The Life and Times of Florence Knitingale

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

On Lightening Rods and First Dates

Mr. K's presentation went brilliantly. I hear that people were telling him it was the best they'd seen so far (and there are only two more to go) and that they "need someone like him here." We don't know when they'll decide whom to hire, but they definitely like him very much. (I can totally understand that....) I've no doubt whatsoever that all of your good energy contributed significantly to this fine turn of events. (Especially those of you who said it was okay to eat trifle for breakfast--you rule.)
However, I'm equally sure of another thing: my entire purpose in life yesterday was to be a stupidity rod for all the bad things that might have befallen my dear hubby. Back in the way old days, bridesmaids and groomsmen were at weddings for precisely that purposoe--the fooling of evil spirits and suchlike--so the happy couple might remain...well...happy. I never gave much thought to the poor decoys until yesterday. All I can say is this: I hope he gets this job, or another one very soon. Because if I have to be his stupidity rod for a dozen more interviews.....well, my legs will be fluffy and shiny, my homework will mysteriously fill with more and more farm animals, the electricity from my laundry will take out at least one of the cats, chocolate futures will go sky high, and my yarn stash will run yipping in fear from me. As will the surviving cats.

See? It's already starting. But, speaking of yarn (which is what I generally speak of when I'm not speaking of chocolate), my knitting yesterday went much as predicted. Which is to say, I spent a couple of soothing hours with yarn and needles and produced....ultimately, a ball of yarn and some needles. I'm not sure it's entirely the fault of this stupidity rod thing, though. In all honesty, I confess that it's not the first time that this has happened. In fact, I spend inordinate amounts of time at my home, settling disputes between pattern and yarn.

See, I pick out a pattern that I think is lovely. I pick out some yarn that I think is lovely. For whatever unholy reason, I imagine that they will get along well with one another. I introduce them and they immediately stare at me in disbelief. Then, one or both of them will start to question the character and quality of the other. There's a bit of namecalling, occasionally a bit of fisticuffs. It's all downhill after that. I usually attempt to push the issue, and it just gets ugly. One starts making nasty insinuations about the other one's mama, one makes anatomically impossible suggestions to the's bad. Because I'm stubborn, I push on. Sometimes, I can convince them to at least TRY one another, but this is typically a bad idea. The resulting love child is invariably so hideous that it should have a bag over its head. I know, you think I'm being cruel. But seriously--go back in my blog and look at the first incarnation of the crayon sock. Go ahead. I'll wait.

See? Now you're wishing you'd had a bag over your own head, just so you didn't have to see the thing, aren't you? (I know I was.)

Such was the way of things yesterday, as I was quietly sitting in my living room, drawing stupidity and clumsiness to me like my relatives at a family reunion drawn to the watered-down punch-flavored kool-aid. Oh, it wasn't that the love child was that bad...but it was a mismatch, to be sure. I'm not sure why. The pattern was free from Angora Valley and the yarn was Monarch, the very one called for in the pattern. And yet, they might as well have been the high school quarterback and the band geek for all they got along (I can say that because I was a major band geek....if you are a band geek and are offended, however, please know that I hold you in the highest esteem. It's the cheerleaders and quarterbacks I'm not too sure about.). Somehow, the yarn seemed too heavy for the pattern and what came out looked much like a lacy hiking sock. Or a gorilla in a tiara. Something like that. I love them both...but definitely not together.

Happily, though, once Mr. K called to tell me all was well, I was able to disengage the gorilla from the tiara and start the pattern over with Schaeffer Anne. The Anne was definitely more to the pattern's liking. They started flirting with one another right away and were holding hands in no time.

I think I even noticed some ear nibbling, and the yarn (hussy that she is) has been primping all day long. If all continues to go well--if their next date is successful--I hear they're going to try for twins.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

About Half a Bubble Out of Plumb

Mr. K is, as I've mentioned, "pre-employed" since the sale of his company by a CEO who shall remain nameless but who has the morals of a sewer rat trying to get to an appointment with its drug dealer (not that I'm bitter...but said CEO walked off with over 60 million dollars for the amazing feat of running a company into the ground and adding 700 unemployed people to the local economy...he's not my favorite person in the whole world). He (Mr. K) is, however, attracting some interest from local companies seeking brilliant scientists and is off today having a full day interview and giving a 40 - 50 minute presentation to the entire company. No pressure. He's been sleeping only short periods for the last two weeks as he's perfected this presentation and spending the rest of his time locked in our home office. He emerged yesterday to give the presentation to me a few times for practice....I was pleased to note that he looked much as I remembered him, although significantly more tired and more than a little wild-eyed. I think that nervous tic is new, as well.

All of which goes to formulate an excuse of sorts for the fact that I am, indeed, about half a bubble out of plumb and have been so for the past few days. See, I'm nothing if not a giving wife, so why wouldn't I shoulder some of the panic and stress and anxiety for my dear husband? (Also, he's not here to defend himself so, for now, it can be his fault that I'm a nutjob.) Check this out:

I was trying to work on chemistry and realized 10 minutes after the fact that instead of writing "100 mol" I had inexplicably written "1 moo" in about five places. I have no possible explanation for this, since we were not doing any sort of cow experiment of which I'm aware. Then again, I think we can safely say that my awareness may be a tad bit impaired.

I shaved my legs and armpits with $7-a-bottle shampoo, designed to increase body and shine. Applied lavishly, naturally. I have no desire to find out what I washed my hair with, but it did lather quite nicely, and my legs are quite shiny.

I have forgotten repeatedly to purchase fabric softener but have not forgotten to wash all of the fleece garments in the house. As a result, I could power all of Seattle and half of Tacoma purely on static electricity (if you see me somewhere and I have a sock stuck to my ass, there's a reason. Not a good one, but a reason.)

On the way out the door yesterday morning (at 7 am) I somehow decided that spoonful of leftover trifle was just the thing. Yes, I am appropriately ashamed, and yes, I know that it is hardly breakfast food. But I thought chocolate might help and I was running late and probably had a sock stuck to my ass and...well...I just did it, okay? It wasn't until I was halfway down the hill that I realized I now had alcohol breath and further realized that, if stopped, I would probably claim 7 am tippling before admitting to eating a spoonful of chocolate trifle for breakfast....because poor chocolate control somehow seemed more shameful.

I am knitting with such grace and skill that I might just as well be wearing oven mitts when I pick up the needles. The mosaic socks are finished, but only because I have a high tolerance for repetition (ie, repeatedly frogging back to the pre-stupid part and gamely pretending that my head is somewhere other than the immediate vicinity of the abovementioned sock so I can knit it again with some new and more fascinating screw-up).

I have somehow begun to fantasize about a short jacket knit in a mosaic pattern, possibly in black and white because I am obviously quite mad. I'm not even sure it wouldn't make me look like a cleverly patterned barge or a tapestry-covered barn with long hair...and yet, I have ordered a book of mosaic patterns. This cannot be a good sign.

I hunted a good 20 minutes for the blue size 1 dpn that was nestled securely in my pocket the whole time (I had put it there, of course, so I wouldn't lose it); I ironed my husband's interview shirt for at least 15 minutes before it occured to me that something involved in this procedure should be getting the iron, maybe (ohhh, you have to turn it ON first); I pinched my finger in the folding doors on the mudroom closet because after three years living here I apparently don't know better than to lean on them; and I dumped half a can of diet pepsi down the side of the washing machine onto the hardwood floor because I somehow thought that after approximately 3745 times of leaving the cans partially full, Mr. K had this time miraculously emptied one before setting it in the recycle pile.

See what I mean? Half a bubble out of plumb. I have the house to myself today, but I think the best plan is to sit quietly and not touch anything. I may start knitting a new pair of socks...with the understanding that it's an exercise only and unlikely to produce anything other than a very small, colorful, and well-ventilated onion bag. The computer hasn't blown up, though. That seems like a good sign.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

All is Well With the Ho

No, no--not ME. The giant H0-Ho (with due thanks and credit given to Kit for referring to it as "the ho" and thus giving me a giggle for the day). The ho ended up being quite well received, due in no small part, I expect, to the fact that booze and chocolate and whipped cream really can't be all bad, even if they do bring up memories of those summers I spent running around with a permanent kool-aid mustache and frozen twinkies that my friend and I sneaked out of her dad's freezer (the one he kept in his woodshop in the back yard...the mysteries about what men do in such places just get more and more puzzling, don't they?). There's about this much left:

I know, she looks a bit bedraggled gentle. She had a hard night, what with everyone wanting a piece of her. Someone did ask for the recipe and the short answer is this: the ho is just chocolate cake, poked and sprinkled with booze of choice, and then torn up and layered in a bowl with fudge sauce, whipped cream, and chopped up Heath bars. It can be as hard or as easy as you like--the cake can be homemade or from a mix, the fudge sauce can be homemade or from a jar, and the whipped cream can be fresh whipped or frozen whipped topping. The booze can be whatever turns your own personal handle, although the Bailey's was pretty darned tasty. Kalhua sounds like it might work as well. I did the homemade route, and it went fine. I use a cake recipe that is more or less Knitingale-proof, in that it doesn't require me to "alternately stir in the wet and dry ingredients, ending with the dry" which is good because, as with knitting patterns, I am somewhat famous for noticing the "ending with the dry" part a bit too late....such as, after I put the thing in the oven. For this one, you just take a bowl and dump in:

2 cups sugar

1 3/4 cups flour (sift it if it brings joy to your soul--I never bother)

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 1/2 teaspoons EACH baking powder and baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

Stir 'em around a bit if you've a mind to; don't sweat it if you don't. Seriously, short of spitting in it, you can't ruin this cake (and, if you're a 4 year old, even spitting in it might not take the edge off it). Now dump in on top of the dry stuff:

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons real vanilla

Dig around in the cupboard until you find the mixer. Plug it in, realize the beaters aren't on it. Hunt for two beaters that actually match one another AND the mixer. Attach beaters to mixer, place in bowl, turn it on. Turn it off; wipe cake batter off cupboards, counter, and front of shirt. Set bowl in sink and turn mixer back on. Make note to use larger mixing bowl next time. Mix for about 2 minutes at medium speed. Remove mixer. Stir one cup of boiling water into the batter and pour it into a greased and floured 9 x 13 pan. If you're like me, the thought of trying to get cake out of a pan in one piece likely makes the backs of your knees sweat. Don't worry--you're going to tear this cake to pieces. You could grease the pan with superglue and not ruin this dish (I mean, other than the whole poisoning thing....that throws a bit of a damper on most dinner parties.). Bake the whole thing at 350 for 35 - 40 minutes. Take it out and immediately poke holes all over it with a fork. Take one half cup of the booze of your choice and sprinkle it over the cake. I didn't want to pour it, because cakes and I have a love-hate sort of relationship and I just knew that pouring liquid of any kind over the top was asking for an alcholic lake surrounded by chocolate crumbs. Instead, I dipped my (clean) fingers into a little dish of the booze and sprinkled carefully. Once appropriately sprinkled and spiked (the cake, not you), put in the fridge for at least three hours.

At this point, you can buy one of those terribly fancy footed trifle bowls that give the illusion that you know your tush from a hole in the ground about fancy meal service. I opted for truth in advertising (plus I was too cheap to buy a trifle dish) and used a clear glass mixing bowl. When the cake has chilled appropriately (you'll know if you look in the fridge and the cake is kicked back with its feet up and a beer in one hand, saying "dude..." and looking relaxed), take it out and divide it into three sections. Tear one of them into chunks and line the bottom of the bowl. Drizzle fudge sauce on top of that (jarred or homemade--let me know if you want that recipe as well). Crush up a Heath bar and sprinkle on the fudge. Whip up some fresh cream with vanilla and powdered sugar (and a bit of unflavored gelatin that's been dissolved in hot water if you really want the cream to stay firm. Viagra might also do it...). You can use frozen whipped topping if you prefer--I'm just a huge whore for real whipped cream. Or a huge ho. Whichever. Spread a layer of this on next. Repeat these layers twice more, only with the last one, put the cream on before the crushed candy so you have a nice topping. Chill a bit more and then shovel it out with a spoon and dig in. Do not--I repeat DO NOT contemplate the fat grams or calories. You will not be pleased.

Flush with the success of getting two people who like me to eat smashed, spiked cake and whipped cream (hey, I take my successes where I can get them), I decided to show off my stellar social skills today by checking out a local knitting group. It is probably important to point out here that the term "stellar social skills" translates here as "sit wide-eyed in a corner looking vaguely like a deer in headlights who happens to be heavily sedated" or "babble endlessly about nothing whatsoever and, once aware of my own babbling, responding by babbling more". Today I opted for the "endless babbling" method. They turned out to be very gracious women, and one of them is even a nurse and fellow cat lover who managed to avoid staring at me blankly while wondering if I ever have a thought I don't speak (she may have been wondering that...but if so, she hid it well). She has a blog, too.

While I was out, Mr. K got this picture of Gracie for you:

I'm only slightly more outgoing than this when not in my "babble plenty" mode. I'm probably not quite as cute.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

As Long as We Were Discussing Chocolate....

And really, when AREN'T I discussing chocolate? There was a time and place in history when chocolate was used as currency and frankly, I'm torn between wishing we were still there because it would just be cool to spend chocolate chips, and being thankful that I don't have to worry about eating my money, since I already have enough of a problem with that little habit of know, that one that's creating a crisis of nude sheep all over the civilized world. Ahem. (I do feel badly about all the naked sheep for which I'm certain I'm at least somewhat responsible...but knitting them little sweaters really seems to be rubbing it in a bit.)

ANYWAY, Mr. K and I have been invited to dinner tonight at the home of a delightful doctor for whom I used to work and her partner. I adore Dr. A, and haven't seen her in far too long (notwithstanding the fact that I miss the medical world so very badly I'd probably pay good money just to touch her lab coat), so when she asked me to bring dessert, I wanted something really great. I hunted and researched and struggled and planned and considered combining elements of multiple recipes and watched the Food Network (okay, so I'll watch the Food Network at the drop of a hat which I admit is terribly strange...but at least this time I had a good excuse). I studied and hunted and searched and finally decided on:

Chocolate Trifle

Yes, indeedy. Chocolate cake made from scratch, removed from the oven and poked all over with a fork. Bailey's Irish Cream poured over the poked cake and the whole thing set to absorb. Spiked cake then torn into pieces and layered in a glass bowl with homemade fudge sauce and whipped cream. Perfect, no? I got started on it this morning and was laying out everything I would need....when it dawned on me what I was making. Chocolate cake, creamy filling, fudge sauce that will solidify until it's sort of frosting-like......yep. To impress my dear friend, I have studied and worked and planned and angsted to produce...

....a giant, boozy, Ho-Ho.

Or Ding-Dong...take your pick. Either way, not necessarily the paragon of elegance I was going for. Hang on, let me just check my voicemail.....nope. No calls yet from any of the finer restaurants, wanting me to be their pastry chef. Go figure.

So, in the list of Ms. K's Helpful Tidbits for Life (or for Saturday, at any rate), I offer these timeless suggestions:
1. Experimentation is best saved for when the outcome is not terribly important....which, of course will guarantee a perfect result with nary a giant snack cake in sight.
2. Spiking the cake will not make it any less of a Ho-Ho...better to spike the recipients if at all possible. Later, you can tell them it's a secret French recipe and that they loved it (Le Houx -Houx, I believe it's called).
3. Whipped cream, likewise, does not solve all sins, no matter what the cat thinks. And it's not nice to smear it on her nose where she can't really reach it. Even if it is funny.
4. Face-saving ideas such as "I'll blend the entire thing in the blender and call it mousse!" should be re-examined carefully after sitting down with knitting for at least an hour. Then, if it still sounds reasonable, consider whether you might have drunk either too much or too little of the Bailey's.
5. Related to the above, one should think seriously about the possible ramifications of becoming known as "the one who brought a Ho-Ho smoothie to a dinner party." Unless you don't like the hosts. In that case, throw some Twinkies in there and go to town. That should take care of all those pesky invitations for some time to come(for the record, I LOVE my hosts, so the smoothie is right out).
6. The use of chocolate in an experimental dessert may backfire since chocolate is poisonous to dogs, thus eliminating the option of "accidentally" dropping the bowl on the way in and letting the dogs eat it. (Note to self: explore the wonders of vanilla.)
7. When planning an experimental dessert, telling the hosts ahead of time exactly what you're going to make is the cooking equivalent of merrily announcing to your entire knitting group that you're going to master a new stitch and make a complete hat out of it and teach it to all of them at the meeting next week. With yarn you spun yourself. From your own sheep, that you'll shear for the occasion. In other words, it's just asking for trouble.
8. Friends who are not as bright as my doctor friend might be fooled by a blithe "why yes, this is the chocolate trifle I was telling you about" while handing over a store-bought angelfood cake and a can of Hershey's syrup. (Note to self: cultivate friends who were raised by monkeys in the wilds of Borneo and have never heard of cake. Or trifle. Or Ho-Hos.)
9. A good phrase to practice is "Why yes, I'd love to bring something. How are you for napkins?"
10. Another one is "No, we already had dessert. Don't you remember? You said it was really good."
11. I am not Paula Dean. Or Ina Garten, or the Naked Chef. I am Ms. Knitingale. Next time, perhaps I should offer to bring socks.

Speaking of socks, I can't begin to tell you how much I've appreciated all your support and encouragement regarding my "socks to dye for". It feels like I have a whole bunch of friends who come over and help me laugh at myself and move on. Now, if you can just talk me out of the whole "dying 25 pounds of sock yarn because I'm so darned clever" thing. Or into it. I'll let you know when I decide which.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Socks to Dye For, Part Deux

You were on the edges of your collective seats, weren't you? (Pretend--it will make me feel important.) So I dyed the yarn without destroying the pot, spilling dye on the oak floor, changing the color of the sink to black, or soaking myself from head to toe in nasty hot liquid (no knitbloggers were harmed in the dyeing of the wool). I consider this to be quite a feat. (Or possibly feet...since it's a sock thing....yeah, okay. I'll stop.) I hung the skeins up after dropping one and I think that's where we left off. So, few hours later I ventured to gently untangle the one hank and gently, loosely reskein it and hang it back up to dry, and was much encouraged by the fact that my hands looked to be the same shade at the end as they were at the beginning--even after an hour of handling wet wool so I think the color took okay. And it looks more or less right. I think it's a tad bit darker than the original stuff, but I'm taking Mr. K's advice and using the original for the band and heel and toe, with the newer stuff in the pattern. See what you think:

I'm pretty much good with it. The downside, of course, is that having managed to dip two hanks of yarn in black dye without major harm to person or property, I can already predict that I will sometime soon be spending more money than sense on acres of undyed yarn and dozens of dyes. This is because I will have convinced myself that the above dyeing experience has miraculously changed me from "I wouldn't have a clue about dying wool if I was standing in a clue field during clue mating season covered in clue musk" to "I am brilliant and will give the good people at Koigu a run for their hand-dyed money." And, even as I recognize the all-too-familiar truck of stupidity and overconfidence bearing down on me, I am a deer in its headlights. I have no excuse, and I won't when I write the sobbing blog entry about the 6 pounds of mud-colored yarn I have managed to produce. When this day comes, and it will, I ask only that you be gentle with me.

