Mark Twain

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do ...
Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain

Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Year's Eve Reflection - 2017

I like to look back at the previous year - to check out all the shiny parts and the warts - and then file those memories away and start the next year new.

Before I began this post - I checked back on my reflection of 2016 and I summed up the year by answering 20 questions.  It was fun.  This year feels different so I am going to use a few emojis.

😱. In January we got a new President.  *sigh*  I try to avoid political topics in my blog.  But a face 'screaming in fear' seemed to be the only emoji that seemed to sum up my reaction to Trump as our President.  And as of December 31, 2017 - this man has done nothing in his first year in office to change my mind.  Screaming fear of what he will do to our country and our future haunts me.  I thank God in my prayers that our founding fathers had the good sense to create 3 branches of government - to act as checks and balances for 'mistakes' - for he truly is a mistake, one that we must survive  ... hopefully.

😌. In April I turned 70!  I thought a 'relieved' face seemed the best choice for that birthday.  Although I still have problems with the size of that number ... I am pleased to have reach it and I hope for many more years in this life.  You only get to go around once - so I am relieved to have reached 70 and I want to complete the circle and not get cut short.

😞. In May I awoke one morning to a sore swollen knee.  I had problems with this knee in 2013 - and it resolved with PT - but not this time.  Eight weeks of PT and I still walked with a cane.  I think 'sad' face fits this extended event that ate up my summer.

😿. In June our dear dear Max died.  Max was one of two cats, brothers actually.  For 9 years of his life we treated him for degenerative kidney disease with fluids to flush his kidneys.  At age 11 he lost his battle with that disease, but he was a bit of a success story - as most cats don't last that long.  It never is easy to say goodbye.  We miss him still.  However his brother, Wally, seems to have come out of his shell and is an entirely different cat ... friendly, outgoing, enjoying life completely.  Go figure.  Guess they weren't as close as we thought.

💝. In July my son and his wife announced they were expecting a child.  HOLY COW!  I am going to be a grandmother!  Me!  I had given up that hope a while back.  A heart wrapped in a bow seemed to sum up this wondrous news.  And it is still a bit unbelievable to me, despite the fact my daughter-in-law is clearly growing another person inside her body.  February can't come fast enough for us.

😡.  In September, after 8 weeks of PT - with minimal improvement - an MRI revealed that the left knee had a miniscus tear and could only be fixed with surgery.  In some ways it felt like I had wasted my summer and that was frustrating.  But now I had a real diagnosis, so taking a positive action to fix the problem - well - it changed my angry face into 😐 - neutral face!  Get the darn thing fixed!

😁. In October and November I was back in PT and improving.  But the beauty of recovery was that I now had time to knit and knit and knit - to my heart's content.  And I finished a large number of projects.  During that time I realized that despite my sampling of other related crafts (weaving and spinning) over the years, knitting continues to be my true love.  💗💖💟💖. Without knitting I would be lost.  My knee might not be fully functional, but my hands are fine - I can knit!

💪. In December I was discharged from PT.  I am better, but not perfect.  I am working towards perfect - and both the doctor and the therapist said it might take a year.  In the meantime, I am doing my exercises,  going to the gym and joining an exercise class in January.  When this knee finally starts feeling like the other knee, all the other parts of my body will be up to speed as well.

That was my 2017!  Highs and lows.  Normal really.  I will say that after this year - I understand better what physical set backs do to a senior citizen.  This knee repair was minor, but it set me back more than I care to admit, and the struggle to regain what was lost just takes more time at this age.

I have often started and stopped exercise programs over the years.  This time the seeds that I have planted in 2017 to improve my health I will continue to cultivate in 2018.  Now I don't feel I have a choice - not if I want to continue to live a normal life!

Goodbye 2017!
I learned a few lessons from you this year.
Who knows what 2018 will teach me.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Made it!

Anyone who has read my blog for awhile knows that this holiday has become a hurdle I struggle to get passed.   By the time I get to the 27th or the 28th, I am thrilled to be passed another Christmas.

I love the fact we are over 360 days away from the next Christmas.  I am happy to see the holiday decor begin to disappear from the stores and homes.  The holiday music that has been playing 24/7 on my favorite radio station (since before Thanksgiving, for gosh sakes), finally will revert to normal "70,s 80's, 90's and hits of today."   I know, I know ... I hear whispers of "grinch."

Well, let me assure you.  I am not a grinch.  I value the holiday for what it should be - a celebration of the birth of Christ.  I love making someone smile with a specially chosen or hand made gift.  I find peace in an evening walk around my neighborhood to see the holiday lights.  But sadness does follow me.

It hasn't always been that way.  If life delivers enough hard hits during the holidays ... it can change how you respond to them.  My dad died 3 days before Christmas in 1970.  My mom died 3 days after Christmas in 2014.  And in the last 10 years, my mom spent many holidays stuck in Assisted Living or a nursing home - because she was too disabled to get home.  I know neither parent would want those experiences to ruin my holidays.  The holidays aren't 'ruined,' but they are changed, and maybe permanently so.

Looking up - this year's Christmas was easier than last year's Christmas  It was our second year in the condo.  I have stopped grieving the move from our townhouse of 30 years.  I still wish life hadn't made this move necessary. Stairs and a recently blind husband are just a bad combination.  So I am passed that loss and really appreciate the convenience of the condo.  I 'visit' my parents right after Christmas every year.  The trips are filled with less sorrow now and more just a flood of memories of my life with each of them.  I think it is good to allow those memories to surface (the good and the bad) - and to remember where I came from.  It gives me some comfort to know they are both beyond suffering now.  And we - as a family - are celebrating a soon to be born child.  Maybe this grand child will help heal some of those hard hits that make this season so hard for me.  Maybe life is finally giving me a mark in the positive column with a new little life to cherish.

