What I’ve been making: the holiday edition

After I finished those five viking hats a friend had requested (a paid gig. Woot woot!) I had just enough time to make a few Christmas presents, small ones.

First there’s the basic eat flap hat for a preschool aged girl:

I varied the pattern slightly by doing taller stitches (triple crochet I believe) in the back loop only on the east flaps. Honestly, I didn’t plan or record what exactly I did here, I just messed around a little until I liked the results.

I made another small hat out of the remainder of this skein of yarn but forgot to snap a pic. That one had no ear flaps, a couple bright turquoise stripes, and a cute picot stitch edging also in turquoise.

My next project, and one I was particularly excited about, is this crocodile stitch pixie hat:

It’s for the daughter of a good friend (who happens to be my Goddaughter); she (the mom not the one-year-old daughter) knits. And not just regular once in a while knitting but really cool, fancy stuff like entire sweaters. She’s been knitting since we were in high school almost twenty years ago (Yikes! How did that happen?!?!) so I wanted to make something very distinctly crochet for her daughter. Plus I’ve long admired that crocodile stitch and this was the perfect time to give it a try.

While I do love this little winter bonnet it’s something only a small child could pull off. It’s quite whimsical!

I used a medium weight (4) yarn for the pixie hat instead of the fine the pattern recommended; the hat is thick but not overly bulky. Because of that I followed instructions for a smaller size but used the measurements for the larger toddler size.

I also made a V-stitch scarf for my boyfriend’s family gift exchange. Each person brings a generic gift in the ten dollar price range and they do a thieves exchange where once you open a gift it can be stolen. In which case you’d then either steel someone else’s gift or choose another.

The scarf was my generic female gift and it was a big hit. Buuuut of course I forgot to take a picture of that too (I finished it later on Christmas Eve) but this is the yarn I used.

Last but not least is the “So Good you’ll borrow it” beanie I found on Elk Crochet’s blog.

I made it for my boyfriend’s stocking but there was so much yarn leftover and I liked his hat so much that I made a baggier version for myself the first week of the year. I have to say, I loved this yarn. It’s so light & soft and it showed the texture of the special stitches on this pattern quite nicely.

I feel like I’m forgetting about something but that’s probably everything I got done before the holidays. Currently I’m working on an obnoxiously bright scarf for one of my daughter’s friends.

It’s a fairly straightforward scarf pattern. The cool X-stitch that makes this pattern unique was getting lost in the busyness of the yarn so I stepped up the double stitch legs of the X & Made them triples instead. This definitely helped but they still don’t stand out much. I do like the fun, colorful yarn though (it’s Caron Simply Soft in Rainbow Bright).

I’m also planning on pulling out and hopefully finishing my daughter’s blanket this week… It’s been almost done for a couple months now so it’s probably about time. We’ll see how that goes though. If I do finish it that’ll deserve a major celebration post.

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A year in review (and what a year it was!)

While my co-blogger thoroughly enjoys looking ahead into the fresh New year & making resolutions I like to sit back at the start of the new year and reflect on everything that happened during the year. So that’s what I’ve been doing… For the past week and a half.

But 2017 was quite a year!!! It deserves some reflection even if it’s coming a bit late.

Change and chaos have been two constants of my life the past five or six years. Between 2012 & 2016 I bought a house all on my own, went through a pretty rough & long divorce (and somehow survived), adapted to a custody arrangement that’s less than ideal (or really even functional), tried real hard to change said custody crap, went back to school, ran a handful of half marathons, applied to dental school and got rejected, & delved into the world of online dating.

And then 2017 came and kicked some ass.

I’ll stop burying the lede here and just tell you: I GOT ACCEPTED to DENTAL SCHOOL!

That was the most exciting change/accomplishment of the year but it’s far from the only one. 2017 was a year of big leaps forward; it was a year of transitional achievements.

In April I finished my bachelor’s degree and graduated from college. As a former teen Mom (way before it was glamorized by MTV) and someone who struggled through my twenties, this was a huge deal for me. I’m super proud of myself!

