1994: The Second of Four Elephants

This was an eventful year, but not in a way that is easy or fair to talk about. But I may have a story to tell even though I can hear the heavy footsteps of elephants in the distance. (Stephanie, if I cross any lines, let me know and I’ll edit judiciously. [If you’re not sure if your code name is Stephanie, you’re not Stephanie.])

Early in the year, I was preparing to be married for the second time. My fiancé and I attended several preparatory sessions together, conducted by a minister who seemed proper enough. At the end of one of the sessions, though, he cautioned us not to publicize his current profession too much: he’d formerly been a police detective, and some of the criminals he’d put on the inside might now be on the outside…and looking to settle a score. Whether or not that was true (why would a minister lie?), he certainly had our attention after that small request.

The church in which we were to be married held a lot of memories for me and for my family. My father’s parents, both of whom had passed away before I was 11 years old, had been two of the founding members of the church and had overseen its physical construction in the 1960s. My grandma, who gave piano lessons from her home, had played piano or organ or both for the church services. My own parents had been married in the same church.

This was the church where I attended nursery school and Sunday school, where we played Old Testament charades and learned about the power of a mustard seed, where I learned the names of the books of the Bible, and where my brother and I drew pictures in the programs when we were old enough to sit in the sanctuary with the adults but still too young to pay proper attention to the sermons. Even after we moved away to the country, we returned to this church for Christmas Eve services for many years; I learned suspense from holding my lit candle with a trembling hand while singing “O Little Town of Bethlehem” in the dark, only a tired paper circle protecting my hand from the melting wax.

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It was a church where everything was positive but predictable. My father, on the rare occasions when he didn’t go to church, might look at his watch at twenty minutes past the hour and state that he knew what hymn they were singing. It was a friendly, comforting church, with the same families in the same pews week after week singing the same old familiar hymns. Yes, the minister who served for decades did eventually retire and was replaced (though not without some initial discomfort). Yes, the church did revise its hymnal to become more global and inclusive (though not without some initial discomfort and some hoarding of copies of the previous edition).

At Christmastime, this church was in its glory. Gradually, over the Advent season, poinsettias appeared on the steps to the altar, then spread across the full width of the steps, then seemed to explode in a lush profusion that filled the entire altar. Combined with a profusion of candles, the effect was stunning — and it happened every year without fail. It was the most beautiful place I could imagine to be married, whether or not my husband-to-be and I believed strictly in everything that the church believed. It was a special place, and that was where we were going to be married.

Christmas came, and the church was packed with poinsettias and candles and song. January came, and the wedding date drew nearer. My fiancé’s family drove in from out of state to meet with mine, rehearse the wedding, break bread, and have what was, frankly, the loudest congenial conversation ever held in my parents’ house. To be clear, no one was angry; it was just…loud.

The wedding day arrived, and I sat in a room by myself waiting for my cue. It was a small wedding, just for immediately family, but still there were protocols. I waited alone in a nondescript room I had never noticed before, never having had a reason to notice. My brother, my parents, and my future in-laws were elsewhere when there was a knock on the door. It was the minister.

“Can I come in? I need to tell you something.”

As time slowed, he haltingly told me that the Decoration Committee had come to the church early in the morning and removed every poinsettia from the altar.

“They assumed that you would want to bring your own flowers.”

His words hung in the air. What could I say? That I couldn’t afford to buy enough flowers to make the church prettier or more special than it looked at Christmas? That the poinsettias were one of the main reasons we’d chosen the church? That — why would a whole committee do such a thing without even asking first?

“You’d better see what it looks like before you go out there.”

The former detective led me out into the sanctuary to view the naked, starkly plain altar. He was right — the whole front of the church was stripped bare. Just two weeks after Christmas, everything was gone.

Somehow I incorporated the new image of the church. I waited in my little room, then came out on cue and was married. It was still beautiful.


Knitwise, I have now created two Baby Trekkie Washcloths and am ready to make two more — just try to stop me! They’re easy and quick, which are the main things they have going for them. I certainly don’t need to make more washcloths.

