Fingerless glove

looking for what's missing... I'm a knitting, spinning, mother of teenagers with a big dog, a small cat, minus the lovely rabbit Meliflua.

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Location: Virginia, United States

Right now I'm listening to "An Irish Country Village" by Patrick Taylor, reading "Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake" by Anna Quindlen and knitting Wisconsin Wintersocks. And casting off the lace shawl I've been working on since I last posted.

Friday, March 31, 2006

A multi-talented family

Mom got a new camera and photos were winging their way across the ether in no time. This is Doug, proving that he's still got It as he approaches middle age. Doesn't he look relaxed?

I've had unicycles on the brain lately. I've got a copy of One Wheel Many Spokes on my nightstand -- along with Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Knitting for Anarchists by Anna Zilboorg, Treasure Forest by Cat Bordhi, Knitting Rules by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris (which I read a bit of every day), and now The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. I wrote Lene that after her review of The Historian (compelling horror for chickens) I could hardly wait for it to show up at the used book store. Today it did! Not only that, but I also found Knitting on the Road by Nancy Bush (among other things -- backpacking books for Vince, and Son of A Witch for Cass). I didn't even check prices. Since I'd taken in 5 boxes of books to trade & gotten $92 credit, I decided to live it up.

With all this reading I'm not sticking to, I've not gotten far on the socks I'm not knitting. I have an excuse. (Who knows if it's a good one?) I'm stalled because not only am I slogging through 2 skeins of practically unrelieved gray (OK I admit to red heels & toes) but after I'd finished both feet and started upward on the ribbed cuffs, I was informed these were to be KNEE HIGH -- 14 inches more (28 if you count both socks) of boring 2 x 2 rib that now required increases. About 1/3 of the way up I started dreaming of an elaborate, boredom-busting twisty Bavarian clock pattern to go up the back. I'm trying to decide if I should frog back & rethink the whole cuff. I'd be happier in the long run but I really want these over.

Check out what Mom's been spending her time on:

It's a mural on the wall down at the fire station (part of a series). Told ya we were a multi-talented family.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

More than enough

I've learned something this Lent. Every year, when it came to the "self-denial" pillar of Lent (prayer, self-denial, charity) I always thought that meant I should give up something that would do some good. Then it hit me. Duh! that's what the charity pillar is for.

So this year I gave up something that wasn't a vice, didn't help or hurt anyone but was just something I knew I'd have a hard time with and would have to focus on. And guess what? I learned a lot.

I learned that I can stick with something (I know. Check back again in 2 weeks.) I learned that giving up something less "noble" but still hard helped me reflect on all the riches in my life, all the things I could give up, could do with out. It helped me let go of other things I thought I really wanted or (gasp!) thought I needed. It gave me a new perspective on what is important to me.

I have more than enough of just about everything a person could name and it took me 4 weeks of concentration to notice.

Now does anyone want to trade some magic beans for a teenager?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

I know it doesn't look like much

but I am very proud of this:

(Ignore the date. ) These rather non-descript gray bulky swatches are the result of the fabulous Saturday afternoon I spent with Margaret Fisher and 15 or 20 knitting friends. (Note to self: next time don't use icky gray acrylic yarn because it's "just" a swatch.) I am proud of these bits of knitting out of all proportion to their feeble appearance. They are stockinette stitch, ribbing, & reverse stockinette stitch seamed together in a neat, tidy, practically magic way. Margaret is a lovely, patient teacher who does beautiful finishing and I almost missed it. The Prince William Purlers knitting guild sponsored 2 classes. I had signed up for the morning class, "7 things that make or break a sweater" and only decided at the last minute to take the afternoon class on seaming because when I got there at 9 AM there were still a few openings. So I knit swatches through lunch (thanks Claire & Melissa for not saying I was too weird) and had enough time to reknit the one I miscounted on.

I had the best time.

I should cease to be surprised; this always happens. No matter how well I know (or think I know) the subject, I always learn something I didn't even know I didn't know. The teacher is always patient and passionate. My classmates are always varied and interesting. I am always glad I went.

And now I feel empowered. Almost enough to start that red, traveling stitch sweater that's been in my imagination since I saw the red sweater with Joan(ie) at Woolrich in 1989. Jan, that's why I missed charity knitting at Uniquities.

PS This photo doesn't do Oliver justice, and The Principles of Knitting is (unfortunately) the library's copy. A girl can dream.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Raindrops on roses

I was reading my Brat Factor message the other day (I'm trying to get in touch with my inner brat ) and Pam asked, "What is your idea of Heaven?"

