Things That Make You Go Hmmmm…

Random observations after a 150-mile bike ride

(Note: These pictures are from the Internet for illustrative purposes only, and were not taken by me or at the Scenic Shore 150.)

1. Overheard on Day Two, from the first of five riders tucked in behind a tandem: “It’s like driving 80 miles an hour on the freeway behind a guy with a radar detector!”

Fast. Tandems are fast.

Fast. Tandems are fast.

2. Consecutive rider numbers on riding partners are cute. The older the riding partners are, the more adorable it is. If they both look over 70, your heart just melts.

cycling pair

3. A Conversation I Had With Almost Everyone:
Them: “Is this your first time on Scenic Shore?”
Me: “Yes, how is Day Two?”
Them (after a dramatic pause): “Well, it starts out very pretty as you ride out through the park. The first 45 miles are pretty flat. BUT THEN…”

THE CLIFFS OF INSANITY!

THE CLIFFS OF INSANITY!

4. A lunch consisting of a tuna salad sandwich, a chocolate chip energy bar, a kosher dill pickle spear, pasta salad, chocolate milk, and fruit punch Gatorade sounds like a lunch assembled by a psychotic nine-year-old, but when you’ve just ridden 50 miles it is the perfect combination of carbohydrates, protein, fluids, salt, and sugar. And it does not matter in what order you eat everything, as long as you eat slowly. (I am not making this up… it’s exactly what I had for lunch on Day Two.)

From "Bike the Drive" in Chicago. But still from the Internet.

A food stop from “Bike the Drive” in Chicago. But still from the Internet.

5. Overheard on Day Two, at the rest stop 13.5 miles before the end: “There’s nothing better than finding beans you didn’t know you had!”

The orange ones are excellent.

The orange ones are excellent.

6. After Day One, most people crept into their tents at 9:30pm. Everyone else went into the lounge area of the main building at UW-Manitowoc to watch the day’s recap of the Tour de France on the wall-mounted television. We sat quietly, numb from riding, mesmerized by watching other people ride. The Tour might be the only sporting event whose audience ABSOLUTELY DOES NOT want to participate in it. Collectively, everyone watching on Saturday night had completed either 79 (the organizers lied about the 75; we all noticed) or 100 miles. In the morning each one of us was going to rise, eat a bizarre breakfast, and ride another 75 miles. And we were convinced that every single rider on the Tour was insane.

7. Those pockets on the back of a cycling jersey can hold so much stuff that at the end of the day you might find things you forgot you’d stuck back there. On the second day mine held a berry-blend protein bar, a squeeze packet of lemonade-flavored electrolyte gel, the aforementioned Sport Beans, and a Stinger vanilla waffle. And my smartphone.

Ooooh... a chocolate waffle. But I heard the honey waffles are the best.

Ooooh… a chocolate waffle. But I heard the honey waffles are the best.

8. Cyclists are quite proud of their bizarre tan lines. Because of the gear they wear, they usually tan in a patch on the back of the hand, from the shoulder to the wrist, from mid-thigh to the knee, on the top of the nose, and at the back of the neck. And since there’s not really a way to cover these areas and tan the rest, that’s just the way it is.

cycling tanlines

cycling legs

9. It’s okay to judge the cyclist ahead of you by their calves. Cycling is NOT a weight-loss activity. You can do it every day and it only seems to tone and reshape you on the inside. Except for the calves. You can quickly tell who just started riding (they have calves), who has been training for a while (they have muscular calves), who has been doing this for some time (they have “cut” calves with great muscle definition), and who wants to turn pro (you can see every tendon in their calves, and they complain that the route does not have enough hills to present a challenge). Thighs are not always a fair way to judge a cyclist. Young female cyclists may have muscular thighs. Older female cyclists may have big-looking thighs that hide their muscles. Long-distance cyclists of any gender may have long, lean, yet muscular thighs. But professional sprinters and track cyclists will have thighs as big around as a normal person’s waist.

genetics

calves riding

10. You can do it. No matter how crazy your goal might seem, you can do it. Practice, train, and dream… and train some more. You can do what you thought was impossible. But you have to try.

 

Published in: on July 21, 2014 at 10:03 pm  Comments (2)  

Imaginary Lover

One of the most exciting parts of falling in love is that feeling of being chosen. You’ve gotten the seal of approval from an Other who finds you smart, funny, attractive, and generally Worth Spending Time With. An Other who thinks your crazy plans are cool (and not so crazy). And you get double bonus points if they often finish your sentences and seem to finish your thoughts. You haven’t just found someone who likes you — you’ve found another of your kind, someone who loves you, appreciates you, and “gets” you without having to be told how to do it. We enjoy the sameness, the recognition.

Wouldn't they make a great couple?

