Knitting

Yes, I have taken up knitting!   Ever since two of my amazing cousins started knitting about 5-6 years ago I have wanted to learn, but I never took the time to actually sit down and figure it out.

Finally, after the upheaval of everything earlier this month, I decided I was going to actually take the time and learn.  Luckily, it just so happened that I was going to get the chance to spend the weekend with my two knitting cousins while we celebrated my Grandma’s 80th birthday the second weekend in April.  I contacted one of my cousins to find out if she’d be willing to teach me (which of course she was wonderful and said yes!) and what I needed to bring to get started (bamboo knitting needles and some cheap yarn).

It was actually pretty fun when she taught me because four of us girls piled into one of the hotel rooms and we had a knitting and crochet party.  One of my cousins worked with me on knitting, while my other cousin worked with our cousin-in-law on crocheting.  We had a great time talking, laughing, and learning how manipulate yarn into some amazing patterns.  The best part was that earlier James had suggested that I video my cousin showing me the basics of knitting so that way I could watch the video after we got home if I had any questions or problems.  This video ended up being the saving grace that allowed me to actually start knitting on my own at home!

While knitting with my cousin right there to answer questions and help seemed pretty easy and straight forward, at home it was not nearly that easy or straight forward!  I kept messing up and needing to start over, which is where the video came in handy!  With the video readily available, I was easily able to watch the quick 2 minute “how to get started” each time I messed up!

Below is the result of 2 weeks of starting, pulling it out, starting pulling it out, starting, pulling it out, and FINALLY getting it!  Granted that wasn’t me working on it full time, but here and there when I’d sit down to watch TV, yet still, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever really get it!

I'm not that far along, but I think I've got the hang of it!

Now that I’ve got the basics *pretty* much down, I am really enjoying knitting.  There is something soothing and calming about the process.  It also does a good job relaxing me and getting my brain to stop “thinking.”  Yet, what’s nice is that I can do other things while I knit.  I’ve been knitting on car trips, while on the phone (hands-free ear buds are amazing), and when watching TV.  I’ve still got a long way to go… How to I finish this off once I’m done??… but knitting is definitely something I’m planning on continuing!  It’s even encouraged me to learn to crochet, which I’m hoping to get someone to teach me BEFORE we head out on our May vacation!

New garden

Last summer was my first year trying to grow a garden.  I was lucky that the house already had a garden.  Granted an overgrown needed some work garden, but with a little hard work we ended up with a nice little garden!


Unfortunately, when it came time to put up the new barn, the perfect location for the barn just happen to be where my garden was!!! Thus my garden was torn up and covered with James big beautiful new barn.

With the warmer weather over the last weekend, I decided to scout out the yard and find the new perfect location for my garden.   I looked and I looked, and found the perfect location!  The only problem… it was currently covered by about 45-50 trees!

Luckily, I have a wonderful husband (who also kinda owed me a new garden!) who was willing to take on the challenge of building my new garden!  It also probably helps that James loves using his tractor to dig and tear things up around the yard!

Site for the new garden... too bad it's covered with trees!

He started Sunday afternoon and it didn’t go all that well.  The trees were 8 year old oaks that were not interested in coming out of the ground.  Since the ground was going to be used for a garden, we couldn’t just cut them down, we had to make sure and pull them out with their roots!

As you can see below, the trees REALLY didn’t want to come out of the ground!

Check out the tires off the ground!

More than a few times I really thought the tractor might tip, but James managed to keep it together.  Unfortunately this didn’t equate to that many trees coming out of the ground and it was getting late, so we called it quits for the night.

Monday while at work, we ran into the horticulture instructor at Richland and he and James got to talking about tree removal.  I kind of zoned out, so I didn’t catch all that was said, but Monday evening when we got home, James decided he was going to go out and give it another try.

I was in the house working on dinner, when I heard James yelling my name.  This freaked me out a little because the last time he called my name like that was when the ladder he was on broke and almost impaled him.  I hurried out the back door and there was James, his tractor, and a 13-14 foot tree with roots attached to the front of his tractor!

Look at what James dug and then pulled out! One of the bigger trees!

