1980: Shots fired

Out in the backyard of our house in the country, my brother and I learned to shoot with his Daisy BB gun and some larger firearms. Our property was host to varmints galore, but we left those to the dogs — by the dogs I mean Toby (who came with the house) and, later, Babe (who came home with me from gym class); poor Charlie, the middle dog, was a rescue from German Village and was always an inside dog. We took aim solely for target practice, with a range consisting of soda cans set atop fenceposts. Plink, plink, plink. Set them up again.

Dad was not obsessed with guns, but over time he had acquired a few diverse and interesting specimens of home protection. I remember when he taught me how to cope with the kick-back on a .357 magnum Ruger. It was a powerful gun, and knowing how to handle it properly was pretty satisfying. Dad also emphasized safety and proper cleaning, so when you wanted to blow some empty Coke cans away you knew you had to prepare beforehand and clean up afterwards.

We never had to fire a shot in anger, but we almost came to it once when someone spotted a field mouse in the closet by the front door. By then I was accustomed to rescuing lost and/or slightly damaged animals, and I wanted to cage it and release it. Mom rushed in with a broom to whack it into submission, and had it cornered when Dad charged down the hallway with his shotgun.

“Jim!” she yelled before he could pull the trigger. “NOT IN THE HOUSE!”

I have previously written about some of the loveliness of that apex of public education, eighth grade. It was in the middle of that school year when other people with guns began making the headlines by bringing tragedy to the world. On Monday, December 8, 1980, Mark David Chapman murdered John Lennon. My generation, born after the assassination of President Kennedy, was alive during the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, as well as the attempted assassination President Ford, but we were hardly aware of these events. This one got our attention. Everyone knew the Beatles, and everyone knew who John Lennon was. Double Fantasy, the album he had just released, played endlessly on the radio, and the track “(Just Like) Starting Over” now sounded like a cruel joke but rose from No. 6 to No. 1 on the Billboard charts after Christmas and stayed there for more than a month.

Having recently read something about the Beatles, John, and Yoko, I wrote a letter of condolence to Yoko Ono. A month or so later I received a reply — a copy of a letter she had sent out in response to the thousands of people who had acted on a similar impulse. I wish I could find this letter today.

A few months later, we heard the shocking news that President Reagan had been shot by John Hinckley, Jr., and some of his Secret Service agents had been wounded while protecting him. The whole incident had been caught on film, and we the captive audience watched it over and over for days, still disbelieving. There was a brief period of procedural chaos while Reagan underwent emergency surgery, but soon order seemed to have been restored.

Two months later, I was leaving school and headed for my bus when I heard, probably from a radio in the school secretary’s office, that the Pope had been shot. When I raced onto the bus and told my driver the breaking news, she thought I was making it up. To tell you the truth, it could have even been the other way around: perhaps I heard the news on the school bus radio and then ran back into the building to inform the secretary. It was a confusing time, and it was all a long time ago.



Knitwise, I wasn’t sure what project to take up next after I finished the slippers and hat. So I went to the biggest bin that was easiest to reach, and pulled out two items that could be considered works in progress. The first was a purple-and-white acrylic project that had begun as a hat, then transmogrified into a baby sweater. (I was bored. Work with me, people.) Now it’s sort of a toddler-sized vest, with some stitches on holders, some stitches live, and with no clear plan as to how to bring it all together into something that a very young person could actually wear. If I look at it for much longer, it might turn back into a skein and get donated to someone more clever than I. At this point, that could be anyone.

Another project on hand was Nakia’s Infinity Scarf. With the jury still out on whether one should knit a Noro Silk Garden ball of yarn from the inside or the outside, and with me nearly paralyzed by looking at the charts for this pattern, I moved along to Project Three.

Said Project Three turned out to be two skeins of the Michaels version of Lion Brand Homespun in a blue-green blend. I had set them aside to be used in a pattern that used three blue-toned yarns in an alternating sequence to produce…something. The pattern wasn’t even with the yarn any more, so the yarn was available for reassignment. I tried a US 13 needle, frogged the unsatisfactory results, then cast on 42 stitches on a US 15 needle and gartered away. At this point I have just started knitting the second skein. I have plans to make something a bit classier (and more complicated) than a blue-green rectangle, but first I have to finish the basic rectangle. It’s good to have goals.

