Friday, April 6, 2018

What's Kristine Reading? April 2018 Edition

   It's been a bit since I've posted about a book, or about anything, if I'm honest. My reading has definitely been in decline over the past two years. Since I picked up knitting, and now sewing, I've been creating more than consuming. It's been great, and a fun learning experience, however, I do miss my books. I started listening to audio books - mainly things in the public domain such as Jane Austen. It's not the same thing as reading a book with pages, but it does allow me to combine my passions, so I'm going with it.  However, I did just finish a biography that I think everyone needs to know about because the subject was so impressive. And that subject was Catherine the Great.

   While there are numerous biographies about Catherine the Great (I've had one sitting unread on my Kindle for about two years), I read this one by Robert K. Massie because it was for book group. He based the book on many of her letters, so the book is from her viewpoint. This skewed the book a little in her favor, but it was really interesting to read her actual words.
   The first thing I need to say about Catherine the Great was that she was a freakin' badass.  I went into this book completely blind to her history, and Russian history previous to the Revolution in 1917, for that matter.  (For some reason, that time period fascinated me when I was around 11. I randomly picked Nicholas and Alexandra out of my parent's bookshelf and read it in a weekend. I was in the 5ht grade, and told my teacher about it when I went back to school. She didn't believe I read the book. Teachers - if a student tells you they read an interesting, non-assigned book - believe them.) 
   Anyway - back to Catherine being a badass. Here is her story in a nutshell: 
  • Born a minor German princess. 
  • Gets shipped off to Russia at 14 to marry the heir to the Russian throne (who is her second cousin) and produce an heir. She never sees her father again.
  • Marries Peter III, who is the grandson of Peter the Great. It is not a happy marriage for many reasons, but two primary are that he loves someone else, and she thinks he's an idiot. While the history books claim they had two children, there is evidence that their marriage was never consummated. 
  • Peter III becomes Emperor after 16 years of marriage. Catherine believes he is going to divorce her and marry his mistress. And, as previously mentioned, she thinks he's an idiot and will be a weak leader.
  • Six months into Peter III's reign, Catherine stages a coup d'état while her husband is out of town. Remember - she's German and has no claim to the throne. But since she is the mother of the heir, Paul, (though Paul might not be Peter's child), and she knows she'll be a better leader, she gets the nobility, clergy, and military on her side and takes the throne. See - Badass.  Peter was imprisoned and was assassinated soon after. Whether Catherine was to blame for the assassination hasn't been determined. (Some reports claim suicide.) 
  • She then led Russia into what is known as the "Golden Age."  She was heavily influenced by the ideals of the Enlightenment, and was a proponent of science, literature and art.    
  • She also expanded Russia by 200,000 square miles. Part of this land came from partitioning Poland, whose King was put on the throne by Catherine and was her ex-lover.
   And those are just the highlights. She led a fascinating life, and I'm annoyed I didn't know more about her when I was a child. She was a "take no shit" kind of woman, and while I don't agree with some of her tactics, she did what she thought was best for Russia, and I appreciate her tenacity and dedication to her country. Though, as being from Polish descent, I'm a little annoyed about the partitioning of Poland thing.
   While reading this book took several months, and I think it could have been edited by about 100 pages, I highly recommend reading it. Yes, it got a little dry here and there, but Catherine's story is so fascinating that the dry parts don't last very long. If you like history - or badass women - read this book.

    End Note: I just spoke to my Mom and had her find the Nicholas and Alexandra book from home. It's written by Robert K. Massie!  What a coincidence!   

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

2018! Here we go!

   Yes, I've been slack on my writing recently. I would love to say that I've just been too busy (which is partially true) but I also just haven't had the desire. Post IMLOU, my spare time has been spent curled up with a dog (or two...or five) and knitting.  It's not only relaxing, but I also feel like I've accomplished something!  But as a result, my reading has SEVERELY suffered. I know I finished a few books in 2017 (A Gentleman in Moscow being the most recent), I'm no where near the 52 books in 52 weeks of past years. And I'm OK with that. I can only do so much, you know?
   Anyway, I want to update a few things for 2017, and then move on to what's going on in 2018. Let's start with races, since this is primarily a forum for swimming, biking and running. I did all of two races in 2017. Well, two that I remember anyway. I might have snuck in a 5k in there at some point.  Those kind of blur together after a while. Anyway, I primarily ran the Fargo Half Marathon and Ironman Louisville. Both were wonderful experiences overall, though IMLOU itself was really tough.

