1993: Frisco

Now that I had a permanent job, I was living in an apartment of my own. It was a “garden” apartment that did, in fact, have a tiny bit of arable dirt bordering a square concrete patio. I remember planting basil, marigolds, and chili peppers that I hung on a string to dry in my kitchen after the “harvest.” I don’t think that I ever actually used any in my cooking, but it’s just fun to grow peppers. I did grow enough basil to produce exactly one batch of pesto.

The kitchen wasn’t much at all, but I tried to learn how to do something with it. One day (it probably took me all day) I made two cups of hummus and managed to use every appliance and mixing bowl in my possession. It may or may not have been the cleanup from that experiment that led to my never making hummus again.

just 1981 Buick

A car, a white picket fence, and an apartment of my own. What more could I want?

It was a very small apartment, a little bigger than one person needed but certainly not big enough for two people. I wasn’t the entertaining type, so I didn’t need room for a crowd. By 1993 my boyfriend had moved to my town and was renting his own garden apartment in a building near mine. Still, something was missing. We put our heads together and decided that what I needed was…a cat.

One Saturday we paid a visit to the Cat Welfare Association‘s facility in Clintonville. It was a no-kill refuge that (somewhat obviously) handled only cats. The narrow building next to the train tracks was packed with cages, and cats of all ages and colors — in and out of cages, as there were dozens of cats that roamed freely about the building, sat on the tops of the cages, and jumped up and down from the windowsills — put on their most plaintive vocal performances as we walked the length of the shelter. I didn’t know what kind of cat I was looking for, so I spent a lot of time looking into the cages of the cats who commended my attention.

I made three trips up and down the aisle until the feline chorus began to subside, and that’s when I saw a cat I hadn’t noticed before. He was a grey tiger male seated in the back of his cage, with his tail tucked around him like a B. Kliban cat impersonating a meatloaf. When I looked at him he uncurled his tail, stretched, and came to the front of the cage. His calm demeanor said, “I’ve been waiting for you to notice; can we go home now?”

The new cat was of undertermined age, though no youngster; he was already neutered and declawed. Now that he had a home, I had to give him a name.

He was a confident, calm, and self-contained sort of fellow — not clingy or codependent. I named him after the most confident character I could think of: Francisco d’Anconia from Atlas Shrugged. (Of course, that would make his full proper name Francisco Domingo Carlos Andres Sebastián d’Anconia, but I never had occasion to use it.) Of course, what I called him was Frisco, the nickname given to Francisco by his childhood (and sometimes adulthood) companion Dagny Taggart.

Kliban cat window

Frisco - apt - cropped

I’m realizing as I write this story that it is, in fact, chronologically incorrect. My best Frisco story involves a trip to Oxford to visit my boyfriend for the weekend, so obviously we didn’t go cat-shopping together after he moved to my apartment complex, but before. The strands of time are starting to tangle, but each separate part of the story is true and there is no intention to deceive.

What’s the best Frisco story, you ask? Well, not knowing how I could leave him alone for the weekend, I took him along with me in the car on a trip to Oxford, which was a two-hour drive each way. The apartment where we were staying didn’t allow pets, which wasn’t much of a problem as Frisco slinked from under one piece of furniture to under another one. When we returned to Grove City he didn’t come out from under the bed for a day or so.

The next Friday afternoon I was getting ready to go to Oxford again. When Frisco saw me packing a bag he hid under the bed and refused to emerge.

“Okay, buddy,” I said (I may be paraphrasing). “I know you didn’t have a good trip last time. You can stay here this weekend. I’ll give you extra food and clean out your litter box when I get back. Cool?”

Slowly, tentatively, he emerged from under the bed and eyed me cautiously.

“I swear,” I said.

“Cool,” he said (I may be interpreting).

Frisco - condo - cropped


Knitwise, I made a lot of progress on Nakia’s Infinity Scarf in the last week, getting all the way through the first yarn. I broke the yarn and was ready to put the project aside until I found more of the yarns, then I decided to catch up on the Black Panther Shawl discussion thread on Ravelry. That’s when I discovered:

  1. What the designer really meant by a “twisted stitch.”
  2. That the pattern called for four skeins of a discontinued colorway of Noro Silk Garden rather than just the one I’d been fortunate enough to find.
  3. In fact, almost all the yarn called for in the pattern had been discontinued.

So. The scarf/shawl-in-progress is still in the project bag until I summon the will to tink, rip, or frog the project back to just before the row with the twisted stitches.

In the meantime I have knitted, bound off, and started a second Baby Trekkie Washcloth. It has the commendable features of being an easy to knit project made from an available yarn on comfortable needles to eminently readable instructions. Usually this is the kind of thing I would call “boring.” This week I call it “welcome.”

