even if I wish I could make my time usage there more efficient to take advantage.

Also, annoyingly, even though we won a month of "Whole Family" membership, that doesn't mean I can get the member rate for Cassius' swim lessons. You have to register about a month in advance for that, and you have to have the child be a full member both IN ADVANCE when you register, and AT the time of the lessons. Grr. Ripoff. Still getting him lessons, though. Just not sure if family membership is going to be worth anything more than my individual membership, because it doesn't really get us anything extra.

Our poor girl kitty is slowly improving. We found out a couple of months ago that she had kidney failure, which led to near-lethal high blood pressure, which led to lethargy, refusal to eat, and one of her eyes having blood vessels rupture inside of it. She already had cataracts and so was mostly blind, but with that, she became completely blind on that side. I don't know if her sight will come back (even slightly) once the blood has all left the eye. It was totally black, filled with blood. Now I can see the rim of her iris again and there's a pale pink cloud in the center of her eye where the blood is slowly being reabsorbed. Her blood pressure is under control with 2x daily medication. And apparently cats can live with kidney failure for several years, although it's best if they eat a special diet for animals with kidney failure, and she's picky.

Lots of fun with socializing lately.

A pack of Phil's female relatives came up from Wisconsin to visit. We drove through downtown looking at all the lights that turned purple in memory of Prince. We went bra shopping at the Mall of America (so much not fun, but necessary). We ate at IKEA and they went shopping while I lounged on a couch and fiddled with edits. We went to Surly Brewery, where they were sad that they could not purchase growlers and I learned why they have so many glasses from drinking establishments they've visited on "girls weekends." Then we went to Betty Danger's Country Club (by the owner of Psycho Suzi's), enjoyed the ferris wheel tremendously, ate the delicious foods, and utterly failed in our attempt to visit her other two establishments, partly because the designated driver doesn't parallel park ... and this is the city.

Dave had a biking pub crawl birthday party where he asked the guests to be made up as "subtle" clowns. I was able to make it to the Eastlake portion of the night. Our whole family went to the Sabathani Prince block party earlier in the afternoon, where we mostly watched the kids go down bouncy house slides and bounce around in the bouncy maze. Total madhouse. Cassius also asked for a snowplow balloon animal, which was a real challenge for the balloon clown. I asked for a snake with pop eyes, which I gave to the birthday boy later. Also managed to get face paint done for the clown birthday party at the prince block party. Multitasking!

The rest of the week(ish) in brief:

May in Minneapolis means the May Day Parade. Thanks to Drew's friend Anna for letting us join the house-and-lawn party that she throws during the parade. I took many pictures.

Cassius brought home baby chicks from preschool, and we successfully kept the cats from eating them during their overnight visit. Cassius is good and gentle with chicks. Theia not so much.

Cassius lost Theia and I in the library, freaked out, and ran out of the building, only to be caught a block later. So scary. Spouse yelled at me a lot. Full story from Fb: We were at the library in Uptown. I took Theia into the bathroom to change her, and when I came back out, Cassius was GONE. Not in the kids' play area, not among the book shelves, not in the sitting area. Turns out, he didn't hear me tell him where we were going, freaked out when he didn't see us, and RAN OUT OF THE LIBRARY (after us, he thought). Thank God for the concerned stranger who came back to find me, the ones who pointed which direction he'd gone, and the ones who stopped him and helped. He made it about a block away, in the direction of his preschool (also in Uptown). Most of us have that "I lost my parents" (in the grocery store, etc.) memory. I think this is going to be the one that sticks for him.

CenterPoint repair guy actually had the part required to make our dishwasher mostly functional again. Amazing.

Thursday, I made it to Electra's graduating senior art reception, admired the art (hers was sealife-themed), and took lots of pictures that I now need to edit and watermark. Then we went to the Riverview Cafe and chatted over yummy brownies.

Friday, I went to my old friend Jason's birthday party, tasted kava for the first time, and saw it prepared ... burlesque-style. More pictures were taken. The stuff looks like off-colored, watery milk, smells like dirt with an acrid undertone, and tastes like nothing much although the aftertaste is pretty awful. The first effect is a tingling tongue. The effect it had on me seemed to be a sharpening and clarity of sight and sensation. No idea if that's how most people feel, as I had to leave then. Silly buses and their schedules.