Last weekend I did unearth a large unfinished project that hadn’t seen the light of day in a year. It’s a Season 18 Doctor Who Scarf. This project is another dead-ender in that I originally began it eight years ago with yarn that has since ceased production. And it’s Lion Brand Yarn, too. You have to pick something pretty darned unpopular if Lion Brand decides to quit cranking it out. The project calls for bulky chenille acrylic yarn in orange, wine, and purple, and I’m quite certain that I don’t have enough of the orange yarn to finish the project. Nor, in the last eight years of casual searching, have I seen any available (meaning, I haven’t happened to notice any skeins of it at the thrift store). The plan is to pick up the Scarf periodically and plug away at it until I run out of orange, then (A) find more orange or (B) put it away again until I find more orange.

In the meantime, I have this little cycling event coming up this weekend. I’m training, planning, and packing. I’m also crossing my fingers that a few more donations will come in before Saturday and put me at or above the minimum I’m trying to raise. Thanks to you who have already donated. I’ll do my best and maybe even take some trip knitting with me. Hey, how about a washcloth?

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Published in: on July 16, 2018 at 10:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

1992: Barcelona

Many unusual events took place in 1992. It was an election year in the United States, but it featured three high-profile candidates: George H. W. “thousand points of light” Bush, Bill “I feel your pain” Clinton, and extremely earnest billionaire H. Ross Perot.

1992 debate

As you might imagine, this debate was an easy mark for parody. We’ll probably never see a presidential candidate with flip charts again. It was mesmerizing.

1992 debate parody

Dana Carvey, left, and the late Phil Hartman.

At my new workplace, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the American Society for Nondestructive Testing (as it existed with its various names) by publishing a special edition of the journal. I was also hard at work compiling and formatting a comprehensive index of all the feature articles and technical papers that had appeared in the journal during that time; it proved to be so comprehensive that it actually ended up going all the way to 1994. (I can lend you my copy if you need to look something up.)

ASNT logo

But 1992 was also an Olympic year, and at this time both the Winter and Summer Olympics were still held in the same year. The Winter Games took place in Albertville, France, and the Summer Games were held in Barcelona, Spain.

Bonnie Blair won a gold medal in speed skating; Dan Jansen still fell short of that prize, and our hearts broke with him as he struggled towards a goal that meant so very much. I enjoyed the excellence of sport as much as I appreciated the personal stories and the hard work that the athletes put in — no matter what country they represented. It’s quite possible that I began watching televised Olympic coverage in 1976, and I grew more enthusiastic every four years.

Just a few months later it was time for the Summer Games, and the hype was amazing. NBC was promoting a special coverage bundle called the Triplecast — you can read here about the details as well as all the reasons it was never offered again. I couldn’t afford the Triplecast, I definitely couldn’t afford to spend two weeks vacationing in Spain, and I couldn’t even afford to just take two weeks off and watch whatever was on TV.

NBA players were permitted to play Olympic basketball in the 1992 games, forming a “Dream Team” of some of the best basketball players in history. The team went 8-0 during the games, beating their opponents by an average of just over 43 points. I don’t pay much attention to professional basketball at all, but even I knew who most of these fellows were at the time, and still recognize a handful.

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I watched whatever event I could during the evenings, but the moment that will always stay with me is the lighting of the cauldron during the Opening Ceremony. Over the last several years it has become a ritual to watch the Opening and Closing Ceremonies with my children, for as late as they can stay up. We have seen some elaborate and spectacular lightings. Yet nothing will surpass the pomp, suspense, and triumph of the Barcelona version. After a recent Olympics (Vancouver?) I queued up a clip similar to this one, and was gratified to hear my kids say, “WOW.”

Thank you, Antonio Rebollo!

Another high-profile mention of Barcelona came many years later, and I can’t resist sharing it with you. But it’s not referring to the city of Barcelona.

 


Knitwise, I met a friend last week and we talked sock knitting. I’ve even knitted a few rounds on a sock I started quite some time ago. The pattern is basic, and the yarn is nice enough, but the cool bit is the set of Karbonz double-points, constructed from carbon fiber. Tomorrow night is knit night and I’ll take the sock project with me as well as Nakia’s Scarf, but I’ll probably need to take a pillowcase or something that size to put over my lap before I work on Nakia — the Noro sheds terribly.

