Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The last day of January

Today is pretty much a perfect day--a little sewing, a little reading, the crossword puzzle almost complete, blue skies, a long bike ride coupled with a picnic lunch with my husband, a prayer shawl bound off and blocked, yoga class, and dinner cooked by my husband.  Yep, I am feeling blessed.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Being a Penn Stater

I grew up as a Penn Stater, even before I officially was one.  Both my grandfathers graduated from Penn State, both in Agriculture.  Even thought Grandpa Herman earned his living selling insurance, he created huge gardens and cultivated fruit trees on his plot of land outside Pittsburgh.  Papaw Hueston made his fortune in the Pittsburgh steel industry, retiring to Florida where he cared for a grove of orange, grapefruit, and tangelo trees in the fruit grove surrounding his Indian River home.  Their Penn State degrees served them well. They both followed and rooted for the Nittany Lions until the days they died, Grandpa Herman considered Rip Engle the best coach ever.  To him, Joe Paterno was a mere upstart.  My dad too was a proud Penn State graduate, earning both his undergrad and graduate degree from Penn State.

I remember walking to Beaver Stadium from our South Pugh Street home while still in high school. I distinctly recall dressing up (yes, people used to dress up for football games!) in a blue, wide-whale corduroy suit, one with a very short skirt. Walking home on University Drive, two college students invited my friend and me to a fraternity party. We didn't go, but we were pretty impressed with ourselves and had a good story to tell at State HIgh the following Monday.  Our whole Herman family bought season tickets to Penn State football in the 80's; eventually,  Jim and I took those tickets over.  Our children and many permutations of family and friends from south central to northeastern Pennsylvania have used those tickets to root on decades of Penn State football.  

Jim and I met in the dishroom at the HUB the winter of 1970. The following fall, my shift covered the time of the Penn State football team's training table. Those were the years of Franco Harris and Lydell Mitchell.  I watched them pass through the cafeteria line and cleaned their dinner trays. They were served steak, every night along with glass after glass of Penn State chocolate milk.

All our children have Penn State connections--Barbara and Robert both earned undergraduate degrees there, both graduating from the Schreyer Honors College.  Later, Rob returned to earn his graduate degree from the College of Education, the same college where I earned mine.  Matthew has worked for Penn State's athletic department for well over a decade now, washing towels and uniforms at both the Natatorium and the White Building.  The Penn State Lion even came to his birthday party once!  Penn State athletes have given him countless shirts, hats, and other Penn State Memorabilia.  He possesses an official Penn State football jersey.  If you have never seen one, they are actually rather odd, both in size and form.

Even our home, once owned by Rip Engle, the coach before Joe Paterno, has Penn State connections.  When Joe first came here as an assistant coach to Rip Engle, he lived in our basement for a time.  Now it is Jim's "Penn State room."  Neighbors have suggested we nail a plaque on the side of home: "Joe Paterno slept here."  Maybe we will.

We have so many Penn State stories as do thousands upon thousands of Penn Staters all across this country and this world.  A signed, inscribed photo of Joe Paterno has hung in Matthew's bedroom since 1993, when it was given to him after he spent two weeks at Hershey Medical Center as the result of a tragic accident in his school's parking lot. It reads:  "To Matt, We are thinking of you.  Your friend, Joe Paterno." Joe knew something about having a child traumatically injured, and he and Sue have always been supportive of people with special needs. Jim and I have our own photo of us with JoePa, taken at Penn State Wilkes Barre years ago when we were all much younger.

Last night at the candlelight vigil in front of Old Main as the first strains of the Penn State Alma Mater wafted over the assembled crowd of students, alums, and members of the community, a very tall Penn State student standing in the cold on the snow alongside Jim, reached out his long arm to encircle my husband, a fellow (albeit much older) Penn Stater.  Jim put his other arm around me and the whole crowd, linked arm by arm swayed and sang in fitting tribute to a man who dedicated his life to making Penn State a better place.

Rest in peace, Joseph Vincent Paterno...rest in peace, good and faithful servant.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Winter is finally upon us.  We had our first really significant snowfall yesterday, and the fluffy white sitting gently atop the green and brown surrounding our home is charming. Maybe it is because it is the slower time of winter, or maybe it is the clean slate of a new year,  or maybe it is putting all the Christmas decorations away, but whatever bug plagues me also compelled me to clean out several closets this week, eventually delivering a backseat carload of things to Saint Vincent DePaul Thrift store. Even though I have more closets and an attic to conquest, the house feels a bit lighter.  Good.

