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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Hey! Where Do You Think You're Going, November!

Image result for confessionalLawsie! It's half over and TheQueen has been so silent. Well. I should confess - I have been committing blog-ultery over on Sparkpeople dot com because this close to the Food Frenzie of the holiday season, about the only thing I've been concentrating on is managing my weight. This is a perennial Queenly issue anyway and 2014 has been a particularly difficult year for keeping things in check.

In a deeper confession, I'm not sure I really have anything to say here today, but I don't want to come back later and see that there are zero posts for November.

What? TheQueen has nothing to say? Well - of course she always has something to say - but too much of it is likely to be whining and kvetching and complaining. Autumn of 2014 hasn't been any easier than Summer, Spring or Winter was. No. That's not true. We have automatic heat in the house now so WOW ... that has made a huge difference. If you recall, a large part of the reason last winter was so effingly difficult was that we couldn't get this house warm. Our sole source of heat was the old wood stove and the firewood, while seasoned, was always wet because it was always raining or sleeting or just plain cloudy and the temps stayed down down down. Wet wood is bad enough but when your prince is the type who forgets to keep the fire going while you are at work, wet wood is evil incarnate.

This year we have festooned the walls with these  and life is so different. A chilly day - and we have had quite a few of them already - just means when I get home the house is toasty warm. Coming down to the den to type in the wee dark hours of the morning used to mean putting on my winter coat and wrapping up in a blanket and taking frequent breaks to hold hot cups of coffee. Now things are different. Things are better. I am feeling disgustingly spoiled.

And for the curious - so far - and granted - we're still in the easy part of the cold weather season - the electric bill has gone up about $10. I will wait till the end of the cold before I make my final review of this system but so far - much more than so good.

So what else can I tell you about TheQueen?  There are a scant 46 days left of this year (to which I won't be all that sorry to bid goodbye - and now I'm feeling guilty for complaining about the gift of life and all) and much of that is already booked with holiday stuff.  My loyal fans know that I love me some holiday season but  I swannie, I can't believe it's already time to start Making Plans. I did have the good grace to cast on a Christmas sock and so there is real knitting going on (turning the heal on sock #1 today). And at least I thought about what sort of Christmas Card I'd like to make. Sister just sent out the call for photos for the Family Christmas Calendar. She started making them as gifts to the parents - but we all love them and I'm glad she's continuing the tradition now that we are orphans. My beloved LD and our precious daughter in law PD will be here for Thanksgiving, along with 7 other guests. And I am hope hope hoping we can finally get back to Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens for a caroling light show. I have explained to ThePrinceConsort that there are to be no heart attacks this Christmas.


I have also pulled out my tattered copies of the Betsy-Tacy books because nobody can do autumn like Maud Hart Lovelace. Her high school books are my favorites although I am also a sucker for Betsy and Tacy go Downtown - which is about middle-schoolers. Autobiographical, with the perfect patina of fiction smoothing over memories and plot twists, these books had as big an impact on forming me as "The Laura Books". (Laura Ingalls Wilder) Perhaps even a greater impact, now that I am old and now that I already got to do my own Little House in the Big Woods thing and it's pretty much a fulfilled fantasy instead of a longing. I read these kiddy books in secret because ThePrince will prod me about why I am reading them again if he sees me and TheQueen disdains explaining herself. Also - this particular trip down memory lane is something I like to do alone and he is all about the togetherness.

One of these days I will honor these books with a blogpost about why they are so important - to me and, I wish, to today's techno-plugged kids. I could go on and on about why I think they are preferable to most of the  soft-core violence and suffering stuff being written for middle readers these days, but for this fall I will just enjoy them.

So. What else? I haven't done much art lately and was feeling decidedly colorless and art-less. Also, I have been fighting with some excess poundage (hence the above-mentioned blog-ultery) for most of 2014. In an effort to give attention to both issues I have created a glitter chart for myself - small enough to fit in my Daytimer. It has a clutch of action-steps I can take to earn points and when I earn 100 points I can add $100 to the camera fund ... that pitiful sum which I have raided all summer long when Other Expenses cropped up. I would very much like to get a new camera and I think I'll need about $300 for it. There is an additional reward of a pair of boots when I reach my goal.

And so. That is the state of mid-November at TheCastle. One will hope that the future will hold more and perhaps even better quality writing from TheQueen. But there you have it - one can always hope. There is always tomorrow. And Tara.









