Oh To Be Awake

Pee, brush teeth, comb hair, and I’m good to go most mornings. No need for coffee or other brew, perhaps add 30 minutes of ignoring me, but I’ll promise, that’s it, I’ve turned into a more or less pleasant person ready to interact with the world.

Last night I discovered that it takes totally different skills to wake up at night. And here I thought all I had to do is reach for a book or the iPad to make me sleepy again.

The decision was to reach for a book: Justin Cronin’s The City of Mirrors. Fiction, the third in a series. The other option would’ve been Heather Ann Thomson’s Blood in the Water, The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy.

City of Mirrors introduced a new character from back in the 1960s and even mentioned Attica which amazed me and reinforced my belief in the synchronicity of life. Justin Cronin also amazed me by the meticulous research he must have done of that period. I kept wondering when the fiction part of the book would kick in, realizing that I didn’t know enough about this history to even notice. I plodded on. But it didn’t keep my interest and that chapter never connected to the plot in a way I could relate.

I closed the book and put it down and that’s when I realized, looking at the cover, that I’ve actually been reading Blood in the Water, about Attica.

My state of awareness in the middle of night might take some hair and teeth brushing, too.

With all these sign of pointing to confusion at my age, there is always the worry of dementia that comes in many versions. But like all the other signs, I’ll ignore this for now. The possibly obvious still rests under a blanket of plausible excuses. Let’s go with that.

There have been tons of health issues that kept me from interacting with my world here. Instead I’ve been working on pussyhats and other knitting. The Trump election has me confused and angry. The coming Saturday’s demonstration or march in Sacramento is therefore very welcome.

 

Hoarding #358

Here is a topic I keep on coming back to: hoarding.

Philosophers and other thinkers have contemplated life and death, ethics, the mind, emotions, historically just about every topic. And in my youth I probably fancied myself a philosopher with great and deep thoughts, especially when enhanced with a mind-altering influence.

So why do I sit here today and all I have are mundane problems and I can’t even come up with mundane solutions?

I’m cleaning out our shed (thanks Stephen for doing the heavy lifting and dirty work), and I look at this huge pile and contemplate. Left to my usual behavior I know the outcome. In no time everything is back in the shed with a little order, all the while feeling good that I’m accomplishing something.

In the end, there will be 2 boxes I recycle and some little stuff to be thrown away. In other words, nothing accomplished but I scared a few black widows for a change .

So I contemplate some more this time. I try the method of holding each object and seeing how I feel about it. Turns out I have feelings for my table saw.

So I contemplate some more. I look at these objects and their uses. I still think the table saw ranks high on that scale, too. But how about the wallpaper books?

What you don’t know: even before I turned 18 I came across this article in a magazine that showed how to make miniature scenes. Dollhouses you could call them, except they were grocery stores, fabric stores, etc. My heart longed to make these miniatures but my life had other ideas.

Many years ago a wallpaper store gave me their old books, including fabric sample books. So for years now I carry these around, or rather stand them in a corner of the shed. Because, one day I will make these miniature scenes. I did copy a whole book from the library, an out of print book, and before the internet, on how to make the structures themselves. I’m hoarding that, too.

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First I waited for the kids to leave the house, check. Then I waited for retirement (I have no idea why I thought that one, having practically been retired all my life).

But since the kids left I immediately filled up every minute of my time with new projects. Never time for the ones I was hoarding saving.

Life is too exciting to limit myself. I get involved in more and more activities, just like the true gemini I am. Of course I might never get to those dollhouses, but can I really be sure, 100%? I won’t and can’t if those wallpaper books are gone, so back into the corner with you, perhaps this winter.

I’ve lost interest in other stuff I saved. Excited about them years ago, yawning now. But who knows, I might be jumping up and down one day rediscovering that stuff. I should let it go for now, but it hasn’t happened yet.

I can still maneuver through our house, so bite me.

What? No More Books?

OK, so here it is. I recommended a book on Facebook to someone and got pounced on.

