Posts for : May 2015

Pro Tip 0

When you’ve been sitting at your computer working all day, and you aren’t anywhere close to being done, and you feel yourself starting to hyperventilate, look down.*

Potion

*Snoozing dog and fun striped sock-in-progress recommended for best results.

Freelance Woes And Other Tales Of Self Pity 0

I just looked up “slammed” in the dictionary to see how accurately it defined my current situation. Of the traditional definitions, I think “push or put somewhere with great force” comes the closest. Let’s try it in a sentence: “Pounded mercilessly into the fetid corner of forty-seven zillion deadlines, the freelancer was slammed by work.” That sounds about right.

Despite the title of this post, that’s really my only tale of woe at the moment. Being out of town for several days and then allowing myself to be seduced into idleness by the beautiful weather after I got back has put me in a bit of a bind workwise. But it will be better, one way or another, by Monday. I didn’t want to go that long without posting, though, so here are a few pics to fill the gap.

This first one is from Tuesday. I was knitting on the Pi Shawl and waiting for the blonde to happen.

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The picture below is from today. In the midst of the work craziness, I had to take a short knitting break. I cast on a pair of toe-up socks in the first installment of yarn from the String Theory Colorworks Sock Club.

Did I mention that I joined a sock club (or two) during my last work nightmare? The cute bag makes me very happy, as does the funky self-striping yarn with the complementary heel and toe color. The yarn base is called “Inertia.” It’s an 80/20 blend of  Merino and Nylon. I think I’m really going to like the way it knits up.

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And finally, since we haven’t had any kitty pics lately, here is an especially handsome kitty foot.

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And here is the whole handsome kitty.

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Be well, my friends. And knit on!

Memorial Day 2

This Memorial Day we watched Born on the Fourth of July. I’d never seen it. The film is based on Ron Kovic’s autobiography of the same name, and it was sobering—not enjoyable but important. Many of my students are in the service, and sometimes they write about the friends they’ve lost. It keeps me very much aware that Memorial Day isn’t only about the past.

I should have worked today, but I didn’t, much. Instead, I took in the beautiful weather. I went to yoga. I finished the stripey socks.

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I made bread.

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I felt grateful to be here, living the life I live, and I spent time thinking about what others have done to make this life possible. 

Here Now. 1

Present

So it turns out that the up side of the weighty heart-fullness I was feeling earlier this week was the joy I got to experience this weekend.  The wedding that occasioned The Wedding Afghan happened, and it was everything you’d ever want a wedding to be. It was like the giant wheels of the world stopped spinning for a minute and let a little group of people be absolutely happy.

The tank is full. I know that all of us who were there this weekend will ride for miles and miles on the love. The bride—my oldest and dearest friend—was radiant. You hear people describe a glowing bride, and sometimes the words are just the ones it seems appropriate to say. Not this time. J was shining–gorgeous and happy and channeling some kind of crazy amazing energy that affected everyone there. And her groom was the person she deserves, someone so right I had to keep pinching myself to make sure it was all real and that he wasn’t just someone I’d dreamed for her.

J and J

My own wedding is one of my happiest memories. I married the love of my life, on a splendid day, surrounded and affirmed by people dear to my heart. Despite this, I realize I’ve continued to side with Shakespeare on the happy ending front. His weddings are always peppered with subtle indications that the happily-ever-afters they announce are up for grabs. And when has Shakespeare ever been wrong about human nature? This weekend’s wedding has made me rethink my skepticism, though.

J and Boys

Maybe, I’ve been missing something. Maybe when the bride and groom are right for each other and the people gathered to help them formally mark the start of their life together believe in and love them, maybe then the motions we go through to signal the occasion are more than motions. 

The Committee

Maybe our standing up for our friends and raising a glass and dancing late into the night to celebrate with them really are the magic they seemed to be this weekend . . .

That I was able to give J and J the afghan I knit for them, something with blessings and good energy in every stitch, meant a lot to me. I hope they feel the love every time they snuggle under it.

Unwrapping

As for trip knitting, the Pi Shawl got some: 

Pi Shawl in car

Pi Shawl in hotel

And the second stripey sock:

Stripey Sock 2 in car

And what about the dog? There has to be a dog, right?

This precious girl took care of that:

Foxy Brown

 

 

Here . . . 3

With today’s post I just want to say that I am here. I can’t think of anything particularly interesting or funny or useful to say except that I’m reminded by Jean Miles how much it means to just carry on. The longer I live the more I’m convinced that life is a funny, strange, horrible, wonderful thing that defies bottom lines. On this day, my heart is full. I exult with loved ones marking joyous new beginnings, I ache with people dear to my heart who are bravely trying to manage what might be the end, and I feel, all the way to my bones, for those deep in the middle of the middle.

And I knit. 

