Friday, June 24, 2016

Reading and Writing...

...and of course knitting...

Reading...

I bought (on Kindle) "Reader, I married him." As you may know (and if you don't, you need to!), that was a major line in "Jane Eyre." It's somewhat buried, but it's in there. Jane says, "Reader, I married him."

This is a novel set in an age where women didn't necessarily agree with the marriages - they were property. For Jane to say this? A penniless, orphaned soul who had nobody in the world, reduced to being a governess, living on the kindness of other families and raising other women's children? This is a bold statement: "Reader, I married him."

The book, by Tracy Chevalier, is a compendium of stories that are take-offs of that iconic line. It's worth a look. Some of the stories are obvious. Some? Not. Some are totally off the wall. But they're lovely short stories. Well worth your time. 

I got my e-book refund. A whole $25. You'd think I didn't read much! I just buy cheap books, I guess. And I don't really buy a lot of them on the e-reader format. I'll have to look up some good ones. 

I usually don't buy reference books in an e-format. I won't buy cookbooks, nor will I buy knitting books. I like sticky notes. I like highlighters. I can't highlight or flip pages back and forth on my Kindle. Well, I can, but nothing beats a sticky note, a yellow highlighter and being able to whip right to the page I want. 

Knitting...

The magic happened again, friends! Heel turned on "watermelon" sock. I'm doing the gusset decreases again. I picked up 20 stitches on each side - it's an 18-row heel flap, so I thought 2 extra stitches on either side would prevent a hole where we join the parts. 

I didn't go all "harlot" and match the yarn so that the repeats were even all around. I didn't do it on the first sock, and I think that at some point, it's a waste of yarn to do it just to match. 

Often, I find with Opal in particular, that my stripes match anyway. Or close enough and I'm happy enough. 

I bought some beautiful self-striping yarn from Eat. Knit. Dye. called "A Starry Night." It's got the contrasting dark mini-ball for ribbing, heel and toe. As you can see by the little card, this is a take-off on Van Gogh's "Starry Night." It's just gorgeous, with a silvery shimmer to it. Can't wait to knit this one up, and I think I'll do a fairly simple sock. Let this yarn do the talking!

I'm giving the baby his stuff this weekend. He's a whole 3 months old now, and growing like the proverbial dill plant in the garden! 

So here's a problem. See that line of yarn? How in the heck did that happen? It was during the heel turn, and it was on the purl side. I noticed it, but at the time, didn't ascribe too much to it. Then I realized that it looked odd. 

I tried to put an arrow near it, or do something with it in PhotoShop, but even Hubby couldn't do it. And my old reliable Quark Xpress? Pfffffffffth. 

Anyway, I think it won't really matter, but it's annoying because the other side flows nicely with a nice smooth line from the heel flap to the turn. I know - nobody will see it. It'll be on my foot. In a shoe. 

But it still makes me wonder...

Inspiration Point...

So I belong to a FB group of writers, and they were asking for "your view" -- "What does the view from your writing area look like?"

This is mine... I usually have some knitting handy. There's a book or magazine (or three). There's a cup of tea ready, and I'm able to glance out the front window to the yard and flower garden. I can see the hummingbirds from my knitting chair. The dogs have their chairs on either side of the window, so they can also look out. 

Nine times out of ten, my Quinn has her head under my chair, so I rarely recline it. And usually, if I'm not writing for elephant journal (yes, all small letters), I'm contemplating what to write to you all. 

For example, today I had my half-day at work (thank goodness for summer hours!), and we got Tippi back from the vet. She has some health issues, and we're not sure what's what just yet. We know something is up, but the lab results are coming back as "not to worry yet"... They're waiting on one more blood test. Hopefully, it's just a nasty UTI, but the vet says some indicators are pointing toward an "eventual" thyroid problem.

It was so sweet that they brought her into the room and she raced at me! They thought they might have had to use a little knock-out medicine on her for the x-rays. But it turns out that she just needed a little skritch under her chin. She rolled over and stayed there. 

We don't call her "Tippi" for nothing! 

The Vet's Office...

