Friday, April 28, 2006

Motherhood... the toughest job you'll ever love! (apologies to the Peace Corps for stealing their slogan)

Mother's Day is in a little over two weeks. It is a bittersweet event for those of us whose mothers are no longer with us. (Mine died in 1979 at age 50 -- damn you, tobacco industry!) In the spirit of the holiday, here is a post a friend sent me that reminds me why it remains the most special of roles we can play in our lives. Try not to wet yourself as you read these precious tidbits from the innocent (and not so) little ones:

"Why God made moms"
Answers given by elementary school age children to the following questions:

Why did God make mothers?
1. She's the only one who knows where the scotch tape is.
2. Mostly to clean the house.
3. To help us out of there when we were getting born.

How did God make mothers?
1. He used dirt, just like for the rest of us.
2. Magic plus super powers and a lot of stirring.
3. God made my Mom just the same like he made me. He just used bigger parts.

What ingredients are mothers made of?
1. God makes mothers out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the world and one dab of mean.
2. They had to get their start from men's bones. Then they mostly use string, I think.

Why did God give you your mother and not some other Mom?
1. We're related.
2. God knew she likes me a lot more than other people's moms like me.

What kind of little girl was your Mom?
1. My Mom has always been my Mom and none of that other stuff.
2. I don't know because I wasn't there, but my guess would be pretty bossy.
3. They say she used to be nice.

What did Mom need to know about dad before she married him?
1. His last name.
2. She had to know his background. Like is he a crook? Does he get drunk on beer?
3. Does he make at least $800 a year? Did he say NO to drugs and YES to chores?

Why did your Mom marry your dad?
1. My dad makes the best spaghetti in the world. And my Mom eats a lot.
2. She got too old to do anything else with him.
3. My grandma says that Mom didn't have her thinking cap on.

Who's the boss at your house?
1. Mom doesn't want to be boss, but she has to because dad's such a goofball.
2. Mom. You can tell by room inspection. She sees the stuff under the bed.
3. I guess Mom is, but only because she has a lot more to do than dad.

What's the difference between moms and dads?
1. Moms work at work and work at home, and dads just go to work at work.
2. Moms know how to talk to teachers without scaring them.
3. Dads are taller and stronger, but moms have all the real power 'cause that's who you got to ask if you want to sleep over at your friend's.
4.Moms have magic, they make you feel better without medicine.

What does your Mom do in her spare time?
1. Mothers don't do spare time.
2. To hear her tell it, she pays bills all day long.

What would it take to make your Mom perfect?
1. On the inside she's already perfect. Outside, I think some kind of plastic surgery.
2. Diet. You know, her hair. I'd diet, maybe blue.

If you could change one thing about your Mom, what would it be?
1. She has this weird thing about me keeping my room clean. I'd get rid of that.
2. I'd make my Mom smarter. Then she would know it was my sister who did it and not me.
3. I would like for her to get rid of those invisible eyes on her back.

God Bless all of you Moms!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

"My God, What Am I Looking At?" (Gil Grissom - CSI)

It's Thursday! Yippee-yahoo-hurray! Besides being the next-to-last workday of the week, it is the night that I can get a super fix of CSI. Spike TV has its usual weeknight back-to-backer from seven to nine and then at nine there is a brand spankin' new episode on CBS. I am hyperventilating just thinking about the evening ahead. Just me, Grissom, Catherine, Warrick, Hunky Nick, Sarah, Cutie-pie Greg, Doc, some unfortunate DB or two (that's dead body for you uninitiated) and my knitting project du jour. It's a recipe for total contentment.

CSI is not for the squeamish or faint-hearted. Its in-your-face depictions of a bullet penetrating a brain or a heart going into arrythmia could put you off your feed for a bit, but I find it fascinating. It must have something to do with the fact that all of the members of my immediate family (parents and siblings) are either Investigators with the New York State Police (my dad and brother) or nurses (my mom and two sisters). I apparently have a genetic predisposition to medical forensics. But watching it on tv is about as far as I want to take it at this point.

I've seen most of the prior episodes before but every once in a while there is a new one and it's like finding a twenty in my coat pocket or finding my favorite yarn in the bargain bin at my LYS.

The original CSI is still the best, in my opinion. CSI NY is pretty good too, although Stella needs a good slap upside the head every once in a while. The only one I really don't like is CSI Miami. Horatio and his crew are just a little too smug for my liking.

