Monday, September 27, 2021

Sometimes Monday ...

... is for laundry.

Usually I just do laundry whenever I have a full load, or if the weather is good for hanging on the line. I have a lot of laundry to do today - several afghans and a quilt that my MiL made that I want to wash and take over to Ryan, in addition to all the regular clothing and towels, plus it's a beautiful drying day. While sorting my laundry, I started thinking about these sweet day of the week dishtowels that my grandmother had.

She pretty much scheduled her week according to the traditional rhyme:

Wash on Monday,
Iron on Tuesday,
Mend on Wednesday,
Shop on Thursday,
Clean on Friday,
Bake on Saturday,
Rest on Sunday.

It seems quaint to plan your housework that way, and also rigid and impossible if you work or have young children that produce mountains of dirty clothes all week. But it might also be a little more efficient and maybe a little reassuring to know what chores are ahead of you when you wake up in the morning. 

I wish I had my grandmother's tea towels but wash day isn't always on Monday for me. While my first load was sloshing around in the washing machine I looked for embroidery patterns and was intrigued by this Wednesday one.

Wednesday is for mending, but it looks like it might also be for knitting. Sounds good to me!

How are you starting your week? 

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Poetry on Thursday

Today would have been my mother's 87th birthday, so I've been thinking about her more than usual. She died when she was 67, and it felt like this poem was written for her (and me with its countless oddly similar details). It's more like a story a typical poem, it is very long, and I've shared it before, but it feels like the perfect, personal poem for this occasion.

My Mother's Last Forty Minutes
Barbara Kingsolver

At three in the afternoon we heard the death rattle,
sound of a throat that can't clear itself anymore.
This was the cue for another drop of morphine, or not,
according to a nurse's advice my sister and I tried to
reconstruct, as earnestly as we used to kneel together
to build our fairy houses of tree bark and moss. We'd
slept almost not at all for a week, and between us now
constructed no clear game plan on the morphine.

Really, death rattle was all I kept thinking. As if
the den of this ranch house smelling of sickroom
and dust, with its flotsam of Kleenex boxes,
its rented hospital bed and oxygen machine, its frugal 
postwar windows and chronic gloom, had received 
a surprise visitor and it was Charles Dickens.

     May I say that life is filled with instructions
we just don't believe we are ever going to need?

My father announced he had checks to deposit, so 
was going to the bank. My sister and I locked eyes,
the old familiar rope of the drowning child. She
suggested to him that he might regret his timing.
I followed him outside. This is my family job, to say
the ungentle thing. Taking it for the team. I yelled
at him briefly. Then apologized. We were none of us
quite in our minds and anyway, who was I to judge?

As far as I knew he hadn't spent a night or a day
away from my mother in something like half
a century, while I was off living my own merry life,
had merely put it on hold for a couple of weeks
to come and help out with the dying-at-home-
with-no-hired-help request.

     Again, I'll step out
of that room to warn the unwitting: it's a big ask.

My father came back inside. The three of us
sat in chairs arranged like planets around our sun.
She hadn't spoken in days, or opened her eyes,
yet her gravity held us. Though not completely.
I'd noticed Dad now shifting his gaze, staring in 
love and wonder at the 12 x 14 portrait of my mother
gorgeously veiled as a twenty-year-old bride, which 
he's set on the mantle to pretty up this departure.

The rain picked up. This storm was something else,
some wild stampede on the roof of my childhood
home. But she seemed shipshape, fresh cotton gown,
no furrows of pain on the pale crepe of her brow.
I took my phone out to the sunporch to update our
brother. I'd barely spoken when a bolt of lightning
struck the house. Zipped right down a metal duct 
an arm's reach away from me. I dropped the phone.
Took a moment. My heart, still beating.
The house, utterly silent. The electricity had gone
out, which made things seem peaceful.
I remembered oxygen. That she would suffocate.
I hurried back to the den where my sister and I 
in treble octaves discussed the emergency
backups. Then noticed my mother was breathing
on her own. She hadn't done this since last winter.

Around half-past, a shuddering little house-quake
brought the power back on. We breathed.
My mother's pulse-oxygen, measured by a device
pinched on her finger—a number we watched
like the basketball scores, like the polls before
an election—had plunged to the failure zone. Now
with machine assist she rallied back into the nineties.
Dean's List. All her life, that's where she liked to be.

This might be the moment to step one last time 
from the bedside to mention that while we spoke kindly,
mostly, my mother and I did not love one another.
Ever, not even when I was a baby—as I've lately learned
from letters she wrote her friend from a cold plywood
house in Annapolis where I crawled up her legs and
drove her nuts, where she begged my two-year-old brother
to look after me, wished Dad would come home
from the navy and they could zoom away from us
in their aquamarine Chevrolet.

When women are instructed to bear children,
we don't think of such possibilities.
That we are on our own here. There is no Dean's List.

The blessing is that later, in better times, she had
another daughter. I cherished my sister, too; it's no fault
of hers that lightning only strikes once. I would be
the unspeakable first failure that stuck in my mother's 
throat, the child who would never be gentled,
or allowed to touch her good things, or even allowed to
take her to lunch, but could take the rap, the bad daughter.