FARGO!  Loved this race!

IMLOU - The race that wanted to kill me...

   And here is my race map.  At some point, I'm going to focus on knocking out states again.  But I was able to cross two more off my 50 state list!

Only 32 more states to go!  

   Turning to my newest obsession, I knitted my butt off in 2017. Here are a few of my creations from the past year:

Dad's Christmas present.  The grey is lighter than it looks here.  It's really pretty.

Mom's Christmas present. My first pillow!  (And yes, I know the photo is to the side, but I can't rotate  it. Plus, it doesn't really matter anyway. The pillow is square!

Nancy's Blanket. This was a Christmas gift for my Mother-In-Law. 
I was VERY busy over for the Holidays.

IMLOU hat. I made FIVE of these for my training group. I'm so stinking proud of these!

   I could go on, as I finished several more projects, including two baby blankets, a baby hat, a cowl, and a scarf for Dudley. I really need to learn how to take better photos of these things. New goal for 2018! Learn how to take better iPhone photos!
   That about wraps up my 2017. I did some traveling (and saw HAMILTON!!), but Ironman training pretty much takes up your life, so my activities were primarily limited to training and knitting. Geez- I'm boring! However, since my 2017 was kind of sheltered, I'm stepping out in 2018 and am challenging myself to do something out of the box every month. (I was going to do this once a week, but come on, who am I kidding? Once a month will be plenty.) I'm not sure what all of the activities are yet, but they have to be 1) something that requires me to leave my house, and 2) something unique or make me step out of my comfort zone. This could be something like going to a CLIMB class (which is definitely on the list), or going a new ethnic restaurant and try something I usually wouldn't eat.  Just be more adventurous, in general.  I'd love suggestions, if anyone has any!!     
   Other 2018 Goals: Knit a sweater, learn to sew, complete Chattanooga 70.3 smiling, cross off at least 3 more states from my 50 state list, visit another country and (maybe) qualify for triathlon Olympic Nationals. That last one depends on how bad my work schedule is. Oh - and to complete the FLYING MONKEY MARATHON! Boom- I'm putting that one in writing, so I don't wuss out on it later on.
   Have you made any goals for 2018? What are they?

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Ironman Louisville - Race Recap

   Well, that happened. Ironman Louisville 2017 is in the books. While it wasn't my finest hour, it was a great weekend surrounded by wonderful friends and inspirational people. Here's how it went down.
   Dudley and I arrived Thursday afternoon, and I was so relieved to make it, because I wasn't 100% sure we were going to. My car died twice the day before we left AND we got a flat. Nothing like a little car stress before an already stressful weekend! Fortunately, it wasn't anything a new battery and new tire couldn't fix.
   The first thing we did was head down to race check in. This was the whole point of arriving on Thursday - so I wouldn't have to deal with long lines on Friday, when the majority of athletes arrived.

I'm here!

   The rest of Thursday through Saturday was spent with friends and absorbing the Ironman experience. And, of course, buying all the things. 

My friend Mark from GMU. Go Patriots!

Obligatory IM swag purchases

I didn't buy this, but I thought it was funny. Ironman caftan!!

Kathy and I dropping off our bikes.

That's a lot of bikes!!  

   I also hit the practice swim on Saturday morning. The main reason I was concerned about this race was the swim. I'm a decent swimmer - not crazy fast, but consistent. And I don't generally have issues with open water. However, I did have concerns about the Ohio River, which was where the swim took place. It's just so BIG. And dirty! I've heard countless horror stories about how gross the water is and how sick people got after swimming in it. Years ago, I was supposed to do an Olympic race in the Ohio, and I received text the night before stating that there were abnormally high levels of E. Coli in the river and we had the option of switching to the duathlon, which I did.  So, with that history, I really had a hard time getting in THIS river. (This is called foreshadowing people, so pay attention.) But I suited up an went down to the practice swim, and all was well. 

