29 May 2015

Just before I left Starkville, I had started a baby blanket for a friend who just had her first lil girl.  I worked on it while Jerry drove.  I just finished it this evening, while we listened to the end of "Roots".  I still need to weave in the ends, but this is it.  It's slightly different than the series of baby blankets I have been doing, with a shallower chevron.

27 May 2015

5,000 Miles in 10 Days

Yesterday, I wrote a bit about the TearDrop {we still haven't picked the perfect name, oh but we will, yes, we will}.  However, that was just a portion of our trip.  So let me tell ya some about the rest!

Friday 15 May, Jerry and I went to a workshop MSU's Extension Services held in Lowndes County, focusing on tree farming.  Mostly with "how do I know when to thin my trees?" for those of us who have fast growing pines planted.  It was an informative session, with lots of handouts and goodies, a few books on Mississippi trees and nonnative invasive pests.  There were some hands~on walk~abouts and demonstrations.  And mouth watering bone~in grilled pork chops, potato salad, and beans.  We were very reassured that we are doing what we should be at this point, and nothing we shouldn't be.  Mostly for now, it's a hands~off, let them grow, waiting game.  Yea!!

So then Saturday morning, we took off around 4:30a:  go west, young man, go west!  We stopped in Winona, MS for breakfast at Waffle House and had some of the nicest waitstaff we'd encountered in a long time.  Thanks, Paul and Andy!  Jerry even sent glowing compliments to the home office to commend these two gentlemen for their outstanding service.

About an hour later, the hashbrowns were making me sleepy {and probably the early start had something to do with it too} so I drowsed in and out while Jerry drove up through Memphis, into Arkansas, clipping the northeastern corner, we stopped at Mammoth Springs.  It rained during our drive to Logan, Utah at all times, except when it was snowing in Wyoming...but that was still rain, just much colder.

We had lunch on Saturday at Uncle Rooster's in Missouri, and signed the floor.  I attempted to draw a howling wolf's silhouette with the blue Sharpie, but it was a very jagged impression.  It's ok tho, I labelled it "Wolf", in case anyone staring at the floor's myriad of signatures and other squiggly lines though, "hey, what's that?"

Not "our" tumbleweed
By the time we called it a day and stopped for the night for a shower and some sleep, we'd driven a thousand miles and were in Ogallala, Nebraska.  Sunday morning, we encountered our first tumbleweed and stopped in Laramie, Wyoming for a late breakfast, which turned into lunch by the time we were served.  I am not sure, but I think there was only one cook in the kitchen and he was manning every thing there, except for rinsing the dirty dishes, while five waitresses stood around behind the counter, chatting with each other, and carefully avoiding customers' beckoning hands holding empty coffee cups.  That would be the other end of the waitstaff spectrum from the previous day's breakfast experience.

We stopped at Buford, population ONE, for gas and that's when I realized that my jacket was keeping my dining room chair nice and toasty in Mississippi, while I was wrapping the fleece car~blanket around my bare legs...it was short wearing weather in the south, snow spitting in the mountains of Wyoming.  D'uhm, DebRAH, D'uhm.

Sunday evening, we pulled into Logan and ate at Angie's {"where the locals eat"}.  Beautiful place.  The next morning, the high desert chill burnt off fairly quickly, especially since I was dancing about with excitement while viewing the TearDrop for the first time.  See earlier post for that.

By 10a, local time {Mountain?}, we drove off with our TearDrop and headed for Portland, Oregon via the southeastern corner of Idaho.  I didn't see a potato, nary a one; but since they were probably still growing underground, that'd make sense.  We did stop for a bite to eat in Snowville, not named for the wintry white fluffy stuff, but for the founder of the town.  They school their kids til 5th grade and then ship them forty miles away for grades six and up.

Various states have various policies regarding rest~areas and their usage; in Oregon, you can spend the night and so that's what we did, around Broadman, some 160 miles east of Portland.  Our first night in our trailer went well and I reminded myself that in the future, I'll need to stop drinking fluids well before bedtime...toilets are not quite as accessible as stumbling from bed to the one several yards away in the master bath like here at home.

