Married to the Empire

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Working and Reading and Writing and Praying

I'm currently working on Tuesdays and Thursdays at a middle school. I tutor students who need a little extra help and practice to get them prepared for the reading portion of the TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) next month. This is my 4th year to do this.

We do some group activities each day, but mostly, the students spend their class period with me reading passages and answering questions that cover all the necessary concepts. I average 2 students per class, so there are no behavior issues, apart from the occasional whine about having to be in reading, rather than athletics or art or drama or whatever. (They miss electives to attend tutoring.) They read and answer their questions quietly while I sit and wait to check their answers.

It's a bit boring for me, to be perfectly honest.

I use this time to read mostly. I can loftily look at it as modeling for them, but truthfully, I'm just occupying my mind so I'm not staring off into space while they read their passages.

I've been drawing closer to God on these tutoring days. My cousin lent me her copy of Mudhouse Sabbath, and I liked it so much that I bought my own copy. I recommended it to my church small group to study, so that's what we're doing. I've been reading through that carefully, underlining and making notes as I go. (This even helped me drive home a point with students about using reading strategies to help them on their tests. I showed them that it's something I still do--see above photo.) I've been challenged in a lot of disciplines through this book. (Can I be honest and say that I really don't want to fast?)

I've been praying a lot, too. I start my day asking God to give me love for these students who really don't want to be in my class. And I pray for various needs of people in my life and my church. It kind of makes me laugh when people say that public schools are a mess because prayer has been taken out of them. (I've never understood why a prayer being recited over the intercom is supposed to somehow make all social ills disappear.) But really, prayer is only gone from schools when the faithful choose not to talk to Him.

I've also spent a small portion of time writing notes to people: thank yous, notes of encouragement, messages letting them know I'm praying for them.

Here's the funny thing: I was bored with tutoring last year. After 3 years of it, I found it mind-numbingly dull to sit there while the students read quietly. I'd seriously considered not doing it again this year. But I'm so glad I decided to continue with it. I really do like knowing that I'm doing something to help these kids pass the TAKS and succeed, and if I can draw closer to God while doing it, it's even better.

Monday, March 29, 2010


We had a game night with our youth group on Friday. Just a simple thing with board games. My husband brought in some zombie game he'd been anxious to try out, and the high schoolers gathered with him to play. Apparently while playing the game and chatting, he mentioned to them that he was probably going to be pulling an all-nighter at work on Monday. His manager left for another company, and Steven has been overwhelmed with his own projects, plus his manager's. Poor man has been exhausted every night when he arrives home.

One of our girls handed me this on Sunday morning:

Several of our high schoolers got together on Saturday to bake cookies for Steven to take to work with him--a little treat to make working late not as bad. Thoughtful, right? It gets even better. I was also handed this:

They realized that all the cookies had chocolate in them. I can't eat chocolate due to my migraines. They remembered that and made muffins that I could eat.

Sometimes youth work is exhausting, but moments like this help to make it all worthwhile.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Yak's Pub Giveaway Winner

It's been a crazy weekend, and I didn't get around to finding the winner of the giveaway until, oh, 11pm Sunday night. Sorry about that!

I didn't take pictures (because it's 11pm Sunday night), but I had my resident stormtrooper randomly pull a number for me. He picked #2, which is my friend Java, aka EHMS Master. Congratulations! I'll get that in the mail for you this week.

Stay tuned, as I have another Star Wars-themed giveaway coming up in the near future!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I love laundry. However, I can't say that I love laundry when the cat gives it to me to do. (Calvin's been peeing on the bed again. Twice in the past 2 weeks. *sigh*) But for some reason, in spite of the fact that I stayed up past 3am with some of the laundry, spent much of the next day doing it, and had a trip to the laundromat for the pillows he nailed, I still like the laundry drying on the rack.

Guess it's a good thing I can find the good in this situation!

Is it bad that this is the favorite room in my house? And it's not even a room:

Seriously, I love my linen closet in all its neat perfection. Too bad the rest of my house isn't like this! When company is over, I'd really like to be able to take them straight to the linen closet, but that would just be weird.

I found this little plaque at a fabric store, of all places. Sums up my sentiments nicely, at least as far as our home is concerned:

And now I need to go be domestic, as my house needs to be cleaned. I've started my annual tutoring gig this week, and my schedule is all wonky. As always, I'm reminded of what a blessing it is to be a SAHW most of the time.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Star Wars Giveaway

I have what I think is a very cool giveaway for Star Wars lovers. My friend Scott "Niktom" Horne of Yak's Pub has graciously given me two signed pictures of stormtrooper strips from Yak's Pub.

