Friday, January 27, 2012

Better and Better: One resolution DONE!

I am sock-cessful!

I've spent much of the week fighting off a cold and feel much better now!  Zinc and plenty of rest seem to have knocked this out sooner than usual.  All that rest afforded me the opportunity to lay on the couch and knit, so the result thus far is this:

Definitely needs blocking, but it fits!!

It's not been blocked or washed yet, but it's a real sock!  I've unfortunately knitted ladders into it at the needle margins and need to figure out how to not make that happen on its mate or future socks.  The worst of the ladders ended up on the underside where it won't show.  I am so delighted to have made a real sock!  They work up so very quickly, the light yarn is pleasant to work, and I can't wait to finish the mate and start on another pair.

Another blogger I read and respect had an interesting and astute definition for crafts:  "Time consuming activity where the output is less than the input."  It's a near-perfect summary of my take on crafts as well and explains as well as anything why I don't make scrapbooks (I also get cranky when we use nouns as verbs, so in my world we create scrapbooks rather than scrapbooking, except for that we don't) or any of the other popular crafts.  I do love handwork, though, as long as the product is something I can wear or use, or give to someone to wear or use.  In my mind, that's more along the lines of an artistic creation; the output is far more than the input, and one has something made by one's own hands that is as good or usually better than factory-produced goods.

My pictures, though, remain in neatly ordered boxes by year, and there they shall always remain.  I've often been a bit mystified by women who take up making scrapbooks and quickly become overwhelmed and even guilty -- how many times have you heard, "I'm so behind on my scrapbooking!"  How does one get ahead, or keep up?  Most disturbing of all are mothers who create scrapbooking moments:  requiring their children to dress in a certain way and pose for photos that will appear as a theme in the scrapbooks.  We were at a park a few months ago with children playing as usual, except for one mother and her children; they arrived, she had them pose as if playing on various play equipment but screeched if they touched the dirt, and then they filed back into their minivan, photos accomplished.  Is that really a memory?

I'll eat my words eventually here, since I have a keepsake scrapbook-y album from my grandmother that is falling apart and needs to be redone.  I have a new album and paper that won't disintegrate, and I need to carefully remove her cards and keepsakes and put them gently into a new space.  This was the last thing my very dear grandmother passed along to me before she died a few years ago, and I need to take good care of it.  There are no photos, no twee captions, no stickers or die-cuts -- just cards and notes from well-wishers and heartbreaking condolences from when she lost a baby.  She passed this along to me after we had the same experience, and it connected us even more.  For that, I'll be respectfully, lovingly renovating this priceless treasure she entrusted to me.

Beyond that, I'll be continuing to spread my photos out on a table to look at them, and will otherwise continue the useful pursuit of knitting to satisfy my need for handwork.  I'm getting better and better at socks!
I love the stripes!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Winter Walk

It's been a busy week.  My Spanish class is in full swing, I've volunteered to be Membership Chair in the restructured PTA at the school my son is now attending, I had several events this week for the families-with-gifted-children group I'm vice-president of, and this sentence is getting as long as the week.  Anyway, I put the to-do list aside this morning and took a nice, long walk with our dog Ivy around the lake in our neighborhood.  I put my phone in my pocket for safety, but remembered to snap a few pictures along the way.

A path through the woods

Creek running out to the lake

Rocky creek

Beautiful winter day.  Wishing you peace for the weekend.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Know Peace

Dr. King giving the "I Have a Dream" speech

Inspired.  A true leader. Enlightened. Right.  He was right.  We are all interconnected, and to deny the rights of one denigrates the rights of all.

If you ever can, please consider visiting the national historic site, including Dr. King's memorial, in his old neighborhood, Sweet Auburn, near downtown Atlanta.  You can sit in his church where he gathered strength for the civil rights movement, walk through his home, and pray at his tomb.  It is hallowed ground.  You will leave a different and better individual for having experienced it.

...And I've looked over, and I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land. So I'm happy tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man.
Martin Luther King Jr.Speech in Memphis, April 3, 1968, the day before King was assassinated

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sock Start

If you recall my 2012 intentions, I'm to learn how to knit socks this year, and I think I'm off to a good start.

Knitting gear.  The blue yarn is the next sock project.

Ann Budd's Getting Started Knitting Socks has served as my text in getting me up and running.  I'm not a new knitter; I have made sweaters that I still wear, so I felt fairly confident starting socks, and I've used the lapful of double-pointed needles to make baby sweater sleeves.

