The Life and Times of Florence Knitingale

Friday, June 29, 2007

And Then, There's the Evil Ms. Knitingale

Okay, so maybe evil is too strong a word....but everyone has that point where they no longer suffer from moments of pure bitchery, but actually enjoy them hugely. For instance:

Some of you may recall that Mother Nature (with whom I have a famously volatile relationship) gifted me in December with the top 20 feet of a pine tree, lovingly tossed from about 90 feet and laid to rest across the hood of my brand new, 2006 Toyota. This did nothing good for the Toyota, predictably, and I've been driving it ever since with a dent in the hood and a loose headlight.

However, I finally got some quotes, fainted dead away, revived, averted my eyes from the offending zeros at the wrong end of the quotes, and arranged to have it repaired while mentally cursing that nature broad yet again. The place I chose estimated that it would take five days, and they had me drop her off Monday of this week. Mr. K and I then picked up a rental car on the way to my work and all was well. Okay, so all was painfully expensive....but the car was on her way once again to shiny smoothness.

I will point out here that the reason we didn't go through insurance was that it was our tree on our property hitting our car, and it would have been our homeowner's insurance that got billed. And since Ma Nature likes Mr. K about as well as she does me, and since she demonstrated this adoration by tossing a good sized tree on his shop at his last house and doing some $12,000 worth of damage (that may have been one of her "enjoy the bitch within" moments), we decided to pay for this one and not drive up the insurance rates. If you're thinking that we should consider living in the center of a 4 acre, treeless, concrete slab on the moon where there's no wind, you're not alone in that thought. Believe me.

Anyway. So I called on Wednesday to see if all was progressing with my car, and whether I would still be able to pick her up on Friday. (Not that the rental car wasn't fun to drive, but it sucked up gas like Dracula at a blood bank, and I was starting to think it should have come with a tanker and a hose. Keeping it over the weekend might have required that I move to Texas or Saudi Arabia or something, just to be closer to the oil wells.) The woman I talked to said something terribly clever and helpful like "Ummmm....." and then "Oh, it looks like it's on the schedule to be finished by Thursday afternoon." Tomorrow, then, I asked? It will be ready tomorrow? Well, she wasn't sure....but she would call me between 10 and 12 on Thursday to let me know. Great! So far, so good.

Thursday came and went with no phone call, though, so I figured it wouldn't be done until at least Friday. Then I remembered that the body shop is on my way home and it is open until 5:30 and I figured what the heck--I'll just drop by and make sure it will be done on Friday. I pulled in around 5:20 to discover that the car had been ready most of the day. Which was good news....but made me wonder what happened to the girl on the phone who was going to tell me it was ready, and why they figured I wouldn't mind paying for the rental car another day while my own perfectly good, freshly repaired waited patiently at the body shop. It was a puzzle. It was, moreover, the sort of puzzle that worries those who are standing very close to me, particularly at the end of a long day. It didn't bode well.
The repair needed to be paid for (preferably with a firstborn child, but I don't have one so they let me use A LOT OF MONEY), so I walked into the office to meet the charming young lady from the phone --lo and behold, another Malibu Barbie type, dressed in the latest in hooker chic. (I shouldn't be surprised. There are times when I think Barbie's taking over the world, in spite of the fact that her dream home is cardboard, her convertible is plastic, and her boyfriend has no genitalia. Go figure.) I told her--reasonably, I thought-- that I had dropped by to see when my car was done and discovered that it already WAS done and would like to pay for it and be on my way. She sighed heavily, and walked out of the room muttering vaguely about paperwork--without saying a word directly to me. Now see, that didn't do a lot to make me more pleasant. I can be unreasonable like that.

I waited and waited and waited....until finally she came out and wordlessly tossed the paperwork on the desk. And proceeded to start straightening her space with her back to me, while leaving me to read the total upside down so I could write the check. Then she turned back to me, frowned at my check as though it were a pile of doggie doo I had placed on the counter, and asked "Do you have, like, a credit card or something you could put that on?"
At this point I had been to this establishment 3 times, and had spoken to people there no fewer than 5. No one had ever mentioned anything about not taking checks, nor was it posted anywhere. In a tone of voice that anyone who has ever lived with me would recognize as dangerous (think of the earthquakes around Mt. St. Helens right before she blew half her side off and scattered ash over the tri-state area. That kind of dangerous.) but which Ms. Barbie apparently missed, I said "Do you mean to tell me that you won't take a check?" She shrugged (another great customer service tool, brought to you by the authors of "Who Gives a Crap? They're Only Customers" and "Tell the Customer to Go *&%$# Himself if He's Bugging You") and said in a bored tone that "we don't really take checks over $1000."
Let me reiterate the obvious: this is a bodyshop. You can't get a dime-sized spot spit-shined in there for less than a couple of grand...and they won't take checks over $1000? Still trying to win the battle against losing all rationality, I said evenly "Really? How interesting. So how often do you guys do repairs that cost LESS than $1000?" She pondered this one hard before finally venturing "Um....not very often?" So you'd take a check for...what? A gumball out of the machine in the corner?

Ultimately, reluctantly, WISELY, she did take the check and things might have ended peacefully. But she couldn't resist throwing in this last little bit: "I'll take it this time...but next time you'll need to bring a credit card or something" (I guess the "or something" must refer to the firstborn child I thoughtlessly failed to produce). And there it was. The exact moment when the long day and the unnecessary extra day of car rental and the walking rudely away from me and the making me hunt for my total and the turning her back on me and her derisive, irritated tone of voice and the "no checks but we're not going to tell you that" policy all came together. I looked up at her and stared until she squirmed and looked away. And let loose the evil Ms. Knitingale who had apparently been just bursing to say this:
"Honey, if there's a next time, you can expect me to be an even bigger bitch than I am now, because it will mean that another tree fell on my car or some dumbass hit it and I'll be standing here again arguing about how I'm paying the bill on a car that I only found out was done by stopping by because I'm apparently the only one who thinks it's important to let the customer know the car is ready and chances are you'll be ignoring me again because it's too damned much trouble to take care of customers and are you getting all this or am I talking too fast for you?"

She didn't seem to want to play anymore after that...probably because she's still trying to figure out how I could possibly be any more of a bitch than I already was. And a part of me does feel bad, it really does. On the other hand, my inner bitch enjoyed the little trip outside.

On the other hand, my outer nice person would like to tell you that Mr. K really appreciated all the kind birthday wishes. He had had a tough week at work and it made him smile. Yet another reason I love all of you (that, and none of you are the nasty woman at the bodyshop).

Lastly, I will give in and show the close up photo of the dreaded evening wrap (my penance for being mean to the hired help):

I know it looks like there's a hole on the right, but there isn't. It's knit loosely enough that a stitch had pulled one direction. I pulled it back, and all was well. Anyway, knit on. And watch out for Mother N hucking those trees around. Trust me--no good can come of it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Happy Birthday, Mr. K

I met Mr. K the same place I met all of you: on the internet. It was supposed to be casual. Someone to date, hang out with--definitely not fall in love with. He ruined that notion, of course. Ruined it utterly by coming into my life and coaxing my heart right out of me into his own chest where he's been nurturing and guarding it ever since. He has a lot to answer for, this Mr. K. In fact, I have a whole list of things for which he is completely and utterly to blame.

1. It is completely his fault that I keep taking risks and growing in new ways, because his love is the safest place I know.

2. It is his fault that I have come to believe that nearly anything is possible (except putting the toothpaste back in the tube, or convincing me that our president has a brain larger than a bottle cap); and he's pretty much always right.

3. It is his fault that I write feverishly, day after day because, after years of thinking it was some sort of shameful thing that I do, he is so delighted and charmed by it, that I actually kind of believe him. And I keep doing it.

4. It is his fault if I am funny...because I love to hear him laugh.

5. It is his fault that I've learned to laugh at myself, because he keeps reminding me that almost nothing in life is all that serious.

6. It is his fault that I save up stories all day so that I can breathlessly share them with him--as if I were a sixth grader recounting her day--because he always manages to seem as though the seventh allergy test or the millionth new yarn are the most fascinating things he's heard all day.

7. It is his fault that I know all kinds of new things because he lights up when he talks about science (he's a scientist, if I haven't mentioned it), and his eyes shine and he looks like I imagine he might have as a young boy--and I ask him all kinds of things just so I can watch and learn from that quiet but feverish delight. And I'm on the edge of my chair every time, because it really is as cool as he says.

8. It is his fault that almost all the fears I've ever had have scuttled grumbling into the shadows, because he quietly, determinedly faces them down with me.

