March 3 2015

Youthful Activities

When I was growing up, I was one of four kids in a family with two parents. I was a bit of a minority because my parents were both my blood parents and still married to each other. All my siblings were full siblings, not steps or half siblings in our family. Both my parents graduated from high school and valued education for us kids. They always expected us to do our best no matter what we were doing. Mom always said as long as we could honestly say we had done our very best it was good enough. We were all good kids and did well in school. The three of us girls were avid readers reading most anything we could get our hands on. My brother read well enough, but never seemed to take to it like us girls did. I can still remember mom yelling at us older two girls to get our noses out of the books we were reading and help her clean the house. This usually happened on a Saturday mid-morning.

Mom had a system for assigning who cleaned what area of the house. She had four kids and areas to be cleaned each week, so she made up a chart and set up a rotating schedule. We each had a turn cleaning each area once every four weeks. We got our cleaning assignments that first week and were told the rules. We had to clean our area once that week and if we didn’t clean it, we would have to keep that area and get the next area to clean also for the next week. Whoever was supposed to rotate into the area you didn’t clean would get the week off from cleaning. This almost never happened, because after the first person messed up by not cleaning and we figured out Mom meant what she said, we knew we better just clean our assigned area each week. I used to like when it was my turn for the bathroom because it was such a small room it didn’t take all that long to clean it and have it looking really good. That chart is still inside the cabinet door where Mom taped it all those years ago, written in red ball point ink on a 4 x 6 index card, a little piece of parenting history err genius just waiting to be discovered.

Mom was full of parenting wisdom. With four kids, she had a rule that we could each be in only one activity. My older sister and I were in Girl Scouts and the younger brother and sister played Little League. That rule changed when we got to high school. Mom didn’t seem to mind how many activities we were in then as long as we found our own rides to and from or walked. She worked at Stokley Van Camp’s (which later became Quaker Oats) when we were in high school and her work hours, whether by her choice or not, were from 7:30am to 4pm. She was happy to drop us at school on her way to work as long as we were ready to go when she needed to leave the house, and more than willing to stop by the school on her way home from work to pickup any of us who were outside waiting for a ride a little after 4pm. She made it clear she wasn’t waiting around on us. If we wanted a ride we would be waiting and watching for her to pull up and ready to jump in and go. If we weren’t there, that was fine, but she wasn’t waiting on us. Sometimes we had band that went until later and she would run errands while we were finishing up then come by and get us so we could be home at a decent hour to help with dinner or do our chores. She would often bring us back and drop us off for play practice of an evening, then come back and pick us up at nine or ten when it was over. We just had to make sure we let mom know what we had going on and where we needed to be. We had to be flexible enough to be willing to arrive early or stay late. A lot of our extra curricular activities met before school so getting dropped off around 7am was great.

If we didn’t have a meeting to go to we could always sit and read or do homework in the band hall or go to the cafeteria to meet up with out friends. During my freshman year I was not in a lot of clubs and such because I was so tired of doing the same things as my older sister, so if she was in it I avoided it. I was tired of being her little sister and expected to be just like her. I wanted to be seen and appreciated for who I was not because I was next in line after my older sister. I know it got much worse by the time my brother got to high school because there were two of us to live up to. There were high standards to live up to too. The older three of us were all a year and a half apart in age but in school the oldest was one year ahead of me, then my brother was 2 years behind me in school with our younger sister following three years behind him. All four of us graduated from high school in the 1980s, 1983, 1984, 1986 and 1989. The older three of us were all in band together for one year. There is a photo taken of all of us in our band uniforms standing together outside the house. I wasn’t very musical, probably the least talented musically of all of us. I finally joined band my junior year after taking a beginning band class for a semester. I was never good at sight-reading music. I knew the basics and could figure it out if given enough time, but it was a slow painful process for me. I would write the letters of the notes above my music and then write the letters of the notes in permanent marker on the various notes on my bells for marching band and I could keep up that way until I had the music memorized. I guess they needed bodies more than they needed musically talented students. I was willing, able and teachable, so they took me on and let me play. I always knew I wasn’t good and sometimes had to fake my way through performances rather than mess up where everyone would know and hear my mistakes. (1,127 words)

