Monday, December 29, 2008

Distractions

The past week has been a blur, from the mid-blizzard arrival of my family from CA to figuring out how to remove glued-on play dough from the carpet. We made cookies from scratch, a phrase I had to explain to my 8-year old niece who thinks making cookies means opening a package and slicing. We made all sorts of crafts, including one bikini-clad felt snowman (courtesy of my 6-year old niece). There was one birthday party at a roller rink, which caused me to have my own middle-school flashbacks as I watched my nephew goof off with his friends, while he kept one eye on the pretty girl with long black hair and big brown eyes that he secretly admires. And there was a long visit with S., which I enjoyed immensely - not the least of which because I finally got to hear some of his new music (which, by the way, is fantastic).

There was no writing to speak of, but much thinking and conversation about art and all of its various forms. Some of this has been spurred by my friend K.’s recent gallery show, and her “tagging” me to do the same with my own little art quilts. Tempting. I mean, really tempting, and S.’s encouragement (insistence, really) that this is something I should at least try…well, it’s hard to say no. And it’s not like it requires investment, beyond the time and possible framing of the pieces; I have enough fabric to last YEARS and a sewing machine (although most of what I do is by hand). Driving home, I convinced myself that this was in fact something worth doing, and even if I fail I’ll at least have a stack of Christmas gifts to give people for the next few years.

And so, giddy with thoughts of becoming an Artist, I curled up with my stack of Quilting Arts magazines last night…and promptly got discouraged. An all too familiar feeling, my friends, and my giddiness quickly evaporated into thoughts of “who do I think I am, anyway?!”. *sigh* I think the antidote to this is another few glue-and-scissors sessions with my 6-year old niece, who attacks her art projects with a fascinating combination of determination, planning, and utter gleeful abandon (“look what I made!”). There are mishaps (like the aforementioned play dough and glue fiasco), but she’s never really troubled by them - scotch tape can work miracles, and if all else fails there’s always something else to be made.

Regardless, I worry this is yet another distraction from writing. As my knitting continues unabated, and my dad’s offer of borrowing his guitar entices me, the last thing I need is another distraction, another sucker-of-time away from sticking my butt in the chair and writing. Which, by the way, is exactly what I must sign off to do!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Only God Is Perfect (or, what NOT to do when knitting a scarf)

This summer I bought two skeins of a nice wool/alpaca/silk blend of Auracania yarn to make a scarf. I've used Auracania before, and it's a little tricky because there are no dye lots and so the same color yarn can be, well, not the same color! You are supposed to knit from two skeins at a time to help blend, but at the time I didn't know how to do this (I have since learned via knitting my Noro scarf, and of course it's hardly rocket science). But in my typical "oh, screw it and let's see what happens" fashion, I just cast on with one skein, and then when that ran out I added the other one. And, as you can see, it was VASTLY different than the first - much more blue than purple! So, I knit half the scarf length on one end, then picked up and knit on the other end. Honestly, when it's wound around my neck you can't really tell...or at least, that's what people are saying to me when I point it out (all non-knitters, though...you know a knitter would grimace!). By all rights, I should rip it out and reknit it, but I have utterly no intentions of doing so, if for no other reason than it is incredibly warm and I wear it too much to not have it for a few days.

And Then There Was Knitting...

These are making me very happy right now, even if they are already getting fuzzy...the ribbing on the cuffs was done in a knit-one-through-the-back / purl pattern that looks really neat up close. And they are WAY warmer than the old store-bought gloves I was wearing!


Still on the needles? Three (different) socks; a Noro striped scarf (my first use of Noro and honestly? not loving it); plus a sweater and an afghan. Startitis? Me? Ha! And so I dragged out an old quilt top that I found and started quilting it...I had a little help:

Monday, December 8, 2008

Darkness and Light

Winter is nearly upon us, something I have been anticipating since September. As in years past, I spent the entire fall season moping about, mourning the departure of evening sunshine and dreading the November sunsets at 4:30 pm. Once the winter solstice kicks in on December 21st (give or take a day), the days start inching towards the light and I begin to feel the faintest twinges of relief. Each extra second of light is anticipated and appreciated.

In the Christian tradition, the season of Advent is all about a similar anticipation – in this case, the spiritual “light” embodied in the birth of the Christ child. Mostly all I remember from Sunday school (other than the cold wooden church pews…) are my feeble attempts at singing harmony in the choir and getting to light the Advent candles, adding one each week. It all culminated in a Christmas Eve service, with the church packed to the rafters and the lights dimmed, all of us holding tiny white candles and singing “Silent Night” and “Let Their Be Peace On Earth”. Afterwards we would all walk outside, with the stars above blazing in the freezing cold air as the snow scrunched below our feet. It was the one time of year that I went to church and actually felt like I’d had some semblance of a religious experience. Whether it was the service or the singing or the brightness of the stars, I felt part of something bigger, something meaningful; the world seem to get quiet and just, for a tiny spec of time, stop turning.

One of my favorite songs as a child was “This Little Light Of Mine” (I’m gonna let it shine…let it shine…let it shine). Unlike many of my peers, I had utterly no qualms about standing up in front of the congregation and singing loudly (if, um, slightly off key). Those Christmas Eve candles always made me think of this song - each of us carrying a representation of the light that resides within us. Many years later, while living in Memphis, I attended a fabulous church where, one day, the minister delivered a sermon on the concept of “Imago Dei”, quoting "This Little Light Of Mine" as a metaphor for how the light of God resides in all of us. She went on to say that really, this light represents all of our potential, and suggested that perhaps not reaching that potential or settling for second best is really the worst sin of all.

While I'm not the most religious person, I do go through phases of wanting God in my life - usually when things are completely falling apart, and prayers sound more like wish lists than divine communications. Lately I've been feeling like my light has been flickering, possibly even extinguished altogether, and that not only am I not living up to my potential, I don't even know what my potential is. God hasn’t really been all that present, despite all the praying I’ve done, and I’ve watched not just myself but people I dearly care for struggle with their own dark times.

And so, even though I am entering the Advent season with a lack of faith I find disturbing (paraphrasing Darth Vader there...), I want to believe that faith begins in these dark times, when there is nothing to hold onto but the promise of light. I want capital-F Faith under my tree this year, dammit!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

November: The Cruelest Month?

The past few weeks have flown by with nary a comment from me. It's not that I've been busy, exactly, but absorbed with hating fall. This entails spending as much time as possible indoors, sniffling and trailing tissues (allergies), lying in bed watching awful romantic comedies on DVD, knitting purple things (mittens at the moment), and agonizing over what to buy my impossible-to-buy-for family members for Christmas. And no, unfortunately, none of them really want hand-knits.

I have not been writing. I have not been writing here, I have not been writing in my journals, I have not been writing essays or short stories or even the novel that I have percolating in the back of my brain (which, every time I try to put something on paper, refuses to cooperate and sounds like something my six-year old niece wrote). I have been knitting, and there would be pictures if I could remember to buy batteries for my camera. That's the other problem I have with fall, my brain stops working. It's like I get seasonal adult ADD; I can't pay attention to anything for more than a few minutes.

But there is one finished pair of socks and a finished scarf to kind of/sort of match the hat I made last winter. There is also one pair of socks that is 1 and 1/2 done (meaning, one sock is finished and the other is half done), and another that is 1/2 done (meaning, half of one sock). I also bought yarn yesterday to make myself some mittens, which will kind of/sort of match the hat and scarf...but not really. I really wanted to make mittens out of my leftover yarn from the hat/scarf, as it is alpaca and Lord knows my fondness for alpaca, but a) there wasn't quiiiiiite enough left; b) I can't find the yarn anywhere online, making me think it's been discontinued (or someone is hoarding it in her closet...); c) the yarn was too thick for the pattern I had, and no matter what I did I couldn't get gauge (my first attempt at mittens taught me that, unlike scarves and to some extent hats, gauge with mittens really, really matters).

In the midst of all of this knitting, I dragged out the scale and discovered I've gained 20 pounds since leaving NYC. It's the sort of thing where I have to laugh, because I really want to cry. I am so SICK of gaining weight, and then fighting to lose it. Ugh. This is clearly my Cross to Bear. *sigh* The worst part is, I have a physical in three weeks, so the lecture I was anticipating will be that much worse if I can't peel off some weight between now and then. If I could only figure out how to knit while walking on the treadmill...

Friday, November 7, 2008

Week to Week End

This started out a FABULOUS week, and I sat up until 1 am listening to Obama's speech. What an absolute TREAT to now have a President who sounds....presidential.

And then things took a turn. Miss Earline, a woman who worked for me years ago, passed away suddenly. Earline was a right piece of work...we always used to say there was a story there with her, but she wasn't giving it up. And honestly one of the best-hearted people - I remember how she loved to hear stories about my nieces and nephew as well as my crazy grandmother (who had a fair amount in common with Earline, truth be told).