Regardless ...  This year ... I made it!  Passed another one!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Count Down to C Day

Look at the calendar!

( ... waiting while you check.)

Notice anything?


Go back and check that calendar again.

( ... waiting,  ... checking my finger nails,  ... rubbing eyes, ... picking nose ... 
well maybe not that last one.)

Yes ...  you saw it ... counting today, we are 3 days away from Christmas Day.  And for me, we actually celebrate on Christmas Eve ... so I got 2 days left in my own personal count down.

I don't know about you but I have a holiday list ... and I am checking it twice.  And that was only in the last 2 minutes.  'Cause there is this frick'en (#@**##) deadline!! I really hate deadlines.

Christmas is such a BIG deadline.  I gave up deadlines when I gave up working for a living.  Many newly retired folks give up loud alarm clocks and demanding bosses.  I gave those up too, but at the top of my give up list is deadlines.  And yet, every year ... there it is ... that C Day Deadline that just can't be wished away.

So what does my check list look like on this day - 2 days in advance of my deadline.

✔   Tree is up and decorated.
✔   Decorations are out.
✔   Gifts are wrapped - major ones, anyway.
✔   And the first batch of cookie dough is in the refrigerator.
✔   Make 3 more batches of cookie dough.
✔   Bake all those cookies.
✔   Finish gift shopping.
✔   Prepare menus.
✔   Food shop.
      Make Liver Cookies for the grand dogs
      Cook Christmas Eve family dinner.
      Share gifts on Christmas Eve.
      Cook Christmas morning breakfast.
      Visit mom at Gate of Heaven Cemetery.

I live with lists.  They can be good or bad.  This Christmas list is a good list, 'cause most of the things are checked as done.  It settles my mind to see that in black and white (Ha!  or green in this case.)

I am going to be all right.

I think.

One last to-do I just remembered!
     Wish my blog friends a peaceful and happy holiday season, no matter what you celebrate.

To my dear blog friends
Have a peaceful and happy holiday.
Be sure to carve out some time for yourself.

Ok, now I can mark that item as complete as well.  

✔    Wish my blog friends a peaceful and happy holiday season, no matter what you celebrate.
Oops ... another to-do!

        Carve some time out for me.  (Need to stop now ... my to-do list is growing!  
                   If I am not careful this list will become a bad list (more un-✔ed  than ✔ed
                   items) 😁

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

A Gift for a Grand Nephew!

So what is wrong with this picture!!

Ok, that first question isn't really fair.  So let's unwrap the package.

You see, while I was laid up with a bum knee, I did a lot of knitting!
But you already knew that.

And I promised to show you everything I knit. 
 But I failed to show you this last little project.

Since it was a Christmas gift for a special little boy, I wrapped it with all the other gifts.
And THEN, I remembered ... 'Silly person, you didn't take any pictures.'

No choice.  It needed to be unwrapped.

The sweater is for my grand nephew, a sweet little guy, named Will.

And because I couldn't just do a single sweater, I made a second sweater for a teddy bear!  
A matching sweater.
I think together they make a pretty cute Christmas gift.

I am especially fond of the buttons.  
They sort of look woven or maybe like knitted stitches.  
Both sweaters are made of the same yarn and have the same buttons.

Ok, that is it!
Now I need to rewrap this gift!

See what I do for you readers!!  


Monday, December 18, 2017

A Fearsome Guardian

A guardian at the door to my grand daughter's bedroom is this magnificent dragon.  He sits upon "The Luggage," another guardian! (see previous post for an explanation of The Luggage.)

The Dragon was purchased by my son at a toy store near where he works.  The store was going out of business and he got it for a reduced price, but I suspect he would have paid full price.

In person, it is a pretty amazing figure.  Magnificent in his details.

Just check out the wings - an impressive wing span I am sure.

Fearsome teeth!  
All the better to eat monsters!

Massive feet - needs a pedicure, I think.  
But those nails will rip any monster apart in a Nono-second!! 

 Scales are soft to the touch.  But don't be fooled. This guardian means business!

Some of you might wonder why would we want to give a little girl a jumbo dragon ... even if he is a fine specimen and will serve as an excellent guard.  Well, the short answer is ... dragons are for girls.  Just look at The Game of Thrones TV series (also a series of books.)  That story includes 3 very serious fire breathing dragons and they belonged to a character called The Mother of Dragons - a girl! Ha!

Truthfully, Dragons hold a rather large place of honor in my family.  My husband and a group of his friends play a monthly game similar to the original game of Dungeons and Dragons.  If you aren't familiar with that style of gaming, it is a story based game populated by imaginary characters that are created by those playing the game.  There is no board - but there are dice of various shapes and each person has a character sheet that describes his or her character's skills and attributes.  A 'dungeon master' or game leader - typically my husband - creates the fantasy world with a story line, goals and achievements.  Participants improve their characters' skills and attributes by gaining experience during the game - if they don't die, that is!   It is a game of the mind and the imagination.

The original game of Dungeons and Dragons was created back in the 70s.  Our family and friends have met to play this game or similar versions of this game for all these years.  Our son and daughter-in-law are part of this group - and my son has played with this group since he was probably 7 years old.

So a dragon is a perfectly normal thing to give to a girl whose father and grandfather have devoted so much time to.  Maybe when she is 7 years old, she may desire to pull up two chairs - one for herself and one for her dragon, and join in the game.  And if not, what better guardian could a little girl have than her own personal dragon to scare away the monsters!

