Monday, August 26, 2013

Thoughts on visiting another country (sort of), missing my mom, and on growing older...and of course, there is knitting!

We went for a ride on BUS-B (the Butt-Ugly Silver Bike) today, around two hundred miles with no real destination in mind. We ended up in Holland...Holland, Michigan, that is, a lovely town a couple of hours away from home. Holland is in an area that has been heavily settled by immigrants from the Netherlands, and which includes the towns of Zeeland and Hudsonville (home of wonderful ice cream!), and the city of Grand Rapids (home of the Meijer store chain, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and Library, and the Frederik Meijer Sculpture Garden, and of my old friend, Phil...Hi, Phil!). It is a lovely set of towns there, the Dutch influence strongly evidenced in the tulip farms, windmill-, Delft pottery- and klompen-themed tourist attractions, tidy hip-roofed houses, neatly groomed lawns, and businesses whose names are filled with the letter 'y' and double vowels, beginning with 'van' or 'van der' and ending in 'ema', and 'stra'.

The route covered a particularly beautiful section of Michigan. Rolling farmland, orchards and vineyards lined the roads. I saw many apple trees of all varieties, growing unattended near abandoned remnants of old farmsteads and fruit stands, the branches heavily loaded this year with fruit. Last year's fruit crops in Michigan were decimated by extremely high temperatures and very limited rainfall. It was wonderful to see how nature has come back so strongly. I wondered if any of the trees I saw today in the middle of nowhere might be 'lost' or 'forgotten' strains. They were all most certainly hardy varieties, able to survive with no pruning or pesticides for many years, judging by the heights they'd attained.

I bought five pounds of freshly-picked blueberries at a farm market. This was their last day of picking for the year, so I am very glad we went out on this day. I bought ten pounds at an Amish stand north of the town where I work earlier this summer, but put most of those in the freezer for pies and cobblers this winter.. I love fresh blueberries, and will probably eat most of the ones I bought today like candy! There were many fruit stands open along the route. Most still have plenty of tomatoes, cucumber, sweet corn to offer, and some had freshly-dug potatoes for sale, as well.

We hosted, as we do each summer, an extended version of my husband's family reunion in early August, and had a wonderful time, as always. We did have one fairly unruly and disobedient young man present, and he decided to hide one of a pair of walkie-talkies, rather than share it with the other children. Today, I spent most of the morning excavating a storage area on the second floor of the house in an effort to find said radio and let me tell you, when you often work six-day weeks, spending half of one precious day off on such a pursuit does not put one in the best of moods. The lost is, however, now found, and while searching I stumbled across some forgotten things that were stored up there.
Quilt blocks: Double Irish Chain and Robbing Peter to Pay Paul patterns
My mother was a quilter. She loved cutting up yards and yards of perfectly good fabric, sewing it back together, and assembling it into beautiful blankets or pillows, which she would then hand-quilt and give to those she loved.

When she died, I was given her fabric stash, patterns, quilt stencils, tools, and unfinished projects, and today I found a box containing several works-in-progress and leftover parts and pieces from finished quilts. In the box were extra blocks from a quilt she made as a Christmas gift to my husband and I nearly twenty years ago. It was amazing to see how bright the blues and creams of the fabric were when they were new, as the actual quilt has been much-used and shows its age. I also found unused blocks from the quilt she made my son as his graduation gift. That was the last project she completed, as she died unexpectedly, early in the morning after his high-school commencement. I have the very last project that she began, a pillow top worked in the Polynesian style, her favorite, with a pink design appliqued on a cream-colored background. Her needle is still tucked into the fabric, just as she left it when she went to bed that evening.

My mother has been gone more than fifteen years now. The pain of her absence has faded with the years, and it is only on certain occasions that I realize just how much I miss her, and how much we lost when she passed on. She left us with a strong legacy of love and generosity, great humor and patience (most of the time!), but a fairly impressive vocabulary of foul language for the times when that patience failed her, an intense desire to hug and be hugged, to help others, to work hard and never say “I can't...”, to cherish family and friends, and to enjoy each day. Her childhood was difficult, her last years filled with pain and illness, but her love and laughter always shone through.

