Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Morning

I had to work at 0600, so at 0400 I attempted to wake the children (I have been forbidden to call them "kids"; they are not goats!). Even with the allure of a lit Christmas tree and a pile of presents, it took a bit of doing. I almost had to break out the pipes!

It's not that it was a small pile of presents, but it was a pile of small presents. People got and gave books, DVDs, gloves, small items of clothing, pieces of china that had been broken unbeknownst to the owner but were now being replaced . . . (What . . . ?!). Stuff like that.

Our routine is that Small Son picks the first present--any present as long as it isn't for him. That person opens their present, we all oo! and ah! over it, then that person picks a present for someone else, again not for themselves. It goes on, and we can see what everybody gets and record what thank you notes to send out. We didn't get done until 0558, at which time I was already up on the computer. They finished without me.
It's supposed to be snowing buckets--indeed, it is snowing buckets in Draper and West Jordan, but not here. Yet. I will be content to stay at home and sleep after I'm done working.

Here's my stash: 101 Stitches to Knit (on cards) (HH)
Where's My Cow, by Terry Pratchett (D#1)
Nanny Ogg's Cookbook, by Terry Pratchett (D#1)
Europe Through the Back Door, by Rick Steves (HH)
a new butter dish in my Noritake pattern. (D#1)
(Nobody told me the old one had been smashed)
(. . . until today.)
Christmas potholders (D#2)

I think that's it. I'll add the others if I've forgotten them. I remember thanking Daughter #2 for something enthusiastically, but I don't remember now what it was.

When I got done working, here's what the house looked like.

D#1 recorded on video our present opening ceremony, since she won't be here next year.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Cookies & Gardner Village 2008

We had 2 holiday traditions today.  The first was making Christmas cookies.  Originally, we made these to hang on our Christmas tree, from an old Danish tradition, and from days when we did not have funds to buy enough Christmas ornaments to make the tree look presentable.  Cookies were cheap, fun to make, and you can eat them afterward.

Now, since we have dogs who like to eat cookies, even cookies that appear to be out of their reach unless you tip the tree over . . . we just eat them.  But we still make them.  They are . . . anticipated.

After the kitchen had been restored from cookie mess to original cleanliness, we hopped in the car and drove south down the valley to a little "restored" village on the Jordan River situated around an old mill that was originally owned and operated by a family named Gardner.  Hence the name.  Each miniscule log cabin houses a tiny shop.  At Christmastime, it becomes a magical place.

This year it was overcast and threatening snow.  The river was iced over, except for the place the ducks and geese kept open.  Our favorite shops are a yarn shop, a Christmas ornament shop, a toy shop and (of course) a candy shop.  There's another shop which defies description, containing whimsical signs, ruffly skirts and shawls, perfumes and incense.  They always have the incense going ad nauseatum, so only Daughter #1 and #2 can bear to spend much time there.  We've found many wonderful ornaments in the ornament shop (even a bagpiping Santa) and this year we were hoping for a lady missionary, but no dice, so I had to settle for a knitting ornament.  The candy shop yielded it's usual heavenly fudge and an amazing variety of Jelly Bellies.

We did find something for Daughter #1's upcoming mission, but it was at the cross stitch and quilting shop.  We enlisted the help of the proprietress in purchasing it under D#1's very nose without her knowing about it.  Had a little trouble in that all the credit card computer systems went down just then, but D#2 and HH came up with the required cash.

It was a satisfactory day.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"Il tombe de la neige . . . Noel! Noel!"

From The Enormous Room, by E. E. Cummings

It snowed on Saturday, then again on Sunday. Really dumped on us on Sunday, such that the Young Women were awakened at 0800 to pull on their cold weather shovelling gear and go shovel the walks at church. I went to help them, since 66% of my daughters would be involved anyway. I shoveled so hard I got a huge blister on the palm of my hand, which popped when I was breaking up ice in the driveway, so that now it looks like the beginnings of stigmata (if I believed in that sort of thing).

Monday I believe we had a respite, but Tuesday it was at it again. I was trying, again, to get Small Son and Daughter #3's passports renewed, having showed up on Friday without birth certificates to prove they were actually my children. They turned me away, of course. Bureauacracy. So after my 10-hour shift in Sandy on Tuesday, HH and I drove the 17 miles in the heavily falling show, threading through one accident after another, to get back to the same Bureaucrat. Daughter #1 was in charge of picking up #3 and SS from school (early, on his part, which caused no end of glee) and bringing them to meet us downtown. As I stared out the window at the snow and bent fenders and cars facing the wrong way, shuddering at each 18-wheeler that roared past at the Posted Speed Limit, I thought of what would happen if #1 should meet with one of these crazy drivers who was not as good at mathematics as HH (he loves driving in the snow; says it's a series of math problems: physics) and end up in the hospital (or worse) just weeks before she is scheduled to depart for her mission.

It did not bear thinking about.

So I prayed. I prayed that she should not meet with any accident that would delay her going. I was hoping, at best, for no accidents.

What I got was a miracle.

Not 7 minutes later we drove into a wall of . . . no weather: the heavy snow-clouds sat behind us, and sunshine and blue sky arched ahead. It stayed like that all the way to the post office, and all the way home again. Looking southward all we could see was the huge grey and white monster clouds still sitting on the city, dumping snow on all and sundry.

Those kind of mile-thick clouds don't just "blow away", and they extend for miles in all directions. Before they leave you, they have to first dump their load, then think grey thoughts overhead for a day, and then roil away looking for someone else to annoy.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Preparations . . .

After removing the epaulettes from the long, hunter green wool coat we found as a possibility for Daughter #1 for her mission, and then having worn it to church, she decided that it would indeed work, if I lengthened the sleeves.


Later on in the evening, she turned her big, hazel, puppy-dog eyes on me and said, "Maman, could you, very sweetly, knit me a pair of mittens and a beret to match my new coat? For my mission?"

I considered the long list of Things I Have To Get Done, more specifically, Things I Have To Get Done Before Christmas, and figured I could fit in another one before 14Jan2009. If days were extended to 26 hours. I said, "You want mittens? Or would you rather have gloves?"

So today I went out to my local yarn shop, The Wool Cabin 2020 East 3300 South, Suite 11 (at East Ivy Place) Salt Lake City, UT 84109,, and looked at different yarns. I really wanted to make them in merino wool, which isn't itchy and is still very warm. All the info I have on Korea is M*A*S*H reruns, as I have said, and they were always freezing in that show. But the lovely and informative proprietress talked me into an acrylic/wool blend which would be less expensive, washable, and also came in millions of colors, including a hunter green that exactly matched that coat.

I am halfway done with Glove #1, and waiting anxiously for the beret pattern to show up in my email box, since I've already paid for it. Anxiously . . . waiting . . . anxiously . . .

And I'm not the only one who is excited. Here is an exerpt from Daughter #1's blog:

"It's amazing what having five weeks will do to you. I have suddenly discovered the energy to attack my life instead of just dragging myself through it for lack of anything better to do. My bed is made, my room is clean--I've even managed to do my hair, actually do it, with a hairbrush and accessories, in the morning. And when I'm not plowing through the Book of Mormon or playing phone-tag with the bishop or the International Travel clinic, I'm flicking through my "Let's Learn Korean In A Big Hurry" flash cards, muttering to myself. I want to get things done, to be ready, to get going. . . . I keep going to bed early, the sooner to be in another day in which I'm that much closer to going to Korea, and the better to be functioning for phone-tag and flash cards. My call letter promised me that serving a mission would bring me joy beyond anything I'd known before. I think that the second I read the word 'Korea' may, in fact, qualify as the happiest single instant in the whole of my life to date, and I've been generally more thrilled about everything in the past week than I could have pictured myself being. I know the Lord's promises are sure, I just didn't think they'd kick in before I'd actually left. I'll go eat breakfast now, in case you're having a crummy morning and I'm grating on your nerves."

You wouldn't know, from this entry, that Christmas is a week away.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Working Out The Bugs

Did you know the Salt Lake Scots has a new website up? There's a link to it over <---------here. Supposedly there's a /community part of it where we can do email and pics and piping blogs (what a NOVEL idea!), but so far I haven't gotten any response to my registration. If it's Ian handling those, I may have quite a wait. It'll have to be a pretty good blog to get me to switch from this one.

Next year, I'm going to nominate Ian for several awards: 1) for being late to EVERYTHING, 2) for taking more than too much time to make his announcements, and 3) for not getting done the things that he says he will by the time he says he'll get them done. Oh, and 4) for overscheduling himself, and causing #1 and #3.

Last night we worked on the Traditional strathspey (author: Anonymous), not to be confused with "Traditional" (author: Unknown) and also worked on Brogues on the Cobbles and That Darned Jig: Glasgow City Police Pipe Band. Jason was pleased that we noticed our problems ourselves, and worked to correct them immediately. He said it was a pleasure to pipe with this class.