And then a dear friend had the rug ripped out from underneath him, and I so desperately want to make it all better...is that being a good friend or is that my Little Miss Fix-It compulsion surfacing? Either way, it is a cruel reminder that Life Is Not Fair and we should all get do-overs.

And now it is Friday, and I am so tired I can barely stand up. I will consider this weekend successful if I clean the bathroom, finish knitting a sock, and watch the episodes of Weeds that turned up in my mailbox via Netflix. I would also like to get the cat to stop LICKING THE VACUUM CLEANER (I swear, this cat....) but I'm not holding my breath.

Addendum: Just discovered that Netflix sent the complete third season of RESCUE ME, not the third season of Weeds. Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Yarn, Trolls, and a Bit of a Tingle...

On Saturday morning, I threw on jeans and a sweater, stuffed my hair into a ponytail, and ran out the door to the post office. I intended to come straight home, but something happened to me as I exited the post office parking lot. As if I had suddenly fallen under alien mind control, the car turned left instead of right. The next thing I knew I was two towns away at a yarn store, holding a huge bag of purple yarn and wondering what had happened.

I had been fighting the urge to buy yarn for weeks. It was constantly on my mind; every free moment I thought about buying it. My lunch hours were torture, as I weighed the necessity of eating versus the twenty minute walk to the yarn store near my office. I have a very small yarn stash but a stash nonetheless; I told myself I had to finish one project before I bought any more yarn. And I fought the urge hard: I had even managed to take two trips to NYC with its plethora of amazing yarn stores and not buy a single yarn-related item.

I am not one known for stifling my cravings; rather, I choose to appease them. Most people (particularly my dentist) would argue that my daily package of M&Ms is unhealthy and unnecessary, but without that daily fix I will systematically eat my way through an entire one-pound bag at one sitting, making myself sick. And then turn to whatever all else I may have handy.

Apparently, I’m the same way with yarn. After suppressing the desire to buy new yarn, it apparently had all built up inside me and was ready to be let loose. Slightly dazed from finding myself there to begin with, I walked into the store thinking I’d just buy one skein of sock yarn to take the edge off. The yarn equivalent of a package of M&M’s, if you will. Then I spied this marvelous sample sweater hanging against the wall in a beautiful wool/alpaca blend. I kept coming back to it, fingering the cuff. I finally consented to look for the pattern, just to dissuade myself; I was sure that it was much too complicated for my ability. While I have been knitting for years, I have never attempted an adult sweater, let alone something intricately patterned.

After some rummaging through a couple of pattern racks, I found it. It was just as beautiful in the picture.

Enter stage left, the sales lady. “Isn’t that a fabulous pattern?” she said. “And that yarn is so great, you’ll be surprised to see how fast it knits up”. I expressed to her my concerns about my knitting abilities, and she reassured me it wasn’t too difficult. I read the pattern and I saw that indeed, it was simply knits, purls, yarn-overs, and knit 2 together, skills I had mastered long ago. The sales lady cautioned me that it would be an expensive undertaking; the yarn would cost $80. This gave me only the tiniest of pauses as I quickly balanced my checkbook in my head. I didn’t need this yarn, and for $80 I could buy two or three sweaters. Or, y’know, a weeks worth of groceries. But it was utterly no use; the minute I saw that sample I was a goner.

I heaped 9 skeins of the yarn into my arms and carried it to the counter. I had never bought this much yarn at one time. It’s a lovely dusky purple, which the manufacturer calls “Troll”. I ponder this, wondering if trolls are purple in Peru, where the yarn originated. I thought to myself, I better really like this yarn. For good measure, I bought another skein of sock yarn too.

The minute I got home I wound a ball of the purple yarn and cast on, in utter disregard to the afghan and two (different) socks I already had started. The yarn is amazingly soft and supple. I knit well into the night, only to wake in the morning and realize something was wrong. I had followed the directions to the letter and I was not getting anything close to the pattern. I mused. I cursed. I counted. I cursed some more. Finally I hit the Internet and within thirty seconds got confirmation: the pattern was wrong.

Oddly, this made me feel giddy with brainpower; I knew something was wrong and the solution was exactly what I had suspected! I'm a REAL knitter after all!!! I ripped it out and began again with a vengeance. Twelve hours later, I had this (albeit not even a close approximation to the actual color...):


Plus some strange tingling in my hands and forearms, but I’m sure that will subside…

Monday, October 13, 2008

Artistic Dilemmas

There's this little thing called "second sock syndrome", which is when you triumphantly finish knitting a sock and then immediately realize, oh $#!*, I have to knit a whole other one just like this. And if you don't start the second sock pronto, you probably never will.

I had this feeling today after completing the most complicated sock pattern I've attempted thus far, in yarn that I am afraid that I will run out of midway through the second sock. I love the yarn, and I love the pattern, but I don't really love the two combined; the yarn wound up striping in a manner that I did not anticipate, and I think it detracts from the design pattern:


By all rights, I should have ripped it out but I just didn't have the heart. All those hours...which just proves I am a process knitter (I knit because I like to knit) and not a product knitter (I knit because I want some concrete result). And I'll wear them, assuming I ever finish the second sock...it's just that striping is bugging me...

On another note, I bought the new Sarah McLachlan compilation album yesterday. Driving home I listened to the two new tracks on it, and started thinking, "oh my gosh, is she getting divorced????". And, sadly, with a bit of Googling it appears that she did indeed separate from her husband. Celebrity gossip aside, what I find fascinating about this is how brutally honest the lyrics are, and I think wow, that's really brave to just put it all right out there. I think that real honesty is what makes great art. At the same time, I wonder how the soon-to-be ex-husband feels about these songs, and wonder if it's worth it in the end. I mean, they aren't "screw you, you bastard" songs, but they are revealing.

And I also think about the fact that her husband was also her drummer, and she's written all these songs about him, and then she's got to go on tour and sing them? It would be like having to read a page of your journal out loud to an audience...night after night. Maybe you'd get numb to it after awhile? I've written a number of fairly raw emotional essays, and the writing was extremely cathartic. Once written, though, I'm done, it's over - I have no interest in revisiting it (or revising it, for that matter). I don't know how anyone could get on stage and sing "you're the one true thing I know I can believe in" after it has become painfully clear that actually, you can't (or don't) believe in that person anymore. Or does it just become another song among many? I'd really like to know.

And now, I'm going to go eat some toast.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Random Sunday

1) Yesterday I took my parents to NYC. Neither had ever been, and we drove down to New Haven and took Metro North in. This is now my preferred (and least expensive) method of traveling to the Big Apple. We visited Ground Zero and rode the Staten Island Ferry, then roamed around Times Square and Rockefeller Center. We also visited the American Girl store. And then came home. Both were glad to have finally seen (a miniscule fraction of) the city, but neither is in any hurry to go back.
2) I am here to tell you that contrary to the rumors you've heard, our economy cannot possibly be in trouble. The American Girl store yesterday was a zoo; people were buying stuff left and right. It was crazy, I tell you. Crazy.
3) I'm over the Staten Island Ferry. Even if it is free.
4) I'm pleased at how well my dad held up;  I think the subway made him nervous, though to be fair we did seem to have a particularly crazed driver on the 1 train, who apparently subscribed to my grandmother's theory of driving: there are two speeds, fast and stop. Except, y'know, there are no seat belts on the subway.
5) Before my parents left, my mother cleaned out the sink and did the dishes as well as a load of laundry, and my dad swept the entire downstairs (it's a big house) AND gave me (yet another) lesson in how to put air in my tires (just for the record, and in my own defense, it helps when you have a tire gauge that actually works).
6) I was more than amused when my grandmother called my mother, demanding to know where the hell she was...it's exactly what my mother did to me last week.
7) I've spent the past couple of months watching "Monarch of the Glen", a BBC show about Scottish land owners (it sounds awful, but it's actually a great drama/comedy), and now I'm almost at the end. I need another good BBC show to get me through the winter...last year it was Ballykissangel. I've started in on "Hex", but I'm not really that into it. Suggestions welcome.

Monday, October 6, 2008

My Lack Of Faith Is Disturbing

I've been reading (and re-reading) the new book "Acedia" by Kathleen Norris, and I've pretty much decided that it's exactly what ails me. I haven't been particularly religious in a very long time, not since my Sunday School teacher confirmed the worst about Santa. Because it's not a very long leap for an 8-year old to wonder, well, if they're lying about Santa and the Easter Bunny, is all this God and Jesus stuff just a bunch of bunk too?

For quite some time, it has felt like God just stopped listening. Tim, one of my coworkers back in Memphis, often used to say that sometimes, God says no. I'm at the point where I don't even think he's saying no anymore. No matter what decisions I make based on what I believe to be "right" based on my Christian upbringing, whether it be moving into my sister's house out of a sense of family duty, or loving someone (however imperfectly I may communicate it) because of who he is, not because I need him to rescue me; well, it all just blows up in my face.

