Second thoughts

Recently I read an article that explained why, when we’re driving, we can sometimes get lost in our rambling thoughts yet still arrive safely at our destination. Apparently the brain can construct some sort of parallel structures so that one process (in this case, driving) can go on in the background while another activity (pondering) seems to rise to the foreground until some action occurs to bring the background function to the fore.

That immediately brought to mind a question that my high school Government teacher asked my class of seniors in 1985: “Did you ever just get in the car and start driving, then suddenly realize that you were at your destination with no memory of how you got there?” At the time, we all laughed and said no, of course not. Who would admit to being such a distracted driver that they didn’t remember the trip? Some of the students teased him and called him a stoner, and he just laughed. In retrospect, and with the perspective of many more years, it was incredibly brave of him to put that question to a room full of irreverent teenagers. These days, it might cost a good teacher their job.

But he was right. Anecdotal evidence and science happen to back him up. I have my own data set, because it’s youth basketball season and I’ve been doing more driving than usual — to practice and back, to games and back, to tournaments and back. And forth. And back. And forth.

I find that driving on familiar roads, which I am wont to do, eventually begins to serve as a sort of Zen activity which permits the wandering thoughts to become firmer and bolder. I have come up with some deep thoughts worthy of Jack Handey, but there seems to be no way to record them while I’m driving. And by the time I arrive safely home, they have faded in contrast to the thoughts of parking the car, unpacking, and starting a new set of urgent tasks. Sometimes they disappear.

ferris-blink

I’ll have to find a way to catch these gossamer thoughts before they drift away. Will it be an app on my phone? Will it be a pen and notebook kept in the car? Will it be my frustrated shout, “I have to remember that! Shut up until I get home!”

Sometimes my thoughts do give me another chance, like a Girl Scout making a second visit with the order sheet if you weren’t at home the first time she was out peddling Thin Mints. At that point they’ve been more than generous, and it’s imperative that I do everything to record them and develop them, to think about their implications. (Thank you, I’ll take two boxes. One for now and two for the freezer.)

I have certainly surrounded myself with enough notebooks, pens, Post-It notes, pencils, writing pads, crayons, backs of envelopes, calligraphy pens, and reams of copy paper with which to take down these mental notes. I also have an incalculable amount of computing power in the house (incalculable for the most part because not all of it still works, but the potential is certainly there).

The hardest things to find are quiet and time. Time is difficult enough to obtain, but I’m not yet skilled enough to block out all distractions in order to develop some of these thoughts. And if I’m punched in on the Parent time clock, I have to stay alert and responsive to the changing needs of the other members of my family. They may not be interrupting my reading and thinking to ask for a cup of juice these days; they might be unable to sleep because they’re wondering about their purpose in life. I’m not saying that I have the answer, but the point of being a parent is to be there when your child asks the question, and let them know that it’s something worth talking about. So, checking out from that responsibility isn’t the way I’m going to get a novel written.

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Yet I still have to write a novel. One of the thoughts that did recently occur to me is that there are many things about me and about my life that my children do not know, in many cases simply because they have not asked me. They are busy navigating their transitions from childhood to young adulthood, and it’s quite possible that it will never occur to them to ask those questions. Maybe someday their own children will ask those questions about me, and my kids will have no idea what the answers could be. But they could know me, a little bit, through the characters, experiences, and thoughts I could weave into a book.

At times, being around finished books is hard to bear. I recently had to leave a bookstore after realizing that I was surrounded by the work of people who had actually finished their books, and I felt inadequate and ashamed. Yet at other times, the same experience is inspiring. Look at how many people have felt the same urge to write, to record, to create! Look at how many times they have been successful! When I read poor, sloppy writing I feel upset, as if that author has taken a place I should have had, as if their printed book has crowded out my unwritten one. (Of course, that’s not true — they have put in the work and I haven’t. Yet.)

But when I read truly great work, it seems to make more work on the bookshelf for whatever I may be inspired — and driven — to write. Literature isn’t a competition between writers, but more of a test that takes place within a single creative mind. How will I perform on that test? Will I work hard enough to succeed? Will I make the time? Will I nourish the thoughts? Will I develop the skills? I sure hope so. I’d love to read the kind of book that I think I could write.

