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…

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.

Still Running

While I have been notably terrible at posting here (due to all the usual excuses: work, kids, it’s cross country season, the general craziness of life) I have still been managing to run regularly …mostly. Well, except for the better part of July when things were extra busy between retaking the DAT and throwing a graduation party open house for my son on top of everything else. But in general I’m still running.

At the beginning of 2017 my race goals were vague. I was feeling uninspired on that front so instead of setting some race related feat to work toward over the year I chose a mileage goal. Here we are well over half way through the year and I’ve only run 526 miles. Yup, barely over half of my 1,000 mile goal. (Maybe I should make it a 1,000 km goal. I’m pretty close to that.) As irony would have it I’ve done more and more types of races than previous years. I blame this guy I’m dating. He wasn’t really a runner when we met but was a good sport when I suggested signing up for a Cinco de Mayo race in Detroit. The beer theme helped I’m sure. As it turns out, he really enjoys racing. That first one the weather was cold, rainy, and slightly miserable but we had a great time and he was hooked. Since then we’ve done a muddy obstacle run, a 10k along the coast of Lake Michigan, a 15k trail run, the local 10k Melon run, and the Labor Day run across the Mackinaw bridge. That’s a total of six runs over the span of as many months. I also ran a local glow run with my kids back in late April. So much for not racing as much this year!

The unexpected upswing in races has been a small, friendly reminder that you never really know where life will take you. You can make all the plans and set all the goals you want but things are going to happen, not all of them within your sphere of control, and you’ve got to be able to roll with it. For better or worse. Whether you like it or not. I’ve had more than a few reminders of this over the years, not all of them so gentle and kind; I like this one much better.

In the spirit of flexibility I’ve embraced the race theme of this year and signed up to run the Detroit Half marathon again. I enjoyed the race last year but wasn’t especially happy with my time. I thought I’d be less busy this fall and would have adequate time to make and follow a training plan that incorporated speed work twice a week. That really hasn’t happened. Nor has regular grocery shopping or meal planning/prep or laundry or cleaning or (quite obviously) blogging. Really I’m not sure what I have been accomplishing lately (other than working full time, managing four kids going back to school, and coaching a team of middle school cross country runners). My recent 10k, 15k, and 4.4 mile races have been counting as long(ish) runs until last week when I finally managed an 8.5 mile run. I had planned on running the 8.5 mile loop around a local metro-park then going to practice and running another easy three miles with my team but the weather had other ideas and we had to cancel practice.

Once again I made plans and the universe laughed.

So here I am 3/4 of the way through the year and a month out from my “big” race trying to balance the demands of life with setting aside time to pursue my personal goals. Tempering the sleep deprivation of working a bunch of long night shifts in a row with self care while still finding ways to get the miles in. And even if it’s not all the miles I want. I’m still running.

running fuel

My current running fuel favorites.

bridge

bridge run horses

Constantly Adapting Expectations

“New goal” I said to my boyfriend as we ran through the forest “make it through this race without falling.”

(Yeah, boyfriend. I have a boyfriend now. Not sure if I’ve mentioned that here yet. 🙂 )

We had started the race thirty minutes after the gun went off; the person who was supposed to cover the tail end of my overnight shift showed up (half an hour) late. Initially the goal was to run the 15k Viking themed trail race without walking but that ship had done sailed. Within the first three miles I was huffing and puffing like an asthmatic smoker (Thank you, night shift work.) and had to walk… so I could adjust my sagging ponytail (any excuse would do at that point). Seeing both of us had stumbled more than once on the rocks and tree roots that littered the rough terrain of the trail that wound its way up, down, and all around the Michigan woods, not falling was an appropriate goal albeit it a different sort of accomplishment than the original. It required luck, balance, and intuition instead of the grit, stamina, and determination demanded by the first.

Moments after deeming Not Falling to be our new race goal we ran down a hill lavishly coated with the loose, medium sized rocks that seemed to dominate the surface of these trails. As we hit the bottom of the hill and tilted to make a sharp left I lost my footing and hit the ground (lightly though, I’m getting pretty good at falling while running). There went that goal.

