29 August 2008

The Deep End of Summer

Which seems to be the only part of summer that I love.

Yes, another flickr mosaic for you. Because my usual routine of being lazy at the job and working on the blog instead has reversed itself these past weeks. And I am working like a dog on all the things I am supposed to do. And I have consequently gotten very lazy about all the things I like to do.

This will change.

5 pm today marks the start of my staycation. And I will have 10 glorious days at my disposal to fill with: Doing things. Taking pictures of things. Making things. And sharing things.

And I can hardly wait.

28 August 2008

The Night That Was Perfect

Know hope.

Dispatch From the Nostalgia Files

Tucked away in the box of my school records, notes passed in class, and scripts from high school plays, I found this:

What is it, exactly?

It's the focal point my sister made for our mom to concentrate on while she went through her series of lamaze breathing exercises.

That's right. We're talking memories from the moments (well, hours) of my birth.

I love its echoes of Piet Mondrian (go sis!). I love the discovery that mom's dream of having a boy didn't end with my sister.

Also, I love that this scrap of paper has managed to last as long as me.

27 August 2008

Making, Once Again

Please pardon my crappy Photoshop work, but the floor was a mess.

Pattern: the Marsan Watchcap by Staceyjoy Elkin
Yarn: Dark Horse Yarns Fantasy, color FA-12
Needles: 7s all the way
* * *
Guess what! I made something!

These hands -- the ones connected to my wrists, my arms, my frazzled mind -- engaged the service of five needles and looped and tugged at yarn until it found its way into the shape of a snuggly, twisted rib hat.

And any trepidation I might have felt about starting, about picking at what I feared might become a seemingly never-ending spiral of stitches, about getting distracted or becoming dissatisfied and abandoning the process halfway through never bore any fruit, it seems. Well, clearly not. Because:

This hat.

Even more done in life than it is in this photo.

Actually, the knitting part went swimmingly. The knitting part was glorious and lovely. The knitting part, though it did begin at the point of my diminished expectations, took off full throttle in exactly the opposite direction.

There is joy there again now, where there wasn't much before. I feel the romance is rekindled.

(Happily, this coincides nicely with the sudden bumper crop of sweaters and clever outerwear I dream about casting on for Fall.)

In fact, in my very-first-of-the-year-FO afterglow, I have even gone and started another hat.

I'll be donating these, by the way, through the Knitters for Obama group on Ravelry.

Watch me now, hey! Knit! Knit!

(Because, you know, everyone punctuates a knitting reverie with a little shot of The Blues Brothers. Um, revamped for the occasion, of course.)

25 August 2008

22 August 2008

School Supplies!

Truly the most wonderful time of year.

Monsieur Jean-Claude, the French chickadee, has completely won my heart.
(In fact, maybe that's me, the one full of love who's standing right next to him.)

I love new binders, new pens, new paper, new folders. They are so full of promise. So full of hope.

21 August 2008

Semicolons, Sociology, And A Little Bit Of A Soapbox

The semicolon debate rages.

I admit that I like the slant of this article: semicolon as nuance. Though I suppose it’s not really all that different a thought from the semicolon as meditation.

For being a punctuation mark that I have never previously read very much about or thought very much about, I discover that everything I learn makes me love it more. How much am I growing to love them? This entry marks the second time in mere months that I have written about the semicolon. And if you told me a year ago that this would ever be the case, I would have laughed openly. At you, dear, not with you.

I am warming to this thesis that the semicolon represents, in a way, the kind of life I aspire to: gentle, reflective, nuanced, connected. If in fact it is possible for a punctuation mark to become such a symbol.

I don’t want to come off as a fusty curmudgeon here, or a strict grammarian with a penchant for down time. I certainly fall victim to rushing; I get impatient and frantic and harried. There are times when I feel full of snark and very little circumstance. This is an ideal, a purpose, a horizon, if you will allow me to co-opt a Presidential phrase and a Stewart-ian analysis, that I am always headed toward.

