1978: The Blizzard

When my family moved to the country, we found ourselves on an unexpectedly steep learning curve. There were school buses to ride, new living arrangements, new chores to do, and new routines to learn. Boots slunk through the house pressed up against the walls for a long time before she was brave enough to venture into the rooms’ open spaces. One of the things that was surprisingly hard to adapt to was how dark it was at night.

I hadn’t even realized that I was accustomed to the glow of headlights sweeping their way around the walls of my bedroom as cars passed our house at night on our comparatively busy city street (only compared to the one-way streets which ran parallel to it). The lights and the mild road noise of the cars must have been soothing to me, for without them I found myself wide awake on the top bunk in the room I now shared with my brother. There were no lights from other houses, and no streetlights.

The nights at our new house were dark, but they certainly weren’t quiet. Outside of a Disney movie, there is no such thing as one cricket chirping; they must have contracts that prohibit them from singing in choruses of less than a million. The ropes in our old pulley windows were broken, so my bedroom window was propped open with a slat of wood to let in all that fresh country air. It also let in all the loud and mysterious country sounds, all night long.

Eventually I was able to sleep through the night. This was proved on the night when the wood-slat slipped and the window crashed down to the sill and woke my terrified parents, who were convinced that I had fallen out of the top bunk. They arrived at my room to find me and my brother sleeping soundly.

We had moved in August, so there hadn’t been time to put in a vegetable garden. That would have to wait until spring, when we also learned about hanging clothes on the line about two days before we learned about the manure spreaders used by the farmer who lived on the adjacent property. (Several months later we learned why people don’t, under normal circumstances, plant twenty hills of zucchinis.) Dad learned how long it would now take for him to drive to work, Mom learned how long it would take us to get home from school, and my brother and I learned how long it took to walk from the house to the road and wait for the school bus. We learned that no one would come to trick or treat at our house on Halloween (I was sick with the chicken pox anyway; my costume-and-candy days were over). We learned that the Columbus paper would be dropped off at the end of our 600-yard driveway, not at the house as promised by the circulation department.

On January 26, 1978, we learned about blizzards. I woke in the middle of the night to a howling noise that swirled above my head, which was positioned in the uppermost spot in the northwest corner of the house. Scared, I crept down the ladder at the end of the bed and tried to sleep on the couch instead. I lay still and realized that now, with all the space between myself and the ceiling, the winds were even louder and more frightening. I don’t know how I made it to morning, but by the time everyone else woke up the noise was easier to bear. When the wind finally died down, we found that we had been snowed into the house. Literally. I couldn’t budge the front door for the three-foot drift on the front porch. It was a Thursday morning, but it was obvious that school was out of the question for quite some time.

snow beetle

Not my father’s Volkswagen.

I remember parts of the Blizzard like snapshots from an album. With my brother, I dug tunnels in the six-foot snowdrifts behind the barn. I sat in the passenger seat of Dad’s green Volkswagen Beetle as he attempted to clear the driveway by driving to the road; the Bug stuffed itself in the drifts when we reached the top of the hill, and we returned to the garage to fetch snow shovels and dig it out. I trudged through the drifts with a broom, using the handle to pole for several days’ worth of Columbus newspapers that we had to carefully dry out over the floor registers (competing for space with boots, and sometimes Boots). When we were finally able to reach the road, the snowplows had created eight-foot walls of hard-packed pure-white snow all the way to the state highway. We were living in a world beyond our control.

snow tunnels

This was not our road, but this is how it felt to drive on it.

We didn’t run out of food at our house; if the power went out, we must have coped somehow. From the point of the view of a ten-year-old, it was an extra vacation with all the snow forts, sledding, and tobogganing anyone could possibly want. From the point of view of an adult it was a killer storm that claimed dozens of lives, across Ohio and the rest of the Midwest, mostly those of highway motorists who had abandoned their cars. But as a child I didn’t know that, and I never heard the term “white hurricane” applied to this storm. For us it was always known as the Blizzard of 1978, and no subsequent winter ever measured up to this one.

downtown blizzard

Just give us our paper, darnit!