Look how BIG that river is!! 

   We had lunch and dinner on Saturday with my IMLOU training group, Kathy, Johanna, Marne and Becky, affectionally known as Team Rom-Com (TRC). We adopted the name because we set up our bike trainers together and watch rom-coms while suffering - generally something with Hugh Grant. This is the crazy group that inspired me to sigh up for IMLOU four months ago, and they were with me every step of my journey. I'm very fortunate to have them as training partners and as friends.

Team Rom-Com!  (L-R: Kathy, Marne, me, Johanna and Becky)

   Race day began at 5:00 am, but I was up much earlier than that. I never sleep the night before an event like this. I was pretty calm, actually. I just couldn't sleep. This was a weird race in that I have been in DEEP denial that it was going to happen. Even the morning of, I wasn't crazy nervous. It was more of an attitude of "Well, I guess I'll go do an Ironman now." Which is completely different from my IMCHOO experience. But this was also my second IM, so I should have expected it to be different. 
    All of TRC met up at 6:00 to walk down to the race together. With the race starting around 7:30, we had plenty of time to set up our race gear, get in our wetsuits and relax a bit before the race.

Notice the flag. It was a bit breezy.

   My swim started pretty uneventfully. We had to swim about 800 meters up river in this "protected" area next to Towhead Island. Though the winds were around 12 mph at this point, the current wasn't that bad, and I was able to get into a decent rhythm while keeping my heart rate down. Knowing the Ohio freaked me out, I just wanted to stay calm and steady and maybe kick it up a notch the last 500 meters. And it was going well until I got hit by a competitor, swallowed some of the lovely Ohio River and started coughing. That in itself wasn't that bad. Stuff like that happens in open water all of the time. I recovered and kept going. But then I hit the turn around where we left the protection of Towhead Island and were in the main current. The river was choppier than it had been previously, and I had to work harder, which caused me to breathe deeper and I started coughing again. I apparently had swallowed more water than I had thought, as I could NOT clear my lungs. Mentally, I tried to keep it together. I have a swimming mantra of "Reach, Rotate, Relax" that I repeat over and over. Generally, this settles me, but not this time. Every time I tried to take in a good breath, I'd cough. And then... I couldn't breathe, and my wetsuit felt extremely tight. Suddenly NOTHING else mattered other than getting OUT of that wetsuit. That became my entire focus - not finishing the race, but getting out of that damn wetsuit.
   The closest support kayaker was about 100 feet away. So, I breast-stroked over to her (my head was NOT going back in that water at that point) and held on to her boat while I wiggled my way out of the suit. I can't tell you how good it felt to be free of that thing. I asked the kayaker if I could leave my suit with her, and she said she'd get it back to me at the end of the race. Honestly, I didn't care if I ever saw it again. 
   I still had about 1.5 miles to swim. Fortunately, I like swimming in colder water so the temperature didn't bother me. Considering my options now were to swim until the end or drop out, I started to swim. And swim. And swim. I was told to not use the bridges as landmarks because they are deceptive as to how close they are, and it's true. Those stupid bridges never seemed to get any closer. I tried to use the buoys as measurements, but they were extremely sparse. Finally, I saw the green roof of Joe's Crab Shack, which I knew was the swim exit, and that became my light at the end of the tunnel. My mantra became "Green Roof, Green Roof, Green Roof." After an eternity, I reached the stairs and a volunteer pulled me out of the water where I almost collapsed. Though I didn't think it at the time, it had taken every ounce of energy I had to make it out of the water. All I wanted to do when I hit land was lay down in a ball and go to sleep. I had nothing left....and my day had only just started.

Sheer exhaustion.

