Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Back in the Day

Yesterday Julia and I were riding in the car. I forget her exact question, but my response was to describe to her what it was like to be a single 20-something independent woman with a cluster of good friends. She wanted to know what my social life was like when I was ... oh, about 24.

It was quite good!
Biloxi beach trip, late March, maybe 1987?
Julia keeps in touch with her friends via computer or cell phone. They text or skype. I told her to imagine her social life without any form of computer and no personal phone, just a landline house phone. Bemused, she asked how we planned things.

Bemused, I tried to remember. I think we planned ahead better. We contacted each other during the week and assumed we would do something on the weekend -- whoever was available. Was Wendy out of town? Did Beth have a date? Well, then Lee, Darlene, Sheila, Lissy, and I would hang out. Generally, most clusters of friends need: a driver, a house, a fun person, a money person. By the time we were in our early 20's, we all had jobs, cars, and apartments, and most of us had some cash, so we were capable of loads of fun. We didn't assume we could do anything at the last minute though. If you waited to the last minute to have fun with your friends on a Friday night, you were likely to be home alone.
watching a movie at Lee's apartment -
I'm in my loud and fun mood.
People planned house parties. A couple of weeks ahead, we'd hear by word of mouth that Wendy was having a Hawaiian luau in her backyard. That party would be the topic of conversation in our big group (about 50+ singles who were vaguely connected via the same church). By the time we all showed up at Wendy's, the anticipation was palpable. Everybody looked great. Romantic sparks were likely to fly. Somebody would start talking about the next event.

I remember one bizarre night when I had nothing to do on a Friday evening. Nothing!At the time, my roommate and I had no T.V. Personal computers did not exist in 1987. It creeped me out to be in my apartment with only books to read and a big stereo (complete with turntable, receiver, tape deck, and two massive speakers) for entertainment.

I miss those days. Life was quite real, tangible, tasty. Interactions were eye-to-eye. The food you saw was smelling good  on a plate in front of you, not sizzling on a facebook ad. TV, magazines, and movies existed, but TV was full of commercials, magazines were for teenagers and old people, and movies were only at the cinema. "Home" was just a place to sleep, store your clothes, and host an occasional get-together. All the fun happened elsewhere, with friends.

I miss those days. Guys had to work hard to get you on a date. There was less to do at home, and more to do elsewhere. Shopping for clothes wasn't an online experience; you went to McRae's with friends and giggled in the changing rooms. You spent hours driving around town in a car, checking out guys' houses that you had crushes on, strolling into the pizza parlor, sitting down, sipping a drink, driving some more. You squeezed into bench seats and sang along with the radio -- the radio! Everything took time. Time is valuable. So every interaction, every friendly exchange, had value. Life was slower because it took more time to do anything, but you savored it too.

I lived without the internet until I was about 36 years old. I lived without a smart phone until I was 51. An unconnected life feels normal to me, and I still view this machine as only a tool. It's a device, it's fun, and I can set it down if I need to. I don't think Julia and kids in her generation view their web-connected computers that way. An online life is deeply embedded in who they are.

The video below is a TED Talks by a woman who went off-line for a year. Later, she and her husband moved to rural Idaho to live off the electric grid with their three kids. She addresses an issue I hadn't considered:  Living an online life causes you to be addicted to the constant personal feedback and validation it gives. Online, you express yourself and people respond. They tell you your blog post is wonderful, or your profile pic is wonderful, or your instagram photos are wonderful. What if nobody ever told you that your expressions of yourself were wonderful? What if you had to satisfy yourself merely with the joy that the expression itself gives? Would that be enough?

It was enough for me when I wrote bad poetry in college. It was when I played the piano alone at night. It is for anybody who does his thinking and arguing internally, and his brilliance never escapes his own head. I don't want to think we've grown a whole generation of humans who suffer with the insecurity of needing constant online validation. Have we?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Wearing Compression Pantyhose

I inherited my mother's bad veins. After a doctor visit, and a visit to a vein specialist, I returned for a Doppler ultrasound of both my legs. The results surprised me. I have severe reflux in both legs. That means that the valves in my veins aren't closing properly, and blood is going back down in my veins. Eventually this can cause swelling, although I don't have that yet. I don't have the ugly little spider veins; those wouldn't be worth addressing. I have bulgy varicose veins, and after being on my feet for an hour or two my legs ache and I have to sit down. That is SO "old lady"!!

