Mental Fog as a Catalyst

by Missy on March 18, 2014

I have been writing little blog posts in my mind lately….. contemplating making the blog a part of ye olde routine again.   And knowing that it might be the perfect outlet for that what passes for  creativity in me, or it might be the straw that breaks me.    All I needed was a little encouragement.

And, lo, it came.

Tonight,  I was explaining to my husband that my brain on menopause is like a block of wood.  That it is even less synaptic than my lactating brain from the 1990s through the early 2000s.   And he made a zippy quip about how much entertainment we can expect when true and inevetable  dementia arrives, post menopause, and how much I should open up the old blog and write about that.     It’s a good thing he’s so cute.

So, I uploaded a pile of photos for tomorrow, I’m putting the blog on the daily schedule again.   As always, the trouble comes with the human interrupters who are my primary passion and duty in life.

And my resident mother, who famously says that anyone who would read my blog must not have enough to do with their time.   It’s a good thing she’s so cute too.

This is not really a post, it’s just me marking the moment.

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So I am just never ever alone.

What a gift, what a joy.
I am always in the company of people I love, really.
And, simultaneously,  I am a person with a very high need for alone time,
and that’s been the case all my life.
So, knowing I have this great yawning need for solitude, I gave birth to six children.   Of course, who wouldn’t!
And they have friends.  And I have also got a husband.  And now my mom lives with us too.   And I love them all.   And I also love to be alone.

These people I love  manage their day by taking turns talking to me.  Passing the baton of continual conversation so that I am prevented from ever completing a thought.

Today in a short two hours, I began with a long chat with the 11 yr old about Minecraft .
He mentioned all its different building materials, and how it has blessed his little heart more than any book he has yet read   (a challenge which this literature loving Mom identifies and accepts).
Now he’s building me my own Minecraft house…..actually a fantastic compound with towers and swimming pools, a breathtaking view of the ocean, and BEST OF ALL…. a multi-level sheep farm.
He delights to describe it to me in minute and repititious detail.

In case anybody wants to see it, I have a photo of the sheep area which he took on my phone and brought to me:


Those things that look like bunk beds on the left are actually two sheep pens, extra large, one stacked on top of the other.    Because he is confident that one day I will want to produce wool in my very own yard to save myself the bother of hauling off to Paradise Fibers every time I need more yarn.

Then, he  randomly mentioned something irrelevant to sheep and virtual building, which was this:    ”Oh, and there is an extinct family of cephalopods which were Ammonoidea  or something.  But they are also called ammonites.  Weren’t those guys in the Bible?”  and, like you, I have no idea what he’s talking about.  But when I Googled it on my phone as he was speaking, I discovered  this.   And  realize he’s doing sciencey stuff in his free time, when he’s not making sheep bunks for his old mom.

And as soon as he’s done  and headed out of the room, the six year old comes in a different door and starts talking about what kind of rabbits she’s going to have when she graduates from medical school and how she plans to dress them in little outfits and take them to work on leashes to keep her patients from being bored in the waiting room.   And she’s asking if I have some spare fabric so she can start that project right now.
As she heads off to paint some bird houses instead of sewing, my mother arrives with a fist full of statements from her broker wanting to talk about how much better her portfolio could be managed if we would just spend an afternoon trading out stuff and cleaning the whole mess up.   And she has quite a number of ideas on the subject.

And I’m smiling and nodding in the most noncommittal sort of way when the sixteen year old saunters in talking about election law reform, the galaxy-wide loss of popularity of the US,   and asking for food.  He then eats and leaves……
And just as my head begins to settle on the power line again, picking up some pitiful train of thought from three hours ago, the 17 yr old crashes into the house full of disturbing updates  about her delinquent chemistry professor who made somebody cry,  and how many drug dealers she observed while waiting at the bus station.
This sets my mind racing in all new directions,  only to be interrupted by the ringing phone and the rice  boiling over and the kittens  falling  into the toilet.
And then,  Hark, it’s the doorbell heralding the unexpected arrival of  the architect with drawings for Jon to look over, only Jon is still in the hospital with patients.  I greet him at the door wishing  I was wearing something other than spandex running tights and top,  also wishing I could teleport my husband right home.