I wonder what the difference is between hope, faith, and wishing. I feel like there's a difference, however subtle, between the three, and it's too easy for me to confuse them. Sometimes "wishing" feels like faith, until the wish doesn't come true. Is that a test of faith? or is that simply not getting what you want? And what's the difference between not getting what you hope for and God saying no? Either way, I'm schlumping around the house in my pj's wondering how I managed to yet again get everything so completely wrong.

Or, to quote Stephen Schwartz, "Wishing only wounds the heart".**

Oddly, the cure for acedia is faith, which is the very thing that I am lacking. Norris writes (somewhere, I can't find the exact quote at the moment) that wanting something with our whole heart and soul, that desire, can help us out of acedia...but honestly, it seems to me the wanting is the problem. The more I want something, the less available it becomes. The Buddhists of course would argue that's exactly the trouble, and encourage me to practice letting go, to practice detachment. Every time I try to meditate, though, the cat comes along and yowls at me, or tries to use me as a scratching post, or decides that is the exact time of day he needs a good belly rub. Or, I fall asleep.

I wish I could be one of those people who could just leave it all up to God, to trust that it will all sort out in time. Whenever I try to listen for God, though, He seems just as perplexed as I am. I get the impression He doesn't quite know what to do with me either. Meanwhile, I'm left to dive the wreck*, looking for clues as to what I should do, where I should go next. I'm trying to be thankful for all that I have, and all that I am, but it just doesn't seem to be pointing me in a productive direction. I'm looking for some sort of gigantic sign post - TURN LEFT HERE, so to speak. I suppose we are all doing this to some extent, but I keep winding up at dead ends, wondering how the hell I could have thought I was headed in the right direction. It's like I got the wrong map or something, y'know???

And isn't a map essentially what religion is? Isn't it basically directions and guideposts telling you how to get from point A to point B? And theoretically, if you follow the map, you get where you want to go, right? And if it doesn't, is it operator error? or is it that the map got misprinted, or is just plain wrong (as someone who has gotten erroneous directions from MapQuest on more than one occasion, let me just say that maps are indeed fallible)? Or, is God saying nope, sorry, wrong exit. Which, y'know, is perfectly reasonable, but I think that if God is going to redirect traffic, he really ought to provide new directions.

*how I do love a good Adrienne Rich reference
**and a good "Wicked" reference.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Company

So A. & M. are here, and last night we went out to dinner with their friends K. & M., who have a one-year old son who was so cute that it's a good thing I am of sound mind and morals because otherwise, the kid would have gone home with me. Whenever I imagine having kids they are always girls, I presume because I am a girl and it's just easier to imagine, but I found myself thinking, "A boy would be just fine. Perfectly, totally fine". And then I started to think, wow, babies and cats have a lot in common. They must be fed. They must be played with. You must deal with their poop. And they sleep a lot.

On the other hand? you can leave a cat home all day by itself and no one will send you to jail for it.

The place where we had dinner is owned by the father of the kid who played Dewey on "Malcolm in the Middle". The dad was there last night and the resemblance is stark. And, let me just say, I would expect that if my kid got famous I would NOT still be running the family restaurant, but perhaps that just goes to show how naive I am.

This weekend: rain. And more rain. I have not been sleeping well the past few nights, and naps will be necessary. I am feeling horribly, horribly lonely, despite the good company, and craving things (and people) I cannot have (not that you can actually "have" a person, they aren't posessions, but you know what I mean). This too shall pass. I so dearly, fiercely hope.

Addendum: significantly perked up after french toast with A & M at Harry's Diner. Then I came home and cleaned out my purse, where I found a $10 bill buried at the bottom. That's half a skein of yarn!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Seriously?

About the time last night when Bush uttered the words, "The market is not working", I just about fell off my couch. He might have just as well have said, "We're taking over the airline industry because gravity has stopped working". I mean really, it's preposterous: the market is doing exactly what it's supposed to do when institutions make billions of dollars of loans their customers can't pay. There's nothing wrong with the market, there's something wrong with how these loans happened to be created in the first place. Which, by the way, was not the market's decision, but the decision of people in institutions who made some really bad calls, possibly out of greed.

I feel like I'm missing something, and I really wish I'd paid way more attention in those god-awful economics classes I had to take in college. Because I feel like things are really, really bad; bad in ways I cannot comprehend; and in some perverse way having Bush pre-empt David Blaine's latest stupid trick does not assuage me at all. It just makes me wonder, what don't I know?

And seriously? Go read the book "Half Asleep In Frog Pajamas" by Tom Robbins. I'm going to go find my old deck of Tarot cards and start counting frogs.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Cracking Eggs (Metaphorically Speaking)

S. said that I seem like I’m on the verge of something these days. I replied, “yeah, a nervous breakdown”. Ah, the demons are swirling around me, and I cannot seem to write them away. Or knit them away, either, although I am quite enamored with the newest sock on my needles. How I do love to turn a heel. And then all this talk of babies…I declared this a worry-free year, and yet I can feel the anxiety of turning 38 from seven months away. Can’t wait to see what sort of shape I’m in come May.

Most days I think I’d have a really great kid. Other days, I’m afraid it might be deformed, severely autistic, or turn out to vote Republican. Let’s face it – with all the Diet Pepsi I’ve consumed over the years, chances are that whatever eggs are left are probably drowning in aspartame. It can’t be good.

Oddly, I don’t worry that I’d be a bad parent. I’m pretty convinced that all parents screw up, to one extent or another, and I’m sort of ok with that. Or, more to the point, even if I did screw up, I’m pretty sure it would be in an interesting sort of way. My mother always claimed that if I had a child I’d lose it, since I’m both messy and absent-minded about things. She forgets that she lost me once, in a rack of clothes in a department store that I thought it would be fun to hide inside. I turned up eventually.

I do cringe at the idea of sending my (imaginary) kid to school, though. I’m intensely curious about the unschool movement, which appears to be an ultra-liberal alternative to home schooling. I’m starting to think that traditional school is simply a construct to suit our economic structure, and particularly now with all of the emphasis on testing, it’s less about learning and more about mass workforce development.

In the meantime, it's turning colder and I must focus if I'm ever going to break out of this funk I'm in. 

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Creative Angst

First, indulge me showing off my new alpaca socks, which I finished earlier this week with literally a grape-sized amount of yarn left over:


I love these socks - they are incredibly soft! - and the colors are really neat, perfectly matching an old sweater of mine. However. I hand washed them last night and left them to air dry, and...well, turns out that wet alpaca smells EXACTLY like wet dog. Ugh.

The rest of the week was filled with a cold, a fever, a sick day from work which I spent on the couch watching TV with the cat, and a major meltdown. The meltdown was deconstructed late Thursday night by S., who I think -at least in part- correctly diagnosed it as a creative crisis. Which, y'know, sounds infinitely better than "I want to put my head under the covers and never come out".

Part of my morose-ness is the time of year - I hate and loathe fall, always have. Every year, I'd go back to school thinking "This is it. This is THE year that it will all fall into place." And, three weeks into the school year, it was clear that nothing had changed and I had not magically transformed myself. (I know I'm being vague here, but just think of intense anticipation met by intense disappointment). I also get SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), much like many of my female relatives, and the minute it starts getting dark at 7 pm I start yearning for March. Some years are worse than others, and this year appears to be getting off to one doozy of a start.

But, it's also being fueled by the fact that my writing workshop did little more than discourage me.  And here it is, September, and I have just over three months left to meet the goal I set out for myself in February: to submit something for publication by the end of the year. I have about six things that are in various stages of completion, but the one that was closest - in my estimation - was roundly dismissed by my peers. Some of their criticism is easily ignored, but they were completely right in that the structure of the essay didn't work;  I had suspected that myself. One of the most experienced writers around the workshop table said once that each story has its own structure, the one that will tell it the best, and the trick is to find that structure. And I think he is completely correct, and I think that eventually I will find the right structure for this particular story. The problem is, it will not be in the next few months. My writing teacher actually suggested I put another piece away for a couple of years and then try rewriting it, and I was initially highly insulted until I realized that she actually might be correct. It isn't about my ability to write, or tell a story, but that sometimes things get better after a certain amount of time has passed...like wine or cheese.

And so...now what? The last time I set a goal for myself, it was to get my master's degree by the time I turned 30. In actuality, I turned 30 in May and got my degree in December...but CLOSE ENOUGH, y'know? It was clear on my birthday that the goal was in sight and attainable, and seven months wasn't enough to get all wadded up about. And I shouldn't get too upset if it takes me six months longer to submit a writing piece than I planned. But for some reason, it's got me all in a knot. In fact, I spent several hours yesterday untangling a couple of skeins of yarn, and while I felt like I was wasting time I also felt like it was cathartic. Now, if I could only untangle my brain in the same manner...

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Weekend in Pictures...

1) New Yarn...from a tiny little yarn shop just down the road, where a bunch of middle-aged women sat around talking about how much they like Obama:


2) After the monsoon yesterday, open windows this evening:


3) After an oddly icky banana bread fiasco (really, who kills banana bread?!), a happier result:


I seem to have a cold, or perhaps allergies, but I opted not to photograph the trail of tissues I have scattered throughout the house.

