Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Hang Another Hook on the Mantle

Let your love be like the misty rains, coming softly, but flooding the river. 
Malagasy Proverb

The night before the night before Christmas, I stayed up until 3am. Not because of cards to address, food to prepare, or presents in need of a bow.  No, nothing as easy as that kept me up two hours past my bedtime. Something much bigger. I had a Christmas stocking to finish and time was running out.

Granted, I have procrastination tendencies and time does fly away while I'm listening to the birds sing. But I hate when I'm time crunched and finishing this stocking was important.

Years ago when my husband and I married, he had the Christmas stocking his aunt had knit for him and his siblings. His brother's wife, Cathy, and I decided we each wanted a knitted one also. We found a store where we could purchase a stocking kit and we learned how to knit.

We often swore while searching for lost stitches and comparing progress.

Where Cathy was more prone to the detail work, like sewing on sequins and outlining, I seemed to be the more apt knitter. Hard to believe, I know. When her daughter was born, we discussed the stocking tradition. After inquiring as to how many kids she planned to have (I had no intention of ever having any) it was decided that I would do the knitting and she would do the adorning.

Five more stockings and many years later, my oldest son brought his bride to our fold. I ordered a kit and found my knitting needles. Not having knitted one in 19 years, I wasn't quite in sync. I didn't know for certain if my daughter-in-law, always most kind, indeed didn't mind that her stocking ended up ten inches longer than everyone else's. Or much wider. Note to self: Read the directions on needle size.

Will full intention to redo that stocking one day, I asked my husband to spread the hooks out on the fireplace. With his precise engineering head, he got out his measuring tape, his sticky note pad, pencil, and all his swear words.

Looking at this photo seems I've had a consistency problem more than once. What can I say.
Early last year we received the delightful news that the middle son wanted to add a stocking to that fireplace.  He had fallen in love and a lovely woman had accepted his offer of marriage.


Elation on my part. After three brothers and three sons, my woman numbers were increasing once again.

For an exciting engagement gift, I gave his fiancee a Christmas stocking kit, then immediately took the gift out of her hands. She, a beautiful knitter herself, could certainly have done much better work than me, the cursing needle fumbler. But getting a stocking on the mantle had become a right of passage in our clan. I would do the honors once again.

I began at once, impressed with my early start. Somewhere along the line, the project got buried under several New York Times Book Reviews, a few unread books, a blanket and a box of Kleenex and all the other goodies that are stockpiled beside that chair I live in.

When stuffing the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers into my mouth brought the realization that it was time to decorate for Christmas, panic struck me.  Ten months had passed since I last knitted a stitch on that stocking.

I rummaged around in the basket to find the project. I feverishly poured my soul into the knitting. Twenty, twenty-five hours or more I knitted through a massive color change mess to make my future daughter-in-law her own special stocking.


When I began the toe section, it dawned on me that something was amiss. I held it up to the others. Where the other six had the foot going to the left, this one went to the right.


I cried. My husband said it was okay. Just to finish it. That no one would notice.

Yes. No one will notice that six stockings point one direction and one points to the other. No one.

A frantic search for the same kit ensued. A week and a half before Christmas (when no one has anything to do) I received it by mail, reversed the pattern, and worked at a pace that had I been running I'd now be skinny.

My ultimate goal? That on Christmas Eve when the family gathered there would be seven stockings hanging on the mantle -- all facing the same direction. In unity.

Back to 3am on the night before the night before Christmas. I finished the toe and off came the stocking from the knitting needles.  By 7am I was up and sitting in bed double stitching the name

L E I G H

onto the cusp. I mattress-stitched the sides together and yelled at my husband to get the hooks rearranged.

Just let me say he didn't quite understand my vigor. For the middle son and wife-to-be were not even coming for Christmas Eve. They were in New York City spending the holiday with that youngest son, the Bama Chef Boy. But, dammit, her stocking was gonna be hanging on Christmas Eve.



It brought me great pleasure to send Leigh a text photo of said stocking hanging with the others to let her know just how much we welcome her to our family.

Yup, wedding coming up in June. Which also means I need to enlist that gaggle of friends to drag me to do my favorite thing -- shopping for a dress.

Long-time readers of this blog may recall my enthusiastic attempts at choosing a dress for that oldest son's wedding. You can recall it here and here. And, yes, I have the same problem -- I still ain't got no tits.



