Unraveling This Life

A little bit of this . . . a whole lot of that . . . and just a pinch of sparkle

I Put A Spell On You

Posted on January 25, 2017

Every knitter has an idiot project. You might not call it that, but you have one if you are a knitter. The perfect idiot project meets several requirements. It must be easy enough to knit without needing a pattern. It must be portable to take with you. It ought to be enough to sustain your attention and enthusiasm, but if you look at the first two requirements, this is usually where the wheels fall off the cart. Because something it is both something you can knit without a pattern and kinds, sorta portable is usually rather boring. Nine times out of ten, and idiot project (for me, at least) is a pair of socks. Once you get them cast on, they are relatively smooth sailing. Knit the foot in stockinette and throw something “fancy” in for the leg, and you are all good. Until you get to the second sock.

I’m not sure why the last two idiot projects weren’t socks (cough, cough – peer pressure and forgetting that I needed something quick to take with me), but I fell for the Garter Trap just like most of the women at my knit shop. A few of them were knitting a Trap at sit ‘n knit one Saturday, and one of the women confessed to it being her second or third. Even my friend who is a newer knitter had fallen under the GT’s spell. “You haven’t knit one? Why?” she asked. I don’t think I ever gave her an answer and went back to whatever I was knitting, but later that night, I went out and grabbed some complementary colors and cast on. I figured that I would be able to knit on it while I was watching videos for my grad classes and take it on our trip to Ireland in a few weeks.

Oh, it's a trap alright . . . because at first, it's not that bad. But then, you realize you have way more to knit

Oh, it’s a trap alright . . . because at first, it’s not that bad. But then, you realize you have way more to knit

So the GT is a true idiot knit. Honestly, you don’t really need a pattern as you are just switching colors every other row and increasing every fourth row. You basically just knit like this until you run out of yarn, but preferably, you figure out where this is going to be so you don’t have to rip back a row to cast off. I chose Elsebeth Lavold’s Silky Wook, which isn’t a yarn that I normally enjoy (the smell of silk sometimes gets to me) and Louisa Harding’s Pittura. Originally, I wanted to use a lovely shade of teal in the silky wool, but there wasn’t enough, so I went with black instead. You know – teal, black . . . so similar in shades, right?

Best part about an idiot knit: you can do other things like watch videos, read books, talk to you friends, look at the pretty scenery outside of your bus window, close your eyes. Worst part about an idiot knit: tedium. They get very, very tedious. And quickly. This one proved to be no exception, but thankfully the best parts about it were there to save it. I’m 99% sure I know who this is going to. A person who should have had something hand knit by me ages and ages ago. Hopefully, she’ll forgive me and wear it anyway, knowing that this wrap saw the best parts of Ireland with her brother, laughing the entire time. It saw me through a master’s degree that was beyond boring in parts and mind blowing in the other parts. And I really hope she resists the urge to scream, “It’s a trap!” whenever she does, but if that happens, I am A-OK with it. Because lord knows I yelled it a few times while I was knitting it.

The Trap traveled all of Ireland and down some rather small country roads. Hopefully, it enjoyed the views as much as I did

The Trap traveled all of Ireland and down some rather small country roads. Hopefully, it enjoyed the views as much as I did

Pattern: Garter Trap by Andra Asars

Yarns: Elsebeth Laval’s Silky Wool and Louisa Harding’s Pittura

Needles: Kollage 6 (4.0mm) – I’m not sure that I would ever buy a non-square needle again

Modifications: none other than knitting four rows of black instead of alternating between the colors

Cast on: June 2016

Cast off: December 2016

So, the song “I Put a Spell on You” was probably most famously performed by The Screamin’ Jayhawks, but Annie Lennox’s version is pretty good, too. 

 

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Falling Faster Than You Can Run

Posted on January 16, 2017

Dear Speaker Ryan

Before your staff shuffles this letter into a pile reserved for “people who do not agree with you and also are not represented by you,” perhaps they might find a more special pile reserved for “people who graduated from college with you.” Surely that can’t be more than 4,000 of us, right? Back then, Miami University couldn’t really muster more than the state treasurer to come speak at commencement, so kudos for actually getting to be a commencement speaker. Don’t take it too personally that many of the graduates didn’t really care what you had to say. Did you really care what our commencement speaker had to say? Me, neither!

