A Paralysis of Possibility

I’ve almost finished knitting something!

Okay, well not exactly. I’m on sleeve island. “Sleeve island,” you ask?

A blogger known as NothingButKnit puts it like this:

Sleeve Island is a destination all knitters look forward to. It’s the point you reach when the body of your sweater is done and you just have to knit two sleeves.

NothingButKnit

Sounds great, right? Sleeves are an afterthought, right? Well, no. Not really. Sleeves can be complicated, long, frilly, fussy, or just plain tedious.

Luckily, I’m knitting my sleeves two at a time using magic loop, and I’m knitting stockinette stitch in worsted weight wool. It shouldn’t take me too long. That’s why I’m basically writing my Weekender sweater by Andrea Mowry off as done.

Time to Move On!

I wrote a while back about some fantasy knitting. And while there are some exquisite patterns in my fantasy knitting list, the reality is that I’ve got some yarn I should probably use up.

In fact, I’ve got not one, not, two, not even three, but FOUR Tempestry project kits knocking about. I’ve also got all the yarn needed to make this tasteful little piece of holiday decor:

Squee!

Okay, did I say tasteful? I meant TACKY AND ADORABLE!

My boys are also clamoring for sweaters of their own. Maybe it’s time I actually knitted something for my Bear, rather than making him wear his brother’s hand-me-downs.

Summertime and the Knitting is Breezy

It being summertime, it’s hard to want to knit something big and bulky. Too bad I STINK at sock knitting (and haven’t really taken a shine to it, to be honest).

So I guess I’d better stick to something small. My Weekender sweater has been lovely, but it’s rather warm having it in my lap when it’s pushing 35 degrees celsius out there!

What are your favorite things to knit in summer? Any ideas?

Remembering Why I Quit

I’ve been spending more time on Facebook lately.

And it’s not a good thing.

I hadn’t really “quit” per se, but I had drastically reduced the amount of time I spent on Facebook before moving to the States.

Here, though, Facebook seems to be an integral part of the social fabric. It seems to be part of finding your community.

Don’t get me wrong, some parts of Facebook are good. I like that community groups are active there, I enjoy friends’ entertaining updates, and I like learning about fun local events.

But at the same time…

Every time I get on Facebook, I become enraged. Sometimes it’s by a news article someone has shared. Other times it’s by a post from a friend.

And then I become further enraged when I remember that Facebook is trying to capitalize on my rage.

It’s a vicious cycle.

No Middle Ground on Facebook

Mostly I get annoyed by the vitriol. The us-them attitudes. The “I’m-right-you’re-wrong” statements. The laments of, “Why can’t everyone be smart like me?”

Sometimes I see posts like this from people I’d expect.

But sometimes I see them from people I know for a fact wouldn’t dare make such strong statements or judgments face-to-face with people.

That gets me even more riled up! That people feel safe saying often hateful things because they’re behind a screen.

So Why Don’t I Quit?

I ask myself this all the time.

I feel like I get very little out of a half-hour spent on Facebook. So is it really worth it to keep coming back?

I don’t have the answer. It’s true that the vast majority of my blog readers find their way here from Facebook. So there’s that…

If I’m honest, though, there is a certain amount of FOMO.

I’m not quite sure what I’m afraid of missing out on, but there it is.

Mud Everywhere

46. Dirty: Write a poem about getting covered in mud.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

Baking sun and burning rocks.
The water level’s low.
The water’s cool around our ankles,
The mud is squishy between our toes.

The boys have stripped down to their skivvies
I’ve rolled up my pants legs and dipped my feet.
They clamber over rocks and boulders.
I sit and watch them at their play.

Each pool has something interesting,
Every pebble is magical.
Each stick transforms into something wonderful
Every creature is an exciting find.

They’re caked from head to foot–
The mud and dirt stick under their nails.

But they’ve tasted freedom–
A freedom only found in summer.

Mirror, Mirror

45. Mirror, Mirror: What if your mirror started talking to you? What might the mirror say?

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

Why hello again!

It’s you! It’s been a while!

Honestly, I’ve felt neglected since the pandemic began. You barely even give me a second glance these days.

I mean, I know you haven’t worn makeup in months and you’ve shamefully neglected your eyebrows.

