Friday, November 24, 2017

I'm Thankful for Millennials

The kids are all right.

That's not what the popular press will tell you. There is no more sure way to make it on the talk show circuit than to write a book for worried parents about how we've screwed up our kids. But old people have always complained about young people.

When I was young, (officially a year too old for GenX) we were as a group lazy, lacking direction, and destined to be a burden to our parents indefinitely. Also in our midst were many dead-eyed criminals, most likely turned that way by violent video games.

Now that we are middle-aged and mortgaged, the focus has shifted to our kids, the dreaded millennials, hilariously described by the song above. Stereotypes can be fun, but youngest accurately pointed out that most millennials would make a better president than our choices in the last election. Based on my experience as a middle school teacher, I am inclined to agree

I taught seventh and eighth grade from 1992-2015, so all of my kids and my actual kids fall into the millennial category. Even while they were in the throes of adolescence, it was clear that almost all would grow into responsible citizens and many would be exceptional.

Facebook hit at the right time for me to follow many of these kids through high school into college, careers, and parenting. I also see former students working at businesses around our community. They are growing up beautifully.

I was reminded of this fact by watching the youngest of my students, now in high school, perform in Hillcrest High School's production of Les Miserables.

Hillcrest has built its reputation on academics (an IB school) and performing arts. Their musical performances are of professional quality, but with huge casts. This year there were over 200 kids in the ensemble, this is in addition to the named characters, stage crew, and orchestra.

The ensemble performed mostly in the aisles where they sang, danced, and acted with the same passion and precision as the leads. All of these students dedicated hundreds of hours, cramming in homework and setting aside sports and other interests to contribute. I was moved to tears not by the very familiar story and soundtrack, but by their amazing performances.

Millennials are generally more tolerant of others' differences than their elders and more passionate about the environment and about helping other people. I have met thousands. For the most part they are kind, helpful, dedicated to their friends and families, and hopeful about the future. As I keep telling my own kids, I am fine with them taking over at any time.


I don't participate in Black Friday, but if you follow any of the shopping conventions (Small Store Saturday, Cyber Monday) check out my shop for hand made, one-of-a-kind gifts.

I have to finish a few of those gifts, namely one last (for this year) mermaid tail, and a large fuzzy blanket.

I'm also well on my way into the commission sweater. The color work which will make it more interesting goes around the bottom.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Fuzzy Familiarity and Fossils

We spent Saturday in and around Vernal, Utah: gateway to Dinosaur National Monument.

Vernal is a strange place to me because I feel like I should know it better. My Grandparents lived there when I was little. We visited often. But I only have two clear memories.

The clearest one is visceral. My aunt's horse, Sunday, stepped on my foot. I was only three or four years old, but the remembered feeling is very clear.

My other memory is that the house had an apartment built onto it. There were two ways in, to go outdoors or to crawl through the window.

I feel like I should remember more, but I really don't. Grandma's house, to me, is the one in Orderville where my grandparents lived through my later childhood until after I was married.

Because we visited on vacation, time off from regular life, the house was an oasis. It was packed with books and board games. There was a climbable tree in the front yard. Upstairs and downstairs fireplaces burned brightly year-round.

Orderville is a tiny town on the road between Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. It is the perfect base camp. So we joined with cousins on all sorts of adventures, then came home to Grandma's amazing cooking. Orderville will always be one of my favorite places.

Vernal, on the other hand, always makes me feel like I should have a connection with it, but I don't.
I do like the dinosaurs and the dinosaur museum. Main Street in Vernal is dotted with dinos of varying quality and accuracy.

The museum has both casts of skeletons and real bones. A lot of it is dedicated to showing the process of finding fossils and the many hours, actually years, of cleaning and assembly before creating museum-ready pieces.

The museum ties in well with the monument because it is a quarry that has been left intentionally unfinished since the 1920s.

In prehistoric times, the area was a flood plain that collected a whole lot of stegosaurus bones along with a few of the allosaurus that preyed on them. This fossilized graveyard has been kept intact so we can see how the fossils were found.

In addition to giving the history of paleontologists who find and work on the bones, both the museum and the quarry give credit to local artists who have created paintings and models that bring the bones to life. This stegosaurus statue traveled to a worlds fair in the twenties then became a part of the monument. He has been painted in several different color schemes over the years, but is always happy to welcome visitors.

I'm always a sucker for dinosaurs, but this year I was more moved by two completely different creatures. The first caught my eye because it was so familiar--the fossil of a fresh water ray. I didn't know rays lived in fresh water until I visited the aquarium almost a year ago. Now I watch the silent, graceful creatures every week and count them among my friends. I even bought a plush version which is currently sitting on my lap. (Petting and squeezing him helps these stiff fingers get back to typing.)

The second creature is not familiar, but fantastic. The unintathere is an elephant-sized, saber-toothed herbivore that lived in Utah during the Pliocene epoch. Sadly, no plush versions seem to be available, but I want one. Actually, I want a real one.