My other activity for today is the retraining of my mind from "I don't know what's going to happen with the nursing school application thing so I think I'll worry it obsessively for the next three months" to "I don't know what's going to happen with the nursing school application thing and I can't do anything about it so I'm going to think about something else." Big leap for a control freak such as myself. I asked Mr. K how he handles things like this; as it happens, he has ADD and says that he can't obsess about anything for very long before getting distracted by something shiny. Not having ADD, I'm forced to let that solution go.

My method so far consists of "Man, what if they don't let me in over that damned license...? What am I going to do then....oh. Shoot. Quit obsessing. I know, I'll think about the next socks I'm going to make. That's it. I'll have enough black Koigu for another pair of mosaic socks...that would be cool...I could wear them to the interview for nursing school for good luck...I mean--damnit! Did it again. Okay, how about the pair after that? I have that lovely Angora Valley yarn, I could...." and so on. So far, I believe I've planned enough socks to outfit myself through 2057, as well as all of my neighbors, three local apartment complexes, the Radio City Rockettes, the business park at the bottom of the hill, and a small convent in Italy. And all of the cats (which is impressive, in that it requires twice as many socks to outfit a cat.)

Mr. K says I should take a page from Ed's book and, indeed, Ed has the market cornered on relaxing and worrying about nothing. Then again, Ed would also corner the market on Cream of Catnip soup if it was ever offered, and I'm pretty sure that my rolling around exuberantly on the floor the way he does would open up a whole new set of things to worry about. My committment proceedings, for instance. That seems like a somewhat bad thing so, socks it is.

And chocolate. Lots of socks, and lots of chocolate. Which, when I think about it, may actually be Knitingalenip.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Socks to Dye For

Now, you just know there's going to be a story here, don't you? And you're right. See, it all starts with this sock:

I still love this sock beyond all much so, that I feel compelled to post two pictures, for absolutely no discernible purpose. (It may be noted here that falling in love with a mosaic sock worked in black and variegated clown wig colors is a very Ms. Knitingale thing to do).

ANYWAY, so I finished this sock and started to cast on for the other....which is when I noticed that there really wasn't all that much left of the black....probably less than half. Now, to refresh your memory, I bought this stuff at the Madrona Fiber Arts Festival. At a booth. A booth that came from a store many miles away from me that doesn't do online sales. I felt my palms begin to sweat. This seemed like a bad thing...surely, hot salty water on the yarn could only make my problem worse.

See, normal people make socks thusly (or so I'm led to believe...normal and I don't correspond all that much these days...): they pick a pattern, they pick yarn, they buy yarn (or dig it out of stash), they knit socks. Simple, no? Ms. Knitingale people, on the other hand, do it like this: fall insanely in love with sock pattern requiring two sorts of yarn that look good together but contrast enough to bring out the pattern. Realize that this might be a challenge, and proceed anyway, blissfully ignoring warning bells the size of Newfoundland going off in head. Go to once yearly fiber festival and fall in love with Koigu, which I KNOW to be difficult to find at the best of times. Select yarn for socks, consider that one skein of the black might not be enough, and then BUY ONLY ONE ANYWAY. I only wish I could explain what planet that idea took off from. Especially given that the shop is not accessible to me whatsoever. Has anyone seen my brain...anyone?

Okay, so you know the next step--not enough yarn, horror, sweaty palms, etc. Moving on. Hunt feverishly on internet for black koigu. Consider ordering, but realize cannot compare color to existing skein. Have brainstorm, call Weaving Works. Am saved--briefly, at any rate--when kind saleswoman notes that she has FOUR skeins of the black koigu and will set them aside so I can come choose the one I want. Huzzah! (Briefly.) Drive all the way across the water into Seattle's University district and race into store. Collect yarn from sweet salesperson only to realize this:

The picture doesn't do it justice, really, but the new skein (on the right) is actually charcoal gray. The old skein (on the left) is both black, and not enough yarn. It looks subtle in the picture, but there was another woman in the store who picked up one of the skeins of koigu black and said loudly "It's a shame this koigu doesn't come in black." Yeah, it's that gray. I told her that WAS the black, to which she promptly replied "No, it isn't." She had me there. At that point, I decided to go to the next step:

Pull completed sock from purse in abject panic, proclaiming loudly for all to hear that "I absolutely CANNOT unravel this sock. Who can help me? I must have black koigu." (Okay, so the sock wasn't the only thing coming unravelled at that point...but, I mean...who could bring themselves to give up a black and variegated clown wig mosaic sock??) Whereupon the very sweet young salesperson came over and said "If it were me, I'd just overdye it. We carry acid dyes." She was probably thinking something along the lines of "someone please get the crazy lady out of the store" but she had the good grace to not say it out loud. And she even told me how to dye yarn--which included the helpful and somewhat terrifying comment "Oh, and don't let it come to a real boil. If it gets agitated, it will felt." Oh, crudmuffins. It could FELT? And I can't agitate it....okay, so no sheep jokes. Fair enough. I also vowed to let it have the remote control if it wanted it, since I know that having it comandeered always agitates me....then again, I'm pretty sure I'm not felted so maybe it's safer than I think. Anyway, onward.

Now, at this point, the Knitingale school of sock knitting demands the following thought process: "Well, hell. If I'm going to cook a pot of wool and black dye ANYWAY, why not buy two skeins? That way, I can make another pair of mosaic socks (the book has more mosaic patterns besides the ceaser's check) with the leftover yarn." Because, you know, if you wake up in the morning having not the faintest idea how to dye yarn, it makes sense to spend nearly $50 on yarn and supplies on the assumption that you'll be brilliant at it by nightfall. Naturally. It's also far more economical to screw up two skeins of expensive yarn instead of just one. So, here is the offending yarn in it's pre-dye soak:

Which led to another issue. The yarn store girl advised me to remove the yarn from the dye when it appeared to be the right color. But...well, once it was was the right color. And while I conceivably COULD just make the second sock and be sure to always wear it wet...this seemed impractical. Even in Seattle. And, since the original yarn isn't really 100% true black, the risk of dying the new stuff TOO black was very real (in fact, given the fun little games the universe and I like to play in such situations, it was almost a dead certainty). So I stuck it in the pot and cooked it carefully (without telling a single sheep joke) and took it out a bit sooner than recommended with the theory that I can always repeat the process if it's still too light, but can't really do much if it's too dark. Then I carried it upstairs to hang in the bathroom, congratulating myself on having dyed two skeins of yarn without a single tangling incident.

Wouldn't you think I'd learn about the whole hubris thing? Nah, cause the minute I thought it, I dropped one and picked it up wrong and now it looks much like someone exploded a plate of spaghetti and hung it up to dry. Of course.

Stay tuned. It should be dry at some point and you'll know if it came anywhere within the window of "close enough" that is my current lofty goal. Mr. K actually came up with the saving idea--he said "why don't you use what's left of the good stuff for the heel and toe since that's where any discrepancy will really show, and use the new stuff for the pattern where it's so busy that a slight difference won't matter?"

Okay, I know where my brain is. Mr. K has it. Good thing, too. It has loads more company there.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Code Talker

Because the universe has a sense of humor, and a sick one at that (c'mon, take a close look at ostriches. How can the universe NOT have a sense of humor?), the school I am attending changed their nursing school application deadline, giving me one fewer quarters in which to obtain, of all things, a license to be a certified nurses assistant (CNA). I was a CNA years ago when my tummy was still flat and my boobs not so intimately acquainted with my belt loops; however, I have not had such a license in many years so the state requires that I retest. And that I further must take the training again, even though the training I had to be a medical assistant was significantly longer and more involved. Sigh. Which sums up my feelings on the issue, if you understand the word "sigh" to mean "all persons involved in setting and changing and changing and changing yet again the requirements to apply to nursing school are in fact bastard coated bastards with bastard filling (to borrow shamelessly from Scrubs)". So I contacted the head of the nursing program and, after much polite conversation (translation: I became a few degrees short of completely hysterical and tried hard not to shriek in an unattractive fashion) she agreed that the committee would be instructed to regard my application as if I had the licence, with the proviso that, if accepted, I must obtain the license before school starts or forfeit my place in the school. No problem. Things were looking up.

Then, today, I went to the advisor to make sure I had all my theoretical ducks in a reasonably straight theoretical row....only to have her point out helpfully that "just because the committee CAN give you a provisional acceptance, doesn't mean they will. Frankly, the lack of a license is a perfect reason to cut you and it's possible that your application could even be pulled and discarded before reaching the committee because of that lack." (You can refer back to that "bastard coated bastards" thing again at this point, if you'd would save me having to type it in again). It seems that "things are looking up" is code in the universe for "really, I'd love to have a good ass kicking right now. You know, if you can arrange it." Life, in fact, seems to be full of such codes. For instance:

Mr K's snoring, while to me nothing more than the sound of an out of balance band saw with a badger in the casing, is apparently code to one Eddiecat, to whom it means "Please come sit diagonally on Mommy's chest with your butt in her ear and knead eagerly until her breast is more or less shredded."