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Published in: on January 16, 2017 at 8:33 am  Comments (1)  

Apparently I am the 90 percent

In the previous post I mentioned that I have occasionally been accused of not finishing what I start. Now, that’s a bit unfair to make as a blanket statement, because I certainly have proof that I have completed some of the things I have started. Including blankets.

Well, most of them, except for the blanket project I just started a year ago, and THAT blanket project I started several years ago, which nobody in my knitting group had better throw in my face — AGAIN — because, after all, I don’t have a bed big enough for that blanket any more. But I will still finish it anyway. Eventually. So there. (I’m not sure that this proves my point.)

The point is that some things I start, I completely finish. That should give the lie to the statement that I never finish anything I start.

And it probably would, except that it turns out that most of the things I start only get mostly done. And by mostly done I mean really, really close to done, like 90 percent done.

90 percent used to be a really good grade. Sigh. Back in the days of junior high school and part of high school, before I had Mrs. Beathard and her math classes and her 93-100 “I have higher expectations for you” grading scale, 90 percent was a solid A. 90 percent was great, and certainly more than good enough.

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I never gave a thought to that other 10 percent. How neglected it must have felt — abandoned after the 90 percent had been bagged and tagged. But after a while it found a companion: another 10 percent. Even side by side, they didn’t look like much, especially next to an 80 percent. Who were they kidding anyway? They weren’t important.

Now, however, they are legion. While my 90 percents are cowering in project bags and storage boxes waiting for free time that will never come, those 10 percents have gotten together, sent petitions around, and freakin’ unionized. You get enough 10 percents hanging around, and eventually they add up to about 2000% of some seriously unfinished business. And if you’re only running at 90 percent efficiency in the first place, you’re never going to finish 2100% in a day. And the next day it will be 2110%.

Those pesky 10 percents.

They are the three missing photos I need to complete my firstborn son’s baby book. (What’s the rush? He’s only seventeen years old…and ten months. Crap.)

They are the five minutes’ work of knitting I need to do to finish a project for a friend who lives on the other side of the planet. (It’s only two years late. I want to get it riiiight.)

They are the books that lie sideways on the shelf because they don’t have a proper place to go because I buy new books faster than I finish reading the old ones. (Maybe I’ll break both my legs and have to stay home in bed for several months and then what will I do if I run out of books to read?)

They are the bills I’m going to pay tomorrow, the clothes I’m going to fold tomorrow, the refrigerator I’m going to clean tomorrow. (Guess what’s going to happen tomorrow?)

I have finally realized that nobody cares about what I plan to do tomorrow. Heck, I’m not even that crazy about it myself. I’ve had plans before, and assumptions, and bought-and-paid-for concert tickets. I know what can happen. I know what has happened. I could have all the best intentions in the world and it doesn’t matter if I put them all off until tomorrow.

It doesn’t matter if I have a great idea for a novel, a series, heck, an entire franchise! It’s just an idea and it’s going to fade away if I don’t tackle it and give it 100, yes, 100 percent. Even worse, it might leave me and go attract the attention of someone who will give it 100 percent on the first go-round.

It doesn’t matter if I’m the kind of person who wanted to take Latin or be a professional baseball player or have a de-scented skunk for a pet. Wishes are wishes, and I didn’t do any of those things. Could’ve, maybe should’ve, but didn’t.

I’m not trying to just dump on myself here. I’ve done some pretty neat stuff, and I don’t think that I’m a failure. But I can’t take credit, even in my mind, for the things I merely wanted to do but didn’t have the courage and strength of character to accomplish.

And tonight, I have some bills to pay.

Published in: on January 9, 2017 at 9:03 pm  Comments (2)  

Unfinished Business

I haven’t published a blog post here for a year and a half — but then, you already know that. What you may not know is that, before I started writing this post, Chocolate Sheep had six visitors for all of 2017. Six! After an empty, desolate eighteen months of non-publishing!