I recently took a week’s vacation, which entailed time away from Facebook. As of this evening I still haven’t gotten back in the habit of logging in to see what all my friends are sharing. I was surprised to realize that I don’t really miss it. I still have Messenger on my phone, so feel free to contact me that way if you feel like it. Otherwise, you could always leave a comment here on the blog and we could turn it into a conversation.

1991: Temp to Perm

In the spring of 1991, in advance of a move back to Columbus, I put together a resume and a snappy cover letter and proceeded to send them to every magazine publisher in the Columbus area. The job offers didn’t exactly roll in, but I received a couple of interesting responses. The editor of Fur-Fish-Game wanted to know how much I would charge for freelance editing. I purchased the current issue (probably at Kroger), perused it, and sent off a reply. I don’t think I was in the ballpark, as I don’t remember receiving another reply. It wasn’t exactly my sort of lifestyle magazine, but editing is editing. Good writing might be found anywhere, and almost all writing can be improved with judicious editing.

I did get an enthusiastic response from Dean Hoffman, who was then the editor of Hoof Beats, a publication of the United States Trotting Association. Bless him, he didn’t have a job for me, but he liked my feisty-on-paper attitude and informed me about a new group he was putting together — the Central Ohio Magazine Professionals (COMP).

When I moved to Columbus, I registered with Olsten Temporary Services and worked the jobs that came up. Their main office was in the downtownest of downtown Columbus locations and happened to be just across the street from the Banc One headquarters. Because they were so conveniently located, Olsten usually received the first call whenever a Banc One employee was out for any length of time and they needed a temp.

I enjoyed temping because of the variety of jobs I could get called for, anywhere from one day to two weeks in duration. When I wasn’t temping, I would go to the downtown office and take the tests to qualify on an additional piece of software or hardware. I could work with Wang, IBM, or Macintosh systems in a variety of word processing systems (many of which don’t exist anymore), so it wasn’t hard for me to get assignments. (There was a dry spell during which my parents urged me to register with a new temp agency; I signed up with Kelly but never worked a job for them.)

Marzettis Simply Dressed

One of the best assignments I had was as the receptionist for Marzetti Corporation, which you may know for its salad dressings and fruit dips. I worked there for two weeks, and on the first day they told me, “Here’s what you do for lunch. Go to the Wendy’s down the street and get a salad, but don’t get the salad dressing. Come back here and get whatever you want.” In the employee lunchroom the cabinets were filled with jars of every salad dressing the company made. It was heaven. Marzetti’s made great stuff and in those two weeks I tried every variety that I could. When my assignment was up, they sent me off with tote bags filled with jars of dressing. Shortly after my time there, they debuted the caramel apple dip, and all I could do was nod and smile. Yum yum yum. Yum.

Caramel Apple Dip

The worst assignment I had was temping for a receptionist at Lennox Corporation, which had recently been sold. The Columbus location, a campus of several small brick industrial buildings, was being phased out. Almost everyone who had been offered a job in the new regime had already relocated to another state. The employees who remained were bitter and not at all afraid to show it. They spent the morning standing in the hallways and complaining. I was replacing a woman who was having carpal tunnel surgery, and her desk was situated immediately inside the main entrance in the lobby. In my building there was one executive who was staying on, and a handful of angry short-timers. The executive had shut himself in his office, trying desperately to get things done while the rest of the staff railed bitterly and unproductively to each other (and me) about their fate. He emerged once to ask if I could find the receptionist’s password so that I could log in and type something up for him; I had an easier time finding that password than Ferris Bueller did finding “PENCIL” in the principal’s office. By lunchtime, overwhelmed by the atmosphere of stress and negativity, I had called my agency and begged to be reassigned to another job as soon as possible. Almost immediately, the short-timers approached to accost me. “We’re not good enough for you, huh?” “Want to leave, huh?” Now I really couldn’t wait to get out of there. By the end of the day I almost envied the poor receptionist and her ability to recover from her surgery at home in peace and quiet. The area is now the site of the Lennox 24 Theatres, and now you know…the rest of the story.

Lennox 24 Theatres

I wanted to move out of my parents’ house, but it was becoming apparent to me that while I stayed a temp — with an inconsistent income — I wouldn’t be able to get an apartment of my own. I toured apartment complexes from the West side to Westerville, but without a permanent job or what looked like a permanent partner (thanks to my friend Ben for coming along and playing the role of assumed boyfriend to try to improve my odds) I didn’t have a chance.

