Monday, December 15, 2008

Stories Told in Waiting Rooms - the explanation

Like most mothers, I have spent untold hours in waiting rooms with my small children, trying desperately to entertain them. A prepared mother enters with crayons, coloring pages, toys that are saved just for this occasion, paper and pencil for tictactoe, and still she finds herself at wit's end long before their names are called.
This is when I would resort to story telling. I am actually grateful for these moments in our lives, because this is when I told the family stories passed down to me by my parents and grandparents. The one thing that I can promise you about these stories is this: If you are related to me, they may very well contain names you recognize and you may even find that you figure prominently in the story and you may find yourself wondering who the heck made up this crap because you certainly have no recollection of any of this ever happening to you, or if it does have some vague resemblance to something in your own life, you'll be positive it didn't happen anything like I'm telling it.
You're absolutely right because chances are excellent that I am repeating my own sketchy memories of a tale told to me as a child by a parent who, while an excellent story teller herself, was recounting an event that had happened to someone else many years before she heard about it and she only got the point of view of one individual (most probably my father). If you, then, are a sibling of my father's who was actually there for the "Rabid Fox Adventure," you may find that it has nothing in common with your own memories of the same story.
In this same vein, if you are my Uncle John or my mother's Cousin Joanie, you might find that you have been sadly misrepresented in the "Witch Story." Take it up with my mother. I'm telling it just the way she told it to me, or at least, just the way I remember her telling it 35 years ago.
To be continued. This was just the opening teaser.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

"It doesn't look home made!"

Originally uploaded by gnaed1
What is this world coming to? I spent a week of my free time on this only to discover that it looks like it came from a store and that that is apparently a good thing. You'll remember that I'm trying desperately to hold on to my Pollyanna World View even as it slips away.

I know, I really do, that appearances are very important to teens and that if she is happy and her friends complimented the creation, I should be on top of the world. I do realize how much of an accomplishment that is.

It did inspire me to create more scarves of cashmere and silk for the inlaws and nieces. That's bravery beyond the recognition of anyone who doesn't know them, so you'll have to take my word for it.

I'm quite proud of myself. I figured out how to send pictures directly from my phone to Flickr and from Flickr to Ravelry and to here. I'll have to set this up for the library's blog. Fun Fun....

Now off to knit more. I'm quite pleased with my Elf gift. She'll never suspect a thing. Well, until she sees the postmark, but then she'll go "Oh no, not something home made!" Then she'll squeal. Especially if she opens it after she opens it. This is a hint.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Most children with siblings are pretty sure that they would have been better off as only children. They don't buy into the whole "lonely only" propaganda. I don't actually know very many only children, but I imagine there's a lot of pressure.

I claim that the first is born of ignorance and all subsequent children are born because having the first one killed (or at least numbed) parental brain cells. My daughter and I have another explanation, though. We believe that our parents looked at the first child and said "We can do better than THAT," and had us. They stopped because they had reached perfection. Guess where we are in birth order?

I don't know why parents expect children to be happy about getting a new baby brother or sister. I read something once that really made it all very clear to me. Imagine if your spouse sat down with you one day and said "Honey, I love you so much that I want to have another one just like you. We're going to bring this new member of our family home to live and play with us, all the time. Won't that be wonderful?"

My son thought that was about the funniest thing he'd heard all day. Of course, he's the older child. What does he know?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Don't mess with my happy

I think of myself as a doggedly positive person. This is partly a reaction to the classmate who wrote in my yearbook (28 years ago) that she envied my pessimistic life view because that way I never faced disappointment. Not being a gloom and doom teenager anymore also helps.

I work hard at being a Pollyanna. This has taken a lot more effort in the recent months and I'm trying to turn myself back around. My basic philosophy is that you might as well attribute the best possible motives to people and make lots of excuses for their behavior because it will make YOU a better person and let's face it - 99% of the time you're never going to find out you were wrong. I also live in hope that they will do the same for me and truth be told, I need a few allowances now and then, more now than ever, I'm afraid.

I truly believe that most people do not go around trying to be jerks and I have no way of knowing what has been happening in their lives to make them act that way. There's also the argument that when you choose to be really nice to someone who is upset it makes them feel better and that makes them change the way they are treating you. Now you both feel good. Way to go!