(About that, by the way, you’re about to remember why you started plucking in the first place–you’re dangerously close to having a unibrow again.)

If I’m honest, though, mostly I feel hurt. Hurt by that critical look in your eye when you glance at me.

How you scowl! How you grimace! It’s like you only look at me to find fault!

So you’re looking for faults, huh? I can tell you some faults! Where do I even begin??

  • Your belly sags. Not to mention your tits.
  • You’ve got crows feet (they say they come from smiling, but I call BS).
  • Let’s be honest, your hair is pretty much gray.
  • You’re developing quite a ‘stache.
  • We’ve already covered the unibrow.
  • Those freckles were cute as a teen. Now not so much.
  • When was the last time you combed your hair?

I could go on, but honestly, why bother?

Because I know you go through this same list of “imperfections” every time you stand before me.

An Invitation

I’m asking you to look past those things. (You’re 35 now, darling, your tits aren’t getting any perkier, barring surgical intervention.)

I’m asking you to see what I see when you stand in front of me. I see a woman who is more herself now than she ever has been.

You may see a woman whose looks are fading. I see a woman who is blossoming and blooming, who is lovelier than ever. Though your skin is wrinkling, you wear it better than you ever have before.

And I love you better than ever.

So please spend a bit more time with me the next time you stroll by. Stop and look with me at all the beautiful imperfections that make you perfectly you.

Anyone’s Guess

What. A. Mess.

Here in the States, He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named is pressuring schools to fully reopen for classes this fall.

All the while limiting federal funding to schools, causing states and counties to have to make budget cuts to already woefully underfunded schools.

Like I said, it’s a mess.

Offering Options

Our local school board has offered two options for the fall semester this year:

  1. 100% distance learning, using online platforms and video call-ins.
  2. Hybrid model, where children go to school two days a week and do distance learning for the other three.

Parents are required to choose one option by next week. The choice is binding for the fall semester, and once made it cannot be changed.

Making A Choice…

We talked about it, considered the options, read and listened to information from health officials and from the school board.

We also thought about what is best for our rising kindergartener, what he needs in a learning environment.

We logged onto the parent portal and made our selection. No going back now.

…And Sticking To It

And then the doubt set in.

I made the mistake of logging onto social media to see what others had chosen.

Many people have remained quiet, but many are extremely vocal about their choice. And those most vocal had chosen the other option.

Immediately, I started to question my decision. Did I have all the facts? Did we really make the best choice for our child? Or did we choose the most convenient option for ourselves?

The more I cogitated, the more anxious I became. I worked myself up into nearly a frenzy when I remembered that once made, the selection cannot be changed.

My Calming Force

I melted into tears, I was convinced we had made the wrong choice!

And then I spoke to my husband.

Have I mentioned on this blog how wonderful the man is? [Quick pat on the back to myself for choosing a great husband.]

He quietly listened to my fears. His calming presence and soothing “Mmhmms” and “Uh-huhs” calmed me down. He then, very wisely, reminded me of a key fact:

Nobody has the right answer.

This is a scary situation. The schools are doing their best to keep children and staff members safe. Parents want to make the best decision for their families.

And while the CDC and state health departments can offer guidance, they do not have all the answers.

No one does.

So, my Chico lovingly told me, there is no wrong choice. There are two right choices, and we must pick the one we feel is best for our family.

And those people, he said, who are so forceful and seemingly confident about their choice on social media are simply trying to convince themselves that they have made the right decision.

But of course they have. Because it is the right decision for their family. And we have made the right decision for ours.

It’s Done, Anyway

I felt better immediately.

But even if I hadn’t, there’s not a whole lot I could do about it. Our choice is made, and though I have doubts and insecurities, deep down I feel that it is the right decision for our family.

We’ll see where it goes, what happens in the fall. What is clear is that if this pandemic takes off again, no one will have any choice at all: the schools will shut down.

In the meantime, we’re wearing masks, washing our hands and choosing to trust our own judgment. A judgment based on the information that is available to us.

A Special Word to School Staff

Stay safe, everyone. Especially school staff.

We love you and value you.

And I will make this promise: I promise to vote whenever possible for the candidate whose platform highlights school funding, so that all schools have the ability to keep their staff and students safe in this pandemic.

