Tuesday, September 27, 2022

The Winners


The Winners: A Novel

The Winners by Fredrik Backman

Fredrik Backman is one of my favorite authors. I can pretty much settle in with one of his books and know I’m going to like it, even when the subject is hockey. So now you know. I never understood hockey, it moved so fast (yet I complain about baseball because it moves so slow!) While I expect in Sweden hockey is a huge part of life, here in The Winners, it’s the backdrop to life, a metaphor for any of us especially in the U.S. as we come from one election to the other. There was too much in this that resonated and not well.

The series begins with Beartown, continues with Us Against You and finishes with this, The Winners. In the beginning we are introduced to the towns of Beartown and Hed, small secluded towns separated by a forest and fealty to their teams. Hockey demands much of its players, fans and sponsoring towns. We won’t even talk about the players. There is one team, and that is one’s own. Everyone else is to be beaten. And always on any team there is the star, the one to be revered, protected, emulated, and beaten. And this is high school hockey.

In Beartown, something happens to bring down the promise of the national championship, something that tears apart the town, the hockey club, the loyalties to families and each other. This event changes everything for everyone because now, the people of both towns much choose. Are you loyal to your family? To your team? To your town? To yourself?

We’ve all heard the saying, “what cost loyalty?” Because of the backlash of loyalty businesses fail, one of the towns is on the brink of failing, fearing the loss of their team and rink. This could mean merging the teams of Hed and Beartown and no one will tolerate that.

And then there’s a crack in the armor surrounding the towns. People who have left to escape come home and all over again, wounds are opened. But this time, there is a winner, this time loyalty reaches a fever pitch that can only have one outcome after the people of Hed and Beartown do unspeakable things to each other.

There has to be a limit, doesn’t there? A limit to what we do to each other before someone blinks and realizes what they’ve been doing? For me this was a hard book to read, living in the U.S. and watching the news every night and seeing what we are doing to each other. I wondered as I read The Winners what our breaking point would be because so many times in the past few years I’ve wondered  when enough was going to be enough. And apparently we haven’t gotten there yet. We are still swamped in Us Against You.

To read these three books is not to read about hockey, it’s to read about us. Against you. And we long for The Winners.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Socks On

                                                                        And so it begins.

I think today is the first day of autumn (or maybe it was yesterday?) and overnight it turned cool enough that I am wearing socks. My weather  barometer is  measured by socks on or socks off.

For the most part  today the sun is shining and the sky is blue, the temperature is way down and there's a light breeze to keep things just cool enough to close the windows part way.  We have a strict rule that the heat doesn't get turned on before October first. No matter what. Our concession to cooler temperatures is to close the windows part way.

                                    Everything is pumpkins, cornstalks, scarecrows and  mums
 Except for Christmas. From July the stores were stocked with fabric, decorations, cookie cutters, Advent calendars, cards, craft supplies so by now Christmas is  fully hip bumping  autumn out of the way. Everyone says they love fall the best, it's  pretty, the humidity is dropped, the temperatures cool, heartier fall food tastes so good again but  go into a store and you have to wade past Christmas to get to Halloween. 

I'm prepping for retreat, making piles of projects and tools I'll need. I'll take the churn dash to begin quilting on it - the clock is ticking on that one.  And the Liberty circles for when my fingers get tired of quilting. That will be enough, I think.  A few sharing snacks but not much, the Inn feeds us so well.
 For now I'm just cleaning up little things,  quilting the baby quilt, making Christmas ornaments (see what I mean???), finishing up a pillow idea, trying to figure out a border for something, it's just this:

Friday, September 16, 2022

Something new, something fun

   We did something totally new to PH and I.  The Grand River and Lake Michigan are such a backdrop to our lives in West Michigan we tend to take them for granted, especially as we get older. They have just always been there, and for 90% of my life I lived across the street from one or the other.  But still there are activities I only knew about peripherally, (especially because we aren't  particularly sportsy.)  They were there but never explored. Last night we explored.

A group of friends went to the Grand Lady Riverboat (not our Lowell Showboat) and took a ride while listening to  sing along (because you just couldn't help it) music from a Lowell family group.  This group are family members, father, brother, sister and husband.  They have a following and always play to sell out crowds. Always.  Well, PH and I have been here eight years and  the stars just never aligned for us to take in one of their concerts even though we know one of the group and are becoming acquainted with his wife.  Funny how that happens, right?  Something is right there in front of you.

We boarded the Grand Lady  - it's not this big boxy white thing in front of us, but behind it.  It's a riverboat that glides by paddle wheel down the river toward Lake Michigan and at the halfway point of the evening,  turns and comes back. 
Last night was picture perfect.  The weather, the view, the river, the friends, it was  so wonderful we could only keep repeating that all evening....when we weren't singing along.
Here's us.  The woman in white  next to PH is the family wife in the group.  I refer to four of these people as "lifers."  They've lived their entire lives in Lowell, they know everyone, know the history of everyone and everyplace.  Of course they all left for college, some live in a neighboring small city nearby, one in California, but they are lifers, their life still revolves around Lowell, and personally, I think that says something about a  community.
The  group.  You can't see the patriarch at the end but the guy closest to the camera in orange shirt is the  guy we know best. His wife is there, her brother next to him.  If you weren't singing along you were in a coma. Like Friend Don said, if they were supposed to sound like the original artist, they did.  The test for me was when they sang one of the songs by Jay and the Americans and one single high note had to be held for a very long time...and  he did it! Whoa.
It was a perfect evening, one we grabbed with friends, enjoying the perfect September evening. We know there might not be too many of these days left, we're sliding closer to  what we call real weather but till then, what could be better than this?
It's been busy, too busy sometimes and I've not been quilting much but did start the quilting on this baby quilt, it's kind of a mini I Spy for a boy and yes, the photo is upside down.  I'll save the bigger one, the churn dash, for retreat coming up. The churn dash has a deadline so it jumped to the head of the line.  That and my liberty circles.  If I just pause on those and take them to retreat I can clean up some of the little piles in the meantime.