9. It is completely his fault that I sleep better than I ever have, cradled on his shoulder every single night .

10. It is his fault that I understand how love can be a verb--a thing you do day in and day out because a person is so much a part of your soul that you can't do anything else. But it doesn't get given to you. You build it.

11. It is his fault that trust and I are finally on speaking terms.

12. It is his fault that at 42 years old, with gravity firmly NOT on my side, I feel more beautiful than I ever have. And that I will when I'm 85 years old, too, because I get to see me through his eyes.

13. It is utterly his fault that I finally know what it is like to feel precious and cherished.

14. It is at least partially Mr. K's fault that I've let the past become the past--because the present and the future with him in it are so much more exciting and important.

15. It is his fault that I still feel goose bumply when I remember the day that I watched him walking across the yard of the house he lived in then, dressed in old boots and torn jeans, filthy from the day's yardwork we shared--and suddenly knew in a moment of pure calm and absolute surety, that I could be anywhere for the rest of my life, as long as he was there, too.

16. It is his fault that I struggle over and over to capture him in words, but fail because they are simple, one-dimensional creatures that completely miss the mark in painting the picture of this man, my heart, the love of my life.

e.e. cummings said it so much better than I can (and if I can borrow words on my own birthday, I guess I can borrow some on his as well). I'm leaving out the middle of the poem and just sharing the first and last verses. Let me know if you want to see the rest...but it's these two parts that really say it best:

"i carry your heart with me (i carry it in

my heart) i am never without it (anywhere

i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done

by only me is your doing, my darling).....


here is the deepest secret that nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows

higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)"

I love you, Mr. K. I always will.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Letters from the Edge

Dear Mother Nature:

Thank you so much for the recent delivery of pine needles and little orange things all over my newly planted garden. You know how I've always enjoyed your surprise deliveries (the 20 foot tree top you introduced to the hood of my car last December notwithstanding....and really, I don't hold a grudge). You were probably right--the freshly turned earth WAS a bit dull looking, and the layers of orange bits perked it right up. Problem is, now I can't find my new plants. Can you help?

Ms. K

Dear Mother Nature: I never really did think about how illogical it is to pull out a bunch of plants that you lovingly created in order to put new ones in. I guess it sort of does sound as though I think I know better than you do. I don't think that, though. And I didn't mean to "brutally tear them from the ground", either. I just really like some of the other wonderful things you've done and wanted a chance to enjoy those, too. So anyway, have you seen them? My purple thingies? Oh, and could you maybe send a few of the dandelions somewhere else? I'd really appreciate it.

Ms. K

Dear Mother Nature:

No, I had no idea how long it took you to make all those dandelions. That long? No, I didn't know they all had names, either. Yes, Donovan probably was a very sweet dandelion and yes, I am ashamed for foreshortening his fuzzy yellow life. Of course, I apologize. But did you notice how lovely the coral bells are? And the hostas? You made those, too...right? I've even been talking nicely to them (we can just pretend the whole "what the hell else do you WANT, damnit?" conversation with the puny lilacs never happened, can't we?). Now...have you seen the little purple flower thingies I planted anywhere at all?

Ms. K

Dear Mother Nature:

No, no....I certainly don't think of myself as weedist. And no, I didn't know that the blackberries and ivy prefer to be called "determined" and "boundary challenged", as opposed to "miserable little bastards taking over my yard." I'll work on that. And yes, I know the little wild violets that got snagged in the mower were purple flowers, too. I didn't see them in time. And no, my eyes don't need to be checked. I'll definitely watch for them next time and mow a neat little circle around them..or as neat as I can get with a riding mower that corners like a boxcar full of gumballs. Meanwhile...about those other purple flowers....?

Ms. K

Dear Ma N:

Okay, look. Enough with the "poor dandelions" thing. There was absolutely no need to turn my lovely purple flowers into a pile of mush-covered brown, crispy thing. Frankly, I find it a bit petty of you. Oh, and can you please stop with the little dandelion reinforcements into my freshly weeded garden? I get it--you already had a good idea for what to grow where. But show some mercy. I'm starting to fear that if the damned things get any more determined, they'll strangle me in my bed.

Ms. K


That's it--it's not funny anymore. Every single time I pull up a dandelion (gently, reverently, and giving it a proper composting, mind you--and yes, I'm sorry about Doris), you make 10 more of the little buggers! I'm thrilled that you like yellow so much. I do not like yellow. I like purple. And I like red. I don't suppose you could make red dandelions?



No, I don't think I'm some kind of comedian. Yes, I know that repainting all the dandelions red would be a huge task. No, I don't expect you to change all the dandelions all over the world just for me. But you know, if they quit turning up in my garden, I'll quit whining about it, how about that? I mean, wouldn't that be a win-win?


M. N.--

No, I had no idea how many other, better negotiatiors have tried this before me. Yes, I'm sorry for insulting your intelligence. Yes, I'll try to do better. What if I set aside one whole bed for nothing but dandelions? Could we maybe agree to each be in charge of one of the beds in my yard? You know, I won't bother yours and you won't bother mine?



Thistles? Now it's THISTLES?? Are you out of your tree-shaking, flower-killing, weed hustling litle mind?

You are SO not funny......

F. K.

p.s. Turning the lawn into a 80-20 moss to grass ratio wasn't that much of a chuckle, either. Bitch.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Who Says the Knitting Gods Don't Have Pity?

Either that, or the evil bastards have enough pride to stop short of messing with the truly feeble-minded. Consider the evidence:
1. I decided to make an evening wrap for an important event.
2. I had a deadline of a week and a half, while working a full time job.
3. I had no pattern whatsoever, so no idea how much yarn I might need.
4. I selected a yarn from my stash that can no longer be purchased, and I only had six balls of it.
5. I used giant knitting needles that I absolutely hate, so as to assure the highest ratio of mistakes to hours knitted possible.
6. I decided exactly 8 hours before the show, with one ball of yarn left, to add fringe to the damned thing.

And yet:

See? I think the knitting gods just kind of shook their collective heads in disgust....because where's the fun in hunting if the victim stands in front of you dressed in the latest from Targets International? And you know, you absolutely KNOW, that had I been making the wrap for a not-terribly-important even that was six months out, and had I been using a tried-and-true pattern with yarn requirements clearly delineated, and had I purchased yarn just for the wrap from a new line that was certain to continue to be available--and bought two more balls than I would need, and had I knitted and washed a gauge swatch (sometimes I really crack myself up--me, a gauge swatch--giggle, snort), and had I been using a needle size that I enjoy that makes it easy to see mistakes BEFORE they're gaping holes....well. You know what would have happened. I would have ended up with a disastrous garment reaching new heights of ugly, that was four inches too short, that had a glaring mistake right in the very middle, and I would have run out of yarn just as every single yarn store in the tri-state area simultaneously ran out and decided not to ever carry it again. Or not until the week after event, anyway.

That said, it was a close thing. Mr. K felt that yesterday would be a good day to go hot tub shopping....just as I made the wildly stupid decision to cut the remaining ball of yarn into glittery, pieces and thread them in little bunches through the ends of the finished shawl.

There's a story there, too, by the way--a story involving the hot tub that came with the house and a small, non-critical leak, and a local hot tub company and its repairfolk who somehow felt that it was a good decision to cut out parts of the hot tub and then not be able to get it back together, thus leaving us with a giant, expensive, useless, empty bowl in a deck with a gaping hole and a serious grudge against the folks responsible who now, in a stunning underestimation of our level of frustration and willingness to seek legal recourse, will not return our calls. It's been a bit disappointing...if you understand "disappointing" to mean "I think they're a bunch of lying, stealing, cheating bastards and they could kiss my lily white ass except they'd probably break it and not be able to get it back together."

Life being what it is, I knew there was no way we would get home with enough time to finish the wrap AND get dressed to go and, since I didn't think it right to show up at the Teatro Zinzanni (which was where I bought tickets to take Mr. K for his birthday, by the way) wearing nothing but a pair of high heels and a glittery wrap, no matter how stunningly finished the wrap, I opted to work on the fringe in the car.

Now, I am not normally prone to motion sickness of any kind; however, "I'll just finish up this fringe in the car" apparently translates to the stomach as "what say we just kick everyone out?" because we weren't halfway there when started to feel like I was on a boat on a rolling sea, and my eye sockets started to feel sweaty. Not a good sign. It was at this point that Mr. K helpfully pointed out that it would be just like the knitting gods to let me finish the thing with mere hours to spare...and then barf on it. Given that I rather suspect it is difficult to get barf out of mohair, I'm rather relieved to say that we avoided that problem. Mostly by looking rather desperately out the window every couple of blocks, and by whimpering pathetically in the hopes of gleaning some sort of pity from the powers that be--but hey. Whatever works.