More overwhelming than the thought of shopping is the reflection of how could this beautiful child that was just born yesterday be 27 and getting married?




Even more overwhelming is that such an incredible young woman will share his life.


Nope. That's not the dress.



Welcome to the family, Leigh. We love you.

Tales of shopping to come.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Compass Lost -- Finding a Solution to our Gun Situation

Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.  
Raymond Lindquist


Finding your way in unfamiliar territory requires an excellent map. For if you want to know where you're headed, you might want to know the general direction to undertake your journey.

In elementary school my classes did a great deal of map work including not only the geography of the world, but our own neighborhoods. We mapped our routes to and from school with landmarks and street signs. Since I always walked to school, it didn't seem such a difficult task. I'm a saunterer so I tend to notice things while I walk. The detail is what counted in our maps. The detail is what made it workable.

Each map required a compass placed in a prominent place on the page or a failing grade was guaranteed. A compass provided the measure to which one might first locate themselves. To get their bearings. To know which way to take the first step.

Since I lived in a small town divided into quadrants in regard to the numbered street address (NW, SW, NE, SE) direction was an easy issue for me. I lived in NW. My grandparents lived in SW.  The Hormel plant was in NE. The bowling alley in SE.

When I moved to Denver at 13,  I only had to look around and find the mountains. That gave me West. Easy from there. Same thing in Salt Lake City. Wasatch Front. East.  Connecticut - Long Island Sound at the end of the road. South. And then, of course, there is where the sun rises and sets.

Seemed when I knew one direction, I could easily figure out the rest. 

I recently traveled to Ireland. I had prepared. I made a guidebook with maps, hotel reservations and transportation info. I had a general knowledge of things I wanted to see and had printed out the directions from each stop in the country to the next stop. However, I didn't do that for Dublin. I knew places I wanted to see, but I hadn't studied the map. I shouldn't say that. I did study the map. But the map that had fixed itself in my brain couldn't comprehend the lay of the land when I walked it.  I felt like someone had swirled me around in a circle while I wore a blindfold and then sent me out. I had my north and south confused. My east and my west not even in my mind.

My traveling companion had a grasp of the area much better than me.  Also, the city was not that large so aimless walking still provided many a wondrous experience. But losing one's way can be most unsettling. Especially when it has been a strong point in the past.

When I arrived home, I pasted the brochures and mementos from the trip into my homemade book to accompany the journal entries made while there. I came across the Dublin map I'd used. Studying it and recalling my disorientation, I noticed the city was not a perfect grid of north/south/east/west. And the map did not have a compass.

Failing grade in my elementary school. No directional assistance for the walker. For the disoriented.

I share this long tale of direction as I struggle with the current state of my country. I'm more than troubled by the mass shootings aka terrorism (it's terrorism to me no matter how you paint it) involving guns that take place each day in this country. Where more than four people are shot or killed in a single incident by a perpetrator -- each day.

I'm even more troubled when the solution heard most loudly is spoken by those who want to put more guns out there. Who say after tragic loss of life that if the people had been armed, the loss of life would have been less.

Isn't the problem that there was any loss of life at all?

I have to ask how many of those touting that stout opinion of more guns have been in a situation where someone enters their domain and catches them off guard. If all their "gun training" calms their being and immediately sends them into SWAT team mode.

I don't know about you, but it's not in my nature to carry a firearm. Nor to undertake the extensive and continuous process of training to be not only a good marksman, but conscious of how to behave correctly in every shooting situation. How to assess. How to draw my weapon when caught off guard and under fire. How to not take out more innocents like, say, in a dark movie theater.

Nor am I interested in embracing a paranoia of living a life in fear. Not to say that I'm not aware of my surroundings. I do take precautions to ensure my safety. I do that whether in a foreign country or in the parking lot at the grocery store.

But let's be realistic. If something does happen to me, it will be when I least expect it. For isn't that the vulnerability an attacker depends upon?

And if attacked suddenly from behind or having a gun thrust at me while driving or finding myself in a safe environment now flying with bullets fired from an automatic weapon from I-don't-know-who, can I simply hold up my hands and say to the shooter "Can you hold on a minute while I get my gun out of my purse? Just a minute, I promise. It's here somewhere."

