L.L. Bean SweaterWool is back! All those funky, chunky L.L. Bean wool sweaters that I always loved can now emerge from their mothball moratorium. Hooray! However, there’s a reason my beloved sweaters were sent to storage for so long. They ITCHED!! They remained stored away in a Tupperware container, instead of being tossed, in hopes that one day they would suddenly stop …. itching!

My passion for wool ignited again when I stopped in a thrift store the other day and there but to my wondrous eye appeared a beautiful, almost-new, L.L. Bean turtleneck sweater. It was a wool blend and it felt just yummy to the touch. Excited beyond words, I washed it as soon as I got home (by hand) and set it out flat to dry. I checked it twice a day for the two days it took to dry and at the appointed hour, on it went and shortly thereafter – off it came. It ITCHED!! I wanted to cry.

Unwilling to be thwarted, I began an Internet search for how to eliminate wool’s itch. Was this even possible? To my delight, I found a good bit of information. Here’s what I learned:

  1. Wear things under the wool garment: long sleeved tee or under-shirts, camis or another garment that is comfortable next to the skin.
  2. Use talcum powder: it is great for protecting skin.
  3. For itchy-neck, turtle-neck wearers, add style with scarves smartly tucked into the top of the sweater.
  4. Opt for Marino or Angora, higher-quality wools that are generally non-itch.
  5. Choose wool garments that have linings, which protect the skin from direct contact with the wool.
  6. Hand-wash wool garments and use a mild soap or even vinegar which is known for adding softness to clothes.

Also in my Internet travels I learned that after a 15 or 25-year fashion hiatus (because of itching?), British fashion houses, including Ralph Lauren and Chanel , are glomming on to this rediscovered fabric-treasure and fashioning it into high style clothing. Besides flexibility, wear ability and durability, wool is the essence of green – think natural, renewable, biodegradable and sustainable!

As for my treasured L.L. Bean sweater, with my new information, in tow, the project of de-itching (it or me?) has begun.

Interested? Take a look at “Why is wool spinning back into fashion.”

After the Wedding

I went to a wedding this weekend … a beautiful fairy-tale affair where the bride looked like a princess and the groom, her charming prince. It was my son’s wedding, a gala event and the culmination of weeks of finding dresses, shoes and purses; making appointments and going to get hair, manicures and pedicures done; shopping for bridal shower gifts and going to the shower; and making arrangements for and hosting the rehearsal dinner. It was a whirlwind.

When it finally arrived, the day dawned dark and rainy, a frightening  prospect since this wedding was to be on a hillside, in front of a castle overlooking Seneca Lake. As if by magic, four hours before the late afternoon ceremony, the sun came out and gave warmth to one of the few remaining temperate days of the season. Perfect!

The time came and the groomsmen stood alongside my son, all of his high school buddies who always congregated in our garage, the designated ‘hang-out’ place. I loved those boys. I still do, but what a shock to see them in their tuxes, bringing with them careers and marriages – a rude awakening since in my mind they were still the boys in the garage.  As I looked at these handsome men, I began wistfully reminiscing about their teen years, of all the possibilities before them then, possibilities replaced by the hard-core realities of lives needing to be lived, money needing to be made and careers needing to be forged.

The wedding was truly magical, with lots of wine to drink, food  to eat, and dancing to be done. I thought I would dissolve when it came time for the mother-son dance, and indeed, a few tears threatened my mascara, but it wasn’t the gush I’d anticipated.

We stayed over – too far a drive, too much wine and food – and after a country-diner breakfast, set off for the 60 mile trek home. I was feeling sort of numb and I couldn’t figure out why. Until – I wasn’t! It came on me explosively. One minute I was gazing out the window, the next I was gushing – sobbing – with a hole inside me bigger than the Grand Canyon. Thoughts catapulted around in my brain:  clips of my son’s childhood and teen years, his first job at Tops, spinning out the first time he drove in snow, being afraid of a little toy figurine of a man with a snake: “I don’t like dat man with dat snake,” his 3-year-old self said, and so many more memories and the feelings that went along with those memories.  And now – all over. That’s what I felt. An unexpected and overwhelming surge of the emotions of a mother sending her son off to another phase of life and saying good-bye to what once was.