I can sit and knit happily tonight while my CSI buddies are spraying luminol to check for blood, running DNA, processing fibers and getting the bad guys.

CSI + Knitting = Bliss! Let's hear it for escapism TV!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Feel Good Road Trip

I just spent the weekend with my daughter in Vermont. It was a long drive up Saturday and back Sunday but worth every minute! She is a sophomore at the University of Vermont, majoring in Molecular Genetics and experiencing the full range of emotional highs and lows that college students go through -- brutally rigorous exams, crazy late night get-togethers with friends, relationships with people that work out and those that don't, discovering how to solve adult problems on her own and moving toward her career goals.

As a parent my dreams for my daughter are huge. They always have been and always will be. I cherish the memories of the little girl who ran to me every day after work for a big hug, never hesitating to share every thought and trusting me with her fantasies. That little girl went away for a while as she became a teenager and there were some painful times. I often felt shut out of her life and unable to say the right things to keep us close.

But now, as she approaches her 21st birthday, she seems to be coming back to me. It's a gradual process, not without its occasional backslide, but this weekend made me realize what a wonderful, mature young woman she is becoming, fun to be with and full of astute observations and complex insights. She loves her studies, has ambitious plans for her future and a steady hand on the rudder. It fills my heart with pride and excitement for her. Her future is an amazing journey to be experienced to the max. It's such fun to watch her and be there to help as I can or just listen as she figures things out for herself.

Does this have anything to do with knitting? Besides the fact that she is the most frequent recipient of my knitting projects, this weekend we shared a trip to a yarn shop on my visit to Burlington. We went to Kaleidoscope Yarns in Essex Junction, just outside the city. It is a wonderful yarn shop with so much amazing fiber and a friendly and helpful staff.

Of course she has been to yarn shops with me before but it always seemed as if she was just indulging an eccentricity. This time she seemed very engaged in the trip and interested in what she saw there. We picked out some Cascade Fixation yarn for another pair of low socks in this color.

She also saw a finished bag that she really liked and we picked out some yarn to make that. It was made with the "My Constant Companion" pattern and I had made a similar style one for my sister's birthday two years ago so I am familiar with it. It's a great pattern and very durable.

She wants to use it for schoolbooks and on-campus stuff so I'll felt it to make it extra sturdy. She picked out some gorgeous earthy colors in Cascade 220:

This is will be the base of the bag as well as the top edge.

This will be the middle part of the bag.

And this color will occasionally run through the other two and be the color of the handles.

I also have some complementary novelty yarns with some interesting textures that I may use. I think it will be a beautiful bag and one she will be proud to carry around campus.

Now I just have to find the time to do these projects! Here is what is in "the queue":

My Green Gable sweater
most of a second sock for myself
my daughter Meredith's DNA scarf which is about a third completed
a baby blanket I started four years ago
a ribbon sweater made from a discontinued yarn

Promised Projects
a pair of "cat's paw" pattern cotton socks for my sister's birthday in mid-May
a pair of socks for my husband
Meredith's sneaker socks
Meredith's book bag
Cotton sweaters for myself including a "wonderful wallaby"

Oh, so much yarn, so many ideas and so little time! I need to become a knitting hermit and do nothing else for a few years!

Here is a picture of my amazing, wonderful, brilliant, sweet daughter. This was her senior picture when she graduated from high school in 2004.

Of all the roles in my life, I am proudest of being her Mom! I know she will be embarrassed when she reads this but I hope she can understand my sense of pride and the intense love behind my "brag blog." Here's to you, cookie! Love you lots and lots!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Frogging and the natural order of things

Ok, so I did my first frogging of the Green Gable sweater. I should know better than to try to do anything that involves keeping track when I go to knitting group. Multi-tasking has never been my strong suit and last night just proved that point. I love being with my gals and hearing about their week so my focus quotient was definitely not there. I got home and realized that my counts were WAAAAAAY off on the front openwork. Not enough increases at the markers.

It is such fun to frog in front of my husband. From the look on his face you would think I was shredding the Shroud of Turin. He gets upset and says things like "It looked ok to me." Then he asks me if I'm ok, as if that was some kind of psychotic episode and the next phase is coming after him with a cleaver. Every time it happens I explain that this is just part of the natural cycle of creation and that he is in no physical danger. But I notice he keeps a low profile afterwards, probably afraid that I will blow up at the slightest provocation.