First up is the 18"x12" Garrison Safety Protocol: Heimlich Maneuver poster. (This is strictly satire, and not intended to be real advice on giving the heimlich.)

The second picture is Scout's Honor. Poor little Ewok being duped by a Biker Scout. This one is 8"x10" and comes in a hard plastic protective sleeve. (Two pictures of it below--one with flash for color, one without so you can read it all. Yeah, I'm a terrible photographer.)

To win, simply leave a comment and a way for me to contact you if you are the winner. For fun, tell me who your favorite Star Wars character is. Mine is Luke Skywalker, followed closely by ewoks. Ironically, stormtroopers are probably my least favorite, and here I am married to one! Comments will be closed at midnight CST on Friday, March 26, and a winner will be chosen randomly.

For more giveaways, go here and here.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Only one panel at All-Con interested me: knitting. Crafts! It was a learn-to-knit panel, and I figured I'd go. For $2 in knitting needles and a ball of yarn snagged from Doogie's thrift store bag of yarn, it was a cheap way to learn something I wouldn't otherwise pay to learn. (I have so many other crafty pursuits waiting in the wings, there's no point in paying to take classes in something I really don't have time for.)

I felt like the remedial student. As everyone else was easily understanding the steps, I was sitting there holding my yarn and needles, completely befuddled. I had to have a personal tutor just to cast on. And again to do the actual knitting. But I finally got it. Sort of.

As you can see, I'm not very good.

I can't really say that I enjoyed knitting, although the challenge of it was a bit intriguing. And I can definitely see the appeal of a craft that can be easily transported and done anywhere. But I find it difficult and not very fun.

I was instant messaging with my niece in London the other day, and I asked her if her mom (my sister) had ever learned to knit. She'd once mentioned to me that she wanted to. My niece told me that she has learned; she's already knitted several scarves and something else (I can't remember what). I told my niece about the class I took and that I find knitting hard. She said, "Let me put it this way. I can knit."

Bested by a 12-year-old.

At least I'm good at other things.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

All-Con 2010: Random Stuff

I didn't go as crazy this year with the picture taking at All-Con. I mostly just took pictures of the stormtroopers. They had their annual photo session scheduled, and they took pics in groups according to region, as well as one giant group photo.

The North Texas Squad of Star Garrison (Steven's squad):

Full group, buckets off, along with celebrities John Billingsley and Larry Hama:

Buckets on, no celebrities:

One of the stormtroopers had everyone recite the Pledge of Allegiance while he shot video. He's sending it to military members of the 501st Legion who are serving overseas.

A few of us stayed up late on Friday night making the cards for the annual Droid Hunt:

And for some non-stormtrooper stuff, here's a pic of my husband leading a panel on playing zombie board games:

Most people at All-Con dress up. (I do not, unless you count my stormtrooper necklace.) Costumes run the gamut of weird, puzzling, disturbing, creative, amazing... I didn't bother taking pictures of anyone until these ladies passed by:

I don't get anime or weird Asian ball-jointed dolls or a whole bunch of other stuff. I do get Disney characters, especially if they're from princess movies.

When our friend Scott showed us the Mexican bootleg action figures he got at the convention, I had to take photos. I call this one Bad Day at the Salon Ewok. Notice the bad makeover and the tinfoil on his head for highlights:

This one is Stupidly Got Drunk, Passed Out, and His Buddies Messed with Him Chewbacca. Notice the crazy, shocked eyes (presumably when he looked in the mirror and saw that his buddies gave his beard a bad dye job), and the foaming around the mouth. On the other hand, perhaps he should be called Rabid Chewbacca:

I've been told that you can expect to see them and a few other Mexican bootleg action figures in future Yak's Pub strips.

Be sure to watch for a Star Wars giveaway here very soon!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

All-Con 2010: Imperial Gladiators

We spent the weekend in Addison at All-Con. As the name implies, it's a convention for all things--geeky, that is. The 501st Legion (aka the stormtroopers) is very involved at All-Con, which is why I tag along. Even though the con is local to us, it's still at least a 30-minute drive from home. I made a last-minute decision to book a hotel room for us. Stuff goes late into the night, then starts again early the next morning. Steven was always so tired in the past. Besides, this gave me a place to go when I got bored or sleepy.

