Thursday, January 31, 2008

Fruit Punch Mouth

Oh, hello there. I'm Bug. At least that's my name right now. Not too sure what it's going to be in the future. I'm not quite sure what's happening, to be honest. I went for a car ride with these people, like I've done before with my friend Volunteer Steve, only they don't seem to have remembered to take me back to the Hall.

Don't anybody remind them, alright? I think I might be onto a good deal here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

How to Live Forever

Most kids have a long list of things their fathers taught them. “My dad taught me to play ball”, or “my dad taught me to ride a bike”, or “my dad taught me to drive”, things like that.

My dad didn’t teach me to play ball. He probably taught me to ride a bike, although I can’t remember him doing so. I didn't even remember that he could ride until a few months ago, when he asked me to print out a picture of him with his first bicycle. He certainly didn’t teach me to drive. One hour of careening down the country road beyond the golf course ended those lessons. I almost drove us into a ditch, and he said, “I think that’s about enough for today, honey. I’ll drive us home.” My mom subsequently taught me to drive.

My dad taught me different things. When I was very young, maybe seven years old, he taught me to play gin. We’d sit at the kitchen table and play for hours. He didn’t teach me how to win. He let me learn that on my own. It takes a special kind of man to look fondly across the table at his youngest child, staring back at him over a fan of cards barely contained in her tiny hands, trying so hard not to give away that she's one card away from ginning. A special kind of man to then put his discard face down on the pile and say, “Sorry, honey, but I’m going to have to go with three.”

Everything I learned from him was by example, by watching him and emulating him. I make sure that I put stamps on envelopes just so, perfectly lined up at both corner edges, because that’s how he did it. He taught me to whistle, which I can do beautifully, although I never could get the trill down right. I learned to love the Giants, through the few good years and the innumerable bad. I watched him and I learned what it meant to be loyal.

I’m trying, although I suspect that I’ll never be as good, to be the kind of listener, the kind of conversationalist that he was. My dad could listen to an argument for an hour, listen and think about what everyone had said, and then ease his way in and say the perfect thing to end it. He had a calm thoughtfulness about him. I didn't always agree with him, but I always respected his opinions because I knew he'd deliberated over them so thoroughly.

I remember sitting at the kitchen table many years ago, crying. I was in a real funk, and he was trying to figure out how to help me. I finally got up the strength to tell him what was wrong – that I didn’t understand how everyone in the world didn’t spend all of their time thinking about how someday they were going to die, how unfair it was that the crushing burden of this knowledge was reserved for the deep thinkers, like twenty-year-old me. I ended my lament with, “But you know, right? You’re OLD! How do you keep going, knowing that someday you’ll just be GONE?”

My dad folded his hands on the table and stared at them for a minute, deep in thought. He took a measured breath and said, “Well, I think that if I affect other people, that I do good things and make them think that they’re happy to know me, then that’s my legacy. That’s the part of me that’s still here. If I can do that, I’m not gone.”

It’s the most important thing I learned from him.

My dad died a little after noon on January 24th, 2008. He was ninety years and sixteen days old.

Friday, January 18, 2008


Well, Lucy was a great housemate all right.

And a lousy cop.

Is that all you have to say for her?

She was some kind of a dog... What does it matter what you say about...uh...people?

Buddy, did you just finagle me into reenacting the last scene of 'Touch of Evil' with you? Badly? And you were playing the Marlene Dietrich role?

I'm feeling noirish today.

Like an aging German chanteuse?

Never mind that. Look at how Hitchcockian I look on Dog's old bed.

Heartbreaking is the word for it, Buddy. Tell your readers that the only reason we put the beds out again was that you kept laying on the floor in the empty spaces where Lucy used sleep, staring forelornly at the walls.

Yes, well, look at how that worked for me, the Woman. I'm sleeping on a Tempurpedic dog bed, for God's sake. I believe I can get anything I want from you and the Man if I try hard enough. Watch this.

Oh, Dog! Oh, beloved, ox-like Dog! How I miss you! All of the tunafish in all of the pantries in the land won't cure my melancholy!

