1989: The First of Four Elephants

Several life-changing events happened to me in 1989, but in order to choose a story to tell I will have to ignore a very large elephant that happens to be crowding out almost everything else from the room. One of the rules I set for myself in this storytelling series is that I would try not to tell anyone else’s story, and writing about my first marriage definitely qualifies as telling someone else’s story — even if the someone else isn’t likely to read it or to care about what I might have to say. This rule is self-imposed, and it’s about respect. It’s my rule and I’m sticking to it.

Elephant_in_the_courtroom

In the spring of 1989 I took the GRE and applied (and was accepted) to graduate school at Miami; in May I graduated with honors from Miami University with a double major in Creative Writing and English Literature. In July I got married, took a brief honeymoon in Denver, and returned to Oxford just in time to take an intensive pedagogy class for graduate assistants who would be teaching freshman English in August. In that class I met someone who would become a fast friend; in fact, you could say he owns the second elephant.

The summer of 1989 kicked off a complicated and stressful time in my life that persisted for entirely too long, and I didn’t often make the best decisions. Thus, we witness the generation of a series of elephants which shall not be discussed. (Special note for those who are 22 years old and think they know everything about the world: You don’t. I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you. But it’s all right; I know you’re not listening anyway.) I’ll let you know when one of my elephants has wandered into the room, and we can talk about something else while it has a bit of hay and water.

Four_elephants

To avoid talking about my elephants or anyone else’s, let’s go back in time a bit to the spring of 1989, when my capstone project for the Honors program was due. Because my degree was in creative writing, I didn’t have a research project to present. My requirement would be fulfilled when I read from my work, to an audience in Hall Auditorium. I repeat, my degree was in creative writing. Not speech, communication, theatre, drama, broadcast journalism, or performance art. In silence and solitude I had written my words, considered them, revised them, and offered a portfolio of short fiction to be evaluated by my “thesis” committee in the creative writing program. Now, for the sake of the Honors program, I had to make the transition from the page to the stage.

Hall Auditorium, located on the other side of the campus library from Bishop Hall, was originally constructed in 1908 and named after Miami’s fifth president, John Hall. Over the years I had attended several events there, including a reading by Tom Wolfe and a performance by the Second City Touring Company. It has a seating capacity of 750, and in my day it was sometimes the site of huge lecture sections of Western Civilization classes.

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After a $6.5 million rehab in 1992….

It looks pretty big when you’re in the audience, and it has the curious property of looking even larger when you’re all alone on the stage, looking outward.

Mine wasn’t the only “act” on the agenda for that afternoon. I waited backstage for my turn to approach the microphone and read my work to whoever was in the audience — other members of the Honors program, I assumed. The student before me concluded their talk, received a round of applause, and walked off stage left. Everything was going just fine as I walked on from stage right. I placed my pages of text on the podium, took a deep breath, and began to read.

I heard my voice, small and soft in the large space. When I was a few sentences into my story, I noticed strange looks on the faces of the audience. When I was a few paragraphs in, I realized that they could not hear me well and it was possible that the microphone, which had worked perfectly for the previous speaker, was now not working at all.

As I continued to read, I brainstormed. Had the person before me turned off the mic before walking away, and had I been expected to turn it back on? No. Had the mic really just broken without warning? I wasn’t sure, but something did seem to be broken. Was it going to come back on? Perhaps. Should I keep reading, trusting that the mic would turn itself back on? Maybe. Should I stop reading, apologize, and start over?

The repercussions of my last question to myself were what made me decide to just keep reading and pretend that all was well. I was keyed up enough as it was; if I stopped now there was no guarantee that I would be able to calm down enough to start the reading all over again. I also couldn’t fix the mic, so there was no guarantee that it would be able to start all over again with me. There was a tech person on the stage, just behind the front curtain. Presumably they would be able to fix the mic if it were broken. (If I broke down, I wasn’t sure that I could be fixed.)

If that’s true, I asked myself, why haven’t they come over, stopped me, and fixed the mic? Maybe it’s not broken after all and I just THINK it’s broken.

So I kept reading, paragraph after paragraph, maintaining the gentle momentum of the text, staying as calm as I could. The short story itself was more of a tone poem with plenty of onomatopeia and internal rhyme, with a rhythm like a rocking chair, and it propelled me forward.

Two sentences before the end of the story, the microphone came back to life. My voice boomed through the auditorium as I read the last few words.

