Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Toothbrush ablutions

Settling into life with two young girls has been little trouble.  Bed time happens with fair regularity.  Chores have been divvied out and get done.  Mothers of the regular age may be stunned to learn these two take care of the kitchen after supper AND sweep the floor.  Just get up and do it.  Janice is in charge of her kitchen and I don’t intend to look into her methods.

Laura’s room is so tidy and organized that some familial OCD genes may be popping out.  Emily’s room bears testament to teen age occupation, however, so there’s hope for Laura. 

When they changed last July from house guests to house kids we scrambled a little to get them up to snuff.  They can recite the number of past due vaccinations they were stuck with, I know, and we made sure there was enough underwear in the drawers, clean socks, new sneakers, stuff like that.

I did play office tag with their dentist before I was able to nail down an appointment earlier this month.  I met Dr. Bob, and he came right to the point.  Dental hygiene was in short supply in those two little mouths.  We knew our final evening admonition, “Brush your teeth,” probably was not well followed, and we were too right.

All teeth got a good cleaning, and Dr. Bob called in grandma and explained his findings.  A far better job must be done on both accounts.  Proper tooth brushing had been demonstrated and was required morning and night.  Dr. Bob told them their attention would become a good habit in less than a week.

Ah, good intentions.  They can leave like the morning dew.  Over the last couple weeks the old people in the house prodded and prompted, but young people evaded us as effectively as they evaded tooth brushing where they used to live.  As grandma parted with three hundred dollars to spring them from Dr. Bob’s office, and that was only for annual x-rays and semi-annual cleaning, grandma was not pleased.

After we all were seated and ready to eat recently, I opened the discussion again.

“There is a shortage of tooth brushing happening, as we all know.  We also know it’s a good habit waiting to be developed.  So, here’s how we’re going to do it.  You two will brush morning and night.  Before you go to school you will breathe toothpaste breath and dental rinse breath on the adult of the morning.  Before you go to bed you will breathe toothpaste breath and dental rinse breath on me. If you fail to do this one morning or evening between now and October 31st, there will be no trick or treating.”

Emily grinned, and Laura’s eyes grew round.  But now they both smell like tooth paste at bed time, and I’m sure they will sail on through and past Halloween.  Going for the habit.  And the candy.  Both of them laugh so hard about breathing on grandma, who tells them they smell better than Dewars on the rocks, that I told them I would write a blog about them and toothpaste.  And I have.  Emily will read it, as she is one of my fans.

Two housekeeping notes:  Thank you to everyone for reading and commenting.  I enjoy your thoughts more than you will ever know.  I am going to Wisconsin for a week and probably will have dogs and cats and friends to talk about when I come back.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

An A for a B

Yesterday’s story of a grade was not typical.  Here’s an offsetting story of my journey to a BS in Accounting.

I have always been fortunate.  Things work out for the best, on the whole.  I have one great example to prove this.

I went back to school for an accounting degree and added a new dimension to a complicated life.  In many ways life seemed roaring at me and I was going against the current.  My brother died one fall, my father the next winter.  I was in a new job, I needed to succeed, and I needed to add that BS in Accounting to my credentials.  I crammed all the courses into a very short time, two summers and one regular year of night classes, as I recall.

The absolute most hands down difficult course I took was Business Math.  It outdid even Statistics.  It was six weeks of Saturdays, eight a.m. to noon, in an elementary school, seated at a desk where my knees touched the underside of the writing surface.  The men in the class just sat on top of the desks and balanced their notebooks on their knees.

The first class covered resolving business models using algebra.  And I needed this to graduate?!  What was I going to do?  I last used algebra in the ninth grade. When the teacher galloped past proportions, which I still remembered, at about nine a.m., I knew I was a goner.  I kept turning the pages and taking notes, but I knew I would be found out the next Saturday when class would begin with an exam of the material covered the previous Saturday.

I went home that first Saturday and immediately called my best friend, Carol.  I needed to see Frank, the engineer.  Perhaps there was hope.  Nothing in that book frightened Frank.  For five Saturday afternoons he patiently explained what I was doing and how to solve the problems.  We’re talking matrices here, long before anyone made a movie.  I literally did a core dump for the exam each Saturday morning and moved on to the next phase of Business Math.  Calculus.  No problem.  A little trig.  Frank would explain it later.

