Unraveling This Life

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

Little Pink Houses

Posted on July 6, 2014

Independence Day is my least favorite holiday in the world. As a person who loathes loud noises and can hardly handle the heat and humidity, July 4th is not the best time in the world. The last few days of June leading up to the 4th can be torturous. Several years ago, someone in our neighborhood had a water cannon and would set it off every so often. Not knowing when it was going to go off led to some rather tense days for me and for our dog, Livvie. Liv was a large black Lab who dealt with loud noises about as well as I do, but as the years progressed, her anxiety with them increased to the point where I felt more for her discomfort than I did for my own. I would often say that I was staying home from the fireworks’ display for the dog’s sake. Because it would be wrong to let her suffer without any help from me. After we put her down, I didn’t have that excuse (Lucy doesn’t care for loud noises, but she’s OK when the fireworks are going off) anymore, yet no one has forced me attend them since. This year, I passed again, but I know that the girls and Lucas, Shelby’s fiancé, had a good time sitting on the hill by the church watching the display.

But I do miss sparklers. It seemed for a time that sparklers were taking over from rice in wedding processionals, but happily, that seems to have passed. But I still miss sparklers. I miss the sound that they make when the lighter catches on the tip of the sparkler. The smell of the sulfur as it catches in the air. The way the little kids’ eyes pop when they see their first sparkler. The way the older ones try to make hearts or letters in the air as the sparkler lights the way. The tiny little whizzes and whispers they make as they burn down to the metal. I miss the quiet that are sparklers. They don’t pack the same bang that fireworks do, but there is a certain beauty in their simplicity that fireworks never can match.

Things I love about the 4th of July:

  • cold beer
  • the annual yarn sale at Mountain Knits and Pearls
  • Big Brother (it always seems to start as we’re ramping up for the holiday)
  • cool mornings
  • the start of shorter days
  • long weekends with my husband
  • grilling on the deck
  • lemons in my water

Things I loathe about the 4th of July:

  • overly patriotic commercials, usually with country music, multiple shots of flags waving, and gratuitous shots of families romping at picnics
  • politicians making broad statements about what’s wrong with America and how they can fix it
  • loud noises (motorcycles included)
  • watching anything politically related but not limited to: FOX News, MSNBC, Sunday morning news shows
  • noisy barbecues and picnics
  • traffic (where I live, this is a given on any summer weekend)

Considering that today is July 6, I glad that the worst of the holiday is over . . . and it also brings me one step closer to my favorite part of July: the annual trip to Ohio to see my family. This year, we’re introducing Shelby’s fiancé to the whole family. Wish us luck!

Riptide

Posted on June 25, 2014

I’m never sure if a new project or skill will take. It’s usually a crap shoot for me. One summer I proudly proclaimed that I would be giving up eating out, only to cave about three days later when I forgot to plan for dinner after a long meeting. Other things have come and gone, too, but more often then not, there is some varying level of success. Some even lead to bigger and better things. Case in point . . . running. Running started off as walking, but after Lucy arrived in our house, I quickly learned that if I didn’t walk faster, I’d have to walk her farther, and so I started running with Lucy.

 

Not every day is 100% checked off, but it's a good amount

Not every day is 100% checked off, but it’s a good amount

Now that I’ve committed to Bullet Journaling for about a week  (maybe a little less), I think I might have found a winner here. I know it’s still early in this experiment, but I was chatting with a friend earlier tonight about how this method had really allowed me to get things finished and be more organized and still have tons of free time. Jordan reminded me that there’s an app for this on the iPhone, but my phone can be a giant time suck most days. Since I stated using Bullet Journaling, I’ve finished two knitting projects and cast on for a new one. I’m taking a more focused approach to writing, and yet I’ve still had time to run with a faster group of women (a 7:1 run/walk is killer for this 5:1 chickee) and stay on top of my return to the 365 project. When I stated the Bullet Journal, Dave said it reminded him of a business book about the power of checklists, and I can totally see how this would work in the business world. For now, it’s letting me focus on one day at a time and making sure it gets taken care of. Hopefully it works for the school year because I know that I need to get reorganized at work. I can’t remember a year in which I felt more disorganized than the past one, and I pretty much hate the way it felt.

Just the pick-me-up my deck needed

Just the pick-me-up my deck needed

It will be interesting to see how the journaling project works in August. By then, I’m pretty sure I’ll have figured out the ins and outs for my own way of using it. Already, I know that a right facing arrow doesn’t cut it for me when I need to show something isn’t complete. For that, I’m using a circle inside the check box. I figure I’ll add collections to it in a few weeks as I start to amass different book titles and pieces of clothing for Project 333. Who knows . . . maybe I’ll even get cocky and make a collection for all of my unfinished knitting projects. If Bullet Journaling has taught me one thing, it’s that if I put it down on paper, I’ll get it done that day. And that’s an easy win for me.

