Friday, May 20, 2016

Do It Now

I've been a bit preoccupied over the past many months with worries and near-crises (some financial, many medical), and I think that because of this I've gotten scared. I don't try new things, even if there is little to no risk, and I make decisions and choices out of fear and anxiety. I've never been the fearless sort of person that would contemplate skydiving or summiting Everest, but I feel the need for a change.

I saw this on facebook and it got me thinking. The changes I'm making may be tiny, incremental, and possibly even unrecognizable as changes to other people, but they are changes nonetheless. Here are the things I've meant to do and am doing now.
  • Plant a bunch of bleeding hearts - I dearly love bleeding hearts and admire a large planting in a neighbor's yard every day on my walk. I've always told myself that I shouldn't invest so much money in perennials that will take a long time to grow, might die, ... but two weeks ago I bought eight bare roots, planted them, and most are growing lushly. One of them already has buds, and they are bringing me much joy every day.
  • Knit another Hitchhiker - When I'm ready to start a new knitting project I always think, "I should knit something besides Hitchhikers." I occasionally do, but I when I was trying to decide what pattern I should knit with one of my favorite stash yarns, I kept coming back to my perennial favorite. I have an idea for a slight modification so it's cast on and I love it.
  • Join a KAL - I've failed at every KAL I've attempted (about five or so). Once I quit before I even cast on! When Kat presented her ingenious idea, I knew this was meant for me. So instead of dithering endlessly between yes and no, I joined and am excited about it. Motivation! Cocktails! Recipes! A KAL where the only requirement is that there is no requirement! This one is easy to just do now.
  • Write a letter - A local high school teacher is in real danger of losing his job because of an email full of inappropriate language that he sent to a parent and the district superintendent. Both of my sons had this teacher multiple times, and he had an especially large impact on Ryan. I told myself that he did do something wrong, if I wrote a letter of support it wouldn't really matter, and so on, but I finally saw that he had taken lots of time to have a big positive influence on my kids, and I want to support people that make that kind of effort. I know this man to be an excellent teacher and wonderful human being so I said that in my letter, sent it off to the board of education, and asked others to consider supporting this teacher. The decision about his firing is still not made, but I am glad I did the right/write thing. 
  • Read a book just because it sounds good - Maybe even judge a book by its cover! Usually I read reviews and carefully consider my next book for its value. Is this book worth spending money on and it is worth my limited reading time? This is fine in moderation, but I'm tired of making this be my main criterion. I picked The Last Painting of Sara de Vos because it sounded unique and had a mysterious-looking cover, and was rewarded with one of the best books I've read this year. I chose my current book, LaRose, because of its utterly compelling story line. 
It's been freeing for me to stop overthinking and being so apprehensive, and just do things because I want to. I can also see the dangers in too much self-rewarding and not thinking about consequences, but I'm tired of being afraid, worried, and petrified. I'm going to just Do It Now and be happier.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Major(ette) TBT

It's interesting what you come across while trying to organize photos, and these are some of the most entertaining ones that I've discovered in the past several weeks.

Let's return to 1974. There is an energy crisis with odd-even gas rationing; construction begins on the Alaska pipeline, Nixon resigns, and Stephen King publishes his first novel, Carrie. There is also this:

A cheerleader and a majorette in the same family! Their parents must have been so proud to take a picture of these lovely young girls, cheering and twirling in the living room.

A year later, it gets even better. Bonny has clawed her way up through the competitive group of majorettes to become captain. It may have also been the case that nobody else wanted to do it and the title meant absolutely nothing except she had gold tassels on her boots instead of purple, but the exact circumstances have become a bit fuzzy 41 years later.

We can see the skill and precision that Bonny demanded in her corps. Many Some of them are even facing forward at the same time!

If only there were more photos of these talented young girls in action!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

On the Bright Side

This ...

to this ...

with lots of pauses along the way to look at it and ask, "Do I really like this?"

On the bright side, I guess I do. It's cheery and wearable. I'm not sure that I love the variegated jumble of colors. I like them much better when they are distinct and discrete in the skein. I fell for the skein without thinking what it would look like when knit.

I do like longer and narrower shawls, but I may do some more math and try to knit my next one longer and narrower without the making the points quite so big. They almost disappear even after blocking. Lessons learned!

Ravelry details here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Ten on Tuesday

The Ten on Tuesday topic for today is 10 Ways to Help a New Mom. We've had a few babies born in our family during the past year, and we're expecting another one later in October, but we are all scattered throughout the country so I wasn't close enough to help directly. Here is some of the help I received (and greatly appreciated!) or would have loved as a new mom myself.