Saturday, I was peopled out. Morning, went to the gym. Took a weightlifting/body pump group class. Afternoon, went to coffee shop, plotted/adjusted the plot for the rest of the side project (Dragon Succubus), and wrote some. Spent the night fighting with trying to figure out watermarks and custom brushes and why it wasn't working damn it. Figured it out, eventually, but still need to manage batch watermarks for things I don't edit before uploading (like May Day photos).

Today is Mother's Day. I slept in a lot. Made myself French toast. Left to go to a coffee shop until dinner, which is where I currently am. Cassius being in two preschool classes meant I got two Mother's Day presents from him! I got a shiny bead-and-button bracelet that has a whole lot of gold buttons and some red and green flower beads, and a bar of soap that he felted with sheep's wool during their field trip to Gale Woods (which he loved--he says he likes spinach now).

Oh, and also the car died in the middle of the highway and Phil had to get it fixed. So that happened.

cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
Oof. Just checked the internets and learned there was a mass shooting (disgruntled employee version) in/near my Kansas hometown. The main shooting was in nearby Hesston, my mother's hometown, but it sounds like someone was shot in Newton, where my dad still lives.
I'm lousy at making phone calls and writing letters to people I care about, because I'm always busy and I think there will be more time later. That ain't always the case. Talk to your loved ones, people.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
7/20/2014 or thereabouts

As I begin typing this, I am sitting on the couch in the living room watching my kids play together. I do not anticipate being able to type more than a couple of sentences before I have to intervene, but you never know. The living room is reasonably baby-proofed, and Cassius and Theia are pretty good about playing with each other. Although when I took them to the baby storytime and playtime at the library, it was pretty easy to tell that Theia is more used to roughhousing than the other babies!
Last weekend was Phil's family's ATV weekend--basically a family reunion in their cabin in the woods.We drove up Thursday night and left again Sunday afternoon. This was Theia's first time; she was too small to appreciate it much. Mostly we tried to keep her from going places she shouldn't. This is a lot harder than it used to be now that she's a super-crawler. She spent a lot of time in a tricycle/stroller thing that my mother-in-law brought up for us, a lot of time being held, and some time crawling around on the playmat that we brought up for her--although the latter required a parent sitting beside her to keep her there. [And this is as far as I got with the couch-typing, alas.]

This is the first year that Theia has gone to Phil's family's annual reunion/ATV weekend at the cabin (of course it is, she's just barely 8 months old). She is in that stage where she's figured out how to propel herself across rooms at moderate speed, which made taking care of her in a non-childproofed environment quite a challenge. Dogs, slightly larger children, and mud-shellacked ATV riders carried all manner of debris into the cabin, so having her crawl around on the floor wasn't such a great idea. We did bring up (and forget to take home!) our play mat, so some of the time, I could plop her down on that and sit right beside her to keep her within its boundaries. Most of the time, though, she had to be held or strapped into the tricycle/stroller device that my in-laws found and brought up for us. She loved being wheeled around in that thing. We had to restrain Cassius' enthusiasm for pushing her around.


After a pretty awful first night, she did quite well for the rest of the weekend. She produced her first tooth by the end of it! She and I slept in the "boys' room" at the cabin, and Cassius napped there. At night, Phil and Cassius slept in a tent out in the tenting area--which is now also the mobile home area, since three of the families now have mobile homes. It seems a little silly to get a mobile home to go camp on family land that's only a few hours' drive from home, but I do envy the theoretical ability to go driving across the Americas while you carry your home along with you like a snail. It would be a great way to retire. I could take a ton of photographs, write in different places, see different things. So much fun! Camping close to home, though, can be managed with just a tent.

Cassius got to ride an ATV with his Aunt Mariah, which he loved. In a few years, he'll be driving one himself, I'm sure. There were also two 8-week-old puppies that he got to wrestle with. As Phil says, a 3-year-old child and two 8-week-old puppies all in a puppy pile may be the pinnacle of happiness.


We went for our long family walk in the woods, taking lots of photographs of the kids. One of the photos I took of Theia was of her wearing the same jacket and in a similar place as a picture I took of Cassius when he was about the same age. I think I took it from too far away, though. We shall see. I was trying to get a matched set of photos. Despite this (failure?), I did get some very adorable photos of both of them.