Saturday, October 25, 2014

Winding Down October

Whew. Who would believe I let October 16 go by without posting my annual How I Met ThePrince blog?

Ah well. Just click back to any October 16 post in the previous 11 years and you can read it.

Usually I take this day off and we go out and celebrate - sometimes away from home, sometimes right here in our corner of heaven. This year was different - and fittingly so. The anniversary falls on my sister's birthday and this year it also fell on the night of the James River Art League's 50th anniversary party.  This organization was born in our living room when I was ... well ... 12! And Mama was its first president. In fact, in the booklet about the history of the organization was a photo of the first membership roster and I even recognized my old typewriter - the old Royal that Daddy gave me after he'd bought himself an electric typewriter. Oh how many homework assignments got banged out on that old machine. The font was as familiar as handwriting.


So this year, after an 11 hour day at work, I went back in for a few more hours in the morning and then we drove off to the city to attend the party. It was a lovely event.  There was even someone who remembered those early days and could chat with me about Mama. We'd shared some Mama stories with the speakers and they then shared them with the group. It was a sweet evening, the first time I've ever shared it with my sister and how fitting to be doing it while talking about art and Mama and days of long ago.

I even won a door prize - and so did ThePrince!



We followed that happy celebratory evening with a weekend of beyond incredible fun with Cousins T&C. Friday we drove back to Richmond to spend the night with the cousins and Saturday we piled into the big car and drove up to Farmville to ride the High Bridge Trail State Park again. I'd had the foresight to reserve 4 bikes the week before - after all - state park, glorious October weekend, perfect weather, yeah ... I didn't think we stood a chance as walk-in customers. There were only 4 bikes left at 10:30 and those had our names on them.

40-100cm-addi-Turbo-Sock-Rockets-Circular-Knitting-Needles-All-Sizes
Pretty festive sounding October, huh? Well you ain't heard nothin' yet. With but a single weekend day to recoup after biking 22 miles and dining like it was our last meal at La Cucina (to die for food with generous - no, heaping - helpings) I jumped into this past week with a vengeance. There was a speaking engagement at a sort of near-by library, followed by a catch-up visit with dear friends and an 11 o'clock return. Then there was a 7 a.m. breakfast meeting to attend. This was followed by 3 days of conventioneering in my favorite tourist town, Williamsburg. Alas. I never did get to stroll down the colonial part - which is my favorite - but I did get to wear a Martha Washington wig and emcee a quiz show. (somebody took a photo but nobody's posted it anywhere) And there was shopping therapy on the way home - including yarn - and a 40" Sock Rocket circular needle. I've been longing to try them and now I can, just in time for Christmas Sock Knitting!

So that is why TheQueen has been so quiet. At least, that's the story and I'm stickin' to it. Today there is more travel to a wedding of a beautiful girl cousin to the sweetest guy, put on by truly beloved family. The weather dot com guys promise us mild weather without any wind - after several blue but blustery days. We'll hold them to that one. And I'll be back soon ... maybe even tomorrow .... with More Photos.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

It Gets Better

I heart Tim Gunn and I seriously heart the message of the It Gets Better Campaign. In fact - the message need not only be applied to sexual orientation. It's a message of hope for all the world in all its troubles - packed with the power of acknowledgement, patience, bravery and perseverance.

For TheQueen, for this past month, it is one of the lifelines I've clung to - that certain and sure knowledge that no matter how black the time feels, "It Gets Better". And it has.  Yesterday I heard Mama call down from heaven and say "Alright now. You've cried enough."

This is not the first time she's said that to me. I am reminded of a black bleak evil time in 1994 when I was summarily fired by Time. No recourse. No unemployment. No 2 weeks severance. My son grew up and went off to college. How I hated that. How angry I was and how sad. Being LD's mom was without a doubt the happiest must fun super rewarding joy filled creative love infested job in the whole wide world.

You say I'm still his mom? Well, of course I am. But I'm talking about the 'you are responsible for a growing-up child' part of being a mom and my god that was fun. But when it was over - it was truly over. I'd finished my part in his development and he was off to pick up all those responsibility threads himself. I did have the good grace to tell him to Pay No Attention To The Nutcase Behind The Curtain. I didn't want to ruin his fun - I just hated it that my routine, my duties, my world was changing.