Here’s the deal. Your recent appearances on the news are troubling to a certain segment of society (me among them), and no doubt, they are a sign of wonder to others. At this point in time, you’ve made it perfectly clear that the Affordable Care Act has got to go as well as all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and this leaves me perplexed. Is the ACA perfect? Oh, god, no! Anyone who suggests that is highly suspect. Even the president said it wasn’t . . . and people like to slap his name all over it. And I get it: premiums have gone up, people are pissed that they can’t keep their doctors or coverage, folks are getting confused by the names Affordable Care Act vs. Obamacare. But in the end, Congress was finally able to do something. After record low approval ratings for the past five or six years, y’all finally got it together and passed a bill to effectively dismantle the ACA. Congrats? Maybe?

But truly, this letter isn’t about the ACA. I think that Congress will figure out quickly that creating something is far harder than railing against it. No, this letter is about Planned Parenthood. Why is it that Republicans spend six long years going on and on and on about how we need to put America back to work again and how our economy is going to shit, and yet one of the very first things you do is move to defund Planned Parenthood? Are there tons of OB/GYNs out of work and this is a jobs act for them? Didn’t think so. So, why? It’s that whole abortion thing, right?

At the rate that Planned Parenthood supposedly gives out abortions, I’m a little irritated that I’ve never been offered one at Planned Parenthood. Seriously, I’m still waiting on my punch card for that. The way the talking heads go on about the horrors that are committed at Planned Parenthood and their “abortions for everyone” philosophy, I’m still a little miffed that mine must have gotten lost in the mail. Or, and this is probably it, I’m a rational person who knows that only 3% of what Planned Parenthood does involves abortions. Back in 1990, when you and I were juniors at Miami, I went to the local Planned Parenthood (relax, Speaker Ryan – it isn’t there any more) on Spring Street in search of some prenatal pills. You see, I had already made the choice to continue with my pregnancy, and god bless Planned Parenthood, they actually would see me and provide some vitamins to ensure that both me and my baby would be healthy. Not a damn person tried to sway me from my decision. It was so shocking! You know what else was happening there? Two kids I tutored the previous summer decided they were going to start having sex, and they went in together for birth control. And they each got some. Another woman was there to have an STD test run. I’m not sure if you remember this or not, but 1990 was the height of the AIDS epidemic, so most people were concerned enough to get an STD test or two run. Let’s see . . . what else were people doing? Two women were talking about their Pap smears; I remember one of them was really nervous because she never had had one, and the other woman was quite comforting in her frankness. And then, there was me. Just trying to get some prenatal vitamins.

If you fast forward a couple of decades, I’m still using Planned Parenthood for my doctor’s visits because a) they are super close to my house, b) they can have my insurance dollars if they want it, and c) it’s easier to get an appointment there than with a more “traditional” doctor. The women in my local Planned Parenthood are pretty much the same as in the one that used to be in Oxford. The walls are still as lackluster as I remember, but I guess with a shoestring budget, you get by on all the free posters that you can. But the people there are just as caring as the one in Ohio. They aren’t in it for the money. They are in it because people need and rely on them for help and the services they provide. Services like: pap smears, breast exams, STD screenings, flu shots, prostate cancer screenings, condoms, sex ed, birth control, pregnancy tests, counseling for a variety of diseases, Plan B, mental health care, and abortions. Yup, they do provide abortions (you’ve got me there, Mr. Ryan), but thankfully the Hyde Amendment took care of using tax dollars to support them. BTW, if you are so opposed to abortions, then why cut off the funding that provides birth control to millions of women? That makes about as much sense as citing a work of fiction as one of your guiding principles. You do know that Atlas Shrugged is not a “how-to” manual, right? Did you also have the economics professor who put everything in terms of rum and sluggish sales? Maybe that’s why you are so confused.