Knitwise, the project-after-the-Olympic-cowl is done. I’ll have to contact the recipient to see if she wants delivery right now or in time for next winter. Meanwhile, I discovered a slipper project that I abandoned for some reason after finishing the knitting (but not finishing the finishing) of the first slipper. I hadn’t left myself any helpful notes, but I looked at it carefully, cast on for a second slipper to match, and compared the two projects all the way along, until I cast off the second slipper and found that it was clearly larger than the first slipper. I have since cast on for a third slipper in hopes that it will match the second one (or even the first one; at this point I can hardly afford to be picky). Time will tell.

Published in: on March 26, 2018 at 9:40 pm  Comments (2)  

1974: This is not a drill

If you’re even a casual student of history, you’ll know that several society-shaking events took place in 1974. (I’m not even counting Seth Green’s birth on February 8 or the meteoric rise of Barry Manilow’s recording of “Mandy” on the Billboard charts: thank you, Wikipedia!) Patty Hearst was kidnapped. President Nixon resigned. Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record. The first UPC code was scanned (in Ohio). And the Cleveland Indians held a Ten-Cent Beer Night they’re probably still trying to forget.

Another event that year shook the ground and the skies. In the first week of April 1974, lines of storm cells formed that were eventually called the “Super Outbreak,” a spawning of 148 tornadoes that ranged from Mississippi to Ontario. The deadliest of them struck Xenia, Ohio on Wednesday, April 3.

Xenia was about an hour’s drive away from where I lived on the West Side of Columbus (okay, the Hilltop). I had never been to Xenia by the tender age of seven, and now that I think about it, I’m not sure I ever have been. But on April 4 the mention of the word “Xenia” was enough to give an Ohio kid chills in a way that didn’t happen again until 1981, when a tornado wiped out downtown Cardington in Morrow County.

Our own sky was an odd color, and it was eerily quiet outside. Dad banished us to the basement to take shelter, but stayed on the front porch as long as he could to scan the skies. The next day he let me ride along as he drove around to survey the local damage from the F2 tornado and surrounding storms that had struck Franklin County the previous night. I remember a concrete structure, a beer/wine drive-through, that had been turned into a pile of cinder blocks. It was one block east of Hilltop Hardware and just a few blocks from our house. Dad didn’t say anything, but I sensed that we’d had a narrow escape.


If you grow up in the Midwest, you have to come to terms with two main natural disasters: blizzards and tornadoes. There is nothing you can do to prevent either one, but you can learn to prepare for them and cope with their devastation. If you survive, you’ll have a story to tell. They share an essential unfairness of spirit, as they hit hard and seem determined to cause the maximum amount of damage. Tornadoes in particular seem driven to show you how erratic and cruel they can be: they’ll toss cars through the sky, skip over random houses, and cause power outages and floods when you have no safe place to go. An image from a film shown in elementary school sticks with me: a blade of straw driven into a telephone pole by gale force winds, sticking out boldly as a nail.


The expert analysis of home movie footage from Xenia, shot by some very brave souls with Super 8s, led to the debunking of several tornado-related myths. I remember when our teachers used to tell us to open the windows to help equalize the pressure in the house and potentially reduce the damage. Nowadays the convention wisdom is that the tornado’s winds are going to blow out all the windows anyway, so you would be better off to spend your time taking shelter. But not in the southwest corner of the basement! The next advice was to get under a mattress in the bathtub. I think that these days they just want you to get to the lowest part of the house, away from windows, and if possible under something heavy that probably won’t break. And of course neighborhoods now install and test tornado sirens that will give you an extra minute or two to get to that safe place.

Weather Radio

“Weather station KIG86, broadcasting on a frequency of 162.55 megahertz from the National Weather Service office in Columbus, Ohio.”