Published in: on April 9, 2018 at 9:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

1979: This ain’t no disco

Let’s face it, 1979 was not exactly a peak year in American history. I searched for a cultural high point and I found events that included the nuclear reactor meltdown at Three Mile Island, the start of the Iran hostage crisis, and even Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park. In my personal history, this year is associated with seventh grade — the middle year of middle school. It’s also tough to find a personal high point.

Merging with the other elementary school students in sixth grade had been an opportunity to get sort of a fresh start at making friends, but my circle hadn’t gotten much larger than the few people I had met and hung out with at Derby Elementary. Being in the marching band would eventually be the the activity that led to travel, danger, challenge, and achievement — but not this year, when I was still learning notes and trying to march and play at the same time.

Spirits Having Flown.png

Recently we had gotten some new music into the house, after a lapse of more than a decade since my parents’ college days. In a flurry of purchases we wound up with the soundtracks for Annie, Star Wars, Tron, Grease, and Saturday Night Fever. This was followed up with a Bee Gees album and two multi-disc John Denver albums. We actually had a wide range of music in the collection, and I was never quite sure which belonged to Mom and which belonged to Dad. Eventually, it just became one eclectic shelf of albums by 101 Strings, Mott the Hoople, the Smothers Brothers, the Chad Mitchell Trio, The Christy Minstrels (not to mention The New Christy Minstrels), Crystal Gayle, the Kingston Trio, Jethro Tull, the Brothers Four, Godfrey Cambridge, Tom Lehrer, Helen Reddy, and the various casts of several Broadway plays. Oh, yes, hipsters — it was all on vinyl.

Man of La Mancha

Many years later, my parents sold their house, moved into an apartment while they built their next house, and had a garage sale to get rid of the extra items before they had to haul them all over Pickaway County and back. Before the sale, my brother and I cherry-picked the album collection, and I think we’re each happy with what we saved. Those weird albums are our childhood, and they were shared with the open air and everyone else in the house in the days before headphones, the Sony Walkman and Discman, and even boom boxes. Digital music, CDs, and iPods were decades away. Music in our house was public, and if I ever annoyed anyone with the stack of albums I queued up on the record player, they never mentioned it or I have long since forgotten their dissatisfaction. Perhaps I didn’t even notice it at the time.

Stacker Changer

The other medium of music in our house was the audio cassette. The blank ones came in three-packs at KMart and I always seemed to be running out of them. I was a devoted listener when the American Top 40 with Casey Kasem came on every Sunday, and I often positioned the portable tape recorder next to my clock radio and did my best to record my favorite songs without any of the commercials. (Funny that, these days, I might be more eager to hear those old lost, local commercials than the songs I’m likely to still hear on ‘oldies’ radio stations.) This was a tricky enterprise, as I could not sing along or even make any noise in my room while making the recording, or the creaky floor would end up on the tape, too.

The prerecorded tapes came via the Columbia House Music Club at six for a penny and a flat fee for every month thereafter (or until you got sick of them). My six selections were the soundtrack to the Muppet Movie, the soundtrack to The Rose, and four Barry Manilow albums. I do remember that there was a default album that came if you didn’t send in your selection in time (by postcard, if I remember correctly). I accumulated plenty of music this way, but the one genre I never really expanded upon was disco.

Knitwise, I finally finished two pairs of slippers, then decided to turn as much of the leftover yarn as I could into a hat. It ended up fitting better than the slippers did, but since it was for a toddler it didn’t stay on for long. Sometimes it really is the thought that counts. You’ll appreciate it when you’re older and colder, Jake.


What’s next on the needles? Probably something I still need to finish, but I haven’t settled yet on one of my myriad options. Stay tuned!

Published in: on April 2, 2018 at 10:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

Damn the torpedoes!

And by torpedoes, I mean, of course, resolutions.

My grades didn’t tank — I’m still carrying an A in both precalculus and astronomy.

I didn’t gain 300 pounds — but neither did I lose 40. So I still have that one to struggle with.

And I’m still posting on the blog at least once a week.