Let's see, what else . . . My father-in-law, Doug, taught the older boys how to split wood with an ax, and nobody lost any limbs. The kids did lots of drawing, and the activities they got were slap bracelets and temporary tattoos (Cassius got a "pirate" cross-bones with a bow, and a green elephant.). Cassius and Asher had a lot of fun riding in the red Flyer wagon together or having Asher pull Cassius around the driveway. Once, while an older kid was pulling them, the wagon got tipped over and that resulted in skinned knees, a cut lip, a faceful of gravel, and much crying. Phil had a lot of fun persuading all the kids to go into the boat (in the woods) and pretend to fish. They all had to wear their life jackets, so it would be safe. The big meal event was a fish fry. My mother-in-law, Robin, even managed to make some that I could eat without risking the dairy/soy thing. In general, she did a superb job of making sure that I had something to eat at each meal. I know exactly how difficult that is, and I really appreciated it. This year's food contribution for me to bring was a salad, so I made a strawberry spinach salad thing with candied walnuts that turned out very well indeed. As you might have guessed, I'm quite proud of it. Usually I'm not very good at salads.

After ATV weekend, we went back home for a week before turning back around and driving to my family reunion (for the Yoder side) in Michigan. No, we're mostly not in Michigan, but it's a convenient mid-point for many of us.

cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
Woke up, opened presents, ate breakfast of semmel with blue cheese, went to an oddly empty church for an oddly short service (apparently, this is what Christmas service is like when Sunday actually falls on Christmas).

Now I'm drinking homemade cider, browsing email, and doing story submissions while the baby naps in the next room and downstairs my dad (visiting from Kansas) and my husband (usually resident) watch basketball with the sound muted. Life is good.

Merry Christmas!
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
Semmel (pronounced Zemmel) is a traditional Mennonite hard roll. They're delicious hot, with butter and honey. This is my dad's recipe.

Semmel, pronounced zemmel, is less a recipe and more a method for making what we might call hard rolls. But since you asked for a recipe, I'll give you the recipe I always used; sometimes verbatim and sometimes as a starting point.


12 cups flour (For a long time I used unbleached flour, but started using 50% whole wheat and recently have used 100% white whole wheat.)
5-6 cups lukewarm water (5 cups is a good starting point, but especially in the winter, the flour may be so dry you need to add more)
2 pkgs. yeast (This is about 1 1/2 T.)
2 T. salt. (I usually cut this back to about 1-1 1/2 T.)

Dissolve the yeast with water in a large bowl. (Tupperware is great since it needs to be covered while rising.) Add salt and and about half the flour. Stir until the mixture is smooth. Add the remaining flour cup by cup, stirring it in as you go. By the time you add the last cups, it will be pretty hard to stir. Don't worry about having it all perfect just get all the flour moist. If it's too hard to stir just call it good.

Cover and wait for the yeast to do its job. If you seal it totally, the gas build up will eventually pop the lid open. When it is ready, the bowl will be full and the dough will be shiny and full of large and small bubbles. I usually let it rise overnight (in the fridge), but it will be ready in 3-4 hours in a warmer environment. Lightly stir the dough and it will deflate.

Turn on the oven to 450. To form the semmel use two soup spoons (or an ice cream scoop) and a cup of water. Moisten the spoons in the water between each semmel. Dip a spoonful out with one of the spoons and use the other to push it onto a greased cookie sheet. Smooth the blobs with the moistened back of the spoon. I usually put 12 on a typical cookie sheet. Don't make them to large or they will grow together in the oven and not get the nice crust all around. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the crust is just slightly browned.

Traditionally semmel is sprinkled with poppyseed before being baked. Some people add a bit of oil to the recipe, but that softens the crust which I don't like. Others add a tablespoon or two of sugar, which makes them rise faster and brown more. Whole wheat semmel lacks the chewiness, but I like it anyway.

