Monday, November 30, 2009

And you thought Big Brother was the worst that could happen? Think again.

Ah, yes. So here I am continuing the new tradition of a blog a month. Frankly, it's a sucky tradition and it needs to change. And it will. Soon. But, babies, such a tale have I to tell!

(No, I did not drive through the garage door. I didn't, okay? Give me some credit. And no, I did NOT have another work computer monitor almost spontaneously combust on me again. Oh. I've not told you that story? Never mind, then. It was nothing. Really. coughilovemynewflatscreenmonitorthoughcough)

Anyway, on to the tale. Do you have someone to snuggle? A good blankie and piece of comfort knitting ready for the scariest parts? Perfect. Then let us begin.

The Harlot's been talking about them for years. You know who I mean. Those fiber-stealing felons who make off with freshly-washed fleece.

Those squirrels. The plotters.

Well, the little suckers decided to kick it up a notch in my case. Not content to sit about and hope that I would eventually get round to washing fleeces and laying them out to dry, they instead planned the ultimate Home Invasion.

The little blighter who volunteered for the mission came down the chimney a la Tom Cruise, no doubt doing spins and twirls that would make a ballet dancer proud. I fear my hope that it whacked its little head a million times on a tumbling trip down is all in vain.

I know this because its wee iPod was playing the theme music from Mission Impossible. I thought I had dreamed the music when I awoke in the dead of night, but clearly it was real. Beside, we found its little harness and pulley contraption dangling in the chimney after the horror had ended, and a tiny helmet underneath the wood. It was prepared, damn it.

I walked out in the morning, unaware that it had tossed all the wood in the fake fireplace hither and yon. I also failed to notice that the fireplace's glass door had been skillfully jimmied open just a tad.

I did, however, notice that the curtain and rod which hang over the small window behind the TV were knocked askew. (Remember that window? I sure do.) I was puzzled by that, but as I was running close to being almost-but-not-quite-late, I simply rehung the curtain and left.

My only excuse for such somnolent behavior, such blatant disregard for the massively glaring signs of badness approaching was that I had to have been subjected to some kind of gas that fogged my thinking. Probably something made from fermented acorn mash. (Did I mention the tiny spray bottle we also found? I didn't? How did I neglect that?)

Any idea what a grey squirrel, when left alone in a house for eight hours, gets up to?

A freakin' lot. That's what. A howling group of sugar-crazed preschoolers intent on scattering every toy in the house had nothing on this guy.

(I could have taken pictures, but quite frankly, I'm trying to erase the images from my mind. It's not working, mind you, but I am trying.)

Lamps were overturned. Books tossed. Magazines scattered. (I think it tried a taste-test lick on several pages of Spin-Off.) The clean dishes had paw prints on them and the apples on the counter had been seriously terrorized. It took time to play several games and then neglected to put up the pieces. Woodwork had chew marks galore. Anything that could be made a mess of was.

Anything, that is, EXCEPT the yarn. Yes, I know. You've been clutching your comfort knitting so tightly you bent your metal needles, terrified of what had befallen the stash. But be of good heart. All is well.

I have the yarn stored in tins on a high shelf. But after viewing the rest of the house, I've no doubt that that presented little obstacle. They knew what they were about when they sent their lone rodent in.

I also know how well they planned because my ever-brave Thing 2 caught the rodent in the act. She strolled into my room just as it was getting ready to shoot its little grappling hook up onto the shelf.

It was that close.

Instead of a quick zip up a nylon rope, it reverted to "look I'm a cute woodland creature" behavior and made a dash across her feet into the enclosed porch, where, unfortunately, all the book boxes are stored, not to mention the games and crafts cabinet. It had been there before, as I have mentioned, and clearly thought it an excellent place to hide.

With great presence of mind, Thing 2 shut the door behind it, trapping it. The Things conferred, then opened the door just a bit and rolled the last untouched apple into the room after it. They watched as it pounced on the poor apple from above, clearly worried that it only had .5 seconds to pull the right seeds out and deactivate the cleverly concealed bomb. Satisfied it had secured the area, it retreated.

Wanna know the mood of a secret agent squirrel after it's been trapped for an hour? Bit shirty, to say the least.

And did you know that a squirrel, after being subjected to routing from hiding places in an effort to get it out the porch door which leads to freedom, will obstinately hide behind a curtain and growl really, really loudly?

Like, really loudly.

Eventually, we left the apple near the open door and tiptoed away. And the agent, accepting defeat, vanished into the night, dragging its apple-bomb behind it as proof of its ordeal. Or maybe as a palliative to the rest of the squad for the loss of all that G. I Joe gear. Think of the hand-to-paw combat they had to go through to score that. I mean, seriously.

