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Birthday eve

Conversation I had with Mike last week:

Me: Where do you want to go for your birthday eve?

Him: That’s not a thing.

Me: What’s not a thing?

Him: Birthday eve. That’s not a thing.

Me: Of course it’s a thing.

Him: No, it’s not a thing.

Me: I will never understand you people with siblings.

We have a long standing understanding in our home that I celebrate my birthday for an entire week or more. Generally, my celebration involves declarations like, “It’s my birthday, I’m not doing the dishes,” but it also includes allowing myself special treats like cupcakes for breakfast. I firmly believe in more robust celebrations for birthday eve, the actual birth day, and then the day after, which is the first full day of one’s new age. Being Mike’s first birthday without the teenager at home, I felt it was time he to embraced the three day celebration format. Being a middle child who married an only child who together had an only child, he thought the three day format was a bit silly.

Here’s the thing – I see too many people taking life too seriously. I am often one of those individuals taking life too seriously. There are unread emails in my inbox. I’m overdue in a status update. I have several business stakeholders I haven’t met with yet today. I haven’t returned a few phone calls. I have a mountain of laundry at home and the carpet needs to be vacuumed. My list of home improvements continue to grow as nothing gets taken off. My weekends are spoken for and I don’t think I have a free moment until June 14…of 2019. I put too much on myself and I don’t make time for fun, except when it comes to celebrating.

We try to celebrate a lot as a family unit. This was a bit of fun Mike brought into our relationship. No matter how big or small, we celebrated. We’ve celebrate the loss of teeth (and the sprouting of new ones), the start of a sports season, the completion of a project, the wrap up of a school play, the start of a new job, the end of a hard school or work week, the anniversaries of births, deaths, love, the beauty of a Southern spring day, the emptiness of the laundry basket, and just about any other reason we could find. If we can declare a celebration of some sort, we try to declare it.

By no means are each celebrations big affairs. We may shout a brief “hoorah!!” but we don’t really need more. It is merely an act of gratitude and accomplishment. It is an acknowledgment of life and a gratefulness we have people with us on our little journey through it. Maybe my only child status influences or sparks my desire to celebrate. My immediate families have been small my entire life. I am blessed though to have large extended families and a strong network of friends who have been a part of many of my little celebrations, whether they realize it or not, and that is something worth celebrating.

For your next birthday eve or for the next joy that stumbles into your life, maybe you to can shout a little “hoorah!” You might just like taking a small moment to acknowledge it and celebrate, whatever it is.

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Perspective

Well, you’re alive and can be thankful for that. Then you can worry about finding any job.

~ Overheard while walking through a park in Ireland

The Irish seem to have remarkable perspective. For instance, while walking around in a park, I overheard a grandfatherly gentleman tell his young female companion the statement above. I can only guess about the backstory. Was she ill? Was he ill? Was this just the sharing of a lesson learned through many decades of living? Does the backstory even matter or is the lesson enough?

While traveling around Ireland, I was amazed by how everyone we met was friendly, engaging, and happy, and not in a superficial way. When I talked with someone, I felt as if the person listened to what I was saying instead of thinking of what he or she was going to say next. People seemed truly interested in the conversation and the shared story we were creating together. A thread of genuine curiosity underpinned every conversation, and each person seemed to embrace the advice of the grandfatherly gentleman who extolled the importance of appreciating life. It was exhilarating!

I also marveled at the public art we saw and the stories we heard. Walking around Dublin, you will see statues and architecture devoted to writing, music, and wit. I don’t recall seeing a single object honoring or glorifying war or military might or victors who forcably conquered others. Instead, the culture appears to place other things on a higher pedestal, and I love this the most about Ireland. Heck, their national symbol is a harp! Again, the Irish seem to know what to value and have the right perspective about life.

I miss Ireland, and the re-entry into the United States didn’t supply a soothing balm. Instead, I was jarred by the crass abrasiveness of the very loud, very obnoxious American in the airport lounge. He had not kissed the Blarney Stone in his life and was not given the gift of gab. Instead, his story telling was self focused and more of an assault on one’s ears than a tender lithe tale of ones adventures. Nope, it was a litany of “accomplishments” and what I can only assume to be “sharing of wisdom through his awesomeness.” Maybe I’m being too harsh on the poor guy, or maybe we could all use a bit more of the Irish perspective in ours. If an Irish cabbie can curse you from a place of love and make you laugh at the same time, then maybe we can be more welcoming and opening in our general interactions.