So I saw this at the vet's office today. I'm so glad. We love our vet, but sadly, we had a VERY bad experience when we took one of our elkhounds across the Rainbow Bridge. 


One part of that was solved when the vet who was "in charge" of this left the practice. Thankfully. She had about as much empathy as a dead carp. In August. In Chicago. On the street. For four days. 

But another part had to do with having to walk back through the waiting room after doing this. Knowing we did the right thing didn't necessarily mean it was easy to walk back out there with all the other patients and owners. 

From what I see on social media, this is becoming a "thing" in many vet's offices and I like it. 

We who own (or are owned) dogs or cats -- or any companion animal -- we often tell people that they're our furry (or scaly or feathered) children. These are our girls. Anyone who knows us will realize that our human children are male. Our canine children are female. 

When it's time to take that final visit to the vet's office, even when your logical mind is telling you that it's the right moment; when you know your companion is no longer living a quality life; when the pain is too great...you still find a giant hole in your heart. It hurts to think that "the world is going on" while this momentous thing is happening to you and your family. 


To have the vet's office and staff acknowledge this - and to have other pet parents know what's going on - is a comfort. 

Coloring...

So this is the latest one. I have this hanging in the studio. I've found several sites where I can download them. And of course there's Pinterest. 

I'm looking into adding to my stash of colored pencils; I want to get some new metallics and some neons. 

No, I haven't discarded the watercolors. I'm just experimenting with color in different formats. 

What are you doing to unearth, unleash, reclaim your creative side? 

Think about it. What do you do all day? What would you like to do to help you open up a part of your brain that may be a little quiet? 

Paint? Draw? Knit? Write? 

Go find a journal and a nice pen. Or if you're not the "handwriting" type, make a blog on the web. Jot your thoughts. You don't have to make it public - you can have a journal that's a Word document that you keep all to yourself. 

But do something. Create something. Then sit back and enjoy it. It's worth it. 

And so are you. 







Sunday, June 19, 2016

It's Complicated...

...this Father's Day thing. 

It's complicated because for most of my life, my father, who's been dead now for 23 years, was an alcoholic. 

Not a mellow alcoholic. A mean binge-drinker. Who had a foul mouth, an even more foul temper, and was physically and verbally abusive. 

So. 

It's Father's Day. 

I'm an adult child of an alcoholic. 

And you might think, "Well, it's been long enough."

Sometimes, it's never long enough. 

As an adult child of an alcoholic, on my bike ride today, watching the families gathered under the park pavilions with their grills, burgers and coolers, I remembered. 

I remembered driving to the cabin my grandparents owned. While he was drunk. Or, maybe if we were lucky, he was sober. Then. Drunk came after. 

Or maybe, it was a good year, and nothing untoward happened. Those were few and far between. 

My father was a complex man. As we all are, I suppose. He grew up with a single mother - my grandmother was a widow with 4 young children; she never remarried, and worked in a laundry at a local hospital to provide for her kids. 

It wasn't easy. My father didn't have a lot of luxuries. He never graduated from high school. He joined the Marines, spent time in San Diego and missed action in Korea by a hair. He came back home, met and married my mother. 

I'm not sure when the alcoholic behavior started, though I can bet, based on some tattoos, it was in the Corps. I know he told me he started smoking before he was 10 years old. 

He was a talented cook. He was a mechanic. He got his GED. When sober, he expected us to do our school work, be polite to others, and have a good work ethic. He grew roses. He brought home a little sapling and it grew to be a magnificent maple tree behind our garage. 

When he was drinking, he was mean. He used language that kids shouldn't be exposed to, even by today's lax standards. And he used his hands and a belt. 

I was shipped off to my grandparents a lot of the time, growing up, just so that I was out of the way - which I wanted with my whole heart. I couldn't understand why my grandparents couldn't adopt me. I couldn't understand, as I got older, why my mother wouldn't divorce my father. Divorce would've been preferable. 

Adult children of alcoholics have a lot of issues when these "parental" holidays come along. I look at Facebook and see all the loving posts. I can't in good conscience do that. 