“Thank you,” I said, and exited stage left to a round of tepid, confused applause as my legs tried to turn to jelly.

I had done my reading, even if nobody heard a word of it, and there was no way they would get me back out onto that stage again.


Knitwise, I have completed the Grey Shawl of Eternity. Have I the proof of this accomplishment? Nay! I cast off last Tuesday night, displayed the shawl to my Jefferson knitting group, and folded it up and tucked it into my knitting bag. I then started a project with the only pattern I had on hand – for loafers, of all things – with the closest yarn to what it required, an orphan skein of brown-and-white marled bulky wool that ranged from extremely thin to extremely thick. It wasn’t fun or satisfying, but it was knitting. Two days later I took the shawl to my Whitewater group, unfurled it, and handed it over to the woman who had given me the donated yarn in the first place. While she wrapped herself in the Shawl of Eternity I knitted two more rows on the unsatisfying loafer pattern, paused, and then pulled out the needles and frogged the project.

Kate Hepburn knits

What would Katherine Hepburn knit?

I am open for suggestions.

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1981: Summer Camp of the Nerds

The summer of 1981 brought great relief. I had survived the eighth grade and would be going to high school in the fall. (Considering that our middle school and high school buildings were positioned about 30 yards apart, this was not so much of a big deal.) I had made it through two years of marching band and was attending summer band practice. (There was this thing called “band camp” coming up in August, but that probably wasn’t going to be a life-changer.)

My big deal was that I was going to spend one week in July at Miami University, in a summer camp emphasizing science and math. Not only was it a camp about science and math, but it was pretentiously and embarrassingly titled the “Summer Institute for Tomorrow’s Leaders.” Nice job, Miami. Apparently I had been considered nerdy enough to attend this camp the previous summer, but my parents hadn’t gotten my application in before the spots filled up — grossly underestimating the number of extremely nerdy seventh and eighth graders in the nation’s heartland. I was waitlisted for the following year, and off I went to Oxford, Ohio.

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Our drive of one hundred miles went due southwest along I-71, wound through Lebanon, south of Middleton, and north of Hamilton, and then ended at the top of a steep hill where State Route 73 would have run straight into a forested campus if there hadn’t been a stoplight. We were in Oxford. The sky was sky blue, the grass was grass green, and every building was made of weathered dark red brick crawling with real ivy, with cream Georgian columns out front. The campus screamed COLLEGE in 72-point bold type, and I imprinted on it like a newborn duckling on Konrad Lorenz.

Miami_12

We stayed in the dorms, and my roommate for the week was a girly girl named Kelly. She had come equipped for the week with a curling iron, a metric ton of makeup, and cute clothes. If I had missed some memo that summer reminding me to be girly while I studied science, it was to be the first of many. In my jeans and sneakers I happily ran around all over campus with the boys while we caught moths, saw early LOGO programming on the Apple II, played 20 Questions on the DEC VAX in the lab in Kreger Hall, and worked out solutions to math problems of our own devising.

Culler_Foucault_Pendulum_from_Above

For example, a bunch of us made it to Culler Hall to watch a Foucault pendulum in action. A sign next to the pendulum noted how long it took the bob to swing once out and back. The same idea came to each of us simultaneously: how many times would the pendulum swing in one year? We took out pens, papers, and calculators and calculated furiously. We were astonished to find that each of us had arrived at a different answer. This led not to arguments, but to a longer conversation about our different assumptions and methods. I was in nerd heaven. And when I was with the boys, it didn’t matter that I was a girl – all that mattered was getting the right answer or asking the right question. With the girls, it seemed to matter how girly you were. I knew I wouldn’t ever win that contest, so I ignored as much of girl culture as I could afford to.

However, I did temporarily align with the girls when it came to deciding who was the cutest boy at the camp. I don’t remember his name now, but he was medium height with blue eyes and curly golden brown hair. The entire girls’ wing of the dorm was swooning over Mr. Cute & Curly, but by Wednesday I noticed that his roommate got less attention even though he was friendly, tall, and slender. I can’t tell you how it happened, but by the time my parents came to pick me up at camp’s end I had found a hand to hold as I navigated the campus. I think my parents were as surprised as I was when I introduced them to gangly, dark-haired Scott and took his picture on the front steps of Minnich Hall. Even though I never saw him again, it was a confidence booster. Thanks, Scott.