While it is true that there was a somewhat disturbing pavlovian effect for a few hours in that I felt like vomiting every time I looked at the fringed wrap, that did pass. I ended up weaving in the ends as we sat at the hot tub place and Mr. K filled out the paperwork to purchase the new one (NOT from the people who sold the last one to the previous owner of our house)and I got lots of practice with those polite answers as people milled around asking if I was crocheting and did I like it. Which, incidentally, I didn't at that particular moment.

It is a bit ironic (and perhaps the tiny joke that the knitting gods just couldn't resist) that I took up knitting because I don't love the look of most crochet (no offense if you love it--I admit that I'm a bit of a heathen on this subject) and the evening wrap that threatened to take my soul ended up looking...well...crocheted. I think it best not to speak of this.

In the end, all was well. You can see that I look a tad bit, well, strained:

but Mr. K looked absolutely wonderful:

He did mention something about getting a close-up shot of the wrap for my which I replied "Are you KIDDING? These are knitters. Real knitters. You can only show them close-up photos of knitted things if you didn't screw them up six ways from Sunday. I mean, muggles, sure. But not KNITTERS." Which brings me to a tip for you on this fine, Sunday morning: Book on tape + important lace project with a deadline seems like a really good idea but actually equals a very large assortment of numbers of stitches at the ends of the rows and some major potty language. Just a word to the wise.

The moral of the story is this: if you're going to tempt the knitting gods, go all the way. One less stupid decision in this project and I'm pretty sure I'd have ended up going in a three foot semi-wrap with the rest of the yarn duct taped to my shoulders. I'm sure no one would have noticed.

p.s. We did have a really great time. And not just because I was done with the damned wrap.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Inane Q & Slightly Snide A

I love muggles. I really do. In fact, some of my best friends are muggles because, after all, it's far easier to impress someone with your knitting when they have absolutely no idea what it's supposed to look like, or how hard it might be to accomplish ("What, this scarf? Yes, it's a rather tricky little thing I like to call 'the garter stitch'. Not all knitters can learn it...I'm really quite proud."). You can also repeat utter nonsense like "Oh, it's a homongon lace pattern with a half-hitch that I added some dinkyloops to and also some fuzzbobbles." and, as long as they don't know any other, more honest knitters, they'll be awed. (I, of course, just retain my odd status at this point, and I accept that.)

But there are muggles and there are muggles. There are the charming folk who happily open up doors with comments like "Oh, that's so lovely. What are you making?" and "I love that yarn. What's it called? Can I feel it?" and even "That's a great sweater. Who's it for?" And then there are the others. I don't mean the people who don't get it, I mean the people who think it's a cute little hobby that they should say something about when they really should have just laid down until the idea went away. You know the ones. For those people, I have a few answers that I'm thinking of using, but I need some further input before I implement them. For example:

I was knitting at lunch the other day on the Evening Wrap from Hell (I don't do well with all....and add in the two Louisville Sluggers I'm using for needles and the two stranded yarn that seems to have couple's issues in that the strands would really rather not be anywhere near one another...yeah. It's been a long slog.), which I've been knitting on at lunch for just over a week now. A doctor came along and, in the brightly cheery voice normally reserved for three-year-olds who made it to the potty, said "Oh, look. It's getting BIGGER." What I said was something mumbly like "Yeah, it's getting there". What I wanted to say was one of these:
1. "What? It IS??? Quick--help me kill it!!!"
2. "And that's so strange because I've been trying to make it shorter for the last three days. What do you suppose I'm doing wrong?"
3. "Which is odd, because you'd think that could only happen if I was actually knitting on it and....well, what do you know? Look what I'm doing!"
4. "Yeah, I hope it stops doing that before I wear it, because that would be kind of creepy."

Or the doc who said absently "So, you're a knitter?" after having watched me do it every lunch break for a week. What I said was "Oh, yes. I've been a knitter for some time." What I wanted to say was:
1. "No, I just like to hold the needles and pretend. You wouldn't believe how long it took me to wrap all this yarn convincingly around the...what do you call them...needles?"
2. "So, you're a doctor?"
3. "Only when I run out of taxidermy supplies."
4. "Why do people always think that, I wonder?"

Now, some people have been known to ask me if I enjoy knitting and, to be fair, the look on my face as I've been working on the Wrap of Doom makes that a fairly reasonable question. In truth, the correct answer would often be "Not right at the moment, I don't. Ask me again when I've fixed this lace error/picked out this knot/figured out this damned chart/whatever." But, seeing as how anyone who's known me even five minutes knows that I am a compulsive and devoted knitter with so many knitting needles that the burglars steer a wide berth for fear of being run through, and and who is personally responsible for dozens of naked sheep and not a few equally undressed alpaca, it seems logical to assume that I like it at least some of the time. Which leads me to dream about saying things like:
1. "No, I really hate it. But I have to do community service for that little "bank heist" incident, and the judge wanted sweaters for his family, his neighbors, and his four shitzus. Do you think this will look good on a shitzu? What if it's a drag queen shitzu?"
2. "No, but the clicking of the needles drowns out the voices in my head. What? No, shut up--he was asking ME!"
3. "No, it's aversion therapy. Every time I think about giving wedgies to people from Elbonia, I have to do something unpleasant until the urge goes away. You're not from Elbonia, are you?"
4. "God, no. You wouldn't want to take over for me, would you?"

Oh, and don't you love the "Wow, I'll bet you save all kinds of money making your own socks?" (Lady, I have over $200 invested in my sock drawer...and that barely gets me through a week.) and the "Hey, I'll bet you could make me a sweater really cheap!" (sure, if you think $300 just in yarn is really cheap. Oh, and my time is worth $25 an hour. You call me when you get your piggy bank open.") and even "Gee, I could NEVER just sit there like that. I'd get so bored." To which I'm inclined to reply
1. "Yeah, I used to think that, too. Then I realized that if I ignore them, the complete idiots usually go away and leave me alone."
2. "I'm sorry--what? I was distracted by that paint drying behind you."
3. "Oh, I know. Tell me again about the riveting episode of 'Lost' you saw last night while you weren't just sitting there."
4. "It helps to drink heavily. Which might explain all the holes in this thing."

I know, I'm being cruel. I will say for one and all to hear that 99.9% of muggles are absolutely delightful. Now, can't I get permission to be slightly snide about the other .1%? Please?

Knit on.....and by the way--do you like knitting?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

My Booty, and Other News

Noooo...not that booty. You couldn't take up a collection big enough to get me to put a picture of THAT up here. 42 years of life doesn't do great things to a booty. But no, (but, get it? hahahaha--hey, I can be a 9-year-old if I want to) I'm referring instead to birthday booty. Check out how insanely spoiled I am:

See? Spoiled rotten. From right to left, there's a pile of yummy Peace Fleece in the most sumptuous deep reds ever, from the best chosen sister ever. It doesn't know it yet, but this yarn has a future as a warm cardigan so I can wear it and feel like she's hugging me each and every time (I know, awwwwww.....hey, I have my sentimental moments.) You'll notice the color card for future temptations. (Lead me not into temptation, I can find it for myself....but hey, if you're going that way anyway.) Next is a stack of stunning Debbie Bliss Rialto in teal which was given to me by the best husband in the whole world. It's butter soft (the yarn, not the husband) and has a future as a pullover with some cables because the yarn is so smooth that I think the stitch definition will be awesome. And because Mr. K loves things with cables, so I'll think of him whenever I wear it (yes, I offered again to make something for him...he's still resistant. Go figure.). Someone at work said "that's it? All you got for your birthday was yarn?" Muggles. It's quite sad, really. Frankly, while they're talking down my unbelievably wonderful gifts, I'm tempted to spread it all out on the bed and roll in it. Oh, don't look at me like that--don't tell me you've never been tempted.
Another birthday thing that happened was the culmination of a rather startling series of events in my life. I think I've told you (probably ad nauseum) that I am possessed of a black thumb, and this is no lie. My mother, an avid indoor gardner (it fell to my dad to try to convince ther that the phrase "garden tub" didn't actually mean "fill it full of houseplants"...but I digress), used to give me all kinds of plants that she swore I couldn't kill. Eventually she accused me of taking that as a challenge...which I swear I didn't, but she can be forgiven for thinking that. After all, it was clear after five minutes in the house what the prayer plant was praying for. It didn't get it, either--that thing was a dead plant walking from the minute it crossed my doorstep. Seriously, they should just call hospice from the plant place the minute money changes hands, you know? But.
But I lost a battle of wills with Mr. K--specifically, I got tired of looking at the crappy, overgrown outdoor gardens first and decided to clean them up (credit where it's due--I held out for almost three years. He just managed to hold out for almost three years...and a day). Understand, I decided this rather in the way of someone who has finally opted to have a leg lopped off. This was not a moment of enthusiasm and creativity. This was not to be "fun". In truth, all I was going to do was get rid of the weeds, tidy up the edges, get rid of dead stuff, and call it good. That was it. Honestly. You all know, of course, that a few new plants found their way in...but that wasn't totally my fault. I had to replace some of the dead stuff so I wouldn't have holes and really, it's inhuman to think I could resist lavender. In general, though, I was doing well. Then came Saturday, and a man I like to call "the plant pusher".
He's cleverly disguised, this man, as a sweet older gentleman in overalls with an equally sweet looking wife. He lives a couple of miles away and there is an innocent looking sign in front of his house that reads "plants for sale". Just that. Nothing truly honest like "prepare to give up life as you know it" or "hold tight to your bankbook". Just "plants for sale". People have been lured to their doom by far less.
The man's backyard....well. It's not a few plants. It's TONS of plants, all of them bright and healthy and unusual (he prides himself on having hard to find plants), and all of them waving gently and innocently in the breeze. I swear I couldn't see the end of them. Then again, I was already under the influence. It turned out that he also had a whole bed of plants under a cedar tree, growing in soil that was so acidic and inhospitable that the weeds barely make an appearance. Since I have a bed just like that with nothing willing to live in it but a few rhodies (which, around these parts, are really just like big dandelions--they don't care WHERE you put them), I looked. Just looked, mind you. I wasn't really interested, being as how I'm not a gardener and I'm just tidying up the beds and I really don't care. You know. But then these happened:

They're heuchara, better known as Coral Bells. Three different varieties. And these photos were taken in my garden where, due to a cholorphyll-influenced transaction on Saturday, they are now digging in and reaching up and, hopefully, not dying. The middle one is called a Peach Flambe Heuchera, and it really is as completely peach as it looks. Not a trace of green on that dude--how do they DO that?

Yes, I'm embarrassed that I know the latin name of a plant. And the names of some of the varieties (the bottom one is Raspberry Ice). And the names of some that I still want to get (there's one called a Midnight Rose that I'm seriously jonesing for). But I think it's too late for me. I love these plants ridiculously. One trip to this guy's house, and now I'm a pathetic chlorophyll junkie with a three plant a week habit, already searching for my next fix. It's terribly sad and, likely, incurable. I mean, it's not like this is a new feeling. It brings to mind a day some 20 years ago when a friend said, all innocence, that she was knitting and I "might like to try it", as if she didn't know that she was holding out the wooly equivalent of a nickle bag. And we all know how that turned out, don't we?

In my defense (and I worked long and hard to come up with something remotely believable, so pretend you're not giggling out loud), I think it's clear that I am drawn to hobbies that allow me to add beautiful things to the world. How bad can that be?

Okay, quit giggling. So I'm a wool-obsessed wannabe gardener who is doing everything but lighting candles in the hope of keeping my new outdoor stash alive. And knowing that it is likely hopeless. Hope springs eternal.

For your consideration (and to draw attention away from my newest affliction), I also have this picture of Ed just because his eyes look so huge and expressive. Monica, I agree that he looks a tad thin. It's common for him this time of year, possibly because the mice get faster. Either that or someone switches them out for low-fat ones. He typically puts some weight back on in the fall. I tempt him with all manner of things, but he seems to just burn it right off. I'll say one thing--he sure as hell doesn't slow down any.

And Miss, just in case any of you were thinking my description of her as being so fat that we've started calling her "The Land Whale" was mere cruelty:

You see my point. Miss, on the other hand, is round as a beach ball and doesn't really have much in the way of points. Notice how the back legs don't come together. Thunder thighs...on a cat. I'm shaking my head. Commiserating, but shaking my head. Again, though, she's healthy. The vet always brings it up but her tests are always normal and no matter how we feed her...she's still round. I think she gets the high calorie mice that Ed shuns. It's also possible that she's eating meter readers and I just don't know it yet. I'll have to look into it.

For now, knit on. I'll be dreaming of crimson cardis and teal pullovers and heucheras.

God, I never thought I'd be saying that.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

I Thought I'd Have More Wisdom

42 years on this planet--I figured I'd know more. I thought that if I had to endure the indignities and insults of getting older--the tricks of the body that catch you off guard no matter how prepared you think you are--I'd get to be at least a little bit sage. I thought I'd get some answers, maybe that guide book that should be standard issue at birth but instead you come out naked and cold and yelling and you'll figure stuff out or you won't and that's just the way it is.

Yeah, not so much.

I'm 42 years old today and not only do I not feel any wisdom creeping in, I actually feel like I know less all the time. At least, I'm way less sure than I used to be. That may be a form of wisdom....I don't know. Mostly I just feel amazed and a little bewildered that I somehow became a middle-aged woman and I wonder frequently when the grown-ups are going to come home and catch me pretending to be in charge.

I still don't know why people hurt each other, how we can all be so different and so alike and why so many people only see one of those things, why in the world anyone would waste time and energy in hatred or judgement, or why human life is so often regarded casually, and wasted as if there were an infinite supply of it.

I don't know why or how some people come to live their lives without ever wanting to reach out a hand to someone else, to show some mercy (you remember that soapbox of mine), to help someone else get home--whatever you believe that home to be (one of the best things I ever heard was someone who said "We're all here to help each other get home" and I still can't think of a better answer to why we're all here in this world in the first place). I don't know why responsibility and accountability have become rare words, almost profane words--why anyone would want to live without those things, or teach their children to.

I know that I used to think I'd change the world for the better--don't we all think that when we're young? That it's all an easy puzzle and the current crop of adults must be kind of dumb because they can't figure it out and thank goodness we came along? I remember thinking that, and also that 40 was old (I never even considered 42) and that I'd have done it all by now. I'd have enlightened or cured or invented or something. I think I didn't realize how much work and concentration it would take just to paddle the little boat along the river without going ass over teakettle, never mind doing tricks. Sometimes, keeping my feet dry and my oars onboard where they belong feels like the biggest accomplishment ever. On those days, the answer to what I'm most proud of is "I survived. And I didn't hurt anyone on purpose."

That's the interesting thing. I started with all these rules and things. I had lists of all the things I would do and be, and tons of requirements for what I had to do to have a good life. To succeed. The list was pages long and highly specific, and I was pretty sure the years would see me working through that list with grace and ease. Instead, the list has gotten whittled down significantly. Here's the new, revised version:

Don't hurt anyone on purpose (that's a biggie for me)

Pay attention

Give more, take less

Love a LOT

Don't fall in and get eaten by anything.

That's pretty much it. Since it's my birthday, and since I didn't wake up incredibly wise today (damn, I keep hoping...), I'll finish with someone else's words, the ones that in the end probably make the best list of all:

"People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway. "

-this version is credited to Mother Teresa --who definitely got the wisdom thing down.

Knit on. And don't forget to love--a LOT.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Rich Get.....Well, Kinda Dumber

I'm not sure why I work so hard to earn money, when it turns out that there are people all over the country who are simply desperate to find new and unique ways to throw it away. I've long suspected this fact--how else to explain things like $300 sunglasses (given how many I've managed to sit on or drop off piers, I tend to think of sunglasses as a disposable item and feel like I've been robbed if I pay more than $12 for them...which, provided they're also dreadfully ugly and make me look like a goggle-eyed fly, is a surefire guarantee that I'll never lose them and they'll end up being buried with me), $50 lipstick (I've gone all out when I actually buy a $5 lipgloss--most of the time I'm good with a tube of giveaway lipbalm from Radiology Associates), and $500 lingerie (if I'm going to pay in the $100's for something that will end up on the floor, it had better be a handmade rug)? But there was an article in my paper last night that blew even my cynical, cheap little mind. Get this.

Apparently, it is no longer enough for the wealthy in America to buy luxurious items--now they want super pricey, rare items that blow right past our former definitions of expensive. According to the chief luxury officer at CurtCo Media (no, even I couldn't make up a title like that--it's real), the wealthy want things now that "shout quietly". Like the $700,000 Montblanc pen studded with rubies, sapphires, and diamonds that sold within days of arriving at the New York store. That's quiet? Sorry, but I think a $700,000 writing implement qualifies as a full on ear-splitting scream. I wonder what they'd think if they knew that every day I stick two pens in my uniform pocket out of my huge supply of free drug company pens, and most days I come home with two completely different ones--because, if it writes and it's within reach, it's good enough. And there's no shortage of free drug company pens at work. I also tend to gnaw on my pens when I'm thinking......and, while I guess choking to death on a ruby is something of a glamorous way to go, I think I'll skip it.