Then there's the fact (yes, fact, dammit) that acting happy makes you happier and makes everyone around you happier and the concurrent fact is that the converse is also true and I'd rather be a harbinger of happiness than one of doom. If you're gonna spread something, it might as well be sunshine.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


There's nothing that illustrates the meaning of those letters, which stand for Your Mileage May Vary, like discussing an interesting book in a group of very different people. This is also what makes our book group a great mix even though there are only about 6 of us.

Last month we read Mutant Message Down Under, by Marlo Morgan. This novel claims to be based on fact, but is presented as fiction to protect the innocent. A little research on the web resulted in a plethora of results, mostly debunking everything she said about the aboriginal tribes of Australia, but that probably wouldn't bother the members of my group who loved it.

They weren't, after all, reading it in order to learn the truth about the lifestyle of a real aboriginal tribe. They bought into this: "The belief of the fictitious tribe is to value people for who they are, to appreciate even the simplest things given to us by nature or others, and to be in harmonious connection with ourselves, others and our environment -- our "divine Oneness". Honesty is a key element as it is the simplest and truest form of communication. Everything in the ecosystem connects to the 'Oneness'. "

The minister in our group loved this message so much that she created an entire sermon centered around it. Most of the others agreed with the basic principles, even if they didn't buy into the whole book. I, contrary person that I am, thought the whole thing was bull hockey. I was supposed to believe that this 50 year old American, dressed in silk and high heels, went without protest as she was shanghaied off to the outback, divested of all her worldly goods, and carted off on a barefoot 4 month trek?

The "message" being shoved down my throat was that as long as we eschew material goods and listen to the earth and each other, they will provide for us. Well sure, if you're happy with worms and termites, you'll never go hungry. I was also supposed to believe in hands on healing and tribal mind speaking, not a "something is not right" feeling, mind you, but a "Hey everybody, I am feeling really sick because of something I ate. Is it okay if I cut off the tail of this kangaroo I caught instead of dragging the whole thing 8 miles?"

Most of the commentary on the web is about the disservice the author did to the native Australian tribes with her fictionalized view of their culture. I don't really have as much of a problem with novels that start with a truth and embellish upon it. That's what historical fiction is, after all, and those novels often prompt people to research facts they might never have gone looking for otherwise.

I don't know, or much care, what it says about me, but I am not interested in oneness with the rest of the world. In fact, I have absolutely no desire to read your mind and would thank you to stay the heck out of mine.

I am, however, fascinated by the fact that books speak to the individual, and not only does each of us react very differently to the same book, but we react differently depending on where we are in our lives when we read them. I would even say that a book that can have that effect is one that is worth reading, and perhaps even rereading, even if I don't happen to agree with it myself, at least not this time around.

Monday, September 01, 2008

How does that saying go?

The thing about cliches is that there's enough basis in truth to make them worth repeating and sometimes I'm very envious of the fact that someone else already said it so much better than I can. One of the many great things about having children is that you often get to be the first person to introduce a cliche and sometimes they even think it was an original thought. Then they go to kindergarten.

The saying that triggered this post is "The more things change..." You know it is a really old and common cliche when you don't even have to finish it. When my son was a little boy, he fell out of the bunk bed in spite of the railing and fell out of his normal bed once or twice, too. So I'm not sure why I thought it was such a great idea to have his bed lofted at college. Yeah, he really did fall out. So, his father went and picked him up and they went to see grandpa D., who made two L shaped bulletin boards that now tuck under his mattress. Bed rails in disguise. He didn't think I was amusing when I suggested he explain that this is why he doesn't drink.

He has discovered that several of his suitemates believe that Intelligent Design should be taught in schools. What amazes him is that they deny the whole leap of faith part of it. I really and truly find it hard to believe his claim that this was the first time he ever heard me say "Man is a rational being. He can rationalize anything."

Speaking of people who don't listen to me, my father sent out one of his mass emails yesterday to say that his brother finally convinced him that he needs a blog so everyone can sign up to get his really very interesting entries automatically. Sigh. I told him that a year ago, but he's actually listening to his brother.