Wouldn’t they make a great couple?

Online dating sites are packed with the profiles of the hopeful ones who think, “Pick me! This is me in my profile. Find me interesting, find me worthwhile. CHOOSE ME.” We want to be discovered, understood, valued, and selected. When someone chooses us, we can feel complete. Authentic. Motivated. Inspired. Confident.

pickle juice

It feels good to be chosen by the right person. What if that right person were yourself? What if, instead of doing anything to win someone else’s approval, you did everything to value yourself, chase your own dreams, and equip yourself with the tools to achieve them?

This would be tough to do. Think for a moment about what it would mean to be emotionally self-sufficient and intellectually self-confident. The person who doesn’t need anyone else is the same person that “society” will marginalize at its first opportunity. If you didn’t actually need anyone else’s approval, support, or even commiseration, would you feel lonely? What could build and sustain your self-confidence to keep it (and you) happily humming along for the rest of your life without companionship? And if/when that little engine breaks down, who fixes it and how?

confidence

I’m guessing you would need to create and maintain your own support system. You’d need to be your own best friend, and always treat yourself with kindness. This would also be tough to do, especially in a society that treats self-confidence as cockiness and egotism, but then again, if you’ve already been ostracized, do you care what society mutters behind your back?

Could you surround yourself with an invisible cocoon of support? Could you walk into a room, any room, with the confidence of someone who had just received a kiss and a bouquet of flowers? Could you, without enabling schizophrenic tendencies, be there for yourself and provide yourself your own comfort when you ran into obstacles, got sick, or just generally felt that you weren’t at your best?

bestfriend

Personally, I’m getting tired just thinking about all the effort that would take. But it may well be a path on which I find myself. It’s one thing to perceive myself as witty, clever, and generally fun to be around (and sometimes the homemade bread comes out of the oven looking pretty nice, too), but if nobody else agrees with me enough to take a chance on walking a little closer to me and seeing if things work out, then I need to walk on regardless.

I’m not sad, and I’m not completely alone. Of course I have my children and my family and my friends. I have cyberfriends and blog-readers and friendly acquaintances and fellow kniterati. But sometimes I’d just like that have that “someone more” in my life again, even if logic continues to not-so-gently remind me that it’s something I’m not likely to get. So, for now, I’ll just pretend that I already do. I don’t have to bruise myself in the dating websites or hang out in bars or do whatever it is that people do when they’re hunting for love. I’ll just accept the love and care that are already in the air like wifi, and keep on walking forward.

walking-away

Published in: on July 16, 2014 at 9:16 pm  Comments (1)  

Paperback Writer

I have started writing again. Maybe it’s more correct to say that I have resumed being a writer. Anyway, I’ve been musing over some of the things that have helped me resume a former identity and be more comfortable with it.

Read

home-library-shelves-11

The first thing is reading. Writers read constantly, continually, and compulsively. When I was a writing student in graduate school and met my friend Stephanie (not his real name!), I chastised her for only owning about 3 books. How could you be a writer and not be reading every book you could get your hands on? I didn’t understand.

When I was growing up in Columbus, my family took both the newspapers — the morning Citizen-Journal and the evening Dispatch. They were read to me until I could read them myself. After that point I read everything that came into the house, and learned that excellent writing was to be found even in magazines that did not reflect my core interests. Because of my father’s hobbies and interests I learned to flip to the last editorial page of magazines like Guns & Ammo and Road and Track and enjoy the editorial gems to be found there. Even today, I’m thrilled to be in a waiting room of any kind if I can get access to Field and Stream, Sports Illustrated, or AutoWeek rather than pap like People, Us, or Family Circle.

Lately I’ve been actually reading my Sports Illustrated issues. The level of their journalism and creative nonfiction is such that I can enjoy almost any article except something on professional basketball. (That league is a shoe commercial; I don’t care.) I garner new data. I relish a clever turn of phrase. I want to keep turning the pages forever.

 – ad

no-advertising

Advertising and commercials, though clever, don’t usually count as good writing. So I’m finding my reading matter in high-level magazines like SI, and in memoir (Carole King’s A Natural Woman), biography (Mark Zwonitzer’s Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?: The Carter Family and Their Legacy in American Music), and fiction (Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series). Good writing takes you out of your self and your life and carries you somewhere else. It takes you to funny, clever, thoughtful places you could not have gone by yourself. Give me three pages of McCall Smith and a hot cup of rooibos tea, and I am in Botswana.

Quiet

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It’s not that I really want to world to go away. I like lots of things about the world. It’s just that I want the silence to be able to enter in, have a lie down on the couch, and get really comfortable. I love music, but when I listen to it constantly I realize I am listening to someone else’s writing, crowding out my own potential ideas and words and melodies. How much worse are television and radio for providing Hulk-level train-tossing derailments of your independent creative thoughts? So much of television consists of the reporting of distressing news, speculation on the future, the escalation of interpersonal conflict, and criticism of those who have talent and success. That kind of background noise really stifles one’s sonnet-writing abilities.