When I haven’t been knitting (or rueing the day I ever learned how to knit) I have been finally starting to train for the Scenic Shore 150, a two-day charity bike ride culminating in Door County, Wisconsin, and benefiting the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I did this ride four years ago, and last fall I got a terrific discount on registration and therefore planned to shake the dust off of myself and my bike and do it again.

Unfortunately, the weather so far this year has been absolutely terrible for cycling. When we didn’t have unseasonable heat in May, we had unseasonable cold in June — or 30 mph winds, driving cold rain, or tornado watches, take your pick. It was the kind of weather that would make you give up cycling forever if you were foolish enough to go out in it. So I didn’t.

Last weekend the weather was, finally, perfect. I finally got myself off the couch and finally got back on the bike. And back on, and back on, and back on. I have to do this efficiently; I have only next weekend for training and the following weekend is the ride.

The part I’m concerned about is not the ride itself — I’ve done it before and can do it again. It’s fantastically well supported and even if something unexpected happens and I can’t finish, I won’t beat myself up. I will go as far as I can and do my best for a terrific cause. What worries me is the fundraising aspect; I’m only halfway to my modest goal even though I’m sponsoring myself to the tune of $10 a training ride. (Yep, “pay to play.”) If you know someone who’d like to donate to a great cause, send them to this post and ask them to click on the link at “Scenic Shore 150.” We thank you for your support.

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Published in: on July 9, 2018 at 11:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

1984: European Vacation

In the summer of 1984, after many months devoted to the completion of paperwork, the applications for passports, the purchase of traveler’s checks, and the sale of many thousands of suckers, candy bars, and assorted marketable treats, several students from my high school’s French and Spanish classes embarked on a ten-day trip to Europe. We flew from Columbus to New York, and then to Madrid and Paris before returning via Brussels.

European Vacation

The movie came out in 1985; clearly we were ahead of our time.

We spent so much time preparing for this trip that I’m astonished at how little I remember of packing, driving, and even most of the flying — the important part was the Being There. I do remember drawing each piece of my cleverly planned mix-and-match wardrobe that would stretch to the ten days of the trip. Nevertheless, it still seemed to take up most of the World’s Largest Samsonite, a monstrous tan (lockable!) hard-sided suitcase with wheels and a snap-in handle that was part of a four-piece set given as a Christmas present from my grandmother. (Deciding to open my largest gift on Christmas Eve was rather anticlimactic in 1983, as much as I needed the luggage.)

vintage-samsonite-silhouette-brown-suitcase-hardcase-and-train-case-with-keys

The smaller piece was called a “train case.”

The most memorable moment of my first day in Spain was when I didn’t quite make it through a too-quickly-revolving door. My arm was caught between the spinning door and the frame, and it throbbed during our walking tour of Madrid. I managed to take a few pictures with my Instamatic as our teacher/chaperone checked on me from time to time. She finally told me that if it didn’t look better in the morning I would have to visit a Madrid hospital to be examined, to see if my arm was broken. Perhaps it was my fear of having inadequate language skills to manage a trip to el hospital Madrileño, but I woke the next morning with no pain whatsoever in my arm, and I never even developed a bruise at the site.

Miguel-de-Cervantes

Our group was arranged into smaller subgroups so that French students were always accompanied by Spanish students, so that in each country we would be able to translate for each other. This worked out quite well in my own experience. I remember practicing several helpful phrases before the trip, some of which we used successfully:

Where is the bathroom?

Can I take pictures in here?

How much does it cost?

One Coca-Cola, please.

The culinary adventure of Madrid was a platter of paella that we all sampled. I remember that it contained rice, mussels, shrimp, many other items, and some tasty bits of meat that looked like small drumsticks. It was delicious, and it took me a day or two to realize that the drumettes were actually rabbit, not chicken. I didn’t tell anyone.

Madrid was a great place for us to overcome as much of our culture shock as possible. The Metro was easy to navigate, and teenagers who might not have ventured outside of Ohio soon were able to buy a subway ticket, hop on a car, and wander a new city on the other side of the world. During a memorable trip to the Plaza Mayor, one of our party decided that a leather bullwhip would make a perfect souvenir; we spent that evening taking turns trying to make the whip crack in the confines of someone’s hotel room. (When we made a day trip to Toledo, someone else bought a sword to take home. It was definitely a different time.)