"I am in a huge hurry", when spoken by me, sounds to the universe exactly like "I would really like to drive all the way to the store and THEN realize that I forgot my purse....and if the person ahead of me at the grocery store when I return could be paying for their groceries with 1200 coupons (70% of which have expired), that would be even better."

"I'll just speed up long enough to get past this bicyclist" falls on the ears of the local police as "stop whatever you're doing and go out to where Ms. K is driving because her day will not be complete unless she spots you behind her and nearly pees herself. Follow her for a mile or two if you have the time."

Codes, people. It's all codes. Fortunately, I have decided to utilize my own code to decipher the ever-so-helpful words of the school counselor. I will take them to mean something along the lines of "you really need to absolutely bombard the school with all the info you can and not give up until they accept that their program will not be complete without you." So, I'll be applying anyway, with a copy of the e-mail from the nursing school head who said I could apply without the license clipped firmly to the front and a nice note that only you and I will know translates to "you're all evil and I hope you get scabies and any pet you have pees on your carpet until it is saturated. Unless you let me in, in which case I wish you only joy." As we all know, it's not wise to mess with us knitters.

The next chapter of this story, however, is that I could take the necessary classes for CNA licensure at the college for about $1000 and it would take 12 weeks...or I could take it at a small school in Everett (about 15 miles north of me) for around $600 and it would take 4 weeks. If there is any code involved here, it is not much more than "don't be an ass", so I headed up to Everett today to register for the April class (I won't have it in time for application no matter what, but I can show them the receipt to prove that I'm taking it). I was sort of expecting that it would be a little building in more or less the shape of a school with some sort of parking and lawn. What it actually turned out to be is a storefront in a crappy part of town, next door to a Korean restaurant whose owner stands in his parking lot and glares so that it is understood that you are absolutely NOT allowed to park there if you don't want noodles.

The other side, though.....the neighbor on the other side....well. It's a store that sells...shall we call them "marital aids"? Yes, that kind of store. I can learn all about medical terminology and fur-lined handcuffs, all in one trip. See, again that code. I said "I need a less expensive, less time-consuming way to get this training out of the way"; the universe heard "Is there any way to get one-stop shopping for CNA training and oversized, cartoon-colored genitalia in easy clean rubber?" Fortunately, the school wants only my license. They could care less where I train for it, as long as I pass the state board which I could already do with the training I got to be an MA. They'd probably also prefer that I not get arrested for prostitution while training, I'll be sure not to wear thigh high boots or anything.

On the bright side, the universe did decide to throw me a bone by leading me to a lovely yarn store just a few miles and a whole world away from the school. I went in and fondled to my heart's content (okay to do in the yarn store; probably a bad idea in the store next door to the school). It helped to soothe my soul....although, has anyone else seen this yarn called "Stuff" that's made of rayon and nylon and silk and sells for $92 a skein? I'm still not sure what that's code for, other than it sure as hell doesn't match any of the codes on my wallet.

Lastly, "I'm going to sit at the table and work on my blog on the laptop" is cat code for "Please come help me by sticking your wet nose ALL OVER the screen." And I can prove it:

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Aim, and Other Matters of Importance

Even in today's modern world, I think few would disagree that many professions are still heavily male-dominated. The military, the police and the fire department are all made up primarily of men. And, even though women have entered all of these areas, I think it safe to say that there are still more men than women working in artillery, firing missiles, putting water on fires, aiming weapons at criminals...and this concerns me. See, I just finished cleaning the bathroom...and I'm here to tell you:

Men cannot aim.
Indeed, their ability to aim is so desperately impaired that I think it's quite amazing that they don't accidentally put out an eye when combing their hair on a regular basis. It's not like we have a little miniature toilet, either--it's full-sized and frankly, I'm the only reason the INSIDE of it ever needs cleaning. Sadly, I think a wading pool would still not provide an ample enough target for the aim-challenged creatures with whom some of us have chosen to live.
And yet...they give them guns.
Which brings me to a thought. A friend of mine very helpfully offered me the wisdom "what would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?" And I think this is, indeed, very wise and certainly leads one to consider loftier goals and ambitions and reminds one that nothing much can be accomplished without risk and so on and so forth. But today was a toilet-cleaning day (or rather, the area AROUND the toilet) and so my ability to absorb wisdom has been surgically removed and replaced with caustic wit (rather like another friend of mine who pointed out that if everyone lived every day as if it were their last, no one would ever do the laundry or pay the rent). I do not think of myself as a cynical person in general....but you know, there are those things that tax us. Here is my "bathroom cleaning day"list of things I would attempt if I knew I could not fail (it's probably much nicer on other days):

1. (Of course) Teach husband to pee IN toilet.

2. Withdraw 1 million dollars from my bank account without unpleasant repercussions (no, I do not actually have 1 million dollars...that's why it's something that has to wait until I know I cannot fail. Right now I would fail abysmally).

3. Make chocolate the national food.

4. Wear capri pants without looking like a gnome on stilts. Wearing floods.

5. Purchase a self-cleaning house.

6. Mow lawn while seated in the house knitting.

7. Have brains implanted in all our political leaders.

8. Cast on precisely the correct number of stitches...the first time. Or even the second.

9. Cover the bed in cashmere yarn and roll around in it naked. (Hey, we all have dreams.)

10. Teach husband the powerful secret of separating toothpaste globbies from sink enamel before the two substances become one and the same.

11. Disable the pine needle magnets that exist in all of our rugs, and which are apparently significantly stronger immediately after I've vacuumed.

12. Make two more or less identical socks.

13. Learn the physics of cat barf and feet so as to just once find it VISUALLY first.

14. Shave hair from legs instead of skin.

15. Teach husband the challenging mechanics of running water and dirty spoon. Or glass with milk and warm room for three days. Or damp laundry and mildew fairies. Or....

16. Convince advertising executives the world over that I have two brain cells to rub together and actually do find a few things more compelling than bright white clothes or shiny dishes.

Yeah, I know. Some dreams are beyond even the power of genies. On the brighter side, check out the mosaic sock:

The pattern changes to plain stripes on the foot (so it won't be bulky), which actually looks good in person--even though it looks a little weird in the photo. It looks better in this next one:

And Charity, it's the Ceaser's Check sock from Charlene Schurch's wonderful book "Sensational Socks", worked in Koigu. I wish it photographed better because it's so much prettier in person. I'll have to add "take picture that bears some sort of resemblance to the actual subject" to that list.

Gracie, of course, has no such worries...:

...having long since realized that everything done by a cat is perfect anyway.....

Sunday, February 18, 2007

We Are Well Pleased...

Okay, it's really just me that's pleased...but I've always wanted to do the whole royal we thing. I mean, I already have the wave down (and no, there wasn't much to do growing up in the rural Spokane Valley...why do you ask?). But you may ask what it is that has pleased me, beyond the fact that the testosterone party has allowed me significant time in which to practice the craft of sticks and string, and that it is not my responsibility that the sheer amount of said male hormone in one place is causing a citywide estrogen crisis. No, it's something even better. It's that these are complete:

(The socks are complete...not the husband. He's just cute.)

And these have begun and I'm so very delighted with them that I could scarcely pry them out of my hands long enough to photograph them:

These two photos are the best of about 25 attempts and they still don't look as cool in film as they do in....well, not in wool, perhaps. I ADORE these socks already. Again, I grew up in the rural Spokane Valley. Be patient.

I was also greatly touched by all your kind comments about my essay. I had hoped it wasn't too nauseatingly sweet, or too obviously geared towards impressing the committee. Truth is, I meant everything in there and more that I didn't have room to say. But we live in a world were earnestness is suspect and a desire to make a difference is seen as questionable. In any case, whether I get in or not, I am warmed by the loving friendship of all my blog family...people who have never met me and yet still take the time to hold my hand as I begin the terrifying process of baring myself to a committee of real strangers. I've heard that friends are the wings you get when your own have forgotten how to fly. I'd add that they are the additional wings you get when the flight will be long and hard and your own begin to weary. You guys rule, and I can't say that in enough ways.

Peg mentioned, correctly, I think, that a nurse really needs a sense of humor, sometimes a bit of a dark one. I agree with that wholeheartedly. For instance, I once had a young man--perhaps 22--who came in because he was terribly concerned about his blood pressure. Apparently it had been slightly elevated at one of those drug store BP machines. It was fine in our office and I assured him that occasional spikes can be quite normal, even assuming the machine was correct in the first place. He nodded, but still seemed terribly upset. Wondering why he was so concerned, I asked him if he had a strong family history of hypertension and was worried about inheriting it. He nodded quickly and looked up at me with an expression of great fear as he explained "Yes, Ma'am. My stepfather has it really bad."

I also managed to collect some pieces of advice for my patients, after a bit of experience with them. To wit:

If you had unprotected sex a week ago and now you suddenly have what you believe to be "a mosquito bite on your johnson", you need to wear more clothes, more mosquito repellant, or a condom. I'm voting for the latter.

"Fasting" does indeed mean no danish and latte. Yes, even if it's a small danish. Yes, you probably should have mentioned it BEFORE we took your blood to check your cholesterol and assumed from the results that your blood was the consistency of cream of wheat.