I'm sure dad would also be surprised to discover that not only have I listened to him on occasion, I even use his cliches on my children. It only seems fair. Yeah, by the way, Dad, that one about life not being fair is not one of the ones I use on my children. I still don't buy into that one. I'm still convinced that's a cop out for not trying. However, I do use "The one sure way of not getting something is not trying for it." You have to apply for the job, try out for the team, ask the boy out, and take the risk. Okay, he never suggested I ask a boy out, but I'm sure it belongs in there.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Playing your part

I'll save the big philosophical discussion of all the roles we play in life (mother, daughter, wife, director, friend) for another day.
Today I'm talking more about the emotional roles we seem to trade around in our family. My husband is the worrier. I don't usually have to anticipate what might go wrong or stay up waiting for our teens to get home because he does those things so much better than I ever could, but if he doesn't take the job on for some reason, I fill the gap. This would be why he's snoring right now while I await our daughter's return from a concert. I'm the interpreter. I explain possible positive motives of daughter to father and back again, and I'm far too frequently the arbitrator, finding compromises between the same two people. Yes, she should be allowed to go to Europe with friends when she is 17 and a half and yes she should understand when he cross examines her about same proposed trip.
I'm the comic relief and sometimes the scapegoat. He's the organizer. I am perfectly capable of packing a suitcase. At work, I'm the one who spends far too long getting the books to fit just right in the booksale box, but at home he's the one who packs the trunk.
I'm the grand schemer, full of ideas and enthusiasm. He's the reality check but he has also been known to find a way to get it done. I'm the traveler, always ready to go adventuring. He is the steady light shining in the window so we can always find our way back home.
There was no real point to this one, just something I was thinking about while waiting for the return of the prodigal daughter.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Time Passages

We celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary this week, my son started his freshman year of college today and this year marks 25 years since I graduated from the same college. This feels like it should be traumatic or momentous or something. Mostly I'm tired. I will say with gratitude that boys bring about half as much stuff as girls, going by casual observation of the piles that formed on the quad as parents and students hustled to get everything out of the cars within the 15 minute time limit.

Another moment worth remembering: My husband later remarked that my idea to get there early and unload then wait for them to arrive was spot on.

The rooms felt even smaller than I remembered. His roommate got there 2 days ago so he was sleeping when we arrived and already had the wall away from the door claimed as his own. Nick did get his bed lofted so his desk and refrigerator are stored underneath it. His dresser is in the closet. I am impressed that they got his bed lofted within a few hours of his request. It feels so much better when you can arrange your stuff.

He called already, sounding quite perky (yes, perky, not a word I use for Nick very often). He was hanging out with another boy from his high school who is also in the Honors College and apparently the professor who is in charge of the Honors College gave a very inspirational welcoming speech. He is probably in his 40's or 50's and lives in an apartment in the same dorm as Nick. What's rather frightening is that I can see Nick doing that and being perfectly happy.

We were actually alone in the house together for several hours. How weird is that? I guess we can start getting used to it. I figure we have another 40 years in us, after all. Well, I do!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Give me an L

With a son graduating from high school and a daughter going into the 11th grade, my own teen years have been coming up in discussion a lot. I'm probably also just at "that age."

I epitomized the word Loser to the point where it is hilarious (along with being somewhat pathetic). I was "overweight" (at 135, for God's sake), wore glasses, and (the kiss of death) had a really good vocabulary. I was also a bookworm. But wait, it gets better. I lived on a dairy farm and grew up running barefoot through cow manure and our house was across the street from the barn. Every day when I got on or off the bus I had to listen to "Ewww, is that smell coming from your house?" They referred to the farm as Cowshit Corners. We didn't have much money (farmers don't) so I wore hand me downs that were always about 2 years out of date. In the summer, we sat by the side of the road selling sweet corn $1.00 a dozen (but you got a baker's dozen).

I... was an Albany County Dairy Maid. I belonged to a square dancing group called the "Top Teen Twirlers." We performed at fairs in 1976, dressed in "period clothing" from 1776 and 1876. I was on the yearbook committee and in the cross country ski club and chorus and I carried the banner in the school marching band. Is it any wonder I grew up to become a Librarian who knits?

On the bright side, I'm also back on track with weight Loss.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

And your little dog, too

Cultural literacy is, apparently, one of my favorite topics with which to bore my children. Say the words to them and they will groan, roll their eyes, and say "Yeah, yeah, and your little dog, too, we know." I am a Pollyanna and therefore look upon this as living proof that something I've said to them (ten milion times) over the years has actually been heard and retained.

The dictionary definition (you knew that was coming, didn't you?) is "the ability to converse fluently in the idioms, allusions and informal content which creates and constitutes a dominant culture."