My oldest son graduated from high school. His junior and senior years were a mix of opportunity followed by frustration and, to be honest, disappointment. He did not go out in a blaze of glory but he did successfully go out. And while he struggles to find direction in life (or even get off my couch some days) I am proud of the kind, decent person he is despite some shit that life has thrown at him. I’m hopeful for his future; I know that once something lights a spark of interest he’ll take off.

Early in 2017 I waded back into the murky waters of online dating this time with in hopes of finding a potentially “regular person”…an actual sustainable relationship (whatever that might look like). In February I met & started dating this guy, my boyfriend. He’s great. It’s been fantastic. And almost a year. I’m super impressed with that. Part of me was not sure I had it in me to sustain a relationship after the mess of my marriage and divorce. I really questioned my ability to trust at the necessary level.

And, of course, there was the usual making and renovating and carrying on of wrangling my monkeys and managing my circus.

When I look back at my adult life there are years that, in retrospect, stand out as pivotal. Years of fundamental shifts; they changed life and created a new direction. (2012 & 2014 for example) 2017 is among those years and life will be drastically different because of it.

Did I mention that I’m going to dental school in 2018?!?!?!

Falling Off the Wagon

Sometime between running an “Iron Turkey doubler” (a 5k followed by a 10k) at a somewhat local Turkey Trot in mid November and late December I fell off the running wagon. Hard!

Just before the end of the month my running miles for December totaled a mere 24 miles. I’m pretty sure that’s a new low in my past seven years of regular running. I did manage to pull it up to 32 miles by the end of the year but that’s still pretty weak.

On top of that I’ve somehow gained ten pounds over the past couple months. TEN POUNDS! (I’m a short person, ten pounds are not well hidden on me.) Really it’s not shocking considering this lack of running was matched by a complete lack of attention to what I was eating and an excessive amount of night shift work hours. Really I fell off the self-care train, not just the running wagon. And I was never super great at self-care to begin with.

Last year around this time I was setting a running goal for 2017: run 1000 miles over the course of the year. Yeah…. That didn’t happen. I fell about 300 miles short with a total of 710 miles logged in 2017.

A slower than expected start to the year combined with a stressful, very low mileage, June and this most recent dip in mileage are mostly to blame. But, despite the less than desired mileage, this year wasn’t a complete failure on the running front.

For one, I ran more races than previous years. I also ran in some new locations. And tried new distances. For me running is about stress relief, fun, and adventure. 2017 was a running success on those important fronts.

A brief synopsis of those ten races follows.

April: A local glow-run 5k with three of my kids including my then seven year old. (His first 5k. Definitely a proud parenting moment for me.)

May: a Cinco de Mayo beer run (5k) in Detroit, a muddy obstacle 5k at the local ski hill, and a Memorial Day 10k in Northern Michigan

June: very little running and no racing…same for July.

August: 15k Viking trail run (on some seriously brutal trails) & a local 10k Melon Run (my 4th consecutive year doing this one)

September: Labor Day run accross the super cool and impressive Mackinaw Bridge (around 4 miles).

October: the Detroit (half) marathon for the second consecutive year & my kids’ school sponsored trail 10k

November: the aforementioned Turkey trot Iron Turkey doubler which fell on one of the first cold days of the season.

Neither of us was feeling especially enthusiastic about running two races that morning but we still managed a couple of our best times and we both got 4th in our age division for the Iron Turkey. The two medals that click together and two shirts each were effective motivation.

And after that race I rolled off the wagon. And stayed off it until the last week of the year. Like my friend & co-blogger, I like the fresh start of a new year and the opportunity for reflection and goal setting. So now, as 2018 opens, I’m starting the slow climb back onto the wagon. Thank goodness I got a treadmill this fall. (It’s been below ten degrees Fahrenheit for a couple weeks now.)

What I’ve been making

Judging by the level of activity around here nothing. Luckily things are not always as they seem and there has been some making going on. Many types of making actually: crocheting, sewing, baking, and especially mess making (under the guise of home improvement projects).