  1. Bring meals - My mother-in-law brought us food for the first two weeks after both of my children were born. It wasn't every day, but it was absolutely wonderful to know that there were casseroles, stuffed shells, and meatloaf in the refrigerator if I couldn't manage dinner on my own. (Like those days that I could barely brush my teeth or take a shower.)
  2. Hold the baby - So the new mom can brush her teeth and take a shower. 
  3. Offer help with laundry, washing dishes, or vacuuming - My mother came over a few times to take care of some of the laundry. I was determined to use cloth diapers, so the help was terrific.
  4. Take the older kid(s) off her hands for a while - A nap for mom while the baby sleeps is much easier if you've taken the older kids to the library for a bit.
  5. Run some errands - Do some quick grocery shopping, stop by the dreaded post office, or pick up the dry cleaning. Any of these would benefit the new mother's whole family.
  6.  Ask the new mom what you can do to help - She may suggest some things that you wouldn't have thought of, and it's always nice to have your help actually be helpful.
  7. Text when you're at the drug store, Target, or Costco - "I'm at Walgreens right now. What do you need?"
  8. Gift the new mother with something soothing and pampering just for her - Lavender shower gel, good hand cream, cocoa butter, or maybe some really delicious chocolates and tea could help deal with some of the sleep deprivation.
  9. Help with seasonal jobs - Depending on the time of year that the baby is born, you could mow the lawn, rake leaves, shovel snow, bake Christmas cookies, or wrap some gifts. 
  10. Knit - This one has to be planned ahead, but I can't leave it off the list. I think all babies (and new moms) deserve at least one hand knit item. 
It takes some time for a new mom (and baby) to adjust to the big changes in their lives, even if the mother has done it before. With a little help, they can ease gently into their new life together.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Still Life in Brown and Green

I hesitate to post these photos because they sure don't look like much, but this is the beginning of the garden this year. We planted tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, Napa cabbage, and Brussels sprouts over Mother's Day weekend.

If you squint just the right way and use your imagination, you'll see some turnips, chard, spinach, beans, and peas in this muddy expanse. Spring weather has been quite variable here -- first it was warm and dry and the peas and beans didn't germinate even when we were careful about watering, then we had ten days of cold and rain so the seeds just rotted in the ground. They've all been replanted, so fingers crossed!

We had lots of extra plants that I had started from seed, so we planted our "offsite" garden at my mother-in-law's with more tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, beans, and watermelons.

Five varieties of tomatoes are planted, caged, and mulched.

I have a little bit of space for flowers within the fenced vegetable garden and I'm especially excited that my columbines seem to be doing well. I started them in pots from seeds last summer (wrong time, they're meant to be sown directly in the fall) and they weren't ready to plant outside last year. These are small and also don't look like much now, but they have grown, and I have even more that I started from seed to plant outside.

These bits of green in muddy brown soil are underwhelming now, but I'm thinking of them as the "Before" photos to compare with the hopefully more impressive and verdant "After" pictures in a month or two.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Older, Wiser, and Happy Birthday!

Nobody is more deserving of a rare Sunday post than this kid. 

Today is Justin's 23rd birthday, and while I can hardly believe how fast the years have flown, he has grown into a young man that I'm exceedingly proud of. He's charming, funny, able to think for himself, solve problems, and do the right thing, even when it's not the easy thing.

Justin is interested in all types of wildlife, from large-mouth bass (always catch and release), to bears, chipmunks, and horned lizards that shoot blood out of their eyes to deter predators.

He taught himself how to taxidermy rattlesnake skins (which I think is pretty darn cool).

 He also has a fine appreciation of sunrises, sunsets, and the beauty of nature.

In a recent Messenger conversation he said, "Work hard, learn something, take pride in your work, and good things will come." Justin does all those things and I wish only good things for my wonderful son!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Ten on Tuesday

Today's Ten on Tuesday topic is a timely one for me -- 10 Ways to Welcome Someone New To Your Neighborhood. Our next door neighbors are selling their house, so we will be welcoming a new family to the neighborhood in the near future. After seeing the parade of prospective buyers looking at the house over the past several weeks I suggested to my neighbor that I should have approval of any buyers before the final papers get signed, but for some reason he didn't seem to like that idea. So, I guess I will just have to try some of these welcoming ideas.
  1. Introduce yourself (with some fresh-baked cookies) after the new neighbors have had a chance to settle in.
  2. Take them some food -- something that they can heat and eat if they haven't yet unpacked the kitchen or freeze for later. Lasagna, ziti, or casseroles have been big hits on our block. 
  3. Consider delivering the lasagna or casserole along with disposable plates, napkins, and utensils.
  4. Bake a welcome cake. This is a good one. 
  5. If you're not a cake baker, maybe muffins or some cinnamon rolls might be a good idea. I welcomed one of our neighbors with zucchini bread and now she demands it every year (in a friendly, neighborly way, of course).
  6. Gift them with a nice pot of cheery flowers, something to make the front porch look welcoming.
  7.  Prepare a list of useful neighborhood information -- emergency numbers, trash and recycling collection days, the good pizza places, coffee place, closest grocery store, doctors, dentists, libraries, the good mechanic ...
  8. Don't forget to include your own contact information along with pertinent neighborhood details.
  9. A bottle of wine is almost always a good idea to help deal with the stress of moving and unpacking.
  10. Let your new neighbors know that you're available if they want or need help (waiting for the cable guy or phone company, accepting UPS packages, etc.) but don't be a pest. 
I live in a neighborhood where we wave hello, chat a bit when we're shoveling or mowing, and occasionally enjoy a beer together on the front porch, but we don't intrude on each others' privacy.  Being a good neighbor can help make your neighborhood a peaceful and friendly place, and who wouldn't want to live there!