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April 2015

A Poem in My Pocket

A lot of people I know (most, in fact) don't read poetry regularly.  I'm pretty sure they were ruined by uninspired  English teachers during their school days, and never discovered poetry's delights on their own.  I have a few poems I keep in my back pocket, though.  For those times when I want to show someone how relevant, meaningful, and even FUN poetry can be!  

Here's one of my favorites . . . just for you on Poem in My Pocket Day.

Kym at age 11 1970_2


you wore blue pedal pushers and polka dot tops
saturday mornings
when sun still spoke
through a screenless window above the sink
and the radio rested on its ledge
holding the jive of a dj papa
"the sounds of soul w-o-k-j"
nestled between some newly womanish hips
your hands submerged in lemon joy and breakfast dishes
while the bottoms of bare feet
slopped and
to the four tops
impressions and
you were a girl with dixie peach bangs
and cashmere bouquet sprinkled
in the crease of not long opened breasts
who dreamed of boys
talking in poems
and moving in beauty like marvin gaye
will you remember this girl when you are a woman
will you remember to love her when she dances
across your dreams and kisses you
like a daughter
on the lips?

---Kelly Norman Ellis in Boomer Girls


(And, yeah.  That's me.  Age 11.)

Right Now - April 2015

April . . .  always a mixed bag.  You just never know what April will bring.  Crazy weather, for sure.  But the beginnings of True Spring . . . with added sunlight and generally warming temperatures.  By the end, April kind of looks like this . . . and I'm thrilled.


Here's what's happening for me . . . RIGHT NOW!

WATCHING . . .  PBS.  Wolf Hall - loved the book; love the series, and Call the Midwife - still charming, although getting a tad routine.  (Where is Chummy???? Did I miss something???  Is she coming back?  Sort of like Sister Mary Cynthia?)  (Just found this. . . she'll be back.)


KNITTING . . . Plugging away on Romi's Mystery Shawl.  (That's it, up there.  I'm sorry if you didn't want to see a spoiler.  But I blurred it, so it's still kind of . . . mysterious.  Besides, there's only one more clue and then it'll be out there anyway.)  I'm not really sold on that middle stripe thing yet.  At all.  But will have to wait to see how it looks blocked and finished.  When I'm not (constantly) knitting on that (to keep up with the clues), I've cast on for this sweater.  So far, so good.  (But I haven't gotten very far at all.)

LISTENING . . . Kinda been in a John Mayer mood lately . . . 


DRINKING . . . More water!  I'm trying to stay a bit more hydrated.

DREADING . . . An upcoming committee commitment that is just . . . well.  Kind of lame.  


REGRETTING . . . Too much too soon, apparently.  A bit of three-steps-forward-one-step-back, so . . . a return to the ice bag.

PLANNING . . . I am planning my "attack" on the last - and hardest - of my Kon-Mari purge zones: my knitting/sewing room, my boxes of "memorabilia," and photographs.  I think a re-read of certain sections of my Kon-Mari "bible" are in order, but I'm nearly ready to DIG IN!

HUMMING . . . A catchy little Weezer tune.


ITCHING TO . . . Sit out on the patio every evening, under my bistro lights, with a glass of wine and something to read.

ORGANIZING . . . All the garden things!


DELIGHTED BY . . . My drawing class.  Why a drawing class?  Because I really want to take a printmaking class.  And maybe a watercolor class.  And "Drawing I" is a prerequisite. So . . . here I am, dusting off the cobwebs (because the last time I took a drawing class was back in college) and - surprise - having a great time!

NEEDING TO . . . Clear off the kitchen island for Tom's return.  (I tend to set out my "projects" on the island when he's away, but never when he's at home.)


ENJOYING . . .  A new morning routine that includes meditation, yoga, and regular journaling.  Sure, I have to get out of bed a bit earlier, but totally worth it!

CELEBRATING . . . An end to physical therapy.  Tom's return this weekend.  My dad's birthday.  And Spring!

How about YOU?  What's going on for you . . . RIGHT NOW?


Startlements from India: About the Beer

Another "startlement" from Tom, as he spends a few more days in Mumbai. . .