The Pi Shawl:

 

Pi Shawl Cast On 3

 

The second stripey sock:

 

Sock w Lunch

 

Cece:

 

Cece LoFi

 

Not pictured is the glass of wine I’m having at 3pm. Yes, it’s like that.

 

Sunday 3

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The wedding afghan is off the needles, and I proclaim it a good knit. It was interesting without requiring a lot of concentration, and I like the finished blanket. And even though I used a wool/acrylic blend (I worry about gifting 100% wool for something that might require regular washing), the feel of it is very nice, kind of heavy and drapey. Plus, I got to try out a new technique for joining yarn—the magic knot. I’ve been searching for a good way to join slicker yarns, and a knitting friend suggested I try this method. It’s perfect! The join is very secure and hardly noticeable at all. Here’s a video that shows how to do it. I can’t wait to use it the next time I’m doing colorwork because it completely eliminates the need to weave in ends!

 

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In other news, I made a second galette. It turned out much prettier than the first and just as tasty. I think I’m hooked.

 

Galette No 2

 

And during the day today, I sat outside on the porch and worked on work and the second stripey sock. It seemed like a fair arrangement, and I was certainly a happier worker than I would have been sans stripey sock.

 

Sunday Work

 

The next thing I need to decide on the knitting front is what to start as a travel project. We’ll be in the car for half a day going to and from the upcoming wedding. I’m considering the Pi Shawl (which I’ve wanted to knit forevahhhh) in some gorgeous unspun Icelandic, Citron in Malabrigo Lace in the “Amor Intenso” colorway, and the Churchmouse Easy Folded Poncho in Rowan Felted Tweed in “Maritime.” I’ve got the yarn for all of these so just need to decide which will complement CeCe to make the best travel combo. I actually cast on for CeCe on Friday night. Woohooo!

The other thing I did this weekend was finish listening to the audiobook version of A Deadly Wandering: A Tale of Tragedy and Redemption in the Age of Attention. The book is by Matt Richtel, who won a Pulitzer for the reporting he did on distracted driving, and I think it’s an absolutely essential read. It explains recent findings in neuroscience that are in the same league as what Laurance Gonzales presents in terms of scope and impact. The fascinating bottom line is that our ability to pay attention is not unlimited. Who knew???

Research is showing that no matter how smart you are or how hard you try, if you are human, you simply cannot pay attention to two things at once. You can go back and forth, but as Richtel shows, that is not at all the same thing. The anchor for the book is the story of Reggie Shaw, a 19-year-old whose texting while driving resulted in a wreck that killed two rocket scientists. In telling Reggie’s story, the book covers the science of attention going all the way back to World War II and stretching forward up to the moment the book was published in 2014. It’s a great read, and it reveals things about the way the brain works that blew me away.

And last but not least, weekend news revealed this. Whew!

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I finally have pictures of my 28thirty cardigan to share! This was a lot of fun to knit. I copied Barefoot Rooster’s version exactly in terms of the yarn choice and button color, and I love the outcome! My only slight reservation is that the finished sweater is a little bigger than I was hoping. I think it’ll be fine in cooler weather over other things, but it would have been nice if had ended up slightly more fitted. 

28thirty 1

 

28thirty 4

 

28thirty 6

The yarn is Peace Fleece Worsted in the Grass Roots colorway, and I used just over five skeins. It felt a little coarse as I was handling it during the knitting, but it bloomed and softened nicely with soaking.

I made a couple of modifications to the original pattern. A lot of people on Ravelry mentioned that the sleeves were coming out too big, so instead of following the pattern directions for sleeve shaping, I just kept decreasing every purl round until I hit 43 stitches. That seems to have done the trick because the sleeves fit well. My other mod was making this hip length rather than cropped. Much more my style.

And here’s my other Barefoot Rooster find—this butternut squash and caramelized onion galette. It’s from the Smitten Kitchen blog which Barefoot Rooster cooks from a lot. Mine isn’t anywhere close to being as pretty as hers or Smitten Kitchen’s, but it was reeeeeeally tasty! The dark parts are purple onions. This is definitely going into the dinner rotation. Or I might try this burst tomato version. Mmmm!

Galette 2 border

 

The Frog And The Rat 4

Surviving Survival 2

One of the most amazing things about reading happens when you come upon a passage that puts into words one of your personal truths. You know those times? When things you know in your bones but have never had the language to articulate are suddenly there on the page?

When you find a book that gives you these words and that also teaches you something more—well, that’s a rare thing. I’ve been reading such a book. It’s Surviving Survival: The Art and Science of Resilience, by Laurence Gonzales. I’m telling you this right now, today, because I’m afraid if I don’t, I might end up so overwhelmed by the whole experience that I won’t post about it at all.

I have no doubt that I’ll be thinking about this book for the rest of my life. I want to read it over and over. I want to copy down every word by hand to help it stick in my brain. I want everyone I know and love to read it so we can talk about it. I want to stop everything and study neuroscience so I can learn more about the things the author describes. I want to meet all the people he interviews and ask them questions.

