The Kindness of Strangers

I’ve been meaning to post this for awhile now.  Something happened this summer that deserved a post all its own and at the right time.  I think this is it.

Many of you know that my husband Paul works away from home a lot.  As in, you never know if he’ll be in the same state from day to day.  For a good portion of this summer he’s been working in Mesa, Arizona.  What he does for work is not important to this story.  What is important is that Paul suffers from chronic back pain that’s bad enough for him to seek out treatment even while on the road.  So, while he was in Mesa, he found a chiropractor to treat his back pain and teach him some yoga moves to improve his mobility.

While he was checking out after a Saturday morning appointment, a distraught woman came in to the office asking to use the phone.  She was missing a shoe and crying, but otherwise looked average.  She tried to explain that her cell phone had died and she needed to call someone to come and get her, but astonishingly, she was refused.  Worse, she was asked to leave.

Paul followed her out the door.  He realized that there he was, several hours away from needing to report in to work, with a paid – for rental car and no reason in the world to not help this woman.

Thankfully she saw something in Paul that allowed her to trust him and she told him her story.

She was a divorced mother of young children who had been persuaded the previous evening by friends to leave her kids with her ex and go out on the town.  Despite her misgivings she went.  She ended up having too much to drink and a man she rebuffed outside a bar called the police and reported her for public drunkenness.

She was arrested and taken to jail to sober up.  Which she did, quickly.  By morning she was released, but had lost a shoe somewhere and her phone calls to friends went mostly unanswered.  Those who did answer were not willing or able to pick her up and bring her the 20 or 30 miles back home.  Having no option, she began walking, but her cell phone soon died and it was quickly becoming too hot to walk with just one shoe (remember this was in the middle of the summer in Mesa, which reached 120 many times this year).

All of the various stores and businesses she approached to ask for a phone call refused and asked her to leave.  By the time she met Paul she was crying and at her wit’s end.

Paul let her use his cell phone and then drove her halfway home; her ex – husband met her and brought her the rest of the way.

What astonished Paul, and later me as well, is how many people turned down this mother who desperately needed help when it would have cost them nothing. That could have been me.  That could have been any of my friends or family, and it’s mighty disheartening.

There’s only one explanation I can come up with for this uncharitable behavior on the part of so many. This woman was Hispanic.  Though well – dressed and articulate she was clearly not white in a town perilously close to the Mexican border, where immigration tensions run high.  Never mind that she’s not necessarily Mexican.  Or illegal.  She looked the part.

Now, I am not here to debate the immigration or border situation in the country right now.  I am not even going to offer you my opinion on the whole mess.  Because really, this is not about immigration or politics.  This is simple humanity.

Refusing to help one woman in need because she *might* be illegal will not encourage more illegals.  It will not send a message to anyone, except that you are unkind to your fellow man.  Or at least a certain “kind” of fellow man.  I understand the frustration and the very difficult situation at the border, I really do.  That is no excuse for bad behavior.  I am going to repeat this: politics are not an excuse for maltreatment, neglect or abuse, no matter your leanings.

My husband saw a woman, a mother, a fellow human in need. Period.

At one point or another in life, we are all human beings in need.  Let us hope that there is a kind stranger for US to turn to.

Hurricane Prep

So we on the east coast are having a small “thing” this weekend.  Just a little stormy thing you may have heard of called “Irene”.

As if the earthquake (and subsequent continuing aftershocks) we had earlier this week weren’t excitement enough! (Yes, we’re only about 10 miles or so  from the epicenter of that little shaker).

But onto Irene.  We’re in central Virginia, safely inland.  We’ll see plenty of rain and wind and I am sure the river nearby will be flooding (it does whenever we get significant rain, and I am glad we don’t live very close to it).  Our creek out back will overflow and our yard will be a nasty, muddy swamp.  Also, since our power tends to go out at the drop of a hat I am fairly certain we’ll be without power at some point over the weekend.  Hooray for generators! (Though they do take some of the excitement out of a good ol’ power outage, don’t they?)

For all of these reasons we’ve gotten our hatches battened – down and our tanks full of gas and our larders full of provisions.

Except rum.  It seems I have somehow managed to overlook rum.  How on earth will I make my Hurricane Cocktails without rum? Ah well, first world problems.

What we DO have is a freezer full of prep work.  Slow – roasted tomatoes, bean & cheese burritos, marinated chicken, sandwich rolls, and fresh pasta.

I made pasta, y’all.  Thin spaghetti and pesto ravioli.  I now owe a whole new debt of gratitude to the folks at Kitchenaid, who make a kick-ass pasta roller set for the stand mixer.  Susan gave me the recipe and a run down of how it’s done and I was off!  The spaghetti and ravioli are in the freezer awaiting a plunge in hot salty water when we’re ready to eat them.

I also went out and filled the chicken coops with lots of dry bedding since it promises to be a wet and muddy and miserable few days for them outside.  All the towels and napkins have been laundered as well as fresh under garments for everyone.  The dishes are all clean.  The house has been (mostly) picked up and vacuumed.

I have plenty of knitting projects to work on and a Kindle full of books to read. The kids have plenty of books, paper and crayons and puzzles.

I wish we went into every weekend this prepared.




Beach Weekend

This past weekend was Beach Weekend for my book club.  Every summer we caravan out to Virginia Beach, go in together for a couple of hotel rooms, and spend a relaxing weekend on the beach.

We were lucky weather – wise once again: no rain, and it wasn’t brutally hot.