Like a Slap in the Face

I’ve never written about this experience before, and I’m omitting names & specific circumstances for privacy.

44. Insult: Write about being insulted. How do you feel? Why do you think the other person insulted you?

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

I have never fit in with a crowd.

From elementary school through university, I could never get into the “in group.” I was not one of the cool, popular kids.

But even in the groups I did fit in with, there was always one person I clashed with.

This was usually another girl, and someone with a strong, forceful personality, rather like me.

Sometimes this led to conflict, but most of the time we instinctively knew to try and avoid each other. In college, though, I ended up living with a group of women that included one such personality.

She and I had been “friends” since our first year, but looking back I realize that my feelings towards her were of apathy, while hers seem to have been true antipathy.

After Graduation

After graduating, I had been surprised to be included in an email group made up of most of the women I had lived with. By the time of our graduation, I had distinctly felt myself to be “out” of the group.

We had all gone different directions, and some of us had ended up back with our parents while we figured out what to do with ourselves. After eight years away from home, it certainly wasn’t easy to move back in with my folks, and I’m sure the others felt the same.

A Mysterious Email

Finally, I did write. I told them about home, work, and adjusting to life after college. I sent it off and thought nothing more of it.

Then, while I was visiting a girlfriend for a weekend, I got a couple of strange emails.

First came a response to my email to the whole group. The email just below that came from the same woman and its subject line said, “Read this first!”

I obeyed, and opening the second email, read that she had forgotten to remove my email address from the previous email, and she asked me not to read it. She gave for a reason the fact that they were planning to surprise me with something when we all returned to university in the fall for Homecoming weekend.

I was in the middle of a visit, about to head out, so I deleted the group email, closed my computer and forgot about it entirely. I didn’t even take time to respond.

Then the Insult Came

By the time I got home after my weekend, the email had completely gone out of my head. I went back to work, and totally forgot that I hadn’t responded to my former housemate.

The following Wednesday, I got another email from her.

This email had me baffled. In it, she was apologizing profusely, giving as an explanation that she was not doing well, had been unhappy since graduation, and she had lashed out.

I was startled and concerned. I went into my deleted messages and found her response to my email to the group.

A Bucket of Ice Water

It was like a bucket of ice water had been poured over my head.

I had never had such language directed at me. The whole email was laced with insults, accusations, and shaming.

My eyes were opened to the extent to which I had been on the outside of this clique, the butt of their inside jokes.

It was humiliating.

But the worst part was that it came from the wrong person.

Not The Source I’d Expected

This email hadn’t come from the woman I’d previously clashed with. It came, in fact, from the one woman in the clique I had still seen as a friend.

It was a blow. Already feeling lonely and adrift, the stab in the back just added to my feeling of isolation. It was like the last string holding me to that part of college life had been cut.

Pretty quickly after my initial hurt, I started thinking. I put myself in her shoes. I realized she was feeling the same way I was: isolated and frightened.

Forgiven and Almost Forgotten

Several months later, when we laid eyes on each other again at Homecoming, we both had the same initial reaction.

Our eyes lit up, we each took a step forward. Then, we remembered.

Her face fell. Our smiles vanished. I said, “It’s okay…”

Her answer made me feel even sadder about the whole thing: “No. No, it really isn’t.”

Though I had forgiven her and wanted to forget the incident, I could tell that she hadn’t forgiven herself.

I still miss her, thirteen years later.

A Judicious Use of Silence

Today’s prompt got me thinking about how I’m trying to learn to BREAK silence, rather than keep it. But in an effort to lighten up a bit, here’s one about staying silent.

43. The Sound of Silence: Write about staying quiet when you feel like shouting.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

“Ma-MAAAAAH!! HE HIT ME!!!”

Before the pandemic, this cry would elicit an almost immediate response from me.

“Don’t hit your brother!” for minor infractions.

“Go to your room!” for slightly more serious crimes.

“THAT’S IT, I’M TAKING AWAY [insert favorite toy here]!” for the most grievous offenses.

But as the pandemic wore on…

I became inured to the call, impervious to their cries.

Don’t get me wrong, there are certain things I will not tolerate (just ask me how I dealt with a biting habit).

But when it comes to the whiny, peevish cries of, “He pushed me!” “He hit me!” “He took my toy!”… At this point, I am basically deaf to them.