The article profiled a woman in New York (Nadine) who makes somewhere in the neighborhood of $24,000 a year, who spends about half of that on clothes and accessories--around $1000 a month. Here's her quote, which I think qualifies as the dumbass quote of the month: "My first priority should be my bills. But these designers bring out so many hot items that you must have these things. I am always late with my bills." She also mentioned buying a $1,100 Gucci messenger bag recently, because she can't always use the $3000 bag from Fendi that her boyfriend bought her at Christmas. After all, "you have to change your look, to look fresh". I guess Nadine can take comfort in the knowledge that when all of her debtors finally get sick of waiting for little unimportant things like rent, she'll be the freshest-dressed homeless person in New York, with a choice of really nice bags to push around in her shopping cart.

But here's the part that really got me. Louis Vuitton presold a limited number of $40,000+ patchwork bags made from samples from different spring and summer collections. (It's worth pointing out here that this price tag is only slightly less than the median household income in this country.) Now, I like to sew things, so I realized in a flash what this was about. Louis Vuitton has taken their scraps--the little bits of fabric that are too small to make into handbags--stitched them all together into Frankenpurses, and convinced the wealthy to pay enough money to support a small family for a year to purchase them. They've actually gotten people to not only pay for what is essentially their garbage (I'm sure they threw away their scraps before they realized what they could convince the wealthy to do), but to get on a waiting list to do so even before they were made. My mind boggles. I'll bet these people would faint dead away if they knew that the purse I've been carrying for over a year cost me all of $6 at Value Village, and probably didn't cost more than $20 brand new.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for finding creative ways to use leftovers rather than throwing them out. I even think the purse idea is somewhat clever. But I'm astounded that someone would pay enough money to buy a pretty nice luxury car--for a handbag. Maybe it's because mine is sort of a catchall for gum wrappers, receipts, tampons, hairbands, a hairbrush, an assortment of cheap pens with and without caps, chapstick, etc. It's like a junk drawer with a strap, in other words, and I just don't think my junk needs a $40,000 storage bag. It also gets slung carelessly into my car, dropped on wet pavement, occasionally slammed in doors, and rifled through wrecklessly when I can't find what I'm looking for...which is often. If I've ever had a purse that didn't end up with ink marks and tears in the lining, as well as scuff marks on the outside and half of the stitches popped that were supposed to be holding the strap on, I don't recall it.

In the end, I don't think I want to be wealthy...I fear the surgery to remove my common sense might be too painful.

In spite of my shock and horror at the whole Frankenpurse thing, I did manage to get this far on the evening wrap (which is little more than a wide scarf, but I think it'll work fine):

I tried to get a good picture of the lace design I chose, but me and know. I'm not going to give up my day job to be a photographer any time soon. Not unless the rich start realizing there's some sort of cachet in having all your wedding photos blurry and having the bride's head cut off in three-quarters of them. Then, of course, I'll be making $50,ooo a wedding. For now, though, I think Ed likes the shawl:

Okay, so really he was waiting for breakfast and not at all patient with this whole "take pictures of wads of yarn" thing, but you can't be a knitter's cat without some degree of suffering. Lastly, I offer a picture of Gracie, because someone mentioned they hadn't seen her in awhile...which is quite true:

As you can see behind her, the dropcloth is still there for me to finish the back door. Maybe I should leave it as might add value to the house to have it "quirkily unfinished", should the rich people come looking. Maybe I could say that the French doors were left over from another house and that's why they don't appear to match. Hell, we could make millions.

Knit on, Friends. And don't forget to love your purse today. Clearly, it's more valuable than anyone suspected.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Optimism: It's in the Genes

I have oft times been accused of being a pessimist. I don't completely understand that. Just because my first thought upon noticing the scent of roast turkey in the air when I come to help unload my spouse's truck is not "How lovely--he purchased dinner!" but rather "Oh, Lord. He ran over a turkey." , is hardly a reason to label me. (How a roast turkey came to be in the middle of the road in the first place...well, I haven't yet worked that out.) Now, the fact that I am of Dutch descent, and further that I am of Dutch Calvin descent, with a slew of ancestors to whom nothing whatsoever came easy--that might be a better reason to label me. Then again, I'm also half Irish (precisely 50/50--one set of grandparents born in each country) and, while I absolutely know the Irish in general to be delightful, charming, hardworking people, it is nevertheless true that MY Irish ancestors were a heavy drinking lot who honestly believed that all good things would come to them, regardless of whether they were sober or even upright to receive it. They hoped that the good things would present themselves horizontally for this very reason...but they figured the stuff would find them either way. This has led me to believe that, given the two sides of my family, any children I'd have had would probably have been heavy drinkers...but would have sternly disapproved of themselves for it. However, I once again digress.
The truth is, while I can slide a bit into the ways of my Dutch grandparents ("it will all go horribly wrong and that's just the way it is and don't come running to me when a piano falls on your head."), I have absolute proof now that I do possess some sort of optimistic gene. To wit:
This is the gown that I am planning to wear for an evening out on June 23rd (I can't tell you what it is because it is a birthday surprise for Mr. K, and he does read the blog from time to time...quite possibly in self-defense):

And this is the evening wrap that I'm planning to wear with it, since Seattle evenings tend to be chilly this time of year, and since wifesicle wasn't the look I was going for:

Yeah, it's a little skimpy. I would say that I had several inches of it actually knit up earlier today, but that would be less "optimistic", and more "lying". In truth, I had several rows that added up to about 2 inches before I realized that I needed bigger needles and I needed to learn to count. Still, even faced with the task of unravelling 107 stitches x several rows of mohair clinging desperately to metallic yarn, I did not even consider that I might not be wearing it in a week and a half. My Dutch family would be rolling in their graves.

The yarn is further proof of my slippage to my wild side--it is Trendsetter Dune in the Rose Butterscotch colorway (way prettier than it photographs)....and I bought it on sale for $3 a a store halfway across the state...a year ago....and I have only six balls. I'd like to think I'll learn something from this experience, but it is exceedingly unlikely that it will be anything terribly useful, to tell the truth. I'll either learn that my Irish half was right all along and the world brings good endings to even the most idiotic of plans, or I'll learn some swear words that would cause a round of fainting in my Dutch family. Okay, so that last would have been useful at family reunions....but still.

Adding up the available knitting hours between now and 6:00 pm on June 23rd, I think it not unlikely that I'll end up slinging three balls of yarn around my neck, having joined them quickly with a length of yarn, and telling people that pom-pom shawls are the new rage. Or that I'll go into the event with a four foot wrap and emerge with a six foot wrap, having told everyone within glaring distance that no, I do not hear an annoying clicking sound and I really wish they'd be quiet and let me enjoy the event.

See? Optimistic to the end. I actually think I'll even get 4 feet done. It's cute, in a terrifyingly horrible sort of way.

In happier news, Gussie has opted to share some pictures with you, largely because I keep telling her how wonderful you all are. These were taken upon my arrival home, beginning with

"Hold still. I need to smell where you've been"

"Hmmm....not that roast turkey?"

"Who cares? Just pet the heck out of my head, would you?"

Knit on...and wish me luck. Or sit back and laugh at my metallic facecloth. I'm good either way.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

How Old is Your Computer?

No, not how many years ago did you buy old is it in terms of its maturity level, its social skills, etc.? Okay, so you can take it to a nice restaurant (and a frightening number of people do, via cell phone--c'mon, you don't eat in a phone booth, do you?), but that's only because you have control over the volume. Consider this conversation I recently had with my computer (computer translations provided by me...because I KNOW what it was thinking):

Me: Please print this document.
Computer: Sorry. Don't see a printer.
Me: You don't see a printer? What do you mean you don't see a printer? It's sitting right next to you!
Computer: Sorry, no. No printer.
Me: But...I just hooked you up to it!
Computer: Hmmm...nope. Don't remember that. No printer, no document.
Me: But you're sitting practically on top of it, you're connected to it by a cable, and I TOLD you exactly how to talk to it!Computer: Printer....printer....nope. Doesn't sound familiar. Sorry. Want to play solitaire?
Me: Of COURSE I don't want to play solitaire! I want to print this document! Now, please, talk to the printer and print it!Computer: Printer? What printer?

Now, tell me that doesn't sound like almost any young child you've ever known. Seriously, just insert "my mittens" instead of "printer", and put the conversation in the child's bedroom with the mittens approximately 5 inches from the child's foot. I'm right, aren't I? Or how about this one:

Me (after two hours of work): Okay, it's finally done. Now, if you'd just send this to--
Computer: Send what?
Me (screaming, and then becoming slightly faint): WHERE'S THE LETTER I JUST WROTE???
Computer: Letter? Did you write a letter?
Me: You KNOW I wrote a letter! I spent two hours writing a letter! What did you do with it?
Computer: I dunno...are you sure you wrote it?
Me: OF COURSE I'M SURE!!!! Now stop being obnoxious and give me the damned letter!!!
Computer: You're not my computer owner! You're the meanest computer owner in the WORLD and I hate you!
Me: No, no, NO! Don't freeze up, please don't freeze up, PLEASE keep running!
Computer: Lalala...I can't hear you.