"Don't ask, don't tell" is not a good policy for you to adopt regarding your blood sugar levels when you are a diabetic. Trust me. No, you cannot sell when it gets to 400.

No, I do not believe that you are wearing 64 pound pants...but it's a good try.

"But I can't see it that way!" is not a good reason to ignore my request to have you cover one eye while reading the eye chart. In fact, it's kind of the point.

The front desk staff really have no idea if "this is normal" or not. Please pull your pants back up before one of them quits.

Leaving a message that says "Hi, it's me" may work quite well with your family and friends. I, however, have about 500 people who want me to call them back and, coincidentally, they are all named "me". Until I receive my supersecret powers of mindreading in the mail, please consider leaving your OTHER name. I promise not to tell anyone.

A ziploc bag, while creative, is not actually the best container for a urine sample. Especially if the zip is not really secure. Ask. I swear I'll give you as many little cups as you could possibly want.

Likewise, please do not leave stool samples ANYWHERE without telling someone official looking that you have done so. Hint: all the people you can tell are dressed roughly alike. The secretary has become quite traumatized and will not even consider brown bagging her lunch anymore.

If I ask you why you are seeing the doctor today, "I don't know" is not an answer I can do much with. Nor is "I think I was supposed to come back....for something." Pick something, or I will. You don't want to know what I will pick.

I may be mistakenly looking more brilliant than I actually am. If so, please realize that it is false. I am not, in fact, able to determine what medicines you're taking from the comment "I take some little yellow pills. I don't know what they're for.", though I'm flattered that you think I can.

If I could tell you what the doctor will say about your pain/nausea/whatever, I would be making more money and possibly learning to golf. I'm asking you to come see him BECAUSE I don't know what's wrong with you. Sadly, I cannot channel him.

Yes...yes, I do think that the reason your cholesterol is still high might have something to do with the fact that you haven't taken your medication for eight months. Call me a genius.

No, I'm not laughing. "The dog stepped on my boobie" is a perfectly rational and sensible complaint. Just let me stop out of the room for a second for...a quick drink of water. Yeah. That's it. A drink of water.
I do not have any way of convincing your wife to have sex with you. Yes, I'm delighted that the Levitra is working. No, I do not want to see how well.
Unless your neighbor's cousin's hairdresser's ex-wive's poolboy is a pharmacist in his spare time, I do not believe you should take his opinion on the medication the doctor just prescribed for you as carved in stone.
You may ask the doctor about "this one other thing as long as I'm here" or you may complain when he is running late because of other people doing the same thing. You may not do both.
"What the hell are you people doing back here, anyway? I've been waiting for five whole minutes!" is not my favorite form of greeting. Consider, if you will, that I'm the one wielding pretty much all the sharp pointy objects in this office. Consider, too, that some of them may be aimed at you.
Love again to all of my beloved blog family. I swear, if I get that interview (the committee will interview all the top candidates) I'll be taking every one of you with me. Can you get away for an hour or so?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Saturday's Accomplishments

Mr. K is having a bunch of friends over tomorrow, to hang out in the shop and do such manly things as lend themselves to such a testosterone rich atmosphere. (Specifically, I believe that there is much burping, farting, and blatant adjusting and scratching of private parts, although I will never really know for certain, being that my collection of X chromosomes rather excludes me from membership in the rarified atmosphere of the club.) In preparation for this august event, and because I am a wonderful wife (or so I keep telling Mr. K...I'm hoping he falls for it) I agreed to do a tiny bit of cooking and baking. With that in mind, I spent the afternoon making my famous Meat and Potato Salad, specifically designed for those with Y chromosomes, and those who wish to hear their arteries slam shut at a great rate of speed. The recipe involves:

Take every single pot and pan you own out of the cupboard. Do the same with every spoon, fork, and knife. Proceed to get them filthy. Take all of the salad ingredients and spread them liberally over the counter. It is quite important to get them close enough to the edge that the floor might also benefit from this largesse. Stepping on them in stocking feet is a bonus. Spill pickle juice anyplace that really should not get sticky and that is hard to clean. Cut thumb on eggshell and try desperately not to bleed in salad. And so on. It's a fun recipe.

I also sat down finally and worked on the essay that I need to send with my application for nursing school. I've avoided this like the plague, largely because of my innate desire to write something somewhat unfriendly along the lines of "What in the hell else do you people WANT from me???? The recommendation of a sherpa in Mongolia? The signature of a 38-year old virgin? A thousand chocolate jimmies arranged in the shape of the school insignia and glued onto a field of olive pits? WHAT????" I'm told this is unlikely to cause the committee to swoon with joy at the thought of taking me into the program. Spoil sports. Anyway, I did finally finish it and Mr. K suggested that I put it here for your input. I will do so, with the understanding that you may ignore it at will. On the other hand, I welcome input. As long as it doesn't involve chocolate jimmies and olive pits. Do keep in mind, though, that it is a very different sort of writing for me in that it requires that I completely forget that I possess a sense of humor, that I pucker and press my lips firmly to the posterior portions of the committee members, and that the entire thing feels so sweetly manipulative that it makes me gag. I'm not good at "playing the game". Does it show? The following is the one page essay in its entirety. Feel free to tune out now if you like--I promise not to put anything remotely interesting or funny at the end of it. Certainly not in it.

Ms. K's Nauseating Essay
(This is a working title...I'm not married to it)
"A nurse friend once told me, long ago, that I should not even consider becoming a nurse unless I absolutely had to be one. I didn’t understand that initially. Now, however, after working as a CNA in nursing homes, a medical receptionist in various offices, a hospital volunteer, and a Medical Assistant in two very different, very busy clinics, I think I know what she meant. It was this: nursing is backbreaking, often heartbreaking work. It consists of long hours, mundane tasks, things that smell, messes beyond description, patients and families that are frightened and sometimes hostile as a result and, depending on the department, sustained levels of near-chaos that must become a livable status quo if the nurse is to survive it. The television image of a smiling, white-uniformed nurse tucking pillows beneath the head of a grateful, friendly patient has as much to do with real nursing as a folding chair has to do with a water balloon. Nursing is hard labor and the person who enters the field thinking anything else is setting his or herself up for burn-out. But nursing is also rewarding, interesting, and challenging in a way that builds the person who does it. My friend didn’t mean “don’t do it unless you’ll be on the bread line otherwise”. She meant “Don’t do it unless your soul insists on it. Don’t do it unless you know in every fiber of your being that this is where you belong and that it will be the hardest, best work you’ve ever done.”

It’s hard to come up with a single statement that answers the question of why I want to be a nurse. Truth to tell, I’ve always felt as if I was one at my core—some deep and unassailable place that has continually and relentlessly pulled me back to the medical profession where, once in it, I always feel that I’ve come home. Part of it, certainly, is the science of it. I’ve always loved the way the body works and the symbiosis of art and science that help lead to healing. I think I first started studying medical texts when I was about 10 years old and delighted in the way each piece of knowledge fit neatly in with another to create understanding. A bigger reason, however, is the people.

Patients are many, many things. They are all unique and they present with different issues in different ways. Every single one I’ve ever cared for has given me something of value, some learning that I hadn’t even realized I needed. For instance, I had a patient with leukemia who had been in remission for several years. She had suddenly begun to exhibit new symptoms, scary symptoms, and she had been sent for testing. Not four hours after the tests were completed, she called for the results which, naturally, we did not yet have. When I started to explain that to her, she became enraged. She called me names and accused me of not caring and wondered at high decibels how in the world we could provide such shoddy care. I sat there without saying anything until she was done and the entire time, my heart pounded. What could I say? How could I respond to what felt like such a vicious attack? It was that moment that I realized what I should have realized in the first place: I wasn’t listening. I had stopped listening as soon as I heard how angry she was because I was trying to think of a response. Once I realized that, I stopped thinking and listened. As soon as I did, I heard the fear underneath the anger. She was terrified, and understandably so. She wasn’t mad at me. She was mad at life, at fate, at her disease, and at whatever new thing was lurking in her body waiting to mess with her yet again. I listened until she was finished. Then I quietly and gently told her that I knew I could not possibly imagine what it must be like to be her, or how hard—beyond hard---it must be to wait for these results after she had received so many bad ones in the past. I told her I would call to get an ETA on the results, and that I would let her know as soon as I knew anything. I did those things, and we got through that little bit of it together. After that, I always kept this in mind: whatever a patient is dealing with, from leukemia to paper cuts and everything in between, may not be the most serious or the most important thing I have to deal with that day. But it is absolutely the most serious and important thing that patient is dealing with that day. And I always make sure to listen, and to remember that it is never personal.

Another memorable patient was a young man who came in every three months for an HIV test. He was a delightful man—smart, funny, interesting—but he refused outright to practice safe sex. He was gay, and he was utterly convinced that the disease was inevitable. He got tested only to try to avoid passing it on. I think it’s natural for those of us in the caregiving professions to want to “fix” everything. We want to help people, whether we say that out loud or not. But nothing I said made a difference. He was unfailingly polite and he listened to my carefully worded speeches about the importance of condom use and how easily he could save himself, but he always returned three months later with the exact same request, for the exact same reason. This was one of the hardest lessons I ever learned. “Helping people”, while an admirable goal, must be redefined for every patient. Help does not always look the way I think it might, or even the way I want it to. I wanted that patient to take care of himself. But the only help he wanted or would accept was a safe, non-judgmental place in which to be tested. I gave him that. I offered the rest. Sometimes, that’s all you can do.

