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June 2009

Up North

I'm headed Up North to our lake cottage for a week's vacation.

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I've packed some books, my camera equipment, my iPod, some movies.  And my knitting, of course!

I'm hoping to finish up Daisy Jane (Heidi Kirrmaier's Buttercup pattern). . .

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. . . so I can get started on this!

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 It's going to be Ulmus by Kirsten Kapur.

I have no internet connectivity Up North, so I won't be posting until I return.  Enjoy the 4th of July!  Hope you get to see some fireworks.

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PS -- Even though I haven't been a fan for the last 25 years, I must say that Michael Jackson's death this week was jarring to the childhood Me.  As a little girl, I loved the Jackson 5 -- and when I was a bit older, I watched him carefully to try to "copy" his dance moves.  I've been listening to his music again over the last couple of days, and decided to share one last tribute!



The Watering Hole

This spring I added a "water feature" to my backyard garden. 

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As with most of my gardening projects, it was a family affair.  Tom and Brian (with help from our foreign exchange student, Dominik) did the dirty work -- the digging and actual installation of the pond -- and I did the design and planting.

Now this is a tiny pond; in fact, it might be best described as a puddle.  But I am delighted.  The pond is right next to the patio, so I can sit (and sip wine. . .) and listen to the little fountain.  The sound of the water trickling is so nice! 

And I have two little fish!  Koi.  Brian and Dominik picked them up for me for Mother's Day -- before the pond was even settled in the ground.  If you look closely, you can see them feeding in this picture.  (Their names are Luda and Boo.)

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Jenny sees them!  She likes to watch them swim around. . .

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At first, I was afraid that Jenny might go IN the pond (she loves to swim. . .), but so far, she hasn't taken the plunge.  She leaps over the pond.  She steals rocks from the pond.  She watches the fish.  And she thinks the mini-birdbath is her outside watering dish!

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Jenny isn't the only one who thinks the pond is an excellent watering hole, though!  I've discovered that I've created a popular spot for the yellow jacket population!

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All day, there is a steady stream of yellow jackets, landing on my tiny lily pads -- eager for a sip.

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My little pond has brought a whole new dimension to my garden!

Bottoms up!


Gardening: The Untold Story

Having a blog means you can share lovely photos of your garden.

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But that, of course, is not the whole story!  Oh, no!  Gardening is a process. . . and sometimes it is not so lovely.  Sometimes it looks like THIS:

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Same peony bush.  Blooms are mummified from too much rain. . .

Or this:

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Where have all the roses gone?

Or this:

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My ligularia is suffering from my Pest of the Summer - the Fourlined Plant Bug (especially notorious when spring weather is wet and cool. . .). 

Pretty ugly stuff, huh?  Yesterday I spent the (very hot) afternoon in my garden.  Deadheading.  Spraying insecticidal soap.  Weeding.

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The payoff?  Healthy plants.  More blooms to come!

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Ahhhhh.  Much better!

PS -- Although you can buy insecticidal soap relatively cheaply at gardening stores, it's easy to mix your own -- especially if you are suffering a large infestation.  Just mix 1-2 Tablespoons of liquid SOAP (not detergent; I use Ivory) with 1 quart of water.  Then transfer this mixture to a clean spray bottle, and go to it!




The Joy In It

Okay.  I'm just going to have to admit it.  I'm a fitness freak.  I've already proclaimed my love of yoga, but now I need to admit that . . . I'm at the gym every morning.

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We have a membership at a really great gym -- and it's worth every penny for our fitness-minded family.  I work out best in a group, and this gym has great classes and terrific instructors.  My favorite class is a high-impact dance aerobics class taught by Kathe-the-Killer.  For 60 non-stop minutes, she has us dancing our way to fitness with complex, well-choreographed, constantly changing steps.  She is fabulous -- I swear, she can teach ANYone to dance, and she makes us feel like we're in a music video.  I also take pilates from Sandy-the-Sadist, and a core/strength/cardio class from Evil-Sherri-and-her-Minions.  Great classes.  Really great.