I also discovered a new BBC series, "Hex", which fits nicely after the vampire books; got lost (again) in Uxbridge trying to find another yarn store (this is akin to getting lost in South Paris, for the Mainers out there); and was dismayed to discover that I will probably run out of my lovely teal and navy alpaca sock yarn 3/4 of the way through the second sock. I am crossing my fingers; it's $25 a skein and I'd really rather not have to buy more, because if I buy one more skein, then I will have WAAAY more than I need to finish my sock, and therefore will actually have to buy TWO skeins so I can make another pair. The socks are lovely and I wouldn't mind making another pair, but $50 for yarn is just silly when I have a whole bunch of it sitting around here, waiting to be knit. Still, though...these are awesome socks, and it will suck to have only 1 and 3/4 socks...grrrrr.

Finally, I decided that I really ought to be a tad more literary-minded and picked up "The Wings of the Dove" by Henry James. Stop laughing. One cannot exist on vampires and David Sedaris alone!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Random Thursday

1) Tonight on the train, a man dropped a mango on my head.
2)  I get home so late most nights that I rarely bother to turn the TV on, but tonight I happened to catch Jon Stewart skewering people left and right (like the guy from Fox News and later, Sarah Palin herself). First he played clips of them saying all sorts of bad stuff about Hillary Clinton, and then he played clips of them saying exactly the opposite of Sarah Palin. As in, it's ok to make an issue out of Clinton being a woman who might cry in front of a foreign leader, but it's NOT ok to suggest Palin might do the same. Ugh. It was hysterically funny and highly disturbing.
3) I am now thoroughly peeved and must go soak in hot water.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

But Can She Spell Potato?

It's been an odd couple of days, hasn't it? On Friday, my parents' house was broken into - they live in rural Maine, for crying out loud, and the idiots who broke in did more damage to the door they kicked in (it was deadbolted, if that tells you anything) than the value of anything they stole. Mainly, they lugged off my dad's guitars, which is really sad (one of them was his 50th birthday gift...). It's maddening, to say the least, and is making me rethink my recent fantasy about having a little house in the woods, complete with a flower garden and tomato and strawberry plants.

But they came down here anyway, and brought me down a bed as well as my desk, book case and sewing table. Yay! It's an odd thing to be 37 and be sleeping on either a pull-out couch or an air mattress, I just have to say. My friend D. came to visit as well, with her daughter L., who saved the day because my parents were slightly wigged out at the prospect of being here at my sister's house with all the grandkids in CA.

I also made some amazing blueberry muffins and a mediocre lasagne, and lost a battle with a 23-pound plastic container of kitty litter. Don't ask. It wasn't pretty and I may have a permanent scar.

In between all the commotion, I've been pondering the Sarah Palin dilemma while knitting a new pair of socks in this unbelievable alpaca yarn...I swear, I would eat it if I could, it's just THAT good. Wilbert (or "Yogurt", as L. liked to call him) seems to approve:



On the other hand...at least this election won't be boring. At least Nader can't come along and say they're all alike (which he no doubt will, but it's a more difficult argument to make these days). I'm pretty convinced, though, that there is a special place in hell for Joe Lieberman, and that if Al Gore had his druthers, ol' Joe would be out floating on one of those melting ice caps.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

However.

Anyone who has Stevie Wonder on stage, followed by Al Gore (who still makes me swoon), will totally get my vote.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Saturday Trek Across Massachusetts

As I suspected, I did not make it to the 8 am yoga class, though not for lack of trying. Apparently I got the am/pm mixed up on my clock when I reset it last night. Ooops.

So instead, I decided to drive out to Northampton to this yarn store that I've heard a lot about on the various knitting blogs I read. Mapquest said it was about an hour and a half's drive, so I thought it would be a nice way to spend the afternoon. Which it was, until I got on the Mass Pike, which was a parking lot...it took me an hour and a half just to get to the I-84 exit, which I can usually do in 25 minutes. Ridiculous.

The store itself...I'm not sure what all the fuss is, really. I bought more sock yarn, but I'm not sure I'd go back. I feel like I must have missed something. I ALMOST missed the back room, which is where there was oodles and oodles of yarn stacked floor to ceiling, most of it half price. But it was just...yarn, y'know? Nothing that really rocked my world, so to speak. The other women in the store were swooning and buying just PILES of yarn - the woman in front of me spent almost $200! I grabbed another skein of sock yarn before I checked out because I felt embarrassed buying so little. I much prefer Knitty City in NYC, even if it is a lot smaller (and obviously, a hell of a lot further away).

I probably will go back, though, later this fall when the trees are turning, because it's really beautiful out there and I really want to see the downtown area (I actually think the downtown that I can see from the highway is Holyoke).

I finished the day out with a trip to Whole Paycheck (aka Whole Foods) where I found a pint of Maine blueberries from Cherryfield. Cherryfield is considered the Blueberry Capital of the World, and I find it really odd that it wasn't named Bluefield. I once asked a state senator from the area about this and he scowled at me.

I got home to find Wilbert sitting on top of the kitchen table, where he knows he is not supposed to be, and he got shooed off in quick order. He then went and scratched my knitting basket, which got him yelled at, and now he is lying on top of a bunch of fabric, getting it covered in cat hair. I'm starting to feel like one of those parents who do nothing but yell at their kids...I am constantly saying "no" to this cat and I might as well talk to the wall. After yesterday, when he found my belt on command, I've been trying to get him to do fetch/find other stuff, but he just looks at me blankly and yowls. Apparently, his dog-impersonating days are over, at least for the moment.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Random Friday

1) The cat waltzed into my room at 2:30 am yowling. It became apparent that he wanted to drink from the jacuzzi, and was quite indignant that I would not get out of bed and turn the tub on. He left, and came back at 6:30 to repeat the routine.
2) He later made up for his caterwauling: I was frantically routing through a pile of laundry trying to find my belt, with the cat at my heels. I said (out loud), "Wilbert, if you have to be underfoot you could at least help me find my belt", at which point he started pawing something on the floor...my belt.
3) I am inexplicably happy over the fact that I discovered today there is a small supermarket in Hopkinton between the house and the train station. A bit more expensive than Shaw's, but that's on the other side of town.
4) I am taking bets on whether I actually get up for an 8 am yoga class tomorrow morning.
5) My sister's birthday was last weekend and I still haven't bought her a gift. 
6) I'm trying to decide: take another writing class, or start guitar lessons? The latter would require the purchase of a guitar, or at least a trip to Maine to borrow one of my Dad's, which he routinely encourages me to do. If I borrow Dad's guitar I could afford to do both...but I feel like the last thing I need right now is a distraction from writing. On the other hand, another creative outlet could be a GOOD thing for my writing. But learning to play guitar hurts, until you develop calluses on your fingers, and what if that makes typing too difficult? Decisions, decisions.
7) I've been neglecting my knitting...really must finish that last brown sock!
8) I've had the chorus to the song "Secret Spell" by Tori Amos stuck in my head for days, but I couldn't really decipher the words to the verses. I looked them up tonight and grimaced: "in one hand dreams aplenty / in her smile a secret spell / there have been disappointments / that she knows too well / and losing you was not part of this plan" *sigh*
9) I'm also kind of loving this "Duffy" chick - kind of like Amy Winehouse but, y'know, without the crack addiction. I'd like to know how she got that name, though. My grandfather had a friend named Duffy, and he also had a friend they called "Badger". My dad cannot tell me how these nicknames came to be, and the curiosity is killing me.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Stand Up and Cheer...

The weather has turned these past couple of days, and fall is slowly but surely creeping in. Coincidentally or not, there has been a flurry of recent connections with high school people, and I've realized that twenty years ago I was about to start my senior year. And I'm a little conflicted about the intervening years, to tell you the truth.

First, and I've said this before, I think I sort of stopped growing emotionally around age 14. While I may look different than I did in high school, I don't feel any different. And the truth is, high school was the worst 4 years of my life. That's not to say that some good stuff didn't happen, because it did, but all in all it wasn't my finest moment. I was odd. I am still odd. And argumentative and liberal and compelled to stick up for the underdog. I still speak my mind, even when it isn't exactly appropriate, and I still wear my heart on my sleeve.

I am also still restless and uncertain of my place in the world, and slightly concerned that I am destined (or doomed) to not follow a traditional path. I suspect the only person surprised by this is me (and maybe my Dad), but I am, in fact, surprised. If I were to describe myself, I might say: I'm 37, single, childless, living in my sister's house with my niece's cat, and trying to figure out how to be a writer on my own terms. I have a history of failed relationships with men who, for a variety of reasons, were incapable of being in love with anyone, least of all me. I earned a BA and an MPA, but still have a hard time remembering to put gas in my car. I am painfully self-aware and I like to knit socks.

I mean, really.

