Sunday, September 20, 2015

Season of Changes

Summer will be officially over soon.  The school routine is back and I'm starting to think about the future. There are a lot of changes coming soon.  It is appropriate that it will soon be autumn, the season the most dramatic changes.  We've taken Blake on a few college visits.  Now we need to get working on his applications.  Kristin has several dental school interviews lined up.  Trisha has started her clinicals.  Ed has done some goose hunting and will be off to Chattanooga for another Ironman triathlon.  I'm working on several projects and trying not to focus too hard on how many days I have left to work.  (Eight weeks from this past Friday for those who are counting.)

Trisha's lab coat has been tailored.  I shortened the sleeves and the hem as much as possible.  I think it turned out well.

The other morning when I was leaving for work I noticed this beautiful cloud.  It made me think of wool roving.  I had to fight the urge to call off for the day and pull out my spinning wheel.

I finished the Java socks.  These are getting tucked away now to give to Trisha for Christmas.

My "take-along" project is now a pair of socks for Ed.  I'm trying the afterthought heel technique.  We'll see how they turn out.  I hope to gift these for our anniversary in a couple weeks.

I also would love to have the Custom Fit sweater done by mid-October.  A couple of my sisters and I are planning on going to Rhinebeck.  I would love to have this sweater to wear there.  At the rate I knit, though, I doubt I'll have it finished.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Decision Made

I didn't mean to be away so long.  Honestly, I don't know where the time has gone.

As I mentioned in my last post, I had a big decision to make.  I decided to take the retirement offer.  I will be leaving my job sometime in November.  The plan is to take the holidays off and then find a job in January.  I feel very good about my decision. In fact, I don't have a single ounce of angst. A friend tells me I should be at least a little worried, but I don't agree.  Ed and I put a lot of thought into this decision.  It is the right thing to do.

The week before having to make the decision, we took a vacation to Florida.  It was very relaxing.  The mornings were spent on the balcony reading a book and drinking tea.

In the evenings we went out for dinner and then explored a little of Orlando.  We didn't go into any of the theme parks, but we did visit Downtown Disney (terribly under-construction!!!), Universal's shopping district in front of the park and Disney's Boardwalk.  It is a tradition to spend an evening walking around the lake at Disney's Boardwalk and then watching the Epcot fireworks.  It was a beautiful evening with dramatic clouds.

After coming back home, it was "Back to School" time.  The girls headed back to their colleges and Blake got ready for his senior year of high school.

Here's Trisha in her lab coat.  She will begin clinical rotations this year.  I have a bit of hemming to do on her lab coat.  Believe it or not, this is an extra-small!

Here is Blake's last "First Day of School" picture.  This is bittersweet.  It is a great picture of him, but I'm sad to see my baby grow up.  The smile on his face is genuine.  He was very excited to head back to school.  He loves his classes and is going to have a great year.

Kristin sent me a "Last First Day" picture.  She is a senior in college and will be wrapping up her undergraduate work this year.  She is in the process of applying to dental schools.  So far two of the 7 she applied to have asked her to come for interviews. She's hoping for at least three more interviews.  We're keeping our fingers crossed.

Many of my weekends are still spent traveling to Cincinnati to visit my mom.  She is in a nursing home now and is showing a few signs of dementia.  Her personality is volatile and I never know what attitude I will encounter when I visit.  Some visits are emotionally difficult while others are very pleasant.  No matter how she is I still treasure every minute I have with her.

The weather for the past week or so has been in a very tropical pattern.  The days are hot and humid with thunderstorms popping up late in the day.  Below is a cloud with a rainbow coming out of the bottom that I saw while coming back from Cincinnati last weekend.  This picture doesn't do it justice, but the rainbow was very vibrant.

On the craft front I'm trying to finish up a couple UFOs.  The first is the Jenny's Faith shawl.  I just recently realized that I am using the wrong size crochet hook.  It will end up being smaller than planned,  more like a neck scarf than a shawl.  I was wondering why I wasn't using up the yarn as fast as I thought.  The pattern called for two skeins but I'm still on my first.  Then I reread the directions and discovered my mistake.  After I block it out a little it should be fine.

I'm also trying to get these socks finished.  These will get set aside to give as a Christmas gift.

I'm not sure what I'll pick up after these are finished.  There are so many UFOs still hanging around.  But there are also so many fun projects to start.  Time will tell.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Big Decision To Make

 Not a lot of knitting or sewing got done this week.  In fact, productivity was down all around.  I've been preoccupied with a big decision to make.  My place of employment is going to offer an early retirement package.   I have been at the same company for over 31 years.  I started there while in college, working as an intern.  I spent 18 years on the revenue generating side of the company and now work on the support side in the corporate IT group.  

The package may amount to a substantial sum of money, but it won't be enough to truly retire.  If I took the package, I would have to roll everything over to a tax-deferred account and find another job. I would love to go into a life of leisure, but that has to wait another 10-15 years.  Maybe.

When considering the package, I keep coming back to the thought that the timing feels right.  Over the past year or two I haven't been entirely happy with my job anymore.  I don't enjoy what I do anymore and I don't feel as if my contributions are valued.  If I stay at work I run the risk of getting laid off anyway. It is no secret that if the company doesn't get the number they want through voluntary departures they will implement involuntary actions.  Or, if I stay and not get involuntary terminated, I will be assigned to a project that I don't want to work on.