To Every Thing There is a Season

IMG_0327IMG_0328We had our first frost last night. They predict another for tonight. It’s always so astounding how quick the seasons change, how we go from summer to almost-winter; at least that’s how it seems to go when the seasons change here in upstate NY.

It was just a short week ago   when, on a warm and sunny day, I took a stroll into the back field with my camera. I wanted to capture the end of the season, the life that would soon say goodbye to a summer that left us all wondering, “Is that all there is?”

The answer: no it wasn’t all there is, and here is the proof.

The Ritual

100_0611Short-wearing season is over, and with it, the end of the ritual. Ritual? Argh, yes, the ritual.

You see… I have three Boston Terriers, one of whom is the little old man. He is indeed the littlest of the group at 10 pounds, as well as the oldest, at, well, we’re not really sure, because he was from a puppy mill, but the vet puts him at around 13 or 14. Our little old Timmy is nearly-blind – he walks into walls and furniture, and deaf – you have to scream before he turns his head in acknowledgement of your existence. Of course, his deafness could be a keenly-honed avoidance mechanism. But whatever it is, our happy little old man romps around gaily, when he isn’t sleeping, that is. And he does a lot of that!

Timmy is wickedly spoiled, and one measure of this is “The Ritual.” It goes something like this: during the last several years, Timmy’s favorite thing in the whole wide world to do is lick my legs. He is relentless. Anywhere I am sitting with my legs bared, there is Timmy at my feet, licking madly away. He takes this activity very seriously and would go on and on, forgoing even naptime, if so allowed.

One of the places he especially likes to do his licking thing is in my office, which is where the full ritual occurs. He licks and licks and licks until he gets plum-tired out at which point he puts his front paws on the side of my chair and ogles me with rheumy-eyes, making his request to be placed on the daybed for his daily snooze. He is thusly placed. Only this is usually not a one-shot deal. For whatever doggy-reason, he doesn’t settle into his final nap until after he’s done several rotations of down-lick-ogle and be-placed-on-bed.

With fall and jean season here at last, the ritual is on hiatus. For now, Timmy sniffs hungrily at the cuffs of my pants, occasionally finding a spot or two where he can get a few licks in. But with winter fast approaching, my soon-to-be head-to-toe covering means my little old man gets tons of goodies and loads of under-the-covers time.

A Baby Died Today

Sad TEddyA four-month old cherub should be alive today. He should grow up, go to school, get married, have a family, and then begin the cycle again.

But today his cycle died and all of us, whether we knew him or not, lost a baby when he died. Several nights ago this baby lay asleep in his crib, safe, warm and dreaming magical baby dreams—until those dreams exploded—as did the room around him. The magic of those dreams was snuffed out when a car slammed into the house where he was supposed to be safe, and the nursery where he was supposed to be even safer. A seizure, they said about the driver of the car. A driver with seizures who still had a valid driver’s license. A single seizure at precisely the wrong moment and an infant lost amidst the Armageddon-like wreckage of the little nursery.

At first they couldn’t find him, but when they did, the pulse was gone, the little chest still. Frantic to save him, they made his tiny heart beat and his small lungs inflate. Then an entire city took up the vigil, praying for this baby whom most of us didn’t know, and hoping beyond hope that a miracle would happen. It didn’t. When I saw the news blurb on the local news station today, I cried. He was our baby, he was everyone’s baby. But with my sadness came fury about a world where an innocent infant, asleep in his own little crib, is not safe from human horrors.

Social Networking Among College Students

chalk-on-blackboard-trayI learned something astounding in my college English class today. I learned that I was among a group of thinkers, movers and shakers who have been looking at their world and making some critical choices about it.

Let me explain: right up through last spring’s semester, my students were a technology-focused lot, as in multi-tasking experts with their Facebook, Twitter and cell phone accounts. What is fascinating, however, is how quickly “the” most popular app of the day found its way to the Internet mothball fleet.