Now that’s a faithful audience. But then, I already knew that. (And thank you.)

My last year and a half has been busy and stressful and joyful and sorrowful. Many of the things that happened to me, I can’t write about. But that’s okay. I have been doing a lot of thinking and waiting and writing in my head during that time. I’ve studied my math, written an essay about various incarnations of Sherlock Holmes, switched jobs and switched jobs again and then switched back to the previous job, started a new blog (or maybe two) and posted for a while and then didn’t post, started reading a lot of books and finished reading most some of them, knitted (and partially crocheted!) a few things, mourned Alan Rickman and David Bowie (ouch) and Gary Shandling and Prince (ouch) and Leonard Cohen (WTF) and Carrie Fisher (please, no) and Debbie Reynolds (wait, what?) and William Christopher (okay, 2016, I officially give up now, please take all my heroes) and so many others, and started writing here and there — journal entries, embarrassingly bad poetry, grocery lists, song lyrics, the aforementioned (and as yet still unpublished) Sherlock Holmes essay, love letters, parts of short stories and longer stories — and, as I mentioned, done a lot of thinking.

I have done a lot of thinking about who I am. I start a lot of stuff. And I have to admit that I don’t finish everything that I start. I have had that fact thrown at me like a poisoned dart in the last few years. At first it hurt. Maybe after a while, though, I got a bit more acclimated to the poison. Plenty of people start lots of stuff, including knitting projects. Most of it probably isn’t worth finishing and should just be frogged. Are you obligated to hunt down every wild hare and chase every wild goose just from a sense of honor? Or can you walk away from the hunt when you realize you didn’t really want Hasenpfeffer or Duck a l’orange anyway and a good tuna salad on whole wheat sandwich was more to your taste? And if you walk away, how do you deal with other people’s opinions about your change of mind?

You don’t deal with it. They deal with it, if they really care at all. And if they only cared enough to criticize actions they didn’t understand, they probably don’t need to deal with it either. Just move on. Really. Just move on.

So here I am, still thinking and writing, and trying not to beat myself up for all the loose ends I’ve left behind me. These days I’m getting better at not beating myself up unnecessarily. So when I’m able, I will weave in the ends that are important. Until I’m able, I may be casting on for something else that may be profitable. That’s how my brain works and that’s a large part of who I am. I do my best and I keep going. I don’t want to get stuck any more in the morass of guilt over my as-yet unfinished business. Sometimes I don’t keep writing because I don’t know the end of the story yet. I move on to something else until I do. Sometimes I don’t know how to take the next step in a project. I get something else done while I figure out that next step. It may take five years before I pick up that project again, but I did finish other projects in that five years.

A couple of weeks ago I took a new kind of step and applied for a writing fellowship that would provide professional support and structure to my writing. (Clearly, I need structure.) Whether or not I earn/win/receive the fellowship, I need to start writing again. Today is as good a day as any to start. Knowing that six readers were here waiting for me at a virtual blank sheet of paper is one kind of motivation. Even if they turned out to be six Russian spiderbots collecting subversive knitting lingo for Putin, well, it’s still nice to be waited for. (For the comrades: CO 4x+2. k2, k1 tbl, p1 across, end k2. Turn and repeat. For the Motherland!)

Today also happens to be my tenth anniversary of starting this blog. Online writing has changed a lot since I joined WordPress. So has WordPress, which (after I’ve published it) will probably tell me how many posts I’ve published. For what it’s worth, so have I.

I have started many blogs, all on WordPress, since I started this one — one for each particularly interesting-looking-at-the-time wild goose that crossed my field of vision. Most of them are defunct for lack of interest, lack of time, or lack of relevance to my current life. But there are two that I will most likely choose to maintain in addition to Chocolate Sheep, and they relate to my home baking and my movie reviews. If you’re not interested, then by no means should you worry about them (I haven’t seen a movie in the theaters since Interstellar). If I do post something to those blogs, I will link to it from here so you can see what my writing is like on the other side of the tracks. But frankly, it’s quite a bit like my writing on this side of the tracks.

