2011: The Mom Scientist and the Elephants’ Graveyard

By the summer of 2011 I was stir crazy, turning my dishwashing chores into a game of pick-up sticks. How can I pick up this fork without disturbing the rest of the flatware? When I caught myself doing that, I knew it was time for me to do something that engaged my brain. I was knitting and blogging but not doing very much else; there had been some freelance editing work from time to time, but I certainly wasn’t making a living at it. It was now a decade since I had had a regular job, and I missed its structures.

Eventually I remembered that there was a university campus not very far away from me. We had visited the McDonald’s in Whitewater a few times (they had an awesome Playplace before the Trendy Remodel of 2018), but that was really the extent of it. I wasn’t even exactly sure how to find the campus.

In the space of about a week, my thought process went like this:

  • I have been reading a lot of books about mathematicians and physicists. Maybe what I really want to know more about is the math and physics.
  • I’ll bet I could understand them if I really tried.
  • How could I learn more about them besides teaching myself?
  • The university might have science lectures that are open to the public.
  • Instead of attending a public lecture a few times a year, maybe I should audit a class.
  • If I’m going to take a class, I might as well get credit for it.
  • Why not get a second degree? In physics!

Don’t worry if you can’t follow this logic — my husband didn’t, either.

Soon I was calling and emailing all over campus to find out how to apply for the fall term. I was surprised that each person I spoke with took my sudden ambition quite seriously. One physics professor put in the time to figure out how long it would take me to earn a bachelor’s degree in physics if I could only take one course at a time — in the graduate school track. (In retrospect, perhaps someone should have added an element of practicality to the conversation.) But when I walked into Upham Hall that summer I presented a unique problem, something no physicist can resist. The answer, by the way, was ten years.

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During the process of assembling my application package, I became stuck on a requirement that involved my medical records. Every time I contacted an entity that had once held my records — everyone seemed obsessed with proof of my inoculation against tuberculosis — I found out that the records had been destroyed after a certain number of years. Everyone’s housekeeping had erased the medical trail I thought I’d left behind me. Don’t even look for them, I texted my younger brother. Your records are gone too. I called the admissions office in some distress, describing my frustration at being unable to locate any proof of these critical vaccinations. “Wait a minute,” the person said, and there was a gentle clicking sound. “Okay, I have removed that requirement for you.”

I got in my application at the last second — or pretty close to it — and was accepted. I visited the campus to find out what classes I should take. The physics department recommended that I refresh my math background before I started on physics, which certainly seemed reasonable, so I headed across the campus to the math department. There I found another enthusiastic instructor who I felt was far too optimistic when assessing my stalled math skills and my ability to bring them back up to speed. He suggested precalculus to start, and I suggested the algebra class that came before it. He grudgingly gave me the permission, perhaps lamenting my lack of confidence, and noted that this fall he would teach the algebra course; he would teach precalculus in the spring.

Now as my kids prepared for the beginning of the school year I could join them. I picked out a binder and notebooks (black, because mathematics was a “black art”), bought some pencils I particularly liked, and obtained the ISBN for the algebra textbook so I could buy it from Amazon (otherwise I would have to return it to the bookstore after the class was over). I was very excited about my plans even though they didn’t make sense to anyone else.

Me: “I want to get a second degree in physics!”
Anyone else: “What is your first degree in?”
Me: “Literature and creative writing.”
Anyone else: “  ”
Me (detecting a lack of enthusiasm): “I… uh… I guess I just want to use the other half of my brain.”
Anyone else: “  ”

In August, full of the the enthusiasm that everyone else seemed to lack, I started a blog, The Mom Scientist, to document my plans and my progress. Here is a link to the first post.

The kids started school that year sooner than I did. Off they went on the bus; I couldn’t wait until next week when it was my turn.

In the afternoon of the first day of school I got a call from my former sister-in-law, who almost never called me. “I have terrible news,” she said. Before she said anything else I already knew what she was going to say.

My former husband had suddenly, accidentally, died. Old plans had to be changed and new ones had to be made. I phoned my kids’ school and told the principal what had happened; I asked her not to say anything to my kids. I would tell my oldest son after he got home. (As it turned out, he didn’t want anyone at school to know; perhaps some of the teachers there still don’t.) I told my husband, and I called my parents. I would need to drive back to Ohio, help my sister-in-law with my former husband’s funeral and obituary, and help clean out the house where he had died. And I would need to miss the first week of school.

I drove to Ohio with my son, and I took my algebra book with me. I had emailed my math instructor, who conveyed his sympathies for my loss and let me know what the homework would be. I honestly don’t remember how I spent that week or even where I slept as I did all the things I had to do, but I have memories of sitting on my parents’ guest bed and opening that math book and trying to make sense of it. On the first day it was just a collection of letters, numbers, and symbols. But each time I opened the book to work on a few problems, things got a little easier. I think it did me good to have a task to do that didn’t bring up memories or pain or loss, something that provided a respite from the waves of grief that started to wash over me after the numbness wore off.

We made it through the small, sad funeral and the house-cleaning and the sorting and saving of possessions. Most of the items went into storage for a while. I hugged my sister-in-law and headed back to Wisconsin, still in a fog but with some things settled. The next week I went off to class every day and stayed on campus as long as I could to do my homework. Somehow there didn’t seem to be time and quiet enough to get it done after the kids got home from school.

Though we had been divorced for a long time, we had recently reconciled and I considered him my best friend. The grief of losing him was awful, and I didn’t have anyone to share it with; my son was alone in his own grief. To this day it’s something we haven’t talked about. That big loss has changed both of us, but in different ways that we need to deal with differently. In the first couple of months I felt as if someone had removed the veins from my body and told me that I somehow had to make do with just the arteries. Eventually it felt like something else, and then like something else. A mutual friend of my ex appointed himself as my grief mentor, and responded compassionately to my random, bizarre, despairing texts. Thanks, Steve. You kept me going when I couldn’t even communicate with anybody else.

I did my math and blogged about it, and I kept putting one foot in front of the other. I got an A in algebra and registered for precalculus. Eventually, life did go on for almost all of us.


Knitwise, I took a little road trip this weekend to pick up the yarn I needed for the rosy shawl. Three friends from my knitting group came along — because if one person has to go get yarn, they might as well have company. I think it’s a rule or something And while nobody actually needed anything in the strictest sense of the word, we somehow managed to keep ourselves occupied at three yarn stores and a craft fair. I won’t speak for anyone else, but I returned home with two skeins of yarn, three [more] shawl patterns, and two and a half pounds of locally grown popcorn. And the shawl patterns are to use up stash yarn — I swear — so it’s all good. Really.