And besides,  it doesn't hurt that this dragon is darn cute!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Luggage

Turns out I am not the only one who is making things for this new baby girl to our family.

My son has an amazing creative side to his nature.  He has done wood working, leather projects, and recently he has taken up print making.  His most recent project is a chest of drawers he painted for his daughter.  The chest originally came from Ikea, and he painted to look like a fantasy character called The Luggage from Terry Pratchet's Discworld Series of books.  

The Luggage is best described as follows:

"The Luggage is a trunk with legs. It is made of sapient pearwood, and is immensely faithful. Its first owner was a tourist called Twoflower, who at the end of The Light Fantastic, gave the Luggage over to Rincewind. It appears to hold many dimensions, and has often swallowed people that have tried to hurt its owner."

He shared this creation on Facebook - and in the explanation he said The Luggage was created to "protect his baby girl from monsters."  And we all know directly from our own childhoods that monsters do hide under the beds of children if there is no one there to protect them. Looks like this bedroom will be safe from monsters!

I have included a link below that provides further explanation regarding The Luggage.  If you are not familiar with Terry Pratchet and his Disc World Series you might get a better understanding by checking out this link.  I have read a few of the books and they are great fun.

The Luggage

Saturday, December 16, 2017

An Unpleasant Truth, an Update, a Rant and Lessons Learned

I knew about this unpleasant truth before my knee surgery.  I watched it play out in my mom's last years of life.

The Unpleasant Truth:

Simply stated, 
after a certain age, any major health event (like a surgery) can result in a negative impact
 on your previous function and energy levels. 
With my mom I called it ... "a new normal."  
Recovered ... but at a lower level than before.  

While I watched this gentle downward slope occur in my mom after every illness, I simply would not believe it could happen to me.  I was younger and stronger (then), and as we all know - younger folks usually have a fixed (and sometimes unrealistic) opinion about their aging years.  So it was with me.  I would not give in, not give up, not stop trying ... I would not!  And I haven't, but ... now I actually am older.  My attitude is still stubbornly the same, but my body as other ideas.

With this knee surgery, I may have experienced a little bit of that "new normal" and I am not happy about it.

The Update:

Two weeks ago I was discharged from Ortho care - I was recovered, and my flexibility and strength were "within normal range for my age."  Translation?  You aren't in your 30s anymore.  Ha! I was fine with being discharged, but I countered the 'normal for my age' comment with ... I am not normal for where I was 6 months ago.  They said complete recovery will come with time.  But, I countered, will my left knee be as flexible as my right knee 'with time?'   "Hmm," they responded, "maybe."  That was not the answer I wanted.

This week I was discharged from PT.  My progress has plateaued, I was doing well, and I will only "improve with time and regular adherence to an exercise program." Ok, I am fine with that. Will I improve enough so that both knees are the same?  "Maybe."

Professional opinion?  It may be another 5 or 6 months before the symptoms resolve.  (Do I hear a 'maybe?')

The Rant:

Crap!  'Maybe' is such a weaselly word.  Not 'yes', not 'no', just somewhere in the middle?  or maybe yes? or maybe no?  Crap, crap.  I am just not a 'maybe' person.

I want my left knee to be as good and my right knee. And I have done way more  over 6 months than just 'wish' that was so.  I was adamant from day one when I knew something wasn't right. I would get this condition fixed ... I wouldn't let it set me back.  Over 6 months I did the doctor thing ... the X-ray, meds thing ... the PT thing ... the MRI thing ... the surgery thing ... the PT thing, AGAIN.

The Orthopod said my knees "are great."  "Fix this small problem and you will be good to go."

BUT I am not 'good to go' yet!!  My knee still swells, gets stiff, hurts at times.  My left leg is not as strong as my right yet.  My general stamina is much reduced because I couldn't do aerobic exercise.   I can't sit too long, I can't stand too long, I can't walk too long!  I can't get down on the floor easily.
This better not be my "new normal."  I will know better in May - 6 months from now.

Lessons learned:
  • Avoid all optional surgeries if at all possible at any age, but certainly after 70.  Sometimes the 'fix' is not a 100% fix no matter what the medical professionals say.  I still would choose this surgery because now I don't walk with a cane anymore.  (That's one in the positive column.)
  • Stay active - exercise, exercise, exercise, 'cause it doesn't take that much down time to set you way way back.  Be at least strong going into any medical procedure.  It can't hurt.
  • The term 'new normal' is a misnomer.  It sounds somehow like an ok status.  It isn't!  The unpleasant truth:  'new normal' is really 'a step backwards.'  
Ok, done!

Time to close up the computer! I have exercises to do!  :-)

Talk again soon!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Girls vs Boys

The most important job I have ever done was raising two children into fine responsible adults.  I've done other jobs - some paid and some not - one of which includes 8 care giving years for my mom at the end of her life.  But raising children well tops the jobs list because it impacts our future as a community, a nation and a world.

The raising of a grandchild carries that same level of importance, and when the grandchild is a girl - in today's world - there is one other point to consider.  Women are on the rise in our culture - the struggles are real - equality is not yet a reality, and it will take strong smart women in the future to move a culture in the right direction.