The story started with a mom writing about creating a chart of chores for her kids involving bribery (her word, not mine). I understand, been there, done that. But then I remembered a pivitol book I read back when our kids were younger that caused me to abandon the gold stars for a while.

The book: Alfie Kohn’s Punished by Rewards. It was eye-opening. All I would get from the kids with the gold star system would be compliance as long as the rewards kept coming. What i should hope for is a kid who wants to show certain behavior, deep down. Hmm.

Made total sense to me at the time. By now I’m probably misrepresenting Kohn’s ideas and have made them my own version, but they are ideas that have followed me through life.

I can pay people to do what I want, I can bribe them with stuff they want, I just have to keep dangling the rewards. I wanted more for my kids. For them to do and want what felt right, regardless of goodies.

So I was happy to point out that some people believe that this gold star or bribery system might have some drawbacks, and I recommended Kohn’s book. Here is the actual post: “re. bribery: perhaps worth looking into what alfie kohn said about this topic in punished by rewards.”

I was not prepared for the backlash. From ‘parenting books make me want to vomit’ to ‘too busy being a good mom to waste time reading books by people who don’t know my kids.’ Really?

Did these folks not read one pregnancy book either? It’s certainly the first thing I turned to when I found out I was pregnant. And not just because we lived a bit isolated in Italy. I wanted to know all the minutiae about pregnancy and delivery. No one’s word was good enough. I had to know it all. Of course we all read books that fit within our framework of beliefs, so it started out with Leboyer, Odent, Spiritual Midwifery, Immaculate Deception, etc. I bet you even recognize some names here.

So what’s with the new moms? No more knowledge from books? Just lore and myth and experience? How does one get from what is to what could be?

We ended up as unschoolers, with many books and newsletters by John Holt at our side and bedside. He was the one who recommended Alfie Kohn and others we read. It all fit so neatly with our beliefs, there was no hesitation: Should we, shouldn’t we?

I’m not talking self-help books, though we grasped for them in later teenage years. Mostly books that opened our minds to new ways of raising kids, believing in our kids. That can be difficult at times when society tries to tell you exactly how they should be, what movies they should watch, what games they should play, what clothes they should wear.

Books I remember: Free at Last – The Sudbury Valley School; Stories They’ll Remember – Frank LordGreenleaf – An Autobiography of a ChildAlfie Kohn’s Punished by Rewards; John Holt’s Learning All the Time and How Children Fail, etc., and on and on. All books that had a profound impact on me as a parent. The most important aspect though was not the question am I doing it right or wrong, but the question is my kid OK.

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Children are all so different that one needs to keep on having faith in them and believing in them and supporting them, no matter how crazy it gets at times. No, I’m not writing my own book here or advising, that’s just what I felt. And at times I was good at it and other times a miserable failure. Then I would pick up a book and recover my faith.

Perhaps parents nowadays are not faced with such doubts as I was. Books are unnecessary because they know it all already or don’t want to know. Strange as this seems to me, I have to accept that the world might be changing and maybe books on children and parents are part of the past.

John Holt et al., I appreciate you took the time to write and open my eyes to a larger world and to my children. You made us part of a bigger movement that is still going strong. And I’m grateful to have been there almost at the beginning and able to contribute.

We learn from each other and we learn from books and we learn from life and our mistakes and successes. We should never shut out any source of information, no matter what aspect of life. A good thing that we get to pick and choose and have our opinions on what we read and hear and see. But quit reading? Never!

Board Games

Among my many interests, the one I have been neglecting the most in recent years is collecting, learning, and playing board games. But this has changed now!

I’m into my hobbies with a vengeance. As someone put it: I’m like a dog with a bone, I can’t let go. Yes, it applies here, too.

The modern history of board games is very interesting. What I call the modern history starts with the game of the year in Germany, or “Spiel des Jahres.” A history, alas in German, is here.

What’s important to me is that some clever and cool people got together and supported the idea of an annual selection and prize for the best game. This would spread the word that there are new games every year and some of them pretty damn good enough to earn the official game of the year stamp.