But here’s what bothers me: the fact that I feel compelled to defend my love of the semicolon. My affair with the mark should be eccentric, certainly, but not condemnable. You know? Why has the semi been relegated to the domain of fusty curmudgeons? Why does anyone young enough to not know corporal punishment in classrooms feel the need to defend the semicolon's usefulness? What I find most troubling in this new article is this:

The credit probably belongs to Trevor Butterworth, who in 2005 - citing Truss [Lynne Truss who wrote Eats, Shoots & Leaves] as partial inspiration - wrote a 2,700-word essay on the semicolon in the Financial Times. Butterworth, who had worked in the States, wondered why so many Americans shared Donald Barthelme's sense that the mark was "ugly as a tick on a dog's belly." His answer: As a culture, we Yanks distrust nuance and complexity. (Links, italics, and parenthetical asides are mine.)
Do we really not do nuance? I find that assessment disappointing. Not least of which is because the candidate I have chosen to support this election cycle is a practiced wielder of nuance. And I wonder to what degree that is why some of the electorate does not trust him. And I hope that particular some of the electorate is not enough to turn the tide – or rather, keep the tide flowing (four more years, anyone?).

I don’t want to get preachy or partisan here. I get to say who I support, but I don’t get to beat anyone up about it. Anyway, it’s just a small part of the picture. An utter lack of nuance is apparent in "classic" American foods served up by "classic" middle America restaurant chains too. This morning, Rick recounted to me the new developments at Applebee's (from this article) that include such culinary feats as a bruschetta quesadilla (still in development), and a quesadilla burger (currently available for purchase at an Applebee's near you). There is no crescendo of complimentary flavor profiles here, no complexity, no layering -- unless, of course, you count cheese. In college, my friends had a theory that you could open any food-related shop and market it as fast food simply by adding: ‘n shit. Like, “Piroguies ‘n shit,” “Bangers ‘n shit,” “Gefilte fish ‘n shit.” But it appears that we were wrong. All you need to do is make it as much like a quesadilla as possible.

I’m not really shocked to learn that these things sell well. I will even admit that I would eat them. (I would.) But I’m happy to be outraged that menus filled with quesadilla-esque fare exist. Because frankly, no one over the age of 20 should eat these things. Greasy, extruded, artificial, neon-colored – these adjectives should only be used to describe your diet when you are an adolescent. And I say this despite my weakness for Cheetos, which meet the requirements of all four adjectives, by the way.

Ok. So maybe nuance isn’t an American forte. But I can only accept that as reality by devoting myself to beefing up our capacity for it. I know that it is not particularly inspiring to run out in the streets, pumping fists in the air, exclaiming: “Come on, everybody! Let’s be contemplative, reasoned, multi-faceted!” That it is, instead, much more exciting to generate slogans and rattle off glib, two-word answers like:

Q: Does evil exist, and if it does, do we ignore it, do we negotiate with it, do we contain it, or do we defeat it?

A: Defeat it.

(Though really, given the glibness of this very leading question, it’s hard to be surprised by the bombast glibness of the answer. And both parts of that equation are the problem.) But maybe we are misserved by excitement. Maybe we should retire from "off-the-cuff" and "sharp-shooting," and simply regard them, fondly, as fancies of our collective youth.

What do you say?

ETA: Oh, look at me. A railing against oversimplification. A call to embrace the meditation, the nuance of the semicolon. And not a semicolon in sight. *sigh*

19 August 2008

One Year Later

I expected the weekend would be mightily sad. I expected lots of tears and consolatory hugs. Maybe even a little bemoaning. Does that sound excessive? Knowing it would all be for a cat?

Well, maybe it is. Maybe that’s true. But I expected it nonetheless because that’s exactly what Rick and I were doing a year ago. Carter was magical. Carter was only 4. His death hit us hard.

Also, Carter was a centerfold.

Ok – Friday night we cried. We pretended to be Buddhists and we projected what sort of creature Carter might become in his next life. We debated whether human was a step up on the reincarnation chain, or if pampered housecat was penultimate (and I still think it is, Rick). I hoped that, if human is the next step, Carter wouldn’t be so unlucky to come back as a child neglected badly enough to be left in a locked car all day. During a Texas summer. It might sound like a strange thing to worry about, off the cuff like that. But it happened. Recently. (If you want to follow up on that terrible story, it's here.)