Don't get me wrong - it's not been all about my quirks. I did some really great work in Maine that I'm proud of. I know I made a difference, even if a tiny one, and that makes me happy. But in a sea of vaguely familiar faces, most shadowed by a spouse or a kid, it's kind of hard not to feel...like an outsider. In other words, exactly how I felt back in high school. And a little anxious, cold and clammy, to be quite honest.

But then I remember a certain kid I grew up with, and how when we were 4 and 5 we'd play on the stone wall that separated our houses. And how I didn't talk to him for years, and the next thing I knew he was wheeling my grandfather's body out of the Veteran's home. A few years later, we chased a cat out of the church sanctuary that decided to attend my aunt's funeral (seriously, only in Waterford...). Whatever unpleasantness, or silence, in the years between had dissipated, and I was happy for it. I hope that's true for everybody else that I left in the dust along the way, or who left me in the dust along their way. Because, as much as I doubted it twenty years ago, there actually is a little bit of us in all of us. And I don't mind so much anymore.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Moving Update

Between moving and, well, moving, I haven't had the time or inclination to update the blog. I haven't even been writing in my journals, or writing for my class, and my body can actually FEEL that I haven't been writing...it's like the words are just waiting to spill out of my brain, down my arm, and out my fingers. Except now I'm completely and totally engrossed by those teenage vampire novels written by a Mormon...I find it all completely fascinating, and spent the afternoon at work surreptitiously reading behind my desk. I don't find it as addictive as Harry Potter, but it definitely made my train rides go by a lot more quickly!

On the home front, the cat is annoying me beyond belief. He was fine the first few days, but he now appears to have caught on that he's stuck with me, and I'm not sure he's too thrilled about it. The one thing he appears to be happy with is my yoga mat, which he is now using as his scratching post. Luckily it's an old one, and frankly as long as it keeps him from yowling at me, I'm fine with it.

It's so strange to be in a house and not have to worry about being too loud. The other night I was in the jacuzzi at 11 pm, and realized I could sing Alanis Morissette songs as loud as my little heart wanted to, and I did. It was an insanely freeing thing to do - I heartily encourage everyone to try this (pick your own poison; it doesn't have to be Alanis). It occurred to me later that it was entirely possible that the neighbors could have heard me - I don't sing particularly well, but I can sing loud, and if their windows were open...but then I remembered all the grief the neighbors have given my sister over the years and just sang louder.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Ch-ch-ch-changes

I'm about to move AGAIN, for the third time in less than a year. My sister & her family decamp for the West Coast on Wednesday, at which time I move into their house and inherit Wilbert the Cat. Wilbert is still reeling from the removal of most of the furniture, particularly a red chair that was in the living room that he slept on every day. Wilbert and I have a history; he spent two weeks with me a couple of years ago. He spent most of his time under the couch (technically, inside the couch as he tore up the lining and crawled up under the stuffing), until every morning at 3 am when he wandered around the apartment YOWLING at the top of his lungs. We will be having a talk about this.

Wilbert aside, I'm oddly not that fussed about them leaving. Don't get me wrong - I will miss them dearly, as I probably won't see them again until Christmas as I have no vacation to speak of at the moment (new job). But I think it will also be a great experience for them, and as a grown-up I am well aware of how quickly the time will go (seriously, I can't believe it's AUGUST already...how did that HAPPEN?!). My parents, on the other hand, are simply beside themselves, particularly my mother which I find odd since she will be headed out there in October and then again for Thanksgiving.

I'm also not fussed because the idea of living alone again is enthralling. And not just living alone, but living in a house, as opposed to an apartment. There is a jacuzzi. There is a full kitchen. There is cable. There is a lawn service, a plow service, a garbage service. I do have litter box duty, which my strong gag reflex is already worried about, but there are worse things. There is also a treadmill, which my brother-in-law patiently moved from corner to corner of the living room. I have grand plans for this, but the truth is I had grand plans for the treadmill I bought back in 2004, which quickly became a coat hanger and now takes up space in my parents basement.

There is also ample space for my sewing. I am excited about this, although I noticed yesterday that my sewing machine is in desperate need of a good cleaning.

I am also feeling more sane then I have in a long time. Exhausted, certainly; the work commute and my late-night writing workshop are just about killing me. But I feel more...centered than I have in quite some time. I think the writing workshop is a huge contributor to that. Also, I've sort of been realizing how extraordinary the people I've dated have been...and while that has certainly been problematic at times, it takes a certain sort of "je ne sais quois" for me to be even remotely interested in someone. I suppose in a way that is just a pretentious way of saying that I'm picky. But my father is wrong: just any nice guy will NOT necessarily do.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Should've Stayed In Bed...

I should have known it was going to be a bad day when I got up and the bathroom lights didn't work. The electricity was on, the lights just didn't work. And, they still don't, even after the electrician came to fix them.

At work, a person I genuinely LIKE and who has helped me enormously these past few months, gave her notice today. I briefly considered throwing myself off the bridge I walk over every day to and from work, but I didn't. I should be happy for her, and I will be, but right now I just want to selfishly sulk.

Then tonight, I got off the train and there was a sudden flash-flood downpour. Soaked, even with my umbrella.

Then I got home to find that ALL the electricity was out, but came back on shortly after I arrived. Now, I want chocolate in the worst possible way, but thankfully I'm too damned tired to go out and get any. I am so desperately in need of a lengthy sleep session...but it will be Sunday at best before that happens.

And then finally, I've yet again come to the conclusion that I'd rather be alone than be with someone uninteresting. Even if it means I'm the old lady with 12 cats.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Random Wednesday

1. I have "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" by Billy Joel stuck in my head. Thank you, JP.
2. I learned today that "erstwhile" means "former", and not "of unique character". Ooops.
3. I also learned today that Chinese opera isn't just European opera sung in Chinese. It's very beautiful, but takes a minute for the Western ear to adjust.
4. I'm thinking about babies again. Some months ago I declared 37 to be a worry-free year, and that I would not spend this year fretting about my fertility. But lately I see pregnant women everywhere, and I feel like the universe is mocking me. If I didn't have to live on a nonprofit salary, I'd be at the sperm bank tomorrow...but as I'm not sure daycare centers take Visa, I'm really not able to financially do this on my own. And that's kind of a bummer, particularly for someone who's managed to figure out how to do most of the things she wants to do, all by herself. I had tentatively planned to have a baby and have my sister take care of it during the day, but now she's all up and moving to California so that plan got shot to pieces.
5. At last night's writing workshop we spent a good hour discussing obesity and compulsive eating. I cannot think of anything I needed less, except possibly heroin. Well, I guess one could argue that given my current physical state I DID need to hear people talk about the assumptions we make about the overweight...but honestly, it just made me want to eat cheeseburgers. Also, I'm really, really tired of people slipping comments in about Weight Watchers, as in "apropos of nothing, because we were just talking about taking guitar lessons, let me tell you about how easy Weight Watchers is...". To which I would like to reply, "yes indeed, counting food units is exactly what will cure years of emotional turmoil and substance abuse" (the substance being food). Who says to an alcoholic "I know, if you COUNT your drinks you won't get drunk!"?! Seriously.
6. Tonight on the train home, a woman collapsed and we had to wait for the paramedics to come. The train conductor said they had no idea what was wrong with her, but she just all of a sudden lost all feeling/movement in her limbs. Possibly an allergic reaction. Scary.
7. It's almost 10 pm and I've done nothing that I intended to do when I got home, except eat grapes and cheese.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Mr. Darcy in Spandex?

Oh so wrong. So very, very wrong for Colin Firth to dance around in disco attire. Some people are meant to be typecast.

So I went to see the movie "Mamma Mia" this afternoon, after sleeping until 11 am. It was at once a flashback to the past and foreshadowing of the future. The past: Abba songs always remind me of fourth through sixth grade, going over to Courtney's house with Dawn and Alyson. The future: the theater was filled with little old ladies, many of them wearing much too much perfume. I sneezed through the half hour of previews (I'm not kidding, I timed it). It's not a bad movie, exactly; definitely campy, but I'm honestly not sure what was worse: the aforementioned Mr. Darcy or Pierce Brosnan channeling his inner Springsteen. Meryl Streep is really good, though, as is Amanda Seyfried (from "Big Love"). As I was leaving the theater, I walked behind a middle-aged couple who danced their way out - love that.

Movie review aside, I've been losing a fight with my printer, reading submissions from the folks in my writing workshop, working on another essay, and reading yet another book about the writing process...while chomping on Twizzlers and wishing it would quit raining.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Dilemma

(edited slightly...)

I woke up with the Howie Day song "Collide" stuck in my head --

"I'm open, your closed
I'll follow, you'll go
I worry I won't see your face light up again
Even the best fall down sometimes
Even the wrong words seem to rhyme
Out of the doubt that fills your mind
I somehow find you and I collide"

I've been thinking these past days how some relationships are more like collisions - at once traumatic and transformative. I've also been thinking about the book "Eat Pray Love" (Elizabeth Gilbert), particularly the section where Richard from Texas discusses the concept of soul mates. Gilbert quotes Richard as saying:

"People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that's what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that's holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you'll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake...they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave...[his] purpose was to shake you up...tear apart your ego...show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light could get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you had to transform your life..."