There are so many things I want to do.(Don’t get me started. Seriously, don’t even think about getting me started.) But most of all, I want to be my best self and keep trying. I hate it when I give in to the dark forces — don’t you?

Keep trying, and keep reading. I promise to keep writing.

Published in: on January 2, 2017 at 12:09 am  Comments (3)  

Part Two: Re-Reading Mockingbird

With my middle-school experiences in mind (see Part One), I got ready to re-read To Kill a Mockingbird and, while I was visiting my parents this summer, started looking around for a copy. I just assumed there would be a copy at hand whenever I felt like picking one up, but this turned out not to be the case.

Me: “Mom, where’s your copy of To Kill a Mockingbird?

Mom: “I don’t think we have one.”

Me: “  ”

I had purchased my copy of Go Set a Watchman at Target, so I went back there and looked. Unfortunately, they had no copies of Mockingbird. (Perhaps they were sold out and waiting for a fresh truckload. I didn’t ask.) I finally found a newly printed paperback edition at Meijer, bought it, and dove in.

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Happily, I discovered that it was just the kind of book to draw you in so nicely and carefully that after a chapter or two, if you managed the self-control necessary to put it down, it soon convinced you to pick it up again and read just one more page, just one more section, just one more chapter to discover what would happen next — even if, thanks to memories of the book and the movie, you in fact already knew what was going to happen next. I kept picking it up until I had to drive back to Wisconsin with the kids, and I think I was in Illinois by the time I realized that I had left Mockingbird in one of my parents’ guest rooms with the first page of Chapter Ten folded over to mark my place. I may or may not have done a facepalm while driving at the moment I realized this.

Head in Hands

I need not have worried. A few days later a box showed up on my doorstep with some of the things we had accidentally left behind, and when I opened it, resting on top was Mockingbird. Now I could finish.

Finish I did, within a week. I had just launched myself into a new full-time job, I was driving all over the county to do all kinds of errands, and it was time to start getting all the kids ready for school. But somehow I just kept picking up the book and reading for chapters at a time until I spent all one Saturday morning racing towards the end and finishing it with great satisfaction.

Certainly by that time, and probably while I was still in Ohio, I had come to the uncomfortable realization that I had not, in fact, actually read To Kill a Mockingbird before. What I had read was, I realized, the Reader’s Digest Condensed Version of To Kill a Mockingbird. This explained a lot.

It explained why the lovely prose I was reading didn’t seem familiar to my mind or my ear. Yes, I had read the story somewhere around 1979 or 1980, but still. At this time I was also reading George Orwell, John Steinbeck, and some other heavy hitters of American literature. I would have remembered this writing — and I didn’t.

It explained why I had breezed through a novel that the class was taking longer to make their way through. It was longer.

It explained why, over the years, there were references to the book that I didn’t catch. Those details, those immortal lines, just might not have even existed in the version I read.

For a moment I felt guilty, as if I had lied to get out of reading a book. Even though 36 years had passed. Even though the thought was ludicrous of there being a good book out there, somewhere, anywhere, I wouldn’t want to read. But that moment of guilt passed too, and I was in awe at the quality of the book that someone, somehow, had managed to convince all the schools should be required reading.

I did not go to school in pre-Civil Rights-era Alabama like Jem and Scout. But I went to school in a rural agricultural area that was so white we didn’t even think of our district’s one black family as black. Our society was so homogenous as to be almost monolithic: white, Protestant, economically getting by. If any of us thought we were rich, it was only if we compared ourselves to the terribly, desperately poor among us. And I don’t think that any of us thought we were rich.

But it was also a school where I overheard one future jail-cell-dweller tell his friends, “If I have to go out, I’m taking a nigger with me.” It was not exactly the bleeding-heart-liberal audience for Harper Lee’s eloquent book about embedded, enculturated racism, self-serving false accusations, mistaken assumptions, and the short-term consequences of all of the above. And it wasn’t a school wherein one brave iconoclast took a stand against the culture to prove his honor and earn their grudging respect. How it was…was how it was. Minorities suffered. Athletes got away with it. Homosexuals were tortured. Smart kids were ridiculed. People with connections used their connections. Nothing ever seemed to change. (If the school culture changed after I graduated, I wasn’t aware. But I hope that it did.)

