Happy new year

Here we go, eh? Fingers firmly crossed that this year brings more laughter than tears.

I’ve been working on a Campfire Cozy shawl, with handspun i did a couple years ago. It’s soft and warm, and should be just the thing for cool firepit evenings.

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Bouncing back

Hello, blog. Long time, eh? I know it’s been quiet around here lately, but honestly I just haven’t felt much like writing. There’s been so very much to complain about, but I also have a lot to be thankful for.

Top of the list is two new additions to our family this year! We welcomed a nephew over the summer, and a grandchild a couple weeks ago. What could be better than new babies?? The nephew has gotten to the giggling/drooling/babbling stage and I just love watching the videos, it’s pure bliss. The new grandchild is still in that wonderful snuggly-walnut stage, which makes my heart melt. I can’t overlook the joy that the older grandchild brings to our lives, either! She brings much laughter, wit, creativity, and determination to the world.

Our youngest child (she’s an adult, it’s weird to call her a child) has moved back to our area, and it’s so great to see her in person again. She’s on her own journey of bouncing back, and I am thankful that we can be here for her. Seeing her with her brothers makes me overwhelmed with gratitude and love.

I’ve been working with my doctor to take control of my health. We’re stabilizing hormones during this rocky perimenopausal stage of my life, with a little chemical help along with shaking loose deep-rooted ideas of how to eat and exercise. We are seeing great response to an intermittent fasting approach; kicking that “frequent small meals” idea to the curb has been a challenge mentally but my insulin levels love it, and the hangry low blood sugar crazies are gone. The best part is that nothing is off limits – I am free from measuring, tracking, counting, portioning, or denying; my only task is to eat within a set period of time each day and that’s it. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. I have a cookie on my desk right now, which I will eat later this afternoon when my eating window opens. Yum!

Our one and only vehicle broke down right before Thanksgiving… but today we found out that the repair will be covered under the warranty, and we can pick up a loaner car tomorrow. This is a pretty big relief!

And we are making progress on rehabbing the loved one’s house. It’s taken most of our weekends, and all of our savings, but the results are well worth it and I am looking forward to welcoming the next tenants in a month or so.

Happy Friday!

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Treading water

With our state stalled in its Safe Start plan (no counties are being moved forward right now), things have just settled into this weird situation that I refuse to call “new normal”. The weather is gorgeous, and in any other year us PNW’ers would be emerging from our caves, blinking at the sunlight and complaining about the heat but super excited to be able to go outside without a coat on.

Instead, we are emerging from our caves, blinking at the sunlight, and sweating into our face masks and trying to figure out what we are allowed to do and how to avoid infecting our friends and family with a virus that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

I don’t mind wearing masks in stores, it’s become a habit by now; but I greatly dislike wearing them at work… with one on, I don’t drink enough water and have been getting headaches; it’s difficult to hear people because voices are muffled and I already have a hearing problem; they fog up my glasses. My office contains paperwork that is accessed by several people, so even though I don’t legally have to wear a mask while I’m working in my office alone, I do have to wear it most of the time because of all the people that come in.We can’t congregate in the kitchen, so most folks eat at their desk, which grosses me out. Not to mention the full-stop on all of our normal team-building / camaraderie things we can’t do right now. Our annual holiday party is probably cancelled for the first time ever. Getting through the summer seems doable, but thinking about socially-distanced holidays is really depressing.

On a personal note (as if my blog isn’t personal to begin with), we finally got together for the family memorial for the loved one on Saturday. With the nice weather, we were able to stand outside, distanced and with masks on, and close a chapter in this story. The loved one joins several others, near the river at the base of a newly-planted tree on family property, where he can be visited frequently. It was low-key, with no formal service or speeches, just quiet reflection. What is already an uncomfortable event became even more so with very few hugs as everyone tried to respect the distancing but still offer support and empathy to each other. While it was good to see family, it felt somewhat stilted and awkward with the pandemic procedures hanging over everything.

The Mr and I have taken on the rehabilitation of the loved one’s house, with help from the in-laws. The process of cleaning, repairing, painting, replacing, and updating is therapeutic. Not as a way of erasing the loved one from our lives, but more as a “we could have done this for you if you’d just asked / if we’d only known you’d needed help” kind of way. It doesn’t assuage our guilt over missing the signs (were there signs?) but it definitely gives our grief a focus and will create a fresh start for another young family.

We keep a calendar on the wall at home, the old fashioned printed kind that you write on. Last night the Mr realized we haven’t marked on the days in an entire week. When the entire world is cancelled there isn’t much point to a calendar… Aside from the family memorial gathering, there has been precious little to remember to show up for.

We have a new baby in the family, but the pandemic keeps me from going to visit; I could not live with the guilt if I was responsible for infecting anyone outside my bubble. Especially a little one. But oh, the thought of snuggling a baby, with the way they curl up like a little walnut.