I think part of the appeal lies in the ability to convey a lot with a few words. Think about what went through your head when you read the words "and your little dog, too." Did you see the Wicked Witch of the West? Could you hear her voice? Are you looking over your shoulder to see if she's coming to get you? What other expression could I have used that would have invoked such vibrant imagery, complete with sound effects?

It's also fun. There's a joy to be found just in knowing that you got the allusion. Search for the words cultural literacy online and you'll find quizzes, books, blog entries and, of course, the ubiquitous Wikipedia article. And if you don't have a basic level of cultural literacy in whichever country you find yourself, your ignorance will show every time you say "Who?" I myself am sadly lacking in the areas of film and music. Refer to a famous actor or singer and I will inevitably say "Who?" I'm much better if you name a movie or song, however, and if you refer to a book character, I'm Golden.

This is why story is so important. Stories are a vital part of every culture. Mythology, fables, folktales, Tall Tales, classics, and Bible stories all live together at your library. Our children need to know what it means if someone has the golden touch or if something is a real David and Goliath story, and they should know to watch their backs when someone says "And your little dog, too."

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

College Orientation

I just attended two days of mandatory parent orientation whilst my older child attended his two days of freshman orientation. May I just say "They didn't have that when I went to college!" My parents helped me unload my stuff on moving in day, hugged me goodbye and never looked back. I found myself surrounded by people happily screaming back at the cruise director style program director. Large groups of people in a frenzied fervor screaming "When I say UA, you say You Know, when I say Purple, you say Gold, when I say Great, you say Dane!" You can just imagine how I loved that.

I learned about all of the services available to my child - counseling, medical, financial, social, and yes, even academic advisement. His ID card is a true sign of big brother watching you - it is his room key and it holds all of the information about his food plan and it acts as a debit card for snacks, the bookstore, copies at the library, etc. I assume that with that card they can access his medical information, his grades, and so forth. I'm happy to say you're allowed to punch a hole in it because that may be the only way he keeps it for more than a day.

I have my very own parent liaison (who I share with thousands of other parental units) whom I can call with any concerns and she will direct me to the correct department. At the health center my child can get treated for colds, strep throat, the flu, chlamydia, and pregnancy. They sell condoms - 175 for six bucks and if they don't work, you can get the morning after pill there, too. Not to worry about cost - they'll put it on his bill and I can pay for it electronically with E-Pay. In fact, I can add money to his account any time from the comfort of my home and he will have instant access to it. Lucky me.

I learned that I can bring him to school on August 22nd no earlier than 9 AM. They recommended NOON, but realized that no one is going to listen to them. At 4:30 there will be a family bar-b-q and at 6:30 they would like to see us all go bye-bye! He'll already know who his suitemates are and will, presumably, have been in contact with his roommate for several weeks, ironing out who will bring what. This is extremely important since their rooms are about 8x10. At least he won't be tripled since he'll be in the Honors Dorms.

Now, I naiively assumed that my son was also getting all of this same information about who to see when and for what, but noooo. He was playing team building games (kill me now, mom), enduring the same mind numbing chants as me, and attending lectures on sexual assault and alcohol abuse. I'm sorry, but he's not going to need that. What he needs to know is where to go when he loses his room key and how to find his classes.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Brainwashing that worked

I had to read a lot of short stories in high school and a few of them actually stayed with me ALL this time. There are three in particular that have made lasting impressions and they have all come up in conversations over the years and over the past few days.

The most recently discussed is "The Story of the Five Dollar Lawn." I think the teachers hoped we would be inspired to work harder, go the extra mile, just to prove to ourselves and to others that we could do it. I know that was my goal when I printed it out for my son. This is his take on it "The guy was an idiot. He did an extreme amount of extra work for a one dollar difference. The marginal cost of the 5th dollar was not worth it. Besides, the lawn was just going to be imperfect again the next day. He would have been better off getting another job working for another crazy old lady." I have to wonder if the failure to impress lies somewhere in my presentation of the material. I still need to point out that it was a 20 percent difference, not "just a dollar."

The second one is the one I use when describing Nick as a little boy. I always said I didn't worry about Nick being kidnapped. My boy was just like the kid in "The Ransom of Red Chief." The bad guys would bring him back out of self preservation. Heck, his dad made them pay him before he'd take the kid back. He said the neighbors wouldn't approve.