PS – If you’re new to the blog, the titles are titles of songs. Nine times out of ten, it has nothing to do with the topic or post. Nothing.

Knocking On Mine

Posted on June 22, 2014

Knitting was not something that I wanted to like. I took my first class because I didn’t want my friend to be by herself, and I fought with the needles every single second the first few times I was there. But I persevered and created a most hideous scarf. Later, I made a “charming” sweater for a bear out of kitchen cotton, and then I set the needles aside for a few years and forgot how to purl. But one thing led to another, and soon knitting became kind of an obsession. Had you asked me after that first ugly scarf (and truly, I can’t impress the ugliness enough) if I would ever make a sweater for a person that involved fit and patterns and decorative cuffs and crap, I probably would have laughed hysterically, and that’s what happens when you get obsessed with something. You begin small and then move onto something much larger, usually something that you have no business trying.

The leaf detail is repeated on the cuffs

The leaf detail is repeated on the cuffs

So Sprig from Botanical Knits, Vol. 2? It’s not that it was too complex for me to take on. On the contrary . . . I’ve knit patterns with far more complexity. But it was challenging in regards to time and construction. With time, I had a deadline that I kinda, sorta met. My friend, Joann, who also happens to own my local yarn shop, asked some of us to knit samples for her for the book’s trunk show (seems that the publishing company could get her a trunk show of samples but only eight months after the book is released . . . marketing synergy!) by mid-June. I missed the deadline by five days, which doesn’t sound like much, but I was disappointed that I couldn’t get my crap together and have it done by June 15. But the construction of the garment was the real kicker. For the first several rows, I really didn’t “get” how it would come together, but eventually, it started to make sense. You cast on like normal, but instead of joining in the round the way one would normally do for a raglan sweater, you knit back and forth for about twenty rows, increasing one side slightly more than the other. Doing so gives one side an ’80s vibe with a lower shoulder, but the real beauty starts to take shape with the bind off for the sleeves. There’s a pretty leaf detail (probably why it’s called Sprig) that’s repeated on the shoulders that comes with an i-cord edge. The only mod that I’ll be making is to redo the cuffs with slightly longer sleeves when I get the sweater back from Joann. Because I was five days late and redoing the sleeves before I took it in for display wasn’t in the cards.

It was too hot to wear a 100% wool sweater.

It was too hot to wear a 100% wool sweater.

Pattern: Sprig from Botanical Knits 2

Needles: Knit Picks US 6

Yarn: Cascade 200 in Cedar Green

Modifications: None, but I do plan on redoing the sleeves to make them longer; right now they are a little less than 3/4 length, and I think I want them to the middle of my forearm.

PS – Happy birthday to my younger sister, Erika! I’m thinking that we’ll have to celebrate when I’m in Ohio right smack between her birthday and my youngest sister, Bridget.

Monument

Posted on June 19, 2014

Ahhh, summer! To tell you the truth, I’m not a huge fan. Part of it is the heat, but a bigger part is the unstructured nature of it. I don’t do well without structure. My summer alarm clock? About an hour later than my school year one, which is 4:50 AM. Yes . . . in summer, I give myself a whole extra hour of sleep. Each summer, I bring home books to read, books I swear will help the following year. And each fall, I schlep them back to my classroom having given them an exquisite taste of what life is like on outside of school.

Getting myself organized, one list at a time

Getting myself organized, one list at a time

Yet each summer, I vow to be better with the organization. Nothing, however, seems to work for me. Enter Pinterest, that giant time-suck-with-the-occasional-good-idea-thrown-in-to-keep-you-coming-back. My friend, Michelle, posted a link about Bullet Journaling, and while I didn’t really get the concept based on the link she had, I did find one on that page that clicked. Bullet Journaling seems simple and straight forward. I liked the concept. I liked the “marriage” between analog and digital (via my Evernote Moleskin). I liked the idea of getting a new pen. Basically, I liked it all the way around. So today, on the first full day of summer vacation, I started my bullet journal. I’m hoping it’s what I’ve been looking for, but so far, so good. Granted, it’s been a whopping 16 hours, but I’m willing to go for it this summer.

So far: run, summer photo, and sleeve . . . done. There are still three other tasks on my list today – doing the dishes, making dinner, and picking up the neck for my sweater – but I’m 99% sure that I can get them done before the day runs out. And, yes, I need to list doing the dishes and making dinner as tasks. Because I’ll do just about anything to get out of those two things. Perhaps I really ought to see if there’s anything on Pinterest to help with that.

