Archive for March, 2007

Happy Birthday, big sis!

Friday, March 30th, 2007

Today is Ellen’s hmmhmmth birthday.  Happy Birthday, sis!  May this day and all your days be filled with happiness, fulfillment, love, and lots and lots of beautiful yarn.




Thursday, March 29th, 2007

I received this

Douceur Swirls 

in the mail today.  Ten skeins of Knit One, Crochet Too’s Douceur Swirls.  75% kid mohair, 25% silk.  225 yds. per skein.

(Note how cleverly I put that–as though I didn’t even know it was on its way!  Why yes, I get unexpected boxes full of beautiful yarn in the mail all the time.  Don’t you?)

Here’s a closeup, just so you can envy my yarn a bit more.

Douceur Swirls 

As we all know, I have a serious love affair with mohair, so when this yarn showed up on Elann, I just had to have some.

And just what am I going to do with these 2000+ yards of gorgeous mohair/silk?  Well, it’s funny you should ask.  I have several possibilities in mind.

Maybe this shawl from Victorian Lace Today.

shawl from Victorian Lace Today

Or maybe this one:

shawl from Victorian Lace Today

How about this one?

Another possibility:

shawl from Victorian Lace Today 

And another:

shawl from Victorian Lace Today 

And my personal favorite from that book:

shawl from Victorian Lace Today                                                       (Have I mentioned that I really like this book and the designs contained therein?)

Naturally, it helps if you can stand around looking beautiful against the backdrop of a stately English manor.

I’m working on that one.  Give it time, give it time.

Not today, boys

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

Near our house, there is a large funeral home with unseemly bright red awnings that Shelley and I pass by almost every day on our neighborhood walks. They seem to do a land-office business there because we frequently see the undertakers (yes, I realize that now they are referred to as “funeral directors,” an antiseptic and somewhat euphemistic title in my opinion, which is why I greatly prefer the more archaic, yet more robustly descriptive term “undertaker.” Because that’s where they take you. Under.) standing outside in their black suits looking solemn, waiting for someone to bring them a body or perhaps biding their time until mourners show up.

I like to wave to them and holler, “Not today, boys! You’re not getting me today!”

Getting a whiff of the thawing ground, and all the good things that the new season promises.

Those undertakers aren’t getting me anytime soon, either.

Thanks to the talented Dr. F., who—true to her word—did not find anything unusual, unfortunate, or suspicious with her little camera, I am now free of what Lorinda’s people call “the buttoscope” for another decade.

The lone purple crocus, brave little soldier of spring.

I am also free of worry and fear, and it is hard to put a price tag on that. In spite of the fact that everyone said I would be fine, and in spite of the fact that the Incomparable Kate, good friend and commentator extraordinaire, actually looked up the colon cancer statistics for women my age and found that—as she put it—we weren’t dealing with the proverbial horse and zebra scenario, we were dealing with horses and, say, albino sugar gliders…in spite of all that, I had a friend who was the albino sugar glider, and it was hard for me to shake the fear that if it could happen to her, well…

But I was quite proud of myself, because I got through yesterday with only minimal squirrellyness and anxiety and I handled the “preparation” with a good attitude and reasonably good grace. I mean, considering.

Of course, I was up all night, but Alex pretty much stayed up with me, having declared as early as 7 p.m. that he was, “thinking of tonight as like a slumber party, only with one guest who has uncontrollable diarrhea.”

Isn’t that sweet?
I finished this sock during the “party.”

And I had exactly this much yarn left. Marble and small bits of sea glass included for scale.

So I was feeling pretty good by the time I got to the Endoscopy and Buttoscope Center this morning at 6:45 a.m. Pretty. Darn. Good. I was feeling courageous. I was prepared for glory!

That is, until I learned that the adept and skillful nurse who had just run a needle into a vein in my right arm and hooked me up to an IV drip—a minor procedure that nonetheless terrifies me but which I had borne stoically because I was operating in the heroic mode, you see—that that nurse had just come out of her own colonoscopy which she had endured without sedation or drugs of any kind.