- et

no_eating_fudge_lg

If I’m working hard enough at my writing, I’m not eating for the wrong reasons. We know what they are. Boredom. Frustration. Loneliness. Anxiety. Anger. Jealousy. Fear. Unrequited love. Confusion. And, ironically, writer’s block. If I come across a sentence that flashes across my vision and makes me chase it through the forest so I can write it down, I won’t care about that bowl of chips. The act of writing can burn calories by means of a pre-emptive strike.

Red

Rush_HYF_Crop-300x143

I am such a fan of color coding that I should turn professional. I have certainly put my years into the craft. I color code my hanging files, my kids’ drink cups, and everything I can lay my hands upon. And for as long as I can remember, I’ve color coded my school folders, from the first Trapper Keeper until yesterday. Green is for life sciences like Biology. Yellow is for Chemistry and other hard/applied sciences. Blue is for History. But red… red is for literature, for writing, for strength through creativity. Red is a power color. Red is for blood, lifeblood. Red is for rage. Red is for anger, passion, fury, heart. If I want to find my old writing, I go to the basement, open a repurposed Hammermill Graphicopy paper carton, and pull out a red folder. Any red folder will do. My writing, from whatever era, will be within.

Read – ad + quiet – et + red = Required

Writing is required of me. It is who I am before I am anything else. It is what I do when I am at my best. It is what I turn to when I am at my lowest. My people have been “makers” for many generations, mostly with wood, but I “make” with words. I may not have a published book, but I have journals, a blog (all right, many blogs), a Facebook page, and private notes in which I record my thoughts, my frustrations, and my songs. Some of my writing is shared and some of my writing will stay private forever. It takes the form it needs to take, and I do what I must do.

Published in: on April 16, 2014 at 11:22 pm  Comments (1)  

The Sounds of Silence

…and it ended not with a bang, but with a whimper. Just when I had finished my Sochi shawl — including the weaving-in, the rinsing, and the blocking, mind you — the provider of my telephone, cable, and Internet access decided, for mysterious and inscrutable reasons, not to put my accounts into my name as I had requested (and had indeed signed legal documents for that very purpose), but instead to cancel all my services.

Before blocking.

Before blocking.

After blocking!

After blocking!

Yes, I was unplugged. Again. And without my home wifi signal, the smartphone I was fortunate enough to own was barely able to catch enough stray electrons to send out a text message. (“Watson, come here; I need you!”) Even more sadly, I was unable to watch the closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics by any means — though I did finally find time to watch the opening ones. Sigh. See you all in Brazil!

This doesn’t classify as true hardship, as The Teen™ and I still had access to a great many hours of programming on the DVR (we finally watched the mini-movie about the making of “Doctor Who” that had been awaiting us since November 2013, and a Speed Channel special on Dan Gurney that had been waiting patiently since November 2012), and we augmented my Guitar Hero accessories with the purchase of a drum set. (Unfortunately, we can’t try it out yet because I don’t currently have any drum-compatible Guitar Hero games in the house. The day before I bought the drum set, I did. It’s all in the timing.)

So we’ve gone slightly retro here. The Teen™ is working on Lego Star Wars for the Nintendo GameCube. I’m slowly playing my way through a medium-level career on Guitar Hero II. I’ve made chicken soup for a sick friend. And with the shawl finished, I cast on for the second sock of a pair.

20140225_094836

See? I DO knit socks.

My Internet access is still down as I write this post, which I’m composing on an offline (gasp!) Macintosh with Microsoft Word (gasp! gasp!). I could put a brand new ribbon in the manual Smith-Corona, but I’m not feeling quite THAT retro at the moment.

I rather enjoy the relative silence we’ve had, although it has forced us to confront the paw-scrambling and wood-gnawing reality that we have been sharing our home at the end of a long winter with some equally cabin-fevered mice. We spent part of the weekend waging a violent turf war in which one rodentine casualty (so far) has been inflicted by intellectually superior human forces. I suspect that we may also have bats in the walls, but my main line of defense on that front is called “trying not to think about it.” And everyone knows that you dare not fight a war on two fronts, especially in the wintertime.

remy_ratatouille

Rattus rattus.

update

I almost had phone service again on Tuesday evening…but not quite. It took one more visit from another contracted tech guy to get that all fixed up. Funny: Mr. Wednesday took one look at the new phone modem that Mr. Tuesday had installed, and bemoaned my ancient technology [from, literally, yesterday]. He went out to his truck and brought in a single modem unit that he spliced everything into. It’s amazing to think that all this old stuff worked perfectly well on Friday night, then became obsolete as soon as my ISP flipped all my switches to “OFF” on Saturday morning.