Have I actually knitted anything since last week? Well, no, not much. But I did dig through my bins and find three scarves and a hat to donate to our campus’s Student Food Pantry, so I might help a cold student get a little warmer as the temperatures plummet.

It’s a cold world and getting colder. Keep yourselves warm.

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2010: The t-shirts of the dead

At the beginning of this year and the beginning of this project, I stated that I would do my best to tell my own story and no one else’s. After the events of this past week, I think that you will understand why I’m about to break that promise.

Treyton
In September 2010, one car crashed into another car and changed the lives of thousands of people. A little boy, the classmate of my middle son and the son of our school’s principal, was killed in the first week of first grade. I found this out via a phone call from the mother of a classmate of my oldest son; her own son had recently been diagnosed with an inoperable brain cancer. My husband was out of town on a business trip, and I needed to find a way to let all my children — who were 11, 7, 6, and 4 — what had happened. Somehow I steeled myself for the task, climbed the stairs to the bedroom where all of them were playing, and calmly delivered the news. I tried to answer their questions, but I don’t remember them having any. I don’t think any of us understood then how profoundly this death would change the lives of children, families, our school, and several communities.

In the short term there were practical tasks, like buying formal clothes for all the children to attend the funeral. I remember going to a downtown thrift store and buying  dark slacks and black dress shoes for the boys. The church was packed for the funeral; I stood pressed against the rear wall holding my youngest son. Our community was numb with loss and pain, but the grieving mother eloquently explained why this was not a time to give in to hate.

Over time, grief directed its energy into a project that would enable children to follow their dreams and encourage everyone to make smarter choices: a baseball field that was truly a “field of dreams.” The money to prepare the land and build the ballfield was partially funded by a series of events that included a kickball tournament and an annual 5K run and walk. For each event there was a t-shirt to buy — to promote and then commemorate the event, to fund the ballfield, and to show that you were part of a community working for good. There were also wristbands and car magnets, but most visibly there were t-shirts, one for each child and another for me.

Eventually the ballfield was completed, and a special game was held with teams formed of the boys who would have been on Treyton’s teams over the years; my middle son was the first batter. As the grounds added a concession stand and bleachers and bullpens, the runs continued and so did the t-shirts.

Dylan
In 2011 my husband’s extended family prepared for the addition of another baby to the large and rapidly growing crew of cousins and second cousins. The baby who arrived brought with him profound birth defects, and after more than a month in the intensive care unit he came home to spend a peaceful afternoon in the loving arms of his mother and father, where he gently passed away. He was beautifully eulogized by his father and tenderly memorialized by both parents, who became more deeply involved with fundraising efforts for the March of Dimes, which had provided such support to them in their sorrow. They suffered more personal losses and worked harder to promote awareness of birth defects, becoming top fundraisers and, occasionally, spokespersons for the cause.

They organized silent auctions, coordinated teams for runs and walks, and helped to bring in thousands of dollars to fund critical research. And with each event there was a team t-shirt or sweatshirt; for the frigid April lakefront walk in Milwaukee I was tempted to knit team scarves and balaclavas. Instead I layered up in the colors of Team Dylan. The event has moved from the shores of Lake Michigan to the inside of the Pettit Center and the climate has become milder, and every year brings a new t-shirt.

Bonnie
In 2009 I started a knitting and crocheting group in downtown Jefferson. At the time I fantasized that it would draw out of hiding all the dozens, if not hundreds, of yarny folks who sat alone at home. On our debut night at the coffee shop on Cinco de Mayo, I wondered out loud to one of the knitters if we would have enough chairs for them all.

“Don’t worry,” she said confidently. “I have more chairs in the Jeep if we need them.”

Bonnie was a skilled knitter and a crocheter (we call that bicraftual) as well as a breast cancer survivor. On top of that, she was a lifelong resident of the area and on many of our knit nights we played the game of “how long will it take to find out Bonnie knows your people.” After a new knitter joined the group and told something about themselves, Bonnie would ask a few cleverly worded questions and bam! we now knew that her son had been in scouts with their son’s cousin, or she that had done the tax returns for your college roommate, or that she and your second cousin had been in the same confirmation class.

We all enjoyed a few more years of Bonnie’s ebullient personality, entertaining storytelling, and knitting instruction before the breast cancer took another run at her. She was back in chemo and exhausted much of the time, but she was also the honorary chair of a marathon fundraising walk held in her beloved hometown. I showed up not knowing what to expect, then registered, bought an event t-shirt, and proceeded to walk seven miles for the cause. We lost her a few years ago, but we still talk to her when we need help with poorly written knitting patterns or we find ourselves with two inches of ribbing to do. And we think of the t-shirts she used to wear, including one that read “Of course these are fake, my real ones tried to kill me.”

Angie
My final reminiscence is about the friend of a friend, who provided some contract editorial work for me when I had a batch of small children and wanted to be more useful in an adult, professional way. Not only did she appreciate my work, she wrote me a glowing letter of recommendation — that I still have — when the project was complete.

We never met in person, but we became Facebook friends. I followed along with her many, many other friends as she showcased her portrait photography business (often including horses), wrote about her horses, and charmed us all with stories (and photos!) of her little boy, Hunter (often on horses or with his dear pony Penelope). In 2015, after we discussed the possibility of knitting a clip-on tail for her ailing horse, the said Sun Rae passed away. Soon afterwards, a fast moving breast cancer went after Angie. By the fall of 2016 she was gone, but not before “Angie’s Angels” created a special “5K” t-shirt as a way of both raising money for her care and showing our support for her whenever we ran.

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There is nothing trivial about a t-shirt when it can help us care for our loved ones and memorialize those who have left us. I have a drawerful of wearable memorials, and when I choose one I do not wear it lightly. If I don’t care what I wear that day… well, I wear something else. When I wear something that bears the name of one of the lost ones, I’m thinking about them and about all the others who cared about them — and all the ones they loved even as they felt the pain that life and the end of it can bring. Do they know? Can they tell? Does it make a difference to them? I don’t know, but it makes a difference to me.


Last week I decided to race the yarn dyers as they created yarn for my stalled project; they probably would have won even if my hands hadn’t been too sore to knit anything last week and weekend. Congratulations, Knitcircus! I’ll pick up my custom dye job on Saturday.

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Here is the front; I’m still waiting for the gradient to shift.

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The silver ring marks the halfway mark in rows. Sigh.

In other news, I have been working on my Duolingo streak. It’s up to 61 days despite a few interactions like this one.

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We can’t all be perfecto.