Many years later, when I was in graduate school, I wrote an essay titled “Tornado Nights” about the time my family spent taking shelter from potentially dangerous weather. I don’t remember feeling scared; I looked back upon those nights as a time of closeness and security, even if that security was just an illusion my parents felt compelled to provide. (Perhaps I felt a bit too secure; that same year I was playing tennis with friends in some questionable weather when my college roommate uttered the immortal words, “I don’t know about y’all, but where I come from, when the sky turns green we go inside.”)

Time passed; now I was the parent and it was my turn to change scary times into fun times, defusing anxiety with stuffed animals, blankies, video games, and light chatter. And next they became old enough and big enough to bring their own supplies as well as treats to calm a nervous dog who isn’t sure why he’s suddenly being led into the cellar. Now we’re scattered in different locations more often then not, keeping an eye on the sky when the sirens sound, hoping for the winds to pass us by.

Published in: on February 26, 2018 at 11:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I thought that was cold.

I was so wrong.

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

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

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

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

What I’m knitting this week:

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

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

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

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

Week Forty-Two: The Oncoming Storm

When October’s chill is in the air

And time draws nigh for forty-second post

I scratch my head and sit upon my chair

To think about the things that matter most.

Should I about my new employment write?

Share knitting-feats accomplished in a week?

Discourse on winter’s soon-approaching blight?

Or take a poll; learn what my readers seek?

Instead, I choose departure from the norm.

From Miami’s old degree I blow the dust,

Selecting an extravagance of form

With elegance which soon demands I must

Find comfort in a blanket weaved from words,

And snuggle in with wineglass and cheese curds.

Published in: on October 18, 2013 at 9:00 am  Comments (1)  

Week Thirty-One: Head in the Clouds

Today was a Wisconsin summer day so beautiful that it demanded I spend at least a little time doing nothing but appreciating it.



I sat on the porch gazing at a rich blue sky filled with fluffy white non-rain clouds. The wind blew gently through the maple trees, the cedars, and the overgrown lilac bush. Sunlight warmed the lush green grass that could have been cut today if anyone had been in a big hurry, which no one was. To take up blades and engines against the peaceful natural sounds of the afternoon would have been an act of needless and misplaced aggression.



While I sat, I snacked on a cup of popcorn (whose kernels had come from the fields of our CSA) and idly played a word game on my smartphone. But mostly I sat quietly and just was.

The kids were all inside the house, their various electronic devices aiding their re-entry to daily life after the end of an extended vacation time in which they’d traveled more than 1500 miles. (Without air conditioning. Sorry, kids.) There was no need for them to be rushed outside lest they “miss” the peace and beauty.



I recall many teenage summer days on which I always seemed to be in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing. I’m not even talking about the day I was bitten by a dog while I was on one of my bike rides. I refer to the many days on which I sat in my bedroom, engrossed in a book, until I was told “It’s beautiful! You ought to be outside!” So, out I went. Or I was lying on a beach towel on the deck, hoping to achieve a tan that would fill in the background of my freckled skin (and praying I wouldn’t simply burn), until I was told, “What a waste of time — you ought to be reading a book.” So, in I went.



I never did manage to crack the code of knowing exactly what I was supposed to be doing on any particular day. But the best days were those when I told my bicycle where to go, and pedaled along country roads flanked by corn and soybeans (in alternate years, soybeans and corn), with the sun high in the blue sky and the buzzards lazily circling too high above me to cause concern.

Sometimes I rode alone, sometimes with a buddy, connecting the dots of ice-cream stands, elementary school playgrounds, state parks, and rustic farm stands selling fresh fruit, Amish butter cheese, and goats’-milk fudge. It made for summers of heavenly freedom, and as long as I got home in time for dinner nobody bothered me about where I’d been.



I appreciated my freedom at that time, and appreciate it in retrospect even more. I would hesitate today before allowing a teenaged child to be gone all day with no idea of where they were or any way to reach me. But it’s a generous gift to give someone their freedom of choice as to how they may spend a fine summer’s day.

