Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Yarn Along 2016.48: Wednesday Again All Ready!

Joining Ginny very late on Yarn Along day.  I've lost all track of what day it is, with having the holiday over the weekend, and again on Monday with my in-laws.  Yesterday was my first day of work this week, so I'm finding that suddenly it's Wednesday night and I haven't done a yarn along post yet!

I finished the Tendril socks and they actually made it to their intended recipient on time!   DD2 loved them (and almost didn't want to give them away), and DD2's friend was really surprised to get a package in the mail containing those awesome hand knit socks.  As per usual with gift socks, I forgot to take a picture of them once they were completed.

After nearly a week of no knitting, and beginning to feel a bit stir crazy, I cast on last night for my next project.  It is a Knusa Shawl, as featured in the current issue of Taproot magazine.  I am knitting it in Quine and Co's chickadee in the color Delft.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Yarn Along 2016.47:Sock It Up

Joining Ginny this afternoon for the weekly Yarn Along.

I am soooo close to being done with the final sock of this pair of Tendril socks.  I had thought I might finish them last night; I am to the toe decrease and only have a dozen rows or so to go.  But, alas, sleep overtook me and they shall have to wait until later today to get finished.

In addition to knitting this week, I've also started reading two books.  One non-fiction; The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp; and one horsey themed fiction: The Head and Not the Heart by Natalie Keller Reinert. I'm only a dozen or so pages into either one, so not much to report on yet.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Christmas Letter

It seems like Christmas cards, and their accompanying newsy letters, are becoming a thing of the past.  Each year, we receive fewer and fewer; usually from the older generation of friends and relatives.  I have to confess that last year, in all the hubbub of the holidays with three generations living here, I didn't send out any cards at all.  Not a single one.  And not a single letter, either.  I'd been sending out Christmas letters since I first got my hands on a computer and printer (my sister-in-law's, I think) in 1998.

This year, I am determined to do better than be a Christmas card no-show.  Especially after hearing from numerous people how they missed reading my 'fun' letter last year; they felt like we'd lost touch.

So, I may be a bit late--being as I'm just now printing out the letter and realizing I need to go buy more stamps--but I'm going to get a letter and card into the hands of all our dear and distant loved ones this Christmas season.

With a few changes to keep this blog as anonymous for my family as possible, here is a copy of my 2016 holiday letter:

You might have noticed that this year's card is signed "DH and Kris".  If so, you might have said to yourself  "Wait, didn't their signature line used to take up half the card?  What happened to their kids?"

It's for that reason that this letter is written.  And, well, because we didn't get a letter or cards sent out in 2015, so you might be wondering what has been going on in our family for the past two years.

"What happened to their kids?" They grew up and moved out, every single one of them! (If you think you hear slightly maniacal laughter, you're probably right.)  This nest is empty!  After 26+ years of having kids at home, it's finally just DH and I.  Talk about culture shock!

So what are the kids doing now?  Well. . .

DS1, K2 and their two kids (K3 and Toad) lived with us from late September 2014 until early February 2016 when they moved into their own place about six or seven miles away. DS1 and K2 are both attending college, and both also work.  As you can imagine, that keeps them incredibly busy.  Add in a 4 year old and a 2 year old, and, well, yeah, what else is there possibly time for?  They did manage to squeeze in a wedding on May 23, 2015; it was a gorgeous day for their small outdoor wedding ceremony and reception.

DS2 graduated (summa cum laude) from (name of his college) on May 2, 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering.  He had a job waiting for him with (a member of the Big Three), and he has been living in the Detroit area since leaving the U.P. (when (his member of the Big Three) doesn't have him traveling to places like Kentucky, Arizona, or Mexico, that is!)  When he's not working or on business related travel, he likes to take off into the wilderness; he's hiked and backpacked in the Adirondacks, the Smokies, and on Isle Royale since graduating college.

DD1 is working her tail off finishing up her degree in Elementary Education with a certification in Early Childhood Education. She has two semesters to go. She has been living in Grand Rapids and attending (name of her college) campus there for the past couple of years.  When not in class, she has been working at a childcare center, and this fall she took on the lead teacher position for their infant/toddler room.  (For those of you who might be wondering, yes, she and Honorary Son are still together.  Honorary Son just graduated from (name of his college) earlier this month with a Bachelor of Science in Film and Video.) 