When I was a second grade teacher, I really enjoyed watching the boys in my class.  So open, inquisitive, natural, daring, and often challenging in their approach to their environment - even if they knew they were going to get into trouble! I loved it.  On a rainy fall morning, as I watched the arriving children walking across the playground on their way to school, I spotted Terrence, one of my students.  He was decked out in a bright yellow slicker that covered him from under his chin to well below his knees.  Room for a growing boy - and it covered him completely.  He had matching rain boots on and a matching broad brimmed yellow rain hat that tied under his chin.  You could tell his mother made sure that this child of hers was going to arrive at school ... dry!  But she underestimated the powers of a 6 year old boy.  The playground had some low spots.  Big puddles.  He was drawn to those puddles like a magnet is drawn to the north pole.  I'll give him credit.  He stopped at the edge of a big puddle and looked at the water.  His mind radiated the message ... I am going to be in big trouble for this!  And then, with a big smile and much joy, jumped into that puddle stamping around until he was totally soaked. I remember smiling broadly with him.  I remember the other students giving him a wide berth in the playground, and I remember the astounded look on his mother's face when she had to bring dry clothes to school later that morning.  But in that moment he didn't care - puddles were meant to be stomped in.  He was going to stomp, and stomp, and stomp.  And he was willing to pay the price.

Every girl in my class arrived totally dry.  :-)

That is the strongest memory of my 4 years of teaching second grade.

As a new teacher I wondered ... how much of this difference between boys and girls is due to nurture rather than nature.  Now I strongly believe nurture is the stronger influence in how individuals approach all things in their environment.  And now I am going to have a grand daughter.  The stakes seem so much higher for her today than that day I watched Terrence make an educated decision and taking a free action.   Nurture.  That is what it is all about.

We are totally thrilled as a family for this cherished little girl.  My first words to my son on learning the sex of his child was what I wanted for her.  I want his daughter to be raised as a self confident, strong, intelligent, and fearless individual.  We need more women in the world who aren't limited by their gender.  I believe the time is ripe for raising these kind of female children ... especially in light of the current movement of women on the public stage!!  And he agrees!  My son is a black belt in martial arts, he is creative, self taught, self confident, not worried about wearing pink (another story for another time, ha!) and he picked a spouse who espouses exactly the kind of woman we should have more of in our world.  He plans on raising his daughter in the style that will make her all of the  things I want her to be!  My son and his wife are perfect for raising a girl.

I am so proud of the son I raised.  My daughter as well ... she is no slouch either.  She agrees with us completely, but sees things through a slightly different lens ... "yes, mom, she can grow up to be ALL those things, while wearing pearls and lipstick."  I guess as a family we have all the bases covered!!


I think of Terrance now and then.  He would be about 54 years old today.  He is forever frozen in my mind as that wonderfully free and inquisitive child - all in yellow.  He, of course, will never know the influence he has had over my hopes for my grand daughter today.  Dear grand daughter, find the same the same joy, freedom and adventure in life as Terrance ... starting with the puddles!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

My Shower Gifts

Officially my husband and I contributed to the purchase of a very nice stroller.  You know, of course, I couldn't leave it at that.  I am a knitter.  It would have been the greatest of sins against the knitting gods if I hadn't knitted something for this dear child.  

And, I am sure you will not be surprise to discover that I did more than one item!  After all, I was laid up with a bum knee.  But my hands weren't broken.  So here is what I brought.

These two helmets were crochet.
This first item - a baby Viking Helmut - my son's discovery.   He found the baby Helmut picture somewhere and forwarded it to me.  No explanation, no requests - just the picture.  So within about 15 minutes I found the pattern on line - (fast fingers) - and it was purchased.  And oh so lucky, the pattern included other sizes - right up to adult.  So the new dad got a matching helmut as well.  And - of course - I couldn't leave it at that.  I found a book titled:  "How to raise Viking children and other tales of woe."  How cute is that!

The next project was a cotton baby blanket.  The cotton was purchased about 4 years ago (I was still hopeful at the time I would have a grandchild - purchasing yarn in advance - well in advance as it turned out. )  I had so much of this cotton I made a matching bunny.

The bunny's butt!  :-)

This next project is a newborn matching sweater and bonnet.  Now in the atmosphere is full disclosure I must share the fact that for years I always said I would NEVER knit anything in newborn size.  Never, never, never.  Babies grow so fast ... I expounded to anyone who stood still to listen.  It was a waste.  Crazy!  Insane really.  Certainly not sensible!

Then there was going to be a newborn in my world.  And what size is the first garment I make for her - newborn!

Lesson to be learned from this story ... never pay any attention to anything I say!  :-)

This final gift is long overdue.  It is a shawl for the new mom.  I have had this idea for some time that new mothers-to-be should have a personal gift just for them.  After all, anyone who has been pregnant knows that pregnancy isn't always easy.  Nausea, expanding waist line, frequent trips to the bathroom at night, someone punching at you from the inside, odd cravings, crazy hormones ... really, this list is the tip of a slippery iceberg!  It can be the most wonderful time of your life - or the worst - and even a mix of both.  A gift for the person who is sharing their body with another human being is the least I could do.

My daughter-in-law is of Italian descent, with dark hair, dark eyes and a lovely olive complexion.  This red color is perfect for her.

Since the shower my knitting list of projects has grown very large.  No more newborn - for sure.  Working on an 18 month red hoodie for my grand daughter now.  And there are two knitted dragons I want to make (more on the dragon theme in another post.).  Several shawls are in my line up for my daughter, daughter-in-law and myself AND a matching poncho outfit for mother and daughter - the pattern is so darn cute.   My sister's daughter had her first baby this past August - and yes, I did some knitting for my grand nephew, Will (pictures to follow.). And there is a very handsome cabled sweater in my radar for him in Christmas 2018.

So I will be busy.  Very very busy!

So much to look forward to!!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Baby Shower

Although I have avoided repeating it over and over and over ..... and over again on my blog, it probably needs to be said now as I begin this blog post.  I am going to be a grandmother in February. 

Ok, more emphasis - I AM GOING TO BE A GRANDMOTHER!!