PS – There is one more thing on the list, but as soon as I hit “Publish,” I can officially put a check mark in that little box.

Another Postcard

Posted on June 15, 2014

Every January 1, I make some kind of resolution, some way to make myself better. Usually it’s based on something that I can accomplish within the year’s time frame and hopefully adopt for the rest of my days. Nine times out of ten, I do a fairly decent job for about two months, and then things begin to slip. In late 2011, I realized that I was wearing the same pants over and over again despite having about ten pairs of black pants for work. Why wear the same four repeatedly? Because they were the ones on top of the pile of clear laundry to be ironed. Duh. So why keep the other six pair? Laziness probably, but who really knows.

Trust me . . . there's a bed under all those clothes.

Trust me . . . there’s a bed under all those clothes.

When January 1 rolled around in 2012, I decided to try Project 333, which has a simple premise: choose 33 items of clothes to wear for three months. At the end of the three months, assess what you have and then change out the clothes in favor of more seasonally appropriate clothing. Courtney has a great “Getting Started” post if you are interested, and I found her guidelines to be fairly easy to follow. I made my own adjustments – I don’t count jewelry nor do I count anything I have knit and I usually allow for between four and six “roster changes” – and got on my merry little way. Funny thing happened. I realized I was pretty happy with the 33 items that I had and didn’t need much more.

But as with any project, I started slipping a little here and there. Bought a sweater at Old Navy (might have a problem at Old Navy) and didn’t get rid of one in my closet. Flip-flops . . . they are so thin. Can’t I count two pairs as one? And culling old clothes? What if I really, really, really, really need that red off-the-shoulder top again? Shouldn’t I keep it “just in case” I do? I tried to maximize the old school Garanimals potential with mixing and matching this school year with some success, but I forgot about clothes that I had in attic and bought some duplicate items.

Today was a minor “come to Jesus” moment, one that involved bringing nearly all the clothes from the attic downstairs and really taking a long, hard look at what I had. I also decided that I needed to write down what I had no matter what season it was. What did I learn? I have a ton of white tops from Old Navy. Too many tank tops from Old Navy. More jeans than I ought to. And a whole lot of running gear, which is something new because I did not run when I started Project 333.

It made for a very long day, but one that I am glad occurred. I’m happy with the wardrobe the I have selected for this season, especially since school is nearly finished for this school year. When I get it all sorted out, I’ll take one more look at it before I put it out there. Already I’m looking at different websites to locate items that worked well this year for replacements and better colors.

Now I just need to rejuvenate Project 365 and get a schedule set for writing. Baby steps . . . baby steps.

The Cutter

Posted on February 11, 2014

I couldn’t tell you the first time I used a computer. Maybe as a 9-year-old at my cousin’s house when we were playing artillery? It was on a cassette tape and you had to get the green blip aligned just so . . . maddening.

Fast forward about 35 years. How I got to an educational conference is beyond me. Cassette tapes don’t exist for most people. Ask one of my students what they are, and chances are they won’t be able to tell you. But today? Using technology as an equalizer. Teaching kids SCRATCH. Utilizing MMOs in your class. What. The. Hell.

Cassette tapes…might as well be speaking in Greek.

The keynote speaker, Dean Shareski, left us with this thought: How often do our students get to wonder? And truly, how often do you get that chance? I’m wondering all day long.

Elastic Heart

Posted on December 31, 2013

I don’t think 2013 has been a particularly hard year, but I can’t say that I will look back on it with much love or fondness. About the best thing I can say about it: the girls graduated from college with honors and on time. That’s about it.

20131231-114207.jpg
Oh, and we adopted Lucy, our lovable beagle-Labrador. And I started running. And I still love my job. And my husband (that goes without saying since he pretty much balances me). And I got to spend one more Christmas with my girls and him.

So, in 2014, I vow to:
– blog more (I miss it)
– grade more efficiently (because it sucks)
– run better (still trying)
– cook more (because I’m pretty much proficient at chili and food a bad mom would feed her kids)

Land of Gathering

Posted on June 23, 2013

On Monday of last week, the girls and I took a very quick trip to Boston. Nothing major. Really nothing planned other than looking at apartments for Jordan since she’s going to grad school there in the fall. It was a trial run for me to see how I would do driving to Boston since I’ll probably do the majority of the driving there, not because Dave is incapable but because my car is the one that we usually take. Yes, he can drive my car, but we pretty much drive our own cars. It’s weird to most people, but I really don’t care.