The day he left for college I  sat at the bottom of the staircase and wept the copious sobs of the inconsolable. For hours. With dogs licking my tears away only to prompt a fresh wave of them. After a while the telephone rang and when I picked it up it was Mama. Her first words were "Alright now. You've cried long enough."

Note - she did not say I wouldn't cry more. She just knew it was time for me to give over to the rest of my life. It took me 2 years to do that and in that time the most perfect Big Darling in the world did not divorce me. He is a saint. I would have divorced myself if I could have. She also didn't say "It gets better" which would have been trite and cruel at that moment, coming from that Important Person. But she could have. I believe that if Tim Gunn had been standing by me he could have said it and it would have comforted me.

But she did say "Enough". That was the message I needed to hear from her then - and yesterday, a lightness of being filled my body sometime around 3:30 or 4 o'clock and I heard her say those inimitable words. And on light feet, with a dancing heart, I finished out a monumentally difficult work week with a perfect score of problem solving and went home to a loving BD, some great cheese and a really good bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.

So trust me. Or at least, trust Tim Gunn. It Gets Better.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Grieving through the week with fashion thoughts.

So I'm sitting here thinking "There's something evil about autumn coming and my mama isn't here to enjoy it with me" and immediately my brain kicks my heart and asks "What's evil about that? For that matter - when is the last time you enjoyed an autumn with your mama?"  And I can't remember. And I don't know. About the evil that is. I guess it's evil because I want my mama. I want to go visit her. I want to laugh with her. I want to tell her risque jokes and then laugh wickedly till tears stream down my cheeks. I want to bask in the utter approval she gave me. I want to feel like I am the bestest thing in the whole world - and in spite of all the loving kindness other people give me - nobody could bestow approval like mama.

Sometime over the funeral stuff my older sister commented on some memory and couched it with "... and of course I'd do anything to win mama's approval." And those words sounded so weird. Because I always felt her approval. It didn't just flow from her - it gushed. I always thought she thought we were the four most perfect human beings in the world. I also felt her disapproval when it came - and I was willing to change to get her to approve of me. It's just that .... I didn't have to change very much.

YES. I know. But it is NOT true.

Each of us is goes through life with our very own personal filter. So when you say "I like that red dress" I hear one thing and my next door neighbor hears something else and you probably mean something entirely different from both of us. So when you throw THAT in my face just know that my filter keeps it out. I hear it but I don't pick it up.

And speaking of red dresses - or any dress, for that matter, (Look! A Bird!) I guess I owe my mama a thank you for making me finally buy a black dress. I do not look good in black - I look jaundiced. So I don't ever buy black and had to borrow a black dress for Daddy's funeral and I looked like crap in it, too. In fact, Mama told me over and over again ... like, till I was sick of hearing her ... how bad I looked in it.


Getting through that funeral took two rather extensive doses of retail therapy and on the second one I found a black dress that had reflective fake jewels sewn along the neckline and what do you know? Wearing it, I didn't look like I'd just risen from the sick. Truth is, I looked pretty good in it. Those sparkly things even worked when I put on a black jacket so I wouldn't freeze in the church. Best of all - it was from Dress Barn which is an inexpensive store. I didn't have to drop a bundle on a dress I will only wear to funerals. (and no. I am not 18 feet tall like that model so the dress hits my legs at a reverent mid-knee spot)

You have to know, though, that a good black dress with reflectors on it has to have a hat and in another store (Macy's ... you can usually count on finding something there even between seasons) there was a black hat. There was a BlackHat too - that was about as glamorous as a hat can be but it was really too fashionable and attention grabbing for a funeral and honestly I'd have to line it with some other color to wear it, but OMG, it was drop dead gorgeous, with a brim that swooped over your head from shoulder to shoulder like cathedral architecture and now that I'm typing this, and now that I've thought about lining it, I maybe ought to go back and buy it since I have an occasion to wear it coming up and wow - there I could wear it without looking too greedy for attention.

Love me some run-on sentences.

But back to the hat situation - there was a black hat. And it was a modest hat. And it was intended to be worn on the top of your head, tilted over your forehead slightly in a saucy slant but, ugh. When I wore it that way you could see every bag, every wrinkle and every droop in my aged face. Of course there is a happy ending to this shopping story or I wouldn't bother to write about it at all. This particular hat could be worn on the back of the head in a very 1940's manner that made a kind of halo around my head. This was how Mama always wore hats anyway or at least - it was how she wore them when I remember her as a young pretty thing. Worn that way all the ugly shadows disappeared and the rest is shopping history. I won't wear this hat too often - but whenever I have a funeral to go to that is not in the Dead-0-Winter this puppy will come out of its box.