   Normally after a swim, I make some sort of an attempt to jog to transition. We are being timed, after all. Not Sunday. I walked the entire time, trying to regain some sort of composure. Don't get me wrong- I never thought I was going to drown, but literally, my survival instinct kicked in while I was in the river and I think I kind of went into a mild shock once I stopped swimming. I couldn't get my heart rate down, and I would still cough up river when I would try to take a deep breath. To add to the fun, I get these things called optical migraines. If you have never experienced one of these, picture a zig-zag formation that starts out very small in one of your eyes that proceeds to get larger and larger until your entire field of vision is blurred. They basically blind you in one eye for about 20-30 minutes, and then they go away. I rarely get them, and when I do, they are triggered from being tired and looking at a computer screen too long. Apparently, stress causes them too, because I got one while taking my bike out of transition. So, not only did I not have any energy, I was also blind in one eye. Awesome.

I have no idea how I'm functioning here.

   The first 10 miles of the IMLOU bike course is flat, and is basically the only true flat part of the course.  I felt like crap, but my plan was to try to recover as much as I could on this section before I hit the hills and while the wind (which had picked up) was at my back. I felt like I was crawling. EVERYONE was passing me. It was frustrating because the bike is my thing! To have everyone pass was pretty deflating, but I knew if I wanted to get through the rest of my very long day, I had to be smart. I was riding on fumes and any energy I had needed to be saved for when I hit the hills, especially on the second lap. 
   Unfortunately, I never really recovered. This seems dramatic to say, but every pedal stroke was a struggle. I had scouted this course several times over the past few months, so I knew it. It was hilly, but I had worked on my hill strength and knew I could stay in aero except for a few hills. That all went out the window. I had to sit up on every hill. Truthfully, I wanted to walk some of them. Everything was SUCH an effort. It was exhausting. And that was before the weather really turned bad.


   I guess I should touch on the weather. As I mentioned, the wind had picked up by the time we got on the bike (not that 12 mph during the swim is calm). Throughout the day, we had sustained winds of 20 mph with wind gusts of 30-45 mph. It was ridiculous. The temperature also couldn't make up its mind in that we had a high of 80 and then it dropped 30 degrees. I think it was about 54 when I got off of the bike. All of this, with still no energy, a cough that didn't go away until mile 60 and yet another optical migraine. 
   I did have two moments of feeling OK. Miles 60 - 80 were pretty good. I had finally worked the river gunk out of my lungs and could take a deep breath without coughing, I could see with both eyes and had a bit of strength. Though, it might have just been a caffeine buzz because I downed a baby Coke at Special Needs. I was also out of the wind for a bit, which was nice. But mile 80 meant getting back on 42, which was the last 30 miles home and it was all in a headwind. This was also when the worst of the storms hit. I got rained on, but missed the hail (fortunately). There was debris everywhere. Wet leaves, pine needles and acorns littered the roads. I actually got hit by a falling tree branch! It just brushed my leg, but it really could have ruined my day. The last 10 miles were pretty decent, too. Granted, I knew I was almost done, so that helped.
   I pulled into transition and gladly gave my bike to a volunteer, again not caring if I ever saw it again. Unlike the swim exit when I was the only one walking to transition - mostly everyone was walking off the bike. The wind and storms had deflated everyone. I know I wasn't the only one who was wondering how they were going to get through a marathon.