But wearing compression hose is also quite "old lady." I feel like there's no hope for me to be young and 17 ever again!! Waaaaah!

Alright. I'm over THAT :)

I was prescribed compression hose, and I giggled and thought, "I'll never get those." But the reality is that if I don't wear the hose my legs will worsen until I need the light surgery to skinny up those vein valves, and afterward I'd have to wear the compression hose anyway! So I bit the bullet, bought the hose.
They don't look too bad.
These things are so sturdy. I've been wearing them about three weeks, and I've only put two runs in the left leg (grr), but they are up high and don't show. The compression is strongest around the ankle and gradually decreases as you go up the leg. I was afraid that the part around the body (the panty part) would be uncomfortably tight (remember the support hose of days gone by?). But no! That part is not compression, and it's comfortable to me all day long.

That's saying something from a woman who hasn't worn a pair of pantyhose in about 8 years because I loathe pantyhose.
I'm still accepting the fact that compression hose are probably my future for the next 30+ years. When I see ladies strolling in Oriental in their beachwear with their bare legs and flip-flops - ladies far beyond 30 or even 40, mind you -- I must realize that I no longer have that bare-legged freedom. Sigh. But I do have legs that feel very, very good when wearing the hose, and very good afterward too. I'm supposed to wear them morning to evening, never to bed. Mine are 20-30 mmHg. (mmHg means millimeters of mercury -- a measurement of pressure felt by the wearer.) They last for 6 months (supposedly). They cost me $135, although perhaps I could get them a little cheaper online. I try not to think how much that will cost me the rest of my life, total.

I recommend this if your legs and your physician require it of you. I'm hoping to avoid the swollen ankles, painful legs, limping, and general immobility that comes with age, if I don't care for my legs. If any of you have any comments or advice about compression hose, please contribute!

Friday, June 24, 2016

For Lisa: The Hippie Farm Mama Look

Lisa, from Pen and Ink, asked me to show the sparkly thrift store skirt. I'm calling this my hippie Bohemian look, or whatever adjectives you care to toss around. Casual, Feminine. Cotton. Cool. Drapey.
A close-up of some of the bling
On the same day, I bought this one, my favorite:
Both these first two skirts have an underneath panel that goes from the waist to mid-thigh, 
a kind of slip, so I don't have to put on my polyester slip. Yay!!
A while back I bough this one at the same store.
I wait until they have a sale where everything's $2.
This one I bought there also, over a year ago, in a slightly thinner stage, but it still fits.
You'll notice a red theme emerging here. Not sure why, but I don't wear red, and I don't own red shirts.
This one's not all cotton, but it fits the bill.
Adam says he prefers skirts that fall from the hips and are full.
He does not like pencil skirts.
Good thing, then, that it's been years since I resembled a pencil!
I was down to one stained red t-shirt, so today (during their $2 top sale) I went to the thrift store and picked up THREE tops! I'm utterly spoiled for ever again shopping at a regular store.
The only label I could find that would fit this post is "fashion," but I'm not quite sure about that one either ....

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Fabric and Yarn

Adam is the starcher and ironer around here. I care not a bit for ironed clothes. He, however, dips his pants, shirts, and shorts in liquid starch, dries them on the line, and irons them faithfully. Our ironing board has been the bane of his clothing existence. I think we found it in the basement of our house in Statesville, back in the days before he ironed. The cover is really atrocious.

See what I mean? And the pad underneath is antique.

I personally thought the cover was shudder-worthy, but Adam doesn't care to replace it, as long as we could find a new cover. But the covers at WalMart didn't fit, and they cost about $20!

Nasty old drawstring in a nasty old casing (above) and look at the archaic underneath snaps (below)!
I told him I could make a new cover, so we picked out some fabric -- 
Waverly, which is a decent brand -- a thick, sturdy cotton fabric.
I began by sewing a thin hem all the way around, to stabilize the edge. 
Then I sewed a slim elastic all the way around too, folding the hem over it as I went 
and pulling the elastic quite tight around the hose and back end, but not so tight on the sides.