Steven was in charge of Imperial Gladiators again this year, which took place on Friday night. This is a fun competition that starts with the stormtroopers having to suit up as quickly as they can. Then they play several other games, all trying to earn points to win.

Steven asked for audience members to participate in the Shooting Gallery. Volunteers held masks of various Star Wars characters, and the stormtroopers had to shoot at them. However, not every character was shootable. They gained points if they shot Rebels, but lost if they shot any Imperial characters. One stormtrooper accidentally shot Vader. Not a good idea to attack the boss.

Next up was Capture the Princess. John Billingsley, who played Dr. Phlox on Star Trek: Enterprise, graciously agreed to play the princess. He was armed and allowed to shoot back at the stormtroopers trying to get to him. They were timed and eliminated if they got shot before reaching him.

I'm sure there's a name for the last game, but I can't remember it. Basically, the stormtroopers are trying to shoot each other and be the last one standing.

The scorekeeper was Scott "Niktom" Horne of Yak's Pub. He saved me from having to do it. (Thanks, Scott!)

The winners, who were awarded their medals by John Billingsley:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Stormtrooper Pendant

I know. A Star Wars post! It's only been something like three months. But if the resident stormtrooper doesn't do any trooping, I have nothing to show you. But All-Con is coming up this weekend, and my stormtrooper is in charge of Imperial Gladiators again this year. I have to be ready to show my support. Seeing as I'm not into costuming or anything, a t-shirt and/or some tasteful jewelry is as far as my fandom goes.

I have a trooper pendant that I made last year, but my husband likes to point out that it's a clone trooper. Apparently, it matters. So, I made a new one.

I started with a patera pendant from Judikins. I measured out some shrink paper (2.25 inches seems to be the right size to cut to shrink to fit this particular pendant) and stamped a stormtrooper on it.

Then I used my heat gun to shrink it. I find the heat gun easier to use than the toaster oven, as I can control the heat a bit better. I use a piece of cardboard covered in aluminum foil (I'm very fancy and high-tech here) to heat the plastic on. I also use a bamboo skewer lightly on top of the plastic to keep it from sticking to itself when it folds up in the shrinking process.

I was using black pigment ink for this, and it kept smearing in the heating/shrinking process. Since pigment inks do so well on paper with embossing powder, I thought that might help. I tried it. It didn't work. Not even a little.

I was becoming more and more frustrated. Right before I was about to head out to the craft store for some Staz-on ink, I decided to try lightly sanding the surface of the shrink paper. Success! But now there was a new problem: sizing.

Sometimes the plastic shrank crooked. Sometimes it was too small. Other times it was too big. And of course, there were the smeared attempts. To say that this project required patience is an understatement. It took the better part of an afternoon just to get the darned plastic near perfect! See the line-up of rejects?

But eventually I did end up with a good-enough stormtrooper. By good enough, I mean, it fit the pendant fairly well, and the smearing was minimal. I don't think perfect exists when it comes to this project. At least, it doesn't for me. My patience was gone.

I popped the plastic into the pendant, then covered the surface with Diamond Glaze.

If you look closely, you can see an air bubble in the glaze. You can pop those with a pin. In my case, I used the tip of my bamboo skewer that I used for the heating process.

I let that dry, then added a second layer simply because I wanted a more raised-glass effect. It dried some more, then I added a silver chain. Done!

This is as geeked out as I get, folks.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Perked Up

I think I had a bad case of the Mondays. Usually, I adore rainy days, but I guess Monday's rain affected me as much as it did the cat. By Tuesday I was completely back to normal. My med situation got sorted out, and Calvin was feeling spunky. (Although, he's relapsed a bit into puny, as it was quite stormy this morning.)

Funny how situations and weather can combine to affect one's mood so drastically. What's ironic is that I was so worried about being without my migraine pain meds, and I haven't had a migraine since Friday. That's like a pain-free marathon for me!

I've been crafting a lot lately, so I thought I'd leave you with a photo of a birthday card I made. The happy colors reflect my perked up mood beautifully.

Monday, March 8, 2010


I'm having one of those days. One fraught with frustration and tired resignation. Telephone call after telephone call to sort out a problem with my prescription for migraine pain meds. I'm down to one pill, and stress can bring on a migraine. This is stressing me out.

And it calls to mind the frustration I have mostly buried and laid to rest--that of living in pain. Why? Why me? Haven't I had enough? I can't even take preventive meds, as I'm in the unlucky small percentage who suffers the worst of the possible side effects. These drugs have been frightening in their effects.