Published in: on August 1, 2013 at 10:19 pm  Comments (1)  

Week Twenty-Four: There and Back Again

Since last week’s post I have made “homemade” ice cream twice (quotation marks here because I used a Rival ice cream base instead of making a custard), made asparagus soup completely from scratch (starting with harvesting the asparagus from the back yard), survived a youth soccer tournament (three games spread out over four hours, with nary a goal for our valiant and exhausted team), and bought a share in a CSA farm (it turns out that I am that kind of person).

Potage, Crème D'Asperges Vertes

Potage, Crème D’Asperges Vertes

These accomplishments pale compared to the round trip I made on Monday and Tuesday to drop off The Teen at my parents’ house in Ohio. My seven-year-old also came along, to be company for me on the way back. I have done this trip before — oh, soooo many times. I moved away in 1999 and made at least three round trips that year, and probably at least two round trips every year after that. Feel free to do the math (it’s not really that interesting or complex). However, I’ve never done it as a simple overnight round trip. My policy has always been to spend more time at the destination than I spend on the drive, and I’ve almost always stuck to that. This trip, however, needed to happen, and I made it happen.

I am…tired. Sore. Uneager to drive more than ten miles at a stretch, for a while. But I have to admit that my Eldest and Youngest Boys made for good travelling companions. I don’t know the proportions with any certainty, but part of it is because they’re nice guys. Part of it is because we have all made this drive so many times that, as a family, we can pass by a bunch of grain silos painted with some generic corporate logo and remark, “These are the ones that used to say ‘Popcorn, Indiana’.” I think they know where I’m going to turn by when I change lanes. They certainly accept my nicknames for landmarks.

Propellerville. Otherwise known as The Area Between Wolcott and Lafayette, Indiana.

It was a fine trip, all 999.7 miles of it, but I’m going to bed now. Pretty soon, I’ll have to make this trip again — taking three and bringing back four. I’m going to need a bigger car for that one.

Published in: on June 13, 2013 at 10:10 am  Leave a Comment  

Week Fifteen: Time to Catch a Train

As a friend recently pointed out to me, it was high time I reached out my arm and caught the next train that was passing by. Fortunately for me, it was the calculus train and it was just a few stops ahead of the station at which I disembarked last fall. Allllll aboard for Objective Functions, Antiderivatives, and Integration!

Last week I was able to make a short visit to campus, and I happened to check the office hours of my calculus professor from last semester. I was pleased to find that she was once again teaching Calculus I, but in the mornings this time, and holding a review session on Friday mornings. I showed up last Friday and surprised myself with some of the things I was able to remember how to do. Monday, with her permission, I started sitting in on the class itself, and she used my work on an objective function problem as the example she put under the opaque projector! (I am told by educational personnel more in touch with audio-visual equipment that this is called something else. I am of the age to call it an opaque projector because the device is projecting an image, and the original does not need to be on a transparency.) She just took my whole notebook and stuck it there under the camera. Gosh, I’m glad I wrote neatly. (The radius was 3.04 cm and the height was 12.2 cm. So there.)

All she wants me to do is take the tests with the rest of the class. They just had a test handed back, so it looks as if my ticket has been punched for the rest of the trip. One more regular test and the final exam, and I will be finished with the course. With the opportunity to go to campus every morning and study, go to class, and study some more, I can do my best and have no excuses. And frankly, the material is a bit easier for me now that I’m hearing everything a second time, with some space in between. I will have my afternoons for errands and editing work.

When I’m not editing, I’m reorganizing the house. My middle son turns 9 this weekend, and he wants to have his birthday party at our house. I’m never thrilled about cleaning for cleaning’s sake anyway, but the house is much more disorganized than what cleaning will fix. A huge social deadline may be just what I need to make me finally get our stuff in the right places, and get rid of the stuff we don’t need. Several rooms are already done and they give off a happy vibe now. But there are many more left to go… plus a party to plan, and probably at least one thing to bake. I really should make a list or something.