Here's what I mean about the halo effect. No. I do not have a picture of me in the funeral hat.



Gad, Wish I were that young again and ... you know .. I'd kinda like that hat too. And so would Mama.

Which is why I am nattering on about fashion when I'm really just puking with grief. Because Mama loved her some new clothes. It was something we shared deep within our souls. We loved the architecture of clothing. We loved the engineering of it ... how it could disguise a body flaw ... how it could cloak a body in those equilateral triangles that are the geometry of beauty.

We loved the color of fashion. We both of us were totally mystified by the Blackening of Fashion that has swamped Europe and is now blanketing even the brash colorful instincts of Americans. Mind now - even Not looking Good in black doesn't mean I am immune to it's powerful effect. How do you think the LBD ever became something that could be acronymed? Because black is a powerful color that Makes A Statement. Except - it doesn't any more because now that it's the only color anybody is wearing (just look at a street snapshot of London - my god - it's as dreary as a rain storm in a coal dust cloud) the statement is completely silenced.  Black deserves to mean something. It deserves to be heard. It is just too darn bad that it's being drowned out by the lack of contrast with the rest of the rainbow.

So that's my take on the blackening of fashion.

But to get back to the fun part - Mama and I also loved shopping and I have a favorite little shop I like to drop into regularly just in case I see something new. And yes. I have entirely too many clothes and really wear only the same 20 favorite things all the time - but I LOVE to look at new clothes. And as long as Mama was around I could always just say "hmmm. Maybe I can find a little something for Mama". Only not any more. I dropped in on Friday night and the first thing that hit me was .. can't tell that little fib any more. I never get to buy Mama something new again. And I hate that. I hate it so much I'm tempted to go find me a little old fashionable lady in a nursing home and start buying her little somethings I just picked up when I was in town.

And actually - that's not such a bad idea. I think I will go by the nursing home in town and see if there is a little old lady who could use a new blouse....

Huh. You never know, do you. You never know when an idea will float to the surface if you jabber on long enough.

So. It's been a though week. But it's over now. or - almost. Tomorrow will be the "One week ago we buried Mama" day and then it starts receding. I'm sure this is not the last time I'm going to talk about all this stuff. But at least I've begun to talk at all. I've been pretty numb and frozen this week - what with Issues and Stuff that had to be dealt with. I've been wearing my armor of Normalcy. It helps. Doesn't feel very good, but it helps. Just know. I'll be back. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Mama. Oh Mama.

In the grey dark of dawn, gentle hands began to minister to my little mama and with that human touch, she took a breath ... and then she slipped away.

And with that snip the last thread that held her body here on earth was cut. My precious beautiful little mama - who had grown so tiny and so soft - has died. And how I will ever be able to pay tribute to the mama she was to me ... I haven't a clue. This cut is so deep that I'm not sure the words can bubble up through the loss. She left us so gently.  There wasn't any drama to rip away the scab and make grief easier to empty out. With Daddy (see? he is still butting into her story with his drama) there were crises and there were hospitals and sneaking of dogs into rooms and beeping monitors and all that stuff. With Mama there was just a whoosh. And then emptiness.

How to pay tribute to the Importance that was Mama. Mama was the sun around which I orbited. She was my lodestar. She was my mirror. She was even a Wrong Way Sign I heeded, making different choices with my life so that I did not wind up quite where she was. She was the font. She was where the stories came from and the songs. She was the only Druid I ever knew - and not some sort of cute modern day Wicken Druid but a woman who would look at me slightly vaguely and say "I'm sure God can hear our prayers in the woods."

In my two earliest memories, admittedly mostly about me, she is there - on the edge, close enough to pick me up if I fall. In the first she was in a car with the rest of my family listening to my 15 month old self cry. I asked her how long it went on and she said, airily, "Oh - the whole trip" which was from Richmond, VA to Lake Worth FL. 1,000 miles. I asked her how they could stand it and she said "The trip was planned and paid for. You were going to cry that long anyway and we were going to have to listen to you." Which is exactly the sort of Glenda the Good Witch pragmatism she practiced throughout her whole life. What must be endured will be accepted with a shrug and some sort of management procedure will be brought to bear upon it.