And I think this is really at the root of how we can fiercely love people who infuriate us. And why it is so difficult to let people go out of our lives even when you can see it's time to do just that, because as far as they have pushed you forward, at a certain point they start holding you back. You literally are not the same person you were when s/he came into your life, and if you have returned the favor, neither is s/he.

But who wants to give up someone who both unwaveringly supports you and calls you on your crap? Someone who knows your buttons and will carefully, gently push them, instead of tiptoeing around subjects you'd much rather avoid? Someone who, as crazy as they make you, also makes you want to be a better, more authentic version of yourself? Someone who you love arguing with because you are so grateful for the push-back, so grateful that someone cares enough about you to find you annoying, melodramatic, and ridiculously immature - and say so (but who also never fails to tell you how great you are, either). As opposed to someone who shuts down, or is so afraid to lose the semblance of relationship that you have because they don't want to upset you, who doesn't want to deal with the dark stuff we all hold within us. Yeah, it's exhausting and terrible, but...where are we without it?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Isn't It Ironic

One of my errands today was to buy a new umbrella, since all of the ones I had have either disintegrated or disappeared. And, wouldn't you know, just as I pulled into the store's parking lot to go buy one, there was a colossal downpour.

Also a bit ironic - my new favorite Boston building. Ironic because I usually tend to like historic buildings and generally loathe modern/post modern architecture. But how I do dearly love the Intercontinental Hotel building, and how the sky and harbor get reflected in such a way that when the clouds are moving, it looks like the building is moving.

In other, less ironic news, I got to take my nephew to see "Get Smart" yesterday. The company was grand, the movie less so. The whole dynamic between Max and Agent 99 was twisted - granted, a much more feminist Agent 99 - but...just eh.

Today - listening to Idina Menzel, thinking about "brave", and wishing it was September and not so freaking hot out.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Just Call Me Ms. Excitement

While I was waiting Tuesday night for my class to begin, I sat on a bench in the Common and knit. It is by no means the strangest thing that has been done there, and yet by the looks I got from people you'd have thought I was shooting heroin in broad daylight. Once again, I marveled at how small and quaint it all seems after NYC, where in fact shooting heroin in broad daylight isn't that strange at all.

At any rate, here is the sock I've been knitting on the train (I actually started its pair this evening) - an homage to the Yarn Harlot who always takes traveling sock photos:

Yep, I'm well on my way to being the old lady with 12 cats...but at least my feet will be warm!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Anxious

I just emailed off an essay I've been working on since February to the people in my writing workshop, and I'm terrified. There are REAL writers participating in this program, and I have all of the usual fears about being "found out", that I'm not a "real" writer, and that they will laugh me out of the room. I have spent so much time on this essay it is ridiculous, and now I am just picking at it - a word here, a word there...it needs fresh eyes, and in particular fresh eyes of complete strangers who won't just be nice to me. It's a narrative non-fiction piece, with the first half "showing" the story and the second half "telling" the back story. I am not sure if this structure works, and yet doing it any other way would ruin the surprises of the story.

I do hope they laugh at the funny parts, though.

In other news, Wilbert the Cat caught his first bird today, much to the chagrin of my sister who had to clean up the feathers. My nieces and nephew were horrified, with Grace saying "bad kitty" and "oh the poor little birdie". Wilbert is now grounded. Honestly, I thought the chipmunk that lives in the stone wall would be the first to go.

They finally have a moving day  and that has suddenly brought everything into focus. I've become so used to having them so close - and now they're headed to California. I'm happy for them in that I think it will be a wonderful experience, but I will miss the regular hugs and laughs. I get to go on a "date" with my nephew on Saturday to go see "Get Smart" - I am not sure this is entirely appropriate for an almost-10 year old, but my sister is allowing it. This is partly why I decided to take the writing class - pure distraction from the inevitable emptiness I'm going to feel shortly. Even if it does come equipped with a jacuzzi.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Where the Canadians Claim a Small Island for Their Own

I spent the weekend on an island with a jolly bunch of Mainers and Canadians (who endearingly posited every question with an "Eh?" and pronounce "about" as "a-boot"). I learned a number of things, such as:

1) White pants and three wet dogs = bad combination.
2) White pants and pine pitch = bad combination.
3) Me and ladder golf (aka "testicle tossing") = bad combination.
4) Where Ottawa is.
5) Loons mate for life.
6) What to do when you are in the middle of a lake in a boat and the boat runs out of gas.
7) How to remove half a dozen splinters from my own hand.
8) "Oh look, the moon's out!" is not a very subtle way to change the topic of conversation.
9) People you don't know can only take so much of hearing about your relationship troubles...
10) ...unless they are completely drunk, at which point they will share things they never would when sober.

We did not cover the metric system, so I am sorry to say I still have no idea what constitutes a kilometer. Maybe next year.

I was able to claim the bed on the porch at camp this year, which means I both fell asleep and woke up to the water lapping the shore and the loons chattering to themselves. Really, what's better than THAT? Then today I got to sit under a big pine tree and knit while catching up with A. and watching a sweet yellow lab run around excitedly with a big stick in her mouth. Despite the idyllic morning (oh, and pie for breakfast!), I left mid-morning to avoid the traffic. Since 295 South is shut down for construction, I drove through my old adopted hometown of Hallowell and down 201. Some things have changed - there is a spiffy new town landing, and it looks as though Slate's is back up and running. I briefly considered a cheeseburger at The Liberal Cup, but kept motoring. As it was, after running some errands in Portland, I didn't get back here until 5:30. I am currently procrastinating a vast number of things, ranging from cleaning up to paying bills to laundry, but I just want to take a shower and tuck in for the night. There is also some brooding to be discussed, but tomorrow is another day.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Bonfire of the Oddities

It's been a weird week. Tonight, for example: I went to Target and, as I was walking in, a balloon (as in, the great big kind people ride in) almost hit the side of the building. Then I came out of Target to find someone had dumped what appears to be lemon slush on my car. At least, that's what I HOPE it is...

Also out of the ordinary this week, I went to a Feist concert with H. I'm not really sure who Feist is, except she reminds me of a less angry Alanis. And I wound up sleeping at my sister's the next night, because it was too hot to sleep without air conditioning. (That's not really that strange, except that it disrupted my schedule a bit.) I also misinterpreted an email from a friend who I hadn't heard from in awhile, and thought she got a great dane; she actually had a baby. Annnd, just to top it all off, I proceeded to have a huge meltdown and pick a fight with a dear friend, who I haven't heard from since.

Partially fueling my meltdown is that I seem to have become somewhat conflicted about this whole Boston thing. Some days, I feel like I am exactly where I'm supposed to be and genuinely content - like walking back to South Station on Tuesday night after the concert. It was about 10 pm and dark out, and probably not the best idea for a woman by herself to do. But the moon was hanging low in the sky, and the buildings were all lit up, and it was really breezy so there was a nice oceany smell in the air. I felt perfectly safe - all I was really worried about was how much my feet were hurting from my sandals.

Other days, though, I get off the train at South Station and imagine hopping the next bus for NYC. Usually the hop-the-bus days are after a night of having my "missed-my-plane-I'm-not-where-I'm-supposed-to-be" dreams, which always leave me unsettled. I'm not entirely sure what it's all about. I had these dreams before I left Memphis, and then again before I left Maine. But I've only been here 3 months!!! I'm thinking that this time, it might be less of a geography question than a philosophical/emotional/spiritual place. I don't think I actually miss NYC, or want to go back there. I miss the IDEA of NYC, in no small part because as bad as it was, it was all MINE.  The IDEA of NYC is limitless and powerful...the reality, a broken spirit that I am still trying to recover from.

Of course, I miss the IDEA of other things, too, and one night the train was too packed for me to knit so I wounded up brooding on the IDEA of other things. The end result was a rage in me about all the things I can't have, didn't get, etc. etc. And that fueled a downward spiral that concluded with the irrational chastising of myself because I can't knit Continental-style. I am, as I routinely remind myself, my own worst enemy. All I know is, I have the U2 song in my head: "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For". (everything has a soundtrack, even my existential crises.)

This weekend: northward bound to A.'s camp, which is bound to cheer me up. This will be my first time back in the Augusta area, and I can already tell it's going to be weird to not go back to my apartment in Hallowell. I miss my back deck and bathtub!!!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Weekend Update

I managed to escape rainy Massachusetts for a few days and headed to Maine for the holiday. Saturday morning found G. (my 5-year old niece) and I picking strawberries. She LOVED it, which kind of surprised me - she doesn't have the longest attention span, but on the other hand: she's the sort of kid that doesn't mind getting dirty, particularly if there is food involved. We picked 2 quarts, and then she took me up on my offer for another couple of boxes. To say that the berries were delicious is the understatement of the century - there is just nothing like a just-picked strawberry, warm from the sun and slightly damp from the dew. G. was pretty good about not eating them until we got into the car, and then she plowed in with a vengeance. She informed me that they did NOT need to be washed first because they already had been rained on.