At the COMP meetings I mingled with editors, had some casual drinks, and talked the talk. I even served as the association treasurer for a year, which was a terrible, terrible idea I will never repeat. But my presence at the COMP meetings brought me into contact with the then Publications Manager of the American Society for Nondestructive Testing, and she was looking for some freelance help with a 50th anniversary publication they were putting together. I agreed to take on the job, and soon found myself stopping by her house to pick up new issues of the association’s journal (her kettle grill was the exchange point).

By day I was now temping as the executive assistant to one of the executive vice presidents of Banc One, and by night I was poring through back issues of Materials Evaluation to compile a comprehensive, cross-indexed listing of society-related obituaries. When the Assistant Editor of Materials Evaluation left for another job, I had to choose between applying for her editorial job or for a position as secretary to a bank executive. It was a difficult decision until I realized that, as a secretary, I would never move up. I would always be reserving the same conference rooms and booking the same flights while my well-respected boss moved further up her own corporate ladder. A temp stint where I gave assistance to the executive secretary of an even higher level Banc One Corporation executive gave me the necessary insight; her big dilemma was what font her boss should use for his official correspondence (I suggested Optima, and she agreed).

Reader, I took the editorial job.


Knitwise, I’ve been working on Nakia’s Infinity Scarf. Last week I tinked all those purl stitches until I was back to one row of stockinette. Then I was able to move forward again and even get into the twisted-stitches section. The revised pattern prints out at 16 pages, but includes row-by-row directions as well as charts. One row at a time, I can move forward with this — at least until I run out of Noro and need to find the three other yarns called for in the pattern. Maybe Shuri could develop a holographic yarn finder out of vibranium. By next week I hope to have made enough progress to take some pictures.

Published in: on June 25, 2018 at 5:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

1990: Mama Said Knock You Out

By the summer of 1990, my life had drastically changed. I was no longer married, I was still living in Oxford, and I had managed to find a part-time job at a local print shop. One part of the job was the walk-in business: making photocopies (and learning to clear paper jams in the multi-function copier), designing business cards, and ordering graduation or wedding announcements. For simple design work, we used a Mac SE running Aldus PageMaker 2.0; if you worked with it then, too, you’ll understand what I mean by saying that the most useful trick I learned was how to create invisible boxes. (In later years, being able to find and delete other people’s invisible boxes came in particularly handy when editing a layout that didn’t print as expected.)

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The other part of the job dealt with handling actual printing jobs initiated by the University and the local businesses. Every so often a brand new print job would come in, but most of what we did were reprints of prior jobs — another 10,000 pocket folders for freshman orientation, perhaps, but change the year on Cover One or the contact name on Cover Four. The client would call or come in; we’d pull the old job jacket, update the specifications, and hand off the jacket to our driver, Lester, to be taken back to the press in Richmond. Lester, a gentle and friendly soul who was past retirement age but liked to stay busy, drove daily between our locations in Richmond, Oxford, and Winchester to pick up job tickets and drop off print orders.

It was a good job for an English major who enjoyed working with computers and wasn’t seeking constant social interaction. Truly busy days were rare, and on the whole it was becoming a pleasant way to pass the summer and make a little money — not much money, because I worked only four hours a day. But that gave me the rest of the day for cycling, hanging out in the pool at my apartment complex, and other activities.

One day, we were all in a rush. Job after job had come in, and Lester waited in a chair in the corner while I talked to a client to get the specs for a new job. My boyfriend waited for the chance to take me to lunch. I hadn’t been able to take a break that morning, and I was starting to feel weak and crampy all at the same time. Then everything went white.

When I came to, I was on the floor. Lester was panicked and my boyfriend looked terrified. The client was gone, and an ambulance was on the way to take me to the local hospital for observation. Apparently I had fallen straight back to the floor: rigid, without crumpling. My boss sat by me as I lay on the concrete floor cushioned by a thin carpet. After a couple of minutes I heard sirens, then a team of EMTs came in to assess me. A brief question and answer period followed, and I was loaded into the ambulance and taken to the emergency room.