Yes, it’s been awhile.

I’ve been a touch busy for the last few years. The Little Bear grew into a Teenage Bear, and I was flummoxed by the amount of time it takes to cultivate a teen into a functioning facsimile of an adult. His entry into high school with the very real, very quickly approaching deadline, burned into my conscientious just how little time I had left with him. Instead of writing or fishing or knitting, I spent what time I could with him, trying desperately to cram every last bit of adult knowledge I could into his teenage brain. I’m pretty sure I failed and left him with huge gaping gaps in knowledge, but I tried.

I still have much to say, and now I have time. I’m determined to fill the time and prove to myself I am not boring. I can survive life after direct parenting as I shift to indirect parenting and maybe, just maybe as a guide and student of the Teenager’s learnings. Until then, I will write.

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Female anglers have been at a disadvantage with regards to gear for years. Our options have been limited at best and frustrating at worse if they even existed. For years, I’ve walked into fly shops only to leave in frustration and disgust as I look at the racks upon racks of men’s gear and clothing and mad as all get out at the male anglers trying to sell me a men’s small or something in pink. Thankfully, manufactures are realizing not only do women fly fish and they plan on staying in the sport, but we sure are ready to buy good well designed gear made especially for us. Yes, there have been waders made for women on the market for a while, but they are either feature poor or priced incredibly high. Patagonia, just entering this market in January 2014, is a bit late to the game, but the wait is well worth it.

For starters, the fit, arguable one of the most important features, is incredible. A poor fitting pair of waders wears out quickly if there is excess fabric, or can cause irritation if too tight in the wrong places. Excess fabric can also lead to discomfort and hinder mobility. If water is rising or an angler needs to move quickly, the excess fabric can become dangerous in addition to cumbersome which is why women should not buy men’s waders. Don’t do it ladies, ever.

The fit on the Patagonia Spring River Women’s Waders is tailored perfectly to a women’s figure. They are made with enough ease to easily accommodate variances in body shape without being too bulky or too tight in any one area. I ordered the regular small even though my bust measurement is a smidge larger than the size chart and my hips are a smidge smaller than the size chart. I also wear a women’s size 7.5 shoe and my feet with a pair of Smartwool socks and Simms wading socks fit very comfortably in the bootie of the wader. They are also still comfortable without the Simms wading socks. I have not tried them barefoot. Even with a tee shirt, a fishing shirt, and a pullover sweater, I had enough room in my waders to access the inside waterproof pocket, but not too much to feel bulky.

These are the first pair of waders I’ve ever worn that I’ve forgotten I had on waders. From getting my rod rigged after slipping on the waders to walking through a field to fishing on a drift boat to wading on the Norfork, I easily forgot I had on a pair of waders. My previous pair of Lady Hodgeman always felt like waders, and I felt clunky lumbering around, but the Patagonia just felt comfortable. I was able to move freely in all conditions. On the river, the fit of the waders allowed them to hug my legs as I waded without bulking up in any one particular spot and they didn’t add drag as I waded. I could walk through deeper areas as well as shallow areas with ease. I was even able to kneel down in the river to release the lovely big rainbow I landed without any issue. The waders moved with me like an outfit should. On the boat, they were comfortable as I casted from the drift boat, allowing me to move easily with full mobility. They were also great wind protection and kept me warm.

For features, the waders are incredibly feature rich. The suspender feature provides convenient, the hand warmer pocket is fabulous, and the two waterproof pockets are wonderfully accessible. The suspenders also include clip on tabs for zingers so you can keep items in very easy reach. The wool lined booties are a great feature for colder stream wading, especially for women who’s feet tend to be colder than most men. Overall, this is my new favorite piece of gear, in fact the gear driving me towards finding a time to fish again just so I can use them. After springing a leak in my Lady Hodgeman waders, thanks to a thorn, I hobbled through November and December being careful of how deep I waded, so I could wait until January to order the Patagonia Spring River waders. I’m glad I waited because these waders were well worth the wait and I’d order them again in a heartbeat.

Pros: The fit. These are the best fitting, most comfortable waders I’ve worn. The anatomically correct legs and feet give a tailored streamline fit without too much excess fabric. The waders are also feature rich, including the much talked about suspender system.

