Thursday, September 13, 2012

Life Happens

I've been asked a couple of times lately why I haven't been blogging. There's so much I could say about that, so many excuses I could give. The truth is that, as the title of this post says, life happens. Sometimes life happens in a way that you don't want to share, or that makes sharing complicated.

Since my mother's death I've spent a lot of time thinking and pondering my life; what it looked like then, what I wanted it to look like, and how divergent those two visions and experiences had become. When I first commenced to write 2-at-a-Time Socks my life was fairly uncomplicated. Kids were grown, things were stable and settled, and the chaos that comes with writing and launching what turned out to be a very popular book seemed manageable.

My mother had her first heart attack the weekend before I delivered the manuscript for 2-at-a-Time Socks to Gwen Steege at McCusker's Market in Shelburne. I went directly from the market to Springfield to bring her home from cardiac catheterization. It marked the beginning of a complicated time in my life. In brief, the second book was delivered to Gwen the day after a fierce ice storm on the day that my mother had a spinal fusion -  Gene drove me to North Adams to drop everything off, and we went directly from Storey to Mercy Hospital. By the time I started working on TYV Circular Knitting, I had lived through most of Lyme. All three boys married between October of 2010 and July of 2011. My mother's condition declined further, and as I shared here she died on November 13, 2011. Girl - the same Girl you met here in 2005 - is getting married in a matter of days. In between there's been moves (mine, my mothers - three times, Girl's - first off to college and then into an apartment of her own), changes, alterations, adaptations, stresses, joys, sorrows, and celebrations.

Life happens. Seven years have flown by. Much has been amazing, and I am so grateful for the blessings I've received. But much has been painful, and there is a lot I would choose to forget.

It is not uncommon for me to change the course of my life. I have been many things, and hope to be many more. Right now I am playing around with my life, trying to determine where I am headed next. Thank you for sharing in this part of the adventure. I am not sure if the blog will continue or not, but thought you should at least get a little insight into what's been going on here. What's going on is change, and even I am not sure what that means yet!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Down Home, Life as Usual

First, a Public Service Announcement, brought to you by the Survivors of Melissa's Mom Brigade:

Five months ago today, my mother lost a war with mental illness and with herself, and died. This was her choice. She left behind one daughter, two wonderful grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter, none of who's lives will ever be the same as a result of her actions and choices. If you or someone you love suffers from depression or any form of mental illness, please get help. Know that the choices you make will have profound impact on the people in your life. You can choose to help yourself, or you can choose to hurt yourself. I pray that you will make the right choice.

Now that we've got that out of the way - I have been a busy girl. This whole selling of a house thing is kind of stressful, but I am enjoying it. We have a few "very interested" parties, some of whom have homes to sell. And so, we all wait!

In the meantime, I get back to life. I designed two items for someone's book, but can't show them to you just yet. Well. Maybe a sneak peek:

Item One:

Item Two:
I know you will never guess what they are from these images, will you?

I've also been more homey lately, which I find excellent for recovering from the drama that invaded my life over the last few years. I started making lacto-fermented vegetables. This is much less odd than it sounds. Before there was vinegar, there was lacto-fermentation. Vegetables were allowed to ferment naturally, which created an acid brine. These vegetables contain lots and lots of the things that are good for your tummy - think Jaime Lee Curtis' whole Activia thing, only you can eat something other than yogurt to get what your body needs. 

I've also been fermenting, curdling, inoculating and in all manner of ways playing with milk. Raw cow's milk, to be precise. I've made yogurt before - you may recall - and I've done that a few times since. But I wanted to know more. I wanted to do more. So I went on a bit of a spree. So far I've made creme fraiche, neufchatel, buttermilk, something I called American mozzerella, something that I called paneer (both of those were really tragic cottage cheese failures), yogurt... I think that's it. Oh, butter! Of course butter!

The cottage cheese thing really bugged me. Two failures. I don't fail particularly well, but I do persevere. I felt like my directions were flawed, even though they came from a very reputable source. I did some digging, and determined that the directions I was using really were not to make the kind of cottage cheese I wanted. They were to make what's called a "dry curd" cheese. A little more Googling, a little reading of Carla Emery's Encyclopedia of Country Living (mine is older than that one!), and I hit on just the right method. Carla Emery stresses that cottage cheese is more art than science. You can follow all the rules (as I had!) and still fail. There is, it turns out, a bit of instinct involved in this whole cheesy thing.

