Saturday, December 27, 2008

An Orderly Home

Once upon a time, I lived in a very normal home. The rugs needed to be vacuumed and the dishes had to be washed. Life was somewhat shabby and perhaps a little dull. I preferred to think of it as "shabby chic." And then one day, I tugged on some loose wallpaper.

For much of December, I've been peeling wallpaper from the dining room walls. It is a slow process. The wallpaper needs to be soaked with water to soften the paste, gently scraped with a putty knife, the walls washed and patched. The house was built in the late 30s and appears to have all of the wallpaper and paint that accumulated over the intervening years. The picture is one of the layers of wallpaper. I wish I knew more about the people who lived here. What did they like to do? What did they think about the house? Were they happy? 

I enjoy this place, and I feel more confident as I make it mine. An astute person pointed out that redecorating a house after a big life event is an apt metaphor for remaking one's life. I hadn't thought about it that deeply. I just went with my instincts and dug in. I think they were right. The organic process and the adventures unfold along the way to completion. I wish it were just a little more orderly or even predictable. I'm trying to laugh at the surprises.

This evening, a friend offered to help remove a fixture that I couldn't unscrew from
 the wall. While I was fetching a screw driver from the kitchen, I heard laughing. Apparently, he just used his hands. Most of the wall also came off with the fixture. He looked really proud of himself although he tried to look sheepish for the photograph. I've heard that cats are big fans of visible damage. I think the same may apply to men. Being both male and kitten, Oscar was awestruck. Norah had the good sense to hide.

The good news is that he discovered a nook between the kitchen and the living room that is the size of a closet. Perfect, perhaps, for a built-in bookcase. When I think of built-in bookcases, I get weak in the knees and swoon. Over the past year, I've become acquainted with tilers, plumbers, electricians, handy women and dry wall installers. Why not meet a good carpenter for bookcase building?

Oh yes, I do look forward to a time when I have an orderly and boring home. I will knit and read and surf the internet. The colors and fabrics and style of my house will become outdated. I will be unfazed. I will garden and go on vacation and host parties. I will understand that inner peace does not come from redecorating however wonderful the metaphor might be.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Unknitting

Crocheting is starting to get fun. Somewhere along the way, the needle wasn't as awkward to hold and the stitches began to form themselves. I'm not claiming any kind of brilliance or sophistication -- only a familiarity with the single crochet, half-double crochet, triple, and chaining.

In the back of my mind, the Oblique sweater is starting to come to life. I got the yarn early last spring. Then I got busy with life, and yesterday I pulled out the project on the needles. The ribbing on the back is finished. Two inches of ribbing. I think it is time to frog that project and start over. I cannot decide whether to work on the Oblique or Mr Green Jeans or some other cardigan. I like the possibility of a sweater almost as much as the sweater itself.

My house is slowly unknitting itself. The wallpaper is off the walls in the dining room. The bathroom tiles appear to need work, which came to my attention in a dramatic way this morning. Fortunately Naplover's dad recommend someone who does a good job. Someone he trusts. I love good recommendations. It makes the whole unknown aspect of home repairs seem so much more palatable. 

And in other good news of home repair, someone replaced the light bulb in the lamp in my front yard. Last night when I went to sleep, the light was burned out. This morning, there was light. It makes me feel like there is good in the world. The little good things that have been happening lately give me hope, and it has inspired me to practice generosity. 

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Holiday Weekends

This holiday weekend has been especially lovely. Not only did Andi and her husband host a delicious Thanksgiving dinner with two kinds of stuffing and cranberry sauce with crystallized ginger and other undisclosed special ingredients, but I got to hang out with friends on turkey day and knit. Being invited and included meant a great deal to me.

I had planned to take Rum Balls. I planned ahead for the ingredients and shopped in advance -- except for one crucial ingredient. Many years ago, I bought a giant bottle of rum and kept it in a kitchen cupboard next to my recipe box. (This doesn't qualify as a family tradition -- more of a family habit -- but if I were looking for rum at my parents' house, grandparents' house, or sister's house, the rum would be in a lower kitchen cupboard next to the recipe box.) In any case, when I moved out of my parents house, I bought a bottle of rum to use when I made things like rum balls. Since then, the bottle has always been there and always produced when called upon. The holiday cookies, the occasional rum and coke in the summer, the special ice cream sauce. . . until this Thanksgiving. The never-ending bottle of rum produced only a quarter cup of rum before the bottle was empty. I was shocked, but managed to recover and scrounge around for a different offering. Andi didn't blink at a substitution and happily accepted a bottle of wine instead. 

The rest of the weekend has been filled with crocheting and knitting and spinning. Since the green stuff roving is all gone, a replacement was in order. The crimson combed top from Christopher and Nancy Mercer's The Naked Pines was impossible to resist. I tried very hard. From the moment Mimi carried it out of the backroom at Twist, I wanted it. The reasoning about having several pounds of BFL at home that were waiting to be dyed or the several pounds of Border Leicester didn't make any difference. This needed to come home with me, and I'm glad it did. It is spinning up beautifully in subtle shades of a dark red. Mmmm. Just what I need to fuel the holiday spirit.

Mom even came to Twist to knit with me and Jill. She's working on a Christmas stocking for a grandchild. These stockings have a long tradition in our family, and she said this is her twenty-first stocking. It is the traditional bright green, red, and white intarsia stocking with a little bit of blue as an accent. She was having a hard time focusing on the stocking since she was sitting right next a bulky Rowan wool and some lovely worsted alpaca. She was also intrigued with a striped scarf that Jill was knitting with Noro. I think she might be interested in some non-seasonal knitting.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Bye-bye Green

The green paint from the dining room is almost entirely gone. There are only a few little bits along the baseboards and the windows that need to be removed. It was surprisingly easy to pull the old wall paper and paint off of the walls. My father recommended that I fill up a sprayer with warm water, find a good tv show, and mist the walls on every commercial break for an hour before starting to remove the wall paper. It worked so well. I should listen to Dad more often.

The wall preparation and removing the texture from the ceiling will keep the me very busy for awhile. Looking at the brown of ancient sheet rock that is offset by the creamy-colored joint compound raised the question of what color the room should be. The late 90s hunter green doesn't seem right anymore, but I liked the way it was the complementary color of the red entry way. Between the entry way and the dining room is are very neutral beige living room walls. The couch is slate blue and probably the only upholstered item that I'm committed to keeping unchanged. I see my future. It is me surrounded by paint chips and muttering about color combinations. It frightens me. 

The green roving that I've been spinning for a very long time is finished. To my way of thinking, everything is practice. This project has amounted to only practice. Projects that are practice and end up being useful or liked are the best scenario. These finished products aren't things that I like, but I know so much more about dying roving and spinning yarn that I did at the outset. The names for the colorway varied from Kermit in a Blender to OMG, You Didn't or, on a particularly vexing day, Holy Fuck It Is Green.

I knitted a really rough looking scarf and still had about half of the yarn left. Then I gave the scarf to Mom, who was extremely polite about it, but it was a cool day and she was glad to have it. She was really surprised by how warm it was. Ugly can still be warm. Finally I told her my plans for the scarf had been the trash can. She looked so relieved. As for the yarn, I'm not sure what will happen with it. Maybe it will be good for tying tomato plants to stakes next summer. 

In the meantime, I'm trying to decide what color the next batch of BFL superwash will be. Purples, blues, reds? Brown, blue, pink? Whatever it is, one pound is way too much for one Sally to spin in the same color. Four ounces sounds like a very manageable amount. Maybe I'll try out the painting color schemes with the roving.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Technology

The iPhone and the G1 are terribly appealing. They have applications that can identify music and price items in the store. What I really want is a phone that can tell me more about yarn: ply, weight, fiber, colorway, dye lot. That's what I need in a phone. Maybe it could double as a drop spindle too.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Winter Popcorn

It is cold and dreary and darker than usual today. To cheer myself up, I stopped by the Indian Hills Ace Hardware store and purchased an Atom Pop popcorn popper. One of my favorite meals is a bowl of popcorn and a glass of milk. The Atom Pop is my Dad's favorite popcorn maker. I have to agree. It has more flavor than the microwave popcorn, more grease than an air popper and the steaming pan warms the air in the kitchen. 