March 2 2015

Fish

When we were kids, our mother used to breed tropical fish. In the basement, she had built a framework of two by fours into very sturdy shelves for the aquariums to sit on. There were fluorescent lights above the top shelf. Most of the tanks had their own hoods on them. She would get these boxes (in the mail I think). They were brown corrugated cardboard with red printing on them. The boxes were about twenty inches square and maybe ten inches tall. Inside each box was a Styrofoam liner that was maybe three quarters of an inch thick and form fitted to the inside of the cardboard box. There was a lift off fitted lid to the Styrofoam making it insulated like a Styrofoam cooler. She would get boxes of fish inside these foam containers. I think they came in bags like you get when you buy fish in the pet stores, but I can’t picture that part like I can the boxes. Maybe I can see the boxes in my mind because they were so sturdy and thus lived a very long life storing stuff in our basement. I think most of her tanks were twenty gallon long tanks. I remember her having silver and black striped angel fish about the size of a half dollar. She had guppies and mollies too. There were orange and black lyre-tailed mollies, black mollies and fancy, fan tailed guppies. She also seemed to have a lot of snails and cory catfish. I don’t remember what she did with the fish she raised. As I look back, I assume it must have been one of the many ways she had found to earn extra money, but I don’t remember her selling the fish to anyone. Maybe she raised them to sell at pet stores, I’m just not sure about that. She always loved having bright colored tropical fish around. Because we had the fish tanks, I got to be the one to take the turtle home from our classroom tank when our kindergarten teacher went on maternity leave and didn’t plan to come back to teach that school year. I think her name was Mrs. Rider. We had this cute little turtle that swam around in an aquarium with fish I think. I don’t remember much about the turtle itself, just feeling like the winner of the luckiest kid contest for being the one to get to take it home. Perhaps that is why I was so willing to allow Austin to keep the turtle that our former neighbor, Mary’s dog had cornered in her kitchen. We had a lot of work and research to do to keep it because we were unsure whether it was a land turtle or an aquatic turtle. We got Gilligan when he was about the size of a silver dollar. We put him in a small two gallon tank. He grew and grew each time he outgrew his tank, we would put him in a bigger one and he would grow exponentially almost overnight. We finally learned not to be in such a hurry to upgrade the size of his tank. We also quickly realized that Gilligan is a snapping turtle. We should have had sense enough to release it as soon as we figured that out. But, in almost all things, hind-sight is twenty-twenty. Now we have a Frisbee sized snapping turtle in a forty gallon breeder tank, and keeping it clean is a chore nobody enjoys. (582 words)

March 1 2015

How I Learned to Crochet

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This is the story of how I learned to crochet. Many years ago, before my daughter, who is now twenty one years old, was born, I took a class to learn to crochet fabric into a rug. I worked at the JoAnn Fabrics store in Greenwood then and found a beautiful madras plaid in bold turquoise, red, yellow and orange colors. It was on clearance for only one dollar a yard. So I bought the ten yards the instructions called for, took it home and washed it then ironed it and tore it into strips, sewed all the strips end to end, then the long strip had to be folded in half and ironed again, then wrapped into a ginormous all of fabric, that ended up looking a lot like a football as I recall. All this prep work had to be done before the class. I got the basics down during the one class session, then was turned loose to finish the project on my own. Once the second baby, my daughter, was born, there was very little time to work on things like crochet and they project got put away in a closet and forgotten. Many years later, I found it and had a little free time so I tried rereading the instructions from the class to figure out how to finish the rug, but could make very little sense of the written instructions. So, I took the size N wooden crochet hook out of the last stitch I had out in and gently pulled a stitch out thinking I could, perhaps, reverse engineer it and figure out how to put more stitches in that way. I took out first one stitch, that didn‘t help, maybe if I do it again and pay closer attention I will get it. Nope, the second stitch didn’t make it any clearer so I repeated the reverse engineering experiment several more times with pretty much the same results until I realized I had to stop before I unraveled everything I had previously crocheted. I reread the instructions in case they would make more sense after the reverse engineering experiment, but it was no use. I was stuck. I couldn’t go forward and didn’t want to continue going backward, so I was really and truly stuck. So I wrapped the part of the rug that was done back around the football shaped bundle of unstitched fabric and put it back into the bag to deal with another day. I thought about that unfinished rug often and felt like a failure for not finishing it and not being smart enough to figure out what to do to get going and finish it up. Then I remembered the unfinished rug again as Thanksgiving was upon us and we were getting ready to meet up with my extended family for a group meal before going to my in-laws for the second round of eating for the holiday. I figured I might be able to get my Aunt Mary to help me figure out how to continue and finish the rug. So after the food was eaten and things were calm again I asked Aunt Mary if she knew how to crochet, and she said of course she did. I knew she made things with yarn, we had the granny square multi-colored (turquoise, brown and sunshine yellow or maybe pink) tank top style vests, and red, white and blue ponchos that she had made but I was completely unclear on whether these items had been knitted or crocheted. She asked what I needed help with and I showed her my half-finished rug project. She looked at it for a while and seemed hesitant. When I asked her if she could help she said that she had never worked with anything on this big of scale before but she thought she could help me. After a couple of fumbling attempts with the big wooden hook and the thick folded fabric she got it going and showed me how to continue. I decided then and there that I was going to keep at it until that rug was finished, which would be when I ran out of the fabric. So I sat at the table and while my cousins and aunts looked at the lack Friday ads from the newspaper and planned where they might shop the next day, I kept adding stitch after stitch to that rug until finally, I was within a few inches of the end of the fabric. I realized I didn’t know what to do to finish it so it wouldn’t unravel, so I went back to Aunt Mary for a last bit of advice and she helped me to finish it off. I was so proud of my newly finish rug, I gladly handed it to anyone who asked so all could see that I wasn’t just a starter any more, now I was a finisher too!