Fortified with this new knowledge, I forged ahead. Again.

First I inoculated my room-temperature raw milk with cultured buttermilk, to make it more acid. Some people use vinegar or lemon juice to curdle the milk. I prefer the flavor of fermented milk, so I went with my cultured buttermilk instead. Then I added some vegetable rennet. I prefer vegetable rennet because non-vegetable rennet comes from a calves stomach lining. Since I don't have a calf, and can't make my own rennet, that means the rennet I had been using before I found the vegetable kind came from a commercially reared calf. Not ok for my ethics. So vegetable it is.

After about six hours, I had a beautiful curd in the pan. Unfortunately I did not get a picture of it, but it broke perfectly over my finger. I've put in links there to other people's websites so that you can see what breaking curd should look like.

After the curd was formed, I cut the curd into pieces of about an inch. Then I let it rest for a bit. Next I stirred it up to help it to release more whey. I put it on the burner of my range at a very low temperature, and VERY slowly, about 2 degrees every 5 minutes, raised the temperature, stirring all the while.

Well, mostly stirring. Sometimes I stopped to take pictures, or yell at Yoshi (more on that in a minute), or scratch my head, or just sigh and sip coffee and behave in a manner that expressed boredom.

I stirred and heated, heated and stirred until the curd began to dry out. You know your curd is drying when it begins to feel firm if you snatch out a piece and squeeze it between your fingers. Or taste it. I may have done both. Once the curd reached a consistency that I liked - and this was at a MUCH lower temperature than was suggested by any of the recipes I have on hand - I drained the whey from the curd through cheesecloth in my colander. I rinsed the dried curd in cold water, in part to remove any residual whey and in part to reduce the temperature of the curd quickly to avoid them becoming too dry.

They looked like this:
It looks kind of like cottage cheese, right? I was so impressed with myself by this point. But the cottage cheese is not quite done. It needs to be salted, and have a bit of cream added to give it some moisture. Cheese curds on their own are quite dry, and need a little help.

I had used all the cream to make creme fraiche, so I added creme fraiche instead of cream, along with some kosher salt.
I gently folded and stirred...

and after a while I had:

And then I had to make anyone around taste it, to make sure it really was cottage cheese. Meg refused, as she does not like cottage cheese, but Jeroth and Gene both tried it and said "Hey. That tastes like cottage cheese!" They sounded almost as surprised as I was.

Why was I yelling at Yoshi yesterday? Well, yesterday a box of 25 baby meat birds arrived at our house.
Yoshi and Boo were very interested to see them. Boo likes to just wag and look and sniff. Yoshi has other plans. He wants to EAT ALL THE BABY MEAT RIGHT NOW. I put he and Boo back in the house so I could do a quick head count...
Yup, 26 babies, Freedom Rangers from Freedom Ranger Hatchery in Pennsylvania! Aren't they cute? Don't get too attached... they are only here for 8-10 weeks, and will only be this cute for about 7 days of that time!
I wasn't expecting these babies until the next day (today), which meant I was completely unprepared for their arrival. Gene had moved the stock tanks I rear them in up into the attic of the barn, and I can't get up there because I am ... well ... a pygmy. I needed to wait for him to come and help, and he didn't get home for another two hours. I used that time to finish the cottage cheese. And keep Yoshi from destroying the front door in an attempt to get to the baby meat in the mud room. He did a lot of "down-stay". He would have only had to do it once if he hadn't kept popping up. He got really annoyed with me.
I can hear his little voice in my head. "You know what, mom? That's just fine. You go ahead and make me lie down here. We all know that as I lie here, those baby meats are RIGHT THERE, TAUNTING ME! I HATE you mom. I am too hurt to even notice you."

Aren't they cute? I love instinct. I love that these guys hatched on April 11th, and were in a shipping box a few hours later, arriving at my post office on the afternoon of the 12th. At 36 hours old they are more active, vigorous, healthy and strong than any chicks I have ever had before, meat or eggs!

