Thursday, April 28, 2016

In the Waiting Room

Different hospital, different patient. 

I do appreciate the artistic take on their donor wall.
Back soon(ish).

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Poem in Your Pocket Day


Having wrestled plenty of stones myself and danced them through the garden gate, I love the imagery of this poem and its lapidary lines.


I’m trying to solve the problem of the paths
between the beds. A six-inch cover
of cedar-chips that took a month to lay
rotted in two years and turned to weeds.
I scraped them up and carted them away,
then planted half a sack of clover seeds
for a “living mulch”. I liked that: flowers
strewn along like stars, the cupid’s bow
drawn on each leaf like thumbnail quartermoons,
its easy, springy give – until it spread
under the split trunks framing off each bed,
scribbling them over in its own
green graffiti . . . I ripped it out
and now I’m trying to set these paths in stone.
It isn’t hard to find: the ground here’s littered
with rough-cut slabs, some of them so vast
you’d think a race of giants must have lived here
building some bluestone Carnac or Stonehenge,
us their dwindled offspring, foraging
among their ruins . . . I scavenge
lesser pieces; pry them from the clutches
of tree-roots, lift them out of ditches,
filch them from our own stone wall
guiltily, though they’re mine to take
(at worst it’s robbing Peter to pay Paul),
then wrestle them on board the two-wheeled dolly
and drag them up the driveway to the fence,
where, in a precarious waltz, I tip
and twist them backward, tilting all their weight
first on one corner, then the other
and dance them slowly through the garden gate.
The hard part’s next, piecing them together;
a matter of blind luck and infinite pains:
one eye open for the god-given fit –
this stone’s jagged key to that one’s lock –
the other quietly gauging how to fudge it:
split the difference on angles, cram the gaps
with stone-dust filler; hoping what the rains
don’t wash away, the frost will pack and harden . . .
A chipmunk blinks and watches from his rock,
wondering if I’ve lost my mind perhaps.
Perhaps I have; out here every day,
cultivating – no, not even that;
tending the inverse spaces of my garden
(it’s like a blueprint, now, for Bluebeard’s castle),
while outside, by degrees, the planet slips
– a locking piece – into apocalypse,
but somehow I can’t tear myself away:
I like the drudgery; I seem to revel
in pitting myself against the sheer
recalcitrance of the stones; using
their awkwardness – each cupped or bulging face,
every cockeyed bevel or crooked curve,
each quirk of outline (this one a cracked lyre,
that one more like a severed head) –
to send a flickering pulse along the border
so that it seems to ripple round each bed
with an unstoppable, liquid grace:
“the best stones in the best possible order”
or some such half-remembered rule in mind,
as if it mattered, making some old stones
say or be anything but stone, stone, stone;
as if these paths might serve some purpose
aside from making nothing happen; as if
their lapidary line might lead me somewhere –
inward, onward, upward, anywhere
other than merely back where I began,
wondering where I’ve been and what I’ve done.

James Lasdun, (2006), Water Sessions

Thank you to Kym for the reminder that today is Poem in Your Pocket Day!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Fine Things on a Friday

This week has had its share of work issues, plumbing problems, knitting obstacles, and a few other botherations, but there are still some fine things to report on Friday.
  • I've varied my walking route lately and taken some walks through our local cemetery. There are lots of beautifully carved headstones, and it's been interesting to think about the people and the stories their markers tell. I thought this was a fine way to be remembered:

  • Justin has not been killed or injured by the rattlesnakes, fire ants, wild hogs, or scorpions he has encountered in TX. This is very fine news to a mother!
  • I got to see adorable baby llamas. 

  • I'm picking up John's sister and her husband when they return to Newark airport after a week in Denmark. We'll have a fine time Saturday night hearing about their travels and eating some new recipes I'm trying -- crab quiche and a goat cheese quiche.
  • Ryan texted a reminder about how to put any of the week's difficulties into perspective.

Wishing you a weekend filled with fine things!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Throwback Thursday - Baby Sweaters

I got lots of great baby pattern suggestions last week, and while I tossed my stash looking for washable yarn and mulled over what baby knitting to cast on first, I remembered that I had actually knit several sweaters for my own sons.

This was the first one, knit more than 25 years ago.

Here are some poor photos of Ryan at six months, looking absolutely thrilled to be wearing his hand-knit sweater.

I enjoyed knitting the first sweater, so I started the next one,

complete with adorable Peter Rabbit buttons.

Then I got the brilliant idea to knit matching father and son sweaters for John and Ryan.

I don't have John's sweater or even a photo of it. He said it was too hot, scratchy, red, (insert excuse here), and donated it to Salvation Army.

Ryan went through a through a train phase when he was three, so I made him this sweater with train buttons.