 

Published in: on November 5, 2018 at 10:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

2009: Welcome to social media, please change your password

Way back in 2007 I started hearing about a social media site called Ravelry. A knitter-friend had received an invitation and wasn’t sure it was something she wanted to use, so she offered me her login and asked for my review. I logged in and checked it out; at its heart Ravelry is an amazing database of yarns and patterns, but codemonkey Casey [the site creator] had also added functionality for discussion forums and was listening to suggestions and feedback. I reported back to Lisa that Ravelry was, in fact, pretty darned neat. I sent in my own request for membership and was added to the waiting list; membership was free but members were added in small batches so as not to overload the system.

On September 27, 2007, I received my Ravelry invitation and became a member. (On Ravelry this is referred to as my Ravelversary, by Bob.) I was soon creating Ravatars [profile pictures], joining groups, forming groups, and creating an inventory of my yarn, needles, hooks, patterns, books, projects, and anything else that would fit into the limitless and magical database.

Screenshot_2018-10-30 Ravelry - a knit and crochet community

Part of becoming a Rav member was picking the perfect Ravname [Ravelry username], and here I was very lucky. While I lived in Stevens Point I had fantasized about owning a yarn store — one that sold local yarn and fiber, had a kitchen/lab/workshop for dyeing, and had room for groups to sit and knit. The space I imagined occupying was in fact already occupied by a candy store, the kind of small-town business you rarely find. I imagined that its days, and its bins of penny candy, were numbered. In its place could be a yarn store… with a display case under the cash register filled with chocolate truffles. Combining two of my favorite things and making a pun on my maiden name, I could call the place Chocolate Sheep.

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Lo and behold, the name chocolatesheep was still available on September 27, 2007, and I snapped it up and started posting. And a peek into my WordPress account settings shows that I chose this site’s name in December 2006. (Evidently I had been thinking about the combination of yarn and chocolate for quite some time.) Now my online identity was consistent across my blog site and my primary social media hangout. What more could I want?

Well, in 2009 Facebook appeared on my radar. My husband already had an account and seemed to spend some time on it. When I asked about it he was quick to say, “You don’t have time for it.” Not have time? How could I not have enough time to be online? Well, he did have a point that I was spending quite a bit of time on Ravelry. I put it off for a while, then opened a Facebook account in July 2009. I couldn’t be Chocolate Sheep; I had to be myself. But I thought I’d give it a try.

Facebook back then… well, I’m glad it has changed over the years. It used to have a little private page that was something like Pinterest is, where you stuck badges and pictures on your own private wall. Though we all grumbled with the changing look of each Facebook update over the years, right now I can’t think of a vanished feature that I actually miss. (I would like less fake news, of course, but wouldn’t we all?)

As I added Facebook friends from my acquaintances from high school and college I was often asked, “Are you still writing?” This didn’t motivate me to post more on Facebook, but it did encourage me to write more on and off my blog. Thanks, folks.

Another thing I ran into on Facebook was Mafia Wars. It amused me to come up with a ridiculous handle and do things I would never do in real life, like whack people with pipes and baseball bats. But the game just crawled along until my friend’s brother Jeremy told me how to improve my odds — I had to add more people to my Mafia, even if they were complete strangers. I took a deep breath and did so, and soon I was leveling up a lot more often. My Mafia buddies would fight for me while I was sleeping, and I did the same for them. One Mafia-friend took me under his cyberwing and tutored me in the game, and I got even better at picking the high-stakes jobs and investing in assets that would pay off later.

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And then there was FarmVille. After starting a farm and progressing through planting after planting of fast-growing strawberries, I added the features I liked the most and gave my little farm a makeover from time to time. I may have gotten a bit silly with this one; when I shared the screen shot with the rest of Facebook my caption was “The Black Sox take the field, Goose Gossage pitching.

Farmville baseball

Play ball!

When I finally abandoned my farm in 2011 or so I had a winery, a brewery, and goodness knows what else. If I logged back in, I’ll bet the animals would be terribly hungry by now. Come to think of it, that’s probably why I haven’t logged in. (The spectre of an abandoned FishVille is even more horrifying.)


Knitwise, I have made much progress since last week, and I have taken a radical step towards finishing my current project — I handed it over to someone else. Another skein of yarn is being custom dyed to coordinate with the colorway I was using, and I left the project with the dyers so they could make the best color match.

While they’re busy turning white superwash Merino into expertly dyed superwash Merino, I decided to race them by working on a new lace project with some of their other yarn which I recently purchased. After the setup, and until you get to the lace chart, it’s a pretty simple two-row pattern that I memorized after only 40 or so rows. But who’s counting?

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I’m sure that by the time I make it to the lace chart I’ll learn how to read a lace chart. That’s how this works, right? Don’t worry, I have been working hard to build up my KarmaPoints™ for an occasion such as this one. Karma would never let me down.

Y sigue lo veo al oso misterioso.

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Published in: on October 29, 2018 at 8:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

2008: Unwinding

The summer of 2008 brought violent weather and threatening conditions to our area. We had just finished the school year and my husband was away on a business trip when a tornado watch turned into a tornado warning. My nine-year-old helped to bring toys and furniture to the basement as I rounded up his younger siblings (five, four, and two years old), where we established a temporary tornado shelter in what had probably been the root cellar of the original house when it was built in the 1850s. It seemed odd to take shelter in the oldest part of the house, but that was what we had (and still have).

I had recently acquired a cell phone but there was no signal in the basement, so to get current weather information I left the Weather Channel playing in the TV room and ran upstairs to check it once in a while. As the sirens wailed we passed the time reading books, huddled up together in blankets.

At last the sirens stopped, and we began moving our people and things back upstairs. One of the last items to be brought up was a bench my father had made years ago. After successfully wrangling it up the stairs my oldest son reported, “Mom, there’s a lot of water coming in.” I checked it out; sure enough, water had come under the cellar doors and was flowing like a waterfall down the steps into the basement. We had moved out of the way just in time. By the next morning there were two inches of water in the basement, and the water would rise higher before it would fall and fade away.

The storm rains combined with a heavy spring thaw and sent every river in the county above flood stage. It was an unfortunate coincidence that this was also the summer that Highway 18, the main east-west route through Jefferson,was being torn up and completely resurfaced. The bridges were closed one by one as the flood waters rose almost to their decks; parks and playgrounds were submerged. Eventually the floodwaters were high enough that portions of I-94 closed in Jefferson County and long detours had to be established to keep highway shipping traffic moving between Milwaukee and Madison. With the Interstate closed down, Highway B partially flooded and not robust enough to handle the traffic, and Highway 18 closed at a key juncture, the detour directed semis on I-43 all the way to Beloit before coming northward on I-90. It was a ridiculously lengthy detour of hundreds of miles, but there was no other safe route to take.