The final Saturday morning would be the final exam.  In spite of Frank’s assurances I doubted I could reproduce the results of the previous Saturday mornings when I had only transferred a week’s worth of memorizing to a test paper.  I knew come that last Saturday I could hit all the wrong notes and expose myself for the math fraud I actually felt like.

Friday afternoon at work my phone rang.  It was my mom, who had my kids for the summer.  Shelly had jumped off the neighbor’s roof and broke her arm.  She was in the hospital; the compound fracture could not be set until Saturday, under general anesthesia.  Sometime that evening, going down to see Shelly and then resolving all the hospital details I remembered my exam the next morning. 

I cannot even remember how I tracked down that Business Math teacher in another county, after business hours, but I did.  I got him on the phone, explained I would be at the hospital at the scheduled exam time, and could we possibly find a time for me to have a make-up exam.

There was a very long pause.  Then he said if I were willing to trade my A for a B, he would waive the final exam.  And that’s how I passed Business Math.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Grade inflation

Many years ago I went back to school to become an accountant and earn more money. I needed to feed two children, keep them housed and clothed.  Mastering a profession seemed sensible, so I went back to the halls of ivy.  Actually, a beautiful little undergraduate college, Lake Erie College in Painesville. 

This was in the late seventies, I was in my mid thirties and an anomaly.   I convinced the administration to give me a degree based only on taking core courses.  I already had undergraduate and graduate degrees in English and didn’t have time to sit their requirements too! Toward June, after I had completed the accounting requirements I received a cap and gown order form in the mail.  I wrote back to mail me the degree and the dean was so surprised he called me.  I explained I’d been through the ceremony before and couldn’t see taking a day off work.  “Oh,” he said, and mailed it.

I took evening classes, summer classes, weekend classes, and this yielded an interesting assortment of teachers.  Summer professors especially might be from other schools, taking on a part time assignment. I remember a macro economics prof as if it were yesterday.

Very short, very stocky, from Boston.  He looked like a fisherman.  He dressed like a fisherman.  Dark khaki pants, a motley blue fisherman style pullover sweater, a rib knit stocking cap he never took off, heavy boots.  In my mind’s eye I associate a red bandana with him, too; pocket or neck, I don’t remember.  There were no “r’s” in his words and he compensated with attitude.  Instead of the usual desk chair at the front of the room he sat on a high stool beside the desk and lectured.

His was a six week summer course and he immediately assigned an essay to be completed and turned in at the end as our final grade.  He gave some general requirements; I knew exactly what I would write about and started my research.  The year was 1977, the country was suffering a gasoline crisis due to the Arab oil embargo.    Conserving and recycling already were hot subjects and I thought it was time to put one of my pet ideas on paper.

The idea was people should be able to ride bicycles safely, to work, to shop, for recreation.  I wanted bicycle roads built using abandoned rail ways, and extended into city centers.  I located rail lines that could be used. I calculated oil savings that would put OPEC right out of business, in addition to making us a healthy nation.  It was a very good paper and I was quite proud of it.

The dour little professor returned our papers the last night of class.  Mine was on top and had a very large C+ scrawled across the front page in red ink.  He held it high for all the room to see.  He went on, “Grade inflation is epidemic in American colleges and universities.  I am taking a stand against it.  In any college, including Boston University, where I teach, this paper would be graded A+.  Twenty years ago this paper would have received a C for average.  I am very generous in giving it a C+.” 

He walked about putting papers on desks.  Each subsequent grade was lower than mine.  The bastard.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Friday, October 19, 2012

E-Z Pass Go


We have a great system of highways available to us here in Northeastern Ohio. Back in the days I travelled to art shows to make a living we were eight hours from most big cities east of the Mississippi.  Friends in upstate New York would speak enviously of some shows we travelled to.  “Man, I wish we could do that one.  But it takes two days to get there.”  It does, if you live in New York State. Or Maryland.  Or Virginia.

Tolls on toll roads were never fun, however.  Once I left home with only Tom and Jan’s purple velvet Seven Crown bag of euchre change and a credit card between myself and Philadelphia at the other end of the Pennsylvania turnpike.