But knitting… so help me, I needed to work on something new and bright and colorful and full of shiny fangirl wonderfulness.

So I did.

May I present Jayne Hat #1, which was not even in my queue until last week. On Monday I cast on and knitted to the end of the orange segment. Then I marched steadily on with the Browncoats until this afternoon, when I made my first pom pom with a pair of cardboard cutouts.

Hero of Canton

The yarn is a mishmash of Plymouth Encore for the pale orange and Thrift Store Mystery Yarn for the yellow and the red. All they had in common was that they were accessible and most likely machine washable. (I know that red has to be Red Heart Super Saver, and a careful washing should soften it up. I sincerely hope.) The pale orange tone works, actually, but now I’m somehow out of a proper yellow and I don’t want to use bright red  for the ear flaps again after seeing a picture of Adam Baldwin in the hat.

The man known as ME

So. Maybe now I’m back to my resolution-knitting, and maybe I’m not. But I know I will be making more Jayne Hats as soon as I can get the right yarns together. It’s an easy pattern (though I don’t think the one I made looks much like the real hat) and a quick knit, so it’s an easy way to augment your Geek Cred if you’re into that sort of thing.

Published in: on March 3, 2012 at 6:08 pm  Comments (2)  

Behind schedule

So, based on those poll results, people are more interested in what I’m working on (and putting off) than the projects I actually complete?

Well….. okay. That’s going to work out quite well, actually.

Here’s the WIP list to the best of my recollection. I’ll put in pictures later.

1. Doctor Who Scarf, Season 18, Lion Brand Thick & Quick Chenille. This is well underway, and the only difficulty is that the yarn has been discontinued and the Terracotta and Burgundy colors, which I need several skeins of, each, are tough to find. I have a buttload of Purple in stash.

2. Doctor Who Scarf, Season 12, Caron Simply Soft. I’m making this for a friend and have every color except Brown and Yellow. I just finished the first two stripes. The next two stripes are Brown and Yellow. Time out!

3. Lenten Scarf KAL. This is an interesting project comprised of seven 12-inch squares in a row, making a 7-foot-long scarf. I am halfway through the last square, then need to weave in the ends, block it, and add tassels.

4. Baby blanket. This is the Baby Prayer Blanket pattern, done for a cousin’s baby, due in August. It’s maybe 20 percent done but that may be a generous estimate.

5. Cabled socks. This is the Brigid pattern, and I started this as a January stash knit-down project. Or February. Who’s counting? I am actually at the foot, but suspended work to take on the Lenten KAL with full force. The pattern says to switch to ribbing on the foot instead of continuing the Celtic knot, but I would rather continue the cabling if I could concentrate on the darn thing. Working both socks in parallel.

6. Tilting TARDIS scarf, based on the cowl pattern. This was a KAL timed with the end of the last season of Doctor Who, and we’ve started the new season already. You can imagine the urgency I bring to the project.

7. Cotton blanket: I have knitted 93 of the requisite 225 squares. I have no idea how I’m going to crochet them together. ‘Nuff said?

8. Greenish blue scarf, One-Row Handspun Scarf pattern. Begun on St. Patrick’s day 2010, or maybe 2009. I don’t remember, haven’t touched it in months.

9. A brown hat I’m knitting on the fly for a friend who is also Tommy’s bus driver. Every time she sees me she asks where it is. I last worked on it in December, and now it’s finally spring. Again, urgency.

10. I’m almost ashamed to say I never finished that little Adipose I was making in the summer of 2008? Really? 2008? Good Lord, Tennant was still the Doctor and everything.

There’s probably something else waiting for me to finish it. Are you happy now?

Published in: on April 29, 2011 at 9:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

A wedding and a funeral

I’m still here, but my priorities got changed for me over the last couple of weeks. I can’t even remember if I’ve gotten any knitting done since the last post — did I mention I finished a Doctor Who Scarf, all but for the fringe? — because real life sort of took over.

My brother got engaged, and I knitted his fiancée a pair of Bronte’s Mitts fingerless mittens in alpaca for her birthday. So I guess I did finish something! They arrived on her Actual Birthday and she likes them.

Bronte Mitts for Lydia

Then school started — all four kids on the bus at the same time. I waited twenty minutes, then dashed off to the coffee shop to celebrate with the other local moms I hadn’t seen all summer.