A Newborn’s Cries

You know how parents learn to understand their newborn’s cries? One for hungry, one for sleepy, one for fussy, another for gassy…

It’s actually pretty easy to tell when your child is seriously upset or injured. Just by listening closely to their shouts, I can tell whether my 5- and 2-year-old are actually in pain, or if they’re just kvetching.

So now, when they kvetch, I say nothing.

Blissful Silence

After the initial outcry, when they realize no response is forthcoming, they usually simmer down.

They’ll move on, either play something else together or each move on to his own thing.

It’s only when the outbursts become more frequent and reach a fever pitch that I then intervene.

And then, it’s usually to throw them outside, down to the playroom, or to their respective rooms.

And enjoy a few more minutes of blessed silence.

And maybe a cup of tea…

The Warehouse

42. Warehouse: Write about being inside an old abandoned warehouse.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

It looked grand on the outside.

The outer walls were free of graffiti, and it even seemed like someone had taken pains to clear plants and debris from the area around it.

The only clue it was abandoned were the missing doors. The miserable teenager huddled on the previous block had muttered something and pointed this way when I had made my inquiry.

The look of fear and pain in his eyes haunted me as I approached the eastern door.

Inside, it was bleak.

The first thing that struck me was the smell. A stale mix of urine, old booze and cannabis.

My eyes took a minute to adjust after stepping in from the brilliant sunshine. Everything was stillness, the only sound the wind whipping around the open windows and doors. The glass panes were gone from most of the windows and some of the doors were boarded up. Others had been pried open.

Who would want to come in here, I wondered? Why was I in here, I wondered?

Love, I heard myself answer.

Graffiti lined the walls, up to about six feet high. The floor was strewn with litter.

Empty bottles of booze and candy wrappers. Fast food packages. Cigarette butts. Discarded needles.

A lump started to form in my throat.

Picking my way carefully through the junk, I moved further inside.

Aside from the trash, the floor was pretty much bare. A little further in, as my eyes grew used to the dim light, I found some cardboard.

A box had been ripped open and spread haphazardly across the floor as protection from the wet and cold. Judging from the damp imprint on it, it hadn’t helped much.

A sudden flutter of wings broke the silence. My heart leapt up and joined the lump in my throat.

Above me in the rafters, a pigeon had been disturbed. It took flight, leaving through the gaping hole in the roof. Its wings beat free dust and debris from the rafters and it rained down on me. I ducked my head down and pulled my hood up.

Then I heard a groan.

It was faint, like the flight of the pigeon had roused someone from a deep sleep.

My eyes strained to the back of the warehouse. I saw no movement, and heard nothing more.

I crept forward, hyper aware of each sigh, each hush of the wind. I couldn’t tell which side of the building the groan had come from. I just knew it was ahead of me.

Moving slowly forward, watching for needles, I scanned the base of the wall, first to my left, then to my right. The warehouse must have been at least the length of a football field. Time seemed to have stopped.

Another groan.

This one throaty and louder. I heard a rustle coming from the other end. I peered back there and finally caught the movement.

What had looked like a pile of trash against the back wall started to shift. Garbage slid to the floor as the form hauled itself off its side and propped itself sitting against the wall.

I scanned the rest of the wall to make sure this was the only other person there. I dreaded having to look into more than one face to find the one I was looking for.

I kept walking forward and stopped about six feet from the man against the wall. His head was drooped forward, his chin resting on his chest. He clutched a bottle in his right hand, while his left rested limply on the floor next to him. His palm was up and the sleeve was rolled up. I could see the needle tracks on his forearm.

Then I spotted the birthmark.

Right at the crease inside the elbow.

The lump in my throat felt like it would choke me. My eyes burned with tears, and soon my vision was blurred.

Forgetting my sense of danger, I rushed forward with a stifled sob.

I fell to my knees in front of him, and took his face gently in my hands. Blinking back my tears, I stared searchingly into the face.

A scraggly beard hid almost everything below his nose, but my touch roused him enough that he looked up with bleary, unseeing eyes.

The eyes staring back at me were my own. But the color was his father’s.

Weeping openly now, I forgot the filth of the place. I sat down next to him and put my arm around his shoulders. I could feel how thin he was, how frail. His head fell onto my chest, the bottle slid out of his hand.