He was old enough to tell me that wasn't the kind of train sweater he wanted. So I knit train sweater, take 2.

In case you're wondering why I haven't included pictures of Ryan or Justin wearing any of the sweaters except the first one, it's because those photos don't exist. I tried each of the sweaters on Ryan after they were finished, but he protested so much (think tantrum) every time I tried to actually dress him in one that I finally gave up. Justin was even unhappier with the sweaters; he would make terrible gagging sounds and tell me they were choking him (even the cardigans)!

It took three years and six sweaters, but I finally got the message that the males in my family just do not like sweaters. Hopefully the next generation won't feel tortured or choked by my hand-knits!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Ten on Tuesday - DEAR Time

Today's Ten On Tuesday prompt is a special one in honor of Beverly Cleary's birthday and Drop Everything and Read Day: 10 Books That Made YOU Want to Drop Everything and Read. Happy 100th Birthday, Beverly Cleary! Ralph S. Mouse was a big favorite in our house, and may be part of the reason Justin rides a motorcycle today.

Back when I worked in elementary and middle school libraries, the librarians and I loved DEAR time. Even though we were surrounded by books and students reading, we never actually got to read at work unless it was a school-wide DEAR time, usually on Dr. Seuss' birthday (Read Across America Day, March 2), and often for only 15 minutes. That isn't nearly long enough!

This is almost always the kind of reading experience that I'm hoping for, books so good that I want to drop everything else and read, and here are some books that made me want to do just that:
  1. The Harry Potter series - I'm not sure I would feel the same way now if I reread them, but at the time, I could hardly stand the wait for the next book. Once Ryan started reading them, we had to pre-order two copies because there was no way we were going to share one. I remember both of us tearing open the Amazon boxes and reading on the porch to the exclusion of everything else.
  2. My Name is Lucy Barton - This is a recent read, but I could relate to the character of Lucy on so many levels that I just didn't want to put the book down.
  3. Anne of Green Gables - I loved this book as a girl, and have been happy to see that it has stood up to several rereads over the years. 
  4. The Shipping News - I know two people that did not find this book as incredible as I did, but they are both wonderful so I'm willing to overlook this one little thing. :-) It's one of my absolute, all-time favorites.
  5. The Children Act - I read this book more than a year ago and I still find myself thinking about Fiona Maye.
  6. Home Cooking and More Home Cooking - Not exactly cookbooks, Laurie Colwin's essays on home cooking and preparing food for those we love are brilliant and beautiful.
  7. How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking - It might seem a bit strange to find nonfiction on this list, but Jordan Ellenberg writes so compellingly about how math figures largely into our world that I did drop everything to read it.
  8. Still Alice - This book about early-onset Alzheimer's disease told from the patient's point of view is heart-breaking yet still joyful in its own way. I still think about Alice seven years after I read the book.
  9. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid - Bill Bryson's memoir about growing up in the '50s is both hilarious and poignant. I think listening to the audiobook, read by the author himself, makes this near-perfect.
  10. A Short History of Nearly Everything - This is one of the first audiobooks I listened to, and I found it so funny, interesting, educational, and just plain good that I barely noticed it was almost 18 hours long. This book is exactly what the title proclaims and well worth reading.

I can't wait to read all the other lists today; something tells me I may be adding lots of books to my to-be-read list.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Weekend in a List

My list from this weekend was sitting on the kitchen table this morning and I thought it might be a good way to share what I did this weekend.

  • Went grocery shopping. I didn't need much, but got distracted by a phone call, so I forgot al. foil and something good.
  • I did get distilled water, but that didn't fix the problem when I added it to the the tractor battery and the tractor still wouldn't start.
  • It's still too cold for nurseries to stock much of anything except pansies. We have roses in our front flower beds and a few die every winter. I did my annual spring assessment and was looking for four new roses to replace the dead ones, but no luck (yet).
  • I discovered that there are no nematicides registered for home gardeners. John works with some plant pathologists and when he asked them to take a look at our wilted cabbages and tomatoes last year they found root-knot nematodes. They are soil-dwelling roundworms that attack plant roots. Some types of nematodes are beneficial, but anything that chews on and damages a plant's roots is never good for the plant. We're trying some nematode-resistant tomato varieties this year.
  • I was forced to search my stash for baby sweater yarn. I don't have a local yarn store but decided to look at Michael's, Jo Ann Fabric, and Hobby Lobby for something nice and washable. Those yarns were not be found at any of those stores, so I came home and looked through my stash. This is a good thing! I'm still deciding but hope to cast on in the next few days.
  • I found an anvil! While on my way to do some of the above errands, I spied a chained-up anvil and a sign to call for information. Justin has been interested in making knives and researching the process for the past few months. He did make one from an old saw blade which I think is quite nice, but to really try the techniques he hopes to learn, he needs an anvil. These aren't easy to find and when you do they are quite expensive. This one may also cost more than our anvil budget allows, but I'm going to call the number today and hopefully enter into anvil negotiations.
I hope your weekend included plenty of good things, anvil or not!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Another Knitterly Question

A while ago I posed a knitting question, wondering whether this yarn yarn looked like clown barf, and I got tons of good advice, opinions, and suggestions. That worked so well that I have another question to pose: what are your favorite, go-to baby patterns?