And starting this weekend, or maybe not, I am a soccer mom. My youngest child is signed up for city rec sports outdoor soccer (yes, indoor soccer is a thing) and they cancelled the first game because the fields still had snow and/or mud on them. The second game is supposed to be this Saturday morning. At 9am. With no coach. It’s been raining all week and the field is underwater, so I’m praying hoping that this one is cancelled too. In the meantime we have already bought him soccer shorts, soccer shoes, soccer socks, soccer shin guards, and a portable soccer goal. UPDATE: Yes, this weekend’s game has also been cancelled. So now it starts the following Saturday morning, with make-up games on a couple of Wednesday nights. Oh, how interesting this will be.

Just to carry along the train theme, here is the video for “Driver 8” by R.E.M.

Published in: on April 11, 2013 at 8:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Week Eleven: This Thursday Intentionally Left Blank

Did you miss me yesterday? Sorry, I’m transitioning (temporarily) to Friday posts so that I won’t miss a week when I’m on Spring Break in a couple of weeks with the kidlets.

Someone asked me this week, “So, where are you going for Spring Break?” Of course I answered “OHIO!” with a big fistpump. Even when I was in college in Ohio I took my Spring Breaks in Ohio. And it was usually in the middle of March, so even if you felt springlike, there was no getting around the fact that it was NOT a good time to start your own personal cycling season; the temperatures were usually in the range of 40 to 50°F. If I got any riding done when I was home on break, I usually had a sore throat and a cold by the next week. It… wasn’t exactly a vacation at the beach.

Okay, time for progress reports!

Last Sunday I was enjoying the lack of need to go anywhere since the weather was crappy. I sat on the couch and knitted on my Wingspan shawl until I ran out of yarn near the end of the 8th triangle. Lo and behold, the second skein of yarn for it arrived on Monday afternoon. YESSSSS. It is a different dye lot and looks a bit darker to me, but I really don’t mind or care. I get to keep knitting.


In the meantime I have pulled out a pair of socks I started knitting last October or so, on yarn that has been languishing in my stash for years. (How many years? Well, I stopped in at Ruhama’s in Milwaukee [all right, really Whitefish Bay] before I saw “Mean Girls” in the theater. Which came out in 2004. That’s a pretty long time for a skein of fine-looking German sock yarn to make up its mind about what it wants to be. And who would have guessed it would actually want to be socks?) They’re intended for someone whose feet I don’t have immediate access to, so I really hope they’re going to fit. Knitting fitted items to spec is not one of my natural gifts, so while I can knit socks, they usually go to someone whose feet happen to be the right size. Locating people whose feet fit my socks is also a gift.


And…. drum roll…. tomorrow I shall knit the Very Last Piece for the project-which-will-soon-be-unveiled. I cannot tell you how hard it has been this week to only knit one piece per day for this project, with the end so near in sight. There was such a temptation to hole up and crank out the knitting and finish early. I decided to join the resistance and maintain the pace, despite how eager I was to get the whole thing “done.”

In non-knitting news, the kidlets really did a lot of stuff since my last post. Middle Son won a trophy in a spelling bee, Youngest Son earned a ribbon in the same bee and then proceeded to lose his two front teeth over the weekend. Eldest Son went and turned 14, putting a real cramp in my tendency to still think of my inner self as 22. He’s almost taller than I am, and his feet are already bigger than mine (though we can still trade shoes in an emergency). And I went ahead with my valiant weight-loss plan, did two Jillian Michaels workouts in two consecutive days, and completely wrecked myself. I took Thursday off from programmed exercise, and by the end of the day I was able to go both up and down the stairs without screaming involuntarily. I’m calling that a victory and will strive to make progress from there.