So, let’s wrap this up, shall we. I doubt anything that I say will change your mind. You seem rather resolute in your desire to defund Planned Parenthood, so kudos for standing for something. I just wish it weren’t something that actually helps millions of women in a nation that continually underestimates and insists on explaining things to them like they are a six year old. Couldn’t you choose instead to defund naming a post office after someone instead? Oh, fun fact – in the past few years, that’s pretty much all Congress has been able to do: rename post offices. In the end, abortions are still going to happen. They aren’t going away . . . not at all. If I needed one, I wouldn’t have any trouble with obtaining one. Neither would my daughters if they needed one (forgot to mention: it was twins! Yay, me!). But I can’t say that about all women. I certainly can’t say that about women in Texas or in Ohio or in any other state that insists on a 20-week ban. Or women who need to take off a day from work or whose partner isn’t in favor of anything. Or for women who don’t have the luxury of having a provider within a reasonable distance. Sure, abortion is technically legal, but it’s not accessible. Maybe that’s been the plan all along: keep it legal but just out of reach for the vast majority of American women.

Well, I guess that’s it. Do you ever make it back to the old alma mater? It just isn’t same since they tore the water tower down. Then again, once Chuck stopped selling his corn nuggets and Bruno’s burnt down, it seemed a bit off to me. However, so much seems off now. Any way, if you’re not busy next Saturday, come on down to the corner of Independence Avenue and Third Street and join me at the Women’s March on Washington. Sure, you can probably see if from your place of employment, but do you really get the chance to interact with thousands of savvy, intelligent, passionate, and, yes, opinionated women sitting in that drafty old building? Didn’t think so . . . we’ll save you a patch of grass.

Sincerely,

A fellow class of 1992 graduate

Oh, and the title of the post is “Falling Faster Than You Can Run” by Nathaniel Rateliff. It’s just a song that I’ve had on repeat, Mr. Ryan. Truly, it has nothing to do with anything . . . then again, maybe it does. 

I Don’t Feel Like Dancing

Posted on January 1, 2017

Last night, I had every good intention of getting up and joining some running friends for a 10 AM jaunt through town. But then for some strange reason, we stayed up until 12:30 AM (gasp) and split a bottle of rather sweet bubbly. That 10 AM resolution went out the window similar to the intentions of blogging more did last year. Classic example of why I don’t like resolutions because once you break them, you kinda feel like you have screwed up for the year so why even bother, right? A few years ago, I started choosing a word to focus on for the year, and before you start shaking your head at my hippy-dippy, New Age love fest, understand that there is very little about me that is either hippy-dippy or New Agey. It’s just something that works for me.

Last year, I chose the word complete, and I explained to my friend this morning on a walk (because like a good little girl, I actually went out with the dogs – and my friend – for a walk once we were all awake) it had two meanings. First, the obvious in which I focused on completing things that needed completing – more on that later. But second, I chose it because I figured that sometimes, I needed reminding that I was complete the way that I was. Self-improvement is great, but occasionally, it feels like people are constantly trying to find something to improve about themselves. It’s taken me many, many years to figure out that I’m good the way I am, and if I feel like doing something for self-improvement, it’s my damn choice.

So back to that first reason in which I get shit done. I started to run through what I had completed in 2016, and I was coming up with not a lot. The obvious items were there, but I was really getting disheartened with my word. Well, taking a walk with the dogs does a lot to clear your mind and put things into perspective. Here’s what I came up with:

  • my master’s degree: started that in January and finished it in December. I nearly thought the final two courses might be my undoing, but I’m just waiting on the degree conferral in February and walking in May.
  • two half-marathons: they weren’t my prettiest, my fastest, or my favorite, but guess what? I still ran 13.1 miles and got a medal and a free banana at the end.
  • 445.3 miles: not even close to my top milage and that’s ok. I’m guessing that the first item on the list had something to do with the low miles, which probably impacted the second item on the list.
  • The Great Gatsby: finally check that off the list of books that people told me I had to read. Didn’t love it but didn’t hate it either. That’s a win in my book.
  • another school year: last year’s students were an amazing group of kids, but you know what? So are this year’s group of kiddos.
  • knitting projects: I can’t be specific here because I haven’t really tracked what I have knit. That being said, I’m pretty sure that there were some shawls, cowls, scarves, and maybe a sweater (sleeve) or two. 2017 goal – keep better track of knitting projects
  • Project 333: I think that I’m on my fifth year of the project, so I don’t even think of it as completion any longer, but we were talking about it on a run the other morning, and I came to the realization that not everyone plans their wardrobes like this.
  • another One Second Everyday project: honestly, I thought that I had given up on this one in mid-September. Thankfully, you can use still images, so the last three months are basically a video here or there with lots and lots of photos of the dogs. You’re welcome!