Knitting this week is getting a bit tedious. I am at work on my fifth of six mermaid tails and another secret Christmas blanket. But last night I was delivered a batch of wool for a sweater commission. Sweaters are scary because they have to fit, but I am excited to start on something new.  In the meantime, here are some potential Christmas gifts you could purchase from my shop.

Friday, November 10, 2017

On Sabbatical

Hibernating animals always fill me with envy.
I have felt tired and overwhelmed for my whole adult life. And I fantasize about escape.

A clear college memory is epistemology class my freshman year. The professor explains that there is no way we can be sure whether a table is real or a creation of our minds. I'm quite certain that either this class is stupid or I am. The classroom is recently  remodeled with soft new blue-grey carpet. I  long to curl into fetal position in an empty corner.

A few years later, I looked back at college as the easiest point of my life and hoped for some real break, enough time off to find and refresh myself.

People think school teachers have all summer for that, but cleaning up and setting up classrooms plus required training subtracts about a month from that and most of us have second jobs as well. By the time summer starts, it ends.

In the middle of teaching and parenting and coping with the early years of RA, I created a poem about tiredness and longing.      


last year's harvest wasn't worth the planting
blighted fruit on spindly vines
stunted by spent soil 

so this year
I lie fallow

let raindrops puddle in tired eyes
     soften trampled soul

     bindweed halo hair
     rub aching toes

     roots pry open cracks

     worms wriggle in
     consume the wastes of overwork
     leave nutrients behind

let skin bask in dandelion sun

     bees bring pollen
     dance with drifting seeds

     heart catch fire with trees
     till leaf-fall knits soft afghan
     against frost burn
     snow fall

     sap slow cloud-chilled

     dreams breathe beneath snow

     dormant till spring 

My wish came true. I had to leave work. I've had more than a school year of rest now. If I wish, I can spend the day in bed or while away hours birdwatching through the window. 

 I'm still tired. And even though I have very few real responsibilities, I'm still overwhelmed. 

But I wear bright colors and a smile and go out into the world pretending to have it all together. Are we all pretending? Would something good, or bad, happen to society if we stopped? 

Friday, November 3, 2017

Overstepping My Limits

I'm writing from the midst of one of the worst flares I have had in a long time. This one was not caused by travel adventures, but by trying to take better care of myself.

A flare is more than tiredness. For many RA sufferers, joints swell and turn red. My flares, like other parts of my disease, are invisible, but my hands and feet get hot. I feel feverish in general. Every joint throbs.  My head aches like it does during sinus infections, only a little deeper. I'm tired but not sleepy, just depleted, agitated, and angry.
Flare pain for me is a pacing, fidgeting, tossing, turning sort of pain. The itching, which I had greatly reduced through lots of lotion and patience is back at full strength. I want to pull my skin off and stomp on it, but really don't have that kind of energy. It's hard to focus on knitting, reading, or even TV. Meds help a little, but the only cure is rest and time.
And like most of my flares, it is entirely self-inflicted.

My husband has lost 10 pounds since spring. Part of the credit goes to orthodontic work that has curtailed snacking, but a lot is dedication to walking. My sweetheart walks about two miles every day at work and around a mile in the evening with me.

He's found the Pedometer cell phone app to be a great motivational tool. It allows you to set your own daily goal and charts how many days you complete it. As you reach the goal each day (and also if you double it) confetti appears on the screen. For those of us who grew up with video games, that is a great reward (even better than the bouncing cards after a successful round of Solitaire).

I've had a cell phone for a couple months now and have gradually formed the habit of carrying it with me when I leave the house. A week ago I started step counting. My goal is modest. Doctors recommend 10000 steps a day. My goal is 5000. Here are my totals for the last week:


Looking at these numbers and at the bar graph on my cell phone, it would be easy to see Wednesday as a problem. Actually getting 4000 steps the way I  felt Wednesday was a miracle and an accomplishment.
The location of one of two walks on Monday
Monday and Tuesday were the problem. I got enthusiastic, pushed too hard, and hurt myself.
Apparently I've walked 19.9 miles in the last week, which is cool, but I need to find a saner balance.

The step counter can help me with this. Just as it tells me if I have enough steps, it tells me if I have too many. For now, I shouldn't go much over 8,000 and certainly not two days in a row. I will gradually increase what I can do, eventually 10,000 steps a day may be realistic for me, but I need to be patient with myself.
View from our usual walk, but from about a month and a half ago. All fall colors are long gone now.

This finished project is a Christmas present of the genre I call "computer chair blanket." It is made entirely of washable acrylic, which makes it very practical and usable.

From the leftovers, I created another very practical item. To count my steps, I have to carry my cell phone at all times. I rarely wear pockets and don't wear a bra, so there is no useful place to put the thing. Oldest works at Best Buy and sells all kinds of accessories, but as I also don't wear a belt, he couldn't find a commercial solution. Knitting to the rescue. This is a cell phone holster that I will usually wear under my clothes. the phone will be close to my waist so answering it won't require disrobing--not elegant, but a solution.

I'm burning through Christmas money fast, but have almost finished my shopping. How is yours going? I have lots of cool hats in my shop that may be exactly what your loved one needs.