Rick is a nurse, and the picture we can create of that experience is vivid. It hurts me to the core to think that something like this happens at all. And I would be devastated if it ever happened to a soul I love so much.

So, yes. We worried and fretted and cried our eyes out. But then, on Saturday – on the exact anniversary – we were fine.

Actually, I spent a lot of time fussing over Lila, who also suffers from polycystic kidney disease (Carter and Lila share a father). I tried to read the tea leaves of her variously intoned meows. – Are her Dick Cheney-like mehs evidence of distress? Is she fussy today because she doesn't feel well? – I tried to check the size of her kidneys by feeling them up casually as I rubbed her belly (which she never lets me get away with).

I wonder how these anniversaries will go when they are both gone. When the era of Carter and Lila is over. I will overflow with missing them. That much, at least, I know.

This picture was taken by Carter and Lila's foster mom
when they were still too little for us to adopt.

During the preceding week, Rick and I talked a big game about cooking up some fried banana and peanut butter sandwiches (Elvis also died on August 16, and Carter shares with him a love of edible pleasures). I promised to bake a cake, and we would throw ourselves a little party to celebrate our memories of him.

But we didn’t do any of that.

Instead, we sat outside a lot and marveled at the perfect weather. The three of us lay in bed, snuggled, and watched movies. I knit something to completion for the first time in a year. It’s nice to have that back.

Hmm, I wonder if there’s any connection there. Any thread that ties losing Carter and will to knit together. Carter was, after all, a great lover of knitting.

It seems a bit ridiculous to me to pursue this theory with any earnest. Particularly since the connection has only just occurred to me right now. But another part of me sees a beautiful symmetry in this idea. And I want to claim it as if it is true. I want to say it enough times that it actually becomes the reason I haven’t knitted much this year.

I’m not sure yet if I’m worried about how silly that might sound.

See that smile? "Mmmm. Knitting," he purrs.

So anyway: this weekend that I was dreading turned out to be luxurious instead. Full of smiles and laughs and closeness.

Really, everything that it needed to be. And, if I may (though this threatens to tie up ends too neatly), everything that Carter would have wanted it to be.

18 August 2008

I Will Never Doubt Again

My girl (and her beloved catnip mouse) just waking up from a nap.

Rick told me that Lila did laundry for me last night, so that I'd have plenty of clean clothes to choose from for work today.

I thought he was teasing or just otherwise being cute.

But then I found catnip mouse in the dryer, washed and tumbled along with the t-shirts, underwear, jeans, and towels.

And now I'm a believer.

15 August 2008

I Am Dreading Tomorrow

Because tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of the passing of this guy. And he was truly remarkable.

Wow. I’d even forgotten how much it hurts just to see these pictures.

And while I enjoy the occasional company of his ghost, it was far more satisfying to feel him – actual him – settle into the crook of my arm as I lay in bed at night.

I’m afraid the occasional flash of his black and white fur in my peripheral vision could never make up for that absence.

Oh Carter, you crazy goose. We miss you.

Even Lila does.

14 August 2008

What I Love About People

I've had one of those days
where I struggled to give an answer to that.

But then it hit me. Right there on the evening news:

Photo by Mike Hettwer.

Here are mother and children,
revealed in a cuddle some 5,000 years later.

Find out more about them here.

12 August 2008

Haiku Fever Takes Hold. Also, An Intermission.

Dears, I must be brief:
Swallowed up by paperwork.
I'll be back Thursday?

11 August 2008

Not Old, But Gray

A haiku:

gray at my temples
appearing in an instant
and multiplying

(Not that it troubles me, necessarily -- just phew! that was fast! Is gray hair supposed to happen so...suddenly?)

09 August 2008

Color Codes

If you ever ran into me at a paint store, you would recognize me instantly. Because I am the one who stands at the paint chip display just a little too long. Pretending to be selective about the color cards I pull for review. And, well, I am trying to be selective. Nonetheless, I end up with a stack of color cards a mile high. Nearly one of each. Always, though, not the one color I meant or needed to grab.