Somewhere in the ‘90’s the New York Thruway began E-Z Pass.  A transponder on the windshield talked to a receiver in the booth and deducted the toll from a prepaid account.  It seemed such a good idea, but I just didn’t get around to it.  The Tappan Zee brought me to my knees.  One Friday afternoon there was one E-Z Pass lane, all the rest were cash.  On Sunday evening there was one cash lane off the island, all the rest were E-Z Pass.  When I arrived at the George Washington, another toll bridge, at midnight, and still seven hours from home I knew the next thing I would do.  Get an E-Z Pass.

E-Z Pass is brilliant.  Slow down approaching the toll booth, the gate is down, the red light says STOP.  Roll slowly through the lane, the gate goes up, the green light announces E Z PASS GO and zing, you are through and gone ahead of all those fools who don’t have E-Z Pass.  Simple things kept us smiling.

E-Z Pass spread.  Reaching for the change in the ash tray one day, and seeing a new gate on the Garden State Parkway:  E-Z Pass.  Yes!  Then E-Z Pass got us through Pennsylvania all the way from the Ohio line to Breezewood.  A few months later and E-Z Pass took us all the way to Philadelphia.  I came home once on the West Virginia turnpike and found E-Z Pass had come over the weekend; I could slip through another gate, E-Z PASS GO.  It worked on all the toll bridges in New York State.  It worked in Massachusetts. Big change in a few short years.

After I retired I turned in my transponder. I travelled west to visit Ann in Wisconsin, and those toll booths on the Tri-State in Illinois were like a trip back to the dark ages.  Then one day, I-Pass.  For anyone who still had an E-Z Pass transponder, no more toll booths.  As I didn’t, I ordered my own I-Pass.  In their redesign of the Tri-State Tollway in Illinois those civil engineers gave those of us with transponders up by the rear view mirror half a dozen lanes and blue lights looking down, able to read our signal at fifty five miles an hour.  Cough.  Cough.  I subscribe to keeping up with the traffic, slightly over seventy for most of us.  I can log onto my account and read my history at will.  Those blue lights have never missed me going by.

When Indiana added E-Z Pass they called it I-Zoom.  Actually a joke, but what can be expected from a privatized toll road.  It’s a lane and gate system, but it works and gets me through Indiana.  So, the dots are connected from the Atlantic to the Mississippi, from West Virginia to Illinois.  But, wait…

What about Ohio?  It was years behind.  In fact, for some time the Ohio Turnpike commissioners felt they could conquer twenty years of E-Z Pass history with a little card called Ready Pay.  Stop at the booth and insert your Ready Pay card. Unbelievable.  My transponder actually cut half an hour or more from my trip to Wisconsin to visit Ann, but to visit Linda, less than sixty miles away, I still carried loose change in my ash tray.

I only used the ash tray for change, but it did collect road dust, and the occasional coffee spill.  On one return trip from Linda’s I had only the exact toll and it did require prying some pennies up from the bottom of the ashtray.  I tilted the toll into the outstretched hand and took my foot off the brake.

“I can’t take this money.  It’s dirty.”

I held out my hand and the money rolled back.  I took my foot off the brake again and rolled a few inches.

“You haven’t paid your toll.”

I tilted the change back into her hand.  She opened the gate. 

I like to think I helped expedite E-Z Pass on the Ohio Turnpike.  Ohio now issues transponders and we can E-Z Pass Go through any toll booth.  The Ohio Turnpike charges those with an Ohio issued transponder forty cents per month for the privilege.   My sister didn’t believe that until she saw it on her monthly credit card statement for her transponder.  I suggested she turn it in and get one from New York, or Illinois.  She probably won’t.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A pint’s a pound the world around

My parents used to say things that made my head swim in their incomprehensibility.  I could not grasp the pint and the pound, especially when confused with other sayings such as a pint of feathers weighs less than a pint of lead.   Although a pound of each still weighed the same.

Another mystery saying:  we eat what we can and what we can’t, we can.  I did understand that a drip a second was eighty gallons a year.  My parents were big on waste not; I could visualize a dripping faucet.

Yesterday at supper Jan said Patti was mighty happy for all those acorns she hauled over for Patti’s fat chipmunks and deer to eat this winter.  In fact, the haul was so heavy Patti helped carry them up a flight of steps.

“How heavy were they?” right out of Laura’s mouth, and Jan said she and Emily had filled three gallon bags with all the acorns gathered so far.  “A pint’s a pound the world around” came right out of my mouth.  I felt like my mother.  But those two girls were on it like a squirrel on an acorn.