When faced with that much destruction to clean up, I did the only sensible thing.

I knit.

One very UFO double knit scarf has reached the proper length.

The train in being duplicate stitched on. New matching mittens (with trains, of course) to follow, as Thing 4 says the other mittens are getting tight. I'll be using this pattern (Rav link). (And I'll be twisting all the knit and purl stitches on purpose! Knitting wrongly deliberately! My favorite!)

And I'll be vigilant. Because you know how they are...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Why I don't read Dick and Jane

I'll not be hanging out with any small tots and reading about Dick, Jane, and their cute little yappy dog Spot. Not ever again. Why, you ask?

Because my morning read like a Dick and Jane Primer From Hell. Don't believe me? Please, open to page 1...

See Heidi and Thing 4 get ready for school. See Heidi lock door as she walks Thing 4 to meet the bus. (Please note: Thing 2 has ONLY house key and has already left for school.) See Heidi get into car and realize that she has her SPARE keys. NOT the set with her office keys attached. See Heidi heave a sigh. See Heidi walk round to the back of the house and

{insert turning of page here}

further enhance her breaking and entering skills by climbing up on the deck railing and hoisting herself up to the ridiculously small window behind the TV. (Please note: she left spare keys on deck, ‘cause dropping keys inside and not fitting through window would have been bad.) See Heidi think, "Thank goodness I forgot to lock the window after removing the tiny A/C unit!"

See Heidi contort herself in ways that would make an Indian fakir proud as she finally gets through the window AND manages this feat WITHOUT knocking over the TV, which she has already done once in the past week (don’t ask) only to discover…

{yes, I know, the suspense is building faster than in a Dan Brown novel--so turn the page again}

when she goes to the back door to get to the deck/retrieve the spare keys that the boys forgot to lock it after coming in from playing—she could have just walked in through the damn door. To add insult to injury, after looking in all the usual places, see Heidi discover that the keys were in her upscale messenger bag.

See Heidi pretend hard not to notice that the upscale messenger bag was in the car.

See Heidi not curse the heavens, but rather calmly lock the window, the back door and the front door. See Heidi get into her car (with BOTH sets of keys, thank you very much), pull out of the garage without running into the closed garage door (no, she’s NOT sayin’ if she has ever done that before) and then realize that she has left her #%*)&#%*&$% prescription sunglasses in the %$(*%# house on the ONLY sunny day this week.

Close the book. Now, babies.

And even after all that, I still chose to knit.

Stupid, right?

I didn't think so at first. Okay, I made a mistake on each side of the shawl, but I caught both in the automatic stitch count I do, and corrected easily on the needle as I went back down the purl row.

I had indeed cast off the evil spell of Dick and Jane, had I not?

Erm, yeah. Next row was simple. YO, K2, YO, DBL DEC, YO, K2, YO, Sl 1 K2tog psso, YO, K2, Yo...simple. Lovely.

Soooo, I did one side of the shawl. One stitch off on final count--only 140 with 141 being the correct answer. Looked back over the stitches themselves, discovered one missing YO (easy fix on way back--yea!), bipped a stitch marker in to mark the spot, and hit the other side of the center line.

Time for stitch count. 137? Wha? That's less stitches than I started with! Counted again. 140. Hmmmm. 139? 128?!?! Double wha?!?!

See Heidi sigh. See Heidi go back to looking at actual stitches for counting, running through the mantra in her head, "YO, 2, YO, 1, YO, 2, Yo, 1" ad nauseam, until she discovers not one, but two missing YOs. See Heidi think that okay, she can deal with that. See Heidi assure herself that it's all good.

Then see Heidi be stupid. Much stupider than when she didn't check the back door.

See Heidi count stitches one more time.


See Heidi step away from the needles for the night, despite the fact that she really wanted to finish the chart and is only three rows away from doing so.

Some days it just doesn't pay to mess with Dick and Jane.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Of That of Which I Did Not Write: Frustration

I've been away for awhile.

At first, there was a fallow time, in which nothing much went as planned. I started a well-reasoned blog about the virtue of sometimes doing nothing; of being still in the midst of frustration.

I didn't finish it (though I'll include it in the end). Somehow, words went by the wayside, even as I talked my way endlessly through frustrations and worry over things like my computer glitch interfering with my writing plans and my pay cut--especially the latter. Even as I dealt with the cognitive dissonance of my pride in supporting my family with no state help (and on a salary that people bluntly told me they could not support their solo selves on, let alone four people) coupled with the fact that my margin of error had slipped to a thin line, well...even then, there was a strange center of stillness that I kept well-hidden.