She wasn't talking about the spiritual sense but the here-on-earth, what tickles your fancy, feels like luxury, makes you happy, floats your cork, better-than-chocolate kind of heaven.

Just thinking about things I like makes me smile, a kind of heaven on it's own. It doesn't take much. Here for your consideration is the beginning of a list of things I like even better than a fresh Hershey bar (with almonds):

Buying 2 cent stamps (they're such a bargain! A whole sheet for 40 cents)
A fresh rum bun from the Clifton Store
A good hair day
The movie Roman Holiday (I always cry at the end, even when I think I won't)
Getting email from internet friends
When Oliver the cat comes when I call him (He won't come to anyone else)
A really good waiter or waitress
A new knitting book from a rebel author (like Cat Bordhi, Annie Modesitt, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, and Anna Zilboorg. I like that they think in a different dimension)
Flannel jammies & satin pillowcases
Homemade white bread with honey and butter (when the bread is so fresh from the oven it's hard to cut. The honey goes on first so it soaks in)
A library used book sale

You might think, "My gosh she has low standards" but then, which one of us is better in arithmetic*?

I get thrills at every turn.

(* from Carl Sandburg's poem Arithmetic which ends:
If you ask your mother for one fried egg for
breakfast and she gives you two fried
eggs and you eat both of them, who is
better in arithmetic, you or your mother?)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Blogging is like

having a party. You worry that no one will come.

But unlike a party, it's fun either way; although it's more fun when people pop in a comment here and there. It's nice to think, "Hey, someone is reading it besides me!" (I go back and read my own posts sometimes. I crack me up.)

Friday, March 24, 2006

Random days

Some bloggers post random days on a predictable schedule. I feel I am entitled to throw a random day in randomly because I have first hand experience with something that is that rare thing -- truly random: my windshield wipers. Cassie would point out that it's not entirely random since it only happens when the car is running, but within those confines my windshield wipers are liable to come on at any time. I've looked for a pattern, really I have. I thought maybe when it's hot & sunny, or when I make a right turn or when I'm doing city driving or when I use my turn signal? Nope. They flick on any old time. Sometimes for one or two swipes, sometimes for longer. Since they do come on when I turn them on I haven't thought much about it, but I suppose I should get it fixed.

Last night Cassie recited (before a crowd of tens) the piece she memorized walking around Burke Lake. She was very pleased. I wasn't able to go but the woman who kindly chaperoned Cassie to Quantico complimented her, and Mrs. W doesn't give casual compliments.

So now Cassie wants to walk around Burke Lake again to learn her next piece which is due April 8th, and then she has a memorial service to learn by June 24. She thinks we've struck on the perfect scheme for memorizing. Having something to do makes 5 miles fly by & not having access to anything better to do makes memorizing easier. By the middle of the summer we should be skinny Minnies.

Tuesday night I was talking to a man who had met Mother Theresa (how cool is that?) when he worked in publishing. He said, "She's not at all like her reputation" and then went on to explain the first thing she asked him was if he had accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior. The funny thing is, that is exactly what I would have expected her to be like. Along with an unrelated comment I heard a month ago, "It's not like she wanted to be a nun" in a way that intimated aspirations to the convent were not entirely sane, I'm beginning to suspect not everyone shares my respect for women who've taken vows of chastity, poverty, & .... now what's that other one?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Plum Tree as Metaphor for Love

I really like the writing of Bailey White and I like how her voice was just made to read her writing. (Not all authors should read their own work out loud.) I've just finished listening to her read (on tape) Quite A Year For Plums and this passage near the end of the book cracks me up every time. It's so wise and blunt and hopeful in a "there's-nothing-to-be-done-about-it" way.

"I don't quite understand the demands of that kind of love," said Hilma. "All those feelings were so long ago, the opportunities were so limited then, and we had different rules." But, she said, she had noticed how so often it left its victims ragged and spent, and she wondered why sensible people allowed themselves to begin, knowing where it would lead.

"There is no beginning to love," Roger said. "It just creeps over you."

"Oh," said Hilma, "like brown rot on a plum tree in the dark winter months, and by the time you become aware of it, the leaves are out and it's too late to spray."

"Yes," said Roger, "just like that."