Yeah, nice try there, Buddy. I'm not falling for that one again. For the third time. This week.

I, ummm, I like your hair, the Woman.

Why, thank you, Buddy! When I got it cut yesterday, I was worried that it ended up too short, but...hey, wait a second. Dammit! I'm not falling for that one again, either.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Regrets, I've Had a Few

I remember taking this picture. I know why I look so sad. I was trying to get a good shot of KristaBella, my hybridized White Lies Shaped Lace Tee. I'd had it finished for a couple of weeks, but I wasn't happy with it. I didn't like the way the cotton looked on me, I didn't like the length, and I didn't like the sleeves. I knew I wouldn't, even as I was knitting it. I regretted continuing on with the project.

I also regretted dropping out of the gym routine. I'd lost it, just completely lost it after the half-year mark for obvious reasons. It was a tough few months. Even so, I remember thinking, "Maybe I'd like this sweater more if I were ten pounds leaner. I screwed up and made the waist shaping too shallow, but maybe that wouldn't matter if I actually narrowed at the waist. Maybe it'd drape better."

I knew I was going to regret leaving that kitchen. Daisy, Falstaff and The Wolf are doing a fantastic job of keeping it beautiful, but I sure do wish it were still mine. I felt that way as I ran around the tripod to pose for this shot.

So that look you're seeing on my face? That's deep, aching regret.

All of that aside, it didn't come out too badly. It's a pretty, summery sweater. It's a nice fit, and it blocked beautifully. It turns out that this just isn't my style. When I wear it, I don't feel pretty or summery. I feel like a nouveau-bohemian Cal student. Oh, don't even get me started on Cal. Why the hell do they get to call themselves Cal, anyway? There are many universities in California. I went to two of them. Neither of my schools got to call themselves 'Cal'. What the Hell? And don't give me that "they were the first one" crap, either, because I don't give a good goddamn. Cal my ass. I don't particularly like Stanford, either, but I cheer heartily for them during every game they play against Cal. There's no explanation for it, really. I just hate Cal. So this sweater makes me irrationally angry when I wear it. Perhaps I should donate it or swap it away...

Details Section
The details are fuzzy, because it's been a while, and...ah, who the Hell cares?

Krista/Bella/Shaped Lace Tee from White Lies Designs.

Yarn and Notions
Cotton yarn from an old White Lies kit. It'd been in my stash for almost three years. I think it might have been Cascade Alpine. I could probably figure out how much I used and figure out how much I have left, but whatever. If you look at Joan's patterns, you'll get accurate yardage requirements.

The kit came with these lovely acrylic leaves for the ties. They're really the only reason I kept going.

Brittany. I don't remember the exact size. I think it might have been US 8s.

34" or 35", I think. I figured it was cotton and it would stretch, so that's the most logical guess I can make.

Summer 2007.

Too many to list. I took the parts of Bella that I liked, combined them with the gauge and sizing of Krista/SLT, and came up with this.

I don't like knitting with cotton. I miss my old kitchen. I hate Cal.

About Lucy

Thanks, everyone, for your sympathy. A.B. and I are alright. We had so many good years with Lucy, and she was so full of joy every single day, that we've been able to move right to reminiscing about her. We're past most of our grief. I believe that grief is often mistaken for regret. "I wish I'd..." "Now I'll never get a chance to..." "If only I'd..." I don't regret one single thing about our time with Lucy. A.B. and I know that we did the best we could for her, we gave her six and a half years that she wouldn't have had if we hadn't swooped in and adopted her, and we loved her unconditionally. It made it easier to make the right choice and say goodbye.

I think it's probably hardest on Buddy. His whole routine is thrown out of whack, and we know how important routine is to Buddy. I think he misses her. We didn't think that'd be a problem. We'd always assumed that he'd prefer to be our only non-human housemate. I don't know why we thought this - he'd always lived with other animals, aside from that first year we had him indoors with us - but we always believed he'd be happy by himself. The past couple of days, however, he's been wandering around downstairs and meowing. Food doesn't calm him down. Sitting him on the sofa and petting him doesn't work for very long. He still runs upstairs and throws himself on the bed next to me, but he doesn't stay there to sleep the way he did as recently as last Friday. Poor little fellow.