Time for me to get back to it, whatever it is. On today's agenda: rip out raised garden beds, sign an offer on a new house, take Boo to the vet, and find some packing boxes. Soon, I can feel it, we'll be moving on!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ask Me Why

I have been asked "why" a lot since I started planning this wedding for my kid and her fiancee, the Gerbil who came to my front door one day and never went away. Oh, we tried to send him packing. The first time we met him was at my first book launch. I thought he was there with her friend Katie, and that was ok by me. Go ahead, Gerbil-boy. Date Katie. Stay away from my kid. Turns out he was holding Girl's hand behind her friend's backs in the photo of the four of them taken that day. The next time I saw him was when Girl tried to kill him with her car by driving it into the side of an SUV. Gerbil brought her home in his car after the accident. He opened the door for her, and followed her in. I took one look at his young face and thought to myself  "We are doomed. He's in love." Mr. Wonderful knew it too, in his gut, but I don't think he yet had words for it. He became instantly nervous, jittery, and cracked rude jokes. We even sent her to Indiana for a year to see if that would end it, but still they stayed together. 

One day he showed up here and said he needed to talk to Mr. Wonderful and I alone. He asked for our blessing - not permission, but blessing - in asking our daughter to marry him. We said yes. They didn't really give us a choice.

Girl recently sent me this essay, one she wrote and submitted somewhere and had rejected (FOOLS!! Reject MY kid?). It answers the "Why?" question perfectly. Why am I planning (and paying for) this wedding? Why am I not discouraging my daughter from marrying her first love? Why am I not 'making' her play the field a little more, to see what's out there? Why would I sell an arm to make sure she has fairy land trees on her reception tables? This is why:

If you're the sarcastic type of person I used to be, you'll go to that big old dusty book that sits neglected on the shelf and find the handy definition of love. You may even go so far as to memorize it in case any friends sigh into the air, "What is the meaning of love anyway?" According to good ol' Merriam Webster love is, "strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties" and "attraction based on sexual desire" as well as "affection and tenderness felt by lovers; affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests" So love is easily summed up in a few sentences? Of course. Any feeling can be tied up in such a tidy bow. But on the cutting room floor lay the extra bits of love, the real meat behind the fluff, if you will. Shall we take a look at it together?

                Until about four years ago my whole life was filled with watching. I watched other hearts soar and invariably crash a few months later as attraction faded. I heard the word love bandied about by anyone from toddler to teen to adult and always with the same bitter end. Of course I had my examples of undying love too. My parents met and seem to still be falling in love with each other. But their love didn't interest me the same way the sporadic infatuations of my peers did. I wanted to know what the big deal was, why the burning indulgent flames that consumed them were so worth the hurt when they were properly doused by reality. So, when a sullen-looking young man with dancing green eyes started following me around I let him. When he started looking less sullen and more charming I decided to see if I could like him. When his eyes said he loved me I decided to see if I could love him back. Little did I suspect I already did.

                What started as an experiment has turned into a way of life. Suddenly the ups and downs of friends don't seem so exciting. In fact the quiet - steady love of my parents has become far more intriguing to me. Their love and mutual respect has been around since I can remember. I never really gave it any thought because to me it seemed as normal as the sun rising. Of course my parents had water-fights in the kitchen. Of course they giggled like children playing. It wouldn't be home if they didn't play tug-o-war over a dishcloth or a package of chocolates.

                While I could never find the words to tell the meaning of love I have learned a lot about its nature from watching my parents and from trial and error with my own love. It isn't a solid feeling. It doesn't run away or lose interest. Attractions and lusts can sometimes feel like love but they disappear at the first sign of effort. Love takes a lot of work which wasn't something I knew before I met this man of mine. It seems so effortless in movies, the bad guys are always proven to be bad, and the good guys always catch the train just before the girl leaves. But love itself isn't two actors reading from a proofread script. It's two people looking into each other and wanting to be around everything the other is. For better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for as long as you both draw breath from this earth.

                My favorite thing about love is how it grows infinitely. From the corny jokes to the long silences, I never would have thought I could be entirely myself with another person and actually gain their love and respect by doing it. Inspired by love I've learned the importance of absolute honesty not only with him but with myself. I've learned that patience is more valuable than being right. And that picking your battles is less about battling and more about realizing whatever the fight would have been about just wasn't worth it. You cannot build love together without building a life to support and nurture it, and let me say, it is a beautiful life to have. 

I can plan this wedding with soaring joy in my heart, I can stand by and watch my husband "give" my only daughter away to a man I have come to love as one of my own easily and with very little concern for the future of who they will become together. Oh, sure, they'll have their issues as we all do, but at the end of the day, what we were trying to teach them? Apparently, they got it. And they are going to be just fine.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Just Because It Doesn't Make Sense Doesn't Mean It Shouldn't Be Done.