My father did get sober - about 8 years before he eventually died of cancer. 

He did teach me a lot. I can cook like anybody's business and I'm good at it. 

I'm enamored of old movies - you know, the ones which actually have plots and great acting. 

I read - he didn't teach me that, but it was my only escape. 

He also taught me the other stuff: I can come into and go out of a room, and nobody will know I've come or gone. I can't abide people drinking to excess. Seriously, Hubby really likes a particular winery/restaurant. I can't. I just can't. 

I know that, when you're driving with someone and you don't trust their driving, you shouldn't look directly out of the window (either the windshield or the side window). Look ahead, sort of sideways out the passenger side. It makes it seem like they're not as reckless. 

Yelling doesn't bother me. Yelling was my normal. Cruel comments bother me. The comments he made about me still resonate (hurtfully) when I see myself in a mirror. 

Never having friends over? Check. I rarely have friends over. Comes from the days when I never knew (yeah, I really did know, but I lied) how he'd be when he was there, or when he came home. 

Not liking parties where alcohol is served? Yep. Not a fan. 

Not drinking. Double-check. Even if I didn't have the medical conditions I have which prohibit drinking, I'm scared of the potential for alcoholism to be inherited. 

Control-freak? Yep again... I want things done my way. I'm the one who knows how to do it. 

Oldest child always in charge? Uh-huh. Goes without saying. 

On this Father's Day, I want to encourage adult children of alcoholics - or indeed any adult children of a parent with an addiction - to go easy on yourself. 

No, you probably didn't (or don't, if the parent is still alive and addicted) have the typical holiday. But it's not you. Truly, it's not. 

Don't let their addiction control any more of your life than it already has. 

I never fully repaired my relationship with my father, though I know he tried more than I did. I never truly believed he was "done" with booze. He'd made that promise too many times in my life. 

Perhaps that's harsh, but one thing this kind of growing-up does for you is this: you lose the rose-colored glasses quickly. If you ever had them. 

And I don't think I ever did. 

Happy Father's Day to those folks who've managed more than I have. You're lucky. You should know that. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

I'll Never Do That Again...

...which translates into "Of course I will, next time."

It's this way. I was on my way into the office, and I was (in my mind) crafting the most FANTASTIC blog post. I was on a roll. And I swore that I would remember it. I swore that, at lunch, I would type that puppy up, and it would be awesome. 

That was ... ummmm ... around Wednesday, I think. 

Never happened. 

And I've forgotten what it was I was so stoked about. 

One of these days, I'll start taping myself. At least then I'll have a clue what I'm rambling about.

Knitting...

The "watermelon" sock presses on. I'm about 6.5" along on the leg, so I'm maybe 6 - 8 rows from the heel flap. 

I'm also on the waiting list to test-knit a sock. While I volunteered, I'm now kind of chickening out. I'm not the speediest knitter in the world, and while that might be attractive for the designer - to see how we slow-pokes handle it - I'm not sure. 

And I'm really rather bummed. 

I was supposed to write a review for a yarn shop. We just got news that she's closing. So that leaves one small-ish, not-so-well-stocked shop in the area. The next closest one is in Bloomington, IL - 50+ miles away. 

We're 50 miles southwest of Chicago. You'd think we'd have some options here. I'm very disheartened, but I understand why Leslie is ready to tackle her next chapter. 

I'm hoping to get out there to do a little "sale shopping" before they close for good. I'm still in the mood for "Time Traveler" - that scarf pattern is really tickling my fancy. For a "travel project," I think 12 feet of garter stitch is just about right. 

Fruit...

I had never tried red bananas. So I found some and bought them. 

I had no idea. I thought "banana = banana." Not so much. These take at least a week - or 10 days - to ripen. Otherwise, they look like plantains and are so hard you can only imagine the tummy ache. 

I set them next to the bananas for the dogs and let them sit there. 

They're delicious when they're ripe. Yellow-ish flesh, and a more "creamy" taste. The skins aren't as pliable as the yellow ones - you really have to cut off the nub on the top, and it doesn't peel easily. I don't know that I'd go out of my way to buy them again, but they're a great size if you don't want the "monster" bananas you see in the market. 