To Kill a Mockingbird was a book from which we all should have learned something. I’m not sure that we did. I’m glad that I finally read it in its entirety, and I’m glad that we were supposed to read it as eighth graders, when it should have been able to make a difference in our psyches before we were fully formed adults. Whether or not it did, I think it was good that we read the book.

Next: To Read a Watchman?

Published in: on August 30, 2015 at 9:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Part One: Me and the Mockingbird

Recently the American novel To Kill a Mockingbird and its author Harper Lee have received a lot of attention because of the publication of her “sequel,” Go Set a Watchman. This summer I purchased copies of both books with the intent to read them both.

I wasn’t alone; for a while this summer, both novels were Top Ten New York Times bestsellers. But since you know me — either in person or through my writing — you may be interested in knowing my own reasons for doing this. To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel that most American public school students read in the eighth grade. I, however, did not, and thereby hangs a tale.

First, let’s discuss why I did not read this wonderful, amazing, brilliant novel in the eighth grade. There are, basically, two reasons: the first is that I had already read it. The second is that I had the same English teacher for both seventh and eighth grade. And when “Bob” (his real name, but not his full name, as he may still be teaching English somewhere) realized that I had already read the novel, he didn’t think I needed to spend another six weeks (or was it longer?) slowly re-reading it as the rest of the class encountered it for the first time. In retrospect, this may not have been the right decision to make, but his intentions were good.

As I said, “Bob” was my English teacher in seventh grade. He was new to my school district, and — if I remember correctly — this was his first or second teaching assignment. He was 26 years old, and I was 12. I was the daughter of two teachers, a rabid reader, a diligent student, and a budding writer. I got through English classes with one finger serving as the bookmark for the front-of-the-textbook matter that the whole class was reading, and another finger poised to flip the pages to the much more interesting reading at the back of the book, despite the teacher-of-the-year’s exhortations not to read ahead.

“Bob” soon realized that I could read whatever was put in front of me, write papers that were excruciatingly organized, whip almost anyone in Scrabble, and diagram complex sentences until the cows came home. My saved English assignments from seventh and eighth grade are covered with his positive feedback, his encouragement, and his judgment that I could soon be submitting my work for publication somewhere. He gave me extra books to read and extra assignments to do to make sure I kept being challenged. He also gave me what was, apparently, some remnant of his college career — a spring-loaded black vinyl pouch to keep my folders and papers in. I felt honored and special.

Then came eighth grade, and he was my teacher again. This was not supposed to happen, and everyone knew it. To this day, I still don’t know why or how it happened. But everyone knew how the tracking worked. I had had Teacher “A” for seventh grade and was supposed to have Teacher “B” for eighth grade. Most of my friends moved on to Teacher “B.” I still had “Bob.” Everyone noticed, and that’s probably when people started to talk. (This was, incidentally, the year that The Police released the hit single “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” about an English teacher with a crush on a student who was half his age. Thank you very much, Mr. Gordon Sumner. You made eighth grade extra enjoyable.)

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Eyebrows were raised, but my schedule didn’t change. We proceeded through the year with the usual assignments until it came time to read To Kill a Mockingbird. I don’t know if “Bob” asked for a show of hands in class or I discreetly let him know after class, but somehow I let him know that I had already read the book. He soon decided that it was better for me to give me new assignments than to make me re-read the book. And off I went on my own course, doing a sort of independent study while the class plodded through Mockingbird with oral readings in class and quizzes and tests a couple of times each week.