Ambulance and Gurney

This was not a reassuring turn of events. I may have mentioned that this hospital (the same one at which Professor Dickinson had “expired”) did not have a good local reputation at this time. I knew several townies with orders in place such that, should they have a medical emergency, they preferred to be airlifted to Cincinnati or Dayton rather than go to the hospital that was just a few blocks away from them.

After I arrived at the hospital I was even more confused. I was wheeled behind some curtains and left there, unattended, for over an hour. Eventually I was released to the custody of my still-terrified boyfriend, who had been sitting, uninformed by hospital personnel, on the other side of the curtain. We didn’t have cars, so we must have walked across town to go back to our apartment. Did I ever get lunch? What did we have for dinner? The details are lost to time and, possibly, to an undiagnosed concussion. Eventually I received a bill for $200 for the ambulance transport.

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It was clear that, without health insurance, I couldn’t afford to get sick or hurt again. In an unprecedented act of chutzpah, I wrote to the owner of the printing company and explained that I would need to work full time and get health benefits or I would have to quit my job. I was amazed when they agreed, and hired me at full time. I didn’t know what had happened to me that day in the shop, but in one sense I could breathe a little easier.

A few weeks later, a sheepish looking man walked into the shop and apologized. He was the client with whom I had been talking when I passed out. I retrieved his job jacket, which had never been completed. I had used a red felt-tip marker to record the job specs, and at one point the handwriting ceased and a wobbly red line ran down the job jacket and off the edge. When I had turned off and dropped like a stone, the client had turned around and run out the door and down the street.

“I didn’t know what to do,” he said. “I thought you were dead.”


Knitwise, it took me a while to figure out which knitting (or crocheting) project I should start (or finish) next. I have a small project — the Baby Trekkie Washcloth — started at work and I can start another one to leave in the knitting bag for when I get stuck on my primary project. I assembled a preliminary project bag for a Knitterly pattern I bought online, but I felt dissatisfied even as I was just collecting the materials. It didn’t feel right, and yarn/pattern combinations that don’t feel right usually don’t go very well. I set that one aside until I could better listen to my intuition; after all, I had purchased that yarn almost 5 years ago and certainly didn’t have this pattern in mind at the time.

Finally I decided to start Nakia’s Infinity Scarf from Black Panther. I had already put together the project bag with the printed pattern, the right needles, and the specified yarn in the specified colorway, so I was ready to go. It turns out that I wasn’t quite ready, because the first step of the pattern entailed a provisional cast-on in a contrasting yarn. I’ve done this before, but it’s been a while. With some scrap yarn from our bin at Knit Night, and Jill’s crochet hook, and Therese’s coaching, I crocheted the chain and got the required number of 84 knits (actually purls) into it and finished eight rows (actually seven) before the row where the stitches started to get funky.

That’s when I remembered that the scarf’s designer was a machine knitter, and the pattern I had printed out was a machine knitting pattern. Some of the symbols and instructions wouldn’t make any sense. I checked on Ravelry and found that there was now a handknit version of the pattern, complete with row by row instructions; I’m printing out all sixteen pages of it now. And now I see that the first seven rows aren’t all purls, as I had previously interpreted the chart. As Don Henley sang, “Two steps forward and three steps back….”

Sigh. Next week I’ll be helping a friend learn to knit socks. Maybe I’d better find my stalled sock project, just in case.

Published in: on June 18, 2018 at 4:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

1977: Transitions

Sometimes I look to the past and think about how an event was “so many lives” ago. In this context, a life is just the length of time it takes you to feel as if you have become someone new, someone distinctly different from your prior self. The first time I can draw such a line between lives is in the summer of 1977, when so many things changed for me, never to change back.

The most obvious change in my life was that my family moved — out of the gentle edges of the city into the green and decidedly fragrant countryside. We changed houses, schools, counties, and friends. My parents must have been preparing for this move for a long time, because I remember going along on visits to several houses that were for sale. I loved inspecting the empty rooms while my parents asked serious questions of the real estate agents. My brother and I explored closets, basements, garages, back yards. I don’t remember visiting the house we bought in Orient before we actually closed the deal, but I do remember taking the long trip to it via Grove City, and the whole family being absolutely overwhelmed by the stench of a road-kill skunk as we approached a small town that was no more than a stoplight and a sign. The sign read “Pleasant Corners.”