On Sunday, I went to the mall to buy a nail clipper (which I didn't bring because I'd assumed they were still not allowed).  I found the item at a small store in the mall, busy with weekend throngs hanging out.  I suddenly heard a voice which didn't fit, asking the shopkeeper, "Where can I find a pub?"

I turned to see someone who looked like John Goodman as he looked in The Big Lebowski:  heavy build, shorts, bandana wrapped around his forehead, dark glasses, sweaty shirt.  He'd clearly been walking around in the hot and had come looking for refreshment.

He told the shopkeeper, "I'm looking for a pub.  A bar.  I just want a beer.  Downstairs they told me to go up.  Up here they tell me to go down. . . "

The shopkeeper looked confused.

I jumped in, "I'm not sure there is a pub in this mall.  It's not like the US.  There is a social stigma associated with drinking here."

He looked stunned.  "With beer?" he asked.

"Yes."  I told him.  "There is a bar in the hotel down the street."  I gave him directions, but warned, "it's not always open.  It opens for just a few hours every day."  

"It's not like the US," I repeated.


He said he was a merchant marine and had come ashore to look around.  He told me he'd just been to Bahrain on his journey, and there was plenty of beer and prostitutes and everything there.  He thought he'd find the same in Mumbai. . . 

I wished him luck and we parted.  Not sure if he ever found a beer, though!

(Note from Kym:  When Tom returns home, he complains most about the mosquitos, the lack of fresh water, and  . . . beer!  There is beer in India.  It's just . . . very "lite."  And not always available.)



The Nitty-Gritty of It

When Brian was in high school, he found Tom's old Pentax K2000 35mm film camera in the far depths of a closet one day . . . and fell in love with film photography.

His interest was further bolstered when my Dad shared his camera/photography knowledge -- and his equipment -- with him.  (My Dad had dabbled in film photography for as long as I could remember -- although he became tired of the fussiness of it all when he discovered the ease of digital photography.) 

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There's nothing like the spark of inspiration from a Grandfather!  (These photos are from the summer of 2009 - just before Brian began his senior year in high school.)

Brian had a great time with his newly discovered hobby through his senior year in high school, and proved to be a talented photographer with a good eye and a natural sense of composition.  Photography with a 35mm film camera is challenging -- and can be quite frustrating.  There is no immediate feedback with a film camera like there is with a digital.  Nope . . . you need to wait for the film to be developed!  But Brian hung in there - and created some wonderful photographs.

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He left his camera equipment at home when he went away to college, though.  Not enough room for everything in the dorm.  Too many new distractions and more urgent things to do.  (Besides, no money for film and development costs . . .)

Now that Brian has a job, the space, and a willing accomplice (in his girlfriend, Lauren), he has picked up his cameras again.  He has even taken his photography one step further -- by creating a darkroom in his apartment!  I got a full tour and demonstration over the weekend.

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(I love this negative of JoJo!  She looks more like Jenny  in the negative . . . but with her own JoJo face shape!  So funny!)

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I'm so glad Brian has renewed his love of photography -- and I'm thrilled he's taken on the nitty-gritty ALL of it with his own darkroom.  I can't see what he creates!


I got to meet Chandler (Brian and Lauren's kitty) this weekend, too.  What a delightful kitty -- full of personality and energy, with the most lovely golden eyes!

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Friday Mailbag

They say . . . it takes a village . . . 


Dear Kathy-the-Physical-Therapist,

Thank you for sticking with me a couple of weeks back.  You know.  When I was having a Bad Attitude.  That day when I kind of spoke harshly about your 1-10 pain scale?  And when I sort of screamed at you that, "no one else can independently move their big toe sideways and hold it there, so why should I???"  I'm sort of thinking that maybe you enjoyed getting that NMES zapper-thing out and hooking my foot up to those electrodes.  (I could see the evil glint in your eyes as you dialed up the shocks.) But, you know what?  IT WORKED!  That electro-shock gizmo woke up my lazy adductor hallucis muscle.  I can now move my big toe sideways and hold it there!  My arches are not collapsing.  My peroneal tendon is not doing all the heavy lifting anymore.  And it feels so much better.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.  (But I'm still not cooperating when it comes to the pain scale.)