The rabbit hole that is Pinterest has claimed me in ways that are both inspirational and unhealthy. Because our house is on the market, and every house we are looking at is significantly smaller than the one we're currently in, I have found it to be invaluable in helping me sort rooms and contents, find design and storage ideas that appeal to me, and so forth. I even have a board for recipes and things, although I am trying to keep that under control. The other day, however, Pinterest veered me right into and then through the wall that is sanity. I saw, thanks to one Grace Hernandez, a link to a blog wherein a Peep Wreath had been constructed. Yes, you heard me, a Peep Wreath. Not since *Tacky Tree has anything so captivated the scarier side of my brain. I became obsessed with the idea of making and owning my own Peep Decor. I mentioned this on Facebook and it turned into a Peep-a-Long, with multiple players in their homes across the country, finished objects to be revealed on Monday.

In the end I wavered on the wreath and instead ended up with a Peep Tree. The wreath posed some problems for me. I could not decide where to hang it. Inside, and it would get sugar on the walls and floor of a house I am trying to sell. On a door outside I have a few thousand winged girlfriends in the back yard who would be all over it like... well, like bees on sugar. As I stood in the craft store staring at various shapes the idea of a Peep Tree formed in my mind.

Here are my supplies:
I should add here that my husband, daughter, and future son-in-law were pretty strongly impressed with the notion that I might indeed have finally lost that cheese that clings every so perilously to the edge of my cracker. Me? A Peep ANYTHING? Corn syrup? Sugar that has been both bleached AND dyed? Really?

This didn't stop me from gaining at least one willing volunteer:
Although convinced of the craziness of this project, he nonetheless sacrificed himself by opening the Peeps and sorting them into color co-ordinated piles. Some of the piles had fewer Peeps than others in the end. I have no idea where they might have strayed. Mr. Wonderful also was instrumental in snapping toothpicks in half. Toward the top of the tree the toothpicks went straight through, stabbing my fingers and pushing opposed, already attached Peeps right off of their perches. Not particularly effective. I also dragged out my trusty high-temp glue gun. This was a bit like bringing a bazooka to a baseball game. Peeps are made of sugar. Sugar and high temperatures can make for some interesting crafting moments.

Round one:

Although I managed to get it assembled, something just wasn't speaking to me. At one point I heard Mr. Wonderful mumble from the kitchen "You know, from here it doesn't look bad...". It didn't. It just didn't look, well, RIGHT. Even the cat was unimpressed.

I added a bow to the topper to spiff things up a bit.

That helped, but it still was not right. So I started playing with the ribbon, looping it over the tree like garland. Now we were on to something!

One completed Peep Tree.

The big question is: did I eat any? The answer is yes.

One purple Peep, which I floated on a lake of organic cocoa and date sugar. No dairy, no artificial anything, just one corn syrup, bleached, dyed, scary purple sugared thing floating on top.

In other news, I have been knitting...
baby sweater one (from my brain, but I sort of wrote it down and am thinking of publishing it if I can find a baby to stick into it).

baby sweater two (also from my brain and going in the mail tomorrow).

socks one (brain and heading for USPS also).

baby set (sweater from my brain, Saartje's Booties, Shibui baby pantsSweet Baby Cap)

baby jacket (Vintage Baby Knits "Jasper")

The baby thing has kind of been a theme lately. I honestly think it is because I love the instant gratification aspect more than anything else. I need to finish up a lace scarf this week that has been languishing - I love it, I love the yarn, but some other things came up and drew my mind and hands away. Then it will be time to begin designing and knitting things for the wedding. I am probably not going to talk much about that until after September 29. But after that you can expect one big entry (or several smaller ones) with every detail of the DIY wedding, including - if permission is granted - a picture or two of the happy couple. We are nearing in on the 6 months out mark. And trying to sell a house. While handcrafting a wedding. While writing up some patterns. While contemplating my next book. And they wonder why I am not traveling as much this year!

*Tacky Tree: Tacky Tree is a holiday tradition of sorts. It began when I was a flat broke single mother, and someone gave my kids a scrawny tree. I had maybe $20 in my pocket that day, and we spent it all on ornaments and garland. It now occurs randomly. Something inspires a Tacky Tree year - say I find a white tree with sparkles at the dump for free and just can't leave it there. Or maybe I discover that my ornaments are buried under piles of moving stuff. Or maybe we are "between trees" and I end up with a scrawny sub-Charlie Brown thing in a stand. Or maybe I just need a reminder of where I came from. Regardless, Tacky Tree goes like this: ALL items placed on Tacky Tree (other than lights and garland) must cost as little as possible - the maximum allowable amount spent on Tacky Tree is $20. Dollar store items are preferred. All items added to Tacky Tree must have at least some sparkle. Tacky Tree can accept gift ornaments from outside of the home, and these ornaments can cost more than a couple of bucks as long as they are not purchased by the owner of Tacky Tree. Try it some year. It's a lot of fun.