Then it was the second day of school. It wasn’t memorable until midnight, when we got a call to tell us there was a tragedy and school was cancelled for Friday. There were no details, and I spend the night tossing, turning, and sporadically searching the internet to figure out what had happened. It was 10:30 the next day when I discovered that our principal’s only son had been killed in a car accident after their car was struck by a suspected drunk driver. Treyton was a classmate of my middle boy — they were just six years old. It took me hours before I could compose myself to tell my children what had happened. It was a long and angry weekend for me, with my husband away and my kids grieving and venting at their completely different developmental stages.

On Monday we had a little family cookout, and on Tuesday it was time for school again. (“How was school today, Jack?” “Treyton’s dead.” “Yep.”)

On Wednesday school was cancelled for Treyton’s funeral. And although his mother made a passionate and moving 19-minute eulogy that would make anyone set their drink down and call a cab, I won’t embed it here. I heard it live, but it’s very hard to listen to. If you want to find it for yourself — particularly if you’re struggling with the issue of drunk driving or other bad choices at your house — go to www.todaystmj4.com for “Raw video: Treyton Kilar’s Eulogy.” I don’t know how long it will be available. If you know me via Facebook you can find it on my wall.

On Thursday I was taking my youngest son into town with me and he asked, “Mom, when is my next school day?” He goes on M-W-F and had already missed an F, an M, and a W.

On Friday we were sort of back to normal, but now it was time for the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival (Hi, Lael!) and the final details for UNWIND, the Saturday night social event I’ve been coordinating for a few years now. I didn’t have any money to blow at the festival, so I was safe there. (I still have fiber from the last three years to spin up, anyway.) And the party seemed to go well — 113 guests, about 50 door prizes, and everyone got home safely. We’re doing it again next year and we’ll have more details soon. (The planning for next year went off like a shot when I delegated the venue and catering decisions to my friend Bonnie.)

Today was another normal old school day, but since the husband is away on a business trip through Thursday, there’s a lot more on my shoulders and I wish there were more time to knit. I’m working on a prayer shawl for Treyton’s mother, but the progress on it is somewhat unusual. I started a different prayer shawl pattern, but abandoned it after 1 row. This pattern was on the top of a stack of patterns I had printed out last April when my former father-in-law died, but I had never used it. I frogged the other project, cast on for the new pattern, and got a quick start. But now it seems I am called to knit only a few rows on it every day. The universe has made it clear that this is to be a methodical and meditative project.

I haven’t made the other two hats for the kids, but I did start a toque for myself as designed by my friend Dale-Harriet. I used up all the yarn she gave me and it won’t take long to finish it. I just have to wait until the next time we cross paths so I can get more Cascade, and I don’t know when that will be.

I’ll miss the next Late Night Knitting at the Sow’s Ear because the aforementioned middle son will be the ring bearer in a wedding that takes place this Saturday (the rehearsal is Friday night and we’re going to need it, trust me). We bought him a tuxedo for this, and he’s looking forward to it, but occasionally he does panic and freak out at stuff, so I’m a little tense as we get closer to it. I wonder how much weight I can lose in a week, just in case I need to go strolling down the aisle myself, hand in hand with a six-year-old.

That’s enough and I’m tired. I’m going to do some simple knitting and get some rest. Most of today, I’ve felt as if I was on the verge of some sort of episode, and I’m sure you can understand why.

Published in: on September 13, 2010 at 10:57 pm  Comments (2)  

Only 100 rows

I finished the purple hat to go with Colleen’s gloves. See?

And I have been chugging along on the Doctor Who Scarf, until I now have just five stripes left to knit — 100 rows. Because I’ve been knitting in my ends as I go whenever switching colors, I won’t have that to do at the end of the work. I have just two ends to weave in from where I joined a new skein of brick red in the middle of a stripe, and the end left over after I bind off. Then it’s just cutting and attaching the fringe, and it’s all done.

I haven’t bothered to measure it for months. The only way I can knit on it is to keep it all rolled up and have it on my lap while I knit. It’s too big to work on in the car, and not especially portable anywhere else.