Oh, heck, one more time with feeling 

Hopefully you get the picture ... a mother (me) who has looked forward to being a grandmother for probably 20 years and just when she accepted the obvious - no grandchildren for her (me) - a grand child was conceived.  It is like winning the billion dollar lottery - hard to wrap my brain around it.
This little life is most precious to me.  Sort of a perfect jewel in the crown of my life.  

Earlier this month we held a baby shower for my daughter-in-law.  It has been probably 40 years since I attended a baby shower.  They haven't changed much.  Food, laughter and gifts.  At the new mom's request, we skipped the games.  But we did have a few fun activities.

Time Capsule Station
I was in charge of the Time Capsule activity.  Guests were invited to write a note to the new baby.  Notes can include best wishes for a full life, predictions of how the baby's life will evolve, stories about the baby's family members, advice, etc.  The notes are put in a 'time capsule' to be opened and read by the child on her 18th birthday.  We are taking this activity one step further.  Instead of limiting notes to just those who attended the shower, the 'time capsule' can be added to over the years with notes by friends and family.

The sign explaining the 'time capsule' project.
Periodically throughout the event I noticed people sitting at the table, writing their notes and using the sealing wax I included to seal the envelope.
The mirrored box for putting the notes in -
which will be  replaced by a sealed box with a slot on top
 that her dad, my son, will make.
I enjoyed the search which resulted in this beautiful mirrored box.  It will be replaced by something that can be sealed.  But this lovely box can be used by my beautiful little grand daughter to hold any special items she desires.

The first two letters - one from my daughter and one from me.
I am also very grateful for an opportunity to share through letters my love and bits of my life with my grand daughter as she grows.  I hope I live long enough to see her grow into a young woman, but life makes no guarantees.  So having a voice through writing to share with her as a young adult is very important to me.

As with most parties there was food.  Lots and lots of food.  Too much really.  We had about 20 guests and could have fed 50!  No one left hungry.

Another activity was decorating Onesies.  Guests used their own originality to put messages on these tiny garments.  Then they were hung on a clothes line for all to see.  Great fun!

Guess who did this one!!  :-)

It was a wonderful time for all.

Next up ... the gifts grandma (me) brought to the shower.  Yes, they were handmade.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

My Happy Place

This is a beaded shawl I finished for my daughter as a gift for this Christmas.
 I don't think she follows my blog so this picture should be safe here.  The pattern is called Cathedral Windows.
And she lives directly across the street from the National Cathedral
with beautiful cathedral windows.   

I began knitting officially in 1998.  I say 'officially' because I sort of knew how to knit back in the 70's, but the hobby never took root then.  I was self taught.  I was terrible at it.  I wanted immediate gradification.  I had no patience for long projects, problem solving fit issues, learning to correct mistakes, or accepting the fact an item might 'perfect' even if I was the only who could see the error.  In 1998, however, I left a life sucking management job and had learned that imperfection was ok.  I decided to 'recover' from that profession by learning to knit at a yarn store.

The time was right.  Knitting became a life-enhancing hobby that I would be lost without.

Over the years I tried to expand my crafting horizon beyond knitting to other related activities. 

Some Merino and Silk fiber that is waiting for me to
spin it.
I learned to spin.  There was, of course, the initial excitement and purchasing of equipment.   First I spun yarn on a spindle and then quickly bought a full size spinning wheel.  I looked at the end product of spinning - yarn.  I realized pretty quickly that I am a product spinner rather than a process spinner.  I wanted the finished yarn (the product) more than the effort (the process) to get the yarn.  The yarn I created was nice, interesting, unique.  But I have no desire to create one-of-a-kind yarns.  I am happy to purchase beautiful yarns - owning it NOW - rather than participating in the dream of owning it someday.  I gave my spinning wheel to a cousin.  I kept my spindles and sometimes they 'call' to me.  I will return to this hobby at some point - casually dipping my toe back in the water of spindle spinning - because I have some wonderful fibers that I just can't part with.  But can spinning ever replace knitting?  Never.

Here is a woven shawl I treasure.  It was created by my cousin
using hand spun yarn.  The amount of effort for a shawl like
this is enormous.
I learned to weave.  Again, my initial interest in weaving sparked excitement ... and new equipment, new skills, new jargon.  I had active weavers in my family.  My Pennsylvania cousin is an amazing weaver with several floor looms and a wide variety of table looms.  My sister was bitten by the weaving bug and is in hot pursuit in the 'loom acquisition contest' she has going with our cousin.  And it is great fun to watch them.  They both create beautiful items.    And I own three table style looms, a tapestry loom and several pin looms.  I plan to keep all those - especially the smaller looms.  I can see myself weaving projects on my pin looms at some point, as well as the tapestry loom.  And maybe I will return to my table looms.   Maybe.  But I am a product weaver - wanting the end item more than wanting the process of weaving.  Although this hobby did make more inroad in my crafting time and wallet, did it tramp down my enthusiasm for knitting?  No.  Not even a close second.  Too much equipment to juggle for me.  Not as portable as knitting, and while the product produced can be breath taking when finished, it requires a pretty decent commitment of time to learn the craft at that level.  Desire must be present.  I think I am missing the desire.

And then there is knitting, the craft that started it all.  Knitting never left my side during my side trips into other crafts.  After 20 years of knitting, I can accomplish most projects at an acceptable level even to my critical perfectionist eye.  Yes, knitting takes more time than weaving or spinning.  It is an argument I have heard more than once.  Since I am a process knitter rather than a product knitter, time is not a negative.   And knitting is so much more portable than the other two crafts: simple tools can be carried anywhere.  Finally ... the most important positive element of knitting that trumps all other craft considerations - is the calming effect it has on my brain.  No need for drugs.  Knitting is sort of my happy place.  The missing element in spinning and weaving - desire - is abundant in knitting for me.  But it should be said ... finding your calm place can happen with any craft.  Weavers and spinners say it all the time - how relaxing their craft is ... and I believe it because I experience it with knitting.