To be fair, I have not always been able to assume a calm serenity with my frogging. There was that baby blanket with its precise number of stitches and exact locations of yo's that nearly sent me over the edge. I frogged it eight times and then put it away before I acted on my urge to stab someone with the needles. I only take it out and work on it when I am feeling very calm and focussed.

I am not naturally a patient person. Knitting has taught me volumes about delayed gratification and the importance of long-term goals. I have learned that the joy is in the journey as well as the destination. Frogging is just a slight detour.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Make Mine a Stash Buster...

Green Gable Knit Along
I'm really looking forward to my first Knitalong. My stash just HAS to have a good yarn for has a little bit of everything. I'll be documenting my progress (and lack of) right here. Stay tuned.

This is gonna be fun!

Your other left...

I am left-handed. I am proud of being left-handed. It is something that makes me stand out from the crowd...literally. In elementary school we had a teacher whose idea of physical education was two activities: marching and square-dancing. Both of these activities are physical and social landmine fields for a lefty. Sister Mary Cletus (dubbed Sister "Nikita" Cletus after the rotund, homely dictator of the Evil Empire who was then in power) would summon us to the cafetorium/library which also functioned as our gym. There she would fire up the victrola, a monstrous gray record-player.

Tuesday was marching day. The John Philip Sousa hits just kept on coming and we formed our lines as Sister barked out commands. She usually lost me at "right-left" since I was always on the wrong foot. Things only got worse from there. As the commands continued I inevitably found myself on the other side of the room from my "squad", conspicuously alone and wondering if Sister would notice if I just non-chalantly sashayed back across the room to my rightful place. When the music stopped, things got ugly. After taking a few moments to sufficiently humiliate me, she would "position" me where I was supposed to be and we would proceed, only to face the same situation a few moments later. What was wrong with me? I wasn't a stupid person. I consistently got high grades in all of the other areas. I could wrestle a spelling bee to the ground and emerge victorious everytime. The times tables were a snap. Why couldn't I make my feet move in the right direction?

Fridays were even worse. That was Square Dance day. I would do everything I could think of to convince my mother that I had some life-draining illness and would be unable to go to school. She never bought it. So, off to the cafetorium/library I would trudge, bracing myself for another dose of humiliation. And it always came.

One of Sister's favorite square dances was something called "The Right Hand Star." She would position us in our places, start the music and do her best Caller's impersonation, complete with a "yee-ha" or two. After all, this was supposed to be fun. I'm sure it was for her. The rest of us were miserable, scared to death of screwing up and earning an ear cuff or verbal assault. I felt like a prisoner on death row. I knew the punishment was coming. It was just a matter of when. Sure enough, the inevitable call came.

"Right hands into the center and turn the wheel." That was the right hand star. Everyone else executed it perfectly. I, of course, did it wrong and ended up face to face with the person who was supposed to be behind me in the wheel. I had two choices. Stop the wheel by plowing into the person who was now in front of me or walk backwards and hope futilely that Sister would not notice that my LEFT hand was in the center. It never mattered. The end result was always the same. Another public humiliation.

In third grade, a new opportunity to feel stupid emerged. In honor of our new foray into the wonderful world of cursive writing using the then-popular Palmer method, we traded in our pencils for cartridge pens. These were marvelous inventions with sleek barrels and beautiful shiny points that hid a nasty secret: messy, uncontrollable, smearable blue ink that got all over everything. As a lefty, I soon learned that the only way I could avoid smearing the letters I had just written was to adopt a crab-like curl to my left hand which made my writing effectively illegible. This was all the Sisters of Mercy (who were anything but...) needed to drive my ego into the ground like a tent peg. There was no attempt made to understand the physics of the situation. Rather, Sister Mary Bernardo (the tormentor of that year) called my parents in and told them that unless I was "changed" to a right-handed writer, she would have no choice but to have me repeat third grade. For HANDWRITING????????? Yes, it seems that in the standards of the Albany Diocese, mastering cursive handwriting was as essential an educational component for the successful completion of third grade as spelling, math, and reading comprehension, all subjects for which I was earning straight A's!