It's nice not to be a burden.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Answer Is . . .

. . . Grade IV is Grade IV, Grade III is Grade III.

We are all still in GrIV. They are going to continue with the same system, moving people up one by one when they are deemed qualified.

Several people are happy about this.

1. Dave - is digging his heels in about being MORE competitive, and doesn't want to go to GrIII. He's very happy to maintain the status quo. Amount of time available to fill with practicing is probably at a minimum for him, too. He's happy with this decision.

2. Small Son - was afraid that when he finally got to pipes and playing with the band as a GrIV, he would be all alone; i.e. no family next to him. He's very happy that I'll still be there to pipe alongside him.

3. Me - I'm happy not to have the extra practice requirements, the added pressure, additional gigs, and the frowns of perhaps-overly-critical GrIII members added on to what I have already. I'm happy to have the same comfortable group of people to practice with every week.

On that same theme, at the end of the party last night Ian handed Small Son an extra box of Award Candy and told him to hurry up and practice so he could play with the band. Because SS responded, "OK", he feels he has promised to keep playing. He thinks he has committed. We'll see if he a) starts showing signs of stress or b) practices more.

There were 17 pizzas left over last night. We took one home. I'm hoping everybody else took one home, too. Or that Ian took the rest of the pizzas to a homeless shelter for re-distribution.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What with one thing and another . . .

. . . one day passed.

Up at 0215.

Work, work, work.

Go home.

Make cookies and lunches.

Go to the chapel and help set up for the RS Christmas party (second party in 4 days). Party.

HH's Christmas Quiz was a real challenge. Nobody got more than 3 versions of A Christmas Carol. Nobody guessed when the Battle of Trenton was, and even the answer sheet said it was 1977. I know the Revolutionary War did not last that long.

Clean up. Practice choir part. Go home and go to bed at 2130.

How many hours does that make? Um . . . . .19 and some change.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

And the Winner Is . . .

With strength of will characteristic of her, Daughter #1 waited until Sunday to open that large envelope from the church that would give her all the information she ever wanted to know about her mission, including where she would be going. She waited until Relief Society, the women's meeting. Usually there are only women in there. Sunday the Bishop was there, Small Son was there, my friend Connie Who Never Comes to Relief Society was there, various other men were there, all the Young Women came in. Standing Room Only!

We made her stand up in front of the room. She slit open the envelope, pulled out the letter, and said, "It seems I will be going to . . .



There was a huge collective, reciprocal gasp from the attending crowd, then everybody burst out talking, laughing, crying. It was very exciting.

The official mission is Busan (pronounced as if it started with a 'p') South Korea, a city of about 4 million, on the southeast coast of Korea. She is already learning the alphabet and rudimentary vocabulary. She is so thrilled that she will come home tri-lingual. (I'm green with envy.) She enters the Missionary Training Center in Provo on the 14th of January. We have a little over a month to finish getting her ready.

Thank goodness she already has her passport!

Korea is such a looooooong way away.

Canine Hunger Strike

Our dogs have gone on a hunger strike.

Their Food Of Choice is a remix of X number of kinds of dog food, mixed altogether, bagged, and sold for cheap. HH calls it Ghetto Mix. Our dogs love it. We usually get it at Market Square, a warehouse where almost-expired or totally expired food is sold, so it is dirt cheap.

Lately, they haven't had those 30 pound bags of Ghetto Mix on the shelf, so we've had to buy a grocery-store brand. We've had that 10 pound bag of grocery-store dog food for 6 weeks, and they still haven't eaten it all. They absolutely REFUSE to eat it. They've both lost weight, and they're vulturing food from wherever they can get it, including the table and the counter and peoples' lunch bags waiting for the school day.

Yesterday I decided I had to get something they would eat. Of course I went to the store to get some. Of course Market Square didn't have any Ghetto Mix. I went to a grocery store. Of course I couldn't choose the grocery-store variety. But which to choose? Which one would our dogs Gimpy and Stupid eat? What do they base their decision on? They're both color blind, so it can't be the color of the bag OR the food. It must be smell. Of course I couldn't bring them into the grocery store to smell all the bags and tell me which they'd rather have. Not being able to base my decision on color, brand or price, I had to go by smell.

I waited til the aisle was empty. then walked along the dog food aisle and sniffed each brand of dog food, hoping somebody I knew DIDN'T turn the corner at the end of the aisle and see me with my nose plastered to a series of dog food bags, and make a character judgement.

Have you ever opened a bag of dry dog food? The smell that wafts up is delicious! Meaty, warm, just asking to be snarfed. Even a can of dog food smells pretty good, even though it looks like it's already been processed by a dog . . .

I don't have the most distinguishing of noses, but . . . they all smelled the same to me. Chicken, beef, pork, lamb, vegetable. . . all the same. Now what to do? I couldn't go on color, brand, price OR smell. So I just guessed, pulled two smallish bags (one on the higher priced end, one from the lower priced end; one red and one green-ish) and went home frustrated, hoping at least one of these two would be acceptable and end the hunger strike.

At home, I put four bowls down, 2 for each dog, one kind of dog food for each dog, and waited to see which they would go for. Both Gimpy and Stupid smelled both offerings, and then snarfed the cheapest one!

Yeah, dogs!!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Good Practicing

Someday these 19-hour days are going to kill me. I'm going to do something really stupid and never be able to show my face in public again. I'll have to go around with my head in a paper bag. Not only that, but my whole family will have to wear paper bags on their heads. I wonder if there are still enough paper bags in the world for each member of my family to have one.

Last night at group lesson I was almost comotose until we struck in to play something. Since Pete wasn't there, Jason asked which of us was good at tapping their foot (to keep time). I raised my hand, because I know both Lee and Sande rush, and John is still too new to all this. Whaddya know, Sande volunteered that I was the best at the same instant that I raised my hand! So I got to be Pipe-Sargent-For-The-Day. We did the Mill set and Amazing Grace with harmony.

And, might I add, we did very well. John was having trouble with the last part of Brogues, but it's a tough part and he's relatively new and is forgiven. We have decided to play Brogues for our recital piece (hopefully I will not be there; hopefull, I will be in Switzerland).

All my strike-ins and cut-offs were beautiful. I knew you'd want to know.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Mission Call

A large white envelope arrived at our house yesterday, from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, addressed to Daughter #1. As of this writing, she is going to sit on it and open it in Relief Society on Sunday. To annoy her father. Daughter #2 thinks this is silly and an attention-seeking behavior, that the opening of a mission call should be a family affair, and that she should open it on Friday evening. It's #1's decision.

The RS Presidency has given Daughter #1 full permission to open it on Sunday. They think it will be a bonding experience, and that all those who are present will be more apt to write to her during her mission.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Last Band Practice 2008

Nine pipers showed up last night. Nine! We only needed six to compete at Jackson Hole and could only scrounge five. Last night, prime holiday shopping and baking time, we got nine!

It was a very good practice, nonetheless. All nine pipers sounded gorgeous! Tuning went swiftly. We breezed through several familiar sets sounding like the LA Scots instead of JT Dunnie, then started on a 6/8 and a jig and Sean's tune, all of which needed the work we put into them. They still need more.

Sean then gave us some jig exercises that he had specifically designed to help us on this particular jig, Glasgow City Police Pipers. We worked on them for awhile on PCs. I was sitting next to Lee, and he was rushing through every tune and exercise, as is his wont. I wanted to whack him over the knee to slow him down, but figured that would be "inappropriate". Besides, he looked rather tired. I didn't think he would appreciate the gesture.

The Executive Committee is meeting Sunday night to decide if we get to be Grade III or not, and the party is on the 10th, 7pm, in the Little Theatre at Highland High. Pizza will be provided; we have to bring sides.

I wonder what I should bring?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Fetching the Tree 2008

Traditionally, the Saturday after Thanksgiving is the day we go fetch our Christmas tree. This year was no exception. The difference was that everybody else--AND their dog--decided it was their day to get a tree, too!

In years past we have had blizzards, time constraints, and dog fights, but this year the weather was dry and a "balmy" 27 degrees F with a low ceiling of clouds that threatened snow, we had all day, and the dogs were cooperative.