(And for any family member that might have read the above--don't tell the folks or other siblings, all right? It'd only make them worry needlessly. I can pay what few bills I have and feed all the peeps--we're getting on fine.)

It stayed with me, though, that silence. It followed me on college campus visits with Thing 1, and made even my excitement that one had an experimental farm with sheep and guard llamas quiet.

That picture alone, normally, would have been a blog full of fun and cheek. But from me: stillness.

I blogged briefly about driving to Iowa, a quick flash of my normal online presence, but I didn't include returning to my childhood home and showing my children all that is left of it--grass-covered ruts that was the lane that led up the hill (such a cold walk in the winters of the 70s when little girls still wore dresses to school most days) and then on aways before you even reached the house which was leveled to make more fields

and the corn crib in which I used to scamper, up near the rafters on the beams that ran from crib to crib, and from which I almost once fell. I landed straight on the beam rather than the concrete slab below, knocking a tooth loose as I clutched tight to the splintered wood and stared, wild-eyed, at the dirt grayed cement below. Fortunately I was at the age where losing teeth was expected. My parents never discovered we'd been doing that which we were forbidden.

(And ever since then, I have been unable to step from edges that lead to drop offs; no cliff diving at water parks for me, though I've tried.)

I settled into the heat-haze routine of Iowa. It was in perfect sync with the stillness hidden inside the talk, though in Iowa, the talk became muted. It was quiet conversation that slipped from person to person with the ease of a perfect string of purl stitches. Who married whom from which clan of Beckers or Hertles or Nissens and who had suffered the loss of parent or spouse or child or self; the pattern of interlocked lives falling like rows from my fingertips, so that even the woman from one town over who cut the hair of Things 3 and 4 could create with me a genealogy of common acquaintances, though we had never met before that day.

I took the Things to the lake I'd lived at in the summers as teen and I watched them in the water as I knit on the grass above the beach

and joined them in sandcastle making

and meandered with the butterflies.

Then suddenly, we were back in Maine and the school year slammed into me full-force. The tutoring center took on a new life and took off. I was given a class to teach with students bright thinking, even when they believed they weren't (I'm working on that). I'd established a rep, it seems, as an approachable teacher who knitted while they did their in-class writing and who not only demanded the world from them, but who expected that they'd deliver it. (I have had a few students tell me that if they can't earn an A from me, they are aiming for as close to it as possible and I like it that they use that word: earn.) I had days (and still do) where getting ten minutes to slam down lunch between non-stop appointments felt like a major accomplishment.

Stillness, it seemed, should have fallen by the wayside. Certainly writing and knitting had as I rushed home to feed Things and run to activities with them. By the time I returned from wherever we had gone and got everyone to bed, I wanted simply to sleep.

But somehow the frenzy made my hidden stillness that much more noticeable. Despite how absorbed I had been in my job and my family, that quiet core was still there, searching its way about, humming softly along without much input from me.

What I didn't notice at first was how that stillness had wrought a change in my pattern, as clear and entrancing as the movement of one motif to the next in the shawl on which I am working.

The silence has slipped through me and about me and transformed parts of me in ways I'm only just beginning see. I'm watching with interest as the old repeats give way to an entirely new series of airy open spots and dense clusters--the yarn overs and double decreases of my own life. (Which other knitters will understand immediately and which my non-knitting friends who read will sigh over, then gently tease me about later.) The pattern has changed.

It's not a break, however, from the old. The same two stitches that create everything in knitting still function in my life; in essentials, I am as ever I was. My common denominators have not changed. Instead, I'm building on those basics, taking all that has come before and the gift of the beauty before has created to branch off in unknown ways.

In short, I'm making it up as I go, and waiting to see what the free-form of space gives me.

So far, it has given surprising people who have created patterns of deceptively simple beauty.

There is one who understands how to give the gifts of laughter and honesty. (After all, what else can you do when but laugh when you learn that said friend has been given the moniker Lactose the Intolerant?) She's a rare person who somehow manages to create perfect symmetry between letting me move through things at my own pace while still handing me the truth about myself not only with no sting, but with provoking from me wry laughter, a calm self-acceptance and occasionally just a flat out giggle fest over the sum of my life for no real reason.

Her friendship has created a sea-spray of cascading motifs, of sympathetic pools of deeply dense stitches and open spaces of rippling laughter, that I will someday try to capture in yarn. Something delicate and shimmering and flowing, I think, that changes its light and mood in each new moment.