What a woman.

I have a-zillion memories of her - and though I shan't fill up this post with them, I have promised myself and LD that I will write them all down into The Story Of Mama - for him and for P and if we are so blessed, any grandchildren that come along. I love those memories. I like to pull them out of the treasure chest of my brain, like so many rubies and emeralds from a jewel box, and look at them, savor them - feel them again.

She and I had a special time together in those early years. By the time I was born, my older sister was in school so I had long days of being her Only Child and yet, because I already had a sister, the New Babies who came along were something she and I shared. There was never any sense of being supplanted. We were a team.

This team had formed before there were New Babies, of course. We did stuff together. She did not know how to drive before I turned 4 so we had to go everywhere by bus. We'd take a county bus to the city line and then walk across the street to a different corner to catch the city bus. Once when we were coming home from downtown - which is where people shopped when I was little - I started to cross the street to catch the county bus. She asked me what I was doing and I told her I was going to the bus stop. I was across the street by then. We argued for a while about which side of the street was the correct one and then she said "When the bus comes to my corner, I'm getting on it."

Well. I knew one thing - nobody was going to let a 3 year old get on a bus without her mother so I walked back across the street. And then the bus came to my corner, paused a moment, and seeing nobody at the stop, drove off and left us.  We had to walk home and we laughed the whole way.

It wasn't long after that, she learned how to drive. Not because public transport was so difficult but because of a near disaster caused by me. Big sister had started school so it was in the fall. Mama was heavily pregnant by then with the first of the New Babies. (those poor girls were still being referred to as TheBabies when they started high school) She was napping in the afternoons then and usually I loved to nap with her because she'd let me sleep in her bed with her. But this particular time I kept thinking about the candy in the bathroom - I must have just gotten over a cold. That candy in the bathroom was so delicious. It was orange flavored. It melted on your tongue. And if you climbed up onto the toilet and from there onto the sink you could get the cabinet open and you could pry the lid off with your bottom teeth. I took a few and let them make my mouth juicy. I went back to bed to try to nap. That candy called my name. I went back for another few. Then back to bed. Then back to the bathroom again. When there was only one candy left I figured I'd get scolded for eating the candy without permission but so long as I hadn't eaten it all it, I would probably not get a spanking. Much of our childhood decision making pivoted around the odds of the spanking. And then I went back to sleep with mama, on the Big Bed.

Of course, I had forgotten all about the moral dilemma by the time my sister came home from school. Instead, I bragged, "I had some tandy" (Always fun to get one up on the Big Sister) "Where's mine?" big sister demanded and I remember Mama saying "she didn't have any candy" and, completely forgetting the strategical advantage of silence I said "Yes I did. I had the tandy in the bathroom"

After that everything was pandemonium. No car. Couldn't drive anyway. No ambulance service in the county. Call Daddy. Call the neighbors. Most of the women neither drove nor had cars at that time. We were starter families in starter homes during the recession following the Korean War. Finally a neighbor took Mama and me to the hospital and I distinctly remember her saying "Now be a good girl and don't kick" so I asked her to hold my legs, which she did for me .... and then great big men with noisy silver machines did things and I threw up.

Yes. I was the sort of kid that inspired those pesky childproof caps on medicine bottles.  Sorry.

After that Daddy made her learn how to drive, left the car at home while he took the public transportation - for the rest of his working life. He found he liked not having to be bothered with a car during Richmond's modest rush hour.

Oh the memories. Oh the flood of memories. Mama knew more songs and more stories than any other mother in the neighborhood - in the world, I was sure. and I would brag on her and tell my friends they ought to hear my mother sing. And then I'd take them to her and she would sing. And when the ballet teacher wanted wooden milk buckets for her little tap dancing milk maids, it was mama who suggested using contact paper printed like wood to cover old paint cans. It was also mama who sewed our tutus and the milk maid costume. Black and white striped satin over red net tutus. Oh mama. mama mama mama.

and it was Mama who had the faith to drag me to every violin teacher in the city till she finally found one who would take a chance on a 5 year old. This was before Suzuki and the wunderkinds of today. And it was Mama who kept a scrap book of every program I ever played, every newspaper article, every award, certificate and medal. And when all her kids grew up and moved away ... she bought herself a violin and learned how to play it - and even won 2nd place in the Chesterfield County Fair Fiddle competition.