Friday, March 02, 2012

I Loved It Before Page Sixteen

Before I tell you about this awesome thing that I am in love with, I should qualify my statements a bit by saying that my book, 2-at-a-Time Socks, appears on page 16, smack in between Ann Budd and Clara Parkes' books. This doesn't sway my opinion as I loved it before I got there. As I have said before, if I didn't like the thing, I wouldn't say a word, you'd never know I'd gotten a review copy, and we'd all move on with life. The truth is I love the format and the concept!

Yesterday in my inbox I found an unexpected - but greatly appreciated - email from Interweave Press. I was given the opportunity to download the eMag "Simply Sockupied" ($4.99, Interweave Press). I did, and I am enamored. After a quick installation, the e-zine was mine to peruse, and peruse I did. I am not nearly as tech savvy as some of my peers, so it took me a few to figure out how to navigate (side to side for article titles, up and down for article contents), but once I did I was entranced.

The eMag is divided into 19 sections. There is a comprehensive table of contents, an editorial, reviews, patterns, advice, a few unobtrusive, well-placed ads - all the things you want and expect in a paper magazine, but conveniently on your hard drive for quick and easy reference. No dragging around a whole book just for one pattern - you can print directly from the eMag only those pages that you need. Fewer sheets of paper, less wasted space in your knitting bag, what's not to love? Remember, I am a tree hugger, so the slick paper pages of a "regular" magazine, loaded with ads and those obnoxious little response cards, always niggle my brain. Here, there's no niggling. If I want to knit Judy Alexander's Simply Elegant Cable Socks, I can just print that pattern, and not be stuck with pages I don't need.

The contents themselves are marvelous. Although this issue is aimed at beginning sock knitters, they've got experienced sock knitters covered, too. A wonderful "badge" designation helps you to determine which sock patterns are best suited to your skill level or preferred method of knitting. There are three levels of skill (first steps, step it up, and blaze a trail), and nine designations for type of sock or method of construction. Hate Kitchener? Avoid patterns with the green "kitchener" badge. Love cables? Look for a pattern with the pale blue "cable" badge.

Even if this eMag only included the five sock patterns it contains, it would be worth the investment. But you get so much more than that, from Clara's warm "Welcome" to beginning sock knitters, to a handy compilation of useful tools, yarn advice and recommendations, even a knit-along invitation - really, what's not to love?

All they need now is a pattern designed by a certain 2-at-a-Time Sock knitter, right?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

There's Not a Stitch in This Post.

I just posted this on Facebook as a status update, and so much more started to come out of me that I decided to come here and share a bit. I know from the comments I have received since I first "came out" (as it were) about my mother's mental health issues and passive suicide plans and ultimate success, that this can help someone out there who is struggling and drowning in the sickness of someone they " love, but don't, but do, but wish they didn't, ok, maybe love,  but can't trust or love safely" and so forth.

"Each day that passes makes me more and more aware of how small my life had become, and how much I just want to LIVE now. There's some guilt with that, but when an unhealthy person dies, if you allow it, the relationship that held you in bondage can die along with the person. It's unbelievably liberating. I feel closer to God, closer to me, closer to life. I had expected to feel like part of me had died, and expected there to be more guilt and struggle, but instead I feel like now I can really live."

This got me considering things in a different way. I am so grateful to be alive. There was a part of me that thought I would die with her, as if it would be impossible for me to be alive without this unhealthy extension of my soul. The truth is that in her death is my beginning. I remember the time when, for a while, we did not speak. It was so peaceful. No drama, no chaos, no constant stress; but in the back of my mind I always knew she was alive. And then that ended and we - I really, I am pretty sure Mr. Wonderful would have given this disaster a miss - allowed her back into my life. And true to form she detonated like a nuclear missile in the midst of everything. I started to slip away from me and enmesh more and more with her. For every success I had there was an equal and opposite detonation of drama or danger or fear. I delivered the manuscript for 2-at-a-Time Socks as I was on my way to the hospital to fetch her from her cardiac catheterization for the heart attack she had on the weekend we had set aside to celebrate my success at writing a book. I delivered the manuscript for Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time on the way to the hospital to check in on her after a major spinal surgery had left her unconscious. She had been on the verge of being admitted to a nursing home due to what was beginning to look like a nearly vegetative disaster. Four days later she woke up and asked for french toast, and the telephone so she could call her daughter. You want drama? We had it! 