Bachelor

Four years later, when it was time to apply for college admission, no college ever measured up to the memories I had of Miami. No other school had a chance at capturing my heart. When I did attend Miami, my new experiences overlapped my old paths: in the lecture room where I had heard about moth selection and elementary statistics, I took a night class on American literature. In the Bishop Woods where I had captured insects, I later darted from computer lab to geology class in a spring rain. In the computer lab where we had played text games on the mainframe, I later had the chance to alpha-test a new computer called a NeXT. And in Bachelor Hall, where our group had composed a song, I later worked at my first student job, took English and math courses, survived creative writing workshops, and — much later — shared an office with my future husband as I prepared to begin graduate school and teach my own English class. But I’m getting far ahead of myself, and the future wasn’t going to be as simple as a well-crafted ambiguous sentence can make it appear.


Knitwise… I have spent quite a bit of time reorganizing my patterns and stash over the last week. I started and finished the blue-green rectangle that I described in my previous post, and went looking for yarn to complement it. When I went stash-diving for blue fun-fur yarn for a friend, I found the unfinished projects about which time had truly forgotten. Felted loafers, two steps from being done? I pulled them out to re-prioritize them. Red, white, and blue cotton yarn? I’ll re-home it. And I found several would-be project bags filled with some high-class skeins of laceweight. In some cases I can almost remember the patterns I meant to use to knit them up. These are bags of hope, of ambition, of misplaced yet admirable levels of confidence. When I can start them, I will.

Meanwhile I have cast on for a simple triangle shawl made of fuzzy grey-and-white yarn, with a eyelet rows three stitches in from each edge. I use the easiest pattern in the world, which works just as well for a small cotton dishcloth as it does for a king-sized blanket, and it will allow me to knit on with confidence and hope through all crises.

1969: To the Moon

Two years after the Summer of Love, it was the summer of ’69. (For those of you who like to keep track of such things, Bryan Adams was a lad of nine years old and Jackson Browne actually was twenty-one.)

Woodstock poster

My parents weren’t hippies and they certainly weren’t about to run off to Woodstock. (In fact, I don’t even know anyone who ran off to Woodstock. When I was in my thirties I worked on a magazine with a senior editor whose hippie friends had invited him to come along with them to this little concert in upstate New York. He considered it, but the date conflicted with his first day of boot camp and he chose the Air Force instead.) My parents did own a couple of Peter, Paul, and Mary albums and a record entitled “Summer of 70” that I might break out for next week’s story, but their form of counterculture was the mid-60s folk song parody as rendered by, variously, Tom Lehrer, the Smothers Brothers, or the New Christy Minstrels. (These performances prepared me for Lehrer’s later work on “The Electric Company,” the fractured fairy tales from “Rocky and Bullwinkle,’ Monty Python, and, ultimately, Weird Al Yankovic. But I digress.)

The other big event in the summer of 1969 was, in some ways, the biggest event of the millennium: the moon landing. Of course, I don’t remember any of it. And by the time I was old enough to remember such things, NASA wasn’t doing such things any more; I wouldn’t see anything so spectacular until the Space Shuttle Columbia’s thrilling launch and safe landing in 1981. I learned about it in two ways: a book about the space program (over which my brother and I later fought) and my stamp collection.

Explorer stamp album Freedom stamp album World Wide stamp album

Didn’t everyone have a stamp collection in the 1970s? My stamp albums, Harris Grab Bags, and glassine hinges all came from the Woolworth’s hobby aisle. I spent countless hours soaking them in the bathroom sink, drying them on paper towels, sorting them, and mounting them. I learned that Hungary and Poland had the coolest stamps (thank you, Magyar Posta!). The Queen’s profile, often in silver, was on every stamp of her provinces. Some countries even issued stamps in the shape of TRIANGLES. The mind reels. I traveled around the world on these small pieces of paper, which I catalogued on larger pieces of paper.

When my parents saw how careful I was with my stamp collection, they entrusted me with something precious – a first day cover of the moon landing stamp. I was in awe.

Moon landing first day cover

This one isn’t mine, but mine looks an awful lot like this one.

“Thank you!” I [hope I] exclaimed. Then, after a careful examination of the date on the cancellation, “Did I see this?”

“Yes,” they told me. “It was important, so we sat you down in front of the TV and you watched it.”

When Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, I was watching. My parents had made sure of it.

Curiously enough, I never actually imagined myself an astronaut or took any steps towards becoming one. I don’t think anyone would have discouraged me – certainly it would not have been the most improbable career I ever entertained – but my goals just didn’t go in that direction. When I was a bit older I saw myself as a scientist, but one doing pure research in a lab somewhere, wearing a blindingly white lab coat. Nevertheless, the moon and the stars have remained objects of fascination for me.

