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.