It felt as if every potentially celebratory or joyful moment had to be accompanied by some stage-stealing drama that made me unable to enjoy my successes. I remember griping about this to friends. I started being cagey about where I was going and when, about what my plans were, what my teaching or traveling schedule looked like. I slipped up when I told her I was going to New York to present at Lion Studio, and she ended up in the hospital that morning forcing the cancellation of my trip, and the event.

I was always very aware that something bad was happening, that I could choose to walk away from her if I wanted to. But for me, for my own sake, I needed to allow some kind of connection, to continue to try to care for her, to try to support her choices without insinuating my own beliefs and thoughts and feeling onto her choices. For a mother/daughter, that's pretty foreign. Most daughters can speak their mind  and their feelings with their mother. I didn't really get why until now.
For me, now as an adult and no longer a child easily made to feel guilt or shame or responsibility, it was imperative that her choices not be a result of anything I said or did. I consciously chose not to control her when I knew very well that I could have. She wanted me to make choices for her, wanted me to be the decision-maker I had always been (although she routinely disregarded my advice) so that the outcome, should she take my advice, would not be her responsibility. I needed the freedom, at some distant unseen point in time, of knowing that I did not force her choice. That an extension or a shortening of her life had nothing to do with me, it was all on her.

Borderline kids very, very often get caught up in feeling responsible for their parents in a way that I don't think even a spouse or parent of a person with Borderline Personality Disorder can understand. It was essential to my healing and liberation that I discover, before her death, that we could be two separate people. 

I still have a long way to go in healing myself, and not every day is wonderful, but inch by inch I begin to feel joy again. Deep, real joy. I am still taking it very, very slowly as I promised myself. I deserve a year of my own. 

I guess the point of my coming here and sharing this is that right now you're out there, readers, and some of you are struggling and feeling like it won't ever end, and feeling guilty for the choices others make, and responsible for people who are not your responsibility. It can and does get better, I promise you. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

It's That Day Again

We've come a long way from three Catholic martyrs to the mess I saw in Walmart (did you know they sell organic Sam's Club brand coffee?) on Sunday 
(not to mention the scary video from Vermont Teddy Bear), but...
Happy Valentine's Day anyway!

Here we will celebrate in the usual way, which is to say 'pretty quietly', also known as "not much". Sometimes at Mr Wonderful's former place of employment they'd sell flowers on V-day and he would bring some home. His gifts are generally met with concern and/or skepticism on my end. "Who drugged you? What did you do wrong? Please tell me these were free." One year I think he did the big dozen red long-stemmed thing, but I think I nipped it in the bud (heh, I am so funny!) early. 

I did celebrate, in a way. I bought myself a skein of yarn, which I am in the process of 
transforming into a gift (not for Mr. Wonderful. All that pink?). 
Yoshi approves. The yarn is Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock, and the color is called New Beginnings. It's the February Limited Edition color at Jimmy Beans Wool, and I may need more of it. I think if it was not for all of this wedding shopping, I'd get some more, because I love it. Love the color, and love the name. It is perfect for this project, which you're not going to see until it's done.

I remember when I was a kid I did not like this day. First, I had to sign all those cards and lick the nasty little sharp-edged envelopes, and then I had to have a box on my desk decorated for the day, and then at the end of the day we all were suppose to see what we'd gotten. I always felt horrible for the girls and boys who got only one or two cards, and so the next year I would begin obsessing early - what if no one in class loved ME this year? They always did, my box was always heavy enough to denote inclusion with 'the cool kids', but I never understood how I was really that different from the kids who got only one, or two. I sometimes wished I got none so those kids would not be so alone. It always made me very sad. I so hope they don't do this any more. When Ravelry did it and my inbox was crammed with them, I panicked and thought "Oh no. Somewhere out there, someone got NONE", and spent the whole day trying to send one back to everyone who'd sent one to me.

I was recently watching an interview about Richard Simmons, famous exercise and diet guru and all around charming celebrity - admit it, you love his sparkly tush, he makes you smile - and the woman being interviewed said, in effect, "Richard doesn't see size or color or gender. He just sees people."