Which is the point at which I reboot the computer and swear a lot. Another thing that reminds me of young children. Not the swearing (although I sometimes did some because of them when they were out of earshot when I was teaching) but the necessity of rebooting. They wail, you shut them down by putting them down for a nap or sticking them in their room and, if you're lucky, they come back much more cheerful and ready to work with you. If you're not, they don't remember what the hell you were talking about or what you wanted them to do but they're willing to argue about it again. Tell me that isn't a young child.

Or how about computers for singlemindedness? If you've ever tried to look up that recipe for the fresh hot buns your aunt recommended, you know that, like a 3-year-old with a new Sponge Bob dvd, there is only one topic worth discussing:

Computer: Would you like some porn?
Me: AAAACCCKKKK!!!! NO! Get RID of that!!!
Computer: Oh, okay. Well then, how about some porn?
Me: NO. No porn.
Computer: How about this porn?
Me: NO PORN. None.
Computer: Okay. Oh hey, look. I found some porn. Wanna see?
Me: Oh, for heaven's sake. NO. PORN.
Computer: Heaven? Well, here are some nice pictures of women dressed like nuns and they're stripping...
Me: NO. No nun porn. No ANY porn.
Computer: about some pictures of naked women, then?
Oh, and what about the dawdling thing?
Me: Computer, I need to get into this file now.
Computer: ....
Me: Now, please. I need to get into it now.
Computer: ....
Me: Oh, c'mon! I have to hurry! Please get me this file!
Computer: ....I'm thinking....
Me: What's there to think about? I was just in it! I just want back in it.
Computer: ....hmmm...
Me (more than a little crazed now): In! I need in! I need in NOW!!
Computer: Well, now I'm all confused. I was going to open this file...but now I'm going to stop and think. For about an hour.

Parents, don't tell me that doesn't look familiar. And if you're thinking I'm spending way too much time on the computer lately, you're quite right. I have to be on it all day at work, and the huge number of hours tapping absurdly on a notebook sized screen with a little stick while the computer laughs and runs away from me with it's shoes and pants off is perhaps addling my brain.

On the bright side, sock:

A finished sock is always a great addition to a day, isn't it? And it was fun to make this one. I worked on it during my lunch hours, enjoying the puzzlement of the muggle doctors as they wandered by saying things like " Putting your lunch hour to good use, then?" Nope, I was just screwing around and damned if this sock didn't turn up.

I didn't say that...but wouldn't it have been fun?

Knit on, friends. Just don't tell your computer. It'll want to play, too, and then where will you be?

Saturday, June 09, 2007

A Soapbox

I wonder sometimes about what we value in our society. The second page of our local newspaper today has a grainy photograph of Paris Hilton sobbing, having just been told that no, she may not do her jail time in a mansion with servants and silk sheets and her every whim attended to. I not sure what's more sad--that this young woman who is in a position to do so much good in the world is instead devotedly creating an utterly wasted life, or that her doing so makes news. Daily.

Meanwhile, I know several beautiful, strong women who have fought or are fighting breast cancer--women raising children and running homes and being wives and even holding jobs, all without a single servent or wealthy parent to help pick up the bills. And they're never in the paper at all. Neither is the woman I met a few years back who lived hand to mouth all the time because she spent all of her spare money--and some that wasn't spare--trying to save just one more abandoned animal and find it a good home (she's the one who sold Gracie to me, and I wished I could have taken 10 more). I haven't seen a single article in any paper about the moms who listen to, cry over, laugh with, and angst about their kids, and never stop showing up even when the showing up is hard. Even when the kid is a sullen teenager who keeps pushing them away with one hand and pulling them back with the other.

I'd like to see a magazine or a newspaper or a tv news clip about the ordinary miracles--the police officers who keep fighting the rising tide of crime even when the wave seems to be 11 stories tall and anything they can do is like a spit in the ocean, and they are abused daily by the very citizenry they're risking their lives to protect. The mom on the playground who watches every kid like a hawk because she knows in her heart that it's a village, it HAS to be a village, no matter what society says. The busy executive who mows his elderly mother's lawn every week without being asked or taking a thing in return.

There's a TV show that interviews different actors and they always ask a variety of questions suggested by the audience, as well as a handful of stock questions that every guest gets. One of them is "What is your favorite word?" I like a lot of words--compassion, gentle, tender, free, lullaby. But my favorite, once I've thought about it long and hard, is still "mercy". I love that word. We tend to think of it in judicial terms--the granting of mercy to someone who has done wrong. That's only part of the picture, though. It can also mean "an act of compassion or kindness." I'd go further and say that to show mercy is to try on the heart of another person, to wear their pain for a minute or a day, and to remember that pain and let it drive you to try to heal it or soothe it or ease it for even a second.

I admire people who know about this, who know how to find the quality of mercy in themselves--whether it is mercy for homeless animals or for a stranger's child on a playground. Or even for the family that needs them and so they soldier on through a horrible illness even when it would be easier to give up--I think that's a kind of mercy. And I want to hear more about this. I want to read about those people who are extraordinary in their ordinariness. I want to open the paper each day and read that someone was newsworthy because they gave of their heart or their hands or whatever they might have had because it was the right thing to do and because it fed their soul to do it. I don't to open the paper and read that the press trampled one another to take a picture of a pitiful, sobbing heiress who lives a 2 dimensional photograph of a life where pain is something that happens to other people. Why do we care about this?

It will be a great day when the most important, newsworthy people don't give a damn whether their works are noticed are not, because it isn't about that. It's about doing the right thing, about caring for someone else more than yourself for a few minutes, about remembering that not one of us is an island unto ourselves--we all need each other. I'm not giving up on that day....but papers like today's give me more than a spasm of grief.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Dumb Stuff People Say

Other people, I mean. Not cool people like us. Never people like us.

But before I get to the dumb stuff, I was moved to laughter and tears reading my comments today. Wasn't it Dolly Parton who said that "laughter through tears is my favorite emotion"? (Rhetorical question--I could recite "Steel Magnolias" from start to finish, so much do I love that movie--just another of my deep, dark secrets.) You guys are all so sweet and so supportive and I'm beyond thrilled that you enjoy my many peculiar meanderings. I do love to write and, while I've only published articles and poetry in the past (very dull articles, I assure you), I may have to consider a book. After all, how fair can it be to deprive the world of "How I Boinked a Wombat for the CIA and Lost 150 Pounds for Cash in My Spare Time, With Intro by Monica Lewinsky" (which is unfair, seeing as how Bill Clinton is far more likely to have experience with wombat boinking...but I digress). Kim, Mr. K thinks I should borrow your idea, cut to the chase, and call the book "Wombat Nipples", or maybe "Sweaty Wombat Nipples"--you know, for the pervert audience. Monica, there is room for you in my living room any time....and, should you sit still long enough for Miss to establish a sleeping place, I can assure you that you'll not be allowed to leave any time soon. No need to hide behind the couch, even if she'd let you.

But on to today's topic. I know you know what I mean when I say that people sometimes say dumb stuff. I don't mean the standard brain fart moments like when the boxboy offered to carry out my groceries for me and all I'd purchased was a pound of butter. I figure anyone who has the intelligence of a pack of gum is probably pretty much on autopilot after bagging the 70th bag of groceries, and thus deserves some slack. No, I'm talking about the really dumb things that prick at Ms. K's brain, most especially on a day which started out at 5:00 am with the filling of the table top fountain on the dresser so that it overflowed into her open drawer of gym shorts and she was forced to choose between riding an exercise bike with a damp tushie or a bare one (I chose damp, you'll be pleased to know). Yeah, okay, so dumb thing number one has got to be "It's 5:00 am and I'm barely awake. I think I'll pour water into a strangely shaped bowl in the semi-dark." However, there's also:

"Oh, they won't bother you if you don't bother them." You know what, though? That large, hooved spider swinging around in the laundry room like Tarzan on steroids is bothering me. He's bothering me quite a bit, in fact, and if my walking quietly into the room is what bothered him to start things, then he's far too sensitive and deserves to be swatted into oblivion with Mr. K's slipper. Same thing with the bees. The fuzzy little buggers seem to be engaged in a perpetual game of chicken with me, which always ends with them flying away with self-satisfied smirks, chanting "Madeja flinch!" (I know, you always thought they just buzzed, didn't you? Not so. It just takes a certain brand of crazy to translate their language.)

