Monday, March 31, 2014

The Duck that Never Flew Away

It’s funny, the things that stay with us, the things we remember throughout our lives.  When I was in elementary school, sometime between 2nd and 4th grade, we made paper mache ducks in art class.

We built the ducks’ bodies on styrofoam meat trays, added toilet paper tubes for necks and a wad of newspaper at the other end for a head.  When the paper mache was dry, we painted our ducks and glued on orange construction-paper beaks.

We were Wisconsin school children, raised in the great Midwestern woodlands.  Even though we were all city children, we had seen ducks, at park ponds, at the zoo, in general Wisconsin-y things.  Woodland ducks, mallards with their deep green heads and necks and brown bodies.  We painted our mallards.  Most of us.

There was a girl in our class whose family had immigrated to the US from Laos.  She did not paint her duck like a mallard.  Her duck was a white duck with little blue feathers on the wings.  In addition to her art skills being far superior to mine, her duck was completely beautiful.  I was vey jealous.  How come she got to paint her duck to be pretty?  Why did hers get to be different?  Why did she get to be creative?

Every time I see a picture of ducks in a Heifer or World Vision catalog, I think of the girl in my class.  Those ducks look like her duck.

Someone, maybe even me in my head, muttered, “doesn’t she even know what a duck looks like?”  We were the ones who didn’t know.

 

brook from all my children on tv with writing

Friday, March 28, 2014

Knee-High Socks

My knitting teacher gave me two skeins of a beautiful, bold colored sock yarn and a book on how to knit toe-up socks.  So, I just had to knit some toe-up socks!

I really like this method for socks.  The toe-up cast-on took a little while for me to understand, but since pretty much all my knitting projects need to be started three times, that wasn’t much of a big deal.  Once I got the hang of it, I loved it.  For one thing, it’s much easier to try the sock on as you go and determine when the foot is long enough and when the sock is tall enough.

There are multiple toe-up cast-ons in the book.  I like Judy’s Magic Cast-On.  First off, who doesn’t like magic?  And second, the others seemed even more complicated!  The book also includes instructions for different types of sock toes.  I chose the Shaped Round Toe because, as the book says, it’s good for “wide flat toe footprint(s),” and well, that sounded just like me.

The design on the socks is a fairly simple rib, but I still used the pattern from the book to help with sizing, increases and decreases.  The style is called Old-School Knee-Highs and has contrast heel and toe with athletic sock style banding at the top.  I chose a plain black for the contrast color, and although I attempted to purchase yarn of the same weight, it was a bit heavier.  Stronger heels and toes by accident!

This sock pattern uses the after-thought heel.  I think it’s pretty neat, though I didn’t wait until I was completely done with the socks to put the heels in.  It’s difficult to try on socks without heels.

I had some issues with adjusting measurements, despite the book’s excellent instructions and worksheets.  I’m just shaped so funny and my addition is even funnier.  But I still wound up with some really neat socks in the end.

new socks (1)

Unfortunately - bad knitter - I forgot to save the yarn label, so I cannot tell you what type of yarn it is.  But, I can tell you that the book is Toe-Up! by Chrissy Gardiner.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Grandpa

I miss my grandpa.  He passed away about thirteen years ago.  My great-aunt passed a week or so ago, but I do not miss her.  She would not share enough of herself for me to know her well enough to miss her.  Instead, her passing has made me miss her brother more.

Munchkinhead and I spent hours sorting through old family photos that we had never seen.  Photos of my grandpa and great-aunt as young children, frolicking in the yard, dressed for church, in graduation gowns and Indian costumes.  Photos of their parents as a young couple, of their mother as a young girl, of their aunts and their uncles and their grandparents.  Photos of a history we could only attempt to piece together.  I wanted to hear Grandpa tell us stories about it all.

Grandma and Grandpa used to take care of me and Alfred when we were little.  Alfred and I would run amok in their big house while Grandma quietly supervised from the dining room table where a puzzle or game of solitaire was spread over the dark wood.  On special days, we would walk up to the office to visit Grandpa.

As we got older, and they got older, Grandma couldn’t care for us anymore. Grandpa would pick us up from school or take us out to lunch.  Sometimes it was in his little red Datsun, sometimes it was in his giant blue boat of a car.  I think it was an Oldsmobile.  It had a very loud blinker noise that I remember distinctly.  A sort of click-clack, click-clack.  Betty’s blinker makes the same noise.  It makes me smile; it makes me think of Grandpa. 