I’ve cared for angry people, drug addicts, alcoholics, and people in utter denial. My rule of thumb is always the same: treat them with dignity and respect, listen, show them that I care, and offer all the help that I can, while acknowledging that they may want and accept far less. I’ve never had a job outside of medicine that has given me a fraction of the challenges or worked me anywhere near as hard as the ones I’ve had inside of it. I’ve also never had a job outside of medicine that brought me as much reward, as much learning, or as much satisfaction as even the most simplistic jobs I’ve had inside. For those reasons, it is as difficult to say what I want to do in nursing as it is to say why I want to do it. I want to nurse. Certainly I have areas of specific interest—I love working with cancer patients, so oncology may be the direction I go in. I also have a real passion for patient education and love working in women’s healthcare. I can see myself working in a clinic with women in underserved areas. But I also know how very much I don’t know. I am looking forward to my time as a student nurse so that I can see more of the possibilities. I want to see what other areas may grab my interest, but also what other areas I may find I have something to give to.

In the end, the answer is as complex as it is simple: I want to be a nurse because inside I feel that I already am, that my career path is as much a part of me as my brown eyes and the birthmark on my left foot. I am excited to continue the learning and to see what else I can give back. St Catherine of Sienna famously said “We need each other’s care, or we will suffer.” It is fortunate, indeed, that some of us need just as badly to provide that care."

Friday, February 16, 2007

It's Not Just the Employees Who Go Postal

There is a mysterious bell that everyone in the Seattle area can hear but me, and it rings when I want to go to the Post Office so that everyone else will know to gather up everything in the house that is not nailed down, wrap those items for mailing to wherever (I suspect that someone in Namibia is even now opening a package of dryer lint with a puzzled expression), poke their children to make them cranky, and run to the Post Office to stand in line ahead of me. Either that, or Christmas is always a week away around these parts and, since I don't see any tinsel, I'm thinking it must be the former. I also suspect that these people get points or reward bonuses or something for any extra things they can think of to do that will make the visit more enjoyable.

Perfume that would peel paint off the walls? Check.

Have a loud, should-have-been-private conversation on the cell phone approximately 6 inches from my elbow? Check (But be sure to let me know what that strange skin thing in your husband's "private area" turns out to I'm curious.)

Pay for $40 worth of postal services with pennies you dug out from the couch cushions? Check.

Realize at the front of the line that you do not actually remember the address of the person you're sending the dryer lint or marshmallow cream or whatever to? "Hang's right here...oh, I know it...!" Check.

Smile benevolently while your child swings from the rope defining the waiting area like a snot glazed tree monkey, shrieking and smacking my leg at the apex of each swing? Check.

Note: I actually really love children, and I can only imagine how challenging it is to try to get everything done with small ones in tow...but seriously. This woman made one feeble attempt at "Billy, stop." while not actually looking at him (or, unfortunately, wiping his nose) and then turned away to check her fingernail polish and leave him to his leg whacking in peace. I think the bar for managing your child's behavior in public can be set a trifle higher than that.

Carry one small item up to the counter to mail and then somehow magically produce what seems to be the entire contents of Santa's sleigh from one tiny purse while saying cheerfully "Oh, and these, too."? Check.

Get nearly to the front of the line before turning to the gentleman behind you to smile and say "Oh, can you just hold my spot while I go grab something from my car?" and the car is apparently parked in Mongolia? Check.

The Post Office employees always do their part as well. For instance, I think it takes a special kind of genius to wait until the exact moment that it would be my turn to wander off aimlessly and not return for several moments. I'm sure it's only paranoia that makes me picture these employees huddled behind the backroom door hissing to one another "No, wait! You can't go back out there yet..she's still here!" They also apparently have some focusing issues as evidenced by this exchange:

Me: Hi, I'd like to mail this to Ireland. There's nothing breakable or perishable or hazardous in it.
Employee: Okay, is there anything breakable in it?
Employee: How about perishable? Is there anything perishable in it?
Employee: Is there anything that could be hazardous in it?
Me: (whimpering quietly to self.)

It continues later when I attempt to pay with a debit card by handing it over and saying brightly: "Here you are. It's debit.", only to be asked immediately "Okay, is this debit or credit?"

Why, yes. Yes it is.

Still, I can't blame them. I think if they didn't tune out at least some of the shrieking and crying and screaming (I only cried and screamed a little, quit looking at me like that) at least some of the time, the whole "going postal" thing would be much more common. You know, like a coffe break.

"Hey, you taking break now?"
"Yeah, it's my turn to go completely nuts and threaten to blow the place up."
"Okay, great. See you in ten."

The nice thing is that now the once-arduous task of finishing my Jaywalker sock (Hi, my name is Flo and I have Second Sock Syndrome) is looking pretty darned good.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Hollywood is Perhaps Not Calling

If someone was making a reality show about my life right now, they would be asleep. Then they would be fired. The most exciting thing I've done so far today is take a photo of a pair of dairy boots. Which, I admit, is at least slightly interesting in the "Good Lord, what is my crazy neighbor doing NOW?" category but really--didn't the multiple cats and assload of yarn already establish that for those really in the know? (Seriously, I think I could provide a warm pullover for New Jersey if I was really dedicated....and if they didn't mind an assortment of shades and textures. And cat spit.) But someone did ask what dairy boots are and, while I could probably explain it just as well by saying "they're rubber boots, also called wellies, and they're used by dairy farmers so as not to come home completely coated in....well, the stuff that comes out of cows that isn't milk.", I thought it more fun to actually take photos in the garage so any neighbors glancing that way would have more to talk about. Who says I'm not a considerate neighbor?

These are, in fact, the Valentine Dairy Boots, famed in song and verse. I still love them. To answer anonymous, Mr. K did not give me dairy boots again this year (these suckers last forever, as long as you don't try to fend off an alligator attack with them...and even then, they might be okay). Instead, he provided more material for the abovementioned New Jersey project, which I think is perfectly wonderful of him:

It's Atacama Alpaca from Little Knits and it is shades of purple (what looks like fuschia in the photo is really a rich violet), 100% alpaca, hand dyed (as opposed to foot dyed, I suspect) and imported from Chile. I adore it and will commence to thinking about possible projects for it once I've stopped rolling around in it. This may be awhile.

I also spent some time this morning prowling patiently....something like that anyway--for the computer which Mr. K apparently thinks he has a right to because it belongs to him and he has important stuff like jobhunting to do on it. Go figure. Some of you may recall that his company was sold last year and, since the purchasing company shut it down, he is now officially "preemployed". There are those who suggested that it might be a bit of an adjustment having both of us suddenly home together a lot. No, no. Remember that guy who said that you learn everything you need to know in kindergarten? Really, if you remember the rules you learned even earlier, as a toddler, you'll be just fine. For instance:

1. I had it first.
2. I didn't have it first, but I wanted it first.
3. You walked away, so I can have it.
4. You've had it all da-ay! (stretch out the word "day" by whining, and it will make sense. Those of you with toddlers, you know.)
5. You're a big poopyhead.

As adults, we can also add in layers of deviousness that mere children cannot hope to achieve, such as:

1. Honey, come downstairs if you want fresh cookies! Oh, look. You walked away from the computer. Guess I can have it.
2. This little black lacey thing? Oh, just something I threw on. Why don't you go wait for me and I'll be right in......
3. I think there might be a raccoon in your should go check.
4. I just heard on the radio that they're giving away free gift cards to the next 100 people to walk into Home Depot--what are you waiting for??
5. Is it bad if black smoke is pouring out from under the car....?
6. Did you want me to let you know if a tree falls on your truck?
7. Hey, look! A special on TV entitled "The History of Naked Breasts".
8. Huh. Looks like someone just left all those shiney new tools just laying there out in the street.
9. You were right. Cleaning in the nude really IS more fun.
10. Don't worry...I'm pretty sure the strange smell downstairs isn't gas. Do you feel dizzy at all?
11. You're a big poopyhead. (It's hard to argue with the classics.)

At present, Mr. K is out running a few errands. I'm trying to caluculate how long before he is likely to realize that I'm giving him a 150 item shopping list one item at a day in order to get computer time.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Valentine

I met Mr. K on December 9, 2003. I was 38 years old and he was 42, and we had both been in relationships before. We had no idea where this might be going or even, if the truth be told, where we WANTED it to go. I was cautious about love, as was he. But he was smart, funny, handsome, kind--all the good things, and we kept seeing each other. If this was a Hallmark movie, we would have most likely walked hand in hand into the sunset at this point. It wasn't.

In early January (the 2nd, I think) of 2004, there was a huge ice storm. Mr. K was living on 5 acres of property and upwards of 50 trees came down in the storm. His yard was covered in branches and whole trees that had been uprooted. His shop had been hit by a tree and thousands of dollars worth of damage had been done. The place was all but buried in various lengths of sticks and logs. On Jan. 3, he called me to say reluctantly that he enjoyed my company very much but, regrettably, would not be able to see me much for a time, until he got the mess all cleaned up. I bristled at this, and I pointed out that whatever else happened in our budding relationship, I already liked him and wanted him to be my friend. Friends help each other, right? I would come help.