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

James Bond in a Poncho

I almost entitled this entry "I just couldn't help myself"

Do you ever wonder how many times a pattern was actually knit (or in this case, knit for a guy)? My photo doesn't do it justice. This 1967 pattern is more of a dark turquoise than blue -- brighter than it appears. And his sidekick P. Galore is wearing a metallic silver coat and boots. Very Mod.

I've been sorting through three bags of old magazines and patterns from the late 60's through mid 90's that were very generously donated to our guild. I know some people will think, "What would I do with old patterns? I have enough trouble managing the new ones."

But plenty more will at least get a laugh and say, "I used to wear one just like that."

A few more will go a step beyond and think, "Hey, that's an excellent shape. It just needs a change in the color scheme and its retro lines will look completely up to date."

And even if we are reaching the far side of the poncho craze, there are some pretty innovative poncho patterns in this stack for anyone who takes time to look. Makes our recent rebirth look tame. (See that photo above? I rest my case.)

No sense crying over

burnt cookies. I put the last pan of cookies in the oven, set two timers (so someone would be sure to hear one), asked someone to take them out when the timer went off, and left for 'Star. When I got home several hours later, the unmistakable odor of burnt oatmeal cookies assailed my nose amid claims that the timer never went off. "It still had 45 minutes to go when we took the cookies out of the oven because of the smoke." They failed to notice it was no longer counting down; it was counting up. After my timer goes off, beeping irritatingly for a full minute, it starts counting up so you know just how badly you screwed up. In this case, with the 12 minutes it was set for plus the 45 minutes it had counted up I am able to tell you quite accurately that those cookies were in the oven 57 minutes. And my only complaint is no one turned on the ventilation fan. Sigh. I'll be burning candles for a week. I dreamed about burnt cookies. They fed them to the dog.

But not this dog.

This is the same AJ (Andrew George) that appeared on my March 9 post. All I can say is, "Don't worry AJ. It will grow."

Monday, March 20, 2006

At the end of the day

"In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt." -- Margaret Atwood

Yesterday the Boy Scouts went on a hike at Burke Lake Park. It was a nice day so Cassie & I went along.

(I know, it doesn't show much but my arm is only so long. You're lucky both of us are in the frame. I never remember a camera so these are from a cell phone and don't really do the beautiful sunny Spring weather justice. That's an apple in Cass's mouth.)

The scouts hadn't gone far when we started pulling away from the pack. We had knitting, drinks, sandwiches, Hershey Kisses, string cheese and apples; what did we need scouts for? Cassie had a piece to memorize for Rainbow and hiking around a lake is a pretty good time to do it. In 5 miles we went through the piece 10 or 12 times and found that "the best way to learn is to teach." I'd heard the part so many times Cass figured I should be able to do it, but it's like driving & riding. If I drive somewhere I remember, more or less, how to get there. If I'm just riding along, I'm lost. Cass got a good laugh prompting me through it, but the more she prompted me, the better she knew it herself.

(Here's a better view of some of the lake. It's not a real lake; there aren't many real lakes in this part of the country. That's one of the things I find disorienting. These pretender lakes have terribly irregular shapes from following the ins and outs of the valley. They haven't got the right glacial drift shape at all. These photos were taken standing on the dam. )

I never did get any knitting done, but Cass has her part memorized for Thursday -- another blow at the anti-procrastination monster.

At the end of the day, we didn't smell like dirt. We smelled like wind and grass and sunshine. Happy Vernal Equinox.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

This is Helen

I do not know her last name. This is a photo from an old album and was probably taken in the mid 1920's when you went to Normal School to become a teacher.

I love this photograph. I love the dead-on gaze, the way that one curl on her right tucks under by her eyebrow, the row of silver buttons so close together you hope they're just ornamental because if not they'd be such a pain to do up and undo. I love the handwriting in the corner (why does everyone have nice handwriting?) I love that even after looking at this photograph for a long time (Georgia O'Keefe said, " see takes time, like to have a friend takes time") I can't be absolutely positive that this is really Helen.

I think she had a strong will and a great sense of humor. I imagine she married young because that was expected but her good-for-nothing husband died in a drunken wreck. She went back to school teaching but kept the small farm against pressures from her in-laws. Her garden was filled with herbs; strange, beautiful flowers; sweet, bright fruits; even indigo which she had to tend carefully because she lived on the extreme of its range. Instead of the utilitarian knitting everyone did, she knit dramatic works of art with unusual shaping and bold color combinations. She overdyed dull yarns with this and that from her garden & pasture. Even when knitting socks for soldiers during the war, she knit a small stylized "H" on the sole as a talisman. She never remarried and lived to be 96.