Well, don't tell him, but we may have something in the works to cheer him up. More on that later...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sweet Lucy - 1999ish - 2008

She loved being on the couch with her head on the pillows.

She loved chewing on her bone.

She loved us.

There won't be another like her.

Good dog, Lou.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Why am I sitting in my car for these pictures? Three reasons. First, I love my car and I don’t think it gets enough exposure in the media. I love you Volksie! Second, although I finished this sweater a month ago and I’ve worn it at least twice a week since, all through the holiday season, nobody has ever taken my picture in it. It’s a camera deflecting garment. It became clear to me that I’d have to take the pictures myself. Third, and most importantly, this sweater has some history. No staid, indoor photo shoot would do it justice.

I bought this yarn at an estate sale a few years ago. The recently departed must have been a fiber hoarder of exceptional skill. Daisy and I were disappointed when we pulled up to the house and saw people walking away with bulging lawn bags. “We’re too late!”

Turned out that we weren’t late at all. The entire yard was blanketed with tarps and boxes full of yarn of all weights, fibers and colors. We each ended up hauling away three bags of skeins, cones and half-finished projects. The woman’s daughter and her boyfriend were selling everything off so that they could afford to take care of their much-younger sister. They had no idea how much to charge for any of it. Daisy’s theory, most probably correct, is that the kids just wanted to be done with it, done with cleaning out their packrat mother’s house and the responsibilities she’d left them with, and they didn’t care if they made a fair amount of money. When I asked how much they wanted for my bags, the boyfriend said, “I dunno…thirty bucks?”

Knowing how much the nine skeins of Skye alone would cost if I paid the full US price for them, thirty bucks seemed like too much of a steal. “Look, I’ve got at least a hundred bucks worth of just one yarn at the bottom of one of the three bags. I don’t think the rest of it’s worth much, but I know how much that one yarn is worth, and I don’t want to rip you off. Can I give you $125 for the whole bunch?” I’m the worst bargainer ever. He seemed surprised, and he thanked me for my honesty, even making an exception and taking a personal check for payment. I hope those kids are O.K.

So the yarn had a story even before I started knitting with it.

I kept it in the stash, waiting for the perfect project to do justice to its provenance. Right after we moved into the new house and I saw how much yarn I really have, I gave up on thinking any of the yarn is too special to be used. I plucked it from the big bin, thumbed through my old issues of Interweave Knits, and a match was made.

This sweater got around, even before it was completed. I started it on the train to Tulare, and finished most of the back while waiting outside the Hanford Amtrak station. I knit the left half on the straight part of the road to Bass Lake for Thanksgiving. I knit the right half on the plane to Arizona for this year’s disaster recovery test. When I blocked the fronts and laid them out on towels at the hotel, I realized that I’d screwed up the right front completely, starting with the first cable cross above the ribbing. I undid the right front down to the top of the cable, dropped the cable stitches all the way down to the bottom inch of the sweater, then spent at least a couple of hours working them back up. It was still faster than reknitting the whole front. I knit one of the sleeves during the DR test, because my part of the test is about ten minutes of actual work. I seamed the body on my last night in Scottsdale.

I started the other sleeve while sitting in line at the airport. I haven’t talked much about my air travel adventure, because I’m not sure how much I’m supposed to say about it. Let’s just say that one of my coworkers isn’t a good flyer. Let’s further say that tranquilizers might have helped the situation, as they apparently did on the flight to Phoenix, but that said coworker had already taken all of them before that first flight, leaving none for the flight home. Let’s also say that telling the 109 other passengers on the plane that your manager a motherf$%ker and trying to get your coworkers to hit you so that the plane won’t take off isn’t the best way to gain sympathy for your panic attack. Neither is trying to open the door of the plane. Guess what else doesn’t work? Kicking the cockpit door so hard that things start falling off shelves in the forward galley. Finally, let’s conclude by saying that this kind of thing results in a lot of paperwork, as several local and federal agencies have to get involved to take reports on the incident. We sat at the gate for three hours. I got a lot of knitting done, in between defending wacky coworker’s manager to the other passengers and eating peanuts. (“Did his boss really say he’d be fired if he didn’t get on the plane?” “No, nothing of the sort. His boss is probably the kindest man on this plane. He offered to pay for the rental if the guy wanted to drive back to California.” “So he’s NOT a motherf$%ker?” "No, nice little lady sitting next to me, he's most definitely not a motherf$%ker.")