The real reason for my trip to the hardware store was for a spray bottle. The years and years of wallpaper and paint on my dining room walls had begun to come lose. I've been walking past the same barely attached piece of wallpaper for five years and resisting the urge to pull on it. Last night, I had to do it. I tugged and the piece came free. The paper surrounding it stayed tight to the wall. I can tell that the future holds much spritzing and scraping before I will be able to repaint. Further examination reveals that there aren't clear stopping points between the living room, dining room, hallway and entry way. Those rooms have arches between them, but no trim work that would be an obvious place to stop wallpaper removal. 

Last but not least, an interesting group moved into a small shopping center near my house. They call themselves the Kalpa Bhadra Kadampa Buddhist Center, and they offer meditation classes. I'm intrigued. I'm also feeling shy. One of these days though, I'm going to wander down there and meditate with them. It's been years since I sat with the Zen group, but I'm feeling the tug toward quietness.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Fiber-licious

A year ago, I started took a spinning class, and yarn has never been the same. Yarn has short fibers, long fibers, blends. It has varying degrees of processing before it arrives at the doorstep. I've briefly considered owning bunnies (too much work) or sheep (too big to hide) in order to have fleecy goodness in the backyard. The idea of meeting the sheep whose fleece I was knitting became  possibility.

The four November Saturday mornings that I spent with the more seasoned spinners were magical in their own right. I grabbed some coffee and drove to the south part of town to an apartment complex community building. It must have been a very glamorous early 1980s setting with mustard yellow vinyl seats with coasters, a bar, and a wrought-iron fire place. Now it feels very comfortable and unassuming. The amenities are still very enjoyable but don't inspire the grasping feeling that brand-new, highly fashionable items foster. The huge windows cover two walls and overlook trees by the lake.  Geese lurch by the window. The sun feels warm through the windows. The spinning wheels would whir soothingly and we talked. We talked and talked and talked.

It was just four of us. Dawn, our teacher, Rhonda, and Connie. The group was quiet and boisterous by turns. We petted fleece and carded and looked through fiber magazines like teenage girls deciding what dreaming about what make up to wear.

I was very tense and fragile then. The spinning wheel wasn't coordinated with what I wanted to do. Yarn barf seemed to be the best that I could produce and I desperately wanted to be able to spin beautiful yarn. I still haven't relaxed enough to learn how to spin beautifully, but I can now make ropey awkward yarn. The wheel spins with a regular speed, and I enjoy seeing the bobbin taking up the yarn.

My life was tense and fragile too. My Ex and I were skirting the issue of our deteriorating relationship. The denial was huge and the truth threatened to be exposed at every turn. It took so much work to pretend that things were okay. Or, if it were a day when I was willing to admit that things needed work, pretending counseling could help was hurdle. 

Those Saturday mornings allowed me to be a beginner -- a very slow-learning beginner. Everything was a possibility and the other spinners were so encouraging and happy for me. It was a very safe place.  I'm still a beginner but it is less tenuous and halting. 

So yesterday morning Jill, Andie, and I met for breakfast. Then Jill and I took off for this oasis that I hadn't seen for a year. It felt so different. I'd started the day with people who I loved and cared about without the complications of conflict and expectations. I didn't have a husband (still a sad point), and I had my own spinning wheel. 

Frankly, I was worried. What if it weren't the same? Sometimes memories are better. Rhonda wasn't able to attend, and we'd brought friends. What if they didn't like it? As I began to pull my wheel out of the car, Becca arrived in her little yellow car and took out her Victoria. My heart began to lift. Dawn was making tea and cutting pies. Jill heated her soup in a crockpot. Laura and her daughter brought their wheels and rainbow roving. Connie eventually arrived with her usual enthusiasm. 

We spun and spun and spun. Jill knitted. We talked and ate. It felt so right and I had a quiet, contented feeling. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote your conscience

It's a beautiful day to vote here in Kansas. The air is warm, and the trees are starting to shed their autumnal colors in big, crunchy, showy drifts. People are smiling and voting. 

Tonight I'm going to Mom and Dad's house to eat dinner and watch election returns. Dad will show me his flat screen tv, and I'll show him the Slate feed on twitter.com. Mom and I will knit. 

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Autumn

I'm a little behind on seasonal obligations, but I'm ready to for fall to start now! The picture is my kitchen sink full of basil. The night of the first hard freeze found me scurrying around the garden and clipping delicate herbs. Then I made and froze pesto until I ran out of olive oil.  Six bags should be enough to last all winter, right? 

This might appear to be an unrelated topic, but my knitting was on the kitchen counter right next to the basil mess. A clapotis from the Hand Maiden Sea Silk. I was enchanted with the pattern and the yarn. So enchanted that I neglected to correctly calculate the yardage. Alas, it has been frogged, which is probably just as well. This project had many false starts and do-overs. I even changed needles and upgraded to Lantern Moon in the hopes that more expensive needles would make the project go better. 

Such thinking is pure foolishness, but those Lantern Moon needles are lovely. I haven't given up on the yarn or the pattern. They just aren't right for each other. The needles are perfect for me.

Last but not least, friends have been coming to visit me. At my house. This is a big deal. When things started to be tense with the Ex, I stopped inviting people.  I didn't feel welcome at home, so how could I have other people visit me? Now, it is really nice to feel like this is my house and to have company visit and laugh. To my delight Oscar loves it too and really hams it up for visitors. I think it is just his way of luring them into complacency so he can taste their wine when the are distracted by him.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sleeping it off

This week, I got my first virus of the season. Following last winter's flu fiasco where I was sick alternate weeks from January through March, I'm having serious thoughts about what I can do to prevent a replay. The first thing I have to do is get well by Monday so I can take the flu shot my employer provides. Mostly, this week has been devoted to sleeping and cold medicine. That may sound boring, but it is about all I could manage.

In between naps, I read The Kite Runner. The images and haunting stories keep running through my mind. Despite reviewing the horrifying circumstances in Afghanistan and human weakness and corruption, it offered a tiny glimpse of hope. It wasn't the hope for perfect redemption or a fairy tale ending, but it had hope for small change and betterment for some individuals. I needed that hope to keep it all from seeming too overwhelming. Frankly, compared to the fate of an entire war-torn country, the possibility of a good future for one person is still dismal. I think I'm probably the last literate person who hadn't read this book, but if you haven't read it, I highly recommend it.

So why not cheer myself up on the iternet? I love every one's blogs. Once I finished reading those, I went looking for new things. The loveliest thing about the internet is the way to find new and delightful things through the old familiar paths of friends' blogs. Through a few links from voluntary simplicity sites, the smallnotebook.org hooked me. I particularly enjoyed reading about No Spend Month and trading down to a smaller home. 

On the home front, Oscar a.k.a. the Furminator has A Bad Habit. I mistakenly thought that his eagerness to sit on the toilet seat and watch me fix my hair and put on make up was sweet. I'd rub his head and he'd purr. Then, I'd dash out the door to work. Being home, I had to go back in the bathroom for Kleenexes and other essentials. Oscar was licking my just-used toothbrush. Eep! He was just using me for my tooth-paste dregs. I'm not even going to think about other places he might have used his raspy little tongue. Operation toothbrush-relocation commenced immediately.

And last but not least, after sleeping all day yesterday, I had enough energy to go to Andie's fiftieth birthday party at Oeno. Andie is smart, vibrant, and interested in life. I admire her taste in people and hope that I make fifty look as young and effortless as she does. Everyone there was funny and intelligent. We even behaved reasonably well. 


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Ramblings brought to you by Ginger Tea

Although a few notable things have happened in the last few weeks, my life revolves around finding clean underwear, wondering if I sleep too much, debating whether learning to knit continental style would make me a faster knitter, and why I suddenly have no desire to exercise. 