Tuesday morning, we stopped at Cousin's, off exit 84 on I~84.  The door moo'd at me as I opened it and then crowed at me when it shut.  The hostess greeted as with, "hey there cousins" and I parried back with "it's been a long time", she didn't sally forth with a witty reply.  But I was not terribly disappointed because OMG, I had the best breakfast of the trip right then and there.  They make their mammoth sized cinnamon rolls daily, and sliced that, dipped it in eggs, and served me up some french toast tastiness that was not too sweet, and had just the right amount of whipped butter.  I drank a pint of grapefruit juice, which meant we had to stop at every other exit in search of a restroom.  Apparently the "no fluids at bedtime" rule needs to be amended to also include "no pints while traveling".

The scenery along the trip was fantastic, with lots of ooohs and ahhs filling the car around every bend of the road.  The trailer pulled nicely thru the mountain ranges, and we'd listened to two audio books that were very apropos for that portion of the trip. "Uncommon Carriers" regarding cargo delivery, via trucks, tankers, boats, ships, barges, and trains covered a vast majority of I~80; while "The Signal" discussed camping, hiking, and fishing in Wyoming.

Even with all the pitstops, we still pulled up in front of Daughter Donna's at 9a {Pacific Time, I know that for sure, just sometimes am a lil hazy with where the time zones' boundaries are}.  We spent the rest of Tuesday visiting and eating Donna's fantastic chili.

Wednesday, Jerry and I hopped a bus and went downtown to Powell's City of Books,  It's a city block building that is three stories of new and used books, audio, music, maps, and merchandise.  When you enter, a map of the store is provided, along with a pair of hiking boots {kidding about the footwear}.  We started at the top and worked our way down.  I figured Jerry would love the gold room, and didn't want him to feel rushed, so let's do the rest first.

I plopped at a table in the cafe, with my tea and selections, while Jerry ran back and forth with great exuberance, showing me this book, and telling me about that one, and did I know that they had Dr. Who Yahtzee?!?   After several hours, he flung himself into a chair and cradled his head, "it hurts, there's too much".  I commiserated,   In this case, better too much than not enough.

We went across the street to a consignment shop, where my personal shopper selected three sweaters for me to choose from, and I walked out, with a maroon cardigan for the chillier nights and days.  Then we boarded the bus and headed back the way we came.  We saw a Chinese Restaurant we wanted to try, but turns out that those signs are from what was there before the current back~alley entrance only dive that we quickly left in search of a late lunch, early supper.  Which we found at Beulahland.  Turns out that Donna and her housemates used to live in that neighborhood, so we stumbled into one roommate that we'd only just met the day before.  After a tasty sandwich, we played two rounds of Dr. Who Yahtzee, before heading back to Donna's.

Thursday was a laid back day full of visiting with folks, and Jerry made gumbo for the house.  Everyone liked it poured over the cornbread he'd made, sooOOOooo good.  {sigh}

Friday, Donna and her friends grilled for us, so much food, great folks, lots of laughs, lots of discussion, yea!!  They were a wonderful group, for sure.  It was a lil too cold and damp for Jerry outside, but I was having some cat~allergy issues; so tho we enjoyed our visit, we knew that it was time to head out on our return trip Saturday,

A friend whom I've not seen for twenty years and we met for breakfast at Elmer's.   It was great
She's a hoot, her writing style is great
visiting and catching up the highlights, and with promises to keep in touch, Jerry and I began to retrace our route, heading both south and east.  We stayed that night in Utah, I think, where they posted "drowsy drivers:  rest area ahead" signs often.

Sunday, the road was pretty bad.  Lots of cars, vans, and tractor trailers slid off the road, into ditches, or flipped over, with rescue crews responding as we chugged past, slowly and carefully.  The snow gave way to rain, which turned to sleet, which became heavy patches of fog as we drove thru into Nebraska, where we were told NOT to stop at the rest areas after dark and head to the Wal*Mart parking lot fifty miles east.  So we did, along with sixty big rigs, and a few smaller campers.

Monday, we decided to continue traveling, since the traffic was very light, especially considering it was a holiday.  But then perhaps most folks aren't vacationing in Nebraska and Missouri.  Jerry did most all the driving, and I knit, a whole heaping lot.  We listened to "Roots", which we'd picked up for fourteen dollars at Powell's.  I knew it was an epic tale, remembering when the miniseries was aired; there are THREE MP3 disks.  So we still have twenty tracks to go, not bad considering there were about two hundred in all.