One of the closets most needing a good purge and reorganization was my knitting closest, the overflowing one tucked under the basement staircase.  Now, all the worsted weight, bulky, decorative, and fingering weight yarns are nicely organized in easy-to-see and reach bags or baskets.  In the midst of that, I found two skeins of bulky yarn leftover from a gray sweater I made for Alexis last year.

I found this pattern, tweaked it a bit to make it long enough to wrap and made myself a cowl, a free unexpected post Christmas gift to myself.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I started this blog, gosh (!),  three years ago, as a place to log my knitting and my thoughts.  Knitting and the knitting blogs I was reading at the time ignited the spark creating this space.  Lately, while I increasingly think about fabric and quilting, my knitting passion seems cooled. I have even considered adding to the title of my blog--something like “Nana Knits, Stitches, and Jams."  But that feels a tad cumbersome and probably unnecessary.   I just needed renewed inspiration; last week I got some.

I spent last week providing Nana/Nanny service for my littlest grandson as his mama returned to work.  One of the days I was there, my daughter arranged common time between me and his newest babysitter so together we could help this little guy figure out time away from his mama.  And this is how I met Tristin.

Tristin is a bright, articulate, interesting woman who knits.  While Jamie took an almost unprecedented three hour nap, she and I sat together, knitting and talking.  Tristin, a fascinating woman who paints, speaks Japanese, and knows sign language, expounded on her ideas of the importance of the work of our hands. She described to me how those convictions lead her to create "Hand to Hand Market" in downtown Greensboro, an event featuring “hip, handcrafted goods, underground art and vintage finds from some of the best regional artists, designers, crafters, and collectors this universe has to offer.”  The listing of artists and their work is quite impressive.

As I knit yet one more bib for Jamie out of humble dishcloth yarn, Tristin worked on a cowl from a lovely skein of  bulky yarn.  She showed me her inspiration on an Etsy site.  Later, I surfed the web for potential patterns to make myself something similar.  That time with Tristin, time of dynamic conversation, exchanging of thoughts, and sharing personal stories, time to bath in the passion and conviction of a younger generation toward the deep legacy of the work our hands, and time to remind me why I love knitting with other women at my side, was exactly the spark I needed to fan the knitting embers.  We travel best when we make this journey with others.  Thank you, Tristin…

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Saturday in January

As a novice at quilting, I learn more and more with each quilt I make, but what makes learning fun and ultimately more productive is to learn and practice alongside others.  Bright and early this morning, I and four other women gathered to continue work on a common pattern, A Secrete Garden by Pat Sloan.  Honestly, I would never have gone from patchwork to applique' so quickly were it not for our inspiring teacher and this small group, we her intrepid students, who would follow her anywhere.  Five hours with beautiful fabrics, sewing machines that still amaze me at what they can do, and comfortable fellowship was an invigorating way to start the day.  I still can't quite believe I am doing this--making a picture from pieces of fabric....

Then...on this highly unusual blue-sky January day, a day when a new era of Penn State football began with the naming of a new head coach (coach Bill O'Brien), Jim and I took a bike ride through campus to the stadium, pausing at the statue to pay our respects.

What a gift is a day like today.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Taking Time

I have been retired (officially!) for almost half a year.  My retirement date was June 10th, the last day of the 2010-2011 school year; therefore, in one week it will be six months since I walked out of my classroom.  Really hard to believe.

For six months, I allowed my world to shrink a bit, concentrating primarily on reflection, adjustment, and maintenance of the status quo: it's time to begin living larger.  In 2012, I hope to:

Continue to learn new things.
Laugh and smile more freely and more often.
Stretch more boundaries and step beyond my comfort zone.
Find quiet space each day to be grateful and listen.
Spend more green time, outside in nature and in my home living in   
       responsible stewardship.
Pursue progress, not perfection.
"Make new friends but keep the old" (ah, that old Brownie song!).
Appreciate beauty.
Pick up the telephone and make a call.
Read closely, savoring the words on the page.
Move my body and challenge my mind.
Notice horizons, both old and new.
Show love.
And always...strive to seek "the wisdom from above, that which is pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy." (James 3:17)