Somehow the word even spread to the U.S. and of course other countries, and now I’m able to play with people even though I’m far from home.

There were games before that, of course. Who doesn’t know chess and checkers and monopoly? But these games are different. I could rave about them all day long, but the best would be to try them yourself.

If you happen to live close to us, you’re lucky to have access to hundreds of these games on my shelves. But every town seems to have gamers that welcome new players. Check on boardgamegeek, it’s the online equivalent of ravelry for knitters. You’ll find us at the user name “gbergs,” and you can check out our game collection and some other stuff about us.

The first game to earn a prize from the “Spiel des Jahres” folks was “Hase und Igel,” a.k.a. “Hare & Tortoise.” That was in 1979, and they haven’t missed awarding the prize since. Not only that, they now have 3 award categories: game of the year, children’s game of the year, and gamer’s game of the year.

I would still recommend Hase und Igel to everyone, even after all those years. It’s a very simple game that keeps our interest. You know about Chutes and Ladders, right? I always wonder why anyone even bothered to waste resources on making that game, and yet people continue to buy it. Roll the dice, move along a track, and sometimes something happens because of a space you land on. No decisions to make, very brainless.

Hare & Tortoise has a track too. But you don’t roll a die or dice to move along. Instead, you’re propelled by carrots, which you receive at the beginning of the game. Of course you don’t get enough carrots to make it to the finish line, so along the way you have to replenish your supply by moving backwards on the track. Be careful though, because you have to have less than 10 carrots to pass the finish line. You might want to land on some of the fields that let you look at cards and do what they tell you. And you have to get rid of the 3 lettuce cards you start the game with, by landing on a limited number of lettuce fields and missing a turn. Perhaps that will give you an idea of how much more interesting than Chutes & Ladders this game is.

Hase und Igel is a game for 2 to 6 players, ages 10 to 99, though I can imagine a spry 100-year-old would still enjoy it.

So what’s the price for these games? That depends, they start in the $10s and go all the way to $100 and possibly more, especially if they’re out of print. But I imagine you’re not that hooked yet. You can get a good collection together with games that only set you back $20 to $50 apiece.

Think about it. You go to the movies, how much does that cost you? For a family of 2 to 4? And once you’ve seen a particular film, you most likely had enough of it, a one-time affair. With a game, you’ll be playing it over and over and over and over. Let’s say it costs you $40 and you play it 10 times, that would be $4 per game, not even per player. It doesn’t get much cheaper.

And compared to the price of yarn, don’t get me started.

If you’re in search of a hobby, this is a good choice. A byproduct of gaming, and one I’m counting on, is the mental factor. That’s my brain keeping engaged in a game and therefore hopefully slowing down its demise. As we get older, this aspect is becoming more important to us.

I’ll bet you would like to see some of my game collection. Here ya go.

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Names

I’ve been called many names in my life. My favorite: alien. My least favorite: illegitimate.

When the kids were little and I got to tell them that their mom was an alien and had proof in the form of a government card, it made my day. Let’s hope they let me be an alien for the rest of my life.

But it’s the least favorite that left some scars. Born out of wedlock or illegitimate in a small German village left a stigma with consequences I didn’t realize at the time. Certain kids were not allowed to associate with me, perhaps they thought illegitimacy was contagious.

So when one day a classmate approached and wanted my company and advice I felt flattered. Me? Little wee me? The outcast? Yes.

Since I lived next to a kitchen and knickknack store and she was searching for a present for her mom, she enlisted me to help pick it out. I was exhilarated.

It seemed like hours we were in that store, looking at every single item. Every choice I suggested was met with a: no, not the right thing. Eventually the store closed and we had to leave empty-handed. I felt sad that I failed her.

She left for home, and within minutes the shop owner rang our doorbell. I was dumbstruck when they accused me of theft in front of my grandmother. Yes, of course I had been to the store, duh. But i certainly didn’t steal a thing. It felt so weird, I started laughing and have never forgiven myself for that response as I thought now for sure I’d made myself look guilty. Perhaps I laughed because I didn’t want to cry. Or about the absurdity of the situation.