Edited to add:

Recently, I got some interesting history associated with this. Warren wrote me to say:

I was VERY excited to come across your recipe for Semmel, posted to your blog on 11-29-11. The recipe you described as your father's is exactly what my grandmother used - and the recipe I've used for some 30 years. You describe it as a "traditional Mennonite hard roll." That's true EXCEPT that semmel seems to be limited to a very small group of Mennonites - those who came directly from Danzig Germany to Beatrice, Nebraska in the mid 1870's. (The majority of Mennonites who settled in the Midwest at that time - the "Low Germans" - came from colonies in the Ukraine and they don't make semmel - they have another traditional roll that they call "tweback". There was another group - the Volhynian Swiss Mennonites - who settled in Freeman SD and Moundridge, KS. And the Volhyninas don't make semmel either.)

I hope that wasn't too much Mennonite history for you. (It's kind of a hobby of mine but I suspect it can get tiresome for others.)

Anyway ... I've recently become a professional baker - at the St. Peter Food Coop southwest of the Twin Cities. And I've always been curious if ALL of the Mennonite semmels made in the US trace back to Beatrice. Beatrice was where my mother grew up. I recognize "Wiens" as a fairly common name among the Beatrice Mennonites - in fact I think I may have an ancestor by that name. (We might be distant cousins!) So this is what I'd like to know: does your father hail from Beatrice or someother Mennonite enclave of which I am unaware?

I'd really appreciate it if you could give me that information.



P.S. By the way, I've found quite a few recipes for semmel on German language websites. ("Semmel" is dialect for the High German "Broetschen" but the word is used rather broadly - i.e. Austria, Bavaria and Saxony.) The thing about the Beatrice recipe - and your father's - is that the hydration is so high. Since the weight of flour is roughly half that of water, bakers would describe this recip ase "100% hydration." That's almost unheard of! Even a ciabata recipe - which is generally considered a very wet dough - is only about 85% hydration.


Nov. 8th, 2011 03:44 pm
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
My mother died on Halloween.

She survived about 15 months after being diagnosed with ovarian and endometrial cancer. I don't say she struggled or battled or fought--she didn't like using violent imagery to describe it. She endured it with remarkable grace, and it seemed to leave her outwardly untouched for a very long time, even as it spread through her body. Up until the very end, she would run--and then walk--along the Sand Creek bike path, taking photographs that will be displayed in a gallery exhibit later this year.

She died because breathing became just too difficult. When my aunt, a nurse, told my mother that she thought my mother would probably die that night, my mother's response was to give her two thumbs up. She was ready to go. And when she stopped breathing, she smiled before she died.

Her last coherent words were to my dad: "I love you."

Her "last words" (not her actual last words, but the ones that she wanted to make sure she said) to me were, "I love you, I trust you, I believe in you," and, "You'll make a good mother. You just need to relax."

In the week between when we visited my parents to celebrate their 33 1/3 wedding anniversary (and my mother's life), and when we drove down for her funeral, the leaves of the tree in their backyard changed from green to gold...and fell. They coated the backyard like a gold carpet.

She died on Halloween.

Kansas is deep in a drought, but the day we traveled down for her funeral, the skies wept.

These all seem appropriate, somehow significant.

I'll think of her when I see trains, and I'll look for train graffiti that she would have liked. I'll think of her when I see tombstones, remembering when I was a little girl and she'd take me to cemeteries to do gravestone rubbings. I'll think of her when I see a tandem bike. I'll think of her whenever I hear somebody playing the autoharp, or singing Home on the Range, Red River Valley, Morning Has Broken, or I'll Fly Away. I'll think of her on Halloween. I'll think of her often, for all sorts of reasons.

I wrote the following about her when I was in high school. I have a lot more to say about her, to remember, to write down to tell her grandchild/children when they are old enough to understand, but right now it's all in fragments that float through my mind.


tall, spiring stalks bloom
red, yellow, white, pink, and off-white
with yellow streaks,
balanced in a clay pot,
her birthday gift, beside the
bright red, lime green, and purple toys
she bought in an Indian train station
from a man who carried them in a flat woven basket
on top of his head,
birds and wind-up carousels in front of
the tall brass-colored lamp with
a short, disproportional shade that tilted a little
until she figured out how to fix it,
casting diffused light onto the bold,
anti-racism poster with colored masks that
she got free
and then paid for it to be put
into a fine-grained wood frame,
stained, polished, and varnished, hanging
above the autoharp she learned to play
in Africa,
strumming metallic strings, and now making
mellow-toned background music
while she squints at her music book
in the dim light
beside the glorious shoots of flowers
that spring from a clay pot
in midwinter.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
Poor Phil is sick. He started feeling sickly on Saturday, yesterday was particularly bad, and today he's staying home from work--we'll see how long this lasts. It started out as just a cough, but now he's coughing and hacking and running a fever. The latter is particularly bad. If babies less than 3 months old get sick enough to run a fever, they're generally hospitalized. So we really, really, really don't want Cassius to get sick--or me, since I'm in such constant contact with the baby that he'd surely catch it from me.

