Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Too old to stay out

The Khaki Ball was last Friday. It was a lot of fun, but I required the rest of the weekend to recover. While I did throw back a few cocktails, that wasn't the source of the suffering. It was staying out til 4am. Ugh. Definitely too old for that. The Ball was held at the Hale Koa and after supper a group of us headed down the beach to the Shore Bird so some people could sing karaoke. (I'm a supporter, not a singer.) After karaoke wrapped up a little after 1:00, a subset of the group headed into Waikiki to hit up a few bars. (Some bars stay open til 4 in Waikiki.) I was done drinking for the night, along with the other girls in our group, but our male counterparts had a good time polishing off the night with a few more drinks. Zac and I danced like crazy people, as we do. Put me in a place with the music bumping and I'm a happy girl. Just wanna dance!

Finally around 3:30 or so we all decided that it was time to start walking back to the hotel. The night was a blast. Everyone had a great time. Zac and I collapsed into bed once we got to our room and we were asleep quickly. Unfortunately 2.5 hours later the sun came flooding into our room through a small gap in the drapes. I stumbled out of bed and closed them fully, but it was to no avail. I was awake. I tried to go back to sleep but, even though I was exhausted, I couldn't. As I laid there in bed I thought, "I can't imagine who would be capable of staying out that late on a regular basis. One night a year is plenty."

Luckily that wild weekend gave way to a nice, normal week so far. I've been able to focus more on work due to fewer distractions and have actually made some progress on my latest work assignment. I'm still concerned that my employment will evaporate after this assignment, but I can't complain. I was originally promised maybe only a couple months worth of work. It's been more like nine, so you'll hear no whining from me.

I've got a list of people I need to call. It's weird planning to call people, but when you talk to people infrequently phone calls tend to get pretty long. It's one thing to call someone for 15-20 minutes. That you don't really have to 'plan'. But if you're anticipating a phone call that could run for an hour you need to make sure you have that much time on your hands. (A comfortable place to sit helps too.)

My Grandma is the only one I know whose phone calls are predictably brief. I never knew this before I moved away. (I didn't have reason to call her when I lived in Mpls. I saw her pretty regularly.) Now that I call her every now and again I've discovered that her calls last 8-12 minutes. She asks how I am, I tell her, I ask how she is, she tells me, a couple minutes of small talk and then she suddenly announces, "Well, it's been good talking to you! I love you!" I tell her I love her too and we both say goodbye. It startled the heck out of me the first time it happened, but now it makes me giggle. So many phone calls devolve into neither party wanting to be the one to end the conversation, though nobody has anything significant left to say. I find my Grandma's approach refreshing.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hawaii Year One, in the books

A year of Navy life, come and gone. The induction season for the chief selectees wrapped up on Wednesday with their pinning ceremony. Hopefully this means we'll have our Saturday mornings back to ourselves (and college football!) and our weekdays will return to normal. Zac was pretty busy these last 10 days especially. I went to the pinning ceremony to be supportive. I had it easy - I got to sit down; Zac had to stand there looking stern for more than an hour. I have a weird relationship with the pomp and circumstance of Navy ceremonies. Part of me loves the pageantry and the band (well, especially the band - SOUSA RULES!) but the other part of me is easily irritated with the self-importance of it and finds myself rolling my eyes a lot. At least I had sunglasses on to cover up my occasional lapses of tact.

Because the longest night leads into the pinning ceremony they have the pinning ceremony around noon. Last year that was no big deal because the ceremony was inside. This year they decided to have it on a concrete slab outside on Ford Island.

In 90 degree sun.

After many of the attendees had gotten only a few hours of sleep and questionable nutritional intake in the last 36 hours.

And then they all stand at attention.

For more than an hour.

I actually saw one chief's knees buckle and thankfully they caught him before he fell totally to the ground. Here's a hint - we're in Hawaii. It's &$%@!!*$ hot here. Especially, say, at midday. Even with the tents providing shade, the weather was uncomfortable. Next year I hope they return to the indoor, air conditioned, auditorium to conduct the pinnings. I mean, there were two new chiefs that were pregnant. One of the women was due THAT VERY DAY. On the one hand she looked like she had never been more proud of a career achievement. On the other she looked like she wanted to die. So, again, maybe next year a/c?