However I might hold myself to the good of my own life,
the too-many lovers, the eventual sweet husband, 
the daughters more necessary to me than my two eyes,
none of this could alter the daughter I was.
But for these last weeks—

     —but for these last weeks
while I spoon-fed my mother and crushed pain
medicine into liquid drops on her tongue,
did things too intimate to say—the bathing
and changing she once did for me, that trapped
her so terribly—through all these labors she
seemed to be sleeping but sometimes unexpectedly
gripped my hand, and did not zoom away.

She left on her own recognizance. No final
confessions, still the untroubled brow, the oxygen
thanklessly pumping away. The rattle went quiet.
The pulse-ox fell to zero. At some point the thunder
had ceased, the storm passed over. I have
no recollection of a house filled with so much light.
The trees outside, so bright with rain. So much depends.
Here begins my life as no one's bad daughter.


Kingsolver, Barbara. "My Mother's Last Forty Minutes." How to Fly: In Ten Thousand Easy Lessons, Harper, 2020. 
You can read more about the author here


I wish you mindfulness, peace, some loving remembrances of loved ones as you realize you did love each other and you both did the best you could, and poetry as this week winds down.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

A Really Unraveled Wednesday

I'm joining Kat and the Merry Unravelers for Unraveled Wednesday, today with some real unraveling. After last week, I knit a slightly wider four row red stripe, some more Drachenblut, plus another red stripe and decided I wasn't loving it. The stripes looked "blurry" because there is a lot of red adjacent to the stripes in the Drachenblut, the yarn changes for the stripes were really messy, and I thought the red didn't really match when I looked at it closely. I had enough knitting real estate to make a real assessment, so I ripped it out. That's a nice thing about knitting; it's so easy to unravel!

I started to knit with just the Drachenblut, but after a couple of teeth, I once again began to re-think things. Maybe it would look better if I tried the red stripes again, paying more attention to  doing a neater yarn change? So there was more unraveling and more attention paid to adding red stripes. So now I'm back where I was a week ago, knitting-wise. I think I've quit unraveling and overthinking, am relatively happy with it, and will keep it this way. A few more stripes and I might be done. 

This week I finished The Other Black Girl, but it wasn't a book for me. It began with an interesting premise and raises some important points, like the lack of diversity in publishing, microaggressions, and discrimination, but for me it was sorely lacking in the execution. I found the plot rambling and unfocused, leading to confusion at the end. I had to re-read the ending because I thought I had missed something but what I really missed was the potential that this book initially held.

I have started two wonderful books (so far, anyway). They are very different from each other, but that gives me a choice for what I'm in the mood to listen to. Mary Jane is a coming-of-age story of a 14-year-old girl set in 1970s Baltimore, a little on the light side, and What Strange Paradise is the anything-but-light story of the world refugee crisis seen through the eyes of children. I have been enjoying both of them, so much so that I'm actually looking forward to taking John's truck to the Honda dealership this morning for a new part that will take three hours to replace. Great listening time!

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, September 20, 2021

A Wish Fulfilled

Last weekend had a minor (planned) disruption. John and Justin were flying to Montana, and I took them to Newark airport. The disrupting part of this was their flight had been rescheduled to 6 am, and this meant I needed to get up at 2 am on Saturday. Alarms were set, people got ready, but there was some last minute drama when Justin slept through his alarm and we didn't realize this until 20 minutes before we needed to leave. 

I dropped them off at the airport in plenty of time, drove back and was home by 5 am. I had originally planned to go back to bed and then head over to Ryan's house for a visit. Ryan came over for dinner on Friday night and ended up staying overnight to see John and Justin off. He was still awake when I got home and even though I had planned to go back to bed, neither one of us was able to fall asleep. Once it got light and we felt we had had enough stimulant beverages, we went back to Ryan's house to do some yard work. He mowed, I weed-whacked and worked on removing some chicken wire that the previous owners had zip-tied to the fence to keep their dogs from escaping. We weeded, pruned, and got sweaty and tired. We definitely deserved a reward and I think we chose the perfect one. 

For a long time before he passed away, I used to make the two-hour round trip to visit my father in assisted living, take him to multiple doctor appointments, a long course of radiation, cat scans, the grocery store, and the pharmacy. For many reasons, it was usually a long and exhausting day, and I passed Braveheart Pub in Hellertown, PA on my way home. I always wished I could stop in, have a relaxing pint of Guinness or glass of whiskey, and ease the worries and exhaustion of the day away. I imagined myself at the bar and had a whole lovely fantasy made up.

I remembered Braveheart when Ryan and I were trying go decide on a suitable reward, realized that he lives only nine miles away, so I finally got to fulfill my wish. I didn't have Guinness or whiskey (I was driving and had only had about four hours of sleep) but Ryan had a delicious caramel apple martini.

I admired the Bonnie Scotland artwork.