Last week brought a brief business trip to Denver and a lovely visit to the Lambe Shoppe. A group of women were seated at a marble-table and finishing clapotis'. (What is the plural of clapotis?) Each wrap was beautiful and showed off the yarns so well. The mohair looks very different from the linen, and they were both equally gorgeous. When the women finished the wraps, they pulled socks and sweaters out of their bags and knitted those items too. Knitters come prepared! 

I bought some Misti Alpaca Hand Paint Lace which was so scrumptious that Oscar yanked it out of the suitcase, nuzzled the yarn and nipped at it. I rescued the hank before he turned into the Furminator, destroyer of all that is yarn. 

Somewhere in the last few weeks, stress management has become more important to me. My ears are stuck at my shoulders and the eye tick is just too much. Besides, sanity has those beguiling ways and is a mysterious and seductive force. I know it isn't popular, but I'm considering the pursuit. (Sanity is a hobby, right?) After reading some articles about health on the internet, I've decided that more yoga and contemplative practices are in my future. Don't ask about the implementation plan. Just reaching a conclusion is a big deal for me.

Also, all of those yoga articles linked to health articles. One of those articles suggested that thin slices of ginger, steeped in hot water and sweetened with honey, are good for health and well-being. I'm currently drinking a cup of this, and it is very tasty. It will require further testing to tell you more about health and well-being. 

The laundry can be ignored, but I've decided it has close links with sanity. Stick with me here. The laundry is out of control. I have so many clothes and none to wear. If they are clean, they are a wrinkled mess. Or maybe they have surprise holes or stains that will only be discovered while I am making a presentation. Getting dressed for work or even to go out with friends is like the lottery. The odds of winning the jackpot are very low, but you might win a buck or two. Maybe matching socks are in the drawers or maybe they will be if you play again soon! Working out an orderly scheme for clean clothes and presentable garments is part of my sanity plan. 

In summary, my life will be better because of new yarn, yoga, ginger-honey tea, and clean laundry. Enlightenment or sanity may never be mine, but at least I'll have hobbies.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Blue skies at last

This last week has been very rainy and humid and just dreary. The grass didn't stop growing one bit, and if I venture out to mow, it will leave big ruts in the yard. But it isn't all bad. All of that raining meant lots of time inside knitting, reading and internet surfing -- altogether happy stuff. This doesn't even include movies and lunch with friends.

The rain cleared up part way through the day yesterday and the sky is the brilliant blue of autumn. I can't remember fall beginning this early in previous years, but I'm ready to start nesting and cleaning and baking.

Finally, here's the requested pesto recipe:

½ c. olive oil
¼ c. water
¾ c. fresh Parmesan, grated
½ c. pine nuts
3 cloves garlic
1 c. packed basil leaves
½ t. salt

Blend ingredients.

Sometimes I substitute walnuts for pine nuts and parsley for basil.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Sock of Hope

So there is some hope that one day things will feel normal again. As evidence, I submit the Sock of Hope a.k.a the Spring Forward Sock from Knitty.

I had been rendered unable to knit anything more complicated than a dishcloth. (Stress is all about humility. Seriously.) Technically it was possible to knit from patterns. I had before. But now, my brain refused to count, to think, to follow a pattern. I gave up and knitted dish clothes. Then I tricked my brain and knitted Kitty Pi, which requires a small amount of counting and pattern following. Last week, I blatantly knitted a sock. The toes still need to be stitched up and the other sock made, but this is progress. One day I might be able to knit a sweater!

The weather here turned decidedly cooler. I chopped up beef stew ingredients and tossed them in the crock pot. Tomorrow morning I'll turn it on before I leave for work. I'm looking forward to the cooler-weather cooking. I'm also looking forward to coming home to a home-cooked meal tomorrow. It will be the perfect evening for planning what to plant in the garden this fall and to freeze a couple of batches of pesto.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Back in Town

I just returned from a lovely week in Madison, WI, which I spent with my sister, her husband and their two boys. The boys are adorable and as well-behaved as is possible at ages one and two. I cannot say the same for the adults, and it was a delight. As with all good vacations, the time was relaxed and unstructured with lots of long chats, naps, and giggling.

We ventured off to several yarn stores. Lakeside Fibers is closest to her house, has a huge selection of yarns, and they offer all kinds of classes. In the back of the building is another shop -- a coffee shop with a view of the lake. I believe it was then that I realized my life's calling is to drink coffee and knit in yarn shops. This is similar to the dream of drinking coffee in bookstores. I haven't figured out how that will generate income for me, but one day inspiration may strike.


The Sow's Ear in Verona also had a terrific selection of yarns and an extremely friendly staff. They were amused by my one-year-old nephew's delight at seeing yarn when most people would have been stricken with terror. When they learned I was from Kansas, they wanted to know all about the Yarn Barn: "They have big advertisements in every magazine!" Sadly, I haven't been to the Yarn Barn and couldn't tell them about it. Perhaps that will be the next place (besides Twist) where I drink coffee and knit. I wonder if coffee is allowed there.
Usually at the end of a vacation I'm tired and ready to come home. This time, I just wanted it to go on and on. I knew the cats were getting good care and attention from Jill. My parents minded the garden. There were no worries. I was having fun with my sister and enjoying an idyllic college town, dammit. Through some amazing act of will power, I still managed to make it home. As a reward for actually returning, the house was cleaner than I remembered and the cats were sweet. The garden looked good and I had a lunch date with two friends on Saturday. Things are actually pretty good here in do-dah, and I'm glad I came back.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Reality Show

I'm tuning in tonight for my new favorite reality show: Sarah Palin. Each time I think I've heard the most astonishing thing about her or the McCain campaign, a new most astonishing thing pops up. Save a seat in front of the tv for me. I can hardly wait to hear her speech.

My sister is in the kitchen making an apple crisp. I made a taco casserole. We've got our Woodchuck cider and our knitting. I've made it to the foot of the Spring sock and my sister is knitting a table runner from Rowan tweed. This is a good way to spend an evening.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Lazy Days

This is a lovely weekend. Lots of time sipping coffee, knitting, sitting around with my feet up, and chatting. Sometimes I knit or read, but when that gets too intense, I take a nap. I could get used to this.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Acceptance Speech

Obama outdid himself.

Politics & Donkey Talk

I've been glued to the tv and watching the DNC this week. Lily Ledbetter's story blew me away. As one blogger said, "Hillary Clinton shone like a new penny." Hillary sure has pluck. Our very own governor, Kathleen Sebelius, did well too. I'm not ignoring the guys -- Ted Kennedy and Bill Clinton are awesome -- I was inspired to see these strong articulate women on the anniversary of the 19th amendment. I'm pleased that women now have a place in the senate, as governors, and as leaders. 1920 was only 88 years ago.

A woman in Michigan (we work together -- albeit remotely) got to talking about donkeys with me. I have a stuffed donkey on my desk, and it has nothing to do with my political preferences. I like to take pictures of it and send it to people as the mood strikes. Sometimes they get a picture of the face, and sometimes they get a picture of the other end. It all depends on the message that needs to be sent.


The Michigan woman heard about my stuffed donkey and said she has her own, real live donkey named Luke. He's a miniature, which means he is about waist high. He likes to break branches off of a dead tree and romp around the pasture with them. Sometimes he nips at the horses or trips them. He's real ornery, and she sent a picture. He picture looks so sweet and he's got all of that mischief bottled up. Looking at his picture just makes me happy.
But back to politics, Obama speaks tonight. I can hardly wait to hear it. The last time he spoke at the DNC, he inspired so much hope that I wanted him to be president right that moment. Since then, I developed a deep respect for Hillary Clinton. I'm still wistful about not having her as a candidate, but I know that Obama will be an extraordinary leader too.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sassy Cow

The negative thinking is worse than I knew. I've started to openly expect things to go wrong. I'm a firm believer that many situations are neutral and the person brings their own perspective and energy to the party. Responsibility for making those situations pleasant belongs to the bearer of the attitude.