Here is a shawl I made for myself
to wear to a wedding.   
Another shawl I made for myself.

I love that knitting graduated from the 'rocking chair grandmother' status into an activity that is loved by all ages.  In fact, weaving and spinning has also experienced a resurgence in popularity.  It could be argued that this resurgence is because of knitting.

Knitting, it seems, is the 'gateway drug' to many fiber activities like weaving and spinning for a lot of people.

If you don't knit and are considering learning this habit forming activity, don't say I didn't warn you!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Milo's sweater

I haven't done a good job of documenting my finished knitted projects.  Years ago I took pictures and then posted them on a knitter's website called Ravelry.  But I didn't keep that up for long.

This fall, however, I finished a bunch of stuff that I am pretty pleased about.  (It is amazing just how much you can get done when you are laid up with a lame leg from surgery.)  I thought I might show them off on my blog.

The earliest finished project was Milo's Sweater.  That was finished in September.

When he was a much younger dog, I made this exact same pattern in the same yarn but in green.  He wore that sweater a long time.  After years of faithful service, the sweater turtle neck began to fray.  I stitched it up.  But the repairs started to fray.  There was no doubt, this old guy needed a new sweater. from his grandmother.

I used a yummy Merino yarn called Water Lilly from Classic Elite that is no longer being produced.  It is closer to an aran weight yarn than a worsted weight.  It is soft and softens more with use - and it is the kind of wool you can wear close to your skin.  It is also a kettle dyed yarn - with very subtle changes in hue.  Some kettle dyes are so striking that they compete for attention with patterned knit stitches.  Water Lilly kettle dyes are soft and add depth to a piece without competing with knit stitches like the cabling in Milo's sweater.   It is my favorite yarn ever so far and I wish they were still making it.

I have a rather large collection of Water Lilly - because I bought sweater lots when I realized it was discontinued.  So did my sister.  Since that purchase years ago, my sister has become more of a weaver - and I have become less of a weaver.  We did a trade last spring.  I gave her a bunch of my weaving yarns, and she gave me all of her Water Lilly!  Score!!  In the trade I duplicated many colors I had (which was great), and I got a few new colors like this cream (which was greater.)

Finding the exact pattern I used about 5 years ago was a struggle, but thankfully I throw very little away when it comes to knitting.  This second sweater actually fits Milo better than the first one.  I had Milo with me for a full week in September - so while I was knitting I could make frequent size checks adjusting the pattern as needed.  I could also create a slot on the back where his leash connects to his harness - in exactly the right spot. You can see the slot just below the turtle neck on his back.

I love it when a project comes together perfectly.  The perfect yarn, the perfect color, the perfect pattern and the perfect size.

Monday, November 27, 2017

All Decked Out

A quick peak around the Christmas decorations in place for this year.

It starts with the Christmas Tree.  It always starts with the tree.  This artificial tree is about 2 years old.  It  is a smaller slim line tree that works good in small spaces.  It is pre-lite and simple construction.  It holds about 1/2 the ornaments I have.  My goal:  some time in the next two years get a table top model tree.  My perfect three would be a about 3-4 feet high that would sit on a table by the window.  It would be on a stand that maybe plays music and rotates.  Pre-lite would be good.  I keep looking and nothing seems to be just right - so until it is - this tree will be part of my Christmas.

The tree decorations are all meaningful.  The little gold house in the picture below is the a miniature replica of the old time train station located in historic Ellicott City.  About two years ago Ellicott City was assaulted by a major flash flood - devastating the small town and killing one person.  Having withstood many floods in the past, many historic, the town has come back.  The gold tree ornament is a way to support the rebuilding.

The Pug Cookie Jar holds my grand dogs' cookies.  My dear grand dog Grimace, a pug with a heart of gold, has long since passed away.  I miss him every day.  But he is mentioned when I give out cookies to the grand dogs who replaced him.  "Who wants one of Grimace's cookies?  Only good dogs get one of his cookies."

The small lighted Christmas Tree beside the cookie jar was made by my mom during her 'ceramic painting' phase.  This kind of lighted tree is dated compared to more stylish decorating options available today.  But this little tree will always be a part of my Christmas.  It reminds me of her every time I look at it.  And I miss her every day as well.

This little collection of lighted houses belonged to my mother-in-law.  
It has been some time since I had them out for the holiday, 
but this year I wanted her represented in our celebration.

The other side of the lighted house display as it faces the kitchen.  

This pug ornament, a gift from my daughter, demonstrations
 so truthfully the fun loving nature of Pugs.  

My daughter and her fearless companion, Milo, 
(in the tan sweater that I made for him this season), helped with the holidays lights on the deck.  

Our tree is a mix of dog and cat ornaments. 
The two dog ornaments below show Meathead (left) and Milo (right).
Meathead was my first grand dog.  He was such a dear dog.  

This final ornament was made by my mom.  She loved crafts.

This is another of my mother-in-law's lighted houses.  
It sits in a naturally dark corner of the kitchen counter.

This final picture shows just two Santas from a large collection of Santas I once owned.  Collections became a thing of the past when we downsized.  But I kept a few of my favorite Santas.

When the kids were young, I used to decorate the whole first floor of the townhouse.  All the rooms. Regular knick knacks got packed away and everything was Christmas themed.  That was a major chore.  The decorations filled many many boxes when stored during the year and filled an entire large basement closet.  And my efforts were modest compared to some people I have known.  My neighbor below me pays for storage for her Christmas decorations.  I am sure she is not the only one who does this.