Apollo movie launch

That fascination resurfaces whenever I come across “Apollo 13” and feel compelled to watch it to the end. It resurfaced when I waited for months to watch “Hidden Figures” in the theater, and bought it as soon as the DVD came out. It shows itself again whenever the stars are clear, the moon is dramatic, or the sun is eclipsed.

Thanks, Mom. Thanks, Dad.


I didn’t give a knitting update last week, but I have finished a sideways striped scarf, a hat to match a scarf previously made, and one pair of slippers for Grandmother (to be honest, I still have to seam them up). I promised myself that this year I would knit at least one stitch every day, and so far I have kept that promise. That does mean that I shall have to knit at least one stitch tonight, and I have had slightly more than my allotment of fermented grapes. Nevertheless, she persisted. Maybe I’ll break out the bubblegum-pink yarn and start knitting a special hat. Who needs?

Published in: on January 22, 2018 at 10:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

Week Thirty-Four: Disconnected

Over the past two weeks, my kids and I started to notice that our Internet connection was slowing down. Not everything was affected equally, but YouTube videos took an insane amount of time to load, and we gradually stopped trying to watch them. (Since a majority of The Teen’s waking hours are spent watching videos of other people playing Minecraft, this was a big deal for him.)

One night a friend sent me a YouTube link on Facebook and was saddened when I reported that, in essence, life was too short to permit its viewing. He then sent me a link to a speed-test site, which revealed that while my upload speeds were in the common parlance “slow,” download speeds were better described as “glacial.”

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Maybe we can blame this on Scrat, too.

Now, water always wins, and glacial actions are powerful over time, but this is OUR INTERNET we were talking about, and we needed to see our STUFF. I kept promising myself I’d turn the router off before I went to bed some night and turn it on again in the morning, and everything would be fine. But I kept forgetting. By the time I woke up each morning, the kids were already at the computer and would not be prised off.

So, Sunday night after all the kidlets were in bed and presumably sleeping, I called our Internet provider. I figured it was a simple matter of walking through a modem reset, usually accomplished by following the instructions dictated by an automated voice, and then we’d be back to normal. However, to one of the simple questions I gave an answer that punted me to an Actual Person.

Uh-oh.

The phone tech, in the nicest possible American Southern drawl, asked me to connect a laptop (do you have a laptop? Baby do I have laptops!) directly to the cable modem, bypassing the router. She started running speed tests on her end while I started my laptop, shut it down, and started it again when I was asked to (oops). After a few minutes of my waiting for the aged iBook to launch Firefox (during which time I completely forgot that I simply can’t access the home wireless network while I’m using the landline, which I was [oops]), I heard her say, “Oh. Y’all don’t have to try to get the Internet. Ah can see a BIG problem from here. We’ll send a technician to your house as soon as possible.”

Good luck, Fred.

Good luck, Fred.

To her, “as soon as possible” means Tuesday morning between 8 and 10am.

I thanked her, hung up, and put everything back to the way it had been before… or I at least tried. I reset everything, and ran diagnostics twice, but I couldn’t connect to the Internet.

Uh-oh.

If my home wireless network can’t connect to the Internet, my Kindle and my smartphone are going to have serious problems. Remember, I live on a former dairy farm in the middle of Seriouslyrural, Wisconsin. We do not so much have, how are you saying, The Signal.

I can probably make a phone call if I go outside and sit in the car. But until Tuesday morning, I can’t do Facebook. The Teen can’t watch walkthrough videos. The younger three can’t go online to create their own video games on the new gamebuilder site they just got accounts on. I can’t report half my email as spam. I can’t go on WebMD to find out that tweak in my left shoulder is some kind of ligament tumor. I can’t go to allrecipes.com and plug in the amounts of fresh peaches, pears, and plums I have on the kitchen table and find recipes to use them up ASAP. I can’t search unlv.edu to see if that’s where my mathematician-friend Craig will be teaching this fall. I can’t log on to Amazon.com and one-click order that  Cuisinart ice cream maker with which I can start trying out all those Jeni’s ice cream recipes.

We are DISCONNECTED.