Yesterday's mail brought an envelope from my sister. Even though I was excited, I didn't open it right away because I was mowing the lawn; I set it inside and thought about it while I mowed. The more I thought about it, the more I was certain it was something bad. Maybe I'd made her angry? Maybe something was wrong? I hadn't sent her a gift or letter recently. Surely it had to be something bad.

When I opened the envelope, it had a 3" x 2" tag with a picture of a black and white spotted cow. The camera is zoomed in so the cow's nose is disproportionately large. Her head is slightly lowered, and she also appears to be looking demurely through her eyelashes. The caption says, "Sally. Her extra long whiskers make her the envy of the herd." I had to sit down and laugh. Sis likely plucked this off of her bottle of milk. She likes to shop locally, and the emblem on the tag says, "Sassy Cow Creamery." So let that be a lesson. Good things are just a likely around the corner as bad things. This lesson has been brought to you by Sally the Sassy Cow.

Meanwhile, back at the yarn ranch, Tamara taught us how to read patterns and crochet in circles. The crocheted circle appears to be the next step to crocheted flowers, and if I told you how giddy the prospect of crocheted flowers makes me, you all would doubt my sanity. So, I'll settle for saying that crocheted flowers sound very nice. The circle posted here is worked using pink dish cloth cotton, which has striking similarities to the picture of annual vinca if you squint your eyes. Flowers!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Little things

This has been a wet and rainy which is good for thinking about the garden. The picture on the left is a snapshot of purple fountain grass. At a distance, it really does look purple. Looking at all of the colors in the photo surprises me. That grass is just as cream-colored and green as it is purple.


Speaking of odd colors, Oscar the Furminator is looking as much the wild man on the outside as he is on the inside. As a kitten, he's basically a seal-point mutt. My sister adopted a cat that was half Maine Coon, and the woman who gave her the cat said, "The mother was a Maine Coon, and the father came in through the basement window." Oscar's coloring shows a similar up-town meets wrong-side-of-the-tracks mashup. The kitten fur is turning into cat fur, and the seal points are turning into tabby points. (Yes, I made up the term "tabby point" right this minute.) Where his face was a dark brown, it is turning into dark brown stripes. The cream on his body has a barely discernible, reddish tabby pattern to it as if someone painted a henna tattoo on him and it faded. His tail is showing white spots through the brown. He's gonna be one crazy looking cat, and I can hardly wait to see the results of this transformation.


I'm pretending it is fall. Baking gingerbread, knitting sweaters, and reading under a down duvet are starting to sound appealing. Of course the low temperatures are only in the 60s, so all I've done is throw open the windows to enjoy the cool the inside of the house. Stove top cooking is back on the agenda too. Reheating a homemade soup for lunch or dinner. Going to an apple orchard or picking pumpkins also sound like good ideas.



Andie, Bean and Jill came over for a potluck dinner on Thursday night. We had a great time talking too much, eating home-cooked food, and going for a walk. Jill arrived with a lovely blue bag that had gifts! She knitted beautiful cream colored wash clothes. One has a heart-shaped design on the front and the other is moss stitch. She also put in a bar of acai and pomegranate soap. She noticed that I've been feeling down and wanted to cheer me up. It never fails to surprise me that people have so much love and caring to share, and I was delighted to get such a thoughtful gift.


Today's the day for Crocheting 102 at Twist. I'm so excited. This is where I will learn enough to move onto the Crochet Embellishment class that Tamara is teaching in September. I know that I talked Shelly's ear off about learning how to do this. It all happened because Tamara started to show me what she made the last time I bumped into her at the shop, and I started hopping around singing a tuneless song: "Me monkey! Monkey see, monkey do! Monkey, monkey, monkey!"


Tamara is a very savvy shopper and her story sounded much like this. "One day I was walking down the street and a fairy godmother was selling the a boring, but perfectly good sweater, for one cent. I bought that sweater and snipped off some pieces, crocheted beautiful things, put them on the sweater. Now I have this. I think it is okay." The thing about Tamara is she says this just as if this sequence of events and talent could happen to any ordinary person. At this point, she's holding a lovely sweater that is tastefully trimmed in lace and has several flowers and leaves on it. Anthropologie would sell that sweater for a pirate's treasure chest of gold. (Love ya, Anthropologie, but you don't fit my budget). By this time, the fantasy I had in high school where I am Andie Walsh (Molly Ringwald) from Pretty in Pink and I make my incredible prom dress cotton candy and fireflies has come back to life. Now, I have to practice my crochet, find the fairy godmother with the perfect sweater for the right price, and take Tamara's class. I can hardly wait.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Peaceful Evening

This evening is so calming. The cicadas are chirping. In Charlotte's Web, they would sing, "Summer's over, summer's over." It's a good night for reading. Mom loaned me The Guynd by Belinda Rathbone, which is about an American writer who marries a Scotsman. He has a large estate that has been in his family for centuries. The money to maintain the estate ran out sometime around WWII, but the duty to maintain it continues. She has the fortitude to see it as a place she would like to be. I really enjoy the author's strength and her ability to give herself over to the dream.

Thank you for all of your supportive comments about the situation. Sunday are the worst days for self-pity. I should just turn off the computer on Sundays and do something for people who are truly needy. The Lord's Diner always needs help. Or I should remember that the Ex has divulged information about the Hot Water Closet that would horrify her. It is about human nature. He's probably unhappy and struggling too although he looks pretty damn cheery these days. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

The intermediate crochet class is Saturday afternoon. I'm looking forward to it. I've been practicing the single stitch. Then I realized I don't remember the double or the half-double. I may have to spend the rest of the week preparing for class. I just love that I can spend all week with a hook and yarn and saying I'm studying -- as if it is virtuous. That yarn is such torture.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Gooseberry Pie

I remember picking gooseberries with my cousins. My aunt and uncle lived near a creek that was lined with gooseberries. Five of us could pick the gooseberries for what seemed to be infinity, but in reality was probably an hour. It was well-suited for our favorite make-believe game of Little House on the Prairie. Then we'd go back to my aunt's kitchen, wash the berries (which usually amounted to two cups), and make gooseberry pie. The pie is pretty tart, and the standard 1/2 cup of sugar that I add to fruit pies isn't nearly enough to cut the tartness of the gooseberry. It takes at least 2 cups of sugar. The pie should definitely be served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream -- just in case it is still too tart.

On the subject of pies, Kitty Pi is finished! The Pi dough is loose and stretchy. My assistant tested it by biting it, kicking it, and pouncing on it. He indicated his approval by crossing his paws. I cooked it in hot water for 45 minutes and stretched it over a plate to dry.


Oscar and Norah have both slept in it. Norah hops out when she sees me. She must be too cool to be seen snuggling with something woolly.
The divorce is really bothering me this week. At first, I kept going because of shock and anxiety. I've seen other women go through this, and (please forgive me) I wondered how could it take months and months to realize this person to whom you are committed and whom you still trust is not considering your best interests at all. Of course, he's not going to tell you that. Of course, it hurts him to see you hurt. But you aren't a team anymore. He doesn't have your back.
When I went to visit Atticus last week, I pulled up in front of the Hot Water Closet's (HWC) house. Her yard has never been particularly tidy, but I noticed that it had been trimmed and edged. That was the Ex's job at our house. Inside, her carpets were vacuumed and the tile freshly mopped -- another thing he did at our house. HWC never seemed to care about that before. The divorce seemed so real at that moment. I almost left because I was starting to cry.
Atticus was happy to see me. He meowed, let me hold him and pet him. The Ex wanted me to take the kitty downstairs. HWC wasn't supposed to be home for this visit, but the first floor looked suspiciously as if she had abandoned her drink and tv watching in a hurry. I took the kitty downstairs. He freaked out and howled, which makes sense. These days, whenever someone picks him up, they put him in a cat carrier and he ends up in a new house. Then I sat on the couch, put him on my lap, and he squatted and peed on my lap. He's only peed on me one other time -- the day his brother died. I felt so bad for Atticus. He wants normal as much as I do, and normal will never be the way it was even though the Ex and HWC obviously treat him like the spoiled, princely cat he is. Cat toys are strewn throughout the house.