It's given to me another friend completely unexpected and, as it was phrased, whom I met in a curious way. One whose quiet observations and gentle questions soothe me. We both lead busy, busy lives and don't always communicate regularly, but even reading the line, "Every day I thought: I am going to write Heidi today," is enough to tell me that our friendship is present for both of us and that it adds something to each of our days. It's a stacking pattern which strengthens itself with each new repeat and from which a life-long friendship could well be knitted, in colors that are deep and comforting. If I could capture it in the reality of what my hands create, it would be a reassuringly warm blanket, the kind you wrap yourself in after a day spent in the snowy woods.

New patterns, new creations, new possibilities springing from my past and my present moments, all leading forward to a future of infinite possibilities and permutations.

I'm probably not writing very coherently at this point. It's late and I had planned on being asleep long ago, but there are moments and times when words need to come out, even if there is not much sense to be made of them. I know what this all means to me, but realize it may mean nothing to whoever reads it. And I've come to the conclusion, against all my training, sometimes the words simply need to resonate for oneself, the way that creating something with your hands means something unique to you that even the recipient of your labor may not fully grasp.

What is given and what is received are never exactly the same.

And maybe, even with words that flow out into world, that's all right.

What July Was Going To Say...(If you feel like reading something unfinished. If not, no worries. Just close the window.)

This month went nothing like I envisioned. I had a schedule drawn up for myself. Knitting or crocheting a bit each morning, a long morning of writing, lunch on the deck in the sun, and back to writing through the afternoon, with more crafting or time with friends in the evening.

I even set up an outdoor office

for the nice days.

The almost constant rain was actually the least of my worries. On my first day of writing, while flipping through the first novel for reference points as I worked on the second book, my computer wigged out. The screen went berserk, and when I finally got it restarted and under control, it let me know that the video card was not happy.

I've tried a restore to the point of last restore, going several months back. No change. I've updated the driver via the Windows update. Nada.

I'm operating in Safe Mode, with networking. Just to add insult to injury, the old laptop's fan is wheezing like an old dog in 1oo degree heat. My computer time is limited to short bursts with down time in-between to let the computer cool.

Somehow, all this seemed on par with other facets of life and I found myself doing something that is very atypical in our day and age, when time off from work is a frenzied attempt to squeeze in as many activities as possible.

I did almost nothing.

I ate when I felt like it is, as with all but the oldest Thing gone, it was not necessary to make big meals. I was brought up to speed in the world of zombie films by Thing One's dinner and movie nights. (Shaun of the Dead is still my favorite over the older ones, though now at least I know why, "We're coming to get you, Barbara!" is so funny.) I stretched out on the deck in the heat of the day and watched the clouds float, blue and gray and grainy white above me.

But perhaps strangest of all, I abandoned my to-do list and just knit on what I was absorbed in, the Hidcote Garden Shawl.

I centered all my frustration over not being able to write into one specific pattern. Rather than rail at what was beyond my technical capabilities (or my pocketbook's capabilities) to fix, I concentrated on the steady movement of my hands as they slipped wood and wool quietly through them.

I came to terms with my dyslexic's short-term memory problems by accepting the fact that I could think a number while counting, only to forget it by the time my fingertips touched the next two stitches waiting their turn to be tallied as I went down the purl row, trying to make sure I hadn't dropped a yarn over. I learned to touch a stitch and then look below it, counting by repeating the patterning I had just done a row before. My hands had memorized the pattern, you see, and so I let them do a repetitive chant of each stitch, and learned to tell the difference in the look of a yarn over stitch and a knit stitch that had moved down from the needles by the purl stitch above them as they sat in their places. I learned to fix a problem two rows down right where it occurred, rather than frogging out rows of lace knitting.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Beware the Dark Hours of the Knitting Night

Ah ha! I am not mad! Not, I say! The pattern errata proves it! I am vindicated! I CAN count! Mwah ha ha ha ha!

Now why I didn't have the sense to check online to see if there was an errata* before knitting down the same damn row with the same instructions AGAIN when I knew they didn't work the first time doesn't say a whole lot for my intelligence.

But at least I'm not crazy.

(Erm, well. Note to self: Perhaps more sleep before knitting or blogging again would be advisable. Self to self: Said note seems pithy and full of good advice. Too bad there's not much chance of me following it. Why break the habits of a lifetime now?)

*Because the errata was there, and had been there since 6-July, just waiting for me to notice it. Miriam is quite helpful like that.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Friends Don't Let Friends

Okay, so you hear it *everywhere* in the knitting world. A crafter's co-op (which does, I think, free-trade or something positive and similar) even makes a greeting card with a wee knitted swatch riddled with non-yo holes to illustrate the point: DON'T drink and knit.

