Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Learning to Knit

Life is funny.   When I was young, I could never figure out how to knit or crochet.   My mother could crochet anything, she made zillions of bedspreads and shawls and sweaters and toys and doll clothes and tablecloths and, even when her dementia was so bad that she didn't know anything else, she crocheted hundreds of hats that we handed out to shelters all across the region.    But when I was forced, through circumstances too complicated for me to grapple with here, to sit in physicians' waiting rooms for hours and weeks and months because of a friend's illness, I picked up the needles and tried again.    The crocheting still didn't make sense to me, but I slowly taught myself to knit and purl, and I found I was less frantic about the time spent sitting when my needles were moving.    I made many scarves and a few dishcloths in those waiting rooms and, when I no longer had to be there, I put the needles aside.

When I lost my job I tried to knit again, and it was as if I had never learned.   My mind was so bruised from the battering it received that year -- my daughter's horrific injury, my lost job, the unfounded but terrifying IRS audit (and their claim that I owed tens of thousands of dollars), the front door of my house kicked in -- I couldn't concentrate, couldn't count, couldn't knit.

I picked up my needles again a couple of weeks ago and find myself clicking calmly in the evenings, making nothing more complicated than dishcloths again.   Maybe someday I will learn to read a pattern, maybe someday I will learn to knit something more demanding.    But it felt, to me, like an unexpected and very happy victory to be able to keep count of my stitches again and knit a simple square.

(Still) Winning!

No matter what happens from here on out, this has already proven to be The Year for me to win things!   I went to a local Home Show the weekend before last and got a call from a bank down the road that I'd won their raffle!   I picked it up today -- isn't this the coolest?   The basket is shaped like the lower peninsula of Michigan, and inside there is a travel mug, cocoa, candy, a piggy bank, a notepad and coupon clipper, AND (wait for it) a $100 gift card!!!   (I think I see fly fishing boots in my future, if I can manage to hold onto it until then!)   I love winning things, I never knew before how much fun it is!

So I'm trying to give back a little of the joy I've received.    I am baking my World Famous (in my mind, at least!) chocolate butter cookies for a friend's birthday.     These are SO good, they are grown-up chocolate cookies, slightly bitter, not too sweet.   

And I've also nearly finished the little gifts for MY winners, the 5 people who signed up for my Pay It Forward challenge.   If all goes as planned, those will go out in the mail this weekend.

I am very fortunate.    For myself, I have no complaints about my life.    Sure, there are lots of things I'd like to add to it (more friends, a love interest, a lot of travel), but my life is good.   Food, health, shelter, are luxuries I once lacked and still feel grateful for.     It wasn't easy to get to this point; I had years of violence, rejection, homelessness and drama.    Even more years of deadened feelings and reactions.    And, although it is fashionable to say I wouldn't change a thing, the truth is, I would change all of it if I could because, no question, I would be a very different person in a very different life without those unsought difficulties.    I used to comfort myself that maybe, at least, I had paid the debt to the universe and my children would be able to live more comfortable lives, but it turns out that there is no Cosmic Tradeoff.   One of my children lives a life of unbearable troubles.     I am still struggling with the fact that I can't fix or change things for her, and with the guilt I feel that my own life is, finally, steady, even (oh joy!) boringly so.   I still spend a lot of time holding my breath for the people I love.    But I've been that bit of foam on the wave of life and I know I will ride it out, whatever comes my way.    Today the sun is shining and there are red birds flying around my backyard.    Truly, life is good.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Restless Dreams

The last few nights have been filled with foreboding and terrible dreams.    I dreamed last night that my house was broken into, that I shot a man on my stairway, and  I woke up  with a feeling of dread, as if I were in grave danger.  So vivid was the dream that I actually checked my gun when I awakened, to be sure it was still unloaded and locked away, and I half expected to find a body, or at least a broken window, when I went downstairs.    Whew, glad to be reassured that it was just a dream.    I have to wonder what is going on in my head, what formless fears are disturbing my sleep.

