Archives for the month of: January, 2017

Tomorrow, I’m going home to Michigan. To a place I love dearly. “Camp Quinn.” Every summer, when my older sister went to sleep-away camp, I was sent to Terry and Mary Quinn’s house. Mary taught me how to make rag rugs. Terry would let me sit in the front of his pontoon boat and dangle my toes in the water while we puttered around the lake in the back of their house. We’d talk about books. We’d try (and fail) to catch fish. We’d bake pies.

Terry died last Friday night. After a nearly 20-year struggle with emphysema. His funeral is tomorrow. And I finally cried tonight.

There are times when it seems the universe conspires to make you cry.

When you drive home, alone, and hear an unfamiliar song on the radio.

And, half-listening, you catch a lyric about smoking hand-rolled cigarettes.

About being a child.

About being an adult.

About watching a sunset with someone.

With you. With You.

And you think about the unexpected text you received, not ten minutes ago, from a far-distant friend, talking about the pain of missing. About the emptiness that is left behind. The You-shaped hole inside. Talking about how missing is a physical ache. A psychological torture.

And you glance, out of habit, into your backseat, to check on the children. But they’re not there. You’ve dropped them off for the night, or the afternoon, or the hour, or the weekend. And you know that you’re alone. But something in your brain—or your heart—still insists upon checking. Upon looking back.

Back when I was a dancer, we used to have entire classes devoted just to stretching. Long, slow, arduous stretches that made you gasp and sweat with exertion. You’d strain your body, trying to reach as far as you can, your muscles and body and brain screaming in unison, asking you to stop. Telling you it was useless. That you were held as far as you can. That there was nothing left for your body to give. Long, long minutes would be spent in that tight, strained agony. Then, suddenly, it would happen. A desperate gasp of air would finally float, find its way down to your muscles, filling them with breath. And something would release. Without feeling anything in particular—doing anything in particular—your body would simply stop fighting. And let you reach further.

And there, sitting in your car, driving down the familiar roads towards your home, you feel that breath reach down into your chest. Into that tight spot you’ve been carrying around. Filling it with the air that hasn’t been able to reach it for days. And without doing anything at all—doing anything in particular—your body, your brain, your heart simply stops fighting.

And now the road is a fog that you can’t see through the tears that have collected on your eyelashes.

Five minutes.

Five violent minutes.

You sob.

You choke.

Every breath shakes your body.

You park in your driveway and sit, engine running, with your forehead pressed against the steering wheel.

And between your gasps and sobs, you say it. Out loud. Louder than you should. Louder than you were expecting.

“Goddammit.”

“Goddammit, Terry.”

Because you remember the sunsets. And the boat rides. And watching him roll those cigarettes. One after another. Every evening. With the big, white dog sitting at his feet. Back before he knew what they were doing to him. Before the air started to leave, slowly. Before it squeezed out of his lungs. A bit, a bit at a time. Before he knew that he would never be able to bring that air down into the tight places in his chest again. Before he knew.

Or maybe he did know then.

And you know now.

You only know it now.

He helped raise you.

He helped shape you.

He helped you become who you are.

And you never told him.

Goddammit, Terry. Goddammit, cigarettes. Goddammit, me.

You finally exit your car, and walk into your house. Not quite a run. But faster than usual. You dread seeing a neighbor.

You take a tissue, and dry your face. Your neck. Your chest. The collar of your shirt is wet.

But your eyes are dry.

After five violent minutes.

And you are ashamed, but relieved, but ashamed to be relieved, that it only took five minutes.

The storm was furious.

But it was blessedly short.

And now you can breathe.

Without seeming to do anything, something released. Something let go.

The air finally reached your muscles. Your brain. Your chest. Your heart.

And you see the gift that he has given you.

The gift of the sunsets.

The gift of the white dog’s thick, thick fur.

The gift of those damn cigarettes. Hand rolled. One after another. After another.

And the gift.

The gift of this breath.

Goodbye, dear, dear friend. I know that you read everything I ever wrote. I hope some part of you can see this too. It’s for you.