I had nothing to hide and nowhere to hide anything. I didn’t even have my own room but had to sleep in a room with my grandmother.

I was played. And well. All out of my feelings of inferiority. And perhaps that’s where my sense of justice was born. Thanks for that.

Computers and Denver and Being Back

My first world problem this fall: my computer. Great iMac I had inherited from Stephen, huge screen, fast and shiny, but started having graphic card trouble. A known issue for this particular computer. Sigh, macs are not what they used to be, or did they just fall off my pedestal?

Repair, right?! At the tune of hundreds of dollars, something like $600, it seemed more prudent to invest into a new computer. Did I mention first world problem?

Finally the macbook pro joined our family, loves traveling with us, and has shown to be effective and efficient for me and Stephen working on the road.

So what’s been happening over here? A trip to visit daughter in Denver and my first snow experience of the year. Did it have to be a blizzard that delayed our flight for a day? But a nice walk in her Denver neighborhood (Highlands), getting some food and wine and enjoying and celebrating the extra day. There might have been boardgames involved too, or was that a crossword puzzle? I do remember Stephen ending up on the floor in their fixer upper chair:

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Since Liana is getting married next year they took us to their wedding venue and the restaurant that will do the catering. The restaurant was featured on one of the Man vs. Food episodes, no, this will not be the theme of the wedding.

Here are some pictures of the venue out in the country:

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Yes, it did get a bit silly!

Back home, Daisy was not doing so well. She has slowed down in the last months, but now she was super slow, enough for us to take her to the vet. Turns out she has a collapsed disk in her spine. Pain is what slowed her. She is on meds and doing better, on today’s walk she even felt young enough to dance around a dog she wanted to play with. If you know Daisy you know how extremely rare such a reaction is.

I don’t really want her to run too much. It can’t be that good for the disk. But pain is under control apparently. She also gets to claim as much bed as she wants during the night. This actually has gotten out of hand, Stephen and I combined have less space than Daisy has.

On the knitting front, I’ve ordered some yarn, but you’ll have to wait until it arrives to get a peek at it. No yarn from Denver, not even a yarn store. There used to be one around the corner from Liana, but it moved. This made our vacation much cheaper, of course.

They do have a game store relatively close, and I got them Agricola. Though I love the game I made a fatal mistake that had me in a position with no chance in hell to get caught up. I tried to get out of the game and do something else, but pressure from the other players kept me prisoner. I did random moves with eyes closed, or tried to sabotage others’ moves. I still love the game, but that particular experience was a drag.

In the meantime while in Denver, a game arrived in the mail: Castles of Burgundy. A few weeks later and we haven’t played it yet. Thanksgiving really got in the way. And my old brain power that is not so keen on reading rules anymore, or rather understanding them. What? Turn to page 8 to see details? There is a page 8 in the rules? That used to be fun, not anymore.

Thanksgiving went well with some unpleasant surprises, but we’ll overlook those since most of my life we’ve had great Thanksgivings to look back on. The food was good, and all vegan!

 

 

 

 

 

Osteoporosis

If I can’t be a role model then let me be the bad example.

Now what? After back pain that would not go away, I finally visited a chiropractor, especially since my doctor said he couldn’t do anything and it might be my best bet. After 3 visits of manipulation and hammering and some sort of electrotherapy and whatnot, I felt no better than the moment I walked in the first time.

He recommended that I get x-rays through my health insurance and come back so he could take a closer look. I felt he had given up on me.

Next time I ended up with my doctor, I asked for those x-rays and he complied. Results? Lumbar compression fracture of the L3. Next? Bone density scan.

Results? Osteoporosis.

What if – ok, there are many what ifs –but what if my 3 chiropractor visits caused some more harm? Why did my doctor not come up with the idea to check out my back but kept sending me home with ‘getting old causes all kinds of ailments’ and he was sorry I’m going through such a hard time? What if I’d lived my life in x, y, or z different ways?