Or maybe not. When Cassie & I go to the National Gallery, we like to look at the portraits and imagine what the people were like. I feel no compunction to do research & get it right; history doesn't always tell the truth anyway.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Who are they calling small?

Yesterday I was bewareing the Ides of March, but I'm back.

I've been thinking about decision making, probably because I'm not always good at it. That may be an outcome of procrastination rather than bad decision making skills, but imagine, if you will, that each decision is like the roll of a die. I don't know about you, but if I roll a 6 three times in a row, part of my brain insists that the chances of my next roll being a 6 are smaller than my first roll. Even though I know the next roll is an independent event and my chances are one in six every single time.

So if I start thinking of each decision as an independent event and not stringing them together in an overwhelming chain attaching baggage that isn't really there, do you think I'll get better at it?

It makes my head hurt to think about it.

The decision I'm working on right now is when to take my next trip to Wisconsin. I'm leaning toward sometime this Spring (sheep shearing season), but this summer is the 30th anniversary of the Bicentennial Summer. (Remember wishing something exciting would happen? Should we try that again?) It would be a shame not to commemorate it.

PS I could have just as easily called my last post "Aerosmith" couldn't I?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Gene Autry

I can't help feeling there's something important about today but I also can't remember what that is (besides being Albert Einstein's birthday.) Any ideas?

I was having trouble uploading the fascinating pictures of Big Trucks in my driveway . I would have worried it was me, but earlier I read a blogspot I like (the seated view) and she mentioned she was photoless because blogger was having problems. Which falls in well with my technique for dealing with computer problems. Blame it on The Man and wait until it fixes itself. This is surprisingly effective.

Note the splintery looking utility pole between the guy's legs? That's what caused all the trouble.

Meanwhile, if this photo had been taken 3 days later there would have been daffodils in the background. I saw my first daffodil yesterday. Then I saw a whole bank of them today. On the Signs of Spring hit parade, I saw my first robin last week the same day my sister saw hers (Coincidence? I think not. Hi Joan(ie)!) even though she's in Wisconsin & I'm in Virginia. Since Spring in Wisconsin is such a welcome relief, you might think the first robin of Spring is a bigger deal than in Virginia. Not so. I see so few robins here that they're always a treat. They were such a common sight all through my childhood that seeing them now reminds me the world is still normal in spite of chaos to the contrary. I saw my first violets today and all the flowering trees are poised on the edge, ready to take the plunge. I'll just pause a moment here to take my last few unallergic breaths for awhile.

I'm not including any knitting photos because I'm just doing dishclothes. I shouldn't say "just" because I really I enjoy their mindless zen nature and I like that our guild does them for our local food bank. But they don't make for exciting photos (unlike Big Trucks.)

You might ask about the title of today's blog. Background guitars, please ... "Back in the saddle again" (I was going to make you figure out the reference for yourself but thought no one would get it but Mom.) My phone (and internet access) is phinally restored. And I spent 27 minutes on it arguing with Verizon to give me credit on my bill for the 4 lost days ( which is apparently only worth $5.53. Hey, it was the principle.)

Monday, March 13, 2006

Crashing down

No, my world isn't crashing down; my electric and phone pole did Friday morning. That afternoon I came home from work to find two huge Dominion Virginia Power trucks (plus a trailer with a telephone pole on it) in my driveway. They had big trucks scattered around neighbors' driveways, too. Apparently a too-tall truck going up the road snagged the electric line that feeds off the primary line on the other side of the street. We've had our phone wire get snagged at least twice. No big deal. It's a little copper thing that snaps and in the past Verizon has trotted right out to replace it. Not so with our electric line. Much bigger deal. It's a honkin' cable as big around as my finger. It may have snapped, but not before also snapping our pole across the driveway and flattening our neighbor's fence. Then the school bus wouldn't let Vince off because they saw a construction zone at his usual stop. The upshot of this long description is that we got Vince and power back Friday night but are still sans telephone (& internet access). Sigh. I have photos to share when I get my DSL back.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Dog Days

This is Ruff & Tuff. You might say, "Gail, where's your grammar? There are two of them. How do you get 'this is'?" If you could see them in action, you'd understand. They are singular. They move across the yard as one white blur. If one of them gets through the doggie door and the other can't quite swing it by himself, they both cry.