Published in: on February 27, 2014 at 7:14 am  Leave a Comment  

Hey Nineteen

The Olympics are underway! The Ravellenic project has begun! But while project-monogamous work continues on my Music From Another Room lace-edged shawl, that means that Citron must sit and wait until Music has been finished. Here sits lonely Citron, waiting for me to work the 19th row of a 20-row repeat (section four of five).

Oh, Citron. You're so patient.

Oh, Citron. You’re so patient.

Project monogamy has its price. Not being a practicing project monogamist, I have a dozen or more projects on the needles at any given time. I can usually work on whatever suits my circumstances, timeframe, or mood by just picking up a different tote bag. I really did want to finish Citron before starting Music, but it just wasn’t feasible even if you take away the two evenings last week I spent going to Actual Live Theatre with my teenager. (I would curse Hamlet, but since he already died twice last week, it seems needless and o’er dramatic.) There are “just” 21 rows left of the main shawl, then 12 rows of ruffled edging, then a 540-stitch bindoff. If a row of about 200 stitches (knitting forwards, not un-knitting backwards) takes me 30 minutes, I probably have more than 34 hours left to put into it *before* weaving in the ends and blocking it out. When I look at it that way, it’s amazing I’ve gotten anything done on it at all.

Anyway, I cast on for Music From Another Room at the Sow’s Ear in Verona on Friday night, surrounded by a few of my favorite knitters. *waves* We were there for about two and a half hours, and I got a fair chunk of it knitted up. I didn’t take any pictures until recently, when I got into the striped section. And since I’m almost done with one of the four skeins of Peace Fleece, I’ll call it 25 percent complete.

The body of the shawl is made up of five wedges, including this one.

The body of the shawl is made up of five wedges, including this one.

While I knit on Music, my Citron will be on Row 19. For as long as it takes to knit the body, knit the lace edging, weave in the ends, wash it, and block it. Row 19 for the indefinite future. With any luck, that shouldn’t be after February 23.

That pretty much covers the knitting — slogging along on a woolen shawl until I finish it and can slog along on another woolen shawl. And when I’ve finished both of them, I have a wool sweater to seam up and finish. Then there’s this wool sock I need to cast on for. Thank goodness I love knitting!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Published in: on February 13, 2014 at 7:24 am  Leave a Comment  

Back in the U.S.S.R.

Once upon a time, a Canadian knitter known as the Yarn Harlot created the Knitting Olympics. It was a forum for knitters from anywhere to set themselves a lofty knitting-related challenge, and a place to celebrate when they met it during the span of the Winter Games. And it was good.

knitting-olympic-gold.jpg?w=490

Years later, Ravelry came along, and Rav-folk created the Ravelympics to coincide with the Summer Games. There were serious teams and silly teams, and themed Ravatars, and virtual medals, and events. And it was still good, even when the Yarn Harlot let go of the Knitting Olympics to let Rav-folk do their thing for the Winter Games as well.

Ravelympics 2008

Rose’s Wrist Warmers

2010knittingolympics2

(Then the United States Olympic Committee came along in 2012 with a cease-and-desist order for Ravelry, and thus the Ravellenic Games were born. Or renamed. Or whatever. And it was still good, though yarnies were resentful at the outside interference.)

Ravellenic2012

This year things are a little bit different. This year, the Winter Games are in Sochi, which is swirling more with politics than with snowflakes. The Rav-folk tried to create a Ravellenic Games that didn’t include free speech about the various political situations. I was absent from Ravelry at the time, and only heard about TEH DRAMAZ secondhand, but let’s just say…that didn’t quite work. A couple sets of moderators later, though, and a version of the Ravellenic Games is ready to light that torch.

Brush up on your Catalan….

How the fangirls wish it could have gone in 2012….

Usually, I look forward to each Olympic Games. And playing along with the knitting home version was a lot of fun. It’s easy to putter along and make the things you’ve always made, with the yarn you’ve always used, and following the pattern you know so well you don’t look at it any more. It’s different for someone to say, By God, I’m going to make a cardigan in two weeks. And it’s amazing to do it. But with this year’s Games being so highly politicized, I wasn’t sure what to do. Supporting the Games and its sponsors, and even just knitting along at home, while so many athletes were made vulnerable to the whims of the State, seemed wrong. Executing a personal boycott of the Games punished myself and disrespected the athletes who were representing their countries. I kept waiting for Russia to have a sudden awakening — as if one morning they would just apologize, say a hundred Hail Marys, and sprinkle forgiveness around like fairy dust. It wasn’t happening. So I didn’t really prepare anything.