The answer seems pretty clear.  The only remaining question is finding another job.  People tell me that I could be successful as a consultant.  Being a consultant, however, may involve travelling away from home during the week.  Now that my children are older, I don't need to be at home so much.  The girls are in college and Blake will be heading out in a year.

Stay tuned for further developments.  My decision will be made by mid-August.

But before then, I am enjoying the last few days of having all of my children home.  Both girls will be moving during the second week of August into their apartments for the next school year.  Before they go, I'm enjoying as much family time as possible.   Last night we went for ice cream to a shoppe we hadn't visited in several years.  We got to see an incredible sunset while we waited in line.

This morning I decided to make a treat for breakfast.  This is a berry puff pancake.  This is an adaptation of this recipe.  I substituted vanilla for the lemon zest, added strawberries and blackberries and made it all in a flan dish since I don't have a cast iron skillet.  I melted the butter in the dish as it heated in the oven.  Once the butter was melted and the oven was preheated, I brushed the dish with melted butter and poured in the batter.  I scattered the berries around and popped it in the oven.  After 20 minutes it came out looking like a dream.

Kristin agreed that it was delicious.  The recipe is adaptable.  We may try it next time with some fresh peaches.  Yum!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Trying to Remember

Months ago I pushed the Basic Cardi into hibernation.  I had the back finished and had started on the right front.  I was trying to keep up progress with my niece's shawl and put a moratorium on any other knitting until I had gotten it done.  When I came out from under that, I wasn't in the mood to do something so plain.  I had gotten used to following charts and the ever-changing stitches.  To satisfy my craving I started a pair of socks and a crescent scarf.

I finished the scarf.  I don't have the ends woven in yet.  Nor have I blocked it.  It's been tossed aside for the moment.

The socks thrilled me for one sock, but the second sock has been a bit of a struggle.

While hunting for fabric for the parrot head block, I found the Basic Cardi.  It got moved into a visible spot where it has sat for the past 3 weeks.  I'd occasionally pull it out of the bag, look at the stitches and tell myself that I'll get back to it soon.

When "soon" came Friday.  I sat down expecting to pick up where I left off and be on my way.  No such luck.  I remember why I stopped where I did.  The pattern gets very confusing at this point.  The pattern is a Custom Fit pattern.  Since it is built from a formula, the waist shaping, neckline shaping and the armhole are all discussed separately.  I had to read through the entire instructions and plot out what each section was telling me to do, then correlate them into a single set of row by row instructions.  My first attempt at doing this on Friday ended in total frustration.  I tried again Saturday morning, but realized I didn't have enough caffeine in my blood to tackle it.  Finally, last night after dinner, and a very small glass of wine to ease the anxiety, I got the pattern figured out.  I'm back to knitting.  I'll try not to toss this aside again.  Stay tuned for future updates.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Tribute to a Parrot Head

When my children were toddlers I became involved with a volunteer project at my work called ABC Quilts. ABC Quilts was a national organization that provided quilts to At Risk children; those born HIV positive, drug/alcohol dependent, neglected, abuse, etc.  The group met once a month on a Saturday to sew the quilts.  Through this group I gained several things:  an interest in quilting, "me" time and many friendships.  

This group came into my life at a point when I was feeling lost and alone.  Working my entire career with men, I hadn't developed any strong female relationships at work. My children were not yet into any activities, so meeting other mothers was difficult.  Ed is a home-body and has always preferred sitting at home over going out with other couples.  In short, my daily life consisted of going to work and then coming home and being a wife/mother. My only break from the routine came whenever I loaded the kids in the car to spend a weekend at my parents' in Cincinnati.  I was very lonely and too busy to do anything about it.

Then I heard about the quilting group.  The group had formed a year or two earlier and were campaigning for more members.  I told Ed that I wanted to participate in this group.  He agreed it was a good idea.  Very quickly I lost the loneliness and felt a part of group that understood being a working mom.

One of the ladies in this group was named Ginny.  She was a very active part of this group.  She loved batiks, bright colors, the Grateful Dead and Jimmy Buffet.  You could always count on her to have a smile or a joke to tell.

As my kids grew and became involved in extra-curricular activities, I found that I couldn't make the monthly Sew-Ins.  My participation dropped off but I still felt the group of women were a vital part of my life.

As with many companies since 2000, work dropped off and people lost their jobs.  Ginny was among those that were let go.  She found another job for a couple years, but retired from that place to spend more time with her husband and her daughter who lived out of state.  She also didn't participate as often as in the past.

About a year and a half ago I decided that it was time to reconnect with the group.  The membership has changed and we no longer meet in a conference room at my work.  Ginny would show up if she were in town.  I saw her last in November or December and gave her a big hug before I left that day.

That hug is a precious memory.  In mid-January the group learned that Ginny found out she had an aggressive cancer. By the time we found out she was already in hospice.  She died 3 weeks later.  I wasn't able to go to her memorial service because it was held on the weekend that I was taking Kristin to tour dental schools.

Each year the quilt group makes a quilt to raffle off to raise funds.  This year's quilt is a tribute to Ginny.  I volunteered to make parrot head blocks to place in the corners of the quilt.  Unable to find a block that was available commercially, I designed a parrot head to make using the paper-pieced technique.  As I sew these blocks, the memories of those early days come flooding back.

The intent of the quilts we made were to provide love and comfort to children who started life at a disadvantage.  But whenever love is involved, there always seems to be more than enough to share.  I also gained love and comfort from the quilts through the wonderful women like Ginny that became a part of my life.

Time now to find my lost shaker of salt.