But today the sun is shining.    The sky is blue, the snow is still here, and my neighborhood is cold and still.   Life is good.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring has UN-Sprung!

'Looks like it's going to be another stay-inside-soup day!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spelling Doesn't Count

One of my grandchildren wrote me a note the other day, signed with "hags and cisus."   Spell it however you want, I don't think that hugs and kisses will ever be sweeter than now.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Outside My Doors

These are the views I saw tonight, from my front door, and from my back door.    Magical, right?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Look What I Found!

I went for a walk today and guess what I found, right around the corner?   Definite signs of Spring -- finally!

Thursday, March 17, 2011


March has traditionally been a bad month for me.    So I am trying to count blessings but, as is so often the case in March, I am mostly feeling Doomy.   Daytime and nighttime lately, in vivid dreams, I am worried about a particular person.   Some of her worst hurts have been March-based, from the time she was injured as a little girl, to the time she was kicked into a pulp by a gang of steel-toed thugs, to the time she hurtled off a third story building, to her court date this coming Monday.    I struggle with what I can do that would be helpful to her, knowing from experience how many things I've already tried without success.    This March has been marked, as well, by a voice of judgment from my past that seems to think it can intrude into my life and finances and decisions and shame me into its point of view.    After 24 years of its blessed absence, I am not inclined to welcome that voice back into my life, especially to accuse me of an inability to care about another human being.    Oh well.  I have had many uncomfortable times in my life; a favorite religious adviser once remarked that my life was such a roller coaster for awhile that I was a Made For TV Movie.   I have learned that the worst fears rarely come to fruition and, if I breathe and wait, most things pass.   I am counting the days.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Still Feeling Lucky

I had barely sent out my LAST 'pay it forward' gifts when I added my name to another "pay it forward" challenge last week, and then issued my newest challenge here on my blog.   I have not even thought of what I am going to make for the first five commenters on that blog entry, but today I got a 'prize' from Shawkl, who invited me to comment on HER 'pay it forward' shout-out  - a beautiful pair of earrings!    So here's the story - she was faster than I am, she is more skilled than I am, and she obviously is more creative than I am -- definitely, the pressure is on!    But I don't mind, because I'm the lucky one -- just look at these earrings, and imagine (ignoring the terrible picture) the bunches of sparkle that doesn't show in the photo!   Thank you, Karen!
 Tonight I made a really delicious recipe from The Pioneer Woman, Chicken Tortilla Soup.   I will definitely make this one again.
 And I am feeling unbelievably lucky to have simple pleasures, plenty of food, my family safe.    My thoughts go out to the people of Japan, hoping they will receive the speedy comfort, safety and sustenance that they need during this terrible time.  

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Tying Flies

We had our first fly-tying class today.   I think I like it!   We tied green caddis  (sorry, the colors don't seem to show in the photo) and egg sucking leeches.   Gotta love the names, but don't want to think too much about the crawlies they are supposed to imitate (it's a severe understatement to say that I am not a bug lover!)   
 We also had our second fly fishing class.   The man who is running the classes, and is a big-deal guide in these parts, said my casting is "not half bad."     Blush.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Paying it Forward -- again!

'The first 5 people who comment on this post will receive a handmade gift by me. In return you must write a blog post explaining Pay It Forward 2011 and send your first 5 commenters a gift handmade by you.  It's a great way to make new friends and spread some handmade love around in Blogland! No rush to send them out today or tomorrow.. but do make sure you send them out..."

This is actually my second attempt at this same idea.   I tried posting a similar 'challenge' on Facebook and only had ONE response, but maybe it will work better here.    For my Facebook attempt I copied the idea from Maija Lukin, and I ended up sending her all 5 gifts because she was the only one who commented.    I stole the particular wording I used here from Gypsea Nurse, a blogger I discovered during the One World One Heart event.   As she says, "It's not the size of the item that matters, but the spirit of paying it forward."    So come on, let's play!    I won't have anything fabulous to send, so there's no pressure!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy Mardi Gras!