Whoa! Gastrointestinal nurses, cowboy up!

She gave me a pat and said, “But I don’t recommend that for anyone else.”

Yeah, no joke. Don’t try this at home, kids. It’s all fun and games until someone loses a polyp. While she is fully conscious.

“Right,” I said. “Don’t worry. I’m no hero.” Truth will out.

But you know, the whole thing really wasn’t that bad. I remember very little of what actually happened during the test. And unlike graduate school, where I am always ten to twelve years older than nearly all my compatriots—in other words, I may as well be Methuselah—I was the youngest person at the Center.

It was kind of fun, what with croci blooming and robins pulling worms out of the ground, to feel like I was the spring chicken. You know, just this once.

And not again for another decade.

Spring Assessment

Tuesday, March 27th, 2007

At this time of year, those of us who work in the public school system face the dreaded “spring assessment.”  Back in my day, standardized tests given in the spring were called “achievement tests.”  Remember those?  We got a booklet and a sheet with lots and lots of little circles on it, and we proceeded to go through and answer the questions, filling in the bubbles with a #2 pencil.  We were cautioned to fill in the circles darkly and completely (don’t skip any questions!), so that the machine that graded the thing could read it.  And you’d best not write in that test booklet, either!–because it was going to be reused the next year.

Well, not anymore.

Now, not only do the kids get to write in the test booklet, a good portion of the questions require written essay-type answers, which must be graded by someone.  (Which sort of begs the question–if these things are being graded by real live people, how much of an objective yardstick can they be?  But I digress….) 

The test “security” is a whole topic unto itself:  As a teacher, you must never be alone with any of the tests.  You must not even crack open a test booklet before you set it in front of the students.  Never leave tests in your classroom unattended (like to, say, go to the bathroom) without locking the door.  Only approved district employees can be in the room when the tests are given.  The testing window must be strictly adhered to.

I won’t even get into the whole issue of these tests being used to “grade” schools and assess teachers’ abilities.  No Child Left Behind!

As I’ve thought about the “spring assessment,” it occurred to me that I’m wrestling with my own very different kind of spring assessment this year:

Why do I experience so much sadness and depression?

Can my marriage be put back together? 

Why do I feel that I have to please everyone else at my own expense?

What is it that I’m working toward?

What is it that I want to do with my life?

If only these questions could be answered neatly in a test booklet!  The one answer that always speaks clearly is this:  I want to design knitwear for handknitters.  So.  There it is.

With that end in mind, I started a new cables-and-lace swatch out of a mercerized sportweight cotton.

cables and lace swatch

I’m envisioning a summer sweater with raglan sleeves, a low v-neck with a self-finishing neckline, and perhaps elbow-length sleeves.

You don’t have to know all the answers to start moving forward.  Just answer the ones you can, and do your best on the others.

Colonoscopy Jell-O Dee-lite

Monday, March 26th, 2007

Yesterday morning, as I was reading the Sunday New York Times and nearly jumping out of my skin with fear, anxiety, dread, and horror as I obsessed about my upcoming colonoscopy on Wednesday morning contemplating the week to come with courage, dignity, and fortitude, I thought to myself, “How could I make the day before the colonoscopy—given that on Tuesday I will only be able to drink clear fluids and eat Jell-O, NOT RED! (emphasis original)—a little more, oh, festive, a little more fun?”

I announced to Alex, “I’m going to make some multi-layer Jell-O ‘salads’ for myself.”

“What?” he replied. “Are you sure you know how to do that?”

Oh, ye of little faith! Honey, I was raised a church-going Midwestern Protestant. My people know the multi-layer Jell-O salad. We know its engineering, we know its beauty, we know its power to heal.