Bullfighting Ring

Before we left Madrid, most of our group attended a bullfight. Regardless of how one might feel about the ethics of bullfighting, it’s a unique cultural experience and I don’t regret attending it; nerdy me had prepared for travel by reading James Michener’s Iberia and parts of Ernest Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon. To me, bullfighting is a poetic art form that feeds the poor after each performance. Two of my closest friends felt differently and opted to spend the afternoon exploring El Parque de Buen Retiro, a stunning 346-acre park which no one else was able to see; life is full of choices.

Retiro Park

We travelled from Madrid to Paris by overnight train; I didn’t fully understand our chaperones’ instructions to purchase a meal before we boarded the train, since nothing would be available until we disembarked. I couldn’t sleep in the topmost bunk of our train compartment, just as I hadn’t been able to sleep during the transatlantic flight, and when we arrived in Paris I felt disoriented and half starved. Our first meal was at an elegant restaurant, and all I remember was poking at a beautiful salad composed of pieces too small for me to spear with a fork. Eventually I found something I could eat — probably a continental breakfast with those yummy croissants. And one of the culinary highlights of the entire trip was a meal at a restaurant just off the Champs-Elysées, where courses of delicious food were capped off with a simple dish of chocolate ice cream that truly tasted like chocolate.

Sacre Coeur

Sacré Coeur, Paris, France.

In Paris we shopped, toured the Louvre, bought watercolors and postcards in shops next to the Seine, looked in vain for Jim Morrison’s grave in Montemarte (hint: it’s in Pere Lachaise), had our choice of visiting Sacre Coeur or the Eiffel Tower (I chose Sacre Coeur), saw Notre Dame through a web of scaffolding as it was being renovated, saw the spectacular stained glass windows of St.-Chapelle, and had our choice of visiting Napoleon’s Tomb or the Eiffel Tower (I chose Napoleon’s Tomb and was the only one on the trip who didn’t climb the Eiffel Tower).

Sainte-Chapelle-carre

Sainte-Chapelle, Paris, France.

In the end, we flew from Brussels to New York, or was it Pittsburgh?, before landing again in Columbus. Unlike some of the other students on the trip, I had not sneaked off for American fast food while I was overseas. After my parents picked me up, I convinced myself that what I really, really wanted was a Big Mac. At some McDonald’s somewhere between the airport and our house I placed my order and tried to figure out how much my purchase was worth in American money; my brain had been doing currency conversions for almost two weeks and didn’t understand that a dollar was just a dollar again. What did it all mean, anyway? I was confused, exhausted, and jet-lagged. I didn’t even eat the Big Mac.


Knitwise, I have done somewhat less than the minimum daily required amount of knitting to make progress on the simple grey triangle shawl; it’s not going to knit itself, so I had better find more knitting occasions and start plugging away. Meanwhile, I did cast on for a project I can keep at the office. It’s a cotton washcloth which, by definition, can’t possibly go wrong. Nevertheless, I’m not creating the pattern I intended to make with the stitches that I am using. I could frog it and start over, I could tink it back a bit and write down what I’ve done so far, or I could leave it in its project bag and wait for a third solution to present itself. So far I seem to have chosen Option C.

Published in: on May 7, 2018 at 10:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

My Secret Shame

1981

Awww…. isn’t he cute?

Barry Manilow

Barry Manilow Live!

Even Now

One Voice

Barry

Here Comes the Night

Oh, Julie!

Manilow (RCA)

Because It’s Christmas

Ultimate Manilow

The Greatest Songs of the Fifties

The Greatest Songs of the Sixties

15 Minutes

 

And here are some pictures from last night’s concert in Chicago, at the Chicago Theater. One bucket-list item, checked off!

———

The text above is from a draft post I started writing just over three years ago. I did have a ticket to see Barry at the Chicago Theater, but he ended up cancelling the show when his recovery after some surgery was coming along more slowly than he had anticipated. I didn’t know the show was cancelled until I was already in Chicago to see him, and it turned out that quite a few strings were attached to my ticket and my attendance. I did enjoy my walking tour of downtown Chicago and my dinner at a Top Chef alumni restaurant, which I did blog about (see From the Bucket to the Sprout), but overall the weekend was rather emotionally tumultuous. Enough said about that — it’s in the past and it can’t be changed.

A couple of months ago I was browsing Facebook when Barry made the announcement that he would be touring in 2015, for the last time. It was time for me to get another ticket. And I did. I’m going to get to see and hear him live this Tuesday night in Milwaukee, and all I have to do is figure out how to get there myself and where to park the car and have dinner.

I don’t always wait 35 years to see someone in concert. But when I do, I’m over the moon.

This might be one of the three kindest Barry Manilow memes on the Internet.

This might be one of the three kindest Barry Manilow memes on the Internet.