I really cried then. Everything is so different. I'm tired of coping and I'm tired of handling it. I know I will get a second wind. I know my friends will cheer me up and work will distract me. That evening was just too much. I left.
The Ex sent an email to apologize for the cat having peed on me. The funny thing is, that incident didn't bother me. The cat was stressed out. I got his point. I belong to him. He wanted me to stay, but I didn't belong there.
The apology really stuck in my craw. He apologies for all of the inconsequential stuff. I would like some apologies for real things. While I realize it will be a cold day in hell before I get any apologies, the beginning of my suggested apology list:
1. I'm sorry I ended an eleven year marriage with a note and without discussing it
2. I'm sorry I lied to you for all of these years
3. I'm sorry I ruined your trust
4. I'm sorry I didn't stick up for you with my family
5. I'm sorry I made you wait eleven years for a child and then left (see #1)

I'm not so different from those women who continue to trust their Ex. I thought he still had loyalty to me and to what we had shared for all of those years. Imagine my surprise to have a very personal, very intimate detail about myself mentioned in casual conversation to me by a friend. Thank goodness it was Jill because I almost crawled under the table from embarrassment as in I-liked-to-died kind of moment. She understood my horror when I explained to her that to my way of thinking only two people had known that: the Ex and me. Clearly that is not the case. I thought about calling him and telling him to just shut up, but that would be silly. It would probably hurt his feelings, and he'd tell more people in the process of working through his feelings.
There are still so many wonderful things in my life that delight me, and I'm so lucky. Right after Jill's revelation woke me from my stupor, we went down to Twist. Becca, Sugar Bunny and I had decided that Saturdays were good days for spinning. Fortunately Shelly agrees. My wheel started to take up yarn again, magically. Becca's proximity does really good things for my wheel. It always works better in her presence. (She won't take any credit for it either. She's sitting so modestly in this picture; but, she's always modest.) She brought the elegant Victoria.
The lovely Jackie took time to spin. She wears the cutest clothes. They look like they'd be comfortable to wear, don't inhibit activity, and they are fetching. If we were the same size, I'd be truly jealous of her closet. She brought Sage, the cheerful spinning elf. Sage doesn't mind kneeling on the floor to work the treadle on bit. She even looked happy about it. Who needs an electric wheel when you can have an assistant like that?

All in all, it was a lovely Saturday spent with friends. Just the sort of thing a girl needs to snap her out of the doldrums.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Last Five Rounds

Kitty Pi has five more rounds before felting begins. The Furminator attacks it every time I blink or look the other way. Felting is very forgiving, thank goodness. He has got to learn that yarn is for me and cat toys are for him. He refuses to cede the point. No matter, because I will soon have a critter that has eluded me for months, a finished object.

You all are so sweet. I've gotten the most supportive comments, emails, tweets, and even a few hugs. I feel whiny and mopey sometimes. I try to keep things on the blog happy and perky. The last few weeks have slipped away from me, and I've had a pity party. They're really pretty gloomy and I don't recommend them. I feel so fortunate to know or meet all of the positive folks who are sympathetic and cheery. It keeps me moving in the right direction.

What is the right direction? I'm not absolutely certain. I think it involves keeping my house tidier and cooking diner at home. Seriously, cooking for one is a drag. Food is such a social activity for me. I've always got friends who will go out to eat or a drive-thru nearby. It's brainstorming time. I've got a bunch of ideas about how to make it worth my while to cook:

1) Get together with 3-5 friends and each one cooks a dinner. The night someone cooks is the night that person hosts dinner. Home cooked dinner 3-5 nights and cleanup once a week sounds good to me.

2) Blog it all. That would be hard on y'all and it would be one heck of a lot of work for me. Why not eat meals that don't have to be photographed. Ugly food often tastes great. Whoever said presentation is everything obviously never tasted burnt marshmallow s'mores.

3) Another item for friends. Grab 3 - 5 friends and have them buy matching Tupperware. Everyone cooks a main dish and divides it into appropriate serving sizes and freezes it. Swap once a week for a week's worth of entrees.

4) Rotate a potluck once a week among friends.

5) Declare a certain night to be picnic night in the park and meet the gang on the green.

Fortunately one of my friends has decided that she's my momma. She invited me over for dinner on Monday and tonight I reheated some Taco Soup. It was delicious and I have a new recipe. I've still got a persistent, self-sufficiency dream. One day I could cook my own food. It is so turn of the century.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The good stuff

The weather today was unseasonably welcoming: mild temperatures, sunny, blue skies, barely breezy. It was the perfect day to get out of the office at lunch. Several co-workers joined me on the excursion. We bopped into the Palette to pick up lunch. Then we strolled over to Twist in the next block, chatted and ate.

I knitted a couple of rounds on the Spring Forward sock. The yarn is Sox Appeal, which is a soft blend of colors and fibers. Leave it to Shelly to find something softer and silkier to tempt me. Baskets of Panda Silk are dotted around the store in strategic spots. Still, I have vowed to finish at least one project before I buy more yarn or cast on again. Kitty Pi is only ten more rounds away from the bind off and felting. It won't be a long wait until I cast on with the Panda Silk.
The only thing that would have made the afternoon more perfect would have been to hangout in Riverside Park with friends. Or hang out in Riverside Park with friends and a latte and yarn. Eh, employment has its merits too.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Where I have been is where I am

Being a grown-up about getting dumped isn't working for me. Moral superiority, sobriety, and being respectable (whatever that means) suck. Maturity is still a goal. I haven't abandoned it entirely. Each little twist and turn brings me more humility and less pride. The supply of resilience is pretty dog-gone low.

I live very close to where I grew up -- within three blocks. My house is nearly the same floor plan as the house where I grew up. Sometimes I wonder if I never grew up. Maybe that's why I married the man who always said, "No." No adventure, no fun, no spending. Feeling guilty and working was very important. (See Nathaniel Hawthorne for more details.) If he said, "No" to everything, it remained a dream, and I remained the same. Sometimes I wonder why I let his veto stop me.


Last night it poured buckets of rain and this morning was very damp and misty, but I was stir crazy . Since I'm here, in the same place I never left, and I went exploring by my old high school.
The bridge has Indian and buffalo motifs to match the high school, and the work crews have spent a considerable amount of effort repairing it. Construction probably won't be finished when school begins, but it should be closer. The art work looks so different from a few feet away than it does from a car moving at 30 mph. These old relics are historical landmarks, and they are made from local materials that are specific to Wichita.


The Ex was part of the reason I was anxious and wanting to roam around the neighborhood. He visited this afternoon. The visit had been arranged one week in advance. He had some books to bring me, and he preferred to meet in public. That isn't so unusual except that we don't usually meet in public. We meet at my house. We first arranged the visit via instant messenger. He wrote this : "I have some of your notebooks." I responded: "You have my journals?" He must have sensed that I was highly aggravated by this because the display said, "The Ex is typing" for a very long time. When he finally responded, the message said, "It is school notebooks. I closed them as soon as I saw your handwriting." My confidence that he will tell me the truth is dropping.


My Ex moved into his parent's basement. I know that cannot be pleasant because his mother has superior guilt-trip skills. I also know what she thinks about his behavior because she wrote me a letter to say she hoped we would get together and save our marriage. She liked having me for a daughter. Also, she is concerned for his soul. I knew there would be no peace for him in his childhood home. I was okay with that.


When deciding where things began to go badly in my marriage has been difficult. It is like unravelling a sweater. It never really stops until the entire garment is gone. Ex has been involved with another woman although he denies it. This other woman and I have the same employer. I can go months without seeing her, but she walked by my desk last week and had an hour-long meeting at a table near my desk. It was excruciating. Thank goodness my iPod was in my purse to drown our her voice. Make believe can be a good place to go at times like this. A very understanding co-worker named her: Home Wrecking Cunt. He recommends calling her HWC for short or Hot Water Closet.