We can make ’em with seven layers, each with a different embedded fruit or vegetable, quicker than you can say, “Potluck Sunday dinner!” We can make ’em to feed the multitudes, for multi-layer Jell-O salads are truly the loaves and fishes of the Midwest. And we know the palliative value of a multi-layer Jell-O salad, the way it can ease your anxiety, calm your nerves, and make you feel closer to Jesus.

That’s what I need right now.
Layer One: Orange, and naturally fat free!

It was a difficult aesthetic decision to choose the color for the second layer, because so much of the “tone” of the salad is determined by that choice.
Layer Two: Lime…and naturally fat free!

At that point, since I am disallowed the red and I can’t in good conscience condone new-fangled flavors like “Berry Blue,” I pretty much had to go with the lemon:
Et voilà! A three-layer Colonoscopy Jell-O Dee-Lite! In a dog-themed glass.

Bon appétit!

I am also knitting to ease my nerves:
Whole sock, thusfar. Love that pink Fixation!

Eye-of-newt heel.

Lord willing, I’ll be back on Wednesday. Keep your fingers crossed, will you? And maybe make yourself a nice Jell-O salad in the meantime. Believe me, it’ll cure what ails you.


Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

On Tuesday night Rob and I had a long talk.  Wednesday morning I received these


at work.  There are sixteen blooms in all, one for every year of our marriage.  This sort of thing is really not what I would typically think of as being in character for him.  He is trying very, very hard, folks, and it’s hard not to fall in love all over again with a man who is willing to try that hard.  The card that came with the flowers (although I will not reveal its contents in such a public forum), touched me almost as much as the flowers themselves.  Maybe more.

Well.  Onward.

I have not yet fully revealed the extent of my acquisitiveness at the Fiber Retreat.  The truth is, I drove away having purchased this:

Kromski Symphony

A Kromski Symphony double treadle spinning wheel, with a mahogany finish.  It included its own matching tensioned lazy Kate, which you can see there in the corner of the picture, and three matching bobbins.

Isn’t she a beauty?

Kromski Symphony

Kromski Symphony 

She also came with an instructional video,

Kromski video

which so far I have been unable to watch because I no longer have a VCR.

When I first started spinning, I learned that it’s pretty common among serious spinners to have more than one wheel.  In fact, it’s not that uncommon to have many wheels.  (Like one in every room of the house.)  I pooh-poohed this habit, thinking “Why in the world would anyone need to have more than one spinning wheel?” 

Now it makes perfect sense to me.  You absolutely need more than one wheel.  My new Symphony has both a double drive and Scotch tension.  The Ashford Joy has only Scotch tension.  The Symphony can be fitted with a bulky-weight flyer and a lace-weight flyer.  The Ashford has just one flyer that fits it.  The Symphony has larger bobbins and more open flyer hooks than the Joy.  The Symphony is a gorgeous piece of (fairly) permanent furniture, and the Joy can be easily packed up and carried along for the spinner on the go.

Perhaps most importantly, this new wheel just goes and goes and goes with just a few treadles.  She spins like buttah.

Admit it.  You need a new wheel yourself, don’t you?  Go ahead.  Indulge yourself.  You have my permission.

Wedding bell blues

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

I would like to note that at this hour exactly three months from today, our wedding will be over. Can I hear y’all say, “Hallelujah!”?

Because I gotta tell you, this whole wedding planning thing is really getting to me. As my friend and colleague Chitra noted, “There is absolutely no natural relationship between deciding to spend the rest of your life with someone and being an event planner.”
We did get these lovely rings, however. Just in case you are wondering, at the last minute we decided against having “Really love your peaches” engraved on the inside. I still think of it as a missed opportunity.

Chitra is right. Our wedding is all about the “less-is-more” concept, so much so that it cuts against nearly every received idea the wedding industry has tried to sell Americans, and yet somehow there still seem to be a fifty gazillion nagging, irritating, and emotionally-charged details to deal with every single day.