James had used the advice he was given and was able to get one of the bigger trees out with much less hassle!  The trick was that he had to really dig down a bit around the tree before trying to pull them.  He also adjusted the chain attached to the tractor so he’d get more lift out of it.

With his success from Monday night, James went out around 8:30AM Tuesday morning and pulled up trees until he had to leave for our chiropractor appointment at 3:30PM (@ 6 hours).  During that time, James was able to pull ALL 45-50 trees!  Granted the ground was pretty tore up, but once we got home from the chiropractor, he went back out and worked on smoothing out the dirt.

After all James’ hard work, I have my garden space back!!  Granted there is still a lot of work to do to get it ready to actually plant, but I’ve got a space I’m happy with and should be good for the plants!

All of the trees cleared out and the dirt spread out pretty evenly.

Great work James!! Now we just need to till it! 😉

James: Since Kona zoned out, she didn’t realize that the advice the horticulture instructor gave me was to go to a rental place and get a small excavator with a backhoe, dig out around the trees, and pull them out that way.  He said I could get one, delivered, and pay for the fuel for about $300.  He also advised welding hooks to the side of the bucket because I was losing all the leverage by just wrapping the chain around the bucket.   What I did was use the bucket to tear out all the soil around the tree, sometimes going down 1.5 feet below the surface and then pulling the tree out with the tractor.  But it only cost  $35 for diesel.  I did also end up tearing up the entire area, but since we were going to make a garden there anyway, it was okay.  For more surgical tree removals, a backhoe would be better.

Spring yet?

Saturday afternoon was sunny and in the 50’s so I decided to go for a walk and see if I could find any signs of spring.  It was an absolutely beautiful day and getting out and walking felt really good.  I started along the creek and then walked back towards the pond.

Amazingly enough, the pond is full!! James noticed around the beginning of March when the snow melted, but we weren’t sure how long it would stay.  It might not last through summer, but for now, we have an actual pond!  It’s not pretty and needs a lot of work, yet I”m just considering those minor details. 🙂

The filled pond! It still needs some work, but at least it's got water!!

As I continued my walk I saw a few indications of spring here and there… Robins were scattered all over the yard foraging for worms and bugs, a few bushes are starting to form buds, and I even saw the first dandelion of the year!

Yet even with these small signs of spring, overall most things are still dormant. It’s hard to imagine that in a few short months everything will be alive and green once again.

Getting easier

Some days are definitely better than others and overall I think overall it’s getting easier to deal with the grief.  I don’t tear up and cry nearly as much.  Some days I’ll go the whole day without something affecting me to the point of crying.  That’s not to say that I don’t think about it a hundred times a day, just that I’m able to think about it and be sad without getting too upset.

I think what often hits me the worst is when people don’t realize I lost the baby and ask about the pregnancy.  It’s a double woozy because not only do I feel bad, but the other person feels absolutely awful, which in turn makes me feel even worse because I know they had no idea and did not mean to upset me.  It’s an awful conundrum because they want to apologize to me (for something that wasn’t their fault) and I want to apologize to them (because I feel awful knowing how upset and awful they feel for making me upset).  What an absolute mess with no good solution.

Overall I think what has helped me the most is James and the strength of our love and commitment to each other.  It’s easier to deal with the grief when you know someone is with you and there for you.  Likewise, it’s easier to try and be stronger because you have that other person that you care and are worried about.

Soaking in the comfort of each other

As awful as it sounds, I think our loss has brought us closer together and made us stronger as a couple.  Whatever happens down the road, I know we’ll be able to work together and work through it.

Between the rivers

Sunday morning we lost an hour due to daylight savings, but Mom, Linda, and I still managed to get up and out on the trails for a 7AM walk.  It was a beautiful morning and the company and conversation were quite lively! Similar to the previous day, we did a lot of uphill hiking that really put us through our paces and definitely caused us to work up a sweat!

When we got back to the Lodge, it was almost time to check out.  I took a quick shower while James started taking things out to the car.  We said our goodbyes and headed home.  Well, sort of headed home, in a James Jones meandering sort of way! 😉

We started by going back across the Brussels Ferry and this time headed north to Brussels where we stopped for breakfast.   After breakfast we continued north on the Illinois River Road for a while before we cut across to the west to Batchtown and the Mississippi River Road.