Despite the usual mad search for hats, boots and coats, we got an early start. The road to Evanston, WY was pretty much deserted, but once past Evanston our Wrench-in-the-Works for this year manifested itself: it had rained the night before and then frozen, and everything was coated wtih 3/4" of ice. We slowed way down.
In order to cut down a fresh tree from Christmas Meadows, you have to get a permit from the US Forest Service. It only costs $10, making these the cheapest and most exciting trees on the market. But to get it, you have to pull into the lodge parking lot, which is attached to a parking lot 6' lower than the road. Oh, and coated with ice. And everybody was either in the parking lot, trying to get in, or trying to get out. Getting in was no problem for us. Gravity works. Pulling out, however, we had to go up the hill in the face of oncoming traffic, the ice, and the congestion. Our first 2 tries were unsuccessful due to oncoming traffic, and people ahead of us stopping, so 5 cowboys hanging around the parking lot (for just such a situation, probably) headed our way to push us up the hill (in our Chrysler New Yorker! HA! I don't think so.). HH waved them away, sure that if he got an uninterrupted run at the hill he would make it. We backed way up and sat there waiting for traffic to clear (making several people behind us mad), finally got a minute opening, and ran for it.

It was touch and go there, for a second, but our wheels kept spinning and we actually kept moving and made it out. From then on, we drove VERY CAREFULLY as the road was narrow, icy, snowy, and not maintained. And busy. We had to go a long way to find a place to pull out of traffic without going downhill at all, cuz if we got stuck way out there, we'd be there all winter! HH spotted a nice stand of young trees across a marshy place next to a campground. The ice coating everything made every step a drumroll. You could always tell where the dogs were by the crunch-crunch-crunch of their steps!

Crossing the marshy place, we very quickly found a nice, bushy tree less than 12' tall, cut it down and hooked it up to the dogs' leashes. The benefit of the ice was that dragging it back to the car was much easier than in former years!

The tree "fit" in the trunk, with the copious application of lots of rope, but the fun wasn't over yet! Just past the Lodge, an extended cab pickup towing a motor home had jack-knifed and was blocking both lanes, unable to move for the ice. A trooper was parked on the side of the road with it's lights flashing, but apparently not helping in any other way. We all just sat there burning dead dinosaurs for half an hour. Finally, another pickup with chains and TWO tow ropes was able to tow the offending pickup past us to the Lodge. The chains dug deep holes in the ice as they went by. Traffic started moving then, and we passed another motor home in the ditch, and two cars with bashed-in grills waiting for tows as well. We crawled back to Evanston, filled up with gas (at $1.45 per gallon!), treated Daughter #3 to a 15th Birthday lunch, and drove merrily home. Back home, Daughter #1 had moved the furniture around in the living room, set up the Christmas tree stand, and fetched half the boxes of Christmas decorations from the basement. What a nice surprise! We are now officially Decorated for Christmas!

Fetching the Tree

Friday, November 28, 2008


During our Thanksgiving shopping, I mentioned to HH that we needed some more yeast. He insisted we did not, as we had a whole bag of it in the freezer. I let it go. I'm wishy-washy like that.

At 10 pm on Wednesday night, after working 10 hours, shopping 3 hours, making 4 pies (from scratch) and 40 gallons of Cranberry Waldorf salad, I threw together the cinnamon roll dough and waited the appropriate amount of time for it to rise.

Nothing. My lump of dough sat in the bottom of the bowl like a . . . a lump.

I THEN looked at the expiration date on the yeast: May 2008. I guess yeast cryogenics isn't all it's cracked up to be, because all my yeasties were DEAD.

We HAVE to have cinnamon rolls for Thanksgiving Day breakfast. It's a Commandment!

Luckily, my local grocery story was still open, so Small Son and I dashed over and got some new, live yeast (and some treats), threw the old dough out and started over. This is a new recipe from Alton Brown on the Food Network. If you have a show on Food Network, all your recipes are supposed to work beautifully. Especially if one follows the directions. I followed the directions, and after waiting for the rising again, we peeked in the bowl and . . . another lump. By this time it was 11:00 pm and I had had enough. I rolled that dough out anyway and formed it into little, skinny spirals, covered it with plastic and some towels, and put it in the garage where it is cold to think about things. Then I Went To Bed.

Enough is enough.

In the morning, sure enough, they were still skinny spirals. Thanks a lot, Alton. Don't you try your recipes before airing them?

I was rushing to get working on time, so I put them in the oven anyway. Lo and behold, half an hour later when the timer went off, they were nice, fat, golden, HOT cinnamon rolls! Whaddaya know!? Sorry I doubted ya, Alton.

I sat upstairs in my little closet working away (not very hard, truth be told), listening to the chatter of children and the clatter of pots and pans from the kitchen downstairs . . . and the occasional glass breaking . . . and was thankful I had taught them all to cook (or they had just learned, I'm not sure which), to set the table, and to work together. Based on these pictures, it's amazing they did any work at all! It was so nice to get off work at 2 pm and have dinner ready. Some people I talked to were going to work all day, then cook all afternoon, THEN have Thanksgiving dinner. I am very thankful.

We sat down to a table crowded with our favorite foods, with more favorites lying in wait for afterwards, and the banter began. Some of the more interesting things we discussed were how to arrange the living room furniture to accomodate the Christmas Tree, and that we were going to have to start doing daily sit-ups to strengthen HH's stomach muscles so his back wouldn't hurt so badly. Then somebody mentioned that we would have to admit to the Bish that although we might not have daily family prayer, but we do have Daily Family Sit-Ups. Somebody else extrapolated from this that we would also have to admit that we don't have Family Home Evening exactly regularly, but we do have Family Movie Night. We laughed at the idea that this would be an acceptable alternative.

The best part was that everybody was happy to be there. Nobody wanted to be anywhere else with anybody else (although this is often the case the rest of the year). Smiles and laughter and horsing around were everywhere. It was a lovely day.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Three Drones

I have been trying for--let's say years, because I think it's about 2--to get all 3 of my drones to play all together.

Last night at band practice, I got them all struck in and was playing away, sounding beautiful, and Sean asked me to please plug my middle drone as I was drowning out the other players with all my drones. He went on to say that most of the rest of the band with Kinnaird carbon fibre drone reeds plugged their middle drone for this very reason.


Band party on the 10th. Dunno where. These haven't been really interesting, except for the party two years ago--or was it last year?-- where Jason got hit in the head with a hidden piece of PVC pipe and had 6 stitches. Blood and everything. That was interesting. Although probably painful.

Stay tuned for more updates.

And Happy Thanksgiving everyone, whether you believe in the Great Turkey, the Great Ham, or the Great Roast or not. Just decide to have a lovely day.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

After fiddling around with my drones and with striking in, I am happy to report that the drones work. All THREE of them!! I have discovered if I don't keep the pressure up, one of the tenors starts doing that oo-wah-oo-wah thing. Another incentive to keep the pressure up. LOL.

The tenor drones are tuned way out to nearly the point that if I move them out another 1/8" they will fall off! I did say they were tuning really high, but Jason retorted that it's usually only the bass drone that needs an extender, so that's all he gave me. We'll see what happens tonight at band practice!

Friday, November 21, 2008

A lot of good new drone reeds has done me. They are supposed to sound glorious (and they do, one at a time, when blown by mouth, but my goal is to have them play together and have the bag blow them!)

<---Kinnaird Carbon Fibre Drone Reeds. Notice the little belt toward the bottom of each reed. I have had them intalled for a week and a half. I even tried to practice several times, but if your drones are playing something that sounds like two or three middle-aged, chain-smoking crows arguing with your chanter, it's not something that you encourage. Even your most finished tune will sound terrible. We drank champagne and toasted our competition success Tuesday at band practice, and talked about exciting new developments in Grade IV history, instead of actually practicing. . .

Last night at group lesson I let Jason know I had this teeny, tiny drone problem. He sighed and said he would see what he could do, but couldn't I have let him know a little in advance? Obviously there is a communication breakdown somewhere, because I have been telling Erin about it for a week and a half and . . . . nothing. He tried.

He moved the little belt on the reeds "down" (I call it "up" because they were being moved away from the earth's core, toward the stratosphere, but for some reason I've got the word backward--or he does) and we took away some hemping and added some more hemping (hemp is a sort of waxed string that you wrap around the base of the reeds that helps them fit into their appropriate holes better-- deeper). All this was happening while the rest of the group was watching bits of "So I Married An Axe Murderer" starring Mike Meyers, so it was a little distracting and I didn't pay 100% attention, I'll admit.

Yellow Hemp

The end result was that they sounded wonderful when played individually by Jason. But then Jason can make even plastic Paki pipes sound wonderful. I had to go home and get people to bed, including myself, so I didn't have time to try them together. I don't know if any progress was made at all.

My mission, should I choose to accept it, is to get them tuned before next band practice on Tuesday next.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

BIG NEWS: After Grade IV's first and second place wins at the last competition (and glowing comments), and our 2nd place win at Payson, and as of the first of the year, "they" are moving the whole Grade IV up to Grade III ! Me, too! Aaaaaaaaghhhhhh!!

I'd always debated if offered a "promotion" to Grade III, whether or not I would take it. The people in Grade IV are the best in the band. I can't necessarily say the same for all the Grade III. Lots of them, yes, but not all. If I moved up to Grade III, I'd be leaving the best of the Salt Lake Scots behind. By moving everybody up at the same time, "they" have effectively done away with my dillema.