I'm quite pleased with how snugly the nose end fits, and to assist that, I added two bands of elastic that run underneath the board. This is some thick, hardy elastic I cut off a new pair of sandals because it made the shoes uncomfortable. But it was perfect for this project.
Not very attractive under there, but we really only care how well it works.
I was so afraid I'd cut the fabric too short and would run out on the other end ... that (you guessed it)
 I had too much. I tucked it together and put a fat safety pin on either side. 
Adam says he doesn't use that end anyway. Well! So much for that practical sewing!
Just as I was walking out of the fabric department, I saw this stuff, and I simply could not resist!
It will be an apron.
Now, on to the loom. Here's the scarf I'm making now. That's my sparkly $2 skirt from the thrift store, underneath :)
For the warp I'm using crochet thread again, a variegated purple/green spool that was on clearance at WalMart.
For the weft I'm using this lovely lavender that I bought 
after Christmas at Hobby Lobby. 
It's luscious.
I'm adding a little accent of this silver yarn that I found at Weaver's Webb, 
the sinfully guilty yarn store that sucks you in and spits you out only after 
you've emptied your wallet.
This will be another one for fall sale at the farmers' market. I'm eager to see how quickly they sell, and which ones are oohed and awwed over, and which ones are deemed ugly. You never know!
That's what the fingers have been up to.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Whirlwind of the Past

Sometimes I have a night when sleep evades me and my mind dwells on the past. Not in a morbid way, regretting sadnesses or mistakes. Just contemplating the many years and trying to see a pattern, a plan in it. There was a bit  of chaos in the past 25+ years, and since I know we weren't behind the wheel, I'm assuming God was.

But when I look back at the children's early years, raising them, school and t-ball and homeschooling and moving again and again. Girl Scouts and Christmas trips. The discipline and the tears, the math and the fun field trips, the squeezing into the car with a dog or two -- all of it seems like a whirlwind. If you've read Dante's Inferno and remember the level of hell where the lovers suffer, it's a little like that -- looking back at the decades of my life with my family is like viewing a whirlwind, and then stepping into the whirlwind. It's fast, chaotic, almost furious, I long to catch a glimpse of something tangible, but each image flits past. In the rushing images of the past, I try to reach out and grasp a firm hold on each child, so I don't lose them, but it's all a mirage.
not all of these are mine!
I felt sad last night, thinking of those years as so fleeting and so vague. Perhaps I was too busy? Too occupied frantically trying to hold things together? I was working so hard to make sure each child had a good education, ate well, had enriching activities, spent lots of time outside, had friends, used his or her imagination, took the SAT, went off to college. Then I drew a deep sigh of accomplishment and turned my attention to the next one in line. And before I knew it, and after years that seemed both long and fast, it's over. (Almost.)

If you've never read the short story, "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall," you should. An old lady on her death bed rehashes and relives her life, and she has alternating feelings of accomplishment, failure, and longing to do it all again. I always squirmed when I read that story because I know she is a pathetic character, but I feel a connection with her. I would go back and do it all again. I can't believe I'm saying that, but I would. To have the children little again? I would do that. To hold them in my arms as babies. To wash their clothes and make their pancakes and mix their bottles and vacuum their rooms and buy them snow boots. I wish I could do it all and know that each deed is not tedious but a gem. Of course, it's only a gem in retrospect. If I were doing it all again -- all of it -- it would be tedious again. Perhaps that's part of the curse.

I need to shake these thoughts out of my head because we're starting on a new part of life, a fresh start with the children (nearly) out of the house and pursuing their own wonderful dreams. And wonderful they are! But I miss them. Mostly I feel I did not adequately get to know them while I had them. I watched them, oh, I watched them. I do know them well. But I never let them know that I knew them -- I don't think I let them realize that they were known and desperately valued. Not enough.

For the young mothers out there, I cannot tell you to do it differently. You just do it. Try to tuck away memories in photos or mementos or family jokes and private memories only you know. Engage your children in real conversations. I spent too much time teaching them. I should have spent more time just talking.

Eventually I fell asleep, and this morning the sunlight made things feel better. If my children are reading this, I love you and miss you so very much. Run after those dreams, and when you have those precious grandbabies, let me squeeze them tight, let me talk and not teach, tell them silly stories. Live your lives more slowly than I did. May your whirlwinds not turn so fast.