The next time I considered doing anything with crochet was after seeing something online about making yarn out of old t-shirts, called tarn. They showed how it could be used to crochet rugs, and my mind told me I could do that since I already had one crochet rug under my belt. I did a lot of research on just how to cut the tarn and found several websites with instructions and links to YouTube videos to show me how. I also found many videos on how to crochet on YouTube and bookmarked several to come back to after I had my tarn ready. I put out a call to my friends that if they were decluttering old t-shirts I wanted them. One of the ladies gladly gave me enough t-shirts to fill a big Rubbermaid tub. I sorted them by fabric content and was excited to see a whole batch of Old Navy 4th of July shirts in various patriotic colors. I had red, maroon, navy, light blue, and a few gray heather shirts. There were eight size medium and one size extra-large in gray. So I decided a patriotic rug was just the thing. So I got all the t-shirts cut and all the tarn rolled into little balls, then went back to the internet to find the videos on how to crochet with tarn. It still looked easy enough so I was game to get started. Red seemed like a good color for the center, so I watched the video about chain stitching and got that part done, then watched the one on making ovals and learned I would need to increase in the corners to make it come out an oval. So I worked and worked on it and finished that rug after only about five hours of crocheting. It was somewhat less than flat though, so I took it to work and laid it out on the table and put two cases of paper on top of it to make it lay flat. We left it like that for several days then took the cartons of paper off to see if it had worked. It had worked to an extent, it was flatter, but I knew I had done something wrong. I was so happy I had figured the whole thing out with only the help of YouTube videos and had finished the project this time, but I knew I would have to take some of it out and redo it but wasn’t sure what I had done wrong or how to fix it, just that it must have something to do with the increases at the corners. So I put it away until I could figure it out. I wasn’t happy with the fact that it looked more like an infant sized basket than a flat oval rug. I missed having Aunt Mary to ask, she had died several years ago.

Then one day I was searching the Indianapolis Marion County Public Library’s class and workshop offerings and noticed that the library near our house was having a monthly stitchers group meeting on the first Saturday of each month. It said, “College Avenue Stitchers – Adults are invited to join other knitters and crocheters for a fun social gathering. Attendees can bring their own projects and supplies, but free help and lessons will be available for those who are interested.” Hey, this sounds like just what I need to get help fixing my rug! So the next meeting was the first Saturday of December 2014 and I made sure I was there. The ladies were very nice and welcoming. We introduced ourselves and told what we were currently working on, so I showed them my rug and told them I needed their expert opinions on how to fix it. They seemed hesitant to tell me that I needed to take out most of it, but I told them I had figured that out but didn’t know what I had done wrong or how to keep it from happening again, so they helped me figure out that about seven and a half of the nine shirts needed to be pulled out and re-stitched. Denise the leader and expert in all things knit or crochet was super helpful and we decided that while I had thrown in an extra stitch every now and then, I simply hadn’t increased enough in the corners to get it to lay down flat. So, after making a huge volleyball sized tarn ball out of all I had unwoven, I started crocheting the tarn again making sure to add extra stiches in the corners more often this time. I told them all not to worry I was happy to redo it so I could learn from my experience and was so glad to have found this group. I went home that day and worked a few more rows in and then picked it up from time to time throughout the month, but time in December is hard to come by with all the holiday stuff, so I didn’t have it finished when the first Saturday in January came around. I went to the meeting and they welcomed me back and were glad to see I had made so much progress on the rug. I sat there and finished it that day, so they told me I needed to find my next project and come prepared for next month. 

