Friday, March 16, 2018

Time Tavel? No Thanks

We Mormons are highly encouraged to keep journals. 

Most of us have at least tried, but I’m guessing I’m not the only one whose efforts are pretty hit and miss. I wrote daily from sometime in middle school until I got married, but my adult life is recorded in poems, sporadic paragraphs, a few saved letters, and this blog.

Many of us use old age to make up for the lapses by writing life histories. Even journal keepers write shorter versions that are more accessible to the next generation.

This week at DUP, I had the opportunity to share what little information I could find about a pioneer woman who did not get the chance to write her life. All I could find was one page of anecdotes from a granddaughter.

Antionette Davenport Leavitt had an interesting life story. She crossed the plains from Illinois to Utah as a child and became one of the earliest residents of Wellsville Utah. She eventually became  the second wife in a polygamist family at a time when the federal government was cracking down on polygamy. 

We know she helped neighbors with illnesses and with stubborn milk cows, that she was a skilled seamstress and lace knitter. 

During at least one winter, her  children suffered from chilblains due to inadequate shoes.

Her husband called her Nettie and bought her a four-burner stove that the neighbors all came to see. 

Was Nettie happy? Did she love her husband? What did she dream about? 

There is no way of knowing because she didn’t have time to keep a journal and didn’t reach old age when she might have had the time to write a history. 

Nettie Leavitt died trying to give her birth to her tenth child. 

All of us at DUP (Daughters of the Utah Pioneers) enjoy learning about these pioneer ancestors, but none of us feel compelled to  reenact their lives. 

After so many of our meetings we chat about how hard it would have been. Every aspect of life was so much harder than it is now:

Tending to fires and cooking on wood stoves

Scrubbing laundry by hand

Sewing the family’s clothes, sometimes from fabric you spun and wove first

Growing enough food to feed the family year after year

Treating illness without modern medicine

Trying to keep anything clean

No modern feminine hygiene products


Outhouses and chamber pots

Weekly baths, reusing the same water for the whole family

Husbands often absent because they are 
serving missions, taking care of another family, in jail, or hiding from the law.

We admire our pioneer grandmothers, but would never want to trade places with them.

 As a chronically ill person, I’m especially grateful for modern medicine. FIfteen years without biologics would have left me severely crippled and I don’t know if I would have had anything other than frowned-upon alcohol for pain control.

Of course,  I would probably have died in childbirth before RA had a chance. Both of my big babies were delivered cesarean.

  Every once in a while when I was teaching a student would ask, if I could go to any time or place in the past, when and where would I go? 

My answer was that though there were many times I’d like to peek at, especially prehistoric times, there is no other time, and a limited number of places, even now, where I’d be willing to live as a woman.

THE PODCAST this week is not about pioneers, but it is about the prairie. Emily Dickinson has a very romantic view of grasslands, which I compare with a book I read about the dust bowl.

To Make a Prairie

My brilliant mom has been drawing Emily Dickinson coloring pages for me to use as a podcast fundraiser. the set is available in my shop for $15. As you can see, I've been having fun with them. I've printed multiple copies and if you buy the PDF, so can you.

THE KNITTING is back on track. I've finally started my "Christmas" sweater (above). Most years I buy myself yarn for a sweater to knit during the grey days. This one is a combination of my homespun and some great brown from Mountain Meadow Wool in Wyoming. The color is called "pinecone." The sweater will be Scandinavian in style with color work around the neck and above the ribbing at the waist and sleeves. It should be done by the time it stops snowing in May.

I also made myself this sweater out of natural sheep grey from Mountain meadows and my hands-on. In fact, the light grey is spinning fiber from Mountain Meadows too.

I enjoy the gentle exercise of spinning and the unique yarn it produces, so I am working on this natural Corriadale from Beesybee in California. I may dye it a light green or rose color when I'm done, which will only slightly tint the natural color changes.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Sleepless and Stupid

Werewolves are sleep-deprived and have strange symptoms too.

Fibromyalgia is bizarre and frustrating--

And controlling my life this week.

 One of the symptoms is poor sleep. I think I've been getting 3-4 hours a night lately, even though I spend about 12 hours in bed. 

Only one of those nights is explainable. I forgot both my lunchtime and bedtime fibromyalgia drug doses. When that happens, and sometimes when it doesn't, I'm suddenly allergic to myself and my whole body itches. No sleep at all that night.

But I only got a few hours the next night. I'm not tired, just sort of strung-out. I keep postponing anything that looks complicated because I know I'll get it wrong. This is resulting in lost and unanswered emails and tasks piling up. I'm glad I paid all the bills last week.

Even knitting isn't working terribly well. I finished the complex color work on a new sweater only to discover it was over 100 stitches smaller than it was supposed to be because I missed one sentence of instructions. Pictures next week if it works out.

Of course, the fibromyalgia drugs work by freezing the part of my brain that sends out false pain alarms, so at my best, I'm functioning with a partially paralyzed brain.

But a Stellar's Jay is yelling at me through the window and my daffodils are blooming, so there is spring and hope.

And I got a podcast done on fainting robins and being kind. 

Next week will be better.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Sometimes it's Who You Know--and Who They Know

 I played the viola from middle school through college. Most of that time I played in orchestras. Though I never practiced enough to be good, violists are in short supply, so I was able to experience serious classical music from the middle of the Utah Youth Symphony. It was an amazing experience.

For that reason, I've always wanted to see the Utah Symphony more often.

But it’s downtown. Tickets and parking are expensive. I’m the only one in the family who really wants to go. It's smarter and cheaper to buy CDs of the pieces I really care about.

I had accepted this situation, but suddenly things have changed.

My friend has a friend who has a friend who is sometimes given handfuls of free symphony tickets. Now I’m part of a group who attends the symphony on a fairly regular basis. 

Glass sculpture in the lobby of Abravanel Hall--Utah Symphony's home
Since the new year, I have been to a Mozart/Hayden concert and a Saint-Saens/Bernstein one. There is a second Saint-Saens/Bernstein concert I can attend tonight.

The last concert left me with a major talent crush. 

Well, I have a crush on Bernstein to begin with. My mom made sure of that by never missing a Boston Pops concert on PBS while he was the conductor. The fact that he was old enough to be my grandfather didn’t keep me from finding him thoroughly attractive.

The new crush is likely young enough to be my son, but as this is a TALENT crush, it’s not creepy. For the Bernstein number, Age of Anxiety there was a piano soloist. Conrad Tao came out in skinny jeans and a t-shirt under his tuxedo vest and I was automatically charmed by youthful energy. When he started to play, I was blown away. His fingers are superhero-fast, yet he manages to be powerfully expressive.

 He’ll be back in April and I’m hoping we’ll have tickets for that performance too. Here are links to short clips from his solo and his thoughts on the piece.


This week Emily comments on frogs and fame. She certainly makes privacy  seem preferable--to be a "nobody." 

Yet, if I was content with a quiet, private life, I probably wouldn't be blogging and podcasting, or as Emily would say, telling my "name-- the livelong June--To an admiring Bog."  

Which do you prefer? Listen and decide.

Episode 1.3 I'm nobody! Who are you--

THE KNITTING--has been frustrating.

 Between getting wool that didn't quite match and having a pattern that needed to be altered because it didn't fit the size of yarn I spun, this sweater has taken three times longer than it should have. But it it finished and gorgeous. If it wasn't so warm (Menopause impermanently tropical.), I'd be tempted to keep it. 

It won't be in my shop because it's a commission from a friend, but there are other nice things there that you might like.