   I was able to talk to Dudley for a few seconds while coming out of transition, and I told him about my day. He asked if I was going to be able to finish, and I said "Yes, but slowly." That urge to just lay down and go to sleep that I felt after the swim was still with me. It's funny because while I had no idea how I was going to run 26.2 miles, quitting never entered my mind. I wasn't trying to be a bad-ass - I just knew that dropping out wasn't an option. So, like the swim and bike, my only choice was to move forward. So I did. Slowly. I picked a pace that felt like something I could sustain for the marathon, with a plan to walk through every aid station. This is what I did for IMCHOO, and it worked great. Of course, right before I left transition, my training buddy Marne came bopping out of T2 like the damn Energizer Bunny. I would have loved to have run with her, but I couldn't follow. I just shuffled along as I watched her run off. Sigh.
   The good news is that the IMLOU run is as flat as an Ironman can be. If it had been hilly, I would have been screwed. I plodded along with my slow pace and ticked off the miles. I don't recall a whole lot of the first lap other than it was cold and windy, and that I just wanted to stop. I saw many of my friends out on the course, which gave me a small boost. While they looked miserable too, they were crushing the race. I could tell that some of them were going to have really good finishing times. 
   I had messed up my Garmin when I was in transition, so I was a little off on my milage and times. Ironman didn't have consistent mile markers (what is up with that, BTW?), but I knew I had to hit the half-way mark at a certain time to make the race time cutoff. I didn't pay any attention to the time cutoffs before the race because I didn't think I needed to worry about them, but with the day I was having, I kind of started to worry.
   When I got to around mile 16, I walked out of an aid station with a woman and asked her if she knew what the time cut-offs were. She assured me I was fine. And with that, any remaining motivation I had for the day was gone. We started to talk a little bit, and I thought "I'll just walk a mile with her (she was injured and couldn't run) and then start running again." But then one mile became two, two became three and then I pretty much walked the last half of the race. It wasn't that I couldn't run - I just was having a much more enjoyable time talking to my new friend Kara. And since my times were already shot to hell, I just kept right on walking. I know, it's not very Ironmany of me, but at the time, I didn't care. I was exhausted, cold and bitter. This was the most fun I had had all day, so I kept walking. And yes, I'm kind of regretting it now, but I'm not going to dwell on it. After the day I had, I was pretty happy that I had made it as far as I had without quitting. 
   At mile 25, I told Kara good-bye and started my slow shuffle towards the finish. I have a thing about running in the last mile, and I wanted to continue that tradition here. I could hear the roar of the finish as I grew closer and closer, until finally, I turned the corner of 4th Street and saw the finish line. Thank God. I was done.

Officially a 2-time Ironman.

   I don't really have anything more to add about my day. It was long, and hard, and not a whole lot of fun. While there is a part of me that is annoyed I chose to walk that back half, another part of me is pretty proud that I didn't drop out after the swim. Because I really wanted to. As my dear friend Kathy said, "Ironman is not all smiles." And it's not. I was very spoiled by my perfect IMCHOO experience, and I knew that. I almost didn't want to sign up for another Ironman because I knew I would never have a race as perfect as IMCHOO. Boy, was I right. IMLOU was the complete opposite. But I survived and for some reason haven't ruled out doing another Ironman, so that must say something. Not anytime soon, mind you, but I absolutely can see me doing another Ironman in 2019 or 2020.  

Happy RomCom finishers!!  (We missed you, Marne!)

   Thank you to Dudley, for being the best sherpa a girl could ask for. He even managed to get my wetsuit back before my race was over! Love you, D. Thanks also to Andrew at FTP for getting me fit enough to finish with only 4 months notice after a 9 month lay-off. Shockingly, until the run, I wasn't "that" far off my pace. If I hadn't been in decent shape, things could have ended much worse than it did, especially in the swim. TRC - you ladies got me into this mess, and I love you all anyway. I hope we have many more stupid adventures together. Mark - Congrats on your first IM. You crushed it. And to my friends from all over who supported me both at the race and virtually - Thank You. You might not think that seeing a familiar face on the course or knowing that someone is tracking you online makes that big of a difference, but it does. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Ironman Louisville Countdown

   Today is October 11th. I'm racing Ironman Louisville on the 15th. Four days. Four freaking days. I've been doing ok mentally in regards to this race, at least until yesterday. I took about nine months off prior to registering for IMLOU, so I'm not as fit as I was for IMCHOO, but I feel good about my ability to complete the course in the allotted 16.5 hour timeframe. My training has been consistent (Thanks, Andrew!) and I can tell I'm stronger than I was 100 days ago. I also have some AMAZING friends (TEAM ROM-COM 4EVER!) who are also doing the race and have kept me accountable over the past few months.