Published in: on February 22, 2015 at 6:49 pm  Comments (4)  

Things That Make You Go Hmmmm…

Random observations after a 150-mile bike ride

(Note: These pictures are from the Internet for illustrative purposes only, and were not taken by me or at the Scenic Shore 150.)

1. Overheard on Day Two, from the first of five riders tucked in behind a tandem: “It’s like driving 80 miles an hour on the freeway behind a guy with a radar detector!”

Fast. Tandems are fast.

Fast. Tandems are fast.

2. Consecutive rider numbers on riding partners are cute. The older the riding partners are, the more adorable it is. If they both look over 70, your heart just melts.

cycling pair

3. A Conversation I Had With Almost Everyone:
Them: “Is this your first time on Scenic Shore?”
Me: “Yes, how is Day Two?”
Them (after a dramatic pause): “Well, it starts out very pretty as you ride out through the park. The first 45 miles are pretty flat. BUT THEN…”

THE CLIFFS OF INSANITY!

THE CLIFFS OF INSANITY!

4. A lunch consisting of a tuna salad sandwich, a chocolate chip energy bar, a kosher dill pickle spear, pasta salad, chocolate milk, and fruit punch Gatorade sounds like a lunch assembled by a psychotic nine-year-old, but when you’ve just ridden 50 miles it is the perfect combination of carbohydrates, protein, fluids, salt, and sugar. And it does not matter in what order you eat everything, as long as you eat slowly. (I am not making this up… it’s exactly what I had for lunch on Day Two.)

From "Bike the Drive" in Chicago. But still from the Internet.

A food stop from “Bike the Drive” in Chicago. But still from the Internet.

5. Overheard on Day Two, at the rest stop 13.5 miles before the end: “There’s nothing better than finding beans you didn’t know you had!”

The orange ones are excellent.

The orange ones are excellent.

6. After Day One, most people crept into their tents at 9:30pm. Everyone else went into the lounge area of the main building at UW-Manitowoc to watch the day’s recap of the Tour de France on the wall-mounted television. We sat quietly, numb from riding, mesmerized by watching other people ride. The Tour might be the only sporting event whose audience ABSOLUTELY DOES NOT want to participate in it. Collectively, everyone watching on Saturday night had completed either 79 (the organizers lied about the 75; we all noticed) or 100 miles. In the morning each one of us was going to rise, eat a bizarre breakfast, and ride another 75 miles. And we were convinced that every single rider on the Tour was insane.

7. Those pockets on the back of a cycling jersey can hold so much stuff that at the end of the day you might find things you forgot you’d stuck back there. On the second day mine held a berry-blend protein bar, a squeeze packet of lemonade-flavored electrolyte gel, the aforementioned Sport Beans, and a Stinger vanilla waffle. And my smartphone.

Ooooh... a chocolate waffle. But I heard the honey waffles are the best.

Ooooh… a chocolate waffle. But I heard the honey waffles are the best.

8. Cyclists are quite proud of their bizarre tan lines. Because of the gear they wear, they usually tan in a patch on the back of the hand, from the shoulder to the wrist, from mid-thigh to the knee, on the top of the nose, and at the back of the neck. And since there’s not really a way to cover these areas and tan the rest, that’s just the way it is.

cycling tanlines

cycling legs

9. It’s okay to judge the cyclist ahead of you by their calves. Cycling is NOT a weight-loss activity. You can do it every day and it only seems to tone and reshape you on the inside. Except for the calves. You can quickly tell who just started riding (they have calves), who has been training for a while (they have muscular calves), who has been doing this for some time (they have “cut” calves with great muscle definition), and who wants to turn pro (you can see every tendon in their calves, and they complain that the route does not have enough hills to present a challenge). Thighs are not always a fair way to judge a cyclist. Young female cyclists may have muscular thighs. Older female cyclists may have big-looking thighs that hide their muscles. Long-distance cyclists of any gender may have long, lean, yet muscular thighs. But professional sprinters and track cyclists will have thighs as big around as a normal person’s waist.

genetics

calves riding

10. You can do it. No matter how crazy your goal might seem, you can do it. Practice, train, and dream… and train some more. You can do what you thought was impossible. But you have to try.

 

Published in: on July 21, 2014 at 10:03 pm  Comments (3)  

Don’t Stop Me Now

To clarify, this week’s post title is quite different from the phrase “nothing can stop me now,” which is engraved in my family’s history as the ill-fated phrase my brother has triumphantly exclaimed immediately before numerous and painful occasions. Some of these occasions are accompanied by gruesome photographic documentation. Be glad I do not possess copies of such documentation; they are not to be viewed by the faint of heart. Suffice it to say that I will never utter the phrase “nothing can stop me now” for the rest of my life. It sorely tempts fate, which, frankly, doesn’t need much tempting in the first place.