I will vascilate endlessly between shade-off colors. Wondering if just that extra hint of green might translate well in my south-facing room. The one with the spruce just outside the window. Now, will the greens cooperate? Will they be overwhelming? Should I maybe, instead, pick up the blue flecks in the plant and opt for a color with a bit of a gray cast? Or maybe I should go complimentary colors?

Rick? What do you think?

And yes. I do expect that he's followed me through that entire, excruciating discourse. I should get him a trophy or something this Christmas: here's to making it through not one, but two 'let's paint the entire house' whims. But he knows. Certainly by now, he knows. I did, after all, paint his bedroom a shade we now fondly refer to as electric seafoam within our first six months together. And spent the next six months we lived there plotting my color counter-attack.

He's developed an admirable patience with it all. Particularly since I always rope him into doing the painting.

Anyway -- so that's me. Hemming and hawing back and forth over paint chips. Running out to see them in the natural light. Then searching for the darkest corner in the store to check the color out in low-light conditions.

It should come as no surprise to learn that I have been asked by many a helpful clerk, "Well, what colors do you like to wear?" Or, the more discerning among them will say, "I see your sweater is green. What about this nice soft mint?"

I think these questions are naive, ridiculous, and lovely. And I have soft spot in my heart for anyone who's ever asked.

But maybe I've been too quick to discount such color-picking theories. And here's why I might possibly be coming around:

Last week, at the farmer's market, I fell victim to the irresistible pull of sunflowers bundled with some charming, pink thistle-y things. They've been sitting, centerstage and proud, on my table all week. And now, now that they are withered and ready for the compost heap (if only I had one), I spied them hanging out on a shelf with some yarn. Yarn that's been sitting around for ages. Yarn I keep meaning to do something with. And, well, the resemblance is obvious.

So the yarn's time is now, I guess. It feels inevitable that I should finally cast on for those Transition Gloves. Like the season, the colors, the flowers demand it. I have been called. And I intend to obey.

Maybe this is a universal truth about yarn? Maybe I can expect someone at the LYS to ask, as I stand in front of the thousands of colors looking thoroughly perplexed, "Well, what color flowers have you bought lately?" Maybe this will become an accepted, practiced, evangelized technique.

Or maybe I just spend too much time in paint stores?

07 August 2008

A Post, Sort Of

I am swamped at work today. And my mind is a mushy gobblety-gook of commas, font size, headers, italics, and boldface.

So, instead of the fascinating dissertation on the ins and outs of document formatting that would surely ensue if I was left very long, unattended, at a keyboard, I present to you a ridiculously cute picture of Lila. Because I am shameless.

06 August 2008

Just Because

My internal wiring goes berserk when I find a card as great as this:

This photo is by Jeannette Ordas, the creatrix behind The Beautiful Project.
You can find her cards at Good Egg Industries and her etsy shop.

Yes, I had to. Because it is, I think, the perfect, not-too-sappy, I-love-you-like-crazy card.

(Ah, love. Moo.)

05 August 2008

The Distance Between Two Points

There is, actually, a connection between these disparate, simultaneous urges I've had lately to worship all that is mediterranean and blue, and want all that is autumn-y and crisp:

My very new, very own craft room.

This weekend, Rick and I picked up rollers and painted. In a flash – and really, it was the fastest, fuss free-est painting we have ever done – the back room was transformed from its pasty white primer to the softest, warmest blue. Which is also, I discover, a blue of many hues; by turns steely gray, pale violet, and chalky spring-sky. It is almost its own mood ring or amazing Technicolor dreamcoat.

I am fascinated by it. I will even sneak away to the room at random times of day just to see what color it is right at that moment.

It’s rare when I become this attached to a paint color I’ve picked. While true that I normally like them enough, generally speaking, once the allure of new color has faded, I am left with little more than a painted wall. You know? Sort of ho hum, here I am in the room with green walls. And: that thing you can’t find? Did you check inside the pink room? Never before have I loved a color to the point that I've found myself wishing to be inside the room whenever I'm not.