DD2 graduated high school in May 2015 (that was a super busy month for our family--two graduations and a wedding).  She is now in her second year at (name of her college) where she is NOT studying engineering.  (name of her college) is well known as an engineering school, but they also have other programs, as she likes to point out every time anyone says "oh, what kind of engineering are you studying?" when they hear that she attends (name of her college).  DD2 is majoring in Wildlife Ecology and has also declared a minor in International Spanish.  She absolutely loves life in the U.P., and typically calls home about once a week with something exciting to share about her classes.  This past summer, she worked for the DNR at one of the state parks near home, and was able to transfer to the state park near (name of her college) when it was time to go back to school; so she had not only a memorable summer, but also was able to keep working part time for a large portion of the fall semester.  Next time you see her, ask her about manning the check station during bear hunting season! 

And that is what happened to all our kids. 

Meanwhile, DH and I are starting to get the hang of being 'just the two of us' after all these years.  He is still kept very busy working for (a member of the Big Three, different from DS2) (you should hear the ribbing that goes on at the dinner table when DS2 comes home to visit).  If he's not at work, he's typically out in the woods either cutting firewood or hunting deer, depending on the season.  He took a really nice 8-point buck with his crossbow this past October.

I'm still working with horses, although this past August I left the farm I had been working at when you last got a Christmas letter from us.  Currently I do morning feed at a local eventing barn, as well as clean stalls at the dressage farm where I have been boarding and taking lessons since April of this year.  I'd shelved my riding aspirations in the frenzied years of getting kids through high school, and now I'm more than ready to focus on achieving my riding dreams.  I might end up being the oldest rider to ever reach the Grand Prix level, but darn it, I'm gonna get there someday!

So, that's pretty much what's been happening with all us (our last name here) for the past two years.

Being as I'm rather a bit late getting cards out this year (better late than not at all, like last year, eh?) I'm guessing it after Christmas as you are reading this.  We hope your Christmas was a joyful one.   May the New Year be filled with blessings.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Not Your Typical Birthday Present

My birthday was earlier this month.  It came, and it went, on a Tuesday, without ceremony.  The kids are all grown and busy.  DH never has been much for birthdays.  And I absolutely refused to bake my own birthday cake.  So, it came, and it went.  Without cake.  Without presents, too, not counting the card and check my parents sent.

DD2 arrived home from college for Christmas Break on Friday.  One of the first things she did after walking in the door and dumping armloads of stuff onto the kitchen counters and floor, was to present me with a belated birthday gift. Something she had seen, and instantly knew I would like.

Now, it's far from your typical birthday present.  Not jewelry. Not candy.  Not clothing. Not a book or a movie.  But it is perfect.  I love what she brought me.  This girl gets me.

Yep, that is a tree made out of rocks.  It's so quirky, and natural, and cool all at the same time.  She bought it at a 'rock show' (her words) at the college's mineralogical museum.

I've been entertaining myself by trying to figure out exactly what rocks (minerals) it is made of. The base is easily identifiable as amethyst quartz.  It's the green stones that make up the leaves of the tree that have us guessing.   They all have a milky, opaque quality, and vary in shade from pale green to almost a gray-blue-green.  Are they a type of chalcedony?  Smithsonite?  Hemimorphite? Aventurine? Something else entirely?  Where is a mineralogist when you need one?

In addition to figuring out the rocks it is made from, I need to figure out where this figurine is going to 'live' at this little place here.  Somewhere I can view it often.  It reminds me of the rugged, gnarled trees that grow along the windswept cliffs that can be found in certain spots along Lake Superior.  One of my favorite places to be.  Someday, when we retire, we shall move to such a place.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Yarn Along 2016.46: Halfway?

Joining Ginny a bit late today, but I made it!  It's been a busy day, and the snowstorm that arrived late morning and still swirls around us has not made my tasks or travels any easier.  So, I'm really glad to be popping in to the Yarn Along.

I managed to get quite a bit of knitting done on sock #2 in the past week.  A car trip to Grand Rapids to celebrate Honorary Son's graduation from college helped tremendously in finding knitting time.

As you can see, I was able to complete the leg and the heel.  Currently I'm about halfway through the gusset decreases.  This sock will definitely be done by Christmas; just probably not in time for DD2 to mail it to her friend, whom the pair is intended for, and have it get received by the 25th.  DD2 assures me that this is okay, as the friend has no idea that the socks even exist, and they are a birthday gift (late December) rather than a Christmas gift.

I'm glad she's okay with that, because I'm feeling a bit frazzled by all my partially done and nowhere near done things going on right now.  Like my Christmas tree, for instance.  It too is maybe halfway done.  I'd really like to finish decorating it before DD1 and DD2 arrive home from college on Friday night.   They've made and bought me too many ornaments through the years to go for the spartan look of "hey, we've got lights and maybe a dozen bulbs hung, so it's decorated, right?"  This dark picture really makes it look a whole lot more festive than it does in the daylight at the moment.

