My Trip to the Windy? City

Sunset from the "el"

It may have been windy but it was not chilly at all at the end of March. In fact, it was downright warm … Ok, let’s be totally honest and call it freaking hot! 85 degrees in Chicago? In March? Absurdly warm … and I brought long sleeves. Thank God for Target!

No particularly flattering but my chins are smiling!

Despite my actor daughter’s mysterious illness that kept her out of three shows, including the one I – and theater house manager daughter – was to attend, we had lots of time together and it was wonderful. Got to see my son briefly on his way to Michigan on Spring Break (his last). What a treat. Met daughter #2’s new beau … and like him very much.

There’s nothing quite as comforting as leaving your child knowing that there’s someone that she loves and who loves her. Someone who’s got her back. Someone who she can talk to and someone who puts up with the crazy family drama and still hangs around. My approval stamp was already taken out, used and put away. Welcome to the family, M! Thank you for loving my daughter. Daughter #1 has a man in her life who’s really special, too. I feel very grateful that they both have someone to share the ups and downs of life with  and that they don’t have to deal with “it” alone. It makes my heart feel full and calm.

We did a ton of walking and eating and talking and walking and eating. We may have had a couple of glasses of wine or a martini or two. Saw the Marilyn statue on Michigan Avenue on the way to the urgent care clinic. Went to the beach and buried Mabel – my grand-dog – in the sand. Shopped at Target and Whole Foods. Threw away a couple of organic mangoes two days later. (Boo!) Drank tea, coffee, water, rode busses and the “el”, walked and ate some more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fishy Tree on the Magnificent Stinky Mile

The flowering trees were all in bloom as were the tulips and daffodils… some smelled sweet and some, not so much! (What tree is this that smells like rotten fish?! And why did anyone think they are good trees to plant along city streets?) I can’t imagine how those who have the fortune (or misfortune) to have one of these trees outside their apartment windows survive this time of year!

Mom's Bad Hair Day - by the (used-to-be-green) Chicago River

It’s always great to spend time with my kids and this trip was no exception. I’m so proud of them all and I’m so happy to be their mom.

What a wonderful trip to Chicago – thanks, L. for letting me sleep in your bed and sharing your space with me. I love seeing you grow and spread your wings! And, K., when was the last time I got to take you to the doctor? 🙂 And my boy – you’re almost done. A couple of months of college work and you’ll have to find a real job or come and live with your mom. I’ll take care of you! 🙂 Ha! Like that’ll happen … the live with mom part, I mean!

We needed to deal with some serious family stuff that reared its ugly head while I was there. I’m full of gratitude that this stuff is coming up now when I’m feeling stronger and more capable so that I can offer support to my children as they deal with some very difficult stuff. I am so lucky to have been given the gift of these three kids.

Gone knitting (with a grateful heart).

 

Annie-isms … The Rules

So, having paid for the weekend with Annie Modesitt (reasonable though it was!) I thought I’d milk it for all it’s worth! Get it? … Milk it? … Cow? (Supposed to be a joke … my kids always told me I’m not funny but I know that I can be. LOL!)

Love!

There were several knitting tips and life tips that Annie imparted to our group along the way and I wanted to share some of them with you. Because you deserve it. And because I think so often that things that apply to knitting also apply to living.

Ponder this:

Annie’s Three Rules

#1 – I’ll tell you later (Yes, this is what she said … not kidding!)

#2 – During class, I (this is Annie speaking, not me … although the rule is so appropriate for a classroom setting, I may just steal the rule!) should be the only one talking.

#3 – Don’t rip out the knitting that you’ve done in class. It’s hard to do a post-mortem without a body in the room.

And her number one rule … are you ready for it? Drum roll, please …

Don’t say anything about yourself that you wouldn’t want your daughter to say about herself (that you wouldn’t want to hear your daughter say about herself).

Saying negative things about ourselves only brings us more of the same.

Conversely, saying positive things about ourselves only brings us more of the same.

Interestingly, I found this on one of my Facebook favorites this morning.

Acting As If (with credit to happiness in your life dot com)

It’s a relatively new favorite page, but a favorite all the same. Primarily because it’s all about being positive – and I believe that you have to act as if … we believe what we tell ourselves … and if we tell ourselves positive things, we’ll attract more positive to our lives and we’ll be happier. Sounds easy, right?