Let me give you some perspective on the size of the mess: we worked side by side every day of every weekend for the next 6 - 8 weeks. During that time, our "dates" were over the bonfire in the yard or the slimy pile of logs that got rained on after we piled them up. We ate on the fly most of the time, not over candlelight unless the power went out. Sometimes we worked for hours without even talking because we were on opposite sides of a huge yard. Every one of those days I had my hair scraped back into a ponytail and I wore old jeans and dairy boots and generous helping of slime and dirt. Good times. In fact, it was the best courtship I've ever had.

The dairy boots were a gift from him during that time (I think it was Valentine's Day, actually) and I squealed with as much joy as if they were diamonds. (Wet feet are not a small thing over a period of hours and days. Believe me.) I remember sometimes watching him while we worked. I loved his attitude and his ethic. I loved that he didn't whine but just kept picking stuff up. I loved that he always found a way to solve whatever problem we encountered. I loved that he didn't baby me or try to shoulder most of the load--he pretty much assumed I could do anything unless I told him different. I loved that he could laugh at himself when he screwed something up. Truth be told, I loved HIM. And I'll put in here really quickly: my longheld (and somewhat unpopular this time of year) opinion is that love at first sight is an insult to love. Love is something you work for and earn together.

I learned a great deal during those months.
1. When faced with an insurmountable pile of sticks on the ground, the best thing to do is to go out there together, bend over, and start picking them up.
2. Beauty means a whole lot of things...and most of them wouldn't cut it on the pages of the fashion magazines.
3. Earning love is hard, dirty work. And also infinitely wonderful, worthwhile work.
4. If you can eat dinner at a French restaurant together in your finest clothes and enjoy each other, so what? If you can eat lukewarm canned soup together when you're filthy and so physically exhausted that chewing seems out of the question and enjoy each that's something of value.
5. Love is a verb.
6. Whatever you build, builds you. This is also true for relationships.

Mr. K is my heart. He is also my rock and my friend and my intellectual stimulus and my branch-burning partner and the person I can't wait to tell things to. My teenage self would have said that love was romance and a handsome man holding you tenderly and running in the sand while the music swells. My older self says this: love is what keeps you picking up the sticks when your back aches and your hair and feet are wet and you don't smell all that great and you remember your last hot bath warmly but vaguely and you've picked up a million of them and there are at least a million more. Love is what you build and earn and do.

Happy Valentine's Day, Mr. K. I love you more today than I ever have. I still treasure those dairy boots...and every single minute we've built together. You are still my heart....and my yard full of sticks...and everything in between.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I'm Blaming the Drugs

Or the snot. One of those. In any case, I'm blaming them because I can no longer remember who challenged me to list six weird things about myself and apparently my brain has been damaged by all the snot pressure because I can't even find the comment. It's a sad state of affairs. Nevertheless, I'll certainly try to comply. Hopefully you can all read "utter dork", which is the language in which I'm writing today.
Now, the thing about the 6 weird things is...well, c'mon. You read my blog. You KNOW. You know that it would take far less time to list the things about me that aren't weird. You know, like I typically walk upright (except when going upstairs in the privacy of my home...I'll let you work on that), I don't usually wear my underwear on the outside of my clothes, and I don't smell like Spam. I think that about covers it. What actually is weird, Just six? Okay, let's see....what could possibly be considered weird by Knitingale standards (a bar which I think you'll agree is staggeringly high)?
1. I really, really love grilled peanut-butter-and-marshmallow sandwiches. Really. Yes, they're quite messy. Yes, you need a non-stick pan or a regular pan that you consider to be disposable because you'll never get the melted grilled marshmallow off the bottom of it without an assortment of caustic chemicals or a sandblaster. Or both. And yes, it does give a person really sickly sweet peanut-butter breath. And I still love them.

2. I know how to contra dance....and I have no idea why it's called that, although I worried the first time I went that it might involve rebellion in a foreign country (it doesn't). I also love to contra dance, so it is greatly painful that I know absolutely no one who likes to dance. You can go alone...but it's more fun if you don't.

3. I once won a barrel race riding a very VERY large pinto horse named Tunafish. This is a bit more weird when you consider that I am well known these days for being utterly terrified of horses (tiny brains, hard, sharp feet--I think this a bad combo. Most especially since one kicked me in the leg so hard that it left a permanent dent on one thigh that I used to be able to put my fist into. The sandwiches in number one have done their part to fill it in a bit over the years.). The rodeo with the barrel race was definitely before the "OhmyGodit'sgoingtokillme" thing.
4. If you've ever taken CPR, you've been told to be careful not to apply pressure to the xyphoid process, the little bone at the end of the sternum, because it could puncture the liver. I was born without a xyphoid process (an oddity, not a medical problem) so you could theoretically push anywhere you damn well pleased if I were to collapse in front of you. Please aim in the general direction of the heart, though, should the occasion arise.

5. I once had a black and white cat (of the sort that look like little dairy cows) who would lick peanut butter off a spoon. Now, years later, I have a little black and white cat (of the sort that looks like it's wearing a tuxedo) and she'll nearly climb right into your mouth if you're eating peanut butter and don't share it with her. In fact, this is her with a half a Reese's Piece:

Please don't report me to the ASPCA--I know candy isn't good for her and I give her half a Reese's Piece (never chocolate) only very, very rarely and then only because she begs so pitifully. I promise, I'm a good cat mommy. Anyway, I realize this makes her weirder than it makes me...but I figure I must get points for attracting such an assortment of weird animals. I also used to have one that would steal the sponges out of the kitchen sink and carry them around the house while meowing around them.

6. I have an unusually strong sense of smell (okay, not today, thank you SO much for reminding me of THAT painful subject). I once spent half an hour tracking down a strange smell in the kitchen that turned out to be a spot of mold the diameter of a ballpoint pen on a cantaloupe across the room from where I'd been when I first noticed it. Even I think that's pretty weird.

I suppose we could also mention that I have several tattoos, none of which are more than 15 years old and one of which is only about 6 months old (they're all tigers and butterflies...I like themes) or the fact that when my mother came home from the hospital with me after I was born, she placed me in a cradle with one of her cats and I've never been without feline company since, or the fact that I acted in a theater festival a few years ago in a production of "The Importance of Being Earnest" using what I'm sure was an abominable British accent (although it was worked okay for the Yanks watching the play), or my bizarre love of Algebra. (Really. I absolutely LOVE algebra. Hate geometry, though.) I don't that enough weird?

I'll finish with a moment of what, in our crowd, passes for normalcy. Remember the green sweater I started making...with the cable up the front and around the neck? Yeah...I wasn't feeling the love. I still don't know why. I took it apart, started over with a heathery gray alpaca/lambswool blend, and now I love it. Come to think of it.....that's kinda weird, too. Damn. Anyway, this is what I have so far:

I tried about a hundred times to get a picture of the beautiful stitch markers (one had slipped to the back in this photo) but every time I got close enough for the detail, the photo was too washed out. But they are absolutely gorgeous, turquoise glass beads and they move so smoothly on the needles (without ever catching on the yarn or leaving a loose spot in the fabric) that they are the best stitchmarkers I've ever had. Marianne made them for me. I'm trying to talk her into selling them because seriously--these things just rock. Ask her about them. She's modest...but they're the best.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Conversation Overheard at the Decongestant Factory

First worker: "Okay, here's an idea. Let's stuff about a pound and a half of cotton into the bottle on top of....oh....let's say 6 pills. But let's push it deep. It's no good if the sickies can just pull it out. Gotta make 'em find tweezers!"

Second Worker: "True....true....but let's also make sure we use that special cotton. You know--the one that shreds into pieces no matter how good a grip you get on it? We don't want 'em getting it all out on the first try!"

First Worker: "Good point. Glad you thought of that. You know, for sheer irony, let's make sure one of the pills is broken anyway. I like having them pull the cotton out, only to find out that it didn't actually do any good. Now, what about the lid?"

Second Worker: "Whoa....hold on there! The lid? What are you--a rank amateur? You put the cotton in, and then you take this steel reinforced disk of material that looks deceptively thin and fragile, and you superglue it over the opening to the bottle. A real pro leaves just enough lip around the edge of the bottle that it LOOKS like you could get ahold of it but not enough to ACTUALLY get ahold of it. Of, if you prefer, you can leave enough for them to get ahold of, but make sure the lip of paper will tear off if they do. It's all in the details, you know."

First Worker: "Wow, you're really good! Okay, so we superglue this paper on....then what? No--don't tell me. The lid? How about one of those "push down while turning" dealies but make sure that it won't actually come off unless the sickie can exert approximately 500 psi while rotating in a clockwise direction during a full moon while standing within two miles of the equator?"

Second Worker: "Good, good. But another nice touch is to make sure it's slippery. That way, if it unexpectedly pops off, it will fly out of the sickie's fingers and land somewhere on the bathroom floor. That will require the sickie to bend over, thus launching a tsunami of snot to go crashing against the insides of his or her skull. If only we could universalize bathroom floor color so that we could make the lids blend in, it would be perfect."

First Worker: "I like that. The slippery lid is nice. But let's go one better. Let's put a cellophane sleeve around the bottle, that's more or less shrunk to it so that it's impossible to get ahold of it anywhere. And I think it's more tormenting to have it cover only about a third of the bottle-you know, the part where the lid meets the bottle plus a little above and below. That exposed bottle really taunts the sickie, who has the objective in plain sight but still can't get to it!"

Second Worker: "Nicely done! But I'll go you one better. Let's make it look like it has a perforated line, but not really give it one. The sickies will be convinced that if they just keep working on this little dotted line, it will actually tear away! Man, I crack myself up!"