So, I deal with pain.

Mostly, I'm okay with it. I've made my peace with the situation. I can see tiny reasons for it sometimes. I've become the go-to girl for people in my church. I've had phone calls from frantic mothers and husbands asking what they can do for their loved ones in the throes of migraine. I feel good knowing that my experiences have helped someone else.

But I'm still tired of it all.

Throw a sick pet into the mix now. I walked into my bedroom late this morning, and I smelled it. Calvin had peed on the bed. Again. The perplexing part is that he just saw the vet on Friday, and his urine sample was clear of the bladder infection he's been battling. So why would he pee on the bed if he doesn't have an infection anymore?

Oh, yeah. It's raining today.

I started noticing about three years ago that he gets cranky and restless when it rains. As his kidney disease has progressed, he's no longer restless from rain; he's puny. It's obvious on these days that he's sick because he acts the part. It breaks my heart for him, and I feel guilty that I'm irritated at having to wash all the bedding again.

The truth is, I'm tired. I'm tired of dealing with sickness, whether it's mine or the cat's. I'm exhausted by the doctor's visits, the insurance company hassles, the embarrassment I feel when my amiable cat goes into kitty-smackdown mode with the kind people at his vet's office because he's sick of it all, too.

It's one of those days in which I need extra encouragement. I pull out the rubber stamps, pretty papers, and inks and get to work making some bookmarks with bible verses that speak directly to my weary heart. A reminder that I have a Savior who cares--a Savior who took on far more than I'll ever have to so that I can have hope, joy, a home in eternity, a future free of pain. A Savior who can give rest to the burdened heart.

I find a certain peace in the act of creating something. It gives my mind someplace to go besides focusing on the day's frustrations. I concentrate on the words of the scriptures I'm working with, and I'm buoyed ever so slightly by their meaning. I look over at my cat who doesn't feel well, and I pray for him. I pray for myself.

And I give thanks.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

New Curtains on a Budget

I bought new bedding last year that could be easily thrown in the washer at home. I'm still not 100% pleased with it, as I still need to find some proper pillow shams, but I am happy with the colors. Our old bedroom curtains looked terrible with this bedding, and I'd been debating whether or not I wanted to try to make curtains. Sewing still intimidates me, so I was dragging my heels on that option.

Then I happened to find some white curtains in Target one day on clearance. Two panels to a package for $11.88. I bought 2 packages, seeing as $24, or $6 per panel, was as good a deal as I was going to find. But man, were they boring.

All along I figured I'd be adding ribbon to them, but that involves that darned sewing thing again. Besides, enough ribbon to go around 4 curtain panels was going to get pretty pricey. I finally decided to go with fabric paint and foam stamps.

First, I washed and ironed the curtains. I folded them in quarters to make faint creases that could help me with my spacing.

I bought a cheap plastic drop cloth to use for this project. That was approximately $2. I covered my workspace, aka my dining table, with that. (Funny story: My husband mildly grumbled when I threw that into the cart at Home Depot a few weeks ago because we have drop cloths--lots of them. I reminded him that those were used to cover all our furniture and cabinets back when they jackhammered through our floors to fix the leaks under our house. They're filthy with dust, and there was no way I was using those with my white curtains!)

My supplies included 2 bottles of fabric paint (approximately $10 total), 2 foam stamps ($3 total), foam brushes (previously used on another project, but I think they were bought on sale 2/$1), and my paint holder is actually half of a Jello Jigglers egg mold. I got that free at a Taste of Home thing I attended years ago. As we have no children, and neither of us is interested in eating jello with our hands, I use the molds for paint.

I used the foam brushes to brush the paint onto the stamps. That kept the stamps from becoming too loaded with paint. This is one project that can't be done over if mistakes are made! I used a ruler to help a bit with spacing. I was meticulous on the first curtain panel, then I loosened up a bit on the remaining panels and mostly eyeballed it. (That's where those creases I made in the curtains after ironing came in handy.)

A finished panel:

The panels had to go somewhere to dry. I couldn't lay them out on the floor or leave one on the table because I have 2 naughty kitties who would happily walk or sit on them. I pulled out both of my drying racks and used the bathroom shower rod.

Once dry, I pulled down the old curtains, dusted all the curtain hardware, then hung the new ones. I'm very pleased with the final result!

Total cost: $40 for a personalized look.