View looking out over the flood plains towards the Mississippi River

We followed the Mississippi north until heading back east at Hardin and the Illinois River Road.  We honestly didn’t have any plans in mind other than meandering our way home and stopping if something caught our fancy.

The first random thing that we decided to stop and check out was the town of Time, Illinois.  We initially drove past the sign to “Time” and weren’t planning on stopping, but when I read out of our “Place Names of Illinois” book that Time was the second smallest incorporated town in Illinois we turned off and headed back to go check it out!

Time was definitely small (2000 census estimated the population at 29), but quite quaint.  It had a nice town square with a really cool double decker gazebo.

Also discussed in the “Place Names of Illinois” book under the Time, IL heading was that the smallest incorporated town in Illinois was Valley City.  Just out of curiosity, I checked to see where it was and it was only 20 miles from Time, in the same county, and could easily be visited on our way home!  Thus we slightly altered our route and headed for Valley City!

Route from Time (2nd smallest) to Valley City (smallest incorporated town in Illinois)

On the way to Valley City, James accidentally turned a little too soon and we ended up in Griggsville.  We didn’t think anything of it and were quickly on our way out of town when James noticed a tall pole with bird houses on it.  This triggered his memory that Griggsville is the Purple Martin Capital of the Nation, so of course we had to turn around and go check out the town!

In the center of town we found the 2 story tall pillar of purple martin houses, as well as other purple martin paraphernalia!

Unfortunately what we didn’t see were any purple martins, but from the pictures I found online they are pretty cool looking birds that supposedly eat an amazing number of mosquitos (there apparently is some controversy about that though!).

After our side trip to Griggsville we got back on the road to Valley City.  To say that we were under-impressed when we got there would be a major understatement.  Where Time was cute and quaint, Valley City was dirty and didn’t even have a welcome sign or any sign indicating the name of the town.  We drove through the town looking for something to take a picture of, but came away empty handed.

Slightly discouraged and feeling a little draggy from the long weekend, we decided to meander a little quicker home and after stopping in Springfield for lunch and Decatur for groceries, made it home around 3pm (6 hours from when we started).

Route from Pere Marquette to home!

On the map above “E” is Time and “F” is Valley City

Grandma’s 80th Birthday

After our busy day Saturday, that evening we got together to formally celebrate Grandma’s 80th birthday!

We started dinner with a prayer and singing, before moving onto cake, presents, and a movie highlighting Grandma and the love our family has for her.

It was good to be together and to celebrate such an amazing woman!

Happy 80th Birthday Lillie Darlene Jones!

Meandering

After two hikes Saturday morning, I got a quick nap in before we headed to the Fin Inn for lunch.  The Fin Inn is an “aquarium restaurant” that is known for having aquariums filled with native Illinois River fish (and turtles) at each booth in the restaurant.

We had such a large group of people that we got split up, so my immediate family ended up sitting together (my parents, James, and me).  The men didn’t seem too impressed with the traditional restaurant fare (cheeseburger and chicken fingers), but the fish and dessert my mom and I got was excellent.  The catfish was perfectly cooked and the blackberry cobbler was spoon licking good!

After our meal, we split up and James and I headed off to do some meandering.  We didn’t have a destination in mind, but figured we’d just head off and see what we’d find.

Our trip started by taking the Brussels ferry across the Illinois River to Calhoun County, IL.

The scenery was very interesting, but unfortunately due to the time of year the trees were bare and there was little green to see anywhere.  With little scenery to keep us occupied, we ended up at the Golden Eagle Ferry, which would take us across the Mississippi River to Missouri.

This also worked out well because my mom called and asked if we could try and find candles for Grandma’s birthday cake.  She had forgotten them and none of the businesses around Pere Marquette carried them.

Across the river in Missouri, we ended up in the heavily populated suburbs outside St. Louis where we were easily able to find a Wal-Mart, cheap Missouri gas, and Krispy Kreme!  Since we were so far south, we decided to cut across over into Illinois by Alton so that way we could visit the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and the Alton Bridge.

To get to the confluence, we really had to wind our way through and around and when we got within a mile this is what we saw…

James standing in front of the closed road to the Confluence.

