Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Knit, Purl and Families Coming Together



Santa Claus showed up at our family Christmas Eve party for the first time in many decades. The oldest of our five babies is two-and-a-half and none of them were too sure if the stranger in red could be trusted. As it turned out it was a great night for driving---no snow, ice, rain or fog---but my niece and her husband still insisted they drive me all the way home. I had wanted them to just take me to the south end of town where the expressway lights start and I’d drive myself the rest of the way by myself, but it was two against one. I felt a little guilty, but it gave me a chance to show them some of the vintage stuff from my childhood I had brought up from the basement last summer and painted. They both love antiques which is a good recipe for a show-and-tell session. But I regretted that I didn’t show them the half-finished bias knit architectural shawl I’ve been working on. It’s the most complicated pattern I’ve ever worked and Stephanie Pearl-McPhee—a crafter with a blog and a book---says, “A half-finished shawl left on the coffee table isn't a mess; it's an object of art.”

When I was looking for something to write about for this post-Christmas entry I bemoaned the fact that other than the family party and a last minute invitation for Christmas dinner with my brother and his lady friend, I haven’t been doing anything worthy of writing about except for knitting and who wants to hear about a gray-haired old woman spending her evenings knitting? At least I don’t sit in the stereotypical rocking chair, holding a cat while I work on my shawl, and did I mention I’m alternating that project with making hats on a loom? I had to make a hat because I broke the zipper in my winter coat forcing me to buy a new coat that none of my old scarves and hats matched. The only hat I could find in the store that went with the new burgundy coat was $18 and I wasn’t going to pay that much when I could buy a skein of yarn on sale for under three bucks. After that first hat was finished I made a child’s hat with the left over yarn and then I decided that I’ll get an early start on making a hat for everyone in my family for the 2017 party. Twenty-seven in all when I include the three new babies on the way. My mom used to make everyone hats for Christmas year-after-year and I’ll bet my showing up with a box of hats will bring back some good memories for more than just me. 

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee also wrote: “It is a peculiarity of knitters that they chronically underestimate the amount of time it takes to knit something. Birthday on Saturday? No problem. Socks are small. Never mind that the average sock knit out of sock-weight yarn contains about 17,000 stitches. Never mind that you need two of them. (That's 34,000 stitches, for anybody keeping track.)” I’ve never made socks, but if we get into a trade war with China, we could all be working a pair in a spare time. 

After reading the quote above, I did some math on the bias shawl I’m working on.  When finished it will be a total of 663,000 stitches and that’s not counting all the times I’ve had to rip out a few rows and redo them because I forgot to do the increases or decreases that are supposed to happen every other row. Stephanie also says, “In the nineteenth century, knitting was prescribed to women as a cure for nervousness and hysteria. Many new knitters find this sort of hard to believe because, until you get good at it, knitting seems to cause those ailments.” She says a lot of things that ring true like: “...knitters just can't watch TV without doing something else. Knitters just can't wait in line, knitters just can't sit waiting at the doctor's office. Knitters need knitting to add a layer of interest in other, less constructive ways.” I agree with that second layer of interest. I can’t sit in a chair and just watch TV but I haven’t passed that threshold yet where I knit in public. Even though knitting has become cool again, I’m still hung up with a child’s embarrassment of having my mom knit in public. 

Traditions come in many forms from mothers who teach their daughters how to knit to old family recipes that show up at holiday parties. In the spirit of Christmas we accept new members into the fold who introduce us to their birth family’s favorites like rainbow fudge. We accept that a few people can’t be with us. We coo over the bright-eyed new babies and lovingly retell stories about those who have died. Families are a lot like knitting a scarf. You can make mistakes and start over again, add layers of color and texture, you can increase and decrease its size. And with all this “knitting” a family does to keep itself together year after year, like a scarf made on two needles that effort keeps us warm in the winds of time. ©

14 comments:

  1. *How* do you make a hat on a *loom*???? Just googled and got the answer. How very clever!!! I've only seen them done on circular knitting needles, or crocheted.

    My accompaniement to TV is snacking - knitting would be so much healthier. I thought the origin of knitting and multi tasking was so as make full use of time, rather than adding another dimension. I sometimes see people, youngish, walk to work and simultaneously read a book - I I try to ascribe the reason: not waste time (my original thought), or (after reading your post), add another dimension? (Personally, I think it idiotic but each to their own.)