We spent that night in a hotel, about four hours or so from home.  We needed showers and solid sleep, a break from the road, and we wanted to be somewhat fresh for our arrival home, since we knew we'd have lots to do immediately.  Our last meal of the trip was where we started, Waffle House in Winona.

Our girls were so glad to see us, and we them.  We have lots done and lots to do, but we'll just keep plugging away on it.  Ten days travel, five thousand miles, pft.

Plans, plans, plans

When mom was in the hospital in November, and my cousin was here {two separate events that just happened to be at the same time, which turned out to be good timing, all things considered}, I reconnected with a few folks from my mom's side of the family that I'd not seen since I was but a wee child, some forty years ago.  Most of the connections occurred via FaceBook, which was still relatively new for me {*gasp*, "new"?!?  yes, yes, imagine, someone being late to the facebook party}.  Even tho I knew that mom's mom's family had a yearly reunion, I don't remember having gone, tho mom told me that she took me when I was young{er} and encouraged me to attend again.  My cousin who was visiting and I got to talking and decided that it would be great if some one from each of mom's mom's kids represented at this summer's gathering.  So word spread quickly amongst the other cousins and wah~LAH, Grandma Evert's five children will each have some of their children and their children's children present at this year's family reunion in PA.

Now, keep in mind that my husband's five children and their families were already set to return home in July to celebrate Jerry's 60th and his mom's 80th birthdays, plus my husband's retirement.  My maternal grandmother's family reunion takes place the following weekend in PA.  So we decided that we wanted to get the teardrop prior to the trip from Mississippi to Pennsylvania.  All that was planned in December 2014, set in motion in February, and now here we are, getting it all done according to schedule.

Along the way tho, there were lots of other things that came up; including transferring Jerry's mom from the personal care home to a nursing home, and all the stuff that goes with that.  This past year, we rerouted money that would have been going into our retirement plans into immediate care for his mom.  It reaffirmed for us that long range financial planning is a good thing, so that our own care when we require it will be already taken into account and we won't need to rely on our children or the state to provide for us in those ways, leading to a cycle of being unprepared and unable to catch up {we want to be sure to do what we can to get ahead of that NOW for THEN}.

Also, there were various circumstances that cropped up, crises to calm, fires to put out, waters to calm, mountains to restore to molehills, and life to manage.  We've become more adept with how we handle these things, keeping our priorities straight, and doing what we can, when we can, how we'd like.  Most times, this works well and we're good with things; sometimes, compromise comes into play.  And then there are those times when we look back on something and think, "wow, I did NOT handle that well at all."

Fortunately, those times are fewer and fewer, as we get older and older.  Foresight is great, especially if it's accurate.  Hindsight is perfect, especially if you can learn from your mistakes.  Seeing what's right before you, happening right now, is best of all~~cuz that's really all you have for certain.

26 May 2015

Wolf Wagon, DewDrop, Pearl, Anal Avenger, & Other Tags

For years now, Jerry and I've been talking about a camper.  We both are past the point of camping via nylon tent and sleeping on the ground.  Besides, that's way too much stuff to haul around, unpack, set up, tear down, repack, etc.  And if it rains, no matter how weather proof that tent is, you still feel damp and clammy.  And as I get older, my sense of smell is getting keener, and sleeping bags, tents, tarps, tend to have a peculiar odor.

I'm more focused on convenience now, but I also like to be efficient and cost~effective.  So I did my research.  Teardrop trailers are also called "canned hams", due to the shape of the tow~behind, hard~shelled campers that usually sleep two {altho some actually have a shelf in them, a loft of sorts, allowing more folks to sleep sardine style}, with the rear hatch opening to provide a kitchen galley of sorts.  There are many who build them for a fee, for fun, or for therapy {just threw that one in there to see if you were paying attention, and you are, which is great for my ego}.  Some companies manufacture them, such as Lil Guys, who go "where they're towed".