This also means that Khaki Ball #3 happens tomorrow night. Last year didn't go well. I was too overwhelmed at the time to enjoy myself. I felt like a fish out of water and was in a generally foul mood the whole time. It's funny how last year at this time I genuinely felt like I was never going to fit in here. Now it's 12 months later and I still don't "fit" what the propaganda says a good Navy wife should be, but I've found a way of coping with it. I've found a fair number of positives that I've gotten better at dwelling on than the multitudes of negatives.

Weird. I've been on this rock in the middle of the Pacific for 12 months now. (I was going to say "damn rock" but I find myself editing for content know that I know family members back home read this for updates.) I guess I can start checking off things that I will miss for the second year in a row now. Good God! It just dawned on me -- I haven't been around snow in a year! The top of Mauna Kea was cold, but no snow. Ugh! I think I'm going to change my desktop background to the snow falling in my Grandpa Clare's backyard and wear my Gopher's hockey jersey during the game on Saturday, no matter how much I sweat in it.

Did I mention that I was not engineered for heat? *sigh* I hope our next duty station in in Alaska.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Grandma Carol's sewing kit

I've got an assortment of projects around the house that are on my "to do" list, but they have a very low priority. Things like the dishes, laundry and the daily/weekly chores always take top billing. But then there are those projects that fall to the bottom of the list either because they're so daunting (organizing my old photos) or because they're just not pressing. I've been trying to make a point to do some of these non-pressing things over the last couple of weeks and I finally did one of them last week. I went through my Grandma Carol's sewing kit.

This is it. Grandma Carol's sewing kit. It's about two feet high and two feet wide. The label on the inside of the lid says it's from Norway. My mom has one exactly like it. I don't know the story behind how she and Grandma got them. I'll have to ask her.

This is where my Grandma Carol kept a lot of her sewing and crocheting materials. Here's what's cool about it:

It unfolds into multiple tiers. It's great at organizing lots of little things, which is exactly what sewing and crocheting has. Needles, thread, scissors, string, buttons, snaps. All those little things fit perfectly into this kit. For example, on the top left is an organization tray for thread.

This thread is older than I am, I bet. I don't know if you can tell, but almost all of the spools in there are made of wood. Yes, real wood. I kid you not - once upon a time people made things out of wood. Nowadays spools are made of plastic, which I'm pretty sure isn't as renewable as wood. I don't have any desire to use any of the thread in the kit. Honestly, I'm content just leaving it as is. The color of it makes me smile. I can't really explain why I find comfort in letting 20-30 year old string just sit there, but as long as I have the kit the string will stay as it is.

The main task was to go through and throw away things that were my Grandma's that I wasn't going to need/use (besides the string) and incorporate my sewing and crocheting materials. It made me rather nostalgic as I went through the items in the kit. My Grandma Carol died when I was 13. She's the one who taught me to crochet. She taught my sister and I how to do needlework on dish towels. We did all sorts of craft things at her house. She's the reason that I am a throw-back, old-school Domestic Goddess, enjoying things like needle crafts. It might not be the coolest hobby to have, but by golly I enjoy it and I'll fight any one who knocks it. *Note: my mom and my Grandma Darlene are also Domestic Goddesses. I was lucky to learn from all three*.

I have a terribly paralyzing sentimental streak. It was going to be hard to discard anything of my Grandma's - like somehow I was dishonoring her by tossing elastic that had lost its elasticity. But I steeled myself and started going through her things. I found a bag of buttons with this receipt.

I don't know if you can see it, but the date is 03-27-90. She died in December of 1991. She started having heart problems before that, but I don't know when. Something about the receipt made me smile. Probably because I love the fact that it is so unsophisticated. Think about it - even in the early 1990's you could go into a store and buy something where they rang you up on on an adding machine. No super-computers with software logging the coming and going of merchandise. Just a lady named Florence punching your numbers into an adding machine, the sound of the machine printing the numbers as you add. Nothing fancy. Just math.