I’m sure there’s more, but my brain can only hold so much during my walks. I would wager a bet that I have solved world peace, ended hunger, and balance the national budget a million times over on our walks, but I can never seem to hold on to that information once we cross the threshold.

There’s a word percolating in my brain for 2017, but I’m going to let it stew for a bit more. You would think that it would be food related based on that last sentence, but it turns out I’m just hungry.

I Don’t Feel Like Dancing” by the Scissor Sisters . . . not quite their danciest tune, but it still does the trick when you are trying to clean the house. 

Fake Frowns

Posted on January 2, 2016

We bought our house in 1999 for a variety of reasons. Mortgages were relatively easy to come by then without a downpayment. Our kids were getting a little older, and we wanted some place where they could grow up. This house came with a massive maple tree out front, the type of tree that you simply tell people, “You know, the one with the maple tree shading the street,” and people just know which house it is. But probably, we bought our house because it had “charm.” In 1999, that meant original woodwork and lovely turn-of-the-century features and a pink toilet. Now? Whenever anyone tells me that they are buying their house for the charm, I immediately think of knob-and-tube wiring and gouged up hardwood floors and that damn pink toilet.

Who buys a house for the toilet? Apparently, I do . . . kind of. The bathroom is massive; it’s bigger than most bathrooms I’ve been in and probably the same size as one of the bedrooms. But the fact remains that it has a pink toilet, tub, and sink. Renovating the bathroom wasn’t on the “to-do” list when we signed the papers, so we worked through cosmetic aspects first, getting rid of the butterfly wallpaper and playing up the pink. Honestly, I’m not even sure how I settled on the shade of brown that I did (it’s a truly dark shade of brown, almost a cherry cordial chocolate) or why I decided to add four blocks of varying shades of pink on the wall (note to all DIYers out there: an album cover makes the perfect square in situations like this). But this I do know. I decided to play up the pink in the bathroom by scouring Target for cheap accents. Lucky for me, Cynthia Rowley’s Swell line fit the bill to perfection. Lots of pink. Frequent rotations. Usually inexpensive. Pretty damn perfect for new homeowners. Anything pink that popped up on Target’s back aisles (seriously, I’m not the only person who shops the back of the aisles, am I?) made it’s way into my basket. Even a journal.

January 01, 2016

For the longest time, the journal just sat on the shelf by the toilet. It was another pink prop in the bathroom. I’d probably spent more than a little time reading any number of home beautification magazines that stressed “setting the stage” and things were added accordingly. It’s functionality was limited at best. It didn’t hold any Q-Tips or cotton balls. Nope. It was just pink. One day, however, I noticed a pen on the journal. Inside, my daughters had started a dialogue with each other. The first thing written in it? “Who puts a journal in the bathroom? Are people supposed to write in this thing?” And so, our family started writing in a journal in a bathroom. The comments ranged from the mundane (Could you pick up more lotion?) to the festive (Happy Thanksgiving! with a turkey hand tracing). Occasionally we have marked family milestones like when the girls left for college. Usually, though, there’s family banter like when one of the girls commented that she used some “glittery perfume” to make her room smell less like farts and turtles. Or when my husband and I wrote about how much we would miss them when they left for college. Perhaps my own personal favorite is an exchange between the two of them and why the basement wasn’t getting cleaned.

The journal is covered in a fine layer of dust – never said I put too much stock in those home beautification magazines – and the pencil hasn’t been used in ages. Someone commented a while back that no one seems to write in it any more, and they are 100% correct. I’m not sure who wrote in it last, but I’m positive that there are still pages on which to write.

* “Fake Frowns” by Death Cab For Cutie . . . family joke: Dave always follows anything Death Cab For Cutie related with Lunch Check For Shelby based on one of her notes left for us on the stove; we’ve always said that it would be a good name for a band.

Love

Posted on January 1, 2016

Ever wonder about New Year’s resolutions? Why do so many people decide that come January 1, they will suddenly get the urge to exercise or eat better or go to sleep earlier or drastically change whatever behavior they’ve deemed problematic? Trust me . . . that urge for double stuffed Oreos is still going to be there come January 10. I’ve gone the route of making resolutions, and quite frankly, I really stink at them. So, I haven’t created any for years. Instead of taking on a resolution, I’ve adopted words instead. In the past, I’ve chosen growth and persistence with some decent success, so this year, I wasn’t sure where to go. I thought about focus as a possible one but ultimately settled on complete as my word this year.