Dear Yvonne-the-Sports-Medicine-Running-Specialist,

You sure know how to make a girl feel like a world-class athlete, setting me up on that treadmill and filming me from every angle while I was running and all.  I hope you'll forgive my outburst of laughter when you showed me the first playback on your computer.  Because . . . in super-duper slo-mo, I look like a giant, stomping off to destroy a village.  Fee-fie-foe-fum!  (Really, I couldn't help but giggle.)  I settled down right away, though, and paid attention as you analyzed every aspect of my running style.  I didn't even complain when you made a major adjustment to my "land pattern," and I think I picked up on it pretty quickly, don't you?  And I'll totally work on opening my shoulders a bit more and engaging my core.  I only whimpered when you strongly suggested that, while I was ready to begin running again, I should start  . . . with the Couch-to-5K program.  At the very beginning.  Really?  Are you sure?


Dear Kathy-my-yoga-instructor,

Thank you for taking the time to give me all the foot stretches and strengthening exercises over the last several weeks.  They really, really helped.   Mostly, though, thank you for suggesting YogaToes.  I love them!  I think YogaToes are the primary reason I now have the world's strongest adductor hallucis muscle.  (Well, that and the electro-shock therapy.)  I will never stop paying attention to my feet again!

Dear Tom,

You'll notice a big improvement in attitude when you get home from Mumbai in May!  My ankle is better.  I'm not whining and complaining and moping around anymore.  I can dance and stand up on the spin bikes and walk the dogs.  I don't have to ice my ankle constantly (although I must admit, it was nice to have that excuse to just sit and read or knit . . . ).  And yesterday, I started the Couch-to-5K program again.  (Yeah.  I know.  They're making me.)  But I feel like myself again.

Dear Self,

Get over it.  Couch-to-5K is a great place to start again!  You're recovering from an injury.  And you're learning a whole new way to run.  Yeah.  It's a step backward.  But it's a HUGE step ahead of where you were yesterday.  (Which was just on the couch . . . )

Some Days Really Need Color . . . and Poetry

Yesterday, it snowed here in Kalamazoo.

Not so much (or so cold) that the snow accumulated on the ground or anything.

But still.  There were flakes falling all day long.

So discouraging.

It was a day in great need of color . . .


and some poetry!  This one always makes me smile. . . 

"More Than a Woman"

Ever since I woke up today,
a song has been playing uncontrollably
in my head - a tape looping

over the spools of the brain,
a rosary in the hands of a frenetic nun,
mad fan belt of a tune.

It must have escaped from the radio
last night on the drive home
and tunneled while I slept

from my ears to the center of my cortex.
It is a song so cloying and vapid
I won't even bother mentioning the title,

but on it plays as if I were a turntable
covered with dancing children
and their spooky pantomimes,

as if everything I had ever learned
was being slowly replaced
by its slinky chords and the puff-balls of its lyrics.

It played while I watered the plants
and continued when I brought in the mail
and fanned out the letters on a table.

It repeated itself when I took a walk
and watched from a bridge
brown leaves floating in the channels of a current.

Late in the afternoon it seemed to fade,
but I heard it again at the restaurant
when I peered in at the lobsters

lying on the bottom of an illuminated
tank which was filled to the brim
with their copious tears.

And now at this dark window
in the middle of the night
I am beginning to think

I could be listening to the music of the spheres,
the sound no one ever hears
because it has been playing forever,

only the spheres are colored pool balls,
and the music is oozing from a jukebox
whose lights I can just make out through the clouds.

                     --- Billy Collins, in Nine Horses



Join me next Thursday (April 30) for Poem in Your Pocket Day (part of the National Poetry Day celebration).  I'll be posting another poem here -- and I'm going to share bits of poetry in other ways that day, too.  


Don't Let it Get Away


One of the things I love most about Spring . . . is seeing the spectrum of colors as the trees begin to leaf out.  Looking out over the landscape as I'm out walking or driving is such a treat at this time of year.  So many shades of green . . .