I will make it clear that we are not Amish. We do have iTunes, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. And we do have the Wii, the brand-new-to-us GameCube, the PS2, the PS1, and the Sega Genesis. We have the iPad mini, the Kindle Fire, the old Kindles, the GameBoys, and the DS units. We have cable television and dozens of DVDs.

amishbikers

Frankly, I’m going to spend my disconnected time in the kitchen. (I do have those peaches, plums, and pears to make something of before the fruit flies consume us all.) When I’m not in the kitchen, I have knitting to work on, and a TARDIS bookcase to paint up in primer. My children may be the anti-Amish, but I do have my Mennonite tendencies on which to fall back in times of crisis such as these.

But the children! Think of the children! Will they remember how to ride their bicycles? How to keep journals? How to draw and paint? How to help Mom make chocolate–peanut butter fudge, poach pears, and make homemade pizza? How to read books? How to play in the park? How to read their library books before they’re due?

Right now, very early Monday morning, that amber light is still flashing on the AirPort, and I’m…concerned.

Blink on, blink off.

Blink on, blink off.

In the words of Peter Gabriel, “Dear god…what have I done?”

Published in: on August 22, 2013 at 10:00 am  Comments (3)  

Week Seventeen: Needs More Macintosh

I’m not a person who tends to throw things out. (Michael, I can hear you laughing from all the way over here. Please pick yourself off the floor. You’re excused.) But lately I have had the need and the opportunity to go through my possessions and decide what truly needs to stay and what can go on its merry way to the trash bin (broken toys), the recycling pile (six-year-old shredded utility bills), or a new happy home (so long, dear Olympia manual typewriter!).

Now my surroundings are becoming more of a reflection of all my interests, and I’ve decided to enhance one of those interests with a conscious effort towards a minor-league collection of Macintoshes.

In 1988 I bought (with the assistance of my then-future-mother-in-law’s signature on the Apple Credit application) a Macintosh SE. It was a thing of glory that came with System 6.0.7, and I souped it up as much as I could. It had a whole 1 megabyte of RAM. Instead of a standard Apple 20 megabyte hard drive, it had a 45 megabyte hard drive shoehorned in there. Instead of the standard keyboard, I bought a DataDesk extended keyboard that had the same layout as the IBM PC with which everyone was familiar. (My roommate, a paper science and engineering major, especially liked this whenever she needed to borrow it to write up a report.) I had planned to buy an optical mouse (it worked via a special reflective mouse pad), but the store was out of those when I went shopping, so I had the standard mouse. And I bought the first of many Hewlett-Packard printers to go with it, a DeskJet whose model number I don’t remember. Somewhere along the line I picked up a 1200 baud modem, and I was good to go. No, there was no Internet yet, not that I knew how to get to — but there were university bulletin boards where we hacked into each others’ secret forums, moderated discussion groups of all flavors, and generally had fun outgeeking each other.

Somebody else’s Datadesk keyboard.

Several Macs later, one stupid day I sold that SE back to a computer store. I don’t know what brought me to that day, why I thought it was a good idea for even a second, or even how much money I made on the deal. It couldn’t have been much at all. But I must have been convinced that since I couldn’t upgrade it and keep it current, it wasn’t worth keeping around. WHAT was I thinking? I should have kept it. It was a fine computer and I had many good memories associated with it.

Since then I’ve hung on to each old Macintosh (my mother once chided me, saying there was no such thing as an “old” computer), each tired printer, each set of power cords and A/V cables, every mouse. Michael once teased me (don’t think I can’t HEAR you back there. I said you were EXCUSED) that I had a “Macseum” in the making. And now that I have cleared a little bit of space, I’m starting to develop that Mac Museum concept a bit. Thoughtfully this time.

Last weekend I was killing time by trolling eBay in the “vintage computers” category. The existence of this category on eBay is what makes it an extremely good thing that I can never remember my eBay account name and password, or I would have already purchased a somewhat random nameplate from a UNIVAC. (Just $7.50! It’s a piece of history!)

The UNIVAC operator console, with operator Joneal Williams-Daw .

Thinking locally, in large measure because of the shipping charges needed to make sure a $75 computer could make it to me all the way from Texas, or Florida, or [gulp] California, I turned to Craigslist and found such a deal. Within an hour’s drive was a Macintosh Plus that needed a new home. It worked, and it came with all the parts, plus software (on 3.5-inch diskette) and manuals. And… the seller would throw in a Macintosh Performa 6300 as a bonus. It worked too, and also came with software (on CD-ROM) and manuals.