This will not be official until 10 December at the next band meeting. But Sean did announce this to us last night.

He brought non-alcoholic champagne for everybody last night while we went over the score sheets from the competition.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I put the new drone reeds in yesterday, and tried to get them to tune to the chanter, but no matter how I extended the drones, or moved the little rubber band on the reed or turned the little allen wrench, they remained stubbornly waaaaaaaaay sharp. AND. Or maybe I should say BUT . . . I got all three drones to sound, but as soon as I started in on the chanter, both tenor drones cut out. That's OK, because they were not in tune, and the middle one was double-toning, which is to say, going oo-ee-oo-ee-oo-ee, instead of it's one note. Grrrrrrr.

I really need help with this, and possibly drone reed extenders, since this chanter plays a lower-than-normal note, and the longer the drone, the lower the note, but mine just won't go long enough. I really don't want to take time out from band practice tonight for Sean to help, but I even more don't want to take the whole set into the Celtic Center and ask Dennis to help me. I know Dennis does NOT want to help me and will belittle me as much as possible while doing it.

So my plan is to see if Erin will bring some drone reed extenders to band practice tonight, or if I can come by the Center after work and pick them up.

While raking leaves this Saturday, the rake handle broke, and the top of the handle smashed into my right ear. It is sore and swollen now. This is just great. I have a cauliflower ear and a broken nose (from long ago). I also have a big wide belt with a fancy buckle. All I need now is a wrestling title to defend.

Friday, November 14, 2008

It's gonna be a piping-free week. Band practice was cancelled on Tuesday since it was the practice after a competition. Thursday Small Son had a Pack Meeting which conflicted with our lessons. All I have done is remove my old drone reeds and put in the new ones. Haven't even been able to toot one toot.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Dave Barclay results posted

The band results are here:

Look for J.T.Dunnie, instead of Salt Lake Scots.

The solo results are here:

Look for Grade IV Piping Slow March, then look for me.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Dave Barclay Memorial Competition

I just could not get nervous--or excited--about this competition. For one, it was INDOORS in November. For two, it was so far out of the regular competition season that it was not to be taken seriously. I made several half-hearted attempts at practicing my solo tunes, and then it was The Day.

I put on my uniform shirt, tie, vest, kilt, socks, shoes, flashes, belt, sporran and ridiculuous hat and went to the Hidden Valley Presbyterian Church in Draper.

This is actually Lee's church; that is, he's the pastor of it, or the vicar or the rector, whichever term they prefer. He calls it his "one day a week job", although I'm sure he puts in many more than that. His office is all decked out in a comfy leather chaiR, tartan thingys here and there, and subdued lighting that is easy on the eyes. It looked very classy. The church is very small. There were fake pine trees behind the altar, and the pews were--as HH advised--very comfy. There was a bible near the front, open to Isaiah. I hoped it was open to the "If you are prepared, ye shall not fear" scripture, but I didn't have the opportunity to check. Although it was too late to prepare, day of the competition.

Every band got a basementy Sunday School room in which to stash their stuff and warm up, etc. We had the grade K-1-2 room. The walls were stone, covered with posters on the books in the Old and New Testament, the benefits of service, and the various attributes of God. It was nice, but it was teeny!

My first appearance before the judge was my 2/4 march (Lady Lever Park) in the chapel. The judge called me up and asked me about myself, where I was from, why was I here. I found out she was from Vancouver, BC, so we talked about orienting with the mountains. I wondered if the trees were put there to make her feel more at home. She seemed very nice. I did pretty well on the march, except for the last line of the last part, but I carried on anyway. There were some hangers-on in the back pews. Some were competitors; some were just observers. I got applause.

Next I was up for my slow aire, Loch Rannoch. I played it mostly flawlessly. At least I got all the notes right. My timing was off in a few places. More applause from the peanut gallery, and Lee gave me a thumbs-up and said "First place!"

Then we had some hours to kill until band comp, so I went up the road a few blocks and got some bagels from Einstein Bros, since Wendy's was not open until 10:00. It really was a beautiful fall day, complete with crisp air, colored leaves, blue-blue sky, horses and mountains. It was nice to just be outside in the sunshine. (There was sunshine, too.)

We warmed up in what would pass for the Relief Society room, if it had been an LDS church. Despite being in the basement, it had big windows all 'round, which warmed it up a lot. Then we were in there sweating like hogs, and added aroma to the mix. The next band wasn't happy, but then, we got the same treatment from the band before us. Besides, what could we do? The windows didn't open at all!

Instead of performing in the echo chamber that was the "gym", we clumped up in the back of the chapel and mosey-ed to the front. We formed a sort of oval in front of the altar/judges table, adn as luck would have it, I had my back to them, so they could very clearly hear my drones and if they were wavering or not (they usually are, as my blowing/squeezing is not in sinc yet.) I concentrated on blowing, and the quick march medley went perfectly.

Repeat all of the above for the timed medley, but multiply the aroma factor by 5. Peeee-yew!
This time, I blew down at the end, but when I released the bag, the drones kept on playing!!! Uuuuuuugggggghhhhhh! I'd cut out 50 times, earlier that day, even with the bag 3/4 full, and no droning on at the end. Why did it happen in the actual comp? I was sure I had blown it for the whole band.

I got new carbon fiber drone reeds on Thursday. Hopefully it is the reeds, and this will solve everything.


Saturday night I got an email from Pete, as follows and I quote:

"Congrats to Grade 4!!!!!!!!! In the QMM we tied for 1st place in points with Galloway and were second in the ensemble so we took 2nd the Timed Medley we took 1st in Piping, 1st in Drumming, 1st in Ensemble, which means 1st overall!Yeeeeeeeeeeeeehaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

Don't worry about your wee cutoff at the end of the timed medley we still won it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

And as icing on the cake, I took 4th in the slow aire competition!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I just heard a news report that people are stealing memories from blogs. So all you hundreds of people out there who are reading these entries and thinking of stealing them, THINK AGAIN! and decide not to. They are not worth it.

Last night at band practice I was intense. I decided not to sleep after work so I wouldn't be fuzzy at band practice. So I was awake, but tired. And I was intense. Sean told us to warm up, so I played through both my slow aire and my march, then the 3 tunes in the set I may be playing for the trio if Drew flakes. Then Lee showed up, and I went through the set again. Then we did 45 minutes of tuning and played through both competition sets. We played pretty much the whole 2 hours, except during tuning (of other people), so my lip is sore today.

I am still (or again) having trouble with my cut offs! Crivens! This is an OLD, TIRED problem that I should have had solved YEARS ago! I swear, though, that sometimes ol' Angus will cut off beautifully with a nearly full bag, and other times he will keep whining with a nearly empty bag. Nobody believes that story, though. They all say it's "operator error".


Guess I'll have to go in there and adjust my drone valves.

Competition on Saturday.

It snowed yesterday. It was not magical, Christmas season snow; it was the cold, wet gray snow of late January and February when you are sick to death of snow. How can this be? Magical snow always comes first! Waaaaaaaaahhhh!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Wedding Gig

By default I suppose, I was chosen to play a trio gig for a wedding at the U of U, a trio in this case being 2 pipers (me and Tall Aaron) and a drummer (Dusty).

You may or may not know I've never playled for a wedding before. But I've done a funeral, and the dead didn't seem to mind my playing, so I was fairly calm about doing a wedding, 'specially 'cuz I wouldn't be alone.

The location was the 4th floor of a tower of the U of U football stadium. The outer two walls were solid glass. Through one you had an unobstructed view of the football field from about the 45 yard line. Through the other, a view of the parking lot, with the city behind. About 40 chairs were arranged with a center aisle. The wedding was facing (you guessed it) the parking lot.

Of course I was the first one to arrive. I made sure I was in the right place, and got a separate room for us to warm up in. Then I waited. At 3:35 I called Aaron on my NEW CELL PHONE and learned he was almost there.

We got tuned up and planned some tunes. We worked on Highland Cathedral and Scotland the Brave. The groom had told us he wanted us to play a "gathering tune" walking up the aisle and veering to the right. We were then to wait for the "kiss the bride" part, then play Scotland the Free. I admitted I didn't know that one, but would Scotland the Brave work? Whatever, he shrugged. Oh, and would we play for 15-20 minutes during the mingling afterward?

Aaron had written some harmony for Highland Cathedral, and he wanted to play the whole thing, even though the aisle we were going to walk down was very short, so he warned us he was going to walk very slowly, in order to fit the whole thing in. I was to follow him, and Dusty (who is shorter than me) after me.

The bride did her walk after we were in place.

She was the most antsy bride I had ever seen! She kept turning, twisting, giggling, looking all around, almost dancing with nervousness. I thought she was going to bolt.