I found out yesterday that my nephew and his significant other will be having a baby boy in October. While I was initially a little confused (they sent a facebook message and my phone woke me up at 3 am, thus my befuddlement), once I dispelled my grogginess my first thought was "Congratulations and WooHoo!" and my second thought was about baby knitting. I spent quite a bit of time looking at baby patterns on Ravelry, and then decided to ask the experts.

I've knitted a few baby things, mainly booties, several hats, and a couple of blankets. My favorite is probably the Feather and Fan Lace Baby Blanket (I may have already cast on), but I would love to know about your favorite baby patterns. Hats, booties, blankets, I might even be able to finish a sweater since it would be small!

My nephew says, "We are very excited—and pleased to provide the knitters in our lives another little body to keep warm and fashionable." So, thank you in advance for your helpful suggestions to keep this new little boy entering the family both warm and fashionable!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Ten on Tuesday

I don't think I've ever looked forward to reading others' Ten on Tuesday lists quite as much as I am today. The topic, 10 Things You Do To Calm Down, is one that I can definitely use, and I hope to gather ideas that I can put into practice. I don't think of myself as a very angry person, so when I need to calm down it's most often due to worry and anxiety. It feels like I've been worrying about things more than usual for the past year and a half; most often about a family member's health or safety, but there is also my own health, money, when will the axle on my Subaru break again, what do I want to do in this next stage of my life, have I been/am I now a good mother, am I eating enough fruits and vegetables, global warming, the rise of pseudoscience, am I worrying too much ...

I know that worrying isn't useful or productive, and can even be a bit of a wallowing self-indulgence, so here are some of the things I do to calm down.
  1. Knit - There have been plenty of studies showing the calming effects of knitting, and I think we've all experienced how very effective this is.
  2. Shop for yarn - I have to be careful not to overdo it, but often times even browsing The Loopy Ewe online is a calming experience. Calm Downing is the most recent addition to my wish list!
  3. Walk - Getting out into the fresh air, walking away from worry and towards peace is a very good thing.
  4. Breathe - Simply taking some deep breaths and concentrating on the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide can be soothing.
  5. Meditate - This is a relatively new practice for me and I'm still trying to find what works best, but focusing on my breath, observing thoughts without judgement, and letting them go is a good beginning.
  6. Drink tea - There is a good reason that hot, sweet tea figures largely in British novels. The simple act of making tea and feeling that warmth entering your system is restorative and restful.
  7. Read - Reading allows me to enter another world, one away from my own concerns. A nonfiction book about meditation or a great novel can transport me.
  8. Get outside of myself - When I need to calm down, it's very helpful to direct my attention and energy towards others. Bake zucchini bread for a friend, change the batteries in the smoke detectors for an elderly neighbor, donate blood, or do some volunteer shelving at the library -- all of these have helped me to calm down and put things in perspective.
  9. Music - Whether it's calming Zoe Keating on cello or something more raucous to "dance it out", music has charms to soothe the savage breast.
  10. Balloon or the box - If I recognize that what I'm worrying about is something I need to let go of, I'll picture placing that worry in a balloon and watch it peacefully drift away into a lovely blue sky. Sometimes anxiety is about an issue I need to deal with, so I imagine placing that into a box to deal with it when I'm better able to. That helps with calming down, which in turn helps with actually resolving the issue.

So, what are your favorite ways to calm down? I'd love to hear what works for you!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Fine Things on a Friday

It's rainy, gray, and 40 mph winds will be arriving with the thunder storms this afternoon, but I've got some fine things (some big, some small) to share on this Friday.
  • Justin arrived safely in Texas late last night!!! (This is a big one, and totally deserving of three exclamation marks.)
  • When I turned the calendar this morning I was treated to a lovely photo of Texas bluebonnets.

  • My desk calendar revealed my favorite photo ever!

  • Our local liquor store now carries New Belgium beer! 

New Belgium brewery is based in Fort Collins so I always look forward to having some when I visit Ryan, but haven't been able to find it within 500 miles of home. Our liquor store doesn't yet have my absolute favorite La Folie, but I was thrilled to see Citradelic, a tangerine IPA that Ryan has been telling me about for a few months. Now there's some at my house.

  • I have a weekend with family, knitting, and maybe alpacas to look forward to.  
 Big or small, I hope you all have some fine things in your life!