I went with my teenage son to pick it up, and we were both thrilled. I can’t quite put words to why he was so excited to ride along with his mother to go pick up a couple of old computers, but for me it was a rediscovery of my original love for the Macintosh. Macs were not the first computers I had ever used or owned, but they were the first ones that worked intuitively for me, and the first ones that seemed to have personalities. I wrote on them, tried to teach composition on them, and eventually learned to fix them.

I set up the new computers and took a look around. In one room I had three Macs. In other I had seven. And upstairs…. four iMacs, donated by a friend? I had lost count. They were buried in the closet of a room shared by two very untidy boys, and I’d have to step on quite a few Legos to verify that number. Better keep it vague.

Mind you, other folks have significantly more money, time, and space invested in their Macintosh collections than I ever will. I have seen pictures of racks and racks full of computers that would give you chills. Full garages. Full basements. I’m personally hoping to have working Macs that serve as 90 percent décor, 10 percent “It’s time to play Duck Hunt!” And some of the models on my to-find list are rare enough that I wouldn’t insist they be anything better than a clean doorstop. That includes the original 128K Mac, as well as items like the Mac XL, the Lisa, and the Macintosh Portable, a 16-pound shoulder-stretcher from 1987. They would just be cool to have.

The Mac XL, or “Hackintosh” — Lisa’s body and the Mac’s brains.

And look at this SE — a one-of-eight prototype in a clear plastic case, designed for airflow studies!

While I was researching the technical specifications on the new Macs I’d brought home, I noticed a value called the “Gestalt ID.” This is a whole-number ID given to each distinct release of Macintosh. The original 128K Macintosh has a Gestalt ID = 1. My new old Mac Plus has a Gestalt ID = 4. The Performa 6300 has a Gestalt ID = 42. In real life, it was used to call certain sets of programming functions. For my purposes, it’s like a checklist that writes itself. And no, I don’t feel a need to collect them all. But a showcase of good examples of each of the early Compact Macs would be something to see. I might even sell off some of the mid-range Macs to fund the quest for the early survivors.

So Friday afternoon, I have a date. A date to drive to Monona and purchase a Macintosh SE FDHD. Three down, ten to go.

The first Mac to offer the 1.44 megabyte “SuperDrive.”

Published in: on April 25, 2013 at 12:44 pm  Comments (2)  

Week Six: Degrees of separation

I’m enjoying a more contemplative day today as the snow gently falls on the pines and the pastures. Having ignored the urgings of the weather service to heed instructions for French Toast Alert Level Orange, I’ve done my driving for the day without adding to my stores of milk, bread, or eggs. Quiet music plays from the TV’s music channel. Knitting is being accomplished; reading, contemplated.

Not taken from my house, but it might as well be.

As I was driving back from “town” this morning I was thinking about how people keep saying that the internet has allowed people to opt out of personal interactions, that we are not learning how to effectively interact with people face to face. I wonder about that. If you know me, you probably know I spend a lot of time on Facebook. I check in several times a day, sometimes for hours at a time. I post, comment, share, like, friend, and play a popular game using letter tiles.

Through Facebook I have been able to connect with interesting people, stay in touch with relatives, and reconnect with more distant souls. My Facebook friends range from my first friend (born two days before me to the family two houses down the street) to people on the other side of the planet, sometimes cyberfriends of cyberfriends. I can peek over the shoulders of my twin third-cousins as they work their way through medical school. I can look at the first photos of the first grandchild born to someone in my high school graduating class. I can witness the silly exchanges between two best friends, or between partners. I can see a list of the songs my sister-in-law is listening to on Internet radio, and with a click of the mouse I can hear them, too. These are the kinds of events I wouldn’t ordinarily witness. They are a view into ordinary life that a class reunion, a family reunion, or even a phone call or a letter doesn’t have a way to truly include.

Through Facebook I’ve been allowed to participate in more joy, anxiety, humor, pain, happiness, and sorrow than I thought my heart would have room for. Babies are born and celebrated, and babies die and are grieved. Kids say the darnedest things. Students study, party, win, lose, and goof around. Pets get sick. Friends make plans, issue invitations, meet up, and share the photos afterwards. Grandparents fall down. People have surgery. Prayers, positive thoughts, and (((hugs))) fly back and forth like electromagnetic waves. Funny jokes and silly pictures are circulated. People are poked. A classmate waits in vigil for her comatose sister to open her eyes and rejoin the world, and her classmates wait invisibly with her.