When the thrilling rush of the season began to fade during my mom's care years,  Christmas decorating faded too.  My heart wasn't in it.  Many of those items were finally downsized out of the house - holding onto only those items that had real meaning.   I could never to back to the Holiday Wonderland-style of decorating I once aimed for.  Now I am content with much less.  And because there is less, I appreciate each item that survived the purge so much more.

So how do you celebrate the season ... if you do celebrate!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Anticipating the Christmas Season

For anyone who is paying attention to the 'rules' (ok, my rules), it is now officially ok to decorate for Christmas. We are passed Halloween and Thanksgiving.  

I have to say it.   No rushing the holidays, folks.   To me that means prior to this weekend - NO Christmas stuff in the stores, no Christmas music on my favorite radio station, no Christmas themed TV commercials, and no decorating anything until after the turkey left overs are history!  And yet, the exact opposite happens every year.

Obviously I need to get these rules published somewhere!!

This year was especially frustrating.  My favorite radio station began playing 24/7 Christmas music 2 weeks before Thanksgiving.  Really, folks.  Is anyone really going to want to listen to Christmas music for 6 weeks??  Isn't that a method of torture somewhere in the world?  I have switched stations.

Several years ago I made several changes to our holiday rituals.  I stopped sending greeting cards and yearly newsletters.  Lordy that took a lot of time.  I stopped making dozens and dozens of Christmas cookies.  I had enough inches on my hips.  I stopped decorating the house like a Trim-a-Tree shop!  Two years ago I downsized all my Christmas decorations.  Moving was in our sights and some items hadn't been displayed in years.  Those changes made a BIG difference in the quality of my life around this time of year.

I kept a few traditions - Family Christmas Evening celebration with dinner and gift giving is the center piece of my holiday.  The family sleeps over and stays for Christmas morning breakfast.  I still decorate a tree but I may downsize the size of the tree in a year or two.  This year I added back in a few more house decorations - just a few - and for the first time ever, my daughter and I put lights up outside.  My deck is now festive.  Nothing fancy, but fun to look at.  And we host a Christmas party for friends the weekend after New Years.

I still struggle with the fact both my parents died within 3 days of Christmas.  The holiday lost a lot luster for me when mom went into Assisted Living - also in December - and was not able to come home for any holidays due to her disabilities.  But it has been 3 years since she died - 3 years on December 28 - and while I still miss her especially during the holidays - the intensity of that sorrow fades with time. She suffered too much to wish her back.

My decorating is finished.  My shopping is about three quarters finished.  And I will begin wrapping gifts in a week or two.  Meal planning for special events will follow.  I might even catch a few Christmas specials on TV.  On that schedule I can enjoy the holiday and find time to think on the real reason for the season.

Next up ... a few pictures of our decorations - followed by a few pictures of my finished knitted projects.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Be A Tortorise

I have one basic rule!  If it doesn't work ... cut it out!

I used that rule with my tonsils, and with my gallbladder, and with the cloudy lenses in my eyes.  Yep!  If you aren't pulling your weight in my body, you must go.

The problem with rules is there are always exceptions.  Always!

My knee is one of those exceptions, I guess.

I am still in PT.  Still.  The knee continues to improve ... slowly.  Ever so slowly.  My left knee has good days and bad days.  Bad days are shrinking in frequency ...  sort of.  And (I guess) Medicare wouldn't continue to pay for the therapy if I didn't need it!  So the glass is half full ... I guess.

Today I had a therapy session.  The therapist did a mini update in advance of my next Ortho.  She said the flexion in my left knee (the knee with the surgery) was within normal limits.  Sounded pretty good until she said the flexion in my right knee was amazing for a person of my age.   All I could think of was ... both knees were once amazing!

Ok, ok, ok.  Keep icing the knee, because I still am struggling with some swelling, keep exercising because my leg muscles are still not really strong, and stop comparing my left knee with my right knee ... 'cause comparing 'siblings knees' never comes to any good.

This evening I received a wonderful piece of advice from a cousin in an email.  "Be a tortoise."  Thank you, Susan.  Sometimes the obvious just needs to be said.

Monday, October 23, 2017


I have never been one to be patient with my own illnesses.  I guess that is a result of having pretty decent general health.  If you don't have a lot of things to recover from (or live with chronically) you never learn the art of personal patience in healing.

My earliest memory of facing a serious illness was a breast lump I found 6 months after the birth of my first child.  I was 26 years old.  I remember looking in the bathroom mirror into the eyes of the new mother I was standing there and thinking ... This . Can . Not . Be!!   A visit to the doctor confirmed my deepest desire - you are so young, chances of this being cancer are slim, we will do a needle biopsy just to confirm that fact, nothing to worry about.  Driving home after that appointment I remember thinking ... he said the word 'cancer.'  I was stoic.  I was in control.  To the casual eye - that day looked no different than any other.  But I really didn't hear anything else he said. I just heard the word 'cancer.'  That night I crumbled under the possibilities as I told my husband.  As I reached the word cancer, I started to cry.

The needle biopsy was not definitive. I was scheduled for a lumpectomy.  I was admitted to the hospital - appearing calm and resolute.  The night before surgery I had to sign away my breast - consent to removal of all breast tissue and lymph nodes if cancer was confirmed - that step would be taken while I was still under general anesthesia (remember, this was 1974 when your options were limited.). The pre-op nurse arrived right before lights out and she asked me how I felt about the possibility of losing a breast.  In that split second my mantra of life erupted from me without a second thought:  "If it is cancer they can take the whole right side of my body - just as long as they get it all.  I have a son to raise."