I think of them as "The Pop Dogs." I'm not sure if it's from their effervescence or if they remind me of the pups in that classic piece of literature, Hop on Pop. (They're more like Thing 1 and Thing 2). It's just a notion that passed through my brain & got stuck there.

But it's not their birthday; it's AJ's first.

I may not have taxable benefits, but I get perks. Every office should have one.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

I promised

I promised a photo of the rose artist so here's Andrew (and yes, I got permission). Fortunately, he likes older women. Right now that means 10 year olds.

As you can see, he's an athlete but basketball isn't really his game. He prefers riskier sports. I can just see him snowboarding in the 2018 Winter Olympics .

Thanks for the drawing, Andrew.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

I feel so rejected

Today I went in for jury duty. This is the third time I've been called up, the second time I've had to appear and the first time I've been seated in the first 13 chairs -- a spot I thought gave me a fair chance of being selected. The judge asked his questions and 2 people dropped out. (By the way, if your son is coming home from Iraq that's a good enough reason to be excused without objections.) The lawyers asked their questions & a reasonably intelligent person could guess who else was getting the boot. When it came down to selecting the final 7, they excused a man with a thick accent, a man who didn't know how long he'd lived in this state, a nurse who'd worked at the hospital frequented by one of the parties, and ME.

Look at this picture. Tell me what makes a person say, "Nope, wouldn't want her on my jury."

I felt so rejected. Now what would I do with the rest of my day? So I went to the library, the used book store and Capital Yarns birthday sale and cheered myself by buying teeny tiny sock needles -- only 4" long and 1.25 mm (0000), Knitting for Anarchists and a gold plated tapestry needle. Hey, don't look at me like that. They were on sale.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Roses in March

I've gotten roses from two guys this month already.

You might not recognize the ones below as roses. When I told my boyfriend Andrew that my favorite color was red he said he'd draw roses for me except, "I can't really draw roses so I just make yellow centers." Notice the red socks? Detail is important to him. He's about as cute as a Burmese Mountain puppy and I promise I'll post a photo soon.

Friday, March 03, 2006

There are two kinds of people in this world

Those that empty the bottom rack of the dishwasher first and those that don’t. You might point out that most people in the world don’t even HAVE dishwashers -- 50% of the people in this world have never made or received a telephone call. No, I am not blinded by affluence in a Marie-Antoinette-Russian-Czar-Ugly-American kind of way. I’m not talking about the difference between Martha Stewart and Erma Bombeck. That’s just window dressing. I’m talking about the central nature of a person.

Some people are born with the inclination to empty the bottom rack first. It is not that they know this. It’s not that they consciously think about it. It just Is. The rest of us mumble to ourselves as we unload the top rack and dribble little rivulets of water on what had previously been dry dishes beneath thinking, “There’s got to be a better way.” Even when we have an AHA moment we still have to train ourselves against our natural inclination to do the top rack first.

Some people move through life in an elegant compact way. Not with money and things but the grace of a gazelle. And you have to admit, a gazelle doesn’t have money. They don’t even have pockets. They’re not at the top of the food chain. One minute they’re grazing and the next minute, lion lunch.

There are plenty who would tell me the lion is, by definition, the winner. Yet when someone says “graceful” we think of a gazelle. We treasure that mental picture of superb hang-time in away that the lion, for all his power, cannot have. Maybe it’s the memory of us – not our reputation; that’s Stewart/Bombeck and what other people think – but the memory of who we really that makes the difference. If you’re thinking, “She’s babbling,” go read my favorite children’s book Frederick by Leo Lionni. (By the way, Frederick’s tiny wise mouse face has recently been splashed across a US postage stamp.)

Maybe I’m a bit sleep-deprived… Like I said. There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who eat the long french fries first and those who eat the short ones.

Quote for the day: Life is short; wear cashmere. – Susan Gordon Lydon

Thursday, March 02, 2006

No Structural Damage

That's what the report on my MRI said. Doesn't say much, does it? To me that huge chasm of what the report doesn't say is spooky. Like post traumatic stress disorder or metal fatigue, just because you can't see it doesn't mean it's not there.

But then, it doesn't mean it is either. In the meantime I'm wearing supportive shoes, carrying lighter knitting in my totebag (socks) and checking out a physical therapist to strengthen my lower back. What else helps radiating pain & numbness?

For distraction I'm posting a photo -- Young Man Hiding Behind Tree. Ignore the date. This was taken on a Sunday walk in February.