Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Relax Thru Crocheting

When I was a little girl my grandmother, a.k.a. Grams, bought me a very long crocheting needle and showed me the basic chain stitch. She told me that once I mastered the single stitch she’d teach me another stitch. Unfortunately that never happened. I held onto that blue needle for years, hoping to one day share the love of crocheting with my Grams.

Then in 2007, during an away baseball tournament, my mother-in-law brought along her bag of crocheting supplies and I was hooked!

I crocheted all weekend… and by Sunday evening I had half a blanket completed. My son’s friends got a kick out of watching a “young mom” sitting in the stands with a bag of yarn, crocheting like there’s no tomorrow while screaming praises to the team.

I went on to make 10 blankets for my kids, my friends, my family, and even my chiropractor’s new baby. It was nice being able to sit down to a movie and not find myself fidgeting and thinking about a zillion other things that needed to be done. Counting stitches and keeping my fingers active helped me to just “sit and relax” and having lost my mom in March of 2006, the time spent crocheting and watching television was a welcome treat.

The best thing about crocheting, for me, is that it is one of those things I have absolutely no desire to turn into a side business which means it will always be a wonderful way for me to relax—guilt free—in front of the television set.

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Learn to crochet the scarves pictured over at The Dabbling Mum's tutorial page. You can also learn to crochet a purse here.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Thanks For Having My Back

There are a lot of things about growing up in the projects I do not miss—but then there are some things that I do miss, like the fact that I had so many people watching my back. One of those people was Miss Benita.

Benita was five years older than me, quiet, yet very outgoing. There was no reason for her to take me under her wings, no logical reason for her to hang out with me, but she did. We'd known each other since I arrived in the projects, but it wasn't until she became my sitter that we grew close.

She was the best sitter we had back then as she truly looked out for us. She didn't host parties the minute my mom left the house, she didn't make us sit in a dark room the entire time my mom was gone, she didn't try to defile us, and she was safe and fun and a joy to be around. But sadly, her reign as sitter didn't last long for one day my mom arrived home early to find us jumping on the couch bed, laughing, and having fun. That simply was not to be tolerated when we had a 7 o'clock bedtime… and how dare she enjoy her job!

After that, Benita would stop by to request permission to take me with her to visit a friend, or watch her play softball, or to just hang out at her house. One thing she was great at was making me feel safe and wanted—even when a few of her friends made it very clear that they didn't like the idea of her spending so much time with me. (In fact, one day when I needed to get out of the house, I stopped by Benita's and knocked on the door to be greeted by one of her friends—a friend who had made it clear on several occasions that she did not like me. She told me that Benita didn't want to see me anymore then slammed the door in my face.)

One thing Benita liked to do with me was bake. We'd make lots of brownies, so many brownies that eventually we grew tired of eating them. But we never grew tired of baking them. So she came up with a solution to pack the brownies in a basket, tie a rope to the basket, and lower them from the balcony down to the kids below. We'd make them, they'd eat them. It was a win, win situation.

Then one year, when I was thirteen, I decided to have a birthday party and invite all my classmates. Sadly, nobody showed up. I was devastated. I knew I was shy and quiet, but I really thought my classmates liked me and couldn't understand why they wouldn't come to my party. A few hours later, Benita arrived at my party to see how things were going. When she found out nobody showed up, she was just as heartbroken as I was. She told me to get dressed up and to wear something really nice, because she was taking me out to dinner. And thus began our annual birthday dinner to Sizzler's.

Then, when 9th grade prom arrived and nobody asked me to go, she insisted that I take her boyfriend as my date. Talk about trust! Of course, I didn't take her boyfriend, but it said a lot about her character (and quite possibly mine). Instead, we made an agreement, I would go to the prom stag, and do my best to socialize; then after the prom, she and her boyfriend would pick me up in style, and we'd hang out the rest of the night.

After 9th grade, neither one of us lived in the projects anymore. We didn't spend quite as much time together, but we managed to stay in touch. One thing we loved to do was call each other up on the phone and watch movies together. Sometimes there'd be long pauses where neither of us would say a word, then you'd hear one of us say, "Can you believe…" or "Oh no watch out". Personally, I think that was her way of checking up on me—but I didn't care. It was nice to know that I wasn't so easily forgotten once we didn't live next to each other.

During my high school years, we weren't as close. By then she'd had two children and was living "the adult" life but she always found time each month to hang out or talk on the phone. And I got to do a lot of babysitting—which I absolutely loved!

Then one day, after graduation, I told her I was interested in joining the police academy. She didn't tell me that I was crazy because I was too timid and shy. She didn't tell me that it was insanely dangerous and I probably wouldn't like all the violence that comes along with the job, either. No, she supported me.

She'd get up every morning, at the crack of dawn, to train with me! Which was a good thing because I have never been a morning person and without her commitment, I probably would've went right back to bed. Instead, she had me pick up her up so we could then drive to the high school and run both the track and the bleachers. Once we got out on that field, the crabbiness lifted and we both found that morning routine to be challenging and fun. (Unfortunately, the riots scared me right out of the police academy. I passed the mental tests and the panel interview but never went to the physical.)

Fast forward a few years, to the day I met my husband. Benita, knowing nothing about this guy, insisted on chaperoning our first date. If he passed, we could date. If he didn't pass, we'd have to talk. Without saying a word, he knew that she was the key to winning my heart and so on our first date, he catered to her. Needless to say, he passed.

Though we still stay in touch, our relationship has drifted apart over the years. It's hard, we've found, to maintain a close relationship with someone when you live hundreds of miles apart and your lives have gone in two different directions.

And yet, there are days when I miss knowing that she had my back, when I miss feeling so loved by someone that she would make personal sacrifices just for me, when I miss going shopping with her, or watching a movie via the telephone, or chatting over a cup of hot tea with cream and sugar.

And for these reasons, and so many more, I must say thank you, Miss Benita, for making me a part of your life—and your family. I would not change one moment of the times we shared together.

If I could encourage you to do one thing for yourself, it would be this: Embrace the possibility that friends can be "family" and although your relationship may change over the years, those good times matter and will forever have shaped the way you live your life. And then pick up the phone and call that special someone and simply say, "thank you". Thank you for the past, thank you for the friendship, but most of all, thank you for being you.

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