And Mama could draw. And she sewed. Oh she could make anything. She taught me how to make the Seven Dress for my dolls. You say you want to know how to make a Seven Dress?


  1. You fold a square of cloth in half and then in half again 
  2. Snip out the corner where the folds all meet, diagonally opposite the 4 loose points. 
  3. Then cut away those 4 points in the shape of a 7. Open it up and you see a t-shaped garment with the neckline where the first snip was cut away. 

You can leave it like it is to make a pull over or snip it down the center to make a coat. So long as you make the body wide enough to wrap around your doll or teddy bear or G I Joe, you can just tie it at the waist or if you want to get serious you can glue the edges or sew them. I've taught countless little girls how to make the 7 dress but it came first from Mama.

Mama Mama Mama. Oh Mama how could I ever describe all that is you? How to explain that you didn't believe God could only hear you in a church. How to demonstrate the tenderness you showed us when you said "don't come crying to me. I can't help if you're crying" How to tell the pride I felt when you told me "If you need a day off from school, just tell me. I'll write you a note. But never tell me you are sick if you aren't"

How does one describe the utter joy of sipping coffee with the grownups after being invited by Mama into the living room, to sit on the sofa with her in the morning before school. What about the lessons in How To Catch A Man - which was the title of a book she bought and shared with us. "Stare directly into his eyes, then lower your own - twice, swiftly - and say "You are just so cute."

What about the hilarious laughter we shared watching comedy shows together. The way she managed to get us in the summer children's plays, the youth orchestras, the drama classes and the art shows. We were always everywhere doing cool stuff because Mama thought it would fun to try. "I mean, what's the worst that can happen? You had a few hours of trying something new." and the complete freedom in the kitchen - so long as you cleaned up after yourself. Yes. It was Mama who taught me to always have good toys - and to share them with abandon. Just ask any little girl who's spent time at Bess' Girls Camp.

Oh Mama. Mama. How could you go away?

And yet she has been going for a long time. She has been in a skilled nursing home now for almost 3 years - bedridden for the most part - and probably as much by choice as anything else. She no longer drew. She no longer read. She knew us all and remembered the new family members - the grand-daughters in law. The great grandchildren. But she only really roused herself when she talked about the old days. Old photos. Old stories. Old diaries. I had them all and I took them all to her bedroom. We could spend hours with these mementos of decades gone.

But on our last visit things were different. She is right handed but she picked up her diet Pepsi with her left hand and poked her face with the straw. She didn't recognize any of the photos, though I took big ones of her and Daddy and TheBabies. She smiled and did the polite thing but if I asked "recognize her?" she'd say "No. Who is this?"

After a while there were no more pictures. She lay back. She stared at me and said "I love you so"

And I crawled into bed with her and I held her close and I whispered to her all the words of pride and love and tenderness I had. I told her that she was the best mama ever in the whole wide world. I told her I loved her and would always always always love her. And we cuddled till the lunch staff came with her lunch.

And I went away thinking "she's going. She will be gone soon."

And now she is gone. In fact - she may have gone before that nurse gently touched her in the darkness of a Saturday morning. I hope they came for her - the way they did for Daddy. Perhaps it was Daddy himself. However it was, though - I am glad it was gently and I am glad the last words we shared with each other were I Love You.

Mama. Oh Mama. Goodbye.




Monday, September 1, 2014

It's Birthday Month Again!

Yes my friends. It's that time of year again. It's SEPTEMBER - and time for TheQueen to celebrate her BIRTHDAY!
 

I have a lot of stuff I'm thinking about - including some knitting thoughts - and some drawing thoughts and all sorts of Other Good Things - but I've been fooling around on the computer this morning for hours and just now getting around to TheBlog. So I'll just post about my early birthday gift today and put out the rest of my September Plans as the week progresses.

As for the early birthday present - well - there is, as in all good posts from TheQueen - some back story:

I have been longing for More Active Play in my life. I set the goal for Summer 2014 to Find a New Sport.  I knew this would be both fun and enriching. In July I took a long bike trip in a state park and oh my goodness did I ever love it. ThePrince and I actually came home thinking we'd like to buy some bikes but after a day or so reality kicked in.  Since I live at the end of a long dirt lane, at the end of a long dead end paved road - I would either have to bike over the same 8 miles every time I wanted to go someplace or I'd have to load it on a car and take the bike someplace.