Phil has quarantined himself. He is now essentially living in the attic--sleeping, eating, and staying up there day and night. With, you know, the television, his laptop, and the gaming system. Poor guy. Although it is also the *hottest* room in the house, so it's not all fun and games.

But we really, truly, fingers-crossed hope the baby doesn't get sick. Phil did take care of the baby on Saturday, including giving him a bottle, but hopefully the baby didn't catch it then.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (tender)
Mom's heartwarming post about writing wedding present thank-yous 30+ years later:

cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
State of the Abra Incubator
The sprogling and I are doing well. I think he's going through a growth spurt right now--my belly certainly is! At this point, I'm a bit worried I may outgrow some of my maternity shirts. Medically, everything's going along fine--as of the last checkup, baby's a little ahead of the growth curve, and I'm a little ahead of my target weight gain, but these things go in spurts and I'm not surprised by it. Also, you can see my belly move when he kicks. It's a little alienish, but feeling it is reassuring, not weird/creepy.

Pregnancy's treating me pretty well. At this point, I have no nausea and very little discomfort. When I walk, it's somewhat uncomfortable, and I was getting round ligament pain if I walked more than a block. This feels like somebody is stabbing a knife into my crotch. So I've avoided walking and haven't had that problem--but now I'm beginning to think I need to test it again to see if it's gone away (as many pregnancy symptoms do). I'm still pretty active anyway, with biking and "maternity" exercise vids. Hrm. The big things are that I need a couple more hours of sleep a day, so I get irrationally tired around 9 pm unless I've gotten a nap that day, and I need to eat something every two hours to keep my blood sugar from plummeting and leaving me all shaky (pre-pregnancy, this used to be a 4- to 5-hour thing). I do have pregnancy brain/forgetting things issues. Not things I try to remember, but things I usually don't have to try and remember. And I have to do this weird frog-squat thing to pick things up off the floor without getting dizzy. I think that's about it. Pregnancy is one of those "anything can be a symptom, the weirdest things are normal for somebody, and nothing's entirely predictable" things.

Read more--Phil, cancer, work, socializing, getting stuff done )
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (nonstandard spacetime)
While going through and cleaning up my Circus of Brass and Bone notes, I found this partial travelogue, from my visit back to see my parents right after they returned to the States. Yes, at times I do just type whatever into whichever document happens to be open on my laptop. Usually, these snippets get properly relocated a bit sooner than this, though!


The Greyhound station in Wichita, KS was moderately horrifying, but I rather expected that. I arrived early to get my ticket, as per instructions. There were power outlets in the back of the room, though none within reach of seats, so I sat on the floor, leaned against the wall, and worked on the read-aloud draft of episode 3 for The Circus of Brass and Bone. Nobody had cleaned that floor for quite some time. Cockroaches and dirt ringed the floor. I choose the cleanest place I could find. Generally, the station wasn't well-maintained. There was a clumsily handwritten out-of-order sign on the water fountain, and another on the handicapped bathroom specifying that it was for handicapped people ONLY. An old codger followed me to the back of the station and kept trying to talk to me, asking if I was in college. I guess it is the season for college students to be migrating, but nobody's thought me to be that young for a *while*. I said I was out of college, and he said, "Gosh, I thought you looked sixteen!" (Note: strange old men should not try talking to 16-year-old girls, either.) I guess I've just been hanging out in the wrong circles.

Then the Greyhound arrived. The driver gave a very long speech emphasizing that we should please stay on the bus except at the designated dinner stop, please, because every week people hopped off the bus and were left behind, and please, she didn't want us to be left behind, so please don't.