We shared an order of Scotch eggs. They've appeared in several books that I've read, and I was glad to get a chance to try them. There is nothing not to like about a hard-boiled egg, wrapped in sausage, then breaded and fried.

I thought I might want fish and chips, but decided on an Edinburger instead. I was a little too anxious to dig in and didn't even turn the plate around when I took the photo, but it was a  delicious burger topped with Stilton , onion rings, and HP sauce. 

HP sauce might be my favorite new thing, and it was wonderful to finally get a chance to fulfill a long-held wish.

I hope your weekend was just as fulfilling!

Thursday, September 16, 2021

On the Plus Side

On Monday I whined a bit about how I dislike the drive to MD from NJ and back, that white-knuckle, 246 mile, five hour plus round trip that we have to make every week. But a lovely positive comment from Becky started me thinking about the good things. I still can't come up with anything good about the drive, but there are some things I like about the house in MD. Since it's Thursday, I'm joining Carole for Three on Thursday.

It's a tiny house. Not one of those tiny houses on wheels, but rather a small house. There are three bedrooms, but I'm not sure we could even fit a single bed in the third one (but there is knotty pine on the walls). With a desk and a bookcase, it works fine for John's office. There is just one bathroom, a smallish open combination living room/dining room and a little kitchen, all contained in ~ 1000 sq. ft. There's a weird little five foot square nook off of the kitchen, but it makes a good place for my plants. 

The small size is just right for two people. It means that I can clean it in about 20 minutes. It means that we didn't have to buy too much furniture. I even found some of my plant stands on the street and I like them. 

It has central air conditioning. Our house in NJ does not, and window units are expensive to run. You can't be comfortable in all the rooms at the same time, so central air has always felt like a (delightfully comfortable) luxury to me. And since we're cooling such small square footage, it's not too expensive. 

We haven't had time to clutter it up. We've lived here for three and a half years and we just moved in with the basics. (Well, I did. John may have way too many shoes, coats, and fishing stuff.) Our only Christmas decoration is a wreath for the door because we usually spend Christmas in NJ. Our dishes and much of my kitchen equipment came from Goodwill. It's really nice and feels quite freeing not to be surrounded by the clutter and all the stuff we've collected in 30+ years in NJ. 

Small, cool, and uncluttered. Those are all good things!

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Unraveled Wednesday

I'm joining Kat and the Merry Unravelers for Unraveled Wednesday, today with stripes. Well, one stripe at least. Maybe only a partial one, but we'll see.

I wondered if the red stripe yarn was too bright and not the slightly more cranberry red I was thinking of. I'm not sure if I'll do two-stripe rows like this one or keep going and do four-stripe rows. l'm not sure how many red rows I'll do, or how many plain Drachenblut teeth I'll do between stripes. But I'm going to keep knitting, see where I end up, and like Kym always says, not decide on these questions until I've got enough knitting real estate to judge.

Reading has slowed down a bit, and I only managed to finish one book, All Shall be Well. It's the second in the Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James series by Deborah Crombie, and makes for some nice, light reading in between "bigger" books. I've started three or four of those "bigger" books but they haven't felt satisfactory at all, so I've put them aside. It may be time to try some books that are on the just-announced Booker shortlist

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Unsettled Ground

I've been looking forward to today as it's discussion day for our eighth Read With Us book, Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller. I enjoyed our last book, Shuggie Bain, so much that I was a little afraid we wouldn't be able to follow it with another great book. 

But I think Unsettled Ground was a good choice. It's certainly different from Shuggie Bain, but very good in its own way. Both books were stories about fiercely independent people who want to live their own secluded and private lives. They are stories about secrets, lies, misfortune, sorrows, how things fall apart, and how some surprising survivals can come out of it all. 

I approached Unsettled Ground with a bit of trepidation as I found Claire Fuller's Our Endless Numbered Days so unsettling. I needn't have feared; once I had read the first 40 or so pages, I found the book difficult to put down. The story of 51-year-old twins Jeanie and Julius is a quiet one, but full of buried secrets. The secrets are not the specific focus of the book, but rather why lies were told in the first place and the fallout from them decades later. 

It's these lies I'd like to focus on for my questions here:

Dot tells Jeanie a devastating lie when she is still a child. What do you think about some of the reasons why she might have done this? Can you understand Dot's actions, or were her lies ultimately destructive to her family?

If Jeanie hadn't lived her life under the shadow of Dot's lie, how different do you think her life might have been? What might have been possible for Jeanie if Dot hadn't lied? 

Feel free to answer the questions (any or all) or just leave your thoughts on the book in the comments. CaroleKym, and I will each post a question or two on our blogs today, so be sure to check in with them. Tonight at 7:00 pm Eastern, we're hosting a book group Zoom meet-up. These are always fun and they've added a lot to my understanding of the books we've read. To make a reservation for the Zoom, just comment here, or send an email to me (email address is in the right-hand side bar), Carole, or Kym and we'll make sure to send you the link. 

We would love to have you participate in the discussion of Unsettled Ground in whatever way(s) work for you. I look forward to hearing what you think and hopefully seeing you this evening!