Emily helped Laura work out eight pints in a gallon and it was downhill from there.  “Twenty four pounds!” Laura announced in triumph.  “And lots more are falling!”

Patti’s friends will be deep on her porch, begging acorns this winter.  I wonder if she makes them finish before they leave.  I’m sure a few squirrels and a few chipmunks have made off with the acorns.  Jan may be responsible for an oak forest in Brecksville.  Laura and Emily will be even more responsible.  And those four legged friends of Patty should be sending thank you notes to two little girls close enough to the ground to pick up acorns and send them to the land of maple and ash trees.  

Last week's haul

Monday, October 15, 2012

Elephants in my life

Elephants are magnificent animals.  We’ve seen them, perhaps, at the zoo or the circus and realized the enormous size from a reasonable distance away.  I’ve been close enough to elephants to pat a trunk several times in my life, and actually did once.

In 1974 an arena was build in Richfield, Ohio, the Richfield Coliseum. It was home to the Cleveland Cavaliers and other more minor sport teams; hosted all manner of concerts and, of course, the circus.  There is a railroad track down in the valley, in Peninsula, at the bottom of the hill from Richfield.  I don’t know how the circus came to other towns, but here it came to Peninsula and went up the hill to Richfield.

The coliseum closed in the early nineties, but we came here in time to watch the last circus arrive and move up the hill.  That was an event in itself, as you can imagine.  People came from miles about and lined the highway for hours to watch the elephants go up the hill.  They came back several days later to watch the elephants march back down the hill to board the train in the valley.  Many other animals went past, their cages on open trucks, but they lacked the presence of the mighty elephants, trunk to tail, moving slowly past.

As if that was not enough for a lifetime, I had an even closer elephant encounter some years later.  I was exhibiting at Lincoln Center, with both Beth and Ann riding shotgun, and we stayed just across the GW in Ft. Lee, New Jersey.  The last morning Ann looked out the window down onto the parking lot and told us to please hurry over and confirm she was looking at elephants.  We hustled down and approached the huge rig parked at the back of the lot.

Two elephants were being led around the lot for exercise.  They were en route to their next engagement and the crew stayed the night at the motel.  We were allowed to approach, under the trainer’s direction, and look straight up at an elephant who responded by patting us down with a trunk.  It was an impressive moment.

My last elephant encounter predates these two by many, many years, but saved for last.  I lived in Willoughby, just down the road from Mentor, I was married, Beth was going on two and I was very pregnant with Shelly.  Oh, and it was summer and it was hot.  My husband was a salesman and had been given tickets to a small circus performance to be held at the Mentor High School.
I did not want to go.  I never cared for circuses, I was sick every day of that pregnancy and the thought of enduring circus smells while supervising a tot for several hours was overwhelming.  I could not persuade him to take a friend to use up that other ticket, or just take Beth, the hell with the other ticket, and so there I sat on floor level bleachers, early, so we would miss nothing, on a hot summer night.  All I recall of the entire event was the parade of the elephants around the gymnasium.  They were like a grey wall in front of us; I held a terrorized child on my lap.  I heard my husband curse and looked up in time to see a tail lift and an elephant patty descend.    It landed directly on his feet.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Buck i

The football season is eight or nine weeks in, and Laura has missed nothing.  She and Uncle Tom have attended every game, home and away.  Together with the other band festivals, the two of them are as busy as Emily and the band.  They have acquired their own group to sit with, and Laura is trying to whistle between her hands like a friend of hers does.  As if that almighty whistle from behind her teeth she has already demonstrated for me isn’t loud enough.

Laura bristled the first time one of those adults she lives with suggested the night would be too cold for her to sit through the game; apparently if it’s good for Uncle Tom, it’s good for Laura.  She layers up and cheers her team to eight victories in nine games.  And goes to every band show, too. 

Yesterday was the holy grail of high school band performances, the Buckeye Invitational.  Held at Ohio State, on the field of Woody Hayes, featuring enough noise to make any band aficionado happy, and concluding with the Ohio State University Marching Band.  Tom and Laura dropped Emily off at her high school to ride the band bus, and the two of them high tailed it for Columbus.  I sent Laura with the camera.