One of my college friends reminded me that this was similar to the way that Abileen (think the book/movie ‘The Help’) talked to the little girl that she cared for because she never heard it from her mother. So true! That little girl (or boy, let’s not discriminate) needs to hear our mother tell us we’re special. That first intimate relationship with another human being is so important for our emotional and personal development and it’s crucial to becoming who we really are. And because so many of us didn’t hear that from our mothers, we can heal that inner little child by telling ourselves things we need to know.

So, for today, I’m practicing telling myself positive things. Anything practiced can become a   habit – and I really believe that this will bring even more happiness into my life.

Gone knitting!

Clicking for Babies …

My Purple Hat for Maine Babies

I’m clicking for babies today.

At my Wednesday night knitting group/class, Betty shared this community service project with us and I decided to participate because I can empathize with tired, stressed new parents who have a baby that won’t quit screaming!

I’ve often shared my story about one particular night when I was a new mother and my daughter woke up in the middle of the night (as newborns do!) and I changed her, nursed her, put her back to bed and she would not sleep. She just screamed. I tried everything that I knew to do – changed her again, nursed her again, rocked her … although by that time I was so stressed, I’m sure she sensed it in me. And then she pooped and it dripped out of her diaper, down my nightgown, down my leg, on the rocking chair cushion and onto the carpeted floor. Yup! I lost it … and thank God her father was snoring in the other room and I could yell for him and he came to take over so I could get cleaned up or I may have jettisoned her out the second story window like a football!

I was never told about a period of purple crying as a natural developmental stage of all infants. Here’s some information for new parents (or grandparents) that shares what this is all about …

Click here to watch a video by child crying expert, Dr. Ronald Barr.

So, today I’m knitting a purple hat. In Maine, as I understand it, the hats will be distributed to all parents of newborns in November (?) and will be accompanied by literature about babies’ purple crying (purple is an acronym and stands for something!)

Click on the link at the top of this post, share the site with knitting or crocheting friends and join me in clicking for babies! I’m even giving you my free pattern! There is another pattern (also free) on the clickforbabies.org website!

Gone knitting!

Finished! (I added an I chord "loop")

Purple for Crying Baby Hat

Size 6 and 8 knitting needles
1 stitch marker
purple yarn in a DK or light worsted weight
With smaller needles, cast on 61 stitches
K2, P2 across the first row ending with a K stitch
P1, and then K2, P2 to the end of row
Repeat these two rows for three inches
Change to larger needles and on wrong side, knit across the row
Continue in stockinette stitch (knit one row, purl one row) for three inches more (hat measures six inches from cast on edge… if you’d like to knit stripes, go wild! The only requirement is that the hat must be more than 50% purple.)
Begin decreases:
[K2tog, knit 11 stitches, sl1, K1, psso, place marker] 4 times, K1
next row – purl all stitches
[K2tog, knit to 2 sts before marker, sl1, K1, psso] 4 times, K1
purl 1 row
repeat the last two rows until there are 13 sts left on the needle
break a long piece of yarn, with a needle pull yarn through all stitches remaining and sew the seam – make sure to switch to the other side half way down the ribbed (cuff) section.
Weave in ends.

On Losing One’s Self

I’m reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Committed. If you’ve ever been married, are married or are thinking about getting married one day, it’s a good read and may teach you a thing or two about the institution of marriage. Ultimately, her story has a happy ending …

Click on the Amazon "ad" to the right if you'd like to purchase this book!

Gilbert’s first marriage ended, suffice it to say, in a flaming ball of fire. And upon falling in love a second time, she was skeptical about entering into another marriage. I can get this! Having “failed” once, who wants to go running back for more? I don’t care how much one loves somebody, it’s a frightening concept to try again at something that didn’t work the first time.

Some of Gilbert’s research is interesting and I hadn’t realized that men benefit more from being married than women do (although it makes sense.) Apparently men are happier, healthier and more financially stable when they are married. Women, however, don’t benefit nearly as well. Income is likely to drop by seven percent for married women. They are more likely to suffer from depression and die in a catastrophic accident. Maybe because most married women are so stretched … working, caring for a husband, children and home is a lot of work and the book says that most men don’t share equally in the household or child-rearing responsibilities. It is also said that women who wait to get married until they’re more established are more likely to be happier when they’re married. So, having read most of this quick read, my advice to women is WAIT!