Also – I’m getting damned tired of video meetings.


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Finding the good

I can barely keep up with what day of the week it is — and today I realized it is JUNE. The year is half gone, and it’s been fairly shitty so far. Today I’m having one of those “I just can’t take one more bad thing” days, which means I need to focus on some good. Here are ten things that don’t suck (in no particular order):

  1. I’ve had time to work on a couple of quilts, which is something I really wanted to take up after the kids moved out. They did, and so I have. I’m learning, trying new things, and have joined a couple of groups online where I can ask questions without feeling dumb.
  2. I continue to make masks, mostly for friends and family, and have supplied my entire office with a colorful selection. I enjoy the bright fabrics and fun prints, which I’ve been buying from local quilt shops (thereby helping them stay in business).
  3. The backyard is looking fantastic – everything is so green, the garden is coming along well (we’ve been eating lettuce for a couple weeks), and we’ve been tackling projects that we put off for years.
  4. The warmer weather makes outdoor hang-with-friends possible (just a few, well-spaced, with masks), and my heart needs to not see people on screens now and then.
  5. A good portion of my state has opened back up, to varying degrees, and my county is on track to do so soon.
  6. We have been cooking more at home, which has made a positive impact on our eating-out costs.
  7. I had a frank discussion with a person-of-color at my chiropractor’s office about race and his experiences, and his has been mainly fair treatment and limited exposure to racism, for which I was very glad.
  8. I learned how to listen to audiobooks from the public library, which has been a great background to sewing masks.
  9. There are two babies due in the family this year, and I do love babies…
  10. I do not rely on my soap business to generate an actual income, and so despite losing more than three quarters of my sales this year due to cancellation of street fairs, it will not affect my ability to pay our bills.
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Things are just weird

The Mr. and I are fortunate in that we have remained at our jobs through the pandemic that sent so many people to unemployment websites. My office has had to respond to a decrease in business, but we will survive this – unlike many other businesses that have closed permanently. Neither of us has a job that can be performed remotely, so we have also been commuting to and from work five days a week – and this has lent a modicum of normality to our routine. We get up and go to work, return from work and make dinner and do a few chores. On the weekends we do some yard work or house projects.

But that’s pretty much where the illusion that everything is fine ends. I wear a mask for my train commute. We wear them to the grocery store, the hardware store, the produce stands – pretty much the only places that are open for customers. Meeting up with friends has gone online, which, after days full of online meetings at work, feels a lot less relaxing than it should. My office is devoid of employees, having sent them all to work from home I am the lone person in a 9,000 SF space; here to restart computers, load paper into copiers, get the mail, research old projects info that isn’t electronic, pay bills. The silence is deafening, and having walked through a deserted downtown tourist district that is usually busting at the seams with people, the solitude weighs heavily on me.

In the evenings I’ve been sewing cloth masks, since we are ‘encouraged’ (and in some situations, required) to wear them while in public. Social distancing means that even if I do get to see family and friends it’s from a distance, usually with a mask on, outside to reduce the risk of exposure. As an adult, I know this is a temporary inconvenience – but I worry for the children too young to have that perspective. Children like my granddaughter, who doesn’t understand why the playgrounds are closed and now assumes every person she sees is sick.

I worry for the people in domestic abuse environments, or with drug dependence, physical impairments, mental illness, or chronic health conditions. I worry for the people that are avoiding, or cannot get, routine health care right now. I worry for the people who cannot get financial assistance, or whose landlords are not abiding the emergency laws, or who are losing their livelihood.

I try to take sips of the news, as the overwhelming sadness is just too much in larger doses. I’ve been knitting a little, making soap here and there, and doing a lot of yard work when the weather allows. We are finally tackling some large landscaping projects that we’ve put off for years. The Mr and I have watched more movies and TV shows than is typical. I’d like to say the house is cleaner but that’s a lie – who is going to see it anyway? I’d also like to say that I’ve taken up a new workout routine, or that I’ve been eating better – also not true. Mostly I’ve been sewing masks, donating my time and a large number of the masks to people in need of them, charging for a few to help replenish the supplies. It’s a small gesture, but it’s something I can do, and people appreciate it.

We’ve been cooking at home, doing a little take-out here and there, and I’ve allowed myself a bit of comfort eating when the mood hits. I walk several miles every day, and try to remember to stretch now and then; digging has been the primary exercise lately and I suppose it’s a good one.

We are still grieving the loss of our loved one, not quite three months ago. We maintain the yard at his house so it doesn’t look as empty, have picked up some trash, go in several times a week to check on things. The family memorial is postponed until everyone feels safe to gather again, so grief is suspended in a weird way. His clothes remain in our house, clean and folded and boxed up, waiting for donation sites to open again. Cleaning out of the house is similarly on hold.

Everything feels like it is on hold.