Last was "The Lottery," by Shirley Jackson. I very carefully avoided rereading it when I looked it up for you and I know they made my son read it, too. This one was, I suspect, intended to teach us not to follow others like sheep. It is the classic anti-peer-pressure story and Damn, did it work on me. Nick didn't need a story to tell him to avoid his peers and crowds. If I did, it was effective. I avoid places where people will get worked up and excited as a group - no rallies or concerts for me. Group think petrifies me because there's no thinking involved. I also tend to instinctively oppose the crowd as a self defense mechanism. I'm not sure Nick needed a story for that, either. He's been oppositional since before he could read.

I'm not sure it's a good sign when all of the short stories you read as a teen are available free on the internet since that means they're all out of copyright.

I have discussed all of them with my son at one time or another. He is particularly on my mind right now because tomorrow he graduates from high school. Sending them off into the big world without us there to protect them is as scary for us as it is for him. I just hope some of the brainwashing worked as well on him as these stories did on me.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Oh, Lighten Up Already

And I don't just mean the fact that I've gained weight and need to get a grip!

If you knit or crochet and have been under a rock for the past year, you need to know about ravelry. It is THE place to be, and I mean that in all seriousness. The hard part is tearing yourself away.

But while I was wallowing in a wonderful thread about ludicrous and strange knitted objects*(knitted digestive tract, dissected frog, willy warmer or purse in the shape of girly parts, to name just a few) I became distracted by a side issue of humor, or lack of same. There are those who don't think it's appropriate to give a knitted womb or breast to a woman who just had hers removed or to her doctor or nurse.

I, sick and twisted and proud, would consider it a perfect gift for me in those situations and I am just sorry my mother isn't a biology teacher anymore because she could have used that digestive tract AND the frog in her classroom.

So, being me, I immediately started searching for quotations about the need for humor in all areas of life (and yes, death). I found far more than I could use on that one little thread, so here I am, locked and loaded and ready to rock and roll. Yes, I do read too many romances about jaded soldiers fighting in the desert, the jungle, and the swamp, often all in one book. Want a list?

OK, here we go:

We'll start with the Man - Bill Cosby said "You can turn painful situations around through laughter. If you can find humor in anything, even poverty, you can survive it. "

Humor is just another defense against the universe. Mel Brooks

This guy likes big words, doesn't he?
There is no defense against adverse fortune which is so effectual as an habitual sense of humor. Thomas W. Higginson

* There was also a costume in the shape of girl parts that someone was actually wearing.

Hee, I'm really looking forward to CC's comments...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

I'm crying because she's crying

There's a story about a goat in a turnip field. The boy starts to cry because the goat is in the turnip field and it won't get out. Fox comes and asks the boy why he's crying. The boy explains that he's crying because the goat is in the turnip field and it won't get out. So Fox starts to cry. Bear comes along and asks Fox why she's crying. Fox says "I'm crying because the boy is crying and the boy is crying because the goat is in the turnip field and it won't get out." So Bear starts to cry. This goes on through several animals until finally bee comes along and asks the same question and gets the same answer. Bee stings the goat and it vacates the turnip field and everybody is happy again (except, presumably, the goat).

I'm sure the point of the story is supposed to be that it is more effective to take action than it is to weep and wail with everyone else, but sometimes empathy is all you can offer. My 16 year old is sobbing upstairs because she and her boyfriend have decided to be friends for awhile. It was a mutual decision, but her life routines are built around the relationship - talking every night on the phone before bed, walking together in the halls, hanging out before and after school.

I know this too shall pass - new routines will be created, old ones re-established, but oh my heart aches for her. So right now I'm crying because she is crying and that is all that I can do.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mob Mentality

I could also have called this "The Power of Polls" or "Group Think," but whatever you call it, I have alway found it frightening. Well, okay, maybe not Always, but at least since 9th grade. That's when we read "The Lottery."

If the purpose of making 9th graders read that story is to help them avoid peer pressure, it worked on me, not that I had a prayer of fitting in well enough to be a follower, anyway. You have to be at least a little bit like the others to do that. Since I'm not, I just safely assumed that I was exactly the type of person who would wind up standing in the middle of the circle of angry people holding stones. This could be why I avoid crowds.