And ultimately, no matter how much noble breath is wasted on the idea of gender equity, when it comes to a wedding, every single one of those details is referred for adjudication to…the bride!

But here’s some bad news, folks: the bride barely knows a tea rose from a dandelion. The bride is not an etiquette expert. The bride does not have strong opinions about cake fillings. The bride is not interested in matchy-matchy bridal swag or “The Future Mrs. Wellerstein” t-shirts.

The bride is frankly just not that, well…bridal. And that is why the bride is considering erasing her identity, running away to the Greek Islands, and living out the remainder of her days under an assumed name. The bride can develop a discerning taste for retsina and Greek men, trust me.

But since that whole erase-your-identity thing is kind of a radical move, and since I was kind of having a mini wedding meltdown today, I decided instead to relieve some of the pressure by starting a new project.

You have to admit that more knitting is a better stress-relief strategy than drinking three-quarters of a bottle of Jack Daniels and heading out in the woods with a shotgun. Heavens, the last thing I’d want to do is drink three-quarters of a bottle of Jack and go out into the woods with a shotgun!

But it is on the list.

Not that Minnie has been abandoned. Far from it! She is developing into a lovely girl:
I’m quite pleased with my progress on the fronts.

I just decided to start these socks:

From this delightful new book from Interweave Press:

Cascade Fixation in pink (pink!) on size 5 needles.

These babies will be done before you can say, “Something borrowed and something blue, my *ss.”

This will not be over quickly

Monday, March 19th, 2007

Did anyone else break down this weekend and “prepare for glory” by enjoying a screening of 300, the exciting action film the Rolling Stone aptly observed would appeal to “guys of all sexes and ages”?

And how right they were!
I finished Minnie’s back over the weekend too. Not that the Spartans would care.

To my mind, the best scene was when the Spartans were finishing off various unfortunate Persians—felled in battle, doncha know?—while their leader, King Leonidas, munched on an apple. It is entirely unclear where he got that apple; there were no apples in the ravaged landscape! There were no apple orchards on the fields of glory!

I can only conclude that his wife, Queen Gorgo, packed him a bag lunch before he set out. He probably had a juice box in there too and a box of animal crackers, but he was too embarrassed to eat them in front of the guys.

Then there was the awful scene where Theron forces himself upon Gorgo, all the while hissing, “This will not be over quickly…and you will not enjoy it.”

Funny thing was, that sounded SO familiar. Then I remembered: that was what they told us at our graduate school orientation meeting.

Okay, they tried to dress up that last bit in a lot of flowery verbiage about how we would be enriched by graduate school just as graduate school would be enriched by us and so on and so forth. But really? This will not be over quickly. And you will not enjoy it.
Tonight we bead in hell!!!

On a lovely day during the fall of my first year, I had a chat with a South African friend from the German Literature Program who was at that time a fourth- or fifth-year graduate student. I remember this part with exquisite clarity: she said, cheerfully, “Oh, well, being in graduate school is very, very bad for your health. People gain a lot of weight, they get depressed, their skin loses its glow. Very bad. Very bad indeed!”

I was horrified. And then I proceeded to gain weight, get depressed, and develop at least one clinical skin condition related to stress. The good news, though, is that now I’m losing all that weight again because I’m so traumatized that I can barely eat anything.

The stress giveth and the stress taketh away. Blessed be the name of the stress.

I expect to finish this degree in six years total. Just for scale, the average in my department is still, I believe, eight years. I myself just have to finish sooner so that graduate school doesn’t kill me.

You think I’m joking.

Before I started I could not have known the exact parameters of why it would be so hard to go back to academic grad school in my mid-thirties. Some things I knew: that my income would be cut to a quarter of what I had earned before. That I would probably have to live with housemates after living alone for a decade. That there would be a lot of work.