Caroline's baby sweater, hand-knitted by me, before blocking

Still, I cast on 64 stitches as instructed, and I had to unravel at least three times before I remembered how to work double-pointed needles.  A normal cast-on with a slip stitch and knit-on doesn't work well with socks, either; I had to learn how to do a long-tail cast-on.  And take it out a few times, and do it over.

I'm knitting with four needles and fingering-weight wool/cotton/nylon blend yarn.

Then I remembered a breath of fresh air and sensibility on my bookshelf:  Elizabeth Zimmermann.  Do you know her?  I have her Knitting Without Tears at the ready, whenever the directions get too hairy, or the chart stops making sense, or the approach of the heel makes me think I'd prefer to knit legwarmers (which are inexplicably back in fashion, by the way).  Elizabeth Zimmermann sets it all right again with her no-nonsense advice to beginning knitters, or knitters beginning a new type of knitting.  She dismisses the intricacies of intarsia and instills confidence, teaches an easier way to turn a sock heel, provides adaptable patterns for all sorts of sweaters, and advises the new knitter to knit on with confidence through all crisis.

I read her bit on socks and felt ready to begin anew.  A bit of internet looking turned up Interweave Press' e-magazine Sockupied, which looks very intriguing, and I think I'll reward myself with a download once I've got a successful sock.  I like that the e-mag is interactive, with videos showing how to do things that still photography doesn't always quite capture.  Ann Budd is a regular contributor, as well as other sock designers, when I'm ready to branch out from K2-P2 and can turn a heel in my sleep.

I'm also a little delighted to see that the yarn I selected is self-striping, and is making diagonal candy-cane stripes as the pattern emerges:

Self-striping yarn is so much fun!  Pink and gray heathered stripes are starting to show.

I just hope they fit so I can wear them out.

Monday, January 9, 2012


In Unitarian Universalism, our first (of seven) principles is the inherent dignity and worth of every person, and the second is justice, equity, and compassion in human relations.  So it was entirely appropriate that this weekend's Sunday service at my church focused on the civil rights movement, as we get close to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday next weekend.  Almost every Sunday in church I get choked up about something, but this time went way beyond choked up.

One of our ministers is also a social worker, like me.  She has a gentle but direct way of bringing up things that are not always comfortable to discuss, but must be, especially in a faith community that is called to change the world for the better.   Sunday, she told the story of Viola Liuzzo,  a 39-year-old white mother of five killed at point-blank range for driving a young black fellow civil rights worker in Montgomery.  She lived an interesting life that led up to her answering Dr. King's call for people to come to Selma and march to Montgomery.  Thousands of people were too busy, or too scared, or too disconnected to go, but she went.  And she was murdered by white supremacists.

I had read and heard about the march from Selma to Montgomery almost my entire life.  I grew up in Washington, DC and stood on the spot where Dr. King delivered his speech.  I went to college in Auburn, Alabama and had classmates who were co-enrolled at Tuskegee University.  Some of my teachers, and later, my clients, participated in the march.  The scorch marks of the civil rights movement are still on the earth and the people, decades after the action.

Very soon after we were married, my husband lost his grant funding and quickly found another job in Jackson, Mississippi.  I stayed behind in Alabama, working and getting ready to sell our house.  We agreed that he would come home one weekend, and I'd go over there the next, for the summer until the house sold.  The first summer Friday, I headed west on a gorgeous evening with all the windows open, through the fertile Black Belt of Alabama (so called for the rich cotton-growing soil, not the people), the gentle rolling hills and open fields of ripening cotton stretching for miles after I-85 ended and US-80 started.  The sun was setting, all was well.

And then this:

Just right there, right in front of me, driving my car through Selma, this loomed in front of me.  I almost drove off the road.  This image was in all my history textbooks and some of my nightmares after I learned what happened that awful Sunday.  I quite literally had to pull the car over and stop the tears to be able to drive over this bridge.  Seeing it in living color felt like a slap in the face.   This is the bridge on March 7, 1965, where police officers attacked peaceful marchers on their way from Selma to Montgomery.  There is an eeriness there, a calmness and yet an energy that is hard to describe, just being in that place.