I used to think that staying in shape was a hedge against health issues, and that was why I was so committed.  Then, I was diagnosed with lymphoma and it rocked my world (in lots of ways).  In fact, when my doctor explained my diagnosis and treatment plan, my second thought was What about my workouts!  (The first thought was What about my hair!  It wasn't until my third thought that I wondered Will I live?  It takes a while to get your mind around a cancer diagnosis.)  I felt so betrayed by my body!  I was determined to continue working out, though, through my chemo.  It didn't work out that way.  Lack of energy, extreme fatigue, and a dangerously low white-cell count kept me out of the gym for several months.  When I was finished with treatment, and had been given the go-ahead from my doctor, I headed back to my classes.

It wasn't easy, though.  I was in terrible shape.  By the end of chemo, just going upstairs in my house made me short of breath, and walking my dog around the block (not even 10 minutes) was a major undertaking.  How could I ever make it through one of Kathe's dance classes again?  But, I tried anyway -- and got incredible support from Kathe and my gym buddies.  They welcomed me back, encouraged me, watched out for me, and even got me to take off my scarf weeks before I planned to.  And, you know what?  It was not all that long before I could make it through one of Kathe's classes!

While I'm still feeling pretty vulnerable -- because my body DID betray me -- I'm also understanding that my fitness level going IN to chemo helped me recover quicker AFTER chemo.  Within a few months, I'm pretty much back to my same fitness level as before.  Only now, I've realized something else.  Fitness isn't JUST a hedge against health issues.  It's a whole lot more.  One day, in Kathe's class, when I was beginning to feel stronger again, we were doing a step that's always been a favorite of mine.  It's a kind of step-back-turn-and-spin-spin maneuver.  While we were doing this, Kathe instructed us to "stretch out your arms and feel the JOY in it!"  And I did.  I got tears in my eyes.  I felt the JOY -- of moving, of spinning, of being back.

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I'm off to the gym.  To jump and spin and twist and leap and stretch.  For the JOY in it!


Photography 101

I've always liked to take photos, and I love my digital camera(s); I even think I have a fairly good sense of composition and balance in putting together a shot.  BUT I really don't know anything about the technical aspects of photography.  So I'm taking a photography class at the Kalamazoo Art Institute this summer.

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Being in a photography class allows you to Kinnear people . . . pretty much whenever you want!

Anyway, I struggle to understand the technical stuff.  Some of the others struggle to understand composition.  And it's always interesting to watch people react to critique!  (The class ranges from the "aw, shucks, it was nothin'" kind of photographer. . . to the incredibly defensive "artiste" kind of photographer!)

This week's assignment was to photograph one object from a variety of perspectives.  I chose a barn (which is, surprisingly, located in the middle of my very suburban neighborhood).

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I think it's an interesting subject.

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And the light was really nice.

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I was able to capture the barn from many different perspectives!

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But you never know what the instructor will think!  Last week I submitted this shot. . .

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and he LOVED it!  He got a little flabbergasted, and exclaimed, "What IS that?"  Oh, just a little knitting project. . .

PS - Yesterday, in the comments to my Grandmother's birthday post, Lee asked to see my Grandmother's wedding photo.  Here it is:

G & G the early years 

But, as Grandma explained to us at her party, they didn't have a ceremony.  They were married in the middle of the Depression, and opted to use their money to establish a household, rather than spend it on a "frivolity."  So, no dress.  But the brooch is pretty cool!


Centennial

On Thursday this week, my Grandmother will celebrate her 100th birthday.  We celebrated the event, as a family, on Saturday.

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Her cake was very cool (except for the Frosting Issue. . . my poor cousin, Lori, who was in charge of the cake, was in Quite a State about that).

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Doesn't my Grandmother look like she may have starred in "Casablanca"?