I was a “baby” when I got married at twenty-two and had my first child when I was twenty-six. I absolutely agree with Gilbert that you can lose yourself in marriage. Especially when there are children. I have been reclaiming myself for the last few years. I’m not saying that I have regrets because being able to stay at home and parent my three kids was a blast. I really enjoyed it and I was (and am) a good parent. Anyway, I loved volunteering in my community and we had a great neighborhood babysitting co-op when the kids were little so I had a great support system. My children became my life and I let myself slip to the back of the line. Everyone else’s needs came first (partly because they were more vocal, I think) and I didn’t understand the premise that if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t care for everyone else. Needless to say, when my youngest went off to school, my world came crashing down in a horrible bout of depression that put me in bed for nearly six weeks. It was debilitating and frightening and there were times when I truly believed that I was going to die. One of my doctors wanted to do a spinal tap and that’s what sent me to a new doc who diagnosed my with depression and put  me on medication and, sure enough, after a couple of weeks I was able to get myself out of bed and out into the sunshine and back into life. It was the start of me taking time for myself and investing in myself – I started walking regularly and seeing a great therapist (or three) who have helped guide me to knowing myself.

I’ve been extremely fortunate to be able to get off the meds and haven’t had a relapse in years. I used to have a bit of a “down turn” at the end of summer when the kids went back to school. No dancing in the aisles at Staples for me! I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve and can get upset, don’t get me wrong. I’ve spent several days at a time in my house/apartment/condo when my mother died and I was grieving. I did the same several months later when we buried her. The good news is that I know where to go when I need to get help and I now have the tools that I need to get myself back “on track”. I’m a lot happier when I remember to do something for me … and my knitting feeds that piece!

And now, I find myself in love with a man who (I think) would like to get married again. Some days I feel like that would be wonderful and some days not so much. Isn’t living together enough? So, I continue to invest in myself and follow my heart …

On Doing the Right Thing

I just finished reading another wonderful Jodi Picoult (I just learned that you pronounce it “peek-o”) novel entitled, Sing You Home. I am a total Jodi Picoult fan and have read most if not all of her books. I’d say this one appealed to me a lot and parallels my life in several ways.

I was married for nearly 27 years to a man who I thought was my partner for life. About 9 years ago I uncovered an affair which was devastating. We separated because he didn’t want to give up the person he was having the affair with. A year later, he decided he wanted the marriage and said that he’d ended the other relationship but I found out differently and made the decision to divorce in late 2006.

At about the same time, my first love and I reconnected – he found me on the Internet (go figure!) Anyway, after several months of emails, phone calls and visits, I decided to move to Florida (ancient history now) and found part-time work while I finished my college degree. And then the bottom of the American economy fell out. I’ve become a “long term unemployed” who is making the best of life by building a business that I hope will sustain me in the near future!

Divorce is a strange experience. I never (ever, in a million years) thought I would be divorced. We find ourselves in odd situations for the benefit of the children. Being divorced is not easy. In many ways we’re still a family but everything has changed. Negotiations abound. Recently, my ex has decided to renig on an agreement and stopped paying our daughter’s college loan. Somehow, in the divorce, this loan became my responsibility despite the fact that I had always said that we’d help with the repayment of loans if we were able. Anyway, I’d be delighted to pay the loan if my situation were different. I fully never expected to be unable to find adequate employment for such a long time. I have trouble understanding why, with no warning, no phone call, no text, no nothing, he simply stopped paying the loan. By the time the collection calls began, the loan was more than 30 days late and a week until the next payment was due. And at the end of April we sat across the table celebrating our son’s 21st birthday and he never said a word.

While we were married and the children were young, he had a period of unemployment and I used my “inheritance” to support our family. I didn’t think twice about it, I didn’t ask for anything in return. I did it because it was the right thing to do. “My” money provided us with a down-payment on our first home, renovated another home we purchased and then sold for the mortgage the first time he became unemployed, and provided another down-payment on our home in Ohio when he found employment again. “My” money. “Earned” after the loss of my father. But given openly and freely to help our family. Now that the tide has turned, I’m unemployed, and he’s got an inheritance that could help with this loan if he so chose. Rather, it appears that he is choosing to hurt me. I’m not sure if his intent is to destroy my relationship with my daughter or to ruin me financially – why else would he not have told me that he was going to stop the payments? What he doesn’t seem to see is that he is also hurting our daughter in the process. I am at a loss … Five years later, is he still so bitter that I left the marriage (not like there was a choice when he couldn’t be faithful) that he wants to see me miserable? His parents left everything to him and asked him to “take care of the kids” and his nieces, too. They would want him to take care of their granddaughter. They valued family (at least their “blood”) and I believe that his father, in particular, would be most ashamed of this self-centered behavior.