Posted in Family nonsense, Grief and Loss, Health & Wellness, Sewing & Quilting, Soap & Other Crafts, The Great Outdoors | Leave a comment

With hook and needle

One knit blanket done and a crochet one begun!

Ten Stitch Blanket

I am feeling better, more stable. Time blunts the sharp edges of grief, and there are many things in my life to be grateful for. New babies, for one. I finished the Ten Stitch Blanket, and have started a Bakewell Blanket. Both are for wee ones expected this year.

The Bakewell Blanket

The world is a bit of a shit show right now, but in my little corner I’m focusing on making things – it keeps the hands and mind busy while giving me that sense of accomplishment. When so much is out of my control, I can at least plant a garden or sew a few masks.

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Onward. With knitting.

Knitting is great therapy, I highly recommend it. I’ve been pecking away at a Ten-Stitch Blanket, with some Lion Brand Mandala yarn. It’s currently 26″ across, and will be a baby blanket – so I have a few rounds yet to go. After that wee ball at the top is used up I have another whole skein, so no worries on running out of yarn.

This is good TV knitting, as it’s pretty mindless until you get to a corner. Mine has a slight skew to it, which means I probably got ‘off’ at the very beginning but I like it.


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Ten days

Pictures are hard. You want to see them, to remember, but they also make you so very sad when you think of the loved one that will no longer enjoy those things that brought him joy, no longer hear the stupid puns or weird observations he was so keen on sharing. The family BBQs, birthday parties, holidays, drinks with friends, road trips. You’ve met some of his friends and they are exactly the kind of people you hoped he’d be friends with – witty, welcoming, caring, regular people. People that enjoyed his company, that can tell a joke, that miss him. And it makes you both sad and angry all over again because you can’t help but wonder why he didn’t reach out to one of them, why he didn’t raise his hand and say, “hey, I need some help here.”

Onward: that’s what we do, right? We make plans, we arrange a service, we carry on with the day to day activities that we were doing eleven days ago. Only now there is this grief running beneath it and it catches you by surprise when you scroll thru your social media feed, or find a photo in your kid’s album. And though your appetite has returned, it still affects your sleep, makes you foggy-headed and slow.

You know grieving is a process. You’ve lost family and friends before, to illness and old age; you know that time softens the grief. But this is the first in your life to leave under these circumstances and you grapple with the anger, which you weren’t expecting.

You try to catch up on work, chores, missed appointments. You return to your hobbies, the easy ones that don’t require tons of focused thought. Has it only been ten days? It feels like forever. And yesterday.

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Plodding along

Balanced on a cliff’s edge, we plod through the days. Most return to work because we need the routine and diversion, and of course, the income. A memorial service is planned, airfare discussed for the distant one, more gatherings in living rooms to figure out what to do next. His sister mentions that she’s been journaling; you agree that getting the thoughts out is better than holding them in but vocalizing is not yet possible because the wall holding back the tears is tissue-paper thin. The Mr seems to have found some solace in the mundane task of gathering, washing, sorting, and folding the lost one’s clothes; we set aside a few chosen items as mementos. The parents select what the lost one will wear for today’s appointment. 

Anger gives way to profound sadness as you contemplate what the lost one must have been feeling to have made this choice. You can’t help but think about the days where nobody suspected a problem, and the one person that most needed help remained silent. Guilt washes over you as you wonder if you missed some signal, overlooked a hint. You make donations to organizations that shouldn’t exist but you are glad they do, even if they did not help prevent this tragedy. There is no indication that the lost one reached out to anyone. You think about his demeanor when you saw him last, examine every interaction over the past few months looking for clues. Nothing, nothing.

This new normal has a hole in it, one with sharp edges just waiting to tear open our fragile control. You examine your pain and cannot fathom how much deeper it must be for the parents. Yes, the lost one was like a brother but he was not your son. You think of your sons and step quickly back because you cannot, will not, consider that possibility. You force your attention to something much less painful, to figuring out what you can do to ease some responsibilities – because you know you cannot ease their grief.

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The loss of a loved one

Grief is a funny thing. It comes out of nowhere, after a typical Friday evening spent doing mundane things with your partner like making dinner and watching a movie and not worrying about anything really important. And then a knock on the door starts a chain reaction that you can’t see the end of.

You pause the movie, take the person inside, try to calm her down; reassure her that she is probably overreacting. But the rational part of you, the part that suspects because you know that life is a shit show and terrible things happen to good people, is awakened and you feel the adrenaline flood your body as you try to reassure both her and yourself that this is a false alarm, nothing to worry about, there’s a simple explanation.

Your partner takes a spare key and they walk down the street together to check the house; you stay behind but look up hospital phone numbers just in case because you are running scenarios in your mind. It doesn’t take long, and then the front door opens again and you know for sure as she stumbles inside, her face paper white and her hands ice cold. Your partner did not return with her.