Back to knitting news! Due to an unexpectedly favorable alignment of circumstances, I will be able to attend Late Night Knitting tonight for the first time in more than a year. It takes me an hour to drive there (and there might be freezing rain in the early evening), but I can stay until they kick me out at 11pm. Then (sigh) I have to drive homeward for another hour (and there might be snow in the late evening). On Saturday there is a rummage sale/bake sale at my kids’ school (for which I will be baking) from 8 until noon, so I’ll need to be there at least at the beginning of that. Then I think there’s a Pokémon tournament somewhere that needs to be Hung Out At with Eldest Son. Then there will be a Batman movie to watch, Doctor Who to view, and some test knitting for Phase Two of the Ginormous Secret Project. Then…. ah, how I like being busy.

Published in: on March 15, 2013 at 10:13 am  Comments (2)  

Week Nine: The Ninety-Three Percent

As of today I’ve hit an important milestone on a knitting project I’ve been working on for a few years now. For various reasons I am not ready to reveal its nature in this space (but those of you who know me from “another space” will be able to figure it out pretty quickly), but I can say that I now have just 15 units left to knit before I assemble the whole thing. That puts the project at 93 percent complete, though in truth after I have those other 15 parts knitted I will call it no more than 99 percent until every last end is woven in. And because even the pre-assembly work is going to take some time, I can’t even give you an estimate as to when this project will be completed, photographed, and fully shared. Just know that I am very happy that my daily work, which I’ve been referring to as “quota knitting,” is getting me steadily closer to a huge creative goal.


But trust me. When I do the reveal, you won’t miss it! (You may question my sanity, but you won’t miss it.)

Most of you, when you see it, will want to ask me one question. The answer to that question will be “yes.”

I’ve also been chugging away on the Wingspan shawl and really should take another picture now that I’ve finished 5 of the 8 wedges that make it up. I don’t know if it’s the merino sock yarn, or the Addi Turbo needles, or a combination of factors, but I find it delightful to knit on it and shall be sad when I’ve finished it. But finishing it will allow me to take care of some other projects that also need my attention. Such as socks made from sock yarn. (What a concept!)

This week has been busy with healing myself body and soul, shoveling show out of the way, and driving kids to, fro, and back again as they all took turns being under the weather in various ways (dental work, low-grade fevers, sniffles & sneezes, and good old-fashioned hooky-playing). One of the best things I did was go back to campus Thursday morning and reapply myself to my calculus book. I’m having to start almost from scratch with the math, but today I got to a place where I am doing well and seem to have a deeper understanding of the type of problems I’m solving. We’ll see. Between the weather and everyone’s health it’s been tough to get down there. Now that we’re healthier I am renewing my commitment to finishing the course. My math-related plans after that point are still nebulous, but slowly forming.

My progress on my other resolutions has been somewhat hampered by the knitting done on these two garter-stitch projects, but there is a small project I had intended to cast on for on Valentine’s Day that calls for a new type of cast-on. So as soon as one of these projects is complete (most likely Wingspan), I will try it out and perhaps be able to check off one more completed resolution.

And finally… it’s finally MARCH! My already-teenage son will turn 14, my sister will be performing at SXSW in Austin (on his birthday!), we will have Spring Break, and DOCTOR WHO will be back on television!


Published in: on March 1, 2013 at 4:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Week Seven: Renewal

After much agonizing, I have decided to renew a library book which I detest. Two weeks ago, there I was at the library, minding my own business, having dropped by to pick up a series of graphic novel-style mathematics books for my 6-year-old son. On my way to check out the books, I happened to notice a new arrival — a book on Euclid and his amazing book, Elements. I thought it would make a good introduction to book and author before I sat down and tackled Elements for myself.

Wrong, wrong, couldn’t have been more wrong. I started hating this book on Page Three.

Don’t even point.

Wait — now that I look back at it, I realize that I started hating this book waaaaaay before Page Three. Because I hate that the quote from Blaise Pascal that appears before the preface is in untranslated French.

I also hate the preface, which gave me my first sense of the author’s writing style.