Today is Mardi Gras and the end of the Carnival season.    Happily our King Cake did finally arrive this afternoon.    Since it came all the way from New Orleans, it arrived, as it generally does, slightly squished and unfrosted.    One of containers of colored sugar was broken open.    By the time the cake was frosted and sugared by the children, though, it was all good.

For any of you who are unfamiliar, the King Cake is an old tradition in New Orleans (among other places),  and was apparently adopted there sometime in the 18th century.   It is a coffee cake, more or less, frosted with white frosting and usually decorated in the Carnival colors of green, purple and gold (although some of the Krewes [a whole other topic!] have special colors and fillings for their cakes).   There is a tiny plastic baby hidden inside the cake.   The person who gets the slice with the baby is, by tradition, the "King" of the celebration until the next party, where they are supposed to act as host and provide another King Cake which, in turn, leads to the selection of the next king.   The tradition originates in a combination of pagan and religious symbolism (everything from human sacrifice to the baby Jesus), but there's definitely nothing scary or sacred about the way it has played out over the past thousand or so years.    In my family, the King Cake tradition is a great excuse to eat sugar.     Love it!

Too many pinks

I knitted a pink washcloth this week with a flamingo pattern.   I thought it would be fun to send it to a Florida friend.    But it turned out that the ball of yarn I chose was just a little too scant.   No worries, I had lots more pink yarn in my basket, so I just added some in to finish my project.    I thought it was all from the same skein and I didn't notice any difference when I was knitting,  but when the cloth was finished, it became obvious that I had used two different yarns.  You can see in the photo that a small part of the upper portion is a different color than the bottom.  I am not that good a knitter so it's hard for me to look at this as anything except a minor major bummer!   Oh well, I guess I can always use another dust rag!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Classroom Wall

I went to a fly tying/casting class this morning.   Class was held in a school, in an art classroom.    On the wall above the blackboard it said, 

Attitude is the mind's paintbrush.  It can color anything.

Friday, March 4, 2011

One World One Heart prizes!

This seems to be my lucky year!   I won these beautiful earrings from Jackie at Scruff's Corner in the United Kingdom.  They were beautifully packaged in a sheer little bag, with a sweet card and pretty ribbon.    I am frustrated with my lack of a decent camera (while mine is being repaired) because the earrings are SO much prettier than my photo shows.    I love shades of blue, because I am (at heart) a water person.   My recent trip to the Caribbean was almost overwhelming with its shades of blue and green and turquoise and aqua and a million other blue-y colors I have no name for.   Jackie's earrings are a little reminder of one of those blues that stretch as far as you can see.   They have a nice 'swing' to them for that carefree, girly sensation and I feel so lucky to win them!

I also won these wonderful d4 earrings, in their clever handmade box, from Cookies and Lasers in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.    I think they're really cool looking, but Shama-lama Mama  explained to me that they are much more than that!   As she pointed out in an email to me, "Those are special dice from the game Dungeons and Dragons that my brother and I used to play when we were teens and pre-teens... You have to have 4, six, 10, and 20 sided dice (or "die" I guess) and so it's kind of a whimsical pair of earrings for geek types! We used to go to a friends' basement and play until literally 3 or 4 o clock in the morning, but my mom always said, "Well, as long as I know where you are and you aren't getting into trouble!" Little did she know we were getting massacred by orcs and wizards! lol"     Now that I realize that the earrings could potentially protect me from orcs and wizards, I am happier than ever to have them!

The very same mail delivery brought me this wonderful notecard from "Kay" in Washington,  at A Crafty Arab, who also has a lovely shop.  Somehow, despite her serious concerns about family and friends in Libya, she made time to send me this wonderful handmade card.   Her thoughtful notation on the back of the card let me know that the caption reads, "hello."   Her blog offers glimpses into new points of view;  I love the way bloggers help me see places and hear voices I might not otherwise have known about.