The Working Life...

I'm really close to burn-out, friends. Trying to keep all the plates spinning on those little rods is getting exhausting. I've had to do some serious soul-searching, and I've made a few tweaks. Not enough, but it's a start. 

I submitted my resignation from a board where I've been a member for 16 years. Friday was my last meeting. 

I knew it was going to get bad - or crazy-busy - when I took this full-time job. I found a drastic difference in "being the boss" and going back to "having a boss." It's been a rough adjustment. My boss is somewhat mercurial and it's a stressful job. 

And then there's the studio. I haven't been able to concentrate on growing it as I should, because I'm working 10 hours a day at a job that I'm decent at - but at a job where I'd walk away if I had the chance. 

I'm teaching 4 classes per week, and I truly am fond of each of my students. They make our community great and they make it fun every time I'm there. 

But it's essentially putting me in the position of working 2 jobs. And I'm not necessarily happy about that. 

Mind you, I'm very much in the "suck it up, buttercup" school. This is my life for now, and I have to do what I need to do to continue moving forward. And I will. 

I just don't have to like it all the time. 

Hubby has been a peach through all of this, taking over the lion's share of the work of daily living. And sometimes I'm envious. I'd like to cook dinner some nights. But I don't get home till later. Or I'm rushing out to teach my next class. 

I worry that I'm not giving enough. Or that I'm giving too much to the wrong things. 

Coloring...

Yes, I set my needles down the other night. Worked over a few of these over the past week. My hands - particularly that screwed-together left thumb - hurt. So the small sock needles were troublesome for a while. 

Coloring is very relaxing. There are a bunch of pictures to download - you don't have to buy a whole book. But you do need decent colored pencils. 

It's nice to sit and plan - or sit and just grab the next colored pencil in the mug and then color and see how it births itself. 

I'm rather drawn to paisley patterns and mandalas. They remind me of my friend Alice, who does stained glass. 

So tonight, after my guitar lesson, I'll probably color some more. I have one I'm working on and I can't decide which is the negative space - which gets color and which stays where it's at. 

2016 Garden Update...

So the garden grows. We're bursting with lettuce. I wish we'd have done some more loose-leaf romaine. But this stuff is remarkably hardy. 

This weekend, I'll likely be making basil pesto. I have walnuts, the basil is going nuts, and I have plenty of Parmesan cheese in the freezer. 

For the front of the studio, I believe I'll stick a few dill plants into a pot. First, dill is remarkably resilient. Second, it's good for the butterfly population. And third, we need to do something for a spot that fronts a brick wall with a western exposure. Yikes, the heat! 

I purchased a Cardinal Flower plant for the front yard. Hubby and I are deciding where to put it. The one surviving Bee Balm is doing wonderfully. The kid at the nursery says we "won't be able to keep the hummingbirds away" with the Cardinal Flower. So it may end up in the main bed. 

I decided on Cone Flower for the studio. So tomorrow, I'll take apart the pot that's there and see what the landlords have given me. If it's do-able, the Cone Flower goes in. If not, I get a second pot, buy some basil or dill or something and stick herbs on one side, and Cone Flower on the other. Either way, it's a colorful pop at the front door. And if it helps bring more bees and butterflies around? I'm good with that. 

Random Picture...

From the garden. Hearts are everywhere. You just have to look for them. 

Perhaps looking for hearts should become an obsession. Everyone has a heart. If we look for the other person's heart, maybe we'll find that instead of being afraid of them. Maybe we'll see what's common among us instead of what divides us. 

Maybe looking for their heart will lead us to look deeper into our own heart. Maybe we'll find what's missing in our heart. And maybe our hearts will expand when we find the other person's heart. Nothing bad can come of a heart that's expanded in size to encompass more beings. 


Any way you look at it -- hearts are good. 








Saturday, June 11, 2016

Five Inches...