After several days of watching Weather Channel and local news reports, I was itching to get out of the house. I decided to drive the kids on the southern detour and make a loop back up to the house from the west. By the time I got to the I-94 bridge over the Crawfish River — just days before it was closed, and with emergency vehicles lining each shoulder — I wished that I had just stayed home and watched TV with the kids. I made a brief cellphone video of our bridge crossing and it ranks as the third scariest bridge crossing I have made.

Here is someone else’s video of my Number One Scary Bridge, the St. Francisville Bridge over the Wabash River. When we lived in Vincennes we made a special trip to drive over this bridge. Yikes!

Here is a video of my Number Two Scary Bridge, which a lot of other people also find scary, particularly in snowy weather, wet weather, high winds, or the dark:

This one lets you experience agoraphobia and claustrophobia all at the same time.

My home video of I-94 over the Crawfish is not quite so spectacular, and it’s probably a good thing that I can’t retrieve it from the old phone. But my nerve-wracking trip did make me grateful to be back home again.

As summer ended, the waters gradually receded and Labor Day loomed with its promise of the new school year’s beginning and the next Sheep and Wool Festival’s arrival on the following week. This year I had a plan for the Saturday night of the Festival, when everything was closed. Why, I’d host a party where people could relax, knit (or crochet), and show off what they had bought at the show. It would be a Saturday Night Afterparty!

I talked my fellow knitblogger Cheesehead with Sticks (hi, Brandy!) into helping me out with signage and PR. I rented a space at a local park, contacted local vendors for door prize donations, ordered some pizzas, and baked up some catering: chocolate chip cookie pizzas and a cheesecake bar. Brandy and I talked one of the organizers of the Sheep and Wool Festival into letting us have some table space at the end of one of the vendor barns and we talked up the event all day, handing out maps to anyone who would take one.

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Thanks, Brandy!

A few people assured me that they didn’t need any map; we never saw them again. The combination of nightfall, the closure of Highway 18, and the location of the event being in one of two Romes in Wisconsin made it difficult to find. Add to that Wisconsin’s tendency to have a Highway A, B, D, N, and P in almost every county, and it can be a challenge to rely on your GPS.

As it happened, we had forty attendees and forty door prizes. Everyone was fed, everybody won something, and everyone seemed to have a good time. I was so pleased that all I could do was sit off by myself and knit while I watched everyone else having that good time, including Brandy playing the emcee.

Here, have a chocolate dipped pretzel stick. Next year will be even better when it’s called Unwind.

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Knitwise, I have made progress on the shawl; I’m even on the second skein. There’s a slight problem, however, with how I’ll actually finish the shawl. It calls for a ruffle, which I’m happy to make — it’s just that I don’t know exactly how much yarn it will take. And I don’t know when the shawl will be “big enough” and how much yarn will then be left for the ruffle. After some consultations at last week’s knit night, the hivemind decided that I should knit up all the yarn I have, then get more yarn for the ruffle. That way I’m assured that the shawl will be big enough.

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However. The yarn I’m using is from a local dyer (hi, Lael!) who stopped making this colorway and working with this particular yarn base years ago. I did ask if she could please dye me up a little more, pretty please, pretty please with quiviut on top, but the answer was still, sadly, no. It just wasn’t possible.

No problem, I thought. I went to Knitcircus last Sunday and I can go to Knitcircus this Sunday. They have a yarn in the same base and a color close to what I’m looking for; I’ll take my project along and commission a skein just for the ruffle.

However. Knitcircus was only open last Sunday because of the Madison Shop Hop; that isn’t a normal store day.

No problem, I thought. I’ll go to Knitcircus this Saturday, bring my project, and explain my clever plan.

However. It’s not Saturday yet.

No problem — I’ll keep knitting.

2007: Still tired from the move

In 2007 my husband got a new job, in Fort Atkinson. I am not kidding you when I tell you that we looked desperately for an affordable house in Fort Atkinson. And in Jefferson. And Watertown. And Lake Mills. And Beaver Dam. And Horicon. And south Janesville — or was it Beloit? Maybe it was Beloit. We could find nothing. Our real estate agent apologized for not being able to find us a house on our budget, and gave up. (He’s still working in this area. I can give you his card if you’d like.)

For a while, my husband drove from Stevens Point to Fort Atkinson every Monday. If my memory serves (and it may not), I think he stayed with a friend during the week and returned home on the weekend to find a stressed-out wife melting to the floor and four hyperactive children bouncing off the walls. We couldn’t go on like this for much longer.

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Eventually — finally — a metaphorical, Simpsons-like beam of sunlight broke through the clouds and we drove to a farmhouse ten miles east of Jefferson. It was a rental that had just become available. It was an old, old house that had been updated over the years. It had a big red barn out back that had once held beef cattle. It was surrounded by cornfields and hayfields. The landlord and his wife lived right across the street; they had raised their own four children in the farmhouse and then built their dream house once their kids had grown. (I’ve met one of them. He’s still a bit peeved at this.) I think the fact that we had four small children in tow, then ages 1, 3, 4, and 8, softened their hearts a bit.

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We took the house and enrolled the two oldest kids (in our family we call them kidlets) in school in Jefferson. How we got everything moved down here I really don’t remember. It must have taken many, many trips with family cars and a rental truck. We were surrounded by boxes for months. By now we were down to one dog; the aging collie/shepherd mix was eased over the Rainbow Bridge while we were still in Point. We knew she wasn’t in any shape to handle another move. The second dog, the omega-dog of all omega-dogs, didn’t know what to do without his bossy-big-sister alpha to keep him in line. He whimpered, whined, and began chewing on everything. He couldn’t be left alone outside when we went away; he howled so piteously. He couldn’t be left alone inside when we went away; he gnawed the plastic window framing until it broke into shards.

As I wrote when I originally blogged about this momentous event, I was particularly excited because we were moving just in time for me to be able to attend my first-ever Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival. I wasn’t able to go until Saturday. I was thrilled to see all the yarn, the fiber, the spinning wheels, the sheep, and all the other knitters. I probably bought something — goodness knows what — but it’s just as plausible that I simply wandered about in a daze. I returned abruptly to consciousness at 5 pm, when officials came to shut and lock the doors of the vendor barns. Just like that, fun time was over. I remember wondering, “What are we supposed to do NOW? There should be somewhere else to go.”

And I got an idea….


Knitwise, I actually did some knitting on the current project last week: two, or was it four, rows at Yarnhawks and then what felt like a massive amount of knitting while I watched the Brewers play the Dodgers on Friday and Saturday. I am calling it a massive amount because I finally transitioned from Skein One to Skein Two, which is a tremendous psychic difference. Even though each repeat knits up in twice as much time as the one before, you labor under the fantastic illusion that you’re actually nearing the end of your project, getting closer to something. (You’re not. It’s all a lie.)