Well, babies, it had been a loooong drive from New York to Chicago, and it had rained for most of it. I spent most of my time in Ohio either looking at skies like this

or hoping that I would be able to see out my windshield soon. Downpour city. However, it did allow me to get this picture during a lull--my shutter speed and the car speed turned a blurred picture into something almost impressionistic, and I was absurdly pleased with the result.

So it wasn't the storm that fostered the need for wine. I'm a Midwestern-raised girl--I can handle storms.

Nope, it was getting to downtown Chicago to drop off Thing One's stuff that did me in.

Call me simplistic, but I rather think that if I get off on an exit for Lakeshore Drive, then I should BE on Lakeshore Drive. I should not have had to scoot across 40-billion grid-locked lanes in an obscenely short amount of time so that I could get to Lakeshore, which the exit promised I would be on, rather than ending up in Chinatown, which I am sure is lovely but was not at all where I wanted to go.

By the time I got through that nifty maneuver, I was more than ready for a good red.

My host cautioned it was rather strong, but I insisted that lightweight me (who's also dropped a bit of actual weight, for which my doctor will yell at me but oh well) who had not eaten since about 11:30 a.m could handle it, even though it was now 9:30 p.m.

And bwa ha ha--to prove it, I nimbly began to knit the wrong side row of the shawl. I was smugly pointing out that look, all my little purl stitches were there, were even, were undropped, were indeed a thing of beauty, and then I looked more closely.

I had just turned the shawl into a cowl.

Thankfully, I at least had the sense not to frog it out right then. Instead, with as much dignity as a tipsy knitter could muster, I set my work down and stepped away from it.

I thought I had salvaged the situation quite well, but when I came downstairs in the morning I found this:

Methinks my friend is a cheeky git.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Yes, Virginia...

You really can knit whilst stuck in a queue of tourist traffic at a tollbooth.

I mean, hey, c'mon, it's not like I was doing 60 or something. It was like, inch forward at 2 miles an hour, put foot on break, do another fifeteen purls, inch forward (you get the picture).

Although I was purling. I mean, you don't have to look at your work when you purl, so doing 60 and knitting...OMG.

It could WORK.

(Well, as long as you're not driving in Boston or Chicago, anyway...)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I Am Handcrafted, Hear Me Roar

Dearest Stitches,

We need to talk about you messing with my head. You all, I'm sure, as you sit there on the needles, gab endlessly about ways to make your life more amusing.

I can understand it must be boring to wait a couple of hundred stitches down and then a couple of hundred back to find out whether you're going to be knitted, purled ssk'd, dbl dec'd, k2tog'd or sl1 k2tog psso'd. (Well, except you two groups of three stitches at either end. You never change. I admire your stoicism and herewith exempt you from the rest of this diatribe.)

I empathize with boredom. Really. I do.

But for the love of lace, when I've got a section with a 103 stitches, with a marker after stitch 51, then I expect 52 stitches on the other side. I'm a simple knitter. I don't think that's asking for much.

I see no humor in you pretending, then, to have 51 stitches on the other side as well. Or 48, 47, 53 or 49. And the time you made the leap down to 32 was really, really not funny at all. You knew it was a row with a lot of yos. You knew how easy it is to muck those up, and you took advantage of my apprehensions.

But the worst of it? You didn't even bother to try and hide your sniggering. Not even after I discovered all of you were there after all. Sauciness is one thing, but that, my dear stitches, was the equivalent of a battle cry.

And I have never been one to back down from a battle.

So. I went back and redid myself, complete with Chris-given nickname. I'm no longer Heidi: Handcrafted Electronic Individual Designed for Infiltration.

I have become*

Heidihun: Handcrafted Electronic Individual Designed for Infiltration, HARM & ULTIMATE NULLIFICATION.

Ponder those last words, dearest stitches. Think what they could do to your happy dreams of becoming a beautiful shawl. I know how you long to be beautifully blocked, lovingly worn, and jealously admired. But if this rebellion continues, all those dreams will be for naught.

Can you imagine it? Stop and listen. Yes. There it is. The soft sound of frogs, ripping harmfully back to where you lie trembling on the needles.

Think of becoming, once again, one long, hugely boring piece of string, wound back into a ball. No pretty patterns. No beautiful shape. No admiration of your subtle colors.

Just...ultimate nullification.

There there, dear stitches. No sniffling. We don't want you felting together, now do we? Have you all taken a deep breath? Are we all on the same page? Can we count sensibly now?

Good. We'll begin R15 of the current chart, then. Thank you.


Your knitter

*Source : (both text & picture are the property of