My tears fell onto his dishevelled hair. “I’m here, my love. I’ve come. I’m here.”

His limp hand tightened slightly on my arm. The sound that he made ripped my heart to pieces. He started to shake in my arms.

Finally, in the faintest of whispers, he said just one word.

Mamá.”

Not So Happy Fourth

41. What You Don’t Know: Write about a secret you’ve kept from someone else or how you feel when you know someone is keeping a secret from you.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

Secrets From Myself

Sometimes I just don’t want to let myself feel something.

I just don’t want to give myself permission to feel. Usually negative things.

I start to get this blank feeling. A numbness that means I’m pushing something down.

Feeling Numb This Fourth

I think today I’m numb because I’m trying not to let myself think about so many things.

The pandemic. The lack of affordable or available childcare in this country. The upcoming election. Immigration proceedings. Our children’s mental well-being. My lack of career. White supremacy.

Not In the Mood

So I’m not much in the mood for celebrating.

I guess I’m not really keeping a secret from myself. The numbness, though. That’s a sure-fire sign I’m trying to push away something I don’t want to feel.

Pie!

So I made a blueberry pie! And truth be told, it was one of my better ones.

All those worries are still there. But at least now I have a quintessential American dessert to drown them out with.

From “Robin Hood” to “Ivanhoe” to “Hamilton”

I forgot “Hamilton” was airing on Disney Plus tonight.

In my defence, I don’t follow musical theater much and I’m not overly familiar with the music from “Hamilton.” I have been curious to see it, and had planned to nab tickets when it came to the Kennedy Center in September.

Thanks to the coronavirus, that’s been postponed (coronavirus, you beeyatch!).

But back to my forgetfulness.

Tonight, in addition to forgetting I had a skype date with some girlfriends, I also forgot about the airing of “Hamilton.” In fact, instead of watching “Hamilton,” I was watching “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” starring Errol Flynn.

If that doesn’t sound familiar, it’s because this version of the legend came out in 1938.

Yes, 1938. Yes, I am an old woman.

An old white woman.

Ivahnoe

I once read that in antebellum America, the most popular novel in the northern states was Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. It was a huge bestseller, and some argue its publication precipitated the conflict that became the Civil War.

In this same source (which I cannot currently remember, sorry!) I read that the most popular novel in the antebellum south was Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin is an anti-slavery novel, written by a black woman, which depicts the horrors of slavery and is the source of the name Jim Crow (as in racist Jim Crow laws).

Ivanhoe is a romance, set in medieval England, in which a Saxon knight fights for the liberation of Norman Richard the Lionheart, king of England, from captivity in Austria. It’s full of battles, witch trials, forbidden love, and features our friend Robin of Loxley (AKA Robin Hood).

I Grew Up with “Ivanhoe”

As a child, we had the 1952 film version on VHS. It starred Robert Taylor, Joan Fontaine and Elizabeth Taylor. It was romantic. It was glamorous and adventurous.

I watched it over and over again.

I have never seen a film version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (probably because there hasn’t been a Hollywood production of it since the silent film era, when white actors in blackface played the leading characters and danced in almost every scene).

Whitewashing Literature

I have never read Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Nor, in fact, have I read many novels by authors of color. I’ve read some hispanic authors, south Asian and middle eastern authors. But I’ve never read anything written by a black American author.

Is this racist?

Yup.

By reading predominantly novels written by white men and women, I am devaluing literature by people of color. I am also missing out on a large part of what reading is supposed to do for you: opening your eyes to different experiences.

What does this have to do with “Hamilton” and “Robin Hood”?

Just the fact that I forgot about the airing of “Hamilton” because I was watching an old movie starring nothing but white actors shows how well entrenched I am in my white world.

I’m not trying to draw parallels between “Hamilton” and Uncle Tom’s Cabin, or even to belittle the quality of “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (it’s a fun, swashbuckling adventure!).

I’m just musing on how the choices we make (like which films to watch and which books to read) can keep us in our little white bubbles.

What To Do?

Branch out. That’s what I’m trying to do.

The book Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad has been helpful in opening my eyes to the extent of my own complicity in racism.

I recommend it as a starting place for anyone who really wants to know how we are complicit, and how to break the cycle.