It's also why I find a lot of things scary these days. Election poll results can change the way people vote instead of the other way 'round. Reports of statistical findings can cause people to totally change the way they do things. Dad was thrilled to hear that a study didn't support the need to drink a lot of water. Never mind the hundreds of studies that went before or the fact that our bodies are 70% water, which might actually mean something. "The Study Said I Don't Have to Drink Water." That's all he heard because it was what he wanted to hear.

I think they need to republish "How to Lie with Statistics." We forget how easy it is. You can usually find a study to support you if you look hard enough.

On the other hand, my darling husband won't believe me no matter how many studies I find him that say reading in the dark won't make your eyesight worse, because that is not what he chooses to believe (I also can't convince him that being cold won't make you sick. It takes Germs, honey).

Speaking of statistical findings influencing people's actions - apparently library use goes way up in times of economic stress - so get yourself to a library right now!

Sunday, March 30, 2008


Here's the definition. Before I looked it up I was thinking of it as a positive or at least euphemistic term for expanding one's horizons or abilities.

Please note that it can also refer to spending time in prison, to being tortured, or to being hung.

stretch (strÄ›ch) Pronunciation Key v. stretched, stretch·ing, stretch·es v. tr.
To lengthen, widen, or distend: stretched the sweater out of shape.
To cause to extend from one place to another or across a given space: stretched the banner between two poles.
To make taut; tighten: stretched the tarpaulin until it ripped.
To reach or put forth; extend: stretched out his hand.
To extend (oneself or one's limbs, for example) to full length: stretched her calves before running.
To extend (oneself) when lying down: she stretched herself out on the couch.
To put to torture on the rack.
To extend or enlarge beyond the usual or proper limits: stretch the meaning of a word.
To subject to undue strain: to stretch one's patience.
To expand in order to fulfill a larger function: stretch a budget; stretch a paycheck.
To increase the quantity of by admixture or dilution: stretch a meal by thinning the stew.
To wrench or strain (a muscle, for example).
To extend or enlarge beyond the usual or proper limits: stretch the meaning of a word.
To subject to undue strain: to stretch one's patience.
To expand in order to fulfill a larger function: stretch a budget; stretch a paycheck.
To increase the quantity of by admixture or dilution: stretch a meal by thinning the stew.
To expand in order to fulfill a larger function: stretch a budget; stretch a paycheck.
To increase the quantity of by admixture or dilution: stretch a meal by thinning the stew.
To prolong: stretch out an argument.
Informal To fell by a blow: stretched his opponent in the first round. v. intr.
To become lengthened, widened, or distended.
To extend or reach over a distance or area or in a given direction: "On both sides of us stretched the wet plain" (Ernest Hemingway).
To lie down at full length: stretched out on the bed.
To extend one's muscles or limbs, as after prolonged sitting or on awakening.
To extend over a given period of time: "This story stretches over a whole generation" (William Golding). n.

The act of stretching or the state of being stretched.
The extent or scope to which something can be stretched; elasticity.
A continuous or unbroken length, area, or expanse: an empty stretch of highway.
A straight section of a racecourse or track, especially the section leading to the finish line.
A continuous period of time.
Slang A term of imprisonment: served a two-year stretch.
Informal The last stage of an event, period, or process.
Baseball A movement in which a pitcher, standing with the glove side facing home plate, raises both hands to the height of the head and then lowers them to the chest or waist for a short pause before pitching the ball. It is used as an alternative to a wind-up, especially when runners are on base. adj.
Made of an elastic material that stretches easily: stretch pants.
Of, relating to, or being a vehicle, such as a limousine or passenger jet, having an extended seating area that provides extra space for more passengers, leg room, or amenities. [Middle English strecchen, from Old English streccan.]

I think they also stretched their definition to its limit.

I seem to be doing a lot of stretching lately. I keep telling myself it's good for me.
I think stretching is a euphemism for when your reach exceeds your grasp (or what you keep hoping your pants will do when you start gaining some of that weight back). It is what you're supposedly doing when you apply for a job you're not sure you're qualified for and what you're doing when you get it and then try to do it well. I'm also stretching the patience of my whole family with that one.

I just bought everything I need for a "Heeere be dragone" shawl (or in this case wall hanging) for Nick. It's 16 pages of charts and it's done on a size 3 needle with lace weight yarn. I have gotten to row 21 four times now. Definitely stretching. I bought clip on magnifying glasses last night. If that doesn't work, I'm resorting to one of those lighted magnifying glasses you hang around your neck. I'll either look like a jeweler or an old lady, depending on your perspective and age.