This week I was able to indulge in some hours of intense activity as well as some moments of introspection. The activity consisted of a cross-country ski session that, while quite fun (I’d do it again! I swear!), pushed the edges of my personal envelope with regards to pain; it was icier and “slopier” than I’d expected, and although I hiked the trail and carried my skis for most of the trail, I did take some rather spectacular spills, one of which my ski-partner may have managed to catch on video.

Let me know if you’ve already seen this on YouTube. Specifically, from 0:14 to 0:17. This documents Crash #2 of 5. Or of perhaps 6. I started to lose count after a while.

Happily, especially because I do *not* at the present moment actually have any health insurance, discretion became the better part of sanity by the end of the trip, and I retreated from the ski trails before any body parts broke, dislocated, disintegrated, or exploded. Many of them were bruised, but I cannot give an accurate accounting of how many, because I am daily discovering new bruises in some unlikely places. After Crash Five (or Six) I cut my ski-partner loose to do something besides wait at the bottom of the slope to see how long it would take me to get up, and speculate as to whether or not I’d be able to retrieve my hat, cell phone, or skis without his assistance. I suppose he went skiing for a while or something.

After several ice pack sessions (okay, bag-of-frozen-peas sessions) on my sore right shoulder, I had time to speculate on the size of my personal envelope.

Don't spend it all in one place, folks.

Don’t spend it all in one place, folks.

My friend’s personal envelope? Well, considering he already has a pilot’s license, skydives, rides a unicycle, and is learning to juggle, I assume it’s considerably larger than mine.

largest envelope

This might have room for enough postage to mail someone to the Moon.

The neat thing (well, one of the neat things) about hanging out with someone like this is that their idea of reasonable activity is so far above “sitting on the couch watching videos” that almost anything you do helps to expand your own horizons and challenge you beyond what you thought you were capable of. For example, on Saturday morning I often felt I was not capable of standing up again. But I did stand up again, over and over. I’m stubborn as hell a persistent soul, and I wasn’t going to fail to live up to whatever I thought the expectations were. And even though I felt on Sunday morning as if I’d been a rock in a tumbler, I still had a great time on Saturday.

Resting up gave me a chance to think about all the things I don’t usually do, and all the things I’ve wanted to do but haven’t pushed myself to accomplish over the years.

What, really, is stopping me besides myself?

WaitingForTheLight

I used to set ten-year goals and for them, create a five-year sub-plan and a list of reasonable one-year tasks. Heck, I used to have goals rather than random resolutions — though I don’t mean to denigrate the effort I put into the random resolutions. Some of them might not have been quite so random. But at some point (perhaps when I was at home with four kids ages seven and under?) having any kind of long-term goal was ludicrous. Day-to-day survival was a much more reasonable achievement. Keep everyone alive for now, and we’ll deal with the big picture later. Capisce?

But now we’ve all survived that period of intense-personal-care parenting. The “kids” range from almost 15 to almost 8. They’re able to go along with most of the things I’d like to do (even if they’re not yet willing), and even help with the planning, preparation, and performance of said “thing.” (Not so much on the putting-away afterwards, but we can work on that.)

Now, I can get back to my thing, which has always been writing.

What I’m knitting this week:

I finished the first and second “Don’t Shoot” cowls — one was done in time for last weekend’s road trip to Ice-Land, and the second one was finished two days later. Moving on!

Don't Shoot! number 2.

Don’t Shoot! number 2.

This week I’m knitting a meme — more accurately, the knitting instructions I read in a meme that’s been making the rounds on Facebook.

It's not rocket science, people... it's more like fiber-based topology.

It’s not rocket science, people… it’s more like fiber-based topology.

Here is what I have so far. Actually, that’s not true. I have several more inches of this by now. It’s just that it’s such a simple pattern that it puts me to sleep when I knit it, and if I use up all the yarn I have allotted for it, I’ll probably be sleeping for the next twenty years, which is not how I wanted to spend the next twenty years.

Got coma?

Got coma?

Part of me is screaming inside: All right, now you know what it looks like! Rip it out and knit something more interesting! That part of my brain is doing battle with the part that controls the hands to calmly turn the work around, pick up the free needle once again, and think: Well, it’s not as if it’s hard… and people need scarves….

Published in: on January 16, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Week Forty-Eight: Thank you

Thank you.

Thank you for reading.

The_Young_Cicero_Reading

Thank you for commenting.