It was a pretty boring wedding, as weddings go, except for the pipers and drummer, but then I'm prejudiced. The judge had to keep looking at the marriage certificate to know what their names were. And it wasn't clear from the names which belonged to the bride and which to the groom.

STB went off without a hitch. We played Mill and Mari's Wedding. Then Dusty and Aaron played Clumsy Lover for the groom. He appeared not to notice. Then Aaron asked me if I was sure I could play Bells of Dunblane. I said I was sure, and did he want to go on into the next tune of that set, Glasgow City Police Pipers, a jig, after that? He was pretty taken aback and stood there gaping for a minute, looking from me to Dusty and back again. Dusty's comment was: "Best way to learn." So off we went.

Bells is a slow aire, one of my favorite tunes, so it was no problem. We navigated the break into Glasgow without a hitch and as we started into Glasgow itself, I realized that Aaron was playing it much faster than I'd been used to play it. I quickly decided not to think about it, just play it. I let my fingers remember the tune, not my head. I even got the run on the last part. Aaron was impressed. I was bursting!

I hope he doesn't think of me as a terrible -- or even less than operational--piper anymore, or dread playing a gig with me. I hope he tells other pipers (especially Sean and Jason).

Yay, me!

Friday, October 31, 2008


My intention this year, as in several years past, has been to take Small Son out treak or treating as a Piper, dressed in my kilt and practicing as we went along. It hasn't happened yet.

This year, I was steeling myself for people giving me treats to STOP playing, but HH offered me more to never start.


Small Son went trick or treating with his friend, so I stayed home and answered the door.

Daughter #1 and Daugher #2 did get dressed up for their respective parties. Here they are:

Daughter #1

Daughter #2

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ringtones and Flexibility

LOL. It's amazing how a little thing will make you chuckle all day.

For example, ringtones. I downloaded 2 ringtones for my new cell phone (see previous) yesterday, after much pain and suffering and humiliating myself to call and ask for assistance. One is Henry Mancini's Pink Panther theme, and the other is Gilligan's Island theme. Just remembering the antics of Gilligan and the rest of them makes me chuckle.

In other news, I interviewed for the temporary Crew Support Lead position yesterday. They want me to be flexible, so I was. Two days ago I got an email telling me the interview would be Wednesday (which meant I had to go in to the Center for the 2nd time this week). When I got to the Center yesterday and opened my email, there was aNOTHER email telling me the interview was going to be Friday, which would mean a THIRD day at the center. All this during a week in which HH was in Santa Fe. I accepted that interview time, too, but sent an email asking if this was my second interview already, or a new time. Then I mentally started preparing myself to work from Sandy on Friday. Finally, early yesterday afternoon, I got a 3rd (or perhaps it is a 4th) email telling me the first time was on, 2 people were doing the scheduling. Which meant I didn't have to drive to Sandy on Friday, but also meant I had 2 hours to get my answers ready for the interview.

That's flexible.

I consulted with my supervisor, "Leia", and got something ready, and showed up at the appropriate office. Out comes one of my interviewers, all a-flutter, telling me the other interviewer's father was just involved in a terrible car accident and she would either have to reschedule or get somebody else to assist in the interview.

I went back to work and awaited results.

Half an hour later she approached my desk and said "2:05". So at that time I went back to her office, and did the interview. We established that we had known each other from way back in Southwest Airlines days, and talked about piping, and then jumped right in.

I think I did pretty well on my answers. They wanted to know the 5 most important things a CS Lead does.

CS is the part of the company that
1) assists the agents in the more difficult areas of booking reservations,
2) books non-revenue standby listings,
3) checks people in,
4) calls customers if their flight is significantly delayed or cancelled, or if there has been a time change,
5) calls customers to let them know they booked the same reservation twice, or their card declined, or because of the way they booked, their bags are not going to get to their destination.)
6) communicates to the appropriate entity if something (like the website) breaks down

I named the 5 I could think of.

They wanted to know what did I think was CS's main jobs. I started talking about CS being the heart of the airline, everything has to come through CS to be processed and then recommunicated to the rest of the airline and the customers. It started to sound like blather so I shut up at some point. They wanted to know why I thought I was the 'man' for the job. I rattled--and I mean rattled quickly--off 7 things that are my strong points, including years working in the industry, sense of humor, I like a challenge, I learn quickly, love working with people . . . and some other things which just came out of my mouth and which I can't remember now. They wrote everything down.

It's kind of flattering to say something and then have 2 people scribble away on their papers, like I was a movie queen and had just made some important social announcement and they were reporters. LOL.

I didn't get nervous until the very end. I was shaking when I walked out of there. I should know in a week. Either way, I'll be happy.

In piping news, I've been selected (probably because I was a last resort) to play for a wedding on Saturday afternoon. Other piper playing is Tall Aaron. I think I'll contact him and see what he plans on doing, so I can prepare.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

You know how Tuesdays are my days from hell?
Yesterday was no exception. Even losing two items from the agenda.
My one-on-one with my supervisor was rescheduled to Wednesday, and the training never got created due to lack of facilities (I guess). Works for me. Except that here I am at the Center again today, leaving my kids to face the morning alone again.

I can tell you that it would be nice to get the temporary lead position, but it would also be nice to work 3 days from home, instead of driving in every day. Seventeen miles each way is a long way when you are used to walking 10 yards down the hall to work.

Band. Well, I was a little fuzzy. I could get nearly to the end of sentences, but not quite finish them. Thus, my cut-offs were non-existant. Sean was pretty upset about all the cut-offs I was missing, so finally I said I was going to sit out the rest of the practice and I had turned to walk down off the stage, and he got MADDER and said I was not allowed to leave, he knew I could do it. I agreed I had been able to do cut-offs in the past, just not TODAY. I got the next cut-off, but only because I cheated and stopped playing 2 measures before the end (also frowned upon because it's audible to the judges that somebody has stopped).

We stopped practice early.

Sean said Small Son was doing very well in his lessons. I reciprocated by telling Sean that Small Son was very impressed by Sean. Sean thanked me for that info, stating SS never says much of anything, so he had no idea. I think that Sean pretty much tells it like it is, instead of talking through his hat like Ian used to.

Not one of my best days.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I got my own cell phone.

What a sense of freedom!

However, nobody has called me on it, yet, so I am alone in my freedom.

I got it because the "family" cell phone is constantly missing because we each assume the other person has it and then when we realize it was us, we can't remember where the last place was we saw it, and a major search is on, involving frayed couch cushions and frayed tempers.

Also, when HH goes on a trip and takes the family cell phone, I don't have a way for the kids to keep in touch with me.

How did we survive before cell phones?

I actually practiced on Saturday and Monday, but Monday was one of those days when I couldn't string two words together to make a sentence, much less a meaure, so it didn't go so well.

Another good thing is that I don't have a training class tonight, so I can go to band practice.

And I have an interview tomorrow at 1330 for a temporary crew support lead position, that is also being sought after by Brenda. She's a pillar of the JB reservations community and has been for a looooooooong time, so the light is growing dimmer in my dreams of leadership.

Oh well. I like to work from home.

ADDENDUM: I finally got a call on my cell phone. I was sitting there at the end of my shift making comments on the reservation of a difficult customer and suddenly this noise sounded. Everybody, including me, looked around and asked what the strange noise was. Dean said, determinedly, "I'll find it." Just as he walked past me, the noise came again. "It's you," he said to me. I pulled out my cell phone and . . . yup, I'd missed a call.

How . . . . . embarassing!

Friday, October 24, 2008

HH leaves for Santa Fe in 2 days.

Daughter#1 got promoted at work to Lead.

Daughter #2 had to go before the judge and either go on probation or take a Defensive Driving course, due to 3 citations this year.

Daughter #3's teeth are hurting her where the spacers are.

Small Son decided not to be a ghost, but instead to be Death, with a scythe, and speak in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, for Halloween.

I am not getting any practicing done. This is not working. What can I cut to give me more time to practice? Cooking dinner? Laundry? Sleep? Work? Scouts? I'm not making any progress.

Quotes from last night's lesson: . . . . . . . oh, who am I kidding? I can't remember 5 minutes ago, much less last night. It was something about taking it slow on Glasgow's gen-dah-yen's, and that runs down were our downfall. I asked why the lessons had to be so late at night when I am so tired. I'd be tired earlier in the day, too, so it doesn't matter.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Drew is flaking out. But then, what do you expect from a high school kid who spends his summers piping for free in Nauvoo, IL, 1500 miles from home? Maybe he just wants to get away from home. He also just got his wisdom teeth out, and the dentist has said 'no piping' until the incisions heal.

He and Lee and Erin are supposed to be doing a trio for the Dave Barclay competition (trio in this instance meaning 2 pipers and a drummer, Erin being the drummer), playing Heights of Dargai/Battle of the Somme/Brogues on the Cobbles. But he hasn't practiced with Lee and Erin yet. At all.