Since we are a book club, we actually do read at the beach.  We didn’t pick a book for August since we didn’t have a formal discussion planned, so everyone read books of their own choosing (though at least half of us had just read The Hunger Games trilogy).

I also made time to try and take pictures using the tips I learned from the photography workshop I took last weekend at the farm (more on that later).

Not bad, right?  The seagulls were right at head level from our room’s balcony.

As if all of this doesn’t sound relaxing enough, one of our fellow beach-goers is an Acupuncturist.

I am very fortunate to be part of such a close – knit wonderful group of women; beach weekend is just the icing on the cake.

What about you? Any fun trips planned with your book/knitting/quilting/etc groups?


Boston Weekend

This is an incredibly overdue post.  BUT I think I have finally figured out this whole Mac thing and how to use my photo program effectively enough to post again.

A few weekends ago I took the train up to Boston to stay with my dear friend Jenny and her lovely husband Ken. (Note: 12 hours on the train equals mad knitting time.  Knit a complete pair of baby socks on the way up).  She’s been to Virginia numerous times but I had never been to stay with her.  I was very excited, and the trip did not disappoint.

For the first time ever, I finally made it to Salem, Mass.  I studied quite a bit about it in college and in my spare time since, but I was beyond happy to finally get there in person.

Unfortunately, we lamed out on the whole museum experience.  When you get old friends together (our friend Amanda met us there) who haven’t seen each other in awhile, time seems to get away from you.  Even still, I wouldn’t trade the time we had there for anything.  It was just wonderful.

I spent a lot of time looking at all the old houses.  Salem, like the rest of New England, is full of great architecture.

We did take in the tour at the Salem Witch Museum, which though it ended up being not the one we had intended to do, was still fun.

We had lunch at a pub called “The Old Spot”, full of photographs of Old Spotted Pigs, the breed for whom the pub was named.  Our bellies full of Cheese Fries with Gravy (drool) we headed back out to take in the town and get some gelato.

See?  Great architecture!

Did you know that Salem is also on the water?  Gorgeous!

Salem was perfect and next time we know just where to go.  We’ll also make a beeline for the ancient cemeteries for some photos of the elaborate gravestones.

After our day at Salem Jenny took me to one of her favorite places, Portsmouth, NH.  If you’re ever there, please be sure to stop by The Friendly Toast restaurant ( Guinness – battered onion rings anyone? ).

Noticing a trend?  Yeah.  Jenny and I know how to do food.

Another sure – fire sign you’re in New England?  Lobster rolls being advertised everywhere.  If you’ve never had one, you need to make it a goal.

More excellent New England architecture.  Clearly you can see where my heart lives.

There’s a great little park full of flowers in Portsmouth where Jenny and I stopped to rest.

It’s right on the water.  And do you know what’s on the opposite side of that water?  (This blew my un-geographically smart brain) MAINE.  I immediately made Jenny get back in the car and drive across the bridge so I could say I went to Maine.

I am a nerd.

I very much did not want to leave and return to the south.  Although I have come to love my home in Virginia, there’s nothing like the restorative power of your homeland.  The upside is that the 12 hour train ride back got me pretty far along on a shawl I started while at Jenny’s house (and I brought Polar Birch Beer & Drake’s Cakes home with me – we can’t get those down here).

The train may have been an all – day affair but now that I know how easy it is to hop on and go I am certain I will be making more trips north to see my friends.

And the architecture.  You can’t forget that.

Chicken World

This post is WAY overdue.  My only excuse is that I was in Boston visiting my wonderful friend Jenny and when I got back I had a new computer waiting for me to learn.  It’s a Macbook and I am used to using a PC.  And I am a techno-dummy so the adjustment period will be longer for me than most!

We really are feeling an awful lot like chicken world these days.  As of this morning we’ve had 12 hatchlings.

It all started last week with Puffy Fluffy:

I wasn’t too sure we’d get more than 2 or 3 hatches out of the 15 or so that our broody hen, Amelie, was sitting on.  In our experience, the hen would get sick of sitting on those eggs after the second or third and then abandon the half – baked eggs still in the nest.

Amelie, though, has proved herself to be made for broodiness and motherhood.  She’s stuck it out almost to the bitter end.

Emily has named them all (with the exception of Puffy Fluffy) after characters in the Hunger Games trilogy and the Harry Potter series.  So please welcome Prim, Clove, Fleur, Twill, Madge, Wiress, Tonks, Bonnie, Effie,  Ginny and Minerva.

There are at least 2 chicks that are a cross of Sicilian Buttercup and Buff Brahma. (Funky weird comb plus fluffy feet equals awesome).

I am only sad that we didn’t have any blue eggs to hatch this time or eggs from our funny “hatted” chicken, Delia:

Next spring?

Sewing Frenzy

I’ve been spending most of the hot days lately inside the craft room, air conditioning on full blast, sewing.  I just can’t get myself to knit when it’s this brutal out.  I still have piles of unfinished sewing to get to, but this is what I’ve finished up this week.

First, an Oliver & S dress for Oona.

Next up I have been working on some new pj pants for everyone.  The pattern is from Weekend Sewing by Heather Ross.  So far Oona and Neve’s are finished, using fabric sent to us by the always delightful Jellenp.

They’ve been wearing them non – stop and I can’t wait to finish mine so I can be all comfortable, too!

Lastly for now I am pleased to have finished my Traveler Dress from Sew Lisette.  I had to make some adjustments to the pattern for it to fit properly (the waist was far too low and I had a bit of trouble with the collar) but I am really happy with how it looks on me.  The fabric is from Anna Maria Horner and I just adore it.

I may have to make one in the orange version of this fabric, too.