    You sound like you had a great Xmas party. Babies and toddlers are gorgeous, so that would have added to the pleasure, for all.

    Looking forward to seeing pix of the finished shawl. I admire how you keep yourself gainfully busy. ~ Libby

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    1. I've known how to knit on a loom for ages but I've become quite obsessed with doing it in recent weeks. Google lets you learn how to do stitches I didn't know was possible on a loom. At first I thought it would be a good way to use up yarn around the house, but yesterday I ended up buying more in colors I thought others would like.

      I keep myself busy with everything but what I should be doing. LOL I should be spending half the time I spend at the computer, reading or knitting doing exercises.

      Walking and read at that same time? Sounds like a dangerous combination!

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  2. I used to enjoy crocheting. I always wanted to learn to knit, but most of the people who would have taught me something like that when I was young were into crocheting. So that's what I learned, and I never seemed to pick up knitting. You get so many attractive patterns with knitting. I hope you show us a photo of your shawl when you finish.

    I'm so glad the weather cooperated, and you were able to go to your family Christmas party. I know that you never know when you will have to contend with bad weather in your neck of the woods. We can certainly get bad weather here, but it's a less frequent concern. It was in the mid-sixties yesterday. Even though your weather was fine, it was nice that your niece and her husband drove you home.

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    1. My nieces are both sweethearts who are married to equally nice men. I was telling my one niece about the other one driving me home and she said, "She's the best driver I know. She's so calm, nothing rattles her and she's driven all over the country." I wish that was true of me! I flunked driver's ed the first time I took it because I broke out in hives every time I got behind the wheel and I was so afraid of winter driving that that was the reason why my husband wanted to teach me how to plow snow...so I'd learn controlled skids etc. I did get confident on the malls we plowed and being on the roads in the middle of the night when no one was around, but the fear of the other drivers in the winter never left me. Plus I always had him to come get me out of trouble if I was stuck in snow. Don't have that back up now and that makes all the difference.

      YouTube has so many video now on knitting it's amazing. Last year, though, I tried to learn how to crochet---again---using the videos and I do okay with just practice stitches but I can't read the patterns to save my soul.

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  3. I never got into knitting, crotcheting, or needlepoint. (although I gave the later a brief try.) It appears my putzing while watching tv was waiting for tablets to be invented. Slotomania, in particular. LOL

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    1. Ohmygod, don't get me started lusting after a tablet again! You've just given my one more reason to want one.

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  4. Sounds like a delightful Christmas season. So glad you got to go!

    I'm envious of all your crafts! I'd have to pay too much attention to what I was doing that I couldn't watch TV at the same time! My "craft" is laptopping!

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    1. If I paid total attention to my knitting I wouldn't be ripping things out. LOL

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  5. I am so happy you had a good Christmas. Sounds like you don't knit in the summer and neither do I. For some reason I"m having a terrible time hitting my knitting mojo back this time. I don't have much interest in anything at the moment but hopefully that will soon improve.

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    1. I don't knit at all during the summer. One, it's too hot to handle and two, more daylight means less time spent inside. If you're like me you have to find something that inspires you to start in again.

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  6. I was talking with my aunt after Christmas, and had the funniest experience. She asked if I knew what had happened to a black sweatshirt with a knitted top attached -- rather like a Scandinavian sweater. When I told her I had it, I found out that she had made it -- not my mother, as I'd assumed. She knit the top on a loom, and then attached it to the sweatshirt. It's really gorgeous. She tried to get it back from me, but I said I enjoyed it too much to let it go.

    It turns out she did a red one for my cousin, and the black one for my mom, but she didn't make one for herself. I told her since she didn't make one for me, I deserved the black one, and she could try to get the red one back from my cousin. She laughed and laughed, and said my cousin's even harder to deal with than I am!

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    1. That is a funny story and at least know your aunt knows her work is treasured.

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  7. Okay--that last paragraph brought tears. I can't just sit and watch TV either, without some project in my hands, be it knitting, crocheting or cross stitching. I probably listen to the TV more than I look, but that seems good enough for me. I would love to see a pix of your shawl--half-finished or not--just wherever you are at this time.

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    1. I rather like my last paragraph, too. I did more rewrites on that than the whole rest of the blog entry.

      I do so many things to the TV but I don't look at the screen much either.

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