I look at my hands, the fingers beginning to ache and twist with arthritis, and my knees, grinding and painful with the same, and realize that she had two artificial knees by the time she was my age! I remember her asking my sister and I to come help her wash windows, as it hurt her hands to do that, and realize now that yes, it surely does hurt one's arthritic hands to wash windows! I limp through the house and understand that it's only a matter of years, and not very many years, before I will be walking with a cane or will have to have my joints replaced with titanium and stainless steel, and I wish I could talk to Mom about that. It frustrates me and makes me angry to walk so slowly and hesitantly, to have to take stairs two-footed instead of dashing up and down them, and to be stopped mid-stride when a knee seizes and binds (my mother's foul vocabulary doesn't make it hurt any less, but it gives me something to do while I wait for the pain to stop!) at this really not-so-very-advanced age that I have attained.

I wish that she could meet my grandchildren. She was gone many years before they were born, and I know she would have loved them.

I wish that she could see the store I manage. She would have loved it, too, and would have been very proud of the work that I do there.

I wish she could see this house that we are building.

I wish that she could have ridden on one of the motorcycles I've ridden over the past twelve years...she loved my little MG Midget that I drove before my son was born. I didn't ride motorcycles while she was alive.

I wish she could have met the friends I've made in the last fifteen years. She would have loved them, and they would have adored her.
I do miss her. We were so very, very lucky to have her in our lives.
Mom, probably around 1982

Robby came for a visit. He loves to just hang out by the little stream in my back yard, much more so than my other grandchildren. Andrea and Layla worry about snakes and bugs, and Ethan is just much too active and 'busy' to be attracted to that sort of quiet time. I made a little net from a thin, cotton bag, an old wire coat hanger, and a handful of tiny brass safety-pins, and Grandpa made a handle for it from a paint roller handle extension. Robby spent nearly six hours wading in the stream, catching minnows and water bugs, and generally having a splendid time!

Wading in the stream...and growing so tall I can hardly believe it

Waiting for the big ones

Pudgy came to help
All of the best stuff is under the bridge...
Lunch break while Grandpa takes a turn

I recently was given the opportunity to review a knitting book that will be published this fall. The title is Follow the Yarn, the Knitting Wit and Wisdom of Ann Sokolowski, by Reba Linker. It is an exploration of a friendship that grew between two women as one taught the other to knit. It is a chapbook by which to learn knitting skills from basic to advanced, but more than that, it is the story of how one person can inspire, teach, and empower others, while sitting at a table and making loops in string. The reader will find tips and tricks, stitch samplers, beginning and finishing methods and techniques, as well as a chronicle of relationships forged with fiber and sticks. One can use the phrase “knitting together” in various ways, and Ms. Sokolowski and Ms. Linker certainly knit together in the very best meaning of the phrase.

I am honored to have been allowed to read an advance copy of Follow the Yarn, and wish great success to Ms. Linker in its publication.Follow the Yarn will be published in paperback this fall, and will be available at and
In the meantime, readers can get a pdf copy of Follow the Yarn by donating as little as $5 to our Indiegogo campaign at (campaign ends July 9), or they can get a FREE CHAPTER of Follow the Yarn by signing up at: (emails will be kept strictly confidential - they will NEVER be given to a third party)
Last but not least, learn more at

Of course there has been knitting. I have finished this pair of socks:

Walking Through the Maze Gardens, probably already posted, but it won't hurt anyone's eyes to see them again!
And this pair:
Fall Creek Rib, a prize I gave at the Tennessee Lunch Run last April
and this pair:
"The Captain's Steps", designed and knit for the Captain's Wife

Both of the last two are of my own design. I have begun this pair:
Beanpole Socks, a mystery knit-along, pattern by Hypercycloid at Ravelry, yarn is Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock in Falcon's Eye, and a soft yellow from Louet Gems Opal

and this pair:
Another pair of "The Captain's Steps" socks, this time for the Captain, himself

and this pair:
Katwijker Frok by Erry Pieters-Korteweg, my favorite Dutch sock-pattern designer, in "Torrid Affair" hand-painted yarn from Rhichard Devries

and have several projects waiting to be begun. Idle hands are, after all, the Devil's playthings. . . : )

Be well. Be strong. Be happy.

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