Thursday, January 20, 2011

I'm Frogging!

No, my headline does not have anything to do with frogs. Or Fire-Bellied Toads, which today's photo shows. Miss Ridley recently got a Fire-Bellied Toad, but I digress.

I've been working on knitting a sweater for the past couple of months. My activity really heated up when we went to Hilton Head for New Year's. It was so cold outside that we just stayed inside and I got a lot of knitting done. The drive down and back each gave me four uninterrupted hours of knitting.

This is a sweater for me! Most things I knit become gifts for friends or the grandkids' teachers. But this is for me!

I bought some beautiful yarn a year-and-a-half ago during a visit to Pocket Meadow Farm in Berkeley Springs, WV, with my friend, Maureen. (If you're a knitter and dying to know what I got, it's Cascade 220 in 8886-Italian Plum and 7802-Cerise, and Louet Riverstone in Kumquat and Carribean.) The colors were chosen to go with two big pieces of mixed-media art that are hanging in my library. Hot pink, purple, mustard and teal. I was going to make a throw for the library. Then I repurposed some rayon tape yarn from another project and it became a throw. So now I don't want another throw. In love with this kimono-style sweater, I decided to deviate from the pattern—which I never do!— and mix up the colors on this sweater.

When I got started on the sweater, I was certain it would take me a year to finish. But the more I got into it, the more I loved it. Now I'm very near to the end—I'm working on the two-inch neckband, and in about eight more rows will bind off and sew the side seams, then block it. And wear it!!!!

I feel like I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Last night I took it with me to pick up the kids from dance for our Wednesday night dinner. I knew my knitting friend Tani would be there, and I wanted to show it off. Of course, with 15 minutes to wait for the kids, I pulled it out and started working on it again.

And goofed up. I have added a stitch somewhere about three rows back. And now I'm frogging!
From Urban Dictionary: In knitting, a frog says "rip it rip it" and fogging refers to unraveling rows of knitted work due to an error found.

I've got an row-and-a-half to frog, and then will go forward again. I'll show you a pic when it's done.

It's for me!!!!

P.S. As you know I sew even more than I knit, I'll tell you the crowd of sewists I run with call it "unsewing", not "ripping"!

Monday, January 17, 2011

On Becoming a Cook - Again

For years I've joked that I don't cook. I confess that I try to always marry men who cook. I have a thousand cute sayings I throw in to divert the listener from the fact that I'm a woman who can't cook.

["Given the number of hours in the day, I'd rather spend them sewing/knitting/making music." - "I'd rather slave over a hot computer/sewing machine/kiln than a hot stove." - and so on.]

Well, I got me a great man a year ago. But he doesn't cook! He likes to bake, but cooking is not his thing. So given that it's not "the thing" for either of us, I figured I'd better step up to the plate.

The Jazzman vacuums. He washes dishes. (Sometimes he insists on washing dishes!) He knows how to run the clothes washer, the dryer, and how to fold clothes and deliver them to the top of the stairs. He doesn't cook? So what?! (BTW, he also paints walls and caulks around drafty windows and fixes broken garage door openers! Maybe I'll start referring to him as Superman!!)

I used to cook. When I was first married, at age 21, I had cooked one meal in my life up to that day. I had a set of cookbooks, "The Woman's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery." I would select one volume of the set per week, select five menus, write down all the ingredients and go to the store.

That's how I cook: I follow the recipe to the last dot over the i. If I'm missing one ingredient, be it celery seed or oat germ, I'm sure the meal will be a total and complete failure. Look in the fridge and throw a meal together? That just ain't happenin' in my house!

As you can imagine, this method of cooking lends itself to placing great stress on the cook. So rather than dealing with the stress, over the years I have cooked less and less. I have one or two "go to" recipes that I haul out if I need to host a dinner, but for the most part, my cooking ended when I stopped at the time of my first divorce.

Now here's the rub. When the Jazzman moved into my sphere, he brought a passel of good friends along. (Insert mental image of me shaking my head and wiping tears of gratitude from my eyes over the inordinate generosity of spirit and welcoming nature these friends, en masse, have shown to me since meeting me!) These friends love to socialize. We go out to dinner. We go to each other's homes. We host and attend dinners. We host and attend parties.

Here's the deal: You can't keep taking without giving back.

