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.

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

1983: Big Mom

I have already written about our twice- or thrice-annual drives from Ohio to West Virginia to visit my grandparents and my mother’s relatives, starting in Silver Anniversaries and also mentioned in Here, Kitty Kitty. Over the years the roads and routes changed, but the final stretch past Chelyan has always been the same: we drive east (though it feels like south to us Northerners) along Route 61 beside the snaking Kanawha River past Cabin Creek, through East Bank, and through Crown Hill before we arrive at Hansford.

Along the way, Mom would point out landmarks that gradually became memories: “There’s the house I grew up in, at the top of that hill, and Granny and Pap lived next door” became “Those apartments up there are where our houses used to be” and eventually “That space behind the fence is where our houses were, and I used to sled down that hill.” On the other side of the road, an elementary school became a high school and then became a patch of grass. Further down the road was my uncle’s house before it was someone else’s house and then just a place where a pink and white trailer used to be. Any hint of sadness was gone when we spied W. T. Elswick Fields (now the Pratt-Hansford Baseball Fields) through the trees and knew that our grandparents’ house would next appear, and our four-hour trip (eventually three and a half hours) would be complete in a matter of minutes.

One of those landmarks was Big Mom’s house, perched at the base of a nameless mountain. When we went to visit her — my grandmother’s mother, widowed since 1958 — we had to park on the other side of the road in the lot of an auto repair shop next to the CSX tracks, then cross 61 and haul ourselves up a set of concrete steps set into the embankment in front of her neighbor’s house (gone now, replaced by the pickup truck in the photo below), with the passive aid of a railing made of plumbers’ pipe (also gone now). Then we staggered up a trail that took us further up the hill to her house, after which the mountain’s woods took over sharply. This wasn’t a place where you could play in the yard. There were houses further up the mountain from Big Mom’s, but we never saw them. In fact, there had been a whole world of houses, businesses, and trails up the mountains back in the day (and the days before my mother), but most of it was gone by the time we visited the area. Whatever man puts on the mountain, the mountain will eventually take back.

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Big Mom was ancient and gruff and could have been scary, but it was clear that she loved us, so we didn’t worry. Mom settled on the couch to catch up with her over tea while my brother and I wandered around the compact and unfamiliar house, trying to explore without touching anything. She may have had a dog the last time we visited her, but I clearly remember her Siamese cat (having been impressed with their evil nature when watching Si and Am in Lady and the Tramp). Even at fourteen I was still at the age where anyone with a pet was my friend, and I visited — carefully — with the cat while my mother visited her grandmother.

The last time we visited Big Mom was either Christmas 1982 or the summer of 1983. I don’t remember the season or the date as much as I remember the long, curious look she gave me. Then she went into her bedroom to retrieve a photograph. It was one I had seen many times before: my mother and me, she in her poufy late-1960s hair and I in my chubbiness. I didn’t know she had a copy of it, too. “Here,” she said. “I want you to have this.” In that moment when our eyes met, I knew that was the last time I would see her alive. I knew that she knew it, too, and I accepted the photo.

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Big Mom — otherwise known as Margaret Miskell — passed away in September 1983, just after I began my sophomore year of high school. Interestingly, her husband had died when my mother was a sophomore in high school. And it may not be interesting, but it is curious that Margaret’s husband was named Wilbur, they named their only son Wilbur, and their middle daughter married a man named Wilbur. Some of the name’s popularity is surely due to Wilbur Wright’s achievements and fame in the early twentieth century, but it was growing in popularity before then as a form of the German name Gilbert, meaning “trusted.” In the years since then, my family has tended to hand down my grandfather’s middle name, Austin. And the landmarks continue to fade away, but we have our memories — and our photographs.


Knitwise, last week I used up the first skein of grey bouclé, leaving an enormous, tightly wound ball of more yarn that eventually revealed itself as a ball wound double. This means that two strands of yarn, for whatever reason, had been held together while the former owner wound a new ball of yarn. I would have to separate the yarns before I could continue to knit on the shawl, but how?

My first solution required a ten-story building and a friend of equal height. Not having any takers for this plan, I kept brainstorming. With my #1 son at home last weekend, we devised an alternate scheme that used a large orange plastic bowl, two ball winders, and, eventually, a Phillips-head screwdriver. It eventually worked like a charm, and the two skeins were separated into two yarn cakes. Now all I have to do is the knitting.

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While waiting for the Grey Bouclé Solution to present itself, I decided to cast on for a smaller, more portable project that I could leave at work in case I, for some mysterious reason, might actually forget to bring my current knitting project to campus on the day when the campus knitting group met. Not that this would ever happen. I decided to use some bright red cotton yarn for a washcloth whose pattern I made up and never wrote down. The best thing about it is that, even if the design does not prove to be spectacularly interesting, it will still be a washcloth.

Published in: on April 30, 2018 at 10:27 pm  Comments (1)  

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-One: Head in the Clouds

Today was a Wisconsin summer day so beautiful that it demanded I spend at least a little time doing nothing but appreciating it.

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East.

I sat on the porch gazing at a rich blue sky filled with fluffy white non-rain clouds. The wind blew gently through the maple trees, the cedars, and the overgrown lilac bush. Sunlight warmed the lush green grass that could have been cut today if anyone had been in a big hurry, which no one was. To take up blades and engines against the peaceful natural sounds of the afternoon would have been an act of needless and misplaced aggression.

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Northwest.

While I sat, I snacked on a cup of popcorn (whose kernels had come from the fields of our CSA) and idly played a word game on my smartphone. But mostly I sat quietly and just was.

The kids were all inside the house, their various electronic devices aiding their re-entry to daily life after the end of an extended vacation time in which they’d traveled more than 1500 miles. (Without air conditioning. Sorry, kids.) There was no need for them to be rushed outside lest they “miss” the peace and beauty.

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Northwest.

I recall many teenage summer days on which I always seemed to be in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing. I’m not even talking about the day I was bitten by a dog while I was on one of my bike rides. I refer to the many days on which I sat in my bedroom, engrossed in a book, until I was told “It’s beautiful! You ought to be outside!” So, out I went. Or I was lying on a beach towel on the deck, hoping to achieve a tan that would fill in the background of my freckled skin (and praying I wouldn’t simply burn), until I was told, “What a waste of time — you ought to be reading a book.” So, in I went.

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South.

I never did manage to crack the code of knowing exactly what I was supposed to be doing on any particular day. But the best days were those when I told my bicycle where to go, and pedaled along country roads flanked by corn and soybeans (in alternate years, soybeans and corn), with the sun high in the blue sky and the buzzards lazily circling too high above me to cause concern.

Sometimes I rode alone, sometimes with a buddy, connecting the dots of ice-cream stands, elementary school playgrounds, state parks, and rustic farm stands selling fresh fruit, Amish butter cheese, and goats’-milk fudge. It made for summers of heavenly freedom, and as long as I got home in time for dinner nobody bothered me about where I’d been.

Up.

Up.

I appreciated my freedom at that time, and appreciate it in retrospect even more. I would hesitate today before allowing a teenaged child to be gone all day with no idea of where they were or any way to reach me. But it’s a generous gift to give someone their freedom of choice as to how they may spend a fine summer’s day.

Published in: on August 1, 2013 at 10:19 pm  Comments (1)  

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-Five: Vworp

This week didn’t leave very much time for me to write, but I did do one thing that I wanted to share.

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I’ll be back next week with more than this, I promise.

Published in: on June 20, 2013 at 10:06 pm  Leave a Comment