It wasn't cancer.  I have never faced the possibility of a fatal illness since.  Oh, yes, I had a c-sections, gallbladder removed, tonsils removed at 30, and I had early onset cataracts in my 40s.  Thankfully I was born during a time when these things didn't result in death or disability.  And none of them made me feel fearful of dying or resulted in extended healing.  I have been blessed.

But I still remember that terrible feeling of wondering in the hospital the night before - maybe I won't recover if this is cancer!

Now at 70 I recognize that my future years may be filled with more physical ailments or illnesses that cannot be fixed or cured.  I can't use my default response to failing body parts -  "If you don't work properly - I will just have you cut out."  Ha!  That method worked quite well for a gallbladder and tonsils.

And so we come to the healing of my left knee - the reason I have told this story.  It goes without saying that if my knee wasn't fix-able - I wouldn't be able to just cut it out.  So I patiently did all the right stuff - doctor visits, tests, physical therapy - and STILL it didn't improve to normal.  A cane became my companion.  My former Tai Chi instructor calls walking with a cane - walking on 3 legs.  Nope!  That was not for me.  Surgery was the next step.

And surgery confirm my problem was very fixable AND that I had young knees and connective tissues for someone who is 70.

OK ... now we are talk'en!! Expectations rose to nose bleed heights!!

Now for the healing (and the patience) part of the story  I am now 6 weeks out from surgery.  I am ready to be done with the healing part.  I want to go out and do my regular stuff without pain.   I gave it 6 weeks.  This left knee should be as strong and flexible as my right knee by now.  I am DONE DONE DONE with this!  In fact, I find myself having occasional conversations with my left knee (don't judge ... ) that go something like:  "Get over yourself left knee.  Six whole weeks, for gosh sakes!!  You need to get stop with the complaining.  Just go ask the gallbladder and tonsils how I dealt with them. Oh wait, left knee ... you might notice they are both GONE!  Ha!  So stop the swelling.  Stop popping.  Stop aching.  Stop, stop, stop."  And then I share my frustration with my physical therapist - and she calmly and quietly reminds me - "Elaine it is only 6 weeks from surgery.  Be patient."  oh ...

See??  I have learned nothing about patience in healing over 70 years.  Nothing!!

But I did learn a very important lesson when I was 26!  I won't die from this knee problem!  I will live to see and enjoy a new grandchild.   So I guess the most important lesson has been learned after all.  And knowing me - I am only good at one lesson in a lifetime! :-)

Healing just tests my patience.  I can live with that.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The RBG Workout

A new book hit the Amazon shelves this week - one that caught my eye over the summer while I was wallowing in self pity about my stupid knee.  I pre-ordered it and it showed up in my mail box yesterday.

The RBG Workout
 by Bryant Johnson

For readers who don't know who RBG is - she is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a US Supreme Court Justice.  She is 84 years old and a much admired woman in our country.

This very charming book was written by her personal trainer.  It is small but very inspiring.  The back cover says it all:

How does Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the Supreme Court's favorite octogenarians, stay so active and energetic?  She owes it in part to the twice-weekly workouts she does with her personal trainer, Bryant Johnson, a man she's called "the most important person" in her life (after her family, of course).  Now, with The RBG Workout, you can exercise alongside Justice Ginsburg and Bryant.  Whether you want to keep up with one of America's most admired women or just reach your own fitness goals, this book is for you.  Case closed.

The book holds no surprises or short cuts - many of the recommended exercises are ones recommended by my physical therapist.  And the exercises are graduated in difficulty as you would expect allowing reasonable start.  They are designed to fit within an hour.  It all seems like typical common sense stuff - stuff that you have heard before.

But stop for one moment and think about these facts ...
  • She is 84 years old!  I have known a number of folks in their 80s - and they aren't able to do even 25% of the simple exercises in this book.  After nursing a knee since May, I can't do most of them either!!  She is 84 - I am 70!  hmm ...  That fact alone makes my head spin.
  • This woman can do full push ups AND planks!!  Even SIDE PLANKS.  I bow to that achievement.
  • She wears a sweat shirt when she exercises that says "Super Diva!"  How can you not love some one their 80s - mid 80s!!! -  who struts a sweat shirt like that! 
  • If you think she has exercised all her life - you are wrong!  She began this program slowly in her 60s - after surviving a bout of colorectal cancer.  After surgery, chemotherapy and radiation her husband described her as looking like "Auschwitz survivor."  And now, folks, she can DO PLANKS!  
The illustrations are all drawn.  The exercises are well described with suggestions for frequency and repetition.  
She is proof positive that there is no bad time for taking control of your own life and making a difference.

I hope you will check out the small but powerful little volume that is dedicated to not giving up on yourself no matter what your age or condition. (Of course, checking with your physician is recommended before starting an new exercise program.)

These last 6 months have been frustrating for me ... limited by a lame leg despite weeks of PT and still walking with a cane.  And the journey to regaining 2 normal legs is not quite finished.  At 70 it doesn't take too many months of inactivity to reduce you to a person older than your biological age.  I feel that way everyday now.  But the words of her trainer in the Introduction rang out very true for me.  

"You may have an appointment to the most powerful job in the world, 
but your body will still have veto power over you.
  And you're the only one with jurisdiction over your body, 
so if you don't use it, you will lose it."

Thinking of putting that quote on my fridge!

One last observation - I received 2 copies of this book.  This was not intentional - I think my brain experienced a hiccup!  *sigh*  So many parts of my body need attention! :-)

Happy Thursday all!