Ah, Kansas. Riding in the Greyhound across hours and hours of rolling plains. Hay bales and cows and small oil wells and yellow furze. The smallest variation becomes interesting. The water reservoirs (septic?) outside a countryside McDonald's, with a dozen geese enjoying a break on their flight south. A square mile or so of incongruous, out-of-place lake dotted by tree skeletons reaching up to the endless blue sky. A yellow sign warning not of deer, or pedestrians, or even Amish, but of thick clouds of black smoke (don't try to drive through them).
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Phil and I)
Phil may no longer be feverish, but he's been having severe arthritic pain and swelling in his joints since the fever went away, and it isn't getting better. It's bad enough that he can't do some things and he's being woken up in the middle of the night by the pain when the painkiller wears off. This is Not Good. Husband is broken, and that is unacceptable. Worried Abra is worried. He has a doctor's appointment for tomorrow, where hopefully they will either figure out and treat what's going on or at least give him Flintstones chewable morphine.

Aside from that small detail, it's been a pretty good few days. I got the companion job, I got a lead on a good-paying temp job, and I worked some overtime hours this weekend, so finances are vastly less worrying than they were a couple of weeks ago. I finished the phone info part of the HARP refinance application, and we have the documents to sign and send in. Once that's done, it's just a waiting game.

The in-laws drove up from Wisconsin with a truckload of baby things, including a crib, a high-chair, a changing table, and even more second-hand baby clothes (we already had like six bags in the attic--like I said, they subscribe to the cargo cult theory of new babies). Oh, and a love seat that matches our current couch, inherited from the grandparents when they moved into assisted living.

So on Saturday afternoon, after I worked my overtime hours, they picked me up from work and we drove off to Home Depot, where they bought us an upright deep freeze as a combination Christmas/10-year-anniversary present (yes, it's been that long). They were also introduced to the joys of chain LeeAnn Chin Chinese food (they liked it).

The Joint

Saturday night, we went to the new Psycho Suzi's, a locally owned, tiki-themed bar and restaurant that just moved into vastly expanded quarters. Now they have a reception area with an indoor waterfall behind it, four theme bars, and a separate floor for the eating area. The indoors roughly quadruples the total space of the old place, including the patio. Outside, tiki torches flame alongside the Mississippi River. They were packed. The bar area is seat-yourself and only has appetizers available, so if you want real food, you have to get on the list and wait for seating in the dining area (which is less interestingly decorated, but does have the full menu, so, you know, trade-offs). The in-laws had a great time, and I think my m-i-l is planning on bringing the ladies of her card club there when they road trip to see the new baby. Apparently this is a tradition among them.

Sunday morning I fed them my fabulous yogurt-blueberry pancakes and we sent them on their way. Then I bussed to the Seward Cafe for [ profile] birdfigment's birthday brunch. There were hangings-out and tasty foods and then running to catch my bus to Uptown to join my writing group (partway through the meeting, but that's what happens when you do multiple things in a day). I got my mic back after the presentation portion was finished (we do a podcast now!) and delivered variously harsh critiques during the workshop section.

Then I came home and went thud. Well, after selling some CDs to Cheapo, mostly for the shelf space because CDs are selling for $.50 apiece today. Apparently, everybody and their brother is switching to digital and selling the physical, so it's not such a profitable thing to do.

After Phil woke me up by assembling the crib (which is large, sturdy, and roughly the size of couch), I made bean burgers for dinner and then did my hour of writing.

3/8/11, Tuesday, through 3/13/11, Sunday

Circus of Brass and Bone Combined Writing Log


Episode X

New words: 1,019
Total words: 62,814
Overused word: monkey
Gratuitous word: pineapple
Type of scene: How they figure out where to go next.
Challenge(s): Keeping it interesting without getting too zany.
Which line is it anyways?Wind whistled a counterpoint down the alley.
Researched: Elephant feet, "devolve"
Notes: It may be too zany. Or have too much dialog.
Other writingy stuff:
* Shamed by Sherilyn Kennyon’s 8 hrs of writing plus other hours of writingy stuff (the woman only sleeps 4 hrs a day, which is totally NOT an option for me), began the 1-hr of writing no matter what experiment (if I feel totally wasted, Ican work on non-primary writing project).
* Various freewriting warmups.
* MinnSpec critiques.
* Attended MinnSpec writing group meeting--well, at least the crit portion.
* Recorded intro for MinnSpec podcast, episode 3.
* Wrote four pages longhand on Platinadar while traveling to and from work.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (crazy)
(Oh, and Mom says, "I read your friends/readers comments on your blog and am grateful for their interest and support." She is getting treated with Taxitol on Monday, which I believe is the second-round treatment. I think one of the deciding factors was being able to start treatment immediately instead of delaying it for a week+.)