That's all for now; it's nearly time to hit the (very snowy and sometimes white-out) road so that DH and I make it to church in time for the Wednesday evening Advent service.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Facing Facts

I have been thinking a lot.  Not always coherent, organized thinking; more often it's the kind of willy nilly thoughts that crop up while in the midst of other things.  You know, those ideas or realizations you have that you can't attend to properly at the moment, so you either scribble them down, or attempt to bookmark them in your mind to come back to later when you can give them the correct amount of brain power and attention.

Here's what my thoughts boil down to:

  1. There are only two of us to get things done around this little place here (as compared to when the kids lived here and helped with tasks either mundane or monumental).
  2. I'm not as strong as I used to be.  This bugs me a lot, as I'm used to my body doing whatever I call upon it to do. The fact that I struggle to carry a 40 pound chicken waterer (a full 5 gallons), and that even carrying a full hamper of clothes up or down the stairs gets me out of breath, really really irritates me.  Not sure if this decrease in strength is due to my ongoing anemia (something else I find frustrating) or the fact that I am 45 years old, or a combination of both.
  3. DH is super busy at work.  He is, literally, doing the work of 1.5-2 people there (for the same one-man paycheck, of course.  That's the way it goes when you are salaried--no overtime, no bonus for taking on extra work).  His 'group' lost a person last summer, and that person's work was split between DH and another guy--in addition to each all ready having their own programs--with the assurance that it was only for a few months; that a replacement person would be hired in around November 1st. It's now mid-December, that 'replacement' person has not been hired, and there seems to be no actual job posting for the position.  In other words, probably ain't gonna happen any time soon.  So, DH is juggling his own work, half the work of the 'lost' person, plus doing crisis management on the half that the other guy got assigned and can't seem to keep up with.  Even when DH isn't at work, his mind is often still on work.  It's not uncommon for him to sit on the couch until 10:30 p.m. with his work laptop open analyzing data, creating reports, reading and sending emails or filling out test request forms.  He even dreams about work--probably 2-3 weekday mornings when our alarm clock goes off, he groggily asks me questions about stuff I know nothing about (this particular test, or that fuel economy data, or what transmission calibration is in this car, or what the axle ratio is, or where such and such prototype can be located) before he becomes fully awake.  Even when he's physically home, he's not really here, not fully available to work on the things that need to be done to take care of our home.
  4. Therefore, life at this little place here needs to be revamped.  We need to scale back some things, cancel some things, and really focus on what our main priorities are.

In light of that, I've decided to get rid of my flock of chickens.  They aren't laying eggs now, being the cold dark part of the year, and foreseeably won't lay any for about three months (historically, they slowly get back into production in mid to late February).  So, rather than buy and lug feed to the coop for the next several months, plus haul a waterer out in the mornings and back (to my basement to thaw) in the evenings, plus feed them and let them out in the morning and shut them in again at night in return for zero, zip, zilch eggs to eat, I'm just going to be chicken-less.  In February I'll look into getting some chicks and restart my flock.

Even after spring comes, I don't think I will get broiler chicks to raise into meat for the freezer.  That's rather a lot of work too, once they get about half grown and eat like starving teenagers (and smell just as bad).  Rather, I will purchase some ready for the freezer from a friend who has gotten into raising birds to sell.  It will help her business, and leave me free to use my somewhat lessened energy in other, more critical areas.

There are other changes to be made too, but they are still disjointed thoughts that I need to work out fully before deciding what actions to take.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Yarn Along 2016.45: Making Progress

Happy Wednesday, happy Yarn Along!  I'm joining Ginny this afternoon to see what everyone is knitting and reading this week.

I am very pleased with the knitting progress I made in the past seven days. A quickie trip up north to see Mother-in-law on Sunday (hours of car knitting, yay!) really helped to get the first sock of my pair of Tendril socks finished.

I started sock #2 on Monday and as you can see, have gotten the ribbed cuff done, and am about a dozen rows into the leg.

In addition to knitting, I've done some reading.  I actually started this book, Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah, a few weeks ago.  It was the 'portable' book I took to the woods with me during hunting season to read during slow times.  Portable in that it isn't a strangely sized book, and being paperback it has no dust jacket to either crinkle or reflect the sun and possibly scare off deer; it's a rather thick nearly 500 pages.  Now that regular firearm deer season is over, I retrieved the book from my hunting bag and finished it off.