NOT ours, but similar is appearance
{door, fenders, vent, tongue}
Usually, TearDrops can be customized with various features, such as fridge, stove top, TV/DVR/Stereo fixtures, AC {both AC as in airconditioners and AC as in 110 outlets}, shelving, lighting, etc.  Exteriors can be aluminum, fiberglass, wood, and can come in a range of colors with various decals and designs.  They come in various widths and lengths, weights and heights, and shapes.  There are more options available, but you get the general idea, I'm sure, right?  Yeah, I thought so.

I drive a Yaris.  Toyota Yaris's do NOT have a towing capacity in the United States, but the exact same car with no modifications can be driven into Canada and all of a sudden, the Yaris now has a 700 pound towing capacity.  Imagine that!  More research.

Then I saw that one company actually makes pods, lil teardrops, that are towable by smartCars.  I figured, if it's towable by a smartCar, it ought to be towable with a Yaris.  More research.

Then I contacted various TearDrop builders.  It was surprising how many builders were not open to discussing variations, even though they bill themselves as able to customize your teardrop for your specs.  But one builder, Preston Broadhurst, of Logan, UT, not only stepped up to the plate and answered all my questions; but welcomed other discussion and hypothetical questions.  He accepted the challenge I posed, and exceeded expectations.

I explained that I wanted a lighter weight TearDrop than his base model, and asked if he could build with lighter materials, while still maintaining the structural integrity and road~worthy safety.  Yup.  Preston told me what he modifications he had in mind, including moving from a 13" wheel/tire to a twelve inch {which was fine, my Yaris is not going off~road and needing high terrain clearance}.  We discussed which features I wanted to include, and which ones would contribute too much weight, so would need to be excluded.  Then, we discussed time frames and monetary considerations.

About a week ago, Jerry and I picked up a lil teardrop trailer and I was so damn excited that I squealed like the lil girl I once was.  I giggled as I climbed inside it and sat in the middle, clicking on and off the battery operated reading lights.  I splashed into a puddle while I wriggled on his driveway to peer under the trailer and poke at the tires.  I took plenty of notes {of course I did} while he explained and showed us how to hook it up, how much slack should be left in the chains, how to properly seat the flat four prong electrical connection, and so forth.  I asked a gazillion questions, most of which had to do with the teardrop, how he got into building them, and what sort of maintenance it might require.

Preston was very informative, very professional while still being accommodating, and an all around good guy.  He assured us when we asked "is this normal?" when we drove it around the block {we'd never towed anything with the Yaris before}.  He welcomed feedback and so forth.

We drove on to Portland, which is "only" ten hours from Logan, Utah~~Portland, Oregon is a helluva lot closer to Utah than to Starkville, Mississippi; that's for damn sure!  In the over five years that Daughter Donna, Jerry's middle child, has been living in Portland, this is the first time we've visited.  We'll be seeing her in July, when she comes eastward for the better part of a month; but we couldn't be THAT close and not go visit her!

The TearDrop handled nicely, even through the Rockies.  It's the exact dimensions of my Yaris, from tongue to galley, from fender to fender, and pretty much in height too!  We're very Very VERY pleased!

Along the way, we tossed around names for the trailer.  Wolf Wagon, DewDrop, Conestoga are the top contenders.  Altho, "Pearl:  the world is our oyster" kinda works too.  A few other not~so~wonderful nomers popped up every now and then, to be shot down with wither glances, guffaws, or groans.

I asked Donna and her fella for a few suggestions and quick as could be, she states, "Anal Avenger" and my first reaction was, "what sort of super powers does the Anal Avenger have?", thinking about Jerry's love of Marvel and DC comics.  It's an odd conversation to have with both father and daughter, but not the strangest one ever.  I learned the story of "avenger" labels and since Donna and I had just finished discussing the cyclops tree directly in front of their porch {"cyclops" was not the first term that came to my mind when I saw the knothole, below which was an almost obscene stain that just begged for comment}, her suggested tag was more reasonable than was first apparent.  However, I think it's safe to say that there are other better names in the running {could NOT help that pun}.

Why have I not posted a picture?  Of the trailer, dudes, the trailer!  Cuz I didn't take one yet, despite having my camera with me.  So there's a similar one pictured above.  Probably when I am less road weary from traveling about five thousand miles in about ten days, I'll take a few pictures.  At the moment, I'm ready to take a shower and climb into bed for some solid sleep, ahhhhhh.