First Worker: "You know, I do worry a bit, though."

Second Worker: "Worry? About what??"

First Worker: "Well, what if the sickies get REALLY frustrated? What if they use a scissor or something in desperation and end up cutting themselves?"

Second Worker: "Oh no, that's not a problem. We make the bandaid boxes, too. Wait until you see the new fake cardboard we came up with. You'd never guess it was steel."

Bastards. Not that I'm bitter or anything.

I am so grateful for all of your kind wishes and I swear, I'm not ignoring you for any reason other than, as my mother used to say, I feel as though I've been shot at and missed, and shit at and hit. My lungs are rebelling and my immune system has apparently decided the best solution is to periodically attempt to boil me alive by raising my temp to 102. It's been fun. Still, I do believe I'm turning a corner (hopefully the one that leads to the house where the little assholes who design the pill bottles live) and should be back to making comments and generally being semi-human again soon. For now, I'm going to go lay on the couch like a hot, snotty log. Love and germ free hugs to all of you.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

In Lieu of Intelligent Content...

(and I'm just immature enough to giggle helplessly when I initially misspelled "lieu")...I offer many photographs. It's a sleight of hand trick...I'm hoping you won't notice until many hours from now when you suddenly look up from your knitting and say "Hey, wait a minute! She wasn't clever at ALL today!" Which I'm surely not, seeing as how my brain has been replaced with about 37.5 pounds of snot while I slept, and they sandpapered my eyeballs and taped my tongue to the roof of my mouth while they were there. Oh, and my chest and back muscles have been replaced with something quite achey, possibly in relation to the 25 +times in a row that I sneezed last night. I wonder if that's how the brains flew from my head, actually?

In any case, here are some shiny things that are shamelessly intended to distract you. First, it is important to include a photo of Grace who, having checked out the elliptical last week is now focusing her interest on the treadmill. I suspect she may be entering a kitty-building competition that I don't know about. I"ll be watching for steroids.

She's trying to look innocent...but I'm not fooled. I've seen those hairy little quad muscles.

It's also important to be aware that I am always carefully watched over while sick:

Miss is in the foreground, using her not-inconsiderable bulk to keep my blanket firmly pinned to the couch (she's sweet as anything, but it would take an earthmover to get her off of anything when she doesn't want to go), while Ed correctly repositions the rug over by the fireplace. He'd really like to know what joker keeps laying it flat.

Speaking of Ed, while he's usually pretty generous regarding his sickroom services: This time he really wanted some head skritches. "A little to the,"

Once he was through getting adored, Ed opted to entertain me with some catnip-sock squirmalating (delightfully appropriate term, courtesy of Monica):

Which, of course, caused Miss to became jealous and demand her own sock....

Don't be fooled by her laidback appearance...she was terribly, terribly jealous. Really. You can see how appreciative she was afterwards.

So much so, in fact, that she even let me have it back for awhile.

Now, if I could only get her to make the other one for me. I mean, as opposed to sitting on the blanket and spitting all over the yarn which, while creative, doesn't seem to lend much to the whole sockmaking process.

I'm going to go weigh my head, see if it's over 4o pounds yet. I feel certain that it is. Not that I'm a total whinybutt or anything.

Friday, February 09, 2007

A Letter to My Beloved Husband

Dear Husband:

With Valentine's Day fast approaching, I am touched that you have already decided to give me a gift. However, in a very loving sort of spirit, I feel compelled to share some gentle suggestions with you regarding the choosing and giving of such gifts:

1. Flowers, good. Virus, bad.
2. Chocolate, good (disregard any protests on my part that involve threatening to tape the chocolate directly to my ass in the first place and thus avoid the middle man--I don't really mean it). Fever, bad.
3. Yarn, VERY good. Hacking cough, bad.
4. Books, especially those with patterns, good. Heavy sinus congestion, bad.
5. Lingerie, okay if it generally covers most of the parts I choose not to admit are present. Sore throat, bad.
6. Dinner out, good. Copious amounts of snot, bad.
7. Jewelry, good. Body aches, bad.
8. Music by my favorite artists, good. Desperate desire to feel well enough to say that I feel like crap, really bad.
9. Massage, excellent. Jungle drums playing vigorously in my head every time I attempt to bend down, bad.
10. Cleaning the bathroom for me, truly good. Raw, red, kleenex-abraded nose, quite bad.

I know, dear Husband, that you enjoyed this virus greatly yourself over the past week and I truly do appreciate your desire to share it with me. However, it would be safe to say that I'm not enjoying it nearly as much as you seem to have thought that I might. For one thing, dissecting cow lungs in Biology class just isn't quite as pleasant when one is already nauseated from the constant drip of unspeakable things down the aforementioned sore throat. (For your edification: should you ever find yourself leaning over a pair of cow lungs that are...shall we say...ripe? Yes. Should you find yourself in that position and you feel your nose starting to run, step away from the smelly animal parts BEFORE you sniff deeply. Just trust me.)

Additionally, it was a tad bit concerning to stumble into school today with glassy eyes and a head stuff full of something that feels much like cotton, only to find that I was going to be required to carefully pour hydrochloric acid from one tiny container into another. And the second container contained magnesium that was going to react violently. And the two containers appeared, through red, watery eyes, to be four or six. And I kept sneezing. Violently.

I don't want to appear ungrateful. I'm glad you thought of me, really. It was especially thoughtful, I think, for you to snore so loudly all last week that I got truly sleep-deprived, thus providing an excellent vessel in which the virus could thrive. Not all husbands would go the extra mile like that. Believe me, I know how lucky I am.

My only reason for writing is to point out, gently of course, that bookstores are not so bad to shop in, and yarn stores give gift certificates, and well, next year consider anything else. I'll take a rock from the yard, if need be. Really. This sort of involved and well-thought out gift of heavy viral load is unnecessary between people who love one another as much as we do. You needn't attempt to make my head explode to prove it.

I'm going to go huddle miserably under a blanket now, just to further show my appreciation for your generousity. You are a husband in a million.

Your wife.

p.s. I'd sleep with one eye open tonight if I were you.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

What the Cat Heard

Some of you may not know this, but I actually have a gift for languages. It's true. I possess the amazing ability to translate between human and cat. Prepare to be amazed:

What I said:
"Ed! Quit trying to lick my bread, damnit!!"
What Ed heard:
"Ed, do you mind replacing all the butter on my bread with cat spit? That would be awesome."

What I said:
"It is way too hot in here."
What the cat heard:
"I wish I had 10 pounds of vibrating fur on my chest."

What I said:
"I think I'll read a book."
What the cat heard:
"This book would be so much more enjoyable with a big cat butt in the middle of it."

What I said:
"Hey, leave my knitting alone!!"
What the cat heard:
"If only these socks had some loops and strings hanging off them....can any of you cats think of a way to get that effect?"

What I said:
"Ed, MUST you keep wadding up the rug in front of the fireplace?"
What Ed heard:
"Ed, thank goodness I have you. Someone keeps actually putting that rug down FLAT. Can you imagine?"

What I said:
What the cat heard:
"Hey, love that dead thing you brought me. Do you know where you can get more?"

What I said:
"You know you're not allowed on the counter."
What the cat heard:
"You're just so darned cute....and look--now you're up where I can reach you better to pet you!"

What I said:
"Ow--quit kneading on me!"
What the cat heard:
"Would you mind poking a few more holes in my thighs? I think the cheesecloth look is coming back in style, even for skin."

A note here: I used to have a co-worker who insisted on referring to her cat's kneading as "making pies", no doubt because it appeared that he was kneading dough. I found this to be painfully cute, and inaccurate, seeing as how kneading actually toughens pie dough. However, Ed has a habit when he's terribly happy of lifting one paw off the ground and continuing to make kneading motions with it in thin air. Somehow, referring to that as "Ed making Air Pies" is actually okay and not overly cute at all. Go figure.

What I said:
"Gussie, can you for wool's sake settle down and quit pacing across my lap?!!"
What Gussie heard:
"Hey, I'd really like to see your butt up close if you don't mind. Just shove it right in my face."

What I said:
"Make up your mind, Ed. In or out."
What Ed heard:
"Can I do anything for you besides hold the door? Really, it's my honor."

What I said:
"Kitties don't get table food."
What the cat heard:
"Dude--you should TOTALLY try this stuff! It's awesome!!"

What I said:
"I'll feed you in a minute--stop pestering me!"
What the cat heard:
"Can you keep reminding me what you want? I want to be sure I have it absolutely right."

What I said:
"Hey, I got you this great new toy! It was way expensive, but I think you'll love it."
What the cat heard:
"Under no circumstances must you ever, EVER play with or show interest in this item."

What I said:
"Wait until you taste this great new cat food I just bought a whole case of!"
What the cat heard:
"This cat food is made of floor sweepings at the hot dog factory. If you eat it, you're completely insane."

What I said:
"Ed, you've got to quit shoving your head into my face in the middle of the night!"
What Ed heard:
"Hey, can I get a standing wake-up call for about 2:15am?"

What I said:
"Hang on, hang on--I just have to get to the end of this row!"
What the cat heard:
"Could you rescue me from these sticks and this string? Go ahead, just tug on 'em a bit, or chew on 'em, maybe."

I'm hoping to get a grant to continue my research, only this time into the language centers of husbands. That one may not be solved quite as easily.