Comment

Thank you for visiting my blog before I have something new published, because you know it’s almost time.

thursday

Thank you for sharing the link to my blog.

sharing-guinea-pigs

Thank you for clicking “Like” after a post that you liked.

facebook-like-300x168

Thank you for responding to my surveys and questions.

survey

Thank you for following my news feed.

extra-extra

Thank you for hanging out in this space, my little corner of the Internet.

nsfnet_map

Thank you for believing that I could accomplish all my crazy resolutions.

new-years-resolutions

Thank you for trusting that every week really would bring a new blog post.

New-blog-post-600x318

Thank you for tolerating such a wide range of writing: knitting play-by-plays, philosophical musings, weather reports, “Hamlet” commentary, nerdy math posts, room makeovers, photo essays, and even a sonnet.

gothic-sonnet_devouring-tim

Thank you for scrolling down.

scroll_down_good_stuff

Thank you for laughing at the silly pictures I find and embed.

End of Internet

Thank you for coming back.

Come-Back-Soon

Thank you for sharing your feedback.

His_Masters_Voice1

Thank you for encouraging me.

cpewencouragement002

Thank you, on Thanksgiving Day and every day.

Published in: on November 28, 2013 at 9:00 am  Comments (2)  

Week Thirty-Three: Grand Designs

This week has been full speed, full tilt, full out. So it’s strange that at this point I’m not sure that I have anything important to say.

This weekend, though, I gave a makeover to my dining room. It was really an act of faith to call it a dining room at all, as we didn’t eat there, let alone “dine.” No dining-related apparatus was stored there. Oh, there was a table surrounded by four chairs, but it was covered in perpetuity with clean folded kid clothes, school papers, crayons and paper, books, board games, and Lego pieces. I struggled for many years with how to use the room and how it should look, and it didn’t help that it was often the dumping ground for items left over from the makeovers of other rooms. I didn’t dare return anything to the basement, but all the items needed a real place. And until I could visualize the function of the “new” room, I couldn’t imagine the form.

"Before," to my eternal shame.

“Before,” to my eternal shame.

Finally I started to see it. Last Saturday the kids and I went to Target looking for, among other things, a set of ladder shelves on which I could display my accumulation of Macintosh keyboards (“collection” being far too intentional a word). Target didn’t have one, but they had a desk that caught my eye — a simple desk that just might do. I gathered the kids together and we agreed on the Walnut color, and we hauled it into the shopping cart and took it home. And then I started working, one item at a time, on the dining room.

20130810_165112

20130810_174658

20130810_195343

Well, now it was obvious that I had room for an identical desk on the other side of the tall plastic stack o’ drawers. So I got on the Internet and searched the inventory at my other local Target stores… and found one Walnut desk. Perfect.

Sunday came and we all headed out again, to a different Target store. We shopped for backpacks and snacks and assorted things, then rang up the desk. Oops…. the card wouldn’t go through. But it would without the desk, so we left it there. We went home, and I shuffled the money around online and kept working on the dining room.

20130811_173805

Monday came. We all went to my knitting group for a while, then it was, guess what, off to Target! to fetch the desk. Then off to OfficeMax to get dry-erase boards to hang over each desk. Then home again to put all the pieces together.

"After." A room for homework, projects, and even dining.

“After.” A room for homework, projects, and even dining.

I got to use an electric drill. And a level. And measuring tape. (After having put together two admittedly simple desks. It was heaven.)

20130813_142620

So far we have eaten at the dining room table a few times, cleaning up after ourselves when we’re done. I have laid a few small piles of clean folded clothes on the table, but they get put away within 12 hours. And the kids have done a couple of their own creative projects, and cleaned up after themselves. The real test will come when school starts after Labor Day, but so far it looks and feels like a success. I can even push the curtains aside to let in the summer sun.

When I was done, the kids were stunned. My middle son said I had done the impossible. And my daughter asked, “Why did you fix up the dining room all of a sudden?” Well, after living here for six years, I finally knew what that room should look like.

Published in: on August 16, 2013 at 9:00 am  Comments (2)  

Week Twenty-Eight: Quiet Time

Last weekend I ferried my Teen to another state and had the rare and disconcerting task of driving home alone. I took a new route because I could, and it was refreshing to view different roadside scenery for a few hours, but ultimately, seven hours is a long time to spend only with one’s own thoughts, particularly when one has become accustomed to having one’s thoughts interrupted every minute and a half so that one may (a) give permission for someone else to have a glass of water, (b) appreciate someone else’s capture of all three star coins on world 8-5 of Super Mario Bros Wii, or (c) accompany someone else up the stairs solely because said other person does not like going up said stairs alone. To say that my current life prepared me for that much introspection in such a large dose is like thinking that a few tennis table serves will adequately prepare you to face Rafa Nadal on a clay court.