I grew up in a place where a lot of our nation's significant history happened.  I walked through the homes of the founders of our nation and appreciated them and what they did.  But I have never felt history as deeply and viscerally as I did that day.  This place looks the same, except that there are no crowds, no teargas, no screaming.  You can still feel it, though.

In church, the following poem was read about the civil rights movement and the lives lost in fighting for what are basic human freedoms.  In the poem, everyone who died for this freedom gets back up and marches alongside the living for the cause.  The two readers were in tears throughout, and by the end, so were we all.  I have a great deal of pride in belonging to a church that sent half its ministers to Selma to participate in that march (Rev. James Reeb was a UU minister), and who works now on civil rights issues involving nationality, sexuality, and gender.  Bless everyone who answered Dr. King's call to march to Montgomery, and may we never tire of working to ensure that everyone has the right to be free.

March to Montgomery.  The first six blocks to the bridge were peaceful.

    The road from Selma stretches in the rain
    white as a shroud, rimmed with stiff troopers.
    The marchers stand bowed, hands joined, swaying gently
    their soft strong song stilled.
    Then up from a Birmingham bed
    rises a gentle Boston man, Jim Reeb,
    steps softly back to Selma
    and moves among the stilled marchers.
    The troopers stir, link arms,
    close ranks across the road
    stretching from Selma in the rain
    white as a shroud.
    The Boston man, Jim Reeb, walks toward the troopers
    and they straighten and stand guard tight as death.
    But someone moves behind them, waves his hand.
    "That you, Jackson?" Jim Reeb peers ahead.
    "That's right, Reverend. Come on through."
    The troopers tighten guard, straight as death
    But Jim Reeb doesn't stop.
    He goes on through,
    right through the stiff ranked troopers
    white as a shroud
    rimming the road from Selma.
    And Jimmie Lee Jackson takes him by the arm
    and they march down the road to the courthouse.
    Over in Mississippi Medgar Evers stands,
    three young men rise up from a dam in Neshoba County
    and they all go down the road
    and walk right through the tight stiff trooper line
    and down the road from Selma.
    And from all over there's a stirring sound.
    Emmett Till jumps up and runs laughing like any boy
    through the stiff white rim.
    Four small girls skip out of a church in Birmingham
    and the tall old man in Springfield gets up
    and goes to Selma.
    And down from every lynching tree
    and up from every hidden grave
    come men, women, children, heads carried high,
    passing a moment among the bowed, stilled troopers
    and down the white road from Selma.
    Until the age long road is packed
    black with marchers streaming to the courthouse.
    And the bowed stilled group in Selma
    raise their heads, hands joined,
    swaying gently, in soft strong song
    that goes right through the stiff ranked troopers
    white as a shroud
    barring the road from Selma.
Copyright © 1965 June Brindel.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

What are you reading?

That delightful tower is my reading list for 2012, and I also have a number of books loaded on to my Nook to tackle in this new year.  Ulysses takes up the most real estate, other than the 501 Verbs, which I will not be reading cover-to-cover.  This rather daunting pile is split into "read now" for January, "read soon" on a nearby small tabletop, and "read this year" on an easily accessible shelf in my library.  A couple of the Spanish ones are workbooks, and there's even a cookbook in there.

I also went to Barnes & Noble today and used my Christmas gift card, so add a paleo diet book and another cookbook to the pile!

I gave sock knitting a first try last night, and although Ann Budd is most reassuring in Getting Started Knitting Socks, holy cats, it's not that easy.  I'm wearing a sweater I knitted myself with a fairly complex cable pattern, so I think of myself as at least an intermediate knitter.  I am using the four-needle method, which I have used before to do baby sweater arms, and I don't remember it being quite this fiddly.  I will keep at it, but may need to find a different yarn for my first attempt.  I'll post my first completed sock, and let's hope it's still winter by then!

So I settled in with a bit of Walden  to calm the nerves after three unravelings.  What a lovely book, and how well he manages to put things both bluntly and beautifully at once.  I could commonplace nearly the whole thing, which sort of ruins the concept of commonplacing, but there really are that many memorable, necessary things to take away from it.  And I'm only on page 37.

These books won't read themselves, so I'm off-- hope your New Year is off to an excellent start!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


It's 2012!  I spent the first two days of 2012 enjoying the rest of the holiday vacation with my children, since they go back to school and our time is far more spoken for.  I had some delicious Lebanese food and made a pizza entirely from scratch for New Year's Day dinner -- even the mozzarella from scratch!   I took a few pictures we can look at later in the week.