Cons: If anything, maybe the price. Coming in at $399, the waders are not inexpensive but they are also not the most expensive on the market. They are not designed for someone who wants to tryout fly fishing. Instead, the waders are designed for female anglers, those who love the sport and are willing to invest in it. That said, if you are a man and want to get your lovely lady into fishing and have the means to afford these AND accept life if she doesn’t fall in love with fishing, then these waders will help her fall in love with the sport and not be the deterrent that most other waders will be because she will look darn cute in them and still feel like a lady.

How quickly time goes by

The title is relevant for more than one reason. Not only has the time between the last blog and this one gone by much too quickly for me, but the time between today and September 1999 has gone by quickly. In September 1999, around this date, I was standing on the outskirts of the dance floor at my friends’ wedding, watching the Mother Son dance, balling my eyes out. My heart was breaking at the realization that one day, that would be me and my son out there. My son who was in the nursery down the hall as a three week old baby, would leave me one day to get married and the thought just solidified in my mind as I watched my friend dance with his mom.

Now, thirteen years later, my baby is entering the end of an era as he starts a new era. He began 8th grade, the last year of in the school he’s attended since the 4K.

(The neighbor’s cat just couldn’t refuse being in his last school photo as a middle schooler)
This is his last year to eat in the cafeteria, to see the same faces every weekday, to be surrounded by the same support staff he’s had as a part of his life the last 9 years. The school has left a positive mark on his life and ours and we are truly grateful to have had this experience.

In addition to beginning his last year at his school, he officially entered the teenage years. I’m not sure how it happened, but the little baby I coddled and held and bathed and soothed and love more than I could have ever imagined has grown into a teenage boy.

He is beautiful and kind and thoughtful and talented. He lights up a room with his smile and his freckles radiate with mirth and laughter. His joy is visible and his gentle spirit is easily observed when he is lost in concentration. He has taught me about what an amazing world we live in and he helps those around him grow and become better people. Looking at what he has accomplished in the last thirteen years, I can’t wait to see what the rest of his life holds for him. Even as his exterior changes and I see the inklings of the man he will be, there will always and forever be a part of him who is little baby boy to me.

Have you ever been in a situation where you know you have to do something, but you don’t know if you can go through with it? That was me, sweater vest and scissors in hand, wondering if really truly, I could cut my knitting.

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Even though the sweater vest and I hadn’t been together for very long, it still represented hours of my life. I knew I couldn’t bare to see my life literally unravel before me. Yes, people steek all the time. Yes, they still have fully functioning sweaters at the end. People also bungee jump all the time, but I have absolutely no plans on ever jumping off a high structure attached to a gigantic rubber band. The sweater and I sat together. I hugged it, as if saying good-bye, just in case one of us didn’t make it through this endeavor. Then, I took a shot and proceeded to cut.

Snip – there goes the cast on edge of the steek
Snip – there goes the first stitch, cleaved in twain
Snip – there goes the next stitch, goodness, the stitches are holding!
Snip – they are holding!
Snip – this might actually work

I didn’t cut with reckless abandon, but I did begin to snip a little faster. The stitches held fast, but the cast of edge did fray a bit, not enough to cause any issues, but enough to make my heart beat quicken. By the time I snipped the last steek stitch, I felt confident in the process and sure of my stitches. I picked up for the armhole edging and after a couple of more hours, I not only had a new garment, but also a newly accomplished skill to add to my bag of tricks.

Ta-da!
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Spoiler Alert!!!

Italian: What are you watching?
Me:
Italian: Ah, your British soap opera.
Me: Shhh. It’s not a soap opera. It’s a drama.
Italian: Hm, right.
Me: It’s not like they brought anyone back from the dead with amnesia or anything.

Then I saw Downton Abbey, Episode 5 of season 2 when yes, indeed, there was a character brought back from the dead, with amnesia. I’m still going to watch season 3 and pretend it is more drama than soap opera, because, to me at least, it isn’t the soap opera it seems to be, but is instead a complex drama of post World War 1 societal strife and upheaval. Just like my current WIP isn’t what it seems to be.

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This oddly shaped blob of a garment isn’t a doggie sweater, but is a sweater vest. It will continue to defy American knitting convention when I cut it. It may seem as if I’ve had a lapse in sanity, but a lot of knitters out there are absolutely adamant that taking scissors to knitted yarn is not only perfectly ok, but results in a lovely sweater. The stockpile of wine continues to grow and I’ve added tissues just in case. Wish me luck.