If you want a gripping story that will make you cry buckets (thankfully near the end, when I was reading in the house; otherwise I surely would have scared off the deer), this is the one.  I so enjoyed this book, it sucked me in and I really  related to the storyline; I will definitely be picking up more novels by this author.  (And setting up a day to get together with my own BFF-since-8th-grade whom I haven't seen nearly often enough in the decades that have passed since high school ended and we both got busy with the demands of adult/married/parenthood life).

Saturday, December 3, 2016

My True Colors?

This November, I found myself very reluctant to give my time. I'm not sure if it's just that hunting season is always so hectic for me, trying to work in the mornings as usual, then get errands and other day time stuff done by 2:30 or 3:00 and be in the woods right around 3:00 for hunting.  Then there's the matter of dinner when we get in from hunting; this is the first year in all the years we've lived here--read all the years that I've been able to hunt, really--that there has been no one in the house who is not hunting and therefore gets dinner on the stove while I am in the woods.  Since we don't eat microwaved meals, dinner isn't a quick affair; I'd say thirty minutes is about the fastest I can conjure up a hot meal.  And, since I'm not a night owl (and my alarm goes off by 6:00 a.m.) eating dinner at 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. just doesn't work well for me.  I don't sleep well if I eat a meal only an hour or two before I go to bed.  And let's not forget that there needed to be clean up and dishes washed once we were done eating too. So much for relaxing before bedtime.

This year, hunting season just seemed so difficult.  I had too many things I needed to get done, and getting home between noon and 1:15 most weekdays didn't leave much time for putting together a meal (to be kept warm in a crock pot, or in the oven on the time cook setting) before 3:00 made me feel so rushed. I've been so tired that getting up early to put something in the crock pot prior to 7:00 a.m. to slowly cook itself all day just didn't work either. My heart just hasn't been in the woods this season.  Hunting often seemed like a monumental time suck rather than a treat.

DH often wanted to have the grandkids over on the weekend, and the topic became a dreaded one for me. It often ended in a disagreement.  DH couldn't see what the 'problem' was with having them over.  But yet, he still planned to be in the woods every morning and every mid- to late afternoon, plus watch football during the mid-day.  In my mind, that didn't leave time (or attention) for visiting with/caring for two little people.  And when I'd be hesitant to make arrangements for K3 and Toad to come over (hmm, if they spend the night, I'm not going to be able to go hunting during the only two mornings a week I don't have to work; and how am I supposed to get anything done and go hunting if we have the kids from, say noon til 4:00 on a Saturday or Sunday--especially if it's a day when DH is planning to be in the woods, and I'd like to be too, by 2:30?) and gave DH the reasons why I wasn't keen on the idea, that somehow made me the bad guy, accusing DH of not being willing to help with the 'work' part of having a two year old and a four year old in the house again.  (Well, hello, if you're still watching football and hunting, how is that giving any part of your time to give attention to little people/play with them/take care of their needs?).  The whole topic just brought a lot of tension to the house.

Which, really shocked me by the thoughts and emotions it dredged up.  I mean, all the years our children were growing up, I just did what was needed, or what seemed to me to be the proper thing for a parent to do.  I was often tired and felt like my days went from one task to another from the time my eyes popped open in the morning (be it by alarm clock or by the call of an offspring) to the time my eyes closed at night.  Now that my kids are all grown, I suddenly have a severe aversion to going back to that sort of day.  Really, really severe aversion. Almost a dread.  It has made me wonder if I actually enjoyed being a mom or not; if I subconsciously hated the decades I spent putting myself last and everyone else in my home first.  If I do resent DH, a little (or more than a little) for how much of a load I carried in raising the kids and tending the household during those years (especially the times he traveled a lot and I was, other than financially, a single parent).

Or is this a natural part of the process of going from stuffing your own wants and needs into the bottom of the to-do list of family life for decades, then once the kids are grown and gone actually being able to order your day based on what interests you or makes you happy?  This empty nest thing hasn't been in effect very long at this little place here, and I wonder if my extreme reaction this hunting season is a natural part of finally feeling like I have some breathing space and creative time, some control over my day, but then being subjected again to having a younger generation here (DS2 came for a week for hunting, DD2 was home for a week of Thanksgiving break, then of course there was Thanksgiving Day itself and all the cooking and cleaning and socializing that hosting the holiday required of me).  Not to mention the fact that DH was home every blasted day, nearly three weeks straight, because it's his vacation time that he saves up for hunting season.  Which meant when I got home from work, he was home (and wanting lunch).  Extra cooking, extra dishes to wash, a change in my daily routine, and him having his own list of projects he wanted to work on--and have me assist in.

November was tough.  I'm hoping that December isn't going to be a repeat, what with Christmas coming and all the demands (shopping, family parties I *must* attend or host) that the month usually entails.