In happier news, I got the job! The job I posted about a few days ago, sitting with an elderly woman when her husband has to leave and making sure she's okay? It's 10 hours/week, and it doesn't pay really well, but it has a couple of major bonuses:
* It's a little over a mile away, and right on a bus line, so I can bus or bike it easily.
* I can work on my own thing while I'm there, so this can be writing time.
* Once I have the baby, I can take it along, so I won't have to pay for daycare out of this.

I start next week.

NgithOwl has been slammed by the super-large project. It's been keeping all 3 shifts busy, but it's due at the end of next week. I expect the work to go away then, back down to the low levels. Right now we're running 3 shifts, which means that work enough to keep *everybody* with hours is rare. I think that's part of the problem that caused the 3 months/no work situation.

PoorStaff has called me about a position at Target headquarters that would begin later this month and last for three. The pay is very good. It would involve writing procedures and doing database stuff, and in general, doing things that I'm good at. But it would interfere with the scheduling of the senior-companion job, which is more important in the long run because I could *keep* it in the long run. I still told them to send my resume. We'll see. First comes resume, then comes interview, then comes sorting out schedules and priorities.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (alas)
Tonight Mom gets to make the decision: second-line chemo, or an experimental trial?

Her blood tumor counts have skyrocketed since she stopped chemo a couple of weeks ago, proof that conventional chemo isn't working for her. She's been in a lot of pain. The "standard of care" is that then she would now go to second-line chemo, which operates differently, but which also has more side effects.

An experimental trial might be better. In the experiment her doctor recommended, the control group gets "standard of care." The drawback is that she would need to get another CT scan to qualify, which might slow down her treatment another week. She would be getting a second-line chemo treatment on Monday.

It is a hard decision. She saw her doctor and got her blood results today, and she needs to decide tomorrow.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
Sunday, much miscellaneous writingy stuff was finished. Aside from that, it was the usual (except no church, because Phil was still sick).

I did a fair amount of cleanup of photos from the family reunion last summer. I am a bad, lazy person--people *have* been wanting to see these sooner. On the other hand, nobody paid me, and non-paid photo work tends to go to the back of the burner. So there's a steady trickle of cleaned-up photos. But there were some lovely photos. I think this one is my favorite so far:


though this one says a lot about my family:


I did laundry and dishes, and I took out the recycling. Because everything was all melty, the latter meant balancing our recycling on top of a piece of cardboard to keep the paper bags from soaking through and having their bottoms fall out. We do have a recycling container . . . buried somewhere underneath the five-foot mound of snow behind the garage. We think.

I finally upgraded my new/old computer memory (up to a rollicking 1 G!). There was some panicky calling of tech friends when the computer would not start afterward, but then I figured out that it was because the memory didn't go in the thingamabob right because I hadn't pressed down exactly at the same time as I flipped the doohickeys. But then I did, and all was right in the world.

Circus of Brass and Bone Total

3/6/12, Sunday
* A smidge of writing on CoBB.
* Updated CoBB episode saved to the computer (wrong version--the finished one was on the laptop) and uploaded it so meta-data would be right.
* Posted writing log and freewriting.
* Worked on creating MinnSpec iTunes feed, which included creating a MinnSpec icon.
* Finished taking down Spec the Halls links and adding Circus of Brass and Bone links to the rest of my website.
* Started on critiques for MinnSpec meeting next weekend.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (tea ring)
Since some of you are kind enough to ask--my mother's doing relatively well. As she puts it, she's "not going to die in the immediate future." Her tumor blood marker has stopped dropping at the same rate, though it's not down to what it should be yet. Because of that and the serious side effects from the hardcore intra-peritoneal chemo, her doctor's taking her off chemo for a couple of months to give her body a break. At this point, she's built up a resistance and so chemo's doing more harm than good. She will almost certainly resume chemo (of some sort) again in a little bit.