Yep. 5 inches. I was soooooooooo excited last night. The "watermelon" (and that's how I shall forever refer to it, because it looks as much like a "watermelon" as I do a super-model) sock was coming along although it's been a rough 10 days or so. And I thought, "wheeeeeeeeee - I'm at 5" so I can start the heel flap."
My Better Angel whispered in my ear, "You'd better look at the notes you made." And it's a good thing I did. Because "watermelon" sock #1 is actually SEVEN inches on the leg. I heaved a sigh, put the sock aside and went to bed. 
Today, I shall knit 2 more inches. 

That's how knitting works sometimes. Those next 2 inches will take forever. Or at least it'll seem like that, until the last quarter inch or so, when it comes down to one or two rows before I can set it up for the flap. 

I sort of have a small case of "start-itis" - but I don't know what I want to start. So I will knit on. 

I'm being tempted by Jean's Knitting because she's been writing about hap shawls. So I purchased one from Ravelry, the Hansel half-sized pattern. Graciously, the designer includes the full-sized pattern as well, so it's in my queue. 

While I'm typing, I think I'll toss my socks in the wash. It's also time for me to update my Ravelry page some...

This Makes Me Smile...

Yep. Bought a Bernie mug. Nope, not taking it to work. 

I think I've probably lost friends on this one, but I do not like Hillary. And I am incredibly dismayed that the AP -- the one "news" source that was supposed to be reputable -- is claiming a Hillary victory. If indeed the remaining ballots are not yet counted in California, and if indeed there remain votes, then count them. And no - you can't count the "super delegates" because -- let's go over this once again, kids -- they don't vote till late July. Calling the game now is premature. It's also bad journalism. If "good journalism" exists anymore; and I'm not sure about that anymore. Anything can happen between now and then. A veteran like Hillary would know better, don't you think?

Or has she bribed her way in? 

Do we need a female president? Yes. It should have happened a long while ago. 

But not her. Not now. 

Perhaps the saying is true: Familiarity breeds contempt. She's been around the scene for a long, long time. We're "familiar" with her. And I don't like her. 

Don't get me wrong. I don't want my politicians hide-bound. I don't want them so mired in their own dogma that they can't see past it. 

But I don't want my head to spin with the flip-flops... She's changed her mind not out of any sense of "this is the right thing to do for the larger good" - but for "this makes me look better in the polls now." 

I want someone, not unlike Bernie, who will stand the establishment on its head. I'd love it if it was a female. But either way - we need change. Now. 

I was talking to my "almost conservative" brother and he said something that I was rather proud of: "Even if Bernie gets this-much (fingers about 1" apart) done, it would be more than what has been done recently and it would be progress." 

Hillary isn't a progressive. She's so establishment that she bleeds the Republican red of her origins. And that scares me. I'm afraid expediency will triumph over progress. But it will be wrapped in "progress" for those who're swayed by the gloss of a "successful female president."

As I told my mom, she'll have to prove she's tough. That typically means EXTENDING wars. Not finishing them. We need them to finish. We've been at war most of our years as a country. 

But we bill ourselves as a peace-loving "christian" nation. Facts speak otherwise. 

And I think she'd likely want to distance herself from Bill, so as not to give him a "third term." So she'll do it her way - and I'm not certain of what that way is. Because it seems to change. A lot. 

Speaking of Policy Change...

There's this. This is 3 months of my seizure/migraine medicine. This is after we have met our deductible. Our "improved" insurance policy says that, because I need the brand name and am unable to take the generic, even though we've met our deductible, I have to pay a premium for the brand name prescription. And I've tried the generic. If you're not aware, there is a difference on a molecular level between generics and brand names. I asked a couple of doctors a while ago, because I noticed that there was an issue, and I thought perhaps I was imagining it. There has to be a slight difference for the sake of a copyright. Sometimes, the person taking the drug responds differently to that one- or two-molecule change. Sometimes, you can't tell - actually, MOST times, you don't know the difference. 

I actually take 2 other prescriptions that are generic, and they work fine. But in the case of a person who DOES react differently, that can be a big deal. This is a medication I take for seizures, and it has the "happy" side effect of helping prevent migraines, too. So yeah, it's a big deal that I was having breakthroughs with the generic and my doctor, who's a neurologist and has - you know - gone to school to know this stuff, actually knows what to prescribe. 