09 May 2015

Some thoughts on mothers, my mom, my mom's mom, and Mothers' Day in general

Savvy Sue, a year and a half old.
My mom considered Savvy to be my first grandchild,
hence her great grandchild.  Mom made her a toddler
sized quilt, featuring a paper~doll with all the accessories.
My mom died five months ago, I miss her every day.  In about a hundred ways, I think of things to share, things to say, things to do, places to go, people I want to meet her, funny things to tell her about.  I miss her, her laughter, her hugs, her expressions, her mannerisms.  I want to show her this movie, or that afghan, or this video, or this cute picture of Savvy.

Tomorrow is Mother's Day.  I miss her with a sharp keenness that I've not yet felt that is slightly different than her absence til now.  There is a reason for the traditional mourning period of a year and a day.  That first year without someone is full of firsts.  It is the first holiday season, the first spring, the first spring, the first Mother's Day, the first flowering, the first harvest, the first set of birthdays, the first snow.

I have thought, within that first week of mom's death, "if I am having this much difficulty with mom's absence. what am I going to do if my husband dies before I do?"  How will I handle that?  How will I ever get to an ok place then?

My mom's mom died when mom was 30.  I asked her just this past year, 37 years after grandma died, if mom still misses her as much.  Does she think of her often?  Every day, she said, in some way.  Even if it is something simple and not complex, like, oh how she would have laughed about this or that.

Mom shared more stories about her mom and her own childhood, young adulthood, being newly married, a young mom, etc this past year than before.  She'd found boxes of pictures the year before that, in her move to Mississippi.  We would go thru some, in batches, one day and then perhaps a few weeks later, another batch with more stories.  We'd laugh over some things, and marvel about others.

Mom was 67 when she died.  Her mother, my grandma, was 64 when she died in 1977.  I'm 44.  Heavier than either of them ever were.  I'm not diabetic and insulin dependent as my mother was.  I don't have the co~morbid conditions that accompany diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides.  I had a stress test in September, because with heart disease being the cause of death for the two most direct women in my lineage, it was a good idea.  I'm fine, my heart is too.

That's not to say that I shouldn't be making changes and being more heart healthy.  I should.  Starting Tuesday, my husband and I will be picking up our share of the Community Supported Agriculture {CSA} in Lancaster Farms.  For sixteen weeks, we'll be bringing home fresh veggies ~~ whatever is in season and being harvested.  Eating better produce is a huge step in the right direction for us.

Mom would be glad to see that.  She'd also be glad to see that I will be resuming my water workouts.  Long time readers will remember my swim suittee years.  My stress levels are lower and she would be glad to see that.  She'd be glad to know that I'm treating myself some better, by encouraging my own creativity ~~ making afghans and playing with yarn.

But the main thrust of all this is not about making Mom proud, or happy, or pleased.  It's about me.  I'm the one who is here and still alive and still able to make those changes and still able to do new things or resume old hidden habits that were good to have.  And no good change ever comes about unless it is for the right reason, you do it for you, ultimately.

I love my mom.  She is a huge part of me, of who I am.  I sometimes sit with that, and feel the fullness of knowing her, of being her daughter, of being her friend.  At those moments, I weep for now, but eventually, I know that I'll wear that well and I'll both hear her laughter coming from my throat and also know that I am uniquely me as well ~~ for we are made of those who came before us and surround us now.

Happy Mother's Day for all you who are mothers yourselves, for you touch, mold, and shape lives in ways that you are not even aware of.  Some day down the road, you will have conversations with your adult children that will show you all that the things that they remember with clarity may be the moments you didn't assign any sort of importance.  Of course there will be shared memories wherein you both feel similarly.  Then too there will be memories that are viewed differently for all involved.  That is the nature of us as individuals, embrace that.

Happy Mother's Day to those of you who come into ready~made families that exist long before you ever arrived.  You may not have taken on any traditional role of mother, but you may be surprised to find that your partner's children and their children have certain views of you that place you in that motherly role...one of listening, loving, advising, and acceptance.

And for those of you who have lost your mothers, it's ok to miss her.  It's ok for tomorrow to be a bittersweet day of mixed memories and emotions.  It's ok to take a few moments just for you, to honor yourself as a child, with a mother of your own.