The road was covered by water less than a mile from the confluence!  So, no confluence for us!!

Luckily we were able to have some fun taking pictures of the Alton Bridge and we even found a small park on the north side of the bridge that had a lookout tower that we could climb and view the entire area!

We then crossed the bridge back into Illinois and headed up Route 100 along the river back to Pere Marquette.  Once we got back to the park, we decided to take the road up through the park.  There were a number of look outs that were nice (not quite as nice as the ones we saw on our hike earlier that day), but for me the highlight was getting to see a woodpecker in action!

 

Woodpecker living up to his name!!

With all the leaves off the trees, it was easy to spot where the noise was coming from and then zoom in on him with the camera!

We then finished our auto tour of the park and headed back to the Lodge to get ready for the evenings festivities!

Map of our meandering Saturday route

Hiking Pere Marquette

Saturday morning, my mom and I headed out around 6AM for a walk.  Pere Marquette is known for their trails, so we were looking forward to checking them out.  Unfortunately, neither of us knew where they started, so we ended up on the bike path towards Grafton before veering off through the campground and along a deer trail.  We still had a good time and were able to see the sun rising in the forest!

Sunrise at Pere Marquette State Park

After our walk, we met up with the rest of the family for breakfast at the Lodge restaurant.  We were such a big group that everyone couldn’t fit at one table, but that was fine because it allowed us to split up and talk with different family members!

Breakfast was a relaxed affair and we leisurely dinned and chatted.  Once everyone was finished, Grandma indicated that she was interested in going for a walk, so a good size group of us headed to the trails (no, my mom and I definitely did NOT lead).

The trail we decided on was pretty rigorous and involved a lot of steep uphill climbing to get to the bluffs looking out over the Illinois River.  The view was amazing, but what was more amazing was my EIGHTY year old Grandmother and how great she did on the trails!  If I can even be half as active and fit when I’m that age, I will truly feel blessed!

We had a great time walking the trails and it was fun share the experience with so many family members!

Detour at Eldred

Friday afternoon we headed to Pere Marquette State Park for my Grandma Jones’ 80th birthday party/family get together.  Grandpa Jones got everyone rooms at the Lodge for Friday and Saturday night, so it was going to be a weekend adventure for the family.

Pere Marquette is about 30 miles north of Alton, IL and right along the Illinois River.  James wanted to do a little meandering on our way there (as normal), so after taking Interstate 72 past Springfield, we cut down on 267 to 67 before heading west on 108 to Eldred.  At Eldred we were planning on going straight south to Pere Marquette.  Unfortunately, due the road being closed, we had to figure out a new route.  By this time, it was dark, so James just wanted to take the ferry across the Illinois River to Kampsville and then down to Brussels and back across the Illinois on another ferry.  I on the other hand was feeling slightly adventurous and told James that I thought it would be a lot quicker to just take one of the back roads around the closed road.  James wasn’t sure, but went ahead and turned off onto the gravel road I suggested.

It was slightly slow going on the gravel, especially with a corn field on one side and a deep bank with water on the other, but easily we made it a little over half way to where I wanted to turn back to the main road.  Granted it seemed pretty crazy to be out in the middle of nowhere, in the dark, and on a slightly scary road, yet compared to the road to Rodney this was nothing.  Unfortunately, James didn’t feel the same way and decided he wanted to detour from my detour and try a different route (see the map below for the DIRT road!).

This map shows the route we took trying to get from Eldred to Pere Marquette!

The new route turned out to be way worse than the gravel and was a dirt road that was more like a tractor lane between two fields than an actual road.  This road had deep ravines with water on both sides and was even slower going than the gravel road.  We were making a little headway when we came across a washout across the road that there was no way we were crossing in the car and no way we were going around (it was ravine on one side and muddy field on the other).  Thus we turned around and instead of going back to my route, James headed towards the main road just to check and see if it was closed.  When we got there not only did the signs say the main road was closed, but that the road we had come in on was closed as well! Whoops, we must have missed that memo!   So we turned around and headed back to the route I originally suggested, which was gravel (and slightly scary), but eventually got us back to the main road… which also had a sign saying the road we had just traveled on was closed!!