I just might time it so I can finish the main knitting at The Sow’s Ear this Friday night. That’s worth ringing the bell for!

Then, of course, it will be time to knit Jack’s and Tommy’s hats, start a tocque for myself, and finish all the lace and/or wristwarmers I’ve got going. I discovered a German knitting designer the other day who has a bunch of beautiful lace patterns up on Ravelry, and a handful of them are free. (download, download, download, print print print) Her name is Birgit Freyer and her site is http://www.Die-WollLust.de — “Knitting Delights.” She does publish charted patterns rather than line-by-line directions, so be advised. But oh my goodness, it’s lovely stuff.

UNWIND registrations are over 50 now. Keep those forms coming in, don’t wait until the last minute! (Which would be September 1.)

Oh yeah — I dubbed the blue and green alpaca sock yarn scarf as my Official Car Knitting. I had it with me yesterday on the way to a family party. As long as I can remember to cap the needles so the whole project doesn’t slide off, and I can keep from snapping the needles, I’m good. And as long as I don’t get impatient. I really wanted a lacier look for this scarf, and should have used much larger needles. But there’s no way in hell I’m ripping it out at this stage. Consider it a lesson learned for the next scarf made with sock yarn. This one looks lovely at the gauge it’s in. It’s just going to be done when it’s done and that’s the best I can do.

So, what’s your Endless Project? How do you motivate yourself to keep plugging away at it?

Published in: on August 16, 2010 at 3:18 pm  Comments (2)  

Meeting expectations

I always knew I was my own worst enemy. No sooner do I vow to Get This Doctor Who Scarf Done No Matter What, I decide I just have to make matching hats for the mittens.

One hat down, another hat started, two hats to go.

But tonight, I swear, I will work on The Scarf. After tonight’s Top Chef and a round of playing the home game (eight key ingredients, two cooks, one dish each, no desserts). I mean, I only have 190 rows to go before I add the tassels.

So, of course, I started on some Secret Holiday Knitting too. That shouldn’t slow me down a bit, no sirreeeeee!

But other than that, the order should probably be Doctor Who Scarf first, Adipose, Tilting TARDISes Cowl/Scarf (did I mention that one in the last list? it’s lovely lace), Gigi’s Triangle Shawl, 198 Yards of Hell, and then whatever’s left. With, of course, Hats of Hilarity and Christmas Knitting tucked in between each of those projects.

Did I mention there is a birthday and a wedding coming up? And that I thought when school started I would be able to work on some quilts when I wasn’t studying for my Apple Hardware and OS Certification? Oh crap. I might find out I’m human after all.

Time/spacewise, I started reading the introduction of my scholarly edition of H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine, only to discover his primary influence for the work was a book called Flatland published by Edwin Abbott in 1884. Well lo and behold, I have already bought Flatland, so after finishing the Time Machine intro I will read Flatland first. This is all because I finished Cosmos a couple of days ago, yay me.

It’s all part of the plan. Hang on tight.

Published in: on August 11, 2010 at 5:39 pm  Comments (2)  

Mittens are Old Hat

Did I mention I made a bunch of mittens (and one pair of gloves) last month? I apologize, gentle Reader, for not informing you sooner.

Eldest wanted a pair of mittens that were the same color as Harry Potter’s cabled sweater in The Sorcerer’s Stone, and I decided to throw in the mirrored cables for free. of course, since I wouldn’t see him until August, technically I didn’t have the mittens finished “on time.” But I did everything except the thumb tips before he got home, and took care of those on the second night he was back. Yes, those thumbs are ginormous, and no, I’m not sure why. But my son tried on his mittens, pronounced them perfect, and allowed as to how there was plenty of room for growth. Every once in a while, your child gives you a reason to keep him. This was one of those times.

I’ve made a couple of knitting plans since finishing the mittens. One was to see how many unfinished projects I could finish while the Formula One boys are on their annual three-week summer break. Right now this includes:
• A Doctor Who Scarf for my brother, 80 percent complete
• A leftover Adipose doll from two summers ago, 90 percent complete
• Lauren’s Wristwarmers, umm, zero percent complete (I wound off one skein of the yarn I want to use), sorry Lauren
• A blue and green scarf made with alpaca sock yarn, maybe 30 percent complete
• The ironically named 198 Yards of Heaven shawlette, on Row 37 of 76. That sounds like halfway — trust me, it’s not.
• A garter stitch triangle shawl for my grandmother, about 20 percent done?
• Tyrone. 90 percent done, three years in timeout. Enough said?