Between the January and February meetings, I looked for crochet books and had requested a few on hold from the library. They had told me to look for books geared toward teaching children to crochet as they were easier to understand. They also promised to teach me how to read and follow patterns. I had told my sister that if they came across any yard or knitting and crochet supplies in their adventures buying storage units that they didn’t want, I would gladly take it off their hands. So she told me she had a bag of yarn and some assorted needles or hooks or whatever for me. On the first Saturday in February, I went to the library knowing that a book called “Crochet for Kids” was waiting on hold for me. I also went armed with the yarn and other supplies my sister had gladly passed along to me. Denise helped me to start the hat from the book waiting for me that day and I finished making the hat within the week. It had called for a size K hook and I had used a J because I didn’t have a K. The had was supposed to fit a kid about ten years, but the white hat I had made following the patter except I had left off the bill, was very small. 

I spent the next week searching the internet for hat patterns. The criteria for my search was that the patterns had to be easy, use single crochet and most of all be free. I created a binder with various hat patterns but had only found one that looked doable to me without help. So on Friday, the 20th after work, I got out the red yarn from my sister and got to work. The beginning was a little rough, but after a few rows I became more confident and kept going. I kept at it little by little and finally finished it on Monday night the 23rd. 
 It wasn’t perfect but I was planning on donating these hats to homeless people or something and figured it would be warm and welcome even if it weren’t quite perfect. The next one would be better. My friend Ruth had brought me a bag of yarns she was decluttering on Saturday and they were all variegated. I was excited to get started on my next hat. I picked a pretty pasted variegated yard with no wrapper, but it felt like the red yarn, so I figured it was fine. I decided that since I had used the K hook like the white hat pattern had called for on the red hat and it came out big, I should use the H hook that this pattern called for and see how that turned out. There wasn’t a whole skein, so I figured I was going to call the hat done when the yarn ran out. I worked on the 3rd adult hat all that week and finally finished it just after work on Friday. Hey! I had made two hats from start to finish in just a week! The pastel hat was a bit snug, but looked darned good to me.  
So Friday night the 27th I started the next hat, this time with a Red Heart rainbow colored variegated yarn and since the H hook had made the hat snug, I decided this one would be with the I hook. That is where I am now, crocheting the rainbow hat. Over twenty years since I first attempted to crochet and I now have two rugs and three and a half hats as my claim to crochet fame. (2,341 words)

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Boye Crochet Dude Ergonomic Aluminum Crochet Handle (as shown above)

This handle, shown in the photo above, is AMAZING! It is the only thing that helps me crochet without carpel tunnel bothering me so much.  The Post-it Arrow Flags in Assorted Bright Colors help me to keep track of where I am on the pattern.

February 28 2015

My March Challenge

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My goal for this year, well one of them anyway, is to become a year-round writer. For the last two years, I have been a November only writer. I want that to change. Today, February 28, 2015, I stumbled upon the website, http://goinswriter.com/my500words, and decided this was just the challenge I need to help me become a year-round or daily writer. I know I just have to make myself do it and that a challenge is the way to get that habit started. I am giving myself a break, and letting the idea soak in for a day before I have to start. Besides, it is a 31 day challenge and tomorrow is the first day of a month, March, with just that many days in it, how convenient! So beginning tomorrow, I will write 500 words a day. I know I can do it. I have done it during November before. I have written as much as 5,000 words in a day during the panic mode I call NaNoWriMo, err November. I love the rush of writing as part of a massive group in November. I have joined a few regular writing meetings this year in an attempt to keep from putting writing on a shelf only to take it down again when NaNo time comes around.

So, I have no idea what I will write about each day, but have a few writing prompt sites saved and a book of prompts in my Kindle library. I actually have a short story in progress that began as a writing prompt a few months ago. Maybe if I ever finish it, I will have the nerve to post it here. Not feeling confident in my writing capability, is part of the problem. Feeling like nobody would want to be bothered to read anything I have to write about is most of the problem. I’m not sure what to do to get over all of these feelings of lacking when it comes to writing. I DO know that I won’t get better if I don’t actually write, and if I don’t get better I will never get over the fear of letting others read what I have written. I have this blog I created a fairly long time ago, if you are reading this, you have found it. I’m not sure how anyone would find it, because I haven’t shared it with anyone until today. Today after signing up for the My 500 Words challenge, there was a place to link your blog as a participant, so I did it! My blog, Lighthouse Life Lessons, is blog number 1,854 on the list. I feel safe that it is so far down the list, that nobody will bother reading it, but I feel better knowing I was confident enough to link it there and someone just might bother to read it. I am assuming no one has ever bothered to read anything I have written before because there have been no comments on any of the posts. That makes me happy because that also means there are no negative comments. No news is good news, right?