Some of the ideas at the center of this book are things I’ve talked about before. They have to do with how activities like knitting affect the brain. This is a popular topic lately. It seems like every week there’s a new article encouraging people to knit to improve their health and happiness. Most of these articles are vague about exactly how the helping occurs, though. What Gonzales does is explain in detail some of the research that shows what goes on in our brains when we do certain things and why doing these  things (knitting, walking, writing, traveling . . . ) becomes the vessel that can carry people forward when trauma (or a neurological imbalance) turns their world upside down. His examples are of people who have survived extreme trauma, who have had near-death experiences like being attacked by a shark or terrorized by a lunatic or living through a shipwreck, but the conclusions have implications for everyone.

One of the main things I’ve gotten from the book is a sense of how much of what we feel and do is determined beyond conscious thought. It appears that to understand how resilience works, you have to acknowledge this.

Despite my best efforts to go with the flow and follow my intuition and let the spirit move me, I want to think my way through everything. Not understanding why something has the effects it does is a real hurdle for me. I’m comfortable when things make logical sense. I like to be in the know. As I’ve begun to get more and more out of knitting (and spinning) over the last years, I’ve thought and thought about this, about how hard it is for me to just accept that something helps and go with it without understanding what’s going on behind the curtain. Sometimes I wonder if this goes back to the fact that my brain has taken me so many of the places I’ve really wanted to go. I’m not used to doing things just because. Thinking and reasoning have saved me, and my impulse is still, always, to dance with the ones who brung me. This – despite the fact that knitting saves me too, every day.

Reading this book has changed my perspective. Gonzales has convinced me, “How much more we know than we can ever know we know.”

I can imagine that this all seems pretty sketchy, but the book is not sketchy. It’s very specific, and that’s what makes it so compelling. Gonzales talks about what scientists call the brain’s “rage” and “seeking” pathways; he talks about the amygdala and the striatum, the hippocampus, mirror neurons, and the hypnagogic state. He looks at the role the primitive parts of the brain play in who we are and what we do. He explains that we have a “triune brain,” sort of like a three-scoop ice cream cone. The first small scoop is our reptile (or frog) brain; the second bigger scoop is similar to what mammals like dogs and cats and rats have; and the third scoop is our huge human neocortex. And while a lot of us tend to think of ourselves as operating almost exclusively from the third scoop, we don’t! The frog brain and the rat brain are seriously involved in almost everything we do.

To explain this, Gonzales gives an example. We have the same midbrain visual system that a frog has. We don’t use it for seeing, only for orienting ourselves in the right direction. However, people who have gone blind because of a brain injury, whose eyes themselves are undamaged, are able to pinpoint a light in a darkened room even though they aren’t aware of being able to detect light through their eyes. Their ability to accurately point out the light comes from the frog brain. It still works even though our conscious mind isn’t aware of processing visual input. Gonzales follows this example by saying: “So here is why we are tormented in the aftermath of trauma. Because we have a frog and a rat in our brain. But that is also one reason we have a sixth sense. The frog and the rat are always watching out for us.”

To make sense of why the frog and the rat torment us AND can save us, you must read this book. I can’t do the full explanation justice, but it is life changing. Gonzales explains clearly and eloquently the role the frog and the rat play in our lives and how something like knitting can quite literally save a life.

Surviving Survival

Checking In 2

It’s been several days since I posted, so I just wanted to check in and say hi. Here are a few pics to give you an idea of what I’ve been up to. I cast on the second of my purple and red stripey socks while having lunch at the local diner.

Diner Cast On

Progress has been happening on the wedding afghan.

Wedding Afghan

Rudimentary bean tower for foot-long beans has been erected, and beans and other seedlings are in the ground.

Bean Tower

Last night we had dinner at a restaurant near the Appalachian Trail. It’s a combination hostel, restaurant, hiker refuel station.  Every Friday and Saturday night during the summer they have fried catfish. The restaurant has recently opened for the season, so this was the 2015 inaugural dinner. I knitted while we waited for our food.

Dinner Knitting

And this sweetie spent the night hitting us up for wayward french fries. Code adherence is spotty out here. And I’m okay with that.

Baby 2

More soon. Thanks for stopping by!

Cinco de Mayo 2

See these feet? They belong to my wonderful dad. And they’re wearing hand knit socks. We went to dinner tonight, and I just happened to notice as he was getting out of the car that he was wearing these. I knit them for him for Christmas a few years ago. If it weren’t for my eagle eye for hand knits, I’d never have known. He was wearing them just because he wanted to wear them. This makes me happier than I can say.

Daddy Socks

And since I’m here, how about a picture of a squash blossom?

Squash Blossom

Happy Cinco de Mayo, my friends! And happy knitting!