So Lee, panicking, called in a second: me.

After band practice last night we went over it. Definitely stumbling, I would say. Gotta work on that, y'know. But it was better than last week, so progress is being made. When Erin had gone, Lee and I went over his harmony on Battle of the Somme and tweaked it here and there. Sean was sitting over there listening. When we were packing up, he asked us to play that set for the band next time it's played (I read into that: next week). Cool.

I told you that since I'm the piper that has been with the band the longest of the two of us, I get to play PM in this group. So far, I've done OK.

This was a tuning practice. Since Sean has returned from LA, he's spent a lot more time tuning. We tuned for an hour and 20 minutes, then spent 20 minutes more marching in and out of the circle. No breaks. And that was it. We were excused.

Dave and Teagan were there last night. Seems Teagan made the hockey team, so he was exempt from practice last night. It was good to see them.
Daughter #1 has scheduled her final interview with the Stake President for Sunday. We are discussing mission pictures and farewell parties. We are waiting for a location and a date.
I have begun the Total Fatigue portion of my week, Tuesday through Friday. Ugh. I wish they would pay me and not make me work.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Another 3 of Life's Little Victories

Victory #1:
I don't want to be a potty mouth, but this story involves our toilet. It has been leaking for about a week, so a few days ago, HH removed the toilet, replaced the wax ring, and replaced everything. It leaked worse!! How fair is that? I admit to being a lazy piper; HH is a lazy plumber. He does half a job and gives up or says, 'it's good enough'. I could see into the future on this one: the floor would rot from the water constantly on it, and we would end up replacing the whole bathroom. So I went and got another ring and some info from my friendly neighborhood hardware store (I'm a big fan of hardware stores!!). I went home, took the toilet off the hole again, removed the tank, and cleaned the old wax off everything. It appears that HH slapped the wax ring on there, and slid the toilet into place, which displaced at least half the wax, which let water leak out the other half. I put the new wax ring on, also adding some wax on the flange bolts to keep them upright, and gently lowered the bowl onto the bolts, coming directly down from above them and not sliding anything. It took a few tries. I had also asked about getting the tank back on without cracking it. I tightened the bolts with my fingers, and then with a wrench until the tank didn't rock, connected and turned on the water and it leaked. Of course. So Helpful Hardware Guy said take a wrench and tighten the bolts just a little until it stops leaking. Yay! No leaking at all! Not even from the original place! Yay me!!

Victory #2:
The Dishwasher. Father-in-law had installed a new dishwasher several months ago, but the bottom panel had been left of to let the floor dry out. By the time the floor was dry, Father-in-law had gone on to help another child, and neither I nor HH could figure out how the panel went back on. So it has been sitting there on the floor getting in everybody's way. I tried a few times to put it back together. Yesterday I noticed that the pieces had been reassembled, and . . . hey, if I just turned them upside down . . . would that fit in the space? . . . HEY! It does! So it's hanging in place, taking up much less room, but I can't bolt it in cuz the holes are in the wrong places from the old dishwasher. Have to get a drill in there and get it bolted in.

I can't remember specifically what Victory #3 was. Either practicing in the garage yesterday, or taking dinner over to the Nelson's yesterday, or getting D#3 braces on yesterday, no deposit . . . they were all victories of a sort.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

My home-made chicken soup is known in the family as Two Swipes With A Dead Chicken, because that's basically how it is made: drag a dead chicken through hot water twice and you're done.
When Daughter #2 makes chicken soup, it's a meal unto itself. She made chicken soup last night, and it was dinner, not an appetizer: hunks of chicken, carrots, potatoes, celery, chicken broth, gigantic noodles. She took some over to our neighbor who just got out of the hospital. Tomorrow I'm sure they'll be back on their feet, ready to conquer the world.

I'm practicing Cullen Bay on PC trying to get it memorized. It's pretty easy, it's just that I'm pretty busy and time is like gold.

The other thing: I found this Anatomy of a bagpipe in an article about piping in Nauvoo. I thought it would be informative for all you non-pipers out there:
My McCallum drones are made of African Blackwood, an extremely hard wood that comes from . . . you guessed it: Africa. You can make them play a little higher or lower by extending or shortening them at the joints in the middle. My Canmore bag is made of Kevlar or some similar fabric, which is puke green, but which I don't have to season like a hide bag. I have a Gale chanter which plays a note below the run-of-the-mill chanters out there and sounds beautiful. There are four reeds: one single EZ-Drone reed in the bottom of each of the drones, and a double Ross reed in the top of the chanter to play the melody. The cords are flashy, yes, but they also keep the drones together and keep them from falling off your shoulder. On Angus, you can't bend the chanter up like this picture because of the moisture control system hoses inside; it has to bend down. You can swap out the cover on the bag whenever you want, to whatever you want. Bands usually have everybody the same. The Salt Lake Scots cover is red with gold fringe. I've seen covers that look like leopards, sheep, pajamas . . . Sande wants to make one that looks like a dragon! That would be cool!

Friday, October 17, 2008

It was a subdued group at Group Lesson last night.

Sande was putting out fires, and didn't attend
Lee was being charitable or preaching to the masses, I don't know which.
Jason was recovering from a flu-like thing, but he did show up.
Pete had had a 19-hour day, it looked like. At any rate, it was a long week.
John got his braces off and was still getting used to his new teeth.

And then there was me, also at the end of a 19-hour day, and still adjusting to a Sandy Nelson-less life.

We got a new tune, to help us all feel better (except for John, who we had to scrape off the ceiling). It's called Cullen Bay. I've heard this tune before. I thought it was a jingle, and while Jason was getting copies of it, Pete and I sang through various commercials to see if I could pin it down, and then because it was funny. But we didn't figure out where I had heard it before.

On the way home it struck me: third grade, Immaculate Conception School, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 1967. The nuns taught us a song called (I think) the Bell Ringer. It follows pretty much the same melody as the first part of Cullen Bay.

High in the steeple hangs the bell.
Old Father Simon rings it well.
Ding-dong-ding, every day, every hour.
Ding-dong-ding comes the bell from the tower.
Clang overhead calls to bed.

It's good to get that figured out.

Small Son got a compliment from his instructor (Sean again). He has mastered the birl, a 4-note grace . . . uh, note. A four-note set of grace notes. Sean said he's making good progress. He is, now that Sean is teaching him. He's on the verge of learning tunes. Just a couple more grace note combos and he can start. He's chomping at the bit to learn a tune.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sandy Nelson: In Memorium

My dear friend Sandy died yesterday after a two-time battle with uterine cancer.

I had confessed to her just at the start of the second battle, that I had abandoned a friend when I learned she had cancer, and that I didn't know what ever happened to her. I promised Sandy that I would not abandon her. I did not.

I was always there, hovering in the background. I didn't always go visit her. But I took them banana bread, gave her a hug every Sunday, and got my Scouts to weed her yard. Nothing like I did for Wanda, but Sandy had family around her all the time where Wanda was alone. I felt compelled to go see her last Saturday. We talked for a few minutes while I held her hand. We both confessed to being scared of what was going to happen. I hugged her twice and we cried. Tuesday when I took dinner over to her (a dinner Daughter #1 and #2 had made), she could no longer talk and was throwing up all the time, so didn't want to see anybody for fear she would throw up on them.

Wednesday at 1400 she got promoted.

Her funeral is Saturday at 1100.

I first met Sandy about 8 years ago. She started as a reservations agent at Southwest Airlines shortly before I did, but quit after only a few months because her family was falling apart in her absence. She was a Young Women leader for several of my girls. Her youngest daughter and Daughter #2 were friends, and Daughter #2 even dated her youngest son, Chase, once or twice. She was a steadfast, honest, friendly woman and I will miss her. I hope she is waiting for me when I get promoted.

I still can't believe she is gone.

It's gonna be bad, when it hits me.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Another 20-hour day

Band practice last night. After getting up for work at 0200, doing my 10 hours (and getting a compliment for being so diligent at working the schedule change queue), making dinner for Sandy's family and our family, Parent-Teacher conferences, Scouts for an hour, dinner, cleanup, band, and a story, I was pretty well done in. However, I was not in a fog at practice, so I carried on to the end. I kept moving to stay awake.

Sean said they had no problem getting home. They called the night before and learned that getting to LAS would be a problem, so they changed to the 0700 flight and came home then. Sean said he had a whole row to himself. Nice. I said, "Yay! Now it feels like I'm helping the band!" and he said, "Nonsense! You always help out the band!" So that was nice.

Lee, Drew and Erin were going to do a trio competition at the Dave Barclay competition in November, but Lee said Drew was flaking out on practices and didn't know if he would show or not. He asked me if I would be a second, a pinch-piper as it were. So we ran over their tunes after band, when I had no lip left. They are doing the Battle set plus Brogues, with a weird break. I've been working on the break today, but it's not that easy. I emailed Lee to see if he would clarify. We'll see if he answers.