Somehow, though, it does look a little bit bigger than it did a week ago. I can’t prove it because I took two pictures of it just now, and the one which will actually load into Flickr is the one showing the stitch detail rather than the overall size.

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So here’s some stitch detail.

Accordingly, this weekend I visited a new-to-me yarn store in Madison and picked up a skein of gorgeous yarn and a locally written pattern for something elegant to do with said yarn. Here I must admit that the store was the only new thing for me about Knitcircus, as I had purchased yarn from them just last year at the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival. I had also done some copy editing for them several years ago when they were a printed magazine, which was before they were an online magazine, which was before they realized they were genius yarn-dyers and colorway-namers and needed to have a shop.

I didn’t get too far into the shop, because the colorway of yarn that I wanted was sitting at eye level on the first shelf I saw when I came through the door. I grabbed the yarn, received a hug from magazine-editor/shop-owner Jaala, and took her recommendation of a shawl pattern. (What else did you think I was going to make with the yarn? Honestly, people. It’s as if you don’t know me at all.)

And one last question: Have you seen this bear? Where is he going?

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2006: The Statewide Craft Store Guide

During 2005 and 2006 I was publishing a monthly email newsletter called Wisconsin Crafter; besides my possibly entertaining editorial note it included notices of new products and a gradually expanding list of classes and other events held by craft stores and museums in north central Wisconsin. I wasn’t charging for subscriptions and I didn’t sell ads. The goal was to share information and to let crafters of various sorts know about shops and events that they might otherwise have missed.

I covered beading, quilting, stamping and scrapbooking, knitting, and fiber-related venues such as alpaca farms and woolen mills. I printed up business cards and handed them out at craft shows and left them at quilt shops. It was a terrific personal project for someone who liked to organize and color-code and enjoyed an excuse to buy lots and lots of hanging folders. My experience with editing the Calendar column at Materials Evaluation in the mid-90s made this easy work. I gave myself a deadline and tried to be entertaining as well as informative.

Soon, my mind conceived of a larger and grander project. Crafters like to travel, I mused, and they love finding a new store when they travel. What if I compiled the information necessary to create a guide to every craft store in Wisconsin? I could list contact information, their inventory, and the classes they offered. Every crafter in the state would want one! I could update it every year. I would call it…the Statewide Craft Store Guide.

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I bought boxes of pocket folders, and designed a form to staple to the front of each folder — one for each store. (One for each branch of Ben Franklin, each Jo-Ann Fabrics, each Michael’s…. you get the picture.) I converted the information I already had into contact sheets, organized my craft store list alphabetically by city in a three-inch binder, and started calling stores to get the rest of the information I needed. (I don’t know when I did this exactly, with a grade schooler, two toddlers, and an infant in the house, but somehow I did.) I commissioned a professional knitter to create a knitted Wisconsin to be the image on the cover. (I’ll bet that, by the time she finished, she wished that I lived in Wyoming or Colorado.)

Some of the store owners shared my enthusiasm for the project; they put me on their mailing lists and kept me supplied with class listings for Wisconsin Crafter. Others thought I was selling them something or trying to involve them in a nefarious scheme; one Ben Franklin manager smelled a rat, refused to tell me his store’s address, and hung up on me.

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That may have been when my enthusiasm began to wane. I meant well, but getting it all together was more than I could do by myself and I couldn’t hire anyone to help. And if I could have looked into the future I would have thought beyond a printed product that had to be updated continuously and would therefore be out of date whenever it went to print. It also didn’t occur to me that I might get busier as my children grew older, and I might have less time for self-publishing, marketing, sales, and cold calls that backfired.

I started working on the Statewide Craft Store Guide in 2005 and puttered away at it until spring of 2008. At my last count I had identified 533 different craft stores across Wisconsin. It hurt to give up on the project — especially when I started to see Quilters’ Travel Guides showing up in local yarn stores — but I just couldn’t manage it. I was still encouraged when I heard about a new store opening up, and to this day I’m sad when a store closes. I wonder what the total number of craft stores in the state would be now, given the waxing and waning in popularity of the different crafts. Most scrapbooking seems to be digital now, and the alpaca boom has gone bust. Yarn and fiber might be holding steady, or at least back to the levels they were ten years ago, but I haven’t been keeping close enough watch to be sure.

It sure would make a great app, though. You could search the inventory to see which store had that skein of discontinued-colorway Noro Kureyon. And you could link it to the GPS in your phone, and Google Maps could give you turn-by-turn directions to the closest craft store….


Knitwise, has anyone even seen my knitting? Last week at work I finally remembered to remind my fellow Yarnhawks that we would be meeting on Wednesday. Bring a project! Be there or be square! And then things came up in my office and I had to proctor a test and then my window for lunch was going away…and the meeting time came and went. (To be fair, I don’t know if anyone else was able to show up either.) We’ll try again this week.

I did make some progress on the current project last week at knit night, doing a few repeats before I was overcome by the hour of the day. Since then, events have transpired such that the project will be welcome any time it is finished, so I’d better find my project bag get back to work right away!

Published in: on October 8, 2018 at 7:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

2005: I’ve said it before

This was the year I learned how to knit, and though I could have told the story anew I have decided not to reinvent the wheel this evening. (Maybe tomorrow, when I’m at knit night.) I scrolled to the first posts on my blog, read a few choice entries, then saw that I had narrated my knitting-origin story before. For those of you who don’t like to click on links, I will reprint my own story below.


Tangled up in Yarn (August 2005, Wisconsin Crafter)

For a few years now I have defined myself as a crafter by explaining, “I scrap, I stamp, and I quilt.” By the time you read, this, however, that may have changed. We’re going Up North this weekend, and I’m bringing a crochet hook and (optimistically) four skeins of yarn with me. Let me explain.

I don’t have a big history with yarn crafts, nor does it seem to run in the family. (However, my mother still has a few of the wall hangings and plant hangers she macramed when she was a stay-at-home mom in the 1970s.) I have a little beaded macrame bracelet I must have made in the Camp Fire Girls, but I’m sure it wasn’t my idea. I’m not much of a jewelry person, and I rarely wore more than a wristwatch.

Knitting just didn’t attract me. I wanted to be a professional baseball player when I grew up, not a woman who sat around knitting things.

But somehow, last year, Martha Stewart dragged me into the whole yarn thing. I was reading Martha Stewart Kids magazine (now called Kids) and turned to a page that described easy crochet projects that kids could do. A potholder, a hat, a scarf. The line drawings looked clear, and the instructions seemed comprehensible. I stared at them for days before I got the nerve to visit Martha’s Yarn Emporium (no relation to the other Martha, I’m pretty sure) and select a crochet hook.