Somebody got upset. Somebody thought there was favoritism. Somebody thought I was getting special privileges. And probably somebody (or somebodies) thought there was more going on between the twentysomething new teacher and the teenaged student than met the eye. There wasn’t, but it was enough that someone thought there was. Meetings were held. My mother was called in to talk things over with the principal to help “calm things down.” It was decided that I would join the rest of the class in following the standard curriculum. I traded my independent studies for a paperback copy of Mockingbird, joining everyone else just as Bob Ewell was called to the stand. The quizzes were easy, the plodding was slow, and that was apparently the desired outcome. I managed to finish eighth grade without receiving any further accusations of misconduct, then went on to the high school and never looked back. What became of “Bob”‘s career, and what effect his decisions regarding my assignments had had on him, I never knew. I never saw him again. But at the end of the year I emptied out the vinyl pouch that I had so treasured, and returned it to “Bob”‘s desk when he wasn’t looking.

I eventually went on to Miami University, where I earned a bachelor’s degree, with University Honors, in the dual major of English Literature and Creative Writing.

Next: Re-reading Mockingbird

Published in: on August 28, 2015 at 10:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

Baby steps

I want to write, but it’s hard to write things right now. My work situation is tentative. My health situation is mildly distressing, but also tentative.

I want to use my words!

Published in: on April 1, 2015 at 11:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

My Secret Shame

1981

Awww…. isn’t he cute?

Barry Manilow

Barry Manilow Live!

Even Now

One Voice

Barry

Here Comes the Night

Oh, Julie!

Manilow (RCA)

Because It’s Christmas

Ultimate Manilow

The Greatest Songs of the Fifties

The Greatest Songs of the Sixties

15 Minutes

 

And here are some pictures from last night’s concert in Chicago, at the Chicago Theater. One bucket-list item, checked off!

———

The text above is from a draft post I started writing just over three years ago. I did have a ticket to see Barry at the Chicago Theater, but he ended up cancelling the show when his recovery after some surgery was coming along more slowly than he had anticipated. I didn’t know the show was cancelled until I was already in Chicago to see him, and it turned out that quite a few strings were attached to my ticket and my attendance. I did enjoy my walking tour of downtown Chicago and my dinner at a Top Chef alumni restaurant, which I did blog about (see From the Bucket to the Sprout), but overall the weekend was rather emotionally tumultuous. Enough said about that — it’s in the past and it can’t be changed.

A couple of months ago I was browsing Facebook when Barry made the announcement that he would be touring in 2015, for the last time. It was time for me to get another ticket. And I did. I’m going to get to see and hear him live this Tuesday night in Milwaukee, and all I have to do is figure out how to get there myself and where to park the car and have dinner.

I don’t always wait 35 years to see someone in concert. But when I do, I’m over the moon.

This might be one of the three kindest Barry Manilow memes on the Internet.

This might be one of the three kindest Barry Manilow memes on the Internet.

Published in: on February 22, 2015 at 6:49 pm  Comments (4)  

Thoughtful

In 2014 I actually did a lot of knitting. It’s hard to tell this because I didn’t spend much time on Ravelry fussing with my queue, creating new project files, updating old projects, or taking and uploading digital photos of my projects at each stage of progress. (Actually, I didn’t spend much time on Ravelry doing anything.) But I always had a project to take to Knit Night, and things slowly got done.

I finished the Drunken Octopus Sweater.

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I finished Citron.

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I finished Traveling Woman.

Travelling Woman

I finished a pair of socks.

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I also knitted slippers for my appreciative grandmother, squares for a group-project blanket, and probably a few other things for people who really didn’t care much one way or the other.

In 2015 I’m still looking at my pile of WIPs (Works in Progress) with an eye to finishing them before I start any new projects of substance. A few of these WIPs are small and need just a bit of focused attention (green wool slippers) to move them to the “finished” column. Some of them are big and tedious (Scrabble blanket) and will take many months to properly complete. Others are ambitious and filled with complex lace or cable patterns, and got stalled out early.

That being said, a baby was recently born on the other side of the country, and in a fit of love and familial compassion I whipped up a pair of booties for him and even threaded them with blue organza ribbon. And then I thought up a simple baby blanket scheme (I wouldn’t call it a pattern, but I suppose you could if you wanted to) and cast on and started knitting like the wind. The baby’s already been born, you know. You have to knit more quickly after the baby’s been born, or you might as well forget the nursery accessories and start planning a size 10 Wallaby pullover.