I took 3 hours of vacation this morning and slept in til 0630. I feel much more rested with 7 hours of sleep as opposed to 4.

Friday, October 10, 2008

It's sort of a game with us, to see how long we can wait before turning on the furnace each fall. Sometimes we make it to the end of October. Some years we have to turn it on while it's still September.

I turned on the furnace today. Mostly upstairs you can survive with slippers and a sweater; a quilt if you are sitting still. But downstairs your feet start to complain about being out in the snow so long and could we please go inside. My feet have loud voices--well, they are big feet--so I had to listen to them and turned the thermostat up. Usually, with this furnace, the next step is to take the cover off the actual furnace, get down there with a lit candle and light the pilot light. Today, I could hear the gas hissing before I even got to the furnace itself. I was afraid it would just be gas, but a closer inspection showed the pilot light burning brightly, and the after-burners (or whatever they're called) already lit! Wah-hooooo! The blower kicked in about 3 minutes later. The house is all warmed up now, an hour after that. I hope this is a portent of behavior to come!

Last night at group lesson I was more conscious (no fog), but for some reason I could not get the fourth part of Brogues on the Cobbles. I played it fine last week. I played it fine 3 days ago! What gives? There was a lot of laughter at the beginning of the lesson, but I can't remember what it was all about. Mostly it was teasing Lee about his new drone reeds (not the popsicle stick ones, but carbon fibre ones. Ooooooo!) and all his tinkering. He lends himself to teasing.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

It's interesting to look back on blog entries and see how far I've come, instead of dwelling on my near-total failure of one day (yesterday).

Last year I was struggling with lots of tunes that I have now mastered. I was struggling with cut-offs and strike-ins, which I can almost always get now. I've improved my overall playing ability, especially slow aires (after Memorial Day gigs). I've learned another 6/8 march named after a guy which goes on and on, but it's a fun tune. I've got 3 more competitions under my belt and I'm nearly not nervous at all. The List has been handled. The New Uniforms have been received and look very nice. The new chanters are definitely better as far as solo performances go, and even band performances, but massed bands requires us to put in old chanters and retune drones down a half a step, which does not make our PM's happy. I can tune my drones myself, mostly. At least close.

Yesterday I forgot about Small Son's Cub Scouts. I could hardly keep conscious after work. Pretty much a wasted day.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I discovered Pete had used band funds and booked BJ and Sean a flight to LGB on Friday. Not a cheap fare, either. However, they'll get down there for sure. BJ is already listed for a return flight on buddy passes.

Sean was very grateful at band practice last night. I haven't decided if I like someone being beholden to me or not.

It was another of those 19 hour days, and by the time the 17th hour rolled around (band practice), I was in a fog. We were in the "balcony" at Highland HS, a long narrow room, probably about 8 yards across the short way, with folded-up bleachers along one long side and huge doors to a gymnasium on the other. It was pretty poor for acoustics, but great for marching, so that is what we did.

By 7:30 I was hurting, and playing wrong notes on tunes I could play in my sleep. In fact, I WAS playing them in my sleep. I don't play them very well, sleeping, but I get a lot of the notes right. Not enough to make the PM happy, however, so at the break at 8:15 I requested to be able to go home. Sean was quick to excuse me, and thanked me again. The best part was as I was leaving, everybody--and I mean EVERYBODY--said good-bye to me. It made me very happy to hear them. Warmed my heart, you might say.

It hit me that these people are my friends. I see them at least once a week. We know each other's weaknesses and strong points. We've sweated through numerous competitions and other adventures together. But mostly, their real lives don't exist for me: families, homes, jobs, etc. It sure took a long time to earn their friendship. I remember at least 2 years when the only people who talked to me were Dennis, because he was my instructor and even then he only said 'hi', and Pete. And sometimes Jack. 'Course, I was an atrocious player.

Now that they all speak to me, I try very hard to speak to all the new people consistently, more than just 'hi', draw them into the conversation. Drew and Lee are two I can think of. I saw Heather, who is not practicing with the band yet, still just doing lessons, at Olive Garden last week. I gave her a hug and asked how piping was going. She was waitressing, so she didn't have lots of time, but I made it clear I was waiting for her to show up to practice one of these days. I hope I am making the band a better place.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Chief Drummer Dude of Grade III, BJ, and JTDunnie's PM, Sean, have been invited/permitted to practice and play with the LA Scots (in L.A. . . . you know. California?) Every couple of weeks they go to LA for the weekend. We got to vote on whether they could go or not, because they would be enrolled as members of the LA Scots so they would not be able to play with the SL Scots (except as an instructor). I was wondering how they were getting down there. I don't know how BJ is set up, but Sean is a student, the same age as D#1, and works at the State Liquor Store, so he can't be doing much more than hand to mouth to Westminster College, and can't be financially able to buy round-trip tickets to LA every month.

So I got an email from BJ asking if they could use some buddy passes to get there. I had assumed they were driving down there so they had a car to get around. Guess not. Luckily for them, D#2 didn't get married after all and family did not come out, so I still have plenty of passes, and I sent them some. Sean didn't get his email with the buddy pass info, so he called last night and I gave him the info. He seemed really grateful. I am happy I could help. I don't think this will help my playing at all (I wish), but it helps out the band.

We moved the Sleeping Couch upstairs--through the window--yesterday. We set up the step ladder, on top of which we laid the 20 foot ladder from next door, reaching from the ground to the (upstairs) family room window (from which we had removed the screen and window). We tied a rope around the couch the long way, leaned it long-ways against the 20' ladder and HH and I pushed from below while D's #1 and 3 and SS pulled from above, with the rope anchored around the railing. When HH and I had pushed it up as far as we could reach, I ran upstairs and helped the kids to pull it in through the window.

Yes, it did fit.

We neglected to pull the ladder down so the tops didn't dig into the couch when it was passing through the window. So they did dig in and ripped the upholstery a little. I hope we didn't release the spell. It doesn't really matter about the rips because we have had a cover over that couch for almost a year. I am glad that didn't happen to the new couch. The new arrangement of couch pieces in the family room makes the room look much bigger. I like it. I got up early to put the clean cover back on.

The only drawback is that I can't put clean clothes on the back of the couch in personal piles anymore. I sorted some onto the floor, but they picked up some of our pet hair collection. I know that's not going to fly with the Fashion Police Officer.

Only one injury: I pinched my fingers in trying to extend the extendable step ladder. Nobody was crushed by a falling couch.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Henry Tustlosh: In Memorium

Tuesday we had a 2 hour practice. On pipes. No wimpy PC's for us. And I didn't have to ice my lip, and it didn't swell up!

I don't know why this should happen, as Practicing and I haven't been too chummy lately. I'm beginning to suspect I have one (or more) leaks in my bag and I'm afraid to look.

I can't access my email any more at work. It tells me I'm not authorized to view this page. Ever since I got that stupid email from the mystery callers people at work, this has happened. So I don't have access to any work emails right now. Plus, now I can't even pull up new Internet Explorer thingys, so I hope I don't need anything new until IT opens at 7am. Three hours! Ugh! What is wrong with this computer?!

My friend Jean finally came home from the hospital. I don't know what condition she's in as I haven't been over there. But at least she's back in the neighborhood.

I started the work for the Egg Man last night.

I will explain.

When we lived in Glencoe, there was an old gentleman who came around and asked for empty egg cartons. These he would take away to some local farm, fill with farm-fresh eggs and return them to you and only charge 50 cents. They were good eggs. He was a good egg. I don't know how he survived on that. Anyway, our family got to know him. His name was Henry. He and his wife lived vaguely over there [gestures in a south-westerly direction], a couple of blocks away (anybody in town lived a couple of blocks away, it was that small of a town). They had no children, and were retired from farming. Henry the Egg Man came around every week, rain or snow. I always invited him in to have a sample of whatever I was baking, and take some home to his wife, Emma, too. Then suddenly in Feburary 1999 he stopped coming. I didn't know exactly which house was his, nor did I know his last name, so I couldn't go hunt him down.

After a couple of months he came back, but completely changed. He had lost weight. His clothes were shabby and worn. There was pain written all over his face. I invited him in, as usual, but when I offered him some muffins to take to his wife, he started to cry. She had passed away in February. He had no one else, no children or parents or siblings. Every corner of his apartment reminded Henry of her, so he tried to stay away from it as much as he could. But this was winter in Minnesota, going and staying well below zero for weeks at a time, so that wasn't a valid option sometimes. I gave him rides whenever I saw him around town, but if you don't want to go home, getting a ride home is not something you really appreciate.