I also signed up for 4 days of knitting workshops and classes in New Hampshire for the end of July. For some odd reason no one in my family wants to vacation there with me so I'm going on vacation alone. I've gone to conferences alone before and this is actually kind of more like a conference than like a real vacation. It has workshops and exhibits where people try to sell you their products. I should feel right at home. Heck, it even has work to do before you go, swatches to knit so you can concentrate on learning new skills while you're there (and I'm on my third try at the first one so yeah, stretching).

The message started out as "stretch your horizons", but I'm not sure that's where it ended up. I think I've also stretched this post to its limits, too, so even though I'm not sure I went anywhere significant with it, I think I will stop here.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Theory of Else (with an ooh and aah time codicil)

When I was in college (25 or more years ago), I had friends (male) who I baked for when I went home on weekends. I was a shameless praise hussy (still am) and my ego needed the rush of males falling over themselves to get to my brownies. Jack ascribed to what we still call "the theory of else" in our house - everything's better when it's made by someone else. My son is a strong believer in this as proven every morning when he asks "Mom, what's for breakfast?" He's perfectly capable of making his own breakfast but he enjoys it so much more when I do it and since I get something out of it (the boy is smart enough to heap effusive praise upon me), I at least occasionally give in to the pleading.

I don't necessarily buy into the whole "better when it's made by someone else" mindset though, probably because of the whole ego stroking thing that happens when I am the maker not the taker, but I was not too proud to copy the link for you when I discovered that someone else had already created an annotated bibliography of knitting fiction- Books with a knitting theme . Besides, I'm getting anyone who clicks on it to read an article from a librarian magazine and that's almost as good as getting you to read library comics.

This need for praise explains a lot about me - the success of my weight loss and the incentive to keep it off, the joy of knitting for others, and yes, even this blog. It also contributes to why I was a really good children's librarian and am still finding my way as a director. There's not as much positive overt feedback in the director gig, but that's just inspiring me to find new and exciting things to introduce.

The Theory of Else only pays off because of Ooh and Aah Time. If we praise junkies didn't need our egos stroked, nobody would get a darned thing out of us. I was raised with the phrase "ooh and aah time." It was crucial to getting any work done around our house. My mother said that if you forgot to do it, nothing else would get done for a very long time, so if a nail was hammered for a picture to hang on, we all trooped into the room and admired the artful technique and perfect positioning. Note: Criticism has to be used very sparingly and must be followed by extra heaping loads of bull... I mean, praise. Hey, it's not that I don't know when I'm being manipulated - it's that I just don't care as long as you keep it coming.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Self Soothing

When your first baby is born and you read everything there is to read about bringing up baby, this topic comes up a lot. If you're paying attention you'll soon notice that most of these techniques are orally fixated - thumbs, pacifiers, fingers - so it's no wonder many of us grow up still self soothing by sticking something into our mouths.

None of these foods are even remotely good for us, either. Have you ever heard of carrot as comfort food? I didn't think so. "Have a spinach salad, dear. It always makes me feel better." Nope, you'll never hear that one.

I just looked it up (surprise!) and found some great ideas for self soothing as a bigger person. It's about sensory experience drowning out the little voices in your head. Here are a few of the ideas, but they're mostly paraphrased from this site:

Walk in a beautiful place, listen to music that makes you feel good, read a book, knit (well, I don't know how they missed that one, but it works for me, so in it goes), bake bread, drink herbal tea, put whipped cream on fruit, take a bubble bath, put clean sheets on the bed, hug someone. Learn to use all of your senses to calm yourself down.

Alrighty, then, if you need me, you'll find me taking a bubble bath while listening to music, burning scented candles, drinking herbal (lemon, I think) tea, and reading a book (not a library book, though, since I'm in the tub in this scenario).

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Exercise for the mind

Research at the Harvard Medical School Mind/Body Institute has found that when an individual is knitting her heart rate can drop 11 beats a minute and her blood pressure drops as well.

"A growing number of medical researchers say that leisure activities that challenge the mind—like learning music, playing cards, knitting, and woodworking—can prolong healthy brain functioning. .. "In some cases, even mild forms of what we call a brain exercise have been shown to give you about six or seven additional years of cognitive ability," says Lawrence Katz, Ph.D., a professor of neurobiology at Duke University Medical Center. "

There you go, I'm preserving my brain cells. Now if I could just figure out how to knit whilst exercising... maybe on the reclining bike at the gym? No, I'm not really going to try it. There are actually a few limits to the amount of ridicule I'm willing to endure. I do KIP (knit in public) and now I can even justify it. So next time you want to make fun of me for knitting at parties, remember this. We're both killing brain cells with alcohol, but I'm rebuilding mine simultaneously.