I already knew the project I wanted to make — a Harry Potter scarf for my son, in Gryffindor colors. A Christmas present. It was September, so I thought it was feasible. Martha made sure I got the right colors (burgundy and gold) of yarn in a weight I could handle, and the right size hook.

I took it all home somewhat guiltily. Here was another set of craft supplies I’d brought home, and I didn’t even know if I could do it. Stockpiling rubber stamps and scrapbook supplies was one thing, but this was definitely new territory.

Then I got out the magazine, pulled out a burgundy skein and the little gold-colored hook, and got started. After several torturous minutes I figured out how to start my chain stitch. I made a few stitches, then ripped it all out. I tried again and soon got into a groove: stitch – rip – repeat. After half an hour I wanted to flush the yarn down the toilet and stab myself in the heart with the hook. I was following instructions written for children and could only produce a row of chain stitches that looked as if a different person had made each stitch. Plus, I didn’t know when and how to turn the corner, go back the other direction, or anything else. Which loop of yarn was I supposed to be putting the hook through? How tight was I supposed to be holding the yarn? Was I doing single crochet or double crochet? What was the difference? And why couldn’t I JUST DO THIS?

It was definitely NOT relaxing. But I did not flush the yarn. I did not stab myself. I did, however, decide to set the project aside until I had calmed down a bit.

Nine months later, I figured out what to do. I needed to borrow someone else’s grandmother. Mine wouldn’t do, since she lives in West Virginia and doesn’t crochet. But my husband’s grandmother — now there was a woman with a history of needleworking who would give it to me straight.

In the meantime, a few things had happened to soften me up towards picking up the crochet hook and trying again.

One was meeting a couple of young girls at a Stevens Point arts festival last year. They were sitting and knitting while people came and bought their finished ponchos, hats and scarves. When I asked them if they crocheted, they quickly responded, “Gosh, no. That’s so HARD.” (They were about ten years old, but I respected their opinions as equals.)

Another was when I bought a Sunset book on crochet at a rummage sale. They devoted several pages to line drawings of crochet in progress, showing many different stitches AND the different techniques that should be used by right-handers and left-handers. (Perhaps Martha Stewart’s instructions were overly simplistic, I thought, even though I am right-handed and they were probably written for me.)

Lastly, I was scandalized to read that Martha Stewart had never known how to crochet. This gap in her knowledge of the domestic arts was shocking, at least to me. But by the time I discovered she didn’t know how to crochet, she had already been taught — by a fellow inmate at Alderson Prison.

Maybe she was somebody else’s grandmother.


To follow up on my origin story, the crochet lessons definitely didn’t take hold. After frustrating myself for several weeks, Eldest turned to me and said, “Mom, why don’t you just learn to knit?”

I returned to Martha’s Yarn Emporium and bought two pairs of straight bamboo knitting needles, in sizes 7 and 9. At the time, I reasoned that since those were the size needles I would need for the yarn I had, they were the only knitting needles I would ever need. (N.B.: I don’t have any idea how many needs, patterns, or skeins of yarn I now have. Caveat craftor.) And I picked up a few skeins of black-and-rainbow yarn that Martha had on clearance.

Then I went to my local public library and checked out a book called Knitting for Kids. Or maybe it was Knitting for Idiots or Teach Your Infant How to Knit in Two Simple Lessons. Anyway, after renewing it once or twice I began to catch on. I cast on in the rainbow yarn for a scarf that, in my head, I called a Doctor Who scarf; all I remembered of the actual Doctor Who scarf at this point was that it had a lot of different colors. I couldn’t have been more wrong about the Doctor, but I plugged away on this first scarf for a long time. I remember taking it with me to prenatal doctor visits when I was pregnant with my fourth child; on one such visit I stopped knitting in mid-row and later resumed knitting in the wrong direction. The scarf has inadvertent short rows, dropped stitches, mysterious holes, non-mysterious holes, and different dye lots, but it also has a beginning and an end (I learned a simple bind-off).

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My first knitted item, from 2005.

On a trip to Ohio, knitting in the car, I started teaching myself how to purl. A small sample project was all I needed to convince myself that I had added another tool to my toolbox.

Finally I cast on for a stockinette Gryffindor scarf with deep stripes, and I knitted carefully away. I was frustrated by the yarn’s tendency to curl at the edges, but I wasn’t completely demoralized. Surely I will be able to block this out, I thought, even before I had ever heard of the concept of blocking. When the scarf was finished I moistened the wool/acrylic blend, stretched it flat, and pinned it down. When I removed the pins a couple of days later, of course, the scarf immediately rolled back onto itself. I had learned an important lesson: It is the nature of stockinette to curl. (I think it’s fair to say that I did not appreciate this lesson at the time.)

For some reason I wanted to keep trying and to keep getting better at this. I tried to learn one new thing — but only one new thing — with each new project, and gradually I worked my way up to Average Intermediate. And yes, the first year, everyone I knew got a hat for Christmas. Some people were even kind enough to wear them.


Knitwise I haven’t done anything since last week, or was it the week before? It’s a dark and stormy night here — good for knitting, but perhaps I should light some candles first, just in case.

Published in: on October 1, 2018 at 7:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

2004: In stitches

“Mom?”

“What, Jack?”

“Are you going to write about the time I ruined Dad’s first day at work and got the doctor wet?”

Well, it is a pretty good story and it did take place in 2004. But it is Jack’s birth story and I’m not sure that everyone would feel comfortable with my imposing it upon them.


We liked the house we rented, but we had also been looking for a property to buy. In the space of two years we had looked at perhaps a dozen houses from Stevens Point to Polonia and back. A newspaper editor’s salary that now fed a family of five, not counting two largeish dogs, didn’t lead us to very many affordable homes; most (if not all) of the ones we saw in our price range would have required additional time and labor for repairs and updates. I also don’t remember seeing any of them and thinking, “Whoa, this one is waaaay too big for us.”

I had worked for a short while at the YMCA in their drop-in child care area, pulling upon my experience at the day care where I had worked before my first child was born. It brought in some extra money, got me out of the house for a few hours, and gave me the opportunity to speak to other adults (or at least non-children). But when my third child arrived, I was too busy looking after my own kids to be able to concentrate on anyone else’s, and I stayed home again.

Freelance writing presented itself as an opportunity, since the paper needed a regular supply of features for the business page. I interviewed several husband-and-wife businesses in the area, starting with a couple who kept bees and sold honey and ending with a couple who ran an ostrich farm. I also did some news features, including a story about the play equipment that the YMCA had obtained from the newly remodeled Burger King. I have a pretty nice scrapbook of clippings for a writing major who never wanted to work on a newspaper; it also includes an interview with the owners of the downtown scrapbook store, where I spent much of my time and a good bit of my money. You can find 18 stories under my name in the online archives of the Stevens Point Journal, if you know what name you’re looking for.