What I didn’t, and maybe couldn’t, foresee was what the effect of those conditions would be over a sustained period. For instance, I failed to realize that I would be essentially unable to make any friends my own age, unless they were also graduate students, because I would no longer be able to afford the opera, the theater, the ballet, the restaurants, the wine, the lift tickets, the airfare…all the things that people my age, particularly those with careers and no children, would be buying and doing with their free time. This might have been different had I stayed in New York, where people knew me from my “previous life” and were already invested in me as a friend and would have had patience with, say, endless perambulations around Central Park (100% free!). But I was not in New York. I was in Berkeley, the Land of Milk and Organic Honey.

And as Townes van Zandt once sang, “If you want good friends, it’s gonna cost ya!”

I failed to realize that living with housemates would make me feel like I had no real home. I vastly underestimated how excruciating that “homelessness” would feel to me at this point in my life.

I failed to realize how invisible I would feel once I was no longer an authority figure in my own right, once no one particularly saw me as an expert any more. Once I had lost access to the sure-footedness and the accoutrements of true adulthood as I had known it.
Yes, I crocheted last week. But I swear it didn’t mean anything to me!

There have been stretches of the past four and a half years characterized by what I can only describe as grinding, unrelenting misery. Not unhappiness. Misery.

And yet. And yet! This weekend I finished the first draft of the first chapter of my dissertation. It’s far from perfect, of course, but I used my sources to show some things that no historian has ever showed before. I nailed some interesting arguments. Nailed them! And best of all, I can see the immense intellectual progress I’ve made from the beginning of this adventure to now. And I gotta tell you, there’s nothing so exhilarating. Absolutely nothing. Not to me anyway.

This, this moment, is why I’ve hung on like a pit-bull in a fight.

Even now, this will not be over quickly. But maybe I’ve finally gotten to the part where there will be at least a few shreds of glory. No Spartan was ever more prepared.

Stash building or You always have room for more fiber

Sunday, March 18th, 2007

Naturally, I did not come home empty-handed from the fiber retreat.  There was a large room devoted to vendors, all of them Missouri fiber producers and retailers.  After all, what’s a fiber festival without a chance to spend some of your hard-earned cash?

So, let’s address the purchases, shall we?

1.  Four ounces of gray wool and silk.  This stuff is supremely fluffy, and I have it on the wheel right now.

gray wool and silk                                                           A note:  this was really hard to get a good picture of.  You’ll have to sort of use your imagination, I guess.

2.  One pound of mohair and silk from Chris Hunsburger (the lady I took the mohair class from on Saturday afternoon).  This is her own naturally-colored mohair, blended with green and teal silk noil.  I just fell right in love with this stuff, and, as with all her custom blends, when it’s gone, it’s gone.  So I had to buy a full pound, see? 

mohair/silk                                                Look at the shine on this!  Gorgeous.

3.  Three different small amounts of alpaca roving from a southern Missouri producer.  I bought these just to play around with a bit, maybe do a bit of blending on my small combs.  The price was really right, and even though they are what she calls “seconds,” the quality is still great–better than what you might find in most commercial alpaca “firsts.”


4.  One pound of merino/silk blends in four different colorways.  I really like these pre-blended rovings in these kind of streaky (for lack of a better word) colorways.  I bought two “pairs,” with the idea of plying them together for added richness of color. 


merino/silk                                     You can get a little bit of an idea of how they will look by twisting the rovings together.

5.  Eight ounces of merino/mohair blend.  Obviously, I bought this with the same idea in mind.  I really just fell in love with the darker of the two colorways, and then looked for something that would coordinate.  I may still decide to ply these separately, though.


That’s the lot.  All in all, I think I was pretty restrained, don’t you?

You call this spring?

Friday, March 16th, 2007

The view from the back door, circa 5:30 p.m.

The view from the side window, circa 5:45 p.m.

Anybody else enjoying spring in this precise fashion today?

But listen, I gotta run! I’m recording that hit tune I Love Boston in the Springtime this evening with my all-New-England band, “Robert Frost and the Frozen Buds,” and I have to find my snowboots before I go out.