Then I have to remember how to use it while my hands shake for what kind of idiot walks around with a gun cocked and loaded. Safety and all, you know.

Many consider a solution to our gun woes is to improve our mental health system. Well, obviously. But how does that work in regard to the mass shooter? The loner with a stockpile of guns. Tables filled with literature of hate.  Do we (and who is we?) go house to house and give everyone a mental health evaluation?  What is the criteria?

I have long avoided taking this blog into any political or alienating place. I've used it to tell stories, share my humor and my family, road trips and my current state of life. I've practiced my writing skills and pushed my imagination to express itself through words and photography. I've talked about books and have most certainly bored you with my rambling thoughts in regard to many "safe" issues.

But today is a new day. I haven't been able to post anything for well more than a month because with all that is happening in my country and the world, my drivel seemed most unimportant.  
  
As much as I'd like to point out the complete stupidity of many presently taking up the airwaves, I won't. For that is quite obvious. What is missing are the intelligent voices of those who will stand up against it.

I suggest we need to draw a new map. We need to incorporate insightful, pragmatic, achievable solutions to our current out-of-control gun and ammunition debacle.

For we have most certainly misplaced our compass.

Thoughts?

Friday, October 23, 2015

Jacob, Jacob

We've had bad luck with our kids — they've all grown up. 
Christopher Morley

Thirty years ago this Sunday, I was terrified. Not only did the natural childbirth labor I thought such a wise choice loom before me, I had to raise a kid once I got it out. I knew nothing about that. I didn't even like kids.

Half of my fears dissipated shortly after those 64 stitches earned while ending that labor began to heal. Since I'm still here apparently raising that kid didn't do me in either.  Tested me a few thousand times, but as that kid, that boy his dad and I named Jacob, celebrates his 30th birthday, I celebrate him with this brief chronicle.

So you were what was in there.
After many attempts, finally took an  experienced and rather gruff nurse to come in, grab my breast, and shove it in your mouth for the two of us to figure out how to keep you in food.
For some reason, Grandma Bernie loved that photo so much she penciled it.
Wasn't long before you threw me over for a singing Care Bear.

Discovered pumpkins were okay companions.

Tried every activity we forced you into even if you were uncertain as to the outcome. "Mom?"

Took boat rides with strangers.
Adopted a steadfast dedication to your clothing and your artistic abilities.
Napped like your old man.
Smiled even if you didn't have any teeth.
Swam in whatever swimming hole I brought you to.
Collected Christmas presents while wearing a Green Bay Packer sweatshirt (before going to the dark side and cheering for the pseudo America's Team.)



Volunteered your time, costumed of course, with your brothers.
And the years went by and are chronicled in all those albums and boxes and more boxes not shown that had you a different mother might be more organized so she might know which ones held photos of just you. Alas...
...you fell in love in high school.
Graduated from college and got one of those rings you had to drink an entire pitcher of beer to get. 
A proud parent moment. First time alcohol ever passed those lips, I am certain.
Got a job, fell even more in love, and got a dog.


Married that lovely high school sweetheart.
Endured yet another costume I provide every Fourth of July.
Continue each day to create an incredible life.

Happy 30th Birthday, Jacob. Don't quite know how it went that fast.
Most proud of you.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Moose Hunting -- With Gratitude

Too much work, and no vacation,
Deserves at least a small libation.
So hail! my friends, and raise your glasses,
Work's the curse of the drinking classes.
Oscar Wilde

The best advice I received from my mother-in-law, JoAnn, was to always take a vacation. She advocated that even if little time or money existed, it was important to vacation, every year, no matter what.

Taking JoAnn's words to heart, early in my marriage I started a vacation fund at the local credit union. It began at $25 a paycheck and through the years gained more funds due to better paychecks. I guess one might say I was a young Roadtripper before a middle-aged one. Okay, an old one.

Often that money went to other things -- like a college tuition payment or an IRA deposit. Bills. But I made certain a vacation occurred -- even if just a weekend camping or to visit family which was most likely the case while raising three kids.

I have my ideas on vacating, but getting that husband of mine to do so can be a challenge.  Bob doesn't think vacation. He thinks work. Probably good to have that mix in a couple.