My craftiness began to creep into other areas as well. I began with scrapbooking, rubber stamping, and cardmaking, and then became interested in quilting. For someone who hated to sew, this was moving out of my comfort zone. I think my interest was piqued by an article in Backwoods Home Magazine that gave instructions for making a sturdy quilt from old pairs of jeans. When I watched a video about a husband and wife who were both quilters, I learned that it was possible to piece squares while riding in the car. I spent almost no time driving when we travelled by car, so this was very attractive to me. Instead of just sitting in the passenger seat and waiting for the driver to get too tired to drive, I could do something to stay busy.

I sketched out a design for a quilt top, collected the supplies, and started hand-piecing the denim squares. It was a multimedia effort, with some cream canvas squares decorated with shamrocks and some areas decorated with hand-stitched embroidery. I attended meetings of the local quilting guild — until the babies were too old and fussy to sit still through the meetings — and carried a bag of squares with me wherever I went. I read quilting magazines and attended a huge quilt show in Marshfield, taking pictures and making mental notes on what I thought was well-done or particularly clever.

It was a crazy idea to make a quilt out of canvas and cotton duck cloth — and it certainly didn’t need much batting — but eventually I finished the top, quilted the layers, and sewed up the mitered border. I even entered it in the local quilt show and took home a blue ribbon. But it wasn’t easy to quilt when I didn’t have a room in which I could safely keep my supplies.

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Detail.

At some point we heard about a house for sale in Stevens Point, and I decided to drive by and take a look at it. I remember thinking that I liked the green house next door, but was not impressed by the one that was actually for sale. We took a second look anyway, at the two-story wood-framed house that was on a corner lot and approximately the color of burnt pumpkin. It was an odd house with an oddly connected garage-and-workshop, but it had a fenced yard and some nice old woodwork inside. We made an offer, negotiated, and eventually became homeowners. The sale must have been completed before autumn, because if we had seen the amount of leaves that were shed by the mature sugar maple trees and even vaguely comprehended the amount of raking the small yarn would require, we might never have purchased it.

Orange house front

Painted in schoolhouse colors, it could have been cute.

Orange house side

We never painted it in schoolhouse colors.

We moved the boys’ beds into the room that had previously been the master bedroom, gave our daughter her own room, and moved ourselves into a cramped bedroom just off the kitchen. There was room for the bed and nothing else. The dogs were not allowed in the main part of the house, but hung out at the top of the stairs between the kitchen and the door to the garage.

The first winter in the house, I started to grow stir crazy after staying home with the kids and two largeish dogs while my husband went off to work every day at his new job in Iola. To give an example of how I spent my time, at one point we watched a VHS tape of Beauty and the Beast every single day for three weeks. Then one day my daughter pronounced the film “too scary” and we never watched it again. I was also working on a craft room in the basement, painting the sheetrocked walls and moving my crafting supplies downstairs. The day the paint dried on the walls, I came upstairs to find that my middle child had figured out how to get over the baby gate. No more alone time for me.

One snowy day I had had enough. I dressed the baby in a snowsuit and got ready to go out. To get out, one had to swing one’s leg over the baby gate at the top of three steps  at the top of the basement stairs — that led from the garage to the kitchen. On this occasion, babe in arms, I didn’t quite get my leg over the gate. Down I went, unconsciously twisting my body to keep the baby out of harm’s way. After a crash I sat, dazed, with blood running down my chin from where I’d smacked it into the metal garage door. The two largeish dogs hovered nearby. I called for my eldest, home from school, to call 911 for me. Instead, he brought me the phone and insisted that I do it myself.

I called 911, then called my husband to let him know that I had called 911. After he came home I drove myself to the emergency room and got stitched up. And I even got to talk to some EMTs.


Knitwise, I have started a shawl for a member of my department. The cast-on was quick, the yarn was lovely, and it started to work up well. All I need to do, I told myself, is to knit eight rows a day and I’ll totally be on track. Last Friday I knitted eight rows and I haven’t touched the project since; maybe I need to put it where I can see it.

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Why am I not knitting this?

 

 

Published in: on September 24, 2018 at 9:21 pm  Comments (2)  

2003: Stay at home

A look at the top movies, songs, and television shows of 2003 reminds me that I was a mother of two young children at that time. I wasn’t exactly going out to new movies or dancing at clubs until daybreak. (Then again, I never did those things anyway, so I’ll never know what I was missing.) I recognize exactly two songs from a greatest hits list: “Hey Ya!” by OutKast and “Stacy’s Mom” by Fountains of Wayne. From the list of movies I see films that I watched later but certainly didn’t see in the theaters (Kill Bill, School of Rock, Elf, The Italian Job); I do remember taking the kids to see Finding Nemo and watching the first teaser for what would become a very important movie in our family: The Incredibles.

A clue

A clue! A clue!

I did a bit better when it came to TV shows because, well, I was already at home. I probably watched “Blue’s Clues” and “Dragon Tales” more than anything else, but there were some memorable shows that were slightly more adult oriented. Because of my husband’s schedule at the newspaper, he was home in the midmornings and we got into the habit of watching “The Caroline Rhea Show.” Her mini game shows and interviews were a hoot, her friend Wayne Brady was often on the show, and we were introduced to the incredibly talented Chris Botti. To this day when I have the Smooth Jazz station playing on my television, I can identify a Chris Botti performance in about four notes.

It was tough finding a representative Botti performance on YouTube that was under ten minutes. In fact, here someone has looped “When I Fall in Love” for two hours. And here is a duet of Chris Botti and Michael Bublé. You’re welcome.

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There’s always money in the banana stand.

And on the family oriented but not-necessarily-family-friendly side, “Arrested Development” premiered in 2003. We were huge fans but soon realized that as the kids got older, that 7pm Sunday evening time slot was going to be problematic. This wasn’t exactly the Wonderful World of Disney we were watching.

“I’m looking for the man they call…hermano.” — Gob Bluth

Television brought us sadness that year as well. In late January my husband and I decided to watch all the movies we had on tape, in alphabetical order. The first one up as Apollo 13, which we watched on the evening of January 31. When we watched the news the next day and saw clip after clip of the breakup and crash of the Space Shuttle Columbia, I was terribly confused and disoriented. The feeling that we had somehow jinxed the mission, even though the damage to the shuttle had been caused several days earlier, was hard to avoid; we abandoned the movie-watching scheme.