   But even with all of the training, and knowing the race is in a few days, I've been in DEEP denial about what is going to happen this weekend. Even as of two nights ago, I was thinking "I guess I should start packing," and then went back to knitting and binge-watching Gilmore Girls for the fourth time. This is a complete turn-around from IMCHOO. I had everything all packed a ready to go days before I left. I read the Athlete Guide several times. This time? I printed it and started to read it, but then moved on to something else by the second page. I still haven't read it completely. And I wasn't freaked out by it at all. I've been pretty stress-free about the entire thing.
   That is, until yesterday afternoon. That's when everything hit the fan and now I'm completely freaking out. Here are a few things that are stressing me out right now: 1) My car (that we're taking to Louisville) died yesterday afternoon. We thought it was just a battery, but it's still not running properly so Dudley is running around trying to take care of that this morning. We might have to rent a car, which is fine, but this weekend is going to be crazy expensive already and I really don't want to add to that total. 2) The weather in IMLOU is going suck. So much for a nice, crisp Autumn day. Nope! It's going to be in the 80's with high humidity, 10-20 mph wind and, my favorite, a 60% chance of RAIN! I know that everyone will experience the same race conditions, but I have some great carbon race wheels that work wonderfully when it's dry. But get them wet? Good luck stopping because the brakes won't work. And IMLOU is a hilly course (much worse than IMCHOO, in my opinion), and I'll definitely need my brakes! So, now I'm debating on whether to rent some other race wheels that have aluminum rims so I have the ability to stop or slow down if needed. And I know, I shouldn't use my brakes when racing, but I've ridden this course three times, there are times when I'll need my brakes!  3) I haven't swam in my wetsuit yet this year. I know, this is COMPLETELY my fault, but I was in denial. I always thought - I'll go to the lake next week. And now it's race week and I haven't put the thing on yet. Hope it still fits!!  4) We have an elderly dog who has dementia and I don't want to leave him. We have an awesome pet-sitter who moves into our house when we're gone, so he'll be in good hands, but I still don't like leaving him. 5) I'm racing an Ironman in FOUR DAYS! GAHHH!!
   I need to figure all of this stuff out, and quick, because we're leaving for Louisville tomorrow morning. I'm bib #1166 if anyone wants to track me. Ironman has an amazing tracker app that is free if you want to see where I am on the course at any time. Wish me luck!


Friday, September 1, 2017

What's Kristine Reading? August Edition

   I'm still knitting like crazy trying to finish up gifts for the Holidays, so my reading has been limited, but I'm still keeping up with my book group reads. This month, we read "The Shadow of the Wind" by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. "Shadow" is the first book in the "Cemetery of Forgotten Books" series, of which there are four. Well, technically, there are three books and a short story right now.  From what I understand, the fourth book is due to be published in 2018.

   ANYWAY, "Shadow" is about a young boy named Daniel Sempere who is being raised by his father (his mother recently died), a bookstore owner. When Daniel is around 10 (? I think), his father takes him to a secret library of rare and, for all intents and purposes, forgotten books (hence, the name of the series). This library is huge with thousands of books. Daniel is told to wander around and select a book - a rite of passage in the Sempere family. The book he selects? "The Shadow of the Wind" by Julian Carax.
   Daniel loves the book, and basically becomes obsessed with finding out more about Carax and his other works (I can totally relate with this feeling). And this is where the story gets interesting - someone has mysteriously destroyed every copy of Carax's books, except for what was stored in the "Cemetery."  Daniel's fixation on discovering what happened to Carax and who has been burning his books, and why, takes Daniel on a multi-year quest filled with unusual characters, intrigue and murder.
  All of this SHOULD be a set-up for a great book. And a lot of people think it's fantastic (I recently saw "Shadow" on a list titled something like "Books You Need to Read Before You Die.").  For me? It was a little slow in many parts which could have been fixed with editing. At almost 500 pages, it was WAY too long. And I'm not afraid of a long book. I read "Gone with the Wind" in a weekend, and I can burn my way though a Harry Potter book in no time. But reading "Shadow" was like pulling teeth for me. Which was annoying because I love the premise of the book and it was very well written. It just needed to be about 100 pages shorter.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Knitting for a Cause