My Grandmother is in amazingly good form for 100 years.  She lives in an assisted living facility, but doesn't really have much assistance yet.  She tires easily, and has started to use a walker for longer distances,  but she's still very sharp.  She still very much cares about Protocol --- you know, bringing out the white handbag after Memorial Day, having her hair done on Tuesdays, not being late for birthday parties, that kind of thing.  She's an avid reader, follows world events (albeit on Fox News. . . ), and clearly remembers purchasing a sofa, side chair, dining room set, bedroom set, and a few side tables (maybe even some lamps) for $300 when she got married.  She's also a die-hard Cubs fan!  Watches every game on tv and continues to hope. . .

Grandma confirmation

Grandma at her confirmation; she thinks about age 13 or 14.

I made a scrapbook for my Grandmother to commemorate her Centennial Birthday.  I included old photos and a time line of events that have happened over the past 100 years.  For example, the cement was poured for the Panama Canal the same summer my Grandmother was born!  Women couldn't vote yet.  There hadn't been any world wars.  No radio.  People had horses.  No wonder she was a bit bewildered when another cousin presented her with a DVD of photos!  (She showed my husband the DVD case and told him, "There's a little photo album in here!"  Later, she was visibly agitated when my Mom mentioned, casually, that my cousin would be "burning more copies later.")

Grandma Kym and Steve again
My Grandmother with me and my cousin, Steve, in 1960; she must've been 51.

It was nice to be able to be together with family and celebrate such a momentous event.

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My Grandmother with two of her "kids" (my Dad and my Aunt; my Uncle will arrive later to celebrate).

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GRANDMA!


The Hockey Mom

My son, Brian, is a hockey player.  So that makes me . . . a Hockey Mom.

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That's him.  Number 11.  Delivering a punishing blow during a high school game last year.

Hockey is a sport that takes a lot of time and commitment -- from the player and from the family.  Lots of driving.  Lots of travel.  Lots of practice.  Lots of games.  Lots of equipment.  Lots of laundry.  In the early years, it meant lots of knitting time in cold rinks in uncomfortable seats with other Hockey Moms.  Hockey Moms develop a special camaraderie when their players are young.  You are actually in the locker rooms, getting your kids geared up/down for practices and games.  You develop a special intimacy as you sort through tiny shin pads and helmets and jocks together!  Thankfully, just as the players start to develop that . . . stink. . . and begin to talk like they're IN a locker room. . . they can take care of their own gearing up/down, and we Hockey Moms just shift to driving, watching, waiting, and laundry.

Champs in chaos

Brian at 9, when his team won a tournament.  The Hockey Moms were ecstatic!  (Brian is on the very far left here.)

Hockey is also a sport that never ends.  The season just goes on. . . and on. . . and on. . .  There's Summer Hockey, and Fall Hockey, and the "Regular Season", of course, and Playoffs, and then there's even Spring Hockey.  Much of it is optional, of course.  But not really.  Because hockey is. . . all about the ice time!

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So, last night I pulled into an all-too-familiar parking lot. 

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Summer Hockey has begun! 

But this Hockey Mom doesn't knit at the rink anymore.  First of all, the games are pretty exciting at this level.  Second, I don't have to wait around anymore.  And, third, the rink has a bar!

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It also really hit me last night.  Brian will be a senior this year.  It's his last year for competitive hockey.  That means. . . it's my last year to be a Hockey Mom.

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I'm going to savor every moment!


Diggin' It

In May, everyone is a gardener. 

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At least, here in Michigan they are!  After a long, cold, rather colorless winter, none of us can resist the colors, the feel, the smell of real live plants.  The nurseries are packed with gardeners in May.  (It's almost as bad as the mall in December.)  We can't wait to plant some petunias and bring a little spring to our garden patches. 

Now, I'm right in there with everyone else, a garden junkie eager for my spring fix.  But I know that the best time to hit the nurseries is . . . about now.  Why?

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The sales!

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The coupons!

AND -- there are plenty of parking spaces and no crowds!  It's garden shopping heaven!