Maybe it’s time for a poll, or some groupthink for a strategy to finish as many of these as I can before Christmas knitting starts to creep onstage.

In the meantime, I started knitting ribbed hats from the leftover mitten yarn, so the kids will have matching sets and I will have less yarn. I’m halfway done with the first one now. Since I did mittens from Youngest to Eldest, I’m doing hats from Eldest to Youngest. Because I’m the boss of me, that’s why. And because once you’ve set yourself a time-based goal, there’s nothing more motivating than adding additional tasks. Or something like that. Say hello to Hat Hilarity!

School starts on September 1, so naturally I have developed three new professional goals for myself. One, to continue the library science classes, but with a math and science focus. Two, to undertake self-study and get certification in Apple operating systems and hardware so I can snag a best buy job as a Counter Intelligence Agent. (Yup, the Geek Squad.) and Three, to get some freelance work or a part time job so I can afford to qualify for the bigger jobs.

The week after school starts, I’m also throwing that little party for a few fiber friends. I think we have about 50 UNWIND registrations so far, and are expecting a lot more in the next few weeks. It’s time to start working on the fine details of that one, and I’m glad it’s not a solo job any more.

Have to scoot now — need to work on a Scarf (or a hat), get some registrations processed, ice my hip (thank you bursitis, therapy starts Thursday morning), and get all the kids ready for a trip to take two of them to karate.

Published in: on August 9, 2010 at 1:59 pm  Comments (1)  

The day before the travel day

What happened? Is it time to go? Where are my clothes? What am I taking?

Oh yeah.

I thought we were on track with getting ready for a week away from home, when I saw the 2-3 inches of wet snow on the ground this morning. OK kids, now I’m serious about the mittens and the hats and the scarves. And by the way, pick up a snow shovel on your way out. kthxbai.

There are a couple of knitting projects I really should be working on today, but in reality I’ll be doing dishes and laundry and making lists and packing for the kids. So any knitting will probably be just stress-release knitting. I started a little garter stitch scarf for my daughter that’s perfect in that role — filling the Garter Stitch Void where the Doctor Who Scarf used to be. (I’ll probably start another one after Christmas, if there is anything after Christmas.)

We currently have 20 Connor Caps logged in here at Hat Central. Today’s the last day I’ll be receiving mail before the deadline of next Monday. I’m preparing myself hoping for an onslaught of the remaining 180 hats then, when I go to the post office to pick them up.

If you haven’t emailed me for my address before 2pm tomorrow (Tuesday), just contact Sara (Spitfire) at the email she left in the comments, and she’ll get it to you.

And while I’m gone, try a visit over here. Apparently I have a German twin! When I update my blogroll in 2009 I may well make a separate section for Chocolate Sheep sightings around the world. If you see one, please let me know about it!

Yesterday I purchased a 66 qt. plastic bin, 200 feet of clothesline, and 200 wooden clothespins for transporting the hats to school on Hat Day and displaying them between the basketball hoops. Does anyone know if 200 feet of clothesline is going to be enough?

It’s come to my attention that I haven’t posted a picture here of my Doctor Who Scarf, fully fringed. So here’s one!


Season 12 Doctor Who Scarf, fringe and all

Season 12 Doctor Who Scarf, fringe and all

Published in: on November 24, 2008 at 8:16 am  Comments (4)  

Connor Caps mailing info

I will be offline during Thanksgiving week, so if you will need my mailing address for a hat, please contact me before Tuesday, November 26. After that time you can PM spitfire if you’re on Ravelry, or you will be out of luck.

Please, when you send a hat/postcard/afghan square, include your name and address in or on the package. I want to give credit, and there are prizes at stake. I want to everyone to be eligible to win.

And if you sent me a hat from Cedar Ridge, California, contact me right away so I know who you are!

Thank you!

Published in: on November 19, 2008 at 4:21 pm  Comments (3)