Right now, I'm getting together action plans for my resolutions for 2012.  I accomplished five of the ten I set for 2011, and I think I can do a whole lot better this year!  Ready?

1.  Continue learning and starting to converse in Spanish
--My class starts again next week, I read a weekly paper now, and have some home workbooks to  
        keep me learning until class starts.  I also participate in a monthly bilingual cooking group where I make
         an effort to converse in Spanish, even though it's not easy.

2.  Learn to knit socks.
--This one is a bit silly, because I can knit sweaters with all kinds of complex patterns, but I've never tried
      socks.  I have a book, I have some yarn, I have the needles, and Downton Abbey comes on again next    
       week.  It's time to knit the socks.

3.  Finish Desiderata tapestry.
--I spent a lot of my free time in the '90s doing very intricate embroidery.  It started in college with cross stitch and progressed to really serious stuff, much of which is still hanging variously on the walls in my home. This past decade has been more about children, and not so much about free time to do embroidery.  Still, I have this beautiful Desiderata tapestry I'd like to finish this year.  It's been undone longer than I can even recall to be embarrassed.  I can work it in when I'm sick of sock knitting, I guess.

4.  Read Ulysses.
--I've had it on the bookshelf for years and it's my own Moby Dick of books to conquer.   I had a friend promise to read it with me a few years ago, but the friend and the promise dropped away.  I'm ready to go it alone.  I read over 80 books a year, many of them difficult, and there is no reason I can't buckle down and get something out of Joyce's lengthy masterpiece.  Said of it:  a terribly difficult climb, but the view from the top is incomparable.  I will let you know!

5.  Finish Walden.
--Really rather embarrassed to be a good Unitarian Universalist and not have most of this memorized by now.  One of the quotes that defines me is "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and to see if I could learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not yet lived."  I read that quote as a bored, jaded, typical teenager and it went through me like a bolt of lightning.  And there is a whole book of this -- why haven't I read it yet?  I start today.

6.  Stabilize weight through healthy fat-loss eating and exercise.
--I am about 20 pounds north of where I look best.  Unfortunately for me, I look just fine from the front (my mirror view) and rather portly from the back, which I hardly ever have to see, so it's been easy enough to give myself a pass as a pound or two crept on here and there.  I'm 40 now, and it counts for my health as much as for my vanity to get rid of this stuff.  How to do it?  After my son was born, I was extremely successful with the South Beach Diet, and I've since discovered the fantastic teachings of the Metabolic Effect team who combine similar eating habits with rest-based heavy weight training to get this midlife metabolism back under control.  I used to be able to eat a few cookies for a snack with no consequences, and those days are sadly over.  See ya, refined sugar and other simple carbs.  Your memories are with me on the scale!!

7.  Implement strength training program to stabilize metabolism.
--Metabolic Effect has this one all ready to go for me.  It's a matter of going against my night owliness and getting up at 5:30am to exercise before the day gets going -- it's a huge hassle to go back, change clothes, exercise, shower, and get put back together during the day.  I've done it many times, but I have a lot better ways to spend daylight hours than doing pre-breakfast tasks over.  Up and at 'em!

8.  Move accounts out of SunTrust.
--We're about done with big banking.  They lost an envelope of our deposits from two summers ago, and miraculously found it, two years after it would have been very helpful.  That and the non-consumer-friendly policies being both loudly and quietly put in place make it a better idea for us to bank somewhere we can count on.  This resolution should get done sooner rather than later; it's a matter of doing some investigation and then some paperwork.

9.  Find a career-based volunteer opportunity.
--One reason I left my job last year was the lack of congruence with my social work skills.  I have some time I can devote weekly to the right volunteer opportunity, both to give back and to network a little in my field of aging services and social work.  All the faces have changed and I'd like to at least see if this area is still a good fit for my interests and skills, without committing to a job just yet.  I have lots of possibilities and need to do some research, then start connecting.

Are you still here?  Thanks for reading!  I'll be posting updates on how I'm doing with these from time to time.  I take resolutions seriously.  I keep a daily journal (just a few lines a day) and have resolutions right in the front to see frequently, so I'm not going to be forgetting these.  Do you set resolutions?  Social work teaches that you have to set goals and then outline how to get there -- and there's my road map in writing.   I wish you the best in mapping out your year, too!