After all this adventure (at one point I was laughing so hard, I was crying), we finally got back on track and other than two deer James did a great job avoiding, made it to the Pere Marquette Lodge with no other problems!

Route we took to Pere Marquette State Park

As soon as we got to the Lodge we found some of my family relaxing in front of the fire in the great room, so we sat and chatted while other family members arrived.  By the time almost everyone arrived, it was getting late, so we headed up to our room for the night.

Loss

Over the weekend, we lost the baby.

Everything had been going fine and I was excited that I had reached 12 weeks (on Wednesday) and that we were going to get to see the baby again in a little over a week during our next scheduled ultrasound.  On Thursday I was traveling to DC for a conference, and on the plane noticed something wasn’t quite right.  After arriving in DC I called our midwife from the airport and was directed to go to the hospital just to make sure everything was ok.  Unfortunately, everything was not ok and after some blood work and an ultrasound, I was informed that we had lost the baby.  The flight had nothing to do with losing the baby; it only brought it to our attention.  I was alone, heartbroken, and made the decision that I wanted to come directly back home.  The social worker from the hospital and James (back in Illinois) helped me cancel my DC plans and get the quickest flight back home.

The flight home was awful, but I kept it together as best as I could until I exited the plane and saw a dime (heads up) sitting upright along the wall of the walkway from the plane to the airport.

My mom and I have a thing about dimes.  While some people have “pennies from heaven,” my mom and I have dimes that show up in the most unlikely spots, but at the most needed times.  In the past when I have found a dime, it has helped me to recognize that either I am on the right path (ex: When I found a dime when we were moving into our new house) or that things would be ok even though it seemed impossible at the time (ex: When I didn’t get into the School Psychology program after putting everything I had into getting in, but later it turned out that the other path I took because of this led me to my true passion… and then eventually James!).

Thus for to me to see the dime, I not only felt close to my mom (who I hadn’t been able to tell about the baby yet), but I also felt like just maybe things would somehow work out ok.  Starting to cry again, I picked up the dime, headed towards security, and saw James waiting for me.  I was pretty surprised (and started to cry even more) because I had driven my car to the airport that morning and didn’t expect James to come and get me.  Not that I didn’t want him to come and get me, I desperately did, but I just couldn’t justify asking him to drive to Bloomington to pick me up when we would just have to go back to Bloomington at a later time to pick my car up.  Regardless, James was exactly what I needed right then and it was nice to be together on the way home.

After a long restless night, we went to the doctor’s office the next morning where we talked with one of the midwives and a doctor about the results from DC the day before and what the next steps should be.  The doctor didn’t think I was going to miscarry on my own so he suggested coming in the next day for minor surgery that would remove the baby and help me physically heal faster.  James and I agreed and the plans were made for the next morning.  Regretfully, this didn’t work out as planned because I went ahead and miscarried Friday night/Saturday morning at home.  I was in a lot of pain, but after talking with the nurse on call at my doctor’s office, I decided to stay home until Saturday morning when I was to have surgery.

Saturday morning we got to the hospital early because they were going to perform an ultrasound to see if I still needed surgery.   Unfortunately there was some kind of miscommunication that caused them to “lose me” in the system for almost 2.5 hours.  I was checked in and ready, but the people who needed to know where I was (namely the ultrasound technician and the surgery team) had no idea where I was.  When the ultrasound technician finally found me (after 9AM), she told me she had been looking for me since 7AM (we’d gotten to the hospital around 6:45AM).  The ultrasound showed that even though I had lost the baby, I still needed surgery.  Consequently, my 7:45AM surgery turned into a 10:30AM surgery.  The doctor visited James about 11:05AM to tell him everything had gone well and I was in the recovery room. There were a few other minor mishaps like losing my my surgery paperwork and the pharmacy failing to fill the prescription that caused additional time in the hospital. We finally left the hospital around 12:45pm.  We got something to eat at Cracker Barrel and then went home and crashed.  Thursday-Saturday seemed to have stretched out forever and the mental and physical stress and strain had taken their toll on us.

As of right now we are doing the best we can under the circumstances.  Some times are worse than others, but by being there for each other through the entire nightmarish ordeal, we’re doing ok and hopefully starting the healing process.