Merge those two tangents, if you will: I've got a man under my roof and we both need to eat. and We need to host friends for meals in our home if we're ever to be invited back to their homes again.

The result of that merger is that I'm learning to cook again. And, shock of all shocks, rather enjoying it.

Besides having a few more for-company recipes, I just have to cook a couple of meals a week, and the leftovers carry us through to the next weekend. Today it's Sweet and Tangy Slow Cooker Bar-B-Q Pork. I went down and snuck a forkful a few minutes ago and, Yum!, that is one good dish!

The moral of this story? You can teach an old Southern belle new tricks!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Love and Passion

I'm filled with joyous melancholy (is that an oxymoron?) this week as I look back to my time, a year ago, of getting to know the Jazzman. A line of dialogue from "The Good Wife" episode that aired earlier this week struck me, and reflected how lucky I feel that we have comfortably moved into a loving life together.

In the scene, Alicia's brother, Owen, is visiting, after being caught cheating by his partner and leaving the relationship.

Owen: Love just doesn’t seem to last very long for me. They should put you in a museum.
Alicia: Thanks.
Owen: No. (laughs) It’s not, um… No, it’s just this ability you have. How… how do you make love outlast passion?
Alicia: Is that what I do?
Owen: I don’t know. You tell me.
Alicia: I think it’s not just about the heart, Owen. I think, sometimes, the heart needs… steering.
Owen: I thought you were going to say something profound.
Alicia: (laughs) What was wrong with that?
Owen: “The heart needs… steering.” (both laugh)

I don't know how much steering of my heart, if any, I've had to do in the past year. I just continue to feel that I'm living a charmed life!

Stories to be Told

Today's Daily Thought from Real Simple magazine grabbed me:
“Behind the story I tell is the one I don’t …. Behind the story you hear is the one I wish I could make you hear.”   ― Dorothy Allison

I watch and read anything regarding adoption that comes across my radar screen. So many stories are of wonderful, heart-wrenching reunions—hugs, kisses, tears, the sharing of stories that fill the holes of the missed years.

What you don't hear are stories like mine, where a parent or a child is found and doesn't want anything to do with the finder. Those stories don't raise ratings and sell ad time. They're personal—so very personal.

I know how isolated I've felt throughout my life. I know the feeling of not belonging anywhere or to anyone. I know how I felt when I received the letter from my biological mother—written in the ½" margins of my letter to her—requesting that I never contact her again.

I know. But can I communicate it to you in a manner that allows you to really understand and fully comprehend how it feels to me? Probably not.

The unsuccessful or less-than-fully successful stories are the ones that need to be written about. These stories, if added to the library of adoption literature, would help potential adoptive parents and mental health professionals understand how to treat and deal with adoptive children and what these children are experiencing.

How different my life might have been had my parents realized the turmoil that was swirling in my mind, had they been able to sit me down for six months with a sensitive and caring therapist who could help me feel grounded within myself.

But it is what it is. I am where I am. I look in my invisible mirror every day and watch my words and actions to make sure the Little Adoptee is staying inside. I've tried to make a comfortable home for her.

In the meantime, I keep hopping up on my soapbox to say, "Adoptees have needs you can't imagine. You must look for those needs and fill them."

The world keeps changing. Our body of knowledge keeps growing. Maybe ten or twenty or fifty years from now there will be no unsuccessful adoptions.

I can only hope.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Making Space

I've been having the craziest dreams lately. While on vacation, I had several dreams about my lifelong best friend. I had noticed a change in her Facebook status, but had not heard any news from her, so was feeling hurt and rejected (which, you know, I do so well and automatically jump to in any slightly questionable situation!) (oh, and then thinking it must have been a Facebook error!). I kept dreaming about her and times we had shared in the past.

Last night I dreamed about a past husband and the mother of a past very.serious.boyfriend. I kept seeing things—earrings I had given the mother, plastic storage containers with my name on them, newspapers from the past. It was totally bizarre.

In trying to figure out how to interpret these dreams, I keep coming back to the fact that big changes are coming in my work life. I wonder if my mind knows it needs to make room—to clear out a bunch of drivel—to make room for all the new things I'll be learning in the next six months.

Lest you worry this change has anything to do with the Jazzman, rest assured that all is well. Actually, he's in most of the dreams and I always seem to come home to him or get wrapped in his arms when the dream gets too strange.

Isn't the mind a strange and magical thing?