Better than the bean-counters who run the insurance company. 

But this is what's worrisome: if I did not have insurance, this would be over $3,000 every 3 months. Think about that. Think about having to wonder whether or if you can afford your very necessary medication. 

That "rough ten days" I referred to at the beginning of today's entry? Well - it was because our pharmacy let me run out of this prescription. "It's hard to get." No - it's not. You didn't want to order it because it's expensive. 

I can't help that the price rose TWENTY PERCENT from 2015 to 2016. I didn't do that. 

I can't help that this is the only prescription that works for me. 

I can't help that you didn't order it promptly. 

I was FIVE DAYS without this medication. And during that time, I was under a good deal of stress (just imagine...). I made two BIG errors at work. Errors that perhaps would've cost me my job in other circumstances. 

I have good (or so I thought) insurance. I shouldn't HAVE to worry about this. There's been a lot of talk about changing the system and the way Big Pharma works. The way they price drugs without regard to people who actually have to BUY them to treat medical conditions. This is troublesome. 

So if Hillary is in the pockets of Big Pharma like she's in cahoots with Wall Street and the REAL "Welfare Queens," she's not likely to change this scenario. She's going to benefit by their continued donations. She's feathering her own nest. 
I don't care if she's wearing a $12,000 Armani jacket. Notice how nobody says how much money the MEN spend on their suits?? 

What I really DO care about is that she really has no idea of what it really costs to live a "middle class" lifestyle. 

And worse? She doesn't care. 

Look, she's made hers. That's fine. But if you stand at the bully pulpit and you holler about equality and shattering glass ceilings, you have to bring the rest of us up with you. You can't step on us on the way up. And then forget that WE remember that on YOUR way down... 

And So the Garden Grows...

We have radishes. And kale. And lettuce. Those radishes are deceptive. They're beautiful: both the globe and the French (the long ones). They're juicy, they have TASTE, and they're spicy. And then there's the after-burn. WOWZA! You think "wow, radishes that actually have flavor, and not just crunch?" That's the home-grown difference. The round ones have a fresh flavor and the "spark" hits you when you swallow. The long ones are sweet at the root end and get more spicy toward the "greens" end. 

I understand you can actually use the radish greens; I have to research that a little better. There are a number of articles out there, but I do have a problem with a leaf that's describe as "hairy." Ummmmmmm. No. Thanks, but no. 

So I'll wander out to the garden and see what our radish tops look like and go from there. 

Yoga @ The Fields...

Not that I need to teach another class (I'm now teaching 4 classes a week, which isn't much, except for that full-time job thing...), but I couldn't resist the offer of the manager of The Fields, a premier nursery and garden center about 3 blocks from my yoga studio. "Bring your yoga classes out here as often as you want - and I'm not charging you any rent!" 

Heck yeah! The downside is that, of course, it's June and hot... But I took our first class out at 10:15 a.m. and it was fine. This was our practice area. The breeze was there, the grass was cool, and it worked well. Teaching without props was different. I didn't realize how much I relied on blocks! But it was nice to stretch my brain and give my students a unique experience. we have use of the space till the weather gets too cool for outside yoga. A win-win for all of us: my students and I get to practice outdoors (and I make a little $$$) and The Fields gets foot traffic because we have to walk through it to get to the practice space. 

New Theme...

So how do you like the new theme? I'm not jazzed about the way it handles pictures (with the frame around, and it tends to kick paragraphs in an odd way), but I think I like the new theme overall. 

Comments? Input welcome. 

Random Picture...

My watercolors need work. This is the first one I've done in a while that was a real "picture" - though the concept came from my head. I need to work on my perspective and getting it to look like there's depth there. To me, it looks flat. But I haven't picked up watercolors since high school, so I think I can be forgiven for being a little rusty. 

My friend Alice has taken watercolor classes; she's a real honest-to-goodness artist. I'd love to do that. When I have time. Sometime. Maybe.