A friend posted this on her blog, and I copy it here. The quote is from Naomi Nye.

"There is a Thai saying: ‘Life is so short, we must move very slowly,’ ….
Being busy has become our calling card, our sign of success, our obsession—
but poetry doesn’t want us to be busy. 
When you live in a rapidly moving swirl, you can only view your surroundings with a glance. 
Poetry requires us to slow down, to take time to pause."

A rapidly moving swirl. Viewing my past with glances. I want better for the next decades of my life. May God bless me with a slower pace.

Friday, June 17, 2016

My attempt at Mrs. Belz's writing exercise:

If you read my last post and tried the creative writing prompt at the end, here's mine:

Our first date happened on August 8, 1988. He makes grilled chicken sandwiches while I scrub laundry, and the old kitchen is musty and warm with our shy conversation. The recollection of lengthening shadows is like a promise.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Rainy Day Mutterings

I wish I could say it was rainy enough to warrant the amount of time I've spent inside today, sorting through old boxes of stuff. It needed to be done. I'm trying to cram boxes and bags of my stuff and the kids' stuff under the guest room bed. The time had come to address two huge boxes of school records and old family documents. Just stuff.
Happily, I reduced it all down to one bin!
Sadly, the bin has no lid. Those folders and papers you see are just a fraction of the old teaching documents I keep from the three schools where I taught high school English (and a little history and Bible). My mind is flooded with memories both happy and sad. I found old checkbook registers and an old calendar from 2003, the year we moved away from Alabama. That was a very hard, gloomy year when Adam was so sick, lost his job, and we moved in with my parents. It was also a glorious year of finding diagnosis and treatment for him! But oh the work, stress, and worry we went through to get there! Words on a screen simply can't convey the weariness of life that year. I felt our family was overshadowed by a dark cloud of sorrow. But all of that passes with time.

Through it all -- illness, many moves, friends found and lost, laughter and anger and despair -- I taught school. I educated so many children. If I wasn't homeschooling my own children I was teaching full-time in a school. How did we do it all? How did we cope with the constant waves of gaining and losing in life? It wore me out.

For a great teaching experience, I must say that my best year was probably our year in Massachusetts. Not that I didn't love teaching at Cono in Iowa, where I learned to be a teacher, nor that I didn't appreciate my years in Statesville. But that one year in Upton, MA I had more freedom to teach what I wanted and how I wanted. I gathered about me all the American literature and history and all the ancient literature and history that I loved. And with a small group of students (maybe 13 total?) we fleshed it all out. I chose my own textbooks and compiled many documents from public domain. We studied more, and more deeply, than any other year.

I homeschooled for ten years ... eleven (I think) if you count what I did with Julia this past year. I've kept only a smattering of books from all those years with Christian Liberty.
Adam just reminded me of how thrilled we were each year when the curriculum boxes arrived! I'd forgotten. Those years were certainly not all gloom and hard work. I especially cherish memories of field trips with the children. I loved those.

I want to share one more very special thing with you, for those of you who love creative writing. The woman whose classes I inherited at Cono Christian School, Jean Belz, gave me a writing assignment she'd used, and I've loved it ever since. I wish I could find the original light blue page she wrote on, but it's tucked away somewhere unknown. But I made copies for my students, and here is one:
Here's what you do. Write a paragraph of three sentences. The first sentence should be in past tense and contain a particular date. Mrs. Belz writes, "I was married on October 15." Simple enough. She always wrote simple, direct, elegant prose. The second sentence should switch to present tense, moving the reader into the event. This sentence should be complex and descriptive, engaging as many of the five senses as you can reasonably do. She writes, "On that day the sky is deep blue, the trees are on fire, the garden stuff is stowed away, and the wood fires send out marvelous fragrance." The third sentence is quite fun. From the lists you see on the page above, choose one item from each list and combine them to make this third sentence. She chose "The effect of autumn is like a dream."

The finished product is a perfect whole, and my students produced some fun paragraphs using this exercise. It's useful for beginning writers who don't think they can write; it gives them enough guidance to bring them along, and always produces a satisfying result.

Why don't you give it a try? Leave your paragraph in the comments, or you can do a short blog post about it on your own blog, and leave a comment or link so we can follow along and read it. Okay? Ready ... set ... go!