That being said, I would be glad for these dreams to stop and to get my normal peaceful sleep pattern back!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Open and Shut

I've been trying to get through John Irving's "A Prayer for Owen Meany". When I downloaded it, I was thinking I had read some John Irving in the past and enjoyed it. Now, looking back to wonder why on earth I wanted to read this book, I search his bibliography and realize I've never read any of his works. Hmm, wonder who I was thinking of!

I rarely put down a book once I've started it. But in the past year I think I've given up on released back to the universe several books that just weren't compelling to me.

What did I download to replace Irving on my iPhone? Four Nora Roberts novels - The Bride Quartet. Call it Chick Lit if you must, but I have always loved her writing. Maybe it's formulaic, but I don't care. I escape from my world when I'm listening to her works. I fantasize being able to write a quarter as good (and as prolifically) as she does. Okay, so she won't win a Pulitzer, but she draws me in.

I simply must learn to not feel guilty when I put a book down for the final time even though I'm less than halfway through. The author will get his or her share of the money, and I'll move on.

What are you reading this snowy day?

Monday, January 10, 2011

One Year, and Counting

This was the profile picture I saw on a little over a year ago.

After several introductory and exploratory e-mails flew back and forth across the fifteen miles that separated our homes (a couple including my whines about a home improvement project I was up to my elbows in), this was how he asked me out:
I'm off for the next couple of days, would you like to meet and have coffee? We could talk about hammer & nail issues! Have your people get in touch with my people.

Our first dinner—at the back table in the Boardman Panera—was a year ago today.

And now we share our lives—washing each other's dishes; folding each other's clothes; laughing, loving and living.

I am daily thankful for the presence of this man in my life.

Friday, January 07, 2011

'Tis More Blessed . . .

When you reach the first Christmas of a relationship, and your primary goal is reducing debt and guarding spending, choosing a gift for your loved one is a challenge.

I had been keeping my eyes and ears open, watching and listening to the Jazzman's spoken and unspoken wishes. From the night I put a lamp on the end of the bedroom dresser, he would get into bed, then clap his hands twice, imitating the commercials for "The Clapper". He'd mutter about forgetting to turn the light out before getting into bed, then get up, turn it off, and slip between the sheets again. It became a standing joke until turning the light off first became a habit.

So I logged into the internet and started searching for a Clapper. Amazon had the best price, and he just laughed when he opened the package. The next afternoon, he installed the device, and it has become my favorite household appliance. Really!

It's been getting dark at 5:00 here. I walk out of my office into a totally dark hallway. I climb the three steps to the bedroom level, make my way to the bedroom door, and clap twice. Voila! There's light in the bedroom. It's just magical. Such a simple, silly gift, and we love it! And the model I bought has a remote in case your bedmate is already asleep. Genius!

I also got him something less silly—a pair of Tec Touch gloves that will enable him to text or write an e-mail without removing his gloves. (He hasn't used them yet, while he uses the Clapper several times a day! Guess which is his favorite.)

Oh, you want to know what he got me? Two very valuable gifts: a new iPhone 4 to replace my broken-screened early model iPhone, and a water heater. I have always loved practical gifts!!

Hope you got what you really wanted. I did: a very thoughtful man!!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

It Takes One's Breath Away!

I just learned shocking news. I was digging through file drawers searching for a paper when I came across the address book/calendar that John always carried in his briefcase. I kept it in case I'd ever need to contact one of his old friends.

I flipped through the pages before putting it back in the drawer and noticed the entry "Karl & Donna Teepe" (TEH-pee). Karl was his closest friend at the Defense Intelligence Agency.

When we married on March 16, 1996, we invited one couple from each facet of our lives. One couple was John's best golf buddy, who was married to a woman we sang with. Another couple traveled to Italy each January with John to ski. My best friend from law school was there. The woman with whom we had just finished staging a successful charity auction and her husband were there. And Karl and Donna.

He was a delightful man, intelligent, kind and funny all in one handsome man.

Today after seeing his name, I googled him to see if I could determine what he was up to these days.

I found the tribute to him in the Washington Post section remembering all the victims of the 9/11 Pentagon disaster.

You know those people who say there is no evidence a hijacked plane crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11. They're effing crazy. Crazy.

A good man lost his life. A very lovely lady lost her husband. Two young people lost their father. One hundred eighty-nine people lost their lives that day. Countless people lost their loved ones.