So that’s why I knit.   Knitting creates a little bubble of isolation around me.  Knitting is my little cave.  When I am knitting, people come and talk to me and I can whisper, “sorry, I’m counting….”  And they actually apologize and back out of the room.  Because they were close to me the year I learned to knit lace and they know I cried over it from time to time.

And then, most of the time they can come and sit with me and do their talking, and it’s all friendly.   But there is some kind of buffering membrane around me when I am knitting.  It’s like a portable comfort zone.   I think it makes me a kinder person, sometimes.

Sometimes ladies will suggest we gather for  knitting as a group with cups of tea and lots of chit-chat.  And I always say, Oh that sounds fun.  But I wind up never going.  I think it’s the chit-chat that scares me away.   I’ve got all the chit-chat I can handle.

I knit alone mostly, and I am up to my eyeballs in Christmas knitting projects.
There’s a man’s Size Large sweater, a Size Six girl’s pink poncho, eight or twelve hats, a stack of washcloths for the ladies at Jon’s office, a lacy wrap,  a super cool fair isle skirt in a Ladies Size Extra Small, a coffee pot cozy, and a blanket.


I have a written schedule to help me get them all finished in time for Christmas Eve.   It’s crazy speed-knitting, and it’s making me faster.



And while I knit, they all talk to me.    Roughly 50 days to go.   It seems like a whole lot of time.





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Often  I go to bed with an idea for a blog post in my head, and often even rise in the morning with a blog post in my head, but nobody would ever know it.  I love the idea of writing, and of being read….it feels like a lovely   connection to me.  And I find there are so many little piles of stuff to get past on my way to writing anything.

Here’s what gets in the way:

1.   Always as I am beginning to write something up, regardless of the hour and never-mind that I might have just sat all alone for two hours, the minute I start typing in this little window Somebody arrives and wants to talk to me.  It just happened again, and I can’t type with people talking to me.

2.  Blogs (of this type) require photographs.  But my 100 year old house is under re-construction in many places, and the progress is so slow that I don’t want it photo-documented.   People like to see change, but I don’t have much of that to show.  People always appear a bit discouraged when they realize that we still have no kitchen cabinets, and the deck is still about to fall off the back of the house, and we still have a 3 x 6 foot  opening in the floor under our bed.  I don’t mind camping in my own home, but I hate to disappoint anyone if I can help it.

3.  Blogs, again,   require photographs.  But I have the deadly triple curse of cream colored carpeting, a one year old German Shepherd and a pond.
Not wishing to publish any pictures of cream colored carpeting covered with  muddy  prints from the dog who just bounded into the house from the pond, my field of photographic backdrops is narrowed further, because that dog just loves the pond, and I just love the dog .

4.  My kids are still funny, but not in that universally shareable toddler kind of way.
Now their humor is kind of esoteric and controversial and when I try to describe it, we sound like a pack of nerds.  And they want to edit what I can say about them.  It’s as though they were all running for office.

5.  The other funny person in my house is my mother, but if I share her funny remarks it sounds disrespectful.  She’s got some early senile dementia going on, and even she finds some of it amusing……but it also doesn’t share well.
I sometimes think that a blog about this aspect of life would be helpful, because we are not the only family watching brain impairment change a parent.  That blog should be called “Are You My Mother?”    But this minefield is a tricky one.  Not going there yet.

6.  There is no great theme in my life around which to write.  We’ve got a whole lot going on:   renovating this house, educating kids at home, keeping up with eight people whose ages range from 6 to 80 under this roof, there is also a Speech and Debate club which meets here (60 human beings) each Friday, plus the knitting and the camping and the fly-fishing and the preparation for college and keeping Jon’s shirts ironed.   All are marvelous, but I find that too many hats make me  just  distracted rather than particularly interesting.

7.  All that stuff in  #6, plus the shampooing of the carpet in #3 leave me with no time at all to put coherent thoughts together.

8.   My mother’s comment about this blog, when she saw it once was this:  ”You mean people read that?  Well I guess some people just don’t have enough to do to fill their days.”     I had to share that.  It makes me laugh every time I hear it in my head.   It’s so humbling.