And after calming and reassuring us in the aftermath of September 11, Fred Rogers passed away in February 2003. I was so saddened — and concerned about the reaction my son might have — that I didn’t tell the kids for a year or two. Right now I have “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” waiting on the DVR for me to watch with all of my kids, whenever we’re together on the same weekend. I had enjoyed kind and gentle children’s show hosts such as Mister Rogers and Captain Kangaroo when I was little, and we’re not likely to see their equal on the small screen. In fact, just try finding a decent clip of the Captain, let alone a DVD set.

Fred and Kangaroo

Who wore it better?

I was home with two small children and another one on the way, gradually filling up a huge old house that boasted an icebox, a laundry chute, and a creepy basement. It also had built-in bookcases and a set of kitchen cabinets mounted right up by the ceiling; I don’t know what I was supposed to store up there or how I would have gotten it down. Our lovely landlady lived next door and would sometimes play her grand piano while my children toddled around on her carpet. Our other neighbors were the family of my husband’s boss at the paper — his wife and two young daughters. We were within stroller-distance of a natural foods co-op where I could buy freshly ground peanut butter. And we lived right across the street from a convent where the Newman congregation of Stevens Point held its Sunday mass. Who could ask for anything more?


Knitwise, we’re getting it together! At last week’s Student Involvement Fair I helped staff a table for the UWW Yarnhawks student knit and crochet group. I answered questions, knitted in public, and listened to about a dozen students as they told me about how their grandmother had taught them how to knit (or crochet) that one summer. We were hoping for five interested students, and fifty signed up for the mailing list. The first student meeting is Wednesday night, and we’re scrambling to provide enough yarn, needles, and hooks to get everyone started on our service project: cold-weather accessories for cold college students. (I wonder if we should tell them about Ravelry.)

I have the Secret Gift Project to work on, plus a gift for a mother-to-be that’s going to use some sweet superwash Merino from Hearthside Fibers that’s been waiting five years for the perfect project. My colorway (Victorian Rose) is long out of stock, but you’ll be able to find a beautiful color that calls to you. That self-striping sock is in a project bag somewhere around here. The one-row handspun scarf I started in Ohio is in my office in case I run into some down time. And of course I have many, many more projects on which I could work if I chose. All I have to do is pick up my knitting. All I have to do…

Published in: on September 17, 2018 at 9:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

2002: The Fourth of Four Elephants

This was a busy year: I got married (in Indiana), moved to Indiana, moved back to Wisconsin, and gave birth to my second child (in Wisconsin). The Indiana interval also included the demise and sale of my little Audi 80, both flood and famine, a dogbite, and an afternoon earthquake. The day we moved out, the tornado sirens went off.

As I think back about the year, car stories come to mind. The aforementioned Audi, a gift from my former father-in-law when my former husband and I had moved from Ohio to Wisconsin, began to develop transmission problems when I took long drives between Wisconsin and Indiana to visit my fiancé/husband. On the last return trip I was on the Illinois Tollway when I heard a horrific THUMP; the car was anemic after that point but I made it safely home. The transmission was ruined. For safety’s sake I started taking the bus to work instead; I remember passing the time by reading a memoir by Neil Peart.

When it was time to move to Indiana, though, I wasn’t quite ready to let go of the Audi. I drove it hundreds of miles, carefully, and parked it in the new lot. It never started again, and it sat in the parking lot for the three months we lived there, only to be sold for scrap. I still have my keys.

Audi keychain

So when it was time to move back to Wisconsin, I would have to drive something else. My husband had a Saturn with manual transmission, so at first the plan was for me to drive the moving truck and for my three-year-old son to ride with me. When I test drove the truck, however, I didn’t like the handling. The plan changed; my new husband gave me two nights of stick-shift lessons in the parking lot of the Vincennes KMart until he was confident that I would be able to drive the Saturn to his parents’ house east of Milwaukee.

That Saturday morning, with the truck and the Saturn packed to the brim, we set off just after an unexpected sounding of the tornado siren. No one in the area seemed to be concerned about this. I followed the moving truck to the main intersection in Vincennes; we would turn left at the light and head north through central Illinois. My husband and son made it through the yellow light; I did not.

thelightwasyellowofficer

In fact, I didn’t make it through the next three cycles of the light. The drivers behind me weren’t pleased, which did not enhance my skills with the clutch. By this time my husband noticed that I was not, in fact, behind him; he returned to Vincennes in the truck to find me. While he was doing this I eventually managed to shift into first and make the left turn, after which I hurried north in order to catch up with the truck. I kept looking ahead for the truck and he kept looking behind for the Saturn, which meant we didn’t see each other again until we arrived, separately, in Milwaukee.

This meant that he missed my moment of glory in Effingham, Illinois, when I stalled seventeen consecutive times at a traffic light outside of a truck stop. I can’t tell you why the trucker behind me didn’t run me over out of sheer frustration. Sir? If you are out there and reading this blog post today, thank you for your incredible patience.

Once I was on the highway I was perfectly fine, and I learned to stop at rest stops on hills so that the descent would aid my shifting when I left. I even stopped for gas once and got the car going again, and I managed to make it through a toll near Beloit by rolling slowly through and not actually stopping.

On the leg from Milwaukee to Stevens Point the following day someone else drove the Saturn, and I was content to be a passenger again.

A few months later we were in the Saturn again, heading for a family reunion weekend Up North: my husband, my son, myself, and two somewhat large dogs. We were in Marinette when a woman on a side street turned left into route 41 and hit us on the front quarter panel, breaking the axle and disabling our car right in the middle of the intersection. My husband stayed with the car as it was eventually towed to a side street; my son went with me to the hospital, where I had an emergency ultrasound; a kind stranger took the dogs to her house so we could pick them up later.

Eventually we were all reunited in a rental car, we found the house with our dogs, we made it the rest of the distance to the farm, and I had a secret that the ultrasound had revealed: I was going to have a daughter.

 


 

Knitwise, I haven’t been doing much. My focus has been on home improvement, to such an extent that last weekend was the first time I have missed the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival since I moved to Jefferson County in 2007. I did manage to drive past the site on the route 26 bypass, and it was a little heartbreaking. I know I had friends there amongs the vendors and organizers and attendees. I hope they had a wonderful time.

This Wednesday, however, I will participate in the UW-Whitewater Student Involvement Fair, as co-advisor of the UWW Yarnhawks student organization. My shift is from 11 to 12 and I’ll probably be knitting on something geeky. If you’re on campus then, please stop by and knit a few stitches with me.

P.S. L’Shana tova and have a sweet 5779! I’m going to go make an apple cake now.

Published in: on September 10, 2018 at 9:06 pm  Leave a Comment