The receipt also made me sad as she didn't know at the time that she'd be gone in 21 months. She was just my Grandma, buying buttons, as she did.

Buttons, buttons. Why so many? Because she and my mother make hand towels. They would crochet the top of the towel and affix one large button on it so the towel could be secured on the oven handle, the refrigerator door handle, a drawer handle: I tell you, they're handy. This meant that they needed large buttons that wouldn't pull through the yarn. Periodically my Grandma or mom would go to a fabric store and browse the button bin for big buttons. Megan and I loved going with. We'd rummage through the pile of buttons, pulling out one card after another asking, "How about this one?" We took a good amount of pride if the buttons we found were purchased.

My Grandma Carol also had a tin of buttons at her house. Megan and I would run our hands through them, letting them fall through our fingers like sand. Occasionally we'd go through the tin, seeing if we could find any matches. We'd look at each one, examining it, sometimes organizing the buttons by color, bu number of holes, by size. If you think it takes an Xbox to entertain children, you are wrong.

Here are some of Grandma's items that I decided to keep. Snaps, hooks, safety pins, needles, scissors, thimbles and so on.

I did throw out a fair amount of stuff. Rusty safety pins, the aforementioned elastic, some bits and pieces of velcro, eye-hooks that were missing their other half. I even got rid of this, though I felt compelled to take a picture of it for posterity:

My Grandma Carol had a couple of these in the kit. I giggled happily when I found them. Not only were they 15 cents (note that I don't even have a cents symbol on my keyboard in 2009), but they would in no way fit any of the bras that I have now. I'm not even sure how or why this would be added to a bra. When my bras wear out, it has nothing to do with the clasp in the back. I also love the stylized illustration - if I could wear a ribbon in lovely, wavy hair, I would.

After I took out the stuff that needed to go, I added in a few of my item. My pinking shears, some thread (on plastic spools - ick), more crochet string, some patterns and iron-on transfers, a couple additional pairs of scissors. Then I added 'my' crochet hooks. These are my prized possession.

They were hers. When my Grandma Carol crocheted with yarn, these were the hooks she used. (You use silver-colored steel hooks when you're crocheting with string for doilies or snowflakes.) I loved watching her crochet. She was a machine. I have to have my crochet patterns sitting right next to me for reference when I crochet. I don't remember her ever having patterns about. Maybe she did, but on my pedestal she doesn't. Again here is my fascination with color. I love the way her hooks looked in their case. Vibrant. It's just such a handsome set.

When I moved in with my Grandpa Clare (widower of Grandma Carol) a few years ago I found more time to crochet. I hadn't crocheted much while I was in college and law school. Once I moved in with Grandpa I started crocheting in earnest, as many of our nights together were him and I watching a Twins game on tv, or some tv show that I had only mild interest in. It was a perfect opportunity to spend a couple of hours whipping together a baby blanket. I started using my Grandma Carol's crochet hooks, because they were there. Much of her stuff had been distributed when she passed, but some of it remained in their house. Pretty soon I came to regard the hooks as mine which, I'm assuming, in time I will Grandma's sewing kit as well.

But last week while I was going through it, I was all to aware that the kit was hers. And even though I haven't seen her in almost 18 years it was she was right there with me. Sometimes its hard to remember people in the abstract. Sometimes you need something tangible or a frame of reference to remember them. It's like that scene in "Saving Private Ryan" where Private Ryan is telling Captain Miller that he's having a hard time picturing his brothers, and Captain Miller tells him he has to think of a story that involves them. That's what it was like. If I just sit here and think of her I have a tough time visualizing her. But as I went through her kit, I could see her, plain as day, sitting in the living room, crocheting away.

Three of my four grandparent got to see me graduate from college and law school. Two of them got to see me married. For that I am grateful. But I do wish my Grandma Carol could have seen me succeed in school, find my prince charming, and go off on the adventure of a lifetime. All the while crocheting like she taught me. I know she'd be happy.