First there was my Halloween costume:

Up until this year I’ve never been to an adult Halloween party or really even dressed up. Typically I’m busy making my kids’ costumes; making myself a costume as well isn’t even a fleeting thought. 2017 has been a very different year though (I can hardly wait to write my annual year in review post (which will likely happen in February at this rate)).

My boyfriend loves Halloween and doesn’t have kids which means he usually does dress up for Halloween. In fact, I’m pretty sure he started talking about Halloween costumes in April. When I told him I’ve never been to a real Halloween party he decided we needed to find one or, better yet, host one. Which we did. It was small but fun and our costumes were the best!

He got his online but I made mine. Sewing with shiny super-stretch fabric and somewhat stretchy pleather was a new experience for me. It was a fun project though.

And then there’s the Viking hats…

Last Halloween I was working on a Viking hat with an attached beard for one of my baby nephews. A friend of mine had asked if I could make him some for Christmas. I just didn’t have time last year with classes and everything else but this year when he asked I thought I could do it. But he wanted five hats. Five!

I wasn’t sure if I could do that but I bought the pattern (last year I eye balled it but having actual pattern makes the process so faster) and some chunky yarn and made one hat, but only the hat. It didn’t take long at all so I thought, yeah, I can make five (especially since he’s paying per hat). Little did I know the horns would be annoyingly time consuming.

I’ve finally gotten all the hats, horns, and beards complete. Once I attach three more beards these will be done and I’ll be happy to ship them off (and get paid) so I can move on to all the Christmas presents I want to crochet.

Baking wise I did the usual couple of pies for Thanksgiving but that’s old news. Something new and different I made, though, was this peanut butter chocolate cake for my son’s 13th birthday.

My boy loves his chocolate and peanut butter and this cake hit the nail on the head. If When I make it again I’ll reduce the baking time just a smidge, it was crumbling, and make more frosting. The frosting was the bomb dot com!

And of course there’s been plenty of random meal making,

I think the home improvement stuff deserves its own post, especially since a lot of it is still in the mess phase, but here’s a couple teaser pics. Because this hasn’t already been a picture heavy post at all…

Are you feeding the PR?

One of my favorite things about running (which I’ve likely said before) is that you can achieve success even if you’re not medaling or winning races. As a runner success is measured in what we call the PR: the Personal Record.

It’s exactly what it sounds like, your individual record fast time. (Sometimes also called a personal best.)

Running is all about self improvement, pushing yourself to be better than you were the race before or, heck, even the run before. Work hard, challenge yourself, get faster. That’s the beauty of running. It’s that simple.

Well, on paper is that simple. In reality it can be much more difficult than it appears especially if you’ve been running for a while.

As a new runner the gains come quickly and relatively easily. You feel more fit within a few weeks, your race times naturally drop as a function of just running regularly. But after a few years of running three to five days a week almost year round a PR becomes much more elusive. You actually have to strategically work for it.

I recently ran the Detroit half marathon for the second time in two years. It was my fifth half marathon and it was not a PR. Far from it, this was my slowest half yet. It was even slower than the same race last year but this time I didn’t have the excuse of recent illness to blame. It’s tempting to write this race off and say that me & the PR just don’t meet in Detroit, maybe blame luck or circumstances. Excuses are always easy to find. But, really, I like this particular race. I enjoy the atmosphere, the course, and the city.

So what’s the problem here? Why haven’t I PRd in Detroit?

After contemplating the matter it occurred to me that the PR is like a monster: You have to feed it to keep it alive.

Both this fall and last, and really in general of late, I have not been feeding my PR monster.

How can I realistically expect to PR when I haven’t been eating well, sleeping enough, or following a real training plan? PRs thrive on hard work and at least adequate levels of self care. If you’re going to attempt to push your body to new limits you have to give it the resources and fuel to do so. This is something I try to tell my 18 year old all the time. “You’re not eating well and you’re not sleeping, of course you feel crappy!”

Around the tenth mile in Detroit, when I was still running but not very fast, I realized I might need to tell myself the very same thing sometimes.