Example: right up until the fall of 2013, Facebook ruled and many students were actually addicted to it. I know this because despite my threats and promises of significant penalty, I still saw many Facebook screens reflected in the glass wall in the back of our computer lab classroom.
Enter fall 2013, exit Facebook and enter Twitter. Last year Twitter was the social networking vehicle among my college students. Indeed, seemingly overnight Facebook became passé and Twitter took its crown. Twitter continued its reign right through the spring semester of 2014. Now it’s fall 2014 and today my students told me that Twitter is out.

Why the rapid cycling by college students from one social network to another? As for Facebook, they said they became tired of the phoniness and competition that comes along with it. (I agree) They also did not like revealing their business and many of them deleted their accounts entirely.
Why are they now passing up on Twitter? “Too much advertising,” one student said today. Now they see Twitter’s value as a way to keep up withnews and sports information, but no longer as their preferred social networking communication tool.

So what are they using now? Instagram, which I’ve heard of but do not use. As this is all moving too fast for me, I’ve asked several students to demo and explain it in class on Wednesday.

But beyond Instagram, beyond any of these apps, is the cell phone. My students all admitted to becoming panicky if they can’t find or forget their phones. And they all admitted to a propensity to multitask, with phone in hand, of course. But what they also admitted to was an awareness of their phone and texting obsessions and a sincere desire to get back to a world where face-to-face communication takes precedence over all other forms. Now granted, in this global marketplace, face-to-face may not be practical, but Skype is the next best thing, pointed out another student.

As I wandered about the classroom, in awe and delight about this generation who has been accused of being shallow, I listened to a final and amazing story told by a young woman. She told the class that when she and her friends go out for dinner, they put their phones in the center of the table. If any of them uses the phone during their time together, that young woman is relegated to pay for everyone’s appetizer. I’m impressed. I can think of a good many adults over 50 and 60 who would lose a fortune in appetizer fees.

In the Ladies Room

IMG_0375One of the things I really hate doing is going to a women’s bathroom. It could be the women’s bathroom in a huge public place (nasty – like the ones in Penn Station in NYC) or the clean and neatly appointed ones like in the building where I work. However , there are times (many) when the need to seek relief trumps avoidance no matter what the state of the facility.

Thusly resigned, after getting situated in ‘the stall,’ the next order of business is to make sure there is enough toilet paper. I am now religious about this because I once found myself high and dry (not) and had to beg a complete stranger to pass me handfuls of the stuff under the stall wall.

I also try desperately try to avoid a bout with number two. In fact, if I am indeed desperate and someone else is in one of the stalls, I am prone to developing anxiety, which can impede progress, if you know what I mean. When the inevitable occurs, I have a strategy. I have several in fact. But this particular one involves listening to see if I can figure out where my bathroom cohabitant is at with her progress. If it sounds like she is coming to the finish, I will try to wait. If I cannot wait, I try desperately to remain biologically silent, including tooting ‘announcements’ of what is soon to follow. However, since I tend to be a gassy person, well – you can do the math.

When I am finished, I wait in the stall until the all-clear of silence sounds – no footsteps, no phones beeping, no water running and no makeup cases snapping – and that is when I make my exit. A nice, quiet, anonymous exit.

The other day I had one of those “I just can’t wait” wait episodes, and to my chagrin, there was a woman in the only other stall in that bathroom. This was at 7 a.m. no less. As she seemed to be on a similar trajectory as I, I felt somewhat relieved. That is, until she started moaning. This was a new one and I was at a loss. Should I ask if she was okay? Should I just continue to keep my mouth shut? I once heard there is this unwritten rule of toilet etiquette that you don’t carry on conversations with the woman in the next stall. I’ve been wary of toilet chats ever since.

Anyway, after taking care of my own business, I listened for a bit longer and decided that my stall-partner was not in any real distress. As I always try to do, I whisked myself out of that bathroom so neither identity would be revealed to the other. Once again, I succeeded in guarding my identity as the phantom in the toilet.