Grandpa would tell us stories, make animal noises and explain why he would never patronize Hardee’s but would always be loyal to McDonald’s.  I don’t remember what we talked about most of the time.  What do children talk about with adults?  But I do remember that we always had fun.  I may not remember particulars, but I remember love.  And I miss that love.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I am very lucky.  Everyday, I sit in Grandpa’s old office.  I believe a piece of him is still there, and it’s comforting to be around that.  Comforting to see his desk and his knickknacks.  Comforting to think he’s near.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Bus to Texas

Last month, I went on a mission trip with a group from across Wisconsin.  The pastor at our church asked for some reflections on the trip.  Mommy asked for those reflections to go here.  And since I’m (*cough* sometimes) a good girl and (*bigger cough* sometimes) listen to my mommy, here they are.

It seemed so strange Monday morning, to sit at a table eating breakfast alone instead of sharing the meal with 49 friends. After the wonderful week of egg bakes, casseroles and other delights from the oven, my bowl of knock-off Cream of Wheat was less than inspiring. Yet as wonderful as the previous week’s cooked food had been it hardly compared to the other food that had sprinkled the week in abundance.

Mind, body, spirit – that other important trinity – to have every aspect well-fed on one adventure is a pretty amazing feat. I went for the body-feeding, the hard work, the heavy lifting, the sweating, the dirt, the pleasant exhaustion of tired muscles. There was plenty of body-feeding, both in the way I expected it, full of grime and aches, and in the many delightful meals. For what is a gathering of Methodists without hearty casserole bakes dripping in cheese? But there was more, so much more.

There were the sort of obvious spirit-focused meals: devotionals, hymn sings, worship service. The sorts of things you know are supposed to uplift you and make you feel warm and fuzzy and close to God. But, the real spirit food came from outside these events. The way the community embraced us and the work we were doing, the way they supported us, donated supplies, fundraised for the projects, visited us, even just in how they knew we were there and welcomed us. A talent show where laughs were shared. Games played together, teaching, learning, and having fun.

And most importantly, the easy way in which we could talk to each other and to those we met, about our lives, about our thoughts, about our troubles, about our views on God, with no anger, no pretentiousness and no hostility. It did not matter that we did not all agree. It did not matter that we came from different denominations or different parts of the spectrum within the same denomination. We could share; we could talk; we could be together and yet be different. Conversations that fed our minds and our spirits – a rarity certainly worth two days on a bus.

I left Texas on Saturday morning with paint covered clothes, sore arms, an over-whelming feeling of excitement and happiness and 49 friends whose names and faces I may forget, but whose spirits will remain with me always.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Frog named Death

Soft, green, huggable with happy, big eyes and a smile.  His name is Fwa the Frog.  Munchkinhead got him for me the day we killed my aunt.

Or at least sentenced her to death.  It would be another ten days before she actually gave up on life.  Ten days without food or water.  Have you ever watched someone starve to death?  The plumpness fades.  The skin withers.  The cheeks sink in.  It isn’t pretty.  It isn’t pleasant.  But I suppose death never claimed to be pretty or pleasant, only permanent.  Permanent, painful, palatable.

I replay the weeks leading up to her final demise.  I question; I wonder; I believe we could have done things differently.  I tried.  Too little, too late?  Perhaps.  She was a fighter.  she could have fought!  Maybe?  But who can fight without food or water?

“She’s not really here,” they’d say.  “Her brain is gone,” they’d say.  “See the pictures,” they’d say.  “See the damage.”  “In our expertise,” they’d say.  But then, she’d wake.  A squeeze, a recognizing smile, a tear.  Awake.  No food.  Asleep.  No water. 

“She’s awake?!  Then you can take her off the morphine.  See if she can eat.  See if she can drink.”  But he was no longer in charge of her care.  “She’s awake?!  This is terrible!”  She was in charge of her care.  No food.  No water.  More morphine.  More drugs.

I sat with Fwa. Fwa the Frog.  Kufwa – to die.  Ndafwa – I die.  Bafwa – she dies.  I try not to blame.  would it have mattered?  Who knows.  I do not miss her now she’s gone, so I wish she’d stayed around a little longer.