Saturday, September 10, 2022


 Well, we're back.  We think this might be PH's last selling trip to the U.P. (Upper Peninsula) For those not familiar with Michigan's layout, here's a map

Now, I know distance is relative.  We are in Kent County, in the bottom third of the state, just east of Grand Rapids.  We drove across the bridge that connects the two peninsulas to the U.P.'s farthest corners. We crossed the bridge and turned left.  By far the most beautiful and rugged  is the Keweenaw peninsula, the little bit that sticks our at the very top. And to get to that tippy top is about a 12 hour drive from home.  Now, as distance is relative, we were the farthest you could go and still be in Michigan.  If we went south we'd drive that long and be in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It sounds like  in Australia, a 12 hour drive gets you to your doctor appointment (small exaggeration there!) and in Europe you could pass through several countries in a 12 hour drive. We didn't do it all at once but if you did that's how long it would take. 

We've done this trip for 6 years  and the route is the same so while PH must make the same sales stops each time we try for doing something different just for us.

We were told last year by people who shared the same motel we always stay at that this is the place to be on Friday night for fish. It's just a food truck on their front lawn.  The husband of the couple who live here is a commercial fisherman in Alaska so they operate this just in May and September when he's home.

I ordered the ribbon fries. They look like potato chips but they were soft and  melted in your mouth. But the fish!!!  All we could say was, "Mmmmm" over and over. SO fresh!!
You can see their front "yard" was huge and while we got there right away, by the time we left the tables were full and families shared empty seats with others.  It was hold-onto-your-hat windy and truly, some food flew right off the plates.
At Fitzgerald's, still on the Keweenaw peninsula just south of Copper Harbor, you needed a reservation if you wanted to eat there.  We stopped one evening to make a reservation for the next.  We had a choice of 4 p.m. or 8:45 p.m.  We chose the first.
Look how close the restaurant on the right is from the lake.  Lake Superior is the  largest, deepest and coldest of the five Great Lakes and the saying is it doesn't give up it's dead.  There are hundreds of shipwrecks in this lake because the storms can be viscious and  can and  does sink ore freighters.  If you go down, you don't come back up.  It's frigid, deep and  rough.   Except for  while we were there. I've never seen Lake Superior this calm, the  whole time we were there!   Barely a ripple.  I sat on this deck and  tried to imagine the November storms and what they must do to this restaurant each November.
See what I mean? Calm.  Unheard of.  This was our view on Tuesday while we ate our pasties for a picnic.
Coming home on Thursday we stopped at Cross Village, at the very tip of the hand of Michigan, just west of the Mackinac Bridge on the map, and ate at Legs Inn.  It's a Polish restaurant serving Polish food and served by a wait staff from Poland.  The owner brings college age students here from Poland for 6 months to work at the restaurant, improve their English and have a couple of months to travel the U.S.  Of course on such a beautiful day we ate outdoors.

I turned around and this was our view of Lake Michigan.

While we drive, because it's so many hours in the car, I   have to do something to keep busy.  I'm not a good passenger, I get bored and antsy.  So this time I knit.  And  by the time we were a couple of hours from returning home I realized my finger joint hurt and when I looked I saw that I  had poked a hole right into my finger with the knitting needle. It was a stiffer yarn and needed some encouraging  with each stitch and eventually a hole wore in to my finger. This wasn't an indent, it was a real hole.

Upon getting home and checking a thousand emails I was so glad to see that Chooky scheduled a zoom session for Friday evening (my time) and since it was another nice day, I sat outdoors zooming for four hours till it got too dark to see my stitching and my battery ran down.  We paid homage to The Queen, pinpointed on  maps exactly where we all lived, had show and tell, caught up.

My work station.  I'm  appliqueing Liberty circles onto backgrounds for a circle quilt.  Friend Barb and I are each doing one and I'm sure she is probably finished with hers.  

And I'll close on this note just to show you how bad it can be here. We joke about not getting  people upset because, as I say, "they'll just pull out their gun and shoot you."  While I say it's a joke, it really isn't, as you can see every single day on the news. 

This is what's wrong.  Notice this fund raiser and the "prizes."  The first prize is  an assault weapon, the kind that is involved in the mass shootings going on every single day in the U.S.  This raffle means any Tom, Dick or Harry nut job out there can purchase a raffle ticket and potentially win an assault rifle. And then use it.  Somewhere. Sometime. Potentially on Someone.

Monday, September 5, 2022

Churn dash progress

 Chooky wanted us to show our progress on the churn dash SAL  so here's mine.  It's  layered and pinned and I decided to use big stitch quilting because it seems to fit the quilt.   In keeping with not buying any fabric till I use what I have, I found this red print in the stash and went for it.  It's busy but I like it and it's the back.