For me, complete has multiple meanings. The biggest is easy. I start a lot of projects and have about a 35 – 40% completion rate. Countless knitting projects (and, yes, I laughed a little at my daughter when she explained that she couldn’t have two projects on needles at the same time – but yet, she finishes her stuff). Novels started (so many writing projects started). Five years of 365s started (with one completed). Running plans that kinda, sorta get stuck to (but only kinda, sorta). Complete allows me to work towards a better completion rate for all my projects. But it’s more than that. As “new agey” as it sounds, I need to remember that I am complete and don’t need to change anything unless I want to. I don’t need another degree unless I want it. I don’t need to take on a new way of cooking unless I want to. I can be complete without adding or changing anything unless I want to.

Yesterday marked the end of my One Second Everyday project. I have no idea why I stuck with it, but I’m really glad I did. It allowed me to look back on the year pretty objectively. Trust me, I needed objectivity. The second to last day of January, my husband lost his job. February brought a lot of uncertainty but also a lot of joy. March? I forgot about being in the pods for the majority of the month for work. April was several races and a birthday or two. In May, we were in the homestretch for school, which came in June with some amazing time spent with my Girls On Track girls. But July? Hello, Iceland and London . . . and a trip to Ohio to celebrate my dad’s 75th birthday. August celebrated our 24th anniversary (plus Duran Duran in concert, a new fence, and a return to work for me). September was Dave’s birthday and lots and lots of school work.  October was bittersweet with a funeral and a birthday, but it ended on a high note with some Star Wars mascara and a new job for Dave. November? Trips to DC with students, running, and a low key Thanksgiving. December gave us a wedding and family and Ohio and family and lots and lots of joy and family. Through it all, there were lots of “boring” days, days in which very little happened. Those days were among my favorites. Seeing my dogs going bonkers when Dave walked in the door. Watching my students rather creatively play with their food. Trying to figure out how to “be” in the picture. It’s not the big events that make up a life . . . it’s the little bits that make it perfect. They make it complete.

Here’s to a 2016 with more of that!

“Love” by John Lennon and The Plastic Ono Band – I’m not sure why this is in my iTunes library, but it came up on shuffle. Kinda perfect for today, right? 

Alive

Posted on November 8, 2015

My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. Honestly, there isn’t even a toss-up between any other holiday and Thanksgiving. Don’t really care for loud noises – see you, Fourth of July. Christmas is overdone – hasta, merry merry. Scary movies and all that crap – no Halloween lover. But Thanksgiving? I’ve had a small love affair with it since I learned how to cook. There’s something about Thanksgiving that leaves me pressure-free. I don’t have to decorate the house. No need to plan an elaborate costume. Just food and family. My kids know pretty much what we’ll have year after year, but they are welcome to suggest something new. Last Thanksgiving, Lucas, Shelby’s fiancé, made the turkey and had to contend with two rather attentive dogs at his feet. Thanksgiving is pretty much the bomb for me. Plus I normally enjoy the preparation that comes with a month focused on gratitude. Normally. This year? It’s just plain weird probably because it’s been that way for many, many months.

Maybe I need this month of gratitude to just let it all go. I read about others expressing their gratitude and see red. It’s irrational. Not even remotely healthy, but that’s where I am at. Things that used to destress me seem like a chore, but I know better. I know better. I need to find those places and let them just wash over me. I need running and knitting and writing and reading and photography and just being. And yet, all the other “must dos” get in the way. November? My focus for gratitude is to find those spots again and claim them for myself. Me. Just me.

I took my first photo in a long, long while when my parents were out, and it felt good to notice the small things around me. It felt good to pick up an actual camera and not settle for my phone. It just felt right. I’m not committing to a 365 just yet, but I am going with a photo-a-day in November. Where this goes is anyone’s guess, but I can’t let the bitterness and stress win out. There’s too much at stake for that. I’m planning on just letting it happen. Sometimes, that’s the only way to go. And surely I can’t be the only one to feel like that.