Osteoporosis is more common than I ever thought. More than half the population here in the U.S. is affected  by either osteoporosis or low bone mass. It does not correlate in any way with the awareness about the issue. Have I heard about osteoporosis before? Of course. But was I worried? Nope. Even though after menopause the risk increases astronomically and of the people affected, 80% are women.

Part of the problem might be that there is no cure for osteoporosis. No going back. And it’s a new area in research. The solution now is dubious. Fosamax is recommended, and I won’t go into detail here, but there are too many side effects and doubts about this medicine, so I won’t take it. There is hormone treatment, but that’s out for me too, due to medical issues I carry around.

Vitamin D and calcium are very important factors in not developing osteoporosis. But as it turns out, I have enough of that stuff in my body. So no need to increase these amounts in my daily diet, though I will try to. Weight bearing exercises are recommended, but let’s be honest, every step I take hurts from the compression fracture. I do try to walk as fast as I can, but believe me, it’s not the 15-minute mile.

This is the beginning of my osteoporosis journey. I’m still very much confused and frightened and devastated.

Quilting Dreams

I love dreaming, and being able to interpret dreams is a passion. I am a pretty wild dreamer, as Stephen is my witness, or anyone who has ever been in a dreaming group with me.

It all started with a 1970s Psychology of Dreaming class that left a lasting impression. I recall owning a pair of PF Flyers at the time and dreaming about flying/floating with them after the first night of class. What a marvelous feeling of pushing off with one foot and floating along for many yards, so effortlessly.

One of the books used in the class was Creative Dreaming by Patricia Garfield. In the meantime I have added Jeremy Taylor to my repertoire. These books and a fantastic teacher (whose name I don’t remember) and his stories have left me with that lifelong passion for dreams.

Who doesn’t like the limitless escapes dreams can offer? Even bad dreams are good, because all dreams offer the potential for self-revelation.

My favorite part of interpreting my dreams is the instant knowledge that I got it right. You feel it all coming together deep inside. It’s one of the few times that life makes sense to me.

Recently I woke up from a dream that dealt with quilting. I had a stack of cut fabric squares about 10 inches high, ready for a project. Beats me why I was carrying it around, but I did, and when I entered a quilt shop I had to ask to put it down so I could look at the lovely new fabrics.

Immediately I noticed they had changed. No more boring or repetitive patterns, but now the fabrics depicted huge paintings over yards and yards. I wondered about the purpose of such huge prints and contemplated that quilting itself might have changed. I could see cutting the fabric into pieces and then getting complementary fabric for between them.

Without buying anything, I was heading out and could not find my stash of cut squares. The employees were different, and no one could tell me where my fabric was. The possibility that it had been sold to someone else horrified me. I was searching for it when I woke up.

I wondered why I was dreaming about quilting, an activity I hadn’t done in a while. I fell back asleep into another dream, where I had a baby. Suddenly I panicked, realizing I had ignored it for days, and could babies survive without any nourishment? When I discovered the baby it was white as snow and, I presumed, dead. I tried moving its limbs, afraid to touch it and somewhat repulsed by the idea I would touch death. But then I noticed tiny movement. I had to feed it quickly, did I still have breast milk after all this time? Yes, and I nursed the baby back to health, not to full rosiness, but to survival.

To connect the two dreams was easy. The baby is my quilting hobby that I have neglected for a long time, but apparently I can revive it. So I have plans for this summer.

I am not your regular quilter, if there is even such a thing. I’m not a precise person, I like eyeballing and guessing. That’s not a trait you want to have for quilting, where precision is highly rated. A good thing there is quilting for the rest of us.

Here is a piece from long ago that likes to be precise and where I somewhat succeeded. It is waiting for completion. Like so many things in my well-lived gemini life. If this quilt looks familiar, let it be known that I stole the idea from a quilting book cover. Sometimes I see things and just need to get them out of my system before I can go on.

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And here is a piece more to my liking and style. I did not invent this process, but Gwen Marston did with her idea of liberated quilt making.