"This might be a bit uncomfortable." This is always uttered by a doctor and it is always a filthy lie. I know uncomfortable. Uncomfortable is when I get into bed and the sheets get tangled and I can't move my feet where I want them. Uncomfortable is when I sit on my foot while I'm knitting and my toes go to sleep. Uncomfortable is NOT when any item of any sort is introduced into any part of my body via any means whatsoever. This is doubly true of sharp, pointy things.

"You can't miss it." First, I most assuredly CAN miss it, even if it's right across the street, my car is parked in its parking lot, I used to visit a friend there every third Thursday, and I wrote a report on it in high school (I'm a bit directionally challenged. And memory challenged. It's a bit of a.....well, challenge) . Secondly, this phrase nearly always follows something helpful like "then you turn, east.....well, towards the old barn that burnt down three summers ago, then you drive a fair way and then turn right past where the old Gas n Go used to be, go three miles--no, four, four miles, and it's right next to the old Elkins place. Wait, did I mention the left turn at the Post Office?" I completely missed everything you just said....why would you think I couldn't miss a building that is apparently located in outer Buffalo Stomp?

"Don't worry--he's very sweet and gentle." Problem with this is that the person uttering it is always holding a straining leash, the business end of which is always occupied by a snarling, snapping, growling, foaming monster who is looking at me as though I were a rump roast. I'm not sure what you mean by "sweet and gentle", but if it's that he'll say grace before he eats me, I'm not much comforted.

"No offense, but..." . Look, this is not the middle ages, when you could buy forgiveness for your sins from the church before you committed them, and I am most certainly not as patient as the pope of the time. And my experience is that 90% of the time (or more) this phrase is followed by something VERY offensive. "No offense, but you're a big, fat, booger." See? It doesn't work, does it? Or "Not to be mean or anything, but I've always thought you were an arrogant ass." Anyone fooled? Anyone?

"Can you keep a secret?" apparently can't. So where are we going with this?

"To be perfectly honest..." (and I"ll admit right here and now that I'm guilty of this one, even knowing that it's dumb). And the rest of the time you are......?

Oh, good, I have a new one to add: "I think I'll take a quick break from blogging to go stir the cheesey potato soup....while wearing my favorite black fleece jacket with the University of Washington Medicine logo. Yeah, that's a REALLY dumb one.

I think I'll go scrub my jacket. You smarter folk just knit on.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Well....For Heaven's Sake...

Or so my mother would have said, and I'll borrow it because it makes a sort of oddly interesting title and because it seems a tad more ladylike then "Well, I'll be go to hell" which was another of her expressions. (It's worth pointing out here that my mother also said things like "You can't wear that until you iron it. It looks like it's been in a dog's butt all night" and so can not rightfully be called an oracle of good taste in such matters.) I was astounded to find my name and blog on the readersandwriters blog, and in such esteemed company as well. Truthfully, I met this news with a mixture of elation (Hey, someone thinks I can write!) and terror (Oh my God--someone thinks I can write--how did THAT happen??). Such is the peril of living in the mind of Ms. Knitingale, an experience that cannot adequately be described. Well, it's sort of like living in a huge yarn stash where you have lots and lots and lots of brightly colored yarn, only very little of it actually goes with anything else. And a lot of it is kind of fuzzy. You get the picture.

ANYWAY, Marianne suggested that perhaps I should consider writing a book, a thought that again fills me with pleasure and terror. Mostly, though, I fear that I don't have a book's worth of anything to say. I mean, let's say I was going to write a knitting book. And let's say it's news to you that I am something of a perfectionist (in the same way that Paris Hilton is something of a spoiled twit with the IQ of a hot water bottle). And let's say that I OCCASIONALLY am so much of a perfectionist that I get paralyzed by indecision and spend more time trying to find the perfect thing to make than actually making it. Let's just say. Oh, and let's also say that I choose colors like a three-year-old at a birthday party when it comes to choosing yarn, but generally prefer to wear simple knitted items, usually in one color. Can you imagine the list of patterns?

1) Purple variegated sweater with many cables, one sleeve, and no collar. Materials: several skeins of brightly colored yarn that "look lovely and cheery in the package!", numerous knitting patterns (it is essential to start and reject at least three of them prior to embarking on this one), second, third, and fourth thoughts upon realizing that this sweater could double as a warning light on airplane runways, attention span of a husband having just learned that it is raining tools 50 miles from here. Guilt at leaving it unfinished is optional.

2) Hat that will fit no human head (which does beg the question of how many non-humans I knit's only a few, and the hat won't fit them, either).

3) Scarf knit in-the-round, so long it could serve as a tree condom, largely because "I wanted to be sure it was long enough".
4) Socks made of yarn that has been frogged so many times it's starting to ribbit, and a French chef is waiting outside the door with a cleaver in case this time isn't the charm.

5) Shawl of a thousand excuses--should take at least 18 years to complete, if you're truly adept at excuses.

This book would come with labels for your stash drawers, with notations such as : "Too nice to knit with" and "Unravelled so frequently that it is officially fuzzless". Also "There wasn't quite enough to do anything with...but it's so PRETTY!", and "Nope, in this light it's perfectly hideous, too."

See what I mean? They say you should write about what you know, but I'm not so sure there'd be a demand for

"How to Shout at Your Cats So They Are Fascinated By That Thing Bouncing in Your Throat, But Not Remotely Interesed in Stopping the Behavior"

"Recipes To Slam Your Arteries Shut--With Really Vague Directions"

"Thrift Stores I Have Loved"

"Gardening the Desperate Way" (A note here--I could never be on Desperate Housewives. See, the gardener could look like Johnny Depp and, while I'd definitely ogle, I'd never be willing to slow his work down enough to actually get up to naughtiness with him. Hey, I've got a GARDEN to get finished here.)
"I've Learned to Knit on the Orbital, and Other Compulsive Behaviors"

"Why I Think Tom Cruise Sucks"

"Things You Can Do at Work With Paper Clips--Besides Holding Papers Together"
Then again, I remember reading somewhere that books are more likely to sell if they are how-to books, have sex in the title, have some sort of conspiracy, are about animals, have an inspiring story about something life-changing like massive weight loss, promise to make you money, and feature real people. Or some combination of the above. So, perhaps this, then, for my great american literary exercise: "How I Boinked A Wombat for the CIA and Lost 127 Pounds for Extra Cash in My Spare Time--With Intro By Monica Lewinsky"
Yeah, it's sad. But I love writing here and I love that you're willing to read it. So we're good.
Speaking of compulsive behaviors (which we were, at some point here):

The Wine Country sock, now with heel. I love it again, so this is good. For the next half hour, I will still love it.
For my fellow feline fanciers, a rare treat:

The elusive Gussie. It is rare, indeed, to get a picture of this end of her as opposed to the Bush button she is usually inclined to display. She is quite proud of it, and the concerned look on her face in this picture is no doubt due to the fact that she does not feel I've captured her best side.
Gracie, on the other hand, is just hoping I don't finish the doors and pick up all the rags and dropcloths and suchlike:
Cause, you know, we have nowhere else in the house for the poor thing to sleep, but an old rag on a dropcloth.

Knit on, friends. And consider that CIA/wombat gig. I got rich, and so can you!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Hell That is Gardening

By which title it may become apparent that Ms. K and gardening are not really such very close friends....
Mother Nature and I have had an agreement for some time. Specifically, I will generally leave her alone except for the necessary lawn mowing, and she will wait until my back is turned and throw trees at my car. Now, this may not sound like a particularly good deal, but Mother Nature is a skilled negotiator, who has been making these sorts of deals since the beginning of time. Indeed, her usual deal is something like "you do whatever the hell you want because it won't matter and I'll still freeze your tomatoes/place poison ivy near your campground/hurl your trailer six miles from your midwest trailer park, just because I feel like it." Compared to the alternatives, I figured the leave me alone/trash your car thing wasn't absolutely the worst thing that could happen. I mean, at least she waited until my back was turned.