Later on, we went to see Wall-E, which bored me silly; honestly, I spent the whole time wishing I'd brought my knitting. I can't really put my foot on what was wrong with the movie, though. The kids loved it, but my favorite part was the little short cartoon before the movie about a magician and his rabbit.

And then, after that, we took the kids to the beach. This particular beach is where my sister and I repeatedly flunked swimming lessons, year after year, partly because we both refused to put our faces in the water and partly because I hated being thrown into a freezing cold lake every day at 8 am, and I wasn't shy about grumbling about it. The beach now seems about half the size it was when we were little, but that's how these things go. The weirdest thing was running into one of our old neighbors, who used to take us to Sunday School with his kids. We didn't know that for years he dated my mother's cousin/best friend, and he regaled us with stories about our family members including our great-grandfather, who died before my sister and I were born.  It's always interesting to hear stories about your family...

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Knitting Update

There has been precious little knitting in this blog lately, mainly because I've just not been knitting that much. I got a bad case of "startitis" (starting projects before finishing other things), and then I got uninspired. And I'm totally exhausted by the time I get home and it's hard to do anything that requires a modicum of brain function. I also have had a rash of broken wooden sock needles lately, and I must remedy that.

An assessment of the damage:

1) A child-size sock I knitted for my 5-year old niece, out of fabulous Lorna's Laces sock yarn. I didn't realize the yarn would stripe the way it does, which was a nice surprise. While she loved the colors, it was too small for her, and after trying it on she promptly informed me she wants knee-socks anyway. I need to knit another one and see who else's kid they might fit. Despite their size, the pattern requires a certain amount of attention and so it is not ideal for train knitting.


2) This is a close-up of what is intended to be a blanket for my 5-year old niece for Christmas. She likes to nap on the couch, and has asked me to make her a blanket several times (no matter that I have made her and her siblings umpteen quilts that are currently sitting in the bathroom closet being unused. *sigh*). I am using my favorite yarn, Malabrigo, in the "Brisa" colorway. I had some reservations because it has some gray in it, and I wasn't sure how it would look. I love knitting with this yarn, even though I hear it pills...last year I made S. an afghan out of Malabrigo (different colors - not purple and pink!), and I must remember to ask him how it is holding up. I was knitting this on the train, but it is now reaching the point where it is too big to lug around.


3. Finally, a pair of socks for me! These are made out of unknown hand-dyed yarn I bought at Purl in NYC. The pattern is from "A Fine Fleece", and these are hands-down the hardest things I've ever yet knit. And slooooow...using a cable needle is fiddly and time consuming, and it also requires reading a pattern chart that makes train knitting impossible. I also think I managed to screw up the backside of the sock, which is done in moss stitch, because of the way circular knitting is more of a spiral. Or it could be I just screwed it up. I have a sliiiight concern this might be a bit small for me, but I haven't knit enough yet to be able to try it on. I'm not convinced that this variegated yarn was the best to use to show off the cabling pattern, but I like it too much to rip it out.


So, despite all this, I am seriously thinking about starting another simple pair of socks, just to have some productive train time. I have the yarn, so it's not a question of expense. It's just that I hate the idea of throwing another project into the mix. On top of these, I have a little dress to sew up, one scarf to pull apart because I ran out of the yarn and it wasn't really working well anyway, and another scarf that I started and lost one of the knitting needles. And that's only halfway down through the bag...I don't even want to KNOW what's lurking on the bottom.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Urge To Grow Something

S. surfaced last night and I am, as always, amazed by a number of things he has recently accomplished, including planting flowers (which he grew from seeds) around a tree outside his apartment building. Coincidentally, I've had gardening on my own mind lately, and every time I visit my sister's I try to scope out a place where I could grow things that she wouldn't notice (she has already warned me within an inch of my life that I am not to trifle with her expensive landscaping). When I lived in Hallowell, I would often spend a Sunday afternoon visiting Longfellow's and wandering the aisles, checking out the plants. I had some pretty nice flower boxes going last summer (god, that seems like a lifetime ago...), and I miss them. I don't even have my houseplants anymore; my mother killed them good and dead, even my pots of lavender.

My grandfather, Papa, spent every summer in the garden, and all winter planning it. He lived for that garden, and I used to follow him around with my watering can. I generally lost interest after the strawberries were done, and spent the rest of the summer climbing the apple trees. He also grew enormous peonies and glads, and there was a whole table in the dining room covered in his houseplants that I used to marvel at. In all honesty, one of the only reasons that buying a house appeals to me is to be able to have a garden...I have these daydreams of puttering in the dirt outside, and then puttering inside with yarn and fabric, while baking bread and putting up jam. This sounds horribly provincial, rural, and a hell of a lot like retirement which, if I am to believe those letters I get from Social Security every year before my birthday, I won't be able to do until I am 90 (assuming I live that long in the first place). It's so strange, because thirty years ago if you'd told me I'd turn out like this I would have had one big capital-F Fit and huffed off to write in my journal about how I was going to conquer the world.

Now, my idea of conquering the world is having my very own lilac tree. What happened???

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Kinda-Sorta Adventure

Today started with a trip to my sister's to get my Netflix out of her mailbox, except it turns out that she is the sort of person who actually stops the mail when she goes on vacation for a week. *sigh*

After getting lost looking for this (which is not at all the sort of dam I had thought), I got bored and wound up headed north on 140. And since I had to pee, I kept going, and then all of a sudden 140 stopped and then there was a "Welcome to NH" sign. Oops. Given how close I was to RI when I started out, this was something of a surprise to me, but I was still on a mission to pee. Gloriously, a Walmart appeared out of nowhere. I assure you that this is the first time in years that I have actually been delighted to see one, and the fir
st time in months that I've actually been inside one. It's just a whole other world, y'know?

But anyway: I love driving these windy roads and passing through the often quaint little villages. It really is beautiful in spots, and there are lots of places to hike, bike and fish (not that I do any of those things personally). And, because it's Massachusetts, there's a little bit of history tucked away in odd little crevices. On the way home I stopped at this little historic stone church that is located next to the Watchusett Reservoir. It was very lovely, and there were 4 elderly women sitting under the trees gossiping like there was no tomorrow. Unfortunately, this was the only photo that actually came out close to decent, which is too bad because there was sparkly water on three sides:


Happy but Full of Rage

I've noticed that the level of my internal happiness can sometimes be inversely proportionate to what's going on externally. That is not always true, certainly; the externalities of NYC just about did me in emotionally and physically. But yesterday I woke up in a ridiculously good mood, despite the destruction of my cell phone - possibly because I had the day off due to the existence of a floating holiday. And possibly because I'm finally catching my breath, and finally able to focus on some things that I'd been neglecting lately (mainly, myself).

Let me take a brief detour here to say that growing up in Maine, we did not look fondly upon those cars bearing Massachusetts license plates. I learned the word "Masshole" before I ever learned the more common derivation of that expletive. When I lived in Boston back in the '90s, I was constantly on the lookout for a "Native Mainer" bumper sticker to put on my car for a little cover when I came home to Maine on the weekends. I have driven through every state on the eastern seaboard, plus California and Colorado, and in my experience-based opinion driving in Massachusetts should be labeled a contact sport. They should hand out helmets and body armor at the DMV. Aggressive isn't even the right word - it's downright war.

In fact, NOT driving aggressively will get you into trouble, as I learned yesterday when a policeman YELLED AT ME. There was construction going on at a 4-way intersection, and half my lane was blocked by a bucket loader, a big dump truck, and live human beings. I stopped before the bucket loader, instead of pulling up to the light where the cop was, because a) the bucket loader was moving and I thought it was going to scrape my car and b) there was oncoming traffic and, silly me, I didn't want to cross that thing called the center yellow line. But Mr. Policeman insisted I pull up to the light, which involved oncoming traffic having to pull off into the ditch. I'm sure they were all like "look at that idiot woman", but the cop kept waving me on. After that, it was a series of people cutting me off, or pulling out in front of me, or trying to change lanes and occupy the exact same real estate my car was in at that moment. Many of the offenders were elderly, and I swear on the spot: take my license away when I turn 80.

The other drama of the day was getting a new cell phone. It took two visits to two separate Verizon Wireless stores, one of which I stormed out of;* several non-idle threats to cancel my service; and a (futile) visit to a Sprint store. I wound up with exactly the same phone I drowned (same number), but for some complicated and, in my opinion shady, reason wound up paying A LOT more for than I did originally. There's a whole other post brewing about this, related to gender (the woman at the first store was a total witch; the 20-something guy at the other store was sweet as pie and gave me free stuff), but I've got other things to do today. 