She had a CT scan, which showed no visible cancer in her abdominal cavity. It did show a couple of her remaining lymph nodes that were enlarged in a worrisome way, so they'll need to keep an eye on them.

But for now, she's in a holding pattern. She has a chance to catch her breath and figure out where and how life goes from here. As she says, "In the meantime, two chemo-free months sound pretty good to me. It will give my body/immune system a chance to recover and hopefully, the chemo cough that's been developing will go away. I'll start running, eat really, really healthy and have some fun! We are in good spirits, even though I do expect to resume treatment before long."

This is not good news, but it's not bad news, either. It's just--what is.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)

Sickness made me take an unplanned hiatus from writing The Circus of Brass and Bone. It resumes next Tuesday!

The time away and the increasing of other demands on my time since I've started writing it again have led me to rethink the schedule. From now on, I'll be putting out a monthly full episode on the third Tuesday of the month, with some snippets in between. This is a schedule I should have no problem sticking to (fingers crossed!) and it gives me time to implement some other things I've been wanting to do with The Circus of Brass and Bone. It should also allow me to build up extra episodes so that a long hiatus like this won't happen again.

People who donate any amount will get early access to the next episode. People who donate a large amount will get early access to all the episodes as they are available. That's an incentive I wanted to build in from the start, but I wasn't able to get enough of a headstart to make it work.

The need, unfortunately, is still there. My mother has been able to get into a pre-existing condition insurance plan, but the yearly deductible is very high, and the monthly cost is enough to rent an apartment with. At this point, we think she is looking at chemo treatments for the indefinite future and possibly more surgery. She can't work under these conditions and my father is still unemployed, though he's been able to pick up a few hours substitute teaching.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Phil and I)
Just finished getting out the last of my Christmas cards! Don't bother to check your calendar; it's still February. But losing a chunk of time to sickness around the holidays left me drastically behind on, well, life.

With no further ado, I present...The Staffin Wiebe 2010 Christmas Letter!


Dear friends and family,

Belated Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and--heck, why not--early Happy Valentine's Day! I (Abra) am behind on everything, and Christmas cards are no exception. The only thing piling up more than my to-do list is the snow in Minnesota. We got a 20-year blizzard here a bit before Christmas, dropping 17+ inches of snow in Minneapolis in a day (other parts of the state got over 23). The snow piles are at least hip-high. Along some streets, the curbside snow ridge is taller than I am, and I am not short.

For us, 2010 began with a car accident and got worse from there. In January, we were driving back from getting a "free" pie when we got rear-ended, which totaled our little car. It also changed that "free" apple pie to a several-thousand-dollar apple pie. The pie was good, but not that good. The accident was not a hugely significant event (we were uninjured), but it sort of set the tone for the year.

Read more... )
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (bite)
From my mother-in-law's kitchen, a pretty tasty Thanksgiving stuffing recipe that is cooked in the slow cooker. (Yes, I am finally going through the monstrous stack of accumulated papers and stuff that's been building up for the last two months.)

14-15 c. bread cubes or stuffing mix (not StoveTop)
3 c. chopped celery
1 1/2 c. chopped onion
2 1/2 tsp. sage
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 1/2+ cups chicken broth
1/2-3/4 c. butter
2 eggs, beaten

Combine butter, onion, and celery. Cook until tender. Add seasonings. Stir in bread cubes. Stir in chicken broth and beaten eggs. Pour into slow cooker and bake on high 1 hr and low 3 additional hours.

Reboot Time

Dec. 5th, 2010 12:09 pm
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
It's been a rough week or so, thanks to Thanksgiving travel and in-laws and fighting off a bug and no-work-hours stress and the associated other stresses. And unfortunately, when I don't have the oomph to boss myself into productivity, avoidance is my number-one stress response! So I've been extremely unproductive, too.

The next episode of The Circus of Brass and Bone will be postponed a week, due to Thanksgiving/illness.

And today? Today will be Reboot Day. I'll make a long list of all the crap I've fallen behind on (pretty much everything), roll the dice, and catch up on at least some of it. That's what Sundays are supposed to be for anyways, right?


cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
Abra Staffin-Wiebe

March 2019

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