WIP Wednesday

(Yes, this is getting posted on Thursday, but I didn’t have enough light to get a decent picture last night.)

This week’s WIP is the start of my Christmas knitting. As usual, I’m starting later than I should, but I don’t have a lot planned this year. My cousin’s son has been having a rough time lately, so even though he’s not within the knit-worthy inner circle, I wanted to give him something a little special this year.

2014-11-20 14.42.04The pattern is my go-to hat pattern, Turn A Square by Jared Flood. The decreases make a square pattern on the crown, which I like. The blue yarn is Berocco Vintage, and the green is Classic Elite Liberty Wool. The colors are subtle, but I didn’t want to use anything too crazy for a 16-year-old!

I won’t see that part of the family until around New Year’s, so the hat will be put on the back burner while I work on a gift for my nephew. Stay tuned for next week’s WIP Wednesday for a peek at that one!

You Can’t Go Back

I grew up in the house my great-grandfather built when he and my great-grandmother moved from the city to “the country.” My great-grandmother didn’t want to leave her Baltimore rowhouse, so my great-grandfather built one for her on 12 acres in Essex. My grandmother and father both grew up there, and I lived there with my parents until I was 10. Everybody knew our house; how could you miss a rowhouse without the rest of its row?

(It’s funny; I only lived there 10 years, yet I consider it the place I grew up. How long do you have to live somewhere for it to count as the place you grew up?)

After my grandmother died, my dad and my aunt sold the property to a developer, and the house was torn down a few years later. I hadn’t been there since before the house was torn down, so when I was near Essex this summer, I decided to drive over and see what things looked like. I wasn’t quite prepared to see this:

2014-08-16 19.17.34    2014-08-16 19.17.41

2014-08-16 19.19.27See that blue dumpster? That’s about where my house used to be. I hadn’t lived there for 40 years, and I had never considered moving back to Essex, but seeing such a radical change was a shock. I stood for several minutes, remembering the days I had spent playing in the yard with my friend Patty. The day my grandparents pulled into the driveway with my new Dalmatian puppy. The smell of the gigantic lilac bush that had a secret hiding place in the center. The taste of the tomatoes I’d eat straight from the vine. The distant booms coming from Aberdeen Proving Ground that I’d thought were the footsteps of giants coming to squash me. The dank, dimly-lit basement that has left me with a lifelong fear of basements. All of those memories came flooding back as I stood there in the gathering darkness. They are what made me who I am. They are part of me, even though the house where they took place is gone. Slowly, I turned away, got in my car, and headed home.

It Really Is the Thought that Counts

Today’s Daily Prompt email from WordPress asked us to write about pie. I’m not going to write about pie per se, other than to say that my favorite pie is pecan, followed closely by peach. What I am going to write about is one of the best Christmas gifts I’ve ever received and why it was such a great gift. And yes, it involves pie.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had trouble with any kind of baking that involved rolling out dough: sugar cookies folded up like an accordion when I tried to get a spatula under them, pie crusts wound up the wrong size and an uneven thickness, you get the idea. Being from Cape Cod, one of my ex-husband’s comfort foods was sea clam pie. The clams, known as quahogs, are ground up in the blender, mixed with some other ingredients, and baked in a double-crust pie. His mother would often send us back from visits with containers of ground sea clams so I could make the pies all year. There was only one obstacle-the crust. Yes, I could buy premade pie crusts, but there really is nothing like homemade.

Enter my ex-sister in law. As a perennially broke college student, she had a miniscule Christmas budget, so she had to get creative. Her gift to me one year was a box of homemade pie crusts, already formed in foil pans, for me to keep in the freezer until I needed them. Yes, the gift probably cost her about $7, but you know what? It was one of the most thoughtful gifts I ever got.

Some people would turn their nose up at a gift like that because it wasn’t the latest electronic gadget or designer label whatever. Not me. The fact that she paid attention and made me something I wouldn’t or couldn’t make for myself meant more to me than any amount of money she could have spent. I couldn’t tell you any of the other gifts I got that year, but 20 years later, I remember those pie crusts. She showed me that it really is the thought that counts.

What’s the most thoughtful gift you’ve ever given or received?

Let’s Get Serious for a Minute

A few years ago, I started thinking about my life. I have a good job, I own my own house and car, and I have a family who loves and supports me. Yeah, I might like some things to be different, but I’m really lucky to have such a comfortable life. A lot of people aren’t so fortunate; there are millions who don’t know where their next meal is coming from, where they can get clean water to drink, or where they will find a place to sleep each night. I decided it was time to stop thinking so much about myself and start doing something to help others, so now I choose a charity to focus on for every year.

The first year, I donated to the Gifts That Give More program at GreaterGood.com. What I like about the program is that they don’t just give people a handout; they give people the tools to sustain themselves for the long term. One month, I gave money to help women in India learn how to drive minicabs. Once the women learn to drive them, they can get low-interest loans to buy their own minicabs, so they can help support their families. Another donation provided women in Guatemala with a dozen chicks. Once the chicks grew up and started laying eggs, the women could supplement their families’ diets and sell the extra eggs. Every month, I picked a program that appealed to me.

This coming year, I plan to donate to Heifer International. They give livestock such as goats, sheep, chicks, and even fish to families, who can sell the extra milk, eggs, wool, etc. to provide a source of income.

Through it all, I have also been sending clothes, school supplies, and other items to the folks on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The members of the Oglala Sioux tribe who live there are desperately poor, and I know anything I can send will help someone there. They’re also an outlet for my hat and afghan knitting. 🙂

I didn’t tell you all this to brag or tell you what a wonderful person I am. I did it to encourage you to take a look at your life and think about how fortunate we are to live in the richest country in the world. Even though times are tough, if you can spare even ten dollars a month, you can help improve the life of someone who can only dream of a life like the ones we enjoy. Find a cause that has some meaning for you and see how you can help. You’ll be glad you did.

A Public Service Announcement

Friends, I am writing today to warn you of a public health menace, one that afflicts millions of people, one that has no real cure. It is insidious, affecting young and old alike, and no one is immune. What is this dread disease, you might ask, and what can be done to stop it? Well, folks, this contagion is none other than the dreaded earworm.

“What the heck is an earworm?” I hear you thinking. An earworm (from the German Ohrwurm) is that bit of a song that gets stuck in your head and won’t go away. In its worst manifestation, more than half of the victim’s waking hours are spent hearing the same snippet of a song in a repetitive loop; for those fortunate enough to have a mild case, the earworm is active for as little as 10 percent of the time.

As a chronic earworm sufferer, I can tell you how disabling this malady can be. The agony of hearing  “It’s A Small World” or the chorus of “Dancing Queen” over and over for hours at a time will make a person desperate to find something that will help. Some experts suggest doing something to distract yourself, like reading a novel or working anagrams, but that’s not a real solution. Others say the only thing to do is pass the song on to someone else by singing it to them. Alas, this may have worked at one time, but as the noted writer and historian Dave Barry has found, Americans aren’t any good at singing any more.

So we are left with only one thing to do. Every one out there needs to write their Congressman and demand that the government take immediate action to find an effective treatment for earworms. Our mental health depends on it.