Here's how the marriage unravels:

11 years ago we were married
10 years ago he met her in grad school
8ish years ago they started an online publication together
6 years ago my mother and grandmother thought I should be concerned about the way she looked at him
2 years ago I expressed my concern and was told that I should feel more secure about myself
1 year ago Ex's best friend started saying that I would get a divorce because Ex and Hot Water Closet were having an affair
5 months ago Ex moved out
4 months ago he said they weren't dating -- they were just hanging out a lot
2 months ago we got divorced


Today he came by to bring the books and told me that he'd moved into her basement. They are roommates. Only roommates. Whatever. I feel so bitter and stupid and used. My bullshit meter is off the charts. For an added bonus, he told me that Atticus, the cat, really likes her house and really likes her. I just hate this wondering if we were ever in love, if anything was ever good about our marriage, and if I imagined it all in my head. At least he told me in person. It would have been much worse to hear it from someone else.


Thank goodness Ms. Naplover knew about the errand and knew that I had really bad vibes about why Ex was visiting. She told me to come visit after he left. I got TLC, knitting, and talking and calmed down. Her daughter is cheery and happy and excited about starting school this week. It's hard not to feel blessed with friends like that. It will get better. I believe it will get better. It's already so much better than I feared it would be.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Summer Heat

It's hot outside. The only thing in the garden that isn't wilted are the french white marigolds. Marigolds are sturdy cheerful little plants. I'm in awe of them.


Mom and I went to the Eaton Hotel Steakhouse for lunch, which is in the lobby of the Old Eaton Hotel. Allen Ginsberg lived there briefly and even wrote a poem called "The Wichita Vortex Sutra." Carrie Nation smashed the mirror behind the bar in her quest for prohibition. Lots of things have happened in that old building. This morning was very tame. Eggs Benedict, cloth napkins, soft lighting, Gerber daisies and ice water. (It's really hot, remember?) I took pictures and Mom wasn't even embarrassed.

Sedgwick County has a primary election on Tuesday. Candidates on the ballot are for the US Senate, US House of Representatives, KS Senate, KS House of Representatives, KS Board of Education, County Clerk, District Attorney, Sheriff, judges, and all manner of things. If you die a little inside when your out-of-state relatives ask you about Sam Brownback's latest goofy scheme, you should definitely go vote. If you like Brownback, you should go cancel my vote or stay home and watch tv. If your deepest wish is to never see the words "Kansas" and "Evolution" in the same newspaper headline, you should go vote. If you care about the next D.A., the Sheriff, or family court, you should go vote. If you aren't registered, it's too late for this round. Get registered anyway. There's a presidential election this fall, and voting is the thing to do.

I wonder if Carrie Nation had an opportunity to walk down this staircase before she commenced to busting liquor bottles and scaring the men in town. Oh, and all of you knitting women, women have the vote now, so we don't need to use our axes. Just our ballots.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Slips and confessions

Slips abounded this week. Sadly, they aren't as amusing as Mrs. Slipslop's unfortunate slip that ruined her virtue. (Yes, I've been sorting through books trying to decide what to keep. Since Joseph Andrews is available at the library, it will probably go. Operation Books Live on Bookshelves is a ruthless effort.)

The plucky, sassy, determined Ms. Lemon-Says took a spill from her attic to the floor below. Although I've never met her, we've swapped comments online since 2003. She crocheted beautiful clothes and dyed her own yarn before I ever considered using knitting needles and yarn. I look forward to seeing pictures of her children and hearing how her husband is doing. She's now undergoing a series of surgeries to repair a shatter pelvis and a broken elbow. She's resilient, has a wonderful support group, and has the promise of a full recovery. I want to send her all of the good wishes and hope that can be offered. She has a special place in my heart.

The yarn that needed to be plied slipped off of the bobbin with the help of my kitchen shears. It began innocently enough. When I started to ply the yarn, it stuck, snagged and was very resistant to my efforts. Edward Scissor Paws and his mentor, Miss Tangles with Paws, twirled between the bobbins and the wheel and dragged several yards of yarn across the room. Distracting with toys has worked in the past, but toys with feathers couldn't compete with wool from a real sheep (and probably the faint scent of genuine sheep poo). For the first time in their furry lives, I squirted them with water from a spray bottle and they acted as if they'd been burned by acid.

Next, the drive band on the wheel snapped, and I dissembled whole wheel apart before determining that the drive band would not go onto the wheel as a continuous loop. I snipped it, tied it and reassembled the wheel. A person with good sense and this level of frustration would not continue to spin at this point, but I did. Shortly thereafter I concluded that spinning was more about process than product and bid the Kool-Aid Border Leicester adieu. In the cold light of day, I can sincerely say that I do not miss it. Finishing every project is over-rated.

Slips abound. I'm off the caffeine wagon. At this very moment, I'm drinking an iced, white chocolate mocha from Starbucks. It is nearly impossible to feel penitent while sipping this concoction. The regret will not begin until I crash from the coffee high later this afternoon. Eric Clapton's Cocaine may or may not have been playing on the radio as I took my first sip. I know what I'm doing. Really.

Not even half-way through my year off from men, I'm struggling with that decision. It's hard. However, everyone from pop psychologists to Mom to good friends have recommended it. I have enough relationship judgement left to know that my perspective in the dating area is skewed after being dumped by my husband with a note that said he was leaving because he loved me. Sometimes the bitterness is all I can feel, and then other times the relief and forgiveness washes over me. A year would help me get perspective on Men and Relationships or even men and relationships. All of this leads to my confession: I've been watching Swingtown. Someone mentioned that the dialogue wasn't very good, and I was thinking, "What dialogue?" The beautiful people, seventies music, vintage clothes, and, um, cheap thrills are plentiful.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

For once, I'm not jealous of Kate Middleton -- or maybe a little less jealous. Right now, I don't need prince because I've got a kitten. This kitten also loves my cat and it is reciprocated. (Pictorial evidence below). Enter jealousy. They don't seem to love me as much as they love each other. That might be natural and understandable, but I am merely a cat accessory now, a thing they can show off to their cat friends.

The Furminator also goes by Oscar these days because it is easier to say several times fast. (Go ahead, try it. Here Furminator, Furminator, Furminator . . .see?) He likes to sneak up on Norah all the time and goad her into playing with him. It usually works. Sometimes Norah turns the tables.

Several folks have inquired about my spinning. The green-blue pound of BFL is still on the wheel. The roving came from wool2dye4.com and the dye was from Knit Picks. I have several bobbins of it that need to be plied. Then I'll get started spinning again. I hate to mention how much of a beginner I am, but starting the bobbin and getting the yarn to wind on properly takes quite a bit of concentration for me. Once that is in order, the whole spinning and plying process goes smoothly. Late one night about two weeks ago, I'd been spinning for an hour and I realized that I must ply with the last bobbin or else! Getting everything running smoothly was surprisingly difficult and frustrating, so I gave up and went to bed. The gumption to fix it is simply lacking. Sometimes I am very persistent and sometimes I just don't care. I wish I knew myself well enough to anticipate what degree of motivation was lurking around the corner.

So with motivation like that, what's a girl to do? Maybe that's why when I bumped into Connie at the Stitch n' Bitch at Twist, and she sang the praise of the Schacht Ladybug I knew that I needed one. It's so adorable. I want to dress it up and hug it and love it . . . . As much as I would love to start a huge collection of spinning wheels, I've decided to spend more time with the lovely Mazurka before I commit to another wheel. Then again, if I keep buying more bobbins and more wheels, I may never have to ply the BFL.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Loopy Lunches

I've discovered a new pleasure: knitting lunches at Twist on Wednesdays. No body else seems to be eating, but I grab a bite from Subway and munch away. Then, I finish up by knitting. The conversation is good; the knitting is relaxing. Shelly was a blur. She doesn't sit still. Not for one minute, no sirree. She wound a million skeins, checked out several customers, and was gracious and welcoming the whole time. I don't know how she does it. It is amazing.