It got worse from there.

I soon decided that the only proper course of action for me was to write a scathing review of this book so that I could warn off any of its potential readers. Time is precious these days. If I could establish that this book is a waste of both time and space, we could all move happily on to the next item in the queue. However, I didn’t think it would be fair to be nasty about a freshly published book that I didn’t actually finish reading. (Think back to high school. Can you imagine your Literature teacher’s reaction if you had attempted to turn in a book report on a novel you didn’t finish?) So, I struggled forward, trying to keep my temper. It wasn’t my book, so I couldn’t throw it with great force. I did toss it aside often, though. Then I would think, “It’s not that long. I can really get through this” and pick it up again. Then I would yell “I HATE THIS BOOK!” and put it down again. So my progress in the reading of it was not that swift or consistent over the last two weeks.

Yesterday I got an e-mail from the library… the book is due this Friday. I had 48 hours left to read the book, and 96 hours’ worth of more pleasant and useful things to do within that 48 hours.

So I’m going to try to renew it tomorrow. Between chapters, or segments, or paragraphs perhaps, I shall be sharpening my pen and charging up my electrons. I have two more weeks…. unless someone else, perhaps the author’s mother, is on a waiting list for it.

Slop season. Not spring.

Slop season. Not spring.

One might also look out one’s window here in Wisconsin and imagine that spring is coming and this is a time of renewal. Think again, bucko, it’s only mid-February. Just because you can see patches of grass amongst the snow, slush, and mud doesn’t mean the crocuses are coming any time soon, nor should they dare. And you should probably stay inside yourself if you know what’s good for you. Flu, whooping cough, and black ice are laying for you.

So. Until Spring is really here and there are better things to read that don’t have such a tight deadline and bizarre moral imperative, there is knitting to do. The dropped-stitch lace scarf is complete and has been entered on the Finished Projects page. I have cast on for a Wingspan scarf/shawl and gotten a couple of sections done. It has kind of an unusual construction, but the knitting itself is quite easy. So far, there are three of us in my local knitting group who are making them.

Wingspan in progress

(I don’t know why I can’t get the photo to show up. Sorry, just click the link.)

During the past week I have also gotten my oldest child signed up for his freshman year of high school. He is almost 14. He is almost as tall as I am (he checks this every morning). However, he is nowhere close to understanding just how ambitious his desired schedule actually is: Honors English, Eastern Cultures, Science 9, Geometry, P.E., German 1, and Intro to Engineering. I can’t wait until we get started on this in the fall and pour hormones into the mixture, add heat, and see what happens! He is a bright boy — he will just have to work harder at this than he realizes.

And now, a special announcement:


I’m happy to announce that we are in the planning stages for the 6th “Unwind” social event, to be held Saturday, September 7, in conjunction with the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival in Jefferson, Wisconsin.

This event is NOT an official Sheep & Wool event, nor is it an official Ravelry event. It is a private party that you are invited to! The price of admission (which is cheaper, the earlier you register) covers dinner, a goody bag, a chance at a door prize, and the chance to hang out with some seriously fun knitters, crocheters, spinners, and others! And yes, you can and totally should bring your needles, hooks, wheel, spindle, and what-have-you. All the cool people are doing it.

On your registration form you can also choose to purchase a T-shirt. When you arrive at the Festival on Friday or Saturday and check in at our table in the main building, which should be just in front of the fence around the Silent Auction items, you will pick up your goody bag and T-shirt.

We have a cap of 150 attendees, so if you want to come, please sign up early. We can take walk-ins at check-in time at the Festival grounds, but NOT at the event itself.

Updates, discussions, and Q&A should take place in the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival group on Ravelry.

If you would like to help sponsor the event or donate a door prize, please email me or PM me on Ravelry.

I hope to see you there — I’ll be the one wearing the Doctor Who Scarf!

Published in: on February 14, 2013 at 4:19 pm  Comments (1)