Century 21 logo

During the time that my parents were house-hunting, one of my father’s brothers was trying out a career as a real estate agent. It was his company’s sign that was erected in the front yard of our Westgate house, so I assume that he was the selling agent. He was, however, less than impressed with the property that we ultimately purchased. Someone’s sanity was definitely called into question. The acreage was more than we could use, and the parts of the yard that weren’t overgrown were covered in cow manure, goat droppings, and/or chicken…manure. Electric fence ran almost all the way to the house from a cinder-block barn that had basic electric service but no running water. The house itself had one bathroom and two bedrooms for a family of four, a basement that took on water after a hard rain, and lights that dimmed when we made toast. My father rented something called a “bush hog” to clear the land — though he did let us take a few whacks at the tall grass with a rusty sickle — and started improving everything that he could.

The house also came with a dog, Toby, who was the son of the dog of the folks who lived next door. At the time, my romantic mind thought him to be a Gordon Setter based purely on his coloration. His mother Pookie, however, was a tiny scrap of brown and black fur that looked like a Yorkie, and his father could only be imagined. Toby was a real country dog who didn’t hesitate to challenge the local groundhogs, snakes, and raccoons to combat. It didn’t matter — I finally had a dog! Maybe this “moving to the country” thing wasn’t going to be so bad after all.

And now…I even looked different. I had loved my long, thick hair and putting it up into ponytails that flew out behind me from under my baseball cap when I ran the bases, but my mother gradually complained more and more about how hard it was to take care of. One evening before we moved, she sent me down the street so a family friend could cut my hair. I wasn’t in on the plan, and cried when my long waves were cut off and the remaining hair sprang up into tight curls. I didn’t recognize myself, but there wasn’t much that I could do about it.

Niagara_Falls_1_1977

That 70’s vacation.

And now I was ten years old. We had taken our summer vacation to visit Niagara and Horseshoe Falls and make a brief trip into Canada. We were on the road on my late-June birthday; a waitress brought out a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting on a ceramic plate that rotated and played “Happy Birthday,” and I was embarrassed at being the center of attention. But on the same trip we visited what must have been a corner drugstore, shopping for road food or other supplies. I wandered over to a newspaper stand and picked up a copy of the local paper, and the store owner snapped at me to put it back, as if I were a thief. My parents didn’t hear him. I felt scared and didn’t know what to do. I put the paper back. I was furious at having been falsely accused, and it was decades before it occurred to me that the storekeeper had probably been the victim of young shoplifters and was just looking out for his store. He probably couldn’t imagine that I just wanted to read the newspaper.

Pickaway Darby Twp 1937

The ‘new’ gym was added in 1937.

And now we had a different school to attend. My mother drove us there in the early August heat and let us play on the playground while she attended to the administrative details. My new elementary school, where I would be in fifth grade and my brother would be in second, was an immense brick structure built in the early 1900s as a K-12 institution (replacing a school built in 1886). There was a large central staircase that, supposedly, had been made wide enough to accommodate girls ascending and descending in hoop skirts. The story was utterly credible. In my single year there I wasn’t brave enough to explore much but I found three staircases. I wouldn’t have been surprised to be told there were more. The whole place was a woodworker’s dream, with hardwood floors and walnut-stained railings. But once school started I had a lot of adjustments to make — the new school used different reading books and no one was sure which level I should be in. My classmates all seemed to be related to each other somehow, and even if they weren’t, they had still known each other since they were born. Their country accents were so thick that sometimes I didn’t understand what they were saying, and some of them made fun of me for doing my homework in class instead of taking it home. I became more shy and withdrawn, hesitant to either make a mistake or do well.

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And there weren’t Camp Fire Girls in the country — just Girl Scouts and 4-H. I had heard of 4-H groups as the ones who trained seeing-eye dogs, so that was what I picked. Luckily, there was a much wider range of activities under the 4-H umbrella, and it was a good organization for me to join. I took projects to the county fair in birds, cats, dogs (attempting to show Toby in the middle of the sheep barn was a memorable experience), photography, and creative writing over the next several years.