Fall is a busier season in my always busy life. Not only am I coordinating and adjusting to my kids going back to school but I’ve also been coaching cross country the past two years. I thoroughly enjoy it but it’s demanding, requiring at least fifteen hours a week of my time and attention. All this does not leave time to properly train for a long distance race. Or sleep more than six hours a day (if that). Or plan and prepare good meals.

My point here is that I shouldn’t expect a PR if I didn’t prepare for one. Does this mean I shouldn’t do fall races? No, not necessarily. But I should be realistic with my expectations for the races I do. You really do get out what you put in.

So despite it not being a PR, I’m going to celebrate the success I did have with the Detroit half marathon this year. I ran some fast (for me) miles on the beginning. I learned some important things about my self. I ran most the race and didn’t die in the last three miles, not completely at least.

Maybe I’ll take on another half marathon in the spring and maybe then I’ll give my PR monster the time and attention it needs. Or maybe I’ll just keep chugging along for the fun of it and enjoy the scenery.

The Problem with Perfect Endings

When I was young, somewhere in my early teen years maybe, I developed a love of romantic movies mostly in the form of musicals but also those with a bend towards comedy. The neatness of it all appealed to me along with the magical feeling of getting swept up in the story and carried away by its currents. I recognized that most these stories followed a similar formula: the build up where the main romantic couple either meet and dislike each other immediately or where their lives overlap ironically or coincidentally without them meeting; the revelation where the seemingly unlikely pair starts to see or notice one another, maybe they finally meet for real or maybe it occurs to them that there is attraction lurking beneath their tense interactions; and lastly the dramatic, often epic, conclusion followed by the inevitable possibly metaphorical ride off into the sunset. Once in a while the story took a twist and didn’t end this way but mostly there was this satisfying tying up of all the loose ends into a lovely, neat bow. And I so enjoyed that process and the perfect ending.

In fact when it didn’t happen I felt a little robbed. When I read Little Women and Jo didn’t end up with Laurie I was downright angry, even more so when her calmer, kinder sister did. What the actual eff, Louisa May Alcott??

Somewhere along the lines things changed; I changed.

I very distinctly remember going to a movie with my then (but not too far from ex) husband somewhere in the late 2000’s, I was slightly past mid twenties; we saw one of those romantic comedies. It followed the formula and presented the same perfect ending after the token conflict or overcoming of circumstances. But the satisfaction in that was gone. Vanished. Instead a white hot anger flickered up inside me. I literally wanted to take off a shoe and throw it at the giant screen.

“Lies!”, I thought, “it’s nothing but lies.” Why do they sell us this bullshit? Like everything is going to magically be great some day. Almost ten years into a marriage that was fatally flawed from the start, and not romantically so but destructively so, I knew better than that and I did not enjoy the empty promises I was being sold in the form of that perfect ending.

Shortly after that, during the divorce yes, I couldn’t even watch romantic movies, especially the comedic ones, unless I was in a dark place and wallowing in the bit of self loathing I had yet to battle through. I felt angry, so so angry, and betrayed by them. It was a twisted form of punishment to sit and watch the trite, idyllic story unfold and know that the reality of relationships, the real stories, were tinted with hurt and brokenness. Pain, more often than not, inflicted by the very person standing there swearing they loved you.

Time heals all wounds, as the saying goes. Heals, yes, but it never puts things back as they were. The more help you give time, the more work you do, the better those wounds heal. But there’s still always a scar.

While I don’t thoroughly enjoy those romantic stories like I once did, I can occasionally watch and enjoy them now. These days, though, I appreciate the less than perfect endings more. I like when the film gives nod to the possibility of perfection in romance but then gently reminds us that is not the norm. So maybe the couple rides off into the proverbial sunset but then they fall off their horse which insights bickering and blame casting; suddenly yet stealthily the seeds of resentment are sown. Or, more likely, the couple doesn’t end up together but they both treasure the time they shared while going on to lead full and fufilling lives. It’s a reminder that even relationships that don’t last forever have value and are worthwhile; sometimes things end and people part ways but that’s okay. Perfection isn’t always ideal.