Even without meeting the initial goals this race could be considered a success. We ran 15 kilometers (that’s about 9.3 miles) over hills and crazy footing, in my case after working all night, and still managed to pass a few people. Our chip times put both my guy and me second in our age divisions. On top of that my son who was also running won the race.

That’s right, he won the whole freakin thing, my eighteen year old boy.

viking dash win.jpg

I’m not sure if you can tell from the picture but he’s super proud of himself.

He reluctantly committed to the 15k instead of the five even though he hadn’t done much running since cross country season ended over nine months ago. My son’s fifth and senior year of cross country season came to a crashing and disappointing premature halt last October. At the beginning of the season I had high hopes for him. While I’ve always been proud of my son’s running, it’s long been apparent that there is untapped potential teeming just beneath the surface of this somewhat distant and detached teen. When he began conditioning for his last season it looked like some of that running potential would finally be tapped into. Until academia caught up with him.

First was the failed class from the year before. We didn’t know it made him ineligible to run until the first week of August. I found an accelerated online make-up class that still counted as summer school as long as it was done before school started. It was. Just barely. Well, sort of.

In typical avoidant teenager fashion, my son thought he could pass the class with the required 80% without doing the “speaking assignments” (it was a Spanish class). Technically he had enough points to pass but the fine print dictated that every assignment be completed. At any rate, he missed the first meet of the season.

By the second and third meets he was eligible to compete but his race times didn’t reflect the stats he was achieving in practice. When he was running the first two miles of a race in under twelve minutes but finishing close to twenty we realized this might be a nutritional issue. Unlike previous seasons, there was no significant increase in appetite when his running mileage increased. Instead a general malaise took its place. I was concerned about depression.

As October approached my son has posted a couple PR’s (personal record race times) but nothing close to his early season projections. My boy was struggling and not just physically.

The last two meets of the season are big ones: the “small school” regional meet (not sanctioned by the state’s high school athletics association) and the actual regional meet that would hopefully qualify my son and a few other kids on the team for the state championship meet. It being my son’s last year of high school running made them that much more important…and the disappointment when he found himself on the academic ineligibility list that much more intense.

That’s right, academia reared its ugly head again.

At this point one might think that my son is a little dull or that he was taking a very difficult course load his senior year. Neither is true. However, that malaise that was apparent in his appetite was also showing its effects on his schoolwork. He did rally and attempt to bring his grades up to passing before the regional meet but by that time the hole had been dug too deep. Both my son and his good friend were academically ineligible for what should have been the crowning event of their senior seasons. Instead of racing at the regional meet we watched his team falter without their leaders.

As is often the case, running is a metaphor for life. Well, in this case it was foreshadowing.

The rest of my son’s last year of school continued in the same fashion. He failed the college math class he was taking because he didn’t believe me, his teachers, and everyone else who told him homework is important. At one point he was suspended for being at the store before the school day started. (Yes, it was as stupid as it sounds. Basically he was penalized for being a teenager in public.) In the spring we had multiple meetings with the principal of the school about whether or not my kid would pull it together and finish his senior presentation, a graduation requirement at the school, in time. And then there was another independent study make-up class. Clearly his senior year was not the commemorative occasion it should have been.

Still I encouraged my brilliant but troubled boy to apply for colleges; to aim high and to be optimistic about his future.

Not only did I encourage, I cajoled, pestered, begged and pleaded.

All to no avail. My son refused to even follow through with a college application. The closest I got was an “I would go there if I was going to go to a university.” after an especially cool campus visit (a six hour drive from home). The farthest was when he asked me to consent to him moving out before turning 18. (Umm, hell to the no, kid!)

So what is my point here???  Well, that (once again) running mimics life.

Much like the 15k trail race, I had hopes and goals at the beginning. As it progressed it became clear those goals were just not realistic right now (maybe someday though). Towards the end I was happy to accomplish what I did. Sometimes just getting through a thing is a success and sometimes you need to circle back around and try again under better circumstances. Such is the case for 15k trail runs and for my hopes of my son going to college (or choosing a path that will enable him to “make something of himself” …which to me means finding an engaging and sustainable way to spend his time and efforts).

viking trail 15k viking run duo