SochiScarf

In the last couple of weeks, though, my plan came together. (“Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?”) I looked through my stash and found a single skein of Peace Fleece. I searched Ravelry and my pattern library to find the right project for it. And then I took the skein from whence I’d purchased it a couple of years ago, pressed some friends to help me color-coordinate it with a few more skeins of Peace Fleece, and all of a sudden I had everything ready in a project bag.

Then just last week, Cephalopod Yarns, a yarn company I had heard of but never purchased from, made their own statement with a Sochi Pride colorway. I had to have it. It was beautiful yarn, and statement-making. (They also made a colorway named Gallifrey, and a skein of that fell in my shopping cart as well. Oops.) Both colorways are now out of stock, but they do have two skeins left of something named Sontar, and six skeins left of Pompeii. (I love these people. They are hopeless geeks, and unashamed. Read their FAQ.)

SochiPride

So. The deal is that I get to cast on for my project during the Opening Ceremonies, and must finish it before the end of the Closing Ceremonies. What could possibly go wrong?

While you all speculate on that, enjoy this article on defunct Olympic sporting events.

Published in: on February 5, 2014 at 5:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mellow Yellow

Recently I welcomed home a dozen or so knitting projects that had taken kind of an extended vacation at a friend’s house. You know that feeling you get when you pick up a half-read book and must scan through it to see what you’ve read, to guess how far you got before the bookmark fell out? Try looking at something you started making, and realizing that not only do you not know when you started it, but also have no idea what it was going to be, where the pattern is, or what convinced you to venture down this path in the first place.

Some projects, of course, I recognized right away. I didn’t even have to open my Apple-store string pack to know that there was a Season 18 Doctor Who scarf in progress inside, on now-out-of-production Lion Brand Chenille Thick & Quick of Purple, Wine, and Terracotta. (I’m still looking for three more skeins of Terracotta or I can’t ever finish this scarf. Does anyone have some?)

Other projects never got past their yarn (and sometimes pattern) being stuffed into a project bag. Those got quickly sorted out and the yarn returned to stash.

A few projects, barely started, had lost their fire. I gave each one a moment of silence, pulled out and stored their needles, then frogged the project (pulled out all the stitches and rewound the yarn ball) and returned its components to stash.

Most of the projects that were well underway seemed to be worth finishing at some point, so they went back into a mesh pop-up laundry basket I had purchased specifically for WIP (work-in-progress) storage. Yes, TARDIS cowl-redesigned-into-lace-scarf, I will finish you someday.

But Brandy, between chuckles at me, was knitting on something and I wanted to knit something too. None of my current projects seemed to fit the bill — Drunken Octopus Sweater and Cozy Slippers were both at the seaming stage and I wanted to knit and talk, not seam new things in poor light in the evening. So I looked over my prodigal projects and found Citron.

A little slice o' lemon.

A little slice o’ lemon.

Citron is a semicircular shawl pattern that came out in the winter of 2009. It’s a distinctive pattern and actually quite simple to make, but it is done with laceweight yarn. Working on it is pretty much like knitting with slightly thick sewing thread. And there are hundreds of stitches on your needle, so you need a long circular needle, preferably with very pointy metal tips so you don’t split your yarn. I have bought some quantities of laceweight over the years, but Citron is the only project I’ve ever used any with.

But first, what row was I on when I stopped?

Check your pattern notes.

The pattern isn’t in the project bag.

Well… check your pattern binders, the shawl volume.

The pattern isn’t in there.

Well… check your Ravelry library.

I got out a laptop and checked. Well, it’s technically in my Ravelry library, but since it’s a pattern from an online source, it’s not a separate PDF.

Well… check the knitting pattern folder on your laptop.

Lots of shawl patterns there, but not Citron.

Well… print it out again from the Knitty site.

I tried, but the laptop was so old and slow it never managed to load Knitty.

Fine then, use the big computer and print it out from that one.

So I did. Now I had the pattern in hand (and soon in a sheet protector). From my Ravelry project file I saw that I’d made it to (or through) Row Six of Section Three. (“You kept notes?” said Brandy. “Good girl!”)

And as quick as that, I was back knitting on a five-year-old pattern that my notes said I hadn’t touched since the fall of 2011. I’m now at the end of Section Three. There are two more sections knit in the same way, then a ruffled edging that is not really my thing but is most definitely the pattern’s thing, and I shall knit it as specified. The joke is that I’m halfway done now, and if you measure by project segments (done with three, three more to go) you could come to that conclusion. But since the middle of each section adds 23 more stitches (twice), the row I’m on has me at 177 stitches and increasing to 348, and the ruffled edging produces 540 stitches that I then must knit in stockinette for 11 more rows before binding off… there’s a lot of knitting left and I’m nowhere near halfway done in terms of time or stitches.