So I may post some of my daily writing here. I might actually get brave and decide that just for the next 31 days, I will post my 500 word offerings here if only to prove to myself and the world in general that I did it. I like having a picture or graphic in each blog post. Somehow, that makes my writing seem more interesting so maybe I should go search Google Images for some inspiring photos I could write about for a few of the next 31 days. (Word count = 614)


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November 4 2014

NaNoWriMo Day 4

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This is my second year participating in NaNoWriMo.
Last year I found the site in the wee hours of November 1st and decided that my finding it on the very day the challenge began was someone’s way of telling me I should stop talk and thinking about writing a book and get busy writing it. Being as I had written exactly little of nothing outside of some lengthy emails since my college day, I decided to go with some good advice and write what I know. So I did my first NaNo as a rebel and wrote my 50,000 word in the form of a parenting memoir of sorts. So I didn’t have to think about plots, characters, or scenes. That was a good thing because all I had to do was write out some of the many stories of our adventures in parenting. I had very little organization. If a story was about one of the kids as a baby, it went in the Infant chapter, High School stories went in the High School chapter, etc. After I hit my goal shortly before Thanksgiving, I put it away needing some distance from anything even resembling writing. Basically other than adding some words to it as an assignment for a writing class, I did nothing else on it. It still sits at about 51,000 words and may never be finished.
The experience I gained last November was priceless. I learned that I could write and get to the 50,000 word goal in the 30 days allotted. I earned that there are so many other writers out there and I am not alone. I learned that writing IS a group sport! I met some fantastic and enthusiastic writers and found some very cool places to hang out and write that I might never have visited were it not for someone deciding to hold a write-in there. I am not the sort of person to go out and meetup with someone I don’t already know and spend several hours with them. This seemed very safe, meeting up in public places and in a group setting and I learned so much from those mostly 20-something writers. They didn’t shun me because I am older than them, maybe older than their parents even. Many of them are the ages of my adult children, and maybe that is why hanging out with them never bothered me.
This year, I am doing it again. This year, I am going to do it the non-rebel way. I am attempting to write an inspirational fiction mystery novel, from scratch. I search high and low for ideas and read extensively during the month of October to figure out what to write and more importantly HOW to write it. It still left me unsure until late in the day on November 1st what my subject matter would be. I only got there because one of the other WriMos recommended during a Chatzy Write-In that I check out the area of the NaNo website for adopting plots. I read through so many, making notes on any that seemed interesting, several pages of notes actually. Then I found a simple idea that I twisted and expanded on and made my own. I have some ideas for plot and characters, but nothing even remotely complete and not very solid yet. I took a free class on Sunday afternoon called Introduction to Murder that was offered at the library and taught by members of the Indiana Writers Center. One of the things the teacher had us do in class was to write down our opening sentence. What do I know about opening sentences to mystery books? Nothing! But, I dug deep and wrote some babble down, then had to share it aloud with the teacher and the 1 other student taking the class with me. They both loved it and thought I should use it! So after that, my word count stands at 26 words. But that quirky idea of an opening sentence helped lead my story, gave me a focus of sorts to begin planning actual characters and the tiniest thread of a plot. My word count should be 6,668 or higher at the end of day 4, but it is just 26. I am hoping and praying that once my plot is more solid and my characters more real to me the thought will spill forth from my brain painlessly and plentifully and I will be able to catch up and even get ahead in no time. It is not too late to join the challenge. You only have to write 27 words to get ahead of me! Am I worried? Yeah, a little. But the ideas are growing in my head and I had a vision today of turning this one little idea into a series of 7 or more books. How is that for positive thinking and being ambitious? Come on and join me, we will do this thing together. What is the worst that can happen? I could fail the challenge by not getting to the goal in time, but any words I write are more than I had written on Halloween, so I still win don’t I? So, what’s it going to be? Are you in?
(Originally Posted 11/4/2014)