Laura arrives

The field

The stands

The fifty yard line

Emily's blue and white at 2:30

There they are on the score board

And on the field

One of their marching formations

I am humbled

The Pride of the Buckeyes

The other band Laura came to see

The “i” is dotted

More than thirty bands played, a new one every fifteen minutes. Home at midnight, and one sleepy little girl went up to bed, while Uncle Tom went back to the high school to meet Emily’s bus.  Laura filled the card and consumed the battery with her pictures.  And she saw what she went to see—the Buck i dotted.

Friday, October 12, 2012

On becoming a citizen

Ten year old Laura announced recently that she favored Mr. Romney for president.  There’s little television for them to watch, and no more radio than the weather radio, so I asked her what brought her to that conclusion.  “Phyllis likes him,” she said.

It’s a pleasure to have children underfoot again.  In the giant scheme, they don’t change much.  A little more precocious, perhaps, but growing consciousness remains a treasure.  I love that every little child wants to grow up to save the world.  I remember Spiderman this summer, casting the net on Dr. Octopus, or worse.

I’ve teased many of my nieces and nephews about becoming citizens.  Even my daughter admits she has become a citizen.  To achieve that status you only need to begin contributing to the society in which you live, paying back. 

Ideas need tested, sorted, adopted, discarded on the way to growing up. I recall suffering through many of them with my daughters, years ago.  And watching phases that made me smile.  When she drove Grumbelly, twenty five years ago, Beth certainly was a communist: from each according to his means, to each according to his need.  That made me smile as it would never come to be.  She put in years of work and experience to buy and then make her little restaurant, The Grovewood, an award winning little place.  She reckons she has improved her corner of the world doing something she’s proud of that also provides a living for thirty people.  Or, according to mom, she’s a citizen.

Laura lives in a house where the prevalent political current is generally against her, although I have to admit, if she could vote, our household would come out a zero.  It will be interesting to watch the phases as she goes along. 

Sadly the debates are televised past her bed time.  I wonder what her opinion would be of last night’s vice presidential affair.  She and I have watched some History Channel programs and I am intrigued by her grasp and often interesting analysis of the information.  Reminiscent of my daughters making and acting on opinions.  There was a trial bus service to the county in the seventies.  It went on the ballot for funding and both girls, who were near Laura’s current age, campaigned for the issue.   It failed and they were disappointed.  The bus could take them to the library and the mall on four wheels, not the two each peddled.  Of course today, almost forty years later, there are LakeTran busses and bus stops everywhere in Lake County.

I’m thinking I may let Laura stay up late for the next debate.  I wonder if anything she sees or hears will overcome her very best friend’s presidential endorsement.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sew with me

Sew with me, I'll sew with you
And so we will sew together
As we get along.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Crossword competition

Aunt Laura worked the crossword puzzle every morning, after breakfast.  It took her one cup of coffee percolated on the stove top and two Lucky Strikes Monday through Wednesday.  The rest of the week took another cup of coffee and maybe another cigarette before she folded up the completed work and put her pen away.

Aunt Laura was the sister closest in age to our Dad, and his favorite.  She absorbed the same childhood knocks of abandonment as her two older brothers, and survived with the same tough spirit of getting on.  Unlike Dad’s other two sisters, Aunt Laura held our Mom at a slight distance.
Mom exuded a kind of family glue that kept all her sisters-in-law connected.  The others were more humble, and accepted everything about Mom.  But Aunt Laura was a little wary.  There was a kind of unspoken rivalry concerning everything they had in common, from quilting to crossword puzzles.

Each of them produced delicate, beautiful needlework; each pieced and quilted exquisite quilts.  But for Mom there was always an undercurrent of competition and nowhere more than the daily crossword puzzle.

Now, they lived twenty five miles apart, so it’s not like Mom could nip next door and see if Aunt Laura had finished the crossword.  But Mom visited around among her sisters-in-law often and two or three times a month she could see the folded paper on the corner of the table, the finished crossword exposed.  Well before lunch.

Back in her home Mom had the very same Akron Beacon Journal crossword to complete.  The puzzles were less difficult at the beginning of the week, but the difficulty ramped up as the days went on.  Mom had a dictionary to check her spelling, a thesaurus to find words and a couple of books that claimed to contain every crossword word in the universe. 

These well thumbed books found their home here when we set up housekeeping in 1988.  Mom still visited her sisters-in-law, and still fretted that Laura would be having no problem with the day’s puzzle.  It was her challenge to herself to keep up.  She was the sister-in-law still driving and travelling, still sewing, who had learned to weave, but who must still compete and hope to do the crossword as quickly, completely and accurately as her sister-in-law.