But I’m knitting on it again and I shall finish it. If I didn’t think so, I wouldn’t have bought fresh Peace Fleece yarn for a project to knit during the Winter Olympics at Sochi.

What will it be? Not socks.

What will it be? Not socks.

If I Could Turn Back Time

This week I got all the way to this

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and turned it into this.

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When I took it off the needles I was also taking a load off my shoulders. The knitting was putting me to sleep. The thought of continuing on for two whole skeins to make yet another wool blend scarf nobody had asked for was just oppressive. I found out what the mystery pattern looked like, and that’s all I wanted to know anyway. I slid the project off the needle, pulled it all out, and wound it back over the skein and put the yarn back in the stash. It will be something else someday. I don’t know what; I don’t know when. Right now that’s none of my concern.

Doing something you’re good at and enjoy shouldn’t feel like you’ve been sentenced to the salt mines. If it’s boring you or annoying you, you can undo it and do something else. The yarn doesn’t really care. It probably wanted to be something else anyway. Knitting is one of those amazing activities that allows you to do a tiny thing over and over and over and end up with something tangible to show for it at the end (unlike, say, trying to clean a house that is full of children). It also lets you go back in time a bit to fix your mistakes (which would be handy with parenting a house full of children). And sometimes, moving your marker all the way back to GO and forfeiting your $200 is exactly what you need to do.

What I’m knitting this week:

This week I picked up a couple of projects that I set down some time ago. The first project was a pair of slippers everyone thought I was knitting so quickly. Well, I was… until I stopped. Funny how that works. I wasn’t quite sure how to do the next step in the pattern, so I put it all away for a while. Then my feet got ice cold and I thought, “How hard would that next step be to learn anyway?” Turns out it wasn’t hard at all. I now have one slipper done except for two seams and some weaving-in, and I’m nearly halfway done with the second slipper. That was Monday morning.

Top: woolen canoe. Bottom: Almost a slipper.

Top: Woolen canoe.
Bottom: Almost a slipper.

On Tuesday night I went to my knitting group and resumed work on the Drunken Octopus Sweater. I got the stitches all picked up for the ribbed collar band, and right now I’m knitting away on that section. When it’s done there is a bunch of seaming to do, and then it will look like a proper sweater while I pick up and knit the bottom edge and add ribbing to it. And add the button bands. And add buttons. It will be so satisfying to get this done, particularly because my office is cold in the morning. (But my house is cold at night. Do I really have to knit another one?)

Of course, pride goeth immediately before rows one has to rip back. I was so thrilled to be working on the sweater again that after a mere glance at the pattern, I was cranking out the two inches of collar I thought I needed. But after a while I started thinking, Shouldn’t there be a purl row for turning this collar? It’s going to be awfully bulky. When I had knitted for two inches I finally read the pattern. Knit for ONE inch, purl one row, switch to smaller needles, knit for one more inch. Ouch. Well, there was no way around that one, so I sat and un-knitted each stitch of 1×1 ribbing for six rows of 71 stitches each before being able to move forward properly. Yeahhhhh, that wasn’t much fun. Next time, I’ll read the pattern, or at least try to look at it for more than a microsecond.

Almost collared.

Almost collared.

I have knitted sweaters before, three of them. Two were so simple that you shouldn’t really think of them as sweaters, but as “children’s tops made with yarn.” The third sweater was Tyrone. If you’ve been reading this blog so long that you remember Tyrone, you understand why I don’t have anything else to say about it. (If you’ve only joined us recently, Dear Reader, search the blog for “Tyrone.” And be kind.) This project feels like a real sweater, and it’s a sweater for me. And it’s supposed to be a certain size. I don’t make many of those kinds of projects. Scarves, blankets, and hats are pretty forgiving, and you can almost always find someone with feet that fit the socks you just finished. This is an Intentional, Sized Thing. We’ll see how all that works out.

Published in: on January 23, 2014 at 9:01 am  Comments (4)  

Don’t Stop Me Now

To clarify, this week’s post title is quite different from the phrase “nothing can stop me now,” which is engraved in my family’s history as the ill-fated phrase my brother has triumphantly exclaimed immediately before numerous and painful occasions. Some of these occasions are accompanied by gruesome photographic documentation. Be glad I do not possess copies of such documentation; they are not to be viewed by the faint of heart. Suffice it to say that I will never utter the phrase “nothing can stop me now” for the rest of my life. It sorely tempts fate, which, frankly, doesn’t need much tempting in the first place.

This week I was able to indulge in some hours of intense activity as well as some moments of introspection. The activity consisted of a cross-country ski session that, while quite fun (I’d do it again! I swear!), pushed the edges of my personal envelope with regards to pain; it was icier and “slopier” than I’d expected, and although I hiked the trail and carried my skis for most of the trail, I did take some rather spectacular spills, one of which my ski-partner may have managed to catch on video.