With shades of red for good measure

A feast for my winter-weary eyes . . . a beautiful day!

I knit this great-for-warmer-weather shawl - with those same beautiful, leafing-out colors - while I was on vacation.


The colors just scream . . . SPRING . . . to me!


It's a beautiful day . . . don't let it get away!


(Ravelry details here.)

Startlements from India: Stories from the Road

"You seek a great fortune, you three who are now in chains. You will find a fortune, though it will not be the one you seek. But first... first you must travel a long and difficult road, a road fraught with peril. Mm-hmm. You shall see thangs, wonderful to tell. You shall see a... a cow... on the roof of a cotton house, ha. And, oh, so many startlements. I cannot tell you how long this road shall be, but fear not the obstacles in your path, for fate has vouchsafed your reward. Though the road may wind, yea, your hearts grow weary, still shall ye follow them, even unto your salvation."

---The Blind Seer, O Brother, Where Art Thou?

I begin today's post with that rather lengthy quote from O Brother, Where Art Thou? to introduce you to a special kind of story we "save" in our family:  We call them startlements, and they are . . . things you just . . . never expected to see.

When Tom travels to India, he encounters many startlements!  I've asked him to write some of them down, and I decided to share some of them over the next few weeks.  (And since he's back in Mumbai right now, he can collect some more for future posts!)

So, here's Tom . . . with a Startlement from India.


The traffic in India is spectacularly chaotic, but somehow manages to avoid generating the amount of carnage that you'd think it should - at least based on US sensibilities.  I don't think I could survive one day driving there -- my instincts are all wrong.  Mostly, I'd be driven to a rage by the lack of apparent traffic rules and really no sense of the sacredness of lines (waiting your turn seems to carry no weight at all).


The only rule or priority is this:  Everyone goes for space when it becomes available.  Simple.  Maddening.  Usually accompanied by a cacophony of car horns.

I couldn't survive.


Here is a video taken from my hotel room on a Sunday afternoon.  Keep in mind this is not main street traffic.  This is a side street mostly used to access a popular mall.  You will see many vehicles turning into the parking garage entrance.  They are, at least in theory, driving on the left.

The video takes about 4 minutes and there are some slow spots.  But at times the congestion grows and you get a sense of how traffic (human, animal, cars) works.  (Note from Kym: My favorite thing is watching how people just . . . walk casually among the moving cars!)


Typically, there are not a lot of collisions, although on our last trip we did see a significant fender bender.  I imagine this is because it is hard to go very fast with all the . . . stuff . . . in the way.

We had a first on our last trip.  Our driver actually hit a pedestrian on the way to work.  Now, there was no severe injury, but we hit hard enough to leave a good bruise.  The driver was looking left and creeping forward, not seeing the pedestrian.  The walker was crossing in front of us, also not looking and not at all concerned with traffic.  We passengers were watching it get closer and closer, until it was beyond the normal level of "ooh, that's close!"  Then . . . BOOM.  That got everyone's attention!

No shouting.  No gestures.  No fisticuffs.  The pedestrian glared at the driver and moved to the side of the car.  The driver looked worried, but then just drove away.

No harm, no foul.  (The underlying rule of traffic in India!)

Playing in the Dirt

Last fall, when it was time to put my garden to bed, I was incredibly busy and highly stressed.  I had no time to get out in the garden and do any kind of clean-up beyond the absolute essentials.  

All winter, as the snow covered everything in a frozen heap of ice-glacier, I kind of forgot about that.

And then it melted . . . revealing the reeking horror beneath . . .

That's the best thing about gardening, though!  It's never too late to clean things up and get everything in order for the new season.


Thanks to a great weather-weekend, I assembled my tools and made good progress on some of the back beds.  (My gardens are growing more extensive each year, and at times like this, I wonder if perhaps I haven't over-stretched.)