Uh. I know this. If it involves getting into a car and going somewhere ... it ain't going to happen.  I wouldn't even go to my beloved gym if I weren't already in town for working or grocery shopping.

I will still go on bike trips but they will be on trails where there are bikes to rent.

So. What else?

Ahh - well, remember, I live on a river. Or rather, I live up a little gut that's up a little creek that's on a river. That means I can walk to the water. WALK; that's important. I will walk almost anywhere. Walking through field and forest ( or city or town, or even shopping mall) is my favorite form of active play. I love the idea of feet as transportation.

Now - we have boats here - even boats that I can handle - with effort. But they're really more Big Strong Guy sized boats.  Our canoe is an 18 foot Grumman aluminum ship - and if I'm the only person in it - the bow comes out of the water and has no steerage. I have to either take dogs - who move around and even jump out - or fill up buckets with water to hold the bow down.  Like Goldilocks, this boat is Too Big.

And there is a kayak - but again - guys have altered it, taking out the seat, so here's another Goldilocks allusion:  It's Too Hard.

And then - there is always the fear that the most darling, wonderful ThePrince in the world, will try to dominate me if I step into his hobby. He's the Boat Guy.  He's extremely bossy.  He has a powerful, intense personality. I love that vividness. I would crush a lesser personality than his. Often his exuberance is funny and I just laugh and make faces and ignore him - but when it comes to his areas of expertise I tend to yield. And loving him as I do - I don't want to resent having yielded my pleasure to his instance.

Still and all there was this little voice inside me that said "You are always sniping about people who live on the water and never go out on the water ... and You Are No Different From Them!"

Yes. There was a spiritual component to all of this. There was almost a spiritual duty to connect with the river. When I go out with Other People - while I love it, love them, love sharing .... I am coming out as a tourist. What about getting to know my water - my marshes - my little birds and dragon flies and marsh roses? When am I going to go out and honor the blessed gift I've been given?

So I began to make kayak murmurs. Then I tried someone else's kayak. Then I talked about kayaks to TheBoatGuy - who immediately leapt into action!  He looked up every dealer in Virginia. He made calls. He read articles. He had a list. He tempted me away from work early on Wednesday so we could go look at a shop. And he took me to Fredericksbug and  the Virginia Outdoor Center where I could try some out.

I had an idea I'd like the Old Town Vapor 10. It was small (important to me) and seemed comfortable enough. Best of all, VOC has some. I tried one and liked it. Very stable. Very easy to paddle - though even an 8 foot paddle knocked against the gunwales. It was good. If one bloomed in my yard I'd probably think it was the best of all. I tried a Heron, another, smaller Old Town Kayak. No thanks - wrong shape for me.

Then the owner brought down an Old Town Loon 11.1

From the moment I stepped into it I knew this was a different experience. Even the launch felt different. It was narrower and slightly tipsier.  I don't really mind tipsy because heck - I go on the water expecting to get wet. But it wasn't very tipsy - just slightly more so. Then I sat down and shoved off. It clove through the water like a fish. The first try to cross the current in the upper Rappahannock was a success. I shot across like an arrow.

This did not feel like a boat. It felt like an extension of my body. It made me think of my sister, a dressage horsewoman. When you see her sitting a horse, you can't tell where she ends and the horse begins. This was what I was dreaming of but hadn't realized I would find.


I had to get back in the original Vapor and then back in the Loon and after that - well - I didn't really need to try any more boats. I thought I ought to, after all, there are other kayaks in my price range, at several different places around VA. This was just my first stop.

We drove all over VA to look at boats. We went to Farmville and the Appomattox River Company where there are scadzillions of kayaks. I didn't have much fun there, though. The staff wasn't very friendly, with the exception of one salesman, who also does the repairs.  Perhaps I ought to say it was just the owner who was the problem. He couldn't believe I wouldn't just pop the $780 for his starter kayak - without ever trying it out!  Sheesh! Even a car dealer lets you take one out for a spin. I'll just say - he's one boat dealer who will never see my $ even if I do end up some day ponying up with the big bucks. I'd go someplace else. Or order on-line. The repair guy salesman, though, was more than helpful. He suggested I go up to James River State Park where I could try out the Wilderness kayaks he was showing me.

Which we did.