Exhausted from all of November’s travel excitement, the sweater and I spent the first week of December recuperating at home. I finished the neck and sewed in the arms while sitting on my couch, watching ‘Perry Mason’.

Details Section

Sienna Cardigan from Interweave Knits – Fall 2006

Yarn and Notions
Colinette Skye in ‘Claret’. No idea how long ago this yarn was dyed, but it’s a color that isn’t produced anymore, and it’s dye lot 001. By my calculations, I used a little more than 700 yards.

I bought the buttons at JoAnn’s. When I started the sweater, they were exactly what I had in mind. I thought I’d have to wait, to put so-so buttons on until I got a chance to go to Britex or look for them at Stitches, but I wandered in to the fabric store and there they were, just enough of them on the rack for my needs. I think they cost about four bucks total.

Brittany Birch size 7, and a Clover circular needle, also a 7.

Small. It was too small when I finished it and put it on for the first time, but it fit perfectly after a couple of hours of wear. Hooray! I finally learned my lesson! Knit just a tad small, because wool stretches. You’d think I’d have known that before now, but you’d be wrong. I have a closet full of sweaters that are a half size too big because I knit them to fit right off of the needles.

I started it early in November, and I finished knitting it in early December. I took a break in there to knit the two-tone shrug, then came back and finished this one on December 11th.

I wanted the sleeves to match the body, so I gave them about three inches of ribbing.

Because my yarn is pure wool rather than an alpaca blend, the sweater has a different drape. This, along with my aversion to making a sweater that would accentuate my love handles by poofing out above the ribbing, lead me to add waist shaping. I did the standard decrease every six rows five times, increase every eight rows five times thing. Yes, it still looks like the sweater is accentuating my love handles, but it's not. When laid flat, the body of the sweater curves in elegantly from the ribbing to the waist. The love handles are doing the accentuating work all on their own. Yeah, yeah. I'm working on it, alright?

Finally, I don’t know why I thought the neckline shaping should happen after a full repeat of the chart, not in the middle of it, but that’s what I did. That, combined with a couple of cable repeats that were a bit longer than they should have been, lead to the neckline being much higher than the original pattern. I had to do some guesswork to make it up to the shoulder bindoff with the right amount of stitches.

I love this sweater. Like I said above, I’ve worn it at least a dozen times. I think Accountant Boy must be sick of seeing it by now.

I adore the collar, and how it stands up so cleverly with just a couple of increases at each side of the nape. The picot edge isn’t even really a picot edge – it’s just smartly planned bind offs at each edge.

When I picked the yarn out of the bin, and picked the pattern, I wasn’t especially excited about the project. It was a throwaway project, something I was going to do just to say that I’d gotten something done, something I could work on while traveling. I felt that way about it when I finished it, when I first tried it on, and for the first couple of hours that I wore it. “It’s kind of…it makes me look broad…it’ll probably end up sitting in my closet…at least it’s finished…” Then I caught sight of it in a mirror, and I fell in love with it. Sometimes that happens.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Simple Joy

It's no secret to those who know me that I get too wrapped up in things. I feel as though I think about everything all of the time.