For a few seconds your mind struggles to comprehend. She doesn’t say a single word, she cannot as she sinks to the floor and begins to shake, but you don’t need words – everything you need to know is right there on her face so you run down the street, just four houses away, no tears yet but your brain is trying to tell you something. You can’t listen to that voice, not yet. 

And then you see your partner sitting on the porch with his head in his hands and every scrap of hopeful doubt that you were hanging on to is gone. Shock washes over you and you begin to tremble; it squeezes your body in such a way that you can’t hear, can’t think, can’t put together a sentence. In seconds, as comprehension sets in, grief crushes you, taking your breath away and your feet out from under you. You sit beside your partner and both of you gasp for air, holding on to each other but unable to stay afloat in this new reality that has just crashed down upon you.

You can’t follow what the medics are saying, you ask them to repeat it again. And again. What happened? Who are we waiting for? Nothing makes sense. You can’t go into the house, please wait outside. The police ask for identification, establish who is what relation to the lost one, who lives in the house, and what we were all doing before calling 911.

The police say words you don’t understand. You call his parents and his sister, because your partner is unable to; and cry even more as they arrive and fall under the weight of the grief that hangs over everything. You all wait in the cold while a parade of first responders and police tromp thru the house. Respectful, polite, somber. They offer their condolences and blankets and water bottles but don’t tell you anything, really. You call your children because they grew up with the lost one and they will be devastated but need to know. The police still won’t let you into the house. They hand you business cards, take photos, ask questions. Say the same words that make no sense. Neighbors come out to see what is going on, following the flashing lights. The police ask the same questions again. And again. No, we say. No.

There’s nothing to do so the police release everyone to stumble back to your house to get warm and wait. Hours go by and your mind is awash in memories and questions of your own. Every thought is of the one you just lost, almost-forgotten memories spark and demand attention. You think of the last time you saw them, your last interaction, and you wonder if you should have done something different. If you should have, could have, known. So many questions and so few answers.

Real-life investigations take much longer than you have been led to believe from TV shows. Statements are taken, referrals to grief counseling are handed out, more condolences. Numbness settles over you as you begin to wonder what to do. It’s far too late to do anything really, so you putter, wiping the counter and offering tea. You can’t sit still for long. The policeman gives you just enough answers to raise a million more questions: what if, why. Finally, everyone goes home and you try to sleep. It’s not possible, of course, and you can’t focus on anything except the grief and the questions. It is the early hours of the morning, the weekend; not much is going to happen until Monday. 

Grief steals your sleep, steals your appetite. You stumble thru the weekend, crying, making more phone calls, gathering with family, sharing the sadness, sharing memories. You force yourself to eat some carrots and celery from a platter, and drink too much coffee. You wonder what the hell to do now. The lost one was your brother, too; his life twined with your own from the day he was born and raised alongside your children – a brother to them as well, just a couple years apart – he is in three decades’ worth of memories.

Monday comes and you have to do something. Have to protect the parents because while losing a child is the worst thing that can happen to a parent there are things a parent should not have to see. You and your partner gather supplies – gloves, garbage bags, cleaners – and trudge down the street. You clean the kitchen first because it is easier, just normal cleaning of a dirty kitchen. Not fun, but not as heart-wrenching as what he is tackling in the other room. You steel yourself, bar your heart and barricade your mind as you focus on the cleaning. You sweep up garbage, gather mail, pick up dirty clothes from the living room, throw out rotten potatoes. Finally you go join him in the other room because it’s too much for one person and he should not bear this alone; you try not to think as you kneel beside your partner and help scrub and rinse and throw towels away, tears running down your face. 

The day moves on and anger settles in like a storm cloud. You yell at the lost one in your mind and cry all over again as plans and arrangements are made. The anger wars with the grief, each alternately taking control of your thoughts until regret sneaks in and even as you reassure others that it isn’t their fault you wonder what if. Why.

Tuesday comes and you can’t quite face the world but you can’t sit in the house any more so you put a coat on and walk and walk and walk. A bus takes you somewhere you can be anonymous and you choke down some food because you know you should. But the world is small and you run into a relative; it catches you by surprise and you do your best to not break down in public. You stumble home and reach out to your children, check on them, feel angry again that they must deal with this loss.

Later that night you catch your breath a little bit – you find yourself chuckling at a stupid game show on TV. You get a few hours sleep, take a shower, and go to work because you need something else to think about.

Wednesday. You eat half an apple and some peanut butter, still no appetite for a real meal. And then a friend says they are thinking of you and suddenly you are drowning again, hiding in the bathroom as ugly sobs wrack your body, the pain knifing through your heart.  Your control is on thin ice, your mind will not stay out of the memory trenches and it only takes one kind word, one awkward hug, one sympathy card left on your desk and you are lost again.

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