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And the next year…I would be off to the middle school, mingled with kids from the other two elementary schools in the county. Our teacher promised that everything would be harder. And I’d have to make friends all over again.


Knitwise, I finished and gently blocked the Olympic cowl. The colors were bleeding while I was working on it, so I did some Internet research and gave it a cold-water vinegar rinse before laying it out to dry on an old towel. We’ll see if that does the trick. It’s a pretty thing, and now it’s soft as well.

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See? I really do knit.

Then I started to collect yarn for a future project: Nakia’s Infinity Scarf, which is designed by Jeff Giles, featured in “Black Panther,” and free on Ravelry. I have NOT started this project yet, as I have not yet finished the project I said that I would finish before I started my next project. Sheesh. All I did was print out a new pattern and buy one LOUSY FREAKING SKEIN OF YARN and put them in the same project bag. (Okay, it was Noro.)

Nakia Shawl

Gotta finish some stuff before I start some stuff. And I’m in the mood to start some stuff.

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

20140118_112500

and turned it into this.

20140118_112645

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  

Week Thirty-Nine: It was the middle one

I found my Doctor!

Marvel Premiere #57, December 1980

Marvel Premiere #57, December 1980

While writing last week’s post and looking for images with which to illustrate it, I came across a set of comic books for sale on eBay. I set up a brand new eBay account (knowing full well that this will create the entrance to a very dangerous rabbit hole, so you don’t have to remind me) and put in a bid. These were the comic books that introduced Americans to The Doctor.

The comic books arrived today, and after the kids were asleep I read through the first one. Nope… nothing familiar.

Marvel Premiere #58, February 1981

Marvel Premiere #58, February 1981

But the second one…. I skimmed it, and flashed on the transformation of the villain Magog from human to demon form. Yes. I remember this. There was also a mini-adventure featuring K-9, and I chuckled as I read through it, knowing this was something I had read before. This was it. THIS WAS IT.

Marvel Premiere #60, June 1981

Marvel Premiere #60, June 1981

Third one? Nope. Never read it before. And interestingly enough, way in the back is an article about the various actors who’ve played the Doctor. It also introduces 29-year-old Peter Davison, best known then as Tristan on the BBC adaptation of James Herriot’s “All Creatures Great and Small,” as the brand-new Fifth Doctor-to-be. This long article was printed in blurred 3-point type, so I’m sure I wouldn’t have read it back then, even if I had had this comic book. But I wonder how reading it might have changed my view of the Doctor; I had watched Davison in that show! There I was, on the cusp of a new Doctor, and he’s one for whom I have yet to watch a single episode. For the want of a comic book….

Oh, and for anyone wondering why the third cover looks so different… the artist of the first two covers found himself in a time crunch when the third issue was at deadline, and the publisher had to call on the artist who regularly drew covers for one of their other titles, “Conan the Barbarian.” But he got the scarf colors right, so I can’t complain.

Knitwise…. do you really want to know?

In my local knitting group, two of us are doing a knitalong of a cardigan that went from Cute Little Project to Annoying Slogalong on the second day. If you knit, take a minute to digest this…. 207 stitches on the needles, worked in stockinette for 7 inches before you do anything else. Yep, 7,452 stitches of stockinette, just in that section. That’s not sleep-inducing at all. I have tried knitting this section by myself in a completely silent room, but I do find I make more progress if I knit on it with other people around to talk with and listen to. By “more progress” I mean “can knit about five rows before my brain starts to melt and I forget, mid-row, how to purl.” But it won’t knit itself… it won’t knit itself… it won’t knit itself…. When I finish it (and I will), it will be the first sweater I have ever made for myself.

The sweater-to-be.

The sweater-to-be.

For the Sheep and Wool Challenge, I have started a project but am temporarily stalled at Row 4. It’s a tricky pattern that needs to be worked in good light, with the benefit of a clear head. For the past week I have not been able to meet those conditions simultaneously. But I am working on it.