Hitting a low

Life, it’s been beating me down lately. Between parenting (which I’m pretty sure I suck at right now), coaching (middle school kids), working (super shitty night shifts), and trying (but mostly failing) to maintain some semblance of a half marathon training schedule I’m burnt right the fuck out. Like a tough, over cooked steak I’m beyond done. I’ve been feeling it for a while but Sunday was when it really hit me.

The day started early because I had to take my sixteen year old to my sister’s so he could babysit her kids while she was at Equestrian Team regionals with my daughter (but mostly the other high school team she coaches). Even though I hadn’t been to the meet once yet over the weekend I went back home instead of heading up there. I wanted to go back to bed but I knew this was the only time available to clean up and do the dishes from Saturday’s big breakfast that were still strewn about the kitchen and dining room. Later that day I was extremely thankful I did.

A couple hours later I was finally on my way to watch my daughter show in her last few classes of the regional meet she had worked so hard to get to. I left three other kids and two friends playing video games and eating cereal. As I was leaving the shit storm was brewing. My younger sister had posted on our family’s Facebook group page asking for opinions about set up for her upcoming wedding. I responded, as did other people, saying the area in question would make a good kids’ activity space. She then asked if I wanted to coordinate this. To which I responded that I could not as I’m way too busy this week. It’s the third time she’s called me out specifically asking me to do something in the few days leading up to the wedding and (at least) the third time I’ve told her I cannot. Not that I don’t want to, I literally cannot. I had however, already told her I’d be more than happy to help clean up after the wedding. I just can’t do anything before. Why? Well, reread the second sentence of the post, I’m busy and already stretched thin. Apparently that’s irrelevant. I got shit for stating (again) that I’m not able to help before the wedding. Which, by the way, is on a fucking Thursday afternoon.

Later in the day, after being at the equestrian team meet for most the day, getting pestered via text by my almost thirteen year old about letting his friend go to his football game with him (which was a solid no as said friend would be unsupervised and needed to go home), stopping at the grocery store for dinner essentials and cat and dog food (which we were completely out of), I headed back over to my sister’s to pick up my daughter and the son who had been babysitting all freakin day. At this point it was close to seven in the evening. I still needed to make dinner and get everyone on track for school Monday. Plus I really needed to sleep a little before my shift at work started (10:30pm).

After handing my sister (not the one who is getting married, the one who was at the meet with my daughter) a twenty dollar bill in an apparently inadequate attempt to contribute to the cost of hauling the horse she informs me that it cost her at least $50 a week. Oh and that I don’t do enough for my daughter’s showing and she’s tired of helping her so much. I told her I’m doing the best I can. The bottom line, that’s not good enough.

That seems to be the message of the week. And it’s only Wednesday evening.

Even later Sunday evening I was finally getting the pre-work nap I needed. A whole hour and a half to sleep, some of it with my eight year old sitting next to me with a flashlight and a book. I didn’t have time to read him a bedtime story; this was the compromise. Thankfully he got tired too and decided to close his eyes after fifteen or so minutes.

An hour and twenty minutes into my nap (barely half an hour before I needed to leave for work) excessive dog barking woke me up followed by a knock on my bedroom door. “Mom, someone from CPS is at the door. They need to talk to you.”

And that was just the beginning of the week. It’s nearing the end of Wednesday. I think I’ve almost made it through but I can’t remember where one week ends and the next begins. When you work the whole weekend it’s not really something to look forward to. In fact I’m not sure what I should be looking forward to right now. Yes, my sister is getting married next week and that’s a celebration. My whole crazy family will be in one place, something that rarely happens anymore. And it’s going to be great. And, yeah, the half marathon I’ve been prepping for is ten days away. I’m excited about it.

But the celebration and excitement seem hypothetical and far away. Vague. Like oncoming headlights in a thick fog. Today, this week, I’m feeling (but trying not to wallow in) the low. I don’t remember another time in my recent personal history where things felt this downright bad. But I know, somewhere deep in my core, that that’s only because time dulls these pains and it has been much much worse. That somehow I’ve always made it through to the other side; this is a low, but it’s far from the lowest of the lows.