But the memory of feeling like I was a boat, instead of I  like was in a boat, sat in the back of my mind whispering "You already know - you already know". So at the end of the day I told ThePrince "Look - I have seen enough boats. I know what I want"

I still had to give Other Good Reasons for not looking any more ... because I was with a man with Boat Fever - On A Quest.

  1. I can borrow one from Bill for a few weeks and see if I reallio trulio want one. 
  2. I can get one used - so I won't be timid about dinging it up
  3. I can save on the boat and spend on a better paddle
  4. I can sell it easily if it turns out I don't really use it 
And So

And so on Sunday we called up our friend who owns one and I borrowed a lime green Old Town Loon 11.1

And doesn't it look like fun?



And don't I have a lovely place to play?


Thursday, August 28, 2014

My Year Without A Summer (with a wee bit about knitting)

No doubt about it, I'm an Autumn Baby. With a birthday is in September (You know I'll start celebrating the whole month in just a few days) and, of course, I live in the south - in the muggy buggy sleepy swampy coastal land of Virginia. Secretly ... well, not really all that secretly ... I am proud that I can endure a tidewater Virginia summer. But most of all I have always been glad to see those mosquitoey days draw to a close. I can't wait for the crisp bite of a north wind, the clear blue of a humidity free sky - I even like the song of the cricket - so long as he stays outside to do his wooing.

It has always been a mystery, why so many of my friends (including ThePrince) prefer the summer and sigh wistfully at it's closing. Till this year. This year we have had AIR CONDITIONING! I have only spent one summer in my life living in a place that was air conditioned and I had a sore throat all that summer. So I have always been a little suspicious of living and especially sleeping in air conditioning. Instead, I've known what the weather is like out there. I have felt the stifling heat of a second floor bedroom, gasping beneath a wet washcloth on my chest as I waited for sleep to take me away from the hotness. I have kicked off the sheet in my sleep. I've gotten the ice pack out of the freezer and wrapped it in a towel so that I could lie on it till my chilled blood circulated through my body to cool it down.

Not This Year.

This has been a summer of closed windows, clean floors, bug-less sills. This year there have been no stuck dresser drawers, no mildew spores creeping across leather shoes and no no-see-ums whining in my ear. But this has felt like the year without a summer. This year, since I haven't "felt" summer, I can't really feel like there has even *been* a summer. I know. It's a Right Brain Thing.

And here we are, facing the last weekend of it. (you might think summer lasts till the 21st of September, but ask any 4th grader and she will tell you it's over on the first day of school)  I feel like I've been caught off guard.

And what does this girl do when she is caught off guard?

She pulls out her Notebook and Starts A New List!

First I listed all the wonderful things that have filled the past 10 weeks. Then I wrote down everything I could think of that I want right now. And then I started the list of steps I need to take to get the things I want right now.

And number one on the list - no duh - is to drop the added lbs that an air conditioned summer has allowed to creep back onto this body.

ooooo. Notice how I found SOMETHING ELSE to blame for the weight gain?

No - just joking. The weight gain came from choices made over and over and over again. One more bite; an extra ice cream bar; wine AND dessert at the same meal - two days in a row. Hel-OH-oh.

But there is nothing like a new month, a BIRTHDAY month - heralding in a New Season - to inspire a girl to revamp her could-be-more-healthy lifestyle. First on the agenda is to do a new assessment with my WW ActiveLink activity monitor. I started that on Sunday. The initial assessment was done at a time when I was lifting weights with a personal trainer. I haven't done that since my shoulder problems flared up in December.  I can plug my little monitor in to the website and it will assess my daily activity and suggest ways to improve it.  I'm ready for a fresh start and new challenge.

Second will be to commit to eating in the weight-loss zone.  I know what that needs to be. Time to be like Nike and Just Do It.

Between those two choices runs the golden path to the body I really do want; the body with the energy to do all the other Fresh Start Things on my Autumn 2014 list.

And as a reward for hitting my goal weight I will cast on a new project - no. I will buy yarn!!! and then cast on a new project - in spite of the whining and sighing of all the UFOs tucked here and there about the house. I have chosen Amy Herzog's Telluride Aran pullover:


And since I am as in love with the color as I am with the design I will log onto Webbs and see if its available.

There are some Other Things on my New Things List that I'll share soon but this is my pumped up post for a Thursday morning - at the tail end of August in my Year Without a Summer.