This is more connection, not less. These are the kinds of shared events that used to only happen within a family. Because of Facebook, our families have grown if we have allowed them to. And not only have I discovered things about my friends and my family — I’ve discovered more about myself. I could compare my accomplishments with those of others and be depressed, yes; I can also encounter unsolicited viewpoints that make me stop, think, reconsider, reaffirm, adapt, change, and grow.

I’m not indulging in these musings just to distract you from the paucity of my knitterly and academic accomplishments in the last week. While the variable weather and the resultant slick (and sometimes invisible) roadways have kept me from getting to campus to work on my math, I am 29 rows (1,218 stitches) away from finishing the dropped-stitch scarf. I have a shawl project all set to go that a real-life, in-person kind of friend is making at the same time. I’ve also initiated a Valentine’s Day cyberspace knit-along event involving a whole batch of friends I’ve never met in person. And I’m making bits of progress on my longer-term knitting projects as well.

This was not a stated goal, but I’ve gotten all caught up with both “Downton Abbey” and “Castle,” and I’m starting on “Top Chef.” Ten more episodes to go on that one. If I have a marathon I might be able to finish in time for the live finale, but I’m not sure. I also have a stack of interesting books I’m trying to make time for. I miss reading.

Two-point-nine of Ten

I’m still on track with Mitten Madness…. just need to finish a thumb at some point (later), and cast on for a mate (sooner).

What do you think, add the pawprints with duplicate stitch (which I’ve never done before) or a fabric marker?

The red yarn is Bernat Sox yarn, an acrylic/nylon blend with no wool at all. I got two balls of it for 99 cents each a couple of years ago and have been waiting to figure out what they wanted to be. I’m a little disappointed that it’s not wool, but it is machine washable and dryable.

In other news, it’s been terribly hot and humid lately. Only today has there been the arrival of some random thunderstorms that break things up a little bit. The main thing the rain is accomplishing is not allowing anybody to mow their lawns with any frequency. By the time the grass is dry again, we might be able to cut it for some very nice hay bales.

I’ve been working out again — found a new exercise plan which seems eminently sensible. I’m on the third week of the first six weeks and so far I’m losing weight, fitting into my clothes better, and feeling stronger and with more stamina. I’m trying to take walks for part of the cardio I need to do, and recently lengthened my standard walk from 2.8 miles to 3.6 miles. (I use www.mapmyride.com for this; check it out.) If I finish the six weeks well, I might feel brave enough to share the name of it. It’s nothing kooky like an all-cotton-candy diet; I just don’t want to jinx myself.

I’m also enrolled in an online course on Records Management, as a precursor to doing a Master’s degree in Library and Information Sciences. Not only is it a confusing course, I’ve been offline for part of it, and unable to access some of the reading materials for a larger part of it. Catching up is going to be tricky. I did acquire a brand new PC laptop to help out with this overall process, but right now that’s like trying to learn French on top of everything else. (Can I just say that Windows SUCKS and Steve Jobs was right? Ah, I feel better now.) I’m trying to do a reboot to my inner geek so all this can smooth itself out.

Whew! Time to make dinner for the two little boys (the other kids are out of state at the moment; long story) and cast on for Jack Mitten Two so I don’t lose my knitting mojo. I can do both thumbs in the same session.

Published in: on July 7, 2010 at 5:36 pm  Comments (1)  

I can’t believe I’m going….

So, like, there’s like, this spinning retreat, like, starting tomorrow — and I get to go!

Well, not to the whole thing, but something like two-thirds of it plus a little slice of Friday. It’s the Judith MacKenzie McCuin-led retreat held through Susan’s Fiber Shop. Getting there has been an interesting journey, what with date changes and roommate arrangements and hotel reservations — but it starts tomorrow.

On the one hand, the original plan was going to be *awesome* with all the things that a friend and I had schemed up. Nothing can replace the weekend that I had, briefly, in my imagination. But this one should be pretty good too, even though I’ll miss everything that happens in the daytime Friday session.

The best part of getting ready for it (have I packed a single thing? NO) has been clearing the spinning equipment so I can start fresh this weekend with spinning every freaking thing in my stash, with intelligence and intention. This week I made two new Wookie skeins totaling almost 200 yards of 2-ply, I updated my spinning records as much as I could without Actual Research, and I made little labels for the jars I keep my handspun in.

(No, I haven’t knitted a single stitch on any of my handspun. There are many reasons for this. But I do have a project in mind for my Wookie-wool once it’s all spun up. Right now I have about 25 percent of what I need. Wait and see….maybe by 2011.)