20130623-183437.jpg
So, Monday? And Boston? First, the question of route. Take 84 through Connecticut or 95. If we take 84, how should we get there? Suffice it to say, we settled on 84, and Connecticut quickly became my least favorite state (many apologies to my favorite people who actually live in Connecticut). First, the traffic entering and exiting from both sides of the highway needs to stop. And the sign “Crossing Traffic” is confusing as anything. Construction signs? Those should probably be bigger than three feet and posted fairly early, not right when you hit the construction. But the biggest complaint? There’s no need to drive like you’re in a video game. Seriously, ladies and gentlemen of Connecticut (are y’all Connecticans? Or Connectitians?), you have a gorgeous state…but driving like you stole it is just plain stupid.

We got to Boston in rather “tornado-y” weather, according to Shelby, and couldn’t figure out where to go for dinner. Thanks to Yelp! an old favorite from England became the clear winner. After dinner we did a quick tour of Cambridge and saw where Jordan would be attending classes in a few months. On our return to the hotel, one missed turn meant seeing more of the greater Boston area than I intended, but it did introduce a new favorite street sign: Thickly Settled.

Thankfully the signage meant that I could run through a neighborhood because running opposing the traffic was rather frightening. However, I had no clue how hilly Boston was. Totally kicked my ass in more was than one. We spent the rest of the day running errands in Cambridge and then looking at apartments. I’m pretty sure that Jordan has found one, but we’re still waiting on the lease. She’ll be close to public transport, a grocery store, and tons of restaurants and bars. Plus it’s decent sized for the price in the Boston area.

20130623-183447.jpg
All in all, our trip to Boston was enjoyable and likely our last “girls’ road trip” as soon we’ll be on different continents or separated by more than a short train ride. In and amongst the sights, there were some squabbles – always have been, always will be – but more than enough laughter and conversation to make up for it. The next trip to Boston will involve a moving van and leaving one child there to start the next chapter of her life. I’m positive it will be spectacular!

Blurred Lines

Posted on June 10, 2013

For my final 10 on 10, I’m breaking a few rules; in fact, I’m breaking all of them. There are more than ten photos, and they weren’t taken on the same day. Honestly, if it’s that big a deal, please turn me in to the 10 on 10 police. Pretty sure that the fine will be worth it since I decided to use the photos from my daughters’ college graduation. On May 16, 2013, Jordan and Shelby graduated from Temple University, and I couldn’t be prouder of them. They have done things I never thought possible, and I can’t wait to see what they do in the future. The photos are blurry and I didn’t capture every moment, but I don’t care. Some are casual, some are “Christmas card pose worthy,” and some are just because. Because at its essence it was about the girls, their accomplishments, and the family who got them there. After you’re done here, head on over to the lovely Laura Louise and see what she did on her day.

Getting ready for the baccalaureate awards

Getting ready for the baccalaureate awards

May172013-5

Dave and Lucas at the awards ceremony

Trust me . . . they are in there some place

Trust me . . . they are in there some place

Self-portrait #116: the proud parents

Self-portrait #116: the proud parents

The graduates

The graduates

Ironically, we’ve all been to each others’ graduations – they were a month old at Dave’s and 16-months-old at mine

Mimi, Grandpa, Grandma, and PopPop

Mimi, Grandpa, Grandma, and PopPop

I always take a photo of them walking away; Shelby caught me this time

I always take a photo of them walking away; Shelby caught me this time

The 'Burg Grads

The ‘Burg Grads

 

I'll miss these quiet parts of Philadelphia

I’ll miss these quiet parts of Philadelphia

Jordan has consumed enough Big Gulps for our family

Jordan has consumed enough Big Gulps for our family

She makes it all look easy

She makes it all look easy

A Temple Owl . . . one of many

A Temple Owl . . . one of many

Guess what? She makes it look easy, too

Guess what? She makes it look easy, too

 

They crack me up on a daily basis . . .

They crack me up on a daily basis . . .

. . . but I miss them terribly

. . . but I miss them terribly

He loved the coffee shop for the movie trivia; I love him for that

He loved the coffee shop for the movie trivia; I love him for that

PS – A year ago, I decided that I needed another photography project and so I joined a bunch of very, very talented photographers (of which I truly am not) to be part of the 10 on 10. And while I’m not continuing for the next year, I hope that you keep coming back to the other participants to see what they have created. It’s been a blast!

Instant Crush

Posted on June 4, 2013

Every school year, our grade visits Knoebles Grove Amusement Park. This year, I didn’t want to go but went anyway. As always, the food is awesome, and the bumper cars are the best…even if I got my bell rung by a student. Totally worth it. Here’s the photos from the day. And yes, I graded essays.

20130604-201454.jpg 20130604-201524.jpg 20130604-201506.jpg 20130604-201531.jpg 20130604-201547.jpg 20130604-201555.jpg 20130604-201602.jpg 20130604-201515.jpg 20130604-201539.jpg