Unfortunately, I lack the photographic mojo required to begin to capture this blue for you. I have tried, in different lights, at different times of day, with different camera settings, to provide you the sort of proof required to assure you that I am not crazy on paint fumes over here.

This, however, is a task that demands the mastery of Jen Gotch. I am thoroughly inadequate for the job. As inadequate as I am at describing the millionty-one shades of blue and blue-violet of this hydrangea flower, which is also responsible for stimulating my recent over-interest in blue. Though the attempt provides its own satisfactions, if I do say so myself.

So this blue on my walls has awakened in me a sort of blue worship. Which feels a bit taboo actually, growing up as I did in a very anti-blue house.


I’m not sure what exactly it was my mother thought she was avoiding; maybe one of those overdone, smoky blue, country-themed houses that spread like viruses through the suburbs? Or could it be that she just really, to the core of her being, dislikes blue and all that blue stands for? Impossible, I think; I shake my head at that. But maybe, I guess.

At any rate, loving blue feels like a rebellion. – I can already hear what my mom will say about the new paint the first time she sees it: “Well, it’s nice enough, dear. If you like it. Not a color I would ever pick though.” – Almost as if, by painting my little room this shade, I have lifted a loud, defiant middle finger to my history and my upbringing. Which makes me laugh.

But this blue is also inspiring. Not necessarily the rebellion part – I fear I’m too old to be energized much by that – but more the transformative part. The way the color itself transforms to new levels of beauty throughout the day. The way it has transformed the room into a space that invites creativity. And the way that the simple choice of blue has transformed me.

Which brings me to my yearning for autumn. This blue has inaugurated for me the era of the craft room. (Craft! Room! I squee, on the inside.) And it is a delightful place to be.

So I am ready for you, Fall. I have the space now. Space enough to accommodate all your demands for the making of things that are warm and cozy. I have a room with a sewing table and a comfy chair, and I’m happy to sit there all day.

Please hurry along now. Won’t you?

04 August 2008

Almost There?

It’s premature for this, I know – it’s 97 degrees outside and only the beginning of August; there’s the state fair and a long, Indian summer ahead – but I am yearning for Fall. For apples and pears and stew. For crunchy leaves and crisp air and the promise of rain. For sweater knitting and quilt making and afternoons spent – lazy and warm – in the comfort of my bed.

02 August 2008


Gloriously so.

01 August 2008

It's Come Roaring Back, With Needles Blazing

It’s no secret that I haven’t been much of a knitter lately. In fact, I can hear you now, saying to yourself, incredulously, “She knits?!” – or, depending on how you know me, “She still knits?!”

Yes and no. I do, in general. But no, I haven’t been lately.

I seem to have made the mistake of casting on for two pair of knee-high socks at the same time. Only to find that whatever impulse to create I felt in any part of my being quickly drowned in a sea of fiddly, small stitches churned out in round after endless round of knitting with sticks as slight as toothpicks. And, bound by my guilt of setting aside a perfectly good work in progress to sate my fiber lust with another, I have responded by simply not knitting at all.

I go into this, I guess, to make two things clear: 1) I had no idea that Twist Collective even existed until this morning (I seem to have missed all the hype and buzz that accompanied the making of the premiere issue), and 2) Twist Collective is a fiber-loving force to be reckoned with. (Seriously. Check it out.)

I stumbled upon it today (their very first day, even!), by chance, through the wonder that is Ravelry. And oh my! am I in awe. Gorgeous designs and gorgeous photography. And gorgeously written articles to boot.

The combined sum of which have completely sent me to some sort of handcrafted, fleecy nirvana, where the streets are paved with the qiviut lovingly hand-collected from the molting muskox in the spring. I have now spent my entire morning clicking at yarn sites, conducting my own, thoroughly unscientific comparisons of fiber content, drape, and wraps per inch, and generally tending and feeding my now-reclusive inner-knitter. I am even hatching plots to get clacking on a sweater. Or two. And maybe even – dare I say? – a pair of socks.

Welcome back from exile, knitting urge!

(I have missed you.)