Sunday, July 27, 2008


Back before Norbert was born, the Lovely Myfanwe and I lived for five years in Rogers Park, a neighborhood on Chicago's far north side. We lived in a beautiful building with a crappy management company. The reason we stayed in the building was because of the great friends we made there. Fabulous friends. We knew and loved everyone. Myfanwe and I never locked our doors, and more than once came home to a neighbor asleep on the couch or watching television -- having locked themselves out of their apartment! We witnessed the marriages of some and welcomed home the children of others. We buried one of our number.

The week that Norbert was born the management company sent out notices that they were increasing the rent 25%. Everyone -- and I do mean EVERYONE -- decided to leave. Sad, but inevitable. Some moved away. Others we just lost track of.

I think about so many of our friends from back then...and I look for them often.

Twice in the last few weeks I have located old friends. And both times I was sort of thrown for a loop. Both friends were part of couples, and now both are single.

We love them still. That hasn't changed. We still love their former spouses too. But I am so sad. I can't begin to tell you. So sad.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Friday we left Chicago at Noon and drove to my hometown of Springfield. My brother and his family are very involved in community theater in Springfield, and we like to go down whenever there is a "family" production.

This year the show was "A Secret Garden". My SIL, Laurie, directed. My niece, Lilly -- Sean's wife -- designed the sets. Dennis was responsible for construction, but was held back a little by that whole open-heart-surgery thing. (It was noted in the program that he took a whopping 5 days off from set construction to have his valve replaced.) Dennis and Laurie's youngest daughter, Elizabeth, was a dead woman in the show (and sang the part beautifully) and their youngest son, Conor, built sets and ran crew. Lilly's brother added to the familial aspect of the show by coming up from St. Louis and spending a week or so working on the sets.

Saturday we had a mini-reunion over brunch at Cracker Barrel. Dennis, Laurie, and Betsy joined us, as did my cousin, Carol Ann, her husband, Jerry, and their daughter, Kathleen. (Kathleen has the prettiest teeth. You can't see them in this picture, but they are really, really perfect.)

(l to r, seated -- Laurie, Norbert; standing -- Kathleen, CarolAnn, Jerry, Betsy, Me, & Dennis)

Saturday afternoon we drove to Peoria, where Norbert had the chance to see his grandparents -- he was at camp during the 25th Anniversary wingding. I got a speeding ticket between Springfield and Peoria. The ride home was uneventful, save for the fact that I had a migraine the whole way.

I have decided that I must, must, must pick up some knitting. So I am going to finish the Swallowtail Shawl. Tomorrow I will rip back the two rows that seem to be in error and put them to right. Then I will knit at least 4 rows a day until it is done. (Although if the nupps give me trouble, I may revise that number down to two.)

Please keep me to this schedule, will you? I'd like to finish it so that I can cast on a Lilly of the Valley Smoke Ring. But I can't do that until the Swallowtail is completely off the needles.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


I'm sorry I haven't posted. The last month has been a bit busy. The highlights:

  • The kitchen was completed. Unpacked. Broken in. Loved.

  • Norbert went to camp for 4 weeks. Leaving the Lovely Myfanwe and I to our own devises. 'Nuff said.

  • One weekend we went to a campground between Topeka, Illinois and Havana, Illinois, where my MIL and FIL marked their 25th wedding anniversary by renewing their wedding vows. I spend the weekend wishing I was dead.

  • The Lovely Myfanwe and I did have this smashing picture taken at the reception, though.

  • Dennis is doing quite well. He actually took 5 days off after his open heart surgery before going to work and resuming set-building for a musical his wife is directing at their (really impressive) community theater. He is nuttier 'n squirrel poo if you ask me.

Now, for the Bhutan Death March Schedule:

  • Norbert's trombone teacher, our friend Libonia, and her partner, Lelani, were married in San Francisco two weeks ago, and to kick off what shall prove to be very festive nuptial celebrations back home, we hosted a wedding shower, complete with a Moroccan feast, in our home last Saturday.
  • Cooking in the new kitchen was such a joy. My dear friend, Gale, and I both took Friday off, and we spent the day chopping and cooking. Cleanup was also almost painless. We laid off around 3:00 in the afternoon in great shape.
  • After Gale left, I jumped into the shower, dressed respectably, then hied myself up to the law firm of Weare, Stuffier & Smugg for their cocktail hour. Myfanwe was speaking to summer associates at Stuffier, and my friend Nancy is a first year associate there. We all enjoyed their admirable cheese trays. This place plunks down the big bucks...someone on their hospitality staff really knows their cheese.
  • Anyway, from there, Nancy, Ben, Myfanwe and I rushed top meet our Rabbi -- the one who just left our former congregation -- and his family for dinner before attending a service he was leading at a congregation nearby that is looking for a Rabbi. We enjoyed the services quite a bit. (And I REALLY enjoyed the oneg afterwards, where they served the most delicious florentines I've ever had the pleasure of eating.)
  • After services and the oneg we walked the 2 miles to where I park the car...I have monthly parking, so why pay an extra $30? It was a lovely night, and Myfanwe, Ben, Nancy & I had a lovely walk. By the time Myfanwe and I tumbled into bed, it was almost midnight.
  • Saturday morning came quickly, and I fell out of bed and into my preparations for the evening's festivities. The next thing I know, it was 5 o'clock and the first people arrive. I know something happened between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m., but it's really all a blur.
  • Everything went well, the house looked lovely, the food was spectacular. The last person left, we emptied the dishwasher and loaded it again (I don't use paper or plastic -- china and crystal all the way) and threw in a load of table linens into the washer. Then we dropped into bed around midnight.
  • 6 o'clock the next morning came quickly. We tumbled excitedly out of bed, emptied the dishwasher, loaded it for the final time, then jumped into the car for the drive to Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, where we picked up the happy and joyful Norbert from camp. It sure was good to see him! He was really missed.
  • The ride home was filled with traffic snags and a quick stop for a few groceries which ended in a 20 minute wait at the checkout line. We walked into the house 5 minutes before my nephew Sean and his wife Lilly arrived, along with Nancy and Ben, for a Welcome Home dinner (leftovers!) for Norbert and the presentation of Norbert's Thank-You-For-Being-Such-a-Great-Sport-During-Remodeling present...a Wii! (Norbert was, after all, the most discomforted by the remodel, sleeping in the living room and all.)
  • Luckily, Sean is well-practiced in Wii installation, and he got it up and running. It really is great fun. Norbert is having a great time with it. Myfanwe and I tumbled into bed a bit later than normal for a school night -- 11 o'clock -- and from there, the next week began.
  • I could use a good night's sleep. I'm not likely to get one any time soon.

Our vacation this summer is going to be a trip to Boston. We will be staying in Beacon Hill, and are looking forward to all the sights and tastes the city has to offer. THe city has 2 long bike ways, and I was really excited about riding the 11 mile Minuteman Bike Way, which is only for bikes and has on and off ramps and such, and follows the route taken by Paul Revere. But alas, I looked into renting a tandem bike for the ride...Norbert isn't comfortable riding his own bike, for some reason...and the only place that rents tandem bikes wants $100 a day! Can you believe it? So we'll do something else. That's just ridiculous.

OK. So I've caught everyone up. I'm going to be busy at work the next 10 days, with a lot of overtime, so don't be surprised if I go a while without posting!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


I want to take this opportunity to put in a shameless plug for a shameless friend of mine, Joel Derfner, who has written an incredibly funny book, Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever.

I met Joel through our mutual friend, the equally talented and funny Franklin Habit. Joel, like Frankin, is an accomplished and enthusiastic knitter, and he came to knit with the guys once while in Chicago. Meeting Joel isn't something you could ever forget. My sides hurt the next day from laughing so hard.

Anyway, Joel -- who seemed pretty gay to me to begin with -- set out to become The Gayest. And, while I will leave it to the reader to decide whether he succeeded, I think I can safely say that he did become noticably more light in the loafers. Reviewers have compared him to the likes of David Sedaris -- high praise, though not undeserved.

Joel is graciously allowing me to publish here an excerpt of his book -- the knitting chapter, no less! I hope you buy it. I hope you read it. And I hope you laugh as much as I have.

O n K n i t t i n g

The two Englishmen were staring at the half-finished glove in my hands, aghast. “What is that?” the short one asked.

“I know it’s a mess,” I rushed to apologize. I was lying. It was not a mess; it was perfect. But I had just arrived from the airport and I didn’t want to offend them, as they were my hosts while I was in town for a small theater’s presentation of a show to which I had composed the score. The couple continued to stare in reproving silence at the work in my lap. “I’ve never done a glove before,” I continued desperately, “and the fingers are trickier than I expected, and they—”

“No!” the tall one interrupted, his voice quick with dismay. “It’s not that. It’s that you’re knitting. Men don’t knit, young people don’t knit. Knitting is . . . something your grandmother does!”

My mother’s mother was a raging alcoholic who had been married seven or nine times (depending on whether you counted the annulment and the common-law bigamy), including once to a member of the House Un- American Activities Committee and once to a French royalist arms smuggler, so I felt I could safely assert that knitting was not a pastime she had ever enjoyed. “Besides,” I said defensively, “knitting is very fashionable in New York these days.”

“Well, this isn’t New York,” the short one retorted, but something in my face must have inspired pity.

“All right,” said the tall one grudgingly. “Just as long as nobody sees you doing it in public.”

But it was already too late, as the tube ride from the airport had been a long one. To mollify them, I put the knitting away, and then we had sex. It was more than satisfactory, as far as that sort of thing goes, but I still didn’t trust them. What kind of people would disapprove of the manufacture of a pair of beautiful cable-stitch gloves, no matter by whose hand?

Excerpted from Swish by Joel Derfner Copyright © 2008 by Joel Derfner. Excerpted by permission of Broadway, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.