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I’m finding now that I’m taking more time to think about which project I want to finish next, and why. I need to think about why I’m knitting it, and for whom I’m making it (if it’s not for myself). I need to think about when and where I’ll be able to work on it. Some of these projects will need some serious recon time before I might be able to take them to a public place to work on them.

This type of thoughtfulness seems to be spilling over into other areas of my life. I’m more thoughtful and deliberate about how I spend my limited time at home, what I wear to work, how I want to accomplish a task, and how I interact with friends and acquaintances. I don’t feel the need (or perceive the value) of rushing through things as quickly as possible. It’s all right, and sometimes better, to reply with “no,” or “wait,” or “let me think about it,” or “I’m not sure, but probably not.”

Quick reactions often lead to more crises for me — I don’t have the time to fully understand my situation, realize my options, or decide upon the optimal solution. It’s good to be able to slow things down when I can, to have some space around the decision point. It gives me more time to take care, to make a better choice, to think more than one move ahead. (It might even aid my chess game.)

One of the things I’ve been thinking about is my writing. I didn’t do much blogging last year, but I did start a journal. I reviewed a movie on another blog. And I wrote a lot of song lyrics. I lost count, but there were a few dozen. Most were shared with just one or two trusted friends, but some were “published” only for my own sight as I still need time to deal with both the wording and the emotional message being expressed. I intend to continue the journal-keeping, and I also intend to return to this blog with more frequency, whether I’m writing about my knitting projects or some other topic.

Resolutions are fun to make (remember my own Sheep and Wool Challenge? yikes), and intentions are just intentions until they’re backed up with action. One of last year’s epiphanies was that, to be blunt, nobody is interested in what I want to do. But if I actually do something, some people might be interested in what I did. Most people won’t be interested, and that’s fine. But I still need to do the things, for my own varied reasons. I’ll share some of the things I do. If you are interested, or appreciative, or appalled, or intrigued, give me your feedback. And please feel free to share with me the things you’ve decided to do.

Starting Over

This weekend I cast on for a shawl. I know what you’re saying: “Wait a minute! She’s finally going to write about knitting in a knitting blog?”

This shawl is worth writing about because I’m actually re-knitting it. Not making a second one from the same pattern; re-knitting the same shawl with the same yarn. A few years ago, I cast on for this shawl. (Should I look up the exact date? You really want me to look up the exact date? Really? FINE. I will go to Ravelry and be right back.)

On April 6, 2012 I cast on for this shawl. (Are you happy now?) I had wanted to knit this pattern, Traveling Woman, for some time and I had just the yarn to make it with, an Araucania fingering weight wool in tonal teal. It’s not an overly complicated pattern really — it goes from fiddly to tedious to Pay Attention To Me — but I was working other projects at the time, and from my project notes on Ravelry I can see that I made my fair share of mistakes. Because of the pattern repeats in the lace sections, though, I could usually tell when I’d goofed up somewhere, and I could un-knit those stitches, give my knitting a little more attention, and re-knit the section.

This worked until I was (if I recall correctly) about two rows from The End, Completely Done, Finito!, and Off The Needles. Somewhere in that row I made a fatal mistake. (I was probably tired and knitting with my eyes closed. This doesn’t work very well, as you can imagine, and it’s a particularly bad technique to use with lace.) It was probably a simple mistake because I don’t have enough technique to make complex mistakes. What made it fatal is that I couldn’t determine how I’d made the mistake. That meant that every time I tried to undo it, I was actually making things much, much worse.

At last I realized the truth — I couldn’t go forward because I couldn’t fix the mistake, and I couldn’t go backward because I couldn’t fix the fix to the mistake. So I did what any good intermediate knitter would do. Somewhere around the end of August I sent the whole project to time out. And because I was so frustrated with it (really, with myself) I actually sent it to that special farm Up Nort where old dogs go to romp forever in sun-bathed grassy fields. I told it that it wasn’t its fault (I lied) and that my friend Brandy would take very good care of it and maybe fix it (I lied), and I sent it packing.