Here's a good example. I've purchased a large salmon filet for tonight's dinner. It's sitting in the refrigerator here at work. Every few minutes, I stop and think to myself, "Remember that there's salmon in the fridge!" I'd write a sticky note to myself about it, but that would lead me down the slippery slope of office supply procurement, and then I would find myself doing a rough count of the number of sheets of sticky note paper still on each of my two little pads, wondering if I should waste a note on something so simple as remembering to take dinner home. And what happens if and when I get the salmon home? We still haven't purchased a vent hood for our range, and the aroma from dinner two nights ago is still lingering in our bedroom as a result. What happens if I cook the fish and the whole house smells? I then start thinking about adding a vent hood to the kitchen, how much it will cost, how much it would cost to redo the entire kitchen, whether we should do that before replacing the inefficient windows, and how we're going to refinance both houses in order to be able to do any of this. I then start panicking about our financial situation. Maybe we shouldn't have moved. We were happy enough in our old house. Now, Daisy and Falstaff are happy in our old house. I need to get over there and clean up the yard and spray the peach tree with fungicide. I should put that on a note or a list.

All of that from a lovely salmon filet.

I'm trying to change this about myself, trying to remember that not everything has to be thought out in intricate detail. Sometimes it's good enough to let things be simple.

Lucy has this down. Lucy has very few wants. She loves food, she loves her bone, she loves being inside, and she loves us. We give her only those four things, and she's happy. We've tried over the course of her years with us to give her more. We tried to give her a nice yard, but she didn't much care for it. She wants to be in the house. We tried to teach her to play ball, but she'd only ever chase it a few times, then bring it back and lay at our feet. She wants to be with us, not running away from us to chase a ball. We tried to give her more elaborate, less tooth-wearing toys, but she'd ignore them in favor of frantically searching for her bone. In short, if we feed her and then let her inside to sit next to us and chew on her bone, she's good. She wants nothing more. She has no ulterior motives, no plans or schemes. She is simply happy.

The other day, while Accountant Boy was online looking at cars, I had an urge to knit and nothing in particular on the needles. I'd swatched for a sweater, but then I was going to have to find the pattern, and adjust for some differences in gauge, and then what if I didn't have the right circular needles, and...too much stress. Wasn't knitting fun for me at one point? When did it become another thing to worry over?

I wandered into the garage and opened one of the stash bins, the bin that has all of the single skeins. I thought about how I needed to reorganize all of the bins, and that thought sent me spinning down the path of reorganizing the whole garage, even though it was near midnight and below freezing. "No! Just stick your hand in and pick one!" I said to myself. I came up with a skein of Berroco Chinchilla Colors in 'Tuscany'. I'd bought it, along with other yarn that I don't exactly remember, from Webs. I only had the one skein, and it was probably four years old. There wouldn't be more of it. I stood there with it in my hand, debating between using it and waiting until I had the right yarn for the body of a sweater so that I could use the Chinchilla for the collar, even though I have no thoughts of wanting a multicolored faux-fur collared sweater.

I shook myself out of my daze of thoughts and left the garage. I plucked a pair of size 13 needles out of the pretty jar that Daisy gave to me a couple of years ago. I sat cross-legged on the chaise with my one ball of yarn and my big needles. After a couple of test cast-ons to see how wide my scarf would be, I started knitting.

It was soothing, the sound of the wooden needles tapping together, the rhythmic sweeping as they slid past each other. I watched with interest as the colors linked together from row to row. I kept stopping to tug on the material to see how it was going to look, and grinning gleefully at the plush furrows. It was only ten stitches wide. There was no way to mess it up, no pattern to follow, no deadline for completion. It was just fun. I'd forgotten how much fun it could be.

I don't know how long it took to finish, maybe two or three hours. By the time we left the house the next day, I was wearing it.

It's stretched quite a bit, making it much narrower and quite a bit longer than I'd thought it would be. I don't care. I wrap it around my neck three or four times and wear it anyway. Marvel at how good it looks with my abstract Korean art.

Feeling inspired by my new outlook on knitting, I went back into the bins and came up with four balls of sock yarn from Interlacements. According to Clayton, there wasn't enough twist for it to be used for socks. I bought it two Stitches ago, intending to make a Clapotis from it. Then I threw it in the stash and kept coming up with impractical alternatives involving doubling it with a solid sock yarn and making a sweater from it.

The Hell with that noise. It's time for that yarn to be something other than a complicated thought in my head. It's coming along nicely, I think.

I'm not making formal resolutions this year, because they'd only end up as more worries on my mind. I'm simply going to try to follow my little mantra. Less thinking, more doing. Less planning, more living.