9.   All the lovely Christian Lady blogs are so lovely and theological.  And much as I love to read them, I do so because I need their insight.
I am better at dishing out borderline irreverent humor, and have offended people in the past in the most ridiculous ways, simply by writing what popped into my head.
Anyone who witnessed the “hubby” incident on my facebook wall, or my little rant about the word “congrats” when “Congratulations” are in order, will know what I’m talking about.

10.  I am a poor finisher.  Beginning a blog was easy….carrying it on well is a different story.   It’s a maturity thing.





Dearie is In the House

by Missy on March 14, 2013

So, in a watershed moment which was far from unexpected, my sweet mother has moved into our home.

There is no mother anywhere who would be more charming to live with, and everybody who has met her would agree.

She’s a good sport and everybody loves her.  And best of all, she loves my husband at least as much as she loves me.  She always takes his side over mine if there’s a disagreement.  And that’s exactly as it  should be.

The kids love her.  Sometimes they love her too much, too close and with too much talking.  But overall it’s  healthy and mentally stimulating.

Even the dog is glad to have her.    It’s win-win all around.


But having another person around with her own esoteric ideas, needs and shopping lists is reminding me of the days when we had four or five tiny children underfoot, each one perfectly certain that each thought must be shared the instant  it gelled.   By five PM, my brain  is mush and I have to apply some energy in order to meet the darling husband with anything softer than a  glare.  And it isn’t really his fault they were talking all day.  Poor man.

Mom’s arrival, combined with a the fact that the NCFCA, or my desire to start a debate club in the name of the NCFCA,    and the mountain of stuff I don’t know about starting a club,  is eating my life (… another story for another day),
plus this acre of overgrown garden which we purchased  nine months ago and which is now coming to life and Must Be Subdued …
these events  have been  almost mind-numbing in combination,  and I’m thinking we might have to hire somebody to come in and brush my teeth for me if the iron supplements and the spirulina don’t kick in.

Anyway, all that was just to excuse the crashing drop of literary standards which has occurred.
No Greek classics.       Instead:



I read Albert Brooks 2030 and it was the most wonderful bit of mental junk food.  Just an easy, compelling anti-utopian guess at what might occur in the US by the year 2030.   Cancer is cured, LA experiences The Big One, our health care program is a bankrupt disaster.   One night I read about a third of it before falling asleep, and woke up thinking all these calamities were really happening.  What a relief when the coffee brought me around!

Lots of food for thought here.    This would be a great beach read, or if you find yourself stuck in the airport, trot off to the bookstore because I’m pretty sure they will have a copy.






My second piece of mindless non classical fun was Adrienne Martini’s book Sweater Quest, in which the author chronicles her month by month progress knitting an Alice Starmore Fair Isle sweater.   She chose the Mary Tudor Sweater  which can be seen, along with a basket of all the colors required to knit it up right here .

This sweater and all other sweaters designed by Alice Starmore,   represent the Mount Everest of knitwear.  It’s more like stunt-knitting.   Here is a poor quality  picture of what it looks like completed in case you didn’t want to bother with the rabbit trail  link above.



I’m almost embarrassed to say how much I loved this book.    Like the author (not Alice Starmore, but Adrienne Martini)  I could gush on and on about all the wonderful things that I believe have come into my life via my obsession with knitting.    I felt such a kinship with her when she described the attention deficit disorder which crashed in during her years  mothering small children, and the outrageous sense of accomplishment and personal victory that washes over her when she completes a knitted item.  I really really understand that.   I know it’s weird.    So, this book was such a sweet  confirmation of fellowship, somewhere in the lonely universe.

But, nice as kinship can be, I will never under any circumstances knit up a Starmore sweater.     Laying hands on the required yarn, let along knitting the sweater, would take a year. In order to follow her pattern, I  would  have to overcome my terror of  cutting steeks, and I have never been invited to a 1980′s theme party, which is the only place on earth where a Starmore sweater would not look frumpy and overwrought.