After a family council, we decided to offer Henry our back room to live in. He accepted, and moved in, but he still wandered around town a lot. After staying with us for a few months, he got an offer from some distant cousins to visit them. So he packed a small bag and went to visit. While there, he was helping to repair a roof, fell off it and broke his back. He was in the hopsital in Glencoe, and I went to see him several times and brought him chocolate (his favorite), but in less than a week, he died. I think he just gave up on life.

So, with no sibs or children, there was nobody to do his work, seal him to his dear wife, etc, etc. I know how he longed to be with her again. I was waiting for Daughter #2 to get the info collected, cuz she said she wanted to. But it didn't happen. So last night, after 9 years, I finally went and got his info into a file. Soon, Henry. I'm sorry it took so long.
In Memorium
Henry F. "The Egg Man" Tlustosh
born 19 November 1914
Glencoe, McLeod County, Minnesota
died 12 September 1999
Glencoe, McLeod County, Minnesota

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Chocolate Chicken

Sometimes, despite your best efforts and good intentions, charity faileth.

I have a friend, Sandy, who is dying of uterine cancer, as her mother did before her. She's had 2/3 of her large intestine removed due to cancer and she really can't keep food in her system. The only other person at home is her husband, who is not a cook. So she has asked that we send food over, enough for one person, two times a week, to keep him away from the fast food joints and help him keep his weight down. How hard is that?

Monday it was my turn. I totally forgot, until 6pm. After we had eaten.

Luckily, we had some left over, so I quick hurried home and set up a plate of chicken and peas and cole slaw and chocolate cake with strawberries on top. It all fit into a plastic container with dividers and a lid.

Next problem: no car. Not really a problem, since she lives about 7 blocks away from me. I could walk, but that would delay dinner for him by half an hour more, and it's already 6:30. Biking would be faster. I put the plate in my "glove compartment" (on top of the gloves) and rode over there in about 2 minutes. However, my "glove compartment" is only 4 or 5 inches wide, not wide enough to hold the plate flat. So when I got to their house, all the chicken had slid into the chocolate cake (which was very moist and soft) and mixed thoroughly. He declared that chocolate chicken was his favorite green vegetable, but I bet he washed off the chicken after I left.

At least it was food, and not fast food.

I hope you get points for trying.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


First quarter mid-term grades came out at the local high school today. I was very afraid.

Daughter #3 is a freshman there this year. A freshman with a learning/social disability. And if you do anything in high school, it's learn and socialize. I was mentally trying to prepare myself for terrible grades.

I know I'm going to get the actual titles of the classes wrong, but basically here's what she got:
Math C
English B
Science B
Sewing B
Geography A
Art A
Chinese A

All her teachers were delighted with her performance in class: she participates, arrives every day and on time, turns in all her work. Seems she has a gift for languages, too. Her Chinese teacher says she is doing beautifully! When we walked up to the teacher, D#3 greeted her in Chinese, the teacher responded back and asked a question, and D#3 answered. I was very impressed!

Her Math teacher discussed ways she could bring up her grade and increase her understanding of the subject. D was embarassed that she made so many mistakes. We explained to her that everybody makes mistakes, and the only bad mistake is one you don't learn from. If you go back and say, "Oh! That's what I did wrong!" and fix it, you erased the mistake, as if it never happened! I hope she got it. I hope she acts on it.

Lesson today was one of those days when I played beautifully (despite being dead dog bone tired). The bag stayed inflated, instead of leaking air out of mysterious and invisible holes that only exist some of the time. I got all the notes right. So it was a pleasure to play. Still have to work on High Road to Linton and Donald MacLean of Lewis, my nemeses (if that's a word). High Road is actually coming along quite well. Don MacLean I'm still having trouble with the gen-den-yen that happens every line. And I don't have them memorized yet.

9/25/08 04:37 am

Some days you wonder if you'll survive to the end. Yesterday was one of those days.

For complicated logistical and employment reasons, I got up at 0230 and drove to Sandy to work from the center. I did my 10 hours, then had a 2 hour team meeting and drove home.

Made dinner.

Ate dinner.

Cleaned up after dinner.

Took Small Son to Scouts.

RS Presidency meeting--without Jean who is still in hospital, but her rash IS clearing up.

Read Eldest by Chris Paolini to Small Son.

Bed at 2030.

Eighteen hours.

The only thing that kept me going was Robin McKinley's latest book, Chalice, which I just got in the mail on Tuesday and read every spare minute. It kept me awake and focused on the future--i.e. the next time I would get a break and be able to read some more--instead of feeling sorry for how tired I was. It worked. It was a great story, but I'm going to have to read it again when I'm not so tired (and after Daughter #1 has finished it). I did not get into the character of Marisol as much as with Harimad-sol in Blue Sword, but the bees were so entertaining, and I feel like eating honey now. Maybe I just have less in common with Marisol than I did with Hari. Maybe I was just too tired.

We've given up trying to figure out a way to get the new couch into the (upstairs) family room, and are going to keep the sectional up there, much to Daughter #2's dismay. It will not fit 'round the corner at the bottom of the stairs unless we saw it in half. Plans to move it through the front window upstairs included a 20 foot ladder, a step-ladder, a sled, 600 feet of rope, and 8 people. Pulleys would have been helpful, too. We'll just move the new couch and loveseat into the living room downstairs and give the Sleeping Couch* to a needy family. I bet the Christmas tree would look cool in the middle of the room, in the center of the two. 'Course, conversation would be awkward during the Christmas season . . .I wonder if the new couch has a spell on it.

* The spell on the Sleeping Couch is that if you sit on it for 10 minutes or longer, you WILL fall asleep. This spell works on everybody, even my "let's-find-something-to-do" mother-in-law. It especially works on me.

Friday, September 19, 2008


From Rauncie Kinnaird, on tuning pipes . . .

Tuning the Chanter
Sound the low A on your chanter and note where it is tuning on the meter. Adjust the calibration buttons until your low A reads "0" on the meter. The green tuning light will come on when your meter is in tune with low A. Use the meter notes and offsets from "0" in the following table to tune the other notes of the chanter. Ensure that the meter is reading the correct "note" which will show up in the top right corner of the tuner.

Notes "C" and "F" show up as "C#" and "F#" on the tuner.

The first column is the Note. Second column is the ratio to Low A. Third column is the Meter Note. Fourth column is the Meter Offset.
Low G_________7/8 ___G____-31
Low A__________ 1____A____ 0
B_____________ 9/8___B____+4
C_____________5/4___C___ -14
D_____________4/3___D____ -2
E_____________3/2___E ____+2
High G_________7/4___G___-31
High A_________2/1___A_____0
Tenor Drone____1/2____A____0
Bass Drone_____1/4___A_____0

If the top hand is sharp compared to the bottom hand, lift the reed slightly out of the chanter to bring the pitch of the top hand down. Add some hemp to the reed if necessary. If the top hand is flat to the bottom hand sink the reed further into the chanter. This will bring up the pitch of the top hand relative to the bottom hand. To flatten individual notes, add a piece of tape to cover the top of the first open hole on the chanter. Sharpening individual notes requires modification to the chanter reed or chanter and should only be done by experienced players.

Tuning the Drones
The drones are tuned to the low A on the pipe chanter. Sound low A on your chanter and adjust the calibration button until the meter reads "0". Adjust the tuning on each of your drones until they are reading "0" on the meter also.

Thought I'd save this somewhere besides my brain, which isn't very reliable.

Robin McKinley's Chalice came out yesterday. I'm very excited to jump into it. So why am I still reading Terry Pratchett? I hate to leave a project unfinished, and I didn't finish this one, Thief of Time, once before. So I have to finish it this time.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

At band practice, Pete got . . . called? appointed? assigned? . . . to be the Pipe Sargent. This means he is the second-in-command of the Grade IV/J.T.Dunnies. I'm perfectly content with this. Sean is going to be playing with the LA Scots and going to school and working and teaching, so I think his plate is full enough without band practice. Pete has always been very kind to everybody, even to me when I was a newbie and nobody else even looked at me. He's been in the band the longest.

I found out that Sean is the same age as Daughter #1. Aaaaaaagh! I could be his mother, and he's leader of the band! He started piping at age 12. Small Son was interested to know this, since he's starting at age 9.

Past history: On Sunday at Regional Conference, we happened to sit in front of Carleton Christensen (running for Utah Senate against Luz Robles) and family. He handed me a list of plants and said his brother runs a nursery and he planted too many last spring and was going to throw the excess out. However. His wife, Sister Christensen, is a member of the No More Homeless Plants group and wouldn't let him. They were giving the plants away to good homes on Monday night. I have been thinking about planting some more color on the boulevard, so I went over there and got about 15. They are now happily (I hope) ensconced and I hope they survive. I'm terrible with plants. When they die, which happens about 50% of the time, I cry over them. I can't put flowers on their graves, because those would just die, too.