Work in Progress - What a versatile phrase. It's almost as good as Pointification. It's a knitting term referring to the items on needles or waiting to be seamed, all those little and big things in life that you've got a start on but haven't gotten around to finishing yet.

I have WIPs in every aspect of my life - projects at work, around the house, and yes, at least 4 knitting projects - one that has been tucked into the back of the closet for about 3 years - it might be time to FROG that one, or finish it, even. Then there's Holly's blanket - I have decided I have time for that one (P~) and a sweater for my daughter (she says I don't work on that one near enough - it's boring). Then there's the cutest little sweater that's the one I am working on currently - I don't even know who it's for, it's just cute and working up really quickly, but I think I'm going to run out of yarn.

My children are WIPs and so is my ongoing weight battle. I made it back to the gym yesterday and I'm making myself go again today. I think I'll delay work on the house until one of the Crazy Eights (I just made that up, but they'll have trouble denying it) comes and gives me advice. I'm horrible at decorating and at knowing what looks good on me, from hairstyle to clothing style.
Fortunately, I have other talents and virtues, but I'll save those for the next time CC points out that I haven't posted in awhile.

FROGGING is the other side of the knitting process. That's when you rip out your work and either start over or use the yarn for something else entirely. Sometimes you only have to rip it back a few rows, to fix a mistake. Sometimes the whole darn thing has to go and you have to decide how badly you wanted that thing anyway. Of course, there are some mistakes that aren't big enough to bother fixing - they're so far back by the time you notice them that you figure if it took you that long to notice them, maybe you should just leave them be and learn to live with them (I take no responsibility for any marriage analogies that popped into your head).

Oh, why is it called frogging, you might ask (or not, but I'm telling you anyway). You're ripping out the mistake - rip it, rip it, rip it. There's a great picture book called Book, Book, Book, by Deborah Bruss, that tells a similar story. It's one of my favorites for reading when classes visit the library because it's about going to the library. The frog has the punchline.

So, back to philosophizing. One of the great challenges in life, of course, is deciding which WIPs to keep working on and which to frog. Who knew knitting could teach life lessons? There are two books that do a great job of making those analogies and they're good reads, too. One is The Friday Night Knitting Club, by Kate Jacobs, and the other is The Knitting Circle: a Novel, by Ann Hood. They're both feel good, circle of life, chick lit sorts of books, the kind I would recommend for my book club.

Hmmm, I think my next post should be an annotated bibliography of knitting novels. That should make your eyes cross.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Okay, Now!

Are these not the cutest? And the kids are pretty adorable, too.
And the baby can come now. I know the child was just waiting for my package to arrive. I'm just relieved it got there in four days. Amazing.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Gotta Gator?

I do! But not for long. This gator is flying to England tomorrow, by hook or by crook. I won't wish having the gator arrive before the baby on poor Stephanie, but I do want it to get there relatively soon so she can use it!
I see it as first a nursing pillow, then a baby support boppy sort of thing and finally a body pillow. The original pattern is the Morehouse Merino alligator scarf, but I took a lot of liberties with it.

For those knitting afficionados who like details, he's 42 inches long, stuffed with a stocking which was, in turn, stuffed with pillow stuffing, and has cat toy eyeballs. The eyes and legs are stuffed with stockings so they can be washed. The mouth is a braided cotton cord that can be undone so the big stocking (which looks like a worm, I swear!) can be removed. I used Lionbrand Wool-Ease Chunky and size 10 needles for the green part and two strands of a worsted weight for the tummy. I wanted to make the legs bend so I tried several sock patterns, thinking the heel would turn into a knee, but I couldn't make it work. For those who are more concerned about alligator accuracy than knitting, please let me assure you that this one has 4 claws on the back legs and five on the front and that the 4th lower tooth on each side should be hidden. I'm betting that if it really bothers them, Jason can, and will, fix it! I expect Stephanie will be busy with the baby. Stephanie will be relieved to know that I'm not sending Jesse, Alligator Wrestler Extraordinaire.