Much of my introspection was about coming to terms with being alone. Now, of course I have my Darling Children, and my Immediate Family, and my Fellow Persons-of-the-Yarn, and my Cyber Friends, and you, my Dear Readers. I’m talking about being the one who pulls the heavy loads around here and makes the daily decisions and remembers to pay the bills and put gas in the car and snag the freelance jobs and get everyone to the doctor when they need to be there. (raises hand) I’m not terrible about doing these things; they’re all doable. The critical parts lie in reminding myself beforehand, and recovering afterwards. Being a comfort to myself isn’t something I’ve been doing.

Quiet times are essential for me to be able to let my plans, my ideas, and my anxieties to all come to the surface to be dealt with. Chatter, interruptions, and general busy-ness tend to plaster them over, so that I don’t notice any gaps until there’s a tectonic-level shift and the paint starts flaking off the walls. The old saying “If it’s to be, it’s up to me” came to mind. While on one level it would be nice to be able to pretend to live the life of the idle rich, I need to live realistically and realize I’m the pilot, the navigator, and the mechanic. I need the quiet time so that I can make better plans for the not-so-quiet times, when I’m needed at the wheel. I’m not used to having quiet times, so they’re uncomfortable now. But those feelings of discomfort are like surface tension before it’s broken though — or the sound barrier, which was perceived to be dangerous (if not fatal) for many years. They are part of the territory in which I now dwell.

And then the quiet got to be too much, and I found a hard-rock station that was doing a Top 500 countdown. Rock on and sing along! Back to the comfort of the familiar….

I just need one or two more skeins of new yarn to finish what I started with the scraps, I swear!

I just need one or two more skeins of new yarn to finish what I started with the scraps, I swear!

Knitwise, I started a simple little shawl with the leftovers from the slippers I knitted for my grandmother. I got as far as I can go on it without buying more yarn from the same dye lot, and this will have to wait until I can visit the same store. This week at knit night I cast on for a giftknit project with a deadline. I was gratified to discover that I remembered how to do the long-tail cast-on without flaw, and that I estimated almost perfectly how long said tail should be. However, working with that close of a length value tends to make the last stitch or so impossible to knit. After several failed attempts, I passed the project to Bonnie, who accomplished it for me and passed the project back. I probably won’t show a photo of that project until after it’s done; after all, it is a gift and I don’t want to risk spoiling the surprise. And right now I’m in the very early stages, so it won’t look at all like what it’s going to be when it grows up. But I promise that you’ll get to see it eventually, unless of course I cut it to tiny pieces from sheer frustration with the yarn, which I’ve never used before and might never again. The first skein of at least eight skeins contained three knots, which is unacceptable. I am saving them in a little baggie to mail to Lion Brand with a very vent-y letter when my project is complete.

I’m going to concentrate on the giftknit and the simple shawl until both are done. I also have a sock in progress, but it doesn’t have a deadline. Sorry, sock. I’ll get back to you.

Published in: on July 11, 2013 at 7:48 am  Leave a Comment  

Week Twenty-Six: We Shall Never Speak of This Again

I started this blog somewhere around 2006. We were innocent knitbloggers then. We posted pictures of our kids and used their real names, talked about where we lived and when we were going on vacation, and basically shared all kinds of details about our lives. That changed for me the day I was checking my statistics page and noticed that people were using my firstborn son’s full name as the search term for finding my blog. All right, Search Engine Optimization is one thing, but there are very few people who are on a “need to know” basis for my firstborn’s middle name. At that point I removed a lot of kidly photos from my blog, and tried to share personal information more thoughtfully.

These days I spend quite a lot of time on Facebook, and I wince at the ways people leave themselves bare and vulnerable. They announce with great fanfare when they will be away from home for extended periods of time. They post pictures of their children for all the Public to see. They advertise their preferred bedroom activities in one post, then complain about their stalking ex in another. They complain about their jobs, then complain that they’ve been “let go.” They issue vague, passive-aggressive status reports so that cyberfriends will rush to their emotional rescue. It’s tough stuff to watch, and it makes me that much more aware of any details I post about my own life.

That being said, I marked a very personal milestone last week, and I thought it needed to be mentioned — once and only once. Last week I was divorced. Now, I have been married before, and counting from the date of my first wedding, I have spent 80 percent of the time from then to now in a married state. But I am single now and intend to stay that way.