All of this circles back to the book … don’t worry, I’m getting there. I don’t want to give away the end of the story but suffice it to say that you won’t be able to put it down. Picoult is a phenomenal word smith and addresses what may be her most controversial subject yet, gay rights with a bit of evangelical religion thrown in. Her character development is outstanding and I always find myself caring for the characters in her books … even if I don’t always agree with them. I think Picoult handles this issue with dignity and honesty.

The world we live in is not a perfect place but the choices that people make every day can make it better. Kinder. More caring. I can’t help but believe that we feel better about ourselves when we behave in a caring way toward others … when we do the right thing. I hope my ex will help his daughter and will work with us to find a solution that will be a “win” for each of us. Dealing with issues with an open heart can make the world a better place and allow families grow and heal.

All My Bags Are NOT Packed

Peter, Paul and Mary had it all … and they must have had some help if they always had their bags packed. I am not ready and here I sit at my desk, blogging away!

This little Yankee can’t waste a couple of rotting bananas so I had to bake some gluten-free banana blueberry muffins this morning. Killed two birds with one stone because I also used up the fresh Florida blueberries from Costco! And then I decided that a batch of “Mom’s Best” Granola was in order for the boy who’s turning 21 on Wednesday. His big gift will arrive on it’s own. I feel so lucky that we’re able to travel and that I can spend a couple hours with my “baby” on his special day.

All these years later, I’ve got some serious regrets that I didn’t wait until he was out of high school before I left Cincinnati. It would have only been a year … of course at the time, my head was reeling, my heart was wounded (and I was sure it was beyond repair) and I had this wonderful man who wanted me with him … or at least in the same town. I also thought that his father would “step up” and take the parenting seriously (since he hadn’t done too much of it when I was there). Not so much. What nobody realized – not me, not his/our therapist – was how much he was drinking and what a mess he really was. He could barely care for himself after my departure and he certainly didn’t do a great job of taking care of my son. I would never have left if I’d realized how poorly cared for my son would be – and that he was going to have to depend on friends on a regular basis. Neither did I realize how hurt he’d be when I left. I knew him as an independent kid who was seldom home. I was alone all the time in that big old house. Housing choices were not plentiful and it was expensive. But, today, looking back with my 20/20 hindsight vision, it would have been a good choice to stay for my son’s sake.

Over the course of the past four years, he’s graduated from high school, successfully completed (nearly) three years of an extremely competitive and demanding college curriculum and learned to brew beer in his apartment, cook like a professional chef, and dress to the nines. I’m really proud of the young man that he’s becoming and I hope he’s proud of himself.

I’m trying to do whatever it takes to rebuild a relationship with my boy. I love him more than life itself and I wish I could go back and un-do what I did. Sadly, it’s done and now I can only try to show him how much he means to me … even if it means spending an extra day or two in the car on an already long trip so I can have dinner with him on his 21st birthday. Happy Birthday (almost) Boy!

Decorating for Easter & Munchkins in my Atelier

So, we had a party last night to celebrate the fabulous new kitchen that we’ve just finished. It was fun to cook in a functional kitchen … and one that is more than a “one butt” kitchen, where we could both be doing things at the same time. While N. was making chili at the stove, I was chopping veggies … I had forgotten how sore my legs get when I’m standing in place for a long time!

Two friends brought their children with them and while it’s really not a problem, there was some mess to clean up from because directions given weren’t followed and I wasn’t paying attention. “Soup” was being made in the water dish in my Atelier … with the “sea glass” in two of my three sea glass ornaments on my (now) Easter tree. When I suggested to the kids that they shouldn’t touch things that belong to other people, the 4-year-old reply was “but I know how”. Great. The puddle of water in the corner of the room, the bits of glass all over the floor, the spilled essential oils (which were on the top shelf and can only be reached by inquisitive children who are standing on my work table, etc. just remind me that I’m way too old to want to be a parent again. Thank God my little darlings are grown and know better than to pick up dogs that go running away from you when you approach. Lola and Boq were hiding in their crates in our bedroom by the time the doorbell rang for the last time – they’d surely had enough of a good thing.

I’m grateful, however, for the beautiful kitchen that Pat and Roger and the other talented craftsmen helped us to create and I’m grateful for the friends who gathered around us to celebrate friendship and an end of a home renovation “challenge”.