But that's not all!   I also received these fabulous "One Sheet Wonder" note cards from Gail's Card Cafe.   Gail let me choose my own colors and I told her that I like colors that remind me of the ocean -- I wish the photo could do these cards justice because they are beautiful, a swirl of blues and sparkles.    A perfect assortment, the prettiest papers, embellished with ribbons and glitter and rhinestones.   I will enjoy using them!

And now the sad news - grab a hankie.    I know I was really lucky in the One World One Heart blogging giveaway this year!    NOT so lucky in my Mardi Gras preparations, though.    I ordered our King Cake way back in February, we always have it delivered on the Friday before Mardi Gras.    Worse yet, once I got the email saying it had been sent with the Fed Ex tracking number, I felt safe to tell my granddaughter we could expect it -- but it did not come!   Fed Ex says they never received the package.    The bakery said that things are "crazy" and that they would try to send out a replacement.   I hope we'll still get the cake before Tuesday but we sure won't get it today, so it's a big disappointment.   Red beans and rice all cooked up but no cake to go with it.    I guess I'll put on my beautiful new earrings, sit down with my beautiful new note cards, and see if I can still feel sorry for myself, but it sure won't be easy after thinking about how lucky I am!

Follow up on the King Cake -- after several emails and phone calls back and forth with the New Orleans bakery, including my claim that my granddaughter would cry herself to sleep if we didn't get our cake this year, they are going to send the cake out to arrive on Mardi Gras, the last day of the Carnival season.   This is not ideal from my point of view, since Tuesday is a work and school night for the kids (and not a vacation day as it is in New Orleans), but it's the best they could do since they don't ship on Saturday and the cake does have some distance to go.     I'm looking forward to that purple, gold and green colored sugar and hope to get photos of all the gaudy goodness.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My Cute Neighbor

Memory Trippin'

My sister and I are both camera-phobic, but we got our photo taken on the cruise, the first time we'd done anything like that since the kids were little and we had pictures taken with them.  It was fun and spontaneous, we were on our way to dinner and saw the ship photographer in a rare moment without other divas, so we slipped right in.
 At the last minute as we were planning our trip, one of my sister's friends said she would like to come along, so we had a happy little threesome on the cruise.   None of us are high-need travelers so we spent a lot of time relaxing, drinking, and laughing.  We were happy just to sit on the deck or our balcony and look out at the water. 

But the stops at Key West and Cozumel to snorkel were fun, too.    We had time to do a little shopping. The airline lost my luggage tag on the way down to Florida, so I bought myself a new one in Key West.    It said, "It's All Good!", and I would show you a photo of  it but I can't because the airline lost it on my way home!     While we were in Cozumel, I bought the gauzy top I'm wearing in the photo, and I bought the same top in bright pink for my sister and in black and gold for her friend.  Unbeknownst to me, while I was shopping for her, my sister's friend was buying a piece of Mexican pottery for me, so we all had surprise souvenirs to take home.
I also brought home small pieces of coral from one of the beaches on Cozumel, what a pretty place!   I wish I could duplicate the green-blue of the water there.   I didn't have time for any serious shelling because of the limits of cruise shore visits,  but I have these bits of memory of the place where I did NOT see a turtle!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Home again!

I'm back home, and my back and feet are killing me, but it isn't snowing (at the moment), and I haven't weighed myself or checked the mastercard bill yet, so I can't complain (much).    My sister and I both had several days where our phones didn't work.   Even though we both came back to news of disaster and crisis, it was good good good to be protected from calamity for a little bit.   No photos today because my camera broke on the trip and most of my photos were on that card.   I'm hoping that the SD card is intact even though the camera is not and, if I'm lucky that way, those will show up here eventually.

I came home to the usual half-dozen bills but - yippee! - also to 3 wonderful prizes from fellow bloggers.   I will wait to share them until I can take some photos because each prize is so wonderful in its unique way that words simply won't do justice.