Today Kay accompanied me. She's a former knitter, and I knew she'd appreciate the yarny goodness of the store. She hasn't been tempted by the knitting bug again, but I'm certain she will be with enough exposure to yarn. She was, however, smitten with the pottery display and might even sign up for a class. If she hasn't found her way to salvation yet, at least she will have a delightful craft.

For my part, I signed up for the crocheting class on August 7 with Tamara. I've wanted to learn how to crochet, and Tamara fills Twist with the most appealing creations. Rumor has it that crochet is just as addictive as knitting. Be still, my OCD.

Maxine and Carol were there knitting away. I'm still astonished by how these accomplished knitters will say they know nothing about knitting. They say it so quickly too. These women have been knitting for years and their knitting is beautiful. Carol was knitting a lacy, drapey shawl in a deep green color. Maxine was making the Fiddlehead mittens that are all the craze on Ravelry. I'm jealous of the gorgeous yarn and patterns, but I've got two different pairs of socks on the needles, Kitty Pi, and two sweaters on the needles. I am ready to see a finished project. Maybe the cats will help?

Monday, July 28, 2008

pi = 3.14159265

Kitty Pi is on the needles and I'm clicking away. The yarn is Patons SWS and it has a wonderful sheen to it. Self-striping yarn never ceases to amaze me. I could go on and on about it. Then I'd start babbling about self-patterning yarn which is mind-blowingly magical, but there's no call for that sort of chatter.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Thunderstorms

Last night a thunderstorm rolled in from the north and brought rain, lightening and a cool breeze. All week it has been oppressively hot, and I've been tense about work. So I sat on the front porch, enjoyed the pounding rain and growling thunder. It washed away all of the tension of the work week.

Then I went inside to play with the cats, of course. Norah is an incredibily patient cat. I admired how she simply held down The Furminator with her paws after he flung himself at her face for the eleventy-billionth time. (The devil eyes are the fault of the photographer.) She seems to like the little fellow and has been sheparding him around the house, playing chase with him, and coaching him about how to catch the feather on the stick.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Furminator

The vet had a recommendation when I mentioned Norah needed a companion. She had an 8-week-old kitten who had been rescued. Someone found him in an empty house, locked inside the bathroom without food or water. He's one lucky fellow. He still needs a name, but the vet has been calling him "The Furminator" in reference to his constant activity.

He came home with me on Saturday morning and has been running and jumping and pouncing ever since then. It has taken nearly two days to catch him sitting still. And even though the photo makes him look like a half-demon kitten, his eyes are both a clear, bright blue. He might make me coo, but I'm not tellin'.


On Saturday evening, a friend took me to Faye Farms in Udall, KS, so we could see a farm that had free-range and free-roaming chickens. By golly, they had all kinds of chickens strutting around the place. They had pigs and cows and a kitten too! A bunch of little piglets were trotting around in a bunch, and then they'd circle back to see their mamas. I never guessed a bunch of pigs would be so busy.






Thursday, July 17, 2008

Outside

Sometimes I like to wander around the backyard and pretend I'm a photographer.














Monday, July 14, 2008

Happy weekends

This weekend was full of time spent with friends, good food, movies, and knitting. Sugar Bunny showed me how to use a drop spindle. She's got a gift for teaching because all of the videos and books I've used over the last few months haven't helped me make it work. She did it in 15 minutes. It's magic. Magic, I tell you.

Then, intoxicated by all of the laughing and fibery fun, I went home and dyed a big batch of superwash merino. It was meant to be a solid green, but I like variations in color. Here's a picture of it drying on the deck.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Fourth of July

A friend invited me to spend the Fourth of July at her mother's house. Her mother lives on a farm south of Mulvane and enjoyed (!) hosting a large group of her children, grandchildren, and friends. Did I mention her mother is saint and lovely woman?

The place is lovely with lots of trees and fields. Since it was a warm day, I was particularly fond of the trees. Based on the previous evening outdoors, I doused myself liberally with insect repellent in hopes of keeping the number of bug-induced welts on my body from increasing. My friends were also going through bottles of the stuff.

The first order of business was to bundle the friend's children and husband into a pickup truck and drive across a field and through the trees until we reached a clearing spot along the Arkansas River. That was the campsite. I didn't stay overnight, but I did help clear out sand burs and entertain the little ones while the parents pitched the tent. Another couple followed in a different pickup truck. They wisely decided to forgo camping in the sandy stretch near the river in favor of a wildflower meadow.

My friends were pulling stickers out so that they wouldn't be pricked through the floor of the tent. I helped for awhile, but I was wearing flip-flops, the stickers hurt, and frankly, I wasn't going to be sleeping there. The husband leaned on a patch of stickers and yelped, "Fuck." His wife said, "Language, Daddy." Then she knelt on a patch of stickers and shouted, "Oh holy mother of fuck!" And he said, "Language, Mommy." I liked to die laughing. I remember when these two called each other by their given names and didn't police language one bit. The husband wound up getting gloves and needle-nosed pliers for the sticker work.

It was sweaty, sticky work, but we were very pleased with ourselves. The dirt was also starting to stick to us and our insect-repellent covered selves. The insects seemed enamoured again so we all sprayed ourselves with the stinky stuff again. At this point, I stopped worrying about whether someone would notice I forgot my deodorant.

Then we all bundled into cars, caravaned back to town and bought fireworks. What I mean when I say "bought fireworks" is filled our cars with so many explosives it is a wonder the ATF wasn't concerned about the sweaty, dirt-streaked people who reeked of anti-bug chemicals. No one noticed a thing, and the fireworks folks happily took our money. We went off to roast hot dogs, make smores and begin to celebrate. Just for good measure, we dumped a bunch of bug repellent on ourselves. After a while it starts to smell pretty good.

My friend convinced me to try my hand at shooting a gun. It wasn't like the rifle my uncle used to teach me how to shoot clay pigeons when I was twelve. That thing hurt my shoulder when it fired. This was a little handgun, which felt almost to light and gentle to even be a gun. We shot at soda cans. I got very close to hitting a can or two, but no cans, people or animals were harmed.

Then we settled in to watch fireworks. Correction: I settled in to watch fireworks. Everyone else ran around with punks and fired the noisy things. They were beautiful, colorful, and squealed. I enjoyed the show a great deal. My favorite seven-year-old (featured in the photo above) got tired and sat next to me. I was pleasantly surprised when she climbed up in my lap and fell asleep. I used to hold her when she was little, and I thought those days were long past. It was a terrific day.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Wine, music and friends

Last week, I commented to a friend that I'd like to see a Chamber Music at the Barn concert someday. Two days later, Andi called to invite Jill, Michelle and me to go to a concert with her. She didn't even know that I wanted to go. Wish granted! I love it when life gets magical and starts delivering beautiful surprises.

Cathie Ryan, a Celtic singer, was performing. Andie, being her usual amazing self, got us an introduction to Ms. Ryan. Not only does she have a lovely stage presence, but she is a generous and down-to-earth person. And she talked about our choice of wine.

Several people stopped to ask about our choice of wine since Andie and I arrived together and toted our picnic back to the garden with us. Andie brought wine for the picnic. She carried one bottle and I carried the other. (Before any rumor starts about us and our bottles, we shared with Jill and Michelle. It was four of us and two bottles. Shush.) You'd think no one had ever seen wine before with all of the comments and snickering. Ms. Ryan was very polite about it. She admired the white Chilean but thought the red Australian would be better. She also thought that white should be the first drink in the twilight and the darker wine should be imbibed after the sunset. By the time we arrived at our table, I was convinced that others wouldn't be drinking at all. I was wrong. The wine, the beer and other beverages appeared out of picnic baskets and purses and backpacks. Our only misstep was not disguising it when we walked through the entrance. Note to self: a felted wine sleeve would be a fun, fast knit. I wonder if I could bear to felt Noro?