Let me know if you’ve already seen this on YouTube. Specifically, from 0:14 to 0:17. This documents Crash #2 of 5. Or of perhaps 6. I started to lose count after a while.

Happily, especially because I do *not* at the present moment actually have any health insurance, discretion became the better part of sanity by the end of the trip, and I retreated from the ski trails before any body parts broke, dislocated, disintegrated, or exploded. Many of them were bruised, but I cannot give an accurate accounting of how many, because I am daily discovering new bruises in some unlikely places. After Crash Five (or Six) I cut my ski-partner loose to do something besides wait at the bottom of the slope to see how long it would take me to get up, and speculate as to whether or not I’d be able to retrieve my hat, cell phone, or skis without his assistance. I suppose he went skiing for a while or something.

After several ice pack sessions (okay, bag-of-frozen-peas sessions) on my sore right shoulder, I had time to speculate on the size of my personal envelope.

Don't spend it all in one place, folks.

Don’t spend it all in one place, folks.

My friend’s personal envelope? Well, considering he already has a pilot’s license, skydives, rides a unicycle, and is learning to juggle, I assume it’s considerably larger than mine.

largest envelope

This might have room for enough postage to mail someone to the Moon.

The neat thing (well, one of the neat things) about hanging out with someone like this is that their idea of reasonable activity is so far above “sitting on the couch watching videos” that almost anything you do helps to expand your own horizons and challenge you beyond what you thought you were capable of. For example, on Saturday morning I often felt I was not capable of standing up again. But I did stand up again, over and over. I’m stubborn as hell a persistent soul, and I wasn’t going to fail to live up to whatever I thought the expectations were. And even though I felt on Sunday morning as if I’d been a rock in a tumbler, I still had a great time on Saturday.

Resting up gave me a chance to think about all the things I don’t usually do, and all the things I’ve wanted to do but haven’t pushed myself to accomplish over the years.

What, really, is stopping me besides myself?

WaitingForTheLight

I used to set ten-year goals and for them, create a five-year sub-plan and a list of reasonable one-year tasks. Heck, I used to have goals rather than random resolutions — though I don’t mean to denigrate the effort I put into the random resolutions. Some of them might not have been quite so random. But at some point (perhaps when I was at home with four kids ages seven and under?) having any kind of long-term goal was ludicrous. Day-to-day survival was a much more reasonable achievement. Keep everyone alive for now, and we’ll deal with the big picture later. Capisce?

But now we’ve all survived that period of intense-personal-care parenting. The “kids” range from almost 15 to almost 8. They’re able to go along with most of the things I’d like to do (even if they’re not yet willing), and even help with the planning, preparation, and performance of said “thing.” (Not so much on the putting-away afterwards, but we can work on that.)

Now, I can get back to my thing, which has always been writing.

What I’m knitting this week:

I finished the first and second “Don’t Shoot” cowls — one was done in time for last weekend’s road trip to Ice-Land, and the second one was finished two days later. Moving on!

Don't Shoot! number 2.

Don’t Shoot! number 2.

This week I’m knitting a meme — more accurately, the knitting instructions I read in a meme that’s been making the rounds on Facebook.

It's not rocket science, people... it's more like fiber-based topology.

It’s not rocket science, people… it’s more like fiber-based topology.

Here is what I have so far. Actually, that’s not true. I have several more inches of this by now. It’s just that it’s such a simple pattern that it puts me to sleep when I knit it, and if I use up all the yarn I have allotted for it, I’ll probably be sleeping for the next twenty years, which is not how I wanted to spend the next twenty years.

Got coma?

Got coma?

Part of me is screaming inside: All right, now you know what it looks like! Rip it out and knit something more interesting! That part of my brain is doing battle with the part that controls the hands to calmly turn the work around, pick up the free needle once again, and think: Well, it’s not as if it’s hard… and people need scarves….

Published in: on January 16, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

In case you haven’t heard (or in case you live on the other side of the world from me; some people do, not that there’s anything wrong with that), it’s been pretty cold here in Wisconsin lately. When you don’t remember how long it’s been since the temperature was above the freezing point of water… that’s pretty cold.

For the most part, the temperature hasn’t really been a hardship. It is the Upper Midwest, and it is winter, and we do expect this sort of thing. Half of Wisconsin’s tourist economy, surely, is based on festivals, Brewers games, and trips to The Dells in warm weather, and on hunting, snow sports, and ice fishing in cold weather. If you remove one of these components, we just aren’t ourselves.