When events at his work this past year prompted him to fore go any plans to celebrate a milestone birthday, I became concerned for his welfare. When I pointed out that being overtired, overworked, and greatly in need of rest and relaxation was not a healthy way to live, his eyes glazed over and I could see just how far gone he was.

After 37 years of marriage, this is when I know I must push harder, to make certain his sanity and well being are tended to.

That's my job. Right?

Lo and behold, after weeks of my suggestions we take a road trip the third week of September to visit family in Colorado and hang out at some of our old haunts (we've lived there a couple times), he presents this idea to me.

"Hey, I was thinking. You want to go up to Colorado the third week of September?"

"Sure. Great idea," I say.

Road Trip

Enticed by cheap airfares, we flew to Denver. My oldest brother, Jon, and my brother-in-law, Frank, picked us up at the airport. They offered us a bed with a brand new mattress, delivered that day.

In the morning, they handed us keys to a big Cadillac and said, "Have a good time."

We decided this would work. We headed to the mountains, passing by the University of Colorado so Bob could remind himself how much he didn't enjoy chemical engineering school.

Boulder Turnpike
CU Engineering building

We chugged through much traffic to Estes Park and escaped over Trail Ridge Road


We did not break down this time.

and the Continental Divide



into Grand Lake



where we met up with a bunch of little kids and Bob's sister, Kim.

Kim and her husband, Jeff,  have a cabin across the street from Rocky Mountain National Park.  Our Cadillac fit perfectly in the driveway.


Besides Bob and me, Kim and Jeff were hosting their two daughters and their families. Eight adults. Four kids comprised of two three-year-olds, a sixteen-month-old and a six-month-old.
Been a while since Bob and I had been around babies. We huddled on the couch and stayed out of the way until we could recall the protocol.

Between being taken for $37 and 9 cents by the three-year-olds in their make-believe store and the mild mayhem that accompanies young babies, we quickly settled into the active environment.  I marveled at the ease and efficiency of the young mothers as they ministered their families.  I recalled having that much vigor at some point in my life. Sort of.

Sleep arrived after burritos smothered in green chili followed by much talk. 

The next morning we were alerted by Oliver, my niece's dog, to the presence of a moose outside the window, which prompted a shuffle for shoes and cameras to get outside.



After much preparation, we gathered the group and hiked to Adams Falls, where my husband, of course, taught his grand nephew and niece how to skip rocks into a quiet and peaceful pond.




After a lunch out with a party of 12, the party of 10 left and we found ourselves alone in the cabin.

'Whew!" my husband said as the carloads drove away. "That was a long three days."

"It was 23 hours," I replied.

"No way," he said.

"Still want grandchildren?"

He pondered that.

"Maybe not four at once."

With the cabin to ourselves, we sat on the front porch and came to the realization that here we were in the middle of no where with a Cadillac and a mountain cabin.  Bingo!

We spent our days taking day trips to Steamboat Springs, Winter Park, and back up into Rocky Mountain National Park. We searched for moose and elk, hiked, ate and drank, and generally did nothing.

Columbine Lake. I walked here at least once a day. Took a photo each day. 


Bison found

Yes, Kim, those are my feet on your coffee table, but my shoes are off and back in the mud room.
Deer sighting.
Headed toward Granby.
Shadow Mountain

We drove through a ranch where Bob was a wrangler for a summer when he was in high school.




Walked a peaceful trail in Rocky Mountain National Park.



They say the Colorado River begins in Grand Lake. This, however, was listed on the map as the N. Colorado River. Small tributary leading in.
 We were most pleased to have arrived at the peak of the changing of the Aspen.





We had a quick glimpse of where we learned to ski at Loveland Basin -- way back in the 70's.



Back in Denver we returned the Cadillac to Jon and Frank and visited the Botanical Gardens, cruised by my old office buildings from my oil biz days, and ate some fine food.


Clinked a few glasses.

By taking in all that family, the beauty and the relaxing, it worked. Bob remembered vacation might not be such a bad thing.

For that, I'm most grateful to Kim and Jeff  - you can rent their impeccably kept home at VRBO
Great location away from all the tourists and close to nature, ski (downhill and cross county) resorts, boating, fishing, and snowmobile trails.


And to Jon and Frank. (I don't think they will let you rent their Cadillac, though.)



Just what the old boy needed. With much gratitude, we thank you.

Enjoyed it Colorado. Was good to recall your beauty.


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