As I clean up my garden in the spring, I'm constantly muttering one of the following three phrases:

  1. What is THIS?  (Because I can't recognize some of my newer plants until they get a little bigger, and I frequently forget what I planted.)
  2. Next year, I'm planting bulbs.  (Because I am lazy in the fall, and always regret it in the spring.)
  3. Oh, YOU have got to GO.  (Because some plants are just plain trouble.)


I have some great company out in the garden!  It's nice to have dogs old enough to behave well and not dig up viable plants.  (Because, yeah.  That's happened.)


I'm thrilled about spring's arrival.  But my garden is just pretty ugly at this stage of the season.  Thankfully, I do have a couple of blooming reminders of the beauty that is to come.

My star magnolia is in full bloom right now (although it's been raining since yesterday, which will do a number on the blossoms).


And my hellebores are just lovely this year.


I even got my hands dirty with some planting.  Although it's WAY too early for most planting, I did put together a couple of "pea-pots."  This . . . 


looks like dirt with a tower stuck in it right now.  But I planted peas, an assortment of lettuce, some kale, and spinach -- all cold-weather crops that should do just fine.

And pansies, of course.


It's nice to have something bright and cheery out on the patio, and on the front porch!  (Although the pansies do make the very dead Christmas wreath still hanging on the front door look really, really sad!)  (Yep.  The nesting finches beat me to it again this year . . .) (They totally have my number!)

And this guy?  


Well, I said, "Maybe we should re-do the foundation plantings in the back this year."  (Because they're unmanageably overgrown and really ungainly, and I've been considering ripping it all out and starting over.)  And then, before you can say Husqvarna, he had taken his chainsaw to 6 (hideous) yews and half a blue spruce!   (So fast I have NO "before" photos!)  (You can imagine where my creative energy will be going now -- as I try to figure out lovely ways to cover the water meter, the cable box, the outdoor lighting timer, and the air conditioner. . .)

It felt GREAT to be out in the garden again -- where it's always fun to play in the dirt!


What's In a Name?

When it comes to Ravelry, I was pretty much an early-adapter.

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Yep.  I am Ravelry #11,638 (and given that there are now, like. . . what?  5 million Ravelers?), that's pretty darn early in the game.


When I first signed up -- and this was BEFORE I ever commented on anyone's blog (although I did read y'all), BEFORE I had cancer, and BEFORE I realized that you just couldn't hide your identity on the Internets), I didn't know what "Ravelry name" to choose.

I mean . . . I couldn't just choose my own name, could I?

(Back in 2007, it was the fashion to choose a "clever" play-on-words kind of name.  Remember?)

So, after weighing my options, I ended up choosing "knitonegardentoo."  And . . . it sufficed.  It reflected two of my personal passions.  It was (ever so slightly) a play on words.  And - best of all - it was anonymous.

After the first couple of years, though, I hated that Ravelry name!

Yesterday, I decided to finally change it.

But . . . to what?  

My preference now, in 2015, would just be my name.  

Kym.  NOPE.  Taken.

How about my blog name?

SteppingAwayFromTheEdge.  NOPE.  Too long.

Related to my blog name?

Edgy.  NOPE.  Taken.

EdgyKym.  NOPE.  Just more stupid.

KymAtTheEdge.  NOPE.  Looks weird.

Quelle dilemma!

Finally, I decided to change my Ravelry name to SteppingAway.

Related to my blog name.  Short.  Easy.  Doesn't look too awkward in print.

So.  There it is!  (I'd rather have just my plain, old name.  But. . . can't.)

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It's super easy to change your name on Ravelry -- and you can do it three times!  So.  If you (too) picked something weird when you originally signed up, you can try something new.  Easy-peasy.

(This is all a long explanation for those of you who have already "friended" me on Ravelry.  I'm SteppingAway now -- but everything else Ravlery-related is on the same Bat-channel as before.)  (And if you haven't "friended" me on Ravelry yet, why . . . now you know where to find me!)

Happy weekend, y'all!


If you want to find out YOUR Ravelry number, just go to your profile page and type the following key sequence (using your arrow keys):  up up down down left right left right b a (those are lower case letters) and your Ravelry number will magically show up under your "member since" statistic.  (Take a screen shot, though, or write it down, because it won't stay there.)