Snow sports, however, are dependent upon the type of snow you get. Just ask anyone who’s tried to complete the Birkie in recent years. What’s easy to hand-shovel from the driveway is terrific for skiing but inadequate for building snow forts in the yard. What’s great for the snowmobile trails might make it impossible for you to get out of your driveway. And the cold that freezes the lake solid enough for ice fishing might come with blustery winds that could make your fishing experience utterly miserable.

Last month I got the perfect combination of weather to finally make cross-country skiing possible with skis I had held on to since 1999 and used only once. I had two sets of skis and boots — veteran skis, rescued rentals from a golf course in Ohio that had run out of the right kind of winter weather decades before and were storing the unused ski equipment in a shed and thinking about tossing the whole lot of them. I had the skis cleaned and given a waxless waxing (yeah, even the people who serviced the skis chuckled at that phrase), and went out with a friend to see what kind of skiing could be had literally in my own backyard.

In farm country, the word “backyard” could mean just the part around the house that you keep mowing. In this case, I’m stretching the definition to reach to the edges of my rental property, on the other side of the fields worked by the farmer-neighbor just down the road. At the north edge of “my” property is a marked snowmobile trail, and it takes just a couple of minutes to ski over to it. My friend and I had a blast breaking a fresh trail through and around the fields, even though we fell down sometimes and one of his ski boots separated from its sole about halfway through our adventure.

Just a little duct tape, and — ta daah! Good as old!

Just a little duct tape, and — ta daah! Good as old!

Last week (with my friend wearing a different set of vintage ski boots, which didn’t split apart until we were almost back to the house) we decided to do a longer ski in the midafternoon, following the snowmobile trail for about another quarter mile before we took a path where snowmobiles were forbidden. It was quiet, peaceful, and lovely at a comfortable 14 degrees. The rolling uphills were challenging; the downslopes, exhilarating. We even saw a few deer hurrying across the snow-covered fields to hide from the local hunters. In the end, our ski loop was nearly three miles long when we got back to my house, cold and weary and with my smartphone’s battery at 1 percent.

That’s when my friend realized that his keys had fallen out of his pocket — possibly close to the house on the return stretch, but most likely right at the furthest point of our route. Now it was 4pm, with the sun setting at 4:30 and the temperatures dipping as the light faded. We switched ski boots for snow boots, grabbed a flashlight, some juice, and a granola bar, and basically did the whole trip over again, but this time hiking through a foot of snow, climbing hills, going over and through barbed-wire fences, and eventually finding the keys right where we knew they would be (“and there was much rejoicing”) and then hiking our way out back to the roads in the dark as the feeling in our fingers and toes started to disappear. Even though a Good Samaritan stopped to give us a ride home for the last mile, it took me an hour or two to warm up back at the house.

I thought that was cold.

I was so wrong.

This weekend a polar inversion is charging at us, and the wind-chill values are forecast to be -40 to -70°F in our area. Many schools cancelled their Monday classes on Friday or Saturday. Keeping the house’s temperature at a comfortable but not indulgent level means a temperature difference of 110 to 140 degrees between inside and outside. Plugging in a heater in each upstairs bedroom often trips the breaker, which has to be located and reset. I have several windows to seal with plastic and double-sided tape and a hair dryer. It’s too cold to be outside to play; the winds will be too high for the roads to be safe from icing and snowdrifts.

We are wearing footie pajamas and double socks and long underwear indoors and having hot chocolate available at every meal. We’re hunkering down and making soup and baking cookies and playing video games and knitting. We suggest you do the same!

Yesterday it was a roast in the slow cooker. Today it's beef stew served over rice.

Yesterday it was a roast in the slow cooker. Today it’s beef stew served over rice.

What I’m knitting this week:

This pattern is an oldie but a goodie. I’ve knitted this stitch pattern almost more often than I’ve knitted stockinette. It was publicized by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee in 2006 as her One-Row Handspun Scarf pattern. It is a one-row wonder that I’ve surely raved about before; it’s easy to knit, it’s completely reversible, and it doesn’t have a particularly masculine or feminine look to it so it can be used on garments for anyone. I am knitting this with uncharacteristic-for-me Red Heart because of the Tangerine color which is almost exactly Blaze Orange, because during the recon mission for my friend’s car keys a hunter called to us from his hiding place and said we were lucky nobody shot us because we looked like deer. Really? Well, if you can’t tell the difference between bipedal, conversing human beings and white-tailed deer, I suppose I should help you out a bit. Be warned, hunters, that if this works for me I might be knitting up some matching cowls and antler cozies for the local deer herd. When I log this project into Ravelry, I’m planning to call it “Don’t Shoot.”

It's what all the fashionable deer might soon be wearing.

It’s what all the fashionable deer might soon be wearing.

Published in: on January 5, 2014 at 4:06 pm  Comments (4)  
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