So if we get to have wishes on Valentine's Day, and we should, right?  Here's mine: 

For Valentine's Day, I wish the whole wide world thought like Richard Simmons. 

Also after Valentine's Day, too.

(p.s. - no flower fields or workers were harmed in the production of the above flower. It's made from coffee filters, using the technique found at Wedding Bee. The filters are oxygen cleansed, meaning no chemical bleach or whitening agents were used in their production.)

Thursday, February 09, 2012

We'll See

Most of the time when I sit down to write lately I end up talking about things that most people really don't want to hear about.

So today, since Jenn Kinzel of the Woolie Ewe says she misses me, I will post what I've done lately, and try not to be all "Oh, poor motherless me". It's a stretch. My birthday is coming up. Last night I had a dream that my mother asked for her summer clothes, and when I told her she was dead she said "Well. I changed my mind about that. Bring me my shorts..." and proceeded to go into a very detailed list of which shorts and which tops (including the one that I bought that was "...not exactly right, but would do"). If you knew her, you'd know that this conversation could very easily occur, exactly as stated above. "Oh. Well. I changed my mind about that."

But I digress...

Lots of what I have done lately is kind of crazy, really. Not a lot of design, that's for sure. I made a tiny quilt, which I decided I hated and promptly gave to Yoshi, who loves it.

I went on a doll clothing spree. Crocheted hat and sweater...

Knitted a dress...

Vest and top...

Mostly American Girl stuff (or in this case Madison from the Springfield Company who did not cost $100) but some baby doll as well. They're not all pictured here lest you think my cheese has truly slipped from my cracker.

And a crochet spree - hat, mittens, and a square from the scraps (??? No clue, but there it is. A square.)

Oh, and I stitched a London pigeon.

And then a dragon for Lillian at New Fortune, since this IS the Year of the Dragon after all, and my Dragon daughter is marrying a Dragon guy in the year of the Dragon, so I feel attached.

I went to Vogue Knitting Live! in New York, and had a ball. I went up to the marketplace only very briefly to see Ron and Theresa Miskin of The Buffalo Wool Co. (formerly Buffalo Gold). I just visited them for a bit. Big groups and moving crowds just were not where my head was at right then and I give myself permission to hide if I think I need to. Things moved really fast here between November and now, and it will take me a while to recover, and that's ok. But again, I digress. Anyway, Ron gave me some yarn, which I fell madly in love with. it's called Sexy, and was hand dyed by the folks at Koigu. And it is SO beautiful! I immediately designed a shawl,

 that sort of has become a wide scarf, and I knitted half of it, and I wrote it all down, and I even named it!

And I was totally on a roll, designing something! First thing "since"! And then... And then I got project ADD. So I knitted these baby pants, and then they needed a sweater to go with, so I started that and....

Most of the time I think I need a sample knitter. Just a simple slave, willing to knit for the sheer joy of it.

I have also been very busy with Girl's wedding preparation things. Now, the wedding is not till fall, so you'd think I had scads of time. The truth is that the "best" venues and ceremony locations get snapped up pretty quickly, and things cost much more than I expected or remembered. As a result we are doing a lot of things on our own. Whoever it was at Vogue 2011 who mentioned the Off-Beat Bride website? You are my hero. This wedding is so DIY it's not even funny. Or at least right now, to me, with DIY wedding things covered half of the surfaces in my house, it doesn't feel very funny. No pictures yet, but I promise a big report after the fete. We must give Girl her privacy... to a point!

So that's it for me for now. Except this - Valentine's Day is right around the corner, and you know what looks great tied around a gift box, or draped around the neck, or a Shiba Inu? Birthday Girl, a crocheted flower chain available in my Ravelry shop for the low, low price of $1 (Shiba not included)!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

On Closure (the beginnings of)

I had been feeling for a while like I needed the ashes to go to Maine. Thing is, I had kind of planned that a few people would come along with, and arranging it felt too complicated. Who can go on what day, and at what time, that sort of thing. And how do we all get up there, and do we stay or not stay? And should we go now, while it's cold, or wait until it's warm?

Yesterday, Saturday, I woke up feeling this pressure on me. It had to be NOW. I was anxious and snappish and cranky, and finally told Gene that I needed to just take them and get it done. I think I would have gone alone, but he offered to come along as driver and assistant. And off we went.