Hanging baskets for $5?  I cut the hangers off, and place them all around my garden for punches of color.  This year, I even created a "faux window box" with hanging baskets at my dining room window! 

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And with my "bonus bucks"?  Well, I stocked up on perennials.  And then spent yesterday afternoon planting.

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And what a perfect planting day!  Cool.  Overcast.  Misty rain.  Ideal weather for planting (or transplanting).

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I'm sure my neighbors get a chuckle out of me when I haul out my planting "equipment"!  Especially when I pull my compost around in a wagon. . . With all my wheeled garden vehicles, I have my own Dirt Convoy!

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But. . . things are looking pretty good! 

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I'm diggin' it!


Embroidering the R

When I was in treatment for lymphoma, my immediate goal was to reach remission (my ultimate goal is cure - but I have to get through this "limbo" period of remission first).  Although I didn't like chemo, I did like Taking Action.  I just wanted the cancer cells Out. Of. My. Body.  Mid-way through my treatment (so after 3 cycles of chemotherapy had been administered), I had a PET scan to monitor my progress and see how I was responding to the chemo.  I was thrilled to find out that, after only 3 treatments (with 3 more yet to go. . .) I was already in remission!  But -- my oncologist warned me "not to embroider the R" quite yet.  (She didn't want me to decide the treatments had worked so well that I should just forgo my remaining treatments.)  So after all six chemo cycles were complete, I had another PET scan --- and I got great news.  Complete remission.  No evidence of cancer cells in my body.  Now it was official.

My sister embroidered the R for me!

The R 001
My brother-in-law crafted the exquisite - and really tiny - puzzle box to hold the R!

My Mom and Dad gave me an R charm for my bracelet!

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My husband took me out for dinner!

And me?  I bought yarn!

Gytha in Progress

And celebrated by knitting myself a "grand prize" sweater!  This is Gytha from the Twist Collective.  Details, of course, are on my Ravelry page.

Gytha fini back

It's good to give yourself a treat when you reach a major milestone!


That Yoga Look!

I've practiced yoga for many years, and I love it!  Yoga makes me strong and flexible and balanced.  It  gives me a sense of confidence about what my body can DO, which has been especially important to me as I heal from the physical effects of chemo.  Yoga also brings me a certain sense of peace and wellness, which is particularly helpful as I deal with the emotional effects of cancer.  I felt so betrayed by my body when I was diagnosed with lymphoma, and yoga is helping me get over that; to begin to trust my body again.  I do yoga twice a week -- and I get pretty grumpy if my schedule aligns in such a way that I have to miss. 

But is there a . . . yoga look?

Yoga Flier 001

A couple of days ago I was grocery shopping -- just weekly shopping; up and down the aisles of the store with my list in hand.  After my groceries were loaded up in my car, and I was just about to back out of my parking space, I noticed the woman in the car next to me frantically gesturing to get my attention.  When I unrolled my window, she said, "You look like you do yoga!"  And then she handed me a flier about an upcoming yoga workshop, and shared many of the details with me -- through our open car windows.

You look like you do yoga!  Huh?  My mind immediately tried to figure out how she could have guessed. I wasn't dressed in yoga attire, and I wasn't wearing my namaste t-shirt, so I went through a mental inventory. . .   Had I absentmindedly been doing the tree pose at the check-out counter?  (I've been known to do this from time to time ---- just with my legs, mind you, not the arms!)  Had I reached for the Frosted Flakes in triangle pose?  Executed a twist as I grabbed the shredded cheese?  I was pretty sure I hadn't. . .

In retrospect, I think she was just seeking out potential workshop participants, and introducing herself with a "you look like you do yoga" comment was probably a pretty effective method of opening up the conversation.  After all, I took the flier, I listened to her while she told me about the workshop.  I even considered signing up (because it looks like a great workshop).

But I'm going to be really careful next time I'm at the grocery store.  I wouldn't want to be caught in tree pose while I'm using the debit card machine. . .

Namaste!