Anyhoo, getting back to the book,  Martini shares her reasons for tackling this ridiculously hard project, the history of the Tudor family, since it helps to understand the motifs knitted into this Mary Tudor pattern, she shares some wonderful anecdotes about some of the celebrities of the current knitting scene (yes, there are knitting celebs).   She talks a bit about Toronto as the leader in fun, young knit-design in North America…..and I thought that was pretty cool, because it was during my years in Toronto that I became a knitting freak.
She also tells quite a bit about Alice Starmore,  knitwear designer and litigant of all who might take liberties with her name and designs.
This aspect of Starmore’s persona takes one by surprise, as we are   all hoping she’s kind of a cuddly granny drawing up soft wooly designs from her hideaway in the Hebrides.
Alas, no.  She is quite fierce, and not to be toyed with.
Starmore, when not defending her name,  creates patterns for  the most complicated and revered knitting patterns anyone has ever seen, and she designs them to be knit only in her own colors… substitutions.  Which would be merely an inconvenience if her wool distributer still carried these colors.  But none of them are currently in production, and so it requires a good deal of detective work and a very large Visa credit line to find the correct colors on E-Bay or any of the numerous knitting chat rooms.  The book includes Adrienne Martini’s story of how she found her yarn, and how unsettling it was when  had to substitute some colors with yarn of which Starmore-The-Designer would never approve .

Tempest in a teapot.  But I loved it.




And it set me off to read Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting.    I have finished the first long chapter of this book which deals entirely with the history of the Fair Isles and the knitters who live there.   I particularly enjoyed the speculation in this chapter that the Fair Isle motifs  which are so much associated with this remote island in the North Sea, may have originated from Spain in 1588 when the flagship of the Spanish Armada crashed on this island, and somehow the sailors Moorish sweater patterns were snatched up and copied by the good wives of the Fair Isle fishermen.

This idea was dismissed by Starmore as colorful fiction, but it appeals to me because of my own ties through marriage to Norway.  My mother in law, born on the west coast of Norway,  claims that her dark coloring comes from a Spanish ancestor who was himself a sailor who washed up on the beach in 1588 when the Armada was defeated and his ship drifted north.


The proximity of Fair Isle and the Shetlands to the same coast where my MIL was born gives so much heft to that story.   And I love the idea of a Muslim sailor, representing a Catholic king, running in defeat from a Protestant Queen, with gorgeous knit wear as the punch line.   Makes me smile.








Reaching back to a couple of dry ones from February

March 14, 2013

I’m strangely charmed by the observation that if you close your eyes in a karate class, it can sometimes sound like a crowded birthing room full of laboring women, with choruses of gutteral grunting from all directions.   Perfectly suited to reading.  Not.   Which is why I usually knit during karate class.   But [...]

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Five books in February

February 19, 2013

Exactly one year ago, at an early morning ladies prayer gathering here in Spokane, I unravelled little bit when my turn arrived to tell everyone what I needed prayer for. My issues of the moment were over the fact that our family had not yet settled in a permanent home after seven months in Spokane, [...]

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Having predicted…

January 30, 2013

I mentioned, in the little post in which I said I was not going to make excuses, that I was likely to fall off the rails when it came time to actually write up the blog posts.   Three weeks ago, I lost the book I want to write a post about.   The battery [...]

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A New Chapter Begins

January 12, 2013

Life is like a book, and we’re all starting new chapters all the time.   Chapters in life overlap one another, beginning and ending in messy disorderly ways.   And in a family, as one member starts something new, there can be an impact across the entire household which is unique for each  individual.   [...]

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Chris Cleave’s Little Bee beats Incendiary

January 11, 2013

    I’ve just completed Chris Cleave’s book Incendiary.   I read this one because I had loved his book, Little Bee so much. Little Bee was an amazing combination of  the unexpected, the unlikely, the really insightful and funny, and then there are a couple of just horrific scenes which never leave your mind [...]

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Book No. One…When Your Parent Moves In

January 11, 2013

  I  just finished  David Horgan and Shira Block’s book When Your Parent Moves In, which I’m reading because our family’s preparing to move my mother into our home in two months.  I thought this was an excellent resource and a helpful tool for getting the broad picture of multigenerational family life in view.    This book [...]

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