Michelle thoughtfully brought fresh organic carrots and celery which went well with my newly acquired, Weight Watchers habits. Jill concocted a fabulous chicken salad sandwich with grapes and walnuts. It was a sandwich and desert all in one. We sat around a table in the garden happily munching, chatting and listening to Celtic music. The fireflies twinkled. We sipped wine. Jill and I knitted. Life seemed so peaceful and quiet and right. I was filled with a tremendous sense of gratitude and at peace with my life.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Cool Front

A cool front moved through town late this afternoon. The rain poured from the sky, blew horizontally, and even a few, small bits of hail fell. The whole production was over in about forty-five minutes, but it was very dramatic. Now the outside temperature is cooler and the humidity is similar to a steamy locker room. I love air conditioning.

The sales at the department stores are very good these days, and I took advantage of the opportunity to find clothes-that-fit as opposed to the ones in my closet. The most coveted item of my search still eludes me: knit, black gauchos. If I find two more pairs of pants, I'll have one pair of pants for each day of the work week. Then I will achieve laundry nirvana. Sadly, nirvana is a not permanent state, but I plan to enjoy it while I can.

Between all of the storm watching and shopping, I'm tuckered out. It's time to curl up with a good book before bed.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Small Towns and Smaller Towns

This was a very pleasant weekend. On Saturday, I ate lunch with the Ex, and we signed all of the papers to separate our bank accounts and close the safety deposit box that we held together. Talking to him was really good. We laughed and had fun the way we did before things got unhappy. When you know someone for that long, just stopping and not seeing that person again is very hard.

My parents met when they were in a small-town grade school. They graduated from the same high school class and remember talking to each other, but they never dated. When they took my sister and me to see a movie at the old movie theater, Mom pointed at the balcony and said, "That's where people sat when they made out. I never went up there. Your dad was always up there." Dad looked embarrassed and said, "Yeah, that's probably right." Eventually though, they met again and got married.

Now when they tell stories, Mom remembers some parts and Dad remembers some parts. Dad can usually fill in the part that Mom wouldn't know. Mom was pretty sheltered, but no one kept too many tabs on Dad so he knows the exciting part of the story. On the other hand, Mom could tell us more about what actually happened in school. She says that it is a good thing she has Dad around because it takes the two of them to tell a complete story.

I do get some small town perks and opportunities to catch up with old friends. Wichita is the biggest small town ever. Seriously. Final Friday is a big event. On the last Friday of the month the art galleries in town open their doors, and people stroll from art gallery to art gallery. The trolley shuttles folks back and forth. All kinds of people are chatting and mingling and enjoying themselves. I see my parents' friends, old college friends, acquaintances, neighbors. Pretty much anyone could show up on Final Friday. This week was no exception and I enjoyed seeing the array of people who were out on a summer evening.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Changes

Things at the casa are looking better. The roof hasn't leaked since Dad talked to the roofer (although we haven't had substantial rain since then either). The dehumidifier is doing amazing things for the basement.

The Ex sent email updates about Atticus. The emails help me tremendously. I can tell he's being taken care of properly. When the Ex says, Atticus talks, it is appropriate to think of several minutes of loud, insistent meowing, which is normal for that cat. I'm sure the former in-laws thought they were getting a quiet cat to live in the basement with their son.

Update 1: "We're still wanting to hide, but we'll talk. Well, he'll talk to me, at least. So far, wet food hasn't been much of an incentive, but it's more interesting than the dry, at least, that's what he says. Dad says he'll stop hiding when he's ready, but I'm getting a little antsy to have him out and about."

Update 2: "He's been alternately hiding and insisting that I walk around and scritch him as he explores. Got him to eat a little lunch--the dry food--and spent about 45 minutes hunched over petting him as he cruised around the basement sniffing stuff. He went back into one of his hiding places after I went upstairs to get a sandwich, so it's like two steps forward, one step back. "

Basically, Atticus is living with someone who caters to his every whim, as he deserves. It is certainly better than he got from me. I'd cut him off after five minutes of scratching. Norah's much happier too now that she doesn't have to worry about a cranky, old cat whomping her on the head when he felt like it.

Last night I went out to dinner with the women. I was going to write "girls," but frankly, we're grown, we're adults, we've got opinions, and we've got careers. When I was a girl, I lived with my parents, had a curfew, thought everything would be okay if we were all nice to each other. Experiences change things.

We're grown ups. We're women. And let me tell you, that group of women can talk. And laugh. And eat. And carry on even more. It was a delicious dinner from the salad to the soup and lovely, right down to the last bite of white chocolate, raspberry cheesecake. Maybe that's why my stomach hurt too much to go to work today, but my heart was singing. I'm so fortunate to have all of these wonderful friends in my life.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Lovely Weekend

This really was a wonderful weekend. It had the right balance of normal chores and relaxing. The last load of laundry is in the washing machine now and the kitchen is cleaned and stocked for another week. I've got things in order for whatever crazy stuff might happen this week. The roof might cave in (please don't let it happen), but by gum, I'll have clean underwear and matching socks. Maybe the vacuuming and mopping haven't happened yet, but some fun things did.

*Yoga on Saturday morning
*Knitting
*Walking with team Twist this morning and brunch at Sugar Sisters with the lovely Becca
*Sunday afternoon nap

This evening, I'm going to watch the gymnastics Olympic trials and paint my toenails. I am a delicate flower, after all.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Yup, more cat stuff

Nearly twelve years ago, I decided that I needed a cat. Immediately. It was the day before Thanksgiving and the shelters were closed. One pet store had rescued kittens -- the only cost was for the vaccinations. I immediately fell in love with a gregarious black kitten. He was pretty scraggly but he had charm and charisma. He purred all the time. I really wanted that cat. He kept moving between me and a reticent black kitten at the back of the cage. He'd get rubbed by me, and then he'd groom the kitten and return for more love.

My father constantly reminds cautions against anthropomorphizing, and I know I'm sentimental. Plus, my little sister means the world to me. When I saw that cat looking I after his brother, I knew that both cats were coming home with me. Maybe it should have been a warning sign when the pet store folks bickered about who had to pull the shy kitten from the cage.

As soon as we got home, the shy one disappeared under the couch. For several months, I only saw him as he dashed past me trying to get to another room without human contact. His brother and I were old pals by that time. I named him Trouser. The shy kitty was named Atticus since he was inordinately cautious and prudent. I'd just finished several semesters of Latin and Roman history, and I remembered Cicero's friend Atticus urging Cicero to leave the country to save his life. That pretty much matched the cat I saw lurking under the furniture.

The next year I was married and my husband won a fellowship in creative writing. All the grad students coveted that award because it meant a year to study and write without the burden of teaching classes. Just as dreamed, my husband spent the next year sitting on the couch, reading, writing, and drinking huge quantities of coffee. That was the year that Atticus decided people might be okay. He would sneak up next to my husband and carefully place himself in the same sunbeam. By the end of the year, he was pushing the books and papers off of my husband's lap and taking bites out of notebooks. After another year, he condescended to let me pet him. He took up meowing loudly and often. It's quite a bit like being lectured by a cat.

He and Trouser were good buddies. They romped, snuggled, played and beat the snot out of any other animal that dared to enter their house. In the evening, Trouser sat on my lap and Atticus sat on my husband's lap. Atticus has seemed more fragile since Trouser passed away.

Last week came a trip to the vet. According to the tests, Atticus has kidney disease. He needs to eat special low-protein cat food -- no more regular cat food for him -- and he will probably have some good years left. The kitten is not supposed to eat the low-protein food. Being natural contrarians, they swap food every time they get fed. Atticus' kidney disease would progress more quickly and the kitten might develop problems.

Sometimes doing the right thing is just plain hard. The ex was over on Sunday afternoon and I explained the problem to him. Atticus was so happy to see him that he was practically drooling. Then he walked in figure eights so he could butt his head against me, then the ex, then me. The ex agreed to take Atticus. Tonight I packed up some of the cat toys, the special food, and scratched the kitty as much as he demanded. I cried a little. The ex (and this is why it is impossible to hate him) cried a little. I imagine the two of them will be very happy in a bachelor pad somewhere where the ex still grades lots of papers and spends lots of time reading, writing and drinking very strong coffee. I have even been invited to visit sometimes.