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Making gifts for people is nerve-wracking. Handmade gifts aren’t just made of yarn, or dough, or paint. They include a huge chunk of yourself. Your aesthetic. Your sense of style. Your time. Your hand cramps. Your complete neglect of your children. Your sweat. Your love.

If you give a handmade gift to a person, and they don’t like it? It feels like a rejection of you. It hurts. And it’s not anybody’s fault, all that pain. Sometimes, things just aren’t a right “fit.” But knowing that in your logical, rational brain doesn’t make the rejection hurt any less. Really, those who make pieces to give to others are the bravest souls in the world.

Or the stupidest.

Let’s go with brave.

Either way, I put myself out there like crazy this year! Back in September, I decided to re-learn how to crochet (something my mother taught me how to do about 20 years ago, that I hadn’t pursued in years).

After stitching up just a few (really, very wonky) samples, I dove in, mostly making hats.

I crocheted 3 for my daughters’ preschool’s annual fundraiser. (They sold for a whopping $5 each! Woo!)

Then, I started on hats for gifts. One for myself (really, it was was sample. But a cute one!–Mine is the orange). One for my mother, and one for my sister. I used really nice merino wool, and made us all variations on the same pattern.

Once the hats were finished for the ladies, I then decided to whip up some beanies for the men in my life as well. My brother, father, and brother-in-law (my husband doesn’t wear hats). So, again, I used a wool yarn, and made a slight variation on a single, simple pattern.

Impressed? Well, don’t be. Honestly, I never would have made all of these hats had it not been for terrible luck on my part. Back in October, I tore my left trapezius muscle, and wasn’t allowed to lift anything over 20 lbs. for two weeks. So, I mostly sat on my couch, doing nothing, with a sore shoulder/back. Then, exactly two weeks after that diagnosis, I went back to the same doctor (“Didn’t I just see you?” Yes. Yes you did.) only to be diagnosed with shingles. Two MORE weeks of sitting on my couch. Finally, I came down with a cold. A bad cold. And it didn’t get better. Right before Thanksgiving, I found out I had pneumonia. Guess what I had to do? You got it! Even MORE couch sitting. Even more crocheting. These gifts wouldn’t have been possible without me being miserable for about two solid months. So, silver linings, I suppose?

For a brief period in November (between the shingles and pneumonia), I decreed that it was the “Month of Scarves.” My wonderful husband bought me a new, Ashford 16″ rigid heddle loom for my November birthday, and I got to work, whipping up scarves for some very important people in my life.

The first was for my mother. I wove it using a beautiful Yak down/bamboo blend yarn, then used the leftover yarn to crochet her another scarf, in a pretty “seashell” pattern.

Then, I wove a scarf for my longtime friend, Emilee. The denim colors and simple pattern seemed like the perfect fit for her!

Using leftover acrylic yarn, I made three (so far) scarves for longtime friends who asked for something handwoven. These haven’t been shipped out yet, but I promise they’ll be on their way soon, girls!

The greatest joy my family experienced in 2016, by far, was the birth of my nephew, Lucas. Continuing in the family tradition, then, I wove him a baby blanket out of soft, washable acrylic. As you can see, I’ve been having a ton of fun with my new pick-up sticks too! New, interesting patterns and textures have been amazing to explore, and have broadened my experiences on my rigid heddle looms!

Finally, Lucas, his big brother Cooper, and my niece Olivia all got something designed and stitched up by their Aunt Rachel. These small cross-stitch patterns are part of my “Boss Alphabet” series that I’m designing and will hopefully have available for sale via Etsy soon. They’re only about 3 x 3.5″, and I was able to frame them up in standard 4 x 6″ photo frames. I probably shouldn’t think about all of the hours these small pieces took to design and make. But they were so fun, and look how cute!

All in all, in spite of the terrible health problems I had in the last two months, I’d say that the last quarter of 2016 was a success. At least from a crafting point of view (I’ll say nothing of the dumpster fire that is current American politics). This seems like a lot, but I’m already looking forward to even more crafty goodness in 2017!

(Also, if you received any of these gifts and you DON’T like them? Please, just lie and tell me that you love it. My self-esteem can’t handle the collective rejection espoused by ALL of these gifts!)