   I've been knitting a lot recently. A lot. As in - I didn't finish a book in July because I've been knitting so much. CRAZY, I know. But I'm working on some things for gifts and knitting takes time.  I need to get into audiobooks so I can keep up with my "reading." Oh - and I'm also training for an Ironman. Have I mentioned that? Yeah - Ironman Louisville. It's a long story as to how I ended up doing this race, but I'm in and kind of doing a Couch-to-Ironman program. It's not THAT extreme, as I had been running some, but until recently, I hadn't been to the pool or really on my bike in about nine months. So, I wasn't exactly starting in tip-top shape, but I'm getting there.
   But that's all for a different post. What I want to talk about today is knitting. Specifically, knitting for a cause, or causes. One thing I didn't realize when I first started knitting is that many, many non-profit groups would love some donated knitted items. I frequently see posts out on social media about hospitals needing baby hats or blankets. Since I have a lot of friends who knit or crochet, I wanted to collect information on charities in need, in case anyone wanted to donate something.
  • Oasis Center ( - My group of knitting friends donated items to them last year. It's an organization that helps at-risk teens, including homeless teens and runaways. They could use hats, scarves and blankets. 
  • Knitted Knockers ( - This group provides soft, comfortable knit prosthetics for breast cancer survivors.
  • Tennessee Kidney Foundation ( - Needs hats and fistula sleeves for patients receiving kidney transplants. If anyone has a pattern for a fistula sleeve, please let me know! 
  • Comfort Cases ( - Needs small throw blankets (40" x 60" max) for duffels given to children entering foster care.
  • Local hospitals - In need of hats, socks, booties or blankets for preemies in the NICUs, and also hats for chemotherapy patients.
  • Halos of Hope - ( Collects and donates hats for chemotherapy patients nationwide. This site has patterns too!!
   And that's just a few. If you google "where can I donate knitted items in Nashville" all sorts of charities pop up. In fact, the organization Knit & Crochet TN ( focuses on creating knitted items for Nashville charities.  If you're involved with an organization that needs items, please let me know! We'll donate to you, too!  Now get knitting! 


Monday, July 17, 2017

What's Kristine Reading? Belated June 2017 Edition

   Well, June just kind of snuck by me and I didn't write a review. That's not to say that I haven't been reading - I just haven't been writing about reading. But I have a really good book for this month. It will rip your heart out, but it's good. It's "The Girls Who Went Away" by Ann Fessler.

   This non-fiction book tells the stories of the unmarried girls and women who gave up their children for adoption in the period between the 1945's and 1973. You know - those girls who went to go visit their "out of town aunt" for a few months, and then mysteriously returned. These are the true stories about what really happened after they left town.  
   Let me give you the set up for the book. Ann Fessler, the author and adoptee herself,  interviewed more than 100 women who had given up their newborn babies during the above time period. The time period is important for several reasons. For one, it's post World War II. Unlike the previous Depression Era when people were just trying to get by financially, class and social standing became very important in the post WWII Era. People worked very hard to maintain appearances as being upright, moral Americans. Having a teenage daughter get pregnant just wouldn't do. So, they would ship their daughters off to a home for unwed mothers for a few months, lie to their neighbors about what was going on, and then act as if nothing happened after the girls returned. The end date, 1973, was the year that Roe v. Wade was decided and legalized abortion in the United States.   
   There is no other way to describe this book other than heartbreaking. While the details of the women's story change, the basic facts remain the same: 1) girl gets pregnant,  2) parents ship her off to home for unwed mothers to avoid social scandal, 3) girl is treated horribly at "home" by social workers, employees or members of the church (including withheld medical attention during delivery), 4) girl has baby taken away even if the girl wants to keep the child, and 5) girl told to never speak of it again.
   The aftereffect of this trauma for these women was also consistent, even decades later. Though manifested in different ways, the baby they gave up (or were forced to give up) for adoption haunted them through the rest of their lives. Some could never get over the sense of betrayal from their parents, and would never trust anyone again. Others became overly-protective of their later children because they were always afraid someone would come take them away. But none of them ever forgot about their first child. The one who was taken away from them. It's just tragic.
   It's hard to recommend a book that is so emotionally difficult to read, especially when it's non-fiction, but I highly recommend "The Girls Who Went Away." Just have a box of tissue nearby when you do.