And yet.....and yet there are times when Ms. K inexplicably becomes delusional, fancying herself some sort of domestic goddess who can coax leafy things into life while birds sing joyously to her. The reality usually has a lot more swearing, lots of terrified greenery, and the birds are laughing at me. This is why I try to avoid this activity whenever possible. Unfortunately, Mother Nature is also not known to actually play fair and, having advised me in the strongest possible language to leave her alone, she spent the last three years making the gardens at my house into tangled messes of weeds and sticks and general nastiness. I hoped that the garden fairy would come during the night and it would be lovely and I wouldn't get in trouble with Ma Nature, but it never did happen. (Just goes to show you--never trust a garden fairy.)
I did try reasoning with both the gardens and Mother Nature. I pointed out that I have the touch of death and I don't have an eye for this stuff AT ALL and would it really make any of us any happier to have me turn the entire place into a crispy brown affair, the whole thing held together with dandelions and moss? No go, and it finally got so bad that I couldn't ignore it any longer. I went out, and I bought plants and soil and fertilizer, trading my common sense for them so it would stop screaming at me. And, since everyone loves a before and after thing, here' are the before pictures of one of the gardens, this one at the end of our walkway:

Disasterous, I know. And yes, I AM quite ashamed. In my defense, though, you can't say I'm not a woman of my word. I said I wouldn't mess with her, and I bloody well didn't. At all.

Now, the potted plants on the rock are ones I purchased last night to replace the crap I knew I'd be throwing away. Even so, I did not imagine just how much work this would take. Apparently I should have driven a harder bargain and kept a little bit of the sense, because I was still clinging to that picture of me happily pulling out a few weeds, all of them leaping eagerly into my hands as the garden became perfectly lovely with nary a drop of sweat on my brow to show for it. Yeah, I think I went right past zero sense and went into negative integers.

What really happened was four hours of shovelling and raking and ripping stuff out of the ground that was apparently rooted in concrete and hanging on for dear life. I had no idea that dandelions could grow taproots right through the earth, where they are then secured on the other side with that stuff they use to put price labels on clear glass vases. That crap NEVER lets go...and neither do the damned dandelions. Ultimately, I ended up clearing everything out but the rock (it was behaving itself, at least while I was looking) and the two largish green bushes simply because they had the tenacity to stay alive and I felt that should be rewarded. As for the rest--dead plant walking.

Once finished, I drank so much lemonade that it would have been more efficient to drink it from a fire hose and then returned to plant some lavender (the bees fought me determinedly for this; then, once I got it in the ground and was quite happy to have them, they left for parts unknown. Damned bees.), a "nearly wild rose" (that's what the tag on it said and it's never lied to me before so it must be true) which I'm certain the deer will eat but it was so pretty I couldn't resist, and some plant with odd looking purple flowers that charmed me but not, apparently, enough to make me remember what it's called. I left the rest empty to allow what I put in there to grow and spread out. It looks kind of empty, I suppose, but after the tangled mess I started with, I was okay with the minimalist look.
It needs water, but it's 80 degrees and the sun is right on it so I'm waiting until this evening so I don't burn the plants. I also still need to put bricks all around the edge to separate it from the lawn. And really, the charming puple thing is supposed to spread up to 10 feet, so I have hope that this will look good. If not, I want my sweat back.
The hell of it is, I still have the bed at the end of the driveway, and one of the beds in front of the porch to do. I did the other one, but didn't get a before shot so the after was kind of anticlimactic. It involved some hens and chicks plants, and some rhododendrons that I'm assured will bloom red, and it also involved me being a smorgasbord for about a million mosquitoes because I did it last night at dusk. You may apply the word nitwit here, if you'd like.
I am a bit concerned about what Mother Nature will do to me, now that I have reneged on my end of the deal. Maybe the rhubarb will organize and come strangle me in my sleep or something. More likely, she'll just send reinforcements for the weeds and I'll step out tomorrow morning to hear the dandelions burp as they finish eating my lavender and take over the rock in the center of the garden. Then again, I think I should also keep an eye on the trees.
I know there are people out there who love gardening, and I have only admiration for you. Well, admiration, and two questions. 1) WHY??? and 2) What time can you be here? I have lemonade. Oh, and I know how to make cookies, too.
Knit on, friends. I am about to reward myself for all my hard work by...ironing. It's just plain wrong.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Two Funny Stories (for free)

First, though, the yarn. The yarn is Koigu and, since Koigu does not give their colors names, I'm afraid I can't identify it any better than that. Except to say that it's both stunningly beautiful and a stubborn bastard. It is now in its fourth sock incarnation. In a perfect world, yarn would be able to talk, and would tell you exactly what sort of sock it might like to be knit into. I, for one, would welcome a quietly whispered "No, no--don't try to make me into a feather and fan sock. I will pool like a sonuvabitch, and I won't even feel badly about it." A girl can dream. Currently the Koigu is being made into a different feather and fan pattern than the first one I tried (fewer stitches) and, so far, is holding its own. Time will tell. As to naming it, I personally would have called it "Wine Country" (because it has lovely wine tones along with the greens and teals, and because I can be a bit fey at times), but that's just me. The Koigu people, for some reason, have not come to ask me to name their yarns, so it'll be our little secret.

Oh, and Monica, thank you so much for your helpful auction hints. I will use many of them...especially the tantrum part, I suspect. And Lilly, I must get a copy of that book. I am already working on my derisive retort. I have 8 years before I'll be allowed to use it...but I want to be ready.

So, the funny stories:

1. I stopped at Target on the way home to pick up a couple of essentials. Since I was there anyway, I did a bit of clothes browsing (and bought nothing, thank you, even though my purse was positively laden with my first paycheck in over a year--make with the kudos fast, while I'm still behaving), and happened to find myself near the changing rooms. As I wandered, I became aware of two young women in adjoining dressing rooms, each with a large pile of clothing. They were obviously good friends, and were coming out at intervals to inspect each other's outfits and give a thumbs up or thumbs down on each look. At one point, one of the women emerged wearing a cute enough top, but a perfectly dreadful pair of denim capris. She was a pretty thing, but the pants managed to turn her lovely curves into something unspeakable. Because I am fascinated by human interaction (yes, yes--and because I'm nosy as hell) I watched to see what the friend would say about this outfit. Evidently she agreed with me, because she looked the first woman up and down and then said "Well, I like the top. The pants, though....well, they're pretty bad, huh?"and giggled. There was an uncomfortably long pause, long enough to make me look up at the glare on the first woman's face as she replied icily "Amanda--these are MY pants. I wore them here."

Oops. Now, I think there are some lessons here for us. For instance, if you are blessed with the kind of memory that I--and apparently Amanda--are (that is, it's like one of those know...water goes out and spaghetti stays in? yeah, one of those), it is not a poor use of your time to examine your friend carefully before going shopping so as to memorize her outfit. Lesson two: if you do manage to forget what your friend is wearing and commit this type of faux pas (because of the aforementioned water-go-spaghetti-stay perched in your head), it is good to have a great poker face. Because, while I would have immediately started laughing nervously and apologizing pointlessly, Amanda did not. She didn't even pause. She just replied with great conviction "No, they're not." Such was Amanda's conviction that her friend actually stopped and, for a fleeting second, looked down to see if she really was wearing her own pants. Now THAT'S a poker face. Amanda, you are the queen of the baldfaced lie. Lesson three, though--if you are one of the Amandas of the world, for Pete's sake speak up while I'm still at home! If my pants make my ass look like it's building another room, I need to know about it before I'm out in public, 'kay?

2. Mr. K and I enjoy an idyllic existence, and I love him very dearly. We rarely argue, because we rarely disagree on anything. However, we have had a bit of a difference of opinion over the issue of dirty spoons. Specifically, the ones that Mr. K uses to dish up food, or to spread the sauce on his sandwich for lunch. Once finished with them, he places them in the dry sink, with nary a drop of water, the better to concrete the spoon to the sink and drive me nuts. Every day this week I've come home to find that I had to scrub the sink again, because whatever he's using on his sandwiches is second only to rubber cement in terms of staying power. We've discussed this. Since the spoons haven't yet figured out how to rinse themselves, though, it hasn't changed. But you know, life is short. I have a good husband. I have a happy life. It isn't worth it to argue or get upset about such a little thing. Armed with the advice of a good friend, I placed a Tupperware bowl of soapy water in the sink this morning for Mr. K to drop his spoons into. So happy was I with this mature handling of the situation (odd for me) that I could hardly wait to tell him. "See?" I said giddily. "You don't have to rinse it or put it in the dishwasher or anything. Just drop it in the bowl. I'll move it to the dishwasher later. You don't have to mess with it, and I don't have to scrub. How great is that?" Which, of course, means "please praise my brilliance", but you probably guessed that. But instead, he said this: "That's great, Honey...but I'm out of sandwich meat. I wasn't going to make lunch for myself today."

Mr. K said that this is the first time in his life that he's ever been threatened with great bodily harm if he didn't make a sandwich. I'm suspecting a nefarious plot, though....I actually gave him the rest of my black pepper turkey for his sandwich. I'll bet that was his dastardly plan all along.

You may knit on, good people. I'm going to go move my spoon. And check my butt in my pants, since I don't have Amanda to do it for me.