Please tell me I’m not.

November 1 - I'm grateful for so much yet have such a hard time expressing it. Pretty soon, my gratitude will devolve into something that sounds like Steve Martin's monologue towards the end of the The Jerk.

November 1 – I’m grateful for so much yet have such a hard time expressing it. Pretty soon, my gratitude will devolve into something that sounds like Steve Martin’s monologue towards the end of the The Jerk.

November 2 - Often times, my desk is my happy spot. The trinkets that populate it are carefully curated through the years. A puffin from Iceland. The Doctor from an NYC trip. A stapler I like.

November 2 – Often times, my desk is my happy spot. The trinkets that populate it are carefully curated through the years. A puffin from Iceland. The Doctor from an NYC trip. A stapler I like. Shaun the Sheep and the Penguin from the Wallace and Gromit series. A Koosh ball from ages ago. 

November 3 - I voted today, but first I got to marvel at the few leaves stubbornly clinging to life outside of work. This one wore its heart on its sleeve.

November 3 – I voted today, but first I got to marvel at the few leaves stubbornly clinging to life outside of work. This one wore its heart on its sleeve.

November 4 - Ever been grateful for jury selection? Me neither . . . until today. I was delighted to sleep in and have an extra cup of coffee.

November 4 – Ever been grateful for jury selection? Me neither . . . until today. I was delighted to sleep in and have an extra cup of coffee.

November 5 - The tree outside our house is a Norwegian Sugar Maple. Translation: it's still pretty full with these lovely leaves. The carpet they leave behind is worth seeing them in early December.

November 5 – The tree outside our house is a Norwegian Sugar Maple. Translation: it’s still pretty full with these lovely leaves. The carpet they leave behind is worth seeing them in early December.

November 6 - Starbucks' Red Cup signals the true change of season for me. And I actually enjoy seeing the simple red . . . if you are offended by the lack of "Christmas" cheer, you need to find something else to be all riled up over.

November 6 – Starbucks’ Red Cup signals the true change of season for me. And I actually enjoy seeing the simple red . . . if you are offended by the lack of “Christmas” cheer, you need to find something else to be all riled up over.

November 7 - We saw Spectre today and enjoyed some time together before he starts traveling again. I'm grateful for the opportunity he'll have on Monday when he gets to share his vast knowledge with a new company.

November 7 – We saw Spectre today and enjoyed some time together before he starts traveling again. I’m grateful for the opportunity he’ll have on Monday when he gets to share his vast knowledge with a new company.

November 8 - This goofball. She won't sit still for a photo. That shadow on the left? My camera strap. It's either live with the imperfection or not enjoy the view. She's too adorable for that.

November 8 – This goofball. She won’t sit still for a photo. That shadow on the left? My camera strap. It’s either live with the imperfection or not enjoy the view. She’s too adorable for that.

“Alive” by Sia – I’ve seen her twice in concert (back before she cared about covering her face), and her voice is as good live as it is on the radio. 

And Your Bird Can Sing 

Posted on July 4, 2015

Why Reykjavik? Seems to be a popular question these days. Well, why not? Years ago, when we bought our house, we decided to stencil the names of cities we would like to visit at the tops of the walls. Some have been visited multiple times while others have been visited solo. But Reykjavik always seemed like a possibility. It’s 1) only a five hour flight, 2) not terribly hot in the summer, and 3) compact. When my sister-in-law’s brother posted something about cheap fares from Baltimore back in October, we jumped at the chance. Throw in a three day trip to London on the backside, and I’d call it a win-win. So what if I don’t speak a lick of Icelandic. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. 

We landed at 6:00 AM local time, and it’s now 9:54 PM here where the sun won’t set until midnight. I’ve been up for about 37 hours, run three miles in the ‘Burg, walked for what seemed like miles and miles here, and sampled enough local brew to make me want to check out house prices. Between the cool temperatures, beautiful scenery, tasty food and drinks, and bountious sunlight, it’s turning into one of those kind of trips. Skal!

 

Heading toward the harbor

  

Selfie at the Cathedral

  

In the Lebowski Bar

  

First Gull of the day

  

Love is love

  

View from our flat

 
“And Your Bird Can Sing” by the Beatles…there’s a Beatles themed place here, too