So. I emptied my bobbins, I reglued most of my bobbins, I printed out directions to the “field trip” portion of Friday…. 

Yup. Going to yarn camp, and I couldn’t be happier.

Wait till the kids find out.

Knitwise I’ve been a bit of a slug. I started working on the second Retro Rib Sock again, figuring if I did one pattern repeat a day I would eventually finish the sock and could get on with my life. That plan worked about as well as most of my plans do, but this time I’m going to climb right back on the wagon and keep trying to work it.

I got caught up on Logan’s Blanket tonight, too. It’s pretty easy to work twelve rows on that blanket — you just have to turn your back on teh drama of Ravelry and actually sit down to knit.

So. Let me know if you’d like me to blog from mid-retreat on Saturday night, and I’ll take the computer along with my collection of two-hundred year-old technology. Hey, maybe I’ll even take the camera!

Published in: on March 5, 2009 at 10:01 pm  Comments (4)  

So, this one time, at Sheep and Wool…

…we had this little party, and about 40 people came? And had cheesecake? And won door prizes?

And then we all got massively tired and wished we could sleep for weeks and weeks. But we did take some pictures. They’re not great, but they’re pictures, and they’ve already taken Stage One of their journey and now actually reside on the computer rather than in the camera.

I’ve got a few things to do first (like shower, and run out for diapers and wipes) but I want to take advantage of this being a 3-child school day and put up a very nice blog post with some of those pictures and lots of words.

Here’s our display at the Country Store on Saturday morning. I don’t know why the camera was doing that! (Hi Brandy!)

Here are some sheep (including Shetlands). Check out the horns on that Jacob!

The lamb in this picture is 4 days old. It was soooo small!

Four-day-old lamb, 2008 WI Sheep & Wool

 

 

Shetland sheep, 2008 WI Sheep & Wool

Shetland sheep, 2008 WI Sheep & Wool

 

Jacob Sheep, horns and all![/Jacob Sheep, horns and all!]  

The feed is sweeter in the other pen!

The feed is sweeter in the other pen!

Here is the food at the Afterparty before anybody had some. Chocolate chip cookie pizzas in three flavors, pizzelles in two flavors, chocolate dipped pretzel sticks in four varieties, and two types of cheesecakes with three fruit toppings. Coffee, soda, water, etc. The wine was a door prize ONLY.

 

Chocolate dipped pretzel sticks

Chocolate dipped pretzel sticks

 

 

Cheesecake bar — New York style and chocolate mint chip

Cheesecake bar — New York style and chocolate mint chip

 

 

Chocolate chip cookie pizzas

Chocolate chip cookie pizzas

 

Here are the door prizes, almost all of them. Some people came to the party and dropped more items on the table.

And here is the TARDIS I made just for the party. You won’t believe how cool my children think this is, and where it is now.

Off to do errands, then I’ll fill it in later.

A tremendous thanks to everyone who attended, everyone who just stopped by the table to say Hi even if they couldn’t come, everyone who helped in any way, and especially to Cheesehead with Sticks, who really made it all possible. I really hope there’s an event like this next year, even if I’m not involved with planning and running it.

September 11: OK, I almost give up. Sorry about the formatting. If I can figure out how to fix it, I’ll do so one picture and caption at a time, saving in between. Meanwhile, I’m on with the rest of my life.

Ravelympics, Day Five

I was up until 2am last night this morning getting to this point on the wrist warmers. Then DH got up at 5:30 to leave for a business trip, and I had to be up since I had to ferry Eldest Son to his pickup point for Scout Camp. Of course the other three had to be brought along as well, at 7am. I’m a little sleepy. And I have plans for today that involve a craft store, so I need to make this short and get some caffeine.

But I have pictures!

RWW Day Five

RWW, Day Five

 

Rose's Wrist Warmer, end of Day Five  

Rose

Things got a little blurry after that. I didn’t have any problems with the pattern except that I was starting to fall asleep doing it. In the last row of the cable panel I didn’t have the right number of stitches, and was worried I would really F things U if I tried to fix it…. so I added a purl stitch in the right place. It should be OK, but I don’t feel sharp enough to look at it even now.

AND.

Now that I have The Ability To Add Photos Again, what would you like to see? I lost all my existing digital photos in the hard drive crash of June, but I’ve done some photo shoots of the items I still have. Did anything intrigue you? Interest you? Make you wonder what the heck it looked like?

Published in: on August 13, 2008 at 8:32 am  Comments (5)