On January 1, 2013, I sent a text and asked Brandy to take this project off the needles, pull it apart completely, and wind the yarn back up into a ball. She texted back: “Are you sure?” (Actually, there may have been a 24-hour waiting period imposed. Brandy really wanted to make sure this wasn’t an impulse decision.)

I was sure. A few months later it came back in a box as a humungous ball of yarn.

I wanted to do things differently this time. I wanted to give the shawl more time and attention. I wanted to be monogamous with it. (Knitters, you may laugh heartily now.)

So this weekend I cast on for a Traveling Woman shawl. It’s the only thing I’m working on right now. It’s coming along just fine, so far.

And it’s actually part of a very, very small knitalong. Brandy is making one, too.

This particular shawl is knitted starting from the center back.

This particular shawl is knitted starting from the center back.

 

My, how it's grown! This is after 38 rows. I start the lace charts after 68 rows of...this.

My, how it’s grown! This is after 38 rows. I start the lace charts after 68 rows of…this.

 

Published in: on October 20, 2014 at 11:13 pm  Comments (2)  

Sweetheart

Recently I’ve been trying many new things, but mostly to slow down, take my time, think about what I’m going to do before I do it, and notice (without judging) how I feel. And while these things are valuable to try to do, it’s not on every day that I’m able to do them. My days seem to swing back and forth between “take your time and find your path, my child” and #notenoughhoursintheDAY. When you have three and a half minutes to be somewhere in ten minutes and you can’t find the car keys which are ALWAYS in the same place but today they’re NOT, and someone just realized you really meant to get in the car NOW (and he is, frankly, pretty pissed off about it), and someone ELSE for some reason can’t find their SHOES even though they were WEARING them when they got HOME half an hour ago and HOW could you lose your SHOES in thirty minutes when WE HAVE SOMEWHERE WE NEED TO GO, there isn’t the luxury of sufficient time for mature reflection and dispassionate self-analysis.

Shall we play a game?

Shall we play a game?

Some days you have to have a different method for figuring out how you’re doing. A good day — no, a great day — is like being at DEFCON 5, or Threat Level Green. That’s the day when I drift around the house, ruminating on my good fortune at being able to breathe freely, make my own decisions, and generally appreciate my relative autonomy. That’s the day when I react to good things by muttering “sweetheart” as I go about my business.

Now, I realize that muttering “sweetheart” to an almost empty house makes no sense. I’m not addressing myself or the dog. I don’t have a sweetheart unless you count the memory of having had one, many years ago. And that really just doesn’t count.

I think I say it — almost autonomically — because I feel happy. Comfortable. Settled. Cuddly. Peaceful. Forgiving. All the things you feel when you’re with your sweetheart and all’s right with the world.

A strange game....

A strange game….

Now, that being said, a more difficult day — a DEFCON 3, Threat Level Yellow Day — doesn’t get the same utterance. That’s the day when I feel I’m moving against the flow, swimming upstream, and generally working at cross purposes with the universe.  That’s the day when the word “asshole” spills from my lips. It’s not a “Fish Called Wanda”-level “ASSSSSHOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLE!” bellowing, just a kind of muted growl at seemingly constant low-level frustrations.

For a long time, I thought that these were the only levels I had. And then came a DEFCON 1 kind of day. Threat Level RED. An “I can’t go back to bed, so you’d better get out of my way” kind of day.

WWIII

…the only way to win is not to play.

I don’t remember who or what set me off, or how it ever got resolved. All I remember now is that I was channelling the language of an extremely dissatisfied sailor. Whatever I was wandering around muttering, it probably sounded like “!@#$%ing @#$%s!!!!!!”

I like the “sweetheart” days much better. Pretending I’m not alone. Pretending someone understands completely. Pretending that everything, the way it is right now, is just fine and will never change. Oh, sweetheart, that’s just the way I like it.

Published in: on October 1, 2014 at 11:38 pm  Leave a Comment