Published in: on September 26, 2013 at 9:00 am  Comments (1)  

Week Thirty-Eight: How I Met the Doctor

Recently, Facebook was trying to enhance the quality of its content by finding out every movie, TV show, and book I have enjoyed over the past <<cough cough>> years of my life. The exercise in cyber-feedback progressed from ‘mildly invasive’ to ‘there IS such a thing as a stupid question’ when I came across this screen (click on the image to make it come up, bigger, on its own page):

SeenThis

Have I watched this? Have I WATCHED this? Seriously, how does Mark Zuckerberg not personally know whether or not I have watched this?

I can tell you exactly when and why I started watched New Who. My ex husband said, “Oh look, they’re starting up ‘Doctor Who’ again. Didn’t you used to watch that? Christopher Eccleston is going to be playing The Doctor. You know, the guy who was in ‘Shallow Grave’ with Ewan McGregor.” We watched the series reboot on BBC America and LOVED Eccleston’s Doctor. His leftover rage, his manic energy… perfect! Then, at the end of the season, he regenerated into David Tennant. I was so upset I stopped watching for a year. (If you know me through Ravelry, you’ll know I eventually got over this.)

These days I’m not only all caught up, but I’m re-watching all of New Who with my teenage son. We are almost done with Tennant’s first season (yes, I will have a carton of tissues ready for “Doomsday”) but will swing right into Martha’s year and beyond.

What I can’t tell you is how I met the Doctor in the first place. Ironically, that meeting has been lost to time.

I do know that I’d met him — Tom Baker’s Doctor, the only one most Americans knew back then — by the fall of 1985 when I went off to college. My winter coat was a long black wool coat which I usually wore unbuttoned, accompanied by some sort of ridiculously long scarf. (No, I didn’t have a hat.) And with me I took my beloved 1940s Underwood manual typewriter AND an electronic Smith-Corona typewriter that I probably received after my high school graduation. It was a grey slab of a thing, all angles and no warmth. (I have no idea where it is now, or what might have happened to it over the years. It probably ran away from home after I got my first Macintosh in 1988.)

I named it K9.

How did I know?

Editing with K9 in 1987.

Editing with K9 in 1987.

I did have a little black and white television in my bedroom. There must have been an awesome sale at Sun TV, because all my friends had identical black and white TVs that year. I was allowed to watch it as long as my grades didn’t suffer. (ha!) I watched “Cosmos” on it, and British shows aired by PBS. I remember watching someone’s performance of “The Importance of Being Ernest.” I remember watching “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” But I don’t remember seeing The Doctor there, and they probably would have shown Doctor Who on midnight Saturday night anyway. I never stayed up that late (I think I watched a grand total of TWO episodes of “Saturday Night Live” during my high school years, and making it to the ball-drop in Times Square on New Year’s Eve was a big deal).

I suspect that I met the Doctor via…comic books. I personally remember buying only copies of Daredevil, the Amazing Spider-Man, and Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man (otherwise known as PPTSS). But my BROTHER, now there’s a guy who knew how to accumulate comic books, and I read everything he had as soon as he was done with it. I suspect that somehow, somewhere, the Doctor and K9 snuck into the house in comic book form amidst copies of The Unknown Soldier, Marvel What-If, Sgt. Rock, The X-Men, G.I. Combat (“featuring The Haunted Tank!”), and Warlord.

Ah, Warlord. An Air Force pilot loses his way near the North Pole and flies to not Russia but the primitive inner-Earth land of Skartaris.... ahem.

Ah, Warlord. An Air Force pilot loses his way near the North Pole and flies to not Russia but the primitive inner-Earth land of Skartaris…. ahem.

But, I was talking about the Doctor. Somehow I found him, and somehow I just thought he was cool. And many many years later, when I was learning how to knit, the first item I made was a ridiculously long scarf that I called my “fake Doctor Who scarf.” I didn’t look to see if there was a specific scarf to copy, certain colors, or any type of pattern at all. To me it was Plato’s scarf. I knew it had to be very long, and have lots of colors and fringe, and that was all. Ta-daah!

Not the Doctor's.

Not the Doctor’s.

(Later, of course, I found out there was a pattern. There were very specific colors, and stitch counts, and row counts. So far I’ve made four and have a fifth one on the needles.)

That's better.

That’s better.

Judging from the comic books my eyes devoured, I liked adventure, history, and good winning over evil. The big coat, the crazy scarf, and the tin dog just made it even more fun.