It’s been a long time since I last called myself single. I’m finding that no matter how much time I think I need to have in order to understand myself, I’m underestimating. (Sheesh. I have a lot of me to understand. No wonder I’m hard to live with.) I also have children to co-parent for the rest of my life. Because they are important to me, and their mental and emotional health is important to me, my blog is not going to be a space where you will see me bash an ex, any ex. Life is tough enough to handle without making it hard on other people with open wounds, petty jealousy, and juvenile revenge fantasies. I may struggle sometimes, but I’m doing my best to be decent to everyone in this situation, including myself. I trust that if I hold myself to that standard, others may eventually reciprocate. (Sadly, I have some prior experience with this type of thing.) But even if they don’t… I won’t regret walking the high road.

Now it’s time to move on. Want to see an artsy shot of the geeked-up Tardisvan?

oooo-WEEEE-oooo.....

oooo-WEEEE-oooo…..

In the last week I’ve driven another thousand miles, attended a family reunion, finished a pair of socks, knitted one slipper for my grandmother, grilled hamburgers (and portabella caps), cleaned and reorganized my rental house’s laundry room (well, I’m almost done), and maybe done another thing or two here and there.

Redskin, I mean, Redhawk hockey socks!

Redskin, I mean, Redhawk hockey socks!

This weekend I have a big plan: to support my knitting friend Bonnie Stedman Dahnert. She’s the honorary chairperson for — oh, heck, read all about it here. Come back when you’re done, and I’ll put the rest in my own words.

I started our local knitting group, but Bonnie is our rock. She seems to know everyone in the county, know what to do on every occasion, and know how to teach any knitting technique you need to learn. She has taught some people to knit, and others how to crochet, and others how to spin. She has given advice, yarn, driving directions, restaurant reviews, prayers, and compassion to everyone who needed them. We half-joke that whenever we don’t know what to do, we call Bonnie. When my youngest son had a stitches-requiring accident last summer and my husband was away, I instinctively called Bonnie and she immediately said “bring the kids here.” She watched my other kids until after midnight, when Tommy finally had his stitches in.

In return we have shared her joys and tried our feeble best to help bear her own fears and sorrows. I don’t know if the newspaper article I linked to fully describes the anxiety our group felt when we realized the toll this second round of chemotherapy was taking on her, and how close we came to losing her. The CaringBridge site that her daughter Brigitta set up for her allowed us a glimpse into the minute-by-minute fight that she gave this second round of cancer. I do know that “she responded well to the treatment” is not the most accurate description of Bonnie’s fall and winter of 2012.

So, Saturday. I’ll be there for her as leads the lap of cancer survivors around the track, and as she speaks to the crowd. This morning at knitting-group she gave us pink-ribbon buttons that say, “No one fights alone!” And she’s right. We all have to fight for each other. It’s a bumpy ride, this short life, and we need to spend our time making it easier for each other.

Week Twenty-Four: There and Back Again

Since last week’s post I have made “homemade” ice cream twice (quotation marks here because I used a Rival ice cream base instead of making a custard), made asparagus soup completely from scratch (starting with harvesting the asparagus from the back yard), survived a youth soccer tournament (three games spread out over four hours, with nary a goal for our valiant and exhausted team), and bought a share in a CSA farm (it turns out that I am that kind of person).

Potage, Crème D'Asperges Vertes

Potage, Crème D’Asperges Vertes

These accomplishments pale compared to the round trip I made on Monday and Tuesday to drop off The Teen at my parents’ house in Ohio. My seven-year-old also came along, to be company for me on the way back. I have done this trip before — oh, soooo many times. I moved away in 1999 and made at least three round trips that year, and probably at least two round trips every year after that. Feel free to do the math (it’s not really that interesting or complex). However, I’ve never done it as a simple overnight round trip. My policy has always been to spend more time at the destination than I spend on the drive, and I’ve almost always stuck to that. This trip, however, needed to happen, and I made it happen.

I am…tired. Sore. Uneager to drive more than ten miles at a stretch, for a while. But I have to admit that my Eldest and Youngest Boys made for good travelling companions. I don’t know the proportions with any certainty, but part of it is because they’re nice guys. Part of it is because we have all made this drive so many times that, as a family, we can pass by a bunch of grain silos painted with some generic corporate logo and remark, “These are the ones that used to say ‘Popcorn, Indiana’.” I think they know where I’m going to turn by when I change lanes. They certainly accept my nicknames for landmarks.

Propellerville. Otherwise known as The Area Between Wolcott and Lafayette, Indiana.

It was a fine trip, all 999.7 miles of it, but I’m going to bed now. Pretty soon, I’ll have to make this trip again — taking three and bringing back four. I’m going to need a bigger car for that one.

Published in: on June 13, 2013 at 10:10 am  Leave a Comment