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Here is my 15 minutes of quilting fame. An old article, and two pictures:

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Troubles

I was going to tell y’all about an experience I had as a 5 year old, but in doing research for it I came across all kinds of scandals and possibilities of what happened to me then. Before I can write about it I need to digest it and do some further research.

Instead, here is Yowza (take a look at Rocky Ridge colorway!) my favorite new yarn despite my project mishap, an attempt at moebius knitting. My latest Yowza came from Stitches West, here’s a picture of it all wound up.

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This is a sad story. Zooming along to the end of the cowl, no, let me get back to the beginning. With moebius knitting after casting on, there comes the moment of doing one twist, at least in my project. You know, take a strip of paper, twist one end once and tape together, voila, the moebius. Of course you could twist that strip of paper several times, and though it wouldn’t be pretty, it still can be done. Take a look at Cat Bordhi doing the knitting moebius so well.

After casting on hundreds of stitches, it becomes difficult to tell how many times you twisted your cast-on stitches. But with my usual bravado, not a good thing, I promise, I showed faith and knit on.

This is my usual m.o. with knitting: faith. I can’t imagine where it comes from. Sometimes it’s my dislike of the swatch. Other times it’s pure denial. I can’t be the only one who has this voice practically screaming into her ear that there’s a mistake and to measure or take a second look, or read the pattern again. Do I ever listen? Only when the voice shouts lies.

This is one of those times when it shouted a lie. At first the calm voice said to double check, make sure I didn’t do two twists. I ignored that voice because it would have meant starting over and I didn’t want to do that. At these points I’m not sure what my expectations are. Do I believe in magic? And not only do I believe in magic, but that I can make it happen?

As I was coming to the end, I had to face the parade, or is it face the music? Or face my knitting. Well, here it came, the loud voice: you screwed up, you should have checked, this is not working out!!! I so badly wanted the voice to stop screaming at me, I did the only thing I knew to stop it: pulled out the needles and started unraveling.

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Yes, I fell for it. As row after row was being undone a horrible realization washed over me, I had made no mistake at all. Now what? There was no going back or rather, no forward, all I could do was keep on unraveling and holding back tears.

And if this would have involved any other part of my life you could have committed me. Somehow with knitting I grow strong. Two days lost with knitting and nothing to show for it? No problem. The psychology of the situation is beyond me, perhaps someone should study it.

Me, I went to another skein and started another pair of socks. One sock done, another on the needles already. That didn’t go without sweat either. I’m using new yarn, for me. It has a very tight twist that might be a bit uncomfortable for a princess who feels the pea under 20 mattresses, but for the rest of us we like the twist and the sturdiness it produces in a sock. This yarn is from knitpicks and comes at a good price.

For non-knitters, it might come as a shock that I don’t blink at making socks where the yarn alone is $30. This money-friendly $11 skein has a drawback. It has only 357 yards. I’m more used to a 400-yard range and know I can comfortably knit any pattern and not worry about the length of the cuff or leg.

So what did I do? I knit a longer leg to test out the yarn. See how far it can go. What I had going for me is that the sock was for Liana who has the smallest foot size in the family, 7 1/2. The sweat pouring from me as I came to the toe of the sock could have alleviated the California drought. After having frogged the cowl, I would not be able to handle doing the same to the sock.

I’m not sure if the sock will fit her, but the yarn did last. Perhaps I should be looking around for someone with size 6 feet. It’s one of the rare times I used size 0 needles. Here’s a look at my experience with Hawthorne from knitpicks.

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Next time I’ll tell y’all about the real troubles in our lives right now.

Postpartum

Often I work on several knitting projects at a time. This year I’ve been focused on socks only. OK, yesterday I started a baby hat, but even that makes just 2 projects on the needles.

So now that the socks were done today, I get this feeling of loss, feeling disoriented, not knowing where to turn. I pace around the house without a purpose. Every yarn I try to swatch with is wrong, wrong, wrong. At the same time I have no head for a complicated pattern.

Sleeping on it might help. But for now I am a rebel without a cause.