But Mom... you make ME share...
We brought along my comfort animal (we call him this because he is!). This was his longest car ride to date, and his first trip to the beach. My mother would have appreciated that he rode the whole way there on top of her ashes which were in between the front seats of the car. When we stopped for a break, Gene got himself "a snack" at McDonald's. There was some debate about who should have what part of the "snack". In the end, Yoshi only got a tiny tidbit.

I got a coffee. It's about all I will eat from McDonald's. Newman's Own, black. Iced in summer, hot in winter. When my mother was asking for frappes (caramel!) all the time I always got myself a coffee to be companionable while she sipped. It was ironic then that when we got to New Hampshire, Hampton Beach, I used my empty cup to tote ashes across the crowded beach. There were lots of people out with dogs and kids; life and activity all around. There was this lovely family playing touch football in the sand. Couples hand in hand, dogs chasing balls.

Convenient ash-hiding cup
But that really made it all the more perfect. We came here as a family when I was a kid, and on the last trip to Maine she had asked me to leave ashes here. And so I did. Being behind the camera was an excellent cover. I did not cry much here.
 Hampton Beach
I just waited for the ashes to wash out to sea, mingled with the sand.
Last bit
We headed north into Maine. First we stopped at Bob's Clam Hut in Kittery and split a clam platter, gluten and all. She would have liked that. She probably would have liked it better if I'd added on chowder, eaten the fries, and asked for extra tartar sauce, all washed down with Coke Classic. I went with six clams and one fry - enough to say I'd had it, but not enough to make me too horribly sick from the wheat I hoped. They do have gluten free options, but it is just not the same.

Then we headed to the coast. First we stopped at Long Sands beach. We stopped at the southern end of the beach where it's very rocky and there were no people. Again I used the camera as a shield, snapping away and keeping distant emotionally.

Long Sands
This was maybe my favorite spot for the ashes. They were quickly swept out to sea, the smaller bits dropping down between the rocks, which felt very organic and beautiful; the ashes blending with the foam. I think I would not mind if my kids brought me here when I am gone. We came here when they were small and camped at Camp Eaton. We played on these very rocks in the evening at low tide. But I digress.

Next we went to Nubble Light. By now I was over the whole coffee cup thing. There was too much left to fit in the cup, and this was where she really wanted the bulk of the ashes to go. I just grabbed the bag and went. We clamored on the rocks for a bit; Gene trying to get me to head further away from people, and me insisting that I be in front of the light and "who cares about the people, anyway". Guess who won?

Right where she wanted to be
Not having the camera with me here changed things. I couldn't manage camera, ashes in a bag, slippery rock and get any decent pictures, so I handed it off to Gene. I went from observer to mourner in a heartbeat. As the ashes fell from the bag and floated around me in a gray cloud, I felt the pain of loss and the relief of the absence of someone who has eaten up so very many moments of my life. Now, I feel free and clear and clean in a way I never have before. Sometimes I resent the loss of so many days and years of my life; particularly the ones when I was very small. I wonder what I would be like if she had been more stable. Would I trust people more? Would I be more open with others?  Probably. Other times I realize that if she had died earlier I would not be who I am today. And that would be a loss in its own way.

She's in there
I put her exactly where I'd planned since our last visit, in a crevice that faces the light. She approved this last fall when I took pictures down here and showed them to her.

Here, I cried. I sat with Gene for a bit up against a rock and just was sad for a bit. This place is changed for me now. I don't know how that will affect me in the future, but then every pebble that drops in our life makes ripples, and this was really more like a big rock being dumped on one of my favorite places.

Then we took Yoshi up for his portrait. This is a tradition that really began with my kids and extended to Kioshi and now Yoshi as well.  He is most handsome. We met a few other dogs here, and he played nicely but not a lot - no fences, so no racing and running and jumping. He makes friends easily.
Today I am sore which I think is from the gluten, and tired, but I feel a bit of healing. Less raw, I think, and definitely liberated in some new way. I wrote a lot the other day, and I will write more in the future; the things she wanted me to write about her life and about mine. In the end, when her own acceptance of her mental health issues became more real to her, she was adamant that I get it down. And I will.
She's in my car...
But for now the big question - do I vacuum? Or just pretend it never happened and leave her there?

Friday, January 20, 2012

I feel

There are words coming, and I actually think they may be about knitting and stuff. Wild. Stay tuned. It could totally happen, I could totally blog something!