In the six years between Aunt Laura’s death in 1991 and Mom’s in ‘97, our mother never gave up her daily crossword puzzle.  Perhaps the competition would continue in the hereafter!  She certainly kept it alive in the here and now.  To celebrate Mom’s quiet competition, Jan, Beth and Mark completed the Sunday crossword and slipped it into the casket for Mom to show to Aunt Laura.  It took them all day.  They not only sent her off with the crossword; they gave her a pencil and her tea cup, too. She spent way too many minutes each day looking for the cup and they wanted her to know where it was.

Jan and Tom, Mom, Mark, Me
Christmas 1988

Beth, who must be the photographer above

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

How to spin milkweed

In the fall, on the way home from school, did you ever pick a dried milkweed pod and break it open to release the last few bits of silk.  Or open one too early and find all the seeds inside, looking like a scaly fish.  The sticky mess on your hands…

That would be the extent of my milkweed encounters, had I not learned to spin fiber into yarn.  I learned to spin wool first, and a fair amount about sheep breeds, shearing, skirting, microns, twists per inch.  I believe I next tried flax, and you do not need a distaff to spin flax, in spite of what you may have read in Sleeping Beauty.

I spun cotton, of course, back in the early and mid eighties, when natural and naturally colored fibers were being popularized among spinners by fanatics searching them out and growing them in our southwest.  Like so much of our modern lives, cotton is standardized to a few varieties, eliminating all the wildly occurring strains known to spinners probably up to the industrial revolution.  Here’s a staggering thought:  until the industrial revolution, every thread woven into every sail in every navy in the universe was spun by hand.  That includes the navies of the American Revolution.

Spinning fiber into thread is pretty neat.  I looked for fiber to spin.  I’ve proven you can spin dryer lint.  I’ve spun the cotton wadding in aspirin bottles into decent yarn.  It’s mostly synthetic stuff.  My cats were not safe, but I didn’t have a decent long hair cat during my spinning days, and the short hairs were not fine and soft enough for the yarn to be decent.

I spun a lot of dog hair, mostly due to knowing several Samoyed owners who would “just die” to have a sweater knit from Duke. Or Snowball.  I also finished one project by knitting the sweater for the customer, too.  He wore it ice skating.  According to his wife, several turns around the outdoor rink and her husband went down like a felled tree.  He lay on his back, unconscious.  Paramedics arrived, and one stripped off the sweater.  Steam billowed up.  He was treated for heat stroke, and recovered to skate the rest of the night.  Without his Samoyed sweater.

Some obscure place I read of milkweed being used as alternative to kapok for life preservers during the Second World War.  Thread spun from milkweed even was tried as an alternative to silk for parachutes during that war.  I really wanted to spin a silken thread from milkweed!

First problem—find a stand of milkweed when you are no longer seven years old, walking home from school.  I looked along the meadow trails of several local parks and found lots of milkweeds, no pods.  This was before internet.  I spent an afternoon researching milkweed in the library, and learned they probably are the dumbest plant on the face of the earth.  Some plants are male, some are female.  It still takes two to tango, and if a stand of milkweed does not have girls as well as boys, there will be no milkweed pods.

When I spotted a huge stand of milkweeds in a vacant field next to a local car dealership, I pulled right into the lot, told several salesmen I was not there to buy a car and headed off into the field to harvest just ready to open milkweed pods.  Know how you pick a couple of tomatoes in the garden and put them in your shirt to get them to the house.  I probably should have been arrested for indecent exposure back at the car, but I escaped the salesmen and drove home with my stash.

How to work with it?  I opened the first pod in the living room.  The air filled with hundreds of silken parachutes.  The cats looked at me with suspicion.  I had young grandchildren capture them best they could, and rethought the project.  I opened the next pod in a bag and carefully extracted a few bits of silk.  Almost impossible to hold, but I was able to produce possibly an inch of thread as I twisted the fragile silk and removed the seeds.  By the end of the first pod I had less than a foot of thread for an hour’s hard work.  I set it aside.

Weeks later I mentioned my project to another spinner.  She looked at me incredulously.  “But, milkweed is a bast fiber.  Just like flax, you open the stems and process the fiber inside to spin into thread!”  I knew that.