My grandmother had been forced to learned to write using her right hand, despite her natural lefty tendencies. She also had a very severe stutter, something my mother was convinced was a direct result of the switch. She was not about to let me become the next Porky Pig of St. Joseph's school so she hatched her own plan. Unfortunately, it would cost me a carefree, no-responsibility summer. She employed a handwriting coach. He was a neighbor, a man who was a public school teacher and left-handed himself. I met with him twice a week to practice my concentric O's and rows of tightly packed I's and he gave me "homework" in between. It paid off. I was allowed to move on to fourth grade. I did so well that next year that Sister Mary Alma suggested to my parents that I skip fifth grade and move directly into sixth. My mother said no, doubtlessly afraid that I would be too young to handle the social nuances of being so much younger than my classmates and she was probably right.

But my left-handedness continued to define and affect me. My mother was a knitter and I desperately wanted to learn. She was right-handed and tried to teach me to knit the way she did. It was a disaster. My stitches were too tight, or twisted, or just not there. I couldn't visualize the process and finally, reluctantly, admitted to myself that, as a lefty, I wouldn't be able to knit.

Years later, when I got married, my husband Brendan wanted me to learn to knit so I could make him a wonderful wool sweater. For the next 25 years I held him off, claiming that my left-handedness rendered me unable to learn to knit. He would ask knitters he met, as well as yarn store owners if there was anyone who could teach me and the answer was always no.

Then, one day I was going through some books in a used book store and came across this:

It was like finding the holy grail. I couldn't believe what I was seeing... the answer to the problem. Everything changed with that discovery. I bought an inexpensive pair of aluminum needles and a skein of acrylic yarn and set out to learn the mysteries of knitting and purling. I learned how to cast on and then just knit and purled my way through the entire skein. Then I ripped it out, rolled it up and started again. All totalled I think I knitted that skein three times before I started to see even stitches and understood the process. I was thrilled.

Best of all, I could do it on my terms, as a left-hander. It felt comfortable and natural. It was like learning to march but doing it the way I wanted to and still ending up with the rest of the squad. It was like square dancing the left-hand star and not bumping into all of those right-hand star people. I was thoroughly and irreversibly hooked. I now knew how to knit and no one could take that away from me! I was 51 years old and I felt like a kindergardener who had just figured out how to tie her shoes!!!

I started knitting in 2003 and haven't stopped since! What a wonderful journey the process has been. And all because of a little 64 page book that found me in an out of the way used book store. It is out of print now, unfortunately, but it does occasionally surface on and ebay. I also saw a copy at a Knitter's conference at a swap session. The Author is Regina Hurlburt and the ISBN is 0-442-23585-2.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

In the beginning there was yarn, and it was good...

I have decided the time has come to join the blog movement. I love to write. I love to knit. I love to reveal the deepest darkest secrets of my life to perfect strangers. What better reasons could I have to start a blog. Lord knows I have so much free time on my hands... the house cleans itself, my job only takes up half of my waking hours, my family is so self-sufficient. (That last sentence was sarcasm, in case you were wondering) but still, the idea is intriguing.

So here goes, I love to knit and, having come into the knitting ranks at the relatively late age of 5o something, I seem to be working hard to make up for lost time. It is something that I try to do in almost every free moment. I find myself fantasizing about the next project even as I am just beginning the current one. And then there is the stash...

I started out with just a few skeins of yarn that I picked up at a distributor's sale. That was early in my knitting voyage and I watched incredulously as women knocked each other over to get to tables of yarn. They grabbed frantically and stuffed skeins of yarn in every possible carrying device. One woman kicked her toddler out of his stroller so she could pile it high with yarn. I shook my hea
d and wondered about their sanity, never dreaming that a matter of months later I would be in the front lines of that battalion. In those days all yarn was the same to me. Worsted, bulky, dk, fingering... it was all yarn. And I had no idea that acrylic and natural fibers could be any different. I was making scarves, the tricycle of the knitting process. Anything could be used to make a scarf and it didn't look half bad when you were done.

So much has happened in the last three years. Somewhere along the line I caught the bug and now my stash looks like this:

I don't remember buying a lot of that yarn and sadly, I don't remember what I planned to do with it. Much of it came from ebay and a "hot buy" I just couldn't pass up. Some more of it came from "Moonlight Madness" sales at AC Moore where I behaved like an out-of-control alcoholic... so sad. As I was going through the yarn to put in on the bed for the picture so many projects ran through my head. There are at least eight sweaters waiting to be made, as well as countless bags, socks, hats, mittens, scarves, and who knows what else. It's exciting to think about all of those projects but a little daunting at the same time.

Next entry: Where did it all start?