* Of course, now I feel guilty about being mad, but really: that woman was awful.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Oh Come ON

Water bottle leaked in my yellow Cole Haan purse. My cell phone is now dead. *sigh* I don't even want to know what else was in there...

Rant

Living in a major city guarantees two things: professional sports teams and bureaucrats who don’t think. Occasionally these two forces combine to wreak havoc, like when the Celtics win the NBA title and someone gets the moronic idea to have a big parade at 11 am on a THURSDAY, when school is out for the year. Then they encourage people to take public transportation, which normally I’m all for. But YOU’D THINK it might occur to SOMEONE, especially when gas is $4/gallon, to ADD SOME ADDITIONAL TRAINS. Instead, the MBTA apparently felt it was ok to just post an advisory on their website saying “expect delays due to heavy ridership today”.

What they should have said is:

"The commuter rail parking lots will be completely filled by 7:45 am by cars driven by teenage boys and cooler-toting men with large bellies, all dressed head-to-toe in green and white Celtics gear. They will stand on the train platform pretending to shove each other onto the train tracks, occasionally shoving each other into other people. They will smoke on the platform in defiance of the “No Smoking” signs plastered everywhere. They will pile onto the train and sprawl across the seats, or, because the pack cannot be separated, will sit together on the floor until the conductor yells at them for blocking the aisle. They will not pre-buy their tickets and then throw hissy fits when the conductor tells them they can’t use a credit card on the train. Those in seats will not keep their hands to themselves and occasionally hit innocent bystanders, and they will repeatedly kick the seats in front of them. They will hold loud burping and farting contests, with both the sound and smell reverberating throughout the train car. They will pound on the train windows. They will carry on loudly, using every expletive imaginable and then some. Earplugs and ipods will not effectively drown any of this out, and the offenders will be oblivious to all glares of death directed at them by those of you on your way to work. Eventually the train will be so packed that the conductors will give up trying to get through to collect tickets or deliver reprimands. Have a pleasant trip and thank you for riding the MBTA."

I want to know a couple of things. First, why can’t they do these things on SATURDAY? The commuter lots are vastly underutilized on the weekends, for obvious reasons. And, you don’t risk lowering workplace productivity because people are standing around grumbling about the idiots on the train or *ahem* writing blog entries about it, if they aren’t figuring out a way to sneak out to watch the parade themselves.

Second, why is it ok for people to act like this? I was not the only person beyond annoyed, and yet we collectively sighed, rolled our eyes, and deferred to the train staff to deal with it. The train staff, who probably don’t want “babysitting” in their job description any more than the rest of us, see this for what it is: a losing battle. There’s a segment of America that believes they have the right to do anything they want, and that no one has a right to tell them otherwise. Yes, it’s a free country, but why does the trade-off have to be that we tolerate rude and inappropriate behavior? David Sedaris writes about visiting Japan, where he noticed real plants in subway stations. He remarks that in America they would be defaced or destroyed within ten minutes, and he’s right. Why are we like this?

Third, what is it about professional sports anyway? Why, exactly, do we pay people millions of dollars because they are good at doing something with some sort of ball, and then pay police officers and fire fighters and teachers with the leftovers? I know, I’m a big socialist killjoy because I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t just stay home with a good book. But I’m a big believer in people putting their resources where their mouths are – we put our time and money into things we value, and disregard the rest. So I presume that, as a society, we must place high value on sports because we give private companies huge tax breaks to build stadiums that are used at a fraction of their capacity; we overburden our infrastructure systems; charge $85 a ticket,$5 for a hot dog and $8 for a beer; and spend several hours watch people we don’t know personally run around chasing something (or someone). Meanwhile, towns all over the state are voting down additional school expenditures, resulting in teacher layoffs and cutting extracurricular activities LIKE SPORTS. It’s a little ironic when you think about it – people paying hundreds of dollars to see professionals play but refusing to pay a few extra hundred to see their own kids play. And then the obesity police start yelling about how fat our kids are now because they don’t get enough activity. Surprise, surprise.

Personally, I don’t expect the vast majority of people in the world to understand how I derive fun out of writing, or knitting a sock, or spending an afternoon up to my eyeballs in quilt fabric. I do usually end up with something tangible for my efforts, though, and they usually don’t include a hangover. I also don’t expect the government to subsidize my fun. With rare exceptions, writers and fiber artists are not multi-millionaires (I actually think the terms “multi-millionaire” and “fiber artist” are mutually exclusive). With the possible exception of some of the farmers who raise the sheep and a few paltry NEA-funded grants, there are no public subsidies involved, either. And, perhaps most importantly, I don’t inflict my “fun” on others, unless you happen to live with me and sit on a pin. (Another possible reason that I am single.)

All this to say, I should be in charge of things, dammit.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Where I Go to Maine and Find Some Stuff

Having 80% of my stuff in storage in my parents basement is a pain, but it is also kind of neat because every time I go there it's like shopping. For free. And it's all stuff I like, because at some juncture in time I bought it.

The drive cost:

~$50 in gas
~$10 in tolls
~$10 in junk food
~$40 for father's day gifts, card, etc.
~several ounces of patience

In return, I came home with:
~an entire milk crate full of cd's
~a box of all my summer shoes (9 pairs)
~a box of clothes
~my chaise lounge, which will go to my sister's house and the girls will grab for the pool
~a box of nonperishables that were in the den closet (how spaghetti sauce and soup wound up there, I have no idea.)
~a box of yarn

On the way home, I stopped to see T. and the Chloe dog for a visit. Then I stopped at Target for shampoo, and was delighted to see there is a new Alannis Morissette album out. Despite my moratorium (ha, ha) on nonessentials, it followed me home, mainly because she's always good for a soul-wrenching song or two. Or six, as I've counted thus far. Perfect. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Where I Solve My Own Problem

Oh. Turns out they put the battery in the scale backwards*. Huh. Well. The bad news is, I have gained a few pounds (7) but the good news is, it isn't 20. This I can deal with. I'm still not sure what to attribute it to, although on second thought there was an awful lot of ice cream with my niece G. this weekend. (I swear, she should have been my child: she hates getting up in the morning, she trashes her room, and she lives on ice cream. I am so proud.)

*it's one of those disk-shaped LCD batteries, in case you were wondering how a 9 volt got put in backwards and I didn't immediately notice.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Where Tired and Stinky Meets Cranky and Complicated

This morning I was completely wiped out and barely functioning when I arrived at work, in large part due to the fact that the weather has been in the 90s the past two days and there is no air conditioning in my apartment (how did I miss that?).

Any normal person would just drink coffee and get on with life. The problem is I hate coffee, even coffee ice cream and THAT is saying something. I’m generally not a fan of any bitter tastes…I don’t even like dark chocolate all that much. However, in a real pinch I will drink hazelnut coffee with about a cup of sugar and a lot of milk. This concoction is what got me through the days in NYC when I had to take the commuter train to northern Westchester county, a 3 hour adventure that required leaving my apartment at 7 am, two subway trains, navigating both Times Square and Grand Central during rush hour, the commuter train itself, and a shuttle bus.

This morning I was dragging so badly when I got to work that I caved and bought hazelnut coffee. From the first sip I was back on that Metro North train, silently praying that some freak of the time-space continuum would occur at the White Plains stop that would make the day over before it began. Half asleep, I would imagine Jean-Luc Picard materializing in the aisle of the train and explaining that some complicated theoretical physics problem involving worm holes required us to speed up time by 8 hours. And I’d imagine us all yelling “Make it so!” as the train reversed itself. And, y’know, if that worm hole just happened to land us in “I Get What I Want World”, so much the better.

Obviously, that never happened. I saw a lot of strange things in NYC but a fictitious character from Star Trek materializing on a Metro-North train was not one of them. But what I find so fascinating (other than the depths of my imagination...) is how a taste/smell can fling me so far into a memory that I feel like I am reliving the experience, even an experience that was in large part imagined. Sometimes this is nice, like the smell of lilacs reminding me of being little (5 or 6) and going with my dad to this clearing in the woods out in Lovell where there were probably 50 lilac trees, and we cut a bunch for my mom. I remember riding back to Waterford in my dad's truck with a huge pile of lilacs on my lap. But sometimes it's not so pleasant, or perhaps maybe complicated is the better term...like when a whiff of some man on a train reminds you of someone you love, or that dish soap reminds you of your grandmother who died after a long painful illness. It almost feels like time travel; your body may stay put but the rest of you is completely somewhere else.

Speaking of somewhere else...I called the Maine Dep't of Revenue today because I hadn't received my refund. For those of you who read my old blog, you may remember that filing my taxes this year just about did me in, particularly when the ceiling leaked all over my tax stuff. Maine's forms were just RIDICULOUSLY complicated, and clearly aimed at the state taxing every last red cent they could. And, as it turns out, the state is taxing income I earned while a NY resident, such that instead of them owing me $380 I now owe them $140. I am hoping that this is all some misunderstanding, because I just don't see how this is possible. Grrrr.

And now, I am going to sit in front of a fan and try to think happy thoughts.