And I'll share with you a remembrance Donna wrote that was published in the Post. John had told me this story and we loved Karl's creativity:

"Karl believed in making your birthday a special day. Our daughter, Wendy, was born on July 14, Bastille Day. Her Dad always told her he would take her to Paris for her 16th birthday. On that special day we told Wendy and her 10-year-old brother, Adam, to get ready to go out for a special birthday dinner.

As we got in the car, Karl announced we had a surprise -- our bags were in the trunk and we were going to PARIS for Wendy's 16th Birthday. Wendy looked surprised, and Adam was very excited as we headed toward the airport from our house.

Pretty soon we came upon this small town and Karl announced here we were in Paris---Paris, Virginia, that is! We all laughed (Adam was bummed!) and we headed to our nice dinner, with a fun birthday memory.

Fortunately, we really did take Wendy (and Adam) to Paris (France, that is) for her 21st birthday adding another wonderful birthday memory and celebration."

-- Donna Teepe, wife


After writing and publishing the above story, I started searching to see if I could find Donna's e-mail address to write her a note, and found this beautiful love story. Out of the ashes . . . .

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Taking a Leap of Faith

A year ago today I received an e-mail from a man who saw me on When I saw his note, to which Match had attached his picture and the introductory paragraph of his profile, I didn't really remember having looked at his profile. Match sends active members five potential matches each day—"We think you might like this person." You have to click on each one and indicate interest, disinterest, or ambivalence or they won't give you five more the next day. And when you click on the profile, that person is told you looked at them.

His note started out, "Noticed you noticed." It went on in his inimitable communication style—always full of humor and innuendo. He didn't start out trying to woo me or impress me with his remarkable qualities (of which there are many). He just sent a chatty e-mail and mentioned some commonalities. I think he was testing the waters to see if I would respond.

One of the things his profile said was "...we are now at the point of having to take a leap of faith."

And leap I did. I sent a chatty e-mail back to him, mentioning off-handedly that I was having an awful time installing a mirror in my bathroom. That led to a couple more e-mails before he suggested we meet for dinner on Sunday evening.

This is all I blogged about that meeting. I didn't expect it to go anywhere, as it had been a year-and-a-half since I had had a date, and I certainly didn't want to jinx it! As I was driving home that night, and through the following week as I flashed back to that evening, I thought it was the most comfortable and easy first date I had ever been on.

This was written after the second date. I was astonished when I learned he had told his mother and brother he had met someone—after only two dates. I knew then that this was an unusual man.

Twelve months later, deeply in love, sharing a roof and our lives, I still think he's an unusual man. Add to that the descriptors "compassionate," "caring," "gentle," and "tons o' fun".

If you had told me 1, 11, 21, or 31 years ago that at 60 I would think life was fun, I would have said you were insane.

Life is fun!

Memories of Holidays Past

As I was thinking about the quiet (and delightful) evening I shared with the Jazzman on New Year's Eve, I reminisced back to the best and worst NYE's I had experienced. The absolute worst occurred while I've been writing this blog.

Here's the link.

(And if you want to read more about this guy, type kayaker into the search bar of my blog. I realize now that's how he was referred to earlier in the blog's existence. He's the one who told me I had poor taste in men!)

The best NYE party was during the two years I was living with John and we were housesitting on Lamont St. NW for friends who were in India with the State Department. We had about 14 friends come over. We all went to the theatre, then came home to a seated dinner in the grand dining room of this stately DC rowhouse. During dinner, John's future son-in-law announced his engagement to John's daughter. It was a fabulous, festive evening.

However, I actually prefer something a little quieter.

I was sorry we missed the traditional evening that the Jazzman's circle of friends always enjoys. But here's what we did: There's a pizza place on Hilton Head, at the entrance to Sea Pines, named "Take and Bake". You tell them what size pizza you want, what crust, and what toppings. They prepare it for you on a special heat-proof styrofoam-like platter that's a little larger than the crust. You take it home and bake it. Magnificent! While eating, we sipped adult beverages and watched "Love Actually", which I love, actually. After the movie, we cleaned up the unit and packed our things, watched the ball drop, and fell asleep—after midnight, which is unusual for me!

Today is the one-year anniversary of my first communication with the Jazzman. I am living a charmed life with a wonderful, caring, supportive, loving man. I am truly lucky!

And a Happy New Year to you!